THE SISTER OF THE BARONESS.
"There are two new guests arriving this afternoon," said
the manager of the
pension, placing a chair for me at the breakfast table. "I
received the letter acquainting me with the fact this morning. The
Baroness von Gall is sending her little daughter--the poor child
dumb--to make the 'cure.' She is to stay with us a month, and then
Baroness herself is coming."
"Baroness von Gall," cried the Frau Doktor, coming into
the room and
positively scenting the name. "Coming here? There was a picture
only last week in 'Sport and Salon.' She is a friend of the court:
heard that the Kaiserin says 'du' to her. But this is delightful!
take my doctor's advice and spend an extra six weeks here. There
nothing like young society."
"But the child is dumb," ventured the manager apologetically.
"Bah! What does that matter? Afflicted children have such
Each guest who came into the breakfast-room was bombarded with
wonderful news. "The Baroness von Gall is sending her little
here; the Baroness herself is coming in a month's time." Coffee
took on the nature of an orgy. We positively scintillated. Anecdotes
the High Born were poured out, sweetened and sipped: we gorged on
of High Birth generously buttered.
"They are to have the room next to yours," said the manager,
"I was wondering if you would permit me to take down the portrait
Kaiserin Elizabeth from above your bed to hang over their sofa."
"Yes, indeed, something homelike"--the Frau Oberregierungsrat
hand--"and of no possible significance to you."
I felt a little crushed. Not at the prospect of losing that vision
diamonds and blue velvet bust, but at the tone--placing me outside
pale--branding me as a foreigner.
We dissipated the day in valid speculations. Decided it was too
walk in the afternoon, so lay down on our beds, mustering in great
for afternoon coffee. And a carriage drew up at the door. A tall
girl got out, leading a child by the hand. They entered the hall,
greeted and shown to their room. Ten minutes later she came down
child to sign the visitors' book. She wore a black, closely fitting
touched at throat and wrists with white frilling. Her brown hair,
was tied with a black bow--unusually pale, with a small mole on
"I am the Baroness von Gall's sister," she said, trying
the pen on a piece
of blotting-paper, and smiling at us deprecatingly. Even for the
jaded of us life holds its thrilling moments. Two Baronesses in
months! The manager immediately left the room to find a new nib.
To my plebeian eyes that afflicted child was singularly unattractive.
had the air of having been perpetually washed with a blue bag, and
like grey wool--dressed, too, in a pinafore so stiffly starched
could only peer at us over the frill of it--a social barrier of
pinafore--and perhaps it was too much to expect a noble aunt to
the menial consideration of her niece's ears. But a dumb niece with
unwashed ears struck me as a most depressing object.
They were given places at the head of the table. For a moment we
looked at one another with an eena-deena-dina-do expression. Then
"I hope you are not tired after your journey."
"No," said the sister of the Baroness, smiling into her
"I hope the dear child is not tired," said the Frau Doktor.
"Not at all."
"I expect, I hope you will sleep well to-night," the
Herr Oberlehrer said
The poet from Munich never took his eyes off the pair. He allowed
to absorb most of his coffee while he gazed at them exceedingly
Unyoking Pegasus, thought I. Death spasms of his Odes to Solitude!
were possibilities in that young woman for an inspiration, not to
dedication, and from that moment his suffering temperament took
up its bed
They retired after the meal, leaving us to discuss them at leisure.
"There is a likeness," mused the Frau Doktor. "Quite.
What a manner she
has. Such reserve, such a tender way with the child."
"Pity she has the child to attend to," exclaimed the
student from Bonn. He
had hitherto relied upon three scars and a ribbon to produce an
the sister of a Baroness demanded more than these.
Absorbing days followed. Had she been one whit less beautifully
could not have endured the continual conversation about her, the
her praise, the detailed account of her movements. But she graciously
suffered our worship and we were more than content.
The poet she took into her confidence. He carried her books when
walking, he jumped the afflicted one on his knee--poetic licence,
one morning brought his notebook into the salon and read to us.
"The sister of the Baroness has assured me she is going into
a convent," he
said. (That made the student from Bonn sit up.) "I have written
lines last night from my window in the sweet night air--"
"Oh, your DELICATE chest," commented the Frau Doktor.
He fixed a stony eye on her, and she blushed.
"I have written these lines:
"'Ah, will you to a convent fly,
So young, so fresh, so fair?
Spring like a doe upon the fields
And find your beauty there.'"
Nine verses equally lovely commanded her to equally violent action.
certain that had she followed his advice not even the remainder
of her life
in a convent would have given her time to recover her breath.
"I have presented her with a copy," he said. "And
to-day we are going to
look for wild flowers in the wood."
The student from Bonn got up and left the room. I begged the poet
repeat the verses once more. At the end of the sixth verse I saw
window the sister of the Baroness and the scarred youth disappearing
through the front gate, which enabled me to thank the poet so charmingly
that he offered to write me out a copy.
But we were living at too high pressure in those days. Swinging
humble pension to the high walls of palaces, how could we help but
Late one afternoon the Frau Doktor came upon me in the writing-room
took me to her bosom.
"She has been telling me all about her life," whispered
the Frau Doktor.
"She came to my bedroom and offered to massage my arm. You
know, I am the
greatest martyr to rheumatism. And, fancy now, she has already had
proposals of marriage. Such beautiful offers that I assure you I
every one of noble birth. My dear, the most beautiful was in the
Not that I do not think a proposal should take place in a drawing-room--it
is more fitting to have four walls--but this was a private wood.
the young officer, she was like a young tree whose branches had
touched by the ruthless hand of man. Such delicacy!" She sighed
turned up her eyes.
"Of course it is difficult for you English to understand when
always exposing your legs on cricket-fields, and breeding dogs in
gardens. The pity of it! Youth should be like a wild rose. For myself
do not understand how your women ever get married at all."
She shook her head so violently that I shook mine too, and a gloom
round my heart. It seemed we were really in a very bad way. Did
spirit of romance spread her rose wings only over aristocratic Germany?
I went to my room, bound a pink scarf about my hair, and took a
Morike's lyrics into the garden. A great bush of purple lilac grew
the summer-house. There I sat down, finding a sad significance in
delicate suggestion of half mourning. I began to write a poem myself.
"They sway and languish dreamily,
And we, close pressed, are kissing there."
It ended! "Close pressed" did not sound at all fascinating.
wardrobes. Did my wild rose then already trail in the dust? I chewed
leaf and hugged my knees. Then--magic moment--I heard voices from
summer-house, the sister of the Baroness and the student from Bonn.
Second-hand was better than nothing; I pricked up my ears.
"What small hands you have," said the student from Bonn.
"They are like
white lilies lying in the pool of your black dress." This certainly
sounded the real thing. Her high-born reply was what interested
Sympathetic murmur only.
"May I hold one?"
I heard two sighs--presumed they held--he had rifled those dark
waters of a
"Look at my great fingers beside yours."
"But they are beautifully kept," said the sister of the
The minx! Was love then a question of manicure?
"How I should adore to kiss you," murmured the student.
"But you know I am
suffering from severe nasal catarrh, and I dare not risk giving
it to you.
Sixteen times last night did I count myself sneezing. And three
I threw Morike into the lilac bush, and went back to the house.
automobile snorted at the front door. In the salon great commotion.
Baroness was paying a surprise visit to her little daughter. Clad
yellow mackintosh she stood in the middle of the room questioning
manager. And every guest the pension contained was grouped about
the Frau Doktor, presumably examining a timetable, as near to the
skirts as possible.
"But where is my maid?" asked the Baroness.
"There was no maid," replied the manager, "save
for your gracious sister
"Sister!" she cried sharply. "Fool, I have no sister.
My child travelled
with the daughter of my dressmaker."