Annotation by Jane Greensmith
There is a mill by the Neckar-side, to which
many people resort for coffee, according to the fashion which is almost national
in Germany. There is nothing particularly attractive in the situation of this mill; it is
The Neckar River, Heidelberg
I went to drink coffee there with some friends in 184—. The stately old miller came out to greet us, as some of the party were known to him of old. He was of a grand build of a man, and his loud musical voice, with its tone friendly and familiar, his rolling laugh of welcome, went well with the keen bright eye, the fine cloth of his coat, and the general look of substance about the place. Poultry of all kinds abounded in the mill-yard, where there were ample means of livelihood for them strewed on the ground; but not content with this, the miller took out handfuls of corn from the sacks, and threw liberally to the cocks and hens that ran almost under his feet in their eagerness. And all the time he was doing this, as it were habitually, he was talking to us, and ever and anon calling to his daughter and the serving-maids, to bid them hasten the coffee we had ordered. He followed us to an arbour, and saw us served to his satisfaction with the best of everything we could ask for; and then left us to go round to the different arbours and see that each party was properly attended to; and, as he went, this great, prosperous, happy-looking man whistled softly one of the most plaintive airs I ever heard.
'His family have held this mill ever since the old Palatinate2 days; or rather, I should say, have possessed the ground ever since then, for two successive mills of theirs have been burnt down by the French. If you want to see Scherer in a passion, just talk to him of the possibility of a French invasion.'
But at this moment, still whistling that mournful air, we saw the miller going down the steps that led from the somewhat raised garden into the mill-yard; and so I seemed to have lost my chance of putting him in a passion.
We had nearly finished our coffee, and our 'kucken,' and our cinnamon cake, when heavy splashes fell on our thick leafy covering; quicker and quicker they came, coming through the tender leaves as if they were tearing them asunder; all the people in the garden were hurrying under shelter, or seeking for their carriages standing outside. Up the steps the miller came hastening, with a crimson umbrella, fit to cover every one left in the garden, and followed by his daughter, and one or two maidens, each bearing an umbrella.
'Come into the house—come in, I say. It is a summer-storm, and will flood the place for an hour or two, till the river carries it away. Here, here.'
And we followed him back into his own house. We went into the kitchen first. Such an array of bright copper and tin vessels I never saw; and all the wooden things were as thoroughly scoured. The red tile floor was spotless when we went in, but in two minutes it was all over slop and dirt with the tread of many feet; for the kitchen was filled, and still the worthy miller kept bringing in more people under his great crimson umbrella. He even called the dogs in, and made them lie down under the tables.
His daughter said something to him in German, and he shook his head merrily at her. Everybody laughed.
'What did she say?' I asked.
'She told him to bring the ducks in next; but indeed if more people come we shall be suffocated. What with the thundery weather, and the stove, and all these steaming clothes, I really think we must ask leave to pass on. Perhaps we might go in and see Frau Scherer.'
My friend asked the daughter of the
house for permission to go into an inner chamber and see her mother. It was
granted, and we went into a sort of saloon, over-looking the
It was that of a young girl of extreme beauty; evidently of middle rank. There was a sensitive refinement in her face, as if she almost shrank from the gaze which, of necessity, the painter must have fixed upon her. It was not over-well painted, but I felt that it must have been a good likeness, from this strong impress of peculiar character which I have tried to describe. From the dress, I should guess it to have been painted in the latter half of the last century. And I afterwards heard that I was right.
There was a little pause in the conversation.
'Will you ask Frau Scherer who this is?'
My friend repeated my question, and received a long reply in German. Then she turned round and translated it to me.
'It is the likeness of a great-aunt of her husband's.' (My friend was standing by me, and looking at the picture with sympathetic curiosity.) 'See! here is the name on the open page of this Bible, "Anna Scherer, 1778." Frau Scherer says there is a tradition in the family that this pretty girl, with her complexion of lilies and roses, lost her colour so entirely through fright, that she was known by the name of the Grey Woman. She speaks as if this Anna Scherer lived in some state of life-long terror. But she does not know details; refers me to her husband for them. She thinks he has some papers which were written by the original of that picture for her daughter, who died in this very house not long after our friend there was married. We can ask Herr Scherer for the whole story if you like.'
'Oh yes, pray do!' said I. And, as our host came in at this moment to ask how we were faring, and to tell us that he had sent to Heidelberg for carriages to convey us home, seeing no chance of the heavy rain abating, my friend, after thanking him, passed on to my request.
'Ah!' said he, his face changing, 'the aunt Anna had a sad history. It was all owing to one of those hellish Frenchmen; and her daughter suffered for it—the cousin Ursula, as we all called her when I was a child. To be sure, the good cousin Ursula was his child as well. The sins of the fathers are visited on their children. The lady would like to know all about it, would she? Well, there are papers—a kind of apology the aunt Anna wrote for putting an end to her daughter's engagement—or rather facts which she revealed, that prevented cousin Ursula from marrying the man she loved; and so she would never have any other good fellow, else I have heard say my father would have been thankful to have made her his wife.' All this time he was rummaging in the drawer of an old-fashioned bureau, and now he turned round, with a bundle of yellow MSS. in his hand, which he gave to my friend, saying, 'Take it home, take it home, and if you care to make out our crabbed German writing, you may keep it as long as you like, and read it at your leisure. Only I must have it back again when you have done with it, that's all.'
And so we became possessed of the manuscript of the following letter, which it was our employment, during many a long evening that ensuing winter, to translate, and in some parts to abbreviate. The letter began with some reference to the pain which she had already inflicted upon her daughter by some unexplained opposition to a project of marriage; but I doubt if, without the clue with which the good miller had furnished us, we could have made out even this much from the passionate, broken sentences that made us fancy that some scene between the mother and daughter—and possibly a third person—had occurred just before the mother had begun to write.
'Thou dost not love thy child, mother! Thou dost not care if her heart is broken!' Ah, God! and these words of my heart-beloved Ursula ring in my ears as if the sound of them would fill them when I lie a-dying. And her poor tear-stained face comes between me and everything else. Child! hearts do not break; life is very tough as well as very terrible. But I will not decide for thee. I will tell thee all; and thou shalt bear the burden of choice. I may be wrong; I have little wit left, and never had much, I think; but an instinct serves me in place of judgement, and that instinct tells me that thou and thy Henri must never be married. Yet I may be in error. I would fain make my child happy. Lay this paper before the good priest Schriesheim; if, after reading it, thou hast doubts which make thee uncertain. Only I will tell thee all now, on condition that no spoken word ever passes between us on the subject. It would kill me to be questioned. I should have to see all present again.
My father held, as thou knowest, the
mill on the
And at length Fritz gave way, and
believed me to be his sister Anna, even as though I were risen from the dead.
And thou rememberest how he fetched in his wife, and told her that I was not
dead, but was come back to the old home once more, changed as I was. And she
would scarce believe him, and scanned me with a cold, distrustful eye, till at
length—for I knew her of old as Babette Müller—I said that I was
well-to-do, and needed not to seek out friends for what they had to give. And
then she asked—not me, but her husband—why I had kept silent so long,
leading all—father, brother, every one that loved me in my own dear home—to
esteem me dead. And then thine uncle (thou rememberest?) said he cared not to
know more than I cared to tell; that I was his Anna, found again, to be a
blessing to him in his old age, as I had been in his boyhood. I thanked him in
my heart for his trust; for were the need for telling all less than it seems to
me now I could not speak of my past life. But she, who was my sister-in-law
still, held back her welcome, and, for want of that, I did not go to live in
That Babette Müller was, as I may say, the cause of all my life's suffering. She was a baker's daughter in Heidelberg —a great beauty, as people said, and, indeed, as I could see for myself I, too—thou sawest my picture—was reckoned a beauty, and I believe I was so. Babette Müller looked upon me as a rival. She liked to be admired, and had no one much to love her. I had several people to love me—thy grandfather, Fritz, the old servant Kätchen, Karl, the head apprentice at the mill—and I feared admiration and notice, and the being stared at as the 'Schöne Müllerin,' whenever I went to make my purchases in Heidelberg.
Those were happy, peaceful days. I had Kätchen to help me in the housework, and whatever we did pleased my brave old father, who was always gentle and indulgent towards us women, though he was stern enough with the apprentices in the mill. Karl, the oldest of these, was his favourite; and I can see now that my father wished him to marry me, and that Karl himself was desirous to do so. But Karl was rough-spoken, and passionate—not with me, but with the others—and I shrank from him in a way which, I fear, gave him pain. And then came thy uncle Fritz's marriage; and Babette was brought to the mill to be its mistress. Not that I cared much for giving up my post, for, in spite of my father's great kindness, I always feared that I did not manage well for so large a family (with the men, and a girl under Kätchen, we sat down eleven each night to supper). But when Babette began to find fault with Kätchen, I was unhappy at the blame that fell on faithful servants; and by-and-by I began to see that Babette was egging on Karl to make more open love to me, and, as she once said, to get done with it, and take me off to a home of my own. My father was growing old, and did not perceive all my daily discomfort. The more Karl advanced, the more I disliked him. He was good in the main, but I had no notion of being married, and could not bear any one who talked to me about it.
Things were in this way when I had an
invitation to go to
At last I quitted the mill by the
Neckar-side. It was a long day's journey, and Fritz went with me to
The life in
One night I was sitting next to Sophie, and longing for the time when we might have supper and go home, so as to be able to speak together, a thing forbidden by Madame Rupprecht's rules of etiquette, which strictly prohibited any but the most necessary conversation passing between members of the same family when in society. I was sitting, I say, scarcely keeping back my inclination to yawn, when two gentlemen came in, one of whom was evidently a stranger to the whole party, from the formal manner in which the host led him up, and presented him to the hostess. I thought I had never seen any one so handsome or so elegant. His hair was powdered, of course, but one could see from his complexion that it was fair in its natural state. His features were as delicate as a girl's, and set off by two little 'mouches,' as we called patches in those days, one at the left corner of his mouth, the other prolonging, as it were, the right eye. His dress was blue and silver. I was so lost in admiration of this beautiful young man, that I was as much surprised as if the angel Gabriel had spoken to me, when the lady of the house brought him forward to present him to me. She called him Monsieur de la Tourelle, and he began to speak to me in French; but though I understood him perfectly, I dared not trust myself to reply to him in that language. Then he tried German, speaking it with a kind of soft lisp that I thought charming. But, before the end of the evening, I became a little tired of the affected softness and effeminacy of his manners, and the exaggerated compliments he paid me, which had the effect of making all the company turn round and look at me. Madame Rupprecht was, however, pleased with the precise thing that displeased me. She liked either Sophie or me to create a sensation; of course she would have preferred that it should have been her daughter, but her daughter's friend was next best. As we went away, I heard Madame Rupprecht and Monsieur de la Tourelle reciprocating civil speeches with might and main, from which I found out that the French gentleman was coming to call on us the next day. I do not know whether I was more glad or frightened, for I had been kept upon stilts of good manners all the evening. But still I was flattered when Madame Rupprecht spoke as if she had invited him, because he had shown pleasure in my society, and even more gratified by Sophie's ungrudging delight at the evident interest I had excited in so fine and agreeable a gentleman. Yet, with all this, they had hard work to keep me from running out of the salon the next day, when we heard his voice inquiring at the gate on the stairs for Madame Rupprecht. They had made me put on my Sunday gown, and they themselves were dressed as for a reception.
John Barrymore as Beau Brummel as Monsieur de la Tourelle
When he was gone away, Madame
Rupprecht congratulated me on the conquest I had made; for, indeed, he had
scarcely spoken to anyone else, beyond what mere civility required, and had
almost invited himself to come in the evening to bring some new song, which was
all the fashion in
There was some difficulty, which I afterwards learnt that my sister-in-law had obviated, about my betrothal taking place from home. My father, and Fritz especially, were for having me return to the mill, and there be betrothed, and from thence be married. But the Rupprechts and Monsieur de la Tourelle were equally urgent on the other side; and Babette was unwilling to have the trouble of the commotion at the mill; and also, I think, a little disliked the idea of the contrast of my grander marriage with her own.
So my father and Fritz came over to
the betrothal. They were to stay at an inn in
'Dost thou know any fault or crime in this man that should prevent God's blessing from resting on thy marriage with him? Dost thou feel aversion or repugnance to him in any way?'
And to all this what could I say? I could only stammer out that I did not think I loved him enough; and my poor old father saw in this reluctance only the fancy of a silly girl who did not know her own mind, but who had now gone too far to recede.
So we were married, in the Court chapel, a privilege which Madame Rupprecht had used no end of efforts to obtain for us, and which she must have thought was to secure us all possible happiness, both at the time and in recollection afterwards.
We were married; and after two days
spent in festivity at
It took us two days to reach his château in the Vosges, for the roads were bad and the way difficult to ascertain. Nothing could be more devoted than he was all the time of the journey. It seemed as if he were trying in every way to make up for the separation which every hour made me feel the more complete between my present and my former life. I seemed as if I were only now wakening up to a full sense of what marriage was, and I dare say I was not a cheerful companion on the tedious journey. At length, jealousy of my regret for my father and brother got the better of M. de la Tourelle, and he became so much displeased with me that I thought my heart would break with the sense of desolation. So it was in no cheerful frame of mind that we approached Les Rochers, and I thought that perhaps it was because I was so unhappy that the place looked so dreary. On one side, the château looked like a raw new building, hastily run up for some immediate purpose, without any growth of trees or underwood near it, only the remains of the stone used for building, not yet cleared away from the immediate neighbourhood, although weeds and lichens had been suffered to grow near and over the heaps of rubbish; on the other, were the great rocks from which the place took its name, and rising close against them, as if almost a natural formation, was the old castle, whose building dated many centuries back.
Castle in the Vosges Mountains
It was not large nor grand, but it
was strong and picturesque, and I used to wish that we lived in it rather than
in the smart, half-furnished apartment in the new edifice, which had been
hastily got ready for my reception. Incongruous as the two parts were, they were
joined into a whole by means of intricate passages and unexpected doors, the
exact positions of which I never fully understood. M. de la Tourelle led me to a
suite of rooms set apart for me, and formally installed me in them, as in a
domain of which I was sovereign. He apologised for the hasty preparation which
was all he had been able to make for me, but promised, before I asked, or even
thought of complaining, that they should be made as luxurious as heart could
wish before many weeks had elapsed. But when, in the gloom of an autumnal
evening, I caught my own face and figure reflected in all the mirrors, which
showed only a mysterious background in the dim light of the many candles which
failed to illuminate the great proportions of the half-furnished salon, I clung
to M. de la Tourelle, and begged to be taken to the rooms he had occupied before
his marriage, he seemed angry with me, although he affected to laugh, and so
decidedly put aside the notion of my having any other rooms but these, that I
trembled in silence at the fantastic figures and shapes which my
This passage was closed by heavy doors and portières...
The principal male servant belonged
to this latter class. I was very much afraid of him, he had such an air of
suspicious surliness about him in all he did for me; and yet M. de la Tourelle
spoke of him as most valuable and faithful. Indeed, it sometimes struck me that
Lefebvre ruled his master in some things; and this I could not make out. For,
while M. de la Tourelle behaved towards me as if I were some precious toy or
idol, to be cherished, and fostered, and petted, and indulged, I soon found out
how little I, or, apparently, any one else, could bend the terrible will of the
man who had on first acquaintance appeared to me too effeminate and languid to
exert his will in the slightest particular. I had learnt to know his face better
now; and to see that some vehement depth of feeling, the cause of which I could
not fathom, made his grey eye glitter with pale light, and his lips contract,
and his delicate cheek whiten on certain occasions. But all had been so open and
above board at home, that I had no experience to help me to unravel any
mysteries among those who lived under the same roof. I understood that I had
made what Madame Rupprecht and her set would have called a great marriage,
because I lived in château with many servants, bound ostensibly to obey me as a
mistress. I understood that M. de la Tourelle was fond enough of me in his
way—proud of my beauty, I dare say (for he often enough spoke about it to
me)—but he was also jealous, and suspicious, and uninfluenced by my wishes,
unless they tallied with his own. I felt at this time as if I could have been
fond of him too, if he would have let me; but I was timid from my childhood, and
before long my dread of his displeasure (coming down like thunder into the midst
of his love, for such slight causes as a hesitation in reply, a wrong word, or a
sigh for my father), conquered my humorous inclination to love one who was so
handsome, so accomplished, so indulgent and devoted. But if I could not please
him when indeed I loved him, you may
I have almost forgotten to say that, in the early days of my life at Les Rochers, M. de la Tourelle, in contemptuous indulgent pity at my weakness in disliking the dreary grandeur of the salon, wrote up to the milliner in Paris from whom my corbeille de mariage4 had come, to desire her to look out for me a maid of middle age, experienced in the toilette, and with so much refinement that she might on occasion serve as companion to me.
End of Portion I
1. Heidelberg is a city in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Heidelberg lies on Neckar River at the point where it leaves its narrow, steep valley in the Odenwald to flow into the Rhine valley where, 12 miles northwest of Heidelberg, it joins the Rhine at Mannheim.
2. The Palatinate was the land of the Count Palatine, a prince of the Holy Roman Empire. Geographically, the Palatinate was divided between two small territorial clusters: the Rhenish, or Lower Palatinate, and the Upper Palatinate. The Rhenish Palatinate included lands on both sides of the Middle Rhine River between its Main and Neckar tributaries. Its capital until the 18th century was Heidelberg. The Upper Palatinate was located in northern Bavaria, on both sides of the Naab River as it flows south toward the Danube and extended eastward to the Bohemian Forest. The boundaries of the Palatinate varied with the political and dynastic fortunes of the Counts Palatine.
After the defeat of Napoleon (1814-15), the Congress of Vienna gave the east-bank lands of the Rhine valley to Bavaria. These lands, together with some surrounding territories, again took the name of Palatinate in 1838. Extracted from OliveTreeGeneology.
3. The Vosges Mountains is range in central Europe that stretches along the west side of the Rhine valley. Since 1871 the southern portion, from the Ballon d'Alsace to Mont Donon, has been the frontier between France and Germany.
4. Wedding presents
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