XI

FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME.

Schloss Jaromar,
      November 27

A Fellowe and his Wife

SOMETIMES in your letters you approach me with richest, fairest promise.  Sometimes you recede and elude me. Sometimes, reviewing the whole field, I am forced to ask nlyself if I am in truth a man of sense, or the veriest fool, the most egregious ass that the Lord ever made. Sometimes ---

It is well that a man has his daily work to do, though he may now and then grumble and rail at it. To-day, as usual, I rose at half-past five and rode out at six. Even if there is at this season no important field work to summon me, there is enough in general going on, and I see no reason to change my habits, especially as my building projects interest me greatly, and the mild winter permits us to make good progress. I hope to see my model English cottages roofed and plastered before the snow comes ; then I shall leave them to dry.  After my coffee at eight, I am engaged the entire morning in my study with correspondence, business of all kinds, the reports of my stewards and others, as well as various embassies from the village. I often smile to find myself sitting here like an octogenarian patriarch, gravely responding to appeals of the most delicate nature. Old Malte's ruddy countenance usually looks in during my morning session, for he is teaching Margot to ride, and feels it incumbent on him to communicate, with the empressement of court bulletins, every stage of her progress. She is not like that fearless Ilse-girl, who inherited nerve, courage, and love of horses in every drop of her blood; still, Margot does well ---she pleases us. I am hurriedly building a manége, so that we need not be interrupted when the cold January weather comes; and then, under cover, it will greatly amuse me to teach her to jump and play the jeu de rose, and the ring-game, and the other knightly pastimes in which you and I long ago won our spurs. She is beginning to gain perceptibly from so much air and exercise. She was certainly rather anćmic, but is well built, and has a good chest. A book-seller's daughter in Lyons --- did I tell you? her mother a rather exacting invalid, as I gather from Margot's innocent revelations, the poor child has never had a chance to grow rosy and strong. She is pale, not only from grief, I fancy, but from inveterate old habit. It is now my ambition to put some fresh color into her cheeks. Observe how my paternal instinct " mounteth with occasion." She is a good little thing, Margot, and fits so perfectly in our household machinery, one can hardly remember that she was not always here. In my library she is inestimable. I only begin now to realize how neglected I was before her advent. Beside her neatness and system, she is a real little book-worm, a true book-lover, with a delight beyond her years in bindings, and margins, and type. On such points we have become great chums. I have thus far unearthed for her, by way of relatives, a bachelor uncle in Paris, who desires her presence apparently not at all, and a cousin in Dantzig, a matron with a large family, who wants her, it would seem, still less : which is curious, as her father's modest affairs were left in good order, and she would not be dependent on her kinsmen, if not precisely seated in the lap of luxury. Perhaps somebody may yet claim her, some Borike with a more hospitable soul and a breath of compassion for the orphan, but I confess I should be sorry. Margot has won a place in all our hearts. She is, of course, not gay yet. One could not expect it so soon after the shock and sorrow. Her eyes are full of languor and memories, and she has most heart-breaking forlorn moods. But she is apt, receptive, grateful, affectionate, and very young after all, and so occasionally her natural instinct of fun and lightheartedness breaks out in the sweetest and freshest way. At such moments she is irresistible, and would delight you. Then without being a beauty, she has something infinitely engaging in her dark little face, startling pretty moments, and those long thin lines of chin and throat and limb that are so maidenly and touching, and that a man likes to look at very well, although aware that they will be prettier and better rounded some day. You would model her, I am sure, as a Daphne or a dryad, or perhaps as Anacreon's boy Bathyllos, with his
quote1.jpg (17761 bytes) quote2.jpg (6744 bytes) for she has that mingling of lank, boyish contours and feminine softness dear to the ancients, and, I may add, not hated of us moderns. But Margot's voice is her supreme charm. You know that there was never a man on earth more sensitive to voices than I and you will understand me when I say that this child's voice would melt the soul of an arch-fiend. It has marvelous sweetness, not the nauseating, syrupy, cloying, intentional sweetness of certain actresses and society women, but something innocently caressing, warm, melodious, and with the most fascinat-ing, limpid intonations. If she were a harpy and had that voice, she would attract men. Freolin never heard her speak except to say " Good-morning " as she passed him one day at the library-door, but I see plainly he is in a state of troubadour-exaltation and restlessness, staring at every window, and looking suddenly over his shoulder as if ghosts walked in our respectable house at mid-day. But I know well what my duties in this case are, and like the sternest old duenna, I keep the child out of his way. If, as Paul Heyse says, " Die Stimme ist der Mensch," it is a loving and lovely soul that greet us with Margot's voice.

I was called away from you yesterday to receive twenty men who valiantly stormed my gates in a hay-cart. They were what the newspaper reporters would gloatingly describe as the "flower of the German army," but they looked like jolly schoolboys off for a holiday, and were in the most preposterous spirits ; very young men, only some of whom I'd met. Freolin invited them, it seems. I gave them something to eat, drink, and smoke, and went out with them later, taking Malte and Ete. We divided into three groups, and shot a couple of stags and forty or fifty hares.

Men come in shoals now, for the hunting and weather are superb. I like my old friends to feel comfortable in Jaromar. I like them to know that they are welcome, whether they remember to telegraph from Berlin or arrive unannounced. I like to come home and find Mahlzahn and Freolin, divested of their uniforms, stretching themselves in my dressing-gowns and smoking in my study. Those shining ones, inseparable as Castor and Pollux, are here at all times. They present their homages to you, and blandly propose that we adopt them ---the flaxen and not wholly guileless babes of twenty-seven. I like, in short, to have the house full, and keep bachelor-hall but how much better I should like my friends, the old house, the whole world, if there were a sweet and stately chatelaine here to help me do the honors.

Ah, Ilse, when do I not wish for you? Where do I not need you ! If you were riding by my side these frosty, dusky mornings, what sunshine would glow in my heart, and how my cottages would grow, and how like magic the men would work, hammering, after one smile from you, like great Thor himself. And while I am busy with the stewards and their stupid accounts and papers, why should you not model to your heart's content, and be quite alone, and think and dream, as free and unmolested and happy as in Rome ? And later in the day, there is so much to do, together or apart as we choose. There are your people and the neighbors, and old friends far and near, to whom we would ride the villagers with their innumerable needs, and trustful fashion of seeking advice at the Schloss; the hosts of things I am doing and planning for them. There are the long evenings, with more time for music and reading than one ever finds in a city ; yet with the best that cities can give, the results of their thought and work in the new books and magazines constantly pouring in from Berlin, Paris, Rome, London, Boston, and New York ; so that our quiet little island in the Baltic is in touch with movement and pro-gress everywhere, and, thanks to the world's sensitive nervous system nowadays, is enabled to rejoice and mourn with distant lands, in instantaneous responsive sympathy. Think, too, of our well-loved guests, whose brains and hearts lend such a charm to fireside chats, that midnight steals upon us unawares, and we part reluctantly with spirits all aglow. Why is it not a good life, Ilse ? "Parochial," do you say ? I have thought much and gravely of that word since you used it in connection with yourself. A profane word, indeed, applied to the white northern Freia --- most innocent goddess of love and youth --- wandering by some irony of fate among their weary world-worn Latin Venuses.

For myself, too, I disclaim it. I am not an iota more provincial than if I were handling wet clay a small portion of my time and flirt-ing exhaustively in pretty women's boudoirs the remainder. In one sense we are all parochial, and this little planet itself, I presume, in comparison with the vaster and more metropolitan interests of the universe.

But one thing is sure, Ilse --- it all depends upon a man's mental attitude, not upon where he happens to spend his days. There are circles, so-called best circles too, in the largest cities, where men's motives and daily routine become pitifully mean, and stereotyped, and small as in the smallest hamlet. It is always the same houses, the same clubs, the same gossip revamped from year to year. What does it matter whether in Paris or London, Berlin or Rome? I am glad of my six weeks of army life twice a year. That keeps me in training, and holds good old associations warm. I am glad, too, that my wheat, rye, bay, cattle, machines, and other delectable things, to the level of which you are not yet educated, call me to the city often, and that I must make certain visits, and meet certain men, in society as on the stock exchange, and can hear some good music and an occasional premičre at the theatre. I like it all for awhile, but when I come away I breathe freer. And so, perhaps I am parochial, after all, and if I am, I don't care. Names never frightened me much.

For I love Jaromar every inch, and Jaromar loves me, and lets me tyrannize unblushingly over it; and I am proud to be Odo, by the Grace of God, King of Jaromar. A small kingdom, indeed, but large enough to absorb a man's best brain and heart and strength, and one that I long to leave better, happier, and healthier than I found it --- its lands, its men land women and children. And when you come at last, beloved, to be near me, to help me with your insight, your counsel, your sweetness, your lighter, sunnier nature, to give me all that I need and crave in this or any other world, then I shall be so strong and glad that I can do all I would for my people, the work of ten mighty men, huge as the giants of old that lie buried in my park. For I am lonely without you, Ilse, and perplexed and desperate and morose at times, more than you suspect.

I cannot always speak of it. To what end ? We have chosen our course. But, indeed, indeed, I love you with all my strength, and I need you, and long for you by day and by night, and hunger for your return unceasingly.

Surely it is worth living, the life we could live to-ether ? And all that you hold dear and beautiful I would respect. Must you, then, go so far, so far, for your art ? If it is worth anything, is it not here too ? Is it not everywhere ? The other day it was so mild, the fishermen sat in the afternoon sunshine along the wall on the shore, and I watched them with a heart-ache, and thought, " Why does she not care for these splendid fellows ? Why must she have Romans? " Old Martin went by with his closed lids and outstretched, groping hands. Forty years stone-blind, and once the most dare-devil sailor on the bay. And I thought, " Has she seen anything in Rome more wonderful than the infinite resignation of that old man's mouth ?"

J3ut wherever I go, whatever, whomever I see, I am always seeing only you, talking only to you, trying to convince you that home is best. When I ride under our ancient Hertha-beeches and tbousand-year-old oaks stretching their huge bare black shapes against the wintry sky, I call to you, " Oh, Ilse, how can you care more for their cypresses and ilexes than for these mighty trees, beneath which those old heathen, our fierce Wend forefathers, sacrificed to their strange Slavic gods, after slaughtering the Germanic Rügier, and seizing their beautiful fertile island ? Do you not weary for our great white chalk cliffs towering from blue waters, and for the rolling dunes ? And have we not history and tradition enough, Runic stones, legends and fairy lore, tales of demon and sprite, sunken palaces, buried cities, hidden treasures and amber-gods, magic, mystery,  and poetry everywhere? Have they haughtier races in Rome than our old sea kings ? " So I plead with you, and it is all futile, for if you do not want to come, I do not --- no, no, it is not true. God help me, I would often have you come, whether you want to or not!

Ilse, think, if you were ever restless here, there is always my yacht. At a word from you how quickly we could fly away, to Copenhagen, to the North Cape, to Iceland, England, --- wherever you would. Often when the Northwind is skimming along like a bird, I have longed to swoop southwards like a Viking, land somewhere with a few trusty men, seize you in Rome, and bear you away in triumph ---an inspiring dream, and not parochial, Ilse. Another dream, less romantic and picturesque, but more comforting to me, is that after you of your own free will come home to Jaromar, then I of my own free will would later go down to Rome with you. Why not? I could not now ; I would not, and --- I must not. But then, you would see, I should be very good, and amazingly appreciative and sympathetic, and I should not be in the way at all. I would be as docile as one of your little graven images, and we would stay a few months, and then we would come home to Jaromar right joyfully --- and together.

ODO.

  
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