Au Sérieux


HECTOR VON IMHOFF had been traveling for six months in the United States, when, early in November, 187—, he reached New York, expecting to be met by letters from his family urging an immediate return to Berlin. Much to his surprise, and we might also say gratification, his father granted him a few weeks’ respite. His marriage, which was to have taken place in January, had been postponed until Easter, on account of a death in the family of the young Baroness Emilie von Schwarzburg-Sonderhausen. The circumstances were so imperative that Hector instantly stifled his regrets, and wrote an affectionate letter of condolence to his betrothed. He deplored the necessity for this delay, but self-sacrificingly affirmed his resolution to be patient. It had been, he explained, his intention to embark at once for Europe, but since a return to Prussia at the present juncture could effect no result except to make him restless, he had made up his mind to remain (should his parents sanction this decision) a month or two longer in America. He had seen the Falls, the great lakes, the prairies, crossed the Mississippi, explored the Sierras and the valley of the Yosemite. Now it might be well for him to make the most of his proffered opportunity, and gather a few ideas about the inhabitants of the country, of whom he had so far received only the scantiest impressions. A wider experience and a closer acquaintance would enable him to carry away more just and discriminating notions of what their vaunted freedom had accomplished for civilization.

These admirable reasons for a prolonged stay he also detailed in a letter to his father and mother. Then, feeling certain of their consent, Hector sought his friend Raymond Ferris, and asked his advice about the best method of passing the winter and making the most of his time. Raymond unhesitatingly told him that the easiest way to attain the coveted knowledge of American society was to settle down in New York. He knew that the young Prussian’s means were moderate, and accordingly established him in a room adjoining his own near Union Square, and introduced him at the Hungarian restaurant, a block away, where he took his own meals. This arrangement, Raymond obligingly remarked, was inexpensive : they could go about on easy terms of camaraderie when the occasion suited, and at other times be absolutely free.

Hector and Raymond had studied together at the university at Göttingen, and their habit of friendship was already well tested. The young American returnerd to New York after completing his course, and had not met Von Imhoff again for the intervening five years. They had occasionally written to each other, and Raymond had been made a confidant to his-friend’s matrimonial prospects. Hector was Baron von Imhoff’s fifth son, and his patrimony was to be of the smallest; thus nothing could be more judicious than this marriage, which was to unite him to an heiress of good rank and enormous estates. Raymond had, it is true, seen the little baroness, on the occasion of a Christmas visit to the Château Imhoff, without having been enchanted ; but in spite of her somewhat calamitous absence of outward attractiveness, he had never expressed the faintest doubt of his friend’s supreme good luck, for he firmly believed certain substantial compensations more essential in marriage than fleeting personal charms.

Hector himself was now twenty-seven. He was tall, and had a soldierly figure and a plain but strong face. His manners were simple, direct, and absolutely quiet. He seemed always — or so, at least, Raymond Ferris was in the habit of saying — to be acting under orders, which may have been one of the results of his military training. He took life more seriously than his American friend, and was Consequently rewarded by more vivid impressions. He possessed high ardor for art; was clever with brush and pencil, and a proficient in music. He spoke several languages with ease, and was perfectly at home in English, pronouncing it in a way which curiously enhanced the value of certain words commonly slurred over. He was, in fact, so pleasing a fellow that Raymond Ferris was enormously proud of him, piqued himself on their intimacy, and was in no hurry to part with him. He took pains to have him admitted to the two best clubs, where he became necessarily something of a lion. He was, to begin with, a baron, — indifferent to his rank although he appeared to be ; he was an officer in the Prussian army; he seemed, in short, one of those enviable children of good luck who are presented at birth with St. Peter’s keys to whatever they want in heaven or on earth.

But where His friend’s introduction to feminine society was concerned, Raymond went to work more leisurely, determined to spoil nothing by haste. Nothing worth caring about was going on in society as yet, and it was as well, perhaps, that Hector’s curiosity should be slightly whetted regarding the fair ones he met in the street, or looked at between the acts of the opera.

“You seem to have a great many female acquaintances,” the young Prussian now and then remarked, with admiring patience.

“Yes, I count on knowing everybody in New York I consider worth knowing,” Raymond would reply.

Athirst for social information as he was, Hector could not resist the feeling at such times that his friend was indifferent to his interests, and held him back from any chance of compassing the wide experience of New York he was ambitious to gain. On further reflection, however, he was inclined to trust Raymond’s disinterestedness and rest upon his sagacity, knowing him to be a quiet fellow, who took all things coolly and never brought his green corn to market.

“They are very magnificent women,” he went on to say of these beautiful and seductive creatures, who gave him such charming glances and indicated such a large and vivid interest in him.

“ The loveliest women in the world,” Raymond returned, appreciative, but not enthusiastic.

“ They must have enjoyed very superior advantages to become acquainted with society so early.”

“ Why so ? ”

“ They do not seem in the least afraid of the admiration their beauty excites.”

“ Well, why should they be afraid ? ” was Raymond’s sensible reply.

Hector refrained from saying that he could not get over his amazement at the discovery that the fascinating young women he constantly came across were mostly unmarried. There was something in their ease, aplomb, perfect mastery of any accidental circumstances that chance offered, which had fastened the indelible impression upon his mind that they were matrons. When this notion was reversed, and he learned what a gloriously free and unfettered creature the American girl actually is, he began to think her a worthy object of study, and to take notes as far as his scanty opportunities afforded. He had prolonged his stay in New York with the definite purpose of improving his stock of knowledge ; and what a pleasant field tor patient and laborious investigations these charming creatures might offer! It seemed to him that if he could only become acquainted with one of them, he might go back to his own country considerably enlightened concerning the resources of the gentler sex. So far he had made sure of two things: first, that the American girl was the most exquisite production of nature or art; second, that she took an emancipated view of her relations to the universe, and could survey whatever she came across with coolness and decision in her beautifuleved wonder. He burned to know more of her ; to study her au fond, as it were. Let him but enjoy the chance, and he would go to work with zeal, purely disinterested in his scientific investigations, avoiding hasty generalizations, taking pains to discriminate accidental phenomena from essential facts.

“ Why should they be afraid of us ? ” repeated Raymond. “ If the truth were but known, I dare say it might come out that we are more afraid of them. We all require a pretty cool head and heart to refrain from committing absurdities on their account. But they can take care of themselves.”

“ A cool head and heart? ” said Hector. " Why so ? You are not betrothed. You expect to commit a few absurdities.”

“ Can’t afford it.”

“ I know very well what those words mean to me,” Hector went on to say. “ I could never afford to be carried away by my own feelings, — to plunge headlong without counting the risks of getting into water over my head. ... At the time of my betrothal, Raymond, I thought of you. You were left free; you were master of your own destiny; you were not domineered over by a tyrannical family decree, in which your own voice was not once heard. ... I was somewhat slow to realize my good fortune. I counted for more, perhaps, than they were worth those youthful forces of the heart and brain forbidden to me. . . . I asked for three years when they promised me to Emilie. I felt I could not be sure of myself sooner. . . . After a time I came to look at the circumstances which controlled me in a different light.”

“ Oh, you ’re an infernally lucky fellow ! ”

“ I suppose I am. I was restless at first, but now I am sobered. My fate no longer afflicts me. . . . You have seen Emilie. ... I have no doubt of her affection. . . . She will make me an excellent wife. . . . Already I see myself a père de famille. We shall reside on her estates. We shall have children. I care not how many, — one, two, three, four, five, six. Let them come. They may all be well portioned, for Emilie is rich, and their education will interest me, perhaps, and lighten the ennui of a country life. I began a year ago the study of agriculture. I shall pass my life experimenting on manures and crops and reading the foreign reviews.”

“ That’s a capital arrangement,” said Raymond. “ Of course we manage things very differently here. We go in altogether for sentiment.”

“Ah, yes ! The young men of a new country may logically assert their right to a different set of principles. Alas, we of the Old World are forced to be strictly rational, — to study prudence and keep our hold on our hereditary order. I have envied you, Raymond ! ”

Raymond burst out laughing.

“ You may fall in love,” pursued the young Prussian, with ardor. “ You may choose one of those beautiful Juno-eyed creatures, and become anchored to married life by an imperious and tender sentiment.”

“ Oh, hang it! ” cried Raymond. “ I’m not rich enough to fall in love. Heiresses are rare. I don’t want a wife till I am well off. Besides, none of these girls would care to marry me. They understand my position. I’m doing moderately well, but 1 need every cent I make for myself. I go about among them to amuse myself; that is the only definite good I seek to gain, while marriage is a definite evil to be avoided.”

“ And by amusement you mean ” —

“ Oh, I always take pains to have two or three flirtations every season.”

Von Imhoff regarded his friend with some expression of quickened interest in his candid brown eyes. The two were dining together at the Hungarian restaurant, and after some very fair red wine were sipping their coffee.

“ Two or three flirtations,” the Prussian repeated. “ I think you have explained the word, — you are attracted, — you ” —

“ Attracted ? Yes. I insist on that. I fall in love up to a certain point.”

“ Ah, — up to a certain point.”

“ Yes. I always compel myself to stop there, and never to take things au sérieux.”

“ I see. Never take things au sérieux.”

“ By Jove, no ! That would n’t do ! ”

“ No. The wise drinker never goes too deep. He stops short at the right moment.”

“ Exactly. I never get intoxicated. I admire a girl’s style and enjoy her conversation, — make sure that she is not heavy in hand, that she has spirit and temperament enough to interest me.”

“ And she ? She is no more serious than you ? ”

“ Serious ? No, not she. She’s too shrewd for that. She accepts my devotion with a charming air, but never forgets to keep her eye on the chance of a richer fellow’s turning up. I begin by sending her flowers. I call at her house as often as possible, and walk home from church with her. She is my regular partner in the German, and if I can afford it I take a box at the theatre, invite her mother to make up a party, and give them all a little supper at Delmonico’s or the Brunswick afterwards. I buy her bonbons and the new novels. She reads them and tells me about them, and we discuss all subjects under heaven. I assure you, it’s quite sufficiently diverting. I’m more than amused ; in fact, I’m instructed ! There’s no end to the cleverness of these girls ! They know everything in a sort of way. I declare to you, Hector, the girl I flirted with last winter was the most fascinating creature! She had violet eyes and pale yellow hair; she was so devilish pretty that I expected I should have to make allowances for her. Yet I found out that to love her was a liberal education.”

“ That is well said,” put in Von Imhoff. “ ‘ To love her was a liberal education.’ ”

“ Somebody said it before me. That’s where I fail, — in originality. But she never did. She was like the princess who kept the sultan amused for a thousand and one nights. Then, too, she was so lovely! One might have pardoned bêtises issuing from such delicious lips, but she never uttered bêtises. She knew music and art and china-painting and pottery glazes. Then, how witty she was, too! ”

“ Where is she now ? ”

“ She was married in September.”

“ Ah, my poor Raymond ! ”

“Not in the least. I was very glad to hear of her good fortune. She met the fellow in Newport. It was her mission to marry a rich man. I grudged her nothing.”

“ And you were familiar with this exquisite, brilliant creature all winter, yet you kept cool! You said to yourself, ‘ This is all a very pleasing amusement, but must not be taken seriously.’ ”

“ That was precisely my state of mind. That exquisite, brilliant creature had a great many needs which would have become imperious requirements the moment she had a husband, and she by no means wasted her aspirations on hopes of connubial happiness with me on a small income and a growing family.”

“ Strange, strange ! ” mused Hector.

“ What is strange ? ”

“ I suppose it must be the effect of this fine, clear climate.”

“ What must be the effect of the climate ? ”

Von Imhoff changed the subject. It did occur to him that if Raymond were a typical American, Americans must have their feelings pretty well in hand, — that in fact they must be cold-blooded, cold-hearted egotists. Still, it was not his notion of good manners to criticise the customs of the country he was visiting.

All the same, no word of his friend’s philosophy had been lost upon him, and this description of the ravishing ease with which a moderately pleasing young man might compass delightful experiences of these brilliant American girls, without dangerous results, suggested corresponding advantages for himself in his present pursuit of knowledge. It crossed his mind that Raymond’s methods, admirably simple as they seemed in his case, might with his own more ardent temperament become a little complicated in practice; but, after all, people went to strange countries merely to observe ; they left their hearts at home, and the only essential thing was to use eyes and intellect boldly, to master all facts presented, put them in logical order, and deduce theories from them.

The autumn was almost over, but Indian summer had now set in, with such soft airs and rare skies that it was Raymond Ferris’s habit to drive his friend to the Park every afternoon, where they would leave their wagon and saunter through the Mall and Ramble. Few leaves were left upon the trees, but of those few not one but was yellow or russet or dull red, and the calm sunshine gave its own warmth to all things, filling the landscape with color.

Towards the end of one of these days the two friends had left their drag near the Mall, and after a prolonged stroll had sat down on a rustic bench near the lake, and were as usual deeply engaged in conversation, when suddenly Raymond sprang to his feet. A young lady was approaching, attended by a diminutive gentleman some forty-five or fifty years of age, of the most solemn and faultless demeanor, wearing a red carnation in his button-hole. The girl was of unusual height and of a charming, slender figure. She wore a wide hat trimmed with black plumes and a gown of black velvet and silk, over which she had put a long redingote of creamcolored cloth. Her rich dress trailed a yard behind her, making her slim height appear yet more commanding.

“ My dear Raymond! ” she exclaimed, in a peculiarly impressive voice.

“ My dear cousin Lisa! ” Raymond returned, flushing with pleasure. “ When did you get back from Newport ? ”

“ Only this morning. Raymond, let me introduce you to Mr. Long.”

“ I have had the honor of meeting Mr. Ferris,” Mr. Long returned in a precise and painstaking tone, “ but I have never yet enjoyed the pleasure of shaking hands with him.”

The two at once proceeded to this advance in intimacy. Raymond knew Mr. Long very well as the successful financier of certain well-known railway corporations. After shaking hands with this important personage, he impressively introduced Baron Hector von Imhoff to him and to his cousin, Miss Walden.

Miss Walden gave the Prussian a glance out of the corners of her long dark eyes, and decided at once that he had a refined and powerful face.

“ My step-mamma is driving about in the carriage,” said she, “ and Mr. Long and I started to walk through the Ramble, promising to meet her beyond the bridge. Will you come with us ? ”

“ With — the — utmost — pleasure,” stammered Von Imhoff, his admiring glance fastened full upon her, and unable to repress his enthusiasm at such a prospect.

Lisa smiled at him very graciously, and walking down a side-path kept him with her, while Mr. Long and Raymond fell behind. The four went on tirelessly, under bridges, through grottoes and vine-covered arbors, apparently losing themselves in the tortuous paths of the labyrinth. If any one felt dissatisfaction at the distance it was not Raymond, who had long wished to get the ear of his present companion ; nor Hector, who now trod on air, having gained his muchcoveted opportunity ; nor Lisa herself, who talked incessantly, smiling, and constantly turning to study her new acquaintance with her full, splendid glance.

Not even Mr. Long made an effort to shorten the promenade until finally the thickets in shadow began to gloom together, when he quietly suggested that they had better turn towards the drive. Here they found the carriage in waiting. On the back seat reclined a lady, who, if not in her first youth, had no more than reached the point of perfected beauty. She was, in truth, remarkably handsome, of a listless, drowsy, blonde type, well set off by a bonnet and carriage-dress of dark blue.

“ Well, Lisa ! ” was her exclamation, as the group approached. “ I was on the point of going home and sending back for you.”

“ Mamma,” returned Miss Walden, “ let me introduce Baron von Imhoff. And here is cousin Raymond Ferris.”

Mrs. Walden opened her eyes and stared frankly at Hector.

“ How do you do ? ” she said. “ I am very glad to meet you. How do you like New York? Is it like what you expected an American city to be ? Now that we have got back, I hope you will come a great deal to see us. Raymond, you must bring Baron von Imhoff to the house at once.”

“ To-night ? ”

“ Certainly, to-night. We have to dine early, for Mr. Long is on his way to Washington.” She looked sleepily at Hector. “You’ll come, baron?” she added, softly smiling, sweetly speaking.

Hector bowed, and expressed extreme happiness in accepting the invitation. Mr. Long assisted Miss Walden to her seat, followed her, shut the door with a bang, and the carriage rolled away. The sun had now really set. The sky was half rosy, half amber color; in the north and east the horizon toned gradually into violet. The landscape, with its crimsons, russets, and yellows, still kept the light, and in the Indian summer atmosphere took on a look of infinite richness. The two young men stood until the warm light faded into pale gold, then into whiteness, and at last flushed into a vermilion after-glow. The air grew chilly, and Raymond’s trap, for which they had been waiting, rattled up, and they got in.

Hector had not spoken since he parted with Miss Walden. He looked flushed and excited, but not until they were dining together did he broach the subject agitating his thoughts.

“ Do I understand, Raymond, that Miss Walden is your cousin ? ”

“ Our mothers were sisters.”

“ Is it possible ! ”

“Why not ? There is nothing incredible in the relationship, is there ? ”

“ Never in all the time that I have known you have you mentioned her name to me ! ”

“ Have n’t I ? I looked forward to your meeting her. In fact, New York never seems worth the candle until she is here, and I hesitated to introduce you until she and Mrs. Walden could set affairs going. It takes women to manage these things.”

“ You have waited until I had the chance of meeting the most beautiful, the most distinguished! I thank you, Raymond, from my heart.”

Raymond stared at his friend.

“ What the devil is there to be so sentimental about ? ” he thought to himself. “ Lisa is no end of a nice girl,” he said aloud. “ I’ve always been fond of Lisa.”

“ She is a goddess ! ” exclaimed Hector. “ Never have I seen so magnificent a woman! ”

“ Well, for my own part, I don’t call her as handsome as Mrs. Walden, yet I acknowledge she’s thorough-bred to her finger-tips, and has a style of her own which makes her effective. Then, too, she is infernally clever, — one of those girls with eyes to see and sense to understand everything. She’s crammed full of ideas, — she might write a book. She will appreciate you.”

“ Appreciate me!” murmured Von Imhoff, flushing to his hair. “ I am not so presumptuous.”

“ She’s ambitious,” pursued Raymond, “ and is n’t overburdened with heart. She will make a rich marriage, and likely enough is going to accept Long, — the fellow she was with this afternoon.”

“ That mummy ! ” gasped Hector. “ That pale, cold shadow ! That dull automaton ! That mere semblance of a man ! Impossible ! ”

“ He may not be an Apollo, but after all what difference does it make ? She’s not rich. My uncle was a millionaire when he married that young wife, but he sunk his money in two railroads, and disaster overtook him in ’73. He died too soon to get out of the scrape. He did n’t leave much available property, yet those two women have been spending right and left ever since. Lisa has told me over and over that she has n’t a penny, and must either marry or go to work. That alternative is a neat stroke of hers. I don’t think there need be much doubt that both she and her step-mother will make good matches.”

If Lisa had charmed the young Prussian in the Park, the impression gained both in breadth and vividness when he saw her at home. She seemed younger, more girlish. She was dressed in some sort of clinging white material, and looked taller and more virginal than before. She had talked in the afternoon with the ease and finish of an experienced woman, and he had listened considerably dazzled. Her fancy to-night was to reverse this order, and Hector was stimulated to the point of pouring out almost the entire history of his life, If he did not confess his betrothal, it was perhaps that nothing seemed to suggest it.

“ You are much more interesting than our young men,” Miss Walden remarked to him frankly. “ I do not know when I was ever so delightfully entertained. I hope you will come and see us very often. Let us be the very best friends in the world.”

Now this struck Von Imhoff as something distinctly novel and charming, — to have a young and beautiful creature look at him declaring admiring appreciation of his gifts, and demand that they should swear an eternal friendship. . . . Yet all the time there was no coquetry about her, no blushes, no self-consciousness.

“To be your friend,” Hector returned promptly, “is the height of my present ambition.”

“ How delightful! ” said Lisa, laughing. “ What can I do for you in New York ? ”

“ To be your friend,” remarked Hector, “ is an occupation in itself. I ask no other.”

Lisa regarded him smiling, her head a little on one side. In his eyes she grew more and more beautiful every moment.

“ Oh, I know! ” she cried presently, as if she had caught an idea which had hitherto eluded her. “ Raymond told me your wish was to study the customs of the country.”

“ Yes. In that case, is it not well to begin with a particular subject ? ”

“ Oh, no doubt. But it is all a very difficult matter for foreigners. They never understand us. They look at us from the outside,— they persist in taking up an utterly false hypothesis, and then deducing the most absurd sequence and calling it logical.”

“ That is what I want, — to make no mistakes. I want to go to the bottom of things. I want to comprehend from the inside.”

“ Let me help you ! ” said Lisa eagerly. “ I think,” she added, resting her splendid glance on him and smiling, “ that you might understand us. You are not dull, you are not bigoted. I would trust your perceptions and your instincts.”

Hector gazed at her.

“ What I want,” he said hesitatingly, with an ingenuous blush, “ is to make a study of American women.”

Lisa laughed.

“ That is a large, deep, and difficult subject,” said she.

“ I might,” he ventured, — “I might begin with one.”

“ That would be simpler and pleasanter. How would you set about it ? ”

“ I should try to do everything which your cousin Raymond, for instance, does. I should like for the time being to become American.”

“ What does Raymond do ? ”

“ I myself have always taken life too seriously,” Hector went on, still hovering about his subject, and leaving her partly to infer his meaning. “ Now I admire Raymond’s philosophy. He has roses without thorns, — the sparkle of wine without the dregs.”

“ I did not know Raymond had any philosophy,” returned Lisa, “ except perhaps on the subject of falling in love. I have heard him discourse on that.”

“ He says he half falls in love,” said Hector. “ That is — he has — he has — he has — flirtations.”

Lisa laughed again, with a very arch face.

“ I see ! ” she exclaimed, — “I begin to understand ! You are anxious to follow his example. It is a flirtation you want.”

“ Who could resist such an example ? ”

“ You want to — half fall in love.”

“ Precisely.”

“ You are certain of leaving off at the right moment, — of not being led to take things au sérieux ? ”

“ Raymond says that it is not difficult.”

“ Not at all. A flirtation is a very simple matter. All that is necessary is a thorough understanding at the beginning that the heart is not to meddle.”

“ Certainly. The heart might be a troublesome factor, — it should be eliminated.”

“ What is essential is a perfect intellectual sympathy.”

“ And that we possess ! ” cried Hector, with ardor. “ Ah, if you ” — He gazed into her face almost breathless. “ You promised me your friendship,” he faltered.

“ And I hope we may both receive a great deal of pleasure from our friendly intercourse,” said Lisa, looking at him kindly.

“ And I am free to see you often ? ”

“ As often as you please.”

“ I have nothing more to ask for,” murmured Hector in ecstasy. He had risen, and was preparing to take leave. She had extended her fair hand, to which he now stooped and pressed his lips with fervor.

Lisa grew scarlet. “ Ah! ” she exclaimed, “ they were our customs you were to study. You were not to teach us yours.”

He looked at her with an air of solemn and startled regret.

“ Have I made a mistake ? Have I offended ? ” he said deprecatingly. However, it was impossible that his repentance should go very deep, for Miss Walden’s sudden embarrassment brought her down from the heights of her woman-of-the-world aplomb into something distinctly lovable and feminine, adding new charms to her beauty. The conquest which her magnificent self-possession had begun her girlish shyness fully achieved.

“ Von Imhoff,” called Raymond from the next room, “ we are staying too long. The ladies are tired.” There was no more delay in the leave-taking.

“ Well,” said Raymond, when they were walking down the street, “ did you like Lisa as well as you expected ? ”

“ Ye-es,” returned Hector, with discretion.

“ Did your acquaintance begin well ? ”

“Very well.” He spoke with animation.

“ Look out for your head, my boy ! She may lead you into deep waters.”

“ I might warn you,” retorted Hector. “ I saw you with the fair widow. You know the fascination of widows — you” —

“ I don’t care what you saw. It was all right. She is fascinating, — devilish fascinating. We’re old friends, we’re connections, and what is more we are going in for a tremendous flirtation.”

“ Oh, you are ! ”

“ She said, ‘ What’s this dull town to me ? ’ and I offered to amuse her until something more to her fancy turned up. I know nobody half so handsome, and I like to hear her talk. She has no subjects, and does n’t get up enthusiasms like Lisa, but she prattles and she purrs. I rather like a woman to purr. I foresaw that I should be taking you to the house frequently, so I thought it as well to provide for my own entertainment.”

“ It is all easy to you.”

“You seem to be going ahead very well, yourself.”

“ I am not ‘ to the manner born,’ as your Hamlet says,” answered Von Imhoff, a little absently; then, after a pause, went on : “ Tell me, Raymond, ought I —ought I in honor to acquaint Miss Walden with the fact of my betrothal ? ”

Raymond chuckled. “ No, — not a word.”

“But — but — perhaps — if ” —

“ You don’t mean to say you flatter yourself there’s any danger of her falling in love with you ? I assure you, you need have no scruples. She ’ll take care of herself. She ’ll not begrudge you a little innocent flirtation. She takes a purely artistic interest in men, and is fond of studying different types.”


Von Imhoff felt grateful to Raymond for that phrase. It suggested and expressed the situation, and frequent repetition of it was certain to limit his imagination and keep it well within bounds. “ A purely artistic interest ” was what he wished to take in the American type of woman, and however hazy his notions of what this feeling was might be, it was well at least to have a precise definition of it. He was at last well launched in the pursuit of knowledge, and never was mastery of any science attended apparently with fewer difficulties.

He saw Miss Walden constantly, and every time he saw her the impression gained in depth and charm. They played together, for Hector was a performer on both the piano and violin ; they sang together, studying assiduously at music with the fervor of artists thrilled and moved out of themselves; they read German together; they sketched and painted and decorated together; they went into society to meet; in fact, the whole existing order of things seemed especially created for them to enjoy each other’s intimacy. If there were drawbacks, Hector had no notion of them. There were no bristling barriers, no obstacles, no chaperons even, except as Mrs. Walden and Raymond played the part by always appearing judiciously at the right moment and ingeniously taking the part of chorus when occasion needed.

Raymond’s devotion to the pretty widow continued unabated.

“ I assure you, Hector,” he used to say, when hearing the chimes of midnight or later hours they walked discreetly homewards, — “I assure you, she’s a delightful creature. I should n’t be at all surprised if the affair lasted me all winter, unless somebody more eligible turns up for Maddy.”

“ You seem ready to show a noble spirit of self-sacrifice,” remarked Hector.

“ I don’t mean to let my own feelings stand in the way of Maddy’s good,” Raymond conceded, with an air of generosity.

They walked along in silence for a time ; then the young Prussian suddenly exclaimed, “ Your American women are charming! ”

“ Charming is the word.”

“ Unlike any other women I ever knew or heard of,” pursued Hector, warming with his theme. “ Full of fancy, full of wit, full of paradox ; delightful in caprice, changeable as the wind ; reserved where one does not want full illumination, yet frank as children ; shy and delicate over womanly secrets, yet ready to utter the most audacious opinions on every subject.”

“ By Jove ! ” said Raymond. “ Look out! You ’ll be falling in love, next.”

“ One does not fall in love with such women,” returned Hector, his ears tingling. “ They have fascination but no tenderness, caprices but no impulses. They are too rational; they only listen to their intellects, and lack the inspiration of real feeling.”

“ You know them like a book.”

“ You remember I wanted to gain a definite idea of them.”

“ You seem to have got hold of it. I dare say you 're right. I have been their humble admirer a good while, but never took pains to analyze the precise nature of their strength or to discover their limitations. Speaking of women to fall in love with, I suppose the Baroness Emilie is ” —

“ Precisely,” said Hector, all alert, — “precisely.” He was silent a moment, then went on: “ Emilie is not brilliant, but she will afford me a refuge, — a haven.”

“ Just what a fellow wants,” remarked Raymond, with cheerful ease. “ And I suppose, too, it’s that sort of thing my cousin Lisa expects to find in her marriage with Mr. Long.”

They were passing a lamp-post, and Von Imhoff seized his friend by the shoulder, drew him under the light, and gazed at him with solemn intensity.

“ What do you mean ? ” he demanded.

“ Exactly what I say. In marrying Mr. Long, Lisa does not expect to find emotion, excitement, and all that. What she wants is a handsome house and a general feeling of comfort about her future prospects.”

“ But Miss Walden is not going to marry Mr. Long ! ”

“ Well, I am not in her confidence ; the engagement is not announced, but I fancy the thing is settled.”

“ He has not been near her ! ”

“ He can't afford the time. He is out West, making ten thousand dollars a month.”

“ She never speaks of him ! ”

“ By the way, have you ever talked to her about the Baroness Emilie ? ”

Hector had experienced a palpable shock. His blood tingled to his very finger-ends, and he found some difficulty in concealing his state of feeling from Raymond, who was chuckling to himself, and seemed to take an almost brutal pleasure in what he would have called the humor of the situation.

“ I warned you,” he went on. “ Lisa is nothing if not a coquette. Don’t let her have a chance of laughing at you. What on earth is the use of taking the matter seriously ? You don’t want to marry her.”

Hector could hardly repress an exclamation.

“ When you find yourself becoming a little infatuated,” pursued Raymond, “ the best antidote is to fall in love with somebody else. When you can realize with equal vividness the charms of two very different women, you ’re safe. I find I have to go on to Washington to-morrow night. Come with me, and I’ll introduce you to an enchanting little creature, the daughter of a senator.”

“ On the whole,” said Hector, “ my father told me to spend some little time in Washington. I ’ll go.”

Naturally, before he set out, his paramount duty was to bid good-by to Miss Walden. He had been obliged to stifle a sort of emotion when Raymond alluded to the impossibility of his feeling a wish to marry the young lady, but after all his friend was right. He had had a chance to study the most beautiful of women, and had made the most of his opportunities. He had sought her constantly ; he knew the house as well as his own mother’s at home; the very flowers growing in the pots on the window-sills, the open piano, the fire in the grate, seemed to have been watching for him, and to greet him with a radiant welcome when he went in. But all the same, the uniform, regular line of his life was to contain neither Miss Walden nor her surroundings; even the smiles on her lips and the bright glances of her eyes were to play no part in his future.

He walked to the little house on Thirty-Eighth Street, humming the music to which one of Heine’s songs was set. Heine had realized, both as a man and an artist, the sweet bitterness of his present pain.

“ Es hat mich zu ihrem Hause geführt
Ich küsste die Steine der Treppe
Die oft ihr kleiner Fuss berührt
Und ihres Kleides Schleppe,”

he sang to himself as he pulled the door-bell, but for all that his heart was throbbing when he was ushered into Miss Walden’s presence.

“ I am going to Washington,” he announced at once. “ I start with Raymond to-night. My father has written that I ought to see the city where your chief magistrate lives.”

“ I suppose you ought,” said Lisa, with a frank sigh. “ Of course, all you are doing here is to observe and study the country and its institutions, but I confess I had forgotten all that. It has seemed to me that the raison d'être of your life was much the same as mine.”

“And that is?” asked Hector, when she paused.

“ To put as much pleasure into my days as possible. How dull it will be without you ! ” she went on. She was sitting in a very low chair, and had to look up at him with her face fully lifted in order to meet his eyes. “ I shall not care about my music; I shall not care about my painting; I shall not even care about a beautiful new dress which I was expecting to wear to Mrs. Parker’s ball to-morrow night. As for my German books, I shall put them away altogether. I shall have no object in my life.” She sighed again, looking at him and smiling, but the gayety of her lips seemed quenched by the melancholy of her long dark eyes. “ And you, meanwhile,” she added, — “ you will be gaining new ideas, new impressions. A woman has only one tune to play, — even that tune has very few notes, — which must be repeated over and over ; but your harp has many strings, and can answer every sort of a vibration. You are not obliged to endure endless variations on the old theme.” She smiled again, half sighing the while. Hector felt a little dizzy ; his head was certainly swimming. She did not wait for him to answer. “ Have you liked New York ? ” she asked him, with something pensive and wistful about her. " Of course it is not like your brilliant Continental cities, but I hope you will carry away pleasant impressions,”

“ I shall carry away one impression,” returned Hector in a deep voice, — “ an impression fixed and indelible.”

“ I am glad you speak in a melancholy tone,” said Lisa. “ I feel very melancholy myself. How long shall you be absent ? ”

“ A fortnight.”

“ After a week, then, I may begin to have a horizon. I shall get out my music and my German, and look for you to return. Even the new dress shall wait. Still, don’t let us talk about your going away any more now. It dispirits me.”

“ I wish,” muttered Hector, “ that I dared to believe that.”

“ Oh, you have widened my world for me! ” cried Lisa. “ I had had a surfeit of New York life before you came. I was looking forward to a very dull season, yet it has not been dull. But why do I say these things ? They may all be told when you are really bidding us good-by, — when you are going back to the Old World. Let us talk still about our occupations, about what we are doing and are going to do. And you are not setting out until to-night. We have the whole day to spend, and there are half a dozen engagements. Mamma,” — at this moment Mrs. Walden came into the room, exquisitely dressed, — “ Mr. von Imhoff is going away. Help me to entertain him so that he may remember us in Washington. Let us impress ourselves upon his memory.”

Hector found his day fully occupied. He drove about with the two ladies, lunched with them, attended a concert and a reception, and looked in at a wedding ; but after dinner he was on his way to Washington. He had heard nothing more about Mr. Long, and had almost entirely forgotten the troublesome suggestion Raymond had offered concerning that gentleman. Lisa had certainly succeeded in impressing herself upon his memory, — he could think of nothing else.

He was not the first man who has run away from a woman’s fascinations, nor was his experience unique when he made the discovery that by substituting a dream for a reality he had not improved his state of mind. Raymond took pains to launch him in Washington society, and not only the enchanting daughter of the senator gave him favorable attention, but all the diplomatic service rushed to do him honor, and he was included in the most unbounded hospitality. He had, however, plenty of time to think. It is, in fact, a little curious how much opportunity for reflection a young man of twenty-seven may find when there is a beautiful girl to think about. It seemed the first chance he had enjoyed to think about Miss Walden, and the subject afforded scope for all his powers. Hitherto his mind had been kept in a state of tension by being perpetually with her. New emotions of curiosity, surprise, and admiration had carried him constantly from point to point, and thus piqued, diverted, stimulated, he had not had the requisite leisure to take stock of his impressions. At one time she had been gay, and at another grave ; she delighted in alternations of magnificence and humility, hauteur and child-like abandon. He went to work to realize her to his imagination as a whole.

It was a very pleasing amusement indeed. It would have been a luxury to have given himself up to it unreservedly, — to have sat over his fire and thought the whole thing out; but he had a programme to go through, and mechanically obeyed the prescribed routine. But whether he was talking or dancing, dining or supping, listening to debates in the senate and house or laughing at the witticisms of his friends among the attachés, who were full of amusing stories concerning the great country where they represented their sovereigns, he was always improving his time. The picture on his mental retina was so vivid that, no matter to what brilliant pageant he gave his outward attention, he never lost sight of Lisa. She had given him her picture at parting, and by looking at it for an hour in the morning and another hour before seeking rest at night he was enabled to remember her features exactly. He could think of her under all circumstances; could see her move about the room ; could catch the exact spirit of her gestures, — her trick of adjusting the violets she wore at her belt, the necklace at her throat, or the train of her dress. She was very near him indeed in these days, — so near, in fact, that besides looking into her long, dark, laughing or melancholy eyes, or at her mutinous rosy lips, he could hear the tones of her voice, her low laugh, — could even feel the pressure of her light touch upon his hands. Going about with actual women of flesh and blood was a tame amusement compared with this. But all the while he was in capital spirits ; he could talk wittily, almost brilliantly, and could fancy the turn of Lisa’s head and the glance of her eye in return. Having reconstructed her from his chaotic and fragmentary recollections, his tumult of various impressions, sensations, and inclinations, he was not slow to endow his creation with a warmth and impetuosity of feeling which seemed to include him, and him only, in this charming intimacy with which his imagination now made him every hour more dangerously familiar.

By a curious coincidence, while he was thus picturing Lisa Walden for himself, he received a letter from his mother in Germany, inclosing a portrait of his betrothed. At such a moment, and with such a state of mind as our hero’s, we are all aware that this new portrait should have served as an amulet; but we are obliged to confess that it only fretted him, and added fuel to the fire already too thoroughly kindled.

The truth was the Baroness Emilie did not photograph well. She was of low stature, but excessively plump ; her face was plain and colorless; her scanty hair was of the faintest yellow. The process threw into glaring relief the irregularity of her features, and quenched her poor little near-sighted eyes of all their light. Then the style of her dress and head-gear struck Hector as mortifyingly provincial and crude. He had of late learned by heart some of the charms and subtilties of a very different sort of toilette, for Lisa dressed with a perfection of taste absolutely ravishing. In fact, the difference disclosed by these two pictures was extreme; it amounted to a revelation.

These comparisons were not taken up with a view to any one’s disparagement, but after placing the two portraits side by side the truth glared in upon him. There was Emilie, good, simple, faithful Emilie, whom he had known from the time she was a featureless little girl, solemnly toddling about the gardens with her bonne. He had never permitted himself to own that he was bored by Emilie, but had insisted to his own heart that he entertained a placid affection for her, and regarded her settled little habits with kindly, if amused, approbation. She had no passions and only one enthusiasm, which was for knitting and crochet work ; the sorrow of her life was that her eyes were too weak for embroidery. In spite of her aristocratic lineage, she inherited no social impulses, and the great world was an irksome, even painful, ordeal to her. She was educated to appreciate music in a degree, and had practiced conscientiously all the sonatas for which Hector ever expressed a liking, and he had felt obliged to forgive the indifferent results out of respect for her faithfulness. Never had he felt a moment’s doubt about her qualifications for wifehood, nor did he now.

These excellent qualifications he had more than once distinctly repudiated in Miss Walden’s case. He had told himself that in married life a man wanted a rest. Alas, looking now first at Emilie and then at Lisa, it suddenly occurred to him that a passion for one’s wife might fill existence with not only emotion, but inspiration !

Once having entertained this dangerous sentiment, the picture of his future, with which he had for years been familiar, grew all at once abhorrent to him. The great Schloss Sonderhausen suddenly loomed up gloomy as a prison ; he hated its fair meadows and deep forests, and felt he never could draw breath there. What dullness ! What ennui ! That peaceful picture of walking about the gardens, with Emilie waddling by his side, and discussing what should be planted here and what cut down there, while their placid offspring played about them on the grass, inspired only a feeling of icy annoyance.

Good Heavens ! He could not, — he would not. He yielded to the pressure of feeling which all at once clutched him with a giant’s hand. He threw aside Emilie’s picture, and looked with a beating heart into that other face, so arch, so brilliant, so suggestive, with its dangerous eyes and lips. Here was his life. He loved Lisa, — he loved her madly. And what was her actual feeling for him ? He deliberately sat down, folded his arms, and thought over the entire history of his acquaintance with her. There had been certain words, signs of emotion, and looks which threw everything into the most enchanting light. He rose triumphant. No doubt existed in his mind that her destiny was to belong to him; she had been created for his happiness as he for hers. Had she not told him he had widened her world ?

He made up his mind at once. Of course it was very wrong, — of course it was very dishonorable. Nevertheless, there was something irresistibly pleas ant, for a young fellow who had been tu tored from his infancy, in awakening to the fact that he had at last a vital, personal experience, which must change all the old order of his life.

Hector remembered his father, the baron, with his grim face, his few words, always to the point and always in command, his contemptuous rejection of all individual wishes on the part of his sons. He thought, too, of the stately, gentle old baroness, in her faded boudoir, with her mingled teachings of religion and worldliness. It was easy for him to throw off his allegiance both to father and mother. They had governed him so tyrannically, — they had made him live by mechanism. He remembered with bitterness the pressure put upon him at the time of his betrothal. In spite of his duty to his parents, his honor, his assured future, this thing he had pledged himself to do seemed monstrous, a sacrilege!

He flung off his long-trained consciousness. All his feelings rushed in one current, and he yielded to it. He cut his visit short, determining to return instantly to New York. While he made his few preparations a voice rang in his ears, — a voice so sweet, so seductive, that it obliterated all his scruples, and made him glad and proud to feel that he was in the full sweep of the world’s forces towards his own hopes and his own needs. He constantly saw Lisa’s beautiful eyes; he thought of her exquisite hands. . . .

He would have been delighted had this ecstatic state of mind continued all through the sleepless night’s length of his journey back to New York. The reflection, however, had finally asserted itself, with more or less strength, that although the love he had to offer Miss Walden was mighty, his purse was light. He began to think about his thirty-five hundred thalers, which was all the money he had in the world to call his very own, after paternal remittances should cease. It was not much of a foundation for a baronial hall to which to conduct a fair baroness. Hector did not, however, allow these thoughts to dishearten him. He had a large, if vague, sense of the resources of a new country, and he had already studied agriculture for a year. Yielding to the seductiveness of delightful results independent of tedious processes, he saw himself the possessor of a bonanza farm, yielding luscious pears, grapes, all the wealth of Eden without one of the fruits forbidden. The vision was so charming that it seemed to Hector actually better to be Adam and Eve in this paradise than to hold all the titles and honors of the Old World. He had a reckless desire to out-Antony Antony, and kiss away his kingdoms and provinces at once.

He spent his day after arriving in New York in writing to his father, detailing his reasons for his present action, and defining his state of mind towards love and marriage in general, and towards Emilie in particular. Many thoughts came into his mind as he addressed the baron, and he put them all down, and forebore no mention of any of his old grievances. The letter covered so many sheets that it was not yet finished when Hector discovered that the morning and part of the afternoon had passed, and that it was time to go and see Miss Walden.

He had sent her word that he was coming, and he found her alone, sitting before the fire in the library. It was a cloudy afternoon late in January, and the twilight fell early. Mrs. Walden had gone out to a “ tea,” and the house was utterly quiet. In the low grate the coal fire burned with an occasional crackle aud hiss, but seemed to hush itself and wait. Everything seemed waiting for Hector as he went in, even to the girl who sat in a low chair against a gorgeous screen, her white flannel morning-dress tinged with the vermilion fire flush. His heart was beating fast as he approached her; he could hear it throbbing violently against his breast.

“ I was so delighted to learn of your return,” said Lisa, with a radiant smile. “ You were better than your word. You told me you would stay a fortnight, but you have not been away a week.”

“ Have I not ? ” asked Hector. “ Something strangely retarded the days in Washington, and they stood still.”

He sat down near her, not once taking his eyes from her face. Heavens ! how beautiful she had grown ! She regarded him smilingly at first, answering his look without breaking the silence. He certainly could not complain of any lack of opportunity ; this opportunity seemed ready made for a lover’s purpose. There was that about him Miss Walden had never seen before. He had quite lost his old quiet manner as if obeying orders, and appeared excited, fervent, even reckless.

Lisa herself was, however, quite unchanged. She was charming. She was, as usual, ready to discuss all sorts of matters, and said graceful things, witty things. She showed a frank pleasure in seeing him again, and gazing at him unhesitatingly described everything which had taken place in his absence. Had Hector had it in his heart to wish her to be different, he might have longed to see her a little less unconscious; not so brilliant, but more subdued; not so inclined to laugh light-heartedly over the humorous aspects of the social experiences she so very cleverly described. She told him the plot of a new play, recounted the drolleries of a madcap dinner-party, dwelt enthusiastically upon her delight in listening to a new symphony.

“ And now tell me all you did in Washington,” she said at length.

“ So long as I stayed, I did everything I was asked to do,” he replied.

“ And did you like the city ? ”

“ I do not remember anything about the city.”

“ It was the people who impressed you, of course. Tell me how Washington life struck you. Looking at it impartially and without prejudice, how did it seem to you ? Symmetrical or chaotic, crude or finished and complete, harmonious or a thing of shreds and patches ? I always like to know a foreigner’s estimate of Washington. Now New York one finds manageable ; one may have the set one chooses, and live as one chooses. One may be English, or German, or French in one’s style of living; one may lead and one may govern. But Washington is beyond anybody’s control ; it is a sort of unclassified monster, which goes where it pleases, and does what it pleases, and devours what it pleases.”

“ Ah,” murmured Hector. He did not precisely follow Miss Walden, but it was a fascinating experience merely to sit and look at her unforbidden. She made little gestures with her pretty hand, and he reflected that twice his lips had been pressed to that satin skin. Did that remembrance color her consciousness, he wondered.

“ But being a stranger, I suppose you did not find all that out,” said Lisa.

“ I beg a thousand pardons ” —

“ Now tell me all about it,” she went on. “ Let me hear everything you said and did and thought ” —

“ I spent my time thinking of you.”

Lisa laughed a little, — a low laugh, exquisitely pleasant to the ear.

“ That is a very delightful way of accounting for your whole week, but I can hardly be expected to believe it. What ladies did you admire most ? Who gave the best dinners? With what beautiful creature did you become enamored ? Washington girls are so gay, so charming. They see so much, they do so much, they are used to so much ; they are always on tiptoe, ready for something unexpected and delightful to happen. I promise to sympathize with you. Tell me all about it. Was she beautiful, or was she witty ? Was she Eastern or Western, Northern or Southern, domestic or foreign ? I am holding my breath and waiting for you to begin.” Miss Walden was laughing merrily.

“ Don’t laugh! ” cried Hector. He moved his chair nearer, and looked earnestly in her face. “ Don’t laugh at me,” he said again. “ I am feeling so deeply. I — I — expected to stay away for a fortnight, but I came back because — I — have — something — important — to — say — to — you.”

But Miss Walden did not pause. It was not safe to pause with this young fellow staring into her face, his eyes full of ardent folly.

“ I felt sure you would finally tell me what your experience had been,” she pursued sweetly. “ Your experiences always interest me, Mr. von Imhoff. What experiences you men can have, alas ! You may exercise all your capacities, all your talents. What kind of game did you hunt in Washington ? I do really want your views on our legislators and our legislation. I made a point of reading all the debates while you were away, feeling certain you were sitting in judgment on our institutions. Never before had I been so anxious to know how our institutions looked.”

But no matter how wise or how witty she was, it was all of no use. She preached in the desert. Hector would not let go his opportunity.

“ I desire you to listen to me,” said he forcibly.

Lisa laughed again. “ Am I not ready to listen ? Am I not longing to listen ? Have I not been asking you all manner of questions about everybody and everything in Washington? Yet what answers have you vouchsafed me ? ”

“ What I have to say to you,” began Hector, “ concerns only you and me.”

“ Now that is unexpected, — that is delightful! ” murmured Lisa, smiling at him radiantly. “ Do you know, Mr. von Imhoff, I was a trifle jealous of your trip to Washington? It seemed as if you had had enough of New York; as if you had said to yourself, ‘ Let me have a little amusement after this long joue malgre.’ I dreaded lest you should not care to return. You are so greatly interested in everything American, and Washington is so ultra-American in many respects, with its jumble of people. You might have found it the best place to pursue your studies of our civilization. But now you have come back, and our friendship may go on. There are some French pictures at Cottier’s which I want you to tell me about, and at the next Philharmonic ” —

Hector laid his hand on hers. He was so much in earnest that he looked angry and frowning.

“ I seem to know you less and less ! ” he said reproachfully.

“ Oh, no, Mr. von Imhoff, — better and better.”

“ I hope not, I hope not! ” he cried passionately ; then calmed himself. “ I knew before I went away that you had taken possession of all my thoughts,” he proceeded, speaking now with deliberation, all the more effective because he subdued his actual vehemence by a strong effort. “When I reached Washington I suddenly discovered that I loved you with my whole nature.”

Lisa had been gently withdrawing her hand from his, and now seemed to be looking it over carefully to examine if his close pressure had injured it.

“ I am glad you thought of me kindly, missed me a little,” she said, with just a shade of reluctance in her voice.

“ I thought of you kindly, missed you a little ! ” he repeated. “Do you know what a man means when he says, ‘ I love you’? ”

She folded her hands in her lap and looked at him.

“ I understand one thing,” she replied, in a deprecating manner. “ I was a novelty to you; you have been studying me. But I did not suppose you would remember me when you had such rich and varied resources for forgetting me.”

“ You shall not pretend to laugh at me ! ” he said.

“ I am not laughing at you.”

“You shall not try to make me believe that you halt on the threshold and will not look within. What I feel for you is the passion a man longs to live for if he may; if not, then to die for.”

She had a clear consciousness of his nearness to her. She shivered once; her lips seemed to him to be still smiling, but they trembled, nevertheless. Yet she continued to look at him, and gently shook her head.

“ Don’t make me afraid of you,” said she.

“ Afraid of me ! My heavens ! ”

“We Americans do not take things so seriously. Many ideas are very beautiful, very poetic, but they do not belong to real life. We are forced to be practical, you know.”

This is fact, this is reality, this is life,” declared Hector. “ I seem never to have had emotion before. You have taught me what was hitherto not only unknown, but unimaginable.”

“ That is German sentiment,” observed Lisa, regarding him with a sort of pensive curiosity.

He stared back at her with a certain solemn brightness, as if dazzled.

“ Do you mean to make me unhappy ? ” he asked.

“ No, no, no.” Lisa’s voice had a vibration in it which thrilled him. “ I do not want to make you unhappy.”

“ Then listen to me.”

“ We are only friends ; we can be no more than friends, and friends do not talk in that way.”

“ We are more than friends, — much more.”

“Say that we have — have flirted — ever so little, — just for a passing amusement, and because you wanted to be enlightened about the customs of the country”—

“ Do not speak to me of the customs of this country as if” —

“ One is not so serious even in flirtation.”

“ I am serious! ” cried Hector, almost violently.

“ That is why you make me afraid,” said Lisa, with gentle expostulation. “ You allow yourself to be carried away. You forget how we began, and you do not seem to remember ” —

“ No,” declared Hector, “ I remember nothing,—I who have so much to remember. For your sake I forget all, and — and — it is easy to forget.”

“ But you must not forget. There are certain things you must remember; you must above all remember the Baroness Emilie von Schwarzburg-Sonderhausen.”

The room was by this time quite dark, and at this moment the servant entered and lit the candles in the sconces and the gas-jets under the globes. When they were again alone, and Hector could plainly see Miss Walden’s face, he discovered that almost for the first time in their acquaintance she showed excitement. A little scarlet spot burned on each cheek ; her eyes were shining. Her beauty animated and stirred his heart with an actual promise.

“ All that was before I knew you,” said he, in his simple, direct manner. “ The Baroness Emilie belongs to my past, and my past is not of my own making. She has nothing to do with my future; I take that into my own hands. Hear what I have to say to you. I have learned to love you with my whole heart, — I ask you to become my wife. I offer you myself and all I may win for you.”

They were looking at each other intently.

“ It is a pity,” she began softly; but he interrupted her.

“ I ought to add,” said he, blushing as he thought of his sole fortune of thirtyfive hundred thalers, “ that I am not rich, — I am, in fact, very poor ; but I am young and strong, — I can conquer the world.”

“ I hope you will,” said Lisa. “ I am sure you will.” She had dropped her eyes, and her expression baffled him. He tried to take her hand. “ I am engaged to marry Mr. Long,” said she quietly.

“ Engaged to marry Mr. Long ? ” he repeated blankly, as if such an idea had never before penetrated his consciousness. " I will not believe it!” he added, almost fiercely.

“ I had already been engaged to him a week when I first met you. ... I have promised to marry him very soon, — as soon as he returns.”

Hector, clasping her wrist loosely, looked at her. Her face dazzled and blinded him, but her beauty had grown bitter to his eyes. Its enchantments had vanished, — it held no promise for him ; it had cheated him, and now mocked him. The rich dark hair waving back from the temples, the little pearly ear and the round girlish throat, the splendid pose of head and shoulders, — these minor points of her powerful womanly charm struck him as if for the first time. . . . But she was Mr. Long’s possession ; his betrothed in the present, his wife in the future. It was for that wealthy gentleman to look with triumphant tenderness at such beauty, estimating its worth and counting over its delights.

While Hector stood silent, watching Lisa, her color rose, until a vivid emotion dyed her face. “ This is fact, this is reality, this is life,” seemed to sound again in her ears. Mr. Long, with all his millions, had at the moment no place in the thoughts which made her blood thrill along her veins. It was a long time before she dared raise her eyes. “After all,” she was saying to herself, “ it is something to dare to be young and to be happy.”

All at once Hector dropped her hand, and she looked up. He stepped back, and his face was averted.

“Mr. Long has my felicitations,” he said, as if he did not find it easy to speak, — as if his tongue had stiffened.

If Lisa had wanted a moment, it was over. The door opened, and Mrs. Walden came in, dressed in a magnificent visiting toilette of black velvet, and wearing a bonnet with pale blue plumes. She was attended by two gentlemen, both of whom seemed in equally radiant good spirits. The first was Raymond Ferris ; the second, a small, red-haired man with an enormous nose, was impressively introduced to Von Imhoff as Mr. Markham Jones. Mrs. Walden looked from her step-daughter to the Prussian and back again with an air of amused curiosity. She felt that something had been interrupted, but was not certain which scene in their little comedy it was. Her glance forced Lisa to rally, but her voice was a little constrained and languid as she said,—

“You must congratulate mamma, baron. I put off telling you that piece of news. She is engaged to be married.”

“ Engaged ? ” returned Hector, with the air of a man still dizzy with his fall over a precipice. “ Engaged ? And to my friend Raymond ? ” He nodded to Ferris; then, turning, kissed the fair widow’s hand. “ I congratulate you from my heart,” said he. “ I love him as a brother. He has been my friend for years.”

“Oh, by Jove, Hector! ” cried Raymond, while Mrs. Walden smiled with the best grace possible under the circumstances. “It is Jones here who is the happy man, — Mr. Markham Jones,” he repeated, as if insisting on making an impression upon Hector’s bewildered consciousness.

The young Prussian looked at the stranger with an air of grave surprise.

“ Indeed ! ” muttered Hector. “ In deed ! ” Then, as if feeling that any signs of astonishment on his own part were wholly uncalled for while everybody else, including Ferris, was in such capital spirits, he added rather vaguely, “ It is most fortunate, — most fortunate.”

“ Fortunate ? ” repeated Raymond. “ Fortunate? I suppose you mean it is fortunate for Jones ! As for me, I am going to become a cynic. While one is young the heart may stand constant breakages, constant repairs, but I must begin to be world-hardened.”

“Don’t, Mr. Ferris,” said Mrs. Walden, laughing as she went over to the fire and sat down. “ We could ill spare your fresh susceptibilities.”

“ There is a fatality upon me,” pursued Raymond. “ I ought to have been a poet. My sufferings would have been useful.”

Hector had felt lost in a maze. For a while everything had seemed tottering and unsubstantial. But he had been well drilled, and could hold on to his good manners and be a person in general, although his private and special existence seemed utterly cut off. Lisa had walked over to the window, and stood half turned, as if looking out, while her fingers clutched tightly at the casement. Hector felt a sudden impulse seize him to get away, — to end this.

“ Oh, Raymond,” said he, “your heart must not break yet. Let it have more smiles, more pangs, more burnings, more greetings, and more adieux. Your American hearts can stand all that. As for me, my poor soul is heavy with the one farewell I am to utter.”

“Farewell?” exclaimed Mrs. Walden. “You have but just come back from Washington. Are you going away again ? ”

“ I am going home to Germany. I sail to-morrow.”

Lisa turned and advanced slowly down the room until she stood opposite to him. “ Going home to Germany ? ” she repeated, as if her lips were half frozen.

“ Yes,” said Hector. Their eyes met. He had but one feeling in his heart, and it was impossible for him to understand the meaning of her face.

“ We have heard of a very magnificent young baroness,” said Mrs. Walden, in her caressing tones, “and I can easily fancy you are going back to her.”

“ I am going back to her.”

“ And what shall you tell her about our country ? ”

“ That I admired everything in America,” returned Hector unreservedly.

“ Particularly the charming girls you met.”

“ Precisely.”

“ And of course you candidly admire our women,” said Mr. Markham Jones, with an air of holding settled convictions on the subject.

“ I am their humble worshiper.”

“ The most beautiful creatures in the world,” said Raymond ; “ then, besides, they are so sensible, so spirited, so clever.”

Hector glanced for the last time at Miss Walden, who had sat down by the fire.

Her face was half in light and half in shadow. She no longer glowed with color, but looked cold. It seemed to him she was musing intently, and of what ? Of course she was thinking about Mr. Long.

“ They are very clever ! ” he cried, — “ they are too clever! ” Mr, Long’s fiancée flung him a glance which his jealous heart interpreted all wrong. “ They are very beautiful,” he pursued, as if stung by some personal feeling, “ very spirited, and profoundly sensible. In fact, for a plain German like me, made of mere flesh and blood, they are, if I may be permitted to say so, trop spirituelles.”

“ Trop spirituelles ? ”

“ Precisely. Trop spirituelles.”

Ellen W. Olney.