William Black.

Kilmeny. A novel online

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house filled with the richest ladies in the world, and whether they
were all loaded with diamonds, and gleaming in white satins and

" Papa," cried Linele, petulantly, " I don't believe he has been
in England at all. He has seen nothing diflEerent, nothing strange ;
and I believe they have been away hiding somewhere, to escape
their painting, and play billiards and go to the theatre. It is
wicked of them to deceive us, isn't it, papa ? And you won't take
the engravings, will you ? — and I will give him back the fan, for
it never came from England, I know !"

The Professor looked up in mute bewilderment. He had been
looking at an engraving of one of Turner's Italian landscapes, and
had got lost there. But the mamma said —

" Now, now, Linele, don't bother Mr. Frank, when he has been
so kind to you. And you have never even thanked Mr. Edward
for the pretty necklace he has given you — "

" But I have put it round my neck : isn't that enough for him ?"
said Linele, proudly.

" And, instead of bothering the gentlemen, you might go and
get up two bottles of the red Rhinewine, since this is a grand oc-
casion — "

" But we have just been drinking beer as we came along," said

" That doesn't matter," said the Frau Professor, with a sage nod
of the head. "You know what they say —

' Wein auf Bier, das rath' ich dir ;
Bier auf Wein, das lass du sein!'

There is sense in that. Go along with you, Lena, and make your-
self useful."

Presently Lena appeared, making a great fuss about carrying
the two bottles of Assmanshauser, and pretending to be greatly
fatigued by their weight. Then she placed them jauntily on the
table, and went for glasses, and put them down with a saucy

" In England, young ladies don't wait upon gentlemen," said
Lena, with a toss of her head.

"Move's the pity, then," said her mother, sharply. "What do
they do then, I wonder ?"


" They drive in carriages, and dress in silk, and sit at ta-
ble like queens, and have all the gentlemen serve them," said

" And have the gentlemen nothing to do, either ?" said the
mamma, with a touch of scorn.

" They can't do anything better than wait upon ladies," retort-
ed Linele.

" Your head is full of wool, Lena," said the mamma ; and that
stopped the discussion for the moment.

So we settled down to our ordinary work again ; and in process
of time I got my " Wolundur " finished. The Professor had
taken great interest in the progress of the work, and had mate-
rially helped me by plenty of sound suggestion and able criticism.
I was beginning to feel my way more surely now, and to be able
to test in a measure the value of what I was doing. " Kilmeny "
had been more of a surprise to myself than it could have been to
anybody else ; but the technical knowledge I had acquired under
the Professor's care, added to the effect of his lectures upon tlie
various qualities of the Pinathotliek masters, gave me a better no-
tion of what I could do, and what I could not do, myself. 1 knew
that this picture was freer in manner and altogether more mature
than its predecessor; and I was so far convinced of this that I
formed the project of offering "Wolundur" to Mr. Webb in ex-
change for "Kilmeny," which I was desirous, for many reasons,
of getting into my own hands.

When it was finished, I consigned the picture to lleatherleigh's
care. He had undertaken to send it into the Academy. In the
interin), however, I received a long letter from him, expressing his
wn opinions about tlie tiling, and saying that he had shown it,
among others, to the Jew-dealer whom I knew.

"lie offers you," lie wrote, " foiir Imndred guineas for the
work. I hope your brain won't be turned by the announcement,
which means more than you fancy. Old Solomons pays a man
according to the rcimtatioii Ik^ has made; merely because it is
that alone which has any weight with the majority of his custom-
ers; and therefore you may have some idea of what 'Kihneny'
has earned for you. But I wouhl not close with him, if 1 were
you. Send the picture into lln' Academy, and let it take its
chance. If it docs what I expect it will do, you will be iniindiitdd
with commissions, which for yet a year or two you should under-


take most sparingly. The results of your stay in Munich are ap-
parent in every part of this picture," etc., etc.

He was strongly opposed to ray bartering the picture for " Kil-
meny ;" but seeing that I persisted in the notion, he went to Mr.
Webb and laid the matter before him. Then, as before and since,
that gentleman acted in a manner which any one, regarding his
dry, timid manner and cold look, would scarcely have expected
from him. That is to say, instead of treating me, a stranger to
him, in an ordinary businesslike manner, he showed a frank gen-
erosity and fairness which, I regret to say, surprised me. For I
had not met many English gentlemen ; and there still hung about
me a half-conscious apprehension, begotten of my experience of
Weavle, that every stranger to you must necessarily be on the out-
look to take advantage of you for his own benefit.

As, before, Mr. Webb placed himself, as a purchaser, in open
competition with everybody else. Having seen the picture, he
expressed his willingness to give as much for it as any purchaser
might oflEer after it had been exhibited in the Academy — then to
deduct from this sum the price he had paid for " Kilmeny," and
send me the latter picture, with the difference in money.

The difference, when it came, was nearly two hundred guineas.
The draft was made payable on a Munich banker; and when I
got the slip of paper, I endeavored to fancy myself ten years
younger, and to picture what I should have thought in Weavle's
shop of becoming the owner of such a sum.

" Kilmeny " for the present was to remain with Mr. Webb ; it
was useless to send it over to Munich, when in a few months I
might be returning to England.

On receipt of this money, I kept up a good old English custom
in a foreign land. I invited the Professor, his wife, and Lena,
Franz, Silber, and one or two others, to a dinner at a restaurant.
The little black-eyed actress could not be persuaded to come, not-
withstanding it was represented to her that we should be in a pri-
vate room, and unseen by the vulgar gossips of the city. She
pleaded a late rehearsal, though I fancy her mamma's notions of
propriety had something to do with it.

We were a very merry party ; and even Silber forgot to look
miserable, and was for carrying his complaisance to the extent of
singing a song after dinner — a gratification which we managed to
escape. Instead we all went over to a box which I had secured


at the Hoftheater ; and there Linele, who had dressed her hair in
the English fashion, sat like a little princess at the front of the
box, and displayed the gleaming fan that Franz had given her.

It was " Linda " they sang ; and the good mamma sat and
cried a little, covertly, over the pretty story of Linda's trials and
faithfulness, and ultimate reward.



Was I free at last, only to be tired of my freedom ? I could
go where I liked ; I could spend my time as it pleased me ; I
had money at command, and was my own master; I was afraid
of no man, and knew that I had the power to compel the future
to be serviceable to me, so that I could take up my abode in any
part of Europe, and feel sure of being able to live there in com-
fort and peace.

Or I could travel about from city to city, from village to vil-
lage, stopping here and there as I chose, and seeing men and
manners and things. The world was before me ; and, in so much
as I cared for it, 1 was its master. I could make it yield me the
things that I wanted, for my needs were not groat. The chiefest
of them had been all along this freedom from control, and now I
had achieved it.

I had achieved it only to find that indoj)end('nce meant isola-
tion. There wore no kindly bonds of duty gnvorning my daily
actions, and yielding the pleasures of solf-sacritico. There was
no obligation connected with my art-efforts; on the contrary,
thoy were the keenest delight I experienced, and following thorn
was in no sense a duty. Outside of this pursuit, I had nothing
particular to live for; and I was beginning to weary of too much
content, that poor sort of sunshine that lights up the narrow world
of selfishness.

"Will Hester Burnham ever come to redeem her pledge?" 1
used to think. " Will it over happen that the dream I dreamed
in the Tyrol will rouw true, and we together shall go down through
the wcmderful valley, all by ourselves? \A'ill it ever happen that


eacli day shall be filled with the numberless duties of love ; and
that I shall have to watch over my darling, and tend her, and
keep her safe from the cold winds and the rain ?"

There was no sign or word from her away in England. The
many letters I got from various people mentioned her only by
chance, and then said nothing definite. She was supposed to be
waiting to see how matters should be arranged about the letting
of Burnham, and the clearance of the obligations which her cous-
in's kindness had imposed upon her. Indeed, my correspondents
were too busy to waste much time in speculation. Bonnie Lesley
was preparing for her marriage ; Heatherleigh had married, and
was engaged in decorating with his own handiwork a small house
he had bought up at Harapstead. He and Polly had persuaded
my mother to go and live with them ; for Polly, said Heather-
leigh, would bother him all day in his studio unless she had some-
body else to talk to and make jokes with.

" But you ought not to take a mother-in-law into your house,"
said my mother, with a smile.

" But I shall want all your help," said Polly, wickedly. " For
you don't know what a miser he has grown of late ; and unless
we are two to one, it will be impossible to keep the house in any
comfort. Do you know, my dear, that five minutes after we w^ere
married, he took off his gloves, rolled them up, and put them in
his pocket, saying they would do for the first time we went to
the theatre ? Did miserliness ever go further ; and on his mar-
riage-day, too ?"

I learned, indeed, from my mother that Polly regarded her
housekeeping as an elaborate joke, and that she spent the better
part of the day in laughing over the eccentricities of an Irish
maid-servant who was in the house, and in laying traps to exhibit
the artless blunders of that young woman. Yet Polly, in spite
of her imitations of the butcher-boy, and her fits of laughter over
the courtesies of the milk-man to the Irish maid-servant aforesaid,
looked sharply and actively after her domestic affairs, and made
a capital wife. Heatherleigh, too, I heard, had grown ten years
younger since his marriage ; and he and Polly, when all the day's
work of each was over, and when they sat down to supper, were
in the habit of conducting themselves pretty much like a couple
of children, instead of two grown-up and married persons.

Such was the news that came from England ; and I was glad


that, amid the din and clamor of eager money -getting, there were
some who could find a quiet household for themselves, and peace
therein. As for the houseless one — where was she ?

I forgot now to look with any interest across the trees of the
" English Garden." I had lost all hope of seeing her walk across
that patch of level green ; not that her coming was any less like-
ly than it had ever been, but that I had grown to see that it had
never been likely. The time for such miracles was over, and it
did no good to dream of them.

But one morning, as I was passing through the Promenaden-
platz, on my way to the Nibelungen frescos, I saw two ladies
pass into the courtyard of the Bavarian Hotel. I only caught a
glimpse of them as they turned the corner ; and yet that glimpse
made my heart beat. If it were really she, at last, and the small
Madame Laboureau ?

I walked up to the front of the courtyard, and looked in.
There was no one there but the ordinary troupe of commission-
aires, porters, and droschke- drivers. I begged permission, how-
ever, to look over the large board on which the names of the va-
rious visitors at the hotels are inscribed. I hurriedly went over
the bits of pasteboard — meeting with French countesses, German
barons, Russian princes, and what not ; but there was no mention
of the nartje I looked for, so I turned away. It was not the first
time I had been mistaken in fancying I saw the slight, graceful
figure I knew so well in the streets of Munich.

I went along to the Festsaalbau, met the Professor and one or
two of his students, and remained there for about an hour. Then
we left ; and, as the others were going down to the old Pinatho-
thek, I set out for a saunter up to the Tsar.

I suppose you kncjw the Max-Josephsplatz — the splendid square
which is surrounded by the palace and the theatre and tlie post-
office, which looks like another palace. As I turned into this
square — all bright and clear as it was in the sunlight — I saw,
cro.ssing the corner and coming towards me, the figure I had
seen in the morning. AVas it true, then, that the wjuidering pos-
sibility tli.it had haunted me through all these long months was
at last real and true? Was Hester Burnham really in Munich;
and should I actually luar her speak, away over here, in this strange

I hastened after her, as she went across the square towards the


Maximilian Strasse. She p;lanced up at the statue of the king, and
I saw the outline of her features. Then I overtook her, and she
stopped, and I found her hand in mine. There was a pale, strange
joy in her face.

" You have come to me at last," I said.

" Yes."

"For altogether?"

It was her eyes that spoke the answer ; and there, in the open
streets of Munich, I could have knelt down and kissed her

She and Madame Laboureau had arrived that morning; the
hotel people had not yet had time to put their names up. Ma-
dame was fatigued; and Hester had come out alone to buy some
gloves — hence the meeting. But when I inquired of her what
had brought her to Munich, she looked up, somewhat reproach-
fully, and asked, in that low and tender voice of hers, if I had
not expected her. We forgot about the gloves. We wandered
away from the city, and past the gates and the suburban houses.
There was a clear blue sky overhead, and occasionally a flock of
pigeons whirring past and gleaming in the white sunlight. She
and I had a whole lifetime to settle, and how fair was that future
that lay before us ! The light of it shone in her wistful eyes,
even while the English modulations of her voice, grown almost
unfamiliar to my car, recalled England and all the by-gone years.

Weavle had at last been cast behind, like Satan. The old days
in that Holborn workshop were like a nightmare that had fled be-
fore the morning sunlight. But do not think that this deliver-
ance was due to the fact that I had now more money than I had
then. God forbid that I should have written this history of my
life if I had so poor a triumph to tell in the end. It needed none
of Ileatherleigh's teaching to show me that money was not the
thing that made life most beautiful and valuable ; and, as Hester
and I spoke of the years that were to come, and as I told her how
I had escaped from the stifling atmosphere that hung over the
bitter struggle for existence in England, into the sweeter and se-
rener air that now surrounded us, it was no hope of riches that
lit up the prospect for us, and no desire of wealth that promised
to be the stimulant of our future. Yet we were bold enough to
think that some measure of good purpose might be done by us,
whether we lived in England or elsewhere, if we could only shed


around 115; the influences of two lives wisely and honestly lived,
and made honorable and noble by the kindly servitude of love.

It was not very long after this time that I told my darlino- a
story. She and I were at Rolandseck, over the Rhine, and we
were all by ourselves there. It was late in the autumn, and all
the herd of tourists had gone home ; I think we were the only
visitors at the Hotel Billau, which overlooks the river. The nights
were drawing in now ; and when dinner was over, and we went
out upon the balcony, it was quite dark, and we could scarcely
see the great stream, though we heard its rippling down in front
of us. But the moon was slowly rising behind the heights of
Rolandseck; and so I wrapped my little friend in comfortable
shawls and furs, and together we waited for the cold night.

How still it was, and how beautiful too, when the calm, won-
derful radiance came over the hills behind, and showed us the
magical picture that lay around us. Far in the distance, touched
here and there with the moonlight, the great Drachenfels rose
from over the river up into the dark, .starlit sky. Down at our
feet the broad, still stream ran softly past, until it smote and
quivered in silver along the shores of the island of Nonnenwerth,
that lay out there, half hid in a pale, mystical haze. And high
over the island rose behind us, sharp and black, the wooded peak
on which the Knight Roland built his tower, that .so ho might
look down on his love, and watch her as she came out with her
.sister-nuns to walk around the cloisters of Nonnenwerth — until,
at last, he saw her funeral procession, and never spoke more.
Keener and clearer grew the light, until it shone on the gray
buildings of the island, and gleamed along the river that encircled
it. Here and there, too, were specks of orange light visible on
the other bank, where some cluster of cottages lay under the
shadf)W of the mighty Drachenfels; and we could hear, far down
the stream, the sound of some boatmen singing, as they moored
their barges clcse in by the .shore.

There was no need of much talking on such a night: it was
enough to sit, one great shawl over both of us, and look on the
wonderful river and the hills and the stars. But my darling,
nestling close and warm under her manifold plaids, bade me lei!
her yet one more tale ; and, as I had exhausted all I knew of
Rhenish legendary lore, I told her a .story of iMigland. And it
was this :


" There was once a boy who used to wander all over the country
by night ; and he fell in love tvith a star. And he said —

'"0/i, you beautiful small creature/ come down ami be my
companion, and we will go through the world together, all these
coming years.^

"■But, as he xmlhed on, he saw a Will-o'-the-wisp shining in
the dark, and he said —

" ' Oh, you wonderful creature ! with your bright eyes and your
streaming hair, I have never seen anything so beautiful as you.
Come, and we will go through the world together, all these coming

" So they travelled on together. But in a little while the Will-
o'-the-wisp began to flicker up and down, and finally flew over a
hedge and disappeared ; and he ivas left in the dark.

" Then he looked up, and lo I above him there still shone the
star, and it was as gracious and as beautiful as ever. And he
said —

" ' Oh, you dear small creature f will you forgive me for what
I have done ; and will you always look down on me as you do
now, and I shall look up to you and love you .?' "

That was the question I asked of my darling as we sat together
there, under the shadows of Rolandseck. It is some time since
then ; and I who write these words am still looking up to this
beautiful creature, who has never ceased to shed her soft radiance
around me. Perhaps she is a little nearer earth now — but that
has only enlarged her brightness ; and, thinking over all these
things, and of her great affection, forbearance, and sweetness, how
can I help regarding her, my most tender and faithful friend, with
admiration and wonder and love ?




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Online LibraryWilliam BlackKilmeny. A novel → online text (page 30 of 30)