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   Chapter 25 THE ELOPEMENT.

Old Fritz and the New Era By L. Muhlbach Characters: 12757

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02

Evening had set in. The card-table had been arranged, and Leberecht had rolled his master to it, taking his place behind his chair. The hour of whist the general impatiently awaited the entire day, and it was regularly observed. Even in the contract with his adopted son it had been expressly mentioned as a duty, that he should not only secure to them yearly income, but also devote an hour to cards every evening.

Herr Ebenstreit regarded it as a tax, which he must observe until married. The general was much his superior at cards, and, moreover, played the dummy, and the stake being high, it was quite an income for the future father-in-law, and regarded by him as the one bright spot in his daily life.

The cards had been dealt, and Leberecht had assorted the general's, and placed them in his gouty hand, when Trude entered, exultingly.

"What has happened? What makes you interrupt us?" cried the general. "Did you not remember that I have told you always not to disturb us at this hour."

"Yes, general, but I thought good news was never amiss."

"What have you pleasant to tell us?" harshly demanded Frau von Werrig.

"My young lady's compliments," cried Trude, triumphantly; "she begins to see that she must yield to her fate, and that it will do no good to resist any longer. She will be ready for the ceremony at eleven o'clock to-morrow morning."

The general uttered a cry of joy, and struck the table so violently, with his hand, that the cards were thrown together.

His wife bowed dignifiedly, and the happy bridegroom gave old Trude some gold-pieces upon the favorable news.

"Has she, then, been converted by your persuasion?" he asked.

"Through my persuasion and her own good sense. She understands that, if she cannot marry her dear Moritz, Herr Ebenstreit is the most fit husband, because he loves her, and is so generous to her old parents. One thing she would like an answer to-can I accompany her to her new home?"

"Yes, old woman, it will be very agreeable to have so sensible a person," said Ebenstreit. "Tell Marie that it gives me pleasure to fulfil her wish."

"In that case I would repeat that Fraulein begs for indulgence and forbearance until to-morrow, and would like to remain alone to compose herself."

"I do not wish, in the least, to see her," said her mother; "she can do what she likes until then."

"I will tell Marie, and she will rejoice," cried Trude.

"Tell her, from her father, that it is very agreeable to him not to see her pale, wretched-looking face again till morning.-Now, my son, pay attention, and you, Trude, do not presume to interrupt us again. Leberecht, play out my ace of hearts."

The latter, with his eyes cast down, and with a perfectly indifferent manner, played the card indicated, and Trude left the room quietly and unobserved.

"Every thing is arranged, my child," said Trude, as she re-entered Marie's room. "They are playing cards, which always lasts two hours, then Herr Ebenstreit goes away, and the family will go to bed. You have eighteen hours, before you will be discovered. Hark! it strikes seven, and it is already quite dark. When the post-horn sounds, then it is time."

"Oh, Trude! my dear mother, my heart almost ceases to beat, with anxiety, and I quake with fear," sighed Marie. "I am conscious that I have commenced a fearful undertaking!"

"They have driven you to it-it is not your fault," said Trude, consolingly. "Every human being is free to work out his own good or bad fortune, and, as our dear Old Fritz says, 'to be happy in the future world in his own way.' They have sold you for money, and you only prove to them that you are no slave."

"And I prove also that I am a disobedient daughter," added Marie, trembling. "At this hour, it weighs like a heavy burden upon my heart, and the words of Holy Writ burn into my very soul-'Honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee.'"

"You have honored them all your life," said Trude, solemnly; "I can witness it before God and man. You have worked for them without thanks or love, receiving only contempt. It is also written, 'Thou shalt leave father and mother, and cleave unto thy husband.' You still follow the commands of God, and may it bring you happiness and blessing. My prayers and thoughts go with you, my child! a mother could not love her offspring more tenderly than I do you."

"No mother could more tenderly and faithfully care for her than you have for me, Trude," cried Marie, pressing her lovingly to her breast. "Through you alone is my rescue possible, for you give us the money to undertake the long journey."

"Not I," she laughed; "it is Herr Ebenstreit, and that makes it the more amusing; the wicked always set the traps into which they fall themselves." Suddenly the loud, quivering tones of the post-horn were heard, "Es ritten drei Reiter zum Thore hinaus."

"He has come!" cried Marie, and her face beamed with delight. "He calls me! I am coming!-Farewell, dear, peaceful room, where I have so toiled, wept, and suffered! I shall never see thee again! My beloved calls me, and I go to follow him even unto death! Pardon me, O God! Thou seest that I cannot do otherwise! They would force me to perjury, and I dare not break my oath! I cannot forsake him whom I love!-When they curse me, Trude, kneel, and implor God to bless me, who is the Father of love! My conscience does not reproach me. I have worked for them when they needed it; now their adopted son, to whom they have sold their name, allows them a yearly rent, and I can work for myself."

"Hark! there is the post-horn again, you must go," murmured Trude, struggling to force back her tears.

"Bless me, mother," implored Marie, kneeling.

"God's blessing go with you," she said, laying her hands upon her head, "and may it render of no avail the curses of men, but permit you to walk in love and happiness!"

"Amen, amen!" sighed Marie, "now farewell, dear mother, farewell!"

Marie rose, and kissing Trude again, flitted down the stairs, and out of the house, Trude following, holding her breath and listening in fearful excitement.

Again resounded the post-horn.

"They are gone," murmured Trude, bowing her head and praying long and fervently.

The general was particularly fortunate this evening, which caused him to be unusually cheerful and satisfied. A

fter every rubber he gathered up the thalers, until he had amassed a most satisfactory pile. As the clock struck ten, Frau von Werrig declared that they must finish and go to bed.

The general yielded, with a sigh, to her decision, for he knew, by long years of experience, that it would be in vain to defy her will. He shoved his winnings into a leather bag, which he always carried with him, and gave Leberecht the order to roll away his chair, when the servant, with a solemn bow, stepped closely to him, and begged the general to listen to him a moment.

"Well, what have you to say?" he asked.

"I have only one request-that you will permit me to prove that I am a faithful servant, who looks out for the good of his employers. You have given Trude five hundred thalers that she might watch over your daughter. I can show you how well she deserved it, and how differently your humble servant would have done.-Have the goodness, Frau von Werrig, to call Trude to bid Fraulein come down, for you have something important to communicate to her."

His mistress proudly regarded him and seemed to try to read his meaning in his smiling, humble face. "And if my daughter comes, what have you to say?"

"If she comes, then I am a miserable fool and scoundrel, but I beg you to call Trude."

It was a long time before the old woman appeared, confused and sleepy, asking-"what they wanted at such a late hour?"

"Go and tell my daughter that I wish to see her at once."

Trude trembled, but composed herself, saying, "There is time enough to-morrow. Fraulein has been asleep a long time."

"She lies," sneered Leberecht, taking the precaution to protect himself behind the general's arm-chair. "She knows that she is not in bed."

"Oh, you sneak, you rascal," cried Trude, shaking her fist at him, "how dare you say that I tell a lie? How can such a miserable creature as you impute to others what you do yourself every time that you open your mouth?"

"Frau von Werrig, she is only quarrelling, in order to gain time-every moment is precious. I beg you to go up-stairs, and see for yourself, if your daughter is there."

"Fraulein has locked the door so as not to be disturbed."

"Ah," said Leberecht, "Trude has locked it, and has the key in her pocket."

"Give up the key," shrieked the general, who in vain tried to rise, "or I will call the police, and send you to prison."

"Do it, but I will not give it to you."

"Do you not see she has it?" cried Leberecht.

"Oh, you wretch, I will pay you-I will scratch your eyes out, you miserable creature!"

"Trude, be quiet," commanded Ebenstreit; "the general orders to give up the key-do it!"

"Yes, do it at once," shrieked Frau von Werrig, "or I will dismiss you from my service."

"That you will not have to do, as I shall go myself. I will not give up the key."

"The door is old, and with a good push one could open it," said Leberecht.

"Come, my son, let us see," said the mother.

They hastened up to the room, while the general scolded, furiously that he must sit still. Leberecht and Trude cast furious, menacing glances at each other.

Suddenly a loud crash was heard.

"They have broken open the door!" cried the general.

"I said that it was old and frail-what do you say now, beautiful Trude?"

The old woman wiped with her hand the drops of perspiration from her forehead, caused by her anguish. "You are a bad fellow, and God will punish you for your treason, that you have tormented a noble, unhappy girl. I saw that you were an eavesdropper, and you know all."

"She is gone!" shrieked the mother, rushing into the room.

"The room is empty," cried Ebenstreit. "Marie is not there. Tell us, Leberecht, what you know about it."

"I will, if we can agree about the pay-the old woman bothers me, and beg the young gentleman to go into the next room with me."

"O Almighty God, have compassion upon my poor little Marie," murmured Trude, kneeling, and covering her face.

Ebenstreit in the mean time withdrew to the other room, followed by the servant.

"Speak!" commanded his master, "and tell me what you have to say."

Leberecht shrugged his shoulders. "We are two men who have urgent business with each other. I am not at present a servant and you the master. I am a man who has an important secret to sell, and you are the man who would buy it."

"What strange, unheard-of language is this?" said Ebenstreit, astonished.

"The language of a man who cannot only deprive the rich banker Ebenstreit of a lovely wife, but of his title also. You said yourself, sir, this morning, that it was only valid if you succeeded in marrying the daughter of General von Leuthen. No none knows where you can find your bride but me."

"And Trude," said Ebenstreit, quickly.

"You know she will not betray Fraulein, and you have not even tried to make her."

"You are mistaken; Trude is as easily bought as any one."

"You say that because she has taken five hundred thalers from you. She has not helped you, and it is useless to ask for your money, as she has not got it."

"How so? Has she given it away?"

"You provided the money for your bride to run away and marry elsewhere, as Trude gave it to them."

Ebenstreit stamped his foot with rage, striding backward and forward in furious excitement, while Leberecht watched him, sardonically smiling. "Let us come to an end with this business," said Ebenstreit, stopping before his servant. "You know where Fraulein can be found, and you wish to sell the secret-tell me your price."

"Three thousand thalers, and a clerkship in your bank, which you intend to continue under another name."

"You are beside yourself. I am not so foolish as to grant such senseless demands."

"Every hour that you wait I demand a thousand thalers more, and if you stop to reflect long your betrothed and your title both are lost."

"You are a miserable scamp!" cried Ebenstreit, enraged; "I will inform the police. There are means enough to force you to give the information."

"I do not believe it. Trude will not tell you, and I should like to know what can force me if I will not. The king has done away with torture, and I have informed you how to make me speak. Three thousand thalers and a clerkship in your office. Take care! it is almost eleven o'clock-at midnight I shall demand four thousand."

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