Thy Neighbour’s Wife
The young Baron Holstein, son of a dissolute bankrupt, strives to restore his family’s honour. But will he be able to avoid the distractions of both his enemy’s daughter and his young stepmother?
Up above, the County Commissioner sat before the massive desk in his study, and had his head propped heavily in his hand. Next to him, huddled close to his gnarled figure, a delicate wraith of a girl reclined, through whose light brown hair the burning lamp occasionally shone shimmeringly.
Her delicate little hands caressed coaxingly the white head of the seated man, and occasionally she bent down as if she wanted to whisper something to him.
“So you don’t want to tell me, daddy, what sort of man he is?” Sylvia whispered now quite softly, and placed her youthful head so delicately on that of her father that the latter was awoken from his brooding. He blearily brushed his forehead, and placed his heavy hand on hers. “No, my child,” he answered curtly, but with tenderness ringing through, “and you should not ask me about it anymore either. For everything connected with the man is not good for you and must be kept distant from you. And now go — the gentlemen must be here soon.”
The daughter then slid down from her seat, and straightened up her slender, noble figure to its full height. A cloud flew over her brow, and then she curtly wished her father good night. With quick steps, she left the room. The County Commissioner watched her until she disappeared behind the portière of the vestibule. Then he took a photograph from the desk, contemplated the portrait, and whispered, “Everything for her, everything for my child.”
He placed the picture in its place, and that dry trait, which appeared hard and dark on him, encamped itself around his mouth again.
Sylvia had scurried across the illuminated reception and now stood with pounding heart by the flight which lead up to her rooms. Voices rang up from below. That must be them. The young woman snatched up her dress briskly, and was just then about to fly up the short steps when a powerful male voice was heard below, and in the same moment, an inexplicable desire crept up on her to examine just once face to face that man whom her father hated like a wicked and dangerous enemy, and yet who had been drawn to help him. Already the heads of the men striding upward were emerging by the lower landing, when a figure scurried past them; the friends indistinctly saw golden brown hair illuminated, and to them it seemed as if a beautiful girl’s head had nodded in flight, and a delicate voice had whispered a soft greeting.
“Who was that?” the doctor asked taken aback.
The old servant shook his head disapprovingly.
“Our Miss”, he growled then in answer, and threw a warning look at the two of them. “Here is the entrance, on the right.”
The portière was drawn back by the incensed servant and the two friends entered. The first impression which the doctor received was a pleasant one. The dully lit, carpeted room, the massive bookcases, the antique clock in the corner, and the massive desk in the middle made him feel cosy. But then he directed his entire attention to the man who stood somewhat stooped by the desk and was looking fixedly and penetratingly at the captain.
For a moment, it remained still; each of the men sought to read the countenance of the other; both knew that they were enemies.