THE GOLDEN NECKLACE
The Chancellor Leopold von Dessauer, High Councillor of the Prince, with his head still bound up, was pacing the sparred gallery outside the private apartments of his master. It was in the heats of the late summer, before the ripening of the orchard fruits had had time to culminate, or the russet to come out slowly upon the apples, like a blush upon a woman’s soft, dusky cheek.
The High Councillor was in a bad humor. For he had been kept waiting, and that by a man of no account. At last a forester in a uniform of dark green, with the Prince’s bugle and sparrow-hawk in silver everywhere about him, made his appearance at the foot of the gallery, and stood waiting Dessauer’s summons with his plumed hat of soft cloth in his hand.
“Hither, man!” cried the High Councillor, sharply. “What has kept you? Why were you not here half an hour ago? If this be the way you keep the Prince’s forests, no wonder there are many deer taken by reiving rascals and the forest laws daily broken.”
“High Mightiness,” said the man, humbly, looking down, “it was my daughter—she would not give up the necklace. She hath had it for her own since she was a child, and she would not deliver it, though I threatened her with your well-born anger.”
“And have you got it with you? Surely you and she have not dared to keep it!” began the Chancellor, with gathering fury on his eyebrow.
“Yea, truly, truly, an you will have patience, my Lord, I have it here,"-said the man, drawing a necklace of golden bars curiously arranged from his leathern wallet; and, kneeling on his knee, he presented it to the Chancellor.
“How did you prevail with the maid?” he asked, as soon as he had it in hand—“you used no constraint or force, I hope?”
“Nay, sir,” said the man, “for my wife being dead and my daughter marriageable, she keeps house for me; and having a sweetheart betrothed a year ago she hath been laying aside plenishing gear and women’s dainty gewgaws. So these I took one by one, beginning with a mirror of polished brass, and made as if I would dash them in pieces if she discovered not where the chain of gold was hid.”
“And she revealed it?” said Dessauer.
“Aye,” said the man, “but none so willingly, as you might suppose. I had Saint Peter’s own trouble to get it from her. Indeed, I prayed to the Holy Apostle to aid me.”
“What had Saint Peter to do with it?” said the Councillor, pausing and looking humorsomely at the man, like an ascetic sparrow with his head at one side.
“Because our Holy Saint Peter is the only saint who understands the trouble men have with the contrariness of women.”
“Why so?” cried the Chancellor, rubbing his hand with a curious pleasure at the colloquy.
“Because he only among the Apostles was a married man and had experience of a mother-in-law.”