Part 10 out of 11
"O King, I hear! O King, your Majesty would make the deaf to hear, and
the dumb to speak! And if there is anything to be done to me for
abominating you, O King, who had the impudence to offer me a hundred
gold pieces a year for my poems, I, O King, will submit to the utmost
terrors of the law!"
A burst of laughter long and loud, relieved the pent-up feelings of the
company. The King laughed as heartily as the rest, and over the
brooding features of Thord himself came the shadow of a smile.
"We will settle our accounts together later on, Zouche!" said the
monarch gaily; "Meanwhile, I beg you to continue your harmless
abomination of me at your leisure!"
Another laugh went round, and then the King resuming his speech
"I have played two parts at once,--Revolutionist and King! But both
parts are after all but two sides of the same nature. When I first came
among you, I bade you all look at me well,--I asked you to note the
resemblance I bore to the ruling Sovereign. I called myself 'the living
copy of the man I most despise.' That was quite true! For there is no
one I despise more utterly than myself,--when I think what I might have
done with my million opportunities, and how much time I have wasted!
You all scrutinised me closely;--and I did not flinch! You all accepted
my service,--and I have served you well! I have noted every one of your
desires. Where possible, I have sought to fulfil them. Every accusation
you have brought against the Ministry has been sifted to the bottom,
and proved down to the hilt. My publicly-proclaimed decision to
nominate Carl Pérousse as Premier was merely thrown out as a test to
try the temper and quality of the nation. That test has answered its
purpose well! But there is no need for fear,--Carl Pérousse will never
be nominated to anything but disgrace! All his schemes are in my hand,
--I hold complete documentary proofs of his dishonesty and guilt; and
the very day which you have chosen as that on which to appeal to the
King against the choice of him as Prime Minister, will see him
denounced by myself in person to the Government."
A storm of applause greeted this welcome announcement. For a moment all
the men went mad with excitement, shouting, stamping and singing,--
while again and yet again the cry: 'For the King!' echoed round and
round in tempestuous cheering.
Sergius Thord gazed blankly at the Scene with a strange sense of being
the dreaming witness of some marvellous drama enacted altogether away
from the earth. He could hot yet bring himself to realise that by such
a simple method as the independent working of one individual
intelligence, all his own followers had been swept round to loyalty and
love for a monarch, whom previously, though without knowing him, they
had hated--and sworn to destroy! Yet, in very truth, all the hatreds
and envys,--all the slanders and cruelties of the members of the human
race towards each other, spring from ignorance; and when disaffected
persons hate a king, they do so mostly because they do not know him,
and because they can form no true opinion of his qualities or the
various difficulties of his position. If the Anarchist, bent on the
destruction of some person in authority, only had the culture and
knowledge to recognise how much that person already suffers, by being
in all probability forced to fulfil duties for which he has no heart or
mind, he would stay his murderous hand, and pity rather than condemn.
For the removal of one ruler only means the installation of another,--
and the wild and often gifted souls of reformers, stumbling through
darkness after some great Ideal which resolves itself into a shadow and
delusion the nearer one approaches to it, need to be tenderly dealt
with from the standpoint of plainest simplicity and truth,--so that
they may feel the sympathetic touch of human love and care emanating
from those very quarters which they seek to assail. This had been the
self-imposed mission of the King who had played the part of 'Pasquin
Leroy';--and thus, fearing nothing, doubting nothing, and relying
simply on his own strength, discretion, and determination, he had
gained a moral victory over the passions of his secret foes such as he
had never himself anticipated. When silence was again restored, he
"The various suggestions made in my presence during the time I have
been a member of this Committee, will all be carried out. The present
Government will naturally oppose every measure,--but I,--backed by such
supporters as I have now won,--will elect a new Government--a new
Ministry. When I began this bloodless campaign of my own, the present
Ministry were on the edge of war. Determined to provoke hostilities
with a peaceful Power, they were ready even with arms and ammunition,
manufactured by a 'Company,' of which Pérousse was the director and
chief shareholder! Contracts for army supplies were being secretly
tendered; and one was already secretly accepted and arranged for,--in
which Carl Pérousse and the Marquis de Lutera were to derive enormous
interest;--the head of the concern being David Jost. This plan was
concocted with devilish ingenuity,--for, if the war had actually broken
out, the supplies of our army would have been of the worst possible
kind, in order to give the best possible profit to the contractors; and
Jost, with his newspaper influence, would have satisfied the public
mind by printing constant reiterations of the completeness and
excellence of the supplies, and the entire contentment and jubilation
of the men! But I awoke to my responsibilities in time to checkmate
this move. I forbade the provocation intended;--I stopped the war. In
this matter at least--much loss of life, much heavy expenditure, and
much ill-will among other nations has been happily spared to us. For
the rest,--everything you have been working for shall be granted,--if
you yourselves will help me to realise your own plans! I want you in
your thousands!--ay, in your tens of thousands! I want you all on my
side! With you,--the representatives of the otherwise unvoiced People,
--I will enforce all the measures which you have discussed before me,
showing good and adequate reason why they should be carried. The taxes
you complain of shall be instantly removed;--and for the more speedy
replenishment of the National Exchequer, I gladly resign one half my
revenues from all sources whatsoever for the space of five years; or
longer, if considered desirable. But I want your aid! Will you all
stand by me?"
A mighty shout answered him.
"To the death!"
He turned to Thord.
"Sergius," he said, "my task is finished--my confession made! The next
Order of this meeting must come from you!"
Thord looked at him amazedly.
"From me? Are you not the King?"
"Only so long as the People desire it!" replied the monarch gently;
"And are you not the representative of the People?"
Thord's chest heaved. Burning tears stood in his eyes. The strangeness
of the situation--the deliberate coolness and resolve with which this
sovereign ruler of a powerful kingdom laid his life trustingly in his
hands, was too much for his nerve.
"Lotys!" he said huskily; "Lotys!"
She rose at once and came to him, moving ghostlike in her white
draperies, her eyes shining--her lips tremulous.
"Lotys," he said, "The King is in our hands! You saved his life once--
will you save it again?"
She raised her bent head, and the old courageous light flashed in her
face, transfiguring its every feature.
"It is not for me to save!" she replied in clear firm tones; "It is for
you--and for all of us,--to defend!"
A ringing cheer answered her. Sergius Thord slowly advanced, and as he
did so, the King, seeing his movement frankly held out his hand. For a
moment the Socialist Chief hesitated--then suddenly yielding to his
overpowering impulse, caught that hand and raised his dark eyes full to
the monarch's face.
"You have conquered me!" he said, "But only by your qualities as a man
--not by your authority as a king! You have won my honour--my respect--
my gratitude--my friendship--and with these, so long as you are
faithful to our Cause, take my allegiance! More I cannot say--more I
will not promise!"
"I need no more!" responded the King cheerily, enclosing his hand in a
warm clasp. "We are friends and fellow-workers, Sergius!--we can never
As he spoke, his glance fell on Lotys. She shrank from the swift
passion of his gaze,--and her eyelids drooped half-swooningly over the
bright star-windows of her own too ardent soul. Abruptly turning from
both her and Thord, the King again addressed the company:
"One word more, my friends! It is arranged that you, with all your
thousands of the People are to convene together in one great multitude,
and march to the Palace to demand justice from the King. There is now
no need to do this,--for the King himself is one of you!--the King only
lives and reigns that justice in all respects may be done! I will
therefore ask you to change your plan;--and instead of marching to the
Palace, march with me to the House of Government. You would have
demanded justice from the King; the King himself will go with you to
demand justice for the People!"
A wild shout answered him; and he knew as he looked on the faces of his
hearers that he had them all in his power as the servants of his will.
"And now, gentlemen," he proceeded; "I should perhaps make some excuses
for my two friends, known to you as Max Graub and Axel Regor. I told
you I would be responsible for their conduct, and, so far as they have
been permitted to go, they have behaved well! I must, however, in
justice to them, assure you that whereas I became a member of your
Committee gladly, they followed my example reluctantly, and only out of
fidelity and obedience to me. They have lived in the shadow of the
Throne,--and have learned to pity,--and I think,--to love its
occupant! Because they know,--as you have never known,--the heavy
burden which a king puts on with his crown! They have, however, in
their way, served you under my orders, and under my orders will
continue to serve you still. Max Graub, or, to give him his right name,
Heinrich von Glauben, has a high reputation in this country for his
learning, apart from his position as Household Physician to our Court;
--Axel Regor is my very good friend Sir Roger de Launay, who is amiable
enough to support the monotony of his duty as one of my equerries in
waiting. Now you know us as we are! But after all, nothing is changed,
save our names and the titles we bear; we are the same men, the same
friends, the same comrades!--and so I trust we shall remain!"
The cheering broke out again, and Sir Roger de Launay, who was quite as
overwhelmed with astonishment at the courage and coolness of his Royal
master as any Revolutionist present, joined in it with a will, as did
"One favour I have to ask of you," proceeded the King, "and it is this:
If you exempt me to-night from killing the King;" and he smiled,--"you
must also exempt all the members of the Revolutionary Committee from
any similar task allotted to them by having drawn the fatal Signal! Our
friend, Zouche, for instance, has drawn the name of Carl Pérousse. Now
I want Zouche for better work than that of killing a rascal!"
Loud cheers answered him, and Zouche rising from his place advanced a
"Majesty!" he cried, "You are right! I hand your Majesty's intended
Premier over to you with the greatest, pleasure in the world! Apart
from the fact of your being the King, I am compelled to admit that you
have common sense!"
Laughter and cheers resounded through the room again, and the King
quietly turning round, extinguished the red lamp on the table. The
thirteenth light was quenched; the Day of Fate was ended. As the
ominous crimson flare sank out, a sudden silence prevailed, and the
King fixed his eyes on Lotys.
"From you, Madame, must come my final exoneration! If you still condemn
me as a King, I shall be indeed unfortunate! If you still think well of
me as a man, I shall be proud! I have to thank you, not only for my
life, but for having helped me to make that life valuable! As Pasquin
Leroy, I have sought to serve you,--as King, I seek to serve you
The silence continued. Every man present watched the visible emotion
which swept every vestige of colour from the face of Lotys, and made
her eyes so feverishly bright. Every man gazed at her as she rose from
her chair and came forward a little to the front of the platform. It
was with a strong effort that she raised her eyes to those of the King,
and in that one glance between them, the lightning flash of a
resistless love tore the veil of secrecy from their souls. But she
spoke out bravely.
"I thank your Majesty!" she said; "I thank you for all you have done
for us as our comrade and associate,--for all you will yet do for us as
our comrade and associate still! It is better to be a brave man than a
weak King--but it is best to be a strong man and a strong king both
together! You have disproved the thoughts I had of you as King! You
have ratified--" here she paused, while the colour suddenly sprang to
her cheeks, and her breath came pantingly and quick,--"and strengthened
the thoughts I had of you as our Pasquin!" Her eyes softened with
tears, though she smiled. "We have believed in you; we believe in you
still! All is as it was,--save in the one thing new,--that where we
were banded together against the King, we are now united for, and with
These words were all that were needed to reawaken and confirm the
enthusiasm of the Revolutionists, whose 'revolutionary' measures were
now accepted and sworn to by the Crowned Head of the Realm. Thereupon,
they gave themselves up to the wildest cheering.
"Comrades!" cried Paul Zouche, in the midst of the uproar; "There is
one point you seem to have missed! The King,--God bless him!--doesn't
see it,--Thord, glowering like an owl in his ivy-bush of hair, doesn't
see it! It is only left to me to perceive the chief result of this
All the men laughed.
"What is it, Zouche?" demanded Louis Valdor.
"Ay! What is it?" echoed Zegota.
"Speak, Zouche!" said the King; "Whatever strange conclusion your
poetic brain discovers, doubt not but that we shall accept it,--from !"
"Accept it? I should think so!" cried Zouche; "You are bound to accept
it whether you like it or not; there is no other way out of it!"
"Well, what is it?" repeated Zegota impatiently; "Declare it!"
"It is this;" said Zouche, "Simply this,--that, with the King as our
comrade and associate, the Revolutionary Committee is no use! It is
finished! There can be no longer a Revolutionary Committee!"
"That is true!" said the King; "It may henceforth be known as a new
Cheer after cheer echoed through the crowded room, and while the noise
was at its height a knocking was heard outside and Sholto, the
hunchback father of Pequita, demanded admittance. Zegota unlocked the
door, and in a few minutes the situation was explained to the
astonished landlord of the Revolutionary Committee quarters.
Overwhelmed at the news, and full of gratitude for the kindness shown
to his child, which he now knew had emanated from the King in person,
he would have knelt to kiss the Royal hand, had not the monarch
"No, my good Sholto!" he said gently; "Enough of such humility wearies
me in the monotonous routine of Court life; and were it not for custom
and prejudice, I would suffer no self-respecting man to abase himself
before me, simply because my profession is that of King! Tell Pequita
that I would not look at her, or applaud her dancing the other night,
because I wished her to hate the King and to love Pasquin!--but now you
must ask her for me, to love them both!"
Sholto bowed low, profoundly overcome. Was this the King against whom
they had all been in league?--this simple, unaffected man, who seemed
so much at home and at one with them all? Amazed and bewildered, he, by
general invitation, mixed with the rest of the men, for each of whom
the King had a kind and appreciative word, or a fresh pledge of his
good faith and intention towards them and the reforms they sought to
effect. Von Glauben was surrounded by a group of those among whom he
had made himself popular; and a hundred eager questions were asked of
both him and De Launay, who were ready enough to eulogise the daring of
their Royal master, and the determination with which he had resolved on
making his secret foes his open friends.
"After all," said Zegota deprecatingly, "it is not so much the King whom
we were against, as the Government."
"Ah! You forget, no doubt," said Von Glauben, "that the King--any King--
is usually a Dummy in the hands of Government, unless, as in the
present instance, he chooses to become a living Personality for
"The King has created an autocracy!" said Louis Valdor; "and it will
last for his lifetime. But after----!"
"After him,--if his eldest son, Prince Humphry, comes to the Throne,--
the autocracy will be continued;" said Von Glauben decisively; "For he
is a young man who is singularly fond of having his own way!"
The conversation now became general; and the big, bare, common room
assumed in a few minutes almost the aspect of a Royal levée. This was
curious enough,--and furnished food for meditation to Professor von
Glauben, who was considerably excited by the dramatic dénouement of the
Day of Fate,--a climax for which neither he nor Sir Roger had been in
the least prepared. He said something of it to Sir Roger who was
"You look at the woman," he said; "I look at the man! Do you think this
drama is finished?"
"Not yet!" answered De Launay curtly; "Nor is the danger over!"
The hum of talk continued; and the good feeling of friendship and unity
of the assemblage was intensified with every cordial handshake. When
the time came to break up, someone suggested that a carriage should be
sent for to convey the King and his two companions to the Palace.
Whereat the monarch laughed aloud and right joyously.
"By my faith!" he exclaimed; "You, my friends, would actually pamper me
already, by offering me a luxury which you yourselves do not propose to
enjoy! Ah, my friends, here comes in the mischief of the monarchical
system! What of your 'Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity'? Do I ask to
have anything different to yourselves? Can I not walk, even as you do?
Have I not walked to, and from these meetings often? And even so, I
purpose to walk now! If you are true Revolutionists--as I am--do not
reverse your own theories! You complain,--and justly,--that a king is
over-flattered; do not then flatter him yourselves by insisting on such
convenience for him as he does not even demand at your hands!"
"You take us too literally, Sir," said Louis Valdor; "Even
Revolutionists owe respect to their chief!"
"Sergius Thord is your Chief, my friend!" replied the monarch; "And,
from a Revolutionary point of view, mine! But you have never thought of
sending _him_ anywhere in a carriage! Ah!--what children we are!
What slaves of convention! 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity' have been
the ideals of ages;--yet despite them, we are always ready to follow a
Leader,--and form ourselves into one body under a Head!"
"Provided the Head has brains in it!" said Zouche. "But otherwise--"
"You cut it off!" laughed the monarch--"and quite right too!"
They now began to separate. The hunchback Sholto explained that it was
long after midnight, and that he had already put out all the lights in
Whereupon the King, turning to Sergius Thord said: "Farewell for the
moment, Sergius! Come to me at the Palace with the whole plan of the
meeting you are now organising; I shall hold myself ready to fall in
with your plans! Gather your thousands, and--leave the rest to me!"
Thord clasped his extended hand,--and was moved by a curious instinct
to bend down low over it after the fashion of a courtier, but
restrained himself almost by force. The men began to move; one after
the other bade good-night to the King--then to Thord, and last to
Lotys, who, drawing on her cloak, prepared to leave also.
"I will see you safely down the stairs," said the King smilingly, to
her. "It is not the first time I have done so! How now, Zouche?"
Paul Zouche stood before him, his eyes full of a strange mingled pathos
"I have to thank your Majesty," he said slowly, "for something I do not
in the least value,--Fame! It has come too late! Had it been my portion
three years ago, the woman I loved would have been proud of me, and I
should have been happy! She is dead now--and nothing matters!"
The King was silent. There was something both solemn and pitiful about
this wreck of manhood which was still kept alive by the fire of genius.
"With one word you might have saved me--and her!" he went on. "When you
came to the Throne,--and all the wretched versifiers in the kingdom
were scribbling twaddle in the way of 'Coronation odes' and medleys, I
wrote 'The Song of Freedom' for your glory! All the people of the land
know that song now!--but you might have known it then! For now it is
too late!--too late to call her back;--too late to give me peace!"
He paused;--then--without another word--turned, and went out.
"Poor Zouche!" said the King gently; "I accept his reproach and
understand it! He is right! The recognition of his genius is one of the
thousand chances I have missed! But, as God lives, I will miss no
A great quietude fell on the house as the Revolutionary Committee
dispersed. The last to leave was the King, his two friends, and Lotys.
Lotys declined all escort somewhat imperatively, refusing to allow
Sergius Thord to see her to her own home.
"I must be alone!" she said; "Do you not understand! I want to think--I
want to realise our change of position. I cannot talk to you, Sergius,
--no--not till to-morrow--you must let me be!"
He drew back, chilled and hurt by her tone, but forbore to press his
company on her. With another farewell to the King, he stood at the top
of the long dark winding stair watching the group descend,--first Von
Glauben, next De Launay,--thirdly, the King,--and lastly, Lotys.
"Good-night!" he called, as her white robes vanished in the gloom.
"Good-night!" she answered tremulously, as she disappeared.
And he, returning to the empty room, stared vacantly at the table
draped with black, and the funeral urn set upon it,--stared at the
empty chairs and bare walls, and listened as it were, to the midnight
silence,--realising that he as Chief of the Revolutionary Committee,
was no longer a chief but a servant!--and that the power he sought--
that power which he had endeavoured to attain in order that he might
make of Lotys, as he had said, 'a queen among women!' was only to be
won through,--the King! The King knew all his secret plans and his
aims,--he held the clue to the whole network of his Revolutionary
organisation,--and the only chance he now had of ever arriving at the
highest goal of his ambition was in the King's hands! Thus was he,--
Socialist and Revolutionist,--made subject to the Throne; the very
rules he had drawn up for himself and his Committee making it
impossible that he could be otherwise than loyal, to a monarch who was
at the same time his comrade!
Meanwhile, in the thick darkness of the hall below, while Von Glauben
and De Launay were groping their way to the door which was cautiously
held open by Sholto, Lotys, moving with hesitating steps down the
stairs, felt rather than saw a head turned back upon her,--a flash of
eyes in the darkness, and heard her name breathed softly:
She grew dizzy and uncertain of her footing; she could not answer.
Suddenly a strong arm caught her,--she was drawn into a close, fierce,
jealous clasp; warm lips caressed her hair, her brow, her eyes; and a
voice whispered in her ear:
"You love me, Lotys! You love me! Hush!--do not deny it--you cannot
deny it!--you know it, as I know it!--you have told me you love me!
You love me, my Love! You love me!"
Another moment--and the King passed quietly out of the door with a
bland 'Good-night' to Sholto, and joining his two companions, raised
his hat to Lotys with a courteous salutation.
She stood in the doorway, shuddering violently from head to foot,--
watching his tall figure disappear in the shadows of the street. Then
stretching out her hands blindly, she gave a faint cry, and murmuring
something inarticulate to the alarmed Sholto, fell senseless at his
KING AND SOCIALIST
To many persons of the servile or flunkey habit, the idea that a king
should ever comport himself as an ordinary,--or extraordinary,--man,
seems more or less preposterous; while to conceive him as endowed with
dash, spirit, and a love of adventure is judged almost as absurd and
impossible. The only potentate that ever appears, in legendary lore, to
have indulged himself to his heart's content in the sport of adopting a
disguise and going about unrecognised among his subjects, is the witty
and delightful hero of the 'Arabian Nights' Entertainment,' Caliph
Haroun Alraschid, who, as Tennyson describes him, had
"Deep eyes, laughter-stirred
With merriment of kingly pride;
Sole star of all that place and time,
I saw him in his golden prime.
The good Haroun Alraschid!"
We accept Haroun; and acknowledge him to have been wise in the purport
of his wanderings through the streets of the city,--gaining new
experience with every hour, and studying the needs and complaints of
his people for himself;--but if we should be told of a modern monarch
doing likewise in our own day, we should mount on the stiff hobby-horse
of our ridiculous conventionality, and accuse him of having brought the
dignity of the Throne into contempt. Yet nothing perhaps can be more
contemptible than a monarch who is too surrounded by flunkeyism to be a
Man,--and, on the other hand, nothing could be more beneficial than the
feeling that perhaps a monarch may be so much of a man after all that
no one can be quite certain as to his whereabouts. It would be well if
some rowdy 'clubs' could be restrained by the idea that the Sovereign
of the Realm might step in unexpectedly,--or if the 'slums' could
scarcely be able to tell when he might not be among their inmates,
disguised as one of them, studying and knowing more in a day than his
ministers would tell him in several years. It is generally admitted
that no man is fit for a profession till he has thoroughly mastered its
possibilities,--yet it is not too much to declare that in the
profession of Sovereignty the few who practise it, have mastered it to
so little purpose, that they are almost entirely blind to the singular
advantages which they might obtain, not only for themselves, but for
the entire world, if they chose to put forth their own individuality,
and, instead of wasting their time on the scheming and self-seeking
sections of Society, elected to try their powers on the working and
trade communities of the nation. But throughout all history, the
various careers of kings and emperors contain instructive lessons of
Lost Opportunity. Allowing for the differences of climate and
temperament, it may be taken for granted that no people of any country
are constitutionally able to rise above a certain height of enthusiasm;
and that when the high-water mark is reached, their enthusiasm cools,
and a reaction invariably sets in. For this cause a monarch should
never rely too much on the plaudits of the mob in a time of conquest,
or public festival of jubilation. He should look upon such acclamation
as the mere rising of a wave, which must in due time sink again,--and
if he would know his people thoroughly, he should study that same
shouting mob, not when it is affected by hysteria, but during its
everyday level condition of stubborn and patient toil. So will he
perhaps be able to lay his finger on the sore places of life, and to
find out where the seed of mischief is planted, before it begins to
grow. But he must give an individual interest to such work; no
information must be obtained or given through this person or that
person,--for the old maxim that 'if you want anything done, do it
yourself' applies to kings as well as to all other classes of men.
That the old adage had been amply practised by one king at least, was
soon known throughout the capital of the country over which the monarch
here written of held dominion. Somehow, and by some means or other, the
story oozed out bit by bit and in guarded whispers, that the King had
'trapped' Carl Pérousse, as well as several other defaulting
ministers,--and that, strange and incredible as it appeared, he himself
was the very 'Pasquin Leroy' whose political polemics had created such
a stir. Once started, the rumour flew;--some disbelieved it;--others
listened, with ears stretched wide, greedy for more detail,--but
presently the scattered threads of gossip became woven into a
consecutive web of certainty so far as one point, at least, was
concerned,--and this was, that the King would personally address his
Parliament during the ensuing week on matters of national safety and
importance. Such an announcement was altogether unprecedented, and
excited the whole country's attention. Plenty of discussion there was,
as to whether the King had any right to so address the members of the
Government,--and some oracular journals were of the opinion that he was
acting in an 'unconstitutional manner.' On the other hand, it was
discovered and proved that there was no actual law forbidding the
Sovereign to speak when any question of urgency appeared to call for
his expressed opinion.
While this affair was being contested and argued, a considerable
sensation was created by the news that the Marquis de Lutera had
suddenly left the country,--ostensibly for his health, which, everyone
was assured, had completely broken down. People shook their heads
ominously, and wondered when the King would give M. Pérousse the task
of forming a new Ministry,--while they watched with deepening interest
the progress of the various Government debates, which were carried on
in the usual way, following the lines laid down by the absent Premier,
Marquis de Lutera. Carl Pérousse, confronted by a thousand
difficulties, maintained his usual equable and audacious attitude,
scouting with scorn the rumour that the Socialist writer, 'Pasquin
Leroy' was merely a disguise adopted by the King himself,--and he was
as cool and imperturbable as ever when one morning David Jost succeeded
in finding him at home, and obtaining an audience.
"It was the King!" burst out Jost, as soon as he found himself alone
with his ally; "It was the King himself who wore Lutera's signet, and
came to me disguised so well that his own father would not have known
him! The King himself, I say! And I told him everything!"
"More fool you!" returned Pérousse quietly; "However, fools generally
have to pay the price of their folly!"
"And knaves!" said Jost furiously; "But there is a power which cannot
be controlled, even by kings or statesmen--and that is--the pen!"
"And do you think you can use the pen?" queried Pérousse indolently;
"Excellent Shylock, you know you cannot! You can pay others to use it
for you! That is all!"
"I can make short work of _you_ at any rate!" said Jost, his
little eyes sparkling with rage; "For I see plainly enough now that
even if our plans had succeeded, you would have left me in the lurch!"
"Of course!" smiled Pérousse; "Are you so simple in the world's ways as
not to be able to realise that such Jew pressmen as you are only made
for the use of politicians? We drop you, when we have done with you! Go
to London, Jost! Start a paper there! It is the very place for you! Get
a Cardinal to back you up, with funds to be used for the 'conversion'
of England! Or give a hundred thousand pounds to a hospital! You can
become naturalised as an Englishman if you like; any country does for a
Jew! And you will be a power of the realm in no time! They manage these
sort of things capitally there!"
"By God!" said Jost; "I could kill you!"
"What for?" demanded Pérousse; "Because you think I am going to be
proved a political fraud? Wait and see! If the King denounces me, I am
prepared to denounce the King!"
Jost stared, then laughed aloud.
"Denounce the King! You are bold! But you make up your sum with the
wrong numerals this time! The King holds the complete list of your
speculations in his hand,--he has got them through the agency of the
Revolutionary Committee, to which your stockbroker's confidential clerk
belongs! You fool! All your schemes--all your 'companies' are known to
him root and branch--and you say you will 'denounce' him! If you do,
it will be a real comedy!--the case of a thief denouncing the officer
who has caught him red-handed in the act of thieving!"
With this parting shot, he made a violent exit. Pérousse left alone,
dismissed him, with all other harassments from his mind; for being
entirely without a conscience, he had very little care as to the
results of the King's reported intentions. He was preparing a brilliant
speech, which he intended to deliver if occasion demanded; and on his
own coolness, mendacity and pluck, he staked his future.
"If I fail," he said to himself; "I will go to the United States, and
end by becoming President! There are many such plans open to a man of
During the ensuing few days there were some extra gaieties at the
Palace,--and the King and Queen were seen daily in public. Everywhere,
they were greeted with frantic outbursts of cheering, and the recent
riotous outbreaks seemed altogether forgotten. The Opera was crowded
nightly, and undeterred by the fear of any fresh manifestations of
popular discontent, their Majesties were again present. This time the
King was the first to lead off the applause that hailed Pequita's
dancing. And how her little feet flew!--how her eyes sparkled with
rapture--how the dark curls tossed, and the cherry lips smiled! To her
the King remained Pasquin!--a kind of monarch in a fairy tale, who
scattered benefits at a touch, and sunshine with a glance, and who
deserved all the love and loyalty of every subject in the kingdom! But
she had never had any idea of 'Revolution,' poor child!--save such a
revolving of chance and circumstance as should enable her father to
live in comfort, without anxiety for his latter days. And perhaps at
the bottom of all political or religious fanaticism we should find an
equally simple root of cause for the effect.
The day at last came when Sergius Thord held his mighty 'mass meeting,'
convened in the Cathedral square,--all ready for marching orders. No
interference was offered either from soldiery or police; and the people
came pouring up from every quarter of the city in their thousands and
tens of thousands. By noon, the tall lace-like spire of the Cathedral
towered above a vast sea of human heads, which from a distance looked
like swarming bees; and as the bells struck the hour, Thord, mounting
the steps of a monument erected to certain heroes who had long ago
fallen in battle, was greeted with a roar of acclamation like the
thunder of heaven's own artillery. But even while the multitude still
shouted and cheered, the sight of another figure, which quietly
ascended to the same position, caused a sudden hush,--a gradually
deepening silence of amazement and awe,--and then finally swift
"The King!" cried a voice.
"Pasquin Leroy!" shouted another, who was answered by yells and shrieks
"The King!" was again the cry. And as the vast crowd circled round and
round, its million eyes wonderingly upturned, Sergius Thord suddenly
lifted his cap and waved it:
"Ay! The King!" His voice rang over the heads of the people with a rich
thrill of command. "The King, who here declares himself the friend of
our Cause! The King, who is with us to-day of his own will, at his own
request, by his own choice!--without escort,--unarmed--defenceless! The
King! The King who has resolved to go with us, and demand justice for
his overtaxed and suffering subjects! The King, who is one with us!--
who seeks no greater kingliness than that of being loved and trusted by
The surprise of this announcement was so truly overpowering, that for
the moment the mighty mass of men stood inert; then,--as the situation
flashed upon them, such a thunder of cheering broke out as seemed to
make the very earth rock and the houses in the square tremble. The King
himself, standing by Thord, grew pale as he heard it, and his eyes were
suffused with something like tears.
"By Heaven!" he murmured; "The love of this people is worth having!"
"Did you ever doubt it?" queried Thord slowly, eyeing him with a touch
of wonder not unmixed with jealousy; "There is only one power which
keeps a king on his throne--the confidence of the nation! You had
nearly lost that! For though there is nothing so easy to win, there is
nothing so easy to lose!"
"True!" said the monarch, his eyes still resting tenderly on the
excited multitude below him. "I have deserved little at the people's
hands--but perhaps--when I am gone--" he paused abruptly, then with a
smile added--"Give us our marching orders, Sergius!"
Thord obeyed,--and very soon, under his command, the huge multitude
arranged itself in blocks, or regiments, perfectly organised in
different companies, and entirely prepared to keep order. Dividing into
equal lines they made way quickly and with enthusiasm as they perceived
the King's charger, which, richly caparisoned, had been brought for his
Majesty at Thord's own earnest request.
When all was ready, the King sprang into the saddle, and gathering the
reins in one hand, sat for a moment bare-headed, the people surging
round him with repeated outbursts of applause. Without a weapon,--
without a single man of his own household to bear him company,--without
any armed escort,--he remained there enthroned;--the centre,--not of
'society,'--but of the People, who gathered round him as their visible
Head, with as much shouting and enthusiasm and worship, as if he had,
in his own person, made the conquest, single-handed, of a hundred
nations! Never, in his most gorgeous apparel,--never, even when robed
and crowned in state, had he looked so noble; never had he seemed so
worthy of the highest honour, reverence and admiration, as now! At a
signal from Thord, who led the way on foot, the thousands of the city
began to march to the House of Government, all gathering round one
principal figure, that of their King. A group of workmen constituted
themselves his body-guard, protecting his proudly-stepping charger
from so much as a stone that might startle it or check its progress,
and thus--liberated from the protection of flunkeys and flatterers,--
the monarch, surrounded by his true subjects advanced together as one
Body, to challenge and overthrow a fraudulent Ministry, whose measures
had been drawn up and passed, not for the good of the country, but for
the financial advantage and protection of themselves.
Never was such a wondrous sight seen, as that almost interminable
procession through the broad thoroughfares of the city, headed by a
Socialist, and centred by a King! No Royal ceremonial, overburdened
with snobbish conventionalities and hypocritical parade, ever presented
so splendid and imposing a sight as that concentrated mass of the
actual people,--the working muscle and sinew of the land's common weal,
marching in steady and triumphant order,--surging like the billows of
the sea around that brave ship, their Sovereign, cheering him to the
echo, and waving around him the flags of the country, while he, still
bare-headed, rode dauntless in their midst looking every inch a king!--
more kingly indeed than he had ever seemed, and more established in the
affections of his subjects than any living monarch of the time. So was
he brought with ceaseless acclamation to the Government House, where,
as all knew, he purposed denouncing Carl Pérousse;--and thus did he
assert in his own person that a king, supported by a nation, is more
powerful than any government built up by mere party agency!
And even so, at his best and bravest, two women looked upon him and
loved him! One, from the outskirts of the great crowd where, shrouded
close in her veil, she waited tremblingly near the Government
buildings, and saw him alight from his charger, and enter there, amid
the wild shoutings of the populace,--the other, from a high window in
the Royal Palace, where she leaned watching the crowd,--the sunlight
catching the diamonds at her breast and sparkling in her proud cold
eyes. And over the whole city rang the continuous and exultant cry:
"The King! The King!"
And perhaps only one soul, prophetic in instinct, foresaw any terror in
the triumph!--only one voice, low and tremulous and weighted with tears
and prayers, murmured:
"Ah, dear God! Would he were not a King!"
A VOTE FOR LOVE
Next day it was known through the length and breadth of the city that
the King, so long judged as a political Dummy, had proved himself a
living, acting authority. Every journal in city and province led off
its news under the one chief heading,--'The King's Speech.' The King
had spoken;--and with no uncertain voice. Cool, brilliant in wording,
concise in statement,--cuttingly correct in facts, convincing in
argument, his unexpected denouncement of Carl Pérousse, and the
Pérousse 'majority,' swept the Government off their feet by its daring
courage, and still more daring veracity. Documentary evidence of the
dishonourable speculations with the public money which had been so
freely indulged in by the Secretary of State, aided and abetted by the
Premier, was handed by the King in person to the authorities whose
business it was to examine such proofs,--the dishonourable measures
used to retain the 'majority' were fully exposed, and the whole House
stood thunderstruck and mentally paralysed, under the straight
accusation and merciless condemnation launched at their own lax
tolerance of such iniquitous practices, by their reigning monarch. With
perfect dignity and impressive calm, the King quietly demanded whether
M. Carl Pérousse would be pleased to explain his actions? Whether he
had anything to say in response to the charges brought against him? To
this last query, after a dead silence, during which every eye was fixed
on the defaulting Minister, who, in the course of the Royal speech had
seen every bulwark of his own intended defence torn away from him,
Pérousse, with an ashy white countenance answered:
And the silence around him continued; a silence more expressive than
any outspoken word of scorn.
But more surprises were in store for the Ministry, which found itself
thus suddenly overthrown. The King announced the marriage of his son,
the Crown Prince, to 'a daughter of the People'! Boldly, and with an
ardent passion of truth lighting up every feature of his handsome
countenance, he stated this overwhelming piece of news in a perfectly
matter-of-fact way, adding, that in consequence of the step taken,--a
step which he did not himself in any way regret,--the Crown Prince
asked to be allowed to resign the Throne in favour of his brother
"Unless," continued his Majesty, "the Nation should be proved ready to
accept the wife he has chosen. It is needless to add that my son has
married without my consent, and this is the reason of his present
absence from the country. If the Nation accepts his wife, he will
return to the Nation; if not, I am bound to say, knowing his mind, that
there is nothing to be done, but to declare Prince Rupert Heir to the
Throne. This, however, I personally desire may be left to the
consideration and vote of the people!"
And when the House rose on that astonishing afternoon, they knew they
were no longer a House,--they knew the Government was entirely
overthrown, and that there would be a new Ministry and a General
Election. They had to realise also, that their 'Bills' for imposing
fresh taxes on the people were mere waste paper,--and they heard
likewise with redoubled amazement that the King had decided to resign
half his revenues for the space of five years, to assist the deficit in
the National Exchequer.
At the conclusion of the whole unprecedented scene, they saw the King
received, as it were, into the arms of a frenzied crowd, numbering many
tens of thousands, which spread round all the Government buildings, and
poured itself in thick streams through every street and thoroughfare,
and they had to accept the fact that their 'majority' was reduced to a
minority so infinitesimal, amid the greater wave of popular resolve,
that it was not worth counting.
Carl Pérousse, leaving the House by a private door of egress,
shamed, disgraced and crestfallen as he was, dared not trust the very
sight of himself to such an overwhelming multitude, and managed by
lucky chance to escape unobserved. He was assisted in this manoeuvre by
General Bernhoff. The Chief of the Police perceived him slinking
cautiously along the side-wall of an alley where the crowd had not
penetrated, and helped him into a passing cab that he might be driven
rapidly and safely to his home.
"You will no doubt excuse me"--said the General with a slight smile--
"for not having acted more rigorously in the matter of the suspected
'Pasquin Leroy'! I am afraid I should never have summed up sufficient
impudence to ask the King to sign a warrant against himself!"
Pérousse muttered an inarticulate oath by way of reply. He realised
fully that the game for him was lost. His speech of defence, so
carefully prepared had been useless, for he could not have uttered it
in the face of the damnatory evidence against him pronounced by the
King, and verified by his own public actions. Yet his audacity had not,
in the main, deserted him. He knew that, owing to his proved
defalcations and fraudulent use of the public money, his own property
would be confiscated to the Crown,--but he had always kept himself well
prepared for emergencies, and had invested in foreign securities under
various assumed names. Turning his attention to America, he felt pretty
sure he could do something there,--but so far as his own country was
concerned, he submitted to the inevitable, feeling that his day was
"The Jew is always triumphant!" he said, as he opened Jost's newspaper
next morning, and read a full account of the proceedings in the House,
described with all the 'colour' and gush of Jost's most melodramatic
reporter. "There is no doubt a 'leader' on my 'unhappy position' as a
fallen, but once trusted Minister!"
He was right; there was! A gravely-reproachful, sternly-commiserating
'leader,' wherein the apparently impeccable and highly conscientious
writer 'deplored' the laxity of those who supported M. Carl Pérousse in
his 'regrettable' scheme of self-aggrandisement.
"The rascal!" ejaculated Pérousse, as he read. "If I ever get a fresh
start in the United States or South Africa, I'll put him on a gridiron,
and roast him to slow music!"
Meanwhile the whole country went mad over the King. No man was ever so
idolised; no man was ever made the centre of more hero-worship. In all
the excitement of a General Election, the wave of loyalty rose to its
extremest height, and no candidate that was not ready to follow the
lines of reform laid down by the monarch, had a ghost of a chance of
being returned as a deputy. With the abolition of the tax on bread, the
popular jubilation increased; bonfires were lit on every hill,--rockets
flared up star-like from every rocky point upon the coast, and the
Nation gave itself entirely up to joy.
All the long dormant sentiment of the multitude was roused to a fever-
heat by the story of Prince Humphry's marriage, and he too, next to his
father, became a veritable hero of romance in the eyes of the people,
for whom Love, and all pertaining to love-matters form the most
interesting part of life. Following his announcement in the House, the
King issued a 'manifesto,' setting forth the facts of his son's union
with 'One Gloria Ronsard, of The Islands,' and requesting the vote of
the people for, or against, the Prince as Heir-Apparent to the Throne.
The result of this bold and candid reliance on the Nation was one which
could never have been foreseen by so-called 'diplomatic' statesmen, who
are accustomed to juggle with simple facts, and who strive to cover up
and conceal the too distinct plainness of truth. An electric thrill of
chivalrous enthusiasm pulsated through the entire country; and the
unanimous vote of the people was returned to the King in entire favour
of the Crown Prince and his chosen bride. Perhaps no one was more
astonished at this than the King himself. He had been prepared for
considerable friction; he had been quite sure of opposition on the part
of 'Society,' but, Society, moved for once from its usual selfishness
by the boldness and daring of a heroic king, had ranked itself entirely
on his side, and was ready and even anxious to accept in Prince Humphry
a new kind of 'Cophetua,' even if he had chosen to wed a beggar-maid!
And it so chanced that there were many persons who had seen Gloria,--
and among these was Sergius Thord, He had not only seen her, but known
her;--he had studied her character and qualities,--and was aware that
she possessed one of the most pure and beautiful of womanly souls;--and
though taken by surprise at the discovery that the young 'sailor' she
had wedded was no other than the Crown Prince, yet, after the
experience he had personally gone through with one 'Pasquin Leroy,' he
could scarcely feel that any news, even of the most wonderful kind, was
so wonderful after all! So that, as soon as he learned the truth, he
brought all his enormous 'following' into unanimity as regarded the
Prince's romantic love-story; and ere long there was not one in the
metropolis at least, who did not consider the marriage a good thing,
and likely to weld even more closely together the harmonious
relationship between people and Throne.
And so it chanced, that even while the General Election was still going
on all over the country, an incessant popular clamour was made for the
instant return of the Prince to his native land. The papers teemed with
suggestions as to the 'welcoming home' of the young hero of romance and
his bride, and Professor von Glauben, mentally giddy with the whirl of
events, was nevertheless triumphantly elated.
"Now that you know everything," he said to Sir Roger de Launay, "I hope
you are satisfied! My 'jam-pot' that you spoke of, has turned out to be
a special Sweetmeat for the whole nation!"
"I am very much surprised, I confess!" said Sir Roger slowly; "I should
hardly have thought such a love-story possible in these modern days.
And I should certainly never have given the nation credit for so much
"A nation is always sentimental!" declared the Professor; "What does a
Government exist for? Merely to keep national sentiment in order.
Ministers know well enough, that despite the various 'Bills' brought in
for material advantage and improvement, they have always to deal with
the imaginative aspiration of the populace, rather than their
conception of logic. For truly, the masses have no logic at all; they
will not stop to count the cost of an Army, but they will shout
themselves hoarse at the sight of the Flag! The Flag is the Sentiment;
the Army is the Fact. The King has secured all the votes of the nation
on a question of Sentiment only,--but there is this pleasant scientific
'fact underlying the sentiment,--Gloria is fit to be the mother of
kings! And that is what I will not say of any royally-born woman I
Sir Roger was silent.
"Consider our present Queen as a mother only!" he went on; "Beautiful
and impassive as a snow-peak with the snow shining upon it! What of her
sons? The Crown Prince is the best of them,--but he has only been saved
from inherited mischief by his love for Gloria. The other two boys,
Rupert and Cyprian, will probably be selfish libertines!"
Sir Roger opened his eyes in astonishment.
"Why do you say that?" he asked; "They are harmless lads enough!
Cricket and football are enough to make them happy."
"For the present, no doubt!" agreed Von Glauben; "But it sometimes
happens that the young human animal who expends all his brains on
kicking a football, is quite likely to expend another sort of force
when he grows up, in morally kicking other things! At least, that is
how I regard it. The over-cultivation of physical strength leads to
mental callousness and brutality. These are scientific points which
require discussion,--not with you,--but with a scientist. Nothing
should be overdone. Too much enervation and lack of athleticism leads
to moral deterioration certainly,--but so does too much 'sport' as they
call it. There is a happy medium to be obtained on both sides, but
human beings generally miss it. Prince Humphry, born of a beautiful,
introspective, selfish--yes, I repeat it!--selfish mother, would, if he
had married a hard-natured, cold and conventional wife, probably have
been the most indifferent, casual, and careless sovereign that ever
reigned; but, united as he is to a trusting, warm-hearted, loving,
womanly woman like Gloria, he will probably make himself the idol of
"Not more so than his father is!" said Sir Roger, with a smile.
"Ach so! That would be difficult, I grant you!" agreed the Professor;
"As I told you, Roger, at the beginning of this drama in which we have
both played our little parts; no harm ever came undeservedly to a brave
man with a good conscience!"
"True! And no harm has come to the King--as yet!" said Sir Roger
thoughtfully. "But I sometimes fear one man----!"
"Sergius Thord?" suggested Von Glauben; "To speak honestly, so do I!
But I watch him--I watch him closely! He loves Lotys, as a tiger loves
its mate,--and if he should ever suspect----!"
"Hush!" said Roger quickly; "Do not speak of it! I assure you I am
always on guard!"
"Good! So am I! But Thord is too busy just now climbing the hill to
look either backward or aside. When he reaches the summit, it is
possible he may see the whole landscape at a glance!"
"He will reach the summit very soon!" said De Launay; "His election as
deputy for the city, is certain. From the moment he announced himself
as candidate, there has been no opposition."
"He will be returned by an overwhelming majority," said the Professor;
"And he will gain all the power he has been working for. Also, with the
power, he will obtain all the difficulty, responsibility,
disappointment and bitterness. Power is a dangerous possession, unless
it is accompanied by a cool head; and in that our friend Sergius Thord
is lacking. He is a creature of impulse--and a savage creature too!--a
half-educated genius,--than which nothing in the shape of humanity is
more desperately difficult to manage!"
"Lotys can manage him!" said Sir Roger.
"That depends!" And the Professor rubbed his nose irritably. "Women are
excellent diplomatists up to a certain point, but their limit is
reached when they fall in love! Passion and enthusiasm transform them
into quite as absurd fools as--men!"
Sir Roger smiled, and changed the subject.
But in a few days, what had been foreshadowed in their conversation
came true. One of the chief results of the General Election was the
triumphal return of Sergius Thord as Deputy for the Metropolis by an
enormous majority; and in the evening of the day on which the polling
was declared, great crowds assembled beneath the windows of his house,
--that house so long known as the quarters of the Revolutionary
Committee,--roaring themselves hoarse with acclamation. He was, of
course, called out before them to speak,--and he yielded to the
clamorous demand, as perforce he was bound to do, but strangely enough,
with extreme reluctance.
A certain vague weariness depressed his spirits; his undisputed
election as one of the most important Government-representatives of the
people, lacked the savour of the triumph he had expected;--and like all
those who have worked for years to win a coveted post and succeed at
last in winning it, he was filled with the fatal satiety of
accomplishment. Power,--temporal power,--was after all not so great as
it had seemed! He had climbed--he had striven; but all the joy was
contained in the climbing and the striving. Now that he had gained his
point there seemed nothing left to prick afresh his flagging ambition.
Nevertheless, he succeeded in addressing his enthusiastic followers and
worshippers with something of his old fervour and fire,--sufficiently
well, at any rate, to satisfy them, and send them off with renewed
shouts of exultation, expressive of their continued reliance on his
courage and ability. But, when left alone at last, his heart suddenly
"What is the use of it!" he thought wearily; "True, I now represent the
city,--I lead its opinions--I am its mouth-piece for the State,--and
the wrongs and injuries done to the million are mine to bring before
the Government; and my business it will be to force remedial measures
for the same. But what then? There will be, there must be, constant
discussion, argument, contradiction,--for there are always conflicting
opinions in every aspect of human affairs,--and it will be my work to
put down all contradiction,--all opposition,--and to carry the People's
Cause with a firm hand. Yet--after all, if I succeed, it will be the
King's doing,--not mine! To him I partly owe my present power; the
power I had before, was _all_ my own!"
Sullen and silent he brooded on the changes in his fortunes with no
very satisfied mind. While he could not, as a brave man, refuse his
respect and homage to the monarch who had quietly made himself complete
master of the 'Revolutionary' organisation, and who had succeeded in
turning thousands of disaffected persons into ardent Loyalists, he was
nevertheless troubled by a lurking suspicion that Lotys had secretly
known and favoured the King's scheme. Vaguely ashamed in his own mind
of the idea, he yet found himself giving way to it now and again, as he
remembered how she had defended his life,--not once but twice,--and how
she had often frankly declared her admiration for the unselfishness,
heroism, and tireless energy of the so-called 'Pasquin Leroy.' After
much perplexed meditation, he came at last to one resolve.
"She must be my wife!" he said, his eyes gleaming with a sudden fire of
passion and determination combined; "If,--as she says,--she does not
love me, she must learn to love me! Then, all will be well! With her,
it is possible I may reach still greater heights; without her, I can do
Meantime, while the results of the Election to what was now called 'The
Royal Government,' were being daily recorded in all parts of the world,
and the King himself, from a selection of the ablest and most
honourably-proved men of the time, was forming a new Ministry, the news
of these radical changes in the kingdom's affairs, spreading rapidly
everywhere by cable, as news always spreads nowadays, reached a certain
far corner in one of the most beautiful provinces of India,--a corner
scarcely known to the conventional traveller,--where, in a wondrous
palace, lent to them by one of the most civilised and kindly of
Oriental potentates,--a palace surrounded by gardens that might have
been a true copy of the fabled Eden, Prince Humphry and the fair
'Gloria' of his life, were passing a happy, 'hidden-away' time of
The evening on which they learned that their own nation demanded their
return was 'like the night of Al-Kadir, better than a thousand months.'
All day long the heat had been intense,--and they had remained indoors
enjoying the coolness of marble courts and corridors, and plashing
fountains,--but with the sunset a soft breeze had sprung up, and
Gloria, passing into the shadiest corner of the gardens, had laid
herself down in a silken hammock swung between two broad sycamore
trees, and there, gently swaying to and fro, she watched her husband
reading the various European journals that had arrived for his host by
that day's mail. Beautiful always, she had grown lovelier than ever in
these halcyon days of rest, when 'Love took up the harp of Life and
smote on all the chords with might; Smote the chord of Self, that,
trembling, pass'd in music out of sight.' To her native grace she now
united a distinctive dignity which added to her always gracious and
queenly charm, and never had she looked more exquisite than now, when
rocking gently in the suspended network of woven turquoise silk fringed
with silver, she rested her head against cushions of the same delicate
hue, and turned her expressive eyes enquiringly towards her husband,--
wondering what kept him so silent, and what was the cause of the little
line of anxiety which furrowed his brow. Clad in a loose diaphanous
robe of white, with a simple band of silver clasping it round her
supple form, her rich hair caught carelessly back with a knot of
scarlet passion-flowers, she looked a creature too fair for earth, a
being all divine; and the Prince presently turning his glances towards
her, evidently thought so, from the adoring tenderness with which he
bent over her and kissed the ripe, red, smiling lips which pouted so
deliciously to take the offered caress.
"They want us back, my Gloria!" he said; "The Nation asks for me--and
She raised herself a little on one arm.
"Do they know all?"
"Yes! The King, my father, has announced everything concerning our
marriage, not only to the Government, but by special 'manifesto' to the
People. I did not think he would be so brave!"
"Or so true!" said Gloria, her eyes darkening and deepening with the
intensity of her thought. "Let me read this strange news, Humphry!"
He gave her the papers,--and a few tears sparkled on her lashes like
diamonds and fell, as with a beating heart she read of the complete
triumph of the King over the Socialist and Revolutionary party,--of his
march with the multitude to the Government House,--of his bold
denunciation of Carl Pérousse, ending in the utter overthrow of a
fraudulent Ministry,--and of his determination to renounce for five
years, one half his royal revenues in order to personally assist the
deficit in the National Exchequer.
"He is, in very truth a King!" she said, looking up with flushed cheeks
and sparkling eyes,--"Surely the noblest in the world!"
Prince Humphry's face expressed wonderment as well as admiration.
"I have been utterly mistaken in him,"--he confessed,--"Or else,
something has greatly changed his ideas. I should never have deemed him
capable of running so much risk of his position, or of showing so much
heroism, candour and self-sacrifice. All my life I have been accustomed
to see him more or less indifferent to everything but his own pleasure,
and more or less careless of the griefs of others; but now it seems as
if he had kept himself back on purpose, only to declare his true
character more openly and boldly in the end!"
Gloria read on, with eagerness and interest, till she came to the
King's 'manifesto' regarding his son's marriage with 'a daughter of the
People.' She pointed to this expression with the tapering, rosy point
of her delicate little finger.
"That is me!" she said; "I _am_ a daughter of the People! I am
proud of the name!"
"You are my wife!" said the Prince; "And you are Crown Princess of the
She looked meditative.
"I am not sure I like that title so well!" she said surveying him
archly under the shadow of her long lashes; "Indeed--if _you_ were
not Crown Prince,--I should not like it at all!"
Prince Humphry smiled, and tenderly touched the scarlet passion-flowers
in her hair.
"But as I am Crown Prince, you will try to put up with it, my Gloria!"
and he kissed her again. "We must return home, Sweetheart!--and as
speedily as possible,--though I am sorry our restful honey-time is
Gloria looked wistfully around her,--over the long smooth undulating
lawns, the thickets of myrtle and orange, the lovely deep groves of
trees, and away to the peaks of the distant dark blue hills, over which
a great golden moon was slowly rising.
"I am sorry too!" she said; "I could live always like this, in peace
with you, far, far away from all the world! Hark!"
She held up her hand to invite attention, as the delicious warble of a
nightingale, or 'bul-bul' broke the heated silence into liquid melody.
Her lover-husband took that little uplifted hand, and drawing it in his
own, kissed it fondly,--and so for a moment they were very quiet, while
the little brown bird of music poured from its palpitating throat a
cadence of heart-moving song. Gradually, the golden splendour of the
Indian moonlight widened through the trees, enveloping them in its
clear luminous radiance; and the two beautiful human creatures, gazing
into each other's eyes with all the unspeakable rapture of a perfect
love, touched that wondrous height of pure mutual passion which makes
things temporal seem very far off, and things eternal very near.
"If life could always be like this," murmured Gloria; "We should surely
understand God better! We should feel that He truly loved us, and
wished us to love each other! Ah, if only all the world were as happy
as I am!"
"You will help to make a great part of it so, my beloved!" said the
Prince; "You will bring with you into our kingdom, comfort for the
sorrowful, aid to the poor, sympathy for the lonely, thought for all!
You will forget nothing that calls for your remembrance, my Sweet! And
one nation at least, will know what it is to have a true woman's love
to light up the darkness of a Throne!"
That night a cable message was sent by the Prince to his father,
stating his intention to return home immediately. The Oriental
potentate who had generously placed his palace at the Royal lovers'
disposal, and had religiously preserved the secret of their identity
and whereabouts, being himself much fascinated and interested by the
romance of their story, now commanded festivals and illuminations for
their entertainment before their departure, and within a fortnight of
the despatch of his message, the Prince's yacht had left the mystic
shores of the East, and started on its homeward journey.
The news that the Crown Prince was returning with his bride, set all
the country in a flutter of excitement, and the General Election being
concluded, and the meeting of the new Government being deferred until
after the Heir-Apparent's return, the people of every city and town and
province set themselves busily to work to prepare suitable festivities
for the homecoming of the Royal pair. At The Islands especially the
spirit of enthusiasm was complete--all sorts of ideas for fêtes and
sports, and bonfires and illuminations, exercised the minds of the
simple fisher-folk, who were wild with joy at the singular destiny that
had befallen their 'waif of the sea' as they were wont to call the
beautiful girl who had grown up among them,--and the aged Réné Ronsard
was made the centre of their interest and attention,--even of their
adulation. But Ronsard had grown very listless of late. His age began
to tell heavily upon him, and the news that Gloria was returning in all
triumph as Crown Princess, moved him but little.
"She would have been happier as a simple sailor's wife!" he averred,
when Professor von Glauben, who visited him constantly, sought to rouse
him from the apathy into which he appeared to have sunk. "The greater
the position, the heavier the burden!--the more outwardly brilliant the
appearance of life, the deeper its secret bitterness!"
"But Gloria has Love with her, my friend!" urged the Professor; "And
Love makes the bitterest things sweet!"
Ronsard's aged eyes sparkled faintly.
"Ay, Love!" he echoed; "A dream--a delusion--and a snare! Unless it be
a love strong enough to drag one down to death!--and then it is the
strongest power in the world! It is a terror and a martyrdom,--and in
nothing shall its desire be thwarted! If It calls--even kings obey!"
BETWEEN TWO PASSIONS
Slowly, and with hesitating steps, Sergius Thord mounted the long
flight of stairs leading to the quiet attic which Lotys called 'home.'
Here she lived; here she had chosen to live ever since Thord had made
her, as he said, the 'Soul of the Revolutionary Ideal.' Here, since the
King had conquered the Revolutionary Ideal altogether, and had made it
a Loyalist centre, did she dwell still, though she had now some
thoughts of yielding to the child Pequita's earnest pleading, and
taking up her abode with her and her father, in a pretty little house
in the suburbs which, since Pequita's success as _première
danseuse_ at the Opera, Sholto had been able to afford, and to look
upon as something like a comfortable dwelling-place. For with the
election of Thord to the dignity of a Deputy, had, of course, come the
necessity of resigning his old quarters where his 'Revolutionary'
meetings had been held,--and he now resided in a more 'respectable'
quarter of the city, in such sober, yet distinctive fashion as became
one who was a friend of the King's, and who was likely to be a Minister
some day, when he had further proved his political mettle. So that
Sholto had no longer any need to try and eke out a scanty subsistence
by letting rooms to revolutionists and 'suspects' generally,--and Thord
himself had helped him to make a change for the better, as had also the
But Lotys had not as yet moved. She had lived so long among the
desperately poor, who were accustomed to go to her for sympathy and
aid, that she could not contemplate leaving so many sick and suffering
and sorrowful ones alone to fight their bitter battle. So had she said,
at least, to Thord, when he had endeavoured to persuade her to
establish herself in greater comfort, and in a part of the city which
had a 'better-class' reputation. She had listened to his suggestions
with a somewhat melancholy smile.
"Once,--and not so very long ago,--for you there was no such thing as
the 'better-class,' Sergius!" she said; "You were wont to declare that
rich and poor alike were all one family in the sight of God!"
"I have not altered my opinion," said Thord, a slight flush colouring
his cheek; "But--you are a woman--and as a woman should have every
care and tenderness."
"So should my still poorer sisters," she replied; "And it is for those
who have least comfort, that comfort should be provided. I am perfectly
well and happy where I am!"
Remembering her fixed ideas on this point, there was an uneasy sense of
trouble in Thord's mind as he ventured again on what he feared would be
a fruitless errand.
"If I could command her!" he thought, chafing inwardly at his own
impotence to persuade or lead this woman, whose character and will were
so much more self-contained and strong than his own. "If I could only
exercise some authority over her! But I cannot. What small debt of
gratitude she owed me as a child, has long been cleared by her constant
work and the assistance she has given to me,--and unless she will
consent to be my wife, I know I shall lose her altogether. For she will
never submit to live on money that she has not earned."
Arrived at the summit of the staircase he had been climbing, he knocked
at the first door which faced him on the uppermost landing.
"Come in!" said the low, sweet voice that had thrilled and comforted so
many human souls; and entering as he was bidden, he saw Lotys seated in
a low chair near the window, rocking a tiny infant, so waxen-like and
meagre, that it looked more like a corpse than a living child.
"The mother died last night," she said gently, in response to his look
of interrogation; "She had been struggling against want and sickness
for a long time. God was merciful in taking her at last! The father has
to go out all day in search of work,--often a vain search; so I do what
I can for this poor little one!"
And she bent over the forlorn waif of humanity, kissing its pale small
face, and pressing it soothingly to her warm, full breast. She looked
quite beautiful in that Madonna-like attitude of protection and love,--
her gold hair drooping against the slim whiteness of her throat,--her
deep blue eyes full of that tenderness for the defenceless and weak,
which is the loveliest of all womanly expressions.
Sergius Thord drew a chair opposite to her, and sat down.
"You are always doing good, Lotys!" he said, with a slight tremor in
his voice; "There is no day in your life without its record of help to
She shook her head deprecatingly, and went on caressing and soothing
the tiny babe in silence.
After a pause, he spoke again.
"I have come to you, Lotys, to ask you many things!"
She looked up with a little smile.
"Do you need advice, Sergius? Nay, surely not!--you have passed beyond
it--you are a great man!"
He moved impatiently.
"Great? What do you mean? I am Deputy for the city, it is true--but
that is not the height of my ambition; it is only a step towards it."
"To what do you aspire?" she queried. "A place in the Ministry? You
will get that if you wait long enough! And then--will you be
"No--I shall never be satisfied--never till--"
He broke off and shifted his position. His fierce eyes rested tenderly
upon her as she sat holding the motherless infant caressingly in her
"You have heard the latest news?" he asked presently, "That Carl
Pérousse has left the country?"
"No, I have not heard that," said Lotys; "But why was he allowed to go
without being punished for his dishonesty?"
"To punish him, would have involved the punishment of many more
associated with him," replied Thord; "His estates are confiscated;--the
opportunity was given him to escape, in order to avoid further
Ministerial scandals,--and he has taken the chance afforded him!"
She was silent.
"Jost too has gone," pursued Thord; "He has sold his paper to his chief
rival. So that now both journals are amalgamated under one head, and
work for the same cause--our cause, and the King's."
Lotys looked up with a slight smile.
"It is the same old system then?" she said. "For whereas before there
was one newspaper subsidised by a fraudulent Ministry, there are now
two, subsidised by the Royal Government;--with which the Socialist
party is united!"
"You mistake! We shall subsidise no newspaper whatever. We shall not
pursue any such mistaken policy."
"Believe me, you will be compelled to do so, Sergius!" she declared,
still smiling; "Or some other force will step in! Do you not see that
politics always revolve in the same monotonous round? You have called
me the Soul of an Ideal,--but even when I worked my hardest with you, I
knew it was an Ideal that could never be realised! But the practice of
your theories led me among the poor, where I felt I could be useful,--
and for this reason I conjoined what brains I had, what strength I had,
with yours. Yet, no matter how men talk of 'Revolution,' any and every
form of government is bound to run on the old eternal lines, whether it
be Imperial, Socialistic or Republican. Men are always the same
children--never satisfied,--ever clamouring for change,--tired of one
toy and crying for another,--so on and on,--till the end! I would
rather save a life"--and she glanced pityingly down upon the sleeping
infant she held-"than upset a throne!"
"I quite believe that;" said Sergius slowly; "You are a woman, most
womanly! If you could only learn to love----"
He paused, startled at the sudden rush of colour that spread over her
cheeks and brow; but it was a wave of crimson that soon died away,
leaving her very pale.
"Love is not for me, Sergius!" she said; "I am no longer young.
Besides, the days of romance never existed for me at all, and now it is
too late. I have grown too much into the habit of looking upon men as
poor little emmets, clambering up and down the same tiny hill of
earth,--their passions, their ambitions, their emotions, their
fightings and conquests, their panoply and pride, do not interest me,
though they move me to pity; I seem to stand alone, looking beyond,
straight through the glorious world of Nature, up to the infinite
spaces above, searching for God!"
"Yet you care for that waif?" said Thord with a gesture towards the
child she held.
"Because it is helpless," she answered; "only that! If it ever lives to
grow up and be a man, it will forget that a woman ever held it, or
cherished it so! No wild beast of the forest--no treacherous serpent of
the jungle, is more cruel in its inherited nature, than man when he
deals with woman;--as lover, he betrays her,--as wife, he neglects
her,--as mother, he forgets her!"
"You have a bad opinion of my sex!" said Thord, half angrily; "Would
you say thus much of the King?"
She started, then controlled herself.
"The King is brave,--but beyond exceptional courage, I do not think he
differs from other men."
"Have you seen him lately?"
The answer came coldly, and with evident resentment at the query. Thord
hesitated a minute or two, looking at her yearningly; then he suddenly
laid his hand on her arm.
"Lotys!" he said in a half-whisper; "If you would only love me! If you
would be my wife!"
She raised her dark-blue pensive eyes.
"My poor Sergius! With all your triumphs, do you still hanker for a
wayside weed? Alas!--the weed has tough roots that cannot be pulled up
to please you! I would make you happy if I could, dear friend!--but in
the way you ask, I cannot!"
His heart beat thickly.
"Why? Ask why the rain will not melt marble into snow! I love you,
Sergius--but not with such love as you demand. And I would not be your
wife for all the world!"
He restrained himself with difficulty.
She gave a slight movement of impatience.
"In the first place, because we should not agree. In the second place,
because I abhor the very idea of marriage. I see, day by day, what
marriage means, even among the poor--the wreck of illusions--the death
of ideals--the despairing monotony of a mere struggle to live--"
"I shall not be poor now;" said Thord; "All my work would be to make
you happy, Lotys! I would surround you with every grace and luxury--
with love, with worship, with tenderness! With your intelligence and
fascination you would be honoured,--famous!"
He broke off, interrupted by her gesture of annoyance.
"Let me hear no more of this, Sergius!" she said. "You were very good
to me when I was a castaway child, and I do not forget it. But you must
not urge a claim upon me to which I cannot respond. I have given some
of the best years of my life to assist your work, to win you your
followers,--and to advance what I have always recognised as an exalted,
though impossible creed--but now, for the rest of the time left to me,
I must have my own way!"
He sprang up suddenly and confronted her.
"My God!" he cried. "Is it possible you do not understand! All my work
--all my plans--all my scheming and plotting has been for you--to make
you happy! To give you high place and power! Without you, what do I
care for the world? What do I care whether men are rich or poor--
whether they starve or die! It is you I want to serve--you! It is for
your sake I have desired to win honour and position. Have pity on me,
Lotys! Have pity! I have seen you grow up to womanhood--I have loved
every inch of your stature--every hair of the gold on your head--every
glance of your eyes--every bright flash of your intelligent spirit! Oh,
I have loved you, and love you, Lotys, as no man ever loved woman!
Everything I have attempted--everything I have done, has been that you
might think me worthier of love. For the Country and the People I care
nothing--nothing! I only care for you!"
She rose, holding the sleeping child to her like a shield. Her features
seemed to have grown rigid with an inflexible coldness.
"So then," she said, "You are no better than the men you have blamed!
You confess yourself as false to the People as the Minister you have
displaced! You have served their Cause,--not because you love them, but
simply because you love Me!--and you would force me to become your
wife, not because you love Me, so much as you love Yourself! Self alone
is at the core of your social creed! Why, you are not a whit higher
than the vulgarest millionaire that ever stole a people's Trade to
further his own ends!"
"Lotys! Lotys!" he cried, stung to the quick; "You judge me wrongly--by
Heaven, you do!"
"I judge you only by your own words;" she answered steadily; "They
condemn you more than I do. I thought you were sincere in your love for
the People! I thought your work was all for them,--not for me! I judged
that you sought to gain authority in order to remedy their many
wrongs;--but if, after all, you have been fighting your way to power
merely to make yourself, as you thought, more acceptable to me as a
husband, you have deceived me in the honesty of your intentions as
grossly as you have deceived the King!"
"The King!" he cried; "The King!"
She flashed a proud and passionate glance upon him--and then--he
suddenly found himself alone. She had left the room; and though he knew
there was only one wall, one door between them, he dared not follow.
Glancing around him at the simple furniture of the chamber he stood in,
which, though only an attic, was bright and fresh and sweet, with
bunches of wildflowers set here and there in simple and cheap crystal
vases, he sighed heavily. The poor and 'obscure' life was perhaps,
after all, the highest, holiest and best! All at once his eyes lighted
on one large cluster of flowers that were neither wild nor common, a
knot of rare roses and magnificent orchids, tied together with a golden
ribbon. He looked at them jealously, and his soul was assailed by
sudden resentment and suspicion. His face changed, his teeth closed
hard on his under lip, and he clenched his hand unconsciously.
"If it is so--if it should be so!" he muttered; "There may be yet
another and more complete Day of Fate!"
He left the room then, descending the stairs more rapidly than he had
climbed them, and as he went out of the house and up the street, he
stumbled against Paul Zouche.
"Whither away, brave Deputy?" cried this irresponsible being; "Whither
away? To rescue the poor and the afflicted?--or to stop the King from
poaching on your own preserves?"
With a force of which he was himself unconscious, he gripped Zouche by
"What do you mean?" he whispered thickly;--"Speak! What do you know?"
Zouche laughed stupidly.
"What do I know?" he echoed; "Why, what should I know, blockhead, save
what all who have eyes to see, know as well as I do! Sergius, your
grasp is none of the lightest; let me go!" Then as the other's hand
fell from his arm, he continued. "It is you who are the blind man
leading the blind! You--who like all thick-skulled reformers, can never
perceive what goes on under your own nose! But what does it matter?
What does anything matter? I told you long ago she would never love
you; I knew long ago that she loved his Majesty, 'Pasquin Leroy!'"
"Curse you!" said Thord suddenly, in such low infuriated accents that
the oath sounded more like a wild beast's snarl. "Why did you not tell
me? Why did you not warn me?"
Zouche shrugged his shoulders, and began to sidle aimlessly along the
"You would not have believed me!" he said; "Nobody believes anything
that is unpleasant to themselves! If you had not some suspicion in your
own mind, you would not believe me now! I am foolish--you are wise! I
am a poet--you are a reformer! I am drunk--you are sober! And with it
all, Lotys is the only one who keeps her head clear. Lotys was always
the creature of common-sense among us; she understood you--she
understood me--and better than either of us--she understood the King!"
"No, no!" whispered Thord, more to himself than his companion; "She
could not--she could not have known!"
"Now you look as Nature meant you to look!" exclaimed Zouche, staring
wildly at him; "Savage as a bear;--pitiless as a snake! God! What men
can become when they are baulked of their desires! But it is no use, my
Sergius!--you have gained power in one direction, but you have lost it
in another! You cannot have your cake, and eat it!" Here he reeled
against the wall,--then straightening himself with a curious effort at
dignity, he continued: "Leave her alone, Sergius! Leave Lotys in peace!
She is a good soul! Let her love where she will and how she will,--she
has the right to choose her lover,--the right!--by Heaven!--it is a
right denied to no woman! And if she has chosen the King, she is only
one of many who have done the same!"
With a smothered sound between a curse and a groan, Thord suddenly
wheeled round away from him and left him. Vaguely surprised, yet too
stupefied to realise that his rambling words might have worked serious
mischief, Zouche gazed blinkingly on his retreating figure.
"The same old story!" he muttered, with a foolish laugh; "Always a
woman in it! He has won leadership and power,--he has secured the
friendship of a King,--but if the King is his rival in matters of love--
ah!--that is a worse danger for the Throne than the spread of
He rambled off unthinkingly, and gave the only part of him which
remained still active, his poetic instinct, up to the composition of a
delicate love-song, which he wrote between two taverns and several
Late in the afternoon--just after sundown--a small close brougham drove
up to the corner of the street where stood the tenement house,--divided
into several separate flats,--in which the attic where Lotys dwelt was
one of the most solitary and removed portions. The King alighted from
the carriage unobserved, and ascended the stairs on which Sergius
Thord's steps had echoed but a few hours gone by. Knocking at the door
as Sergius had done, he was in the same way bidden to enter, but as he
did so, Lotys, who was seated within, quite alone, started up with a
faint cry of terror.
"You here!" she exclaimed in trembling accents; "Oh, why, why have you
come! Sir, I beg of you to leave this place!--at once, before there is
any chance of your being seen; your Majesty should surely know----!"
"Majesty me no majesties, Lotys!" said the King, lightly; "I have been
forbidden this little shrine too long! Why should I not come to see
you? Are you not known as an angel of comfort to the sorrowful and the
lonely?--and will you not impart such consolation to me, as I may, in
my many griefs deserve? Nay, Lotys, Lotys! No tears!--no tears, dearest
of women! To see you weep is the only thing that could possibly unman
me, and make even 'Pasquin Leroy' lose his nerve!"
He approached her, and sought to take her hand, but she turned away
from him, and he saw her bosom heave with a passion of repressed
"Lotys!" he then said, with exceeding gentleness; "What is this? Why
are you unhappy? I have written to you every day since that night when
your lips clung to mine for one glad moment,--I have poured out my soul
to you with more or less eloquence, and surely with passion!--every day
I have prayed you to receive me, and yet you have vouchsafed no reply
to one who is by your own confession 'the only man you love'! Ah,
Lotys!--you will not now deny that sweet betrayal of your heart! Do you
know that was the happiest day of my life?--the day on which I was
threatened by Death, and saved by Love!"
His mellow voice thrilled with its underlying tenderness;--he caught
her hand and kissed it; but she was silent.
With all the yearning passion which had been pent up in him for many
months, he studied the pure outlines of her brow and throat--the
falling sunlight glow of her hair--the deep azure glory of the pitying
eyes, half veiled beneath their golden lashes, and just now sparkling
"All my life," he said softly, still holding her hand; "I have longed
for love! All my life I have lacked it! Can you imagine, then, what it
was to me, Lotys, when I heard you say you loved my Resemblance,--the
poor Pasquin Leroy!--and even so I knew you loved me? When you praised
me as Pasquin, and cursed me as King, how my heart burned with desire
to clasp you in my arms, and tell you all the truth of my disguise! But
to hear you speak as you did of me, so unconsciously, so tenderly, so
bravely, was the sweetest gladness I have ever known! I felt myself a
king at last, in very deed and truth!--and it was for the love of you,
and because of your love for me, that I determined to do all I could
for my son Humphry, and the woman of his choice! For, finding myself
loved, I swore that he should not be deprived of love. I have done what
I could to ensure his happiness; but after all, it is your doing, and
the result of your influence! You are the sole centre of my good deeds,
Lotys!--you have been my star of destiny from the very first day I saw
you!--from the moment when I signed my bond with you in your own pure
blood, I loved you! And I know that you loved me!"
She turned her eyes slowly upon him,--what eyes!--tearless now, and
glittering with the burning fever of the sad and suffering soul behind
"You forget!" she said in hushed, trembling accents; "You are the
He lifted her hand to his lips again, and pressed its cool small palm
against his brows.
"What then, my dearest? Must the King, because he is King, go through
"Unless the King is loved with honour," said Lotys in the same hushed
voice; "He must go unloved!"
He dropped her hand and looked at her. She was very pale--her breath
came and went quickly, but her eyes were fixed upon him steadily,--and
though her whole heart cried out for his sympathy and tenderness, she
did not flinch.
"Lotys!" he said; "Are you so cold, so frozen in an ice-wall of
conventionality that you cannot warm to passion--not even to that
passion which every pulse of you is ready to return? What do you want
of me? Lover's oaths? Vows of constancy? Oh, beloved woman as you are,
do you not understand that you have entered into my very heart of
hearts--that you hold my whole life in your possession? You--not I--are
the ruling power of this country! What you say, that I will do! What
you command, that will I obey! While you live, I will live--when you
die, I will die! Through you I have learned the value of sovereignty,--
the good that can be done to a country by honest work in kingship,--
through you I have won back my disaffected subjects to loyalty;--it is
all you--only you! And if you blamed me once as a worthless king, you
shall never have cause to so blame me again! But you must help me,--you
must help me with your love!"
She strove to control the beating of her heart, as she looked upon him
and listened to his pleading. She resolutely shut her soul to the
persuasive music of his voice, the light of his eyes, the tenderness of
"What of the Queen?" she said.
He started back, as though he had been stung.
"The Queen!" he repeated, mechanically--"The Queen!"
"Ay, the Queen!" said Lotys. "She is your wife--the mother of your
sons! She has never loved you, you would say,--you have never loved
her. But you are her husband! Would you make me your mistress?"
Her voice was calm. She put the plain question point-blank, without a
note of hesitation. His face paled suddenly.
"Lotys!" he said, and stretched out his hands towards her; "Lotys, I
A change passed over her,--rapid and transfiguring as a sudden radiance
from heaven. With an impulsive gesture, beautiful in its wild
abandonment, she cast herself at his feet.
"And I love you!" she said. "I love you with every breath of my body,
every pulse of my heart! I love you with the entire passion of my life!
I love you with all the love pent up in my poor starved soul since
childhood until now!--I love you more than woman ever loved either
lover or husband! I love you, my lord and King!--but even as I love
you, I honour you! No selfish thought of mine shall ever tarnish the
smallest jewel in your Crown! Oh, my beloved! My Royal soul of courage!
What do you take me for? Should I be worthy of your thought if I
dragged you down? Should I be Lotys,--if, like some light woman who can
be bought for a few jewels,--I gave myself to you in that fever of
desire which men mistake for love? Ah, no!--ten thousand times no! I
love you! Look at me,--can you not see how my soul cries out for you?
How my lips hunger for your kisses--how I long, ah, God! for all the
tenderness which I know is in your heart for me,--I, so lonely, weary,
and robbed of all the dearest joys of life!--but I will not shame you
by my love, my best and dearest! I will not set you one degree lower in
the thoughts of the People, who now idolise you and know you as the
brave, true man you are! My love for you would be poor indeed, if I
could not sacrifice myself altogether for your sake,--you, who are my
He heard her,--his whole soul was shaken by the passion of her words.
"Lotys!" he said,--and again--"Lotys!"
He drew her up from her kneeling attitude, and gathering her close in
his arms, kissed her tenderly, reverently--as a man might kiss the lips
of the dead.
"Must it be so, Lotys?" he whispered; "Must we dwell always apart?"
Her eyes, beautiful with a passion of the highest and holiest love,
looked full into his.
"Always apart, yet always together, my beloved!" she answered;
"Together in thought, in soul, in aspiration!--in the hope and
confidence that God sees us, and knows that we seek to live purely in
His sight! Oh, my King, you would not have it otherwise! You would not
have our love defiled! How common and easy it would be for me to give
myself to you!--as other women are only too ready to give themselves,--
to take your tenderness, your care, your admiration,--to demand your
constant attendance on my lightest humour!--to bring you shame by my
persistent companionship!--to cause an open slander, and allow the
finger of scorn to be pointed at you!--to see your honour made a
mockery of, by base, persons who would judge you as one, who,
notwithstanding his brave espousal of the People's Cause, was yet a
slave to the caprice of a woman! Think something more of me than this!
Do not put me on the level of such women as once brought your name into
contempt! They did not love you!--they loved themselves! But I--I love
you! Oh, my dearest lord, if self were concerned at all in this great
love of my heart, I would not suffer your arms to rest about me now!--
I would not let your lips touch mine!--but it is for the last time,
beloved!--the last time! And so I put my hands here on your heart--I kiss
your lips--I say with all my soul in the prayer--God bless you!--God
keep you!--God save you, my King! Though I shall live apart from you all
my days, my spirit is one with yours! God will know that truth when we
meet--on the other side of Death!"
Her tears fell fast, and he bent over her, torn by a tempest of
conflicting emotions, and kissing the soft hair that lay loosely
ruffled against his breast.
"Then it shall be so, Lotys!" he murmured, at last. "Your wish is my
law!--it shall be as you command! I will fulfil such duties as I must
in this world,--and the knowledge of your love for me,--your trust in
me,--shall keep me high in the People's honour! Old follies shall be
swept away--old sins atoned for;--and when we meet, as you say, on the
other side of Death, God will perchance give us all that we have longed
for in this world--all that we have lost!"
His voice shook,--he could not further rely on his self-control.
"I will not tempt you, Lotys!" he whispered--"I dare not tempt myself!
God bless you!"
He put her gently from him, and stood for a moment irresolute. All the
hope he had indulged in of a sweeter joy than any he had ever known,
was lost,--and yet--he knew he had no right to press upon her a love
which, to her, could only mean dishonour.
"Good-bye, Lotys!" he said, huskily; "My one love in this world and the
She gazed at him with her whole soul in her eyes,--then suddenly, and
with the tenderest grace in the world, dropped on her knees and kissed
"God save your Majesty!" she said, with a poor little effort at smiling
through her tears; "For many and many a long and happy year, when Lotys
is no more!"
With a half cry he snatched her up in his arms and pressed her to his
heart, showering kisses on her lips, her eyes, her hair, her little
hands!--then, with a movement as abrupt as it was passion-stricken, put
her quickly from him and left her.
She listened with straining ears to the quick firm echo of his
footsteps departing from her, and echoing down the stairs. She caught
the ring of his tread on the pavement outside. She heard the grinding
roll of the wheels of his carriage as he was rapidly driven away. He
had gone! As she realised this, her courage suddenly failed her, and
sinking down beside the chair in which he had for a moment sat, she
laid her head upon it, and wept long and bitterly. Her conscience told
her that she had done well, but her heart--the starving woman's heart,--
was all unsatisfied, and clamoured for its dearest right--love! And
she had of her own will, her own choice, put love aside,--the most
precious, the most desired love in the world!--she had sent it away out
of her life for ever! True, she could call it back, if she chose with a
word--but she knew that for the sake of a king, and a country's honour,
she would not so call it back! She might have said with one of the most
human of poets:
"Will someone say, then why not ill for good?
Why took ye not
your pastime? To that man
My word shall answer, since I knew the Right
And did it." [Footnote: Tennyson ]
A shadowy form moving uncertainly to and fro near the corner of the
street, appeared to spring forward and to falter back again, as the
King, hurriedly departing, glanced up and down the street once or twice
as though in doubt or questioning, and then walked to his brougham. The
soft hues of a twilight sky, in which the stars were beginning to
appear, fell on his face and showed it ashy pale; but he was absorbed
in his own sad and bitter thoughts,--lost in his own inward
contemplation of the love which consumed him,--and he saw nothing of
that hidden watcher in the semi-gloom, gazing at him with such fierce
eyes of hate as might have intimidated even the bravest man. He entered
his carriage and was rapidly driven away, and the shadow,--no other
than Sergius Thord,--stumbling forward,--his brain on fire, and a
loaded pistol in his hand,--had hardly realised his presence before he
"Why did I not kill him?" he muttered, amazed at his own hesitation;
"He stood here, close to me! It would have been so easy!"
He remained another moment or two gazing around him at the streets, at
the roofs, at the sky, as though in a wondering dream,--then all at
once, it seemed as if every cell in his brain had suddenly become
superhumanly active. His eyes flashed fury,--and turning swiftly into
the house which the King had just left, he ran madly up the stairs as
though impelled by a whirlwind, and burst without bidding, straight
into the room where Lotys still knelt, weeping. At the noise of his
entrance she started up, the tears wet on her face.
"Sergius!" she cried.
He looked at her, breathing heavily.
"Yes,--Sergius!" he said, his voice sounding thick and husky, and
unlike itself. "I am Sergius! Or I was Sergius, before you made of me a
nameless devil! And you--you are Lotys!--you are weeping for the lover
who has just parted from you! You are Lotys--the mistress of the King!"
She made him no answer. Drawing herself up to her full height, she
flashed upon him a look of utter scorn, and maintained a contemptuous
"Mistress of the King!" he repeated, speaking in hard gasps; "You,--
Lotys,--have come to this! You,--the spotless Angel of our Cause!
You!--why,--I sicken at the sight of you! Oh, you fulfil thoroughly the
mission of your sex!--which is to dupe and betray men! You were the
traitor all along! You knew the real identity of 'Pasquin Leroy'! He
was your lover from the first,--and to him you handed the secrets of
the Committee, and played Us into his hands! It was well done--
cleverly done!--woman's work in all its best cunning!--but treachery
does not always pay!"
Amazed and indignant, she boldly confronted him.
"You must be mad, Sergius! What do you mean? What sudden accusations
are these? You know they are false--why do you utter them?"
He sprang towards her, and seized her roughly by the arm.
"How do I know they are false?" he said. "Prove to me they are false!
Who saved the King's life? You! And why? Because you knew he was
'Pasquin Leroy'! How was it he gained such swift ascendancy over all
our Committee, and led the work and swayed the men,--and made of me his
tool and servant? Through you again! And why? Because you knew he was
the King! Why have you scorned me--turned from me--thrust me from your
side--denied my love,--though I have loved and cared for you from
childhood! Why, I say? Because you love the King!"
She stood perfectly still,--unmoved by his frantic manner--by the glare
of his bloodshot eyes, and his irrepressible agony of rage and
jealousy. Quietly she glanced him up and down.
"You are right!" she said tranquilly; "I do love the King!"
A horrible oath broke from his lips, and for a moment his face grew
crimson with the rising blood that threatened to choke the channels of
his brain. An anxious pity softened her face.
"Sergius!" she said gently, "You are not yourself--you rave--you do not
know what you say! What has maddened you? What have I done? You know my
life is free--I have a right to do with it as I will, and even as my
life is free, so is my love! I cannot love where I am bidden--I must
love where Love itself calls!"
He stood still, staring at her. He seemed to have lost the power of
"You have insulted me almost beyond pardon!" she went on. "Your
accusations are all lies! I love the King,--but I am not the King's
mistress! I would no more be his mistress than I would be your wife!"
Slowly, slowly, his hand got at something in his pocket and clutched it
almost unconsciously. Slowly, slowly, he raised that hand, still
clutching that something,--and his lips parted in a breathless way,
showing the wolfish glimmer of white teeth within.
"You--love--the King!" he said in deliberate accents. "And you dare--
you dare to tell me so?"
She raised her golden head with a beautiful defiance and courage.
"I love the King!" she said--"And I dare to tell you so!"
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