He had already stretched out his hand for the whistle, when the outer door opened, and the valet entered.
“Pardon, your excellency. A lackey has just come from the palace. The Elector begs and entreats of your grace that you will have the kindness to repair forthwith to the Elector’s residence.”
“Present my respects to the Elector, and say that I shall do myself the honor of waiting upon him. Go, tell the lackey that, and have my carriage of state ordered out forthwith.”
“Most gracious sir, I beg your pardon, but your excellency can not possibly go in the great carriage of state.”
“Well, and why not?”
“Your excellency knows that it has been raining four days without intermission, and the ground is so soaked through that a man can not cross the streets or square without sinking up to his knees, how much less then a heavy vehicle. The carriage of the strange gentleman who has just been with your excellency remained stuck fast a few steps from here, and the coachman and footman, with a couple of our stableboys, are still busied in trying to pull it out of the mud.”
“Heaven defend us!” cried the count, traversing the apartment with rapid strides; “then I must go myself directly and help the gentleman—”
But he suddenly bethought himself, and slowly stepped back from the door. “With the help of my stableboys, he must already be again on the road—my official from Sonnenburg,” he said. “You think, then, that I can not take the great coach of state?”
“Not possibly, gracious sir. It is a morass, such as has not been for ages, and the townspeople have already brought out their mud carriages again.”
“What is that? What are mud carriages?”
“Your excellency, I mean the stilts on which they parade around when the mud is very bad.”
The count laughed. “The end of it is that nothing is left for me to do but to betake myself to stilts likewise in order to reach the electoral palace.”
“It would be the easiest way, indeed,” replied the lackey; “only it is not quite consistent with respect. But the great coach can not go.”
“Then let them take my light hunting chaise, and attach four of my best coursers. In ten minutes I must be in the carriage.”
V.—THE ELECTOR AND HIS FAVORITE.
In exactly ten minutes the hunting chaise stood in the inner court of the count’s palace, and, as this was paved with huge granite flagstones, the count succeeded in reaching his carriage without spattering his white silk stockings, extending as far as the knee, or soiling his delicate velvet slippers, with their brilliant buckles and high red heels. Then the lackeys opened the great trellised gate of gilded iron, and with loud thundering the carriage rolled from the court out into the street. The coachman lashed the air with his whip, and the four coursers