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

The voyage had been a swift and pleasant one, and after a short stay in Trieste the train conveyed the regiment to its native mountains and former garrison, the capital of southern Tyrol.

The city was all astir, for every one had hurried to welcome the returning soldiers who had endured so many a hard fight on the farthest frontier of the empire, and now, after dangers and privations of every kind, were coming home in peace.

At the railway station and immediately around it a joyous throng waited for the train; the country people especially had flocked there in crowds. There was scarcely a peasant family in the neighborhood that did not have son, brother or some other relative in the Imperial Chasseurs to whom they now wished to give the first welcome home.

At last the thunder of cannon far and near among the mountains announced the approach of the train, which, amid loud cheers and waving banners, ran into the station. The cars were opened and the whole regiment poured out upon the platform, to which only the magistrates and a few of the most distinguished citizens had been admitted.

After the first flood of official and friendly greetings was over, Gerald von Steinach, who had his young wife leaning on his arm, attempted to make his way through the throng, he too had seen many a familiar face, pressed many a hand, and received numerous congratulations, for through his comrades’ letters his marriage was already known in the garrison; but they were only the greetings of strangers.

The arms which at his departure had clasped him with such anxious love were not outstretched to him on his return; no mother waited to welcome him home, and yet his whole heart was devoted to his mother and hitherto he had been her all.

In this hour of universal joyous meeting the young officer felt, with infinite grief, what he had lost. The parental home, which now opened to every one, was closed to him and his young wife, and perhaps would remain so forever. Much as he strove to conceal his depression he could not entirely banish the cloud that rested on his brow, and Danira guessed what he was missing; she best knew what his choice of a wife had cost him. She instantly assented when he proposed withdrawing from the crowd as soon as possible and driving to his lodgings in the city, where the young couple intended to remain until the arrangements for the future home had been made.

Behind them walked Jovica, who had travelled in the same compartment, and George, who, though obliged to ride with his comrades, had shot through the crowd like a rocket as soon as he arrived, to take the place he considered his rightful property.

The young Slav now wore the Tyrolese peasant costume, which had been obtained for her on the way, and in which she looked extremely pretty. Her shining black hair was carefully arranged in braids, and her large black eyes gazed curiously and joyously at the throng. But her appearance was still extremely childish and entirely foreign; one could see at the first glance that she belonged to a different race.

George walked with great importance by her side. He had not entrusted his love affair to his lieutenant in vain, the latter’s advocacy proved very effective. Gerald and Danira had warmly espoused his cause, and, during the journey, even won over Father Leonhard.

The priest, it is true, had no objection to Jovica personally; he had himself become fond of his gentle, modest, docile pupil; but he still shook his head doubtfully at the idea of seeing the “little pagan” the mistress of the Moosbach Farm, and declared it to be impossible to obtain the consent of George’s parents, though he had promised his mediation.

For the present the priest’s attention was claimed by some ecclesiastical brothers who had also been present at the reception of the regiment in the station.

Gerald had just escaped from the throng, and was walking with Danira toward the door, when both stopped as though rooted to the floor at the sight of the young lady who was waiting there to meet them. The dainty, graceful figure in the elegant travelling dress, the fair hair whose curls escaped from beneath the little hat, the sparkling blue eyes the whole vision was so familiar and so dear. Gerald dropped the arm of his wife, who stood pale and speechless. He intended to face the painful meeting alone, but the young girl had already rushed to Danira and flung both arms round her neck.

“Danira, you naughty runaway! So I am to find you again in the Tyrol.”

“Edith, how came you here?” cried the young wife, in half-joyous, half-startled tones. “Is it an accident?”

“Oh! no. I came especially to receive you. I wanted to bring you the first greeting,” replied Edith. She hesitated a few seconds, then hastily turned and held out her hand to her former lover. “How do you do, Gerald? Welcome home with your wife!”

Gerald bowed silently over the little hand that lay in his. He did not feel its slight quiver when his lips pressed it. He only saw Edith’s blooming face, her smile, and a deep sigh of relief escaped him. Thank God! Here at least he had caused no suffering as he had feared; here at least forgiveness was proffered.

“Did you really come on our account?” cried Danira, with eager joy. “Oh, you do not suspect what this welcome from your lips is to me to us both.”

The young lady drew back a step, with a comic assumption of formality.

“Don’t be so impetuous, madame! I have another important mission to discharge, and must maintain my dignity as official ambassador. Castle Steinach sends a greeting to its young master and mistress, and is ready to receive them. They will find open hearts and arms there. Here is a letter from your mother, Gerald; only a few lines, in which she calls her son and daughter to her.”

“Edith this is impossible is it your work?” cried Gerald, still doubting as he took the note which bore his mother’s handwriting.

“My first essay in diplomacy! I think it hasn’t resulted so badly, and it wasn’t very easy either; for both aunt and papa were united against me. But now you must let me have Danira to myself for half an hour, Gerald. We must part again immediately, and I want to have her alone at least once more.”

“Part! Why, surely you will go with us?”

“No, I shall take the next express train and join my father in G. But your mother expects you at Steinach this very day, and you ought not to keep her waiting; great preparations have been made for your reception.”

Meanwhile Gerald had hastily torn open and glanced through the letter, which he now handed to his wife. It really contained only a few lines, but they confirmed Edith’s words. It was the greeting of a mother calling her children to her.

“How do you do, Fraeulein? I’m here again, too!” said George, taking advantage of the momentary pause to introduce himself, and he saw with satisfaction that he was not forgotten.

The old mischievous smile hovered round the young lady’s lips as she turned toward him.

“George Moosbach! Have you got safe back from Krivoscia? After all it isn’t quite so bad as you represented it, for I see you wear the medal for courage. Listen, George, you make a great impression upon me as a returning conqueror! What of the offer with which you once honored me? I am now free again, and should not be wholly disinclined to become the mistress of the Moosbach Farm.”

“I thank you very kindly,” stammered George, intensely confused. “I’m very sorry, but I’m already engaged.”

With these words he pulled Jovica forward and presented her; but Edith now burst into a merry laugh.

“Another Krivoscian? For Heaven’s sake, did all the Imperial Chasseurs get betrothed and married there? There will be a rebellion among the Tyrolese girls. I think you are very inconsistent, George. You protested that day, by everything you held dear, that you would marry nobody but a Tyrolese, and made the sign of the cross as if you saw Satan himself when I suggested the daughters of that country, whom you preferred to dub ‘savages.’”

“Fraeulein,” replied George, solemnly, “there is nothing, not even in this world, so bad that it has not one good thing. The only good thing Krivoscia had was Jovica and that I brought away with me.”

“Well, I wish you and your Jovica every possible happiness. But now come, Danira, that we may have at least half an hour’s chat. Gerald must give you up for that time. Come, we shall not be interrupted in the waiting-room to-day.”

She drew Danira away, while Gerald, who saw Father Leonhard coming hastily went to him to tell him his unexpected and joyful news.

The little waiting-room was, in truth, perfectly empty; every one was pressing toward the door of the station.

The two young ladies sat close together. Edith had put her arm around her adopted sister in the old familiar way, and was laughing and chatting continuously; but Danira could not be so easily deceived in this respect as Gerald.

She herself loved, and knew that a love which had once taken root in the heart cannot be so speedily forgotten. She said little, but her eyes rested steadily on Edith’s features.

The pretty face still seemed unchanged in bloom and brightness, but it was only seeming. Around the little mouth was an expression all its smiles were powerless to banish; an expression that told of secret sorrow; and any one gazing deep into the blue eyes could see the shadow in them. The vivacious gaiety still remained, but it was no longer the mirth of a glad careless child who had known no grief. In the midst of all the jesting there sometimes echoed a tone which sounded as if the speaker were striving to repress tears.

At such a moment Danira suddenly clasped both the young girl’s hands and said softly:

“Cease jesting, Edith. I have caused you pain. I could not help doing so; but, believe me, I have myself suffered most. I felt so deeply wounded when you sent me no answer.

“Are you angry about it? I could not ”

“No, you could not answer then I ought to have understood.”

A burning blush suddenly crimsoned Edith’s face, and she tried to avoid the gaze whose secret scrutiny she felt.

“At first papa would not allow it,” she said hastily. “He wanted to forbid my writing to you at all and I yielded; but before we left Cattaro I was firmly resolved to bring you the answer in this form. True, my courage fell when we accepted Baroness von Steinach’s pressing invitation to spend a few days with her, for matters looked very badly at the castle. Gerald was under a ban, and you, too. No one was permitted to mention your names, and papa fanned the fire. So long as he remained I could do nothing, but I managed to have him go to his garrison alone and leave me behind.”

“And then you interceded for us?”

“Fairly intrigued, according to the very best rules of diplomacy. I was myself amazed at the talent I suddenly developed. The baroness tried to console me for my lost lover, but I turned the tables by energetically taking her to task for her hard-heartedness. I tried to put the affair in the right light by making her consider that you are really a Krivoscian princess.”

“Oh, Edith!”

“Well, isn’t it true? Your father was chief of his tribe, your brother is its head now. Chief, prince, king it all comes to the same thing in the end. I made this clear to the baroness, and would have traced your lineage back to Mahomet oh dear, no, that wouldn’t do, you are a Christian or to Saint George himself. I told her so much about your father’s heroic deeds that she became filled with reverence, and then I gave her your letter to me and made her admire your own courage and Gerald’s rescue at the Vila spring. That shook the fortress, and when I stormed it with an appeal to her maternal love and Gerald’s letters were produced again, it yielded. You see I am not a degenerate daughter of my father; my first campaign ended with victory along the whole line.”

The young wife sat silently with down-cast eyes. She felt the generosity of this conduct and at the same time realized how greatly she had formerly undervalued Edith.

“And I must not even thank you!” she said with passionate fervor. “You want to escape our gratitude and leave us this very hour. Must it be?”

“I must go to papa, who expects me. Don’t prevent me, Danira, I cannot stay.”

She tried to smile again, but this time she did not succeed, her lips only quivered and she was obliged to turn away to force back the rising tears. Then she felt Danira’s arms clasp her, and her lips pressed to hers.

“Edith, don’t try to deceive me like the others. I know what your brave championship of our happiness has cost you, and how you have suffered. You may surely confess it to me.”

Edith did not contradict her. She only hid her face on Danira’s shoulder, but how the tears streamed from her eyes!

“It was nothing,” she sobbed. “A child’s foolish dream nothing more. Don’t tell Gerald I have been crying promise to say nothing to him he ought not, must not know.”

“Be calm, he shall learn nothing. It is enough for me to endure the grief of having robbed you of your happiness.”

“No!” Edith’s tears suddenly ceased as she started up. “No, Danira, I should not have been happy with him. I felt from the first moment that he did not love me, and knew it the instant he flamed into such passionate defence of you. He never had that look and tone for me; you first taught them to him. Is it not true that he can love ardently and make his wife infinitely happy?”

“Yes,” replied Danira, softly, but the one word told enough.

Edith turned hastily away toward the window.

“There is the signal for the train! We have only a few minutes; let us bid each other farewell! Don’t look so mournful, Danira, and don’t grieve about me. I have no intention of going into a convent or sorrowing all my life. It must be delightful to devote yourself heart and soul to the man of your choice, but that destiny isn’t allotted to everybody. It can’t be done, as George says.”

Just at that moment Gerald entered to tell them that the train was coming. He saw a bright face and heard only gay, cordial parting words. A few minutes after, Edith was seated in the car, nodding one more farewell through the window; then the train rolled on again and instantly disappeared from the gaze of those left behind.

George had quitted the station with Jovica to take her to his lieutenant’s lodgings, where she was to wait for Danira.

There was an immense throng in the great open square outside. All the country people had flocked thither, each one trying to find his or her relatives among the returning soldiers. Everywhere were joyous meetings, shouts of delight, clasping of hands, and embracing, and whoever got into the midst of the residents of his native village, who usually went in troops, was almost stifled with tokens of friendship.

George had hitherto escaped this fate, but now a portly farmer and his equally corpulent wife, worked their way through the throng straight toward him, shouting his name while still a long distance off.

“By all the saints! there are my parents!” cried the young Tyrolese, joyously. “Did you really take the long journey here? Yes, here I am, alive and kicking, and have brought my whole head back with me! That’s saying something, when a fellow returns from Krivoscia.”

The farmer and his wife instantly seized upon their son and wanted him to walk between them, but Jovica, who, during the exchange of greetings, had remained behind him, now suddenly appeared. She had been frightened by the noise and crowd that surrounded her on all sides, and when she saw that her George was to be taken away she clung to his arm, beseeching him in the Slavonic tongue not to leave her.

The parents looked greatly surprised at the sudden appearance of the young girl who clung so confidingly to their son. Luckily Jovica’s extremely childish figure prevented them from suspecting the real relation between the pair.

Yet the farmer frowned, and his wife said slowly: “What does this mean?”

“This means this is what I’ve brought back from my journey,” replied George, who saw a storm rising which he wished for the present to avoid. Yet he did not release “what he had brought,” but held her firmly by the hand.

“What does this mean? How came you by the child?” cried the farmer angrily, and his wife sharply added:

“The girl looks like a gipsy! Where did you pick her up! Out with the whole story.”

Jovica, who during the journey had greatly enlarged her knowledge of the language, understood that the people before her were George’s parents, but she also perceived their unkind reception. Tears filled her dark eyes, and she timidly repeated the words of greeting she had been taught “How do you do?” But the foreign accent completely enraged the mother.

“She can’t even speak German,” she cried furiously. “That’s a pretty thing! Do you mean to bring her to us at the Moosbach Farm?”

“I won’t have it!” said the farmer emphatically. “We want no foreign gipsies in the house. Let the girl go, and come with us; we’re going home.”

But George was not the man to leave his Jovica in the lurch. He only drew her closer to his side and answered with resolute defiance:

“Where the girl stays I shall stay, and if she cannot come to the farm I’ll never return home. You must not scold me about Jovica, my dear parents, for, to tell the truth, I have chosen her for my wife.”

His parents stood as if they had been struck by a thunderbolt, staring at their son as though they thought people might lose not only their heads but their wits in Krivoscia. Then a storm burst forth on both sides; it was fortunate that, in the general rejoicing, each person was absorbed in his own friends, and everybody was shouting and talking as loud in delight as Farmer Moosbach and his wife in their wrath, or there would have been a great excitement.

At last George, by dint of his powerful lungs, succeeded in obtaining a hearing.

“Give me a chance to speak for once!” he cried. “You don’t know Jovica at all; she’s a splendid girl, and even if she is still a pagan ”

He went no further. The thoughtless fellow had used the worst possible expedient. His mother fairly shrieked aloud in horror at the fatal word, and the farmer crossed himself in the face of his future daughter-in-law.

“A pagan! Heaven help us! He wants to bring a pagan into the house. George, you are possessed by the devil!”

Jovica was trembling from head to foot. She saw only too plainly that she was the object of this aversion and began to weep bitterly, which destroyed the last remnant of George’s patience.

“My dear parents,” he shouted, with a furious gesture, as if he longed to knock the “dear parents” down, “I’ve always been an obedient son, but if you receive my future wife so, may a million ”

“George!” cried Jovica, anxiously seizing his uplifted arm with both hands. “George!”

“Yes, indeed with all filial respect of course,” growled George, instantly controlling himself when he heard her voice; but his parents were not soothed, and the quarrel was just kindling anew when Father Leonhard appeared, the crowd reverently making way for him. He hurriedly answered the joyous greetings proffered to him on all sides, and walked hastily up to the disputing family; for he saw that his presence was most needed there.

“God be with you. Farmer Moosbach,” he said. “You and your wife are doubtless rejoicing to have your son back again. He has done well and fought bravely in the campaign, as you see by the medal on his breast.”

“Help us, your reverence!” said the mother piteously. “Our boy is bewitched. He has brought home a pagan, a Turk, a witch, and wants to marry her.”

“Look at the brown-skinned creature yonder, your reverence,” the farmer chimed in with a wrathful laugh. “That’s the future mistress of the Moosbach Farm. Say yourself whether George hasn’t lost his senses. That is ”

“My pupil, to whom I taught the Christian religion, and who in a short time will receive the holy rite of baptism,” said Father Leonhard with marked emphasis, laying his hand kindly with a protecting gesture, on the head of the weeping girl. “You need not reproach your son so harshly; it is principally due to him that this young soul has been won over to Christianity.”

George’s mother listened intently to the last words. She was a pious woman and perceived that, if George had such praiseworthy designs, he certainly could not be possessed by the devil. The farmer too was somewhat softened, and muttered:

“That’s a different matter! But the girl doesn’t come into my house.”

“Then I’ll take Jovica and go straight back with her to Krivoscia among the savages!” cried George with desperate energy. “I’d rather keep goats with her all my life than live at Moosbach Farm without her. True, they’ll cut off my nose up there and both ears to boot, that’s the custom among these barbarians when a new member is admitted, but no matter I’ll bear it for Jovica’s sake.”

The threat made some impression, especially on the mother, who now heard of this terrible custom for the first time. She clasped her hands in horror and looked at her George’s nose, which suited his face so well, but the father angrily exclaimed:

“You’ll do no such thing! You’ll stay here in Tyrol among Christian people.”

“Silence, George!” said Father Leonhard to the young soldier, who was about to make a defiant answer. “Do you want at the first moment of meeting to irritate your parents against you? Let me talk with them. Come, Farmer Moosbach, and you, too, dame, we will discuss the matter quietly; you have been speaking so loud that everybody is listening.”

The attention of the bystanders had indeed been attracted, and George’s last words were heard by a large circle of listeners, in whose minds they inspired positive terror. Father Leonhard now drew the parents aside with him and thus the dispute ended, but the report ran like wildfire from lip to lip that George Moosbach had brought home a Turkish girl, whom he wanted to marry, and he intended to have his nose and ears cut off directly after, because that was the custom at pagan weddings.

George did not trouble himself about all this, for Jovica was still weeping, and he at present was trying to comfort her.

“You and no one else will be the mistress of Moosbach Farm,” he protested. “Don’t cry, Jovica; you see Father Leonhard has taken the matter in hand, so it is half accomplished. A priest can manage everything in our country.”

And the priest did not disappoint the confidence reposed in him. True, Father Leonhard had a hard struggle with the angry parents, and it required all their respect for his office to induce them to permit his mediation at all, but he knew how to strike the right chord at once. He explained to them that the object here was to save a soul for heaven, that it was really very meritorious in George to desire to transform the poor pagan girl whom he had found into a Christian wife, and that a share in this blessed work was allotted to them, the parents.

This produced an effect first on the mother, who was really in mortal terror lest her son might fall into paganism if he returned to the wilderness.

Farmer Moosbach and his wife were pious Tyrolese, and the priest’s interposition in behalf of the young lovers had great weight with them.

To have their heir woo a young foreign orphan, a poor girl, seemed to them something unprecedented, impossible. But since he desired at the same time to convert a pagan to Christianity and save a soul for heaven, the whole affair assumed a different shape. That would be talked of far and wide, and surround the Moosbach Farm with an actual halo of sanctity.

When, in conclusion, Father Leonhard spoke of Gerald’s marriage and his mother’s consent wisely maintaining silence about her previous opposition both his hearers became very thoughtful. If the proud Baroness von Steinach made no objection to a Krivoscian daughter-in-law, plain peasant-folk might surely agree to it.

After repeated and eager discussions they finally sent for their refractory son and heir, who speedily appeared before the tribunal.

“George, you will now go home with your parents and behave like an obedient son,” said Father Leonhard, gravely. “When you have taken off your uniform you must prove yourself to be a capable farmer. Meanwhile Jovica will stay with young Frau von Steinach in order to learn German and become familiar with the customs of our country. Next month I intend to confer upon her the holy rite of baptism your parents have promised to act as god-father and god-mother.”

“Yes, your reverence, but you must make it a very grand affair, so that it will be talked of throughout the country,” said farmer Moosbach, and his wife added:

“And all the priests in the neighborhood must be present,”

George expressed his joy in a jump that was sadly opposed to dignity and respect; then he eagerly kissed the priest’s hand.

“Your reverence, I’ll never forget this as long as I live! I said that a priest could set everything straight. Hurrah for the young mistress of Moosbach Farm!”

Half an hour later Gerald and his wife set out on their journey to Castle Steinach.

Jovica sat beside the coachman. Her tears were dried, and she looked extremely happy, for George had of course found time, before his departure, to come to her and tell the successful result of the dispute and the no less delightful fact that Moosbach Farm was only fifteen minutes’ walk from Castle Steinach.

The carriage drove swiftly through the sunny valley of the Adige, which to-day seemed to have decked itself in the full radiance of its beauty to greet the returning son and his young wife. The wide landscape was steeped in golden sunlight, one vast vineyard, which was surrounded by a chain of villages like a garland, stretching upward even to the castles everywhere visible on the heights. The river, sparkling and glittering, also rippled a welcome, mountains towered aloft, the distant peaks veiled in blue mist, the nearer ones clothed with dark forests, while from the highest summits the gleam of snow was seen from the valley, to which the warm, soft south wind lent all the splendor of a southern clime.

“Is not my native land beautiful?” asked Gerald, with sparkling eyes. “Shall you miss your home here?”

“I shall miss nothing with you,” said the young wife, looking up at him with a smile.

“It shall be my care to make the new home dear to you. Yet I sometimes feel a secret dread that the old conflict may be renewed. You made me realize so long and so painfully, my Danira, that your people were hostile to mine.”

“They have now concluded a treaty of peace, like ourselves. No, Gerald, you need not fear. All that I had to conquer and subdue was vanquished on that night of storm when I went from the Vila spring to the fort. The hardest choice was placed before me, a choice far more difficult than the decision between life and death. I chose your rescue was not that enough?”

“Yet, even after that rescue, you intended to sacrifice your life and our happiness to an illusion. You would have been lost had that confession escaped your lips and you were going to speak.”

“It was no illusion, it would have been only an atonement,” said Danira, with deep emotion. “I knew that Marco would resist any attack, and if a battle had ensued, if the blood of my people had been shed by you I had summoned the enemy, the guilt would have been mine. That blood would have separated us forever. I could not have lived with such a memory. Then a higher power uttered Marco’s doom and my pardon. No battle was fought; even the fierce sons of our mountains saw in that sign what I recognized a judgment of God.”