Page:T.M. Royal Highness.djvu/66

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

50

ROYAL HIGHNESS

up to him and speak to him unasked—not even the children: it was forbidden, it was dangerous. He answered, it is true: but he answered distantly and coldly, a look of helplessness, of gene, passed over his face, which Klaus Heinrich was quite able to understand.

Papa made a speech and sent his petitioners away; that is what always happened. He gave an audience at the beginning of the Court ball, and at the end of the dinner with which the winter began. He went with mamma through the rooms and halls, in which the members of the Court were gathered, went through the Marble Hall and the Gala Rooms, through the Picture Gallery, the Hall of the Knights, the Hall of the Twelve Months, the Audience Chamber, and the Ball-room—went not only in a fixed direction, but along a fixed path which bustling Herr von Bühl kept free for him, and addressed a few words to the assembled throng. Whoever was addressed by him bowed low, left a space of parquet between himself and papa, and answered soberly and with signs of gratification. Thereupon papa greeted them over the intervening space, from the stronghold of precise regulations which prescribed the others' movements and warranted his own attitude, greeted them smilingly and lightly and passed on. Smilingly and lightly.… Of course, of course, Klaus Heinrich quite understood it, the look of helplessness which passed for one moment over papa's face when anybody was impetuous enough to address him unasked—understood it, and shared his feeling of gêne! It wounded something, some soft, virgin envelope of our existence which was so essential to it that we stood helpless when anybody roughly broke through it. And yet it was this same something which made our eyes so dull, and gave us those deep furrows of boredom.…

Klaus Heinrich stood and saw—he saw his mother and her beauty, which was famed and extolled far and wide.