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HINNERKE THE SHOEMAKER

61

"I beg pardon!" he suddenly grunted; then went on in a more natural voice: "I earnestly beg your young Highnesses' pardon! But would your young Highnesses take it amiss if I addressed to them the request that they would very kindly acquaint me with the nearest way to the nearest exit? It need not actually be the Albrechtstor—not in the least necessary that it should be the Albrechtstor. But any exit from the Schloss, if I dare be so free as to address this inquiry to your young Highnesses.…"

Klaus Heinrich had laid his left hand on his hip, right behind, so that it lay almost in his back, and looked at the ground. The man had simply spoken to him, had engaged him directly and unavoidably in conversation; he thought of his father and knitted his brows. He pondered feverishly over the question how he ought to behave in this topsy turvy and incorrect situation. Albrecht would have pursed up his mouth, sucked with his short, rounded underlip lightly against the upper, and passed on in silence—so much was certain. But what was the use of rummaging if at the first serious adventure one intended to pass on in dignity and dudgeon? And the man was honest, and had nothing wicked about him: that Klaus Heinrich could see when he forced himself to raise his eyes. He simply said: "You come with us, that's the best way. I will willingly show you where you must turn off to get to an exit." And they went on.

"Thanks!" said the man. "Ever so many thanks for your kindness! Heaven knows I should never have thought that I should live to walk about the Old Schloss one day with your young Highnesses. But there it is, and after all my annoyance—for I have been annoyed, terribly annoyed, that's true and certain—after all my annoyance I have at any rate this honour and this satisfaction."

Klaus Heinrich longed to ask what might have been the