The count hastened to her and offered her his hand. She accepted it, and he led her slowly through the vast hall to one of the doors of entrance.
The Electoral Prince looked after her with distorted features and burning eyes. Once he made a movement as if to rush after her, but by a mighty effort he kept his place. Arrived at the door, she paused and turned upon him an earnest, questioning glance; he cast down his eyes before it. Count d’Entragues opened the door—a breathless pause ensued—then the door closed behind her.
The Electoral Prince placed his trembling hand upon his heart, and two tears rolled from his eyes. Violently he shook them away, and turned his head to the notary.
“Sir,” he said, in a firm voice—“sir, I beg you to show me the way out. I would go to my palace.”
VI.—THE HARDEST VICTORY.
The Electoral Prince had returned home, but he did not sleep the whole night through. The chamberlain, whose room adjoined the Prince’s sleeping apartment, had heard him restlessly pacing the floor all night long, at times talking to himself half aloud, and then even weeping and lamenting. In his anguish of heart he had wakened Baron Leuchtmar and the private secretary Mueller, in order to impart to them the melancholy news. Both gentlemen had immediately risen and dressed themselves, and softly approached the door of the princely chamber. They, too, had heard the restless steps, the loud groans and lamentations of the Prince, and his grief had passed into their own hearts. As they looked at each other, each observed tears in the eyes of the other, and with quivering lips both whispered, “Poor young man! he must have some great grief! He suffers a great deal!”
“You must go to him, Leuchtmar,” whispered Mueller. “You must ask what ails him, and try to comfort him.”
The baron mournfully shook his head. “My dear Mueller,” he said, “have you ever been in love?”
“No, never!” replied Mueller, in astonishment. “Why do you ask such a question?”
“Because you would then know, friend, that there is no consolation for disappointment in love.”
“You think, then, that the Prince is disappointed in love?”
“Certainly, I think so. What other grief can a young Prince of hardly eighteen years have, especially when his heart is engrossed with a glowing passion. The Prince was last night in the Media Nocte, and something peculiar must have occurred there, for he came home unusually early, his custom having been of late not to return home until daybreak, singing and rejoicing.”
“Only hear, Leuchtmar, how he sobs and groans! And now! Hush! what does he say?”
Both gentlemen held their breath, and quite distinctly could be heard within the wailing, tear-choked voice of the Prince:
“It is impossible—it is impossible. I can not. No, I can not. The sacrifice is too heavy! My heart will break!”