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Gertrude's Marriage online

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2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].










"Really, Frank, if I were in your place I shouldn't know whether to
laugh or cry. It has always been the height of my ambition to have a
fortune left me, but as with everything in this earthly existence, I
should have my preferences.

"Upon my word, Frank, I am sorry for you. Here you are with an
inheritance fallen into your lap that you never even dreamed of, a sort
of an estate, a few hundred acres and meadows, a little woodland, a
garden run wild, a neglected dwelling-house, and for stock four
spavined Andalusians, six dried-up old cows, and above all an old aunt
who apparently unites the attributes of both horses and cows in her own
person. Boy, at least wring your hands or scold or do something of the
sort, but don't stand there the very picture of mute despair!"

Judge Weishaupt spoke thus in comic wrath to his friend Assessor
Linden, who sat opposite him. Before them on the table stood a bottle
of Rhine wine with glasses, and the eyes of the person thus addressed
rested on the empty bottle with a thoughtful expression, as if he could
read an answer on the label.

It was a large room in which they were sitting, a sort of garden-hall,
furnished very simply and in an old-fashioned style, with two birchen
corner-cupboards, which in our grandmother's time served the purpose of
the present elegant buffets, and which, instead of costly majolica,
displayed painted and gold-rimmed cups behind their glass doors;
with a large sofa, whose black horse-hair covering never for a
moment suggested the possibility of soft luxurious repose; with
six simply-constructed cane-seated chairs grouped about the large
table, and finally, with several dubious family portraits, among
which especially to be noted was the pastel portrait of a youthful
fair-haired beauty, whose impossibly small mouth wore an embarrassed
smile as if to say: "I beg you to believe that I did not really look so
silly as this!" And over all this bright orange-colored curtains shed a
peculiarly unpleasant light.

The door of the room was open and as if in compensation for all this
want of taste, a wonderful prospect spread itself out before the eye.
Lofty wooded mountain tops, covered with rich foliage which the autumn
frosts had already turned into brilliant colors, formed the background;
close by, the neglected garden, picturesque enough in its wild state,
and shimmering through the trees, the red pointed roofs of the village;
the whole veiled with the soft haze of an October morning, which the
rays of the sun had not yet dispersed. The regular strokes of the
flails on the threshing floors of the estate had a pleasant sound in
the clear morning air.

The young man's dark eyes strayed away from the wine-bottle; he started
up suddenly and went to the door.

"And in spite of all that, Richard, it is a charming spot," he said
warmly. "I have always had a great liking for North Germany. I assure
you 'Faust' is twice as interesting here, where the Brocken looks down
upon you. Don't croak so like an old raven any more, I beg of you. I
shall never forget Frankfort, but neither shall I miss it too much - I

"Heaven forbid!" cried the little man, still playing with the empty
wine-glass. "You don't pretend to say - "

But Linden interrupted him. "I don't pretend anything, but I am going
to try to be a good farmer, and I am going to do this, Richard, not
only because I must, but because I really like this queer old nest; so
say no more, old fellow."

"Well, good luck to you!" replied the other, coming up to his friend
and looking almost tenderly into the handsome, manly face.

"I have really nothing to say against this playing at farming if
I only know how and where. - You see, Frank, if I were not such a
poverty-stricken wretch, I would say to you this minute: 'Here, my boy,
is a capital of so much; now go to work and get the moth-eaten old
place into some kind of order.' Things cannot go on as they are.
But - well, you know - " he ended, with a sigh.

Frank Linden made no reply, but he whistled softly a lively air, as he
always did when he wished to drive away unpleasant thoughts.

"O yes, whistle away," muttered the little man, "it is the only music
you are likely to hear, unless it is the creaking of a rusty hinge or
the concert of a highly respectable family of mice which have settled
in your room - brr - Frank! Just imagine this lonely hole in winter - snow
on the mountains, snow on the roads, snow in the garden and white
flakes in the air! Good Heavens! What will you do all the long evenings
which we used to spend in the Taunus, in the Bockenheimer Strasse, or
in the theatre? Who will play euchre with you here? For whom will you
make your much-admired poems? I am sure they won't be understood in the
village inn. Ah, when I look at you and think of you moping here alone,
and with all your cares heavy upon you!"

He sighed.

"I will tell you something, Frank, joking aside," he continued. "You
must marry. And I advise you in this matter not to lay so much stress
on your ideal; pass over for once the sylph-like forms, liquid eyes and
sweet faces in favor of another advantage which nothing will supply the
place of, in our prosaic age. Don't bring me a poor girl, Frank, though
she were a very pearl of women. In your position it would be perfect
folly, a sin against yourself and all who come after you. It won't make
the least difference if your fine verses don't exactly fit her. You
wouldn't always be making poetry, even to the loveliest woman. O yes,
laugh away!"

He brushed the ashes from his cigar. "In Frankfort - if you had only
chosen - you might have done something. But you were quite dazzled by
that little Thea's lovely eyes. How often I have raged about it! When a
man has passed his twenty-fifth year he really ought to be more

Frank Linden was obstinately silent, and the little man knew at once
that he had as he used to say, "put his foot in it."

"Come, Frank, don't be cross," he continued, "perhaps there are rich
girls to be had here too."

"O to be sure, sir, to be sure," sounded behind him, "rich girls and
pretty girls; our old city has always been celebrated for them."

[Illustration: "Both gentlemen turned toward the speaker."]

Both gentlemen turned toward the speaker; the judge only to turn away
at once with an angry shrug, Frank Linden to greet him politely.

"I have brought the papers you wanted," continued the new-comer, a
little man over fifty with an incredibly small pointed face over which
a sweet smile played, a sanctimonious man in every motion and gesture.

"I am much obliged, Mr. Wolff," said Frank Linden, taking the papers.

"If there is anything else I can do for you - Miss Rosalie will testify
that I was always ready to help your late uncle."

"I am a perfect stranger here," replied the young squire, "it may be
that I shall require your help."

"I shall feel highly honored, Mr. Linden - Yes, and as I said before, if
you should want to make acquaintances in the city there are the
Tubmans, the Schenks, the Meiers and the Hellbours and above all the
Baumhagens - all rich and pleasant families, Mr. Linden. You will be
received with open arms, there's always a dearth of young men in our
little city. The gentlemen of the cavalry - you know, I suppose - only
want to amuse themselves - shall be only too glad in case you - "

The judge interrupted him with a loud clearing of his throat.

"Frank," he said, dryly, "what tower is that up there on the hill? You
were studying the map yesterday!"

"St. Hubert's Tower," replied the young man, going towards him.

"Belongs to the Baron von Lobersberg," interposed Wolff.

"That doesn't interest me in the least," muttered the judge, gazing at
the tower through his closed hand for want of a glass.

"I have the honor to bid you good-morning," said Wolff, "must go over
to Lobersberg."

The judge nodded curtly; Linden accompanied the agent to the door and
then came slowly back.

"Now please explain to me," burst out his friend, "where you picked up
that fellow - that rat, I should say, who pushes himself into your
society so impudently."

Frank Linden's dark eyes turned in astonishment to the angry
countenance of the judge.

"Why, Richard, he was my uncle's right-hand man, his factotum, and
lastly, he has something to say about my affairs, for unhappily, he
holds a large mortgage on Niendorf."

"That does not justify him in the impertinent manner which he displays
towards you," replied his friend.

"O my dear little Judge," said the young man in excuse, "he looks on me
as a newcomer, an ignoramus in the sacred profession of farming. You - "

"And I consider him a shady character! And some day, my dear boy, you
will say to me, 'Richard, God knows you were right about that man - the
fellow is a rascal.'"

"Do you know," cried Frank Linden, between jest and earnest, "I wish I
had left you quietly in your lodging in the Goethe-Platz. You will
spoil everything here for me with your gloomy views. Come, we will take
a turn through the garden; then, unfortunately, it will be time for you
to go to the station, if you wish to catch the Express."

He took the arm of his grumbling friend and drew him with him along the
winding path, on which already the withered leaves were lying.

"I am sure the fellow has a matrimonial agency somewhere," muttered the
judge, grimly.

As they turned the corner of the neglected shrubbery, they saw an old
woman slowly pacing up and down the edge of the little pond.

"For Heaven's sake!" began the little man again, "just look at that
figure, that cap with the monstrous black bow, that astonishing dress
with the waist up under the arms, and what a picturesque fashion of
wearing a black shawl - and, goodness! she has got a red umbrella. My
son, she probably uses it to ride out on the first of May - brr - and
that is your only companion!"

It was indeed a remarkable figure, the old woman wandering up and down
with as much dignity as if one of the faded pastel pictures in the
garden hall had suddenly come to life.

"Shall I call her?" asked Frank Linden, smiling.

"Heaven forbid!" cried the other. "This neighborhood of the Blocksberg
is really uncanny - your Mr. Wolff looks like Mephistopheles in person,
and this - well, I won't say what - she is really a serious charge for
you, Frank."

The wonderful figure had long since disappeared behind the bushes, when
the young man answered, abstractedly,

"You see things in too gloomy a light, Richard. How can this poor,
feeble old woman, almost on the verge of the grave, possibly be a
burden to me? She lives entirely shut up in her own room."

"But I will venture to say that she will be forever wanting something
of you. When she is cold the stove will be in fault, when she has
rheumatism you will have to shoot a cat for her. She will meddle in
your affairs, she will mislay your things, and will vex you in a
thousand ways. Old aunts are only invented to torment their fellow-men.
But no matter, make your own beer and drink it all down. But I think it
must be time to go, the Express won't wait."

Linden looked at his watch, nodded, and went hastily to the house to
order the carriage.

His friend followed him thoughtfully; at length he muttered a
suppressed, "Confound it! Such a splendid young fellow to sit and suck
his paws in this hole of a peasant village! What sort of a figure will
he cut among the rich proprietors of this blessed country? I wish
his old uncle had chosen anybody on earth for his heir, only not
_him_ - much as he pretends to like it. What a career he might have
made! And now he will just bury himself in this hole - confound
Niendorf! If I only had him at home in gay Frankfort - O - it is - "

A quarter of an hour later the friends were rolling towards the city in
a rather old-fashioned carriage. Behind them was the quiet little Harz
village, and before them rose the many-towered city.

They had not far to go; they reached their destination in an hour's
time, and the carriage stopped before the stately railroad station.
Silently as they had come they got the ticket and had the baggage
weighed, and Linden did not speak till they reached the platform.

"Greet Frankfort for me, Richard, and all my friends. Write to me when
you have time. See that I get my furniture and books soon, and many
thanks for your company so far."

The judge made a deprecating gesture. "I wish to Heaven I could take
you back with me, Frank," he said, in a softer tone. "You don't know
how I shall miss you. You know what a bad correspondent I am, you are
much better at writing than I, and you will have more time for it,
too - "

The whistle and the rumbling of the approaching train cut him short; in
another moment he was in a _coupé_.

"Good-bye, Frank - come nearer for a moment, old fellow - remember if you
are ever in any serious difficulty, write to me at once. If I should
not be able to help you myself - you know my sister is in good
circumstances - "

One more hand-shake, one more look into a pair of true, manly eyes, and
Frank Linden stood alone on the platform. He turned slowly away, and
walked towards his carriage. He had his foot on the step when he
bethought himself, and ordered the coachman to drive to the hotel, for
he had something to do in town.

He was so entirely under the influence of the uncomfortable feeling
which parting from a friend creates, that he took the road into town in
no very cheerful mood. On entering the city he turned aside and
followed a deserted path which led along the well-preserved old city
wall. He did not in the least know where he was going; he had nothing
to do here, he knew no one, but he must look about a little in the
neighboring town. It seemed, in fact, well entitled to its reputation
as an old German imperial city; the castle, with the celebrated
cathedral, towered up defiantly on the steep crags; several slender
church towers rose from out the multitude of red pointed roofs, and the
old wall, broken at regular intervals by clumsy square watch-towers,
surrounded the old town like a firm chain.

He took delight in the beautiful picture, and as he walked on his fancy
painted the magnificent imperial city waking out of its slumber of a
thousand years. After awhile he stopped and looked up to one of the
gray towers.

"Really it is almost like the Eschenheim Gate in Frankfort," he said
half aloud; "what wonderful springs the thoughts make!"

Suddenly he found himself back in the present; scarcely four weeks ago
he had passed through that beautiful gate, without dreaming that he
would so soon see its companion in North Germany. Like lightning out of
blue sky this inheritance which made him possessor of Niendorf had come
upon him. How it had happened to occur to his grandfather's old brother
to select _him_ out of the multitude of his relatives for his heir
still remained an unsolved problem, and he could only refer it to the
especial liking for his mother whom the eccentric old man had always
shown a preference for.

He had felt when he received the news as if a golden shower had fallen
into his lap; it is difficult living in a city of millionaires on the
salary of an assessor. And then - he had received a wound there in that
brilliant bewildering life, and the scar still made itself felt at
times - for instance when an elegant equipage dashed by him - black
horses with liveries of black and silver and on the light-gray cushions
a woman's figure, dark ostrich feathers waving above a face of marble
whiteness, the luxuriant gold brown hair fastened in a knot on the neck
and ah! looking so coldly at him out of her great blue eyes. After such
a meeting he felt depressed for days. "A milliner's doll, a heartless
woman," he called her bitterly, but he had once believed quite the
reverse a whole year long till one morning he saw her betrothal in the
paper. She married a banker who had often served as the butt of her
ridicule. But - he had a million!

Ah, how gladly had he gone out of her neighborhood, how rejoiced he had
been to turn his back on the great world, with what happiness he had
written to his mother and what had he found!

But no matter! The steward whom he had for the present seemed a capable
fellow; he would not spare himself in any respect and then - Wolff. He
could not understand what had set Weishaupt so against the man.

He had now been wandering for some time through the busiest streets of
the town. He asked for the hotel where his coachman was to wait for
him. He now entered the marketplace in the midst of which the statue of
Roland stands. A stately Rathhaus in the style of the Renaissance stood
on the western side of the square, and lofty elegant patrician houses
with pointed gables surrounded it; some adorned with bow-windows, some
with the upper stories overhanging till it seemed as if they must lose
their balance. Only two or three buildings were of later date, and even
in these care had been taken to preserve the mediaeval character.

Agreeably surprised, Linden stopped and his glance passed critically
over the front of the lofty building before which he had chanced to
pause. Three tall stories towered one above another; over the great
arched doorway rose a dainty bow-window which extended through all the
stories and stretched up into the blue October sky as a stately tower,
finished at the top with a weather-vane. The window in the _bel-etage_
was divided into small diamond panes - that was an "æsthetic" dwelling,
no doubt. In the second story rich lace curtains shimmered behind large
clear panes, and a very garden of fuchsias and pinks waved and nodded
from the plants outside. If a lovely girl's face would only appear
above them now, the picture would be complete.

But nothing of the kind was to be seen, and casting one more glance at
the artistic ironwork of the staircase, the attentive spectator turned
and crossed the market-place to the hotel in order to dine. As it was
already late he was the only guest in the spacious dining-room. He ate
his dinner with all speed, and began his wanderings through the streets

Behind the Rathhaus he plunged into a labyrinth of narrow streets and
alleys, then passing through an archway he entered unexpectedly a
square surrounded by tall linden trees half stripped of their leaves,
which, grave and solemn, seemed to be watching over a large church. It
seemed as though everybody was dead in this place; only a few children
were playing among the dry leaves, and an old woman limped into a sunny
corner, otherwise the deepest silence reigned.

A side door of the church stood open; he crossed over and entered into
the silent twilight of the sacred place; he took off his hat, and,
surprised by the noble simplicity of the building, he gazed at the
slender but lofty columns and the rich vaulting of the choir. Then he
walked down the middle aisle between the artistically carved stalls,
brown with age. He delighted in them, for he had the greatest
admiration for the beautiful forms of the Renaissance, and he was
doubly pleased, for he had not expected to find anything of the kind

Here he suddenly stopped; there at the font, above which the white dove
soared with outspread wings, he saw three women. Two of them seemed to
be of the lower class; the elder, probably the midwife, held the child,
tossing it continually; the other, in a plain black woollen dress and
shawl, a young matron, looked at the child with eyes red with weeping;
a third had bent down towards her; the sexton, who was pouring the
water into the basin, concealed her completely for the moment and
Linden saw only the train of a dark silk dress on the stone floor.

And now a soft flexible woman's voice sounded in his ear: "Don't cry
so, my good Johanna, you will have a great deal of comfort yet with the
little thing - don't cry!

"Engleman, you had better call the clergyman - my sister does not seem
to come, she must have been detained; we will not wait any longer."

The speaker turned towards the mother, and Frank Linden looked full
into the face of the young girl. It was not exactly beautiful, this
fine oval, shaded by rich golden brown hair; the complexion was too
pale, the expression too sad, the corners of the mouth too much drawn
down, but under the finely pencilled brows a pair of deep blue eyes
looked out at him, clear as those of a child, wistful and appealing,
as if imploring peace for the sacred rite.

It might often happen that strangers entered the beautiful church and
made a disturbance - at least so Frank Linden interpreted the look.
Scarcely breathing, he leaned against one of the old stalls, and his
eyes followed every movement of the slender, girlish figure, as she
took the child in her arms and approached the clergyman.

"Herr Pastor," sounded the soft voice, "you must be content with _one_
sponsor, for unfortunately my sister has not come."

The clergyman raised his head. "Then you might, Mrs. Smith - " he signed
to the elder woman.

Frank Linden stood suddenly before the font beside the young girl; he
hardly knew himself how he got there so quickly.

"Allow me to be the second sponsor," he said. - "I came into the church
by chance, a perfect stranger here; I should be sorry to miss the first
opportunity to perform a Christian duty in my new home."

He had obeyed a sudden impulse and he was understood. The gray-haired
clergyman nodded, smiling. "It is a poor child, early left fatherless,
sir," he replied. "The father was killed four weeks before its
birth - you will be doing a good work - are you satisfied?" he said,
turning to the mother. "Well then - Engelman, write down the name of the
godfather in the register."

"Carl Max Francis Linden," said the young man.

And then they stood together before the pastor, these two who a quarter
of an hour ago had had no knowledge of one another; she held the
sleeping child in her arms; she had not looked up, the quick flush of
surprise still lingered on the delicate face, and the simple lace on
the infant's cushion trembled slightly.

The clergyman spoke only a few words, but they sank deep into the
hearts of both. Linden looked down on the brown drooping head beside
him, the two hands rested on the infant's garments, two warm young
hands close together, and from the lips of both came a clear distinct
"Yes" in answer to the clergyman's questions. When the rite was ended,
the young girl took the child to its weeping mother and pressed a kiss
on the small red cheek, then she came up to Linden and her eyes gazed
at him with a mixture of wonder and gratitude.

"I thank you, sir," she said, laying her small hand in his for a
moment. "I thank you in the name of the poor woman - it was so good of

Then with a proud bend of her small head she went away, the heavy silk
of her dress making a slight rustling about her as she walked. She
paused a moment at the door in the full daylight and looked back at him
as he stood motionless by the font looking after her; it seemed as if
she bent her head once more in greeting and then she disappeared.

Frank Linden remained behind alone in the quiet church. Who could she
be who had just stood beside him? A slight jingling caused him to turn
round; the sexton was coming out of the sacristy with his great bunch
of keys.

"You want to shut up the church, my friend?" he said. "I am going now."
Then as if he had thought of something he came back a few steps. "Who
was the young lady?" was on his lips to ask, but he could not bring it
out, he only gazed at the glowing colors in the painted glass of the
lofty window.

"They are very fine," said the sexton, "and are always much admired;
that one is dated 1511, the Exodus of the children of Israel, a gift
from the Abbess Anna from the castle up there. They say she had a great

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