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   Chapter 15 HATE AND LOVE

Old Fritz and the New Era By L. Muhlbach Characters: 23286

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02


"Herr Conrector Moritz wishes to pay his respects," called out Trude again.

"We do not wish to receive him," cried Frau von Werrig.

"He dare not presume to enter!" shrieked the general.

Marie cried, "Moritz! Oh! my beloved Moritz," rushing with outstretched arms toward her lover, who just appeared at the door. "God has sent you to sustain me in this fearful hour."

Old Trude peeped through the half-closed door, well satisfied to see her dear young lady folded in Moritz's arms, and her head leaning upon his shoulder. "Yes," she murmured, closing softly the door, "Marie is right, God himself sent her lover in this hour, and I would not let her wicked, hard-hearted parents send him away."

Quick as thought she turned the key, fastening the door, and betook herself to the farthest room, carefully closing every door between them. "Now we will see for once whether they will show him the door, and pitch him out. No, they will be obliged to listen to him. Old Trude wishes it, for it will make her dear Marie happy. It is all the same to me if the old German tries to scratch my eyes out for it; I will take good care to keep out of his way. I must go and listen once."

She put her ear to the keyhole, and then her eye, to see how the quarrellers looked.

At first the general and his wife were quite alarmed, and almost speechless as they witnessed the joyful meeting of the lovers. The father sprang up suddenly, with clinched fist, but instead of bitter invectives only a fearful shriek of pain was heard, as he sank groaning and whimpering into his armchair. The gout had again seized its victim. Anger had excited the general's blood, and had also brought on the pain in his leg again. His wife took no notice of his cries and groans, for it was quite as agreeable to her to be the only speaker, and have her moaning husband a kind of assenting chorus. "Leave each other!" she commanded, as she approached the lovers, flourishing her long shrivelled arms about. "Leave each other, and leave my house!"

Laying her hand on Marie's arm, which was thrown around her lover's neck, she endeavored to tear her away, and draw her daughter toward herself. But Marie clung only the more firmly, and Moritz pressed her more fervently to his heart. They heeded not and heard not the outburst of anger which the mother gave way to. They read in each other's eyes the bliss, the joy of meeting again, and the assurance of constant, imperishable love.

"You are pale and thin, my beloved!"

"Sorrow for you is consuming me, Marie, but, thank Heaven, you are unchanged, and beautiful as ever!"

"Hope and love have consoled and strengthened me, Philip."

"Enough! I forbid you to speak another word to each other," and with the power which rage lends, the mother tore Marie away. "Herr Moritz, will you tell me by what right you force yourself into our house, and surprise us like a street-thief in our peaceful dwelling? But no! you need not tell me, I will not listen to you. Those who permit themselves to enter our room unasked and unwelcomed-I will have nothing to say to them. Leave! there is the door! Out with you, off the threshold!"

With calm demeanor, Moritz now approached Fran von Werrig, demanding her pardon, saying: "You see, madame, that I am not so unwelcome here, therefore you will be obliged to let me remain."

"Yes, that she will," sneered Trude, outside the door. "It will be difficult for her to send him off so long as I am unwilling."

"No, I will not permit it. We have nothing to do with each other. Out of my sight!-Away!"

"Away!" cried the general. "Oh, the gout, the maddening pains! I cannot throw the bold fellow out of the house! I must lie here, and writhe like a worm! I cannot be master of my house. Oh, oh! what pain!"

"Stay, Philip," whispered Marie, as she again leaned toward Moritz. "They wish to sell me and force me to a hated marriage. Do not yield! save me!"

"You are mine, Marie; you have sworn to me eternal constancy, and no one can compel you to marry if you do not wish to."

"We are her parents; we can, and we will compel her," triumphantly cried Frau von Werrig. "The king has given his consent, and if it is necessary we will drag her to the altar by force!"

"Do it, mother, and I will say no before all the world."

"We will take care that no one hears you but the priest, and he will not listen, as he knows that the king has commanded you to say yes!"

"But God will hear her, Frau von Werrig, and He will take vengeance on the cruel, heartless mother."

"I will await this vengeance," she sneered. "It does not concern you, and you need not trouble yourself about it. Leave the house!"

"I came here to speak with you, and I will not go away until you have listened to me."

"Then I will leave, for I will not hear you, and I command you to follow me, Marie!"

She seized Marie with irresistible force, and drew her toward the side door, which was fast. Then hurried toward the entrance, dragging her daughter after her, but shook it in vain; that door was fastened also.

"Oh! I could kiss myself," murmured Trude, as she patted her old, wrinkled cheeks. "I was as cunning and wise as Solomon. There, shriek for Trude, order her to open it. Trude is not there, and she has no ears for you!"

"This is a plot-a shameful plot!" cried Frau von Werrig, stamping her feet. "That good-for-nothing creature, Trude, is in it. She has locked the doors, and the schoolmaster paid her for it."

Trude shook her fist at her mistress behind the door. "Wait! that good-for-nothing creature will punish you! You shall have something to be angry about with me every day."

"I swear to you that I do not know who locked the doors," replied Moritz, calmly. "But whoever did it, I thank them from the depths of my soul, for it forces you to listen to me, and may love give my words the power to soften your heart. General and Frau von Werrig, I conjure you to have compassion upon us. Is it possible that you are deaf to the cry of grief of your own child?"

Suddenly assuming a contemptuous calm, Frau von Werrig sank back upon the divan with great dignity. "As I am obliged to listen to you, through a shameful deception, let it be so. Try to make ears in my heart, which you say is deaf. Let me listen to your wonderful eloquence!"

"Oh, Philip!" said Marie, clasping his arms, "you see it will all be in vain."

"Let me hope to succeed in awakening a spark of loving mercy, as Moses caused the fountain to gush from the rock.-A year since you turned me insultingly from your door, Frau von Werrig, and you forbade me with scorn and contempt to ever cross your threshold. In the rebellious pride of my heart I swore never to do it again, never to speak to those who had so injured me. The holy, pure love which binds me to this dear girl has released me from my oath. We have tried to live separated from each other a long year, an inconsolable, unhappy year! We hoped to renounce each other, although we could not forget. Marie, as an obedient daughter, obeyed your commands, and returned the ring, which I gave her in a moment of affection and holy trust. I released her from the oath of constancy, and made her free! But it is in vain! During this year I have striven with sorrow as a man, helpless in a desert, who writhes in the folds of the poisonous serpent. I should have gone mad if a consoling word from a great and noble mind had not roused me from my desolation, and if love had not shed a ray of light into my benighted soul. I listened no longer to sickening pride and humbled sense of honor. Love commanded me to come here, and I came to ask you, Marie, in the presence of your parents, if you will be my wife; if you will accept my poor, insignificant name, and be contented by my side to lead a quiet, modest existence. I can only earn sufficient to assure us a peaceful life. I have no splendor, no treasures to offer you, but only my love, my heart, my life, my whole thought and being. Will you accept it, Marie?"

"I do accept it, Moritz, as the greatest happiness of my life. I desire only your love, and I can return only my love to you! Here is my hand, Philip, it belongs to you alone! Let us kneel in humility before my parents, and implore their blessing.-Oh, my father and mother, have pity upon us! See this dear man, to whom my whole heart belongs. I desire only to live and toil with him. There are no riches, no treasures, to compare with his love!"

"General and Frau von Werrig, grant me the wife of my heart!" cried Philip Moritz, deeply moved. "It is true, I am not worthy of her, I have no name, no position, to offer her, but I swear to strive to gain it for her. I will win by my talents and knowledge a distinguished name, and perhaps one day you will concede to my fame that I am a noble man, though not a nobleman. Will you separate two hearts which belong to each other? Take me for your son-in-law, and I swear to be devoted and faithful, to love and honor you for your daughter's sake. I can say no more-words cannot express all that I feel. Love causes me to kneel before you, love makes me humble as a child. I implore you to give me your daughter in marriage."

"I also implore you," cried Marie, sinking down beside Moritz, "give to me this man, whom I love and honor, for my husband."

It was a beautiful and impressive scene-these two young beings pleading for happiness; their eyes flashing with the inspiration of feeling, conscious that they were one in affection, and ready to combat the whole world for each other. But Frau von Werrig was immovable, and the general was too much occupied with his gouty, throbbing leg even to cast a look upon the beautiful group of youth, love, manly determination, and tender resignation.

Outside the door, Trude knelt imploringly, with folded hands, while the tears ran down her old cheeks in big drops. "O God, I well know that they have no pity; have mercy Thou, and cause my dear Marie to be happy! Suffer not that that hard-hearted woman should sell her, and marry her to that bad man my Marie despises. I well know that I am a poor creature, and not worthy that Thou shouldst listen to me, O Lord! But I love that young girl as if she were my own child, and I would give my heart's blood for her. Oh, my God! I implore Thee to let my Marie be happy!" Then she continued, as she rose from her knees. "Now, I have spoken, and I commit every thing to God, and He will do what is best. She has been obliged to listen to him, and if it cannot be otherwise, he must go."

Carefully old Trude unlocked both doors, and then stopped to listen.

Trude was right, there was no mercy in Frau von Werrig's heart. "Have you finished? Have you any thing more to say?" she asked, in her most unsympathizing manner.

"Nothing more with our lips, but our hearts still implore you."

"I do not understand this language, sir, and you have not succeeded in giving me hearing, or ears to hear with. In this useless strife I will say a last word, which I hope will be for life. You shall never be the husband of my daughter! You can never be united."

Marie and Moritz sprang from their knees, laying their hands in each other's, and looked what words could not have better expressed-"We are inseparable, nothing can disunite us but death!"

"I desire you not to interrupt me," commanded Frau von Werrig; "I have listened to you, and now you shall listen to me. I promise you to speak with more brevity than you have. I will not trouble you with useless phrases and tedious lamentations. I will speak to the point. Marie is the da

ughter of General Werrig von Leuthen, whose name would become extinct if the grace and favor of the king had not prevented it, by permitting the husband whom we have chosen for our daughter to take our name, and therewith become our son. You may think, in your arrogance of commoner, and the pride you take in having won the love of the daughter of General von Leuthen, that you could be this husband and son-in-law. But two things fail you: first, the necessary fortune; and, secondly, the king's consent, and that of her father. If you were rich, it might be possible that we should be touched by the tender amorousness of our daughter, and conquer our aversion to you for her sake. You are of low birth, and take a subordinate position in society. It would be extremely laughable for the schoolmaster Moritz to change suddenly into a Herr von Werrig Leuthen. Our son-in-law must be a rich man, in order to be able to give his new title consideration; and, fortunately, the wooer of my daughter's hand possesses this qualification, and therefore we have given our consent. The king has approved our choice, and permits the rich banker Ludwig Ebenstreit to become our son-in-law, and take our name. The king has in this communication, which lies upon the table, and which Marie has heard read, given his assurance to ennoble Ebenstreit upon two conditions: first, that the banker should give up his business, and live upon his income; and, secondly, that the marriage should not take place until the papers of nobility are made out and published, so that the daughter of General von Werrig should not make a misalliance. You know all now, and you will at last understand that there is but one thing for you to do-conquer your foolish presumption, and beg to be excused for your unheard-of boldness in forcing yourself into our house, and then withdraw quickly. If my ear does not deceive me, your accomplice has opened the doors. I think I heard rightly, if my heart has no ears, my head possesses better. We have finished. I would again enjoin upon you the duty of begging for pardon, and then I close this unrefreshing scene with the same words with which it opened-there is the door-go out!"

"Yes, there is the door-go out of it! I want to be quiet-go! My daughter is the betrothed of the rich banker Herr Ebenstreit; she will be his wife as soon as the papers are made out and published.-Go!" cried the general.

The young couple still stood there, hand in hand, looking at the general, until now their eyes met, beaming with tenderest affection for each other. "Is it true, Marie? Speak, my beloved, is it true, will you be the wife of this rich man whom your parents have chosen for you?"

"No, Philip," she calmly and firmly replied. "No, I will not, for I do not love him, I love only you; and here, in the presence of God and my parents, I swear to you that I will be constant to death! They can prevent my becoming your wife, but they cannot force me to wed another. I swear, then, that if I cannot be yours, I will never marry!"

"I receive your oath, and God has heard it also!" said Moritz, solemnly.

"I have also heard it, and I tell you," said Frau von Werrig, "that this romantic heroine will become a perjurer, for I will find means to make her break her silly oath."

"We will, perhaps, find means to delay the marriage," said Moritz proudly, "or, much more, prevent the marriage ceremony."

"I am very curious to know the means," said Frau von Werrig. "From this hour Marie is the betrothed of Herr Ebenstreit, and the wedding will take place so soon-"

"So soon as the title of nobility is published. That is it, is the clause to be filled; and therefore I tell you, beloved, wait and hope! This woman is without pity and without mercy; but God is in heaven, and Frederick the Great on the earth. Wait and hope. Be firm in hope, and constant in love. Do not lose courage, and let them force you to compliance by threats and anger. I have only you to confide in and to love in the world, and you are my hope, my goal, and the happiness of my life. If you forsake me, I lose my good angel, and am a lost, miserable man, whom it would be better to hurl into the deepest abyss than let him suffer the torments of hated existence. The knowledge of your love gives me strength and courage; it will inspire me to fight like a hero, to win the dear, beloved wife, to whom I would yield my life in order to receive it anew from her purified and sanctified. The knowledge that I had lost you, would ruin me."

Laying both hands upon his shoulder, Marie looked at him with eyes beaming with affection, renewing her vow that she would never love or marry another. "We will be courageous in hope, and brave in constancy. Listen to me, my beloved; listen, my mother-I betrothed myself to this dear man! You can prevent my becoming his wife now, but in four years I am of age, and then I shall be my own mistress. Then, my dear Philip, I will be your wife. Let us wait and hope!"

"Yes, Marie, we will wait and hope.-Farewell! Do not forget that there is a great God in heaven, and a great king upon earth.-Farewell!"

He pressed the hand clasped in his own passionately to his tips, and felt from the pressure of her delicate fingers a renewed vow of constancy. Buoyed with this hope in the sad hour of parting, they were happy and joyful. Marie accompanied him to the door-still hand in hand.

"Presume not to go a step farther," commanded her mother, and Marie, obedient to her wishes, remained near the door, bowed to Moritz, and never ceased to regard him, with love beaming in her eyes, until the door closed. Outside stood old Trude, to tell him that she would be at the baker's at seven o'clock every morning, and wait for his commissions, "and may be I shall have something to bring you," she said. "So do come!"

"I will, my good Trude; you are the only person who is friendly to us. Watch over my angel, console her with your affection, and when they are too hard upon her, come to me."

"I surely will, but listen-they are already quarrelling with my good angel. I will go in, to serve as a lightning-rod for dear Marie. I often do it, and it pleases me when the lightning strikes, and dashes my hard old head to the ground, but does not hurt me at all-Farewell, Herr Moritz, the lightning-rod must go in."

Trude entered suddenly and noiselessly the sitting-room, and interrupted the angry reproaches which Frau von Werrig hurled against Marie in a furious stream of words. The countess's rage turned against Trude, who stared as if to challenge her. "What do you want? How dare you enter uncalled?"

"I thought you were calling deaf old Trude, or why did you scream so?" replied Trude, tartly.

"Perhaps it was the general. Ah! there lies the poor, dear old man, groaning and crying, and nobody has any pity for him."

"Ah! Trude, it is good luck that you are here," whined the general. "No one troubles himself about me. Quick, bring warm covering for my leg, the pain is fearful!"

"Poor, dear father, I will take care of you, I will nurse you," said Marie, hastening to him. Her mother pushed her back violently. "Not a step farther; you have no right to go near him, you are his murderess. On your head will fall the guilt, if these dreadful scenes should cause his death."

"No, no, the general will not die quite yet," said Trude busying herself about his arm-chair. "But, Fraulein, you have got something else to do than stay here. They have already sent for the flowers twice, and the French lady is waiting up-stairs to parlez-vous."

Marie looked her friendly thanks, and quietly and quickly left the room.

"Now, bold woman, I have a last word to say to you. Who locked the door when that creature came?" "I, madame," answered Trude, who was just bringing a great cushion from the back-room to cover the general's feet.

"You acknowledge that you locked the door intentionally?"

"Now, my dear, good Frau von Werrig, one does not lock a door by mistake. I did not want Herr Moritz to run away with fright, before you had given him your mind, and set his head straight. He would certainly have escaped, and only heard the half of your beautiful talk, for he had no idea what a miserable fellow he is. So I locked both doors, and he was obliged to listen to you, and has gone away contrite and repentant. There, there, my poor, dear general, is your foot high enough? Shall I not bring the foot-warmer?"

"You shall not bring any thing, nor do any thing more. You are a hypocrite, who connives with Moritz. Leave my house this very hour! You are dismissed my service. Go pack up your things and be off!" cried Frau von Werrig.

"Oh, do not go, Trude, for mercy's sake, for then I have no one to help me," cried the general.

"I cannot do otherwise, she has given me my dismissal." Trude approached Frau von Werrig respectfully, saying, "So I must pack up and go away at once?"

"Immediately, you deceitful creature!"

"Immediately! but Frau von Werrig will be so good as to give me my wages."

"Yes," she answered in a slower and more subdued voice. "That shall be done presently."

"It will not be so very difficult to reckon them, I have been here twenty years; just as many years as Marie is old, for I came as child's nurse, and have helped her learn to talk and walk, and played mother to the dear child a bit. Then I obtained my wages, for they were good times; but the pension-time came, and we had no cook or servant but me. 'The rats run away if the ship springs a leak,' but the old mole Trude stayed. Mankind is in the world to work, I said, and why should not I be the cook and waiting-maid too, that my little Marie should not want any thing? So I became maid-of-all-work and have stayed here ever since. Then, you told me you would double my wages, and give me twenty thalers a year, and four thalers at Christmas. Is it not so, Frau von Werrig?"

"I believe that was the agreement."

"I am quite certain about it," cried the general, who began to understand the drift of Trude. "Yes, Trude was to have twenty thalers a year, and we are owing her many years' wages. You know, wife, I have always kept an account-book for the debts, and only a few days ago-Oh! oh! the pain! Trude, help me cover up the foot warmer!-we reckoned it up a few days ago, and we owe Trude one hundred and thirty thalers."

"One hundred and thirty thalers," repeated Trude, clapping her hands, astonished. "Is it true? oh, that is splendid. I shall be rich, and get a husband yet. I pray you give it to me, Frau von Werrig, right away."

"Not so quickly," said she, proudly. "We will reckon together how much you have saved-because-"

"Oh!" interrupted Trude, "how good you are to make me keep so much; you are my savings bank, where I can deposit my money."

"Because," she continued, with emphasis, without noticing the interruption, "our future son-in-law will pay your wages, the rich banker, Herr Ebenstreit. Yes, the wealthy lover of our daughter. At the moment I have not so much cash in the house."

"Your grace will allow me to stay until Herr Ebenstreit is married, and, in your name, pays me my wages?"

"Yes, Trude, I will allow you to stay," she replied, very graciously. "You will be cunning, Trude, if you try to persuade Marie to accept the rich suitor, for when she does I will give you two hundred thalers."

"I will do all I can to get it. Can I remain here until Marie is married?"

"Yes, you have my permission for that."

"I thank you, Frau von Werrig. Now, general, I will bring you some warm coverings right away."

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