Robert Louis Stevenson
Part 2 out of 4
(for so I must regard them) that his power of resistance to the
Princess is limited, and at each fresh stretch of authority
persuades them, with specious reasons, to postpone the hour of
insurrection. Thus (to give some instances of his astute diplomacy)
he salved over the decree enforcing military service, under the plea
that to be well drilled and exercised in arms was even a necessary
preparation for revolt. And the other day, when it began to be
rumoured abroad that a war was being forced on a reluctant
neighbour, the Grand Duke of Gerolstein, and I made sure it would be
the signal for an instant rising, I was struck dumb with wonder to
find that even this had been prepared and was to be accepted. I
went from one to another in the Liberal camp, and all were in the
same story, all had been drilled and schooled and fitted out with
vacuous argument. 'The lads had better see some real fighting,'
they said; 'and besides, it will be as well to capture Gerolstein:
we can then extend to our neighbours the blessing of liberty on the
same day that we snatch it for ourselves; and the republic will be
all the stronger to resist, if the kings of Europe should band
themselves together to reduce it.' I know not which of the two I
should admire the more: the simplicity of the multitude or the
audacity of the adventurer. But such are the subtleties, such the
quibbling reasons, with which he blinds and leads this people. How
long a course so tortuous can be pursued with safety I am incapable
of guessing; not long, one would suppose; and yet this singular man
has been treading the mazes for five years, and his favour at court
and his popularity among the lodges still endure unbroken.
I have the privilege of slightly knowing him. Heavily and somewhat
clumsily built, of a vast, disjointed, rambling frame, he can still
pull himself together, and figure, not without admiration, in the
saloon or the ball-room. His hue and temperament are plentifully
bilious; he has a saturnine eye; his cheek is of a dark blue where
he has been shaven. Essentially he is to be numbered among the man-
haters, a convinced contemner of his fellows. Yet he is himself of
a commonplace ambition and greedy of applause. In talk, he is
remarkable for a thirst of information, loving rather to hear than
to communicate; for sound and studious views; and, judging by the
extreme short-sightedness of common politicians, for a remarkable
provision of events. All this, however, without grace, pleasantry,
or charm, heavily set forth, with a dull countenance. In our
numerous conversations, although he has always heard me with
deference, I have been conscious throughout of a sort of ponderous
finessing hard to tolerate. He produces none of the effect of a
gentleman; devoid not merely of pleasantry, but of all attention or
communicative warmth of bearing. No gentleman, besides, would so
parade his amours with the Princess; still less repay the Prince for
his long-suffering with a studied insolence of demeanour and the
fabrication of insulting nicknames, such as Prince Featherhead,
which run from ear to ear and create a laugh throughout the country.
Gondremark has thus some of the clumsier characters of the self-made
man, combined with an inordinate, almost a besotted, pride of
intellect and birth. Heavy, bilious, selfish, inornate, he sits
upon this court and country like an incubus.
But it is probable that he preserves softer gifts for necessary
purposes. Indeed, it is certain, although he vouchsafed none of it
to me, that this cold and stolid politician possesses to a great
degree the art of ingratiation, and can be all things to all men.
Hence there has probably sprung up the idle legend that in private
life he is a gross romping voluptuary. Nothing, at least, can well
be more surprising than the terms of his connection with the
Princess. Older than her husband, certainly uglier, and, according
to the feeble ideas common among women, in every particular less
pleasing, he has not only seized the complete command of all her
thought and action, but has imposed on her in public a humiliating
part. I do not here refer to the complete sacrifice of every rag of
her reputation; for to many women these extremities are in
themselves attractive. But there is about the court a certain lady
of a dishevelled reputation, a Countess von Rosen, wife or widow of
a cloudy count, no longer in her second youth, and already bereft of
some of her attractions, who unequivocally occupies the station of
the Baron's mistress. I had thought, at first, that she was but a
hired accomplice, a mere blind or buffer for the more important
sinner. A few hours' acquaintance with Madame von Rosen for ever
dispelled the illusion. She is one rather to make than to prevent a
scandal, and she values none of those bribes - money, honours, or
employment - with which the situation might be gilded. Indeed, as a
person frankly bad, she pleased me, in the court of Grunewald, like
a piece of nature.
The power of this man over the Princess is, therefore, without
bounds. She has sacrificed to the adoration with which he has
inspired her not only her marriage vow and every shred of public
decency, but that vice of jealousy which is so much dearer to the
female sex than either intrinsic honour or outward consideration.
Nay, more: a young, although not a very attractive woman, and a
princess both by birth and fact, she submits to the triumphant
rivalry of one who might be her mother as to years, and who is so
manifestly her inferior in station. This is one of the mysteries of
the human heart. But the rage of illicit love, when it is once
indulged, appears to grow by feeding; and to a person of the
character and temperament of this unfortunate young lady, almost any
depth of degradation is within the reach of possibility.
CHAPTER III - THE PRINCE AND THE ENGLISH TRAVELLER
So far Otto read, with waxing indignation; and here his fury
overflowed. He tossed the roll upon the table and stood up. 'This
man,' he said, 'is a devil. A filthy imagination, an ear greedy of
evil, a ponderous malignity of thought and language: I grow like him
by the reading! Chancellor, where is this fellow lodged?'
'He was committed to the Flag Tower,' replied Greisengesang, 'in the
'Lead me to him,' said the Prince; and then, a thought striking him,
'Was it for that,' he asked, 'that I found so many sentries in the
'Your Highness, I am unaware,' answered Greisengesang, true to his
policy. 'The disposition of the guards is a matter distinct from my
Otto turned upon the old man fiercely, but ere he had time to speak,
Gotthold touched him on the arm. He swallowed his wrath with a
great effort. 'It is well,' he said, taking the roll. 'Follow me
to the Flag Tower.'
The Chancellor gathered himself together, and the two set forward.
It was a long and complicated voyage; for the library was in the
wing of the new buildings, and the tower which carried the flag was
in the old schloss upon the garden. By a great variety of stairs
and corridors, they came out at last upon a patch of gravelled
court; the garden peeped through a high grating with a flash of
green; tall, old gabled buildings mounted on every side; the Flag
Tower climbed, stage after stage, into the blue; and high over all,
among the building daws, the yellow flag wavered in the wind. A
sentinel at the foot of the tower stairs presented arms; another
paced the first landing; and a third was stationed before the door
of the extemporised prison.
'We guard this mud-bag like a jewel,' Otto sneered.
The Gamiani apartment was so called from an Italian doctor who had
imposed on the credulity of a former prince. The rooms were large,
airy, pleasant, and looked upon the garden; but the walls were of
great thickness (for the tower was old), and the windows were
heavily barred. The Prince, followed by the Chancellor, still
trotting to keep up with him, brushed swiftly through the little
library and the long saloon, and burst like a thunderbolt into the
bedroom at the farther end. Sir John was finishing his toilet; a
man of fifty, hard, uncompromising, able, with the eye and teeth of
physical courage. He was unmoved by the irruption, and bowed with a
sort of sneering ease.
'To what am I to attribute the honour of this visit?' he asked.
'You have eaten my bread,' replied Otto, 'you have taken my hand,
you have been received under my roof. When did I fail you in
courtesy? What have you asked that was not granted as to an
honoured guest? And here, sir,' tapping fiercely on the manuscript,
'here is your return.'
'Your Highness has read my papers?' said the Baronet. 'I am
honoured indeed. But the sketch is most imperfect. I shall now
have much to add. I can say that the Prince, whom I had accused of
idleness, is zealous in the department of police, taking upon
himself those duties that are most distasteful. I shall be able to
relate the burlesque incident of my arrest, and the singular
interview with which you honour me at present. For the rest, I have
already communicated with my Ambassador at Vienna; and unless you
propose to murder me, I shall be at liberty, whether you please or
not, within the week. For I hardly fancy the future empire of
Grunewald is yet ripe to go to war with England. I conceive I am a
little more than quits. I owe you no explanation; yours has been
the wrong. You, if you have studied my writing with intelligence,
owe me a large debt of gratitude. And to conclude, as I have not
yet finished my toilet, I imagine the courtesy of a turnkey to a
prisoner would induce you to withdraw.'
There was some paper on the table, and Otto, sitting down, wrote a
passport in the name of Sir John Crabtree.
'Affix the seal, Herr Cancellarius,' he said, in his most princely
manner, as he rose.
Greisengesang produced a red portfolio, and affixed the seal in the
unpoetic guise of an adhesive stamp; nor did his perturbed and
clumsy movements at all lessen the comedy of the performance. Sir
John looked on with a malign enjoyment; and Otto chafed, regretting,
when too late, the unnecessary royalty of his command and gesture.
But at length the Chancellor had finished his piece of
prestidigitation, and, without waiting for an order, had
countersigned the passport. Thus regularised, he returned it to
Otto with a bow.
'You will now,' said the Prince, 'order one of my own carriages to
be prepared; see it, with your own eyes, charged with Sir John's
effects, and have it waiting within the hour behind the Pheasant
House. Sir John departs this morning for Vienna.'
The Chancellor took his elaborate departure.
'Here, sir, is your passport,' said Otto, turning to the Baronet.
'I regret it from my heart that you have met inhospitable usage.'
'Well, there will be no English war,' returned Sir John.
'Nay, sir,' said Otto, 'you surely owe me your civility. Matters
are now changed, and we stand again upon the footing of two
gentlemen. It was not I who ordered your arrest; I returned late
last night from hunting; and as you cannot blame me for your
imprisonment, you may even thank me for your freedom.'
'And yet you read my papers,' said the traveller shrewdly.
'There, sir, I was wrong,' returned Otto; 'and for that I ask your
pardon. You can scarce refuse it, for your own dignity, to one who
is a plexus of weaknesses. Nor was the fault entirely mine. Had
the papers been innocent, it would have been at most an
indiscretion. Your own guilt is the sting of my offence.'
Sir John regarded Otto with an approving twinkle; then he bowed, but
still in silence.
'Well, sir, as you are now at your entire disposal, I have a favour
to beg of your indulgence,' continued the Prince. 'I have to
request that you will walk with me alone into the garden so soon as
your convenience permits.'
'From the moment that I am a free man,' Sir John replied, this time
with perfect courtesy, 'I am wholly at your Highness's command; and
if you will excuse a rather summary toilet, I will even follow you,
as I am.'
'I thank you, sir,' said Otto.
So without more delay, the Prince leading, the pair proceeded down
through the echoing stairway of the tower, and out through the
grating, into the ample air and sunshine of the morning, and among
the terraces and flower-beds of the garden. They crossed the fish-
pond, where the carp were leaping as thick as bees; they mounted,
one after another, the various flights of stairs, snowed upon, as
they went, with April blossoms, and marching in time to the great
orchestra of birds. Nor did Otto pause till they had reached the
highest terrace of the garden. Here was a gate into the park, and
hard by, under a tuft of laurel, a marble garden seat. Hence they
looked down on the green tops of many elm-trees, where the rooks
were busy; and, beyond that, upon the palace roof, and the yellow
banner flying in the blue. I pray you to be seated, sir,' said
Sir John complied without a word; and for some seconds Otto walked
to and fro before him, plunged in angry thought. The birds were all
singing for a wager.
'Sir,' said the Prince at length, turning towards the Englishman,
'you are to me, except by the conventions of society, a perfect
stranger. Of your character and wishes I am ignorant. I have never
wittingly disobliged you. There is a difference in station, which I
desire to waive. I would, if you still think me entitled to so much
consideration - I would be regarded simply as a gentleman. Now,
sir, I did wrong to glance at these papers, which I here return to
you; but if curiosity be undignified, as I am free to own, falsehood
is both cowardly and cruel. I opened your roll; and what did I find
- what did I find about my wife; Lies!' he broke out. 'They are
lies! There are not, so help me God! four words of truth in your
intolerable libel! You are a man; you are old, and might be the
girl's father; you are a gentleman; you are a scholar, and have
learned refinement; and you rake together all this vulgar scandal,
and propose to print it in a public book! Such is your chivalry!
But, thank God, sir, she has still a husband. You say, sir, in that
paper in your hand, that I am a bad fencer; I have to request from
you a lesson in the art. The park is close behind; yonder is the
Pheasant House, where you will find your carriage; should I fall,
you know, sir - you have written it in your paper - how little my
movements are regarded; I am in the custom of disappearing; it will
be one more disappearance; and long before it has awakened a remark,
you may be safe across the border.'
'You will observe,' said Sir John, 'that what you ask is
'And if I struck you?' cried the Prince, with a sudden menacing
'It would be a cowardly blow,' returned the Baronet, unmoved, 'for
it would make no change. I cannot draw upon a reigning sovereign.'
'And it is this man, to whom you dare not offer satisfaction, that
you choose to insult!' cried Otto.
'Pardon me,' said the traveller, 'you are unjust. It is because you
are a reigning sovereign that I cannot fight with you; and it is for
the same reason that I have a right to criticise your action and
your wife. You are in everything a public creature; you belong to
the public, body and bone. You have with you the law, the muskets
of the army, and the eyes of spies. We, on our side, have but one
weapon - truth.'
'Truth!' echoed the Prince, with a gesture.
There was another silence.
'Your Highness,' said Sir John at last, 'you must not expect grapes
from a thistle. I am old and a cynic. Nobody cares a rush for me;
and on the whole, after the present interview, I scarce know anybody
that I like better than yourself. You see, I have changed my mind,
and have the uncommon virtue to avow the change. I tear up this
stuff before you, here in your own garden; I ask your pardon, I ask
the pardon of the Princess; and I give you my word of honour as a
gentleman and an old man, that when my book of travels shall appear
it shall not contain so much as the name of Grunewald. And yet it
was a racy chapter! But had your Highness only read about the other
courts! I am a carrion crow; but it is not my fault, after all,
that the world is such a nauseous kennel.'
'Sir,' said Otto, 'is the eye not jaundiced?'
'Nay,' cried the traveller, 'very likely. I am one who goes
sniffing; I am no poet. I believe in a better future for the world;
or, at all accounts, I do most potently disbelieve in the present.
Rotten eggs is the burthen of my song. But indeed, your Highness,
when I meet with any merit, I do not think that I am slow to
recognise it. This is a day that I shall still recall with
gratitude, for I have found a sovereign with some manly virtues; and
for once - old courtier and old radical as I am - it is from the
heart and quite sincerely that I can request the honour of kissing
your Highness's hand?'
'Nay, sir,' said Otto, 'to my heart!'
And the Englishman, taken at unawares, was clasped for a moment in
the Prince's arms.
'And now, sir,' added Otto, 'there is the Pheasant House; close
behind it you will find my carriage, which I pray you to accept.
God speed you to Vienna!'
'In the impetuosity of youth,' replied Sir John, 'your Highness has
overlooked one circumstance. I am still fasting.'
'Well, sir,' said Otto, smiling, 'you are your own master; you may
go or stay. But I warn you, your friend may prove less powerful
than your enemies. The Prince, indeed, is thoroughly on your side;
he has all the will to help; but to whom do I speak? - you know
better than I do, he is not alone in Grunewald.'
'There is a deal in position,' returned the traveller, gravely
nodding. 'Gondremark loves to temporise; his policy is below
ground, and he fears all open courses; and now that I have seen you
act with so much spirit, I will cheerfully risk myself on your
protection. Who knows? You may be yet the better man.'
'Do you indeed believe so?' cried the Prince. 'You put life into my
'I will give up sketching portraits,' said the Baronet. 'I am a
blind owl; I had misread you strangely. And yet remember this; a
sprint is one thing, and to run all day another. For I still
mistrust your constitution; the short nose, the hair and eyes of
several complexions; no, they are diagnostic; and I must end, I see,
as I began.'
'I am still a singing chambermaid?' said Otto.
'Nay, your Highness, I pray you to forget what I had written,' said
Sir John; 'I am not like Pilate; and the chapter is no more. Bury
it, if you love me.'
CHAPTER IV - WHILE THE PRINCE IS IN THE ANTE-ROOM . . .
GREATLY comforted by the exploits of the morning, the Prince turned
towards the Princess's ante-room, bent on a more difficult
enterprise. The curtains rose before him, the usher called his
name, and he entered the room with an exaggeration of his usual
mincing and airy dignity. There were about a score of persons
waiting, principally ladies; it was one of the few societies in
Grunewald where Otto knew himself to be popular; and while a maid of
honour made her exit by a side door to announce his arrival to the
Princess, he moved round the apartment, collecting homage and
bestowing compliments with friendly grace. Had this been the sum of
his duties, he had been an admirable monarch. Lady after lady was
impartially honoured by his attention.
'Madam,' he said to one, 'how does this happen? I find you daily
'And your Highness daily browner,' replied the lady. 'We began
equal; O, there I will be bold: we have both beautiful complexions.
But while I study mine, your Highness tans himself.'
'A perfect negro, madam; and what so fitly - being beauty's slave?'
said Otto. - 'Madame Grafinski, when is our next play? I have just
heard that I am a bad actor.'
'O CIEL!' cried Madame Grafinski. 'Who could venture? What a
'An excellent man, I can assure you,' returned Otto.
'O, never! O, is it possible!' fluted the lady. 'Your Highness
plays like an angel.'
'You must be right, madam; who could speak falsely and yet look so
charming?' said the Prince. 'But this gentleman, it seems, would
have preferred me playing like an actor.'
A sort of hum, a falsetto, feminine cooing, greeted the tiny sally;
and Otto expanded like a peacock. This warm atmosphere of women and
flattery and idle chatter pleased him to the marrow.
'Madame von Eisenthal, your coiffure is delicious,' he remarked.
'Every one was saying so,' said one.
'If I have pleased Prince Charming?' And Madame von Eisenthal swept
him a deep curtsy with a killing glance of adoration.
'It is new?' he asked. 'Vienna fashion.'
'Mint new,' replied the lady, 'for your Highness's return. I felt
young this morning; it was a premonition. But why, Prince, do you
ever leave us?'
'For the pleasure of the return,' said Otto. 'I am like a dog; I
must bury my bone, and then come back to great upon it.'
'O, a bone! Fie, what a comparison! You have brought back the
manners of the wood,' returned the lady.
'Madam, it is what the dog has dearest,' said the Prince. 'But I
observe Madame von Rosen.'
And Otto, leaving the group to which he had been piping, stepped
towards the embrasure of a window where a lady stood.
The Countess von Rosen had hitherto been silent, and a thought
depressed, but on the approach of Otto she began to brighten. She
was tall, slim as a nymph, and of a very airy carriage; and her
face, which was already beautiful in repose, lightened and changed,
flashed into smiles, and glowed with lovely colour at the touch of
animation. She was a good vocalist; and, even in speech, her voice
commanded a great range of changes, the low notes rich with tenor
quality, the upper ringing, on the brink of laughter, into music. A
gem of many facets and variable hues of fire; a woman who withheld
the better portion of her beauty, and then, in a caressing second,
flashed it like a weapon full on the beholder; now merely a tall
figure and a sallow handsome face, with the evidences of a reckless
temper; anon opening like a flower to life and colour, mirth and
tenderness:- Madame von Rosen had always a dagger in reserve for the
despatch of ill-assured admirers. She met Otto with the dart of
'You have come to me at last, Prince Cruel,' she said. 'Butterfly!
Well, and am I not to kiss your hand?' she added.
'Madam, it is I who must kiss yours.' And Otto bowed and kissed it.
'You deny me every indulgence,' she said, smiling.
'And now what news in Court?' inquired the Prince. 'I come to you
for my gazette.'
'Ditch-water!' she replied. 'The world is all asleep, grown grey in
slumber; I do not remember any waking movement since quite an
eternity; and the last thing in the nature of a sensation was the
last time my governess was allowed to box my ears. But yet I do
myself and your unfortunate enchanted palace some injustice. Here
is the last - O positively!' And she told him the story from behind
her fan, with many glances, many cunning strokes of the narrator's
art. The others had drawn away, for it was understood that Madame
von Rosen was in favour with the Prince. None the less, however,
did the Countess lower her voice at times to within a semitone of
whispering; and the pair leaned together over the narrative.
'Do you know,' said Otto, laughing, 'you are the only entertaining
woman on this earth!'
'O, you have found out so much,' she cried.
'Yes, madam, I grow wiser with advancing years,' he returned.
'Years,' she repeated. 'Do you name the traitors? I do not believe
in years; the calendar is a delusion.'
'You must be right, madam,' replied the Prince. 'For six years that
we have been good friends, I have observed you to grow younger.'
'Flatterer!' cried she, and then with a change, 'But why should I
say so,' she added, 'when I protest I think the same? A week ago I
had a council with my father director, the glass; and the glass
replied, "Not yet!" I confess my face in this way once a month. O!
a very solemn moment. Do you know what I shall do when the mirror
'I cannot guess,' said he.
'No more can I,' returned the Countess. 'There is such a choice!
Suicide, gambling, a nunnery, a volume of memoirs, or politics - the
last, I am afraid.'
'It is a dull trade,' said Otto.
'Nay,' she replied, 'it is a trade I rather like. It is, after all,
first cousin to gossip, which no one can deny to be amusing. For
instance, if I were to tell you that the Princess and the Baron rode
out together daily to inspect the cannon, it is either a piece of
politics or scandal, as I turn my phrase. I am the alchemist that
makes the transmutation. They have been everywhere together since
you left,' she continued, brightening as she saw Otto darken; 'that
is a poor snippet of malicious gossip - and they were everywhere
cheered - and with that addition all becomes political
'Let us change the subject,' said Otto.
'I was about to propose it,' she replied, 'or rather to pursue the
politics. Do you know? this war is popular - popular to the length
of cheering Princess Seraphina.'
'All things, madam, are possible,' said the Prince; and this among
others, that we may be going into war, but I give you my word of
honour I do not know with whom.'
'And you put up with it?' she cried. 'I have no pretensions to
morality; and I confess I have always abominated the lamb, and
nourished a romantic feeling for the wolf. O, be done with
lambiness! Let us see there is a prince, for I am weary of the
'Madam,' said Otto, 'I thought you were of that faction.'
'I should be of yours, MON PRINCE, if you had one,' she retorted.
'Is it true that you have no ambition? There was a man once in
England whom they call the kingmaker. Do you know,' she added, 'I
fancy I could make a prince?'
'Some day, madam,' said Otto, 'I may ask you to help make a farmer.'
'Is that a riddle?' asked the Countess.
'It is,' replied the Prince, 'and a very good one too.'
'Tit for tat. I will ask you another,' she returned. 'Where is
'The Prime Minister? In the prime-ministry, no doubt,' said Otto.
'Precisely,' said the Countess; and she pointed with her fan to the
door of the Princess's apartments. 'You and I, MON PRINCE, are in
the ante-room. You think me unkind,' she added. 'Try me and you
will see. Set me a task, put me a question; there is no enormity I
am not capable of doing to oblige you, and no secret that I am not
ready to betray.'
'Nay, madam, but I respect my friend too much,' he answered, kissing
her hand. 'I would rather remain ignorant of all. We fraternise
like foemen soldiers at the outposts, but let each be true to his
'Ah,' she cried, 'if all men were generous like you, it would be
worth while to be a woman!' Yet, judging by her looks, his
generosity, if anything, had disappointed her; she seemed to seek a
remedy, and, having found it, brightened once more. 'And now,' she
said, 'may I dismiss my sovereign? This is rebellion and a CAS
PENDABLE; but what am I to do? My bear is jealous!'
'Madam, enough!' cried Otto. 'Ahasuerus reaches you the sceptre;
more, he will obey you in all points. I should have been a dog to
come to whistling.'
And so the Prince departed, and fluttered round Grafinski and von
Eisenthal. But the Countess knew the use of her offensive weapons,
and had left a pleasant arrow in the Prince's heart. That
Gondremark was jealous - here was an agreeable revenge! And Madame
von Rosen, as the occasion of the jealousy, appeared to him in a new
CHAPTER V - . . . GONDREMARK IS IN MY LADY'S CHAMBER
THE Countess von Rosen spoke the truth. The great Prime Minister of
Grunewald was already closeted with Seraphina. The toilet was over;
and the Princess, tastefully arrayed, sat face to face with a tall
mirror. Sir John's description was unkindly true, true in terms and
yet a libel, a misogynistic masterpiece. Her forehead was perhaps
too high, but it became her; her figure somewhat stooped, but every
detail was formed and finished like a gem; her hand, her foot, her
ear, the set of her comely head, were all dainty and accordant; if
she was not beautiful, she was vivid, changeful, coloured, and
pretty with a thousand various prettinesses; and her eyes, if they
indeed rolled too consciously, yet rolled to purpose. They were her
most attractive feature, yet they continually bore eloquent false
witness to her thoughts; for while she herself, in the depths of her
immature, unsoftened heart, was given altogether to manlike ambition
and the desire of power, the eyes were by turns bold, inviting,
fiery, melting, and artful, like the eyes of a rapacious siren. And
artful, in a sense, she was. Chafing that she was not a man, and
could not shine by action, she had conceived a woman's part, of
answerable domination; she sought to subjugate for by-ends, to rain
influence and be fancy free; and, while she loved not man, loved to
see man obey her. It is a common girl's ambition. Such was perhaps
that lady of the glove, who sent her lover to the lions. But the
snare is laid alike for male and female, and the world most artfully
Near her, in a low chair, Gondremark had arranged his limbs into a
cat-like attitude, high-shouldered, stooping, and submiss. The
formidable blue jowl of the man, and the dull bilious eye, set
perhaps a higher value on his evident desire to please. His face
was marked by capacity, temper, and a kind of bold, piratical
dishonesty which it would be calumnious to call deceit. His
manners, as he smiled upon the Princess, were over-fine, yet hardly
'Possibly,' said the Baron, 'I should now proceed to take my leave.
I must not keep my sovereign in the ante-room. Let us come at once
to a decision.'
'It cannot, cannot be put off?' she asked.
'It is impossible,' answered Gondremark. 'Your Highness sees it for
herself. In the earlier stages, we might imitate the serpent; but
for the ultimatum, there is no choice but to be bold like lions.
Had the Prince chosen to remain away, it had been better; but we
have gone too far forward to delay.'
'What can have brought him?' she cried. 'To-day of all days?'
'The marplot, madam, has the instinct of his nature,' returned
Gondremark. 'But you exaggerate the peril. Think, madam, how far
we have prospered, and against what odds! Shall a Featherhead? -
but no!' And he blew upon his fingers lightly with a laugh.
'Featherhead,' she replied, 'is still the Prince of Grunewald.'
'On your sufferance only, and so long as you shall please to be
indulgent,' said the Baron. 'There are rights of nature; power to
the powerful is the law. If he shall think to cross your destiny -
well, you have heard of the brazen and the earthen pot.'
'Do you call me pot? You are ungallant, Baron,' laughed the
'Before we are done with your glory, I shall have called you by many
different titles,' he replied.
The girl flushed with pleasure. 'But Frederic is still the Prince,
MONSIEUR LE FLATTEUR,' she said. 'You do not propose a revolution?
- you of all men?'
'Dear madam, when it is already made!' he cried. 'The Prince reigns
indeed in the almanac; but my Princess reigns and rules.' And he
looked at her with a fond admiration that made the heart of
Seraphina swell. Looking on her huge slave, she drank the
intoxicating joys of power. Meanwhile he continued, with that sort
of massive archness that so ill became him, 'She has but one fault;
there is but one danger in the great career that I foresee for her.
May I name it? may I be so irreverent? It is in herself - her heart
'Her courage is faint, Baron,' said the Princess. 'Suppose we have
judged ill, suppose we were defeated?'
'Defeated, madam?' returned the Baron, with a touch of ill-humour.
'Is the dog defeated by the hare? Our troops are all cantoned along
the frontier; in five hours the vanguard of five thousand bayonets
shall be hammering on the gates of Brandenau; and in all Gerolstein
there are not fifteen hundred men who can manoeuvre. It is as
simple as a sum. There can be no resistance.'
'It is no great exploit,' she said. 'Is that what you call glory?
It is like beating a child.'
'The courage, madam, is diplomatic,' he replied. 'We take a grave
step; we fix the eyes of Europe, for the first time, on Grunewald;
and in the negotiations of the next three months, mark me, we stand
or fall. It is there, madam, that I shall have to depend upon your
counsels,' he added, almost gloomily. 'If I had not seen you at
work, if I did not know the fertility of your mind, I own I should
tremble for the consequence. But it is in this field that men must
recognise their inability. All the great negotiators, when they
have not been women, have had women at their elbows. Madame de
Pompadour was ill served; she had not found her Gondremark; but what
a mighty politician! Catherine de' Medici, too, what justice of
sight, what readiness of means, what elasticity against defeat! But
alas! madam, her Featherheads were her own children; and she had
that one touch of vulgarity, that one trait of the good-wife, that
she suffered family ties and affections to confine her liberty.'
These singular views of history, strictly AD USUM SERAPHINAE, did
not weave their usual soothing spell over the Princess. It was
plain that she had taken a momentary distaste to her own
resolutions; for she continued to oppose her counsellor, looking
upon him out of half-closed eyes and with the shadow of a sneer upon
her lips. 'What boys men are!' she said; 'what lovers of big words!
Courage, indeed! If you had to scour pans, Herr Von Gondremark, you
would call it, I suppose, Domestic Courage?'
'I would, madam,' said the Baron stoutly, 'if I scoured them well.
I would put a good name upon a virtue; you will not overdo it: they
are not so enchanting in themselves.'
'Well, but let me see,' she said. 'I wish to understand your
courage. Why we asked leave, like children! Our grannie in Berlin,
our uncle in Vienna, the whole family, have patted us on the head
and sent us forward. Courage? I wonder when I hear you!'
'My Princess is unlike herself,' returned the Baron. 'She has
forgotten where the peril lies. True, we have received
encouragement on every hand; but my Princess knows too well on what
untenable conditions; and she knows besides how, in the publicity of
the diet, these whispered conferences are forgotten and disowned.
The danger is very real' - he raged inwardly at having to blow the
very coal he had been quenching - 'none the less real in that it is
not precisely military, but for that reason the easier to be faced.
Had we to count upon your troops, although I share your Highness's
expectations of the conduct of Alvenau, we cannot forget that he has
not been proved in chief command. But where negotiation is
concerned, the conduct lies with us; and with your help, I laugh at
'It may be so,' said Seraphina, sighing. 'It is elsewhere that I
see danger. The people, these abominable people - suppose they
should instantly rebel? What a figure we should make in the eyes of
Europe to have undertaken an invasion while my own throne was
tottering to its fall!'
'Nay, madam,' said Gondremark, smiling, 'here you are beneath
yourself. What is it that feeds their discontent? What but the
taxes? Once we have seized Gerolstein, the taxes are remitted, the
sons return covered with renown, the houses are adorned with
pillage, each tastes his little share of military glory, and behold
us once again a happy family! "Ay," they will say, in each other's
long ears, "the Princess knew what she was about; she was in the
right of it; she has a head upon her shoulders; and here we are, you
see, better off than before." But why should I say all this? It is
what my Princess pointed out to me herself; it was by these reasons
that she converted me to this adventure.'
'I think, Herr von Gondremark,' said Seraphina, somewhat tartly,
'you often attribute your own sagacity to your Princess.'
For a second Gondremark staggered under the shrewdness of the
attack; the next, he had perfectly recovered. 'Do I?' he said. 'It
is very possible. I have observed a similar tendency in your
It was so openly spoken, and appeared so just, that Seraphina
breathed again. Her vanity had been alarmed, and the greatness of
the relief improved her spirits. 'Well,' she said, 'all this is
little to the purpose. We are keeping Frederic without, and I am
still ignorant of our line of battle. Come, co-admiral, let us
consult. . . . How am I to receive him now? And what are we to do
if he should appear at the council?'
'Now,' he answered. 'I shall leave him to my Princess for just now!
I have seen her at work. Send him off to his theatricals! But in
all gentleness,' he added. 'Would it, for instance, would it
displease my sovereign to affect a headache?'
'Never!' said she. 'The woman who can manage, like the man who can
fight, must never shrink from an encounter. The knight must not
disgrace his weapons.'
'Then let me pray my BELLE DAME SANS MERCI,' he returned, 'to affect
the only virtue that she lacks. Be pitiful to the poor young man;
affect an interest in his hunting; be weary of politics; find in his
society, as it were, a grateful repose from dry considerations.
Does my Princess authorise the line of battle?'
'Well, that is a trifle,' answered Seraphina. 'The council - there
is the point.'
'The council?' cried Gondremark. 'Permit me, madam.' And he rose
and proceeded to flutter about the room, counterfeiting Otto both in
voice and gesture not unhappily. 'What is there to-day, Herr von
Gondremark? Ah, Herr Cancellarius, a new wig! You cannot deceive
me; I know every wig in Grunewald; I have the sovereign's eye. What
are these papers about? O, I see. O, certainly. Surely, surely.
I wager none of you remarked that wig. By all means. I know
nothing about that. Dear me, are there as many as all that? Well,
you can sign them; you have the procuration. You see, Herr
Cancellarius, I knew your wig. And so,' concluded Gondremark,
resuming his own voice, 'our sovereign, by the particular grace of
God, enlightens and supports his privy councillors.'
But when the Baron turned to Seraphina for approval, he found her
frozen. 'You are pleased to be witty, Herr von Gondremark,' she
said, 'and have perhaps forgotten where you are. But these
rehearsals are apt to be misleading. Your master, the Prince of
Grunewald, is sometimes more exacting.'
Gondremark cursed her in his soul. Of all injured vanities, that of
the reproved buffoon is the most savage; and when grave issues are
involved, these petty stabs become unbearable. But Gondremark was a
man of iron; he showed nothing; he did not even, like the common
trickster, retreat because he had presumed, but held to his point
bravely. 'Madam,' he said, 'if, as you say, he prove exacting, we
must take the bull by the horns.'
'We shall see,' she said, and she arranged her skirt like one about
to rise. Temper, scorn, disgust, all the more acrid feelings,
became her like jewels; and she now looked her best.
'Pray God they quarrel,' thought Gondremark. 'The damned minx may
fail me yet, unless they quarrel. It is time to let him in. Zz -
fight, dogs!' Consequent on these reflections, he bent a stiff knee
and chivalrously kissed the Princess's hand. 'My Princess,' he
said, 'must now dismiss her servant. I have much to arrange against
the hour of council.'
'Go,' she said, and rose.
And as Gondremark tripped out of a private door, she touched a bell,
and gave the order to admit the Prince.
CHAPTER VI - THE PRINCE DELIVERS A LECTURE ON MARRIAGE, WITH
PRACTICAL ILLUSTRATIONS OF DIVORCE
WITH what a world of excellent intentions Otto entered his wife's
cabinet! how fatherly, how tender! how morally affecting were the
words he had prepared! Nor was Seraphina unamiably inclined. Her
usual fear of Otto as a marplot in her great designs was now
swallowed up in a passing distrust of the designs themselves. For
Gondremark, besides, she had conceived an angry horror. In her
heart she did not like the Baron. Behind his impudent servility,
behind the devotion which, with indelicate delicacy, he still forced
on her attention, she divined the grossness of his nature. So a man
may be proud of having tamed a bear, and yet sicken at his captive's
odour. And above all, she had certain jealous intimations that the
man was false and the deception double. True, she falsely trifled
with his love; but he, perhaps, was only trifling with her vanity.
The insolence of his late mimicry, and the odium of her own position
as she sat and watched it, lay besides like a load upon her
conscience. She met Otto almost with a sense of guilt, and yet she
welcomed him as a deliverer from ugly things.
But the wheels of an interview are at the mercy of a thousand ruts;
and even at Otto's entrance, the first jolt occurred. Gondremark,
he saw, was gone; but there was the chair drawn close for
consultation; and it pained him not only that this man had been
received, but that he should depart with such an air of secrecy.
Struggling with this twinge, it was somewhat sharply that he
dismissed the attendant who had brought him in.
'You make yourself at home, CHEZ MOI,' she said, a little ruffled
both by his tone of command and by the glance he had thrown upon the
'Madam,' replied Otto, 'I am here so seldom that I have almost the
rights of a stranger.'
'You choose your own associates, Frederic,' she said.
'I am here to speak of it,' he returned. 'It is now four years
since we were married; and these four years, Seraphina, have not
perhaps been happy either for you or for me. I am well aware I was
unsuitable to be your husband. I was not young, I had no ambition,
I was a trifler; and you despised me, I dare not say unjustly. But
to do justice on both sides, you must bear in mind how I have acted.
When I found it amused you to play the part of Princess on this
little stage, did I not immediately resign to you my box of toys,
this Grunewald? And when I found I was distasteful as a husband,
could any husband have been less intrusive? You will tell me that I
have no feelings, no preference, and thus no credit; that I go
before the wind; that all this was in my character. And indeed, one
thing is true, that it is easy, too easy, to leave things undone.
But Seraphina, I begin to learn it is not always wise. If I were
too old and too uncongenial for your husband, I should still have
remembered that I was the Prince of that country to which you came,
a visitor and a child. In that relation also there were duties, and
these duties I have not performed.'
To claim the advantage of superior age is to give sure offence.
'Duty!' laughed Seraphina, 'and on your lips, Frederic! You make me
laugh. What fancy is this? Go, flirt with the maids and be a
prince in Dresden china, as you look. Enjoy yourself, MON ENFANT,
and leave duty and the state to us.'
The plural grated on the Prince. 'I have enjoyed myself too much,'
he said, 'since enjoyment is the word. And yet there were much to
say upon the other side. You must suppose me desperately fond of
hunting. But indeed there were days when I found a great deal of
interest in what it was courtesy to call my government. And I have
always had some claim to taste; I could tell live happiness from
dull routine; and between hunting, and the throne of Austria, and
your society, my choice had never wavered, had the choice been mine.
You were a girl, a bud, when you were given me - '
'Heavens!' she cried, 'is this to be a love-scene?'
'I am never ridiculous,' he said; 'it is my only merit; and you may
be certain this shall be a scene of marriage A LA MODE. But when I
remember the beginning, it is bare courtesy to speak in sorrow. Be
just, madam: you would think me strangely uncivil to recall these
days without the decency of a regret. Be yet a little juster, and
own, if only in complaisance, that you yourself regret that past.'
'I have nothing to regret,' said the Princess. 'You surprise me. I
thought you were so happy.'
'Happy and happy, there are so many hundred ways,' said Otto. 'A
man may be happy in revolt; he may be happy in sleep; wine, change,
and travel make him happy; virtue, they say, will do the like - I
have not tried; and they say also that in old, quiet, and habitual
marriages there is yet another happiness. Happy, yes; I am happy if
you like; but I will tell you frankly, I was happier when I brought
'Well,' said the Princess, not without constraint, 'it seems you
changed your mind.'
'Not I,' returned Otto, 'I never changed. Do you remember,
Seraphina, on our way home, when you saw the roses in the lane, and
I got out and plucked them? It was a narrow lane between great
trees; the sunset at the end was all gold, and the rooks were flying
overhead. There were nine, nine red roses; you gave me a kiss for
each, and I told myself that every rose and every kiss should stand
for a year of love. Well, in eighteen months there was an end. But
do you fancy, Seraphina, that my heart has altered?'
'I am sure I cannot tell,' she said, like an automaton.
'It has not,' the Prince continued. 'There is nothing ridiculous,
even from a husband, in a love that owns itself unhappy and that
asks no more. I built on sand; pardon me, I do not breathe a
reproach - I built, I suppose, upon my own infirmities; but I put my
heart in the building, and it still lies among the ruins.'
'How very poetical!' she said, with a little choking laugh, unknown
relentings, unfamiliar softnesses, moving within her. 'What would
you be at?' she added, hardening her voice.
'I would be at this,' he answered; 'and hard it is to say. I would
be at this:- Seraphina, I am your husband after all, and a poor fool
that loves you. Understand,' he cried almost fiercely, 'I am no
suppliant husband; what your love refuses I would scorn to receive
from your pity. I do not ask, I would not take it. And for
jealousy, what ground have I? A dog-in-the-manger jealousy is a
thing the dogs may laugh at. But at least, in the world's eye, I am
still your husband; and I ask you if you treat me fairly? I keep to
myself, I leave you free, I have given you in everything your will.
What do you in return? I find, Seraphina, that you have been too
thoughtless. But between persons such as we are, in our conspicuous
station, particular care and a particular courtesy are owing.
Scandal is perhaps not easy to avoid; but it is hard to bear.'
'Scandal!' she cried, with a deep breath. 'Scandal! It is for this
you have been driving!'
'I have tried to tell you how I feel,' he replied. 'I have told you
that I love you - love you in vain - a bitter thing for a husband; I
have laid myself open that I might speak without offence. And now
that I have begun, I will go on and finish.'
'I demand it,' she said. 'What is this about?'
Otto flushed crimson. 'I have to say what I would fain not,' he
answered. 'I counsel you to see less of Gondremark.'
'Of Gondremark? And why?' she asked.
'Your intimacy is the ground of scandal, madam,' said Otto, firmly
enough - 'of a scandal that is agony to me, and would be crushing to
your parents if they knew it.'
'You are the first to bring me word of it,' said she. 'I thank
'You have perhaps cause,' he replied. 'Perhaps I am the only one
among your friends - '
'O, leave my friends alone,' she interrupted. 'My friends are of a
different stamp. You have come to me here and made a parade of
sentiment. When have I last seen you? I have governed your kingdom
for you in the meanwhile, and there I got no help. At last, when I
am weary with a man's work, and you are weary of your playthings,
you return to make me a scene of conjugal reproaches - the grocer
and his wife! The positions are too much reversed; and you should
understand, at least, that I cannot at the same time do your work of
government and behave myself like a little girl. Scandal is the
atmosphere in which we live, we princes; it is what a prince should
know. You play an odious part. Do you believe this rumour?'
'Madam, should I be here?' said Otto.
'It is what I want to know!' she cried, the tempest of her scorn
increasing. 'Suppose you did - I say, suppose you did believe it?'
'I should make it my business to suppose the contrary,' he answered.
'I thought so. O, you are made of baseness!' said she.
'Madam,' he cried, roused at last, 'enough of this. You wilfully
misunderstand my attitude; you outwear my patience. In the name of
your parents, in my own name, I summon you to be more circumspect.'
'Is this a request, MONSIEUR MON MARI?' she demanded.
'Madam, if I chose, I might command,' said Otto.
'You might, sir, as the law stands, make me prisoner,' returned
Seraphina. 'Short of that you will gain nothing.'
'You will continue as before?' he asked.
'Precisely as before,' said she. 'As soon as this comedy is over, I
shall request the Freiherr von Gondremark to visit me. Do you
understand?' she added, rising. 'For my part, I have done.'
'I will then ask the favour of your hand, madam,' said Otto,
palpitating in every pulse with anger. 'I have to request that you
will visit in my society another part of my poor house. And
reassure yourself - it will not take long - and it is the last
obligation that you shall have the chance to lay me under.'
'The last?' she cried. 'Most joyfully?'
She offered her hand, and he took it; on each side with an elaborate
affectation, each inwardly incandescent. He led her out by the
private door, following where Gondremark had passed; they threaded a
corridor or two, little frequented, looking on a court, until they
came at last into the Prince's suite. The first room was an
armoury, hung all about with the weapons of various countries, and
looking forth on the front terrace.
'Have you brought me here to slay me?' she inquired.
'I have brought you, madam, only to pass on,' replied Otto.
Next they came to a library, where an old chamberlain sat half
asleep. He rose and bowed before the princely couple, asking for
'You will attend us here,' said Otto.
The next stage was a gallery of pictures, where Seraphina's portrait
hung conspicuous, dressed for the chase, red roses in her hair, as
Otto, in the first months of marriage, had directed. He pointed to
it without a word; she raised her eyebrows in silence; and they
passed still forward into a matted corridor where four doors opened.
One led to Otto's bedroom; one was the private door to Seraphina's.
And here, for the first time, Otto left her hand, and stepping
forward, shot the bolt.
'It is long, madam,' said he, 'since it was bolted on the other
'One was effectual,' returned the Princess. 'Is this all?'
'Shall I reconduct you?' he asking, bowing.
'I should prefer,' she asked, in ringing tones, 'the conduct of the
Freiherr von Gondremark.'
Otto summoned the chamberlain. 'If the Freiherr von Gondremark is
in the palace,' he said, 'bid him attend the Princess here.' And
when the official had departed, 'Can I do more to serve you, madam?'
the Prince asked.
'Thank you, no. I have been much amused,' she answered.
'I have now,' continued Otto, 'given you your liberty complete.
This has been for you a miserable marriage.'
'Miserable!' said she.
'It has been made light to you; it shall be lighter still,'
continued the Prince. 'But one thing, madam, you must still
continue to bear - my father's name, which is now yours. I leave it
in your hands. Let me see you, since you will have no advice of
mine, apply the more attention of your own to bear it worthily.'
'Herr von Gondremark is long in coming,' she remarked.
'O Seraphina, Seraphina!' he cried. And that was the end of their
She tripped to a window and looked out; and a little after, the
chamberlain announced the Freiherr von Gondremark, who entered with
something of a wild eye and changed complexion, confounded, as he
was, at this unusual summons. The Princess faced round from the
window with a pearly smile; nothing but her heightened colour spoke
Otto was pale, but he was otherwise master of himself.
'Herr von Gondremark,' said he, 'oblige me so far: reconduct the
Princess to her own apartment.'
The Baron, still all at sea, offered his hand, which was smilingly
accepted, and the pair sailed forth through the picture-gallery.
As soon as they were gone, and Otto knew the length and breadth of
his miscarriage, and how he had done the contrary of all that he
intended, he stood stupefied. A fiasco so complete and sweeping was
laughable, even to himself; and he laughed aloud in his wrath. Upon
this mood there followed the sharpest violence of remorse; and to
that again, as he recalled his provocation, anger succeeded afresh.
So he was tossed in spirit; now bewailing his inconsequence and lack
of temper, now flaming up in white-hot indignation and a noble pity
He paced his apartment like a leopard. There was danger in Otto,
for a flash. Like a pistol, he could kill at one moment, and the
next he might he kicked aside. But just then, as he walked the long
floors in his alternate humours, tearing his handkerchief between
his hands, he was strung to his top note, every nerve attent. The
pistol, you might say, was charged. And when jealousy from time to
time fetched him a lash across the tenderest of his feeling, and
sent a string of her fire-pictures glancing before his mind's eye,
the contraction of his face was even dangerous. He disregarded
jealousy's inventions, yet they stung. In this height of anger, he
still preserved his faith in Seraphina's innocence; but the thought
of her possible misconduct was the bitterest ingredient in his pot
There came a knock at the door, and the chamberlain brought him a
note. He took it and ground it in his hand, continuing his march,
continuing his bewildered thoughts; and some minutes had gone by
before the circumstance came clearly to his mind. Then he paused
and opened it. It was a pencil scratch from Gotthold, thus
'The council is privately summoned at once.
G. v. H.'
If the council was thus called before the hour, and that privately,
it was plain they feared his interference. Feared: here was a sweet
thought. Gotthold, too - Gotthold, who had always used and regarded
him as a mere peasant lad, had now been at the pains to warn him;
Gotthold looked for something at his hands. Well, none should be
disappointed; the Prince, too long beshadowed by the uxorious lover,
should now return and shine. He summoned his valet, repaired the
disorder of his appearance with elaborate care; and then, curled and
scented and adorned, Prince Charming in every line, but with a
twitching nostril, he set forth unattended for the council.
CHAPTER VII - THE PRINCE DISSOLVES THE COUNCIL
IT was as Gotthold wrote. The liberation of Sir John,
Greisengesang's uneasy narrative, last of all, the scene between
Seraphina and the Prince, had decided the conspirators to take a
step of bold timidity. There had been a period of bustle, liveried
messengers speeding here and there with notes; and at half-past ten
in the morning, about an hour before its usual hour, the council of
Grunewald sat around the board.
It was not a large body. At the instance of Gondremark, it had
undergone a strict purgation, and was now composed exclusively of
tools. Three secretaries sat at a side-table. Seraphina took the
head; on her right was the Baron, on her left Greisengesang; below
these Grafinski the treasurer, Count Eisenthal, a couple of non-
combatants, and, to the surprise of all, Gotthold. He had been
named a privy councillor by Otto, merely that he might profit by the
salary; and as he was never known to attend a meeting, it had
occurred to nobody to cancel his appointment. His present
appearance was the more ominous, coming when it did. Gondremark
scowled upon him; and the non-combatant on his right, intercepting
this black look, edged away from one who was so clearly out of
'The hour presses, your Highness,' said the Baron; 'may we proceed
'At once,' replied Seraphina.
'Your Highness will pardon me,' said Gotthold; 'but you are still,
perhaps, unacquainted with the fact that Prince Otto has returned.'
'The Prince will not attend the council,' replied Seraphina, with a
momentary blush. 'The despatches, Herr Cancellarius? There is one
A secretary brought a paper.
'Here, madam,' said Greisengesang. 'Shall I read it?'
'We are all familiar with its terms,' replied Gondremark. 'Your
'Unhesitatingly,' said Seraphina.
'It may then be held as read,' concluded the Baron. 'Will your
The Princess did so; Gondremark, Eisenthal, and one of the non-
combatants followed suit; and the paper was then passed across the
table to the librarian. He proceeded leisurely to read.
'We have no time to spare, Herr Doctor,' cried the Baron brutally.
'If you do not choose to sign on the authority of your sovereign,
pass it on. Or you may leave the table,' he added, his temper
'I decline your invitation, Herr von Gondremark; and my sovereign,
as I continue to observe with regret, is still absent from the
board,' replied the Doctor calmly; and he resumed the perusal of the
paper, the rest chafing and exchanging glances. 'Madame and
gentlemen,' he said, at last, 'what I hold in my hand is simply a
declaration of war.'
'Simply,' said Seraphina, flashing defiance.
'The sovereign of this country is under the same roof with us,'
continued Gotthold, 'and I insist he shall be summoned. It is
needless to adduce my reasons; you are all ashamed at heart of this
The council waved like a sea. There were various outcries.
'You insult the Princess,' thundered Gondremark.
'I maintain my protest,' replied Gotthold.
At the height of this confusion the door was thrown open; an usher
announced, 'Gentlemen, the Prince!' and Otto, with his most
excellent bearing, entered the apartment. It was like oil upon the
troubled waters; every one settled instantly into his place, and
Griesengesang, to give himself a countenance, became absorbed in the
arrangement of his papers; but in their eagerness to dissemble, one
and all neglected to rise.
'Gentlemen,' said the Prince, pausing.
They all got to their feet in a moment; and this reproof still
further demoralised the weaker brethren.
The Prince moved slowly towards the lower end of the table; then he
paused again, and, fixing his eye on Greisengesang, 'How comes it,
Herr Cancellarius,' he asked, 'that I have received no notice of the
change of hour?'
'Your Highness,' replied the Chancellor, 'her Highness the Princess
. . .' and there paused.
'I understood,' said Seraphina, taking him up, 'that you did not
purpose to be present.'
Their eyes met for a second, and Seraphina's fell; but her anger
only burned the brighter for that private shame.
'And now, gentlemen,' said Otto, taking his chair, 'I pray you to be
seated. I have been absent: there are doubtless some arrears; but
ere we proceed to business, Herr Grafinski, you will direct four
thousand crowns to be sent to me at once. Make a note, if you
please,' he added, as the treasurer still stared in wonder.
'Four thousand crowns?' asked Seraphina. 'Pray, for what?'
'Madam,' returned Otto, smiling, 'for my own purposes.'
Gondremark spurred up Grafinski underneath the table.
'If your Highness will indicate the destination . . . ' began the
'You are not here, sir, to interrogate your Prince,' said Otto.
Grafinski looked for help to his commander; and Gondremark came to
his aid, in suave and measured tones.
'Your Highness may reasonably be surprised,' he said; 'and Herr
Grafinski, although I am convinced he is clear of the intention of
offending, would have perhaps done better to begin with an
explanation. The resources of the state are at the present moment
entirely swallowed up, or, as we hope to prove, wisely invested. In
a month from now, I do not question we shall be able to meet any
command your Highness may lay upon us; but at this hour I fear that,
even in so small a matter, he must prepare himself for
disappointment. Our zeal is no less, although our power may be
'How much, Herr Grafinski, have we in the treasury?' asked Otto.
'Your Highness,' protested the treasurer, 'we have immediate need of
'I think, sir, you evade me,' flashed the Prince; and then turning
to the side-table, 'Mr. Secretary,' he added, 'bring me, if you
please, the treasury docket.'
Herr Grafinski became deadly pale; the Chancellor, expecting his own
turn, was probably engaged in prayer; Gondremark was watching like a
ponderous cat. Gotthold, on his part, looked on with wonder at his
cousin; he was certainly showing spirit, but what, in such a time of
gravity, was all this talk of money? and why should he waste his
strength upon a personal issue?
'I find,' said Otto, with his finger on the docket, 'that we have
20,000 crowns in case.'
'That is exact, your Highness,' replied the Baron. 'But our
liabilities, all of which are happily not liquid, amount to a far
larger sum; and at the present point of time it would be morally
impossible to divert a single florin. Essentially, the case is
empty. We have, already presented, a large note for material of
'Material of war?' exclaimed Otto, with an excellent assumption of
surprise. 'But if my memory serves me right, we settled these
accounts in January.'
'There have been further orders,' the Baron explained. 'A new park
of artillery has been completed; five hundred stand of arms, seven
hundred baggage mules - the details are in a special memorandum. -
Mr. Secretary Holtz, the memorandum, if you please.'
'One would think, gentlemen, that we were going to war,' said Otto.
'We are,' said Seraphina.
'War!' cried the Prince, 'and, gentlemen, with whom? The peace of
Grunewald has endured for centuries. What aggression, what insult,
have we suffered?'
'Here, your Highness,' said Gotthold, 'is the ultimatum. It was in
the very article of signature, when your Highness so opportunely
Otto laid the paper before him; as he read, his fingers played
tattoo upon the table. 'Was it proposed,' he inquired, 'to send
this paper forth without a knowledge of my pleasure?'
One of the non-combatants, eager to trim, volunteered an answer.
'The Herr Doctor von Hohenstockwitz had just entered his dissent,'
'Give me the rest of this correspondence,' said the Prince. It was
handed to him, and he read it patiently from end to end, while the
councillors sat foolishly enough looking before them on the table.
The secretaries, in the background, were exchanging glances of
delight; a row at the council was for them a rare and welcome
'Gentlemen,' said Otto, when he had finished, 'I have read with
pain. This claim upon Obermunsterol is palpably unjust; it has not
a tincture, not a show, of justice. There is not in all this ground
enough for after-dinner talk, and you propose to force it as a CASUS
'Certainly, your Highness,' returned Gondremark, too wise to defend
the indefensible, 'the claim on Obermunsterol is simply a pretext.'
'It is well,' said the Prince. 'Herr Cancellarius, take your pen.
"The council," he began to dictate - 'I withhold all notice of my
intervention,' he said, in parenthesis, and addressing himself more
directly to his wife; 'and I say nothing of the strange suppression
by which this business has been smuggled past my knowledge. I am
content to be in time - "The council,"' he resumed, '"on a further
examination of the facts, and enlightened by the note in the last
despatch from Gerolstein, have the pleasure to announce that they
are entirely at one, both as to fact and sentiment, with the Grand-
Ducal Court of Gerolstein." You have it? Upon these lines, sir,
you will draw up the despatch.'
'If your Highness will allow me,' said the Baron, 'your Highness is
so imperfectly acquainted with the internal history of this
correspondence, that any interference will be merely hurtful. Such
a paper as your Highness proposes would be to stultify the whole
previous policy of Grunewald.'
'The policy of Grunewald!' cried the Prince. 'One would suppose you
had no sense of humour! Would you fish in a coffee cup?'
'With deference, your Highness,' returned the Baron, 'even in a
coffee cup there may be poison. The purpose of this war is not
simply territorial enlargement; still less is it a war of glory;
for, as your Highness indicates, the state of Grunewald is too small
to be ambitious. But the body politic is seriously diseased;
republicanism, socialism, many disintegrating ideas are abroad;
circle within circle, a really formidable organisation has grown up
about your Highness's throne.'
'I have heard of it, Herr von Gondremark,' put in the Prince; 'but I
have reason to be aware that yours is the more authoritative
'I am honoured by this expression of my Prince's confidence'
returned Gondremark, unabashed. 'It is, therefore, with a single
eye to these disorders that our present external policy has been
shaped. Something was required to divert public attention, to
employ the idle, to popularise your Highness's rule, and, if it were
possible, to enable him to reduce the taxes at a blow and to a
notable amount. The proposed expedition - for it cannot without
hyperbole be called a war - seemed to the council to combine the
various characters required; a marked improvement in the public
sentiment has followed even upon our preparations; and I cannot
doubt that when success shall follow, the effect will surpass even
our boldest hopes.'
'You are very adroit, Herr von Gondremark,' said Otto. 'You fill me
with admiration. I had not heretofore done justice to your
Seraphina looked up with joy, supposing Otto conquered; but
Gondremark still waited, armed at every point; he knew how very
stubborn is the revolt of a weak character.
'And the territorial army scheme, to which I was persuaded to
consent - was it secretly directed to the same end?' the Prince
'I still believe the effect to have been good,' replied the Baron;
'discipline and mounting guard are excellent sedatives. But I will
avow to your Highness, I was unaware, at the date of that decree, of
the magnitude of the revolutionary movement; nor did any of us, I
think, imagine that such a territorial army was a part of the
'It was?' asked Otto. 'Strange! Upon what fancied grounds?'
'The grounds were indeed fanciful,' returned the Baron. 'It was
conceived among the leaders that a territorial army, drawn from and
returning to the people, would, in the event of any popular
uprising, prove lukewarm or unfaithful to the throne.'
'I see,' said the Prince. 'I begin to understand.'
'His Highness begins to understand?' repeated Gondremark, with the
sweetest politeness. 'May I beg of him to complete the phrase?'
'The history of the revolution,' replied Otto dryly. 'And now,' he
added, 'what do you conclude?'
'I conclude, your Highness, with a simple reflection,' said the
Baron, accepting the stab without a quiver, 'the war is popular;
were the rumour contradicted to-morrow, a considerable
disappointment would be felt in many classes; and in the present
tension of spirits, the most lukewarm sentiment may be enough to
precipitate events. There lies the danger. The revolution hangs
imminent; we sit, at this council board, below the sword of
'We must then lay our heads together,' said the Prince, 'and devise
some honourable means of safety.'
Up to this moment, since the first note of opposition fell from the
librarian, Seraphina had uttered about twenty words. With a
somewhat heightened colour, her eyes generally lowered, her foot
sometimes nervously tapping on the floor, she had kept her own
counsel and commanded her anger like a hero. But at this stage of
the engagement she lost control of her impatience.
'Means!' she cried. 'They have been found and prepared before you
knew the need for them. Sign the despatch, and let us be done with
'Madam, I said "honourable,"' returned Otto, bowing. 'This war is,
in my eyes, and by Herr von Gondremark's account, an inadmissible
expedient. If we have misgoverned here in Grunewald, are the people
of Gerolstein to bleed and pay for our mis-doings? Never, madam;
not while I live. But I attach so much importance to all that I
have heard to-day for the first time - and why only to-day, I do not
even stop to ask - that I am eager to find some plan that I can
follow with credit to myself.'
'And should you fail?' she asked.
'Should I fail, I will then meet the blow half-way,' replied the
Prince. 'On the first open discontent, I shall convoke the States,
and, when it pleases them to bid me, abdicate.'
Seraphina laughed angrily. 'This is the man for whom we have been
labouring!' she cried. 'We tell him of change; he will devise the
means, he says; and his device is abdication? Sir, have you no
shame to come here at the eleventh hour among those who have borne
the heat and burthen of the day? Do you not wonder at yourself? I,
sir, was here in my place, striving to uphold your dignity alone. I
took counsel with the wisest I could find, while you were eating and
hunting. I have laid my plans with foresight; they were ripe for
action; and then - 'she choked - 'then you return - for a forenoon -
to ruin all! To-morrow, you will be once more about your pleasures;
you will give us leave once more to think and work for you; and
again you will come back, and again you will thwart what you had not
the industry or knowledge to conceive. O! it is intolerable. Be
modest, sir. Do not presume upon the rank you cannot worthily
uphold. I would not issue my commands with so much gusto - it is
from no merit in yourself they are obeyed. What are you? What have
you to do in this grave council? Go,' she cried, 'go among your
equals? The very people in the streets mock at you for a prince.'
At this surprising outburst the whole council sat aghast.
'Madam,' said the Baron, alarmed out of his caution, 'command
'Address yourself to me, sir!' cried the Prince. 'I will not bear
Seraphina burst into tears.
'Sir,' cried the Baron, rising, 'this lady - '
'Herr von Gondremark,' said the Prince, 'one more observation, and I
place you under arrest.'
'Your Highness is the master,' replied Gondremark, bowing.
'Bear it in mind more constantly,' said Otto. 'Herr Cancellarius,
bring all the papers to my cabinet. Gentlemen, the council is
And he bowed and left the apartment, followed by Greisengesang and
the secretaries, just at the moment when the Princess's ladies,
summoned in all haste, entered by another door to help her forth.
CHAPTER VIII - THE PARTY OF WAR TAKES ACTION
HALF an hour after, Gondremark was once more closeted with
'Where is he now?' she asked, on his arrival.
'Madam, he is with the Chancellor,' replied the Baron. 'Wonder of
wonders, he is at work!'
'Ah,' she said, 'he was born to torture me! O what a fall, what a
humiliation! Such a scheme to wreck upon so small a trifle! But
now all is lost.'
'Madam,' said Gondremark, 'nothing is lost. Something, on the other
hand, is found. You have found your senses; you see him as he is -
see him as you see everything where your too-good heart is not in
question - with the judicial, with the statesman's eye. So long as
he had a right to interfere, the empire that may be was still
distant. I have not entered on this course without the plain
foresight of its dangers; and even for this I was prepared. But,
madam, I knew two things: I knew that you were born to command, that
I was born to serve; I knew that by a rare conjuncture, the hand had
found the tool; and from the first I was confident, as I am
confident to-day, that no hereditary trifler has the power to
shatter that alliance.'
'I, born to command!' she said. 'Do you forget my tears?'
'Madam, they were the tears of Alexander,' cried the Baron. 'They
touched, they thrilled me; I, forgot myself a moment - even I! But
do you suppose that I had not remarked, that I had not admired, your
previous bearing? your great self-command? Ay, that was princely!'
He paused. 'It was a thing to see. I drank confidence! I tried to
imitate your calm. And I was well inspired; in my heart, I think
that I was well inspired; that any man, within the reach of
argument, had been convinced! But it was not to be; nor, madam, do
I regret the failure. Let us be open; let me disclose my heart. I
have loved two things, not unworthily: Grunewald and my sovereign!'
Here he kissed her hand. 'Either I must resign my ministry, leave
the land of my adoption and the queen whom I had chosen to obey - or
- ' He paused again.
'Alas, Herr von Gondremark, there is no "or,"' said Seraphina.
'Nay, madam, give me time,' he replied. 'When first I saw you, you
were still young; not every man would have remarked your powers; but
I had not been twice honoured by your conversation ere I had found
my mistress. I have, madam, I believe, some genius; and I have much
ambition. But the genius is of the serving kind; and to offer a
career to my ambition, I had to find one born to rule. This is the
base and essence of our union; each had need of the other; each
recognised, master and servant, lever and fulcrum, the complement of
his endowment. Marriages, they say, are made in heaven: how much
more these pure, alborious, intellectual fellowships, born to found
empires! Nor is this all. We found each other ripe, filled with
great ideas that took shape and clarified with every word. We grew
together - ay, madam, in mind we grew together like twin children.
All of my life until we met was petty and groping; was it not - I
will flatter myself openly - it WAS the same with you! Not till
then had you those eagle surveys, that wide and hopeful sweep of
intuition! Thus we had formed ourselves, and we were ready.'
'It is true,' she cried. 'I feel it. Yours is the genius; your
generosity confounds your insight; all I could offer you was the
position, was this throne, to be a fulcrum. But I offered it
without reserve; I entered at least warmly into all your thoughts;
you were sure of me - sure of my support - certain of justice. Tell
me, tell me again, that I have helped you.'
'Nay, madam,' he said, 'you made me. In everything you were my
inspiration. And as we prepared our policy, weighing every step,
how often have I had to admire your perspicacity, your man-like
diligence and fortitude! You know that these are not the words of
flattery; your conscience echoes them; have you spared a day? have
you indulged yourself in any pleasure? Young and beautiful, you
have lived a life of high intellectual effort, of irksome
intellectual patience with details. Well, you have your reward:
with the fall of Brandenau, the throne of your Empire is founded.'
'What thought have you in your mind?' she asked. 'Is not all
'Nay, my Princess, the same thought is in both our minds,' he said.
'Herr von Gondremark,' she replied, 'by all that I hold sacred, I
have none; I do not think at all; I am crushed.'
'You are looking at the passionate side of a rich nature,
misunderstood and recently insulted,' said the Baron. 'Look into
your intellect, and tell me.'
'I find nothing, nothing but tumult,' she replied.
'You find one word branded, madam,' returned the Baron:
'O!' she cried. 'The coward! He leaves me to bear all, and in the
hour of trial he stabs me from behind. There is nothing in him, not
respect, not love, not courage - his wife, his dignity, his throne,
the honour of his father, he forgets them all!'
'Yes,' pursued the Baron, 'the word Abdication. I perceive a
'I read your fancy,' she returned. 'It is mere madness, midsummer
madness. Baron, I am more unpopular than he. You know it. They
can excuse, they can love, his weakness; but me, they hate.'
'Such is the gratitude of peoples,' said the Baron. 'But we trifle.
Here, madam, are my plain thoughts. The man who in the hour of
danger speaks of abdication is, for me, a venomous animal. I speak
with the bluntness of gravity, madam; this is no hour for mincing.
The coward, in a station of authority, is more dangerous than fire.
We dwell on a volcano; if this man can have his way, Grunewald
before a week will have been deluged with innocent blood. You know
the truth of what I say; we have looked unblenching into this ever-
possible catastrophe. To him it is nothing: he will abdicate!
Abdicate, just God! and this unhappy country committed to his
charge, and the lives of men and the honour of women . . .' His
voice appeared to fail him; in an instant he had conquered his
emotion and resumed: 'But you, madam, conceive more worthily of your
responsibilities. I am with you in the thought; and in the face of
the horrors that I see impending, I say, and your heart repeats it -
we have gone too far to pause. Honour, duty, ay, and the care of
our own lives, demand we should proceed.'
She was looking at him, her brow thoughtfully knitted. 'I feel it,'
she said. 'But how? He has the power.'
'The power, madam? The power is in the army,' he replied; and then
hastily, ere she could intervene, 'we have to save ourselves,' he
went on; 'I have to save my Princess, she has to save her minister;
we have both of us to save this infatuated youth from his own
madness. He in the outbreak would be the earliest victim; I see
him,' he cried, 'torn in pieces; and Grunewald, unhappy Grunewald!
Nay, madam, you who have the power must use it; it lies hard upon
'Show me how!' she cried. 'Suppose I were to place him under some
constraint, the revolution would break upon us instantly.'
The Baron feigned defeat. 'It is true,' he said. 'You see more
clearly than I do. Yet there should, there must be, some way.' And
he waited for his chance.
'No,' she said; 'I told you from the first there is no remedy. Our
hopes are lost: lost by one miserable trifler, ignorant, fretful,
fitful - who will have disappeared to-morrow, who knows? to his
Any peg would do for Gondremark. 'The thing!' he cried, striking
his brow. 'Fool, not to have thought of it! Madam, without perhaps
knowing it, you have solved our problem.'
'What do you mean? Speak!' she said.
He appeared to collect himself; and then, with a smile, 'The
Prince,' he said, 'must go once more a-hunting.'
'Ay, if he would!' cried she, 'and stay there!'
'And stay there,' echoed the Baron. It was so significantly said,
that her face changed; and the schemer, fearful of the sinister
ambiguity of his expressions, hastened to explain. 'This time he
shall go hunting in a carriage, with a good escort of our foreign
lancers. His destination shall be the Felsenburg; it is healthy,
the rock is high, the windows are small and barred; it might have
been built on purpose. We shall intrust the captaincy to the
Scotsman Gordon; he at least will have no scruple. Who will miss
the sovereign? He is gone hunting; he came home on Tuesday, on
Thursday he returned; all is usual in that. Meanwhile the war
proceeds; our Prince will soon weary of his solitude; and about the
time of our triumph, or, if he prove very obstinate, a little later,
he shall be released upon a proper understanding, and I see him once
more directing his theatricals.'
Seraphina sat gloomy, plunged in thought. 'Yes,' she said suddenly,
'and the despatch? He is now writing it.'
'It cannot pass the council before Friday,' replied Gondremark; 'and
as for any private note, the messengers are all at my disposal.
They are picked men, madam. I am a person of precaution.'
'It would appear so,' she said, with a flash of her occasional
repugnance to the man; and then after a pause, 'Herr von
Gondremark,' she added, 'I recoil from this extremity.'
'I share your Highness's repugnance,' answered he. 'But what would
you have? We are defenceless, else.'
'I see it, but this is sudden. It is a public crime,' she said,
nodding at him with a sort of horror.
'Look but a little deeper,' he returned, 'and whose is the crime?'
'His!' she cried. 'His, before God! And I hold him liable. But
still - '
'It is not as if he would be harmed,' submitted Gondremark.
'I know it,' she replied, but it was still unheartily.
And then, as brave men are entitled, by prescriptive right as old as
the world's history, to the alliance and the active help of Fortune,
the punctual goddess stepped down from the machine. One of the
Princess's ladies begged to enter; a man, it appeared, had brought a
line for the Freiherr von Gondremark. It proved to be a pencil
billet, which the crafty Greisengesang had found the means to
scribble and despatch under the very guns of Otto; and the daring of
the act bore testimony to the terror of the actor. For
Greisengesang had but one influential motive: fear. The note ran
thus: 'At the first council, procuration to be withdrawn. - CORN.
So, after three years of exercise, the right of signature was to be
stript from Seraphina. It was more than an insult; it was a public
disgrace; and she did not pause to consider how she had earned it,
but morally bounded under the attack as bounds the wounded tiger.
'Enough,' she said; 'I will sign the order. When shall he leave?'
'It will take me twelve hours to collect my men, and it had best be
done at night. To-morrow midnight, if you please?' answered the
'Excellent,' she said. 'My door is always open to you, Baron. As
soon as the order is prepared, bring it me to sign.'
'Madam,' he said, 'alone of all of us you do not risk your head in
this adventure. For that reason, and to prevent all hesitation, I
venture to propose the order should be in your hand throughout.'
'You are right,' she replied.
He laid a form before her, and she wrote the order in a clear hand,
and re-read it. Suddenly a cruel smile came on her face. 'I had
forgotten his puppet,' said she. 'They will keep each other
company.' And she interlined and initiated the condemnation of
'Your Highness has more memory than your servant,' said the Baron;
and then he, in his turn, carefully perused the fateful paper.
'Good!' said he.
'You will appear in the drawing-room, Baron?' she asked.
'I thought it better,' said he, 'to avoid the possibility of a
public affront. Anything that shook my credit might hamper us in
the immediate future.'
'You are right,' she said; and she held out her hand as to an old
friend and equal.
CHAPTER IX - THE PRICE OF THE RIVER FARM; IN WHICH VAINGLORY GOES
BEFORE A FALL
THE pistol had been practically fired. Under ordinary circumstances
the scene at the council table would have entirely exhausted Otto's
store both of energy and anger; he would have begun to examine and
condemn his conduct, have remembered all that was true, forgotten
all that was unjust in Seraphina's onslaught; and by half an hour
after would have fallen into that state of mind in which a Catholic
flees to the confessional and a sot takes refuge with the bottle.
Two matters of detail preserved his spirits. For, first, he had
still an infinity of business to transact; and to transact business,
for a man of Otto's neglectful and procrastinating habits, is the
best anodyne for conscience. All afternoon he was hard at it with
the Chancellor, reading, dictating, signing, and despatching papers;
and this kept him in a glow of self-approval. But, secondly, his
vanity was still alarmed; he had failed to get the money; to-morrow
before noon he would have to disappoint old Killian; and in the eyes
of that family which counted him so little, and to which he had
sought to play the part of the heroic comforter, he must sink lower
than at first. To a man of Otto's temper, this was death. He could
not accept the situation. And even as he worked, and worked wisely
and well, over the hated details of his principality, he was
secretly maturing a plan by which to turn the situation. It was a
scheme as pleasing to the man as it was dishonourable in the prince;
in which his frivolous nature found and took vengeance for the
gravity and burthen of the afternoon. He chuckled as he thought of
it: and Greisengesang heard him with wonder, and attributed his
lively spirits to the skirmish of the morning.
Led by this idea, the antique courtier ventured to compliment his
sovereign on his bearing. It reminded him, he said, of Otto's
'What?' asked the Prince, whose thoughts were miles away.
'Your Highness's authority at the board,' explained the flatterer.
'O, that! O yes,' returned Otto; but for all his carelessness, his
vanity was delicately tickled, and his mind returned and dwelt
approvingly over the details of his victory. 'I quelled them all,'
When the more pressing matters had been dismissed, it was already
late, and Otto kept the Chancellor to dinner, and was entertained
with a leash of ancient histories and modern compliments. The
Chancellor's career had been based, from the first off-put, on
entire subserviency; he had crawled into honours and employments;
and his mind was prostitute. The instinct of the creature served
him well with Otto. First, he let fall a sneering word or two upon
the female intellect; thence he proceeded to a closer engagement;
and before the third course he was artfully dissecting Seraphina's
character to her approving husband. Of course no names were used;
and of course the identity of that abstract or ideal man, with whom
she was currently contrasted, remained an open secret. But this
stiff old gentleman had a wonderful instinct for evil, thus to wind
his way into man's citadel; thus to harp by the hour on the virtues
of his hearer and not once alarm his self-respect. Otto was all
roseate, in and out, with flattery and Tokay and an approving
conscience. He saw himself in the most attractive colours. If even
Greisengesang, he thought, could thus espy the loose stitches in
Seraphina's character, and thus disloyally impart them to the
opposite camp, he, the discarded husband - the dispossessed Prince -
could scarce have erred on the side of severity.
In this excellent frame he bade adieu to the old gentleman, whose
voice had proved so musical, and set forth for the drawing-room.
Already on the stair, he was seized with some compunction; but when
he entered the great gallery and beheld his wife, the Chancellor's
abstract flatteries fell from him like rain, and he re-awoke to the
poetic facts of life. She stood a good way off below a shining
lustre, her back turned. The bend of her waist overcame him with
physical weakness. This was the girl-wife who had lain in his arms
and whom he had sworn to cherish; there was she, who was better than
It was Seraphina who restored him from the blow. She swam forward
and smiled upon her husband with a sweetness that was insultingly
artificial. 'Frederic,' she lisped, 'you are late.' It was a scene
of high comedy, such as is proper to unhappy marriages; and her
APLOMB disgusted him.
There was no etiquette at these small drawing-rooms. People came
and went at pleasure. The window embrasures became the roost of
happy couples; at the great chimney the talkers mostly congregated,
each full-charged with scandal; and down at the farther end the
gamblers gambled. It was towards this point that Otto moved, not
ostentatiously, but with a gentle insistence, and scattering
attentions as he went. Once abreast of the card-table, he placed
himself opposite to Madame von Rosen, and, as soon as he had caught
her eye, withdrew to the embrasure of a window. There she had
speedily joined him.
'You did well to call me,' she said, a little wildly. 'These cards
will be my ruin.'
'Leave them,' said Otto.
'I!' she cried, and laughed; 'they are my destiny. My only chance
was to die of a consumption; now I must die in a garret.'
'You are bitter to-night,' said Otto.
'I have been losing,' she replied. 'You do not know what greed is.'
'I have come, then, in an evil hour,' said he.
'Ah, you wish a favour!' she cried, brightening beautifully.
'Madam,' said he, 'I am about to found my party, and I come to you
for a recruit.'
'Done,' said the Countess. 'I am a man again.'
'I may be wrong,' continued Otto, 'but I believe upon my heart you
wish me no ill.'
'I wish you so well,' she said, 'that I dare not tell it you.'
'Then if I ask my favour?' quoth the Prince.
'Ask it, MON PRINCE,' she answered. 'Whatever it is, it is
'I wish you,' he returned, 'this very night to make the farmer of
'Heaven knows your meaning!' she exclaimed. 'I know not, neither
care; there are no bounds to my desire to please you. Call him
'I will put it in another way,' returned Otto. 'Did you ever
'Often!' cried the Countess. 'I have broken all the ten
commandments; and if there were more to-morrow, I should not sleep
till I had broken these.'
'This is a case of burglary: to say the truth, I thought it would
amuse you,' said the Prince.
'I have no practical experience,' she replied, 'but O! the good-
will! I have broken a work-box in my time, and several hearts, my
own included. Never a house! But it cannot be difficult; sins are
so unromantically easy! What are we to break?'
'Madam, we are to break the treasury,' said Otto and he sketched to
her briefly, wittily, with here and there a touch of pathos, the
story of his visit to the farm, of his promise to buy it, and of the
refusal with which his demand for money had been met that morning at
the council; concluding with a few practical words as to the
treasury windows, and the helps and hindrances of the proposed
'They refused you the money,' she said when he had done. 'And you
accepted the refusal? Well!'
'They gave their reasons,' replied Otto, colouring. 'They were not
such as I could combat; and I am driven to dilapidate the funds of
my own country by a theft. It is not dignified; but it is fun.'
'Fun,' she said; 'yes.' And then she remained silently plunged in
thought for an appreciable time. 'How much do you require?' she
asked at length.
'Three thousand crowns will do,' he answered, 'for I have still some
money of my own.'
'Excellent,' she said, regaining her levity. 'I am your true
accomplice. And where are we to meet?'
'You know the Flying Mercury,' he answered, 'in the Park? Three
pathways intersect; there they have made a seat and raised the
statue. The spot is handy and the deity congenial.'
'Child,' she said, and tapped him with her fan. 'But do you know,
my Prince, you are an egoist - your handy trysting-place is miles
from me. You must give me ample time; I cannot, I think, possibly
be there before two. But as the bell beats two, your helper shall
arrive: welcome, I trust. Stay - do you bring any one?' she added.
'O, it is not for a chaperon - I am not a prude!'
'I shall bring a groom of mine,' said Otto. 'I caught him stealing
'His name?' she asked.
'I profess I know not. I am not yet intimate with my corn-stealer,'
returned the Prince. 'It was in a professional capacity - '
'Like me! Flatterer!' she cried. 'But oblige me in one thing. Let
me find you waiting at the seat - yes, you shall await me; for on
this expedition it shall be no longer Prince and Countess, it shall
be the lady and the squire - and your friend the thief shall be no
nearer than the fountain. Do you promise?'
'Madam, in everything you are to command; you shall be captain, I am
but supercargo,' answered Otto.
'Well, Heaven bring all safe to port!' she said. 'It is not
Something in her manner had puzzled Otto, had possibly touched him
'Is it not strange,' he remarked, 'that I should choose my
accomplice from the other camp?'
'Fool!' she said. 'But it is your only wisdom that you know your
friends.' And suddenly, in the vantage of the deep window, she
caught up his hand and kissed it with a sort of passion. 'Now go,'
she added, 'go at once.'
He went, somewhat staggered, doubting in his heart that he was over-
bold. For in that moment she had flashed upon him like a jewel; and
even through the strong panoply of a previous love he had been
conscious of a shock. Next moment he had dismissed the fear.
Back to Full Books