'Ah, then, let us reverse the parts!' said Otto. 'It is ourselves we cannot forgive, when we deny forgiveness to another-so a friend told me last night. On these terms, Seraphina, you see how generously _I_ have forgiven myself. But am not I to be forgiven? Come, then, forgive yourself-and me.'
She did not answer in words, but reached out her hand to him quickly. He took it; and as the smooth fingers settled and nestled in his, love ran to and fro between them in tender and transforming currents.
'Seraphina,' he cried, 'O, forget the past! Let me serve and help you; let me be your servant; it is enough for me to serve you and to be near you; let me be near you, dear-do not send me away.' He hurried his pleading like the speech of a frightened child. 'It is not love,' he went on; 'I do not ask for love; my love is enough . . .'
'Otto!' she said, as if in pain.
He looked up into her face. It was wrung with the very ecstasy of tenderness and anguish; on her features, and most of all in her changed eyes, there shone the very light of love.
'Seraphina?' he cried aloud, and with a sudden, tuneless voice, 'Seraphina?'
'Look round you at this glade,' she cried, 'and where the leaves are coming on young trees, and the flowers begin to blossom. This is where we meet, meet for the first time; it is so much better to forget and to be born again. O what a pit there is for sins-G.o.d's mercy, man's oblivion!'
'Seraphina,' he said, 'let it be so, indeed; let all that was be merely the abuse of dreaming; let me begin again, a stranger. I have dreamed, in a long dream, that I adored a girl unkind and beautiful; in all things my superior, but still cold, like ice. And again I dreamed, and thought she changed and melted, glowed and turned to me. And I-who had no merit but a love, slavish and unerect-lay close, and durst not move for fear of waking.'
'Lie close,' she said, with a deep thrill of speech.
So they spake in the spring woods; and meanwhile, in Mittwalden Rath-haus, the Republic was declared.
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL POSTSCRIPT TO COMPLETE THE STORY
The reader well informed in modern history will not require details as to the fate of the Republic. The best account is to be found in the memoirs of Herr Greisengesang (7 Bande: Leipzig), by our pa.s.sing acquaintance the licentiate Roederer. Herr Roederer, with too much of an author's licence, makes a great figure of his hero-poses him, indeed, to be the centre-piece and cloud-compeller of the whole. But, with due allowance for this bias, the book is able and complete.
The reader is of course acquainted with the vigorous and bracing pages of Sir John (2 vols., London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown). Sir John, who plays but a tooth-comb in the orchestra of this historical romance, blows in his own book the big ba.s.soon. His character is there drawn at large; and the sympathy of Landor has countersigned the admiration of the public. One point, however, calls for explanation; the chapter on Grunewald was torn by the hand of the author in the palace gardens; how comes it, then, to figure at full length among my more modest pages, the Lion of the caravan? That eminent literatus was a man of method; 'Juvenal by double entry,' he was once profanely called; and when he tore the sheets in question, it was rather, as he has since explained, in the search for some dramatic evidence of his sincerity, than with the thought of practical deletion. At that time, indeed, he was possessed of two blotted scrolls and a fair copy in double. But the chapter, as the reader knows, was honestly omitted from the famous 'Memoirs on the various Courts of Europe.' It has been mine to give it to the public.
Bibliography still helps us with a further glimpse of our characters. I have here before me a small volume (printed for private circulation: no printer's name; n.d.), 'Poesies par Frederic et Amelie.' Mine is a presentation copy, obtained for me by Mr. Bain in the Haymarket; and the name of the first owner is written on the fly-leaf in the hand of Prince Otto himself. The modest epigraph-'Le rime n'est pas riche'-may be attributed, with a good show of likelihood, to the same collaborator. It is strikingly appropriate, and I have found the volume very dreary.
Those pieces in which I seem to trace the hand of the Princess are particularly dull and conscientious. But the booklet had a fair success with that public for which it was designed; and I have come across some evidences of a second venture of the same sort, now unprocurable. Here, at least, we may take leave of Otto and Seraphina-what do I say? of Frederic and Amelie-ageing together peaceably at the court of the wife's father, jingling French rhymes and correcting joint proofs.
Still following the book-lists, I perceive that Mr. Swinburne has dedicated a rousing lyric and some vigorous sonnets to the memory of Gondremark; that name appears twice at least in Victor Hugo's trumpet-blasts of patriot enumeration; and I came latterly, when I supposed my task already ended, on a trace of the fallen politician and his Countess. It is in the 'Diary of J. Hogg Cotterill, Esq.' (that very interesting work). Mr. Cotterill, being at Naples, is introduced (May 27th) to 'a Baron and Baroness Gondremark-he a man who once made a noise-she still beautiful-both witty. She complimented me much upon my French-should never have known me to be English-had known my uncle, Sir John, in Germany-recognised in me, as a family trait, some of his _grand air_ and studious courtesy-asked me to call.' And again (May 30th), 'visited the Baronne de Gondremark-much gratified-a most _refined_, _intelligent_ woman, quite of the old school, now, _helas_! extinct-had read my _Remarks on Sicily_-it reminds her of my uncle, but with more of grace-I feared she thought there was less energy-a.s.sured no-a softer style of presentation, more of the _literary grace_, but the same firm grasp of circ.u.mstance and force of thought-in short, just b.u.t.tonhole's opinion. Much encouraged. I have a real esteem for this patrician lady.' The acquaintance lasted some time; and when Mr. Cotterill left in the suite of Lord Protocol, and, as he is careful to inform us, in Admiral Yardarm's flag-ship, one of his chief causes of regret is to leave 'that most _spirituelle_ and sympathetic lady, who already regards me as a younger brother.'
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