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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesLinda Tressel - Chapter 8
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Linda Tressel - Chapter 8 Post by :vaima Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :1310

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Linda Tressel - Chapter 8

CHAPTER VIII

A walk of ten minutes took Linda from the Schuett island to the Egidien Platz, and placed her before the door of Herr Molk's house. The Egidien Platz is, perhaps, the most fashionable quarter of Nuremberg, if Nuremberg may be said to have a fashion in such matters. It is near to the Rathhaus, and to St. Sebald's Church, and is not far distant from the old Burg or Castle in which the Emperors used to dwell when they visited the imperial city of Nuremberg. This large open Place has a church in its centre, and around it are houses almost all large, built with gables turned towards the street, quaint, picturesque, and eloquent of much burghers' wealth. There could be no such square in a city which was not or had not been very rich. And among all the houses in the Egidien Platz, there was no house to exceed in beauty of ornament, in quaintness of architecture, or in general wealth and comfort, that which was inhabited by Herr Molk.

Linda stood for a moment at the door, and then putting up her hand, pulled down the heavy iron bell-handle, which itself was a gem of art, representing some ancient and discreet burgher of the town, wrapped in his cloak, and almost hidden by his broad-brimmed hat. She heard the bell clank close inside the door, and then the portal was open, as though the very pulling of the bell had opened it. The lock at least was open, so that Linda could push the door with her hand and enter over the threshold. This she did, and she found herself within a long narrow court or yard, round which, one above another, there ran galleries, open to the court, and guarded with heavy balustrades of carved wood. From the narrowness of the enclosure, the house on each side seemed to be very high, and Linda, looking round with astonished eyes, could see that at every point the wood was carved. And the waterspouts were ornamented with grotesque figures, and the huge broad stairs which led to the open galleries on the left hand were of polished oak, made so slippery with the polishers' daily care that it was difficult to tread upon them without falling. All around the bottom of the court there were open granaries or warehouses; for there seemed to be nothing that could be called a room on the ground floor, beyond the porter's lodge; and these open warehouses seemed to be filled full with masses of stacked firewood. Linda knew well the value of such stores in Nuremberg, and lost none of her veneration for Herr Molk because of such nature were the signs of his domestic wealth.

As she timidly looked around her she saw an old woman within the gate of the porter's lodge, and inquired whether Herr Molk was at home and disengaged. The woman simply motioned her to the wicket gate by which the broad polished stairs were guarded. Linda, hesitating to advance into so grand a mansion alone, and yet knowing that she should do as she was bidden, entered the wicket and ascended carefully to the first gallery. Here was another bell ready to her hand, the handle of which consisted of a little child in iron-work. This also she pulled, and waited till some one should come. Presently there was a scuffling heard of quick feet in the gallery, and three children ran up to her. In the middle was the elder, a girl dressed in dark silk, and at her sides were two boys habited in black velvet. They all had long fair hair, and large blue eyes, and soft peach-like cheeks,--such as those who love children always long to kiss. Linda thought that she had never seen children so gracious and so fair. She asked again whether Herr Molk was at home, and at liberty to see a stranger. "Quite a stranger," said poor Linda, with what emphasis she could put upon her words. The little girl said that her grandfather was at home, and would see any visitor,--as a matter of course. Would Linda follow her? Then the child, still leading her little brothers, tripped up the stairs to the second gallery, and opening a door which led into one of the large front rooms, communicated to an old gentleman who seemed to be taking exercise in the apartment with his hands behind his back, that he was wanted by a lady.

"Wanted, am I, my pretty one? Well, and here I am." Then the little girl, giving a long look up into Linda's face, retreated, taking her brothers with her, and closing the door. Thus Linda found herself in the room along with the old gentleman, who still kept his hands behind his back. It was a singular apartment, nearly square, but very large, panelled with carved wood, not only throughout the walls, but up to the ceiling also. And the floor was polished even brighter than were the stairs. Herr Molk must have been well accustomed to take his exercise there, or he would surely have slipped and fallen in his course. There was but one small table in the room, which stood unused near a wall, and there were perhaps not more than half-a-dozen chairs,--all high-backed, covered with old tapestry, and looking as though they could hardly have been placed there for ordinary use. On one of these, Linda sat at the old man's bidding; and he placed himself on another, with his hands still behind him, just seating himself on the edge of the chair.

"I am Linda Tressel," said poor Linda. She saw at a glance that she herself would not have known Herr Molk, whom she had never before met without his hat, and she perceived also that he had not recognised her.

"Linda Tressel! So you are. Dear, dear! I knew your father well,--very well. But, lord, how long that is ago! He is dead ever so many years; how many years?"

"Sixteen years," said Linda.

"Sixteen years dead! And he was a younger man than I,--much younger. Let me see,--not so much younger, but younger. Linda Tressel, your father's daughter is welcome to my house. A glass of wine will not hurt you this cold weather." She declined the wine, but the old man would have his way. He went out, and was absent perhaps five minutes. Then he returned bearing a small tray in his own hands, with a long-necked bottle and glasses curiously engraved, and he insisted that Linda should clink her glass with his. "And now, my dear, what is it that I can do for you?"

So far Linda's mission had prospered well; but now that the story was to be told, she found very much difficulty in telling it. She had to begin with the whole history of the red house, and of the terms upon which her aunt had come to reside in it. She had one point at least in her favour. Herr Molk was an excellent listener. He would nod his head, and pat one hand upon the other, and say, "Yes, yes," without the slightest sign of impatience. It seemed as though he had no other care before him than that of listening to Linda's story. When she experienced the encouragement which came from the nodding of his head and the patting of his hand, she went on boldly. She told how Peter Steinmarc had come to the house, and how her aunt was a woman peculiar from the strength of her religious convictions. "Yes, my dear, yes; we know that,--we know that," said Herr Molk. Linda did her best to say nothing evil of her aunt. Then she came to the story of Peter's courtship. "He is quite an old man, you know," said poor Linda, thoughtfully. Then she was interrupted by Herr Molk. "A worthy man; I know him well,--well,--well. Peter Steinmarc is our clerk at the Rathhaus. A very worthy man is Peter Steinmarc. Your father, my dear, was clerk at the Rathhaus, and Peter followed him. He is not young,--not just young; but a very worthy man. Go on, my dear." Linda had resolved to tell it all, and she did tell it all. It was difficult to tell, but it all came out. Perhaps there could be no listener more encouraging to such a girl as Linda than the patient, gentle-mannered old man with whom she was closeted. "She had a lover whom she loved dearly," she said,--"a young man."

"Oh, a lover," said Herr Molk. But there seemed to be no anger in his voice. He received the information as though it were important, but not astonishing. Then Linda even told him how the lover had come across the river on the Sunday morning, and how it had happened that she had not told her aunt, and how angry her aunt had been. "Yes, yes," said Herr Molk; "it is better that your elders should know such things,--always better. But go on, my dear." Then she told also how the lover had come down, or had gone up, through the rafters, and the old man smiled. Perhaps he had hidden himself among rafters fifty years ago, and had some sweet remembrance of the feat. And now Linda wanted to know what was she to do, and how she ought to act. The house was her own, but she would not for worlds drive her aunt out of it. She loved her lover very dearly, and she could not love Peter Steinmarc at all,--not in that way.

"Has the young man means to support a wife?" asked Herr Molk. Linda hesitated, knowing that there was still a thing to be told, which she had not as yet dared to mention. She knew too that it must be told. Herr Molk, as she hesitated, asked a second question on this very point. "And what is the young man's name, my dear? It all depends on his name and character, and whether he has means to support a wife."

"His name--is--Ludovic Valcarm," said Linda, whispering the words very low.

The old man jumped from his seat with an alacrity that Linda had certainly not expected. "Ludovic--Valcarm!" he said; "why, my dear, the man is in prison this moment. I signed the committal yesterday myself."

"In prison!" said Linda, rising also from her chair.

"He is a terrible young man," said Herr Molk--"a very terrible young man. He does all manner of things;--I can't explain what. My dear young woman, you must not think of taking Ludovic Valcarm for your husband; you must not, indeed. You had better make up your mind to take Peter Steinmarc. Peter Steinmarc can support a wife, and is very respectable. I have known Peter all my life. Ludovic Valcarm! Oh dear! That would be very bad,--very bad indeed!"

Linda's distress was excessive. It was not only that the tidings which she heard of Ludovic were hard to bear, but it seemed that Herr Molk was intent on ranging himself altogether with her enemies respecting Peter Steinmarc. In fact, the old man's advice to her respecting Peter was more important in her mind that his denunciation of Ludovic. She did not quite credit what he said of Ludovic. It was doubtless true that Ludovic was in prison; probably for some political offence. But such men, she thought, were not kept in prison long. It was bad, this fact of her lover's imprisonment; but not so bad as the advice which her counsellor gave her, and which she knew she would be bound to repeat to her aunt.

"But, Herr Molk, sir, if I do not love Peter Steinmarc--if I hate him--?"

"Oh, my dear, my dear! This is a terrible thing. There is not such another ne'er-do-well in all Nuremberg as Ludovic Valcarm. Support a wife! He cannot support himself. And it will be well if he does not die in a jail. Oh dear! oh dear! For your father's sake, fraulein--for your father's sake, I would go any distance to save you from this. Your father was a good man, and a credit to the city. And Peter Steinmarc is a good man."

"But I need not marry Peter Steinmarc, Herr Molk."

"You cannot do better, my dear,--indeed you cannot. See what your aunt says. And remember, my dear, that you should submit yourself to your elders and your betters. Peter is not so old. He is not old at all. I was one of the city magistrates when Peter was a little boy. I remember him well. And he began life in your father's office. Nothing can be more respectable than he has been. And then Ludovic Valcarm! oh dear! If you ask my advice, I should counsel you to accept Peter Steinmarc."


There was nothing more to be got from Herr Molk. And with this terrible recommendation still sounding in her ears, Linda sadly made her way back from the Egidien Platz to the Schuett island.

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CHAPTER VIIAnother month had passed by, and it was now nearly mid-winter. Another month had passed by, and neither had Madame Staubach nor Peter Steinmarc heard ought of Ludovic's presence among the rafters; but things were much altered in the red house, and Linda's life was hot, fevered, suspicious, and full of a dangerous excitement. Twice again she had seen Ludovic, once meeting him in the kitchen, and once she had met him at a certain dark gate in the Nonnen Garten, to which she had contrived to make her escape for half an hour on a false plea. Things were
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