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Page 76



— “Weapons! arms! What 's the matter here?”

King Lear.

No, 24,999! You shall not witness the enduing
of Mrs. Parven with the somewhat remarkable costume
which, at some expense and much labor, she had
caused to be prepared for herself. The momentous
undertaking was accomplished by her daughter Rebecca
and her sable handmaiden. It was but once interrupted
by a mild remark from Mrs. P.

“Don't put any more of it into my eye than you can
help, Beck, dear!” said she, while the burnt cork was
being applied.

“De good father's sakes alive, Mistis! You iz black
az I iz!” observed the handmaiden.

“And you,” exclaimed Rebecca, “are as black as

Meantime, the three jovial habitants of No. 93 had
hurried their toilets and moved down to the ball-room,
where they had taken a position commanding all the
approaches, from which they delivered a steady fire of
comments upon each couple as the masquers slowly
began to enter and promenade in stately circle round
the hall. Aubrey personated Mark Antony; Flemington,
Pizarro; and John Briggs, in slippers and tights,


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bearing a crook with ribbons, was a very genteel
Shepherd indeed.

“By the nine gods, Señor Pizarro! what have we
here?” said Mark Antony, pointing to a couple just

“General, it is as if a Russian bear or Hyrcan tiger
had stolen a hawk's beak, and wore it at the end of his

“Nay, friends,” interposed the Shepherd, “it is master
Shylock, the Jew of Venice. How gracefully
locketh he arm, and how amiably converseth he —
with no less a Gentile than poor crazy Ophelia, who
hath, look! just tied a flower to the end of Shylock's
beard, and is laughing silverly that such grizzled and
curling stems should terminate in the bloom and
fruitage of a rose!”

“What manner of giant should be he that comes
now?” inquired Antony.

“Please your heathen majesty, it is Goliath of Gath,
with a spear and a bass voice, denouncing death to a
whole army —” replied Pizarro.

“And bearing on his arm, O acme of contrasts!
sweet Jeanie Deans, with the gowden hair!” added the

Suddenly Mark Antony unsheathed his sword, and
stood en garde. “Come on,” cried he, “an thou be
Fate, or Cleopatra's spirit, or other shape from hell, I
fear thee not!”

“It is a sheep-murrain embodied in shape of a man!”
said the Shepherd, and ran behind Mark Antony.

“It is the Devil!” said Pizarro, and hastily muttered
a Pater-noster as he ran behind the Shepherd.


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“How daintily he switcheth to and fro his arrow-pointed
tail!” observed the Shepherd from between the
Roman legs of Mark Antony.

Tales sunt inferni!” quoth the general.

“If all be well,” observed Pizarro “that ends well.
then is this tail of yon Devil a most excellent good tail;
for, it being already of exceeding sharp terminus, the
harlequin there is tying, unbeknown to Señor Devil,
a copy of Brownlow's Whig to the end of it!”

“By way of envenoming ye arrow-point, and God
pity ye man who reads this infernal tale, now!” added
the shepherd.

“And I could wish,” said Mark Antony, sheathing
his sword, “that the black cambric were not so tight
about his satanic legs; for I do not love your ungraceful

“It is in character, General, that the cambric tights
should be so tight; for your immortals, being ever
young, must show no wrinkles!” quoth Briggs, the

“But who is this fair star that steals in, shining, by
the side of Lucifer? A dainty girl, by my beard! to
be so arm-locked with the Devil!” inquired Pizarro.

“It is Helen of Greece, by her cymar with a battle
worked on it, and her silver sandals that seem of a
piece with her silver feet!” answered Antony.

“Methinks,” muttered the shepherd, “she of Greece
should be i' the melting mood, so near this fiery-hot

“Aye,” groaned Pizarro, “I fear me she hath caught
a Tartarus shape!”

“Friends, follow me!” suddenly shouted Mark Antony,


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and stormed, with stage-stride and clang of sandal,
across the room.

For, at the door, appeared the face of Egypt.

It was only with a wild groan that Aubrey concealed
the uproarious merriment which Mrs. Parven's appearance
excited within him.

The warm weather, and Mrs. P.'s abounding flesh,
had conspired to make that lady perspire copiously;
and as each drop coursed from her benighted forehead
across the broad and level plain of her face, it washed
away a sort of cork alluvium, and left in its track a
sinuous pathway of white, insomuch that the good
lady's face showed like the front of a Hottentot tattooed
in white.

A crowd of masquers, on the qui vive for fun, had
followed Mark Antony's rush across the floor, and were
now greeting with vociferous applause the extraordinary
figure of Mrs. P., as she slowly and deliberately
moved a step or two inside the door and there stopped,
recognizing Mark Antony, to receive his address;
which M. A. was in no sort of condition to deliver, his
whole soul being occupied in endeavoring to suppress a
fresh insurrection of laughter which broke forth within
him, as he saw one of Mrs. P.'s blackened hands
stretched back behind her to feel for that of Cleopatra-Rebecca,
— who, not unmindful of her white gloves,
was with great manual dexterity eluding these motherly
overtures of Egypt wishing to lead her daughter in.

Flemington had glided to the side of Mrs. Parven,
and stood there like Satan squat at the ear of Eve,
ready to make diabolical suggestions; which he felt
confident Mrs. P., in her excited state of mind, would
immediately execute, however ridiculous.


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Aubrey's voice trembled ominously as he began; but
with a mighty effort, he dashed on: —

“Egypt, thou knowest too well
My heart was to thy rudder tied by the strings
And thou shouldst tow me —”

“Like a ship, you know, Mrs. Parven,” whispered
Flemington rapidly; “tow him — by the nose, for instance:
that's it, take hold of his nose, so! Forward:
tow him! splendid!” he continued, as Mrs. P., deliberately
taking the somewhat extensive proboscis of
Aubrey between finger and thumb, commenced a stately
forward movement.

Aubrey followed, as in duty bound; and, with a sublime
gulp, like an earthquake taking down a city, continued:

“O'er my spirit
Thy full supremacy thou knew'st, and that
Thy Beck” —
Here Aubrey wrenched loose his nose, and made a
profound bow to Rebecca-Cleopatra walking behind —

“might from the bidding of the gods
Command me!”

A storm and salvo of cheers from the masquers testified
their appreciation of this sally, and Mrs. P., taking
Mark Antony's arm, slowly promenaded on, in the
proud consciousness of having attracted more attention
than anybody in the room, dispensing liberal
smiles. Dispensing not only, alas! smiles; for some
fiendish harlequin in the crowd had ripped a small
aperture in the pyramid which adorned Egypt's head,
and the bran was issuing therefrom in a miniature


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Nilus along her dress to the floor; whereby already the
pyramid was visibly collapsing and had that foolish
appearance of befuddlement which a hat has with a
brick in it.

So the mirth grew furious and the crowd increased.
Turk and Paynim laughed and joked with Greek and
Crusader; Cavaliers and Roundheads swore friendship,
York and Lancaster embraced; Moses gave his staff
to a harlequin who balanced it on his chin, while the
Prophet waltzed away with a masqueress in duplex
elliptic and heeled shoes; the Devil was dancing with
her highness the Abbess of —, and a grizzly bear
stood up on his hind paws to pirouette with a delicate
Greek Naiad. All nations, all natures, mingled in a
mazy whirl; costumes and customs were incongruously
scattered together in a parti-colored patchwork; the
ball-room wore motley like a clown; the last centuries
shook hands with the first, over the heads of the
middle ages; it was as if Father Time doubled together
the two ends of his course, and shook all the
racers against each other in the centre. White bosoms
heaved, dark eyes sparkled, blue eyes glowed; soul
struck against soul as body against body; spirits grew
fierce in the powerful proximity of each other; the
arch-genius of all intoxication waved his enchanting
wings, and fanned higher the rosy flame of life.

Tall Pizarro, with black, sharp-pointed beard, was
everywhere in the thickest of the press; anon leaning
down to whisper nothings in the ear of some fair neighbor;
anon flashing sallies of wit across the heads of the
crowd to some equally tall opponent, as Jura darts
back the lightning to a sister peak over the hills.


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Presently, he met Mark Antony, who had just left the
side of Cleopatra, in search of some Octavia.

“Life! Life! Down with Death!” cried Pizarro,
as he saw the glowing eyes of Aubrey.

“Aye,” quoth Mark Antony, “John Death hath no
part here. Let him go sulk i' the corner of space.
But whither away, so quick?”

“Now, by our Lady of Madrid, thou wert better ask
that question of this crowd that is rolling me along
like a round stone in a river! Himmel! Potz Tausend!
exclaimed he as the crowd gave one of those
savage lurches that crowds will give inexplicably, and
forgetting that Pizarro did not usually employ German

At the moment that he uttered a German word,
however, a short, plumply-made female, closely masked,
looked up quickly and asked, in German, if he spoke
that language.


“Then I may speak without fear of being understood
by others; and Heaven be praised! for I fear I
do not know English enough to tell you that which I

“Speak freely,” answered Flemington, suspecting
some jest. “Pizarro's life lies shining in his sword;
and that, lady, is at your service!”

“No, no, I do not jest; you misunderstand me,”
quickly answered his companion, in tone of such evident
feeling, that Flemington's attention was aroused.
“Lean down your head. Give me your arm, and open
a way through the crowd to the door. A life may be
lost while I talk to you. Come!”


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Flemington put forth all his strength and slowly
clove a way through the press, his fair client holding to
his arm, and following in his wake. As they walked,
she rapidly related her story.

“Herr, I must be very brief. I and the Fraulein —
I will not tell you her name — came to the ball with
Herr Cranston, and —”

“With John Cranston?”

“Yes. Ah, I am infinitely glad that you know him!
We rode with him five miles, from our house in the
mountains. He told us he had had a quarrel with one
Herr Rübetsahl, and swears he will kill him to-night.
Herr Rübetsahl is to come with a party from Thalberg
— at least I hope he is not already arrived,” — with a
shudder. “We would have left Herr Cranston, he was
so violent; but we were alone on the road when he told
us these things, and we could not come without an
escort. He brought us here, saw us in the door, and
then left us. But I followed him, to see! Herr, I saw
him take his place behind that large oak yonder, which
grows near the main gate of the inclosure. I do not
doubt he intends to waylay Herr Rübetsahl as he comes
in, and kill him. He carries a long, naked rapier. O,
Herr, if you would save a life, for God's sake, interpose.
Aye,” she added, as Flemington bent a somewhat undecided
countenance to her; “you will be the murderer,
and not Herr Cranston, if, after what I have told
you, you do not exert yourself to prevent this deed!”

Near the door they encountered the gentle Shepherd,
engaged in animated conversation with a tall, lithe girl,
masqued. She was conversing rapidly, but seemed continually
harrassed by some recurring idea, which often


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caused her to turn her head and glance down the winding
white-gravelled walk which led, under fine oaks and
between grass-plats, to the gate of the inclosure. It
was Ottilie, who was already excited by the unaccustomed
pleasure of conversation with strangers to such a
degree, that she would occasionally even forget the terrible
anticipation, under the influence of which she had
sent Gretchen, the stronger of the two, into the crowd,
with the faint hope of finding some male friend who
might avert the impending disaster.

For, on the ride from her cottage, Cranston, half-crazed
with revengeful feelings, had given her an account
of his quarrel with Rübetsahl. Ottilie knew not
what to think or say, passive with that feeling which I
suppose all of us know — a feeling as if the Day of
Judgment, with its astounding crash, its shameful disclosures,
and its dreadful dooms, was about to burst
upon the world.

“Come, Shepherd,” said Pizarro, “bring your Phœbe
there. Let us get into the moonlight. You three shall
be the army, and I will lead you to victory. Now pace
we down the gravel, here, — how white it gleams! — in
column of two and two, conversing upon indifferent

Laughing and chatting gaily, they strolled on through
the moonlight, towards the gate. Presently they came
full upon Cranston, who, wild with revengeful brooding
and waiting, had abandoned his position near the tree,
and was pacing violently to and fro in the walk, twirling
his rapier in rapid circles that flashed and glittered with
deadly sparkle in the light.

“Ha!” exclaimed Flemington, as, Cranston turning


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suddenly, they came face to face. “By the great horn
spoon! It's John Cranston that I have n't seen since
we did Germany in the same year. How d'ye do, old
fellow, — and over again! I 'm running the Pizarro
rôle to-night, you see, John; but, by Jove! the sight of
you converts me into solid Chauncey Flemington in a
trice. Come, turn with us, and let 's get back to the
festivities. We 've just left 'em for a little air. You
too, eh? Gad, a man might almost suppose you an
injured lover, waiting to assassinate his rival! Come
on, Cran. By the way, this is my particular bosom-friend,
John Briggs, doing the Shepherd very sheepishly.
Be acquainted! As for these fair ladies, I would introduce
you to them with great pleasure if I had only the
happiness to know them, or even to call their names.”

It was scarcely possible that Cranston was moved
even by the magnificent hilarity, which overflowed from
generous, brotherly-souled Flemington; but he was
taken aback. Stifling his anger, he muttered to himself,
“one more chance, yet!” and then, forcing a smile
which was bitter as death, said, with hoarse voice: “I 'm
glad to see you, Flemington. I was taking the air. Let
us go to the ball-room.”

A quick glance of gratitude shot up into Flemington's
eyes from those of the two women; and, more merry
than ever, the party returned, quickly separating as soon
as they met the charge of the crowd inside.

It was now eleven o'clock. Lines of grotesque dancers
advanced and receded and advanced again, like
restless waves full of the wrecks of times and nations.
Old gray Reason, the tutor of Fancy's tumultuous
children, had given them holiday to-night, and they


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bounded forth with frantic gambols to enjoy an unaccustomed
liberty. It was as if some gigantic tarantula had
in an instant bitten the whole world, dead men and all.

At this moment the whole company paused to hear a
loud clear voice proclaiming, “Make way for good King
Arthur and his Queen!” All eyes were turned towards
the door, through which, the crowd deferentially falling
back on each side, entered Rübetsahl habited as King
Arthur, in royal vestments, without armor. Upon his
arm leaned Felix Sterling, as Queen Guinevere, and
behind them, Philip, a most gentle Squire, bore the
great two-handed brand, Excalibar.

“Now our Lady keep my heart stout,” exclaimed
Pizarro, “and stiffen my knee, or I must perforce kneel
to this loveliness. Kind Heaven! Look, Antony, at
yon Queen with the lissome undulating shape, undulating
like a slow and tender no-wind wave of the blue
main and —”

“Aye, undulating like the gentle swells the Zephyrs
made in Cleo's silk sails, when we voyaged the Cydnus!”
interposed Mark Antony.

“Aye, undulating like the distant velvety swell of
upland beyond meadow!” added the Shepherd.

“Hush!” exclaimed Pizarro, not more than half in
jest, “I speak, to keep from dying of a pent admiration.
Look, Mark Antony and Shepherd, at yon Queen-feet;
mark you how they show one moment beneath the
heavy-trailing robe, then in successive instantaneousness
withdraw again; one glitters, then is dark, — then the
other, and is dark; like two white mice playing in and
out the arras of a silent room! And friends! note
ye her neck, how it curves, a stem bending with a rare


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flower-face that the botanizing angels have not gathered,
I know not why: how it curves, — like a vine-tendril now
it seems, so that I am fain offer my stout bosom to support
it; but I look again and it is become regal proud
as 't were scorning the protection of any power save the
eyes there above it! O Saxon eyes! Like two unsounded
oval seas at dawn, with silver mists upon them,
and sylvan mysteries within them! And I swear to ye,
if the convex side of our concave firmanent be alabaster-white,
then is it like yon broad Queen's-forehead, in
which white heaven I warrant ye a fairer world than
this revolves, she creating. Nay, men,” said he, hurriedly
advancing, “if loyalty be manhood then am I
wholly a man, for here do I homage!” Sinking on one
knee, in the path of the slow-advancing Arthur, and
doffing his plumed hat, —

“Most puissant Sovereign, most lovely Queen, I
know not if in puissance these queenly eyes exceed
those kingly arms, nor if in loveliness your kingly deeds
exceed these queenly eyes: nor would I solve mine
amiable doubt! I owe no subject's fealty to your throne,
but I do render all true homage to your worth.”

Quickly Mark Antony and the Shepherd were on
knee beside him; while King Arthur raised up Pizarro,
and the Queen reached him her white hand to kiss, he
kneeling again to receive this royal grace.

At this moment, two long, strong arms, with gauntleted
hands of mail, reached out in front of King Arthur
and divided the crowd to right and left, assisting the
design by circling a rapier over the heads of the crowd,
and gradually lowering its sweep till room was gained
for free play of sword. It was Cranston, attired in a


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light hauberk and helmet. These relics of the days of
chivalry were the only memorials that Ottilie had
brought with her from Germany; and, that morning,
she and Gretchen had grown almost sportive in midst
of their melancholy when, having determined to visit
the Springs, they brought out the old coat of mail and
casque, and arrayed Cranston in them. He had carried
in his hand all day the naked rapier, whose sheath he
had thrown away in the morning.

“My glove is there!” said he, throwing down a
gauntlet. “I challenge to immediate combat King
Arthur and all his Table Round! I am Lancelot of the

“By Hercules!” exclaimed Mark Antony, “an I were
to judge from the scowl of yon knight-challenger's
brow, and the hot sparkle in 's eye, I could swear some
dainty slippers in this room would be puddled with
blood ere this joust be over!”

“With you there, General,” sententiously observed
the Shepherd.

Flemington kept his counsel. It was too late to interfere.

“King Arthur condescends to accept any challenge,
but stoops not to raise any glove!” said Rübetsahl,
spurning the gauntlet with his foot. “Give me the

On one knee Philip presented the mighty Excalibar.

“Sir Lancelot of the Lake, guard thyself!”

Up rose the long, wide blade and crossed with the
thin one. Ottilie, with that oppressive doom's-day feeling
again overhanging her sluggish soul, like sultry


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clouds on hot mornings, instinctively glided close to the
inner edge of the living circle, and stood by Rübetsahl:
who, indeed, was little aware of those glazed, distended
eyes bent on his form; and well, so, for they would have
shaken his heart and relaxed the bow-tension of his
muscles, of which he had full need to parry the quick
thrusts of Cranston's rapier.

No thought struck the masquers that this sword-play
was aught more than a part of the show. Presently all
grew still, spelled by that fascination of naked steel
which, in the theatres, entrances pit and boxes alike;
which, in the silent room of the suicide, often reveals a
razor in the blood next morning; which, on the field,
makes armies stand still from fighting to see the waving
and circling and hewing of the falchions of their
leaders in single combat. So that now, even had the
masquers known the deadly earnestness with which the
two combatants were fighting, no one would have broken
the spell by interfering in the dangerous, beautiful

Cranston held his left hand aloft, presenting only his
right side to his opponent, as fencers use; but Rübetsahl,
wielding his weapon with both hands, like the old
rugged Ritters of his native land, stood full-breast to
the foe. In at this broad bosom, searching the life
lurking there, darted the rapier time and again, a
baffled but insatiable lightning. Like an angry serpent's
tongue, it leapt back and forth. Coup de reverse!
No; the broad blade received it slanting, and the narrow
one glanced harmless. Flanconnade! No; the
broad blade wound about the narrow, like one serpent
twining about another. Feint, dégagement, cut, in


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tierce, in cercle, in octave! No, still no; the broad
blade was there to receive them always, a polished,
ubiquitous-hovering shield.

Strange, that the thin and doubtful music of two
metal blades clashing against each other should so
enchant three hundred men and women! No one
uttered a sound; they drew breath, even, with an effort
to be still.

Queen Felix, who had drawn back to give room for
the swing of Rübetsahl's arm, only now began to suspect
the fearful reality of what, at first, she had supposed,
with the rest, a sham. She felt rise within her
a purer and queenlier blood than that of the Guinevere
she personated; the arch of her neck became more
regal; her head rose aloft; her nostril distended itself,
and she looked on with a proud smile, in full confidence
that bold Lancelot would lose.

Flemington, who, with Ottilie and Gretchen, alone
knew the true nature of this tragedy veiling itself in
sport, could not now have interfered if he would.
Everywhere within that magic circle gleamed the two
blades, in quick parry and thrust, either of which
would have taken the life of one in their way.

All this time, the little brook that runs by the arborhill
of Montvale, kept singing its tiny “road-melody,”
as it journeyed on toward the great Wave of Death,
accepting cheerfully and making merry over the few
moon-rays that struggled through thick overhanging
leaves to light its way.

All this time, the grace of moonlight lay tenderly
upon the rugged majesty of the mountains, as if Desdemona
placed a dainty white hand upon Othello's brow.


Page 91

All this time the old priestly oaks lifted yearning
arms toward the stars, and a mighty company of leaf-chapleted
followers, with silent reverence, joined in this
most pathetic prayer of those dumb ministers of the

And all this time the white stars said with silvery
voices, “Benedicite: peace down there! and struggle
to give more light to your fellow, not to take away his

All of which remarks of the shiny preachers were,
one may judge, unheard by Cranston or Rübetsahl, or
any of the masquers. For, presently, Cranston began
to grow tired under the unaccustomed weight of hauberk
and helmet; and Rübetsahl, who had hitherto
acted entirely on the defensive, saw himself able to put
an end to the conflict. A mighty struggle, which
crowded a month's arguments and replies into a
second, flashed through his mind.

Shall I kill this man?

He deserves it.

Shall I not kill him?

It would be generous.

Any man can mete justice, especially when it comprehends
his own revenge. The noble man scorns
justice and spares. Justice is blind; blindness is not
good. Mercy is Justice with the hood off her eyes.

Some one in the crowd whispered a word to his
neighbor, and broke the fascination. A hum went
about and began to grow; the crowd swayed and grew
uneasy. Cranston, enraged at his declining strength,
and fearful of interference, determined to risk all on a
stroke. He drew his rapier far back over his head, for


Page 92
a feint-cut and dégagement, his favorite thrust; but,
quick as lightning, Rübetsahl made a great stride forward,
his sword glittered in circle about his head, making
him look like a god with a halo, and, stretching
clear over Cranston's shoulder, he struck the backward-extended
rapier in the centre, sending it spinning in a
hundred diamond-bright gyrations to the opposite wall,
against which it struck and fell.

“Take thy life, and use it better, Sir Lancelot of the
Lake!” said he, as he struck, with his head so close
that his breath was hot in Cranston's face.

But the force of Rübetsahl's blow and the weight of
his huge sword were so great that he was swung
entirely round, by sheer momentum. As he strode
forward, Ottilie had fallen upon her knees and leaned
far into the circle, with arms outstretched. Suddenly
she felt a sharp fire leap along her arm, as the point of
Rübetsahl's whirling sword penetrated the flesh and
ran a long gash from elbow to wrist; and fainted, as
the excited crowd rushed in between the two combatants,
like a furious wave between two ships.

“Hold, men!” shouted Flemington, standing over
Ottilie and pushing back vigorously, “a lady is hurt.
You trample her to death!”

“Who is it?” cried a hundred people, anxious for
sister or wife or daughter. Two or three shrieks, from
women overcome by excitement and terror, sounded
shrilly through the din.

“I 've lifted her up, Aubrey. You and John push
ahead through the crowd, and make way for me to
bring her into the air. She has fainted.”

“Permit me, sir!” said Rübetsahl, grasping the lifeless


Page 93
form which Flemington bore. He had recognized
Ottilie as her domino fell off. Supposing that some
brother or husband claimed his right, Flemington
cheerfully yielded his burden, and joined the pioneers
who were pressing a way through the crowd.

Quickly Rübetsahl bounded down the steps, and
deposited Ottilie upon the rustic bench there, near the
door. Gretchen glided past him, sat down on the
bench, and supported Ottilie's head on her bosom. A
moment after, John Briggs was up from the spring
with a glass of cool water, which he dashed in the
fainting girl's face.

Presently the gray eyes opened.

“It is only a scratch, Gretchen, and I fainted.
Give me your arm. Let us go back into the hotel. I
thank you very much, gentlemen!” she said, to the
anxious men bending over her.

In a moment she was gone.

She had not looked in Rübetsahl's eyes.