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some private affairs required his attendance for a few days at the town of But, say what he would, he could not prevail on her to desist from accompanying him.
On the journey his chief anxiety was lest the clergyman, who was already advanced in years at the memorable scene of the sand-hill, might now be dead. But at the very entrance of the town he saw him walking in the street, and immediately felt himself more composed in mind than he had done for years. The venerable appearance of the old man confirmed him still more in his resolution of making a full disclosure to him of his whole past life: one only transaction, the murder of his first wife, he thought himself justified in concealing; since, with all his penitence for it, that act was now beyond the possibility of reparation.
For a long time the pious clergyman refused all belief to Schroll's narrative; but being at length convinced that he had a wounded spirit to deal with, and not a disordered intellect, he exerted himself to present all those views of religious consolation which his philanthropic character and his long experience suggested to him as likely to be effectual. Eight days' conversation with the clergyman restored Schroll to the hopes of a less miserable future. But the good man admonished him at parting to put away from himself whatsoever could in any way tend to support his unhallowed connection.
In this direction Schroll was aware that the dice were included: and he resolved firmly that his first measure on returning home should be to bury in an inaccessible place these accursed implements, that could not but bring mischief to every possessor. On entering the inn, he was met by his wife, who was in the highest spirits, and laughing profusely. He inquired the cause. · No,” said she: “you refused to communicate your motive for coming hither, and the nature of your business for the last week: I, too,
shall have my mysteries. As to your leaving me in solitude at an inn, that is a sort of courtesy which marriage naturally brings with it; but that you should have travelled hither for no other purpose than that of trifling away your time in the company of an old tedious parson, that (you will allow me to say) is a caprice which seems scarcely worth the money it will cost.”
“ Who, then, has told you that I have passed my time with an old parson?” said the astonished Schroll.
“ Who told me? Why, just let me know what your business was with the parson, and I'll let you know in turn who it was that told me. So much I will assure you, however, now,
that the cavalier, who was my informant, is a thousand times handsomer, and a more interesting companion, than an old dotard who is standing at the edge of the grave.”
All the efforts of Madame von Schrollshausen to irritate the curiosity of her husband proved ineffectual to draw from him his secret. The next day, on their return homewards, she repeated her attempts. But he parried them all with firmness. A more severe trial to his firmness was prepared for him in the heavy bills which his wife presented to him on his reaching home. Her expenses in clothes and in jewels had been so profuse, that no expedient remained to Schroll but that of selling without delay the landed estate he had so lately purchased. A declaration to this effect was very ill received by his wife. “ Sell the estate?” said she; “what, sell the sole resource I shall have to rely on when you are dead? And for what reason, I should be glad to know ; when a very little of the customary luck of your dice will enable you to pay off these trifles ? And whether the bills be payed to-day or to-morrow cannot be of any very great importance.” Upon this, Schroll declared with firmness that he never
6 I am
ment to play again. “Not play again !” exclaimed his wife, “pooh! pooh! you make me blush for you! So, then, I suppose it's all true, as was said, that scruples of conscience drove you to the old rusty parson; and that he enjoined as a penance that you should abstain from gaming? I was told as much: but I refused to believe it; for in your circumstances the thing seemed too senseless and irrational."
My dear girl,” said Schroll, “ consider “ Consider ! what's the use of considering? what is there to consider about?” interrupted Madame von Schrollshausen : and, recollecting the gay cavalier whom she had met at the inn, she now, for the first time, proposed a separation herself. “ Very well,” said her husband, content.” “So am I,” said his father-in-law, who joined them at that moment. “ But take notice that first of all I must have paid over to me an adequate sum of money
for the creditable support of my daughter: else — ”
Here he took Schroll aside, and the old threat of revealing the murder so utterly disheartened him, that at length in despair he consented to his terms.
Once more, therefore, the dice were to be tried; but only for the purpose of accomplishing the separation : that over, Schroll resolved to seek a livelihood in any other way, even if it were as a day-laborer. The stipulated sum was at length all collected within a few hundred dollars ; and Schroll was already looking out for some old disused well into which he might throw the dice, and then have it filled up; for even a river seemed to him a hiding-place not sufficiently secure for such instruments of misery.
Remarkable it was on the very night when the last arrears were to be obtained of his father-in-law's demand a night which Schroll had anticipated with so much bitter anxiety - that he became unusually gloomy and dejected.
He was particularly disturbed by the countenance of a stranger, who for several days running had lost considerable sums.
The man called himself Stutz; but he bad a most striking resemblance to his old comrade Weber, who had been shot at the sand-hill; and differed indeed in nothing but in the advantage of blooming youth. Scarce had he leisure to recover from the shock which this spectacle occasioned, when a second occurred. About midnight another man, whom nobody knew, came up to the gaming-table, and interrupted the play by recounting an event which he represented as having just happened. A certain man, he said, had made a covenant with some person or other that they call the Evil One, or what is it you call him? — and by means of this covenant he had obtained a steady run of good luck at play. “Well, sir," he went on,
and would you believe it, the other day he began to repent of this covenant; my gentleman wanted to rat, he wanted to rat, sir. Only, first of all, he resolved privately to make up a certain sum of money. Ah, the poor idiot! he little knew whom he had to deal with : the Evil One, as they choose to call him, was not a man to let himself be swindled in that manner. No, no, my good friend. I saw – I mean, the Evil One saw — going on betimes; and he secured the swindler just as he fancied himself on the point of pocketing the last arrears of the sum wanted.”
The company began to laugh so loudly at this pleasant fiction, as they conceived it, that Madame von Schrollshausen was attracted from the adjoining room. The story was repeated to her; and she was the more delighted with it, because in the relater she recognized the gay cavalier whom she had met at the inn. Everybody laughed again, except two persons,
Stutz and Schroll. The first had again lost all the money in his purse; and the second was
· what was
so confounded by the story, that he could not forbear staring with fixed eyes on the stranger, who stood over against him. His consternation increased when he perceived that the stranger's countenance seemed to alter at every moment; and that nothing remained unchanged in it, except the cold expression of inhuman scorn with which he perseveringly regarded himself.
At length he could endure this no longer: and he remarked, therefore, upon Stutz again losing a bet, that it was now late; that Mr. Stutz was too much in a run of bad luck; and that on these accounts he would defer the further pursuit of their play until another day. And thereupon he put the dice into his pocket.
“Stop!” said the strange cavalier; and the voice froze Schroll with horror; for he knew too well to whom that dreadful tone and those fiery eyes belonged.
“Stop!” he said again; "produce your dice!" And tremblingly Schroll threw them upon the table.
“Ah! I thought as much,” said the stranger; “ they are loaded dice ! ” So saying, he called for a hammer, and struck one of them in two. “ See !” said he to Stutz, holding out to him the broken dice, which in fact seemed loaded with lead. “Stop! vile impostor !” exclaimed the young man, as Schroll was preparing to quit the room in the greatest confusion; and he threw the dice at him, one of which lodged in his right eye. The tumult increased; the police came in ; and Stutz was apprehended, as Schroll's wound assumed a very dangerous appearance.
Next day Schroll was in a violent fever. He asked repeatedly for Stutz. But Stutz had been committed to close confinement; it having been found that he had travelled with false passes.
He now confessed that he was one of the sons of the mutineer Weber ; that his sickly mother had died soon after his father's execution ; and that him