The Little Playmate looked up astonished, as well she might, at this direct assault, which was moreover spoken with a pretty shamefacedness and the air of asking almost too great a favor. And, indeed, if there was any patronage in the thing offered, it was at least carefully kept out of the manner of asking.
“Lady Ysolinde, I cannot accept your too overpowering favor,” said Helene, after a pause, “but your kindness in thinking at all of me will always warm my heart.”
At this critical moment came my father in, looking more than grave and severe, so that I judged at once that he had been talking to the Duke Casimir and had found his post of chief adviser both thankless and difficult. I knew it could be no matter of his office which worried him, for that day he wore his holiday attire of white Friesland cloth, and the broad bonnet in which I loved best to see him. There was no mark of his calling about him anywhere, save a little Red Axe sewed upon his left breast like a war veteran’s decoration.
THE RED AXE IS LEFT ALONE
Gottfried Gottfried bowed to the guest of his house with the noble manner which comes to every serious-minded man who deals habitually in the high matters of life and death. I made his introductions to the Lady Ysolinde, and as readily and gracefully he returned his acknowledgments. For the rest I allowed Master Gerard’s daughter to develop her own projects to him, which, indeed, she was no long time in doing.
As she proceeded I saw my father change color and become as to his face almost as white as the Friesland cloth in which he was dressed. Presently, however, as if struck with the sound of a well-known name, he looked up quickly.
“Plassenburg, said you, my lady?” he inquired.
The Lady Ysolinde nodded.
“Yes, to Plassenburg, where the Princess has great need of a maid of honor.”
“Her Highness is often upon her travels, I hear it reported,” said my father, “while the Prince keeps himself much at home.”
“He esteems his armies more than all the marvels of strange countries,” replied Ysolinde, “and thus he holds the land and folk in great quiet.”
“And your father, Master Gerard, would have my son engage with this Prince Karl for a space. Well, I think it may be good for the lad. For I know well that the shadow of the Red Tower stalks after him through this city of Thorn, and there is no need that he should lie down under it too soon. But this of my little maid is a matter apart, and means a longer and a sorer parting.”
“Fear not, my father,” cried the Playmate, eagerly, “I would not leave you alone, even to be the Princess of Plassenburg herself.”
My father took another strange look from one to the other of the two women, the import of which I understood not then.
“I know not,” said he; “I think this thing also might be for the best. As I see it, there are strange times coming upon us in Thorn. And the town of Plassenburg under Karl the Prince is a defenced city, set in a strong province, content and united. It might be wisest that you also should go, little one.”