Aunt Edith's Foreign Lover by Mary
"There is a destiny which shapes our end;" and I am a firm believer in
it, for how else can I explain my adventures and their results while
travelling in Austria in the year of the Welt-Ausstellung at Vienna?
As is usual with a novice in European travel, I received during the week
prior to sailing the ordinary amount of advice as to what I should and
should not do. Meantime, my aunt Edith, who had spent a year in Europe
ten or twelve years before, rather surprised me by her reticence in
regard to my proposed voyage. However, the night before I was to sail I
suggested to her that she might be able to give me some valuable advice,
as she had probably not "forgotten how one should behave in Paris."
"Forgotten!" she exclaimed with a start, and then, raven-like, "nothing
more." I played with the tassel of the window-curtain and wondered how I
should ever get on without this aunt, the dearest, bravest and
handsomest woman in all the world—to me. She was thirty-six years old,
just ten years older than myself, for by a happy coincidence our
birthdays fell in the same month, and upon the same day of the month,
the twenty-fifth of August.
Aunt Edith was a great comfort to the maiden sisterhood. Spinsters
referred to Edith Mack with a sense of triumph whenever any
disrespectful allusions were cast upon "old maids." She was always
bright, charming and witty, and people wondered, like so many idiots,
why she had never married, instead of wondering why most other women
did. When questioned about it, which was rarely, she usually replied
that she never "had the time," or that she had been "warned in dreams,"
or that she awaited her "king from over the seas"—some such bêtise.
But to me the fact that she had never married was never a matter for
wonder: she had never loved, I supposed, which was reason enough. She
had her work in life—had written two very delightful books, made
occasional illustrations for publishers, and played German music à
ravir. At length she spoke, this Aunt Edith.
"Yes, my dear niece, I have some advice to give you," she said in a
low voice: "don't fall in love with a European."
"Do you think there is any danger?" I asked with mock seriousness.
"Not with a Frenchman or German," she quickly replied. "But let me tell
you my experience. I was not far from your age when I went to Europe
with Cousin Helen. I had just refused an offer of marriage from a very
noble fellow because I could not love him. He lacked the power to
control me: I felt myself the stronger of the two. Not that women like
to be ruled, but that they like that power in men which can rule if need
be, generously, but never despotically. I had only in my imagination a
conception of that love 'which passeth understanding'—which lifts a
woman out of herself into a willing sacrifice that looks to calmer eyes
as the height of folly. I liked men well, but none had ever stirred more
than the even surface of my feelings, and I so firmly believed that no
one ever could as to regard my 'falling in love' as most improbable. I
really desired the experience, feeling that something is lost out of
life if every phase of human feeling and emotion be not awakened. But I
went to Europe, and walked straight into my fate.
"The day after my arrival in Paris, in passing through the court of the
hotel where I was stopping, I encountered a gentleman who lifted his
hat, and who looked at me in a manner that caused me to observe his
eyes, which were large, black and exceptionally splendid. In figure he
was tall and firmly built, an aquiline nose and clearly-cut chin giving
a high-bred look to his face, and he wore some sort of a decoration
which caught Helen's notice. At the table-d'hôte that evening I found
myself seated next to him. Our table-talk, begun early in the meal, was
the beginning of an acquaintance that developed into that strongest of
affections which makes slaves of us all. I never forgot my proud
birthright, and well understood the danger of a European alliance—or
misalliance. The gentleman was quite Oriental, belonging to that country
which has Bucharest for its capital. His family was of high distinction,
connected with that of the reigning prince. He possessed a modest
fortune, had been educated in Athens and Paris, and spoke four or five
languages. He was ardent, jealous, passionate, but possessed a heart at
once so loving, so full of every tender and winning quality, that it was
easy to forgive outbursts of feeling and similar offences. He had spent
some time in England, without, however, learning to speak much of the
language. The history of his past life, as he related it to us, was
quite in keeping with his character as a man. He had been affianced when
quite young to a beautiful girl, quarrelled with her, broke off the
engagement, then joined the Greek army, fought against the Turks, and
was four times wounded.
"It was early in June when we arrived in Paris, and at the occurrence of
my birthday in August we had become very well acquainted, as also with a
number of his friends to whom he had introduced us. Wishing to observe
my fête, he sent me a tiny bouquet—a rose and some sprays of fragrant
flowers. In the evening he begged for some souvenir of the day, when I
declared I had nothing to give.
"'Then I shall take something,' he replied, and clipped from a curl a
ring of my hair, which he placed in a locket attached to his watchguard,
in the back of which he previously made a note of the day.
"'That will remain there for ever,' he remarked.
"'Which means six months, at the end of which time you will have
forgotten me,' I replied.
"'Not at the end of six months, six years, nor six ages,' he warmly
"As the autumn months wore away, and he began to talk to me of marriage,
the seriousness of his love frightened me, and it was not until I was
assured by what seemed unmistakable proofs that all his statements in
regard to himself were true that I in any sense considered the question
of marriage with him. To be obliged always to talk French or Italian was
not to my liking, and to marry anybody but a compatriot seemed very
unpatriotic. But I loved him, and that was the solution of the whole
matter. His kindness to us was without limit, and tendered in the most
graceful and grateful manner. He knew some excellent English families
who were living in Paris, whose acquaintance we afterward made, and who
spoke of him in the highest terms of esteem.
"As the winter set in, Helen and I arranged to go to Italy. My friend
was to take advantage of our departure to go to his 'provincial estates'
on business, and afterward to join us in Italy. He gave us a letter to
the Greek consul at Rome, a friend of his, to whose care he would
confide his letters, and who, he thought, might be of real service to
us notwithstanding our own ambassadorial corps there.
"My separation from him proved to me in a thousandfold manner how deep
and strong was the bond that bound me to him. We had scarcely more than
become well settled in Rome than a letter arrived which he had mailed at
Vienna, and which the polite consul came and delivered in person. And
what a letter it was!—only a page or two, but words alive with the love
and passion of his heart. And that was the last letter, as it was the
first, that I ever received from him. The cause of his silence none of
us could tell. He knew that a letter sent to me in care of any one of
the American consuls in Paris or in Italy would reach me. As the mystery
of his silence deepened the attentions of the consul became more
assiduous. For some reason I did not like the man, although he was very
kind and gentlemanly. Once he lightly remarked that doubtless 'our
friend had been épris by some fair Austrian blond;' and the suggestion
filled me with shame. Who knew but it might be true—that the man fell
in love with every pretty new face—for mine was called beautiful
then—and that after an entertaining season of flirtation he had bid me
adieu? Of course I blamed myself for having been so confiding as to be
deceived by a handsome adventurer without principle or honor. I cannot
tell you what agony I suffered. I begged Helen to go on to Naples, for
Rome had become very hateful to me. But at Rome, as you know, Helen fell
ill with Roman fever, and died, and I returned to Rome to bury her body
there in the Protestant cemetery. Four months had gone by, and not a
word from my friend. Alone as I was, my troubles drove me nearly
frantic. I returned to Paris. That I was so sad and changed seemed
naturally due to Helen's death: nobody suspected that I was the victim
of a keener sorrow. None of his friends had received news of him. I was
too proud to show that my interest in him had been of more than ordinary
meaning. Nobody knew of my love for him but Helen, and the secret was
buried in her grave.
"I tarried a month or two in Paris, hoping against hope for news of him,
without even the consolation of addressing him letters, as I did not
know where one would reach him. To know he was dead would have been a
relief: to think he had abandoned me, that he had been false, was
insupportable. It was the most probable solution of the mystery, but I
have never believed it, and I love him as deeply to-day as ever. I have
schooled myself to cheerfulness and gayety, but having known him spoiled
me for loving again. Here is his portrait," drawing a case from a
drawer: "I wish you to see how handsome and good and noble a man may
look to be, and yet—"
She paused, and I added, "Be a villain."
"So you see," she smiled, "how apropos my advice to you is: have nothing
to do with foreigners."
I returned her the portrait without comment, kissed her good-night, and
next day sailed out to sea, with Aunt Edith waving her handkerchief
after me like a flag of warning. We lived in the country, six hours'
ride from New York, and my oldest brother and Aunt Edith had followed me
to the "water's edge," as she playfully expressed it. At London I was to
join Cecilia Dayton, a handsome widow of forty-five, an old friend of
ours, who was to act the part of "chaperone." We called her "St.
Cecilia," although she was anything but saintly.
Late in the following winter we left Paris and went to Nice, where "the
romance of a serviette" began; and I trust the reader will not question
my truthfulness when I observe that what I am writing is, without
exaggeration, strictly true.
St. Cecilia, from nervousness brought on by drinking strong tea (as I
firmly believe), kept a small night-lamp burning in her room at night,
so she should not be afraid to sleep. For this purpose she used tiny
tapers, which float on the top of oil poured in a tumbler half full of
water. We breakfasted in our own rooms, and the breakfast napkins of the
Grand Hôtel, where we were stopping, were decidedly shabby and only
about six inches square. On the morning of our leavetaking of Nice, St.
Cecilia wanted a "rag" to tie over her bottle of oil, which she carried
with her for her night-tapers, and cast her eyes about for one: she
seized upon the raggedest of the serviettes.
"I don't consider this stealing, ma chère," she murmured in apology.
"My bill is enormous! I feel that I've paid for this rag twice over."
So the serviette went with us by sea to Naples. There we were obliged
for a time to occupy the same apartment, and the napkin taken off the
bottle was lying about the room, for it was warm and there was no fire
to throw it in. Tucking it away with soiled linen, it came back from the
laundry clean and white, save one round oil-spot on it, and was thrown
into my trunk along with the refreshed linen; and there it remained
untouched until four months later, when I arrived at Vienna.
At Venice, Cecilia was obliged to return to Paris: she was to rejoin me
a fortnight later at Vienna. Meantime, a young Englishwoman, Kate
Barton, whose acquaintance we had made at Rome, was going to Vienna to
join a party of cousins; and as we were both alone, we arranged to make
the journey together. Kate was one of the merriest of English girls (a
native, however, of Cape Town), a tall, rosy-cheeked blond, with a half
dozen brothers distributed in the British army and provincial
We left Venice at midnight in an Adriatic steamer, and arrived next
morning at Trieste, a town which during our forced stay in it of
forty-eight hours filled my mind with nothing but most disagreeable
souvenirs. Life there was in complete contrast to the quiet, poetic,
graceful existence at Venice, and the change from the one to the other
had been so sudden as to act like a stunning blow. A detention caused by
illness and the loss of a train through the purposed maliciousness of a
hotel-waiter led to two results. One was our sending a telegram to the
proprietor of the W——Hôtel in Vienna to inform him of the delay, as
rooms had been engaged for us by a gentleman who was in the habit of
lodging in that hotel when in Vienna, and who before leaving the city
had shown the kind thoughtfulness of sending us a letter of introduction
to the proprietor commending us to his courtesy. The other result was to
bring about an acquaintance with a Prussian, Herr Schwager, which
happened in this wise: Kate, whose wrath was fully aroused at the
troubles we encountered in Trieste, was extravagant in her denunciations
of those "horrid Germans" after we were once fairly seated in the cars
bound for Gratz. Neither of us spoke German with any degree of ease or
much intelligibility, and consequently gave vent to our opinions in
plain English. A young man of a studious, gentlemanly appearance, but of
unmistakable Teutonic descent, sat in one corner of the compartment, and
from his frequent smiling at our talk I concluded that he understood
English, and made bold to ask him if he did.
"Happily, I do," he replied, his handsome brown eyes twinkling with
increased merriment, "and I am one of those 'horrid Germans.'"
His reply greatly amused Miss Barton, and opened the way to a very
animated conversation, in which we learned that he had just come from
Italy, had been on the same steamer as ourselves coming from Venice, and
had stopped in the same hotel and suffered the same agonies. Then we
talked of what we liked best in Italy, and he spoke of an American
friend, Mr. Fanton, with whom he had greatly enjoyed Rome. The fact that
he was a friend of John Fanton, whom I had known for years, and who was
the last to bid me good-bye in Rome, was recommendation enough for any
stranger, and constituted us friends at once. I forgot all about Aunt
Edith's advice to have "nothing to do with foreigners," but placed at
once the most unlimited confidence in Herr Schwager, who from the
beginning of our acquaintance attached himself in a most brotherly way
to our fortunes, proving himself in every particular a rare honor to his
sex. However gross and brusque the German character may be, I must for
ever make an exception of our Herr, whose genuine politeness, delicacy
of kindness, refinement and manliness I have rarely seen equalled and
Kate kept up her banter about the "horrid Germans," for which she had
abundant reason in our journey from Gratz to Vienna. We had hoped to
have a compartment to ourselves, to which end Herr Schwager had expended
a florin; but at the last moment a portly Gratzian entered and settled
himself by one of the windows which would command the Semmering Pass. He
too spoke some English, and endeavored to be sociable. As we neared the
pass he insisted upon my taking his seat the better to see the
marvellous scenery, with which he was already familiar. I had been too
long on the Continent not to have become suspicious of a voluntary
sacrifice on the part of a European. It invariably means something: it
covers an arrière pensée. He offers you a paper to read or a peach or
a pear to eat, or buys a bouquet of flowers at a station, and if you
accept the proffer of either he takes advantage of the obligation under
which he has placed you and proceeds generally to smoke, remarking for
form's sake that he "hopes it is not offensive," while you, under the
burden of his kindness, smile a fashionable lie, and reply, "Not in the
least." So our Gratzer withdrew to the farther end of the seat and began
to smoke a most villainous cigar, and continued to smoke, lighting
another when one was finished. I soon began to succumb to the poisonous
effects of the close atmosphere, for, although we kept our windows
open—it was the middle of June—the Gratzer with true German caution
kept his firmly closed. But the effect upon Kate was even worse, and her
pallid face plainly told how much she was suffering. We cast entreating
looks upon Herr Schwager, who never smoked, but understood our annoyance
without knowing just how to ask the Gratzer to cease. We poked our heads
out of the window, opened cologne-bottles and indulged in various
manifestations of disgust; but to no purpose: the Austrian smoked on.
Finally, when he began on the fourth cigar, Kate, whose patience was
utterly exhausted, begged me to ask him to stop. I naturally demurred,
being under obligation to him, and replied, "You're the sicker, Kate:
you tell him."
When suddenly she lifted her pale face and shouted at him, "Oh, you
horrid German! we are nearly smoked to death! For mercy's sake, stop!"
"Ah, pardon!" he replied unconcernedly, taking the cigar from his mouth
and putting it in his pocket.
Herr Schwager's amusement was boundless, and our satisfaction also, as
we had no more smoke on the road to Vienna.
The landlord of the Hôtel W——, to whom we were recommended, received
us with a pleasant cordiality, and at the same time apologized because
he could not give us the rooms engaged for us until the next day; so we
were temporarily lodged in a large room leading from an anteroom
designed for a servant—an arrangement which is common in Austrian
hotels. On the following morning, as Kate was waiting half dressed in
the anteroom for the kammer-mädchen to bring her warm water, who should
walk in upon her, sans cérémonie, but a long, black-gowned priest! He
stared at her, nonchalantly looked about the room, and walked out with
never a word. She might have regarded the intrusion as a mistake if a
like visit from the same personage had not been made at the same hour
next morning in our own rooms, to which we were that day transferred.
The two successive intrusions were to us inexplicable, unless, in the
light of succeeding events, we were to regard the priest as a detective
officer or spy. Our apartments communicated, both being reached through
an entry, while my room, lying beyond Kate's, was only reached by
passing also from the entry through hers.
On the fourth day of our sojourn in the hotel, about nine o'clock in the
morning, Kate tapped on the door leading into my room, and at my cry of
"Entrez," came in. She was in a dressing-gown, her long, curling brown
hair hanging over her shoulders and a very unusual expression on her
"More priests?" I asked in explanation.
"Police!" she exclaimed. "If we ever get out of this town alive I
shall be thankful! I had rung as usual for water, and just as I had
finished my bath I heard a knock at the outside door, and asking 'Wer
ist da?' the chambermaid replied that she was. I then opened the door
a bit, and saw looking over her shoulders two strange men. My first
thought was that they were friends of yours wishing to give you a
surprise, and I cried out, 'Oh, you can't come in, for we are not
dressed.' Then one of the men said in broken English, 'We shall and we
will come in;' and they forced the door in upon me, while I hastened
to close and fasten the other, but was too late, for they followed at my
heels. 'You are Miss W——?' the one who had already spoken said.—'No,
I am not.'—'Then she is in the next room?'—'But you cannot go in, for
she isn't dressed,' I said.—'You are her sister, and you come from the
Grand Hôtel,' he continued; and you've no idea with what a ferocious
face. It was dreadful! Then he said something about the police—that
we must go to the police-court; and finally said he would give you
five minutes to dress in. Now, there they are, banging at the door. Oh,
what have we done? Why did we ever come into this barbarous land?" and
poor merry Kate was on the brink of hysterics.
"Oh, 'tis all a mistake," I replied, adjusting my necktie. "I will see
the men, and the matter will be explained at once."
The noise from the street coming in from my open windows had prevented
me from hearing the conversation in Kate's room, and I should have been
inclined to regard her startling narrative as one of her jokes if it had
not been for the loud banging on the door. I hastened to open it: the
men came in, and, wishing to relieve Kate of their presence, I asked
them to pass into my room. This they refused to do, taking a decided
stand in Kate's. I was too curious to lose my presence of mind or show
that I was annoyed, and with my blandest smile inquired why I was
honored with so matinal a visit from two strangers, when the following
"We come from the police. You are Miss W——?"
"By no means."
"Yes you are; and this woman is your sister."
"No, she is not my sister."
"Yes, she is. You're English. No? What are you, then?"
"Show your passport."
"Here it is;" and I opened the document bearing the American eagle and
the signature of Hamilton Fish.
The two men put their heads together, neither being able to tell what
sort of a paper it was, which secretly amused me. The men were in
civilian's dress. Turning to Kate, her passport was demanded. She had
"And of what nation are you?" asked the spokesman.
She refused to tell.
"And what is your name?"
She refused to answer that. The poor girl had become so nervous under
the ordeal, which for her had been of a very violent character, that she
imagined nothing could be more disgraceful and humiliating than to have
her name mixed up with a police-affair.
Finding that she was inexorable, they returned to me with, "Well, miss,
you must go with us to the police," and showed me a paper of arrest.
"And why must I go to the police?"
"Because you have been at the Grand Hôtel."
"What Grand Hôtel?"
"The Grand Hôtel. You must go to the police."
I rang the bell, and asked that the proprietor of the house come at once
to my room. He came, and I demanded an explanation of the mystery.
"You must know, mademoiselle," he began, "that in Vienna we are all in
the power of the police: they must have the name, nationality, business
and address of every person who comes into the city. The morning after
your arrival these men came and asked if two English ladies were
stopping here. I said 'Yes.' They then said they believed you were
persons they had been trying for two weeks to catch, and that you were
very suspicious characters who had been stopping here in the Grand
Hôtel. I told them it was not possible—that you had come direct from
Italy; and I mentioned the telegram you had sent from Trieste, and that
you had been recommended to my courtesy by a gentleman whom I well knew
and who had many times lodged here. But they went away, and came back
again next day, making some inquiries about you, and asking if numbers
so and so were those of your rooms. You were out, and whether they
visited your rooms or not I cannot say. This is all that I know. Now
they are here again, and if they say you must go to the police-court,
there will be no other way but to go."
"But I don't understand. I have my passport: there is my bill, receipted
at the hotel in Trieste six days ago. I never knew before it was a crime
for two English-speaking women to travel alone or to stop at a Grand
Hôtel. Of what are we suspected? and upon what grounds suspected?"
"Why, a napkin has been seen among your effects with the mark of the
Grand Hôtel upon it."
After a moment's thought it flashed into my mind that it was that Nice
serviette, and, more amused than annoyed, I exclaimed, "Oh, I have it.
'Tis that serviette St. Cecilia took at Nice;" and opening my trunk soon
had it in my hands, holding it up by two corners for the men to see and
explaining how it came into my possession.
"It will go very hard with Madame Cecilia," observed the spokesman: "you
will please give us her address."
My indiscretion at once became apparent, but I was a complete novice in
"being arrested." To involve Cecilia in the affair would be but an
aggravation of matters, and I at once decided, come what might, I would
not give the police her address. Looking at the half-obliterated stamp
in the corner of the napkin, there was unmistakably the mark "Grand
Hôtel," but directly underneath "Nice," which the police, in their ardor
to find me guilty of something which I could not find out, had
undoubtedly mistaken for Wien, the German name for Vienna. I called
their attention to the "Nice," asking what jurisdiction the Austrian
government had over matters relating to hotels in Italy. They replied by
looking very closely at the stamp, and then one of them took my passport
and the napkin and went out, leaving the other man to guard our
apartment, and soon returned with a new arrest for myself and my
gesellschafterin, Miss Barton still refusing to give her name. The
landlord had only placed mine in the visitors' book, thereby making
himself liable to a fine of eight or ten dollars.
Nothing could have been more widely different than the effect produced
upon Kate and myself. To me the whole affair was inexpressibly
mysterious and ludicrous, notwithstanding the insolence of the police,
and, as it seemed to me, their amazing stupidity. Poor Kate was the
wrathfullest woman I ever saw, while her obstinate refusal to answer any
questions about herself only increased the ferocity of the men, whose
treatment of her was shameful in the extreme. They threatened to search
our trunks, which aroused Kate's wrath the more. I observed that as they
had assumed the right to unlock and search mine during my absence, they
were probably already acquainted with its contents. They, however,
abandoned the searching scheme, and ordered us to get ready to go to the
police-court, which was about two minutes' walk distant. Kate declared
that to the police-court she would not go, unless she were dragged there
by her hair, while the men declared that she would then be taken by
armed force. I concluded to telegraph to the American embassy for
help, but that was denied me. Herr Schwager had called to see us only
the day previous, saying his lodgings were quite in our neighborhood,
but we had not asked his address. There seemed nothing to do but to go
to the court and be my own lawyer. It never occurred to me that the
landlord to whose courtesy I had been recommended would refuse to go
with me; but when I asked him for his protection he begged to be
excused, on the ground of being very busy and that he could be of no
service to me. I do not wish any reader to infer from this that he was
an exceptional Viennese hotel-keeper—that is, exceptionally
ungentlemanly: he was, on the contrary, a fair representative both of
his trade and his countrymen. Austrian military officers and diplomatic
attachés of the government have won in fashionable society a reputation
for extreme politeness and gallantry toward women; which may be true, as
neither under such conditions costs any earnest sacrifice. But the rank
and file of the middle class of Austrians, the class with which
travellers have naturally most to do, are most brusque and ungracious in
manner as well as in deed, unembellished with any hint of courtesy.
I enjoyed a fling at the landlord by expressing surprise at his refusal
to accompany me to the police-court, adding maliciously that American
gentlemen were not famous for polished manners, but there was not one
mean enough in the whole country to refuse his protection to a lady, a
guest under his own roof and in a strange land, where the help of
friends was denied her. I then appealed to Kate to go with me, as it
would only end the trouble sooner, and that I would never allow her to
go to such a place alone, but with tears streaming from her eyes she
resisted my entreaties, and I followed one of the men to the court: the
other remained behind to watch Kate.
I had no more idea of a police-court than I had of the reason why I was
being taken there. It was mystery and curiosity that sustained me. I
undoubtedly looked like an amused interrogation-mark, for the moment I
was introduced into the presence of the grand interrogator of that
inquisition, upon whose desk lay my passport and "that serviette," he
smiled and remarked in French, "It is very evident, mademoiselle, that
you have nothing to do with this affair."
"With what affair, monsieur? I haven't the faintest idea what I was
brought here for," I responded.
"Why, just this: about a fortnight ago two Englishwomen stopped at the
Grand Hôtel in this city, and left without paying their bills, carrying
off with them all the household linen they could lay their hands on."
And so we had been arrested as house-linen thieves! It was too
humiliating. I was then interviewed as to my companion's refusal to give
her name, etc., which argued very much against her. I explained as well
as I could the extreme annoyance and brutal treatment to which she had
been subjected, her horror of having anything to do with a police-court,
and how the disgrace of being suspected of a crime was aggravated by
intense nervous excitement brought on by the insolence of the police.
After considerable pleading on my part in her behalf—for I felt that I
was the sole cause of the trouble—it was agreed upon that she should be
relieved from coming to the court upon condition that she would sign a
paper giving her name, nationality, etc., and I was dismissed without
the slightest apology for the trouble to which I had been subjected. At
that point the affair ceased to be funny, and, turning back after I had
reached the door of exit, I made a short and as effective a speech as
the polite language of the French would allow, in which I conveyed a
frank idea of my opinion of Austrian courtesy. I succeeded well enough
to convince my examiner of something—probably that he had caught a
Tartar—and I left him tugging furiously at his moustache. My official
escort led the way back to the hotel with a very crestfallen air, savage
I found Miss Barton in a worse condition than ever, the persecutions of
the guarding policeman having continued with increased ferocity. He had
dogged every movement she made, until the poor girl had nearly gone mad;
and it was only after long persuasion that I induced her to sign the
paper, such a one as most travellers without passports in Austria are
obliged to fill out. She finally wrote her name in a great scrawl which
nobody could decipher, and gave as her country "Cape Town, Africa;"
which again confounded the men, as they had no idea how a "Hottentot"
could be an English subject. But they swallowed their ignorance, and
finally went away.
When Kate had become restored to her normal condition she heaped upon
herself all sorts of self-reproaches, and paid me extravagant
compliments for what she called "good sense" and "presence of mind." As
she demanded redress for the insults she had suffered, and as I wished
to know by what right an Austrian policeman privily searched the trunks
of American women who had the misfortune to come into the Austrian
dominions, we posted off to our respective national ambassadors. Kate
had the satisfaction of being told that she ought to congratulate
herself upon getting off as well as she did, since two of her
countrywomen had been arrested, put in jail and kept there for two weeks
upon even less grounds for suspicion. The result of our complaints was,
that the amplest official apologies were made by the Foreign Office, the
two policemen severely censured and degraded from rank, while, through
the influence of Herr Schwager, who went to the president of the police,
an officer was sent from that organization to apologize to us in person.
But what I cared most for I never got—an acknowledgment of the right of
the police to search baggage à plaisir.
As might have been expected, our liking for Vienna had been thoroughly
damped. From that moment Kate never saw an officer without fear and
trembling, and officers were everywhere. "To think," she exclaimed,
"that I have grown to be such a ninny! My brothers always said, 'Oh, we
can trust Kate to go anywhere: she never gets nervous or afraid;' and
here I am actually afraid to cross a street! I shall never have a
moment's peace until I get out of this horrid country."
At the end of a fortnight, having entirely missed her cousins, she
joined a party of Americans going to England. St. Cecilia meantime had
arrived, and was of course entertained by the napkin adventure. But she
could not abide Vienna, and quickly returned to Paris. As I wished to
"do" the Exposition and run no more risks of arrest, I decided to
withdraw to Baden, a half hour's ride by express from the Südbahn
station of the Austrian capital, as the town was strongly recommended by
Herr Schwager and several American friends residing in Vienna. Herr
Schwager declared that with my small stock of Deutsch sprechen the
Badenites would cheat me out of my eyes, and very kindly volunteered to
help me get installed. A history of the trials attending that
transaction would alone "fill a volume," but I mention only one, and
that simply because it seemed another link in the manifest chain of
An hour after our arrangement for my accommodation for the season had
been settled "meine Wirthin" received a letter from her son-in-law that
he was coming, and she informed me that she would need her guest-chamber
for him, returning to me my advanced guldens at the same time she broke
her bargain. Nothing was to be done but to look elsewhere, and
eventually lodgings were obtained in the Bergstrasse, in quite another
part of the town. The locality was excellent, being very near the
promenade and music-gardens: then I liked the face of the
Haus-meisterin, as did Herr Schwager, who wisely remarked that he
thought kindness of heart should rank high in that "benighted land."
I frequently went to Vienna, spending the day at the Exposition and
returning to Baden in the evening. Upon one of these occasions I found
upon my return to the Südbahn that I had a half hour to wait for the
train. As I was hungry, I ordered a cup of coffee in the café
waiting-room. Upon putting my hand in my pocket for my portemonnaie, lo!
I had none, not a kreutzer to my name, and my portemonnaie contained
also my return railway-ticket! I was alone: it was seven o'clock in the
evening. My situation was dramatic, even comic, and I laughed to myself
and smiled upon a gentleman and two ladies who sat at the same table,
calmly remarking that I had been robbed of my Gelttasche: they smiled
in return, and nothing more. I sent a kellner to bring me the master
of the café, whom I informed of my loss and my inability to pay my debt
to him. He at once led me off to a commissaire de police—of whom
there are always plenty about in civilian's dress—to whom I made a
statement of my loss, describing my lost treasure and where I thought it
had in all probability been taken. While we were talking a very
distinguished-looking man, perhaps forty-five years of age, with
magnificent black eyes, passed near, evidently interested. When through
with the police I remarked that I did not know how I was to get back to
Baden; whereupon the master of the café—who, by the way, spoke English
well—exclaimed, "Oh, as to that, I will lend you what you need."
Hearing this, the distinguished-looking stranger came up with a salaam,
and, begging the conventional number of pardons, graciously
volunteered any service he might be able to render me. I thanked him,
explaining to him in a few words my misfortune, but that the master of
the café—who had meantime purchased a railway-ticket for me—had
gallantly come to my rescue. At this moment the car-bell rang: I gave my
card to the Meister, took down his name, and hurried away to get a
seat in the train, the owner of the black eyes following me, helping me
as best he could, and, "if madame had no objections, would take a seat
near her, as he too was en route for Baden." He spoke in French, with
a pure French accent, although it was evident he was not a Frenchman. He
evinced a desire to continue an acquaintance so oddly begun, but I was
obliged to doom him to disappointment. My mind was occupied with the
grave question of finance, and about how long I should be obliged to
remain in Baden before I should receive a remittance from London. I
remembered having seen the gentleman once or twice in the park at
Baden, and thought him, with his splendid eyes, graying hair and
military bearing, a man of no ordinary appearance. He had the air of a
person looking for some one, and the expression was sad. Under ordinary
circumstances I should have been curious to learn more of him. My
coolness of manner, accompanied by the almost rude brevity of my replies
to his few ventured remarks, seemed to amuse him, for he smilingly
observed that I was a true "Anglaise."
To be taken for English always aroused my honest indignation, and I
quickly retorted, "Pardon, mais je ne suis pas Anglaise."
"Vraiment! but you speak with the English accent."
"Quite possible, monsieur, as English is my mother tongue, but I am a
"Américaine! Américaine!" he repeated eagerly. "I once knew an
American lady, and I should prize above all things some knowledge of
her. I hope I may have the honor—" A blast from the engine broke upon
his speech at that juncture: we were at Baden.
Hastily thanking him—for abroad one falls into the continental habit of
thanking people "mille fois" for what they do not do, as for what they
do do—and saying "Bon jour," I hurried off to the Bergstrasse. The next
morning I refunded my borrowed guldens to the master of the café by post
(as I had not placed my entire bank in my purse), and feeling
conscience-smitten at having, in my direst extremity, been befriended by
one of those "dreadful Austrians" whom I had so bitterly berated, I
hinted my amazement, along with my thanks, at having been the recipient
of so graceful and needed a courtesy from a Viennese. He acknowledged
the receipt of the money, adding, "I hope you do not take me for a
Viennese: I am a Bavarian, and have lived twelve years in England."
Among the occupants of the house and dwellers in the garden where I
lodged and lived was a young Austrian woman, two years married, with
whom I formed a pleasant acquaintance, and whose chatty ways rapidly
revived my knowledge of the German, in which language only she could
express herself. I shall not soon forget her, for she told me that she
married to please the "Eltern"—that she "had never loved," and was so
naïve in her mode of reasoning as to prove a source of infinite
surprise. She had no conception of any destiny for a girl but that of
marriage, and never tired of asking about "American girls," whom I
described as oftentimes living and dying unmarried.
"And do not the parents force them to marry? And what do they do if not
marry? And when they get old, what becomes of them? And they are
doctors even? Did you ever see a woman-doctor?" etc., etc., and
hundreds of similar questions.
One evening, two or three days after the "robbery," we went to sit in
the park and listen to the music. On the end of a bench where we sat
down was a poorly-clad, miserable-looking woman, who occupied herself in
dozing and waking. I had no money in my pocket, but I could not rid
myself of the idea that the poor wretch was dying of hunger, and her
sharp contrast to the hundreds of elegantly-dressed people all about her
and constantly moving to and fro only gave more force to her isolation
and misery. At length, perhaps more to relieve my mind than otherwise, I
begged my Nachbarin to lend me a coin, which I slipped without a word
into the creature's hand. To the surprise of both of us, she made no
sign of acceptance or thanks. Ten or fifteen minutes later she rose, and
coming near us she began to stammer out her thanks and to tell us how
poor she was—that she could not work, and that for a month she had been
coming to the park, hoping that where there were so many rich people
some would kindly give her a trifle; but that in all that time but one
person had done so—a gentleman who had given her a gulden; and if we
would look she would point him out. We looked: it was the distinguished
stranger. I confess to have been gratified, and to feeling confident
that if he was one of the foreigners that Aunt Edith had bade me beware
of, he was at least a gentleman and a Christian.
The last of August was nearing, and, as the heat was intense, I often
went up a hill at the back of the park to be alone and enjoy the breezy
atmosphere and the charming view the elevation commanded. On one of
these occasions—it was the twenty-fifth and my birthday—I was more
than usually absorbed in my thoughts when my attention was caught by a
shadow passing over the declivity a little removed from where I sat, and
looking up I recognized the giver of alms. He lifted his hat, begged
pardon and hoped it was not an indiscretion to ask if I had recovered my
purse; which opened the way to further conversation. The sun was fast
setting, and the scene on earth and sky was resplendent. Leaning upon a
rock, he contemplated the miracle in silent adoration.
"Ah, that is equal to what I have so often seen in America," I remarked.
After a moment he replied, "For many years no land has so much
interested me as America, and upon no people do I look with so much
interest. America gave me my supremest joy and my profoundest sorrow.
Perhaps this confession may, in a measure, excuse my impolite intrusion
upon you, as I am so thoroughly a stranger."
"Yes, and a foreigner," I laughed. "I have a dear, beautiful aunt Edith
at home who warned me against foreigners. This is my fête, and as her
birthday is the same as mine, I am naturally thinking of her just now,
and recall her sage advice. As the sun is down, I will follow it and bid
As I rose to go he made no reply, as if he had been indifferent to what
I had said. I glanced at his face: it was ashen white. He was opening a
locket attached to his watchguard, from which he lifted a ring of dark
hair, and then drawing it nearer his eyes he spoke as if reading a date:
"Le vingt-cinq août."
The pallor of his face, joined to its outline, which was in full
profile, held me where I stood as if spellbound. Somewhere, a long time
ago, I had seen that face.
"Yes, it is an unusual coincidence," he remarked, as if just
comprehending what had been said. "But your aunt Edith must be much
older than you?"
"No: only ten years."
"Is she married?"
"Nor I, monsieur. We belong to the noble army of old maids, which on the
other side is a more honorable and obstinate sisterhood than here."
He smiled faintly, and wiped his forehead with a large white
"If I should go to America," he observed, "I should greatly desire to
visit the locality where women like you live and die unmarried."
"Oh, for that matter, you can't miss them," I replied laughingly:
"they're common from Maine to California. Spinsterhood is an outgrowth
of our Declaration of Independence—'liberty and the pursuit of
"But, really, I desire to know the name of the place where you live: I
am sure it will interest me greatly. Will you not write it for me?" And
he offered me a blank card.
"Oh, certainly, but I don't understand why."
"I may possibly go and see your aunt Edith and tell her I saw you on the
top of a mountain. Perhaps you would like to send her a message?"
"Well, if you see her," I replied in the same tone, moving away, "tell
her I haven't forgotten to beware of foreigners."
"Just one more word," he entreated, following me. "Is your aunt Edith,
"Yes, but how should you know?" and in that moment it flashed upon my
mind like sudden daybreak. "And you are—" I stammered.
"A man who has loved her many a year. To-morrow I leave Vienna for
England, to sail for New York. I cannot say more to you now than that I
begin to see my way through a sad, sad mystery. Here is my card.
The bright glow left in the atmosphere by the brilliant sunset had quite
died away, but it was light enough for me to read the superscription:
"Le Chevalier Achille Roma."
I walked back to my lodgings in a manner probably quite sane to other
people, although the distance was compassed by myself in a condition of
complete unconsciousness as to how. Like the phantasmagoria of fated
events swept before my mind the train of complicated circumstances that
had led to my finding Aunt Edith's lost lover. And the beautiful romance
at the end had resulted from my having disregarded her warning to
"beware of foreigners."
There is not much more to tell. I left Baden at the end of the month,
and returned to Paris. Six weeks later I had a letter from Aunt Edith
urging me to come home for her wedding, which would take place prior to
the holidays. The Chevalier Roma had long since become convinced that
his "friend," the consul at Rome, was the key to the whole mischief, but
his suspicions in that direction came too late for him to regain a clue
to Aunt Edith. Several letters sent to her name at New York of course
had never reached her. The surest and quickest way to accomplish his
desire, to prove to the heart he had through so many years cherished how
true and loyal had been his allegiance, how deep and sincere his love,
was the one he had chosen and acted upon with such alacrity.
A few weeks after my aunt's marriage I received the wedding-cards of
Herr Schwager and Miss Kate Barton. After all, merry Kate had accepted a
"horrid German" for her husband, and thereby the truth suddenly dawned
upon my mind that I had been the recipient of the Herr's exceeding
kindness because I was "neighbor to the rose."