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“I have offered,” said Ida, beginning to tremble, “ do you reject the gift ?” “ To-morrow night--"
To-night or never!” and her heart grew sick and faint.
“ Listen-it is for your own sake
“ Speak-in a word ! To-morrow, and every other morrow, it is impossible. I accord you a minute for decision. It is elapsed !”
“ Hark!” The belfry clock struck. “ It is the twelfth hour!” and Ida shut the window.
Carl retraced his steps to the town, his head reeling, and his heart burning with the torture of Tantalus. After threading some obscure streets, he at length reached a spacious mansion, which, although completely dark without, was brilliantly lighted up within. He paused in an ante-chamber, and looked with a sinking heart into the interior, which was full of company clustering eagerly round the table. There seemed to be a repulsive property in the very atmosphere which prevented him from entering; and as he thought of the “good angel” whose protection he had rejected, a feeling approaching to faintness came over him, and he leant for support against the door-post.
“ Thunder of heaven !” cried one of the gamesters, rushing past him ;“ it is of no use, I will play no more! What, Benzel, art thou asleep—or ruined ?” The speaker was a young man, about Carl's own age, and possessing equal advantages of person. There was, however, in his manner, particularly when he laboured under any excitation, a dash of the vulgar ferocity affected to this moment by many of the youth of Germany ; and at such times a foreigner could hardly have believed him to be a man accustomed to good society.
His dress was half military half civilian ; and instead of wearing his sword concealed like that of Carl, it hung ostentatiously from his girdle, in which was stuck a brace of handsomely mounted pistols.
Wolfenstein," said Benzel sternly; “I have an account to settle with you.”
“ I pray heaven then,” replied the baron, “ that you are due me a balance, for I have not twenty dollars left to carry me to the Black Forest.”
“ Be satisfied, Sir, that I shall pay you what I owe. Meet me at the Ketschenbourg as soon as it is light enough to see the point of your
sword.” “ You mean coffee, then?” - Blood !”
“ Indeed ! Will not candle-light do as well, and a private room where we are ?”
“ Not at present. I am pledged to another game. In a single hour I shall either be a beggar or
“ The son-in-law elect of Madame Dallheimer.” “ You are insolent."
“ That is enough ; I shall not fail you.” The baron then left the house whistling a popular air, and Benzel, whose courage was restored by the prospect of physical danger: walked into the gaming-room.
HOW CARL BENZEL LOSES HIS MISTRESS.
It was nearly daylight when the baron of Wolfenstein was standing by the wall of the garden of Ketschenbourg, industriously employed in polishing the blade of his sword with his glove. His task, however, was very little advanced, when he saw running, or rather rushing, along the road a figure resembling that of his adversary.
“ Qui vive ? " shouted the baron.
“ Are you ready?” demanded Carl, without stopping:
Always ! -Their swords clashed before the word had completely left his lips; and Wolfenstein fell upon his knee from the shock, while the weapon of his impetuous challenger, less by skill than fortune, sprang out of his hand to the distance of many yards.
“ Fool !” cried Carl, as the baron dropped the point of bis sword, “ the game is yours! Strike, if you would not have me report you ignorant of the laws of arms!”
“Demand your life!”
“ Strike, I say ; strike speedily, and home !"
6. For what? To revenge you on yourself? Not I, by the Three Kings! You may win your Ida, and wear her for me; I am off to my own dominions, where there is one far kinder, and as fair. But how go the cards ? You have the look of a man who has just lost his last dollar.”
“O that I could change places with such a man ! How cheerfully would I not dig the earth for a sustenance, or sell my blood for a consideration ! But there is no beggar so lost, so hopeless, so desperate as I. I have lost a treasure that all the gold of the east could not restore. Last night Ida might have been mine ; but my honour was pledged; my property was staked, to the last coin, and the last foot of land ; and my resolution was taken to escape from the torturing suspense in which I have lived so long, and to live to-day a free man either in ruin or success.”
“ It was nothing less than wise ; but why quarrel with the accomplishment of your own desires ? ”
“ She offered, she herself—think of that ! to elope with me last night; and I rejected the offer, without being able, under the cursed circumstances, to utter a word in explanation.”
“ Truly, a pleasant predicament! But courage ! She will give you four-and-twenty hours' grace, or she is no woman. Had the proposal been a prudent one I should say nothing ; but I have ever observed, that when a girl takes a bit of devilry into her head it is far from being easy to get it out again."
“ You do not know her; and to speak frankly, Wolfenstein, you cannot comprehend her. rate, even were it possible to hope that she would forgive the insult on explanation, can I imagine that the
heiress of Dallheimer would throw herself into the arms of one who, by his own confession, is a ruined gamester, a beggar, and a desperado ? "
“ Tut, tut, you do not know the sex. For a woman to love is to be in a dream, knowing that it is so; and yet acting, in spite of herself, as if all was reality. She takes beggary for riches ; want for fulness ; shrieking for laughter; a suit of rags for a robe of honour : yet feels at the same time that the whole is delusion. In vain she will try to snap the bonds of this strong fancy; for twisted up as they are with her heart-strings (the heart and imagination being blended in woman, which in man are distinct), they must both break together."
“ This may be true of the sex in general,” said Benzel, with a sigh, “but there are those in whom the understanding is as powerful as the affections; and of such is Ida Dallheimer. Words, however, are useless ; she is by this time a prisoner in the centre of her mother's house."
Nay, now you talk like a man of sense. Words alone, in such a case, are indeed useless; but comethere is a hand that never flinched from friend or foe! I know the house well, and, although it is close to a station of cavalry, I ask but your own assistance, and that of two of my servants, to liberate your
mistress this very night!"
“ Thanks, Wolfenstein ! but it is scarcely possible that I should obtain her consent to such a measure, even had I an opportunity of getting speech of her, and dared to make use of it.”
“ Surely not; you must set her at liberty first, and then give her the option to return to her bonds. No ! Why then I wash my hands of you.
But the sun