Ursula Zöge von Manteuffel.

Violetta; a romance after the German of Ursula Zöge von Manteuffel online

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Oh, this was a strange day ! He could not escape ;
he was bound magnetically by double chains. His
heart was sore with the vain struggle to throw off
these fetters, and meanwhile he played his part, talked,
made answer, and was, as her beautiful Excellency
expressed it, ' extremely sympathetic'

First two high hunting-wagons full of chatting,
laughing, beckoning dames and cavaliers drew up
before the villa.

They went out. Her Excellency Beatrice was
greeted with enthusiasm. They begged her to join
the party, and she was ready. The general lifted her
into the first vehicle, and sprang up beside her. Then
Prince Branco's four-in-hand came rushing up, and a
whole cavalcade of ladies and gentlemen. Treffen-
bach knew that he with his protegee was to join
this. Montresor was led up. Magnus himself lifted
Violetta into the saddle, and advised her to ride on the


left side of the road, on account of the dust. "Whither
they were to ride he had forgotten, nor did he care.
Violetta was very gay and joyous, but her jests
and laughter pained him. They reminded him of
her mother. Her sprightly nonsense filled him with
horror to-day.

The entire party assembled upon a wooded height.
Carriages and horses remained below. The servants
carried up in hampers all that was requisite for a
correct dejeuner ä la fourchette. They sat beneath
the trees. Some admired the view ; others insisted
that there was a ruin in the neighborhood, and that
it was a duty to explore it. Of course her Excel-
lency von Treflenbach was soon the ruling spirit of
the assembly. Prince Branco built her a kind of
throne of cushions and rugs, whereon she sat in
state, a glass of champagne in one hand, a biscuit
in the other. Her attention was given chiefly to the
Prince, who was positively revivified, and took fresh

There was no end to the talk, song, and laughter.
Music added its strains, and a band of gypsies ap-
peared, and sent their ambassador to ask whether
they should not tell the fortunes of the lords and
ladies. Amid shouts of laughter it was discovered
that these gypsies were a part of the company dis-
guised. The youngest lieutenant made a charming
gjrpsy queen in a red petticoat and a large turban.
The mirth and jollity reached their height when, with
his eyes bound, he was compelled to unveil the future
for each of the party. Wonderful things wore fore-
told, and at every fresh revelation the laughter in-
creased. At last Violetta could laugh no longer;
Bhe was tired out with gaj^ety. She came and sat



down beside Treffenbach upon a foiled tree. It was
a refreshment to look at his grave face, and she
whispered to him, "Ah, my dear Magnus, this has
been too gay and merry; I do not know where I
shall find the strength to ride home."

" Then drive home."

" Oh, no," she whispered, with a startled look ;
" there is no room except in the Prince's carriage."

The heat of the day had subsided when all made
ready for the homeward way. The day had been a
vari-coloured chaos for Magnus ; and this homeward
ride was spectral, unreal. Violetta could not ride
very quickly, and every one seemed to think it quite
natural that Baron Treffenbach should stay beside her.
Twilight was approaching, and all the voices, the
rumble of carriage-wheels, the whinnying of horses,
passed them by and died away in the distance, and
the evening light brooded calm and tinged with gold
over the meadows. The larks that had trilled high
overhead in the morning were mute ; a thrush piped
softly in the bushes by the wayside, and in the dis-
tance a nightingale was beginning to sing. Yioletta
sat quiet, as if lost in dreams ; she was not troubled
by the persistent silence of her companion. Like her-
self, he doubtless sought repose after the bustle of the
day. She did not surmise the unrest of his soul, — how
his head ached and throbbed, and his thoughts pursued
the same unvarying round.

When she turned her clear glance towards him, he
felt the force of the sweet, subtle charm assert itself
irresistibly, — his heart pleaded wildly for its rights:
' Eesign yourself utterly. Forget all other consider-
ations. It is too late for any such !' But he turned
deaf ears to this voice as to a beguiling temptation,


and called to his aid the memory of a dim, quiet room,
and of another voice that had once told him the story
of the captive king beneath the waters of the lake,
and that had whispered with its last failing strength,
'Always be what you are now. Never be afraid to
flee from temptation. You will test the glittering
gold and be sure that it is pure refined metal; that
she is good and true, and worthy to be the mistress of

Ever more and more distinctly these words, at first
faint and shadowy, rang in his ears. His mother's
image arose before his mental vision. Ho shuddered,
and as he looked abi'oad over field and fell, all nature
seemed to take on a gray ghostly hue.

Magnus Treffenbach could never carry homo a Vio-
lotta Fouquet to the old house where his mother had
lived. Impossible I

This thought had been so foreign to his mind that
it had not occurred to him before. He loved her —
ah, now first he knew how truly, how passionately,
with what delicious pain ! But there was that within
him that was stronger than this flame : his pride, his
egotism. These were not the names he gave it. Even
supposing that he could be insane enough to offer her
his name, what place was there for her in his home ?
She was not made for an idyl upon the shore of that
calm, flower-strewn lake. She would perish in that
solitude like a rose in the desert.

Thus pt'ide excused its cruelty. And still the tor-
tured heart pleaded, ' Oh, grant me my rights I She
is so young, so gentle ; she will adapt herself to every-

She ? Never ! True, she is still young and gentle, but
what will she bo in the future ? She has her mother's


voice, her eyes, her nature ; fancy presenting yourself
beside that calm death-bed with Yioletta Fouquet, the
trained ballet-girl, the daughter of an actress, and
saying to your mother, ' Here is the future mistress
of Velzin, my wife.'

The struggle ended. Treffenbach passed his hand
across his brow and turned to his companion. As their
eyes met, something that had lived and shone in his
seemed extinguished.

" How silent you are !" Violetta said, smiling, touch-
ing her horse with her whip, so that it paced close
beside her companion's. " Are you thinking of this
lovely, peaceful summer evening ?"

"No," he replied, with an effort. "I was think-
ing of the future."

" Ah ? "What are you going to do in the future ?"
she asked, curiously.

Every word that he now uttered cost him a struggle,
and yet it must be said. It would be like signing and
sealing a document. " I have received a notice to re-
port myself as Secretary of Legation in Rio de Ja-
neiro, — that is what I must do."

At first she looked puzzled, then she asked, in dis-
may, " Go to America ?"

" Yes."

" Oh, that is nonsense I You are only jesting," she
said, confidently.

" Most certainly not. Before I came to Teplitz I
had determined to go."

" That is not true ! That is not true !"

" It is true !"

She looked at him, and her eyes filled with tears.
" You will not so grieve your father ; oh, no, you can-
not ?" she pleaded, in a trembling voice.


" I am afraid I must. Yioletta, we must not yield
to such considerations when real interests are at stake.
My father knows this. The six weeks that we have
passed together have been — very pleasant, but they
were holidays. The declaration, ' no more separations
as long as we live,' cannot really be fulfilled. Oh, my
child, do not cry so !" he interrupted himself, passion-
ately ; " do not use this means to — turn me from my
duty. I must go back to my work, and you — when I
see you again you will be married, and my father —
believe me — he does not need us both I"

He forced his horse up close beside her so that ho
could take from her eyes the hand that covered them
and search their depths to see whether those hot tears
were shed for him. Had they been so shed, perhaps his
resolution would have yielded, and the bulwai'k of his
arrogance and Pharisaic pride would have crumbled
beneath the omnipotence of love ; but no ! These
were the tears of a child, and her grief was that of
an unselfish child, as she sobbed forth reproachfully,
"Oh, it is wrong, very, very wrong! It will bi'eak
his heart. Oh, what shall I do? I dread the fu-
ture !"

" And so do I, Yioletta. A desolate future lies be-
fore me, but I must be strong to go forth to meet it, —
to labour and to struggle, resisting the allurements
and temptations of the world."

She dined her tears, still murmuring, "Your poor
father ; it is not right, Magnus, it is not right."

He talked seriously and conclusively to her, speak-
ing like a man instructing a child. Ho talked of duty,
of labour, of what life requires of us. She listened in
silence. From time to time a sob shook her delicate
frame, and once she dropped the bridle and clasped


her arms about the horse's neck, murmuring, " Oh, I
am afraid ! I am afraid !"

Of what ? She did not herself know. It seemed to
her that if he went away a heavy burden must fall
upon her, — a burden not too heavy for his strong shoul-
ders, but beneath which she should be crushed. And
this burden was life.

Thus they rode through the darkening shadows,
and to both the lovely landscape around them looked
changed, grimly distorted.

"When they reached the villa, they heard from
within the laughing voices of those who had arrived
before them. Treifenbach dismounted in silence to
lift his companion from her horse. " Good-night, Vio-
letta," he said, in a low tone.

She was standing on the veranda steps. For a mo-
ment she hesitated, and then she threw her arms about
him as once before, and whispered, with a world of
caressing entreaty in her voice, " Oh, stay, stay, stay !
Do not leave us I I beg, I implore you as my brother !"

He did not now thrust her from him. Trembling
with agitation, he gently loosened her clasping arms
and put them from him ; his voice was not harsh, out
full of pain, as he said, almost inaudibly, " Violetta,
Violetta ! do not tempt me beyond my strength. You
beg me to stay, but it is from you, you that I must flee,
— you who make my father's home mine no more
forever. Can you understand this, child? No, no,
you cannot!"

With a profound sigh, he turned, took both horses
by their bridles, and slowly walked away.

At some distance from the villa he looked back, and
through the darkness could still perceive a dark figure
leaning against the balustrade of the veranda. Yes,


he even fancied that he could see the pale, reproachful
little face, which he felt must haunt his memory all
throui{h his future life.


ravenhorst's 'tounq master'

"Oh, yes, it was to be. I always said my Fräulein
would be sure to marry a Count and be a Countess
like her blessed mother. I am sure ever}'^ one could
see it just to look at her."

Thus spoke Doris, the old housekeeper at Eaven-
horst, as she was walking through the suite of rooms
in the second story of the old mansion, feather-duster
in hand, making sure that everything was in readi-
ness for the young couple to be installed here. The
windows were wide open everywhere, and a soft, deli-
cious air was wafted through the rooms, whence there
was a charming view, over and beyond the trees on
the tei-race, of a wide stretch of country. This story
had been occupied by Marie Louise's parents during
their brief married life, and everything had remained
in its old order, — the pictui'es on the walls, the furni-
ture, the bi'ic-a-brac on tables and shelves, which
Fran Doris had dusted so carefully, — nothing had been
changed. The housekeeper passed into the next room,
the one devoted specially to the 'young master.' Hero
the fine collection of weapons, the stuffed eagle over
the book-case, the turning-lathe, and a cabinet of min-
erals, all bore witness to the tastes of its former owner,


the young Herr von Plattow. In the adjoining study
and smoking-room the walls were lined with books.
An oaken writing-table, a reclining-chair covered with
a panther-skin, a large fireplace, and a pipe-rack, about
which Frau Doris's feather-brush fluttered persistently,
made this room look very comfortable. Here the future
master might smoke his dozen Havanas daily without
fearing to spoil the curtains, for the hangings had been
chosen by Grandmamma Plattow with magnanimous
consideration, and were covered with a tracery of
brown that looked like wreaths of smoke.

Frau Doris wiped away a tear as she gazed around
her. Twenty-five years ago she had aired these rooms,
when everything was fresh and new, and when she
was expecting a young couj)le for whom she prayed
for health, happiness, and a long life.

The old woman became aware that she was no
longer alone. Frau von Plattow had come up, and
was standing in the door-way, lost in memories of her
son so early lost, and of her lovely daughter-in-law.

" Everything looks as it should, Doris. Marie Louise
will be glad to find nothing changed. Her mother's
papers and books are still on the writing-table just as
she left them. I have been thinking whether we
might not put some flowers in the rooms. You know,
Doris, my daughter-in-law, the dear child, always had
her drawing-room filled with flowers, and every morn-
ing she put one in my son's buttonhole."

" Yes ; and the young master wore it all day long,
and thought it a great grief to lose it."

" They were so young and happy." And the old
lady sighed.

" Madame will allow me to say that I like the young
Count, too, very much. He has such a kindly look in


his eyes. Noav, Baron Magnus has known ine since
ho was a boy, and he was always very polite to me,
but very formal. But the Herr Count took my hand
in both his, and called me ' my dear Doris.' Oh, he is
a pleasant gentleman ! And our Fräulein, — she suits
him. Yes, yes! But flowers? No, I would not put
them in her room. She is not used to them. She
isn't like other girls, who think of nothing but their
birds and rose-bushes. Our Fräulein has better things
to think of, and we must remember it. It is not given
to every one to remain a child while life lasts, like our
blessed young mistress now above."

Doris was privileged, and always had a word to say
in defence of her young mistress when her grand-
mother looked so anxious, and Frau von Plattow lis-
tened gladl}'. She would hope for the best. So she
nodded to the old woman standing there smoothing
down her white apron and eager to praise her young
mistress, and went down-stairs to join her husband on
the terrace, where he was waiting impatiently for the
arrivals. They might come now at any moment.

A week before, a very quiet Avedding had bestowed
upon Count Armin Hess the beautiful and much-cov-
eted hand of Marie Louise von Plattow, a fact that
surprised no one so much as it did himself. During
the period of his betrothal he had paid but one visit
to Eavenhorst, having been intrusted with some im-
portant diplomatic business which could not be neg-
lected. At last, in Sei^tember, he was free, — free for-
ever, — and was determined to see his betrothed, to
solve the problem in which ho was so interested. It
was not enough for him to possess her hand, he must
win her heart. But she wrote to him with a com-
posure that looked almost business-like, 'My grand-


230 VlöLETTA

parents Lave fixed upon the 18th for our marriage, be-
cause it is the anniversary of the wedding-day of my
parents. This is perfectly agreeable to me, if you
have no objection to suggest.'

Of course he had no objection, but he could not
reach Eavenhorst until the 17th.

They had exchanged but few letters. Hess was a
miserable correspondent, as Marie Louise knew from
her cousin Magnus, who had frequently complained
of the impossibility of any written intercourse with
his best friend. She was reasonable and not exacting,
and he, — with the best will in the world he really
would hardly have known what to write to a betrothed
whom he scarcely knew, and whose acceptance of his
proposal had been won he scarcely knew how.

And yet the thought of her had an inexpressible
charm for him, — the charm of mystery, of inscruta-
bility. From the first moment he had felt that she
was his destiny, from which he could not escape, and
did not w^ish to escape. He calmly waited for its

And so he came to Eavenhorst, and the marriage
was celebrated. The aged pastor performed the cere-
mony in the beautiful Eavenhorst church which Marie
Louise, upon coming of age, had had restored. The
old pastor had baptized her father fifty years before,
and his voice was choked with emotion as he thought
of the trials that the family had undergone since then.
Armin Hess was very tender-hearted. His own eyes
grew moist at sight of the old man's agitation, and
this won him old Frau von Plattow's heart forever.
Marie Louise was less charmed by this evidence of
feeling upon the part of her betrothed. It is always
incongruous when bride and bridegroom exchange


characteristics. She felt that she ought to atone for
his weakness, and she stood before the altar a perfect
statue of marble, glittering like ice from head to foot
in stiff, shining silk, her gold-gleaming hair hidden be-
neath her white veil, her lovely Greek face as white
as alabaster, — indeed, its pallor was almost terrifying.
For to Marie Louise this step in her life was gravely
important. All the struggles, all the decisive moments
that had preceded this day, passed in review before her
mind. She examined herself seriously, to be sure that
she had nothing with which to reproach herself, — that
she had acted conscientiously for the best. Her con-
science was easy. Even an enemy could not accuse her
of giving her consent with giddy haste or blinded by
passion. No indeed. She had rejected many suitors
because she really did not wish to marry. She
thought she owed this to Ti-effenbach. When his
friend appeared, recommended by Magnus himself.
Count Hess could not have been more surjirised by her
consent than she was by his proposal. But it came
as if providentially, just at a time when she was more
than ever conscious that Ravenhorst needed a master.
There had remained with her a dim remembrance of a
handsome, taciturn man who would sit and listen for
an hour at a time when she was talking with Magnus,
who was kindly attentive to her grandparents, whoso
face wore in her memorj^ an inquiring, investigating
expression, and whose dark blue eyes rested search-
ingly upon her. Marie Louise was so entirely free
from vanity that it never occurred to her that her
rare beauty could be the object of this study. She
supposed, 'He is one of those who do not find the
world content them, who long for repose and seclusion,
who ponder the serious problems of the age and feel


themselves drawn to us who have learned to discuss
them.' The man had interested her formerly, and this
interest was roused afresh. She pondered, considered,
struggled with her pride that was loath to sacrifice
her freedom, and gave her consent upon the same con-
ditions that she had formerly proposed to Treffenbach.

And now she trembled as the old pastor pronounced
the words of the Lutheran service : ' And ho shall be
thy master!'

Her master? Never! Marie Louise von Plattow
recognizes no earthly master. Could not that feeble
old man find words in Holy Writ that signified ' I give
thee a helpmeet' ?

For let him be what he might, in the end he would
be what she who ruled every one chose to make
him. But how if he should not be the right one?
The thought brought with it a shock of terror, A
silly phrase which she had once heard from Ehona
Bellwitz occurred to her: 'Marriage is a lottery,'
When she heard it she had turned away indignantly ;
now it fell heavy on her heart. She had staked her
all upon a single number. Even now the fateful wheel
was turning. What would her prize be ? Or should
she draw a blank ?

When this sudden doubt assailed her she grew not
only as white but as cold as marble. Her heart
seemed to stand still. But this did not last. The
man whom Magnus Treffenbach called friend could
not but be her friend also.

It was arranged that the j^oung couple should go to
the Ehine, Count Armin wished to pi-esent his wife
to his mother, whose state of health had prevented
her presence at his marriage, and Marie Louise had
agreed that it should be so.


Coldly and calmly she liad entered the travelling-
carriage, and as coldly and calmly she descended from
it to-day when it drew up before the house.

" Welcome, dear children !" cried Frau von Plattow,
going with outstretched arms to meet the pair.

Count Hess subniitted quietly to the old lady's ma-
ternal embrace. He even stooped down that he might
be patted on the shoulder and kissed on the cheek,
remarking to his young wife as he did so, "Look,
Molly ; this is the way to do it."

She passed him with a proud glance and a shrug,
and went up to present her cheek to be kissed by her

All the old servants were assembled, Frau Doris at
their head in a high muslin cap and armed with a
formal congratulatory speech. Between their ranks
the bride mounted the steps. Marie Louise von Plat-
tow had always presented a distinguished appearance
in her delicate, proud beauty, but as Countess Hess,
on the arm of her handsome husband, she looked posi-
tively queen-like.

The young people were led to their suite of rooms
by the grandparents and Frau Doris. Here the old
lady turned to her grandson-in-law, and again wel-
comed him, her voice trembling with emotion. Ho
took her hand and carried it to his lips : " You are too
kind to me, mamma dear; all I ask is your forbear-
ance, for I am no Magnus Treffenbach, only a very
commonplace fellow, and the honour done me by Mario
Louise in accepting me will forever be inexplicable to
me. Still, she has done it, and my love must atone for
what I lack otherwise."

As ho spoke ho looked at the young Countess. She
was standing at her writing-table, examining the



addresses of the letters that had arrived during her
absence. Her brows were contracted, her lips com-
pressed ; the expi-ession of her face was not encourag-
ing. She stayed where she was, whilst her husband
walked on through the rooms with Frau von Plattow
and admired and praised everything to please the old
lady. Truth to tell, he cared very little about the
rooms. In front of the endless array of books in his
study he paused, and with lifted brows began, as he
twisted his long moustache, to read over some of the
titles, — 'Culture of the Soil,' 'Cattle-breeding,' 'Forest-
laws,' ' Eotation of Crops,' ' Turnip-culture,' ' The Ap-
plication of Guano,' ' Our Breed of Sheep.' At last he
began to laugh. " Good heavens, is the learning of
an entire university necessary to keep a single estate
in order? And Marie Louise attends to it all en pas-
sant ! Admirable indeed !"

" "We have very excellent and experienced in-

" Ah, indeed ? that is well. I am an abominably
lazy dog, and it would be terrible to have to read all
these books."

" Oh, all that will come of itself, I am certain," the
old lady said, kindly ; " the principal consideration
is that you should learn to love us a little, and be
contented with us old people. My dear Armin, my
husband and I took a fancy to j'ou when we first
Icnew you, and I have always had a presentiment
that some day you would be very near to us. Now
the time has come when I can call you my dear son,
and I pray you to drop all formal modes of speech
and address us as you would your own father and

As she spoke she was deeply moved, and her emotion


was shared by the tender-hearted man, who kissed her
hand with, " A thousand thanks, mamma." The old
lady then rejoined her husband, and they went down-
stairs together.

As the glass door closed behind them, Count Hess
was seized with an irresistible desire to laugh. The
young husband had been exchanging assurances of
affection with the grandmother, whilst his lovely

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