Part 8 out of 11
the boudoirs and drawing-rooms of the most exclusive houses seemed to
have emptied their luxury-loving occupants into the streets,--and the
whole town was, for a few hours at any rate, apparently given over to
holiday. As the long line of soldiery preceding the King's carriage,
wound down from the Citadel, groups of people cheered, and waved hats
and handkerchiefs,--then, when his Majesty's own escort came into view,
the cheering was redoubled,--and at last when the cumbrous, over-
gilded, over-painted "Cinderella" State-coach appeared, and the
familiar, but somewhat sternly-composed features of the King himself
were perceived through the glass windows, a roar of acclamation, like
the thundering of a long wave on an extensive stretch of rock-bound
coast, echoed far and near, and again and again was repeated with
increased and ever-increasing clamour. Who,--hearing such an
enthusiastic greeting--would or could have imagined for one moment that
the King, who was the object and centre of these tremendous plaudits,
was at the same time judged as an enemy and an obstruction to justice
by more than one half of the population! Yet it was so,--and so has
often been. The populace will shout itself hoarse for any cause;
whether it be a king going to be crowned, or a king going to be
executed, the stimulus is the same, and the enthusiasm as passionate.
It is merely the contagious hysteria of a moment that tickles their
lungs to expansion in noise;--but the real sentiment of admiration for
a fine character which might perhaps have moved the subjects of Richard
Coeur de Lion to cries of exultation, is generally non-existent. And
why? For no cause truly!--save that Lion-Hearts in kings no more
pulsate through nations.
By the time the Royal procession reached its destination the crowd had
largely increased, and the press of people round the scene of the
forthcoming function was great enough to be seriously embarrassing to
both the soldiery and the police. Slowly the gorgeous State-coach
lumbered up to the entrance of the ground railed off for the ceremony,
--and between a line of armed guards, the King alighted. Vociferous
cheering again broke out on all sides, which his Majesty acknowledged
in the usual formal manner by a monotonous military salute performed at
regular intervals. Received with obsequious deference by all the
persons concerned in the Grand National Theatre project, he conversed
with one or two, shook hands with others, and was just on the point of
addressing a few of his usual suave compliments to some pretty women
who had been invited to adorn the scene, when David Jost advanced
smilingly, evidently sure of a friendly recognition. For had not the
King, when Crown Prince and Heir-Apparent, hunted game in his
preserves?--yea, had he not even dined with him?--and had not he, Jost,
written whole columns of vapid twaddle about the 'Royal smile' and the
'Royal favour' till the outside public had sickened at every stroke of
his flunkey pen? How came it, then, that his Majesty seemed on this
occasion to have no recollection of him, and looked over and beyond him
in the airiest way, as though he were a far-off Jew in Jerusalem,
instead of being the assumptive-Orthodox proprietor of several European
newspapers published for the general misinformation and plunder of
gullible Christians? Dismayed at the Royal coldness of eye, Jost
stepped back with an uncomfortably crimson face; and one of the ladies
present, personally knowing him, and seeing his discomfiture, ventured
to call the King's attention to his presence and to make way for his
approach, by murmuring gently, "Mr. Jost, Sir!"
"Ah, indeed!" said the monarch, with calm grey eyes still fixed on
vacancy,--"I do not know anyone of that name! Permit me to admire that
exquisite arrangement of flowers!" and, smiling affably on the
astonished and embarrassed lady, he led her aside, altogether away from
Stricken to the very dust of abasement by this direct "cut" so publicly
administered, the crestfallen editor and proprietor of many journals
stood aghast for a moment,--then as various unbidden thoughts began to
chase one another through his bewildered head, he was seized with a
violent trembling. He remembered every foolish, imprudent and disloyal
remark he had made to the stranger named Pasquin Leroy who had called
upon him bearing the Premier's signet,--and reflecting that this very
Pasquin Leroy was now, by some odd chance, a contributor of political
leaders and other articles to the rival daily newspaper which had
published the King's official refusal of a grant of land to the
Jesuits, he writhed inwardly with impotent fury. For might not this
unknown man, Leroy,--if he were,--as he possibly was,--a friend of the
King's--go to the full length of declaring all he knew and all he had
learned from Jost's own lips, concerning certain 'financial secrets,'
which if fully disclosed, would utterly dismember the Government and
put the nation itself in peril? Might he not already even have informed
the King? With his little, swine-like eyes retreating under the
crinkling fat of his lowering brows, Jost, hot and cold by turns,
wandered confusedly out of the 'exclusive' set of persons connected
with the 'Grand National Theatre' scheme, who were now gathered round
the suspended foundation-stone to which the King was approaching. He
pretended not to see the curious eyes that stared at him, or the
sneering mouths that smiled at the open slight he had received. Pushing
his way through the crowd, he jostled against the thin black-garmented
figure of a priest,--no other than Monsignor Del Fortis, who, with an
affable word of recognition, drew aside to allow him passage. Affecting
his usual 'company-manner' of tolerant good-nature, he forced himself
to speak to this 'holy' man, who, at any rate, had paid him good money
in round sums for so-called 'articles' or rather puff-advertisements in
his paper concerning Church matters.
"Good-day, Monsignor!" he said--"You are not often seen at a Royal
pageant! How comes it that you, of all persons in the world have
brought yourself to witness the laying of the foundation-stone of a
Theatre? Does not your calling forbid any patronage of the mimic Art?"
The priest's thin lips parted, showing a glimmer of wolfish teeth
behind the pale stretched line of flesh.
"Not by any means!" he replied suavely--"In the present levelling and
amalgamation of social interests, the Church and Stage are drawing very
"True!" said Jost, with a grin--"One might very well be taken for the
Del Fortis looked at him meditatively.
"This," he said, waving his lean hand towards the centre of the
brilliant crowd where now the King stood, "is a kind of drama in its
way. And you, Mr. Jost, have just played one little scene in it!"
Jost reddened, and bit his lip.
"I am also another actor on the boards," continued Del Fortis smiling
darkly;--"if only as a spectator in the 'super' crowd. And other
comedians and tragedians are doubtless present, of whom we may hear
"The King has nasty humours sometimes," said Jost shortly, looking down
at the flower in his buttonhole, and absently flicking off one of its
petals with his fat forefinger--"He ought to be made to pay for them!"
"Ha, ha! Very good! Certainly!" and Del Fortis gave a piously-
deprecating nod--"He ought to be made to pay! Especially when he hurts
the feelings of his old friends! Are you going, Mr. Jost? Yes? What a
pity! But you no doubt have your reporters present?"
"Oh, there are plenty of them about,"--said Jost carelessly, "But I
shall condense all the account of these proceedings into a few lines."
"Ha,--ha!" laughed Del Fortis,--"I understand! Revenge--revenge! But--
in certain cases--the briefest description is sometimes the most
graphic--and startling! Good-day!"
Jost returned the salute curtly, and went,--not to leave the scene
altogether, but merely to take up a position of vantage immediately
above and behind the surging crowd, where from a distance he could
watch all that was going on. He saw the King lift his hand towards the
ropes and pulleys of the crane above him,--and as it was touched by the
Royal finger, the foundation stone was slowly lowered into the deep
socket prepared for it, where gold and silver coins of the year's
currency had already been strewn. Then, with the aid of a silver trowel
set in a handle of gold, and obsequiously presented by the managing
director of the scheme, his Majesty dabbed in a little mortar, and
declared in a loud voice that the stone was 'well and truly laid.' A
burst of cheering greeted the announcement, and the band struck up the
country's National Hymn, this being the usual sign that the ceremony
was at an end. Whereupon the King, shaking hands again cordially with
the various parties concerned, and again shedding the lustre of his
smile upon the various ladies with whom he had been conversing, made
his way very leisurely to his State equipage, which, with its six
magnificently caparisoned horses, stood prepared for his departure, the
door being already held open for him by one of the attendant powdered
and gold-laced flunkeys. Sir Roger de Launay walked immediately behind
his Sovereign, and Professor von Glauben was close at hand, companioned
by two of the gentlemen of the Royal Household. All at once a young man
pushed himself out of the crowd nearest to the enclosure,--paused a
moment irresolute, and then, with a single determined bound reached the
"Thief of the People's money! Take that!" he shouted, wildly,--and,
brandishing aloft a glittering stiletto, he aimed it straight at the
But the blow never reached its destination, for a woman, closely veiled
in black, suddenly threw herself swiftly and adroitly between the
King's body and the descending blade, shielding his breast with both
her outstretched arms. The dagger struck her violently, piercing her
flesh through the upper part of her right shoulder, and under the sheer
force of the blow, she fell senseless.
The whole incident took place in less time than it could be
breathlessly told,--and even as she who had risked her life to save the
King's, sank bleeding to the ground, the police seized the assassin
red-handed in his mad and criminal act, and wrenched the murderous
weapon from his hand. He was a mere lad of eighteen or twenty, and
seemed dazed, submitting to be bound and handcuffed without a word. The
King, perfectly tranquil and unhurt, bared his head to the wild cries
and hysterical cheering of the excited spectators to whom his narrow
escape from death appeared a kind of miracle, moving them to frantic
paroxysms of passionate enthusiasm, and then bent anxiously down over
the prostrate form of his rescuer, endeavouring himself to raise her
from the ground. A hundred hands at once proffered assistance;--Sir
Roger de Launay, pale to the lips with the shock of sick horror he had
experienced at what might so easily have been a national catastrophe,
assisted the police in forming a strong cordon round the person of his
beloved Royal master, in order to guard him against any further
possible attack,--and Professor von Glauben, obeying the King's signal,
knelt down by the unconscious woman's side to examine the extent of her
injury. Gently he turned back the close folds of her enveloping veil,--
then gave a little start and cry:
"Gott in Himmel!" And he hastily drew down the veil again as the King
approached with the question--
"Is she dangerously hurt?"
"No, Sir!--I think not--I hope not--but--!"
And the Professor's eyes looked volumes of suggestion. Catching his
expression, the King drew still nearer.
"Uncover her face,--give her air!" he commanded.
With a perplexed side-glance at Sir Roger de Launay, the Professor
obeyed,--and the sunshine fell full on the white calm features and
closed eyelids of "the woman known as Lotys." Her black dress was
darkly stained and soaked with oozing blood--and the deep dull gold of
her hair was touched here and there with the same crimson hue;--but
there was a smile on her lips, and her face was as fair and placid as
though it had been smoothed out of all pain and trouble by the restful
touch of Death. Silently, and with a perfectly inscrutable demeanour,
the King surveyed her for a moment. Then, raising his plumed hat with
grave grace and courtesy, he looked on all those who stood about him,
soldiery, police and spectators.
"Does anyone here present know this lady?" he demanded.
A crowd of eager heads were pushed forward, and then a low murmur
began, which deepened into a steady roar of delighted acclamation.
The name was caught up quickly and repeated from mouth to mouth--till
away on the extreme outskirts of the crowd it was tossed back again
with shouts--"Lotys! Lotys!"
Swiftly the news ran like an electric current through the whole body of
the populace, that it was Lotys, their own Lotys, their friend, their
fellow-worker, the idol of the poorer classes, that had saved the life
of the King! Half-incredulous, half-admiring, the mob listened to the
growing rumour, and the general excitement increased in intensity among
them. David Jost, from his point of observation, caught the infection,
and realizing at once the value of the dramatic "copy" for his paper,
to be obtained out of such a situation, jumped into the nearest vehicle
and was driven straight to his offices, there to send electric messages
of the news to every quarter of the world, and to endeavour by printed
loyal outbursts of "gush" to turn the current of the King's displeasure
against him into a more favourable direction. Meanwhile the King
himself gave orders that his wounded rescuer should be conveyed in one
of the Royal carriages straight to the Palace, and there attended by
his own physician. Professor von Glauben was entrusted with the
carrying-out of this command,--and the monarch, then entering his own
State-equipage, started on his homeward progress.
Thundering cheers now greeted him at every step;--for an hour at least
the populace went mad with rapture, shouting, singing and calling
alternately for "The King!" and "Lotys!" with no respect of persons, or
consideration as to their differing motives and opposite stations in
life. Two facts only were clear to them,--first an attempt had been
made to assassinate the King,--secondly, that Lotys had frustrated the
attempt, and risked her own life to save that of the monarch. These
were enough to set fire to the passionate sentiments of a warm-blooded,
restless Southern people, and they gave full sway to their feelings
accordingly. So, amid deafening plaudits, the Royal procession wended
its way back to the Citadel, the State-coach moving at a snail's pace
in order to allow the people to see the King for themselves, and make
sure he was uninjured, as they cheered, and followed it in surging
throngs to the very gates of the Palace,--while in another and reverse
direction the wretched youth whose miserable effort to commit a dastard
crime had so fortunately failed, was marched off, under the guard of a
strong body of police to the State-Prison, there to await his trial and
condemnation. A small crowd, hooting and cursing the criminal, pursued
him as he went, and one personage, austere and dignified, also
followed, at a distance, as though curious to see the last of the
would-be murderer ere he was shut out from liberty,--and this was
Monsignor Del Fortis.
A WOMAN'S REASON
When Lotys recovered from her death-like swoon, she found herself on a
sofa among heaped-up soft cushions, in a small semi-darkened room hung
with draperies of rose satin, which were here and there drawn aside to
show exquisite groupings of Saxe china and rare miniatures on ivory;--
the ceiling above her was a painted mirror, where Venus in her car of
flowers, drawn by doves, was pictured floating across a crystal sea,--
the floor was strewn with white bearskins,--the corners were filled
with palms and flowers. As she regarded these unaccustomed surroundings
wonderingly, a firm hand was laid on her wrist, and a brusque voice
said in her ear:--
"Lie still, if you please! You have been seriously hurt! You must
She turned feebly towards the speaker, and saw a big burly man with a
bald head, seated at her side, who held a watch in one hand, and felt
her pulse with the other. She could not discern his features plainly,
for his back was set to the already shaded light, and her own eyes were
weak and dim.
"You are very kind!" she murmured--"I do not quite remember--Ah,
yes!" and a quick flash of animation passed over her face--"I know now!
The King! Is--is all well?"
"All is well, thanks to you!" replied the gruff voice--"You have saved
"Thank God!"--and she closed her eyes again wearily, while two slow
tears trickled from under the shut white lids--"Thank God!"
Professor von Glauben, placed in charge of her by the King's command,
gently relinquished the small white hand he held, and stepping
noiselessly to a table near at hand, poured out from one of the various
little flasks set thereon, a cordial the properties of which were alone
known to himself, and held the glass to her lips.
"Drink this off at once!"--he said authoritatively, yet kindly.
She obeyed. He then, turning aside with the empty glass, sat down and
watched her from a little distance. Soon a faint flush tinged her dead-
white skin, and presently, with a deep sigh, she opened her eyes again.
Then she became aware of a stiffness and smart in her right shoulder,
and saw that it was tightly bandaged, and that the bodice of her dress
was cut away from it. Lying perfectly still, she gradually brought her
strong spirit of self-control to bear on the situation, and tried to
collect her scattered thoughts. Very few minutes sufficed her to
recollect all that had happened, and as she realised more and more
vividly that she was in some strange and luxurious abode where she had
no business or desire to be, she gathered all the forces of her mind to
her aid, and with but a slight effort, sat upright. Professor von
Glauben came towards her with an exclamation of warning--but she
motioned him back with a very decided gesture.
"Please do not trouble!" she said--"I am quite able to move--to stand--
see!" And she rose to her feet, trembling a little, and steadying
herself by resting one hand on the edge of the sofa. "I do not know who
you are, but I am sure you have been most kind to me! And if you would
do me a still greater kindness, you will let me go away from here at
"Impossible, Madame!" declared the Professor, firmly--"His Majesty, the
"What of his Majesty, the King?" demanded Lotys with sudden hauteur--
"Am I not mistress of my own actions?"
The Professor made an elaborate bow.
"Most unquestionably you are, Madame!" he replied--"But you are also
for the moment, a guest in the King's Palace; and having saved his
life, you will surely not withhold from him the courteous acceptance of
"The King's Palace!" she echoed, and a little disdainful smile crossed
her lips--"I,--Lotys,--in the King's Palace!" She moved a few steps,
and drew herself proudly erect. "You, sir, are a servant of the
"I am his Majesty's resident physician, at your service!" he said, with
another bow--"I have had the honour of attending to the wound you so
heroically received in his defence,--and though it is not a dangerous
wound, it is an exceedingly unpleasant one I assure you,--and will
give you a good deal of pain and trouble. Let me advise you very
earnestly to stay where you are, and rest--do not think of leaving the
She sighed restlessly. "I must not think of staying in it!" she
replied. "But I do not wish to seem churlish--or ungrateful for your
care and kindness;--will you tell the King--" Here she broke off
abruptly, and fixed her eyes searchingly on his face. "Strange!" she
murmured--"I seem to have seen you before,--or someone very like you!"
The Professor was troubled with a sudden fit of coughing which made him
very red in the face, and obliged him to turn away for a moment in
order to recover himself. Still struggling with that obstinate catch in
his throat he said:
"You were saying, Madame, that you wished me to tell the King
"Yes!" said Lotys eagerly--"if you will be so good! Tell him that I
thank him for his courtesy;--but that I must go away from this Palace,
--that I cannot--may not--stop in it an hour longer! He does not know
who it is that saved his life,--if he did, he would not wish me to
remain a moment under his roof! He would be as anxious and willing for
me to leave as I am to go! Will you tell him this?"
"Madame, I will tell him," replied the Professor deferentially, yet
with a slight smile--"But--if it will satisfy your scruples, or ease
your mind at all,--I may as well inform you that his Majesty does know
who you are! The populace itself declared your name to him, with shouts
of acclamation." She flushed a vivid red, then grew very pale.
"If that be so, then he must also be aware that I am his sworn enemy!"
she said,--"And, that in accordance with the principles I hold, I
cannot possibly remain under his roof! Therefore I trust, sir, you will
have the kindness to provide me with a way of quick exit before my
presence here becomes too publicly reported."
The Professor was slightly nonplussed. He considered for a moment; then
rapidly made up his mind.
"Madame, I will do so!" he said--"That is, if you will permit me first
of all to announce your intention of leaving the Palace, to the King.
Pardon me for suggesting that his Majesty can hardly regard as an enemy
a lady who has saved his life at the risk of her own."
"I did not save it because he is the King," she said curtly, "And you
are at liberty to tell him so. Please make haste to inform him at once
of my desire to leave the Palace,--and say also, that if he considers
he owes me any gratitude, he will show it by not detaining me."
The Professor bowed and retired. Lotys, left alone, sat down for a
moment in one of the luxuriously cushioned chairs, and pressed her left
hand hard over her eyes to try and still their throbbing ache. Her
right arm was bound up and useless,--and the pain from the wound in her
shoulder caused her acute agony,--but she had a will of iron, and she
had trained her mental forces to control, if not entirely to master,
her physical weaknesses. She thought, not of her own suffering, but of
the exciting incident in which mere impulse had led her to take so
marked a share. It was by pure accident that she had joined the crowd
assembled to see the King lay the foundation-stone of the proposed new
Theatre. She had been as it were, entangled in the press of the people,
and had got pushed towards the centre of the scene almost against her
own volition. And while she had stood,--a passive and unwilling
spectator of the pageant,--her attention had been singularly attracted
towards the uneasy and restless movements of the youth who had
afterwards attempted the assassination of the monarch. She had watched
him narrowly; though she could not have explained why she did so, even
to herself. He was a complete stranger to her, and yet, with her quick
intuition, she had discerned a curious expression of anxiety and fear
in his face, as though of the impending horror of a crime,--a look
which, because it was so strained and unnatural, had aroused her
suspicion. When she had sprung forward to shield the King, only one
idea had inspired her,--and that idea she would not now fully own even
to herself, because it was so entirely, weakly feminine. Nevertheless,
from woman's weakness has often sprung a hero's strength--and so it had
proved in this case. She did not, however, allow herself to dwell on
the instinctive impulse which had thrown her on the King's breast,
ready to receive her own death-blow rather than that he should die; she
preferred to elude that question, and to consider her action solely
from the standpoint of those Socialistic theories with which she was
"Had I not frustrated the attempt, the crime would have been set down
to us and our Brotherhood," she said to herself, "Sergius--or Paul
Zouche--or I myself--or even Pasquin--yes, even he!--might, and
doubtless would, have been accused of instigating it. As it is, I think
I have saved the situation." She rose and walked slowly up and down the
room. "I wonder who is behind the wretched boy concerned in this
business? He is too young to have determined on such a deed himself,--
unless he is mad;--he must be a tool in the hands of others."
Here spying her long black cloak hanging across a chair, she took it up
and threw it round her,--her face was reflected back upon her from a
mirror set in the wall, round which a cluster of ivory cupids
clambered,--and she looked critically at her white drawn features, and
the disordered masses of her hair. Loosening these abundant locks, she
shook them down and gathered them into her one uncrippled hand,
preparatory to twisting them into the usual knot at the back of her
head, the while she looked at the little sculptured _amorini_ set
round the mirror, with a compassionate smile.
"Such a number of mimic Loves where there is no real love!" she said
half aloud,--when the opening of a door, and the swaying movement of a
curtain pushed aside, startled her; and still holding her rich hair up
in her hand she turned quickly,--to find herself face to face with,--
There was an instant's dead silence. Dropping the silken gold weight of
her tresses to fall as they would, regardless of conventional
appearances, she stood erect, making all unconsciously to herself, a
picture of statuesque and beauteous tragedy. Her plain black garments,
--the long cloak enveloping her slight form, and the glorious tangle of
her unbound hair rippling loosely about her pale face, in which her
eyes shone like blue flowers, made luminous by the sunlight of the
inspired soul behind them, all gave her an almost supernatural air,--
and made her seem as wholly unlike any other woman as a strange leaf
from an unexplored country is unlike the foliage common to one's native
land. The King looked steadfastly upon her; she, meeting his gaze with
equal steadfastness, felt her heart beating violently, though, as she
well knew, it was not with fear. She had no thought of Court
etiquette,--nor had she any reason to consider it, his Majesty having
himself deliberately trespassed upon its rules by visiting her thus
alone and unattended. She offered no reverence,--no salutation;--she
simply stood before him, quite silent, awaiting his pleasure,--though
in her eyes there shone a dangerous brilliancy that was almost
feverish, and nervous tremors shook her from head to foot. The strange
dumb spell between them relaxed at last. With a kind of effort which
expressed itself in the extra rigidity and pallor of his fine features,
the King spoke:
"Madame, I have come to thank you! Your noble act of heroism this
afternoon has saved my life. I do not say it is worth saving!--but the
Nation appears to think it is,--and in the name of the Nation, whose
servant I am, I offer you my personal gratitude--and service!"
He bowed low as he said these words gravely and courteously. Her eyes
still searched his face wistfully, with the eager plaintive expression
of a child looking for some precious treasure it has lost. She strove
to calm her throbbing pulses,--to quiet the hurrying blood in her
veins,--to brace herself up to her usual impervious height of composure
"I need no thanks!" she answered briefly--"I have only done my duty!"
"Nay, Madame, is it quite consistent with your duty to shield from
death one so hated by your disciples and followers?" he asked, with a
tinge of melancholy in his accents--"You--as the famous Lotys--should
have helped to kill, not to save!"
She regarded him fearlessly.
"You mistake!" she said--"As King, you should learn to know your
subjects better! We are not murderers. We do not seek your life,--we
seek to make you understand the need there is of honesty and justice.
We live our lives among the poor; and we see those poor crushed down
into the dust by the rich, without hope and without help,--and we
endeavour to rouse them to a sense of this Wrong, so that they may, by
persistence, obtain Right. We do not want the death of any man! Even to
a traitor we give warning and time, ere we punish his treachery. The
unhappy wretch who attempted your life to-day was not of our party, or
our teaching, thank God!"
"I am sure of that!" he said very gently, his face brightening with a
kind smile,--then, seeing her swerve, as though about to fall, he
caught her on one arm--"You are faint! You must not stand too long. I
fear you are suffering from the pain of that cruel wound inflicted on
you for my sake!"
"A little--" she managed to say, with white lips--"But it is nothing--
it will soon pass----"
She sank helplessly into the chair he placed for her, and mutely
watched him as he walked to the window and threw it open, admitting the
sweet, fresh, sea-scented air, and a flood of crimson radiance from the
"I am informed that you wish to quit the Palace at once," he said,
averting his gaze from hers for a moment;--"Need I say how much I
regret this decision of yours? Both I and the Queen had hoped you would
have remained with us, under the care of our own physician, till you
were quite recovered. But I owe you too great a debt already to make
any further claim upon you--and I will not command you to stay, if you
desire to go."
She lifted her head;--the faint colour was returning to her cheeks.
"I thank you!" she said simply;--"I do indeed desire to go. Every
moment spent here is a moment wasted!"
"You think so?"--and, turning from the window where he stood, he
confronted her again;--"May I venture to suggest that you hardly do
justice to me, or to the situation? You have placed me under very great
obligations--surely you should endure my company long enough to tell
me at least how I can in some measure show my personal recognition of
your brave and self-sacrificing action!"
She looked at him in musing silence. A strange glow came into her
eyes,--a deeper crimson flushed her cheek.
"You can do nothing for me!" she said, after a long pause, "You are a
King--I, a poor commoner. I would not be indebted to you for all the
world! I am prouder of my 'common' estate than you are of your royalty!
What are 'royal' rewards? Jewels, money, place, title! All valueless to
me! If you would serve anyone, serve the People;--do something to
deserve their trust! If you would show _me_ any personal recognition,
as you say, for saving your life, make that life more noble!"
He heard her without offence, holding himself mute and motionless. She
rose from her seat, and approached him more closely.
"Perhaps, after all, it is well that I was,--unconsciously and against
my own volition,--brought here," she said; "Perhaps it is God's will
that I should speak with you! For, as a rule none of your unknown
subjects can, or may speak with you!--you are so much hemmed in and
ringed round with slaves and parasites! In so far as this goes, you are
to be pitied; though it rests with you to shake yourself free from the
toils of vulgar adulation. Your flatterers tell you nothing. They are
careful to keep you shut out of your own kingdom--to hide from you
things that are true,--things that you ought to know; they fool you
with false assurances of national tranquillity and content,--they
persuade you to play, like an over-grown child, with the toys of
luxury,--they lead you, a mere puppet, round and round in the clockwork
routine of a foolish and licentious society,--when you might be a Man!
--up and doing man's work that should help you to regenerate and
revivify the whole country! I speak boldly--yes!--because I do not fear
you!--because I have no favours to gain from you,--because to me,--
Lotys,--you,--the King--are nothing!"
Her voice, perfectly tranquil, even, and coldly sweet, had not a single
vibration of uncertainty or hesitation in it--and her words seemed to
cut through the stillness of the room with clean incisiveness like the
sweep of a sword-blade. Outside, the sea murmured and the leaves
rustled,--the sun had sunk, leaving behind it a bright, pearly twilight
sky, flecked with pink clouds like scattered rose-petals.
He looked straight at her,--his clear dark grey eyes were filled with
the glowing fire of strongly suppressed feeling. Some hasty ejaculation
sprang to his lips, but he checked it, and pacing once or twice up and
down, suddenly wheeled round, and again confronted her.
"If, as a king, I fall so far short of kingliness, and am nothing to
you,"--he said deliberately; "Why did you shield me from the assassin's
dagger a while ago? Why not have let me perish?"
She shook back her gold hair, and regarded him almost defiantly.
"I did not save you because you are the King!" she replied--"Be assured
He was vaguely astonished.
"Merely a humane sentiment then?" he said--"Just as you would have
saved a dog from drowning!"
A little smile crept reluctantly round the corners of her mouth.
"There was another reason," she began in a low tone,--then paused--
"But--only a woman's reason!"
Something in her changing colour,--some delicate indefinable touch of
tenderness and pathos, which softened her features and made them almost
ethereal, sent a curious thrill through his blood.
"A woman's reason!" he echoed; "May I not hear it?"
Again she hesitated,--then, as if despising herself for her own
irresolution she spoke out bravely.
"You may!"--she said--"There is nothing to conceal--nothing of which I
am ashamed! Besides, it is the true motive of the action which you are
pleased to call 'heroic.' I saved your life simply because--because you
resemble in form and feature, in look and manner, the only man I love!"
A curious silence followed her words. The faint far whispering of the
leaves on the trees outside seemed almost intrusively loud in such a
stillness,--the placid murmur of the sea against the cliff below the
Palace became well-nigh suggestive of storm. Lotys was suddenly
conscious of an odd strained sense of terror,--she had spoken as freely
and frankly as she would have spoken to any one of her own associates,
--and yet she felt that somehow she had been over-impulsive, and that in
a thoughtless moment she had let slip some secret which placed her,
weak and helpless, in the King's power. The King himself stood
immovable as a figure of bronze,--his eyes resting upon her with a deep
insistence of purpose, as though he sought to wrest some further
confession from her soul. The tension between them was painful,--almost
intolerable,--and though it lasted but a minute, that minute seemed
weighted with the potentialities of years. Forcing herself to break the
dumb spell, Lotys went on hurriedly and half desperately:--
"You may smile at this," she said--"Men always jest with a woman's
heart,--a woman's folly! But folly or no, I will not have you draw any
false conclusions concerning me,--or flatter yourself that it was
loyalty to you, or honour for your position that made me your living
shield to-day. No!--for if you were not the exact counterpart of him
who is dearer to me than all the world beside, I think I should have
let you die! I think so--I do not know! Because, after all, you are not
like him in mind or heart; it is only your outward bearing, your
physical features that resemble his! But, even so, I could not have
looked idly on, and seen his merest Resemblance slain! Now you
understand! It is not for you, as King, that I have turned aside a
murderer's weapon,--but solely because you have the face, the eyes, the
smile of one who is a thousand times greater and nobler than you,--who,
though poor and uncrowned, is a true king in the grace and thought and
goodness of his actions,--who, all unlike you, personally attends to
the wants of the poor, instead of neglecting them,--and who recognises,
and does his best to remedy, the many wrongs which afflict the people
of this land!"
Her sweet voice thrilled with passion,--her cheeks glowed,--
unconsciously she stretched out her uninjured hand with an eloquent
gesture of pride and conviction. The King's figure, till now rigid and
motionless, stirred;--advancing a step, he took that hand before she
could withhold it, and raised it to his lips.
"Madame, I am twice honoured!" he said, in accents that shook ever so
slightly--"To resemble a good man even outwardly is something,--to wear
in any degree the lineaments of one whom a brave and true woman honours
by her love is still more! You have made me very much your debtor"--
here he gently relinquished the hand he had kissed--"but believe me, I
shall endeavour most faithfully to meet the claim you have upon my
gratitude!" Here he paused, and drawing back, bowed courteously. "The
way for your departure is clear," he continued;--"I have ordered a
carriage to be in waiting at one of the private entrances to the
Palace. Professor von Glauben, my physician, who has just attended you,
will escort you to it. You will pass out quite unnoticed,--and be,--as
you desire it--again at full liberty. Let the memory of the King whose
life you saved trouble you no more,--except when you look upon his
better counterpart!--as then, perchance, you may think more kindly of
him! For he has to suffer!--not so much for his own faults, as for the
faults of a system formulated by his ancestors."
Her intense eyes glowed with a fire of enthusiasm as she lifted them to
"Kingship would be a grand system," she said, "if kings were true! And
Autocracy would be the best and noblest form of government in the
world, if autocrats could be found who were intellectual and honest at
one and the same time!"
He looked at her observantly.
"You think they are neither?"
"_I_ think? 'I' am nothing,--my opinions count for nothing! But
History gives evidence, and supplies proof of their incompetency. A
great king,--good as well as great,--would be the salvation of this
present time of the world!"
Still he kept his eyes upon her.
"Go on!"--he said--"There is something in your mind which you would
fain express to me more openly. You have eloquent features, Madame!--
and your looks are the candid mirror of your thoughts. Speak, I beg of
The light of a daring inward hope flashed in her face and inspired her
very attitude, as she stood before him, entirely regardless of herself.
"Then,--since you give me leave,--I _will_ speak!" she said; "For
perhaps I shall never see you again--never have the chance to ask you,
as a Man whom the mere accident of birth has made a king, to have more
thought, more pity, more love for your subjects! Surely you should be
their guardian--their father--their protector? Surely you should not
leave them to become the prey of unscrupulous financiers or intriguing
Churchmen? Some say you are yourself involved in the cruel schemes
which are slowly but steadily robbing this country's people of their
Trades, the lawful means of their subsistence; and that you approve, in
the main, of the private contracts which place our chief manufactures
and lines of traffic in the hands of foreign rivals. But I do not
believe this. We--and by we, I mean the Revolutionary party--try hard
not to believe this! I admit to you, as faithfully as if I stood on my
trial before you, that much of the work to which we, as a party have
pledged ourselves, consists in moving the destruction of the Monarchy,
and the formation of a Republic. But why? Only because the Monarchy has
proved itself indifferent to the needs of the people, and deaf to their
protestations against injustice! Thus we have conceived it likely that
a Republic might help to mend matters,--if it were in power for at
least some twenty or thirty years,--but at the same time we know well
enough that if a King ruled over us who was indeed a King,--who would
refuse to be the tool of party speculators, and who could not be moved
this way or that by the tyrants of finance, the people would have far
more chance of equality and right under a Republic even! Only we cannot
find that king!--no country can! You, for instance, are no hero! You
will not think for yourself, though you might; you only interest
yourself in affairs that may redound to your personal and private
credit; or in those which affect 'society,' the most dissolute portion
of the community,--and you have shown so little individuality in
yourself or your actions, that your unexpected refusal to grant Crown
lands to the Jesuits was scarcely believed in or accepted, otherwise
than as a caprice, till your own 'official' announcement. Even now we
can scarcely be brought to look upon it except as an impulse inspired
by fear! Herein, we do you, no doubt, a grave injustice; I, for one,
honestly believe that you have refused these lands to the Priest-
Politicians, out of earnest consideration for the future peace and
welfare of your subjects."
"Nay, why believe even thus much of me?" he interrupted with a grave
smile; "May you not be misled by that Resemblance I bear, to one who
is, in your eyes, so much my superior?"
A faint expression of offence darkened her face, and her brows
"You are pleased to jest!" she said coldly; "As I said before, it is
man's only way of turning aside, or concluding all argument with a
woman! I am mistaken perhaps in the instinct which has led me to speak
to you as openly as I have done,--and yet,--I know in my heart I can do
you no harm by telling you the truth, as others would never tell it to
you! Many times within this last two months the people have sent in
petitions to you against the heavy taxes with which your Government is
afflicting them, and they can get no answer to their desperate appeals.
Is it kingly--is it worthy of your post as Head of this realm, to turn
a deaf ear to the cries of those whose hard-earned money keeps you on
the Throne, housed in luxury, guarded from every possible evil, and
happily ignorant of the pangs of want and hunger? How can you, if you
have a heart, permit such an iniquitous act on the part of your
Government as the setting of a tax on bread?--the all in all of life to
the very poor! Have you ever seen young children crying for bread? I
have! Have you ever seen strong men reduced to the shame of stealing
bread, to feed their wives and infants? I have! I think of it as I
stand here, surrounded by the luxury which is your daily lot,--and
knowing what I know, I would strip these satin-draped walls, and sell
everything of value around me if I possessed it, rather than know that
one woman or child starved within the city's precincts! Your Ministers
tell you there is a deficiency in the Exchequer,--but you do not ask
why, or how the deficiency arose! You do not ask whether Ministers
themselves have not been trafficking and speculating with the country's
money! For if deficiency there be, it has arisen out of the
Government's mismanagement! The Government have had the people's
money,--and have thrown it recklessly away. Therefore, they have no
right to ask for more, to supply what they themselves have wilfully
wasted. No right, I say!--no right to rob them of another coin! If I
were a man, and a king like you, I would voluntarily resign more than
half my annual kingly income to help that deficit in the National
Exchequer till it had been replaced;--I would live poor,--and be
content to know that by my act I had won far more than many millions--a
deathless, and beloved name of honour with my people!"
She paused. He said not a word. Suddenly she became conscious that her
hair was unbound and falling loosely about her; she had almost
forgotten this till now. A wave of colour swept over her face,--but she
mastered her embarrassment, and gathering the long tresses together in
her left hand, twisted them up slowly, and with an evident painful
effort. The King watched her, a little smile hovering about his mouth.
"If I might help you!" he said softly--"but--that is a task for my
She appeared not to hear him. A sudden determination moved her, and she
uttered her thought boldly and at all hazards.
"If you do not, as the public report, approve of the financial schemes
out of which your Ministers make their fortunes, to the utter ruin of
the people in general," she said slowly; "Dismiss Carl Pérousse from
office! So may you perchance avert a great national disaster!"
He permitted himself to smile indulgently.
"Madame, you may ask much!--and however great your demands, I will do
my utmost to meet and comply with them;--but like all your charming
sex, you forget that a king can seldom or never interfere with a
political situation! It would be very unwise policy on my part to
dismiss M. Pérousse, seeing that he is already nominated as the next
"The next Premier!" Lotys echoed the words with a passionate scorn; "If
that is so, I give you an honest warning! The people will revolt,--no
force can hold them back or keep them in check! And if you should
command your soldiery to fire on the populace, there must be bloodshed
and crime!--on your head be the result! Oh, are you not, can you not be
something higher than even a king?--an honest man? Will you not open
the eyes of your mind to see the wickedness, falsehood and treachery of
this vile Minister, who ministers only to his own ends?--who feigns
incorruptibility in order to more easily corrupt others?--who assumes
the defence of outlying states, merely to hide the depredations he is
making on home power? Nay, if you will not, you are not worth a
beggar's blessing!--and I shall wonder to myself why God made of you so
exact a copy of one whom I know to be a good man!"
Her breath came and went quickly,--her cheeks were flushed, and great
tears stood in her eyes. But he seemed altogether unmoved.
"I' faith, I shall wonder too!" he said very tranquilly; "Good men are
scarce!--and to be the copy of one is excellent, though it may in some
cases be misleading! Madame, I have heard you with patience, and--if
you will permit me to say so--admiration! I honour your courage--your
frankness--and--still more--your absolute independence. You speak of
wrongs to the People. If such wrongs indeed exist----"
"If!" interrupted Lotys with a whole world of meaning in the
"I say, if they indeed exist, I will, as far as I may,--endeavour to
remedy them. I, personally, have no hesitation in declaring to you that
I am not involved in the financial schemes to which you allude--though
I know two or three of my fellow-sovereigns who are! But I do not care
sufficiently for money to indulge in speculation. Nevertheless, let me
tell you, speculation is good, and even necessary in matters affecting
national finance, and I am confident--" here he smiled enigmatically,
"that the country's honour is safe in the hands of M. Pérousse!"
At this she lifted her head proudly and looked at him, with eyes that
expressed so magnificent a disdain, that had he been any other than the
man he was, he might have quailed beneath the lightning flash of such
"You are confident that the country's honour is safe!" she repeated
bitterly; "I am confident that it is betrayed and shamed! And History
will set a curse against the King who helped in its downfall!"
He regarded her with a vague, lingering gentleness.
"You are harsh, Madame!" he said softly; "But you could not offend me
if you tried! I quarrel with none of your sex! And you will, I hope,
think better of me some day,--and not be sorry--as perhaps you are now
--for having saved a life so worthless! Farewell!"
She offered no response. The silken portière rustled and swayed,--the
door opened and shut again quietly--he was gone. Left alone, Lotys
dropped wearily on the sofa, and burying her head in the soft cushions,
gave way to an outburst of tears and sobbed like a tired and exhausted
child. In this condition Professor von Glauben, entering presently,
found her. But his sympathy, if he felt any, was outwardly very chill
and formal. Another dose of his 'cordial,'--a careful examination and
re-strapping of the wounded shoulder,--these summed up the whole of his
consolation; and his precise cold manner did much to restore her to her
self-possession. She thanked him in a few words for his professional
attention, without raising her eyes to his face, and quietly followed
him down a long narrow passage which terminated in a small private door
giving egress to the Royal pleasure-grounds,--and here a hired close
carriage was waiting. Putting her carefully into this vehicle, the
Professor then delivered himself of his last instructions.
"The driver has no orders beyond the citadel, Madame," he explained.
"His Majesty begged me to say that he has no desire to seem inquisitive
as to your place of residence. You will therefore please inform the
coachman yourself as to where you wish to be driven. And take care of
that so-much-wounded shoulder!" he added, relapsing into a kinder and
less formal tone;--"It will pain you,--but there will be no
inflammation, not now I have treated it!--and it will heal quickly,
that I will guarantee--I, who have had first care of it!"
She thanked him again in a low voice,--there was an uncomfortable lump
in her throat, and tears still trembled on her lashes.
"Remember well," said the Professor cheerily; "how very grateful we are
to you! What we shall do for you some day, we do not yet know! A
monument in the public square, or a bust in the Cathedral? Ha, ha!
Goodbye! You have the blessing of the nation with you!"
She shook her head deprecatingly,--she tried to smile, but she could
not trust herself to speak. The carriage rolled swiftly down the broad
avenue and soon disappeared, and the Professor, having watched the last
flash of its wheels vanish between the arching trees, executed a slow
and somewhat solemn _pas-seul_ on the doorstep where it had left
"Ach so!" he exclaimed, almost audibly; "The King's Comedy progresses!
But it had nearly taken the form of Tragedy to-day--and now Tragedy
itself has melted into sentiment, and tears, and passion! And with this
very difficult kind of human mixture, the worst may happen!"
He re-entered the Palace and returned with some haste to the apartments
of the King, whither he had been bidden.
But on arriving there he was met by an attendant in the ante-room who
informed him that his Majesty had retired to his private library and
desired to be left alone.
The State prison was a gloomy fortress built on a wedge of rock that
jutted far out into the ocean. It stood full-fronted to the north, and
had opposed its massive walls and huge battlements to every sort of
storm for many centuries. It was a relic of mediaeval days, when
torture no less than death, was the daily practice of the law, and when
persons were punished as cruelly for light offences as for the greatest
crimes. It was completely honeycombed with dungeons and subterranean
passages, which led to the sea,--and in one of the darkest and deepest
of these underground cells, the wretched youth who had attempted the
life of the King, was placed under the charge of two armed warders, who
marched up and down outside the heavily-barred door, keeping close
watch and guard. Neither they nor anyone else had exchanged a word with
the prisoner since his arrest. He had given them no trouble. He had
been carefully searched, but nothing of an incriminating nature had
been found upon him,--nothing to point to any possible instigator of
his dastard crime. He had entered the dungeon allotted to him with
almost a cheerful air,--he had muttered half-inaudible thanks for the
bread and water which had been passed to him through the grating; and
he had seated himself upon the cold bench, hewn out of the stone wall,
with a resignation that might have easily passed for pleasure. As the
time wore on, however, and the reality of his position began to press
more consciously upon his senses, the warders heard him sigh deeply,
and move restlessly, and once he gave a cry like that of a wounded
"For Thy sake, Lord Christ! For Thy sake I strove--for Thy sake, and in
Thy service! Thou wilt not leave me here to perish!"
He had been brought to the prison immediately after his murderous
attack, and the time had then been about four in the afternoon. It was
now night; and all over the city the joy-bells were clashing out music
from the Cathedral towers, to express the popular thanksgiving for the
miraculous escape and safety of the King. The echo of the chimes which
had been ringing ever since sunset, was caught by the sea and thrown
back again upon the air, so that it partially drowned the melancholy
clang of the prison bell, which in its turn, tolled forth the dreary
passing of the time for those to whom liberty had become the merest
shadow of a dream. As it struck nine, a priest presented himself to the
Superintendent of the prison, bearing a 'permit' from General Bernhoff,
Head of the Police, to visit and 'confess' the prisoner. He was led to
the cell and admitted at once. At the noise of a stranger's entrance,
the criminal raised himself from the sunken attitude into which he had
fallen on his stone bench, and watched, by the light of the dim lamp
set in the wall, the approach of his tall, gaunt, black-garmented
visitor with evident horror and fear. When,--with the removal of the
shovel hat and thick muffler which had helped to disguise that
visitor's personality,--the features of Monsignor Del Fortis were
disclosed, he sprang forward and threw himself on his knees.
"Mercy!--Mercy!" he moaned--"Have pity on me, in the name of God!"
Del Fortis looked down upon him with contempt, as though he were some
loathsome reptile writhing at his feet. "Silence!" he said, in a harsh
whisper--"Remember, we are watched here! Get up!--why do you kneel to
_me_? I have nothing to do with you, beyond such office as the
Church enjoins!" And a cold smile darkened, rather than lightened his
features. "I am sent to administer 'spiritual consolation' to you!"
Slowly the prisoner struggled up to a standing posture, and pressing
both hands to his head, he stared wildly before him.
"'Spiritual consolation'!" he muttered-"'Spiritual'?" A faint dull
vacuous smile flickered over his face, and he shuddered. "I understand!
You come to prepare my soul for Heaven!"
Del Fortis gave him a sinister look.
"That depends on yourself!" he replied curtly--"The Church can speed
you either way,--to Heaven, or--Hell!"
The prisoner's hands clenched involuntarily with a gesture of despair.
"I know that!" he said sullenly--"The Church can save or kill! What of
it? I am now beyond even the power of the Church!"
Del Fortis seated himself on the stone bench.
"Come here!" he said--"Sit down beside me!"
The prisoner obeyed.
"Look at this!"--and he drew an ebony and silver crucifix from his
breast--"Fix your eyes upon it, and try, my son,"--here he raised his
voice a little--"try to conquer your thoughts of things temporal, and
lift them to the things which are eternal! For things temporal do
quickly vanish and disperse, but things eternal shall endure for ever!
Humble your soul before God, and beseech Him with me, to mercifully
cleanse the dark stain of sin upon your soul!" Here he began mumbling a
Latin prayer, and while engaged in this, he caught the prisoner's hand
in a close grip. "Act--act with me!" he said firmly. "Fool!--Play a
part, as I do! Bend your head close to mine--assume shame and sorrow
even if you cannot feel it! And listen to me well! _You have
"I know it!"
The reply came thick and low.
"Why did you make the attempt at all? Who persuaded you?"
The wretched youth lifted his head, and showed a wild white face, in
which the piteous eyes, starting from their sockets, looked blind with
"Who persuaded me?" he replied mechanically--"No one! No single one,--
Del Fortis gripped him firmly by the wrist.
"You lie!" he snarled--"How dare you utter such a calumny! Who were
you? What were you? A miserable starveling--picked up from the streets
and saved from penury,--housed and sheltered in our College,--taught
and trained and given paid employment by us,--what have _you_ to
say of 'persuasion'?--you, who owe your very life to us, and to our
Roused by this attack, the prisoner, wrenching his hand away from the
priest's cruel grasp, sprang upright.
"Wait--wait!" he said breathlessly--"You do not understand! You forget!
All my life I have been under One great influence--all my life I have
been taught to dream One great Dream! When I talk of 'persuasion,' I
only mean the persuasion of that force which has surrounded me as
closely as the air I breathe!--that spirit which is bound to enter into
all who work for you, or with you! Oh no!--neither you nor any member
of your Order ever seek openly to 'persuade' any man to any act,
whether good or evil--your Rule is much wiser than that!--much more
subtle! You issue no actual commands--your power comes chiefly by
suggestion! And _with_ you,--working _for_ you--I have thought
day and night, night and day, of the glory of Rome!--the dominion of
Rome!--the triumph of Rome! I have learned, under you, to wish for it,
to pray for it, to desire it more than my own life!--do you, can you blame
me for that? You dare not call it a sin;--for your Order represents it as
a virtue that condones all sin!"
Del Fortis was silent, watching him with a kind of curious contempt.
"It grew to be part of me, this Dream!" went on the lad, his eyes now
shining with a feverish brilliancy--"And I began to see wonderful
visions, and to hear voices calling me in the daytime,--voices that no
one else heard! Once in the College chapel I saw the Blessed Virgin's
picture smile! I was copying documents for the Vatican then,--and I
thought of the Holy Father,--how he was imprisoned in Rome, when he
should be Emperor of all the Emperors,--King of all the Kings! I
remembered how it was that he had no temporal power,--though all the
powers of the earth should be subservient to him!--and my heart beat
almost to bursting, and my brain seemed on fire!--but the Blessed
Virgin's picture still smiled;--and I knelt down before it and swore
that I,--even I, would help to give the whole world back to Rome, even
if I died for it!"
He caught his breath with a kind of sob, and looked appealingly at Del
Fortis, who, fingering the crucifix he held, sat immovable.
"And then--and then" he went on, "I heard enough,--while at work in
the monastery with you and the brethren,--to strengthen and fire my
resolution. I learned that all kings are, in these days, the enemies of
the Church. I learned that they were all united in one resolve; and
that,--to deprive the Holy Father of temporal power! Then I set myself
to study kings. Each, and all of those who sit on thrones to-day passed
before my view;--all selfish, money-seeking, sensual men!--not one
good, true soul among them! Demons they seemed to me,--bent on
depriving God's Evangelist in Rome of his Sacred and Supreme
Sovereignty! It made me mad!--and I would have killed all kings, could
I have done so with a single thought! Then came a day when you preached
openly in the Cathedral against this one King, who should by right have
gone to his account this very afternoon!--you told the people how he
had refused lands to the Church,--and how by this wicked act he had
stopped the progress of religious education, and had put himself, as it
were, in the way of Christ who said: 'Suffer little children to come
unto Me!' And my dreams of the glory of Rome again took shape--I saw in
my mind all the children,--the poor little children of the world,
gathered to the knee of the Holy Father, and brought up to obey him and
him only!--I remembered my oath before the Blessed Virgin's picture,
and all my soul cried out: 'Death to the crowned Tyrant! Death!' For
you said--and I believed it--that all who opposed the Holy Father's
will, were opposed to the will of God!--and over and over again I said
in my heart: 'Death to the tyrant! Death!' And the words went with me
like the response of a litany,--till--till--I saw him before me to-day
--a pampered fool, surrounded by women!--a blazoned liar!--and then--"
He paused, smiling foolishly; and shaking his head with a slow movement
to and fro, he added--"The dagger should have struck home!--it was
aimed surely--aimed strongly!--but that woman came between--why did she
come? They said she was Lotys!--ha ha!--Lotys, the Revolutionary
sybil!--Lotys, the Socialist!--but that could not be,--Lotys is as
great an enemy of kings as I am!"
"And an enemy of the Church as well!" said Del Fortis harshly--"Between
the Church and Socialism, all Thrones stand on a cracking earth,
devoured by fire! But make no mistake about it!--the woman was Lotys!
Socialist and Revolutionary as she may be, she has saved the life of
the King. This is so far fortunate--for you! And it is much to be hoped
that she herself is not slain by your dagger thrust;--death is far too
easy and light a punishment for her and her associates! We trust it may
please a merciful God to visit her with more lingering calamity!"
As he said this, he piously kissed the crucifix he held, keeping his
shallow dark eyes fixed on the prisoner with the expression of a cat
watching a mouse. The half-crazed youth, absorbed in the ideas of his
own dementia, still smiled to himself vaguely, and nervously plucked at
his fingers, till Del Fortis, growing impatient and forgetting for the
moment that they stood in a prison cell, the interior of which might
possibly be seen and watched from many points of observation unknown to
them, went up to him and shook him roughly by the arm.
"Attention!" he said angrily--"Rouse yourself and hear me! You talk
like a fool or a madman,--yet you are neither--neither, you
understand?--neither idiot-born nor suddenly crazed;--so, when on your
trial do not feign to be what you are not! Such ideas as you have
expressed, though they may have their foundation in a desire for good,
are evil in their results--yet even out of evil good may come! The
power of Rome--the glory of Rome--the dominion of Rome! Rome, supreme
Mistress of the world! Would you help the Church to win this great
victory? Then now is your chance! God has given you--you, His poor
instrument,--the means to effectually aid His conquest,--to Him be all
the praise and thanksgiving! It rests with you to accept His message
and perform His work!"
The high-flown, melodramatic intensity with which he pronounced these
words, had the desired effect on the stunned and bewildered, weak mind
of the unfortunate lad so addressed. His eyes sparkled--his cheeks
flushed,--and he looked eagerly up into the face of his priestly
"Yes--yes!" he said quickly in a breathless whisper--"But how?--tell
me how! I will work--oh, I will work--for Rome, for God, for the
Blessed Virgin!--I will do all that I can!--but how--how? Will the
Holy Father send an angel to take me out of this prison, so that I may
be free to help God?"
Del Fortis surveyed him with a kind of grim derision, A slight noise
like the slipping-back or slipping-to of a grating, startled him, and
he looked about him on all sides, moved by a sudden nervous
apprehension. But the massive walls of the cell, oozing with damp and
slime, had apparently no aperture or outlet anywhere, not even a slit
in the masonry for the admission of daylight. Satisfied with his hasty
examination, he took his credulous victim by the arm, and led him back
to the rough stone bench where they had first begun to converse.
"Kneel down here before me!"--he said--"Kneel, as if you were repeating
all the sins of your life to me in your last confession! Kneel, I say!"
Feebly, and with trembling limbs, the lad obeyed.
"Now," continued Del Fortis, holding up the crucifix before him--"Try
to follow my words and understand them! To-morrow, or the next day, you
will be taken before a judge and tried for your attempted crime. Do you
"I do!" The answer came hesitatingly, and with a faint moan.
"Have you thought what you intend to say when you are asked your
reasons for attacking the King? Do you mean to tell judge and jury the
story of what you call your 'persuasion' to dream of the dominion of
"Yes--yes!" replied the lad, looking up with an eager light on his
face--"Yes, I will tell them all,--just as I have told you! Then they
will know,--they will see that it was a good thought of mine--it would
have been a good sin! I will speak to them of the wicked wrongs done to
you and your Holy Order,--of the cruelty which the Christian Apostle in
Rome has to suffer at the hands of kings--and they will acknowledge me
to be right and just;--they will know I am as a man inspired by God to
work for the Church, the bride of Christ, and to make her Queen of all
He stopped suddenly, intimidated by the cruel glare of the wolfish eyes
"You will say nothing of all this!" and Del Fortis shook the crucifix
in his face as though it were a threatening weapon; "You will say only
what _I_ choose,--only what _I_ command! And if you do not swear
to speak as I tell you, I will kill you!--here and now--with my own hands!"
Uttering a half-smothered cry, the wretched youth recoiled in terror.
"You will kill me? You--_you_?" he gasped--"No--no!--you could
not do that! you could not,--you are a holy man! I--I am not afraid
that you will hurt me! I have done nothing to offend you,--I have
always been obedient to you,--I have been your slave--your dog to fetch
and carry!--and you should remember,--yes!--you should remember that
my mother was rich,--and that because she too felt the call of God,
she gave all her money to the Church, and left me thrown upon the
streets to starve! But the Church rescued me--the Church did not
forget! And I am ready to serve the Church in all and every possible
way,--I have done my best, even now!"
He spoke with all the passionate self-persuasion of a fanatic, and Del
Fortis judged it wisest to control his own fierce inward impatience and
deal with him more restrainedly.
"That is true enough!" he said in milder accents;--"You are ready to
serve the Church,--I do not doubt it;--but you do not serve it in the
right way. No earthly good is gained to us by the killing of kings!
Their conversion and obedience is what we seek. This king you would
have slain is a baptised son of the Church; but beyond attending mass
regularly in his private chapel, which he does for the mere sake of
appearances, he is an atheist, condemned to the fires of Hell.
Nevertheless, no advantage to us could possibly be obtained by his
death. Much can be done for us by you--yes, _you_!--and much will
depend on the answers to the questions asked you at your trial. Give
those answers as _I_ shall bid you, and you will win a triumph for
the cause of Rome!"
The prisoner's eyes glittered feverishly,--full of the delirium of
bigotry, he caught the lean, cold hand that held the crucifix, and
kissed it fervently.
"Command me!" he muttered--"Command!--and in the name of the Blessed
Virgin, I will obey!"
"Hear then, and attend closely to my words," went on Del Fortis,
enunciating his sentences in a low distinct voice--"When you are
brought before the judge, you will be accused of an attempt to
assassinate the King. Make no denial of it,--admit it at once, and
express contrition. You will then be asked if any person or persons
instigated you to commit the crime. To this say 'yes'!"
"Say 'yes'!" repeated the lad--"But that will not be true!"
"Fool, does it matter!" ejaculated Del Fortis, almost savagely--"Have
you not sworn to speak as I command you? What is it to you whether it
is true or false?"
A slight shiver passed through the prisoner's limbs--but he was silent.
"Say"--went on his pitiless instructor--"that you were enticed and
persuaded to commit the wicked deed by the teachings of the Socialist,
Sergius Thord, and his followers. Say that the woman Lotys knew of your
intention,--and saved the life of the King at the last moment, through
fear, lest her own seditious schemes should be discovered and herself
punished. Say,--that because you were young and weak and
impressionable, she chose you out to attempt the assassination. Do you
"I hear!" The reply came thickly and almost inaudibly. "But must I tell
these lies? I have never spoken to Sergius Thord in my life!--nor to
the woman Lotys;--I know nothing of them or their followers, except by
the public talk;--why should I harm the innocent? Let me tell the
truth, I pray of you!--let me speak as my heart dictates!--let me plead
for the Holy Father--for you--for your Order--for the Church!--"
He broke off as Del Fortis caught him by both hands in an angry grip.
"Do not dare to speak one word of the Church!" he said, "Or of us,--or
of our Order! Let not a single syllable escape your lips concerning
your connection with us and our Society!--or we shall find means to
make you regret it! Beware of betraying yourself! When you are once
before the Court of Law, remember you know nothing of Us, our Work, or
Utterly bewildered and mystified, the unhappy youth rocked himself to
and fro, clasping and unclasping his hands in a kind of nervous
"Oh why, why will you bid me to do this?" he moaned--"You know there
are times when I cannot be answerable for myself! How can I tell what I
shall do when I am brought face to face with my accusers?--when I see
all the dreadful eyes of the people turned upon me? How can I deny all
knowledge of those who brought me up, and nurtured and educated me? If
they ask me of my home, is it not with you?--under your sufferance and
charity? If they seek to know my means of subsistence, is it not
through you that I receive the copying-work for which I am paid? You
would not have me repudiate all this, would you? I should be worse than
a dog in sheer ingratitude if I did not bear open testimony to all the
Church has done for me!"
"Be, not worse than a dog, but faithful as a dog in obedience!"
responded Del Fortis impressively--"And, for once, speak of the Church
with the indifference of an atheist,--or with such marked coldness as a
wise man speaks of the woman he secretly adores! Hold the Church and Us
too sacred for any mention in a Court of criminal law! But serve the
Church by involving the Socialist and Revolutionary party! Think of the
magnificent results which will spring from this act,--and nerve
yourself to tell a lie in order to support a truth!"
Rising unsteadily from his knees, the prisoner stood upright. By the
flicker of the dim lamp, he looked deadly pale, and his limbs tottered
as though shaken by an ague fit.
"What good will come of it?" he queried dully--"What good _can_
come of it?"
"Great and lasting good will come of it!"--replied Del Fortis--"And it
will come quickly too;--in this way, for by fastening the accusation of
undue influence on Sergius Thord and his companions, you will obtain
Government restriction, if not total suppression of the Socialist
party. This is what we need! The Socialists are growing too strong--too
powerful in every country,--and we are on the brink of trouble through
their accursed and atheistical demonstrations. There will soon be
serious disturbances in the political arena--possibly an overthrow of
the Government, and a general election--and if Sergius Thord has the
chance of advancing himself as a deputy, he will be elected above all
others by an overpowering majority of the lower classes. _You_ can
prevent this!--you can prevent it by a single falsehood, which in this
case will be more pleasing to God than a thousand mischievous
veracities! Will you do it? Yes or No?"
The miserable lad looked helplessly around him, his weak frame
trembling as with palsy, and his uncertain fingers plucking at each
other with that involuntary movement of the muscles which indicates a
"Will you, or will you not?" reiterated Del Fortis in a whisper that
hissed through the close precincts of the cell like the warning of a
snake about to sting--"Answer me!"
"Suppose I say I will not!"--stammered the poor wretch, with trembling
lips and appealing eyes--"Suppose I say I will not falsely accuse the
innocent, even for the sake of the Church----?"
"Then," said Del Fortis slowly, rising and moving towards him;--"You
had best accept the only alternative--this!"
And he took from his breast pocket a small phial, full of clear,
colourless fluid, and showed it to him--"Take it!--and so make a quick
and quiet end! For, if you betray you connection with Us by so much as
a look,--a sign, or a syllable,--your mode of exit from this world may
be slower, less decent, and more painful!"
The miserable boy wrung his hands in agony, and such a cry of despair
broke from his lips as might have moved anyone less cruelly made of
spiritual adamant than the determined servant of the cruellest
'religious' Order known. The dull harsh clang of the prison bell struck
ten. The 'priest' had been an hour at the work of 'confessing' his
penitent,--and his patience was well-nigh exhausted.
"Swear you will attribute your intended assassination of the King, to
the influence of the Socialists!" he said with fierce imperativeness--
"Or with this--end all your difficulties to-night! It is a gentle
quietus!--and you ought to thank me for it! It is better than solitary
imprisonment for life! I will give you absolution for taking it--
provided I see you swallow it before I go!--and I will declare to the
Church that I left you shrived of your sins, and clean! Half an hour
after I leave you, you will sleep!--and wake--in Heaven! Make your
The last words had scarcely left his lips when the cell door was
suddenly thrown open, and a blaze of light poured in. Dazzled by the
strong and sudden glare, Del Fortis recoiled, and still holding the
phial of poison in his hand, stumbled back against the half-fainting
form of the poor crazed creature he had been terrorising, as a dozen
armed men silently entered the dungeon and ranged themselves in order,
six on one side and six on the other, while, in their midst one man
advanced, throwing back his dark military cloak as he came, and
displaying a mass of jewelled orders and insignia on his brilliant
uniform. Del Fortis uttered a fierce oath.
"The King!" he muttered, under his breath--"The King!"
"Ay, the King!" and a glance of supreme scorn swept over him from head
to foot, as the monarch's clear dark grey eyes flashed with the glitter
of cold steel in the luminance of the torches which were carried by
attendants behind him; "Monsignor Del Fortis! You stand convicted of
the offence of unlawfully tampering with the conscience of a prisoner
of State! We have heard your every word--and have obtained a bird's-eye
view of your policy!--so that,--if necessary,--we will Ourselves bear
witness against you! For the present,--you will be detained in this
fortress until our further pleasure!"
For one moment Del Fortis appeared to be literally contorted in every
muscle by his excess of rage. His features grew livid,--his eyes became
almost blood-red, and his teeth met on his drawn-in under-lip in a
smile of intense malignity. Baffled again!--and by this 'king,'--the
crowned Dummy,--who had cast aside all former precedent, and instead of
amusing himself with card-playing and sensual intrigue, after the
accepted fashion of most modern sovereigns, had presumed to interfere,
not only with the Church, but with the Government, and now, as it
seemed, had acted as a spy on the very secrets of a so-called prison
'confession'! The utter impossibility of escaping from the net into
which his own words had betrayed him, stood plainly before his mind and
half-choked him with impotent fury,--till--all suddenly a thought
crossed his brain like a flash of fire, and with a strong effort, he
recovered his self-possession. Crossing his arms meekly on his breast,
he bowed with a silent and profound affectation of humility, as one who
is bent under the Royal displeasure, yet resigned to the Royal
command,--then with a rapid movement he lifted the poison-phial he had
held concealed, to his lips. His action was at once perceived. Two or
three of the armed guards threw themselves upon him and, after a brief
struggle, wrenched the flask from his hand, but not till he had
succeeded in swallowing its contents. Breathing quickly, yet smiling
imperturbably, he stood upright and calm.
"God's will and mine--not your Majesty's--be done!" he said. "In half
an hour--or less--Mother Church may add to her list of martyrs the name
of Andrea Del Fortis!--who died rather than sacrifice the dignity of
his calling to the tyranny of a king!"
A slight convulsion passed over his features,--he staggered backward.
The King, horror-stricken, signed to the prison warders standing by, to
support him. He muttered a word of thanks, as they caught him by both
"Take me where I can die quietly!" he said to them, "It will soon be
over! I shall give you little trouble!"
A cold, weak, trembling hand clasped his. It was the hand of the King's
"Let me go with you!" he cried--"Let me die with you! You have been
cruel to me!--but you could not have meant it!--you were once kind!"
Del Fortis thrust him aside.
"Curse you!" he said thickly--"You are the cause--you--you are the
cause of this damned mischief! You!--God!--to think of it!--you devil's
His voice failed him, and he reeled heavily against the sturdy form of
one of the warders who held him--his lips were flecked with blood and
foam. Shocked and appalled, no less at his words, than at the fiendish
contortion of his features, the King drew near.
"Curse not a fellow-mortal, unhappy priest, in thine own passage
towards the final judgment!" he said in grave accents--"The blessing of
this poor misguided creature may help thee more than even a king's free
And he extended his hand;--but with all the force of his now struggling
and convulsed body, Del Fortis beat it back, and raised himself by an
almost superhuman effort.
"Pardon! Who talks of pardon!" he cried, with a strong voice--"I do not
need it--I do not seek it! I have worked for the Church--I die for the
Church! For every one that says 'The King!'--I say, 'Rome'!"
He drew himself stiffly upright; his dark eyes glittered; his face,
though deadly pale, scarcely looked like the face of a dying man.
"I say, 'Rome'!" he repeated, in a harsh whisper;--"Over all the
world!--over all the kingdoms of the world, and in defiance of all
He fell back,--not dead,--but insensible, in the stupor which precedes
death;--and was quickly borne out of the cell and carried to the prison
infirmary, there to receive medical aid, though that could only now
avail to soothe the approaching agonies of dissolution.
The King stood mute and motionless, lost in thought, a heavy darkness
brooding on his features. How strange the impulse that had led him to
be the mover and witness of this scene! By merest chance he had learned
that Del Fortis had applied for permission to 'confess' the would-be
destroyer of his life,--the life which Lotys had saved,--and acting--as
he had lately accustomed himself to do--on a sudden first idea or
instinct, he had summoned General Bernhoff to escort him to the prison,
and make the way easy for him to watch and overhear the interview
between priest and penitent,--himself unobserved. And from so slight an
incident had sprung a tragedy,--which might have results as yet
And while he yet mused upon this, General Bernhoff ventured
respectfully to approach him, and ask if it was now his pleasure to
return to the Palace? He roused himself,--and with a heavy sigh looked
round on the damp and dismal cell in which he stood, and at the
crouching, fear-stricken form of the semi-crazed and now violently
weeping lad who had attempted his life.
"Take that poor wretch away from here!" he said in hushed tones--"Give
him light, and warmth, and food! His evil desires spring from an
unsound brain;--I would have him dealt with mercifully! Guard him with
all necessary and firm restraint,--but do not brutalise his body more
than Rome has brutalised his soul!"
With that he turned away,--and his armed guard and attendants followed
That self-same midnight a requiem mass was sung in a certain chapel
before a silent gathering of black-robed stern-featured men, who prayed
"For the repose of the soul of our dear brother, Andrea Del Fortis,
servant of God, and martyr to the cause of truth and justice,--who
departed this life suddenly, in the performance of his sacred duties."
In the newspapers next day, the death of this same martyr and shining
light of the Church was recorded with much paid-for regret and press-
eulogy as 'due to heart-failure' and his body being claimed by the
Jesuit brotherhood, it was buried with great pomp and solemn
circumstance, several of the Catholic societies and congregations
following it to the grave. One week after the funeral,--for no other
ostensible cause whatever, save the offence of openly publishing his
official refusal of a grant of Crown lands to the Jesuits,--the Holy
Father, the Evangelist and Infallible Apostle enthroned in St. Peter's
Chair, launched against the King who had dared to deny his wish and
oppose his will, the once terrible, but now futile ban of
excommunication; and the Royal son of the Church who had honestly
considered the good of his people more than the advancement of
priestcraft, stood outside the sacred pale,--barred by a so-called
'Christian' creed, from the mercy of God and the hope of Heaven.
"ONE WAY,--ONE WOMAN!"
For several days after the foregoing events, the editors and
proprietors of newspapers had more than enough 'copy' to keep them
busy. The narrow escape of the King from assassination, followed by his
excommunication from the Church, worked a curious effect on the minds
of the populace, who were somewhat bewildered and uncertain as to the
possible undercurrent of political meaning flowing beneath the
conjunction of these two events; and their feelings were intensified by
the announcement that the youth who had attempted the monarch's life,--
being proved as suffering from hereditary brain disease,--had received
a free pardon, and was placed in a suitable home for the treatment of
such cases, under careful restraint and medical supervision. The tide
of popular opinion was now divided into two ways,--for, and against
their Sovereign-ruler. By far the larger half were against;--but the
ban pronounced upon him by the Pope had the effect of making even this
disaffected portion inclined to consider him more favourably,--seeing
that the Church's punishment had fallen upon him, apparently because he
had done his duty, as a king, by granting the earnest petitions of
thousands of his subjects. David Jost, who had always made a point of
flattering Royalty in all its forms, now let his pen go with a complete
passion of toadyism, such as disgraced certain writers in Great Britain
during the reigns of the pernicious and vicious Georges,--and, seeing
the continued success of the rival journal which the King had
personally favoured, he trimmed his sails to the Court breeze, and
dropped the Church party as though it had burned his fingers. But he
found various channels on which he had previously relied for
information, rigorously closed to him. He had written many times to the
Marquis de Lutera to ask if the report of his having sent in his
resignation was correct,--but he had received no answer. He had called
over and over again on Carl Pérousse, hoping to obtain a few minutes'
conversation with him, but had been denied an interview. Cogitating
upon these changes,--which imported much,--and wishing over and over
again that he had been born an Englishman, so that by the insidious
flattery of Royalty he might obtain a peerage,--as a certain Jew
associate of his concerned in the same business in London, had recently
succeeded in doing,--he decided that the wisest course to follow was
to continue to 'butter' the King;--hence he laid it on with a thick
brush, wherever the grease of hypocrisy could show off best. But work
as he would, the 'shares' in his journalistic concerns were steadily
going down,--none of his numerous magazines or 'half-penny rags,' paid
so well as they had hitherto done; while the one paper which had lately
been so prominently used by the King, continued to prosper, the public
having now learned to accept with avidity and eagerness the brilliant
articles which bore the signature of Pasquin Leroy, as though they were
somewhat of a new political gospel. The charm of mystery intensified
this new writer's reputation. He was never seen in 'fashionable'
society,--no 'fashionable' person appeared to know him,--and the
general impression was that he resided altogether out of the country.
Only the members of the Revolutionary Committee were aware that he was
one of them, and recognised his work as part of the carrying out of his
sworn bond. He had grown to be almost the right hand of Sergius Thord;
wherever Thord sought supporters, he helped to obtain them,--wherever
the sick and needy, the desolate and distressed, required aid, he
somehow managed to secure it,--and next to Thord,--and of course Lotys,
--he was the idol of the Socialist centre. He never spoke in public,--
he seldom appeared at mass meetings; but his influence was always felt;
and he made himself and his work almost a necessity to the Cause. The
action of Lotys in saving the life of the King, had created
considerable discussion among the Revolutionists, not unmixed with
anger. When she first appeared among them after the incident, with her
arm in a sling, she was greeted with mingled cheers and groans, to
neither of which she paid the slightest attention. She took her seat at
the head of the Committee table as usual, with her customary
indifference and grace, and appeared deaf to the conflicting murmurs
around her,--till, as they grew louder and more complaining and
insistent, she raised her head and sent the lightning flash of her blue
eyes down the double line of men with a sweeping scorn that instantly
"What do you seek from me?" she demanded;--"Why do you clamour like
babes for something you cannot get,--my obedience?"
They looked shamefacedly at one another,--then at Sergius Thord and
Pasquin Leroy, who sat side by side at the lower end of the table. Max
Graub and Axel Regor, Leroy's two comrades, were for once absent; but
they had sent suitable and satisfactory excuses. Thord's brows were
heavy and lowering,--his eyes were wild and unrestful, and his attitude
and expression were such as caused Leroy to watch him with a little
more than his usual close attention. Seeing that his companions
expected him to answer Lotys before them all, he spoke with evident
"You make a difficult demand upon us, Lotys," he said slowly, "if you
wish us to explain the stormy nature of our greeting to you this
evening. You might surely have understood it without a question! For we
are compelled to blame you;--you who have never till now deserved
blame,--for the folly of your action in exposing your own life to save
that of the King! The one is valuable to us--the other is nothing to
us! Besides, you have trespassed against the Seventh Rule of our Order
--which solemnly pledges us to 'destroy the present monarchy'!"
"Ah!" said Lotys, "And is it part of the oath that the monarchy should
be destroyed by murder without warning? You know it is not! You know
that there is nothing more dastardly, more cowardly, more utterly
loathsome and contemptible than to kill a man defenceless and unarmed!
We speak of a Monarchy, not a King;--not one single individual,--for if
he were killed, he has three sons to come after him. You have called me
the Soul of an Ideal--good! But I am not, and will not be the Soul of a
"Well spoken!" said Johan Zegota, looking up from some papers which he,
as secretary to the Society, had been docketing for the convenience of
Thord's perusal; "But do not forget, brave Lotys, that the very next
meeting we hold is the annual one, in which we draw lots for the 'happy
dispatch' of traitors and false rulers; and that this year the name of
the King is among them!"
Lotys grew a shade paler, but she replied at once and dauntlessly.
"I do not forget it! But if lots are cast and traitors doomed,--it is
part of our procedure to give any such doomed man six months' steady
and repeated warning, that he may have time to repent of his mistakes
and remedy them, so that haply he may still be spared;--and also that
he may take heed to arm himself, that he do not die defenceless. Had I
not saved the King, his death would have been set down to us, and our
work! Any one of you might have been accused of influencing the crazy
boy who attempted the deed,--and it is quite possible our meetings
would have been suppressed, and all our work fatally hindered,--if not
entirely stopped. Foolish children! You should thank me, not blame me!
--but you are blind children all, and cannot even see where you have
been faithfully served by your faithfullest friend!"
At these words a new light appeared to break on the minds of all
present--a light that was reflected in their eager and animated faces.
The knotted line of Thord's brooding brows smoothed itself gradually
"Was that indeed your thought, Lotys," he asked gently, almost
tenderly--"Was it for our sakes and for us alone, that you saved the
At that instant Pasquin Leroy turned his eyes, which till now had been
intent on watching Thord, to the other end of the table where the fine,
compact woman's head, framed in its autumn-gold hair, was silhouetted
against the dark background of the wall behind her like a cameo. His
gaze met hers,--and a vague look of fear and pain flashed over her
face, as a faint touch of colour reddened her cheeks.
"I am not accustomed to repeat my words, Sergius Thord!" she answered
coldly; "I have said my say!"
Looks were exchanged, and there was a silence.
"If we doubt Lotys, we doubt the very spirit of ourselves!" said
Pasquin Leroy, his rich voice thrilling with unwonted emotion;
"Sergius--and comrades all! If you will hear me, and believe me,--you
may take my word for it, she has run the risk of death for Us!--and has
saved Us from false accusation, and Government interference! To wrong
Lotys by so much as a thought, is to wrong the truest woman God ever
A wild shout answered him,--and moved by one impulse, the whole body of
men rose to their feet and drank "to the health and honour of Lotys!"
with acclamation, many of them afterwards coming round to where she
sat, and kneeling to kiss her hand and ask her pardon for their
momentary doubt of her, in the excitement and enthusiasm of their
souls. But Lotys herself sat very silent,--almost as silent as Sergius
Thord, who, though he drank the toast, remained moody and abstracted.
When the company dispersed that night, each man present was carefully
reminded by the secretary, Johan Zegota, that unless the most serious
illness or misfortune intervened, every one must attend the next
meeting, as it was the yearly "Day of Fate." Pasquin Leroy was told
that his two friends, Max Graub and Axel Regor must be with him, and he
willingly made himself surety for their attendance.
"But," said he, as he gave the promise, "what is the Day of Fate?"
Johan Zegota pointed a thin finger delicately at his heart.
"The Day of Fate," he said, "is the day of punishment,--or Decision of
Deaths. The names of several persons who have been found guilty of
treachery,--or who otherwise do injury to the people by the manner of
their life and conduct, are written down on slips of paper, which are
folded up and put in one receptacle, together with two or three hundred
blanks. They must be all men's names,--we never make war on women.
Against some of these names,--a Red Cross is placed. Whosoever draws a
name, and finds the red cross against it, is bound to kill, within six
months after due warning, the man therein mentioned. If he fortunately
draws a blank then he is free for a year at least,--in spite of the
fatal sign,--from the unpleasant duty of despatching a fellow mortal
to the next world"--and here Zegota smiled quite cheerfully; "But if he
draws a Name,--and at the same time sees the red cross against it, then
he is bound by his oath to us to--_do his duty_!"
Leroy nodded, and appeared in no wise dismayed at the ominous
"How if our friend Zouche were to draw the fatal sign," he said; "Would
he perform his allotted task, think you?"
"Most thoroughly!" replied Zegota, still smiling.
And with that, they separated.
Meanwhile, during the constant change and interchange of conflicting
rumours, some of which appeared to have foundation in fact, and others
which rapidly dispersed themselves as fiction, there could be no doubt
whatever of the growing unpopularity of the Government in power. Little
by little, drop by drop, there oozed out the secrets of the "Pérousse
Policy," which was merely another name for Pérousse Self-
aggrandisement. Little by little, certain facts were at first
whispered, and then more loudly talked about, as to the nature of his
financial speculations; and it was soon openly stated that in the
formation of some of the larger companies, which were beginning to be
run on the Gargantuan lines of the "American Trust" idea, he had
enormous shares,--though these "Trusts" had been frequently denounced
as a means of enslaving the country, and ruining certain trade-
interests which he was in office to protect. Accusations began to be
guardedly thrown out against him in the Senate, which he parried off
with the cool and audacious skill of an expert fencer, knowing that for
the immediate moment at least, he had a "majority" under his thumb.
This majority was composed of persons who had unfortunately become
involved in his toils, and were, therefore, naturally afraid of him;--
yet it was evident, even to a superficial student of events, that if
once the innuendoes against his probity as a statesman could be
veraciously proved, this sense of intimidation among his supporters
would be removed, and like the props set against a decaying house,
their withdrawal would result in the ruin of the building. It was
pretty well known that the Marquis de Lutera had sent in his
resignation, but it was not at all certain whether the King was of a
mind to accept it.
Things were in abeyance,--political and social matters whirled giddily
towards chaos and confusion; and the numerous hurried Cabinet Councils
that were convened, boded some perturbation among the governing heads
of the State. From each and all of these meetings Ministers came away
more gloomy and despondent in manner,--some shook their heads
sorrowfully and spoke of "the King's folly,"--others with considerable
indignation flung out sudden invectives against "the King's
insolence!"--and between the two appellations, it was not easy to
measure exactly the nature of the conduct which had deserved them. For
the King himself made no alteration whatever in the outward character
of his daily routine; he transacted business in the morning, lunched,
sometimes with his family, sometimes with friends; drove in the
afternoon, and showed himself punctiliously at different theatres once
or twice in the evenings of the week. The only change more observant
persons began to notice in his conduct was, that he had drawn the line
of demarcation very strongly between those persons who by rank and
worth, and nobility of life, merited his attention, and those who by
mere Push and Pocket, sought to win his favour by that servile flattery
and obsequiousness which are the trademarks of the plebeian and
vulgarian. Quietly but firmly, he dropped the acquaintance of Jew
sharks, lying in wait among the dirty pools of speculation;--with ease
and absoluteness he 'let go' one by one, certain ladies of particularly
elastic virtue, who fondly dreamed that they 'managed' him; and among
these, to her infinite rage and despair, went Madame Vantine, wife of
Vantine the winegrower, a yellow-haired, sensual "_femelle
d'homme_," whose extravagance in clothes, and reckless indecency in
conversation, combined with the King's amused notice, and the super-
excellence of her husband's wines, had for a brief period made her 'the
rage' among a certain set of exceedingly dissolute individuals.
In place of this kind of riff-raff of "_nouveaux riches_," and
plutocrats, he began by degrees to form around himself a totally
different _entourage_,--though he was careful to make his various
changes slowly, so that they should not be too freely noticed and
commented upon. Great nobles, whether possessed of vast wealth and
estates, or altogether landless, were summoned to take their rightful
positions at the Court, where Vantine the wine-grower, and Jost the
Jew, no more obtained admittance;--men of science, letters and
learning, were sought out and honoured in various ways, their wives and
daughters receiving special marks of the Royal attention and favour;
and round the icy and statuesque beauty of the Queen soon gathered a
brilliant bevy of the real world of women, not the half-world of the
'_femme galante_' which having long held sway over the Crown
Prince while Heir-Apparent to the Throne, judged itself almost as a
necessary, and even becoming, appendage to his larger responsibility
and state as King. These excellent changes, beneficial and elevating to
the social atmosphere generally, could not of course be effected
without considerable trouble and heart-burning, in the directions where
certain persons had received their dismissal from such favour as they
had previously held at Court. The dismissed ones thirsted with a desire
for vengeance, and took every opportunity to inflame the passions of
their own particular set against the King, some of them openly
declaring their readiness to side with the Revolutionary party, and
help it to power. But over the seething volcano of discontent, the tide
of fashion moved as usual, to all outward appearances tranquil, and
absorbed in trivialities of the latest description; and though many
talked, few dreamed that the mind of the country, growing more
compressed in thought, and inflammable in nature every day, was rapidly
becoming like a huge magazine of gunpowder or dynamite, which at a
spark would explode into that periodically recurring fire-of-cleansing
Weighted with many thoughts, Sir Roger de Launay, whose taciturn and
easy temperament disinclined him for argument and kept him aloof from
discussion whenever he could avoid it, sat alone one evening in his own
room which adjoined the King's library, writing a few special letters
for his Majesty which were of too friendly a nature to be dealt with in
the curt official manner of the private secretary. Once or twice he had
risen and drawn aside the dividing curtain between himself and the
King's apartment to see if his Royal master had entered; but the room
remained empty, though it was long past eleven at night. He looked
every now and again at a small clock which ticked with a quick
intrusive cheerfulness on his desk,--then with a slight sigh resumed
his work. Letter after letter was written and sealed, and he was
getting to the end of his correspondence, when a tap at the door
disturbed him, and his sister Teresa, the Queen's lady-in-waiting,
"Is the King within?" she asked softly, moving almost on tiptoe as she
Sir Roger shook his head.
"He has been absent for some time," he replied,--then after a pause--
"But what are you here for, Teresa? This is not your department!" and
he took her hand kindly, noticing with some concern that there were
tears in her large dark eyes;--"Is anything wrong?"
"Nothing! That is,--nothing that I have any right to imagine--or to
guess. But--" and here she seemed a little confused--"I am commanded
by the Queen to summon you to her presence if,--if the King has not
He rose at once, looking perplexed. Teresa watched him anxiously, and
the expression of his face did not tend to reassure her.
"Roger," she began timidly--"Would you not tell me,--might I not know
something of this mystery? Might I not be trusted?"
His languid eyes flashed with a sudden tenderness, as from his great
and stately height he looked down upon her pretty shrinking figure.
"Poor little Teresa!" he murmured playfully; "What is the matter? What
mystery are you talking about?"
"_You_ know--you must know!" answered Teresa, clasping her hands
with a gesture of entreaty; "There is something wrong, I am sure! Why
is the King so often absent--when all the household suppose him to be
with the Queen?--or in his private library there?" and she pointed to
the curtained-off Royal sanctum beyond;
"Why does the Queen herself give it out that he is with her, when he is
not? Why does he enter the Queen's corridor sometimes quite late at
night by the private battlement-stair? Does it not seem very strange?
And since he was so nearly assassinated, his absences have been more
frequent than ever!"
Sir Roger pulled his long fair moustache meditatively between his
"When you were a little girl, Teresa, you must have been told the story
of Blue-beard;" he said; "Now take my advice!--and do not try to open
forbidden doors with your tiny golden key of curiosity!"
Teresa's cheeks flushed a pretty rose pink.
"I am not curious;" she said, with an air of hauteur; "And indeed I am
far too loyal to say anything to anyone but to you, of what seems so
new and strange. Besides--the Queen has forbidden me--only it is just
because of the Queen--" here she stopped hesitatingly.
"Because of the Queen?" echoed Sir Roger; "Why?"
"She is unhappy!" said Teresa.
A smile,--somewhat bitter,--crossed De Launay's face.
"Unhappy!" he repeated; "She! You mistake her, little girl! She does
not know what it is to be unhappy; nothing so weak and slight as poor
humanity affects the shining iceberg of her soul! For it _is_ an
iceberg, Teresa! The sun shines on it all day, fierce and hot, and
never moves or melts one glittering particle!"
He spoke with a concentrated passion of melancholy, and Teresa trembled
a little. She knew, as no one else did, the intense and despairing love
that had corroded her brother's life ever since the Queen had been
brought home to the kingdom in all her exquisite maiden beauty, as
bride of the Heir-Apparent. Such love terrified her; she did not
understand it. She knew it was hopeless,--she felt it was disloyal,--
and yet--it was love!--and her brother was one of the truest and
noblest of gentlemen, devoted to the King's service, and incapable of a
mean or a treacherous act. The position was quite incomprehensible to
her, for she was not thoughtful enough to analyse it,--and she had no
experience of the tender passion herself, to aid her in sympathetically
considering its many moods, sorrows, and inexplicable martyrdoms of
mind-torture. She contented herself now with repeating her former
"She is unhappy,--I am sure she is! You may call her an iceberg, if you
like, Roger!--men have such odd names for the women they are unable to
understand! But I have seen the iceberg shed tears very often lately!"
He looked at her, surprised.
"You have? Then we may expect the Pallas Athene to weep in marble?
Well! What did you say, Teresa? That her Majesty commanded my presence,
if the King had not returned?"
Teresa nodded assent. She was a little worried--her brother's face
looked worn and pale, and he seemed moved beyond himself. She watched
him nervously as he pushed aside the dividing curtain, and looked into
the adjoining room. It was still vacant. The window stood open, and the
line of the sea, glittering in the moon, shone far off like a string of
jewels,--while the perfume of heliotrope and lilies came floating in
deliciously on the cool night-breeze. Satisfied that there was as yet
no sign of his Royal master, he turned back again,--and stooping his
tall head, kissed the charming girl, whose anxious and timid looks
betrayed her inward anxiety.
"I am ready, Teresa!" he said cheerfully; "Lead the way!"
She glided quickly on before him, along an inner passage leading to the
Queen's apartments. Arriving at one particular door, she opened it
noiselessly, and with a warning finger laid on her lips, went in
softly,--Sir Roger following. The light of rose-shaded waxen tapers
which were reflected a dozen times in the silver-framed mirrors that
rose up to the ceiling from banks of flowers below, shed a fairy-like
radiance on the figure of the Queen, who, seated at a reading-table,
with one hand buried in the loosened waves of her hair, seemed absorbed
in the close study of a book. A straight white robe of thick creamy
satin flowed round her perfect form,--it was slightly open at the
throat, and softened with a drifting snow of lace, in which one or two
great jewels sparkled. As Sir Roger approached her with his usual
formal salute,--she turned swiftly round with an air of scarcely-
"Where is the King?" she demanded.
Startled at the sudden peremptory manner of her question, Sir Roger
hesitated,--for the moment taken quite aback.
"Did I not tell you," she went on, in the same imperious tone; "that I
made you responsible for his safety? Yet--though you were by his side
at the time--you could not shield him from attempted assassination!
That was left,--to a woman!"
Her breast heaved--her eyes flashed glorious lightning,--she looked
Had a thunder-bolt fallen through the painted ceiling at Sir Roger's
feet, he could scarcely have been more astounded.
"Madam!" he stammered,--and then as the light of her eyes swept over
him, with a concentration of scorn and passion such as he had never
seen in them, he grew deadly pale.
"Who, and what is this woman?" she went on; "Why was it given to
_her_ to save the King's life, while you stood by? Why was she
brought to the Palace to be attended like some princess,--and then
taken away secretly before I could see her? Lotys is her name--I know
it by heart!"
Like twinkling stars, the jewels in her lace scintillated with the
quick panting of her breath.
"The King is absent,"--she continued--"as usual;--but why are you not
with him, also as usual? Answer me!"
"Madam," said De Launay, slowly; "For some few days past his Majesty
has absolutely forbidden me to attend him. To carry out _your_
commands I should be forced to disobey _his_!"
She looked at him in a suppressed passion of enquiry.
"Then--is he alone?" she asked.
"Madam, I regret to say--he is quite alone!"
She rose, and paced once up and down the room, a superb figure of
mingled rage and pride, and humiliation, all comingled. Her eyes
lighted on Teresa, who had timorously withdrawn to a corner of the
apartment where she stood apparently busied in arranging some blossoms
that had fallen too far out of the crystal vase in which they were set.
"Teresa, you can leave us!" she said suddenly; "I will speak to Sir
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