Friedrich Spielhagen.

What the Swallow Sang: A Novel online

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easily amount to as much again. And he knows I would give one of my
hands to see Brownlock on the course, and have people point to me and
say: 'That's Hinrich Scheel, who trained him; he understands those
things better than all the English jockeys.' O Lord! Lord! and I'm to
do all this for him, while he leaves me for a whole week in this kennel
of Rahnkes' and I'm to come to Goritz the night before the boat, in
which I'm to take passage, sails for Mecklenburg, and I must meet him
in Goritz woods, and get the two thousand he promised me, but he was
not there, and probably thought, 'He must go tomorrow, with or without
the money;' but I'll pay him for it, by Heavens! I'll pay him for it."

"That would cost you quite as much as him," replied Gotthold; "or do
you think the law will set you free because you did everything solely
for your master's sake?"

"The law, sir! You won't deliver me up to the law," cried Hinrich.

"And if I should, could you blame me for it?"

Hinrich stopped short, but there was no possibility of escape. Jochen
Prebrow's heavy hand rested on his shoulder, and Gotthold had just
cocked the pistol, whose barrel glittered in the light of the nearest
beacon, of which they were already within a very short distance. A
single cry would summon the watchman, if he chose to push matters to

"I am in your power, sir," said he, "and I am not. Neither you nor any
other man shall compel me to repeat what I have just told you before a
court of justice. I may have imposed upon you with a false tale."

"That excuse will not avail you much, Hinrich; we have proofs that the
money was not lost, but stolen and placed in your master's hands."

And in a few words he told him the contents of Wollnow's letter, adding
what he had just learned from old Boslaf, that while searching the
bog - to the great astonishment of the men - they had followed the
hoof-prints of a horse several hundred paces; and Hinrich's denial
would produce little effect in opposition to this and other
well-established facts.

Hinrich had listened attentively.

"I still think you won't give me up to the law, sir," said he; "it's an
ugly story, and the less said about it the better, for - for all
concerned; but if it must be, why, sir, we poor men are never much
better treated than dogs, and these last few days I have fared even
worse; so I don't mind going to jail, if he only comes too."

It was too dark for Gotthold to see the cruel smile that played around
the man's thick lips, as he uttered the last words.

"I think I can spare you the jail," he answered, "if you will promise
to make no attempt at flight, and obey all my orders implicitly. I will
require nothing unreasonable."

"I know that, sir," said Hinrich, "and here is my hand."

The hand that rested in Gotthold's was as hard as iron; but he thought
he felt in its nervous pressure that the man intended to keep his word.

"Come, then," said he, "and, Jochen, show us a path by which we can
reach your house without being seen, if possible."


"My poor dear friend! To think we must part again; it is really too
hard. But don't be discouraged! Gretchen will get well, and everything
will come out right at last."

Ottilie Wollnow said these words in the antechamber of her house in
Sundin, to Gotthold, with whom she had just left the room where Cecilia
and old Borlaf were watching Gretchen's feverish slumber.

"Everything," repeated Ottilie, as she saw that the look of deep sorrow
on Gotthold's expressive face remained unchanged.

"You do not really think so yourself," he replied, gratefully pressing
Ottilie's hand; "if the child dies, Cecilia, I fear, will never get
over it, no matter how much, how entirely, that scoundrel is to blame;
at any rate it will be another of those sad, torturing memories, which,
according to her own confession to you, separate her from me forever."

Herr Wollnow came out of an adjoining room, ready for walking. Ottilie
accompanied the two friends to the door. "I wish I could go with you,"
said she.

"And it would not be a bad thing," said Wollnow as the two friends
walked through the dusky streets, in which to-day there was an unusual
stir and bustle; "women have what in such cases removes mountains - the
sovereign passion which we men, luckily for ourselves, have reasoned
away, though without obtaining in exchange the sovereign calmness with
which that strange old man met Brandow this morning. I would not speak
of it in the ladies' presence. Brandow, with the acuteness for which
even his enemies must give him credit, had made up his mind from the
first moment that Cecilia must sooner or later come here, even if she
did not do so at once. He therefore instantly turned round and drove
here as fast as the horses could go; he must have met you just outside
of Prora. Since that time he has lurked around my house and your
lodgings; I admire the firmness with which he has maintained his usual
calm manner, and his boldness in telling everybody that his wife had
gone away to make a little visit, and the farce Cousin Borlaf had
played with the farm-hands - searching the bog and forest - was a piece
of roguery for which he would call the spiteful old man, with whom he
had long been on bad terms, to a strict account. He must have had a
hell of anxiety and dread in his heart, for his enemies - and he has not
a few, foremost among whom are Redebas and the Plüggens - took an eager
interest in circulating the worst reports, and the members of the
committee on the races were on the point of formally demanding an
explanation from Brandow, when yesterday evening he said at the club
that his wife had arrived here half an hour before, and was staying
with us: the Selliens had also requested the pleasure of her company,
but the Assessor's health was not yet entirely restored, so he had
given us the preference. In order to give his statement the proper
weight, or - urged on by I know not what devil of impudence - as soon as
he heard of Cecilia's arrival yesterday evening - I suppose through Alma
Sellien, who unluckily was with my wife at the time - he rang the
door-bell, and sent in his card to Ottilie. She would undoubtedly have
been glad to receive him and give full vent to her feelings; but the
old gentleman entered the room, and with the stately politeness which
we of the last two generations have forgotten, begged her to leave him
alone with Brandow a moment. It was, in fact, not more than a minute
before the old gentleman rejoined the ladies with a mien as calm as
ever; while the other rushed down the staircase, and Cecilia, who had
no suspicion of his presence, was startled by the violence with which
somebody banged the door. Here we are at the 'Golden Lion.' Let me go
in alone. If we should not find him this evening, he ought not to know
that you have returned."

Wollnow entered the wide hall, through whose open door a bright light
streamed into the somewhat dusky street. There were a great many guests
in the large hotel on account of the races, which had commenced to-day,
and were to be continued to-morrow, so that Wollnow was obliged to ask
several times before he could get a positive answer; and Gotthold was
kept waiting longer than he expected. As, in walking up and down, he
had for the second time proceeded some little distance from the house,
a female figure suddenly emerged from a dark side-street, passed him,
and instantly turned back with a murmured "Carl," raising her black
veil at the same moment. In spite of the dim light, Gotthold recognized
Alma Sellien.

"You are mistaken," said he.

Alma had also recognized him; she had felt so sure of her ground that
terror almost robbed her of all presence of mind; but it was only for a
moment. "It is fortunate it was no one else," she said, drawing a long
breath, and then, as Gotthold made no reply, added: "I have begged him
again and again to tell you; you must learn it sooner or later, and to
you the news can give only pleasure; but he never would."

"And for good reasons."

"What reasons? Pray, pray tell me all."

"In another place and at another time; neither hour nor scene is

Wollnow came out of the hotel. "Another time, then," whispered Alma, as
she drew down her veil and glided back into the dark street from which
she had just emerged.

"Who was that?" asked Wollnow.

"This man will drag half the world into the mire with him," cried

"Where we should have sought him long ago, if we wanted to find him,"
replied Wollnow. "It was Frau Sellien, wasn't it? You betray no secret,
it was one only to us; here the sparrows chatter it on the housetops.
The man is making it easier for us than we expected; but it is a
wonderful piece of luck that you caught Hinrich Scheel. If only the
fellow's old clannish feeling doesn't break out again at the last

"I do not think it will; for it is precisely because Brandow has so
brutally wounded this feeling, so basely broken the faith due from the
chief to his follower - that has excited and angered the rough but in
his way honest man, to the highest degree. No, on the contrary, what I
fear is that our treatment of Brandow will not satisfy him, and he will
try to revenge himself in his own fashion."

"And is he so far wrong?" replied Wollnow earnestly, "are we not
robbing the gallows of its victim? And even if we excuse ourselves by
saying that there are crimes worse than highway robbery and murder,
which do not come under the head of any law, cannot Hinrich Scheel
quote the same thing himself, and demand that the breach of faith
committed against him, and for whose condemnation he can certainly
apply to no regular judge, shall not remain unpunished? But forgive my
illogical obstinacy, my dear friend. I perceive that the future of more
than one innocent person depends upon the secrecy with which we go to
work. So let a Vehmgericht or a judgment from Heaven take the place of
a public trial. Here we are at the club-house. I am sorry to leave you,
but I feel with you that you must fight your way through this without

Gotthold walked up and down the brightly-lighted vestibule; loud
voices, laughter, and the clinking of glasses echoed from the
dining-room, into which a liveried servant had taken his card; the
clerk was sitting in the office busily employed on his books; and the
servants in the dressing-room had enough to do to take and deliver up
the coats of the gentlemen who were constantly arriving and departing.

The man again appeared; Herr Brandow begged to be excused, but he was
very busy just now; would not tomorrow morning be time enough?

"Time enough for what?" asked Gustav Von Plüggen, who had come out of
the dining-room directly behind the servant, and greeted Gotthold with
his usual noisy gayety, now increased by plentiful potations of wine.
"What? Brandow very busy? Stuff and nonsense! Pressing business! He's
sitting behind a bottle of Canary, writing one round sum after another
in his damned betting-book. They're all determined to be fools, though
Redebas and Otto and I have tired ourselves out talking; after what we
saw at Dollan, everything is possible. It will turn out just as it did
with Harry - Harry at the Derby, five years ago. Ever been in England?
Famous country - women, horses, sheep - famous. An old joke of mine that
always keeps fresh. What was I saying? do you want to speak to Brandow?
But why don't you come in? It will be a pleasure to me to introduce an
old schoolmate. Celebrated artist, hey? I heard some devilish good
things yesterday at the chairman's from Prince Prora, who made your
acquaintance in Rome, and is delighted to hear that you are in Sundin.
Even spoke of seeking you out; curious; on the race-course to-morrow.
By the way, got a ticket? Stand A? Don't hesitate, I beg; see,
half-a-dozen left; gives me great pleasure. Come in!"

The servant had turned the handle of the door long before. The
dining-room was crowded with people - members of the club, and their
guests, among whom the officers of the garrison were especially
numerous. They were sitting at different tables with bottles of
champagne before them; a gay, even noisy conversation was going on; no
one noticed the new-comers, not even Brandow, who had apparently just
risen from the table, and was standing at the end of the apartment, in
the midst of a group of people who were all talking to him at once,
while he, holding up his betting-book, exclaimed: "One at a time,
gentlemen! one at a time! since you are positively determined on being
kind enough to make me a Cr[oe]sus. Trutwetter, one hundred and fifty!
Please put your name underneath. Here, if you prefer! I have kept a
place for Kummerrow's two hundred pistoles, Baron? No! Oh! dear, omen
in nomine! who would have thought it? Another! Plüggen! Et tu Brutus?
What is it? A gentleman - back again already? I am very busy! Tell the
gentleman - "

Brandow suddenly paused; he had just seen Gotthold, who had been
standing directly behind him.

"I have time to wait until you have finished your business here."

"It would detain you too long."

"I have plenty of time."

Gotthold withdrew from the circle with a polite but formal bow; Brandow
had turned very pale, and stared sullenly at his betting-book, while
the lead-pencil trembled in his hand. What was the meaning of the
pertinacity with which this man pursued him? Should he rudely dismiss
him before the whole company? But that was impossible without a scene,
and this evening a scene might be dangerous.

"Now, Brandow! I have no time to wait!" cried a voice.

"Are you reckoning them up already?" asked a second.

"I really must run them over once," replied Brandow, closing the book;
"have patience for a few minutes, gentlemen; it seems that there is a
communication of some importance to be made to me. I'll be back again
in a moment. Now may I ask your wishes?"

"The communication I have to make is indeed of some importance, and
might be best heard without witnesses. So it is only in your own
interest that I request you to provide some place where we shall not be

"Have you considered that I shall probably have more to ask of you than
you of me?"

"I think I have considered everything; and that is probably more than
you can say."

They were standing somewhat apart from the others, speaking in low
tones, and looking steadily into each other's eyes.

"Come, then," said Brandow.

"Who was that?" asked one of the gentlemen, whose autograph graced
Brandow's betting-book.

"A famous fellow!" cried Gustav von Plüggen. "Old schoolmate of mine;
celebrated artist; talked about him all yesterday evening at the
chairman's! Protégé of Prince Prora's! Famous fellow! I'm going to have
him paint me. In England every man of rank has himself painted with all
his favorite horses and dogs, and all the rest of the family. Ever been
in England, Kummerrow? Famous country - women, horses, sheep - everything


They crossed the hall in silence, and, without exchanging a word,
entered one of the rooms reserved for the private use of the members of
the club, and which the servant opened for the two gentlemen at a sign
from Brandow. A large hanging lamp, directly over a round table covered
with green velvet, lighted the apartment tolerably well. Several
arm-chairs, also covered with green velvet, stood around the table.

"I suppose we shall be entirely undisturbed here," said Gotthold.

"And I that the farce will not last long; you saw I was very busy."

Brandow, as if in a fit of impatience, had drawn one of the chairs away
from the table and thrown himself into it, but it was by no accident
that his face was thus in the shadow, while the light streamed full on

"Very busy," repeated Brandow, drumming on the arm of the chair, "too
busy not to be compelled to defer the account I have to settle with you
until tomorrow morning. And if you should have the - the face to try to
intimidate me, I say: Beware! beware! you do not yet know me; my
patience is not inexhaustible, and however willing I might be to avoid
a scandal, and for these few days, I freely confess, would fain escape
it - if you urge me, and it must be - I am ready - ready at any moment."

Brandow had spoken in a loud, threatening tone; but he had evidently
failed in his object. Gotthold's eye rested upon him so calmly - with a
glance of contempt, as it seemed to him - that he could not bear the
gaze, and suddenly paused with a secret thrill of terror, as Gotthold
now quietly opened a letter he had just taken out of his pocket.

"Will you read this letter before you say more?"

Brandow had not the courage to refuse.

"From the noble Wollnow, apparently, to me and about you?"

"Yes, it is from Wollnow, but to me and about you."

"About me! that's strange, and passably long too."

He tried to feign a yawn as he let the sheets slip through his fingers;
but had scarcely cast a glance at them, and read the first lines, when
he started up like a madman, and hurling the letter upon the table,

"This is infamous! This demands blood! I will see nothing more, hear
nothing more! I will not be the patient victim of a vulgar intrigue. We
will speak of this again, sir, we will speak of this again."

He wandered restlessly up and down the room; Gotthold remained quietly
in his seat.

"You have a moment to decide whether you will read the letter, or
whether I shall show it to Count Zarrentin, before taking farther

Brandow paused in his walk. "So you really mean to have a scandal! I
thought so. Well, perhaps it will be worth the trouble, to see how you
intend to begin."

He threw himself into his chair again, seized the letter, and began to
read it with the air of a man who wished to get rid of a troublesome
petitioner. A scornful smile played around his lips. "I was mistaken,"
he muttered as if talking to himself, "it is simply ridiculous, utterly

But his lips were pale; the smile changed to a grin, and his hands
trembled more and more. He had read very rapidly at first; but the
farther he proceeded the longer he lingered over every separate
sentence, and even word. Many he seemed to weigh and test two or three
times, and he made a pretence of reading long after he had evidently
reached the end. At last, amid the terrible tumult of his soul, a
resolution was formed.

"You were going to give this - letter to our chairman," he said,
carefully folding the sheets; "I have no objection, but on one

He withdrew the hand with which he had held out the letter to Gotthold.

"On condition that I may first take a copy of this precious document,
to serve as a basis for the charge of scandal I shall bring against the
noble writer and delicate-minded receiver of this bungling performance.
To a man so extremely just as yourself, a man who does not hesitate, on
the most absurd proofs, to charge his friend with the most horrible
crimes, this will doubtless be perfectly agreeable."

"Entirely so," replied Gotthold; "you can also keep the original. The
letter was merely to make you acquainted with certain things, to which
I did not wish to refer verbally, and has performed its work."

"And this interesting conversation is over," said Brandow, rising; "I
mean for to-day; to-morrow we shall have more to say to each other;
only the tables will be turned. The things of which I shall accuse you
are no shameful inventions like the story about the bills, or silly
fancies like the horrible murder of Hinrich Scheel, which you will
probably cry, with all the terrible details, at the next fair, but
facts, positive facts - a pretty commentary on the song of the worthy
man, who knows how to make no better use of the hospitality offered
him, than - you have done. So farewell until to-morrow!"

Brandow walked towards the door with a wave of the hand intended to be
contemptuous; Gotthold stepped before him.

"You will probably have patience a short time longer, when I tell you
that your future fate must be decided now and here."

"My fate? Are you mad?"

"Decide for yourself. Hinrich Scheel was found by me yesterday evening
in Wiessow, where he had concealed himself, and is now at my lodgings
guarded by the brothers Prebrow."

Brandow staggered back as if a bullet had struck him, until his hand
clutched the arm of a chair, and in that attitude stood staring at
Gotthold with eyes that seemed starting from their sockets.

"Hinrich Scheel!" he stammered.

"Whom you thought had disappeared from the scene forever, though you
were careless or niggardly enough not even to pay off your accomplice
properly. I am now obliged to have him watched, not to prevent his
escape - he has no wish to fly, he will endure any punishment if only
the man for whom he did what he did, does not escape; I have him
watched simply to prevent his taking this punishment into his own
harsh, cruel hands."

Brandow had sunk into the chair. His shameless courage and elastic
strength seemed to have utterly deserted him; he looked ten years
older; but suddenly he started up again.

"Bah!" he cried, "do you think you can frighten me in that way? If that
rascal Hinrich has allowed himself to be caught, so much the worse for
him! What harm can he do me? I hope my word will weigh no less than
that of a rascally groom, who has evidently been bribed by my enemies.
A man who knows himself innocent cares nothing for bribery: or do you
really expect to make any one believe that, if even a suspicion could
have fallen upon me from any quarter, I would have let the fellow go
without securing his silence in some way? That is certainly sheer
nonsense: or will you say, he gave him nothing, so that if he were
caught no one would ask, From whom and for what did you get this money?
Settle it among yourselves, and do as you please - an honest man like me
laughs at your threats."

Again he went towards the door, but his step grew slower the nearer he
approached it; and ere he reached the threshold, he turned on his heel
and came up to Gotthold with a smile on his lips.

"Let us drop the tragic masks, Gotthold, and talk like sensible people;
what are your conditions?"

"The first is that you shall confess the deeds of which Wollnow's
letter accuses you. You know what I mean."

"Not entirely. Is the confession only for yourself?"

"If you consent to the other conditions, yes."

"Very well; I did what I am said to have done. What more?"

"That which follows as a matter of course. The daughter of an honorable
family cannot and shall not be the wife of a criminal. That is, you
will give your consent to everything we - I mean Herr Bogislas Wenhof,
Wollnow and I - may dictate in regard to the divorce."

"And my daughter?"

"Answer the question yourself."

"I love the child."

"You lie, Brandow; and even were it possible, as it is impossible, you
would still have forever forfeited the right to keep her, or even
maintain any communication with her. I hope she will forget you are her

"Which, however, I shall ever remain, and, _mon cher_, I'll give
you this knowledge, which is doubtless uncommonly pleasing, as a
wedding-present; or don't you intend to carry to a fitting end the
business you have so beautifully begun?"

"The point in question is your destiny, not mine."

"Which, however, seems to be somewhat nearly connected with me. Or did
you want me to believe you were doing all this for the service of God?
Pshaw, my dear friend, our acquaintance is not a thing of yesterday,
and our paths do not cross here and now for the first time. I have been
in your way, and you in mine, on the schoolroom benches, the
playground, at the dancing-lessons, and everywhere; I supplanted you in
those days, and gave you a punishment to remember all your life. Well,
you have done so, and this is the reprisal. I have lost the game - by a
single foolish play - no matter! I have lost it; and I am too old a
gambler not to understand and feel that it is my fate; but the game is
not yet over; we shall meet again, and he who laughs last, laughs

The man's eyes flashed glances of deadly hate, as he strode up and down
the room with hasty steps. His sharp teeth gnawed his livid lips, and
he tugged and tore at the ends of his long fair mustache, as he again
paused and said: -

"Only one question more. Shall I also have to provide the dowry?"

"I don't know what you mean by that; I only know we intend to leave you
to take your own course as soon as you have paid your debt - outwardly

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Online LibraryFriedrich SpielhagenWhat the Swallow Sang: A Novel → online text (page 21 of 24)