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.
‘I have known it by my knowledge of myself,’ she said, breathing with her lips dissevered. ’My weakness has come upon me. Yes, I love you. It is spoken. It is too true. Is it a fate that brings us together when I have just lost my little remaining strength—all power? You hear me! I pretend to wisdom, and talk of fate!’
She tried to laugh in scorn of herself, and looked at me with almost a bitter smile on her features, made beautiful by her soft eyes. I feared from the helpless hanging of her underlip that she would swoon; a shudder convulsed her; and at the same time I became aware of the blotting out of sunlight, and a strange bowing and shore-like noising of the forest.
‘Do not heed me,’ she said in happy undertones. ’I think I am going to cry like a girl. One cannot see one’s pride die like this, without but it is not anguish of any kind. Since we are here together, I would have no other change.’
She spoke till the tears came thick.
I told her of the letters I had received, warning me of a trouble besetting her. They were, perhaps, the excuse for my conduct, if I had any.
Schwartz burst on us with his drill-sergeant’s shout for the princess. Standing grey in big rain-drops he was an object of curiosity to us both. He came to take her orders.
‘The thunder,’ he announced, raising a telegraphic arm, ’rolls. It rains. We have a storm. Command me, princess! your highness!’