Can my wife make the maid blink

The second wife

[1]


Above the pond, high in the blue spring sky, hung a long and immobile dark point. The clear water was teeming with fish; it always lay there so lonely and defenseless, and the old giant trees, which were brought close to his mirror, could not help either when the gray-feathered thief, suddenly falling from the air, choked the silver-scaly life in the water to his heart's content. Today he did not dare to come down, because there were people there, big and small, and the little ones screamed and cheered so irrationally and threw their brightly colored balls at him in childish arrogance; Resting horses neighed and stamped the rubble, and clouds of smoke billowed through the treetops and rose up into the sky with twitching arms. Human noise and smoke - that was nothing for the insidious robber breaking in, nothing for the sailor of the crystal aether; disgruntled, the heron drew further and further circles and finally disappeared under a shrill children's hurrah so without a trace, as if his weighty body had blown and scattered.

On the left bank of the pond lay a fishing village - eight scattered houses, shaded by centuries-old linden trees, and so low that the thatched roofs just appeared between the lower tree branches. With their hats and nets on the walls, the narrow wooden benches by the door, and flanked on the south side by hawthorn and dog-roses, they rose gracefully from the white bank. Of course, one should not think of massive East Frisian fishermen figures, and it was also a good thing that the enormous park with its considerable forest stretches completely encompassed the residence behind it.2] covered - one believed in rural life and bustle until - one of the narrow front doors opened.

If the German prince had known that the harmless little Trianon should finally cost the head of the brilliant Queen of France, the fishing village would certainly never have been built; but he had not been of a prophetic spirit, and so the graceful replica had stood by the park pond for almost a hundred years - the most primitive idyll on the outside, and inside, caressing the most spoiled human being. The foot, on which the bank gravel hung, stepped directly on swelling carpets; thick silks glistened on the upholstered furniture and draped the walls, disappearing here and there under broad mirrors. Even if people outside were coquetted with poverty and simplicity to the point of happy delusion, one could not eat at the white-scoured tables, and still less rest from the sweet game on hard wooden benches.

The royal house, to one of which the fishing village owes its existence, has adhered since ancient times to the custom according to which every heir to the throne had to plant a linden tree at the age of eight. The meadow ground on the left bank of the pond, called the May Festival, had thus become a historical curiosity, a kind of ancestral table. Rarely had one of the prince trees perished - the May Festival had to show true splendid specimens; ancient warriors in ice-gray armor, they held up the mighty green shield, storming the sky, and protected the descendants and the weaklings, for they were there too, despite the consecration they had received - nature just doesn’t allow a coat of arms to be forced upon itself.

Today, in May, the important act for the Hereditary Prince Friedrich had come. Of course, the court and the loyal residence celebrated the day in the manner prescribed by the old house law. All the children of the courtly were invited; but the less fortunate, who did not have a five- or seven-pronged crown, went out with their parents to watch a real prince handle the spade. Behind the wagon-castle a crowd of people was hanging around on the path and footbridge, and the wild youth crouched in the trees, undoubtedly the most advantageous observation post.

The festival was also twofold. The father of the Hereditary Prince, the sovereign, had died eighteen months ago, and it was only today that the beautiful duchess-widow had given up the unusually long, deep mourning.

There it was, next to the trunk of the linden tree that had already been planted. Not for a moment did one remain in doubt that it was the ultimate authority. She was dressed in snow white; only in her belt was a pale dog rose, and from the red lining of the little parasol with which she shaded her uncovered head, a light pinkish glow fell over her face, over a fine, very short nose and lushly curved, if only faintly colored Lips. The conspicuously irregular lines under black hair that rises like a mane, the shadow that wrapped a delicate bluish tint around the eyes, and that waxy white, inanimate complexion, in which we nevertheless involuntarily have to think of great inner passion, gave the face the type of Spanish Creolin even if not a drop of blood from that race ran through the veins of the German princess.

She followed the circling heron with the same attention as the crowd of children who broke out into cheering hurray when it disappeared.

"You didn't scream again, Gabriel," said a little boy angrily to a taller one standing next to him, whose simple, white linen suit was strangely noticeable in the midst of the elegantly dressed children.

The person addressed was silent and his eyes searched the ground; this enraged the little one.

“Aren't you ashamed in front of the others, wretched boy? … On the spot you scream hurray! We call too! ”He ordered and encouraged at the same time.

The boy, dressed in white, turned his face away in fear. He made an appearance to leave his place - then the little one quickly raised his whip and hit him in the face.

The children scattered apart - for a moment the small, angry figure stood alone - an ideally beautiful child in an elegant green velvet suit, with magnificent brown curls, an image of strength and refinement; the hereditary prince and his brother and their childlike entourage could not compete with him.

His governess came pale and frightened; but the Duchess had already taken the little clenched hand.

"That wasn't pretty, Leo," she said; there was no punitive anger in her voice alone, far more a deep tenderness.

The little one tore his hand impetuously from the velvety, flattering fingers, with a shy glance at the chastised man who was just leaving, he turned on his heel. “Oh what,” he growled, “it's serving him right! Papa doesn't like him either - he always says: 'This coward is terrified of her own voice.' "

“Well, my little defiant head; But why do you insist that this Gabriel always accompany you? ”asked the Duchess with a smile.

"Because - well, because that's how I want it."

With these defiant words he threw back his curly hair, turned his back on the company as if it didn't exist, and disappeared behind one of the houses. After a long detour he tried to reach the thick trunk of the linden tree, behind which the defeated man had retreated.

The white figure leaned lonely against the tree. He was a boy of perhaps thirteen, a deeply melancholy face over finely built, supple, but not very muscular limbs. He had dipped his handkerchief in the pond water and pressed it to cool against his left cheek, while his delicate lips twitched nervously, perhaps less from the pain caused by the blow than from the excitement inside.

Little Leo circled him several times, waving his whip wildly in the air.

“Do it very he asked suddenly hard and briefly with frowning brows and stamped his small, strong foot. Gabriel had removed the cloth in order to dip it into the water again - a fiery red welt running across the cheek had become visible.

"Oh no," answered the boy in a soft, indescribably pleasant voice, "it only burns a little."

In an instant the crop flew to the ground; with a heartbreaking cry the little boy threw his arms around the beaten man - his teeth could be heard gnashing together.

"I am a to bad boy! ”he gasped. “There is my crop, Gabriel; take it and hit me too! "

The other children gazed openly at this unforeseen outburst of deep, painful remorse. The Duchess was also nearby; a strange sensation might overwhelm her - as if carried away she pulled the child impetuously to her heart and covered his beautiful face with kisses.

"Raoul!" She whispered - like a breath the name came from her lips.

"Oh, stupid stuff!" Grumbled the little one, coarse and powerfully writhing away. "Raoul is called my papa!"

The marble-white cheeks of the princely woman flushed with a deep glow; she jumped up and stood still for a moment; then she slowly turned her head and cast a shy, uncertain look behind her - the ladies who were close had disappeared under the door of the next house.


A court equipage rolled from the residence; a gentleman was sitting in the back, and next to him on the blue silk cushions lay the utensils for playing croquet. The car was just turning into the driveway that ran along the pond when a pedestrian stepped out of the twilight of a wood. The gentleman in the car stopped at once.

"Grüß Gott, Mainau!" He called over. “Well, don't hold it against me; one hopes for you with pain, and then you come strolling in the greatest possible detour! ... The linden tree has long been standing - you have forfeited the proud tradition of the Mainau family that Your hand it was who the tribe [3] while Frederick the Twenty-first shoveled soil onto the roots. "

"One day you will have to hang a mourning ribbon over my picture."

The gentleman in the carriage laughed; he opened the door nimbly with an inviting wave of his hand.

“Is the devil bothering you, Rüdiger - in the rear?” The other protested in comical indignation, “Thank God, I'm still getting out of the way! ... Go on with the proud awareness of your mission - did you have to fetch the forgotten croquet game? More enviable! "

The gentleman jumped on the ground, threw the blow, and while the car drove on, the two took the footpath that ran through the bush to the fishing village. ... They looked strangely side by side - the man who came in the car was small, agile and very stout, and his companion was so tall that his head often had to avoid the branches below. The man had something surprisingly dazzling in his appearance, in the expressive head and in all the gestures that demon-like fire, which just as a gentle glow flows almost elegiacly from the eye and in the next moment clenches the slender, apparently soft hand into a fist, around one hated one To knock opponents to the ground. The little irascible boy over by the fishing village resembled him step by step, almost to the point of ridiculousness.

"Let's go!" Said Mr. von Rüdiger. “Unfortunately we never come late enough for dinner today. … Brr - children's porridge and puddings in all imaginable editions! … I don't need to fear a condemned sermon either, I'll bring you You Yes with. … Speaking of which, you were away for two days, as your Leo told the Duchess? "

"I was away, dearest fellow."

This laconic confirmation sounded too ironic and dismissive for the little agile - the "where to" stayed behind his lips. ... You just passed a place where the thicket tore apart and afforded a view over the pond. The whole village was overlooked. White-covered tables stood under the linden trees; Between these and one of the houses, through the door of which one saw the princely cook in a white cap busy at the stove, lackeys ran back and forth - the dinner was being prepared. The exciting scene caused by little Leo had long been forgotten; Everything that could walk played along - graceful ladies-in-waiting and slender chamberlains, but also all cavaliers with stiff legs, even the fat, asthmatic excellency of the chief chamberlain waddled through the tumult of children, clapping hands.

The Duchess had stepped so close to the shallow bank of the pond that it was thought that the water was playing on her feet. Her white reflection swam like a swan's plumage in the clear water. Some young women had brought her a wreath of clematis and flower bells; it lay over her forehead and hung long, green-feathered tendrils over the beautiful bust and neck.

"Ophelia!" Shouted Baron Mainau in a low voice with a pathetic gesture - there was an indescribable sarcasm in his voice.

His companion spun around. "Now I ask for it - that's pure comedy again, Mainau!" He exclaimed, very indignant. “That probably catches on with the ladies who tremble like lambs in front of you, but not with me.” He put his hands in the side pockets of his light overcoat, pulled his shoulders up and began smiling mischievously: “Once upon a time there was a beautiful one but poor princess and a brilliant young cavalier. The two made love, and the princess wanted to hang up her highness and become a woman baroness - “He paused for a moment, and his mischievous sideways glance brushed the companion; but he did not see how the handsome man turned pale, how he stared with clenched teeth into the thicket, as if the young leaves were about to scorch. He continued innocently: “The princess's cousin, the ruler, came and coveted her beautiful hand. The beautiful black eyes shed bitter tears, but in the end the proud prince's blood triumphed over the love passion, and the princess allowed the ducal crown to be placed on her magnificent, dark locks. ... Hand on your heart, Mainau, "he interrupted himself briskly," who could blame her for that back then? At most the sentimental! "

Mainau didn't put his hand on his heart, nor did he reply - angrily, he snapped off a young twig that had been cheeky enough to touch his cheek and tossed it away.

"How your heart may be beating today!" Said Rüdiger after a short pause - he obviously didn't want to drop the interesting topic at any price. “The widow's mourning is over; the pride of a prince is sufficient for all time, because the duchess is and remains the mother of the ruler - you are also Freed from your marriage bonds. Everything fits together wonderfully ... and now you want to convince me - who’s going to believe it! ... We know what will happen today - "

“You are clever minds!” Said Baron Mainau with disguised admiration. At these words they stepped out into the open space where the wagons were parked. They got caught in the crowd and therefore stayed more on the narrow path along the banks of the river.

"Hey, lad, are you great?" Called Mainau suddenly and took a young, sturdy beggar boy, who was rocking in a very dangerous position on a branch swaying above the water level, by the collar; he shook it a few times like a wet poodle and set it on its feet. "A little wash couldn't damage your fur, my boy," he laughed and clapped his neatly gloved hands together, "but I doubt that you can swim."

"Ugh, he was very dirty, the kid!" Said Rudiger, shaking himself.

“That was him. I can also assure you that I do not capriciously myself on such touches - these are so quick, plebeian sins of the hand that the soul does not know about. - Yes, there you have it again - we still have a long way to go to that sublime moment when our body mass is so aristocratically permeated that such a mistake is impossible for her - how? Do not you think?"

Rudiger turned away angrily; but at the same time he quickened his pace. "Your heroic deed was seen over at the May Festival," he said hastily. “Forward, Mainau! The Duchess leaves her seat. ... And there comes your wild boy! "

Little Leo ran over the pond and ran stormily towards Papa. Baron Mainau bent over his child caressingly for a moment and took his little hand in his left as he walked on.

While they continued to play at the May Festival, the Duchess, accompanied by several gentlemen and ladies of the court, walked slowly along. ... She also had the floating walk, the inimitable graceful suppleness of the Creolin. ... Yes, the heavy, gloomy widow's costume was stripped off like the ugly doll from the brightly swinging butterfly. The decency, the convenience had been satisfied except for the most extreme requirements - now finally luck was allowed to come, now the flames of passion were allowed to break out of the eyes unreservedly, as in this moment.

"I have to scold you, Baron Mainau," she said in a somewhat uncertain voice. "You have just shocked me very much by your saving act and then - come too late."

He held the hat in his right hand and bowed low. The sunshine played over the curly brown, enigmatic head, before which the ladies trembled "like lambs".

"I would assure you with my friend Rüdiger that I am very unhappy," he replied, "but your Highness will certainly no longer believe me when I say where I am late."

The Duchess fixed her eyes on his face, wide and strange - it had turned a little pale, but his gaze, that seldom fathomed gaze, sparkled at her in a kind of wild triumph. Her hand involuntarily went to the heart - the small, pale rose in the belt snapped off and fell unnoticed at the handsome man's feet.

He waited in vain for a question from the princely woman - she was silent, it seemed, in breathless anticipation. After a moment's pause, he continued with a deferential tilt of the head: "I was in Rudisdorf with my aunt Trachenberg and allow myself to inform Your Highness that I became engaged to Juliane Countess von Trachenberg there."

[4] The surroundings stood as if petrified - who among them could have found the courage to break this momentary terrible silence with a sound, or even to cast an indiscreet look at the face of the Duchess, who pressed her bloodless lips together in amazement? ... Only her niece, the young Princess Helene, laughed freely and indulgently. “What an idea, Baron Mainau, to marry a woman named Juliane! … Juliane! Phew - a great-grandmother with glasses on her nose! "

He joined in the cheerful laughter - how melodic and harmless it sounded! ... That was a salvation! The Duchess smiled also with deathly pale lips. She said a few words to the bridegroom with as calmly and gracefully as any sovereign has ever congratulated a subordinate.

“Ladies,” she then turned to a group of young girls, easily and casually, “I am sorry to have to take off your lovely jewelry - the wreath presses my temples. I must withdraw for a moment to remove the flowers. ... goodbye at dinner! "

She refused the companion of the lady-in-waiting, who wanted to help her, and went into a house, the door of which she closed behind her.

Her face was lily-white at all times, and her famously beautiful eyes so often had that hot glow that reminds one of the feverish blood of the southerner - she had waved, as always, smiling and greeting, and had disappeared behind the door like a floating fairy . ... No one saw that inside she immediately hit the carpeted floor like a fir tree that had been torn down by a storm, that she, laughing madly, tore the wreath out of her hair and, in wild, tearless pain, clawed her fine nails into the silk drapery. ... And only a short, strictly measured period of time to let the agony go wild - then those twisted lips had to smile again and make everyone outside believe that the boiling blood was peacefully and dispassionately circling in the veins. "

Meanwhile, Baron Mainau stood on the bank with his boy by the hand and, apparently amused, watched the tumult near the wagon castle. He had been congratulated; but the whole court society was paralyzed - he quickly found himself alone. Suddenly Rüdiger was at his side.

“A terrible vengeance! A blatant revenge! ”Murmured the little one - there was still a vibration of horror in his voice. "Brr - I say with Gretchen: 'Heinrich, I dread you!" ... God help me! Have you ever seen a person who slaughtered a victim so cruelly, so cunningly, so unforgivingly, to his offended manly pride, as you have just done? ... You are foolhardy, terrible - "

“Because I said in a not entirely usual way at the appropriate time: 'Now I want I Not'? ... Do you think I will get married? "

The little agile looked at him from the side, intimidated - this otherwise perfectly formed Mainau was sometimes too rough, not to say coarse. "My consolation is that you yourself suffer badly under the cruel measures of your irrepressible pride," he said after a short silence, but almost defiantly.

"You will admit to me that the only thing I have to deal with is myself."

"My God, yes! ... But now - what next? "

“What next?” Laughed Mainau. "A wedding, Rüdiger."

"Truly? ... You have never visited this Rudisdorf - I know exactly. ... So a bride who was quickly acquired from the? "

"Guess, friend."

"Hm - she is of an illustrious sex, but, but - Rudisdorf is, as we know, now - desolate. ... What does it look like? "

“Good Rüdiger, she is a hop pole of twenty with red hair and downcast eyes - I don't know any more. Your mirror will know better. ... Bah, what does it matter? ... I don't need a beautiful woman or a rich woman; it only has to be virtuous - it must not incommend me through actions for which I would have to be responsible - you know my views on marriage. "

That proud, cruel smile that made the countess pale a moment ago twitched over his face again - obviously in the memory of the “eclatant revenge”.

"What can I do?" He said after a short silence with frivolous ease. "My uncle chased Leo’s Hofmeister bang and fall from me because he read in bed at night and consistently wore creaky boots, and the teacher has the bad habit of squinting terribly and nibbling Confect from the plates in passing - it is impossible. But I want to go to the Orient shortly - I need a wife at home. ... In six weeks I will get married - do you want to be my best man? "

The little one tripped from one foot to the other. "What do I want to do? I must, ”he replied at last, half angry, half laughing; "Because of those there" - he pointed to a group of cavaliers whispering and peering over - "no one goes with you - you can rely on that."

“You, Gabriel,” said little Leo excitedly to the boy in white, “the new mom who's coming is a hop pole - said dad - and she has red hair like our kitchen maid. … I can not stand her; I don't want her - I'll hit her with the whip when she comes. "


“Liana, look here! Raoul’s bride present! - Six thousand Thaler Werth! ”Called the Countess Trachenberg into the room - then she rushed over the threshold.

The drawing room in which she stepped was on the ground floor in a wing of the proud castle. Its whole front looked like a gigantic pane of glass, interrupted here and there by fine lead veins and very narrow door pillars, which only separated the panel of the room from the terrace, which spread out outside in a grandiose style. Beyond the terrace railing one could see broad lawns, cut through by gravel paths, the intersections of which marked groups of white marble. This elegant ground floor was enclosed by a wood, seemingly impenetrable like a forest, and straight across from the central door of the salon was traversed by a dead straight, almost endlessly deep avenue, which was closed off by a high-leaping jet of water that sparkled in the May light from the distant, blue-scented ridge.

The whole - palace and garden - was a masterpiece in old French taste; but alas - whole swarms of yellow wallflowers rose boldly and boldly from the stone structure of the terrace, and the incomparably beautifully modeled lawns stood up in despectacular overgrown weeds and began to run into the paths; the wide gravel path of the avenue, however, already covered the most intense emerald green. ... And what all the magnificent stucco figures on the ceiling in the garden parlor had to look down on! ... They were hideously blind and wobbly, that Rococo furniture on the walls; long ago they had been expelled from the brilliant castle rooms as unfashionable and had had to go through all stages of humiliation down to the grooms' rooms, where they fell to the sand and straw and were rubbed off. ... Now they were back on the parquet, sneering witnesses of the inexorable consequences of a challenged fate. All the splendid furniture that it once supplanted, the precious lace curtains, the pictures, clocks, and mirrors that came after them had fallen into the hammer - they wandered out in all four winds, and only the old, despised junk was allowed to remain and was fearfully reclaimed ; for it belonged to the Fideicommiss and was not allowed to be sold when - the sequestration was imposed on all the property of Count Trachenberg. That happened four years ago - "a shameful sign of the most nefarious times, an outrageous victory of capital over the ideal that a just heaven should never have admitted," Countess Trachenberg always said.

[21] In the middle of the garden parlor was a long oak table, at one end of which sat a lady of striking ugliness. The large head with the rigid, decidedly red hair and the most perfect Negro physiognomy under the delicate, white, but freckled skin looked almost terrifying. Only the hands, which worked so diligently, were of shining beauty, like marble structures. She twisted a blue twig of syringes between her fingertips - it was said that the scent must fly from the umbellate and fill the room, so freshly broken it swayed on the stem; but this stem was just wrapped in a fine, green strip of paper - it was an artificial flower.

When the Countess Trachenberg entered, the lady gave a startled start; the flower flew on the tools, and with hasty hands a white cloth was thrown over the witnesses of the work.

"Oh - the mom!" Uttered a young girl, half-mumbling. It stood at the other end of the table, with its back to the door. It fell over this back in the flaming light like a cloak - the young lady had loosened her hair to the top; Evenly, without dividing into individual strands, the incredibly rich, strongly reddish blonde hung its shiny tips down to the hem of the pale muslin dress.

At this sight the Countess hesitated for a moment.

"Why is it so derangled?" She asked briefly, pointing to the braided hair.

"I brought a severe headache home with me, dear mom, and Ulrike loosened my lichen," replied the young lady with a touch of anxiety in her voice. "Oh, it's a terrible burden!" She sighed and hung her head back as if she were giving in to the force.

"You were once again sunburned outside and dragged weeds home for the farmers' fun?" Asked the Countess, stern and scornful at the same time. “When will the kidding finally stop?” She shrugged and let a disdainful glance glide over the board. There were piles of blotting paper lying next to a plant press - the young lady had just taken some orchids out of the botanical drum with careful fingers to put them between pieces of paper.

Ihro Erlaucht, Countess Trachenberg, née Princess Lutowiska, knew very well that her eldest daughter, Countess Ulrike, made artificial flowers that went to Berlin as models and were well paid; the business went through the hands of the old, secretive nurse, and no one suspected the count's crown over the forehead of the artist they were looking for. ... It was also not kept secret from the Countess that her only son, the heir of Trachenberg, in association with his sister Juliane, had excellently prepared the weed and sold it to Russia as a collection of native plants - under an assumed name. But a born princess Lutowiska could Not knowing that - woe to the hand that was caught making flowers, woe to the tongue that let utter a word about the origin of the increased income - it was all a gimmick, to which one had to turn a blind eye, and that's that!

As she approached, the lady grabbed the young girl's hair and weighed “the dreadful burden” in her hand - something like a movement of maternal pride flew over her beautiful, sharply defined face.

"Raoul should see that," she said. “Fool, you have hidden your beautiful jewelry from him! ... the thick velvet ribbons with which you had the foolishness to present yourself to him, I will never forget you. ... With such hair - "

"It's red, mom."

"Chatter! - That's red, ”she said and pointed to her daughter Ulrike. "God should keep me - two Redheads! For what so much punishment? "

Countess Ulrike, who meanwhile had pulled some woolen embroidery out of her pocket, sat like a statue at these merciless words. She didn't blink an eyelid - the beautiful mother was right. But her sister flew over to her, laid her reviled head gently on her breast, and kissed the red part of the head repeatedly and tenderly, with soft wailing sounds.

“Sentimentality and no end!” Murmured the Countess Trachenberg morosely and put the package she had brought with her on the board. She reached for a pair of scissors and, with a few quick cuts, loosened the packaging - it contained a jewelry case and a white silk fabric with large silver arabesques woven into it.

The lady opened the case with a veritable greed - she bent her head back with a scrutinizing look and could see a mixture [22] of unpleasant surprise and erupting envy can hardly be overcome.

“See, see! My simple gosling will come to the altar more princely than once the celebrated Princess Lutowiska, ”she said slowly and emphatically, letting a necklace of diamonds and large emeralds shine in the sun. “Yes, yes, the Mainaus can do that! ... Your father was a poor eater - I could have noticed that even then. "

Ulrike started up as if her mother had hit her in the face; A ray of deepest indignation broke out of the ugly but sharp blue eyes, which were pressed by massive eyelids, nevertheless she immediately pulled the green wool thread through the fabric again, apparently calmly, and said in a serious, almost monotonous voice: "The Trachenbergs had an unencumbered fortune at that time half a million. They have always been a thrifty housekeeper, and my dear papa remained true to these virtues until his fortieth year, when he married. ... I worked with the gentlemen from the office at the Concurs to shed light on the chaos - I know that papa is only impoverished through limitless indulgence. "

"Outrageous!" Roared the countess and involuntarily pulled out to strike; but with a disdainful gesture she let her hand drop again. “After all, you represent your Trachenbergs - I have no part in you except that I have to give you life. You'll find it best if you check out the gallery of your ancestors over there - red-haired monkey faces from start to finish! I didn't cry for nothing and - cursed when thirty years ago the newborn little monster, a real Trachenberg, was placed in my arms. "

"Mama!" Cried Liane.

"Quiet, quiet, child!" She appeased the sister with a gentle smile, but with trembling lips. She rolled up her embroidery and stood up. Both sisters were of the same size - they were sylph-like figures, well above medium size, with noble hands and feet, fine, supple waist and delicate girlish contours of the bust.

Ulrike hastily unfolded the silk fabric while her mother threw the box with the jewelery on the table. Stiff and heavy, like a brocat from the days of our great-grandmothers, it slipped from her hands and fell with a clank and hissing on the parquet. With a startled look at the billowing silver splendor, Liana turned away and looked out into the garden as if it were a matter of counting the spraying gold sparks of the distant fountain.

“You will be a majestic bride, Liane… If Papa could see that!” Ulrike exclaimed.

"Raoul mocks us," muttered the young girl, deeply hurt.

"He's mocking us?" Exclaimed Countess Trachenberg, whose keen ear had caught the half-whispered sounds. "Are you out of your mind? And do you want to have the kindness to teach me to what extent he tries to mock the Trachenbergs? "

Liane pointed to the tattered, discolored covers of the old armchairs, next to which the pompous wedding dress lay. “Can you think of a sharper contrast, Mama? Isn't that tactlessly condescending, who - in the face of poverty? ”She replied, trying to master her fear of her passionate mother.

Countess Trachenberg clapped her hands. "God be lamented - how do I, especially me, get to such bourgeois hollowheads who attach the yardstick of the shopkeeper to the majesty of their position? ... condescending! and that's what a Trachenberg says! ... You descend to the Mainaus - remember that! ... Do I really have to tell you that your mother is descended directly from the old Polish kings and that your fatherly ancestors were rulers long before the Crusades? ... And if Raoul poured all the treasures of the world at your feet, he cannot buy the priority of the high, flawless birth from you ... He has no ten ancestors - yes, it is half and half a mesalliance that you enter into, and it would be me not too disgusting thought two To have daughters who stayed in the house, then I would certainly have rejected his advertising. He also knows that very well, otherwise he wouldn't take you like that - so unseen. "

The young lady stood motionless with her hands folded down. The wave of red and gold hair now fell over the chest and covered the profile. Her sister, however, walked quickly through the salon several times in silence.

At that moment the door leading to the corridor was opened carefully; the old former wet nurse and current cook stuck her head in. “Hold on to grace,” she said in a humble, low voice, “the postman is still over there; he doesn't want to wait any longer. "

"Oh yes - I had totally forgotten about people. Well, he'll wait for me to come. Hand him a cup of coffee in the kitchen, Lene! "

The maid disappeared and Countess Trachenberg pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket.

“The postman gets a tip, and here is a postal order for forty thalers, which we have to redeem. The shopkeepers in Rheims are cheeky enough to send me the wedding champagne I have ordered cash on delivery… Pay off! ”She said briefly to Ulrike and handed her the note.

A sudden red of shock flew over the daughter's ugly face. "You ordered champagne, mom?" She exclaimed, dismayed. "Oh God - and for such a huge sum!"

Countess Trachenberg laughed scornfully and showed her pearly false teeth. “Did you think you could store the gentlemen at the wedding dejeuner with your self-made currant juice? … Incidentally, as already explained, I did not even remotely think of the meanness with which payment by post should be blackmailed us immediately. ”She shrugged her shoulders. - "It's just a matter of making a good face at the bad game and paying."

Ulrike silently unlocked a secretary and took out two rolls of money. "Here's the whole housekeeping treasury," she said briefly and firmly. “It's thirty-five thalers. But we have to live from that; for it is not only in Rheims that we are denied credit, we also do not get a lot of meat in the whole area without immediate payment. - You cannot possibly be in the dark about that. "

"Certainly not - my wise daughter Ulrike preaches often enough on this popular topic."

"I got to, Mama, ”replied Ulrike calmly. "Because you so often forget - which is quite understandable - that the creditors have cut our annual income from twenty-five thousand thalers to six hundred."

Countess Trachenberg covered her ears and ran to one of the glass doors - Geberden took on the tall, majestic figure like a spoiled child. She tore the door open and wanted to storm out, but thought about someone else.

"Good," said she, slamming the door, apparently calmly, but also with obvious malice. “Only six hundred thalers. But now I finally ask: What are they used for? ... We eat pathetic, formal begging soup - Lene feeds us rice and egg dishes to the point of disgust, and the pinches of pecco that you throw in the tea kettle are becoming more and more homeopathic. In addition I am dragging this flag "- she pointed to her black silk dress -" which you had the grace to give me for Christmas, day after day. Everything that could make my deadly lonely life more bearable - new French lectures, confectionery, perfumes - is a point of view that I have long since overcome ... I therefore rightly conclude: you must have more funds available than you want me to believe. "

“Ulrike never lies, Mama!” Liane shouted indignantly.

"I cannot possibly send the order back to the post office" - continued the countess undeterred - "You will put an end to the comedy at once and give the amount over!"

“Should I stomp money out of the ground? … The wine has to go back! ”Replied Ulrike calmly.

Her mother made a piercing sound, then threw herself back on a sofa and went into fits of laughter.

Quietly, with crossed arms, Ulrike stood at the head of the maddening woman and looked down at her with a bitter, ironic smile.

[23] "Poor Magnus!" Whispered Liane, pointing to the door of the next room. "He's over there - how frightened he is at this noise! ... Please, mom, take hold of yourself! Magnus may Don't see you like that - what should he think? ”She turned to her mother, half pleadingly, half with serious emphasis.

The disgusting scene, which the daughters always tried to prevent by yielding and as obedient as possible, happened after all; now the deep, just unwillingness that the characterful woman feels towards the excesses of a degenerate woman's nature asserted itself. The young girl was no longer trembling with fear - something unconsciously superior spoke from the movement with which she raised her hand in earnest admonition. She preached to deaf ears - the screaming continued.

Then the door of the adjoining room was indeed opened. Liana flew through the parlor.

"Go, Magnus, stay over there!" She asked in a childlike, touching voice and tried to gently push back those who entered. It would probably not have taken any special strength to seriously hold him back, this boyish, lanky young man.

"Just leave me, little Famulus," he said gently - a glimmer of transfiguring joy lay on his witty face. "I've listened to everything and bring help."

For a moment, however, his foot was rooted on the threshold when he saw the woman lying on the sofa, her limbs twitching and her face contorted.

“Mom, calm down,” he said, approaching in a slightly vibrating voice, “you can pay for the wine. Look, here is money - five hundred thalers, dear Mama! ”With a raised hand he showed her a number of banknotes.

Ulrike looked him in the face with anxious tension; she had turned very red - but he did not notice it. He tossed the paper money carelessly on the sofa next to his mother and opened a book he had brought with him. "Look, sweetheart, there it is," he said to Liane, visibly moved. - The sufferer on the sofa began to calm down; Groaning, she laid her hand over her eyes - through the splayed fingers an incredibly quick, conscious and sharp look went, which fixed the book in the hands of the son.

"Just don't get too proud of me, little one, dear Famulus!" He continued. “Our manuscript is coming back as a magnificent work. It is legitimate before the high seat of science; it goes victoriously through the crossfire of criticism - alas, Liana, read the publisher's letter - "

“Be silent, Magnus!” Ulrike interrupted him roughly and imperiously.

Countess Trachenberg was already sitting upright. "What kind of book is that?" She asked, neither in the impertinently tightened features nor in the commanding voice was there a trace of the seizure that had just ended.

With a quick movement Ulrike took the book from her brother's hand and pressed it tightly to her chest with both arms. "It's a work about the fossil plant world - Magnus wrote it, and Liane provided the drawings for it," she said briefly.

"Give me - I want to see it!"

Reluctantly, with a reproachful look at her brother, Ulrike handed the volume over; But Liana, pale to the lips, crossed her fine fingers convulsively and buried her face in them - this She had learned to fear the expression on her mother's face from childhood more than hardly the hellish punishments with which the nurse threatened.

"Fossil plants - by Magnus, Count von Trachenberg," read the countess in a loud voice. Across the book, with grimly drawn inward lips, she stared for a moment rigidly and withering away at the son's face. "And where is the name of the draftsman?" She asked, turning the title page.

"Liane didn't want to be named," replied the young man with complete serenity.

"Ah - so at least in one of these heads a spark of reason, a faint dawn of class consciousness!" She uttered an ugly laugh and hurled the heavy volume far from her with such violence that it clanked through the glass wall onto the Stone tiles of the terrace flew.

"That's where the mess belongs!" She said, pointing to the book, which lay open wide open and showed the charmingly executed drawing of a prehistoric bullock shape. - “O mother who is happy three times, what a son you gave life! Too cowardly to become a soldier, too mindless to become a diplomat, the descendants of Prince Lutowiski, the last Count Trachenberg, go under - the bookmakers and have their fees paid! "

In passionate pain, Liane clasped the narrow shoulders of her brother, who was clearly struggling to keep calm in the face of these insults.

"Mom, how can you bring the heart to insult Magnus like that?" The young girl grumbled. “Do you call him a coward? - He pulled me out of the lake over there seven years ago at his own risk. Yes, he decidedly refused to become a soldier, but only because his mild, soft heart abhorred bloodshed. ... Does he lack the spirit to become a diplomat, he, the indefatigable, deep thinker? O mom, how cruel and unjust you are! He only hates the double-faced and does not want to desecrate his noble, true spirit by the chess moves of the diplomatic arts. … I am also proud, very proud of our well-known family; but I will never understand why the nobleman should only be a nobleman with a sword or the smooth diplomatic tongue - "

“And then I ask,” Ulrike said with serious emphasis - she had stepped out and taken up the mistreated work - “what is more honorable for the name Trachenberg: that it precedes a well-succeeded intellectual act, or - that it belongs to the ranks of those who are indebted is found? "

"O you, you -" hissed the countess, almost wordlessly with inner anger, "you scourge of my life!" She paced up and down the drawing room a few times as if furiously. "Besides, I don't see what forces me to continue living with you," she said, suddenly stopping, incredibly calm. “You are long past the time when the little cake belongs under the wings of the mother. I have endured you long enough and give you vacation, unlimited vacation. I want to make a long-term visiting trip through the whole clan - go wherever you want, just hurry so that my house will be clean of your presence! "

Count Magnus took the hand of the outcast sister. The three siblings stood intimately united towards the heartless woman.

"Mama, you are forcing me to emphasize my right to be the heir of Rudisdorf for the first time," said the quiet, gentle scholar, his face flushed with excitement. “In relation to the creditors, only I am entitled to an apartment in the castle and to the income that they approve. ... You cannot take Ulrike's home - she stays with me. "

The countess turned her back on him and strode to the door through which she came. The son was so perfectly in his rights that not a word could be found against his serious explanation. She put her hand on the screeching trigger, but turned around again.

"Don't dare to mix even a penny of the Judas money with the housekeeping treasury!" She ordered Ulrike, pointing to the five hundred thalers lying on the sofa. “I'd rather starve to death before I touch a bite that was paid for with the money. ... solve the wine I out. Thank God, I still saved enough silver from the shipwreck! Even if the device from which my ancestors dined may be melted down, the pain is outweighed by the awareness that I am entertaining my guests in a genuinely princely manner and not by means of a workers' fee. ... but the punishment will overtake you, "she turned to Liane," for making the front against your mother too! You only come to Schönwerth! Raoul, but even more so old Uncle Mainau will drive out your sentimental and scholarly stuff. "

She rushed out and threw the door shut so hard that the sound still rattled along the stone vaulting of the furthest corridors.

[24]

Five weeks had passed since this performance at Rudisdorf Palace. Preparations for the wedding were made. Six years ago the splendid castle would have been a teeming anthill on such an occasion, for the Countess knew how to put so many servicing hands into action like hardly an Indian rajah. Six years ago the dazzling fairy tale splendor, waves of intoxicating parties drunk with light and lust would have brought a blonde fairy to the suitor - today he fetched the bride from the deserted gardens that overgrown the wilderness, from the stone colossus adorned with statues, where the shadows of noisy joys crouched behind marble columns to be covered with dirty veils by the spiders. ... The tenant farmer had piled up grain in the great hall; The white shutters lay on all the windows, and wherever a ray of light penetrated it fell on unswept parquet and completely empty walls.

It was a good thing that the illustrious gentlemen, in iron hats and mail shirts, or even the feather-adorned berets on their red-haired heads, inserted between the gleaming marble slabs of the ancestral gallery, had to stand still on the walls, so that their proud-looking women and daughters in Stuart collars and rigid gold cloth train did not rush down could go into the garden parlor - they would certainly have dropped the flashing peacock frond or the stiff-leaved rose from their pale hands and knocked them over the head; for Ulrike was kneeling there - the real Trachenberg, as the Countess always said - she had torn the moth-eaten covers from the Sophas and armchairs and with her own Count's hands hammered her nails into the large-flowered teat that covered the upholstery with a shiny new look.But old Lene rubbed and drilled the worm-eaten wood of the furniture until a dull sheen appeared under her fists and the lines of the inserted splendid patterns emerged as shadows. Thanks to the bookseller's fee, which arrived in time, there were also new dainty armchairs and wicker flower tables. Epheugespinnst now rose up the white walls, and clematis and evergreens hung from clusters of broad leafy plants on the parquet. A breath of cozy comfort wafted through the salon, which was so bare at first, and that was necessary, for the wedding breakfast was to be taken here.

While these precautions were being taken, Liana wandered through the woods and fields at her brother's side with her botany rifle and burial spit as if she had nothing to do with the whole affair. Above all the wonders of creation, the brother forgot that his little family had lived and strived with him the longest, and Latin names and critical remarks came from the lips of his sister, but never even the name of the distant fiancé. It was a strange marriage.

In her parents' house, Liane had probably heard the names of Mainaus sometimes - a Lutowiski had brought a Mainau home - but there had never been personal intercourse with distant relatives. Suddenly letters from Schönwerth to Countess Trachenberg arrived, and they were eagerly answered, and one day your Erlaucht briefly announced to the youngest daughter that she had her hand and that she had promised her cousin Mainau, whereby she objected to any possible contradiction cut off with the remark that she was betrothed in exactly the same way and that this was the only form befitting her class. ... Then the bridegroom came unexpectedly, Liane had hardly found time to hide her hair, which had been rumpled by the wind and bushes, under the notorious velvet bows, when she had already been ordered into her mother's room. How it all happened then, she hardly knew herself. A handsome tall man had met her from the window niche; behind him the full, glowing spring sun had sparkled through the panes, forcing her to lower her eyes. Thereupon he had spoken to her in an almost fatherly friendly manner and finally held out his hand, in which she placed hers at the command of his mother, but even more at the previous secret and pleading requests from Ulriken. He had left immediately, to the inexpressible relief of Countess Trachenberg; for during the engagement her thoughts had wandered like frightened ghosts through the barren cellar or the lonely currant juice etiquettes, and downstairs in the kitchen old Lene had racked her brain at how she was preparing a count's dinner with the last five eggs and a scrap of roast veal .

Everything concerning the wedding was agreed in writing between the groom and the mother, and only the bride's presents had a few lines for Liane enclosed, lines full of exquisite politeness and gallantry, but also strange and formal - they were read with cold eyes and have remained untouched by him ever since Jewelry in a box. But it was all so "splendidly befitting and aristocratically stiff" and the "finding in" Lianens, her unopposed calm satisfied the Countess mother so much that a few days after the stormy scene she allowed herself to eat with her children again and then and when to address a gracious word to them. Of course she did not know that the young girl was already suffering unspeakably from the pain of separation - but even the siblings did not find out. ...

The wedding morning was here - a cool, gray, overcast July morning. After the dry and hot days, a gentle rain trickled through the thicket of trees, and outside on the large parched shrub leaves of the lawns it clapped in a quiet, tireless tick-tock and gathered into rolling silver pearls. From the bush and the tree and down from the gutters the birds twittered and shouted jubilantly, and old Lena looked from her simmering pans into the gray drizzle and was glad that it was raining into the bride's wreath.

A single car rolled into the courtyard, plus a rental car from the nearest railway station. While he was disappearing into one of the vastly empty coach houses, the two arrivals slowly climbed the outside staircase of the castle. Baron Mainau was punctual to the minute; According to the appointment, he arrived exactly half an hour before the wedding ceremony.

"That God have mercy’ - that wants to be a wedding party! "Sighed old Lene sadly and stepped back from the kitchen window.

Up there the glass door flew wide and Countess Trachenberg hurried out. The raindrops sprayed on her dark purple velvet train and glittered in the black puffs next to some of the diamonds rescued from the shipwreck. Pining and with gentle grace, she stretched out her fine hands in greeting from her rich lace sleeves - who would have thought they could throw a heavy object through the panes of glass, smashing it with the force of fury!

They fled from the rain into the countess' living room, and Baron Mainau introduced his best man, Herr von Rüdiger. Between the easy chat that followed the performance, a macaw screeched in the window niche, and two snow-white specimens of a small poodle race grumbled on the faded carpet. ... If old Lene hadn't hung a thick garland over the glass door through which the bridegroom had to come, and if it hadn't been for the countess's impressive, regally proud toilet, it would never have occurred to anyone to think of an impending solemn act in this house The lady chatted so banally and superciliously, so calmly and unmoved did the elegant, black-dressed figure of the bridegroom stand at the window and look out into the dusting rain, and such a deep silence and desolation lay over the wide, deserted one since the rolling of the four wagon wheels Locks. Herr von Rüdiger knew that this marriage was like a business deal; he himself was too much a cosmopolitan and a cavalier not to find such an agreement quite in order; but the spooky loneliness was the little agile "about the fun" - it ran down his back, shivering, and he breathed fearfully when at last the wings of the opposite door were slowly and solemnly thrown back.

[37] Followed by Ulrike, the bride entered on her brother's arms. The veil fell over her face to her breast, but from the back of her head it rolled down on the hem of the white tulle dress, which closed in strict simplicity at the neck and was only studded with a few twigs of myrtle - there was not a thread of the silver robe to be seen; the simplest citizen bride could not be more modestly adorned. She came closer with lowered eyes and thus noticed neither the large, strange look with which Baron Mainau measured her, nor the mocking, pitying expression on his features that followed - but she shuddered when her mother jumped at her in sudden horror.

“What do you mean, girl? So, what do you look like? … Are you great? ”That was the ordination with which the angry woman greeted the young girl on her solemn walk. She was so indignant and forgot herself so much that she raised her hand to push her daughter back over the threshold. "You go to your room immediately and use another toilet" - she involuntarily fell silent; Baron Mainau had taken hold of the threatening hand; he was silent, but with a look and a gesture he forbade himself so forcefully any further omission that nothing more could be said.

Behind one of the doors that had been thrown back, old Lena overheard the process with halting breath and now waited with real ardor for the moment when the bridegroom would take her "beautiful, slim countess" in his arms and kiss them heartily; but "the stick, the stiff Peter" didn't even think of it - with a few friendly words he drew the bride's hanging hand so lightly and fleetingly to his lips, as if he was afraid of breaking it - he presented her with a splendid bouquet.

"We have flowers ourselves," growled the old woman and let her gaze wander down the corridor, which she had thickly sprinkled with fir greenery and flowers.. struggling on the arm of the dismayed Herr von Rüdiger followed the bride and groom, with their heavy velvet train swept the poor things together in a heap. ...

The stone heads of the apostles, which circled the pulpit and altar of the Rudisdorf castle church, had probably often looked down at a pale, joyless bride's face, had sometimes heard the "yes" from male lips uttered passionlessly and coldly - because it had never been the custom in the Trachenberg house that Daughters to ask their opinion, nor to give "sentimental love" any justification - but never before has a wedding been carried out so without song and sound. The bridegroom had seriously forbidden all idle witnesses and gawkers. What else would they have had to whisper about the handsome man, who indeed led his bride gallantly, but had no look for her! Only once, when she received the blessing on her knees, did it seem as if his eye was gliding down on her for a moment - her braids hung down over her shoulders and lay long and heavy, like lazy snakes sparkling in red gold, next to her on the white Stone panels of the floor.

And after the ceremony, how rushed the man! The clergyman had spoken too long and the next train was not to be missed at any cost. ... Even during the wedding, individual raindrops had flown against the stained glass of the church window - the only music that whispered to accompany the blessing formula - now the sun broke through the fluttering gray above; she lit a thousand twitching lights in the lead-colored fountain column; she ran through the dark, damp, breathing avenue, across the rolling grass, and wiped the drops of tears from the petals with her edge of fire; but it also sparkled in the driven lion heads of the mighty silver ice bucket, which stood in the garden parlor next to the breakfast table with all the arrogance of a glamorous past - he could of course not know that many a good old camerad who had stood next to him for centuries in the silver cupboard, moussirte in the midst of the pieces of ice and under the cliquot etiquette. ... Breakfast was eaten standing. The three siblings, however, did not touch a bite and did not take part in the conversation that the clergyman suggested. They stood together and spoke in half-whispers, and Count Magnus held Lianen's hand with tears-veiled eyes - it was only at this moment that the quiet, shy scholar seemed to realize what he was losing.

“Juliane, may I ask you? - It's time! ”Said Baron Mainau suddenly into the babble of voices - he had approached the bride and was holding out his watch, which hurled its cold brilliant flashes over her.

[38] She winced - for the first time she was called by name by that voice; he pronounced it with friendly courtesy, nevertheless - how harsh, how strange it sounded to her in its abbreviated form! Even the strict, loveless mother had never called her like that. ... She bowed slightly to him and those present and, accompanied by Ulrike, left the salon.

In silence, but as if chased, the sisters hurried up the stairs into the communal living room.

"Liane, he's terrible!" Shouted Ulrike when the door had slammed behind them - and breaking into a stream of tears, the otherwise imperturbably calm girl threw herself on the sofa and buried her face in the pillow.

“Quiet, quiet - don't make my heart heavy! ... Did you expect it to be different? - I don't, ”said Liane, soothed, while a bitter smile slipped shadowy over her pale little face. She carefully took the beautiful crown of myrtle out of her hair and placed it in the shrine, which until then contained all the small keepsakes from the retirement period. ... In a few minutes the bridal toilet was exchanged for the gray traveling dress; the round hat, covered with a thick gray veil, was tied under the chin and the hands slipped into the gloves.

"And now to Papa again!" Said Liane, pressed tightly, and reached for the parasol.

"Just a moment -" asked Ulrike.

"Don't hold me back - I can't keep Mainau waiting," replied the young lady seriously. She wrapped herself around the sister's shoulders and stepped over the threshold with her.

The so-called marble gallery was on the piano nobile and ran in the same direction as the terrace below, onto which the garden salon led. The sisters walked through it, surrounded by the deep twilight spread by the tightly closed shutters, in their entire immense length to the extreme end, where the thin and ghostly daylight, slipping in, awakened pale reflections in the smooth, reddish, gleaming marble floor. Ulrike pushed open the shop noiselessly; all the portraits of the men in armor with their fiery red mustaches and menacing expressions remained in deep darkness; the full sunshine was concentrated transfiguring itself on the portrait of a venerable old man who, with her full white hand on the table-carpet, sat in front of a brown velvet curtain. The ugly symbol of the Trachenberg, the red-flaming hair on the head and beard, had turned into silky-soft silver and lay full and shiny on the head and the upper lip.

"Dear, dear Papa!" Liane whispered and raised her clasped hands up to him - she had been his pride, his darling, his baby, whose head often lay sleeping on his chest and which he was flattering with his unsteady hand in the agony of death had caressed. ... A picture of a woman dawned sideways, a lean, stiff figure; her train fringed ermine; The bared shoulders, too, rose pointed and yellow from the white fur, and on the high one. There was a fine crown on the hairstyle - that was Lianen's paternal grandmother, also a princess, but from a small sovereign royal house. In this stiffly laced body there was no warm heart beating - the bright, cold eyes stared down mercilessly at the granddaughter, who, dejected, with tears-draped eyes, left the old hereditary castle in order to meet the splendor and wealth. She stretched her thin arm with the jewel-studded fan into the depths of the gallery, as if sliding with this movement across the series of pictures, she wanted to say: “Convenience marriages, chosen sexes, are not called to love, but to rule for all eternity . "...

And it sounded as if a whisper was going from lip to lip - but it was only the draft wind that rustled in and carried the scent rising from the earth, which the rain awakened, down to the ancient wooden panels with their armor. ... Outside on the terrace, however, it also came to life from the steps of men who came slowly walking from the garden salon and only fell silent at the very end in the same direction as the open gallery window. The sisters looked down furtively. Baron Mainau stood at the terrace parapet and looked out, half averted, into the area - a completely different from the cool, well-kept bridegroom, who at the ceremony punctually and flawlessly did his duty, but now also tried to shake off everything with obvious comfort that his proud, but also forced the fiery, agile apparition into a template for a moment. He was completely ready to go and had burned a cigar, the blue clouds of which rose up into the marble gallery.

"I don't say 'beauty' - my God, how many thousandfold the term is!" Continued friend Rüdiger, whose somewhat high, soft voice had already rang out in single sounds during the hike - now you could hear every single syllable sharply and clearly ."Well, this little liana has neither a Roman nor a Greek nose - bah, it is not necessary at all - the little face is so unspeakably lovely."

Baron Mainau shrugged his shoulders. “Hmm, yes,” he said in an unmistakably satirical tone, “a decent and modest maid of a timid character, with enthusiastic expressions and pale violet eyes - what do I know” - he broke off as if bored and pointed out into the landscape with a lively movement . "Look here, Rüdiger! The person who laid out the Rudisdorf Park really was a genius - the high-lying Renaissance building over there couldn't be more effectively lifted out than by these wonderful groups of beech trees. "

"Oh what!" Replied Mr. von Rüdiger angrily. “I've never had eyes for that, you know that. ... A beautiful woman's eye, a beautiful woman's hair - a thousand times more, what kind of braids were those that lay at your feet on the altar today! "

"A somewhat faded shade of the Trachenberg family color," said Mainau casually. "Because of me! Titian's hair is now - the novels are teeming with red-headed heroines, all of whom are incredibly loved - a matter of taste! … It would be unthinkable with a lover, but with my wife - !! ”He dusted the ashes from his cigar on the terrace railing and continued to smoke comfortably.

Liane instinctively drew the thick veil over her face; not even the sister, who stared down at the speaker in wordless rage and pain, was allowed to see the deep glow of shame and humiliation on her cheeks.

Over there, Countess Trachenberg circled the ground floor at the clergyman's side; she approached quickly and hurried up the terrace stairs.

"Just a word, dear Raoul!" She asked and put her arm in his own. Walking slowly up and down with him, she chatted about everyday things until the other two gentlemen were so far away that they could no longer catch a word.

"Speaking of which," she said suddenly, stopping, "you will take my worried mother's heart into account and not consider me too indiscreet if I touch a meticulous matter at the last minute - may I find out how much needle money you allow Lianen?"

The sisters could see how, in amusement, he fixed the woman with the "worried mother's heart".

"Exactly as much as I allowed my first wife - three thousand thalers."

The countess nodded in satisfaction. "She can be happy - I was in a worse position as a young woman." - The man next to her sneered at the deep sigh she let out. - "And aren't you, Raoul, you are a little good with her too?"

"What do you mean by that, aunt?" He asked, immediately holding his step, with a suspicious look and in a very sharp tone. “Do you consider me so clumsy and tactless that I could ever lose sight of the guilty politeness of my wife, the bearer of my name? ... But if you want more, then it is against the agreement. - I need a mother for my boy and a mistress for my house who will represent me in my absence - and I will be a lot,39] be absent a great deal. Knowing all this, you promised me Juliane as a gentle woman who would find her position excellently. ... love I can't give her; But I am also conscientious enough not to want to wake any in your heart. "

With a painful cry, Ulrike spread her arms and pulled the sister to her heart.

"For God - don't get excited, Raoul!" Asked the countess downstairs, intimidated. “You have completely misunderstood me. Who speaks of such a sentimental relationship? It could me least of all come up with it. ... I just appealed to your forbearance. You saw for yourself today how far this 'eternally feminine' can go in its modesty - playing such a trick on us with the bridal toilet! "

“Don't do that, Auntie - Juliane can act as she pleases. If she knows how to get into the situation - "

“I vouch for that. ... God - it's too sad to have to say it - but Magnus is a sleepyhead, a man without any energy, a zero, only what I detest in him adorns his sister - Liane is an indescribably harmless child, and when Ulrike, the evil spirit of my house, can no longer influence her, then you can wrap her around your finger. "

"Mama is very quick in her judgment," said Liane bitterly, while the steps of the speaker downstairs were getting farther and farther away. “She never bothered to look into my soul - we were left to strangers at all times. … Why are you crying, Ulrike? ... We are not allowed to throw a stone at the cold egoist down there - have I for questioned my heart when I put my hand in his? I said 'yes' out of fear of mom - "

"And out of love for me and Magnus," added Ulrike in such a toneless voice, as if she were forever broken in body and soul. “We did everything to persuade you; we wanted to save you from the hell of our house and have not for a moment been in doubt that you should find love wherever you go - and now you are so systematically denied it. ... you, so young - "

"So young? … Ulrike, I will be twenty-one years old next month; We have had a lot of bitter and painful things together - I am by no means the kind of child in terms of experience and outlook on life that Mama has just described me as. ... Let me go with Mainau without worry - me want his love doesn't, and I'm proud enough never to leave him in doubt about it. My institute certificates regarding language skills give me a lot of courage - the Baroness Mainau is moving into Schönwerth today, but in truth only little Leo's tutor. I then have a noble sphere of activity and can perhaps do some good things - I don't want more for my whole life. ... Now let's say goodbye, Ulrike - stay here with Papa while I leave the house! "

She hugged the sister who stayed behind repeatedly and stormily, then flew without turning her eyes back through the marble gallery into her mother's living room. Magnus stood there by the window and looked at the car that had already stopped at the foot of the outside staircase; Countess Trachenberg was just coming across the palace courtyard with the three gentlemen. It was a good thing that she could not see how her son, the "sleepyhead", the "man without all energy" embraced her sister crying bitterly - how she would have been angry about this heartbreaking farewell, which was "so inadequate" !

Liane stepped steadily down the stairs, her veil drawn over her face. "Go with God and my blessings, dear child!" Said the countess with a theatrical gesture and let her hand hover over the daughter's head for a moment; then she lifted her veil and touched the young woman's white forehead with cool lips.

A few minutes later the car rolled on the road that led to the next railway station.


After a four-hour drive, the travelers alighted at the residence's train station. Here the new life in all its splendor already approached the young woman. The equipage that awaited them to take them to Schönwerth, an hour away, was conspicuous by the fairy-like appearance of all their furnishings - one had to tell oneself at once that the matt silver, shimmering, milk-white atlas in the rear could only be a young, To embrace spoiled beauty - the dusty gray, simple travel dress of the young lady, who leaned quietly back in the corner, almost looked like the scanty shell of a charcoal burner child that a loving prince charming had picked up in the forest and kidnapped into his castle.

While Herr von Rüdiger took the place next to Liane, Baron Mainau swung himself on the box and took the reins. He sat proudly carelessly up there; but the team he ruled roared like daring along the smooth, wide road that cut across part of the park. ... There the pond blinked, and a flight of white-shining field pigeons circled above the fishing village, otherwise it was dead quiet and deserted over there. Now the driveway ran between the densely packed giants of forest trees, which only reluctantly gave it space - here and there a narrow cut through suddenly flashed the sunny landscape outside like a gem in the darkness of the tree.

Suddenly, at a distance of fifty paces, a rider flew sideways out of the thicket into the middle of the road - it almost seemed as if she were standing in front of the speeding equipage.

"Mainau - the Duchess!" Cried Herr von Rüdiger, startled; but already the splendid team, as a result of a single movement of its handlebars, stopped the frenzied gallop and walked at a pace. ... A second lady burst out of the forest and followed the Duchess. They approached quickly. This is how one might imagine the angel of death riding across the battlefield, like this princely horsewoman in the long, flowing black robe, under the bluish-black hair thrown back on her neck - too heavy for the breeze to lift her - the beautiful but eerily colorless one Face that at that moment did not show the faintest color of the living, rolling wave of blood, even on the lips.

"Good luck, Baron Mainau!" She called out to him with a proud gesture of the hand, who leaned low in front of her. What a mockery there was in these almost dragging, slow and yet so sharply accentuated sounds of the full, deep woman's voice. ... Had she made a careless move, or shied away from the beautiful, fiery animal that she was riding - enough, it suddenly carried her with a wild leap close to the blow of the slowly passing car.

"Stay seated, Herr von Rüdiger!" She waved condescendingly to the man who was soaring upwards, without looking at him - rather, her flaming eyes tried, in consuming restlessness, to penetrate the lowered veil of the frightened young woman - in the next instant the riders were stalking again; For a few seconds the two horses chased side by side, body to body, and the lithe lady-in-waiting bent over to her mistress. "This little, gray nun is really a Trachenberg’s Rothkopf, Your Highness," the pretty girl's mouth exclaimed bluntly. The rolling of the wheels devoured the call; but Baron Mainau, who had turned back, saw the characteristic gesture of the lady - he smiled; Liane saw for the first time that proud smile of triumph, of satisfied vanity, for the first time saw his eyes shine in that fire that was so dangerous. The corner in which his young wife was sitting had not even glanced at him - this absolute indolence and indifference was so visibly unconscious that even his friend Rudiger saw that it had nothing in common with that affected, disdainful calm that the beautiful man from Caprice often had showed to the most dazzling women.

The gray dapple roared across the road again, so wildly and dizzyingly fast, as if the beautiful, pale princess had stirred up all the glow in the veins of the handlebars with her "Glück zu!" The young woman's gaze hung on his every move. The encounter in the forest had suddenly thrown a glimpse of the new circumstances - now she knew why Mainau could never give her love.

[40] The last forest trees flew by, then it went downhill into the Schönwerther Thal, through facilities with which the ducal park was not allowed to compete. For a while a high grille, fine as cobwebs, ran in the same direction as the road; Far inside, covered in gray by this transparent wire veil, strange treetops rose into the blue air; Glowing panicles of flowers dawned over from enormous calyxes, like coral strings from green sea tide. Then for a few seconds a wall of mimosa bushes pressed itself against the lattice, darkening it - it tore open, and with a shocking suddenness a brightly painted Hindu temple with gold-shining domes emerged; the blue-tinged, transparent waters of a large pond knocked on its broad, descending marble staircase, and in the foreground, on the finely-sheared lawn of the bank, stood a mighty bull, its broad forehead majestically turned towards the passing carriage. ... It was like a sun-golden dream fluttering over the fairytale-like India - with the end of the wire network it went out without a trace; venerable linden trees rustled again, and the dark spruce trees hung their long beards with their old age and solemnity over the young white clover flowers of the meadows.

Another bold curve through the middle of the ancient, darkening Maßholderbusch was described by the road, then the car rolled over a free gravel area and stopped in front of the portal of the Schönwerth Castle.

Several lackeys rushed to Galalivrée, and the steward in black tailcoat and white waistcoat opened the car door under a deep kneeling ... Liane had witnessed several years ago, unseen, how the young forester in Rudisdorf lifted his bride out of the car with strong arms and cheered into his forester's house - here the new husband threw the reins over to the groom, stepped coolly, albeit with a very obliging demeanor, to the wagon, and taking the young lady's left hand gently, with barely palpable touch, he helped her over down the step. With a little more pressure, he put his involuntarily backward hand on his arm and led the new Mistress von Schönwerth over the threshold.

It was as if she were entering a cathedral, so huge, so solemnly exalted the arch arched over her head, and such a church-like light fell through the colorful glass of the pointed arched windows into the wide staircase. These shimmering reflections, which here threw the purple robe of a Mother of God as a rosy tide onto the echoing floor, and there the palm dome over the resting holy family flowed down bright green on the red porphyry wall, they were only a distorted, cold sunlight; Even the wide carpet that ran down the stairs, as soft and elastic as it clung to the stone, completed the impression of an ecclesiastical style deliberately retained everywhere, as in an abbey - it showed the sparkling, overloaded blaze of colors, but also the stiff, spiritless ones Lines of Byzantine taste in its last period.

As soon as he entered, Mainau stopped in surprise, and his eyes gleamed with anger on the steward. The crouched man cleared his throat, embarrassed, behind the hand he held up - it was clear that he would not have raised his eyes around the world to meet the master's gaze again. "I was not allowed to, sir," he said softly. "The baron did not allow the orangery to be set up, and the garlands had to be removed again - because of the gracious madam."

A stream of fire shot down the lord's face. With cat-like, noiseless suppleness, the lackeys made an attempt to rescue them outside, but the pathetic figure of the steward who held out at his post had to, slumped deep in himself. ... The dreaded storm break was this time limited to an indescribably mocking smile that disfigured the mouth of the handsome man.

“You see me ashamed, Juliane,” he said - in his voice you could hear the inner struggle with anger - “I am unable to return the favor. In Rudisdorf we had flowers on the way - here you step into an unadorned house. Excuse my uncle - this gracious lady was his daughter. "

He didn't give her time to answer. At a stormy pace - leading the drifting steward dying to serve, and friend Rüdiger striding towards him with a shake of his head - he led the young woman up the stairs through grand halls, which were adjoined by a splendid mirror gallery. Liane saw herself striding along on the arm of the tall, proud man - in shape and posture they belonged together; but what a huge gap lay between the souls who had today forged a business contract, sanctioned by priestly word!

With a solemn, meaningful gesture, the steward threw back the wings of the exit door - a kind of dizziness seized the young woman; Despite the stone walls as thick as a cord and the imposing vaulted ceiling, it was humid and hot in the gallery; all the glowing heat of the July sun fell through the uncovered panes of the long row of windows - and there on the opposite wall of the large drawing room the bright flames blazed in the fireplace. Thick carpets covered the walls, the floor, and draped windows and doors; On top of the latter lay special, hermetically sealed, padded wings - everywhere one saw the anxious endeavor to generate warmth and to ward off the outside air, and in this heavy atmosphere, which also suffocated whole clouds of strong essences, sat a shivering man. His feet, drawn close to the crackling wooden blocks, were wrapped in silk quilts; there was something lifelessly immovable about their whole situation; on the other hand, the upper body showed an almost youthful graceful ease in posture. He was in a black tailcoat, and over the snow-white necktie sat a small, fine, clever face, whose sickly pallor was tinged with corpse-like by the unpleasant mixture of daylight and pale yellow flames - that was the Court Marshal Baron von Mainau.

"Dear uncle, allow me to introduce you to my young wife," said Mainau rather laconically, while Liane threw back the veil over the brim of her hat and bowed.

The old man's small brown eyes focused sharply on her face. "You know, my dear Raoul," he replied slowly and carefully, without looking away from the blushing woman, "that I cannot greet the young lady as your wife until our church has sanctioned marriage."

“Not at all, uncle!” Started Mainau. "Only at this moment do I find out to what hair-raising ruthlessness your bigotry can increase, otherwise I would probably have known how to prevent such an omission."

“Ta, ta, ta - don't get excited, dear Raoul! Those are matters of faith, and noble natures don't argue about them, ”said the court marshal soothingly - it could not be mistaken, the feeble man with the witty face was afraid of the threatening voice of his nephew. "In the meantime I welcome you as Countess Trachenberg - you have an excellent name," he turned to Liane. He held out his right hand to her in greeting - she hesitated to put her hand between those pale, narrow, somewhat crooked fingers; an angry horror trembled inside her. She had known that the marriage was to be consecrated again on the same day according to the Catholic rite - the Mainaus were Catholics - but that the Protestant wedding in Rudisdorf was declared so completely null and void in this house[WS 1]that hit her like a devastating blow.

The old baron pretended not to notice her hesitation, and instead of her hand took the tip of one of her drooping braids. "Look how pretty!" He said gallantly. “Your old, illustrious name does not need to be mentioned, its infallible symbol will introduce you everywhere - that shone, even during the Crusades! ... Nature is not always so courteous to hold the stamp of the sexes in all generations, as with the thick lower lip of the Habsburgs and the Trachenberger red-haired. "- He smiled as obligingly as one can only smile after a well-meaning pronounced kindness.

Friend Rüdiger struggled with a cough, and Mainau [41] turned hastily to the nearest window. There stood little Leo, motionless and staring at the new mom; the charming boy leaned carelessly against the gigantic body of a Leonberg dog, and the right hand with the famous whip hung down over the animal's back - it was a group, as if placed for a brush or chisel.

“Leo, say hello to dear mom,” Mainau ordered in an unmistakably excited tone. Liane did not wait for the boy to come to her. In these horrific surroundings, the beautiful child's face shone towards her like a comforting light, regardless of his hostile, defiant look. She stepped over quickly. The delicate face with the flower-white complexion arched over the boy and a spicy breath touched his lips.

"Do you want to love me a little, Leo?" She whispered - that sounded pleading, and there was a knocking in her voice like soft sobs. The child's big eyes lost their focus. Fearfully astonished, they ran over the new mother's face - then the whip fell to the ground with a rumble, and suddenly two childrens arms wrapped themselves tightly around the young woman's neck.

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