Part 11 out of 11
With a lightning quickness of movement the hand that had been groping
after an unseen evil now came out into the light, with a sudden sharp
crash, and flame of fire!
A faint cry tore the air.
And Lotys staggered back--stunned, deafened--sick, dizzy----
"Death, death!" she thought, wildly; "This is death!"
And, with a last desperate rallying of her sinking force, as every
memory of her life swept over her brain in that supreme moment, she
sprang at her murderer and wrenched the weapon from his hand, clutching
it hard and fast in her own.
"Say--say I did it--myself--!" she gasped, in short quick sobs of
pain; "Tell the King--I did it myself--myself! Sergius--save your own
She reeled, and with a choking cry fell back heavily--dead! Her hair
came unbound with her fall, and shook itself round her in a gold wave,
as though to hide the horror of the oozing blood that trickled from her
lips and breast.
With a horrid sense of unreality Thord stared upon the evil he had
done. He gazed stupidly around him. He listened for someone to come and
explain to him what had happened. But up in that remote attic, there
was no one to hear either a pistol-shot or a cry. There was only one
thing to be understood and learnt by heart,--that Lotys, once living,
was now dead! Dead! How came she dead? That was what he could not
determine. The heat of his wild fury had passed,--leaving him cold and
passive as a stone.
He whispered the name. Horrible! How she looked,--with all that blood!--
all that golden hair!
'Tell the King I did it myself!' Yes--the King would have to be told--
something! Stooping, he tried to detach the pistol from the lifeless
hand, but the fingers, though still warm were tightened on the weapon,
and he dared not unclasp them. He was afraid! He stood up again, and
looked around him. His glance fell on the knot of regal flowers he had
noticed in the morning,--the great roses,--the voluptuous orchids--tied
with their golden ribbon. He took them hastily and flung them down
beside her,--then watched a little trickling stream of blood running,
running towards one of the whitest and purest of the roses. It reached
it, stained it,--and presently drowned it in a little pool. Horrified,
he covered his eyes, and staggered backward against the door. The
evening was growing dark,--through the small high window he could see
the stars beginning to shine as usual. As usual,--though Lotys was
dead! That seemed strange! Putting one hand behind him, he cautiously
opened the door, still keeping his guarded gaze on that huddled heap of
clothes, and blood, and glittering hair which had been Lotys.
"I must get home," he muttered. "I have business to attend to--as
Deputy to the city, there is much to do--much to do for the People!
The People! My God! And Lotys dead!"
A kind of hysteric laughter threatened him. He pressed his mouth hard
with his hand to choke back this strange, struggling passion.
"Lotys! Lotys is dead! There she lies! Someone, I know not who, killed
her! No,--no! She has killed herself,--she said so! There she lies,
poor Lotys! She will never speak to the People--never comfort them,--
never teach them any more--never hold little motherless infants in her
arms and console them,--never smile on the sorrowful, or cheer the
sick--never! 'I love the King!' she said,--and she died for saying it!
One should not love kings! 'Tell the King I did it myself!' Yes,
Lotys!--lie still--be at peace--the King shall know--soon enough!"
Still muttering uneasily to himself, he went out, always moving
backwards--and with a last look at that fallen breathless form of
murdered woman, shut the door stealthily behind him.
Then, stumbling giddily down the stairs, he wandered, blind and half
crazed, into the darkening night.
SAILING TO THE INFINITE
Great calamities always come suddenly. With the swiftness of lightning
they descend upon the world, often in the very midst of fancied peace
and security,--and the farcical, grinning, sneering apes of humanity,
for whom even the idea of a God has but furnished food for lewd
jesting, are scattered into terror-stricken hordes, who are forced to
realise for the first time in their lives, that whether they believe in
Omnipotence or no, an evident Law of Justice exists, which may not be
outraged with impunity. Sometimes this Law works strangely,--one might
almost say obliquely. It sweeps away persons whom we have judged as
useful to the community, and allows those to remain whom we consider
unnecessary. But 'we,'--all important 'we,'--are not allowed to long
assert or maintain our petty opinions against this unknown undetermined
Force which makes havoc of all our best and most carefully conceived
arrangements. For example, we are not given any practical reason why
Christ,--the Divine Man,--was taken from the world in His youthful
manhood, instead of being permitted to live to a great age for the
further benefit, teaching, and sanctification of His disciples and
followers. Pure, sinless, noble, and truly of God, He was tortured and
crucified as though He were the worst of criminals. And apart from the
Church's explanation of this great Mystery, we may take it as a lesson
that misfortune is like everything else, two-sided;--it falls equally
upon the ungodly and the godly,--with merely this difference--that when
it falls on the ungodly it is, as we are reluctantly forced to admit,
'the act of God'--but when it falls on the godly, it is generally the
proved and evident work of Man.
In this last way, and for no fault at all of her own, had cruel death
befallen Lotys. Such as her career had been, it was unmarked by so much
as a shadow of selfishness or wickedness. From the first day of her
life, sorrow had elected her for its own. She had never known father or
mother;--cast out as an infant in the street, and picked up by Sergius
Thord, she had secured no other protector for her infancy and youth,
than the brooding, introspective man, who was destined in the end to be
her murderer. As a child, she had been passionately grateful to him;
she had learned all she could from the books he gave her to study, and
with a quick brain, and a keen sense of observation, she had become a
proficient in literature, so much so indeed, that more than one half
the Revolutionary treatises and other propaganda which he had sent out
to different quarters of the globe, were from her pen. Her one idea had
been to please and to serve him,--to show her gratitude for his care of
her, and to prove herself useful to him in all his aims. As she grew
up, however, she quickly discerned that his affection for her was
deepening into the passion of a lover; whereupon she had at once
withdrawn from his personal charge, and had made up her mind to live
alone and independently. She desired, so she told him, to subsist on
her own earnings,--and he who could do nothing successfully without
her, was only too glad to give her the rightful share of such financial
results as accrued from the various workings of the Revolutionary
Committee,--results which were sometimes considerable, though never
opulent. And so she had worked on, finding her best happiness in
succouring the poor, and nursing the sick. Her girlhood had passed
without either joy or love,--her womanhood had been bare of all the
happiness that should have graced it. The people had learned to love
her, it is true,--but this more or less distantly felt affection was
far from being the intimate and near love for which she had so often
longed. When at last this love had come to her,--when in 'Pasquin
Leroy' she thought she had found the true companion of her life and
heart,--when he had constantly accompanied her by his own choice, on
her errands of mercy among the poor; and had aided the sick and the
distressed by his own sympathy and tenderness, she had almost allowed
herself to dream of possible happiness. This dream had been encouraged
more than ever, after she had saved the King from assassination.
'Pasquin Leroy' had then become her closest comrade,--always at hand,
and ever ready to fulfil her slightest behest;--while from his ardent
and eloquent glances,--the occasional lingering pressure of his hand,
and the hastily murmured words of tenderness which she could not
misunderstand, she knew that he loved her. But when he had disclosed
his real identity to be that of the King himself, all her fair hopes
had vanished!--and her spirit had shrunk and fallen under the blow.
Worse than all,--when she learned that this great and exalted
Personage, despite his throned dignity, did still continue to entertain
a passion for herself, the knowledge was almost crushing in its effect
upon her mind. Pure in soul and body, she would have chosen death any
time rather than dishonour; and in the recent developments of events
she had sometimes grown to consider death as good, and even desirable.
Now death had come to her through the very hand that had first aided
her to live! And so had she fulfilled the common lot of women, which
is, taken in the aggregate, to be wronged and slain (morally, when not
physically) by the very men they have most unselfishly sought to serve!
The heavy night passed away, and all through its slow hours the
murdered creature lay weltering in her blood, and shrouded in her
hair,--looked at by the pitiless stars and the cold moon, as they shed
their beams in turn through the high attic window. Morning broke; and
the sun shot its first rays down upon the dead,--upon the fixed white
countenance, and on the little hand grown icy cold, but clenched with
iron grip upon the pistol which had been so bravely snatched in that
last moment of life with the unselfish thought of averting suspicion
from the true murderer. With the full break of day, the mistress of the
house going to arouse her lodgers, came up the stairs with a bright
face, cheerfully singing, for her usual morning chat with Lotys was one
of her principal pleasures. Knocking at the door, and receiving no
answer, she turned the handle and pushed it open,--then, with a
piercing scream of horror, she rushed away, calling wildly for help,
and sending frantic cries down the street.
"Lotys! Lotys! Lotys is dead!"
The news flew. The houses poured out their poverty-stricken occupants
from garret to basement; and presently the street was blocked with a
stupefied, grief-stricken crowd. A doctor who had been hastily
summoned, lifted the poor corpse of her whose life had been all love
and pity, and laid it upon the simple truckle-bed, where the living
Lotys had slept, contented with poverty for many years; and after close
and careful examination pronounced it to be a case of suicide. The word
created consternation among all the people.
"Suicide!" they murmured uneasily; "Why should she kill herself? We all
Ay! They all loved her!--and only now when she was gone did they
realise how great that love had been, or how much her thought and
tenderness for them all, had been interwoven with their lives! They had
never stopped to think of the weariness and emptiness of her own life,
or of the longing she herself might have had for the love and care she
so freely gave to others. By and by, as the terrible news was borne in
upon them more convincingly, some began to weep and wail, others to
kneel and pray, others to recall little kindnesses, thoughtful deeds,
unselfish tendernesses, and patient endurances of the dead woman who,
friendless herself, had been their truest friend.
"Who will tell Sergius Thord?" asked a man in the crowd; "Who will
break the news to him?"
There was an awe-stricken silence. No one volunteered such heart-
"Who will tell the King?" suddenly exclaimed a harsh voice, that of
Paul Zouche, who in his habit of hardly ever going to bed, had seen the
crowd gather, and had quickly joined it. "Lotys saved his life! He
should be told!"
His face, always remarkable in its thin, eager, intellectual aspect,
looked ghastly, and his eyes no longer feverish in their brilliancy,
were humanised by the dew of tears.
The weeping people looked at one another. The King had now become a
part of their life and interest,--he was one with them, not apart from
them as once he had been; therefore he must have known how Lotys had
loved them. Yes,--someone should surely tell the King!
"The King must be informed of this," went on Zouche; "If there is no
one else to take the news to him,--I will!"
And before any answer could be given, or any suggestion made, he was
Meanwhile, no person volunteered to fetch Sergius Thord. Every man who
knew him, dreaded the task of telling him that Lotys was dead, self-
slain. Some poor, but tender-hearted women sorrowfully prepared the
corpse for burial, removing the bloodstained clothes with gentle hands,
smoothing out and parting on either side the glorious waves of hair,
while with the greatest care and difficulty they succeeded by slow
degrees in removing the pistol so tightly clenched in the dead hand.
While engaged in this sad duty, they found a sealed paper marked 'My
Last Wish,' and this they put aside till Thord should come. Then they
robed her in white, and laid white flowers upon her breast; and so came
in turns by groups of tens and twenties to kneel beside her and kiss
her hands and say prayers, and weep for the loss of one who had never
uttered a harsh word to any poor or sorrowful person, but whose mission
had been peace and healing, love and resignation, and submission to her
own hard fate until the end!
Meantime Zouche, who had never been near any Royal precincts before,
walked boldly to the Palace. All irresolution had left him;--his step
was firm, his manner self-contained, and only his eyes betrayed the
deep and bitter sorrow of his soul. He was allowed to pass the sentinel
at the outer gates, but at the inner portico of the Palace he was
denied admittance. He maintained his composure, however, and handed in
his written name.
"If I cannot see the King, I must see Sir Roger de Launay!" he said.
At this the men in authority glanced at one another, and began to
unbend;--if this shabby, untidy being knew Sir Roger de Launay, he was
perhaps someone of importance. After a brief consultation together,
they asked him to wait while a messenger was despatched to Sir Roger.
Zouche, with a curious air of passive toleration sat quietly on the
chair they offered, and waited several minutes glancing meanwhile at
the display of splendour and luxury about him with an indifference
bordering on contempt.
"All this magnificence," he mused; "all this wealth cannot purchase
back a life, or bring comfort to a stricken heart! Nor can it vie with
a poet's rhyme, which, often unvalued, and always unpaid for, sometimes
outlasts a thousand thrones!"
Here, seeing the tall figure of Sir Roger de Launay coming between him
and the light, he rose and advanced a step or two.
"Why, Zouche," said Sir Roger kindly, greeting him with a smile; "You
are up betimes! They tell me you want to see the King. Is it not a
somewhat early call? His Majesty has only just left his sleeping-
apartment, and is busy writing urgent letters. Will you entrust me with
Paul Zouche looked at him fixedly.
"My message is from Lotys!" he said deliberately; "And it must be
delivered to the King in person!"
Vaguely alarmed, Sir Roger recoiled a step.
"You bring ill news?" he whispered.
"I do not know whether it will prove ill or well;" answered Zouche
wearily; "But such news as I have, must be told to his Majesty alone."
Sir Roger paused a moment, hesitating; then he said:
"If that is so--if that must be so,--then come with me!"
He led the way, and Zouche followed. Entering the King's private
library where the King himself sat at his writing-desk, Sir Roger
announced the unexpected visitor, adding in a low tone that he came
The King started up, and threw down his pen.
"From Lotys!" he echoed, while through his mind there flew a sudden
sweet hope that after all the star was willing to fall!--the flower was
ready to be gathered!--and that the woman who had sent him away from
her the day before, had a heart too full of love to remain obdurate to
the pleadings of her kingly lover!--"Paul Zouche, with a message from
Lotys? Let him come in!"
Whereupon Zouche, bidden to enter, did so, and stood in the Royal
presence unabashed, but quite silent. An ominous presentiment crept
coldly through the monarch's warm veins, as he saw the dreary pain
expressed on the features of the man, who had so persistently scorned
him and his offered bounty,--and with a slight, but imperative sign, he
dismissed Sir Roger de Launay, who retired reluctantly, full of
"Now Zouche," he said gently; "What do you seek of me? What is your
Zouche looked full at him.
"As King," he answered, "I seek nothing from you! As comrade"--and his
accents faltered--"I would fain break bad news to you gently--I would
spare you as much as possible--and give you time to face the blow,--
for I know you loved her! Lotys----"
The monarch's heart almost stood still. What was this hesitating tone--
these great tears in Zouche's eyes?
"Lotys!" he repeated slowly, and in a faint whisper; "Yes, yes--go on!
Go on, comrade! Lotys?"
"Lotys is dead!"
An awful stillness followed the words. Stiff and rigid the King sat, as
though stricken by sudden paralysis, giving no sign. Minute after
minute slipped away,--and he uttered not a word, nor did he raise his
eyes from the fixed study of the carpet at his feet.
"Lotys is dead!" went on Zouche, speaking in a slow monotonous way.
"This morning, the first thing--they found her. She had killed herself.
The pistol was in her hand. And they are laying her out with flowers,--
like a bride, or a queen,--and you can go and see her at rest so,--for
the last time,--if you will! This is my message! It is a message from
Still the King spoke not a word; nor did he lift his eyes from his
brooding observation of the ground.
"To be a great King, as you are," said Zouche; "And yet to be unable to
keep alive a love when you have won it, is a hard thing! She must have
killed herself for your sake!"
No answer was vouchsafed to him. He began to feel a strange pity for
that solemn, upright figure, sitting there inflexibly silent,--and he
approached it a little nearer.
"Comrade!" he said softly; "I have hated you as a King! Yes, I have
always hated you!--even when I found you had played the part of
'Pasquin Leroy,' and had worked for our Cause, and had helped to make
what is now called my 'fame'! I hated you,--because through it all, and
whatever you did for me, or for others, it seemed to me you had never
known hunger and cold and want!--never known what it was to have love
snatched away from you! I watched the growth of your passion for Lotys
--I knew she loved you!--and had you indeed been the poor writer and
thinker you assumed to be, all might have been well for you both! But
when you declared yourself to be King, what could there be for such a
woman but death? She would never have chosen dishonour! She has taken
the straight way out of trouble, but--but she has left _you_
alone! And I am sorry for you! I know what it is--to be left alone! You
have a palace here, adorned with all the luxuries that wealth can buy,
and yet you are alone in it! I too have a palace,--a palace of
thought, furnished with ideals and dreams which no wealth can buy; and
I am alone in it too! I killed the woman who loved me best; and you
have done the same, in your way! It is the usual trick of men,--to
kill the women who love them best, and then to be sorry for ever
He drew still nearer--then very slowly, very hesitatingly, dropped on
one knee, and ventured to kiss the monarch's passive hand.
"My comrade! My King! I am sorry for you now!"
For answer, his own hand was suddenly caught in a fierce convulsive
grip, and the King rose stiffly erect. His features were grey and
drawn, his lips were bloodless, his eyes glittering, as with fever.
Stricken to the heart as he was, he yet forced himself to find voice
"Speak again, Zouche! Speak those horrible, horrible words again! Make
me feel them to be true! Lotys is dead!"
Zouche, with something like fear for the visible, yet strongly
suppressed anguish of the man before him, sighed drearily as he
"Lotys is dead! It is God's way--to kill all beautiful things, just as
we have learned to love them! She,--Lotys,--used to talk of Justice
and Order,--poor soul!--she never found either! Yet she believed in
The King's stern face never relaxed in its frozen rigidity of woe. Only
his lips moved mutteringly.
"Dead! Lotys! My God!--my God! To rise to such a height of hope and
good--and then--to fall so low! Lotys gone from me!--and with her goes
Then a sudden delirious hurry seemed to take possession of him.
"Go now, Zouche!" he said impatiently--"Go back to the place where she
lies--and tell her I am coming! I must--I will see her again! And I
will see you again, Zouche!--you too!" He forced a pale smile--"Yes,
poor poet! I will see you and speak with you of this--you shall write
for her a dirge!--a threnody of passion and regret that shall make the
whole world weep! Poor Zouche!--you have had a hard life--well may you
wonder why God made us men! And Lotys is dead!"
He rang the bell on his desk violently. Sir Roger de Launay at once
returned,--but started back at the sight of his Royal master's altered
"Have the kindness, De Launay"--said the King hurriedly, not heeding
his dismayed looks--"to place a carriage at the disposal of our friend
Zouche! He has much business to do;--sad news to bear to all the
quarters of the city--he will tell you of it,--as he has just told me!
Lotys,--you know her!--Lotys, who saved my life at the risk of her
own,--Lotys is dead!"
Sir Roger recoiled with an ejaculation of horror and pity.
"It is sudden--and--and strange!" continued the King, still speaking in
the same rapid manner, and beginning to push aside the various letters
and documents on his table--"It is a kind of darkness fallen without
warning!--but--such tragedies always do happen thus--unpreparedly!
Lotys was a grand creature,--a noble and self-sacrificing woman--the
poor will miss her--yes--the poor will miss her greatly!----"
He broke off, and with a speechless gesture of agonised entreaty,
intimated that he must be left alone. De Launay hustled Zouche out of
the apartment in a kind of impotent fury.
"Why have you brought the King such news?" he demanded--"It will kill
"He has killed _her_!" returned Zouche, grimly--"If he had never
crossed her path, she would have been alive now! Why should not a King
suffer like other men? He does the same foolish things,--he has his
private loves and hatreds in the same foolish manner,--why should he
escape punishment for his follies? It is only in suffering that he
grows human,--stripped by grief and pain of his outward pomp and
temporal power, he even becomes lovable! God save us from this bauble
of 'power'! It is what Sergius Thord has worked for all his life!--it
is what this King claims over his subjects--and yet--both monarch and
reformer would give it all for the life of one woman back again! Look
you, the King has had a dozen or more mistresses, and Heaven knows how
many bastards--but he has only loved once! And it is well that he
should learn what real love means,--Sorrow always, and Death often!"
That afternoon the whole city knew of the tragic end of Lotys. Nothing
else was thought of, nothing else talked of. Thousands gathered to look
up at the house where her body lay, stiffening in the cold grasp of
death, and a strong body of police were summoned to guard all the
approaches to the premises, in order to prevent a threatening 'crush'
and disaster among the increasing crowd, every member of which sought
to look for the last time on the face of her who had unselfishly served
them and loved them in their hours of bitterest need. The sight of
Sergius Thord passing through their midst, with bent head, and ashy,
distraught countenance, had not pacified the clamorous grief of the
people, nor had it elicited such an outburst of sympathy for him as one
might have thought would have been forthcoming. An idea had gotten
abroad that since his election as Deputy for the city, he had either
neglected or set aside the woman who had assisted him to gain his
position. It was a wrong idea, of course,--but the trifling fact of his
having taken up his abode in a more 'aristocratic' part of the
metropolis, while Lotys had still remained in the 'quarter of the
poor,' was sufficient to give it ground in the minds of the ignorant,
who are always more or less suspicious of even their best friends. Had
they made a more ominous guess,--had they imagined that Sergius Thord
was the actual murderer of the woman they had idolised, there would
have been no remembrance whatever of the work he had done to aid them
in the various reforms now being made for their benefit;--they would
have torn him to pieces without a moment's mercy. The rough justice of
the mob is a terrible thing! It knows nothing of legal phraseology or
courtesy--it merely sees an evil deed done, and straightway proceeds to
punish the evil-doer, regardless of consequences. Happily for the sake
of peace and order, however, no thought of the truth, no suspicion of
the real cause of the tragedy occurred to any one person among the
sorrow-stricken multitude. A faint, half-sobbing cheer went up for the
King, as his private brougham was recognised, making its way slowly
through the press of people,--and it was with a kind of silent awe,
that they watched his tall figure alight and pass into the house where
lay the dead. Sergius Thord had already entered there,--the King and
his new Deputy would meet! And with uneasy movements, rambling up and
down, talking of Lotys, of her gentleness, patience and never-wearying
sympathy for all the suffering and the lonely, the crowds collected,
dispersed, and collected again,--every soul among them heavily
weighted and depressed by the grief and the mystery of death, which
though occurring every day, still seems the strangest of fates to every
mortal born into the world.
Meantime, the King with slow reluctant tread, ascended into the room of
death. Sergius Thord stood there,--but his brooding face and bulky
form might have been but a mote of dust in a sunbeam for the little
heed the stricken monarch took of him. His whole sight, his whole soul
were concentrated on the white recumbent statue with the autumn-gold
hair, which was couched in front of him, strewn with flowers. That was
Lotys--or rather, that had been Lotys! It was now a very beautiful,
still, smiling Thing,--its eyes were shut, but the eyelashes lay
delicately on the pallid cheeks like little fringes of dark gold,
tenderly slumbrous. Those eyelashes matched the hair--the soft, silken
hair--so fine--so lustrous, so warm and bright!--the hair was surely
yet living! With a shuddering sigh, the King bent over the piteous
sight,--and stooping lower and lower still, touched with trembling
lips the small, crossed hands.
As he did this, his arm was caught roughly, and Thord thrust him aside.
"Do not touch her!" he muttered hoarsely--"Let her rest in peace!"
Slowly the King raised his face. It was ashen grey and stricken old.
The dark, clear, grey eyes were sunken and dim,--the light of hope,
ambition, love and endeavour, was quenched in them for ever.
"Was she unhappy, that she killed herself?" he asked, in a hushed
Thord drew back, shuddering. Those sad, lustreless eyes of his
Sovereign seemed to pierce his soul! He--the murderer of Lotys--could
not face them! A vague whirl of thoughts tormented his brain,--he had
heard it said that a murdered person's corpse would bleed in the
presence of the murderer,--would the dead body of Lotys bleed now, he
wondered dully, if he waited long enough? If so--the King would know!
He started guiltily, as once more the sad, questioning voice broke on
"Was she unhappy, think you? You knew her better than I!"
Huskily, and with dry lips, Thord forced an answer.
"Nay, it is possible your Majesty knew her best!"
Again the sunken melancholy eyes searched his face.
"She was endowed with genius,--rich in every good gift of womanhood! I
would have given my life for hers--my kingdom to spare her a moment's
sorrow!" went on the King; "But she would have nothing from me--
"Nothing,--not even love!" said Thord recklessly.
"That she had, whether she would or no!"--replied the King, slowly,--
"That she will have, till time itself shall end!"
Thord was silent. A passion of mingled fury and remorse consumed him,--
his heart was beating rapidly,--there were great pulsations in his
brain like heavy hammer-strokes,--he was afraid of himself, lest on a
savage impulse he should leap like a beast of prey on this grave
composed figure,--this King,--who was his acknowledged ruler,--and kill
him, even as he had killed Lotys! And then,--he thought of the People!
--the People by whose great force and strong justice he had sworn to
abide!--the People who had worshipped and applauded him,--the People
who, if they ever knew the truth of him and his crime, would snatch him
up and tear his body to atoms, as surely as he stood branded with
Murder in God's sight this day! With a powerful effort he rallied his
forces, and drawing from his breast the small folded paper which had
been found on the body of Lotys, and which was inscribed with the words
'My Last Wish,' he held it out to the King.
"Then your Majesty will perhaps grant her the burial she here demands?"
he said--"It is a strange request!--but not difficult to gratify!"
Taking the paper, the monarch touched it tenderly with his lips before
opening it. In all the blind stupefaction of his own grief, he was
struck by the fact that there was something strained and unnatural
about Thord's appearance,--something wild and forced even in his
expression of sorrow. He studied his face closely, but to no purpose;
--there was no clue to the mystery packed within the harsh lines of
those dark, fierce features,--he seemed no more and no less than the
same brooding, leonine creature that had mercilessly planned the deaths
of men in his own Revolutionary Committee. There was no touch of
softness in his eyes,--no tears, even at the sight of Lotys smiling
coldly in her flower-strewn shroud. And now, unfolding her last
message, the King beheld it thus expressed:
"To THOSE WHO SHALL FIND ME DEAD
"I pray you of your gentle love and charity, not to bury my body in the
earth, but in the sea. For I most earnestly desire no mark, or
remembrance of the place where my sorrows, with my mortal remains,
shall be rendered back to nature; and kinder than the worms in the
mould are the wild waves of the ocean which I have ever loved! And
there,--at least to my own thoughts,--if any spiritual part of me
remains to watch my will performed,--shall I be best pleased and most
grateful to be given my last rest. LOTYS."
This document had been written and signed some years back, and had,
therefore, nothing to do with any idea of immediate departure from the
world, or premeditated suicide. And once again the King looked
searchingly at Thord, as he returned him the paper.
"Her will shall be performed!" he said--"And in a manner befitting her
memory,--befitting the love borne to her by a People--and--a King!"
He paused,--then went on softly.
"To you Sergius, my friend and comrade!--to you will be entrusted the
task of committing this sweet casket of a sweeter soul to the mercy of
the waves!--you, the guardian of her childhood, the defender of her
womanhood, the protector of her life----"
"O God! No more--no more!" cried Thord, suddenly falling on his knees
by the couch of the dead--"No more--in mercy! I will do all--all! But
leave me with her now!--leave me alone with her, this last little
And breaking into great sobs, he buried his head among the death-
flowers in an utter abandonment of despair.
Silently the King watched him for a little space. Then he turned his
eyes towards the pale form of the woman he had loved, and who had
taught him the noblest and most selfless part of love, sleeping her
last sleep, with a fixed sweet smile upon her face.
"We shall meet again, my Lotys!" he whispered--"On the other side of
And so,--with the quiet air of one who knows a quick way out of
difficulty, he departed.
Some five days later, a strange and solemn spectacle was witnessed by
thousands of spectators from all the shores and quays of the sea-girt
city. A ship set sail for the Land of the Infinite!--a silent passenger
went forth on a voyage to the borders of the Unknown! Coffined in
state,--with a purple velvet pall trailing its rich folds over the
casket which enshrined her perished mortality,--and with flowers of
every imaginable rareness, or wildness, scattered about it,--the body
of Lotys was, with no religious or formal ceremony, placed on the deck
of a sailing-brig, and sent out to the waves for burial. So Sergius
Thord had willed it; so Sergius Thord had planned it. He had purchased
the vessel for this one purpose, and with his own hands he had strewn
the deck with blossoms, till it looked like a floating garden of
fairyland. Garlands of roses trailed from the mast,--wreaths from every
former member of the now extinct 'Revolutionary Committee' were heaped
in profusion about the coffin which lay in the centre of the deck,--the
sails were white as snow, and one of them bore, the name 'Lotys' upon
it, in letters of gold. It was arranged that the brig should be towed
from the harbour, and out to sea for about a couple of miles,--and when
there, should be cut free and set loose to the wind and tide to meet
its fate of certain wreckage in the tossing billows beyond. In strange
contrast to this floating funeral were the brilliant flags and gay
streamers which were already being put up along the streets and quays,
as the first signs of the city's welcome to the Crown Prince and his
bride, who were expected to arrive home somewhere within the next ten
days. Eager crowds watched the unique ceremony, unknown save in old
Viking days, of sending forth a dead voyager to sail the pitiless seas;
and countless numbers of small boats attended the funeral vessel in a
long flotilla,--escorting it out to that verge where the ocean opened
widely to the wider horizon, and spread its high road of silver waves
invitingly out to the approaching silent adventurer. Comments ran
freely from lip to lip,--Sergius Thord had been seen, pale as death,
laying flowers on the deck to the last,--the King,--yes!--the King
himself had sent a wreath, as a token of remembrance, to the obsequies
of the woman who had saved his life,--the purple velvet pall, with its
glittering fringes of gold, had been the gift of the city of which
Thord was the lately-elected Deputy,--Louis Valdor had sent that
garland of violets,--the great wreath of roses which lay at the head of
the coffin, was the offering of the famous little dancer, Pequita, who,
it was said, now lay sick of a fever brought on by grief and fretting
for the loss of her best friend,--and rich and poor alike had vied with
one another in assisting the weird beauty of this exceptional and
strange burial, in which no sexton was employed but the wild wind,
which would in due time scoop a hollow in the sea, and whirl down into
fathomless deeps all that remained of a loving woman, with the
offerings of a People's love around her!
From the Palace windows the Queen watched the weird pageant, with
straining eyes, and a sense of relief at her heart. This unknown rival
of hers,--this Lotys--was dead! Her body would soon be drifting out on
the wild waste of waters, to be caught by the first storm and sunk in
the depths of eternal silence. She was glad!--almost she could have
sung for joy! The colour mantled on her fair cheeks,--she looked
younger and more beautiful than ever. She had learned her long-
neglected lesson,--the lesson of, 'how to love.' And to herself she
humbly confessed the truth--that she loved no other than her husband!
The King had now become the centre of her heart, as he had become the
centre of his People's trust. And she watched the vessel bearing the
corpse of Lotys, gliding, gliding over the waves--she tracked the
circling concourse of boats that went with it--and waited, with
quickened breath and eager eyes, till she saw a sudden pause in the
procession--when, riding lightly on a shining wave, the funeral-ship
seemed to stop for an instant--and then, with a bird-like dip forward,
scurried out with full, bulging sails to the open sea! The crowding
spectators began to break up and disperse--the flotilla of attendant
boats turned back to shore--the dead woman who had held such magnetic
influence over the King, was gone!--gone for ever into the watery
caverns of endless death!
It was with a light heart that the Queen at last rose from her watch at
the window, and prepared to array herself for the return of her
sovereign lord. Her eyes sparkled, her lips smiled; she looked the very
incarnation of love and tenderness. The snow-peak had melted at last,
and underneath the ice, love's late violets had begun to bloom! She
glanced once more out at the sea, where the vanishing death-ship now
seemed but a speck on the far horizon, and saw a bank of solemn purple
clouds darkening the golden sunset line,--clouds that rose up thickly
and swiftly, like magic mountains conjured into sudden existence by
some witch in a fairy tale. A gust of wind shook the lattice--and
moaned faintly through the chinks of the door.
"There will be a storm to-night!" she said musingly, her eyes following
the dispersing crowds, as they poured along the terrace from the shore,
or climbed up from the quays to the higher streets of the town:--"There
will be a storm!--and the woman who was called Lotys, will know nothing
of it! The vessel she sails in will be crushed like a shell in the
teeth of the blast, and her body will sink like a stone in the angry
sea! So will she sleep--so does her brief power over the King come to
Turning, she smiled at her lady-in-waiting, Teresa de Launay, who had
also watched the sea funeral of Lotys with wondering and often tear-
"How the people must have loved her!" the girl murmured softly; "No
poor person or child came to these strange obsequies without flowers!--
many wept--and some swear there is no happiness at all for them now,
without Lotys! She must have been a sweet, unselfish woman!"
The Queen was silent.
"Since she saved the life of our lord the King, I have often thought of
her!" went on Teresa--"I have even hoped to see her! Dearest Madam,
would you not have been glad to thank her once before she died?"
The Queen's face hardened.
"She only did her duty!" was the cold answer--"Every subject in the
realm would be proud to have the chance of being the King's defender!"
At that moment the door opened, and Sir Roger de Launay entered,--then
drew back in some surprise and hesitation.
"I crave your pardon, Madam!" he said, bowing low--"I thought the King
"Truly the King should be here by now,"--replied the Queen gently--"But
he is doubtless detained among the people, who wait upon his footsteps,
as though he were a demi-god!" She smiled happily. "He went out to see
yonder strange funeral pageant--and left no word of the hour of his
Sir Roger looked perplexed. The Queen noticed his expression of
"Stay but a moment, Sir Roger," she added--"Now I remember, he bade me
at sunset, go to my own room and fetch a packet I would find from him
there,--he may be waiting for me now!"
She retired, the radiant smile still upon her face, and Sir Roger
looked at his sister with concern for her tearful eyes.
"Weeping, Teresa?" he said--"What is the trouble?"
"Nothing!" she answered quickly--"Only a presentiment of evil! That
funeral-ship has made me sad!"
Sir Roger said nothing for the moment. He was too preoccupied with his
own forebodings to give much heed to hers. He walked to the window.
"There will be a storm to-night!" he said. "Look at those great clouds!
They are big with thunder and with rain!"
"Yes!" murmured Teresa--"There will be a storm--Madam!"
She turned with a cry to feel the Queen's grip on her shoulder--to see
the Queen, white as marble, with blazing eyes, possessed by a very
frenzy of grief and terror. A tragic picture of despairing Majesty, she
confronted the startled De Launay with an open paper in her hand.
"Where is the King?" she demanded, in accents that quivered with fear
and passion. "From you, Sir Roger de Launay, must come the answer! To
you, his friend and servant, I trusted his safety! And of you I ask
again--Where is the King?"
Stupefied and stunned, Sir Roger stared helplessly at this enraged
splendour of womanhood, this embodied wrath of royalty.
"Madam!" he stammered,--"I know nothing--save that the King has been
sorely stricken by a great sorrow--"
She looked at him with flashing eyes.
"Sorrow for what?--for whom?"
De Launay gazed at her amazedly;--why did she ask of what she knew so
"Madam, to answer that is not within my province!"
She was silent, breathing quickly. Great tears gathered on her lashes,
but did not fall.
"When saw you his Majesty last?"
"But three hours since, Madam! He bade me leave him alone, saying he
would walk a while in the further grounds away from the sight of the
sea. He had no mind, he said, to look upon the passing away of Lotys!"
A strange grey pallor crept over the Queen's face. She stood proudly
erect, yet tottered as though about to fall. Teresa de Launay ran to
her in terror.
"Dearest Madam!" cried the trembling girl--"Be comforted! Be patient!
The King will come!"
"He will never come!" said the Queen in a low choked voice;--"Never
again--never, never again! I feel--I know--that I have lost him for
ever! He has gone--but where?--O God!--where!"
"Madam!" said Sir Roger, shaken to the soul by the sight of her
suppressed agony--"That paper in your hand--"
"This paper," she said, with a convulsive effort at calmness, "makes me
Regent till the return of my son, the Crown Prince--and--at the same
time--bids me farewell! Farewell!--and why farewell? Oh, faithless
servant!" and she advanced a step, fixing her burning eyes on the
stricken De Launay--"I thought you loved me!"
His face flushed--his lips quivered.
"As God lives, Madam, I yield to no one in my love and service of you!"
"Then find the King!" and she stretched out her arm with a gesture of
authority--"Bring back to me my husband!--the one man of the world!--
the one man I have learned to love! Follow the King!--whether on land
or sea, whether alive or dead,--in heaven or hell, follow him! Your
place is not with me--but by your master's side! If you know not
whither he has fled, make it your business to learn!--and never let me
see your face again till _his_ face shines beside yours, like
sunshine against darkness!--till his eyes, his smile make gladness
where your presence without him is a mocking misery! Out of my sight!
And nevermore return again, save in your duty and attendance on the
"Madam,--Madam!" exclaimed Teresa--"Would you condemn my brother to a
lasting banishment? What if the King were dead?"
"Dead!" The word left the Queen's lips in a sharp sob of pain--"The
King cannot die!--he is too strong--too bold and brave! He has met
death ere now and conquered it! Dead? No--that is not possible--that
could not be!"
She turned again upon Sir Roger, standing mute and pale, a very statue
"I give you a high mission!" she said--"Fulfil it!"
He started from his unhappy reverie.
"Be sure that I will do so!" he said--"I will--as your Majesty bids me--
follow the King! And--till the King returns with me--I also say farewell!"
Catching his sister in his arms, he kissed her with a murmured
blessing--and profoundly saluting the woman for whose love's sake his
very life was now demanded, he left the room.
"Roger, Roger!" cried Teresa in an anguish, as the sound of his
footsteps died away--"Come back! Come back!"
And falling on her knees by the Queen's side, she burst into wild
"If the King has gone for ever, my brother is gone too," she sobbed--
"Oh, dearest Majesty, have you no heart?"
"None!" said the Queen with a strained smile, while the slow, hot tears
began to fall from her aching eyes--"None! What heart I had is gone! It
follows the King!"
A great storm was gathering. The heavy purple clouds which had arisen
in the west at sunset, when all that was mortal of Lotys had been sent
forth to a lonely burial in the sea, had gradually spread over the
whole sky, darkening in hue as they moved, and rolling together in huge
opaque masses, which presently began to close in and become denser as
the night advanced. By and by a wild wind awoke, as it were, from the
very cavities of ocean, and the waves began to hiss warnings all along
the coast, and to rise higher and higher over each other's shoulders as
the gale steadily increased. Réné Ronsard, sitting in his cottage,
feeble and somewhat ailing, heard the beginnings of the tempest with
long-accustomed ears. He was depressed in spirit, yet not altogether
solitary, for he had with him a kindly companion in Professor von
Glauben. The Professor had been one of the many who had attended the
strange funeral-pageant of the afternoon, not only out of interest in,
and regret for, the fate of the woman whose unique character he had
admired, and whose difficult position he had pitied; but also because
he had suffered from an unpleasant presentiment to which he could give
no name. If he could have described his forebodings at all, he would
have said they were more or less connected with the King,--but how or
why, he would not have been able to explain, save that since the death
of Lotys, his Sovereign master had no longer looked the same man.
Stricken as with a blight, and grown suddenly old, his manner and
appearance were as of one devoured by a secret despair,--a corroding
disease,--of which the end could only be disastrous. Overcome by the
pain and distress of being the constant witness of a sorrow which he
felt to the heart, yet could not relieve, the Professor, on returning
from the scene of Lotys's impressive funeral, had put ashore on The
Islands, instead of going back to the mainland. He had sought
permission from the King to remain with Ronsard for the night,--and the
permission had been readily, almost eagerly granted. The King, indeed,
had seemed glad to be relieved of the too anxious solicitude of his
physician, who, he knew, was well aware of the concealed agony of mind
which tortured and well-nigh maddened him,--and the Professor, keenly
observant, was equally conscious that, under the immediate
circumstances, his attendance might seem more of an intrusion than a
"De Launay was not far wrong when he prophesied danger for the King as
the result of his beginning to think for himself;" he mused--"Yet it
has come--this danger--in a different way to that in which we expected
it! It is a bold move for the ruler of a country to make personal
examination into the needs of his people,--but it is seldom that, while
engaged in such a task, the ruler himself becomes ruled, by a stronger
force than even his own temporal power!"
And now, sitting with old Réné Ronsard, by a fire which had been
kindled on this somewhat chilly night for his better comfort, he was,
despite the impression of sadness and disaster which hung upon his mind
as darkly as the clouds were hanging in heaven, doing his best to rouse
both himself and his companion to greater cheerfulness. The wind,
shaking the lattice, and now and then screaming dismally under the
door, did not inspire him to gaiety, but his thoughts were principally
for Ronsard, who was inclined to yield to an overpowering despondency.
"This will never do, Ronsard!" he said after a pause, during which he
had noticed a tear or two steal slowly down the old man's furrowed
cheek; "What sort of a welcome will such a face as yours be to our
Crown Princess Gloria? She will soon be here; think of it! And what a
triumphant entry she will make, acclaimed by the whole nation!"
"I shall not be wanted in her life!" said Ronsard, slowly. "After all,
I am nothing to her, and have no claim upon her. I found her, as a poor
man may by chance find a rare jewel,--that the jewel is afterwards
found worthy to be set in a king's crown, is not the business of that
same poor man. He who merely hews a diamond out of the mine, is not the
maker of the diamond!"
"Gloria loves you!" said the Professor; "And she will love you always!"
Ronsard smiled faintly.
"My friend, I understand, and I accept the law of change!" he said. "To
me, as to all, it must come! The old must die, and the young succeed
them. As for me, I shall be glad to go--the sooner the better, I truly
think, for then none will taunt my Gloria with the simple manner of her
bringing up;--none will remember aught, save her exceeding beauty, or
blame her that the sun and sea were her only known parents. And if we
credit legend, hers is not the first birth of loveliness from the bosom
of the waves!"
Here the wind, tearing round the rafters, rattled and roared for a
space like a demon threatening the whole construction of the house, and
then went galloping away with a shriek among the pines down to the
"A wild night!" said the Professor, with a slight shiver. "Alas! poor
Lotys!--poor 'Soul of an Ideal' as Sergius Thord called her,--her frail
mortal tenement will soon be drawn down to the depths in such a storm
"I never saw her!" said Ronsard musingly; "Thord I have seen often.
Lotys was to me a name merely,--but I knew it was a name to conjure
with--a name beloved of the People. Gloria longed to see her,--she had
heard of her often."
"She was a psychological phenomenon," said the Professor slowly; "And I
admit that her composition baffled me. No one have I ever seen at all
like her. She was beautiful without any of the accepted essentials of
beauty--and it is precisely such a woman as that who possesses the most
dangerous fascination over men--not over boys--but over men. She had a
loving, passionate, feminine heart, with a masculine brain,--the two
together are bound to constitute what is called Genius. The only thing
I cannot understand is the unexpected weakness she displayed in
committing suicide. That I should never have thought of her. On the
contrary, I should have imagined, knowing as much of her as I did, that
the greater the sorrow, the greater the fight she would have made
A silence fell between them, filled by the thundering noise of the
"Where is Thord?" asked Ronsard presently.
"I do not know. The last I saw of him was on board the vessel that bore
her coffin;--he was laying flowers on the deck. He was not, I think, in
any of the smaller boats that accompanied it; he must have returned
with the crowd on shore. He has his duties as Deputy for the city now,
we must remember!"
Ronsard's eyes flashed with a glimmer of satire in the firelight.
"If it had not been for Lotys, he would not be a Deputy, or anything
else,--save perchance a Communist or an Anarchist!" he said; "he used
to be one of the fiercest malcontents in all the country when I first
came here. Many and many is the time I have heard him threaten to kill
"Ah!" said the Professor meaningly, the while he bent his eyes on the
Again a silence fell. The wind roared and screamed around the building,
and in the pauses of the gale, the minutes seemed weighted with a
strange dread. Every tick of the clock sounded heavy and long, even to
the equable-minded Professor. The storm outside was growing louder and
even louder, and his thoughts, despite himself, turned to the ocean-
wildernesses over which Prince Humphry's home-returning vessel must be
now on its way--while that other solitary barque, unhelmed and
unmanned, whose sail bore the name of 'Lotys' was also voyaging, but in
a darker direction, down to death and oblivion, carrying with it, as he
feared, all the love and heart of a King! Suddenly a loud knocking at
the door startled them; and as Ronsard rose from his chair, amazed at
the noise and Von Glauben did the same with more alacrity, a man with
wind blown hair and excited gestures burst into the little room.
"Ronsard!" he cried; "The King--the King!"
He paused, gasping for breath. Ronsard looked at him wonderingly. His
clothes were saturated with sea-water,--his face was pale--and his eyes
expressed some fear that his tongue seemed incapable of uttering. He
was one of the coral-fishers of the coast, and Ronsard knew him well.
"What ails you, man?" he asked; "What say you of the King?"
Holding the door of the cottage open with some difficulty, the coral-
fisher pointed to the sky overhead. It was flecked with great masses of
white cloud, through which the moon appeared to roll rapidly like a
ball of yellow fire. The wind howled furiously, and the pines in the
near distance could be seen bending to and fro like reeds in its
breath, while the roar of the sea beyond the rocks was fierce and
"It is all storm!" cried the man, excitedly; "The billows are running
mountains high!--there is no chance for him!"
"No chance for whom?" demanded Von Glauben, impatiently; "What would
you tell us? Speak plainly!"
"It was the King!" said the coral-fisher again, trying to express
himself more collectedly--"I saw his face lit up by the after-glow of
the sky--white--white as the foam on the wave! Listen! When the body of
the woman Lotys was borne away on that vessel, a man came to me out of
the thickest of the crowd (I was on one of the furthest quays)--and
offered me a purse of gold to take him out to sea--and to steer him in
such a way that we should meet the funeral barque just as she was cut
adrift and sent forth to be wrecked in the ocean. I did not know him
then. He kept his face hidden,--he spoke low, and he was evidently in
trouble. I thought he was a lover of the dead woman, and sought perhaps
to comfort himself by looking at her coffin for the last time. So I
consented to do what he asked. I had my sailing skiff, and we went at
once. The wind was strong; we sailed swiftly--and at the appointed
place--" He paused to take breath. Ronsard seized him by the arm.
"Quick! Go on--what next?"
"At the appointed place when the vessel stopped,--when her ropes were
cut and she afterwards sprang out to sea, I, by his orders, ran my
skiff close beside her as she came,--and before I knew how it happened,
my passenger sprang aboard her--Ay!--with a spring as light and sure as
the flight of a bird! 'Farewell!' he said, and flung me the promised
gold; 'May all be prosperous with you and yours!' And then the wind
swooped down and bore the ship a mile or more ere I could follow it;
but the strong light in the west fell full upon the man's face--and I
saw--I knew it was the King!"
"Gott in Himmel! May you for ever be confounded and mistaken!"
exclaimed Von Glauben,--"I left the King in his own grounds but an hour
before I myself started to witness this accursed sea-funeral!"
"I say it was the King!" repeated the man emphatically. "I would swear
it was the King! And the vessel going out to meet the storm tonight,
holds the living, as well as the dead!"
With a sudden movement, as active as it was decided, old Ronsard went
to a corner in the room and drew out a thick coil of rope with an iron
hook at the end, and slinging it round his waist with the alert
quickness of youth, made for the open door.
"Where is your skiff?" he demanded.
"Ashore down yonder;" answered the coral-fisher; "But you--what are you
going to do? You cannot sail her in such a night as this!"
"I will adventure!" said Ronsard. "If, as you say, it was the King, I
will save him if he can be saved! Once a King's life was nothing to me;
now it is something! The tide veers round these Islands, and the vessel
on which they have placed the body of Lotys, can scarcely drift away
from the circle till morning, unless the waves are too strong for it--"
"They are too strong!" cried the coral-fisher; "Ronsard, believe me!
There is no rain to soften or abate the wind--and the sea grows greater
with every breath of the rising gale!"
"I care nothing!" replied Ronsard; "Let be! If you are afraid, I will
At these words, the Professor suddenly awoke to the situation.
"What would you attempt, Ronsard?" he exclaimed; "You can do nothing!
You are weak and ailing!--there is no force in you to combat with the
elements on such a night as this--"
"There _is_ force!" said Ronsard; "The force of my thirst for
atonement! Let me be, for God's sake! Let me do something useful in my
life!--let me try to save the King! If I die, so much the better."
"Then I will go with you!" said Von Glauben, desperately.
Ronsard shook his head.
"You? No, my friend! You will not! You will remain to welcome Gloria--
to tell her that I loved her to the last!--that I did my best!"
He seemed to have grown young in an instant,--his eyes flashed with
alertness and vigour, and instead of an old decaying man, full of cares
and despondencies, he seemed like a bold adventurer, before whom a new
land of promise opens. Von Glauben looked at him, and in a moment made
up his mind. He turned to the coral-fisher.
"What think you truly of the night, my friend? Is it for life or death
"Death! Certain death!" answered the man; "It is madness to set sail in
such a storm as this!"
"You are married, no doubt? And little ones eat your earnings? Ach so!
Then you shall not be asked to go with us. Ronsard, I am ready! I can
pull an oar and manage a sail, and I am not afraid of death by
drowning! For Gloria's sake, let me go with you!"
"For Gloria's sake, stay here!" cried Ronsard; and with an abrupt
movement he escaped Von Glauben's hold, and ran with all the speed of a
boy out of the cottage into the garden beyond.
Von Glauben rushed after him, but found himself in the thicket of
pines, trapped and hemmed in by the darkness of their stems and
branches. The wind was so fierce and strong, that he could scarcely
keep his feet,--every now and again the moon flew out of a great cloud-
pinnacle and glared on the scene, but not with sufficient clearness to
show him his way. Yet he knew the place well--often had he and Gloria
trodden that path down to the sea, and yet to-night it seemed all
unfamiliar. How the sea roared! Like a thousand lions clamouring for
prey! Against the rocks the rising billows hissed and screamed,
rattling backward among stones and shells with the grinding noise of
artillery wagons being hastily dragged off a lost field of battle.
"Ronsard!" he called as loudly as he could, and again "Ronsard!" but
his voice, big and stentorian though it was, made but the feeblest wail
in the loud shriek of the wind. Yet he stumbled on and on, and by slow
and difficult degrees found his way down to the foot of the high rocks
which formed a pinnacled wall between him and the sea,--the rocks he
had so often climbed with Gloria, and of which she had sung in such
matchless tones of triumph and tenderness.
Here, by the sea.
My King crown'd me!
Wild ocean sang for my Coronation,
With the jubilant voice of a mighty nation!
The memory of this song came back to his ears in a ringing echo, amid
the howling of the boisterous wind, which now blew harder and harder,
scattering masses of blown froth from the waves in his face, with
flying sand and light shells, and torn-up weed. Scarcely able to stand
against it, he paused to get his breath, realising that it would be
worse than useless to climb the rocks in the teeth of such a gale, or
try to reach the old accustomed winding way down to the shore. He
endeavoured to collect his scattered wits;--if the ceaseless onslaught
of the storm would only have allowed him to think coherently, he
fancied he might have found another and easier path to lead him in the
direction whither Ronsard, in his mad, but heroic impulse, had gone.
But the gale was so terrific, and the booming of the great waves on the
other side of the rocky barrier so awful, that it seemed as if the
water must be rolling in like a solid wall, bent on breaking down the
coast, and grinding it to powder. His heart ached heavily;--tears rose
to his eyes.
"What a grain of dust I am in this world of storm!" he ejaculated;
"Here I stand,--a strong man, utterly useless! Powerless to save the
life I would die to serve! But maybe the story is not true!--the man
can easily have been mistaken! Surely the King would not give up all
for the sake of one woman's love!"
But though he said this to himself, he knew that such things have been;
indeed, that they are common enough throughout all history. He had not
studied humanity to so little purpose as not to be aware that there are
certain phases of the passion of love which make havoc of a man's
wisest and best intentions; and that even as Marc Antony lost all for
Cleopatra's smile, and Harry the Eighth upset a Church for a woman's
whim, so in modern days the same old story repeats itself; and no
matter how great and famous the position of a king or an emperor, he
may yet court and obtain his own ruin and disaster, ay, lose his very
Throne for love;--deeming it well lost!
Restless, miserable and troubled by the confusion of his thoughts,
which seemed to run wild with the wild wind and the thundering sea, the
unhappy Professor retraced his steps to the cottage, hoping against
hope that Ronsard, physically unable to cope with the storm, would have
returned, baffled in his reckless attempt to put forth a boat to sea.
But the little home was silent and deserted. There was the old man's
empty chair;--the clock against the wall ticked the minutes away with a
comfortable persistence which was aggravating to the nerves; the fire
was still bright. Before entering, Von Glauben looked up and down
everywhere outside, but there was no sign of any living creature.
Nothing remained for him to do but to resign himself passively to
whatsoever calamity the Omnipotent Forces above him chose to inflict,--
and utterly weary, baffled and helpless, he sank into Ronsard's vacant
chair, unconscious that tears were rolling down his face from the
excess of his anxiety and exhaustion. The shrieking of the wind, the
occasional glare of the moonlight through the rattling lattice windows,
and the apparent rocking of the very rafters above him thrilled him
into new and ever recurring sensations of fear--yet he was no coward,
and had often prided himself on having 'nerves of steel and sinews of
iron.' Presently, he began to see quaint faces and figures in the
glowing embers of the fire; old scraps of song and legend haunted him;
fragments of Heine, mixed up with long-winded philosophical phrases of
Schopenhauer, began to make absurd contradictions and glaring contrasts
in his mind, while he listened to the awful noises of the storm; and
the steady ticking of the clock on the wall worried him to such an
almost childish degree, that had he not thought how often he had seen
Gloria winding up that clock and setting it to the right hour, he could
almost have torn it down and broken it to pieces. By and by, however,
tired Nature had her way, and utterly heavy and worn out in mind and
body, and weary of the disturbed and incoherent thoughts in his brain,
he lay back and closed his eyes. He would rest a little while, he said
to himself, and 'wait.' And so he gradually fell asleep, and in his
sleep wrote, so he imagined, a whole eloquent chapter of his 'Political
History of Hunger' in which he described Sergius Thord as a despot,
who, after proving false to the cause of the People, and grinding them
down by unlimited taxation such as no Government had ever before
inflicted, seized the rightful king of the country, and sent him away
to be drowned in company with a woman of the People, whose body was
fastened to his by ropes and iron chains, in the fashion of 'Les
Noyades' of Nantes. And he thought that the King rejoiced in his doom,
and said strange words like those of the poet who sang of a similar
"For never a man like me
Shall die like me till the whole world dies,
I shall drown with her, laughing for love, and she
Mix with me, touching me, lips and eyes!"
Meanwhile, Ronsard, true to the instinct within him, had fulfilled his
intention and had put out to sea. The fisherman who had brought the
tidings which had moved him to this desperate act, was too much of a
hero in himself to let the old man venture forth alone,--and so,
following him down to the shore, had, despite all commands and
entreaties to the contrary, insisted on going with him. The sailing
skiff he owned was a strong boat, stoutly built,--and at first it
seemed as if their efforts to ride the mountainous billows would be
crowned with success. Old Rene had a true genius for the management of
a sail; his watchfulness never flagged:--his strenuous exertions would
have done credit to a man less than half his age. With delicate
precision he guided the ropes, as a jockey might have guided the reins
of a racehorse, and the vessel rose and fell lightly over the great
waves, with such ease and rapidity, that the man who accompanied him
and took the helm, an experienced sailor himself, began to feel
confident that after all the voyage might not be altogether futile.
"The sea may be calmer further out from land!" he shouted to Rene, who
nodded a quiet aquiescence, while he kept his eyes earnestly fixed on
the horizon, which the occasional brightness of the moon showed up like
a line of fretted silver. Everywhere he scanned the waves for a glimpse
of the fatal vessel bearing Death--and perhaps Life--on board; but over
the whole expanse of the undulating hills and valleys of wild water,
there was no speck of a boat to be seen save their own. They swept on
and on, the wind aiding them with savage violence--when suddenly the
man at the helm shouted excitedly:
"Ronsard! See yonder! There she sails!"
With an exclamation of joy, Ronsard sprang up, and looking, saw within
what seemed an apparently short distance, the drifting funeral-barque
he sought. So far she seemed intact; her sails were bellying out full
to the wind, and she was rising and plunging bravely over the great
breakers, which rolled on in interminable array, one over the other,--
with rugged foam-crests that sprang like fountains to the sky. A five
or ten minutes' run with the wind would surely bring them alongside,--
and Ronsard turned with an eager will to his work once more. Over the
heads of the monstrous waves, rising with their hills, sinking in their
valleys, he guided the few yielding planks that were between him and
destruction, trimming the straining sail to the ferocious wind, and
ever keeping his eyes fixed on the vessel which was the object of his
search,--the sole aim and end of his reckless voyage, and which seemed
now to recede, and then to almost disappear, the more earnestly he
strove to reach it.
"To save the King!" he muttered--"To save--not to kill! For Gloria's
sake!--to save the King!"
A capricious gust from the beating wings of the storm swooped down upon
him sideways, as he twisted the ropes and tugged at them in a herculean
effort to balance the plunging boat and keep her upright,--and in the
loud serpent-like hiss of the waves around him, he did not hear his
companion's wild warning cry--a cry of despair and farewell in one! A
toppling dark-green mass of water, moving on shoreward, lifted itself
quite suddenly, as it were, to its full height, as though to stare at
the puny human creatures who thus had dared to oppose the fury of the
elements, and then, leaping forward like a devouring monster, broke
over their frail skiff, sweeping the sail off like a strip of ribbon,
snapping the mast and rolling over and over them with a thousand heads
of foam that, spouting upwards, again fell into dark cavernous deeps,
covering and dragging down everything on the surface with a tumult and
roar! It passed on thundering,--but left a blank behind it. Skiff and
men had vanished,--and not a trace of the wreck floated on the angry
For one blinding second, Ronsard, buffeting the wild waves, saw the
face of Gloria,--that best-beloved fair face,--angelic, pitying, loving
to the last,--shine on him like a star in the darkness!--the next he
was whelmed into the silence of the million dead worlds beneath the
sea! So at last he paid his life's full debt. So, at last his atonement
was fulfilled. If it was true,--as he had in an unguarded moment
confessed,--that he had once killed a King, then the resistless Law of
Compensation had worked its way with him,--inasmuch as he had been
forced to render up what he cherished most,--the love of Gloria,--to
the son of a King, and had ended his days in an effort to save the life
of a King! For the rest, whatever the real nature of his long-hidden
secret,--whatever the extent of the torture he had suffered in his
conscience, his earthly punishment was over; and the story of his past
crime would never be known to the living world of men. One sinner,--one
sufferer among many millions, he was but a floating straw on the vast
whirlpools of Time,--and whether he prayed for pardon and obtained it,
whether he had worked out his own salvation or had lost it, may not be
known of him, or of any of us, till God makes up the sum of life, in
which perchance none of even the smallest numerals shall be found
Wilder grew the night, and more tempestuous the sea, while the sky
became a mountainous landscape of black and white clouds fitfully
illumined by the moon, which appeared to run over their fleecy
pinnacles and sable plains like some scared white creature pursued by
invisible foes: The vessel on which the corpse of Lotys lay, palled in
purple, and decked with flowers, flew over the waves, to all seeming
with the same hunted rapidity as the moon rushed through the heavens,--
and so far, though her masts bent reed-like in the wind, and her sails
strained at their cordage, she had come to no harm. Tossed about as she
was, rudderless and solitary, there was something almost miraculous in
the way she had weathered a storm in which many a well-guided ship must
inevitably have gone down. The purple pall with its heavy fringe of
gold, that shrouded the coffin she carried, was drenched through and
through by the sea, and the flowers on the deck were beaten and drowned
in the salt spray that dashed over them.
But amid all the ruined blossoms of earth, by the side of the dead, and
full-fronted to the tempest, stood one living man, for whom life had no
charm, and death no terror--the King! What had been reported of him was
true--he had resigned his Throne and left his kingdom for the sake of
adventuring forth on this great voyage of Discovery,--this swift and
stormy sail with Lotys to the Land of the Unknown! Whether it was a
madness, or a sick dream that fevered his blood, he knew not--but once
the woman he loved was dead, every hope, every ambition in him died
too--and he felt himself to be a mere corpse of clay, unwillingly
dragged about by a passionate soul that longed, and strove, and fought
in its shell for larger freedom. All his life, so to speak, save for
the last few months, he had been a prisoner;--he had never, as he had
himself declared, known the sweetness of liberty;--but for the sake of
Lotys,--had she lived,--he would have been content to still wear the
chains of monarchy, and would have endeavoured to accomplish such good
as he might, and make such reforms as could possibly benefit his
country. But, after all, it is only a 'possibility 'that any reforms
will avail to satisfy any people long; and he was philosopher and
student enough to know that whatsoever good one may endeavour to do for
the wider happiness and satisfaction of the multitude, they are as
likely as not to turn and cry out--"Thy good is our evil! Thy love to
us is but thine own serving!"--and so turn and rend their best
benefactors. With the loss of Lotys, he lost the one mainspring of
faith and enthusiasm which would have helped him to match himself
against his destiny and do battle with it. A great weariness seized
upon him,--a longing for some wider scope of action than such futile
work as that of governing, or attempting to govern, a handful of units
whose momentary Order was bound, in a certain period of time to lapse
into Disorder--then into Order again, and so on till the end of all.
Hence his resolve to sail the seas with Lotys to that 'other side of
Death' of which she had spoken,--that 'other side' which an inward
instinct told him was not Death, but Life! He could not of himself
analyse the emotions which moved him. He could not take the measure of
his grief; it was too wide and too painful. He might have said with
Heine: "Go, prepare me a bier of strong wood, longer than the bridge at
Mayence, and bring twelve giants stronger than the vigorous St.
Christopher of Cologne Cathedral on the Rhine;--they will carry the
coffin and fling it in the sea,--so large a coffin needs a large grave!
Would you know why the bier must be so long and large? With myself, I
lay there at the same time all my love and my sorrow!"
Sovereignty,--a throne,--a kingdom,--even an Empire--seemed poor
without love to grace them. Had he never known the pure ideal passion,
he would still have missed it;--but having known it--having felt its
power environing him day and night with a holy and spiritual
tenderness, he could not but follow it when it was withdrawn--follow
it, ay, even into the realms of blackest night! Like the 'Pilgrim of
Love,' delineated by one of the greatest painters in the world, he
recked nothing of the darkness closing in,--of the pain and
bewilderment of the road, which could only lead to interminable,
inexplicable mystery;--he felt the hand of the great Angel upon him--
the Angel of Love whom alone he cared to serve,--and if Love's way led
to Death, why then Death would be surely as sweet as Love! A great and
almost divine calm had taken possession of him from the moment he had
fulfilled his intention of boarding the ship which carried away from
him all that was mortal of the woman he had secretly idolised. The wild
turbulence of Nature around him had only intensified his perfect
content. He had pleased himself by taking care of the sleeping Lotys--
such tender care! He had tried to shield her coffin from the onslaughts
of the fierce waves; he had protected many of the funeral flowers from
destruction, and had lifted the gold fringe of the purple pall many and
many a time out of the drenching spray cast over it. There was a
strange delight in doing this. Lotys knew! That was his chief
reflection. And 'on the other side of Death,' as she had said, they
would meet--and to that 'other side' they were sailing together with
all the speed Heaven's own forces could give to their journey. Oh, that
'other side'! What brightness, what peace, what glory, what mutual
comprehension, what deep and perfect and undisturbed love would be
found there! He smiled as he watched the swollen and angry sea,--the
rising billows shouldering each other and bearing each other down;--how
much grander, how much more spiritual and near to God, he thought, was
this conflict of the elements, than the petty wars of men!--their
desires of conquest, their greed of gold, their thirst for temporal
"My Lotys!" he said aloud; "You knew the world! You knew the littleness
of worldly ambition! You knew that there is only one thing worth living
and dying for, and that is Love! Your heart was all love, my Lotys!
Deprived of love for yourself, you gave all you had to those who needed
it, and when you found my love for you might do me harm in the People's
honour, you sacrificed your life! Alas, my Lotys! If you could but have
realised that through you, and the love of you, I a King, who had long
missed my vocation, could alone be truly worthy of sovereignty!"
He laid his hand on her coffin with a tender touch, as though to soothe
its quiet occupant.
"My beloved!" he said, "We shall meet very soon!--very soon now! 'on
the other side of death'--and God will understand,--and be pitiful!"
The storm now seemed to be at its height. The monstrous waves, as they
arose to combat the frail vessel in her swift career, made a bellowing
clamour, and once or twice the ship reeled and staggered, as though
about to lurch forward and go under. But the King felt no fear,--no
horror of his approaching fate. He watched the wild scene with
interest, even with appreciation,--as an artist or painter might watch
the changes in a landscape which he purposes immortalising. His past
life appeared to him like a picture in a magic crystal,--blurred and
uncertain,--a mist of shapes without decided meaning or colour. He
thought of the beautiful cold Queen, his wife,--and wondered whether
she would weep for his loss.
"Not she!"--and he almost smiled at the idea--"Perhaps there will be a
ballad written about it--and she will listen, unchanged, unmoved--as
she listened that night when her minstrels sang:
'We shall drift along till we both grow old--
Looking back on the days that have passed us by,
When "what might have been," can no longer be,--
When I lost you and you lost me!'
That was a quaint song--and a true one! She will not weep!"
Then he went over in memory the various scenes of his life--brilliant,
useless, and without results--when he was Heir-Apparent;--he thought of
his two young sons, Rupert and Cyprian, who were as indifferent to him
as young foals to their sire,--and anon, his mind turned more tenderly
to his eldest-born, Prince Humphry, and the fair girl he had so boldly
wedded,--the happy twain, who, returning homeward, would find the
Throne ready for their occupancy, and a whole nation waiting to welcome
"God bless them both!" he said aloud, lifting his calm eyes to the wild
heavens--"They have the one shield and buckler against all misfortune--
Love! And I thank God that I have not the sin upon my conscience of
having broken that shield away from them; or of having forced their
young lives asunder! Wiser than I, they took their own way and kept
it!--may they so keep it always!"
Then a thought of 'the People' came to him--the People who had latterly
taken to idolising him, and making of him a hero greater than any
monarch whose deeds have ever been glorified since history began.
"They will forget!" he said--"Nowadays Nations have short memories!
Battles and conquests, defeats and victories pass over the national
mind as rapidly and changefully as the clouds are flying over the sky
to-night!--the People remember neither their disgraces nor their
triumphs in the life of individual Self which absorbs each little unit.
Their idolatry of one monarch quickly changes to their idolatry of
another! I shall perhaps be regretted for six months as my father was--
and then--consigned with my ancestors to oblivion! Nothing so beautiful
or so gladdening to the heart of a Monarch as the love of his People!--
but--at the same time--nothing so changeable or uncertain as such
love!--nothing so purely temporal! And nothing so desperately sad, so
irremediably tragic as the death of kings!"
Rapidly he reviewed the situation--the new Ministry, the new Government
members were elected--and business would begin again immediately after
the Crown Prince's return. All the reforms he had been prepared to
carry out, would be effected,--and then would come the new King's
Coronation. What a dazzling picture of resplendent beauty would be seen
in Gloria, robed and crowned! His heart beat rapidly at the mere
contemplation of it. For himself he had no thought--save to realise
that the strange manner of his disappearance from his kingdom would
probably only awaken a sense of resentment in 'society,' and a vague
superstition among the masses, who would for a long time cling to the
belief that he was not dead, but that like King Arthur he had only gone
to the 'island valley of Avillion' to "heal him of his grievous
wound,"--from which deep vale of rest he would return, rejoicing in his
strength again. Sergius Thord would know the truth--for to Sergius
Thord he had written the truth. And the letter would reach him this
very night--this night of his last earthly voyage.
"When his great sorrow has abated," he said, "he too will forget! He
has all his work to do--all his career to make--and he will make it
well and nobly! Even for his sake, and for his future, it is well that
I am gone--for if he ever came to know,--if he were to guess even
remotely, through Zouche's ravings, or some other means, the reason why
Lotys killed herself, he would hate me,--and with justice! He loves
the People--he will serve their Cause better than I!"
The moon stared whitely out of a cloud just then,--and to his
amazement and awe, he suddenly perceived the black shadow of a man
lifting itself slowly, slowly from the hold of the ship, like a massive
bulk, or ghost in the gloom. Unable to imagine what this might be, or
how any other human creature save himself would venture to sail with
the dead on a voyage whose end could be but destruction, he advanced a
step towards that looming shape, and started back with a cry, as he
recognised the very man he had been thinking of--Sergius Thord!
"Sergius!" he cried aghast.
"King!" and Thord looked scarcely human in the pale fleeting moonbeams,
as he too stared in half-maddened wonder at the face and form of a
companion on this dread journey such as he had never expected to see.
"What do you here in the midst of the sea and the storm? You should be
at home!--playing the fool in your Palace!--giving audiences on your
throne!--you--you have no right to die with Lotys, whom I loved!"
"With Lotys whom you loved!" echoed the King; "You loved her--true! But
I loved her more!"
"You lie!" said Thord, furiously; "No man--no King,--no Emperor of all
the world, could ever have loved Lotys as I loved her! These great
waves waiting to devour us--dead and living together--are not more
insatiate in their passion for us than I in my passion for Lotys! I
loved her!--and when she scorned me--when she rejected me,--when she
openly confessed that she loved you--the King--what remained for her
but death! Death, rather than dishonour at your Royal hands, Sir!" And
he laughed fiercely--a laugh with the ring of madness in it. "I rescued
her as a child from starvation and misery--and so I may say I gave her
her life. What I gave, I took again--I had the right to take it! I
would not see her shamed by you--dishonoured by you--branded by you!--I
did the only thing left to me to save her from you--I killed her!"
With a loud cry the King, no longer so much king as man, with every
passion roused, sprang at him.
"You killed her? Oh, treacherous devil! They said she killed herself!"
"Hands off!" cried Thord, suddenly pointing a pistol at him; "I will
shoot you as readily as I shot her if you touch me! She killed herself
you think? Oh, yes--in a strange way! Her last words were: 'Say I did
it myself! Tell the King I did it myself!' A lie! All women are fond of
lying. But her lie was to protect Me! Her last thought was for my
defence,--not yours! Her last wish was to save Me, not you!--King
though you are--lover though you craved to be! I say I murdered her!
This is my Day of Fate,--the day on which it seems that Heaven itself
has drawn lots with me to kill a King! Why did I ever relax my hate of
you? It was inborn in me--a part of me,--my very life, the utmost
portion of my work! I called you friend;--I curse myself that I ever
did so!--for from the first you were my enemy--my rival in the love of
Lotys! What did I care for the People? What did you? We were both at
one in the love of the same woman! And now I am here to die with her
alone! Alone, I say--do you hear me? I will be alone with her to the
last--you shall not share with us in our sea burial! I will die beside
her,--all, all alone!--and drift out with her to the darkness of the
grave, to meet my fate with her--always with her,--whether her spirit
lead me to Hell or to Heaven!"
His insensate frenzy was so desperate, so terrible, that by its very
force the strange mental composure of the King became intensified.
Quietly folding his arms, he took his stand by the coffin of the dead
in silence. The dashing spray that leaped at the masts of the vessel,--
the wind that scooped up the billows into higher and higher pinnacles
of emerald green, might have been soundless and powerless, for all he
seemed to hear or to heed.
"Why are you with us?" cried Thord again--"How came you on this ship,
where I thought I had hidden myself alone with her, voyaging to Death?
Could you not have left her to me?--you who have a throne and kingdom
--I, to whom she was all my life!"
"I came--as you have come"--answered the King--"to die with her--or
rather not to die, but to find Life with her! She loved me!"
With a savage curse, Thord raised the pistol he held. The King looked
him full in the eyes.
"Take good aim, Sergius!" he said tranquilly--"For here between us lies
Lotys--the silent witness of your deed! Go hence, if you must, with two
murders on your soul! There is no escape from death for either you or
me, take it how we may;--and I care not at all how I meet it, whether
at your hands or in the waves of the sea! Give me the same death you
gave to Lotys! I ask no better end! For so at least shall we meet more
Half choked with his fury, Thord looked at him with fixed and glassy
eyes. He was jealous of death!--jealous that death should of itself
seem to reunite Lotys and the man she had loved more closely together!
Standing erect by the purple pall that covered the one woman of the
world to them both, the King looked 'every inch a king,'--the
incarnation of pride, love, resolve and courage. With a sudden wild-
beast cry, Thord sprang at him and caught his arm with one hand, the
pistol grasped in the other.
"Too near!" he gasped; "You shall not stand too near her!--you shall
not die so close to her!--you shall not have the barest chance of
resting where she sleeps!"
He fell back, as the King's calm eyes regarded him steadfastly,
imperiously, almost commandingly, without a trace of fear. He trembled.
"Do not look so!" he muttered; "I cannot kill you!--not if you look
Raising the pistol, he took apparent aim. The King stood unmoved, only
murmuring softly to himself: 'On the other side of Death, my Lotys!--
On the other side!'
There was a loud report, a crash in his ears--then--as he staggered
back, stunned by the shock, he saw that he was untouched, unhurt. Thord
had turned the pistol against his own breast, and reeling backward,
with a last supreme effort, dragged his sinking body to the vessel's
"God save your Majesty!" he cried wildly; "Tell Lotys I did it myself!
God knows that is true!"
The wild waves, clambering up over the deck rushed at him, and an
enormous foam-crested billow, higher and stronger than all the rest,
beat at the mast of the vessel and snapped it in twain. It came down,
dragging the sail with it in a tangle of cordage, and with that sail
the name of 'Lotys' inscribed upon it was whirled furiously out to sea.
The body of the vessel, now netted in a mass of ropes and rigging,
began to roll helplessly in the trough of the waves, and the corpse of
Thord, sinking under it as it plunged, was swept away like a leaf in
the storm! Gone, his wild heart and wilder brain!--gone his restless
ambition,--gone his unsatisfied love--his fierce passions, his
glimmerings of a noble nature which if trained and guided, might have
worked to noblest ends. Like many would-be leaders of men, he could not
lead himself--like many who seek to control law, and revolutionise the
world, he had been unable to master his own desperate soul. He was not
the first,--he will not be the last,--who for purely personal ends has
sought to 'serve the People'! The disinterested, the impersonal and
unselfish Leader has yet to come,--and if he ever does come, it is more
than probable that those for whom he gives his life, will be the first
to crucify his soul, and cry 'Thou hast a devil!'
Death was now sole commander of the ocean that night! And the King of a
mere little earth-country, realised to the full that he stood
irrevocably face to face with the last great Enemy of Empires. Yet
never had he looked more truly imperial,--never more superbly the
incarnation of life! A mighty exultation began to stir within him--a
consciousness that he, despite all the terrors of the grave, would
still come forth the conqueror! The waves, leaping at him, were
friends, not foes,--the moon shedding ghostly glamours on the watery
wilderness, smiled as though she knew that he would soon be a partaker
in the secrets of all Nature, and solve the mystery of existence,--
there was a singing in his ears as of voices triumphant, which swelled
with the passion of a mighty anthem,--and with the quietest mind and
calmest brain he found himself musing on life and death as if he were
already a witness apart, of their strange phenomena. Thord's appearance
on the same ship in which he and Lotys were passengers, seemed to him
quite simple and natural,--Thord's death moved him to a certain grave
compassion,--but the whole swift circumstance had been so dreamlike,
that he had no time to think of it, or regret it,--and the only active
consciousness his mind held was that he and Lotys were journeying to
'the other side';--that 'other side' which he now felt so near and
sure, that he could almost declare he saw the living presence of the
woman he loved arisen from the dead and standing near him!
The ocean widened out interminably, and he saw, looking ahead, a great
heap of gigantic billows, leaping, sparkling, tossing, climbing over
each other in the fitful light of the moon, like huge sea-monsters
waiting to devour and engulf him. He smiled as he felt the yielding
craft on which he stood swirl towards those breakers, and begin to part
asunder,--so would he have smiled on a battlefield facing his foes, and
fronted with fiery cannon! The glory of Empire,--the splendour of
Sovereignty,--the pride and panoply of Temporal Power! How infinitely
trivial seemed all these compared with the mighty force of a resistless
love! How slight the boasted 'supremacy' of man with his laws and
creeds, matched against the wrath of the conflicting sea,--the sure and
swift approach of inexorable Death! Under the depths of the ocean which
this ruler of a kingdom traversed for the last time, lay a lost
Continent,--fallen dynasties--forgotten civilisations, wonderful and
endless--kings and queens and heroes once famous--and now as blotted
out of memory as though they had never been!
"If thou could'st see a thousand fathoms down,
Thou would'st behold 'mid rock and shingle brown--
The shapeless wreck of temple, tower and town,--
The bones of Empires sleeping their last sleep,
Their names as dead as if they never bore
Crown or dominion!"
With keen and watchful eyes he measured the swiftly lessening distance
between him and the glittering, tumbling whirlpool of waves--he felt
the weight of the wind bearing against the drifting vessel--the end was
very near! Standing by the dead Lotys, he prayed silently--prayed
strangely,--in words borrowed from no Church formula, but as they came,
straight from his heart--prayed that God might not be a Dream--that
Love might not be a Snare--and Death might not be an End! So do we all
pray when the last dread moment of dissolution comes--when no priest's
assurance can comfort us--and when the greatest King in the world is
but a poor ordinary human soul, ignorant and forlorn, shuddering on the
verge of eternal Judgment!
A mountainous billow broke over the deck, half stunning him with the
shock of its cold onslaught, and sweeping the coffin of Lotys almost
over the edge of the vessel. He threw himself beside that dreary
casket, fastening his own body with strong rope knotted many times, to
its heavy leaden mass, resolved to sink with it painlessly, and without
a struggle. So,--in perfect passiveness,--he awaited his end.
Suddenly,--as if a bell had chimed in the distance, or a voice had sung
some old familiar song in his ears,--he saw, clearly visioned in all
the flying spray of the tempest a face!--not the face of Lotys--but a
soft, childish, piteous little countenance, framed in curling tendrils
of hair, with trusting sweet eyes, raised to his own in holiest,
simplest confidence! So pure, so fair a face!--so pathetically loving!--
where had he seen it before? All at once he remembered,--and sprang up
with a sharp cry of pain. Why, why had this frail ghost of the past
flown out of the darkness of sea and storm to confront him now? The
ghost of his first young love!--the clinging, fond, credulous creature
who had gone to her death uncomplainingly for his sake--with only the
one little cry of farewell--'My love! Forgive me!' Why should he think
of her?--why should he see her before him at this supreme moment when
Death stared him in the face, and his spirit hovered on the edge of
Infinity? "Vengeance is mine!--I will repay, saith the Lord!" His first
love!--so lightly won--so cruelly betrayed! Tears rushed to his eyes,--
he thought of the wrong done to a perfectly pure and blameless life--a
wrong he had forgotten in all these years--till now!
"Oh God!" he cried aloud--"Forgive me! Forgive my weakness, my
selfishness, my many wasted years! Let not her face forever come
between thy redeeming Angel, Lotys, and my soul!"
The tumultuous breakers rushing now with a great swoop at the vessel,
snatched and tore at him. He nerved himself to look again,--once again,
and for the last time, across the great wilderness of warring waters!
The moon now shone brightly,--the clouds were parting on either side of
her, rolling up in huge masses, white and glistening as Alpine peaks of
snow--the wind had not lessened, and the fury of the sea was still
unabated. But the fair childish face had vanished,--and only the clear
salt spray dashed in his eyes and blinded them,--only the salt waves
clambered round him, drawing him towards them in a cold embrace!
"'On the other side,' my Lotys!" he said--"God be merciful to us both!--
'on the other side'!"
For one moment the breaking vessel paused shudderingly on the edge of
the seething whirlpool of waves, which, meeting in a centre of tidal
commotion, leaped at her, and began steadily to suck her down. For one
moment the moonbeams fell purely on the calm upturned face of the King,
who like others allied to him in kingship throughout history, had
esteemed mere sovereignty valueless at the cost of Love! For kings,--
though surrounded with flatterers and sycophants who seek to make them
imagine themselves somewhat more than human,--are but men, with all
men's vain sins and passions, mad weaknesses and wild dreams; and when
they love, they love as foolishly as commoners,--and when they die, as
die they must, there is no difference in the actual way of death than
is known to a pauper. More gold and purple on the one side,--more straw
and sackcloth on the other,--but the solemnity and equality of Death
itself, is the same in both. And as this dying King well knew, the
People care little who governs them, provided bread is cheap, and
labour well paid. He is greatest who gives them most,--and he is the
most applauded who allows them the most liberty of action! The
personality, the complex nature, the character, the temptations, the
mind-sufferings of a King, as man merely, are less than nothing to the
multitude who run to follow and to cheer him. If he were once to
complain, he would be condemned;--and if he asked from his crowding
flatterers the bread of sympathy, they would give him but a stone!
The moon smiled--the stars flashed fitfully through the clouds,--and
all through the length and breadth of ocean there seemed to come the
sound of a great psalmody, rising and filling the air. It surged on the
King's ears, as with hands clasped on the drenched lilies strewn over
the sleeping Lotys, he welcomed the coming Unveiling of the Beyond! And
then--the waters rose up, and caught living and dead together, and
dragged them down with a triumphal rush and roar,--down, down to that
grand Unconsciousness,--that sublime Pause in the chain of existence,--
that longer Sleep, from which we shall wake refreshed and strong
again,--ready to learn Where we have failed, Why we have loved, and How
we have lost. But of things temporal there shall be no duration,--
neither Sovereignty nor Supremacy, nor Power; only Love, which makes
weak the strongest, and governs the proudest;--and of things eternal we
know naught save that Love, always Love, is still the centre of the
Universe, and that even to redeem the sins of the world, God Himself
could find no surer way than through Love, born of Woman into Life.
* * * * *
Days passed,--and angry Ocean gradually smoothed out its frowning
furrows, spreading a surface darkly-blue and peaceful, under a
cloudless arch of sky. And one night,--when the moon, like a golden cup
in heaven, emptied her sparkling wine of radiance over the gently
heaving waves, a fair ship speeding swiftly with all the force of steam
and sail, with flags fluttering from every mast, and sounds of music
echoing from her lighted saloons, came flying over the billows like a
glorious white-winged bird soaring to its home on an errand of joy. On
her deck stood Gloria,--happily ignorant of all calamity,--watching
with dreamy, thoughtful eyes the lessening lengths of sea between her
and the land she loved. The Crown Prince, her husband,--now King,
though he knew it not,--stood beside her;--his handsome face brightened
by a smile which expressed his heart's elation, his soul's deep peace
and inward content. Naught knew these wedded lovers of the strange
reception awaiting them; of the half-mourning, half-rejoicing people,--
of national flags suddenly veiled in crape,--of black funeral-streamers
set distractedly amidst gay bridal garlands;--of a widowed Queen,
broken-hearted and despairing, weeping vainly for the love she had so
long misprized, and had learned too late to value,--of a Crown
resigned,--of the lost Majesty and hero of a nation's idolatry;--of
the death of Ronsard, and the inexplicable disappearance of the famous
Socialist leader, Sergius Thord,--and of all the strange and tragic
history of vanished lives, even to that of Sir Roger de Launay whom no
man ever saw again,--which it fell to their faithful friend, Heinrich
von Glauben to relate, with passionate grief and many tears. They knew
nothing. They only saw home and the future before them, shining in
bright hues of hope and promise; for Love was with them,--and through
Love alone--love for the nation, love for the people, love for each
other,--they purposed, God willing, to faithfully fulfil whatever
destiny might be theirs, whether fortunate or disastrous! Thus minded,
they could see no evil in the world,--no mischief,--no ominous
crossings of Fate,--they had all earth and all heaven in each other!
And the gay ship bearing them onward, danced over the smiling, singing,
siren waves, as if she too had a human heart to feel and rejoice!--and
in her swift course swept lightly over the very spot, now tranquil and
radiant, where but a short while since, the body of Lotys had gone
down, companioned by the King. Gloria leaning over the deck-rail looked
dreamily into the sparkling water.
"The storm we met has left no trace!" she said; "It was but a passing
Her husband came to her side, and they stood together in silence. Sweet
harmonies floating upwards from the saloon below, where a company of
musicians and singers were stationed to charm the evenings of the Royal
pair with 'sounds more dulcet than Heaven's own dulcimers' held them
attentive. The tender tones of an undetermined melody rose and fell on
the quiet air,--they listened, drawing closer and closer to each other,
till it seemed as if but one heart beat between them,--as if but one
Soul aspired,--Archangel-like,--from their two lives to Heaven! And
Gloria, with a sigh of perfect happiness, murmured softly,--
"How beautiful the night! How calm the sea!"
So sped they onward,--with Love to steer them; with Love to bring them
safely through the brief cloud of sorrow and wonder hanging over the
kingdom to which they wended,--with Love to guide their lives through
all difficulty and danger, and to give them all the good that Love
alone can give! For whether the days be dark or bright,--whether
tempest fills the air, or sunshine illumines the sky,--whether we are
followed with fair blessing from friends, or pursued with the hate,
envy and slander of injurious foes,--whether we drown by choice in
tempestuous waters of passion, or float securely to the shores of
peace,--whether our ships are bound for Death or for Life, we are safe
in the hands of Love! And in the midst of what the world deems storm
and wreckage, we can gaze into the deeper depths of God's meaning with
trustful eyes, and sail on our voyage fearlessly,--on, even to the
Grave and beyond it!--for with Love at the helm, how beautiful is the
Night!--how calm the Sea!
Back to Full Books