“I would venture,” he said, “most humbly to ask her highness’s permission to lay the brocade stuffs at her feet.”
“Mamma, do so,” coaxed Sophie Hedwig; “take the pretty dress patterns from the good Stadtholder.”
“Well, then, I shall do so,” said the Electress. “I accept your present for myself and the young ladies, and I thank you.”
She extended her hand to the count, which he kissed.
“And you will give orders, Electress, that the dresses be made up in time for Count Schwarzenberg’s fete!” cried the Elector cheerfully. “You must at least honor him by displaying his present first at his own house.”
“There are a few plates accompanying it,” remarked Schwarzenberg—“a few plates on which are painted the newest styles of ladies’ dresses now fashionable in Paris. The robes of the Empress and the archduchesses were made by them.”
“So shall our dresses be too!” cried Sophie Hedwig, joyfully clapping her hands. “Shall they not, dearest mamma—shall not our dresses be made by the fashion plates?”
Just at this moment the Electoral Prince again emerged from the window recess, and approached his father.
“I beg your highness’s gracious permission to withdraw,” he said. “I should like to retire to my own apartments a little while, in order to lay aside my dusty traveling suit.”
“Do so, my son,” replied the Elector, with a friendly nod of the head. “Go to your rooms, which have been prepared for you a whole half year, and await your return. Dress yourself and rejoin us at dinner. For the rest, I bid you heartily welcome, and may your return be productive of good, not evil, to yourself and us all.”
“God grant that I may merit my father’s favor, and ever show myself worthy of it!” exclaimed the Electoral Prince, with deep seriousness. “I have now the honor of taking my leave!”
He bowed low before the Elector, and with a like salutation bade farewell to the Electress and the Princesses. After greeting the count with a smile and a wave of his hand, he hurried with light elastic step through the apartment to the door.
When the Electoral Prince left his father’s cabinet he found without the officers and servants of the household arranged in solemn order. They received him with a thrice-repeated cheer that was loud enough to penetrate through the door into the Electoral apartment, and to reach the Elector’s ears in a manner by no means pleasant.
Affectionately and smilingly Frederick William thanked them. He could call each one of them by name, and charmed them all by recalling little incidents of his earlier days in which they had borne a part.
“I hope we shall always remain good friends,” he said, when he had reached the door of the long entrance hall, “and once more I thank you for your friendly greeting.”