SHE WAS GOOD FOR NOTHING 491
and how I wrestled ! The next Sunday I went to the Lord's house, to pray for strength and guidance. It seemed like a providence, that as I stepped out of church Erich came towards me. And now there was no longer a doubt in my mind. We were suited to each other in rank and in means, and he was even then a thriving man. Therefore I went up to him, took his hand, and said, " Are you still of the same mind towards me ? " "Yes, ever and always," he replied. " Will you marry a girl who honours and respects, but who does not love you—though that may come later ? ' I asked him. " Yes, it will come ! " he answered. And upon this we joined hands. I went home to my mistress. I wore the gold ring that her son had given me at my heart. I could not put it on my finger in the daytime, but only in the evening when I went to bed. I kissed the ring again and again, till my lips almost bled, and then I gave it to my mistress, and told her the banns were to be put up next week for me and the glove-maker. Then my mistress put her arms round me and kissed me. She did not say that I was good for nothing ; but perhaps I was better then than I am now, for the misfortunes of life had not yet found me out. In a few weeks we were married ; and for the first year the world went well with us : we had a journeyman and an apprentice, and you, Martha, lived with us as our servant.'
' Oh, you were a dear, good mistress,' cried Martha. ' Never shall I forget how kind you and your husband were ! '
' Yes, those were our good years, when you were with us. We had not any children yet. The student I never saw again.—Ah, yes, I saw him, but he did not see me. He was here at his mother's funeral. I saw him stand by the grave. He was pale as death, and very downcast, but that was for his mother ; afterwards, when his father died, he was away in a foreign land, and did not come back here. I know that he never married; I believe he became a lawyer. He had forgotten me, and even if he had seen me again, he would not have known me, I look so ugly. And that is very fortunate.'
And then she spoke of her days of trial, and told how misfortune had come as it were swooping down upon them.