“Get down upon your knees, then,” she said, haughtily, “and put on my slipper, since you exact it, and let this end this ridiculous scene. I think you should be too proud to regard a maid’s privilege as a favor.”
“As a favor which a king would envy,” replied Gerfaut, in a voice as tender as hers had been disdainful. He put one knee on the ground, placed the little slipper upon the other and seemed to await his enemy’s pleasure. But the latter found a new subject for complaint in the pedestal offered her, for she said with increased severity:
“On the ground, Monsieur; and let that end it.”
He obeyed, without a reply, after giving her a reproachful glance by which she was as much moved as by his silent obedience. She put out her foot with a more gracious air, and thrust it into the slipper. To be a correct historian, we must admit that this time she left it in the hands which softly pressed it longer than was strictly necessary. When Octave had fastened it with skill but with no haste, he bent his head and pressed his lips to the openwork stocking, through which he could catch a glimpse of white, satiny skin.
“My husband!” exclaimed Madame de Bergenheim, as she heard the clatter of horses’ hoofs at the end of the avenue; and without adding a word she fled rapidly toward the chateau. Gerfaut arose from his position no less rapidly and darted into the woods. A rustling of branches which he heard a few steps from him made him uneasy at first, for he feared that an invisible witness had been present at this imprudent interview; but he was soon reassured by the silence which reigned about him.
After the Baron and his sister had passed, he crossed the avenue and soon disappeared over the winding road on the other side of the bridge.
ART AND MUSIC
A league below the castle of Bergenheim, the village of La Fauconnerie was situated, at the junction of several valleys the principal of which, by means of an unfrequented road, opened communications between Lorraine and upper Alsatia. This position had been one of some importance in the Middle Ages, at the time when the Vosges were beset with partisans from the two countries, always ready to renew border hostilities, the everlasting plague of all frontiers. Upon a cliff overlooking the village were situated the ruins which had given the village its name; it owed it to the birds of prey [falcons, in French: ’faucons’], the habitual guests of the perpendicular rocks. To render proper justice to whom it belongs, we should add that the proprietors of La Fauconnerie had made it a point at all times to justify this appellation by customs more warlike than hospitable; but for some time the souvenirs of their feudal prowess had slept with their race under the ruins of the manor; the chateau had fallen without the hamlet extending over its ruins; from a bourg of some importance La Fauconnerie had come down to a small village, and had nothing remarkable about it but the melancholy ruins of the chateau.