Part 7 out of 11
suppose the next thing you will do is to marry him again to some
daughter of a Royal house?"
"As _you_ were married to _me?_" she said, raising her eyes
to his face with that strange deep look which spoke eloquently of some
mystery hidden in her soul.
His cheeks burned with an involuntary flush. He bowed.
"Precisely! As I married you!" he replied.
"The experiment was hardly successful!" she said with her little cold
smile. "I fear you have often regretted it!"
He looked at her, studying her beauty intently,--and the remembrance of
another face, far less fair of feature, but warm and impassioned by the
lovely light of sympathy and tenderness, came between his eyes and
hers, like a heavenly vision.
"Had you loved me," he said slowly, "I might never have known what it
was to need love!"
A slight tremor ran through her veins. There was a strange tone in his
voice,--a soft cadence to which she was unaccustomed,--something that
suggested a new emotion in his life, and a deeper experience.
"I never loved anyone in my life!" she answered calmly--"And now the
days are past for loving. Humphry, however, has made up for my lack of
the tender passion!"
She turned away indifferently, and appeared to dismiss the matter
altogether from her mind. The first time she saw her son, however,
after hearing of his marriage, she looked at him curiously.
"And so your wife is very lovely, Humphry!" she said with a slightly
He was not startled by the suddenness of her observation nor put out by
"She is the loveliest woman I have ever seen,--not excepting yourself,"
"It is a very foolish affair!" she continued composedly; "But
fortunately in our line of life such things are easily arranged;--and
your future will not be spoiled by it. I am glad you are going abroad,
as you will very soon forget!"
The Prince regarded her steadfastly with something of grave wonderment
as well as compassion,--but he made no reply, and with the briefest
excuse left her presence as soon as possible, in order to avoid further
conversation on the subject. She, herself, however, found her mind
curiously perturbed and full of conjectures concerning her son's
idyllic love-story, in which all considerations for her as Queen and
mother seemed omitted,--and where she, as it were, appeared to be shut
outside a lover's paradise, the delights of which she had never
experienced. The King held many private conferences with her on the
matter, in which sometimes Professor von Glauben was permitted to
share;--and the upshot of these numerous discussions resulted in a
scheme which was as astonishing in its climax as it was unexpected.
Over and over again it has been proved to nations as well as to
individuals, that the whole course of events may be changed by the
fixed determination of one resolute mind; but it is not often that the
moral force of a mere girl succeeds in competing with the authority of
kings and parliaments. But so it chanced on this occasion, and in the
One glorious early morning, the sun having risen without a cloud in the
deep blue of the sky, and the sea being as calm as an inland lake, the
King's yacht was seen to weigh anchor and steam away at her fullest
speed towards The Islands. Little or no preparation had been made for
her short voyage; there was no Royal party on board, and the only
passenger was Professor von Glauben. He sat solitary on deck in a
luxurious chair, smoking his meerschaum pipe, and dubiously considering
the difficult and peculiar situation in which he was placed. He made no
attempt to calculate the possible success or failure of his mission--
'for,' said he very sagely, 'it all depends on a woman, and God alone
knows what a woman will do! Her ways are dark and wonderful, and
altogether beyond the limit of the comprehension of man!'
His journey was undertaken at the King's command; and equally by the
King's command he had been compelled to keep it a secret from Prince
Humphry. He had never been to The Islands since the King's 'surprise
visit' there, and he was of course not aware that Gloria now knew the
real rank and position of her supposed 'sailor' husband. He was at
present charged to break the news to her, and bring her straightway to
the palace, there to confront both the King and Queen, and learn from
them the true state of affairs.
"It is a cruel ordeal," he said, shaking his head sorrowfully; "Yet I
myself am a party to its being tried. For once in my life I have pinned
my faith on the unspoilt soul of an unworldly woman. I wonder what will
come of it? It rests entirely with Gloria herself, and with no one else
in the world!"
As the yacht arrived at its destination and dropped anchor at some
distance from the pier, owing to the shallowness of the tide at that
hour of the day, The Islands presented a fair aspect in the dancing
beams of the summer sunlight. Numbers of fruit trees were bursting into
blossom,--the apple, the cherry, the pink almond and the orange blossom
all waved together and whispered sweetness to one another in the pure
air, and the full-flowering mimosa perfumed every breath of wind.
Fishermen were grouped here and there on the shore, mending or drying
their nets; and in the fields beyond could be perceived many workers
pruning the hedges or guiding the plough. The vision of a perfect
Arcadia was presented to the eye; and so the Professor thought, as
getting into the boat lowered for him, he was rowed from the yacht to
the landing-place, and there dismissed the sailors, warning them that
at the first sound of his whistle they should swiftly come for him
"What a pity to spoil her peace of mind--her simplicity of life!" he
thought, as he walked at a slow and reluctant pace towards Ronsard's
cottage; "And I fear we shall have trouble with the old man! I wonder
if his philosophy will stand hard wear and tear!"
The pretty, low timber-raftered house confronted him at the next bend
in the road, and presented a charming aspect of tranquillity. The grass
in front of it was smooth as velvet and emerald-green, and in one of
the flower borders Ronsard himself was digging and planting. He looked
up as he heard the gate open, but did not attempt to interrupt his
work;--and Von Glauben advanced towards him with a considerable sense
of anxiety and insecurity in his mind. Anon he paused in the very act
of greeting, as the old man turned his strong, deeply-furrowed
countenance upon him with a look of fierce indignation and scorn.
"So! You are here!" he said; "Have you come to look upon the evil your
Royal master has worked? Or to make dutiful obeisance to Gloria as
Von Glauben was altogether taken aback.
"Then--you know--?" he stammered.
"Oh yes, I know!" responded Ronsard sternly and bitterly; "I know
everything! There has been full confession! If the husband of my Gloria
were more prince than man, my knife would have slit his throat! But he
is more man than prince!--and I have let him live--for her sake!"
"Well--that is so far good!" said Von Glauben, wiping the perspiration
from his brow, and heaving a deep sigh of relief; "And as you fully
comprehend the situation, it saves me the trouble of explaining it! You
are a philosopher, Ronsard! Permit me to remind you of that fact! You
know, like myself, that what is done, even if it is done foolishly,
cannot be undone!"
"I know it! Who should know it so well as I!" and Ronsard set a
delicate rose-tree roughly in the hole he had dug for it, and began to
fiercely pile in the earth around it;--"Fate is fate, and there is no
gainsaying it! The law of Compensation will always have its way! Look
you, man!--and listen! I, Réné Ronsard, once killed a king!--and now in
my old age, the only creature I ever loved is tricked by the son of a
king! It is just! So be it!"
He bent his white head over his digging again, and Von Glauben was for
a moment silent, vaguely amazed and stupefied by this sudden
declaration of a past crime.
"You should not say 'tricked,' my friend!" he at last ventured to
remark; "Prince Humphry is an honest lad;--he means to keep his word!"
Ronsard looked up, his eyes gleaming with fury.
"Keep his word? Bah! How can he? Who in this wide realm will give him
the honourable liberty to keep his word? Will he acknowledge Gloria as
his wife before the nation?--she a foundling and a castaway? Will he
make her his future queen? Not he! He will forsake her, and live with
another woman, in sin which the law will sanctify!"
He went on planting the rose-tree, then,--dropping his spade,--tossed
up his head and hands with a wild gesture.
"What, and who is this God who so ordains our destiny!" he exclaimed;
"For surely this is His work,--not mine! Hidden away from all the world
with my life's secret buried in my soul, I, without wife, or children
or friends, or any soul on earth to care whether I lived or died, was
sent an angel comforter;--the child I rescued from the sea! 'Gloria,
Gloria in excelsis Deo!' the choristers sang in the church when I found
her! I thought it true! With her,--in every action, in every thought
and word, I strove,--and have faithfully striven,--to atone for my past
crime;--for I was forced through others to kill that king! When proved
guilty of the deed, I was told by my associates to assume madness,--a
mere matter of acting,--and, being adjudged as insane, I was sent with
other criminals on a convict ship, bound for a certain coast-prison,
where we were all to be kept for life. The ship was wrecked off the
rocks yonder, and it was reported that every soul on board went down,
but I escaped--only I,--for what inscrutable reason God alone knows!
Finding myself saved and free, I devoted my life to hard work, and to
doing all the good I could think of to atone--to atone--always to
atone! Then the child was sent to me; and I thought it was a sign that
my penance was accepted; but no!--no!--the compensating curse falls,--
not on me,--not on me, for if only so, I would welcome it--but on Her!
--the child of my love--the heart of my heart!--on Her!"
He turned away his face, and a hard sob broke from his labouring chest.
Von Glauben laid a gentle, protective hand on his shoulder.
"Ronsard, be a man!" he said in a kind, firm voice; "This is the first
time you have told me your true history--and--I shall respect your
confidence! You have suffered much--equally you have loved much! Doubt
not that you are forgiven much. But why should you assume, or foresee
unhappiness for Gloria? Why talk of a curse where perhaps there is only
an intended blessing? Is she unhappy, that you are thus moved?"
Ronsard furtively dashed away the tears from his eyes.
"She? Gloria unhappy? No,--not yet! The delights of spring and summer
have met in her smile,--her eyes, her movements! It was she herself who
told me all! If he had told me, I would have killed him!"
"Eminently sensible!" said Von Glauben, recovering his usual phlegmatic
calm; "You would have killed the man she loves best in the world. And
so with perfect certainty you would have killed her as well,--and
probably yourself afterwards. A perfect slaughterhouse, like the last
scene in Hamlet, by the so admirable Shakespeare! It is better as it
is. Life is really very pleasant!"
He sniffed the perfumed air,--listened with appreciation to the
trilling of a bird swinging on a bough of apple-blossom above him, and
began to feel quite easy in his mind. Half his mission was done for
him, Prince Humphry having declared himself in his true colours. "I
always said," mused the Professor, "that he was a very honest young
man! And I think he will be honest to the end." Aloud he asked:
"When did you know the truth?"
"Some days since," replied Ronsard. "He--Gloria's husband--I can as yet
call him by no other name--came suddenly one evening;--the two went out
together as usual, and then--then my child returned alone. She told me
all,--of the disguise he had assumed--and of his real identity--and I--
well! I think I was mad! I know I spoke and acted like a madman!"
"Nay, rather say like a philosopher!" murmured Von Glauben with a
humorous smile; "Remember, my good fellow, that there is no human being
who loses self-control more easily and rapidly than he who proclaims
the advantage of keeping it! And what did Gloria say to you?"
Ronsard looked up at the tranquil skies, and was for a moment silent.
Then he answered.
"Gloria is--just Gloria! There is no woman like her,--there never will
be any woman like her! She said nothing at all while I raged and
swore;--she stood before me white and silent,--grand and calm, like
some great angel. Then when I cursed _him,_--she raised her hand,
and like a queen she said: 'I forbid you to utter one word against
him!' I stood before her mute and foolish. 'I forbid you!' She,--the
child I reared and nurtured--menaced me with her 'command' as though I
were her slave and servant! You see I have lost her!--she is not mine
any more--she is _his_--to be treated as he wills, and made the
toy of his pleasure! She does not know the world, but I know it! I know
the misery that is in store for her! But there is yet time--and I will
live to avenge her wrong!"
"Possibly there will be no wrong to avenge," said Von Glauben
composedly; "But if there is, I have no doubt you would kill another
king!" Ronsard turned pale and shuddered. "It is stupid work, killing
kings," went on the Professor; "It never does any good; and often
increases the evil it was intended to cure. Your studies in philosophy
must have taught you that much at least! As for your losing Gloria,--
you lost her in a sense when you gave her to her husband. It is no use
complaining now, because you find he is not the man you took him for.
The mischief is done. At any rate you are bound to admit that Gloria
has, so far, been perfectly happy; she will be happy still, I truly
believe, for she has the secret of happiness in her own beautiful
nature. And you, Ronsard, must make the best of things, and meet fate
with calmness. To-day, for instance, I am here by the King's command,--
I bear his orders,--and I have come for Gloria. They want her at the
Ronsard stepped out of his flower-border, and stood on the greensward
amazed, and indignantly suspicious.
"They want her at the Palace!" he repeated; "Why? What for? To do her
harm? To make her miserable? To insult and threaten her? No, she shall
"Look here, my friend," said the Professor with mild patience; "You
have--for a philosopher--a most unpleasant habit of jumping to wrong
conclusions! Please endeavour to compose the tumult in your soul, and
listen to me! The King has sent for Gloria, and I am instructed to take
charge of her, and escort her to the presence of their Majesties. No
insult, no threat, no wrong is intended. I will bring her back again
safe to you immediately the audience is concluded. Be satisfied,
Ronsard! For once 'put your trust in princes,' for her husband will be
there,--and do you think he would suffer her to be insulted or
Ronsard's sunken eyes looked wild,--his aged frame trembled violently,
and he gave a hopeless gesture.
"I do not know--I do not know!" he said incoherently; "I am an old man,
and I have always found it a wicked world! But--if you give me your
word that she shall come to no harm, I will trust _you_!"
Silently Von Glauben took his hand and pressed it. Two or three minutes
passed, weighted with unuttered and unutterable thoughts in the minds
of both men; and then, in a somewhat hushed voice, the Professor said:
"Ronsard, I am just now reminded of the tragic story of Rudolf of
Austria, who killed himself through the maddening sorrow of an ill-
fated love! We, in our different lines of life should remember that,--
and let no young innocent heart suffer through our follies--our rages
against fate--our conventions--our more or less idiotic laws of
restraint and hypocrisy. The tragedy of Prince Rudolf and the unhappy
Marie Vetsera whom he worshipped, was caused by the sin and the
falsehood of others,--not by the victims of the cruel catastrophe.
Therefore, I say to you, my friend, be wise in time!--and control the
natural stormy tendency of your passions in this present affair. I
assure you, on my faith and honour as a man, that the King has a kindly
heart and a brave one,--together with a strong sense of justice. He is
not truly known to his people;--they only see him through the pens of
press reporters, or the slavish descriptions of toadies and parasites.
Then again, the Crown Prince is an honourable lad; and from what I know
of him, he is not likely to submit to conventional usages in matters
which are close to his life and heart. Gloria herself is of such an
exceptional character and disposition, that I think she may be safely
left to arbitrate her own destiny----"
"And the Queen?" interrupted Ronsard suddenly;--"She, at any rate, as a
woman, wife and mother, will be gentle?"
"Gentle, she certainly is," said Von Glauben, with a slight sigh; "But
only because she does not consider it worth while to be otherwise! God
has put a stone in the place where her heart should be! However,--she
will have little to say, and still less to do with to-day's business.
You tell me you will trust me; I promise you, you shall not repent your
trust! But I must see Gloria herself. Where is she?"
Ronsard pointed towards the cottage.
"She is in there, studying," he said; "Books of the old time;--books
that few read. She gets them all from Sergius Thord. How would it be,
think you, if he knew?"
The pleasantly rubicund countenance of the Professor grew a shade
"Sergius Thord--Sergius Thord?--H'm--h'm--let me see!--who is he? Ah! I
remember,--he is the Socialist lion, for ever roaring through the
streets and seeking whom he may devour! I daresay he is not without
"Cleverness!" echoed Ronsard; "That is a tame word! He has genius, and
the people swear by him. Since the proposed new taxation, and other
injustices of the Government, he has gained adherents by many
thousands. You,--whom I once took to be a mere German schoolmaster, a
friend of the young 'sailor' whom my child so innocently wedded,--you
whom I now know to be the King's physician--surely you cannot live on
the mainland, and in the metropolis, without knowing of the power of
"I know something--not much;" replied the Professor guardedly; "But
come, my friend, _I_ have not deceived you! I was in very truth a
poor 'German schoolmaster,' once,--before I became a student of
medicine and surgery. And that I am the King's physician, is merely one
of those accidental circumstances which occur in a world of chance. But
schoolmaster as I have been, I doubt if I would set our 'Glory-of-the-
Sea' to study books recommended to her by Sergius Thord. The poetry of
Heine is more suitable to her age and sex. Let us break in upon her
meditations." And he walked across the grass with one arm thrust
through that of Ronsard; "For she must prepare herself. We ought to be
gone within an hour."
They passed under the low, rose-covered porch into a wide square room,
with raftered ceiling and deep carved oak ingle nook,--and here at the
table, with a quarto volume opened out before her, sat Gloria, resting
her head on one fair hand, her rich hair falling about her in loose
shining tresses, and her whole attitude expressive of the deepest
absorption in study. As they entered, she looked up and smiled,--then
rose, her hand still resting on the open book.
"At last you have come again, dear Professor!" she said; "I began to
think you had grown weary in well-doing!"
Von Glauben stared at her, stricken speechless for a moment. What
mysterious change had passed over the girl, investing her with such an
air of regal authority? It was impossible to say. To all appearance she
was the same beautiful creature, clad in the same simple white homespun
gown,--yet were she Empress of half the habitable globe, she could not
have looked more environed with dignity, sweetness and delicately
gracious manner. He understood the desolating expression of Ronsard,--
'You see I have lost her!--she is not mine any more--she is his!' He
recognised and was suddenly impressed by that fact;--she was 'his'--the
wife of the Crown Prince and Heir-Apparent to the Throne;--and
evidently with the knowledge of her position had arisen the pride of
love and the spirit of grace to support her honours worthily. And so,
as Von Glauben met her eyes, which expressed their gentle wonder at his
silence, and as she extended her hand to him, he came slowly forward
and bowing low, respectfully kissed that hand.
"Princess," he said, in a voice that trembled ever so slightly; "I
shall never be weary in well-doing,--if you are good enough to call my
service and friendship for you by that name! I hesitated to come
before,--because I thought--I feared--I did not know!--"
"I understand!" said Gloria tranquilly; "You did not think the Prince,
my husband, would tell me the truth so soon! But I know all, and now--I
am glad to know it! Dearest," and she moved swiftly to Ronsard who was
standing silent in the doorway--"come in and sit down! You make
yourself so tired sometimes in the garden;" and she threw a loving arm
about him. "You must rest; you look so pale!"
For all answer, he lifted the hand that hung about his neck, to his
lips and kissed it tenderly.
"They want you, Gloria!" he said tremulously; "They want you at the
Palace. You must go to-day!"
She lifted her brilliant eyes enquiringly to Von Glauben, who responded
to the look by at once explaining his mission. He was there, he said,
by the King's special command;--their Majesties had been informed of
their son's marriage by their son himself; and they desired at once to
see and speak with their unknown daughter-in-law. The interview would
be private; his Royal Highness the Crown Prince would be present;--it
might last an hour, perhaps longer,--and he, Von Glauben, was entrusted
to bring Gloria to the Palace, and escort her back to The Islands again
when all was over. Thus, with elaborate and detailed courtesy, the
Professor unfolded the nature of his enterprise, while Gloria, still
keeping one arm round Ronsard, heard and smiled.
"I shall obey the King's command!" she said composedly; "Though,--
having no word from the Prince, my husband, concerning this mandate,--I
might very well refuse to do so! But it may be as well that their
Majesties and their son's wife should plainly, and once for all,
understand each other. Dear Professor, you look sadly troubled. Is
there some little convention, some special ceremonial of so-called
'good manners,' which you are commissioned to teach me, before I make
my appearance at Court under your escort?"
Her lovely lips smiled,--her eyes laughed,--she looked the very
incarnation of Beauty triumphant. Von Glauben's brain whirled,--he felt
bewitched and dazzled.
"I?--to teach you anything? No, my princess!--and please think how
loyally I have called you 'Princess' from the beginning!--I have always
told you that you have a spiritual knowledge far surpassing all
material wisdom. Conventions and ceremonials are not for you,--you
will make fashion, not follow it! I am not troubled, save for your
sake, dear child!--for you know nothing of the world, and the ways of
the Court may at first offend you--"
"The ways of Hell must have seemed dark to Proserpine," said Ronsard in
his harsh, strong voice; "But Love gave her light!"
"A very just reminder!" said Von Glauben, well pleased;--"Consider
Gloria to be the new Proserpine to-day! And now she must forgive me for
playing the part of a tyrannical friend, and urging her to hasten her
Gloria bent down and kissed Ronsard gently.
"Trust me, little father!" she whispered; "You have not taught me great
lessons of truth in vain!"
Aloud she said.
"The King and Queen wish to see me and speak with me,--and I know the
reason why! They desire to fully explain to me all that my husband has
already told me,--which is that according to the rules made for
monarchs, our marriage is inadmissible. Well!--I have my answer ready;
and you, Professor, shall hear me give it! Wait but a few moments and I
will come with you."
She left the room. The two men looked at each other in silence. At last
Von Glauben said:--
"Ronsard, I think you will soon reap the reward of your 'life-
philosophy' system! You have fed that girl from her childhood on strong
intellectual food, and trained the mental muscles rather than the
physical ones. Upon my word, I believe you will see a good result!"
Ronsard, who had grown much calmer and quieter during the last few
minutes, raised himself a little from the chair into which he had sunk
with an air of fatigue, and looked dreamily towards the open lattice
window, where the roses hung in a curtain of crimson blossom.
"If it be so, I shall praise God!" he said; "But the years have come
and gone with me so peacefully since I made my home on these quiet
shores, that the exercise of what I have presumed to call 'philosophy'
has had no chance. Philosophy! It is well to preach it,--but when the
blow of misfortune falls, who can practise it?"
"You can," replied the Professor;--"I can! Gloria can! I think we all
three have clear brains. There is a tendency in the present age to
overlook and neglect the greatest power in the whole human
composition,--the mental and psychical part of it. Now, in the present
curious drama of events, we have a chance given to exercise it; and it
will be our own faults if we do not make our wills rule our destinies!"
"But the position is intolerable--impossible!" said Ronsard, rising and
pacing the room with a fresh touch of agitation. "Nothing can do away
with the fact that we--my child and I--have been cruelly deceived! And
now there can be only one of two contingencies; Gloria must be
acknowledged as the Prince's wife,--in which case he will be forced to
resign all claim to the Throne;--or he must marry again, which makes
her no wife at all. That is a disgrace which her pride would never
submit to, nor mine;--for did I not kill a king?"
"Let me advise you for the future not to allude to that disagreeable
incident!" said Von Glauben persuasively: "Exercise discretion,--as I
do! Observe that I do not ask you what king you killed;--I am as
careful on that matter as I am concerning the reasons for which I
myself left my native Fatherland! I make it a rule never to converse on
painful subjects. You tell me you have tried to atone; then believe
that the atonement is made, and that Gloria is the sign of its
acceptance, and--happy augury!--here she comes."
They both instinctively turned to confront the girl as she entered. She
had changed her ordinary white homespun gown for another of the same
kind, equally simple, but fresh and unworn; her glorious bronze-
chestnut hair was unbound to its full rippling length, and was held
back by a band or fillet of curiously carved white coral, which
surmounted the rich tresses somewhat in the fashion of a small crown,
and she carried, thrown over one arm, the only kind of cloak she ever
wore,--a burnous-like wrap of the same white homespun as her dress,
with a hood, which, as the Professor slowly took out his glasses and
fixed them on his nose out of mere mechanical habit, to look at her
more closely, she drew over her head and shoulders, the soft folds
about her exquisite face completing a classic picture of such radiant
beauty as is seldom seen nowadays among the increasingly imperfect and
repulsive specimens of female humanity which 'progress' combined with
sensuality, produce for the 'advancement' of the race.
"I have no Court dress," she said smiling; "And if I had I should not
wear it! The King and Queen shall see me as my husband sees me,--what
pleases him, must suffice to please them! I am quite ready!"
Von Glauben removed the spectacles he had needlessly put on. They were
dim with a moisture which he furtively polished off, blinking his eyes
meanwhile as if the light hurt him. He was profoundly moved--thrilled
to the very core of his soul by the simplicity, frankness and courage
of this girl whose education was chiefly out of wild Nature's lesson-
book, and who knew nothing of the artificial world of fashion.
"And I, my princess, am at your service!" he said; "Ronsard, it is but
a few hours that we shall be absent. To-night with the rising of the
moon we shall return, and I doubt not with the Prince himself as chief
escort! Keep a good heart and have faith! All will be well!"
"All _shall_ be well if Love can make it so!" said Ronsard;--
"Gloria--my child--!" He held out his wrinkled hands pathetically,
unable to say more. She sank on her knees before him, and tenderly
drawing down those hands upon her head, pressed them closely there.
"Your blessing, dearest!" she said; "Not in speech--but in thought!"
There was a moment's sacred silence;--then Gloria rose, and throwing
her arms round the old man, the faithful protector of her infancy and
girlhood, kissed him tenderly. After that, she seemed to throw all
seriousness to the winds, and running out under the roses of the porch
made two or three light dancing steps across the lawn.
"Come!" she cried, her eyes sparkling, her face radiant with the
gaiety of her inward spirit; "Come, Professor! This is not what we call
a poet's day of dreams,--it is a Royal day of nonsense! Come!" and here
she drew herself up with a stately air--"WE are prepared to confront the
The Professor caught the infection of her mirth, and quickly followed
her; and within the next half-hour Réné Ronsard, climbing slowly to the
summit of one of the nearest rocks on the shore adjacent to his
dwelling, shaded his eyes from the dazzling sunlight on the sea, and
strained them to watch the magnificent Royal yacht steaming swiftly
over the tranquil blue water, with one slight figure clad in white
leaning against the mast, a figure that waved its hand fondly towards
The Islands, and of whom it might have been said:
"Her gaze was glad past love's own singing of,
And her face lovely past desire of love!"
A FAIR DÉBUTANTE
That same afternoon there was a mysterious commotion at the Palace,--
whispers ran from lip to lip among the few who had seen her, that a
beautiful woman,--lovelier than the Queen herself,--had, under the escort
of the uncommunicative Professor von Glauben, passed into the presence
of the King and Queen, to receive the honour of a private audience.
Who was she? What was she? Where did she come from? How was
she dressed? This last question was answered first, being easiest to
deal with. She was attired all in white,--'like a picture' said some--
'like a statue' said others. No one, however, dared ask any direct
question concerning her,--her reception, whoever she was, being of a
strictly guarded nature, and peremptory orders having been given to
admit no one to the Queen's presence-chamber, to which apartment she
had been taken by the King's physician. But such dazzling beauty as
hers could not go altogether unnoticed by the most casual attendant,
sentinel, or lord-in-waiting, and the very fact that special commands
had been issued to guard all the doors of entrance to the Royal
apartments on either hand, during her visit, only served to pique and
inflame the general curiosity.
Meantime,--while lesser and inferior personages were commenting on the
possibility of the unknown fair one being concerned with some dramatic
incident that might have to be included among the King's numerous
gallantries,--the unconscious subject of their discussion was quietly
seated alone in an ante-room adjoining the Queen's apartments, waiting
till Professor von Glauben should announce that their Majesties were
ready to receive her. She was not troubled or anxious, or in any way
ill at ease. She looked curiously upon the splendid evidences of Royal
state, wealth and luxury which surrounded her, with artistic
appreciation but no envy. She caught sight of her own face and figure
in a tall mirror opposite to her, set in a silver frame; and she
studied herself quietly and critically with the calm knowledge that
there was nothing to deplore or to regret in the way God and Nature had
been pleased to make her. She was not in the slightest degree vain,--
but she knew that a healthy and quiet mind in a healthy and unspoilt
body, together form what is understood as the highest beauty,--and
that these two elements were not lacking in her. Moreover, she was
conscious of a great love warming her heart and strengthening her
soul,--and with this great motive-force to brace her nerves and add
extra charm to her natural loveliness, she had no fear. She had enjoyed
the swift voyage across the sparkling sea, and the fresh air had made
her eyes doubly lustrous, her complexion even more than usually fair
and brilliant. She did not permit herself to be rendered unhappy or
anxious as to the possible attitude of the King and Queen towards her,
--she was prepared for all contingencies, and had fully made up her
mind what to say. Therefore, there was no need to fret over the
position, or to be timorously concerned because she was called upon to
confront those who by human law alone were made superior in rank to the
rest of mankind.
"In God's sight all men are equal!" she said to herself: "The King is a
mere helpless babe at birth, dependant on others,--as he is a mere
helpless corpse at death. It is only men's own foolish ideas and
conventions of usage in life that make any difference!"
At that moment the Professor entered hurriedly, and impulsively seizing
her hands in his own, kissed them and pressed them tenderly. His face
was flushed--he was evidently strongly excited.
"Go in there now, Princess!" he whispered, pointing to the adjacent
room, of which the door stood ajar; "And may God be on your side!"
She rose up, and releasing her hands gently from his nervous grasp,
"Do not be afraid!" she said; "You, too, are coming?"
"I follow you!" he replied.
And to himself he said: "Ach, Gott in Himmel! Will she keep her so
beautiful calm? If she will--if she can--a throne would be well lost
for such a woman!"
And he watched her with an admiration amounting almost to fear, as she
passed before him and entered the Royal presence-chamber with a proud
light step, a grace of bearing and a supreme distinction, which, had
she been there on a day of diplomatic receptions, would have made half
the women accustomed to attend Court, look like the merest vulgar
The room she entered was very large and lofty. A dazzle of gold
ceiling, painted walls and mirrors flashed upon her eyes, with the hue
of silken curtains and embroidered hangings,--the heavy perfume of
hundreds of flowers in tall crystal vases and wide gilded stands made
the air drowsy and odorous, and for a moment, Gloria, just fresh from
the sweet breath of the sea, felt sickened and giddy,--but she
recovered quickly, and raised her eyes fearlessly to the two motionless
figures, which, like idols set in a temple for worship, waited her
approach. The King, stiffly upright, and arrayed in military uniform,
stood near the Queen, who was seated in a throne-like chair over-
canopied with gold,--her trailing robes were of a pale azure hue
bordered with ermine, and touched here and there with silver, giving
out reflexes of light, stolen as it seemed from the sea and sky,--and
her beautiful face, with its clear-cut features and cold pallor, might
have been carved out of ivory, for all the interest or emotion
expressed upon it. Gloria came straight towards her, then stopped. With
her erect supple form, proud head and fair features, she looked the
living embodiment of sovereign womanhood,--and the Queen, meeting the
full starry glance of her eyes, stirred among her Royal draperies, and
raised herself with a slow graceful air of critical observation, in
which there was a touch of languid wonder mingled with contempt. Still
Gloria stood motionless,--neither abashed nor intimidated,--she made no
curtsey or reverential salutation of any kind, and presently removing
her gaze from the Queen, she turned to the King.
"You sent for me," she said; "And I have come. What do you want with
The King smiled. What a dazzling Perfection was here, he thought! A
second Una unarmed, and strong in the courage of innocence! But he was
acting a special part, and he determined to play it well and
thoroughly. So he gave her no reply, but turned with a stiff air to Von
"Tell the girl to make her obeisance to the Queen!" he said.
The Professor very reluctantly approached the 'Glory-of-the-Sea' with
this suggestion, cautiously whispered. Gloria obeyed at once. Moving
swiftly to the Queen's chair, she bent low before her.
"Madam!" she said, "I am told to kneel to you, because you are the
Queen,--but it is not for that I do so. I kneel, because you are my
And raising the cold impassive hand covered with great gems, that
rested idly on the rich velvets so near to her touch, she gently
kissed it,--then rose up to her full height again.
"Is it always like this here?" she asked, gazing around her. "Do you
always sit thus in a chair, dressed grandly and quite silent?"
The smile deepened on the King's face; the Queen, perforce moved at
last from her inertia, half rose with an air of amazement and
indignation, and Von Glauben barely saved himself from laughing
"You," continued Gloria, fixing her bright glance on the King; "You
have seen me before! You have spoken to me. Then why do you pretend not
to know me now? Is that Court manners? If so, they are not good or
The King relaxed his formal attitude, and addressed his Consort in a
"It is no use dealing with this girl in the conventional way," he said;
"She is a mere child at heart, simple and uneducated;--we must treat
her as such. Perhaps you will speak to her first?"
"No, Sir, I much prefer that you should do so," she replied. "When I
have heard her answers to you, it will be perhaps my turn!"
Thereupon the King advanced a step or two, and Gloria regarded him
steadfastly. Meeting the pure light of those lovely eyes, he lost
something of his ordinary self-possession,--he was conscious of a
certain sense of embarrassment and foolishness;--his very uniform,
ablaze with gold and jewelled orders, seemed a clown's costume compared
with the classic simplicity of Gloria's homespun garb, which might have
fitly clothed a Greek goddess. Sensible of his nervous irritation, he
however overcame it by an effort, and summoning all his dignity, he
'graciously,' as the newspaper parasites put it, extended his hand.
Gloria smiled archly.
"I kissed your hand the other day when you were cross!" she said; "You
would like it kissed again? There!"
And with easy grace of gesture she pressed her lips lightly upon it. It
would have needed something stronger than mere flesh and blood to
resist the natural playfulness and charm of her action, combined with
her unparalleled beauty, and the King, who was daily and hourly proving
for himself the power and intensity of that Spirit of Man which makes
clamour for higher things than Man's conventionalities, became for the
moment as helplessly overwhelmed and defeated by a woman's smile, a
woman's eyes, as any hero of old times, whose conquests have been
reported to us in history as achieved for the sake of love and beauty.
But he was compelled to disguise his thoughts, and to maintain an
outward expression of formality, particularly in the presence of his
Queen-Consort,--and he withdrew the hand that bore her soft kiss upon
it with a well-simulated air of chill tolerance. Then he spoke gravely,
in measured precise accents.
"Gloria Ronsard, we have sent for you in all kindness," he said; "out
of a sincere wish to remedy any wrong which our son, the Crown Prince
has, in the light folly and hot impulse of his youth, done to you in
your life. We are given to understand that there is a boy-and-girl
attachment between you; that he won your attachment under a disguised
identity, and that you were thus innocently deceived,--and that, in
order to satisfy his own honourable scruples, as well as your sense of
maidenly virtue, he has, still under a disguise, gone through the
ceremony of marriage with you. Therefore, it seems that you now imagine
yourself to be his lawful wife. This is a very natural mistake for a
girl to make who is as young and inexperienced as you are, and I am
sorry,--very sorry for the false position in which my son the Crown
Prince has so thoughtlessly placed you. But, after very earnest
consideration, I,--and the Queen also,--think it much better for you to
know the truth at once, so that you may fully realize the situation,
and then, by the exercise of a little common sense, spare yourself any
further delusion and pain. All we can do to repair the evil, you may
rest assured shall be done. But you must thoroughly understand that the
Crown Prince, as heir to the Throne, cannot marry out of his own
station. If he should presume to do so, through some mad and hot-headed
impulse, such a marriage is not admitted or agreed to by the nation.
Thus you will see plainly that, though you have gone through the
marriage ceremony with him, that counts as nothing in your case,--for,
according to the law of the realm, and in the sight of the world, you
are not, and cannot be his wife!"
Gloria raised her deep bright eyes and smiled.
"No?" she said, and then was silent.
The King regarded her with surprise, and a touch of anger. He had
expected tears, passionate declamations, and reiterated assurances of
the unalterable and indissoluble tie between herself and her lover, but
this little indifferently-queried "No?" upset all his calculations.
"Have you nothing to say?" he asked, somewhat sternly.
"What should I say?" she responded, still smiling; "You are the King;
it is for you to speak!"
"She does not understand you, Sir," interrupted the Queen coldly; "Your
words are possibly too elaborate for her simple comprehension!"
Gloria turned a fearless beautiful glance upon her.
"Pardon me, Madam, but I do understand!" she said; "I understand that
by the law of God I am your son's wife, and that by the law of the
world I am no wife! I abide by the law of God!"
There was a moment's dead silence. Professor von Glauben gave a
discreet cough to break it, and the King, reminded of his presence
turned towards him.
"Has she no sense of the position?" he demanded.
"Sir, I have every reason to believe that she grasps it thoroughly!"
replied Von Glauben with a deferential bow.
But here he was again interrupted by the Queen. She, raising herself in
her chair, her beautiful head and shoulders lifted statue-like from her
enshrining draperies of azure and white, stretched forth a hand and
beckoned Gloria towards her.
"Come here, child!" she said; then as Gloria advanced with evident
reluctance, she added; "Come closer--you must not be afraid of me!"
"Nay, Madam, trouble not yourself at all in that regard! I never was
afraid of anyone!"
A shadow of annoyance darkened the Queen's fair brows.
"Since you have no fear, you may equally have no shame!" she said in
icy-cold accents; "Therefore it is easy to understand why you
deliberately refuse to see the harm and cruelty done to our son, the
Crown Prince, by his marriage with you, if such marriage were in the
least admissible, which fortunately for all concerned, it is not. He is
destined to occupy the Throne, and he must wed someone who is fit to
share it. Kings and princes may love where they choose,--but they can
only marry where they must! You are my son's first love;--the thought
and memory of that may perhaps be a consolation to you,--but do not
assume that you will be his last!"
Gloria drew back from her; her face had paled a little.
"You can speak so!" she said sorrowfully; "You,--his mother! Poor
Queen--poor woman! I am sorry for you!"
Without pausing to notice the crimson flush of vexation that flew over
the Queen's delicate face at her words, she turned, now with some
haughtiness, to the King.
"Speak plainly!" she said; "What is it you want of me?"
Her flashing eyes, her proud look startled him--he moved back a step or
two. Then he replied with as much firmness and dignity as he could
"Nothing is wanted of you, my child, but obedience and loyalty! Resign
all claim upon the Crown Prince as his wife; promise never to see him
again, or correspond with him,--and--you shall lose nothing by the
sacrifice you make of your little love affair to the good of the
"The good of the country!" echoed Gloria in thrilling tones. "Do
_you_ know anything about it? You--who never go among your people
except to hunt and shoot and amuse yourself generally? You, who permit
wicked liars and spendthrifts to gamble with the people's money! The
good of the country! If my life could only lift the burden of taxation
from the country, I would lay it down gladly and freely! If I were
Queen, do you think I could be like her?" and she stretched forth her
white arm to where the Queen, amazed, had risen from her seat, and now
stood erect, her rich robes trailing yards on the ground, and flashing
at every point with jewels. "Do you think I could sit unmoved, clad in
rich velvet and gems, while one single starving creature sought bread
within my kingdom? Nay, I would sell everything I possessed and go
barefoot rather! I would be a sister, not a mere 'patroness' to the
poor;--I would never wear a single garment that had not been made for
me by the workers of my own land;--and the 'good of the country' should
be 'good' indeed, not 'bad,' as it is now!"
Breathless with the sudden rush of her thoughts into words, she stood
with heaving bosom and sparkling eyes, the incarnation of eloquence and
inspiration, and before the astonished monarch could speak, she went
"I am your son's wife! He loves me--he has wedded me honourably and
lawfully. You wish me to disclaim that. I will not! From him and him
alone, must come my dismissal from his heart, his life and his soul. If
he desires his marriage with me dissolved, let him tell me so himself
face to face, and before you and his mother! Then I shall be content to
be no more his wife. But not till then! I will promise nothing without
his consent. He is my husband,--and to him I owe my first obedience. I
seek no honour, no rank, no wealth,--but I have won the greatest
treasure in this world, his love!--and that I will keep!"
A door opened at the further end of the room--a curtain was quietly
pushed aside, and the Crown Prince entered. With a composed, almost
formal demeanour, he saluted the King and Queen, and then going up to
Gloria, passed his arm around her waist, and held her fast.
"When you have concluded your interview with my wife, Sir,--an
interview of which I had no previous knowledge," he said quietly,
addressing the King; "I shall be glad to have one of my own with her!"
The King answered him calmly enough.
"Your wife,--as you call her,--is a very incorrigible young person," he
said. "The sooner she returns to her companions, the fisher-folk on The
Islands, the better! From her looks I imagined she might have sense;
but I fear that is lacking to her composition! However, she is
perfectly willing to consider her marriage with you dissolved, if you
desire it. I trust you _will_ desire it;--here, now, and at once,
in my presence and that of the Queen, your mother;--and thus a very
unpleasant and unfortunate incident in your career will be
Prince Humphry smiled.
"Dissolve the heavens and its stars into a cup of wine, and drink them
all down at one gulp!" he said; "And then, perhaps, you may dissolve my
marriage with this lady! If you consider it illegal, put the question
to the Courts of Law;--to the Pope, who most strenuously supports the
sanctity of the marriage-tie;--ask all who know anything of the
sacrament, whether, when two people love each other, and are bound by
holy matrimony to be as one, and are mutually resolved to so remain,
any earthly power can part them! 'Those whom God hath joined together,
let no man put asunder.' Is that mere lip mockery, or is it a holy
The King gave an impatient gesture.
"There is no use in argument," he said, "when argument has to be
carried on with such children as yourselves. What cannot be done by
persuasion, must be done by force. I wished to act kindly and
reasonably by both of you--and I had hoped better things from this
interview,--but as matters have turned out, it may as well be
"Wait!" said Gloria, disengaging herself gently from her husband's
embrace; "I have something to say which ought to meet your wishes, even
though it may not be all you desire. I will not promise to give up my
husband;--I will not promise never to see him, and never to write to
him--but I will swear to you one thing that should completely put your
fears and doubts of me at rest!"
Both the King and Queen looked at her wonderingly;--a brighter, more
delicate beauty seemed to invest her,--she stood very proudly upright,
her small head lifted,--her rich hair glistening in the soft sunshine
that streamed in subdued tints through the high stained-glass windows
of the room,--her figure, slight and tall, was like that of the goddess
dreamt of by Endymion.
"You are so unhappy already," she continued, turning to the Queen; "You
have lost so much, and you need so much, that I should be sorry to add
to your burden of grief! If I thought I could make you glad,--if I
thought I could make you see the world through my eyes, with all the
patient, loving human hearts about you, waiting for the sympathy you
never give; I would come to you often, and try to find the warm pulse
of you somewhere under all that splendour which you clothe yourself in,
and which is as valueless to me as the dust on the common road! And if
I could show _you_" and here she fixed her steadfast glance upon
the King,--"where you might win friends instead of losing them,--if I
could persuade you to look and see where the fires of Revolution are
beginning to smoulder and kindle under your very Throne,--if I could
bear messages from you of compassion and tenderness to all the
disaffected and disloyal, I would ask you on my knees to let me be your
daughter in affection, as I am by marriage; and I would unveil to you
the secrets of your own kingdom, which is slowly but steadily rising
against you! But you judge me wrongly--you estimate me falsely,--and
where I might have given aid, your own misconception of me makes me
useless! You consider me low-born and a mere peasant! How can you be
sure of that?--for truly I do not know who I am, or where I came from.
For aught I can tell, the storm was my father, and the sea my mother,--
but my parents may as easily have been Royal! You judge me half-
educated,--and wholly unworthy to be your son's wife. Will the ladies
of your Court compete with me in learning? I am ready! What I hear of
their attainments has not as yet commanded my respect or admiration,--
and you yourself as King, do nothing to show that you care for either
art or learning! I wonder, indeed, that you should even pause to
consider whether your son's wife is educated or not!"
Absolutely silent, the King kept his eyes upon her. He was experiencing
a novel sensation which was altogether delightful to him, and more
instructive than any essay or sermon. He, the ostensible ruler of the
country, was face to face with a woman who had no fear of him,--no awe
for his position,--no respect for his rank, but who simply spoke to him
as though he had been any ordinary person. He saw a scarcely
perceptible smile on his son's handsome features,--he saw that Von
Glauben's eyes twinkled, despite his carefully preserved seriousness of
demeanour, and he realized the almost absurd powerlessness of his
authority in such an embarrassing position. The assumption of a mute
contempt, such as was vaguely expressed by the Queen, appeared to him
to be the best policy;--he therefore adopted that attitude, without
however producing the least visible effect. Gloria's face, softly
flushed with suppressed emotion, looked earnest and impassioned, but
neither abashed nor afraid.
"I have read many histories of kings," she continued slowly; "Of their
treacheries and cruelties; of their neglect of their people! Seldom
have they been truly great! The few who are reported as wise, lived and
reigned so many ages ago, that we cannot tell whether their virtues
were indeed as admirable as described,--or whether their vices were
not condoned by a too-partial historian. A Throne has no attraction for
me! The only sorrow I have ever known in my life, is the discovery that
the man I love best in the world is a king's son! Would to God he were
poor and unrenowned as I thought him to be, when I married him!--for so
we should always have been happy. But now I have to think for him as
well as for myself;--his position is as hard as mine,--and we accept
our fate as a trial of our love. Love cannot be forced,--it must root
itself, and grow where it will. It has made us two as one;--one in
thought,--one in hope,--one in faith! No earthly power can part us. You
would marry him to another woman, and force him to commit a great sin
'for the good of the country'? I tell you, if you do that,--if any king
or prince does that,--God's curse will surely fall upon the Throne,
and all that do inherit it!"
She did not raise her voice,--she spoke in low thrilling accents,
without excitement, but with measured force and calm. Then she beckoned
the Crown Prince to her side. He instantly obeyed her gesture. Taking
him by the hand, she advanced a little, and with him confronted both
the King and Queen.
"Hear me, your Majesties both!" she said in clear, firm accents; "And
when you have heard, be satisfied as to 'the good of the country,' and
let me depart to my own home in peace, away from all your crushing and
miserable conventions. I take your son by the hand, and even as I swore
my faith to him at the marriage altar, so I swear to you that he is
free to follow his own inclination;--his law is mine,--his will my
pleasure,--and in everything I shall obey him, save in this one decree,
which I make for myself in your Majesties' sovereign presence--that
never, so help me God, will I claim or share my husband's rank as Crown
Prince, or set foot within this palace, which is his home, again, till
a greater voice than that of any king,--the voice of the Nation itself,
calls upon me to do so!"
This proud declaration was entirely unexpected; and both the King and
Queen regarded the beautiful speaker in undisguised amazement. She,
gently dropping the Prince's hand, met their eyes with a wistful pathos
in her own.
"Will that satisfy you?" she asked, a slight tremor shaking her voice
as she put the question.
The King at once advanced, and now spoke frankly, and without any
"Assuredly! You are a brave girl! True to your love, and true to the
country at one and the same time! But while I accept your vow, let me
warn you not to indulge in any lurking hope or feeling that the Nation
will ever recognize your marriage. Your own willingly-taken oath at
this moment practically makes it null and void, so far as the State is
concerned;--but perhaps it strengthens it as a bond of--youthful
An open admiration flashed in his bold fine eyes as he spoke,--and
Gloria grew pale. With an involuntary movement she turned towards the
"You--Madam--you--Ah! No,--not you!--you are cruel!--you have not a
woman's heart! My love--my husband!"
The Prince was at once beside her, and she clung to him trembling.
"Take me away!" she whispered; "Take me away altogether--this place
He caught her in his strong young arms, and was about to lead her to
the door, when she suddenly appeared to remember something, and
releasing herself from his clasp, put him away from her with a faint
"No, dearest! You must stay here;--stay here and make your father and
mother understand all that I have said. Tell them I mean to keep my
vow. You know how thoroughly I mean it! The Professor will take me
Then the Queen moved, and came towards her with her usual slow
"Let me thank you!" she said, with an air of gracious condescension;
"You are a very good girl, and I am sure you will keep your word! You
are so beautiful that you are bound to do well; and I hope your future
life will be a happy one!"
"I hope so, Madam!" replied Gloria slowly; "I think it will! If it is
not happier than yours, I shall indeed be unfortunate!"
The Queen drew back, offended; but the King, who had been whispering
aside to Von Glauben, now approached and said kindly.
"You must not go away, my child, without some token of our regard. Wear
this for Our sake!"
He offered her a chain of gold bearing a simple yet exquisitely
designed pendant of choice pearls. Her face crimsoned, and she pushed
it disdainfully aside.
"Keep it, Sir, for those whose love and faith can be purchased with
jewelled toys! Mine cannot! You mean kindly no doubt,--but a gift from
you is an offence, not an honour! Fare-you-well!"
Another moment and she was gone. Von Glauben, at a sign from the King,
hastily followed her. Prince Humphry, who had remained almost entirely
mute during the scene, now stood with folded arms opposite his Royal
parents, still silent and rigid. The King watched him for a minute or
two--then laid a hand gently on his arm.
"We do not blame you over-much, Humphry!" he said; "She is a beautiful
creature, and more intelligent than I had imagined. Moreover she has
great calmness, as well as courage."
Still the Prince said nothing.
"You are satisfied, Madam, I presume?" went on the King addressing his
Consort;--"The girl could hardly make a more earnest vow of abnegation
than she has done. And when Humphry has travelled for a year and seen
other lands, other manners, and other faces, we may look upon this
boyish incident in his career as finally closed. I think both you and I
can rest assured that there will be no further cause for anxiety?"
He put the question carelessly. The Queen bent her head in
acquiescence, but her eyes were fixed upon her son, who still said
"We have not received any promise from Humphry himself," she said;
"Apparently he is not disposed to take a similar oath of loyalty!"
"Truly, Madam, you judge me rightly for once!" said the Prince,
quietly; "I am certainly not disposed to do anything but to be master
of my own thoughts and actions."
"Remain so, Humphry, by all means!" said the King indulgently. "The
present circumstances being so far favourable, we exact nothing more
from you. Love will be love, and passion must have its way with boys of
your age. I impose no further restriction upon you. The girl's own word
is to me sufficient bond for the preservation of your high position.
All young men have their little secret love-affairs; we shall not blame
you for yours now, seeing, as we do, the satisfactory end of it in
sight! But I fear we are detaining you!" This with elaborate
politeness. "If you wish to follow your fair _inamorata_, the way
is clear! You may retire!"
Without any haste, but with formal military stiffness the Prince
saluted,--and turning slowly on his heel, left the presence-chamber.
Alone, the King and his beautiful Queen-Consort looked questioningly at
"What think you, Madam, of the heroine of this strange love-story?" he
asked with a touch of bitterness in his voice. "Does it not strike you
that even in this arid world of much deception, there may be after all
such a thing as innocence?--such a treasure as true and trusting love?
Were not the eyes of this girl Gloria, when lifted to your face,
something like the eyes of a child who has just said its prayers to
God,--who fears nothing and loves all? Yet I doubt whether you were
"Were you?" she asked indifferently, yet with a strange fluttering at
her heart, which she could not herself comprehend.
"I was!" he answered. "I confess it! I was profoundly touched to see a
girl of such beauty and innocence confront us here, with no other
shield against our formal and ridiculous conventionalities, save the
pure strength of her own love for Humphry, and her complete trust in
him. It is easy to see that her life hangs on his will; it is not so
much her with whom we have to deal, as with him. What he says, she will
evidently obey. If he tells her he has ceased to love her, she will die
quite uncomplainingly; but so long as he does love her, she will live,
and expand in beauty and intelligence on that love alone; and you may
be assured, Madam, that in that case, he will never wed another woman!
Nor could I possibly blame him, for he is bound to find all--or most
women inferior to her!"
She regarded him wonderingly.
"Your admiration of her is keen, Sir!" she said, amazed to find herself
somewhat irritated. "Perhaps if she were not morganatically your
daughter-in-law, you might be your son's rival?"
He turned upon her indignantly.
"Madam, the days were, when you, as my wife, had it in your power to
admit no rivals to the kingdom of your own beauty! Since then, I
confess, you have had many! But they have been worthless rivals all,--
crazed with their own vanity and greed, and empty of truth and honour.
A month or two before I came to the Throne, I was beginning to think
that women were viler than vermin,--I had grown utterly weary of their
beauty,--weary--ay, sick to death of their alluring eyes, sensual lips,
and too freely-offered caresses; the uncomely, hard-worked woman,
earning bread for her half-starved children, seemed the only kind of
feminine creature for which I could have any respect--but now--I am
learning that there _are_ good women who are fair to see,--women
who have hearts to love and suffer, and who are true--ay--true as the
sun in heaven to the one man they worship!"
"A man who is generally quite unworthy of them!" said the Queen with a
chill laugh; "Your eloquence, Sir, is very touching, and no doubt leads
further than I care to penetrate! The girl Gloria is certainly
beautiful, and no doubt very innocent and true at present,--but when
Humphry tires of her, as he surely will, for all men quickly tire of
those that love them best,--she will no doubt sink into the ordinary
ways of obtaining consolation. I know little concerning these amazingly
good women you speak of; and nothing concerning good men! But I quite
agree with you that many women are to be admired for their hard work.
You see when once they do begin to work, men generally keep them at
it!" She gathered up her rich train on one arm, and prepared to leave
the apartment. "If you think," she continued, "as you now say, that
Humphry will never change his present sentiments, and never marry any
other woman, the girl's oath is a mere farce and of no avail!"
"On the contrary, it is of much avail," said the King, "for she has
sworn before us both never to claim any right to share in Humphry's
position, till the nation itself asks her to do so. Now as the nation
will never know of the marriage at all, the 'call' will not be
The Queen paused in the act of turning away.
"If you were to die," she said; "Humphry would be King. And as King, he
is quite capable of making Gloria Queen!"
He looked at her very strangely.
"Madam, in the event of my death, all things are possible!" he said; "A
dying Sovereignty may give birth to a Republic!"
The Queen smiled.
"Well, it is the most popular form of government nowadays," she
responded, carelessly moving slowly towards the door; "And perhaps the
most satisfactory. I think if I were not a Queen, I should be a
"And I, if I were not a King," he responded, "should be a Socialist!
Such are the strange contradictions of human nature! Permit me!" He
opened the door of the room for her to pass out,--and as she did so,
she looked up full in his face.
"Are you still interested in your new form of amusement?" she said;
"And do you still expose yourself to danger and death?"
He bowed assent.
"Still am I a fool in a new course of folly, Madam!" he answered with a
smile, and a half sigh. "So many of my brother monarchs are wadded
round like peaches in wool, with precautions for their safety, lest
they bruise at a touch, that I assure you I take the chances of danger
and death as exhilarating sport, compared to their guarded condition.
But it is very good of you to assume such a gracious solicitude for my
"Assume?" she said. Her voice had a slight tremor in it,--her eyes
looked soft and suffused with something like tears. Then, with her
usual stately grace, she saluted him, and passed out.
Struck at the unwonted expression in her face, he stood for a moment
amazed. Then he gave vent to a low bitter laugh.
"How strange it would be if she should love me now!" he murmured. "But
--after all these years--too late! Too late!"
That night before the King retired to rest, Professor von Glauben
reported himself and his duty to his Majesty in the privacy of his own
apartments. He had, he stated, accompanied Gloria back to her home in
The Islands; and, he added somewhat hesitatingly, the Crown Prince had
returned with her, and had there remained. He, the Professor, had left
them together, being commanded by the Prince so to do.
The King received this information with perfect equanimity.
"The boy must have his way for the present," he said. "His passion will
soon exhaust itself. All passion exhausts itself sooner or--later!"
"That depends very much on the depth or shallowness of its source,
Sir," replied the Professor.
"True! But a boy!--a mere infant in experience! What can he know of the
depths in the heart and soul! Now a man of my age----"
He broke off abruptly, seeing Von Glauben's eyes fixed steadfastly upon
him, and the colour deepened in his cheek. Then he gave a slight laugh.
"I tell you, Von Glauben, this little love-affair--this absurd toy-
marriage is not worth thinking about. Humphry leaves the country at the
end of this month,--he will remain absent a year,--and at the
expiration of that time we shall marry him in good earnest to a
royally-born bride. Meanwhile, let us not trouble ourselves about this
sentimental episode, which is so rapidly drawing to its close."
The Professor bowed respectfully and retired. But not to sleep. He had
a glowing picture before his eyes,--a picture he could not forget, of
the Crown Prince and Gloria standing with arms entwined about each
other under the rose-covered porch of Ronsard's cottage saying "Good-
night" to him, while Ronsard himself, his tranquillity completely
restored, and his former fears at rest, warmly shook his hand, and with
a curious mingling of pride and deference thanked him for all his
friendship--'all his goodness!'
"And no goodness at all is mine," said the meditative Professor, "save
that of being as honest as I can to both sides! But there is some
change in the situation which I do not quite understand. There is some
new plan on foot I would swear! The Prince was too triumphant--Gloria
too happy--Ronsard too satisfied! There is something in the wind!--but
I cannot make out what it is!"
He pondered uneasily for a part of the night, reflecting that when he
had returned from The Islands in the King's yacht, he had met the
Prince's own private vessel on her way thither, gliding over the waves,
a mere ghostly bunch of white sails in the glimmering moon. He had
concluded that it was under orders to embark the Prince for home again
in the morning; and yet, though this was a perfectly natural and
probable surmise, he had been unable to rid himself altogether of a
doubtful presentiment, to which he could give no name. By degrees, he
fell into an uneasy slumber, in which he had many incompleted dreams,--
one of which was that he found himself all alone on the wide ocean
which stretched for thousands of miles beyond The Islands,--alone in a
small boat, endeavouring to row it towards the great Southern Continent
that lay afar off in the invisible distance,--where few but the most
adventurous travellers ever cared to wander. And as he pulled with
weak, ineffectual oars against the mighty weight of the rolling
billows, he thought he heard the words of an old Irish song which he
remembered having listened to, when as quite a young man he had paid
his first and last visit to the misty and romantic shores of Britain.
"Come o'er the sea
_Cushla ma chree_!--
Mine through sunshine, storm and snows!--
Seasons may roll,
But the true soul,
Burns the same wherever it goes;
Let fate frown on, so we love and part not,
'T is life where thou art, 't is death where thou art not!
Then come o'er the sea,
_Cushla ma chree_!
Mine wherever the wild wind blows!"
Then waking with a violent start, he wondered what set of brain-cells
had been stirred to reproduce rhymes that he had, or so he deemed, long
ago forgotten. And still musing, he almost mechanically went on with
the wild ditty.
"Was not the sea
Made for the free,
Land for Courts and chains alone!--
Here we are slaves,
But on the waves,
Love and liberty are our own!"
"This will never do!" he exclaimed, leaping from his bed; "I am becoming
a mere driveller with advancing age!"
He went to the window and looked out. It was about six o'clock in the
morning,--the sun was shining brightly into his room. Before him lay
the sea, calm as a lake, and clear-sparkling as a diamond;--not a boat
was in sight;--not a single white sail on the distant horizon. And in
the freshness and stillness of the breaking day, the world looked but
just newly created.
"How we fret and fume in our little span of life!" he murmured. "A few
years hence, and for us all the troubles which we make for ourselves
will be ended! But the sun and the sea will shine on just the same--and
Love, the supremest power on earth, will still govern mankind, when
thrones and kings and empires are no more!"
His thoughts were destined to bear quick fruition. The morning deepened
into noon--and at that hour a sealed dispatch brought by a sailor, who
gave no name and who departed as soon as he had delivered his packet,
was handed to the King. It was from the Crown Prince, and ran briefly
"At your command, Sir, and by my own desire, I have left the country
over which you hold your sovereign dominion. Whither I travel, and how,
is my own affair. I shall return no more _till the Nation demands my
service_,--whereof I shall doubtless hear should such a contingency
ever arise. I leave you to deal with the situation as seems best to
your good pleasure and that of the Government,--but the life God has
given me can only be lived once, and to Him alone am I responsible for
it. I am resolved therefore to live it to my own liking,--in honesty,
faith and freedom. In accordance with this determination, Gloria, my
wife, as in her sworn marriage-duty bound, goes with me."
For one moment the King stood transfixed and astounded; a cloud of
anger darkened his brows. Crumpling up the document in his hand, he was
about to fling it from him in a fury. What! This mere boy and girl had
baffled the authority of a king! Anon, his anger cooled--his
countenance cleared. Smoothing the paper out he read its contents
"Well! Humphry has something of me in him after all!" he said. "He is
not entirely his mother! He has a heart,--a will, and a conscience,--
all three generally lacking to sons of kings! Let me be honest with
myself! If he had given way to me, I should have despised him!--'but
for Love's sake he has opposed me; and by my soul!--I respect him!"
THE KING'S DEFENDER
Rumour, we are told, has a million tongues, and they were soon all at
work, wagging out the news of the Crown Prince's mysterious departure.
Each tongue told a different story, and none of the stories tallied. No
information was to be obtained at Court. There nothing was said, but
that the Prince, disliking the formal ceremony of a public departure,
had privately set sail in his own yacht for his projected tour round
the world. Nobody believed this; and the general impression soon gained
ground that the young man had fallen into disgrace with his Royal
parents, and had been sent away for a time till he should recognize the
enormity of his youthful indiscretions.
"Sent away--you understand!" said the society gossips; "To avoid
The Prince's younger brothers, Rupert and Cyprian, were often plied
with questions by their intimates, but knowing nothing, and truly
caring less, they could give no explanation. Neither King nor Queen
spoke a word on the subject; and Sir Roger de Launay, astonished and
perplexed beyond measure as he was at this turn in affairs, dared not
put any questions even to his friend Professor von Glauben who, as soon
as the news of the Prince's departure was known, resolutely declined to
speak, so he said, "on what did not concern him." Gradually, however,
this excitement partially subsided to give place to other forms of
social commotion, which beginning in trifles, swiftly expanded to
larger and more serious development. The first of these was the sudden
rise of a newspaper which had for many years subsisted with the
greatest difficulty in opposition to the many journals governed by
David Jost. It happened in this manner.
Several leading articles written in favour of a Jesuit settlement in
the country, had appeared constantly in Jost's largest and most widely
circulated newspaper, and the last of these 'leaders,' had concluded
with the assertion that though his Majesty, the King, had at first
refused the portion of Crown-lands needed by the Society for building,
he had now 'graciously' re-considered the situation, and had been
pleased to revoke his previous decision. Whereat, the very next morning
the rival 'daily' had leaped into prominence by merely two headlines:
THE JESUIT SETTLEMENT STATEMENT BY HIS MAJESTY THE KING.
And there, plainly set forth, was the Royal and authoritative refusal
to grant the lands required, 'Because of the earnest petition of our
loving subjects against the said grant,'--and till 'our loving
subjects'' objections were removed, the lands would be withheld. This
public announcement signed by the King in person, created the most
extraordinary sensation throughout the whole country. It was the one
topic at every social meeting; it was the one subject of every sermon.
Preachers stormed and harangued in every pulpit, and Monsignor Del
Fortis, lifting up his harsh raucous voice in the Cathedral itself,
addressed an enormous congregation one Sunday morning on the matter,
and denounced the King, the Queen, and the mysteriously-departed Crown
Prince in the most orthodox Christian manner, commending them to the
flames of hell, and the mercy of a loving God at one and the same
Meanwhile, the newspaper that had been permitted to publish the King's
statement got its circulation up by tens of thousands, the more so as
certain brilliant and fiery articles on the political situation began
to appear therein signed by one Pasquin Leroy, a stranger to the
reading public, but in whom the spirit of a modern 'Junius' appeared to
have entered for the purpose of warning, threatening and commanding. A
scathing and audacious attack upon Carl Pérousse, Secretary of State,
in which the small darts of satire flew further than the sharpest
arrows of assertion, was among the first of these, and Pérousse
himself, maddened like a bull at the first prick of the toreador, by
the stinging truths the writer uttered, or rather suggested, lost no
time in summoning General Bernhoff to a second interview.
"Did I not tell you," he said, pointing to the signature at the end of
the offending article, "to 'shadow' that man, and arrest him as a
Bernhoff bowed stiffly.
"You did! But it is difficult to arrest one who is not capable of being
arrested. I must be provided first with proofs of his guilt; and I must
also obtain the King's order."
"Proofs should be easy enough for you to obtain," said Pérousse
fiercely; "And the King will sign any warrant he is told. At least, you
can surely find this rascal out?--where he lives, and what are his
means of subsistence?"
"If he were here, I could," responded Bernhoff calmly; "I have made all
the necessary preliminary enquiries. The man is a gentleman of
considerable wealth. He writes for his own amusement, and--from a
distance. I advise you--" and here the General held up an obstinate-
looking finger of warning; "I advise you, I say, to let him alone! I
can find no proof whatever that he is a spy."
"Proof! I can give you enough--" began Pérousse hotly, then paused in
confusion. For what could he truly say? If he told the Chief of Police
that this Pasquin Leroy was believed to have counterfeited the Prime
Minister's signet, in order to obtain an interview with David Jost, why
then the Chief of Police would be informed once and for all that the
Prime Minister was in confidential communication with the Jew-
proprietor of a stock-jobbing newspaper! And that would never do! It
would, at the least, be impolitic. Inwardly chafing with annoyance, he
assumed an outward air of conscientious gravity.
"You will regret it, General, I think, if you do not follow out my
suggestions respecting this man," he said coldly; "He is writing for
the press in a strain which is plainly directed against the Government.
Of course we statesmen pay little or no heed to modern journalism, but
the King, having taken the unusual, and as I consider it, unwise step
of proclaiming certain of his intentions in a newspaper which was,
until his patronage, obscure and unsuccessful, the public attention has
been suddenly turned towards this particular journal; and what is
written therein may possibly influence the masses as it would not have
done a few weeks ago."
"I quite believe that!" said Bernhoff tersely; "But I cannot arrest a
man for writing clever things. Literary talent is no proof of
Pérousse looked at him sharply. But there was no satire in Bernhoff's
fixed and glassy eye, and no expression whatever in his woodenly-
"We entertain different opinions on the matter, it is evident!" he
said; "You will at least grant that if he cannot be arrested, he can be
"He _is_ carefully watched!" replied Bernhoff; "That is to say, as
far as _I_ can watch him!"
"Good!" and Pérousse smiled, somewhat relieved. "Then on the first
suspicion of a treasonable act----"
"I shall arrest him--in the King's name, when the King signs the
warrant," said Bernhoff; "But he is one of Sergius Thord's followers,
and at the present juncture it might be unwise to touch any member of
that particularly inflammable body."
"Sergius Thord ought to have been hanged or shot years ago----"
"Then why did not you hang or shoot him?" enquired Bernhoff.
"I was not in office."
"Why do you not hang or shoot him now?"
"Because," interrupted Bernhoff, again lifting his grim warning finger;
"If you did, the city would be in a tumult and more than half the
soldiery would be on the side of the mob! By way of warning, M.
Pérousse, I may as well tell you frankly, on the authority of my
position as Head of the Police, that the Government are on the edge of
a dangerous situation!"
Pérousse looked contemptuous.
"Every Government in the world is on the edge of a dangerous situation
nowadays!" he retorted;--"But any Government that yields to the mob
proves itself a mere ministry of cowardice."
"Yet the mob often wins,--not only by excess of numbers, but by sheer
force of--honesty!"--said Bernhoff sententiously; "It has been known to
sweep away, and re-make political constitutions before now."
"It has,"--agreed Pérousse, drawing pens and paper towards him, and
feigning to be busily occupied in the commencement of a letter--"But it
will not indulge itself in such amusements during _my_ time!"
"Ah! I wonder how long your time will last!" muttered Bernhoff to
himself as he withdrew--"Six months or six days? I would not bet on the
In good truth there was considerable reason for the General's dubious
outlook on affairs. A political storm was brewing. A heavy tidal wave
of discontent was sweeping the masses of the people stormily against
the rocks of existing authority, and loud and bitter and incessant were
the complaints on all sides against the increased taxation levied upon
every rate-payer. Fiercest of all was the clamour made by the poor at
the increasing price of bread, the chief necessity of life; for the
imposition of a heavy duty upon wheat and other cereals had made the
common loaf of the peasant's daily fare almost an article of luxury.
Stormy meetings were held in every quarter of the city,--protests were
drawn up and signed by thousands,--endless petitions were handed to the
King,--but no practical result came from these. His Majesty was
'graciously pleased' to seem blind, deaf and wholly indifferent to the
agitated condition of his subjects. Now and then a Government orator
would mount the political rostrum and talk 'patriotism' for an hour or
so, to a more or less sullen audience, informing them with much high-
flown eloquence that, by responding to the Governmental demands and
supporting the Governmental measures, they were strengthening the
resources of the country and completing the efficiency of both Army and
Navy; but somehow, his hydraulic efforts at rousing the popular
enthusiasm failed of effect. Whereas, whenever Sergius Thord spoke,
thousands of throats roared acclamation,--and the very sight of Lotys
passing quietly down the poorer thoroughfares of the city was
sufficient to bring out groups of men and women to their doors, waving
their hands to her, sending her wild kisses,--and almost kneeling
before her in an ecstasy of trust and adoration. Thord himself
perceived that the situation was rapidly reaching a climax, and quietly
prepared himself to meet and cope with it. Two of the monthly business
meetings of the Revolutionary Committee had been held since that on
which Pasquin Leroy and his two friends had been enrolled as members of
the Brotherhood, and at the last of these, Thord took Leroy into his
full confidence, and gave him all the secret clues of the Revolutionary
organization which honeycombed the metropolis from end to end. He had
trusted the man in many ways and found him honest. One trifling proof
of this was perhaps the main reason of Thord's further reliance upon
him; he had fulfilled his half-suggested promise to bring the sunshine
of prosperity into the hard-working, and more or less sordid life of
the little dancing-girl, Pequita. She had been sent for one morning by
the manager of the Royal Opera, who having seen the ease, grace, and
dexterity of her performance, forthwith engaged her for the entire
season at a salary which when named to the amazed child, seemed like a
veritable shower of gold tumbling by rare chance out of the lap of Dame
Fortune. The manager was a curt, cold business man, and she was afraid
to ask him any questions, for when the words--"I am sure a kind friend
has spoken to you of me--" came timidly from her lips, he had shut up
her confidence at once by the brief answer--
"No. You are mistaken. We accept no personal recommendations. We only
employ proved talent!"
All the same Pequita felt sure that she owed the sudden lifting of her
own and her father's daily burden of life, to the unforgetting care and
intercession of Leroy. Lotys was equally convinced of the same, and
both she and Sergius Thord highly appreciated their new associate's
unobtrusive way of doing good, as it were, by stealth. Pequita's
exquisite grace and agility had made her at once the fashion; the Opera
was crowded nightly to see the 'wonderful child-dancer'; and valuable
gifts and costly jewels were showered upon her, all of which she
brought to Lotys, who advised her how to dispose of them best, and put
by the money for the comfort and care of her father in the event of
sickness, or the advance of age. Flattered and petted by the great
world as she now was, Pequita never lost her head in the whirl of gay
splendour, but remained the same child-like, loving little creature,--
her one idol her father,--her only confidante, Lotys, whose gentle
admonitions and constant watchfulness saved her from many a dangerous
pitfall. As yet, she had not attained the wish she had expressed, to
dance before the King,--but she was told that at any time his Majesty
might visit the Opera, and that steps would be taken to induce him to
do so for the special purpose of witnessing her performance. So with
this half promise she was fain to be content, and to bear with the
laughing taunts of her 'Revolutionary' friends, who constantly teased
her and called her 'little traitor' because she sought the Royal
Another event, which was correctly or incorrectly traced to Leroy's
silently working influence, was the sudden meteoric blaze of Paul
Zouche into fame. How it happened, no one knew;--and _why_ it
happened was still more of a mystery, because by all its own tenets and
traditions the social world ought to have set itself dead against the
'Psalm of Revolution,'--the title of the book of poems which created
such an amazing stir. But somehow, it got whispered about that the King
had attempted to 'patronise' the poet, and that the poet had very
indignantly resented the offered Royal condescension. Whereat, by
degrees, there arose in society circles a murmur of wonder at the
poet's 'pluck,' wonder that deepened into admiration, with incessant
demand for his book,--and admiration soon expanded, with the aid of the
book, into a complete "craze." Zouche's name was on every lip;
invitations to great houses reached him every week;--his poems began to
sell by thousands; yet with all this, the obstinacy of his erratic
nature asserted itself as usual, undiminished, and Zouche withdrew from
the shower of praise like a snail into its shell,--answered none of the
flattering requests for 'the pleasure of his company,' and handed
whatever money he made by his poems over to the funds of the
Revolutionary Committee, only accepting as much out of it as would pay
for his clothes, food, lodging, and--drink! But the more he turned his
back on Fame, the more hotly it pursued him;--his very churlishness
was talked about as something remarkable and admirable,--and when it
was suggested that he was fonder of strong liquor than was altogether
seemly, people smiled and nodded at each other pleasantly, tapped their
foreheads meaningly and murmured: 'Genius! Genius!' as though that were
a quality allied of divine necessity to alcoholism.
These two things,--the advent of a new dancer at the Opera, and the
fame of Paul Zouche, were the chief topics of 'Society' outside its own
tawdry personal concern; but under all the light froth and spume of the
pleasure-seeking, pleasure-loving whirl of fashion, a fierce tempest
was rising, and the first whistlings of the wind of revolt were already
beginning to pierce through the keyholes and crannies of the stately
building allotted to the business of Government;--so much so indeed
that one terrible night, all unexpectedly, a huge mob, some twenty
thousand strong, surrounded it, armed with every conceivable weapon
from muskets to pickaxes, and shouted with horrid din for 'Bread and
Justice!'--these being considered co-equal in the bewildered mind of
the excited multitude. Likewise did they scream with protrusive energy:
'Give us back our lost Trades!' being fully aware, despite their
delirium, that these said 'lost Trades' were being sold off into
'Trusts,' wherein Ministers themselves held considerable shares, A two-
sided clamour was also made for 'The King! The King!' one side
appealing, the other menacing,--the latter under the belief that his
Majesty equally had 'shares' in the bartered Trades,--the former in the
hope that the country's Honour might still be saved with the help of
their visible Head.
Much difficulty was experienced in clearing this surging throng of
indignant humanity, for though the soldiery were called out to effect
the work, they were more than half-hearted in their business, having
considerable grievances of their own to avenge,--and when ordered to
fire on the people, flatly refused to do so. Two persons however
succeeded at last in calming and quelling the tumult. One was Sergius
Thord,--the other Lotys. Carl Pérousse, seized with an access of
'nerves' within the cushioned luxury of his own private room in the
recesses of the Government buildings, from whence he had watched the
demonstration, peered from one of the windows, and saw one half of the
huge mob melt swiftly away under the command of a tall, majestic-
looking creature, whose massive form and leonine head appeared Ajax-
like above the throng; and he watched the other half turn round in
brisk order, like a well-drilled army, and march off, singing loudly
and lustily, headed by a woman carried shoulder-high before them, whose
white robes gleamed like a flag of truce in the glare of the torches
blazing around her;--and to his utter amazement, fear and disgust, he
heard the very soldiers shouting her name: "Lotys! Lotys!" with ever-
increasing and thunderous plaudits of admiration and homage. Often and
often had he heard that name,--often and often had he dismissed it from
his thoughts with light masculine contempt. Often, too, had it come to
the ears of his colleague the Premier, who as has been shown, even in
intimate converse with his own private secretary, feigned complete
ignorance of it. But it is well understood that politicians generally,
and diplomatists always, assume to have no knowledge whatever
concerning those persons of whom they are most afraid. Yet just now it
was unpleasantly possible that "the stone which the builders rejected"
might indirectly be the means of crushing the Ministry, and
reorganizing the affairs of the country. His meditations on this
occasion were interrupted by a touch on the shoulder from behind, and,
looking up, he saw the Marquis de Lutera.
"Almost a riot!" he said, forcing a pale smile,--"But not quite!"
"Say, rather, almost a revolution!" retorted the Marquis brusquely;--
"Jesting is out of place. We are on the brink of a very serious
disaster! The people are roused. To-night they threatened to burn down
these buildings over our heads,--to sack and destroy the King's Palace.
The Socialist leader, Thord, alone saved the situation."
"With the aid of his mistress?" suggested Pérousse with a sneer.
"You mean the woman they call Lotys? I am not aware that she is his
mistress. I should rather doubt it. The people would not make such a
saint of her if she were. At any rate, whatever else she may be, she is
certainly dangerous;--and in a country less free than ours would be
placed under arrest. I must confess I never believed in her 'vogue'
with the masses, until to-night."
Pérousse was silent. The great square in front of the Government
buildings was now deserted,--save for the police and soldiery on guard;
but away in the distance could still be heard faint echoes of singing
and cheering from the broken-up sections of the crowd that had lately
disturbed the peace.
"Have you seen the King lately?" enquired Lutera presently.
"By his absolute 'veto' against our propositions at the last Cabinet
Council, the impending war which would have been so useful to us, has
been quashed in embryo," went on the Premier with a frown;--"This of
course you know! And he has the right to exercise his veto if he likes.
But I scarcely expected you after all you said, to take the matter so
Pérousse smiled, and shrugged his shoulders deprecatingly.
"However," continued the Marquis with latent contempt in his tone;--"I
now quite understand your complacent attitude! You have simply turned
your 'Army Supplies Contract' into a 'Trust' Combine with other
nations,--so you will not lose, but rather gain by the transaction!"
"I never intended to lose!" said Pérousse calmly; "I am not troubled
with scruples. One form of trade is as good as another. The prime
object of life nowadays is to make money!"
Lutera looked at him, but said nothing.
"To amalgamate all the steel industries into one international Union,
and get as many shares myself in the combine is not at all an unwise
project," went on Pérousse,--"For if our country is not to fight,
other countries will;--and they will require guns and swords and all
such accoutrements of war. Why should we not satisfy the demand and
pocket the cash?"
Still the Marquis looked at him steadily.
"Are you aware,"--he asked at last, "that Jost, to save his 'press'
prestige, has turned informer against you?"
Pérousse sprang up, white with fury.
"By Heaven, if he has dared!--"
"There is no 'if' in the case"--said Lutera very coldly--"He has, as he
himself says, 'done his duty.' You must be pretty well cognisant of
what a Jew's notions of 'duty' are! They can be summed up in one
sentence;--'to save his own pocket.' Jost is driven to fury and
desperation by the sudden success of the rival newspaper, which has
been so prominently favoured by the King. The shares in his own
journalistic concerns are going down rapidly, and he is determined--
naturally enough--to take care of himself before anyone else. He has
sold out of every company with which you have been, or are associated--
and has--so I understand,--sent a complete list of your proposed
financial 'deals,' investments and other 'stock' to--"
"Well!" exclaimed Pérousse irascibly--"To whom?"
"To those whom it may concern,"--replied Lutera evasively--"I really
can give you no exact information. I have said enough by way of
Pérousse looked at him heedfully, and what he saw in that dark brooding
face was not of a quieting or satisfactory nature.
"You are as deeply involved as I am--" he began.
"Pardon!" and the Marquis drew himself up with some dignity--"I
_was_ involved;--I am not now. I have also taken care of myself! I
may have been misled, but I shall let no one suffer for my errors. I
have sent in my resignation."
"Fool!" ejaculated Pérousse, forgetting all courtesy in the sudden
access of rage that took possession of him at these words;--"Fool, I
say! At the very moment when you ought to stick to the ship, you desert
"Are _you_ not ready to run to the helm?" enquired Lutera with a
satiric smile; "Surely you can have no doubt but that his Majesty will
command you to take office!"
With this, he turned on his heel, and left his colleague to a space of
very disagreeable meditation. For the first time in his bold and
unscrupulous career, Pérousse found himself in an awkward position. If
it were indeed true that Jost and Lutera had thrown up the game,
especially Jost, then he, Pérousse, was lost. He had made of Jost, not
only a tool, but a confidant. He had used him, and his great leading
newspaper for his own political and financial purposes. He had
entrusted him with State secrets, in order to speculate thereon in all
the money-markets of the world. He had induced him to approach the
Premier with crafty promises of support, and to inveigle him by
insidious degrees into the same dishonourable financial 'deal.' So that
if this one man,--this fat, unscrupulous turncoat of a Jew,--chose to
speak out, he, Carl Pérousse, Secretary of State, would be the most
disgraced and ruined Minister that ever attempted to defraud a nation!
His brows grew moist with fever-heat, and his tongue parched, with the
dry thirst of fear, as the gravity of the situation was gradually borne
in upon him. He began to calculate contingencies and possibilities of
escape from the toils that seemed closing around him,--and much to his
irritation and embarrassment, he found that most of the ways leading
out of difficulty pointed first of all to,--the King.
The King! The very personage whom he had called a Dummy, only bound to
do as he was told! And now, if he could only persuade the King that
he,--the poor Secretary of State,--was a deeply-injured man, whose
life's effort had been solely directed towards 'the good of the
country,' yet who nevertheless was cruelly wronged and calumniated by
his enemies, all might yet be well.
"Were he only like other monarchs whom I know," he reflected. "I could
have easily involved him in the Trades deal! Then the press could have
been silenced, and the public fooled. With five or six hundred thousand
shares in the biggest concerns, he would have been compelled to work
under me for the amalgamation of our Trades with the financial forces
of other countries, regardless of the rubbish talked by 'patriots' on
the loss of our position and prestige. But he is not fond of money,--
he is not fond of money! Would that he were!--for so _I_ should be
virtually king of the King!"
Cogitating various problems on his return to his own house that
evening, he remembered that despite numerous protests and petitions,
the King had, up to the present, paid no attention to the appeals of
his people against the increasing inroads of taxation. The only two
measures he had carried with a high and imperative hand, were first,--
the 'vetoing' of an intended declaration of war,--and the refusal of
extensive lands to the Jesuits. The first was the more important
action, as, while it had won the gratitude and friendship of a
previously hostile State, it had lost several 'noble' gamblers in the
griefs of nations, some millions of money. The check to the Jesuits was
comparatively trivial, yet it had already produced far-reaching
effects, and had offended the powers at the Vatican. But, beyond this,
things remained apparently as they were; true, the Socialists were
growing stronger;--but there was no evidence that the Government was
"After all," thought Pérousse, as a result of his meditations; "there
is no immediate cause for anxiety. If Lutera has sent in his
resignation, it may not be accepted. That rests--like other things--
with the King." And a vague surprise affected him at this fact.
"Curious!" he muttered,--"Very curious that he, who was a Nothing,
should now be a Something! The change has taken place very rapidly,--
and very strangely! I wonder what--or who--is moving him?"
But to this inward query he received no satisfactory reply. The
mysterious upshot of the whole position was the same,--namely, that
somehow, in the most unaccountable, inexplicable manner, the wind and
weather of affairs had so veered round, that the security of Ministers
and the stability of Government rested, not with themselves or the
nature of their quarrels and discussions, but solely on one whom they
were accustomed to consider as a mere ornamental figure-head,--the
Some few days after the unexpected turbulent rising of the mob, it was
judged advisable to give the people something in the way of a 'gala,'
or spectacle, in order to distract their attention from their own
grievances, and to draw them away from their Socialistic clubs and
conventions, to the contemplation of a parade of Royal state and
splendour. The careful student of History cannot fail to note that
whenever the rottenness and inadequacy of a Government are most
apparent, great 'shows' and Royal ceremonials are always resorted to,
in order to divert the minds of the people from the bitter
consideration of a deficient Exchequer and a diminishing National
Honour. The authorities who organize these State masquerades are wise
in their generation. They know that the working-classes very seldom
have the leisure to think for themselves, and that they often lack the
intelligent ability to foresee the difficulties and dangers menacing
their country's welfare;--but that they are always ready, with the
strangest fatuity, patience, and good-nature, to take their wives and
families to see any new variation of a world's 'Punch and Judy' play,
particularly if there is a savour of Royalty about it, accompanied by a
brass band, well-equipped soldiers, and gilded coaches. Though they
take no part in the pageant, beyond consenting to be hustled and rudely
driven back by the police like intrusive sheep, out of the sacred way
of a Royal progress, they nevertheless have an instinctive (and very
correct) idea that somehow or other it is all part of the 'fun' for
which they have paid their money. There is no more actual reverence or
respect for the positive Person of Royalty in such a parade, than there
is for the Wonderful Performing Pig who takes part in a circus-
procession through a country town. The public impression is simple,--
That having to pay for the up-keep of a Throne, its splendours should
be occasionally 'trotted out' to see whether they are worth the
nation's annual expenditure.
Moved entirely by this plain and practical sentiment, the popular
breast was thrilled with some amount of interest and animation when it
was announced that his Majesty the King would, on a certain afternoon,
go in state to lay the foundation-stone of the Grand National Theatre,
which was the very latest pet project of various cogitating Jews and
cautious millionaires. The Grand National Theatre was intended to
'supply,' according to a stock newspaper phrase, 'a long-felt want.' It
was to be a 'philanthropic' scheme, by which the 'Philanthropists'
would receive excellent interest for their money. Ostensibly, it was to
provide the 'masses' with the highest form of dramatic entertainment at
the lowest cost;--but there were many intricate wheels within wheels in
the elaborate piece of stock-jobbing mechanism, by which the public
would be caught and fooled--as usual--and the speculators therein
rendered triumphant. Sufficient funds were at hand to start the
building of the necessary edifice, and the King's 'gracious' consent to
lay the first stone, with full state and ceremony, was hailed by the
promoters of the plan as of the happiest augury. For with such approval
and support openly given, all the Snob-world would follow the Royal
'lead'--quite as infallibly as it did in the case of another monarch
who, persuaded to drink of a certain mineral spring, and likewise to
'take shares' in its bottled waters, turned the said spring into a
'paying concern' at once, thereby causing much rejoicing among the
Semites. The 'mob' might certainly decline to imitate the Snob-world,--
but, considering the recent riotous outbreak, it might be as well that
the overbold and unwashen populace should be awed by the panoply and
glory of earthly Majesty passing by in earthly splendour.
Alas, poor Snob-world! How often has it thought the same thing! How
often has it fancied that with show and glitter and brazen ostentation
of mere purse-power, it can quell the rage for Justice, which, like a
spark of God's own eternal Being, burns for ever in the soul of a
People! Ah, that rage for Justice!--that divine fury and fever which
with strong sweating and delirium shakes the body politic and cleanses
it from accumulated sickly humours and pestilence! What would the
nations be without its periodical and merciful visitations! Tearing
down old hypocrisies,--rooting up weedy abuses,--rending asunder rotten
conventions,--what wonder if thrones and sceptres, and even the heads
of kings get sometimes mixed into the general swift clearance of long-
accumulated dirt and disorder! And vainly at such times does the Snob-
world anxiously proffer golden pieces for the price of its life! There
shall not then be millions enough in all the earth, to purchase the
safety of one proved Liar who has wilfully robbed his neighbour!
No hint of the underworkings of the people's thought, or the movement
of the times was, however, apparent in the aspect of the gay multitudes
that poured along the principal thoroughfares of the metropolis on the
day appointed for the ceremony in which the King had consented to take
the leading part. Poor and rich together, vied with one another to
secure the various best points of view from whence the Royal pageant
could be seen, winding down in glittering length from the Palace and
Citadel, past the Cathedral, and so on to the great open square, where,
surrounded by fluttering flags and streamers, a huge block of stone
hung suspended by ropes from a crane, ready to be lowered at the Royal
touch, and fixed in its place by the Royal trowel, as the visible and
solid beginning of the stately fabric, which, according to pictorial
models was to rise from this, its first foundation, into a temple of
art and architecture, devoted to Melpomene and Thalia.
It was a glorious day,--the sun shone with vigorous heat and lustre
from a cloudless sky,--the sea was calm as an inland pool--and people
wore their lightest, brightest and most festive attire. Fair "society"
dames, clad in the last capricious mode of ever-changing Fashion, and
shading their delicate, and not always natural, complexions with airy
parasols, filmy and finely-coloured as the petals of flowers, queened
it over the flocking crowds of pedestrians, as they were driven past in
their softly-cushioned carriages drawn by high-stepping horses;--all
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