‘English?’ he said, patting the horse’s neck.
’Yes—the horse? an English hunter. How are you, Prince Otto? Do you like the look of him?’
’Immensely. You know we have a passion for English thoroughbreds. Pardon me, you look as if you had been close on a sunstroke. Do you generally take rides in this weather?’
’I was out by chance. If you like him, pray take him; take him. Mount him and try him. He is yours if you care to have him; if he doesn’t suit you send him up to Count Fretzel’s. I’ve had riding enough in the light.’
‘Perhaps you have,’ said he, and hesitated. ’It’s difficult to resist the offer of such a horse. If you want to dispose of him, mention it when we meet again. Shall I try him? I have a slight inclination to go as hard as you have been going, but he shall have good grooming in the prince’s stables, and that ’s less than half as near again as Count Pretzel’s place; and a horse like this ought not to be out in this weather, if you will permit me the remark.’
’No: I’m ashamed of bringing him out, and shan’t look on him with satisfaction,’ said I. ’Take him and try him, and then take him from me, if you don’t mind.’
‘Do you know, I would advise your lying down in the shade awhile?’ he observed solicitously. ’I have seen men on the march in Hungary and Italy. An hour’s rest under cover would have saved them.’
I thanked him.
‘Ice is the thing!’ he ejaculated. ’I ’ll ride and have some fetched to you. Rest here.’
With visible pleasure he swung to the saddle. I saw him fix his cavalry thighs and bound off as if he meant to take a gate. Had he glanced behind him he would have fancied that the sun had done its worst. I ran at full speed down the footpath, mad to think she might have returned homeward by the lake. The two had parted—why? He this way, she that. They would not have parted but for a division of the will. I came on the empty boat. Schwartz lay near it beneath heavy boughs, smoking and perspiring in peace. Neither of us spoke. And it was now tempered by a fit of alarm that I renewed my search. So when I beheld her, intense gratitude broke my passion; when I touched her hand it was trembling for absolute assurance of her safety. She was leaning against a tree, gazing on the ground, a white figure in that iron-moted gloom.
‘Otto!’ she cried, shrinking from the touch; but at sight of me, all softly as a light in the heavens, her face melted in a suffusion of wavering smiles, and deep colour shot over them, heavenly to see. She pressed her bosom while I spoke: a lover’s speech, breathless.
‘You love me?’ she said.
‘You have known it!’
‘Forgiven me? Speak, princess.’
‘Call me by my name.’
‘My own soul! Ottilia!’
She disengaged her arms tenderly.