The child’s wish was so true, so earnest, and Ludwig himself had experienced the proud delights of which she had spoken. Perhaps, too, he had related to Marie the story of Clelia and her companions, who swam the Tiber to preserve the Roman maidens’ reputation for virtue.
“Whatever gives pleasure to thee pleases me,” he said, extending his hand to take hers.
“And thou wilt grant my wish? Oh, how kind, how dear thou art!” And in vain the young man sought to withdraw the hand she covered with kisses. “What!” she exclaimed reproachfully, “may I not kiss thy hand either?”
“How canst thou behave so, Marie? Thou art fifteen years old! A grown-up girl does not kiss a man’s hand.”
He passed his hand across his brow and sighed heavily; then he rose to his feet.
“Where art thou going? Knowest thou not that to-day thou dost not belong to thy horrid books nor to thy telescope, but that thou art my subject?”
“I go to execute the commands of my little queen. If she desires to learn to swim, I must have a bath-house built on the shore, and look about for a suitable spot in the little cove.”
“When I have learned to swim all by myself, may not I go beyond the little cove—away out into the open lake?”
“Yes, on two conditions. One is that I may follow in my canoe—”
“But not keep very near to me?”
“Of course not. The second condition is that in daylight thou wilt not swim beyond those willows which conceal the cove. Only on moonlight evenings mayest thou venture into the open lake.”
“But why may not I venture by daylight?”
“Because a telescope does not enable one to distinguish features after night. Other people may have a telescope, like myself.”
“Who would have one in this village?”
“The manor has a new occupant. A lady has taken possession there.”
“A lady? Is she pretty?”
“She is young.”
“Didst thou see her through the telescope? What kind of hair has she got?”
“Then she must be very pretty. May I take a look at her some time?”
“I am afraid thou mightest fall in love with her; for she is very beautiful, and very good.”
“How dost thou know she is good?”
“Because she visits the sick and the poor, and because she goes regularly to church.”
“Why do we never go to church?”
“Because we profess a different belief from that acknowledged by those persons who attend this church.”