After a while the Prince raised himself a little, slowly opened his eyes, and cast a sad, sweeping glance around the room.
“Dietrich, are we alone?” he asked, in a hoarse, almost inaudible voice.
“Quite alone, gracious sir.”
“Then hear what I have to say to you. Incline your ear close to me, for you alone must hear me. When the physician comes, take good care not to repeat to him what you said just now to the chamberlain. He and all the world must think that it is actually nothing but wine which has made me sick. He will prescribe medicine for me. Have it prepared forthwith. You alone must stay with me. Tell them I have ordered it, and Goetz must return to the banquet and tell them it was nothing but wine. Dietrich, do not give me the medicine, but throw it away. There is only one kind of physic for me—milk, only milk, that is my cordial. Give me milk, Dietrich, milk directly, for the pains are coming on again, so dreadfully, oh, so dreadfully! But do not tell anybody. Nobody must know what I suffer! It burns like fire! Milk, Dietrich, milk!”
As if borne on the wings of the wind, Gabriel Nietzel had flown through the streets to his own abode. It lay in a quiet, retired quarter of the town, and, as he turned into the street and looked up to the house, he saw leaning far out of one of the windows a woman, who, her face shaded by her hand, was gazing down into the street. He recognized the form, although he could not see her countenance, and uttered a loud cry of joy. This cry of joy found an echo in the window above, and the form vanished. Gabriel Nietzel rushed into the house and up the steps. On the top step stood a woman with outstretched arms, and again Gabriel uttered a cry of joy and pressed his wife firmly to his breast, as firmly as if he would never let her leave the spot, as if his love would keep and hold her there forever. He bore her through the open door into their chamber, bore her to the cradle standing in the center of the room, and then sank with her on his knees.
They looked at one another, and then at the child, which lay there quietly with wide-open eyes, in sweet contentment.
“My child! my child!” cried Gabriel; and it was as if now for the first time he saw his boy, as if he had but just been sent him by Heaven, and for a moment, in the blissful consciousness of being a father, he forgot all—yes, all. He snatched up the child and hugged and kissed it, lost in rapture and delight. But all at once there came over him the memory of those pale, quivering features, the dimmed eyes, and drooping form. A shudder ran through his whole frame; with a shriek of horror he let the child fall back in its cradle, and clasped both hands before his face.
Rebecca tore back his hands, and her large black eyes gazed searchingly into his countenance. She now for the first time saw how pale he was, and how disturbed his mien. She now for the first time saw that he avoided her look, and that his breast heaved convulsively.