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you why you will not allow yourself to be persuaded, and why you insist on ruining your life as well as mine?'
She rose again, gently this time, and came and stood beside him. He turned his head away as though it hurt him, and as she spoke she could see only his short, bright curling hair.
'You will not be persuaded, because it was so hard for you to make the resolution at first, that you believe it must be right in spite of every other right, and you would sacrifice yourself and me for an idea which is strong only because it hurt you to accept it at first. Everything you have done and said is brave, noble, generous--but you have gone too far--you have lost sight of the true truth in pursuing a truth that was true yesterday. It never was your duty to do more than offer to set me free. And as for the name, Greif dear,--I have heard that such things are done--would you, if it pleases you--that is, if it would help you to forget--would you take mine, darling, instead of letting me take yours? Perhaps it would make it easier--you are only Greif to me, but perhaps if you could be Greif Sigmundskron to yourself, and live here, and never go to Greifenstein nor think of it again--perhaps, my beloved, I could help you to forget it all, to the very name that pains you so.'
She laid her hand upon his shoulder and pressed her cheek softly against his curls as she spoke the last words, though she could not see his face. The accents were so low and tender that her voice sounded like soft music breathed into his ear.
'No--no! I must never do it!' he tried to say, but the words were very indistinct.
Hilda felt him move nervously, and she saw that he was grasping the chimney-piece with both hands as though to support himself by it. In another moment his broad shoulders seemed to heave and then shrink together. He staggered and almost fell to the ground, though Hilda did her best to hold him. With a great effort he gained the chair in which she had sat and fell back in it. His eyes were closed and the lids were blue, while his tightly compressed lips moved as though he were biting them.
Hilda knelt beside him and took his cold hands. The colour was all gone from her face, for she was terribly frightened.
'Greif, Greif!' she cried in anguish. 'What is it, my beloved? Speak, darling--do not look like that!'
'I am in great pain,' he answered, not opening his eyes, but faintly trying to press her fingers.
She saw that he was ill, and that his suffering had nothing to do with his previous emotion. She opened the door quickly and called for help. Her mother's room was very near and Frau von Sigmundskron appeared immediately.
'Greif is ill--dying perhaps!' exclaimed Hilda dragging her into the little sitting-room to the young man's side.
The baroness leaned over him anxiously, and at the touch of a strange hand his purple lids opened slowly and he looked up into her face.
'It is in my head--in the back,' he succeeded in saying.
Greif had fallen in harness, fighting his battle with the morbid energy of a man already ill. To the very end he had held his position, resisting even that last tender appeal Hilda had made to him, but the strain upon his nerves had been too great. He was strong, indeed, but he was young and not yet toughened into that strange material of which men of the world are made. The loss of sleep, the deadly impression made upon him by the death of his father and mother, the terrible struggle he had sustained with himself, all had combined together to bring about the crisis. At first it was but a shooting pain in the head, so sharp as to make his features contract. Then it came again and again, till it left him no breathing space, and he sank down overcome by physical torture, but firm in his intention as he had been in the beginning. It was all over, and he would not argue his case again for many a long day.
'Take me home--I am very ill,' he gasped, as the baroness tried to feel his pulse.
But she shook her head, for it seemed to her that it was too late.
'You must stay here until you are better,' she answered softly. 'The jolting of the carriage would hurt you.'
He closed his eyes again, unable to speak, far less to discuss the matter. The mother and daughter whispered together and then both left the room, casting a last anxious glance at Greif as he lay almost unconscious with pain.
Great was the consternation of Berbel when she heard that the young lord of Greifenstein had suddenly fallen ill in the house, but she was not a woman to waste words when time pressed. There was but one thing to be done. Greif must have Hilda's room and Hilda must take up her quarters with her mother. His carriage must fetch the physician from the nearest town, and bring such things as might be necessary. To Berbel's mind everything seemed already organised, and before any one had time to make a remark she had set about arranging matters to her own satisfaction. There was only one difficulty in the way, and that was Greif himself, who, in spite of his acute suffering had not the slightest intention of submitting to an illness at Sigmundskron.
In the first moment the pain had altogether overcome him, but he gradually became so much accustomed to it as to be able to think more connectedly. The idea of remaining where he was seemed intolerable. To be taken care of by Frau von Sigmundskron, to be under the same roof with Hilda, would be to give up the contest for which he had sacrificed so much. He did not understand that his mind would act very differently when he had recovered, and that much which seemed disagreeable at present, might be attractive then.
He rose to his feet without assistance, and he saw that he was alone. Hilda had gone in one direction and her mother in another in search of something to alleviate his suffering. To get out of the house was the work of a moment. In the court there was the groom who had driven him, still rubbing down his horses and setting things to rights before going inside to warm himself. The man was the same who had brought Greif the news at Schwarzburg, a devoted fellow, born and bred on the estate, unlike the house servants who had been changed so often.
'Karl,' said Greif, going up to him, 'you must harness and drive me back to Greifenstein at once. I am sorry for you, but I am too ill to stay here. I will walk down the road--come after me as soon as you can.'
There was nothing to be done but to obey the simple order. Karl looked surprised but lost no time, especially as Greif was already going out of the gate. In a trice the collars were on the horses again, the traces hitched, the reins unwound, and Karl was seated upon the box. He was glad for himself, though he thought it a very long pull for the horses. The road went downhill over most of the way, however, and Karl reflected that when his master was once in the carriage behind him, he could drive as slowly as he pleased. Just as he was ready, Frau von Sigmundskron and Hilda appeared upon the threshold of the hall, both looking pale and anxious. They had found Greif gone from the sitting-room and had at first imagined that he had lost his way in the house; but Hilda's quick ears caught the sounds that came from the court and she knew that the groom was putting the horses in.
'What is that?' asked Hilda, addressing the groom. 'Why have you harnessed again?'
'The merciful lord has ordered it,' returned Karl, lifting his military cap with one hand while he held the reins with the other. 'The merciful lord has walked down the road, and I am to overtake him.'
Therewith Karl turned his pair neatly and the horses trotted slowly towards the gate.
'Stop, stop!' cried Hilda, running down the steps and following him, while her mother came after her more slowly.
Karl drew up and looked back.
'Herr von Greifenstein is very ill,' the girl said. 'He will never be able to drive alone so far--indeed he ought to stay here and you should go for the doctor.'
She was so much confused that she hardly knew what to say, when her mother joined her, calmer and more sensible.
'You say that he went out of the gate. How long ago?' inquired the elder lady.
'It may be five minutes.'
'Did he say anything besides ordering the carriage?'
'He said he was ill and must go home at once, and that he was sorry for me.'
Frau von Sigmundskron hesitated. It was clear that Greif had not been so ill as she had at first supposed, or he could not have walked out alone, ordered the carriage and gone on without support. Karl interrupted her meditations.
'Merciful ladyships forgive me,' he observed, 'but if he walks farther he will be more ill.' He gathered the reins and prepared to move on.
'Go, Karl,' said the baroness, and in a moment he was gone.
'Mother--you ought to have gone, too--' Hilda began, looking into her face with an expression of mingled anxiety and disappointment.
'I do not see how I could, my child,' answered the baroness. 'If Greif was strong enough to go it was best that he should do so. It would be hard for us to take care of him. He has his cousin at Greifenstein, and they can send for me if he is worse. Besides--' She hesitated and stopped.
'What?' asked Hilda anxiously.
'He showed good sense, since he was able to go. It is not the custom in the world for young men to make long visits in such cases.'
'The world, the world!' exclaimed Hilda wearily. 'I have heard so much of the world this morning. Mother--He will not send for you. We shall not know how he is--'
'I will take care that we may know,' answered the baroness quietly. 'He
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