“I also am sure I am not ashamed of it.”
“If you had permitted me to finish,” she said quietly, “you would have had no need to speak so sharply. I spoke seriously. I wanted to say that I am sure you have no reason to feel ashamed of your birthplace, and that perhaps I ought not to have asked a question that you evidently do not want to answer. Uncle says if my curiosity were taken from me, there would be nothing left but my toes.”
Her contrition melted Max at once, and he said:—
I will gladly tell you, Fraeulein, if you want to know. I was born—”
“No, no,” she interrupted, “you shall not tell me. I will leave you at once and see you no more if you do. Besides, there is no need to tell me; I already know. I am a sorceress, a witch. I regret to make the confession, but it is true; I am a witch.”
“I believe you are,” answered Max, looking at her admiringly and seating himself beside her on the window bench. He had learned from Gertrude of Augsburg and many other burgher girls that certain pleasantries were more objectionable to them in theory than in practice; but this burgher girl rose to her feet at his approach and seemed to grow a head taller in an instant. He quietly took his old place and she took hers. She continued as if unconscious of what had happened:—
“Yes, I am a sorceress.” Then she drew her face close to Max, and, gazing fixedly into his eyes, said solemnly:—
“I can look into a person’s eyes and know if they are telling me the truth. I can tell their fortunes—past, present, and future. I can tell them where they were born. I can tell them the history of anything of value they have. Their jewellery, their—”
“Tell me any one of those things concerning myself,” interrupted Max, suddenly alive with interest.
“No, it is too great a strain upon me,” answered the girl, with amusing gravity.
“I entreat you,” said Max, laughing, though deeply interested. “I believe you can do what you say. I beg you to show me your skill in only one instance.”
The girl gently refused, begging Max not to tempt her.
“No, no, I cannot,” she said, “good Father Brantome has told me it is sinful. I must not.”
Half in jest but all in earnest, Max begged her to try; and, after a great deal of coaxing, she reluctantly consented to give a very small exhibition of her powers. Covering her face with her hands, she remained for the space of a minute as if in deep thought. Then, making a series of graceful and fantastic passes in the air with her hands, as if invoking a familiar spirit, she said in low, solemn tones:—
“You may now sit by me, Sir Max. My words must not be heard by any ears save yours.”
Max seated himself beside the girl.
“Give me your word that you will tell no one what I am about to do and say,” she said.
“I so promise,” answered Max, beginning to feel that the situation was almost uncanny.