The days grew longer and brighter. The wood was filled with sweeter perfumes evening after evening, as the two friends sauntered along their homeward path, and in each young heart the feeling grew and ripened, that still sweeter and more beautiful days were to come.
One afternoon in May, Veronica paced leisurely along the white hill-road, her eyes fixed on the tall oak on the borders of the wood, which marked the place where the foot-path came out upon the high road. Everything was quiet; not a human being in sight. She reached the spot and looked anxiously into the wood. She listened; she peered between the trees; all was solitude. The tree-tops, softly murmuring, rocked gently to and fro, and through the branches she saw the sunset glow. For the first time, the young girl entered the wood alone. It was quite dark, in there. She passed along with rapid step, among the solemn pines, hastening faster and faster, as the trees seemed to draw together about her. When she came out upon the open pathway, she saw Dietrich coming across the field in hot haste. He was breathless when he reached her.
“I don’t like to have you come alone through the wood, Veronica,” he said, “I thought I should be in time, but I could not get rid of those two fellows. I tried to get away two or three times, but they always had something more to say, and kept me.”
“Where were you, Dietrich?”
“They had some business with me; that is, Jost had something to tell me, and Blasi was there too. Jost did not care to speak of it on the open street, and so we went into the Rehbock; and that is what made me so late. Why, what’s the matter, Veronica? Are you ill?”
She was as pale as a ghost.
“What! You’ve been to the Rehbock, Dietrich!” she exclaimed in evident distress. “Oh, don’t go there! Please don’t go to that place again!”
“Oh, now we are to have the old story over again, are we?” said the young man, laughing, “you have taken some foolish whim into your head; you really don’t know why yourself. What’s your prejudice against that house in particular?”
“I do know why; and it is no whim,” said Veronica, earnestly. “I will tell you all about it. That house has been a terror to me ever since I can remember anything. We were both so young that you probably do not recollect it at all. We both went with mother to the doctor’s, but you didn’t go into the house, I remember now. Mother told the doctor that my father was killed at the Rehbock. I have never forgotten it since. I am constantly seeing him lying dead before my eyes; lying there struck down dead. I often dream about it, and in my dreams I am there—and—and sometimes when I look at his dead form in my dreams, it is not my father any more, but it is you—you, Dietrich, whom they have struck down dead at the Rehbock.”