The obvious deference of that great man, the innkeeper, plainly affected the old farmer with surprise; but it was not until Otto had taken the pen and signed that the truth flashed upon him fully. Then, indeed, he was beside himself.
'His Highness!' he cried, 'His Highness!' and repeated the exclamation till his mind had grappled fairly with the facts. Then he turned to the witnesses. 'Gentlemen,' he said, 'you dwell in a country highly favoured by God; for of all generous gentlemen, I will say it on my conscience, this one is the king. I am an old man, and I have seen good and bad, and the year of the great famine; but a more excellent gentleman, no, never.'
'We know that,' cried the landlord, 'we know that well in Grunewald. If we saw more of his Highness we should be the better pleased.'
'It is the kindest Prince,' began the groom, and suddenly closed his mouth upon a sob, so that every one turned to gaze upon his emotion - Otto not last; Otto struck with remorse, to see the man so grateful.
Then it was the lawyer's turn to pay a compliment. 'I do not know what Providence may hold in store,' he said, 'but this day should be a bright one in the annals of your reign. The shouts of armies could not be more eloquent than the emotion on these honest faces.' And the Brandenau lawyer bowed, skipped, stepped back, and took snuff, with the air of a man who has found and seized an opportunity.
'Well, young gentleman,' said Killian, 'if you will pardon me the plainness of calling you a gentleman, many a good day's work you have done, I doubt not, but never a better, or one that will be better blessed; and whatever, sir, may be your happiness and triumph in that high sphere to which you have been called, it will be none the worse, sir, for an old man's blessing!'
The scene had almost assumed the proportions of an ovation; and when the Prince escaped he had but one thought: to go wherever he was most sure of praise. His conduct at the board of council occurred to him as a fair chapter; and this evoked the memory of Gotthold. To Gotthold he would go.
Gotthold was in the library as usual, and laid down his pen, a little angrily, on Otto's entrance. 'Well,' he said, 'here you are.'
'Well,' returned Otto, 'we made a revolution, I believe.'
'It is what I fear,' returned the Doctor.
'How?' said Otto. 'Fear? Fear is the burnt child. I have learned my strength and the weakness of the others; and I now mean to govern.'
Gotthold said nothing, but he looked down and smoothed his chin.
'You disapprove?' cried Otto. 'You are a weather-cock.'
'On the contrary,' replied the Doctor. 'My observation has confirmed my fears. It will not do, Otto, not do.'
'What will not do?' demanded the Prince, with a sickening stab of pain.
'None of it,' answered Gotthold. 'You are unfitted for a life of action; you lack the stamina, the habit, the restraint, the patience. Your wife is greatly better, vastly better; and though she is in bad hands, displays a very different aptitude. She is a woman of affairs; you are - dear boy, you are yourself. I bid you back to your amusements; like a smiling dominie, I give you holidays for life. Yes,' he continued, 'there is a day appointed for all when they shall turn again upon their own philosophy. I had grown to disbelieve impartially in all; and if in the atlas of the sciences there were two charts I disbelieved in more than all the rest, they were politics and morals. I had a sneaking kindness for your vices; as they were negative, they flattered my philosophy; and I called them almost virtues. Well, Otto, I was wrong; I have forsworn my sceptical philosophy; and I perceive your faults to be unpardonable. You are unfit to be a Prince, unfit to be a husband. And I give you my word, I would rather see a man capably doing evil than blundering about good.'
Otto was still silent, in extreme dudgeon.
Presently the Doctor resumed: 'I will take the smaller matter first: your conduct to your wife. You went, I hear, and had an explanation.