‘Thank you, thank you most humbly,’ said I, bowing to her shadow of a mock curtsey.
The princess’s hand appeared at a side of the chair. We hastened to her.
‘Let me laugh, too,’ she prayed.
Miss Sibley was about to reply, but stared, and delight sprang to her lips in a quick cry.
’What medicine is this? Why, the light of morning has come to you, my darling!’
‘I am better, dearest, better.’
‘You sigh, my own.’
’No; I breathe lots, lots of salt air now, and lift like a boat. Ask him—he had a little friend, much shorter than himself, who came the whole way with him out of true friendship—ask him where is the friend?’
Miss Sibley turned her head to me.
‘Temple,’ said I; ‘Temple is a midshipman; he is at sea.’
‘That is something to think of,’ the princess murmured, and dropped her eyelids a moment. She resumed ’The Grand Seigneur was at Vienna last year, and would not come to Sarkeld, though he knew I was ill.’
My father stooped low.
’The Grand Seigneur, your servant, dear princess, was an Ottoman Turk, and his Grand Vizier advised him to send flowers in his place weekly.’
‘I had them, and when we could get those flowers nowhere else,’ she replied. ‘So it was you! So my friends have been about me.’
During the remainder of the walk I was on one side of the chair, and her little maid on the other, while my father to rearward conversed with Miss Sibley. The princess took a pleasure in telling me that this Aennchen of hers knew me well, and had known me before ever her mistress had seen me. Aennchen was the eldest of the two children Temple and I had eaten breakfast with in the forester’s hut. I felt myself as if in the forest again, merely wondering at the growth of the trees, and the narrowness of my vision in those days.
At parting, the princess said,
’Is my English improved? You smiled at it once. I will ask you when I meet you next.’
‘It is my question,’ I whispered to my own ears.
She caught the words.
‘Why do you say—“It is my question"?’
I was constrained to remind her of her old forms of English speech.
‘You remember that? Adieu,’ she said.
My father considerately left me to carry on my promenade alone. I crossed the ground she had traversed, noting every feature surrounding it, the curving wheel-track, the thin prickly sand-herbage, the wave-mounds, the sparse wet shells and pebbles, the gleaming flatness of the water, and the vast horizon-boundary of pale flat land level with shore, looking like a dead sister of the sea. By a careful examination of my watch and the sun’s altitude, I was able to calculate what would, in all likelihood, have been his height above yonder waves when her chair was turned toward the city, at a point I reached in the track. But of the matter then simultaneously occupying my mind, to recover which was the second supreme task I proposed to myself-of what. I also was thinking upon the stroke of five o’clock, I could recollect nothing. I could not even recollect whether I happened to be looking on sun and waves when she must have had them full and glorious in her face.