‘I wish to serve my country.’
’By serving the Emperor you do so, for without him the country becomes chaos.’
‘From all we hear it is not a very easy service,’ said my cousin. ’I should have thought that you would have been very much more comfortable in England—and then you would have been so much safer also.’
Everything which the girl said seemed to be meant as an insult to me, and yet I could not imagine how I had ever offended her. Never had I met a woman for whom I conceived so hearty and rapid a dislike. I could see that her remarks were as offensive to her father as they were to me, for he looked at her with eyes which were as angry as her own.
’Your cousin is a brave man, and that is more than can be said for someone else that I could mention,’ said he.
‘For whom?’ she asked.
‘Never mind!’ he snapped, and, jumping up with the air of a man who is afraid that his rage may master him, and that he may say more than he wished, he ran from the room.
She seemed startled by this retort of his, and rose as if she would follow him. Then she tossed her head and laughed incredulously.
‘I suppose that you have never met your uncle before?’ said she, after a few minutes of embarrassed silence.
‘Never,’ answered I.
‘Well, what do you think of him now you have met him?’
Such a question from a daughter about her father filled me with a certain vague horror. I felt that he must be even a worse man than I had taken him for if he had so completely forfeited the loyalty of his own nearest and dearest.
‘Your silence is a sufficient answer,’ said she, as I hesitated for a reply. ’I do not know how you came to meet him last night, or what passed between you, for we do not share each other’s confidences. I think, however, that you have read him aright. Now I have something to ask you. You had a letter from him inviting you to leave England and to come here, had you not?’
‘Yes, I had.’
‘Did you observe nothing on the outside?’
I thought of those two sinister words which had puzzled me so much.
‘What! it was you who warned me not to come?’
‘Yes, it was I. I had no other means of doing it.’
‘But why did you do it?’
‘Because I did not wish you to come here.’
‘Did you think that I would harm you?’
She sat silent for a few seconds like one who is afraid of saying too much. When her answer came it was a very unexpected one:
‘I was afraid that you would be harmed.’
‘You think that I am in danger here?’
‘I am sure of it.’
‘You advise me to leave?’
‘Without losing an instant.’
‘From whom is the danger then?’
Again she hesitated, and then, with a reckless motion like one who throws prudence to the winds, she turned upon me.