Sperver’s indignation was mounting.
“There’s the happiness and felicity of the rich! What is the good of being master of Nideck, with castles, forests, lakes, and all the best parts of the Black Forest, when an innocent looking damsel comes and says to you in her sweet soft voice, ’Is that your will? Well, it is not mine. Do you say I must? Well, I say no, I won’t.’ Is it not awful? Would it not be better to be a woodcutter’s son and live quietly upon the wages of your day’s work? Come on, Fritz; let us be off. I am suffocating here; I want to get into the open air.”
And the good fellow, seizing my arm, dragged me down the corridor.
It was now about nine. The sky had been fair when we got up, but now the clouds had again covered the dreary earth, the north wind was raising the snow in ghostly eddies against the window-panes, and I could scarcely distinguish the summits of the neighbouring mountains.
We were going down the stairs which led into the hall, when, at a turn in the corridor, we found ourselves face to face with Tobias Offenloch, the worthy major-domo, in a great state of palpitation.
“Halloo!” he cried, closing our way with his stick right across the passage; “where are you off to in such a hurry? What about our breakfast?”
“Breakfast! which breakfast do you mean?” asked Sperver.
“What do you mean by pretending to forget what breakfast? Are not you and I to breakfast this very morning with Doctor Fritz?”
“Aha! so we are! I had forgotten all about it.”
And Offenloch burst into a great laugh which divided his jolly face from ear to ear.
“Ha, ha! this is rather beyond a joke. And I was afraid of being too late! Come, let us be moving. Kasper is upstairs waiting. I ordered him to lay the breakfast in your room; I thought we should be more comfortable there. Good-bye for the present, doctor.”
“Are you not coming up with us?” asked Sperver.
“No, I am going to tell the countess that the Baron de Zimmer-Bluderich begs the honour to thank her in person before he leaves the castle.”
“The Baron de Zimmer?”
“Yes, that stranger who came yesterday in the middle of the night.”
“Well, you must make haste.”
“Yes, I shall not be long. Before you have done uncorking the bottles I shall be with you again.”
And he hobbled away as fast as he could.
The mention of breakfast had given a different turn to Sperver’s thoughts.
“Exactly so,” he observed, turning back; “the best way to drown all your cares is to drink a draught of good wine. I am very glad we are going to breakfast in my room. Under those great high vaults in the fencing-school, sitting round a small table, you feel just like mice nibbling a nut in a corner of a big church. Here we are, Fritz. Just listen to the wind whistling through the arrow-slits. In half-an-hour there will be a storm.”