It was not till morning that Christian fell into a troubled sleep. She dreamed that a voice was calling her, and she was filled with a helpless, dumb dream terror.
When she woke the light was streaming in; it was Sunday, and the cathedral bells were chiming. Her first thought was of Harz. One step, one moment of courage! Why had she not told her uncle? If he had only asked! But why—why should she tell him? When it was over and she was gone, he would see that all was for the best.
Her eyes fell on Greta’s empty bed. She sprang up, and bending over, kissed the pillow. ’She will mind at first; but she’s so young! Nobody will really miss me, except Uncle Nic!’ She stood along while in the window without moving. When she was dressed she called out to her maid:
“Bring me some milk, Barbi; I’m going to church.”
“Ach! gnadiges Fraulein, will you no breakfast have?”
“No thank you, Barbi.”
“Liebes Fraulein, what a beautiful morning after the rain it has become! How cool! It is for you good—for the colour in your cheeks; now they will bloom again!” and Barbi stroked her own well-coloured cheeks.
Dominique, sunning himself outside with a cloth across his arm, bowed as she passed, and smiled affectionately:
“He is better this morning, M’mselle. We march—we are getting on. Good news will put the heart into you.”
Christian thought: ‘How sweet every one is to-day!’
Even the Villa seemed to greet her, with the sun aslant on it; and the trees, trembling and weeping golden tears. At the cathedral she was early for the service, but here and there were figures on their knees; the faint, sickly odour of long-burnt incense clung in the air; a priest moved silently at the far end. She knelt, and when at last she rose the service had begun. With the sound of the intoning a sense of peace came to her—the peace of resolution. For good or bad she felt that she had faced her fate.
She went out with a look of quiet serenity and walked home along the dyke. Close to Harz’s studio she sat down. Now—it was her own; all that had belonged to him, that had ever had a part in him.
An old beggar, who had been watching her, came gently from behind. “Gracious lady!” he said, peering at her eyes, “this is the lucky day for you. I have lost my luck.”
Christian opened her purse, there was only one coin in it, a gold piece; the beggar’s eyes sparkled.
She thought suddenly: ‘It’s no longer mine; I must begin to be careful,’ but she felt ashamed when she looked at the old man.
“I am sorry,” she said; “yesterday I would have given you this, but—but now it’s already given.”
He seemed so old and poor—what could she give him? She unhooked a little silver brooch at her throat. “You will get something for that,” she said; “it’s better than nothing. I am very sorry you are so old and poor.”