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"...Wie entzückend Und süss es ist, in einer schönen Seele, Verherrlicht uns zu fühlen, es zu wissen, Das uns're Fruede fremde Wangen röthet, Und uns're Angst in fremdem Busen zittert, Das uns're Leiden fremde Augen nässen." SCHILLER.
"How pale!" said Wilhelm the next morning to Otto. "Do you see, that is what people get by night-wandering?"
"How so?" inquired Otto.
Wilhelm made a jest of it.
"You have been dreaming that!" said Otto.
"How do you mean?" replied Wilhelm; "will you make me fancy that I have imagined it? I was really quite awake! we really talked about it; I was initiated in it. Actually I have a good mind to give you a moral lecture. If it had been me, how you would have preached!"
They were summoned to breakfast. Otto's heart was ready to burst. What might he not have to hear? What must he say?
Sophie was much excited.
"Did you, gentlemen, hear anything last night?" she inquired. "Have you both slept?"
"Yes, certainly," replied Wilhelm, and looked involuntarily at Otto.
"The bird is flown, however!" said she; "it has made its escape out of the dove-cote."
"What bird?" asked Wilhelm.
"Sidsel!" replied she; "and, what is oddest in the whole affair is, that Louise has loosed her wings. Louise is quite up to the romantic. Think only! she went up in the night to the topmost story, unlocked the prison-tower, gave a moral lecture to Sidsel, and after that let her go! Then in the morning comes Louise to mamma, relates the whole affair, and says a many affecting things!"
"Yes, I do not understand it," said the mother, addressing Louise. "How you could have had the courage to go up so late at night, and go up to her! But it was very beautiful of you! Let her escape! it is, as you say, best that she should. We should all of us have thought of that last evening!"
"I was so sorry for her!" said Louise; "and by chance it happened that I had a great many things to arrange after you were all in bed. Everything was so still in the house, it seemed to me as if I could hear Sidsel sigh; certainly it was only my own imagination, but I could do no other than pity her! she was so unfortunate! Thus I let her escape!"
"Are you gone mad?" inquired Wilhelm; "what a history is this? Did you go in the night up to the top of the house? That is an unseasonable compassion!"
"It was beautiful!" said Otto, bending himself involuntarily, and kissing Louise's hand.
"Yes, that is water to his mill!" exclaimed Wilhelm. "I think nothing of such things!"
"We will not talk about it to anyone," said the mother. "The steward shall not proceed any further in it. We have recovered the old silver tankard, and the losing that was my greatest trouble. We will thank God that we are well rid of her! Poor thing! she will come to an unfortunate end!"
"Are you still unwell, Mr. Thostrup?" said Sophie, and looked at him.
"I am a little feverish," replied he. "I will take a very long walk, and then I shall be better."
"You should take a few drops," said the lady.
"O, he will come to himself yet!" said Wilhelm; "he must take exercise! His is not a dangerous illness."
Otto went into the wood. It was to him a temple of God; his heart poured forth a hymn of thanksgiving. Louise had been his good angel. He felt of a truth that she would never betray his secret. His thoughts clung to her with confidence. "Are you still unwell?" Sophie had said. The tones of her voice alone had been like the fragrance of healing herbs; in her eye he had felt sympathy and-- love. "O Sophie!" sighed he. Both sisters were so dear to him.
He entered the garden and went along the great avenue; here he met Louise. One might almost have imagined that she had sought for him: there was no one but her to be seen in the whole avenue.
Otto pressed her hand to his lips. "You have saved my life!" said he.
"Dear Thostrup!" answered she, "do not betray yourself. Yon have come happily out of the affair! Thank God! my little part in it has concealed the whole. For the rest I have a suspicion. Yes, I cannot avoid it. May not the whole be an error? It is possible that she is that which you said! Tell me all that you can let me know. From this seat we can see everybody who comes into the avenue. No one can hear us!"
"Yes, to you alone I can confide it!" said Otto; "to you will I tell it."
He now related that which we know about the manufactory, which he called the house, in which German Heinrich had first seen him, and had tattooed his initials upon his shoulder; their later meeting in the park, and afterwards by St. Ander's Cross.
Louise trembled; her glance rested sympathizingly upon Otto's pale and handsome countenance. He showed her the letter which had been brought to him the last evening, and related to her what Heinrich had told him.
"It may be so," said Louise; "but yet I have not been able to lose the idea all the morning that you have been deceived. Not one of her features resembles yours. Can brother and sister be so different as you and she? Yet, be the truth as it may, promise me not to think too much about it. There is a good Ruler above who can turn all things for the best."
"These horrible circumstances," said Otto, "have robbed me of the cheerfulness of my youth. They thrust themselves disturbingly into my whole future. Not to Wilhelm--no, not to any one have I been able to confide them. You know all! God knows that you were compelled to learn them. I leave myself entirely in your hands!"
He pressed her hand silently, and with the earnest glance of confidence and truth they looked at each other.
"I shall speedily leave my native country," said Otto. "It may be forever. I should return with sorrow to a home where no happiness awaited me. I stand so entirely alone in the world!"
"But you have friends," said Louise; "sincere friends. You must think with pleasure of returning home to Denmark. My mother loves you as if she were your own mother. Wilhelm and Sophie--yes, we will consider you as a brother."
"And Sophie?" exclaimed Otto.
"Yes, can you doubt it?" inquired Louise.
"She knows me not as you know me; and if she did?"--He pressed his hands before his eyes and burst into tears. "You know all: you know more than I could tell her," sighed he. "I am more unfortunate than you can believe. Never can I forget her--never!"
"For Heaven's sake compose yourself!" said Louise rising. "Some one might come, and you would not be able to conceal your emotion. All may yet be well! Confide only in God in heaven!"
"Do not tell your sister that which I have told you. Do not tell any one. I have revealed to you every secret which my soul contains."
"I will be to you a good sister," said Louise, and pressed his hand.
They silently walked down the avenue.
The sisters slept in the same room.
At night, after Sophie had been an hour in bed, Louise entered the chamber.
"Thou art become a spirit of the night," said Sophie. "Where hast thou been? Thou art not going up into the loft again to-night, thou strange girl? Had it been Wilhelm, Thostrup, or myself who had undertaken such a thing, it would have been quite natural; but thou"--
"Am I, then, so very different to you all?" inquired Louise. "I should resemble my sister less than even Mr. Thostrup resembles her. You two are so very different!"
"In our views, in our impulses, we very much resemble each other!" said Sophie.
"He is certainly not happy," exclaimed Louise. "We can read it in his eyes."
"Yes, but it is precisely that which makes him interesting!" said Sophie; "he is thus a handsome shadow-piece in everyday life."
"Thou speakest about it so calmly," said Louise, and bent over her sister, "I would almost believe that it was love."
"Love!" exclaimed Sophie, raising herself up in bed, for now Louise's words had become interesting to her; "whom dost thou think that he loves?"
"Thyself," replied Louise, and seized her sister's hand.
"Perhaps?" returned Sophie. "I also made fun of him! It certainly went on better when our cousin was here. Poor Thostrup!"
"And thou, Sophie," inquired Louise, "dost thou return his love?"
"It is a regular confession that thou desirest," replied she. "He is in love--that all young men are. Our cousin, I can tell thee, said many pretty things to me. Even the Kammerjunker flatters as well as he can, the good soul! I have now resolved with myself to be a reasonable girl. Believe me, however, Thostrup is in an ill humor!"
"If the Kammerjunker were to pay his addresses to you, would you accept him?" asked Louise, and seated herself upon her sister's bed.
"What can make you think of such a thing?" inquired she. "Hast thou heard anything?--Thou makest me anxious! O Louise! I joke, I talk a deal; but for all that, believe me, I am not happy!"
They talked about the Kammerjunker, about Otto, and about the French cousin. It was late in the night. Large tears stood in Sophie's eyes, but she laughed for all that, and ended with a quotation from Jean Paul.
Half an hour afterward she slept and dreamed; her round white arm lay upon the coverlet, and her lips moved with these words:
"With a smile as if an angel Had just then kissed her mouth." [Note: Christian Winther.]
Louise pressed her countenance on the soft pillow, and wept.
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