A third in the room cried out, ‘No, not that—you do not!’
The tongue was German and struck on us like a roll of unfriendly musketry before we perceived the enemy. ’Princess Ottilia! you remember your dignity or I defend you and it, think of me what you will!’
Baroness Turckems, desperately entangled by the sofa-covering, rushed into the ray of the lamps and laid her hand on the bell-rope. In a minute we had an alarm sounding, my father was among us, there was a mad play of chatter, and we stood in the strangest nightmare-light that ever ended an interview of lovers.
HOMEWARD AND HOME AGAIN
The room was in flames, Baroness Turckems plucking at the bell-rope, my father looking big and brilliant.
‘Hold hand!’ he shouted to the frenzied baroness.
She counter-shouted; both of them stamped feet; the portico sentinel struck the butt of his musket on the hall-doors; bell answered bell along the upper galleries.
‘Foolish woman, be silent!’ cried my father.
‘Incendiary!’ she half-shrieked.
He turned to the princess, begging her to retire, but she stared at him, and I too, after having seen him deliberately apply the flame of her lamp to the curtains, deemed him mad. He was perfectly self-possessed, and said, ‘This will explain the bell!’ and fetched a deep breath, and again urged the princess to retire.
Peterborough was the only one present who bethought him of doing fireman’s duty. The risk looked greater than it was. He had but to tear the lighted curtains down and trample on them. Suddenly the baroness called out, ’The man is right! Come with me, princess; escape, your Highness, escape! And you,’ she addressed me—’you rang the bell, you!’
‘To repair your error, baroness,’ said my father.
‘I have my conscience pure; have you?’ she retorted.
He bowed and said, ’The fire will also excuse your presence on the spot, baroness.’
‘I thank my God I am not so cool as you,’ said she.
‘Your warmth’—he bent to her—’shall always be your apology, baroness.’
Seeing the curtains extinguished, Ottilia withdrew. She gave me no glance.