“It is a great honor,” she said, after some meditation, “and it is very kind of you. But I care as little for the title as I do for this rose.” And she cast away one of Pembroke’s roses. It boded ill for my cousin’s cause.
Presently we saw the giver of the rose loom up in the doorway. He was smiling as usual.
“It is supper, Jack,” he said; “I’m afraid you’ll have to go.”
“Does he know?” whispered Phyllis as we rose.
She frowned. And as they went away I mused upon the uncertainty of placing valuable things in woman’s hands.
The next person I saw was the Chancellor.
“Well?” I interrogated.
“There can be no doubt,” he said, “but—” with an expressive shrug.
“Life would run smoother if it had fewer ‘buts’ and ‘its’ and ‘perhapses.’ What you would say,” said I, “is that there are no proofs. Certainly they must be somewhere.”
“But to find them!” cried he.
“I shall make the effort; the pursuit is interesting.”
The expression in his eyes told me that he had formed an opinion in regard to my part. “Ah, these journalists!” as he passed on.
Everything seemed so near and yet so far. Proofs? Where could they be found if Wentworth had them not? If only there had been a trinket, a kerchief, even, with the Hohenphalian crest upon it! I shook my fists in despair. Gretchen was so far away, so far!
I went in search of her. She was still surrounded by men. The women were not as friendly toward her as they might have been. The Prince was standing near. Seeing me approach, his teeth gleamed for an instant.
“Ah,” said Gretchen, “here is Herr Winthrop, who is to take me in to supper.”
It was cleverly done, I thought. Even the Prince was of the same mind. He appreciated all these phases. As we left them and passed in toward the supper room, I whispered:
“I love you!”
When I whispered these words I expected a gentle pressure from Gretchen’s fingers, which rested lightly on my arm. But there was no sign, and I grew troubled. The blue-green eyes sparkled, and the white teeth shone between the red lips. Yet something was lacking.
“Let us go into the conservatory,” she said. “It was merely a ruse of mine. I want no supper. I have much to say to you.”
Altogether, I had dreamed of a different reception. When I entered the doorway, and she first saw me, it was Gretchen; but now it was distinctly a Princess, a woman of the world, full of those devices which humble and confuse us men.
Somehow we selected, by mutual accord, a seat among the roses. There was a small fountain, and the waters sang in a murmurous music. It seemed too early for words, so we drew our thoughts from the marble and the water. As for me, I looked at, but did not see, the fountain. It was another scene. There was a garden, in which the roses grew in beautiful disorder. The sunbeams straggled through the chestnuts. Near by a wide river moved slowly, and with a certain majesty. There was a man and a woman in the garden. She was culling roses, while the man looked on with admiring eyes.