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Prince Hector insisted on surprising his beloved bride to be, they then went on to Princess Hedwiga's room. They found Julia with her.
Prince Hector flew to the Princess's side with the haste of the most ardent lover, pressed her hand tenderly to his lips a hundred times, swore that he had lived only in his thoughts of her, that an unfortunate misunderstanding had caused him the torments of Hell, that he could no longer endure separation from her whom he adored, and that now all the bliss of Heaven had opened up before him.
Hedwiga received the Prince with an easy cheerfulness unlike her usual manner. She replied to his tender nothings as best a bride-to-be may, without giving too much of herself away in advance; indeed, she did not think it beneath her to tease him a little about his hiding place, assuring him that she could think of no prettier or more charming transformation than to see a milliner's block turn into a prince's head - for, she said, she had taken the head she saw in the gable window of the pavilion for just such a block. This gave rise to all manner of amiable chaffing of the happy pair, which seemed to please even Prince Irenaeus. He felt quite sure now that Madame Benzon had been in grave error about Kreisler, for in his opinion Princess Hedwiga's love for this handsomest of men was clear to see. The Princess seemed to be in rare, full bloom both of mind and body, as befits a happy bride.
With Julia, it was quite the opposite. As soon as she caught sight of the Prince she quivered in the grip of inner dread. Pale as death, she stood there with her eyes lowered to the ground, unable to make any movement, scarcely capable of standing upright.
After some time Prince Hector turned to Julia, with the words: 'Fraulein Benzon, if I am not mistaken?'
'A friend of the Princess's from earliest childhood - they're like a pair of sisters!'
As Prince Irenaeus spoke these words, Prince Hector took Julia's hand and whispered to her very softly, 'It is you alone I mean!'
Julia swayed; tears of the bitterest fear trickled from beneath her lashes. She would have fallen to the ground had Princess Hedwiga not swiftly thrust a chair towards her.
'Julia,' said the Princess quietly, as she leaned over her poor friend, 'Julia, pull yourself together! Don't you guess what a hard battle I am fighting?'
Excerpted from "The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr"
Copyright © 1999 E. T. A. Hoffmann.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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