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with a flippant laugh and an assumption of her
old spoiled-child manner; but the effort was
visibly a hard one. Josef was dumbfoundered.
All along, since the final rejection of Ebner, he
had had a secret conviction that he should have
at last to accept Fritz for a son-in-law; and,
though he grumbled, his easy-going nature had
begun to accustom itself to the idea. He liked
Fritz. He had done his best for Kätchen. If
she would be headstrong, was he to make
himself miserable about it? But now the news he
heard fairly bewildered him.

"Good Heaven above us!" said he, "who
ever heard the like? Why, I believed in my
soul that you refused Ebner mainly on that young
fellow's account."

"So I did," said Kätchen, quickly.

"You did? You own that you did; and after
giving up the best prospect ever girl had, on
account of this lover, you go and throw him
over as well! It's madness. Just stark staring
madness, that's all I can say. God help you
when I'm gone, my lass; for, as true as I'm a
living man, I believe you'll never have such
another chance."

And that was all the comfort Kätchen got
from her father. But her own conscience said
yet harder things to her. And these she had
to listen to day by day, at all hours. In the
dull grey mornings, amidst her household work,
and mixed up with the whirr of the great
spinning-wheel, or the click of the knitting-
needles, she had to listen to these harsh truths,
and to confess her faults with bitter self-
upbraiding. For now that Fritz seemed gone
for ever, she knew that she loved him, and that
he had loved her a thousand times better than
she deserved. Perhaps, poor, perverse, spoiled
child that she was, there needed some such
grief and some such parting to open her eyes to
the truth. In spite of her vanity, and frivolity,
and coquetry, she had a heart, as I have said
before, and she suffered very really. She had
not the relief of speaking of her sorrow. A
remnant of wilful pride prevented her from
confiding in her father; for she believed that
Fritz must be wearied out with her caprices,
and that his love would not be able to survive
her unreasonable cruelty.

"Of course he will forget me in time," she
said to herself, "and he will fall in love with
some other girl, who will know how to value
him. But I know how to value him now,
and I love him too; only it is too late. Too

It must not be supposed that Ebner had
resigned all hope of winning Kätchen from the
result of that one interview by the lake. His
anger had gone, but his love remained. He
came down to the Golden Lamb two days after
Fritz's departure, and found Kätchen alone.
She was pale and weary, tired in body after a
hard day's work, and she sat by the stove in the
winter twilight, whilst great hot tears kept
falling, every now and then, on the coarse
worsted stocking she was knitting. Ebner
could not see her distinctly in the dim light,
but the tone of her voice, as she greeted him,
betrayed that she was not herself.

"Are you not well, Mam'sell Katarina?"
asked Ebner, anxiously.

"Oh yes; quite well, only a little tired."

And then, by degrees, Caspar Ebner began
to renew his suit, accusing himself of having
been harsh and hasty, and pleading for forgiveness.
Kätchen answered straightforwardly
enough now. She was made sympathetic to
another's sorrow by the pain in her own heart.

"O Herr Ebner, you were only too good to
me. I am not worthy of it. But I want you
to believe that I didn't mean to deceive you."

"I am sure of it, Kätchen. And now can't
you think better of it, and say that one kind
word that shall make me so happy?"

But this Kätchen could not do; and the
refusal was more difficult to her now than it had
been before. Ebner pleaded as best he could;
asking not for love such as he offered, only for
kindness and confidence. He would wait for
the rest. Then Kätchen took a resolution.

"Herr Ebner," she said, firmly, though her
pale face grew scarlet from brow to chin, "I
have no love to give you. I love some one else
with all my heart."

"Kätchen," said he, after a moment's silence,
"when you spoke to me before, you told me
you were beloved, but you did not say you
loved. Am I to believe you false-tongued after

"I didn't know it myself, then," answered
the girl, simply. Many more words passed
between them, but Ebner seemed to lose the hope
he had held fast by from the first. Kätchen's
feeling was too real and strong to be
simulated. He perceived that she was in earnest
now, whatever might have been her former
giddiness. Strange to say, it never recurred
to him to guess who the favoured lover might
be. There was not a servant about the Black
Eagle but could have given him the information,
but Caspar Ebner was not a man to talk
to his servants on such a matter. So he went
out from Kätchen's presence that evening,
unwillingly convinced that his suit was hopeless,
but ignorant of the name of his rival. After
all, what did it matter? If Kätchen were
determined not to love him, what did anything
matter? Before the end of the week, however,
came news which caused a great deal of excitement
in Gossau, and even Caspar Ebner found
that his misplaced attachment had by no means
deprived daily life of its interest and savour.
There came a message to Josef Kester, from
Fritz Rosenheim, importing that a great
misfortune had befallen the latter. The leather-
covered box had been lost or stolen, and search
and inquiry were to be made for it all along
the road. It was an unusual, almost unprecedented
circumstance, and made a great stir in
the village. Every one knew, and most people
liked, Fritz Rosenheim, and the tale flew like
wildfire. The peasantâ??a rough carterâ??who
had brought the message to Kester, was lionised
and cross-examined all day long. The demand