The Project Gutenberg eBook of Under a Charm: A Novel. Vol. II

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Title: Under a Charm: A Novel. Vol. II

Author: E. Werner

Translator: Christina Tyrrell

Release date: February 12, 2011 [eBook #35252]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Charles Bowen, from page scans provided by Google Books.


Transcriber's Note:
1. Page scan source:
2. Compare this to the American edition: "Vineta, The Phantom City," by E. Werner and translated by Frances A. Shaw.



A Novel.




(All rights reserved.)





At an early hour on the following morning the Castle guests, most of whom had spent the night beneath its roof, took their departure; only Count Morynski and his daughter remained at Wilicza. As the young proprietor's arrival had surprised them there, courtesy required that they should address to him some words of greeting before leaving his house; the Count, however, considered that, in the utter absence of all intimacy between himself and his nephew, he would be acting with propriety in leaving the latter exclusively to his mother for the first few hours succeeding their meeting, and Wanda was even less eager to assert the claims of relationship.

The Princess was alone with her two sons. She sat in her accustomed place in the green drawing-room, with Waldemar opposite her, and Leo standing by his brother's chair--to all appearances a peaceful, united family group.

"No, Waldemar, I really cannot forgive you for this," said the lady, in reproachful tones. "To stop at the steward's! As though your castle were not at your command at any instant of the day! as though it would not have been a pleasure to me to introduce you to my guests! I am almost tempted to look on what you term a mark of consideration for me as something quite the contrary. I really cannot let your fear of causing a disturbance serve you as a pretext."

"Well, let my disinclination to come into a crowd of strangers the moment I arrived serve me as such, then," replied Waldemar. "I really was not in the humour for it."

"Have you still the old antipathy to everything like society? In that case we shall have to narrow our connections here at Wilicza."

"Not on my account, I hope. I beg of you not to think of me in the matter--only you must excuse me if I do not put in a very frequent appearance in your salon. I have, it is true, learned to submit to the exigencies of society when there is no avoiding them, but they are still troublesome to me."

The Princess smiled. This tendency, of which she had so long been aware, accorded exactly with her wishes. Indeed, everything in this first meeting went to show that she had not erred in her judgment of Waldemar, that his nature had remained fundamentally the same. There was no marked change even in his personal appearance. His great height was more noticeable now than formerly, because he carried himself more erect, towering far above his tall and slender brother; and the unripeness, the undeveloped lines of youth had given place to a perfect manliness of form and bearing which, however, failed to make him more genial or interesting than of yore. Those plain irregular features could never be attractive, although the passion and vehemence, which in the old days so often disfigured them, had yielded to an expression of cold gravity. One decided advantage Waldemar possessed; his light hair, 'the enormous yellow mane,' as Wanda used satirically to call it, had been cultivated and restrained in its luxuriant wild abundance. Its thick masses were brushed back close to his head, leaving the forehead and temples free; and a fine powerful brow it indisputably was, arched over the sombre eyes, the one beauty Nature had vouchsafed to the young man. The rough abruptness of his manner had been in a great measure toned down. It was evident that he was now familiar with the usages of society, and able to comply with them without visible constraint; but there the list of his acquisitions during these years of University life and of travel ended. An ornament to a drawing-room Waldemar Nordeck would never be. There was a stand-off, repellant air about him, a lack of affability; his whole being bore too distinctly the stamp of a close and sombre reserve for any one ever to feel instinctively drawn to him.

The contrast between the brothers was even more striking than in former days. Leo, too, had left far behind him the boy of seventeen; but if, even at that early age, his appearance had extracted from old Witold the admission that his enemy's son was 'a picture of a boy,' he now displayed all the beauty of his people--a beauty which, where it exists at all, frequently attains to a rare perfection. Somewhat shorter, but far more slender than Waldemar, he possessed in fullest measure all those advantages which his elder brother lacked: the nobility of feature, bringing into strongest relief his speaking likeness to his mother; the splendid dark eyes, which flashed fire with every passing emotion; the dark wavy hair, lying in soft and shining curls about his brow. There was a touch of the romantic about the young Prince's whole person, happily married to the distinction and refinement of a modern gentleman. Leo Baratowski was a perfect type of beauty and of chivalry.

"So you have actually brought your old tutor with you?" said he, gaily. "Well, I wonder at your taste, Waldemar. I was glad when my worthy preceptor had nothing more to do with me, and should never have dreamed of taking him as my companion to the University, still less as my fellow-traveller."

The frigid constraint which always characterised young Nordeck's manner when conversing with his mother, relaxed to a great extent now, as he turned to the last speaker.

"You must not look on Dr. Fabian merely in the light of a tutor, Leo. He has long ago given up teaching, and now devotes himself solely to his historical studies. It was only his want of means which made him take to his old profession. He has always been a scholar at heart; but has never known how to turn his learning to practical account, so there was nothing left him but to turn 'bear-leader.'"

"His vocation was evident enough. He had all the pedantry and dry-as-dust manner of a savant," said the Princess.

"Were you not satisfied with his reports?" asked Waldemar, coolly.

"With what reports?"

"Those the Doctor used to send you when I first went to the University," returned Waldemar. "He was in some doubt as to what you really wanted to know, so I advised him to keep you thoroughly informed on the subject of my studies. He was explicit enough, I think."

The Princess was startled. "You seem to be acquainted with all the details of our correspondence, and even to have--superintended it to some degree."

"Dr. Fabian has no secrets from me, and I thought it natural you would like to hear about my studies," replied Waldemar, so equably that a sudden suspicion of his having possibly seen through certain plans of hers in former days vanished again from his mother's mind. She fancied she had detected irony in his first remarks, but a glance at that imperturbable face reassured her. Impossible! Neither he nor his whilom tutor had the wit to penetrate so deeply below the surface.

"Leo is delighted at the idea of acting as your guide in your shooting expeditions in and about Wilicza," said she, changing the subject. "I must make up my mind to see very little of either of you for the next few weeks."

Waldemar looked up at his brother, who was still leaning against his chair.

"I am only afraid, Leo, that your idea of sport will prove to be very different to mine. Even as a sportsman, you will be anxious to preserve a gentlemanly appearance, so as to be ready in case of need to go straight from the woods into a drawing-room, whereas, with me, you would have to go through the bushes, and often enough through the bogs and fens, after the game. Who knows how that would suit you!"

The young Prince laughed. "I think you will find that sport here in the woods of Poland is rather a more serious thing than on your peaceful old hunting-grounds at Altenhof. You will soon be able to judge whether one finds one's self always in such irreproachable feather after, say, a chance encounter with the wolves. I have had many an adventure, and as Wanda is also passionately fond of hunting ... You know she is here, at Wilicza?"

The question came suddenly, unexpectedly; it was put with a sort of eager anxiety. Waldemar's tone, on the other hand, was calm and tranquil as he replied--

"Countess Morynska? Yes. I heard so."

"Countess Morynska!" repeated the Princess, reproachfully. "She is your cousin, and will soon stand to you in a closer relationship. Leo, you will tell your brother that which is still a secret as regards the rest of the world?"

"Certainly," answered the young Prince, quickly; "you must be told, of course, Waldemar, that--that Wanda is engaged to me."

His eyes scanned his brother's face closely as he said the last words, and for one second the Princess's keen look rested on it also; but not the slightest trace of agitation was to be seen there. Waldemar's features remained absolutely immovable. His manner, too, was unruffled; he did not even alter his easy, half-negligent attitude.

"Engaged to you? Really?"

"It does not appear to surprise you," said Leo, rather disconcerted at this equanimity.

"No," replied Waldemar, coldly. "I know you were always attached to your cousin, and can imagine that neither my mother nor Count Morynski would place obstacles in the way. I wish you all happiness, Leo."

The young Prince took the offered hand with real and hearty warmth. It had been rather painful to him to touch upon this topic. He felt he had done his brother a wrong, that he and Wanda had trifled with his feelings most thoughtlessly and unkindly; and the calm with which Waldemar received the news afforded him considerable relief. The Princess, who herself attached no importance to these bygone matters, but perceived that the subject should not be treated at any length, hastened to introduce another.

"You will see Wanda and her father no later than to-day," said she, carelessly. "We have, of course, a good deal of communication with Rakowicz. But, in the first place, what do you think of your Wilicza? You did not keep your word with us. When we were at C---- you promised to pay us a visit in the following spring, and full four years have elapsed before you have really made up your mind to come."

"I have always meant to perform my promise, and never succeeded in doing it."

He got up and walked to the great centre window. "But you are right, Wilicza has grown pretty nearly strange to me. I must go over the whole place in the course of the next few days, so as to get to feel at home here."

The Princess grew attentive. "The whole place? I do not think you will find much to interest you, except the forests, which will have a special charm for so ardent a sportsman as yourself. With regard to Wilicza itself, the steward will give you all the information you require. He has probably told you that he intends giving up his post?" The question was put incidentally; there was no sign of the suspense with which the answer to it was awaited.

"Yes," said Waldemar, looking through the window absently. "He is going in the spring."

"I am sorry for it for your sake, all the more that I am the indirect cause of your losing a clever and capable employé. Frank will, in many respects, be hard to replace. His management, for instance, is generally considered quite a model for imitation. Unfortunately, his activity requires the permanent absenteeism of his principal, for he can suffer no other authority where he is. His people complain bitterly of his want of consideration, and I myself have had proofs of it. I was forced, at last, seriously to remind him that neither the Castle nor the Princess Baratowska was under his sway, and it was one of these scenes which brought about his resignation. Now all depends upon which side you take, Waldemar. I think the steward would not be disinclined to stay on, if you were to accord him permission to play the master as heretofore. I shall, of course, abide by your decision."

Young Nordeck waived the subject. "I only arrived yesterday evening, and cannot possibly understand all the bearings of the case as yet," he replied, with a significant gesture. "If Frank wishes to go, I shall not keep him here; and if differences between himself and the Castle are the cause of his departure, you do not imagine, I hope, that I shall put my mother in a false position by taking part against her and siding with the steward."

The Princess breathed freely. She had not been without uneasiness with regard to Frank. Her son was only to have entered into relations with him when he had learned to see with her eyes, and had become thoroughly prejudiced against his agent. With the latter's straightforward plain-speaking, and the young proprietor's violent temper, which could not brook the slightest contradiction, a collision would then have been inevitable; but now this unlooked-for and most unbecoming visit to the manor-farm had marred the whole plan. Waldemar's manner conveyed, however, that, during the short time he had been there, he had entered into no discussion. He appeared to attach little importance to the steward's going or staying, and possessed, as it seemed, sufficient sense of decorum to range himself at the outset, and without any preliminary examination, on his mother's side.

"I knew I could count upon you," she declared, well satisfied with this first meeting. Everything was fitting in to meet her wishes. "But we have fallen at once on this disagreeable business topic, as if we had nothing better to occupy us. I wished ... Oh, you are there, Bronislaus!" She turned to her brother, who at this moment entered the room with his daughter on his arm.

At the last words Waldemar had also turned. For an instant he seemed confounded, so strange to him was the tall proud figure now standing before him. He had only known the maiden of sixteen, with her fresh, youthful graces; the present vision may well have appeared altogether new to him. 'She gives promise of beauty,' the Princess Baratowska had said of her niece; but that lady herself could hardly have foreseen how fully her prophecy would be justified. Beauty, in this case, did not, it is true, consist in the regularity of outline, for Wanda's features were not regular. The Slavonic type was too distinctly portrayed in them, and they differed considerably from the Greek or Roman ideal; but, nevertheless, there was an irresistible charm in the still somewhat pale face which none could arm himself against. Her raven hair, dressed very simply in opposition to the reigning fashion, was by this unstudied art displayed in all its rich abundance; but the young Countess's mightiest seduction lay in her dewy dark eyes, which gazed out, clear and full, from under the long eyelashes. There was more in them now than childish petulance and childish gaiety. Whether those deep dark eyes were veiled in dreamy stillness, or beaming radiant with passionate ardour, enigmatic and dangerous were they ever. One glance at them would show how they could fascinate and hold captive without hope of rescue, and the Countess Morynska had too often tested their power not to be thoroughly conscious of its extent.

"You have taken all Wilicza by surprise, Waldemar," said the Count, "and you come home to find guests staying in your house. We were to have left early this morning, but on hearing of your arrival we could not deny ourselves the pleasure of seeing you before starting."

"That we certainly could not, Cousin Waldemar." Wanda confirmed her father's words, holding out her hand to the new-comer as she spoke, with an enchanting smile and the most perfect ease of manner.

Waldemar bowed to his beautiful cousin with measured formality. He seemed not to notice the proffered hand, or to have heard the gracious, familiar little address, for without a syllable of reply he turned to Morynski.

"I hope I am not driving you away, Count. As, for the time being, I am only my mother's guest, we are both in similar case."

The Count seemed agreeably impressed by this politeness, of which he had not thought his nephew capable. He answered pleasantly, while Wanda stood by mute, with lips tightly pressed together. She had proposed to herself to meet her young relation with the unembarrassed demeanour of a woman of the world, generously to spare him a painful reminiscence by herself altogether ignoring it; and now she must endure to see her ease of manner unremarked, her generosity repelled. That glance of icy indifference showed her that Waldemar, though he had forgotten the old attachment, had not forgiven the old offence, for which he was now taking his revenge.

The conversation soon grew general, the Princess and Leo now joining in it. Subject matter was not wanting. They spoke of Waldemar's travels, of his unexpected advent, of Wilicza and the neighbourhood; but animated as the talk might be, it never became intimate or familiar. The language was that used to a stranger who chanced to be on a footing of relationship. This offshoot of the Nordecks had nothing really in common with the Morynski and Baratowski circle, and the fact being felt on all sides, the whole tone of the interview was involuntarily affected by it. The Count could not prevail on himself to adopt towards his sister's elder son the familiar form of address which came as a matter of course when speaking to the younger; and Waldemar, taking his cue therefrom, continued to call his uncle "Count." He showed himself now much as he had been of old, silent and reserved, but no longer awkward.

The season being autumn, hunting was naturally the topic which came uppermost. It was indeed the favourite pastime of all the country round, even the ladies entering into it with zest. The two now present took a lively part in the discussion. Leo at length mentioned the great Nordeck collection of arms, and especially vaunted some rifles which formed part of it. Count Morynski differed from his nephew, declaring that the pieces, though certainly of great value, were chiefly to be viewed in the light of curiosities, while Waldemar unhesitatingly sided with his brother. The gentlemen waxed hot in the defence of their theories, and resolved to decide the question at issue by an adjournment to the armoury and a provisional trial of the guns. They went off immediately to put the matter to the test.

"Still the old Waldemar!" said the Princess, looking after them. "He warms to nothing but to these sporting details. All else is indifferent to him. Do you think him altered, Wanda?"

"Yes," replied the young Countess, laconically. "He has grown strangely quiet."

"Yes, thank Heaven, he seems in some measure to have laid aside his abrupt, unmannerly ways, while he is in the drawing-room, at least. One can introduce him now without exposing one's self to ridicule, and without having reason to dread an éclat in the midst of the most ordinary conversation. Those who are brought into close contact with him will probably still have much to endure. The first blunder made by a groom with regard to the dogs or horses will bring out the old Berserker in him, with all his old fierceness and violence."

Wanda made no reply to this remark. She had thrown herself into an armchair, and was playing with its silken tassels.

"His coming in that way was a true Nordeck proceeding," went on the Princess, in a tone of annoyance. "It was bad enough that he should dismiss the post-chaise at the last station, and continue the journey on foot like any adventurer, but that would naturally not suffice Waldemar. When he saw the Castle lighted up, and heard it was a reception night here, he turned into the steward's in all haste, for fear he should be obliged to show himself in company. Later in the evening he came up to the Castle with the Doctor, made himself known to Pawlick, and had himself shown to his rooms, giving most strenuous orders that I was not to be disturbed. I, of course, heard of his arrival before five minutes were over. My servants are better trained than he supposes. As he had given such strict injunctions on the subject, I had no choice, however, but to ignore his presence, and allow myself to be taken by surprise this morning."

"A surprise which constrained us to remain on here," put in Wanda, impatiently. "I hope papa may come back soon, that we may start."

"Not at once? You will at least stay to dinner."

"No, dear aunt, I shall beg papa to have the horses put to immediately. Do you think it can be agreeable to me to sit here and be ignored by Herr Waldemar Nordeck, as he has thought fit to ignore me for the last half-hour? He avoided with admirable consistency either answering or addressing a word to me."

The Princess smiled. "Well, well, you can afford to grant him that small vengeance on your first meeting. You played with him rather unmercifully, you know, and can hardly wonder if he shows a little rancour now and then. That will pass away when you see more of each other. What do you think of his appearance?"

"I think it is just as disagreeable as ever," declared the young Countess; "more so, for then the impression it created was an involuntary one, and now I almost fancy he wishes to repel. Nevertheless, I don't know why--unless it be that his brow is so clear and open--but he is no longer at a disadvantage beside Leo."

The Princess was silent. The same remark had been borne in on her mind as the two stood together. Incontestable as was the younger brother's beauty, the elder, though unable to make the smallest pretension to good looks, was no longer in danger of being thrust into the background. Should his person appear to others, as to Countess Morynska, disagreeable, nay, repulsive, there was yet a certain something in his bearing and manner which would maintain him in his proper place. His mother herself was forced to admit as much.

"These giants always have one great advantage," said she; "they are imposing at first sight, but that is all. You must never look for mind or strength of character in them."

"Never?" said Wanda, with a peculiar expression. "Are you quite sure?"

The Princess seemed to think the question a strange and superfluous one; she looked at her niece in astonishment.

"We both know what ends Wilicza has now to serve," the latter continued, with suppressed vehemence, "and you must acknowledge, dear aunt, that it would be very inconvenient and dangerous should it suddenly occur to your son to show any 'mind.' Be prudent. That quiet manner and, above all, that brow of his are not to my liking."

"My dear," said the elder lady, with calm superiority, "will you not allow me to be the judge of my son's character; or do you imagine that, at twenty years of age, you possess greater powers of discernment than any I am endowed with? Waldemar is a Nordeck--that is saying everything."

"I know you have always summed up your judgment of him in those words. He may be the exact image of his father in every other feature; but that forehead, with its sharply defined blue vein, he has from you. Does it seem to you a thing impossible that he may one day show himself his mother's son?"

"Utterly impossible," the Princess declared in a harsh tone, as though the notion were really insulting to her. "All of myself I have had power to transmit, Leo alone has inherited. Do not be foolish, Wanda. You are irritated at Waldemar's behaviour to yourself, and I admit it was not very flattering; but you really must take his susceptibility into some account. How you manage to discover strength of character in this tenacious clinging to an old grudge, I cannot understand--to me it proves just the contrary. Any one else would have felt grateful to you for endeavouring to put aside a painful half-forgotten souvenir, and would have met you with an ease of manner equal to your own. As his brother's betrothed ..."

"Does Waldemar know already?" the young Countess interrupted.

"Yes, Leo told him himself."

"And how did he take the news?"

"With the most perfect indifference, although I never gave him a hint of it in my letters. That is precisely it. He soon got over his old romantic feeling for you--we have proof of that--but he clings to the fancied offence with all the obstinacy of his boyhood. Do you wish me to take that as the mark of a strong mind?"

Wanda rose in unmistakable anger. "Certainly not; but I feel no inclination to expose myself further to his obstinacy, and you will therefore excuse us, dear aunt, if we leave Wilicza at once. Nothing would induce me to remain, and papa will hardly let me set out alone. We shall start within the hour."

The Princess protested in vain. Once again she had experience of the fact that her niece owned a will as resolute as her own, and that, where his daughter was concerned, 'there were no limits to Count Morynski's weakness.' In spite of his sister's wishes repeatedly expressed, in spite of Leo's most evident vexation, the plan decided on by Wanda was carried out, and half an hour later the carriage which was to convey her and her father to Rakowicz drove up to the door.


Some weeks had passed by, and the young proprietor's arrival had wrought no change worth mentioning at Wilicza. His presence was hardly noticed, for, as the Princess had rightly supposed, he was seldom at the Castle, but spent his days roaming about the forests and surrounding neighbourhood. The old passion for sport seemed to have taken possession of him again, and to throw everything else into the shade. He did not even appear regularly at meal times. His wanderings generally led him so far afield that he was forced to turn into some ranger's house, or into some farm for refreshment. This was of very frequent occurrence. On such occasions he would return late and tired out, and would spend his evenings chiefly in his own rooms, in Dr. Fabian's company, only appearing when obliged so to do in his mother's drawing-room.

After the first few days Leo had given up going with his brother, for it turned out, indeed, that the two differed very widely in their ideas on the subject of sport. The young Prince was in this, as in all else, rash, fiery, but not enduring. He shot all that came within reach of his barrel, scouted no obstacle when in pursuit, and found a decided pleasure in anything which added a spice of danger to the work in hand. Waldemar, on the other hand, followed with tenacious, indefatigable perseverance, the whole day through, if necessary, the game he had selected at the outset, giving no thought to rest or recruitment, and imposing on himself fatigue and hardships which only his iron frame could have withstood. Leo soon began to find it wearisome both to body and mind, and unpleasant to the last degree; so that, on making the discovery that his brother greatly preferred to be alone, he was very glad to leave him to his own society.

Thus, though the three daily saw and spoke to each other, it could hardly be said that they lived a life in common. Waldemar's stern, almost repellant manner had in no way changed, and his reserve grew rather than diminished in this closer intercourse. After weeks passed under the same roof, neither the Princess nor Leo had advanced a step nearer intimacy with him than on the day of his arrival; but such intimacy was not needful. They were glad that the young man's conduct tallied so completely with the suppositions they had formed. As regarded social relations, he even showed a docility they had not expected. For instance, he did not refuse to make a return visit to Rakowicz, and the communications between the two castles were more frequent than ever. Count Morynski and his daughter often came over to Wilicza, though they but seldom found the master of the house at home. The only thing which occasionally caused the Princess some annoyance was the attitude preserved towards each other by her elder son and Wanda. This remained absolutely unchanged; it was cold, constrained, hostile even. The mother had tried several times to step in and mediate, but always unsuccessfully. At last she gave up the idea of curing two 'stubborn young heads' of their obstinacy. The whole thing was unimportant, except as it might give pretext for a rupture. Matters, however, were not carried to such lengths. Waldemar was always as gracious to the Count as his ungracious nature would permit; and, for the rest, he did his relatives the pleasure, of withdrawing from their society as much as possible, so leaving them to their own devices.

All Wilicza was astir, it being an occasion of one of those great hunting festivities which were wont to gather the whole neighbourhood together at the Castle. As usual, every invitation issued had been accepted, and the company, which consisted exclusively of the Polish nobility from the surrounding chateaux, was more numerous than ever. Great was the Princess's satisfaction that she had not been forced to modify her arrangements out of regard to her son. She would naturally have so far sacrificed herself as to regulate the invitations according to his wishes, but no such question was ever mooted. Waldemar seemed to take it as a thing of course that his mother's circle of acquaintance should now be his; and, seeing the very small part he took in such social relations, the matter may well have appeared immaterial to him. He himself held intercourse with no one in the neighbourhood; he even avoided those connections which the Princess had thought of not without apprehension, and made friends neither among the higher class of officials at L----, nor the officers of that garrison, though he had met most of the latter in other places. In these circles young Nordeck was looked on as belonging altogether to the Baratowski faction, and as being completely under the influence of his mother, who would, it was declared, permit no foreign element so much as to approach him.

The hunting party was unusually late in setting out. A solid wall of thick fog, drawn up round the house and closing in the view a few paces off, had in the morning threatened to interfere with the whole expedition. A little before noon, however, it cleared sufficiently for the programme to be put into execution, with this single exception that the breakfast was taken at the Castle, instead of in the forest.

Part of the guests were already making ready to start. The gentlemen and younger ladies who were to join in the hunt, were taking leave of the Princess, as she stood with Leo in the centre of the great drawing-room. Any one unacquainted with the real circumstances must have supposed the young Prince to be the master of Wilicza, for he and his mother formed the central point to which all converged. They accepted all the polite speeches, claimed all the attentions and interest of the company, and did the honours with a distinction and dignity of bearing which left nothing to be desired; while Waldemar stood at the window, apart and almost overlooked, in conversation with Dr. Fabian, who, as a matter of course, was to remain behind at the Castle, but who had come down to join the breakfast party.

This demeanour on the part of the head of the house struck no one as strange, he having always voluntarily chosen this subordinate rôle. He seemed persistently to consider himself as his mother's guest who had nothing to do with the entertainment of visitors, and declined all participation in it as troublesome and disagreeable to him. So the custom had gradually grown up of paying no special regard to one who made so little claim to consideration. Gracious words were spoken to him on coming and going. When he condescended to take part in the conversation, he was listened to with some show of attention, and the sacrifice was even made of speaking German in his presence, great and general as was the objection felt to that language; but, in spite of this, he was only nominally master in his own home, and it was known that his passivity in this capacity was a thing of great price. All vain attempts to break through the obstinate reserve in which he delighted to enwrap himself had long been abandoned; and, on the whole, the guests assembled beneath his roof took no more notice of him than he of them.

"Pray do not ride so wildly again, Leo," remonstrated the Princess, as she parted from her younger son with an embrace. "You and Wanda seem to vie with one another in attempting the most hazardous feats. I seriously beg of you to be prudent on this occasion;" and, turning to her elder son, who now came up to her, she held out her hand with cool affability. "Goodbye, Waldemar; you must be quite in your element to-day."

"That I certainly am not," was the somewhat ill-humoured answer. "These great conventional gala meets, when the woods are full of traqueurs and huntsmen, and the game is driven right before your barrel for you to shoot without any trouble, are decidedly not to my taste."

"Waldemar is never happy but when he is alone with his beloved rifle," said Leo, laughing. "I have a strong suspicion that you dragged me through the thickest bushes and over the deepest bogs, and exposed me to hunger and thirst, with the settled purpose of getting rid of me as soon as possible. I am not exactly a novice in such matters, but after the first three days I had enough of the horrible toil you call pleasure."

"I told you beforehand that our views on the subject would differ," said Waldemar, coolly, as the two left the drawing-room together and went down the steps.

A number of the visitors had already assembled below on the great lawn before the Castle, and among them were Count Morynski and his daughter. The gentlemen were with one voice admiring Nordeck's beautiful horse, which he had but lately sent for and which had only arrived the day before. They acknowledged that, in this respect at least, the master of Wilicza had shown consummate taste.

"A splendid creature!" said the Count, patting the animal's slender neck, a caress received by its object with all due patience. "Waldemar, is this really the wild Norman you used to ride at C----? Pawlick was in great anguish of mind each time he had to hold his bridle, for the beast was dangerous then to all who went near him. He seems to have grown remarkably gentle."

Waldemar, who had just come out of the house with his brother, drew near the group.

"Norman was very young and new to the saddle in those days," said he. "He has learned to behave himself since then, just as I have learned to give up rough riding. But as to the gentleness of the animal, ask Leo what he thinks of it. He found out what it was worth when he tried to mount him yesterday."

"A devil of a horse!" cried Leo, in a tone of irritation. "I think you have trained him to go on like a mad creature directly any one but yourself puts his foot in the stirrup; but I will get the better of him yet."

"You had better let it alone. Norman obeys me, and no one but me. You will never get control over him. You might have found that out yesterday, I should have thought."

A dark flush spread over the young Prince's face. He had caught a look of Wanda's, imperiously calling on him to contradict the assertion. He did not comply exactly; but the look stung him and added fuel to his anger, as he replied with some heat--

"If it gives you any pleasure to break in your horse in such a manner that no one but yourself can mount him, that is your business. I have certainly not taught my Vaillant any such high art"--he pointed to the beautiful sorrel his groom was holding for him----"nevertheless, you would not fare much better with him than I with your Norman. You have never been willing to make the attempt. Will you try him to-day?"

"No," replied Waldemar, quietly. "Your horse is sometimes very refractory. You allow him to play all sorts of tricks, and to show caprices which I could not stand. I should be under the necessity of ill-using him, and should be sorry to employ violence to your favourite. Your heart is set on him, I know."

"Well, there would be no harm in trying, Herr Nordeck," put in Wanda--she had dropped the familiar "Cousin Waldemar" once for all after their first meeting. "I really think you ride nearly as well as Leo."

Waldemar moved not a muscle at this attack. He remained perfectly composed.

"You are very kind to credit me with any skill in horsemanship, Countess Morynska," he replied.

"Oh, I meant no offence," declared Wanda, in a tone which was still more damaging than her previous word 'nearly.' "I am persuaded that the Germans are excellent equestrians; but they cannot, of course, compare with our gentlemen in the art of riding."

Nordeck turned to his brother without making any reply. "Will you leave your Vaillant to me for to-day, Leo? At all risks?"

"At all risks," cried Leo, with flashing eyes.

"Do not attempt it, Waldemar," interposed the Count, who appeared not to approve of the turn the matter had taken. "You have judged quite correctly. The horse is refractory, and quite unaccountable in his caprices; besides which, Leo has accustomed him to all sorts of rash adventures and mad tricks, so that no strange rider, were he the most skilful in the world, could be a match for him. He will throw you, without a shadow of doubt."

"Well, Herr Nordeck may put it to the test, at least," suggested Wanda, "supposing he cares to incur the danger."

"Do not be uneasy," said Waldemar to the Count, who darted a displeased glance at his daughter. "I will ride the horse. You see how eager Countess Morynska is to--see me thrown. Come, Leo."

"Wanda, I must beg you to desist," whispered Morynski to his daughter. "A real feud is growing up between you and Waldemar. I must say you neglect no opportunity of irritating him."

The young Countess switched her whip sharply against her velvet habit. "You are wrong, papa. Irritate? This Nordeck never allows himself to be irritated, certainly not by me!"

"Well, why do you always return to the charge, then?"

Wanda made no answer; but her father had spoken truly. She could let pass no opportunity of exasperating the man who at one time had blazed up with passionate susceptibility at a thoughtless word, and who now met her every attack with the same imperturbable calm.

Meanwhile the attention of the others had been attracted to what was going on. They knew Nordeck to be a skilful, if a prudent rider; but it appeared to them a thing of course that he could not in this respect compare with a Baratowski, and, less considerate than Count Morynski, they heartily enjoyed the prospect of the 'foreigner's' defeat. The two brothers were standing by the sorrel now. The slender, fiery animal struck the ground impatiently with its hoofs, and gave the groom at his head trouble enough to hold him. Leo took the bridle from the man's hands, and held the horse himself while his brother mounted, intense satisfaction beaming in his eyes as he did so--he knew his Vaillant. Then he let him go, and stepped back.

The sorrel had hardly felt the strange hand on his reins when he began to give proof of his peculiar temper. He reared, plunged, and made the most violent efforts to shake off his rider; but the latter sat as though glued to the saddle, and opposed so quiet but energetic a resistance to the animal's impetuous violence that at last it succumbed to its fate, and endured him.

But its docility went no further, for when Waldemar would have urged it forward it resolutely refused to obey. Nothing could induce it to stir from the spot. It spent itself in all manner of tricks and caprices; but no skilful management, no show of energy on the part of its rider, availed to make it advance a step. Gradually, however, it worked itself into a state of excitement which was really becoming serious. So far, Waldemar had remained tolerably quiet, but now his brow began to flush. His patience was at an end. He raised his whip, and struck the rebellious horse a merciless, well-directed blow.

This unwonted treatment drove the capricious, spoilt creature distracted. It gave one bound, scattering right and left the gentlemen standing round, and then shot like an arrow across the lawn into the great avenue which led to the Castle. There the ride degenerated into a wild struggle between horse and rider. The former, frenzied with rage, fairly battled with its adversary, and visibly tried all the means in its power to unseat him. Though Waldemar kept his seat in the saddle, it was evident that he did so at extreme risk to his life.

"Leo, put a stop to this," said Morynski to his nephew, uneasily. "Vaillant will soon calm down if he hears your voice. Persuade your brother to dismount, or we shall have an accident."

Leo stood by with folded arms, watching the struggle; but he made no attempt to interfere. "I did not hide from Waldemar that the horse is a dangerous one for a stranger to mount," he replied, coldly. "If he purposely goads it into a fury, he must take the consequences. He knows well enough that Vaillant will not stand the whip."

At this moment Waldemar came back. He had retained sufficient control over the reins to force the animal into a given direction, for instead of careering over the lawn they swept round it in a wide circle. Beyond this, all guidance was out of the question. The sorrel still violently resisted the hand which held it in an iron grasp, and tried by unexpected lightning-like darts and plunges to throw its rider; but Nordeck's face showed that the old temper was rising within him. Scarlet to the roots of his hair, with eyes which seemed to emit sparks, and teeth tightly set, he used his whip and spurs in so merciless a manner that Leo grew wild with exasperation. He had looked on composedly at his brother's danger, but this punishment of his favourite was more than he could bear.

"Waldemar, have done," he cried, angrily. "You will ruin the horse for me. We have all seen now that Vaillant will carry you. Let him be."

"I shall teach him obedience first." Waldemar's voice vibrated with passion and excitement. He was past thinking of others now, and Leo's interference had no other effect than to bring down on the horse still more unsparing treatment, as a second time they made the tour of the lawn. At the third round the animal was vanquished. It no longer strove against its rider's will, but moderated into the prescribed pace, and at the first hint from the reins came to a halt before the Castle, completely subdued, it is true, but ready to sink with exhaustion.

Nordeck dismounted. The gentlemen gathered round him, and there was no lack of compliments on his admirable horsemanship, though the spirits of the company were evidently damped. Leo alone said nothing. He stood silent, stroking the trembling, sweating horse, on whose shining brown coat traces of blood were to be seen--so terribly had Waldemar's spurs ploughed his sides.

"That was a trial of strength I never saw equalled," said Count Morynski; but his words were forced. "Vaillant will not so easily forget the day he carried you."

Waldemar had already got the better of his passion. The flush on his brow and the full swollen blue vein on the temple alone bore witness to his inward excitement, as he answered--

"I had to try and deserve Countess Morynska's flattering opinion that I could ride nearly as well as my brother."

Wanda stood by Leo's side, looking as though she had personally suffered a defeat which she was ready to avenge at the peril of her life, so threatening was the blaze of those deep dark eyes.

"I am sorry that my heedless words should have brought down such harsh usage on Vaillant. The noble creature is certainly not accustomed to such treatment."

"Nor I to such resistance," replied Waldemar, sharply. "It is not my fault if Vaillant would not yield to whip and spur. Yield he must, sooner or later."

Leo put an end to the conversation by ordering his groom, in a loud demonstrative manner, to lead the sorrel, which was 'ready to drop,' back to the stables, and there to take all possible care of him, and at once to saddle another horse and bring it round. Count Morynski, fearing an outbreak, went up to his nephew and drew him aside.

"Control yourself, Leo," he said, in a low urgent tone. "Do not appear before all these people with that frowning brow. Do you want to seek a quarrel with your brother?"

"What if I do?" muttered the young Prince. "Has not he exposed me to the ridicule of all the hunt by that ill-timed story of his about Norman? Has not he almost ridden my Vaillant to death? And all for the sake of a miserable boast!"

"Boast? Think what you are saying. It was you who proposed to him to try the horse. He refused at first."

"He wanted to show me and all of us that he is master when a mere display of coarse physical strength is in question. As though any one ever disputed him that! It is the only thing he is capable of! But I tell you, uncle, if he challenges me in this way again, my patience will give way. It would if he were ten times lord of Wilicza."

"No imprudence!" said the Count. "You and Wanda are unfortunately accustomed to subordinate everything to your own personal impressions. I can never obtain from her the smallest concession where this Waldemar is concerned."

"Wanda, at least, can show her dislike openly," grumbled Leo, "whereas I. There he is standing beside his Norman; together they look the very picture of composure and tranquillity, but let any one try to go near either of them!"

The fresh horse was now brought round, and in the general departure which ensued any little unpleasantness caused by the late incident was dissipated. It was, however, fortunate that the proceedings of the day kept the brothers apart, that they were at no time long in each other's company, else, in the exasperated state of Leo's mind, a rupture would have become inevitable. When at length the chase was reached, the love of sport awoke, and, for some hours at least, drove all else into the background.

Waldemar was wrong in his aversion to these 'great gala meets.' They presented a brilliant and beautiful spectacle, especially here at Wilicza, where such fêtes were conducted on a right princely scale. Each forest station was called on to furnish its contingent of men in full gala uniform. The whole woodland district was alive, fairly swarming with foresters and huntsmen; but the most imposing sight of all was the cortége of the hunt itself as it careered along. The gentlemen, for the most part, fine noble-looking figures in well-appointed hunting dress, mounted on slender fiery steeds--the ladies in flowing habits riding by the side of their cavaliers, the servants bringing up the train; then the blast of horns and the baying of hounds. It was a scene all aglow with animation. Soon the stag came flitting by, and shots resounded on all sides, awakening the echoes and announcing the opening of the day's sport.

Now that the fog had lifted, the weather was all that could be wished. It was a cool, somewhat overcast, but fine November day. The stock of deer in the Wilicza chase was considered to be unrivalled, the arrangements were on all points excellent, and the game was most abundant. That every effort should be made to regain what had been lost in the morning was a thing of course. The short autumn afternoon was fast closing in, but no one thought of staying the sport at sight of the first shades of twilight.

Some thousand paces distant from the forester's house, which was to-day to serve as rendezvous, there lay a stretch of meadow, solitary and, as it were, lost in the midst of the encircling thickets. The close undergrowth and the mighty trees which fenced it in, made the spot invisible to all but those who knew where to find it, or who stumbled on it by accident. Now, indeed, that the chill of autumn had in some degree thinned the surrounding foliage, access could be had to it more easily. In the midst of this piece of meadow-land lay a small lake or pond, such as is often to be found in the heart of the woods. During the summer months, with its waving reeds and dreamy water-lilies, it lent to the place a peculiar poetic charm of its own; but now it brooded dark and bare, fading leaves floating on its surface, its brink edged by a circle of brown discoloured grass, autumnally desolate like all its surroundings.

Under one of the trees, which stretched its boughs far out over the meadow, stood Countess Morynska, quite unattended and alone. Her retirement must have been a voluntary one. She could not have accidentally wandered from the hunt, for sounds of the gay party were to be heard distinct enough, though borne over from a distance, and close at hand stood the forester's house, where the young lady must have left her horse. She seemed purposely to have sought, and wishful to preserve, her present solitude. Leaning against the trunk of a tree, she gazed fixedly at the water, and yet plainly saw neither it nor any other feature of the landscape before her. Her thoughts were elsewhere. Wanda's beautiful eyes could take a very sombre look, as was evident at this moment. She appeared to be struggling with some feeling of angry resentment; to judge, however, by the knitting of her white brow and the defiant curl of her lips, this feeling would not allow itself to be so easily mastered, but stood its ground firmly. Farther and farther the hunt receded, taking, as it seemed, the direction towards the river, and leaving this part of the chase quiet and free. Gradually the varied, confused tones died away in the ever-increasing distance; only the dull shots reverberated through the air--then these too ceased, and all became still, still as death, in the forest.

Wanda must have stood so, motionless, for some length of time, when the sound of steps and a rustling close at hand attracted her attention. She raised herself impatiently, and was about to search for the cause of the disturbance, when the bushes were thrust aside, and Waldemar Nordeck stepped out from among them. He started at sight of the Countess. The unexpected meeting seemed as little agreeable to him as to her, but a retreat now was out of the question; they were too near each other for that. Waldemar bowed slightly, and said, "I was not aware that you had already left the hunt. Countess Morynska has the reputation of being so indefatigable a sportswoman--will she be missing at the close of the day?"

"I may retort with a like question," replied Wanda. "You, of all people, to be absent from the last run!"

He shrugged his shoulders. "I have had quite enough of it. The noise and bustle of such a day destroy all the pleasure of the sport for me. To my mind all the excitement of the thing is in its chances, in the trouble one has to take. I miss all this, and, more especially, I miss the forest stillness and forest solitude."

Quiet and solitude were precisely what Wanda herself had felt in need of, what she had sought here; but nothing, of course, would have induced her to admit it. She merely asked--

"You come now from the forester's house?"

"No, I sent on Norman there before me. The hunt is away down by the river. The run will soon be over now, and they are sure to pass by here on their return. The rendezvous is close by."

"And what are we to do in the mean time?" asked Wanda, impatiently.

"Wait," returned Waldemar, laconically, as he unslung his gun and uncocked it.

The young Countess frowned. "Wait!" In a matter of course tone as though he took her staying for granted! She had a great mind to return at once to the forester's house; but no! It was for him to withdraw after disturbing her so unceremoniously in her retreat. She resolved to remain, even though she must spend some time longer in this Nordeck's company.

He certainly made no sign of going. He had leaned his gun against a tree, and now stood with folded arms surveying the landscape. Not once to-day had the sun succeeded in breaking through the veil of clouds; but now, at its setting, it gilded them with a bright gleam. A yellow flame spread over the western horizon, glimmering pale and uncertain through the trees, and the mists, those first precursors of evening, began to rise from the meadow ground. Very autumnal did the forest look with its half-stripped branches and carpet of dry leaves spread on the ground. Not a trace was there of that fresh sweet life which breathes through the woods in spring and summer, of that mighty vital force which pulses then through Nature's veins; everywhere existence seemed on the ebb, everywhere marks were visible of slow but unceasing decay.

The young Countess's eyes were fixed, darkly meditative, on her companion's face, as though she must and would decipher some enigma there. He seemed aware of her observation, though turning from her as he stood, for he suddenly faced round, and said carelessly, in the tone of a common remark--

"There is something desolate in the look of such an autumn landscape as evening comes on."

"And yet it has a peculiar poetic melancholy of its own," said she. "Do not you think so?"

"I?" he asked, sharply. "I have had very little to do with poetry--as you know, Countess Morynska."

"Yes, I know," she answered, in the same tone; "but there are moments when it forces itself upon one."

"It may be so with romantic natures. People of my sort have to learn to push through life without either romance or poetry. The years must be endured and lived through one way or another."

"How calmly you say that! Mere patient endurance was not exactly your forte formerly. I think you are wonderfully changed in that respect."

"Oh, one does not always remain a passionate, hot-headed boy! But perhaps you think I can never get the better of my old childish follies."

Wanda bit her lips. He had shown her very plainly that he could get the better of them. "I do not doubt it," she said, coldly. "I give you credit for much that you do not see fit to show openly."

Waldemar became attentive. For one moment he looked keenly, scrutinisingly at the young lady, and then replied quietly--

"In that case you set yourself in opposition to all Wilicza. People here are unanimous in declaring me a most inoffensive person."

"Because you wish to pass for such. I do not believe it."

"You are very good to ascribe a most unmerited importance to me," said Waldemar, ironically; "but it is cruel of you to deprive me of the single advantage I possess in the eyes of my mother and brother, that of being harmless and insignificant."

"If my aunt could hear the tone in which you say that, she would alter her opinion," declared Wanda, irritated by his sarcasm. "For the present, I am certainly alone in mine."

"And so you will continue," said Nordeck. "The world sees in me an indefatigable sportsman; perhaps, after the trial of day, it may vouch me a skilful rider--nothing more."

"Are you really bent on sport, Herr Nordeck, all these long days while you are roaming about with your gun and game bag?" asked the young lady, fixing a keen look on him.

"And on what else might I be bent, according to your notion?"

"I do not know, but I fancy you are inspecting your Wilicza, inspecting it closely. There is not a forester's station, not a village, not a farm, however distant from your property, which you have not visited. You have even called at the farms leased out to the different tenants, and you will no doubt soon be as much at home everywhere else as you already are in your mother's drawing-room. You appear there but seldom, it is true, and play the part of an indifferent bystander; yet nothing of what is going on, no word or look, escapes you. You seem to bestow but little notice on our visitors; yet there is not one of them who has not had to pass muster before you and on whom you have not pronounced your verdict."

She had gone on delivering thrust after thrust with a sureness of aim and decision of manner well calculated to disconcert him, and, for a moment, he actually was unable to answer her. He stood with a darkened face and lips tightly pressed together, visibly striving to overcome his annoyance. It was, however, no easy thing to vanquish 'this Nordeck.' When he looked up the cloud was still on his brow, but his voice expressed nothing save the keenest sarcasm.

"You really make me feel ashamed, Countess. You show me that from the very day of my arrival I have been the object of your close and exclusive observation. That is indeed more than I deserve!"

Wanda started, and flashed a look, scorching in its anger, at the man who ventured to return her shaft.

"I certainly do not deny the observation," said she; "but you will feel perfectly assured, Herr Nordeck, that no personal interest has any share in it."

He smiled with unfeigned bitterness. "You are quite right. I do not suppose that you take any interest in my person. You are safe from any such suspicion on my part."

Wanda would not understand the allusion, but she avoided meeting his glance. "You will, at least, bear me witness that I have been candid," she continued. "It is for you now to admit or to deny the truth of that which I have observed."

"And if I decline to answer you?"

"I shall infer that I have seen aright, and shall earnestly endeavour to convince my aunt of the fact that her son is a more dangerous person than she supposes."

The same sarcastic expression played about Waldemar's lips as he answered her. "Your judgment may be of the highest order, Countess Morynska, but you are no diplomatist, or you would choose your words more cautiously. Dangerous! The term is a significant one."

The young lady involuntarily shrank back in evident alarm. "I repeated your own expression, I think," said she, recovering herself quickly.

"Oh, that is different. I began to fancy that something was going on at Wilicza, and that my presence here was looked on as a danger."

Wanda made no reply. She saw now how extremely imprudent she had been to offer battle on this ground, where her adversary showed himself so completely her match. He parried every blow, returned her every thrust, and entangled her hopelessly in her own words, and he had withal the advantage of coolness and composure on his side, while she was on the verge of losing her self-command. She saw plainly that she could make no head in this direction, so she took a rapid resolution, and boldly tore away the net which her own unguarded words had woven about her.

"Lay aside your tone of scorn," said she, fixing her grave dark eyes full upon him. "I know that it is not meant for the matter we are discussing, but solely and altogether for me. You oblige me at last to touch upon a point which I should certainly have left buried in the past, were it not that you are continually recurring to it. Whether such conduct is chivalrous, I will not stay to inquire, but you must feel as well as I do that it has brought us into a position which is becoming intolerable. I offended you once, and you have never forgiven me to the present day. Well"--she paused a moment, and drew a long breath----"I behaved ill to you then. Will that suffice you?"

It was a strange apology, made even stranger by the haughty tone in which it was offered, the tone of a proud woman who knows right well that it involves no humiliation to herself if she stoops to ask pardon of a man for having made him the toy of her caprices. Countess Morynska was, doubtless, fully conscious of this, or she would hardly have deigned to speak the words. They produced, however, a very different effect from that which she had expected.

Waldemar had stepped a pace or two back; his eyes seemed to look her through and through. "Really?" he said, slowly, emphasising every word. "I did not know that Wilicza was worth that to your party!"

"You think ..." cried Wanda, vehemently.

"I think that once already I have had to pay dearly for being the owner of this place," he interrupted her with a warmth which showed that he too was roused at length; his tone told of a long pent-up, rankling irritation. "In those days the object in view was to open Wilicza to my mother and her interests; now this Wilicza is to be preserved to those same interests, cost what it may. But they forget that I am no longer an inexperienced boy. You yourself have opened my eyes, Countess, and now I shall keep them open at the risk of having my conduct stigmatised by you as unchivalrous."

Wanda had grown deadly pale. Her right hand, hanging by her side, clenched itself convulsively in the velvet folds of her habit.

"Enough," she said, controlling herself with an effort. "I see that you wish for no reconciliation, and that you have recourse to insults in order to make any understanding between us possible. Well and good, I accept the enmity you offer me.

"You are mistaken," replied Waldemar, more calmly. "I offer you no enmity. That would indeed be a lack of chivalry towards ..."

"Towards whom?" cried the young Countess, with flashing eyes, as he paused.

"Towards my brother's promised wife!"

A thrill passed through Wanda. Strange that the word should strike her as with a sudden pang. Involuntarily her eyes sought the ground.

"I have postponed offering you my congratulations hitherto," continued Waldemar. "Pray accept them to-day."

The Countess bowed her head in silent acknowledgment. She herself knew not what closed her lips, but at that moment she found it impossible to answer him. It was the first time this subject had been touched on between them, and the simple mention of it seemed to suffice, for Waldemar added no syllable to his congratulatory speech.

The yellow flame had long ago died out of the sky, and in its place had come a dreary, murky grey. The evening breeze swept through the half-stripped bushes and rustled among the crests of the tall trees, still partly decked with their gay many-tinted foliage; drooping and faded it hung now from the branches, leaf after leaf fluttered noiselessly to the ground, strewing the grass and the surface of the little lake. Through the scantily clothed boughs came a sort of low-whispered autumnal lament for the beauty and life which had been so blooming and verdant in the old sunshiny days, but was now fast sinking into its grave. Gloomy and weird the forest loomed across with all its fantastic, indistinct shadows; and here in the vaporous meadow the moist veil rose, ever thicker and thicker, hovered hither and thither, finally massing itself over the small piece of water. There it remained, a white spectral vision, floating uneasily backwards and forwards, stretching out its great humid arms to the two figures standing on the brink, as though it would have gathered them to it, shaping the while before their eyes a thousand forms and pictures, one pressing back, one flowing into the other in endless variation.

Nothing was to be heard but the monotonous sough of the wind, the rustle of the falling leaves--yet stay! what sound was that which, through it all, came like the distant, distant roar of the sea, while lo! out from the bosom of the seething mists a Fata Morgana rose to view. There appeared the green branches of mighty secular beeches, all flooded in the last golden glow of evening, the blue surging sea in its vast immeasurable greatness. Slowly the burning sun sank into the waters, and out from the stream of light, which at its contact spread far over the waves, arose once more the fairy city of the legend in all its halo of mystic fancy and enchanted splendour. The treasure kingdom again opened its untold stores, and once again, fuller now and more resonant than in that hour on the Beech Holm, rang out the bells of Vineta.

The old tale had not held good in the case of the two who had lived through that charmed hour together. Hostile and as strangers they had parted; hostile and as strangers they had since met, and so they now stood face to face. The youth had become a cold stern man, pursuing in proud reserve his solitary way through life; the child had ripened into a happy beautiful woman, but to neither of them had come again that which yon hour had brought them. Only now, on this dreary autumnal evening did it all quicken into life anew; and, as the remembrance was wafted over to them, the years which lay between faded away; hatred, strife, and bitterness, all grew dim; nothing remained but that deep inexpressible aspiration towards an unknown happiness which had first been called into being by the spirit bells of Vineta--nothing but the old sunset dream.

Waldemar was the first to rouse himself. He passed his hand rapidly across his brow, as though by an effort of will he would shake off all these fancies and drive away the vision.

"We should do much better to return to the forester's house, and wait there for the hunting party," said he, hastily. "The twilight is falling, and one can hardly breathe in this sea of mist."

Wanda assented at once. She, too, had seen enough of the phantasmagoria contained in that sea of mist, and was anxious by any means to put an end to the interview. She raised her habit and prepared to go. Waldemar threw his gun over his shoulder, and they were about to start when suddenly he paused.

"I offended you with my suspicions a little while ago, and perhaps I was unjust; but--be candid with me--was the half apology to which you condescended really intended for Waldemar Nordeck, or not rather for the master of Wilicza, with whom a reconciliation is sought in order that he may abet, or at least shut his eyes to, that which is passing on his estates."

"So you know ...?" interrupted Wanda, and then stopped in confusion.

"Enough to take from you all apprehension of having been indiscreet just now. Did they really think me so unintelligent that I alone should be blind to what is already subject of conversation in L----, namely, that a party movement is going on, of which Wilicza is the seat, and my mother the soul and centre. There could be no danger in your owning to me what the whole neighbourhood knows. I knew it before I came here."

Wanda was silent. She tried to read in his face how much he knew, but Waldemar's features were undecipherable as ever.

"But that is not the question now," he began again. "I was asking for an answer to my question. Was that act of self-conquest a voluntary one, or--had the task been set you? Oh, do not start so indignantly. I only ask, and you can surely forgive me for looking distrustfully on any show of friendliness on your part, Wanda."

The young Countess would probably have taken these words as a fresh offence, and have answered them in an angry spirit, had they not conveyed a something which disarmed her in spite of herself. A change had come over Waldemar since he had looked into that mist yonder. He was hostile and frigid no longer; his voice, too, had quite another sound--it was softer, almost subdued. A little shock passed through Wanda as, for the first time for years, he pronounced her name.

"If my aunt at one time made me the unconscious instrument of her plans, you should accuse her, and not me," she replied, in a low tone; and, as she uttered them, some invisible power seemed to rob her words of their sting. "I suspected nothing of it. I was a child following the impulses of my caprices, but now"--she raised her head proudly--"now I am accountable to no one for what I do and leave undone, and the words I spoke just now were spoken on my own responsibility alone. You are right, they were not intended for Waldemar Nordeck; since he and I met, he has never given me cause to seek or even to wish for a reconciliation. My object was to force the master of Wilicza into raising for once his closed vizier. There is no need for that now. This interview of ours has taught me what I suspected before, that we have in you a bitter, a merciless adversary, who will use his power at the decisive moment, even though in so doing he must trample all family, all natural ties under foot."

"To whom should these ties bind me, pray?" asked Waldemar. "To my mother, perhaps, you think? My mother and I know very well how matters stand between us. She is less disposed than ever to forgive me for inheriting the Nordeck wealth, instead of her younger son. Or perhaps to Leo? Well, it may be that some brotherly love exists between us; but I do not think it would hold good if our ways should chance to cross, at all events not on his part."

"Leo would willingly have met you as a brother, if you had not made it too hard for him," interrupted Wanda. "You were always reserved and distant even with him; but there were times formerly when he could draw nearer you, when the fact that you were brothers could be discerned. But now it would be asking too much of his pride to endeavour to break through the icy barrier you oppose to him and to all those about you. It would be quite in vain for your mother and brother to come to you with demonstrations of affection; they would be met by a hard indifference which cares neither for them nor for any one in this world."

She stopped, for Waldemar was standing close to her side, and his eyes were riveted on her.

"You judge very correctly, very unsparingly," he said, slowly. "Have you never asked yourself what has made me hard and austere? There was a time when I was not so, at least not to you--when a word, a look could guide me, when I lent myself patiently to every whim. You might have done much with me then, Wanda--almost anything. That you were not willing, that my handsome, chivalrous brother even in those days carried off the palm was, after all, but natural. What could I have been to you? But you must understand that the events of those days formed a crisis in my life, and a man, who--like myself, for instance--has no turn for constant melancholy, naturally grows hard and suspicious after such an experience. Now, indeed, I look upon it as a piece of good fortune that my boyish romance was nipped in the bud--else my mother would infallibly have conceived the idea of repeating in our persons the drama which was performed here twenty years ago, when a Nordeck brought home a Morynska as his bride. You, a girl of sixteen, would possibly have submitted to the expressed will of your family, and I--should have shared my father's fate. From that we have both been preserved, and now the whole thing is over and buried in the past. I only wished to recall to your mind that you have no right to reproach me if I seem hard to you and yours.--Will you let me go with you now to the forester's house?"

Wanda followed him in silence. Angry and ready for the fray as she had been at first, the turn finally taken by the conversation had struck the weapons from her hand. To-day again they parted as foes, but they both felt that henceforth the nature of the struggle between them was changed--possibly the struggle itself would not on that account be a less arduous one.

Shrouded in its own misty breath, the meadow lay more and more closely hedged around by the dusky evening shadows. Over the lake the white cloud still hovered, but now it was only a formless, ever-shifting mass of vapour. The dream-picture which had risen from it, had vanished once more--whether it were forgotten could only be known to the two who walked on together silently side by side. Here in the dreary autumnal forests, in the eerie twilight hour, the old sea-legend from out of the far north had been wafted over to them, whispering anew the prophecy, "He who has once looked on Vineta will know no rest all his life for a longing to see the fair city again, even though he himself should be drawn down by it into the depths."


The two rooms in the Castle occupied by Dr. Fabian looked out on to the park, and were in some measure shut off from the rest of the house. There was a special reason for this. When the Princess caused the hitherto unused apartments of her first husband to be put in readiness for that husband's son, some thought was naturally given to the ex-tutor who was to accompany him, and a room was prepared in consequence. It was rather small and very noisy, for it lay next to the main staircase; but, according to the lady's notion, it was just suited to the Doctor. She knew that at Altenhof very little fuss had been made about him, especially by his former pupil. There must have been a considerable change in this respect, however, for on his arrival Waldemar had declared the accommodation to be quite inadequate, had caused the visitors' rooms on the other side of the house to be opened, and had sequestrated two of them to his friend's use. Now these rooms had been specially fitted up for Count Morynski and his daughter, who often spent whole weeks at Wilicza. Of this fact the young owner of the place could not possibly be aware; but when Pawlick, who now filled the office of major-domo at the Castle, opened his mouth to reply, Waldemar stopped him with a brief inquiry as to whether the apartments in question formed part of the Princess's suite, or of Prince Leo's. On receiving an answer in the negative, he declared very decidedly, "Then Dr. Fabian will occupy them at once." That same day the corridor which ran close by, where the servants were constantly passing up and down, was closed, and the order given that in future they were to go round by the other staircase, in order not to disturb the Doctor by running to and fro--and so the matter was settled.

The Princess said no word when informed of these occurrences. She had laid it down as a rule never to contradict her son in trifles. Other rooms were immediately prepared for her brother and niece. Still it was natural that she should look upon poor Fabian, the innocent cause of this mishap, with no very friendly eyes. She never made this apparent, it is true, for both she herself and the whole Castle soon came to know that Waldemar was exceedingly sensitive on the subject of his old tutor, and that, though he claimed little attention for himself, any failure of respect towards the Doctor would be most sharply reproved by him. This was almost the only point on which he asserted his right to command; but on this head he spoke so emphatically that every one, from the Princess down to the domestics, treated Dr. Fabian with the utmost consideration.

It was no very hard task to be polite to the quiet, retiring man, who was always so modest and courteous, who stood in nobody's way, required but very little attendance, and showed himself grateful for the smallest service. He was rarely seen except at table, for he spent the whole day over his books, and his evenings generally in the company of his old pupil, with whom he seemed on the most intimate footing. "He is the only being for whom Waldemar has any regard," the Princess said to her brother, when she explained to him the change in his quarters. "We must respect this whim, though I really do not understand what he can see in this tiresome professor. Formerly he used altogether to ignore the man, and now he makes quite a pet of him."

However it may have come about, the complete change in his circumstances had exercised an unmistakable influence on Dr. Fabian. His timidity and modesty were conspicuous as ever; they were too deeply ingrained in his nature ever to be eradicated; but the anxious, depressed look, which had clouded his face of old, had disappeared with all that was painful in his position. He had grown stronger, healthier of aspect than in former days. The years spent at the University, and his subsequent travels, may have helped to transform the sickly, shy, neglected tutor into a well-bred man, whose pale but winning countenance and low sweet-toned voice impressed every one favourably, and whose timidity alone prevented him from appearing everywhere to advantage.

The Doctor had a visitor, a rare occurrence with him. By his side on the sofa sat no less a person than the Government Assessor, Herr Hubert of L----, most peacefully minded on this occasion and indulging in no dreams of arrest. That former fatal error of his was precisely what had led to the acquaintanceship. Dr. Fabian had shown himself the one friend and consoler in the deluge of troubles which had poured down on the Assessor's devoted head when once the thing became known. This happened all too soon. Gretchen had been 'heartless enough,' as Hubert expressed it, to relate the story in fullest detail to her friends in L----. The tale of the master of Wilicza's intended arrest went the round of the whole town; and, if no formal report of the affair was laid before the President, that magnate soon got to hear of it, and the over zealous official received a sharply worded piece of advice to be more prudent in future, and next time he was seeking to lay hands on secret Polish emissaries not to fix on a great German landowner, on whose attitude so much might depend. The incident was known, too, in Wilicza. Waldemar himself had told the Princess--the whole neighbourhood knew of it, and wherever the unfortunate Assessor put in an appearance, he was met by covert allusions or open taunts.

On the very day following his misadventure he had called on Herr Nordeck to offer his apologies, but had not found that gentleman at home. The Doctor, though himself an offended party, had behaved with generosity on this occasion. He received the crestfallen Hubert, consoled him to the best of his ability, and undertook to make his excuses for him. But the Assessor's contrition was neither of great depth nor duration. He possessed far too great a dose of self-importance to attain to any true knowledge of his own merits; and, like any steel spring, rebounded into his former position, so soon as the pressure was withdrawn. The general derision annoyed and hurt him, but his confidence in himself was in no degree shaken by it. Any one else after such a misfortune would have kept as quiet as possible, in order to let the remembrance of it die away, and would certainly not, for some time to come, have eagerly undertaken similar tasks. This, however, was precisely what Hubert did with a feverish zeal. The fixed idea had taken possession of him that he must make good his fiasco and show his colleagues, the President, and all L----, that, notwithstanding what had occurred, his intelligence was, beyond all doubt, of a superior order. It was absolutely necessary now that he should capture a couple of conspirators, or unearth a plot, no matter how or where; it grew to be, in some sort, a question of life or death with him, and he was constantly in pursuit of the object he had set himself to attain.

Wilicza still remained the focus of his observations; Wilicza, which in L---- was well known to be dangerous ground, and yet over which no hold could be obtained! There seemed less chance than ever of getting at the truth, for it was evident that all hopes founded on the master's presence must be given up. He was, although a German, entirely in the hands of his Polish relations, and if not a consenting party, at least indifferent to their operations. This conduct, which was very generally condemned in L----, found its severest judge in the Assessor. In a like position, how much more energetically would he have acted, how he at a blow would have extinguished and defeated their secret intrigues! He would have been a shining example of loyalty to the whole province, would have earned the gratitude of the State and the admiration of the world in general. However, as he was not lord of Wilicza, nor even Counsellor as yet, no choice was left him but to set to work to discover the conspiracy which assuredly existed. To this aim and object all his thoughts and endeavours now tended.

There was indeed no mention of such matters in the talk between the two gentlemen. The good-natured Dr. Fabian must not be allowed to perceive that this visit to him was prompted by a burning desire to effect an entrance into the Castle. The Assessor had, therefore, sought a pretext in a subject which was certainly one of interest to him, but which he could very well have introduced at the steward's house, where he and Fabian occasionally met.

"I have a favour to ask of you, Doctor," he began, after a few words of greeting and preface had been spoken, "a little claim to make on your kindness. It is not exactly a personal matter, but one concerning the Frank family at whose house you frequently visit. As Herr Nordeck's former tutor, you are no doubt acquainted with French?"

"I speak it certainly," answered the Doctor; "but I have got rather out of practice during the last few years. Herr Nordeck does not like the language, and here at Wilicza every one pays us the attention of speaking German to us exclusively."

"Yes, yes, practice!" interrupted the Assessor. "That is just what Fräulein Margaret wants. She spoke French very nicely when she came back from school a few years ago, but here in the country she has no opportunity for it. I was going to ask if you would occasionally read, or hold a little conversation in French with the young lady. You have plenty of time, and you would confer a great obligation on me."

"On you, Herr Hubert?" asked Fabian, amazed. "I must confess to feeling some surprise that such a proposition should come from you rather than from Herr Frank, or the Fräulein herself."

"There are good reasons for it," said Hubert, with dignity. "You may possibly have already remarked--I make no secret of it--that I cherish certain wishes and intentions which may be realised at no very distant date. In a word, I look on the young lady as my betrothed."

The Doctor suddenly stooped to pick up a sheet of paper which lay on the floor, and which he now scrutinised attentively although it bore no writing. "I congratulate you," he said, laconically.

"Oh, for the present I must decline to accept congratulations," smiled the Assessor, with indescribable self-complacency. "There has been no avowal of our sentiments as yet, though I think I may safely count on her consent. To be frank, before proffering my suit, I should prefer to obtain the Counsellorship which I am shortly expecting. Such a position would produce a better effect, and you must know that Fräulein Frank is a good match."


"An excellent match. The steward is a rich man, there can be no doubt of that. Think of all the money he must have made here in twenty years, what with his salary and his percentage on everything! It is a positive fact that, on leaving his post, he means to buy and settle down on a place of his own, and I know that he is realising capital to a considerable amount with that intention. Fräulein Margaret and her brother, who is now studying at the school of agriculture, are the only children. I can count on a fair dowry and a snug little fortune to be inherited by-and-by. Added to this, the young lady herself is a most amiable, charming girl, whom I adore."

"Added to this!" repeated the Doctor, in a low tone, but with a bitterness most unusual to him. His murmured exclamation escaped the Assessor, who went on with an air of great importance.

"Frank has spared nothing in the education of his children. His daughter was for a long time at one of the first establishments in P----, and there acquired all that a lady need know--much to my satisfaction, for you will easily understand, Doctor, that, looking to my future position, it is indispensable that my wife should be a person of cultivated mind. It will be required of us to appear in society, and to entertain at home, and therefore I feel it a duty even now to see that such accomplishments as pianoforte playing and French are not laid aside and forgotten. If you would be so good, therefore, in regard to the latter ..."

"With pleasure, if Herr Frank and his daughter wish it," said Fabian, in a constrained tone.

"Certainly they wish it, but it was I more especially who counted on your kind help," declared Hubert, who was evidently very proud of his bright idea. "When Fräulein Margaret was complaining not long ago that she had very nearly forgotten her French, her father hit on the plan of having the master of languages out from the town occasionally. Just imagine! a young Frenchman who would begin making love to his pupil at the very first lesson! Frank's head is always running on his farming and his accounts, and he does not trouble himself with such things, but I was more prudent. I would not have that young Frenchman there so often, playing the gallant with the girl, for anything; but a man of more advanced age, like yourself ..."

"I am thirty-seven, sir," the Doctor interrupted him.

"Oh, never mind, that has nothing to do with it," said Hubert, smiling. "I should be quite easy with you--but I should really have taken you to be older! Tell me though, Doctor, what made you bring such a quantity of books with you as you have here? What are you studying? Pedagogical science, I suppose. May I look?"

He rose, and was going towards the writing-table, but Dr. Fabian was quicker than he. With a rapid movement, almost betokening alarm, he threw a newspaper over some bound volumes lying on the table, and placed himself before them.

"Only a hobby of mine," said he, a vivid flush mounting to his cheeks. "Historical studies."

"Oh, historical studies!" repeated the Assessor. "Well, then, I must inquire whether you know Professor Schwarz, the great authority on such matters. He is my uncle. But, of course, you must know him. He is on the staff of the University of J----, where Herr Nordeck studied."

"I have that pleasure," said Fabian, rather dejectedly, with a glance at the newspaper.

"How should you not?" cried the Assessor. "My uncle is a celebrity, an intellect of the very first order! We have every reason to be proud of his relationship, though our family can boast many a well-sounding name. Now I do not consider that I disgrace it myself!"

The Doctor still stood anxiously on his guard before his writing-table, as though to ensure himself against any attempt at robbery or violence on the part of the Assessor, but that gentleman was now far too deeply absorbed by the importance of his family in general, and by his uncle's celebrity in particular, to pay any special attention to the scribbling of an insignificant tutor. Nevertheless he felt himself called on to say something polite.

"But it is extremely creditable for laymen to take an interest in such studies," he remarked, condescendingly. "I only fear that you cannot have the necessary leisure for them here. There must be a great deal of stir in the Castle, a continual coming and going of all sorts of people, is there not?"

"It may be so," replied Fabian, unsuspiciously, and without an inkling of the manœuvre executed by his visitor; "but Waldemar, knowing my bent, has been so kind as to choose for me the most secluded and quietest rooms."

"Naturally, naturally!" Hubert was standing at the window now, trying to take a thorough survey of the place. "But I should fancy that such an old building as this Wilicza, dating back through many centuries, must in itself have a great interest for you, with its various historical reminiscences. All these halls, staircases, and galleries! and what immense cellars there must be below! Were you ever in the cellars?"

"In the cellars?" asked the Doctor, in much astonishment. "No, certainly not. What should I be doing there?"

"I should go down," said the Assessor. "I have a fancy for such old vaults, as indeed for everything that is curious. By-the-by, is the late Herr Nordeck's collection of arms still complete? They say he had a most extravagant mania for such things, and that he got together hundreds of the finest rifles and other weapons."

"You must ask his son!" Dr. Fabian replied with a shrug. "I own I have not yet been in the armoury."

"That will be on the other side of the house," observed Hubert, taking his bearings with all the keenness of a detective. "According to Frank's description it must be a dark, uncanny sort of place, like everything about Wilicza indeed. Have not you heard that the house is haunted? You have not yourself noticed anything unusual, out of the common, at night, I suppose?"

"I sleep at night," replied the Doctor, tranquilly, but with a slight smile at his visitor's superstition.

The Assessor cast an appealing glance towards Heaven. This man, whom accident had placed in the very heart of the place, saw and heard nothing of what was going on around him. He had not visited the cellars; he had not even been in the armoury, and at night he slept! No information could be extracted from this simple bookworm. Hubert could see that, so after a few polite speeches he took his leave and left the room.

He went slowly along the corridor. On his arrival a servant had received, and led him to the Doctor's study; but now on his way back he was alone, alone in this 'nest of conspiracy,' which now, in the broad daylight, with its carpeted galleries and stairs, certainly appeared as secure and dignified in its repose as the most loyal home of the most loyal subject. But the Assessor was not to be deluded by appearances. Right and left he scented those plots which unfortunately escaped his grasp. There was a door which had a suspicious look, he thought. It stood in the shade of a colossal pillar, and was strongly and deeply encased in the wall. This door possibly led to a back staircase, or into a secret gallery, possibly even below into the cellars which Hubert's fancy at once peopled with troops of traitors and filled with concealed stacks of arms. Should he press the latch? At the worst, he could allege a mistake, could say he had lost himself in the Castle's intricate ways ... perhaps the key to all its secrets lay here.... Suddenly the door opened, and Waldemar Nordeck stepped out. The Assessor sprang back. Just Heaven! for the second time he had nearly fallen foul of the master of Wilicza. One glance through the open chink showed him that the place he had held to be such dangerous ground was that gentleman's bedroom. Waldemar passed him with a very cool bow, and went on to Dr. Fabian's apartments. Hubert saw that, in spite of his apology, this 'suspicious character' had not forgiven him. The consciousness of this and the shock of the unexpected meeting had, for the present, robbed him of all desire for further discoveries, and a servant just then appearing on the staircase, no alternative was left him but at once to make his way out.

Meanwhile Waldemar had gone in to his old tutor, who was still standing at the writing-table, busy putting in order the books and papers he had lately screened from the Assessor's curious gaze. The young man went up to him.

"Well, what news?" he asked. "You have had letters and newspapers from J----. I saw them when I sent you the packet over."

The Doctor looked up. "Oh, Waldemar," he said in a grievous tone, "why did you almost force me to bring my work and quiet studies before the public? I resisted from the first, but you went on urging and persuading me until the book appeared."

"Of course I did. What use was it to yourself, or to any one else while it was lying shut up in that drawer? But what has happened? Your 'History of Teutonism' was received in learned circles with a favour far beyond our expectations. The first recognition of its worth came from J----, from Professor Weber, and I should think his opinion would be decisive on such a subject."

"I thought so too," replied Fabian, despondingly. "I was so proud and happy at receiving praise from such a mouth, but that is just what has roused Professor Schwarz--you know him, don't you?--to attack me and my book in quite an unprecedented manner. Just look at this."

He held out the newspaper to him. Nordeck took it and read the paragraph through coolly. "This is nothing but a charming specimen of spitefulness. The end is especially neat. 'We hear that this new celebrity just discovered by Professor Weber was for a long time tutor to the son of one of our greatest landed proprietors, and that his system of education was attended by no very brilliant result. Notwithstanding this, the influence of the distinguished pupil we speak of may have had something to do with our friend's exaggerated appreciation of a work by which an ambitious dilettante hopes to force his way into the ranks of scientific men!'"

Waldemar threw down the paper. "Poor Doctor! How often will you be made to suffer for having brought up such a monster as myself! In truth, your system of education has as little to do with my unamiable character as my influence had with Weber's review of your book; but in these exclusive circles they will never forgive you for having been a private tutor, even though you should one day mount into a Professor's chair."

"Good Heavens, who ever dreams of such a thing!" exclaimed the Doctor, fairly frightened at so bold a notion. "Not I, certainly, and therefore it hurts me all the more to be accused of ambition, and of intrusively thrusting myself forward, merely because I have written a scientific book which keeps strictly to the matter in hand, offends no one, interferes with no one ..."

"And moreover is of remarkable merit," interrupted Waldemar. "I should have thought you would have come round to that belief yourself when Weber took up the cudgels for you so decidedly. You know he does not allow himself to be influenced, and you used to think him an indisputable authority, to whom you looked up in veneration."

"Professor Schwarz is an authority too."

"Yes, but an atrabilious one who admits no one's importance but his own. What the deuce made you hit on this Teutonic theme? That is his province--he has written on that, and woe to the man who lays his finger on it. That man's work is condemned beforehand. Don't look so discouraged. It is not becoming in a recently discovered celebrity. What would Uncle Witold, with his sovereign contempt for the old 'heathen rubbish,' have said to Weber's discovery? I think you would have been treated rather more respectfully than was, I regret to say, the case. You made a great sacrifice in remaining with me."

"Do not speak so, Waldemar," said the Doctor, with a touch of indignation. "I well know on whose side the sacrifice is now! Who obstinately insisted upon keeping me with him when I could be of no further use to him, and yet refused to accept the smallest service which was likely to take me from my books? Who gave me the means to devote myself solely to study, so that I could gather together and set in order the scattered knowledge I possessed? Who almost compelled me to accompany him on his travels, because my health was shaken by constant work? The hour in which your Norman injured me was a blessed one for me. It has brought me all I ever hoped or wished for from life."

"Then you wished for very little," said Waldemar, impatiently--he was evidently anxious to turn the conversation into another channel. "But one thing more. I met that gifted representative of the L---- police wandering about the Castle just now. He had been here with you, and I see him continually over yonder at the manor farm. He can have no object in visiting us now that we have proved ourselves beyond suspicion. What is he always hanging about Wilicza for?"

Fabian looked down in much embarrassment. "I don't know, but I imagine that his frequent visits to the steward's house have a purely personal motive. He called on me to-day."

"And you received him with the utmost friendliness? Doctor, you are a living impersonation of the doctrines of Christianity. To him who smites you on the right cheek, you will meekly turn the left. I believe you would not hesitate a moment to render Professor Schwarz an important service, if it were in your power. But beware of this Assessor, with his frantic mania for arresting people. He is on the hunt for conspirators again, you may be sure; and limited as his intelligence may be, chance might for once play the right cards into his hands. It would not be difficult here at Wilicza."

The last words were spoken in such a tone of angry annoyance that the Doctor let fall the first volume of his 'History of Teutonism,' which he had just taken up.

"You have made some unpleasant discovery?" he asked. "Worse even than you expected. I thought so, though you have said so little about it."

Waldemar had sat down, and was leaning his head on his hand.

"You know that I am not fond of talking of worries so long as I have not mastered them; and besides, I wanted time to look about me. What guarantee had I that, in representing matters to me as he did, the steward was not prompted by some interest of his own, that he was not exaggerating and distorting facts? One can only trust to one's own judgment in these things, and I have been exercising mine during the last few weeks. Unfortunately, I find every word confirmed which Frank wrote to me. So far as his supremacy extends, there is order, and hard enough it must be for him to maintain it; but on the other estates, on the other farms, and worst of all in the forests--well, I was prepared to find things in a bad way, but such an utter chaos I really did not expect!"

Fabian had pushed his books and papers to one side, and was following Waldemar's words with anxious sympathy and attention. The gloomy look on his old pupil's face seemed to cause him some uneasiness.

"Uncle Witold always imagined that my Polish estates could be managed from a distance," went on Nordeck, "and unfortunately he brought me up in that belief. I disliked Wilicza. For me the place had none but bitter memories; it reminded me of the sad breach between my parents, of my own joyless early childhood. I was accustomed to look on Altenhof as my home; and later on, when I intended coming, when I ought to have come, something else held me back---- The penalty for all this has to be paid now. The twenty years of official mismanagement during my guardian's time had worked mischief enough; but the worst has come to pass in the last four years under the Baratowski régime. It is altogether my own fault. Why have I never taken any interest in the property? Why did I adopt that unfortunate habit of my uncle's of putting faith in every report which stood on paper in black and white. Now I am, as it were, sold and betrayed on my own land."

"Your majority was fixed at so early a date," said the Doctor, soothingly; "those three years at the University were indispensable to your mental culture and improvement, and when we determined on giving twelve months to travelling, we had no suspicion of how matters stood here. We set our faces homeward so soon as you received the steward's letter, and you, with your energy, will, I am sure, find yourself equal to any emergency."

"Who knows?" said Waldemar, gloomily. "The Princess is my mother, and she and Leo are quite dependent on me. It is that which ties my hands. If I once let it come to a serious rupture, they will have to leave Wilicza. Rakowicz would be their only refuge. I will not expose them, or at any rate my brother, to such a humiliation. And yet a stop must be put to all this, especially to the doings in the Castle itself. You suspect nothing? That I believe, but I know it. I only wanted to get a clear view of the state of affairs first. Now I shall speak to my mother."

A long pause ensued. Fabian did not venture to reply. He knew that when his friend's face took that expression, no trifling matters were on hand. At last, however, he got up and went over to him.

"Waldemar," he asked in a low tone, laying his hand on the young man's shoulder, "what happened yesterday, when you were out hunting?"

Waldemar looked up. "When I was out hunting? Nothing. What made you think of that?"

"You seemed so thoroughly out of sorts when you came back. I heard some allusions at dinner to a dispute between you and Prince Baratowski."

"No, no," said Nordeck, indifferently. "Leo was a little huffed, because I had treated his favourite horse rather roughly; but the thing was of no consequence. We have settled it already."

"It was something else, then?"

"Yes--something else."

"Waldemar, the other day the Princess called me your one confidant. I might have replied that you had never need of a confidant. It may be that I stand somewhat closer to you than other people, but you never open your mind to me. Is it absolutely necessary that you should bear all, fight through all alone?"

Waldemar smiled, but it was a cold, cheerless smile. "You must take me as I am. But what is there now to make you anxious? With all the worry and the annoyances which come pouring in upon me on all sides, I have reason enough to be out of sorts."

The Doctor shook his head. "It is not that. Such things may irritate and annoy you, but your present frame of mind is a very different one. I have never seen you so but once, Waldemar--that time at Altenhof ..."

"Pray spare me these reminiscences, sir," Waldemar broke in so harshly and abruptly that Fabian recoiled; then, recovering himself quickly, he added far more mildly, "I am sorry you, too, should feel the effects of the vexation and harass this Wilicza causes me. It was selfish of me to bring you. You should have returned to J----, at least until I had established some sort of order here, and until I could have offered you a peaceful asylum."

"Nothing would have induced me to let you come alone," Fabian declared in his gentle voice, but with a decision of manner most unusual to him.

Waldemar held out his hand to him, as if to ask pardon for his former vehemence. "I know it, but do not torment yourself any more about me, or I shall really regret having spoken openly to you. You have enough to do with your own affairs. When you write to J---- again, remember me to Professor Weber, and tell him I am about to make a practical illustration of your book, and to impress on my Slavonic lands the stamp of the Teuton. It is much needed here at Wilicza. Good-bye."

He went. Dr. Fabian looked after him, and sighed. "Impenetrable and hard as a rock directly one approaches that one subject; and yet I know that he has never got over the old trouble, and never will. I fear the unhappy influence, to escape which we so long avoided Wilicza, is again at work. Waldemar may deny it as he will--I saw it plainly when he came home from hunting yesterday--he is under the old spell again."


That evening perfect quiet and stillness reigned in Wilicza, in contrast to the bustle and stir of the preceding day, when the whole place had swarmed with guests. On the return from the hunt a great supper had been served which lasted far on into the night, and most of the guests had slept at the Castle, leaving early in the morning. Count Morynski and Leo had gone away, too, on a visit to a neighbouring château. They would not return for several days; but Wanda had remained to keep her aunt company.

The two ladies were therefore on this evening alone in the drawing-room. It was already lighted up, and the curtains had been closely drawn; no sign was to be seen within these walls of the fierce November storm raging without. The Princess was seated on a sofa; but the young Countess had risen from her chair, pushing it hastily back as though in annoyance, and was pacing uneasily up and down the room.

"Wanda, I do beg of you to spare me these Cassandra-like warnings," said the elder lady. "I tell you again, your judgment is warped by your antipathy to Waldemar. Does it necessarily follow that he is our enemy, because you choose to remain on a war-footing with him."

Wanda stopped in her walk, and looked darkly across at the speaker. "You will one day regret having treated my warnings with ridicule, aunt," she replied. "I persist in my opinion. You are mistaken in your son. He is neither so blind nor so indifferent as you and every one else believe."

"Instead of these vague prophecies, why not say clearly and distinctly what it is you really fear?" said the Princess. "You know that in such a case as this I do not care for people's views and fancies. I require proofs. What has suggested to you this suspicion to which you cling so obstinately? Tell me what Waldemar really said to you yesterday when you met him at the forester's station."

Wanda was silent. That meeting by the forest lake--not at the station, as she had thought fit to state to her aunt--had furnished her with no actual proof for her assertions, for Waldemar had admitted nothing, and no consideration would have induced her to repeat the details of her conversation with him. She could only allege that strange instinct which from the first had guided her in her appreciation of his character, had led her to see clearly where even her aunt's penetration was at fault; but she well knew that she could not cite her instincts and presentiments without calling up a pitying smile on her aunt's face.

"We said very little to each other," she replied at length; "but I heard enough to convince me that he knows more than he ought."

"Very possibly," said the Princess, with perfect composure; "we must have been prepared for that sooner or later. I doubt that Waldemar has drawn inferences from any observations of his own; but over at the manor-farm they are sure to have whispered enough in his ear to put him on the alert. He has more to do with them than I like. He knows just what the steward knows, and what is no secret to any one in L----, namely, that we hold with our own people; but he has no deeper insight than the others; we have taken our precautions to prevent that. Besides, his whole conduct up to the present time tends to show that he is indifferent on the subject, as indeed he can afford to be, seeing that it does not concern him personally in the very least. In any case, this son of mine possesses a sufficient sense of decorum to withhold him from compromising his nearest relations. I put that to the test on the subject of Frank's resignation. It was displeasing to him, I know, and yet he did not hesitate to range himself on my side, because I had gone too far for him to undo my work without openly disavowing me. I shall take care that in more serious matters he shall find himself equally fettered, should it ever occur to him to play the master, or the German."

"You will not listen to me," said Wanda, resignedly. "Let the future decide which of us two is right. But I have a request to make, dear aunt. You will not object to my leaving early to-morrow morning?"

"So soon? but it was agreed that your father should come back here to fetch you!"

"I only remained to have a little quiet talk with you on this subject. Nothing else would have detained me at Wilicza. It was useless, I see; so let me go now."

The Princess shrugged her shoulders. "You know, my dear, how glad I always am to have you with me; but I frankly confess that after our very disagreeable dinner to-day, I shall put no obstacle in the way of your speedy departure. You and Waldemar hardly exchanged a word. I was forced to keep up a conversation with Dr. Fabian the whole time, in order to break the painful gêne of the situation. If you can exercise no control over yourself in these inevitable meetings, it will be really better that you should go."

In spite of the highly ungracious manner in which the permission was granted, the young Countess drew a breath of relief, as though a load were lifted from her.

"Well, then, I will send word to papa that he will find me at home at Rakowicz, and that he need not make the round by Wilicza," said she, quickly. "You will allow me to use your writing-table for a few minutes?"

The Princess nodded assent. Truth to say, she had on this occasion no objection to her niece's departure, for she was tired of standing perpetually between her and Waldemar, on the watch to ward off a scene, or a positive rupture. Wanda went into her aunt's study--which was only separated from the drawing-room by a heavy portière, half drawn back--and sat down at the writing-table. She had hardly written the first words when the door of the salon was quickly opened and a firm, steady step, audible even on the soft carpet, made her pause in her work. Immediately afterwards Waldemar's voice was heard in the next room.

The Countess slowly dropped her pen. Here in the study she could not possibly be seen, and she did not feel it incumbent on her to announce her presence, so she sat motionless, leaning her head on her hand. Not a word of what passed in the drawing-room escaped her.

The Princess, too, had looked up in surprise at her son's entrance; it was not his custom to visit her at this hour. Waldemar always spent the evenings in his own rooms with Dr. Fabian. It seemed, however, that an exception was to be made to-day, for after a few words of greeting he took a seat by his mother's side, and began to speak of yesterday's hunt.

For some minutes the conversation turned on indifferent topics. Waldemar had taken up an album of water-colour sketches which lay on the table, and was turning over the pages, while the Princess leaned back among the sofa cushions.

"Have you heard that your steward is intending to become a landed proprietor?" she remarked, carelessly. "He is seriously occupied now, looking out for a place in the neighbourhood. His situation at Wilicza must have been a lucrative one, for so far as I know Frank had no fortune when he came here."

"He has had an excellent income for the last twenty years," observed Waldemar, without looking up from the pages. "With his quiet way of living he can hardly have spent the half."

"Added to which, he has no doubt taken care of his own interests in all things, great and small. But enough of this. I wanted to ask you if you have thought of any one to replace him?"


"Well, then, I have a proposal to make to you. The tenant at Janowo cannot keep on his farm; he has fallen into distress through no fault of his own, and is obliged to take a dependent situation again. I think he would be a most suitable person for the stewardship of Wilicza."

"I think not," said Waldemar, very quietly. "The man goes about drunk the whole day long, and has ruined the place he has leased entirely by his own had conduct. He has not a shadow of an excuse."

The Princess bit her lips. "Who told you so? The steward, I suppose."

The young man was silent. His mother went on in a tone of some irritation.

"I do not, of course, wish to influence you in the choice of the persons you employ; but, in your own interest, I must warn you not to place such implicit faith in Frank's calumnies. The farmer would be an inconvenient successor, that is why he intrigues against him."

"Hardly that," replied Waldemar, as calmly as before, "for he is already aware that I do not intend to give him a successor. The two German inspectors will amply suffice to look after all the details of the concern, and as to the management in chief, I shall take that in hand myself."

The Princess started. His words seemed to take her breath away. "Yourself? That is new to me!"

"It should not be so. We have always looked forward to a time when I should take possession of my estates. That time has been deferred, owing to my stay at the University and my absence abroad; but the plan has never been given up. I know enough of farming and forestry--my guardian saw to that. I shall doubtless have some trouble in getting used to the local customs and affairs, but Frank will be at hand to help me till the spring."

He made these remarks in a nonchalant tone, as though he were saying the most natural things in the world, and appeared so absorbed in his study of the water-colour sketches that he did not notice his mother's consternation. She had raised herself from her negligent attitude, and was looking keenly and fixedly at him, but with no better success than her niece had met with on the preceding day--nothing was to be read in that countenance.

"It is strange that you have never let fall a hint of this resolve of yours," she observed. "You led us all to believe that you were only going to pay us a short visit."

"I only intended paying a short visit at first, but I see that the hand of the master is wanted here. More than this," he went on after a pause, "I have something to say to you, mother."

He shut the book, and threw it down on the table. Now for the first time it occurred to the Princess that Wanda's instinct had, perhaps, after all, seen more clearly in this case than her own penetrating and usually unfailing glance. She felt the storm coming, but she at once prepared to meet it, and the resolved expression of her face showed beyond a doubt that, in any struggle with her, her son would have a hard fight of it.

"Say on, then," she said, coldly. "I am ready to listen."

Waldemar had risen now and fixed his eyes sternly upon her. "When, four years ago, I offered you Wilicza as a home, I felt bound to give my mother a well-defined position as mistress of the Castle. The estates, however, remained my property, I suppose?"

"Has any one ever disputed it?" asked the Princess. "I imagine no one has ever raised a doubt as to your right to your estates."

"No, but I see the consequences now of leaving them for years in Baratowski and Morynski hands."

The Princess rose now in her turn, and faced her son with great dignity of demeanour.

"What is the meaning of this? Do you wish to make me responsible for the administration of your affairs not being such as you would wish? Blame your guardian, who for a quarter of a century allowed the officials to run riot here in the most incredible manner. The evil effects of their neglect have not escaped my notice; but you must settle such accounts with the persons in your employ, my son, and not with me."

"With the persons in my employ?" cried Waldemar, bitterly. "I think Frank is the only one who acknowledges me as master. The others, one and all, are in your service; and though perhaps they would hardly venture to refuse me obedience, I know well enough that any command of mine would be met by a host of expedients and intrigues, by a secret but active opposition, should you think proper to put your veto on it."

"You are dreaming, Waldemar," said the Princess, with a pitying and superior smile. "I did not think you were so completely under the steward's influence; but really, I must beg of you to set some bounds to your credulity in matters relating to your mother."

"And I beg of you to give up the old attempt at stinging me into compliance," interrupted her son. "Once, it is true, you were able to mould me as you wished by setting before me fear of a foreign influence which might assume control over my actions; but since I have really had a will of my own, it has become immaterial to me whether I seem to possess one or not. I have been silent for weeks, precisely because I did not altogether put faith in the steward's reports. I wanted to see with my own eyes--but now I ask you: Who has delivered over the farms, which, four years ago were all in German hands, to countrymen of yours on absurdly disadvantageous terms, without any guarantee, any security, against the loss they have caused, the damage they have done the land? Who has introduced into the woods and forests a set of men who may render eminent services to your national interests, but who have cut down my revenues by one half? Who has made the steward's position here so unbearable that he has no choice but to go? Fortunately, he possessed energy enough to call me to the rescue, or I should, in all probability, have remained away much longer, and it was high time for me to come. You have recklessly sacrificed everything to your family traditions; my officials, my fortune, my position even, for people naturally suppose that it has been done with my consent. The property was badly managed in my guardian's time; but no permanent harm was done, for the estates possess almost inexhaustible resources in themselves; the last four years, however, under your rule, have brought them to the very verge of ruin. You must have known it. You are acute enough to see whither all this must finally lead, and energetic enough to put a stop to it, if you had really wished to do so; but such considerations could, of course, have no weight. You had only one aim and object in view--to prepare Wilicza for the coming revolution."

The Princess had listened in silence, benumbed, as it were, by amazement which grew with every minute, and was roused even more by her son's manner than by what he said. It was not the first time such words had been spoken within those walls. The late Herr Nordeck had often enough reproached his wife with recklessly offering up all and everything at the shrine of her family traditions; he had indeed crushed in their birth many such schemes as those which were now ripe for execution, but such a scene as the present could not have taken place without the man's nature showing itself in all its brutality. He would rage and storm, would pour forth a stream of wild threats and abusive epithets, endeavouring so to assert his authority, but never evoking from his proud, fearless wife any response other than a smile of contempt. She knew that this "parvenu" possessed neither high intelligence nor strength of character, that his hatred and partisanship were alike based on the lowest motives; and, if anything could equal her disdain of him, it was the indignation she felt that such a husband should have been forced upon her. If Waldemar had conducted himself in the same way, she would not have been in the least surprised--the fact that he did not so conduct himself was what confounded her. He stood before her in a calm, self-possessed attitude, and coldly, but with telling emphasis, flung at her word after word, proof upon proof. Yet she saw that passion was hot within him. The vein on his temple stood out ominously swollen, and his hand buried itself convulsively in the cushions of the chair by which he stood,--these were the only symptoms of his inward excitement. His look and voice betrayed nothing of it; they were completely under his control.

Some seconds passed before the Princess answered. Her pride would not stoop to a denial or a prevarication; and, indeed, neither would have availed. Waldemar evidently knew too much; she could no longer reckon on his blindness, and was therefore compelled to take up a new position.

"You exaggerate," she replied at last. "Are you so timid that you can see a revolution brewing in your Wilicza, merely because I have sometimes used my influence in favour of my protégé's? I regret it, if some among them have abused my confidence and wrought you injury, instead of doing their duty by you; but these things happen everywhere--you are at liberty to dismiss them. What, after all, is it you reproach me with? When I came here, the estates were, to all intents and purposes, without a master. You took no interest in them, cared nothing for them; so I, as your mother, considered myself justified in taking up the reins which had fallen from your hands. It was certainly safer for me to hold them than to trust them with your paid agents. I have governed in my own fashion, I admit; but you were perfectly aware that I have always sided with my own family and my own people. I have never made a secret of it. My whole life bears witness to the fact, and to you, I should hope, I need offer no justification of my conduct. You are my son, as you are your father's, and the blood of the Morynskis runs also in your veins."

Waldemar seemed about vehemently to protest against the assertion; but again his self-command triumphed.

"It is the first time in your life you have acknowledged my share in that noble blood," he answered, ironically; "hitherto you have only seen--and despised--the Nordeck in me. True, you have not declared so much in words; but do you think I cannot interpret looks? I have seen the expression of your eyes, as they turned from Leo and your brother to me! You have put away from you the memory of your first marriage as of some disgrace. Happy in your position as Prince Baratowski's wife, satisfied with the love of your youngest-born, you never gave me a thought; when, later on, circumstances forced you to draw nearer me, it certainly was not I myself whom you sought. I do not reproach you with this. My father may have sinned against you in much--in so much that you can feel no affection for his son; but we must therefore leave altogether out of account sentiments which, once for all, do not exist between us. I shall shortly be obliged to prove to you that no drop of the Morynski blood runs in my veins. You may have transmitted it to Leo, but I am made of other stuff."

"I see it," said the Princess, in a low voice; "of other than I thought. I have never really known you."

He took no notice of her words. "You will understand, then, how it is that I now take the management of my affairs into my own hands," he went on. "One more question. What is the meaning of those conferences which were held in your apartments after supper yesterday evening, and which lasted far on through the night?"

"Waldemar, that concerns me alone," his mother answered in frigid self-assertion. "In my own rooms, at least, I will be mistress still."

"Absolute mistress in all that relates to your own affairs, but I will no longer give over Wilicza to serve your party aims. You hold your meetings here. Orders are issued from hence across the frontier, and messages are sent from out yonder to you in return. The Castle cellars are full of arms. You have got together a perfect arsenal below stairs."

The Princess's face turned deadly pale at the last words, but she held her ground, heavy as was the blow. Not a muscle of her face moved as she replied, "And why do you come to me with all this? Why not rather go to L----, where the account of your discoveries would be most gladly received? You have shown such eminent talent as a spy, it could not be so very repugnant to you to turn informer!"

"Mother!" burst from the young man's lips in accents of passionate anger, and he struck his clenched hand violently on the back of the chair. The old fierce temper was breaking forth again, bearing down before it all the self-control acquired so laboriously during the last few years. His whole frame was shaken with agitation, and he looked so menacing in his wrath that his mother involuntarily laid her hand on the bell to summon help. This movement of hers brought Waldemar to himself. He turned away hastily and went up to the window.

Some minutes elapsed in painful silence. The Princess already felt that she had allowed herself to be carried too far--she, who was coolness, prudence itself! She saw how her son wrestled with his passion, and what the struggle cost him; but she also saw that the man who, with such an iron energy, could by sheer force of will subdue his natural violence, that fatal inheritance from his father, was an adversary worthy of her.

When Waldemar again turned towards her, the paroxysm was past. He had crossed his arms on his breast as though, forcibly to still its heavings. His lips still worked nervously, but he had regained full command of his voice when he spoke.

"I did not think, when at that time at C---- you entrusted my brother's future to my generosity and sense of honour--I did not then think that I should be incurring contumely such as this. Spy! Because I presumed to look into the secrets of my own Castle! I might retort with a word which would have a still worse sound. Which of us enjoys the hospitality of Wilicza, you or I? and which of us has abused it?"

The Princess looked down. Her face was sombre and very stern.

"We will not dispute about it. I have done what right and duty dictated, but it would be useless to endeavour to convince you of it. What do you intend to do?"

Waldemar was silent for a moment, then he said in a low tone, but emphasising every word: "I shall leave this to-morrow. I have business in P---- which will detain me for a week. In that time Wilicza will be cleared of all the illicit stores it now contains; in that time all existing connections will be broken off, so far as the Castle is concerned. Transport your centre of operations to Rakowicz, or where you will, but my land shall be free of them. Immediately on my return, a second great hunt will take place here, at which the President and the officers in garrison at L---- will be invited to attend. As mistress of the house you will, no doubt, be so good as to put your name with mine to the invitations."

"Never!" declared the Princess, energetically.

"Then I shall sign them alone. In any case the guests will be invited. It is necessary that I should at last take up a position in this matter which is agitating the whole province. It must be known in L---- on which side I am to be found. You are at liberty to be ill on the day in question, or to drive over to your brother's--but I leave you to reflect whether it will be well to make the breach between us public, and therefore irreparable. It is still possible for us to forget this hour and this talk. I shall never remind you of it, when once I am persuaded that my demands have been complied with. It is for you to decide what you will do. I have waited until Leo should be absent, because I know that his hot temper would ill brook such a scene, and because I wish to spare him and Count Morynski the mortification of hearing from my mouth that which it had become absolutely necessary for me to say. They will take it better coming from you. It is not I who wish for a rupture."

"And if I decline to comply with the tyrannical commands you think fit to hurl at me," said the Princess, slowly; "if, to your recognised right of inheritance, I oppose my right as your father's widow, whom an unjust, unprecedented will alone banished from a place which should have been her dower-house? I know that in a court of law I should not be able to make good my claim; but the conviction of its justice makes me feel that here, on this ground, I have no need to yield to you, and yield I will not. The Princess Baratowska, after what she has just heard from your lips, would have gone with her son, gone, never to return; but the former mistress of Wilicza maintains her right. Beware, Waldemar. I may one day place you in such a pass that you must either recall the arbitrary words you have just spoken, or give up your mother and brother to an evil fate."

"Try," said Waldemar, coldly; "but do not hold me responsible for what may then happen."

They stood face to face, their eyes fixed on each other, and it was strange that a resemblance which had hitherto escaped all those about them, with one single exception, should now have stood out in strong relief. "That brow with the singularly marked vein he has from you," Wanda had one day said to her aunt; and there, indeed, was the same high arch, denoting power, the same peculiar line on the temple. In her excitement the blue vein now showed distinctly on the Princess's forehead; while on Waldemar's it swelled forth ominously, as though all his blood in revolt were seeking vent that way. On both faces the same expression was stamped, that of an unbending determination, an iron will, prepared to carry through its purposes at any cost. Now that they were declaring war to the death, the fact that these two were mother and son became for the first time palpable, perhaps it now for the first time impressed itself strongly on their minds.

Waldemar went close up to the Princess, and laid his hand firmly on her arm.

"I have left a retreat open for my mother," he said, significantly; "but I forbid the Princess Baratowska to pursue her party machinations on my estates. If, notwithstanding what I have said, you still persist, if you drive me to an extremity, I too shall resort to stronger measures--yes, if I have to give you up, one and all ..."

Suddenly he stopped. His mother felt a thrill run through him, felt that the hand which had held hers with such an iron grasp all at once loosed its hold and fell powerless. In extreme surprise she followed the direction of his eyes, which were fixed, as though spell-bound, on the study doorway. There on the threshold stood Wanda. Unable longer to control herself, she had stepped forward, and the hasty movement had betrayed her presence.

A flash of triumph shot from the Princess's eyes. At last the vulnerable spot in her son's heart was found. Although in the next instant he recovered himself, and stood inflexible and unapproachable as before, it was too late; that one unguarded moment had betrayed his secret.

"Well, Waldemar?" she asked, and there was a slight sneer in her voice, "you surely are not hurt to find that Wanda has overheard our conversation? It, in a great measure, concerned her also. At any rate you owe it now both to her and to me to finish your sentence. You would give us up, one and all ..."

Waldemar had retreated a step. He now stood quite in shadow, so that his face escaped all observation.

"As Countess Morynska has overheard our conversation, no explanation is needed. I have nothing more to add." Then, turning to his mother, he went on----"I shall leave to-morrow morning early. You have a week in which to decide. So much is settled between us."

Then he bowed to the young Countess, constrainedly as usual, and went.

Wanda had stood all this while on the threshold, had not yet set foot in the drawing-room; but now she came in and, going up to her aunt, asked in a low, but strangely agitated voice--

"Do you believe me now?"

The Princess had sunk back on the sofa. Her eyes were still fixed on the door through which her son had departed, dreamily, as though she could not, would not, realise the scene which had just taken place.

"I have ever judged him by his father," said she, speaking, as it were, to herself. "The error will be avenged on us all. He has shown me now that he is not--not such as his father was."

"He has shown you more than that. You have always been so proud, aunt, that Leo has your features. He has inherited little of your character--for that you must look to his brother. It was your own energy which faced you just now, your own inflexible will--your own look and tone even. Waldemar is more like you than ever Leo was."

Something in the young Countess's voice aroused the Princess's attention. "And who taught you to read this character with such unerring sureness? Was it your animosity which made you see clearly there where we were all at fault?"

"I do not know," replied Wanda, casting down her eyes. "It was more instinct than observation which guided me; but from the first day I felt that we had an enemy in him."

"No matter," declared the Princess, resolutely. "He is my son; there is no escaping that fact. You are right. Today for the first time he has proved that he really is akin to me; but, as his mother, I will show myself equal to him."

"What will you do?" asked Wanda.

"Accept his challenge. Do you think I shall yield to his threats? We shall see whether he will really proceed to extremities."

"He will, depend upon it. Do not speculate on any soft relenting in this man. He would unsparingly offer up you, Leo, all of us, to that which he calls right."

The Princess scanned her niece's face with a long scrutinising look. "Leo and me, perhaps," she answered; "but I know now where his strength will fail him. I know what he will not offer up, and it shall be my care to bring him face to face with that at the decisive moment."

Wanda looked at her aunt without grasping her meaning. She had noticed nothing more than Waldemar's abrupt pause, which her sudden appearance sufficiently explained, had seen his stern repellant attitude towards his mother and herself. She could not therefore guess to what these words alluded, and the Princess gave her no time for meditation.

"We must take a resolution," she continued. "In the first place my brother must be told. As Waldemar leaves us early to-morrow morning, there is no longer any reason for hastening your return. You must stay here, and summon your father and Leo back to Wilicza without a moment's delay. No matter what they may have on hand, the most important business lies here. I will have your letter sent off to-day by an express, and to-morrow they may be with us."

The young Countess obeyed. She went back into the study, and sat down at the writing-table, quite unsuspicious, at present, of the part she was suddenly called on to play in her aunt's plans. The childish folly, so long done with and forgotten, acquired an importance of its own, now that it was discovered to be neither done with nor forgotten. The Princess could not forgive her son for having repudiated the Morynski blood. Well, he should find his plans wrecked through a Morynska, though, possibly, his mother would not prove that rock on which he should split.


Dr. Fabian and Fräulein Margaret Frank sat in the steward's parlour with an open book before them. The French studies had really begun; but, as the master showed himself earnest and conscientious, so, in proportion, did the pupil prove volatile and unreliable. On the occasion of the first lesson, which had been given some days previously, she had amused herself by putting all sorts of questions to the Doctor, questions as to his past life, his former tutorship to Herr Nordeck, the doings at Altenhof, and other kindred subjects. Today she insisted upon knowing what he really was studying, and drove the unfortunate scholar, who would on no account own to his 'History of Teutonism,' hopelessly into a corner with her persistent inquiries.

"Had we not better begin to read, Fräulein?" said he, beseechingly. "At this rate we shall get nothing done today. You are speaking German all the time."

"Oh, who can think of French now!" cried Gretchen, impatiently turning over the leaves. "My head is full of other things. Life at Wilicza is so exciting."

"Is it? I should not have thought so," said the Doctor, patiently going back through the pages to find the place at which they left off.

The young lady scrutinised him with the gaze of an inquisitor. "No, Doctor? Yet you are at the best source for knowing all that has been going on at the Castle--you, Herr Nordeck's friend and confidant! Something has happened, that is certain, for there is a perfect whirlwind abroad now since the young master went. Messengers are flying continually between Wilicza and Rakowicz. First, Count Morynski comes here, then Prince Baratowski rushes over there; and when one catches a glimpse of our sovereign lady the Princess's awe-inspiring mien, she looks as though the world were coming to an end without further notice. And then, what are all these doings in the park of an evening, which the inspector has been telling me of? They are busy bringing things, or carrying things away. Your windows look out just on that side."

She was speaking German persistently, and the Doctor was so far led away as to answer her in that language.

"I know nothing of it, absolutely nothing," he asserted, fidgetting uneasily on his chair.

"That is exactly what papa says when I ask him," pouted Gretchen. "I can't understand my father at all in this business. He snubbed the inspector when he came in with the news, and gave him explicit orders not to concern himself with the park any further--'Herr Nordeck did not wish it.' Papa cannot possibly be in the plot; but I must say it looks very like it. Don't you think so?"

"But, Fräulein, the object of my coming here will not be attained, if your thoughts are so taken up with such things as these. I have been here half an hour, and we have only read a page. Let us go on, pray," entreated the Doctor.

He pushed the book before her for the sixth time at least. She took it at last with an air of resignation.

"Well, never mind. I see I am not to be let into the secrets; but I shall very well find them out by myself. I can keep silence too--implicit silence, I assure you!" Thereupon she began to read a French poem with every appearance of great vexation, and with so purposely false an emphasis that her teacher was driven to the verge of distraction.

Before she had got through the second strophe, a carriage rattled into the courtyard. It was empty; but the coachman seemed to feel himself quite at home, for he at once set about unharnessing the horses. Next minute one of the maids came in with the announcement that Herr Hubert would shortly do himself the pleasure of calling at the manor-farm--he had stayed down in the village, where he had business with the mayor, and sent on his carriage with an inquiry as to whether he might once again trespass on Herr Frank's hospitality.

There was nothing remarkable in this. Taking advantage of the friendly footing on which he stood with the Frank family, the Assessor was wont to pass the night under their roof whenever his official duties brought him into the neighbourhood of Wilicza, and he took care that this should happen pretty often. The steward was absent, it is true. He had driven out on a long excursion into the country, but was expected home in the evening; so his daughter gave orders that the carriage and coachman should be accommodated, and sent the maid to see that all was in readiness in the spare room.

"If the Assessor comes, there's an end to our reading," said Gretchen to the Doctor, rather petulantly; "but he shall not stay to disturb us long. Before five minutes are over, I shall let a hint drop of the secret goings-on in the park. He will be sure to hurry over there at once, and go hiding behind some tree to watch--and we shall be quit of him."

"For Heaven's sake, do no such thing!" cried Fabian, in a tone of great alarm; "do not send him over there! On the contrary, try and keep him away, at any cost."

Gretchen gave a start. "Oh, Doctor, I thought you knew nothing, absolutely nothing! What puts you in such a fright all in a moment?"

The Doctor sat with downcast eyes like a detected criminal, and sought in vain for a loophole through which to escape. At length he looked up frankly at the young girl--

"I am a man of peace, Fräulein, and never intrude on the secrets of others," said he. "I do not, in truth, know what is going on at the Castle, but that something is astir there I have been forced to remark during the last few days. Herr Nordeck has only given me some hints of the matter; but there can be no doubt that danger is involved in it."

"Well, it involves no danger to us," remarked Gretchen, with great equanimity. "What if the Assessor does spring a mine under their feet? Herr Nordeck is away, so he can't seize him; besides, he will take good care not to meddle with your friend again, after that story of the arrest. You are beyond suspicion; and as to the Princess and Prince Leo ..."

"They are Waldemar's mother and brother," interposed the Doctor, greatly agitated. "Do you not see that any blow directed against them must strike him as well? He is the master of the Castle. He will be held responsible for all that takes place in it."

"And quite right too," cried Gretchen, growing warm. "Why does he start off on a journey and leave the door open to all their plots and intrigues? Why does he aid and abet his relations?"

"He does not," asseverated Fabian; "on the contrary, he opposes their proceedings in the most decided manner. His journey has no other object---- But pray do not force me to speak of things which I ought not to disclose, I am afraid, even to you. This I do know, that Waldemar is most anxious to spare his mother and brother in every way. On leaving, he made me promise to see and hear nothing of what was passing at the Castle, and he has given your father similar instructions. I heard him say to Herr Frank, 'I shall hold you responsible for the Princess's remaining unmolested in the mean time. I take all upon myself.' But now he is away, Herr Frank is away, and an unlucky accident brings this Assessor Hubert over just at this time--a man who has set his heart on making discoveries, and who will make some if he is not hindered. I really don't know what to do!"

"This comes of concealing things from me," said Gretchen, reprovingly. "If I had been taken into your counsels, I should have quarrelled with the Assessor just at the right moment, and then he would not have come over again at present. Now I must reflect."

"Yes, do please," begged the Doctor. "You have great influence with the Assessor. Keep him away; he must not go within a certain distance of the Castle today."

Fräulein Margaret shook her head thoughtfully. "You don't know Hubert. No one will be able to keep him away, if once he gets scent of the truth; and get scent of it he will if he remains at Wilicza, for he questions the inspector regularly each time he comes. He certainly cannot stay here---- I know a way. I will let him make me an offer--he begins whenever he sees me; but I never let him go on--and then I will send him about his business. He will be in such a rage that he will rush off back to L---- as fast as his horse can take him."

"No, I cannot allow that on any account," protested the Doctor. "Come what may, your happiness must not be sacrificed."

"Do you imagine that my happiness depends on Herr Assessor Hubert?" asked Gretchen, with a contemptuous curl of the lip.

Fabian imagined it, certainly. He knew from Hubert's own mouth that that gentleman 'felt sure he could count on her consent,' but a very natural shyness withheld him from touching further on this delicate theme.

"One should never trifle with these things," said he, reproachfully. "The Assessor would learn the true state of the case sooner or later, and it would wound him deeply, perhaps alienate him for ever. No, that shall never be."

Gretchen looked rather disconcerted. She did not understand how any one could view the matter in so serious a light, and cared nothing at all about alienating the Assessor for ever--but the reproach stung her conscience, nevertheless.

"Well, there is nothing for it then but to lead him away from the right track, and set him on a false one," she declared when she had deliberated awhile. "But, Doctor, do you know we are taking a heavy responsibility on ourselves! Everybody is conspiring here at Wilicza, so I don't see why we two should not conspire in our turn; but, strictly speaking, we shall be plotting against our own Government, if we prevent its representative from doing his duty."

"The Assessor is not commissioned to do this," cried the Doctor, who had suddenly risen to a pitch of heroism. "He is only following out his own ambitious designs in coming searching about this place. Fräulein, I give you my word that all these secret intrigues have had their day. A stop is now to be put to them once for all. I have it from Waldemar's own lips, and he is a man who keeps his word. We shall be doing our countrymen no wrong by trying to prevent a most useless catastrophe, which would be brought about by the over-zealous efforts of an official enjoying, perhaps, not too great favour even at L----."

"Very well, we will have our plot then," said Gretchen, resolutely. "The Assessor must go, and that before a quarter of an hour is over, or he will be off as usual, on the hunt for conspirators. There he is coming across the courtyard. Leave all to me, only agree with everything I say. Now we will get the book out again."

Assessor Hubert, coming in a few minutes later, overheard the third strophe of the French poem, and was much pleased to find that Dr. Fabian had kept his word, and that the consort-elect of the future Counsellor was practising those higher accomplishments which would be indispensable to her position. He greeted the pair politely, inquired for his excellent friend the steward, and then took the seat offered him and began to relate the latest news from L----.

"Your old pupil had prepared a great surprise for us the other day," said he to Fabian, affably. "Did you hear that Herr Nordeck, as he passed through our town, drove to the President's house, and made him what appeared to be quite an official visit?"

"Yes, I did hear it spoken of," replied the Doctor.

"His Excellency was much gratified. To be candid, all hopes of any overtures from that quarter had been given up. Herr Nordeck made himself very agreeable, I believe. He even solicited from the President a promise to be present at the next hunt held at Wilicza, and alluded to some other invitations which will excite no less surprise."

"Did the President accept?" inquired Gretchen.

"Assuredly. His Excellency is of opinion that Heir Nordeck's proceedings on this occasion almost amounted to a demonstration, and he felt it his duty to give him his support. Really, Doctor, you would greatly oblige us if you would give us a key to your friend's true position with regard to ..."

"You will learn nothing from Dr. Fabian. He is closer than the young master himself," put in Gretchen, who felt bound to go to her accomplice's aid, for she saw at a glance that he was ill at ease in his new rôle. He was, indeed, almost crushed by the consciousness of guilt--not even the pureness of his intentions could reconcile him to the thought that the Assessor was to be cheated, and that he was helping to cheat him. Fräulein Margaret, however, took the matter much more lightly. She went straight to her aim.

"Shall we have your company at supper, Herr Assessor?" she asked in an easy tone. "You have business over at Janowo, no doubt."

"Not that I know of. Why there in particular?" replied Hubert.

"Well, I only thought--we have heard so many queer things of late, especially within the last few days--I thought you had perhaps been appointed to investigate matters out yonder."

The Assessor became attentive. "What is it you have heard? Pray, Fräulein, conceal nothing from me. Janowo is one of the places we have constantly to keep an eye upon. What do you know of it?"

The Doctor gave his chair a little imperceptible push farther off. He appeared to himself the blackest of traitors. Gretchen, on the other hand, showed a really alarming talent for intrigue. She related nothing, but she allowed herself to be questioned and cross-questioned, reporting by degrees and with the most innocent face in the world all that had been noticed during the last few days, with this difference alone that she transferred the scene of action to Janowo, the great neighbouring estate which lay on the confines of Wilicza. Her plan succeeded beyond all expectation. The Assessor took the bait as eagerly as could be wished. He fairly hung on the girl's lips, working himself into a state of feverish excitement, and finally sprang up from his seat.

"Excuse me if I do not wait for Herr Frank's return, Fräulein Margaret. I must go back as far as E---- at once, without delay ..."

"But not on foot. It is quite a mile and a half there."

"Above all no éclat, I entreat you!" whispered Hubert, mysteriously. "I will leave my carriage behind. It is better I should be supposed to be here. Pray do not expect me to supper. Good-bye, Fräulein," and with a short and hasty salutation, he hurried out and immediately afterwards re-crossed the courtyard.

"Now he is off to E---- to fetch the two gendarmes stationed there," said Gretchen to the Doctor, triumphantly; "then he will rush straight over to Janowo, and all three of them will go prowling about the place until far on into the night. Wilicza is safe from them."

She was not mistaken in her suppositions. It was late at night when the Assessor returned from his expedition, which had, as she had guessed, been undertaken in the company of the two gendarmes, and had, naturally enough, been productive of no result. He was much out of temper and very depressed, to say nothing of a violent cold which he had caught by the unaccustomed exposure to the night air. Next day he was so unwell that even Gretchen was roused to a sense of humanity. In a fit of repentance she made tea for him, and nursed him with such care that Hubert forgot all the discomfort he had endured. Unfortunately this behaviour on her part confirmed him in his conviction--unalterable from this time forth--that he was beloved beyond all telling. Dr. Fabian, too, came over in the course of the day to see how the patient was progressing, and showed so much anxious sympathy, such deep regret at his indisposition, that the Assessor was touched and completely comforted. He little knew that he owed all this attention to the remorse of the two confederates in league against him. So he set out at last, burdened with his cold, but with spirits much revived, on his way back to L----.

If on that evening the Wilicza park and its environs still remained free from all inopportune vigilance, the dwellers at the Castle had naturally no notion to whom their thanks for such immunity were due. About the time that Dr. Fabian and Fräulein Margaret were engaged in concocting their plot, a family meeting had taken place in the Princess Baratowska's apartments. Count Morynski and Leo were equipped for travelling; their cloaks lay in the ante-room, and the carriage, which half an hour before had brought the Count and his daughter over, still stood in the courtyard, ready to start again. Leo and Wanda had withdrawn into the deep recess of the centre window, and were talking eagerly, but in a low voice, while the Princess was also carrying on a conversation in an undertone with her brother.

"In the present state of affairs I look upon it as fortunate that circumstances require your hasty departure," she said. "On Leo's account it is desirable, for he would never endure to stay on at Wilicza, if Waldemar begins to play the master. He is not capable of controlling himself. I saw by the way in which he received my disclosures that I should certainly be provoking a catastrophe, if I were to insist on his remaining longer with his brother. As it is, they will not meet for the present, and that is best."

"And you yourself will really be able to hold out here, Hedwiga?" asked the Count.

"I must," she answered. "It is all I can do for you now. I have yielded to the reasoning by which you describe open war with Waldemar as useless and full of peril. We have given up Wilicza as our centre of operations--for the time being, that is; but for you and Leo it is still the place where messages can be sent, and whence news can be transmitted to you in return. So much liberty, at least, I shall be able to maintain. At the worst the Castle will still be your refuge, should you be obliged to re-cross the frontier. Peace will not be disturbed on this side, at all events for some time to come. When do you think of going over?"

"Probably to-night. We shall wait at the last forester's station to find out how and where it will be possible to cross. This evening the last transport of arms will be sent after us; it will be left provisionally in the forester's charge. I consider this precaution to be urgently necessary. Who knows whether your son may not take it into his head to search through the whole Castle on his return the day after to-morrow?"

"He will find it clear"--the Princess clenched her hand in repressed rage, and her lips twitched strangely--"clear as he commanded it should be; but I swear to you, Bronislaus, he shall pay for that command and for his tyranny towards us. I hold the means of retaliation and a bridle wherewith to hold him in check, should he attempt to go still greater lengths."

"You hinted something of the sort before," said the Count; "but I really do not understand by what means you still hope to tame such a nature. Judging by Wanda's description of the scene between you and Waldemar, I place no faith in the power of any bridle to restrain him."

The Princess said nothing; she evidently had no wish to answer him, and was freed from the necessity of so doing by the two young people at that moment leaving the window recess and coming up to them.

"It is impossible to make Wanda change her mind," said Leo to his mother. "She decidedly refuses to come to Wilicza--she will not leave Rakowicz."

The Princess turned to her niece with an expression of great severity.

"This is folly, Wanda. It has been arranged for months that you should come to me when your father's long-foreseen absence should occur. You cannot, ought not to stay at Rakowicz alone. I am your natural protector, and you will put yourself under my charge."

"Excuse me, dear aunt, I shall do nothing of the sort," replied the young Countess. "I will not be the guest of a house whose master conducts himself towards us in this hostile spirit. I can bear it no better than Leo."

"Do you think it will be easy for your aunt to hold her ground here?" asked the Count, reproachfully. "She makes the sacrifice for us, because she wishes to keep Wilicza open as a refuge for us in case of need, because it must not permanently be given up, and were she to go, it would be lost to us for ever. I may well ask for equal self-denial from you."

"But why is my presence here so necessary, so indispensable?" cried Wanda, hardly attempting now to control her vehemence. "The considerations which weigh with my aunt do not exist for me. Let me stay at home, papa."

"Give way, Wanda," entreated Leo; "stay with my mother. Wilicza lies so much nearer the frontier, we can keep up some communication far more easily. Perhaps I may make it possible to see you once. Certainly I hate Waldemar as bitterly as you do, now that he has openly declared himself our enemy; but, for my sake, put a constraint on yourself and endure him."

He had seized her hand. Wanda drew it away almost violently. "Let me be, Leo; if you knew why your mother wishes to have me with her, you would be the first to oppose it."

The Princess knitted her brow, and quickly interfering to cut short her niece's speech, she said, turning to the Count--

"Show your authority as her father at last, Bronislaus, and command her to remain. She must stay at Wilicza."

The young Countess started angrily at these words, which were spoken with great harshness. Her exasperation drove her beyond bounds.

"Well, then, if you compel me to speak out, my father and Leo shall hear my reason. I did not at the time understand the ambiguous words you spoke to me a little while ago, but now I know their meaning. You think I am the only person Waldemar will not offer up, the only one who can restrain his hand. I do not think so, for I know him better than you; but no matter which of us is right--I will not put it to the test."

"And I would never, never endure that such an experiment should be made," blazed out Leo. "If that was the motive, Wanda shall remain at Rakowicz, and never set foot in Wilicza. I believed that Waldemar's old attachment had long ago died out and was forgotten. If it is not so--and it cannot be, or the plan would never have been imagined--I will not leave you near him for a day."

"Make your mind easy," said Wanda, her own voice, however, sounding anything but tranquil; "I shall not again allow myself to be used as a mere tool, as I was in the old days at C----. I have played with this man and with his love once, but I will not do it a second time. He has let me feel his contempt, and I know the weight of it; yet there was nothing worse then to arouse his scorn than the caprice of a thoughtless child. If he were to discover a scheme, a calculation, and I were one day to read that in his eyes--I would rather die than bear it!"

She had allowed herself to be so carried away by her vehemence that she forgot all those around her. Erect, with glowing cheeks and flashing eyes, she delivered this protest with such passionate intensity of feeling that the Count gazed at her in astonishment, and the Princess in consternation; but Leo, who had been standing by her side, drew back from her. He had turned very pale, and in his eyes, as he fixed them on her steadily, enquiringly, there was more than astonishment or consternation.

"Rather die!" he repeated. "Do you set such store by Waldemar's esteem? Do you know so well how to read in his eyes? That is strange."

A hot flush overspread Wanda's face. She must herself have been unconscious of this, for she cast a look of unfeigned indignation at the young Prince, and would have answered him, but her father interfered.

"Let us have no jealous scenes now, Leo," he said gravely. "Do you wish to disturb our parting, and to offend Wanda just when you are about to leave her? As you now insist upon it, she shall remain at Rakowicz. My sister will yield to you on this point, but do not again wound Wanda by any such suspicions. Time presses, we must say farewell."

He drew his daughter to him, and now in the moment of separation all the tenderness which this grave, melancholy man cherished in his heart towards his only child, broke forth. He clasped her to him with profound and painful emotion. But the Princess waited in vain for her son to approach her. He stood with a dark frown on his overcast face, looking down at the ground, and biting his lips until they bled.

"Well, Leo," remonstrated his mother, at last, "will you not say good-bye to me?"

The words startled him from his brooding. "Not now, mother. I will follow my uncle later. He will not want me at first; I shall stay here a few days longer."

"Leo!" cried the Count angrily, while Wanda, raising herself from his arms, looked up in indignant surprise. These marks of reprobation only served, however, to harden the young Prince in his rebellion.

"I shall stay," he persisted. "Two or three days cannot possibly make any difference. I will take Wanda back to Rakowicz before I leave, and make myself sure that she will remain there; above all, I will wait for Waldemar's return, and have the matter cleared up in the shortest way. I will challenge him with his feelings towards my affianced wife. I will ..."

"Prince Leo Baratowski will do what duty bids him, and nothing else," interrupted the Princess, her cold clear voice ringing out in sharpest contrast to her son's wild agitated tones. "He will follow his uncle, as has been agreed, and will never stir one minute from his side."

"I cannot," cried Leo, impetuously. "I cannot leave with this suspicion at my heart. You have promised me Wanda's hand, and yet I have never been able to assert my right to it. She herself has always sided coldly and inexorably with you. She has always wished to be the prize which I must fight for and win in the struggle we are now entering on. But now I demand that she shall be publicly and solemnly betrothed to me beforehand, here in Waldemar's presence, before his eyes. Then I will go; but until this is done, I will not stir from the Castle. Waldemar has proclaimed himself master and lawgiver here in such a surprising manner--no one ever expected it of him--he may just as suddenly transform himself into an ardent adorer."

"No, Leo," said Wanda, with angry disdain; "but at the beginning of a struggle your brother would not refuse to follow where duty leads, even though it should cost him his love and his happiness."

They were the most unfortunate words she could have spoken; they robbed the young Prince of all self-control. He laughed out bitterly.

"Oh, his risk would be small; but it might easily cost me both if I were to go away and leave you to your unbounded admiration of him and his sense of duty. Uncle, I ask permission to put off my journey, only for three days, and if you refuse me, I shall take it. I know that nothing decisive will be done at the first, and I shall be there in time enough for all the preparatory movements."

The Princess would have interposed, but the Count held her back. He stepped up to his nephew with an air of authority.

"That is for me to decide, and not for you. Our departure has been fixed for today. I consider it necessary, and with that all is said. If I have to submit each of my orders to your approval, or to make them subservient to your jealous caprices, it will be better that you should not go with me at all. I exact from you the obedience you have sworn to your leader. You will either follow me this very hour or, take my word for it, I will exclude you from every post where I have power to command. You have the choice."

"He will follow you, Bronislaus," said the Princess, with sombre earnest. "He will follow you, or he will cease to be my son. Decide, Leo. Your uncle will keep his word."

Leo stood battling with himself. His uncle's words, his mother's imperious looks, would probably have remained powerless in presence of his jealousy, now so violently aroused; but he saw that Wanda shrank from him. He knew that by staying he should incur her contempt, and that thought turned the scale. He rushed to her, and took her hand.

"I will go," he gasped; "but promise me that you will avoid Wilicza during my absence, and only see my mother at Rakowicz--above all, that you will keep at a distance from Waldemar."

"I should have done that without any promise," replied Wanda, more gently. "You forget that it was my refusal to remain at Wilicza which led to this outburst of most groundless jealousy on your part."

Leo drew a breath of relief at the thought. Yes, it was true. She had refused, peremptorily refused to remain under the same roof with his brother.

"You should have spoken more convincingly," he said, in a calmer tone. "Perhaps I may one day apologise for having wounded you--I cannot now, Wanda"--he pressed her hand convulsively in his. "I do not believe you could ever be guilty of such treason to me, to us all, as to love this Waldemar, our foe, our oppressor; but you ought not to feel any of this esteem, this admiration for him. It is bad enough that he should love you, and that I should know you to be within his reach."

"You will have some trouble with that hot-headed boy," said the Princess to her brother in a low voice. "He cannot comprehend the word 'discipline.'"

"He will learn it," replied the Count with quiet firmness; "and now good-bye, Hedwiga. We must be gone."

The leave-taking was short and less hearty than it would have been under other circumstances. The dissonance of feeling called forth by the foregoing scene prevailed to the last. Wanda suffered Leo to take her in his arms in silence; but she did not return his embrace, though she threw herself once again with passionate tenderness on her father's breast. The same jarring note disturbed the adieux of mother and son. The Princess whispered a remonstrance, a warning so grave and earnest that Leo withdrew himself from her arms more hastily than was his wont. Then the Count once more held out his hand to his sister, and went, accompanied by his nephew. They put on their cloaks outside in the ante-room; and going down, entered the carriage which was waiting for them below. One more wave of the hand to the windows above, then the horses moved on, and soon the roll of the carriage wheels was lost in the distance.

The two ladies were left alone. Wanda had thrown herself on the sofa, and hidden her face in her hands. The Princess still stood at the window, and looked long after the carriage which was bearing her darling away to the strife and to danger. When at length she turned round and came back into the room, traces might be seen even in her proud face of what the parting had cost her--only by an effort could she maintain her accustomed outward calm.

"It was unpardonable of you, Wanda, to arouse Leo's jealousy at such a moment in order to carry your point," said she, with bitter reproach. "You ought to be sufficiently aware of this weakness of his."

The young Countess raised her head. Her cheeks were wet with recent tears.

"You yourself compelled me to do it, aunt. I had no other resource; besides, I could not divine that Leo would turn upon me in his jealous anger, that he would insult me by such a suspicion."

The Princess stood before her, looking down scrutinisingly into her face.

"Was the suspicion really an insulting one? Well, I hope so."

"What do you mean?" cried Wanda, startled.

"My dear," replied the Princess, in an icy tone, "you know that I have never taken Leo's part when he has tormented you with his jealousy; to-day I do feel he has cause for anxiety, though to him I would not admit it, not wishing to excite him further. The tone in which you delivered that 'rather would I die!' made my blood boil within me, and your dread of Waldemar's contempt was very significant, so significant that I now willingly give up all idea of keeping you at Wilicza. When I conceived the plan, I thought I could be absolutely sure of you; now I really could not be responsible for the issue to Leo, and I perfectly agree with you that--it would not do to put it to the test."

Wanda had risen. Pale as death, mute with dismay, she stared at the speaker, feeling as though an abyss were yawning open at her feet. Giddy with the sudden shock, she leaned for support against the sofa.

The Princess kept her eyes steadily fixed on her niece's face. "I know you do not suspect it yourself, and that is why I give you this hint. Sleep-walkers should be roused before they reach a perilous height. If the awakening comes too suddenly, a fall is inevitable. You have ever set energy, an iron will, above all else in your estimate of a man--that alone has constrained you to admiration. I know that, in spite of his many brilliant advantages, this one quality Leo unhappily does not possess, and I will no longer deny that Waldemar has it; so beware of yourself with your--hatred of him, which might one day reveal itself in a new light. I open your eyes now while it is yet time, and I think you will be grateful to me for it."

"Yes," replied Wanda, in a voice which was scarcely audible. "I thank you."

"Well, we will let the matter rest then; there can be no danger in it yet, I hope. To-morrow I will myself take you back to Rakowicz; now I must see that all necessary caution is observed again this evening, so that no disaster may befall us on the last day. I will give Pawlick my orders, and superintend all the arrangements myself."

So saying, the Princess left the room, firmly persuaded that she had only done her duty, and had prevented a future catastrophe, in that, energetic and unsparing as ever, she had torn away the veil which hid from the young Countess the state of her own heart. Had she seen how, on being left alone, Wanda sank down stunned and crushed, she would perhaps have perceived that the perilous height had already been reached at which a cry of warning may be fatal. It could avail neither to admonish nor to rescue. The awakening came too late.


Winter had come in all its bitter severity. Woods and fields lay shrouded in a thick white pall of snow, the flow of the river was stopped by a strong coating of ice, and over the frozen earth the wintry storms howled and blustered, benumbing all with their icy breath.

Another storm had been roused by them which raged more wildly than the elements. Over the frontier the long-dreaded revolt had broken out. The whole neighbouring country blazed with revolutionary fire, and each day brought its own fearful tidings. On this side the land was quiet as yet, and it seemed as though the quiet would be maintained; but peaceful the temper of that border-district could hardly be, for a thousand ties and connections bound it to the struggling province, and hardly a Polish family lived in those parts which had not at least one of its members in the ranks of the combatants.

Wilicza suffered most severely of all from this state of things. Its position made it one of the most important, but also one of the most dangerous outposts of the whole province. Not on light grounds had it been chosen to play so conspicuous a part in the plans of the Morynski and Baratowski faction. The Nordeck domain offered the most convenient connecting point with the insurrection, the surest retreat in case of contests near the frontier, while it was too densely wooded to allow of the strict supervision which had been prescribed being kept up throughout its whole extent, in spite of the numerous posts and patrols. Much had been changed, certainly, since the young proprietor had, on that memorable occasion shortly before the departure of Leo and Morynski, ranged himself so decidedly on the side of his countrymen; but from that hour a silent, bitter struggle had set in between him and his mother, a struggle which had not even yet come to an end.

The Princess was true to her word. She yielded to him not an inch of the ground to which she conceived she had a right, and Waldemar at last began to realise all the consequences of his own negligence in leaving his estates for years in her hands. If such negligence and indifference were ever to be atoned for, he atoned for them now.

He had achieved this--that his castle should no longer be made the centre of party intrigues; but he could not clear his whole domain in like manner, for its allegiance had been systematically alienated from him. The unbounded authority so long exercised by the Princess, the complete expulsion of the German element from the administration, the appointment of Polish functionaries to every post of any importance, all this now bore its fruits. Nordeck was indeed, as he had said, sold and betrayed on his own soil. The title of master was accorded him, but his mother was looked on as mistress in point of fact. Though she was careful not to appear openly in this light, her orders were transmitted to her underlings and instantly obeyed, while all Wilicza banded itself together in secret but determined opposition to those given by Waldemar. All possible intrigues and expedients were busily employed to thwart him; all that could be done to evade his orders, to counteract his measures, was done, but invariably in a way which eluded detection and punishment. No one refused him obedience in so many words; and yet he knew that "war and resistance" was the order daily issued against him. When in one place he compelled submission, rebellion raised its hydra-head in twenty others; and if one day he carried his point, on the next fresh obstacles stood in his path. He could not meet the difficulty by discharging all the disaffected; he must have parted with the whole staff of his officials. In some cases he was bound by agreements, in others he would have found it impossible to replace the men, and at the present time any arbitrary act might have been fraught with disaster. So the young master of Wilicza was forced into a position which was of all the hardest for him to bear, in that it gave no scope to his energy, but demanded only quiet, deliberate perseverance in a course once marked out; and this was the very basis on which the Princess had built her plan. Waldemar should weary of the strife. He should learn to know that his power could avail nothing in a matter wherein all Wilicza was leagued together for her, and against him. In his anger and vexation of spirit he should let fall the reins which he had so forcibly withdrawn from her hands. Patience had never been his forte. But once again she deceived herself in her estimate of her son. He now gave proof of that tenacity of purpose, that inflexible will which she was wont to consider as exclusively her characteristic. Not once did he recoil before the obstacles and annoyances she heaped up in his path; one by one he overcame them. His eye and hand were everywhere; and if, on a rare occasion, obedience was actually refused him, he then proclaimed himself the master in such a way that the first attempt would also be the last. This conduct certainly did not win for him the affection of his subordinates. If formerly they had only hated the German in him, they now hated Waldemar Nordeck personally; but already they had learned to fear, and gradually they grew to obey. Under existing circumstances fear was the one stimulus which might yet extort compliance.

The relations between mother and son became in this way more and more hostile, the situation more untenable, though the same outward forms of cool politeness were preserved. That first explanation between them had been the only one. They were neither of them given to many useless words, and both felt that there could be no question of reconciliation or agreement where character and principles were so thoroughly opposed as was here the case. Waldemar never attempted to call his mother to account; he knew she would admit nothing of the manœuvres which yet incontestably proceeded from her, and she on her side proffered no question relating to these matters. Life under the same roof was therefore possible, and, viewed from without, even tolerable. Its stings and mortifications were known but to the two concerned. Waldemar wrapped himself in a still more impenetrable reserve. He saw his mother only at table, and often not even there. The Princess, too, would frequently absent herself, going over to Rakowicz to see her niece, and staying away a considerable time. Wanda had kept her word. She had not again set foot in Wilicza, whilst Waldemar in his expeditions avoided even the part of the country in which her father's property lay.

More than three months had elapsed since Count Morynski and his nephew had left. It was generally known that they were in the thick of the strife, that the Count was playing an important part in the insurrection, and that young Prince Baratowski had been appointed to a command under his uncle. In spite of distance and difficulties, they were both in uninterrupted communication with their friends. The Princess, and Wanda also, received exact and detailed accounts of all that happened beyond the frontier, and constantly despatched messages to the scene of action themselves. The readiness with which every one in those border-districts undertook the office of messenger, laughed all obstacles to scorn.

It was about noon on a rather cold day when Assessor Hubert and Dr. Fabian walked back together from the village where they had met. The Assessor was fairly swaddled in wraps. He knew by his Janowo experience the unpleasant consequences of catching cold. The Doctor, too, had put up the collar of his cloak as a protection against the wintry weather. The severe climate did not appear to suit him. He looked paler than usual, and seemed worn and fatigued. Hubert, on the other hand, was beaming with cheerfulness and satisfaction. The events now happening on the frontier took him very often to Wilicza, or its neighbourhood. On this occasion he was about to conduct an inquiry which would detain him several days in these parts; as usual he had taken up his quarters at the steward's house, and his radiant air of contentment showed that he found them to his liking.

"It is splendid, sir," he was saying in his solemn official tones; "I tell you, Herr Nordeck's present conduct is splendid. We Government men best know how to appreciate it. The President is of opinion that this cursed Wilicza would long ago have set the example of revolt here, if its master had not stood like a wall and a rampart, holding it back. He has the admiration of all L----, the more so that no one ever expected he would one day show himself in these colours."

Dr. Fabian sighed. "I wished he deserved your admiration somewhat less. It is precisely the energy he shows which draws down more hatred on him day by day. I tremble each time Waldemar rides out alone, and there is no persuading him to take even the simplest precautions."

"True," said the Assessor, gravely. "The people here at Wilicza are capable of anything, even of lying in ambush to get a shot at their enemy unawares. I believe the only thing which has protected Herr Nordeck hitherto has been the fact that, in spite of everything, he is the Princess Baratowska's son; but who knows how long, with their national fanaticism, they will respect even such a consideration as that! What a life it must be for you all up at the Castle! No one can make out why the Princess remains. It is well known that she is heart and soul with the Polish cause. There must have been some terrible scenes between her and her son, eh?"

"Excuse me, Herr Assessor, these are family affairs," replied Fabian, evading the question.

"I understand your discretion," said Hubert, who was burning with curiosity to learn something that he could relate on his return to L----, where people busied themselves now more than ever with the owner of Wilicza and his mother; "but you have no idea what terrible stories are going the round of the town. They say that, at that time when Herr Nordeck declared himself so decidedly for us, he had come upon and dispersed a meeting of conspirators, who held their conferences in the underground vaults of his Castle under the presidency of Count Morynski and the young Prince Baratowski. When the Princess would have interfered, her son, they say, placed a pistol at her breast; she flung her curse at him, and then they both ..."

"How can people in L---- believe such nonsense!" cried the Doctor, indignantly. "I give you my word that no such outrageous scene has ever taken place between Waldemar and his mother--it would be contrary to their natures; no, far from that, they are on very--very polite terms."

"Really?" asked the Assessor, incredulously. He was evidently reluctant to give up the tale of the pistol and the curse--it suited his romantic fancy far better than this tame explanation. "But the conspiracy did exist," he added, "and Herr Nordeck did put the traitors to flight--he alone against two hundred! Ah, if I had only been there! I was over at Janowo, where I unfortunately failed to make any discovery. Fräulein Margaret is generally so clever, I cannot think how she could have been so mistaken--for we know now that the secret stores of arms were hidden at Wilicza, though Herr Nordeck can never be brought to admit it."

The Doctor was silent, and looked greatly embarrassed. The mention of Janowo always flurried him. Fortunately, they had now reached the spot where the road to the Castle branched off. Fabian took leave of his companion, and the latter pursued his way alone to the manor-farm.

Meanwhile an interview was there being held between the steward and his daughter, which at one time threatened to take a stormy turn. Gretchen, at any rate, had assumed a most warlike attitude. She stood before her father with her arms folded, her head with its fair crown of plaits defiantly thrown back, and as she spoke, she even stamped her little foot on the ground, in order to give more emphasis to her words.

"I tell you, papa, I don't like the Assessor, and if he chooses to come languishing about me six months longer, and you speak up for him ever so much, I'll not be forced into saying Yes."

"But, child, nobody wants to force you," said her father, soothingly. "You know that you are quite free to do as you like; but the matter must be spoken of and settled at last, one way or the other. If you persist in saying no, you must not encourage Hubert any further."

"I do not encourage him!" cried Gretchen, almost crying with vexation. "On the contrary, I treat him abominably; but it is all of no use. Ever since that unlucky time when I nursed him for his cold, he has been firmly persuaded that I return his affection. If I were to refuse him to-day, he would smile and reply, 'You are mistaken, Fräulein; you do love me,' and he would be at me again tomorrow."

Frank took his daughter's hand, and drew her nearer to him. "Gretchen, be a good girl, and tell me what it is you object to in the Assessor. He is young, tolerably good-looking, not without means, and he can offer you a social position which has considerable advantages. I admit that he has some absurd little eccentricities; but a sensible wife would soon make something of him. The main point is that he is head over ears in love with you, and you did not look on him with such unfavourable eyes at first. What has set you so against him just of late?"

Gretchen made no answer to this question, it seemed to embarrass her a little; but she soon recovered herself.

"I don't love him," she declared with great decision. "I don't want him, and I won't have him."

In face of this categorical refusal, her father had no resource but to shrug his shoulders and turn away--which he did.

"Well, as you like," he said, a little annoyed. "Then I will tell the Assessor the plain truth before he leaves us. I will wait until he is going away; perhaps you will think better of it by that time."

The young lady looked most disdainful at such inconsistency being ascribed to her. The thought that she had just destroyed all the Assessor's chances of earthly happiness did not appear to disturb her equanimity in the least; she sat down calmly to her work-table, took up a book, and began to read.

The steward paced up and down the room, still with a shade of annoyance on his face; at last he stopped before his daughter.

"What is that great thick volume which I see now constantly in your hands? A grammar, I suppose. Are you studying French so zealously?"

"No, papa," replied Gretchen. "Grammars are a great deal too tiresome for me to take one in hand so often. I am studying"--she laid her hand solemnly on the book--"I am at present studying the 'History of Teutonism.'"

"The history of what?" asked the steward, who could not believe his ears.

"'The History of Teutonism,'" repeated his daughter, with infinite self-complacency. "A book of rare merit, of the most profound erudition. Would you like to read it? Here is the first volume."

"Don't bother me with your Teutonism," cried Frank. "I have enough to do with Slavs and Slavism; but how did you get hold of this learned stuff? Through Dr. Fabian, no doubt. This is all quite against the agreement. He promised to give you some practice in French; instead of that he brings you old rubbish out of his library, of which you don't understand a single word."

"I understand it all," said the girl, much offended, "and it is no old rubbish, but quite a new book which Dr. Fabian has written himself. It has made a wonderful sensation in the literary world, and two of our greatest scientific men, Professor Weber and Professor Schwarz, are at daggers drawn about it and about the new celebrity just rising into fame, that is, the Doctor; but you'll see, papa, he will be greater than both of them put together."

"Schwarz?" said the steward, reflectively. "That is our Assessor's famous uncle at the University of J----. Well, Dr. Fabian may think himself lucky if such an authority condescends to take notice of his book."

"Professor Schwarz knows nothing about it," declared Gretchen, to her father's amazement, delivering her verdict with the assurance of an academical judge. "He will get himself into a scrape with his criticism of Dr. Fabian's book, just as the Assessor did with his attempt to arrest Herr Nordeck. Naturally enough--they are uncle and nephew--it is the way of the family!"

The steward began to take a more serious view of the matter in question. He looked at his daughter attentively.

"You are as well versed as any student in these university stories. You appear to enjoy Dr. Fabian's unlimited confidence."

"So I do," assented Gretchen; "but you have no idea what a deal of trouble it cost me to bring him to it. He is so shy and reserved, although he is such a remarkably clever man. I have had to worm it all out of him, word by word. He would not hear of giving me his book at first; but I grew angry, and I should like to see him refuse me anything when I look cross at him!"

"I tell you what, child, the Assessor did a very stupid thing when he brought about these French lessons," broke out Frank. "This quiet, pale Doctor, with his soft voice and timid ways, has fairly bewitched you, and he is the sole cause of the ill-treatment you bestow on poor Hubert. You are not going to be foolish, I hope. The Doctor is nothing but an ex-tutor who lives on with his former pupil, and receives a pension from him. If he writes learned works the while, it may be an amusement for him; but such an occupation brings in no money to speak of, certainly not an assured income. Fortunately, he is too shy, and too sensible, I trust, to build any hopes on your fancy for him; but I consider it better that the French studies should be put a stop to at once. I will try and manage it without giving offence. If you, who have hardly patience to read through a novel, are now studying the 'History of Teutonism,' and growing enthusiastic over it merely because Dr. Fabian is the author, the matter looks to me serious."

His daughter tossed her head impatiently at this paternal reprimand, and was about to put forward an emphatic protest, when the inspector came in with a message. Frank left the room with him, and Fräulein Margaret remained behind in a very ill-humour. Assessor Hubert could have chosen no worse time to make his appearance; but, as usual, his unlucky star brought him in now at the wrong moment. He was, as ever, attention and affability itself; but the object of his wishes proved to be in so ungracious a frame of mind that he could not refrain from noticing it.

"You seem out of humour, Fräulein Margaret," he began after several vain attempts to engage her in conversation. "May one know the reason?"

"It makes me wild to think that it is just the cleverest men who are shy and have no self-confidence," exclaimed Gretchen, whose thoughts were far away.

The Assessor's face brightened at these words. "Cleverest men--shy--no self-confidence." True, he had paused that day when about to fall on his knees before her, and up to the present time had not succeeded in making the declaration which was expected from him. No doubt, the young lady herself was chiefly to blame for the delay; yet she was evidently vexed that he should show so little self-confidence. This must be repaired without loss of time. No hint could have been plainer.

Gretchen had hardly spoken when she saw what she had done with her imprudent words, which Hubert naturally applied to himself. She put her 'History of Teutonism' speedily away in safety from him, for the Doctor had made her promise not to betray him to the nephew of his literary foe, and resolved on repairing her hasty error by behaving as rudely as possible.

"You need not keep looking at me with the eye of a detective, Herr Assessor," said she. "I am not a conspirator, and conspiracies are the only things in the world which interest you."

"Fräulein," replied the Assessor, with dignity, and also with a touch of wounded feeling, for he was conscious that his glance had not been keen as that of a detective, but languishing rather as a lover's, "you reproach me with my zeal in the discharge of my duties, while I myself am inclined to make a merit of that very quality. On us officials rests the whole responsibility for the order and security of the State. To us thousands owe it that they can lay down their heads in peace; without us ..."

"Oh, if our safety depended upon you, we should all have been murdered long ago here at Wilicza," interrupted the girl. "It is lucky we have Herr Nordeck to look after us. He is better able to keep order than the whole police department of L----."

"Herr Nordeck appears to enjoy an extraordinary amount of admiration everywhere now," remarked Hubert, in a tone of pique. "You share in it too?"

"Oh, certainly, I share in it," assented Gretchen. "I am extremely sorry to tell you that my admiration is given to Herr Nordeck, and to no other."

She cast a look of most pointed meaning at the Assessor, but he only smiled.

"Ah, that other would never lay claim to so cold and distant a sentiment as admiration," he protested. "He hopes to awaken far different emotions in a kindred soul."

Gretchen saw that rudeness availed her nothing. Hubert was steering steadily, perseveringly, straight ahead towards a declaration. The girl, however, had no wish to listen to him; it was disagreeable to her to have to say No, so she struck in with the first question which came into her mind.

"You have not told me anything of your famous uncle in J---- for a long time. What is he about now?"

The Assessor, who saw in this question a proof of her interest in his family affairs, entered promptly into the subject.

"My poor uncle has had much vexation and worry of late," he replied. "There exists at the University a party of opposition--what truly great man has not his enemies?--at the head of which stands Professor Weber. This gentleman lays himself out to gain popularity, and the students entertain a blind predilection for him. Every one vaunts his amiable character, and my uncle, who disdains such artifices and cares nothing for public opinion, meets with enmity and ill-will on every side. Just now the opposition party, for no other purpose than to spite him, are crying up some obscure person who has just published his first work; they have even the audacity to declare that this novice's book is superior to Schwarz's writings on Teutonism."

"Impossible!" said Gretchen. "Superior to my uncle's writings," repeated the Assessor, with generous indignation. "I do not know the author's name, nor the circumstances of the case--my uncle is not fond of going into details in his letters--but the matter has vexed him to such a degree, and his dispute with Professor Weber has assumed such proportions, that he has thought fit to tender his resignation. It is, of course, nothing but a menace; they would never let him go--the University would suffer far too great a loss by his withdrawal--but he considers it necessary to put some pressure on the personages in question."

"I wish it Would take effect," said Gretchen, with such a wrathful expression that Hubert drew back a step in his surprise, only to advance two the next minute, however.

"It makes me very happy to see you take such an interest in my uncle's welfare. He, too, is already most kindly disposed towards you. I have often mentioned in my letters the family at whose house I find so hospitable a welcome, and he would be delighted to hear that I was to be connected ..."

He had got so far on the road again, when the girl jumped up in desperation, ran to the open piano, and began to play; but she undervalued her suitor's persistency. Next moment he was at her side, listening to her.

"Ah, the 'Longings of the Heart' waltzes, my favourite piece. Yes, music is the language which best renders the feelings of the soul; is it not so, Fräulein Margaret?"

Fräulein Margaret thought that to-day everything had conspired together against her. This was, as it happened, the only piece she knew by heart, and she dared not get up and run to fetch her notes, for the Assessor's looks plainly said that he was only waiting for a pause in her performance to give vent to the feelings of his soul in words. So the 'Longings of the Heart' waltzes raged over the piano to the time of a galop. The noise was fearful, and a string broke; but no matter, such a din must drown any love declaration.

"Ought this to be fortissimo, do you think?" Hubert ventured to remark. "I always fancied the piece should be played in a soft, melting piano."

"I play it fortissimo," declared Gretchen, and banged on the notes so violently that the second string broke.

The Assessor was growing rather nervous. "You will spoil this beautiful instrument," said he, making himself heard with difficulty.

"What are pianos in the world for?" cried Gretchen; and, seeing that the musical uproar was disagreeable to the Assessor, she raised it to an almost incredible pitch, and deliberately sacrificed a third string. At last her strategy succeeded. Hubert saw that he would not be allowed to speak to-day, and beat a retreat, a little annoyed, but with unshaken confidence. The young lady had nursed him with such touching care when he was ill with his cold, and to-day she had spoken of him as a remarkably clever man, and had reproached him with lacking self-confidence. True, her waywardness defied all calculation; but she loved him nevertheless.

When he had gone, Gretchen stood up and shut the piano. "Three strings broken!" said she, dolefully, but yet with a certain satisfaction; "never mind, I have managed once more to keep him from making his offer. Now papa may settle the rest." With that she sat down at her work-table once more, brought out her book, and plunged anew into the 'History of Teutonism!'


Some hours after the incidents recorded in the last chapter Waldemar Nordeck was returning from L----, to which place he had ridden over in the morning. He had now often occasion to go there, a much closer intercourse being kept up in these days between the town and the Castle. The fact that the border-forests were included in the Wilicza territory, and that the population of those districts was strongly distrusted, necessitated frequent conferences and consultations as to the measures to be adopted, and the President knew too well what an energetic supporter he had in the young proprietor not to receive him at all times with the greatest favour. Waldemar had called on him to-day, and had met at his house some of the higher officials and officers of the L---- garrison. These gentlemen had one and all found themselves confirmed in their opinion that young Nordeck was the coldest, the most imperious of men. Any one else would have been galled, oppressed by the hostile attitude in which he stood to his own mother and brother; but he did not appear in the least affected by it. He was as ever, grave, reserved; but determined and ready to abide to the uttermost by the position he had once chosen.

Waldemar had, indeed, every reason to show this calm front to strangers. He knew that his situation with regard to his mother, and the terms they were on together, formed the staple of daily talk in L----, and that the most marvellous reports were current on the subject. He was resolved at all events not to furnish fresh food for gossip. But now that he was alone and unobserved, a troubled look had settled on his face, and his brow was as darkly clouded as it had been serene before. Absorbed in his thoughts, he was advancing at a foot-pace, when, at a meeting of cross-roads, he half mechanically drew rein to let pass a sledge which was approaching at full gallop, and which next instant shot rapidly by quite close to him. Norman suddenly reared high in the air. His rider had jerked the bridle so violently that the animal, taking fright, sprang with a hasty bound to one side, alighting with its hind feet in a ditch covered with loose snow which ran parallel to the high-road. It stumbled and nearly fell with its master.

Waldemar soon brought the horse out of the ditch, and on to the main road again; but this slight mischance seemed to have robbed him, the bold, intrepid rider, of his composure. His usual self-possession quite failed him as he neared the sledge, which had drawn up on a call from the lady occupying it.

"I ask pardon if I have startled you, Countess Morynska. My horse shied at the sudden approach of yours."

Wanda was generally not very susceptible to fear, and possibly it was less alarm than surprise at the unexpected meeting--the first for three months--which drove the colour from her cheeks. Her face was very white as she asked in reply--

"You are not hurt, I hope?"

"No, I am not hurt; but my Norman ..."

He did not finish his sentence, but sprang quickly to the ground. The horse had evidently injured one of his hind feet. He held it up as though in pain, and refused to advance. Waldemar hastily examined the part affected, and then turned to the young Countess again.

"It is nothing serious," he said, in the same cold, constrained tone he had used hitherto. "I beg of you not to interrupt your journey on my account." He bowed and stepped aside to let the sledge pass.

"Will you not mount again?" asked Wanda, seeing that he threw the bridle over his arm, as though preparing to walk.

"No. Norman has sprained his foot, and limps very much. It will be painful enough for him to get on at all, he could not possibly carry a rider."

"But Wilicza is two good leagues from here," objected Wanda. "You cannot go all that way on foot, and at a slow pace."

"There will be nothing else for me," replied Waldemar, quietly. "I must at any rate get my horse on to the nearest village, where I can have it sent for."

"But it will be dark before you reach the Castle."

"That does not matter; I know the way."

The young Countess glanced at the Wilicza road which, at a little distance from the spot where they had met, disappeared into the forest. She knew that it ran through the heart of the woods, emerging only in the immediate vicinity of the Castle.

"Would it not be better to make use of my sledge?" said she in a low voice, without looking up. "My coachman can take charge of your horse, and lead him to the nearest village."

Waldemar looked at her in amazement. The proposal seemed to surprise him strangely.

"Thank you; but you are, no doubt, on your way to Rakowicz."

"Rakowicz does not lie far out of your road," Wanda interrupted him, hastily, "and from thence you can have the conveyance to yourself." The words were spoken hurriedly, almost anxiously. Waldemar slowly let the bridle drop. Some seconds passed before he answered.

"I should do better to go straight on to Wilicza."

"I beg of you, though, not to go on; but to come with me."

This time the anxiety in Wanda's voice was so unmistakable that the refusal was not renewed. Waldemar gave over his horse to the coachman, who had dismounted at a sign from his mistress, and instructed him to lead it with all possible care to a certain village, and there to leave word that it should be sent for. He then mounted the sledge, swinging himself up into the driver's seat behind, and grasping the reins. The place by the young Countess's side remained empty.

They drove on in silence. The offer had been so simple, so natural, a decided rejection of it would have appeared singular, nay, uncourteous, between such near relatives; but easy intercourse had long since grown impossible to these two, and the unexpected meeting made their embarrassment more marked and painful. Waldemar devoted his attention exclusively to the reins, and Wanda wrapped herself more closely in her furs, never once turning her head.

They were already in the beginning of March; but it seemed this year as if winter never would give way. Before taking its departure, the cruel season once more let loose all its terrors on the poor earth, lying happily expectant of spring's first breath. A heavy snowstorm, lasting through an entire day, had clothed it anew in the white shroud of which it had so slowly and painfully divested itself. Again the country lay rigid under its pall of snow and ice, and stormy wind and freezing cold strove together for the mastery.

The storm with its thick drifting snow had subsided on that morning; but it was as gloomy and cold a winter afternoon as though the month had been December. The horses stepped out merrily, and the sledge seemed to fly over the smooth earth; but its two occupants sat silent and motionless, paralysed, as it were, by the icy breath of that chill March day. It was the first time they had been alone together since that hour by the forest lake. Dreary and melancholy as had been that autumn evening, with its falling leaves and surging mist-visions, some last lingering throbs of life had then quickened Nature's pulse; but now even these were stilled. The silence of death lay on the broad fields, stretching away on all sides, so white and endless. Nothing but snow all around, far as the eye could reach! The distant horizon lay wrapped in fog, and the sky was heavy with dense snow-laden clouds which drifted slowly, lazily along--else all was numb and dead in these wintry desert solitudes.

The road now left the open lands and turned into the woods which it had hitherto skirted. Here in the sheltered forest path, the snow lay so thick that the horses could only advance at a foot-pace. The driver loosed the reins which up to this time he had held so tightly, and their giddy, rapid flight was changed into a gentle, gliding onward movement. The dark fir-trees on either side bowed under their load of snow. One of the low-hanging branches brushed against Waldemar's head, and a perfect cloud of white flakes was showered down on him and his companion. She half-turned now for the first time and said, pointing to the trees--

"The road to Wilicza lies all the way through a forest as thick as this."

Waldemar smiled slightly.

"That is nothing new to me. I pass along it often enough."

"But not on foot and at dusk! Do you not know, or will you not own to yourself, that there is danger for you in these journeys?"

The smile vanished from Nordeck's face, giving way to its accustomed gravity. "If I had had any doubt of that, I should have been enlightened by the bullet which, not long ago, as I was coming home from the border-station, sped so close by my head that it ruffled my hair. The marksman did not show himself. He was probably ashamed of his--unskilfulness."

"Well, after such an experience, it is really challenging danger to ride out so constantly quite alone," cried Wanda, who could not altogether conceal her alarm at this news.

"I never go unarmed," replied Waldemar, "and no companion could protect me against a shot fired in ambush. In the present state of affairs at Wilicza, my personal ascendancy is the one influence which still avails. If I show fear and take all sorts of precautionary measures, there will be an end to my authority. If I continue to face all their attacks alone, they will desist from them."

"But suppose that bullet had not missed," said Wanda, with a little quiver in her voice. "You see how near the danger was."

The young man bent half over her seat.

"Was it a desire to avert from me some such peril as this which made you insist on my coming with you?"

"Yes," was the hardly audible reply.

An earnest rejoinder was on his lips; but some sudden remembrance flashing through his mind, he suddenly drew himself erect and, grasping the reins more firmly, said with a rush of the old bitterness--

"You will find it hard to justify such a desire in the eyes of your party, Countess Morynska."

She turned completely round to him now, and her eye met his.

"It may be so, for you have openly avowed yourself our enemy. It lay with you to make peace; instead of that you have declared war upon us."

"I did what necessity compelled me to do. You forget that my father was a German."

"And your mother is a Pole."

"Ah, you need not remind me of it in that reproachful tone," said Waldemar. "The unhappy division of interests has cost me too much for me ever to lose sight of it for an instant. It was the cause of my parents' separation. It poisoned my childhood, embittered my youth, and robbed me of my mother. She would perhaps have loved me as she loves her Leo if I had been a Baratowski. That I was my father's son has been my gravest offence in her eyes. If now we stand politically opposed to each other, that is only a consequence of past events."

"Which you logically, inexorably, carry out to its extreme limits," cried Wanda, flashing into anger. "Any other man would have sought for some means of reconciliation, some compromise, which must have been possible between mother and son."

"Perhaps between any other mother and son, but not between the Princess Baratowska and me. She gave me the choice of surrendering Wilicza and myself, bound hand and foot, into her hands to serve her interests, or to declare myself at war with her. I chose the latter alternative, and she takes good care that there shall be no truce, not even for a day. Were it not that the contest for dominion is still going on, she would long since have left me. She certainly does not stay on my account."

Wanda made no reply. She knew he was right, and the conviction was now forcing itself on her mind that this man, held on all sides to be cold and unfeeling, was in reality most keenly and bitterly sensitive to all that was painful in his position towards his mother. In the rare moments when he disclosed his secret feelings, this subject always came uppermost. The thought of his mother's indifference to himself and of her boundless love for her younger son had stung the boy's soul years ago; it rankled yet in the heart of the man.

They soon emerged from the forest, and the horses quickly resuming their former swift pace, Rakowicz shortly afterwards appeared in the distance. Waldemar would have turned into the main road which led thither, but Wanda pointed in another direction.

"Please let me get out at the entrance to the village. I shall like the little walk home, and you can go straight on to Wilicza."

Nordeck looked at her a moment in silence. "That means, you do not venture to appear at Rakowicz in my company. I was forgetting that the people about would never forgive you for it. To be sure--we are enemies."

"We are so through your fault alone," declared Wanda. "No one compelled you to act as our foe. Our struggle is not with your country or countrymen, it will be fought out yonder on foreign soil."

"And supposing your party to be victorious on that soil," asked Waldemar, slowly and pointedly, "whose turn will it be next?"

The young Countess was silent.

"Well, we will not discuss that," said Nordeck, resignedly. "It may have been some secret necessity of Nature which drove your father and Leo into the fight; but the same necessity urges me to resistance. My brother's task is indeed easier than mine. One way has been marked out for him, both by birth and family tradition, and he has gone that way without the pain of making a choice, or of causing dissension. Neither of these troubles has been spared me. It is not in my nature to vacillate between two contending parties without giving in my adhesion to one or to the other. I must declare myself friend or foe to a cause. What the choice has cost me, none need know. No matter, I have chosen; and where I have once taken my stand, I will remain. Leo throws himself into the struggle full of glowing enthusiasm; his highest ideal is before him; he is supported by the love and admiration of his friends. I stand alone at my post, where possibly death by assassination, where surely hatred awaits me, a hatred in which all Wilicza, my mother and brother--and you, too, unite, Wanda. The lots have been unevenly divided; but I have never been spoiled by over much love and affection. I shall be able to bear it. So go on hating me, Wanda. It is perhaps best for us both."

While speaking, he had driven forward in the prescribed direction, and now drew up just at the entrance to the village, which lay before them still and, as it were, lifeless. Swinging himself from his seat, he would have helped the young Countess to alight; but she waved his hand away, and got out of the sledge without assistance. No single word of leave-taking passed her tightly closed lips. She merely bowed her head in mute farewell.

Waldemar had drawn back. Once again the deep lines of pain showed plainly on his face, and the hand which grasped the reins was clenched convulsively. Her repulse evidently wounded him to the quick.

"I will send the sledge back to-morrow," said he in a cold and distant tone--"with my thanks, if you will not decline them, as you decline my slightest service."

Wanda appeared to be struggling with herself. She half turned as though to go; but lingered yet an instant.

"Herr Nordeck."

"What is your pleasure, Countess Morynska?"

"I ... You must promise me not again wilfully to challenge danger as you would have done to-day. You are right, the hatred of all Wilicza is directed against you at the present time. Do not give your enemies so good a chance--do not, I entreat of you."

A deep flush overspread Waldemar's face at these words. He cast one look at her, one single look; but at that glance all the bitterness went out from him.

"I will be more prudent," he answered, in a low voice.

"Good-bye, then."

She turned from him and took the path leading to the village. Nordeck gazed after her until she disappeared behind one of the nearest farm-buildings, then he swung himself into the sledge again, and drove off swiftly in the direction of Wilicza, the road soon taking him back into the forest. He had drawn his pistol from his breast-pocket and laid it within easy reach; and, whilst he handled the reins with unaccustomed caution, his eye kept a vigilant watch between the trees. This defiant, inflexible man, who knew no fear, had suddenly grown careful and prudent; he had promised to be so, and he had now learned that there was one being who trembled for his life also, who longed to avert danger from him.


Rakowicz, the residence of Count Morynski, could in no respect compare with Wilicza. Quite apart from the fact that the latter property covered ten times as much ground, and contained three or four separate leased-off estates, each of an extent equal to the Morynski domain, the magnificent forests, the Castle and noble park were all wanting here. Rakowicz lay in an open country about three miles from L----, and differed little or nothing from the other gentlemen's seats scattered about the province.

Since her father's departure Wanda had lived on at home alone. Though, under other circumstances, her removal to Wilicza would have appeared a matter of course, it now seemed very natural that Count Morynski's daughter should avoid the Castle, its master having assumed an attitude of avowed hostility to her friends and their cause. Even the Princess's continued stay at her son's house excited some wonder. As has been said, the latter lady often came over to Rakowicz to see her niece; she was there now on a visit of several days. No mention had as yet been made of Wanda's accidental meeting with Waldemar, her aunt having only arrived on the evening following her return from that expedition. Two days later, the ladies were sitting together in the young Countess's morning-room. They had just received news from the seat of war, and still held the letters open in their hands; but there appeared to be little in them of a joyful nature, for Wanda looked very grave, and the Princess's face was overcast and full of care as she at last laid down the missives from her brother and Leo.

"Repulsed again!" said she, with repressed emotion. "They had reached the heart of the land, and now they are on the borders once more. Never anything decisive, no success worth mentioning. It almost makes one despair!"

Wanda, too, laid down the letter she had been reading. "My father writes in a very gloomy strain," she answered; "he is almost worn out with the perpetual efforts to hold in check all the conflicting elements in his army. Everybody will command, no one will obey--there is growing disunion among the leaders. How will it all end!"

"Your father allows himself to be influenced by the melancholy which forms part of his character," said the Princess, more calmly. "After all, it is natural to suppose that a host of volunteers, hurrying under arms at the first call, cannot possess the order and discipline of a well-trained army. Time and practice are necessary for that."

Wanda shook her head sadly. "The struggle has lasted three months, and for every successful encounter we may count three defeats. Now I understand my father's great emotion at parting from us; it was not only the separation which moved him--he went without any real hope of victory."

"Bronislaus has always looked on the dark side," persisted the Princess. "I hoped more from Leo's constant companionship, and from his influence over his uncle. He, as yet, has all the elasticity and enthusiasm of youth; he looks on every doubt as to the ultimate triumph of our cause as treason. I wish he could communicate some of his unbounded confidence to the other--they both have need of it."

She drew her son's letter out, and looked through it again. "Leo is happy, no doubt, in spite of everything. My brother has at last yielded to his entreaties, and entrusted him with an independent command. He is stationed with his troop only a couple of leagues from the frontier, and his mother and affianced wife cannot see him even for an instant!"

"For Heaven's sake, do not put such thoughts into Leo's mind," exclaimed Wanda. "He would be capable of committing the rashest, the maddest acts in order to bring about a meeting."

"There is no fear of that," replied the Princess, gravely. "He has strict orders not to stir from his post; he will, therefore, remain at it. But what does he say to you? His letter to me is very short and written in haste. Yours appears to contain much more."

"It contains very little," declared the young Countess, with visible impatience. "He hardly touches on that which to us, who are forced to await the result here in inaction, is the one subject of importance. Leo prefers to write pages about his love for me, and finds leisure in the very midst of the war to torment me with his jealousy."

"A singular reproach from the mouth of his betrothed," remarked the Princess, with a sneer. "Most women would be happy and proud to know that their lover's thoughts were given to them at such a time."

"We are engaged in a life and death struggle, and I require deeds from a man, not vows of love," said Wanda, energetically.

The Princess's brow grew dark. "He will not be wanting in deeds when the occasion for them presents itself; but perhaps you think coldness and taciturnity are their inseparable adjuncts."

Wanda rose and walked to the window. She knew at what those words were aimed; but she could not, would not continually be made to render account of herself to those penetrating eyes which rested on her face with so inexorable a scrutiny, as though they would detect the innermost movements of her being. The Princess observed towards her niece the same line of conduct she had adopted towards Waldemar. She had spoken openly once, and that was enough. Repeated warnings were, in her opinion, useless as they were dangerous. Since the evening on which she had judged it necessary to open the young Countess's eyes, no word had passed between them on the subject then alluded to; but Wanda well knew that every word, every look of hers was weighed in the balance, and this consciousness often made her feel insecure and ill at ease in her intercourse with her aunt.

That lady had meanwhile folded and laid together the letters from her brother and her son.

"To all appearances, we may expect some fighting close to the frontier in the course of a few days," she began again. "What Wilicza might have been to us at such a time, and what it is!"

The young Countess turned round, and fixed her dark eyes on the speaker.

"Wilicza?" she repeated. "Aunt, I understand the necessity which keeps you there; but I should not be equal to the task! Any other sacrifice I could make; but it would be impossible to me to live day by day with any one on the terms existing between you and your son."

"No one else would find it so bearable as it is to us," said the Princess, with bitter irony. "I bear you testimony, Wanda, that you were right in your estimate of Waldemar. I expected the contest would have proved an easier one. Instead of tiring, him out, it is I who am almost ready to yield. He is more than a match for me."

"He is your son," said Wanda; "you always lose sight of that fact."

The Princess sat leaning her head on her hand.

"He takes care that I shall not forget it; he shows me every day of my life what the last four years have done for him. I never should have believed that he could have worked his way up with such wonderful energy from the rough semi-savage condition of his younger days. He has learned to control himself, and therefore he can control others in spite of enmity and opposition. Already I find it more difficult to get my orders obeyed when he sets his will against them, and yet the people are as devoted to me as ever. He awes them with his indomitable spirit, with his tone of command. They fear his eye more than they have ever feared me. I wish Nordeck had left me the boy. I would have brought him up for our cause. He would have been worth much to us, I think--not merely as master of Wilicza. As it is, he belongs altogether to his father's people, and he will maintain his place in the enemy's ranks, though the highest offers should be made to him by our side. I know him well enough to be sure of that. It has been a misfortune that I could never be a real mother to him. We have both to pay the penalty for it now."

There was something almost of self-accusation, of sorrowful regret, in her words. The tone was quite a new one in the Princess's mouth when referring to her elder son. Those tenderer impulses, which at rare intervals would gain the mastery over her, had hitherto invariably been stirred within her by love for her youngest-born alone, and even now she put the passing weakness from her with a strong hand. Rising abruptly, as though to end the discussion, she said in a stern voice--

"No matter, we are enemies, and enemies we shall remain. That must be borne, like so much else."

They were here interrupted. A servant came in with the announcement that the house-steward of Wilicza had just arrived, and begged to be allowed to speak to his mistress. The Princess looked up.

"Pawlick? Then something must have happened. Send him in at once."

Hardly a minute had elapsed when Pawlick entered. He had been Prince Baratowski's servant, had accompanied the family into exile, and now filled the office of major-domo at the Castle. The old man seemed excited and in haste; yet he omitted none of those marks of respect with which he was wont to approach his liege lady.

"That will do, that will do," said the Princess, impatiently. "What brings you here? What has happened at Wilicza?"

"Nothing at Wilicza itself," reported Pawlick; "but at the border-station on the frontier ..."


"There have been some squabbles with the military again, as has often been the case of late. The ranger and his men have placed every possible difficulty in the way of the patrols, have even insulted them at last--it nearly came to an open fight."

An exclamation of extreme displeasure escaped the Princess's lips. "Must our plans always, invariably, be thwarted by the folly of our subordinates! Just now, when everything depends upon diverting attention from the station, they absolutely challenge observation. Did I not expressly command Osiecki to keep quiet, and to hold his men in check! A messenger must be sent over at once to repeat the order in the most strenuous terms."

Wanda had drawn nearer to listen. The border-station, as it was commonly called, because it was the last forester's post on the Nordeck property and lay within half a league of the frontier, seemed to have a great interest for her also.

"Unfortunately, Herr Nordeck has been beforehand with us," went on Pawlick, hesitatingly. "He has twice warned the forester, and threatened to punish him. On this last occasion he has sent him instructions to clear out of the station, and to come over to that of Wilicza. For the present, one of the steward's German inspectors is to be sent to the frontier, until a substitute is found."

"And what has Osiecki done?" interrupted the Princess, hastily.

"He has positively refused to obey, and sent word to the master that he has been placed at the border-station, and there he shall remain--if any one wants to drive him from it he may come and try."

The importance of the event described must have been greater than would appear. On the Princess's face were signs of unmistakable alarm.

"And what has my son determined to do?"

"Herr Nordeck declared that he would ride over himself this afternoon."

"Alone?" exclaimed Wanda.

Pawlick shrugged his shoulders. "The master always rides alone."

The Princess seemed hardly to have heard the last words. She roused herself from her meditations.

"See that the horses are put to at once, Pawlick. You will accompany me back to Wilicza. I must be on the spot if any events are preparing there. Go."

Pawlick obeyed. He had hardly closed the door behind him when Countess Morynska stood at her aunt's side.

"Did you hear, aunt? He is going over to the border-station."

"Well?" replied the Princess, "what of it?"

"What of it? Do you think Osiecki will comply?"

"No, he must not comply, come what may. His station is of the greatest importance to us, doubly important in view of what the next few days may bring forth. We must have people there we can trust. The madmen, to risk losing us the post just at this time!"

"They have lost it us," cried Wanda, hastily. "Waldemar will compel them to obey."

"In this particular case he will not use compulsion," replied the Princess. "He avoids all acts of violence. I know that the President himself has specially begged him to do so, and he has given his promise. In L---- they fear nothing so much as a revolt on this side the frontier. Osiecki and his men will yield to nothing short of force; and to that, Waldemar will not resort. You hear he is going over alone."

"But you will not allow that," interposed the young Countess, eagerly. "You are going to Wilicza to warn him, to hold him back?"

The Princess looked at her niece with eyes of astonishment. "What are you thinking of? A warning from my mouth would betray all to Waldemar, and at once convince him that my orders are obeyed at the station, and not his. He would then inexorably insist upon Osiecki's leaving, which may perhaps yet be averted, which indeed must be averted, cost what it may."

"And you think your son will submit to be thus openly defied? It is the first time that such flagrant rebellion has appeared at Wilicza. Aunt, you know this wild fellow, this Osiecki, is capable of anything, and that his men are no better than he!"

"Waldemar knows it too," returned the Princess, with perfect calm, "and therefore he will be careful not to irritate him. He has learned such admirable coolness and prudence, there is no fear now of his being carried away when he really desires to control himself; and in his dealings with his subordinates he is invariably calm and collected."

"They hate him," said Wanda, with trembling lips. "They have already fired at, and missed, him on the road to the border-station. The second time they will take better aim."

The Princess started. "How do you know that?"

"One of my people brought the news from Wilicza," replied Wanda, quickly bethinking herself.

"A mere tale," said the Princess, contemptuously. "Probably invented by his anxious friend, Dr. Fabian. The poor man has, no doubt, heard an innocent shot fired in the woods at some bird, and has taken it for a murderous attempt on the life of his beloved pupil. He is constantly trembling for his safety. Waldemar is my son--that will ensure him against any attack."

"When their passions are once fully roused, that will no longer protect him," cried Wanda, imprudently allowing her apprehensions to get the better of her caution again. "You had given the forester orders to keep quiet, and you see how he has respected them."

The Princess turned a menacing look on her niece. "Would it not be better to reserve this exaggerated solicitude for our own friends? I think it might be far more suitably expended. You seem quite to forget that Leo is daily exposed to such dangers!"

"If we knew that it lay in our power to rescue him, should we lose an instant in hastening to his side?" broke forth the young Countess, passionately; "and wherever Leo may be, he is always at the head of his troops. Waldemar stands alone against that wild unruly band of men whom you yourself have stimulated into hatred of him, and who will not hesitate to turn their arms against their own master if he provokes them."

"Quite true--if he provokes them; but he will have sense enough not to do that, for he knows the danger, which in times like ours is not to be trifled with. Should he, notwithstanding this, risk the venture--should he have recourse to some act of violence--the consequences must be on his own bead."

Wanda shivered at the look which accompanied these words. "And you, a mother, can speak such words!"

"They are the words of a deeply offended mother, whom her son has driven to desperation. There can be no peace between Waldemar and myself while we both of us tread the same soil. Where I place my foot, I find him barring the way; when I attempt to exert my power, he is there on the defensive. What plans of ours has he not thwarted already! What have we not been obliged to sacrifice, to give up on his account! He has gone so far that we now stand opposed as mortal enemies. He is alone, is he?--let him bear alone, then, all that this enmity may bring down on his head."

Her voice was very cold and hard. That touch of maternal feeling, of a gentler emotion, which for a moment had softened it, had long since vanished. It was the Princess Baratowska who now spoke, one who never forgave an injury, and in whose eyes no injury could be so great as that of robbing her of her supremacy. Waldemar had been guilty of this, and he, least of all, would be forgiven the crime.

She was about to leave the room to prepare for her journey when her look fell on Wanda.

The girl had uttered no syllable in reply. She stood motionless; but her eye met the Princess's with such a look of stern resolution that the latter stopped.

"I must recall one thing to your mind before I go," said she, laying her hand firmly on her niece's arm. "If I do not warn Waldemar, no one else must do so--it would be treason to our cause. Ah, why do you start at the word! How would you describe it, if by letter or word of mouth, through a third or fourth hand, information were conveyed to the master of Wilicza which exposed our secrets to him? He would go under escort, very probably; but go he certainly would, in order to find out the meaning of the warning--why he was not to set foot in his own station, not to speak to his own forester whom he is about to call to account for a conflict with the patrols. It would cost us the border-station. Wanda, the Morynskis have hitherto never had cause to repent making the women of their house the confidants of their plans. There has never yet been a traitress among them."

"Aunt!" cried Wanda, in such a tone of horror that the Princess slowly withdrew her hand from her niece's arm.

"I only wished to make clear to you what is at stake. I suppose you will like to be able to look your father in the face on his return. How you will meet Leo's eye while your mind is racked by an anxiety you in vain strive to conceal, I know not. You must settle that matter with himself; but"--here the proud woman's terrible agitation broke through the constrained coldness of her tone--"but, could I ever have dreamed that such a blow would one day menace my son--that it would come upon him through Waldemar--instead of favouring Leo's unhappy love for you, I would have opposed it with my whole strength. Now it is too late for him--and for you too--the present hour has taught me that."

The young Countess was spared an answer, for Pawlick now came in to say that the horses had been put to. The Princess did not require much time for her preparations. In ten minutes she was equipped for her journey, and at once went down and entered the sledge which was waiting for her below. She took leave of her niece briefly and hurriedly, in the presence of the servants, and no further allusion was made to their previous conversation; but Wanda understood the parting glance which met hers. She laid her damp icy-cold hand in her aunt's, and the Princess appeared satisfied with the dumb promise.

Countess Morynska went back to the morning-room, and shut herself in that she might breathe freely once more; but relief is hard to find when one has such a mountain load on one's heart. She was alone at last! alone with her own thoughts, but also with her anxiety and that strong presentiment of evil in which the mother would place no faith. To call it forth, the instinct of love was needed, and no such instinct had ever stirred in the Princess's heart towards her eldest son; it came into play only when Leo and Leo's interests were concerned. Had she known that Waldemar's life would indeed be imperilled by the expedition, she would have said no word to hold him back, for might not such a word have wrought injury to her party and her party's cause?

Wanda stood at the writing-table, on which lay the letters from her father and Leo. One short warning, two or three lines hurriedly traced on the paper and sent over to Wilicza, might prevent it all! Waldemar would listen to the warning, whether he guessed from whom it was sent or not; he had promised to be more prudent, and he was well enough acquainted with the temper of the people. If, after all, he still went, he would at least go accompanied, so that they would not dare to attack him. He would not find it difficult to compel obedience, if once he determined to call in force to his aid. That which had passed at the border-station went very nigh open revolt. It would cost the master but a word to have the forester arrested and the station garrisoned by the troops--then he would be at peace.

And then! The Princess had taken a clear view of the case, and had spoken plainly of what would follow. She had taken good care that her niece should not get beyond that thought: 'and then!' Wanda had been so far initiated into the plans of her party as to be aware that the border-station now played the part which had been formerly destined to the Castle--all the machinations, which Waldemar's severe edict had banished from his home, were now carried on out yonder. There some portion of the supply of arms still lay hidden; the point of juncture was there, the centre whence messages were despatched, where news was received; much therefore depended upon the present forester's retaining his post. He knew this as well as his mistress, and the knowledge made him determine to stay on and brave the worst.

Nordeck himself but seldom visited the solitary distant station. He had too much to occupy him at Wilicza to bestow any special attention to that outlying post. Evidently he was only going over now in order, by his personal intervention, to quell a resistance such as he often encountered, and to which he attached no peculiar importance; but should he discover that at the forester's house his orders were openly scoffed at, that here a systematic opposition was organised against him, he would act, regardless of friend or foe, would go straight forward to his aim, and would forcibly deprive his mother of this last outpost, this last footing on his territory. Yet the discovery would be inevitable so soon as the fact was betrayed to him that some danger threatened him at that particular place.

All this stood out with inexorable distinctness before Wanda's mental vision; but just as clearly did Waldemar's danger face her whichever way she turned. She felt the most positive conviction that the bullet which but a short time before had jeopardised his life, had sped from the forester's rifle; that the man, whose hate and fanaticism urged him on to an attempt at assassination, would not hesitate to commit an assault on his master, if the latter stood before him alone, at his mercy! And she was to let him go unwarned, to let him go, perhaps, to his death!----Treason! Before that terrible word all her strength of will gave way. She had always been her father's confidant. He counted on his daughter's loyalty with absolute faith, and would have put from him with indignation the thought that she would ever betray a word of his secrets--betray it to save the life of an enemy. She herself had menaced Leo with her contempt when, in a paroxysm of jealousy, he had hesitated to fulfil his duty. Now this same duty, which had merely torn him from his beloved's side, and carried him into the thick of the fight, inflicted on her a far harder ordeal, the hardest of all, that of waiting the gradual approach of a danger, which by one stroke of her pen she could avert, of standing by silent and inactive, not lifting her hand to make that stroke!

All these thoughts rushed in rapid succession through the young Countess's mind, almost prostrating her energies. In vain she sought an outlet, a way of escape. The terrible alternative stared her in the face, look which way she would. If, up to this time, she had really been unaware of the state of her feelings, the present hour would have revealed it to her. For months past she had known Leo to be in danger, had feared for him as for a near and dear relative, had suffered anxiety, no doubt, but had borne that anxiety with a lofty composure, a heroism equal to that displayed by his mother; but now it was Waldemar who was in peril, and all Wanda's composure, all her heroism, was scattered to the winds, vanquished by the mortal dread which thrilled through her at the thought of his possible fate.

But there is a crisis in such moments of misery when the fiercest, the most cruel anguish gives way to a sort of stunned insensibility, the very faculty of suffering being exhausted, for the time being at least. More than an hour had passed since Wanda had shut herself in, and her drawn and agonised features bore witness to all that she had endured in the interval; now there came to her one of those moments when she could no longer struggle or despair, when she could not even think. Faint and weary she threw herself on to a chair, leaned back her head, and closed her eyes.

Then once more arose before her the old dream-picture which once long ago had shaped itself mid the glow of sunshine and the murmur of the waves, weaving its charm round two youthful hearts all unconscious as yet of what it portended to them. Since that autumn evening by the forest lake it had risen so often, so persistently--by no effort of will could it be dispelled, or scared away. The day before yesterday it had been with them again on their lonely journey through that wintry land. It flew with them over the broad snow-fields; it glimmered out from the distant mist of the horizon, hovered in the dense masses of cloud which hung so low over the earth; no desolate gloom, no icy chill could lay that fair phantom--now again it appeared suddenly before her, as though evoked by some magician's wand, all radiant in its golden glory. Yet Wanda had fought against it with all the passionate earnestness, the energy of her character. She had placed distance between herself and this man whom she was determined to hate, because he was not the friend of her people, had sought her salvation in the strife now so fiercely blazing between the two nations; but of what avail this desperate battling with a superior force? Victory had not been achieved despite of all her struggling. This was no mere dream--she could no longer deceive herself. She knew now the nature of the charm which had worked on her one summer evening long ago on the Beech Holm, knew that in that hour by the forest lake the half broken threads had again been taken up, and this time indissolubly united. At length she recognised the treasures which the old enchanted city had opened to her gaze for a few fleeting minutes, only to sink with them once more into the depths. In one respect only the legend had spoken truly--the memory of that vision was not to be effaced, the longing for it not to be stilled. Through hatred and strife, through the distant clang of war and the low murmur of rebellion came a sweet, mysterious music as of Vineta's bells chiming from below the waters.

Wanda rose slowly. The fearful conflict in her mind, the struggle between love and duty was over. Those last minutes had decided her. She did not hurry to her writing-table, or lay a finger on her pen. There was to be no message, no warning. She drew back the bolt from the door, and next instant a sharp, clear ring summoned the servant to her. Countess Morynska leaned on the table by which she stood. Her hand trembled; but her face wore the calm of an unalterable resolution.

"And if it really comes to the worst, I will interfere," she said, with lips which quivered a little. "His mother in her cold indifference will let him go to meet the danger. It shall be my task to save him."