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slowly away. I felt sure he had given me up. The people began to come
out of the parlor, and I felt ready to cry with vexation, when I thought
that they would again be talking about me. It was true, I am afraid,
that I lacked courage.

"You want me to go away?" he said, fixing his eyes intently on me.

"O yes, if you only would," I said naïvely.

He looked so white and angry when he rose, that I sprang up and put out
my hand to stop him, and said hurriedly, "I only meant - that is - I
should think you would understand without my telling you. A woman cannot
bear to have people talk about her, and know who she likes and who she
doesn't. It kills me to have people talk about me. I'm not used to
society - I don't know what is right - but I don't think - I am afraid - I
ought not to have stayed in here and talked to you away from all the
others. It's that that makes me so uncomfortable. That, and Richard too.
For I know he doesn't like to have me pleased with any one. Do not go
away angry with me. I don't see why you do not understand."

My incoherent little speech had brought him to his senses.

"I am not going away angry," he said in a low voice, "I will promise not
to speak to you again to-night. Only remember that I have feelings as
well as Mr. Richard Vandermarck."

In a moment more I was alone. Richard did not come near me, nor seem to
notice me, as he passed through the hall. Presently Mr. Eugene Whitney
came in, and I was very glad to see him.

"Won't you take me to walk on the piazza?" I asked, for everybody else
was walking there. He was only too happy; and so the evening ended
commonplace enough.



She wanted years to understand
The grief that he did feel.


Love is not love
That alters where it alteration finds.

This was how the German class was formed.

The next day, as we were leaving the dinner-table, Mr. Langenau paused a
few moments by Sophie, in the hall, and talked with her about the boys.

"Charley gets on very well with his German," he observed, "but Benny
doesn't make much progress. He is too young to study much, and acquires
chiefly by the ear. If you only had a German maid, or if you could speak
with him yourself, he would make much better progress."

"Yes, I wish I had more knowledge of the language," she replied; "I read
it very easily, but cannot speak with any fluency."

"Why will you never speak it with me?" he said. "And if you will permit
me, I shall be very glad to read with you an hour a day. I have much
leisure, and it would be no task to me."

"I should like it very much, and you are very kind. But it is so hard
to find an hour unoccupied, particularly with so many people in the
house, whom I ought to entertain."

"That is very true, unless you can make it a source of entertainment to
them. Miss Benson - is she not a German scholar? She might like to
join you."

Then, I think, the clever Sophie's mind was illuminated, and the tutor's
little scheme was revealed to her clear eye; she embraced it with
effusion. "An admirable idea," she said, "and the others, too, perhaps,
would join us if you would not mind. It would be one hour a day at least
secure from _ennui:_ I shall have great cause to thank you, if we can
arrange it. For these girls get so tired of doing nothing; my mind is
always on the strain to think of an amusement. Charlotte! Come here, I
want to ask you something."

Charlotte Benson came, and with her came Henrietta. I was sitting on the
sofa between the parlor-doors, and could not help hearing the whole
conversation, as they were standing immediately before me.

"Mr. Langenau proposes to us to read an hour a day with him in German.
What do you think about it?"

"Charming," said Charlotte with enthusiasm. "I cannot think of anything
that would give me greater pleasure. Henrietta and I have read in German
together for two winters, and it will be enchanting to continue it with
such a master as Mr. Langenau."

Henrietta murmured her satisfaction, and then Charlotte rushed into
plans for the course, leaving me in despair, supposing I had been
forgotten. What place I was to find in such advanced society I could not
well imagine.

Mr. Langenau never turned his head in my direction, and talked with Miss
Benson with so much earnestness about the books into which they were to
plunge, that I could not convince myself that all this was undertaken
solely that he might teach me German. In a little while they seemed to
have settled it all to their satisfaction, and he had turned to go away.
My heart was in my throat. Mrs. Hollenbeck had not forgotten me. She
said something low to Mr. Langenau.

"Ah, true!" he said. "But does she know anything of German?" Then
turning to me he said, with one of his dazzling sudden glances, "Miss
d'Estrée, we are talking of making up a German class; do you understand
the language?"

"No," I said, meeting his eye for a moment, "I have only taken one
lesson in my life," and then blushed scarlet at my own audacity.

"Ah," said he, as if quite sorry for the disappointment, "I wish you
were advanced enough to join us."

Then Charlotte Benson, quite ignoring the interruption, began to ask him
about a book that she wanted very much to find. Mr. Langenau had it in
his room - a most happy accident, and there was a great deal said about
it. I again was left in doubt of my fate. Again Sophie interposed. "We
have forgotten Mary Leighton," she said, gently.

"Does Miss Leighton know anything of German?"

"Not a thing," said Henrietta.

"What does she know anything of, but flirting?" said Charlotte with
asperity, glancing out into the grounds where Kilian was murmuring
softest folly to her under her pongee parasol.

"Perhaps she'd like to learn," suggested Sophie. "She and Pauline might
begin together; that is, if Mr. Langenau would not think it too much
trouble to give them an occasional suggestion. And you, Charlotte, I am
sure, could help them a great deal."

Charlotte made no disguise of her disinclination to undertake to help

Mr. Langenau expressed his willingness so unenthusiastically, that I
think Mrs. Hollenbeck was staggered. I saw her glance anxiously at him,
as if to know what really he might mean. She concluded to interpret
according to the context, however, and went on.

"But it will be so much better for all to undertake it, if one does.
Suppose they try and see how it will work, either before or after
our lesson."

"_De tout mon coeur_," said Mr. Langenau, as if, however, his _coeur_
had very little interest in the matter.

"Well, about the hour?" said Charlotte, the woman of business; "we
haven't settled that after all our talking."

There was a great deal more, oh, a great deal more, and then it was
settled that five in the afternoon should be considered the German
hour - subject to alteration as circumstances should arise.

Mrs. Hollenbeck very discreetly ordered that a beginning should not be
made till the next day but one. "The gentlemen will all be here
to-morrow, and there may be something else going on." I knew very well
she was afraid of Richard, and thought he would not approve her zeal for
our improvement.

The first lesson was very dull work for me. It was agreed that Mary
Leighton and I should take our lesson after the others, sitting beside
them, however, for the benefit of such crumbs of information as might
fall to us.

Mr. Langenau took no special notice of me then, and very little that
was flattering when Mary Leighton and I began our lesson proper. Mrs.
Hollenbeck, Charlotte, and Henrietta took up their books and left, when
the infant class was called. I do not think Mr. Langenau took great
pains to make the study of the German tongue of interest to Miss
Leighton. She was unspeakably bored, and never even learned the
alphabet. She was very much unused to mental application, undoubtedly,
and was annoyed at appearing dull. There was but one door open to her;
to vote German a bore, and give up the class. She made her exit by that
door on the occasion of the second lesson, and Mr. Langenau and I were
left to pursue our studies undisturbed. The rendezvous was the piazza in
fine weather, and the library when it was damp or cloudy. The fidelity
with which the senior Germans gathered up their books and left, when
their hour was over, was mainly due to the kind thoughtfulness of Mrs.
Hollenbeck, who was always prompt, and always found some excuse for
carrying away Charlotte and Henrietta with her when she went.

It can be imagined what those hours were to me, those soft, golden
afternoons. Sometimes we took our books and went out under the trees to
some shaded seats, and sat there till the maid came out to call us in to
tea. Happy, happy hours in dreamland! But what peril to me, and perhaps
to him. It is vain to go over it all: it is enough that of all the happy
days, that hour from six o'clock till tea-time was the happiest: and
that with strange smoothness, day after day passed on without bringing
interruption to it. At six the others went to ride or walk; I was never
called, and did not even wonder at it.

All this time Richard had been going every day to town and coming back
by the evening train. It was pretty tiresome work, and he looked rather
pale and worn; but I believe he could not stay away. I sometimes felt a
little sorry when I saw how much he was out of spirits, but I was in
such a happy realm myself, it did not depress me long: in truth, I
forgot it when he was not actually before me, and sometimes even then.
"I do not think you are listening to what I say," he said to me one
night as he sat by me in the parlor. I blushed desperately, and tried to
listen better. Ah! how often it happened after that. I blush again to
think how much I pained him, and how silently he bore it all.

The last days of July were very busy ones in the Wall-street office, and
Richard did not give himself a holiday, till one Saturday, much to be
remembered, the very last day of the month. I recall with penitence,
the impatient feeling that I had when Richard told me he was going to
take the day at home. I felt intuitively that it would spoil it all for
me. After breakfast, we all played croquet, and then I shut myself into
my room with my German books, and selfishly saw no one till dinner. At
dinner I was excited and half frightened, as I always was when Mr.
Langenau and Richard were both present, and both watching me; it was
impossible to please either.

Something was said about the afternoon, and Richard (who all this time
knew nothing of the German class) said to me, evidently afraid of some
other engagement being entered on, "I hope you will drive with me,
Pauline, at five. I ordered the horses when I was down at the stables; I
think the afternoon is going to be fine." It was rather a public way of
asking one out of so many to go and take a drive; but in truth, Richard
was too honest and straightforward to care who knew what he was in
pursuit of, and too sore at heart and too indifferent an actor to
conceal it if he had desired. But the invitation struck me with such
consternation. At five o'clock! The flower and consummation of the day!
The hour that I had been looking forward to, since seven the day before.
I could not lose it. I would not go to drive. I hated Richard. I hated
going to drive. I grew very brave, and was on the point of saying that
I could not go, when I caught Sophie's eye. She made me a quick sign,
which I dared not disobey. I blushed crimson, and did not lift my eyes
again, but said in a low voice that I would go. Then my heart seemed to
turn to lead, and all the glory and pleasure of the day was gone. It
seemed to me of such vast importance, of such endless duration, this
penance that I was to undergo. O lovers! Foolish, foolish men and women!
I was like a child balked of its holiday; I wanted to cry - I longed to
get away by myself. I did not dare to look at any one.

Mr. Langenau excused himself, and left the table before the others went
away. As we were leaving the table, Sophie, passing close by me, said
quite low, "I would not say anything about the German class, Pauline.
And it was a great deal better that you should go; you know Richard has
not many holidays."

"Yes, but you don't give up all your pleasures for him," I thought, but
did not say.

I went quickly to my room, and saw no one till I came down-stairs at
five o'clock. I had on a veil, for my face was rather flushed, and my
eyes somewhat the worse for crying. Richard was waiting for me at the
foot of the stairs, and accompanied me silently to the wagon, which
stood at the door. As we passed the parlor I could see, on the east
piazza, Mr. Langenau and Charlotte already at their books. Both were so
engrossed that they did not look up as we went through the hall. For
that, Richard, poor fellow! had to suffer. I was too unreasonable to
comprehend that Mr. Langenau's absorbed manner was a covering for his
pique. It was enough torture to have to lose my lesson, without seeing
him engrossed with some one else, whose fate was happier than mine.
Perhaps, after all, he was fascinated by Charlotte Benson. She was
bright, clever, and understood him so well. She admired him so much. She
was, I was sure, half in love with him. (The day before I had concluded
she liked Richard very much.) That was a very disagreeable drive. I
complained of the heat. The sun hurt my eyes.

"We can go back, if you desire it," said Richard, with a shade of
sternness in his voice, stopping the horses suddenly, after two miles of
what would have been ill-temper if we had been married, but was now
perhaps only petulance.

"I don't desire it," I said, quite frightened, "but I do wish we could
go a little faster till we get into the shade."

After that, there was naturally very little pleasure in conversation. I
felt angry with Richard and ashamed of myself. For him, I am afraid his
feelings were very bitter, and his silence the cover of a sore heart. We
had started to take a certain drive; we both wished it over, I suppose,
but both lacked courage to shorten it, or go home before we were
expected. There was a brilliant sunset, but I am sure we did not see it:
then the clouds gathered and the twilight came on, and we were
nearly home.

"Pauline," said Richard, hoarsely, not looking at me, and insensibly
slackening the hold he had upon the reins; "will you let me say
something to you? I want to give you some advice, if you will listen
to me."

"I don't want anybody to advise me," I said in alarm, "and I don't know
what right you have to expect me to listen to you, Richard, unless it is
that I am your guest; and I shouldn't think that was any reason why I
should be made to listen to what isn't pleasant to me."

The horses started forward, from the sudden emphasis of Richard's pull
upon the reins; and that was all the answer that I had to my most
unjustifiable words. Not a syllable was spoken after that; and in a few
moments we were at the house. Richard silently handed me out; if I had
been thinking about him I should have been frightened at the expression
of his face, but I was not: I was only thinking - that we were at home,
and that I was going to have the happiness of meeting Mr. Langenau.



A nature half transformed, with qualities
That oft betrayed each other, elements
Not blent, but struggling, breeding strange effects
Passing the reckoning of his friends or foes.

_George Eliot_.

High minds of native pride and force
Most deeply feel thy pangs, remorse!
Fear for their scourge, mean villains have,
Thou art the torturer of the brave.


This was what Sophie had done: she had invoked forces that she could not
control, and she felt, as people are apt to feel when they watch their
monster growing into strength, a little frightened and a little sorry.
No doubt it had seemed to her a very small thing, to favor the folly of
a girl of seventeen, fascinated by the voice and manner of a nameless
stranger; it was a folly most manifest, but she had nothing to do with
it, and was not responsible; a very small thing to allow, and to
encourage what, doubtless, she flattered herself, her discouragement
could not have subdued. It was very natural that she should not wish
Richard to many any one; she was not more selfish than most sisters are.
Most sisters do not like to give their brothers up. She would have to
give up her home (one of her homes, that is,) as well. She did not think
Richard's choice a wise one: she was not subject to the fascination of
outline and coloring that had subjugated him, and she felt sincerely
that she was the best judge. If Richard must marry (though in thinking
of her own married life, she could not help wondering why he must), let
him marry a woman who had fortune, or position, or talent. Of course
there was a chance that this one might have money, but that would be
according to the caprice of a selfish old man, who had never been known
to show any affection for her.

But money was not what Richard wanted: his sister knew much better what
Richard wanted, than he knew himself. He wanted a clever woman, a woman
who would keep him before the world and rouse him into a little ambition
about what people thought of him. Sophie was disappointed and a little
frightened when she found that Richard did not give up the outline and
coloring pleasantly. She had thought he would be disillusionized, when
he found he was thrown over for a German tutor, who could sing. She had
not counted upon seeing him look ill and worn, and finding him stern and
silent to her; to her, of whom he had always been so fond. She found he
was taking the matter very seriously, and she almost wished that she had
not meddled with the matter.

And this German tutor - who could sing - well, it was strange, but he was
the worst feature of her Frankenstein, and the one at which she felt
most sorry and most frightened. Richard was very bad, to be sure, but he
would no doubt get over it: and if it all came out well, she would be
the gainer. As to "this girl for whom his heart was sick," she had no
manner of patience with her or pity for her.

"She must suffer: so do all;" she would undoubtedly have a hard future,
no matter to which of these men who were so absurd about her, Fate
finally accorded her: hard, if she married Richard without loving him
(nobody knew better than Sophie how hard that sort of marriage was);
hard, if she married the German, to suffer a lifetime of poverty and
ill-temper and jealous fury. But about all that, Sophie did not care a
straw. She knew how much women could live through, and it seemed to be
their business to be wretched.

But this man! And she could not gain anything by what he suffered, with
his dangerous nature, his ungovernable jealousy, his possibly involved
and unknown antecedents; what was to become of him, in case he could not
have this girl of whom six weeks ago he had not heard? A pretty
candidate to present to "mon oncle" of the Wall-street office, for the
hand of the young lady trusted to their hospitality - a very pretty
candidate - a German tutor - who could sing. If he took her, it was to be
feared he would have to take her without more dowry than some very heavy
imprecations. But could he take her, even thus? Sophie had some very
strange misgivings. This man was desperately unhappy: was suffering
frightfully: it made her heart ache to see the haggard lines deepening
on his face, to see his colorless lips and restless eyes. She was sorry
for him, as a woman is apt to be sorry for a fascinating man. And then
she was frightened, for he was "no carpet knight so trim," to whom
cognac, and cigars, and time would be a balm: this man was essentially
dramatic, a dangerous character, an article with which she was
unfamiliar. He was frantic about this silly girl: that was plain to see.
Why then was he so wretched, seeing she was as irrationally in love
with him?

"If it only comes out right," she sighed distrustfully many times a day.
She resolved never to interfere with anything again, but it came rather
late, seeing she probably had done the greatest mischief that she ever
would be permitted to have a hand in while she lived. She made up her
mind not to think anything about it, but, unfortunately for that plan,
she could not get out of sight of her work. If she had been a man, she
would probably have gone to the Adirondacks. But being a woman she had
to stay at home, and sit down among the tangled skeins which she had not
skill to straighten.

"If it only comes out right," she sighed again, the evening of that most
uncomfortable drive, "If it only comes out right." But it did not look
much like it.

I had gone directly in to tea, and so had Richard. Richard's face
silenced and depressed everybody at the table; and Mr. Langenau did
not come.

"There is going to be a terrible shower," said some one, and before the
sentence was ended, there was a vivid flash of lightning that made the
candles pale.

"How rapidly it has come up," said Sophie. "Was the sky black when you
came in, Richard?"

"I do not know," said Richard, and nobody doubted that he told the

"It had begun to darken before we came up from the river." said
Charlotte Benson. "The clouds were rising rapidly as we came in. It
will be a fearful tempest."

"Are the windows all shut?" said Sophie to the servant.

"I should think so," exclaimed Kilian. "The heat is horrid."

"Yes, it is suffocating," said Richard, getting up.

As he went out of the dining-room, some one, I think Henrietta, said,
"Well, I hope Mr. Langenau will get in safely; he was out on the river
when we were on the hill."

The storm was so sudden and so furious that everybody was concerned at
hearing this; even Kilian made some exclamation of alarm.

"Does he know anything about a boat?" he asked of Richard, who had
paused in the doorway, hearing what was said.

"I have no idea," said Richard, shortly, but he did not go away.

"It isn't the sail-boat that he has, of course," said Kilian,
thoughtfully. "He always goes out to row, I believe."

"Why, no," said Charlotte Benson, "he's in the sail-boat; don't you
remember saying, Henrietta, how bright the gleam of the sunset was on
the sail, and all the water was so dark?"

Kilian came to his feet very suddenly at these words.

"That's a bad business," he said quickly to his brother. "I've no idea
he can manage her in such a squall."

Sophie gave a little scream, and Charlotte and Henrietta both grew very
pale, as a frightful shock of thunder followed. The wind was furious,
and the unfastened shutters in various parts of the house sounded like
so many reports of pistols, and in an instant the whole force of the
rain fell suddenly and at once upon the windows. Somewhere some glass
was shattered, and all these sounds added to the sense of danger, and
the darkness was so great and so sudden, that it was difficult to
realize that half an hour before, the sunset could have whitened the
sails of a boat upon the river.

"I'm afraid it's too late to do much now," said Kilian, stopping in
front of his brother in the doorway.

"What's the use of talking in that way," returned Richard in a hoarse,
low voice. "If you hav'nt more sense than to talk so before women, you
can stay at home with them," he continued, striding across the hall, and
picking up a lantern that stood in a corner near the door. Charlotte
Benson caught up one of the candles from the table, and ran to him and
lit the lamp within the lantern. Sophie threw a cloak over Kilian's
shoulders, and Henrietta flew to carry a message to the kitchen. Richard
pulled a bell that was a signal to the stable (the stable was very near
the house), and in almost a moment's time two men, beside Kilian, were
following him out into the tempest. We saw their lanterns flicker for an
instant, and then they were swallowed up in the darkness. The fury of
the storm increased every moment. The flashes of lightning were but a
few seconds apart, and the roll of thunder was incessant. Every few
moments, above this continued roar, would come an appalling crash which
sounded just above our heads. The children were screaming with fear, the
servants had come into the hall and seemed in a helpless sort of panic.
Sophie was very pale and Mary Leighton clung hysterically to her.
Charlotte Benson was the only one who seemed to be self-possessed enough
to have done anything, if there had been anything to do. But there was

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Online LibraryMiriam Coles HarrisRichard Vandermarck → online text (page 6 of 16)