Gotthold was in the library as usual, and laid down his pen, a little angrily, on Otto's entrance. `Well,' he said, `here you are.'
`Well,' returned Otto, `we made a revolution, I believe.'
`It is what I fear,' returned the Doctor.
`How?' said Otto. `Fear? Fear is the burnt child. I have learned my strength and the weakness of the others; and I now mean to govern.'
Gotthold said nothing, but he looked down and smoothed his chin.
`You disapprove?' cried Otto. `You are a weather-cock.'
`On the contrary,' replied the Doctor. `My observation has confirmed my fears. It will not do, Otto, not do.'
`What will not do?' demanded the Prince, with a sickening stab of pain.
`None of it,' answered Gotthold. `You are unfitted for a life of action; you lack the stamina, the habit, the restraint, the patience. Your wife is greatly better, vastly better; and though she is in bad hands, displays a very different aptitude. She is a woman of affairs; you are -- dear boy, you are yourself. I bid you back to your amusements; like a smiling dominie, I give you holidays for life. Yes,' he continued, `there is a day appointed for all when they shall turn again upon their own philosophy. I had grown to disbelieve impartially in all; and if in the atlas of the sciences there were two charts I disbelieved in more than all the rest, they were politics and morals. I had a sneaking kindness for your vices; as they were negative, they flattered my philosophy; and I called them almost virtues. Well, Otto, I was wrong; I have forsworn my sceptical philosophy; and I perceive your faults to be unpardonable. You are unfit to be a Prince, unfit to be a husband. And I give you my word, I would rather see a man capably doing evil than blundering about good.'
Otto was still silent, in extreme dudgeon.
Presently the Doctor resumed: `I will take the smaller matter first: your conduct to your wife. You went, I hear, and had an explanation. That may have been right or wrong; I know not; at least, you had stirred her temper. At the council she insults you; well, you insult her back -- a man to a woman, a husband to his wife, in public! Next upon the back of this, you propose -- the story runs like wildfire -- to recall the power of signature. Can she ever forgive that? a woman -- a young woman -- ambitious, conscious of talents beyond yours? Never, Otto. And to sum all, at such a crisis in your married life, you get into a window corner with that ogling dame von Rosen. I do not dream that there was any harm; but I do say it was an idle disrespect to your wife. Why, man, the woman is not decent.'
`Gotthold,' said Otto, `I will hear no evil of the Countess.'
`You will certainly hear no good of her,' returned Gotthold; `and if you wish your wife to be the pink of nicety, you should clear your court of demi-reputations.'
`The commonplace injustice of a by-word,' Otto cried. `The partiality of sex. She is a demirep; what then is Gondremark? Were she a man -- `
`It would be all one,' retorted Gotthold roughly. `When I see a man, come to years of wisdom, who speaks in double-meanings and is the braggart of his vices, I spit on the other side. "You, my friend," say I, "are not even a gentleman." Well, she's not even a lady.'
`She is the best friend I have, and I choose that she shall be respected,' Otto said.
`If she is your friend, so much the worse,' replied the Doctor. `It will not stop there.'
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|