“I have asked for my recall, your Highness.”
“And so Dreiberg no longer appeals to you? You once told inc that you loved it.”
“I am cursed with wanderlust, your Highness.” He regretted that he had not remained in the ball-room. He was in great danger.
“You promised to tell me what she is like.” Suddenly all his fear went away, all his trepidation; the spirit of recklessness which had vised him a little while ago again empowered him. He was afraid of nothing. His face flushed and there were bright points of fire in his eyes. She saw what she had roused, and grew afraid herself. She pretended to become interested in the Watteau cupids on her fan.
“How shall I describe her?” he said. “I have seen only paintings and marbles, and these are inanimate. I have never seen angels, so I can not draw a comparison there. Have you ever seen ripe wheat in a rain-storm? That is the color of her hair. There is jade and lapis-lazuli in her eyes. And Ole Bull could not imitate the music of her voice.” He leaned toward her. “And I love her better than life, better than hope; and between us there is the distance of a thousand worlds. So I must give up the dream and go away, as an honorable man should.”
Neither of them heard the chancellor’s approach.
“And because I love her.”
The fan in her hand slipped unheeded to the floor.
“Your Highness,” broke in the cold even tones of Herbeck, “your father is making inquiries about you.”
Carmichael rose instantly, white as the frill in his shirt.
Hildegarde, however, was a princess. She gained her feet leisurely, with half a smile on her lips.
“Count, Herr Carmichael tells me that he is soon to leave Dreiberg.”
“Ah!” There was satisfaction in Herbeck’s ejaculation, satisfaction of a frank order. But there was a glint of admiration in his eyes as he recognized the challenge in Carmichael’s. He saw that he must step carefully in regard to this hot-headed young Irishman. “We shall miss Herr Carmichael.”
Her highness moved serenely toward the door. Carmichael waited till she was gone from sight, then he stooped and picked up the fan. Herbeck at once held out his hand.
“Give it to me, Herr Captain,” he said, with a melancholy gentleness. “I will return it to her highness.”
Carmichael deliberately thrust the fan into a pocket and shook his head.
“Your Excellency, I do not know how long you stood behind us, but you were there long enough to learn that I have surrendered my dream. Nothing but force will cause me to surrender this fan.”
“Keep it, then, my son,” replied the chancellor, with good understanding.
AFTER THE VINTAGE