But the little maid struck an attitude, and tapped the floor with her foot.
“I will not,” she said. “What is the Duke Casimir to me that am a Princess? If he is good, I will give him my hand to kiss!”
But at this point I rushed from the ladder-head, and, taking her in my arms, I sped up the turret stairs with her out upon the leads, my hand over her mouth all the time.
And as I ran I could hear the Duke trampling upward not twenty steps in the rear. I opened the trap-door and went out into the clear morning sunshine. And only the turn of the stair prevented Casimir from seeing me go up the narrow turret corkscrew with my little white burden.
Then I heard voices beneath, and I knew, as if I had seen it, that my father stood up straight at the salute. Presently the voices lowered, and I knew also that the Duke Casimir was unbending as he did to none else in his realm save to the Hereditary Justicer of the Wolfmark.
But I had my hands full with the little Princess. I dared not go down the stairs. I dared not for a moment take my palm off her mouth. For as like as not she would call out for the Duke Casimir to come and deliver her from my cruelty. So I stuck to my post, even though I knew that I angered her.
The morning was warm for a winter’s day in Thorn, and I pulled open my brown blanket and wrapped her coseyly within it, chilling myself to the bone as I did so.
It seemed ages before the Duke strode down the stair again, and took his way across the yard, with my father, in black, after him. For so he was used to dress when he went to the Hall of Judgment, to be present and assist at the discovery of crime by means of the Minor and Extreme Questions.
Then, so soon as they were fairly gone, I took my hand from the mouth of the Little Playmate, and carried her down-stairs; which as soon as I had done, she slapped my face soundly.
“I will never, never speak to you any more so long as I live, rude boy—common street brat!” she said, biting her under-lip in ineffectual, petulant anger. “Listen, never as long as I live! So do not think it! Upstart, so to treat a lady and a Princess!”
And with that she burst into tears.
THE BLOOD-HOUNDS ARE FED
But the Princess-Playmate spoke to me again. I was even permitted to call her Helene. Me she addressed uniformly as “Hugo Gottfried.” But neither her name nor mine interfered with our plays, which were wholly happy and undisturbed by quarrelling—at least, so long as I did exactly what she wished me to do.
On these terms life was made easy for me from that day forth. No longer did I wistfully watch the children of the street from the lonely window of the Red Tower. They might spit all day on the harled masonry at the foot of the wall for aught I cared. I no longer desired their society. Had I not that of a real Princess, and if my companion was inclined to be a little wayward and domineering—why, was not that the very birthright of all Princesses?