“The Prince’s orderly to attend upon him!” again proclaimed the herald, more impatiently.’
I saw every eye turn upon me, and I began to feel a gentle heat come over me. Presently I was blushing furiously. For I was still in my riding-clothes, and even they had not been changed after the adventure of the Brick-dust Town. So that they were in no wise fitting to attend upon a mighty dignitary.
The Prince of Plassenburg looked round.
“Ha!” he said; “this is not well—I had forgotten. My orderly ought to have been duly arrayed by this time.”
“Pardon, my Prince,” said I, “but all the apparel I have is upon my sumpter horse, which comes in the train of the Princess.”
My master looked right and left in his quickly imperious and yet humorous manner.
“Here, Count von Reuss,” he said to a tall, handsome, heavily jowled young man, “I pray you strip off thy fine coat for an hour, and lend it to my new officer-in-waiting. The ladies will admire thee more than ever in thy fine flowered waistcoat, with silk sleeves and frilled purfles of lace!”
The young man, Von Reuss, looked as if he desired much to tell the Prince to go and be hanged. But there was something in the bearing of Karl of Plassenburg, usurper as they called him, the like of which for command I have never seen in the countenance and manner of any lawfully begotten prince in the world.
So, beckoning me into an antechamber, and swearing evilly under his breath all the time, the young man stripped off his fine coat, and offered it to me with one hand, without so much as looking at me. He gave it indeed churlishly, as one might give a dole to a loathsome beggar to be rid of his importunity.
“I thank you, sir,” said I, “but more for your obedience to the Prince than for the fashion of your courtesy to me.”
Yet for all that he answered me never a syllable, but turned his head and played with his mustache till his man-servant brought him another coat.
ANOTHER MAN’S COAT
I followed the Prince without another word, and when he received the Princess I had the happiness of taking the Little Playmate by the hand and conducting her as gallantly as I could into the palace. And I was glad, for it helped to allay a kind of reproachful feeling in my heart, which would keep tugging and gnawing there whenever I was not thinking of anything else. I feared lest, in the throng and press of new experiences, I might a little have neglected or been in danger of forgetting the love of the many years and all the sweetness of our solitary companionship.
Nevertheless, I knew well that I loved those sweetest eyes of hers more than all the words of men and women and priests.
And even as I helped her to dismount, I went over and told her so.
It was just when I held her in my arms for a moment as she dismounted. She clung to me, and methought I heard a little sob.