Friedrich Spielhagen.

What the Swallow Sang: A Novel online

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will fall where the shadow rested this morning, and I think he will be
on the spot at that time."

"And why didn't you tell me so at once?"

"You may be satisfied that I didn't tell you," answered Hinrich,
tenderly patting Brownlock's slender neck. "You wouldn't have known
that you are, I don't know how many thousand thalers richer than you

"It is six o'clock," said Brandow, looking at his watch.

"Then ride on and find him. I must take Brownlock home. Shall I tell
Frau Brandow that we shall have a visitor this evening?"

"I don't know that yet myself."

"She would be so delighted."

"Be off, and hold your tongue."

A repulsive grin overspread Hinrich's grotesque face, and he cast a
piercing glance at his master, but made no reply, turned Brownlock, and
rode slowly away.

"I might just as well tell him everything," said Carl Brandow to
himself, as he turned his horse's head and rode over the moor towards
the forest. "I believe the damned fellow sees through me as if I were
glass. No matter; everybody must have some one on whom he can depend,
and certainly I could not have done without him this time. I've no
desire to invite the stupid fellow, but it is one chance more, and I
should be a fool to hesitate long in my present situation."

Carl Brandow dropped the reins on his horse's neck as he rode slowly up
the rough forest path at a walk, and drew from his pocket a letter
which he had found on his return home, half an hour before:

"Dear Sir: - I hasten to inform you that, as I expected and told you, it
was unanimously decided by the convent yesterday not to give an
extension of credit, upon any account, but on the contrary to hold you
to the promise given, both verbally and in writing, and require the ten
thousand on the day it becomes due. I am very sorry to be obliged to
write this to you, after what you told me in confidence; but I firmly
believe that - with your excitable nature - you have considered your
situation more desperate than it really is. In any case, I think it is
better for you to know where you stand, and be able to use the week
that still remains to discover new resources, if the old ones are
really so entirely exhausted.

"I intend to pay you a short visit on the 15th, as I must go to several
estates at that time, and can, if agreeable to you, take the money back
with me and save you the trouble of a journey here. Perhaps my wife
will accompany me. She is very anxious to see Dollan, of whose romantic
situation I have spoken so enthusiastically, and also renew her
acquaintance with her old friends - Frau Wollnow in Prora and your
wife - after an absence of so many years. Do you require any stronger
proof of my conviction that you can separate the messenger from his
message, and that both to you and your lovely wife, I am as ever, Your
sincere friend, Bernhard Sellien."

"P. S. I have just learned something that greatly interests me, and may
perhaps interest you also. Gotthold Weber, the distinguished artist
whose acquaintance I made two years ago in Italy, and with whom you, as
you afterwards informed me, have been intimate ever since your school
days, passed through Sundin to-day on his way to Prora, where he
intends to spend some time. He will undoubtedly seek you out, or
perhaps you will seek him. He belongs to the class of people whom we
are glad to find, even if we are obliged to go out of our way to do

Carl Brandow laughed scornfully as he put the letter back into his
pocket and took up the reins again.

"I believe the devil has his finger in the pie. Ever since I have known
that the man will come here, I have been pursued by the thought that
he, and only he, can save me. Why? Probably because only a fool would
take the trouble, and he is the greatest one I ever knew. And while I
drove by under his very nose this morning, everybody rushes forward to
put me on the track he so carefully conceals. It was plain that the man
Jochen dared not tell where he was, either this morning or just now,
but he belongs to the class of people for whom we are willing to go out
of our way. And what a charming surprise it will be for her, if I can
bring him to her."

Again the rider laughed, even more bitterly than before, then stopped
suddenly, gnawing his under lip with his teeth as he struck with his
riding-whip at the overhanging boughs.

"How pale she grew when the parson blundered out the news. Of course
she did not wish it to be noticed, of course. But unluckily we observe
everything in a person with whom we have enjoyed the pleasure of daily
intercourse for nine or ten years! How she looked when I took my
departure so soon after, as if she knew the cause, and how silent she
was on the way, although I exerted all my powers of pleasing. She no
longer believes in my amiability, nor I either; but I have so often
vexed her about the man that I might surely make him afford her
pleasure for once. And if, as is very probable, the silly swain is
playing at hide and seek more on her account than mine - why it will be
all the easier to lead him by the nose, and the affair will be all the
more amusing. But, to be sure, I must catch him first. Well, we shall
see directly."

Carl Brandow swung himself from the saddle, fastened his horse's bridle
to a tree, and began to ascend the narrow foot-path through the wood to
the giant's grave.


Gotthold had already been working for half an hour with the zeal of an
artist who has enthusiastically seized upon his subject, and must take
advantage of the present hour, which will not return. Though sky,
earth, and sea should adorn themselves at to-morrow's sunset with the
same brilliant hues, though the hill should cast the same deep shadows
upon the valley and ravines - he would not stand upon the same spot
again to replace what had been forgotten, and complete what had been

So he sat upon one of the lower stones of the giant's grave, drinking
in, with an artist's glowing eyes, the beauty of the scene and hour,
and with an artist's busy hand creating an image of this beauty. The
colors on the palette seemed to mingle of their own accord, and every
stroke of the brush upon the little square of canvas brought the image
nearer its original with a speed and certainty which astonished the
artist himself. Never before had any work progressed so rapidly, never
had design and execution met so lovingly, never had the enthusiastic
feeling of power made him so happy.

"Is it possible the dream that here alone I can reach the standard I am
destined to attain may be something more than a dream?" he said to
himself, "and is the hidden wisdom of the ancient myth of Antæus to be
proved again in me? But to be sure we are all sons of earth; it is not
our mother's fault if we struggle toward the distant suns, in whose
strange glow our waxen wings quickly melt. I was such an Icarus
yonder." "Yes, yes," he exclaimed aloud, "Rome, Naples, Syracuse, you
Paradises of artists, what is this poor slip of earth in comparison
with you! And yet to me it is more, so much more, it is my home."

"To which an old friend bids you heartily welcome," said a clear voice
behind him.

Gotthold started and turned.

"Carl Brandow!"

There he stood, his slight, elastic figure resting against the very
block upon which the serpent had lain that morning; and his round, hard
eyes, whose piercing gaze was fixed upon him, reminded Gotthold of the
staring eyes of the reptile.

"To be sure it is I," said Carl Brandow, as he came forward with a
smile intended to be friendly, but which was as cold as the hand he
held out to Gotthold, and in which the latter hesitatingly placed the
tips of his fingers.

"How did you find me here?" asked Gotthold.

"I am an old hunter," replied Brandow, showing his white teeth.
"Nothing escapes me so easily, especially on my own ground. But I will
not boast. The matter was really simple enough. I knew several weeks
ago that you were coming, and this afternoon I heard, when with
Plüggen, of Plüggenhof, Otto Plüggen, we used to call him Straw
Plüggen, you know, to distinguish him from his younger brother, Gustav,
Hay Plüggen, who has inherited Gransewitz - I was saying: I heard from
our new Pastor that you had been in Rammin yesterday evening, and had
driven on to Prora. Of course Plüggen, at my request, instantly sent
his carriage to bring you to Plüggenhof; you were no longer there, but
had set out on foot with Jochen Prebrow for Dollan. Well, of course I
did not remain in Plüggenhof a moment longer, although we had just sat
down to the table to receive you with full glasses. I drove my horses
half to death, and nearly killed my poor wife with fright, in order at
least to meet you on the way, in case you had been cruel enough not to
wait for our return. We arrived and asked for you before we got out of
the carriage: no one had been there. My wife and I looked at each other
in horror. 'There is somebody sitting on the giant's grave,' said my
factotum, Hinrich Scheel, who now came up to the carriage; 'I saw him
there this noon.' 'It's not impossible,' said my wife, that 'he has
learned on the way that we were not at home, and, industrious as usual,
is making use of the time. It was always one of his favorite spots.' I
said nothing, but ran up to the gable-room with my spy-glass, and saw
what Hinrich, in spite of his squint eyes, had seen without any glass;
ran down again, jumped on a horse, and - find here what I sought. That
painting is wonderfully beautiful, really splendid; but now pack up
your traps, if you please! Another day is coming, and this is enough,
and too much for the present. From noon until now is certainly long
enough, even for an artist. How delighted my wife will be!"

Carl Brandow had already thrown Gotthold's travelling bag over his
shoulder, and now seized the box which the latter had been arranging.

"One moment," said Gotthold.

"You can safely trust me with your treasures."

"That is not the point."

"What is it then?"

Gotthold hesitated; but there was no time for deliberation.

"It is this," said he; "I cannot accept your invitation, kindly as it
is expressed and honestly as, I wish to believe, it is meant."

"For Heaven's sake, why not?"

"Because in so doing I should wrong myself, and, in a certain sense,
you also. Myself: because I could not stay in Dollan, in your house,
without being at every step, at every moment, a prey to the most
painful memories; and who would not willingly spare himself such a
trial, if he could avoid it? You: because - it must be said, Brandow! I
have always considered you my enemy, and my sentiments towards you have
been no friendly ones, even up to this very day, this very hour. Who
would invite a man who is not well disposed towards him to his house!"

"Is it possible?" cried Brandow. "Then that straw head of a Plüggen and
the Parson may have been right when they said: 'He won't come!' 'He
will come,' said I, 'if only to prove that he is still the generous
fellow he always was!' No, Gotthold, you must not give me the lie, if
only on account of those silly fellows, and people like them, who would
then have another fine opportunity to make merry over Carl Brandow, who
always aims very high and then comes out at the little end of the horn.
Well, unhappily there is something in it: I am no longer what I was
once, but a poor devil who must learn to be modest; but this time I
won't be, just this time. And now your hand, old enemy! there, that's
right! I knew you better than you knew yourself."

They began to descend the hill, Brandow, who insisted upon carrying
Gotthold's luggage, still talking eagerly in his hasty, often
incoherent manner, Gotthold silent and vainly trying to shake off the
bewilderment that clouded his brain and oppressed his heart; he had
tried to be frank, perfectly frank; but he had not been so: he had not
said the last thing because he could not, because he must appear like a
fool, a coxcomb, if he did, and like a rude unmannerly boor if he did
not, and simply answered: I will not. But would not even that have been
better than for them to meet again?

Gotthold stood still, and threw back his coat and vest; he felt as if
he were stifling.

"It's terribly sultry here in the wood," said Carl Brandow. "It would
have been much nearer if we had gone down the other side, and then
crossed the fields; but we were obliged to make this circuit to get my
horse. There stands the rascal, stamping his shoes off in his
impatience. Now then, en avant!"

Brandow threw the bridle over his arm and Gotthold took a portion of
his luggage, so they walked quickly through the woods by a cross path,
which soon brought them out into the fields. At a short distance, only
separated from them by a few meadows and a broad field of rye, stood
the manor-house, already partly in the shadow which the hill on the
left-hand side of the moor cast far into the valley, while the tops of
the taller trees in the garden and the crests of the huge poplars,
which enclosed the grounds on the three other sides, still glowed in
the light of the setting sun. The little window of the gable-room
glittered and flashed back his rays. Gotthold could scarcely turn his
eyes away; he fancied every moment that it must open and Cecilia appear
and wave her white hand towards him with a gesture of warning: no
nearer, for God's sake, no nearer! And then it seemed to him as if he
were once more back in the old days, when he used to come out with Curt
to spend a precious Saturday afternoon and delightful Sunday, and in
their impatience to reach their goal they ran the last part of the way
at full speed. At every step his agitation increased; he scarcely heard
what his companion was saying to him.

But Carl Brandow was only talking in order to conceal from his guest
the anxiety that oppressed him. Would it not have been better to have
told her of his design, even at the risk of her opposition, or, still
worse, of affording her pleasure? Ought he not at least to have taken
advantage of the last opportunity, and prepared her for the visit by
Hinrich Scheel, instead of expressly commanding him to be silent? Or
would the clever fellow once more, as he had often done, follow his own
counsel and guide an ill-managed affair into the right course? And yet,
what could happen if he suddenly appeared before her with him? Would
she give him the lie in the presence of her guest, say she had known
nothing about his visit, and her husband had told an untruth? It was
certainly possible; but woe be unto her if she did so.

"Here we are," said Carl Brandow, as they reached the old linden before
the door. "Welcome to Dollan! Welcome!"

He had spoken in a very loud tone, standing in the open doorway, and
now shouted, raising his clear voice to its highest pitch, "Hinrich,
Fritz! - where are they all?"

But there was no movement within the house, and no one appeared in the

"It is always just so on Sundays," said Brandow, "Everybody runs wild,
especially if the master is away from home. Rike! Hinrich! Fritz!"

A half-grown lad, in a dirty red waistcoat and top boots, now came
running across the courtyard, and at the same moment a young girl
appeared from the house. Brandow received both with angry words. The
girl answered pertly: she had been with the mistress, who could not
quiet the child; it was still crying about its arm; and the boy
muttered as he took the horse's bridle: he had been obliged to help
Hinrich about Brownlock; he was threatened with the colic.

"Deuce take it!" cried Brandow; "that damned Hinrich, this is what I
get by letting him have his own way! I must leave you alone a moment,
or will you come with me?"

Brandow did not wait for Gotthold's reply, but hurried across the
courtyard with long strides. He must know what was the matter with
Brownlock. And then: Cecilia had enough to do in the nursery; she would
not come out at present.

"What is the matter with the child?" asked Gotthold.

"She fell down just as the mistress got home, and has probably broken
her arm," said the girl, who had been gazing curiously at the stranger
with her merry gray eyes, and now hurried back into the house.


Gotthold followed her through the entry and into the sitting-room on
the left, and would gladly have entered the adjoining chamber, from
which, as the girl opened and closed the door, the wailing of a child
and a woman's voice consoling it were distinctly audible. It was her
voice, - somewhat deeper and more gentle, it seemed to him, than in the
old days, but he had only distinguished a few tones above the moaning
of the child.

"Poor thing," he murmured, "poor child, if I could only help it."

His hand was extended towards the handle of the door, but instantly
fell again. If the girl had told her he was there, she would probably
come out for a moment; at any rate Carl must soon return.

He stationed himself at the open window and looked across the empty
courtyard towards the building Brandow had entered. How could he stay
so long! He again turned back into the room, which was already
beginning to grow dark, and his eyes wandered mechanically over the
furniture and pictures, many of which he thought he recognized, while
his ear was strained to catch the sounds from the next room. But
everything there had now become quiet, and in the stillness the old
Black Forest clock ticked so loudly - he had not noticed it before - the
evening breeze whispered in the linden before the window, and then once
more he heard nothing except the blood beating in his temples.

Had any misfortune happened? Was the child - he must have some

But just as he took a step forward, the door opened and Cecilia
entered. The girl had told her nothing about the stranger; she came to
get a piece of linen from her work-basket, which stood in one of the
windows. The shadows fell heavily over Gotthold, and she did not see
him - her eyes were turned towards the window - until she had almost
reached him, when she suddenly paused, extending both hands in terror
towards the dark figure. The light of the setting sun streamed full
upon her pallid face, from which the large dark eyes stared with a
strange glassy look.

"It is I, Cecilia!"


He did not know that he held out his arms; the next moment he would not
have been able to say whether she had really rested upon his breast.
When he was again conscious of what was passing around him, he was
standing beside her at the child's little bed.

"The girl was playing with Gretchen just before we came home - she fell
with her arm under her; I thought she had only bruised it; but it has
grown worse and worse, she cannot move it, and cries at the slightest
touch; I think she has broken it here above the wrist."

Gotthold had bent over the child, who gazed at him in surprise, but
without the least alarm. He thought he was looking into Cecilia's eyes.

"Are you the new doctor?" asked the little girl.

"No, Gretchen, I am not a doctor, but if you love your mamma you will
let me take hold of your arm."

"It hurts so," said Gretchen.

"I won't be long."

Gotthold took the little arm and moved it at the shoulder and
elbow - the child made no resistance; then he passed his hand carefully
down the lower arm to the joint and bent the wrist a little. The child
uttered a low cry. Gotthold laid the arm gently back on the coverlet
and stood erect.

"I think I can assure you that the arm is not broken; it is nothing
more than a severe sprain. I should like to put on a bandage, which
will relieve Gretchen's pain, because it will prevent her from moving
the joint. That will be sufficient until the doctor comes. May I?"

He had spoken in a low tone, but the child heard.

"Let him do it, mamma," she said; "I like the new doctor a great deal
better than the old one."

A few large tears ran down Cecilia's pale cheeks, and Gotthold's own
eyes grew hot. He asked whether she had a certain kind of bandage which
he described; one was brought, exactly what he needed. As he rolled it
he said:

"It is fortunate, that during the years I spent in study I visited, in
the interests of my art and also from real love of the profession,
various anatomical and other medical colleges. I have already been
able, on several occasions, to make my little knowledge useful, when no
other aid was at hand and the case was rather worse than this. I
repeat, there is not the least danger, and I would, if necessary,
undertake to effect a cure without the least hesitation."

"I have perfect confidence in you."

Gotthold's lips quivered. They had always addressed each other by the
familiar "thou," nor had he, either in dreams or waking visions, called
her by any other title during the last ten years.

The bandage was adjusted to Gotthold's satisfaction. Gretchen,
exhausted by weeping, and now entirely free from pain, had laid her
head on her pillow and seemed about to fall asleep. Gotthold left the
chamber and went back to the sitting-room. While groping about in the
dark for his hat, the most singular sensation overpowered him.

He had not forgotten that he wished to find Brandow and tell him of the
child's condition, but it seemed as if the intention was entirely
unnecessary; as if Carl Brandow cared as little about the child as he
did about Carl Brandow's horse; as if only he and Cecilia had anything
to do with it, and as though this had been not only during the last
quarter of an hour, but always, and could never be different.

Oppressed by this strange bewilderment, he stood motionless, and only
regained his senses when Cecilia entered quietly, but hastily, held out
both hands to him, and said in a low, rapid tone:

"I thank thee, Gotthold, and - I noticed that the formal 'you' wounded
thee, but the girl was looking at us in such astonishment; she repeats
everything, and besides, it must be, but once - for the last time - I
wanted to speak in the old way, as thou wert here once more."

"That sounds, Cecilia, as if you[2] had not wished me to come."

She had now released her hands, which he had clasped firmly in his own,
and thrown herself into a chair by the window, supporting her head on
her hand. He went up to her.

"Cecilia, did you not wish me to come?"

"Yes, yes," she murmured, "I have longed to see you again - for
years - always; but you ought not to have come; no, you ought not to
have come!"

"Then I will go, Cecilia."

"No, no," she exclaimed, hastily raising her head, "I do not mean that.
You are here - the mischief is done. And now you can stay - you must stay
until - "

She paused suddenly. Gotthold, who was following the direction of
her eyes, glanced through the open window and saw at the end of the
court-yard Carl Brandow talking with Hinrich Scheel, whom he now left
and came hurriedly towards the house.

"He has returned already," she murmured; "what will you say to him?"

"I don't understand you, Cecilia,"

"He hates you."

"Then I don't know why he sought me out and gave me such a pressing
invitation to his home, which I certainly had never intended to enter."

"He sought you out - invited you - that is impossible."

"Then he meant to make me - us - but that is no less impossible."

She looked at him in astonishment.

"Impossible!" she said, "impossible!"

A strange, sad smile flitted over her pale face.

"Then everything can remain as it was," she said, "it is all right."

"Holloa!" cried Brandow, who had seen them both at the window, and now
quickened his already hasty steps and eagerly waved his hand.

He entered the room immediately, after calling from the door: "Ah! so
you have found her already! Isn't this a surprise, eh? What am I to get
for it? Ah! a man must be cunning. Not a word to the wife, who would
make all sorts of well-meant objections about old enmity and other
long-forgotten follies; and then tell the friend she will be on
tenter-hooks till I bring him home. That's the way to catch one's

He laughed loudly.

"You will wake Gretchen," said Cecilia.

"Yes, what is the matter with her?" asked Brandow, lowering his voice.
"I hope it is nothing serious, a false alarm, as it was with Brownlock,
or - where are you going, Cecilia?"

She had risen and entered the next room, closing the door behind her.
Gotthold informed Carl how he had found the child, and what he had done
for the present.

"But shall we need to send for the doctor at once?" said Brandow.

"I do not think it absolutely necessary," replied Gotthold, "but if you

Online LibraryFriedrich SpielhagenWhat the Swallow Sang: A Novel → online text (page 7 of 24)