In a house or two lights began to wink; the scent of wood smoke reached him, the distant chimes of bells, the burring of a stream.
Next day his one thought was to get back to work. He arrived at the studio in the afternoon, and, laying in provisions, barricaded the lower door. For three days he did not go out; on the fourth day he went to Villa Rubein....
Schloss Runkelstein—grey, blind, strengthless—still keeps the valley. The windows which once, like eyes, watched men and horses creeping through the snow, braved the splutter of guns and the gleam of torches, are now holes for the birds to nest in. Tangled creepers have spread to the very summits of the walls. In the keep, instead of grim men in armour, there is a wooden board recording the history of the castle and instructing visitors on the subject of refreshments. Only at night, when the cold moon blanches everything, the castle stands like the grim ghost of its old self, high above the river.
After a long morning’s sitting the girls had started forth with Harz and Dawney to spend the afternoon at the ruin; Miss Naylor, kept at home by headache, watched them depart with words of caution against sunstroke, stinging nettles, and strange dogs.
Since the painter’s return Christian and he had hardly spoken to each other. Below the battlement on which they sat, in a railed gallery with little tables, Dawney and Greta were playing dominoes, two soldiers drinking beer, and at the top of a flight of stairs the Custodian’s wife sewing at a garment. Christian said suddenly: “I thought we were friends.”
“Well, Fraulein Christian, aren’t we?”
“You went away without a word; friends don’t do that.”
Harz bit his lips.
“I don’t think you care,” she went on with a sort of desperate haste, “whether you hurt people or not. You have been here all this time without even going to see your father and mother.”
“Do you think they would want to see me?”
Christian looked up.
“It’s all been so soft for you,” he said bitterly; “you don’t understand.”
He turned his head away, and then burst out: “I’m proud to come straight from the soil—I wouldn’t have it otherwise; but they are of ’the people,’ everything is narrow with them—they only understand what they can see and touch.”
“I’m sorry I spoke like that,” said Christian softly; “you’ve never told me about yourself.”
There was something just a little cruel in the way the painter looked at her, then seeming to feel compunction, he said quickly: “I always hated—the peasant life—I wanted to get away into the world; I had a feeling in here—I wanted—I don’t know what I wanted! I did run away at last to a house-painter at Meran. The priest wrote me a letter from my father—they threw me off; that’s all.”
Christian’s eyes were very bright, her lips moved, like the lips of a child listening to a story.