“I will promise you anything you may ask,” I said eagerly. A new hope and a new confidence had risen in my heart. I wonder where man got the idea that he is lord of creation when he depends so much upon woman? “And you will really be my sister, too!” taking her hands and kissing them. “And you will think of me a little, will you not?”
“Yes.” She slowly withdrew her hands. “If you do not find her, write to me.”
“Your Highness, it is my hope that some day you will meet a Prince who will be worthy of you, who will respect and honor you as I do.”
“Who can say? You have promised the King to become a subject of Hohenphalia.”
“Then you will be a subject of mine. It is my will—I am in a sovereign mood—that you at once proceed to find Hildegarde, and I will give her to you.”
We had arrived at the head of the stairs. The departing light of the smoldering sun poured through the stained windows. The strands of her hair were like a thousand flames, and her eyes had turned to gold, and there was a smile on her lips which filled me with strange uneasiness. I kissed her hands again, then went down the stairs. At the foot I turned.
My ear detected the barest falter in her voice, and something glistened on her eyelashes. . . . Ah! why could not the veil have remained before my eyes and let me gone in darkness? Suddenly I was looking across the chasm of years. There was a young girl in white, a table upon which stood a pitcher. It was a garden scene, and the air was rich with perfumes. The girl’s hair and eyes were brown, and there were promises of great beauty. Then, as swiftly as it came, the vision vanished.
On reaching the street I was aware that my sight had grown dim and that things at a distance were blurred. Perhaps it was the cold air.
Immediately Pembroke and I journeyed to the feudal inn. When we arrived a mixture of rain and snow was falling. But I laughed at that. What if I were drenched to the skin with chill rain and snow, my heart was warm, warmer than it had been in many a day. Woman is infallible when she reads the heart of another. Phyllis said that Gretchen loved me; it only remained for me to find her. Pembroke began to grumble.
“I am wet through,” he said, as our steaming horses plodded along in the melting snow. “You might have waited till the rain let up.”
“I’m just as wet as you are,” I replied, “but I do not care.”
“I’m hungry and cold, too,” he went on.
“I’m not, so it doesn’t matter.”
“Of course not!” he cried. “What are my troubles to you?”
“Nothing!” I laughed and shook the flakes from my sleeves. “Cousin, I am the happiest man in the world.”
“And I’m the most dismal,” said he. “I wish you had brought along an umbrella.”