At the outer door, but before he opened it, the man put a sealed packet in my hand.
“From Doctor Gerard von Sturm,” he said, bowing respectfully, yet with a certain sense of being a party in a favor conferred.
I thrust the letter into my inner pocket and went out into the street. The sun was still shining, yet somehow I felt that it must be another day, another world. The houses seemed hard and dry, the details of the architecture insufferably mean and insultingly familiar. I longed with all my heart to get away from Thorn into the new world which had opened to me—a world of perfumes and flowers and flower-like scents and Oriental marvels, of low voices, too, and the touching of soft hands upon cheeks.
In all the world of young men there was no greener or more simple Simon than I, Hugo Gottfried, as, playing a tune on the pipe of my own conceit, I marched up the High Street of Thorn to the entrance gate of the Wolfsberg.
The Little Playmate was standing at the door as I approached, sweet as a June rose. When she saw me she went into the sitting-room to show that she had not yet forgiven me. Though I think by this time, as was often the way with Helene, she had forgotten almost what was the original matter of my offending.
But I pretended to be careless and heart-free. And so—God forgive me!—I went whistling up the steps of the Red Tower to my room without so much as looking within the chamber where my Little Playmate had withdrawn herself.
Which thing I suffered grievously for or all was done. And an excellent dispensation of Providence it had been if I had lost my right hand, all for making that little heart sore, or so much as one tear drop from those deep gray eyes.
It was about this time, and after we had made our quarrel up, that Helene began to call me “Great Brother.” After all, there is manifest virtue in a name, and the Little Playmate seemed to find great comfort in thus addressing me.
And after that I had called her “Little Sister” once or twice she was greatly assured and treated me quite differently, having ascertained that between young men and women there is the utmost safety in such a relationship.
And as all ways were alike to me, I was willing enough. For indeed I loved her and none other, and so did all the days of my life. Though I know that my actions and conceits were not always conformable to the true love that was in my heart, neither wholly worthy of my dear maid.
But, then, what would you? Nineteen and the follies of one’s youth! The mercy of God rather than any virtue in me kept these from being not only infinitely more numerous, but infinitely worse. Yet I had better confess them, such as they are, in this place. For it was some such nothings as those which follow that first brought Helene and me into one way of thinking, though by paths very devious indeed.