When Dorothea was missed that night, and the Baron had communicated the history of his unfortunate courtship, the whole house was thrown into the greatest confusion. Servants were sent out with lights, but all came back in the stormy night without intelligence. The mother was very uneasy, and seemed to reproach herself with having urged a violent temper, such as she knew her eldest daughter's to be, too far. She did not go to rest, but wandered about in the house, and her two younger daughters endeavoured to comfort her. In the morning appeared a messenger from Madame von Halden, and delivered a note to the Baroness; shortly after a coach drew up, from which Dorothea alighted, whom her mother received with a forced composure. But little was said, not a word of reproach however was heard, and the daughter could as little produce an apology.
The Baron, who had observed every thing with anxiety and confusion, said at last, when he saw himself alone with the Baroness:
— This letter has certainly done wonders! Of all that you proposed to yourself with regard to this perverse girl, not a particle has been executed, you are, on the contrary, kinder to her than ever. May I not be allowed to know, from whom it comes, and what it contains?
The Baroness reddened.
— It comes from that Brandenstein, said she with a tremulous voice: but the conclusion contains the grossest calumny.
The Baron read:
In the event of your giving, as I firmly hope, a kind reception to your noble, sorrowing daughter, teazing her under no pretext whatever, and abandoning all thoughts of marrying her to Baron Wallen, I promise you the sum which the Baron has to demand of you, and a considerable loan besides, both without interest, for an indefinite time. Do not force me into hostilities, or several things may take wind which do not suit that model of virtue, which the world admires in you. I may certainly subscribe myself
— This note intimates, said the Baron with a sneer; that our heroic Count has large sums at his disposal, and that his American friend or ward, to whom he plays the part of tutor or steward, is probably a sufficient simpleton; just according to my idea of the affair from the beginning. The generous man, as circumstances require, will dip his hand deep into the purse of his outlandish prodigy, and thus on closer inspection does the gilding disappear from every puffed out Cato, and change into copper.
The affair however assumed a different aspect, when the next day a letter came from Brandenstein, in which he applied for Dorothea's hand on behalf of his wealthy American. He had convinced himself, so he wrote, that his friend, with whom he was intimately acquainted, could be happy with no other being.
Dorothea, who was quite lost in her thoughts and feelings, was terrified at this proposal; she declined it with vehemence, and it filled her heart with despair, that the Count, who had seen her whole soul, could make this proposition.
— No feeling then, she sighed in secret, not the slightest, for me, that think and dream only of him.
Upon the mother's refusal, followed a still kinder letter of the Count; he begged for his unknown friend, who would shortly make his appearance, nothing but permission to show himself, that Miss Dorothea would deign to become acquainted with him and his sentiments.
To this proposal Dorothea had sent no answer. In her silent grief she took no heed of time, and her friends were forced to give her notice, that the day and hour was now come, in which the singular wooer was to make his appearance. Madame von Halden was present as the female friend. A team of English horses drove up, a splendid carriage and servants appeared. Dorothea was in the garden parlour nearly fainting. Brandenstein stepped in, attired as a bridegroom, in the prime of manly beauty.
— And your friend? inquired the mother.
— It is only my dear, beloved Dorothea, replied he, hastening to her, from whom I must implore forgiveness for my jest; I am myself the American, that domain is at last mine, and nothing is wanting to my happiness but a word from that gentle mouth.
Dorothea bloomed again, looked at him with a tear in her beaming eye, and stretched out her hand to him.
— We shall drive directly, my dear friends, said he saluting all present, to the adjoining estate, which till now belonged to Madame von Halden. I have the marriage license, the house is in festal trim, the minister is waiting.
Only the bridal wreath was fixed in the maiden's hair, then all got into the carriage. The Count embraced his bride, and pressed the first kiss on her lips.
— Could I have ventured to hope for such bliss? said he, with tears: Was the love of this pure soul to be my lot? The same child to become the joy of my life, whom, years ago, sitting by thy dear father, I rocked on my knees? See, here didst thou take refuge in despair on that tempestuous night. The minister is waiting for us in the same room, where thou didst then confide to thy friend that confession which pierced me like lightning.
Dorothea was so happy, so awakened from pain to delight, that she could speak but little.—The whole province resounded with the wealth of the Count, with the wonderful good fortune of the young lady, and all the neighbourhood witnessed this happy marriage.
When Alfred betrothed himself to Sophia, Baron Wilden also announced his union with Miss Erhard. To his friends, who expressed their surprize at it, he replied:
— Look you, good folks, solitude and want of pastime make many things possible; besides my bride has several good qualities, and is grown much merrier than she was formerly. She takes extraordinary pains too about my conversion, and that is no easy matter, considering that, in my fat body, my soul lies so much deeper than with other men. I shall now soon be pious too in my way, only take care, that the thing keeps in fashion nicely, that I may not have to go backwards again some of these days, like a crab.
Some time after Baron Wallen and the Baroness likewise thought it better to unite in matrimony, as he could not obtain any of the daughters, and still the intercourse of this family was indispensable to him.
Alfred lived afterwards a great deal in the house of the Count, whose man of business he was; and Brandenstein often recollected with rapture, how destiny had granted it to him, to find in his wife the pearl of great price, so totally neglected by all her acquaintance and her nearest kindred.