He turned inquiring eyes on me; but a sick man shrinks from puzzles, and he had no strength to question me. His glance fell on Flavias ring, which I wore. I thought he would question me about it; but, after fingering it idly, he let his head fall on his pillow.
I dont know when I shall see you again, he said faintly, almost listlessly.
If I can ever serve you again, sire, I answered.
His eyelids closed. Fritz came with the doctor. I kissed the Kings hand, and let Fritz lead me away. I have never seen the King since.
Outside, Fritz turned, not to the right, back towards the drawbridge, but to the left, and without speaking led me upstairs, through a handsome corridor in the chateau.
Where are we going? I asked.
Looking away from me, Fritz answered:
She has sent for you. When it is over, come back to the bridge. Ill wait for you there.
What does she want? said I, breathing quickly.
He shook his head.
Does she know everything?
He opened a door, and gently pushing me in, closed it behind me. I found myself in a drawing-room, small and richly furnished. At first I thought that I was alone, for the light that came from a pair of shaded candles on the mantelpiece was very dim. But presently I discerned a womans figure standing by the window. I knew it was the princess, and I walked up to her, fell on one knee, and carried the hand that hung by her side to my lips. She neither moved nor spoke. I rose to my feet, and, piercing the gloom with my eager eyes, saw her pale face and the gleam of her hair, and before I knew, I spoke softly:
She trembled a little, and looked round. Then she darted to me, taking hold of me.
Dont stand, dont stand! No, you mustnt! Youre hurt! Sit downhere, here!
She made me sit on a sofa, and put her hand on my forehead.
How hot your head is, she said, sinking on her knees by me. Then she laid her head against me, and I heard her murmur: My darling, how hot your head is!
Somehow love gives even to a dull man the knowledge of his lovers heart. I had come to humble myself and pray pardon for my presumption; but what I said now was:
I love you with all my heart and soul!
For what troubled and shamed her? Not her love for me, but the fear that I had counterfeited the lover as I had acted the King, and taken her kisses with a smothered smile.
With all my life and heart, said I, as she clung to me. Always, from the first moment I saw you in the Cathedral! There has been but one woman in the world to meand there will be no other. But God forgive me the wrong Ive done you!
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