Her hand was hanging loose. I grasped it. She drew a sudden long breath, and murmured, without fretting to disengage herself,
‘My friend, not that!’
Her voice carried an unmistakeable command. I kissed above the fingers and released them.
‘Are you still able to run?’ said she, leading with an easy canter, face averted. She put on fresh speed; I was outstripped.
Had she quitted me in anger? Had she parted from me out of view of the villa windows to make it possible for us to meet accidentally again in the shadow of her old protecting Warhead, as we named him from his appearance, gaunt Schwartz?
AN EVENING WITH DR. JULIUS VON KARSTEG
In my perplexity, I thought of the Professor’s saying: ’A most fortunate or a most unfortunate young man.’ These words began to strike me as having a prophetic depth that I had not fathomed. I felt myself fast becoming bound in every limb, every branch of my soul. Ottilia met me smiling. She moved free as air. She could pursue her studies, and argue and discuss and quote, keep unclouded eyes, and laugh and play, and be her whole living self, unfettered, as if the pressure of my hand implied nothing. Perhaps for that reason I had her pardon. ‘My friend, not that!’ Her imperishably delicious English rang me awake, and lulled me asleep. Was it not too securely friendly? Or was it not her natural voice to the best beloved, bidding him respect her, that we might meet with the sanction of her trained discretion? The Professor would invite me to his room after the ‘sleep well’ of the ladies, and I sat with him much like his pipe-bowl, which burned bright a moment at one sturdy puff, but generally gave out smoke in fantastical wreaths. He told me frankly he had a poor idea of my erudition. My fancifulness he commended as something to be turned to use in writing stories. ’Give me time, and I’ll do better things,’ I groaned. He rarely spoke of the princess; with grave affection always when he did. He was evidently observing me comprehensively. The result was beyond my guessing.
One night he asked me what my scheme of life was.
On the point of improvizing one of an impressive character, I stopped and confessed: ‘I have so many that I may say I have none.’ Expecting reproof, I begged him not to think the worse of me for that.
‘Quite otherwise,’ said he. ’I have never cared to read deliberately in the book you open to me, my good young man.’
‘The book, Herr Professor?’
’Collect your wits. We will call it Shakespeare’s book; or Gothe’s, in the minor issues. No, not minor, but a narrower volume. You were about to give me the answer of a hypocrite. Was it not so?’
I admitted it, feeling that it was easily to have been perceived. He was elated.
’Good. Then I apprehend that you wait for the shifting of a tide to carry you on?’