“Is there anything you want?” asked the clock-mender.
Herr Ludwig turned. How old this clock-mender was, how very old!
“Yes,” he said. “I’ve a watch I should like you to look over.” And he carelessly laid the beautiful time-piece on the worn wooden counter.
The clock-mender literally pounced upon it. “Where did you get a watch like this?” he demanded suspiciously.
“It is mine. You will find my name engraved inside the back lid.”
The clock-mender pried open the case, adjusted his glass—and dropped it, shaking with terror.
“You?” he whispered.
“Sh!” said Herr Ludwig, putting a finger to his lips.
FIND THE WOMAN
The watch, slipping from the clock-mender’s hand, spun like a coin on the counter, while the clock-mender himself, his eyes bulging, his jaw dangling, it might be said, staggered back upon his stool.
“So this is the end?” he said in a kind of mutter.
“The end of what?” demanded the owner of the watch.
“Of all my labors, to me and to what little I have left!”
“Fiddlesticks! I am here for no purpose regarding you, my comrade. So far as I am concerned, your secret is as dead as it ever was. I had a fancy that you were living in Paris.”
“Paris! Gott! For seventeen, eighteen years I have traveled hither and thither, always on some false clue. Never a band of Gipsies I heard of that I did not seek them out. Nothing, nothing! You will never know what I have gone through, and uselessly, to prove my innocence. It always comes back in a circle; what benefit to me would have been a crime like that of which I was accused? Was I not high in honor? Was I not wealthy? Was not my home life a happy one? What benefit to me, I say?” a growing fierceness in his voice and gestures. “All my estates confiscated, my wife dead of shame, and I molding among these clocks!”
“But why the clocks?” in wonder.
“It was a pastime of mine when I was a boy. I used to be tinkering among all the clocks in the house. So I bought out this old shop. From time to time I have left it in the hands of an assistant. The grand duke has a wonderful Friesian clock. One day it fell out of order, and the court jeweler could do nothing with it. I was summoned, I! No one recognized me, I have changed so. I mended the clock and went away.”
“But what is the use of all this, now that her highness is found?”
“My honor; to the duke it is black as ever.”
“Have you gone forward any?”
“Like Sisyphus! I had begun to give up hope, when the Gipsy I was seeking was seen by one of my agents. He alone knows the secret. And I am waiting, waiting. But you believe, Ludwig?”
“Carl, you are as innocent of it all as I am or as my brother was. Come with me to Jugendheit.”