Read PART II: CHAPTER XII of The Home , free online book, by Fredrika Bremer, on ReadCentral.com.

MORE COURTSHIP STILL.

Judge Frank had, unknown to himself, spoken a striking word. It was true that Schwartz had drawn ever narrower and darker circles around Sara, and at the very time when she would appear free from his influence her temper became more uncertain and suspicious. The mother, uneasy about this connexion, no longer allowed her to be alone with him during the music lesson, and this watchfulness excited Sara’s pride, as well as the grave yet gentle remonstrances which were made on account of her behaviour were received with much impatience and disregard. The Judge was the only person before whom Sara did not exhibit the dark side of her character. His glance, his presence, seemed to exercise a certain power over her; besides which, she was, perhaps, more beloved by him than by all the other members of the family, with the exception of Petrea.

One evening, Sara sate silent by one of the windows in the library, supporting her beautiful head on her hand. Petrea sate at her feet on a low stool; she also was silent, but every now and then looked up to Sara with a tender troubled expression, whilst Sara sometimes looked down towards her thoughtfully, and almost gloomily.

“Petrea,” said she, quickly, “what would you say if I should leave you suddenly to go into the wide world, and should never return?”

“What should I say?” answered Petrea, with a violent gush of tears: “ah, I should say nothing at all, but should lie down and die of grief!”

“Do you really love me then so, Petrea?” asked she.

“Do I love you!” returned Petrea; “ah, Sara, if you go away, take me with you as maid, as servant I will do everything for you!”

“Good Petrea!” whispered Sara, laying her arm round her neck, and kissing her weeping eyes, “continue to love Sara, but do not follow her!”

“It seems terribly sultry to me this evening!” said Henrik, wearily: “we cannot manage any family assembling to-night; not a bit of music; not a bit of entertainment. The air seems as if an earthquake were at hand. I fancy that Africa sends us something of a tempest. Petrea is weeping like the cataract of Trollhaetten; and there go the people in twos-and-twos and weep, and set themselves in corners and whisper and mutter, and kiss one another, from my God-fearing parents down to my silly little sisters! The King and Queen, they go and seat themselves just has it happens, on living or dead things; they had nearly seated themselves on me as I sate unoffensively on the sofa; but I made a turn about tout d’un coup. Betrothed! horribly wearisome folks! Are they not, Gabriele? They cannot see, they cannot hear; they could not speak, I fancy, but with one another!”

A light was burning in Sara’s chamber far into the night. She was busied for a long time with her journal; she wrote with a flying but unsteady hand.

“So, to-morrow; to-morrow all will be said, and I shall be bound.

“I know that is but of little importance, and yet I have such a horror of it! Oh, the power of custom and of form.

“I know very well whom I could love; there is a purity in his glance, a powerful purity which penetrates me. But how would he look on me if he saw

“I must go! I have no choice left! S. has me in his net the money which I have borrowed from him binds me so fast! for I cannot bear that they should know it, and despise me. I know that they would impoverish themselves in order to release me, but I will not so humiliate myself.

“And why do I speak of release? I go hence to a life of freedom and honour. I bow myself under the yoke but for a moment, only in order to exalt myself the more proudly. Now there is no more time to tremble and to waver away with these tears! And thou, Volney, proud, strong thinker, stand by me! Teach me, when all others turn away, how I may rely on my own strength!”

Sara now exchanged the pen for the book, and the hour of midnight struck before she closed it, and arose tranquil and cold in order to seek the quiet of sleep.

The earthquake of which Henrik had spoken came the next day, the signal of which was a letter from Schwartz to the Judge, in which he solicited the hand of Sara. His only wealth was his profession; but with this alone he was convinced that his wife would want nothing: he was just about to undertake a journey through Europe, and wished to be accompanied by Sara, of whose consent and acquiescence he was quite sure.

A certain degree of self-appreciation in a man was not at any time displeasing to Judge Frank, but this letter breathed a supercilious assurance, a professional arrogance, which were extremely repugnant to him. Besides this, he was wounded by the tone of pretension in which Schwartz spoke of one who was as dear to him as his own daughter; and the thought of her being united to a man of Schwartz’s character was intolerable to him. He was almost persuaded that Sara did not love him, and burned with impatience to repel his pretensions, and to remove him at the same time from his house.

Elise agreed perfectly in the opinion of her husband, but was less confident than he regarding Sara’s state of feeling with respect to the affair. She was summoned to their presence. The Judge handed to her Schwartz’s letter, and awaited impatiently her remarks upon it. Her colour paled before the grave and searching glance which was riveted upon her, but she declared herself quite willing to accept Schwartz’s proposal.

Astonishment and vexation painted themselves on the countenance of her adopted father.

“Ah, Sara,” said the mother, after a short silence, “have you well considered this? Do you think that Schwartz is a man who can make a wife happy?”

“He can make me happy,” returned Sara; “happy according to my own mind.”

“You can never, never,” said the mother, “enjoy domestic happiness with him!”

“He loves me,” returned Sara, “and he can give me a happiness which I never enjoyed here. I lost early both father and mother, and in the home into which I was received out of charity, all became colder and colder towards me!”

“Ah, do not think so, Sara!” said the mother. “But even if this were the case, may not some little of it be your own fault? Do you really do anything to make yourself beloved? Do you strive against that which makes you less amiable?”

“I can renounce such love,” said Sara, “as will not love me with my faults. Nature gave me strong feelings and inclinations, and I cannot bring them into subjection.”

“You will not, Sara,” was the reply.

“I cannot! and it may be that I will not,” said she, “submit myself to the subjugation and taming which has been allotted as the share of the woman. Why should I? I feel strength in myself to break up a new path for myself. I will lead a fresh and an independent life! I will live a bright artiste-life, free from the trammels and the Lilliputian considerations of domestic life. I will be free! I will not, as now, be watched and suspected, and be under a state of espionage! I will be free from the displeasure and blame which now dog my footsteps! This treatment it is, mother, which has determined my resolution.”

“If,” answered the mother, in a tremulous voice, and deeply affected by Sara’s words and tone, “I have erred towards you and I may have done so I know well that it has not been from temper, or out of want of tenderness towards you. I have spoken to and warned you from the best conviction; I have sincerely endeavoured and desired that which is best for you, and this you will some time or other come to see even better than now. You will perhaps come to see that it would have been good for you if you had lent a more willing ear to my maternal counsellings; will perhaps come to deplore that you rewarded the love I cherished for you with reproaches and bitterness!”

“Then let me go!” said Sara, with gentler voice; “we do not accord well together. I embitter your life, and you make perhaps you cannot make mine happy. Let me go with him who will love me with all my faults, who can and will open a freer scope to my powers and talents than I have hitherto had.”

“Ah, Sara,” returned Elise, “will you obtain in this freer field a better happiness than can be afforded you by a domestic circle, by the tenderness of true friends, and a happy domestic life?”

“Are you then so happy, my mother?” interrupted Sara with an ironical smile, and a searching glance; “are you then so happy in this circle, and this domestic life, which you praise so highly, that you thus repeat what has been said on the subject from the beginning of the world. Those perpetual cares in which you have passed your days, those trifling cares and thoughts for every-day necessities, which are so opposite to your own nature, are they then so pleasant, so captivating? Have you not renounced many of your beautiful gifts your pleasure in literature and music nay, in short, what is the most lovely part of life, in order to bury yourself in concealment and oblivion, and there, like the silkworm, to spin your own sepulchre of the threads which another will wind off? You bow your own will continually before that of another; your innocent pleasures you sacrifice daily either to him or to others: are you so very happy amid all these renunciations?”

The Judge rose up passionately; went several times up and down the room, and placed himself at last directly opposite to Sara, leaning his back to the stove, and listening attentively for the answer of his wife.

“Yes, Sara, I am happy!” answered she, with an energy very unusual in her; “yes, I am happy! Whenever I make any sacrifice, I receive a rich return. And if there be moments when I feel painfully any renunciation which I have made, there are others, and far more of them, in which I congratulate myself on all that I have won. I am become improved through the husband whom God has given to me; through my children, through my duties, through the desires and the wants which I have overcome at his side yes, Sara, above all things, through him, his affection, his excellence, am I improved, and feel myself happier every day. Love, Sara, love changes sacrifice into pleasure, and makes renunciation sweet! I thank God for my lot, and only wish that I were worthier of it!”

“It may be!” said Sara, proudly; “every one has his own sphere. But the tame happiness of the dove suits not the eagle!”

“Sara!” exclaimed the Judge, in a tone of severe displeasure.

The mother, unable longer to repress the outbreak of excited feeling, left the room with her handkerchief to her eyes.

“For shame, Sara,” said the Judge with severe gravity, and standing before her with a reproving glance, “for shame! this arrogance goes too far!”

She trembled now before his eye as she had done once before; a remembrance from the days of her childhood awoke within her; her eyelids sunk, and a burning crimson covered her face.

“You have forgotten yourself,” continued he, calmly, but severely, “and in your childish haughtiness have only shown how far you are below that worth and excellence which you cannot understand, and which, in your present state of mind, you never can emulate. Your own calm judgment will make the sharpest reproaches on this last scene, and will, nay, must lead you to throw yourself at the feet of your mother. All, however, that I now ask from you is, that you think over your intentions rationally. How is it possible, Sara, that you overlook your own inconsistency? You argue zealously against domestic life against the duties of marriage, and yet, at the same time, wilfully determine to tie those bonds with a man who will make them actual fetters for you.”

“He will not fetter me,” returned she; “he has promised it he has sworn it! I shall not subject myself to him as a wife, but I shall stand at his side as an equal, as an artiste, and step with him into a world beautiful and rich in honours, which he will open to me.”

“Ah, mere talk!” exclaimed the Judge. “Folly, folly! How can you be so foolish, and believe in such false show? The state gives your husband a power over you which he will not fail to abuse that I can promise you from what I know of his character, and from what I now discover of yours. No woman can withdraw from a connexion of this kind unpunished, more especially under the circumstances in which you are placed. Sara, you do not love the man to whom you are about to unite yourself, and it is impossible that you can love him. No true esteem, no pure regard binds you to him.”

“He loves me,” answered Sara, with trembling lips; “I admire his power and artistical genius; he will conduct me to independence and honour! It is no fault of mine that the lot of woman is so contracted and miserable that she must bind herself in order to become free!”

“Only as a means?” asked he; “the holiest tie on earth only as a means, and for what? For a pitiable and ephemeral chase after happiness, which you call honour and freedom. Poor, deceived Sara! Are you so misled, so turned aside from the right? Is it possible that the miserable book of a writer, as full of pretension as weak and superficial, has been able thus to misguide you?” and with these words he took Volney’s Ruins out of his pocket, and threw it upon the table.

Sara started and reddened. “Ah,” said she, “this is only another instance of espionage over me.”

“Not so,” replied the Judge, calmly. “I was this day in your room; you had left the book lying on the table, and I took it, in order that I might speak with you about it, and prevent Petrea’s young steps from treading this path of error without a guide.”

“People may think what they please,” said Sara, “of the influence of the book, but I conceive that author deserves least of all the epithet weak.”

“When you have followed his counsel,” returned he, “and resemble the wreck which the waves have thrown up here, then you may judge of the strength and skill of the steersman! My child, do not follow him. A more mature, a more logical power of mind, will teach you how little he knows of the ocean of life, of its breakers and its depths how little he understands the true compass.”

“Ah!” said Sara, “these storms, these dangers, nay, even shipwreck itself, appear to me preferable to the still, windless water which the so-much-be-praised haven of domestic life represents. You speak, my father, of chimeras; but tell me, is not the so-lauded happiness of domestic life more a chimera than any other? When the saloon is set in order, one does not see the broom and the dusting-brush that have been at work in it, and the million grains of dust which have filled the air; one forgets that they have ever been there. So it is with domestic and family life; one persists wilfully in only seeing its beautiful moments, and in passing over, in not noticing at all, what are less beautiful, or indeed are ‘repulsive.’”

“All depends upon which are the predominant,” replied he, half smiling at Sara’s simile. “Thus, then, if it be more frequently disorderly than orderly, if the air be more frequently filled with dust than it is pure and fresh, then the devil may dwell there, but not I! I know very well that there are homes enough on earth where there are dust-filled rooms, but that must be the fault of the inhabitants. On them alone depends the condition of the house; from those which may not unjustly be called ante-rooms of hell, to those again which, spite of their earthly imperfections, spite of many a visitation of duster and dusting-brush, yet may deserve the names of courts of heaven. And where, Sara, where in this world will you find an existence free from earthly dust? And is that of which you complain so bitterly anything else than the earthly husk which encloses every mortal existence of man as well as of woman? it is the soil in which the plant must grow; it is the chrysalis in which the larva becomes ripe for its change of life! Can you actually be blind to that higher and nobler life which never developes itself more beautifully than in a peaceful home? Can you deny that it is in the sphere of family and friendship where man lives most perfectly and best, as citizen of an earthly and of a heavenly kingdom? Can you deny how great and noble is the efficacy of woman in private life, be she married or single, if she only endeavour ”

“Ah,” said Sara, interrupting him, “the sphere of private life is too narrow for me. I require a larger one, in order to breathe freely and freshly.”

“In pure affection,” replied the Judge, “in friendship, and in the exercise of kindness, there is large and fresh breathing space; the air of eternity plays through it. In intellectual development and the very highest may be arrived at in private life the whole world opens itself to the eye of man, and infinite treasures are offered to his soul, more, far more, than he can ever appropriate to himself!”

“But the artist,” argued Sara “the artist cannot form himself at home he must try himself on the great theatre of the world. Is his bent only a chimera, my father? And are those distinguished persons who present the highest pleasures to the world through their talents; to whom the many look up with admiration and homage; around whom the great, and the beautiful, and the agreeable collect themselves, are they fools? are they blind hunters after happiness? Ah, what lot can well be more glorious than theirs! Oh, my father, I am young; I feel a power in myself which is not a common one my heart throbs for a freer and more beautiful life! Desire not that I should constrain my own nature: desire not that I should compress my beautiful talents into a sphere which has no charms for me!”

“I do not depreciate, certainly, the profession of the artist,” replied the Judge, “nor the value of his agency: in its best meaning, his is as noble as any; but is it this pure bent, this noble view of it, which impels you, which animates you? Sara, examine your own heart; it is vanity and selfish ambition which impel you. It is the arrogance of your eighteen years, and some degree of talent, which make you overlook all that is good in your present lot, which make you disdain to mature yourself nobly and independently in the domestic circle. It is a deep mistake, which will now lead you to an act blamable in the eyes of God and man, and which blinds you to the dark side of the life which you covet. Nevertheless, there is none darker, none in which the changes of fortune are more dependent on miserable accidents. An accident may deprive you of your beauty, or your voice, and with these you lose the favour of the world in which you have placed your happiness. Besides this, you will not always continue at eighteen, Sara: by the time you are thirty all your glory will be past, and then then what will you have collected for the remaining half of life? You will have rioted for a short time in order then to starve; since, so surely as I stand here, with this haughty and vain disposition, and with the husband whom you will have chosen, you will come to want; and, too late, you will look back in your misery, full of remorse, to the virtue and to the true life which you have renounced.”

Sara was silent; she was shaken by the words and by the countenance of her adopted father.

“And how perfectly different it might be!” continued he, with warmth; “how beautiful, how full of blessing might not your life and your talents be! Sara! I have loved you, and love you still, like my own daughter will you not listen to me as to a father? Answer me have you had to give up anything in this house, which, with any show of reason, you might demand? and have we spared any possible care for your education or your accomplishments?”

“No,” replied Sara, sighing; “all have been kind, very kind to me.”

“Well, then,” exclaimed the Judge, with increasing warmth and cordiality, “depend upon your mother and me, that you will have no cause of complaint. I am not without property and connexions. I will spare no means of cultivating your talents, and then if your turn for art is a true one, when it has been cultivated to its utmost it shall not be concealed from a world which can enjoy and reward it. But remain under our protection, and do not cast yourself, inexperienced as you are, on a world which will only lead you more astray. Do not, in order to win an ideal liberty, give your hand to a man inferior to you in accomplishments; to a man whom you do not love, and whom, morally speaking, you cannot esteem. Descend into your own heart, and see its error while there is yet time to retrieve it, before you are crushed by your own folly. Do not fly from affectionate, careful friends do not fly from the paternal roof in blind impatience of disagreeables, to remove which depends perhaps only on yourself! Sara, my child! I have not taken you under my roof in order to let you become the victim of ruin and misfortune! Pause, Sara, and reflect, I pray you, I conjure you! make not yourself wretched! When I took you from the death-bed of your father, I threw my arms around you to shield you from the winds of autumn I clasp them once again around you, in order to shield you from far more dangerous winds Sara, my child, fly not from this house!”

Sara trembled; she was violently agitated, and leaned her head with indescribable emotion against her adopted father, who clasped her tenderly to his bosom.

It is not difficult to say whether they were good or bad angels who triumphed in Sara, as she, after a moment of violent inward struggle, pushed from her the paternal friend, and said, with averted countenance, “It is in vain; my determination is taken. I shall become the wife of Schwartz, and go where my fate leads me!”

The Judge started up, stamped on the floor, and pale with anger, exclaimed, with flashing eyes, “Obdurate one! since neither love nor prayers have power over you, you must listen to another mode of speech! I have the right of a guardian over you, and I forbid this unholy marriage! I forbid you to leave my house! You hear me, and you shall obey!”

Sara stood up as pale as death, and with an insolent expression riveted her large eyes upon him, whilst he, too, fixed his upon her with all the force of his peculiar earnestness and decision. It seemed as if each would look the other through as if each in this contest would measure his strength against the other.

Suddenly her arms were flung wildly round his neck, a burning kiss was pressed upon his lips, and the next moment she was out of the room.

Elise sate in her boudoir. She still wept bitter tears. It was twilight, and her knees were suddenly embraced, and her hands and her dress were covered with kisses and with tears. When she put forth her hands to raise the one who embraced her, she had vanished. “Sara, Sara! where are you?” exclaimed she, full of anxiety.

Petrea came down from her chamber; she met some one, who embraced her, pressed her lips to her forehead, and whispered, “Forget me!”

“Sara, Sara! where are you going?” exclaimed she, terrified, and running after her to the house door.

“Where is Sara?” inquired the Judge, violently, above in the chambers of his daughters. “Where is Sara?” inquired he, below in the library.

“Ah!” exclaimed Petrea, who now rushed in weeping, “she is this moment gone out out into the street; she almost ran. She forbade me to follow her. Ah, she certainly never will come back again!”

“The devil!” said the Judge, hastening from the room, and taking up his hat, went out. Far off in the street he saw a female figure, which, with only a handkerchief thrown over her head and shoulders, was hastening onward, and who, spite of the twilight, he recognised to be Sara. He hastened after her; she looked round, saw him, and fled. Certain now that he was not mistaken, he followed, and was almost near enough to take hold of her, when she suddenly turned aside, and rushed into a house it was that of Schwartz. He followed with the quickness of lightning; followed her up the steps, and was just laying his hand on her, when she vanished through a door. The next moment he too opened it, and saw her in the arms of Schwartz!

The two stood together embracing, and evidently prepared to defy him. He stood for some moments silent before them, regarding them with an indescribable look of wrath, contempt, and sorrow. He looked upon the pale breathless Sara, and covered his eyes with his hand; the next moment, however, he seemed to collect himself, and with all the calm and respect-commanding dignity of a parent, he grasped her hand, and said, “You now follow me home. On Sunday the banns shall be proclaimed.”

Sara followed. She took his arm, and with a drooping head, and without a word, accompanied him home.

All there was disquiet and sorrow. But, notwithstanding the general discontent with Sara and her marriage, there was not one of the family who did not busy themselves earnestly in her outfit. Louise, who blamed her more than all the rest, gave herself most trouble about it.

Sara behaved as if she never observed how everybody was working for her, and passed her time either over her harp, or solitary in her own room. Any intercourse with the members of the family seemed to have become painful to her, whilst Petrea’s tenderness and tears were received with indifference nay, even with sternness.