Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Prince Otto by Robert Louis Stevenson

Prince Otto by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1905 edition.
AT last, after so many years, I have the pleasure of re-introducing
you to 'Prince Otto,' whom you will remember a very little fellow,
no bigger in fact than a few sheets of memoranda written for me by
your kind hand. The sight of his name will carry you back to an old
wooden house embowered in creepers; a house that was far gone in the
respectable stages of antiquity and seemed indissoluble from the
green garden in which it stood, and that yet was a sea-traveller in
its younger days, and had come round the Horn piecemeal in the belly
of a ship, and might have heard the seamen stamping and shouting and
the note of the boatswain's whistle. It will recall to you the
nondescript inhabitants now so widely scattered:- the two horses,
the dog, and the four cats, some of them still looking in your face
as you read these lines; - the poor lady, so unfortunately married
to an author; - the China boy, by this time, perhaps, baiting his
line by the banks of a river in the Flowery Land; - and in
particular the Scot who was then sick apparently unto death, and
whom you did so much to cheer and keep in good behaviour.
You may remember that he was full of ambitions and designs: so soon
as he had his health again completely, you may remember the fortune
he was to earn, the journeys he was to go upon, the delights he was
to enjoy and confer, and (among other matters) the masterpiece he
was to make of 'Prince Otto'!
Well, we will not give in that we are finally beaten. We read
together in those days the story of Braddock, and how, as he was
carried dying from the scene of his defeat, he promised himself to
do better another time: a story that will always touch a brave
heart, and a dying speech worthy of a more fortunate commander. I
try to be of Braddock's mind. I still mean to get my health again;
I still purpose, by hook or crook, this book or the next, to launch
a masterpiece; and I still intend - somehow, some time or other - to
see your face and to hold your hand.
Meanwhile, this little paper traveller goes forth instead, crosses
the great seas and the long plains and the dark mountains, and comes
at last to your door in Monterey, charged with tender greetings.
Pray you, take him in. He comes from a house where (even as in your
own) there are gathered together some of the waifs of our company at
Oakland: a house - for all its outlandish Gaelic name and distant
station - where you are well-beloved.
R. L. S.
You shall seek in vain upon the map of Europe for the bygone state
of Grunewald. An independent principality, an infinitesimal member
of the German Empire, she played, for several centuries, her part in
the discord of Europe; and, at last, in the ripeness of time and at
the spiriting of several bald diplomatists, vanished like a morning
ghost. Less fortunate than Poland, she left not a regret behind
her; and the very memory of her boundaries has faded.
It was a patch of hilly country covered with thick wood. Many
streams took their beginning in the glens of Grunewald, turning
mills for the inhabitants. There was one town, Mittwalden, and many
brown, wooden hamlets, climbing roof above roof, along the steep
bottom of dells, and communicating by covered bridges over the
larger of the torrents. The hum of watermills, the splash of
running water, the clean odour of pine sawdust, the sound and smell
of the pleasant wind among the innumerable army of the mountain
pines, the dropping fire of huntsmen, the dull stroke of the woodaxe,
intolerable roads, fresh trout for supper in the clean bare
chamber of an inn, and the song of birds and the music of the
village-bells - these were the recollections of the Grunewald
North and east the foothills of Grunewald sank with varying profile
into a vast plain. On these sides many small states bordered with
the principality, Gerolstein, an extinct grand duchy, among the
number. On the south it marched with the comparatively powerful
kingdom of Seaboard Bohemia, celebrated for its flowers and mountain
bears, and inhabited by a people of singular simplicity and
tenderness of heart. Several intermarriages had, in the course of
centuries, united the crowned families of Grunewald and Maritime
Bohemia; and the last Prince of Grunewald, whose history I purpose
to relate, drew his descent through Perdita, the only daughter of
King Florizel the First of Bohemia. That these intermarriages had
in some degree mitigated the rough, manly stock of the first
Grunewalds, was an opinion widely held within the borders of the
principality. The charcoal burner, the mountain sawyer, the wielder
of the broad axe among the congregated pines of Grunewald, proud of
their hard hands, proud of their shrewd ignorance and almost savage
lore, looked with an unfeigned contempt on the soft character and
manners of the sovereign race.
The precise year of grace in which this tale begins shall be left to
the conjecture of the reader. But for the season of the year
(which, in such a story, is the more important of the two) it was
already so far forward in the spring, that when mountain people
heard horns echoing all day about the north-west corner of the
principality, they told themselves that Prince Otto and his hunt
were up and out for the last time till the return of autumn.
At this point the borders of Grunewald descend somewhat steeply,
here and there breaking into crags; and this shaggy and trackless
country stands in a bold contrast to the cultivated plain below. It
was traversed at that period by two roads alone; one, the imperial
highway, bound to Brandenau in Gerolstein, descended the slope
obliquely and by the easiest gradients. The other ran like a fillet
across the very forehead of the hills, dipping into savage gorges,
and wetted by the spray of tiny waterfalls. Once it passed beside a
certain tower or castle, built sheer upon the margin of a formidable
cliff, and commanding a vast prospect of the skirts of Grunewald and
the busy plains of Gerolstein. The Felsenburg (so this tower was
called) served now as a prison, now as a hunting-seat; and for all
it stood so lonesome to the naked eye, with the aid of a good glass
the burghers of Brandenau could count its windows from the lime-tree
terrace where they walked at night.
In the wedge of forest hillside enclosed between the roads, the
horns continued all day long to scatter tumult; and at length, as
the sun began to draw near to the horizon of the plain, a rousing
triumph announced the slaughter of the quarry. The first and second
huntsman had drawn somewhat aside, and from the summit of a knoll
gazed down before them on the drooping shoulders of the hill and
across the expanse of plain. They covered their eyes, for the sun
was in their faces. The glory of its going down was somewhat pale.
Through the confused tracery of many thousands of naked poplars, the
smoke of so many houses, and the evening steam ascending from the
fields, the sails of a windmill on a gentle eminence moved very
conspicuously, like a donkey's ears. And hard by, like an open
gash, the imperial high-road ran straight sun-ward, an artery of
There is one of nature's spiritual ditties, that has not yet been
set to words or human music: 'The Invitation to the Road'; an air
continually sounding in the ears of gipsies, and to whose
inspiration our nomadic fathers journeyed all their days. The hour,
the season, and the scene, all were in delicate accordance. The air
was full of birds of passage, steering westward and northward over
Grunewald, an army of specks to the up-looking eye. And below, the
great practicable road was bound for the same quarter.
But to the two horsemen on the knoll this spiritual ditty was
unheard. They were, indeed, in some concern of mind, scanning every
fold of the subjacent forest, and betraying both anger and dismay in
their impatient gestures.
'I do not see him, Kuno,' said the first huntsman, 'nowhere - not a
trace, not a hair of the mare's tail! No, sir, he's off; broke
cover and got away. Why, for twopence I would hunt him with the
'Mayhap, he's gone home,' said Kuno, but without conviction.
'Home!' sneered the other. 'I give him twelve days to get home.
No, it's begun again; it's as it was three years ago, before he
married; a disgrace! Hereditary prince, hereditary fool! There
goes the government over the borders on a grey mare. What's that?
No, nothing - no, I tell you, on my word, I set more store by a good
gelding or an English dog. That for your Otto!'
'He's not my Otto,' growled Kuno.
'Then I don't know whose he is,' was the retort.
'You would put your hand in the fire for him to-morrow,' said Kuno,
facing round.
'Me!' cried the huntsman. 'I would see him hanged! I'm a Grunewald
patriot - enrolled, and have my medal, too; and I would help a
prince! I'm for liberty and Gondremark.'
'Well, it's all one,' said Kuno. 'If anybody said what you said,
you would have his blood, and you know it.'
'You have him on the brain,' retorted his companion. 'There he
goes!' he cried, the next moment.
And sure enough, about a mile down the mountain, a rider on a white
horse was seen to flit rapidly across a heathy open and vanish among
the trees on the farther side.
'In ten minutes he'll be over the border into Gerolstein,' said
Kuno. 'It's past cure.'
'Well, if he founders that mare, I'll never forgive him,' added the
other, gathering his reins.
And as they turned down from the knoll to rejoin their comrades, the
sun dipped and disappeared, and the woods fell instantly into the
gravity and greyness of the early night.
THE night fell upon the Prince while he was threading green tracks
in the lower valleys of the wood; and though the stars came out
overhead and displayed the interminable order of the pine-tree
pyramids, regular and dark like cypresses, their light was of small
service to a traveller in such lonely paths, and from thenceforth he
rode at random. The austere face of nature, the uncertain issue of
his course, the open sky and the free air, delighted him like wine;
and the hoarse chafing of a river on his left sounded in his ears
It was past eight at night before his toil was rewarded and he
issued at last out of the forest on the firm white high-road. It
lay downhill before him, with a sweeping eastward trend, faintly
bright between the thickets; and Otto paused and gazed upon it. So
it ran, league after league, still joining others, to the farthest
ends of Europe, there skirting the sea-surge, here gleaming in the
lights of cities; and the innumerable army of tramps and travellers
moved upon it in all lands as by a common impulse, and were now in
all places drawing near to the inn door and the night's rest. The
pictures swarmed and vanished in his brain; a surge of temptation, a
beat of all his blood, went over him, to set spur to the mare and to
go on into the unknown for ever. And then it passed away; hunger
and fatigue, and that habit of middling actions which we call common
sense, resumed their empire; and in that changed mood his eye
lighted upon two bright windows on his left hand, between the road
and river.
He turned off by a by-road, and in a few minutes he was knocking
with his whip on the door of a large farmhouse, and a chorus of dogs
from the farmyard were making angry answer. A very tall, old,
white-headed man came, shading a candle, at the summons. He had
been of great strength in his time, and of a handsome countenance;
but now he was fallen away, his teeth were quite gone, and his voice
when he spoke was broken and falsetto.
'You will pardon me,' said Otto. 'I am a traveller and have
entirely lost my way.'
'Sir,' said the old man, in a very stately, shaky manner, 'you are
at the River Farm, and I am Killian Gottesheim, at your disposal.
We are here, sir, at about an equal distance from Mittwalden in
Grunewald and Brandenau in Gerolstein: six leagues to either, and
the road excellent; but there is not a wine bush, not a carter's
alehouse, anywhere between. You will have to accept my hospitality
for the night; rough hospitality, to which I make you freely
welcome; for, sir,' he added with a bow, 'it is God who sends the
'Amen. And I most heartily thank you,' replied Otto, bowing in his
'Fritz,' said the old man, turning towards the interior, 'lead round
this gentleman's horse; and you, sir, condescend to enter.'
Otto entered a chamber occupying the greater part of the groundfloor
of the building. It had probably once been divided; for the
farther end was raised by a long step above the nearer, and the
blazing fire and the white supper-table seemed to stand upon a dais.
All around were dark, brass-mounted cabinets and cupboards; dark
shelves carrying ancient country crockery; guns and antlers and
broadside ballads on the wall; a tall old clock with roses on the
dial; and down in one corner the comfortable promise of a wine
barrel. It was homely, elegant, and quaint.
A powerful youth hurried out to attend on the grey mare; and when
Mr. Killian Gottesheim had presented him to his daughter Ottilia,
Otto followed to the stable as became, not perhaps the Prince, but
the good horseman. When he returned, a smoking omelette and some
slices of home-cured ham were waiting him; these were followed by a
ragout and a cheese; and it was not until his guest had entirely
satisfied his hunger, and the whole party drew about the fire over
the wine jug, that Killian Gottesheim's elaborate courtesy permitted
him to address a question to the Prince.
'You have perhaps ridden far, sir?' he inquired.
'I have, as you say, ridden far,' replied Otto; 'and, as you have
seen, I was prepared to do justice to your daughters cookery.'
'Possibly, sir, from the direction of Brandenau?' continued Killian.
'Precisely: and I should have slept to-night, had I not wandered, in
Mittwalden,' answered the Prince, weaving in a patch of truth,
according to the habit of all liars.
'Business leads you to Mittwalden?' was the next question.
'Mere curiosity,' said Otto. 'I have never yet visited the
principality of Grunewald.'
'A pleasant state, sir,' piped the old man, nodding, 'a very
pleasant state, and a fine race, both pines and people. We reckon
ourselves part Grunewalders here, lying so near the borders; and the
river there is all good Grunewald water, every drop of it. Yes,
sir, a fine state. A man of Grunewald now will swing me an axe over
his head that many a man of Gerolstein could hardly lift; and the
pines, why, deary me, there must be more pines in that little state,
sir, than people in this whole big world. 'Tis twenty years now
since I crossed the marshes, for we grow home-keepers in old age;
but I mind it as if it was yesterday. Up and down, the road keeps
right on from here to Mittwalden; and nothing all the way but the
good green pine-trees, big and little, and water-power! water-power
at every step, sir. We once sold a bit of forest, up there beside
the high-road; and the sight of minted money that we got for it has
set me ciphering ever since what all the pines in Grunewald would
amount to.'
'I suppose you see nothing of the Prince?' inquired Otto.
'No,' said the young man, speaking for the first time, 'nor want
'Why so? is he so much disliked?' asked Otto.
'Not what you might call disliked,' replied the old gentleman, 'but
despised, sir.'
'Indeed,' said the Prince, somewhat faintly.
'Yes, sir, despised,' nodded Killian, filling a long pipe, 'and, to
my way of thinking, justly despised. Here is a man with great
opportunities, and what does he do with them? He hunts, and he
dresses very prettily - which is a thing to be ashamed of in a man -
and he acts plays; and if he does aught else, the news of it has not
come here.'
'Yet these are all innocent,' said Otto. 'What would you have him
do - make war?'
'No, sir,' replied the old man. 'But here it is; I have been fifty
years upon this River Farm, and wrought in it, day in, day out; I
have ploughed and sowed and reaped, and risen early, and waked late;
and this is the upshot: that all these years it has supported me and
my family; and been the best friend that ever I had, set aside my
wife; and now, when my time comes, I leave it a better farm than
when I found it. So it is, if a man works hearty in the order of
nature, he gets bread and he receives comfort, and whatever he
touches breeds. And it humbly appears to me, if that Prince was to
labour on his throne, as I have laboured and wrought in my farm, he
would find both an increase and a blessing.'
'I believe with you, sir,' Otto said; 'and yet the parallel is
inexact. For the farmer's life is natural and simple; but the
prince's is both artificial and complicated. It is easy to do right
in the one, and exceedingly difficult not to do wrong in the other.
If your crop is blighted, you can take off your bonnet and say,
"God's will be done"; but if the prince meets with a reverse, he may
have to blame himself for the attempt. And perhaps, if all the
kings in Europe were to confine themselves to innocent amusement,
the subjects would be the better off.'
'Ay,' said the young man Fritz, 'you are in the right of it there.
That was a true word spoken. And I see you are like me, a good
patriot and an enemy to princes.'
Otto was somewhat abashed at this deduction, and he made haste to
change his ground. 'But,' said he, 'you surprise me by what you say
of this Prince Otto. I have heard him, I must own, more favourably
painted. I was told he was, in his heart, a good fellow, and the
enemy of no one but himself.'
'And so he is, sir,' said the girl, 'a very handsome, pleasant
prince; and we know some who would shed their blood for him.'
'O! Kuno!' said Fritz. 'An ignoramus!'
'Ay, Kuno, to be sure,' quavered the old farmer. 'Well, since this
gentleman is a stranger to these parts, and curious about the
Prince, I do believe that story might divert him. This Kuno, you
must know, sir, is one of the hunt servants, and a most ignorant,
intemperate man: a right Grunewalder, as we say in Gerolstein. We
know him well, in this house; for he has come as far as here after
his stray dogs; and I make all welcome, sir, without account of
state or nation. And, indeed, between Gerolstein and Grunewald the
peace has held so long that the roads stand open like my door; and a
man will make no more of the frontier than the very birds
'Ay,' said Otto, 'it has been a long peace - a peace of centuries.'
'Centuries, as you say,' returned Killian; 'the more the pity that
it should not be for ever. Well, sir, this Kuno was one day in
fault, and Otto, who has a quick temper, up with his whip and
thrashed him, they do say, soundly. Kuno took it as best he could,
but at last he broke out, and dared the Prince to throw his whip
away and wrestle like a man; for we are all great at wrestling in
these parts, and it's so that we generally settle our disputes.
Well, sir, the Prince did so; and, being a weakly creature, found
the tables turned; for the man whom he had just been thrashing like
a negro slave, lifted him with a back grip and threw him heels
'He broke his bridle-arm,' cried Fritz - 'and some say his nose.
Serve him right, say I! Man to man, which is the better at that?'
'And then?' asked Otto.
'O, then Kuno carried him home; and they were the best of friends
from that day forth. I don't say it's a discreditable story, you
observe,' continued Mr. Gottesheim; 'but it's droll, and that's the
fact. A man should think before he strikes; for, as my nephew says,
man to man was the old valuation.'
'Now, if you were to ask me,' said Otto, 'I should perhaps surprise
you. I think it was the Prince that conquered.'
'And, sir, you would be right,' replied Killian seriously. 'In the
eyes of God, I do not question but you would be right; but men, sir,
look at these things differently, and they laugh.'
'They made a song of it,' observed Fritz. 'How does it go? Ta-tumta-
ra . . .'
'Well,' interrupted Otto, who had no great anxiety to hear the song,
'the Prince is young; he may yet mend.'
'Not so young, by your leave,' cried Fritz. 'A man of forty.'
'Thirty-six,' corrected Mr. Gottesheim.
'O,' cried Ottilia, in obvious disillusion, 'a man of middle age!
And they said he was so handsome when he was young!'
'And bald, too,' added Fritz.
Otto passed his hand among his locks. At that moment he was far
from happy, and even the tedious evenings at Mittwalden Palace began
to smile upon him by comparison.
'O, six-and-thirty!' he protested. 'A man is not yet old at sixand-
thirty. I am that age myself.'
'I should have taken you for more, sir,' piped the old farmer. 'But
if that be so, you are of an age with Master Ottekin, as people call
him; and, I would wager a crown, have done more service in your
time. Though it seems young by comparison with men of a great age
like me, yet it's some way through life for all that; and the mere
fools and fiddlers are beginning to grow weary and to look old.
Yes, sir, by six-and-thirty, if a man be a follower of God's laws,
he should have made himself a home and a good name to live by; he
should have got a wife and a blessing on his marriage; and his
works, as the Word says, should begin to follow him.'
'Ah, well, the Prince is married,' cried Fritz, with a coarse burst
of laughter.
'That seems to entertain you, sir,' said Otto.
'Ay,' said the young boor. 'Did you not know that? I thought all
Europe knew it!' And he added a pantomime of a nature to explain
his accusation to the dullest.
'Ah, sir,' said Mr. Gottesheim, 'it is very plain that you are not
from hereabouts! But the truth is, that the whole princely family
and Court are rips and rascals, not one to mend another. They live,
sir, in idleness and - what most commonly follows it - corruption.
The Princess has a lover - a Baron, as he calls himself, from East
Prussia; and the Prince is so little of a man, sir, that he holds
the candle. Nor is that the worst of it, for this foreigner and his
paramour are suffered to transact the State affairs, while the
Prince takes the salary and leaves all things to go to wrack. There
will follow upon this some manifest judgment which, though I am old,
I may survive to see.'
'Good man, you are in the wrong about Gondremark,' said Fritz,
showing a greatly increased animation; 'but for all the rest, you
speak the God's truth like a good patriot. As for the Prince, if he
would take and strangle his wife, I would forgive him yet.'
'Nay, Fritz,' said the old man, 'that would be to add iniquity to
evil. For you perceive, sir,' he continued, once more addressing
himself to the unfortunate Prince, 'this Otto has himself to thank
for these disorders. He has his young wife and his principality,
and he has sworn to cherish both.'
'Sworn at the altar!' echoed Fritz. 'But put your faith in
'Well, sir, he leaves them both to an adventurer from East Prussia,'
pursued the farmer: 'leaves the girl to be seduced and to go on from
bad to worse, till her name's become a tap-room by-word, and she not
yet twenty; leaves the country to be overtaxed, and bullied with
armaments, and jockied into war - '
'War!' cried Otto.
'So they say, sir; those that watch their ongoings, say to war,'
asseverated Killian. 'Well, sir, that is very sad; it is a sad
thing for this poor, wicked girl to go down to hell with people's
curses; it's a sad thing for a tight little happy country to be
misconducted; but whoever may complain, I humbly conceive, sir, that
this Otto cannot. What he has worked for, that he has got; and may
God have pity on his soul, for a great and a silly sinner's!'
'He has broke his oath; then he is a perjurer. He takes the money
and leaves the work; why, then plainly he's a thief. A cuckold he
was before, and a fool by birth. Better me that!' cried Fritz, and
snapped his fingers.
'And now, sir, you will see a little,' continued the farmer, 'why we
think so poorly of this Prince Otto. There's such a thing as a man
being pious and honest in the private way; and there is such a
thing, sir, as a public virtue; but when a man has neither, the Lord
lighten him! Even this Gondremark, that Fritz here thinks so much
of - '
'Ay,' interrupted Fritz, 'Gondremark's the man for me. I would we
had his like in Gerolstein.'
'He is a bad man,' said the old farmer, shaking his head; 'and there
was never good begun by the breach of God's commandments. But so
far I will go with you; he is a man that works for what he has.'
'I tell you he's the hope of Grunewald,' cried Fritz. 'He doesn't
suit some of your high-and-dry, old, ancient ideas; but he's a
downright modern man - a man of the new lights and the progress of
the age. He does some things wrong; so they all do; but he has the
people's interests next his heart; and you mark me - you, sir, who
are a Liberal, and the enemy of all their governments, you please to
mark my words - the day will come in Grunewald, when they take out
that yellow-headed skulk of a Prince and that dough-faced Messalina
of a Princess, march 'em back foremost over the borders, and
proclaim the Baron Gondremark first President. I've heard them say
it in a speech. I was at a meeting once at Brandenau, and the
Mittwalden delegates spoke up for fifteen thousand. Fifteen
thousand, all brigaded, and each man with a medal round his neck to
rally by. That's all Gondremark.'
'Ay, sir, you see what it leads to; wild talk to-day, and wilder
doings to-morrow,' said the old man. 'For there is one thing
certain: that this Gondremark has one foot in the Court backstairs,
and the other in the Masons' lodges. He gives himself out, sir, for
what nowadays they call a patriot: a man from East Prussia!'
'Give himself out!' cried Fritz. 'He is! He is to lay by his title
as soon as the Republic is declared; I heard it in a speech.'
'Lay by Baron to take up President?' returned Killian. 'King Log,
King Stork. But you'll live longer than I, and you will see the
fruits of it.'
'Father,' whispered Ottilia, pulling at the speaker's coat, 'surely
the gentleman is ill.'
'I beg your pardon,' cried the farmer, rewaking to hospitable
thoughts; 'can I offer you anything?'
'I thank you. I am very weary,' answered Otto. 'I have presumed
upon my strength. If you would show me to a bed, I should be
'Ottilia, a candle!' said the old man. 'Indeed, sir, you look
paley. A little cordial water? No? Then follow me, I beseech you,
and I will bring you to the stranger's bed. You are not the first
by many who has slept well below my roof,' continued the old
gentleman, mounting the stairs before his guest; 'for good food,
honest wine, a grateful conscience, and a little pleasant chat
before a man retires, are worth all the possets and apothecary's
drugs. See, sir,' and here he opened a door and ushered Otto into a
little white-washed sleeping-room, 'here you are in port. It is
small, but it is airy, and the sheets are clean and kept in
lavender. The window, too, looks out above the river, and there's
no music like a little river's. It plays the same tune (and that's
the favourite) over and over again, and yet does not weary of it
like men fiddlers. It takes the mind out of doors: and though we
should be grateful for good houses, there is, after all, no house
like God's out-of-doors. And lastly, sir, it quiets a man down like
saying his prayers. So here, sir, I take my kind leave of you until
to-morrow; and it is my prayerful wish that you may slumber like a
And the old man, with the twentieth courteous inclination, left his
guest alone.
THE Prince was early abroad: in the time of the first chorus of
birds, of the pure and quiet air, of the slanting sunlight and the
mile-long shadows. To one who had passed a miserable night, the
freshness of that hour was tonic and reviving; to steal a march upon
his slumbering fellows, to be the Adam of the coming day, composed
and fortified his spirits; and the Prince, breathing deep and
pausing as he went, walked in the wet fields beside his shadow, and
was glad.
A trellised path led down into the valley of the brook, and he
turned to follow it. The stream was a break-neck, boiling Highland
river. Hard by the farm, it leaped a little precipice in a thick
grey-mare's tail of twisted filaments, and then lay and worked and
bubbled in a lynn. Into the middle of this quaking pool a rock
protruded, shelving to a cape; and thither Otto scrambled and sat
down to ponder.
Soon the sun struck through the screen of branches and thin early
leaves that made a hanging bower above the fall; and the golden
lights and flitting shadows fell upon and marbled the surface of
that so seething pot; and rays plunged deep among the turning
waters; and a spark, as bright as a diamond, lit upon the swaying
eddy. It began to grow warm where Otto lingered, warm and heady;
the lights swam, weaving their maze across the shaken pool; on the
impending rock, reflections danced like butterflies; and the air was
fanned by the waterfall as by a swinging curtain.
Otto, who was weary with tossing and beset with horrid phantoms of
remorse and jealousy, instantly fell dead in love with that sunchequered,
echoing corner. Holding his feet, he stared out of a
drowsy trance, wondering, admiring, musing, losing his way among
uncertain thoughts. There is nothing that so apes the external
bearing of free will as that unconscious bustle, obscurely following
liquid laws, with which a river contends among obstructions. It
seems the very play of man and destiny, and as Otto pored on these
recurrent changes, he grew, by equal steps, the sleepier and the
more profound. Eddy and Prince were alike jostled in their purpose,
alike anchored by intangible influences in one corner of the world.
Eddy and Prince were alike useless, starkly useless, in the
cosmology of men. Eddy and Prince - Prince and Eddy.
It is probable he had been some while asleep when a voice recalled
him from oblivion. 'Sir,' it was saying; and looking round, he saw
Mr. Killian's daughter, terrified by her boldness and making bashful
signals from the shore. She was a plain, honest lass, healthy and
happy and good, and with that sort of beauty that comes of happiness
and health. But her confusion lent her for the moment an additional
'Good-morning,' said Otto, rising and moving towards her. 'I arose
early and was in a dream.'
'O, sir!' she cried, 'I wish to beg of you to spare my father; for I
assure your Highness, if he had known who you was, he would have
bitten his tongue out sooner. And Fritz, too - how he went on! But
I had a notion; and this morning I went straight down into the
stable, and there was your Highness's crown upon the stirrup-irons!
But, O, sir, I made certain you would spare them; for they were as
innocent as lambs.'
'My dear,' said Otto, both amused and gratified, 'you do not
understand. It is I who am in the wrong; for I had no business to
conceal my name and lead on these gentleman to speak of me. And it
is I who have to beg of you that you will keep my secret and not
betray the discourtesy of which I was guilty. As for any fear of
me, your friends are safe in Gerolstein; and even in my own
territory, you must be well aware I have no power.'
' O, sir,' she said, curtsying, 'I would not say that: the huntsmen
would all die for you.'
'Happy Prince!' said Otto. 'But although you are too courteous to
avow the knowledge, you have had many opportunities of learning that
I am a vain show. Only last night we heard it very clearly stated.
You see the shadow flitting on this hard rock? Prince Otto, I am
afraid, is but the moving shadow, and the name of the rock is
Gondremark. Ah! if your friends had fallen foul of Gondremark! But
happily the younger of the two admires him. And as for the old
gentleman your father, he is a wise man and an excellent talker, and
I would take a long wager he is honest.'
'O, for honest, your Highness, that he is!' exclaimed the girl.
'And Fritz is as honest as he. And as for all they said, it was
just talk and nonsense. When countryfolk get gossiping, they go on,
I do assure you, for the fun; they don't as much as think of what
they say. If you went to the next farm, it's my belief you would
hear as much against my father.'
'Nay, nay,' said Otto, 'there you go too fast. For all that was
said against Prince Otto - '
'O, it was shameful!' cried the girl.
'Not shameful - true,' returned Otto. 'O, yes - true. I am all
they said of me - all that and worse.'
'I never!' cried 'Ottilia. 'Is that how you do? Well, you would
never be a soldier. Now if any one accuses me, I get up and give it
them. O, I defend myself. I wouldn't take a fault at another
person's hands, no, not if I had it on my forehead. And that's what
you must do, if you mean to live it out. But, indeed, I never heard
such nonsense. I should think you was ashamed of yourself! You're
bald, then, I suppose?'
'O no,' said Otto, fairly laughing. 'There I acquit myself: not
'Well, and good?' pursued the girl. 'Come now, you know you are
good, and I'll make you say so. . . . Your Highness, I beg your
humble pardon. But there's no disrespect intended. And anyhow, you
know you are.'
'Why, now, what am I to say?' replied Otto. 'You are a cook, and
excellently well you do it; I embrace the chance of thanking you for
the ragout. Well now, have you not seen good food so bedevilled by
unskilful cookery that no one could be brought to eat the pudding?
That is me, my dear. I am full of good ingredients, but the dish is
worthless. I am - I give it you in one word - sugar in the salad.'
'Well, I don't care, you're good,' reiterated Ottilia, a little
flushed by having failed to understand.
'I will tell you one thing,' replied Otto: 'You are!'
'Ah, well, that's what they all said of you,' moralised the girl;
'such a tongue to come round - such a flattering tongue!'
' O, you forget, I am a man of middle age,' the Prince chuckled.
'Well, to speak to you, I should think you was a boy; and Prince or
no Prince, if you came worrying where I was cooking, I would pin a
napkin to your tails. . . . And, O Lord, I declare I hope your
Highness will forgive me,' the girl added. 'I can't keep it in my
'No more can I,' cried Otto. 'That is just what they complain of!'
They made a loverly-looking couple; only the heavy pouring of that
horse-tail of water made them raise their voices above lovers'
pitch. But to a jealous onlooker from above, their mirth and close
proximity might easily give umbrage; and a rough voice out of a tuft
of brambles began calling on Ottilia by name. She changed colour at
that. 'It is Fritz,' she said. 'I must go.'
'Go, my dear, and I need not bid you go in peace, for I think you
have discovered that I am not formidable at close quarters,' said
the Prince, and made her a fine gesture of dismissal.
So Ottilia skipped up the bank, and disappeared into the thicket,
stopping once for a single blushing bob - blushing, because she had
in the interval once more forgotten and remembered the stranger's
Otto returned to his rock promontory; but his humour had in the
meantime changed. The sun now shone more fairly on the pool; and
over its brown, welling surface, the blue of heaven and the golden
green of the spring foliage danced in fleeting arabesque. The
eddies laughed and brightened with essential colour. And the beauty
of the dell began to rankle in the Prince's mind; it was so near to
his own borders, yet without. He had never had much of the joy of
possessorship in any of the thousand and one beautiful and curious
things that were his; and now he was conscious of envy for what was
another's. It was, indeed, a smiling, dilettante sort of envy; but
yet there it was: the passion of Ahab for the vineyard, done in
little; and he was relieved when Mr. Killian appeared upon the
'I hope, sir, that you have slept well under my plain roof,' said
the old farmer.
'I am admiring this sweet spot that you are privileged to dwell in,'
replied Otto, evading the inquiry.
'It is rustic,' returned Mr. Gottesheim, looking around him with
complacency, 'a very rustic corner; and some of the land to the west
is most excellent fat land, excellent deep soil. You should see my
wheat in the ten-acre field. There is not a farm in Grunewald, no,
nor many in Gerolstein, to match the River Farm. Some sixty - I
keep thinking when I sow - some sixty, and some seventy, and some an
hundredfold; and my own place, six score! But that, sir, is partly
the farming.'
'And the stream has fish?' asked Otto.
'A fishpond,' said the farmer. 'Ay, it is a pleasant bit. It is
pleasant even here, if one had time, with the brook drumming in that
black pool, and the green things hanging all about the rocks, and,
dear heart, to see the very pebbles! all turned to gold and precious
stones! But you have come to that time of life, sir, when, if you
will excuse me, you must look to have the rheumatism set in. Thirty
to forty is, as one may say, their seed-time. And this is a damp
cold corner for the early morning and an empty stomach. If I might
humbly advise you, sir, I would be moving.'
'With all my heart,' said Otto gravely. 'And so you have lived your
life here?' he added, as they turned to go.
'Here I was born,' replied the farmer, 'and here I wish I could say
I was to die. But fortune, sir, fortune turns the wheel. They say
she is blind, but we will hope she only sees a little farther on.
My grandfather and my father and I, we have all tilled these acres,
my furrow following theirs. All the three names are on the garden
bench, two Killians and one Johann. Yes, sir, good men have
prepared themselves for the great change in my old garden. Well do
I mind my father, in a woollen night-cap, the good soul, going round
and round to see the last of it. 'Killian,' said he, 'do you see
the smoke of my tobacco? Why,' said he, 'that is man's life.' It
was his last pipe, and I believe he knew it; and it was a strange
thing, without doubt, to leave the trees that he had planted, and
the son that he had begotten, ay, sir, and even the old pipe with
the Turk's head that he had smoked since he was a lad and went acourting.
But here we have no continuing city; and as for the
eternal, it's a comfortable thought that we have other merits than
our own. And yet you would hardly think how sore it goes against
the grain with me, to die in a strange bed.'
'And must you do so? For what reason?' Otto asked.
'The reason? The place is to be sold; three thousand crowns,'
replied Mr. Gottesheim. 'Had it been a third of that, I may say
without boasting that, what with my credit and my savings, I could
have met the sum. But at three thousand, unless I have singular
good fortune and the new proprietor continues me in office, there is
nothing left me but to budge.'
Otto's fancy for the place redoubled at the news, and became joined
with other feelings. If all he heard were true, Grunewald was
growing very hot for a sovereign Prince; it might be well to have a
refuge; and if so, what more delightful hermitage could man imagine?
Mr. Gottesheim, besides, had touched his sympathies. Every man
loves in his soul to play the part of the stage deity. And to step
down to the aid of the old farmer, who had so roughly handled him in
talk, was the ideal of a Fair Revenge. Otto's thoughts brightened
at the prospect, and he began to regard himself with a renewed
'I can find you, I believe, a purchaser,' he said, 'and one who
would continue to avail himself of your skill.'
'Can you, sir, indeed?' said the old man. 'Well, I shall be
heartily obliged; for I begin to find a man may practise resignation
all his days, as he takes physic, and not come to like it in the
'If you will have the papers drawn, you may even burthen the
purchase with your interest,' said Otto. 'Let it be assured to you
through life.'
'Your friend, sir,' insinuated Killian, 'would not, perhaps, care to
make the interest reversible? Fritz is a good lad.'
'Fritz is young,' said the Prince dryly; 'he must earn
consideration, not inherit.'
'He has long worked upon the place, sir,' insisted Mr. Gottesheim;
'and at my great age, for I am seventy-eight come harvest, it would
be a troublesome thought to the proprietor how to fill my shoes. It
would be a care spared to assure yourself of Fritz. And I believe
he might be tempted by a permanency.'
'The young man has unsettled views,' returned Otto.
'Possibly the purchaser - ' began Killian.
A little spot of anger burned in Otto's cheek. 'I am the
purchaser,' he said.
'It was what I might have guessed,' replied the farmer, bowing with
an aged, obsequious dignity. 'You have made an old man very happy;
and I may say, indeed, that I have entertained an angel unawares.
Sir, the great people of this world - and by that I mean those who
are great in station - if they had only hearts like yours, how they
would make the fires burn and the poor sing!'
'I would not judge them hardly, sir,' said Otto. 'We all have our
'Truly, sir,' said Mr. Gottesheim, with unction. 'And by what name,
sir, am I to address my generous landlord?'
The double recollection of an English traveller, whom he had
received the week before at court, and of an old English rogue
called Transome, whom he had known in youth, came pertinently to the
Prince's help. 'Transome,' he answered, 'is my name. I am an
English traveller. It is, to-day, Tuesday. On Thursday, before
noon, the money shall be ready. Let us meet, if you please, in
Mittwalden, at the "Morning Star."'
'I am, in all things lawful, your servant to command,' replied the
farmer. 'An Englishman! You are a great race of travellers. And
has your lordship some experience of land?'
'I have had some interest of the kind before,' returned the Prince;
'not in Gerolstein, indeed. But fortune, as you say, turns the
wheel, and I desire to be beforehand with her revolutions.'
'Very right, sir, I am sure,' said Mr. Killian.
They had been strolling with deliberation; but they were now drawing
near to the farmhouse, mounting by the trellised pathway to the
level of the meadow. A little before them, the sound of voices had
been some while audible, and now grew louder and more distinct with
every step of their advance. Presently, when they emerged upon the
top of the bank, they beheld Fritz and Ottilia some way off; he,
very black and bloodshot, emphasising his hoarse speech with the
smacking of his fist against his palm; she, standing a little way
off in blowsy, voluble distress.
'Dear me!' said Mr. Gottesheim, and made as if he would turn aside.
But Otto went straight towards the lovers, in whose dissension he
believed himself to have a share. And, indeed, as soon as he had
seen the Prince, Fritz had stood tragic, as if awaiting and defying
his approach.
'O, here you are!' he cried, as soon as they were near enough for
easy speech. 'You are a man at least, and must reply. What were
you after? Why were you two skulking in the bush? God!' he broke
out, turning again upon Ottilia, 'to think that I should waste my
heart on you!'
'I beg your pardon,' Otto cut in. 'You were addressing me. In
virtue of what circumstance am I to render you an account of this
young lady's conduct? Are you her father? her brother? her
'O, sir, you know as well as I,' returned the peasant. 'We keep
company, she and I. I love her, and she is by way of loving me; but
all shall be above-board, I would have her to know. I have a good
pride of my own.'
'Why, I perceive I must explain to you what love is,' said Otto.
'Its measure is kindness. It is very possible that you are proud;
but she, too, may have some self-esteem; I do not speak for myself.
And perhaps, if your own doings were so curiously examined, you
might find it inconvenient to reply.'
'These are all set-offs,' said the young man. 'You know very well
that a man is a man, and a woman only a woman. That holds good all
over, up and down. I ask you a question, I ask it again, and here I
stand.' He drew a mark and toed it.
'When you have studied liberal doctrines somewhat deeper,' said the
Prince, 'you will perhaps change your note. You are a man of false
weights and measures, my young friend. You have one scale for
women, another for men; one for princes, and one for farmer-folk.
On the prince who neglects his wife you can be most severe. But
what of the lover who insults his mistress? You use the name of
love. I should think this lady might very fairly ask to be
delivered from love of such a nature. For if I, a stranger, had
been one-tenth part so gross and so discourteous, you would most
righteously have broke my head. It would have been in your part, as
lover, to protect her from such insolence. Protect her first, then,
from yourself.'
'Ay,' quoth Mr. Gottesheim, who had been looking on with his hands
behind his tall old back, 'ay, that's Scripture truth.'
Fritz was staggered, not only by the Prince's imperturbable
superiority of manner, but by a glimmering consciousness that he
himself was in the wrong. The appeal to liberal doctrines had,
besides, unmanned him.
'Well,' said he, 'if I was rude, I'll own to it. I meant no ill,
and did nothing out of my just rights; but I am above all these old
vulgar notions too; and if I spoke sharp, I'll ask her pardon.'
'Freely granted, Fritz,' said Ottilia.
'But all this doesn't answer me,' cried Fritz. 'I ask what you two
spoke about. She says she promised not to tell; well, then, I mean
to know. Civility is civility, but I'll be no man's gull. I have a
right to common justice, if I DO keep company!'
'If you will ask Mr. Gottesheim,' replied Otto, 'you will find I
have not spent my hours in idleness. I have, since I arose this
morning, agreed to buy the farm. So far I will go to satisfy a
curiosity which I condemn.'
'O, well, if there was business, that's another matter,' returned
Fritz. 'Though it beats me why you could not tell. But, of course,
if the gentleman is to buy the farm, I suppose there would naturally
be an end.'
'To be sure,' said Mr. Gottesheim, with a strong accent of
But Ottilia was much braver. 'There now!' she cried in triumph.
'What did I tell you? I told you I was fighting your battles. Now
you see! Think shame of your suspicious temper! You should go down
upon your bended knees both to that gentleman and me.'
A LITTLE before noon Otto, by a triumph of manoeuvring, effected his
escape. He was quit in this way of the ponderous gratitude of Mr.
Killian, and of the confidential gratitude of poor Ottilia; but of
Fritz he was not quit so readily. That young politician, brimming
with mysterious glances, offered to lend his convoy as far as to the
high-road; and Otto, in fear of some residuary jealousy and for the
girl's sake, had not the courage to gainsay him; but he regarded his
companion with uneasy glances, and devoutly wished the business at
an end. For some time Fritz walked by the mare in silence; and they
had already traversed more than half the proposed distance when,
with something of a blush, he looked up and opened fire.
'Are you not,' he asked, 'what they call a socialist?'
'Why, no,' returned Otto, 'not precisely what they call so. Why do
you ask?'
'I will tell you why,' said the young man. 'I saw from the first
that you were a red progressional, and nothing but the fear of old
Killian kept you back. And there, sir, you were right: old men are
always cowards. But nowadays, you see, there are so many groups:
you can never tell how far the likeliest kind of man may be prepared
to go; and I was never sure you were one of the strong thinkers,
till you hinted about women and free love.'
'Indeed,' cried Otto, 'I never said a word of such a thing.'
'Not you!' cried Fritz. 'Never a word to compromise! You was
sowing seed: ground-bait, our president calls it. But it's hard to
deceive me, for I know all the agitators and their ways, and all the
doctrines; and between you and me,' lowering his voice, 'I am myself
affiliated. O yes, I am a secret society man, and here is my
medal.' And drawing out a green ribbon that he wore about his neck,
he held up, for Otto's inspection, a pewter medal bearing the
imprint of a Phoenix and the legend LIBERTAS. 'And so now you see
you may trust me,' added Fritz, 'I am none of your alehouse talkers;
I am a convinced revolutionary.' And he looked meltingly upon Otto.
'I see,' replied the Prince; 'that is very gratifying. Well, sir,
the great thing for the good of one's country is, first of all, to
be a good man. All springs from there. For my part, although you
are right in thinking that I have to do with politics, I am unfit by
intellect and temper for a leading role. I was intended, I fear,
for a subaltern. Yet we have all something to command, Mr. Fritz,
if it be only our own temper; and a man about to marry must look
closely to himself. The husband's, like the prince's, is a very
artificial standing; and it is hard to be kind in either. Do you
follow that?'
'O yes, I follow that,' replied the young man, sadly chop-fallen
over the nature of the information he had elicited; and then
brightening up: 'Is it,' he ventured, 'is it for an arsenal that you
have bought the farm?'
'We'll see about that,' the Prince answered, laughing. 'You must
not be too zealous. And in the meantime, if I were you, I would say
nothing on the subject.'
'O, trust me, sir, for that,' cried Fritz, as he pocketed a crown.
'And you've let nothing out; for I suspected - I might say I knew it
- from the first. And mind you, when a guide is required,' he
added, 'I know all the forest paths.'
Otto rode away, chuckling. This talk with Fritz had vastly
entertained him; nor was he altogether discontented with his bearing
at the farm; men, he was able to tell himself, had behaved worse
under smaller provocation. And, to harmonise all, the road and the
April air were both delightful to his soul.
Up and down, and to and fro, ever mounting through the wooded
foothills, the broad white high-road wound onward into Grunewald.
On either hand the pines stood coolly rooted - green moss
prospering, springs welling forth between their knuckled spurs; and
though some were broad and stalwart, and others spiry and slender,
yet all stood firm in the same attitude and with the same
expression, like a silent army presenting arms.
The road lay all the way apart from towns and villages, which it
left on either hand. Here and there, indeed, in the bottom of green
glens, the Prince could spy a few congregated roofs, or perhaps
above him, on a shoulder, the solitary cabin of a woodman. But the
highway was an international undertaking and with its face set for
distant cities, scorned the little life of Grunewald. Hence it was
exceeding solitary. Near the frontier Otto met a detachment of his
own troops marching in the hot dust; and he was recognised and
somewhat feebly cheered as he rode by. But from that time forth and
for a long while he was alone with the great woods.
Gradually the spell of pleasure relaxed; his own thoughts returned,
like stinging insects, in a cloud; and the talk of the night before,
like a shower of buffets, fell upon his memory. He looked east and
west for any comforter; and presently he was aware of a cross-road
coming steeply down hill, and a horseman cautiously descending. A
human voice or presence, like a spring in the desert, was now
welcome in itself, and Otto drew bridle to await the coming of this
stranger. He proved to be a very red-faced, thick-lipped
countryman, with a pair of fat saddle-bags and a stone bottle at his
waist; who, as soon as the Prince hailed him, jovially, if somewhat
thickly, answered. At the same time he gave a beery yaw in the
saddle. It was clear his bottle was no longer full.
'Do you ride towards Mittwalden?' asked the Prince.
'As far as the cross-road to Tannenbrunn,' the man replied. 'Will
you bear company?'
'With pleasure. I have even waited for you on the chance,' answered
By this time they were close alongside; and the man, with the
countryfolk instinct, turned his cloudy vision first of all on his
companion's mount. 'The devil!' he cried. 'You ride a bonny mare,
friend!' And then, his curiosity being satisfied about the
essential, he turned his attention to that merely secondary matter,
his companion's face. He started. 'The Prince!' he cried,
saluting, with another yaw that came near dismounting him. 'I beg
your pardon, your Highness, not to have recognised you at once.'
The Prince was vexed out of his self-possession. 'Since you know
me,' he said, 'it is unnecessary we should ride together. I will
precede you, if you please.' And he was about to set spur to the
grey mare, when the half-drunken fellow, reaching over, laid his
hand upon the rein.
'Hark you,' he said, 'prince or no prince, that is not how one man
should conduct himself with another. What! You'll ride with me
incog. and set me talking! But if I know you, you'll preshede me,
if you please! Spy!' And the fellow, crimson with drink and
injured vanity, almost spat the word into the Prince's face.
A horrid confusion came over Otto. He perceived that he had acted
rudely, grossly presuming on his station. And perhaps a little
shiver of physical alarm mingled with his remorse, for the fellow
was very powerful and not more than half in the possession of his
senses. 'Take your hand from my rein,' he said, with a sufficient
assumption of command; and when the man, rather to his wonder, had
obeyed: 'You should understand, sir,' he added, 'that while I might
be glad to ride with you as one person of sagacity with another, and
so receive your true opinions, it would amuse me very little to hear
the empty compliments you would address to me as Prince.'
'You think I would lie, do you?' cried the man with the bottle,
purpling deeper.
'I know you would,' returned Otto, entering entirely into his selfpossession.
'You would not even show me the medal you wear about
your neck.' For he had caught a glimpse of a green ribbon at the
fellow's throat.
The change was instantaneous: the red face became mottled with
yellow: a thick-fingered, tottering hand made a clutch at the telltale
ribbon. 'Medal!' the man cried, wonderfully sobered. 'I have
no medal.'
'Pardon me,' said the Prince. 'I will even tell you what that medal
bears: a Phoenix burning, with the word LIBERTAS.' The medallist
remaining speechless, 'You are a pretty fellow,' continued Otto,
smiling, 'to complain of incivility from the man whom you conspire
to murder.'
'Murder!' protested the man. 'Nay, never that; nothing criminal for
'You are strangely misinformed,' said Otto. 'Conspiracy itself is
criminal, and ensures the pain of death. Nay, sir, death it is; I
will guarantee my accuracy. Not that you need be so deplorably
affected, for I am no officer. But those who mingle with politics
should look at both sides of the medal.'
'Your Highness . . . . ' began the knight of the bottle.
'Nonsense! you are a Republican,' cried Otto; 'what have you to do
with highnesses? But let us continue to ride forward. Since you so
much desire it, I cannot find it in my heart to deprive you of my
company. And for that matter, I have a question to address to you.
Why, being so great a body of men - for you are a great body -
fifteen thousand, I have heard, but that will be understated; am I
The man gurgled in his throat.
'Why, then, being so considerable a party,' resumed Otto, 'do you
not come before me boldly with your wants? - what do I say? with
your commands? Have I the name of being passionately devoted to my
throne? I can scarce suppose it. Come, then; show me your
majority, and I will instantly resign. Tell this to your friends;
assure them from me of my docility; assure them that, however they
conceive of my deficiencies, they cannot suppose me more unfit to be
a ruler than I do myself. I am one of the worst princes in Europe;
will they improve on that?'
'Far be it from me . . .' the man began.
'See, now, if you will not defend my government!' cried Otto. 'If I
were you, I would leave conspiracies. You are as little fit to be a
conspirator as I to be a king.'
'One thing I will say out,' said the man. 'It is not so much you
that we complain of, it's your lady.'
'Not a word, sir' said the Prince; and then after a moment's pause,
and in tones of some anger and contempt: 'I once more advise you to
have done with politics,' he added; 'and when next I see you, let me
see you sober. A morning drunkard is the last man to sit in
judgment even upon the worst of princes.'
'I have had a drop, but I had not been drinking,' the man replied,
triumphing in a sound distinction. 'And if I had, what then?
Nobody hangs by me. But my mill is standing idle, and I blame it on
your wife. Am I alone in that? Go round and ask. Where are the
mills? Where are the young men that should be working? Where is
the currency? All paralysed. No, sir, it is not equal; for I
suffer for your faults - I pay for them, by George, out of a poor
man's pocket. And what have you to do with mine? Drunk or sober, I
can see my country going to hell, and I can see whose fault it is.
And so now, I've said my say, and you may drag me to a stinking
dungeon; what care I? I've spoke the truth, and so I'll hold hard,
and not intrude upon your Highness's society.'
And the miller reined up and, clumsily enough, saluted.
'You will observe, I have not asked your name,' said Otto. 'I wish
you a good ride,' and he rode on hard. But let him ride as he
pleased, this interview with the miller was a chokepear, which he
could not swallow. He had begun by receiving a reproof in manners,
and ended by sustaining a defeat in logic, both from a man whom he
despised. All his old thoughts returned with fresher venom. And by
three in the afternoon, coming to the cross-roads for Beckstein,
Otto decided to turn aside and dine there leisurely. Nothing at
least could be worse than to go on as he was going.
In the inn at Beckstein he remarked, immediately upon his entrance,
an intelligent young gentleman dining, with a book in front of him.
He had his own place laid close to the reader, and with a proper
apology, broke ground by asking what he read.
'I am perusing,' answered the young gentleman, 'the last work of the
Herr Doctor Hohenstockwitz, cousin and librarian of your Prince here
in Grunewald - a man of great erudition and some lambencies of wit.'
'I am acquainted,' said Otto, 'with the Herr Doctor, though not yet
with his work.'
'Two privileges that I must envy you,' replied the young man
politely: 'an honour in hand, a pleasure in the bush.'
'The Herr Doctor is a man much respected, I believe, for his
attainments?' asked the Prince.
'He is, sir, a remarkable instance of the force of intellect,'
replied the reader. 'Who of our young men know anything of his
cousin, all reigning Prince although he be? Who but has heard of
Doctor Gotthold? But intellectual merit, alone of all distinctions,
has its base in nature.'
'I have the gratification of addressing a student - perhaps an
author?' Otto suggested.
The young man somewhat flushed. 'I have some claim to both
distinctions, sir, as you suppose,' said he; 'there is my card. I
am the licentiate Roederer, author of several works on the theory
and practice of politics.'
'You immensely interest me,' said the Prince; 'the more so as I
gather that here in Grunewald we are on the brink of revolution.
Pray, since these have been your special studies, would you augur
hopefully of such a movement?'
'I perceive,' said the young author, with a certain vinegary twitch,
'that you are unacquainted with my opuscula. I am a convinced
authoritarian. I share none of those illusory, Utopian fancies with
which empirics blind themselves and exasperate the ignorant. The
day of these ideas is, believe me, past, or at least passing.'
'When I look about me - ' began Otto.
'When you look about you,' interrupted the licentiate, 'you behold
the ignorant. But in the laboratory of opinion, beside the studious
lamp, we begin already to discard these figments. We begin to
return to nature's order, to what I might call, if I were to borrow
from the language of therapeutics, the expectant treatment of
abuses. You will not misunderstand me,' he continued: 'a country in
the condition in which we find Grunewald, a prince such as your
Prince Otto, we must explicitly condemn; they are behind the age.
But I would look for a remedy not to brute convulsions, but to the
natural supervenience of a more able sovereign. I should amuse you,
perhaps,' added the licentiate, with a smile, 'I think I should
amuse you if I were to explain my notion of a prince. We who have
studied in the closet, no longer, in this age, propose ourselves for
active service. The paths, we have perceived, are incompatible. I
would not have a student on the throne, though I would have one near
by for an adviser. I would set forward as prince a man of a good,
medium understanding, lively rather than deep; a man of courtly
manner, possessed of the double art to ingratiate and to command;
receptive, accommodating, seductive. I have been observing you
since your first entrance. Well, sir, were I a subject of Grunewald
I should pray heaven to set upon the seat of government just such
another as yourself.'
'The devil you would!' exclaimed the Prince.
The licentiate Roederer laughed most heartily. 'I thought I should
astonish you,' he said. 'These are not the ideas of the masses.'
'They are not, I can assure you,' Otto said.
'Or rather,' distinguished the licentiate, 'not to-day. The time
will come, however, when these ideas shall prevail.'
'You will permit me, sir, to doubt it,' said Otto.
'Modesty is always admirable,' chuckled the theorist. 'But yet I
assure you, a man like you, with such a man as, say, Doctor Gotthold
at your elbow, would be, for all practical issues, my ideal ruler.'
At this rate the hours sped pleasantly for Otto. But the licentiate
unfortunately slept that night at Beckstein, where he was, being
dainty in the saddle and given to half stages. And to find a convoy
to Mittwalden, and thus mitigate the company of his own thoughts,
the Prince had to make favour with a certain party of wood-merchants
from various states of the empire, who had been drinking together
somewhat noisily at the far end of the apartment.
The night had already fallen when they took the saddle. The
merchants were very loud and mirthful; each had a face like a
nor'west moon; and they played pranks with each others' horses, and
mingled songs and choruses, and alternately remembered and forgot
the companion of their ride. Otto thus combined society and
solitude, hearkening now to their chattering and empty talk, now to
the voices of the encircling forest. The starlit dark, the faint
wood airs, the clank of the horse-shoes making broken music,
accorded together and attuned his mind. And he was still in a most
equal temper when the party reached the top of that long hill that
overlooks Mittwalden.
Down in the bottom of a bowl of forest, the lights of the little
formal town glittered in a pattern, street crossing street; away by
itself on the right, the palace was glowing like a factory.
Although he knew not Otto, one of the wood-merchants was a native of
the state. 'There,' said he, pointing to the palace with his whip,
'there is Jezebel's inn.'
'What, do you call it that?' cried another, laughing.
'Ay, that's what they call it,' returned the Grunewalder; and he
broke into a song, which the rest, as people well acquainted with
the words and air, instantly took up in chorus. Her Serene Highness
Amalia Seraphina, Princess of Grunewald, was the heroine, Gondremark
the hero of this ballad. Shame hissed in Otto's ears. He reined up
short and sat stunned in the saddle; and the singers continued to
descend the hill without him.
The song went to a rough, swashing, popular air; and long after the
words became inaudible the swing of the music, rising and falling,
echoed insult in the Prince's brain. He fled the sounds. Hard by
him on his right a road struck towards the palace, and he followed
it through the thick shadows and branching alleys of the park. It
was a busy place on a fine summer's afternoon, when the court and
burghers met and saluted; but at that hour of the night in the early
spring it was deserted to the roosting birds. Hares rustled among
the covert; here and there a statue stood glimmering, with its
eternal gesture; here and there the echo of an imitation temple
clattered ghostly to the trampling of the mare. Ten minutes brought
him to the upper end of his own home garden, where the small stables
opened, over a bridge, upon the park. The yard clock was striking
the hour of ten; so was the big bell in the palace bell-tower; and,
farther off, the belfries of the town. About the stable all else
was silent but the stamping of stalled horses and the rattle of
halters. Otto dismounted; and as he did so a memory came back to
him: a whisper of dishonest grooms and stolen corn, once heard, long
forgotten, and now recurring in the nick of opportunity. He crossed
the bridge, and, going up to a window, knocked six or seven heavy
blows in a particular cadence, and, as he did so, smiled. Presently
a wicket was opened in the gate, and a man's head appeared in the
dim starlight.
'Nothing to-night,' said a voice.
'Bring a lantern,' said the Prince.
'Dear heart a' mercy!' cried the groom. 'Who's that?'
'It is I, the Prince,' replied Otto. 'Bring a lantern, take in the
mare, and let me through into the garden.'
The man remained silent for a while, his head still projecting
through the wicket.
'His Highness!' he said at last. 'And why did your Highness knock
so strange?'
'It is a superstition in Mittwalden,' answered Otto, 'that it
cheapens corn.'
With a sound like a sob the groom fled. He was very white when he
returned, even by the light of the lantern; and his hand trembled as
he undid the fastenings and took the mare.
'Your Highness,' he began at last, 'for God's sake . . . . ' And
there he paused, oppressed with guilt.
'For God's sake, what?' asked Otto cheerfully. 'For God's sake let
us have cheaper corn, say I. Good-night!' And he strode off into
the garden, leaving the groom petrified once more.
The garden descended by a succession of stone terraces to the level
of the fish-pond. On the far side the ground rose again, and was
crowned by the confused roofs and gables of the palace. The modern
pillared front, the ball-room, the great library, the princely
apartments, the busy and illuminated quarters of that great house,
all faced the town. The garden side was much older; and here it was
almost dark; only a few windows quietly lighted at various
elevations. The great square tower rose, thinning by stages like a
telescope; and on the top of all the flag hung motionless.
The garden, as it now lay in the dusk and glimmer of the starshine,
breathed of April violets. Under night's cavern arch the shrubs
obscurely bustled. Through the plotted terraces and down the marble
stairs the Prince rapidly descended, fleeing before uncomfortable
thoughts. But, alas! from these there is no city of refuge. And
now, when he was about midway of the descent, distant strains of
music began to fall upon his ear from the ball-room, where the court
was dancing. They reached him faint and broken, but they touched
the keys of memory; and through and above them Otto heard the
ranting melody of the wood-merchants' song. Mere blackness seized
upon his mind. Here he was, coming home; the wife was dancing, the
husband had been playing a trick upon a lackey; and meanwhile, all
about them, they were a by-word to their subjects. Such a prince,
such a husband, such a man, as this Otto had become! And he sped
the faster onward.
Some way below he came unexpectedly upon a sentry; yet a little
farther, and he was challenged by a second; and as he crossed the
bridge over the fish-pond, an officer making the rounds stopped him
once more. The parade of watch was more than usual; but curiosity
was dead in Otto's mind, and he only chafed at the interruption.
The porter of the back postern admitted him, and started to behold
him so disordered. Thence, hasting by private stairs and passages,
he came at length unseen to his own chamber, tore off his clothes,
and threw himself upon his bed in the dark. The music of the ballroom
still continued to a very lively measure; and still, behind
that, he heard in spirit the chorus of the merchants clanking down
the hill.
AT a quarter before six on the following morning Doctor Gotthold was
already at his desk in the library; and with a small cup of black
coffee at his elbow, and an eye occasionally wandering to the busts
and the long array of many-coloured books, was quietly reviewing the
labours of the day before. He was a man of about forty, flaxenhaired,
with refined features a little worn, and bright eyes
somewhat faded. Early to bed and early to rise, his life was
devoted to two things: erudition and Rhine wine. An ancient
friendship existed latent between him and Otto; they rarely met, but
when they did it was to take up at once the thread of their
suspended intimacy. Gotthold, the virgin priest of knowledge, had
envied his cousin, for half a day, when he was married; he had never
envied him his throne.
Reading was not a popular diversion at the court of Grunewald; and
that great, pleasant, sunshiny gallery of books and statues was, in
practice, Gotthold's private cabinet. On this particular Wednesday
morning, however, he had not been long about his manuscript when a
door opened and the Prince stepped into the apartment. The doctor
watched him as he drew near, receiving, from each of the embayed
windows in succession, a flush of morning sun; and Otto looked so
gay, and walked so airily, he was so well dressed and brushed and
frizzled, so point-device, and of such a sovereign elegance, that
the heart of his cousin the recluse was rather moved against him.
'Good-morning, Gotthold,' said Otto, dropping in a chair.
'Good-morning, Otto,' returned the librarian. 'You are an early
bird. Is this an accident, or do you begin reforming?'
'It is about time, I fancy,' answered the Prince.
'I cannot imagine,' said the Doctor. 'I am too sceptical to be an
ethical adviser; and as for good resolutions, I believed in them
when I was young. They are the colours of hope's rainbow.'
'If you come to think of it,' said Otto, 'I am not a popular
sovereign.' And with a look he changed his statement to a question.
'Popular? Well, there I would distinguish,' answered Gotthold,
leaning back and joining the tips of his fingers. 'There are
various kinds of popularity; the bookish, which is perfectly
impersonal, as unreal as the nightmare; the politician's, a mixed
variety; and yours, which is the most personal of all. Women take
to you; footmen adore you; it is as natural to like you as to pat a
dog; and were you a saw-miller you would be the most popular citizen
in Grunewald. As a prince - well, you are in the wrong trade. It
is perhaps philosophical to recognise it as you do.'
'Perhaps philosophical?' repeated Otto.
'Yes, perhaps. I would not be dogmatic,' answered Gotthold.
'Perhaps philosophical, and certainly not virtuous,' Otto resumed.
'Not of a Roman virtue,' chuckled the recluse.
Otto drew his chair nearer to the table, leaned upon it with his
elbow, and looked his cousin squarely in the face. 'In short,' he
asked, 'not manly?'
'Well,' Gotthold hesitated, 'not manly, if you will.' And then,
with a laugh, 'I did not know that you gave yourself out to be
manly,' he added. 'It was one of the points that I inclined to like
about you; inclined, I believe, to admire. The names of virtues
exercise a charm on most of us; we must lay claim to all of them,
however incompatible; we must all be both daring and prudent; we
must all vaunt our pride and go to the stake for our humility. Not
so you. Without compromise you were yourself: a pretty sight. I
have always said it: none so void of all pretence as Otto.'
'Pretence and effort both!' cried Otto. 'A dead dog in a canal is
more alive. And the question, Gotthold, the question that I have to
face is this: Can I not, with effort and self-denial, can I not
become a tolerable sovereign?'
'Never,' replied Gotthold. 'Dismiss the notion. And besides, dear
child, you would not try.'
'Nay, Gotthold, I am not to be put by,' said Otto. 'If I am
constitutionally unfit to be a sovereign, what am I doing with this
money, with this palace, with these guards? And I - a thief - am to
execute the law on others?'
'I admit the difficulty,' said Gotthold.
'Well, can I not try?' continued Otto. 'Am I not bound to try? And
with the advice and help of such a man as you - '
'Me!' cried the librarian. 'Now, God forbid!'
Otto, though he was in no very smiling humour, could not forbear to
smile. 'Yet I was told last night,' he laughed, 'that with a man
like me to impersonate, and a man like you to touch the springs, a
very possible government could be composed.'
'Now I wonder in what diseased imagination,' Gotthold said, 'that
preposterous monster saw the light of day?'
'It was one of your own trade - a writer: one Roederer,' said Otto.
'Roederer! an ignorant puppy!' cried the librarian.
'You are ungrateful,' said Otto. 'He is one of your professed
'Is he?' cried Gotthold, obviously impressed. 'Come, that is a good
account of the young man. I must read his stuff again. It is the
rather to his credit, as our views are opposite. The east and west
are not more opposite. Can I have converted him? But no; the
incident belongs to Fairyland.'
'You are not then,' asked the Prince, 'an authoritarian?'
'I? God bless me, no!' said Gotthold. 'I am a red, dear child.'
'That brings me then to my next point, and by a natural transition.
If I am so clearly unfitted for my post,' the Prince asked; 'if my
friends admit it, if my subjects clamour for my downfall, if
revolution is preparing at this hour, must I not go forth to meet
the inevitable? should I not save these horrors and be done with
these absurdities? in a word, should I not abdicate? O, believe me,
I feel the ridicule, the vast abuse of language,' he added, wincing,
'but even a principulus like me cannot resign; he must make a great
gesture, and come buskined forth, and abdicate.'
'Ay,' said Gotthold, 'or else stay where he is. What gnat has
bitten you to-day? Do you not know that you are touching, with lay
hands, the very holiest inwards of philosophy, where madness dwells?
Ay, Otto, madness; for in the serene temples of the wise, the inmost
shrine, which we carefully keep locked, is full of spiders' webs.
All men, all, are fundamentally useless; nature tolerates, she does
not need, she does not use them: sterile flowers! All - down to the
fellow swinking in a byre, whom fools point out for the exception -
all are useless; all weave ropes of sand; or like a child that has
breathed on a window, write and obliterate, write and obliterate,
idle words! Talk of it no more. That way, I tell you, madness
lies.' The speaker rose from his chair and then sat down again. He
laughed a little laugh, and then, changing his tone, resumed: 'Yes,
dear child, we are not here to do battle with giants; we are here to
be happy like the flowers, if we can be. It is because you could,
that I have always secretly admired you. Cling to that trade;
believe me, it is the right one. Be happy, be idle, be airy. To
the devil with all casuistry! and leave the state to Gondremark, as
heretofore. He does it well enough, they say; and his vanity enjoys
the situation.'
'Gotthold,' cried Otto, 'what is this to me? Useless is not the
question; I cannot rest at uselessness; I must be useful or I must
be noxious - one or other. I grant you the whole thing, prince and
principality alike, is pure absurdity, a stroke of satire; and that
a banker or the man who keeps an inn has graver duties. But now,
when I have washed my hands of it three years, and left all -
labour, responsibility, and honour and enjoyment too, if there be
any - to Gondremark and to - Seraphina - ' He hesitated at the
name, and Gotthold glanced aside. 'Well,' the Prince continued,
'what has come of it? Taxes, army, cannon - why, it's like a box of
lead soldiers! And the people sick at the folly of it, and fired
with the injustice! And war, too - I hear of war - war in this
teapot! What a complication of absurdity and disgrace! And when
the inevitable end arrives - the revolution - who will be to blame
in the sight of God, who will be gibbeted in public opinion? I!
Prince Puppet!'
'I thought you had despised public opinion,' said Gotthold.
'I did,' said Otto sombrely, 'but now I do not. I am growing old.
And then, Gotthold, there is Seraphina. She is loathed in this
country that I brought her to and suffered her to spoil. Yes, I
gave it her as a plaything, and she has broken it: a fine Prince, an
admirable Princess! Even her life - I ask you, Gotthold, is her
life safe?'
'It is safe enough to-day,' replied the librarian: 'but since you
ask me seriously, I would not answer for to-morrow. She is illadvised.'
'And by whom? By this Gondremark, to whom you counsel me to leave
my country,' cried the Prince. 'Rare advice! The course that I
have been following all these years, to come at last to this. O,
ill-advised! if that were all! See now, there is no sense in
beating about the bush between two men: you know what scandal says
of her?'
Gotthold, with pursed lips, silently nodded.
'Well, come, you are not very cheering as to my conduct as the
Prince; have I even done my duty as a husband?' Otto asked.
'Nay, nay,' said Gotthold, earnestly and eagerly, 'this is another
chapter. I am an old celibate, an old monk. I cannot advise you in
your marriage.'
'Nor do I require advice,' said Otto, rising. 'All of this must
cease.' And he began to walk to and fro with his hands behind his
'Well, Otto, may God guide you!' said Gotthold, after a considerable
silence. 'I cannot.'
'From what does all this spring?' said the Prince, stopping in his
walk. 'What am I to call it? Diffidence? The fear of ridicule?
Inverted vanity? What matter names, if it has brought me to this?
I could never bear to be bustling about nothing; I was ashamed of
this toy kingdom from the first; I could not tolerate that people
should fancy I believed in a thing so patently absurd! I would do
nothing that cannot be done smiling. I have a sense of humour,
forsooth! I must know better than my Maker. And it was the same
thing in my marriage,' he added more hoarsely. 'I did not believe
this girl could care for me; I must not intrude; I must preserve the
foppery of my indifference. What an impotent picture!'
'Ay, we have the same blood,' moralised Gotthold. 'You are drawing,
with fine strokes, the character of the born sceptic.'
'Sceptic? - coward!' cried Otto. 'Coward is the word. A
springless, putty-hearted, cowering coward!'
And as the Prince rapped out the words in tones of unusual vigour, a
little, stout, old gentleman, opening a door behind Gotthold,
received them fairly in the face. With his parrot's beak for a
nose, his pursed mouth, his little goggling eyes, he was the picture
of formality; and in ordinary circumstances, strutting behind the
drum of his corporation, he impressed the beholder with a certain
air of frozen dignity and wisdom. But at the smallest contrariety,
his trembling hands and disconnected gestures betrayed the weakness
at the root. And now, when he was thus surprisingly received in
that library of Mittwalden Palace, which was the customary haunt of
silence, his hands went up into the air as if he had been shot, and
he cried aloud with the scream of an old woman.
'O!' he gasped, recovering, 'Your Highness! I beg ten thousand
pardons. But your Highness at such an hour in the library! - a
circumstance so unusual as your Highness's presence was a thing I
could not be expected to foresee.'
'There is no harm done, Herr Cancellarius,' said Otto.
'I came upon the errand of a moment: some papers I left over-night
with the Herr Doctor,' said the Chancellor of Grunewald. 'Herr
Doctor, if you will kindly give me them, I will intrude no longer.'
Gotthold unlocked a drawer and handed a bundle of manuscript to the
old gentleman, who prepared, with fitting salutations, to take his
'Herr Greisengesang, since we have met,' said Otto, 'let us talk.'
'I am honoured by his Highness's commands,' replied the Chancellor.
'All has been quiet since I left?' asked the Prince, resuming his
'The usual business, your Highness,' answered Greisengesang;
'punctual trifles: huge, indeed, if neglected, but trifles when
discharged. Your Highness is most zealously obeyed.'
'Obeyed, Herr Cancellarius?' returned the Prince. 'And when have I
obliged you with an order? Replaced, let us rather say. But to
touch upon these trifles; instance me a few.'
'The routine of government, from which your Highness has so wisely
dissociated his leisure . . . ' began Greisengesang.
'We will leave my leisure, sir,' said Otto. 'Approach the facts.'
'The routine of business was proceeded with,' replied the official,
now visibly twittering.
'It is very strange, Herr Cancellarius, that you should so
persistently avoid my questions,' said the Prince. 'You tempt me to
suppose a purpose in your dulness. I have asked you whether all was
quiet; do me the pleasure to reply.'
'Perfectly - O, perfectly quiet,' jerked the ancient puppet, with
every signal of untruth.
'I make a note of these words,' said the Prince gravely. 'You
assure me, your sovereign, that since the date of my departure
nothing has occurred of which you owe me an account.'
'I take your Highness, I take the Herr Doctor to witness,' cried
Greisengesang, 'that I have had no such expression.'
'Halt!' said the Prince; and then, after a pause: 'Herr
Greisengesang, you are an old man, and you served my father before
you served me,' he added. 'It consists neither with your dignity
nor mine that you should babble excuses and stumble possibly upon
untruths. Collect your thoughts; and then categorically inform me
of all you have been charged to hide.'
Gotthold, stooping very low over his desk, appeared to have resumed
his labours; but his shoulders heaved with subterranean merriment.
The Prince waited, drawing his handkerchief quietly through his
'Your Highness, in this informal manner,' said the old gentleman at
last, 'and being unavoidably deprived of documents, it would be
difficult, it would be impossible, to do justice to the somewhat
grave occurrences which have transpired.'
'I will not criticise your attitude,' replied the Prince. 'I desire
that, between you and me, all should be done gently; for I have not
forgotten, my old friend, that you were kind to me from the first,
and for a period of years a faithful servant. I will thus dismiss
the matters on which you waive immediate inquiry. But you have
certain papers actually in your hand. Come, Herr Greisengesang,
there is at least one point for which you have authority. Enlighten
me on that.'
'On that?' cried the old gentleman. 'O, that is a trifle; a matter,
your Highness, of police; a detail of a purely administrative order.
These are simply a selection of the papers seized upon the English
'Seized?' echoed Otto. 'In what sense? Explain yourself.'
'Sir John Crabtree,' interposed Gotthold, looking up, 'was arrested
yesterday evening.'
'It this so, Herr Cancellarius?' demanded Otto sternly.
'It was judged right, your Highness,' protested Greisengesang. 'The
decree was in due form, invested with your Highness's authority by
procuration. I am but an agent; I had no status to prevent the
'This man, my guest, has been arrested,' said the Prince. 'On what
grounds, sir? With what colour of pretence?'
The Chancellor stammered.
'Your Highness will perhaps find the reason in these documents,'
said Gotthold, pointing with the tail of his pen.
Otto thanked his cousin with a look. 'Give them to me,' he said,
addressing the Chancellor.
But that gentleman visibly hesitated to obey. 'Baron von
Gondremark,' he said, 'has made the affair his own. I am in this
case a mere messenger; and as such, I am not clothed with any
capacity to communicate the documents I carry. Herr Doctor, I am
convinced you will not fail to bear me out.'
'I have heard a great deal of nonsense,' said Gotthold, 'and most of
it from you; but this beats all.'
'Come, sir,' said Otto, rising, 'the papers. I command.'
Herr Greisengesang instantly gave way.
'With your Highness's permission,' he said, 'and laying at his feet
my most submiss apologies, I will now hasten to attend his further
orders in the Chancery.'
'Herr Cancellarius, do you see this chair?' said Otto. 'There is
where you shall attend my further orders. O, now, no more!' he
cried, with a gesture, as the old man opened his lips. 'You have
sufficiently marked your zeal to your employer; and I begin to weary
of a moderation you abuse.'
The Chancellor moved to the appointed chair and took his seat in
'And now,' said Otto, opening the roll, 'what is all this? it looks
like the manuscript of a book.'
'It is,' said Gotthold, 'the manuscript of a book of travels.'
'You have read it, Doctor Hohenstockwitz?' asked the Prince.
'Nay, I but saw the title-page,' replied Gotthold. 'But the roll
was given to me open, and I heard no word of any secrecy.'
Otto dealt the Chancellor an angry glance.
'I see,' he went on. 'The papers of an author seized at this date
of the world's history, in a state so petty and so ignorant as
Grunewald, here is indeed an ignominious folly. Sir,' to the
Chancellor, 'I marvel to find you in so scurvy an employment. On
your conduct to your Prince I will not dwell; but to descend to be a
spy! For what else can it be called? To seize the papers of this
gentleman, the private papers of a stranger, the toil of a life,
perhaps - to open, and to read them. And what have we to do with
books? The Herr Doctor might perhaps be asked for his advice; but
we have no INDEX EXPURGATORIUS in Grunewald. Had we but that, we
should be the most absolute parody and farce upon this tawdry
Yet, even while Otto spoke, he had continued to unfold the roll; and
now, when it lay fully open, his eye rested on the title-page
elaborately written in red ink. It ran thus:
Below was a list of chapters, each bearing the name of one of the
European Courts; and among these the nineteenth and the last upon
the list was dedicated to Grunewald.
'Ah! The Court of Grunewald!' said Otto, 'that should be droll
reading.' And his curiosity itched for it.
'A methodical dog, this English Baronet,' said Gotthold. 'Each
chapter written and finished on the spot. I shall look for his work
when it appears.'
'It would be odd, now, just to glance at it,' said Otto, wavering.
Gotthold's brow darkened, and he looked out of window.
But though the Prince understood the reproof, his weakness
prevailed. 'I will,' he said, with an uneasy laugh, 'I will, I
think, just glance at it.'
So saying, he resumed his seat and spread the traveller's manuscript
upon the table.
NINETEENTH CHAPTER) why I should have chosen Grunewald out of so
many other states equally petty, formal, dull, and corrupt.
Accident, indeed, decided, and not I; but I have seen no reason to
regret my visit. The spectacle of this small society macerating in
its own abuses was not perhaps instructive, but I have found it
exceedingly diverting.
The reigning Prince, Otto Johann Friedrich, a young man of imperfect
education, questionable valour, and no scintilla of capacity, has
fallen into entire public contempt. It was with difficulty that I
obtained an interview, for he is frequently absent from a court
where his presence is unheeded, and where his only role is to be a
cloak for the amours of his wife. At last, however, on the third
occasion when I visited the palace, I found this sovereign in the
exercise of his inglorious function, with the wife on one hand, and
the lover on the other. He is not ill-looking; he has hair of a
ruddy gold, which naturally curls, and his eyes are dark, a
combination which I always regard as the mark of some congenital
deficiency, physical or moral; his features are irregular, but
pleasing; the nose perhaps a little short, and the mouth a little
womanish; his address is excellent, and he can express himself with
point. But to pierce below these externals is to come on a vacuity
of any sterling quality, a deliquescence of the moral nature, a
frivolity and inconsequence of purpose that mark the nearly perfect
fruit of a decadent age. He has a worthless smattering of many
subjects, but a grasp of none. 'I soon weary of a pursuit,' he said
to me, laughing; it would almost appear as if he took a pride in his
incapacity and lack of moral courage. The results of his
dilettanteism are to be seen in every field; he is a bad fencer, a
second-rate horseman, dancer, shot; he sings - I have heard him -
and he sings like a child; he writes intolerable verses in more than
doubtful French; he acts like the common amateur; and in short there
is no end to the number of the things that he does, and does badly.
His one manly taste is for the chase. In sum, he is but a plexus of
weaknesses; the singing chambermaid of the stage, tricked out in
man's apparel, and mounted on a circus horse. I have seen this poor
phantom of a prince riding out alone or with a few huntsmen,
disregarded by all, and I have been even grieved for the bearer of
so futile and melancholy an existence. The last Merovingians may
have looked not otherwise.
The Princess Amalia Seraphina, a daughter of the Grand-Ducal house
of Toggenburg-Tannhauser, would be equally inconsiderable if she
were not a cutting instrument in the hands of an ambitious man. She
is much younger than the Prince, a girl of two-and-twenty, sick with
vanity, superficially clever, and fundamentally a fool. She has a
red-brown rolling eye, too large for her face, and with sparks of
both levity and ferocity; her forehead is high and narrow, her
figure thin and a little stooping. Her manners, her conversation,
which she interlards with French, her very tastes and ambitions, are
alike assumed; and the assumption is ungracefully apparent: Hoyden
playing Cleopatra. I should judge her to be incapable of truth. In
private life a girl of this description embroils the peace of
families, walks attended by a troop of scowling swains, and passes,
once at least, through the divorce court; it is a common and, except
to the cynic, an uninteresting type. On the throne, however, and in
the hands of a man like Gondremark, she may become the authoress of
serious public evils.
Gondremark, the true ruler of this unfortunate country, is a more
complex study. His position in Grunewald, to which he is a
foreigner, is eminently false; and that he should maintain it as he
does, a very miracle of impudence and dexterity. His speech, his
face, his policy, are all double: heads and tails. Which of the two
extremes may be his actual design he were a bold man who should
offer to decide. Yet I will hazard the guess that he follows both
experimentally, and awaits, at the hand of destiny, one of those
directing hints of which she is so lavish to the wise.
On the one hand, as MAIRE DU PALAIS to the incompetent Otto, and
using the love-sick Princess for a tool and mouthpiece, he pursues a
policy of arbitrary power and territorial aggrandisement. He has
called out the whole capable male population of the state to
military service; he has bought cannon; he has tempted away
promising officers from foreign armies; and he now begins, in his
international relations, to assume the swaggering port and the
vague, threatful language of a bully. The idea of extending
Grunewald may appear absurd, but the little state is advantageously
placed, its neighbours are all defenceless; and if at any moment the
jealousies of the greater courts should neutralise each other, an
active policy might double the principality both in population and
extent. Certainly at least the scheme is entertained in the court
of Mittwalden; nor do I myself regard it as entirely desperate. The
margravate of Brandenburg has grown from as small beginnings to a
formidable power; and though it is late in the day to try
adventurous policies, and the age of war seems ended, Fortune, we
must not forget, still blindly turns her wheel for men and nations.
Concurrently with, and tributary to, these warlike preparations,
crushing taxes have been levied, journals have been suppressed, and
the country, which three years ago was prosperous and happy, now
stagnates in a forced inaction, gold has become a curiosity, and the
mills stand idle on the mountain streams.
On the other hand, in his second capacity of popular tribune,
Gondremark- is the incarnation of the free lodges, and sits at the
centre of an organised conspiracy against the state. To any such
movement my sympathies were early acquired, and I would not
willingly let fall a word that might embarrass or retard the
revolution. But to show that I speak of knowledge, and not as the
reporter of mere gossip, I may mention that I have myself been
present at a meeting where the details of a republican Constitution
were minutely debated and arranged; and I may add that Gondremark
was throughout referred to by the speakers as their captain in
action and the arbiter of their disputes. He has taught his dupes
(for so I must regard them) that his power of resistance to the
Princess is limited, and at each fresh stretch of authority
persuades them, with specious reasons, to postpone the hour of
insurrection. Thus (to give some instances of his astute diplomacy)
he salved over the decree enforcing military service, under the plea
that to be well drilled and exercised in arms was even a necessary
preparation for revolt. And the other day, when it began to be
rumoured abroad that a war was being forced on a reluctant
neighbour, the Grand Duke of Gerolstein, and I made sure it would be
the signal for an instant rising, I was struck dumb with wonder to
find that even this had been prepared and was to be accepted. I
went from one to another in the Liberal camp, and all were in the
same story, all had been drilled and schooled and fitted out with
vacuous argument. 'The lads had better see some real fighting,'
they said; 'and besides, it will be as well to capture Gerolstein:
we can then extend to our neighbours the blessing of liberty on the
same day that we snatch it for ourselves; and the republic will be
all the stronger to resist, if the kings of Europe should band
themselves together to reduce it.' I know not which of the two I
should admire the more: the simplicity of the multitude or the
audacity of the adventurer. But such are the subtleties, such the
quibbling reasons, with which he blinds and leads this people. How
long a course so tortuous can be pursued with safety I am incapable
of guessing; not long, one would suppose; and yet this singular man
has been treading the mazes for five years, and his favour at court
and his popularity among the lodges still endure unbroken.
I have the privilege of slightly knowing him. Heavily and somewhat
clumsily built, of a vast, disjointed, rambling frame, he can still
pull himself together, and figure, not without admiration, in the
saloon or the ball-room. His hue and temperament are plentifully
bilious; he has a saturnine eye; his cheek is of a dark blue where
he has been shaven. Essentially he is to be numbered among the manhaters,
a convinced contemner of his fellows. Yet he is himself of
a commonplace ambition and greedy of applause. In talk, he is
remarkable for a thirst of information, loving rather to hear than
to communicate; for sound and studious views; and, judging by the
extreme short-sightedness of common politicians, for a remarkable
provision of events. All this, however, without grace, pleasantry,
or charm, heavily set forth, with a dull countenance. In our
numerous conversations, although he has always heard me with
deference, I have been conscious throughout of a sort of ponderous
finessing hard to tolerate. He produces none of the effect of a
gentleman; devoid not merely of pleasantry, but of all attention or
communicative warmth of bearing. No gentleman, besides, would so
parade his amours with the Princess; still less repay the Prince for
his long-suffering with a studied insolence of demeanour and the
fabrication of insulting nicknames, such as Prince Featherhead,
which run from ear to ear and create a laugh throughout the country.
Gondremark has thus some of the clumsier characters of the self-made
man, combined with an inordinate, almost a besotted, pride of
intellect and birth. Heavy, bilious, selfish, inornate, he sits
upon this court and country like an incubus.
But it is probable that he preserves softer gifts for necessary
purposes. Indeed, it is certain, although he vouchsafed none of it
to me, that this cold and stolid politician possesses to a great
degree the art of ingratiation, and can be all things to all men.
Hence there has probably sprung up the idle legend that in private
life he is a gross romping voluptuary. Nothing, at least, can well
be more surprising than the terms of his connection with the
Princess. Older than her husband, certainly uglier, and, according
to the feeble ideas common among women, in every particular less
pleasing, he has not only seized the complete command of all her
thought and action, but has imposed on her in public a humiliating
part. I do not here refer to the complete sacrifice of every rag of
her reputation; for to many women these extremities are in
themselves attractive. But there is about the court a certain lady
of a dishevelled reputation, a Countess von Rosen, wife or widow of
a cloudy count, no longer in her second youth, and already bereft of
some of her attractions, who unequivocally occupies the station of
the Baron's mistress. I had thought, at first, that she was but a
hired accomplice, a mere blind or buffer for the more important
sinner. A few hours' acquaintance with Madame von Rosen for ever
dispelled the illusion. She is one rather to make than to prevent a
scandal, and she values none of those bribes - money, honours, or
employment - with which the situation might be gilded. Indeed, as a
person frankly bad, she pleased me, in the court of Grunewald, like
a piece of nature.
The power of this man over the Princess is, therefore, without
bounds. She has sacrificed to the adoration with which he has
inspired her not only her marriage vow and every shred of public
decency, but that vice of jealousy which is so much dearer to the
female sex than either intrinsic honour or outward consideration.
Nay, more: a young, although not a very attractive woman, and a
princess both by birth and fact, she submits to the triumphant
rivalry of one who might be her mother as to years, and who is so
manifestly her inferior in station. This is one of the mysteries of
the human heart. But the rage of illicit love, when it is once
indulged, appears to grow by feeding; and to a person of the
character and temperament of this unfortunate young lady, almost any
depth of degradation is within the reach of possibility.
So far Otto read, with waxing indignation; and here his fury
overflowed. He tossed the roll upon the table and stood up. 'This
man,' he said, 'is a devil. A filthy imagination, an ear greedy of
evil, a ponderous malignity of thought and language: I grow like him
by the reading! Chancellor, where is this fellow lodged?'
'He was committed to the Flag Tower,' replied Greisengesang, 'in the
Gamiani apartment.'
'Lead me to him,' said the Prince; and then, a thought striking him,
'Was it for that,' he asked, 'that I found so many sentries in the
'Your Highness, I am unaware,' answered Greisengesang, true to his
policy. 'The disposition of the guards is a matter distinct from my
Otto turned upon the old man fiercely, but ere he had time to speak,
Gotthold touched him on the arm. He swallowed his wrath with a
great effort. 'It is well,' he said, taking the roll. 'Follow me
to the Flag Tower.'
The Chancellor gathered himself together, and the two set forward.
It was a long and complicated voyage; for the library was in the
wing of the new buildings, and the tower which carried the flag was
in the old schloss upon the garden. By a great variety of stairs
and corridors, they came out at last upon a patch of gravelled
court; the garden peeped through a high grating with a flash of
green; tall, old gabled buildings mounted on every side; the Flag
Tower climbed, stage after stage, into the blue; and high over all,
among the building daws, the yellow flag wavered in the wind. A
sentinel at the foot of the tower stairs presented arms; another
paced the first landing; and a third was stationed before the door
of the extemporised prison.
'We guard this mud-bag like a jewel,' Otto sneered.
The Gamiani apartment was so called from an Italian doctor who had
imposed on the credulity of a former prince. The rooms were large,
airy, pleasant, and looked upon the garden; but the walls were of
great thickness (for the tower was old), and the windows were
heavily barred. The Prince, followed by the Chancellor, still
trotting to keep up with him, brushed swiftly through the little
library and the long saloon, and burst like a thunderbolt into the
bedroom at the farther end. Sir John was finishing his toilet; a
man of fifty, hard, uncompromising, able, with the eye and teeth of
physical courage. He was unmoved by the irruption, and bowed with a
sort of sneering ease.
'To what am I to attribute the honour of this visit?' he asked.
'You have eaten my bread,' replied Otto, 'you have taken my hand,
you have been received under my roof. When did I fail you in
courtesy? What have you asked that was not granted as to an
honoured guest? And here, sir,' tapping fiercely on the manuscript,
'here is your return.'
'Your Highness has read my papers?' said the Baronet. 'I am
honoured indeed. But the sketch is most imperfect. I shall now
have much to add. I can say that the Prince, whom I had accused of
idleness, is zealous in the department of police, taking upon
himself those duties that are most distasteful. I shall be able to
relate the burlesque incident of my arrest, and the singular
interview with which you honour me at present. For the rest, I have
already communicated with my Ambassador at Vienna; and unless you
propose to murder me, I shall be at liberty, whether you please or
not, within the week. For I hardly fancy the future empire of
Grunewald is yet ripe to go to war with England. I conceive I am a
little more than quits. I owe you no explanation; yours has been
the wrong. You, if you have studied my writing with intelligence,
owe me a large debt of gratitude. And to conclude, as I have not
yet finished my toilet, I imagine the courtesy of a turnkey to a
prisoner would induce you to withdraw.'
There was some paper on the table, and Otto, sitting down, wrote a
passport in the name of Sir John Crabtree.
'Affix the seal, Herr Cancellarius,' he said, in his most princely
manner, as he rose.
Greisengesang produced a red portfolio, and affixed the seal in the
unpoetic guise of an adhesive stamp; nor did his perturbed and
clumsy movements at all lessen the comedy of the performance. Sir
John looked on with a malign enjoyment; and Otto chafed, regretting,
when too late, the unnecessary royalty of his command and gesture.
But at length the Chancellor had finished his piece of
prestidigitation, and, without waiting for an order, had
countersigned the passport. Thus regularised, he returned it to
Otto with a bow.
'You will now,' said the Prince, 'order one of my own carriages to
be prepared; see it, with your own eyes, charged with Sir John's
effects, and have it waiting within the hour behind the Pheasant
House. Sir John departs this morning for Vienna.'
The Chancellor took his elaborate departure.
'Here, sir, is your passport,' said Otto, turning to the Baronet.
'I regret it from my heart that you have met inhospitable usage.'
'Well, there will be no English war,' returned Sir John.
'Nay, sir,' said Otto, 'you surely owe me your civility. Matters
are now changed, and we stand again upon the footing of two
gentlemen. It was not I who ordered your arrest; I returned late
last night from hunting; and as you cannot blame me for your
imprisonment, you may even thank me for your freedom.'
'And yet you read my papers,' said the traveller shrewdly.
'There, sir, I was wrong,' returned Otto; 'and for that I ask your
pardon. You can scarce refuse it, for your own dignity, to one who
is a plexus of weaknesses. Nor was the fault entirely mine. Had
the papers been innocent, it would have been at most an
indiscretion. Your own guilt is the sting of my offence.'
Sir John regarded Otto with an approving twinkle; then he bowed, but
still in silence.
'Well, sir, as you are now at your entire disposal, I have a favour
to beg of your indulgence,' continued the Prince. 'I have to
request that you will walk with me alone into the garden so soon as
your convenience permits.'
'From the moment that I am a free man,' Sir John replied, this time
with perfect courtesy, 'I am wholly at your Highness's command; and
if you will excuse a rather summary toilet, I will even follow you,
as I am.'
'I thank you, sir,' said Otto.
So without more delay, the Prince leading, the pair proceeded down
through the echoing stairway of the tower, and out through the
grating, into the ample air and sunshine of the morning, and among
the terraces and flower-beds of the garden. They crossed the fishpond,
where the carp were leaping as thick as bees; they mounted,
one after another, the various flights of stairs, snowed upon, as
they went, with April blossoms, and marching in time to the great
orchestra of birds. Nor did Otto pause till they had reached the
highest terrace of the garden. Here was a gate into the park, and
hard by, under a tuft of laurel, a marble garden seat. Hence they
looked down on the green tops of many elm-trees, where the rooks
were busy; and, beyond that, upon the palace roof, and the yellow
banner flying in the blue. I pray you to be seated, sir,' said
Sir John complied without a word; and for some seconds Otto walked
to and fro before him, plunged in angry thought. The birds were all
singing for a wager.
'Sir,' said the Prince at length, turning towards the Englishman,
'you are to me, except by the conventions of society, a perfect
stranger. Of your character and wishes I am ignorant. I have never
wittingly disobliged you. There is a difference in station, which I
desire to waive. I would, if you still think me entitled to so much
consideration - I would be regarded simply as a gentleman. Now,
sir, I did wrong to glance at these papers, which I here return to
you; but if curiosity be undignified, as I am free to own, falsehood
is both cowardly and cruel. I opened your roll; and what did I find
- what did I find about my wife; Lies!' he broke out. 'They are
lies! There are not, so help me God! four words of truth in your
intolerable libel! You are a man; you are old, and might be the
girl's father; you are a gentleman; you are a scholar, and have
learned refinement; and you rake together all this vulgar scandal,
and propose to print it in a public book! Such is your chivalry!
But, thank God, sir, she has still a husband. You say, sir, in that
paper in your hand, that I am a bad fencer; I have to request from
you a lesson in the art. The park is close behind; yonder is the
Pheasant House, where you will find your carriage; should I fall,
you know, sir - you have written it in your paper - how little my
movements are regarded; I am in the custom of disappearing; it will
be one more disappearance; and long before it has awakened a remark,
you may be safe across the border.'
'You will observe,' said Sir John, 'that what you ask is
'And if I struck you?' cried the Prince, with a sudden menacing
'It would be a cowardly blow,' returned the Baronet, unmoved, 'for
it would make no change. I cannot draw upon a reigning sovereign.'
'And it is this man, to whom you dare not offer satisfaction, that
you choose to insult!' cried Otto.
'Pardon me,' said the traveller, 'you are unjust. It is because you
are a reigning sovereign that I cannot fight with you; and it is for
the same reason that I have a right to criticise your action and
your wife. You are in everything a public creature; you belong to
the public, body and bone. You have with you the law, the muskets
of the army, and the eyes of spies. We, on our side, have but one
weapon - truth.'
'Truth!' echoed the Prince, with a gesture.
There was another silence.
'Your Highness,' said Sir John at last, 'you must not expect grapes
from a thistle. I am old and a cynic. Nobody cares a rush for me;
and on the whole, after the present interview, I scarce know anybody
that I like better than yourself. You see, I have changed my mind,
and have the uncommon virtue to avow the change. I tear up this
stuff before you, here in your own garden; I ask your pardon, I ask
the pardon of the Princess; and I give you my word of honour as a
gentleman and an old man, that when my book of travels shall appear
it shall not contain so much as the name of Grunewald. And yet it
was a racy chapter! But had your Highness only read about the other
courts! I am a carrion crow; but it is not my fault, after all,
that the world is such a nauseous kennel.'
'Sir,' said Otto, 'is the eye not jaundiced?'
'Nay,' cried the traveller, 'very likely. I am one who goes
sniffing; I am no poet. I believe in a better future for the world;
or, at all accounts, I do most potently disbelieve in the present.
Rotten eggs is the burthen of my song. But indeed, your Highness,
when I meet with any merit, I do not think that I am slow to
recognise it. This is a day that I shall still recall with
gratitude, for I have found a sovereign with some manly virtues; and
for once - old courtier and old radical as I am - it is from the
heart and quite sincerely that I can request the honour of kissing
your Highness's hand?'
'Nay, sir,' said Otto, 'to my heart!'
And the Englishman, taken at unawares, was clasped for a moment in
the Prince's arms.
'And now, sir,' added Otto, 'there is the Pheasant House; close
behind it you will find my carriage, which I pray you to accept.
God speed you to Vienna!'
'In the impetuosity of youth,' replied Sir John, 'your Highness has
overlooked one circumstance. I am still fasting.'
'Well, sir,' said Otto, smiling, 'you are your own master; you may
go or stay. But I warn you, your friend may prove less powerful
than your enemies. The Prince, indeed, is thoroughly on your side;
he has all the will to help; but to whom do I speak? - you know
better than I do, he is not alone in Grunewald.'
'There is a deal in position,' returned the traveller, gravely
nodding. 'Gondremark loves to temporise; his policy is below
ground, and he fears all open courses; and now that I have seen you
act with so much spirit, I will cheerfully risk myself on your
protection. Who knows? You may be yet the better man.'
'Do you indeed believe so?' cried the Prince. 'You put life into my
'I will give up sketching portraits,' said the Baronet. 'I am a
blind owl; I had misread you strangely. And yet remember this; a
sprint is one thing, and to run all day another. For I still
mistrust your constitution; the short nose, the hair and eyes of
several complexions; no, they are diagnostic; and I must end, I see,
as I began.'
'I am still a singing chambermaid?' said Otto.
'Nay, your Highness, I pray you to forget what I had written,' said
Sir John; 'I am not like Pilate; and the chapter is no more. Bury
it, if you love me.'
GREATLY comforted by the exploits of the morning, the Prince turned
towards the Princess's ante-room, bent on a more difficult
enterprise. The curtains rose before him, the usher called his
name, and he entered the room with an exaggeration of his usual
mincing and airy dignity. There were about a score of persons
waiting, principally ladies; it was one of the few societies in
Grunewald where Otto knew himself to be popular; and while a maid of
honour made her exit by a side door to announce his arrival to the
Princess, he moved round the apartment, collecting homage and
bestowing compliments with friendly grace. Had this been the sum of
his duties, he had been an admirable monarch. Lady after lady was
impartially honoured by his attention.
'Madam,' he said to one, 'how does this happen? I find you daily
more adorable.'
'And your Highness daily browner,' replied the lady. 'We began
equal; O, there I will be bold: we have both beautiful complexions.
But while I study mine, your Highness tans himself.'
'A perfect negro, madam; and what so fitly - being beauty's slave?'
said Otto. - 'Madame Grafinski, when is our next play? I have just
heard that I am a bad actor.'
'O CIEL!' cried Madame Grafinski. 'Who could venture? What a
'An excellent man, I can assure you,' returned Otto.
'O, never! O, is it possible!' fluted the lady. 'Your Highness
plays like an angel.'
'You must be right, madam; who could speak falsely and yet look so
charming?' said the Prince. 'But this gentleman, it seems, would
have preferred me playing like an actor.'
A sort of hum, a falsetto, feminine cooing, greeted the tiny sally;
and Otto expanded like a peacock. This warm atmosphere of women and
flattery and idle chatter pleased him to the marrow.
'Madame von Eisenthal, your coiffure is delicious,' he remarked.
'Every one was saying so,' said one.
'If I have pleased Prince Charming?' And Madame von Eisenthal swept
him a deep curtsy with a killing glance of adoration.
'It is new?' he asked. 'Vienna fashion.'
'Mint new,' replied the lady, 'for your Highness's return. I felt
young this morning; it was a premonition. But why, Prince, do you
ever leave us?'
'For the pleasure of the return,' said Otto. 'I am like a dog; I
must bury my bone, and then come back to great upon it.'
'O, a bone! Fie, what a comparison! You have brought back the
manners of the wood,' returned the lady.
'Madam, it is what the dog has dearest,' said the Prince. 'But I
observe Madame von Rosen.'
And Otto, leaving the group to which he had been piping, stepped
towards the embrasure of a window where a lady stood.
The Countess von Rosen had hitherto been silent, and a thought
depressed, but on the approach of Otto she began to brighten. She
was tall, slim as a nymph, and of a very airy carriage; and her
face, which was already beautiful in repose, lightened and changed,
flashed into smiles, and glowed with lovely colour at the touch of
animation. She was a good vocalist; and, even in speech, her voice
commanded a great range of changes, the low notes rich with tenor
quality, the upper ringing, on the brink of laughter, into music. A
gem of many facets and variable hues of fire; a woman who withheld
the better portion of her beauty, and then, in a caressing second,
flashed it like a weapon full on the beholder; now merely a tall
figure and a sallow handsome face, with the evidences of a reckless
temper; anon opening like a flower to life and colour, mirth and
tenderness:- Madame von Rosen had always a dagger in reserve for the
despatch of ill-assured admirers. She met Otto with the dart of
tender gaiety.
'You have come to me at last, Prince Cruel,' she said. 'Butterfly!
Well, and am I not to kiss your hand?' she added.
'Madam, it is I who must kiss yours.' And Otto bowed and kissed it.
'You deny me every indulgence,' she said, smiling.
'And now what news in Court?' inquired the Prince. 'I come to you
for my gazette.'
'Ditch-water!' she replied. 'The world is all asleep, grown grey in
slumber; I do not remember any waking movement since quite an
eternity; and the last thing in the nature of a sensation was the
last time my governess was allowed to box my ears. But yet I do
myself and your unfortunate enchanted palace some injustice. Here
is the last - O positively!' And she told him the story from behind
her fan, with many glances, many cunning strokes of the narrator's
art. The others had drawn away, for it was understood that Madame
von Rosen was in favour with the Prince. None the less, however,
did the Countess lower her voice at times to within a semitone of
whispering; and the pair leaned together over the narrative.
'Do you know,' said Otto, laughing, 'you are the only entertaining
woman on this earth!'
'O, you have found out so much,' she cried.
'Yes, madam, I grow wiser with advancing years,' he returned.
'Years,' she repeated. 'Do you name the traitors? I do not believe
in years; the calendar is a delusion.'
'You must be right, madam,' replied the Prince. 'For six years that
we have been good friends, I have observed you to grow younger.'
'Flatterer!' cried she, and then with a change, 'But why should I
say so,' she added, 'when I protest I think the same? A week ago I
had a council with my father director, the glass; and the glass
replied, "Not yet!" I confess my face in this way once a month. O!
a very solemn moment. Do you know what I shall do when the mirror
answers, "Now"?'
'I cannot guess,' said he.
'No more can I,' returned the Countess. 'There is such a choice!
Suicide, gambling, a nunnery, a volume of memoirs, or politics - the
last, I am afraid.'
'It is a dull trade,' said Otto.
'Nay,' she replied, 'it is a trade I rather like. It is, after all,
first cousin to gossip, which no one can deny to be amusing. For
instance, if I were to tell you that the Princess and the Baron rode
out together daily to inspect the cannon, it is either a piece of
politics or scandal, as I turn my phrase. I am the alchemist that
makes the transmutation. They have been everywhere together since
you left,' she continued, brightening as she saw Otto darken; 'that
is a poor snippet of malicious gossip - and they were everywhere
cheered - and with that addition all becomes political
'Let us change the subject,' said Otto.
'I was about to propose it,' she replied, 'or rather to pursue the
politics. Do you know? this war is popular - popular to the length
of cheering Princess Seraphina.'
'All things, madam, are possible,' said the Prince; and this among
others, that we may be going into war, but I give you my word of
honour I do not know with whom.'
'And you put up with it?' she cried. 'I have no pretensions to
morality; and I confess I have always abominated the lamb, and
nourished a romantic feeling for the wolf. O, be done with
lambiness! Let us see there is a prince, for I am weary of the
'Madam,' said Otto, 'I thought you were of that faction.'
'I should be of yours, MON PRINCE, if you had one,' she retorted.
'Is it true that you have no ambition? There was a man once in
England whom they call the kingmaker. Do you know,' she added, 'I
fancy I could make a prince?'
'Some day, madam,' said Otto, 'I may ask you to help make a farmer.'
'Is that a riddle?' asked the Countess.
'It is,' replied the Prince, 'and a very good one too.'
'Tit for tat. I will ask you another,' she returned. 'Where is
'The Prime Minister? In the prime-ministry, no doubt,' said Otto.
'Precisely,' said the Countess; and she pointed with her fan to the
door of the Princess's apartments. 'You and I, MON PRINCE, are in
the ante-room. You think me unkind,' she added. 'Try me and you
will see. Set me a task, put me a question; there is no enormity I
am not capable of doing to oblige you, and no secret that I am not
ready to betray.'
'Nay, madam, but I respect my friend too much,' he answered, kissing
her hand. 'I would rather remain ignorant of all. We fraternise
like foemen soldiers at the outposts, but let each be true to his
own army.'
'Ah,' she cried, 'if all men were generous like you, it would be
worth while to be a woman!' Yet, judging by her looks, his
generosity, if anything, had disappointed her; she seemed to seek a
remedy, and, having found it, brightened once more. 'And now,' she
said, 'may I dismiss my sovereign? This is rebellion and a CAS
PENDABLE; but what am I to do? My bear is jealous!'
'Madam, enough!' cried Otto. 'Ahasuerus reaches you the sceptre;
more, he will obey you in all points. I should have been a dog to
come to whistling.'
And so the Prince departed, and fluttered round Grafinski and von
Eisenthal. But the Countess knew the use of her offensive weapons,
and had left a pleasant arrow in the Prince's heart. That
Gondremark was jealous - here was an agreeable revenge! And Madame
von Rosen, as the occasion of the jealousy, appeared to him in a new
THE Countess von Rosen spoke the truth. The great Prime Minister of
Grunewald was already closeted with Seraphina. The toilet was over;
and the Princess, tastefully arrayed, sat face to face with a tall
mirror. Sir John's description was unkindly true, true in terms and
yet a libel, a misogynistic masterpiece. Her forehead was perhaps
too high, but it became her; her figure somewhat stooped, but every
detail was formed and finished like a gem; her hand, her foot, her
ear, the set of her comely head, were all dainty and accordant; if
she was not beautiful, she was vivid, changeful, coloured, and
pretty with a thousand various prettinesses; and her eyes, if they
indeed rolled too consciously, yet rolled to purpose. They were her
most attractive feature, yet they continually bore eloquent false
witness to her thoughts; for while she herself, in the depths of her
immature, unsoftened heart, was given altogether to manlike ambition
and the desire of power, the eyes were by turns bold, inviting,
fiery, melting, and artful, like the eyes of a rapacious siren. And
artful, in a sense, she was. Chafing that she was not a man, and
could not shine by action, she had conceived a woman's part, of
answerable domination; she sought to subjugate for by-ends, to rain
influence and be fancy free; and, while she loved not man, loved to
see man obey her. It is a common girl's ambition. Such was perhaps
that lady of the glove, who sent her lover to the lions. But the
snare is laid alike for male and female, and the world most artfully
Near her, in a low chair, Gondremark had arranged his limbs into a
cat-like attitude, high-shouldered, stooping, and submiss. The
formidable blue jowl of the man, and the dull bilious eye, set
perhaps a higher value on his evident desire to please. His face
was marked by capacity, temper, and a kind of bold, piratical
dishonesty which it would be calumnious to call deceit. His
manners, as he smiled upon the Princess, were over-fine, yet hardly
'Possibly,' said the Baron, 'I should now proceed to take my leave.
I must not keep my sovereign in the ante-room. Let us come at once
to a decision.'
'It cannot, cannot be put off?' she asked.
'It is impossible,' answered Gondremark. 'Your Highness sees it for
herself. In the earlier stages, we might imitate the serpent; but
for the ultimatum, there is no choice but to be bold like lions.
Had the Prince chosen to remain away, it had been better; but we
have gone too far forward to delay.'
'What can have brought him?' she cried. 'To-day of all days?'
'The marplot, madam, has the instinct of his nature,' returned
Gondremark. 'But you exaggerate the peril. Think, madam, how far
we have prospered, and against what odds! Shall a Featherhead? -
but no!' And he blew upon his fingers lightly with a laugh.
'Featherhead,' she replied, 'is still the Prince of Grunewald.'
'On your sufferance only, and so long as you shall please to be
indulgent,' said the Baron. 'There are rights of nature; power to
the powerful is the law. If he shall think to cross your destiny -
well, you have heard of the brazen and the earthen pot.'
'Do you call me pot? You are ungallant, Baron,' laughed the
'Before we are done with your glory, I shall have called you by many
different titles,' he replied.
The girl flushed with pleasure. 'But Frederic is still the Prince,
MONSIEUR LE FLATTEUR,' she said. 'You do not propose a revolution?
- you of all men?'
'Dear madam, when it is already made!' he cried. 'The Prince reigns
indeed in the almanac; but my Princess reigns and rules.' And he
looked at her with a fond admiration that made the heart of
Seraphina swell. Looking on her huge slave, she drank the
intoxicating joys of power. Meanwhile he continued, with that sort
of massive archness that so ill became him, 'She has but one fault;
there is but one danger in the great career that I foresee for her.
May I name it? may I be so irreverent? It is in herself - her heart
is soft.'
'Her courage is faint, Baron,' said the Princess. 'Suppose we have
judged ill, suppose we were defeated?'
'Defeated, madam?' returned the Baron, with a touch of ill-humour.
'Is the dog defeated by the hare? Our troops are all cantoned along
the frontier; in five hours the vanguard of five thousand bayonets
shall be hammering on the gates of Brandenau; and in all Gerolstein
there are not fifteen hundred men who can manoeuvre. It is as
simple as a sum. There can be no resistance.'
'It is no great exploit,' she said. 'Is that what you call glory?
It is like beating a child.'
'The courage, madam, is diplomatic,' he replied. 'We take a grave
step; we fix the eyes of Europe, for the first time, on Grunewald;
and in the negotiations of the next three months, mark me, we stand
or fall. It is there, madam, that I shall have to depend upon your
counsels,' he added, almost gloomily. 'If I had not seen you at
work, if I did not know the fertility of your mind, I own I should
tremble for the consequence. But it is in this field that men must
recognise their inability. All the great negotiators, when they
have not been women, have had women at their elbows. Madame de
Pompadour was ill served; she had not found her Gondremark; but what
a mighty politician! Catherine de' Medici, too, what justice of
sight, what readiness of means, what elasticity against defeat! But
alas! madam, her Featherheads were her own children; and she had
that one touch of vulgarity, that one trait of the good-wife, that
she suffered family ties and affections to confine her liberty.'
These singular views of history, strictly AD USUM SERAPHINAE, did
not weave their usual soothing spell over the Princess. It was
plain that she had taken a momentary distaste to her own
resolutions; for she continued to oppose her counsellor, looking
upon him out of half-closed eyes and with the shadow of a sneer upon
her lips. 'What boys men are!' she said; 'what lovers of big words!
Courage, indeed! If you had to scour pans, Herr Von Gondremark, you
would call it, I suppose, Domestic Courage?'
'I would, madam,' said the Baron stoutly, 'if I scoured them well.
I would put a good name upon a virtue; you will not overdo it: they
are not so enchanting in themselves.'
'Well, but let me see,' she said. 'I wish to understand your
courage. Why we asked leave, like children! Our grannie in Berlin,
our uncle in Vienna, the whole family, have patted us on the head
and sent us forward. Courage? I wonder when I hear you!'
'My Princess is unlike herself,' returned the Baron. 'She has
forgotten where the peril lies. True, we have received
encouragement on every hand; but my Princess knows too well on what
untenable conditions; and she knows besides how, in the publicity of
the diet, these whispered conferences are forgotten and disowned.
The danger is very real' - he raged inwardly at having to blow the
very coal he had been quenching - 'none the less real in that it is
not precisely military, but for that reason the easier to be faced.
Had we to count upon your troops, although I share your Highness's
expectations of the conduct of Alvenau, we cannot forget that he has
not been proved in chief command. But where negotiation is
concerned, the conduct lies with us; and with your help, I laugh at
'It may be so,' said Seraphina, sighing. 'It is elsewhere that I
see danger. The people, these abominable people - suppose they
should instantly rebel? What a figure we should make in the eyes of
Europe to have undertaken an invasion while my own throne was
tottering to its fall!'
'Nay, madam,' said Gondremark, smiling, 'here you are beneath
yourself. What is it that feeds their discontent? What but the
taxes? Once we have seized Gerolstein, the taxes are remitted, the
sons return covered with renown, the houses are adorned with
pillage, each tastes his little share of military glory, and behold
us once again a happy family! "Ay," they will say, in each other's
long ears, "the Princess knew what she was about; she was in the
right of it; she has a head upon her shoulders; and here we are, you
see, better off than before." But why should I say all this? It is
what my Princess pointed out to me herself; it was by these reasons
that she converted me to this adventure.'
'I think, Herr von Gondremark,' said Seraphina, somewhat tartly,
'you often attribute your own sagacity to your Princess.'
For a second Gondremark staggered under the shrewdness of the
attack; the next, he had perfectly recovered. 'Do I?' he said. 'It
is very possible. I have observed a similar tendency in your
It was so openly spoken, and appeared so just, that Seraphina
breathed again. Her vanity had been alarmed, and the greatness of
the relief improved her spirits. 'Well,' she said, 'all this is
little to the purpose. We are keeping Frederic without, and I am
still ignorant of our line of battle. Come, co-admiral, let us
consult. . . . How am I to receive him now? And what are we to do
if he should appear at the council?'
'Now,' he answered. 'I shall leave him to my Princess for just now!
I have seen her at work. Send him off to his theatricals! But in
all gentleness,' he added. 'Would it, for instance, would it
displease my sovereign to affect a headache?'
'Never!' said she. 'The woman who can manage, like the man who can
fight, must never shrink from an encounter. The knight must not
disgrace his weapons.'
'Then let me pray my BELLE DAME SANS MERCI,' he returned, 'to affect
the only virtue that she lacks. Be pitiful to the poor young man;
affect an interest in his hunting; be weary of politics; find in his
society, as it were, a grateful repose from dry considerations.
Does my Princess authorise the line of battle?'
'Well, that is a trifle,' answered Seraphina. 'The council - there
is the point.'
'The council?' cried Gondremark. 'Permit me, madam.' And he rose
and proceeded to flutter about the room, counterfeiting Otto both in
voice and gesture not unhappily. 'What is there to-day, Herr von
Gondremark? Ah, Herr Cancellarius, a new wig! You cannot deceive
me; I know every wig in Grunewald; I have the sovereign's eye. What
are these papers about? O, I see. O, certainly. Surely, surely.
I wager none of you remarked that wig. By all means. I know
nothing about that. Dear me, are there as many as all that? Well,
you can sign them; you have the procuration. You see, Herr
Cancellarius, I knew your wig. And so,' concluded Gondremark,
resuming his own voice, 'our sovereign, by the particular grace of
God, enlightens and supports his privy councillors.'
But when the Baron turned to Seraphina for approval, he found her
frozen. 'You are pleased to be witty, Herr von Gondremark,' she
said, 'and have perhaps forgotten where you are. But these
rehearsals are apt to be misleading. Your master, the Prince of
Grunewald, is sometimes more exacting.'
Gondremark cursed her in his soul. Of all injured vanities, that of
the reproved buffoon is the most savage; and when grave issues are
involved, these petty stabs become unbearable. But Gondremark was a
man of iron; he showed nothing; he did not even, like the common
trickster, retreat because he had presumed, but held to his point
bravely. 'Madam,' he said, 'if, as you say, he prove exacting, we
must take the bull by the horns.'
'We shall see,' she said, and she arranged her skirt like one about
to rise. Temper, scorn, disgust, all the more acrid feelings,
became her like jewels; and she now looked her best.
'Pray God they quarrel,' thought Gondremark. 'The damned minx may
fail me yet, unless they quarrel. It is time to let him in. Zz -
fight, dogs!' Consequent on these reflections, he bent a stiff knee
and chivalrously kissed the Princess's hand. 'My Princess,' he
said, 'must now dismiss her servant. I have much to arrange against
the hour of council.'
'Go,' she said, and rose.
And as Gondremark tripped out of a private door, she touched a bell,
and gave the order to admit the Prince.
WITH what a world of excellent intentions Otto entered his wife's
cabinet! how fatherly, how tender! how morally affecting were the
words he had prepared! Nor was Seraphina unamiably inclined. Her
usual fear of Otto as a marplot in her great designs was now
swallowed up in a passing distrust of the designs themselves. For
Gondremark, besides, she had conceived an angry horror. In her
heart she did not like the Baron. Behind his impudent servility,
behind the devotion which, with indelicate delicacy, he still forced
on her attention, she divined the grossness of his nature. So a man
may be proud of having tamed a bear, and yet sicken at his captive's
odour. And above all, she had certain jealous intimations that the
man was false and the deception double. True, she falsely trifled
with his love; but he, perhaps, was only trifling with her vanity.
The insolence of his late mimicry, and the odium of her own position
as she sat and watched it, lay besides like a load upon her
conscience. She met Otto almost with a sense of guilt, and yet she
welcomed him as a deliverer from ugly things.
But the wheels of an interview are at the mercy of a thousand ruts;
and even at Otto's entrance, the first jolt occurred. Gondremark,
he saw, was gone; but there was the chair drawn close for
consultation; and it pained him not only that this man had been
received, but that he should depart with such an air of secrecy.
Struggling with this twinge, it was somewhat sharply that he
dismissed the attendant who had brought him in.
'You make yourself at home, CHEZ MOI,' she said, a little ruffled
both by his tone of command and by the glance he had thrown upon the
'Madam,' replied Otto, 'I am here so seldom that I have almost the
rights of a stranger.'
'You choose your own associates, Frederic,' she said.
'I am here to speak of it,' he returned. 'It is now four years
since we were married; and these four years, Seraphina, have not
perhaps been happy either for you or for me. I am well aware I was
unsuitable to be your husband. I was not young, I had no ambition,
I was a trifler; and you despised me, I dare not say unjustly. But
to do justice on both sides, you must bear in mind how I have acted.
When I found it amused you to play the part of Princess on this
little stage, did I not immediately resign to you my box of toys,
this Grunewald? And when I found I was distasteful as a husband,
could any husband have been less intrusive? You will tell me that I
have no feelings, no preference, and thus no credit; that I go
before the wind; that all this was in my character. And indeed, one
thing is true, that it is easy, too easy, to leave things undone.
But Seraphina, I begin to learn it is not always wise. If I were
too old and too uncongenial for your husband, I should still have
remembered that I was the Prince of that country to which you came,
a visitor and a child. In that relation also there were duties, and
these duties I have not performed.'
To claim the advantage of superior age is to give sure offence.
'Duty!' laughed Seraphina, 'and on your lips, Frederic! You make me
laugh. What fancy is this? Go, flirt with the maids and be a
prince in Dresden china, as you look. Enjoy yourself, MON ENFANT,
and leave duty and the state to us.'
The plural grated on the Prince. 'I have enjoyed myself too much,'
he said, 'since enjoyment is the word. And yet there were much to
say upon the other side. You must suppose me desperately fond of
hunting. But indeed there were days when I found a great deal of
interest in what it was courtesy to call my government. And I have
always had some claim to taste; I could tell live happiness from
dull routine; and between hunting, and the throne of Austria, and
your society, my choice had never wavered, had the choice been mine.
You were a girl, a bud, when you were given me - '
'Heavens!' she cried, 'is this to be a love-scene?'
'I am never ridiculous,' he said; 'it is my only merit; and you may
be certain this shall be a scene of marriage A LA MODE. But when I
remember the beginning, it is bare courtesy to speak in sorrow. Be
just, madam: you would think me strangely uncivil to recall these
days without the decency of a regret. Be yet a little juster, and
own, if only in complaisance, that you yourself regret that past.'
'I have nothing to regret,' said the Princess. 'You surprise me. I
thought you were so happy.'
'Happy and happy, there are so many hundred ways,' said Otto. 'A
man may be happy in revolt; he may be happy in sleep; wine, change,
and travel make him happy; virtue, they say, will do the like - I
have not tried; and they say also that in old, quiet, and habitual
marriages there is yet another happiness. Happy, yes; I am happy if
you like; but I will tell you frankly, I was happier when I brought
you home.'
'Well,' said the Princess, not without constraint, 'it seems you
changed your mind.'
'Not I,' returned Otto, 'I never changed. Do you remember,
Seraphina, on our way home, when you saw the roses in the lane, and
I got out and plucked them? It was a narrow lane between great
trees; the sunset at the end was all gold, and the rooks were flying
overhead. There were nine, nine red roses; you gave me a kiss for
each, and I told myself that every rose and every kiss should stand
for a year of love. Well, in eighteen months there was an end. But
do you fancy, Seraphina, that my heart has altered?'
'I am sure I cannot tell,' she said, like an automaton.
'It has not,' the Prince continued. 'There is nothing ridiculous,
even from a husband, in a love that owns itself unhappy and that
asks no more. I built on sand; pardon me, I do not breathe a
reproach - I built, I suppose, upon my own infirmities; but I put my
heart in the building, and it still lies among the ruins.'
'How very poetical!' she said, with a little choking laugh, unknown
relentings, unfamiliar softnesses, moving within her. 'What would
you be at?' she added, hardening her voice.
'I would be at this,' he answered; 'and hard it is to say. I would
be at this:- Seraphina, I am your husband after all, and a poor fool
that loves you. Understand,' he cried almost fiercely, 'I am no
suppliant husband; what your love refuses I would scorn to receive
from your pity. I do not ask, I would not take it. And for
jealousy, what ground have I? A dog-in-the-manger jealousy is a
thing the dogs may laugh at. But at least, in the world's eye, I am
still your husband; and I ask you if you treat me fairly? I keep to
myself, I leave you free, I have given you in everything your will.
What do you in return? I find, Seraphina, that you have been too
thoughtless. But between persons such as we are, in our conspicuous
station, particular care and a particular courtesy are owing.
Scandal is perhaps not easy to avoid; but it is hard to bear.'
'Scandal!' she cried, with a deep breath. 'Scandal! It is for this
you have been driving!'
'I have tried to tell you how I feel,' he replied. 'I have told you
that I love you - love you in vain - a bitter thing for a husband; I
have laid myself open that I might speak without offence. And now
that I have begun, I will go on and finish.'
'I demand it,' she said. 'What is this about?'
Otto flushed crimson. 'I have to say what I would fain not,' he
answered. 'I counsel you to see less of Gondremark.'
'Of Gondremark? And why?' she asked.
'Your intimacy is the ground of scandal, madam,' said Otto, firmly
enough - 'of a scandal that is agony to me, and would be crushing to
your parents if they knew it.'
'You are the first to bring me word of it,' said she. 'I thank
'You have perhaps cause,' he replied. 'Perhaps I am the only one
among your friends - '
'O, leave my friends alone,' she interrupted. 'My friends are of a
different stamp. You have come to me here and made a parade of
sentiment. When have I last seen you? I have governed your kingdom
for you in the meanwhile, and there I got no help. At last, when I
am weary with a man's work, and you are weary of your playthings,
you return to make me a scene of conjugal reproaches - the grocer
and his wife! The positions are too much reversed; and you should
understand, at least, that I cannot at the same time do your work of
government and behave myself like a little girl. Scandal is the
atmosphere in which we live, we princes; it is what a prince should
know. You play an odious part. Do you believe this rumour?'
'Madam, should I be here?' said Otto.
'It is what I want to know!' she cried, the tempest of her scorn
increasing. 'Suppose you did - I say, suppose you did believe it?'
'I should make it my business to suppose the contrary,' he answered.
'I thought so. O, you are made of baseness!' said she.
'Madam,' he cried, roused at last, 'enough of this. You wilfully
misunderstand my attitude; you outwear my patience. In the name of
your parents, in my own name, I summon you to be more circumspect.'
'Is this a request, MONSIEUR MON MARI?' she demanded.
'Madam, if I chose, I might command,' said Otto.
'You might, sir, as the law stands, make me prisoner,' returned
Seraphina. 'Short of that you will gain nothing.'
'You will continue as before?' he asked.
'Precisely as before,' said she. 'As soon as this comedy is over, I
shall request the Freiherr von Gondremark to visit me. Do you
understand?' she added, rising. 'For my part, I have done.'
'I will then ask the favour of your hand, madam,' said Otto,
palpitating in every pulse with anger. 'I have to request that you
will visit in my society another part of my poor house. And
reassure yourself - it will not take long - and it is the last
obligation that you shall have the chance to lay me under.'
'The last?' she cried. 'Most joyfully?'
She offered her hand, and he took it; on each side with an elaborate
affectation, each inwardly incandescent. He led her out by the
private door, following where Gondremark had passed; they threaded a
corridor or two, little frequented, looking on a court, until they
came at last into the Prince's suite. The first room was an
armoury, hung all about with the weapons of various countries, and
looking forth on the front terrace.
'Have you brought me here to slay me?' she inquired.
'I have brought you, madam, only to pass on,' replied Otto.
Next they came to a library, where an old chamberlain sat half
asleep. He rose and bowed before the princely couple, asking for
'You will attend us here,' said Otto.
The next stage was a gallery of pictures, where Seraphina's portrait
hung conspicuous, dressed for the chase, red roses in her hair, as
Otto, in the first months of marriage, had directed. He pointed to
it without a word; she raised her eyebrows in silence; and they
passed still forward into a matted corridor where four doors opened.
One led to Otto's bedroom; one was the private door to Seraphina's.
And here, for the first time, Otto left her hand, and stepping
forward, shot the bolt.
'It is long, madam,' said he, 'since it was bolted on the other
'One was effectual,' returned the Princess. 'Is this all?'
'Shall I reconduct you?' he asking, bowing.
'I should prefer,' she asked, in ringing tones, 'the conduct of the
Freiherr von Gondremark.'
Otto summoned the chamberlain. 'If the Freiherr von Gondremark is
in the palace,' he said, 'bid him attend the Princess here.' And
when the official had departed, 'Can I do more to serve you, madam?'
the Prince asked.
'Thank you, no. I have been much amused,' she answered.
'I have now,' continued Otto, 'given you your liberty complete.
This has been for you a miserable marriage.'
'Miserable!' said she.
'It has been made light to you; it shall be lighter still,'
continued the Prince. 'But one thing, madam, you must still
continue to bear - my father's name, which is now yours. I leave it
in your hands. Let me see you, since you will have no advice of
mine, apply the more attention of your own to bear it worthily.'
'Herr von Gondremark is long in coming,' she remarked.
'O Seraphina, Seraphina!' he cried. And that was the end of their
She tripped to a window and looked out; and a little after, the
chamberlain announced the Freiherr von Gondremark, who entered with
something of a wild eye and changed complexion, confounded, as he
was, at this unusual summons. The Princess faced round from the
window with a pearly smile; nothing but her heightened colour spoke
of discomposure.
Otto was pale, but he was otherwise master of himself.
'Herr von Gondremark,' said he, 'oblige me so far: reconduct the
Princess to her own apartment.'
The Baron, still all at sea, offered his hand, which was smilingly
accepted, and the pair sailed forth through the picture-gallery.
As soon as they were gone, and Otto knew the length and breadth of
his miscarriage, and how he had done the contrary of all that he
intended, he stood stupefied. A fiasco so complete and sweeping was
laughable, even to himself; and he laughed aloud in his wrath. Upon
this mood there followed the sharpest violence of remorse; and to
that again, as he recalled his provocation, anger succeeded afresh.
So he was tossed in spirit; now bewailing his inconsequence and lack
of temper, now flaming up in white-hot indignation and a noble pity
for himself.
He paced his apartment like a leopard. There was danger in Otto,
for a flash. Like a pistol, he could kill at one moment, and the
next he might he kicked aside. But just then, as he walked the long
floors in his alternate humours, tearing his handkerchief between
his hands, he was strung to his top note, every nerve attent. The
pistol, you might say, was charged. And when jealousy from time to
time fetched him a lash across the tenderest of his feeling, and
sent a string of her fire-pictures glancing before his mind's eye,
the contraction of his face was even dangerous. He disregarded
jealousy's inventions, yet they stung. In this height of anger, he
still preserved his faith in Seraphina's innocence; but the thought
of her possible misconduct was the bitterest ingredient in his pot
of sorrow.
There came a knock at the door, and the chamberlain brought him a
note. He took it and ground it in his hand, continuing his march,
continuing his bewildered thoughts; and some minutes had gone by
before the circumstance came clearly to his mind. Then he paused
and opened it. It was a pencil scratch from Gotthold, thus
'The council is privately summoned at once.
G. v. H.'
If the council was thus called before the hour, and that privately,
it was plain they feared his interference. Feared: here was a sweet
thought. Gotthold, too - Gotthold, who had always used and regarded
him as a mere peasant lad, had now been at the pains to warn him;
Gotthold looked for something at his hands. Well, none should be
disappointed; the Prince, too long beshadowed by the uxorious lover,
should now return and shine. He summoned his valet, repaired the
disorder of his appearance with elaborate care; and then, curled and
scented and adorned, Prince Charming in every line, but with a
twitching nostril, he set forth unattended for the council.
IT was as Gotthold wrote. The liberation of Sir John,
Greisengesang's uneasy narrative, last of all, the scene between
Seraphina and the Prince, had decided the conspirators to take a
step of bold timidity. There had been a period of bustle, liveried
messengers speeding here and there with notes; and at half-past ten
in the morning, about an hour before its usual hour, the council of
Grunewald sat around the board.
It was not a large body. At the instance of Gondremark, it had
undergone a strict purgation, and was now composed exclusively of
tools. Three secretaries sat at a side-table. Seraphina took the
head; on her right was the Baron, on her left Greisengesang; below
these Grafinski the treasurer, Count Eisenthal, a couple of noncombatants,
and, to the surprise of all, Gotthold. He had been
named a privy councillor by Otto, merely that he might profit by the
salary; and as he was never known to attend a meeting, it had
occurred to nobody to cancel his appointment. His present
appearance was the more ominous, coming when it did. Gondremark
scowled upon him; and the non-combatant on his right, intercepting
this black look, edged away from one who was so clearly out of
'The hour presses, your Highness,' said the Baron; 'may we proceed
to business?'
'At once,' replied Seraphina.
'Your Highness will pardon me,' said Gotthold; 'but you are still,
perhaps, unacquainted with the fact that Prince Otto has returned.'
'The Prince will not attend the council,' replied Seraphina, with a
momentary blush. 'The despatches, Herr Cancellarius? There is one
for Gerolstein?'
A secretary brought a paper.
'Here, madam,' said Greisengesang. 'Shall I read it?'
'We are all familiar with its terms,' replied Gondremark. 'Your
Highness approves?'
'Unhesitatingly,' said Seraphina.
'It may then be held as read,' concluded the Baron. 'Will your
Highness sign?'
The Princess did so; Gondremark, Eisenthal, and one of the noncombatants
followed suit; and the paper was then passed across the
table to the librarian. He proceeded leisurely to read.
'We have no time to spare, Herr Doctor,' cried the Baron brutally.
'If you do not choose to sign on the authority of your sovereign,
pass it on. Or you may leave the table,' he added, his temper
ripping out.
'I decline your invitation, Herr von Gondremark; and my sovereign,
as I continue to observe with regret, is still absent from the
board,' replied the Doctor calmly; and he resumed the perusal of the
paper, the rest chafing and exchanging glances. 'Madame and
gentlemen,' he said, at last, 'what I hold in my hand is simply a
declaration of war.'
'Simply,' said Seraphina, flashing defiance.
'The sovereign of this country is under the same roof with us,'
continued Gotthold, 'and I insist he shall be summoned. It is
needless to adduce my reasons; you are all ashamed at heart of this
projected treachery.'
The council waved like a sea. There were various outcries.
'You insult the Princess,' thundered Gondremark.
'I maintain my protest,' replied Gotthold.
At the height of this confusion the door was thrown open; an usher
announced, 'Gentlemen, the Prince!' and Otto, with his most
excellent bearing, entered the apartment. It was like oil upon the
troubled waters; every one settled instantly into his place, and
Griesengesang, to give himself a countenance, became absorbed in the
arrangement of his papers; but in their eagerness to dissemble, one
and all neglected to rise.
'Gentlemen,' said the Prince, pausing.
They all got to their feet in a moment; and this reproof still
further demoralised the weaker brethren.
The Prince moved slowly towards the lower end of the table; then he
paused again, and, fixing his eye on Greisengesang, 'How comes it,
Herr Cancellarius,' he asked, 'that I have received no notice of the
change of hour?'
'Your Highness,' replied the Chancellor, 'her Highness the Princess
. . .' and there paused.
'I understood,' said Seraphina, taking him up, 'that you did not
purpose to be present.'
Their eyes met for a second, and Seraphina's fell; but her anger
only burned the brighter for that private shame.
'And now, gentlemen,' said Otto, taking his chair, 'I pray you to be
seated. I have been absent: there are doubtless some arrears; but
ere we proceed to business, Herr Grafinski, you will direct four
thousand crowns to be sent to me at once. Make a note, if you
please,' he added, as the treasurer still stared in wonder.
'Four thousand crowns?' asked Seraphina. 'Pray, for what?'
'Madam,' returned Otto, smiling, 'for my own purposes.'
Gondremark spurred up Grafinski underneath the table.
'If your Highness will indicate the destination . . . ' began the
'You are not here, sir, to interrogate your Prince,' said Otto.
Grafinski looked for help to his commander; and Gondremark came to
his aid, in suave and measured tones.
'Your Highness may reasonably be surprised,' he said; 'and Herr
Grafinski, although I am convinced he is clear of the intention of
offending, would have perhaps done better to begin with an
explanation. The resources of the state are at the present moment
entirely swallowed up, or, as we hope to prove, wisely invested. In
a month from now, I do not question we shall be able to meet any
command your Highness may lay upon us; but at this hour I fear that,
even in so small a matter, he must prepare himself for
disappointment. Our zeal is no less, although our power may be
'How much, Herr Grafinski, have we in the treasury?' asked Otto.
'Your Highness,' protested the treasurer, 'we have immediate need of
every crown.'
'I think, sir, you evade me,' flashed the Prince; and then turning
to the side-table, 'Mr. Secretary,' he added, 'bring me, if you
please, the treasury docket.'
Herr Grafinski became deadly pale; the Chancellor, expecting his own
turn, was probably engaged in prayer; Gondremark was watching like a
ponderous cat. Gotthold, on his part, looked on with wonder at his
cousin; he was certainly showing spirit, but what, in such a time of
gravity, was all this talk of money? and why should he waste his
strength upon a personal issue?
'I find,' said Otto, with his finger on the docket, 'that we have
20,000 crowns in case.'
'That is exact, your Highness,' replied the Baron. 'But our
liabilities, all of which are happily not liquid, amount to a far
larger sum; and at the present point of time it would be morally
impossible to divert a single florin. Essentially, the case is
empty. We have, already presented, a large note for material of
'Material of war?' exclaimed Otto, with an excellent assumption of
surprise. 'But if my memory serves me right, we settled these
accounts in January.'
'There have been further orders,' the Baron explained. 'A new park
of artillery has been completed; five hundred stand of arms, seven
hundred baggage mules - the details are in a special memorandum. -
Mr. Secretary Holtz, the memorandum, if you please.'
'One would think, gentlemen, that we were going to war,' said Otto.
'We are,' said Seraphina.
'War!' cried the Prince, 'and, gentlemen, with whom? The peace of
Grunewald has endured for centuries. What aggression, what insult,
have we suffered?'
'Here, your Highness,' said Gotthold, 'is the ultimatum. It was in
the very article of signature, when your Highness so opportunely
Otto laid the paper before him; as he read, his fingers played
tattoo upon the table. 'Was it proposed,' he inquired, 'to send
this paper forth without a knowledge of my pleasure?'
One of the non-combatants, eager to trim, volunteered an answer.
'The Herr Doctor von Hohenstockwitz had just entered his dissent,'
he added.
'Give me the rest of this correspondence,' said the Prince. It was
handed to him, and he read it patiently from end to end, while the
councillors sat foolishly enough looking before them on the table.
The secretaries, in the background, were exchanging glances of
delight; a row at the council was for them a rare and welcome
'Gentlemen,' said Otto, when he had finished, 'I have read with
pain. This claim upon Obermunsterol is palpably unjust; it has not
a tincture, not a show, of justice. There is not in all this ground
enough for after-dinner talk, and you propose to force it as a CASUS
'Certainly, your Highness,' returned Gondremark, too wise to defend
the indefensible, 'the claim on Obermunsterol is simply a pretext.'
'It is well,' said the Prince. 'Herr Cancellarius, take your pen.
"The council," he began to dictate - 'I withhold all notice of my
intervention,' he said, in parenthesis, and addressing himself more
directly to his wife; 'and I say nothing of the strange suppression
by which this business has been smuggled past my knowledge. I am
content to be in time - "The council,"' he resumed, '"on a further
examination of the facts, and enlightened by the note in the last
despatch from Gerolstein, have the pleasure to announce that they
are entirely at one, both as to fact and sentiment, with the Grand-
Ducal Court of Gerolstein." You have it? Upon these lines, sir,
you will draw up the despatch.'
'If your Highness will allow me,' said the Baron, 'your Highness is
so imperfectly acquainted with the internal history of this
correspondence, that any interference will be merely hurtful. Such
a paper as your Highness proposes would be to stultify the whole
previous policy of Grunewald.'
'The policy of Grunewald!' cried the Prince. 'One would suppose you
had no sense of humour! Would you fish in a coffee cup?'
'With deference, your Highness,' returned the Baron, 'even in a
coffee cup there may be poison. The purpose of this war is not
simply territorial enlargement; still less is it a war of glory;
for, as your Highness indicates, the state of Grunewald is too small
to be ambitious. But the body politic is seriously diseased;
republicanism, socialism, many disintegrating ideas are abroad;
circle within circle, a really formidable organisation has grown up
about your Highness's throne.'
'I have heard of it, Herr von Gondremark,' put in the Prince; 'but I
have reason to be aware that yours is the more authoritative
'I am honoured by this expression of my Prince's confidence'
returned Gondremark, unabashed. 'It is, therefore, with a single
eye to these disorders that our present external policy has been
shaped. Something was required to divert public attention, to
employ the idle, to popularise your Highness's rule, and, if it were
possible, to enable him to reduce the taxes at a blow and to a
notable amount. The proposed expedition - for it cannot without
hyperbole be called a war - seemed to the council to combine the
various characters required; a marked improvement in the public
sentiment has followed even upon our preparations; and I cannot
doubt that when success shall follow, the effect will surpass even
our boldest hopes.'
'You are very adroit, Herr von Gondremark,' said Otto. 'You fill me
with admiration. I had not heretofore done justice to your
Seraphina looked up with joy, supposing Otto conquered; but
Gondremark still waited, armed at every point; he knew how very
stubborn is the revolt of a weak character.
'And the territorial army scheme, to which I was persuaded to
consent - was it secretly directed to the same end?' the Prince
'I still believe the effect to have been good,' replied the Baron;
'discipline and mounting guard are excellent sedatives. But I will
avow to your Highness, I was unaware, at the date of that decree, of
the magnitude of the revolutionary movement; nor did any of us, I
think, imagine that such a territorial army was a part of the
republican proposals.'
'It was?' asked Otto. 'Strange! Upon what fancied grounds?'
'The grounds were indeed fanciful,' returned the Baron. 'It was
conceived among the leaders that a territorial army, drawn from and
returning to the people, would, in the event of any popular
uprising, prove lukewarm or unfaithful to the throne.'
'I see,' said the Prince. 'I begin to understand.'
'His Highness begins to understand?' repeated Gondremark, with the
sweetest politeness. 'May I beg of him to complete the phrase?'
'The history of the revolution,' replied Otto dryly. 'And now,' he
added, 'what do you conclude?'
'I conclude, your Highness, with a simple reflection,' said the
Baron, accepting the stab without a quiver, 'the war is popular;
were the rumour contradicted to-morrow, a considerable
disappointment would be felt in many classes; and in the present
tension of spirits, the most lukewarm sentiment may be enough to
precipitate events. There lies the danger. The revolution hangs
imminent; we sit, at this council board, below the sword of
'We must then lay our heads together,' said the Prince, 'and devise
some honourable means of safety.'
Up to this moment, since the first note of opposition fell from the
librarian, Seraphina had uttered about twenty words. With a
somewhat heightened colour, her eyes generally lowered, her foot
sometimes nervously tapping on the floor, she had kept her own
counsel and commanded her anger like a hero. But at this stage of
the engagement she lost control of her impatience.
'Means!' she cried. 'They have been found and prepared before you
knew the need for them. Sign the despatch, and let us be done with
this delay.'
'Madam, I said "honourable,"' returned Otto, bowing. 'This war is,
in my eyes, and by Herr von Gondremark's account, an inadmissible
expedient. If we have misgoverned here in Grunewald, are the people
of Gerolstein to bleed and pay for our mis-doings? Never, madam;
not while I live. But I attach so much importance to all that I
have heard to-day for the first time - and why only to-day, I do not
even stop to ask - that I am eager to find some plan that I can
follow with credit to myself.'
'And should you fail?' she asked.
'Should I fail, I will then meet the blow half-way,' replied the
Prince. 'On the first open discontent, I shall convoke the States,
and, when it pleases them to bid me, abdicate.'
Seraphina laughed angrily. 'This is the man for whom we have been
labouring!' she cried. 'We tell him of change; he will devise the
means, he says; and his device is abdication? Sir, have you no
shame to come here at the eleventh hour among those who have borne
the heat and burthen of the day? Do you not wonder at yourself? I,
sir, was here in my place, striving to uphold your dignity alone. I
took counsel with the wisest I could find, while you were eating and
hunting. I have laid my plans with foresight; they were ripe for
action; and then - 'she choked - 'then you return - for a forenoon -
to ruin all! To-morrow, you will be once more about your pleasures;
you will give us leave once more to think and work for you; and
again you will come back, and again you will thwart what you had not
the industry or knowledge to conceive. O! it is intolerable. Be
modest, sir. Do not presume upon the rank you cannot worthily
uphold. I would not issue my commands with so much gusto - it is
from no merit in yourself they are obeyed. What are you? What have
you to do in this grave council? Go,' she cried, 'go among your
equals? The very people in the streets mock at you for a prince.'
At this surprising outburst the whole council sat aghast.
'Madam,' said the Baron, alarmed out of his caution, 'command
'Address yourself to me, sir!' cried the Prince. 'I will not bear
these whisperings!'
Seraphina burst into tears.
'Sir,' cried the Baron, rising, 'this lady - '
'Herr von Gondremark,' said the Prince, 'one more observation, and I
place you under arrest.'
'Your Highness is the master,' replied Gondremark, bowing.
'Bear it in mind more constantly,' said Otto. 'Herr Cancellarius,
bring all the papers to my cabinet. Gentlemen, the council is
And he bowed and left the apartment, followed by Greisengesang and
the secretaries, just at the moment when the Princess's ladies,
summoned in all haste, entered by another door to help her forth.
HALF an hour after, Gondremark was once more closeted with
'Where is he now?' she asked, on his arrival.
'Madam, he is with the Chancellor,' replied the Baron. 'Wonder of
wonders, he is at work!'
'Ah,' she said, 'he was born to torture me! O what a fall, what a
humiliation! Such a scheme to wreck upon so small a trifle! But
now all is lost.'
'Madam,' said Gondremark, 'nothing is lost. Something, on the other
hand, is found. You have found your senses; you see him as he is -
see him as you see everything where your too-good heart is not in
question - with the judicial, with the statesman's eye. So long as
he had a right to interfere, the empire that may be was still
distant. I have not entered on this course without the plain
foresight of its dangers; and even for this I was prepared. But,
madam, I knew two things: I knew that you were born to command, that
I was born to serve; I knew that by a rare conjuncture, the hand had
found the tool; and from the first I was confident, as I am
confident to-day, that no hereditary trifler has the power to
shatter that alliance.'
'I, born to command!' she said. 'Do you forget my tears?'
'Madam, they were the tears of Alexander,' cried the Baron. 'They
touched, they thrilled me; I, forgot myself a moment - even I! But
do you suppose that I had not remarked, that I had not admired, your
previous bearing? your great self-command? Ay, that was princely!'
He paused. 'It was a thing to see. I drank confidence! I tried to
imitate your calm. And I was well inspired; in my heart, I think
that I was well inspired; that any man, within the reach of
argument, had been convinced! But it was not to be; nor, madam, do
I regret the failure. Let us be open; let me disclose my heart. I
have loved two things, not unworthily: Grunewald and my sovereign!'
Here he kissed her hand. 'Either I must resign my ministry, leave
the land of my adoption and the queen whom I had chosen to obey - or
- ' He paused again.
'Alas, Herr von Gondremark, there is no "or,"' said Seraphina.
'Nay, madam, give me time,' he replied. 'When first I saw you, you
were still young; not every man would have remarked your powers; but
I had not been twice honoured by your conversation ere I had found
my mistress. I have, madam, I believe, some genius; and I have much
ambition. But the genius is of the serving kind; and to offer a
career to my ambition, I had to find one born to rule. This is the
base and essence of our union; each had need of the other; each
recognised, master and servant, lever and fulcrum, the complement of
his endowment. Marriages, they say, are made in heaven: how much
more these pure, alborious, intellectual fellowships, born to found
empires! Nor is this all. We found each other ripe, filled with
great ideas that took shape and clarified with every word. We grew
together - ay, madam, in mind we grew together like twin children.
All of my life until we met was petty and groping; was it not - I
will flatter myself openly - it WAS the same with you! Not till
then had you those eagle surveys, that wide and hopeful sweep of
intuition! Thus we had formed ourselves, and we were ready.'
'It is true,' she cried. 'I feel it. Yours is the genius; your
generosity confounds your insight; all I could offer you was the
position, was this throne, to be a fulcrum. But I offered it
without reserve; I entered at least warmly into all your thoughts;
you were sure of me - sure of my support - certain of justice. Tell
me, tell me again, that I have helped you.'
'Nay, madam,' he said, 'you made me. In everything you were my
inspiration. And as we prepared our policy, weighing every step,
how often have I had to admire your perspicacity, your man-like
diligence and fortitude! You know that these are not the words of
flattery; your conscience echoes them; have you spared a day? have
you indulged yourself in any pleasure? Young and beautiful, you
have lived a life of high intellectual effort, of irksome
intellectual patience with details. Well, you have your reward:
with the fall of Brandenau, the throne of your Empire is founded.'
'What thought have you in your mind?' she asked. 'Is not all
'Nay, my Princess, the same thought is in both our minds,' he said.
'Herr von Gondremark,' she replied, 'by all that I hold sacred, I
have none; I do not think at all; I am crushed.'
'You are looking at the passionate side of a rich nature,
misunderstood and recently insulted,' said the Baron. 'Look into
your intellect, and tell me.'
'I find nothing, nothing but tumult,' she replied.
'You find one word branded, madam,' returned the Baron:
'O!' she cried. 'The coward! He leaves me to bear all, and in the
hour of trial he stabs me from behind. There is nothing in him, not
respect, not love, not courage - his wife, his dignity, his throne,
the honour of his father, he forgets them all!'
'Yes,' pursued the Baron, 'the word Abdication. I perceive a
glimmering there.'
'I read your fancy,' she returned. 'It is mere madness, midsummer
madness. Baron, I am more unpopular than he. You know it. They
can excuse, they can love, his weakness; but me, they hate.'
'Such is the gratitude of peoples,' said the Baron. 'But we trifle.
Here, madam, are my plain thoughts. The man who in the hour of
danger speaks of abdication is, for me, a venomous animal. I speak
with the bluntness of gravity, madam; this is no hour for mincing.
The coward, in a station of authority, is more dangerous than fire.
We dwell on a volcano; if this man can have his way, Grunewald
before a week will have been deluged with innocent blood. You know
the truth of what I say; we have looked unblenching into this everpossible
catastrophe. To him it is nothing: he will abdicate!
Abdicate, just God! and this unhappy country committed to his
charge, and the lives of men and the honour of women . . .' His
voice appeared to fail him; in an instant he had conquered his
emotion and resumed: 'But you, madam, conceive more worthily of your
responsibilities. I am with you in the thought; and in the face of
the horrors that I see impending, I say, and your heart repeats it -
we have gone too far to pause. Honour, duty, ay, and the care of
our own lives, demand we should proceed.'
She was looking at him, her brow thoughtfully knitted. 'I feel it,'
she said. 'But how? He has the power.'
'The power, madam? The power is in the army,' he replied; and then
hastily, ere she could intervene, 'we have to save ourselves,' he
went on; 'I have to save my Princess, she has to save her minister;
we have both of us to save this infatuated youth from his own
madness. He in the outbreak would be the earliest victim; I see
him,' he cried, 'torn in pieces; and Grunewald, unhappy Grunewald!
Nay, madam, you who have the power must use it; it lies hard upon
your conscience.'
'Show me how!' she cried. 'Suppose I were to place him under some
constraint, the revolution would break upon us instantly.'
The Baron feigned defeat. 'It is true,' he said. 'You see more
clearly than I do. Yet there should, there must be, some way.' And
he waited for his chance.
'No,' she said; 'I told you from the first there is no remedy. Our
hopes are lost: lost by one miserable trifler, ignorant, fretful,
fitful - who will have disappeared to-morrow, who knows? to his
boorish pleasures!'
Any peg would do for Gondremark. 'The thing!' he cried, striking
his brow. 'Fool, not to have thought of it! Madam, without perhaps
knowing it, you have solved our problem.'
'What do you mean? Speak!' she said.
He appeared to collect himself; and then, with a smile, 'The
Prince,' he said, 'must go once more a-hunting.'
'Ay, if he would!' cried she, 'and stay there!'
'And stay there,' echoed the Baron. It was so significantly said,
that her face changed; and the schemer, fearful of the sinister
ambiguity of his expressions, hastened to explain. 'This time he
shall go hunting in a carriage, with a good escort of our foreign
lancers. His destination shall be the Felsenburg; it is healthy,
the rock is high, the windows are small and barred; it might have
been built on purpose. We shall intrust the captaincy to the
Scotsman Gordon; he at least will have no scruple. Who will miss
the sovereign? He is gone hunting; he came home on Tuesday, on
Thursday he returned; all is usual in that. Meanwhile the war
proceeds; our Prince will soon weary of his solitude; and about the
time of our triumph, or, if he prove very obstinate, a little later,
he shall be released upon a proper understanding, and I see him once
more directing his theatricals.'
Seraphina sat gloomy, plunged in thought. 'Yes,' she said suddenly,
'and the despatch? He is now writing it.'
'It cannot pass the council before Friday,' replied Gondremark; 'and
as for any private note, the messengers are all at my disposal.
They are picked men, madam. I am a person of precaution.'
'It would appear so,' she said, with a flash of her occasional
repugnance to the man; and then after a pause, 'Herr von
Gondremark,' she added, 'I recoil from this extremity.'
'I share your Highness's repugnance,' answered he. 'But what would
you have? We are defenceless, else.'
'I see it, but this is sudden. It is a public crime,' she said,
nodding at him with a sort of horror.
'Look but a little deeper,' he returned, 'and whose is the crime?'
'His!' she cried. 'His, before God! And I hold him liable. But
still - '
'It is not as if he would be harmed,' submitted Gondremark.
'I know it,' she replied, but it was still unheartily.
And then, as brave men are entitled, by prescriptive right as old as
the world's history, to the alliance and the active help of Fortune,
the punctual goddess stepped down from the machine. One of the
Princess's ladies begged to enter; a man, it appeared, had brought a
line for the Freiherr von Gondremark. It proved to be a pencil
billet, which the crafty Greisengesang had found the means to
scribble and despatch under the very guns of Otto; and the daring of
the act bore testimony to the terror of the actor. For
Greisengesang had but one influential motive: fear. The note ran
thus: 'At the first council, procuration to be withdrawn. - CORN.
So, after three years of exercise, the right of signature was to be
stript from Seraphina. It was more than an insult; it was a public
disgrace; and she did not pause to consider how she had earned it,
but morally bounded under the attack as bounds the wounded tiger.
'Enough,' she said; 'I will sign the order. When shall he leave?'
'It will take me twelve hours to collect my men, and it had best be
done at night. To-morrow midnight, if you please?' answered the
'Excellent,' she said. 'My door is always open to you, Baron. As
soon as the order is prepared, bring it me to sign.'
'Madam,' he said, 'alone of all of us you do not risk your head in
this adventure. For that reason, and to prevent all hesitation, I
venture to propose the order should be in your hand throughout.'
'You are right,' she replied.
He laid a form before her, and she wrote the order in a clear hand,
and re-read it. Suddenly a cruel smile came on her face. 'I had
forgotten his puppet,' said she. 'They will keep each other
company.' And she interlined and initiated the condemnation of
Doctor Gotthold.
'Your Highness has more memory than your servant,' said the Baron;
and then he, in his turn, carefully perused the fateful paper.
'Good!' said he.
'You will appear in the drawing-room, Baron?' she asked.
'I thought it better,' said he, 'to avoid the possibility of a
public affront. Anything that shook my credit might hamper us in
the immediate future.'
'You are right,' she said; and she held out her hand as to an old
friend and equal.
THE pistol had been practically fired. Under ordinary circumstances
the scene at the council table would have entirely exhausted Otto's
store both of energy and anger; he would have begun to examine and
condemn his conduct, have remembered all that was true, forgotten
all that was unjust in Seraphina's onslaught; and by half an hour
after would have fallen into that state of mind in which a Catholic
flees to the confessional and a sot takes refuge with the bottle.
Two matters of detail preserved his spirits. For, first, he had
still an infinity of business to transact; and to transact business,
for a man of Otto's neglectful and procrastinating habits, is the
best anodyne for conscience. All afternoon he was hard at it with
the Chancellor, reading, dictating, signing, and despatching papers;
and this kept him in a glow of self-approval. But, secondly, his
vanity was still alarmed; he had failed to get the money; to-morrow
before noon he would have to disappoint old Killian; and in the eyes
of that family which counted him so little, and to which he had
sought to play the part of the heroic comforter, he must sink lower
than at first. To a man of Otto's temper, this was death. He could
not accept the situation. And even as he worked, and worked wisely
and well, over the hated details of his principality, he was
secretly maturing a plan by which to turn the situation. It was a
scheme as pleasing to the man as it was dishonourable in the prince;
in which his frivolous nature found and took vengeance for the
gravity and burthen of the afternoon. He chuckled as he thought of
it: and Greisengesang heard him with wonder, and attributed his
lively spirits to the skirmish of the morning.
Led by this idea, the antique courtier ventured to compliment his
sovereign on his bearing. It reminded him, he said, of Otto's
'What?' asked the Prince, whose thoughts were miles away.
'Your Highness's authority at the board,' explained the flatterer.
'O, that! O yes,' returned Otto; but for all his carelessness, his
vanity was delicately tickled, and his mind returned and dwelt
approvingly over the details of his victory. 'I quelled them all,'
he thought.
When the more pressing matters had been dismissed, it was already
late, and Otto kept the Chancellor to dinner, and was entertained
with a leash of ancient histories and modern compliments. The
Chancellor's career had been based, from the first off-put, on
entire subserviency; he had crawled into honours and employments;
and his mind was prostitute. The instinct of the creature served
him well with Otto. First, he let fall a sneering word or two upon
the female intellect; thence he proceeded to a closer engagement;
and before the third course he was artfully dissecting Seraphina's
character to her approving husband. Of course no names were used;
and of course the identity of that abstract or ideal man, with whom
she was currently contrasted, remained an open secret. But this
stiff old gentleman had a wonderful instinct for evil, thus to wind
his way into man's citadel; thus to harp by the hour on the virtues
of his hearer and not once alarm his self-respect. Otto was all
roseate, in and out, with flattery and Tokay and an approving
conscience. He saw himself in the most attractive colours. If even
Greisengesang, he thought, could thus espy the loose stitches in
Seraphina's character, and thus disloyally impart them to the
opposite camp, he, the discarded husband - the dispossessed Prince -
could scarce have erred on the side of severity.
In this excellent frame he bade adieu to the old gentleman, whose
voice had proved so musical, and set forth for the drawing-room.
Already on the stair, he was seized with some compunction; but when
he entered the great gallery and beheld his wife, the Chancellor's
abstract flatteries fell from him like rain, and he re-awoke to the
poetic facts of life. She stood a good way off below a shining
lustre, her back turned. The bend of her waist overcame him with
physical weakness. This was the girl-wife who had lain in his arms
and whom he had sworn to cherish; there was she, who was better than
It was Seraphina who restored him from the blow. She swam forward
and smiled upon her husband with a sweetness that was insultingly
artificial. 'Frederic,' she lisped, 'you are late.' It was a scene
of high comedy, such as is proper to unhappy marriages; and her
APLOMB disgusted him.
There was no etiquette at these small drawing-rooms. People came
and went at pleasure. The window embrasures became the roost of
happy couples; at the great chimney the talkers mostly congregated,
each full-charged with scandal; and down at the farther end the
gamblers gambled. It was towards this point that Otto moved, not
ostentatiously, but with a gentle insistence, and scattering
attentions as he went. Once abreast of the card-table, he placed
himself opposite to Madame von Rosen, and, as soon as he had caught
her eye, withdrew to the embrasure of a window. There she had
speedily joined him.
'You did well to call me,' she said, a little wildly. 'These cards
will be my ruin.'
'Leave them,' said Otto.
'I!' she cried, and laughed; 'they are my destiny. My only chance
was to die of a consumption; now I must die in a garret.'
'You are bitter to-night,' said Otto.
'I have been losing,' she replied. 'You do not know what greed is.'
'I have come, then, in an evil hour,' said he.
'Ah, you wish a favour!' she cried, brightening beautifully.
'Madam,' said he, 'I am about to found my party, and I come to you
for a recruit.'
'Done,' said the Countess. 'I am a man again.'
'I may be wrong,' continued Otto, 'but I believe upon my heart you
wish me no ill.'
'I wish you so well,' she said, 'that I dare not tell it you.'
'Then if I ask my favour?' quoth the Prince.
'Ask it, MON PRINCE,' she answered. 'Whatever it is, it is
'I wish you,' he returned, 'this very night to make the farmer of
our talk.'
'Heaven knows your meaning!' she exclaimed. 'I know not, neither
care; there are no bounds to my desire to please you. Call him
'I will put it in another way,' returned Otto. 'Did you ever
'Often!' cried the Countess. 'I have broken all the ten
commandments; and if there were more to-morrow, I should not sleep
till I had broken these.'
'This is a case of burglary: to say the truth, I thought it would
amuse you,' said the Prince.
'I have no practical experience,' she replied, 'but O! the goodwill!
I have broken a work-box in my time, and several hearts, my
own included. Never a house! But it cannot be difficult; sins are
so unromantically easy! What are we to break?'
'Madam, we are to break the treasury,' said Otto and he sketched to
her briefly, wittily, with here and there a touch of pathos, the
story of his visit to the farm, of his promise to buy it, and of the
refusal with which his demand for money had been met that morning at
the council; concluding with a few practical words as to the
treasury windows, and the helps and hindrances of the proposed
'They refused you the money,' she said when he had done. 'And you
accepted the refusal? Well!'
'They gave their reasons,' replied Otto, colouring. 'They were not
such as I could combat; and I am driven to dilapidate the funds of
my own country by a theft. It is not dignified; but it is fun.'
'Fun,' she said; 'yes.' And then she remained silently plunged in
thought for an appreciable time. 'How much do you require?' she
asked at length.
'Three thousand crowns will do,' he answered, 'for I have still some
money of my own.'
'Excellent,' she said, regaining her levity. 'I am your true
accomplice. And where are we to meet?'
'You know the Flying Mercury,' he answered, 'in the Park? Three
pathways intersect; there they have made a seat and raised the
statue. The spot is handy and the deity congenial.'
'Child,' she said, and tapped him with her fan. 'But do you know,
my Prince, you are an egoist - your handy trysting-place is miles
from me. You must give me ample time; I cannot, I think, possibly
be there before two. But as the bell beats two, your helper shall
arrive: welcome, I trust. Stay - do you bring any one?' she added.
'O, it is not for a chaperon - I am not a prude!'
'I shall bring a groom of mine,' said Otto. 'I caught him stealing
'His name?' she asked.
'I profess I know not. I am not yet intimate with my corn-stealer,'
returned the Prince. 'It was in a professional capacity - '
'Like me! Flatterer!' she cried. 'But oblige me in one thing. Let
me find you waiting at the seat - yes, you shall await me; for on
this expedition it shall be no longer Prince and Countess, it shall
be the lady and the squire - and your friend the thief shall be no
nearer than the fountain. Do you promise?'
'Madam, in everything you are to command; you shall be captain, I am
but supercargo,' answered Otto.
'Well, Heaven bring all safe to port!' she said. 'It is not
Something in her manner had puzzled Otto, had possibly touched him
with suspicion.
'Is it not strange,' he remarked, 'that I should choose my
accomplice from the other camp?'
'Fool!' she said. 'But it is your only wisdom that you know your
friends.' And suddenly, in the vantage of the deep window, she
caught up his hand and kissed it with a sort of passion. 'Now go,'
she added, 'go at once.'
He went, somewhat staggered, doubting in his heart that he was overbold.
For in that moment she had flashed upon him like a jewel; and
even through the strong panoply of a previous love he had been
conscious of a shock. Next moment he had dismissed the fear.
Both Otto and the Countess retired early from the drawing-room; and
the Prince, after an elaborate feint, dismissed his valet, and went
forth by the private passage and the back postern in quest of the
Once more the stable was in darkness, once more Otto employed the
talismanic knock, and once more the groom appeared and sickened with
'Good-evening, friend,' said Otto pleasantly. 'I want you to bring
a corn sack - empty this time - and to accompany me. We shall be
gone all night.'
'Your Highness,' groaned the man, 'I have the charge of the small
stables. I am here alone.'
'Come,' said the Prince, 'you are no such martinet in duty.' And
then seeing that the man was shaking from head to foot, Otto laid a
hand upon his shoulder. 'If I meant you harm,' he said, 'should I
be here?'
The fellow became instantly reassured. He got the sack; and Otto
led him round by several paths and avenues, conversing pleasantly by
the way, and left him at last planted by a certain fountain where a
goggle-eyed Triton spouted intermittently into a rippling laver.
Thence he proceeded alone to where, in a round clearing, a copy of
Gian Bologna's Mercury stood tiptoe in the twilight of the stars.
The night was warm and windless. A shaving of new moon had lately
arisen; but it was still too small and too low down in heaven to
contend with the immense host of lesser luminaries; and the rough
face of the earth was drenched with starlight. Down one of the
alleys, which widened as it receded, he could see a part of the
lamplit terrace where a sentry silently paced, and beyond that a
corner of the town with interlacing street-lights. But all around
him the young trees stood mystically blurred in the dim shine; and
in the stock-still quietness the upleaping god appeared alive.
In this dimness and silence of the night, Otto's conscience became
suddenly and staringly luminous, like the dial of a city clock. He
averted the eyes of his mind, but the finger rapidly travelling,
pointed to a series of misdeeds that took his breath away. What was
he doing in that place? The money had been wrongly squandered, but
that was largely by his own neglect. And he now proposed to
embarrass the finances of this country which he had been too idle to
govern. And he now proposed to squander the money once again, and
this time for a private, if a generous end. And the man whom he had
reproved for stealing corn he was now to set stealing treasure. And
then there was Madame von Rosen, upon whom he looked down with some
of that ill-favoured contempt of the chaste male for the imperfect
woman. Because he thought of her as one degraded below scruples, he
had picked her out to be still more degraded, and to risk her whole
irregular establishment in life by complicity in this dishonourable
act. It was uglier than a seduction.
Otto had to walk very briskly and whistle very busily; and when at
last he heard steps in the narrowest and darkest of the alleys, it
was with a gush of relief that he sprang to meet the Countess. To
wrestle alone with one's good angel is so hard! and so precious, at
the proper time, is a companion certain to be less virtuous than
It was a young man who came towards him - a young man of small
stature and a peculiar gait, wearing a wide flapping hat, and
carrying, with great weariness, a heavy bag. Otto recoiled; but the
young man held up his hand by way of signal, and coming up with a
panting run, as if with the last of his endurance, laid the bag upon
the ground, threw himself upon the bench, and disclosed the features
of Madame von Rosen.
'You, Countess!' cried the Prince.
'No, no,' she panted, 'the Count von Rosen - my young brother. A
capital fellow. Let him get his breath.'
'Ah, madam. . .' said he.
'Call me Count,' she returned, 'respect my incognito.'
'Count be it, then,' he replied. 'And let me implore that gallant
gentleman to set forth at once on our enterprise.'
'Sit down beside me here,' she returned, patting the further corner
of the bench. 'I will follow you in a moment. O, I am so tired -
feel how my heart leaps! Where is your thief?'
'At his post,' replied Otto. 'Shall I introduce him? He seems an
excellent companion.'
'No,' she said, 'do not hurry me yet. I must speak to you. Not but
I adore your thief; I adore any one who has the spirit to do wrong.
I never cared for virtue till I fell in love with my Prince.' She
laughed musically. 'And even so, it is not for your virtues,' she
Otto was embarrassed. 'And now,' he asked, 'if you are anyway
'Presently, presently. Let me breathe,' she said, panting a little
harder than before.
'And what has so wearied you?' he asked. 'This bag? And why, in
the name of eccentricity, a bag? For an empty one, you might have
relied on my own foresight; and this one is very far from being
empty. My dear Count, with what trash have you come laden? But the
shortest method is to see for myself.' And he put down his hand.
She stopped him at once. 'Otto,' she said, 'no - not that way. I
will tell, I will make a clean breast. It is done already. I have
robbed the treasury single-handed. There are three thousand two
hundred crowns. O, I trust it is enough!'
Her embarrassment was so obvious that the Prince was struck into a
muse, gazing in her face, with his hand still outstretched, and she
still holding him by the wrist. 'You!' he said at last. 'How?' And
then drawing himself up, 'O madam,' he cried, 'I understand. You
must indeed think meanly of the Prince.'
'Well, then, it was a lie!' she cried. 'The money is mine, honestly
my own - now yours. This was an unworthy act that you proposed.
But I love your honour, and I swore to myself that I should save it
in your teeth. I beg of you to let me save it' - with a sudden
lovely change of tone. 'Otto, I beseech you let me save it. Take
this dross from your poor friend who loves you!'
'Madam, madam,' babbled Otto, in the extreme of misery, 'I cannot -
I must go.'
And he half rose; but she was on the ground before him in an
instant, clasping his knees. 'No,' she gasped, 'you shall not go.
Do you despise me so entirely? It is dross; I hate it; I should
squander it at play and be no richer; it is an investment, it is to
save me from ruin. Otto,' she cried, as he again feebly tried to
put her from him, 'if you leave me alone in this disgrace, I will
die here!' He groaned aloud. 'O,' she said, 'think what I suffer!
If you suffer from a piece of delicacy, think what I suffer in my
shame! To have my trash refused! You would rather steal, you think
of me so basely! You would rather tread my heart in pieces! O,
unkind! O my Prince! O Otto! O pity me!' She was still clasping
him; then she found his hand and covered it with kisses, and at this
his head began to turn. 'O,' she cried again, 'I see it! O what a
horror! It is because I am old, because I am no longer beautiful.'
And she burst into a storm of sobs.
This was the COUP DE GRACE. Otto had now to comfort and compose her
as he could, and before many words, the money was accepted. Between
the woman and the weak man such was the inevitable end. Madame von
Rosen instantly composed her sobs. She thanked him with a
fluttering voice, and resumed her place upon the bench, at the far
end from Otto. 'Now you see,' she said, 'why I bade you keep the
thief at distance, and why I came alone. How I trembled for my
'Madam,' said Otto, with a tearful whimper in his voice, 'spare me!
You are too good, too noble!'
'I wonder to hear you,' she returned. 'You have avoided a great
folly. You will be able to meet your good old peasant. You have
found an excellent investment for a friend's money. You have
preferred essential kindness to an empty scruple; and now you are
ashamed of it! You have made your friend happy; and now you mourn
as the dove! Come, cheer up. I know it is depressing to have done
exactly right; but you need not make a practice of it. Forgive
yourself this virtue; come now, look me in the face and smile!'
He did look at her. When a man has been embraced by a woman, he
sees her in a glamour; and at such a time, in the baffling glimmer
of the stars, she will look wildly well. The hair is touched with
light; the eyes are constellations; the face sketched in shadows - a
sketch, you might say, by passion. Otto became consoled for his
defeat; he began to take an interest. 'No,' he said, 'I am no
'You promised me fun,' she returned, with a laugh. 'I have given
you as good. We have had a stormy SCENA.'
He laughed in his turn, and the sound of the laughter, in either
case, was hardly reassuring.
'Come, what are you going to give me in exchange,' she continued,
'for my excellent declamation?'
'What you will,' he said.
'Whatever I will? Upon your honour? Suppose I asked the crown?'
She was flashing upon him, beautiful in triumph.
'Upon my honour,' he replied.
'Shall I ask the crown?' she continued. 'Nay; what should I do with
it? Grunewald is but a petty state; my ambition swells above it. I
shall ask - I find I want nothing,' she concluded. 'I will give you
something instead. I will give you leave to kiss me - once.'
Otto drew near, and she put up her face; they were both smiling,
both on the brink of laughter, all was so innocent and playful; and
the Prince, when their lips encountered, was dumbfoundered by the
sudden convulsion of his being. Both drew instantly apart, and for
an appreciable time sat tongue-tied. Otto was indistinctly
conscious of a peril in the silence, but could find no words to
utter. Suddenly the Countess seemed to awake. 'As for your wife -
' she began in a clear and steady voice.
The word recalled Otto, with a shudder, from his trance. 'I will
hear nothing against my wife,' he cried wildly; and then, recovering
himself and in a kindlier tone, 'I will tell you my one secret,' he
added. 'I love my wife.'
'You should have let me finish,' she returned, smiling. 'Do you
suppose I did not mention her on purpose? You know you had lost
your head. Well, so had I. Come now, do not be abashed by words,'
she added somewhat sharply. 'It is the one thing I despise. If you
are not a fool, you will see that I am building fortresses about
your virtue. And at any rate, I choose that you shall understand
that I am not dying of love for you. It is a very smiling business;
no tragedy for me! And now here is what I have to say about your
wife; she is not and she never has been Gondremark's mistress. Be
sure he would have boasted if she had. Good-night!'
And in a moment she was gone down the alley, and Otto was alone with
the bag of money and the flying god.
THE Countess left poor Otto with a caress and buffet simultaneously
administered. The welcome word about his wife and the virtuous
ending of his interview should doubtless have delighted him. But
for all that, as he shouldered the bag of money and set forward to
rejoin his groom, he was conscious of many aching sensibilities. To
have gone wrong and to have been set right makes but a double trial
for man's vanity. The discovery of his own weakness and possible
unfaith had staggered him to the heart; and to hear, in the same
hour, of his wife's fidelity from one who loved her not, increased
the bitterness of the surprise.
He was about half-way between the fountain and the Flying Mercury
before his thoughts began to be clear; and he was surprised to find
them resentful. He paused in a kind of temper, and struck with his
hand a little shrub. Thence there arose instantly a cloud of
awakened sparrows, which as instantly dispersed and disappeared into
the thicket. He looked at them stupidly, and when they were gone
continued staring at the stars. 'I am angry. By what right? By
none!' he thought; but he was still angry. He cursed Madame von
Rosen and instantly repented. Heavy was the money on his shoulders.
When he reached the fountain, he did, out of ill-humour and parade,
an unpardonable act. He gave the money bodily to the dishonest
groom. 'Keep this for me,' he said, 'until I call for it to-morrow.
It is a great sum, and by that you will judge that I have not
condemned you.' And he strode away ruffling, as if he had done
something generous. It was a desperate stroke to re-enter at the
point of the bayonet into his self-esteem; and, like all such, it
was fruitless in the end. He got to bed with the devil, it
appeared: kicked and tumbled till the grey of the morning; and then
fell inopportunely into a leaden slumber, and awoke to find it ten.
To miss the appointment with old Killian after all, had been too
tragic a miscarriage: and he hurried with all his might, found the
groom (for a wonder) faithful to his trust, and arrived only a few
minutes before noon in the guest-chamber of the Morning Star.
Killian was there in his Sunday's best and looking very gaunt and
rigid; a lawyer from Brandenau stood sentinel over his outspread
papers; and the groom and the landlord of the inn were called to
serve as witnesses. The obvious deference of that great man, the
innkeeper, plainly affected the old farmer with surprise; but it was
not until Otto had taken the pen and signed that the truth flashed
upon him fully. Then, indeed, he was beside himself.
'His Highness!' he cried, 'His Highness!' and repeated the
exclamation till his mind had grappled fairly with the facts. Then
he turned to the witnesses. 'Gentlemen,' he said, 'you dwell in a
country highly favoured by God; for of all generous gentlemen, I
will say it on my conscience, this one is the king. I am an old
man, and I have seen good and bad, and the year of the great famine;
but a more excellent gentleman, no, never.'
'We know that,' cried the landlord, 'we know that well in Grunewald.
If we saw more of his Highness we should be the better pleased.'
'It is the kindest Prince,' began the groom, and suddenly closed his
mouth upon a sob, so that every one turned to gaze upon his emotion
- Otto not last; Otto struck with remorse, to see the man so
Then it was the lawyer's turn to pay a compliment. 'I do not know
what Providence may hold in store,' he said, 'but this day should be
a bright one in the annals of your reign. The shouts of armies
could not be more eloquent than the emotion on these honest faces.'
And the Brandenau lawyer bowed, skipped, stepped back, and took
snuff, with the air of a man who has found and seized an
'Well, young gentleman,' said Killian, 'if you will pardon me the
plainness of calling you a gentleman, many a good day's work you
have done, I doubt not, but never a better, or one that will be
better blessed; and whatever, sir, may be your happiness and triumph
in that high sphere to which you have been called, it will be none
the worse, sir, for an old man's blessing!'
The scene had almost assumed the proportions of an ovation; and when
the Prince escaped he had but one thought: to go wherever he was
most sure of praise. His conduct at the board of council occurred
to him as a fair chapter; and this evoked the memory of Gotthold.
To Gotthold he would go.
Gotthold was in the library as usual, and laid down his pen, a
little angrily, on Otto's entrance. 'Well,' he said, 'here you
'Well,' returned Otto, 'we made a revolution, I believe.'
'It is what I fear,' returned the Doctor.
'How?' said Otto. 'Fear? Fear is the burnt child. I have learned
my strength and the weakness of the others; and I now mean to
Gotthold said nothing, but he looked down and smoothed his chin.
'You disapprove?' cried Otto. 'You are a weather-cock.'
'On the contrary,' replied the Doctor. 'My observation has
confirmed my fears. It will not do, Otto, not do.'
'What will not do?' demanded the Prince, with a sickening stab of
'None of it,' answered Gotthold. 'You are unfitted for a life of
action; you lack the stamina, the habit, the restraint, the
patience. Your wife is greatly better, vastly better; and though
she is in bad hands, displays a very different aptitude. She is a
woman of affairs; you are - dear boy, you are yourself. I bid you
back to your amusements; like a smiling dominie, I give you holidays
for life. Yes,' he continued, 'there is a day appointed for all
when they shall turn again upon their own philosophy. I had grown
to disbelieve impartially in all; and if in the atlas of the
sciences there were two charts I disbelieved in more than all the
rest, they were politics and morals. I had a sneaking kindness for
your vices; as they were negative, they flattered my philosophy; and
I called them almost virtues. Well, Otto, I was wrong; I have
forsworn my sceptical philosophy; and I perceive your faults to be
unpardonable. You are unfit to be a Prince, unfit to be a husband.
And I give you my word, I would rather see a man capably doing evil
than blundering about good.'
Otto was still silent, in extreme dudgeon.
Presently the Doctor resumed: 'I will take the smaller matter first:
your conduct to your wife. You went, I hear, and had an
explanation. That may have been right or wrong; I know not; at
least, you had stirred her temper. At the council she insults you;
well, you insult her back - a man to a woman, a husband to his wife,
in public! Next upon the back of this, you propose - the story runs
like wildfire - to recall the power of signature. Can she ever
forgive that? a woman - a young woman - ambitious, conscious of
talents beyond yours? Never, Otto. And to sum all, at such a
crisis in your married life, you get into a window corner with that
ogling dame von Rosen. I do not dream that there was any harm; but
I do say it was an idle disrespect to your wife. Why, man, the
woman is not decent.'
'Gotthold,' said Otto, 'I will hear no evil of the Countess.'
'You will certainly hear no good of her,' returned Gotthold; 'and if
you wish your wife to be the pink of nicety, you should clear your
court of demi-reputations.'
'The commonplace injustice of a by-word,' Otto cried. 'The
partiality of sex. She is a demirep; what then is Gondremark? Were
she a man - '
'It would be all one,' retorted Gotthold roughly. 'When I see a
man, come to years of wisdom, who speaks in double-meanings and is
the braggart of his vices, I spit on the other side. "You, my
friend," say I, "are not even a gentleman." Well, she's not even a
'She is the best friend I have, and I choose that she shall be
respected,' Otto said.
'If she is your friend, so much the worse,' replied the Doctor. 'It
will not stop there.'
'Ah!' cried Otto, 'there is the charity of virtue! All evil in the
spotted fruit. But I can tell you, sir, that you do Madame von
Rosen prodigal injustice.'
'You can tell me!' said the Doctor shrewdly. 'Have you, tried? have
you been riding the marches?'
The blood came into Otto's face.
'Ah!' cried Gotthold, 'look at your wife and blush! There's a wife
for a man to marry and then lose! She's a carnation, Otto. The
soul is in her eyes.'
'You have changed your note for Seraphina, I perceive,' said Otto.
'Changed it!' cried the Doctor, with a flush. 'Why, when was it
different? But I own I admired her at the council. When she sat
there silent, tapping with her foot, I admired her as I might a
hurricane. Were I one of those who venture upon matrimony, there
had been the prize to tempt me! She invites, as Mexico invited
Cortez; the enterprise is hard, the natives are unfriendly - I
believe them cruel too - but the metropolis is paved with gold and
the breeze blows out of paradise. Yes, I could desire to be that
conqueror. But to philander with von Rosen! never! Senses? I
discard them; what are they? - pruritus! Curiosity? Reach me my
'To whom do you address yourself?' cried Otto. 'Surely you, of all
men, know that I love my wife!'
'O, love!' cried Gotthold; 'love is a great word; it is in all the
dictionaries. If you had loved, she would have paid you back. What
does she ask? A little ardour!'
'It is hard to love for two,' replied the Prince.
'Hard? Why, there's the touchstone! O, I know my poets!' cried the
Doctor. 'We are but dust and fire, too and to endure life's
scorching; and love, like the shadow of a great rock, should lend
shelter and refreshment, not to the lover only, but to his mistress
and to the children that reward them; and their very friends should
seek repose in the fringes of that peace. Love is not love that
cannot build a home. And you call it love to grudge and quarrel and
pick faults? You call it love to thwart her to her face, and bandy
insults? Love!'
'Gotthold, you are unjust. I was then fighting for my country,'
said the Prince.
'Ay, and there's the worst of all,' returned the Doctor. 'You could
not even see that you were wrong; that being where they were,
retreat was ruin.'
Why, you supported me!' cried Otto.
'I did. I was a fool like you,' replied Gotthold. 'But now my eyes
are open. If you go on as you have started, disgrace this fellow
Gondremark, and publish the scandal of your divided house, there
will befall a most abominable thing in Grunewald. A revolution,
friend - a revolution.'
'You speak strangely for a red,' said Otto.
'A red republican, but not a revolutionary,' returned the Doctor.
'An ugly thing is a Grunewalder drunk! One man alone can save the
country from this pass, and that is the double-dealer Gondremark,
with whom I conjure you to make peace. It will not be you; it never
can be you:- you, who can do nothing, as your wife said, but trade
upon your station - you, who spent the hours in begging money! And
in God's name, what for? Why money? What mystery of idiocy was
'It was to no ill end. It was to buy a farm,' quoth Otto sulkily.
'To buy a farm!' cried Gotthold. 'Buy a farm!'
'Well, what then?' returned Otto. 'I have bought it, if you come to
Gotthold fairly bounded on his seat. 'And how that?' he cried.
'How?' repeated Otto, startled.
'Ay, verily, how!' returned the Doctor. 'How came you by the
The Prince's countenance darkened. 'That is my affair,' said he.
'You see you are ashamed,' retorted Gotthold. 'And so you bought a
farm in the hour of our country's need - doubtless to be ready for
the abdication; and I put it that you stole the funds. There are
not three ways of getting money: there are but two: to earn and
steal. And now, when you have combined Charles the Fifth and Longfingered
Tom, you come to me to fortify your vanity! But I will
clear my mind upon this matter: until I know the right and wrong of
the transaction, I put my hand behind my back. A man may be the
pitifullest prince; he must be a spotless gentleman.'
The Prince had gotten to his feet, as pale as paper. Gotthold,' he
said, 'you drive me beyond bounds. Beware, sir, beware!'
'Do you threaten me, friend Otto?' asked the Doctor grimly. 'That
would be a strange conclusion.'
'When have you ever known me use my power in any private animosity?'
cried Otto. 'To any private man your words were an unpardonable
insult, but at me you shoot in full security, and I must turn aside
to compliment you on your plainness. I must do more than pardon, I
must admire, because you have faced this - this formidable monarch,
like a Nathan before David. You have uprooted an old kindness, sir,
with an unsparing hand. You leave me very bare. My last bond is
broken; and though I take Heaven to witness that I sought to do the
right, I have this reward: to find myself alone. You say I am no
gentleman; yet the sneers have been upon your side; and though I can
very well perceive where you have lodged your sympathies, I will
forbear the taunt.'
'Otto, are you insane?' cried Gotthold, leaping up. 'Because I ask
you how you came by certain moneys, and because you refuse - '
'Herr von Hohenstockwitz, I have ceased to invite your aid in my
affairs,' said Otto. 'I have heard all that I desire, and you have
sufficiently trampled on my vanity. It may be that I cannot govern,
it may be that I cannot love - you tell me so with every mark of
honesty; but God has granted me one virtue, and I can still forgive.
I forgive you; even in this hour of passion, I can perceive my
faults and your excuses; and if I desire that in future I may be
spared your conversation, it is not, sir, from resentment - not
resentment - but, by Heaven, because no man on earth could endure to
be so rated. You have the satisfaction to see your sovereign weep;
and that person whom you have so often taunted with his happiness
reduced to the last pitch of solitude and misery. No, - I will hear
nothing; I claim the last word, sir, as your Prince; and that last
word shall be - forgiveness.'
And with that Otto was gone from the apartment, and Doctor Gotthold
was left alone with the most conflicting sentiments of sorrow,
remorse, and merriment; walking to and fro before his table, and
asking himself, with hands uplifted, which of the pair of them was
most to blame for this unhappy rupture. Presently, he took from a
cupboard a bottle of Rhine wine and a goblet of the deep Bohemian
ruby. The first glass a little warmed and comforted his bosom; with
the second he began to look down upon these troubles from a sunny
mountain; yet a while, and filled with this false comfort and
contemplating life throughout a golden medium, he owned to himself,
with a flush, a smile, and a half-pleasurable sigh, that he had been
somewhat over plain in dealing with his cousin. 'He said the truth,
too,' added the penitent librarian, 'for in my monkish fashion I
adore the Princess.' And then, with a still deepening flush and a
certain stealth, although he sat all alone in that great gallery, he
toasted Seraphina to the dregs.
AT a sufficiently late hour, or to be more exact, at three in the
afternoon, Madame von Rosen issued on the world. She swept
downstairs and out across the garden, a black mantilla thrown over
her head, and the long train of her black velvet dress ruthlessly
sweeping in the dirt.
At the other end of that long garden, and back to back with the
villa of the Countess, stood the large mansion where the Prime
Minister transacted his affairs and pleasures. This distance, which
was enough for decency by the easy canons of Mittwalden, the
Countess swiftly traversed, opened a little door with a key, mounted
a flight of stairs, and entered unceremoniously into Gondremark's
study. It was a large and very high apartment; books all about the
walls, papers on the table, papers on the floor; here and there a
picture, somewhat scant of drapery; a great fire glowing and flaming
in the blue tiled hearth; and the daylight streaming through a
cupola above. In the midst of this sat the great Baron Gondremark
in his shirt-sleeves, his business for that day fairly at an end,
and the hour arrived for relaxation. His expression, his very
nature, seemed to have undergone a fundamental change. Gondremark
at home appeared the very antipode of Gondremark on duty. He had an
air of massive jollity that well became him; grossness and geniality
sat upon his features; and along with his manners, he had laid aside
his sly and sinister expression. He lolled there, sunning his bulk
before the fire, a noble animal.
'Hey!' he cried. 'At last!'
The Countess stepped into the room in silence, threw herself on a
chair, and crossed her legs. In her lace and velvet, with a good
display of smooth black stocking and of snowy petticoat, and with
the refined profile of her face and slender plumpness of her body,
she showed in singular contrast to the big, black, intellectual
satyr by the fire.
'How often do you send for me?' she cried. 'It is compromising.'
Gondremark laughed. 'Speaking of that,' said he, 'what in the
devil's name were you about? You were not home till morning.'
'I was giving alms,' she said.
The Baron again laughed loud and long, for in his shirt-sleeves he
was a very mirthful creature. 'It is fortunate I am not jealous,'
he remarked. 'But you know my way: pleasure and liberty go hand in
hand. I believe what I believe; it is not much, but I believe it. -
But now to business. Have you not read my letter?'
'No,' she said; 'my head ached.'
'Ah, well! then I have news indeed!' cried Gondremark. 'I was mad
to see you all last night and all this morning: for yesterday
afternoon I brought my long business to a head; the ship has come
home; one more dead lift, and I shall cease to fetch and carry for
the Princess Ratafia. Yes, 'tis done. I have the order all in
Ratafia's hand; I carry it on my heart. At the hour of twelve tonight,
Prince Featherhead is to be taken in his bed and, like the
bambino, whipped into a chariot; and by next morning he will command
a most romantic prospect from the donjon of the Felsenburg.
Farewell, Featherhead! The war goes on, the girl is in my hand; I
have long been indispensable, but now I shall be sole. I have
long,' he added exultingly, 'long carried this intrigue upon my
shoulders, like Samson with the gates of Gaza; now I discharge that
She had sprung to her feet a little paler. 'Is this true?' she
'I tell you a fact,' he asseverated. 'The trick is played.'
'I will never believe it,' she said. 'An order in her own hand? I
will never believe it, Heinrich.'
'I swear to you,' said he.
'O, what do you care for oaths - or I either? What would you swear
by? Wine, women, and song? It is not binding,' she said. She had
come quite close up to him and laid her hand upon his arm. 'As for
the order - no, Heinrich, never! I will never believe it. I will
die ere I believe it. You have some secret purpose - what, I cannot
guess - but not one word of it is true.'
'Shall I show it you?' he asked.
'You cannot,' she answered. 'There is no such thing.'
'Incorrigible Sadducee!' he cried. 'Well, I will convert you; you
shall see the order.' He moved to a chair where he had thrown his
coat, and then drawing forth and holding out a paper, 'Read,' said
She took it greedily, and her eye flashed as she perused it.
'Hey!' cried the Baron, 'there falls a dynasty, and it was I that
felled it; and I and you inherit!' He seemed to swell in stature;
and next moment, with a laugh, he put his hand forward. Give me the
dagger,' said he.
But she whisked the paper suddenly behind her back and faced him,
lowering. 'No, no,' she said. 'You and I have first a point to
settle. Do you suppose me blind? She could never have given that
paper but to one man, and that man her lover. Here you stand - her
lover, her accomplice, her master - O, I well believe it, for I know
your power. But what am I?' she cried; 'I, whom you deceive!'
'Jealousy!' cried Gondremark. 'Anna, I would never have believed
it! But I declare to you by all that's credible that I am not her
lover. I might be, I suppose; but I never yet durst risk the
declaration. The chit is so unreal; a mincing doll; she will and
she will not; there is no counting on her, by God! And hitherto I
have had my own way without, and keep the lover in reserve. And I
say, Anna,' he added with severity, 'you must break yourself of this
new fit, my girl; there must be no combustion. I keep the creature
under the belief that I adore her; and if she caught a breath of you
and me, she is such a fool, prude, and dog in the manger, that she
is capable of spoiling all.'
'All very fine,' returned the lady. 'With whom do you pass your
days? and which am I to believe, your words or your actions?'
'Anna, the devil take you, are you blind?' cried Gondremark. 'You
know me. Am I likely to care for such a preciosa? 'Tis hard that
we should have been together for so long, and you should still take
me for a troubadour. But if there is one thing that I despise and
deprecate, it is all such figures in Berlin wool. Give me a human
woman - like myself. You are my mate; you were made for me; you
amuse me like the play. And what have I to gain that I should
pretend to you? If I do not love you, what use are you to me? Why,
none. It is as clear as noonday.'
'Do you love me, Heinrich?' she asked, languishing. 'Do you truly?'
'I tell you,' he cried, 'I love you next after myself. I should be
all abroad if I had lost you.'
'Well, then,' said she, folding up the paper and putting it calmly
in her pocket, 'I will believe you, and I join the plot. Count upon
me. At midnight, did you say? It is Gordon, I see, that you have
charged with it. Excellent; he will stick at nothing - '
Gondremark watched her suspiciously. 'Why do you take the paper?'
he demanded. 'Give it here.'
'No,' she returned; 'I mean to keep it. It is I who must prepare
the stroke; you cannot manage it without me; and to do my best I
must possess the paper. Where shall I find Gordon? In his rooms?'
She spoke with a rather feverish self-possession.
'Anna,' he said sternly, the black, bilious countenance of his
palace ROLE taking the place of the more open favour of his hours at
home, 'I ask you for that paper. Once, twice, and thrice.'
'Heinrich,' she returned, looking him in the face, 'take care. I
will put up with no dictation.'
Both looked dangerous; and the silence lasted for a measurable
interval of time. Then she made haste to have the first word; and
with a laugh that rang clear and honest, 'Do not be a child,' she
said. 'I wonder at you. If your assurances are true, you can have
no reason to mistrust me, nor I to play you false. The difficulty
is to get the Prince out of the palace without scandal. His valets
are devoted; his chamberlain a slave; and yet one cry might ruin
'They must be overpowered,' he said, following her to the new
ground, 'and disappear along with him.'
'And your whole scheme along with them!' she cried. 'He does not
take his servants when he goes a-hunting: a child could read the
truth. No, no; the plan is idiotic; it must be Ratafia's. But hear
me. You know the Prince worships me?'
'I know,' he said. 'Poor Featherhead, I cross his destiny!'
'Well now,' she continued, 'what if I bring him alone out of the
palace, to some quiet corner of the Park - the Flying Mercury, for
instance? Gordon can be posted in the thicket; the carriage wait
behind the temple; not a cry, not a scuffle, not a footfall; simply,
the Prince vanishes! - What do you say? Am I an able ally? Are my
BEAUX YUEX of service? Ah, Heinrich, do not lose your Anna! - she
has power!'
He struck with his open hand upon the chimney. 'Witch!' he said,
'there is not your match for devilry in Europe. Service! the thing
runs on wheels.'
'Kiss me, then, and let me go. I must not miss my Featherhead,' she
'Stay, stay,' said the Baron; 'not so fast. I wish, upon my soul,
that I could trust you; but you are, out and in, so whimsical a
devil that I dare not. Hang it, Anna, no; it's not possible!'
'You doubt me, Heinrich?' she cried.
'Doubt is not the word,' said he. 'I know you. Once you were clear
of me with that paper in your pocket, who knows what you would do
with it? - not you, at least - nor I. You see,' he added, shaking
his head paternally upon the Countess, 'you are as vicious as a
'I swear to you,' she cried, 'by my salvation . . . '
'I have no curiosity to hear you swearing,' said the Baron.
'You think that I have no religion? You suppose me destitute of
honour. Well,' she said, 'see here: I will not argue, but I tell
you once for all: leave me this order, and the Prince shall be
arrested - take it from me, and, as certain as I speak, I will upset
the coach. Trust me, or fear me: take your choice.' And she
offered him the paper.
The Baron, in a great contention of mind, stood irresolute, weighing
the two dangers. Once his hand advanced, then dropped. 'Well,' he
said, 'since trust is what you call it . . .'
'No more,' she interrupted, 'Do not spoil your attitude. And now
since you have behaved like a good sort of fellow in the dark, I
will condescend to tell you why. I go to the palace to arrange with
Gordon; but how is Gordon to obey me? And how can I foresee the
hours? It may be midnight; ay, and it may be nightfall; all's a
chance; and to act, I must be free and hold the strings of the
adventure. And now,' she cried, 'your Vivien goes. Dub me your
knight!' And she held out her arms and smiled upon him radiant.
'Well,' he said, when he had kissed her, 'every man must have his
folly; I thank God mine is no worse. Off with you! I have given a
child a squib.'
IT was the first impulse of Madame von Rosen to return to her own
villa and revise her toilette. Whatever else should come of this
adventure, it was her firm design to pay a visit to the Princess.
And before that woman, so little beloved, the Countess would appear
at no disadvantage. It was the work of minutes. Von Rosen had the
captain's eye in matters of the toilette; she was none of those who
hang in Fabian helplessness among their finery and, after hours,
come forth upon the world as dowdies. A glance, a loosened curl, a
studied and admired disorder in the hair, a bit of lace, a touch of
colour, a yellow rose in the bosom; and the instant picture was
'That will do,' she said. 'Bid my carriage follow me to the palace.
In half an hour it should be there in waiting.'
The night was beginning to fall and the shops to shine with lamps
along the tree-beshadowed thorough-fares of Otto's capital, when the
Countess started on her high emprise. She was jocund at heart;
pleasure and interest had winged her beauty, and she knew it. She
paused before the glowing jeweller's; she remarked and praised a
costume in the milliner's window; and when she reached the lime-tree
walk, with its high, umbrageous arches and stir of passers-by in the
dim alleys, she took her place upon a bench and began to dally with
the pleasures of the hour. It was cold, but she did not feel it,
being warm within; her thoughts, in that dark corner, shone like the
gold and rubies at the jewellers; her ears, which heard the brushing
of so many footfalls, transposed it into music.
What was she to do? She held the paper by which all depended. Otto
and Gondremark and Ratafia, and the state itself, hung light in her
balances, as light as dust; her little finger laid in either scale
would set all flying: and she hugged herself upon her huge
preponderance, and then laughed aloud to think how giddily it might
be used. The vertigo of omnipotence, the disease of Caesars, shook
her reason. 'O the mad world!' she thought, and laughed aloud in
A child, finger in mouth, had paused a little way from where she
sat, and stared with cloudy interest upon this laughing lady. She
called it nearer; but the child hung back. Instantly, with that
curious passion which you may see any woman in the world display, on
the most odd occasions, for a similar end, the Countess bent herself
with singleness of mind to overcome this diffidence; and presently,
sure enough, the child was seated on her knee, thumbing and
glowering at her watch.
'If you had a clay bear and a china monkey,' asked Von Rosen, 'which
would you prefer to break?'
'But I have neither,' said the child.
'Well,' she said, 'here is a bright florin, with which you may
purchase both the one and the other; and I shall give it you at
once, if you will answer my question. The clay bear or the china
monkey - come?'
But the unbreeched soothsayer only stared upon the florin with big
eyes; the oracle could not be persuaded to reply; and the Countess
kissed him lightly, gave him the florin, set him down upon the path,
and resumed her way with swinging and elastic gait.
'Which shall I break?' she wondered; and she passed her hand with
delight among the careful disarrangement of her locks. 'Which?' and
she consulted heaven with her bright eyes. 'Do I love both or
neither? A little - passionately - not at all? Both or neither -
both, I believe; but at least I will make hay of Ratafia.'
By the time she had passed the iron gates, mounted the drive, and
set her foot upon the broad flagged terrace, the night had come
completely; the palace front was thick with lighted windows; and
along the balustrade, the lamp on every twentieth baluster shone
clear. A few withered tracks of sunset, amber and glow-worm green,
still lingered in the western sky; and she paused once again to
watch them fading.
'And to think,' she said, 'that here am I - destiny embodied, a
norn, a fate, a providence - and have no guess upon which side I
shall declare myself! What other woman in my place would not be
prejudiced, and think herself committed? But, thank Heaven! I was
born just!' Otto's windows were bright among the rest, and she
looked on them with rising tenderness. 'How does it feel to be
deserted?' she thought. 'Poor dear fool! The girl deserves that he
should see this order.'
Without more delay, she passed into the palace and asked for an
audience of Prince Otto. The Prince, she was told, was in his own
apartment, and desired to be private. She sent her name. A man
presently returned with word that the Prince tendered his apologies,
but could see no one. 'Then I will write,' she said, and scribbled
a few lines alleging urgency of life and death. 'Help me, my
Prince,' she added; 'none but you can help me.' This time the
messenger returned more speedily, and begged the Countess to follow
him: the Prince was graciously pleased to receive the Frau Grafin
von Rosen.
Otto sat by the fire in his large armoury, weapons faintly
glittering all about him in the changeful light. His face was
disfigured by the marks of weeping; he looked sour and sad; nor did
he rise to greet his visitor, but bowed, and bade the man begone.
That kind of general tenderness which served the Countess for both
heart and conscience, sharply smote her at this spectacle of grief
and weakness; she began immediately to enter into the spirit of her
part; and as soon as they were alone, taking one step forward and
with a magnificent gesture - 'Up!' she cried.
'Madame von Rosen,' replied Otto dully, 'you have used strong words.
You speak of life and death. Pray, madam, who is threatened? Who
is there,' he added bitterly, 'so destitute that even Otto of
Grunewald can assist him?'
'First learn,' said she, 'the names of the conspirators; the
Princess and the Baron Gondremark. Can you not guess the rest?'
And then, as he maintained his silence - 'You!' she cried, pointing
at him with her finger. "Tis you they threaten! Your rascal and
mine have laid their heads together and condemned you. But they
reckoned without you and me. We make a PARTIE CARREE, Prince, in
love and politics. They lead an ace, but we shall trump it. Come,
partner, shall I draw my card?'
'Madam,' he said, 'explain yourself. Indeed I fail to comprehend.'
'See, then,' said she; and handed him the order.
He took it, looked upon it with a start; and then, still without
speech, he put his hand before his face. She waited for a word in
'What!' she cried, 'do you take the thing down-heartedly? As well
seek wine in a milk-pail as love in that girl's heart! Be done with
this, and be a man. After the league of the lions, let us have a
conspiracy of mice, and pull this piece of machinery to ground. You
were brisk enough last night when nothing was at stake and all was
frolic. Well, here is better sport; here is life indeed.'
He got to his feet with some alacrity, and his face, which was a
little flushed, bore the marks of resolution.
'Madame von Rosen,' said he, 'I am neither unconscious nor
ungrateful; this is the true continuation of your friendship; but I
see that I must disappoint your expectations. You seem to expect
from me some effort of resistance; but why should I resist? I have
not much to gain; and now that I have read this paper, and the last
of a fool's paradise is shattered, it would be hyperbolical to speak
of loss in the same breath with Otto of Grunewald. I have no party,
no policy; no pride, nor anything to be proud of. For what benefit
or principle under Heaven do you expect me to contend? Or would you
have me bite and scratch like a trapped weasel? No, madam; signify
to those who sent you my readiness to go. I would at least avoid a
'You go? - of your own will, you go?' she cried.
'I cannot say so much, perhaps,' he answered; 'but I go with good
alacrity. I have desired a change some time; behold one offered me!
Shall I refuse? Thank God, I am not so destitute of humour as to
make a tragedy of such a farce.' He flicked the order on the table.
'You may signify my readiness,' he added grandly.
'Ah,' she said, 'you are more angry than you own.'
'I, madam? angry?' he cried. 'You rave! I have no cause for anger.
In every way I have been taught my weakness, my instability, and my
unfitness for the world. I am a plexus of weaknesses, an impotent
Prince, a doubtful gentleman; and you yourself, indulgent as you
are, have twice reproved my levity. And shall I be angry? I may
feel the unkindness, but I have sufficient honesty of mind to see
the reasons of this COUP D'ETAT.'
'From whom have you got this?' she cried in wonder. 'You think you
have not behaved well? My Prince, were you not young and handsome,
I should detest you for your virtues. You push them to the verge of
commonplace. And this ingratitude - '
'Understand me, Madame von Rosen,' returned the Prince, flushing a
little darker, 'there can be here no talk of gratitude, none of
pride. You are here, by what circumstance I know not, but doubtless
led by your kindness, mixed up in what regards my family alone. You
have no knowledge what my wife, your sovereign, may have suffered;
it is not for you - no, nor for me - to judge. I own myself in
fault; and were it otherwise, a man were a very empty boaster who
should talk of love and start before a small humiliation. It is in
all the copybooks that one should die to please his lady-love; and
shall a man not go to prison?'
'Love? And what has love to do with being sent to gaol?' exclaimed
the Countess, appealing to the walls and roof. 'Heaven knows I
think as much of love as any one; my life would prove it; but I
admit no love, at least for a man, that is not equally returned.
The rest is moonshine.'
'I think of love more absolutely, madam, though I am certain no more
tenderly, than a lady to whom I am indebted for such kindnesses,'
returned the Prince. 'But this is unavailing. We are not here to
hold a court of troubadours.'
'Still,' she replied, 'there is one thing you forget. If she
conspires with Gondremark against your liberty, she may conspire
with him against your honour also.'
'My honour?' he repeated. 'For a woman, you surprise me. If I have
failed to gain her love or play my part of husband, what right is
left me? or what honour can remain in such a scene of defeat? No
honour that I recognise. I am become a stranger. If my wife no
longer loves me, I will go to prison, since she wills it; if she
love another, where should I be more in place? or whose fault is it
but mine? You speak, Madame von Rosen, like too many women, with a
man's tongue. Had I myself fallen into temptation (as, Heaven
knows, I might) I should have trembled, but still hoped and asked
for her forgiveness; and yet mine had been a treason in the teeth of
love. But let me tell you, madam,' he pursued, with rising
irritation, 'where a husband by futility, facility, and ill-timed
humours has outwearied his wife's patience, I will suffer neither
man nor woman to misjudge her. She is free; the man has been found
'Because she loves you not?' the Countess cried. 'You know she is
incapable of such a feeling.'
'Rather, it was I who was born incapable of inspiring it,' said
Madame von Rosen broke into sudden laughter. 'Fool,' she cried, 'I
am in love with you myself!'
'Ah, madam, you are most compassionate,' the Prince retorted,
smiling. 'But this is waste debate. I know my purpose. Perhaps,
to equal you in frankness, I know and embrace my advantage. I am
not without the spirit of adventure. I am in a false position - so
recognised by public acclamation: do you grudge me, then, my issue?'
'If your mind is made up, why should I dissuade you?' said the
Countess. 'I own, with a bare face, I am the gainer. Go, you take
my heart with you, or more of it than I desire; I shall not sleep at
night for thinking of your misery. But do not be afraid; I would
not spoil you, you are such a fool and hero.'
'Alas! madam,' cried the Prince, 'and your unlucky money! I did
amiss to take it, but you are a wonderful persuader. And I thank
God, I can still offer you the fair equivalent.' He took some
papers from the chimney. 'Here, madam, are the title-deeds,' he
said; 'where I am going, they can certainly be of no use to me, and
I have now no other hope of making up to you your kindness. You
made the loan without formality, obeying your kind heart. The parts
are somewhat changed; the sun of this Prince of Grunewald is upon
the point of setting; and I know you better than to doubt you will
once more waive ceremony, and accept the best that he can give you.
If I may look for any pleasure in the coming time, it will be to
remember that the peasant is secure, and my most generous friend no
'Do you not understand my odious position?' cried the Countess.
'Dear Prince, it is upon your fall that I begin my fortune.'
'It was the more like you to tempt me to resistance,' returned Otto.
'But this cannot alter our relations; and I must, for the last time,
lay my commands upon you in the character of Prince.' And with his
loftiest dignity, he forced the deeds on her acceptance.
'I hate the very touch of them,' she cried.
There followed upon this a little silence. 'At what time,' resumed
Otto, '(if indeed you know) am I to be arrested?'
'Your Highness, when you please!' exclaimed the Countess. 'Or, if
you choose to tear that paper, never!'
'I would rather it were done quickly,' said the Prince. 'I shall
take but time to leave a letter for the Princess.'
'Well,' said the Countess, 'I have advised you to resist; at the
same time, if you intend to be dumb before your shearers, I must say
that I ought to set about arranging your arrest. I offered' - she
hesitated - 'I offered to manage it, intending, my dear friend -
intending, upon my soul, to be of use to you. Well, if you will not
profit by my goodwill, then be of use to me; and as soon as ever you
feel ready, go to the Flying Mercury where we met last night. It
will be none the worse for you; and to make it quite plain, it will
be better for the rest of us.'
'Dear madam, certainly,' said Otto. 'If I am prepared for the chief
evil, I shall not quarrel with details. Go, then, with my best
gratitude; and when I have written a few lines of leave-taking, I
shall immediately hasten to keep tryst. To-night I shall not meet
so dangerous a cavalier,' he added, with a smiling gallantry.
As soon as Madame von Rosen was gone, he made a great call upon his
self-command. He was face to face with a miserable passage where,
if it were possible, he desired to carry himself with dignity. As
to the main fact, he never swerved or faltered; he had come so
heart-sick and so cruelly humiliated from his talk with Gotthold,
that he embraced the notion of imprisonment with something bordering
on relief. Here was, at least, a step which he thought blameless;
here was a way out of his troubles. He sat down to write to
Seraphina; and his anger blazed. The tale of his forbearances
mounted, in his eyes, to something monstrous; still more monstrous,
the coldness, egoism, and cruelty that had required and thus
requited them. The pen which he had taken shook in his hand. He
was amazed to find his resignation fled, but it was gone beyond his
recall. In a few white-hot words, he bade adieu, dubbing
desperation by the name of love, and calling his wrath forgiveness;
then he cast but one look of leave-taking on the place that had been
his for so long and was now to be his no longer; and hurried forth -
love's prisoner - or pride's.
He took that private passage which he had trodden so often in less
momentous hours. The porter let him out; and the bountiful, cold
air of the night and the pure glory of the stars received him on the
threshold. He looked round him, breathing deep of earth's plain
fragrance; he looked up into the great array of heaven, and was
quieted. His little turgid life dwindled to its true proportions;
and he saw himself (that great flame-hearted martyr!) stand like a
speck under the cool cupola of the night. Thus he felt his careless
injuries already soothed; the live air of out-of-doors, the quiet of
the world, as if by their silent music, sobering and dwarfing his
'Well, I forgive her,' he said. 'If it be of any use to her, I
And with brisk steps he crossed the garden, issued upon the Park,
and came to the Flying Mercury. A dark figure moved forward from
the shadow of the pedestal.
'I have to ask your pardon, sir,' a voice observed, 'but if I am
right in taking you for the Prince, I was given to understand that
you would be prepared to meet me.'
'Herr Gordon, I believe?' said Otto.
'Herr Oberst Gordon,' replied that officer. 'This is rather a
ticklish business for a man to be embarked in; and to find that all
is to go pleasantly is a great relief to me. The carriage is at
hand; shall I have the honour of following your Highness?'
'Colonel,' said the Prince, 'I have now come to that happy moment of
my life when I have orders to receive but none to give.'
'A most philosophical remark,' returned the Colonel. 'Begad, a very
pertinent remark! it might be Plutarch. I am not a drop's blood to
your Highness, or indeed to any one in this principality; or else I
should dislike my orders. But as it is, and since there is nothing
unnatural or unbecoming on my side, and your Highness takes it in
good part, I begin to believe we may have a capital time together,
sir - a capital time. For a gaoler is only a fellow-captive.'
'May I inquire, Herr Gordon,' asked Otto, 'what led you to accept
this dangerous and I would fain hope thankless office?'
'Very natural, I am sure,' replied the officer of fortune. 'My pay
is, in the meanwhile, doubled.'
'Well, sir, I will not presume to criticise,' returned the Prince.
'And I perceive the carriage.'
Sure enough, at the intersection of two alleys of the Park, a coach
and four, conspicuous by its lanterns, stood in waiting. And a
little way off about a score of lancers were drawn up under the
shadow of the trees.
WHEN Madame von Rosen left the Prince, she hurried straight to
Colonel Gordon; and not content with directing the arrangements, she
had herself accompanied the soldier of fortune to the Flying
Mercury. The Colonel gave her his arm, and the talk between this
pair of conspirators ran high and lively. The Countess, indeed, was
in a whirl of pleasure and excitement; her tongue stumbled upon
laughter, her eyes shone, the colour that was usually wanting now
perfected her face. It would have taken little more to bring Gordon
to her feet - or so, at least, she believed, disdaining the idea.
Hidden among some lilac bushes, she enjoyed the great decorum of the
arrest, and heard the dialogue of the two men die away along the
path. Soon after, the rolling of a carriage and the beat of hoofs
arose in the still air of the night, and passed speedily farther and
fainter into silence. The Prince was gone.
Madame von Rosen consulted her watch. She had still, she thought,
time enough for the tit-bit of her evening; and hurrying to the
palace, winged by the fear of Gondremark's arrival, she sent her
name and a pressing request for a reception to the Princess
Seraphina. As the Countess von Rosen unqualified, she was sure to
be refused; but as an emissary of the Baron's, for so she chose to
style herself, she gained immediate entry.
The Princess sat alone at table, making a feint of dining. Her
cheeks were mottled, her eyes heavy; she had neither slept nor
eaten; even her dress had been neglected. In short, she was out of
health, out of looks, out of heart, and hag-ridden by her
conscience. The Countess drew a swift comparison, and shone
brighter in beauty.
'You come, madam, DE LA PART DE MONSIEUR LE BARON,' drawled the
Princess. 'Be seated! What have you to say?'
'To say?' repeated Madame von Rosen, 'O, much to say! Much to say
that I would rather not, and much to leave unsaid that I would
rather say. For I am like St. Paul, your Highness, and always wish
to do the things I should not. Well! to be categorical - that is
the word? - I took the Prince your order. He could not credit his
senses. "Ah," he cried "dear Madame von Rosen, it is not possible -
it cannot be I must hear it from your lips. My wife is a poor girl
misled, she is only silly, she is not cruel." "MON PRINCE," said I,
"a girl - and therefore cruel; youth kills flies." - He had such
pain to understand it!'
'Madame von Rosen,' said the Princess, in most steadfast tones, but
with a rose of anger in her face, 'who sent you here, and for what
purpose? Tell your errand.'
'O, madam, I believe you understand me very well,' returned von
Rosen. 'I have not your philosophy. I wear my heart upon my
sleeve, excuse the indecency! It is a very little one,' she
laughed, 'and I so often change the sleeve!'
'Am I to understand the Prince has been arrested?' asked the
Princess, rising.
'While you sat there dining!' cried the Countess, still nonchalantly
'You have discharged your errand,' was the reply; 'I will not detain
'O no, madam,' said the Countess, 'with your permission, I have not
yet done. I have borne much this evening in your service. I have
suffered. I was made to suffer in your service.' She unfolded her
fan as she spoke. Quick as her pulses beat, the fan waved
languidly. She betrayed her emotion only by the brightness of her
eyes and face, and by the almost insolent triumph with which she
looked down upon the Princess. There were old scores of rivalry
between them in more than one field; so at least von Rosen felt; and
now she was to have her hour of victory in them all.
'You are no servant, Madame von Rosen, of mine,' said Seraphina.
'No, madam, indeed,' returned the Countess; 'but we both serve the
same person, as you know - or if you do not, then I have the
pleasure of informing you. Your conduct is so light - so light,'
she repeated, the fan wavering higher like a butterfly, 'that
perhaps you do not truly understand.' The Countess rolled her fan
together, laid it in her lap, and rose to a less languorous
position. 'Indeed,' she continued, 'I should be sorry to see any
young woman in your situation. You began with every advantage -
birth, a suitable marriage - quite pretty too - and see what you
have come to! My poor girl, to think of it! But there is nothing
that does so much harm,' observed the Countess finely, 'as giddiness
of mind.' And she once more unfurled the fan, and approvingly
fanned herself.
'I will no longer permit you to forget yourself,' cried Seraphina.
'I think you are mad.'
'Not mad,' returned von Rosen. 'Sane enough to know you dare not
break with me to-night, and to profit by the knowledge. I left my
poor, pretty Prince Charming crying his eyes out for a wooden doll.
My heart is soft; I love my pretty Prince; you will never understand
it, but I long to give my Prince his doll, dry his poor eyes, and
send him off happy. O, you immature fool!' the Countess cried,
rising to her feet, and pointing at the Princess the closed fan that
now began to tremble in her hand. 'O wooden doll!' she cried, 'have
you a heart, or blood, of any nature? This is a man, child - a man
who loves you. O, it will not happen twice! it is not common;
beautiful and clever women look in vain for it. And you, you
pitiful schoolgirl, tread this jewel under foot! you, stupid with
your vanity! Before you try to govern kingdoms, you should first be
able to behave yourself at home; home is the woman's kingdom.' She
paused and laughed a little, strangely to hear and look upon. 'I
will tell you one of the things,' she said, 'that were to stay
unspoken. Von Rosen is a better women than you, my Princess, though
you will never have the pain of understanding it; and when I took
the Prince your order, and looked upon his face, my soul was melted
- O, I am frank - here, within my arms, I offered him repose!' She
advanced a step superbly as she spoke, with outstretched arms; and
Seraphina shrank. 'Do not be alarmed!' the Countess cried; 'I am
not offering that hermitage to you; in all the world there is but
one who wants to, and him you have dismissed! "If it will give her
pleasure I should wear the martyr's crown," he cried, "I will
embrace the thorns." I tell you - I am quite frank - I put the
order in his power and begged him to resist. You, who have betrayed
your husband, may betray me to Gondremark; my Prince would betray no
one. Understand it plainly,' she cried, ''tis of his pure
forbearance that you sit there; he had the power - I gave it him -
to change the parts; and he refused, and went to prison in your
The Princess spoke with some distress. 'Your violence shocks me and
pains me,' she began, 'but I cannot be angry with what at least does
honour to the mistaken kindness of your heart: it was right for me
to know this. I will condescend to tell you. It was with deep
regret that I was driven to this step. I admire in many ways the
Prince - I admit his amiability. It was our great misfortune, it
was perhaps somewhat of my fault, that we were so unsuited to each
other; but I have a regard, a sincere regard, for all his qualities.
As a private person I should think as you do. It is difficult, I
know, to make allowances for state considerations. I have only with
deep reluctance obeyed the call of a superior duty; and so soon as I
dare do it for the safety of the state, I promise you the Prince
shall be released. Many in my situation would have resented your
freedoms. I am not' - and she looked for a moment rather piteously
upon the Countess - 'I am not altogether so inhuman as you think.'
'And you can put these troubles of the state,' the Countess cried,
'to weigh with a man's love?'
'Madame von Rosen, these troubles are affairs of life and death to
many; to the Prince, and perhaps even to yourself, among the
number,' replied the Princess, with dignity. 'I have learned,
madam, although still so young, in a hard school, that my own
feelings must everywhere come last.'
'O callow innocence!' exclaimed the other. 'Is it possible you do
not know, or do not suspect, the intrigue in which you move? I find
it in my heart to pity you! We are both women after all - poor
girl, poor girl! - and who is born a woman is born a fool. And
though I hate all women - come, for the common folly, I forgive you.
Your Highness' - she dropped a deep stage curtsey and resumed her
fan - 'I am going to insult you, to betray one who is called my
lover, and if it pleases you to use the power I now put unreservedly
into your hands, to ruin my dear self. O what a French comedy! You
betray, I betray, they betray. It is now my cue. The letter, yes.
Behold the letter, madam, its seal unbroken as I found it by my bed
this morning; for I was out of humour, and I get many, too many, of
these favours. For your own sake, for the sake of my Prince
Charming, for the sake of this great principality that sits so heavy
on your conscience, open it and read!'
'Am I to understand,' inquired the Princess, 'that this letter in
any way regards me?'
'You see I have not opened it,' replied von Rosen; 'but 'tis mine,
and I beg you to experiment.'
'I cannot look at it till you have,' returned Seraphina, very
seriously. 'There may be matter there not meant for me to see; it
is a private letter.'
The Countess tore it open, glanced it through, and tossed it back;
and the Princess, taking up the sheet, recognised the hand of
Gondremark, and read with a sickening shock the following lines:-
'Dearest Anna, come at once. Ratafia has done the deed, her husband
is to be packed to prison. This puts the minx entirely in my power;
LE TOUR EST JOUE; she will now go steady in harness, or I will know
the reason why. Come.
'Command yourself, madam,' said the Countess, watching with some
alarm the white face of Seraphina. 'It is in vain for you to fight
with Gondremark; he has more strings than mere court favour, and
could bring you down to-morrow with a word. I would not have
betrayed him otherwise; but Heinrich is a man, and plays with all of
you like marionnettes. And now at least you see for what you
sacrificed my Prince. Madam, will you take some wine? I have been
'Not cruel, madam - salutary,' said Seraphina, with a phantom smile.
'No, I thank you, I require no attentions. The first surprise
affected me: will you give me time a little? I must think.'
She took her head between her hands, and contemplated for a while
the hurricane confusion of her thoughts.
'This information reaches me,' she said, 'when I have need of it. I
would not do as you have done, but yet I thank you. I have been
much deceived in Baron Gondremark.'
'O, madam, leave Gondremark, and think upon the Prince!' cried von
'You speak once more as a private person,' said the Princess; 'nor
do I blame you. But my own thoughts are more distracted. However,
as I believe you are truly a friend to my - to the - as I believe,'
she said, 'you are a friend to Otto, I shall put the order for his
release into your hands this moment. Give me the ink-dish. There!'
And she wrote hastily, steadying her arm upon the table, for she
trembled like a reed. 'Remember; madam,' she resumed, handing her
the order, 'this must not be used nor spoken of at present; till I
have seen the Baron, any hurried step - I lose myself in thinking.
The suddenness has shaken me.'
'I promise you I will not use it,' said the Countess, 'till you give
me leave, although I wish the Prince could be informed of it, to
comfort his poor heart. And O, I had forgotten, he has left a
letter. Suffer me, madam, I will bring it you. This is the door, I
think?' And she sought to open it.
'The bolt is pushed,' said Seraphina, flushing.
'O! O!' cried the Countess.
A silence fell between them.
'I will get it for myself,' said Seraphina; 'and in the meanwhile I
beg you to leave me. I thank you, I am sure, but I shall be obliged
if you will leave me.'
The Countess deeply curtseyed, and withdrew.
BRAVE as she was, and brave by intellect, the Princess, when first
she was alone, clung to the table for support. The four corners of
her universe had fallen. She had never liked nor trusted Gondremark
completely; she had still held it possible to find him false to
friendship; but from that to finding him devoid of all those public
virtues for which she had honoured him, a mere commonplace
intriguer, using her for his own ends, the step was wide and the
descent giddy. Light and darkness succeeded each other in her
brain; now she believed, and now she could not. She turned, blindly
groping for the note. But von Rosen, who had not forgotten to take
the warrant from the Prince, had remembered to recover her note from
the Princess: von Rosen was an old campaigner, whose most violent
emotion aroused rather than clouded the vigour of her reason.
The thought recalled to Seraphina the remembrance of the other
letter - Otto's. She rose and went speedily, her brain still
wheeling, and burst into the Prince's armoury. The old chamberlain
was there in waiting; and the sight of another face, prying (or so
she felt) on her distress, struck Seraphina into childish anger.
'Go!' she cried; and then, when the old man was already half-way to
the door, 'Stay!' she added. 'As soon as Baron Gondremark arrives,
let him attend me here.'
'It shall be so directed,' said the chamberlain.
'There was a letter . . .' she began, and paused.
'Her Highness,' said the chamberlain, 'will, find a letter on the
table. I had received no orders, or her Highness had been spared
this trouble.'
'No, no, no,' she cried. 'I thank you. I desire to be alone.'
And then, when he was gone, she leaped upon the letter. Her mind
was still obscured; like the moon upon a night of clouds and wind,
her reason shone and was darkened, and she read the words by
'Seraphina,' the Prince wrote, 'I will write no syllable of
reproach. I have seen your order, and I go. What else is left me?
I have wasted my love, and have no more. To say that I forgive you
is not needful; at least, we are now separate for ever; by your own
act, you free me from my willing bondage: I go free to prison. This
is the last that you will hear of me in love or anger. I have gone
out of your life; you may breathe easy; you have now rid yourself of
the husband who allowed you to desert him, of the Prince who gave
you his rights, and of the married lover who made it his pride to
defend you in your absence. How you have requited him, your own
heart more loudly tells you than my words. There is a day coming
when your vain dreams will roll away like clouds, and you will find
yourself alone. Then you will remember
She read with a great horror on her mind; that day, of which he
wrote, was come. She was alone; she had been false, she had been
cruel; remorse rolled in upon her; and then with a more piercing
note, vanity bounded on the stage of consciousness. She a dupe! she
helpless! she to have betrayed herself in seeking to betray her
husband! she to have lived these years upon flattery, grossly
swallowing the bolus, like a clown with sharpers! she - Seraphina!
Her swift mind drank the consequences; she foresaw the coming fall,
her public shame; she saw the odium, disgrace, and folly of her
story flaunt through Europe. She recalled the scandal she had so
royally braved; and alas! she had now no courage to confront it
with. To be thought the mistress of that man: perhaps for that. . .
. She closed her eyes on agonising vistas. Swift as thought she had
snatched a bright dagger from the weapons that shone along the wall.
Ay, she would escape. From that world-wide theatre of nodding heads
and buzzing whisperers, in which she now beheld herself unpitiably
martyred, one door stood open. At any cost, through any stress of
suffering, that greasy laughter should be stifled. She closed her
eyes, breathed a wordless prayer, and pressed the weapon to her
At the astonishing sharpness of the prick, she gave a cry and awoke
to a sense of undeserved escape. A little ruby spot of blood was
the reward of that great act of desperation; but the pain had braced
her like a tonic, and her whole design of suicide had passed away.
At the same instant regular feet drew near along the gallery, and
she knew the tread of the big Baron, so often gladly welcome, and
even now rallying her spirits like a call to battle. She concealed
the dagger in the folds of her skirt; and drawing her stature up,
she stood firm-footed, radiant with anger, waiting for the foe.
The Baron was announced, and entered. To him, Seraphina was a hated
task: like the schoolboy with his Virgil, he had neither will nor
leisure to remark her beauties; but when he now beheld her standing
illuminated by her passion, new feelings flashed upon him, a frank
admiration, a brief sparkle of desire. He noted both with joy; they
were means. 'If I have to play the lover,' thought he, for that was
his constant preoccupation, 'I believe I can put soul into it.'
Meanwhile, with his usual ponderous grace, he bent before the lady.
'I propose,' she said in a strange voice, not known to her till
then, 'that we release the Prince and do not prosecute the war.'
'Ah, madam,' he replied, ' 'tis as I knew it would be! Your heart,
I knew, would wound you when we came to this distasteful but most
necessary step. Ah, madam, believe me, I am not unworthy to be your
ally; I know you have qualities to which I am a stranger, and count
them the best weapons in the armoury of our alliance:- the girl in
the queen - pity, love, tenderness, laughter; the smile that can
reward. I can only command; I am the frowner. But you! And you
have the fortitude to command these comely weaknesses, to tread them
down at the call of reason. How often have I not admired it even to
yourself! Ay, even to yourself,' he added tenderly, dwelling, it
seemed, in memory on hours of more private admiration. 'But now,
madam - '
'But now, Herr von Gondremark, the time for these declarations has
gone by,' she cried. 'Are you true to me? are you false? Look in
your heart and answer: it is your heart I want to know.'
'It has come,' thought Gondremark. 'You, madam!' he cried, starting
back - with fear, you would have said, and yet a timid joy. 'You!
yourself, you bid me look into my heart?'
'Do you suppose I fear?' she cried, and looked at him with such a
heightened colour, such bright eyes, and a smile of so abstruse a
meaning, that the Baron discarded his last doubt.
'Ah, madam!' he cried, plumping on his knees. 'Seraphina! Do you
permit me? have you divined my secret? It is true - I put my life
with joy into your power - I love you, love with ardour, as an
equal, as a mistress, as a brother-in-arms, as an adored, desired,
sweet-hearted woman. O Bride!' he cried, waxing dithyrambic, 'bride
of my reason and my senses, have pity, have pity on my love!'
She heard him with wonder, rage, and then contempt. His words
offended her to sickness; his appearance, as he grovelled bulkily
upon the floor, moved her to such laughter as we laugh in
'O shame!' she cried. 'Absurd and odious! What would the Countess
That great Baron Gondremark, the excellent politician, remained for
some little time upon his knees in a frame of mind which perhaps we
are allowed to pity. His vanity, within his iron bosom, bled and
raved. If he could have blotted all, if he could have withdrawn
part, if he had not called her bride - with a roaring in his ears,
he thus regretfully reviewed his declaration. He got to his feet
tottering; and then, in that first moment when a dumb agony finds a
vent in words, and the tongue betrays the inmost and worst of a man,
he permitted himself a retort which, for six weeks to follow, he was
to repent at leisure.
'Ah,' said he, 'the Countess? Now I perceive the reason of your
Highness's disorder.'
The lackey-like insolence of the words was driven home by a more
insolent manner. There fell upon Seraphina one of those stormclouds
which had already blackened upon her reason; she heard
herself cry out; and when the cloud dispersed, flung the bloodstained
dagger on the floor, and saw Gondremark reeling back with
open mouth and clapping his hand upon the wound. The next moment,
with oaths that she had never heard, he leaped at her in savage
passion; clutched her as she recoiled; and in the very act, stumbled
and drooped. She had scarce time to fear his murderous onslaught
ere he fell before her feet.
He rose upon one elbow; she still staring upon him, white with
'Anna!' he cried, 'Anna! Help!'
And then his utterance failed him, and he fell back, to all
appearance dead.
Seraphina ran to and fro in the room; she wrung her hands and cried
aloud; within she was all one uproar of terror, and conscious of no
articulate wish but to awake.
There came a knocking at the door; and she sprang to it and held it,
panting like a beast, and with the strength of madness in her arms,
till she had pushed the bolt. At this success a certain calm fell
upon her reason. She went back and looked upon her victim, the
knocking growing louder. O yes, he was dead. She had killed him.
He had called upon von Rosen with his latest breath; ah! who would
call on Seraphina? She had killed him. She, whose irresolute hand
could scarce prick blood from her own bosom, had found strength to
cast down that great colossus at a blow.
All this while the knocking was growing more uproarious and more
unlike the staid career of life in such a palace. Scandal was at
the door, with what a fatal following she dreaded to conceive; and
at the same time among the voices that now began to summon her by
name, she recognised the Chancellor's. He or another, somebody must
be the first.
'Is Herr von Greisengesang without?' she called.
'Your Highness - yes!' the old gentleman answered. 'We have heard
cries, a fall. Is anything amiss?'
'Nothing,' replied Seraphina 'I desire to speak with you. Send off
the rest.' She panted between each phrase; but her mind was clear.
She let the looped curtain down upon both sides before she drew the
bolt; and, thus secure from any sudden eyeshot from without,
admitted the obsequious Chancellor, and again made fast the door.
Greisengesang clumsily revolved among the wings of the curtain, so
that she was clear of it as soon as he.
'My God!' he cried 'The Baron!'
'I have killed him,' she said. 'O, killed him!'
'Dear me,' said the old gentleman, 'this is most unprecedented.
Lovers' quarrels,' he added ruefully, 'redintegratio - ' and then
paused. 'But, my dear madam,' he broke out again, 'in the name of
all that is practical, what are we to do? This is exceedingly
grave; morally, madam, it is appalling. I take the liberty, your
Highness, for one moment, of addressing you as a daughter, a loved
although respected daughter; and I must say that I cannot conceal
from you that this is morally most questionable. And, O dear me, we
have a dead body!'
She had watched him closely; hope fell to contempt; she drew away
her skirts from his weakness, and, in the act, her own strength
returned to her.
'See if he be dead,' she said; not one word of explanation or
defence; she had scorned to justify herself before so poor a
creature: 'See if he be dead' was all.
With the greatest compunction, the Chancellor drew near; and as he
did so the wounded Baron rolled his eyes.
'He lives,' cried the old courtier, turning effusively to Seraphina.
'Madam, he still lives.'
'Help him, then,' returned the Princess, standing fixed. 'Bind up
his wound.'
'Madam, I have no means,' protested the Chancellor.
'Can you not take your handkerchief, your neck-cloth, anything?' she
cried; and at the same moment, from her light muslin gown she rent
off a flounce and tossed it on the floor. 'Take that,' she said,
and for the first time directly faced Greisengesang.
But the Chancellor held up his hands and turned away his head in
agony. The grasp of the falling Baron had torn down the dainty
fabric of the bodice; and - 'O Highness!' cried Greisengesang,
appalled, 'the terrible disorder of your toilette!'
'Take up that flounce,' she said; 'the man may die.'
Greisengesang turned in a flutter to the Baron, and attempted some
innocent and bungling measures. 'He still breathes,' he kept
saying. 'All is not yet over; he is not yet gone.'
'And now,' said she 'if that is all you can do, begone and get some
porters; he must instantly go home.'
'Madam,' cried the Chancellor, 'if this most melancholy sight were
seen in town - O dear, the State would fall!' he piped.
'There is a litter in the Palace,' she replied. 'It is your part to
see him safe. I lay commands upon you. On your life it stands.'
'I see it, dear Highness,' he jerked. 'Clearly I see it. But how?
what men? The Prince's servants - yes. They had a personal
affection. They will be true, if any.'
'O, not them!' she cried. 'Take Sabra, my own man.'
'Sabra! The grand-mason?' returned the Chancellor, aghast. 'If he
but saw this, he would sound the tocsin - we should all be
She measured the depth of her abasement steadily. 'Take whom you
must,' she said, 'and bring the litter here.'
Once she was alone she ran to the Baron, and with a sickening heart
sought to allay the flux of blood. The touch of the skin of that
great charlatan revolted her to the toes; the wound, in her ignorant
eyes, looked deathly; yet she contended with her shuddering, and,
with more skill at least than the Chancellor's, staunched the
welling injury. An eye unprejudiced with hate would have admired
the Baron in his swoon; he looked so great and shapely; it was so
powerful a machine that lay arrested; and his features, cleared for
the moment both of temper and dissimulation, were seen to be so
purely modelled. But it was not thus with Seraphina. Her victim,
as he lay outspread, twitching a little, his big chest unbared,
fixed her with his ugliness; and her mind flitted for a glimpse to
Rumours began to sound about the Palace of feet running and of
voices raised; the echoes of the great arched staircase were voluble
of some confusion; and then the gallery jarred with a quick and
heavy tramp. It was the Chancellor, followed by four of Otto's
valets and a litter. The servants, when they were admitted, stared
at the dishevelled Princess and the wounded man; speech was denied
them, but their thoughts were riddled with profanity. Gondremark
was bundled in; the curtains of the litter were lowered; the bearers
carried it forth, and the Chancellor followed behind with a white
Seraphina ran to the window. Pressing her face upon the pane, she
could see the terrace, where the lights contended; thence, the
avenue of lamps that joined the Palace and town; and overhead the
hollow night and the larger stars. Presently the small procession
issued from the Palace, crossed the parade, and began to thread the
glittering alley: the swinging couch with its four porters, the
much-pondering Chancellor behind. She watched them dwindle with
strange thoughts: her eyes fixed upon the scene, her mind still
glancing right and left on the overthrow of her life and hopes.
There was no one left in whom she might confide; none whose hand was
friendly, or on whom she dared to reckon for the barest loyalty.
With the fall of Gondremark, her party, her brief popularity, had
fallen. So she sat crouched upon the window-seat, her brow to the
cool pane; her dress in tatters, barely shielding her; her mind
revolving bitter thoughts.
Meanwhile, consequences were fast mounting; and in the deceptive
quiet of the night, downfall and red revolt were brewing. The
litter had passed forth between the iron gates and entered on the
streets of the town. By what flying panic, by what thrill of air
communicated, who shall say? but the passing bustle in the Palace
had already reached and re-echoed in the region of the burghers.
Rumour, with her loud whisper, hissed about the town; men left their
homes without knowing why; knots formed along the boulevard; under
the rare lamps and the great limes the crowd grew blacker.
And now through the midst of that expectant company, the unusual
sight of a closed litter was observed approaching, and trotting hard
behind it that great dignitary Cancellarius Greisengesang. Silence
looked on as it went by; and as soon as it was passed, the
whispering seethed over like a boiling pot. The knots were
sundered; and gradually, one following another, the whole mob began
to form into a procession and escort the curtained litter. Soon
spokesmen, a little bolder than their mates, began to ply the
Chancellor with questions. Never had he more need of that great art
of falsehood, by whose exercise he had so richly lived. And yet now
he stumbled, the master passion, fear, betraying him. He was
pressed; he became incoherent; and then from the jolting litter came
a groan. In the instant hubbub and the gathering of the crowd as to
a natural signal, the clear-eyed quavering Chancellor heard the
catch of the clock before it strikes the hour of doom; and for ten
seconds he forgot himself. This shall atone for many sins. He
plucked a bearer by the sleeve. 'Bid the Princess flee. All is
lost,' he whispered. And the next moment he was babbling for his
life among the multitude.
Five minutes later the wild-eyed servant burst into the armoury.
'All is lost!' he cried. 'The Chancellor bids you flee.' And at
the same time, looking through the window, Seraphina saw the black
rush of the populace begin to invade the lamplit avenue.
'Thank you, Georg,' she said. 'I thank you. Go.' And as the man
still lingered, 'I bid you go,' she added. 'Save yourself.'
Down by the private passage, and just some two hours later, Amalia
Seraphina, the last Princess, followed Otto Johann Friedrich, the
last Prince of Grunewald.
THE porter, drawn by the growing turmoil, had vanished from the
postern, and the door stood open on the darkness of the night. As
Seraphina fled up the terraces, the cries and loud footing of the
mob drew nearer the doomed palace; the rush was like the rush of
cavalry; the sound of shattering lamps tingled above the rest; and,
overtowering all, she heard her own name bandied among the shouters.
A bugle sounded at the door of the guard-room; one gun was fired;
and then with the yell of hundreds, Mittwalden Palace was carried at
a rush.
Sped by these dire sounds and voices, the Princess scaled the long
garden, skimming like a bird the starlit stairways; crossed the
Park, which was in that place narrow; and plunged upon the farther
side into the rude shelter of the forest. So, at a bound, she left
the discretion and the cheerful lamps of Palace evenings; ceased
utterly to be a sovereign lady; and, falling from the whole height
of civilisation, ran forth into the woods, a ragged Cinderella.
She went direct before her through an open tract of the forest, full
of brush and birches, and where the starlight guided her; and,
beyond that again, must thread the columned blackness of a pine
grove joining overhead the thatch of its long branches. At that
hour the place was breathless; a horror of night like a presence
occupied that dungeon of the wood; and she went groping, knocking
against the boles - her ear, betweenwhiles, strained to aching and
yet unrewarded.
But the slope of the ground was upward, and encouraged her; and
presently she issued on a rocky hill that stood forth above the sea
of forest. All around were other hill-tops, big and little; sable
vales of forest between; overhead the open heaven and the brilliancy
of countless stars; and along the western sky the dim forms of
mountains. The glory of the great night laid hold upon her; her
eyes shone with stars; she dipped her sight into the coolness and
brightness of the sky, as she might have dipped her wrist into a
spring; and her heart, at that ethereal shock, began to move more
soberly. The sun that sails overhead, ploughing into gold the
fields of daylight azure and uttering the signal to man's myriads,
has no word apart for man the individual; and the moon, like a
violin, only praises and laments our private destiny. The stars
alone, cheerful whisperers, confer quietly with each of us like
friends; they give ear to our sorrows smilingly, like wise old men,
rich in tolerance; and by their double scale, so small to the eye,
so vast to the imagination, they keep before the mind the double
character of man's nature and fate.
There sat the Princess, beautifully looking upon beauty, in council
with these glad advisers. Bright like pictures, clear like a voice
in the porches of her ear, memory re-enacted the tumult of the
evening: the Countess and the dancing fan, the big Baron on his
knees, the blood on the polished floor, the knocking, the swing of
the litter down the avenue of lamps, the messenger, the cries of the
charging mob; and yet all were far away and phantasmal, and she was
still healingly conscious of the peace and glory of the night. She
looked towards Mittwalden; and above the hill-top, which already hid
it from her view, a throbbing redness hinted of fire. Better so:
better so, that she should fall with tragic greatness, lit by a
blazing palace! She felt not a trace of pity for Gondremark or of
concern for Grunewald: that period of her life was closed for ever,
a wrench of wounded vanity alone surviving. She had but one clear
idea: to flee; - and another, obscure and half-rejected, although
still obeyed: to flee in the direction of the Felsenburg. She had a
duty to perform, she must free Otto - so her mind said, very coldly;
but her heart embraced the notion of that duty even with ardour, and
her hands began to yearn for the grasp of kindness.
She rose, with a start of recollection, and plunged down the slope
into the covert. The woods received and closed upon her. Once
more, she wandered and hasted in a blot, uncheered, unpiloted. Here
and there, indeed, through rents in the wood-roof, a glimmer
attracted her; here and there a tree stood out among its neighbours
by some force of outline; here and there a brushing among the
leaves, a notable blackness, a dim shine, relieved, only to
exaggerate, the solid oppression of the night and silence. And
betweenwhiles, the unfeatured darkness would redouble and the whole
ear of night appear to be gloating on her steps. Now she would
stand still, and the silence, would grow and grow, till it weighed
upon her breathing; and then she would address herself again to run,
stumbling, falling, and still hurrying the more. And presently the
whole wood rocked and began to run along with her. The noise of her
own mad passage through the silence spread and echoed, and filled
the night with terror. Panic hunted her: Panic from the trees
reached forth with clutching branches; the darkness was lit up and
peopled with strange forms and faces. She strangled and fled before
her fears. And yet in the last fortress, reason, blown upon by
these gusts of terror, still shone with a troubled light. She knew,
yet could not act upon her knowledge; she knew that she must stop,
and yet she still ran.
She was already near madness, when she broke suddenly into a narrow
clearing. At the same time the din grew louder, and she became
conscious of vague forms and fields of whiteness. And with that the
earth gave way; she fell and found her feet again with an incredible
shock to her senses, and her mind was swallowed up.
When she came again to herself, she was standing to the mid-leg in
an icy eddy of a brook, and leaning with one hand on the rock from
which it poured. The spray had wet her hair. She saw the white
cascade, the stars wavering in the shaken pool, foam flitting, and
high overhead the tall pines on either hand serenely drinking
starshine; and in the sudden quiet of her spirit she heard with joy
the firm plunge of the cataract in the pool. She scrambled forth
dripping. In the face of her proved weakness, to adventure again
upon the horror of blackness in the groves were a suicide of life or
reason. But here, in the alley of the brook, with the kind stars
above her, and the moon presently swimming into sight, she could
await the coming of day without alarm.
This lane of pine-trees ran very rapidly down-hill and wound among
the woods; but it was a wider thoroughfare than the brook needed,
and here and there were little dimpling lawns and coves of the
forest, where the starshine slumbered. Such a lawn she paced,
taking patience bravely; and now she looked up the hill and saw the
brook coming down to her in a series of cascades; and now approached
the margin, where it welled among the rushes silently; and now gazed
at the great company of heaven with an enduring wonder. The early
evening had fallen chill, but the night was now temperate; out of
the recesses of the wood there came mild airs as from a deep and
peaceful breathing; and the dew was heavy on the grass and the
tight-shut daisies. This was the girl's first night under the naked
heaven; and now that her fears were overpast, she was touched to the
soul by its serene amenity and peace. Kindly the host of heaven
blinked down upon that wandering Princess; and the honest brook had
no words but to encourage her.
At last she began to be aware of a wonderful revolution, compared to
which the fire of Mittwalden Palace was but the crack and flash of a
percussion-cap. The countenance with which the pines regarded her
began insensibly to change; the grass too, short as it was, and the
whole winding staircase of the brook's course, began to wear a
solemn freshness of appearance. And this slow transfiguration
reached her heart, and played upon it, and transpierced it with a
serious thrill. She looked all about; the whole face of nature
looked back, brimful of meaning, finger on lip, leaking its glad
secret. She looked up. Heaven was almost emptied of stars. Such
as still lingered shone with a changed and waning brightness, and
began to faint in their stations. And the colour of the sky itself
was the most wonderful; for the rich blue of the night had now
melted and softened and brightened; and there had succeeded in its
place a hue that has no name, and that is never seen but as the
herald of morning. 'O!' she cried, joy catching at her voice, 'O!
it is the dawn!'
In a breath she passed over the brook, and looped up her skirts and
fairly ran in the dim alleys. As she ran, her ears were aware of
many pipings, more beautiful than music; in the small dish-shaped
houses in the fork of giant arms, where they had lain all night,
lover by lover, warmly pressed, the bright-eyed, big-hearted singers
began to awaken for the day. Her heart melted and flowed forth to
them in kindness. And they, from their small and high perches in
the clerestories of the wood cathedral, peered down sidelong at the
ragged Princess as she flitted below them on the carpet of the moss
and tassel.
Soon she had struggled to a certain hill-top, and saw far before her
the silent inflooding of the day. Out of the East it welled and
whitened; the darkness trembled into light; and the stars were
extinguished like the street-lamps of a human city. The whiteness
brightened into silver, the silver warmed into gold, the gold
kindled into pure and living fire; and the face of the East was
barred with elemental scarlet. The day drew its first long breath,
steady and chill; and for leagues around the woods sighed and
shivered. And then, at one bound, the sun had floated up; and her
startled eyes received day's first arrow, and quailed under the
buffet. On every side, the shadows leaped from their ambush and
fell prone. The day was come, plain and garish; and up the steep
and solitary eastern heaven, the sun, victorious over his
competitors, continued slowly and royally to mount.
Seraphina drooped for a little, leaning on a pine, the shrill joy of
the woodlands mocking her. The shelter of the night, the thrilling
and joyous changes of the dawn, were over; and now, in the hot eye
of the day, she turned uneasily and looked sighingly about her.
Some way off among the lower woods, a pillar of smoke was mounting
and melting in the gold and blue. There, surely enough, were human
folk, the hearth-surrounders. Man's fingers had laid the twigs; it
was man's breath that had quickened and encouraged the baby flames;
and now, as the fire caught, it would be playing ruddily on the face
of its creator. At the thought, she felt a-cold and little and lost
in that great out-of-doors. The electric shock of the young sunbeams
and the unhuman beauty of the woods began to irk and daunt
her. The covert of the house, the decent privacy of rooms, the
swept and regulated fire, all that denotes or beautifies the home
life of man, began to draw her as with cords. The pillar of smoke
was now risen into some stream of moving air; it began to lean out
sideways in a pennon; and thereupon, as though the change had been a
summons, Seraphina plunged once more into the labyrinth of the wood.
She left day upon the high ground. In the lower groves there still
lingered the blue early twilight and the seizing freshness of the
dew. But here and there, above this field of shadow, the head of a
great out-spread pine was already glorious with day; and here and
there, through the breaches of the hills, the sun-beams made a great
and luminous entry. Here Seraphina hastened along forest paths.
She had lost sight of the pilot smoke, which blew another way, and
conducted herself in that great wilderness by the direction of the
sun. But presently fresh signs bespoke the neighbourhood of man;
felled trunks, white slivers from the axe, bundles of green boughs,
and stacks of firewood. These guided her forward; until she came
forth at last upon the clearing whence the smoke arose. A hut stood
in the clear shadow, hard by a brook which made a series of
inconsiderable falls; and on the threshold the Princess saw a sunburnt
and hard-featured woodman, standing with his hands behind his
back and gazing skyward.
She went to him directly: a beautiful, bright-eyed, and haggard
vision; splendidly arrayed and pitifully tattered; the diamond eardrops
still glittering in her ears; and with the movement of her
coming, one small breast showing and hiding among the ragged covert
of the laces. At that ambiguous hour, and coming as she did from
the great silence of the forest, the man drew back from the Princess
as from something elfin.
'I am cold,' she said, 'and weary. Let me rest beside your fire.'
The woodman was visibly commoved, but answered nothing.
'I will pay,' she said, and then repented of the words, catching
perhaps a spark of terror from his frightened eyes. But, as usual,
her courage rekindled brighter for the check. She put him from the
door and entered; and he followed her in superstitious wonder.
Within, the hut was rough and dark; but on the stone that served as
hearth, twigs and a few dry branches burned with the brisk sounds
and all the variable beauty of fire. The very sight of it composed
her; she crouched hard by on the earth floor and shivered in the
glow, and looked upon the eating blaze with admiration. The woodman
was still staring at his guest: at the wreck of the rich dress, the
bare arms, the bedraggled laces and the gems. He found no word to
'Give me food,' said she, - 'here, by the fire.'
He set down a pitcher of coarse wine, bread, a piece of cheese, and
a handful of raw onions. The bread was hard and sour, the cheese
like leather; even the onion, which ranks with the truffle and the
nectarine in the chief place of honour of earth's fruits, is not
perhaps a dish for princesses when raw. But she ate, if not with
appetite, with courage; and when she had eaten, did not disdain the
pitcher. In all her life before, she had not tasted of gross food
nor drunk after another; but a brave woman far more readily accepts
a change of circumstances than the bravest man. All that while, the
woodman continued to observe her furtively, many low thoughts of
fear and greed contending in his eyes. She read them clearly, and
she knew she must begone.
Presently she arose and offered him a florin.
'Will that repay you?' she asked.
But here the man found his tongue. 'I must have more than that,'
said he.
'It is all I have to give you,' she returned, and passed him by
Yet her heart trembled, for she saw his hand stretched forth as if
to arrest her, and his unsteady eyes wandering to his axe. A beaten
path led westward from the clearing, and she swiftly followed it.
She did not glance behind her. But as soon as the least turning of
the path had concealed her from the woodman's eyes, she slipped
among the trees and ran till she deemed herself in safety.
By this time the strong sunshine pierced in a thousand places the
pine-thatch of the forest, fired the red boles, irradiated the cool
aisles of shadow, and burned in jewels on the grass. The gum of
these trees was dearer to the senses than the gums of Araby; each
pine, in the lusty morning sunlight, burned its own wood-incense;
and now and then a breeze would rise and toss these rooted censers,
and send shade and sun-gem flitting, swift as swallows, thick as
bees; and wake a brushing bustle of sounds that murmured and went
On she passed, and up and down, in sun and shadow; now aloft on the
bare ridge among the rocks and birches, with the lizards and the
snakes; and anon in the deep grove among sunless pillars. Now she
followed wandering wood-paths, in the maze of valleys; and again,
from a hill-top, beheld the distant mountains and the great birds
circling under the sky. She would see afar off a nestling hamlet,
and go round to avoid it. Below, she traced the course of the foam
of mountain torrents. Nearer hand, she saw where the tender springs
welled up in silence, or oozed in green moss; or in the more
favoured hollows a whole family of infant rivers would combine, and
tinkle in the stones, and lie in pools to be a bathing-place for
sparrows, or fall from the sheer rock in rods of crystal. Upon all
these things, as she still sped along in the bright air, she looked
with a rapture of surprise and a joyful fainting of the heart; they
seemed so novel, they touched so strangely home, they were so hued
and scented, they were so beset and canopied by the dome of the blue
air of heaven.
At length, when she was well weary, she came upon a wide and shallow
pool. Stones stood in it, like islands; bulrushes fringed the
coast; the floor was paved with the pine needles; and the pines
themselves, whose roots made promontories, looked down silently on
their green images. She crept to the margin and beheld herself with
wonder, a hollow and bright-eyed phantom, in the ruins of her palace
robe. The breeze now shook her image; now it would be marred with
flies; and at that she smiled; and from the fading circles, her
counterpart smiled back to her and looked kind. She sat long in the
warm sun, and pitied her bare arms that were all bruised and marred
with falling, and marvelled to see that she was dirty, and could not
grow to believe that she had gone so long in such a strange
Then, with a sigh, she addressed herself to make a toilette by that
forest mirror, washed herself pure from all the stains of her
adventure, took off her jewels and wrapped them in her handkerchief,
re-arranged the tatters of her dress, and took down the folds of her
hair. She shook it round her face, and the pool repeated her thus
veiled. Her hair had smelt like violets, she remembered Otto
saying; and so now she tried to smell it, and then shook her head,
and laughed a little, sadly, to herself.
The laugh was returned upon her in a childish echo.
She looked up; and lo! two children looking on, - a small girl and a
yet smaller boy, standing, like playthings, by the pool, below a
spreading pine. Seraphina was not fond of children, and now she was
startled to the heart.
'Who are you?' she cried hoarsely.
The mites huddled together and drew back; and Seraphina's heart
reproached her that she should have frightened things so quaint and
little, and yet alive with senses. She thought upon the birds and
looked again at her two visitors; so little larger and so far more
innocent. On their clear faces, as in a pool, she saw the
reflection of their fears. With gracious purpose she arose.
'Come,' she said, 'do not be afraid of me,' and took a step towards
But alas! at the first moment, the two poor babes in the wood turned
and ran helter-skelter from the Princess.
The most desolate pang was struck into the girl's heart. Here she
was, twenty-two - soon twenty-three - and not a creature loved her;
none but Otto; and would even he forgive? If she began weeping in
these woods alone, it would mean death or madness. Hastily she trod
the thoughts out like a burning paper; hastily rolled up her locks,
and with terror dogging her, and her whole bosom sick with grief,
resumed her journey.
Past ten in the forenoon, she struck a high-road, marching in that
place uphill between two stately groves, a river of sunlight; and
here, dead weary, careless of consequences, and taking some courage
from the human and civilised neighbourhood of the road, she
stretched herself on the green margin in the shadow of a tree.
Sleep closed on her, at first with a horror of fainting, but when
she ceased to struggle, kindly embracing her. So she was taken home
for a little, from all her toils and sorrows, to her Father's arms.
And there in the meanwhile her body lay exposed by the highwayside,
in tattered finery; and on either hand from the woods the birds came
flying by and calling upon others, and debated in their own tongue
this strange appearance.
The sun pursued his journey; the shadow flitted from her feet,
shrank higher and higher, and was upon the point of leaving her
altogether, when the rumble of a coach was signalled to and fro by
the birds. The road in that part was very steep; the rumble drew
near with great deliberation; and ten minutes passed before a
gentleman appeared, walking with a sober elderly gait upon the
grassy margin of the highway, and looking pleasantly around him as
he walked. From time to time he paused, took out his note-book and
made an entry with a pencil; and any spy who had been near enough
would have heard him mumbling words as though he were a poet testing
verses. The voice of the wheels was still faint, and it was plain
the traveller had far outstripped his carriage.
He had drawn very near to where the Princess lay asleep, before his
eye alighted on her; but when it did he started, pocketed his notebook,
and approached. There was a milestone close to where she lay;
and he sat down on that and coolly studied her. She lay upon one
side, all curled and sunken, her brow on one bare arm, the other
stretched out, limp and dimpled. Her young body, like a thing
thrown down, had scarce a mark of life. Her breathing stirred her
not. The deadliest fatigue was thus confessed in every language of
the sleeping flesh. The traveller smiled grimly. As though he had
looked upon a statue, he made a grudging inventory of her charms:
the figure in that touching freedom of forgetfulness surprised him;
the flush of slumber became her like a flower.
'Upon my word,' he thought, 'I did not think the girl could be so
pretty. And to think,' he added, 'that I am under obligation not to
use one word of this!' He put forth his stick and touched her; and
at that she awoke, sat up with a cry, and looked upon him wildly.
'I trust your Highness has slept well,' he said, nodding.
But she only uttered sounds.
'Compose yourself,' said he, giving her certainly a brave example in
his own demeanour. 'My chaise is close at hand; and I shall have, I
trust, the singular entertainment of abducting a sovereign
'Sir John!' she said, at last.
'At your Highness's disposal,' he replied.
She sprang to her feet. 'O!' she cried, 'have you come from
'This morning,' he returned, 'I left it; and if there is any one
less likely to return to it than yourself, behold him!'
'The Baron - ' she began, and paused.
'Madam,' he answered, 'it was well meant, and you are quite a
Judith; but after the hours that have elapsed, you will probably be
relieved to hear that he is fairly well. I took his news this
morning ere I left. Doing fairly well, they said, but suffering
acutely. Hey? - acutely. They could hear his groans in the next
'And the Prince,' she asked, 'is anything known of him?'
'It is reported,' replied Sir John, with the same pleasurable
deliberation, 'that upon that point your Highness is the best
'Sir John,' she said eagerly, 'you were generous enough to speak
about your carriage. Will you, I beseech you, will you take me to
the Felsenburg? I have business there of an extreme importance.'
'I can refuse you nothing,' replied the old gentleman, gravely and
seriously enough. 'Whatever, madam, it is in my power to do for
you, that shall be done with pleasure. As soon as my chaise shall
overtake us, it is yours to carry you where you will. But,' added
he, reverting to his former manner, 'I observe you ask me nothing of
the Palace.'
'I do not care,' she said. 'I thought I saw it burning.'
'Prodigious!' said the Baronet. 'You thought? And can the loss of
forty toilettes leave you cold? Well, madam, I admire your
fortitude. And the state, too? As I left, the government was
sitting, - the new government, of which at least two members must be
known to you by name: Sabra, who had, I believe, the benefit of
being formed in your employment - a footman, am I right? - and our
old friend the Chancellor, in something of a subaltern position.
But in these convulsions the last shall be first, and the first
'Sir John,' she said, with an air of perfect honesty, 'I am sure you
mean most kindly, but these matters have no interest for me.'
The Baronet was so utterly discountenanced that he hailed the
appearance of his chaise with welcome, and, by way of saying
something, proposed that they should walk back to meet it. So it
was done; and he helped her in with courtesy, mounted to her side,
and from various receptacles (for the chaise was most completely
fitted out) produced fruits and truffled liver, beautiful white
bread, and a bottle of delicate wine. With these he served her like
a father, coaxing and praising her to fresh exertions; and during
all that time, as though silenced by the laws of hospitality, he was
not guilty of the shadow of a sneer. Indeed his kindness seemed so
genuine that Seraphina was moved to gratitude.
'Sir John,' she said, 'you hate me in your heart; why are you so
kind to me?'
'Ah, my good lady,' said he, with no disclaimer of the accusation,
'I have the honour to be much your husband's friend, and somewhat
his admirer.'
'You!' she cried. 'They told me you wrote cruelly of both of us.'
'Such was the strange path by which we grew acquainted,' said Sir
John. 'I had written, madam, with particular cruelty (since that
shall be the phrase) of your fair self. Your husband set me at
liberty, gave me a passport, ordered a carriage, and then, with the
most boyish spirit, challenged me to fight. Knowing the nature of
his married life, I thought the dash and loyalty he showed
delightful. "Do not be afraid," says he; "if I am killed, there is
nobody to miss me." It appears you subsequently thought of that
yourself. But I digress. I explained to him it was impossible that
I could fight! "Not if I strike you?" says he. Very droll; I wish
I could have put it in my book. However, I was conquered, took the
young gentleman to my high favour, and tore up my bits of scandal on
the spot. That is one of the little favours, madam, that you owe
your husband.'
Seraphina sat for some while in silence. She could bear to be
misjudged without a pang by those whom she contemned; she had none
of Otto's eagerness to be approved, but went her own way straight
and head in air. To Sir John, however, after what he had said, and
as her husband's friend, she was prepared to stoop.
'What do you think of me?' she asked abruptly.
'I have told you already,' said Sir John: 'I think you want another
glass of my good wine.'
'Come,' she said, 'this is unlike you. You are not wont to be
afraid. You say that you admire my husband: in his name, be
'I admire your courage,' said the Baronet. 'Beyond that, as you
have guessed, and indeed said, our natures are not sympathetic.'
'You spoke of scandal,' pursued Seraphina. 'Was the scandal great?'
'It was considerable,' said Sir John.
'And you believed it?' she demanded.
'O, madam,' said Sir John, 'the question!'
'Thank you for that answer!' cried Seraphina. 'And now here, I will
tell you, upon my honour, upon my soul, in spite of all the scandal
in this world, I am as true a wife as ever stood.'
'We should probably not agree upon a definition,' observed Sir John.
'O!' she cried, 'I have abominably used him - I know that; it is not
that I mean. But if you admire my husband, I insist that you shall
understand me: I can look him in the face without a blush.'
'It may be, madam,' said Sir John; 'nor have I presumed to think the
'You will not believe me?' she cried. 'You think I am a guilty
wife? You think he was my lover?'
'Madam,' returned the Baronet, 'when I tore up my papers, I promised
your good husband to concern myself no more with your affairs; and I
assure you for the last time that I have no desire to judge you.'
'But you will not acquit me! Ah!' she cried, 'HE will - he knows me
Sir John smiled.
'You smile at my distress?' asked Seraphina.
'At your woman's coolness,' said Sir John. 'A man would scarce have
had the courage of that cry, which was, for all that, very natural,
and I make no doubt quite true. But remark, madam - since you do me
the honour to consult me gravely - I have no pity for what you call
your distresses. You have been completely selfish, and now reap the
consequence. Had you once thought of your husband, instead of
singly thinking of yourself, you would not now have been alone, a
fugitive, with blood upon your hands, and hearing from a morose old
Englishman truth more bitter than scandal.'
'I thank you,' she said, quivering. 'This is very true. Will you
stop the carriage?'
'No, child,' said Sir John, 'not until I see you mistress of
There was a long pause, during which the carriage rolled by rock and
'And now,' she resumed, with perfect steadiness, 'will you consider
me composed? I request you, as a gentleman, to let me out.'
'I think you do unwisely,' he replied. 'Continue, if you please, to
use my carriage.'
'Sir John,' she said, 'if death were sitting on that pile of stones,
I would alight! I do not blame, I thank you; I now know how I
appear to others; but sooner than draw breath beside a man who can
so think of me, I would - O!' she cried, and was silent.
Sir John pulled the string, alighted, and offered her his hand; but
she refused the help.
The road had now issued from the valleys in which it had been
winding, and come to that part of its course where it runs, like a
cornice, along the brow of the steep northward face of Grunewald.
The place where they had alighted was at a salient angle; a bold
rock and some wind-tortured pine-trees overhung it from above; far
below the blue plains lay forth and melted into heaven; and before
them the road, by a succession of bold zigzags, was seen mounting to
where a tower upon a tall cliff closed the view.
'There,' said the Baronet, pointing to the tower, 'you see the
Felsenburg, your goal. I wish you a good journey, and regret I
cannot be of more assistance.'
He mounted to his place and gave a signal, and the carriage rolled
Seraphina stood by the wayside, gazing before her with blind eyes.
Sir John she had dismissed already from her mind: she hated him,
that was enough; for whatever Seraphina hated or contemned fell
instantly to Lilliputian smallness, and was thenceforward steadily
ignored in thought. And now she had matter for concern indeed. Her
interview with Otto, which she had never yet forgiven him, began to
appear before her in a very different light. He had come to her,
still thrilling under recent insult, and not yet breathed from
fighting her own cause; and how that knowledge changed the value of
his words! Yes, he must have loved her! this was a brave feeling -
it was no mere weakness of the will. And she, was she incapable of
love? It would appear so; and she swallowed her tears, and yearned
to see Otto, to explain all, to ask pity upon her knees for her
transgressions, and, if all else were now beyond the reach of
reparation, to restore at least the liberty of which she had
deprived him.
Swiftly she sped along the highway, and, as the road wound out and
in about the bluffs and gullies of the mountain, saw and lost by
glimpses the tall tower that stood before and above her, purpled by
the mountain air.
WHEN Otto mounted to his rolling prison he found another occupant in
a corner of the front seat; but as this person hung his head and the
brightness of the carriage lamps shone outward, the Prince could
only see it was a man. The Colonel followed his prisoner and
clapped-to the door; and at that the four horses broke immediately
into a swinging trot.
'Gentlemen,' said the Colonel, after some little while had passed,
'if we are to travel in silence, we might as well be at home. I
appear, of course, in an invidious character; but I am a man of
taste, fond of books and solidly informing talk, and unfortunately
condemned for life to the guard-room. Gentlemen, this is my chance:
don't spoil it for me. I have here the pick of the whole court,
barring lovely woman; I have a great author in the person of the
Doctor - '
'Gotthold!' cried Otto.
'It appears,' said the Doctor bitterly, 'that we must go together.
Your Highness had not calculated upon that.'
'What do you infer?' cried Otto; 'that I had you arrested?'
'The inference is simple,' said the Doctor.
'Colonel Gordon,' said the Prince, 'oblige me so far, and set me
right with Herr von Hohenstockwitz.'
'Gentlemen,' said the Colonel, 'you are both arrested on the same
warrant in the name of the Princess Seraphina, acting regent,
countersigned by Prime Minister Freiherr von Gondremark, and dated
the day before yesterday, the twelfth. I reveal to you the secrets
of the prison-house,' he added.
'Otto,' said Gotthold, 'I ask you to pardon my suspicions.'
'Gotthold,' said the Prince, 'I am not certain I can grant you
'Your Highness is, I am sure, far too magnanimous to hesitate,' said
the Colonel. 'But allow me: we speak at home in my religion of the
means of grace: and I now propose to offer them.' So saying, the
Colonel lighted a bright lamp which he attached to one side of the
carriage, and from below the front seat produced a goodly basket
adorned with the long necks of bottles. 'TU SPEM REDUCIS - how does
it go, Doctor?' he asked gaily. 'I am, in a sense, your host; and I
am sure you are both far too considerate of my embarrassing position
to refuse to do me honour. Gentlemen, I drink to the Prince!'
'Colonel,' said Otto, 'we have a jovial entertainer. I drink to
Colonel Gordon.'
Thereupon all three took their wine very pleasantly; and even as
they did so, the carriage with a lurch turned into the high-road and
began to make better speed.
All was bright within; the wine had coloured Gotthold's cheek; dim
forms of forest trees, dwindling and spiring, scarves of the starry
sky, now wide and now narrow, raced past the windows, through one
that was left open the air of the woods came in with a nocturnal
raciness; and the roll of wheels and the tune of the trotting horses
sounded merrily on the ear. Toast followed toast; glass after glass
was bowed across and emptied by the trio; and presently there began
to fall upon them a luxurious spell, under the influence of which
little but the sound of quiet and confidential laughter interrupted
the long intervals of meditative silence.
'Otto,' said Gotthold, after one of these seasons of quiet, 'I do
not ask you to forgive me. Were the parts reversed, I could not
forgive you.'
'Well,' said Otto, 'it is a phrase we use. I do forgive you, but
your words and your suspicions rankle; and not yours alone. It is
idle, Colonel Gordon, in view of the order you are carrying out, to
conceal from you the dissensions of my family; they have gone so far
that they are now public property. Well, gentlemen, can I forgive
my wife? I can, of course, and do; but in what sense? I would
certainly not stoop to any revenge; as certainly I could not think
of her but as one changed beyond my recognition.'
'Allow me,' returned the Colonel. 'You will permit me to hope that
I am addressing Christians? We are all conscious, I trust, that we
are miserable sinners.'
'I disown the consciousness,' said Gotthold. 'Warmed with this good
fluid, I deny your thesis.'
'How, sir? You never did anything wrong? and I heard you asking
pardon but this moment, not of your God, sir, but of a common
fellow-worm!' the Colonel cried.
'I own you have me; you are expert in argument, Heir Oberst,' said
the Doctor.
'Begad, sir, I am proud to hear you say so,' said the Colonel. 'I
was well grounded indeed at Aberdeen. And as for this matter of
forgiveness, it comes, sir, of loose views and (what is if anything
more dangerous) a regular life. A sound creed and a bad morality,
that's the root of wisdom. You two gentlemen are too good to be
'The paradox is somewhat forced,' said Gotthold.
'Pardon me, Colonel,' said the Prince; 'I readily acquit you of any
design of offence, but your words bite like satire. Is this a time,
do you think, when I can wish to hear myself called good, now that I
am paying the penalty (and am willing like yourself to think it
just) of my prolonged misconduct?'
'O, pardon me!' cried the Colonel. 'You have never been expelled
from the divinity hall; you have never been broke. I was: broke for
a neglect of military duty. To tell you the open truth, your
Highness, I was the worse of drink; it's a thing I never do now,' he
added, taking out his glass. 'But a man, you see, who has really
tasted the defects of his own character, as I have, and has come to
regard himself as a kind of blind teetotum knocking about life,
begins to learn a very different view about forgiveness. I will
talk of not forgiving others, sir, when I have made out to forgive
myself, and not before; and the date is like to be a long one. My
father, the Reverend Alexander Gordon, was a good man, and damned
hard upon others. I am what they call a bad one, and that is just
the difference. The man who cannot forgive any mortal thing is a
green hand in life.'
'And yet I have heard of you, Colonel, as a duellist,' said
'A different thing, sir,' replied the soldier. 'Professional
etiquette. And I trust without unchristian feeling.'
Presently after the Colonel fell into a deep sleep and his
companions looked upon each other, smiling.
'An odd fish,' said Gotthold.
'And a strange guardian,' said the Prince. 'Yet what he said was
'Rightly looked upon,' mused Gotthold, 'it is ourselves that we
cannot forgive, when we refuse forgiveness to our friend. Some
strand of our own misdoing is involved in every quarrel.'
'Are there not offences that disgrace the pardoner?' asked Otto.
'Are there not bounds of self-respect?'
'Otto,' said Gotthold, 'does any man respect himself? To this poor
waif of a soldier of fortune we may seem respectable gentlemen; but
to ourselves, what are we unless a pasteboard portico and a
deliquium of deadly weaknesses within?'
'I? yes,' said Otto; 'but you, Gotthold - you, with your
interminable industry, your keen mind, your books - serving mankind,
scorning pleasures and temptations! You do not know how I envy
'Otto,' said the Doctor, 'in one word, and a bitter one to say: I am
a secret tippler. Yes, I drink too much. The habit has robbed
these very books, to which you praise my devotion, of the merits
that they should have had. It has spoiled my temper. When I spoke
to you the other day, how much of my warmth was in the cause of
virtue? how much was the fever of last night's wine? Ay, as my poor
fellow-sot there said, and as I vaingloriously denied, we are all
miserable sinners, put here for a moment, knowing the good, choosing
the evil, standing naked and ashamed in the eye of God.'
'Is it so?' said Otto. 'Why, then, what are we? Are the very best
- '
'There is no best in man,' said Gotthold. 'I am not better, it is
likely I am not worse, than you or that poor sleeper. I was a sham,
and now you know me: that is all.'
'And yet it has not changed my love,' returned Otto softly. 'Our
misdeeds do not change us. Gotthold, fill your glass. Let us drink
to what is good in this bad business; let us drink to our old
affection; and, when we have done so, forgive your too just grounds
of offence, and drink with me to my wife, whom I have so misused,
who has so misused me, and whom I have left, I fear, I greatly fear,
in danger. What matters it how bad we are, if others can still love
us, and we can still love others?'
'Ay!' replied the Doctor. 'It is very well said. It is the true
answer to the pessimist, and the standing miracle of mankind. So
you still love me? and so you can forgive your wife? Why, then, we
may bid conscience "Down, dog," like an ill-trained puppy yapping at
The pair fell into silence, the Doctor tapping on his empty glass.
The carriage swung forth out of the valleys on that open balcony of
high-road that runs along the front of Grunewald, looking down on
Gerolstein. Far below, a white waterfall was shining to the stars
from the falling skirts of forest, and beyond that, the night stood
naked above the plain. On the other hand, the lamp-light skimmed
the face of the precipices, and the dwarf pine-trees twinkled with
all their needles, and were gone again into the wake. The granite
roadway thundered under wheels and hoofs; and at times, by reason of
its continual winding, Otto could see the escort on the other side
of a ravine, riding well together in the night. Presently the
Felsenburg came plainly in view, some way above them, on a bold
projection of the mountain, and planting its bulk against the starry
'See, Gotthold,' said the Prince, 'our destination.'
Gotthold awoke as from a trance.
'I was thinking,' said he, 'if there is any danger, why did you not
resist? I was told you came of your free will; but should you not
be there to help her?'
The colour faded from the Prince's cheeks.
WHEN the busy Countess came forth from her interview with Seraphina,
it is not too much to say that she was beginning to be terribly
afraid. She paused in the corridor and reckoned up her doings with
an eye to Gondremark. The fan was in requisition in an instant; but
her disquiet was beyond the reach of fanning. 'The girl has lost
her head,' she thought; and then dismally, 'I have gone too far.'
She instantly decided on secession. Now the MONS SACER of the Frau
von Rosen was a certain rustic villa in the forest, called by
herself, in a smart attack of poesy, Tannen Zauber, and by everybody
else plain Kleinbrunn.
Thither, upon the thought, she furiously drove, passing Gondremark
at the entrance to the Palace avenue, but feigning not to observe
him; and as Kleinbrunn was seven good miles away, and in the bottom
of a narrow dell, she passed the night without any rumour of the
outbreak reaching her; and the glow of the conflagration was
concealed by intervening hills. Frau von Rosen did not sleep well;
she was seriously uneasy as to the results of her delightful
evening, and saw herself condemned to quite a lengthy sojourn in her
deserts and a long defensive correspondence, ere she could venture
to return to Gondremark. On the other hand, she examined, by way of
pastime, the deeds she had received from Otto; and even here saw
cause for disappointment. In these troublous days she had no taste
for landed property, and she was convinced, besides, that Otto had
paid dearer than the farm was worth. Lastly, the order for the
Prince's release fairly burned her meddling fingers.
All things considered, the next day beheld an elegant and beautiful
lady, in a riding-habit and a flapping hat, draw bridle at the gate
of the Felsenburg, not perhaps with any clear idea of her purpose,
but with her usual experimental views on life. Governor Gordon,
summoned to the gate, welcomed the omnipotent Countess with his most
gallant bearing, though it was wonderful how old he looked in the
'Ah, Governor,' she said, 'we have surprises for you, sir,' and
nodded at him meaningly.
'Eh, madam, leave me my prisoners,' he said; 'and if you will but
join the band, begad, I'll be happy for life.'
'You would spoil me, would you not?' she asked.
'I would try, I would try,' returned the Governor, and he offered
her his arm.
She took it, picked up her skirt, and drew him close to her. 'I
have come to see the Prince,' she said. 'Now, infidel! on business.
A message from that stupid Gondremark, who keeps me running like a
courier. Do I look like one, Herr Gordon?' And she planted her eyes
in him.
'You look like an angel, ma'am,' returned the Governor, with a great
air of finished gallantry.
The Countess laughed. 'An angel on horseback!' she said. 'Quick
'You came, you saw, you conquered,' flourished Gordon, in high good
humour with his own wit and grace. 'We toasted you, madam, in the
carriage, in an excellent good glass of wine; toasted you fathom
deep; the finest woman, with, begad, the finest eyes in Grunewald.
I never saw the like of them but once, in my own country, when I was
a young fool at College: Thomasina Haig her name was. I give you my
word of honour, she was as like you as two peas.'
'And so you were merry in the carriage?' asked the Countess,
gracefully dissembling a yawn.
'We were; we had a very pleasant conversation; but we took perhaps a
glass more than that fine fellow of a Prince has been accustomed
to,' said the Governor; 'and I observe this morning that he seems a
little off his mettle. We'll get him mellow again ere bedtime.
This is his door.'
'Well,' she whispered, 'let me get my breath. No, no; wait. Have
the door ready to open.' And the Countess, standing like one
inspired, shook out her fine voice in 'Lascia ch'io pianga'; and
when she had reached the proper point, and lyrically uttered forth
her sighings after liberty, the door, at a sign, was flung wide
open, and she swam into the Prince's sight, bright-eyed, and with
her colour somewhat freshened by the exercise of singing. It was a
great dramatic entrance, and to the somewhat doleful prisoner within
the sight was sunshine.
'Ah, madam,' he cried, running to her - 'you here!'
She looked meaningly at Gordon; and as soon as the door was closed
she fell on Otto's neck. 'To see you here!' she moaned and clung to
But the Prince stood somewhat stiffly in that enviable situation,
and the Countess instantly recovered from her outburst.
'Poor child,' she said, 'poor child! Sit down beside me here, and
tell me all about it. My heart really bleeds to see you. How does
time go?'
'Madam,' replied the Prince, sitting down beside her, his gallantry
recovered, 'the time will now go all too quickly till you leave.
But I must ask you for the news. I have most bitterly condemned
myself for my inertia of last night. You wisely counselled me; it
was my duty to resist. You wisely and nobly counselled me; I have
since thought of it with wonder. You have a noble heart.'
'Otto,' she said, 'spare me. Was it even right, I wonder? I have
duties, too, you poor child; and when I see you they all melt - all
my good resolutions fly away.'
'And mine still come too late,' he replied, sighing. 'O, what would
I not give to have resisted? What would I not give for freedom?'
'Well, what would you give?' she asked; and the red fan was spread;
only her eyes, as if from over battlements, brightly surveyed him.
'I? What do you mean? Madam, you have some news for me,' he cried.
'O, O!' said madam dubiously.
He was at her feet. 'Do not trifle with my hopes,' he pleaded.
'Tell me, dearest Madame von Rosen, tell me! You cannot be cruel:
it is not in your nature. Give? I can give nothing; I have
nothing; I can only plead in mercy.'
'Do not,' she said; 'it is not fair. Otto, you know my weakness.
Spare me. Be generous.'
'O, madam,' he said, 'it is for you to be generous, to have pity.'
He took her hand and pressed it; he plied her with caresses and
appeals. The Countess had a most enjoyable sham siege, and then
relented. She sprang to her feet, she tore her dress open, and, all
warm from her bosom, threw the order on the floor.
'There!' she cried. 'I forced it from her. Use it, and I am
ruined!' And she turned away as if to veil the force of her
Otto sprang upon the paper, read it, and cried out aloud. 'O, God
bless her!' he said, 'God bless her.' And he kissed the writing.
Von Rosen was a singularly good-natured woman, but her part was now
beyond her. 'Ingrate!' she cried; 'I wrung it from her, I betrayed
my trust to get it, and 'tis she you thank!'
'Can you blame me?' said the Prince. 'I love her.'
'I see that,' she said. 'And I?'
'You, Madame von Rosen? You are my dearest, my kindest, and most
generous of friends,' he said, approaching her. 'You would be a
perfect friend, if you were not so lovely. You have a great sense
of humour, you cannot be unconscious of your charm, and you amuse
yourself at times by playing on my weakness; and at times I can take
pleasure in the comedy. But not to-day: to-day you will be the
true, the serious, the manly friend, and you will suffer me to
forget that you are lovely and that I am weak. Come, dear Countess,
let me to-day repose in you entirely.'
He held out his hand, smiling, and she took it frankly. 'I vow you
have bewitched me,' she said; and then with a laugh, 'I break my
staff!' she added; 'and I must pay you my best compliment. You made
a difficult speech. You are as adroit, dear Prince, as I am -
charming.' And as she said the word with a great curtsey, she
justified it.
'You hardly keep the bargain, madam, when you make yourself so
beautiful,' said the Prince, bowing.
'It was my last arrow,' she returned. 'I am disarmed. Blank
cartridge, O MON PRINCE! And now I tell you, if you choose to leave
this prison, you can, and I am ruined. Choose!'
'Madame von Rosen,' replied Otto, 'I choose, and I will go. My duty
points me, duty still neglected by this Featherhead. But do not
fear to be a loser. I propose instead that you should take me with
you, a bear in chains, to Baron Gondremark. I am become perfectly
unscrupulous: to save my wife I will do all, all he can ask or
fancy. He shall be filled; were he huge as leviathan and greedy as
the grave, I will content him. And you, the fairy of our pantomime,
shall have the credit.'
'Done!' she cried. 'Admirable! Prince Charming no longer - Prince
Sorcerer, Prince Solon! Let us go this moment. Stay,' she cried,
pausing. 'I beg dear Prince, to give you back these deeds. 'Twas
you who liked the farm - I have not seen it; and it was you who
wished to benefit the peasants. And, besides,' she added, with a
comical change of tone, 'I should prefer the ready money.'
Both laughed. 'Here I am, once more a farmer,' said Otto, accepting
the papers, 'but overwhelmed in debt.'
The Countess touched a bell, and the Governor appeared.
'Governor,' she said, 'I am going to elope with his Highness. The
result of our talk has been a thorough understanding, and the COUP
D'ETAT is over. Here is the order.'
Colonel Gordon adjusted silver spectacles upon his nose. 'Yes,' he
said, 'the Princess: very right. But the warrant, madam, was
'By Heinrich!' said von Rosen. 'Well, and here am I to represent
'Well, your Highness,' resumed the soldier of fortune, 'I must
congratulate you upon my loss. You have been cut out by beauty, and
I am left lamenting. The Doctor still remains to me: PROBUS,
DOCTUS, LEPIDUS, JUCUNDUS: a man of books.'
'Ay, there is nothing about poor Gotthold,' said the Prince.
'The Governor's consolation? Would you leave him bare?' asked von
'And, your Highness,' resumed Gordon, 'may I trust that in the
course of this temporary obscuration, you have found me discharge my
part with suitable respect and, I may add, tact? I adopted
purposely a cheerfulness of manner; mirth, it appeared to me, and a
good glass of wine, were the fit alleviations.'
'Colonel,' said Otto, holding out his hand, 'your society was of
itself enough. I do not merely thank you for your pleasant spirits;
I have to thank you, besides, for some philosophy, of which I stood
in need. I trust I do not see you for the last time; and in the
meanwhile, as a memento of our strange acquaintance, let me offer
you these verses on which I was but now engaged. I am so little of
a poet, and was so ill inspired by prison bars, that they have some
claim to be at least a curiosity.'
The Colonel's countenance lighted as he took the paper; the silver
spectacles were hurriedly replaced. 'Ha!' he said, 'Alexandrines,
the tragic metre. I shall cherish this, your Highness, like a
relic; no more suitable offering, although I say it, could be made.
said, 'very good indeed! "ET DU GEOLIER LUI-MEME APPRENDRE DES
LECONS." Most handsome, begad!'
'Come, Governor,' cried the Countess, 'you can read his poetry when
we are gone. Open your grudging portals.'
'I ask your pardon,' said the Colonel. 'To a man of my character
and tastes, these verses, this handsome reference - most moving, I
assure you. Can I offer you an escort?'
'No, no,' replied the Countess. 'We go incogniti, as we arrived.
We ride together; the Prince will take my servant's horse. Hurry
and privacy, Herr Oberst, that is all we seek.' And she began
impatiently to lead the way.
But Otto had still to bid farewell to Dr. Gotthold; and the Governor
following, with his spectacles in one hand and the paper in the
other, had still to communicate his treasured verses, piece by
piece, as he succeeded in deciphering the manuscript, to all he came
across; and still his enthusiasm mounted. 'I declare,' he cried at
last, with the air of one who has at length divined a mystery, 'they
remind me of Robbie Burns!'
But there is an end to all things; and at length Otto was walking by
the side of Madame von Rosen, along that mountain wall, her servant
following with both the horses, and all about them sunlight, and
breeze, and flying bird, and the vast regions of the air, and the
capacious prospect: wildwood and climbing pinnacle, and the sound
and voice of mountain torrents, at their hand: and far below them,
green melting into sapphire on the plains.
They walked at first in silence; for Otto's mind was full of the
delight of liberty and nature, and still, betweenwhiles, he was
preparing his interview with Gondremark. But when the first rough
promontory of the rock was turned, and the Felsenburg concealed
behind its bulk, the lady paused.
'Here,' she said, 'I will dismount poor Karl, and you and I must ply
our spurs. I love a wild ride with a good companion.'
As she spoke, a carriage came into sight round the corner next below
them in the order of the road. It came heavily creaking, and a
little ahead of it a traveller was soberly walking, note-book in
'It is Sir John,' cried Otto, and he hailed him.
The Baronet pocketed his note-book, stared through an eye-glass, and
then waved his stick; and he on his side, and the Countess and the
Prince on theirs, advanced with somewhat quicker steps. They met at
the re-entrant angle, where a thin stream sprayed across a boulder
and was scattered in rain among the brush; and the Baronet saluted
the Prince with much punctilio. To the Countess, on the other hand,
he bowed with a kind of sneering wonder.
'Is it possible, madam, that you have not heard the news?' he asked.
'What news?' she cried.
'News of the first order,' returned Sir John: 'a revolution in the
State, a Republic declared, the palace burned to the ground, the
Princess in flight, Gondremark wounded - '
'Heinrich wounded?' she screamed.
'Wounded and suffering acutely,' said Sir John. 'His groans - '
There fell from the lady's lips an oath so potent that, in smoother
hours, it would have made her hearers jump. She ran to her horse,
scrambled to the saddle, and, yet half seated, dashed down the road
at full gallop. The groom, after a pause of wonder, followed her.
The rush of her impetuous passage almost scared the carriage horses
over the verge of the steep hill; and still she clattered further,
and the crags echoed to her flight, and still the groom flogged
vainly in pursuit of her. At the fourth corner, a woman trailing
slowly up leaped back with a cry and escaped death by a hand'sbreadth.
But the Countess wasted neither glance nor thought upon
the incident. Out and in, about the bluffs of the mountain wall,
she fled, loose-reined, and still the groom toiled in her pursuit.
'A most impulsive lady!' said Sir John. 'Who would have thought she
cared for him?' And before the words were uttered, he was
struggling in the Prince's grasp.
'My wife! the Princess? What of her?'
'She is down the road,' he gasped. 'I left her twenty minutes
And next moment, the choked author stood alone, and the Prince on
foot was racing down the hill behind the Countess.
WHILE the feet of the Prince continued to run swiftly, his heart,
which had at first by far outstripped his running, soon began to
linger and hang back. Not that he ceased to pity the misfortune or
to yearn for the sight of Seraphina; but the memory of her obdurate
coldness awoke within him, and woke in turn his own habitual
diffidence of self. Had Sir John been given time to tell him all,
had he even known that she was speeding to the Felsenburg, he would
have gone to her with ardour. As it was, he began to see himself
once more intruding, profiting, perhaps, by her misfortune, and now
that she was fallen, proffering unloved caresses to the wife who had
spurned him in prosperity. The sore spots upon his vanity began to
burn; once more, his anger assumed the carriage of a hostile
generosity; he would utterly forgive indeed; he would help, save,
and comfort his unloving wife; but all with distant self-denial,
imposing silence on his heart, respecting Seraphina's disaffection
as he would the innocence of a child. So, when at length he turned
a corner and beheld the Princess, it was his first thought to
reassure her of the purity of his respect, and he at once ceased
running and stood still. She, upon her part, began to run to him
with a little cry; then, seeing him pause, she paused also, smitten
with remorse; and at length, with the most guilty timidity, walked
nearly up to where he stood.
'Otto,' she said, 'I have ruined all!'
'Seraphina!' he cried with a sob, but did not move, partly withheld
by his resolutions, partly struck stupid at the sight of her
weariness and disorder. Had she stood silent, they had soon been
locked in an embrace. But she too had prepared herself against the
interview, and must spoil the golden hour with protestations.
'All!' she went on, 'I have ruined all! But, Otto, in kindness you
must hear me - not justify, but own, my faults. I have been taught
so cruelly; I have had such time for thought, and see the world so
changed. I have been blind, stone-blind; I have let all true good
go by me, and lived on shadows. But when this dream fell, and I had
betrayed you, and thought I had killed - ' She paused. 'I thought
I had killed Gondremark,' she said with a deep flush, 'and I found
myself alone, as you said.'
The mention of the name of Gondremark pricked the Princes generosity
like a spur. 'Well,' he cried, 'and whose fault was it but mine?
It was my duty to be beside you, loved or not. But I was a skulker
in the grain, and found it easier to desert than to oppose you. I
could never learn that better part of love, to fight love's battles.
But yet the love was there. And now when this toy kingdom of ours
has fallen, first of all by my demerits, and next by your
inexperience, and we are here alone together, as poor as Job and
merely a man and a woman - let me conjure you to forgive the
weakness and to repose in the love. Do not mistake me!' he cried,
seeing her about to speak, and imposing silence with uplifted hand.
'My love is changed; it is purged of any conjugal pretension; it
does not ask, does not hope, does not wish for a return in kind.
You may forget for ever that part in which you found me so
distasteful, and accept without embarrassment the affection of a
'You are too generous, Otto,' she said. 'I know that I have
forfeited your love. I cannot take this sacrifice. You had far
better leave me. O, go away, and leave me to my fate!'
'O no!' said Otto; 'we must first of all escape out of this hornet's
nest, to which I led you. My honour is engaged. I said but now we
were as poor as Job; and behold! not many miles from here I have a
house of my own to which I will conduct you. Otto the Prince being
down, we must try what luck remains to Otto the Hunter. Come,
Seraphina; show that you forgive me, and let us set about this
business of escape in the best spirits possible. You used to say,
my dear, that, except as a husband and a prince, I was a pleasant
fellow. I am neither now, and you may like my company without
remorse. Come, then; it were idle to be captured. Can you still
walk? Forth, then,' said he, and he began to lead the way.
A little below where they stood, a good-sized brook passed below the
road, which overleapt it in a single arch. On one bank of that
loquacious water a foot-path descended a green dell. Here it was
rocky and stony, and lay on the steep scarps of the ravine; here it
was choked with brambles; and there, in fairy haughs, it lay for a
few paces evenly on the green turf. Like a sponge, the hillside
oozed with well-water. The burn kept growing both in force and
volume; at every leap it fell with heavier plunges and span more
widely in the pool. Great had been the labours of that stream, and
great and agreeable the changes it had wrought. It had cut through
dykes of stubborn rock, and now, like a blowing dolphin, spouted
through the orifice; along all its humble coasts, it had undermined
and rafted-down the goodlier timber of the forest; and on these
rough clearings it now set and tended primrose gardens, and planted
woods of willow, and made a favourite of the silver birch. Through
all these friendly features the path, its human acolyte, conducted
our two wanderers downward, - Otto before, still pausing at the more
difficult passages to lend assistance; the Princess following. From
time to time, when he turned to help her, her face would lighten
upon his - her eyes, half desperately, woo him. He saw, but dared
not understand. 'She does not love me,' he told himself, with
magnanimity. 'This is remorse or gratitude; I were no gentleman,
no, nor yet a man, if I presumed upon these pitiful concessions.'
Some way down the glen, the stream, already grown to a good bulk of
water, was rudely dammed across, and about a third of it abducted in
a wooden trough. Gaily the pure water, air's first cousin, fleeted
along the rude aqueduct, whose sides and floor it had made green
with grasses. The path, bearing it close company, threaded a
wilderness of briar and wild-rose. And presently, a little in
front, the brown top of a mill and the tall mill-wheel, spraying
diamonds, arose in the narrows of the glen; at the same time the
snoring music of the saws broke the silence.
The miller, hearing steps, came forth to his door, and both he and
Otto started.
'Good-morning, miller,' said the Prince. 'You were right, it seems,
and I was wrong. I give you the news, and bid you to Mittwalden.
My throne has fallen - great was the fall of it! - and your good
friends of the Phoenix bear the rule.'
The red-faced miller looked supreme astonishment. 'And your
Highness?' he gasped.
'My Highness is running away,' replied Otto, 'straight for the
'Leaving Grunewald?' cried the man. 'Your father's son? It's not
to be permitted!'
'Do you arrest us, friend?' asked Otto, smiling.
'Arrest you? I?' exclaimed the man. 'For what does your Highness
take me? Why, sir, I make sure there is not a man in Grunewald
would lay hands upon you.'
'O, many, many,' said the Prince; 'but from you, who were bold with
me in my greatness, I should even look for aid in my distress.'
The miller became the colour of beetroot. 'You may say so indeed,'
said he. 'And meanwhile, will you and your lady step into my
'We have not time for that,' replied the Prince; 'but if you would
oblige us with a cup of wine without here, you will give a pleasure
and a service, both in one.'
The miller once more coloured to the nape. He hastened to bring
forth wine in a pitcher and three bright crystal tumblers. 'Your
Highness must not suppose,' he said, as he filled them, 'that I am
an habitual drinker. The time when I had the misfortune to
encounter you, I was a trifle overtaken, I allow; but a more sober
man than I am in my ordinary, I do not know where you are to look
for; and even this glass that I drink to you (and to the lady) is
quite an unusual recreation.'
The wine was drunk with due rustic courtesies; and then, refusing
further hospitality, Otto and Seraphina once more proceeded to
descend the glen, which now began to open and to be invaded by the
taller trees.
'I owed that man a reparation,' said the Prince; 'for when we met I
was in the wrong and put a sore affront upon him. I judge by
myself, perhaps; but I begin to think that no one is the better for
a humiliation.'
'But some have to be taught so,' she replied.
'Well, well,' he said, with a painful embarrassment. 'Well, well.
But let us think of safety. My miller is all very good, but I do
not pin my faith to him. To follow down this stream will bring us,
but after innumerable windings, to my house. Here, up this glade,
there lies a cross-cut - the world's end for solitude - the very
deer scarce visit it. Are you too tired, or could you pass that
'Choose the path, Otto. I will follow you,' she said.
'No,' he replied, with a singular imbecility of manner and
appearance, 'but I meant the path was rough. It lies, all the way,
by glade and dingle, and the dingles are both deep and thorny.'
'Lead on,' she said. 'Are you not Otto the Hunter?'
They had now burst across a veil of underwood, and were come into a
lawn among the forest, very green and innocent, and solemnly
surrounded by trees. Otto paused on the margin, looking about him
with delight; then his glance returned to Seraphina, as she stood
framed in that silvan pleasantness and looking at her husband with
undecipherable eyes. A weakness both of the body and mind fell on
him like the beginnings of sleep; the cords of his activity were
relaxed, his eyes clung to her. 'Let us rest,' he said; and he made
her sit down, and himself sat down beside her on the slope of an
inconsiderable mound.
She sat with her eyes downcast, her slim hand dabbling in grass,
like a maid waiting for love's summons. The sound of the wind in
the forest swelled and sank, and drew near them with a running rush,
and died away and away in the distance into fainting whispers.
Nearer hand, a bird out of the deep covert uttered broken and
anxious notes. All this seemed but a halting prelude to speech. To
Otto it seemed as if the whole frame of nature were waiting for his
words; and yet his pride kept him silent. The longer he watched
that slender and pale hand plucking at the grasses, the harder and
rougher grew the fight between pride and its kindly adversary.
'Seraphina,' he said at last, 'it is right you should know one
thing: I never . . .' He was about to say 'doubted you,' but was
that true? And, if true, was it generous to speak of it? Silence
'I pray you, tell it me,' she said; 'tell it me, in pity.'
'I mean only this,' he resumed, 'that I understand all, and do not
blame you. I understand how the brave woman must look down on the
weak man. I think you were wrong in some things; but I have tried
to understand it, and I do. I do not need to forget or to forgive,
Seraphina, for I have understood.'
'I know what I have done,' she said. 'I am not so weak that I can
be deceived with kind speeches. I know what I have been - I see
myself. I am not worth your anger, how much less to be forgiven!
In all this downfall and misery, I see only me and you: you, as you
have been always; me, as I was - me, above all! O yes, I see
myself: and what can I think?'
'Ah, then, let us reverse the parts!' said Otto. 'It is ourselves
we cannot forgive, when we deny forgiveness to another - so a friend
told me last night. On these terms, Seraphina, you see how
generously I have forgiven myself. But am not I to be forgiven?
Come, then, forgive yourself - and me.'
She did not answer in words, but reached out her hand to him
quickly. He took it; and as the smooth fingers settled and nestled
in his, love ran to and fro between them in tender and transforming
'Seraphina,' he cried, 'O, forget the past! Let me serve and help
you; let me be your servant; it is enough for me to serve you and to
be near you; let me be near you, dear - do not send me away.' He
hurried his pleading like the speech of a frightened child. 'It is
not love,' he went on; 'I do not ask for love; my love is enough . .
'Otto!' she said, as if in pain.
He looked up into her face. It was wrung with the very ecstasy of
tenderness and anguish; on her features, and most of all in her
changed eyes, there shone the very light of love.
'Seraphina?' he cried aloud, and with a sudden, tuneless voice,
'Look round you at this glade,' she cried, 'and where the leaves are
coming on young trees, and the flowers begin to blossom. This is
where we meet, meet for the first time; it is so much better to
forget and to be born again. O what a pit there is for sins - God's
mercy, man's oblivion!'
'Seraphina,' he said, 'let it be so, indeed; let all that was be
merely the abuse of dreaming; let me begin again, a stranger. I
have dreamed, in a long dream, that I adored a girl unkind and
beautiful; in all things my superior, but still cold, like ice. And
again I dreamed, and thought she changed and melted, glowed and
turned to me. And I - who had no merit but a love, slavish and
unerect - lay close, and durst not move for fear of waking.'
'Lie close,' she said, with a deep thrill of speech.
So they spake in the spring woods; and meanwhile, in Mittwalden
Rath-haus, the Republic was declared.
THE reader well informed in modern history will not require details
as to the fate of the Republic. The best account is to be found in
the memoirs of Herr Greisengesang (7 Bande: Leipzig), by our passing
acquaintance the licentiate Roederer. Herr Roederer, with too much
of an author's licence, makes a great figure of his hero - poses
him, indeed, to be the centre-piece and cloud-compeller of the
whole. But, with due allowance for this bias, the book is able and
The reader is of course acquainted with the vigorous and bracing
pages of Sir John (2 vols., London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and
Brown). Sir John, who plays but a tooth-comb in the orchestra of
this historical romance, blows in his own book the big bassoon. His
character is there drawn at large; and the sympathy of Landor has
countersigned the admiration of the public. One point, however,
calls for explanation; the chapter on Grunewald was torn by the hand
of the author in the palace gardens; how comes it, then, to figure
at full length among my more modest pages, the Lion of the caravan?
That eminent literatus was a man of method; 'Juvenal by double
entry,' he was once profanely called; and when he tore the sheets in
question, it was rather, as he has since explained, in the search
for some dramatic evidence of his sincerity, than with the thought
of practical deletion. At that time, indeed, he was possessed of
two blotted scrolls and a fair copy in double. But the chapter, as
the reader knows, was honestly omitted from the famous 'Memoirs on
the various Courts of Europe.' It has been mine to give it to the
Bibliography still helps us with a further glimpse of our
characters. I have here before me a small volume (printed for
private circulation: no printer's name; n.d.), 'Poesies par Frederic
et Amelie.' Mine is a presentation copy, obtained for me by Mr.
Bain in the Haymarket; and the name of the first owner is written on
the fly-leaf in the hand of Prince Otto himself. The modest
epigraph - 'Le rime n'est pas riche' - may be attributed, with a
good show of likelihood, to the same collaborator. It is strikingly
appropriate, and I have found the volume very dreary. Those pieces
in which I seem to trace the hand of the Princess are particularly
dull and conscientious. But the booklet had a fair success with
that public for which it was designed; and I have come across some
evidences of a second venture of the same sort, now unprocurable.
Here, at least, we may take leave of Otto and Seraphina - what do I
say? of Frederic and Amelie - ageing together peaceably at the court
of the wife's father, jingling French rhymes and correcting joint
Still following the book-lists, I perceive that Mr. Swinburne has
dedicated a rousing lyric and some vigorous sonnets to the memory of
Gondremark; that name appears twice at least in Victor Hugo's
trumpet-blasts of patriot enumeration; and I came latterly, when I
supposed my task already ended, on a trace of the fallen politician
and his Countess. It is in the 'Diary of J. Hogg Cotterill, Esq.'
(that very interesting work). Mr. Cotterill, being at Naples, is
introduced (May 27th) to 'a Baron and Baroness Gondremark - he a man
who once made a noise - she still beautiful - both witty. She
complimented me much upon my French - should never have known me to
be English - had known my uncle, Sir John, in Germany - recognised
in me, as a family trait, some of his GRAND AIR and studious
courtesy - asked me to call.' And again (May 30th), 'visited the
Baronne de Gondremark - much gratified - a most REFINED, INTELLIGENT
woman, quite of the old school, now, HELAS! extinct - had read my
REMARKS ON SICILY - it reminds her of my uncle, but with more of
grace - I feared she thought there was less energy - assured no - a
softer style of presentation, more of the LITERARY GRACE, but the
same firm grasp of circumstance and force of thought - in short,
just Buttonhole's opinion. Much encouraged. I have a real esteem
for this patrician lady.' The acquaintance lasted some time; and
when Mr. Cotterill left in the suite of Lord Protocol, and, as he is
careful to inform us, in Admiral Yardarm's flag-ship, one of his
chief causes of regret is to leave 'that most SPIRITUELLE and
sympathetic lady, who already regards me as a younger brother.'

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