Read CHAPTER VIII of Danira , free online book, by E. Werner, on

The insurrection was over, the last desperate resistance made by Marco Obrevic at the head of his tribe ceased with his death. Stephan Hersovac was not a man to uphold a lost cause to his own destruction; he lacked both the obstinacy and the energy of his predecessor. He had really appeared at the fort and accepted the conditions offered; so the revolt, so far as this mountain province was concerned, was ended.

True, weeks and months elapsed before the troops returned home, and Gerald’s regiment was one of the last to leave. It remained some time in Cattaro before the embarkation, but fate spared the young officer an unpleasant meeting. Colonel Arlow and his daughter were no longer in the city.

During the whole rebellion the commandant had displayed so much discretion and energy in his difficult and responsible position that due recognition of his services was not delayed. He was recalled from his post to receive a fitting promotion, and assigned to the command of a garrison in one of the Austrian capitals.

It had long been his desire to exchange the distant Dalmatian fortress for garrison duty at home, and it was doubtless owing to this fact that the transfer was made so speedily.

The new commandant arrived much earlier than he was expected, and directly after his predecessor quitted the city and was already in his home when Gerald’s regiment entered Cattaro.

The young officer had passed through a season of severe trial, months of conflict with all the obstacles that warred against his love. He had been compelled, in the fullest sense of the word, to fight, but he knew how to assert the claim that hour of mortal peril had given him.

He had seen Danira again when the troops from the Vila ravine returned to the village to take a short rest after their hurried march, and here a final struggle occurred to induce the young girl to keep silence. She was firmly resolved to tell her countrymen what she had done and who had brought the relief.

Although peace and reconciliation were close at hand, she would not have been sure of her life a single hour after such a confession, but the terrible event which ended Marco’s life uttered its decisive word here also, and bowed the girl’s stubborn will. And it was her lover who pleaded, who with all the influence of his devotion persuaded her that here, where no blood had flowed by her fault, no atonement was required. Obstacles and barriers of every kind barred the possibility of a union the tie still existing in name between Gerald and his former fiancee, the probable opposition from his mother, the conflict with Stephan, who certainly would not quietly permit his sister to wed a foreigner; but none of these things could shake the young officer’s courage and confidence since he had Danira’s promise to be his, though he left her with a heavy heart in her brother’s house, which for the present was her only refuge.

In the fierce altercation, when, at the approach of the troops, all crowded around their reluctant chief to urge retreat, and every one shouted and screamed at the same moment, Marco’s last words, in which he uttered his suspicion of Danira, had either been unheard or not fully understood except by Stephan, and the latter preferred to keep silence. He did not wish to know what he no longer possessed the right to punish, since he had himself gone to the enemy and submitted to his terms.

Marco Obrevic, with iron consistency, would have sacrificed his love, his wife, at such a discovery. Stephan was differently constituted. He did not wish to see his sister die by the hands of his countrymen, and he knew that she was lost if even a suspicion arose against her. He therefore pretended to believe what was told him and his companions at the fort to protect Danira from any act of vengeance that the troops, without any suspicion of Gerald’s fate, had set out for the purpose of seeking the enemy whom they believed to be in that direction, and were greatly surprised when, on the way, they found their officer.

This explanation satisfied the mountaineers, who were not in the habit of pondering over anything irrevocable. The apparent accident seemed to them only a confirmation of the judgment which had overtaken their leader because he had ventured to defy the ancient, time-hallowed tradition of his people. No suspicion was aroused against Danira. Not until the hour of parting did Stephan learn from her lips what to him was no secret.

George Moosbach, whose time of service would expire in a few weeks, was very proud of returning home decked with a medal for bravery as one of the conquerors of Krivoscia, but he was much out of humor and greatly offended because Father Leonhard would not permit him to practice his paternal duties to the degree he thought necessary.

The meeting at the fort when Jovica, with enthusiastic joy, flew to greet her protector, and George could find no end to his words of welcome, had made the priest very uneasy, and he afterward restricted their intercourse as far as possible. Besides, he was seriously embarrassed to decide how to dispose of the young girl. Jovica had neither home nor relatives, and though it was Father Leonhard’s intention to make her a Christian, his official duties gave him little time to act the part of teacher.

The girl had not learned much German and was just beginning to understand the precepts of Christianity when the order arrived for the regiment to march to Cattaro, and thus the question what was to become of the “little Pagan” had to be seriously considered. George wanted to take her to the Moosbach Farm and formally present her to his parents as his adopted child, but Father Leonhard, who knew the characters of the farmer and his wife better, opposed this plan, until at last Gerald made a suggestion which was adopted by both parties.

He proposed that Jovica, who had proved very capable and obliging, should accompany Danira, with whom she had the tie of a common country and language, as a sort of maid, and remain under her protection until her future was finally decided. True, George was only half satisfied with this arrangement, which in his opinion did not give sufficient importance to his paternal rights, but as it afforded him the opportunity to see his protegee daily he submitted.

The hour of embarkation had come, and the steamer which conveyed the officers and a small detachment of the men steered out into the bay.

On the guards of the vessel, a little apart from his comrades, stood Gerald, and by his side Danira, who, since the day before, had borne his name. Father Leonhard had privately married them on the day previous to their departure.

The young wife wore a simple travelling dress, yet there was a peculiar charm in her appearance which it had lacked even when the picturesque costume of her country had lent her beauty so effective a setting. The gloomy, defiant expression that had formerly marred this loveliness had passed away. In the bright sunshine that flooded the deck the youthful figure no longer stood like a dark shadow; the radiance rested on her face also, a reflection of the happiness that so vividly illumined her husband’s features.

The shore already began to recede, and the steamer was just passing the commandant’s house, from whose windows Danira had watched the approach of the vessel which brought, with Gerald, her fate and future.

The window, from which Edith’s light figure had leaned while her laughing, happy eyes sought her lover, was now closed. The memory of the price her happiness had cost suddenly overwhelmed the young wife, and she turned away to hide her tears. Gerald noticed it.

“It is hard for you to leave your home, I know!” he said, bending toward her. But she shook her head.

“It is only hard because I must go thus, without one farewell, without a parting word from my brother. Peace is now restored, and as chief of a tribe he often comes to Cattaro; but on my wedding day he did not appear, I was obliged to go to the altar without my only living relative.”

“Did you expect anything different after the manner in which Stephan received my suit? He seemed to consider it almost an insult, and made it hard enough for me to win you; I was forced to fairly wrest you from him. You do not imagine how painful it has been for me to know that you were surrounded by those who were daily and hourly striving to tear you from me, while I was still absent in the field.”

“Was not the same attempt made to influence you? And you suffered more keenly under it than I, for in your case the opposition came from the person who was dearest to you on earth. Our marriage also lacks your mother’s blessing.”

“Not by any fault of mine!” replied Gerald. “I tried every possible means of obtaining her consent. For months, in my letters to her, I have entreated, pleaded, raged all in vain. Her sole answer was the stern ‘no,’ the obstinate prohibition, till I was at last forced to remember that I am no longer a child, but a man who knows what he desires in life, and will not suffer his happiness to be destroyed by prejudices. You are right, we have purchased this happiness dearly; it will cost us both home and the love of our nearest relatives do you think the price too high for what we have obtained?”

There was passionate tenderness in the question, and his young wife’s look gave him a fitting answer.

After a pause she said gently:

“Then you will not enter your home again, will not even try to personally induce your mother ”

“No,” Gerald resolutely interrupted. “She refuses to see you, so I shall not go to her. I know what I owe my wife; either Castle Steinach will receive you as its future mistress, or it will never see me within its walls. I know the hostile influence acting against us; my mother may be stern and proud, but this boundless harshness to her only son is no part of her character; it is Arlow’s work! You know that after our betrothal, I wrote to him frankly and unreservedly, but with the respect of a son; he vouchsafed no reply, but instantly wrote to my mother, representing the affair to her from his point of view. She received the first news from him before my letter reached her hands, and how the tidings were conveyed I perceived from her reply. Since his return home he has constantly fanned the flames, and at last made an open breach.”

“I can endure his hatred,” said Danira, whose eyes were still fixed upon the house. “I have unintentionally thwarted his favorite wish, and he always cherished an aversion towards me, but to have Edith turn from me in persistent resentment was at first more than I could bear. She knows from my letter how and where we met, knows that mortal peril first brought me to your arms. I concealed nothing, and, with all the ardent love of the friend, the sister, implored her forgiveness if I had caused her pain she has not sent even one line in answer.”

“Her father would not have allowed it, his command ”

“Edith never lets herself be denied anything. She is accustomed to obey the voice of her heart, and is all-powerful with her father. Had she wished to write me she would have done so, in spite of any opposing influence; but she cannot pardon me for robbing her of your love I understand that.”

Gerald was silent; he would not own how heavily this unforgiving resentment on the part of his mother and Edith weighed upon him. It cast a dark shadow on the happiness of the newly-wedded pair.

Meantime the conversation between the officers had grown louder and more animated, and Lieutenant Salten now said:

“Gerald has been the wisest of us all. He is taking away an enviable souvenir of the campaign, and will make a sensation in the garrison with his beautiful trophy of the war. When people learn the romance associated with it ”

“You were somewhat involved in the romance too,” interrupted another of the group laughing. “Your stolen portfolio, at any rate, played an important part in the affair.”

“Yes, that confounded boy who made himself so officious and was sent off on suspicions of being a spy, robbed me of it and instantly carried it to his master. Of course they could do nothing with the notes and letters, but the portfolio itself served as a means of luring Gerald into the trap. Had the plot succeeded we should have had one brave comrade the less, and ah, there comes the young couple! See how lovely Frau von Steinach looks in the full glare of the sunlight! I stick to it, Gerald is bringing home the best prize of the whole campaign.”

The other officers seemed to be of the same opinion, for when Gerald now approached with his wife, they vied with each other in attentions to the latter, and the young pair instantly became the centre of the circle, from which they could not escape for some time.

Meanwhile George came out of the cabin with Jovica, whom he had succeeded in finding, and took her to a part of the deck at some little distance from his companions, who made no attempt to interrupt them, for it was well known that George was very sensitive about his protegee, and really would not hesitate to fight half the company if he were irritated. But just now he looked as dignified as though he was Father Leonhard himself, and his tone was equally grave as he began:

“Look at your home once more, Jovica, you are seeing it for the last time! True, this Krivoscia is a God-forsaken country, and we thank all the saints that we are safe out of it again, but it is your native land, and that must be respected.”

Jovica glanced toward the mountains because her companion was pointing to them, but she understood very little of his speech, and the parting from her home did not appear to trouble her much, for she looked extremely happy, though she knew the ship was bearing her to a distant country.

“Now we are going to Tyrol,” George continued. “To the beautiful land of the Tyrol, a very different place from your mountain wildernesses. There are forests, rivers, vineyards and castles, and there’s not another place in the whole world equal to the Moosbach Farm. Some day it will belong to me. Do you understand, Jovica? I’m no poor vagabond like Bartel, who, when he takes off his uniform, must enter somebody’s service. I’m the only son and heir of farmer Moosbach, and in our country that means something.”

Jovica listened attentively, but her knowledge of German was not yet sufficiently comprehensive for her to understand these boasted advantages. George saw that she did not perceive his meaning and tried to enlarge her ideas by seizing both her hands and drawing her toward him, when Father Leonhard suddenly emerged from the cabin and stood directly behind the pair.

“What are you doing on this deck among the men, Jovica?” he asked, with unwonted sternness. “Your place is over yonder with Frau von Steinach.”

“Why, I was with her, your reverence, and none of the others would dare come near her!” replied George, instantly taking up his protegee’s cause. “I wouldn’t advise them to try it. If any one does, he’ll go heels over head into the water the very next minute.”

Father Leonhard’s face showed that he was not particularly edified by this protection, but he merely turned to Jovica and repeated:

“Go to Frau von Steinach!” When she had retired he approached his parishioner, who wore a very belligerent expression.

“What does this mean, George? I have forbidden you, once for all, to take such familiarities with the young girl, but you don’t seem to heed my command. I am very much displeased with yon.”

“Well, your reverence, I’m not pleased either!” said George, defiantly. “I found Jovica and adopted her as a child, but no one respects my paternal rights. If I even look at the girl your reverence appears and gives me a lecture, and then the lieutenant comes and unceremoniously takes her away as his wife’s maid. I’m not consulted at all. I have nothing whatever to say about the matter I won’t bear it any longer.”

“I have already explained to you several times that you are far too young to fill such a position. Things can’t go on in this way.”

“You are perfectly right, there, your reverence!” assented the young Tyrolese, so emphatically that the priest looked at him in surprise. “I have longed seen that, and was just going to speak to you about it. The place of a father doesn’t suit me, I find no pleasure in it, so I’ll begin the business from the other end. In short, I will marry Jovica.”

Father Leonhard did not look much astonished by this declaration which he had long dreaded, but a frown darkened his brow and his voice sounded very grave:

“You will do nothing of the sort! The girl is scarcely beyond childhood, and not at all why, you can’t even understand each other yet.”

“No, we don’t understand each other, but we’re tremendously in love with each other,” said George, earnestly, “so the best thing we can do is to get married.”

“And your parents! Have you thought what they will say to such a choice?”

“Yes, my parents! Of course they’ll make a row that can be heard all over Tyrol, so I’ll follow Herr Gerald’s example and get married on the way. We shall stay a week in Trieste, your reverence, you can unite us there. Of course you must first baptize my future wife, for she can’t remain a pagan, and then many her directly after. So, when I get home the whole affair will be settled, and let my parents and the Moosbach Farm be as much upset as they please, I shall have Jovica!”

The plan flowed so glibly from the lips of the young Tyrolese that it was evident he had pondered over it a long time, but unluckily Father Leonhard did not seem inclined to adopt this admirable suggestion, for he answered sternly:

“Put this nonsense out of your head; it can’t be thought of under any circumstances.”

“I’m only following my lieutenant’s example,” George persisted. “Heaven and earth were moved to prevent his marriage; his mother and Colonel Arlow, the brother-in-law and the whole people of Krivoscia cried out against it. He didn’t mind it in the least, but had his own way, and I mean to do the same.”

“But Herr von Steinach’s case is entirely different. He has been of age several years, and besides, before taking the decisive step, he made every effort in his power to obtain his mother’s consent. It was hard enough for me to bless a marriage which lacked the mother’s benediction, and I finally yielded only to the force of circumstances. Stephan Hersovac’s opposition to the marriage rendered it impossible for his sister to remain longer in his house, and it was equally impossible for her to accompany her lover as his affianced wife. So I performed the wedding ceremony in the hope that I should yet succeed in reconciling the mother. But you cannot yet marry without your parents’ consent and you know as well as I do that you will never obtain it. They will simply believe that you are out of your senses.”

“Yes, I once thought so myself,” replied George with the utmost composure, “but people change their minds. I told you, your reverence, that the whole race up yonder practice witchcraft, especially the women. Dani the young baroness, I mean tried it on my lieutenant, and Jovica has used hers on me; I’m just as far gone as he is. But this witchcraft isn’t at all disagreeable and does not imperil the salvation of the soul, if a priest gives it his blessing as I saw yesterday in church.”

“But I repeat that the case is totally different. Gerald’s wife belongs to a foreign people, it is true, but she is descended from one of the most distinguished families of the race, and the education she received in the commandant’s house, with her own personal qualities, fit her for the position in life she will henceforth occupy. Jovica is the child of poor shepherds, she is not even a Christian, understands neither our language nor customs, and perhaps will never learn to accommodate herself to them. You must see yourself that such a girl can never make a suitable mistress of the Moosbach Farm.”

“I see nothing at all except that I must have Jovica. Nothing else will do, and I’ll get her too, so I have no anxiety on that score.”

“And suppose your parents disinherit the disobedient son? Gerald von Steinach, under any circumstances, is the heir of his father’s property, and has already taken possession of it, but farmer Moosbach can deprive you of the farm at any time, and from what I know of him he will do so if you persist in your own way. What then?”

“Then I’ll let the farm go to the deuce!” George obstinately declared. “Jovica is worth more to me than all the Moosbach property. The lieutenant will not object to keeping me with him, I know, and his wife will have a countrywoman in mine. I’m in earnest, your reverence. I’ll give up my inheritance if it costs me Jovica.”

Father Leonhard saw that he was in earnest, and knew the young fellow’s obstinacy sufficiently well to dread a serious family quarrel. For the present, however, the conversation was interrupted by an officer, who approached the priest and requested him to accompany him to the forward deck.

Father Leonhard consented, after saying gravely to George: “We will discuss this matter further,” but the latter leaned defiantly against the side of the cabin, folded his arms, and gazed around the decks to discover Jovica.

The young Slav was with Danira, who, after some time, sent her down to the cabin again on some errand. She obediently avoided the stern of the ship and sorrowfully descended the stairs, but had scarcely entered the saloon, which for the moment chanced to be empty, when there was a clattering noise on the steps and George himself stood in the doorway.

Jovica’s whole face brightened, but she glanced anxiously toward the stairs, and said timidly:

“Father Leonhard!”

“He’s up on deck,” replied George. “Yet even if he should come, no matter: I’ve just told him how we both feel, but I happened to think that I haven’t spoken of it to you, Jovica. You must be asked, so I want to marry you! Will you have me?”

The abrupt, laconic proposal met with an unexpected obstacle. Jovica had no idea what the strange word meant. She repeated it with a foreign accent, but in a tone that plainly showed she associated no meaning with it.

“Oh, yes, she doesn’t understand,” said George, somewhat perplexed, realizing for the first time his future wife’s education. “Well, then, she must learn. Come here, Jovica, and listen to me. Yesterday we went to church and saw the lieutenant and his bride married. We will go to church, too, and Father Leonhard will marry us in the same way. Do you understand that?”

He tried to speak distinctly, and occasionally introduced a Slavonic word, which had some success, for the young girl nodded eagerly and answered in broken German:

“I know baptize become a Christian.”

“Yes, and then directly after marry!” said George, emphasizing the word energetically, as if he hoped in this way to make her understand its meaning, but Jovica’s knowledge of the language had not yet extended to the idea of marriage, and she only repeated inquiringly:

“Become a Christian?”

“That’s only a minor affair, the main thing is the marriage!” cried the impatient suitor, whose piety deserted him on this point. “Girl, for heaven’s sake, you must understand! why, it’s what you were born for! Marry have a wedding get married!”

But no matter how vehemently and almost angrily he emphasized the words, it was all in vain, the young girl looked helplessly at him, and was apparently on the verge of tears.

“She really doesn’t understand,” said George, in sheer despair. “I must make it plainer to her,” and as though an inspiration had suddenly come he embraced his protegee, pressing a hearty kiss on her lips.

Strangely enough his meaning now seemed to dawn on Jovica. True, she started at the kiss, but instead of making the slightest resistance she nestled closer to the young soldier, gazing at him with sparkling eyes, while in a low, but infinitely sweet tone, she repeated the word George had taught her with so much difficulty.

“Thank Heaven, she has understood it at last; I ought to have tried that first!” he said, with great satisfaction, and while repeating several times the new method of instruction which had succeeded so admirably, added, by way of explanation:

“That’s the way people do when they marry, and before, too. The only difference is that before a priest interferes and forbids, and afterwards he has nothing to forbid, but gives it his blessing. Now come to the lieutenant and his wife. They must be the first to know that we have settled the matter and are going to be married. Jovica say the word once more! It sounds so pretty when you bring it out so clumsily.”

And Jovica, whose faculty of comprehension had wonderfully increased, uttered the newly-learned word to the entire satisfaction of her tutor and future husband.

Meantime the steamer had continued her course, and was now approaching the outlet of the bay. Gerald and Danira looked back at the slowly disappearing scene.

The waves rippled and flashed in the sunlight. Far away on the shore lay Cattaro with its white houses and towering citadel, and directly above it towered the dark mountains, their rugged, riven peaks bathed in the full radiance of morning. The ship now passed through the straits at the end of the harbor. The gloomy, threatening cliffs rose on either side as if to bar the way. Then the blue, heaving sea opened before them, as it had looked from the rocky height on that memorable day a mist-veiled, sun-illumined waste of waters.