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Christian, to my son; for, were your brother King of Jerusalem, you would bring no honour to my house.” With uncertain and tottering steps, he led his son away.
Leah wept aloud, and the minister laughed scornfully. “On my word,” exclaimed he, “this was a fine scene! Do not forget, however, counsellor, that you have only a delay of fourteen days for your wooing. Until then- afterwards I will keep my word.”
The solicitude of young Lanbek, bordering upon fear, now called upon him, patiently and without murmuring, to follow his father; while long observation of the character of his parent forbade him, at this moment, when appearances were so much against him, from exculpating himself. The consul, upon entering his apartment, threw himself into his arm-chair, and covered his face. Careworn and anxious, Gustavus now stood before him, without venturing to speak. The two fair sisters of the youth now hastened hither, having observed the weakness of their father, tenderly inquired what ailed him, endeavoured to withdraw his hands from his face, and moistened them with their tears.
“ There is the wretch !” exclaimed he, after a while, his wrath prevailing over his bodily weakness; "there stands he who has polluted the house of your father, our good old name, you, you innocent children, with misery, reproach, and shame—the Judas, the parricide—for this day he has put a nail in my coffin."
“Father! For the love of Heaven, Gustavus!” exclaimed the girls, trembling, while they timidly looked at their pale and downcast brother, and chung to their father. “I know," said the unhappy young man
“I know that appearances are against me " Will
be silent?” continued the consul, with kindling eyes and threatening gesture. “ Appearances ! Do you think you can again
did after the carnival? Is it not so? It were far better that both these eyes had been closed, that the old Lanbek had been buried deep in the ground, where the knowledge of the disgrace brought on his name could no longer reach him. But you have mistaken yourself, wretch! I will disinherit you. Here stand my two dear children; you shall be driven forth, my honourable name taken from you, cursed
“Father!” exclaimed his three children, with one voice. His daughters wound themselves around him, and Hedwig, for the first time, ventured to press her lips upon the revered ones of her father, while she sealed his mouth, about to pronounce the curse, with kisses. The younger had involuntarily placed herself beside Gustavus, and seized his hand, as if to defend him, but the young man tore himself away. Never so much as at this moment had his face and his threatening eyes resembled the features of his father; and, standing erect, he said, “I have suffered all which it is possible for son to suffer from his father, but I have other duties; I must guard my own honour, even though it were my own father who touched it. It ought to be sufficient to you, when I assure you, by all that is sacred, that I am not what you take me for. If you have faith in me no longer, if you give
me up, then there remains nothing more for me. Farewell—I can only be a disgrace to you!”
“Remain!” exclaimed the old man, sad and trembling, rather than commanding. “Do you think that this is the way to reconcile an injured father? Are you in such haste to go away and enter upon a path where I may never meet you more? Though I have lived honestly, and according to my conscience, I comprehend you and your intentions perfectly."
But, father," said the youngest daughter, in a soft voice, loved Gustavus so much, and you yourself often said how good he was; what dreadful thing, then, can he have done, that you treat him so hardly ?”
“ You do not understand it, or, rather, you may understand it: he loves the sister of the Jew, and has just been conversing with her and his fine brother-in-law, Süss. Now, speak! Can you exculpate your. self? What a fool I was to imagine what I did, that in him there had been a trap laid for me- -that he elevated and appointed him on my account! His Jewish fair one has made him a counsellor of expedition." “My father will not understand me,” said the youth, with tears in
“therefore I will speak to you. To you, my dear sisters, I will honestly relate how the matter stands, and I do not think you
will condemn me."
The girls sat down sorrowfully, the old man leant his troubled brow upon his hand, and listened attentively. Gustavus went on with his story, at first with a deep colour on his face, and afterwards much interrupted with emotion; he told how he came to know Leah, how good and innocent she was, how sadly she had spoken to him, because till then there was no one else to whom she had been allowed to speak. He then repeated the conversation at the interview with the Jewish minister, his cunning offers; he assured them that he had never given place to the thought of any union with Leah; and that he would this evening have said so to the minister, had not his father so suddenly made his appearance beside them.
“ You have erred greatly, Gustavus," said Hedwig, his elder sister, a quiet and intelligent girl. “Since you never, except very remotely, could think of a marriage with this girl
, it was your duty, as an upright man, to have had nothing to do with her. You have also done wrong in this, that you did not at once confide all to your father; you have made your family unhappy, and caused them to be the sport of others. Do
you think Süss will not execute what he threatened? Yes, he will revenge himself on my father, you, and all of us."
“Go and ask pardon of your father,” said Kathchen, weeping. “You must reproach him no more, Hedwig; he is unhappy enough. Come, Gustavus," she added, while she took his hand, and led him towards his father, “ beg that he will forgive you. We
may unfortunate; that evil man may ruin us, as he has ruined the country; but let there at least be peace among ourselves. When we have each other, we have much, though he takes all the rest away."
The old man looked long, and not unwillingly, at his son. have acted like a vain young man, and the attention shown to you by the Jewess has blinded you. You have suffered for this perhaps long,
but most certainly during this evening. Kathchen is right-. I will vex you no longer; we must now contend against a fearful enemy. Do you think that he will keep his word, as to delay until the fourteen days have expired, as he mentioned to you?”
“I believe and hope so," replied the young man,
“At all events, there must be more decided than the fate of our house,” added the old man; “ Römchingen and Süss, or us.
Whoever loses pays the cost. But promise me never again, Gustavus, to visit the Jewess. I will forgive your folly on this condition.”
Gustavus consented, with trembling lips, and then quitted the apartment, in order to hide his emotion. But long, and with unceasing sorrow, did he think upon the unhappy girl, whose heart was his, and yet whom he dared not to love. He certainly shared in all the strong religious opinions of his age, and yet he shuddered at the curse which pursued a homeless race in its thousand members, and which seemed to include all in its ruin, now falling upon her, the noblest among them, in the most natural way. He certainly found no excuse for himself, or for his forbidden passion for one who did not share his faith; yet he obtained some consolation in this, that a high Providence ruled his fate.
His father and sisters conversed for some time about him and his affairs, and by degrees the recollection of the many virtues of the youth appeased the old man so much, that he even in some measure excused the secret proposal of the minister.
When, at a later hour in the evening, the two sisters found themselves alone, Kathchen said, “ It is true, Gustavus has erred sadly, but in his place any one might have done so. I have seen her once at the window and once in the garden-a creature more graceful and beautiful I never beheld. What are all the faces in Stuttgart—what is even the fair Maria, of whom so much is said—when compared with such a splendid countenance ? Hedwig, I could have fallen in love with her myself.”
“ How can you talk so foolishly!” answered Hedwig, indignantly. “Let her be what she will, she is and remains only a Jewess."
It was not alone the unhappy love of their brother that grieved the fair daughters of the consul Lanbek during the following days. it was the strange and oppressive circumstances which seemed to rule over both father and son, that cost them so many secret tears. It could not be said that they seemed gloomy, that they interrogated with moroseness, or had replied coldly; but it might be perceived that sorrow and care occupied the thoughts of both, and the girls were always astray in their suppositions as to the cause of this anxiety, when they sometimes saw their father and brother standing together within the recess of a window, and confidentially, though earnestly, whispering to each other. At length, on three evenings in each week, they were formally desired to quit the large family room, which was used by them during the winter season; and, what had never before happened, so far as they knew, their father's small library was on these evenings heated for their accommodation, and permission was given them to amuse themselves therein with jurists and philosophers.
Neither father or son, however, thought upon this, that any one might enter from the library in the upper floor to the study, from the latter into the reception-room, and from that into the lumber-room, which was provided with a square aperture, with a small cover opening down into the parlour, in order to give light or heat to that apartment; neither did they remember, that female curiosity had before now broken through greater barriers than those which lay between the other apartment and the library. A stronger feeling, however, than curiosityfear-had for some evenings detained the girls in the library. Hedwig asserted that she had frequently heard footsteps, and a fearful groaning in the apartment above; and Kathchen feared to go there, because that apartment was separated from the rooms of the dreaded Jew Süss only by a thin wall of wood and bricks.
One evening, however, some time after the girls had been sent away, Kathchen saw three men enter with her father, as she had glided towards the middle of the staircase, which raised her curiosity to the utmost. The first, who walked slowly and heavily up the lower steps, and stood in the entrance hall for some time to take breath, was certainly no other than the Lutheran prelate, Klinger. His snow-white wig, his prelatical chain, which rested upon his waist, and his old withered features, had an unusual interest for the girl. Colonel von Röder, the master of the horse, followed him-a man who was considered to be both brave and skilful, but in whose manners there was something very profane. At the third, she had nearly laughed aloud; it was the gay Captain Reelzingen, who was so familiar in telling droll stories and jests, and who at many a ball had made her laugh before. His face was now de corous enough, but yet it was the same face that appeared when he swore upon his honour that he truly loved her. She looked after him laughing, observed his huge sword come in contact with the door, and then hastened to the library, where she found her sister Hedwig, who had closed her eyes firmly, that she might not be terrified by some appa rition, who might by accident wander into the room.
“Now, we must peep down,” said Kathchen. " Come quickly with me; only think, people are coming here as if to the carnival. Have you ever before seen the Prelate Klinger and Captain Reelzingen in one room ? and then there is Colonel Röder, and," she added, as her sister lingered, “I must have made a great mistake if, when the door opened, I did not see Blankenberg also."
This last name was decisive: Kathchen took the light, and stept forward with a beating heart; Hedwig followed her, pressing as elosely as possible to her courageous sister, and, as the other threw open the door of the mysterious chamber, she seized fast hold of her dress. The open. · ing was immediately above the stove of the parlour on the floor beneath, but Kathchen was able, when she took off the lid, went upon her knees, and bent down her head, to observe four or five of the men assembled below. Hedwig now bent down, and tried to look further than her sister, but she directly stood up again, and said, " I can see nothing except the broad back of the prelate, some wigs, and the uniform of the colonel. Do you know for certain that Blankenberg is there?" adres I am sure he is,” answered Kathchen, smiling mischievously, but let us hear what they say; perhaps you will know your lover's voice." They sat down upon the floor beside the opening, and listened. The agreeable warmth which came from the stove, and their curiosity together, made them for a length of time impervious to the cold of a night in March; at length Hedwig rose up in displeasure: “Do you fancy we shall be any the wiser of this talking, of which we can only comprehend the half? They speak just as before of the welfare of the country, of the duke and Süss, and all such; what is this to us ? Come; it is terribly cold here. Get up!”
But Kathchen beckoned to her to be silent. Colonel Röder was now heard reading something in an emphatic and audible voice, while the profound stillness was occasionally interrupted by harsh sounds of dig. pleasure. Old Lanbek spoke; the gay features of Kathchen surveyed him with anxiety and surprise; at last, as the company spoke loudly, but in a friendly manner, to each other, and rung their glasses together, a deep colour overspread the face of the fair listener; her eyes sparkled as she carefully shut the lid, seized the lamp, and left the place with her sister.
“ Have you understood anything?" asked Hedwig; "you appeared all at once so attentive. What have they been saying?”
“I do not know it all; I cannot tell you all,” replied Kathchen, musingly; "to me, it seems as if I had been dreaming. Listen, but be silent; it may make us all unhappy. These are dangerous men in our father's room below. I am terrified when I think what the consequences of this may be.”
“Speak on, silly girl! I am two years older than you, and you ought to have no secret from me."
“Only think, then," continued Kathchen, in a low voice, “Süss would make us Catholics, and overthrow the country; then our father and every one else will lose their places.”
“Catholics!” exclaimed Hedwig, with horror; “then we must become nuns, if we remain unmarried ? That is dreadful!"
“Not at all,” said Kathchen, smiling at the vexation of her sister; " there must be a great many nuns, if all who do not get married go into the cloister: but be calm; it will not come to this. In three days, said Röder, the duke will depart; and while he is in Phillipsburg, these men are, in the name of the province, to take the Jew prisoner, together with all his assistants, and then inform the duke how wrongly his ministers acted."
“Ah!” said Hedwig, weeping, “ that is not well. They will lose everything, for the duke confides in any one rather than in those of the province. I know what the lady of Colonel B. once said to me about my father; you will see how unfortunately this will turn out.”
“And if it does," answered Kathchen, “yet are we the daughters of a man who does it all for the good of his country; this should console us."
The heroic girl now took from the shelves a Bible, illustrated with many very fine engravings. She gave the New Testament to her weeping sister, in order that she might amuse herself with the plates and passages in rhyme. She took the Old Testament herself, and concealed her anxiety about her father by singing a little hymn in a low voice, while her fair fingers hastened through the gilt leaves, from one picture to another.