“As God is my judge”—solemnly—“that is all I wish to do. Now, what has happened since I went away? I have dared to ask questions of no one.”
Carmichael gave him a brief summary of events, principal among which was the amazing restoration of the Princess Hildegarde. When he had finished, Grumbach remained dumb and motionless for a time.
“And what is her serene highness like?”
To describe the Princess Hildegarde was not only an easy task, but a pleasant one to Carmichael, and if he embroidered this description here and there, Grumbach was too deeply concerned with the essential points to notice these variations in the theme.
“So she is gentle and beautiful? Why not? Ach! You should have seen her mother. She was the most beautiful woman in all Germany, and she sang like one of those Italian nightingales. I recall her when I was a boy. I would gladly have died at a word from her. All loved her. The king of Jugendheit wanted her, but she loved the grand duke. So the Princess Hildegarde has come back to her own? God is good!” And Grumbach bent his head reverently.
“Well,” said Carmichael, beckoning to the waitress, and paying the score, “if any trouble rises, send for me. You don’t look like a man who has done anything very bad.” He offered his hand again.
Grumbach pressed it firmly, and there was a moisture in his eyes.
Together they returned to the Grand Hotel for lunch. On the way neither talked very much. They were both thinking of the same thing, but from avenues diametrically opposed. Grumbach declined Carmichael’s invitation to lunch, and immediately sought his own room.
Once there, he closed the shutters so as to admit but half the day’s light, and opened his battered trunk. From the false bottom, which had successfully eluded the vigilance of a dozen frontiers, he took out a small bundle. This he opened carefully, his eyes blurring. Mad fool that he had been! How many times had he gazed at these trinkets in these sixteen or more years? How often had he uttered lamentations over them? How many times had the talons of remorse gashed his heart?
Two little yellow shoes, so small that they lay on his palm as lightly as two butterflies; a little cloak trimmed with ermine; a golden locket shaped like a heart!
AN ELDER BROTHER
Grumbach was very fond of music, and in America there were never any bands except at political meetings or at the head of processions; and that wasn’t the sort of music he preferred. There was nothing at the Opera, so he decided to spend the earlier part of the evening in the public gardens. He was lonely; he had always been lonely. Men who carry depressing secrets generally are. He searched covertly among the many faces for one that was familiar, but he saw none; and he was at once glad, and sorry.