At two o'clock, one fine day in June, there were two strangers in the _salle a' manger,_ seated at small tables a long way apart, and wholly absorbed in their own business.
One was a lady about twenty-four years old, who, in the present repose of her features, looked comely, sedate, and womanly, but not the remarkable person she really was. Her forehead high and white, but a little broader than sculptors affect; her long hair, coiled tight, in a great many smooth snakes, upon her snowy nape, was almost flaxen, yet her eyebrows and long lashes not pale but a reddish brown; her gray eyes large and profound; her mouth rather large, beautifully shaped, amiable, and expressive, but full of resolution; her chin a little broad; her neck and hands admirably white and polished. She was an Anglo-Dane--her father English.
If you ask me what she was doing, why--hunting; and had been, for some days, in all the inns of Homburg. She had the visitors' book, and was going through the names of the whole year, and studying each to see whether it looked real or assumed. Interspersed were flippant comments, and verses adapted to draw a smile of amusement or contempt; but this hunter passed them all over as nullities: the steady pose of her head, the glint of her deep eye, and the set of her fine lips showed a soul not to be diverted from its object.
The traveler at her back had a map of the district and blank telegrams, one of which he filled in every now and then, and scribbled a hasty letter to the same address. He was a sharp-faced middle-aged man of business; Joseph Ashmead, operatic and theatrical agent--at his wits' end; a female singer at the Homburg Opera had fallen really ill; he was commissioned to replace her, and had only thirty hours to do it in. So he was hunting a singer. What the lady was hunting can never be known, unless she should choose to reveal it.
Karl, the waiter, felt bound to rouse these abstracted guests, and stimulate their appetites. He affected, therefore, to look on them as people who had not yet breakfasted, and tripped up to Mr. Ashmead with a bill of fare, rather scanty.
The busiest Englishman can eat, and Ashmead had no objection to snatch a mouthful; he gave his order in German with an English accent. But the lady, when appealed to, said softly, in pure German, "I will wait for the _table-d'hote."_
"The _table-d'hote!_ It wants four hours to that."
The lady looked Karl full in the face, and said, slowly, and very distinctly, "Then, I--will--wait--four--hours."
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