“Go away, would you say? By yonder door! I know perfectly well that it leads into the Princess’s private apartment, and thence into the antechamber. Oh, I know the Castle Doornward well, for is it not the residence of the Electress of the Palatinate and her fair daughter the Princess? Therefore I have had drawn out for myself an exact plan of it. Moreover, your waiting maid Alice awaits me in the antechamber. Forgive her for not having been able to withstand the persuasions of her compatriot, the magician Ducato. Alice will permit me to slip out of the castle by a back door. And now, adored Princess and exalted Electress of the future, permit your most faithful and devoted servant ere he depart once more to press your beloved hand to his lips, and to tell you how inexpressibly happy—and, alas! how inexpressibly wretched—it makes him that he can and—must assist in marrying the Princess Ludovicka to the Electoral Prince.”
With a bewitching smile the Princess held out her hand to him. “Count d’Entragues,” she said, “I shall be eternally grateful to you for your self-sacrifice and good faith. I shall esteem myself happy if some day I may find an opportunity of proving this to you. Farewell!”
He pressed a long, glowing kiss upon her hand. “Farewell!” he said. “When I see you again, Princess, I shall accompany you to the altar, and must witness the transformation of the Princess Ludovicka into an Electoral Princess of Brandenburg, and in my heart will be prayers, but also tears! Farewell!”
He sprang up, crossed the room with light, quick steps, unbolted the door, and vanished behind the curtain. The Princess watched him until he had disappeared, and, after she had convinced herself that he was actually gone, and had bolted the door again, she took out the paper and read over its contents slowly and with most serious attention.
As she read, brighter and brighter became her face, constantly more radiant the smile upon her rosy lips. “Yes,” she cried, after she had twice read it through, “that will do—it shall be so! To-morrow in the Media Nocte I will—”
A loud shrill whistle sounded. “He comes!” whispered she, “he comes!”
With trembling hands she thrust the paper into a casket belonging to her writing table, and hurried to the window to open it and lower the rope ladder.
At this moment the whistle rang forth for the second time, its tones following one another in quick succession.
“It is he—it is my beloved,” murmured Ludovicka, and with a happy smile she listened out into the night.
II.—THE ELECTORAL PRINCE.
The Princess had not long to wait. The groaning and creaking of the rope ladder already betrayed the presence of its burden. Ludovicka leaned farther out of the window and saw the dark shadow mount higher and higher; already she heard his breath, and now—oh, now he was there, swung himself in at the window, and without saying a word, without seeing anything but herself, only herself alone. He fell on his knees before the Princess, flung both arms round her waist, and, looking up at her with a beaming smile, whispered, “I thank you, Ludovicka, I thank you!”