“An excellent reason, my lady,” said I, “for any to cleave to you.”
“Ah,” she said, wistfully, “only fools think of Ysolinde in the city of Thorn. Some are afraid and pass by, and the rest are as the dogs that lick the garbage in the streets. Here I have no friends, save my father only, and here or elsewhere I have never had any that truly loved me.”
“But you are young—you are fair,” I answered. “Many must come seeking your favor.” Thus did I begin lumpishly enough to comfort her. But at my first words she snatched her fingers away angrily, and then in a moment relented.
“You mean well,” she said, giving her hand back to me again, “but it is not pity Ysolinde needs nor yet desires. But that is no matter. Come in hither and see what may abide for you in the depths of the black pool.”
At the curtained doorway she turned and looked me in the eyes.
“If you were as other young men it would be easy for you to misjudge me. This is mine own work-chamber, and I bid you come into it, having seen you but an hour ago. Yet never a man save my father only hath set his foot in it before. Inquire carefully of your companions in the city of Thorn, and if any make pretension to acquaintance with the Lady Ysolinde of the White Gate strike him in the face and call him liar, for the sake of the favor I have shown you and the vision I saw concerning you in the crystal.”
I stooped and kissed her hand, which was burning hot—a thin little hand, with long, supple fingers which bent in one’s grasp.
“The man who would pretend to such a thing is dead even as he speaks,” said I; and I meant it fully.
“I thank you—it is well,” she answered, leading me in. “I only desired that you should not misjudge me.”
“That could I never do if I would,” I made her answer. “Here my every thought is reverence as in the oratory of a saint.”
She smiled a strange smile.
“Mayhap that is rather more than I desire,” she said. “Say rather in the maiden bower of a woman who knows well whom she may trust.”
Again I kissed her hand for the correction. And, as I remembered afterwards, it was at that hour that the little Princess Playmate was used to look within my chamber to see that all was ready for me.
And, had I known it, even that night she stooped over and kissed the pillow where my head was to lie.
“Dear love!” she was used to say.
Alas that I heard it not then!
EYES OF EMERALD
It was a strange little room into which the Lady Ysolinde brought me, full of quaint, changeful scents, and all ablaze with colors the like of which I had never seen. For not only were rugs and mats of outlandish Eastern design scattered over the floor, but there was vividly colored glass in the small, deeply set windows. Yet that which affected me most powerfully was a curious, clinging, evanescent odor, which came and went like a breeze through an open window. I liked it at first, but after a little it went to my head like a perfumed wine of Greece, such as the men of Venice sometimes send to our northern lands with their embassies of merchandise.