Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

creased when Sonnenkamp said, as they en- | landed proprietor, provided it could be tered the house, that it belonged to him, and done with the consent of those nearest to he was glad to be able to pass it over to his him, and of his fatherly friend, as he termed noble neighbor. Sonnenkamp.

What does this mean? Has a surprise been prepared for her? Does Sonnenkamp mean to give her the house?

Pranken knew a very accommodating notary, who came that very evening.

The purchase was concluded, and the Cabinetsrath was the neighbor of Herr Sonnenkamp.

She was soon aware of her mistake, for the Cabinetsräthin immediately proceeded to assign the rooms to herself, her husband, and her children. She had two sons in the army, and one invalid daughter; rooms were also designated for her grandchildren, and when she was looking for a choice spot for herself, Sonnenkamp promised to have the grounds laid out anew. She was amazed to find what capabilities the grounds possessed. Sonnemkamp was extremely complaisant; it had been, indeed, his desire to reserve the country-seat as the payment for his patent of nobility,- for the sum to be paid by the Cabinetsrath was merely nominal,- but he had been obliged to give way to Pran- it everywhere, and it has hardly ever been ken's representations that this was utterly unsuccessful." impracticable, and that it was much wiser Pranken looked strangely at the man. to be on neighborly terms with so influen-He had confidence in him, but that he tial a man, as thus every thing would come should speak so freely of the bribery of all about much more naturally. nations disturbed him somewhat, and it pained him greatly to think that he himself was to be son of such a man.

The Cabinetsräthin sat with the Professor's widow in the garden, and endeavored to impress upon her that she would surely be glad, through her great influence, to aid the Sonnenkamp family in obtaining the rank which was their due; at first she went no farther, but it was her fixed plan that the widow should apply the main lever, and that neither she nor her husband should take a prominent part. Should the plan miscarry, they would remain concealed, and the learned widow, who was reputed as somewhat erratic, would be the only one com

mitted.

Under high-sounding and lofty expressions of magnanimity and disinterestedness, there was a hidden policy not easily unravelled.

As Sonnenkamp was taking a walk with Pranken in the mild evening, the latter for the first time shrank from his expected father-in-law, when he said,

Sonnenkamp smilingly congratulated his young friend on being so well-fitted for a diplomatic career; it was not denied by Pranken that he should adopt that as his employment, rather than the life of a

[ocr errors]

Sonnenkamp continued good-humoredly, "You evidently entertain the old prejudice that bribery is a bad thing, just as a little while ago usury was regarded to be. It's nothing but a matter of business, and it's a stupid thing for the government to require an oath from persons, that their transactions shall not be affected by any receiving of money. As far as I am concerned, it may be, and it usually is, with the judges, only a matter of form; when it comes to that point, a rich man knows how to get off, provided he hasn't foolishly gone too far. It's very curious, that among other nations, among the Romans and the Sclaves, men took the offered money, and, under some form or other, gave an opportunity for competition in bidding; but among the simpering Germanic people, the women are

When Pranken was alone with Sonnenkamp and the Cabinetsräthin, Sonnenkamp smiled, as one does who considers it a good

joke to allow himself for once to be circum-employed in this business. Of course! vented. He listened in a very friendly way Among no people in the world are so many while Pranken was representing to him that cows employed in agriculture as among the the Cabinetsrath must be put in possession Germans, and in this business, too, they of the house at once, for if it were done harness in the cows. Here the lady must later, either shortly before or shortly after be applied to in extremely gallant style, and the consummation of their wishes, it would I must confess that I would much rather give rise to scandalous remarks. deal with the women, for they keep their word; there's nothing more common than to give a bribe, and to have the bribee fail to keep his promise, unless another is added just as large. My father

39

Pranken started. For the first time in

66

'My dear young friend, you must certainly have had something to do with usurers before this. I know these tender-hearted. brethren; they hang together like a secret priesthood. But I would say to you, that the most delectable insight into the socalled human soul would be furnished by a history of bribery. I am acquainted with the different nations and races, I have tried

his life, Sonnenkamp spoke of his father, | ing to have an offer for their souls as they but he went on quietly, call them. Every one in the world is to be had for money."

99

"My father was a connoisseur in the art of bribery, and in Poland his way was, to give a man a note for a hundred or a thousand dollars, as it might be, but he tore the note in two, kept one part himself and gave the other to the person bribed, surrendering his own half only when he had gained his end. You do not think it is necessary to divide thus with the Cabinetsräthin?"

Pranken felt hurt to hear a lady of the nobility pointed out and arraigned in this style. He gave Sonnenkamp the most conclusive assurances, who said further,

"All proceeds in a regular order, and what is designated by the old-fashioned word bribery, is a necessary consequence of an advanced civilization. As soon as a people enters into complex relations, bribery is there, must be there, sometimes open, sometimes concealed; and I know this, that nothing has a greater variety of forms than bribery."

As Pranken stood there in fixed amazement, Sonnenkamp, taking his arm, continued,

66

Young friend, it is the same thing whether I buy an agent or a vote for my election as member of Parliament or of Congress, or whether I buy an agent or a vote to make me a noble. In America we are more open about it. Why should not this Cabinetsrath and his spouse make some profit out of their position? Their position is their whole property and capital. I am glad it's all in order. In Germany you are obliged to cloak matters over respectably. It's all the same. If you take up the diplomatic career, as I hope you will, I shall be able to give you a good many les

sons."

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

He took delight in dwelling upon this at length; he had not the remotest conception what a deep commotion and revolution this was exciting in the youth's soul.

Roland sat speechless, and Sonnenkamp turned over in his mind whether he had acted properly, but soon quieted his doubts. Religion, virtue, all is an illusion. Some

this Herr Dournay is one of that number - stil believe in their illusions, and impose upon themselves and upon the world. It is better, he quieted himself in conclusion, that Roland should know all to be a mere illusion.

CHAPTER IV.

A DIFFERENT ATMOSPHERE.

AFTER the first days, the Mother understood what her son meant when he complained of the difficulty of maintaining a steady and firm hold upon thought, in the midst of the distractions with which he had to contend, like those upon a journey. In such a house as this, with extensive possessions and a great variety of duties, that devotion of the mind, which is so necessary for the thorough acquisition of any branch of knowledge, is continually interfered with, and it is even difficult, in such relations, not to lose one's self. Without laying out any programme, at any rate without any announcement of one, she resolved to regulate her own method of living; only when one possesses himself can he have anything to supply to the calls of others.

Eric and Roland went every day to bid her good-morning, and a consecrated sphere soon encompassed the mother; whoever approached her acquired, in a degree, a nobler bearing, and pitched his conversation to a musical and well-tuned key. She had sterling good sense, without any claim to originality or genius either in her own eyes or those of others; her mind was not intuitional but logical, and what she comprehended and discovered by investigation appeared to her to be necessarily true; she made as little show of knowledge as of dress, for it is a matter of course that one should be neatly dressed.

Chasteness, in the highest and purest signification of the word, was the impression which the Mother made, both in regard to her external appearance and her inner being; she was pure in thought, and pure in feeling; she had been for thirteen years a lady of the court, and knew the world; but she retained something of an ideal atmos

phere; she knew vice and believed in virtue; she was quick and cautious, ready to accept the gage of battle, and nobly yielding, at the same time.

If she were externally and superficially compared with Bella, the older lady would be at a disadvantage; but on a nearer consideration, she had something satisfying in her presence and conversation, while Bella was only exciting.

Bella not only desired to excite attention to her personal appearance and her sentiments, but she was also fond of proposing subjects for discussion, and propounding the most difficult questions; she was always putting something forth and making a stir. She gave very cursory and off-hand replies to what was said to her, and could set out in good style what she heard, so as to be extremely taking at the first acquaintance, but a longer familiarity with her showed that it was merely fluent talk.

The Professorin, on the other hand, made no demands, was grateful for all that was offered, and was ready to lend it serious thought.

Externally, the ladies could hardly be compared, for the personal appearance of the Professorin was not what would be called distinguished; she was somewhat plump in figure, of a pale blonde complexion, and that fresh purity of look which one sees portrayed in the pictures of well-preserved women of Holland. Her strongest characteristic was a uniform reserve; she could listen quietly to every communication, and she could withhold her reply, if she had any opinion to express, until she had patiently heard all that was to be said.

When questions were addressed immediately to her, to which she did not want to give a direct reply, she had the faculty of not seeming to hear them; and if she were pressed to give a decided reply, she answered only just so far as she thought best, never allowing herself to be urged beyond a prescribed limit.

She soon became the centre of the circle. The fundamental trait which characterized all that she said and did was truthfulness; she never spoke for effect, she never smiled when there was nothing to smile at; she gave to every utterance of her own the natural tone, and to every utterance of others the requisite degree of attention. This truthfulness was not compromised in the least by her reserve, for she never violated the truth in the smallest particular, and it is not necessary to speak out everything that one knows and thinks. This is not craftiness; it is rather the simple dictate of prudence, and prudence is a virtue too; it is

the same thing as goodness; nature herself is prudent, that is to say, veiled.

She was very happy to indulge and cultivate her fondness for botany by means of Sonnenkamp's splendid collection of plants, and his essentially valuable communications. The Mother and Aunt lived together in perfect harmony, and yet were very different in character; and as they had very different spheres of knowledge in which they found enlivenment, so also they had different spheres of life. Their amateur-pursuits were the two most beautiful in the whole circle of sciences. The Professorin was a botanist, Aunt Claudine an astronomer, sedulously avoiding, indeed, every appearance of the bluestocking; she passed many silent evenings in the tower making observations of her own, generally through a small telescope, without any one's being aware of the fact.

The Professorin took delight in spending several hours every day in the hot-houses, and among the rare imported plants; and when Sonnenkamp one day showed her his method of training fruit-trees, she did not express admiration and astonishment as other people did, but exhibited a great proficiency in the knowledge of the new French art of gardening, and remarked how peculiar it was that the restless French people, when they withdrew from the whirl of active life, should devote themselves with such tender and persistent care to the cultivation of fruit. Sonnenkamp's countenance gleamed with pleasure, when she maintained that in orcharding, as he practised it, there was the unfolding of a talent for military generalship, inasmuch as he was called upon to decide what part of the fruit should be allowed to mature, and what should be sacrificed and removed in its unripe state in order that the rest might thrive.

Sonnenkamp expressed himself as very much obliged for the compliment, but he smiled inwardly, thinking that he saw through the fine courtly breeding; that this lady, before she came there, had read up in his favorite pursuit, in order to render herself agreeable to him. He received this homage in an apparently natural way, as if he regarded it as sincere; but he determined not to allow himself to be taken in by any such arts.

He meant to offset politeness with politeness; and he hastened to place everything in a friendly way at the disposal of the Mother and Aunt Claudine.

Towards Frau Ceres the Professorin soon established a definite line of conduct, allowing her to claim but a limited portion of

[blocks in formation]

BOOK VII.-CHAPTER I.

THE MOTHER IS HERE. "My mother is here! " A dewy atmosphere of inexhaustible freshness encompassed Eric; he heard the voice of a child awakening from a dream, and yet it was he himself who had spoken. He closed his eyes, and went back in thought to the days of childhood; all that had since excited and oppressed his spirit was torn into fragments, and had sunk out of sight. My mother is here!"

64

This was now a call of duty. Eric stood by Roland's bedside; it was never necessary for him to speak in order to waken him, for as soon as he looked directly upon him, Roland waked up. Now he opened his eyes, and his first words were :

"Thy mother is here!" Eric heard these same words, now spoken by another, which he had heard in his own dreamy reverie, and, placing his hand upon the brow of the youth, he regarded him with a mingled feeling of joy and sorrow. Why has this poor rich boy not the blessedness of a mother's love?

The new day received its consecration, for Eric and Roland began it by going to give a greeting to the mother.

be earned, be struggled for through obsta cles; a mother's love alone one has always, unsought and undeserved."

Now Bella came again into his mind. Eric hoped to have annihilated everything in himself that was false to human nature and to purity, and summoning up a greater strength than ever, a strength obtained by hard wrestling, he devoted himself to the work of instruction, and succeeded in projecting himself and the youth into the life of another, so that they forgot everything immediately around them.

As they were walking along the river, Roland shouted across it:

At noon, the realization of the mother's presence came to them as a fresh gift. They were in the garden together; Frau Ceres was not visible, and she begged, through Fräulein Perini, to be excused. Sonnenkamp smiled, for he knew that it had never occurred to Frau Ceres to send an excuse, and that Fräulein Perini had done it of her own accord; and it was well for her to do so, he thought, for the refractory disposition of his wife led her to turn away from the guests intruding upon her privacy, and her strong point was in declining; she allowed nothing to approach her. Fräulein Perini manifestly took very great pains to render herself as agreeable as possible to the Professor's widow, and was grateful as a child when she was shown how to execute a new piece of handiwork.

The Cabinetsräthin served as a very ex

"Father Rhine! Eric's mother is here!" Eric smiled; the youth's face was all a-cellent means of bringing them together. glow. There was something exceedingly captivating in the way in which she so very modestly placed herself as the inferior of the Professorin, giving to her the position of honor which she might perhaps have attained as a right, but which was now conceded to her by sovereign grace; for the Cabinetsräthin repeatedly said, that the Professorin had been the first lady at the court in her day, and that even now, if the court circle wanted

They went to the mother as to a temple, and they came away from her as from a temple, for this gentle, peaceful spirit conveyed a benediction in every word, in every movement of the hand, in every glance of the eye; and she it was who appealed to the sanctity of established rule, and the persistent continuance in duty, for she said to them that she should regard it as the most perfect proof of love and loyal attachment, to specify any exalted excellence, they if they would go on with their work to-day | pointed to her. She found herself, at first, just as they did yesterday; in every situa- put under some degree of constraint by betion in life, whether in tribulation or in glad- ing placed upon such an elevated pinnacle, ness, the appointed duty must be performed. but she was grateful to the illustrious lady They were again seated at their work, for her evident endeavor to convert her conand they read together, to-day, the return of dition of dependence and poverty into one Ulysses to Ithaca. Eric was somewhat ab- which was regarded with respectful homage. sent, for everything took the hue of the feeling that he was with his mother; he overcame this, he would be wholly engaged in what was before him, but he caught himself unexpectedly drawn away in this direction as he looked at Roland. "Ah! why can you not have the same feeling? The best refreshment and blessing for a human being is the mother's love. Every other love by the ideal life of her husband, and that must be sued for, be obtained by conquest, was now called forth by the presence of her

Fräulein Perini herself was subdued by this character so calmly dignified, this countenance so placid and open, so beaming with youthful brightness, so benignantly radiant that nothing unworthy or impure could approach; and in this countenance the heart manifested itself, always young, full of the inspiration that had been awakened

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »