You have been cut out by beauty, and I am left lamenting. The Doctor still remains to me: PROBUS, DOCTUS, LEPIDUS, JUCUNDUS: a man of books.'

'Ay, there is nothing about poor Gotthold,' said the Prince.

'The Governor's consolation? Would you leave him bare?' asked von Rosen.

'And, your Highness,' resumed Gordon, 'may I trust that in the course of this temporary obscuration, you have found me discharge my part with suitable respect and, I may add, tact? I adopted purposely a cheerfulness of manner; mirth, it appeared to me, and a good glass of wine, were the fit alleviations.'

'Colonel,' said Otto, holding out his hand, 'your society was of itself enough. I do not merely thank you for your pleasant spirits; I have to thank you, besides, for some philosophy, of which I stood in need. I trust I do not see you for the last time; and in the meanwhile, as a memento of our strange acquaintance, let me offer you these verses on which I was but now engaged. I am so little of a poet, and was so ill inspired by prison bars, that they have some claim to be at least a curiosity.'

The Colonel's countenance lighted as he took the paper; the silver spectacles were hurriedly replaced. 'Ha!' he said, 'Alexandrines, the tragic metre. I shall cherish this, your Highness, like a relic; no more suitable offering, although I say it, could be made. "DIEUX DE L'IMMENSE PLAINE ET DES VASTES FORETS." Very good,' he said, 'very good indeed! "ET DU GEOLIER LUI-MEME APPRENDRE DES LECONS." Most handsome, begad!'

'Come, Governor,' cried the Countess, 'you can read his poetry when we are gone. Open your grudging portals.'

'I ask your pardon,' said the Colonel. 'To a man of my character and tastes, these verses, this handsome reference - most moving, I assure you. Can I offer you an escort?'

'No, no,' replied the Countess. 'We go incogniti, as we arrived. We ride together; the Prince will take my servant's horse. Hurry and privacy, Herr Oberst, that is all we seek.' And she began impatiently to lead the way.

But Otto had still to bid farewell to Dr. Gotthold; and the Governor following, with his spectacles in one hand and the paper in the other, had still to communicate his treasured verses, piece by piece, as he succeeded in deciphering the manuscript, to all he came across; and still his enthusiasm mounted. 'I declare,' he cried at last, with the air of one who has at length divined a mystery, 'they remind me of Robbie Burns!'

But there is an end to all things; and at length Otto was walking by the side of Madame von Rosen, along that mountain wall, her servant following with both the horses, and all about them sunlight, and breeze, and flying bird, and the vast regions of the air, and the capacious prospect: wildwood and climbing pinnacle, and the sound and voice of mountain torrents, at their hand: and far below them, green melting into sapphire on the plains.

They walked at first in silence; for Otto's mind was full of the delight of liberty and nature, and still, betweenwhiles, he was preparing his interview with Gondremark. But when the first rough promontory of the rock was turned, and the Felsenburg concealed behind its bulk, the lady paused.

'Here,' she said, 'I will dismount poor Karl, and you and I must ply our spurs. I love a wild ride with a good companion.'

As she spoke, a carriage came into sight round the corner next below them in the order of the road. It came heavily creaking, and a little ahead of it a traveller was soberly walking, note-book in hand.

'It is Sir John,' cried Otto, and he hailed him.

The Baronet pocketed his note-book, stared through an eye-glass, and then waved his stick; and he on his side, and the Countess and the Prince on theirs, advanced with somewhat quicker steps. They met at the re-entrant angle, where a thin stream sprayed across a boulder and was scattered in rain among the brush; and the Baronet saluted the Prince with much punctilio. To the Countess, on the other hand, he bowed with a kind of sneering wonder.

Prince Otto a Romance Page 81

Robert Louis Stevenson

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