“And no one can get a word out of her, either; it is exactly as if all the oil had been burned out.” This last remark referred to Gertrude, who had greatly altered during the last few months. She had no longer the cheerful expression that she had always been noted for. She had grown very quiet and silent. She even avoided her old and well-tried friend Judith, and if the latter showed a disposition to talk about her household matters or her children’s future, Gertrude would give her to understand that she had no time to stop to talk.
Gertrude knew where Dietrich spent his evenings. She had expostulated with him about it more than once. He had answered that he must keep on there for awhile, till a certain undertaking which he had started with Jost was fairly under way. He assured her that this affair was certain to turn out all right, and that she herself would be surprised and satisfied at the result. He knew from some one who understood it, that it could not fail. He had to draw large sums several times for himself and also for Jost, but he was sanguine that in a short time it would all be paid back, with interest. Gertrude did not pretend to understand the business, but she saw that Dietrich believed it to be safe and profitable, and she knew that her son would not deceive her. Still she was haunted daily by a growing uneasiness, which was not diminished when she perceived that Veronica was gradually drawing away from her.
This state of things had all come about since that morning when the girl’s beseeching words had fallen unheeded on the mother’s ears; or at least Veronica believed them to have been unheeded, since they had worked no change in Dietrich’s behavior.
Why it was that every day as evening came on, she felt so miserably anxious, Gertrude herself could scarcely understand. Poor Gertrude!
One night after she had gone to her room she heard her son leave the house with hasty steps. It had become a regular thing now. She had often said to herself, “Ah! how much longer will this go on?” but she tried hard to believe that it would soon come to an end, and her son would resume his former orderly and happy mode of life. But this evening she was so anxious that she could not stay in her bedroom. She went down into the garden.
The moon peeped out from between the flying clouds, and shone peacefully down upon the trees and the neat flower-beds. Gertrude seated herself upon a small bench under the apple tree, and gazed about the garden, all illuminated by the moonbeams. She had planted it all and cared for it with her own hands. She had done this as she did everything, carefully and with great painstaking, and it was all for her son’s sake. His should be the pleasure and the profit of all. Why could he not be happy in it now? Why was she so worried about him? Dietrich was walking in steep and dangerous paths; that she was sure of, but he knew the straight road and would not