“Ich grolle nicht, und
wenn das Herz auch bricht,
Ewig verlornes Lieb! ich grolle nicht.
Wie du auch strahlst in Diamantenpracht,
Es fallt kein Strahl in deines Herzens Nacht.”
There was a pathos and passion in her voice which fairly startled me, and when I hastened to her side to thank her for the pleasure she had given me, she accepted my compliments with a beautiful, unaffected enthusiasm, as if they were meant only for the composer, and were in no respect due to her.
“There is such a depth of suffering in every word and note,” she said with glowing cheeks. “He bears her no ill-will, he says, and still you feel how the suppressed bitterness is still rankling within him.”
She then sang “Auf Fluegeln des Gesanges,” whereupon we sat down and talked music and Heine for the rest of the evening. Mr. Pfeifer, reclining in his capacious easy-chair, smoked on with slow, brooding contentment, and now and then threw in a disparaging remark regarding our favorite poet.
“He blackguarded his country abominably,” he said. “And I have no respect for a man who can do that. Besides, he was a miserable, renegade Jew, and as I never like to have any more to do with Jews than I can possibly help, I have never read any of his books.”
“But, uncle,” retorted his niece, warmly, “he certainly could not help being a Jew. And there was no one who loved Germany more ardently than he, even though he did say severe things about it.”
“That is a thing about which you can have no opinion, Hildegard,” said Pfeifer, with paternal decision; and he blew a dense cloud of smoke toward the ceiling.
Miss Hildegard looked rebellious for an instant, but accepted the verdict of superior wisdom with submissive silence. The old man gave me a little confidential wink as if to say:
“There is a model girl for you. She knows that women should not speak in meeting.”
“What a delightfully fresh and unspoiled girl,” I reflected, as I wended my way homeward through the still moonlight; “so true-hearted, and genuine, and unaffected. And still beneath all that sweet, womanly tranquillity there are strong slumbering forces, which some day will startle some phlegmatic countryman of hers, who takes her to be as submissive as she looks.”
Some fifteen minutes after the appointed hour I called with a carriage for Fraulein Hildegard, whom, to my wonder, I found standing in all the glory of her ball-toilet (for she was evidently afraid to sit down) in the middle of the sombre drawing-room. I had been prepared to wait for a good half-hour, and accordingly felt a little provoked at myself for my seeming negligence.
“I do not mind telling you,” she said, as I sat compressed in a corner of the carriage, striving to reduce myself to the smallest practicable dimensions, “that this is my first ball. I don’t know any of the gentlemen who will be there to-night, but I know two or three Milwaukee ladies who have promised to come, so, even if I don’t dance much, I shall not feel lonely.”