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Title: After Many Years Author: "Dunbar" * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1900381h.html Language: English Date first posted: March 2019 Most recent update: March 2019 This eBook was produced by: Maurie Mulcahy Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.
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On the slopes of Middle Ridge, stretching away from the heights of Picnic Point on the Main Range above Toowoomba, the German vineyards lay facing the western sunset. Beyond Gabbinbar, on the crest of the Range, stood the homestead of Franz Meisenhelter.
From its verandas, one could look across the distant gulf of blue in which lay the dense scrubs through which the old Toll Bar Road was cut, and see away in the hazy blue of distance the peaks of the MacPherson Range on the northern boundary of New South Wales. Immediately below towered Table Top, an extinct volcano, scrub-clothed from its base to its summit. Picnic Point and Tic Hill stood out prominently away to the left; while below in a valley like a huge basin, nestled the town of Towoomba, the capital city of the Darling Downs, whose broad tree-decked streets were paved with the blue metal carried from the counter slope of the Great Main Range.
The rich volcanic soil in the western slope of the range attracted many orchardists and farmers, and the wines from the vineyards of the German settlers were famous. Middle Ridge was practically a German colony. It was here that the Meisenhelters, the Von Sendens, the Hartmanns, the Stenners, the Becks, the Kleins, the Rosselers, and many others, made their homes. Their sons and their daughters intermarried and took up selections at Geham, Meringandan, Highfield, and Ravensbourne, and were numbered among Queensland's hardest working, and most thrifty settlers.
The Divine injunction to be fruitful and multiply, was effectively obeyed by German settlers; and as the children grew up, they assisted their parents in the working of their farms, and peace, plenty, and prosperity reigned.
Then it came to pass that young Ludwig Lappe, when he had reached man's estate, looked upon Louisa Meisenhelter, the youngest daughter of old Franz Meisenhelter, and saw that she was fair, as indeed she was. Junoesque of stature, she had the complexion of a rosy-cheeked apple; and when she smiled, which she often did, for she was a merry soul, her perfect teeth added charm to a full, generous, and voluptuous mouth. Her hair, the colour of ripe flax, hung down her back to below her waist in two large plaits, like, twisted rope. She was an acknowledged beauty of Middle Ridge, and many were the young German swains who courted her; but Ludwig Lappe was first favourite, though she had an ardent admirer in Jacob Von Senden. Both were young men of superb physique. Lappe, who was 6 feet 4 in height, and proportioned like a gladiator, was the champion straight furrow plougher of the district.
Browned and developed by the arduous toil of a farmer, his dark clean-shaven face bore the lines of an ungovernable temper. He was a dangerous man to cross or to interfere with. But there was no mistaking his love for Louisa Meisenhelter and old Franz Meisenhelter favoured his fondness for his youngest daughter, whilst his frau looked more kindly on Von Senden.
The inborn devilry of Louisa Meisenhelter thought it good fun sometimes to arouse Lappe's jealousy by flirting with Von Senden. In indulging in this dangerous pastime, she was playing with a smouldering volcano.
Von Senden was a general favourite. He, too, though not so tall as Lappe, was a magnificent specimen of young manhood. Though he was not more than five feet ten in height, he weighed about 14 st. and possessed the strength of a young bull. He was as good tempered and easy going as Lappe was dour and industrious, and many were the lusty German maidens who looked upon him with more than friendly eyes.
But in him the contrariness of human nature manifested itself. There was only one girl he wanted, and she was Louisa Meisenhelter. On her eighteenth birthday he presented her with a necklet of olivines, which he had, after months of careful searching, found in the blue metal quarries, and which he had had cut and polished by a local lapidary. The pretty olive-green stones pleased Louisa, and the necklet looked very becoming on her fair, full neck. But when Ludwig learnt whence they came, there was hell to pay. Their wedding day had been decided upon, and when Louisa, pleaded with him to be permitted to retain the gift, he refused in such a decided manner that she was obliged for peace sake to give the necklet back to Von Senden.
"You big jealous fool," she flashed out at him. "Don't I hav' to marry you soon. Ain't I yours already?"
"No matter. Von Senden is always loafing round here ven he's not wanted, and your mother encourages him. Let him loog out, that's all."
"I don't love him, Ludwig. I joost tink he's kind and he only vants to be nice to me."
"I don't vant him to be nice to you, Louisa. I wants you all mineself, Mine Gott! I love you, Louisa, more than anything. Let Jacob give his presents to Minna Hartmann. She vants him. Didn't I give you a gold watch already?"
So the incident ended, but it was an indication as to how matters stood between Ludwig and Louisa and Jacob and Louisa. The sowing of the seeds of jealousy is calculated to ripen into a deadly harvest.
It was a great wedding, for the bride and bridegroom were children of well known German colonists, and German kinship in this Australian land remote from the Fatherland was strong and affectionate.
The friends of the main contracting parties came in their buggies and sulkies and V shaped German waggons from Geham and Plainby, Highfields and Meringandan, from Gowrie Little Plain and Glencoe, to make merry at the wedding feast, high up on Middle Ridge overlooking the vast spaces below, where floating clouds made little isles of shadow in a sea of light, and where, away in the distance, lay Murphy's Creek and Helidon, Gatton, and Laidley.
The wine from the vineyards of Roseller's and Hartmann's was drunk in gallons, and the Meisenhelter wedding is remembered up on Middle Ridge to the present day; and, because it was the beginning of a tragedy and the birth of a living death, it will never be forgotten.
Jacob Von Senden was there with his laughing blue eyes and his devil may care abandon; but beneath his gaiety, lay a feeling of depression that no wine could smother or wash away. He loved Louisa more devotedly than any one knew. Alone, he would take from his pocket the returned necklet of olivines, gaze at it wistfully as it lay in his great strong hand, smile bitterly, and return it to his pocket.
"So, so," he would mutter. "We shall see."
At the wedding party he showed no ill will. He was the life of the entertainment. He romped and rollicked with the merriest of them, and three times he danced with the bride. This in itself was of no very great moment had it not been generally known that she, the fairest flower of them all, had been plucked by Ludwig Lappe before the outstretched hand of Jacob Von Senden, in its leisurely carelessness, had reached her; and had it not happened that the passions of these primitive, full-blooded men, living close to the soil, had been inflamed by indulgence in over much German wine.
The bridegroom, in his half-drunken state, was fiercely quarrelsome, and his jealousy and temper were further increased by the gibes and wings of his acquaintances.
"If dot Yacob don't quit dancin' mit my Louisa, I'll show 'im." Such was his frame of mind. The marriage feast was over and the German band played another waltz. Ludwig Lappe with others of the party was sitting on a wooden form on a wide veranda facing the east—two thousand feet above the valley below. The night breezes came over the intervening spaces from the sea a hundred miles away, and fanned the heated faces of the revellers. But the glory of the night, and the "far-gleaming star-dust" overhead, held no entrancement for these German tillers of the soil. They were materialists all, and their finer feelings, it they had any, were dulled by semi-intoxication.
Inside, the floor was covered with dancers, and Von Senden, seeing that Lappe had not come to claim from his bride this last dance, in his careless disregard for consequences, asked her for the pleasure. She, in the abandon of the night's dissipation, consented. Her husband was not in the room to claim her. Therefore, why not? But the incident was not permitted to pass unheeded. Ferdinand Klein, spoiling for a sensation, went to look for Lappe. Finding him he said:—
"Here, get up, you. Von Senden's dancin' again mit your Louisa."
That was enough and more than enough. Lappe, pulling himself together, went inside. As he stood unsteadily, he saw Von Senden and his Louisa coming towards him in the whirling, madness of this last German waltz. Lurching forward, Lappe tripped the dancers and they fell heavily. As Von Senden got up to assist his partner. Lappe struck him a heavy blow. Then the fight commenced, but it was soon stopped by the German pastor.
The first act in the realistic drama of these tillers of the soil was over; but the fires of passion were set alight and who could then foretell when they would be quenched, or when the last act in the drama of their lives would be played.
The morning mists hung heavily over the Main Range when Ludwig Lappe and his bride left the Meisenhelter home. Old boots and showers of rice were pelted at them as they drove off in a buckboard buggy on their honeymoon—a honeymoon to be spent on the farm of Lappe's father at Geham. The mists cleared as they passed Harlaxton, and on the heights of Stony Pinch they stopped and looked back. Toowoomba lay away to the south, dimly seen in the distance, and the sun on their right as they faced the north, peeped over a gold tipped cloud, and slowly rose into the sky of day. Lappe curved his left arm around his young wife's waist, and kissed her. "Mine now, Louisa, mine altogether."
"Yes, yours Ludwig, yours already and for ever," and Louisa nestled closer to her Herculean lover and husband. Then they drove on. After a while, she said:—
"You vos so foolish, Ludwig, to be jealous of Jacob. You made such a scene."
"No matter, Louisa. I know he loves you, and I just got mad to see you in his arms. Don't I love you, already? What for did he make me so foolish looking"
"Oh vell, forget it, Ludwig. It's you and me will have to fight now—fight together the battle of life. No one else matters, but you and me, ein Jacob don't count no more," and she caught hold of him lovingly with her two young strong arms, saying with the fondness of a young bride, "My great big Ludwig, don't be jealous of your Louisa."
"I von't be jealous of you, Louisa, or of Jacob, never no more, so help me."
Secure in his possession of his young, beautiful wife, Ludwig Lappe felt that there was now no further cause for jealousy, and his heart was light as he drove along the Highfield Road towards Geham, where he and his wife had arranged to live with, and work for, his father until such time as the Lands Department was ready to throw open for selection a portion of the Gowrie scrub lands under the provisions of the Land Act of 1875.
Twelve months after their marriage the ballotting for these lands took place, and Ludwig Lappe was fortunate in securing a homestead selection of 120 acres of the rich scrub blocks.
When paying his deposit to the land agent at Toowoomba he learnt that Jacob von Senden had secured a similar homestead selection next to his. This incident revived his old jealousy. Arriving home in great anger he said to his wife in broken English, which he usually spoke when very angry.
"Gott! Dot feller von Senden, he's been an' takin' the selegshun next t'our'n," and he spat his hate of that fact on the kitchen floor.
"Oh well, you big silly, and what if he has?" replied Louisa indifferently.
"Vell! Vell! Vy do you ask? Don't I hate him alreaty? Isn't Queensland big enough that he must take up land next our'n?"
"Sure, it's big enough, Ludwig. But all the Germans like being together. Ain't we all like one big family?"
"Bah! One family, is it? That's ow you talk. Vell, he ain't got no family, anyhow. He ain't married auretty. Vy don't he get married? No. He loves you still. Don't I know."
"Oh, you big silly baby, Ludwig. Ain't we married anyhow? Vot does it matter then vere he lives?"
"Madders! Poof! It madders a whole lot. But let 'im loog out. If he comes fooling arount here, I'll show him."
It took a week of hard toll on the selection, in clearing and burning off and planting, to cool down Lappe's insensate anger. In the meantime, he had not come across Von Senden.
The Lappes had been on their selection twelve months when Ludwig met with an unfortunate accident. In felling some scrub, a tree trunk rolled on him and broke his left leg. He was taken to the hospital at Toowoomba, where the compound fracture was set, and his leg placed in plaster of Paris. The accident at this particular time was unfortunate. Though the corn and potatoes had been planted, the wallaby proof fence around the cultivation had not been completed. The scrub palings had been split, and the posts rammed into position, but the double wires at the top had not been run through the posts, or the palings twisted into position. Louisa had tried to finish the fencing herself, but the care of her two infant children—one a three months old baby—sorely hampered her in the farm work.
The second Saturday after the accident, she went to the hospital to see her husband. Though the fractured bone had been well set, and time was all that was necessary to ensure complete recovery, Louisa found her husband moody and morose. He chafed at the enforced idleness, as he was well aware that there was so much work to be done on the farm. Louisa mentioned that the young corn was coming up, but that it would probably be all eaten by the wallabies and bandicoots if the palings were not twisted through the wires and the cultivation made marsupial-proof. The question of hired labour was discussed; but as their savings had been eaten up in the building and furnishing of their homestead, there was no money to spare to pay the wages of hired men.
Louisa left the hospital about four o'clock in the afternoon, and had intended to return by train as far as Meringandan; but, meeting Von Senden in Russell Street as she was going to the station, he offered her a ride home in his waggonette. Being burdened with sundry parcels and the care of her two young children, she was only too pleased to accept his offer.
It was late when she arrived home; but during the ride out from town, she told Von Senden of her troubles and of her husband's unfortunate accident. The great surging pity of a strong man for a woman in distress, manifested itself, and the manifestation was all the more sincere because of the fact that he still loved this woman whose early beauty as a girl had been enhanced and ripened by motherhood. He longed to crush her in his mighty arms and to devour her with kisses; but knowing Lappe's bitter hatred of him, he decided to play fair and to give no cause for a further fanning into flame of his terrific jealousy.
Though he was a neighbour, he had not gone near the Lappes since their marriage, but had kept strictly away. It was not that he was afraid of the mighty Lappe. He had no desire to make Louisa's lot unbearable by keeping alive the fires of her husband's jealous anger. It was she who would have to bear the brunt of his ungovernable temper. As for himself, he, in his light-hearted way, had no case. He was well able to look after himself. Nevertheless, in the hour of her trouble and comparative helplessness, he had decided to help her, and on the following Monday morning he was at work on Lappe's farm, completing the marsupial-proof fence and helping generally in other directions. After spending ten weeks of enforced idleness at the hospital, Ludwig Lappe returned home with a sound leg and eager to take up again the heavy toil of the farm.
Von Senden never married. He worked on his farm from sunrise to sunset, and his labour was fully requited. The rich scrub soil gave forth its increase, and he became prosperous; but notwithstanding his prosperity he found no real joy in life, as he longed for the unattainable—his neighbour's wife. Though there were several full-bosomed German girls overflowing with life and passion, who would have been happy to give their love to him and to link their lives with his, he passed them all by and made no overtures.
When he had fulfilled the conditions of selection and had made his holding freehold, he asked his German friends and neighbours to join him in celebrating the event. In this he was assisted by his old parents, who came out from Middle Ridge for the purpose.
Though the Lappes were included in the invitations; they remained aloof. Louisa, in the knowledge of what Von Senden had done for her whilst her husband was in the hospital, felt the injustice of his aloofness, but being a prudent woman, who had been taught in the school of experience, she made no comment, but accepted the inevitable.
The fact of the Lappe's remaining away from the free-holding jollification given by Von Senden, became a subject for gossip. It was generally known that Lappe had never forgiven Von Senden for being his wife's early lover; but it was thought that he would have relented and have let bygones be bygones in view of the great assistance that Von Senden had rendered to him and his wife whilst he was in the hospital. This service, however, had only increased his jealousy, for, beneath it, he sensed some ulterior motive, some sinister design.
At times, he was twitted with Von Senden's regard for his wife. This however, was not done with any feeling of spite, but for pure mischief and devilment. Lappe, however, took a serious view of the matter. He had no sense of humour and brooded over every reference made to Von Senden and his wife. He burnt inwardly and volcanic forces were smouldering. When the crisis came, something tragic would happen. The happening was not long delayed. Saturday was market day in Toowoomba, and the farmers, with laden drays and waggons drove in from the country to market the produce of their farms and to purchase supplies.
On a particular Saturday morning, Lappe drove his wife to the station at Meringandan to take the train for town. It was only when he had produce to sell that he loaded up his German waggon and drove to Toowoomba. When he had not produce ready for market, his wife went alone to town to purchase the usual household supplies. On these off days, she travelled alone and by train, leaving the children with her husband at the farm. The distance from Meringandan to Toowoomba was not very far, and most of the farmers and their wives drove to town to do their shopping, returning late in the evening. In the train neighbour often meets neighbour, and the gossip of the district was freely discussed.
It was late when Louisa had completed her business in town, and in hurrying to the station to catch the train for the return journey, she came across Von Senden coming out of the yard of the Governor Blackall Hotel. It was here he stalled his horse when he drove into town.
"Going to the train, Louisa?" he asked.
"Yes," she replied, hurrying past him. "I'm a bit late, so mustn't stop."
Seeing that she was laden with parcels, he offered her a ride home in his waggonette.
"Oh, thank you, no, Jacob. I haf a return ticket. Besides, you vont get home till late. Goodbye," said she and hurried away to the station; but when she got on to the platform the train was gliding away on its outward journey, and she missed it by a few minutes only. She was deeply concerned at the mishap, as there was no other train out that evening. If she did not arrive by train, her husband would be anxious and, probably, angry. She knew his temperament only too well. It was too far to walk, and she decided that she would go up to Middle Range and see if her father would drive her home; or, perhaps, she might come across some farmer from Meringandan who had not yet left town. She was not keen on going home with Von Senden, owing to her husband's persistent dislike of him; but when she got back into Russell Street, she saw Von Senden driving out of the hotel yard on his homeward journey. When he caught sight of her, he immediately stopped.
"Missed the train, Louisa?" he asked.
"Yes, joost by a few minutes," and the tears came to her eyes.
"Well, that's too bad, altogether," he said sympathetically. "But never mind, just jump in. Here, hand me those parcels."
"Oh no, Jacob. "I'm afraid to go home mit you. You know vot Ludwig w'll tink."
"Damn Ludwig, the jealous fool. Come and get in. Don't be silly. I'll explain. When he learns that you missed the train, he will understand."
"If he's not too mad to listen to reason, Jacob. You know vot his temper is like vare you and mee is concerned."
"He'll get over it, Louisa. Jump up."
Persuaded, she handed her parcels to Von Senden, who stowed them safely in the waggonette, and then she stepped up beside him, but not without serious misgivings.
That same evening Ludwig Lappe drove to the station at Meringandan to meet his wife, but when the train arrived, she was not on it. Returning passengers informed him that they had not seen her on the Toowoomba platform, and they feared that she had been left behind. One indiscreet person mentioned that she had seen her talking to Mr. Von Senden, and laughingly remarked that most likely she would come home with him as he had his waggonette with him. This casual remark, made in a laughingly, insignificant way, had the effect of spark on powder. There was an explosion.
Lappe cursed heaven, earth, Von Senden, his wife—everybody. It was now dark, and Lappe drove furiously along the road towards town with the intention of meeting his wife. For what purpose, he scarcely knew. But it was action he wanted, mad, resolute, determined action. To go home quietly and wait for his wife would be intolerable, and he raved aloud in his jealous madness.
"Vy vos she comin' home mit Von Senden? Others had returned by train, vy didn't she? Vos she feedin' 'im alretty ? Goot! They vos makin' 'im look small. Vos he going to be made look small by everybody? Vos Von Senden goin' to laugh, and sneer at 'im? I'll show 'im!"
And so he raved on. When he came to the scrub road near Glencoe, he met Von Senden, and his wife.
Jumping out of his cart, he fastened his horse to a stump. "Coom out'n that vagon, you, Louisa. Coom out'n you, too, Von Senden. I'll show you," and the big, mad giant, holding his whip in one hand, caught hold of Von Senden's horse with the other.
"Let go that horse, you big, damn fool, and listen. Your wife missed the train and I gave her a lift."
"Yah! Missed der train! Mein Gott! What for? So'n she coot come home mitt you? Coom out'n you, Yacob. I'll show you."
"Oh, don't, Ludwig. It's true vot Jacob says. I did miss der train. I'll come home mit you now, but don'd get mad. Oh! don'd, Ludwig!"
All atremble, she got out of the waggonette, and her husband gave her a violent push which threw her among some wayside prickly pear. This cowardly thrust angered Von Senden, and he, too, saw red.
"Let go that horse! Let go, I say!" he shouted, as he cut at Lappe with his strong green-hide whip. In doing so, he also struck the horse, which plunged, reared, and jumped forward. Lappe, in attempting to get hold of Von Senden, was knocked down by the plunging horse, which became unmanageable and bolted. The wheels of the waggonette went over his head which, in his fall, cracked like an egg as it struck a boulder.
When Von Senden had gained control over his horse, he drove slowly back. Lappe was lying on the ground, unconscious, if not dead. His wife was bending over him, crying.
"Oh, Jacob, I joost tink he's dead. Look at his poor head, all smashed and bleeding."
"My God! Not dead, Louisa. Surely."
He placed his hand over the hurt man's heart, and found that it was beating. "No, he's not dead"; and Von Senden lit a match. By its dim light he saw that Lappe's head was cut open, and that he was badly hurt.
Together they managed to lift him into Lappe's spring cart, and then drove slowly home with their burden of tragedy.
Ludwig Lappe recovered from his accident; but he was admitted to the Hospital for the Insane, at Willowburn, a raving lunatic. Then commenced the years of his living death.
Then commenced, too, the measureless years of a lone woman's struggle for existence. But with that grit and endurance which are so characteristic of German settlers in the Queensland bush, she faced the tragedy of her life.
Notwithstanding adverse seasons, and her uphill fight with pests and cruel circumstance, she completed all the conditions of selection and a deed of grant for her holding was issued, but it was issued in her husband's name, as he was the selector. She had no authority to take it out of the Titles Office, and there it remained. It could only be dealt with by the Curator in Insanity, as that official was now her husband's legal representative. The woman's loneliness was, at times, appalling. Though she had her children to care for and maintain, and though neighbours were kind and sympathetic, she longed for the support, the sympathy, the sense of abiding strength and comfort that only a husband can give.
And so the early years of her young life passed away, and in time, the memory of her husband became dimmer and dimmer with the passing of time. He was away from her and from all help or need of her. He was now but a helpless animal steeped in the brainless sleep of idiocy, spending most of his time in a padded cell in one of the finest and most picturesque mental prisons in Australia—the hospital for the insane at Willowburn.
Of all her neighbours, the kindest and most thoughtful, the most helpful, and the most considerate, was Jacob Von Senden. It was he who made life bearable for her. He helped her in the cultivation of her farm, and she, by way of recompense, performed many a womanly service for him, which added very materially to his comfort.
And so, as was only natural, in the circumstances, and perhaps inevitable, a feeling that was something more than platonic, existed between them. Living near to nature's heart in the great silent spaces of the bush, the instinctive primitive desire to mate became a dominant factor in their lives. By the grim force of events, she was no man's wife in the sense of mateship. Widowed, she could marry again.
Lunacy, then, was no ground for divorce, though now after five years hopeless insanity, it is, according to Queensland law.
But mateship, the desire of a man to mate with a woman, is nature's law, and who will dare say it is not God's law, and Von Senden desired, more than ever, to mate with and possess, his neighbour's wife. At present she was no man's woman. He would claim her for his.
It was now spring-time, and mating time. The sap was rising in the trees, and nature was putting on its vestiture of youth, and was rejuvenating for the wooing of summer. The scrub lands and forest glades were atune with the twittering and calling of birds; and the lowing of cattle, and the neighing of horses were as mate calling unto mate. The instinctive forces of nature were working everywhere for the earth's replenishment. It was as if deep were calling unto deep.
Jacob Von Senden, conscious of the workings of nature all around him, was not immune from the spring-time urge. He, too, felt that he must mate. In this frame of mind, he placed the position before Louisa Lappe one evening when he called to see if he could be of any assistance to her. She was making bread in a camp oven in a detached kitchen. The evening was cold, and he was glad of the warmth as he sat on a stool near the fire. "Louisa," he said, staring into the fire, "I have seen the medical superintendent. He says that there is no hope of Ludwig's recovery."
"He has told me that, too, Jacob—often."
"All these years, Louisa, I have loved you. I think I loved you before Ludwig."
"You have been so good to me, Jacob. Oh, so good, and if you left here, I don't think I would care to live no more."
"I'm not going away, Louisa. I just want to live here with you for ever, and work for you."
"And, I would luv you too, Jacob, but——"
"Then, why not, Louisa? Look, I have kept this all these years," and he took from his pocket an olivine necklet. "Take it back and me with it. Let me live with you, Louisa," he pleaded. "You were meant for me. You should have married me and not Ludwig."
"But I did luv Ludwig, Jacob. But now, what's the use? And I tink I now luv you more than Ludwig. Oh, yes, I luv, luv you. I must say it. I haf luv'd you for a long time now. I'll take back the necklet, and you with it."
In the course of time, the coming together of Louise Lappe and Jacob Von Senden became to be regarded as a natural event. They would have married if that had been possible, but as it was not, they made their own law of expediency. They did not choose to sacrifice themselves on the altar of propriety, and so children were borne to them. The seasons came and passed, and the children of Lappe and the children of Von Senden became merged into one family, with the same mother as protectress over all.
For some years the two farms were worked as one; but as settlement increased land values became enhanced. After due consideration, it was decided by Louisa, on the strong recommendation of Von Senden, to sell Lappe's farm and to use the proceeds to further improve Von Senden's, on the understanding that the title should be registered in both their names as tenants in common. This would give them an equal and undivided interest.
But when the arrangements for a sale were completed, they were advised by the auctioneers whom they consulted that as the deed of Lappe's farm was in his name, they could not give the purchaser a title. This was a dilemma that they had not foreseen. Mrs. Lappe was advised to explain the position to the Curator in Insanity. On receipt of her letter the curator, from his official records, learnt that Ludwig Lappe had been admitted to Willowburn 18 years before, and as there was no record of his discharge, it was assumed that he was still in that asylum, all knowledge of him in the curator's office having passed into oblivion.
Before the patient's land could be sold, it was necessary to obtain an order of the Supreme Court authorising a sale, and as a preliminary caution for the information of the court, the medical superintendent was asked if the patient was still at Willowburn, and if there was any hope of his early recovery. The reply was to the effect that the patient was still in the hospital for the insane, but as his case had recently come under the notice of a young alienist who was also a skilled surgeon, it had been decided to operate on the patient with a view to removing the pressure of bone on the brain. It was a case of kill or cure; but as the patient's medical condition was hopeless, it was resolved to take the risk.
In the meantime a full report had been obtained from the police sergeant for the district as to what had happened to the patient's land. It was then learnt that the patient's wife had been living with Jacob Von Senden for a number of years, that several children had been born to them, and that they were happy and prosperous.
When it was reported that the operation was successful, the curator informed the medical superintendent that there were circumstances (which were fully disclosed) connected with the patient's wife, that would make it highly undesirable, if not imprudent to discharge him. The medical superintendent replied that this did not concern him. As soon as the patient was well enough to be discharged, it was his obvious duty to discharge him.
The news that her husband had regained his reason after many years came burdened with terror to his wife. What was she to do? That was a problem she could not solve, nor Von Senden either. The farm, after all, was Lappe's, and he could enter into possession. Then there was Von Senden and his children. What was to happen to them? It was a terrible mix up, and the riddle was hard to solve. Who could solve it? The curator? The medical superintendent? The law? No. It was solved by destiny. Ludwig Lappe was discharged, cured, but he had lost all memory of the past. He was now as harmless as a child. He did not know his wife or Von Senden, or that he had ever been married. Von Senden remained, and so let the moralist stoop to mercy.
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