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The beautiful Tugendreich von Starschedel was standing in the baronial hall of her ancestral castle before the pedigree of her family, which occupied the space between two pillars in the wall. Her little hand powerfully pressed her heaving bosom, as if it wished to check the violent palpitation of her agitated heart, and her dark blue eyes wandered stealthily from the gay escutcheons and glanced through the lofty arched windows into the open riding-course, in which Axel, the groom, was just then breaking in a young stallion, with all the grace and strength of the horse-tamer Castor.

“Well,” said Gundchen, her maid, who was leaning against the window, “there is nothing, in my opinion, like a good horseman. Only look, gracious Fraeulein, how the untamed animal is rearing, and how the man sits on him like a puppet.”

“That is a silly picture, if it is intended to be flattering,” said Tugendreich, and blushing, she stepped to the window, as she feared she had betrayed herself.

“Do not torment yourself so much, Axel,” cried the baron from the window. “You and Hippolytus may break your necks together; he is sure not to leap, and the master of the stable has given him up already.”

“All depends on the rider,” replied Axel, with powerful voice. “He shall leap, I assure you, though he had Wallenstein and Tilly on him.” So saying, he pressed the snorting animal with great strength, and gallopped with him to the end of the course, that he might better leap the bar.

“A devil of a fellow this Axel,” said the nobleman, laughing in approbation.

“Heavens!” shrieked Gundchen, “there will be an accident,” and Tugendreich suppressed a sigh of anguish. With frightful side-leaps, the black horse furiously galloped towards the bar. At this moment the little daughter of the gardener ran across the course, and frightened at the approaching furious steed, fell just under his fore feet. Terror prevented the spectators from crying out, but Axel saw the child at the critical moment when the hoof was raised over its head, and, thinking of its peril, only reined the leaping horse suddenly in with such force that he fell rearing on his haunches.

“He will fall back,” cried the baron.

“I cannot look upon it,” exclaimed Gundchen, holding her hands before her eyes, and Tugendreich leaned against the recess as white as her veil. In the meanwhile Axel had given the horse so violent a blow on the head, that he was on his legs again and stood trembling; he dismounted, lifted the crying child gently from the ground and kissing it, carried it to its mother, who came up running and shrieking.

“Gallantly done,” cried the nobleman, “but the experiment might have cost your life.”

“Better that Hippolytus and I should die than the innocent child,” replied Axel. He mounted again, and the steed now knowing his master, leaped readily and gracefully without a run over the high bar.

“Well done,” cried the nobleman again. “Come up, you shall have a bottle of wine for that.” “I must first cool the animal,” was Axel’s short reply, as he rode off in a gentle trot. “This fellow is not to be bought for gold,” muttered the baron; “but he sometimes assumes a tone that makes it doubtful which of us two is the master and which the groom.”

Tugendreich, agitated by the scene she had just witnessed, was about to leave the hall. On her way, she again passed the pedigree, and turning her glowing countenance upon it, a black escutcheon met her eye. This belonged to a lateral relation whom her father had only recently struck out on account of a misalliance. With a gloomy foreboding she gazed at it, then cast an anxious glance upon the one bearing her name, and hurried sobbing from the hall.