She paused a moment as if to summon courage, and then she stooped quickly and kissed me on the neck.
“And that for Michael Texel!” she cried, and ran out of the room before I could get clear of the wide arms of the chair, and so run after and catch her.
She turned in the doorway and wafted me a kiss from her finger-tips, airily and a little mockingly.
“That for Hugo Gottfried!” she said, and was off to her own chamber with the frou-frou of a light skirt, the slam of a door, and the shooting of a bolt.
And after all this, it was heart’s pity that ever anything should have come between us again, even for a moment.
Though, indeed, it was but for a moment.
TWO WOMEN—AND A MAN
It was the forenoon of a Sunday, a dull, sleepy time in all countries, and one difficult to get overpast. I was as usual busy with my accoutrement, recently bought with the loan of Master Gerard. The Little Playmate was just returned from the cathedral, and had indeed scarcely laid her finery aside, when there came a loud knocking at the outer gate of the Red Tower. Then one of the guard tramped stolidly from the wicket to the door of our dwelling.
“A lady waits you at the postern,” said he, and so tramped his way unceremoniously back to his post.
I knew without any need of telling that it was the Lady Ysolinde. So I rose, and hastily setting my fingers through my hair, went to the gate. There, attended by the respectable servitor, was, as I had expected, the Lady Ysolinde.
“Good-morrow,” she said very courteously to me, and I duly returned her greeting with a low obeisance of respect and welcome.
She wore a large garment, fashioned like a man’s cloak, over her festal attire—which, with a hood for the head, wholly enveloped her figure and descended to her feet.
“I have come, as I promised, to see the Little Playmate.” These were her first words as we paced together across the wide upper court under the wondering eyes of the men of the Duke’s body-guard.
“Pray remember, Lady Ysolinde,” said I, with much eagerness, “that I have as yet said nothing of the matter to Helene, and that my father only knows that I am to ride to Plassenburg in order to exercise myself in the practice of arms, before becoming his assistant here in the Red Tower and in the Hall of Judgment across the way.”
My visitor nodded a little impatiently. She who knew so many things, of a surety might be trusted to understand so much without being told.
In the inner doorway Helene met us. And never had it been my fortune to see the meeting of two such women. The Little Playmate had in her hands the broidered handkerchiefs, the long Flemish gloves, and the little illuminated Book of the Hours which I had given her. She had been about to lay them away together, as is the fashion of women. And when she met the Lady Ysolinde I declare that she looked almost as tall. Helene was perhaps an inch or two less in stature than her visitor, but what she lacked in height she more than made up in the supple erectness of her carriage and the vivid and extraordinary alertness of all her movements.