But they searched in vain.
Gretchen stared ruefully at the blank window.
Somehow this flight pained her; somehow it gave her the heartache to learn that her idol was afraid of such a thing as a policeman.
“Out into the street, every mother’s son of you!” cried the officer angrily to the quaking socialists. “This is your last warning, Goldberg. The next time you go to prison for seditious teachings. Out with you!”
The socialists could not have emptied the cellar any quicker had there been a fire.
Gretchen alone remained. It was her duty to carry the steins up to the bar. The officer, rather thorough for his kind, studied the floor under the window. He found a cutting from a newspaper. This interested him.
“Do you know who this fellow was?” with a jerk of his head toward the window.
“He is Leopold Dietrich, a vintner, and we are soon to be married.” There was a flaw in the usual sweetness of her voice.
“So? What made him run away like this?”
“He is new to Dreiberg. Perhaps he thought you were going to arrest every one. Oh, he has done nothing wrong; I am sure of that.”
“There is one way to prove it.”
“And what is that?”
“Ask him if he is not a spy from Jugendheit,” roughly.
The steins clicked crisply in Gretchen’s arms; one of them fell and broke at her feet.
Gretchen, troubled in heart and mind over the strange event of the night, walked slowly home, her head inclined, her arms swinging listlessly at her side. A spy, this man to whom she had joyously given the flower of her heart and soul? There was some mistake; there must be some mistake. She shivered; for the word spy carried with it all there was in deceit, treachery, cunning. In war time she knew that spies were necessary, that brave men took perilous hazards, without reward, without renown; but in times of peace nothing but opprobrium covered the word. A political scavenger, the man she loved? No; there was some mistake. The bit of newspaper cutting did not worry her. Anybody might have been curious about the doings of the king of Jugendheit and his uncle the prince regent. Because the king hunted in Bavaria with the crown prince, and his uncle conferred with the king of Prussia in Berlin, it did not necessarily follow that Leopold Dietrich was a spy. Gretchen was just. She would hear his defense before she judged him.
Marking the first crook in the Krumerweg was an ancient lamp hanging from the side of the wall. The candle in this lamp burned night and day, through winter’s storms and summer’s balms. The flame dimmed and glowed, a kindly reminder in the gloom. It was a shrine to the Virgin Mary; and before this Gretchen paused, offering a silent prayer that the Holy Mother preserve this dream of hers.