“WHERE IS MY FATHER?”
We had been bidden to dine at the
schloss Frau Mittendorf, Stella, and
I. In due time the doctor’s new carriage was
called out, and seated in it we were driven to the
great castle. With a renewed joy and awe I looked
at it by twilight, with the dusk of sunset veiling
its woods and turning the whole mass to the color
of a deep earth-stain. Eugen’s home:
there he had been born; as the child of such a race
and in its traditions he had been nurtured by that
sad lady whom we were going to see. I at least
knew that he had acted, and was now acting, up to the
very standard of his high calling. The place has
lost much of its awfulness for me; it had become even
friendly and lovely.
The dinner was necessarily a solemn
one. I was looking out for Sigmund, who, however,
did not put in an appearance.
After dinner, when we were all assembled
in a vast salon which the numberless wax-lights did
but partially and in the center illuminate, I determined
to make an effort at release from this seclusion, and
asked the countess (who had motioned me to a seat
beside her) where Sigmund was.
“He seemed a little languid
and not inclined to come down-stairs,” said
she. “I expect he is in the music-room he
generally finds his way there.”
“Oh, I wish you would allow me to go and see
“Certainly, my child,”
said she, ringing; and presently a servant guided
me to the door of the music-rooms, and in answer to
my knock I was bidden herein!
I entered. The room was in shadow;
but a deep glowing fire burned in a great cavernous,
stone fire-place, and shone upon huge brass andirons
on either side of the hearth. In an easy-chair
sat Brunken, the old librarian, and his white hair
and beard were also warmed into rosiness by the fire-glow.
At his feet lay Sigmund, who had apparently been listening
to some story of his old friend. His hands were
clasped about the old man’s knee, his face upturned,
his hair pushed back.
Both turned as I came in, and Sigmund
sprung up, but ere he had advanced two paces, paused
and stood still, as if overcome with languor or weariness.
“Sigmund, I have come to see
you,” said I, coming to the fire and greeting
the old man, who welcomed me hospitably.
I took Sigmund’s hand; it was
hot and dry. I kissed him; lips and cheeks were
burning and glowing crimson. I swept the hair
from his brow, that too was burning, and his temples
throbbed. His eyes met mine with a strange, misty
look. Saying nothing, I seated myself in a low
chair near the fire, and drew him to me. He nestled
up to me, and I felt that if Eugen could see us he
would be almost satisfied. Sigmund did not say
anything. He merely settled his head upon my breast,
gave a deep sigh as if of relief, and closing his
“Now, Brunken, go on!”
“As I was saying, mein Liebling,
I hope to prove all former theorists and writers upon
the subject to have been wrong ”
“He’s talking about a
Magrepha,” said Sigmund, still not opening his
“A Magrepha what may that be?”
“Yes. Some people say it
was a real full-blown organ,” explained Sigmund,
in a thick, hesitating voice, “and some say it
was nothing better than a bag-pipe oh,
dear! how my head does ache and there are
people who say it was a kettle-drum nothing
more nor less; and Brunken is going to show that not
one of them knew anything about it.”
“I hope so, at least,”
said Brunken, with a modest placidity.
“Oh, indeed!” said I,
glancing a little timidly into the far recesses of
the deep, ghostly room, where the fire-light kept catching
the sheen of metal, the yellow whiteness of ivory
keys or pipes, or the polished case of some stringed
Strange, grotesque shapes loomed out
in the uncertain, flickering light; but was it not
a strange and haunted chamber? Ever it seemed
to me as if breaths of air blew through it, which
came from all imaginable kinds of graves, and were
the breaths of those departed ones who had handled
the strange collection, and who wished to finger,
or blow into, or beat the dumb, unvibrating things
Did I say unvibrating? I was
wrong then. The strings sometimes quivered to
sounds that set them trembling; something like a whispered
tone I have heard from the deep, upturned throats of
great brazen trumpets something like a
distant moan floating around the gilded organ-pipes.
In after-days, when Friedhelm Helfen knew this room,
he made a wonderful fantasia about it, in which all
the dumb instruments woke up, or tried to wake up
to life again, for the whole place impressed him,
he told me, as nothing that he had ever known before.
Brunken went on in a droning tone,
giving theories of his own as to the nature of the
Magrepha, and I, with my arms around Sigmund, half
listened to the sleepy monotone of the good old visionary.
But what spoke to me with a more potent voice was
the soughing and wuthering of the sorrowful wind without,
which verily moaned around the old walls, and sought
out the old corners, and wailed, and plained, and sobbed
in a way that was enough to break one’s heart.
By degrees a silence settled upon
us. Brunken, having satisfactorily annihilated
his enemies, ceased to speak; the fire burned lower;
Sigmund’s eyes were closed; his cheeks were not
less flushed than before, nor his brow less hot, and
a frown contracted it. I know not how long a
time had passed, but I had no wish to rise.
The door was opened, and some one
came into the room. I looked up. It was
the Graefin. Brunken rose and stood to one side,
I could not get up, but some movement
of mine, perhaps, disturbed the heavy and feverish
slumber of the child. He started wide awake, with
a look of wild terror, and gazed down into the darkness,
“Mein Vater, where art thou?”
A strange, startled, frightened look
crossed the face of the countess when she heard the
words. She did not speak, and I said some soothing
words to Sigmund.
But there could be no doubt that he
was very ill. It was quite unlike his usual silent
courage and reticence to wring his small hands and
with ever-increasing terror turn a deaf ear to my
soothings, sobbing out in tones of pain and insistence:
“Father! father! where art thou? I want
Then he began to cry pitifully, and
the only word that was heard was “Father!”
It was like some recurrent wail in a piece of music,
which warns one all through of a coming tragedy.
“Oh, dear! What is to be
done? Sigmund! Was ist denn mit dir, mein
Engel?” said the poor countess, greatly distressed.
“He is ill,” said I.
“I think he has taken an illness. Does thy
head ache, Sigmund?”
“Yes,” said he, “it
does. Where is my own father? My head never
ached when I was with my father.”
“Mein Gott! mein Gott!”
said the countess in a low tone. “I thought
he had forgotten his father.”
“Forgotten!” echoed I.
“Frau Graefin, he is one of yourselves.
You do not seem to forget.”
exclaimed, wringing her hands. “What can
be the matter with him? What must I say to Bruno?
Sigmund darling, what hast thou then! What ails
“I want my father!” he
repeated. Nor would he utter any other word.
The one idea, long dormant, had now taken full possession
of him; in fever, half delirious, out of the fullness
of his heart his mouth spake.
said the countess, “control thyself. Thy
uncle must not hear thee say that word.”
“I don’t want my uncle.
I want my father!” said Sigmund, looking restlessly
round. “Oh, where is he? I have not
seen him it is so long, and I want him.
I love him; I do love my father, and I want him.”
It was pitiful, pathetic, somewhat
tragic too. The poor countess had not the faintest
idea what to do with the boy, whose illness frightened
her. I suggested that he should be put to bed
and the doctor sent for, as he had probably taken
some complaint which would declare itself in a few
days, and might be merely some childish disorder.
The countess seized my suggestion
eagerly. Sigmund was taken away. I saw him
no more that night. Presently we left the schloss
and drove home.
I found a letter waiting for me from
Eugen. He was still at Elberthal, and appeared
to have been reproaching himself for having accepted
my “sacrifice,” as he called it.
He spoke of Sigmund. There was more, too, in
the letter, which made me both glad and sad. I
felt life spreading before me, endowed with a gravity,
a largeness of aim, and a dignity of purpose such
as I had never dreamed of before.
It seemed that for me, too, there
was work to do. I also had a love for whose sake
to endure. This made me feel grave. Eugen’s
low spirits, and the increased bitterness with which
he spoke of things, made me sad; but something else
made me glad. Throughout his whole letter there
breathed a passion, a warmth restrained,
but glowing through its bond of reticent words an
eagerness which he told me that at last
“As I loved, loved
Even after that sail down the river
I had felt a half mistrust, now all doubts were removed.
He loved me. He had learned it in all its truth
and breadth since we last parted. He talked of
renunciation, but it was with an anguish so keen as
to make me wince for him who felt it. If he tried
to renounce me now, it would not be the cold laying
aside of a thing for which he did not care, it would
be the wrenching himself away from his heart’s
desire. I triumphed in the knowledge, and this
was what made me glad.
Almost before we had finished breakfast
in the morning, there came a thundering of wheels
up to the door, and a shriek of excitement from Frau
Mittendorf, who, morgenhaube on her head, a
shapeless old morning-gown clinging hideously about
her ample figure, rushed to the window, looked out,
and announced the carriage of the Frau Graefin. “Aber!
What can she want at this early hour?” she speculated,
coming into the room again and staring at us both
with wide open eyes round with agitation and importance.
“But I dare say she wishes to consult me upon
some matter. I wish I were dressed more becomingly.
I have heard that is, I know, for I am
so intimate with her that she never wears
néglige. I wonder if I should have time
She stopped to hold out her hand for
the note which a servant was bringing in; but her
face fell when the missive was presented to me.
“LIEBE MAI” it
began “Will you come and help me in
my trouble? Sigmund is very ill. Sometimes
he is delirious. He calls for you often.
It breaks my heart to find that after all not a word
is uttered of us, but only of Eugen (burn this
when you have read it), of you, and of ‘Karl,’
and ‘Friedhelm,’ and one or two other names
which I do not know. I fear this petition
will sound troublesome to you, who were certainly
not made for trouble, but you are kind. I saw
it in your face. I grieve too much. Truly
the flesh is fearfully weak. I would live
as if earth had no joys for me as indeed
it has none and yet that does not prevent
my suffering. May God help me! Trusting
to you, Your,
I lost no time in complying with this
summons. In a few moments I was in the carriage;
ere long I was at the schloss, was met by Countess
Hildegarde, looking like a ghost that had been keeping
a strict Lent, and was at last by Sigmund’s
He was tossing feverishly from side
to side, murmuring and muttering. But when he
saw me he was still, a sweet, frank smile flitted over
his face a smile wonderfully like that
which his father had lately bent upon me. He
gave a little laugh, saying:
“Fraeulein May! Willkommen!
Have you brought my father? And I should like
to see Friedhelm, too. You and der Vater
and Friedel used to sit near together at the concert,
don’t you remember? I went once, and you
sung. That tall black man beat time, and my father
never stopped looking at you and listening Friedel
too. I will ask them if they remember.”
He laughed again at the reminiscence,
and took my hand, and asked me if I remembered, so
that it was with difficulty that I steadied my voice
and kept my eyes from running over as I answered him.
Graefin Hildegarde behind wrung her hands and turned
to the window. He did not advance any reminiscence
of what had happened since he came to the schloss.
There was no doubt that our Sigmund
was very ill. A visitation of scarlet fever,
of the worst kind, was raging in Lahnburg and in the
hamlet of Rothenfels, which lay about the gates of
Sigmund, some ten days before, had
ridden with his uncle, and waited on his pony for
some time outside a row of cottages, while the count
visited one of his old servants, a man who had become
an octogenarian in the service of his family, and
upon whom Graf Bruno periodically shed the light of
It was scarcely to be doubted that
the boy had taken the infection then and there, and
the doctor did not conceal that he had the complaint
in its worst form, and that his recovery admitted
of the gravest doubts.
A short time convinced me that I must
not again leave the child till the illness was decided
in one way or another. He was mine now, and I
felt myself in the place of Eugen, as I stood beside
his bed and told him the hard truth that
his father was not here, nor Friedhelm, nor Karl, for
whom he also asked, but only I.
The day passed on. A certain
conviction was growing every hour stronger with me.
An incident at last decided it. I had scarcely
left Sigmund’s side for eight or nine hours,
but I had seen nothing of the count, nor heard his
voice, nor had any mention been made of him, and remembering
how he adored the boy, I was surprised.
At last Graefin Hildegarde, after
a brief absence, came into the room, and with a white
face and parted lips, said to me in a half-whisper.
“Liebe Miss Wedderburn,
will you do something for me? Will you speak
to my husband?”
“To your husband!” I ejaculated.
“He longs to see Sigmund, but
dare not come. For me, I have hardly dared to
go near him since the little one began to be ill.
He believes that Sigmund will die, and that he will
be his murderer, having taken him out that day.
I have often spoken to him about making der Arme
ride too far, and now the sight of me reminds him
of it; he can not endure to look at me. Heaven
help me! Why was I ever born?”
She turned away without tears tears
were not in her line and I went, much against
my will, to find the Graf.
He was in his study. Was that
the same man, I wondered, whom I had seen the very
day before, so strong, and full of pride and life?
He raised a haggard, white, and ghastly face to me,
which had aged and fallen in unspeakably. He
made an effort, and rose with politeness as I came
“Mein Fraeulein, you
are loading us with obligations. It is quite
But no thanks were implied in the
tone only bitterness. He was angry
that I should be in the place he dared not come to.
If I had not been raised by one supreme
fear above all smaller ones, I should have been afraid
of this haggard, eager-looking old man for
he did look very old in his anguish. I could
see the rage of jealousy with which he regarded me,
and I am not naturally fond of encountering an old
wolf who has starved.
But I used my utmost effort to prevail
upon him to visit his nephew, and at last succeeded.
I piloted him to Sigmund’s room; led him to the
boy’s bedside. The sick child’s eyes
were closed, but he presently opened them. The
uncle was stooping over him, his rugged face all working
with emotion, and his voice broken as he murmured:
“Ach, mein Liebling! art thou then so
With a kind of shuddering cry, the
boy pushed him away with both hands, crying:
“Go away! I want my father my
father, my father, I say! Where is he? Why
do you not fetch him? You are a bad man, and you
Then I was frightened. The count
recoiled; his face turned deathly white livid;
his fist clinched. He glared down upon the now
unrecognizing young face and stuttered forth something,
paused, then said in a low, distinct voice, which
shook me from head to foot:
“So! Better he should die.
The brood is worthy the nest it sprung from.
Where is our blood, that he whines after that hound that
With which, and with a fell look around,
he departed, leaving Sigmund oblivious of all that
had passed, utterly indifferent and unconscious, and
me shivering with fear at the outburst I had seen.
But it seemed to me that my charge
was worse. I left him for a few moments, and
seeking out the countess, spoke my mind.
“Frau Graefin, Eugen must be
sent for. I fear that Sigmund is going to die,
and I dare not let him die without sending for his
“I dare not!” said the countess.
She had met her husband, and was flung,
unnerved, upon a couch, her hand over her heart.
“But I dare, and I must do it!”
said I, secretly wondering at myself. “I
shall telegraph for him.”
“If my husband knew!” she breathed.
“I can not help it,” said
I. “Is the poor child to die among people
who profess to love him, with the one wish ungratified
which he has been repeating ever since he began to
be ill? I do not understand such love; I call
it horrible inhumanity.”
“For Eugen to enter this house
again!” she said in a whisper.
“I would to God that there were
any other head as noble under its roof!” was
my magniloquent and thoroughly earnest inspiration.
“Well, gnaedige Frau, will you arrange
this matter, or shall I?”
“I dare not,” she moaned,
half distracted; “I dare not but I
will do nothing to prevent you. Use the whole
household; they are at your command.”
I lost not an instant in writing out
a telegram and dispatching it by a man on horseback
to Lahnburg. I summoned Eugen briefly:
“Sigmund is ill. I am here. Come to
I saw the man depart, and then I went
and told the countess what I had done. She turned,
if possible, a shade paler, then said:
“I am not responsible for it.”
Then I left the poor pale lady to
still her beating heart and kill her deadly apprehensions
in the embroidery of the lily of the field and the
No change in the child’s condition.
A lethargy had fallen upon him. That awful stupor,
with the dark, flushed cheek and heavy breath, was
to me more ominous than the restlessness of fever.
I sat down and calculated. My
telegram might be in Eugen’s hand in the course
of an hour.
When could he be here? Was it
possible that he might arrive this night? I obtained
the German equivalent for Bradshaw, and studied it
till I thought I had made out that, supposing Eugen
to receive the telegram in the shortest possible time,
he might be here by half past eleven that night.
It was now five in the afternoon. Six hours and
a half and at the end of that time his
non-arrival might tell me he could not be here before
I sat still, and now that the deed
was done, gave myself up, with my usual enlightenment
and discretion, to fears and apprehensions. The
terrible look and tone of Graf von Rothenfels returned
to my mind in full force. Clearly it was just
the most dangerous thing in the world for Eugen to
do to put in an appearance at the present
time. But another glance at Sigmund somewhat
reassured me. In wondering whether girl had ever
before been placed in such a bizarre situation as mine,
darkness overtook me.
Sigmund moved restlessly and moaned,
stretching out little hot hands, and saying “Father!”
I caught those hands to my lips, and knew that I had