Six Weeks at
Heppenheim by Elizabeth Gaskell
After I left Oxford, I determined to spend some months in travel
before settling down in life. My father had left me a few thousands,
the income arising from which would be enough to provide for all the
necessary requirements of a lawyer's education; such as lodgings in a
quiet part of London, fees and payment to the distinguished barrister
with whom I was to read; but there would be small surplus left over for
luxuries or amusements; and as I was rather in debt on leaving college,
since I had forestalled my income, and the expenses of my travelling
would have to be defrayed out of my capital, I determined that they
should not exceed fifty pounds. As long as that sum would last me I
would remain abroad; when it was spent my holiday should be over, and I
would return and settle down somewhere in the neighbourhood of Russell
Square, in order to be near Mr. 's chambers in Lincoln's-inn. I had
to wait in London for one day while my passport was being made out, and
I went to examine the streets in which I purposed to live; I had picked
them out, from studying a map, as desirable; and so they were, if
judged entirely by my reason; but their aspect was very depressing to
one country-bred, and just fresh from the beautiful street-architecture
of Oxford. The thought of living in such a monotonous gray district for
years made me all the more anxious to prolong my holiday by all the
economy which could eke out my fifty pounds. I thought I could make it
last for one hundred days at least. I was a good walker, and had no
very luxurious tastes in the matter of accommodation or food; I had as
fair a knowledge of German and French as any untravelled Englishman can
have; and I resolved to avoid expensive hotels such as my own
I have stated this much about myself to explain how I fell in with
the little story that I am going to record, but with which I had not
much to do,my part in it being little more than that of a
sympathizing spectator. I had been through France into Switzerland,
where I had gone beyond my strength in the way of walking, and I was on
my way home, when one evening I came to the village of Heppenheim, on
the Berg-Strasse. I had strolled about the dirty town of Worms all
morning, and dined in a filthy hotel; and after that I had crossed the
Rhine, and walked through Lorsch to Heppenheim. I was unnaturally tired
and languid as I dragged myself up the rough-paved and irregular
village street to the inn recommended to me. It was a large building,
with a green court before it. A cross-looking but scrupulously clean
hostess received me, and showed me into a large room with a
dinner-table in it, which, though it might have accommodated thirty or
forty guests, only stretched down half the length of the eating-room.
There were windows at each end of the room; two looked to the front of
the house, on which the evening shadows had already fallen; the
opposite two were partly doors, opening into a large garden full of
trained fruit-trees and beds of vegetables, amongst which rose-bushes
and other flowers seemed to grow by permission, not by original
intention. There was a stove at each end of the room, which, I suspect,
had originally been divided into two. The door by which I had entered
was exactly in the middle, and opposite to it was another, leading to a
great bed-chamber, which my hostess showed me as my sleeping quarters
for the night.
If the place had been much less clean and inviting, I should have
remained there; I was almost surprised myself at my vis inertiæ; once
seated in the last warm rays of the slanting sun by the garden window,
I was disinclined to move, or even to speak. My hostess had taken my
orders as to my evening meal, and had left me. The sun went down, and I
grew shivery. The vast room looked cold and bare; the darkness brought
out shadows that perplexed me, because I could not fully make out the
objects that produced them after dazzling my eyes by gazing out into
the crimson light.
Some one came in; it was the maiden to prepare for my supper. She
began to lay the cloth at one end of the large table. There was a
smaller one close by me. I mustered up my voice, which seemed a little
as if it was getting beyond my control, and called to her,
Will you let me have my supper here on this table?
She came near; the light fell on her while I was in shadow. She was
a tall young woman, with a fine strong figure, a pleasant face,
expressive of goodness and sense, and with a good deal of comeliness
about it, too, although the fair complexion was bronzed and reddened by
weather, so as to have lost much of its delicacy, and the features, as
I had afterwards opportunity enough of observing, were anything but
regular. She had white teeth, however, and well-opened blue
eyesgrave-looking eyes which had shed tears for past sorrowplenty
of light-brown hair, rather elaborately plaited, and fastened up by two
great silver pins. That was allperhaps more than allI noticed that
first night. She began to lay the cloth where I had directed. A shiver
passed over me: she looked at me, and then said,
The gentleman is cold: shall I light the stove?
Something vexed meI am not usually so impatient: it was the
coming-on of serious illnessI did not like to be noticed so closely;
I believed that food would restore me, and I did not want to have my
meal delayed, as I feared it might be by the lighting of the stove; and
most of all I was feverishly annoyed by movement. I answered sharply
No; bring supper quickly; that is all I want.
Her quiet, sad eyes met mine for a moment; but I saw no change in
their expression, as if I had vexed her by my rudeness: her countenance
did not for an instant lose its look of patient sense, and that is
pretty nearly all I can remember of Thekla that first evening at
I suppose I ate my supper, or tried to do so, at any rate; and I
must have gone to bed, for days after I became conscious of lying
there, weak as a new-born babe, and with a sense of past pain in all my
weary limbs. As is the case in recovering from fever, one does not care
to connect facts, much less to reason upon them; so how I came to be
lying in that strange bed, in that large, half-furnished room; in what
house that room was; in what town, in what country, I did not take the
trouble to recal. It was of much more consequence to me then to
discover what was the well-known herb that gave the scent to the clean,
coarse sheets in which I lay. Gradually I extended my observations,
always confining myself to the present. I must have been well cared-for
by some one, and that lately, too, for the window was shaded, so as to
prevent the morning sun from coming in upon the bed; there was the
crackling of fresh wood in the great white china stove, which must have
been newly replenished within a short time.
By-and-by the door opened slowly. I cannot tell why, but my impulse
was to shut my eyes as if I were still asleep. But I could see through
my apparently closed eyelids. In came, walking on tip-toe, with a slow
care that defeated its object, two men. The first was aged from thirty
to forty, in the dress of a Black Forest peasant,old-fashioned coat
and knee-breeches of strong blue cloth, but of a thoroughly good
quality; he was followed by an older man, whose dress, of more
pretension as to cut and colour (it was all black), was, nevertheless,
as I had often the opportunity of observing afterwards, worn
Their first sentences, in whispered German, told me who they were:
the landlord of the inn where I was lying a helpless log, and the
village doctor who had been called in. The latter felt my pulse, and
nodded his head repeatedly in approbation. I had instinctively known
that I was getting better, and hardly cared for this confirmation; but
it seemed to give the truest pleasure to the landlord, who shook the
hand of the doctor, in a pantomime expressive of as much thankfulness
as if I had been his brother. Some low-spoken remarks were made, and
then some question was asked, to which, apparently, my host was unable
to reply. He left the room, and in a minute or two returned, followed
by Thekla, who was questioned by the doctor, and replied with a quiet
clearness, showing how carefully the details of my illness had been
observed by her. Then she left the room, and, as if every minute had
served to restore to my brain its power of combining facts, I was
suddenly prompted to open my eyes, and ask in the best German I could
muster what day of the month it was; not that I clearly remembered the
date of my arrival at Heppenheim, but I knew it was about the beginning
Again the doctor conveyed his sense of extreme satisfaction in a
series of rapid pantomimic nods, and then replied in deliberate but
tolerable English, to my great surprise,
It is the 29th of September, my dear sir. You must thank the dear
God. Your fever has made its course of twenty-one days. Now patience
and care must be practised. The good host and his household will have
the care; you must have the patience. If you have relations in England,
I will do my endeavours to tell them the state of your health.
I have no near relations, said I, beginning in my weakness to cry,
as I remembered, as if it had been a dream, the days when I had father,
Chut, chut! said he; then, turning to the landlord, he told him in
German to make Thekla bring me one of her good bouillons; after which I
was to have certain medicines, and to sleep as undisturbedly as
possible. For days, he went on, I should require constant watching and
careful feeding; every twenty minutes I was to have something, either
wine or soup, in small quantities.
A dim notion came into my hazy mind that my previous husbandry of my
fifty pounds, by taking long walks and scanty diet, would prove in the
end very bad economy; but I sank into dozing unconsciousness before I
could quite follow out my idea. I was roused by the touch of a spoon on
my lips; it was Thekla feeding me. Her sweet, grave face had something
approaching to a mother's look of tenderness upon it, as she gave me
spoonful after spoonful with gentle patience and dainty care: and then
I fell asleep once more. When next I wakened it was night; the stove
was lighted, and the burning wood made a pleasant crackle, though I
could only see the outlines and edges of red flame through the crevices
of the small iron door. The uncurtained window on my left looked into
the purple, solemn night. Turning a little, I saw Thekla sitting near a
table, sewing diligently at some great white piece of household work.
Every now and then she stopped to snuff the candle; sometimes she began
to ply her needle again immediately; but once or twice she let her busy
hands lie idly in her lap, and looked into the darkness, and thought
deeply for a moment or two; these pauses always ended in a kind of
sobbing sigh, the sound of which seemed to restore her to
self-consciousness, and she took to her sewing even more diligently
than before. Watching her had a sort of dreamy interest for me; this
diligence of hers was a pleasant contrast to my repose; it seemed to
enhance the flavour of my rest. I was too much of an animal just then
to have my sympathy, or even my curiosity, strongly excited by her look
of sad remembrance, or by her sighs.
After a while she gave a little start, looked at a watch lying by
her on the table, and came, shading the candle by her hand, softly to
my bedside. When she saw my open eyes she went to a porringer placed at
the top of the stove, and fed me with soup. She did not speak while
doing this. I was half aware that she had done it many times since the
doctor's visit, although this seemed to be the first time that I was
fully awake. She passed her arm under the pillow on which my head
rested, and raised me a very little; her support was as firm as a man's
could have been. Again back to her work, and I to my slumbers, without
a word being exchanged.
It was broad daylight when I wakened again; I could see the sunny
atmosphere of the garden outside stealing in through the nicks at the
side of the shawl hung up to darken the rooma shawl which I was sure
had not been there when I had observed the window in the night. How
gently my nurse must have moved about while doing her thoughtful act!
My breakfast was brought me by the hostess; she who had received me
on my first arrival at this hospitable inn. She meant to do everything
kindly, I am sure; but a sick room was not her place; by a thousand
little mal-adroitnesses she fidgeted me past bearing; her shoes
creaked, her dress rustled; she asked me questions about myself which
it irritated me to answer; she congratulated me on being so much
better, while I was faint for want of the food which she delayed giving
me in order to talk. My host had more sense in him when he came in,
although his shoes creaked as well as hers. By this time I was somewhat
revived, and could talk a little; besides, it seemed churlish to be
longer without acknowledging so much kindness received.
I am afraid I have been a great trouble, said I. I can only say
that I am truly grateful.
His good broad face reddened, and he moved a little uneasily.
I don't see how I could have done otherwise than Ithan we,
did, replied he, in the soft German of the district. We were all glad
enough to do what we could; I don't say it was a pleasure, because it
is our busiest time of year,but then, said he, laughing a little
awkwardly, as if he feared his expression might have been
misunderstood, I don't suppose it has been a pleasure to you either,
sir, to be laid up so far from home.
I may as well tell you now, sir, that we had to look over your
papers and clothes. In the first place, when you were so ill I would
fain have let your kinsfolk know, if I could have found a clue; and
besides, you needed linen.
I am wearing a shirt of yours though, said I, touching my sleeve.
Yes, sir! said he again, reddening a little. I told Thekla to
take the finest out of the chest; but I am afraid you find it coarser
than your own.
For all answer I could only lay my weak hand on the great brown paw
resting on the bed-side. He gave me a sudden squeeze in return that I
thought would have crushed my bones.
I beg your pardon, sir, said he, misinterpreting the sudden look
of pain which I could not repress; but watching a man come out of the
shadow of death into life makes one feel very friendly towards him.
No old or true friend that I have had could have done more for me
than you, and your wife, and Thekla, and the good doctor.
I am a widower, said he, turning round the great wedding-ring that
decked his third finger. My sister keeps house for me, and takes care
of the children,that is to say, she does it with the help of Thekla,
the house-maiden. But I have other servants, he continued. I am well
to do, the good God be thanked! I have land, and cattle, and vineyards.
It will soon be our vintage-time, and then you must go and see my
grapes as they come into the village. I have a 'chasse,' too, in
the Odenwald; perhaps one day you will be strong enough to go and shoot
the 'chevreuil' with me.
His good, true heart was trying to make me feel like a welcome
guest. Some time afterwards I learnt from the doctor thatmy poor
fifty pounds being nearly all expendedmy host and he had been brought
to believe in my poverty, as the necessary examination of my clothes
and papers showed so little evidence of wealth. But I myself have but
little to do with my story; I only name these things, and repeat these
conversations, to show what a true, kind, honest man my host was. By
the way, I may as well call him by his name henceforward, Fritz Müller.
The doctor's name, Wiedermann.
I was tired enough with this interview with Fritz Müller; but when
Dr. Wiedermann came he pronounced me to be much better; and through the
day much the same course was pursued as on the previous one: being fed,
lying still, and sleeping, were my passive and active occupations. It
was a hot, sunshiny day, and I craved for air. Fresh air does not enter
into the pharmacopoeia of a German doctor; but somehow I obtained my
wish. During the morning hours the window through which the sun
streamedthe window looking on to the front courtwas opened a
little; and through it I heard the sounds of active life, which gave me
pleasure and interest enough. The hen's cackle, the cock's exultant
call when he had found the treasure of a grain of corn,the movements
of a tethered donkey, and the cooing and whirring of the pigeons which
lighted on the window-sill, gave me just subjects enough for interest.
Now and then a cart or carriage drove up,I could hear them ascending
the rough village street long before they stopped at the Halbmond,
the village inn. Then there came a sound of running and haste in the
house; and Thekla was always called for in sharp, imperative tones. I
heard little children's footsteps, too, from time to time; and once
there must have been some childish accident or hurt, for a shrill,
plaintive little voice kept calling out, Thekla, Thekla, liebe
Thekla. Yet, after the first early morning hours, when my hostess
attended on my wants, it was always Thekla who came to give me my food
or my medicine; who redded up my room; who arranged the degree of
light, shifting the temporary curtain with the shifting sun; and always
as quietly and deliberately as though her attendance upon me were her
sole work. Once or twice my hostess came into the large eating-room
(out of which my room opened), and called Thekla away from whatever was
her occupation in my room at the time, in a sharp, injured, imperative
whisper. Once I remember it was to say that sheets were wanted for some
stranger's bed, and to ask where she, the speaker, could have put the
keys, in a tone of irritation, as though Thekla were responsible for
Fräulein Müller's own forgetfulness.
Night came on; the sounds of daily life died away into silence; the
children's voices were no more heard; the poultry were all gone to
roost; the beasts of burden to their stables; and travellers were
housed. Then Thekla came in softly and quietly, and took up her
appointed place, after she had done all in her power for my comfort. I
felt that I was in no state to be left all those weary hours which
intervened between sunset and sunrise; but I did feel ashamed that this
young woman, who had watched by me all the previous night, and for
aught I knew, for many before, and had worked hard, been run off her
legs, as English servants would say, all day long, should come and take
up her care of me again; and it was with a feeling of relief that I saw
her head bend forwards, and finally rest on her arms, which had fallen
on the white piece of sewing spread before her on the table. She slept;
and I slept. When I wakened dawn was stealing into the room, and making
pale the lamplight. Thekla was standing by the stove, where she had
been preparing the bouillon I should require on wakening. But she did
not notice my half-open eyes, although her face was turned towards the
bed. She was reading a letter slowly, as if its words were familiar to
her, yet as though she were trying afresh to extract some fuller or
some different meaning from their construction. She folded it up softly
and slowly, and replaced it in her pocket with the quiet movement
habitual to her. Then she looked before her, not at me, but at vacancy
filled up by memories; and as the enchanter brought up the scenes and
people which she saw, but I could not, her eyes filled with
tearstears that gathered almost imperceptibly to herself as it would
seemfor when one large drop fell on her hands (held slightly together
before her as she stood) she started a little, and brushed her eyes
with the back of her hand, and then came towards the bed to see if I
was awake. If I had not witnessed her previous emotion, I could never
have guessed that she had any hidden sorrow or pain from her manner;
tranquil, self-restrained as usual. The thought of this letter haunted
me, especially as more than once I, wakeful or watchful during the
ensuing nights, either saw it in her hands, or suspected that she had
been recurring to it from noticing the same sorrowful, dreamy look upon
her face when she thought herself unobserved. Most likely every one has
noticed how inconsistently out of proportion some ideas become when one
is shut up in any place without change of scene or thought. I really
grew quite irritated about this letter. If I did not see it, I
suspected it lay perdu in her pocket. What was in it? Of course
it was a love-letter; but if so, what was going wrong in the course of
her love? I became like a spoilt child in my recovery; every one whom I
saw for the time being was thinking only of me, so it was perhaps no
wonder that I became my sole object of thought; and at last the
gratification of my curiosity about this letter seemed to me a duty
that I owed to myself. As long as my fidgety inquisitiveness remained
ungratified, I felt as if I could not get well. But to do myself
justice, it was more than inquisitiveness. Thekla had tended me with
the gentle, thoughtful care of a sister, in the midst of her busy life.
I could often hear the Fräulein's sharp voice outside blaming her for
something that had gone wrong; but I never heard much from Thekla in
reply. Her name was called in various tones by different people, more
frequently than I could count, as if her services were in perpetual
requisition, yet I was never neglected, or even long uncared-for. The
doctor was kind and attentive; my host friendly and really generous;
his sister subdued her acerbity of manner when in my room, but Thekla
was the one of all to whom I owed my comforts, if not my life. If I
could do anything to smooth her path (and a little money goes a great
way in these primitive parts of Germany), how willingly would I give
it? So one night I beganshe was no longer needed to watch by my
bedside, but she was arranging my room before leaving me for the
Thekla, said I, you don't belong to Heppenheim, do you?
She looked at me, and reddened a little.
No. Why do you ask?
You have been so good to me that I cannot help wanting to know more
about you. I must needs feel interested in one who has been by my side
through my illness as you have. Where do your friends live? Are your
All this time I was driving at the letter.
I was born at Altenahr. My father is an innkeeper there. He owns
the 'Golden Stag.' My mother is dead, and he has married again, and has
And your stepmother is unkind to you, said I, jumping to a
Who said so? asked she, with a shade of indignation in her tone.
She is a right good woman, and makes my father a good wife.
Then why are you here living so far from home?
Now the look came back to her face which I had seen upon it during
the night hours when I had watched her by stealth; a dimming of the
grave frankness of her eyes, a light quiver at the corners of her
mouth. But all she said was, It was better.
Somehow, I persisted with the wilfulness of an invalid. I am half
ashamed of it now.
But why better, Thekla? Was there How should I put it? I
stopped a little, and then rushed blindfold at my object: Has not that
letter which you read so often something to do with your being here?
She fixed me with her serious eyes till I believe I reddened far
more than she; and I hastened to pour out, incoherently enough, my
conviction that she had some secret care, and my desire to help her if
she was in any trouble.
You cannot help me, said she, a little softened by my explanation,
though some shade of resentment at having been thus surreptitiously
watched yet lingered in her manner. It is an old story; a sorrow gone
by, past, at least it ought to be, only sometimes I am foolishher
tones were softening nowand it is punishment enough that you have
seen my folly.
If you had a brother here, Thekla, you would let him give you his
sympathy if he could not give you his help, and you would not blame
yourself if you had shown him your sorrow, should you? I tell you
again, let me be as a brother to you.
In the first place, sirthis sir was to mark the distinction
between me and the imaginary brotherI should have been ashamed to
have shown even a brother my sorrow, which is also my reproach and my
disgrace. These were strong words; and I suppose my face showed that I
attributed to them a still stronger meaning than they warranted; but
honi soit qui mal y pensefor she went on dropping her eyes and
My shame and my reproach is this: I have loved a man who has not
loved meshe grasped her hands together till the fingers made deep
white dents in the rosy fleshand I can't make out whether he ever
did, or whether he did once and is changed now; if only he did once
love me, I could forgive myself.
With hasty, trembling hands she began to rearrange the tisane and
medicines for the night on the little table at my bed-side. But, having
got thus far, I was determined to persevere.
Thekla, said I, tell me all about it, as you would to your
mother, if she were alive. There are often misunderstandings which,
never set to rights, make the misery and desolation of a life-time.
She did not speak at first. Then she pulled out the letter, and
said, in a quiet, hopeless tone of voice:
You can read German writing? Read that, and see if I have any
reason for misunderstanding.
The letter was signed Franz Weber, and dated from some small town
in SwitzerlandI forget whatabout a month previous to the time when
I read it. It began with acknowledging the receipt of some money which
had evidently been requested by the writer, and for which the thanks
were almost fulsome; and then, by the quietest transition in the world,
he went on to consult her as to the desirability of his marrying some
girl in the place from which he wrote, saying that this Anna Somebody
was only eighteen and very pretty, and her father a well-to-do
shopkeeper, and adding, with coarse coxcombry, his belief that he was
not indifferent to the maiden herself. He wound up by saying that, if
this marriage did take place, he should certainly repay the various
sums of money which Thekla had lent him at different times.
I was some time in making out all this. Thekla held the candle for
me to read it; held it patiently and steadily, not speaking a word till
I had folded up the letter again, and given it back to her. Then our
There is no misunderstanding possible, is there, sir? asked she,
with a faint smile.
No, I replied; but you are well rid of such a fellow.
She shook her head a little. It shows his bad side, sir. We have
all our bad sides. You must not judge him harshly; at least, I cannot.
But then we were brought up together.
Yes; his father kept the other inn, and our parents, instead of
being rivals, were great friends. Franz is a little younger than I, and
was a delicate child. I had to take him to school, and I used to be so
proud of it and of my charge. Then he grew strong, and was the
handsomest lad in the village. Our fathers used to sit and smoke
together, and talk of our marriage, and Franz must have heard as much
as I. Whenever he was in trouble, he would come to me for what advice I
could give him; and he danced twice as often with me as with any other
girl at all the dances, and always brought his nosegay to me. Then his
father wished him to travel, and learn the ways at the great hotels on
the Rhine before he settled down in Altenahr. You know that is the
custom in Germany, sir. They go from town to town as journeymen,
learning something fresh everywhere, they say.
I knew that was done in trades, I replied.
Oh, yes; and among inn-keepers, too, she said. Most of the
waiters at the great hotels in Frankfort, and Heidelberg, and Mayence,
and, I daresay, at all the other places, are the sons of innkeepers in
small towns, who go out into the world to learn new ways, and perhaps
to pick up a little English and French; otherwise, they say, they
should never get on. Franz went off from Altenahr on his journeyings
four years ago next May-day; and before he went, he brought me back a
ring from Bonn, where he bought his new clothes. I don't wear it now;
but I have got it upstairs, and it comforts me to see something that
shows me it was not all my silly fancy. I suppose he fell among bad
people, for he soon began to play for money,and then he lost more
than he could always payand sometimes I could help him a little, for
we wrote to each other from time to time, as we knew each other's
addresses; for the little ones grew around my father's hearth, and I
thought that I, too, would go forth into the world and earn my own
living, so thatwell, I will tell the truthI thought that by going
into service, I could lay by enough for buying a handsome stock of
household linen, and plenty of pans and kettles againstagainst what
will never come to pass now.
Do the German women buy the pots and kettles, as you call them,
when they are married? asked I, awkwardly, laying hold of a trivial
question to conceal the indignant sympathy with her wrongs which I did
not like to express.
Oh, yes; the bride furnishes all that is wanted in the kitchen, and
all the store of house-linen. If my mother had lived, it would have
been laid by for me, as she could have afforded to buy it, but my
stepmother will have hard enough work to provide for her own four
little girls. However, she continued, brightening up, I can help her,
for now I shall never marry; and my master here is just and liberal,
and pays me sixty florins a year, which is high wages. (Sixty florins
are about five pounds sterling.) And now, good-night, sir. This cup to
the left holds the tisane, that to the right the acorn-tea. She shaded
the candle, and was leaving the room. I raised myself on my elbow, and
called her back.
Don't go on thinking about this man, said I. He was not good
enough for you. You are much better unmarried.
Perhaps so, she answered gravely. But you cannot do him justice;
you do not know him.
A few minutes after, I heard her soft and cautious return; she had
taken her shoes off, and came in her stockinged feet up to my bedside,
shading the light with her hand. When she saw that my eyes were open,
she laid down two letters on the table, close by my night-lamp.
Perhaps, some time, sir, you would take the trouble to read these
letters; you would then see how noble and clever Franz really is. It is
I who ought to be blamed, not he.
No more was said that night.
Some time the next morning I read the letters. They were filled with
vague, inflated, sentimental descriptions of his inner life and
feelings; entirely egotistical, and intermixed with quotations from
second-rate philosophers and poets. There was, it must be said, nothing
in them offensive to good principle or good feeling, however much they
might be opposed to good taste. I was to go into the next room that
afternoon for the first time of leaving my sick chamber. All morning I
lay and ruminated. From time to time I thought of Thekla and Franz
Weber. She was the strong, good, helpful character, he the weak and
vain; how strange it seemed that she should have cared for one so
dissimilar; and then I remembered the various happy marriages when to
an outsider it seemed as if one was so inferior to the other that their
union would have appeared a subject for despair if it had been looked
at prospectively. My host came in, in the midst of these meditations,
bringing a great flowered dressing-gown, lined with flannel, and the
embroidered smoking-cap which he evidently considered as belonging to
this Indian-looking robe. They had been his father's, he told me; and
as he helped me to dress, he went on with his communications on small
family matters. His inn was flourishing; the numbers increased every
year of those who came to see the church at Heppenheim: the church
which was the pride of the place, but which I had never yet seen. It
was built by the great Kaiser Karl. And there was the Castle of
Starkenburg, too, which the Abbots of Lorsch had often defended,
stalwart churchmen as they were, against the temporal power of the
emperors. And Melibocus was not beyond a walk either. In fact, it was
the work of one person to superintend the inn alone; but he had his
farm and his vineyards beyond, which of themselves gave him enough to
do. And his sister was oppressed with the perpetual calls made upon her
patience and her nerves in an inn; and would rather go back and live at
Worms. And his children wanted so much looking after. By the time he
had placed himself in a condition for requiring my full sympathy, I had
finished my slow toilette; and I had to interrupt his confidences, and
accept the help of his good strong arm to lead me into the great
eating-room, out of which my chamber opened. I had a dreamy
recollection of the vast apartment. But how pleasantly it was changed!
There was the bare half of the room, it is true, looking as it had done
on that first afternoon, sunless and cheerless, with the long,
unoccupied table, and the necessary chairs for the possible visitors;
but round the windows that opened on the garden a part of the room was
enclosed by the household clothes'-horses hung with great pieces of the
blue homespun cloth of which the dress of the Black Forest peasant is
made. This shut-in space was warmed by the lighted stove, as well as by
the lowering rays of the October sun. There was a little round walnut
table with some flowers upon it, and a great cushioned armchair placed
so as to look out upon the garden and the hills beyond. I felt sure
that this was all Thekla's arrangement; I had rather wondered that I
had seen so little of her this day. She had come once or twice on
necessary errands into my room in the morning, but had appeared to be
in great haste, and had avoided meeting my eye. Even when I had
returned the letters, which she had entrusted to me with so evident a
purpose of placing the writer in my good opinion, she had never
inquired as to how far they had answered her design; she had merely
taken them with some low word of thanks, and put them hurriedly into
her pocket. I suppose she shrank from remembering how fully she had
given me her confidence the night before, now that daylight and actual
life pressed close around her. Besides, there surely never was anyone
in such constant request as Thekla. I did not like this estrangement,
though it was the natural consequence of my improved health, which
would daily make me less and less require services which seemed so
urgently claimed by others. And, moreover, after my host left meI
fear I had cut him a little short in the recapitulation of his domestic
difficulties, but he was too thorough and good-hearted a man to bear
maliceI wanted to be amused or interested. So I rang my little
hand-bell, hoping that Thekla would answer it, when I could have fallen
into conversation with her, without specifying any decided want.
Instead of Thekla the Fräulein came, and I had to invent a wish; for I
could not act as a baby, and say that I wanted my nurse. However, the
Fräulein was better than no one, so I asked her if I could have some
grapes, which had been provided for me on every day but this, and which
were especially grateful to my feverish palate. She was a good, kind
woman, although, perhaps, her temper was not the best in the world; and
she expressed the sincerest regret as she told me that there were no
more in the house. Like an invalid I fretted at my wish not being
granted, and spoke out.
But Thekla told me the vintage was not till the fourteenth; and you
have a vineyard close beyond the garden on the slope of the hill out
there, have you not?
Yes; and grapes for the gathering. But perhaps the gentleman does
not know our laws. Until the vintage(the day of beginning the vintage
is fixed by the Grand Duke, and advertised in the public papers)until
the vintage, all owners of vineyards may only go on two appointed days
in every week to gather their grapes; on those two days (Tuesdays and
Fridays this year) they must gather enough for the wants of their
families; and if they do not reckon rightly, and gather short measure,
why they have to go without. And these two last days the Half-Moon has
been besieged with visitors, all of whom have asked for grapes. But
to-morrow the gentleman can have as many as he will; it is the day for
What a strange kind of paternal law, I grumbled out. Why is it so
ordained? Is it to secure the owners against pilfering from their
I am sure I cannot tell, she replied. Country people in these
villages have strange customs in many ways, as I daresay the English
gentleman has perceived. If he would come to Worms he would see a
different kind of life.
But not a view like this, I replied, caught by a sudden change of
lightsome cloud passing away from the sun, or something. Right
outside of the windows was, as I have so often said, the garden.
Trained plum-trees with golden leaves, great bushes of purple,
Michaelmas daisy, late flowering roses, apple-trees partly stripped of
their rosy fruit, but still with enough left on their boughs to require
the props set to support the luxuriant burden; to the left an arbour
covered over with honeysuckle and other sweet-smelling creepersall
bounded by a low gray stone wall which opened out upon the steep
vineyard, that stretched up the hill beyond, one hill of a series
rising higher and higher into the purple distance. Why is there a rope
with a bunch of straw tied in it stretched across the opening of the
garden into the vineyard? I inquired, as my eye suddenly caught upon
It is the country way of showing that no one must pass along that
path. To-morrow the gentleman will see it removed; and then he shall
have the grapes. Now I will go and prepare his coffee. With a curtsey,
after the fashion of Worms gentility, she withdrew. But an
under-servant brought me my coffee; and with her I could not exchange a
word: she spoke in such an execrable patois. I went to bed early,
weary, and depressed. I must have fallen asleep immediately, for I
never heard any one come to arrange my bed-side table; yet in the
morning I found that every usual want or wish of mine had been attended
I was wakened by a tap at my door, and a pretty piping child's voice
asking, in broken German, to come in. On giving the usual permission,
Thekla entered, carrying a great lovely boy of two years old, or
thereabouts, who had only his little night-shirt on, and was all
flushed with sleep. He held tight in his hands a great cluster of
muscatel and noble grapes. He seemed like a little Bacchus, as she
carried him towards me with an expression of pretty loving pride upon
her face as she looked at him. But when he came close to methe grim,
wasted, unshornhe turned quick away, and hid his face in her neck,
still grasping tight his bunch of grapes. She spoke to him rapidly and
softly, coaxing him as I could tell full well, although I could not
follow her words; and in a minute or two the little fellow obeyed her,
and turned and stretched himself almost to overbalancing out of her
arms, and half-dropped the fruit on the bed by me. Then he clutched at
her again, burying his face in her kerchief, and fastening his little
fists in her luxuriant hair.
[Illustration p. 129: He seemed like a little Bacchus.]
It is my master's only boy, said she, disentangling his fingers
with quiet patience, only to have them grasp her braids afresh. He is
my little Max, my heart's delight, only he must not pull so hard. Say
his 'to-meet-again,' and kiss his hand lovingly, and we will go. The
promise of a speedy departure from my dusky room proved irresistible;
he babbled out his Aufwiedersehen, and kissing his chubby hand, he was
borne away joyful and chattering fast in his infantile half-language. I
did not see Thekla again until late afternoon, when she brought me in
my coffee. She was not like the same creature as the blooming, cheerful
maiden whom I had seen in the morning; she looked wan and careworn,
older by several years.
What is the matter, Thekla? said I, with true anxiety as to what
might have befallen my good, faithful nurse.
She looked round before answering. I have seen him, she said. He
has been here, and the Fräulein has been so angry! She says she will
tell my master. Oh, it has been such a day! The poor young woman, who
was usually so composed and self-restrained, was on the point of
bursting into tears; but by a strong effort she checked herself, and
tried to busy herself with rearranging the white china cup, so as to
place it more conveniently to my hand.
Come, Thekla, said I, tell me all about it. I have heard loud
voices talking, and I fancied something had put the Fräulein out; and
Lottchen looked flurried when she brought me my dinner. Is Franz here?
How has he found you out?
He is here. Yes, I am sure it is he; but four years makes such a
difference in a man; his whole look and manner seemed so strange to me;
but he knew me at once, and called me all the old names which we used
to call each other when we were children; and he must needs tell me how
it had come to pass that he had not married that Swiss Anna. He said he
had never loved her; and that now he was going home to settle, and he
hoped that I would come too, and There she stopped short.
And marry him, and live at the inn at Altenahr, said I, smiling,
to reassure her, though I felt rather disappointed about the whole
No, she replied. Old Weber, his father, is dead; he died in debt,
and Franz will have no money. And he was always one that needed money.
Some are, you know; and while I was thinking, and he was standing near
me, the Fräulein came in; andandI don't wonderfor poor Franz is
not a pleasant-looking man now-a-daysshe was very angry, and called
me a bold, bad girl, and said she could have no such goings on at the
'Halbmond,' but would tell my master when he came home from the
But you could have told her that you were old friends. I
hesitated, before saying the word lovers, but, after a pause, out it
Franz might have said so, she replied, a little stiffly. I could
not; but he went off as soon as she bade him. He went to the 'Adler'
over the way, only saying he would come for my answer to-morrow
morning. I think it was he that should have told her what we
wereneighbours' children and early friendsnot have left it all to
me. Oh, said she, clasping her hands tight together, she will make
such a story of it to my master.
Never mind, said I, tell the master I want to see him, as soon as
he comes in from the forest, and trust me to set him right before the
Fräulein has the chance to set him wrong.
She looked up at me gratefully, and went away without any more
words. Presently the fine burly figure of my host stood at the opening
to my enclosed sitting-room. He was there, three-cornered hat in hand,
looking tired and heated as a man does after a hard day's work, but as
kindly and genial as ever, which is not what every man is who is called
to business after such a day, before he has had the necessary food and
I had been reflecting a good deal on Thekla's story; I could not
quite interpret her manner to-day to my full satisfaction; but yet the
love which had grown with her growth, must assuredly have been called
forth by her lover's sudden reappearance; and I was inclined to give
him some credit for having broken off an engagement to Swiss Anna,
which had promised so many worldly advantages; and, again, I had
considered that if he was a little weak and sentimental, it was Thekla,
who would marry him by her own free will, and perhaps she had sense and
quiet resolution enough for both. So I gave the heads of the little
history I have told you to my good friend and host, adding that I
should like to have a man's opinion of this man; but that if he were
not an absolute good-for-nothing, and if Thekla still loved him, as I
believed, I would try and advance them the requisite money towards
establishing themselves in the hereditary inn at Altenahr.
Such was the romantic ending to Thekla's sorrows, I had been
planning and brooding over for the last hour. As I narrated my tale,
and hinted at the possible happy conclusion that might be in store, my
host's face changed. The ruddy colour faded, and his look became almost
sterncertainly very grave in expression. It was so unsympathetic,
that I instinctively cut my words short. When I had done, he paused a
little, and then said: You would wish me to learn all I can respecting
this stranger now at the 'Adler,' and give you the impression I receive
of the fellow.
Exactly so, said I; I want to learn all I can about him for
For Thekla's sake I will do it, he gravely repeated.
And come to me to-night, even if I am gone to bed?
Not so, he replied. You must give me all the time you can in a
matter like this.
But he will come for Thekla's answer in the morning.
Before he comes you shall know all I can learn.
I was resting during the fatigues of dressing the next day, when my
host tapped at my door. He looked graver and sterner than I had ever
seen him do before; he sat down almost before I had begged him to do
He is not worthy of her, he said. He drinks brandy right hard; he
boasts of his success at play, andhere he set his teeth hardhe
boasts of the women who have loved him. In a village like this, sir,
there are always those who spend their evenings in the gardens of the
inns; and this man, after he had drank his fill, made no secrets; it
needed no spying to find out what he was, else I should not have been
the one to do it.
Thekla must be told of this, said I. She is not the woman to love
any one whom she cannot respect.
Herr Müller laughed a low bitter laugh, quite unlike himself. Then
As for that matter, sir, you are young; you have had no great
experience of women. From what my sister tells me there can be little
doubt of Thekla's feeling towards him. She found them standing together
by the window; his arm round Thekla's waist, and whispering in her
earand to do the maiden justice she is not the one to suffer such
familiarities from every one. Nocontinued he, still in the same
contemptuous toneyou'll find she will make excuses for his faults
and vices; or else, which is perhaps more likely, she will not believe
your story, though I who tell it you can vouch for the truth of every
word I say. He turned short away and left the room. Presently I saw
his stalwart figure in the hill-side vineyard, before my windows,
scaling the steep ascent with long regular steps, going to the forest
beyond. I was otherwise occupied than in watching his progress during
the next hour; at the end of that time he re-entered my room, looking
heated and slightly tired, as if he had been walking fast, or labouring
hard; but with the cloud off his brows, and the kindly light shining
once again out of his honest eyes.
I ask your pardon, sir, he began, for troubling you afresh. I
believe I was possessed by the devil this morning. I have been thinking
it over. One has perhaps no right to rule for another person's
happiness. To have such ahere the honest fellow choked a
littlesuch a woman as Thekla to love him ought to raise any man.
Besides, I am no judge for him or for her. I have found out this
morning that I love her myself, and so the end of it is, that if you,
sir, who are so kind as to interest yourself in the matter, and if you
think it is really her heart's desire to marry this manwhich ought to
be his salvation both for earth and heavenI shall be very glad to go
halves with you in any place for setting them up in the inn at
Altenahr; only allow me to see that whatever money we advance is well
and legally tied up, so that it is secured to her. And be so kind as to
take no notice of what I have said about my having found out that I
have loved her; I named it as a kind of apology for my hard words this
morning, and as a reason why I was not a fit judge of what was best.
He had hurried on, so that I could not have stopped his eager speaking
even had I wished to do so; but I was too much interested in the
revelation of what was passing in his brave tender heart to desire to
stop him. Now, however, his rapid words tripped each other up, and his
speech ended in an unconscious sigh.
But, I said, since you were here Thekla has come to me, and we
have had a long talk. She speaks now as openly to me as she would if I
were her brother; with sensible frankness, where frankness is wise,
with modest reticence, where confidence would be unbecoming. She came
to ask me, if I thought it her duty to marry this fellow, whose very
appearance, changed for the worse, as she says it is, since she last
saw him four years ago, seemed to have repelled her.
She could let him put his arm round her waist yesterday, said Herr
Müller, with a return of his morning's surliness.
And she would marry him now if she could believe it to be her duty.
For some reason of his own, this Franz Weber has tried to work upon
this feeling of hers. He says it would be the saving of him.
As if a man had not strength enough in hima man who is good for
aughtto save himself, but needed a woman to pull him through life!
Nay, I replied, hardly able to keep from smiling. You yourself
said, not five minutes ago, that her marrying him might be his
salvation both for earth and heaven.
That was when I thought she loved the fellow, he answered quick.
Nowbut what did you say to her, sir?
I told her, what I believe to be as true as gospel, that as she
owned she did not love him any longer now his real self had come to
displace his remembrance, that she would be sinning in marrying him;
doing evil that possible good might come. I was clear myself on this
point, though I should have been perplexed how to advise, if her love
had still continued.
And what answer did she make?
She went over the history of their lives; she was pleading against
her wishes to satisfy her conscience. She said that all along through
their childhood she had been his strength; that while under her
personal influence he had been negatively good; away from her, he had
fallen into mischief
Not to say vice, put in Herr Müller.
And now he came to her penitent, in sorrow, desirous of amendment,
asking her for the love she seems to have considered as tacitly
plighted to him in years gone by
And which he has slighted and insulted. I hope you told her of his
words and conduct last night in the 'Adler' gardens?
No. I kept myself to the general principle, which, I am sure, is a
true one. I repeated it in different forms; for the idea of the duty of
self-sacrifice had taken strong possession of her fancy. Perhaps, if I
had failed in setting her notion of her duty in the right aspect, I
might have had recourse to the statement of facts, which would have
pained her severely, but would have proved to her how little his words
of penitence and promises of amendment were to be trusted to.
And it ended?
Ended by her being quite convinced that she would be doing wrong
instead of right if she married a man whom she had entirely ceased to
love, and that no real good could come from a course of action based on
That is right and true, he replied, his face broadening into
But she says she must leave your service, and go elsewhere.
Leave my service she shall; go elsewhere she shall not.
I cannot tell what you may have the power of inducing her to do;
but she seems to me very resolute.
Why? said he, firing round at me, as if I had made her resolute.
She says your sister spoke to her before the maids of the
household, and before some of the townspeople, in a way that she could
not stand; and that you yourself by your manner to her last night
showed how she had lost your respect. She added, with her face of pure
maidenly truth, that he had come into such close contact with her only
the instant before your sister had entered the room.
With your leave, sir, said Herr Müller, turning towards the door,
I will go and set all that right at once.
It was easier said than done. When I next saw Thekla, her eyes were
swollen up with crying, but she was silent, almost defiant towards me.
A look of resolute determination had settled down upon her face. I
learnt afterwards that parts of my conversation with Herr Müller had
been injudiciously quoted by him in the talk he had had with her. I
thought I would leave her to herself, and wait till she unburdened
herself of the feeling of unjust resentment towards me. But it was days
before she spoke to me with anything like her former frankness. I had
heard all about it from my host long before.
He had gone to her straight on leaving me; and like a foolish,
impetuous lover, had spoken out his mind and his wishes to her in the
presence of his sister, who, it must be remembered, had heard no
explanation of the conduct which had given her propriety so great a
shock the day before. Herr Müller thought to re-instate Thekla in his
sister's good opinion by giving her in the Fräulein's very presence the
highest possible mark of his own love and esteem. And there in the
kitchen, where the Fräulein was deeply engaged in the hot work of
making some delicate preserve on the stove, and ordering Thekla about
with short, sharp displeasure in her tones, the master had come in, and
possessing himself of the maiden's hand, had, to her infinite
surpriseto his sister's infinite indignationmade her the offer of
his heart, his wealth, his life; had begged of her to marry him. I
could gather from his account that she had been in a state of trembling
discomfiture at first; she had not spoken, but had twisted her hand out
of his, and had covered her face with her apron. And then the Fräulein
had burst forthaccursed words he called her speech. Thekla
uncovered her face to listen; to listen to the end; to listen to the
passionate recrimination between the brother and the sister. And then
she went up, close up to the angry Fräulein, and had said quite
quietly, but with a manner of final determination which had evidently
sunk deep into her suitor's heart, and depressed him into hopelessness,
that the Fräulein had no need to disturb herself; that on this very day
she had been thinking of marrying another man, and that her heart was
not like a room to let, into which as one tenant went out another might
enter. Nevertheless, she felt the master's goodness. He had always
treated her well from the time when she had entered the house as his
servant. And she should be sorry to leave him; sorry to leave the
children; very sorry to leave little Max: yes, she should even be sorry
to leave the Fräulein, who was a good woman, only a little too apt to
be hard on other women. But she had already been that very day and
deposited her warning at the police office; the busy time would be soon
over, and she should be glad to leave their service on All Saints' Day.
Then (he thought) she had felt inclined to cry, for she suddenly braced
herself up, and said, yes, she should be very glad; for somehow, though
they had been kind to her, she had been very unhappy at Heppenheim; and
she would go back to her home for a time, and see her old father and
kind stepmother, and her nursling half-sister Ida, and be among her own
I could see it was this last part that most of all rankled in Herr
Müller's mind. In all probability Franz Weber was making his way back
to Heppenheim too; and the bad suspicion would keep welling up that
some lingering feeling for her old lover and disgraced playmate was
making her so resolute to leave and return to Altenahr.
For some days after this I was the confidant of the whole household,
excepting Thekla. She, poor creature, looked miserable enough; but the
hardy, defiant expression was always on her face. Lottchen spoke out
freely enough; the place would not be worth having if Thekla left it;
it was she who had the head for everything, the patience for
everything; who stood between all the under-servants and the Fräulein's
tempers. As for the children, poor motherless children! Lottchen was
sure that the master did not know what he was doing when he allowed his
sister to turn Thekla awayand all for what? for having a lover, as
every girl had who could get one. Why, the little boy Max slept in the
room which Lottchen shared with Thekla; and she heard him in the night
as quickly as if she was his mother; when she had been sitting up with
me, when I was so ill, Lottchen had had to attend to him; and it was
weary work after a hard day to have to get up and soothe a teething
child; she knew she had been cross enough sometimes; but Thekla was
always good and gentle with him, however tired he was. And as Lottchen
left the room I could hear her repeating that she thought she should
leave when Thekla went, for that her place would not be worth having.
Even the Fräulein had her word of regretregret mingled with
self-justification. She thought she had been quite right in speaking to
Thekla for allowing such familiarities; how was she to know that the
man was an old friend and playmate? He looked like a right profligate
good-for-nothing. And to have a servant take up her scolding as an
unpardonable offence, and persist in quitting her place, just when she
had learnt all her work, and was so useful in the householdso useful
that the Fräulein could never put up with any fresh, stupid
house-maiden, but, sooner than take the trouble of teaching the new
servant where everything was, and how to give out the stores if she was
busy, she would go back to Worms. For, after all, housekeeping for a
brother was thankless work; there was no satisfying men; and Heppenheim
was but a poor ignorant village compared to Worms.
She must have spoken to her brother about her intention of leaving
him, and returning to her former home; indeed a feeling of coolness had
evidently grown up between the brother and sister during these latter
days. When one evening Herr Müller brought in his pipe, and, as his
custom had sometimes been, sat down by my stove to smoke, he looked
gloomy and annoyed. I let him puff away, and take his own time. At
length he began,
I have rid the village of him at last. I could not bear to have him
here disgracing Thekla with speaking to her whenever she went to the
vineyard or the fountain. I don't believe she likes him a bit.
No more do I, I said. He turned on me.
Then why did she speak to him at all? Why cannot she like an honest
man who likes her? Why is she so bent on going home to Altenahr?
She speaks to him because she has known him from a child, and has a
faithful pity for one whom she has known so innocent, and who is now so
lost in all good men's regard. As for not liking an honest man(though
I may have my own opinion about that)liking goes by fancy, as we say
in English; and Altenahr is her home; her father's house is at
Altenahr, as you know.
I wonder if he will go there, quoth Herr Müller, after two or
three more puffs. He was fast at the 'Adler;' he could not pay his
score, so he kept on staying here, saying that he should receive a
letter from a friend with money in a day or two; lying in wait, too,
for Thekla, who is well-known and respected all through Heppenheim: so
his being an old friend of hers made him have a kind of standing. I
went in this morning and paid his score, on condition that he left the
place this day; and he left the village as merrily as a cricket, caring
no more for Thekla than for the Kaiser who built our church: for he
never looked back at the 'Halbmond,' but went whistling down the road.
That is a good riddance, said I.
Yes. But my sister says she must return to Worms. And Lottchen has
given notice; she says the place will not be worth having when Thekla
leaves. I wish I could give notice too.
Try Thekla again.
Not I, said he, reddening. It would seem now as if I only wanted
her for a housekeeper. Besides, she avoids me at every turn, and will
not even look at me. I am sure she bears me some ill-will about that
There was silence between us for some time, which he at length
The pastor has a good and comely daughter. Her mother is a famous
housewife. They often have asked me to come to the parsonage and smoke
a pipe. When the vintage is over, and I am less busy, I think I will go
there, and look about me.
When is the vintage? asked I. I hope it will take place soon, for
I am growing so well and strong I fear I must leave you shortly; but I
should like to see the vintage first.
Oh, never fear! you must not travel yet awhile; and Government has
fixed the grape-gathering to begin on the fourteenth.
What a paternal Government! How does it know when the grapes will
be ripe? Why cannot every man fix his own time for gathering his own
That has never been our way in Germany. There are people employed
by the Government to examine the vines, and report when the grapes are
ripe. It is necessary to make laws about it; for, as you must have
seen, there is nothing but the fear of the law to protect our vineyards
and fruit-trees; there are no enclosures along the Berg-Strasse, as you
tell me you have in England; but, as people are only allowed to go into
the vineyards on stated days, no one, under pretence of gathering his
own produce, can stray into his neighbour's grounds and help himself,
without some of the duke's foresters seeing him.
Well, said I, to each country its own laws.
I think it was on that very evening that Thekla came in for
something. She stopped arranging the tablecloth and the flowers, as if
she had something to say, yet did not know how to begin. At length I
found that her sore, hot heart, wanted some sympathy; her hand was
against every one's, and she fancied every one had turned against her.
She looked up at me, and said, a little abruptly,
Does the gentleman know that I go on the fifteenth?
So soon? said I, with surprise. I thought you were to remain here
till All Saints' Day.
So I should have doneso I must have doneif the Fräulein had not
kindly given me leave to accept of a placea very good place tooof
housekeeper to a widow lady at Frankfort. It is just the sort of
situation I have always wished for. I expect I shall be so happy and
Methinks the lady doth profess too much, came into my mind. I saw
she expected me to doubt the probability of her happiness, and was in a
Of course, said I, you would hardly have wished to leave
Heppenheim if you had been happy here; and every new place always
promises fair, whatever its performance may be. But wherever you go,
remember you have always a friend in me.
Yes, she replied, I think you are to be trusted. Though, from my
experience, I should say that of very few men.
You have been unfortunate, I answered; many men would say the
same of women.
She thought a moment, and then said, in a changed tone of voice,
The Fräulein here has been much more friendly and helpful of these
late days than her brother; yet I have served him faithfully, and have
cared for his little Max as though he were my own brother. But this
morning he spoke to me for the first time for many days,he met me in
the passage, and, suddenly stopping, he said he was glad I had met with
so comfortable a place, and that I was at full liberty to go whenever I
liked: and then he went quickly on, never waiting for my answer.
And what was wrong in that? It seems to me he was trying to make
you feel entirely at your ease, to do as you thought best, without
regard to his own interests.
Perhaps so. It is silly, I know, she continued, turning full on me
her grave, innocent eyes; but one's vanity suffers a little when every
one is so willing to part with one.
Thekla! I owe you a great debtlet me speak to you openly. I know
that your master wanted to marry you, and that you refused him. Do not
deceive yourself. You are sorry for that refusal now?
She kept her serious look fixed upon me; but her face and throat
reddened all over.
No, said she, at length; I am not sorry. What can you think I am
made of; having loved one man ever since I was a little child until a
fortnight ago, and now just as ready to love another? I know you do not
rightly consider what you say, or I should take it as an insult.
You loved an ideal man; he disappointed you, and you clung to your
remembrance of him. He came, and the reality dispelled all illusions.
I do not understand philosophy, said she. I only know that I
think that Herr Müller had lost all respect for me from what his sister
had told him; and I know that I am going away; and I trust I shall be
happier in Frankfort than I have been here of late days. So saying,
she left the room.
I was wakened up on the morning of the fourteenth by the merry
ringing of church bells, and the perpetual firing and popping off of
guns and pistols. But all this was over by the time I was up and
dressed, and seated at breakfast in my partitioned room. It was a
perfect October day; the dew not yet off the blades of grass,
glistening on the delicate gossamer webs, which stretched from flower
to flower in the garden, lying in the morning shadow of the house. But
beyond the garden, on the sunny hill-side, men, women, and children
were clambering up the vineyards like ants,busy, irregular in
movement, clustering together, spreading wide apart,I could hear the
shrill merry voices as I sat,and all along the valley, as far as I
could see, it was much the same; for every one filled his house for the
day of the vintage, that great annual festival. Lottchen, who had
brought in my breakfast, was all in her Sunday best, having risen early
to get her work done and go abroad to gather grapes. Bright colours
seemed to abound; I could see dots of scarlet, and crimson, and orange
through the fading leaves; it was not a day to languish in the house;
and I was on the point of going out by myself, when Herr Müller came in
to offer me his sturdy arm, and help me in walking to the vineyard. We
crept through the garden scented with late flowers and sunny fruit,we
passed through the gate I had so often gazed at from the easy-chair,
and were in the busy vineyard; great baskets lay on the grass already
piled nearly full of purple and yellow grapes. The wine made from these
was far from pleasant to my taste; for the best Rhine wine is made from
a smaller grape, growing in closer, harder clusters; but the larger and
less profitable grape is by far the most picturesque in its mode of
growth, and far the best to eat into the bargain. Wherever we trod, it
was on fragrant, crushed vine-leaves; every one we saw had his hands
and face stained with the purple juice. Presently I sat down on a sunny
bit of grass, and my host left me to go farther afield, to look after
the more distant vineyards. I watched his progress. After he left me,
he took off coat and waistcoat, displaying his snowy shirt and
gaily-worked braces; and presently he was as busy as any one. I looked
down on the village; the gray and orange and crimson roofs lay glowing
in the noonday sun. I could see down into the streets; but they were
all emptyeven the old people came toiling up the hill-side to share
in the general festivity. Lottchen had brought up cold dinners for a
regiment of men; every one came and helped himself. Thekla was there,
leading the little Karoline, and helping the toddling steps of Max; but
she kept aloof from me; for I knew, or suspected, or had probed too
much. She alone looked sad and grave, and spoke so little, even to her
friends, that it was evident to see that she was trying to wean herself
finally from the place. But I could see that she had lost her short,
defiant manner. What she did say was kindly and gently spoken. The
Fräulein came out late in the morning, dressed, I suppose, in the
latest Worms fashionquite different to anything I had ever seen
before. She came up to me, and talked very graciously to me for some
Here comes the proprietor (squire) and his lady, and their dear
children. See, the vintagers have tied bunches of the finest grapes on
to a stick, heavier than the children or even the lady can carry. Look!
look! how he bows!one can tell he has been an attaché at
Vienna. That is the court way of bowing thereholding the hat right
down before them, and bending the back at right angles. How graceful!
And here is the doctor! I thought he would spare time to come up here.
Well, doctor, you will go all the more cheerfully to your next patient
for having been up into the vineyards. Nonsense, about grapes making
other patients for you. Ah, here is the pastor and his wife, and the
Fräulein Anna. Now, where is my brother, I wonder? Up in the far
vineyard, I make no doubt. Mr. Pastor, the view up above is far finer
than what it is here, and the best grapes grow there; shall I accompany
you and madame, and the dear Fräulein? The gentleman will excuse me.
I was left alone. Presently I thought I would walk a little farther,
or at any rate change my position. I rounded a corner in the pathway,
and there I found Thekla, watching by little sleeping Max. He lay on
her shawl; and over his head she had made an arching canopy of broken
vine-branches, so that the great leaves threw their cool, flickering
shadows on his face. He was smeared all over with grape-juice, his
sturdy fingers grasped a half-eaten bunch even in his sleep. Thekla was
keeping Lina quiet by teaching her how to weave a garland for her head
out of field-flowers and autumn-tinted leaves. The maiden sat on the
ground, with her back to the valley beyond, the child kneeling by her,
watching the busy fingers with eager intentness. Both looked up as I
drew near, and we exchanged a few words.
Where is the master? I asked. I promised to await his return; he
wished to give me his arm down the wooden steps; but I do not see him.
He is in the higher vineyard, said Thekla, quietly, but not
looking round in that direction. He will be some time there, I should
think. He went with the pastor and his wife; he will have to speak to
his labourers and his friends. My arm is strong, and I can leave Max in
Lina's care for five minutes. If you are tired, and want to go back,
let me help you down the steps; they are steep and slippery.
I had turned to look up the valley. Three or four hundred yards off,
in the higher vineyard, walked the dignified pastor, and his homely,
decorous wife. Behind came the Fräulein Anna, in her short-sleeved
Sunday gown, daintily holding a parasol over her luxuriant brown hair.
Close behind her came Herr Müller, stopping now to speak to his
men,again, to cull out a bunch of grapes to tie on to the Fräulein's
stick; and by my feet sate the proud serving-maid in her country dress,
waiting for my answer, with serious, up-turned eyes, and sad, composed
No, I am much obliged to you, Thekla; and if I did not feel so
strong I would have thankfully taken your arm. But I only wanted to
leave a message for the master, just to say that I have gone home.
Lina will give it to the father when he comes down, said Thekla.
I went slowly down into the garden. The great labour of the day was
over, and the younger part of the population had returned to the
village, and were preparing the fireworks and pistol-shootings for the
evening. Already one or two of those well-known German carts (in the
shape of a V) were standing near the vineyard gates, the patient oxen
meekly waiting while basketful after basketful of grapes were being
emptied into the leaf-lined receptacle.
As I sat down in my easy-chair close to the open window through
which I had entered, I could see the men and women on the hill-side
drawing to a centre, and all stand round the pastor, bareheaded, for a
minute or so. I guessed that some words of holy thanksgiving were being
said, and I wished that I had stayed to hear them, and mark my especial
gratitude for having been spared to see that day. Then I heard the
distant voices, the deep tones of the men, the shriller pipes of women
and children, join in the German harvest-hymn, which is generally sung
on such occasions; then silence, while I concluded that a blessing
was spoken by the pastor, with outstretched arms; and then they once
more dispersed, some to the village, some to finish their labours for
the day among the vines. I saw Thekla coming through the garden with
Max in her arms, and Lina clinging to her woollen skirts. Thekla made
for my open window; it was rather a shorter passage into the house than
round by the door. I may come through, may I not? she asked, softly.
I fear Max is not well; I cannot understand his look, and he wakened
up so strange! She paused to let me see the child's face; it was
flushed almost to a crimson look of heat, and his breathing was
laboured and uneasy, his eyes half-open and filmy.
Something is wrong, I am sure, said I. I don't know anything
about children, but he is not in the least like himself.
She bent down and kissed the cheek so tenderly that she would not
have bruised the petal of a rose. Heart's darling, she murmured. He
quivered all over at her touch, working his fingers in an unnatural
kind of way, and ending with a convulsive twitching all over his body.
Lina began to cry at the grave, anxious look on our faces.
You had better call the Fräulein to look at him, said I. I feel
sure he ought to have a doctor; I should say he was going to have a
The Fräulein and the master are gone to the pastor's for coffee,
and Lottchen is in the higher vineyard, taking the men their bread and
beer. Could you find the kitchen girl, or old Karl? he will be in the
stables, I think. I must lose no time. Almost without waiting for my
reply, she had passed through the room, and in the empty house I could
hear her firm, careful footsteps going up the stair; Lina's pattering
beside her; and the one voice wailing, the other speaking low comfort.
I was tired enough, but this good family had treated me too much
like one of their own for me not to do what I could in such a case as
this. I made my way out into the street, for the first time since I had
come to the house on that memorable evening six weeks ago. I bribed the
first person I met to guide me to the doctor's, and send him straight
down to the Halbmond, not staying to listen to the thorough scolding
he fell to giving me; then on to the parsonage, to tell the master and
the Fräulein of the state of things at home.
I was sorry to be the bearer of bad news into such a festive chamber
as the pastor's. There they sat, resting after heat and fatigue, each
in their best gala dress, the table spread with Dicker-milch,
potato-salad, cakes of various shapes and kindsall the dainty cates
dear to the German palate. The pastor was talking to Herr Müller, who
stood near the pretty young Fräulein Anna, in her fresh white
chemisette, with her round white arms, and her youthful coquettish
airs, as she prepared to pour out the coffee; our Fräulein was talking
busily to the Frau Mama; the younger boys and girls of the family
filling up the room. A ghost would have startled the assembled party
less than I did, and would probably have been more welcome, considering
the news I brought. As he listened, the master caught up his hat and
went forth, without apology or farewell. Our Fräulein made up for both,
and questioned me fully; but now she, I could see, was in haste to go,
although restrained by her manners, and the kind-hearted Frau Pastorin
soon set her at liberty to follow her inclination. As for me I was
dead-beat, and only too glad to avail myself of the hospitable couple's
pressing request that I would stop and share their meal. Other magnates
of the village came in presently, and relieved me of the strain of
keeping up a German conversation about nothing at all with entire
strangers. The pretty Fräulein's face had clouded over a little at Herr
Müller's sudden departure; but she was soon as bright as could be,
giving private chase and sudden little scoldings to her brothers, as
they made raids upon the dainties under her charge. After I was duly
rested and refreshed, I took my leave; for I, too, had my quieter
anxieties about the sorrow in the Müller family.
The only person I could see at the Halbmond was Lottchen; every
one else was busy about the poor little Max, who was passing from one
fit into another. I told Lottchen to ask the doctor to come in and see
me before he took his leave for the night, and tired as I was, I kept
up till after his visit, though it was very late before he came; I
could see from his face how anxious he was. He would give me no opinion
as to the child's chances of recovery, from which I guessed that he had
not much hope. But when I expressed my fear he cut me very short.
The truth is, you know nothing about it; no more do I, for that
matter. It is enough to try any man, much less a father, to hear his
perpetual moansnot that he is conscious of pain, poor little worm;
but if she stops for a moment in her perpetual carrying him backwards
and forwards, he plains so piteously it is enough toenough to make a
man bless the Lord who never led him into the pit of matrimony. To see
the father up there, following her as she walks up and down the room,
the child's head over her shoulder, and Müller trying to make the heavy
eyes recognize the old familiar ways of play, and the chirruping sounds
which he can scarce make for cryingI shall be here to-morrow early,
though before that either life or death will have come without the old
All night long I dreamt my feverish dreamof the vineyardthe
carts, which held little coffins instead of baskets of grapesof the
pastor's daughter, who would pull the dying child out of Thekla's arms;
it was a bad, weary night! I slept long into the morning; the broad
daylight filled my room, and yet no one had been near to waken me! Did
that mean life or death? I got up and dressed as fast as I could; for I
was aching all over with the fatigue of the day before. Out into the
sitting-room; the table was laid for breakfast, but no one was there. I
passed into the house beyond, up the stairs, blindly seeking for the
room where I might know whether it was life or death. At the door of a
room I found Lottchen crying; at the sight of me in that unwonted place
she started, and began some kind of apology, broken both by tears and
smiles, as she told me that the doctor said the danger was overpast,
and that Max was sleeping a gentle peaceful slumber in Thekla's
armsarms that had held him all through the livelong night.
Look at him, sir; only go in softly; it is a pleasure to see the
child to-day; tread softly, sir.
She opened the chamber-door. I could see Thekla sitting, propped up
by cushions and stools, holding her heavy burden, and bending over him
with a look of tenderest love. Not far off stood the Fräulein, all
disordered and tearful, stirring or seasoning some hot soup, while the
master stood by her impatient. As soon as it was cooled or seasoned
enough he took the basin and went to Thekla, and said something very
low; she lifted up her head, and I could see her face; pale, weary with
watching, but with a soft peaceful look upon it, which it had not worn
for weeks. Fritz Müller began to feed her, for her hands were occupied
in holding his child; I could not help remembering Mrs. Inchbald's
pretty description of Dorriforth's anxiety in feeding Miss Milner; she
compares it, if I remember rightly, to that of a tender-hearted boy,
caring for his darling bird, the loss of which would embitter all the
joys of his holidays. We closed the door without noise, so as not to
waken the sleeping child. Lottchen brought me my coffee and bread; she
was ready either to laugh or to weep on the slightest occasion. I could
not tell if it was in innocence or mischief. She asked me the following
Do you think Thekla will leave to-day, sir?
In the afternoon I heard Thekla's step behind my extemporary screen.
I knew it quite well. She stopped for a moment before emerging into my
She was trying to look as composed as usual, but, perhaps because
her steady nerves had been shaken by her night's watching, she could
not help faint touches of dimples at the corners of her mouth, and her
eyes were veiled from any inquisitive look by their drooping lids.
I thought you would like to know that the doctor says Max is quite
out of danger now. He will only require care.
Thank you, Thekla; Doctor has been in already this afternoon to
tell me so, and I am truly glad.
She went to the window, and looked out for a moment. Many people
were in the vineyards again to-day; although we, in our household
anxiety, had paid them but little heed. Suddenly she turned round into
the room, and I saw that her face was crimson with blushes. In another
instant Herr Müller entered by the window.
Has she told you, sir? said he, possessing himself of her hand,
and looking all a-glow with happiness. Hast thou told our good
friend? addressing her.
No. I was going to tell him, but I did not know how to begin.
Then I will prompt thee. Say after me'I have been a wilful,
She wrenched her hand out of his, half-laughingI am a foolish
woman, for I have promised to marry him. But he is a still more foolish
man, for he wishes to marry me. That is what I say.
And I have sent Babette to Frankfort with the pastor. He is going
there, and will explain all to Frau v. Schmidt; and Babette will serve
her for a time. When Max is well enough to have the change of air the
doctor prescribes for him, thou shalt take him to Altenahr, and thither
will I also go; and become known to thy people and thy father. And
before Christmas the gentleman here shall dance at our wedding.
I must go home to England, dear friends, before many days are over.
Perhaps we may travel together as far as Remagen. Another year I will
come back to Heppenheim and see you.
As I planned it, so it was. We left Heppenheim all together on a
lovely All-Saints' Day. The day beforethe day of All-SoulsI had
watched Fritz and Thekla lead little Lina up to the Acre of God, the
Field of Rest, to hang the wreath of immortelles on her mother's grave.
Peace be with the dead and the living.