‘Adieu, Harry Richmond. Will you be quite patient till you hear from me?’ said Ottilia, and added, ‘It is my question!’ delightfully recalling old times.
I was soon gazing at the track of the boat in rough water.
Shouts were being raised somewhere about the forest, and were replied to by hearty bellow of the rower’s lungs. She was now at liberty to join my name to her own or not, as she willed. I had to wait. But how much richer was I than all the world! The future owed me nothing. I would have registered a vow to ask nothing of it. Among the many determined purposes framing which I walked home, was one to obtain a grant of that bit of land where we had sat together, and build a temple on it. The fear that it might be trodden by feet of men before I had enclosed it beset me with anguish. The most absolute pain I suffered sprang from a bewildering incapacity to conjure up a vision of Ottilia free of the glittering accessories of her high birth; and that was the pain of shame; but it came only at intervals, when pride stood too loftily and the shadow of possible mischance threatened it with the axe.
She did not condemn me to long waiting. Her favourite Aennchen brought me her first letter. The girl’s face beamed, and had a look as if she commended me for a worthy deed.
‘An answer, Aennchen?’ I asked her.
‘Yes, yes!’ said she anxiously; ’but it will take more time than I can spare.’ She appointed a meeting near the palace garden-gates at night.
I chose a roof of limes to read under.
‘Noblest and best beloved!’ the princess addressed me in her own tongue, doubting, I perceived, as her training had taught her, that my English eyes would tolerate apostrophes of open-hearted affection. The rest was her English confided to a critic who would have good reason to be merciful:
’The night has come that writes the chapter of the day. My father has had his interview with his head-forester to learn what has befallen from the storm in the forest. All has not been told him! That shall not be delayed beyond to-morrow.
’I am hurried to it. And I had the thought that it hung perhaps at the very end of my life among the coloured leaves, the strokes of sunset—that then it would be known! or if earlier, distant from this strange imperative Now. But we have our personal freedom now, and I have learnt from minutes what I did mean to seek from years, and from our forest what I hoped that change of scene, travel, experience, would teach me. Yet I was right in my intention. It was a discreet and a just meaning I had. For things will not go smoothly for him at once: he will have his hard battle. He is proved: he has passed his most brave ordeal. But I! Shall I see him put to it and not certainly know myself? Even thus I reasoned. One cannot study without knowing that our human nature is most frail. Daily the body changes, daily the mind—why not the heart? I did design to travel and converse with various persons.