We had left Brussels and Belgium behind, had departed from the regions of Chemins de fer, and entered those of Eisenbahnen. We were at Cologne, where we had to change and wait half an hour before we could go on to Elberthal. We sat in the wartesaal, and I had committed to my charge two bundles, with strict injunctions not to lose them.
Then the doors were opened, and the people made a mad rush to a train standing somewhere in the dim distance. Merrick, Miss Hallam’s maid, had to give her whole attention to her mistress. I followed close in their wake, until, as we had almost come to the train, I cast my eyes downward and perceived that there was missing from my arm a gray shawl of Miss Hallam’s, which had been committed to my charge, and upon which she set a fidgety kind of value, as being particularly warm or particularly soft.
Dismayed, I neither hesitated nor thought, but turned, fought my way through the throng of people to the waiting-room again, hunted every corner, but in vain, for the shawl. Either it was completely lost, or Merrick had, without my observing it, taken it under her own protection. It was not in the waiting-room. Giving up the search I hurried to the door: it was fast. No one more, it would seem, was to be let out that way; I must go round, through the passages into the open hall of the station, and so on to the platform again. More easily said than done. Always, from my earliest youth up, I have had a peculiar fancy for losing myself. On this eventful day I lost myself. I ran through the passages, came into the great open place surrounded on every side by doors leading to the platforms, offices, or booking offices. Glancing hastily round, I selected the door which appeared to my imperfectly developed “locality” to promise egress upon the platform, pushed it open, and going along a covered passage, and through another door, found myself, after the loss of a good five minutes, in a lofty deserted wing of the station, gazing wildly at an empty platform, and feverishly scanning all the long row of doors to my right, in a mad effort to guess which would take me from this delightful terra incognito back to my friends.
Gepäck-Expedition, I read, and thought it did not sound promising. Telegraphs bureau. Impossible! Ausgang. There was the magic word, and I, not knowing it, stared at it and was none the wiser for its friendly sign. I heard a hollow whistle in the distance. No doubt it was the Elberthal train going away, and my heart sunk deep, deep within my breast. I knew no German word. All I could say was “Elberthal;” and my nearest approach to “first-class” was to point to the carriage doors and say “Ein,” which might or might not be understood—probably not, when the universal stupidity of the German railway official is taken into consideration, together with his chronic state of gratuitous suspicion that a bad motive lurks under every question which is put to him. I heard a subdued bustle coming from the right hand in the distance, and I ran hastily to the other end of the great empty place, seeing, as I thought, an opening. Vain delusion! Deceptive dream of the fancy! There was a glass window through which I looked and saw a street thronged with passengers and vehicles. I hurried back again to find my way to the entrance of the station and there try another door, when I heard a bell ring violently—a loud groaning and shrieking, and then the sound, as it were, of a train departing. A porter—at least a person in uniform, appeared in a door-way. How I rushed up to him! How I seized his arm, and dropping my rugs gesticulated excitedly and panted forth the word “Elberthal!”
“Elberthal?” said he in a guttural bass; “Wollt ihr nach Elberthal, fräuleinchen!”
There was an impudent twinkle in his eye, as it were impertinence trying to get the better of beer, and I reiterated “Elberthal,” growing very red, and cursing all foreign speeches by my gods—a process often employed, I believe, by cleverer persons than I, with reference to things they do not understand.
“Schon fort, Fräulein,” he continued, with a grin.
He was about to make some further reply, when, turning, he seemed to see some one, and assumed a more respectful demeanor. I too turned, and saw at some little distance from us a gentleman sauntering along, who, though coming toward us, did not seem to observe us. Would he understand me if I spoke to him? Desperate as I was, I felt some timidity about trying it. Never had I felt so miserable, so helpless, so utterly ashamed as I did then. My lips trembled as the new-comer drew nearer, and the porter, taking the opportunity of quitting a scene which began to bore him, slipped away. I was left alone on the platform, nervously snatching short glances at the person slowly, very slowly approaching me. He did not look up as if he beheld me or in any way remarked my presence. His eyes were bent toward the ground: his fingers drummed a tune upon his chest. As he approached, I heard that he was humming something. I even heard the air; it has been impressed upon my memory firmly enough since, though I did not know it then—the air of the march from Raff’s Fifth Symphonie, the “Lenore.” I heard the tune softly hummed in a mellow voice, as with face burning and glowing, I placed myself before him. Then he looked suddenly up as if startled, fixed upon me a pair of eyes which gave me a kind of shock; so keen, so commanding were they, with a kind of tameless freedom in their glance such as I had never seen before.
Arrested (no doubt by my wild and excited appearance), he stood still and looked at me, and as he looked a slight smile began to dawn upon his lips. Not an Englishman. I should have known him for an outlander anywhere. I remarked no details of his appearance; only that he was tall and had, as it seemed to me, a commanding bearing. I stood hesitating and blushing. (To this very day the blood comes to my face as I think of my agony of blushes in that immemorial moment.) I saw a handsome—a very handsome face, quite different from any I had ever seen before: the startling eyes before spoken of, and which surveyed me with a look so keen, so cool, and so bright, which seemed to penetrate through and through me; while a slight smile curled the light mustache upward—a general aspect which gave me the impression that he was not only a personage, but a very great personage—with a flavor of something else permeating it all which puzzled me and made me feel embarrassed as to how to address him. While I stood inanely trying to gather my senses together, he took off the little cloth cap he wore, and bowing, asked:
“Mein Fräulein, in what can I assist you?”
His English was excellent—his bow like nothing I had seen before. Convinced that I had met a genuine, thorough fine gentleman (in which I was right for once in my life), I began:
“I have lost my way,” and my voice trembled in spite of all my efforts to steady it. “In a crowd I lost my friends, and—I was going to Elberthal, and I turned the wrong way—and—”
“Have come to destruction, nicht wahr?” He looked at his watch, raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders. “The Elberthal train is already away.”
“Gone!” I dropped my rugs and began a tremulous search for my pocket-handkerchief. “What shall I do?”
“There is another—let me see—in one hour—two—will ’mal nachsehen. Will you come with me, Fräulein, and we will see about the trains.”
“If you would show me the platform,” said I. “Perhaps some of them may still be there. Oh, what will they think of me?”
“We must go to the wartesaal,” said he. “Then you can look out and see if you see any of them.”
I had no choice but to comply.
My benefactor picked up my two bundles, and, in spite of my expostulations, carried them with him. He took me through the door inscribed Ausgang, and the whole thing seemed so extremely simple now, that my astonishment as to how I could have lost myself increased every minute. He went before me to the waiting-room, put my bundles upon one of the sofas, and we went to the door. The platform was almost as empty as the one we had left.
I looked round, and though it was only what I had expected, yet my face fell when I saw how utterly and entirely my party had disappeared.
“You see them not?” he inquired.
“No—they are gone,” said I, turning away from the window and choking down a sob, not very effectually. Turning my damp and sorrowful eyes to my companion, I found that he was still smiling to himself as if quietly amused at the whole adventure.
“I will go and see at what time the trains go to Elberthal. Suppose you sit down—yes?”
Passively obeying, I sat down and turned my situation over in my mind, in which kind of agreeable mental legerdemain I was still occupied when he returned.
“It is now half past three, and there is a train to Elberthal at seven.”
“Seven: a very pleasant time to travel, nicht wahr? Then it is still quite light.”
“So long! Three hours and a half,” I murmured, dejectedly, and bit my lips and hung my head. Then I said, “I am sure I am much obliged to you. If I might ask you a favor?”
“Bitte, mein Fräulein!”
“If you could show me exactly where the train starts from, and—could I get a ticket now, do you think?”
“I’m afraid not, so long before,” he answered, twisting his mustache, as I could not help seeing, to hide a smile.
“Then,” said I, with stoic calmness, “I shall never get to Elberthal—never, for I don’t know a word of German, not one,” I sat more firmly down upon the sofa, and tried to contemplate the future with fortitude.
“I can tell you what to say,” said he, removing with great deliberation the bundles which divided us, and sitting down beside me. He leaned his chin upon his hand and looked at me, ever, as it seemed to me, with amusement tempered with kindness, and I felt like a very little girl indeed.
“You are exceedingly good,” I replied, “but it would be of no use. I am so frightened of those men in blue coats and big mustaches. I should not be able to say a word to any of them.”
“German is sometimes not unlike English.”
“It is like nothing to me, except a great mystery.”
“Billet, is ‘ticket,’” said he persuasively.
“Oh, is it?” said I, with a gleam of hope. “Perhaps I could remember that. Billet,” I repeated reflectively.
“Billet,” he amended; “not Billit.”
“Bill-yet—Bill-yet,” I repeated.
“And ‘to Elberthal’ may be said in one word, ‘Elberthal.’ ‘Ein Billet—Elberthal—erster Classe.’”
“Ein Bill-yet,” I repeated, automatically, for my thoughts were dwelling more upon the charming quandary in which I found myself than upon his half-good-natured half-mocking instructions: “Ein Bill-yet, firste—erste—it is of no use. I can’t say it. But”—here a brilliant idea struck me—“if you could write it out for me on a paper, and then I could give it to the man: he would surely know what it meant.”
“A very interesting idea, but a vivâ voce interview is so much better.”
“I wonder how long it takes to walk to Elberthal!” I suggested darkly.
“Oh, a mere trifle of a walk. You might do it in four or five hours, I dare say.”
I bit my lips, trying not to cry.
“Perhaps we might make some other arrangement,” he remarked. “I am going to Elberthal too.”
“You! Thank Heaven!” was my first remark. Then as a doubt came over me: “Then why—why—”
Here I stuck fast, unable to ask why he had said so many tormenting things to me, pretended to teach me German phrases, and so on. The words would not come out. Meanwhile he, without apparently feeling it necessary to explain himself upon these points, went on:
“Yes. I have been at a probe” (not having the faintest idea as to what a probe might be, and not liking to ask, I held my peace and bowed assentingly). He went on, “And I was delayed a little. I had intended to go by the train you have lost, so if you are not afraid to trust yourself to my care we can travel together.”
“You—you are very kind.”
“Then you are not afraid?”
“I—oh, no! I should like it very much. I mean I am sure it would be very nice.”
Feeling that my social powers were as yet in a very undeveloped condition, I subsided into silence, as he went on:
“I hope your friends will not be very uneasy?”
“Oh, dear no!” I assured him, with a pious conviction that I was speaking the truth.
“We shall arrive at Elberthal about half past eight.”
I scarcely heard. I had plunged my hand into my pocket, and found—a hideous conviction crossed my mind—I had no money! I had until this moment totally forgotten having given my purse to Merrick to keep; and she, as pioneer of the party, naturally had all our tickets under her charge. My heart almost stopped beating. It was unheard of, horrible, this possibility of falling into the power of a total, utter stranger—a foreigner—a—Heaven only knew what! Engrossed with this painful and distressing problem, I sat silent, and with eyes gloomily cast down.
“One thing is certain,” he remarked. “We do not want to spend three hours and a half in the station. I want some dinner. A four hours’ probe is apt to make one a little hungry. Come, we will go and have something to eat.”
The idea had evidently come to him as a species of inspiration, and he openly rejoiced in it.
“I am not hungry,” said I; but I was, very. I knew it now that the idea “dinner” had made itself conspicuous in my consciousness.
“Perhaps you think not; but you are, all the same,” he said. “Come with me, Fräulein. You have put yourself into my hands; you must do what I tell you.”
I followed him mechanically out of the station and down the street, and I tried to realize that instead of being with Miss Hallam and Merrick, my natural and respectable protectors, safely and conventionally plodding the slow way in the slow continental train to the slow continental town, I was parading about the streets of Köln with a man of whose very existence I had half an hour ago been ignorant; I was dependent, too, upon him, and him alone, for my safe arrival at Elberthal. And I followed him unquestioningly, now and then telling myself, by way of feeble consolation, that he was a gentleman—he certainly was a gentleman—and wishing now and then, or trying to wish, with my usual proper feeling, that it had been some nice old lady with whom I had fallen in: it would have made the whole adventure blameless, and, comparatively speaking, agreeable.
We went along a street and came to a hotel, a large building, into which my conductor walked, spoke to a waiter, and we were shown into the restaurant, full of round tables, and containing some half dozen parties of people. I followed with stony resignation. It was the severest trial of all, this coming to a hotel alone with a gentleman in broad daylight. I caught sight of a reflection in a mirror of a tall, pale girl, with heavy, tumbled auburn hair, a brown hat which suited her, and a severely simple traveling-dress. I did not realize until I had gone past that it was my own reflection which I had seen.
“Suppose we sit here,” said he, going to a table in a comparatively secluded window recess, partially overhung with curtains.
“How very kind and considerate of him!” thought I.
“Would you rather have wine or coffee, Fräulein?”
Pulled up from the impulse to satisfy my really keen hunger by the recollection of my “lack of gold,” I answered hastily.
“Nothing, thank you—really nothing.”
“O doch! You must have something,” said he, smiling. “I will order something. Don’t trouble about it.”
“Don’t order anything for me,” said I, my cheeks burning. “I shall not eat anything.”
“If you do not eat, you will be ill. Remember, we do not get to Elberthal before eight,” said he. “Is it perhaps disagreeable to you to eat in the saal? If you like we can have a private room.”
“It is not that at all,” I replied; and seeing that he looked surprised, I blurted out the truth. “I have no money. I gave my purse to Miss Hallam’s maid to keep and she has taken it with her.”
With a laugh, in which, infectious though it was, I was too wretched to join:
“Is that all? Kellner!” cried he.
An obsequious waiter came up, smiled sweetly and meaningly at us, received some orders from my companion, and disappeared.
He seated himself beside me at the little round table.
“He will bring something at once,” said he, smiling.
I sat still. I was not happy, and yet I could not feel all the unhappiness which I considered appropriate to the circumstances.
My companion took up a “Kölnische Zeitung,” and glanced over the advertisements, while I looked a little stealthily at him, and for the first time took in more exactly what he was like, and grew more puzzled with him each moment. As he leaned upon the table, one slight, long, brown hand propping his head, and half lost in the thick, fine brown hair which waved in large, ample waves over his head, there was an indescribable grace, ease, and negligent beauty in the attitude. Move as he would, let him assume any possible or impossible attitude, there was still in the same grace, half careless, yet very dignified in the position he took.
All his lines were lines of beauty, but beauty which had power and much masculine strength; nowhere did it degenerate into flaccidity, nowhere lose strength in grace. His hair was long, and I wondered at it. My small experience in our delightful home and village circle had not acquainted me with that flowing style; the young men of my acquaintance cropped their hair close to the scalp, and called it the modern style of hair-dressing. It had always looked to me more like hair-undressing. This hair fell in a heavy wave over his forehead, and he had the habit, common to people whose hair does so, of lifting his head suddenly and shaking back the offending lock. His forehead was broad, open, pleasant, yet grave. Eyes, as I had seen, very dark, and with lashes and brows which enhanced the contrast to a complexion at once fair and pale. A light mustache, curving almost straight across the face, gave a smiling expression to lips which were otherwise grave, calm, almost sad. In fact, looking nearer, I thought he did look sad; and though when he looked at me his eyes were so piercing, yet in repose they had a certain distant, abstracted expression not far removed from absolute mournfulness. Broad-shouldered, long-armed, with a physique in every respect splendid, he was yet very distinctly removed from the mere handsome animal which I believe enjoys a distinguished popularity in the latter-day romance.
Now, as his eyes were cast upon the paper, I perceived lines upon his forehead, signs about the mouth and eyes telling of a firm, not to say imperious, disposition; a certain curve of the lips, and of the full, yet delicate nostril, told of pride both strong and high. He was older than I had thought, his face sparer; there were certain hollows in the cheeks, two lines between the eyebrows, a sharpness, or rather somewhat worn appearance of the features, which told of a mental life, keen and consuming. Altogether, an older, more intellectual, more imposing face than I had at first thought; less that of a young and handsome man, more that of a thinker and student. Lastly, a cool ease, deliberation, and leisureliness about all he said and did, hinted at his being a person in authority, accustomed to give orders and see them obeyed without question. I decided that he was, in our graceful home phrase, “master in his own house.”
His clothing was unremarkable—gray summer clothes, such as any gentleman or any shop-keeper might wear; only in scanning him no thought of shop-keeper came into my mind. His cap lay upon the table beside us, one of the little gray Studentenmutzen with which Elberthal soon made me familiar, but which struck me then as odd and outlandish. I grew every moment more interested in my scrutiny of this, to me, fascinating and remarkable face, and had forgotten to try to look as if I were not looking, when he looked up suddenly, without warning, with those bright, formidable eyes, which had already made me feel somewhat shy as I caught them fixed upon me.
“Nun, have you decided?” he asked, with a humorous look in his eyes, which he was too polite to allow to develop itself into a smile.
“I—oh, I beg your pardon!”
“You do not want to,” he answered, in imperfect idiom. “But have you decided?”
“Whether I am to be trusted?”
“I have not been thinking about that,” I said, uncomfortably, when to my relief the appearance of the waiter with preparations for a meal saved me further reply.
“What shall we call this meal?” he asked, as the waiter disappeared to bring the repast to the table. “It is too late for the Mittagessen, and too early for the Abendbrod. Can you suggest a name?”
“At home it would be just the time for afternoon tea.”
“Ah, yes! Your English afternoon tea is very—” He stopped suddenly.
“Have you been in England?”
“This is just the time at which we drink our afternoon coffee in Germany,” said he, looking at me with his impenetrably bright eyes, just as if he had never heard me. “When the ladies all meet together to talk scan—O, behüte! What am I saying?—to consult seriously upon important topics, you know. There are some low-minded persons who call the whole ceremony a Klatsch—Kaffeeklatsch. I am sure you and I shall talk seriously upon important subjects, so suppose we call this our Kaffeeklatsch, although we have no coffee to it.”
“Oh, yes, if you like.”
He put a piece of cutlet upon my plate, and poured yellow wine into my glass. Endeavoring to conduct myself with the dignity of a grown-up person and to show that I did know something, I inquired if the wine were hock.
He smiled. “It is not Hochheimer—not Rheinwein at all—he—no, it, you say—it is Moselle wine—‘Doctor.’”
“Doctorberger; I do not know why so called. And a very good fellow too—so say all his friends, of whom I am a warm one. Try him.”
I complied with the admonition, and was able to say that I liked Doctorberger. We ate and drank in silence for some little time, and I found that I was very hungry. I also found that I could not conjure up any real feeling of discomfort or uneasiness, and that the prospective scolding from Miss Hallam had no terrors in it for me. Never had I felt so serene in mind, never more at ease in every way, than now. I felt that this was wrong—bohemian, irregular, and not respectable, and tried to get up a little unhappiness about something. The only thing that I could think of was:
“I am afraid I am taking up your time. Perhaps you had some business which you were going to when you met me.”
“My business, when I met you, was to catch the train to Elberthal, which was already gone, as you know. I shall not be able to fulfill my engagements for to-night, so it really does not matter. I am enjoying myself very much.”
“I am very glad I did meet you,” said I, growing more reassured as I found that my companion, though exceedingly polite and attentive to me, did not ask a question as to my business, my traveling companions, my intended stay or object in Elberthal—that he behaved as a perfect gentleman—one who is a gentleman throughout, in thought as well as in deed. He did not even ask me how it was that my friends had not waited a little for me, though he must have wondered why two people left a young girl, moneyless and ignorant, to find her way after them as well as she could. He took me as he found me, and treated me as if I had been the most distinguished and important of persons. But at my last remark he said, with the same odd smile which took me by surprise every time I saw it:
“The pleasure is certainly not all on your side, mein Fräulein. I suppose from that you have decided that I am to be trusted?”
I stammered out something to the effect that “I should be very ungrateful were I not satisfied with—with such a—” I stopped, looking at him in some confusion. I saw a sudden look flash into his eyes and over his face. It was gone again in a moment—so fleeting that I had scarce time to mark it, but it opened up a crowd of strange new impressions to me, and while I could no more have said what it was like the moment it was gone, yet it left two desires almost equally strong in me—I wished in one and the same moment that I had for my own peace of mind never seen him—and that I might never lose sight of him again: to fly from that look, to remain and encounter it. The tell-tale mirror in the corner caught my eye. At home they used sometimes to call me, partly in mockery, partly in earnest, “Bonny May.” The sobriquet had hitherto been a mere shadow, a meaningless thing, to me. I liked to hear it, but had never paused to consider whether it were appropriate or not. In my brief intercourse with my venerable suitor, Sir Peter, I had come a little nearer to being actively aware that I was good-looking, only to anathematize the fact. Now, catching sight of my reflection in the mirror, I wondered eagerly whether I really were fair, and wished I had some higher authority to think so than the casual jokes of my sisters. It did not add to my presence of mind to find that my involuntary glance to the mirror had been intercepted—perhaps even my motive guessed at—he appeared to have a frightfully keen instinct.
“Have you seen the Dom?” was all he said; but it seemed somehow to give a point to what had passed.
“The Dom—what is the Dom?”
“The Kölner Dom; the cathedral.”
“Oh, no! Oh, should we have time to see it?” I exclaimed. “How I should like it!”
“Certainly. It is close at hand. Suppose we go now.”
Gladly I rose, as he did. One of my most ardent desires was about to be fulfilled—not so properly and correctly as might have been desired, but—yes, certainly more pleasantly than under the escort of Miss Hallam, grumbling at every groschen she had to unearth in payment.
Before we could leave our seclusion there came up to us a young man who had looked at us through the door and paused. I had seen him; had seen how he said something to a companion, and how the companion shook his head dissentingly. The first speaker came up to us, eyed me with a look of curiosity, and turning to my protector with a benevolent smile, said:
“Eugen Courvoisier! Also hatte ich doch Recht!”
I caught the name. The rest was of course lost upon me. Eugen Courvoisier? I liked it, as I liked him, and in my young enthusiasm decided that it was a very good name. The new-corner, who seemed as if much pleased with some discovery, and entertained at the same time, addressed some questions to Courvoisier, who answered him tranquilly but in a tone of voice which was very freezing; and then the other, with a few words and an unbelieving kind of laugh, said something about a schöne Geschichte, and, with another look at me, went out of the coffee-room again.
We went out of the hotel, up the street to the cathedral. It was the first cathedral I had ever been in. The shock and the wonder of its grandeur took my breath away. When I had found courage to look round, and up at those awful vaults the roofs, I could not help crying a little. The vastness, coolness, stillness, and splendor crushed me—the great solemn rays of sunlight coming in slanting glory through the windows—the huge height—the impression it gave of greatness, and of a religious devotion to which we shall never again attain; of pure, noble hearts, and patient, skillful hands, toiling, but in a spirit that made the toil a holy prayer—carrying out the builder’s thought—great thought greatly executed—all was too much for me, the more so in that while I felt it all I could not analyze it. It was a dim, indefinite wonder. I tried stealthily and in shame to conceal my tears, looking surreptitiously at him in fear lest he should be laughing at me again. But he was not. He held his cap in his hand—was looking with those strange, brilliant eyes fixedly toward the high altar, and there was some expression upon his face which I could not analyze—not the expression of a person for whom such a scene has grown or can grow common by custom—not the expression of a sight-seer who feels that he must admire; not my own first astonishment. At least he felt it—the whole grand scene, and I instinctively and instantly felt more at home with him than I had done before.
“Oh!” said I, at last, “if one could stay here forever, what would one grow to?”
He smiled a little.
“You find it beautiful?”
“It is the first I have seen. It is much more than beautiful.”
“The first you have seen? Ah, well, I might have guessed that.”
“Why? Do I look so countrified?” I inquired, with real interest, as I let him lead me to a little side bench, and place himself beside me. I asked in all good faith. About him there seemed such a cosmopolitan ease, that I felt sure he could tell me correctly how I struck other people—if he would.
“Countrified—what is that?”
“Oh, we say it when people are like me—have never seen anything but their own little village, and never had any adventures, and—”
“Get lost at railway stations, und so weiter. I don’t know enough of the meaning of ‘countrified’ to be able to say if you are so, but it is easy to see that you—have not had much contention with the powers that be.”
“Oh, I shall not be stupid long,” said I, comfortably. “I am not going back home again.”
“So!” He did not ask more, but I saw that he listened, and proceeded communicatively:
“Never. I have—not quarreled with them exactly, but had a disagreement, because—because—”
“They wanted me to—I mean, an old gentleman—no, I mean—”
“An old gentleman wanted you to marry him, and you would not,” said he, with an odd twinkle in his eyes.
“Why, how can you know?”
“I think, because you told me. But I will forget it if you wish.”
“Oh, no! It is quite true. Perhaps I ought to have married him.”
“Ought!” He looked startled.
“Yes. Adelaide—my eldest sister—said so. But it was no use. I was very unhappy, and Miss Hallam, who is Sir Peter’s deadly enemy—he is the old gentleman, you know—was very kind to me. She invited me to come with her to Germany, and promised to let me have singing lessons.”
I nodded. “Yes; and then when I know a good deal more about singing, I shall go back again and give lessons. I shall support myself, and then no one will have the right to want to make me marry Sir Peter.”
“Du lieber Himmel!” he ejaculated, half to himself. “Are you very musical, then?”
“I can sing,” said I. “Only I want some more training.”
“And you will go back all alone and try to give lessons?”
“I shall not only try, I shall do it,” I corrected him.
“And do you like the prospect?”
“If I can get enough money to live upon, I shall like it very much. It will be better than living at home and being bothered.”
“I will tell you what you should do before you begin your career,” said he, looking at me with an expression half wondering, half pitying.
“What? If you could tell me anything.”
“Preserve your voice, by all means, and get as much instruction as you can; but change all that waving hair, and make it into unobjectionable smooth bands of no particular color. Get a mask to wear over your face, which is too expressive; do something to your eyes to alter their—”
The expression then visible in the said eyes seemed to strike him, for he suddenly stopped, and with a slight laugh, said:
“Ach, was rede ich für dummes Zeug! Excuse me, mein Fräulein.”
“But,” I interrupted, earnestly, “what do you mean? Do you think my appearance will be a disadvantage to me?”
Scarcely had I said the words than I knew how intensely stupid they were, how very much they must appear as if I were openly and impudently fishing for compliments. How grateful I felt when he answered, with a grave directness, which had nothing but the highest compliment in it—that of crediting me with right motives:
“Mein Fräulein, how can I tell? It is only that I knew some one, rather older than you, and very beautiful, who had such a pursuit. Her name was Corona Heidelberger, and her story was a sad one.”
“Tell it me,” I besought.
“Well, no, I think not. But—sometimes I have a little gift of foresight, and that tells me that you will not become what you at present think. You will be much happier and more fortunate.”
“I wonder if it would be nice to be a great operatic singer,” I speculated.
“O, behüte! don’t think of it!” he exclaimed, starting up and moving restlessly. “You do not know—you an opera singer—”
He was interrupted. There suddenly filled the air a sound of deep, heavenly melody, which swept solemnly adown the aisles, and filled with its melodious thunder every corner of the great building. I listened with my face upraised, my lips parted. It was the organ, and presently, after a wonderful melody, which set my heart beating—a melody full of the most witchingly sweet high notes, and a breadth and grandeur of low ones such as only two composers have ever attained to, a voice—a single woman’s voice—was upraised. She was invisible, and she sung till the very sunshine seemed turned to melody, and all the world was music—the greatest, most glorious of earthly things.
“What is it?” I asked below my breath, as it ceased.
He had shaded his face with his hand, but turned to me as I spoke, a certain half-suppressed enthusiasm in his eyes.
“Be thankful for your first introduction to German music,” said he, “and that it was grand old Johann Sebastian Bach whom you heard. That is one of the soprano solos in the Passions-musik—that is music.”
There was more music. A tenor voice was singing a recitative now, and that exquisite accompaniment, with a sort of joyful solemnity, still continued. Every now and then, shrill, high, and clear, penetrated a chorus of boys’ voices. I, outer barbarian that I was, barely knew the name of Bach and his “Matthaus Passion,” so in the pauses my companion told me by snatches what it was about. There was not much of it. After a few solos and recitatives, they tried one or two of the choruses. I sat in silence, feeling a new world breaking in glory around me, till that tremendous chorus came; the organ notes swelled out, the tenor voice sung “Whom will ye that I give unto you?” and the answer came, crashing down in one tremendous clap, “Barrabam!” And such music was in the world, had been sung for years, and I had not heard it. Verily, there may be revelations and things new under the sun every day.
I had forgotten everything outside the cathedral—every person but the one at my side. It was he who roused first, looking at his watch and exclaiming.
“Herrgott! We must go to the station, Fräulein, if we wish to catch the train.”
And yet I did not think he seemed very eager to catch it, as we went through the busy streets in the warmth of the evening, for it was hot, as it sometimes is in pleasant April, before the withering east winds of the “merry month” have come to devastate the land and sweep sickly people off the face of the earth. We went slowly through the moving crowds to the station, into the wartesaal, where he left me while he went to take my ticket. I sat in the same corner of the same sofa as before, and to this day I could enumerate every object in that wartesaal.
It was after seven o’clock. The outside sky was still bright, but it was dusk in the waiting-room and under the shadow of the station. When “Eugen Courvoisier” came in again, I did not see his features so distinctly as lately in the cathedral. Again he sat down beside me, silently this time. I glanced at his face, and a strange, sharp, pungent thrill shot through me. The companion of a few hours—was he only that?
“Are you very tired?” he asked, gently, after a long pause. “I think the train will not be very long now.”
Even as he spoke, clang, clang, went the bell, and for the second time that day I went toward the train for Elberthal. This time no wrong turning, no mistake. Courvoisier put me into an empty compartment, and followed me, said something to a guard who went past, of which I could only distinguish the word allein; but as no one disturbed our privacy, I concluded that German railway guards, like English ones, are mortal.
After debating within myself for some time, I screwed up my courage and began:
“Mr. Courvoisier—your name is Courvoisier, is it not?”
“Will you please tell me how much money you have spent for me to-day?”
“How much money?” he asked, looking at me with a provoking smile.
The train was rumbling slowly along, the night darkening down. We sat by an open window, and I looked through it at the gray, Dutch-like landscape, the falling dusk, the poplars that seemed sedately marching along with us.
“Why do you want to know how much?” he demanded.
“Because I shall want to pay you, of course, when I get my purse,” said I. “And if you will kindly tell me your address, too—but how much money did you spend?”
He looked at me, seemed about to laugh off the question, and then said:
“I believe it was about three thalers ten groschen, but I am not at all sure. I can not tell till I do my accounts.”
“Oh, dear!” said I.
“Suppose I let you know how much it was,” he went on, with a gravity which forced conviction upon me.
“Perhaps that would be the best,” I agreed. “But I hope you will make out your accounts soon.”
“Oh, very soon. And where shall I send my bill to?”
Feeling as if there were something not quite as it should be in the whole proceeding, I looked very earnestly at him, but could find nothing but the most perfect gravity in his expression. I repeated my address and name slowly and distinctly, as befitted so business-like a transaction, and he wrote them down in a little book.
“And you will not forget,” said I, “to give me your address when you let me know what I owe you.”
“Certainly—when I let you know what you owe me,” he replied, putting the little book into his pocket again.
“I wonder if any one will come to meet me,” I speculated, my mind more at ease in consequence of the business-like demeanor of my companion.
“Possibly,” said he, with an ambiguous half smile, which I did not understand.
“Miss Hallam—the lady I came with—is almost blind. Her maid had to look after her, and I suppose that is why they did not wait for me,” said I.
“It must have been a very strong reason, at any rate,” he said, gravely.
Now the train rolled into the Elberthal station. There were lights, movement, a storm of people all gabbling away in a foreign tongue. I looked out. No face of any one I knew. Courvoisier sprung down and helped me out.
“Now I will put you into a drosky,” said he, leading the way to where they stood outside the station.
“Alléestrasse, thirty-nine,” he said to the man.
“Stop one moment,” cried I, leaning eagerly out. At that moment a tall, dark girl passed us, going slowly toward the gates. She almost paused as she saw us. She was looking at my companion; I did not see her face, and was only conscious of her as coming between me and him, and so anoying me.
“Please let me thank you,” I continued. “You have been so kind, so very kind—”
“O, bitte sehr! It was so kind in you to get lost exactly when and where you did,” said he, smiling. “Adieu, mein Fräulein,” he added, making a sign to the coachman, who drove off.
I saw him no more. “Eugen Courvoisier”—I kept repeating the name to myself, as if I were in the very least danger of forgetting it—“Eugen Courvoisier.” Now that I had parted from him I was quite clear as to my own feelings. I would have given all I was worth—not much, truly—to see him for one moment again.
Along a lighted street with houses on one side, a gleaming shine of water on the other, and trees on both, down a cross-way, then into another street, very wide, and gayly lighted, in the midst of which was an avenue.
We stopped with a rattle before a house door, and I read, by the light of the lamp that hung over it, “39.”