Robert Louis Stevenson
Part 3 out of 4
Both Otto and the Countess retired early from the drawing-room; and
the Prince, after an elaborate feint, dismissed his valet, and went
forth by the private passage and the back postern in quest of the
Once more the stable was in darkness, once more Otto employed the
talismanic knock, and once more the groom appeared and sickened with
'Good-evening, friend,' said Otto pleasantly. 'I want you to bring
a corn sack - empty this time - and to accompany me. We shall be
gone all night.'
'Your Highness,' groaned the man, 'I have the charge of the small
stables. I am here alone.'
'Come,' said the Prince, 'you are no such martinet in duty.' And
then seeing that the man was shaking from head to foot, Otto laid a
hand upon his shoulder. 'If I meant you harm,' he said, 'should I
The fellow became instantly reassured. He got the sack; and Otto
led him round by several paths and avenues, conversing pleasantly by
the way, and left him at last planted by a certain fountain where a
goggle-eyed Triton spouted intermittently into a rippling laver.
Thence he proceeded alone to where, in a round clearing, a copy of
Gian Bologna's Mercury stood tiptoe in the twilight of the stars.
The night was warm and windless. A shaving of new moon had lately
arisen; but it was still too small and too low down in heaven to
contend with the immense host of lesser luminaries; and the rough
face of the earth was drenched with starlight. Down one of the
alleys, which widened as it receded, he could see a part of the
lamplit terrace where a sentry silently paced, and beyond that a
corner of the town with interlacing street-lights. But all around
him the young trees stood mystically blurred in the dim shine; and
in the stock-still quietness the upleaping god appeared alive.
In this dimness and silence of the night, Otto's conscience became
suddenly and staringly luminous, like the dial of a city clock. He
averted the eyes of his mind, but the finger rapidly travelling,
pointed to a series of misdeeds that took his breath away. What was
he doing in that place? The money had been wrongly squandered, but
that was largely by his own neglect. And he now proposed to
embarrass the finances of this country which he had been too idle to
govern. And he now proposed to squander the money once again, and
this time for a private, if a generous end. And the man whom he had
reproved for stealing corn he was now to set stealing treasure. And
then there was Madame von Rosen, upon whom he looked down with some
of that ill-favoured contempt of the chaste male for the imperfect
woman. Because he thought of her as one degraded below scruples, he
had picked her out to be still more degraded, and to risk her whole
irregular establishment in life by complicity in this dishonourable
act. It was uglier than a seduction.
Otto had to walk very briskly and whistle very busily; and when at
last he heard steps in the narrowest and darkest of the alleys, it
was with a gush of relief that he sprang to meet the Countess. To
wrestle alone with one's good angel is so hard! and so precious, at
the proper time, is a companion certain to be less virtuous than
It was a young man who came towards him - a young man of small
stature and a peculiar gait, wearing a wide flapping hat, and
carrying, with great weariness, a heavy bag. Otto recoiled; but the
young man held up his hand by way of signal, and coming up with a
panting run, as if with the last of his endurance, laid the bag upon
the ground, threw himself upon the bench, and disclosed the features
of Madame von Rosen.
'You, Countess!' cried the Prince.
'No, no,' she panted, 'the Count von Rosen - my young brother. A
capital fellow. Let him get his breath.'
'Ah, madam. . .' said he.
'Call me Count,' she returned, 'respect my incognito.'
'Count be it, then,' he replied. 'And let me implore that gallant
gentleman to set forth at once on our enterprise.'
'Sit down beside me here,' she returned, patting the further corner
of the bench. 'I will follow you in a moment. O, I am so tired -
feel how my heart leaps! Where is your thief?'
'At his post,' replied Otto. 'Shall I introduce him? He seems an
'No,' she said, 'do not hurry me yet. I must speak to you. Not but
I adore your thief; I adore any one who has the spirit to do wrong.
I never cared for virtue till I fell in love with my Prince.' She
laughed musically. 'And even so, it is not for your virtues,' she
Otto was embarrassed. 'And now,' he asked, 'if you are anyway
'Presently, presently. Let me breathe,' she said, panting a little
harder than before.
'And what has so wearied you?' he asked. 'This bag? And why, in
the name of eccentricity, a bag? For an empty one, you might have
relied on my own foresight; and this one is very far from being
empty. My dear Count, with what trash have you come laden? But the
shortest method is to see for myself.' And he put down his hand.
She stopped him at once. 'Otto,' she said, 'no - not that way. I
will tell, I will make a clean breast. It is done already. I have
robbed the treasury single-handed. There are three thousand two
hundred crowns. O, I trust it is enough!'
Her embarrassment was so obvious that the Prince was struck into a
muse, gazing in her face, with his hand still outstretched, and she
still holding him by the wrist. 'You!' he said at last. 'How?' And
then drawing himself up, 'O madam,' he cried, 'I understand. You
must indeed think meanly of the Prince.'
'Well, then, it was a lie!' she cried. 'The money is mine, honestly
my own - now yours. This was an unworthy act that you proposed.
But I love your honour, and I swore to myself that I should save it
in your teeth. I beg of you to let me save it' - with a sudden
lovely change of tone. 'Otto, I beseech you let me save it. Take
this dross from your poor friend who loves you!'
'Madam, madam,' babbled Otto, in the extreme of misery, 'I cannot -
I must go.'
And he half rose; but she was on the ground before him in an
instant, clasping his knees. 'No,' she gasped, 'you shall not go.
Do you despise me so entirely? It is dross; I hate it; I should
squander it at play and be no richer; it is an investment, it is to
save me from ruin. Otto,' she cried, as he again feebly tried to
put her from him, 'if you leave me alone in this disgrace, I will
die here!' He groaned aloud. 'O,' she said, 'think what I suffer!
If you suffer from a piece of delicacy, think what I suffer in my
shame! To have my trash refused! You would rather steal, you think
of me so basely! You would rather tread my heart in pieces! O,
unkind! O my Prince! O Otto! O pity me!' She was still clasping
him; then she found his hand and covered it with kisses, and at this
his head began to turn. 'O,' she cried again, 'I see it! O what a
horror! It is because I am old, because I am no longer beautiful.'
And she burst into a storm of sobs.
This was the COUP DE GRACE. Otto had now to comfort and compose her
as he could, and before many words, the money was accepted. Between
the woman and the weak man such was the inevitable end. Madame von
Rosen instantly composed her sobs. She thanked him with a
fluttering voice, and resumed her place upon the bench, at the far
end from Otto. 'Now you see,' she said, 'why I bade you keep the
thief at distance, and why I came alone. How I trembled for my
'Madam,' said Otto, with a tearful whimper in his voice, 'spare me!
You are too good, too noble!'
'I wonder to hear you,' she returned. 'You have avoided a great
folly. You will be able to meet your good old peasant. You have
found an excellent investment for a friend's money. You have
preferred essential kindness to an empty scruple; and now you are
ashamed of it! You have made your friend happy; and now you mourn
as the dove! Come, cheer up. I know it is depressing to have done
exactly right; but you need not make a practice of it. Forgive
yourself this virtue; come now, look me in the face and smile!'
He did look at her. When a man has been embraced by a woman, he
sees her in a glamour; and at such a time, in the baffling glimmer
of the stars, she will look wildly well. The hair is touched with
light; the eyes are constellations; the face sketched in shadows - a
sketch, you might say, by passion. Otto became consoled for his
defeat; he began to take an interest. 'No,' he said, 'I am no
'You promised me fun,' she returned, with a laugh. 'I have given
you as good. We have had a stormy SCENA.'
He laughed in his turn, and the sound of the laughter, in either
case, was hardly reassuring.
'Come, what are you going to give me in exchange,' she continued,
'for my excellent declamation?'
'What you will,' he said.
'Whatever I will? Upon your honour? Suppose I asked the crown?'
She was flashing upon him, beautiful in triumph.
'Upon my honour,' he replied.
'Shall I ask the crown?' she continued. 'Nay; what should I do with
it? Grunewald is but a petty state; my ambition swells above it. I
shall ask - I find I want nothing,' she concluded. 'I will give you
something instead. I will give you leave to kiss me - once.'
Otto drew near, and she put up her face; they were both smiling,
both on the brink of laughter, all was so innocent and playful; and
the Prince, when their lips encountered, was dumbfoundered by the
sudden convulsion of his being. Both drew instantly apart, and for
an appreciable time sat tongue-tied. Otto was indistinctly
conscious of a peril in the silence, but could find no words to
utter. Suddenly the Countess seemed to awake. 'As for your wife -
' she began in a clear and steady voice.
The word recalled Otto, with a shudder, from his trance. 'I will
hear nothing against my wife,' he cried wildly; and then, recovering
himself and in a kindlier tone, 'I will tell you my one secret,' he
added. 'I love my wife.'
'You should have let me finish,' she returned, smiling. 'Do you
suppose I did not mention her on purpose? You know you had lost
your head. Well, so had I. Come now, do not be abashed by words,'
she added somewhat sharply. 'It is the one thing I despise. If you
are not a fool, you will see that I am building fortresses about
your virtue. And at any rate, I choose that you shall understand
that I am not dying of love for you. It is a very smiling business;
no tragedy for me! And now here is what I have to say about your
wife; she is not and she never has been Gondremark's mistress. Be
sure he would have boasted if she had. Good-night!'
And in a moment she was gone down the alley, and Otto was alone with
the bag of money and the flying god.
CHAPTER X - GOTTHOLD'S REVISED OPINION; AND THE FALL COMPLETED
THE Countess left poor Otto with a caress and buffet simultaneously
administered. The welcome word about his wife and the virtuous
ending of his interview should doubtless have delighted him. But
for all that, as he shouldered the bag of money and set forward to
rejoin his groom, he was conscious of many aching sensibilities. To
have gone wrong and to have been set right makes but a double trial
for man's vanity. The discovery of his own weakness and possible
unfaith had staggered him to the heart; and to hear, in the same
hour, of his wife's fidelity from one who loved her not, increased
the bitterness of the surprise.
He was about half-way between the fountain and the Flying Mercury
before his thoughts began to be clear; and he was surprised to find
them resentful. He paused in a kind of temper, and struck with his
hand a little shrub. Thence there arose instantly a cloud of
awakened sparrows, which as instantly dispersed and disappeared into
the thicket. He looked at them stupidly, and when they were gone
continued staring at the stars. 'I am angry. By what right? By
none!' he thought; but he was still angry. He cursed Madame von
Rosen and instantly repented. Heavy was the money on his shoulders.
When he reached the fountain, he did, out of ill-humour and parade,
an unpardonable act. He gave the money bodily to the dishonest
groom. 'Keep this for me,' he said, 'until I call for it to-morrow.
It is a great sum, and by that you will judge that I have not
condemned you.' And he strode away ruffling, as if he had done
something generous. It was a desperate stroke to re-enter at the
point of the bayonet into his self-esteem; and, like all such, it
was fruitless in the end. He got to bed with the devil, it
appeared: kicked and tumbled till the grey of the morning; and then
fell inopportunely into a leaden slumber, and awoke to find it ten.
To miss the appointment with old Killian after all, had been too
tragic a miscarriage: and he hurried with all his might, found the
groom (for a wonder) faithful to his trust, and arrived only a few
minutes before noon in the guest-chamber of the Morning Star.
Killian was there in his Sunday's best and looking very gaunt and
rigid; a lawyer from Brandenau stood sentinel over his outspread
papers; and the groom and the landlord of the inn were called to
serve as witnesses. The obvious deference of that great man, the
innkeeper, plainly affected the old farmer with surprise; but it was
not until Otto had taken the pen and signed that the truth flashed
upon him fully. Then, indeed, he was beside himself.
'His Highness!' he cried, 'His Highness!' and repeated the
exclamation till his mind had grappled fairly with the facts. Then
he turned to the witnesses. 'Gentlemen,' he said, 'you dwell in a
country highly favoured by God; for of all generous gentlemen, I
will say it on my conscience, this one is the king. I am an old
man, and I have seen good and bad, and the year of the great famine;
but a more excellent gentleman, no, never.'
'We know that,' cried the landlord, 'we know that well in Grunewald.
If we saw more of his Highness we should be the better pleased.'
'It is the kindest Prince,' began the groom, and suddenly closed his
mouth upon a sob, so that every one turned to gaze upon his emotion
- Otto not last; Otto struck with remorse, to see the man so
Then it was the lawyer's turn to pay a compliment. 'I do not know
what Providence may hold in store,' he said, 'but this day should be
a bright one in the annals of your reign. The shouts of armies
could not be more eloquent than the emotion on these honest faces.'
And the Brandenau lawyer bowed, skipped, stepped back, and took
snuff, with the air of a man who has found and seized an
'Well, young gentleman,' said Killian, 'if you will pardon me the
plainness of calling you a gentleman, many a good day's work you
have done, I doubt not, but never a better, or one that will be
better blessed; and whatever, sir, may be your happiness and triumph
in that high sphere to which you have been called, it will be none
the worse, sir, for an old man's blessing!'
The scene had almost assumed the proportions of an ovation; and when
the Prince escaped he had but one thought: to go wherever he was
most sure of praise. His conduct at the board of council occurred
to him as a fair chapter; and this evoked the memory of Gotthold.
To Gotthold he would go.
Gotthold was in the library as usual, and laid down his pen, a
little angrily, on Otto's entrance. 'Well,' he said, 'here you
'Well,' returned Otto, 'we made a revolution, I believe.'
'It is what I fear,' returned the Doctor.
'How?' said Otto. 'Fear? Fear is the burnt child. I have learned
my strength and the weakness of the others; and I now mean to
Gotthold said nothing, but he looked down and smoothed his chin.
'You disapprove?' cried Otto. 'You are a weather-cock.'
'On the contrary,' replied the Doctor. 'My observation has
confirmed my fears. It will not do, Otto, not do.'
'What will not do?' demanded the Prince, with a sickening stab of
'None of it,' answered Gotthold. 'You are unfitted for a life of
action; you lack the stamina, the habit, the restraint, the
patience. Your wife is greatly better, vastly better; and though
she is in bad hands, displays a very different aptitude. She is a
woman of affairs; you are - dear boy, you are yourself. I bid you
back to your amusements; like a smiling dominie, I give you holidays
for life. Yes,' he continued, 'there is a day appointed for all
when they shall turn again upon their own philosophy. I had grown
to disbelieve impartially in all; and if in the atlas of the
sciences there were two charts I disbelieved in more than all the
rest, they were politics and morals. I had a sneaking kindness for
your vices; as they were negative, they flattered my philosophy; and
I called them almost virtues. Well, Otto, I was wrong; I have
forsworn my sceptical philosophy; and I perceive your faults to be
unpardonable. You are unfit to be a Prince, unfit to be a husband.
And I give you my word, I would rather see a man capably doing evil
than blundering about good.'
Otto was still silent, in extreme dudgeon.
Presently the Doctor resumed: 'I will take the smaller matter first:
your conduct to your wife. You went, I hear, and had an
explanation. That may have been right or wrong; I know not; at
least, you had stirred her temper. At the council she insults you;
well, you insult her back - a man to a woman, a husband to his wife,
in public! Next upon the back of this, you propose - the story runs
like wildfire - to recall the power of signature. Can she ever
forgive that? a woman - a young woman - ambitious, conscious of
talents beyond yours? Never, Otto. And to sum all, at such a
crisis in your married life, you get into a window corner with that
ogling dame von Rosen. I do not dream that there was any harm; but
I do say it was an idle disrespect to your wife. Why, man, the
woman is not decent.'
'Gotthold,' said Otto, 'I will hear no evil of the Countess.'
'You will certainly hear no good of her,' returned Gotthold; 'and if
you wish your wife to be the pink of nicety, you should clear your
court of demi-reputations.'
'The commonplace injustice of a by-word,' Otto cried. 'The
partiality of sex. She is a demirep; what then is Gondremark? Were
she a man - '
'It would be all one,' retorted Gotthold roughly. 'When I see a
man, come to years of wisdom, who speaks in double-meanings and is
the braggart of his vices, I spit on the other side. "You, my
friend," say I, "are not even a gentleman." Well, she's not even a
'She is the best friend I have, and I choose that she shall be
respected,' Otto said.
'If she is your friend, so much the worse,' replied the Doctor. 'It
will not stop there.'
'Ah!' cried Otto, 'there is the charity of virtue! All evil in the
spotted fruit. But I can tell you, sir, that you do Madame von
Rosen prodigal injustice.'
'You can tell me!' said the Doctor shrewdly. 'Have you, tried? have
you been riding the marches?'
The blood came into Otto's face.
'Ah!' cried Gotthold, 'look at your wife and blush! There's a wife
for a man to marry and then lose! She's a carnation, Otto. The
soul is in her eyes.'
'You have changed your note for Seraphina, I perceive,' said Otto.
'Changed it!' cried the Doctor, with a flush. 'Why, when was it
different? But I own I admired her at the council. When she sat
there silent, tapping with her foot, I admired her as I might a
hurricane. Were I one of those who venture upon matrimony, there
had been the prize to tempt me! She invites, as Mexico invited
Cortez; the enterprise is hard, the natives are unfriendly - I
believe them cruel too - but the metropolis is paved with gold and
the breeze blows out of paradise. Yes, I could desire to be that
conqueror. But to philander with von Rosen! never! Senses? I
discard them; what are they? - pruritus! Curiosity? Reach me my
'To whom do you address yourself?' cried Otto. 'Surely you, of all
men, know that I love my wife!'
'O, love!' cried Gotthold; 'love is a great word; it is in all the
dictionaries. If you had loved, she would have paid you back. What
does she ask? A little ardour!'
'It is hard to love for two,' replied the Prince.
'Hard? Why, there's the touchstone! O, I know my poets!' cried the
Doctor. 'We are but dust and fire, too and to endure life's
scorching; and love, like the shadow of a great rock, should lend
shelter and refreshment, not to the lover only, but to his mistress
and to the children that reward them; and their very friends should
seek repose in the fringes of that peace. Love is not love that
cannot build a home. And you call it love to grudge and quarrel and
pick faults? You call it love to thwart her to her face, and bandy
'Gotthold, you are unjust. I was then fighting for my country,'
said the Prince.
'Ay, and there's the worst of all,' returned the Doctor. 'You could
not even see that you were wrong; that being where they were,
retreat was ruin.'
Why, you supported me!' cried Otto.
'I did. I was a fool like you,' replied Gotthold. 'But now my eyes
are open. If you go on as you have started, disgrace this fellow
Gondremark, and publish the scandal of your divided house, there
will befall a most abominable thing in Grunewald. A revolution,
friend - a revolution.'
'You speak strangely for a red,' said Otto.
'A red republican, but not a revolutionary,' returned the Doctor.
'An ugly thing is a Grunewalder drunk! One man alone can save the
country from this pass, and that is the double-dealer Gondremark,
with whom I conjure you to make peace. It will not be you; it never
can be you:- you, who can do nothing, as your wife said, but trade
upon your station - you, who spent the hours in begging money! And
in God's name, what for? Why money? What mystery of idiocy was
'It was to no ill end. It was to buy a farm,' quoth Otto sulkily.
'To buy a farm!' cried Gotthold. 'Buy a farm!'
'Well, what then?' returned Otto. 'I have bought it, if you come to
Gotthold fairly bounded on his seat. 'And how that?' he cried.
'How?' repeated Otto, startled.
'Ay, verily, how!' returned the Doctor. 'How came you by the
The Prince's countenance darkened. 'That is my affair,' said he.
'You see you are ashamed,' retorted Gotthold. 'And so you bought a
farm in the hour of our country's need - doubtless to be ready for
the abdication; and I put it that you stole the funds. There are
not three ways of getting money: there are but two: to earn and
steal. And now, when you have combined Charles the Fifth and Long-
fingered Tom, you come to me to fortify your vanity! But I will
clear my mind upon this matter: until I know the right and wrong of
the transaction, I put my hand behind my back. A man may be the
pitifullest prince; he must be a spotless gentleman.'
The Prince had gotten to his feet, as pale as paper. Gotthold,' he
said, 'you drive me beyond bounds. Beware, sir, beware!'
'Do you threaten me, friend Otto?' asked the Doctor grimly. 'That
would be a strange conclusion.'
'When have you ever known me use my power in any private animosity?'
cried Otto. 'To any private man your words were an unpardonable
insult, but at me you shoot in full security, and I must turn aside
to compliment you on your plainness. I must do more than pardon, I
must admire, because you have faced this - this formidable monarch,
like a Nathan before David. You have uprooted an old kindness, sir,
with an unsparing hand. You leave me very bare. My last bond is
broken; and though I take Heaven to witness that I sought to do the
right, I have this reward: to find myself alone. You say I am no
gentleman; yet the sneers have been upon your side; and though I can
very well perceive where you have lodged your sympathies, I will
forbear the taunt.'
'Otto, are you insane?' cried Gotthold, leaping up. 'Because I ask
you how you came by certain moneys, and because you refuse - '
'Herr von Hohenstockwitz, I have ceased to invite your aid in my
affairs,' said Otto. 'I have heard all that I desire, and you have
sufficiently trampled on my vanity. It may be that I cannot govern,
it may be that I cannot love - you tell me so with every mark of
honesty; but God has granted me one virtue, and I can still forgive.
I forgive you; even in this hour of passion, I can perceive my
faults and your excuses; and if I desire that in future I may be
spared your conversation, it is not, sir, from resentment - not
resentment - but, by Heaven, because no man on earth could endure to
be so rated. You have the satisfaction to see your sovereign weep;
and that person whom you have so often taunted with his happiness
reduced to the last pitch of solitude and misery. No, - I will hear
nothing; I claim the last word, sir, as your Prince; and that last
word shall be - forgiveness.'
And with that Otto was gone from the apartment, and Doctor Gotthold
was left alone with the most conflicting sentiments of sorrow,
remorse, and merriment; walking to and fro before his table, and
asking himself, with hands uplifted, which of the pair of them was
most to blame for this unhappy rupture. Presently, he took from a
cupboard a bottle of Rhine wine and a goblet of the deep Bohemian
ruby. The first glass a little warmed and comforted his bosom; with
the second he began to look down upon these troubles from a sunny
mountain; yet a while, and filled with this false comfort and
contemplating life throughout a golden medium, he owned to himself,
with a flush, a smile, and a half-pleasurable sigh, that he had been
somewhat over plain in dealing with his cousin. 'He said the truth,
too,' added the penitent librarian, 'for in my monkish fashion I
adore the Princess.' And then, with a still deepening flush and a
certain stealth, although he sat all alone in that great gallery, he
toasted Seraphina to the dregs.
CHAPTER XI - PROVIDENCE VON ROSEN: ACT THE FIRST
SHE BEGUILES THE BARON
AT a sufficiently late hour, or to be more exact, at three in the
afternoon, Madame von Rosen issued on the world. She swept
downstairs and out across the garden, a black mantilla thrown over
her head, and the long train of her black velvet dress ruthlessly
sweeping in the dirt.
At the other end of that long garden, and back to back with the
villa of the Countess, stood the large mansion where the Prime
Minister transacted his affairs and pleasures. This distance, which
was enough for decency by the easy canons of Mittwalden, the
Countess swiftly traversed, opened a little door with a key, mounted
a flight of stairs, and entered unceremoniously into Gondremark's
study. It was a large and very high apartment; books all about the
walls, papers on the table, papers on the floor; here and there a
picture, somewhat scant of drapery; a great fire glowing and flaming
in the blue tiled hearth; and the daylight streaming through a
cupola above. In the midst of this sat the great Baron Gondremark
in his shirt-sleeves, his business for that day fairly at an end,
and the hour arrived for relaxation. His expression, his very
nature, seemed to have undergone a fundamental change. Gondremark
at home appeared the very antipode of Gondremark on duty. He had an
air of massive jollity that well became him; grossness and geniality
sat upon his features; and along with his manners, he had laid aside
his sly and sinister expression. He lolled there, sunning his bulk
before the fire, a noble animal.
'Hey!' he cried. 'At last!'
The Countess stepped into the room in silence, threw herself on a
chair, and crossed her legs. In her lace and velvet, with a good
display of smooth black stocking and of snowy petticoat, and with
the refined profile of her face and slender plumpness of her body,
she showed in singular contrast to the big, black, intellectual
satyr by the fire.
'How often do you send for me?' she cried. 'It is compromising.'
Gondremark laughed. 'Speaking of that,' said he, 'what in the
devil's name were you about? You were not home till morning.'
'I was giving alms,' she said.
The Baron again laughed loud and long, for in his shirt-sleeves he
was a very mirthful creature. 'It is fortunate I am not jealous,'
he remarked. 'But you know my way: pleasure and liberty go hand in
hand. I believe what I believe; it is not much, but I believe it. -
But now to business. Have you not read my letter?'
'No,' she said; 'my head ached.'
'Ah, well! then I have news indeed!' cried Gondremark. 'I was mad
to see you all last night and all this morning: for yesterday
afternoon I brought my long business to a head; the ship has come
home; one more dead lift, and I shall cease to fetch and carry for
the Princess Ratafia. Yes, 'tis done. I have the order all in
Ratafia's hand; I carry it on my heart. At the hour of twelve to-
night, Prince Featherhead is to be taken in his bed and, like the
bambino, whipped into a chariot; and by next morning he will command
a most romantic prospect from the donjon of the Felsenburg.
Farewell, Featherhead! The war goes on, the girl is in my hand; I
have long been indispensable, but now I shall be sole. I have
long,' he added exultingly, 'long carried this intrigue upon my
shoulders, like Samson with the gates of Gaza; now I discharge that
She had sprung to her feet a little paler. 'Is this true?' she
'I tell you a fact,' he asseverated. 'The trick is played.'
'I will never believe it,' she said. 'An order in her own hand? I
will never believe it, Heinrich.'
'I swear to you,' said he.
'O, what do you care for oaths - or I either? What would you swear
by? Wine, women, and song? It is not binding,' she said. She had
come quite close up to him and laid her hand upon his arm. 'As for
the order - no, Heinrich, never! I will never believe it. I will
die ere I believe it. You have some secret purpose - what, I cannot
guess - but not one word of it is true.'
'Shall I show it you?' he asked.
'You cannot,' she answered. 'There is no such thing.'
'Incorrigible Sadducee!' he cried. 'Well, I will convert you; you
shall see the order.' He moved to a chair where he had thrown his
coat, and then drawing forth and holding out a paper, 'Read,' said
She took it greedily, and her eye flashed as she perused it.
'Hey!' cried the Baron, 'there falls a dynasty, and it was I that
felled it; and I and you inherit!' He seemed to swell in stature;
and next moment, with a laugh, he put his hand forward. Give me the
dagger,' said he.
But she whisked the paper suddenly behind her back and faced him,
lowering. 'No, no,' she said. 'You and I have first a point to
settle. Do you suppose me blind? She could never have given that
paper but to one man, and that man her lover. Here you stand - her
lover, her accomplice, her master - O, I well believe it, for I know
your power. But what am I?' she cried; 'I, whom you deceive!'
'Jealousy!' cried Gondremark. 'Anna, I would never have believed
it! But I declare to you by all that's credible that I am not her
lover. I might be, I suppose; but I never yet durst risk the
declaration. The chit is so unreal; a mincing doll; she will and
she will not; there is no counting on her, by God! And hitherto I
have had my own way without, and keep the lover in reserve. And I
say, Anna,' he added with severity, 'you must break yourself of this
new fit, my girl; there must be no combustion. I keep the creature
under the belief that I adore her; and if she caught a breath of you
and me, she is such a fool, prude, and dog in the manger, that she
is capable of spoiling all.'
'All very fine,' returned the lady. 'With whom do you pass your
days? and which am I to believe, your words or your actions?'
'Anna, the devil take you, are you blind?' cried Gondremark. 'You
know me. Am I likely to care for such a preciosa? 'Tis hard that
we should have been together for so long, and you should still take
me for a troubadour. But if there is one thing that I despise and
deprecate, it is all such figures in Berlin wool. Give me a human
woman - like myself. You are my mate; you were made for me; you
amuse me like the play. And what have I to gain that I should
pretend to you? If I do not love you, what use are you to me? Why,
none. It is as clear as noonday.'
'Do you love me, Heinrich?' she asked, languishing. 'Do you truly?'
'I tell you,' he cried, 'I love you next after myself. I should be
all abroad if I had lost you.'
'Well, then,' said she, folding up the paper and putting it calmly
in her pocket, 'I will believe you, and I join the plot. Count upon
me. At midnight, did you say? It is Gordon, I see, that you have
charged with it. Excellent; he will stick at nothing - '
Gondremark watched her suspiciously. 'Why do you take the paper?'
he demanded. 'Give it here.'
'No,' she returned; 'I mean to keep it. It is I who must prepare
the stroke; you cannot manage it without me; and to do my best I
must possess the paper. Where shall I find Gordon? In his rooms?'
She spoke with a rather feverish self-possession.
'Anna,' he said sternly, the black, bilious countenance of his
palace ROLE taking the place of the more open favour of his hours at
home, 'I ask you for that paper. Once, twice, and thrice.'
'Heinrich,' she returned, looking him in the face, 'take care. I
will put up with no dictation.'
Both looked dangerous; and the silence lasted for a measurable
interval of time. Then she made haste to have the first word; and
with a laugh that rang clear and honest, 'Do not be a child,' she
said. 'I wonder at you. If your assurances are true, you can have
no reason to mistrust me, nor I to play you false. The difficulty
is to get the Prince out of the palace without scandal. His valets
are devoted; his chamberlain a slave; and yet one cry might ruin
'They must be overpowered,' he said, following her to the new
ground, 'and disappear along with him.'
'And your whole scheme along with them!' she cried. 'He does not
take his servants when he goes a-hunting: a child could read the
truth. No, no; the plan is idiotic; it must be Ratafia's. But hear
me. You know the Prince worships me?'
'I know,' he said. 'Poor Featherhead, I cross his destiny!'
'Well now,' she continued, 'what if I bring him alone out of the
palace, to some quiet corner of the Park - the Flying Mercury, for
instance? Gordon can be posted in the thicket; the carriage wait
behind the temple; not a cry, not a scuffle, not a footfall; simply,
the Prince vanishes! - What do you say? Am I an able ally? Are my
BEAUX YUEX of service? Ah, Heinrich, do not lose your Anna! - she
He struck with his open hand upon the chimney. 'Witch!' he said,
'there is not your match for devilry in Europe. Service! the thing
runs on wheels.'
'Kiss me, then, and let me go. I must not miss my Featherhead,' she
'Stay, stay,' said the Baron; 'not so fast. I wish, upon my soul,
that I could trust you; but you are, out and in, so whimsical a
devil that I dare not. Hang it, Anna, no; it's not possible!'
'You doubt me, Heinrich?' she cried.
'Doubt is not the word,' said he. 'I know you. Once you were clear
of me with that paper in your pocket, who knows what you would do
with it? - not you, at least - nor I. You see,' he added, shaking
his head paternally upon the Countess, 'you are as vicious as a
'I swear to you,' she cried, 'by my salvation . . . '
'I have no curiosity to hear you swearing,' said the Baron.
'You think that I have no religion? You suppose me destitute of
honour. Well,' she said, 'see here: I will not argue, but I tell
you once for all: leave me this order, and the Prince shall be
arrested - take it from me, and, as certain as I speak, I will upset
the coach. Trust me, or fear me: take your choice.' And she
offered him the paper.
The Baron, in a great contention of mind, stood irresolute, weighing
the two dangers. Once his hand advanced, then dropped. 'Well,' he
said, 'since trust is what you call it . . .'
'No more,' she interrupted, 'Do not spoil your attitude. And now
since you have behaved like a good sort of fellow in the dark, I
will condescend to tell you why. I go to the palace to arrange with
Gordon; but how is Gordon to obey me? And how can I foresee the
hours? It may be midnight; ay, and it may be nightfall; all's a
chance; and to act, I must be free and hold the strings of the
adventure. And now,' she cried, 'your Vivien goes. Dub me your
knight!' And she held out her arms and smiled upon him radiant.
'Well,' he said, when he had kissed her, 'every man must have his
folly; I thank God mine is no worse. Off with you! I have given a
child a squib.'
CHAPTER XII - PROVIDENCE VON ROSEN: ACT THE SECOND
SHE INFORMS THE PRINCE
IT was the first impulse of Madame von Rosen to return to her own
villa and revise her toilette. Whatever else should come of this
adventure, it was her firm design to pay a visit to the Princess.
And before that woman, so little beloved, the Countess would appear
at no disadvantage. It was the work of minutes. Von Rosen had the
captain's eye in matters of the toilette; she was none of those who
hang in Fabian helplessness among their finery and, after hours,
come forth upon the world as dowdies. A glance, a loosened curl, a
studied and admired disorder in the hair, a bit of lace, a touch of
colour, a yellow rose in the bosom; and the instant picture was
'That will do,' she said. 'Bid my carriage follow me to the palace.
In half an hour it should be there in waiting.'
The night was beginning to fall and the shops to shine with lamps
along the tree-beshadowed thorough-fares of Otto's capital, when the
Countess started on her high emprise. She was jocund at heart;
pleasure and interest had winged her beauty, and she knew it. She
paused before the glowing jeweller's; she remarked and praised a
costume in the milliner's window; and when she reached the lime-tree
walk, with its high, umbrageous arches and stir of passers-by in the
dim alleys, she took her place upon a bench and began to dally with
the pleasures of the hour. It was cold, but she did not feel it,
being warm within; her thoughts, in that dark corner, shone like the
gold and rubies at the jewellers; her ears, which heard the brushing
of so many footfalls, transposed it into music.
What was she to do? She held the paper by which all depended. Otto
and Gondremark and Ratafia, and the state itself, hung light in her
balances, as light as dust; her little finger laid in either scale
would set all flying: and she hugged herself upon her huge
preponderance, and then laughed aloud to think how giddily it might
be used. The vertigo of omnipotence, the disease of Caesars, shook
her reason. 'O the mad world!' she thought, and laughed aloud in
A child, finger in mouth, had paused a little way from where she
sat, and stared with cloudy interest upon this laughing lady. She
called it nearer; but the child hung back. Instantly, with that
curious passion which you may see any woman in the world display, on
the most odd occasions, for a similar end, the Countess bent herself
with singleness of mind to overcome this diffidence; and presently,
sure enough, the child was seated on her knee, thumbing and
glowering at her watch.
'If you had a clay bear and a china monkey,' asked Von Rosen, 'which
would you prefer to break?'
'But I have neither,' said the child.
'Well,' she said, 'here is a bright florin, with which you may
purchase both the one and the other; and I shall give it you at
once, if you will answer my question. The clay bear or the china
monkey - come?'
But the unbreeched soothsayer only stared upon the florin with big
eyes; the oracle could not be persuaded to reply; and the Countess
kissed him lightly, gave him the florin, set him down upon the path,
and resumed her way with swinging and elastic gait.
'Which shall I break?' she wondered; and she passed her hand with
delight among the careful disarrangement of her locks. 'Which?' and
she consulted heaven with her bright eyes. 'Do I love both or
neither? A little - passionately - not at all? Both or neither -
both, I believe; but at least I will make hay of Ratafia.'
By the time she had passed the iron gates, mounted the drive, and
set her foot upon the broad flagged terrace, the night had come
completely; the palace front was thick with lighted windows; and
along the balustrade, the lamp on every twentieth baluster shone
clear. A few withered tracks of sunset, amber and glow-worm green,
still lingered in the western sky; and she paused once again to
watch them fading.
'And to think,' she said, 'that here am I - destiny embodied, a
norn, a fate, a providence - and have no guess upon which side I
shall declare myself! What other woman in my place would not be
prejudiced, and think herself committed? But, thank Heaven! I was
born just!' Otto's windows were bright among the rest, and she
looked on them with rising tenderness. 'How does it feel to be
deserted?' she thought. 'Poor dear fool! The girl deserves that he
should see this order.'
Without more delay, she passed into the palace and asked for an
audience of Prince Otto. The Prince, she was told, was in his own
apartment, and desired to be private. She sent her name. A man
presently returned with word that the Prince tendered his apologies,
but could see no one. 'Then I will write,' she said, and scribbled
a few lines alleging urgency of life and death. 'Help me, my
Prince,' she added; 'none but you can help me.' This time the
messenger returned more speedily, and begged the Countess to follow
him: the Prince was graciously pleased to receive the Frau Grafin
Otto sat by the fire in his large armoury, weapons faintly
glittering all about him in the changeful light. His face was
disfigured by the marks of weeping; he looked sour and sad; nor did
he rise to greet his visitor, but bowed, and bade the man begone.
That kind of general tenderness which served the Countess for both
heart and conscience, sharply smote her at this spectacle of grief
and weakness; she began immediately to enter into the spirit of her
part; and as soon as they were alone, taking one step forward and
with a magnificent gesture - 'Up!' she cried.
'Madame von Rosen,' replied Otto dully, 'you have used strong words.
You speak of life and death. Pray, madam, who is threatened? Who
is there,' he added bitterly, 'so destitute that even Otto of
Grunewald can assist him?'
'First learn,' said she, 'the names of the conspirators; the
Princess and the Baron Gondremark. Can you not guess the rest?'
And then, as he maintained his silence - 'You!' she cried, pointing
at him with her finger. "Tis you they threaten! Your rascal and
mine have laid their heads together and condemned you. But they
reckoned without you and me. We make a PARTIE CARREE, Prince, in
love and politics. They lead an ace, but we shall trump it. Come,
partner, shall I draw my card?'
'Madam,' he said, 'explain yourself. Indeed I fail to comprehend.'
'See, then,' said she; and handed him the order.
He took it, looked upon it with a start; and then, still without
speech, he put his hand before his face. She waited for a word in
'What!' she cried, 'do you take the thing down-heartedly? As well
seek wine in a milk-pail as love in that girl's heart! Be done with
this, and be a man. After the league of the lions, let us have a
conspiracy of mice, and pull this piece of machinery to ground. You
were brisk enough last night when nothing was at stake and all was
frolic. Well, here is better sport; here is life indeed.'
He got to his feet with some alacrity, and his face, which was a
little flushed, bore the marks of resolution.
'Madame von Rosen,' said he, 'I am neither unconscious nor
ungrateful; this is the true continuation of your friendship; but I
see that I must disappoint your expectations. You seem to expect
from me some effort of resistance; but why should I resist? I have
not much to gain; and now that I have read this paper, and the last
of a fool's paradise is shattered, it would be hyperbolical to speak
of loss in the same breath with Otto of Grunewald. I have no party,
no policy; no pride, nor anything to be proud of. For what benefit
or principle under Heaven do you expect me to contend? Or would you
have me bite and scratch like a trapped weasel? No, madam; signify
to those who sent you my readiness to go. I would at least avoid a
'You go? - of your own will, you go?' she cried.
'I cannot say so much, perhaps,' he answered; 'but I go with good
alacrity. I have desired a change some time; behold one offered me!
Shall I refuse? Thank God, I am not so destitute of humour as to
make a tragedy of such a farce.' He flicked the order on the table.
'You may signify my readiness,' he added grandly.
'Ah,' she said, 'you are more angry than you own.'
'I, madam? angry?' he cried. 'You rave! I have no cause for anger.
In every way I have been taught my weakness, my instability, and my
unfitness for the world. I am a plexus of weaknesses, an impotent
Prince, a doubtful gentleman; and you yourself, indulgent as you
are, have twice reproved my levity. And shall I be angry? I may
feel the unkindness, but I have sufficient honesty of mind to see
the reasons of this COUP D'ETAT.'
'From whom have you got this?' she cried in wonder. 'You think you
have not behaved well? My Prince, were you not young and handsome,
I should detest you for your virtues. You push them to the verge of
commonplace. And this ingratitude - '
'Understand me, Madame von Rosen,' returned the Prince, flushing a
little darker, 'there can be here no talk of gratitude, none of
pride. You are here, by what circumstance I know not, but doubtless
led by your kindness, mixed up in what regards my family alone. You
have no knowledge what my wife, your sovereign, may have suffered;
it is not for you - no, nor for me - to judge. I own myself in
fault; and were it otherwise, a man were a very empty boaster who
should talk of love and start before a small humiliation. It is in
all the copybooks that one should die to please his lady-love; and
shall a man not go to prison?'
'Love? And what has love to do with being sent to gaol?' exclaimed
the Countess, appealing to the walls and roof. 'Heaven knows I
think as much of love as any one; my life would prove it; but I
admit no love, at least for a man, that is not equally returned.
The rest is moonshine.'
'I think of love more absolutely, madam, though I am certain no more
tenderly, than a lady to whom I am indebted for such kindnesses,'
returned the Prince. 'But this is unavailing. We are not here to
hold a court of troubadours.'
'Still,' she replied, 'there is one thing you forget. If she
conspires with Gondremark against your liberty, she may conspire
with him against your honour also.'
'My honour?' he repeated. 'For a woman, you surprise me. If I have
failed to gain her love or play my part of husband, what right is
left me? or what honour can remain in such a scene of defeat? No
honour that I recognise. I am become a stranger. If my wife no
longer loves me, I will go to prison, since she wills it; if she
love another, where should I be more in place? or whose fault is it
but mine? You speak, Madame von Rosen, like too many women, with a
man's tongue. Had I myself fallen into temptation (as, Heaven
knows, I might) I should have trembled, but still hoped and asked
for her forgiveness; and yet mine had been a treason in the teeth of
love. But let me tell you, madam,' he pursued, with rising
irritation, 'where a husband by futility, facility, and ill-timed
humours has outwearied his wife's patience, I will suffer neither
man nor woman to misjudge her. She is free; the man has been found
'Because she loves you not?' the Countess cried. 'You know she is
incapable of such a feeling.'
'Rather, it was I who was born incapable of inspiring it,' said
Madame von Rosen broke into sudden laughter. 'Fool,' she cried, 'I
am in love with you myself!'
'Ah, madam, you are most compassionate,' the Prince retorted,
smiling. 'But this is waste debate. I know my purpose. Perhaps,
to equal you in frankness, I know and embrace my advantage. I am
not without the spirit of adventure. I am in a false position - so
recognised by public acclamation: do you grudge me, then, my issue?'
'If your mind is made up, why should I dissuade you?' said the
Countess. 'I own, with a bare face, I am the gainer. Go, you take
my heart with you, or more of it than I desire; I shall not sleep at
night for thinking of your misery. But do not be afraid; I would
not spoil you, you are such a fool and hero.'
'Alas! madam,' cried the Prince, 'and your unlucky money! I did
amiss to take it, but you are a wonderful persuader. And I thank
God, I can still offer you the fair equivalent.' He took some
papers from the chimney. 'Here, madam, are the title-deeds,' he
said; 'where I am going, they can certainly be of no use to me, and
I have now no other hope of making up to you your kindness. You
made the loan without formality, obeying your kind heart. The parts
are somewhat changed; the sun of this Prince of Grunewald is upon
the point of setting; and I know you better than to doubt you will
once more waive ceremony, and accept the best that he can give you.
If I may look for any pleasure in the coming time, it will be to
remember that the peasant is secure, and my most generous friend no
'Do you not understand my odious position?' cried the Countess.
'Dear Prince, it is upon your fall that I begin my fortune.'
'It was the more like you to tempt me to resistance,' returned Otto.
'But this cannot alter our relations; and I must, for the last time,
lay my commands upon you in the character of Prince.' And with his
loftiest dignity, he forced the deeds on her acceptance.
'I hate the very touch of them,' she cried.
There followed upon this a little silence. 'At what time,' resumed
Otto, '(if indeed you know) am I to be arrested?'
'Your Highness, when you please!' exclaimed the Countess. 'Or, if
you choose to tear that paper, never!'
'I would rather it were done quickly,' said the Prince. 'I shall
take but time to leave a letter for the Princess.'
'Well,' said the Countess, 'I have advised you to resist; at the
same time, if you intend to be dumb before your shearers, I must say
that I ought to set about arranging your arrest. I offered' - she
hesitated - 'I offered to manage it, intending, my dear friend -
intending, upon my soul, to be of use to you. Well, if you will not
profit by my goodwill, then be of use to me; and as soon as ever you
feel ready, go to the Flying Mercury where we met last night. It
will be none the worse for you; and to make it quite plain, it will
be better for the rest of us.'
'Dear madam, certainly,' said Otto. 'If I am prepared for the chief
evil, I shall not quarrel with details. Go, then, with my best
gratitude; and when I have written a few lines of leave-taking, I
shall immediately hasten to keep tryst. To-night I shall not meet
so dangerous a cavalier,' he added, with a smiling gallantry.
As soon as Madame von Rosen was gone, he made a great call upon his
self-command. He was face to face with a miserable passage where,
if it were possible, he desired to carry himself with dignity. As
to the main fact, he never swerved or faltered; he had come so
heart-sick and so cruelly humiliated from his talk with Gotthold,
that he embraced the notion of imprisonment with something bordering
on relief. Here was, at least, a step which he thought blameless;
here was a way out of his troubles. He sat down to write to
Seraphina; and his anger blazed. The tale of his forbearances
mounted, in his eyes, to something monstrous; still more monstrous,
the coldness, egoism, and cruelty that had required and thus
requited them. The pen which he had taken shook in his hand. He
was amazed to find his resignation fled, but it was gone beyond his
recall. In a few white-hot words, he bade adieu, dubbing
desperation by the name of love, and calling his wrath forgiveness;
then he cast but one look of leave-taking on the place that had been
his for so long and was now to be his no longer; and hurried forth -
love's prisoner - or pride's.
He took that private passage which he had trodden so often in less
momentous hours. The porter let him out; and the bountiful, cold
air of the night and the pure glory of the stars received him on the
threshold. He looked round him, breathing deep of earth's plain
fragrance; he looked up into the great array of heaven, and was
quieted. His little turgid life dwindled to its true proportions;
and he saw himself (that great flame-hearted martyr!) stand like a
speck under the cool cupola of the night. Thus he felt his careless
injuries already soothed; the live air of out-of-doors, the quiet of
the world, as if by their silent music, sobering and dwarfing his
'Well, I forgive her,' he said. 'If it be of any use to her, I
And with brisk steps he crossed the garden, issued upon the Park,
and came to the Flying Mercury. A dark figure moved forward from
the shadow of the pedestal.
'I have to ask your pardon, sir,' a voice observed, 'but if I am
right in taking you for the Prince, I was given to understand that
you would be prepared to meet me.'
'Herr Gordon, I believe?' said Otto.
'Herr Oberst Gordon,' replied that officer. 'This is rather a
ticklish business for a man to be embarked in; and to find that all
is to go pleasantly is a great relief to me. The carriage is at
hand; shall I have the honour of following your Highness?'
'Colonel,' said the Prince, 'I have now come to that happy moment of
my life when I have orders to receive but none to give.'
'A most philosophical remark,' returned the Colonel. 'Begad, a very
pertinent remark! it might be Plutarch. I am not a drop's blood to
your Highness, or indeed to any one in this principality; or else I
should dislike my orders. But as it is, and since there is nothing
unnatural or unbecoming on my side, and your Highness takes it in
good part, I begin to believe we may have a capital time together,
sir - a capital time. For a gaoler is only a fellow-captive.'
'May I inquire, Herr Gordon,' asked Otto, 'what led you to accept
this dangerous and I would fain hope thankless office?'
'Very natural, I am sure,' replied the officer of fortune. 'My pay
is, in the meanwhile, doubled.'
'Well, sir, I will not presume to criticise,' returned the Prince.
'And I perceive the carriage.'
Sure enough, at the intersection of two alleys of the Park, a coach
and four, conspicuous by its lanterns, stood in waiting. And a
little way off about a score of lancers were drawn up under the
shadow of the trees.
CHAPTER XIII - PROVIDENCE VON ROSEN: ACT THE THIRD
SHE ENLIGHTENS SERAPHINA
WHEN Madame von Rosen left the Prince, she hurried straight to
Colonel Gordon; and not content with directing the arrangements, she
had herself accompanied the soldier of fortune to the Flying
Mercury. The Colonel gave her his arm, and the talk between this
pair of conspirators ran high and lively. The Countess, indeed, was
in a whirl of pleasure and excitement; her tongue stumbled upon
laughter, her eyes shone, the colour that was usually wanting now
perfected her face. It would have taken little more to bring Gordon
to her feet - or so, at least, she believed, disdaining the idea.
Hidden among some lilac bushes, she enjoyed the great decorum of the
arrest, and heard the dialogue of the two men die away along the
path. Soon after, the rolling of a carriage and the beat of hoofs
arose in the still air of the night, and passed speedily farther and
fainter into silence. The Prince was gone.
Madame von Rosen consulted her watch. She had still, she thought,
time enough for the tit-bit of her evening; and hurrying to the
palace, winged by the fear of Gondremark's arrival, she sent her
name and a pressing request for a reception to the Princess
Seraphina. As the Countess von Rosen unqualified, she was sure to
be refused; but as an emissary of the Baron's, for so she chose to
style herself, she gained immediate entry.
The Princess sat alone at table, making a feint of dining. Her
cheeks were mottled, her eyes heavy; she had neither slept nor
eaten; even her dress had been neglected. In short, she was out of
health, out of looks, out of heart, and hag-ridden by her
conscience. The Countess drew a swift comparison, and shone
brighter in beauty.
'You come, madam, DE LA PART DE MONSIEUR LE BARON,' drawled the
Princess. 'Be seated! What have you to say?'
'To say?' repeated Madame von Rosen, 'O, much to say! Much to say
that I would rather not, and much to leave unsaid that I would
rather say. For I am like St. Paul, your Highness, and always wish
to do the things I should not. Well! to be categorical - that is
the word? - I took the Prince your order. He could not credit his
senses. "Ah," he cried "dear Madame von Rosen, it is not possible -
it cannot be I must hear it from your lips. My wife is a poor girl
misled, she is only silly, she is not cruel." "MON PRINCE," said I,
"a girl - and therefore cruel; youth kills flies." - He had such
pain to understand it!'
'Madame von Rosen,' said the Princess, in most steadfast tones, but
with a rose of anger in her face, 'who sent you here, and for what
purpose? Tell your errand.'
'O, madam, I believe you understand me very well,' returned von
Rosen. 'I have not your philosophy. I wear my heart upon my
sleeve, excuse the indecency! It is a very little one,' she
laughed, 'and I so often change the sleeve!'
'Am I to understand the Prince has been arrested?' asked the
'While you sat there dining!' cried the Countess, still nonchalantly
'You have discharged your errand,' was the reply; 'I will not detain
'O no, madam,' said the Countess, 'with your permission, I have not
yet done. I have borne much this evening in your service. I have
suffered. I was made to suffer in your service.' She unfolded her
fan as she spoke. Quick as her pulses beat, the fan waved
languidly. She betrayed her emotion only by the brightness of her
eyes and face, and by the almost insolent triumph with which she
looked down upon the Princess. There were old scores of rivalry
between them in more than one field; so at least von Rosen felt; and
now she was to have her hour of victory in them all.
'You are no servant, Madame von Rosen, of mine,' said Seraphina.
'No, madam, indeed,' returned the Countess; 'but we both serve the
same person, as you know - or if you do not, then I have the
pleasure of informing you. Your conduct is so light - so light,'
she repeated, the fan wavering higher like a butterfly, 'that
perhaps you do not truly understand.' The Countess rolled her fan
together, laid it in her lap, and rose to a less languorous
position. 'Indeed,' she continued, 'I should be sorry to see any
young woman in your situation. You began with every advantage -
birth, a suitable marriage - quite pretty too - and see what you
have come to! My poor girl, to think of it! But there is nothing
that does so much harm,' observed the Countess finely, 'as giddiness
of mind.' And she once more unfurled the fan, and approvingly
'I will no longer permit you to forget yourself,' cried Seraphina.
'I think you are mad.'
'Not mad,' returned von Rosen. 'Sane enough to know you dare not
break with me to-night, and to profit by the knowledge. I left my
poor, pretty Prince Charming crying his eyes out for a wooden doll.
My heart is soft; I love my pretty Prince; you will never understand
it, but I long to give my Prince his doll, dry his poor eyes, and
send him off happy. O, you immature fool!' the Countess cried,
rising to her feet, and pointing at the Princess the closed fan that
now began to tremble in her hand. 'O wooden doll!' she cried, 'have
you a heart, or blood, of any nature? This is a man, child - a man
who loves you. O, it will not happen twice! it is not common;
beautiful and clever women look in vain for it. And you, you
pitiful schoolgirl, tread this jewel under foot! you, stupid with
your vanity! Before you try to govern kingdoms, you should first be
able to behave yourself at home; home is the woman's kingdom.' She
paused and laughed a little, strangely to hear and look upon. 'I
will tell you one of the things,' she said, 'that were to stay
unspoken. Von Rosen is a better women than you, my Princess, though
you will never have the pain of understanding it; and when I took
the Prince your order, and looked upon his face, my soul was melted
- O, I am frank - here, within my arms, I offered him repose!' She
advanced a step superbly as she spoke, with outstretched arms; and
Seraphina shrank. 'Do not be alarmed!' the Countess cried; 'I am
not offering that hermitage to you; in all the world there is but
one who wants to, and him you have dismissed! "If it will give her
pleasure I should wear the martyr's crown," he cried, "I will
embrace the thorns." I tell you - I am quite frank - I put the
order in his power and begged him to resist. You, who have betrayed
your husband, may betray me to Gondremark; my Prince would betray no
one. Understand it plainly,' she cried, ''tis of his pure
forbearance that you sit there; he had the power - I gave it him -
to change the parts; and he refused, and went to prison in your
The Princess spoke with some distress. 'Your violence shocks me and
pains me,' she began, 'but I cannot be angry with what at least does
honour to the mistaken kindness of your heart: it was right for me
to know this. I will condescend to tell you. It was with deep
regret that I was driven to this step. I admire in many ways the
Prince - I admit his amiability. It was our great misfortune, it
was perhaps somewhat of my fault, that we were so unsuited to each
other; but I have a regard, a sincere regard, for all his qualities.
As a private person I should think as you do. It is difficult, I
know, to make allowances for state considerations. I have only with
deep reluctance obeyed the call of a superior duty; and so soon as I
dare do it for the safety of the state, I promise you the Prince
shall be released. Many in my situation would have resented your
freedoms. I am not' - and she looked for a moment rather piteously
upon the Countess - 'I am not altogether so inhuman as you think.'
'And you can put these troubles of the state,' the Countess cried,
'to weigh with a man's love?'
'Madame von Rosen, these troubles are affairs of life and death to
many; to the Prince, and perhaps even to yourself, among the
number,' replied the Princess, with dignity. 'I have learned,
madam, although still so young, in a hard school, that my own
feelings must everywhere come last.'
'O callow innocence!' exclaimed the other. 'Is it possible you do
not know, or do not suspect, the intrigue in which you move? I find
it in my heart to pity you! We are both women after all - poor
girl, poor girl! - and who is born a woman is born a fool. And
though I hate all women - come, for the common folly, I forgive you.
Your Highness' - she dropped a deep stage curtsey and resumed her
fan - 'I am going to insult you, to betray one who is called my
lover, and if it pleases you to use the power I now put unreservedly
into your hands, to ruin my dear self. O what a French comedy! You
betray, I betray, they betray. It is now my cue. The letter, yes.
Behold the letter, madam, its seal unbroken as I found it by my bed
this morning; for I was out of humour, and I get many, too many, of
these favours. For your own sake, for the sake of my Prince
Charming, for the sake of this great principality that sits so heavy
on your conscience, open it and read!'
'Am I to understand,' inquired the Princess, 'that this letter in
any way regards me?'
'You see I have not opened it,' replied von Rosen; 'but 'tis mine,
and I beg you to experiment.'
'I cannot look at it till you have,' returned Seraphina, very
seriously. 'There may be matter there not meant for me to see; it
is a private letter.'
The Countess tore it open, glanced it through, and tossed it back;
and the Princess, taking up the sheet, recognised the hand of
Gondremark, and read with a sickening shock the following lines:-
'Dearest Anna, come at once. Ratafia has done the deed, her husband
is to be packed to prison. This puts the minx entirely in my power;
LE TOUR EST JOUE; she will now go steady in harness, or I will know
the reason why. Come.
'Command yourself, madam,' said the Countess, watching with some
alarm the white face of Seraphina. 'It is in vain for you to fight
with Gondremark; he has more strings than mere court favour, and
could bring you down to-morrow with a word. I would not have
betrayed him otherwise; but Heinrich is a man, and plays with all of
you like marionnettes. And now at least you see for what you
sacrificed my Prince. Madam, will you take some wine? I have been
'Not cruel, madam - salutary,' said Seraphina, with a phantom smile.
'No, I thank you, I require no attentions. The first surprise
affected me: will you give me time a little? I must think.'
She took her head between her hands, and contemplated for a while
the hurricane confusion of her thoughts.
'This information reaches me,' she said, 'when I have need of it. I
would not do as you have done, but yet I thank you. I have been
much deceived in Baron Gondremark.'
'O, madam, leave Gondremark, and think upon the Prince!' cried von
'You speak once more as a private person,' said the Princess; 'nor
do I blame you. But my own thoughts are more distracted. However,
as I believe you are truly a friend to my - to the - as I believe,'
she said, 'you are a friend to Otto, I shall put the order for his
release into your hands this moment. Give me the ink-dish. There!'
And she wrote hastily, steadying her arm upon the table, for she
trembled like a reed. 'Remember; madam,' she resumed, handing her
the order, 'this must not be used nor spoken of at present; till I
have seen the Baron, any hurried step - I lose myself in thinking.
The suddenness has shaken me.'
'I promise you I will not use it,' said the Countess, 'till you give
me leave, although I wish the Prince could be informed of it, to
comfort his poor heart. And O, I had forgotten, he has left a
letter. Suffer me, madam, I will bring it you. This is the door, I
think?' And she sought to open it.
'The bolt is pushed,' said Seraphina, flushing.
'O! O!' cried the Countess.
A silence fell between them.
'I will get it for myself,' said Seraphina; 'and in the meanwhile I
beg you to leave me. I thank you, I am sure, but I shall be obliged
if you will leave me.'
The Countess deeply curtseyed, and withdrew.
CHAPTER XIV - RELATES THE CAUSE AND OUTBREAK OF THE REVOLUTION
BRAVE as she was, and brave by intellect, the Princess, when first
she was alone, clung to the table for support. The four corners of
her universe had fallen. She had never liked nor trusted Gondremark
completely; she had still held it possible to find him false to
friendship; but from that to finding him devoid of all those public
virtues for which she had honoured him, a mere commonplace
intriguer, using her for his own ends, the step was wide and the
descent giddy. Light and darkness succeeded each other in her
brain; now she believed, and now she could not. She turned, blindly
groping for the note. But von Rosen, who had not forgotten to take
the warrant from the Prince, had remembered to recover her note from
the Princess: von Rosen was an old campaigner, whose most violent
emotion aroused rather than clouded the vigour of her reason.
The thought recalled to Seraphina the remembrance of the other
letter - Otto's. She rose and went speedily, her brain still
wheeling, and burst into the Prince's armoury. The old chamberlain
was there in waiting; and the sight of another face, prying (or so
she felt) on her distress, struck Seraphina into childish anger.
'Go!' she cried; and then, when the old man was already half-way to
the door, 'Stay!' she added. 'As soon as Baron Gondremark arrives,
let him attend me here.'
'It shall be so directed,' said the chamberlain.
'There was a letter . . .' she began, and paused.
'Her Highness,' said the chamberlain, 'will, find a letter on the
table. I had received no orders, or her Highness had been spared
'No, no, no,' she cried. 'I thank you. I desire to be alone.'
And then, when he was gone, she leaped upon the letter. Her mind
was still obscured; like the moon upon a night of clouds and wind,
her reason shone and was darkened, and she read the words by
'Seraphina,' the Prince wrote, 'I will write no syllable of
reproach. I have seen your order, and I go. What else is left me?
I have wasted my love, and have no more. To say that I forgive you
is not needful; at least, we are now separate for ever; by your own
act, you free me from my willing bondage: I go free to prison. This
is the last that you will hear of me in love or anger. I have gone
out of your life; you may breathe easy; you have now rid yourself of
the husband who allowed you to desert him, of the Prince who gave
you his rights, and of the married lover who made it his pride to
defend you in your absence. How you have requited him, your own
heart more loudly tells you than my words. There is a day coming
when your vain dreams will roll away like clouds, and you will find
yourself alone. Then you will remember
She read with a great horror on her mind; that day, of which he
wrote, was come. She was alone; she had been false, she had been
cruel; remorse rolled in upon her; and then with a more piercing
note, vanity bounded on the stage of consciousness. She a dupe! she
helpless! she to have betrayed herself in seeking to betray her
husband! she to have lived these years upon flattery, grossly
swallowing the bolus, like a clown with sharpers! she - Seraphina!
Her swift mind drank the consequences; she foresaw the coming fall,
her public shame; she saw the odium, disgrace, and folly of her
story flaunt through Europe. She recalled the scandal she had so
royally braved; and alas! she had now no courage to confront it
with. To be thought the mistress of that man: perhaps for that. . .
. She closed her eyes on agonising vistas. Swift as thought she had
snatched a bright dagger from the weapons that shone along the wall.
Ay, she would escape. From that world-wide theatre of nodding heads
and buzzing whisperers, in which she now beheld herself unpitiably
martyred, one door stood open. At any cost, through any stress of
suffering, that greasy laughter should be stifled. She closed her
eyes, breathed a wordless prayer, and pressed the weapon to her
At the astonishing sharpness of the prick, she gave a cry and awoke
to a sense of undeserved escape. A little ruby spot of blood was
the reward of that great act of desperation; but the pain had braced
her like a tonic, and her whole design of suicide had passed away.
At the same instant regular feet drew near along the gallery, and
she knew the tread of the big Baron, so often gladly welcome, and
even now rallying her spirits like a call to battle. She concealed
the dagger in the folds of her skirt; and drawing her stature up,
she stood firm-footed, radiant with anger, waiting for the foe.
The Baron was announced, and entered. To him, Seraphina was a hated
task: like the schoolboy with his Virgil, he had neither will nor
leisure to remark her beauties; but when he now beheld her standing
illuminated by her passion, new feelings flashed upon him, a frank
admiration, a brief sparkle of desire. He noted both with joy; they
were means. 'If I have to play the lover,' thought he, for that was
his constant preoccupation, 'I believe I can put soul into it.'
Meanwhile, with his usual ponderous grace, he bent before the lady.
'I propose,' she said in a strange voice, not known to her till
then, 'that we release the Prince and do not prosecute the war.'
'Ah, madam,' he replied, ' 'tis as I knew it would be! Your heart,
I knew, would wound you when we came to this distasteful but most
necessary step. Ah, madam, believe me, I am not unworthy to be your
ally; I know you have qualities to which I am a stranger, and count
them the best weapons in the armoury of our alliance:- the girl in
the queen - pity, love, tenderness, laughter; the smile that can
reward. I can only command; I am the frowner. But you! And you
have the fortitude to command these comely weaknesses, to tread them
down at the call of reason. How often have I not admired it even to
yourself! Ay, even to yourself,' he added tenderly, dwelling, it
seemed, in memory on hours of more private admiration. 'But now,
madam - '
'But now, Herr von Gondremark, the time for these declarations has
gone by,' she cried. 'Are you true to me? are you false? Look in
your heart and answer: it is your heart I want to know.'
'It has come,' thought Gondremark. 'You, madam!' he cried, starting
back - with fear, you would have said, and yet a timid joy. 'You!
yourself, you bid me look into my heart?'
'Do you suppose I fear?' she cried, and looked at him with such a
heightened colour, such bright eyes, and a smile of so abstruse a
meaning, that the Baron discarded his last doubt.
'Ah, madam!' he cried, plumping on his knees. 'Seraphina! Do you
permit me? have you divined my secret? It is true - I put my life
with joy into your power - I love you, love with ardour, as an
equal, as a mistress, as a brother-in-arms, as an adored, desired,
sweet-hearted woman. O Bride!' he cried, waxing dithyrambic, 'bride
of my reason and my senses, have pity, have pity on my love!'
She heard him with wonder, rage, and then contempt. His words
offended her to sickness; his appearance, as he grovelled bulkily
upon the floor, moved her to such laughter as we laugh in
'O shame!' she cried. 'Absurd and odious! What would the Countess
That great Baron Gondremark, the excellent politician, remained for
some little time upon his knees in a frame of mind which perhaps we
are allowed to pity. His vanity, within his iron bosom, bled and
raved. If he could have blotted all, if he could have withdrawn
part, if he had not called her bride - with a roaring in his ears,
he thus regretfully reviewed his declaration. He got to his feet
tottering; and then, in that first moment when a dumb agony finds a
vent in words, and the tongue betrays the inmost and worst of a man,
he permitted himself a retort which, for six weeks to follow, he was
to repent at leisure.
'Ah,' said he, 'the Countess? Now I perceive the reason of your
The lackey-like insolence of the words was driven home by a more
insolent manner. There fell upon Seraphina one of those storm-
clouds which had already blackened upon her reason; she heard
herself cry out; and when the cloud dispersed, flung the blood-
stained dagger on the floor, and saw Gondremark reeling back with
open mouth and clapping his hand upon the wound. The next moment,
with oaths that she had never heard, he leaped at her in savage
passion; clutched her as she recoiled; and in the very act, stumbled
and drooped. She had scarce time to fear his murderous onslaught
ere he fell before her feet.
He rose upon one elbow; she still staring upon him, white with
'Anna!' he cried, 'Anna! Help!'
And then his utterance failed him, and he fell back, to all
Seraphina ran to and fro in the room; she wrung her hands and cried
aloud; within she was all one uproar of terror, and conscious of no
articulate wish but to awake.
There came a knocking at the door; and she sprang to it and held it,
panting like a beast, and with the strength of madness in her arms,
till she had pushed the bolt. At this success a certain calm fell
upon her reason. She went back and looked upon her victim, the
knocking growing louder. O yes, he was dead. She had killed him.
He had called upon von Rosen with his latest breath; ah! who would
call on Seraphina? She had killed him. She, whose irresolute hand
could scarce prick blood from her own bosom, had found strength to
cast down that great colossus at a blow.
All this while the knocking was growing more uproarious and more
unlike the staid career of life in such a palace. Scandal was at
the door, with what a fatal following she dreaded to conceive; and
at the same time among the voices that now began to summon her by
name, she recognised the Chancellor's. He or another, somebody must
be the first.
'Is Herr von Greisengesang without?' she called.
'Your Highness - yes!' the old gentleman answered. 'We have heard
cries, a fall. Is anything amiss?'
'Nothing,' replied Seraphina 'I desire to speak with you. Send off
the rest.' She panted between each phrase; but her mind was clear.
She let the looped curtain down upon both sides before she drew the
bolt; and, thus secure from any sudden eyeshot from without,
admitted the obsequious Chancellor, and again made fast the door.
Greisengesang clumsily revolved among the wings of the curtain, so
that she was clear of it as soon as he.
'My God!' he cried 'The Baron!'
'I have killed him,' she said. 'O, killed him!'
'Dear me,' said the old gentleman, 'this is most unprecedented.
Lovers' quarrels,' he added ruefully, 'redintegratio - ' and then
paused. 'But, my dear madam,' he broke out again, 'in the name of
all that is practical, what are we to do? This is exceedingly
grave; morally, madam, it is appalling. I take the liberty, your
Highness, for one moment, of addressing you as a daughter, a loved
although respected daughter; and I must say that I cannot conceal
from you that this is morally most questionable. And, O dear me, we
have a dead body!'
She had watched him closely; hope fell to contempt; she drew away
her skirts from his weakness, and, in the act, her own strength
returned to her.
'See if he be dead,' she said; not one word of explanation or
defence; she had scorned to justify herself before so poor a
creature: 'See if he be dead' was all.
With the greatest compunction, the Chancellor drew near; and as he
did so the wounded Baron rolled his eyes.
'He lives,' cried the old courtier, turning effusively to Seraphina.
'Madam, he still lives.'
'Help him, then,' returned the Princess, standing fixed. 'Bind up
'Madam, I have no means,' protested the Chancellor.
'Can you not take your handkerchief, your neck-cloth, anything?' she
cried; and at the same moment, from her light muslin gown she rent
off a flounce and tossed it on the floor. 'Take that,' she said,
and for the first time directly faced Greisengesang.
But the Chancellor held up his hands and turned away his head in
agony. The grasp of the falling Baron had torn down the dainty
fabric of the bodice; and - 'O Highness!' cried Greisengesang,
appalled, 'the terrible disorder of your toilette!'
'Take up that flounce,' she said; 'the man may die.'
Greisengesang turned in a flutter to the Baron, and attempted some
innocent and bungling measures. 'He still breathes,' he kept
saying. 'All is not yet over; he is not yet gone.'
'And now,' said she 'if that is all you can do, begone and get some
porters; he must instantly go home.'
'Madam,' cried the Chancellor, 'if this most melancholy sight were
seen in town - O dear, the State would fall!' he piped.
'There is a litter in the Palace,' she replied. 'It is your part to
see him safe. I lay commands upon you. On your life it stands.'
'I see it, dear Highness,' he jerked. 'Clearly I see it. But how?
what men? The Prince's servants - yes. They had a personal
affection. They will be true, if any.'
'O, not them!' she cried. 'Take Sabra, my own man.'
'Sabra! The grand-mason?' returned the Chancellor, aghast. 'If he
but saw this, he would sound the tocsin - we should all be
She measured the depth of her abasement steadily. 'Take whom you
must,' she said, 'and bring the litter here.'
Once she was alone she ran to the Baron, and with a sickening heart
sought to allay the flux of blood. The touch of the skin of that
great charlatan revolted her to the toes; the wound, in her ignorant
eyes, looked deathly; yet she contended with her shuddering, and,
with more skill at least than the Chancellor's, staunched the
welling injury. An eye unprejudiced with hate would have admired
the Baron in his swoon; he looked so great and shapely; it was so
powerful a machine that lay arrested; and his features, cleared for
the moment both of temper and dissimulation, were seen to be so
purely modelled. But it was not thus with Seraphina. Her victim,
as he lay outspread, twitching a little, his big chest unbared,
fixed her with his ugliness; and her mind flitted for a glimpse to
Rumours began to sound about the Palace of feet running and of
voices raised; the echoes of the great arched staircase were voluble
of some confusion; and then the gallery jarred with a quick and
heavy tramp. It was the Chancellor, followed by four of Otto's
valets and a litter. The servants, when they were admitted, stared
at the dishevelled Princess and the wounded man; speech was denied
them, but their thoughts were riddled with profanity. Gondremark
was bundled in; the curtains of the litter were lowered; the bearers
carried it forth, and the Chancellor followed behind with a white
Seraphina ran to the window. Pressing her face upon the pane, she
could see the terrace, where the lights contended; thence, the
avenue of lamps that joined the Palace and town; and overhead the
hollow night and the larger stars. Presently the small procession
issued from the Palace, crossed the parade, and began to thread the
glittering alley: the swinging couch with its four porters, the
much-pondering Chancellor behind. She watched them dwindle with
strange thoughts: her eyes fixed upon the scene, her mind still
glancing right and left on the overthrow of her life and hopes.
There was no one left in whom she might confide; none whose hand was
friendly, or on whom she dared to reckon for the barest loyalty.
With the fall of Gondremark, her party, her brief popularity, had
fallen. So she sat crouched upon the window-seat, her brow to the
cool pane; her dress in tatters, barely shielding her; her mind
revolving bitter thoughts.
Meanwhile, consequences were fast mounting; and in the deceptive
quiet of the night, downfall and red revolt were brewing. The
litter had passed forth between the iron gates and entered on the
streets of the town. By what flying panic, by what thrill of air
communicated, who shall say? but the passing bustle in the Palace
had already reached and re-echoed in the region of the burghers.
Rumour, with her loud whisper, hissed about the town; men left their
homes without knowing why; knots formed along the boulevard; under
the rare lamps and the great limes the crowd grew blacker.
And now through the midst of that expectant company, the unusual
sight of a closed litter was observed approaching, and trotting hard
behind it that great dignitary Cancellarius Greisengesang. Silence
looked on as it went by; and as soon as it was passed, the
whispering seethed over like a boiling pot. The knots were
sundered; and gradually, one following another, the whole mob began
to form into a procession and escort the curtained litter. Soon
spokesmen, a little bolder than their mates, began to ply the
Chancellor with questions. Never had he more need of that great art
of falsehood, by whose exercise he had so richly lived. And yet now
he stumbled, the master passion, fear, betraying him. He was
pressed; he became incoherent; and then from the jolting litter came
a groan. In the instant hubbub and the gathering of the crowd as to
a natural signal, the clear-eyed quavering Chancellor heard the
catch of the clock before it strikes the hour of doom; and for ten
seconds he forgot himself. This shall atone for many sins. He
plucked a bearer by the sleeve. 'Bid the Princess flee. All is
lost,' he whispered. And the next moment he was babbling for his
life among the multitude.
Five minutes later the wild-eyed servant burst into the armoury.
'All is lost!' he cried. 'The Chancellor bids you flee.' And at
the same time, looking through the window, Seraphina saw the black
rush of the populace begin to invade the lamplit avenue.
'Thank you, Georg,' she said. 'I thank you. Go.' And as the man
still lingered, 'I bid you go,' she added. 'Save yourself.'
Down by the private passage, and just some two hours later, Amalia
Seraphina, the last Princess, followed Otto Johann Friedrich, the
last Prince of Grunewald.
BOOK III - FORTUNATE MISFORTUNE
CHAPTER I - PRINCESS CINDERELLA
THE porter, drawn by the growing turmoil, had vanished from the
postern, and the door stood open on the darkness of the night. As
Seraphina fled up the terraces, the cries and loud footing of the
mob drew nearer the doomed palace; the rush was like the rush of
cavalry; the sound of shattering lamps tingled above the rest; and,
overtowering all, she heard her own name bandied among the shouters.
A bugle sounded at the door of the guard-room; one gun was fired;
and then with the yell of hundreds, Mittwalden Palace was carried at
Sped by these dire sounds and voices, the Princess scaled the long
garden, skimming like a bird the starlit stairways; crossed the
Park, which was in that place narrow; and plunged upon the farther
side into the rude shelter of the forest. So, at a bound, she left
the discretion and the cheerful lamps of Palace evenings; ceased
utterly to be a sovereign lady; and, falling from the whole height
of civilisation, ran forth into the woods, a ragged Cinderella.
She went direct before her through an open tract of the forest, full
of brush and birches, and where the starlight guided her; and,
beyond that again, must thread the columned blackness of a pine
grove joining overhead the thatch of its long branches. At that
hour the place was breathless; a horror of night like a presence
occupied that dungeon of the wood; and she went groping, knocking
against the boles - her ear, betweenwhiles, strained to aching and
But the slope of the ground was upward, and encouraged her; and
presently she issued on a rocky hill that stood forth above the sea
of forest. All around were other hill-tops, big and little; sable
vales of forest between; overhead the open heaven and the brilliancy
of countless stars; and along the western sky the dim forms of
mountains. The glory of the great night laid hold upon her; her
eyes shone with stars; she dipped her sight into the coolness and
brightness of the sky, as she might have dipped her wrist into a
spring; and her heart, at that ethereal shock, began to move more
soberly. The sun that sails overhead, ploughing into gold the
fields of daylight azure and uttering the signal to man's myriads,
has no word apart for man the individual; and the moon, like a
violin, only praises and laments our private destiny. The stars
alone, cheerful whisperers, confer quietly with each of us like
friends; they give ear to our sorrows smilingly, like wise old men,
rich in tolerance; and by their double scale, so small to the eye,
so vast to the imagination, they keep before the mind the double
character of man's nature and fate.
There sat the Princess, beautifully looking upon beauty, in council
with these glad advisers. Bright like pictures, clear like a voice
in the porches of her ear, memory re-enacted the tumult of the
evening: the Countess and the dancing fan, the big Baron on his
knees, the blood on the polished floor, the knocking, the swing of
the litter down the avenue of lamps, the messenger, the cries of the
charging mob; and yet all were far away and phantasmal, and she was
still healingly conscious of the peace and glory of the night. She
looked towards Mittwalden; and above the hill-top, which already hid
it from her view, a throbbing redness hinted of fire. Better so:
better so, that she should fall with tragic greatness, lit by a
blazing palace! She felt not a trace of pity for Gondremark or of
concern for Grunewald: that period of her life was closed for ever,
a wrench of wounded vanity alone surviving. She had but one clear
idea: to flee; - and another, obscure and half-rejected, although
still obeyed: to flee in the direction of the Felsenburg. She had a
duty to perform, she must free Otto - so her mind said, very coldly;
but her heart embraced the notion of that duty even with ardour, and
her hands began to yearn for the grasp of kindness.
She rose, with a start of recollection, and plunged down the slope
into the covert. The woods received and closed upon her. Once
more, she wandered and hasted in a blot, uncheered, unpiloted. Here
and there, indeed, through rents in the wood-roof, a glimmer
attracted her; here and there a tree stood out among its neighbours
by some force of outline; here and there a brushing among the
leaves, a notable blackness, a dim shine, relieved, only to
exaggerate, the solid oppression of the night and silence. And
betweenwhiles, the unfeatured darkness would redouble and the whole
ear of night appear to be gloating on her steps. Now she would
stand still, and the silence, would grow and grow, till it weighed
upon her breathing; and then she would address herself again to run,
stumbling, falling, and still hurrying the more. And presently the
whole wood rocked and began to run along with her. The noise of her
own mad passage through the silence spread and echoed, and filled
the night with terror. Panic hunted her: Panic from the trees
reached forth with clutching branches; the darkness was lit up and
peopled with strange forms and faces. She strangled and fled before
her fears. And yet in the last fortress, reason, blown upon by
these gusts of terror, still shone with a troubled light. She knew,
yet could not act upon her knowledge; she knew that she must stop,
and yet she still ran.
She was already near madness, when she broke suddenly into a narrow
clearing. At the same time the din grew louder, and she became
conscious of vague forms and fields of whiteness. And with that the
earth gave way; she fell and found her feet again with an incredible
shock to her senses, and her mind was swallowed up.
When she came again to herself, she was standing to the mid-leg in
an icy eddy of a brook, and leaning with one hand on the rock from
which it poured. The spray had wet her hair. She saw the white
cascade, the stars wavering in the shaken pool, foam flitting, and
high overhead the tall pines on either hand serenely drinking
starshine; and in the sudden quiet of her spirit she heard with joy
the firm plunge of the cataract in the pool. She scrambled forth
dripping. In the face of her proved weakness, to adventure again
upon the horror of blackness in the groves were a suicide of life or
reason. But here, in the alley of the brook, with the kind stars
above her, and the moon presently swimming into sight, she could
await the coming of day without alarm.
This lane of pine-trees ran very rapidly down-hill and wound among
the woods; but it was a wider thoroughfare than the brook needed,
and here and there were little dimpling lawns and coves of the
forest, where the starshine slumbered. Such a lawn she paced,
taking patience bravely; and now she looked up the hill and saw the
brook coming down to her in a series of cascades; and now approached
the margin, where it welled among the rushes silently; and now gazed
at the great company of heaven with an enduring wonder. The early
evening had fallen chill, but the night was now temperate; out of
the recesses of the wood there came mild airs as from a deep and
peaceful breathing; and the dew was heavy on the grass and the
tight-shut daisies. This was the girl's first night under the naked
heaven; and now that her fears were overpast, she was touched to the
soul by its serene amenity and peace. Kindly the host of heaven
blinked down upon that wandering Princess; and the honest brook had
no words but to encourage her.
At last she began to be aware of a wonderful revolution, compared to
which the fire of Mittwalden Palace was but the crack and flash of a
percussion-cap. The countenance with which the pines regarded her
began insensibly to change; the grass too, short as it was, and the
whole winding staircase of the brook's course, began to wear a
solemn freshness of appearance. And this slow transfiguration
reached her heart, and played upon it, and transpierced it with a
serious thrill. She looked all about; the whole face of nature
looked back, brimful of meaning, finger on lip, leaking its glad
secret. She looked up. Heaven was almost emptied of stars. Such
as still lingered shone with a changed and waning brightness, and
began to faint in their stations. And the colour of the sky itself
was the most wonderful; for the rich blue of the night had now
melted and softened and brightened; and there had succeeded in its
place a hue that has no name, and that is never seen but as the
herald of morning. 'O!' she cried, joy catching at her voice, 'O!
it is the dawn!'
In a breath she passed over the brook, and looped up her skirts and
fairly ran in the dim alleys. As she ran, her ears were aware of
many pipings, more beautiful than music; in the small dish-shaped
houses in the fork of giant arms, where they had lain all night,
lover by lover, warmly pressed, the bright-eyed, big-hearted singers
began to awaken for the day. Her heart melted and flowed forth to
them in kindness. And they, from their small and high perches in
the clerestories of the wood cathedral, peered down sidelong at the
ragged Princess as she flitted below them on the carpet of the moss
Soon she had struggled to a certain hill-top, and saw far before her
the silent inflooding of the day. Out of the East it welled and
whitened; the darkness trembled into light; and the stars were
extinguished like the street-lamps of a human city. The whiteness
brightened into silver, the silver warmed into gold, the gold
kindled into pure and living fire; and the face of the East was
barred with elemental scarlet. The day drew its first long breath,
steady and chill; and for leagues around the woods sighed and
shivered. And then, at one bound, the sun had floated up; and her
startled eyes received day's first arrow, and quailed under the
buffet. On every side, the shadows leaped from their ambush and
fell prone. The day was come, plain and garish; and up the steep
and solitary eastern heaven, the sun, victorious over his
competitors, continued slowly and royally to mount.
Seraphina drooped for a little, leaning on a pine, the shrill joy of
the woodlands mocking her. The shelter of the night, the thrilling
and joyous changes of the dawn, were over; and now, in the hot eye
of the day, she turned uneasily and looked sighingly about her.
Some way off among the lower woods, a pillar of smoke was mounting
and melting in the gold and blue. There, surely enough, were human
folk, the hearth-surrounders. Man's fingers had laid the twigs; it
was man's breath that had quickened and encouraged the baby flames;
and now, as the fire caught, it would be playing ruddily on the face
of its creator. At the thought, she felt a-cold and little and lost
in that great out-of-doors. The electric shock of the young sun-
beams and the unhuman beauty of the woods began to irk and daunt
her. The covert of the house, the decent privacy of rooms, the
swept and regulated fire, all that denotes or beautifies the home
life of man, began to draw her as with cords. The pillar of smoke
was now risen into some stream of moving air; it began to lean out
sideways in a pennon; and thereupon, as though the change had been a
summons, Seraphina plunged once more into the labyrinth of the wood.
She left day upon the high ground. In the lower groves there still
lingered the blue early twilight and the seizing freshness of the
dew. But here and there, above this field of shadow, the head of a
great out-spread pine was already glorious with day; and here and
there, through the breaches of the hills, the sun-beams made a great
and luminous entry. Here Seraphina hastened along forest paths.
She had lost sight of the pilot smoke, which blew another way, and
conducted herself in that great wilderness by the direction of the
sun. But presently fresh signs bespoke the neighbourhood of man;
felled trunks, white slivers from the axe, bundles of green boughs,
and stacks of firewood. These guided her forward; until she came
forth at last upon the clearing whence the smoke arose. A hut stood
in the clear shadow, hard by a brook which made a series of
inconsiderable falls; and on the threshold the Princess saw a sun-
burnt and hard-featured woodman, standing with his hands behind his
back and gazing skyward.
She went to him directly: a beautiful, bright-eyed, and haggard
vision; splendidly arrayed and pitifully tattered; the diamond ear-
drops still glittering in her ears; and with the movement of her
coming, one small breast showing and hiding among the ragged covert
of the laces. At that ambiguous hour, and coming as she did from
the great silence of the forest, the man drew back from the Princess
as from something elfin.
'I am cold,' she said, 'and weary. Let me rest beside your fire.'
The woodman was visibly commoved, but answered nothing.
'I will pay,' she said, and then repented of the words, catching
perhaps a spark of terror from his frightened eyes. But, as usual,
her courage rekindled brighter for the check. She put him from the
door and entered; and he followed her in superstitious wonder.
Within, the hut was rough and dark; but on the stone that served as
hearth, twigs and a few dry branches burned with the brisk sounds
and all the variable beauty of fire. The very sight of it composed
her; she crouched hard by on the earth floor and shivered in the
glow, and looked upon the eating blaze with admiration. The woodman
was still staring at his guest: at the wreck of the rich dress, the
bare arms, the bedraggled laces and the gems. He found no word to
'Give me food,' said she, - 'here, by the fire.'
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