Nina Balatka, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XV

When Souchey left the room with the note, Nina went to the door and listened. She heard him turn the lock below, and heard his step out in the courtyard, and listened till she knew that he was crossing the square. Then she ran quickly up to her own room, put on her hat and her old worn cloak — the cloak which aunt Sophie had given her — and returned once more into the parlour. She looked round the room with anxious eyes, and seeing her desk, she took the key from her pocket and put it into the lock. Then there came a thought into her mind as to the papers; but she resolved that the thought need not arrest her, and she left the key in the lock with the papers untouched. Then she went to the door of her father’s room, and stood there for a moment with her hand upon the latch. She tried it ever so gently, but she found that the door was bolted. The bolt, she knew, was on her side, and she could withdraw it; but she did not do so; seeming to take the impediment as though it were a sufficient bar against her entrance. Then she ran down the stairs rapidly, opened the front door, and found herself out in the night air.

It was a cold windy night — not so late, indeed, as to have made her feel that it was night, had she not come from the gloom of the dark parlour, and the glimmer of her one small lamp. It was now something beyond the middle of October, and at present it might be eight o’clock. She knew that there would be moonlight, and she looked up at the sky; but the clouds were all dark, though she could see that they were moving along with the gusts of wind. It was very cold, and she drew her cloak closer about her as she stepped out into the archway.

Up above her, almost close to her in the gloom of the night, there was the long colonnade of the palace, with the lights glimmering in the windows as they always glimmered. She allowed herself for a moment to think who might be there in those rooms — as she had so often thought before. It was possible that Anton might be there. He had been there once before at this time in the evening, as he himself had told her. Wherever he might be, was he thinking of her? But if he thought of her, he was thinking of her as one who had deceived him, who had tried to rob him. Ah! the day would soon come in which he would learn that he had wronged her. When that day should come, would his heart be bitter within him? “He will certainly be unhappy for a time,” she said; “but he is hard and will recover, and she will console him. It will be better so. A Christian and a Jew should never love each other.”

As she stood the clouds were lifted for a moment from the face of the risen moon, and she could see by the pale clear light the whole facade of the palace as it ran along the steep hillside above her. She could count the arches, as she had so often counted them by the same light. They seemed to be close over her head, and she stood there thinking of them, till the clouds had again skurried across the moon’s face, and she could only see the accustomed glimmer in the windows. As her eye fell upon the well-known black buildings around her, she found that it was very dark. It was well for her that it should be so dark. She never wanted to see the light again.

There was a footstep on the other side of the square, and she paused till it had passed away beyond the reach of her ears. Then she came out from under the archway, and hurried across the square to the street which led to the bridge. It was a dark gloomy lane, narrow, and composed of high buildings without entrances, the sides of barracks and old palaces. From the windows above her head on the left, she heard the voices of soldiers. A song was being sung, and she could hear the words. How cruel it was that other people should have so much of light-hearted joy in the world, but that for her everything should have been so terribly sad! The wind, as it met her, seemed to penetrate to her bones. She was very cold! But it was useless to regard that. There was no place on the face of the earth that would ever be warm for her.

As she passed along the causeway leading to the bridge, a sound with which she was very familiar met her ears. They were singing vespers under the shadow of one of the great statues which are placed one over each arch of the bridge. There was a lay friar standing by a little table, on which there was a white cloth and a lighted lamp and a small crucifix; and above the crucifix, supported against the stone-work of the bridge, there was a picture of the Virgin with her Child, and there was a tawdry wreath of paper flowers, so that by the light of the lamp you could see that a little altar had been prepared. And on the table there was a plate containing kreutzers, into which the faithful who passed and took a part in the evening psalm of praise, might put an offering for the honour of the Virgin, and for the benefit of the poor friar and his brethren in their poor cloisters at home. Nina knew all about it well. Scores of times had she stood on the same spot upon the bridge, and sung the vesper hymn, ere she passed on to the Kleinseite.

And now she paused and sang it once again. Around the table upon the pavement there stood perhaps thirty or forty persons, most of them children, and the remainder girls perhaps of Nina’s age. And the friar stood close by the table, leaning idly against the bridge, with his eye wandering from the little plate with the kreutzers to the passers-by who might possibly contribute. And ever and anon he with drawling voice would commence some sentence of the hymn, and then the girls and children would take it up, well knowing the accustomed words; and their voices as they sang would sound sweetly across the waters, the loud gurgling of which, as they ran beneath the arch, would be heard during the pauses.

And Nina stopped and sang. When she was a child she had sung there very often, and the friar of those days would put his hand upon her head and bless her, as she brought her small piece of tribute to his plate. Of late, since she had been at variance with the Church by reason of the Jew, she had always passed by rapidly, as though feeling that she had no longer any right to take a part in such a ceremony. But now she had done with the Jew, and surely she might sing the vesper song. So she stopped and sang, remembering not the less as she sang, that that which she was about to do, if really done, would make all such singing unavailing for her.

But then, perhaps, even yet it might not be done. Lotta’s first prediction, that the Jew would desert her, had certainly come true; and Lotta’s second prediction, that there would be nothing left for her but to drown herself, seemed to her to be true also. She had left the house in which her father’s dead body was still lying, with this purpose. Doubly deserted as she now was by lover and father, she could live no longer. It might, however, be possible that that saint who was so powerful over the waters might yet do something for her — might yet interpose on her behalf, knowing, as he did, of course, that all idea of marriage between her, a Christian, and her Jew lover had been abandoned. At any rate she stood and sang the hymn, and when there came the accustomed lull at the end of the verse, she felt in her pocket for a coin, and, taking a piece of ten kreutzers, she stepped quickly up to the plate and put it in. A day or two ago ten kreutzers was an important portion of the little sum which she still had left in hand, but now ten kreutzers could do nothing for her. It was at any rate better that the friar should have it than that her money should go with her down into the blackness of the river. Nevertheless she did not give the friar all. She saw one girl whispering to another as she stepped up to the table, and she heard her own name. “That is Nina Balatka.” And then there was an answer which she did not hear, but which she was sure referred to the Jew. The girls looked at her with angry eyes, and she longed to stop and explain to them that she was no longer betrothed to the Jew. Then, perhaps, they would be gentle with her, and she might yet hear a kind word spoken to her before she went. But she did not speak to them. No; she would never speak to man or woman again. What was the use of speaking now? No sympathy that she could receive would go deep enough to give relief to such wounds as hers.

As she dropped her piece of money into the plate her eyes met those of the friar, and she recognised at once a man whom she had known years ago, at the same spot and engaged in the same work. He was old and haggard, and thin, and grey, and very dirty; but there came a smile over his face as he also recognised her. He could not speak to her, for he had to take up a verse in the hymn, and drawl out the words which were to set the crowd singing, and Nina had retired back again before he was silent. But she knew that he had known her, and she almost felt that she had found a friend who would be kind to her. On the morrow, when inquiry would be made — and aunt Sophie would certainly be loud in her inquiries — this friar would be able to give some testimony respecting her.

She passed on altogether across the bridge, in order that she might reach the spot she desired without observation — and perhaps also with some halting idea that she might thus postpone the evil moment. The figure of St John Nepomucene rested on the other balustrade of the bridge, and she was minded to stand for a while under its shadow. Now, at Prague it is the custom that they who pass over the bridge shall always take the right-hand path as they go; and she, therefore, in coming from the Kleinseite, had taken that opposite to the statue of the saint. She had thought of this, and had told herself that she would cross the roadway in the middle of the bridge; but at that moment the moon was shining brightly: and then, too, the night was long. Why need she be in a hurry?

At the further end of the bridge she stood a while in the shade of the watch-tower, and looked anxiously around her. When last she had been over in the Old Town, within a short distance of the spot where she now stood, she had chanced to meet her lover. What if she should see him now? She was sure that she would not speak to him. And yet she looked very anxiously up the dark street, through the glimmer of the dull lamps. First there came one man, and then another, and a third; and she thought, as her eyes fell upon them, that the figure of each was the figure of Anton Trendellsohn. But as they emerged from the darker shadow into the light that was near, she saw that it was not so, and she told herself that she was glad. If Anton were to come and find her there, it might be that he would disturb her purpose. But yet she looked again before she left the shadow of the tower. Now there was no one passing in the street. There was no figure there to make her think that her lover was coming either to save her or to disturb her.

Taking the pathway on the other side, she turned her face again towards the Kleinseite, and very slowly crept along under the balustrade of the bridge. This bridge over the Moldau is remarkable in many ways, but it is specially remarkable for the largeness of its proportions. It is very long, taking its spring from the shore a long way before the actual margin of the river; it is of a fine breadth: the side-walks to it are high and massive; and the groups of statues with which it is ornamented, though not in themselves of much value as works of art, have a dignity by means of their immense size which they lend to the causeway, making the whole thing noble, grand, and impressive. And below, the Moldau runs with a fine, silent, dark volume of water — a very sea of waters when the rains have fallen and the little rivers have been full, though in times of drought great patches of ugly dry land are to be seen in its half-empty bed. At the present moment there were no such patches; and the waters ran by, silent, black, in great volumes, and with unchecked rapid course. It was only by pausing specially to listen to them that the passer-by could hear them as they glided smoothly round the piers of the bridge. Nina did pause and did hear them. They would have been almost less terrible to her, had the sound been rougher and louder.

On she went, very slowly. The moon, she thought, had disappeared altogether before she reached the cross inlaid in the stone on the bridge-side, on which she was accustomed to lay her fingers, in order that she might share somewhat of the saint’s power over the river. At that moment, as she came up to it, the night was very dark. She had calculated that by this time the light of the moon would have waned, so that she might climb to the spot which she had marked for herself without observation. She paused, hesitating whether she would put her hand upon the cross. It could not at least do her any harm. It might be that the saint would be angry with her, accusing her of hypocrisy; but what would be the saint’s anger for so small a thing amidst the multitudes of charges that would be brought against her? For that which she was going to do now there could be no absolution given. And perhaps the saint might perceive that the deed on her part was not altogether hypocritical — that there was something in it of a true prayer. He might see this, and intervene to save her from the waters. So she put the palm of her little hand full upon the cross, and then kissed it heartily, and after that raised it up again till it rested on the foot of the saint. As she stood there she heard the departing voices of the girls and children singing the last verse of the vesper hymn, as they followed the friar off the causeway of the bridge into the Kleinseite.

She was determined that she would persevere. She had endured that which made it impossible that she should recede, and had sworn to herself a thousand times that she would never endure that which would have to be endured if she remained longer in this cruel world. There would be no roof to cover her now but the roof in the Windberg-gasse, beneath which there was to her a hell upon earth. No; she would face the anger of all the saints rather than eat the bitter bread which her aunt would provide for her. And she would face the anger of all the saints rather than fall short in her revenge upon her lover. She had given herself to him altogether — for him she had been half-starved, when, but for him, she might have lived as a favoured daughter in her aunt’s house — for him she had made it impossible to herself to regard any other man with a spark of affection — for his sake she had hated her cousin Ziska — her cousin who was handsome, and young, and rich, and had loved her — feeling that the very idea that she could accept love from anyone but Anton had been an insult to her. She had trusted Anton as though his word had been gospel to her. She had obeyed him in everything, allowing him to scold her as though she were already subject to his rule; and, to speak the truth, she had enjoyed such treatment, obtaining from it a certain assurance that she was already his own. She had loved him entirely, had trusted him altogether, had been prepared to bear all that the world could fling upon her for his sake, wanting nothing in return but that he should know that she was true to him.

This he had not known, nor had he been able to understand such truth. It had not been possible to him to know it. The inborn suspicion of his nature had broken out in opposition to his love, forcing her to acknowledge to herself that she had been wrong in loving a Jew. He had been unable not to suspect her of some vile scheme by which she might possibly cheat him of his property, if at the last moment she should not become his wife. She told herself that she understood it all now — that she could see into his mind, dark and gloomy as were its recesses. She had wasted all her heart upon a man who had never even believed in her; and would she not be revenged upon him? Yes, she would be revenged, and she would cure the malady of her own love by the only possible remedy within her reach.

The statue of St John Nepomucene is a single figure, standing in melancholy weeping posture on the balustrade of the bridge, without any of that ponderous strength of wide-spread stone which belongs to the other groups. This St John is always pictured to us as a thin, melancholy, half-starved saint, who has had all the life washed out of him by his long immersion. There are saints to whom a trusting religious heart can turn, relying on their apparent physical capabilities. St Mark, for instance, is always a tower of strength, and St Christopher is very stout, and St Peter carries with him an ancient manliness which makes one marvel at his cowardice when he denied his Master. St Lawrence, too, with his gridiron, and St Bartholomew with his flaying-knife and his own skin hanging over his own arm, look as though they liked their martyrdom, and were proud of it, and could be useful on an occasion. But this St John of the Bridges has no pride in his appearance, and no strength in his look. He is a mild, meek saint, teaching one rather by his attitude how to bear with the malice of the waters, than offering any protection against their violence. But now, at this moment, his aid was the only aid to which Nina could look with any hope. She had heard of his rescuing many persons from death amidst the current of the Moldau. Indeed she thought that she could remember having been told that the river had no power to drown those who could turn their minds to him when they were struggling in the water. Whether this applied only to those who were in sight of his statue on the bridge of Prague, or whether it was good in all rivers of the world, she did not know. Then she tried to think whether she had ever heard of any case in which the saint had saved one who had — who had done the thing which she was now about to do. She was almost sure that she had never heard of such a case as that. But, then, was there not something special in her own case? Was not her suffering so great, her condition so piteous, that the saint would be driven to compassion in spite of the greatness of her sin? Would he not know that she was punishing the Jew by the only punishment with which she could reach him? She looked up into the saint’s wan face, and fancied that no eyes were ever so piteous, no brow ever so laden with the deep suffering of compassion. But would this punishment reach the heart of Anton Trendellsohn? Would he care for it? When he should hear that she had — destroyed her own life because she could not endure the cruelty of his suspicion, would the tidings make him unhappy? When last they had been together he had told her, with all that energy which he knew so well how to put into his words, that her love was necessary to his happiness. “I will never release you from your promises,” he had said, when she offered to give him back his troth because of the ill-will of his people. And she still believed him. Yes, he did love her. There was something of consolation to her in the assurance that the strings of his heart would be wrung when he should hear of this. If his bosom were capable of agony, he would be agonised.

It was very dark at this moment, and now was the time for her to climb upon the stone-work and hide herself behind the drapery of the saint’s statue. More than once, as she had crossed the bridge, she had observed the spot, and had told herself that if such a deed were to be done, that would be the place for doing it. She had always been conscious, since the idea had entered her mind, that she would lack the power to step boldly up on to the parapet and go over at once, as the bathers do when they tumble headlong into the stream that has no dangers for them. She had known that she must crouch, and pause, and think of it, and look at it, and nerve herself with the memory of her wrongs. Then, at some moment in which her heart was wrung to the utmost, she would gradually slacken her hold, and the dark, black, silent river should take her. She climbed up into the niche, and found that the river was very far from her, though death was so near to her and the fall would be so easy. When she became aware that there was nothing between her and the great void space below her, nothing to guard her, nothing left to her in all the world to protect her, she retreated, and descended again to the pavement. And never in her life had she moved with more care, lest, inadvertently, a foot or a hand might slip, and she might tumble to her doom against her will.

When she was again on the pathway she remembered her note to Anton — that note which was already in his hands. What would he think of her if she were only to threaten the deed, and then not perform it? And would she allow him to go unpunished? Should he triumph, as he would do if she were now to return to the house which she had told him she had left? She clasped her hands together tightly, and pressed them first to her bosom and then to her brow, and then again she returned to the niche from which the fall into the river must be made. Yes, it was very easy. The plunge might be taken at any moment. Eternity was before her, and of life there remained to her but the few moments in which she might cling there and think of what was coming. Surely she need not begrudge herself a minute or two more of life.

She was very cold, so cold that she pressed herself against the stone in order that she might save herself from the wind that whistled round her. But the water would be colder still than the wind, and when once there she could never again be warm. The chill of the night, and the blackness of the gulf before her, and the smooth rapid gurgle of the dark moving mass of waters beneath, were together more horrid to her imagination than even death itself. Thrice she released herself from her backward pressure against the stone, in order that she might fall forward and have done with it, but as often she found herself returning involuntarily to the protection which still remained to her. It seemed as though she could not fall. Though she would have thought that another must have gone directly to destruction if placed where she was crouching — though she would have trembled with agony to see anyone perched in such danger — she appeared to be firm fixed. She must jump forth boldly, or the river would not take her. Ah! what if it were so — that the saint who stood over her, and whose cross she had so lately kissed, would not let her perish from beneath his feet? In these moments her mind wandered in a maze of religious doubts and fears, and she entertained, unconsciously, enough of doctrinal scepticism to found a school of freethinkers. Could it be that God would punish her with everlasting torments because in her agony she was driven to this as her only mode of relief? Would there be no measuring of her sins against her sorrows, and no account taken of the simplicity of her life? She looked up towards heaven, not praying in words, but with a prayer in her heart. For her there could be no absolution, no final blessing. The act of her going would be an act of terrible sin. But God would know all, and would surely take some measure of her case. He could save her if He would, despite every priest in Prague. More than one passenger had walked by while she was crouching in her niche beneath the statue — had passed by and had not seen her. Indeed, the night at present was so dark, that one standing still and looking for her would hardly be able to define her figure. And yet, dark as it was, she could see something of the movement of the waters beneath her, some shimmer produced by the gliding movement of the stream. Ah! she would go now and have done with it. Every moment that she remained was but an added agony.

Then, at that moment, she heard a voice on the bridge near her, and she crouched close again, in order that the passenger might pass by without noticing her. She did not wish that anyone should hear the splash of her plunge, or be called on to make ineffectual efforts to save her. So she would wait again. The voice drew nearer to her, and suddenly she became aware that it was Souchey’s voice. It was Souchey, and he was not alone. It must be Anton who had come out with him to seek her, and to save her. But no. He should have no such relief as that from his coming sorrow. So she clung fast, waiting till they should pass, but still leaning a little towards the causeway, so that, if it were possible, she might see the figures as they passed. She heard the voice of Souchey quite plain, and then she perceived that Souchey’s companion was a woman. Something of the gentleness of a woman’s voice reached her ear, but she could distinguish no word that was spoken. The steps were now very close to her, and with terrible anxiety she peeped out to see who might be Souchey’s companion. She saw the figure, and she knew at once by the hat that it was Rebecca Loth. They were walking fast, and were close to her now. They would be gone in an instant.

On a sudden, at the very moment that Souchey and Rebecca were in the act of passing beneath the feet of the saint, the clouds swept by from off the disc of the waning moon, and the three faces were looking at each other in the clear pale light of the night. Souchey started back and screamed. Rebecca leaped forward and put the grasp of her hand tight upon the skirt of Nina’s dress, first one hand and then the other, and, pressing forward with her body against the parapet, she got a hold also of Nina’s foot. She perceived instantly what was the girl’s purpose, but, by God’s blessing on her efforts, there should be no cold form found in the river that night; or, if one, then there should be two. Nina kept her hold against the figure, appalled, dumbfounded, awe-stricken, but still with some inner consciousness of salvation that comforted her. Whether her life was due to the saint or to the Jewess she knew not, but she acknowledged to herself silently that death was beyond her reach, and she was grateful.

“Nina,” said Rebecca. Nina still crouched against the stone, with her eyes fixed on the other girl’s face; but she was unable to speak. The clouds had again obscured the moon, and the air was again black, but the two now could see each other in the darkness, or feel that they did so. “Nina, Nina — why are you here?”

“I do not know,” said Nina, shivering.

“For the love of God take care of her,” said Souchey, “or she will be over into the river.”

“She cannot fall now,” said Rebecca. “Nina, will you not come down to me? You are very cold. Come down, and I will warm you.”

“I am very cold,” said Nina. Then gradually she slid down into Rebecca’s arms, and was placed sitting on a little step immediately below the figure of St John. Rebecca knelt by her side, and Nina’s head fell upon the shoulder of the Jewess. Then she burst into the violence of hysterics, but after a moment or two a flood of tears relieved her.

“Why have you come to me?” she said. “Why have you not left me alone?”

“Dear Nina, your sorrows have been too heavy for you to bear.”

“Yes; they have been very heavy.”

“We will comfort you, and they shall be softened.”

“I do not want comfort. I only want to — to — to go.”

While Rebecca was chafing Nina’s hands and feet, and tying a handkerchief from off her own shoulders round Nina’s neck, Souchey stood over them, not knowing what to propose. “Perhaps we had better carry her back to the old house,” he said.

“I will not be carried back,” said Nina.

“No, dear; the house is desolate and cold. You shall not go there. You shall come to our house, and we will do for you the best we can there, and you shall be comfortable. There is no one there but mother, and she is kind and gracious. She will understand that your father has died, and that you are alone.”

Nina, as she heard this, pressed her head and shoulders close against Rebecca’s body. As it was not to be allowed to her to escape from all her troubles, as she had thought to do, she would prefer the neighbourhood of the Jews to that of any Christians. There was no Christian now who would say a kind word to her. Rebecca spoke to her very kindly, and was soft and gentle with her. She could not go where she would be alone. Even if left to do so, all physical power would fail her. She knew that she was weak as a child is weak, and that she must submit to be governed. She thought it would be better to be governed by Rebecca Loth at the present moment than by anyone else whom she knew. Rebecca had spoken of her mother, and Nina was conscious of a faint wish that there had been no such person in her friend’s house; but this was a minor trouble, and one which she could afford to disregard amidst all her sorrows. How much more terrible would have been her fate had she been carried away to aunt Sophie’s house! “Does he know?” she said, whispering the question into Rebecca’s ear.

“Yes, he knows. It was he who sent me.” Why did he not come himself? That question flashed across Nina’s mind, and it was present also to Rebecca. She knew that it was the question which Nina, within her heart, would silently ask. “I was there when the note came,” said Rebecca, “and he thought that a woman could do more than a man. I am so glad he sent me — so very glad. Shall we go, dear?”

Then Nina rose from her seat, and stood up, and began to move slowly. Her limbs were stiff with cold, and at first she could hardly walk; but she did not feel that she would be unable to make the journey. Souchey came to her side, but she rejected his arm petulantly. “Do not let him come,” she said to Rebecca. “I will do whatever you tell me; I will indeed.” Then the Jewess said a word or two to the old man, and he retreated from Nina’s side, but stood looking at her till she was out of sight. Then he returned home to the cold desolate house in the Kleinseite, where his only companion was the lifeless body of his old master. But Souchey, as he left his young mistress, made no complaint of her treatment of him. He knew that he had betrayed her, and brought her close upon the step of death’s door. He could understand it all now. Indeed he had understood it all since the first word that Anton Trendellsohn had spoken after reading Nina’s note.

“She will destroy herself,” Anton had said.

“What! Nina, my mistress?” said Souchey. Then, while Anton had called Rebecca to him, Souchey had seen it all. “Master,” he said, when the Jew returned to him, “it was Lotta Luxa who put the paper in the desk. Nina knew nothing of its being there.” Then the Jew’s heart sank coldly within him, and his conscience became hot within his bosom. He lost nothing of his presence of mind, but simply hurried Rebecca upon her errand. “I shall see you again to-night,” he said to the girl.

“You must come then to our house,” said Rebecca. “It may be that I shall not be able to leave it.”

Rebecca, as she led Nina back across the bridge, at first said nothing further. She pressed the other girl’s arm within her own, and there was much of tenderness and regard in the pressure. She was silent, thinking, perhaps, that any speech might be painful to her companion. But Nina could not restrain herself from a question, “What will they say of me?”

“No one, dear, shall say anything.”

“But he knows.”

“I know not what he knows, but his knowledge, whatever it be, is only food for his love. You may be sure of his love, Nina — quite sure, quite sure. You may take my word for that. If that has been your doubt, you have doubted wrongly.”

Not all the healing medicines of Mercury, not wine from the flasks of the gods, could have given Nina life and strength as did those words from her rival’s lips. All her memory of his offences against her had again gone in her thought of her own sin. Would he forgive her and still love her? Yes; she was a weak woman — very weak; but she had that one strength which is sufficient to atone for all feminine weakness — she could really love; or rather, having loved, she could not cease to love. Anger had no effect on her love, or was as water thrown on blazing coal, which makes it burn more fiercely. Ill usage could not crush her love. Reason, either from herself or others, was unavailing against it. Religion had no power over it. Her love had become her religion to Nina. It took the place of all things both in heaven and earth. Mild as she was by nature, it made her a tigress to those who opposed it. It was all the world to her. She had tried to die, because her love had been wounded; and now she was ready to live again because she was told that her lover — the lover who had used her so cruelly — still loved her. She pressed Rebecca’s arm close into her side. “I shall be better soon,” she said. Rebecca did not doubt that Nina would soon be better, but of her own improvement she was by no means so certain.

They walked on through the narrow crooked streets into the Jews’ quarter, and soon stood at the door of Rebecca’s house. The latch was loose, and they entered, and they found a lamp ready for them on the stairs. “Had you not better come to my bed for to-night?” said Rebecca.

“Only that I should be in your way, I should be so glad.”

“You shall not be in my way. Come, then. But first you must eat and drink.” Though Nina declared that she could not eat a morsel, and wanted no drink but water, Rebecca tended upon her, bringing the food and wine that were in truth so much needed. “And now, dear, I will help you to bed. You are yet cold, and there you will be warm.”

“But when shall I see him?”

“Nay, how can I tell? But, Nina, I will not keep him from you. He shall come to you here when he chooses — if you choose it also.”

“I do choose it — I do choose it,” said Nina, sobbing in her weakness — conscious of her weakness.

While Rebecca was yet assisting Nina — the Jewess kneeling as the Christian sat on the bedside — there came a low rap at the door, and Rebecca was summoned away. “I shall be but a moment,” she said, and she ran down to the front door.

“Is she here?” said Anton, hoarsely.

“Yes, she is here.”

“The Lord be thanked! And can I not see her?”

“You cannot see her now, Anton. She is very weary, and all but in bed.”

“To-morrow I may come?”

“Yes, tomorrow.”

“And, tell me, how did you find her? Where did you find her?”

“To-morrow Anton, you shall be told — whatever there is to tell For to-night, is it not enough for you to know that she is with me? She will share my bed, and I will be as a sister to her.”

Then Anton spoke a word of warm blessing to his friend, and went his way home.

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43