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POPULAR WORKS AFTER THE GERMAN,
BY MRS. A. L. WISTER.

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At the Councillor's; or, A Nameless History. 12mo. Fine cloth. $1.50.

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* * * * *

Complete sets of the above, in eleven double volumes, bound in uniform
and attractive style, can be had for $16.50. Sold in sets only.

* * * * *
*** For sale by all Booksellers, or will be sent by mail, pottage paid,
upon receipt of price by J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO., Publishers,
Philadelphia.






QUICKSANDS


FROM THE GERMAN OF
ADOLPH STRECKFUSS




BY
MRS. A. L. WISTER
TRANSLATOR OF "THE OLD MAMSELLE'S SECRET," "GOLD ELSIE," "ONLY
A GIRL," "A NOBLE NAME," "THE SECOND WIFE,"
"BANNED AND BLESSED," ETC.




PHILADELPHIA
J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.
1884






* * * * *
Copyright, 1884, by J. B. Lippincott & Co.
* * * * *




CONTENTS.


CHAPTER

I. - An Exchange

II. - Osternau

III. - The Castle's Lord and Lady

IV. - A Cato In Golden Curls

V. - Dinner And Dessert

VI. - Soliman's Tricks

VII. - The Harvest-field

VIII. - News From Berlin

IX. - A Letter And Its Reply

X. - Content And Peace

XI. - Good Advice

XII. - Bertha von Massenburg

XIII. - A Wise Young Judge

XIV. - Pastor Widman as a Correspondent

XV. - Renewed Confidence

XVI. - Robbed

XVII. - Two Letters Again

XVIII. - A Forced Resolve

XIX. - The Prodigal's Return

XX. - Linau

XXI. - An Accident

XXII. - An Old Acquaintance

XXIII. - Mischief For Idle Hands

XXIV. - Past And Present

XXV. - At Home

XXVI. - A Conspiracy

XXVII. - A Mischievous Coquette

XXVIII. - Clara To The Rescue

XXIX. - Clara Dea Ex Machinâ

XXX. - Conclusion






QUICKSANDS.




CHAPTER I.
AN EXCHANGE.


Upon the short, thick grass of a small, secluded opening in a
magnificent forest of firs and beeches a young man lay, his hands
clasped under his head, buried in waking dreams. He had chosen himself
a charming retreat, where he was safe from all intrusion from wayfarers
passing through the forest by any of the roads or paths that
intersected it at a sufficient distance from this spot. The soft,
grassy sod was a delightful couch, and the interlacing boughs of a huge
beech-tree formed above the head of the dreamer a canopy that entirely
protected him from the burning rays of the mid-day sun.

Profound quiet reigned in the forest, intensified, rather than
disturbed, by the humming of insects; the very birds which had
twittered and sung in the early morning seemed silenced by the heat;
all creatures sought repose and refreshment at high noon on this
glowing July day.

If the young fellow who lay thus luxuriously bedded were seeking mental
as well as bodily repose, it was evident that he had not found it. He
was not asleep; his dark eyes were wide open, gazing restlessly and
discontentedly into the spaces of sky among the beech boughs until
pained by their brilliancy. "How tiresome! how unutterably stupid!" he
muttered, altering his comfortable position so as to rest his head upon
his hand as he leaned upon his elbow. "That deadly-tiresome, monotonous
stretch of brilliant blue sky is the very image of my own weary
existence. Nothing but light and splendour; it is intolerable. If the
sky were only covered with clouds, - if there could be a flash here and
there of lightning, with thunder crashing and winds howling, one might
have some satisfaction in sending a bullet through one's brains with
the thunder for a dirge. But no, even that is not to be. I am to die as
I have lived, surrounded by weary, soul-destroying sunshine. Ah, well,
it is a fitting end to an insignificant and utterly useless life. Come,
little friend, it is high time we were done with it."

He took from his breast-pocket a small, richly-inlaid revolver, and
looked at it with a degree of affection. "You have helped me through
many a long, weary hour. This moment would have come for me long ago
but for you and my piano. It certainly was interesting to learn to
shoot one spot after another out of the six of hearts. It was
irritating not to succeed in hitting each with the same precision. A
useless and silly enough aim in life, to be sure; still it was an aim,
and now that it is attained it is just as tiresome as everything else.
To-day you are to find my heart as surely as the hearts on the card. Or
suppose we try the head; it would be easier; an involuntary quiver of a
muscle, and the ball might miss the heart, but if this barrel lightly
touch the temple the effect must be sure. Three or four balls in the
brain must produce death instantaneously. It is the better plan."

He examined the revolver and made sure that it was loaded; his hand did
not tremble, his look was clear and steadfast; there was even a smile
of satisfaction on his lips as he contemplated the little weapon. "You
will do your duty as you have always done it. You never were to blame
if every spot on the card was not exactly hit, although the clumsy
marksman would gladly have declared the fault yours. As soon as hand
and aim were true, each heart was pierced precisely in the centre."

He raised the pistol, and once more took in at a glance the scene
around him, while his thoughts ran on: "Really, a lovely spot for my
last act! Beneath these spreading boughs the body will lie comfortably
on the soft grass, - for how long before it is found? For days, perhaps
for weeks, the place is so secluded. I should like to know what they
will say in Berlin when the newspapers announce, 'At last the body has
been discovered of Egon von Ernau, who disappeared so many days or
weeks ago,' etc., and there will, of course, follow a long description
of the place where it was found, and of the condition and clothes of
the corpse. The more there is to tell, the better for some poor devil
of a reporter. I do not grudge it him. I can at least serve one man in
the world by my death. And the news will fly like wildfire. It would be
almost worth living for, - the hearing of all that heartless gossip. How
busy all those empty heads will be with wondering what could have
driven a fellow so favoured by fortune to suicide! 'An unfortunate
love-affair,' the sentimentally disposed will declare. 'His father
wished to force him into a marriage with a person of high rank, and in
his despair he took his own life.' Of course they must invent some
reason for a man's escaping from this wretched, wearisome existence.
Fools! If life were worth living, why should I not comply with my
respected parent's wishes? All women are alike. It is all the same
tiresome sham."

He still held the revolver in his raised hand, when suddenly the hand
sank by his side, and he sat up and listened.

A clear note broke upon the woodland quiet, - the sound of a man's tenor
voice singing the hymn 'Rock of Ages' at no great distance from where
Egon von Ernau lay.

He frowned angrily. "Confoundedly annoying!" he muttered. "If I shoot
now, that stupid psalm-singer will hear it, - and then? Then all the
delightful Berlin gossip will be spoiled, the body will be found
immediately, and everything will be known to-morrow. No, no, those good
people must puzzle their brains for a while to discover what has become
of me. My Herr Papa must have some chance to show the world what a
tender, anxious parent he is. We must choose a still more retired spot.
But first let us see where the psalm-singer really is. He seems to have
established himself in the forest here, for the sound continues to come
from the same direction and from somewhere not very far off."

He uncocked his revolver, put the little weapon again into the
breast-pocket of a very well made summer coat, and, rising to his feet,
walked slowly through the wood in the direction whence came the sound
of singing.

It was no easy task to make his way through the thick underbrush,
particularly as he took great pains to make no noise. He wished to see
the singer without being seen himself, and therefore he walked very
slowly, and it was some minutes before he attained his purpose.

Still following the sound, he had reached the edge of the forest, and
only a thick fringe of hazel-bushes obstructed his view beyond.
Cautiously parting these he saw before him a landscape of extraordinary
beauty. Beyond the velvet sward of a small meadow the land sloped down
some eight or ten feet to a charming little lake, on the opposite
shore of which green, smiling fields, stretched far away to the
mountain-slopes of the distant highlands.

The young man gave but a fleeting glance to this lovely picture; he was
far more interested in the singer, whom he now saw at no great
distance.

On the brink of the lake the psalm-singer was kneeling, his head held
stiffly erect, his bony hands clasped and extended to the skies, while,
quite unaware of his listener, he continued his hymn in loud, resonant
tones. He was a young man hardly older than twenty-six, although the
sallow, flabby features of his beardless face, showing no trace of
youthful freshness, might well have caused him to be thought older than
he really was. His face was turned to the heavens, and he was staring
into the deep, cloudless blue with prominent, lacklustre eyes. The
large, thick-lipped mouth was wide open as he shouted out the last
verse of his hymn.

He certainly was not handsome, and he was made far more repulsive in
appearance than he might have been by the ill-fitting, unsuitable black
clothes that he wore. An old-fashioned dress-coat, the long pointed
swallowtail of which lay like a train behind him on the grass, hung in
disorderly fashion about his bony frame; black, wrinkled trousers, a
black waistcoat sufficiently open to display linen of doubtful
cleanliness, a high, rusty, black silk cravat, from which projected the
huge points of his shirt-collar on each side of his beardless chin,
formed this extraordinary being's attire, which was, moreover,
completed by a very tall and very shabby stove-pipe hat.

The hymn came to an end, but the singer did not change his attitude; he
still held up his clasped hands to the skies. For a few moments he was
silent; then, in a loud voice, he uttered an extemporaneous prayer.

"God of heaven," he cried, "a repentant wretch casts himself upon Thy
mercy! Pardon my betrayal of my trust, my having again yielded to
temptation. Pardon what I have done and what I am about to do. Receive
me into Thy kingdom. Amen!"

With these words he suddenly sprang up; his clumsy black hat fell off
upon the grass as he did so, but he paid it no attention. Clasping his
hands above his head, he leaned forward, gazed for an instant into the
deep green water of the lake, exclaimed, "God forgive me!" and plunged
in head-foremost.

Thus far the listener had watched without stirring a limb or giving the
slightest sign of his presence; but at this sudden termination of the
prayer he broke through the thick underbrush, and in a moment had
reached the spot whence the singer had taken the fatal plunge. Here he
threw off his coat and hat, keenly scanning the while the lake where
the man had disappeared, and where the water was still troubled and
sending forth huge rippling circles, while a dark body was visible
beneath the surface.

The young man looked about him for some piece of shelving shore where a
swimmer could easily clamber upon land; scarcely ten steps to the left
he saw what he desired, and in another moment the ripples of the lake
broke over his head also.

He was an expert swimmer; when but a mere lad he had saved the life of
a drowning comrade at the risk of his own, so tightly had the sinking
boy clasped him in his despairing grasp. He remembered this as he now
rose to the surface, and seeing a dark form directly before him he
merely gave it a powerful push in the direction of the shelving shore,
taking good care to avoid the grasp of the wildly struggling man.
Keeping clear of this, he contrived to push him before him as he swam
to the landing-place. As soon as he felt the ground beneath him,
however, he seized the half-suffocated singer by the arm and dragged
him ashore. The rescue had been easy, and had occupied but a very few
moments of time.

For a while the rescued man lay gasping on the bank; then he started up
and gazed wildly at his preserver, who stood quietly looking at him.
The unfortunate man presented a still odder and uglier appearance than
before; his long black hair hung in dripping locks over his pale face,
and his wrinkled coat clinging to his spare figure was more ridiculous
than ever.

"Why did you not let me die?" he cried, wringing his hands.

The young man half smiled. "You are right," he replied; "it was very
stupid of me. It always is so when I act upon the impulse of the
moment. Had I taken time to consider I should have said to myself,
'This gentleman is tired of life and voluntarily puts an end to it; you
have no right to interfere with so reasonable a proceeding.' I should
then have seated myself up there on the bank, and have looked on as you
came two or three times, to the surface gasping for breath, sinking to
rise again, and hastening your death, perhaps, by the frantic efforts
you made to retain a detested existence. Finally, you would have sunk
to rise no more, and at this moment you would be lying quiet and
comfortable, with only a slight quiver of the limbs, at the bottom of
the lake. My impetuosity has deprived me of an interesting spectacle
and prevented your fulfilment of a sensible and laudable intention. I
pray your pardon, and would suggest that you can repair the wrong I
have done. We are but a few steps away from the high bank whence you
took your plunge into the lake. The spot was admirably selected, for
the water here is too shallow for your purpose. I promise you that you
shall not be disturbed again; I will look on with the greatest
interest."

The young man's quiet words filled his hearer with horror; his arms
dropped by his sides, and his prominent eyes opened wider and protruded
still farther from his head. He shuddered at the description of his
death-agony; he looked in fear at his preserver, who could talk so
calmly of such horrors, and when the latter proposed that he should try
another plunge into the lake he was seized with a nameless dread.
Involuntarily he recoiled a step, and with a gesture of abhorrence
cried, "No, no, I cannot! It was too horrible! When the dark water
closed over me, and I sank deeper and deeper, the suffocation, the
dreadful noises in my ears, the throbbing in my temples - no, I cannot
do it again!"

"Indeed? True, death by drowning cannot be agreeable; I have heard so
before from one of my acquaintances who very nearly lost his life in
the water. The death-struggle is too long; it must be most unpleasant.
Now, a bullet through the head is instantaneous. I will make you
another suggestion; I owe it to you since I have interfered with your
plans in so uncalled-for a manner. My coat lies on the bank yonder; in
its breast-pocket there is a six-barrelled revolver. I was just putting
it to my temple when I was arrested by your song. I only need two or
three balls for my purpose. Come up on the bank with me, wait until my
work is done, and my revolver is at your service. How people will
wonder when the two bodies are found after a while lying peacefully
side by side! What odd stories will be told of a duel without
witnesses, or some such stupid nonsense! It is a pity one cannot be by
to hear them. Come, we will soon make an end of the tiresome affair."

"I cannot! I cannot do it a second time! Good God! I can neither live
nor die! Help me, I implore you! Shoot me down with your revolver; I
cannot do it myself! Kill me! I will bless you with my dying breath!"

He flung himself upon his knees, wringing his hands, as he implored his
preserver to kill him, but the young man shook his head decidedly, as
he replied, "Very sorry, but the part of an executioner does not suit
me; one must conclude such matters one's self, or let them alone. If
you will not comply with my suggestion, there is nothing for you but to
go on living. I wish you joy of it."

"Good God! what shall I do? I implore you to help me, to advise me!"

"How can I possibly advise you, when I have no knowledge of you or of
the circumstances that have driven you to despair?"

"I will tell you about it. I am the most miserable man in the world!
You have saved my life, and I will confide my wretchedness, my
disgrace, to you."

The young man looked down thoughtfully for a moment before he said,
"Very well, tell me. An hour more or less makes no difference. Let us
sit down in the shade on the grass; you shall pour out your woes to me,
and if I can give you help or counsel, I will do so."

"Will not the shade be rather too cool for us in our wet clothes? We
might catch cold."

The young fellow laughed aloud at this strange mixture of despair and
dread of taking cold.

"Well, then, sit in the sun," he said, still laughing. "I prefer the
shade, since a cold is of no consequence to me. And now, since we find
ourselves comrades after this odd fashion, here at our ease, you can
initiate me in the dark mysteries of your life. I promise you an
attentive listener."

He had thrown himself down beneath a huge beech-tree, while his
companion was looking for a seat on some stone in the blazing sunshine.

"My wet clothes will soon dry here," said the singer. "When they are
dried on the body they do not lose their shape." And as he spoke he
looked down sadly at the long wet tails of his coat as they draggled
dripping behind him. There was no trace to be seen in him of the
contrition and despair which had possessed him a few moments since, his
whole mind was given to the choosing of a spot in the sunshine. At last
he found a fragment of rock which suited him, he sat down upon it, and
leaning forward propped his elbows upon his knees and his chin upon his
hands. In this attitude he looked, as his companion could not but
inwardly observe, like a strange caricature of incredible ugliness. He
paused a while to reflect, and then began, in a whining, lachrymose
tone, -

"I have always been a child of misfortune. The Lord has punished me
with the greatest severity for my sins, although I have tried to lead a
pious, resigned life, however heavily His hand might be laid upon
me. Wherefore, O Lord, shouldst Thou thus visit Thy most devoted
servant - - "

He could not go on, for his listener had stopped his ears, and
exclaimed angrily, "Stop, stop! nothing in the world is quite so
detestable and tiresome as circumlocution. If I am to listen, you
must be brief, simple, and unaffected. Let us have no whining
sentimentality. I hate it! Give me a clear, simple statement of facts."

"Out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaketh," was the reply to
this blunt interruption of the man's flow of eloquence. "I will command
my emotion, if I can, out of regard for you, my preserver. I have
always been unlucky; my very name was a misfortune, - not my first name,
Gottlieb, which I received in holy baptism, but my surname,
Pigglewitch. I always see a smile of derision upon the lips of those
who hear it for the first time, when a boy I was always laughed at for
my name, and this trial has never left me. But I will not murmur; it is
the Lord's will that I inherit such a title, and His ways are always
right. How can we, weak mortals that we are - - "

"Hold, friend Pigglewitch! You are forgetting again. No preaching!"

"I have done," Gottlieb Pigglewitch replied, instantly subsiding into
an ordinary narrative style. "My father was pastor of Wilhelmshagen. I
scarcely remember him, he died when I was not quite six years old; my
mother had died at my birth, and her brother now took me home, or
rather kept me in my home, for he succeeded to my father's position. He
said he befriended the orphan for the love of God, but he never showed
me any affection, even as a little child I had to work hard for my
daily food, he employed me to tend first his geese and afterwards his
sheep. I was sent with the other village children to the village
school, but as soon as I came home I had to work for my uncle, and the
dread of a beating often made me perform tasks that were far beyond my
strength. I was given many a blow, with very little to eat, and never a
kind word; my uncle declared that I was a good-for-nothing, lazy young
hypocrite and liar, who could not be treated too severely, I was fit
for nothing but a stupid tiller of the ground. As such he meant to
bring me up, but Herr Brandes, the Schulze of Wilhelmshagen, befriended
me. He had been a friend of my father's, and would have taken me into
his house and brought me up with his daughter Annemarie, who is two
years younger than I, only he did not wish to interfere with my uncle.

"Nevertheless he stood my friend, and often when I was very hungry I
got a good meal at his house; little Annemarie, too, would sometimes
bring a piece of bread out to me in the fields and stay a while and
play with me. Those were the only happy hours I can remember as a
child. It was a time of sore trial, and I, unworthy sinful man - - "

"Friend Pigglewitch!"

"Ah, to be sure! Well, the Schulze befriended me. 'After all, he is a
pastor's son,' he said to my uncle, 'and every one is saying that he is
being brought up like the son of a day-labourer.' My father had left me
a small patrimony amounting to about a thousand thalers, and Herr
Brandes told my uncle that he ought to demand a portion of this from
the Guardians' Court, to be spent in sending me to town to school,
where I might be suitably educated. At first my uncle refused to do
this, he found me too useful on the farm, but he yielded at last to the
Schulze's representations, seeing clearly that he should lose credit by
refusing any longer to do so. So I was sent to town to board with one
of the teachers of the public school. I nearly starved there, and I
often wished myself back in Wilhelmshagen, where I could always get
something to eat at the Schulze's, for Annemarie was sure to put by a
morsel for me. From the public school I went to college, and I have
passed my examination as a Candidate for the ministry. The Lord was
gracious to me. My mind moves slowly, and when I went up for



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