Then the Prince rose and clasped her in his arms, kissing her fondly on both cheeks.
“Fear not,” he said, “dear and loyal lady. If you live to be the Princess, your goodman shall be the Prince. Never shall the gray mare flaunt it first, in Plassenburg!”
And he gave us each a hand, and conducted us to a pair of seats which had been set level with his on the platform of the Council-chamber of the Princedom.
The Prince Karl lived many days after the winning of the Wolfmark and the ending of the ducal Wolves. But he gave less and less care to the regalities, leaving them even more completely to me, sitting mostly in the pleasaunce by the river-side, or in the far-regarding room which had been the Lady Ysolinde’s.
Also he never looked again on the face of a woman—except as it might be to bid them good-day—save on that of my wife, Helene, who, as you who know her may guess, waxed but the sweeter and the fairer as the years went by.
And the blessing of children came to us, and in this thing the Prince Karl was even happier than we.
One day, however, it chanced that he was seated in full Council, and right noble he looked. I had just handed him a paper to sign. But he looked neither at me nor yet at the paper. His eyes were fixed on the locked doors of the privy bedchamber, through which only those of princely blood might come.
He stared so long at it that to recall him I put my hand on his sleeve and said, “Prince, the Council waits your pleasure!”
Bat he heard me not, his eyes being fixed on the door.
“Your pardon, my lords and knights,” he said, at last, fighting a little stiffly with his utterance, “but it seemed that I saw the Princess, my wife, come through the door, clad in white, and beckon me with her hand. I must go to her, my lords; I think she waits for me. The Prince Hugo will take my place at the Council.”
And the old man took a step from the high seat. But at the foot of the throne he stumbled and fell into my arms.
He said but one word after that, with his eyes still fixed on the bolted door.
And so the Prince Karl and his wife were united at last.
Since then we have lived long, the Little Playmate and I; but never have we been other than comrades and friends—lovers also, which is the best of all. And so (an the good God please) we shall abide till the end comes. And in the gloaming we two also shall see the beckoning finger from beyond the bolted door and turn our feet homeward, passing the bourne of the new life hand in hand—and undismayed.