Anna, composed, because inwardly crushed, took the key, and while the others went off to their trunks in order to complete their toilet before a three groschen mirror, she went hastily into the flax-room, the windows of which looked out upon the castle courtyard and the high-road. She sat down, her face turned toward the windows so that she could see all the merry-makers on their way from the village to the kermess and hear their gay talk. She began to work with gloomy industry. Although at times she unconsciously sank into a fit of brooding, she would immediately start up again terrified, as though bitten by a snake or tarantula, and continue her labor with increased, indeed, with unnatural zeal. Only once during the entire long afternoon did she get up from her low, hard, wooden stool, and that was when her fellow servants drove quickly down the castle yard in comfortable rack wagons drawn by fast horses. But with a loud laugh, as though in self-derision, she sat down again, and, although she grew so thirsty in all the heat and dust that her tongue clove to the roof of her mouth, she did not even drink the coffee that old Bridget, who on an occasion like this of today used to take care of the house for the maids, compassionately brought her toward four or five o’clock.
When night gradually came on she went into the kitchen, without smoothing back the locks of hair that hung wildly about her face. Making no answer to Bridget’s friendly invitation to remain there and share with her a tempting dish of baked potatoes, she took a candle out of the candle box, and holding her hand over it to protect it against the draught, went back into the flax-room. It was not long before there was a knock at the window, and when she had opened the door Frederick entered hastily, dripping with perspiration.
“I must see what is the matter,” he said, almost breathless and tearing open his waist-coat, “they are whispering all kinds of things.”
“You see!” answered Anna quickly, then stopped short and arranged her bodice, which had been pushed somewhat awry.
“Your master is a scoundrel!” blustered Frederick, gnashing his teeth.
“Yes, yes!” said Anna.
“I should like to meet him up there on the cliff,” cried Frederick, “oh, it’s abominable!”
“How hot you are,” said Anna, gently taking his hand. “Have you been dancing already?”
“I have been drinking wine, five or six glasses,” rejoined Frederick. “Come, Anna, dress yourself, you shall go with me in spite of every devil who tries to interfere.”
“No, no, no!” said Anna.
“But I say yes,” Frederick flared out in a passion, and put his arm around her waist, “I say yes!”
“Most certainly not!” Anna answered softly, embracing him affectionately.
From the painting by Schnorr von Carolsfeld [Illustration]