Ottilia’s eyelids were set blinking by one look aloft. Rain and lightning filled heaven and earth.
‘Direct us, you!’ she said to me gently.
The natural proposal was to despatch her giant by the direct way down the lake to fetch a carriage from the stables, or matting from the boathouse. I mentioned it, but did not press it.
She meditated an instant. ‘I believe I may stay with my beloved?’
Schwartz and I ran to the boat, hauled it on land, and set it keel upward against a low leafy dripping branch. To this place of shelter, protecting her as securely as I could, I led the princess, while Schwartz happed a rough trench around it with one of the sculls. We started him on foot to do the best thing possible; for the storm gave no promise that it was a passing one. In truth, I knew that I should have been the emissary and he the guard; but the storm overhead was not fuller of its mighty burden than I of mine. I looked on her as mine for the hour, and well won.
PRINCESS OTTILIA’S LETTER
That hour of tempest went swift as one of its flashes over our little nest of peace, where we crouched like insects. The lightning and the deluge seemed gloriously endless. Ottilia’s harbouring nook was dry within an inch of rushing floods and pattered mire. On me the torrents descended, and her gentle efforts drew me to her side, as with a maternal claim to protect me, or to perish in my arms if the lightning found us. We had for prospect an ever-outbursting flame of foliage, and the hubbub of the hissing lake, crimson, purple, dusky grey, like the face of a passionate creature scourged. It was useless to speak. Her lips were shut, but I had the intent kindness of her eyes on me almost unceasingly.
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.