The good hour slipped away. Old Warhead’s splashed knees on the level of our heads were seen by us when the thunder had abated. Ottilia prepared to rise.
‘You shall hear from me,’ she said, bending with brows measuring the boat-roof, like a bird about to fly.
‘Shall I see you?’
‘Ultimately you surely will. Ah! still be patient.’
‘Am I not? have I not been?’
‘Yes; and can you regret it?’
‘No; but we separate!’
‘Would you have us be two feet high for ever?’ she answered smiling.
‘One foot high, or under earth, if it might be together!’
‘Poor little gnomes!’ said she.
The homeliness of our resting-place arrested her for an instant, and perhaps a touch of comic pity for things of such diminutive size as to see nothing but knees where a man stood. Our heads were hidden.
‘Adieu! no pledge is needed,’ she said tenderly.
‘None!’ I replied.
She returned to the upper world with a burning blush.
Schwartz had borne himself with extraordinary discretion by forbearing to spread alarm at the palace. He saluted his young mistress in the regulation manner while receiving her beneath a vast umbrella, the holiday peasant’s invariable companion in these parts. A forester was in attendance carrying shawls, clogs, and matting. The boat was turned and launched.
’Adieu, Harry Richmond. Will you be quite patient till you hear from me?’ said Ottilia, and added, ‘It is my question!’ delightfully recalling old times.
I was soon gazing at the track of the boat in rough water.
Shouts were being raised somewhere about the forest, and were replied to by hearty bellow of the rower’s lungs. She was now at liberty to join my name to her own or not, as she willed. I had to wait. But how much richer was I than all the world! The future owed me nothing. I would have registered a vow to ask nothing of it. Among the many determined purposes framing which I walked home, was one to obtain a grant of that bit of land where we had sat together, and build a temple on it. The fear that it might be trodden by feet of men before I had enclosed it beset me with anguish. The most absolute pain I suffered sprang from a bewildering incapacity to conjure up a vision of Ottilia free of the glittering accessories of her high birth; and that was the pain of shame; but it came only at intervals, when pride stood too loftily and the shadow of possible mischance threatened it with the axe.
She did not condemn me to long waiting. Her favourite Aennchen brought me her first letter. The girl’s face beamed, and had a look as if she commended me for a worthy deed.
‘An answer, Aennchen?’ I asked her.
‘Yes, yes!’ said she anxiously; ’but it will take more time than I can spare.’ She appointed a meeting near the palace garden-gates at night.