I went back to Dessauer, who during my absence had kept his head in his hand, as if deeply absorbed in thought.
“The Princess is in Thorn!” said I, as a startling piece of news.
“Ah, the Princess!” he muttered, abstractedly; “truly she is the Princess, but yet that will not advantage her a whit.”
I saw that he was thinking of our little Helene.
“Nay,” I said, taking him by the arm to secure his attention, as indeed about this time I had often to do. “I mean the Lady Ysolinde, the wife of our good Prince.”
“In Thorn?” said Dessauer. “Ah, I am little surprised. Twice when I was speaking to-day I saw a face I knew well look through a lattice in the wall at me. But being intent upon my words I did not think of it, nor indeed recognize it till it had disappeared. Now the picture comes back to me curiously clear. It was the face of the Princess Ysolinde.”
“I am to see her at nine o’clock to-night in the house of the Weiss Thor.”
“Do not go, I pray you!” he said; “it is certainly a trap.”
“Go I must, and will,” I replied; “for it may be to the good of our maiden. I will risk all for that!”
“I dare say,” said he; “so should I, if I saw any advantage, such as indeed I hoped for to-day. But if I be not mistaken, our Princess is deep in this plot.”
“And why?” said I. “Helene never harmed her.”
“Helene is your betrothed wife, is she not?” he said. He asked as if he did not know.
“Surely!” said I.
“Well!” he replied, sententiously, and so went out.
A WOMAN SCORNED
At nine I was at the door of the dark, silent house by the Weiss Thor. I sounded the knocker loudly, and with the end of the reverberations I heard a foot come through the long passages. The panel behind slid noiselessly in its grooves, and I was conscious that a pair of eyes looked out at me.
“You are the servant of the strange Doctor?” said the voice of the servitor, Sir Respectable.
“That I am, as by this time you may have seen!” answered I, for I was in no mood of mere politeness. I was venturing my life in the house of mine enemy, and, at least, it would be no harm if I put a bold face on the matter.
He opened the door, and again the same curious perfume was wafted down the passages—something that I had never felt either in the Wolfsberg nor yet even in the women’s chambers of the Palace of Plassenburg.
At the door of the little room in which she had first received me so long ago, the Lady Ysolinde was waiting for me.
She did not shut the door till Sir Respectable had betaken him down again to his own place. Then quite frankly and undisguisedly she took my hand, like one who had come to the end of make-believe.
“I knew you to-day in your disguise,” she said; “it is an excellent one, and might deceive all save a woman who loves. Ah, you start. It might deceive the woman you love, but not the woman that loves you. I am not the Princess to-night; I am Ysolinde, the Woman. I have no restraints, no conventions, no laws, no religions to-night—save the law of a woman’s need and the religion of a woman’s passion.”