’It says much for her that he has not spoilt her manners; her health, you know, he succeeded in almost totally destroying, and he is at it again. The man is, I suspect, at heart arrant Republican. He may teach a girl whatever nonsensical politics he likes—it goes at the lifting of the bridegroom’s little finger. We could not permit him to be near a young prince. Alas! we have none.’
The Professor allowed himself extraordinary liberties with strangers, the guests of the margravine. I met him crossing an inner court next day. He interrupted me in the middle of a commonplace remark, and to this effect:
‘You are either a most fortunate or a most unfortunate young man!’
So profoundly penetrated with thoughtfulness was the tone of his voice that I could not take umbrage. The attempt to analyze his signification cost me an aching forehead, perhaps because I knew it too acutely.
She was on horseback; I on foot, Schwartz for sole witness, and a wide space of rolling silent white country around us.
We had met in the fall of the winter noon by accident. ’You like my Professor?’ said Ottilia.
‘I do: I respect him for his learning.’
’You forgive him his irony? It is not meant to be personal to you. England is the object; and partly, I may tell you, it springs from jealousy. You have such wealth! You embrace half the world: you are such a little island! All this is wonderful. The bitterness is, you are such a mindless people—I do but quote to explain my Professor’s ideas. “Mindless,” he says, “and arrogant, and neither in the material nor in the spiritual kingdom of noble or gracious stature, and ceasing to have a brave aspect.” He calls you squat Goths. Can you bear to hear me?’
’And to his conception, you, who were pioneers when the earth had to be shaped for implements and dug for gold, will turn upon us and stop our march; you are to be overthrown and left behind, there to gain humility from the only teacher you can understand—from poverty. Will you defend yourself?’
’Well, no, frankly, I will not. The proper defence for a nation is its history.’
‘For an individual?’
‘For a man, his readiness to abide by his word.’
‘For a woman—what?’
‘For a princess, her ancestry.’