STORIES BY ENGLISH AUTHORS: GERMANY, ETC.
Part 2 out of 3
There was only one other beside Patrasche to whom Nello could talk at
all of his daring fantasies. This other was little Alois, who lived at
the old red mill on the grassy mound, and whose father, the miller,
was the best-to-do husbandman in all the village. Little Alois was
only a pretty baby with soft round, rosy features, made lovely by
those sweet dark eyes that the Spanish rule has left in so many a
Flemish face, in testimony of the Alvan dominion, as Spanish art has
left broad-sown throughout the country majestic palaces and stately
courts, gilded house-fronts and sculptured lintels--histories in
blazonry and poems in stone.
Little Alois was often with Nello and Patrasche. They played in the
fields, they ran in the snow, they gathered the daisies and
bilberries, they went up to the old gray church together, and they
often sat together by the broad wood fire in the mill-house. Little
Alois, indeed, was the richest child in the hamlet. She had neither
brother nor sister; her blue serge dress had never a hole in it; at
kermess she had as many gilded nuts and Agni Dei in sugar as her hands
could hold; and when she went up for her first communion her flaxen
curls were covered with a cap of richest Mechlin lace, which had been
her mother's and her grandmother's before it came to her. Men spoke
already, though she had but twelve years, of the good wife she would
be for their sons to woo and win; but she herself was a little gay,
simple child, in no wise conscious of her heritage, and she loved no
playfellows so well as Jehan Daas's grandson and his dog.
One day her father, Baas Cogez, a good man, but somewhat stern, came
on a pretty group in the long meadow behind the mill, where the
aftermath had that day been cut. It was his little daughter sitting
amid the hay, with the great tawny head of Patrasche on her lap, and
many wreaths of poppies and blue corn-flowers round them both; on a
clean smooth slab of pine wood the boy Nello drew their likeness with
a stick of charcoal.
The miller stood and looked at the portrait with tears in his eyes--it
was so strangely like, and he loved his only child closely and well.
Then he roughly chid the little girl for idling there while her mother
needed her within, and sent her indoors crying and afraid; then,
turning, he snatched the wood from Nello's hands. "Dost do much of
such folly?" he asked, but there was a tremble in his voice.
Nello coloured and hung his head. "I draw everything I see," he
The miller was silent; then he stretched his hand out with a franc in
it. "It is folly, as I say, and evil waste of time; nevertheless, it
is like Alois, and will please the house-mother. Take this silver bit
for it and leave it for me."
The colour died out of the face of the young Ardennois; he lifted his
head and put his hands behind his back. "Keep your money and the
portrait both, Baas Cogez," he said, simply. "You have been often good
to me." Then he called Patrasche to him, and walked away across the
"I could have seen them with that franc," he murmured to Patrasche,
"but I could not sell her picture--not even for them."
Baas Cogez went into his mill-house sore troubled in his mind. "That
lad must not be so much with Alois," he said to his wife that night.
"Trouble may come of it hereafter; he is fifteen now, and she is
twelve; and the boy is comely of face and form."
"And he is a good lad and a loyal," said the housewife, feasting her
eyes on the piece of pine wood where it was throned above the chimney
with a cuckoo clock in oak and a Calvary in wax.
"Yea, I do not gainsay that," said the miller, draining his pewter
"Then, if what you think of were ever to come to pass," said the wife,
hesitatingly, "would it matter so much? She will have enough for both,
and one cannot be better than happy."
"You are a woman, and therefore a fool," said the miller, harshly,
striking his pipe on the table. "The lad is naught but a beggar, and,
with these painter's fancies, worse than a beggar. Have a care that
they are not together in the future, or I will send the child to the
surer keeping of the nuns of the Sacred Heart."
The poor mother was terrified, and promised humbly to do his will. Not
that she could bring herself altogether to separate the child from her
favorite playmate, nor did the miller even desire that extreme of
cruelty to a young lad who was guilty of nothing except poverty. But
there were many ways in which little Alois was kept away from her
chosen companion; and Nello, being a boy proud and quiet and
sensitive, was quickly wounded, and ceased to turn his own steps and
those of Patrasche, as he had been used to do with every moment of
leisure, to the old red mill upon the slope. What his offence was he
did not know; he supposed he had in some manner angered Baas Cogez by
taking the portrait of Alois in the meadow; and when the child who
loved him would run to him and nestle her hand in his, he would smile
at her very sadly and say with a tender concern for her before
himself, "Nay, Alois, do not anger your father. He thinks that I make
you idle, dear, and he is not pleased that you should be with me. He
is a good man and loves you well; we will not anger him, Alois."
But it was with a sad heart that he said it, and the earth did not
look so bright to him as it had used to do when he went out at sunrise
under the poplars down the straight roads with Patrasche. The old red
mill had been a landmark to him, and he had been used to pause by it,
going and coming, for a cheery greeting with its people as her little
flaxen head rose above the low mill wicket, and her little rosy hands
had held out a bone or a crust to Patrasche. Now the dog looked
wistfully at a closed door, and the boy went on without pausing, with
a pang at his heart, and the child sat within with tears dropping
slowly on the knitting to which she was set on her little stool by the
stove; and Baas Cogez, working among his sacks and his mill-gear,
would harden his will and say to himself, "It is best so. The lad is
all but a beggar, and full of idle, dreaming fooleries. Who knows what
mischief might not come of it in the future?" So he was wise in his
generation, and would not have the door unbarred, except upon rare and
formal occasions, which seemed to have neither warmth nor mirth in
them to the two children, who had been accustomed so long to a daily
gleeful, careless, happy interchange of greeting, speech, and pastime,
with no other watcher of their sports or auditor of their fancies than
Patrasche, sagely shaking the brazen bells of his collar and
responding with all a dog's swift sympathies to their every change of
All this while the little panel of pine wood remained over the chimney
in the mill kitchen with the cuckoo clock and the waxen Calvary; and
sometimes it seemed to Nello a little hard that while his gift was
accepted, he himself should be denied.
But he did not complain; it was his habit to be quiet. Old Jehan Daas
had said ever to him, "We are poor; we must take what God sends--the
ill with the good; the poor cannot choose."
To which the boy had always listened in silence, being reverent of his
old grandfather; but nevertheless a certain vague, sweet hope, such as
beguiles the children of genius, had whispered in his heart, "Yet the
poor do choose sometimes--choose to be great, so that men cannot say
them nay." And he thought so still in his innocence; and one day, when
the little Alois, finding him by chance alone among the corn-fields by
the canal, ran to him and held him close, and sobbed piteously because
the morrow would be her saint's day, and for the first time in all her
life her parents had failed to bid him to the little supper and romp
in the great barns with which her feast-day was always celebrated,
Nello had kissed her and murmured to her in firm faith, "It shall be
different one day, Alois. One day that little bit of pine wood that
your father has of mine shall be worth its weight in silver; and he
will not shut the door against me then. Only love me always, dear
little Alois; only love me always, and I will be great."
"And if I do not love you?" the pretty child asked, pouting a little
through her tears, and moved by the instinctive coquetries of her sex.
Nello's eyes left her face and wandered to the distance, where, in the
red and gold of the Flemish night, the cathedral spire rose. There was
a smile on his face so sweet and yet so sad that little Alois was awed
by it. "I will be great still," he said under his breath--"great
still, or die, Alois."
"You do not love me," said the little spoiled child, pushing him away;
but the boy shook his head and smiled, and went on his way through the
tall yellow corn, seeing as in a vision some day in a fair future when
he should come into that old familiar land and ask Alois of her
people, and be not refused or denied, but received in honour; while
the village folk should throng to look upon him and say in one
another's ears, "Dost see him? He is a king among men; for he is a
great artist and the world speaks his name; and yet he was only our
poor little Nello, who was a beggar, as one may say, and only got his
bread by the help of his dog." And he thought how he would fold his
grandsire in furs and purples, and portray him as the old man is
portrayed in the Family in the chapel of St. Jacques; and of how he
would hang the throat of Patrasche with a collar of gold, and place
him on his right hand, and say to the people, "This was once my only
friend;" and of how he would build himself a great white marble
palace, and make to himself luxuriant gardens of pleasure, on the
slope looking outward to where the cathedral spire rose, and not dwell
in it himself, but summon to it, as to a home, all men young and poor
and friendless, but of the will to do mighty things; and of how he
would say to them always, if they sought to bless his name, "Nay, do
not thank me--thank Rubens. Without him, what should I have been?" And
these dreams--beautiful, impossible, innocent, free of all
selfishness, full of heroical worship--were so closely about him as he
went that he was happy--happy even on this sad anniversary of Alois's
saint's day, when he and Patrasche went home by themselves to the
little dark hut and the meal of black bread, while in the mill-house
all the children of the village sang and laughed, and ate the big
round cakes of Dijon and the almond gingerbread of Brabant, and danced
in the great barn to the light of the stars and the music of flute and
"Never mind, Patrasche," he said, with his arms round the dog's neck,
as they both sat in the door of the hut, where the sounds of the mirth
at the mill came down to them on the night air; "never mind. It shall
all be changed by-and-by."
He believed in the future; Patrasche, of more experience and of more
philosophy, thought that the loss of the mill supper in the present
was ill compensated by dreams of milk and honey in some vague
hereafter. And Patrasche growled whenever he passed by Baas Cogez.
"This is Alois's name-day, is it not?" said the old man Daas that
night, from the corner where he was stretched upon his bed of sacking.
The boy gave a gesture of assent; he wished that the old man's memory
had erred a little, instead of keeping such sure account.
"And why not there?" his grandfather pursued. "Thou hast never missed
a year before, Nello."
"Thou art too sick to leave," murmured the lad, bending his handsome
head over the bed.
"Tut! tut! Mother Nulette would have come and sat with me, as she does
scores of times. What is the cause, Nello?" the old man persisted.
"Thou surely hast not had ill words with the little one?"
"Nay, grandfather, never," said the boy quickly, with a hot colour in
his bent face. "Simply and truly, Baas Cogez did not have me asked
this year. He has taken some whim against me."
"But thou hast done nothing wrong?"
"That I know--nothing. I took the portrait of Alois on a piece of
pine; that is all."
"Ah!" The old man was silent; the truth suggested itself to him with
the boy's innocent answer. He was tied to a bed of dried leaves in the
corner of a wattle hut, but he had not wholly forgotten what the ways
of the world were like.
He drew Nello's fair head fondly to his breast with a tenderer
gesture. "Thou art very poor, my child," he said, with a quiver the
more in his aged, trembling voice; "so poor! It is very hard for
"Nay, I am rich," murmured Nello; and in his innocence he thought so;
rich with the imperishable powers that are mightier than the might of
kings. And he went and stood by the door of the hut in the quiet
autumn night, and watched the stars troop by and the tall poplars bend
and shiver in the wind. All the casements of the mill-house were
lighted, and every now and then the notes of the flute came to him.
The tears fell down his cheeks, for he was but a child; yet he smiled,
for he said to himself, "In the future!" He stayed there until all was
quite still and dark; then he and Patrasche went within and slept
together, long and deeply, side by side.
Now he had a secret which only Patrasche knew. There was a little
outhouse to the hut which no one entered but himself--a dreary place,
but with abundant clear light from the north. Here he had fashioned
himself rudely an easel in rough lumber, and here, on a great gray sea
of stretched paper, he had given shape to one of the innumerable
fancies which possessed his brain. No one had ever taught him
anything; colours he had no means to buy; he had gone without bread
many a time to procure even the few rude vehicles that he had here;
and it was only in black or white that he could fashion the things he
saw. This great figure which he had drawn here in chalk was only an
old man sitting on a fallen tree--only that. He had seen old Michel,
the woodman, sitting so at evening many a time. He had never had a
soul to tell him of outline or perspective, of anatomy or of shadow;
and yet he had given all the weary, worn-out age, all the sad, quiet
patience, all the rugged, care-worn pathos of his original, and given
them so that the old, lonely figure was a poem, sitting there
meditative and alone, on the dead tree, with the darkness of the
descending night behind him.
It was rude, of course, in a way, and had many faults, no doubt; and
yet it was real, true in nature, true in art, and very mournful, and
in a manner beautiful.
Patrasche had lain quiet countless hours watching its gradual creation
after the labor of each day was done, and he knew that Nello had a
hope--vain and wild perhaps, but strongly cherished--of sending this
great drawing to compete for a prize of two hundred francs a year
which it was announced in Antwerp would be open to every lad of
talent, scholar or peasant, under eighteen, who would attempt to win
it with some unaided work of chalk or pencil. Three of the foremost
artists in the town of Rubens were to be the judges and elect the
victor according to his merits.
All the spring and summer and autumn Nello had been at work upon this
treasure, which if triumphant, would build him his first step toward
independence and the mysteries of the art which he blindly,
ignorantly, and yet passionately adored.
He said nothing to any one; his grandfather would not have understood,
and little Alois was lost to him. Only to Patrasche he told all, and
whispered, "Rubens would give it me, I think, if he knew."
Patrasche thought so too, for he knew that Rubens had loved dogs or he
had never painted them with such exquisite fidelity; and men who loved
dogs were, as Patrasche knew, always pitiful.
The drawings were to go in on the first day of December, and the
decision be given on the twenty-fourth, so that he who should win
might rejoice with all his people at the Christmas season.
In the twilight of a bitter wintry day, and with a beating heart, now
quick with hope, now faint with fear, Nello placed the great picture
on his little green milk-cart, and took it, with the help of
Patrasche, into the town, and there left it, as enjoined, at the doors
of a public building.
"Perhaps it is worth nothing at all. How can I tell?" he thought, with
the heart-sickness of a great timidity. Now that he had left it there,
it seemed to him so hazardous, so vain, so foolish, to dream that he,
a little lad with bare feet who barely knew his letters, could do
anything at which great painters, real artists, could ever deign to
look. Yet he took heart as he went by the cathedral; the lordly form
of Rubens seemed to rise from the fog and the darkness, and to loom in
its magnificence before him, while the lips, with their kindly smile,
seemed to him to murmur, "Nay, have courage! It was not by a weak
heart and by faint fears that I wrote my name for all time upon
Nello ran home through the cold night, comforted. He had done his
best; the rest must be as God willed, he thought, in that innocent,
unquestioning faith which had been taught him in the little gray
chapel among the willows and the poplar-trees.
The winter was very sharp already. That night, after they reached the
hut, snow fell, and fell for very many days after that; so that the
paths and the divisions in the fields were all obliterated, and all
the smaller streams were frozen over, and the cold was intense upon
the plains. Then, indeed, it became hard work to go round for the milk
while the world was all dark, and carry it through the darkness to the
silent town. Hard work, especially for Patrasche, for the passage of
the years that were only bringing Nello a stronger youth were bringing
him old age, and his joints were stiff and his bones ached often. But
he would never give up his share of the labour. Nello would fain have
spared him and drawn the cart himself, but Patrasche would not allow
it. All he would ever permit or accept was the help of a thrust from
behind to the truck as it lumbered along through the ice-ruts.
Patrasche had lived in harness, and he was proud of it. He suffered a
great deal sometimes from frost and the terrible roads and the
rheumatic pains of his limbs; but he only drew his breath hard and
bent his stout neck, and trod onward with steady patience.
"Rest thee at home, Patrasche; it is time thou didst rest, and I can
quite well push in the cart by myself," urged Nello many a morning;
but Patrasche, who understood him aright, would no more have consented
to stay at home than a veteran soldier to shirk when the charge was
sounding; and every day he would rise and place himself in his shafts,
and plod along over the snow through the fields that his four round
feet had left their print upon so many, many years.
"One must never rest till one dies," thought Patrasche; and sometimes
it seemed to him that that time of rest for him was not very far off.
His sight was less clear than it had been, and it gave him pain to
rise after the night's sleep, though he would never lie a moment in
his straw when once the bell of the chapel tolling five let him know
that the daybreak of labor had begun.
"My poor Patrasche, we shall soon lie quiet together, you and I," said
old Jehan Daas, stretching out to stroke the head of Patrasche with
the old withered hand which had always shared with him its one poor
crust of bread; and the hearts of the old man and the old dog ached
together with one thought: When they were gone who would care for
One afternoon, as they came back from Antwerp over the snow, which had
become hard and smooth as marble over all the Flemish plains, they
found dropped in the road a pretty little puppet, a tambourine player,
all scarlet and gold, about six inches high, and, unlike greater
personages when Fortune lets them drop, quite unspoiled and unhurt by
its fall. It was a pretty toy. Nello tried to find its owner, and,
failing, thought that it was just the thing to please Alois.
It was quite night when he passed the mill-house; he knew the little
window of her room; it could be no harm, he thought, if he gave her
his little piece of treasure-trove--they had been play-fellows so
long. There was a shed with a sloping roof beneath her casement; he
climbed it and tapped softly at the lattice; there was a little light
within. The child opened it and looked out half frightened.
Nello put the tambourine player into her hands. "Here is a doll I
found in the snow, Alois. Take it," he whispered; "take it, and God
bless thee, dear!"
He slid down from the shed roof before she had time to thank him, and
ran off through the darkness.
That night there was a fire at the mill. Out-buildings and much corn
were destroyed, although the mill itself and the dwelling-house were
unharmed. All the village was out in terror, and engines came tearing
through the snow from Antwerp. The miller was insured, and would lose
nothing; nevertheless, he was in furious wrath, and declared aloud
that the fire was due to no accident, but to some foul intent.
Nello, awakened from his sleep, ran to help with the rest. Baas Cogez
thrust him angrily aside. "Thou wert loitering here after dark," he
said roughly. "I believe, on my soul, that thou dost know more of the
fire than any one."
Nello heard him in silence, stupefied, not supposing that any one
could say such things except in jest, and not comprehending how any
one could pass a jest at such a time.
Nevertheless, the miller said the brutal thing openly to many of his
neighbours in the day that followed; and though no serious charge was
ever preferred against the lad, it got bruited about that Nello had
been seen in the mill-yard after dark on some unspoken errand, and
that he bore Baas Cogez a grudge for forbidding his intercourse with
little Alois; and so the hamlet, which followed the sayings of its
richest landowner servilely, and whose families all hoped to secure
the riches of Alois in some future time for their sons, took the hint
to give grave looks and cold words to old Jehan Daas's grandson. No
one said anything to him openly, but all the village agreed together
to humour the miller's prejudice, and at the cottages and farms where
Nello and Patrasche called every morning for the milk for Antwerp,
downcast glances and brief phrases replaced to them the broad smiles
and cheerful greetings to which they had been always used. No one
really credited the miller's absurd suspicions, nor the outrageous
accusations born of them; but the people were all very poor and very
ignorant, and the one rich man of the place had pronounced against
him. Nello, in his innocence and his friendlessness, had no strength
to stem the popular tide.
"Thou art very cruel to the lad," the miller's wife dared to say,
weeping, to her lord. "Sure, he is an innocent lad and a faithful, and
would never dream of any such wickedness, however sore his heart might
But Baas Cogez being an obstinate man, having once said a thing, held
to it doggedly, though in his innermost soul he knew well the
injustice that he was committing.
Meanwhile, Nello endured the injury done against him with a certain
proud patience that disdained to complain; he only gave way a little
when he was quite alone with old Patrasche. Besides, he thought, "If
it should win! They will be sorry then, perhaps."
Still, to a boy not quite sixteen, and who had dwelt in one little
world all his short life, and in his childhood had been caressed and
applauded on all sides, it was a hard trial to have the whole of that
little world turn against him for naught. Especially hard in that
bleak, snow-bound, famine-stricken winter-time, when the only light
and warmth there could be found abode beside the village hearths and
in the kindly greetings of neighbours. In the winter-time all drew
nearer to each other, all to all, except to Nello and Patrasche, with
whom none now would have anything to do, and who were left to fare as
they might with the old paralyzed, bedridden man in the little cabin,
whose fire was often low, and whose board was often without bread; for
there was a buyer from Antwerp who had taken to drive his mule in of a
day for the milk of the various dairies, and there were only three or
four of the people who had refused his terms of purchase and remained
faithful to the little green cart. So that the burden which Patrasche
drew had become very light, and the centime pieces in Nello's pouch
had become, alas! very small likewise.
The dog would stop, as usual, at all the familiar gates which were now
closed to him, and look up at them with wistful, mute appeal; and it
cost the neighbours a pang to shut their doors and their hearts, and
let Patrasche draw his cart on again, empty. Nevertheless, they did
it, for they desired to please Baas Cogez.
Noel was close at hand.
The weather was very wild and cold; the snow was six feet deep, and
the ice was firm enough to bear oxen and men upon it everywhere. At
this season the little village was always gay and cheerful. At the
poorest dwelling there were possets and cakes, joking and dancing,
sugared saints and gilded Jesus. The merry Flemish bells jingled
everywhere on the horses; everywhere within doors some well-filled
soup-pot sang and smoked over the stove; and everywhere over the snow
without laughing maidens pattered in bright kerchiefs and stout
kirtles, going to and from the mass. Only in the little hut it was
very dark and very cold.
Nello and Patrasche were left utterly alone, for one night in the week
before the Christmas Day, death entered there, and took away from life
forever old Jehan Daas, who had never known life aught save its
poverty and its pains. He had long been half dead, incapable of any
movement except a feeble gesture, and powerless for anything beyond a
gentle word; and yet his loss fell on them both with a great horror in
it; they mourned him passionately. He had passed away from them in his
sleep, and when in the gray dawn they learned their bereavement,
unutterable solitude and desolation seemed to close around them. He
had long been only a poor, feeble, paralyzed old man, who could not
raise a hand in their defence; but he had loved them well, his smile
had always welcomed their return. They mourned for him unceasingly,
refusing to be comforted, as in the white winter day they followed the
deal shell that held his body to the nameless grave by the little gray
church. They were his only mourners, these two whom he had left
friendless upon earth--the young boy and the old dog.
"Surely, he will relent now and let the poor lad come hither?" thought
the miller's wife, glancing at her husband where he smoked by the
Baas Cogez knew her thought, but he hardened his heart, and would not
unbar his door as the little, humble funeral went by. "The boy is a
beggar," he said to himself; "he shall not be about Alois."
The woman dared not say anything aloud, but when the grave was closed
and the mourners had gone, she put a wreath of immortelles into
Alois's hands and bade her go and lay it reverently on the dark,
unmarked mound where the snow was displaced.
Nello and Patrasche went home with broken hearts. But even of that
poor, melancholy, cheerless home they were denied the consolation.
There was a month's rent overdue for their little home, and when Nello
had paid the last sad service to the dead he had not a coin left. He
went and begged grace of the owner of the hut, a cobbler who went
every Sunday night to drink his pint of wine and smoke with Baas
Cogez. The cobbler would grant no mercy. He was a harsh, miserly man,
and loved money. He claimed in default of his rent every stick and
stone, every pot and pan, in the hut, and bade Nello and Patrasche be
out of it on the morrow.
Now, the cabin was lowly enough, and in some sense miserable enough,
and yet their hearts clove to it with a great affection. They had been
so happy there, and in the summer, with its clambering vine and its
flowering beans, it was so pretty and bright in the midst of the sun-
lighted fields! Their life in it had been full of labor and privation,
and yet they had been so well content, so gay of heart, running
together to meet the old man's never-failing smile of welcome!
All night long the boy and the dog sat by the fireless hearth in the
darkness, drawn close together for warmth and sorrow. Their bodies
were insensible to the cold, but their hearts seemed frozen in them.
When the morning broke over the white, chill earth it was the morning
of Christmas Eve. With a shudder, Nello clasped close to him his only
friend, while his tears fell hot and fast on the dog's frank forehead.
"Let us go, Patrasche--dear, dear Patrasche," he murmured. "We will
not wait to be kicked out; let us go."
Patrasche had no will but his, and they went sadly, side by side, out
from the little place which was so dear to them both, and in which
every humble, homely thing was to them precious and beloved. Patrasche
drooped his head wearily as he passed by his own green cart; it was no
longer his,--it had to go with the rest to pay the rent,--and his
brass harness lay idle and glittering on the snow. The dog could have
lain down beside it and died for very heart-sickness as he went, but
while the lad lived and needed him Patrasche would not yield and give
They took the old accustomed road into Antwerp. The day had yet scarce
more than dawned; most of the shutters were still closed, but some of
the villagers were about. They took no notice while the dog and the
boy passed by them. At one door Nello paused and looked wistfully
within; his grandfather had done many a kindly turn in neighbour's
service to the people who dwelt there.
"Would you give Patrasche a crust?" he said, timidly. "He is old, and
he has had nothing since last forenoon."
The woman shut the door hastily, murmuring some vague saying about
wheat and rye being very dear that season. The boy and the dog went on
again wearily; they asked no more.
By slow and painful ways they reached Antwerp as the chimes tolled
"If I had anything about me I could sell to get him bread!" thought
Nello; but he had nothing except the wisp of linen and serge that
covered him, and his pair of wooden shoes.
Patrasche understood, and nestled his nose into the lad's hand as
though to pray him not to be disquieted for any woe or want of his.
The winner of the drawing prize was to be proclaimed at noon, and to
the public building where he had left his treasure Nello made his way.
On the steps and in the entrance-hall there was a crowd of youths,--
some of his age, some older, all with parents or relatives or friends.
His heart was sick with fear as he went among them holding Patrasche
close to him. The great bells of the city clashed out the hour of noon
with brazen clamour. The doors of the inner hall were opened; the
eager, panting throng rushed in. It was known that the selected
picture would be raised above the rest upon a wooden dais.
A mist obscured Nello's sight, his head swam, his limbs almost failed
him. When his vision cleared he saw the drawing raised on high; it was
not his own! A slow, sonorous voice was proclaiming aloud that victory
had been adjudged to Stephen Kiesslinger, born in the burg of Antwerp,
son of a wharfinger in that town.
When Nello recovered his consciousness he was lying on the stones
without, and Patrasche was trying with every art he knew to call him
back to life. In the distance a throng of the youths of Antwerp were
shouting around their successful comrade, and escorting him with
acclamations to his home upon the quay.
The boy staggered to his feet and drew the dog into his embrace. "It
is all over, dear Patrasche," he murmured--"all over!"
He rallied himself as best he could, for he was weak from fasting, and
retraced his steps to the village. Patrasche paced by his side with
his head drooping and his old limbs feeble from hunger and sorrow.
The snow was falling fast; a keen hurricane blew from the north; it
was bitter as death on the plains. It took them long to traverse the
familiar path, and the bells were sounding four of the clock as they
approached the hamlet. Suddenly Patrasche paused, arrested by a scent
in the snow, scratched, whined, and drew out with his teeth a small
case of brown leather. He held it up to Nello in the darkness. Where
they were there stood a little Calvary, and a lamp burned dully under
the cross; the boy mechanically turned the case to the light; on it
was the name of Baas Cogez, and within it were notes for two thousand
The sight roused the lad a little from his stupor. He thrust it in his
shirt, and stroked Patrasche and drew him onward. The dog looked up
wistfully in his face.
Nello made straight for the mill-house, and went to the house door and
struck on its panels. The miller's wife opened it weeping, with little
Alois clinging close to her skirts. "Is it thee, thou poor lad?" she
said kindly, through her tears. "Get thee gone ere the Baas see thee.
We are in sore trouble to-night. He is out seeking for a power of
money that he has let fall riding homeward, and in this snow he never
will find it; and God knows it will go nigh to ruin us. It is Heaven's
own judgment for the things we have done to thee."
Nello put the note-case in her hand and called Patrasche within the
house. "Patrasche found the money to-night," he said quickly. "Tell
Baas Cogez so; I think he will not deny the dog shelter and food in
his old age. Keep him from pursuing me, and I pray of you to be good
Ere either woman or dog knew what he meant he had stooped and kissed
Patrasche, then closed the door hurriedly, and disappeared in the
gloom of the fast-falling night.
The woman and the child stood speechless with joy and fear; Patrasche
vainly spent the fury of his anguish against the iron-bound oak of the
barred house door. They did not dare unbar the door and let him forth;
they tried all they could to solace him. They brought him sweet cakes
and juicy meats; they tempted him with the best they had; they tried
to lure him to abide by the warmth of the hearth; but it was of no
avail. Patrasche refused to be comforted or to stir from the barred
It was six o'clock when from an opposite entrance the miller at last
came, jaded and broken, into his wife's presence. "It is lost
forever," he said, with an ashen cheek and a quiver in his stern
voice. "We have looked with lanterns everywhere; it is gone--the
little maiden's portion and all!"
His wife put the money into his hand, and told him how it had come to
her. The strong man sank trembling into a seat and covered his face,
ashamed and almost afraid. "I have been cruel to the lad," he muttered
at length; "I deserved not to have good at his hands."
Little Alois, taking courage, crept close to her father and nestled
against him her fair curly head. "Nello may come here again, father?"
she whispered. "He may come to-morrow as he used to do?"
The miller pressed her in his arms; his hard, sunburnt face was very
pale and his mouth trembled. "Surely, surely," he answered his child.
"He shall bide here on Christmas Day, and any other day he will. God
helping me, I will make amends to the boy--I will make amends."
Little Alois kissed him in gratitude and joy; then slid from his knees
and ran to where the dog kept watch by the door. "And to-night I may
feast Patrasche?" she cried in a child's thoughtless glee.
Her father bent his head gravely: "Ay, ay! let the dog have the best;"
for the stern old man was moved and shaken to his heart's depths.
It was Christmas eve, and the mill-house was filled with oak logs and
squares of turf, with cream and honey, with meat and bread, and the
rafters were hung with wreaths of evergreen, and the Calvary and the
cuckoo clock looked out from a mass of holly. There were little paper
lanterns, too, for Alois, and toys of various fashions and sweetmeats
in bright-pictured papers. There were light and warmth and abundance
everywhere, and the child would fain have made the dog a guest
honoured and feasted.
But Patrasche would neither lie in the warmth nor share in the cheer.
Famished he was and very cold, but without Nello he would partake
neither of comfort nor food. Against all temptation he was proof, and
close against the door he leaned always, watching only for a means of
"He wants the lad," said Baas Cogez. "Good dog! good dog! I will go
over to the lad the first thing at day-dawn." For no one but Patrasche
knew that Nello had left the hut, and no one but Patrasche divined
that Nello had gone to face starvation and misery alone.
The mill kitchen was very warm; great logs crackled and flamed on the
hearth; neighbours came in for a glass of wine and a slice of the fat
goose baking for supper. Alois, gleeful and sure of her playmate back
on the morrow, bounded and sang and tossed back her yellow hair. Baas
Cogez, in the fulness of his heart, smiled on her through moistened
eyes, and spoke of the way in which he would befriend her favourite
companion; the house-mother sat with calm, contented face at the
spinning-wheel; the cuckoo in the clock chirped mirthful hours. Amidst
it all Patrasche was bidden with a thousand words of welcome to tarry
there a cherished guest. But neither peace nor plenty could allure him
where Nello was not.
When the supper smoked on the board, and the voices were loudest and
gladdest, and the Christ-child brought choicest gifts to Alois,
Patrasche, watching always an occasion, glided out when the door was
unlatched by a careless new-comer, and, as swiftly as his weak and
tired limbs would bear him sped over the snow in the bitter, black
night. He had only one thought--to follow Nello. A human friend might
have paused for the pleasant meal, the cheery warmth, the cosey
slumber; but that was not the friendship of Patrasche. He remembered a
bygone time, when an old man and a little child had found him sick
unto death in the wayside ditch.
Snow had fallen freshly all the evening long; it was now nearly ten;
the trail of the boy's footsteps was almost obliterated. It took
Patrasche long to discover any scent. When at last he found it, it was
lost again quickly, and lost and recovered, and again lost and again
recovered, a hundred times or more.
The night was very wild. The lamps under the wayside crosses were
blown out; the roads were sheets of ice; the impenetrable darkness hid
every trace of habitations; there was no living thing abroad. All the
cattle were housed, and in all the huts and homesteads men and women
rejoiced and feasted. There was only Patrasche out in the cruel cold--
old and famished and full of pain, but with the strength and the
patience of a great love to sustain him in his search.
The trail of Nello's steps, faint and obscure as it was under the new
snow, went straightly along the accustomed tracks into Antwerp. It was
past midnight when Patrasche traced it over the boundaries of the town
and into the narrow, tortuous, gloomy streets. It was all quite dark
in the town, save where some light gleamed ruddily through the
crevices of house shutters, or some group went homeward with lanterns
chanting drinking-songs. The streets were all white with ice; the high
walls and roofs loomed black against them. There was scarce a sound
save the riot of the winds down the passages as they tossed the
creaking signs and shook the tall lamp-irons.
So many passers-by had trodden through and through the snow, so many
diverse paths had crossed and recrossed each other, that the dog had a
hard task to retain any hold on the track he followed. But he kept on
his way, though the cold pierced him to the bone, and the jagged ice
cut his feet, and the hunger in his body gnawed like a rat's teeth. He
kept on his way,--a poor gaunt, shivering thing,--and by long patience
traced the steps he loved into the very heart of the burg and up to
the steps of the great cathedral.
"He is gone to the things that he loved," thought Patrasche; he could
not understand, but he was full of sorrow and of pity for the art
passion that to him was so incomprehensible and yet so sacred.
The portals of the cathedral were unclosed after the midnight mass.
Some heedlessness in the custodians, too eager to go home and feast or
sleep, or too drowsy to know whether they turned the keys aright, had
left one of the doors unlocked. By that accident the footfalls
Patrasche sought had passed through into the building, leaving the
white marks of snow upon the dark stone floor. By that slender white
thread, frozen as it fell, he was guided through the intense silence,
through the immensity of the vaulted space--guided straight to the
gates of the chancel, and, stretched there upon the stones, he found
Nello. He crept up, and touched the face of the boy. "Didst thou dream
that I should be faithless and forsake thee? I--a dog?" said that mute
The lad raised himself with a low cry and clasped him close. "Let us
lie down and die together," he murmured. "Men have no need of us, and
we are all alone."
In answer, Patrasche crept closer yet, and laid his head upon the
young boy's breast. The great tears stood in his brown, sad eyes; not
for himself--for himself he was happy.
They lay close together in the piercing cold. The blasts that blew
over the Flemish dikes from the northern seas were like waves of ice,
which froze every living thing they touched. The interior of the
immense vault of stone in which they were was even more bitterly chill
than the snow-covered plains without. Now and then a bat moved in the
shadows; now and then a gleam of light came on the ranks of carven
figures. Under the Rubens they lay together quite still, and soothed
almost into a dreaming slumber by the numbing narcotic of the cold.
Together they dreamed of the old glad days when they had chased each
other through the flowering grasses of the summer meadows, or sat
hidden in the tall bulrushes by the water's side, watching the boats
go seaward in the sun.
Suddenly through the darkness a great white radiance streamed through
the vastness of the aisles; the moon, that was at her height, had
broken through the clouds; the snow had ceased to fall; the light
reflected from the snow without was clear as the light of dawn. It
fell through the arches full upon the two pictures above, from which
the boy on his entrance had flung back the veil: the "Elevation" and
the "Descent of the Cross" were for one instant visible.
Nello rose to his feet and stretched his arms to them; the tears of a
passionate ecstasy glistened on the paleness of his face. "I have seen
them at last!" he cried aloud. "O God, it is enough!"
His limbs failed under him, and he sank upon his knees, still gazing
upward at the majesty that he adored. For a few brief moments the
light illumined the divine visions that had been denied to him so long
--light clear and sweet and strong as though it streamed from the
throne of Heaven. Then suddenly it passed away; once more a great
darkness covered the face of Christ.
The arms of the boy drew close again the body of the dog. "We shall
see His face--/there/," he murmured; "and He will not part us, I
On the morrow, by the chancel of the cathedral, the people of Antwerp
found them both. They were both dead; the cold of the night had frozen
into stillness alike the young life and the old. When the Christmas
morning broke and the priests came to the temple, they saw them lying
thus on the stones together. Above, the veils were drawn back from the
great visions of Rubens, and the fresh rays of the sunrise touched the
thorn-crowned head of the Christ.
As the day grew on there came an old, hard-featured man who wept as
women weep. "I was cruel to the lad," he muttered; "and now I would
have made amends,--yea, to the half of my substance,--and he should
have been to me as a son."
There came also, as the day grew apace, a painter who had fame in the
world, and who was liberal of hand and of spirit. "I seek one who
should have had the prize yesterday had worth won," he said to the
people--"a boy of rare promise and genius. An old wood-cutter on a
fallen tree at eventide--that was all his theme; but there was
greatness for the future in it. I would fain find him, and take him
with me and teach him art."
And a little child with curling fair hair, sobbing bitterly as she
clung to her father's arm, cried aloud, "Oh, Nello, come! We have all
ready for thee. The Christ-child's hands are full of gifts, and the
old piper will play for us; and the mother says thou shalt stay by the
hearth and burn nuts with us all the Noel week long--yes, even to the
Feast of the Kings! And Patrasche will be so happy! Oh, Nello, wake
But the young pale face, turned upward to the light of the great
Rubens with a smile upon its mouth, answered them all, "It is too
For the sweet, sonorous bells went ringing through the frost, and the
sunlight shone upon the plains of snow, and the populace trooped gay
and glad through the streets, but Nello and Patrasche no more asked
charity at their hands. All they needed now Antwerp gave unbidden.
Death had been more pitiful to them than longer life would have been.
It had taken the one in the loyalty of love, and the other in the
innocence of faith, from a world which for love has no recompense and
for faith no fulfilment.
All their lives they had been together, and in their deaths they were
not divided; for when they were found the arms of the boy were folded
too closely around the dog to be severed without violence, and the
people of their little village, contrite and ashamed, implored a
special grace for them, and, making them one grave, laid them to rest
there side by side--forever!
by ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
"Yes," said the dealer, "our windfalls are of various kinds. Some
customers are ignorant, and then I touch a dividend on my superior
knowledge. Some are dishonest," and here he held up the candle, so
that the light fell strongly on his visitor, "and in that case," he
continued, "I profit by my virtue."
Markheim had but just entered from the daylight streets, and his eyes
had not yet grown familiar with the mingled shine and darkness in the
shop. At these pointed words, and before the near presence of the
flame, he blinked painfully and looked aside.
The dealer chuckled. "You come to me on Christmas Day," he resumed,
"when you know that I am alone in my house, put up my shutters, and
make a point of refusing business. Well, you will have to pay for
that; you will have to pay for my loss of time, when I should be
balancing my books; you will have to pay, besides, for a kind of
manner that I remark in you to-day very strongly. I am the essence of
discretion, and ask no awkward questions; but when a customer cannot
look me in the eye, he has to pay for it." The dealer once more
chuckled; and then, changing to his usual business voice, though still
with a note of irony, "You can give, as usual, a clear account of how
you came into the possession of the object?" he continued. "Still your
uncle's cabinet? A remarkable collector, sir!"
And the little pale, round-shouldered dealer stood almost on tip-toe,
looking over the top of his gold spectacles, and nodding his head with
every mark of disbelief. Markheim returned his gaze with one of
infinite pity, and a touch of horror.
"This time," said he, "you are in error. I have not come to sell, but
to buy. I have no curios to dispose of; my uncle's cabinet is bare to
the wainscot; even were it still intact, I have done well on the Stock
Exchange, and should more likely add to it than otherwise, and my
errand to-day is simplicity itself. I seek a Christmas present for a
lady," he continued, waxing more fluent as he struck into the speech
he had prepared; "and certainly I owe you every excuse for thus
disturbing you upon so small a matter. But the thing was neglected
yesterday; I must produce my little compliment at dinner; and, as you
very well know, a rich marriage is not a thing to be neglected."
There followed a pause, during which the dealer seemed to weigh this
statement incredulously. The ticking of many clocks among the curious
lumber of the shop, and the faint rushing of the cabs in a near
thoroughfare, filled up the interval of silence.
"Well, sir," said the dealer, "be it so. You are an old customer after
all; and if, as you say, you have the chance of a good marriage, far
be it from me to be an obstacle. Here is a nice thing for a lady now,"
he went on, "this hand-glass--fifteenth century, warranted; comes from
a good collection, too; but I reserve the name, in the interests of my
customer, who was just like yourself, my dear sir, the nephew and sole
heir of a remarkable collector."
The dealer, while he thus ran on in his dry and biting voice, had
stooped to take the object from its place; and, as he had done so, a
shock had passed through Markheim, a start both of hand and foot, a
sudden leap of many tumultuous passions to the face. It passed as
swiftly as it came, and left no trace beyond a certain trembling of
the hand that now received the glass.
"A glass," he said hoarsely, and then paused, and repeated it more
clearly. "A glass? For Christmas? Surely not?"
"And why not?" cried the dealer. "Why not a glass?"
Markheim was looking upon him with an indefinable expression. "You ask
me why not?" he said. "Why, look here--look in it--look at yourself!
Do you like to see it? No! nor I--nor any man."
The little man had jumped back when Markheim had so suddenly
confronted him with the mirror; but now, perceiving there was nothing
worse on hand, he chuckled. "Your future lady, sir, must be pretty
hard favoured," said he.
"I ask you," said Markheim, "for a Christmas present, and you give me
this--this damned reminder of years, and sins and follies--this hand-
conscience! Did you mean it? Had you a thought in your mind? Tell me.
It will be better for you if you do. Come, tell me about yourself. I
hazard a guess now, that you are in secret a very charitable man."
The dealer looked closely at his companion. It was very odd, Markheim
did not appear to be laughing; there was something in his face like an
eager sparkle of hope, but nothing of mirth.
"What are you driving at?" the dealer asked.
"Not charitable?" returned the other, gloomily. "Not charitable; not
pious; not scrupulous; unloving, unbeloved; a hand to get money, a
safe to keep it. Is that all? Dear God, man, is that all?"
"I will tell you what it is," began the dealer, with some sharpness,
and then broke off again into a chuckle. "But I see this is a love
match of yours, and you have been drinking the lady's health."
"Ah!" cried Markheim, with a strange curiosity. "Ah, have you been in
love? Tell me about that."
"I," cried the dealer. "I in love! I never had the time, nor have I
the time to-day for all this nonsense. Will you take the glass?"
"Where is the hurry?" returned Markheim. "It is very pleasant to stand
here talking; and life is so short and insecure that I would not hurry
away from any pleasure--no, not even from so mild a one as this. We
should rather cling, cling to what little we can get, like a man at a
cliff's edge. Every second is a cliff, if you think upon it--a cliff a
mile high--high enough, if we fall, to dash us out of every feature of
humanity. Hence it is best to talk pleasantly. Let us talk of each
other; why should we wear this mask? Let us be confidential. Who
knows? we might become friends."
"I have just one word to say to you," said the dealer. "Either make
your purchase, or walk out of my shop."
"True, true," said Markheim. "Enough fooling. To business. Show me
The dealer stooped once more, this time to replace the glass upon the
shelf, his thin blond hair falling over his eyes as he did so.
Markheim moved a little nearer, with one hand in the pocket of his
greatcoat; he drew himself up and filled his lungs; at the same time
many different emotions were depicted together on his face--terror,
horror, and resolve, fascination and a physical repulsion; and through
a haggard lift of his upper lip, his teeth looked out.
"This, perhaps, may suit," observed the dealer. And then, as he began
to rearise, Markheim bounded from behind upon his victim. The long,
skewer-like dagger flashed and fell. The dealer struggled like a hen,
striking his temple on the shelf, and then tumbled on the floor in a
Time had some score of small voices in that shop--some stately and
slow as was becoming to their great age; others garrulous and hurried.
All these told out the seconds in an intricate chorus of tickings.
Then the passage of a lad's feet, heavily running on the pavement,
broke in upon these smaller voices and startled Markheim into the
consciousness of his surroundings. He looked about him awfully. The
candle stood on the counter, its flame solemnly wagging in a draught;
and by that inconsiderable movement the whole room was filled with
noiseless bustle and kept heaving like a sea: the tall shadows
nodding, the gross blots of darkness swelling and dwindling as with
respiration, the faces of the portraits and the china gods changing
and wavering like images in water. The inner door stood ajar, and
peered into that leaguer of shadows with a long slit of daylight like
a pointing finger.
From these fear-stricken rovings, Markheim's eyes returned to the body
of his victim, where it lay, both humped and sprawling, incredibly
small and strangely meaner than in life. In these poor, miserly
clothes, in that ungainly attitude, the dealer lay like so much
sawdust. Markheim had feared to see it, and, lo! it was nothing. And
yet, as he gazed, this bundle of old clothes and pool of blood began
to find eloquent voices. There it must lie; there was none to work the
cunning hinges or direct the miracle of locomotion; there it must lie
till it was found. Found! ay, and then? Then would this dead flesh
lift up a cry that would ring over England, and fill the world with
the echoes of pursuit. Ay, dead or not, this was still the enemy.
"Time was that when the brains were out," he thought; and the first
word struck into his mind. Time, now that the deed was accomplished--
time, which had closed for the victim, had become instant and
momentous for the slayer.
The thought was yet in his mind, when, first one and then another,
with every variety of pace and voice--one deep as the bell from a
cathedral turret, another ringing on its treble notes the prelude of a
waltz,--the clocks began to strike the hour of three in the afternoon.
The sudden outbreak of so many tongues in that dumb chamber staggered
him. He began to bestir himself, going to and fro with the candle,
beleaguered by moving shadows, and startled to the soul by chance
reflections. In many rich mirrors, some of home design, some from
Venice or Amsterdam, he saw his face repeated and repeated, as it were
an army of spies; his own eyes met and detected him; and the sound of
his own steps, lightly as they fell, vexed the surrounding quiet. And
still, as he continued to fill his pockets, his mind accused him with
a sickening iteration, of the thousand faults of his design. He should
have chosen a more quiet hour; he should have prepared an alibi; he
should not have used a knife; he should have been more cautious, and
only bound and gagged the dealer, and not killed him; he should have
been more bold, and killed the servant also; he should have done all
things otherwise. Poignant regrets, weary, incessant toiling of the
mind to change what was unchangeable, to plan what was now useless, to
be the architect of the irrevocable past. Meanwhile, and behind all
this activity, brute terrors, like the scurrying of rats in a deserted
attic, filled the more remote chambers of his brain with riot; the
hand of the constable would fall heavy on his shoulder, and his nerves
would jerk like a hooked fish; or he beheld, in galloping defile, the
dock, the prison, the gallows, and the black coffin.
Terror of the people in the street sat down before his mind like a
besieging army. It was impossible, he thought, but that some rumour of
the struggle must have reached their ears and set on edge their
curiosity; and now, in all the neighbouring houses, he divined them
sitting motionless and with uplifted ear--solitary people, condemned
to spend Christmas dwelling alone on memories of the past, and now
startingly recalled from that tender exercise; happy family parties
struck into silence round the table, the mother still with raised
finger--every degree and age and humour, but all, by their own
hearths, prying and hearkening and weaving the rope that was to hang
him. Sometimes it seemed to him he could not move too softly; the
clink of the tall Bohemian goblets rang out loudly like a bell; and
alarmed by the bigness of the ticking, he was tempted to stop the
clocks. And then, again, with a swift transition of his terrors, the
very silence of the place appeared a source of peril, and a thing to
strike and freeze the passer-by; and he would step more boldly, and
bustle aloud among the contents of the shop, and imitate, with
elaborate bravado, the movements of a busy man at ease in his own
But he was now so pulled about by different alarms that, while one
portion of his mind was still alert and cunning, another trembled on
the brink of lunacy. One hallucination in particular took a strong
hold on his credulity. The neighbour hearkening with white face beside
his window, the passer-by arrested by a horrible surmise on the
pavement--these could at worst suspect, they could not know; through
the brick walls and shuttered windows only sounds could penetrate. But
here, within the house, was he alone? He knew he was; he had watched
the servant set forth sweet-hearting, in her poor best, "out for the
day" written in every ribbon and smile. Yes, he was alone, of course;
and yet, in the bulk of empty house above him, he could surely hear a
stir of delicate footing; he was surely conscious, inexplicably
conscious of some presence. Ay, surely; to every room and corner of
the house his imagination followed it; and now it was a faceless
thing, and yet had eyes to see with; and again it was a shadow of
himself; and yet again behold the image of the dead dealer, reinspired
with cunning and hatred.
At times, with a strong effort, he would glance at the open door which
still seemed to repel his eyes. The house was tall, the skylight small
and dirty, the day blind with fog; and the light that filtered down to
the ground story was exceedingly faint, and showed dimly on the
threshold of the shop. And yet, in that strip of doubtful brightness,
did there not hang wavering a shadow?
Suddenly, from the street outside, a very jovial gentleman began to
beat with a staff on the shop door, accompanying his blows with shouts
and railleries in which the dealer was continually called upon by
name. Markheim, smitten into ice, glanced at the dead man. But no! he
lay quite still; he was fled away far beyond earshot of these blows
and shoutings; he was sunk beneath seas of silence; and his name,
which would once have caught his notice above the howling of a storm,
had become an empty sound. And presently the jovial gentleman desisted
from his knocking and departed.
Here was a broad hint to hurry what remained to be done, to get forth
from this accusing neighbourhood, to plunge into a bath of London
multitudes, and to reach, on the other side of day, that haven of
safety and apparent innocence--his bed. One visitor had come; at any
moment another might follow and be more obstinate. To have done the
deed, and yet not to reap the profit, would be too abhorrent a
failure. The money--that was now Markheim's concern; and as a means to
that, the keys.
He glanced over his shoulder at the open door, where the shadow was
still lingering and shivering; and with no conscious repugnance of the
mind, yet with a tremor of the belly, he drew near the body of his
victim. The human character had quite departed. Like a suit half-
stuffed with bran, the limbs lay scattered, the trunk doubled, on the
floor; and yet the thing repelled him. Although so dingy and
inconsiderable to the eye, he feared it might have more significance
to the touch. He took the body by the shoulders, and turned it on its
back. It was strangely light and supple, and the limbs, as if they had
been broken, fell into the oddest postures. The face was robbed of all
expression; but it was as pale as wax, and shockingly smeared with
blood about one temple. That was, for Markheim, the one displeasing
circumstance. It carried him back, upon the instant, to a certain
fair-day in a fishers' village: a gray day, a piping wind, a crowd
upon the street, the blare of brasses, the booming of drums, the nasal
voice of a ballad singer; and a boy going to and fro, buried overhead
in the crowd and divided between interest and fear, until, coming out
upon the chief place of concourse, he beheld a booth and a great
screen with pictures, dismally designed, garishly coloured--Brownrigg
with her apprentice, the Mannings with their murdered guest, Weare in
the death-grip of Thurtell, and a score besides of famous crimes. The
thing was as clear as an illusion He was once again that little boy;
he was looking once again, and with the same sense of physical revolt,
at these vile pictures; he was still stunned by the thumping of the
drums. A bar of that day's music returned upon his memory; and at
that, for the first time, a qualm came over him, a breath of nausea, a
sudden weakness of the joints, which he must instantly resist and
He judged it more prudent to confront than to flee from these
considerations, looking the more hardily in the dead face, bending his
mind to realise the nature and greatness of his crime. So little a
while ago that face had moved with every change of sentiment, that
pale mouth had spoken, that body had been all on fire with governable
energies; and now, and by his act, that piece of life had been
arrested, as the horologist, with interjected finger, arrests the
beating of the clock. So he reasoned in vain; he could rise to no more
remorseful consciousness; the same heart which had shuddered before
the painted effigies of crime, looked on its reality unmoved. At best,
he felt a gleam of pity for one who had been endowed in vain with all
those faculties that can make the world a garden of enchantment, one
who had never lived and who was now dead. But of penitence, no, not a
With that, shaking himself clear of these considerations, he found the
keys and advanced toward the open door of the shop. Outside, it had
begun to rain smartly, and the sound of the shower upon the roof had
banished silence. Like some dripping cavern, the chambers of the house
were haunted by an incessant echoing, which filled the ear and mingled
with the ticking of the clocks. And, as Markheim approached the door,
he seemed to hear, in answer to his own cautious tread, the steps of
another foot withdrawing up the stair. The shadow still palpitated
loosely on the threshold. He threw a ton's weight of resolve upon his
muscles, and drew back the door.
The faint, foggy daylight glimmered dimly on the bare floor and
stairs; on the bright suit of armour posted, halbert in hand, upon the
landing; and on the dark wood-carvings, and framed pictures that hung
against the yellow panels of the wainscot. So loud was the beating of
the rain through all the house that, in Markheim's ears, it began to
be distinguished into many different sounds. Footsteps and sighs, the
tread of regiments marching in the distance, the chink of money in the
counting, and the creaking of doors held stealthily ajar, appeared to
mingle with the patter of the drops upon the cupola and the gushing of
the water in the pipes. The sense that he was not alone grew upon him
to the verge of madness. On every side he was haunted and begirt by
presences. He heard them moving in the upper chambers; from the shop,
he heard the dead man getting to his legs; and as he began with a
great effort to mount the stairs, feet fled quietly before him and
followed stealthily behind. If he were but deaf, he thought, how
tranquilly he would possess his soul! And then again, and hearkening
with ever fresh attention, he blessed himself for that unresting sense
which held the outposts and stood a trusty sentinel upon his life. His
head turned continually on his neck; his eyes, which seemed starting
from their orbits, scouted on every side, and on every side were half
rewarded as with the tail of something nameless vanishing. The four
and twenty steps to the first floor were four and twenty agonies.
On that first story, the doors stood ajar--three of them, like three
ambushes, shaking his nerves like the throats of cannon. He could
never again, he felt, be sufficiently immured and fortified from men's
observing eyes; he longed to be home, girt in by walls, buried among
bedclothes, and invisible to all but God. And at that thought he
wondered a little, recollecting tales of other murderers and the fear
they were said to entertain of heavenly avengers. It was not so, at
least, with him. He feared the laws of nature, lest, in their callous
and immutable procedure, they should preserve some damning evidence of
his crime. He feared tenfold more, with a slavish, superstitious
terror, some scission in the continuity of man's experience, some
wilful illegality of nature. He played a game of skill, depending on
the rules, calculating consequence from cause; and what if nature, as
the defeated tyrant overthrew the chess-board, should break the mould
of their succession? The like had befallen Napoleon (so writers said)
when the winter changed the time of its appearance. The like might
befall Markheim: the solid walls might become transparent and reveal
his doings like those of bees in a glass hive; the stout planks might
yield under his foot like quicksands and detain him in their clutch.
Ay, and there were soberer accidents that might destroy him; if, for
instance, the house should fall and imprison him beside the body of
his victim, or the house next door should fly on fire, and the firemen
invade him from all sides. These things he feared; and, in a sense,
these things might be called the hands of God reached forth against
sin. But about God himself he was at ease; his act was doubtless
exceptional, but so were his excuses, which God knew; it was there,
and not among men, that he felt sure of justice.
When he had got safe into the drawing-room, and shut the door behind
him, he was aware of a respite from alarms. The room was quite
dismantled, uncarpeted besides, and strewn with packing-cases and
incongruous furniture; several great pier-glasses, in which he beheld
himself at various angles, like an actor on a stage; many pictures,
framed and unframed, standing, with their faces to the wall; a fine
Sheraton sideboard, a cabinet of marquetry, and a great old bed, with
tapestry hangings. The windows opened to the floor; but by great good
fortune the lower part of the shutters had been closed, and this
concealed him from the neighbours. Here, then, Markheim drew in a
packing-case before the cabinet, and began to search among the keys.
It was a long business, for there were many; and it was irksome,
besides; for, after all, there might be nothing in the cabinet, and
time was on the wing. But the closeness of the occupation sobered him.
With the tail of his eye he saw the door--even glanced at it from time
to time directly, like a besieged commander pleased to verify the good
estate of his defences. But in truth he was at peace. The rain falling
in the street sounded natural and pleasant. Presently, on the other
side, the notes of a piano were wakened to the music of a hymn, and
the voices of many children took up the air and words. How stately,
how comfortable was the melody! How fresh the youthful voices!
Markheim gave ear to it smilingly, as he sorted out the keys; and his
mind was thronged with answerable ideas and images: church-going
children, and the pealing of the high organ; children afield, bathers
by the brookside, ramblers on the brambly common, kite-flyers in the
windy and cloud-navigated sky; and then, at another cadence of the
hymn, back again to church, and the somnolence of summer Sundays, and
the high genteel voice of the parson (which he smiled a little to
recall) and the painted Jacobean tombs, and the dim lettering of the
Ten Commandments in the chancel.
And as he sat thus, at once busy and absent, he was startled to his
feet. A flash of ice, a flash of fire, a bursting gush of blood, went
over him, and then he stood transfixed and thrilling. A step mounted
the stair slowly and steadily, and presently a hand was laid upon the
knob, and the lock clicked, and the door opened.
Fear held Markheim in a vice. What to expect he knew not--whether the
dead man walking, or the official ministers of human justice, or some
chance witness blindly stumbling in to consign him to the gallows. But
when a face was thrust into the aperture, glanced round the room,
looked at him, nodded and smiled as if in friendly recognition, and
then withdrew again, and the door closed behind it, his fear broke
loose from his control in a hoarse cry. At the sound of this the
"Did you call me?" he asked, pleasantly, and with that he entered the
room and closed the door behind him.
Markheim stood and gazed at him with all his eyes. Perhaps there was a
film upon his sight, but the outlines of the new comer seemed to
change and waver like those of the idols in the wavering candle-light
of the shop; and at times he thought he knew him; and at times he
thought he bore a likeness to himself; and always, like a lump of
living terror, there lay in his bosom the conviction that this thing
was not of the earth and not of God.
And yet the creature had a strange air of the commonplace, as he stood
looking on Markheim with a smile; and when he added, "You are looking
for the money, I believe?" it was in the tones of everyday politeness.
Markheim made no answer.
"I should warn you," resumed the other, "that the maid has left her
sweetheart earlier than usual and will soon be here. If Mr. Markheim
be found in this house, I need not describe to him the consequences."
"You know me?" cried the murderer.
The visitor smiled. "You have long been a favourite of mine," he said;
"and I have long observed and often sought to help you."
"What are you?" cried Markheim; "the devil?"
"What I may be," returned the other, "cannot affect the service I
propose to render you."
"It can," cried Markheim; "it does! Be helped by you? No, never; not
by you! You do not know me yet; thank God, you do not know me!"
"I know you," replied the visitant, with a sort of kind severity or
rather firmness. "I know you to the soul."
"Know me!" cried Markheim. "Who can do so? My life is but a travesty
and slander on myself. I have lived to belie my nature. All men do;
all men are better than this disguise that grows about and stifles
them. You see each dragged away by life, like one whom bravos have
seized and muffled in a cloak. If they had their own control--if you
could see their faces, they would be altogether different, they would
shine out for heroes and saints! I am worse than most; myself is more
overlaid; my excuse is known to me and God. But, had I the time, I
could disclose myself."
"To me?" inquired the visitant.
"To you before all," returned the murderer. "I supposed you were
intelligent. I thought--since you exist--you would prove a reader of
the heart. And yet you would propose to judge me by my acts! Think of
it--my acts! I was born and I have lived in a land of giants; giants
have dragged me by the wrists since I was born out of my mother--the
giants of circumstance. And you would judge me by my acts! But can you
not look within? Can you not understand that evil is hateful to me?
Can you not see within me the clear writing of conscience, never
blurred by any wilful sophistry, although too often disregarded? Can
you not read me for a thing that surely must be common as humanity--
the unwilling sinner?"
"All this is very feelingly expressed," was the reply, "but it regards
me not. These points of consistency are beyond my province, and I care
not in the least by what compulsion you may have been dragged away, so
as you are but carried in the right direction. But time flies; the
servant delays, looking in the faces of the crowd and at the pictures
on the hoardings, but still she keeps moving nearer; and remember, it
is as if the gallows itself was striding towards you through the
Christmas streets! Shall I help you--I, who know all? Shall I tell you
where to find the money?"
"For what price?" asked Markheim.
"I offer you the service for a Christmas gift," returned the other.
Markheim could not refrain from smiling with a kind of bitter triumph.
"No," said he, "I will take nothing at your hands; if I were dying of
thirst, and it was your hand that put the pitcher to my lips, I should
find the courage to refuse. It may be credulous, but I will do nothing
to commit myself to evil."
"I have no objection to a death-bed repentance," observed the
"Because you disbelieve their efficacy!" Markheim cried.
"I do not say so," returned the other; "but I look on these things
from a different side, and when the life is done my interest falls.
The man has lived to serve me, to spread black looks under colour of
religion, or to sow tares in the wheat-field, as you do, in a course
of weak compliance with desire. Now that he draws so near to his
deliverance, he can add but one act of service: to repent, to die
smiling, and thus to build up in confidence and hope the more timorous
of my surviving followers. I am not so hard a master. Try me; accept
my help. Please yourself in life as you have done hitherto; please
yourself more amply, spread your elbows at the board; and when the
night begins to fall and the curtains to be drawn, I tell you, for
your greater comfort, that you will find it even easy to compound your
quarrel with your conscience, and to make a truckling peace with God.
I came but now from such a death-bed, and the room was full of sincere
mourners, listening to the man's last words; and when I looked into
that face, which had been set as a flint against mercy, I found it
smiling with hope."
"And do you, then, suppose me such a creature?" asked Markheim. "Do
you think I have no more generous aspirations than to sin and sin and
sin and at last sneak into heaven? My heart rises at the thought. Is
this, then, your experience of mankind? or is it because you find me
with red hands that you presume such baseness? And is this crime of
murder indeed so impious as to dry up the very springs of good?"
"Murder is to me no special category," replied the other. "All sins
are murder, even as all life is war. I behold your race, like starving
mariners on a raft, plucking crusts out of the hands of famine and
feeding on each other's lives. I follow sins beyond the moment of
their acting; I find in all that the last consequence is death, and to
my eyes, the pretty maid who thwarts her mother with such taking
graces on a question of a ball, drips no less visibly with human gore
than such a murderer as yourself. Do I say that I follow sins? I
follow virtues also. They differ not by the thickness of a nail; they
are both scythes for the reaping angel of Death. Evil, for which I
live, consists not in action but in character. The bad man is dear to
me, not the bad act, whose fruits, if we could follow them far enough
down the hurtling cataract of the ages, might yet be found more
blessed than those of the rarest virtues. And it is not because you
have killed a dealer, but because you are Markheim, that I offer to
forward your escape."
"I will lay my heart open to you," answered Markheim. "This crime on
which you find me is my last. On my way to it I have learned many
lessons; itself is a lesson--a momentous lesson. Hitherto I have been
driven with revolt to what I would not; I was a bond-slave to poverty,
driven and scourged. There are robust virtues that can stand in these
temptations; mine was not so; I had a thirst of pleasure. But to-day,
and out of this deed, I pluck both warning and riches--both the power
and a fresh resolve to be myself. I become in all things a free actor
in the world; I begin to see myself all changed, these hands the
agents of good, this heart at peace. Something comes over me out of
the past--something of what I have dreamed on Sabbath evenings to the
sound of the church organ, of what I forecast when I shed tears over
noble books, or talked, an innocent child, with my mother. There lies
my life; I have wandered a few years, but now I see once more my city
"You are to use this money on the Stock Exchange, I think?" remarked
the visitor; "and there, if I mistake not, you have already lost some
"Ah," said Markheim, "but this time I have a sure thing."
"This time, again, you will lose," replied the visitor quietly.
"Ah, but I keep back the half!" cried Markheim.
"That also you will lose," said the other.
The sweat started upon Markheim's brow. "Well then, what matter?" he
exclaimed. "Say it be lost, say I am plunged again in poverty, shall
one part of me, and that the worse, continue until the end to override
the better? Evil and good run strong in me, hailing me both ways. I do
not love the one thing; I love all. I can conceive great deeds,
renunciations, martyrdoms; and though I be fallen to such a crime as
murder, pity is no stranger to my thoughts. I pity the poor; who knows
their trials better than myself? I pity and help them. I prize love; I
love honest laughter; there is no good thing nor true thing on earth
but I love it from my heart. And are my vices only to direct my life,
and my virtues to lie without effect, like some passive lumber of the
mind? Not so; good, also, is a spring of acts."
But the visitant raised his finger. "For six and thirty years that you
have been in this world," said he, "through many changes of fortune
and varieties of humour, I have watched you steadily fall. Fifteen
years ago you would have started at a theft. Three years back you
would have blenched at the name of murder. Is there any crime, is
there any cruelty or meanness, from which you still recoil? Five years
from now I shall detect you in the fact! Downward, downward, lies your
way; nor can anything but death avail to stop you."
"It is true," Markheim said huskily, "I have in some degree complied
with evil. But it is so with all; the very saints, in the mere
exercise of living, grow less dainty, and take on the tone of their
"I will propound to you one simple question," said the other; "and as
you answer I shall read to you your moral horoscope. You have grown in
many things more lax; possibly you do right to be so; and at any
account, it is the same with all men. But granting that, are you in
any one particular, however trifling, more difficult to please with
your own conduct, or do you go in all things with a looser rein?"
"In any one?" repeated Markheim, with an anguish of consideration.
"No," he added, with despair; "in none! I have gone down in all."
"Then," said the visitor, "content yourself with what you are, for you
will never change; and the words of your part on this stage are
irrevocably written down."
Markheim stood for a long while silent, and, indeed, it was the
visitor who first broke the silence. "That being so," he said, "shall
I show you the money?"
"And grace?" cried Markheim.
"Have you not tried it?" returned the other. "Two or three years ago
did I not see you on the platform of revival meetings, and was not
your voice the loudest in the hymn?"
"It is true," said Markheim; "and I see clearly what remains for me by
way of duty. I thank you for these lessons from my soul; my eyes are
opened, and I behold myself at last for what I am."
At this moment, the sharp note of the door-bell rang through the
house; and the visitant, as though this were some concerted signal for
which he had been waiting, changed at once in his demeanour.
"The maid!" he cried. "She has returned, as I forewarned you, and
there is now before you one more difficult passage. Her master, you
must say, is ill; you must let her in, with an assured but rather
serious countenance; no smiles, no overacting, and I promise you
success! Once the girl within, and the door closed, the same dexterity
that has already rid you of the dealer will relieve you of this last
danger in your path. Thenceforward you have the whole evening--the
whole night, if needful--to ransack the treasures of the house and to
make good your safety. This is help that comes to you with the mask of
danger. Up!" he cried; "up, friend. Your life hangs trembling in the
scales; up, and act!"
Markheim steadily regarded his counsellor. "If I be condemned to evil
acts," he said, "there is still one door of freedom open: I can cease
from action. If my life be an ill thing, I can lay it down. Though I
be, as you say truly, at the beck of every small temptation, I can
yet, by one decisive gesture, place myself beyond the reach of all. My
love of good is damned to barrenness; it may, and let it be! But I
have still my hatred of evil; and from that, to your galling
disappointment, you shall see that I can draw both energy and
The features of the visitor began to undergo a wonderful and lovely
change: they brightened and softened with a tender triumph, and, even
as they brightened, faded and dislimned. But Markheim did not pause to
watch or understand the transformation. He opened the door and went
downstairs very slowly, thinking to himself. His past went soberly
before him; he beheld it as it was, ugly and strenuous like a dream,
random as chance medley--a scene of defeat. Life, as he thus reviewed
it, tempted him no longer; but on the further side he perceived a
quiet haven for his bark. He paused in the passage, and looked into
the shop, where the candle still burned by the dead body. It was
strangely silent. Thoughts of the dealer swarmed into his mind, as he
stood gazing. And then the bell once more broke out into impatient
He confronted the maid upon the threshold with something like a smile.
"You had better go for the police," said he; "I have killed your
QUEEN TITA'S WAGER
by WILLIAM BLACK
It is a Christmas morning in Surrey--cold, still and gray, with a
frail glimmer of sunshine coming through the bare trees to melt the
hoar-frost on the lawn. The postman has just gone out, swinging the
gate behind him. A fire burns brightly in the breakfast-room; and
there is silence about the house, for the children have gone off to
climb Box Hill before being marched to church.
The small and gentle lady who presides over the household walks
sedately in, and lifts the solitary letter that is lying on her plate.
About three seconds suffice to let her run through its contents, and
then she suddenly cries:
"I knew it! I said it! I told you two months ago she was only flirting
with him; and now she has rejected him. And oh! I am so glad of it!
The poor boy!"
The other person in the room, who had been meekly waiting for his
breakfast for half an hour, ventures to point out that there is
nothing to rejoice over in the fact of a young man having been
rejected by a young woman.
"If it were final, yes! If these two young folks were not certain to
go and marry somebody else, you might congratulate them both. But you
know they will. The poor boy will go courting again in three months'
time, and be vastly pleased with his condition."
"Oh, never, never!" she says. "He has had such a lesson! You know I
warned him. I knew she was only flirting with him. Poor Charlie! Now I
hope he will get on with his profession, and leave such things out of
his head. And as for that creature--"
"I will do you the justice to say," observes her husband, who is still
regarding the table with a longing eye, "that you did oppose this
match, because you hadn't the making of it. If you had brought these
two together they would have been married ere this. Never mind; you
can marry him to somebody of your own choosing now."
"No," she says, with much decision; "he must not think of marriage. He
cannot think of it. It will take the poor lad a long time to get over
"He will marry within a year."
"I will bet you whatever you like that he doesn't," she says,
"Whatever I like! That is a big wager. If you lose, do you think you
could pay? I should like, for example, to have my own way in my own
"If I lose you shall," says the generous creature; and the bargain is
Nothing further is said about this matter for the moment. The children
return from Box Hill, and are rigged out for church. Two young people,
friends of ours, and recently married, having no domestic circle of
their own, and having promised to spend the whole Christmas Day with
us, arrived. Then we set out, trying as much as possible to think that
Christmas Day is different from any other day, and pleased to observe
that the younger folk, at least, cherish the delusion.
But just before reaching the church I say to the small lady who got
the letter in the morning, and whom we generally call Tita:
"When do you expect to see Charlie?"
"I don't know," she answers. "After this cruel affair he won't like to
go about much."
"You remember that he promised to go with us to the Black Forest?"
"Yes; and I am sure it will be a pleasant trip for him."
"Shall we go to Huferschingen?"
"I suppose so."
"Franziska is a pretty girl."
Now you would not think that any great mischief could be done by the
mere remark that Franziska was a pretty girl. Anybody who had seen
Franziska Fahler, niece of the proprietor of the "Goldenen Bock" in
Huferschingen, would admit that in a moment. But this is nevertheless
true, that our important but diminutive Queen Tita was very thoughtful
during the rest of our walk to this little church; and in church, too,
she was thinking so deeply that she almost forgot to look at the
effect of the decorations she had nailed up the day before. Yet
nothing could have offended in the bare observation that Franziska was
a pretty girl.
At dinner in the evening we had our two guests and a few young fellows
from London who did not happen to have their families or homes there.
Curiously enough, there was a vast deal of talk about travelling, and
also about Baden, and more particularly about the southern districts
of Baden. Tita said the Black Forest was the most charming place in
the world; and as it was Christmas Day, and as we had been listening
to a sermon all about charity and kindness and consideration for
others, nobody was rude enough to contradict her. But our forbearance
was put to a severe test when, after dinner, she produced a
photographic album and handed it round, and challenged everybody to
say whether the young lady in the corner was not absolutely lovely.
Most of them said that she was certainly very nice-looking; and Tita
seemed a little disappointed.
I perceived that it would no longer do to say that Franziska was a
pretty girl. We should henceforth have to swear by everything we held
dear that she was absolutely lovely.
ZUM "GOLDENEN BOCK"
We felt some pity for the lad when we took him abroad with us; but it
must be confessed that at first he was not a very desirable travelling
companion. There was a gloom about him. Despite the eight months that
had elapsed, he professed that his old wound was still open. Tita
treated him with the kindest maternal solicitude, which was a great
mistake; tonics, not sweets, are required in such cases. Yet he was
very grateful, and he said, with a blush, that, in any case, he would
not rail against all women because of the badness of one. Indeed, you
would not have fancied he had any great grudge against womankind.
There were a great many English abroad that autumn, and we met whole
batches of pretty girls at every station and at every /table d'hote/
on our route. Did he avoid them, or glare at them savagely, or say
hard things of them? Oh no! quite the reverse. He was a little shy at
first; and when he saw a party of distressed damsels in a station,
with their bewildered father in vain attempting to make himself
understood to a porter, he would assist them in a brief and
businesslike manner as if it were a duty, lift his cap, and then march
off relieved. But by-and-by he began to make acquaintances in the
hotel; and as he was a handsome, English-looking lad, who bore a
certificate of honesty in his clear gray eyes and easy gait, he was
rather made much of. Nor could any fault be decently found with his
So we passed on from Konigswinter to Coblenz, and from Coblenz to
Heidelberg, and from Heidelberg south to Freiburg, where we bade adieu
to the last of the towns, and laid hold of a trap with a pair of
ancient and angular horses, and plunged into the Hollenthal, the first
great gorge of the Black Forest mountains. From one point to another
we slowly urged our devious course, walking the most of the day,
indeed, and putting the trap and ourselves up for the night at some
quaint roadside hostelry, where we ate of roe-deer and drank of
Affenthaler, and endeavoured to speak German with a pure Waldshut
accent. And then, one evening, when the last rays of the sun were
shining along the hills and touching the stems of the tall pines, we
drove into a narrow valley and caught sight of a large brown building
of wood, with projecting eaves and quaint windows, that stood close by
"Here is my dear inn!" cried Tita, with a great glow of delight and
affection in her face. "Here is /mein gutes Thal! Ich gruss' dich ein
tausend Mal!/ And here is old Peter come out to see us; and there is
"Oh, this is Franziska, is it?" said Charlie.
Yes, this was Franziska. She was a well-built, handsome girl of
nineteen or twenty, with a healthy, sunburnt complexion, and dark hair
plaited into two long tails, which were taken up and twisted into a
knot behind. That you could see from a distance. But on nearer
approach you found that Franziska had really fine and intelligent
features, and a pair of frank, clear, big brown eyes that had a very
straight look about them. They were something of the eyes of a deer,
indeed; wide apart, soft, and apprehensive, yet looking with a certain
directness and unconsciousness that overcame her natural girlish
timidity. Tita simply flew at her and kissed her heartily and asked
her twenty questions at once. Franziska answered in very fair English,
a little slow and formal, but quite grammatical. Then she was
introduced to Charlie, and she shook hands with him in a simple and
unembarrassed way; and then she turned to one of the servants and gave
some directions about the luggage. Finally she begged Tita to go
indoors and get off her travelling attire, which was done, leaving us
"She's a very pretty girl," Charlie said, carelessly. "I suppose she's
sort of head cook and kitchen-maid here."
The impudence of these young men is something extraordinary.
"If you wish to have your head in your hands," I remarked to him,
"just you repeat that remark at dinner. Why, Franziska is no end of a
swell. She has two thousand pounds and the half of a mill. She has a
sister married to the Geheimer-Ober-Hofbaurath of Hesse-Cassel. She
had visited both Paris and Munich, and she has her dresses made in
"But why does such an illustrious creature bury herself in this
valley, and in an old inn, and go about bareheaded?"
"Because there are folks in the world without ambition, who like to
live a quiet, decent, homely life. Every girl can't marry a Geheimer-
Ober-Hofbaurath. Ziska, now, is much more likely to marry the young
"Oh, indeed! and live here all her days. She couldn't do better. Happy
We went indoors. It was a low, large, rambling place, with one immense
room all hung round with roe-deers' horns, and with one lesser room
fitted up with a billiard-table. The inn lay a couple of hundred yards
back from Huferschingen; but it had been made the headquarters of the
keepers, and just outside this room there were a number of pegs for
them to sling their guns and bags on when they came in of an evening
to have a pipe and a chopin of white wine. Ziska's uncle and aunt were
both large, stout, and somnolent people, very good-natured and kind,
but a trifle dull. Ziska really had the management of the place, and
she was not slow to lend a hand if the servants were remiss in waiting
on us. But that, it was understood, was done out of compliment to our
small Queen Tita.
By-and-by we sat down to dinner, and Franziska came to see that
everything was going on straight. It was a dinner "with scenery." You
forgot to be particular about the soup, the venison, and the
Affenthaler when from the window at your elbow you could look across
the narrow valley and behold a long stretch of the Black Forest
shining in the red glow of the sunset. The lower the sun sank the more
intense became the crimson light on the tall stems of the pines; and
then you could see the line of shadow slowly rising up the side of the
opposite hill until only the topmost trees were touched with fire.
Then these too lost it, and all the forest around us seemed to have a
pale-blue mist stealing over it as the night fell and the twilight
faded out of the sky overhead. Presently the long undulations of fir
grew black, the stars came out, and the sound of the stream could be
heard distantly in the hollow; and then, at Tita's wish, we went off
for a last stroll in among the soft moss and under the darkness of the
pines, now and again starting some great capercailzie, and sending it
flying and whirring down the glades.
When we returned from that prowl into the forest, we found the inn
dark. Such people as may have called in had gone home; but we
suspected that Franziska had given the neighbours a hint not to
overwhelm us on our first arrival. When we entered the big room,
Franziska came in with candles; then she brought some matches, and
also put on the table an odd little pack of cards, and went out. Her
uncle and aunt had, even before we went out, come and bade us good-
night formally, and shaken hands all round. They are early folk in the
"Where has that girl gone now?" says Charlie. "Into that lonely
billiard-room! Couldn't you ask her to come in here? Or shall we go
and play billiards?"
Tita stares, and then demurely smiles; but it is with an assumed
severity that she rebukes him for such a wicked proposal, and reminds
him that he must start early next morning. He groans assent. Then she
takes her leave.
The big young man was silent for a moment or two, with his hands in
his pockets and his legs stretched out. I begin to think I am in for
it--the old story of blighted hopes and angry denunciation and
hypocritical joy, and all the rest of it. But suddenly Charlie looks
up with a businesslike air and says:
"Who is that doctor fellow you were speaking about! Shall we see him
"You saw him to-night. It was he who passed us on the road with the
"What! that little fellow with the bandy legs and the spectacles?" he
cries, with a great laugh.
"That little fellow," I observe to him, "is a person of some
importance, I can tell you. He--"
"I suppose his sister married a Geheimer-Ober-under--what the dickens
is it?" says this disrespectful young man.
"Dr. Krumm has got the Iron Cross."
"That won't make his legs any the straighter."
"He was at Weissenburg."
"I suppose he got that cast in the eye there."
"He can play the zither in a way that would astonish you. He has got a
little money. Franziska and he would be able to live very comfortably
"Franziska and that fellow?" says Charlie; and then he rises with a
sulky air, and proposes we should take our candles with us.
But he is not sulky very long; for Ziska, hearing our footsteps, comes
to the passage and bids us a friendly good-night.
"Good-night, Miss Fahler!" he says, in rather a shamefaced way; "and I
am so awfully sorry we have kept you up so late. We sha'n't do it
You would have thought by his manner that it was two o'clock, whereas
it was only half-past eleven!
There was no particular reason why Dr. Krumm should marry Franziska
Fahler, except that he was the most important young man in
Huferschingen, and she was the most important young woman. People
therefore thought they would make a good match, although Franziska
certainly had the most to give in the way of good looks. Dr. Krumm was
a short, bandy-legged, sturdy young man, with long, fair hair, a
tanned complexion, light-blue eyes not quite looking the same way,
spectacles, and a general air of industrious common sense about him,
if one may use such a phrase. There was certainly little of the lover
in his manner toward Ziska, and as little in hers toward him. They
were very good friends, though, and he called her Ziska, while she
gave him his nickname of Fidelio, his real name being Fidele.
Now on this, the first morning of our stay in Huferschingen, all the
population had turned out at an early hour to see us start for the
forest; and as the Ober-Forster had gone away to visit his parents in
Bavaria, Dr. Krumm was appointed to superintend the operations of the
day. And when everybody was busy renewing acquaintance with us,
gathering the straying dogs, examining guns and cartridge-belts, and
generally aiding in the profound commotion of our setting out, Dr.
Krumm was found to be talking in a very friendly and familiar manner
with our pretty Franziska. Charlie eyed them askance. He began to say
disrespectful things of Krumm: he thought Krumm a plain person. And
then, when the bandy-legged doctor had got all the dogs, keepers, and
beaters together, we set off along the road, and presently plunged
into the cool shade of the forest, where the thick moss suddenly
silenced our footsteps, and where there was a moist and resinous smell
in the air.
Well, the incidents of the forenoon's shooting, picturesque as they
were, and full of novelty to Tita's protege, need not be described. At
the end of the fourth drive, when we had got on nearly to luncheon-
time, it appeared that Charlie had killed a handsome buck, and he was
so pleased with this performance that he grew friendly with Dr. Krumm,
who had, indeed, given him the /haupt-stelle/. But when, as we sat
down to our sausages and bread and red wine, Charlie incidentally
informed our commander-in-chief that, during one of the drives, a
splendid yellow fox had come out of the underwood and stood and stared
at him for three or four seconds, the doctor uttered a cry of despair.
"I should have told you that," he said, in English that was not quite
so good as Ziska's, "if I had remembered, yes! The English will not
shoot the foxes; but they are very bad for us; they kill the young
deer. We are glad to shoot them; and Franziska she told me she wanted
a yellow fox for the skin to make something."
Charlie got very red in the face. He /had/ missed a chance. If he had
known that Franziska wanted a yellow fox, all the instinctive
veneration for that animal that was in him would have gone clean out,
and the fate of the animal--for Charlie was a smart shot--would have
been definitely sealed.
"Are there many of them?" said he, gloomily.
"No; not many. But where there is one there are generally four or
five. In the next drive we may come on them, yes! I will put you in a
good place, sir, and you must not think of letting him go away; for
Franziska, who has waited two, three weeks, and not one yellow fox not
anywhere, and it is for the variety of the skin in a--a--I do not know
what you call it."
"A rug, I suppose," said Charlie.
I subsequently heard that Charlie went to his post with a fixed
determination to shoot anything of yellow colour that came near him.
His station was next to that of Dr. Krumm; but of course they were
invisible to each other. The horns of the beaters sounded a warning;
the gunners cocked their guns and stood on the alert; in the perfect
silence each one waited for the first glimmer of a brown hide down the
long green glades of young fir. Then, according to Charlie's account,
by went two or three deer like lightning--all of them does. A buck
came last, but swerved just as he came in sight, and backed and made
straight for the line of beaters. Two more does, and then an absolute
blank. One or two shots had been heard at a distance; either some of
the more distant stations had been more fortunate, or one or other of
the beaters had tried his luck. Suddenly there was a shot fired close
to Charlie; he knew it must have been the doctor. In about a minute
afterward he saw some pale-yellow object slowly worming its way
through the ferns; and here, at length, he made sure he was going to
get his yellow fox. But just as the animal came within fair distance,
it turned over, made a struggle or two, and lay still. Charlie rushed
along to the spot: it was, indeed, a yellow fox, shot in the head, and
now as dead as a door-nail.
What was he to do? Let Dr. Krumm take home this prize to Franziska,
after he had had such a chance in the afternoon? Never! Charlie fired
a barrel into the air, and then calmly awaited the coming up of the
beaters and the drawing together of the sportsmen.
Dr. Krumm, being at the next station, was the first to arrive. He
found Charlie standing by the side of the slain fox.
"Ha!" he said, his spectacles fairly gleaming with delight, "you have
shotted him! You have killed him! That is very good--that is
excellent! Now you will present the skin to Miss Franziska, if you do
not wish to take it to England."
"Oh no!" said Charlie, with a lordly indifference. "I don't care about
it. Franziska may have it."
Charlie pulled me aside, and said, with a solemn wink:
"Can you keep a secret?"
"My wife and I can keep a secret. I am not allowed to have any for
"Listen," said the unabashed young man; "Krumm shot that fox. Mind you
don't say a word. I must have the skin to present to Franziska."
I stared at him; I had never known him guilty of a dishonest action.
But when you do get a decent young English fellow condescending to do
anything shabby, be sure it is a girl who is the cause. I said
nothing, of course; and in the evening a trap came for us, and we
drove back to Huferschingen.
Tita clapped her hands with delight; for Charlie was a favourite of
hers, and now he was returning like a hero, with a sprig of fir in his
cap to show that he had killed a buck.
"And here, Miss Franziska," he said, quite gaily, "here is a yellow
fox for you. I was told that you wanted the skin of one."
Franziska fairly blushed for pleasure; not that the skin of a fox was
very valuable for her, but that the compliment was so open and marked.
She came forward, in German fashion, and rather shyly shook hands with
him in token of her thanks.
When Tita was getting ready for dinner I told her about the yellow
fox. A married man must have no secrets.
"He is not capable of such a thing," she says, with a grand air.
"But he did it," I point out. "What is more, he glories in it. What
did he say when I remonstrated with him on the way home! '/Why/,' says
he, '/I will put an end to Krumm! I will abolish Krumm! I will
extinguish Krumm!/' Now, madame, who is responsible for this? Who had
been praising Franziska night and day as the sweetest, gentlest,
cleverest girl in the world, until this young man determines to have a
flirtation with her and astonish you?"
"A flirtation!" says Tita, faintly. "Oh no! Oh, I never meant that."
"Ask him just now, and he will tell you that women deserve no better.
They have no hearts; they are treacherous. They have beautiful eyes,
but no conscience. And so he means to take them as they are, and have
his measure of amusement."
"Oh, I am sure he never said anything so abominably wicked," cried
Tita, laying down the rose that Franziska had given her for her hair.
"I know he could not say such things. But if he is so wicked--if he
has said them--it is not too late to interfere. /I/ will see about
She drew herself up as if Jupiter had suddenly armed her with his
thunderbolts. If Charlie had seen her at this moment he would have
quailed. He might by chance have told the truth, and confessed that
all the wicked things he had been saying about woman's affection were
only a sort of rhetoric, and that he had no sort of intention to flirt
with poor Franziska, nor yet to extinguish and annihilate Dr. Krumm.
The heartbroken boy was in very good spirits at dinner. He was
inclined to wink. Tita, on the contrary, maintained an impressive
dignity of demeanour; and when Franziska's name happened to be
mentioned she spoke of the young girl as her very particular friend,
as though she would dare Charlie to attempt a flirtation with one who
held that honour. But the young man was either blind or reckless, or
acting a part for mere mischief. He pointed the finger of scorn at Dr.
Krumm. He asked Tita if he should bring her a yellow fox next day. He
declared he wished he could spend the remainder of his life in a Black
Forest Inn, with a napkin over his arm, serving chopins. He said he
would brave the wrath of the Furst by shooting a capercailzie on the
very first opportunity, to bring the shining feathers home to
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