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"How long, long ago!" cried Carlen.

"It seems only a day," said John.

"I think time goes faster for a man than for a woman," sighed Carlen.
"It is a shorter day in the fields than in the house."

"Are you not content, my sister?" said John.

Carlen was silent.

"You have always seemed so," he said reproachfully.

"It is always the same, John," she murmured. "Each day like every other
day. I would like it to be some days different."

John sighed. He knew of what this new unrest was born. He longed to
begin to speak of Wilhelm, and yet he knew not how. Now that, after
longer reflection, he had become sure in his own mind that Wilhelm cared
nothing for his sister, he felt an instinctive shrinking from
recognizing to himself, or letting it be recognized between them, that
she unwooed had learned to love. His heart ached with dread of the
suffering which might be in store for her.

Carlen herself cut the gordian knot.

"Brother," she whispered, "why do you think Wilhelm is not good?"

"I said not that, Carlen," he replied evasively. "I only say we know
nothing; and it is dangerous to trust where one knows nothing."

"It would not be trust if we knew," answered the loyal girl. "I believe
he is good; but, John, John, what misery in his eyes! Saw you ever
anything like it?"

"No," he replied; "never. Has he never told you anything about himself,
Carlen?"

"Once," she answered, "I took courage to ask him if he had relatives in
Germany; and he said no; and I exclaimed then, 'What, all dead!' 'All
dead,' he answered, in such a voice I hardly dared speak again, but I
did. I said: 'Well, one might have the terrible sorrow to lose all one's
relatives. It needs only that three should die, my father and mother and
my brother, - only three, and two are already old, - and I should have no
relatives myself; but if one is left without relatives, there are always
friends, thank God!' And he looked at me, - he never looks at one, you
know; but he looked at me then as if I had done a sin to speak the word,
and he said, 'I have no friends. They are all dead too,' and then went
away! Oh, brother, why cannot we win him out of this grief? We can be
good friends to him; can you not find out for me what it is?"

It was a cruel weapon to use, but on the instant John made up his mind
to use it. It might spare Carlen grief, in the end.

"I have thought," he said, "that it might be for a dead sweetheart he
mourned thus. There are men, you know, who love that way and never smile
again."

Short-sighted John, to have dreamed that he could forestall any
conjecture in the girl's heart!

"I have thought of that," she answered meekly; "it would seem as if it
could be nothing else. But, John, if she be really dead - " Carlen did
not finish the sentence; it was not necessary.

After a silence she spoke again: "Dear John, if you could be more
friendly with him I think it might be different. He is your age. Father
and mother are too old, and to me he will not speak." She sighed deeply
as she spoke these last words, and went on: "Of course, if it is for a
dead sweetheart that he is grieving thus, it is only natural that the
sight of women should be to him worse than the sight of men. But it is
very seldom, John, that a man will mourn his whole life for a
sweetheart; is it not, John? Why, men marry again, almost always, even
when it is a wife that they have lost; and a sweetheart is not so much
as a wife."

"I have heard," said the pitiless John, "that a man is quicker healed of
grief for a wife than for one he had thought to wed, but lost."

"You are a man," said Carlen. "You can tell if that would be true."

"No, I cannot," he answered, "for I have loved no woman but you, my
sister; and on my word I think I will be in no haste to, either. It
brings misery, it seems to me."

If Carlen had spoken her thought at these words, she would have said,
"Yes, it brings misery; but even so it is better than joy." But Carlen
was ashamed; afraid also. She had passed now into a new life, whither
her brother, she perceived, could not follow. She could barely reach
his hand across the boundary line which parted them.

"I hope you will love some one, John," she said. "You would be happy
with a wife. You are old enough to have a home of your own."

"Only a year older than you, my sister," he rejoined.

"I too am old enough to have a home of my own," she said, with a gentle
dignity of tone, which more impressed John with a sense of the change in
Carlen than all else which had been said.

It was time to return to the house. As he had done when he was ten, and
she nine, John stood at the bottom of the steepest rock, with
upstretched arms, by the help of which Carlen leaped lightly down.

"We are not children any more," she said, with a little laugh.

"More's the pity!" said John, half lightly, half sadly, as they went on
hand in hand.

When they reached the bars, Carlen paused. Withdrawing her hand from
John's and laying it on his shoulder, she said: "Brother, will you not
try to find out what is Wilhelm's grief? Can you not try to be friends
with him?"

John made no answer. It was a hard thing to promise.

"For my sake, brother," said the girl. "I have spoken to no one else but
you. I would die before any one else should know; even my mother."

John could not resist this. "Yes," he said; "I will try. It will be
hard; but I will try my best, Carlen. I will have a talk with Wilhelm
to-morrow."

And the brother and sister parted, he only the sadder, she far happier,
for their talk. "To-morrow," she thought, "I will know! To-morrow! oh,
to-morrow!" And she fell asleep more peacefully than had been her wont
for many nights.

On the morrow it chanced that John and Wilhelm went separate ways to
work and did not meet until noon. In the afternoon Wilhelm was sent on
an errand to a farm some five miles away, and thus the day passed
without John's having found any opportunity for the promised talk.
Carlen perceived with keen disappointment this frustration of his
purpose, but comforted herself, thinking, with the swift forerunning
trust of youth: "To-morrow he will surely get a chance. To-morrow he
will have something to tell me. To-morrow!"

When Wilhelm returned from this errand, he came singing up the road.
Carlen heard the voice and looked out of the window in amazement. Never
before had a note of singing been heard from Wilhelm's voice. She could
not believe her ears; neither her eyes, when she saw him walking
swiftly, almost running, erect, his head held straight, his eyes gazing
free and confident before him.

What had happened? What could have happened? Now, for the first time,
Carlen saw the full beauty of his face; it wore an exultant look as of
one set free, triumphant. He leaped lightly over the bars; he stooped
and fondled the dog, speaking to him in a merry tone; then he whistled,
then broke again into singing a gay German song. Carlen was stupefied
with wonder. Who was this new man in the body of Wilhelm? Where had
disappeared the man of slow-moving figure, bent head, downcast eyes,
gloom-stricken face, whom until that hour she had known? Carlen clasped
her hands in an agony of bewilderment.

"If he has found his sweetheart, I shall die," she thought. "How could
it be? A letter, perhaps? A message?" She dreaded to see him. She
lingered in her room till it was past the supper hour, dreading what she
knew not, yet knew. When she went down the four were seated at supper.
As she opened the door roars of laughter greeted her, and the first
sight she saw was Wilhelm's face, full of vivacity, excitement. He was
telling a jesting story, at which even her mother was heartily laughing.
Her father had laughed till the tears were rolling down his cheeks. John
was holding his sides. Wilhelm was a mimic, it appeared; he was
imitating the ridiculous speech, gait, gestures, of a man he had seen in
the village that afternoon.

"I sent you to village sooner as dis, if I haf known vat you are like
ven you come back," said Farmer Weitbreck, wiping his eyes.

And John echoed his father. "Upon my word, Wilhelm, you are a good
actor. Why have you kept your light under a bushel so long?" And John
looked at him with a new interest and liking. If this were the true
Wilhelm, he might welcome him indeed as a brother.

Carlen alone looked grave, anxious, unhappy. She could not laugh. Tale
after tale, jest after jest, fell from Wilhelm's lips. Such a
story-teller never before sat at the Weitbreck board. The old kitchen
never echoed with such laughter.

Finally John exclaimed: "Man alive, where have you kept yourself all
this time? Have you been ill till now, that you hid your tongue? What
has cured you in a day?"

Wilhelm laughed a laugh so ringing, it made him seem like a boy.

"Yes, I have been ill till to-day," he said; "and now I am well." And he
rattled on again, with his merry talk.

Carlen grew cold with fear; surely this meant but one thing. Nothing
else, nothing less, could have thus in an hour rolled away the burden of
his sadness.

Later in the evening she said timidly, "Did you hear any news in the
village this afternoon, Wilhelm?"

"No; no news," he said. "I had heard no news."

As he said this a strange look flitted swiftly across his face, and was
gone before any eye but a loving woman's had noted it. It did not escape
Carlen's, and she fell into a reverie of wondering what possible double
meaning could have underlain his words.

"Did you know Mr. Dietman in Germany?" she asked. This was the name of
the farmer to whose house he had been sent on an errand. They were
new-comers into the town, since spring.

"No!" replied Wilhelm, with another strange, sharp glance at Carlen. "I
saw him not before."

"Have they children?" she continued. "Are they old?"

"No; young," he answered. "They haf one child, little baby."

Carlen could not contrive any other questions to ask. "It must have been
a letter," she thought; and her face grew sadder.

It was a late bedtime when the family parted for the night. The
astonishing change in Wilhelm's manner was now even more apparent than
it had yet been. Instead of slipping off, as was his usual habit,
without exchanging a good-night with any one, he insisted on shaking
hands with each, still talking and laughing with gay and affectionate
words, and repeating, over and again, "Good-night, good-night." Farmer
Weitbreck was carried out of himself with pleasure at all this, and
holding Wilhelm's hand fast in his, shaking it heartily, and clapping
him on the shoulder, he exclaimed in fatherly familiarity: "Dis is goot,
mein son! dis is goot. Now are you von of us." And he glanced meaningly
at John, who smiled back in secret intelligence. As he did so there went
like a flash through his mind the question, "Can Carlen have spoken with
him to-day? Can that be it?" But a look at Carlen's pale, perplexed face
quickly dissipated this idea. "She looks frightened," thought John. "I
do not much wonder. I will get a word with her." But Carlen had gone
before he missed her. Running swiftly upstairs, she locked the door of
her room, and threw herself on her knees at her open window. Presently
she saw Wilhelm going down to the brook. She watched his every motion.
First, he walked slowly up and down the entire length of the field,
following the brook's course closely, stopping often and bending over,
picking flowers. A curious little white flower called "Ladies'-Tress"
grew there in great abundance, and he often brought bunches of it to
her.

"Perhaps it is not for me this time," thought Carlen, and the tears came
into her eyes. After a time Wilhelm ceased gathering the flowers, and
seated himself on his favorite rock, - the same one where John and Carlen
had sat the night before. "Will he stay there all night?" thought the
unhappy girl, as she watched him. "He is so full of joy he does not want
to sleep. What will become of me! what will become of me!"

At last Wilhelm arose and came toward the house, bringing the bunch of
flowers in his hand. At the pasture bars he paused, and looked back over
the scene. It was a beautiful picture, the moon making it light as day;
even from Carlen's window could be seen the sparkle of the brook.

As he turned to go to the barn his head sank on his breast, his steps
lagged. He wore again the expression of gloomy thought. A new fear arose
in Carlen's breast. Was he mad? Had the wild hilarity of his speech and
demeanor in the evening been merely a new phase of disorder in an
unsettled brain? Even in this was a strange, sad comfort to Carlen. She
would rather have him mad, with alternations of insane joy and gloom,
than know that he belonged to another. Long after he had disappeared in
the doorway at the foot of the stairs which led to his sleeping-place in
the barn-loft, she remained kneeling at the window, watching to see if
he came out again. Then she crept into bed, and lay tossing, wakeful,
and anxious till near dawn. She had but just fallen asleep when she was
aroused by cries. It was John's voice. He was calling loudly at the
window of their mother's bedroom beneath her own.

"Father! father! Get up, quick! Come out to the barn!"

Then followed confused words she could not understand. Leaning from her
window she called: "What is it, John? What has happened?" But he was
already too far on his way back to the barn to hear her.

A terrible presentiment shot into her mind of some ill to Wilhelm.
Vainly she wrestled with it. Why need she think everything that happened
must be connected with him? It was not yet light; she could not have
slept many minutes. With trembling hands she dressed, and running
swiftly down the stairs was at the door just as her father appeared
there.

"What is it? What is it, father?" she cried. "What has happened?"

"Go back!" he said in an unsteady voice. "It is nothing. Go back to bed.
It is not for vimmins!"

Then Carlen was sure it was some ill to Wilhelm, and with a loud cry she
darted to the barn, and flew up the stairway leading to his room.

John, hearing her steps, confronted her at the head of the stairs.

"Good God, Carlen!" he cried, "go back! You must not come here. Where is
father?"

"I will come in!" she answered wildly, trying to force her way past
him. "I will come in. You shall not keep me out. What has happened to
him? Let me by!" And she wrestled in her brother's strong arms with
strength almost equal to his.

"Carlen! You shall not come in! You shall not see!" he cried.

"Shall not see!" she shrieked. "Is he dead?"

"Yes, my sister, he is dead," answered John, solemnly. In the next
instant he held Carlen's unconscious form in his arms; and when Farmer
Weitbreck, half dazed, reached the foot of the stairs, the first sight
which met his eyes was his daughter, held in her brother's arms,
apparently lifeless, her head hanging over his shoulder.

"Haf she seen him?" he whispered.

"No!" said John. "I only told her he was dead, to keep her from going
in, and she fainted dead away."

"Ach!" groaned the old man, "dis is hard on her."

"Yes," sighed the brother; "it is a cruel shame."

Swiftly they carried her to the house, and laid her on her mother's
bed, then returned to their dreadful task in Wilhelm's chamber.

Hung by a stout leathern strap from the roof-tree beam, there swung the
dead body of Wilhelm RГјtter, cold, stiff. He had been dead for hours; he
must have done the deed soon after bidding them good-night.

"He vas mad, Johan; it must be he vas mad ven he laugh like dat last
night. Dat vas de beginning, Johan," said the old man, shaking from head
to foot with horror, as he helped his son lift down the body.

"Yes!" answered John; "that must be it. I expect he has been mad all
along. I do not believe last night was the beginning. It was not like
any sane man to be so gloomy as he was, and never speak to a living
soul. But I never once thought of his being crazy. Look, father!" he
continued, his voice breaking into a sob, "he has left these flowers
here for Carlen! That does not look as if he was crazy! What can it all
mean?"

On the top of a small chest lay the bunch of white Ladies'-Tress, with a
paper beneath it on which was written, "For Carlen Weitbreck, - these,
and the carvings in the box, all in memory of Wilhelm."

"He meant to do it, den," said the old man.

"Yes," said John.

"Maybe Carlen vould not haf him, you tink?"

"No," said John, hastily; "that is not possible."

"I tought she luf him, an' he vould stay an' be her mann," sighed the
disappointed father. "Now all dat is no more."

"It will kill her," cried John.

"No!" said the father. "Vimmins does not die so as dat. She feel pad
maybe von year, maybe two. Dat is all. He vas great for vork. Dat Alf
vas not goot as he."

The body was laid once more on the narrow pallet where it had slept for
its last few weeks on earth, and the two men stood by its side,
discussing what should next be done, how the necessary steps could be
taken with least possible publicity, when suddenly they heard the sound
of horses' feet and wheels, and looking out they saw Hans Dietman and
his wife driving rapidly into the yard.

"Mein Gott! Vat bring dem here dis time in day," exclaimed Farmer
Weitbreck. "If dey ask for Wilhelm dey must all know!"

"Yes," replied John; "that makes no difference. Everybody will have to
know." And he ran swiftly down to meet the strangely arrived neighbors.

His first glance at their faces showed him that they had come on no
common errand. They were pale and full of excitement, and Hans's first
word was: "Vere is dot man you sent to mine place yesterday?"

"Wilhelm?" stammered Farmer Weitbreck.

"Wilhelm!" repeated Hans, scornfully. "His name is not 'Wilhelm.' His
name is Carl, - Carl Lepmann; and he is murderer. He killed von
man - shepherd, in our town - last spring; and dey never get trail of
him. So soon he came in our kitchen yesterday my vife she knew him; she
wait till I get home. Ve came ven it vas yet dark to let you know vot
man vas in your house."

Farmer Weitbreck and his son exchanged glances; each was too shocked to
speak. Mr. and Mrs. Dietman looked from one to the other in
bewilderment. "Maype you tink ve speak not truth," Hans continued.
"Just let him come here, to our face, and you will see."

"No!" said John, in a low, awe-stricken voice, "we do not think you are
not speaking truth." He paused; glanced again at his father. "We'd
better take them up!" he said.

The old man nodded silently. Even his hard and phlegmatic nature was
shaken to the depths.

John led the way up the stairs, saying briefly, "Come." The Dietmans
followed in bewilderment.

"There he is," said John, pointing to the tall figure, rigid, under the
close-drawn white folds; "we found him here only an hour ago, hung from
the beam."

A horror-stricken silence fell on the group.

Hans spoke first. "He know dat we know; so he kill himself to save dat
de hangman have trouble."

John resented the flippant tone. He understood now the whole mystery of
Wilhelm's life in this house.

"He has never known a happy minute since he was here," he said. "He
never smiled; nor spoke, if he could help it. Only last night, after he
came back from your place, he laughed and sang, and was merry, and
looked like another man; and he bade us all good-night over and over,
and shook hands with every one. He had made up his mind, you see, that
the end had come, and it was nothing but a relief to him. He was glad to
die. He had not courage before. But now he knew he would be arrested he
had courage to kill himself. Poor fellow, I pity him!" And John smoothed
out the white folds over the clasped hands on the quiet-stricken breast,
resting at last. "He has been worse punished than if he had been hung in
the beginning," he said, and turned from the bed, facing the Dietmans as
if he constituted himself the dead man's protector.

"I think no one but ourselves need know," he continued, thinking in his
heart of Carlen. "It is enough that he is dead. There is no good to be
gained for any one, that I see, by telling what he had done."

"No," said Mrs. Dietman, tearfully; but her husband exclaimed, in a
vindictive tone:

"I see not why it is to be covered in secret. He is murderer. It is to
be sent vord to Mayence he vas found."

"Yes, they ought to know there," said John, slowly; "but there is no
need for it to be known here. He has injured no one here."

"No," exclaimed Farmer Weitbreck. "He haf harm nobody here; he vas goot.
I haf ask him to stay and haf home in my house."

It was a strange story. Early in the spring, it seemed, about six weeks
before Hans Dietman and his wife Gretchen were married, a shepherd on
the farm adjoining Gretchen's father's had been murdered by a
fellow-laborer on the same farm. They had had high words about a dog,
and had come to blows, but were parted by some of the other hands, and
had separated and gone their ways to their work with their respective
flocks.

This was in the morning. At night neither they nor their flocks
returned; and, search being made, the dead body of the younger shepherd
was found lying at the foot of a precipice, mutilated and wounded, far
more than it would have been by any accidental fall. The other
shepherd, Carl Lepmann, had disappeared, and was never again seen by any
one who knew him, until this previous day, when he had entered the
Dietmans' door bearing his message from the Weitbreck farm. At the first
sight of his face, Gretchen Dietman had recognized him, thrown up her
arms involuntarily, and cried out in German: "My God! the man that
killed the shepherd!" Carl had halted on the threshold at hearing these
words, and his countenance had changed; but it was only for a second. He
regained his composure instantly, entered as if he had heard nothing,
delivered his message, and afterward remained for some time on the farm
chatting with the laborers, and seeming in excellent spirits.

"And so vas he ven he come home," said Farmer Weitbreck; "he make dat ve
all laugh and laugh, like notings ever vas before, never before he open
his mouth to speak; he vas like at funeral all times, night and day. But
now he seem full of joy. It is de most strange ting as I haf seen in my
life."

"I do not think so, father," said John. "I do not wonder he was glad to
be rid of his burden."

It proved of no use to try to induce Hans Dietman to keep poor Carl's
secret. He saw no reason why a murderer should be sheltered from
disgrace. To have his name held up for the deserved execration seemed to
Hans the only punishment left for one who had thus evaded the hangman;
and he proceeded to inflict this punishment to the extent of his
ability.

Finding that the tale could not be kept secret, John nerved himself to
tell it to Carlen. She heard it in silence from beginning to end, asked
a few searching questions, and then to John's unutterable astonishment
said: "Wilhelm never killed that man. You have none of you stopped to
see if there was proof."

"But why did he fly, Liebchen?" asked John.

"Because he knew he would be accused of the murder," she replied. "They
might have been fighting at the edge of the precipice and the shepherd
fell over, or the shepherd might have been killed by some one else, and
Wilhelm have found the body. He never killed him, John, never."

There was something in Carlen's confident belief which communicated
itself to John's mind, and, coupled with the fact that there was
certainly only circumstantial evidence against Wilhelm, slowly brought
him to sharing her belief and tender sorrow. But they were alone in this
belief and alone in their sorrow. The verdict of the community was
unhesitatingly, unqualifiedly, against Wilhelm.

"Would a man hang himself if he knew he were innocent?" said everybody.

"All the more if he knew he could never prove himself innocent," said
John and Carlen. But no one else thought so. And how could the truth
ever be known in this world?

Wilhelm was buried in a corner of the meadow field he had so loved.
Before two years had passed, wild blackberry vines had covered the grave
with a thick mat of tangled leaves, green in summer, blood-red in the
autumn. And before three more had passed there was no one in the place
who knew the secret of the grave. Farmer Weitbreck and his wife were
both dead, and the estate had passed into the hands of strangers who had
heard the story of Wilhelm, and knew that his body was buried somewhere
on the farm; but in which field they neither asked nor cared, and there
was no mourner to tell the story. John Weitbreck had realized his dream


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