I had just given a porter the necessary directions for taking my portmanteau to Mr.
Keller's house, when I heard a woman's voice behind me asking the way to the Poste
Restante--or, in our roundabout English phrase, the office of letters to be left till called
The voice was delightfully fresh and sweet, with an undertone of sadness, which made it
additionally interesting. I did what most other young men in my place would have done--
I looked round directly.
Yes! the promise of the voice was abundantly kept by the person. She was quite a young
girl, modest and ladylike; a little pale and careworn, poor thing, as if her experience of
life had its sad side already. Her face was animated by soft sensitive eyes--the figure
supple and slight, the dress of the plainest material, but so neatly made and so perfectly
worn that I should have doubted her being a German girl, if I had not heard the purely
South-German accent in which she put her question. It was answered, briefly and civilly,
by the conductor of the post-carriage in which I had traveled. But, at that hour, the old
court-yard of the post-office was thronged with people arriving and departing, meeting
their friends and posting their letters. The girl was evidently not used to crowds. She was
nervous and confused. After advancing a few steps in the direction pointed out to her, she
stopped in bewilderment, hustled by busy people, and evidently in doubt already about
which way she was to turn next.
If I had followed the strict line of duty, I suppose I should have turned my steps in the
direction of Mr. Keller's house. I followed my instincts instead, and offered my services
to the young lady. Blame the laws of Nature and the attraction between the sexes. Don't
"I heard you asking for the post-office," I said. "Will you allow me to show you the
She looked at me, and hesitated. I felt that I was paying the double penalty of being a
young man, and of being perhaps a little too eager as well.
"Forgive me for venturing to speak to you," I pleaded. "It is not very pleasant for a young
lady to find herself alone in such a crowded place as this. I only ask permission to make
myself of some trifling use to you."
She looked at me again, and altered her first opinion.
"You are very kind, sir; I will thankfully accept your assistance."
"May I offer you my arm?"
She declined this proposal--with perfect amiability, however. "Thank you, sir, I will
follow you, if you please."