And it was before a witness, though unviewed by us.
The farewell had come. Her voice was humbled.
Never, I said, delighting in the now conscious bravery of her eyes engaging mine, shadowy with the struggle, I would never doubt her, and I renounced all pledges. To be clear in my own sight as well as in hers, I made mention of the half-formed conspiracy to obtain her plighted troth in a binding manner. It was not necessary for me to excuse myself; she did that, saying, ’Could there be a greater proof of my darling’s unhappiness? I am to blame.’
We closed hands for parting. She hesitated and asked if my father was awake; then promptly to my answer:
’I will see him. I have treated you ill. I have exacted too much patience. The suspicion was owing to a warning I had this evening, Harry; a silly warning to beware of snares; and I had no fear of them, believe me, though for some moments, and without the slightest real desire to be guarded, I fancied Harry’s father was overhearing me. He is your father, dearest: fetch him to me. My father will hear of this from my lips—why not he? Ah! did I suspect you ever so little? I will atone for it; not atone, I will make it my pleasure; it is my pride that has hurt you both. O my lover! my lover! Dear head, dear eyes! Delicate and noble that you are! my own stronger soul! Where was my heart? Is it sometimes dead, or sleeping? But you can touch it to life. Look at me—I am yours. I consent, I desire it; I will see him. I will be bound. The heavier the chains, oh! the better for me. What am I, to be proud of anything not yours, Harry? and I that have passed over to you! I will see him at once.’
A third in the room cried out, ‘No, not that—you do not!’
The tongue was German and struck on us like a roll of unfriendly musketry before we perceived the enemy. ’Princess Ottilia! you remember your dignity or I defend you and it, think of me what you will!’
Baroness Turckems, desperately entangled by the sofa-covering, rushed into the ray of the lamps and laid her hand on the bell-rope. In a minute we had an alarm sounding, my father was among us, there was a mad play of chatter, and we stood in the strangest nightmare-light that ever ended an interview of lovers.
HOMEWARD AND HOME AGAIN
The room was in flames, Baroness Turckems plucking at the bell-rope, my father looking big and brilliant.
‘Hold hand!’ he shouted to the frenzied baroness.
She counter-shouted; both of them stamped feet; the portico sentinel struck the butt of his musket on the hall-doors; bell answered bell along the upper galleries.
‘Foolish woman, be silent!’ cried my father.
‘Incendiary!’ she half-shrieked.
He turned to the princess, begging her to retire, but she stared at him, and I too, after having seen him deliberately apply the flame of her lamp to the curtains, deemed him mad. He was perfectly self-possessed, and said, ‘This will explain the bell!’ and fetched a deep breath, and again urged the princess to retire.