The Project Gutenberg eBook of Under a Charm: A Novel. Vol. III

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Title: Under a Charm: A Novel. Vol. III

Author: E. Werner

Translator: Christina Tyrrell

Release date: February 12, 2011 [eBook #35253]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Charles Bowen, from page scans provided by Google Books.


Transcriber's Note:
1. Page scan source:
2. Compare this to the American edition: "Vineta, The Phantom City," by E. Werner and translated by Frances A. Shaw.



A Novel.




(All rights reserved.)





The border-station lay, as has already been mentioned, only half a league distant from the frontier, in the midst of some of the thickest plantations on the Wilicza land. The building, which was large and even handsome, had been erected by the late Herr Nordeck at no inconsiderable cost; but there was a desolate, decayed look about the place, nothing whatever having been done towards its preservation or repair, either by master or tenant, for the last twenty years. The present forester owed his position solely to the Princess Baratowska's favour, that lady having taken advantage of the vacancy caused by his predecessor's death to advance one of her own supporters to the post. Osiecki had now filled it for three years. His frequent encroachments and somewhat negligent performance of his duties were altogether overlooked by his mistress, because she knew that the forester was devoted to her personally, and that she could count on him in any circumstances. Hitherto, Osiecki had but rarely been brought in contact with his master, and, on the whole, had followed with fair exactness the instructions received from him. Waldemar himself came but very rarely to the lonely, outlying station. It was only during the last few weeks that the perpetual conflicts between the foresters and the military stationed on the frontier had obliged him to interfere.

It was still to all appearances midwinter. The house and forest stood laden with snow in the dim light which fell from a heavy overcast sky. The ranger had assembled all his troop--five or six foresters under his orders, and some woodmen. They were all standing with their guns thrown over their shoulders, evidently waiting for the master's coming; but it certainly did not look as though they were ready to obey and peaceably to quit the station, as Waldemar had commanded. The dark defiant faces of the men augured nothing good, and the ranger's appearance fully justified the assertion that he was 'capable of anything.' These people, who lived from year's end to year's end in the solitude of the woods, were not very punctilious in their notions of duty, cared little for either law or order; and Osiecki especially was notorious for the liberty of action he allowed himself, following generally the promptings of his own arbitrary will.

Nevertheless, they as yet preserved a respectful attitude, for before them stood the young Countess Morynska. She had thrown back her mantle. Her beautiful face betrayed nothing of the struggle and torture she had gone through but an hour or two ago; it was only very grave now, and coldly severe.

"You have brought us to an evil pass, Osiecki," she said. "You should have been careful not to attract suspicion or attention to the station, instead of which you quarrel with the patrols, and imperil everything by your indiscreet conduct. The Princess is extremely displeased with you. I come in her name once more emphatically to forbid any acts of violence whatever, no matter against whom. This time you must make up your mind to obey. Your ill-judged proceedings have done harm enough."

The reproach made an evident impression on the forester. He looked down, and there was something almost apologetic in his voice as he answered with mingled defiance and contrition--

"Well, it is done now. I could not hold back my men this time--nor myself either, for that matter. If the Princess, or you, my lady, knew what it is for us to lie here quiet day by day, while the fighting is going on out yonder, to look on at the doings of those soldier fellows and not to be allowed to stir a finger, though we have our loaded rifles in our hands! It would wear out any man's patience, and ours broke down the day before yesterday. If I did not know that we are wanted here, we should all have been over yonder with our own people long ago. Prince Baratowski is only a couple of hours from the frontier; it would not be hard to find the way to him."

"You will stop here!" replied Wanda, with decision. "You know my father's orders. The station is to be held, come what may, and for that reason you are more necessary to us here than out yonder at the seat of war. Prince Baratowski has men enough at his disposal. But now to the main point. Herr Nordeck is coming here to-day."

"Yes, yes," said the ranger, with a sneer. "He means to make us obey, he says. We are to go over to Wilicza, where he will have us constantly under his eye, where we cannot lift a hand without having him behind us, looking over our shoulders. Yes, he is a good one to command, is Nordeck; but the question is whether just at this time he will find any one to obey him. He had better bring a whole regiment of soldiers with him, if he wants to drive us out of the station--else it is not certain but the thing may take a bad turn."

"What do you mean by that?" asked the young Countess, slowly. "Are you forgetting that Waldemar Nordeck is your mistress's son?"

"Prince Baratowski is her son and our master," the forester broke forth; "and it is a shame that she and all of us should have to obey this German, just because his father forced his way in among us twenty years ago, and got possession of the Morynski estates and of a Countess Morynska for his wife. It was bad enough that she should have to put up with that man for years; but now the son gives her still more bitter bread to eat--we know well enough what terms they are on. If she were to lose him, she would not grieve much more than she did for his father, and it would be the best thing that could happen to the whole family. Then the orders from the Castle need not be given in secret; the Princess would reign, and our young Prince would be the heir and the master of Wilicza, as he should be of right."

Wanda turned pale. The unhappy position in which mother and son stood to each other had already so made its baneful influence felt that their subordinates could calculate in cold blood what advantages Waldemar's death would bring to his nearest relatives, that they reckoned on the Princess's forgiveness, to whatever extremity they might resort. There was here something more to check and subdue than an outbreak of momentary fury and irritation. Wanda saw her worst fears confirmed; but she knew that by no word, no look must she betray her inward anxiety. She was held in respect only as Count Morynski's daughter, as the Princess's niece, and no doubt was felt that she spoke in the name of the latter. If once the motive were guessed which had really brought her hither, there would be an end to her authority, and she would lose all chance of protecting Waldemar.

"Do not venture to lay hands on your master," she said, imperiously, but as calmly as though she were actually fulfilling her mission. "Happen what may, the Princess desires that her son may be spared, his safety ensured at any cost. Let the man who dares to attack him look to himself! You will obey, Osiecki--obey unconditionally. Once already you have angered her with your disobedience. Do not attempt it a second time."

The forester struck his gun impatiently on the floor, and there was an uneasy movement among the bystanders who had hitherto listened to the conversation in silence; yet no one ventured to offer opposition--no one even murmured. The command had been sent to them by the Princess, who was the one authority they recognised. Wanda would have gained her end, if more time had been granted her in which to work on the men's minds; but, hasten hither as she might, she had only been able to obtain an advance of a few minutes on Waldemar. At this moment his sledge drove up outside. All eyes were turned to the window. The young Countess started.

"Already? Open the side door quickly for me, Osiecki. Say no syllable to betray my presence here. I will go as soon as Herr Nordeck has left."

The forester obeyed with all haste. He knew that Countess Morynska must on no account be seen here by the master--else all their secrets would be betrayed. Wanda stepped quickly into a small and dimly lighted chamber, and the door was at once closed upon her.

It was high time. Two minutes later Waldemar appeared in the room she had just left. He stopped on the threshold and took a steady look at the circle of foresters who had grouped themselves around the ranger, their rifles in their hands. The sight was not an encouraging one for the young master, who came thus alone among them with the view of reducing the rebels to submission; but his face was quite unmoved, and his voice rang out firm and clear as he said, turning to the ranger--

"I did not announce my coming to you, Osiecki; but you seem to be prepared for it."

"Yes, Herr Nordeck, we were expecting you," was the laconic reply.

"Armed? in such an attitude? What are you doing with your rifles? Lay them down."

Countess Morynska's warning must have had some effect, for they obeyed. The ranger was the first to put down his weapon; but he placed it well within reach of his hand, and the others followed his example. Waldemar now advanced into the middle of the room.

"I have come to ask for an explanation of a mistake which occurred yesterday, Osiecki," he said. "My orders could not be misunderstood, I sent them in writing; but the messenger who brought your reply cannot have understood his errand. What did you really commission him to say to me?"

This was going straight to the root of the matter. The short, precise question was not to be evaded; it demanded an answer equally precise. Yet the forester hesitated. He had not the courage to repeat to his master's face that which he had yesterday charged his messenger to declare.

"I am the border-ranger," said he, at last, "and I mean to remain so while I am in your service, Herr Nordeck. I am responsible for my station, therefore I must have the management of it, and no one else."

"But you have shown that you are not capable of managing it," replied Waldemar, gravely. "You either cannot, or will not, hold your men in check. I warned you repeatedly on two former occasions when excesses had been committed. That affair of the day before yesterday was the third, and it will be the last."

"I can't keep my men quiet when they fall in with the patrols at such a time as this," declared the ranger, with a flash of defiance. "I have no authority over them now."

"For that very reason you must be removed to Wilicza--there _I_ shall be able to furnish the necessary authority, if yours falls short."

"And my station?"

"Will remain for the present under the supervision of Inspector Fellner, until the arrival of the new ranger whom I had destined for Wilicza. He must make up his mind to take your post for a while. You yourself will stay at the Castle-station until there is peace again in the land out yonder."

Osiecki laughed ironically. "It may be a long time first."

"Perhaps not so long as you think. At any rate, you will have to leave this house to-morrow."

A somewhat significant movement was noticeable among the men as he repeated his order in most decided tones, and the forester's passion blazed up fiercely.

"Herr Nordeck!" he exclaimed.


"I declared yesterday ..."

"I hope you have taken counsel since then, and that to-day you are ready to declare it was through a misunderstanding your messenger brought me such an incredible answer. Take care what you are about, Osiecki. I should think you must know me sufficiently by this time."

"Yes, indeed, you have taken good care that all Wilicza should know you," muttered the ranger between his set teeth.

"Then you know, too, that I brook no disobedience, and that I never take back an order once given. The forester's house at Wilicza is empty at present. You will either move into it before noon tomorrow with all your staff, or you may consider yourself dismissed from my service."

A threatening murmur rose among the men. They crowded more closely together, their looks and attitude showing plainly that it was only by an effort they still restrained themselves from any overt act of violence. Osiecki stepped up to his employer, and stood close before him.

"Oh, oh, the thing is not so easily settled," he cried. "I am no common day labourer to be hired to-day and discharged to-morrow. You can give me warning if you like; but I have a right to stay here till the autumn, and so have the men I have engaged. My district lies among the border-forests. I want no other, and I'll take no other, and the man who tries to oust me will fare but badly."

"You mistake," replied Waldemar. "The station is my property, and the ranger is bound to conform to my instructions. Do not insist on a right which you have forfeited through your own misconduct. The act committed by your men under your leadership the other day deserves a far severer punishment than a mere removal to another post. You have insulted the patrols; you have now gone so far as to attack them--there were even shots fired. If you were not arrested on the spot, you may thank the consideration in which I am held in L---- for it. It is well known there that I have the will and, if need be, the power to keep the peace on my estates, and that I do not care to have strangers coming between me and those whom I employ; but some serious interference on my part is now expected of me, and I shall respond to that expectation without delay. You will at once comply with the arrangement I have determined on, or before the day is over I shall offer the station to the officer in command to serve as a post of observation on the frontier, and to-morrow the house will be garrisoned."

Osiecki hastily stretched out his hand towards his rifle; but bethought himself and stopped.

"You will not do that, Herr Nordeck," said he, in a low meaning voice.

"I shall do it, if there is any question of insubordination or resistance. Decide--you have the choice. Shall you be at Wilicza to-morrow or not?"

"No, a thousand times no," shouted Osiecki, roused now to violent excitement. "I have orders not to stir from the station, and I shall yield to nothing but actual force."

Waldemar started. "Orders? From whom?"

The forester bit his lips; but the unguarded word had escaped him, it could not be recalled.

"From whom have you received orders which are in direct opposition to mine?" repeated his employer. "From the Princess Baratowska, perhaps?"

"Well, suppose it were?" asked Osiecki, defiantly. "The Princess has commanded us for years, why should she leave off all at once?"

"Because the master is on the spot himself now, and it is not good that two should rule at one and the same time," said Waldemar, coldly. "My mother lives at the Castle as my guest; but on all matters concerning Wilicza and its management I alone decide. So you have instructions to retain possession of the station at any price, even to resort to force in order to hold it! There appears to be something more here than a mere reckless act of aggression on the part of your men."

The ranger maintained a moody silence. His own imprudence had betrayed him into what the Princess, in speaking to her niece, had stigmatised as 'treason'--had wrought the very evil which Wanda had striven to avert by hurrying to the spot herself. That one hasty word had disclosed to Waldemar that the resistance, to which he had hitherto attached no special importance, was one planned and executed under orders; and he knew his mother too well not to feel sure that, if she had given orders for the station to be held at all hazards--even for the use of force in its defence in case of need--this must be the point where the many threads conjoined which, spite of recent difficulties, she had never let slip from her experienced hands.

"No matter," he began again. "We will not discuss the past. To-morrow the border-station will be in other hands. We can settle all that remains to be settled between us at Wilicza. Till to-morrow, then."

He moved as though to go; but Osiecki barred his way. The forester had snatched up his rifle, and now held it in an apparently negligent fashion which was yet significant enough.

"I think we had better settle our accounts on the spot, Herr Nordeck. Once for all, I shall not leave my station to move to Wilicza or anywhere else, and you yourself don't stir from this room until you have recalled your words--not one step."

He would have signed to his confederates, but no sign was needed. As at a word of command, each man had grasped his rifle, and in an instant the young master was surrounded. Dark, threatening faces glowered at him on all sides, faces which said plainly that the men who owned them would recoil before no act of violence, and the whole man[oe]uvre was so neatly, so promptly executed, it must necessarily have been concerted beforehand. Perhaps at this moment Waldemar may have regretted coming alone; but he preserved all his coolness and presence of mind.

"What does this mean?" he asked. "Am I to take this for a menace?"

"Take it for what you will," cried the forester, fiercely; "but you will not stir from this spot without first revoking your orders. It is for us now to say 'Take your choice.' Beware what you do. You are not bullet proof."

"Perhaps you have already put that to the test?" Waldemar turned a searching look on the speaker. "Who despatched that ball after me the last time I rode home from this place?"

A glance of deadly hatred darting from Osiecki's eyes was his only answer.

"I have another ball here in the barrel, and each of my men is provided in like manner"--he grasped the weapon more firmly. "If you care to make the experiment, you will find us ready. Now, short and sweet. Give us your word that we shall remain at the station unmolested, that no soldier shall set foot in it--your word of honour, which is generally thought by such as you to be more binding than any written promise, or ..."


"You do not leave this place alive," concluded the forester, trembling with fury and excitement.

Promptly, almost tumultuously, the others ratified the threat. They crowded nearer. Six barrels, ominously raised, lent weight to Osiecki's words--but in vain. Not a muscle of Waldemar's face moved as he turned slowly, and looked round the circle. He stood in the midst of the rebellious band, cool and collected, as though he were holding the most peaceful conference with his subordinates. He only knitted his brow more closely, and folded his arms with imperturbable and superior calm.

"You are fools!" he returned, in a half-contemptuous voice. "You altogether forget what consequences you would draw down on yourselves. You are lost if you lay hands on me. Discovery would be inevitable."

"Supposing we waited for it," sneered the forester. "What do you think we are so near the frontier for? In half an hour we should be over it and out yonder in the thick of the fight, where no one would ask what game we might have brought down here with our rifles. Any way, we are sick of lying here on the quiet, without ever striking a blow for the cause; so, for the last time, will you give us your word of honour?"

"No," said the young man, neither moving nor averting his eyes from the speaker.

"Reflect, Herr Nordeck." Osiecki's voice was almost choked with rage. "Reflect, while there is yet time."

With two rapid strides Waldemar gained the wall, where, at least, he would be covered in the rear.

"No, I say; and since we have gone so far"--he drew a revolver from his breast-pocket, and pointed it at his assailants--"reflect yourselves before you show fight. A couple of you will pay for the murderous attack with their lives. My aim is as sure as yours."

At this the long pent-up storm broke loose. A wild tumult arose; execrations, curses, threats burst from the infuriated men. More than one among them laid his finger on the trigger, and Osiecki had raised his hand to give the signal for a general assault when the side door was hastily pushed open, and next instant Wanda stood by the side of him they already looked on as their prey.

Her unexpected appearance warded off the worst--for a short space, at least. The foresters paused on seeing Countess Morynska by their master's side, so near to him that any attack on their enemy must endanger her also. Waldemar, for his part, stood for one moment utterly perplexed and amazed. Her sudden advent was inexplicable to him; then, in an instant, the truth flashed through his mind. Wanda's death-like pallor, the expression of desperate energy with which she took her place at his side, told him that she had been aware of his danger, and that she was there for his sake.

The peril was too imminent to leave them time for any explanation, for the exchange of a single word. Wanda had at once turned to the aggressors and was addressing them imperiously, passionately. Waldemar, who knew but little Polish, who was but just beginning to familiarise himself with the language, understood only that she was issuing orders, resorting to dire threats against his adversaries--all to no avail. She had reached the limits of her power. Their answers came back fierce and menacing, and the ranger stamped with his foot on the ground--he evidently refused obedience. The short and hasty parley lasted but a minute or two. Not an inch of ground had been given up, not a man had lowered his weapon. The rebels, exasperated to blindest fury, were past paying deference, or recognising authority.

"Back, Wanda," said Waldemar, in a low voice, as he tried to put her gently from him. "There will be a fight, you cannot prevent it. Give me room to defend myself."

Wanda did not comply. On the contrary, she stood her ground more steadfastly than ever. She knew that he must succumb to the force of numbers, that his one chance of safety lay in her close neighbourhood. As yet they had not ventured to touch her--as yet no one had dared to drag her from his side; but the moment was drawing nigh when any such lingering scruples would give way.

"Move aside, Countess Morynska," the forester's voice, harsh and full of evil presage, resounded through the tumult. "Aside, or I shall shoot you too."

He raised his rifle. Wanda saw him lay his finger on the trigger, saw the man's features distorted with rage and hatred; and, seeing this, all hesitation, all reflection vanished from her mind. One single clear thought remained, definite, all-absorbing, that of Waldemar's deadly peril; and, grasping at the last resource left her, she threw herself on his breast, shielding him with her own body.

It was too late. The report crashed through the room, and next instant Waldemar's piece responded. With a low cry the forester fell to the ground, where he lay motionless. Waldemar had aimed with terrible precision. He himself stood upright and unhurt, and Wanda with him. The rapid movement, by which she had sought to shield him, had caused him to swerve aside from the sure direction of the deadly weapon, and had saved both him and herself.

It had all happened with such lightning-like speed that none of the others had had time to take part in the fray. In one and the same moment they saw Countess Morynska throw herself between the combatants, saw the forester stretched on the ground, and the master facing them with uplifted revolver, ready to fire his second shot. There was a pause of death-like stillness. For one second no one stirred.

The smoke had not cleared from his barrel before Waldemar had forced Wanda into his own partially sheltered position, and placed himself before her. With one glance he took in the whole situation. He was surrounded; the way out was barred. Six loaded rifles were opposed to his single weapon. If it came to a struggle he felt he was lost and Wanda with him, should she again attempt to come between him and the danger. An effectual defence was not to be thought of. Here boldness alone could save. The boldness might prove mad, rash audacity; but no matter, it must be tried.

He drew himself up erect, threw back with an energetic gesture the hair which had fallen over his forehead, and, pushing up the two barrels nearest him with his hand, stepped out into the midst of his assailants. His stately figure towered high above them all, and his eyes blazed down on his rebellious subjects, as though by their fire alone he could annihilate them.

"Down with your arms!" he thundered, with all the might of his powerful voice. "I will have no rebellion on my land. There lies the first man who has attempted it. He who dares to imitate him will share his fate. Down with your rifles, I say!"

The men stood as though paralysed with astonishment, and stared at their master speechless. They hated him; they were in open revolt against him, and he had just shot down their leader. The first, the most natural impulse would have been to take revenge, now that vengeance was in their hands. No doubt their intention had been to rush upon and close with Waldemar; but when he stepped out among them, thrusting aside their weapons with his hand, as though he did in truth wear a charmed life--when he demanded submission with the look and tone of an absolute and despotic ruler, the old habit of subjection made itself felt, the old spirit of blind obedience which, without question or demur, bows to the voice of command. With the instinctive docility of lower natures they yielded to the force of a superior mind. They recoiled timidly before those flashing eyes which they had long learned to fear, before that threatening brow with its strange swollen blue vein. And Waldemar stood before them unscathed! Osiecki's ball, which had never before been known to miss its aim, had glanced harmlessly by him, while the forester lay dead on the ground, shot to the heart!

There was something of superstitious awe in the movement with which those nearest him shrank back from their enemy. Gradually the menacing barrels were lowered; the circle round the master grew wider and wider; the venture with which he, one man alone, had braved a sixfold danger, had succeeded.

Waldemar turned and, grasping Wanda's arm, drew her to him. "Now clear a path," he ordered, in the same imperious tone; "make way!"

Some of the men kept their places; but the two foremost fell back hesitatingly and, by so doing, left free the space between them and the door. None of the others offered opposition--in silence they let their employer and Countess Morynska pass. Waldemar did not hasten his steps in the least. He knew that he had only quelled the danger for a moment, that it would return with redoubled force so soon as the insurgents had time to reflect, to recover a consciousness of their superior strength; but he also felt that the least sign of fear would be fatal. The power of his eye and of his voice still held that riotous, unruly band in check; all now depended on their getting clear of their foes before the spell ceased to work, which might happen any moment.

He stepped out with Wanda into the open air. The sledge was waiting outside, and the driver hurried up to them with a face blanched by fear. The sound of shots had attracted him to the window, where he had witnessed part of the scene which had just taken place. Waldemar quickly lifted his companion into the sledge, and got in himself.

"Drive off," he said, briefly and hastily. "At a foot-pace as far as the trees yonder, then give the horses the rein, and into the forest for your life."

The coachman obeyed. He was probably not without apprehensions on his own account. In a few minutes they had reached the friendly trees, and now they dashed onward in mad haste. Waldemar still held his revolver ready cocked in his right hand; but with his left he clasped Wanda's slender fingers tightly, as though he would never again relax his hold. Not until they had placed such a distance between the forester's station and themselves that all fear of murderous bullets despatched in their rear was over, did he relinquish his attitude of defence and turn to his companion. Now for the first time he saw that the hand he held in his was covered with blood. Some heavy drops were trickling down from the sleeve of her dress, and the man who had faced the late danger with a brow of adamant, grew white to the very lips.

"It is nothing," said Wanda, hastily forestalling his question. "Osiecki's ball must have grazed my arm. I did not feel the wound until now."

Waldemar tore out his handkerchief and helped her to bind up the injured arm with it. He was about to speak; but the young Countess raised her white face to him. She neither bade nor forbade him; but in her countenance there was such an expression of mute anguish and entreaty that Waldemar was silenced. He felt he must spare her, for the present, at least. He only spoke her name; but that one word said more than the most impassioned burst of eloquence. "Wanda!"

His look sought hers; but in vain. She did not raise her eyes again, and her hand lay inert and icy cold in his.

"Hope nothing!" she said, in so low a tone that her words hardly reached his ear. "You are the enemy of my people, and I am Leo Baratowski's affianced wife!"


The event at the border-station, resulting in so serious an incident as the ranger's death, could not long remain unknown at Wilicza, where, as may be supposed, it caused great excitement. Nothing could have been more unwelcome to the Princess than this open and bloody conflict. Doctor Fabian and the steward were seized with consternation, and the subordinates, according as they sided with the master or with the Princess, ranged themselves in two opposite camps, and ardently took part for and against the parties concerned. One person alone was, in spite of its tragic termination, made happy by the startling occurrence. Assessor Hubert, as has already been mentioned, chanced to be staying at the steward's house at the time. He at once rose to the height of the situation. The necessary enquiry which followed brought him to the foreground, took him to the Castle in his official capacity, compelled Herr Nordeck to enter into personal communication with him--all things for which Hubert had long sighed, but for which he had hitherto sighed in vain.

Waldemar had informed him with all brevity that, driven by the necessity of self-defence, he had shot down the forester Osiecki, the latter having made a murderous assault upon his person. He had at the same time begged the official to take suitable measures for a clear notification of these circumstances to the authorities at L----, declaring himself ready to undergo any examination, and the representative of the L---- police grew great in the sphere thus opened to his activity. He rushed with overwhelming zeal into the inquiry, the conduct of which devolved on him, and made the most wonderful preparations for its prosecution. Unfortunately, the result of all his efforts was small. He was naturally desirous, in the first place, to interrogate all the foresters employed on the station. As witnesses of the occurrence their evidence was of the greatest value; but next day the house was found empty and deserted. The men had preferred to evade any judicial intricacies by putting into execution a long cherished design and escaping in the night across the frontier. Their thorough knowledge of the country made it easy for them to effect their purpose, in spite of the sharp watch kept up on either side. They had doubtless joined the insurgent troops, with whose position they were well acquainted, and were thus beyond the reach of the law which, as personified in Assessor Hubert, stretched forth its arm so longingly after them. Hubert was inconsolable.

"They have gone!" said he to the steward, in a lamentable voice. "They have every one of them taken to their heels. There is not a single man of them left."

"I could have told you that beforehand," said Frank. "Under the circumstances, it was the best thing the fellows could do. Out yonder they are safe from an enquiry which might possibly have shown them up in their true light as accomplices."

"But I wanted to examine them," cried the Assessor, indignantly; "I wanted to take them all into custody."

"It was just on that account they preferred to make themselves scarce; and to be candid, I am glad it has happened so. It was always a danger to us to have that wild lot out on the frontier; now we are free from them without more disturbance. They will hardly come back again, so let them run. Herr Nordeck does not want much fuss made about the business."

"Herr Nordeck's wishes cannot be consulted in this case," declared Hubert, in his most solemn official tones. "He must incline before the majesty of the law, which demands the strictest enquiry, irrespective of persons. There can, of course, be no doubt as to his conduct on the occasion. He acted in self-defence, and only returned the ranger's fire. His declaration to this effect is corroborated by the coachman's evidence, by the foresters' flight, and by the general aspect of the case. He will merely be subjected to an examination or two, and then be absolved from all blame. But there are very different matters in question here. We have to do with an insurrection, with an undoubted conspiracy ..."

The steward sprang to his feet. "For Heaven's sake, don't begin with that again!"

"With a conspiracy," repeated Hubert, paying no heed to the interruption. "Yes, Herr Frank, it was such--all the circumstances of the case tend to prove it."

"Nonsense!" cried the steward, shortly. "It was a revolt against their employer, a personal affair, and nothing else. Deeds of violence were the order of the day with Osiecki and his men, and the Princess closed her eyes to all their misdoings, because she and her orders were held in absolute respect. That rough set owned no authority but hers; and when Herr Nordeck tried to enlighten them and show them _he_ was master, they took to their rifles. Any other man in his place would have been lost, but his energy and presence of mind saved him. He shot down that rascal Osiecki without more ado, and his promptness had such an effect on the others that not one of them dared move a finger. The whole thing is as simple and clear as it can possibly be, and what there is in it to put you on the conspiracy track again, I can't conceive."

"And how do you account for Countess Morynska's presence there?" demanded the Assessor, with as much triumph as though he had convicted an accused person of some crime. "What was the Countess doing at the forester's station, which lies six miles from Rakowicz, and belongs to the Wilicza property? We know the part both she and the Princess have taken in the present movement. In this confounded country the women are the most dangerous of all. They know everything, manage everything; the whole political network of intrigues is woven by their hands, and Countess Morynska is her father's true daughter, her aunt's most proficient pupil. Her presence at the station is proof enough of a conspiracy, proof clear as day! She hates her cousin with all the fanaticism of her people; it was she, and she alone, who planned this murderous surprise. That was why she appeared so suddenly among them, in the midst of the tumult, as though she had risen from the ground; that was why she tried to tear the revolver from Herr Nordeck's hand when he levelled it at Osiecki. She urged and stimulated the ranger and his men on to attack their master. But this Waldemar does not do things by halves! Not only did he subdue the mutiny, but he took the arch-instigator into safe custody, and brought her away with him by force to Wilicza. In spite of her struggles and resistance, he dragged his treacherous cousin out from the midst of her partisans, lifted her into the sledge, and drove off as for the very life. Just imagine, during the whole journey he never once addressed her--not a syllable did they exchange; but he never loosed his hold on her hand for an instant. He was determined to frustrate any attempt at flight. I am fully informed of it all. I have examined the coachman minutely on the subject ..."

"Yes, you were examining him for three mortal hours, until the poor fellow lost his head, and said yes to everything," interrupted the steward. "From his post outside the window he could not make out all the details of what was passing. He could only see an angry crowd, in the midst of which stood his master and Countess Morynska. Then came the two shots, and by his own confession he at once rushed off to his horse in the greatest alarm. You put all the rest in his mouth. Herr Nordeck's deposition is the only reliable one."

The Assessor looked greatly offended. He felt very much inclined to assume all the dignity of his office as representative of the L---- police, whose proceedings were thus lightly esteemed and criticised in his; but he bethought himself in time that it was his father-in-law elect who was taking the liberty of setting him right, and such things must be tolerated and passed over, in consideration of their future close relationship. It was a sad pity, though, that the steward should not feel a more becoming respect for his son-in-law's infallible instinct in all official matters! Hubert gulped down his annoyance and only replied, in rather an irritated tone--

"Herr Nordeck is giving himself sovereign airs as usual. He vouchsafed me the information in as laconic a manner as possible; he would enter into no particulars, and refused point-blank when I expressed a wish to put some questions to Countess Morynska, alleging as a pretext that his cousin was unwell. Then he takes upon himself to give orders and make arrangements, exactly as if I were not there; and behaves as though no one but he had a word to say in the business. He would hush it up altogether if he could. 'Herr Nordeck,' said I to him, 'you are completely in error in regarding this occurrence merely as an explosion of private hatred. The question lies far deeper. _I_ can see through it. It was a planned and premeditated insurrection, a prematurely developed conspiracy, directed against you, no doubt, in the first instance, but which had far wider aims in view. It was a conspiracy against order, against law, against the Government. We must sift this matter thoroughly; we must take all necessary measures.' What do you think he replied? 'Herr Assessor, you are completely in error in attributing the importance of a State conspiracy to an ill--conditioned fellow's violent assault on me. There is no end to be gained by your enquiry, now that all the men concerned have taken flight; and in the utter failure of traitors and conspirators you would be obliged to fall back on Dr. Fabian and myself, as happened to you on a previous occasion. It is in your own interest, therefore, that I must beg of you to moderate your zeal. I have provided you with the necessary material for your reports to L----. As to any disturbance of law or order here at Wilicza, you need feel no anxiety on that score. I imagine that I alone should be equal to any emergency which might arise.' With that he made me a cold majestic bow, and turned on his heel."

The steward laughed. "He has got that from his mother. I know the style. Princess Baratowska has often nearly driven me wild with it. No just anger, no consciousness of being in the right will avail a man against that grand, calm way of theirs. It is a peculiar form of superiority, which is imposing in spite of everything, and in which Prince Leo, for instance, is altogether deficient. He allows his hasty temper to get the better of him continually. It is only the elder son who has inherited this trait; at such times one might fancy his mother herself was there before one, though he is little enough like her in a general way. But Herr Nordeck is right in this. Moderate your zeal. It has brought you into trouble once already."

"Such is my fate," said the Assessor, resignedly. "With the noblest aims, with unwearying devotion, and the most ardent zeal for the welfare of the State, I earn nothing but ingratitude, misconstruction, and neglect. I persist in my opinion. It was a conspiracy. I had unearthed one at last, and now it slips through my fingers. Osiecki is dead, his men have fled, no confession can be extracted from Countess Morynska. If only I had gone over to the station yesterday! This morning I found it empty. It is my destiny ever to arrive too late!"

The steward cleared his throat in a marked manner. He thought he would take advantage of Hubert's elegiac humour to bring the conversation round to the subject of his wooing, and then and there roundly to declare to him that he must entertain no hopes of winning his daughter's hand. Gretchen had not thought better of it, but had persisted in her refusal; and her father was about to crush the poor lover with this afflicting disclosure, when Waldemar's coachman--the same who had driven his master and Countess Morynska on the preceding day, and who since then had been a victim to the Assessor's constant cross-examinations--entered the room with a message from Herr Nordeck.

It was all over now with Hubert's resignation, all over too with his attention for other things. He forgot past misconstruction and neglect; remembering only that he had several most important questions to put to the coachman, he dragged that unfortunate witness, in spite of all Frank's protests, up with him to his own room, there to proceed with the examination with renewed vigour.

The steward shook his head. He himself began now to incline to the opinion that there was something morbid about the Assessor's mind; it dawned upon him that his daughter might, after all, not be so far wrong in refusing this suitor whose furious official zeal was so hard to moderate, and whose fixed ideas on the subject of general and all-pervading conspiracies were proof against all argument.

Just at this moment, however, Gretchen happened to be following the Assessor's example. She too was cross-questioning, and that in a very thorough and businesslike manner, the person who was closeted with her in the parlour, and who was no other than our old friend, Dr. Fabian. He had been obliged to report in detail all that he had heard from Herr Nordeck of yesterday's event. Unfortunately he had little more news to tell than what was already current in the steward's house. Waldemar had told the Doctor what he had told every one else; confining himself to the bare facts of the case, and maintaining an absolute silence with regard to much that was interesting--with regard, for instance, to the part Countess Morynska had played in the drama. This, however, was precisely the point which Gretchen Frank desired to have cleared up. Hubert's assertion that the young Countess hated her cousin, that she had even planned the surprise at the forester's house, did not quite approve itself to her mind. With true womanly instinct, she divined some far different and secretly existing relation between the two, and she grew very cross on finding that no more accurate information was to be obtained.

"You don't understand how to use your influence, Doctor," said she, reproachfully. "If I were Herr Nordeck's friend and confidant, I should have rather a better knowledge of his affairs. He would have to come and confess the most trifling thing to me. I should have trained him to it from the first."

The Doctor smiled a little. "You would hardly have succeeded in that. It is not so easy to train a nature such as Waldemar's in any particular course, and communicative you certainly never could have made him. He never feels the need of speaking his thoughts, of unburthening his mind to another person. Trouble and gladness alike he keeps to himself. Those about him see nothing of it, and one must know him long and intimately, as I have known him, to find out that he is capable of any deep emotion."

"Naturally enough--he has no heart," said Gretchen, who was always very ready with her judgments. "One can see that at a glance. He chills the room directly he comes into it, and I begin to shiver whenever he speaks to me. All Wilicza has learned to fear, but not a single creature to love him; and in spite of the friendliness and the consideration he has shown us, he is just as great a stranger even to my father as on the day of his arrival. I am convinced he has never loved any human being--certainly no woman. He is perfectly heartless."

"Pardon me, Fräulein,"--Fabian grew quite hot as he answered her--"you do him great injustice there. He has heart enough, more than you fancy; more perhaps than that fiery, passionate young Prince Baratowski. But Waldemar does not know how, perhaps does not wish, to show it. Even as a boy I noticed this trait in him, this close, persistent reserve; for years I strove in vain to overcome it, until a chance occurrence, a danger threatening me, all at once broke the ice between us. From that hour I learned to know Waldemar as he really is."

"Well, amiable he is not, that is certain," decided Gretchen. "I can't understand how you can be so tenderly attached to him. You were almost distracted yesterday when you heard of the peril he had passed through, and something must have happened up at the Castle again to-day, for you are quite cross and excited. I saw it directly you came in. Come, confess to me at once. Is Herr Nordeck menaced by any fresh trouble?"

"No, no," said the Doctor, hastily. "It has nothing to do with Waldemar--this matter concerns myself alone. It has excited me a little, certainly; but as to being cross--oh no, I certainly am not that, Fräulein. I have had news from J---- this morning."

"Has that scientific and historic monster, Professor Schwarz, been annoying you again?" asked the young lady, with as warlike a demeanour as though she were ready to throw down the glove and do battle with that celebrated man on the spot.

Fabian shook his head. "I fear it is I who am to bring annoyance on him this time, though I may truly say, in a manner altogether independent of my will. You know that it was my 'History of Teutonism' which was the original ground of contest between him and Professor Weber. This contest has grown hotter and hotter, until at last it has passed all bounds. Schwarz, with his hasty temper, irritated too by the importance they attached to my book, allowed himself to be so far carried away as to stoop to personal invective and to unwarrantable rudeness towards his colleague; and, when the whole University declared itself on Weber's side, he threatened to send in his resignation. He only meant, by so doing, to show them how indispensable he was--he never seriously thought of leaving J----; but his harsh, imperious manners have made him many enemies among the leading personages there. In short, no attempt was made to detain him, and what he merely intended as a threat was accepted as an accomplished fact. He had no choice but to persist in the resolution he had so publicly avowed. It is decided now that he is to leave the University."

"A very good tiling for the University," said Gretchen, drily; "but I do really believe you are capable of worrying yourself with remorse about the business. It would be just like you."

"That is not all," said Fabian, in a low, hesitating voice. "There is some talk of--of my taking his place. Professor Weber writes me word that they intend offering me the chair which has become vacant--offering it to me, a simple private scholar, who can boast of no academic usefulness, whose only merit lies in his book, the first he has published! It is something so unusual, so astounding, that at first I positively could not believe it. I really could not get over my surprise, my utter amazement."

Gretchen showed no amazement; she seemed to think it the most natural thing that could have happened. "Well, they have shown themselves very sensible," said she. "You are a man of much higher mark than Professor Schwarz. Your book is far superior to anything he ever wrote; and when you are once seated in his professorial chair, he will soon find his fame obscured."

"But, Fräulein, you don't know the Professor; you have not read his works," put in the Doctor, timidly.

"Never mind, I know you," declared the girl, rising superior to argument. "Of course you mean to accept the nomination?"

Fabian looked down, and some seconds passed before he answered--

"I hardly think so. Honourable as the distinction is to me, I do not venture to avail myself of it, for I fear I should not be equal to so important and prominent a post. The long years I have spent in retirement, in solitude over my books, have unfitted me for public life, and have made me quite incapable of meeting all those social calls upon me which such a position would entail. Finally--and this is the principal reason of all--I could not leave Waldemar, especially now when troubles are coming in upon him on all sides. I am the only person with whom he can be said to be on intimate terms, whose society he would miss. It would be the height of ingratitude on my part, if for the sake of some outward advantages ...."

"It would be the height of selfishness on Herr Nordeck's part, if he were to accept such a sacrifice," interrupted Gretchen. "Luckily, he is sure not to do so; he will never consent to your abandoning for his sake a career which must seem to you to comprise every earthly happiness."

"To me?" repeated the Doctor, sadly. "No, there you are mistaken. I have ever sought and found all my pleasure in study, and I looked upon it as a special favour from Providence when, in the pupil who at one time stood so coldly aloof from me, a true and faithful friend grew up. That which is called earthly happiness--a home, a family--I have never known, and am not likely now to learn. At this moment, when such undreamt-of success has come to me, it would be sheer presumption to covet that also. I can well afford to be satisfied with that which has fallen to my lot."

In spite of his resignation, the words sounded sorrowful enough; but his young listener was apparently not moved to pity. Her lip curled disdainfully.

"You are of a singular nature, Doctor. I should be in despair if I had to take so gloomy a view of life, to renounce all its bright side."

The Doctor smiled sadly. "All, with you it is very different. One who is young and attractive as you are, who has grown up in free and happy circumstances, has a right to expect--to demand all good things from life. May they be granted you in fullest measure! It is my earnest, my heartfelt wish; but, indeed, there can be no doubt of it. Assessor Hubert loves you."

"What has Assessor Hubert to do with my happiness?" flashed out Gretchen. "You alluded to this once before. What do you mean by it?"

Fabian was seized with dire confusion.

"I beg you to forgive me, if I have been indiscreet," he stammered. "I know that the circumstance is not made generally known at present; but the deep, the sincere interest I take in you must be my excuse, if I ..."

"If you what?" cried the girl, vehemently. "I do believe you seriously take me to be engaged to that stupid, tiresome Hubert, who talks of nothing the whole day long, but of conspiracies, and of his future grand Counsellorship."

"But, Fräulein," said Fabian, in utmost perplexity, "the Assessor himself told me last autumn that he had good grounds for his hopes, and that he could reckon with all confidence on your consent."

Gretchen sprang up with a bound which sent her chair flying backwards.

"There, it is out at last! But it is your fault, Doctor Fabian, your fault entirely. Don't look at me with that astonished, frightened face. It was you who misguided me into sending the Assessor to Janowo, where he caught his cold. For fear of his falling ill in earnest, I took charge of the patient myself. Ever since that time the fixed idea has rooted itself in his mind that I am in love with him, and when once he gets a fixed idea there is no curing him of it. You can see that by the nonsense he is always talking about plots."

She was almost crying with vexation; but the Doctor's face grew absolutely radiant at sight of this unfeigned indignation.

"You do not love the Assessor?" he asked. "You do not intend to bestow your hand on him?"

"I will bestow a lesson on him such as he never had before, and send him about his business," the young lady replied energetically, and would have launched out into strong and injurious speech against poor Hubert, had she not just then met the Doctor's gaze. At this she turned crimson and was dumb.

A rather long pause ensued. Fabian was evidently striving to fortify himself in some resolution from which his timidity shrank abashed. Several times he tried to speak, but in vain. His eyes, however, told his tale so plainly that Gretchen could be in no doubt as to what was impending. On this occasion it did not occur to her to beat a retreat, or to fly to the piano and perform on it until the strings snapped, as she had been pleased to do when the Assessor had attempted to give vent to his feelings. She sat down again, and waited for what was coming.

After a while the Doctor drew nearer, but shyly still, and with an anxious face.

"Fräulein," he began, "I did indeed believe--that is, I supposed--the Assessor's strong attachment ..."

Here he came to a stop, remembering that it was highly unpractical to talk of the Assessor's strong attachment when it was rather of his own that he wished to speak. Gretchen saw that he was getting hopelessly involved--that it would be necessary for her to come to his assistance, if he were to be extricated from the labyrinth. She merely cast one glance at her timorous suitor; but if his eyes had been explicit previously, it was evident that hers were no less eloquent. The Doctor took courage all at once, and went on with astounding courage.

"The mistake has made me very unhappy. Yesterday I should not have dared to confess it to you, though the trouble has weighed cruelly on my heart. How could I, who was altogether dependent on Waldemar's generosity, dare to approach you with any such words? But this morning has brought about a change. The future which is now offered for my acceptance has in it prosperity enough to enable me, at least, to speak of my feelings without presumption. Fräulein Margaret, you reproached me just now with my too pliant nature, with my tendency to give up weakly, without a struggle. If you knew how renunciation has ever been my lot, you would take back your words. I have gone through life lonely and uncared for. My youth was dreary and joyless. I had to impose upon myself the greatest privations in order to continue my studies, and I gained nothing by them but a weary dependence on other people's caprices, or on their good feeling. Believe me, it is hard, after the most earnest endeavours, with elevated aims and a glowing enthusiasm for science at one's heart, to have to instruct boys day by day in the very rudiments of learning, to descend to the level of their intelligence; and this I had to do long, very long--until Waldemar enabled me to live for study alone, and so opened to me the career which now offers itself. It is true that I meant to make the sacrifice of it. I would have concealed my nomination from him; but at that time I looked on you as the betrothed of another man. Now"--he had taken possession of the girl's hand; shyness and embarrassment were things of the past; now that the floodgates were fairly opened the words came freely enough from his lips--"the future seems to promise me much. Whether it has happiness in store for me as well is for you alone to decide. Say, shall I accept or refuse, Margaret?"

He had now reached the point at which the Assessor had chosen to make his great dramatic pause, preparatory to falling on his knees, but had missed his effect, in consequence of the object of his adoration taking flight at the critical moment. The Doctor did not attempt to kneel; he even skilfully avoided that fatal pause, saying what he had to say without hesitation or difficulty, while Gretchen sat before him with downcast eyes, listening with infinite satisfaction; so that in a very short time the offer was made, accepted, and even ratified by an embrace, all going smoothly as a marriage bell.

Herr Assessor Hubert came downstairs. Having brought to an end his long and minute examination of the coachman, which had left both him and his victim in a state of semi-exhaustion, he determined to seek relaxation from the strain of his official duties by giving free play to the tenderer emotions of his heart. Poor Hubert! He had said that it was his fate always to arrive too late. As yet, however, he little dreamed how thoroughly his words would that day be verified. His departure had been fixed for that afternoon; but, before leaving, he had made up his mind to come to some clear understanding on the subject of his suit. He would not set out on his journey without obtaining a definite and favourable answer. In the glow of this valiant resolve he opened the door of the anteroom so energetically, and with so much noise, that the lovers in the adjoining parlour had time to settle themselves in a perfectly innocent and unsuspicious attitude. Gretchen was discovered sitting quietly at the window, while the Doctor stood near her, close to the piano, which, to the newcomer's great relief, was closed to-day.

Hubert nodded condescendingly to Fabian. There was always something patronising in his manner towards the Doctor, who, in his eyes, was only an old tutor possessed of no importance but such as he borrowed from his connection with Wilicza. To-day, with this business of his love-making on hand, the man was actually in his way, and he gave himself no trouble to hide it.

"I am sorry to disturb you. Practising French, I suppose?"

The tone was so nonchalant, so exactly that which he would have used to a paid teacher, that even the Doctor's good-humour was not proof against it. He had never hitherto found courage to show displeasure at the behaviour Hubert had thought proper to adopt towards him, but to-day it wounded him severely in his new dignity of an accepted lover. He drew himself up, and said with an assured bearing which aroused in Gretchen the liveliest satisfaction--

"No, you are wrong. We were practising a very different science."

The Assessor remarked nothing unusual; he was busy thinking how he could most speedily get rid of this troublesome person.

"Ah, historical, no doubt!" said he, maliciously. "That is your hobby, I think. Unfortunately it is hardly one suited to the taste of young ladies. You will weary Fräulein Margaret, Doctor Fabian."

The Doctor was about to answer, but Gretchen forestalled him. She considered it was high time to put a damper on the Assessor, and set herself to the task with infinite enjoyment.

"You will have to give the Doctor another title soon," said she, with great emphasis. "He is on the point of accepting a professorship at J----, which has been offered him on account of his extraordinary literary and scientific merit."

"What--what?" cried the Assessor, startled, but with an expression of extreme incredulity. He could not believe in this sudden transformation of the neglected Fabian into a University Professor.

The latter's good humour had regained the upper hand already, and the thought of the double mortification which he must of necessity inflict on the nephew of his rival and the unsuccessful suitor of his betrothed, revived anew all his conscientious scruples.

"Herr Hubert," he began, supposing that gentleman to be already acquainted with the recent events at the University-- which was far from being the case--"it is very painful to me to think that your uncle should misjudge me, as would, unfortunately, appear to be the case. No one can more sincerely appreciate and recognise his worth than I do. Be assured that I had not the smallest share in the controversy which my 'History of Teutonism' provoked. Professor Schwarz seems to think that I stirred up the dispute from interested motives, and purposely envenomed it."

A light, a terrible light, began to dawn on the Assessor. He did not know the name of that obscure individual whom the opposite party had glorified, by attempting to place his work on a level with, nay above, Schwarz's writings; but he knew that the book in question was a 'History of Teutonism,' and Fabian's words left no room for doubt that the author of that book, the intriguer, the criminal aggressor, who had disturbed the peace of the family celebrity, now stood before him in person. He would have given vent to his astonishment, to his indignation in words; but Gretchen, who already felt it incumbent on her to represent the future Professor's wife, interfered again.

"Yes, Professor Schwarz might be led to fancy so, particularly as Dr. Fabian is nominated to succeed him in his chair at the University of J----. You know, of course, that your uncle has sent in his resignation?"

The Assessor fairly gasped for breath. Fabian cast a supplicating look at his betrothed, but Gretchen was merciless. She could not forget that Hubert had boasted but a few months ago of her favour and certain acceptance of him. She was determined to give him a lesson; so she played her last trump, and, taking the Doctor by the hand, with solemn formality proceeded thus--

"At the same time, Herr Assessor, allow me the pleasure of introducing to you, in the future Professor Fabian, the successor of your celebrated uncle, my affianced husband."

"I think the Assessor has turned crazy," said Frank, addressing the Inspector with a look of real uneasiness, as they stood together outside in the courtyard. "He has just rushed out of the house, like a lunatic, nearly running over me, and without a word of excuse or apology shouting for his carriage. He has been so excited all the morning. I hope this conspiracy business won't turn his head. Just go after him, will you, and see what he is about, and if he is likely to do any mischief."

The Inspector shrugged his shoulders, and pointed to the carriage, which at that moment was seen rolling away at full speed. "It is too late, Herr Frank. He is off yonder."

Frank shook his head gravely, and went into the house, where he received an explanation of the Assessor's stormy exit, which calmed his apprehensions on the score of that gentleman's sanity. The Castle coachman, who was also standing before the house, folded his hands, and said with a deep sigh of relief, "He is gone, thank God; now he can't examine me any more!"


At Castle Wilicza there reigned a dull sultry atmosphere, pregnant with storms, which made itself felt even in the servants' quarters. Since Herr Nordeck's return from the border-station on the previous evening in the company of Countess Morynska, the barometer had stood at stormy point in the upper regions of the great house--of this there was but too good evidence. The young Countess had had an interview with her aunt on the evening of her arrival, but since then had not left her room. The Princess herself was but rarely visible; but when she appeared, her countenance was such that the domestics thought fit to keep as much as possible out of her way. They knew that frowning brow and those tightly set lips augured nothing good. Even Waldemar did not show his accustomed cold composure, the unruffled calm which he was wont to oppose to the outer world at the very time when the fiercest emotions were raging within him. There was something gloomy and irritable in his manner. Perhaps the repulse he had twice met with from Wanda during the day might be the cause of this. He had not succeeded in getting sight of her since the moment when he had laid her, half fainting from agitation and loss of blood, in his mother's arms. She refused to see him, and yet he knew that she was not seriously ill. The Doctor had assured him over and over again that the Countess's wound was not dangerous, and that she would be able to leave for Rakowicz on the following day, though he had felt it his duty to oppose her wish of returning home at once.

The young landowner had not indeed much time to devote to such matters; demands on his attention flowed in from all quarters. The ranger's corpse was brought over to Wilicza, and then it was that news of the foresters' flight was had. It was necessary that the station should at once be placed under other care, and that measures should be taken to insure the safety of Inspector Fellner, who had been sent over _ad interim_. Waldemar was forced to order and direct everything himself. Then came Assessor Hubert, tormenting him with his interrogatories, his protocols, and his advice, until he lost patience, and resorted to his mother's approved expedient for shaking off importunate persons. Hardly, however, was he quit of the Assessor and his fancied discoveries, when fresh claims were made upon his time and thoughts. News had been carried to L---- of the state of affairs in the insurgents' camp, and it was known that there would, in all probability; be fighting close to the frontier within the next few days. Orders had been issued in consequence by the military authorities. The forces stationed along the border were to be considerably strengthened, so as to guard the territory on this side from possible violation or disturbance.

A strong detachment of troops passed through Wilicza; and whilst the men halted down in the village, the officers, who were personally acquainted with Nordeck, rode up to the Castle. The Princess was invisible, of course. She had always been invisible to her son's guests since the latter had openly declared himself against her and hers; so Waldemar was obliged to receive the new-comers himself--whether he were, or were not, at that moment disposed to see strangers, no one thought of inquiring. It behoved him to show them a quiet, impassible brow, in order that they should gain no further information on the subject of the family tragedy than that of which they were already possessed. They knew the rôle which their host's brother and uncle were playing in the insurrection, the position in which the son stood towards his mother. This was all food for daily gossip in L----, and Waldemar was keenly alive to the solicitous care they showed to avoid in his presence all allusion to these matters, abstaining even from any mention of the revolt, except as connected with the latest military movements on the German side. At last, late in the afternoon, the detachment set out on its way again, so as to reach its destination on the frontier before dark. Finally Dr. Fabian, the happy lover and future Professor, appeared with his double news, for which he claimed his old pupil's interest and sympathy, obliging the latter to take part in another's joy at the moment when he saw his own happiness hopelessly shattered and wrecked. It required, indeed, a nature of finely tempered steel, such as Nordeck's, to face all this with a stoical appearance of calm composure.

Early on the second day after the event at the border-station, the Princess sat alone in her drawing-room. Her face told plainly that there had been little rest for her that night. The grey, misty morning light without was too faint to penetrate into that lofty, dim apartment, the greater part of which was still wrapped in shadow; only the fire on the hearth sent its restless, flickering gleams on the carpet around, and on the figure of the Princess sitting close by, lost in gloomy thought.

Resting her head on her hand, she meditated long and sadly. The accounts which had reached her of the late occurrences still agitated and engrossed her mind. This woman, whose constant rule it was to take her stand on the domain of facts, and adroitly to shape her plans in accordance with them, found herself for once unable to meet the difficulties before her. So all had been in vain! The unsparing rigour with which she had torn the veil from her niece's mind, in order to arm the girl against a growing passion; the absolute separation lasting through long months; the late interview at Rakowicz--all had been in vain! The sight of Waldemar in peril had sufficed in one single instant to scatter all other considerations to the wind. Soon after her arrival, Wanda had told her aunt all that had happened. The young Countess was too proud, too completely under the bias of national prejudices, not to seek at once to clear herself from any suspicion of what the Princess called 'treason.' She declared to this stern judge that she had sent no warning, had betrayed no trust; that only at the last moment, when all secrets connected with the station were beyond concealment, had she stepped forward and interfered. How she had acted, what she had done to save Waldemar, she was equally unable to conceal; the wound on her arm was there to bear evidence against her.

The entrance of her son roused the Princess from all the tormenting thoughts which were racking her brain. She knew whence he came. Pawlick had informed her that this morning, for the third time, Herr Nordeck had attempted to gain admittance to the Countess Morynska, and that on this occasion he had obtained what he sought. Waldemar approached slowly, until he stood opposite his mother.

"You come from Wanda?" said she.


The Princess looked up in his face, which at this moment was clearly lighted up by a blaze of the fitful fire. There were lines of pain in it--of pain, bitter but repressed.

"So you forced an entrance in spite of her repeated denial? But what, indeed, could _you_ fail to accomplish! Well, the interview must have convinced you that it was no prohibition of mine which closed Wanda's door, as you so positively assumed. It was her own wish not to see you, a wish you have lightly enough regarded."

"After what Wanda risked on my behalf the day before yesterday, I had at least the right to see and speak to her. It was necessary for me to speak to her. Oh, do not be afraid!" he went on with rising bitterness, as the Princess was about to interrupt him. "Your niece has fully justified your expectations, and has done all that lay in her power to rob me of hope. She believes, no doubt, that she is prompted by her own will alone, while, in reality, she is blindly submitting to be led by yours. Those were your words, your views, which I have just had expounded to me by her mouth. If left to herself, I should perhaps have succeeded, have gained my end by persistent effort, as I succeeded in getting speech of her; but I lost sight of the fact that for the last forty-eight hours she has been exclusively under your influence. You have represented that promise which you persuaded her into giving my brother, which you forced from her when little more than a child, as an irrevocable vow, to break which were mortal sin. You have so baited her with your national prejudices ..."

"Waldemar!" exclaimed his mother, indignantly.

"With the prejudice," he repeated, emphatically, "that it would be treason to her family and to her people, if she were to consent to listen to me, because it happens that I am a German, and that circumstances have forced me into an attitude of hostility towards your party. Well, you have attained your object. She would rather die now than lift a hand to free herself, or give me leave to do it for her; and for this I have to thank you, and you alone."

"I certainly reminded Wanda of her duty," replied the Princess, coldly. "My words were, however, hardly needed. Reflection had brought her to her senses, and I trust this may now be the case with you. Ever since the day on which you openly declared yourself my enemy, I have known that your old boyish fancy was not extinct, but that it had, on the contrary, developed into a passion with you. In what measure this passion was returned, I only learned yesterday. It would be useless to reproach you with what has happened. No recrimination can undo it now, but you must feel that you owe it both to yourself and to Leo to consent to an absolute separation. Wanda sees this and agrees to it. You must submit also."

"Must I?" asked Waldemar. "You know, mother, that submission is not my forte, especially where all the happiness of my life is at stake."

The Princess looked up with an expression of surprise and alarm. "What do you mean? Would you wish to rob your brother of his betrothed, after robbing him of her love?"

"That Leo never possessed. Wanda did not know her own heart when she yielded to his affection for her, to her father's wish and yours, and to the family plans. It is I who possess her love, and now that I have this certainty, I shall know how to defend my own."

"You take a high tone, Waldemar," said the Princess, almost scornfully. "Have you reflected as to what answer your brother will be likely to make to such a claim on your part?"

"If my betrothed declared to me that she had given her love to another, I would set her free, absolutely, unconditionally, no matter what I might suffer through it," replied the young man, steadily. "Leo, if I know him, is not the man to do this. He will be beside himself with rage, will distract Wanda with his jealousy, and will inflict on us a series of violent scenes."

"Are you the one to prescribe moderation, you who have done him the deadliest injury?" returned his mother. "True, Leo is far away, fighting in his people's sacred cause, hourly risking his life, and little dreaming the while that his brother, behind his back ..."

She stopped, for Waldemar's hand was laid firmly on hers. "Mother," he said, in a voice which acted as a warning to the Princess--she knew that with him this low constrained tone always preceded an outbreak--"no more of this. You do not believe in these imputations yourself. You know better than any one how Wanda and I have struggled against this passion--know what a moment it was which unsealed our lips. Behind Leo's back! In my room lies the letter which I was writing to him before I went to Wanda. My interview with her need make no change in it. He must be told that the word 'love' has been spoken between us. We could neither of us endure to conceal it from him. I intended to give you the letter. You alone have positive information as to where Leo is now to be found, and you can provide for its reaching him in safety."

"On no account," cried the Princess, hastily. "I know my son's hot blood too well to impose such torture on him. To remain at a distance, possibly for months, a prey to the keenest jealousy, conscious that he is here threatened in that which he holds most dear--such a trial is beyond his strength. And yet he must persevere, must remain at his post until all is decided. No, no, that is not to be thought of. I have Wanda's word that she will be silent, and you must give me a promise too. She returns to Rakowicz to-day, and, so soon as she has quite recovered, will go to our relations in M----, to stay there until Leo has come back and can defend his rights in person."

"I am aware of it; she told me so herself," replied Waldemar, gloomily. "It seems she cannot put miles enough between us now. All that love, that desperation could suggest, I tried with her--in vain. She met me always with the same unalterable 'no.' Be it so, then, until Leo's return. Perhaps you are right; it will be better that we should settle this matter face to face. For myself, I should certainly prefer it. I am ready to meet him at any moment; what may betide, when we do come together, is another and a very different question!"

The Princess rose, and went up to her son. "Waldemar, give up these senseless hopes. I tell you, Wanda would never be yours, even were she free. The obstacles between you are too many, too insurmountable. You are mistaken if you reckon on any change of mind in her. What you term national prejudice is her very life's blood, the food on which she has been nourished since her earliest youth; she cannot renounce it, without renouncing life itself. Even though she love you, the daughter of the Morynskis, the betrothed of Prince Baratowski, knows what duty and honour require of her; and did she not know it, we are there to remind her--I, her father, above all Leo himself."

A well-nigh contemptuous smile played about the young man's lips, as he replied, "Do you really imagine that one of you could hinder me if I had Wanda's consent? That she should refuse it me, that she should forbid me to fight on her side, and to win her--there's the sting which nearly overcame me just now. But, no matter! A man who, like myself, has never in his life known what love is, and who suddenly sees such felicity before him, does not forego and put it from him so easily. The prize is too high for me to yield it up without a struggle. Where I have all to win, I may stake all, and, were the obstacles between us tenfold more formidable, Wanda should still be mine!"

There was an indomitable energy in the words. The red firelight from the hearth shone up into Waldemar's face, which at this moment looked as though cast in bronze. Once again the Princess was fain to recognise the fact that it was her son who stood before her with that ominous blue mark on his brow, with the look and bearing 'of his mother herself.' Hitherto she had sought in vain to account for the wonderful, the incredible circumstance that Waldemar--cold, gloomy, repellant Waldemar--could be preferred to her Leo; that he should have triumphed over his handsome, chivalrous brother in the matter of a woman's love,--but now, in this moment, she understood it all.

"Have you forgotten who is your rival?" she asked, with grave emphasis. "Brother against brother! Shall I look on at a hostile, perhaps a fatal encounter between my sons? Do you neither of you heed a mother's anguish?"

"Your sons!" repeated Waldemar. "If a mother's anguish, a mother's fondness here come in question, the words can only apply to one son. You cannot forgive me for disturbing your darling's happiness, and I know a solution of the problem which would cost you but few tears. Make your mind easy. What I can do to prevent a catastrophe, I will do. Take care that Leo does not make it impossible for me to think of him as a brother. Your influence over him is unlimited, he will listen to you. I have learned to place a restraint on myself, as you are aware; but there are bounds even to my self-control. Should Leo drive me beyond these bounds, I will answer for nothing. He does not show a very nice regard for the honour of others, when he thinks himself injured in any way."

They were interrupted. A servant brought word to his master that a noncommissioned officer, belonging to the detachment which had passed through Wilicza on the previous day, was below and urgent in his entreaty to be allowed to see Herr Nordeck at once. Waldemar went out. During the last few days he had grown accustomed to these disturbing calls upon him, coming always at the moment when he was least disposed to meet them.

The sergeant announced was waiting in the anteroom. He brought a polite message and a request from the commanding officer. The detachment had no sooner arrived at its new post than it had been obliged to proceed to action. There had been serious fighting during the night; it had ended in the discomfiture of the insurgents, who had fled in the greatest disorder, hotly pursued by the victors. Some of the fugitives had taken refuge on this side the frontier; they had been arrested and disarmed by a body of patrols, and were now to be sent under escort to L----. Among them, however, were a few so seriously wounded that it was feared they would not be able to bear the transport. The captain begged that the sick might, for the present, be lodged at Wilicza, which lay within easy reach. The ambulance was now waiting in the village below. Waldemar was ready on the instant to comply with the demand upon him, and at once ordered the necessary arrangements to be made at the manor-farm for the reception of the wounded men. He went over himself in company of the sergeant.

The Princess remained alone. She had not heard the news, nor taken any notice of the message which had summoned her son away. Her mind was busy with far other thoughts.

What would come now? This question arose ever anew before her, like a menacing spectre which was not to be laid. The Princess knew her sons well enough to feel what might be expected, were they to meet as enemies--and deadly enemies they would assuredly be from the moment Leo discovered the truth; Leo, whose jealousy had at the first vague suspicion blazed forth so hotly that it had almost seduced him from his duty--should he now learn that Waldemar had indeed robbed him of the love of his betrothed--should Waldemar's merely external calm give way and his native fierceness break out again with its old violence.... The mother shuddered, recoiling from the abyss which seemed to open out before her mental vision. She knew she should be powerless then, even with her youngest-born--that in this matter her influence with him had been exerted to the uttermost. Waldemar and Leo had each their father's blood in their veins, and however great the contrast between Nordeck and Prince Baratowski may have been, in one thing they resembled each other--in their incapability of bridling their passions when once fully aroused.

The door of the adjoining room was opened. Perhaps it was Waldemar coming back--he had been called away in the midst of their conversation; but the step was more rapid, less steady than his. There came a rustle in the portières, they were hastily pulled back, and with a cry of fear and joy the Princess started from her seat.

"Leo, you here!"

Prince Baratowski was in his mother's arms. He returned her embrace, but he had no word of greeting for her. Silently and hastily he pressed her to him, but his manner betrayed no gladness at the meeting.

"Whence do you come?" she asked, reflection, and with it anxiety, quickly regaining the upper hand. "So suddenly, so unexpectedly! And how could you be so imprudent as to venture up to the Castle in broad daylight? You must know that you are liable to be arrested! Patrols are out all over the country. Why did you not wait till dusk?"

Leo raised himself from her arms. "I have waited long enough. I left yesterday evening; all night I have been on the rack--it was impossible to pass the frontier. I had to lie in hiding. At last, at daybreak I managed to cross and to reach the Wilicza woods, but it was hard work to get to the Castle."

He panted this out in agitated, broken phrases. His mother noticed now how pale and troubled he looked. She drew him down on to a seat, almost by force.

"Rest; you are exhausted by the effort and the risk. What madness to hazard life and freedom for the sake of just seeing us again! You must have known that our anxiety on your account would more than counterbalance our joy. I cannot understand how Bronislaus could let you leave. There must be fighting going on all round you."

"No, no," said Leo, hastily. "Nothing will be done for the next four and twenty hours. We have exact information as to the enemy's position. The day after to-morrow--to-morrow, perhaps--may be decisive, but till then all will be quiet. If there were fighting on hand, I should not be here; as it was, I could not keep away from Wilicza, even though my coming should cost me my life or my freedom."

The Princess looked at him uneasily. "Leo, your uncle has given you leave of absence?" she asked suddenly, seized, as it were, by some vague dread.

"Yes, yes," replied the young Prince, keeping his eyes averted from his mother's face. "I tell you all has been foreseen and arranged. I am posted with my detachment in the woods about A----, in an excellent position, well covered. My adjutant has the command until I return."

"And Bronislaus?"

"My uncle has assembled the main forces at W----, quite close to the border. I cover his rear with my troops. But now, mother, ask me no more questions. Where is Waldemar?"

"Your brother?" said the Princess, at once surprised and alarmed, for she began to divine the secret connection of events. "Can it be that you come on his account?"

"I come to seek Waldemar," Leo broke out with stormy vehemence, "Waldemar and no one else. He is not at the Castle, Pawlick says, but Wanda is here. So he really did bring her over to Wilicza like a captured prey, like a chattel of his own--and she allowed it to be! But I will show him to whom she belongs. I will show him--and her too."

"For God's sake, tell me--you have heard ..."

"What happened at the border-station? Yes, I have heard it. Osiecki's men joined me yesterday. They brought me word of what they had seen. Perhaps you understand now why I came over to Wilicza at any risk?"

"This was what I feared!" said the Princess, under her breath.

Leo sprang up, and stood before her with flashing eyes. "And you have suffered this, mother; you have stood by looking on while my love, my rights, were being trampled under foot--you who can control, can command obedience from every one! Has this Waldemar subdued you too? Is there no one left who dares oppose him? Fool that I was to allow myself to be talked out of calling him to account before I left, to be dissuaded from taking Wanda away to a distance where no further meeting between them would have been possible! But"--speaking now in a tone of bitter sarcasm--"but my suspicion was an insult to her, and my uncle accounted my 'blind jealousy' as a crime. Can you see now with your own eyes? Whilst I was fighting to the death for my country's freedom and salvation, my betrothed was risking her life for the man who openly declares himself on the side of our oppressors, who has set his foot on our necks here in Wilicza, just as the tyrants out yonder have tried to crush our kindred and friends. She betrays me, forgets her country, people, family, all, that she may shield him in a moment of peril. Perhaps she will try to protect him from me; but she had better beware. I care nothing now which of us perishes, whether it be he or I, or she with us both."

The Princess seized his hands, as though imploring him to restrain his fury. "Be calm, Leo; I entreat, I require it of you. You shall not rush to meet your brother in this spirit of fierce hatred. Listen to me first."

Leo tore himself free. "I have listened to too much. I have heard enough to make me mad. Wanda threw herself into his arms when Osiecki levelled his rifle at him, screened him with her own body, made her breast his shield--and I am still to hesitate to speak of treachery! Where is Waldemar? Not so hidden but he can be discovered, I suppose?"

His mother tried in vain to soothe her darling; he did not listen to her, and while she was considering how, in what manner, it might yet be possible to avert that fatal meeting, the worst befell, which at that moment well could have befallen. Waldemar came back.

He entered with a rapid step, and was going up to the Princess, when he caught sight of Leo. More than surprise, horror and alarm were portrayed on the elder brother's face at the sight. He turned very pale, and measured the younger man from head to foot; then his eye flashed as though with scorn and anger, and he said slowly--

"So this is where you are to be found!"

Leo's countenance betrayed a sort of savage satisfaction on seeing the object of his hate before him. "You did not expect to see me?" he asked.

Waldemar made no reply. His more prudent and reflective mind at once took in the thought of the danger to which Leo was here exposing himself. He turned, went into the next room and closed the door, and then came back to them.

"No," he replied, only now answering the question, "and your mother hardly expected it either."

"I wanted to congratulate you on your heroic deed at the border-station, for you probably look on it in the light of an exploit," went on the young Prince, with undisguised scorn. "You shot down the ranger, and showed a bold front to the rest of the band, I hear. The dastards did not dare to touch you."

"They crossed the frontier the same night," said Waldemar, "to join you, probably."


"I thought so. When did you leave your post?"

"Are you going to put me on my trial?" exclaimed Leo. "I am here to call you to account. Come, we have some matters to talk over together."

"Stay," commanded the Princess. "You shall not meet alone. If an explanation is inevitable, I will be present at it. Perhaps you will then not altogether forget that you are brothers."

"Brother or not, he has been guilty of the most shameful treachery towards me. He knew that Wanda was engaged to me, and he did not hesitate to decoy her and her love from me. It was the act of a traitor, of a co ..."

His mother tried to stop him, but in vain. The word 'coward' fell from his lips, and Waldemar started as though a ball had struck him. The Princess grew ashy pale. It was not the frenzied passion of her younger son which so alarmed her, but the expression on the face of the elder as he drew himself erect. It was Waldemar she held back, Waldemar she feared, though he was unarmed, while Leo wore his sword at his side. Stepping between them with all a mother's authority, she called to them imperatively--

"Waldemar! Leo! control yourselves, I command you."

When the Princess Baratowska issued a command in such a tone and such a manner, she never failed to obtain a hearing. Even at this crisis her sons, almost involuntarily, obeyed her behest. Leo let fall the hand he had already raised to his sword-hilt, and Nordeck paused. The struggle in the strong man against his old furious violence was terrible to behold; but his mother's words had caused him to reflect a moment, and more was not wanting now to recall him to himself.

"Leo, there have been insults enough," he said, hoarsely. "One word, one single word more, and there will indeed be nothing left us but an appeal to arms. If yesterday you still had the right to accuse me, you have forfeited that right to-day. I love Wanda more than you can dream of; for you have not, as I have, fought for years against this passion--have not borne aversion, separation, mortal peril, only, after all, to attain to a conviction that love is stronger than you. But, even for Wanda's sake, I would not have given up duty and honour, would not have deserted my appointed post, would not secretly have abandoned the troops entrusted to me, and broken the oath of obedience I had sworn to my leader. All this you have done. Our mother shall decide which of us deserves the ignominious word you have flung at me."

"What is this, Leo?" cried the Princess, startled, a great fear taking possession of her. "You are here with your uncle's knowledge and consent? You had express leave from him to come to Wilicza? Answer me!"

A crimson flush dyed the young Prince's face, which up to this time had been so pale. He did not venture to meet his mother's eye, but turned upon Waldemar with sudden and furious defiance.

"What do you know of my duty? What matter is it to you? You are on the side of our enemies. I have stood my ground so far without flinching, and I shall be forthcoming when I am wanted; for that very reason, this matter between us must be quickly settled. I have not much time in which to reckon with you. I must go back to my men to-day, in the course of an hour or two."

"You will arrive too late," said Waldemar, coldly. "You will not find them."

Leo evidently did not grasp the meaning of the words he heard. He stared at his brother, as though the latter had been speaking in some foreign tongue.

"How long have you been absent from your command?" asked Waldemar again, this time with such terrible earnest that Leo half involuntarily made answer--

"Since yesterday evening."

"A surprise took place during the night. Your troops are routed, dispersed."

A cry broke from the young Prince's lips. He rushed up to the speaker. "It is impossible--it cannot be! You lie--you wish to scare me, to drive me away."

"No, it cannot be," said the Princess, with quivering lips. "You cannot have news of what happened out yonder during the night, Waldemar. I should have heard it before you. You are deceiving us; do not resort to such means."

Waldemar looked at his mother in silence for a few seconds--at the mother who preferred to accuse him of a lie than to believe in an error of his brother's. Perhaps it was this which made him so icy and pitiless, as he went on.

"An important post was confided to Prince Baratowski, with strict orders not to stir from it. He and his troops covered his uncle's rear. Prince Baratowski was absent from his post when the night attack was made--successfully. The leader was absent, and those who remained behind showed themselves unequal to their task. Taken by surprise, they offered but a weak resistance, totally without plan or method. A terrible slaughter followed. About twenty men took refuge on this territory, and fell into the hands of our patrols. Three of the fugitives lie, grievously wounded, over at the manor-farm. From their mouths I learned what had happened. All the rest are dispersed or destroyed."

"And my brother?" asked the Princess, calm, to all appearance, but with an awful, unnatural calm. "And the Morynski corps? What has become of them?"

"I do not know," replied Waldemar. "It is said that the victors advanced on W----. No news has reached us of what has taken place there."

He was silent. There was a pause of terrible stillness. Leo had hidden his face in his hands; a deep groan escaped his breast. The Princess stood erect, her eyes steadily fixed on him. She panted for breath.

"Leave us, Waldemar," said she at last.

He hesitated. His mother had always shown herself cold, often enough hostile to him. Here, on this very spot, she had confronted him as a bitter enemy at the time when the contest for supremacy at Wilicza had brought about an open rupture; but he had never yet seen her as she appeared at this moment, and he, this hard, relentless Nordeck, was seized with a feeling akin to anxiety and compassion, as he read his brother's doom in her face.

"Mother!" he said, in a low tone.

"Go," she repeated. "I have to talk with Prince Baratowski. No third person can come between us. Leave us alone."

Waldemar obeyed and left the room, but his heart swelled within him as he went. He was banished in order that the mother might talk to her son. If she were now about to let that son feel her anger, as she had so often testified to him her affection, he, the elder, was still a stranger, as he had ever been. He was told to go; he could not 'come between' his mother and brother, whether they met in love or hate. A great bitterness took possession of Nordeck's soul, and yet he felt that in this hour he was avenged--that his mother, who had ever denied to him her love, was punished now in her tenderest point, punished through her darling, the child she had idolised.

Waldemar closed the curtains behind him. He remained in the next room, so as to guard the entrance, come what might, for he was fully sensible of the danger to which Leo was exposed. Prince Baratowski had taken too open and decided a part in the insurrection not to be placed under a ban, even on this side the frontier; even here condemnation and imprisonment awaited him. He had imprudently come up to the Castle in broad daylight. The troop, which had escorted the wounded men, was still in the village, and at any moment a detachment, convoying the other fugitives to L----, might pass through Wilicza. It was necessary to take some precautionary measures.

Waldemar stood at the window, as far from the door as possible. He would hear nothing of the interview from which he had been shut out--and, indeed, it was impossible for any sound to penetrate the heavy velvet folds of the thick portières. But time pressed. More than half an hour had elapsed, and the two were still closeted together. Neither the Princess nor Leo seemed mindful of the fact that the latter's danger grew with every minute. Waldemar, at length, resolved to interrupt them. He went back into the drawing-room; but paused with astonishment on entering, for instead of the agitating scene he had expected to witness, he found the most absolute silence. The Princess had disappeared, and the door of her study, which had previously stood open, was now closed. Leo was alone in the room. He lay back in an armchair, his head buried in the cushions, and neither stirred nor in any way noticed his brother's appearance. He seemed utterly crushed and broken. Waldemar went up to him, and spoke his name.

"Rouse yourself," he said, in a low, urgent tone. "Take some thought for your safety. We are now connected with L---- in a hundred ways. I cannot secure the Castle from visits which would be dangerous for you. Retire to your own rooms in the first instance. They will be thought empty and closed as heretofore, and Pawlick is trustworthy. Come."

Slowly Leo raised his head. Every drop of blood had receded from his face; it was grey with an ashy pallor. He fixed his large, vacant eyes on his brother, seeming not to understand him, but his ear caught the last word mechanically.

"Come where?" he asked.

"Away, in the first place, from these reception-rooms, which are accessible to so many. Come, I beg of you."

Leo rose in the same mechanical way. He looked round the salon with a strange expression, as if the familiar place were unknown to him, and he were trying to recall where he was; but as his eye fell upon the closed door of his mother's study, he shuddered.

"Where is Wanda?" he asked at length.

"In her room. Do you wish to see her?"

The young Prince shook his head. "No. She, too, would repulse me with horror and contempt. I don't care to go through it again."

He leaned heavily on the chair; his voice, usually so clear in its youthful freshness, sounded faint and exhausted. It was plain that the scene he had gone through with his mother had completely shattered him.

"Leo," said Waldemar, earnestly, "if you had not exasperated me so terribly, I should not have told you the news in that abrupt way. You drove me beyond bounds with that fatal word."

"Be satisfied; my mother has given it me back. It is I who am the traitor--the coward. I had to listen and be silent."

There was something most unnatural in this rigid, dull calm, contrasting so strongly with the young man's usual fiery impetuosity. That one half-hour seemed to have altered his whole nature.

"Follow me," urged Waldemar. "For the present you must remain at the Castle."

"No, I shall go over to W---- at once. I must know what has become of my uncle and the rest."

"For God's sake, do nothing so rash," exclaimed the elder brother, in great alarm. "What, you would be mad enough to cross the frontier now, in broad daylight? It would be neither more nor less than suicide."

"I must," persisted Leo. "I know the place where I can cross. I found the way this morning, and I can find it a second time."

"And I tell you, you cannot get across. The sentinels on our side have been doubled since the morning, and over the border there is a treble line to pass. Orders are out to shoot down any one who does not give the watchword--and, in any case, you would arrive too late. At W---- the fate of the day has been decided long ere this."

"No matter," broke out Leo, suddenly passing from his torpor to a state of wildest desperation. "There will still be some fighting--one other encounter, and I want no more. If you knew how my mother has maddened me with her fearful words! She must feel that if my men have been lost through fault of mine, I shall have to bear all the curse, the hell of knowing it. She should have been merciful, instead of ... Oh, God! Yet she is my mother, and for so long I have been all in all to her!"

Waldemar stood by, deeply moved at this outbreak of grief. "I will call Wanda," he said at last. "She will ..."

"She will do the same. You do not know the women of our people. But, for that very reason"--a sort of gloomy triumph gleamed through the young Prince's despair--"for that very reason, you need hope nothing from them. Wanda will never be yours, never, even though she could step over my dead body to you, though she may love you, and die of her love. You are the enemy of her people. You help in the work of oppression--that will decide your sentence with her. No Polish woman will be your wife--and it is well that it is so," he went on, with a deep-drawn sigh. "I could not have died in peace with the thought of leaving her in your arms; now I am at ease on that point. She is lost to you as to me."

He would have hurried away, but suddenly stopped, as though a spell had fallen on him. For a second he seemed to waver, then he went slowly, hesitatingly, to the door which led to the Princess's study.


All was still within.

"I wanted to say good-bye to you."

No answer.

"Mother!" The young Prince's voice shook in its eager, heart-rending entreaty. "Do not let me go from you thus. If I may not see you, say at least one word--one single word of farewell. It will be the last. Mother, do you not hear me?"

He was kneeling before the barred door, pressing his brow against it, as though it must open to him. In vain; the door remained close, and no sound was heard within. The mother had no parting word for her son; the Princess Baratowska no pardon for his error.

Leo rose from his knees. His face was rigid again now, only about his lips there quivered an expression of wild and bitter anguish, such as never in his young life could he have experienced before. He spoke no word, but silently took up the cloak which he had cast aside on his entrance, threw it round his shoulders, and went to the door. His brother attempted to hold him back. Leo thrust him aside.

"Let me go. Tell Wanda--no, tell her nothing. She does not love me; she has given me up for you. Good-bye."

He rushed away. Waldemar stood a few minutes in utmost perplexity, doubtful as to what course he should adopt. At last he seemed to have taken a resolution. He passed quickly through the adjoining room, to the Princess's ante-chamber. There he found the house-steward, Pawlick, with a troubled, anxious face. Directly the old man had heard of the arrival of his sick countrymen, he had hurried to them, and had been the first to hear the terrible news. On returning to the Castle, debating in his own mind as to how he should communicate it to his mistress, he suddenly beheld Prince Baratowski, standing before him at the entrance. Leo gave the alarmed old servitor no time to unburthen himself, but merely passed him with a hasty inquiry for his brother, for Countess Morynska, and disappeared in his mother's apartments. Pawlick could not tell whether his young master were informed of the late events or not; but when, some time later, the unhappy boy rushed past him unheedingly, one look at his face was sufficient to show him he knew all.

"Pawlick," said Waldemar, coming in, "you must follow Prince Baratowski immediately. He is about to commit an act of the maddest rashness, which will cost him his life, if he really carries out his project. He means to cross the frontier, now, in daylight."

"God forbid!" exclaimed the old man, horrified.

"I cannot keep him back," continued Nordeck, "and I dare not show myself at his side. That would only increase his danger; yet, in his present frame of mind, he must have some one with him. I know you have still a good seat in the saddle, in spite of your years. The Prince is on foot. You will be able to come up with him before he reaches the frontier, for you know the direction he will take--the place whence the secret communication with the insurgents is kept up. I fear it is in the neighbourhood of the border-station."

Pawlick did not reply. He dared not answer in the affirmative, but at this moment courage to deny the truth failed him. Waldemar understood his silence.

"It is just about there that the most vigilant watch is kept," he cried, hastily. "I heard it from our officers. How my brother contrived to get through this morning, I know not. He will not succeed a second time. Hasten after him, Pawlick. He must not attempt to cross there; anywhere else rather than there! He must wait--conceal himself until dusk, in the forester's station itself, if there is no other way. Inspector Fellner is there; he is on my side, but he will never betray Leo. Hasten!"

He had no need to speak so urgently. Mortal anxiety on his young master's account was depicted on the old man's face.

"In ten minutes I shall be ready," said he. "I'll ride as though for my own life."

He kept his word. Barely ten minutes later he rode out of the Castle yard. Waldemar, who was standing watching at the window above, drew a breath of relief.

"That was the only thing to be done. He may perhaps reach him even yet; and so, at all events, the worst will be averted."

Four, five hours elapsed, and yet no tidings. Generally, when there was work astir on the frontier, messages came fast and frequent. All the couriers on their way to L----, passing through Wilicza, would halt in the village with their news, for a few minutes, at least. To-day these communications seemed suddenly cut off. Waldemar paced uneasily up and down his room, trying to think of Pawlick's prolonged absence as a favourable sign. The old man had certainly come up with Leo, and would stay by him so long as the young Prince remained on German soil. Perhaps they were both lying in hiding in the forester's house. At length, late on in the afternoon, the steward appeared. He came in hastily, without waiting to be announced.

"Herr Nordeck, I must beg of you to come over to the manor-farm," he said. "Your presence there is urgently needed."

Waldemar looked up. "What is it? Has anything happened to one of the wounded?"

"No, not that," said Frank, evasively; "but I must entreat you to come yourself. We have had news from the border. There has been a decisive engagement out at W----. A regular battle was fought this morning against the Morynski corps."

"Well, with what issue?" asked Nordeck, in extreme suspense and anxiety.

"The insurgents have suffered a terrible defeat. It is said there had been treason at work, that they were taken by surprise. They defended themselves desperately, but were forced to succumb to superior numbers at last. The survivors are scattered to all points of the compass."

"And their leader, Count Morynski?"

The steward looked down.

"Is he dead?"

"No; but seriously wounded, and in the enemy's hands."

"So that, too, is added!" Waldemar murmured. He himself had never been on intimate terms with his uncle; but Wanda!--he knew with what passionate love she clung to her father. Had he fallen in the fight, she would have borne it better than to know him exposed to such a fate, and exposed to it through _whom_! Who was to blame for the defeat of that corps, surprised by an attack from which it believed itself protected by the cover of Prince Baratowski's advance-guard?

Waldemar summoned up all his self-command. "Who brought the news? Is it trustworthy, or mere report?"

"It was the major domo, Pawlick, who brought it. He is over yonder ..."

"At your house? He brings you the news, though he knows that I have been waiting hours here for his return. Why did he not come up to the Castle?"

Frank's eyes sought the ground once more. "He dared not. Her Highness or the young Countess might have been at the window. They must first be prepared. Pawlick is not alone, Herr Nordeck."

"What has happened?" cried Waldemar, a cold presentiment stealing over him.

"Prince Baratowski has fallen," said the steward, in a low voice. "Pawlick brings the corpse."

Waldemar was silent. He laid his hand over his eyes, and stood for a few seconds motionless; then, collecting himself with an effort, he hurried away over to the manor-farm, Frank following him. At the steward's house, Pawlick met him. He looked up timidly at the lord of Wilicza, whom he, the Princess's faithful servant, had been wont to consider as an enemy; but Nordeck's face showed him what he had already felt that morning, that it was no foe, but his young master's own brother who stood before him, and all the old man's composure broke down at the sight.

"Our Princess!" he wailed; "she will never survive it, nor the young Countess either!"

"You did not reach the Prince in time?" asked Waldemar.

"Oh yes, I came up with him in time, and delivered your warning message. He would not listen, he was bent on crossing in spite of everything; he thought the forest thickets would protect him. I implored, I kneeled to him, and asked him if he would let himself be shot down by the sentries like some hunted animal. That told at last. He consented to wait until evening. We were just considering whether we should venture into the forester's station, when we were met by ..."

"By whom? By a patrol?"

"No, by the farmer of Janowo. We had no treachery to fear from him, he has always been faithful to the cause. He had been called on to provide relays for the troops, and was just coming back from the frontier. He had heard say that a battle was being fought near W----, which was not yet decided; that the Morynski corps had been surprised, but was defending itself desperately. It was all over then with reason and reflection. Our young Prince had only one thought--how to get to W---- and throw himself into the thick of the fight. We could not hold him back. He would listen to nothing then. He had left us about half an hour, when we heard shots fired; two at first, one after the other, then half a dozen all at once; and then ..." The old man could say no more, his voice failed him, and a torrent of hot tears burst from his eyes.

"I have brought the body," he said, after a pause. "The cavalry captain, who was here yesterday, obtained it for me from the set out yonder. They could do nothing with a dead man. But I did not dare to take it straight up to the Castle. We have laid him in there for the present."

He pointed to a room on the other side of the passage. Waldemar signed to him and the steward to remain behind, and went in alone. Grey and dim the waning twilight fell on the lifeless form of the young Prince. Silently his brother stood by, gazing down upon him. The beautiful face, which he had seen so radiant with life and happiness, was rigid now and cold; the flashing dark eyes were closed; and the breast, which had swelled so high with hope and dreams of liberty, now bore the death-wound. If the hot wild blood of youth had erred, it had also made atonement, as it gushed forth from that shattered breast, staining the clothing with dark, ominous patches. But a few hours before all the passions of youth had raged in that inanimate frame. Hatred and love, jealousy and ardent thirst for revenge, despair at the terrible consequences of an act committed in reckless haste--all were past, frozen into the icy stagnation of death. One trace alone remained on the still, pale face. Stamped thereon so deeply, that it seemed indelibly graven for ever and ever, was that look of anguish which had quivered round the son's lips when his mother refused him a last farewell, when she let him go from her without a word of forgiveness. All else had faded out of sight with life itself; but this one grief Prince Baratowski had taken with him into his death-struggle; it had been with him in the last glimmer of consciousness. The shadow of the grave itself could not shroud it from view.

Waldemar left the room, sombre and mute as he had entered it; but those who waited for him without, glancing at his troubled face, could see that he had loved his brother.

"Bring the body up to the Castle," he said. "I will go on first--to my mother."


Spring had come round again for the second time since the beginning of the rebellion, which had blazed up so hotly at first, but which now lay quelled and crushed. Those wintry March days of the preceding year had not only brought woe on the Wilicza household, but had been pregnant with disaster to the whole insurrection. By the defeat of the Morynski corps, one of its chief supports had been lost to it. When overtaken by that sudden attack, which found him and his so totally unprepared--relying, as they did, upon the shelter afforded them by Prince Baratowski and his troops--Count Morynski had defended himself with all the energy of desperation; and even when, surrounded and outnumbered, he saw that all was lost, he yet fought on to the last, determined to sell his life and liberty as dearly as possible. So long as he remained at their head, his example inspired his wavering forces, and kept them together; but when the leader lay bleeding and unconscious on the ground, all resistance was at an end. Those who could not fly were hewn down, or taken prisoners by the victorious party. It was more than a defeat, it was an annihilation; and if that day's work did not decide the fate of the revolution, it yet marked a turning-point in its career. From that time forth, the fortunes of the insurgents declined, steadily and surely. The loss of Morynski, who had been by far the most redoubtable and energetic of the rebel leaders; the death of Leo Baratowski, on whom, in spite of his youth, the eyes of his countrymen were turned; in whom, by virtue of his name and family traditions their hopes and expectations centred--these were heavy blows for a party which had long been split into factions, and divided against itself, and which now fell still further asunder. Occasionally, it is true, the waning star would gleam out brightly for a moment. There were other conflicts, other battles glorious with heroic acts and deeds of desperate valour; but the fact stood out ever more and more plainly, that the cause for which they fought was a lost cause. The insurrection, which at first had spread over the whole land, was forced back into narrower and narrower limits. Post after post fell into the hands of the enemy; one troop after another was dispersed, or melted away, and the year, which at its opening had seen the horizon lurid with revolutionary flames, before its close saw the fire quenched, the last spark extinguished. Nothing but ashes and ruins remained to testify of the death-struggle of a people over whom the fiat of history has long since gone forth.

A weary interval elapsed before Count Morynski's fate was decided. He first awoke to consciousness in a dungeon, and for a time his serious, nay, as it was at first believed, mortal wounds rendered all proceedings against him objectless. For months he lingered in the most precarious state, and when at length he recovered, it was to find himself on the threshold of life, confronted with his death-warrant. For a leader of the revolution, taken armed and in actual fight, no other fate could be reserved. Sentence of death had been passed on him, and would most assuredly have been carried out in this, as in numberless other cases, but for his long and dangerous illness. His conquerors had not thought fit to inflict capital punishment on a man supposed to be dying, and when, later on, it became practicable to apply the law in all its rigour, the rising had been altogether suppressed, all danger to the land averted. The victors' obdurate severity relaxed in its turn. Count Morynski was reprieved, his sentence commuted to exile for life; exile in its bitterest form, indeed, for he was condemned to deportation to one of the most distant parts of Siberia--a terrible favour to be granted a man whose whole life had been one long dream of freedom, and who, even during the years of his former banishment in France, had never known any restriction on his personal liberty.

He had not seen those dear to him since the evening on which he had taken leave of them at Wilicza. Neither his sister, nor even his daughter, could obtain permission to see him. All their attempts to reach him were foiled by the strict watch kept on the prisoner, by the careful measures taken to shut him off from all possible intercourse with the outer world. For this strict watch they had, indeed, themselves to blame. More than once had they sought to rescue him from his captivity. So soon as the Count was on the road to recovery, every resource the Princess and Wanda had at their command was employed to facilitate his flight; but all their plans for his deliverance failed, the last experiment costing Pawlick, the faithful old servant of the Baratowski house, his life. He had volunteered for the perilous service, and had even so far succeeded as to put himself in communication with Morynski. The prisoner had been apprised of what was doing, the plan for his escape had been agreed upon, but Pawlick was surprised while engaged in the preparations for it, and, flying from the spot in the first impulse of his alarm, was shot down by the sentinels. The discovery of this scheme resulted in a still closer guard of the unhappy captive, and a keen and vigilant observation of his friends at large. They could take no further step without arousing suspicion, and increasing the hardships to which their brother and father was subjected. They were fain to yield at last to the hopeless impossibility of the case.

Immediately after the death of her younger son, the Princess had quitted Wilicza, and taken up her residence at Rakowicz. People thought it very natural she should not leave her orphaned niece alone. Waldemar knew better what drove his mother away. He had silently concurred when she told him of her resolve, making not the slightest attempt to combat it. He knew that she could no longer bear to live on at the Castle, that the constant sight of himself was intolerable to her; for had he not been the cause of the catastrophe by which Leo had lost his life and destruction had overtaken the troops committed to Leo's charge? Perhaps it was a relief to Nordeck that the Princess should go, now that he was obliged daily and hourly to wound her by the manner of his rule at Wilicza. Having with iron determination once taken the reins in hand, he held them in a like grasp of iron, stern and steady guidance being indeed urgently called for. He had been right in saying that chaos reigned on his estates: no other word would so aptly have described the disorder which the twenty years of mismanagement during his late guardian's lifetime and the four years of Baratowski régime had bequeathed to him; but now, with incredible energy, he set himself to the work of bringing order out of chaos. At first Waldemar had enough to do with all his might to stem the tide of rebellion which, raging beyond the frontier, threatened to overflow his land; but when once he felt he had free play and liberty of action, when the insurrection with the thousand secret links binding it to Wilicza showed signs of dying out, a process of transformation began, quite unparalleled in its completeness. Such of the officials as failed to render implicit obedience were dismissed, and those who remained were subjected to severest control. The whole service of the woods and forests was placed in other hands; new foresters and rangers were appointed; the leased-out farms were--in some cases at a great money sacrifice--redeemed from the tenants in possession, and incorporated into the main estate, of which the young proprietor himself was sole administrator. It was a gigantic undertaking for one man single-handed to regulate and govern so vast a concern, especially now, when old things were overturned and the new not yet established, when there was no cohesion, nothing worked in joint; but Waldemar showed himself equal to the task. He had finally won the day in his contest with his subordinates. The population about Wilicza still remained hostile; its hatred of the German in him was abiding and consistent; but even the outsiders had learned to feel the master's hand, and to bend to its guiding impulse. By the Princess's departure the malcontents lost their firmest support, and the collapse of the movement in the neighbouring province quenched the spirit of resistance on this side the border. There could, indeed, be no question as yet of that peaceful, well-ordered calm to be found on similar estates in other provinces. Neither the times nor circumstances could admit of such a state of things; but a beginning was made, the path cleared, and the rest must be left for the future to work out.

Herr Frank, the steward, was still at Wilicza. He had put off his removal for a year, yielding to the express wish of his employer, who was most desirous of keeping this clever, experienced ally at his side for a while. Now only, when the most urgent measures for the re-establishment of order had been successfully taken, did Frank definitely resign his office, with a view to carrying out that long-cherished project of his, of settling down on his own land. The pretty and not unimportant estate which he had bought, lay in another province, in a pleasant situation and in full enjoyment of peace and order, strongly contrasting in this last respect with the old Polish neighbourhood where mischief was ever brewing, where the very air was full of plots, against which the steward had battled for twenty years, but which his soul abhorred. Two months would elapse before the purchaser could take possession of his new home; in the mean time he stayed on at Wilicza in his old position.

As to Gretchen, the fact that she was her father's darling had been amply demonstrated on the occasion of her marriage; her dowry exceeded all the calculations which Assessor Hubert had so minutely entered into for the benefit of another. The wedding had taken place in the preceding autumn, and the newly married pair had gone to live in J----, where Professor Fabian now actually filled the post which had been offered to him, and where 'we meet with the most extraordinary success,' said his wife, writing to her father. Fabian overcame his timid dread of a public life more easily and quickly than he could have believed possible, and justified all the expectations entertained with regard to the author of the 'History of Teutonism,' who had so suddenly sprung into fame. His amiable, modest manners, which stood out in strong contrast to his predecessor's uncourteous and overbearing ways, won for him the general good-will; and his young and blooming wife contributed not a little to the advancement of his social position, so gracefully did she preside over the charming home which her father's generous kindness had fitted up with every elegance and comfort. The young couple were now about to pay their first visit to the paternal roof, and were expected to arrive at Wilicza in the course of a few days.

Things had not gone so well with Assessor Hubert, though a quite unexpected and rather considerable accession of fortune had lately come to him. Unfortunately, the event which procured him the legacy, deprived the family of its man of mark. Professor Schwarz had died some months before; and, that celebrated scholar being unmarried, his fortune went to his nearest of kin. Hubert's pecuniary position was greatly improved thereby, but what did it profit him? The bride on whom he had so surely counted had given herself to another, and as yet he did not hold his Counsellorship. There seemed, indeed, for the present, small prospect of his promotion, although he outdid himself in official zeal, although he kept the police department of L---- in a twitter of perpetual alarm with his so-called discoveries, and would have counted no exertions too great, could he, in that year of revolution, but have laid hands on a traitor or two, conspiring against his own State. In this hope he was, however, still destined to be disappointed. And this same State behaved in a manner altogether disgraceful towards its most faithful servant; it seemed to have no fitting sense of his self-sacrifice and general devotedness, but rather to incline to the view taken by Frank, who declared, in his outspoken way, that the Assessor was doing one stupid thing after another, and would get himself turned out of the service before long. Indeed, at every fresh promotion, Hubert was passed over in so pointed a fashion that his colleagues began to laugh at and to taunt him with his nonsuccess. Then a dark resolve shaped itself in the mind of this deeply injured man. Schwarz's legacy had made him quite independent; why should he longer endure to be so overlooked and neglected? why continue to serve this ungrateful State, which persistently refused to recognise his brilliant abilities, while insignificant men like Dr. Fabian were called to fill important posts and had distinctions heaped on them?

Hubert spoke of tendering his resignation. He even mentioned the subject in the presence of the President; but great was his mortification when that magnate, with crushing affability, encouraged him in the idea. His Excellency was of opinion that the Assessor, with his private means, was in no need of an official position, and would do well to withdraw from its fatigues. Besides, he was of rather an 'excitable' temperament, and such duties as his required, above everything, calmness and reflection. Hubert felt something of his celebrated relative's misanthropy arise within him, as he went home after this conversation, and, on the spur of the moment, drew up his letter of resignation. This letter was sent off and actually accepted! As yet, neither the State nor the police department of L---- had been thrown out of their accustomed grooves by the circumstance, but some disturbance might be looked for in the ensuing month, when his threatened retirement would assume the proportions of an accomplished fact. The nephew had in him too much of that uncle, whose unfortunate strategy he had lately imitated, not to live in expectation of some impending catastrophe.

In the courtyard at Rakowicz stood the horse of the young lord of Wilicza. It happened but rarely that Nordeck rode over to this house, and when he came, his visits were of short duration. The breach between him and his nearest relations was still unhealed; late events seemed, indeed, rather to have widened it, to have sundered them still more completely.

Countess Morynska and Waldemar were alone together in the lady's private sitting-room. Wanda was much changed. She had always been pale, but with a paleness which had nothing in common with the deathly hue now overspreading her face. Visible tokens were there of all that she had suffered of late--suffered, in knowing the father she so passionately loved in prison, sick nigh unto death without the power of going to him and allaying his pain even for a moment, in witnessing the final wreck and failure of those bright dreams of liberty, for which he had so enthusiastically staked his life, and which were not without a powerful hold on his daughter's soul. Mortal anxiety as to the decision of this twofold destiny, constant vacillation between hope and fear, the agitating suspense of each fresh attempt at rescue--these all had left most evident traces. Wanda's was one of those natures which will face the heaviest misfortunes with desperate energy so long as a glimmer of hope is left, but which, when once this glimmer is extinguished, break down utterly. She seemed nearly to have reached this despairing point. At the present moment a sort of feverish excitement upheld her. She had evidently rallied what was but too surely her last remaining strength.

Waldemar stood before her, unchanged, haughty and unbending as ever. In his manner there was but little of that forbearance to which the young Countess's appearance made so urgent an appeal. His attitude was almost menacing, and mingled anger and pain were in his voice as he spoke to her.

"For the last time I entreat you to give up the thought. You would only incur death yourself, without being of any help to your father. It would be one torment more for him to see you dying before his eyes. You are bent on following him into that fearful desert, that murderous climate, to which the strongest succumb; you, who from your earliest youth have been delicately nursed, and surrounded by all life's comforts, purpose now to expose yourself to the most cruel privations. The tried and tempered steel of the Count's endurance may possibly hold out under them, but you would fall a victim before many months were over. Ask the doctor, ask your own face; they will tell you that you would not live a year in that terrible land."

"Do you think my father will live longer?" replied Wanda, with a trembling voice. "We have nothing more to hope or expect from life, but we will at least die together."

"And I?" asked Waldemar, with bitter reproach.

She turned away without answering him.

"And I?" he repeated, more vehemently. "What shall I do? What is to become of me?"

"You at least are free. You have life before you. Bear it--I have worse to bear!"

An angry remonstrance was on Waldemar's lips; but he glanced at that pale, troubled face, and that glance made him pause. He forced himself to be calm.

"Wanda, when, a year ago, we came at last to understand each other, the promise you had given my brother stood between us. I would have fought my battle, have won you from him at any cost; but it never came to that. His death has torn down the barrier, and no matter what may threaten us from without, it is down, and we are free. By Leo's newly opened grave, while the sword was still impending over your father's head, I did not dare speak to you of love, of our union. I forced myself to wait, to see you but seldom, and only for a few minutes at a time. When I came over to Rakowicz, you and my mother let me feel that you still looked on me as an enemy; but I hoped for better days, for a happier future, and now you meet me with such a determination as this! Can you not understand that I will combat it as long as breath is left in me? 'We will die together!'--easily said and easily done when bullets are flying thick and fast, when, like Leo, one may be shot to the heart in a moment. But have you reflected what death in exile really may be? A slow wasting away; a long protracted struggle against privations which break the spirit before they destroy the body; far from one's country, cut off from the world and its interests, from all that intellectual life which to you is as necessary as the air you breathe; to be weighed down and gradually stifled by the load of misery! And you require of me that I shall endure to see it, that I shall stand by, and suffer you voluntarily to dedicate yourself to such a fate?"

A slight shudder passed through the young Countess's frame. The truth of his description may have gone home to her; but she persisted in her silence.

"And your father accepts this incredible sacrifice," went on Waldemar, more and more excitedly, "and my mother gives her approval to the plan. Their object is simply this, to drag you from my arms, to achieve which they will even subject you to a living death. Had I fallen instead of Leo, and the present cruel fate overtaken the Count, he would have commanded you to stay, my mother would energetically have defended her son's rights, and would have compelled you to give up so ill-judged a scheme; but now, they themselves have suggested these ideas of martyrdom, although they know that it will be your death. It does away with all prospect of our union, even in the far distant future, and that is enough for them!"

"Do not speak so bitterly," Wanda interrupted him. "You do my family injustice. I give you my word that, in taking this resolution, I have been guided by none. My father is advancing towards old age. His wounds, his long imprisonment, more than all else, the defeat of our cause, have broken him down morally and physically. I am all that is left to him, the one tie which still binds him to life. I am his altogether. The lot, which you so forcibly described just now, will be his lot. Do you think I could have one hour's peace at your side, knowing him to be journeying towards such a fate alone, abandoned to his doom, feeling that I myself was bringing on him the crudest grief of his life, by marrying you, whom he still looks on as one of our enemies? The one mitigation of his terrible sentence I could obtain--and that with the utmost difficulty--was a permission for me to accompany my father. I knew that I should have a hard fight with you--how hard it would be I am only learning now. Spare me, Waldemar, I have not much strength left."

"No, not for me," said Waldemar, bitterly. "All the strength and love in you are given to your father. What shall become of me, how I am to endure the misery of separation, you do not stay to enquire. I was a fool when I believed in that impulse which threw you into my arms in a moment of danger. You were 'Wanda' to me but for an instant. When I saw you next day, you spoke to me as Countess Morynska, and are so speaking to me to-day. My mother is right. Your national prejudices are your very heart's blood, the food on which you have been nourished since your infancy; you cannot renounce them without renouncing life itself--to them we are both to be offered up--to them your father is ready to sacrifice his only child. He would never, never have consented that you should accompany him, if the man, who loved you, had been a Pole. I being that man, he will agree to any plan which may part you from me. What matter, if only he can preserve you from the German, if he stand faithfully by the national creed? Can you Poles feel nothing but hate--hate which stretches even beyond the grave?"

"If my father were free, I might perhaps find courage to set him and all that you call prejudice at defiance," said Wanda, in a low voice. "As it is, I cannot, and"--here all her old energy gleamed forth anew--"I will not, for it would be betraying my duty as his child. I will go with him, even though it costs me my life. I will not leave him alone in his distress."

She spoke these words with a steady decision which showed her resolution to be unalterable. Waldemar seemed to feel it. He gave up his resistance.

"When do you set out?" he asked, after a pause.

"Next month. I am not to see my father again until we meet at O----. There my aunt will also be allowed one interview with him. She will go with me so far. You see we need not say good-bye to-day; we have some weeks before us. But promise me not to come to Rakowicz in the mean time, not again to assail me with reproaches and arguments, as you have this morning. I need all my courage for the hour of parting, and you rob me of it with your despair. We shall see each other yet once again--until then, farewell!"

"Farewell," he said, shortly, almost roughly, without looking at her, or taking the hand she held out to him.

"Waldemar!" There was heart-stirring sorrow and reproach in her tone, but it was powerless to lay his fierce irritation. Anger and misery at losing his love overcame for the moment all the young man's sense of justice.

"You may be right," he said, in his harshest tone, "but I cannot bring myself all at once to appreciate this exalted spirit of self-sacrifice--still less to share it. My whole nature rises up in protest against it. As, however, you insist on carrying your plan into execution, as you have irrevocably decreed our parting, I must see how I can get through existence alone. I shall make no further moan, that you know. My bitterness only offends you, it will be best that I should be silent. Farewell, Wanda."

A conflict was going on in Wanda's mind. She knew that it only needed one word from her to change all his harshness and austerity into soft tenderness; but to speak that word now would be to renew the contest, to endanger the victory so hardly won. She was silent, paused for a second, then bowed her head slightly, and left the room.

Waldemar let her go. He stood with his face turned to the window. Many bitter emotions were written on that face, but no trace was there of the resignation which the woman he loved had required of him. Leaning his brow against the panes, he remained long motionless, lost in thought, and only looked up at last on hearing his name spoken.

It was the Princess who had come in unnoticed. How the last year with all its cruel blows had told upon this woman! When, in the old days, her son had met her in C---- after a separation of years, she had just suffered a heavy loss; then as now she had been draped in deepest mourning. But her husband's death had not bent her proud energetic spirit; she had clearly recognised the duties devolving on her as a widow and a mother, had designed, and steadily carried out, the new plan of life which for a time had made her ruler and mistress of Wilicza. She had overcome her grief, because self-control was necessary, because there were other tasks before Baratowski's widow than that merely of deploring his loss, and Princess Hedwiga had ever possessed the enviable faculty of subordinating her dearest feelings to the outward calls of necessity.

Now, however, it was otherwise. The mourner still bore herself erect, and, at a first cursory glance, no very striking alteration might have been remarked in her; but he who looked closer would have seen the change which Leo Baratowski's death had wrought in his mother. There was a rigid look on her features; not the quiescence of still resignation, but the dead calm of one who has nothing more to hope or to lose, for whom life and its interests have no further concern. Those eyes, once so imperious, were dull now and shaded; the proud brow, which but a year before had been smooth as marble, was furrowed with deep lines, telling of anguish, and there were patches of grey in the dark hair. The blow, which had fallen on this mother, wounding her mortally in her pride as in her affections, had evidently attacked the very well-springs of her being, and the defeat of her people, the fate of the brother, whom, after Leo, she loved more than all on earth, had done the rest--the once inflexible, indomitable spirit was broken.

"Have you really been plying Wanda with argument and remonstrances again?" said she, and her voice too was changed; it had a dull, weary sound. "You must know that it is all in vain."

Waldemar turned round. His face had not cleared; it was dark and wrathful still, as he answered--

"Yes, it was all in vain."

"I told you so beforehand. Wanda is not one of those women who say No to-day and to-morrow throw themselves into your arms. Her resolution, once taken, was irrevocable. You ought to recognise this, instead of distressing her by re-opening a useless strife. It is you, and you alone, who show her no mercy."

"I?" exclaimed Waldemar fiercely. "Who was it, then, that suggested this resolution to her?"

The Princess's eyes met his without flinching. "No one," she replied. "I, as you know, have long since ceased to interfere between you. I have learned by too bitter experience how powerless I am to oppose your passion ever again to attempt to check it, but I neither can nor will prevent Wanda from going. She is all my brother has in the world. She will only do her duty in following him."

"To her death," added Waldemar.

The Princess was sitting now, wearily resting her head on her hand.

"Death has come near us too often of late for any one of us to fear it. When the strokes of Fate fall thick and fast, as they have fallen upon us, one grows familiar with the worst; and this is the case with Wanda. We have nothing more to lose, therefore nothing to fear. This unhappy year has blighted other hopes than yours; so many have gone to their graves mid blood and tears! You will have to bear it, if, to all the other ruins, the wreck of your happiness is added."

"You would hardly forgive me were I to rescue my happiness from the ruin of your hopes," said Waldemar, bitterly. "Well, you need not be uneasy. I have seen plainly to-day that Wanda is not to be moved."

"And you?"

"Well, I submit."

The Princess scanned his face for some seconds.

"What are you thinking of doing?" she asked suddenly.

"Nothing; you hear--I give up hope and submit to the inevitable."

His mother's eye still rested scrutinisingly upon him.

"You do _not_ submit, or I am much mistaken in my son. Is that resignation which is written on your brow? You have some plan, some mad, perilous project. Beware! Wanda's own will stands opposed to you. She will yield to no compulsion, not even from you."

"We shall see that," replied the young man, coldly--he gave up denial, finding the mask was seen through. "In any case, you may set your mind perfectly at ease. My plan may be a mad one, but if it presents any danger, that danger will be mine only--at most, my life will be at stake."

"At most, your life?" repeated the Princess. "And you can say that to reassure your mother!"

"Pardon me, but I think there has been small question with you of a mother's feelings since the day you lost your Leo."

The Princess gazed fixedly on the ground.

"From that hour you have let me feel that I am childless," she said in a low tone.

"I?" exclaimed Waldemar. "Was it for me to put obstacles in the way of your leaving Wilicza. I knew right well that you were hurrying away to escape from me, that the sight of me was intolerable to you. Mother"--he drew nearer her involuntarily, and, harsh and unsparing as were his words, they yet told of a secret rankling pain--"when all your self-control gave way, and you sank down weeping on my brother's corpse, I dared not say one comforting word--I dare not even now. I have always been a stranger, an alien from your heart; I never held a place in it. If, from time to time, I have come over here to Rakowicz, it was because I could not live without seeing Wanda. I have never thought of seeking you, any more than you have sought me in this time of mourning; but truly the blame of our estrangement does not lie at my door. Do not impute it to me as a crime that I left you alone in the bitterest hour of your life."

The Princess had listened in silence, not attempting to interrupt him; but as she answered, her lips moved convulsively, contracted, as it were, by some inward spasm.

"If I have loved your brother more than you, I have lost him--how have I lost him! I could have borne that he should fall, I myself sent him out to fight for his country--but that he should fall in such a way!" Her voice failed her, she struggled for breath, and there was a pause of some seconds before she could continue. "I let my Leo go without a word of pardon, without the last farewell for which he prayed on his knees, and that very day they laid him at my feet shot through the breast. All that is left to me of him--his memory--is indissolubly connected with that fatal act of his which brought destruction on our troops. My people's cause is lost; my brother is going to meet a doom worse by far than death. Wanda will follow him. I stand altogether alone. I think you may be satisfied, Waldemar, with the manner in which Fate has avenged you."

In the utter weariness of her voice, the dull rigidity of her features, there was something far more pathetic than in the wildest outbreak of sorrow. Waldemar himself could but be impressed by it; he bent down over her.

"Mother," said he, meaningly; "the Count is still in his own country, Wanda is still here. She has to-day unconsciously pointed out to me a way in which I may yet hope to win her. I shall take that way."

The Princess started up in alarm. Her look sought his anxiously, enquiringly; she read her answer in his eyes.

"You mean to attempt ..."

"What you two have attempted before me. You have failed, I know. Perhaps I shall succeed better."

A ray of hope illumined the Princess's countenance, but it died out again immediately. She shook her head.

"No, no; do not undertake it. It is useless; and if I say so, you may rest assured that no means have been left untried. We have made every effort, and all in vain. Pawlick has paid for his fidelity with his life."

"Pawlick was an old man," replied Waldemar, "and an anxious, timorous nature to boot. He had devotion enough for any task, but he had not the requisite prudence, not the requisite audacity at a critical moment. Such an enterprise demands youth and a bold spirit; above all, it is essential that the principal should act in person, trusting to no one but himself."

"And himself incur all the terrible danger. We have learned, to our cost, how they guard their frontiers and their prisoners out yonder. Waldemar, am I to lose you too?"

Waldemar looked at her in amazement, as the last words burst from her lips like a cry of pain. A bright flush overspread his face.

"Your brother's freedom depends on it," he reminded her.

"Bronislaus is beyond rescue," said the Princess, hopelessly. "Do not risk your life now in our lost cause. It has cost victims enough! Think of Pawlick's fate, of your brother's death!" She seized his hand, and held it tightly. "You shall not go. I was over rash just now when I said I had nothing more to lose; at this moment I feel there is one thing left to me. I will not give up you too, my last, my only child. Do not go, my son. Your mother entreats you; do not go!"

At length her heart warmed towards him with maternal love; at length this love spoke to him in tender accents, such as Waldemar had never before heard from her lips. Even to this proud, inexorable woman an hour had come, when, seeing all around her tottering and falling, she was fain to cling desperately to the one support which Fate had left her. The spurned, neglected son resumed his rights at last. True, the grave had opened for his brother, before any such rights were accorded to him.

Any other mother and son might now have clasped each other in a long embrace, striving in this rush of new-born tenderness to drown all memory of their long, deep-rooted estrangement; these natures were too hard, and too alike in their hardness, for any such swift and absolute revulsion of feeling. Waldemar spoke no word, but for the first time in his life he lifted his mother's hand to his lips, and pressed them on it long and fervently.

"You will stay?" implored the Princess.

He drew himself up. The bright flush was still on his face, but the last few minutes seemed to have transfigured it. All rancour and bitterness had vanished from his features; his eyes still sparkled with defiance, but it was the glad defiance of one confident of victory, and ready to enter the lists and do battle with Fate.

"No," he replied, "I shall go; but I thank you for those words--they make the venture a light one to me. You have always looked upon me as your enemy, because I would not lend my hand to further your plans. I could not do that--I cannot now; but nothing forbids me to rescue the Count from the consequences of an inhuman verdict. At all events, I am determined to make the attempt, and, if any one can accomplish it, I shall. You know the spur which urges me on."

The Princess gave up all resistance. She could not remain quite hopeless in face of his steady assurance.

"And Wanda?" she asked.

"She said to me to-day, 'If my father were free, I might find courage to defy all and everything for your sake.' Tell her I may one day remind her of those words. Now ask me nothing more, mother. You know that I must act alone, for I alone am unsuspected. You are distrusted and watched. Any step taken by you would betray the enterprise, any news sent you by me would jeopardise it. Leave all in my hands; and now, farewell. I must away, we have no more time to lose."

He touched his mother's hand with his lips once more, and hastened from her. The Princess felt something akin to a pang at this sudden, rapid leave-taking. She went up to the window to wave a last adieu to the traveller as he hurried away; but she waited in vain. His eyes sought, indeed, one of the Castle windows, as he rode slowly, lingeringly through the courtyard; but that window was not hers. He gazed steadfastly, persistently, up to Wanda's room, as though such a look must have power to draw his love to him, to force from her a parting 'God speed!' It was for her sake alone he was entering on the perilous task before him; his mother, the reconciliation so lately sealed, all faded away and sank to nought when his Wanda came in question.

And he really obtained his wish of seeing her once more. The young Countess must have appeared at the bay-window, for Waldemar's face suddenly lighted up, as though a ray of sunshine had fallen athwart it. He waved his hand to her, then gave his Norman the rein, and dashed, quick as the wind, out of the Castle-yard.

The Princess still stood in her place, gazing after him. He had not looked back to her--she was forgotten! At this thought, for the first time that stab went through her heart which had so often traversed Waldemar's at sight of her tenderness to Leo--and yet in this moment a conviction she had hitherto refused fully to admit forced itself irresistibly upon her--a conviction that the inheritance, all share of which had been denied her darling, had fallen to her first-born son, that to him his mother's strength and energy had descended, that in mind and character he approved himself very blood of her blood.


In the forenoon of a cool but sunny May day, Herr Frank was returning from L---- whither he had been to fetch his daughter and son-in-law. Professor Fabian and his wife were seated in the carriage with him. The former's new academical dignity seemed to agree right well with him; he looked in better health and spirits than ever. His young wife, in consideration of her husband's position, had assumed a certain stateliness of demeanour which she did her very best to maintain, and which was in comic contrast to her fresh, youthful appearance. Fortunately, she often fell out of her rôle, and became true Gretchen Frank once more; but at this moment, it was the Professor's wife who sat by her father's side with much gravity of deportment, giving him an account of their life in J----.

"Yes, papa, it will be a great relief to us to come and stay with you for a time," said she, passing her handkerchief over her blooming face, which certainly did not look as though it needed relief. "We University people have so many claims upon us. We are expected to interest ourselves in every possible subject, and our position requires so much from us. We Germanists stand well to the front in the scientific movement of the age."

"You certainly appear to stand very much to the front," said the steward, who was listening with some wonder. "Tell me, child, which of you really fills the professorial chair at J----, your husband or yourself?"

"The wife belongs to the husband, so it comes to the same," declared Gretchen. "Without me Emile never could have accepted the post, distinguished scholar as he is. Professor Weber said to him the day before yesterday in my presence, 'My worthy colleague, you are a perfect treasure to the University, as regards science, but for all the details of practical life you are worth absolutely nothing. In all such matters you are quite at sea. It is a mercy your young wife is so well able to supply your deficiencies.' He is quite right, is he not, Emile? Without me you would be lost in a social point of view."

"Altogether," assented the Professor, full of faith, and with a look of grateful tenderness at his wife.

"Do you hear, papa, he owns it," said she, turning to her father. "Emile is one of the few men who know how to appreciate their wives. Hubert never would have done that. By-the-by, how is the Assessor? Is not he made Counsellor even yet?"

"No, not yet, and he is so wrath at it that he has given in his resignation. At the beginning of next month he quits the service of the State."

"What a loss for all the future ministries of our country!" laughed Gretchen. "He had quite made up his mind he should come into office some day, and he used to practice the ministerial bearing when he was sitting in our parlour. Is he still tormented with the fixed idea of discovering traitors and conspirators everywhere?"

Frank laughed in his turn. "I really don't know, for I have hardly seen him since your engagement was announced, and never once spoken to him. He has laid my house under a ban ever since that time. You might certainly have told him the news in a more considerate manner. When he comes over to Wilicza, which does not happen often, he stops down in the village, and never comes near the manor-farm. I have no transactions with him now that Herr Nordeck has taken the direction of the police into his own hands--but the Assessor may pass for a rising man nowadays: he inherited the greater part of Schwarz's fortune. The Professor died a few months ago."

"Of bilious fever, probably," put in Mrs. Fabian.

"Gretchen!" remonstrated her husband, in a tone between entreaty and reproof.

"Well, he was of a very bilious temperament. He went just as much into that extreme as you do into the other with your mildness and forbearance. Just fancy, papa, directly after his nomination to J----, Emile wrote to the Professor, and assured him that he was quite innocent of all the disputes which had taken place at the University. As a matter of course, the letter was never acknowledged, notwithstanding which, my lord and husband feels himself called upon, now that this disagreeable but distinguished person has betaken himself to a better world, to write a grandiloquent article on him, deploring the loss to science, just as if the deceased had been his dearest friend."

"I did it from conviction, my dear," said Fabian, in his gentle, earnest way. "The Professor's ungenial temper too often acted as a hindrance to that full recognition of his talents which was due to them. I felt it incumbent on me to recall to the mind of the public what a loss science has sustained in him. Whatever may have been his defects of manner, he was a man of rare merit."

Gretchen's lip curled contemptuously.

"Well, he may have been; I'm sure I don't mind. But now to a more important matter. So Herr Nordeck is not in Wilicza?"

"No," replied the steward, laconically. "He has gone on a journey."

"Yes, we know that. He wrote to my husband not long ago, and said he was thinking of going over to Altenhof, and that he should probably spend a few weeks there. Just now, when he has his hands so full of business at Wilicza!--it seems strange!"

"Waldemar has always looked on Altenhof as his real home," said the Professor. "For that reason, he never could make up his mind to sell the estate which Herr Witold bequeathed to him by his will. It is natural he should wish to revisit the place where all his youth was passed."

Gretchen looked highly incredulous. "You ought to know your former pupil better. He is not likely to be troubled by any sentimental reminiscences of his youth at a time when he is engaged in the tremendous task of Germanising his Slavonian estates. No, there is something in the background, his attachment to Countess Morynska, probably. Perhaps he has resolved to put all thoughts of her out of his head--it would be the wisest thing he could do! These Polish women sometimes get quite absurd and irrational with their national fanaticism, and Countess Wanda is to the full as great a fanatic as any of them. Not to give her hand to the man she loves, just because he is a German! I would have taken my Emile, if he had been a Hottentot! and now he is always fretting over the supposed unhappiness of his dear Waldemar. He seriously believes that that personage has a heart like other human beings, which I, for one, emphatically deny."

"Gretchen!" said the Professor again, this time with an attempt to look severe, in which laudable effort he signally failed.

"Emphatically!" repeated his young wife. "When a man has a grief at his heart, he shows it one way or another. Herr Nordeck is as busy as possible, making such a stir here in Wilicza that all L---- is clapping its hands to its ears, and when he acted as best man at my wedding, there was not a trace of trouble to be seen in him."

"I have already told you that extreme reserve is one of Waldemar's chief characteristics," declared Fabian. "This passion might sap and utterly ruin him without his betraying anything of it to the eyes of others."

"A man who does not show it when he is crossed in love, can't have any very deep feelings," persisted Gretchen. "It was plain enough in you ten paces off. The last few weeks before our engagement, when you thought I was going to marry the Assessor, you went about with the most woe-begone countenance. I was dreadfully sorry for you; but you were so shy, there was no making you speak out."

The steward had abstained from all part in this conversation, being, apparently, fully taken up by an examination of the trees by the wayside. The road, which ran for a short distance along the bank of the river, became rather bad just at this place. The damage caused by the late high tides had not yet been repaired, and in the present dilapidated state of the quay, shaken by the constant wash of the water, some hesitation might reasonably be felt at driving over it. Frank, it is true, maintained that there was not the slightest danger, adding that he had passed over that very spot on his outward journey; but Gretchen did not place absolute reliance on these assurances. She preferred getting out, and walking the short distance to the neighbouring bridge. The gentlemen followed her example, and all three set out, taking a higher footpath, while the carriage proceeded at a slow pace over the quay below.

They were not the only travellers who considered caution the better part of valour.

From the bridge a carriage was seen approaching, the occupant of which appeared to share Gretchen's views. He called to the coachman to stop, and alighted in his turn, just as Frank and his companions reached the spot, and thus suddenly found themselves face to face with Herr Assessor Hubert.

This unexpected meeting caused some painful embarrassment on either side. The parties had not spoken since the day when the Assessor, furious at the engagement so recently contracted, had rushed out of the house, and the steward, under the impression that he had lost his reason, had sent the Inspector to look after him; but their acquaintance was of too old standing for them now to pass as strangers--they all felt that. Frank was the first to recover himself. He took the best possible way out of the difficulty by going up to the Assessor as though nothing had happened, offering him his hand in the most friendly manner, and expressing his pleasure at seeing him again at last.

The Assessor stood erect and stiff, clothed in black from head to foot. He had a crape band on his hat, and another on his arm. The family celebrity was duly mourned, but the money inherited appeared to have dropped some balm into the heart of the sorrowing nephew, for he looked the very reverse of disconsolate. There was a peculiar expression on his face to-day, an exalted self-satisfaction, a tranquil grandeur. He seemed in the humour to forgive all offences, to make peace with his kind--so, after a moment's hesitation, he took the offered hand, and replied by a few polite words.

The Professor and Gretchen now came forward. Hubert cast one glance of dark reproach at the young lady--who, in her little travelling-hat and flowing veil, certainly looked charming enough to awaken regretful feelings in the heart of her former adorer--bowed to her, and then turned to her husband.

"Professor Fabian," said he, "you have sympathised with the great loss which my family, and, with it, the whole scientific world, has experienced. The letter you wrote to my uncle long ago convinced him that you were blameless with regard to the intrigues which had been directed against him, that you at least could recognise his great merits without envy or jealousy. He expressed so much to me himself, and did you ample justice. The eulogistic notice, which you have dedicated to his memory, does you great honour; it has been a source of consolation to his surviving relatives. I thank you in the name of the family."

Fabian heartily pressed the speaker's hand, which the latter had voluntarily extended towards him. His predecessor's hostile attitude and the Assessor's grudge against him had weighed heavily on his soul, innocent as he knew himself to be of the mortification endured by both. He condoled with the afflicted nephew in terms of the sincerest sympathy.

"Yes, at the University we all deeply regret the loss of Professor Schwarz," said Gretchen; and she was hypocritical enough to offer, in her turn, a long string of condolences on the death of a man whom she had thoroughly detested, and whom, even in his grave, she could not forgive for his criticism on the 'History of Teutonism.'

"And so you have really tendered your resignation?" asked the steward, adverting to another topic. "You are leaving the service of the State, Herr Assessor?"

"In a week," assented Hubert. "But, with respect to the title you give me, Herr Frank, I must permit myself a slight correction. I ..." Here followed a dramatic pause, far longer and more impressive than that which in bygone days was intended to prelude his love declaration, during which pause he looked at his auditors successively, as though to prepare them for some most weighty intelligence; then, drawing a long breath, he concluded, "I was yesterday promoted to the rank of Counsellor."

"Thank goodness, at last!" said Gretchen, in a loud whisper, while her husband caught hold of her arm in alarm, to warn her against further imprudent utterances. Fortunately, Hubert had not heard the exclamation. He received Frank's congratulations with a dignity befitting the occasion, and then bowed graciously in reply to the good wishes of the young couple. His placable frame of mind was now explained. The new Counsellor stood high above all offences committed against the former Assessor. He forgave all his enemies--he even forgave the State, which had shown so tardy an appreciation of his worth.

"The promotion will make no change in my determination," he continued, it never having occurred to him that to this very determination he owed his advancement. "The State sometimes finds out too late the value of its servants; but the die is cast! I still, of course, fulfil the functions of my former position, and in this, the last week of my official activity, an important trust has been confided to me. I am now on my way to W----."

"Across the frontier?" said Fabian, in surprise.

"Exactly. I have to consult with the authorities there relative to the capture and reddition of a prisoner charged with high treason."

Gretchen gave her husband a look which said plainly: "There, he is beginning again already! Even the Counsellorship has not cured him of it"--but Frank had grown attentive all at once; he disguised any interest he might feel in the subject, however, and merely remarked in a careless, indifferent way--

"I thought the insurrection was at an end."

"But there are conspiracies on foot still," cried Hubert, eagerly. "A striking proof of this is now before us. You, probably, are not aware as yet that Count Morynski, the leader, the soul of the whole revolution, has escaped from prison."

Fabian started, and his wife evinced a lively surprise; but the steward only said quietly, "Impossible!"

The new Counsellor shrugged his shoulders. "It is, unfortunately, no longer any secret. The fact is known already all through L----, where Wilicza and Rakowicz still form the centre of general interest. Of course, Wilicza is beyond suspicion now, under Herr Nordeck's energetic rule; but Rakowicz is the residence of the Princess Baratowska, and I maintain that that woman is a source of danger to the whole province. There will be no peace so long as she remains in the land. Heaven knows whom she may now have stirred up to rescue her brother. Some reckless madman it must have been, who sets no store by his life. The prisoners under sentence of deportation are most closely guarded. Notwithstanding this, the accessory has, or the accessories have, managed to establish communication with the Count, and to furnish him with the means of escape. They have found their way into the interior of the fortress, have reached the very walls of his prison. Traces have been found which show that the fugitive was there received by them and conveyed past posts and sentries, over fortifications and ramparts--how is still an enigma. Half the sentinels on duty must have been bribed. The whole fort is in commotion at the unheard-of boldness of the enterprise. Scouts have been out all over the neighbourhood for the last ten days, but no clue has as yet been found."

Fabian at first had merely listened with some interest to Hubert's story, but as he heard such repeated mention of the amazing boldness of the undertaking, he began to be uneasy. A vague presentiment arose in his mind. He was about to put a hasty question, but just in time he met a warning look from his father-in-law. That look distinctly forbade him to speak. The Professor was silent, but his heart quailed within him.

Gretchen had not noticed this dumb intelligence between the two; she was following the tale with naïve and eager attention. Hubert went on:

"The fugitives cannot be far off, for the escape was discovered almost immediately. The Count has not yet passed the frontier, that is certain, and it is equally sure that he will make for it and attempt to get over on to German territory, where he would be in less danger. He will probably turn his steps to Rakowicz in the first place, Wilicza, thank God, being now closed to all such scheming plots and intrigues, though Herr Nordeck does not happen to be there just at present."

"No," said the steward, speaking with much decision. "He is over at Altenhof."

"I know; he told the President he was going there when he called to take leave of him. This absence of his will spare him much trouble and annoyance. It would be very painful to him to see his uncle captured and given up, as he will be beyond a doubt."

"What, you would give him up?" cried Gretchen, impetuously.

Hubert looked at her in astonishment.

"Of course; he is a criminal, convicted of treason to a friendly State. Its Government will insist upon his being delivered up."

The girl looked from her husband to her father; she could not understand how it was they neither of them joined in her expostulations, but Frank's eyes were fixed on something in the far distance, and Fabian uttered not a syllable.

Brave Gretchen, however, was not so easily intimidated. She indulged in a series of no very flattering comments on the 'friendly State,' and even directed some very pointed remarks against the Government of her own land. Hubert listened in horror. For the first time he thanked God in his heart that he had not made of this young lady a Counsellor's consort. She was proving herself unfit to be the wife of a loyal official. There was a taint of treason in her too!

"In your place, I should have refused the mission," she concluded at last. "Just on the eve of your retirement, you could very well have done so. I would not have closed my official career by delivering up a poor hunted captive into the hands of his tormentors."

"The Government has named me Counsellor," replied Hubert, solemnly emphasising the title, "and as such I shall do my duty. My State commands, I obey--but I see that my carriage has got safely over the critical spot. Madam, adieu; adieu, gentlemen. Duty calls me away!" and with a bow and a flourish, he left them.

"Did you hear, Emile?" asked the young lady, when they were once more seated in the carriage. "They have made him a Counsellor just a week before he retires, so that he shall have no time to do anything stupid in his new capacity. Well, he can't do much harm in future with the mere title!"

She went on in this way, discussing her old friend's advancement and Count Morynski's escape at great length, but received only short and unsatisfactory answers. Her father and husband had become remarkably monosyllabic, and it was fortunate that they soon reached the Wilicza domain, for the conversation began to flag hopelessly.

The Professor's wife found many occasions for surprise, some even for annoyance, during the course of the day. What perplexed her most, was her father's behaviour. He was undoubtedly pleased to have them there; he had taken her in his arms that morning and welcomed them both with such hearty warmth, yet it seemed as though their coming, which had been announced to him by a telegram the day before, was not quite opportune, as though he would willingly have deferred it a little. He declared himself to be overwhelmed with business, and appeared indeed to be constantly occupied. Soon after they got home, he took his son-in-law with him into his room, and they remained nearly an hour closeted there together.

Gretchen's indignation waxed hot within her on finding that she was neither included in this secret conference, nor enlightened as to its nature by her husband. She set herself to watch and to think, and suddenly many little things, which she had noticed during the journey, recurred to her mind. Skilfully putting these together, she arrived at a result, the correctness of which, to her mind, admitted of no doubt.

After dinner, the husband and wife remained alone together in the parlour. The Professor paced up and down the room in a manner very unusual to him, striving in vain to hide some inward uneasiness, but too much absorbed by his thoughts to notice the silent fit which had overtaken his young companion, generally so animated. Gretchen sat on the sofa, and watched him for some time. At last she advanced to the attack.

"Emile," she began, with a solemnity not exceeded by Hubert's, "Emile, I am shamefully treated here!"

Fabian looked up, greatly shocked.

"You! Good Heavens, by whom?"

"By my papa, and, what is worst of all, by my own husband."

The Professor was at his wife's side in a moment. He took her hand in his, but she drew it away very ungraciously.

"Shamefully!" she repeated. "You show no confidence in me whatever. You have secrets from me. You treat me like a child, me, a married woman, wife of a Professor of the J---- University! It is abominable!"

"Dear Gretchen," said Fabian, timidly, and then stopped.

"What was papa saying to you just now, when you were in his room?" enquired Gretchen. "Why do you not confide in me? What are these secrets between you two? Do not deny it, Emile, there are secrets between you."

The Professor denied nothing. He looked down, and seemed extremely oppressed and uncomfortable. His wife darted a severe, rebuking glance at him.

"Well, I will tell _you_, then. There is a new plot on foot at Wilicza, a conspiracy, as Hubert would say, and papa is in it this time, and he has dragged you into it too. The whole thing is connected with Count Morynski's rescue ..."

"Hush, child, for Heaven's sake!" cried Fabian in alarm; but Gretchen paid no heed to his adjuration; she went on quite undisturbed.

"And Herr Nordeck is not at Altenhof, that is pretty sure, or you would not be in such a state of anxiety. What is Count Morynski to you, or his escape either? But your beloved Waldemar is concerned in it, and that is why you are in such a flutter. It has been he who has carried off the Count--that is just the sort of thing he would do."

The Professor was struck dumb with astonishment at his wife's powers of discernment and combination. He was much impressed with her cleverness, but a little disturbed to hear her count off on her fingers those secrets which he had believed to be impenetrable.

"And no one says a word to me of it," continued Gretchen, with increasing irritation, "not a word, although you know very well I can keep a secret, though it was I, all by myself, who saved the Castle that time by sending the Assessor over to Janowo. The Princess and Countess Wanda will know everything. The Polish ladies always do know everything. _Their_ husbands and fathers make confidants of them--_they_ are allowed to take a part in politics, even in conspiracies; but we poor German women are always oppressed and kept in the background. We are humiliated, and treated like slaves ..." Here the Professor's wife was so overcome with the sense of her slavery and humiliation that she began to sob.

"Gretchen, my dear Gretchen, don't cry, I beseech you. You know that I have no secrets from you in anything concerning myself; but there are others implicated in this, and I have given my word to speak of it to no one, not even to you."

"How can a married man give his word not to tell his wife!" cried Gretchen, still sobbing. "It does not count for anything; no one has a right to ask it of him."

"Well, but I have given it," said Fabian in despair, "so calm yourself. I cannot bear to see you in tears. I ..."

"Well, this is a pretty specimen of petticoat government," exclaimed Frank, who had come in meanwhile unnoticed, and had been a witness of the little scene. "When she talks of oppression and slavery it seems to me my young lady makes a mistake in the person. And you can put up with that, Emile? Don't be offended--you may be a most remarkable scholar, but, as a husband, I must say you play a sorry part."

He could not have come to his son-in-law's aid more effectually than by these last words. Gretchen had no sooner heard them than she went over to her husband's side.

"Emile is an excellent husband," she declared, indignantly, the source of her tears suddenly drying up. "You need not reproach him, papa; it is right and proper that a husband should have some feeling for his wife."

Frank laughed. "Don't be so hasty, child, I meant no harm. Well, you have put yourself out quite needlessly. As you have guessed so near the truth, we must take you into the plot now, we can't help ourselves. News has just arrived ..."

"From Waldemar?" inquired the Professor, interrupting him with eager anxiety.

His father-in-law shook his head.

"No, from Rakowicz. We cannot hear from Herr Nordeck. He will either come or ... or we must make up our minds to the worst. But the Princess and her niece are to arrive in the course of the afternoon, and as soon as they are there, you must go up to the Castle. It may look strange that the two ladies, who have not been near Wilicza for a year, should come over just now so unexpectedly, and should remain there alone in the absence of the master. Your presence will give a more harmless colour to the business; it will seem quite a natural coincidence. You must pay a visit to the mother of your former pupil, and present Gretchen as your wife. That will satisfy the servant-folk. The ladies know the exact state of the case. I shall ride over to the border-station, and wait there with the horses, as has been agreed. And now, child, your husband must tell you all the rest, I have no time to lose."

He went, and Gretchen sat down on the sofa again to receive her husband's communications, well-pleased that she was now to be placed on a par with Polish women, and admitted to take part in a conspiracy.

Evening had come, or rather night. All was quiet and asleep at the manor-farm, and up at the Castle the servants had been despatched to bed as early as possible. Some windows on the first story were still lighted up, those of the green salon and the two adjoining rooms. In one of the latter stood the tea-table, which had been prepared as usual--any change might have excited surprise below stairs--but the meal was naturally a mere form. Neither the Princess nor Wanda was to be induced to take any refreshment, and even Professor Fabian turned rebellious, and refused to have any tea. He declared he could not swallow a drop, when his wife urged on him the necessity of taking some support. She had brought him to the table almost by force, and was administering a low-toned but most impressive lecture.

"Don't be so anxious, Emile. I shall have you ill with the agitation, and the two ladies in there as well. Countess Wanda looks as pale as a corpse, and the Princess's face is enough to frighten one. Neither of them utters a word. I can't bear this state of mute suspense any longer, and it will be a relief to them to be alone. We will leave them together for half an hour."

Fabian assented, but pushed away the tea-cup she had forced upon him.

"I can't think why you are all in such despair. If Herr Nordeck has declared that he will be here with the Count before midnight, he will be here, even if a whole regiment is posted on the border ready to take him. That man can manage anything. There must be something in the superstition of his Wilicza people who one and all hold him to be bullet-proof. He has just gone through dangers, only to hear of which makes one's hair stand on end, and gone through them unharmed. He will get safely across the frontier, you'll see."

"God grant it!" sighed Fabian. "If only that fellow Hubert were not over at W----, precisely to-day of all days. He would recognise Waldemar and the Count in any disguise. Suppose he should meet them!"

"Hubert has been doing stupid things all his life, he won't be likely to do a clever one now in the last week of his official career. It is not in him," said Gretchen contemptuously. "But he is right in one thing. One no sooner sets foot in this Wilicza than one finds one's self in the midst of a conspiracy. It must be in the air, I think, for I don't understand else how we Germans allow ourselves to be brought into it, how it is we are made to conspire in favour of these Poles, Herr Nordeck, papa, even you and I. Well, I hope this is the last plot Wilicza will ever see!"

The Princess and Wanda had remained in the adjoining room. Nothing had been changed, either here, or in any of the other apartments, since she had left them a year before; yet there was a desolate, uninhabited look about the house, which seemed to say that the mistress had been long absent. The lamp, which stood on a side-table, only lighted up a part of the dark and lofty chamber; the rest of it lay altogether in shadow.

In this deep shadow sat the Princess, motionless, her eyes fixed on vacancy. It was the very place in which she had sat on the morning of Leo's fatal visit, of that visit which had resulted in so terrible a catastrophe. The mother struggled hard against the recollections which assailed her on all sides at the return to a place so associated with her most cruel griefs. What had become of those proud, far-reaching plans, of those hopes and projects which had all found their centre here. They lay in ruins. Bronislaus' rescue was the one concession wrung from Fate, and even this rescue was but half achieved. Perhaps at this instant he and Waldemar were paying with their lives for their attempt to consummate it.

Wanda stood in the recess of the centre window, looking out with a fixed, strained gaze, as though her eyes could pierce through the darkness reigning without. She had opened the window, but she did not feel how sharply the night air smote her, did not know that she shivered beneath its breath. For the Countess Morynska this hour contained no remembrance of the past, with all its shattered plans and hopes; all her thoughts were concentrated on the coming event, as she waited in an anguish of expectation and deadly suspense. She no longer trembled for her father alone, but for Waldemar also--_chiefly_ for Waldemar, indeed, her heart maintaining its rights, spite of everything.

It was a cool and rather stormy night; there was no moonlight, and the stars, which here and there twinkled forth in the overcast sky, soon disappeared again behind the clouds. All around the Castle there was peace, deep peace; the park lay silent and dark, and, in the pauses between the gusts of wind, each falling leaf might be heard.

Suddenly Wanda started, and a half-suppressed exclamation escaped her lips. In an instant the Princess stood by her side.

"What is it? Did you see anything?"

"No; but I thought I heard the sound of horses' hoofs in the distance."

"Mere fancy! You have so often thought you heard it. It was nothing."

Yet the Princess followed her niece's example, and leaned far out of the window. The two women waited, listening breathlessly. Yes, a sound was borne over to them certainly; but it was distant and indistinct, and now again the wind rose, and wafted it from them altogether. Full ten minutes passed in torturing suspense--then, at last, steps were heard in one of the side avenues of the park, where there was an outlet into the forest--careful steps, warily approaching, and their eyes, strained to the uttermost, could discern through the darkness two figures issuing from among the trees.

Fabian rushed into the room. He had been watching too.

"They are there," he whispered, hardly able to restrain his emotion. "They are coming up the side steps. The little door leading to the park is open. I went to see not half an hour ago."

Wanda would have flown to meet the new-comers, but Gretchen, who had followed her husband, held her back.

"Stay here, Countess Morynska," she entreated. "We are not alone in the Castle. There is no safety but in your own rooms."

The Princess said not a word, but grasped her niece's hand to check the imprudent impulse. They were not long kept on the rack now. Only a few minutes--then the door flew open, and Count Morynski stood on the threshold, Waldemar's tall figure appearing in the background. Almost in the same instant Wanda lay in her father's arms.

Fabian and Gretchen had tact enough to withdraw, feeling that, after all, they were but strangers, and that the family should be left alone. But Waldemar, too, seemed to reckon himself among the strangers, for, instead of going in, he closed the door behind the Count, and stayed himself in the outer room. Turning to his old friend and tutor, he held out his hand to him with hearty warmth.

"Well, we have got here in safety," said he, drawing a deep breath. "The principal danger, at least, is over. We stand on German soil."

Fabian clasped the offered hand in both his own. "Oh, Waldemar, what a venture for you to plunge into! Suppose you had been discovered!"

Waldemar smiled. "It does not do to suppose anything in such an undertaking. A man, who wants to cross an abyss, must not think of turning giddy, or he is lost. I only took such possibilities into account so far as to provide against them. I kept my aim steadily in view, and looked neither to the right nor to the left. You see my plan has answered."

He threw off his cloak, drew a revolver from his breast-pocket, and laid it on the table. Gretchen, who was standing by, retreated a step.

"Don't be alarmed, my dear young lady," said Nordeck, reassuringly. "The weapon has not been used. No blood has been spilled in this business, though at first it did not seem likely we should get through it without. We found unexpected succour in time of need from our friend the Assessor Hubert."

"From the new Counsellor?" exclaimed Gretchen, in astonishment.

"Yes,--is he made Counsellor? Well, he can air his new dignity over in Poland. We came across the frontier with his carriage and papers."

The Professor and his wife uttered a simultaneous expression of surprise.

"He certainly did not render us the service voluntarily," went on Nordeck. "On the contrary, he will not fail to call us highway robbers; but necessity knows no law. Life and liberty were at stake, and we did not stay long to consider. Yesterday at noon, we arrived at an inn in a Polish village, not much more than a couple of leagues from the frontier. We knew that they were on our track, and we were anxious to get over on to German territory at any price; but the host warned us not to continue our flight before dusk. He said it was impossible, the whole country was up after us. The man was a Pole; his two sons had served under Count Morynski during the insurrection; the whole family would have given their lives for their former chief. The warning was not to be disregarded, so we stayed. Towards evening, when our horses were standing ready saddled for us in the stables, the Assessor Hubert suddenly made his appearance in the village on his way back from W----. His carriage had met with some slight accident, which was to be repaired as speedily as possible. He had left it at the village smithy, and had come on to the inn with the main intention of finding out whether any traces of us had been found. As he was unacquainted with the language, his Polish coachman had to act as interpreter--he had brought the man on with him for this purpose, instead of leaving him with the carriage. The landlord, of course, declared he knew nothing. We were hidden in the upper story, and could distinctly hear the Assessor declaiming in his favourite way about traitors and criminals fleeing from justice, adding that the pursuers were already on their track. In this way he was kind enough to disclose to us the fact that we really were pursued, and that it was known which way we had taken. He had even heard there were two of us, and that we were mounted. Now we had no choice left but to get away as quickly as possible. The imminence of the danger inspired me with a happy thought. I transmitted the necessary instructions to the landlord through his wife, and he understood them at once. The Assessor was informed that it would take a full hour to mend his carriage. He was very wrath at first, but after a time came to the conclusion that he had better stay at the inn and have some supper, as was suggested to him. Meanwhile we were out of the back door, and off to the smithy. The landlord's son had taken care that the carriage should be ready for us. I got in, my uncle"--this was the first time Waldemar had so designated the Count--"my uncle, who had passed for my servant throughout the journey, took the reins, and we drove out of the village on the other side.

"In the carriage I made an invaluable discovery. The Assessor's overcoat lay on the back seat with his pocket-book and all his papers which this prudent official had either confidingly left in it, or forgotten--a fresh proof of his eminent qualifications for the service of the State. Unfortunately, with my gigantic stature, I could make no use of his passport, but among the other papers I found many that were likely to be of use to us. For instance, a warrant from the L---- police for Count Morynski's arrest, even upon German soil, a letter empowering the Assessor to consult with the authorities at W---- as to the best means of attaining this object, together with several notices from these authorities as to the probable direction we had taken, and the measures already adopted for our capture. We were unscrupulous enough to turn these documents, destined for our confusion, to our own advantage. The Assessor had said at the inn that he had come through A---- that morning. There the carriage would no doubt be recognised, and the change in its occupants remarked, so we made a _détour_ round by the next military post, and drove up quite openly as Assessor Hubert and his coachman. I showed the necessary papers, and demanded to be let through as speedily as possible, alleging that I was on the track of the fugitives, and that there was pressing need for haste. That plea was irresistible. Nobody asked for our passports. We were considered as sufficiently identified, and so got safely across the frontier. A mile or two from it on this side we left the carriage on the high road in the neighbourhood of a village where it is sure to be found, and reached the Wilicza woods on foot. At the border-station we found the steward waiting with horses, according to previous agreement. We mounted, rode off at full speed, and here we are."

Gretchen, who had been listening with eager interest, was highly delighted at the trick played on her former suitor, but Fabian's good nature would not allow of his feeling any such mischievous pleasure. On the contrary, he asked in quite an anxious tone--

"And poor Hubert?"

"He is over yonder in Poland without his carriage or papers of identification," said Waldemar, drily. "He may think himself lucky if he is not taken for a traitor himself this time. It is quite on the cards. If our pursuers really do reach the inn to-night, they will find two strangers with their horses ready saddled, and the landlord will take care not to clear up any possible mistake which might favour our flight. The coachman, whose every feature betrays the Pole, and who, moreover, is rather an imposing-looking person, might at need pass for a nobleman in disguise, and the Assessor for his accomplice and liberator. The latter cannot prove his identity, he does not speak the language, and our neighbours are not in the habit of using much ceremony in the matter of arrests, or of adhering very strictly to prescribed forms. Perhaps the eminent Counsellor is now enjoying the little treat he wished to give us on our arrival at Wilicza, that of being taken up as a 'suspicious character' and transported handcuffed to the nearest town."

"That would indeed be an incomparable close to his official career," laughed Gretchen, disregarding her husband's grave look.

"But enough now of this Hubert," broke off Waldemar. "I shall see you again when I come back? I am here at the Castle _incognito_ to-night. It will be some days before I officially return from Altenhof, where I am supposed to be all the time. Now I must go and see my mother and my cousin. The first agitation of the meeting will be over now."

He opened the door, and went into the next room where his family was assembled. Count Morynski was seated in an easy-chair, still holding his daughter in his arms, as she kneeled before him, resting her head on his shoulder. The Count had aged considerably. The thirteen months of his imprisonment seemed to have been so many years to him. His hair and beard had grown quite white, and his face showed indelible traces of the sufferings he had undergone through captivity and sickness, and, above all, through the knowledge of his people's fate. He had been a robust and energetic man when, little more than a year ago, he had taken leave of his sister and daughter at Wilicza; he came back now old and broken, his appearance telling plainly of health irremediably shattered.

The Princess, who was standing by the Count's side, was the first to notice her son's entrance. She went forward to meet him.

"So you have come at last, Waldemar," she said, reproachfully. "We thought you were going to abandon us altogether."

"I did not wish to disturb your first meeting," said Waldemar.

"Do you still insist on being as a stranger to us? You have been so long enough. My son"--and the Princess, deeply moved, held out her arms to him--"my son, I thank you."

Waldemar was folded to his mother's heart for the first time since his childhood, and in that long and ardent embrace the bitter estrangement of years gave way; all that had once been the cause of coldness and hostility between them sank out of sight. Here, too, a barrier was torn down, an invisible barrier, but one productive of much evil, which had too long stood between two human beings bound to each other by the most sacred ties of blood. At length the son had entered into his birthright, had won for himself his mother's love.

The Count now rose in his turn, and held out his hand to his deliverer. "You do well to thank him, Hedwiga," said he; "as yet you do not know all that he has risked in my behalf."

"The venture was not so great as it seemed," Waldemar replied, lightly. "I had smoothed the way beforehand. Wherever there are prisons, bribery is possible. Without that golden key I should never have made my way into the fortress, still less should we have forced a passage out."

Wanda stood by her father, still clinging to his arm as though she feared he might be torn from her again. She alone had spoken no word of thanks, but her eyes had sought Waldemar's as she turned to him on his entrance, and their glance must have been more eloquent than words. He seemed satisfied, and made no attempt to approach her more directly.

"The danger is not quite over yet," he said, turning to the Count again. "We have it unfortunately in black and white that even here you are threatened with imprisonment and extradition. At the present moment you are safe at Wilicza. Frank has promised to keep watch for us, and you have urgent need of a few hours' rest, but to-morrow morning must see us on the road to S----.

"You will not take the direct route to France or England then?" said the Princess.

"No, time is too precious, and that is precisely the route they will expect us to choose. We must make for the sea. S---- is the nearest port--we can be there by to-morrow evening. I have arranged everything. An English ship has been lying in harbour for the last month, of which I have secured to myself the sole disposal. She is ready to put to sea at any moment, and will take you straight to England, uncle. From thence, France, Switzerland, Italy may easily be reached. You can take up your abode where you will. Once out on the open sea, and you are safe."

"And you, my dear Waldemar?" His uncle now addressed him in the affectionate tone he had so long reserved for his younger brother. "Will you pay no penalty for your boldness? Who can tell whether the secret of my escape will be strictly kept? There are so many in it."

Waldemar smiled. "I certainly have been forced to give the lie to my nature on this occasion, and to make confidences right and left. Nothing could be done without it. Happily, all my confidants have become my accessories; they cannot betray me without exposing themselves. The rescue will be laid to my mother's charge, and if, at some future time, reports of the truth get wind, well, we live here on German territory. Count Morynski was neither accused nor sentenced in this country, his rescue cannot therefore be here accounted as a crime. It will seem natural enough that, in spite of our political differences, I should stretch out my hand to save my uncle--particularly when it is known that to that relationship another has been added--that he has become my father also."

A quiver passed over Morynski's face at this reminder. He tried to repress it, but in vain--it told of a pain he was unable to master. He had long known of this love, which to him, as to his sister, had appeared as a misfortune, almost as a crime. He, too, had fought against it with all the means in his power, and, quite lately, had endeavoured to withdraw Wanda from its influence. He had acquiesced when she resolved on going with him to almost certain destruction; he had accepted her offer with the one view of preventing this marriage. It was a heavy sacrifice--it cost him a great struggle with those national prejudices, that national hatred, which had been the ruling principle of his life--but he looked at the man whose hand had led him forth out of prison, who had risked life and freedom in order to win back both for him--then he bent down to his daughter.

"Wanda," he said in a low voice.

Wanda looked up at him. Her father's face had never appeared to her so weary, so sorrowful, as at this moment. She had been prepared to find him altered, but she had not expected so terrible a change, and, as she read in his eyes all that it cost him to give his consent, her own personal wishes receded into the background, and the daughter's passionate love burned up brightly within her.

"Not now, Waldemar," she implored, with a trembling voice. "You see what my father has suffered, what he is still suffering. You cannot ask me to leave him now when we have but just met. Let me stay with him for a time, only for one year! You have preserved him from the worst of all; but he has to go out among strangers, into banishment. Shall I, can I let him go alone?"

Waldemar was silent. He had not courage to recall to Wanda the words she had spoken at their last meeting. The sight of the Count's bowed frame forbade any touch of anger, and pleaded powerfully in favour of the daughter's prayer, but all the egotism of love rose up in revolt against it. The young man had braved so much to earn for himself the hand of the woman he loved, he could not bear that the reward should longer be denied him. With contracted brow and lips tightly pressed together, he stood, looking to the ground, when all at once the Princess interfered.

"I will take any anxiety on your father's account from you, Wanda," said she. "I shall go with him."

Her listeners started in extreme surprise.

"What, Hedwiga?" asked the Count. "You think of going with me?"

"Into exile," concluded the Princess, with a steady voice. "It will be no new thing to either of us, Bronislaus. We have tasted it before, during long years. We will take the old fate on us again."

"Never," cried Waldemar, with kindling eyes. "I will never consent to your leaving me, mother. Your place, in future, is here at Wilicza, with your son."

"Who is busy imprinting on his land the mark of the German?"--the Princess Baratowska's tone was almost severe in its earnestness. "No, Waldemar, you underrate the Pole in me, if you think I could stay on in Wilicza, in the Wilicza which is growing up under your rule. I have given you a mother's love tardily but completely, and it will ever be yours, though we part, though I go to a distance, and we only see each other from time to time--but to stay here at your side, to look on day by day while you overturn all that I have laboured to build up, to give the lie to my whole past life by associating with your German friends--on each occasion when our opposite opinions come into collision to bow to your word of authority, that, my son, I cannot do, that would be more than, strive as I might, I could accomplish. It would rend asunder the newly formed ties between us, would call up the old strife, the old bitterness again. So let me go, it will be best for us all."

"I did not think any of the old bitterness would intrude upon this hour," said Waldemar, with some reproach in his tone.

The Princess smiled sadly. "There is none in my heart against you, but not a little, perhaps, against the Fate which has ordained our ruin. Over the Morynski and Baratowski families the decree has gone forth. With Leo one noble Polish house died out, which for centuries had shone with lustre in the annals of our country. My brother is the last scion of another. His name will soon be extinct, for Wanda is the last to inherit it, and she will merge it in yours. Wanda is young, she loves you--perhaps she may learn to forget, which to us would be impossible. Life is before you, the future belongs to you--we have only the past."

"Hedwiga is right," spoke Count Morynski. "I cannot remain, and she will not. The marriage with your father brought nothing but evil to her, Waldemar, and it seems to me, as though no union between a Nordeck and a Morynska could be productive of happiness. The disastrous cause of discord, which proved so fatal to your parents, exists in your case also. Wanda, too, is a child of our people. She cannot renounce her race any more than you can yours. You are entering upon a hazardous experiment in this marriage, but you have willed it, both of you--I make no further opposition."

This was no very happy betrothal for the young pair. The mother's suddenly announced departure, the father's resignation and ominous warnings, cast a deep shade over the hour which generally fills two youthful hearts with brightest sunshine. It really seemed as though this passion, which had fought so hard a fight, had triumphed over so many obstacles, were destined to know no joy.

"Come, Bronislaus," said the Princess, taking her brother's arm. "You are wearied to death with the hasty ride and the agitation of the last few days. You must rest till morning, if you are to find strength to continue your journey. We will leave these two alone. They have hardly spoken to each other yet, and they have so much to say!"

She left the room with the Count. Hardly had the door closed upon them when the shadow vanished. With quick, impetuous tenderness Waldemar threw his arms round his betrothed, and clasped her to his breast. He had won her at last!

Fabian and his wife were still in the next room. Gretchen seemed much put out, and cast many melancholy glances at the tea-table.

"How can people give way to their romantic feelings so as to forget all the decent, orderly routine of life?" she observed. "The anxiety and excitement are over now, and the joy of their first meeting too; they might quietly sit down to table, but such an idea never occurs to one of them. I could not persuade the Princess or Count Morynski to touch a thing, but Countess Wanda must and shall have a cup of tea. I have just made some fresh--she shall have it, whether she likes it or not. I will just see whether she and Herr Nordeck are still in there in the salon. You stay here, Emile."

Emile remained obediently in his place near the tea-urn, but the time seemed rather long to him, for ten minutes, at least, elapsed, and his wife did not return. The Professor began to feel uncomfortable; he felt his presence to be quite superfluous, and yet he would so gladly have made himself useful, like Gretchen, whose practical nature was never at a loss; in order to be doing something, he took the ready filled cup of tea, and carried it into the adjoining drawing-room. To his surprise, he found it untenanted, except by his wife, who was standing before, and very near to, the closed door of the Princess's study.

"Dear Gretchen," said Fabian, balancing the cup in his hand with as much anxious care, as if it had contained the most precious life-elixir. "Dear Gretchen, I have brought the tea. I was afraid it might be getting cold, if this went on much longer."

The young lady had narrowly escaped being caught in a most suspicious attitude, namely, that of bending down with her eye to the keyhole. Luckily, she had had time to raise herself quickly as her husband came in. She took hold of him, cup and all, and led him back into the outer room.

"Never mind, Emile. The Countess won't want any tea, and it will go on ever so much longer. But you need not make yourself unhappy about your beloved Waldemar any more. Things are going very well with him in there, very well indeed. I'll own I did him a wrong--he has a heart after all. That cold, stiff Nordeck is really capable of going down on his knees and uttering the most ardent words of love. I never could have believed it!"

"But, how do you know all this, dear child?" asked the Professor, who in his innocence and erudition had never had anything to do with keyholes. "You were outside."

Gretchen blushed crimson, but she recovered herself quickly, and said with much decision--

"You know nothing about it, Emile, and it is not necessary you should. As the tea is here all ready, we had better drink it ourselves."


Out at sea the mild spring night was yielding before the approach of day. Faint stars still twinkled in the sky, but the distant horizon gleamed with the first streaks of dawn, and the slumbering waves murmured softly, as in a dream.

Over the waters, through the ever strengthening morning twilight, a ship was speeding. On board her were Count Morynski, his daughter, and Waldemar. They had left the port of S---- about midnight, but it had taken them some hours to steam through the vast river-mouth, and they were only now issuing forth into the open sea. Wanda had not found courage to part from her father so immediately after their reunion; she had insisted on going with him, at least so far as the port of embarkation, and Waldemar had yielded to her earnest entreaties. There could hardly be danger in the plan; indeed, the journey to S---- might perhaps be performed more safely in the company of a lady. The Princess Baratowska would remain at Rakowicz for the present. As her son had rightly foreseen, the Count's escape was attributed to her sole agency. She alone was suspected, and any possible investigation of the matter would be directed against her and her place of residence. Wanda's absence was scarcely remarked; besides which, it had been arranged that she should return from Altenhof in the course of a few days under Waldemar's escort.

Old Squire Witold's estate, now the property of his adopted son, lay near the coast along which the outward-bound ship must pass, and the plan decided on was that the young people should bear the fugitive company so far on his way. Count Morynski intended to await in England the arrival of the Princess, who would stay on at Rakowicz some weeks longer to be present at the marriage of her son and niece, setting out immediately after it to join her brother. On meeting in England, they would concert together as to the choice of their future place of abode.

Gradually day had dawned. Its first chill rays of early light played on the broad surface of the sea, but colourless as yet, and conveying no warmth. Now, as the coast receded and the open sea lay before the traveller, the parting could no longer be deferred. Yonder stretched the shore which bounded the domain of Altenhof, and, in close proximity to the vessel, now slackening her speed, fenced in by a wall of white morning mist, lay the Beech Holm. The leave-taking on deck was short and pathetic. Count Morynski suffered most from the keen pain of it. Strive as he might to retain his composure, he broke down utterly as he placed his daughter in the arms of her future husband. Waldemar saw that the torture of this moment must not be prolonged. He quickly lifted his betrothed into the boat lying off in readiness, and in a few minutes it bore them over to the Beech Holm, while the ship was once more set in motion. A white handkerchief fluttered from the deck, the farewell signal was returned from the Holm, then the distance grew greater and greater between the traveller and the dear ones left behind. The ship steamed off at full speed towards the North.

Wanda sank down on one of the large fragments of stone strewn beneath the beeches, and gave vent to an outburst of passionate grief. Waldemar, standing by her side, was mastered by no emotion, but his face was very grave, saddened by the pain of that parting hour.

"Wanda," he said, laying his hand on hers. "This separation is not to be a lasting one. If your father may not again set foot on his native soil, nothing will hinder us from going to him. In a year you shall see him again--I promise you."

Wanda shook her head sadly. "If I may yet find him! He has suffered too much and too bitterly ever to regain health and an interest in life. It seems to me that I have felt his arms round me for the last time."

Nordeck was silent. The same apprehension had forced itself on his mind in that hour of parting. Count Morynski might rally from the effects of his wounds and long confinement, but the defeat of that cause, to which he had dedicated his life, was a blow but too likely to prove mortal. When, years before, he had gone out into banishment, he could oppose to his fate the mental and physical strength of a man in his prime; but now that strength was sapped and failing--who could tell how long the last remnants of it might hold good!

"Your father will not be alone," returned Waldemar, at last. "My mother is going to him, and I only now begin to see all that we owe her for this resolution of hers. It takes a heavy care from both of us. You know her love for her only brother; she will be the staff and support he needs."

Wanda's gaze was still riveted on the ship, now a mere speck in the far-off distance.

"And you are to lose the mother you have so lately found?" said she, in a low voice.

His brow clouded over at the remembrance.

"You do not think that is a light matter to me? No; yet I fear she is right. Our natures are too similar for one willingly to bend to the other, and were we to live together, concessions must be made. Were I of her people, or she of mine, there would be need of none; she would take pride then in all that I undertook. My success would be hers--I should be carrying out her wishes as well as my own--as it is, I should find her will constantly opposed to mine. To clear a path for new institutions at Wilicza, I must begin by breaking down those she has set up. We can stretch out our hands to each other across the gap, and feel at last that we are mother and son; we cannot walk on side by side through life. She has seen this more clearly than I, and has chosen what is best for us. The decision, to which she has come, will alone insure our lasting reconciliation."

The young Countess raised her dark tearful eyes to his face. "Have you forgotten my father's warning? The unhappy national feud, that cause of dissension which has hitherto torn our family into two, exists between us also. It made your parents miserable."

"Because they had no love for each other," replied Waldemar, "because cold calculation on either side had bound them together by the closest tie which can connect two human beings. How could peace come of such a union? The old strife was sure to blaze out anew, more hotly than ever. But we can bring other forces into the field. I have won my bride in the teeth of this national hostility, and I shall be able to defend my happiness from its influence. If our marriage is really a venture, it is a venture we may fearlessly make."

The light morning clouds sailing over the heavens became more and more lucent, and the East flushed radiant with the dawn. A rosy glow spread over the whole horizon, and the waves shone as though edged with liquid gold. Then came one bright sudden flash, the first herald of the rising sun, and immediately following it, the great luminous planet rose from the waves, mounting slowly higher and higher, until it orbed itself above them, appearing in clear and perfect majesty. Rose-tinted rays quivered in the chill, pure morning air, and the surface of the water, a minute ago so dark and drear, gained a deep, wonderful blue. With the sunrise light and life streamed forth over earth and sea.

The first beams fell on the Beech Holm, dispersing the remnants of white mist which still hovered between the trees; they sank on to the dew-covered grass, they fluttered off into the forest, until nothing was left of them but a light vaporous gauze, thin as air. The wind rustled among the crests of the mighty beeches, which gently bent before it, murmuring softly to each other. On this occasion they whispered no gloomy complaint of decay and death as on that memorable day by the forest lake--memorable, for was it not there, mid the autumnal woods, in the falling twilight, out of the bosom of the shadowy mists, that the dream vision had arisen, faint picture of that scene which now appeared in glowing reality, the sea-washed Beech Holm of poetic story, lying bathed in the golden sunlight?

Waldemar and Wanda again stood on the spot where they had stood together years before--he, the wild, impetuous boy who fancied he had only to stretch forth his hand to take undisputed possession of that which had aroused his first passion; she, the giddy, light-hearted child who had played with that passion in her thoughtless vanity. At that time they had neither of them known anything of life and its tasks. Since then they had had experience of it in all its fearful earnest, had been drawn into its bitterest conflicts. Every obstacle that can divide two human beings had been raised between them, but the old sea-legend had spoken truly. Since the hour in which the spell had woven itself round their two youthful hearts, the charm had worked continuously, had preserved its hold upon them, spite of estrangement and separation, had drawn them irresistibly together while all around them blazed the hot flame of strife and hatred, had brought them triumphantly through all the array of hostile influences to this the hour of fulfilment.

Waldemar had put his arm round his betrothed, and was looking searchingly into her eyes.

"Do you think now that a Nordeck and a Morynska may be happy together?" he asked. "We will dispel the shadow which has lain on their union hitherto."

Wanda leaned her head against his shoulder. "You will have much to bear with, and much to overcome. Your wife will not be able to renounce all that has so long been dear and sacred to her. Do not sever me altogether from my people, Waldemar. Part of my life is rooted there."

"Have I ever been hard to you?" Waldemar's voice was full of that strange gentleness which but one human being on earth had had power to win from that cold, inflexible man. "Those eyes could teach the wild, headstrong boy docility--they will be able to hold the man in curb. I know that the shadow will often fall between us, that it will cost you many tears, and me many a struggle; but I know too that at any critical moment my Wanda will stand where she stood once before, when danger was threatening me, and where henceforth her place will be--at my, at her husband's side."

The ship, which was bearing the fugitive away from his fatherland, disappeared in the cloud-like distance. All around, the sapphire sea rippled and murmured--the Beech Holm lay flooded in golden sunlight. Once again the waves sang the old, old melody, the chant of billow and breeze combined, while in the pauses came a faint, mysterious music like the chiming of bells--Vineta's spirit-greeting from beneath the waters.