Part 4 out of 11
The head nodded in the affirmative. A voice, emanating from a thickly
bearded mouth was understood to growl forth something about 'no strange
boats being permitted to harbour there.' Whereupon the Captain walked
up to the uncouth-looking figure, and said briefly.
"We are here by the King's order! That vessel is the Royal yacht, and
their Majesties are on board."
For one instant the islander stared more wildly than ever, then with a
cry of amazement and evident alarm, ran away as fast as his legs could
carry him and disappeared. The captain returned to the yacht and
related his experience to Sir Roger de Launay. The King heard and was
"It seems, Madam," he said, turning to the Queen, "That we shall have
The Islands to ourselves; but as our visit will be but brief, we shall
no doubt find enough to interest us in the mere contemplation of the
scenery without other human company than our own. Will you come?"
He extended his hand courteously to assist her across the gangway of
the vessel, and in a few minutes the Royal party were landed, and the
yacht was left to the stewards and servants, who soon had all hands at
work preparing the dinner which was to be served during the return
The King and Queen, followed by their suite and their guests, walked
leisurely off the pier, and down a well-made road, sparkling with
crushed sea-shells and powdered coral, towards a group of tall trees
and green grass which they perceived a little way ahead of them. There
was a soothing quietness everywhere,--save for the singing of birds and
the soft ripple of the waves on the sandy shore, it was a silent land:
"In which it seemed always afternoon--
All round the coast the languid air did swoon--
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream."
The Queen paused once or twice to look around her; she was vaguely
touched and charmed by the still beauty of the scene.
"It is very lovely!" she said, more to herself than to any of her
companions; "The world must have looked something like this in the
first days of creation,--so unspoilt and fresh and simple!"
The Countess Amabil, walking with Sir Walter Langton, glanced
coquettishly at her cavalier and smiled.
"It is idyllic!" she said;--"A sort of Arcadia without Corydon or
Phyllis! Do all the inhabitants go to sleep or disappear in the
daytime, I wonder?"
"Not all, I imagine," replied Sir Walter; "For here comes one, though,
judging from the slowness of his walk, he is in no haste to welcome his
The personage he spoke of was indeed approaching, and all the members
of the Royal party watched his advance with considerable curiosity. He
was tall and upright in bearing, but as he came nearer he was seen to
be a man of great age, with a countenance on which sorrow and suffering
had left their indelible traces. There were furrows on that face which
tears had hollowed out for their swifter flowing, and the high
intellectual brow bore lines and wrinkles of anxiety and pain, which
were the soul's pen-marks of a tragic history. He was attired in simple
fisherman's garb of rough blue homespun, and when he was within a few
paces of the King, he raised his cap from his curly silver hair with an
old-world grace and deferential courtesy. Sir Roger de Launay went
forward to meet him and to explain the situation.
"His Majesty the King," he said, "has wished to make a surprise visit
to his people of The Islands,--and he is here in person with the Queen.
Can you oblige him with an escort to the principal places of interest?"
The old man looked at him with a touch of amusement and derision.
"There are no places here of interest to a King," he said; "Unless a
poor man's house may serve for his curious comment! I am not his
Majesty's subject--but I live under his protection and his laws,--and I
am willing to offer him a welcome, since there is no one else to do
He spoke with a refined and cultured accent, and in his look and
bearing evinced the breeding of a gentleman.
"And your name?" asked Sir Roger courteously.
"My name is Réné Ronsard," he replied. "I was shipwrecked on this coast
years ago. Finding myself cast here by the will of God, here I have
As he said this, Sir Roger remembered what he had casually heard at
times about the 'life-philosopher' who had built for himself a dwelling
on The Islands out of the timbers of wrecked vessels. This must surely
be the man! Delighted at having thus come upon the very person most
likely to provide some sort of diversion for their Majesties, and
requesting Ronsard to wait at a distance for a moment, he hastened back
to the King and explained the position. Whereupon the monarch at once
advanced with alacrity, and as he approached the venerable personage
who had offered him the only hospitality he was likely to receive in
this part of his realm, he extended his hand with a frank and kindly
cordiality. Réné Ronsard accepted it with a slight but not over-
"We owe you our thanks," said the King, "for receiving us thus readily,
and without notice; which is surely the truest form of hospitable
kindness! That we are strangers here is entirely our own fault, due to
our own neglect of our Island subjects; and it is for this that we have
sought to know something of the place privately, before visiting it
with such public ceremonial and state as it deserves. We shall be
indebted to you greatly if you will lend us your aid in this
"Your Majesty is welcome to my service in whatever way it can be of use
to you," replied Ronsard slowly; "As you see, I am an old man and poor
--I have lived here for well-nigh thirty years, making as little demand
as possible upon the resources of either rough Nature or smooth
civilization to provide me with sustenance. There is poor attraction
for a king in such a simple home as mine!"
"More than all men living, a king has cause to love simplicity,"
returned the monarch, as with his swift and keen glance he noted the
old man's proud figure, fine worn features, and clear, though deeply-
sunken eyes;--"for the glittering shows of ceremony are chiefly
irksome to those who have to suffer their daily monotony. Let me
present you to the Queen--she will thank you as I do, for your kindly
consent to play the part of host to us to-day."
"Nay,"--murmured Ronsard--"No thanks--no thanks!" Then, as the King
said a few words to his fair Consort, and she received the old man's
respectful salutation in the cold, grave way which was her custom, he
raised his eyes to her face, and started back with an involuntary
"By Heaven!" he said suddenly and bluntly, "I never thought to see any
woman's beauty that could compare with that of my Gloria!"
He spoke more to himself than to any listener, but the King hearing his
words, was immediately on the alert, and when the whole Royal party
moved on again, he, walking in a gracious and kindly way by the old
man's side, and skilfully keeping up the conversation at first on mere
generalities, said presently:--
"And that name of Gloria;--may I ask you who it is that bears so
strange an appellation?"
Ronsard looked at him somewhat doubtingly.
"Your Majesty considers it strange? Had you ever seen her, you would
think it the only fitting name for her," he answered,--"For she is
surely the most glorious thing God ever made!"
"Your wife--or daughter?" gently hinted the King.
The old man smiled bitterly.
"Sir, I have never owned wife or child! For aught I know Gloria may
have been born like the goddess Aphrodite, of the sunlight and the sea!
No other parents have ever claimed her."
He checked himself, and appeared disposed to change the subject. The
King looked at him encouragingly.
"May I not hear more of her?" he asked.
Ronsard hesitated--then with a certain abruptness replied--
"Nay--I am sorry I spoke of her! There is nothing to tell. I have said
she is beautiful--and beauty is always stimulating--even to Kings! But
your Majesty will have no chance of seeing her, as she is absent from
The King smiled;--had the rumours of his many gallantries reached The
Islands then?--and was this 'life-philosopher' afraid that 'Gloria '--
whoever she was--might succumb to his royal fascinations? The thought
was subtly flattering, but he disguised the touch of amusement he felt,
and spoke his next words with a kindly and indulgent air.
"Then, as I shall not see her, you may surely tell me of her? I am no
betrayer of confidence!"
A pale red tinged Ronsard's worn features--anon he said:--
"It is no question of confidence, Sir,--and there is no secret or
mystery associated with the matter. Gloria was, like myself, cast up
from the sea. I found her half-drowned, a helpless infant tied to a
floating spar. It was on the other side of these Islands--among the
rocks where there is no landing-place. There is a little church on the
heights up there, and every evening the men and boys practise their
sacred singing. It was sunset, and I was wandering by myself upon the
shore, and in the church above me I heard them chant 'Gloria! Gloria!
Gloria in excelsis Deo!' And while they were yet practising this line I
came upon the child,--lying like a strange lily, in a salt pool,--
between two shafts of rock like fangs on either side of her, bound fast
with rope to a bit of ship's timber. I untied her little limbs, and
restored her to life; and all the time I was busy bringing her back to
breath and motion, the singing in the church above me was 'Gloria!' and
ever again 'Gloria!' So I gave her that name. That was nineteen years
ago. She is married now."
"Married!" exclaimed the King, with a curious sense of mingled relief
and disappointment. "Then she has left you?"
"Oh, no, she has not left me!" replied Ronsard; "She stays with me till
her husband is ready to give her a home. He is very poor, and lives in
hope of better days. Meanwhile poverty so far smiles upon them that
they are happy;--and happiness, youth and beauty rarely go together.
For once they have all met in the joyous life of my Gloria!"
"I should like to see her!" said the King, musingly; "You have
interested me greatly in her history!"
The old man did not reply, but quickening his pace, moved on a little
in advance of the King and his suite, to open a gate in front of them,
which guarded the approach to a long low house with carved gables and
lattice windows, over which a wealth of roses and jasmine clambered in
long tresses of pink and white bloom. Smooth grass surrounded the
place, and tall pine trees towered in the background; and round the
pillars of the broad verandah, which extended to the full length of the
house front, clematis and honeysuckle twined in thick clusters, filling
the air with delicate perfume. The Royal party murmured their
admiration of this picturesque abode, while Ronsard, with a nimbleness
remarkable for a man of his age, set chairs on the verandah and lawn
for his distinguished guests. Sir Walter Langton and the Marquis
Montala strolled about the garden with some of the ladies, commenting
on the simple yet exquisite taste displayed in its planting and
arrangement; while the King and Queen listened with considerable
interest to the conversation of their venerable host. He was a man of
evident culture, and his description of the coral-fishing community,
their habits and traditions, was both graphic and picturesque.
"Are they all away to-day?" asked the King.
"All the men on this side of The Islands--yes, Sir," replied Ronsard;
"And the women have enough to do inside their houses till their
husbands return. With the evening and the moonlight, they will all be
out in their fields and gardens, making merry with innocent dance and
song, for they are very happy folk--much happier than their neighbours
on the mainland."
"Are you acquainted with the people of the mainland, then?" enquired
"Sufficiently to know that they are dissatisfied;" returned Ronsard
quietly,--"And that, deep down among the tangled grass and flowers of
that brilliant pleasure-ground called Society, there is a fierce and
starving lion called the People, waiting for prey!"
His voice sank to a low and impressive tone, and for a moment his
hearers looked astonished and disconcerted. He went on as though he had
not seen the expression of their faces.
"Here in The Islands there was the same discontent when I first came.
Every man was in heart a Socialist,--every young boy was a budding
Anarchist. Wild ideas fired their brains. They sought Equality. No man
should be richer than another, they said. Equal lots,--equal lives.
They had their own secret Society, connected with another similar one
across the sea yonder. They were brave, clever and desperate,--moved by
a burning sense of wrong,--wrong which they had not the skill to
explain, but which they felt. It was difficult to persuade or soothe
such men, for they were men of Nature,--not of Shams. But fierce and
obstinate as they were, they were good to me when I was cast up for
dead on their seashore. And I, in turn, have tried to be good to them.
That is, I have tried to make them happy. For happiness is what we all
work for and seek for,--from the beginning to the end of life. We go
far afield for it, when it oftener lies at our very doors. Well!--they
are a peaceful community now, and have no evil intentions towards
anyone. They grudge no one his wealth--I think if the truth were known,
they rather pity the rich man than envy him. So, at any rate, I have
taught them to do. But, formerly, they were, to say the least of it,
The King heard in silence, although the slightest quizzical lifting of
his eyebrows appeared to imply that 'dangerous' was perhaps too strong
a term by which to designate a handful of Socialistic coral-fishers.
"It is curious," went on Ronsard slowly, "how soon the sense of wrong
and injustice infects a whole community. One malcontent makes a host of
malcontents. This is a fact which many governments lose sight of. If I
were the ruler of a country--"
Here he suddenly paused--then added with a touch of brusqueness--
"Pardon me, Sir; I have never known the formalities which apply to
conversation with a king, and I am too old to learn now. No doubt I
speak too boldly! To me you are no more than man; you should be more by
etiquette--but by simple humanity you are not!"
The King smiled, well pleased. This independent commoner, with his
rough garb and rougher simplicity of speech, was a refreshing contrast
to the obsequious personages by whom he was generally surrounded; and
he felt an irresistible desire to know more of the life and
surroundings of one who had gained a position of evident authority
among the people of his own class.
"Go on, my friend!" he said. "Honest expression of thought can offend
none but knaves and fools; and though there are some who say I have a
smack of both, yet I flatter myself I am wholly neither of the twain!
Continue what you were saying--if you were ruler of a country, what
would you do?"
Réné Ronsard considered for a moment, and his furrowed brows set in a
"I think," he said slowly, at last, "I should choose my friends and
confidants among the leaders of the people."
"And is not that precisely what we all do?" queried the King lightly;
"Surely every monarch must count his friends among the members of the
"But the Government does not represent the actual people, Sir!" said
"No? Then what does it represent?" enquired the King, becoming amused
and interested in the discussion, and holding up his hand to warn back
De Launay, and the other members of his suite who were just coming
towards him from their tour of inspection through the garden--"Every
member of the Government is elected by the people, and returned by the
popular vote. What else would you have?"
"Ministers have not always the popular vote," said Ronsard; "They are
selected by the Premier. And if the Premier should happen to be shifty,
treacherous or self-interested, he chooses such men as are most likely
to serve his own ends. And it can hardly be said, Sir, that the People
truly return the members of Government. For when the time comes for one
such man to be elected, each candidate secures his own agent to bribe
the people, and to work upon them as though they were so much soft
dough, to be kneaded into a political loaf for his private and
particular eating. Poor People! Poor hard-working millions! In the main
they are all too busy earning the wherewithal to Live, to have any time
left to Think--they are the easy prey of the party agent, except--
except when they gather to the voice of a real leader, one who though
not in Government, governs!"
"And is there such an one?" enquired the King, while as he spoke his
glance fell suddenly, and with an unpleasant memory, on the flashing
blue of the sapphire in the Premier's signet he wore; "Here, or
"Over there!" said Ronsard impressively, pointing across the landscape
seawards; "On the mainland there is not only one, but many! Women,--as
well as men. Writers,--as well as speakers. These are they whom Courts
neglect or ignore,--these are the consuming fire of thrones!" His old
eyes flashed, and as he turned them on the statuesque beauty of the
Queen, she started, for they seemed to pierce into the very recesses of
her soul. "When Court and Fashion played their pranks once upon a time
in France, there was a pen at work on the '_Contrat Social_'--the
pen of one Rousseau! Who among the idle pleasure-loving aristocrats
ever thought that a mere Book would have helped to send them to the
scaffold!" He clenched his hand almost unconsciously--then he spoke
more quietly. "That is what I mean, when I say that if I were ruler of
a country, I should take special care to make friends with the people's
chosen thinkers. Someone in authority"--and here he smiled quizzically
--"should have given Rousseau an estate, and made him a marquis--_in
time_! The leaders of an advancing Thought,--and not the leaders of
a fixed Government are the real representatives of the People!"
Something in this last sentence appeared to strike the King very
"You are a philosopher, Réné Ronsard," he said rising from his chair,
and laying a hand kindly on his shoulder. "And so, in another way am I!
If I understand you rightly, you would maintain that in many cases
discontent and disorder are the fermentation in the mind of one man,
who for some hidden personal motive works his thought through a whole
kingdom; and you suggest that if that man once obtained what he wanted
there would be an end of trouble--at any rate for a time till the next
malcontent turned up! Is not that so?"
"It is so, Sir," replied Ronsard; "and I think it has always been so.
In every era of strife and revolution, we shall find one dissatisfied
Soul--often a soul of genius and ambition--at the centre of the
"Probably you are right," said the monarch indulgently; "But evidently
the dissatisfied soul is not in _your_ body! You are no Don
Quixote fighting a windmill of imaginary wrongs, are you?"
A dark red flush mounted to the old man's brow, and as it passed away,
left him pale as death.
"Sir, I have fought against wrongs in my time; but they were not
imaginary. I might have still continued the combat but for Gloria!"
"Ah! She is your peace-offering to an unjust world?"
"No Sir; she is God's gift to a broken heart," replied Ronsard gently.
"The sea cast her up like a pearl into my life; and so for her sake I
resolved to live. For her only I made this little home--for her I
managed to gain some control over the rough inhabitants of these
Islands, and encouraged in them the spirit of peace, mirth and
gladness. I soothed their discontent, and tried to instil into them
something of the Greek love of beauty and pleasure. But after all, my
work sprang from a personal, I may as well say a selfish motive--merely
to make the child I loved, happy!"
"Then do you not regret that she is married, and no longer yours to
"No, I regret nothing!" answered Ronsard; "For I am old and must soon
die. I shall leave her in good and safe hands."
The King looked at him thoughtfully, and seemed about to ask another
question, then suddenly changing his mind, he turned to his Consort and
said a few words to her in a low tone, whereupon as if in obedience to
a command, she rose, and with all the gracious charm which she could
always exert if she so pleased, she enquired of Ronsard if he would
permit them to see something of the interior of his house.
"Madam," replied Ronsard, with some embarrassment; "All I have is at
your service, but it is only a poor place."
"No place is poor that has peace in it," returned the Queen, with one
of those rare smiles of hers, which so swiftly subjugated the hearts of
men. "Will you lead the way?"
Thus persuaded, Réné Ronsard could only bow a respectful assent, and
obey the request, which from Royalty was tantamount to a command.
Signing to the other members of the party, who had stood till now at a
little distance, the Queen bade them all accompany her.
"The King will stay here till we return," she said, "And Sir Roger will
stay with him!"
With these words, and a flashing glance at De Launay, she stepped
across the lawn, followed by her ladies-in-waiting, with Sir Walter
Langton and the other gentlemen; and in another moment the brilliant
little group had disappeared behind the trailing roses and clematis,
which hung in profusion from the oaken projections of the wide verandah
round Ronsard's picturesque dwelling. Standing still for a moment, with
Sir Roger a pace behind him, the King watched them enter the house--
then quickly turning round on his heel, faced his equerry with a broad
"Now, De Launay," he said, "let us find Von Glauben!"
Sir Roger started with surprise, and not a little apprehension.
"Von Glauben, Sir?"
"Yes--Von Glauben! He is here! I saw his face two minutes ago, peering
through those trees!" And he pointed down a shadowy path, dark with the
intertwisted gloom of untrained pine-boughs. "I am not dreaming, nor am
I accustomed to imagine spectres! I am on the track of a mystery,
Roger! There is a beautiful girl here named Gloria. The beautiful girl
is married--possibly to a jealous husband, for she is apparently hidden
away from all likely admirers, including myself! Now suppose Von
Glauben is that husband!"
He broke off and laughed. Sir Roger de Launay laughed with him; the
idea was too irresistibly droll. But the King was bent on mischief, and
determined to lose no time in compassing it.
"Come along!" he said. "If this tangled path holds a secret, it shall
be discovered before we are many minutes older! I am confident I saw
Von Glauben; and what he can be doing here passes my comprehension!
Follow me, Roger! If our worthy Professor has a wife, and his wife is
beautiful, we will pardon him for keeping her existence a secret from
us so long!"
He laughed again; and turning into the path he had previously
indicated, began walking down it rapidly, Sir Roger following closely,
and revolving in his own perplexed mind the scene of the morning, when
Von Glauben had expressed such a strong desire to get away to The
Islands, and had admitted that there was "a lady in the case."
"Really, it is most extraordinary!" he thought. "The King no sooner
decides to break through conventional forms, than all things seem
loosened from their moorings! A week ago, we were all apparently fixed
in our orbits of exact routine and work--the King most fixed of all--
but now, who can say what may happen next!"
At that moment the monarch turned round.
"This path seems interminable, Roger," he said; "It gets darker, closer
and narrower. It thickens, in fact, like, the mystery we are probing!"
Sir Roger glanced about him. A straight band of trees hemmed them in on
either side, and the daylight filtered through their stems pallidly,
while, as the King had said, there seemed to be no end to the path they
were following. They walked on swiftly, however, exchanging no further
word, when suddenly an unexpected sound came sweeping up through the
heavy branches. It was the rush and roar of the sea,--a surging,
natural psalmody that filled the air, and quivered through the trees
with the measured beat of an almost human chorus.
"This must be another way to the shore," said the King, coming to a
standstill; "And there must be rocks or caverns near. Hark how the
waves thunder and reverberate through some deep hollow!"
Sir Roger listened, and heard the boom of water rolling in and rolling
out again, with the regularity and rhythm of an organ swell, but he
caught an echo of something else besides, which piqued his curiosity
and provoked him to a touch of unusual excitement,--it was the sweet
and apparently quickly suppressed sound of a woman's laughter. He
glanced at his Royal master, and saw at once that he, too, had sharp
ears for that silvery cadence of mirth, for his eyes flashed into a
"On, Roger," he said softly; "We are close on the heels of the
But they had only pressed forward a few steps when they were again
brought to a sudden pause. A voice, whose gruffly mellow accents were
familiar to both of them, was speaking within evidently close range,
and the King, with a warning look, motioned De Launay back a pace or
two, himself withdrawing a little into the shadow of the trees.
"Ach! Do not sing, my princess!" said the voice; "For if you open your
rosy mouth of music, all the birds of the air, and all the little
fishes of the sea will come to listen! And, who knows! Someone more
dangerous than either a bird or a fish may listen also!"
The King grasped De Launay by the arm.
"Was I not right?" he whispered. "There is no mistaking Von Glauben's
Sir Roger looked, as he felt, utterly bewildered. In his own mind he
felt it very difficult to associate the Professor with a love affair.
Yet things certainly seemed pointing to some entanglement of the sort.
Suddenly the King held up an admonitory finger.
"Listen!" he said.
Another voice spoke, rich and clear, and sweet as honey.
"Why should I not sing?" and there was a thrill of merriment in the
delicious accents. "You are so afraid of everything to-day! Why? Why
should I stay here with nothing to do? Because you tell me the King is
visiting The Islands. What does that matter? What do I care for the
King? He is nothing to me!"
"You would be something, perhaps, to him if he saw you," replied the
guttural voice of Von Glauben. "It is safer to be out of his way. You
are a very wilful princess this afternoon! You must remember your
husband is jealous!"
The King started.
"Her husband! What the devil does Von Glauben know about her husband!"
De Launay was dumb. A nameless fear and dismay began to possess him.
"My husband!" And the sweet voice laughed out again. "It would be
strange indeed for a poor sailor to be jealous of a king!"
"If the poor sailor had a beautiful wife he worshipped, and the King
should admire the wife, he might have cause to be jealous!" replied Von
Glauben; "And with some ladies, a poor sailor would stand no chance
against a king! Why are you so rebellious, my princess, to-day? Have I
not brought a letter from your beloved which plainly asks you to keep
out of the sight of the King? Have I not been an hour with you here,
reading the most beautiful poetry of Heine?"
"That is why I want to sing," said the sweet voice, with a touch of
wilfulness in its tone. "Listen! I will give you a reading of Heine in
music!" And suddenly, rich and clear as a bell, a golden cadence of
notes rang out with the words:
"Ah, Hast thou forgotten, That I possessed thy heart?"
The King sprang lightly out of his hiding-place, and with De Launay
moved on slowly and cautiously through the trees.
"Ach, mein Gott!" they heard Von Glauben exclaim--"That is a bird-call
which will float on wings to the ears of the King!"
A soft laugh rippled on the air.
"Dear friend and master, why are you so afraid?" asked the caressing
woman's voice again;--"We are quite hidden away from the Royal
visitors,--and though you have been peeping at the King through the
trees, and though you know he is actually in our garden, he will never
find his way here! This is quite a secret little study and schoolroom,
where you have taught me so much!--yes--so much!--and I am very
grateful! And whenever you come to see me you teach me something more--
you are always good and kind!--and I would not anger you for the world!
But what is the good of knowing and feeling beautiful things, if I may
not express them?"
"You do express them,--in yourself,--in your own existence and
appearance!" said the Professor gruffly; "but that is a physiological
accident which I do not expect you to understand!"
There was a moment's silence. Then came a slight movement, as of quick
feet clambering among loose pebbles, and the voice rang out again.
"There! Now I am in my rocky throne! Do you remember--Ah, no!--you know
nothing about it,--but I will tell you the story! It was here, in this
very place, that my husband first saw me!"
"Ach so!" murmured Von Glauben. "It is an excellent place to make a
first appearance! Eve herself could not have chosen more picturesque
surroundings to make a conquest of Adam!"
Apparently his mild sarcasm fell on unheeding ears.
"He was walking slowly all alone on the shore," went on the voice,
dropping into a more plaintive and tender tone; "The sun had sunk, and
one little star was sparkling in the sky. He looked up at the star--
"Then he saw a woman's eye," interpolated Von Glauben; "Which is always
more attractive to weak man than an impossible-to-visit planet! What
does Shakespeare say of women's eyes?
'Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eye in heaven
Would through the airy regions stream so bright,
That birds would sing and think it were not night!'
Ach! That is so!"
As the final words left his lips, a rich note of melody stirred the
air, and a song in which words and music seemed thoroughly welded
together, rose vibratingly up to the quiet sky:
"Here by the sea,
My Love found me!
Seagulls over the waves were swinging;
Mermaids down in their caves were singing,--
And one little star in the rosy sky
Sparkled above like an angel's eye!
My Love found me,
And I and he
Plighted our troth eternally!
Oh day of splendour,
The day when my Love found me!
Here, by the sea,
My King crown'd me!
Wild ocean sang for my Coronation,
With the jubilant voice of a mighty nation!--
'Mid the towering rocks he set my throne,
And made me forever and ever his own!
My King crown'd me,
And I and he
Are one till the world shall cease to be!
Oh sweet love story!
Oh night of glory!
The night when my King crown'd me!"
No language could ever describe the marvellous sweetness of the voice
that sung these lines; it was so full of exquisite triumph, tenderness
and passion, that it seemed more supernatural than human. When the song
ceased, a great wave dashed on the shore, like a closing organ chord,
and Von Glauben spoke.
"There! You wanted your own way, my princess, and you have had it! You
have sung like one of the seraphim;--do not be surprised if mortals are
drawn to listen. Sst! What is that?"
There was a pause. The King had inadvertently cracked a twig on one of
the pine-boughs he was holding back in an endeavour to see the
speakers. But he now boldly pushed on, beckoning De Launay to follow
close, and in another minute had emerged on a small sandy plateau,
which led, by means of an ascending path, to a rocky eminence,
encircled by huge boulders and rocky pinnacles, which somewhat
resembled peaks of white coral,--and here, on a height above him,--with
the afternoon sun-glow bathing her in its full mellow radiance, sat a
visibly enthroned goddess of the landscape,--a girl, or rather a
perfect woman, more beautiful than any he had ever seen, or even
imagined. He stared up at her in dazzled wonder, half blinded by the
brightness of the sun and her almost equally blinding loveliness.
"Gloria!" he exclaimed breathlessly, hardly conscious of his own
utterance; "You are Gloria!"
The fair vision rose, and came swiftly forward with an astonished look
in her bright deep eyes.
"Yes!" she said, "I am Gloria!"
A SEA PRINCESS
Scarcely had she thus declared herself, when the Bismarckian head and
shoulders of Von Glauben appeared above the protecting boulders; and
moving with deliberate caution, the rest of his body came slowly after,
till he stood fully declared in an attitude of military 'attention.' He
showed neither alarm nor confusion at seeing the King; on the contrary,
the fixed, wooden expression of his countenance betokened some deeply-
seated mental obstinacy, and he faced his Royal master with the utmost
composure, lifting the slouched hat he wore with his usual stiff and
soldierly dignity, though carefully avoiding the amazed stare of his
friend, Sir Roger de Launay.
The King glanced him up and down with a smiling air of amused
"So this is how you pursue your scientific studies, Professor!" he said
lightly; "Well!"--and he turned his eyes, full of admiration, on the
beautiful creature who stood silently confronting him with all that
perfect ease which expresses a well-balanced mind,--"Wisdom is often
symbolised to us as a marble goddess,--but when Pallas Athene takes so
fair a shape of flesh and blood as this, who shall blame even a veteran
philosopher for sitting at her feet in worship!"
"Pardon me, Sir," returned Von Glauben calmly; "There is no goddess of
Wisdom here, so please you, but only a very simple and unworldly young
woman. She is--" Here he hesitated a moment, then went on--"She is
merely the adopted child of a fisherman living on these Islands."
"I am aware of that!" said the King still smiling. "Réné Ronsard is his
name. He is my host to-day; and he has told me something of her. But,
certes, he did not mention that you had adopted her also!"
Von Glauben flushed vexedly.
"Sir," he stammered, "I could explain--"
"Another time!" interrupted the King, with a touch of asperity.
"Meanwhile, present your--your pupil in the poesy of Heine,--to me!"
Thus commanded, the Professor, casting a vexed glance at De Launay, who
did not in the least comprehend his distress, went to the girl, who
during their brief conversation had stood quietly looking from one to
the other with an expression of half-amused disdain on her lovely
"Gloria," he began reluctantly--then whispering in her ear, he
muttered--"I told you your voice would do mischief, and it has done
it!" Then aloud--"Gloria,--this--this is the King!"
She smiled, but did not change her erect and easy attitude.
"The King is welcome!" she said simply.
She had evidently no intention of saluting the monarch; and Sir Roger
de Launay gazed at her in mingled surprise and admiration. She was
certainly wonderfully beautiful. Her complexion had the soft clear
transparency of a pink sea-shell--her eyes, large and lustrous, were as
densely blue as the dark azure in the depths of a wave,--and her hair,
of a warm bronze chestnut, caught back with a single band of red coral,
seemed to have gathered in its rich curling clusters all the deepest
tints of autumn leaves flecked with a golden touch of the sun. Her
figure, clad in a straight garment of rough white homespun, was the
model of perfect womanhood. She stood a little above the medium height,
her fair head poised proudly on regal shoulders, while the curve of the
full bosom would have baffled the sculptural genius of a Phidias. The
whole exquisite outline of her person was the expressed essence of
beauty, from the lightest wave of her hair, down to her slender ankles
and small feet; and the look that irradiated her noble features was
that of child-like happiness and repose,--the untired expression of one
who had never known any other life than the innocent enjoyment bestowed
upon her by God and divine Nature. Beautiful as his Queen-Consort was
and always had been, the King was forced to admit to himself that here
was a woman far more beautiful,--and as he looked upon her critically,
he saw that there was a light and splendour about her which only the
happiness of Love can give. Her whole aspect was as of one uplifted
into a finer atmosphere than that of earth,--she seemed to exhale
purity from herself, as a rose exhales perfume, and her undisturbed
serenity and dignity, when made aware of the Royal presence, were
evidently not the outcome of ill-breeding or discourtesy, but of mere
self-respect and independence. He approached her with a strange
hesitation, which for him was quite a new experience.
"I am glad I have been fortunate enough to meet you!" he said gently;--
"Some kindly fate guided my steps down the path which brought me to
this part of the shore, else I might have gone away without seeing
"That would have been no loss to your Majesty," answered Gloria
calmly;--"For to see me, is of no use to anyone!"
"Would your husband say so?" hazarded the King with a smile.
Her eyes flashed.
"My husband would say what is right," she replied. "He would know
better how to talk to you than I do!"
He had insensibly drawn nearer to her as he spoke; meanwhile Von
Glauben, with a disconsolate air, had joined Sir Roger de Launay, who,
by an enquiring look and anxious uplifting of his eyebrows, dumbly
asked what was to be the upshot of this affair,--only to receive a
dismal shake of the head in reply.
"Possibly I know your husband," went on the King, anxious to continue
conversation with so beautiful a creature. "If I do, and he is in my
personal service, he shall not lack promotion! Will you tell me his
A startled look came into the girl's eyes, and a deep blush swept over
her fair cheeks.
"I dare not!" she said;--"He has forbidden me!"
"Forbidden you!" The King recoiled a step--a vague suspicion rankled in
his mind. "Then, though your King asks you a friendly question, you
refuse to answer it?"
Von Glauben here gripped Sir Roger so fiercely by the arm, that the
latter nearly cried out with pain.
"She must not tell," he muttered--"She must not--she will not!"
But Gloria was looking straight at her Royal questioner.
"I have no King but my husband!" she said firmly. "I have sworn before
God to obey him in all things, and I will not break my vow!"
"Good girl! Wise girl!" exclaimed Von Glauben. "Ach, if all the
beautiful women so guarded their tongues and obeyed their husbands,
what a happy world it would be!"
The King turned upon him.
"True! But you are not bound by the confidences of marriage,
Professor,--so that while in our service our will must be your law!
You, therefore, can perhaps tell me the name of the fortunate man who
has wedded this fair lady?"
The Professor's countenance visibly reddened.
"Sir," he stammered--"With every respect for your Majesty, I would
rather lose my much-to-be-appreciated post with you than betray my
The King suddenly lost patience.
"By Heaven!" he exclaimed, "Is my command to be slighted and set aside
as if it were naught? Not while I am king of this country! What mystery
is here that I am not to know?"
Gloria laughed outright, and the pretty ripple of mirth, so unforced
and natural, diverted the monarch's irritation.
"Oh, you are angry!" she said, her lovely eyes twinkling and sparkling
like diamonds:--"So! Then your Majesty is no more than a very common
man who loses temper when he cannot have his own way!" She laughed
again, and the King stared at her unoffended,--being spellbound, both
by her regal beauty, and her complete indifference to himself. "I will
speak like the prophets do in the Bible and say, 'Lo! there is no
mystery, O King!' I am only poor Gloria, a sailor's wife,--and the
sailor has a place on board your son the Crown Prince's yacht, and he
does not want his master to know that he is married lest he lose that
place! Is not that plain and clear, O King? And why should I disobey my
beloved in such a simple matter?"
The King was still in something of a fume.
"There is no reason why you should disobey," he said more quietly, but
still with vexation;--"But, equally, there is no reason why your
husband should be dismissed from the Crown Prince's service, because he
has chosen to marry. If you tell me his name, I will make all things
easy for him, for you, and your future. Can you not trust me?"
With wonderful grace and quickness Gloria suddenly sprang forward,
caught the King's hand, kissed it, and then threw it lightly away from
"No!" she said, with a pretty defiance; "I kiss the hand of the
country's King--but I have my own King to serve!"
And pausing for no more words, she turned away, sprang lightly up the
rocks as swiftly as a roe-deer, and disappeared. And from some hidden
corner, clear and full and sweet, her voice rang out above the peaceful
plashing of the waves:
"My King crown'd me!
And I and he
Are one till the world shall cease to be!"
Stricken dumb and confused by the suddenness of her action, and the
swiftness of her departure, the King stood for a moment inert, gazing
up the rocky height with the air of one who has seen a vision of heaven
withdrawn again into its native element. Some darkening doubt troubled
his mind, and it was with an altogether changed and stern countenance
that he confronted Von Glauben.
"Last night, Professor, you were somewhat anxious for our health and
safety," he said severely; "It is our turn now to be equally anxious
for yours! We are of opinion that you, like ourselves, run some risk of
danger by meddling in affairs which do not concern you! Silence!" This,
as the Professor, deeply moved by his Royal master's evident
displeasure, made an attempt to speak. "We will hear all you have to
say to-morrow. Meanwhile--follow your fair charge!" And he pointed up
in the direction whither Gloria had vanished. "Her husband"--and he
emphasized the word,--"whoever he is, appears to have entrusted her
safety to you;--see that you do not betray his trust, even though you
have betrayed mine!"
At this remark Von Glauben was visibly overcome.
"Sir, you have never had reason to complain of any lack of loyalty in
me to you and to your service," he said with an earnest dignity which
became him well;--"In the matter of the poor child yonder, whose beauty
would surely be a fatal snare to any man, there is much to be told,--
which if told truly, will prove that I am merely the slave of
circumstances which were not created by me,--and which it is possible
for a faithful servant of your Majesty to regret! But a betrayer of
trust I have never been, and I beseech your Majesty to believe me when
I say that the acuteness of that undeserved reproach cuts me to the
heart! I yield to no man in the respect and affection I entertain for
your Royal person, not even to De Launay here--who knows--who knows--"
He broke off, unable through strong emotion to proceed.
"'Who knows'--What?" enquired the King, turning his steadfast eyes on
"Nothing, Sir! Absolutely nothing!" replied the equerry, opening his
eyes as widely as their habitual langour would permit; "I am absolutely
ignorant of everything concerning Von Glauben except that he is an
honest man! That I certainly do know!"
A slight smile cleared away something of the doubt and displeasure on
the King's face. Approaching the disconsolate Professor, he laid one
hand on his shoulder and looked him steadily in the eyes.
"By my faith, Von Glauben, if I thought positively that you could play
me false in any matter, I would never believe a man again! Come!
Forgive my hasty speech, and do not look so downcast! Honest I have
always known you to be,--and that you will prove your honesty, I do not
doubt! But--there is something in this affair which awakens grave
suspicion in my mind. For to-day I press no questions--but to-morrow I
must know all! You understand? _All_! Say this to the girl,
Gloria,--say it to her husband also--as, of course, you know who her
husband is. If he serves on Prince Humphry's yacht, that is enough to
say that Humphry himself has probably seen her. Under all the
circumstances, I confess, my dear Von Glauben, that your presence here
is a riddle which needs explanation!"
"It shall be explained, Sir--" murmured the Professor.
"Naturally! It must, of course be explained. But I hope you give me
credit for not being altogether a fool; and I have an idea that my
son's frequent mysterious visits to The Islands have something to do
with this fair Gloria of Glorias!" Von Glauben started involuntarily.
"You perhaps think it too? Or know it? Well, if it is so, I can hardly
blame him overmuch,--though I am sorry he should have selected a poor
sailor's wife as a subject for his secret amours! I should have
thought him possessed of more honour. However--to-morrow I shall look
to you for a full account of the matter. For the present, I excuse
your attendance, and permit you to remain with her whom you call
He stepped back, and, taking De Launay's arm, turned round at once, and
walked away back to Ronsard's house by the path he had followed with
such eagerness and care.
Von Glauben watched the two tall figures disappear, and then with a
troubled look, began to climb slowly up the rocks in the direction
where Gloria had gone. His reflections were not altogether as
philosophical as usual, because as he said to himself--"One can never
tell how a woman is going to meet misfortune! Sometimes she takes it
well; and then the men who have ruthlessly destroyed her happiness go
on their way rejoicing; but more often she takes it ill, and there is
the devil to pay! Yet--Gloria is not like any ordinary woman--she is a
carefully selected specimen of her sex, which a kindly Nature has
produced as an example of what women were intended to be when they were
first created. I wonder where she has hidden herself?"
Arriving at the summit of the ascent, he peered down towards the sea.
Slopes of rank grass and sea-daisies tufted the rocks on this side,
divided by certain deep hollows which the action of the waves had
honeycombed here and there; and below the grass was the shore, powdered
thickly with sand, of a fine, light, and sparkling colour, like gold
dust. Here in the full light of the sinking sun lay Gloria, her head
pillowed against a rough stone, on the top of which a tall cluster of
daisies, sometimes called moon-flowers, waved like white plumes.
"Gloria!" called Von Glauben.
She looked up, smiling.
"Has Majesty gone?" she asked.
"Gone for the present," replied the Professor, beginning to put one
foot cautiously before the other down a roughly hewn stairway in the
otherwise almost inaccessible cliff. "But, like the sun which is
setting to-night, he will rise again to-morrow!"
"Shall I come and help you down?" enquired the girl, turning on her
elbow as she lay, and lifting her lovely face, radiant as a flower,
"Whether down or up, you shall never help me, my princess!" he replied.
"When I can neither climb nor fall without the assistance of a woman's
hand, I shall take a pistol and tell it to whisper in my ear--'Good-
bye, Heinrich Von Glauben! You are all up--finish--gone!'"
Here, with a somewhat elephantine jump, he alighted beside her and
threw himself on the warm sand with a deep sigh of mingled exhaustion
"You would be very wicked to put a pistol to your ear," said Gloria
severely;--"It is only a coward who shoots himself!"
"Ach so! And it is a brave man who shoots others! That is curious, is
it not, princess? It is a little bit of man's morality; but we have no
time to discuss it now. We have something more serious to consider,--
She looked at him wonderingly.
"My husband? Do you really think he will be very angry that the King
The Professor appeared to be considering the question; but in reality
he was studying the exquisite delicacy of the face turned so wistfully
upon him, and the lovely lines of the slim throat and rounded chin--"So
beautiful a creature"--he was saying within himself--"And must she also
suffer pain and disillusion like all the rest of her unfortunate sex!"
Aloud he replied.
"My princess, it is not for me to say he will be 'angry,'--for how
could he be angry with the one he loves to such adoration! He will be
sorry and troubled--it will put him into a great difficulty! Ach!--a
whole nest of difficulties!"
"Why?" And Gloria's eyes filled with sudden tears. "I would not grieve
him for the world! I cannot understand why it should matter at all,
even if the King does find out that he is married. Are the rules so
strict for all the men who serve on board the Royal vessels?"
Von Glauben bit his lips to hide an involuntary smile. But he answered
her with quite a martinet air.
"Yes, they are strict--very strict! Particularly so in the case of your
husband. You see, my child--you do not perhaps quite understand--but he
is a sort of superior officer on board; and in close personal
attendance on the Crown Prince."
"He did not tell me that!" said the girl a little anxiously; "Yet
surely it would not matter if he loses one place; can he not easily get
Von Glauben was looking at her with a grave, almost melancholy
"Listen, my princess,--listen to your poor old friend, who means you so
much good, and no harm at all! Your husband--and I too, for that
matter,--wished much to prevent the King from seeing you--for--for many
reasons. When I heard he was coming to The Islands, I resolved to
arrive here before him, and so I did. I said nothing to Ronsard, not
even to warn him of the King's impending visit. I took you just
quietly, as I have often done, for a walk, with a book to read and to
explain to you, because you tell me you want to study; though in my
opinion you know quite enough--for a woman. I gave you a letter from
your husband, and you know he asked you in that letter to avoid all
possibility of meeting with the King. Good! Well, now, what happens?
You sing--and lo! his Majesty, like a fish on a hook, is drawn up open-
mouthed to your feet! Now, who is to blame? You or I?"
A little perplexed line appeared on the girl's fair brows. "I am, I
suppose!" she said somewhat plaintively,--"But yet, even now, I do not
understand. What is the King? He is nothing! He does nothing for
anybody! People make petitions to him, and he never answers them--they
try to point out errors and abuses, and he takes no trouble to remedy
them--he is no better than a wooden idol! He is not a real man, though
he looks like one."
"Oh, you think he looks like one?" murmured Von Glauben; "That is to
say you are not altogether displeased with his appearance?"
Gloria's eyes darkened a moment with thought,--then flashed with
"No," she said frankly--"He is more kingly than I thought a king could
be. But he should not lose temper. That spoils all dignity!"
Von Glauben smiled.
"Kings are but mortal," he said, "and never to lose temper would be
impossible to any man."
"It is such a waste of time!" declared Gloria--"Why should anyone lose
self-control? It is like giving up a sword to an enemy."
"That is one of Réné Ronsard's teachings,"--said the Professor--"It is
excellent in theory! But in practice I have seen Réné give way to
temper himself, with considerable enjoyment of his own mental
thunderstorm. As for the King, he is generally a very equable
personage; and he has one great virtue--that is courage. He is brave as
a lion--perhaps braver than many lions!"
She raised her eyes enquiringly.
"Has he proved it?"
Rather taken aback by the question, he stared at her solemnly.
"Proved it? Well! He has had no chance. The country has been at peace
for many years--but if there should ever be a war----"
"Would he go and fight for the country?" enquired Gloria.
"In person? No. He would not be allowed to do that. His life would be
"Of course!" interrupted the girl with a touch of contempt; "But if he
would allow himself to be ruled by others in such a matter, I do not
call him brave!"
The Professor drew out his spectacles, and fixing them on his nose with
much care, regarded her through them with bland and kindly interest.
"Very simple and primitive reasoning, my princess!" he said; "And from
an early historic point of view, your idea is correct. In the olden
times kings went themselves to battle, and led their soldiers on to
victory in person. It was very fine; much finer than our modern ways of
warfare. But it has perhaps never occurred to you that a king's life
nowadays is always in danger? He can do nothing more completely
courageous than to show himself in public!"
"Are kings then so hated?" she asked.
"They are not loved, it must be confessed," returned Von Glauben,
taking off his spectacles again; "But that is quite their own fault.
They seldom do anything to deserve the respect,--much less the
affection of their subjects. But this king--this man you have just
seen--certainly deserves both."
"Why, what has he done?" asked Gloria wonderingly. "I have heard people
say he is very wicked--that he takes other men's wives away from them--"
The Professor coughed discreetly.
"My princess, let me suggest to you that he could scarcely take other
men's wives away from them, unless those wives were perfectly willing
She gave an impatient gesture.
"Oh, there are weak women, no doubt; but then a king should know better
than to put temptation in their way. If a man undertakes to be strong,
he should also be honourable. Then,--what of the taxes the King imposes
on the people? The sufferings of the poor over there on the mainland
are terrible!--I know all about them! I have heard Sergius Thord!"
The Professor gave an uncomfortable start.
"You have heard Sergius Thord? Where?"
"Here!" And Gloria smiled at his expression of wonderment. "He has
spoken often to our people, and he is father Réné's friend."
"And what does he talk about when he speaks here?" enquired Von
Glauben. "When does he come, and how does he go?"
"Always at night," answered Gloria; "He has a sailing skiff of his own,
and on many an evening when the wind sets in our quarter, he arrives
quite suddenly, all alone, and in a moment, as if by magic, the
Islanders all seem to know he is here. On the shore, or in the fields
he assembles them round him, and tells them many things that are plain
and true. I have heard him speak often of the shortness of life and its
many sorrows, and he says we could all make each other happy for the
little time we have to live, if we would. And I think he is right; it
is only wicked and selfish people who make others unhappy!"
The Professor was silent. Gloria, watching him, wondered at his
somewhat perturbed expression.
"Do you know the King very well?" she asked suddenly. "He seemed very
cross with you!"
Von Glauben roused himself from a fit of momentary abstraction.
"Yes,--he was cross!" he rejoined. "I, like your husband, am in his
service--and I ought to have been on duty to-day. It will be all right,
however--all right! But--" He paused for a moment, then went on--"You
say that only wicked and selfish people make others unhappy. Now suppose
your husband were wicked and selfish enough to make _you_ unhappy;
what would you say?"
A sweet smile shone in her eyes.
"He could not make me unhappy!" she said. "He would not try! He loves
me, and he will always love me!"
"But, suppose," persisted the Professor--"Just for the sake of argument
--suppose he had deceived you?"
With a low cry she sprang up.
"Impossible!" she exclaimed; "He is truth itself! He could not deceive
"Come and sit down again," said Von Glauben tranquilly; "It is
disturbing to my mind to see you standing there pronouncing your faith
in the integrity of man! No male creature deserves such implicit trust,
and whenever a woman gives it, she invariably finds out her mistake!"
But Gloria stood still, The rich colour had faded from her cheeks--her
eyes were dilated with alarm, and her breath came and went quickly.
"You must explain," she said hurriedly; "You must tell me what you mean
by suggesting such a wicked thought to me as that my husband could
deceive me! It is not right or kind of you,--it is cruel!"
The Professor scrambled up hastily out of his sandy nook, and
approaching her, took her hand very gently and respectfully in his own
and kissed it.
"My dear--my princess--I was wrong! Forgive me!" he murmured, and there
was a little tremor in his voice; "But can you not understand the
possibility of a man loving a woman very much, and yet deceiving her
for her good?"
"It could never be for her good," said Gloria firmly; "It would not be
for mine! No lie ever lasts!"
Von Glauben looked at her with a sense of reverence and something like
awe. The after-glow of the sinking sun was burning low down upon the
sea, and turning it to fiery crimson, and as she stood bathed in its
splendour, the white rocks towering above her, and the golden sands
sparkling at her feet, she appeared like some newly descended angel
expressing the very truth of Heaven itself in her own presence on
earth. As they stood thus, the sudden boom of a single cannon echoed
clear across the waves.
"There goes the King!" said Von Glauben; "Majesty departs for the
present, having so far satisfied his curiosity! That gun is the signal.
Child!"--and turning towards her again, he took both her hands in his,
and spoke with emphatic gravity and kindness--"Remember that I am your
friend always! Whatever chances to you, do not forget that you may
command my service and devotion till death! In this strange life, we
never know from day to day what may happen to us, for constant change
is the law of Nature and the universe,--but after all, there is
something in the soul of a true man which does not change with the
elements,--and that is--loyalty to a sworn faith! In my heart, I have
sworn an oath of fealty to you, my beautiful little princess of the
sea!--and it is a vow that shall never be broken! Do you understand?
And will you remember?"
Her large dark blue eyes looked trustingly into his.
"Indeed, I will never forget!" she said, with a touch of wistfulness in
her accents; "But I do not know why you should be anxious for me--there
is nothing to fear for my happiness. I have all the love I care for in
"And long may you keep it!" said the Professor earnestly; "Come! It
will soon be time for me to leave you, and I must see Réné before I go.
If you follow my advice, you will say nothing to him of having met the
King--not for the present, at any rate."
She agreed to this, though with some little hesitation,--then they
ascended the cliff, and walking by way of the pine-wood through which
the King had come, arrived at Ronsard's house, to find the old man
quite alone, and peacefully engaged in tying up the roses and jessamine
on the pillars of his verandah. His worn face lighted up with animation
and tenderness as Gloria approached him and threw her arms around his
neck, and to her he related the incident of the King and Queen's
unexpected visit, as a sort of accidental, uninteresting, and wholly
unimportant occurrence. The Queen, he said, was very beautiful; but too
cold in her manner, though she had certainly taken much interest in
seeing the house and garden.
"It was just as well you were absent, child," he added--"Royalty brings
an atmosphere with it which is not wholesome. A king never knows what
it is to be an honest man!"
"Those are your old, discarded theories, Ronsard!" said Von Glauben,
shaking his head;--"You said you would never return to them!"
"Aye!" rejoined Ronsard;--"I have tried to put away all my old thoughts
and dreams for her sake"--and his gaze rested lovingly on Gloria as,
standing on tiptoe to reach a down-drooping rose, she gathered it and
fastened it in her bosom. "There should only be peace and contentment
where _she_ dwells! But sometimes my life's long rebellion against
sham and injustice stirs in my blood, and I long to pull down the
ignorant people's idols of wood and straw, and set up men in place of
"A Mumbo-Jumbo of some kind has always been necessary in the world, my
friend," said the Professor calmly; "Either in the shape of a deity or
a king. A wood and straw Nonentity is better than an incarnated fleshly
Selfishness. Will you give me supper before I leave?"
Ronsard smiled a cheery assent, and Gloria preceding them, and singing
in a low tone to herself as she went, they all entered the house
Meanwhile, the Royal yacht was scudding back to the mainland over crisp
waters on the wings of a soft breeze, with a bright moon flying through
fleecy clouds above, and silvering the foam-crests of the waves below.
There was music on board,--the King and Queen dined with their guests,
--and laughter and gay converse intermingled with the sound of song.
They talked of their day's experience--of the beauty of The Islands--of
Ronsard,--his quaint house and quainter self,--so different to the
persons with whom they associated in their own exclusive and brilliant
Court 'set,' and the pretty Countess Amabil flirting harmlessly with
Sir Walter Langton, suggested that a 'Flower Feast' or Carnival should
be held during the summer, for the surprise and benefit of the
Islanders, who had never yet seen a Royal pageant of pleasure on their
But Sir Roger de Launay, ever watching the Queen, saw that she was very
pale, and more silent even than was her usual habit, and that her eyes
every now and again rested on the King, with something of wonder, as
well as fear.
In one of the ultra-fashionable quarters of the brilliant and
overcrowded metropolis which formed the nucleus and centre of
everything notable or progressive in the King's dominions, there stood
a large and aggressively-handsome house, over-decorated both outside
and in, and implying in its general appearance vulgarity, no less than
wealth. These two things go together very much nowadays; in fact one
scarcely ever sees them apart. The fair, southern city of the sea was
not behind other modern cities in luxury and self-aggrandisement, and
there were certain members of the population who made it their business
to show all they were worth in their domestic and home surroundings.
One of the most flagrant money-exhibitors of this kind was a certain
Jew named David Jost. Jost was the sole proprietor of the most
influential newspaper in the kingdom, and the largest shareholder in
three other newspaper companies, all apparently differing in party
views, but all in reality working into the same hands, and for the same
ends. Jost and his companies virtually governed the Press; and what was
euphoniously termed 'public opinion' was the opinion of Jost. Should
anything by chance happen to get into his own special journal, or into
any of the other journals connected with Jost, which Jost did not
approve of, or which might be damaging to Jost's social or financial
interests, the editor in charge was severely censured; if the fault
occurred again he was promptly dismissed. 'Public opinion' had to be
formed on Jost's humour; otherwise it was no opinion at all. A few
other newspapers led a precarious existence in offering a daily feeble
opposition to Jost; but they had not cash enough to carry on the
quarrel. Jost secured all the advertisers, and as a natural consequence
of this, could well afford to be the 'voice of the people' ad libitum.
He was immensely wealthy, openly vicious, and utterly unscrupulous; and
made brilliant speculative 'deals' in the unsuspecting natures of those
who were led, by that bland and cheery demeanour which is generally
associated with a large paunch, to consider him a 'good fellow' with
his 'heart in the right place.' With regard to this last assertion, it
may be doubted whether he had a heart at all, in any place, right or
wrong. He was certainly not given to sentiment. He had married for
money, and his wife had died in a mad-house. He was now anxious to
marry again for position; and while looking round the market for a
sufficiently perfect person of high-breeding, he patronized the theatre
largely, and 'protected' several ballet-girls and actresses. Everyone
knew that his life was black with villainy and intrigue of the most
shameless kind, yet everyone swore that he was a good man. Such is the
value of a limitless money-bag!
It was very late in the evening of the day following that on which the
King had paid his unexpected visit to The Islands,--and David Jost had
just returned from a comic opera-house, where he had supped in private
with two or three painted heroines of the footlights. He was in an
excellent humour with himself. He had sprung a mine on the public; and
a carefully-concocted rumour of war with a foreign power had sent up
certain stocks and shares in which he had considerable interest. He
smiled, as he thought of the general uneasiness he was creating by a
few headlines in his newspaper; and he enjoyed to the full the tranquil
sense of having flung a bone of discord between two nations, in order
to watch them from his arm-chair fighting like dogs for it tooth and
claw, till one or the other gave in.
"Lutera will have to thank me for this," he said to himself; "And he
will owe me both a place and a title!"
He sat down at his desk in his warm and luxuriously-furnished study,--
turned over a few letters, and then glanced up at the clock. Its hands
pointed to within a few minutes of midnight. Taking up a copy of his
own newspaper, he frowned slightly, as he saw that a certain leading
article in favour of the Jesuit settlement in the country had not
"Crowded out, I suppose, for want of space," he said; "I must see that
it goes in to-morrow. These Jesuits know a thing or two; and they are
not going to plank down a thousand pounds for nothing. They have paid
for their advertisement, and they must have it. They ought to have had
it to-day. Lutera must warn the King that it will not do to offend the
Church. There's a lot of loose cash lying idle in the Vatican,--we may
as well have some of it! His Majesty has acted most unwisely in
refusing to grant the religious Orders the land they want. He must be
persuaded to yield it to them by degrees,--in exchange of course for
plenty of cash down, without loss of dignity!"
At that moment the door-bell rang softly, as if it were pulled with
extreme caution. A servant answered it, and at once came to his
"A gentleman to see you, sir, on business," he said.
Jost looked up.
"On business? At this time of night? Say I cannot see him--tell him to
come again to-morrow!"
The servant withdrew, only to return again with a more urgent
"The gentleman says he must see you, sir; he comes from the Premier."
"From the Premier?"
"Yes, sir; his business is urgent, he says, and private. He sent in his
Here he handed over the card in question, a small, unobtrusive bit of
pasteboard, laid in solitary grandeur on a very large silver salver.
David Jost took it up, and scanned it with some curiosity. "'Pasquin
Leroy'! H'm! Don't know the name at all. 'Urgent business; bear private
credentials from the Marquis de Lutera'!" He paused again, considering,
--then turned to the waiting attendant. "Show him in.".
Another moment and Pasquin Leroy entered,--but it was an altogether
different Pasquin Leroy to the one that had recently enrolled himself
as an associate of Sergius Thord's Revolutionary Committee. _That_
particular Pasquin had seemed somewhat of a dreamer and a visionary,
with a peculiar and striking resemblance to the King; _this_
Pasquin Leroy had all the alertness and sharpness common to a practised
journalist, press-reporter or commercial traveller. Moreover, his
countenance, adorned with a black mustache, and small pointed beard,
wore a cold and concentrated air of business--and he confronted the
Jew millionaire without the slightest embarrassment or apology for
having broken in upon his seclusion at so unseasonable an hour. He used
a pince-nez, and was constantly putting it to his eyes, as though
troubled with short-sightedness.
"I presume your matter cannot wait, sir," said Jost, surveying him
coolly, without rising from his seat,--"but if it can--"
"It cannot!" returned Leroy, bluntly.
"So! You come from the Marquis de Lutera?"
Leroy stepped close up to him, and with a sudden movement, which was
somewhat startling, held up his right hand.
"This signet is, I believe, familiar to you,--and it will be enough to
prove that I come on confidential business which cannot be trusted to
Jost gazed at the flashing sapphire on the stranger's hand with a sense
of deadly apprehension. He recognised the Premier's ring well enough;
and he also knew that it would never have been sent to him in this
mysterious way unless the matter in question was almost too desperate
for whispering within four walls. An uneasy sensation affected him; he
pulled at his collar, looked round the room as though in search of
inspiration, and then finally bringing his small, swine-like eyes to
bear on the neat soldierly figure before him, he said with a careless
"You probably bring news for the Press affecting the present policy?"
"That remains to be seen!" replied Leroy imperturbably; "From a
perfectly impartial standpoint, I should imagine that the present
policy may have to alter considerably!"
"Impossible! It cannot be altered!" he said roughly,--then suddenly
recollecting himself, he assumed his usual indolent equanimity, and
rising slowly, went to a side door in the room and threw it open.
"Step in here," he said; "We can talk without fear of interruption.
Will you smoke?"
"With pleasure!" replied Leroy, accepting a cigar from the case Jost
extended--then glancing with a slight smile at the broad, squat Jewish
countenance which had, in the last couple of minutes, lost something of
its habitual redness, he added--"I am glad you are disposed to discuss
matters with me in a friendly, as well as in a confidential way. It is
possible my news may not be altogether agreeable to you;--but of course
you would be more willing to suffer personally, than to jeopardise the
honour of Ministers."
He uttered the last sentence more as a question than a statement.
Jost shifted one foot against the other uneasily.
"I am not so sure of that," he said after a pause, during which he had
drawn himself up, and had endeavoured to look conscientious; "You see I
have the public to consider! Ministers may fall; statesmen may be
thrown out of office; but the Press is the same yesterday, to-day, and
"Except when a great Editor changes his opinions," said Leroy
tranquilly,--"Which is, of course, always a point of reason and
conscience, as well as of--advantage! In the present case I think--but
--shall we not enter the sanctum of which you have so obligingly opened
the door? We can scarcely be too private when the King's name is in
Jost opened his furtive eyes in amazement.
"The King? What the devil has he to do with anything but his women and
A very close observer might have seen a curious expression flicker over
Pasquin Leroy's face at these words,--an expression half of laughter,
half of scorn,--but it was slight and evanescent, and his reply was
"I really cannot inform you; but I am afraid his Majesty is departing
somewhat from his customary routine! He is, in fact, taking an active,
instead of a passive part in national affairs."
"Then he must be warned off the ground!" said Jost irritably; "He is a
Constitutional monarch, and must obey the laws of the Constitution."
"Precisely!" And Leroy looked carefully at the end of his cigar; "But
at present he appears to have an idea that the laws of the Constitution
are being tampered with by certain other kings;--for example,--the
kings of finance!"
Jost muttered a half-inaudible oath.
"Come this way," he said impatiently;--"Bad news is best soon over!"
Leroy gave a careless nod of acquiescence,--then glancing round the
room, up at the clock, and down again to Jost's desk, strewn with
letters and documents of every description, he smiled a little to
himself, and followed the all-powerful editor into the smaller
adjoining apartment. The door closed behind them both, and Jost turned
the key in the lock from within.
For a long time all was very silent. Jost's valet and confidential
servant, sleepy and tired, waited in the hall to let his master's
visitor out,--and hearing no sound, ventured to look into the study now
and then,--but to no purpose. He knew the sanctity of that inner
chamber beyond; he knew that when the Premier came to see the great
Jost,--as he often did,--it was in that mysterious further room that
business was transacted, and that it was as much as his place was worth
to venture even to knock at the door. So, yawning heavily, he dozed on
his bench in the hall,--woke with a start and dozed again,--while the
clock slowly ticked away the minutes till with a dull clang the hour
struck One. Then on again went the steady and wearisome tick-tick of
the pendulum, for a quarter of an hour, half an hour,--and three-
quarters,--till the utterly fatigued valet was about to knock down a
few walking-sticks and umbrellas, and make a general noise of reminder
to his master as to how the time was going, when, to his great relief,
he heard the inner door open at last, and the voice of the mysterious
visitor ring out in clear, precise accents.
"Nothing will be done publicly, of course,--unless Parliament insists
on an enquiry!" The speaker came towards the hall, and the valet
sprang up from his bench, and stood ready to show the stranger out.
Jost replied, and his accents were thick and unsteady.
"Enquiry cannot be forced! The Marquis himself can burk any such
"But--if the King should insist?"
"He would be breaking all the rules of custom and precedent," said
Jost,--"And he would deserve to be dethroned!"
Pasquin Leroy laughed.
"True! Good-night, Mr. Jost! Can I do anything for you in Moscow?" The
two men now came into the full light shed by the great lamp in the
hall. Jost looked darkly red in the face--almost apoplectic; Leroy was
as cool, imperturbable and easy of manner as a practised detective or
"In Moscow," Jost repeated--"You are going straight to Russia?"
"I think so."
"I suppose you are in the secret service?"
"Exactly! A curious line of business, too, which the outside world
knows very little of. Ah!--if the excellent people--the masses as we
call them--knew what rogues had the ruling of their affairs in some
countries--not in this country, of course!" he added with a quizzical
smile,--"but in some others, not very far away, I wonder how many
revolutions would break out within six months! Good-night, Mr. Jost!"
"Good-night!" responded Jost briefly. "You will let me know any further
The servant opened the door, and Pasquin Leroy slipped a gold coin
worth a sovereign into his hand, whereupon, of course, the worthy
domestic considered him to be a 'real gentleman.' As soon as he had
passed into the street, and the door was shut and barred for the night,
Jost bade his man go to bed, a command which was gladly obeyed; and re-
entering his study, passed all the time till the breaking of dawn in
rummaging out letters and documents from various desks, drawers and
despatch-boxes, and burning them carefully one by one in the open
grate. While thus employed, he had a truly villainous aspect,--each
flame he kindled with each paper seemed to show up a more unpleasing
expression on his countenance, till at last,--when such matter was
destroyed as he had at present determined on,--he drew himself up and
stood for a moment surveying the pile of light black ashes, which was
all that was left of about a hundred or more incriminating paper
witnesses to certain matters in which he had more than a lawful
"It will be difficult now to trace my hand in the scheme!" he said to
himself, frowning heavily, as he considered various uncomfortable
contingencies arising out of his conversation with his late visitor.
"If the thunderbolt falls, it will crush Carl Pérousse--not me. Yes! It
means ruin for him--ruin and disgrace--but for me--well! I shall find
it as easy to damn Pérousse as it has been to support him, for he
cannot involve me without adding tenfold to his own disaster! I think
it will be safe enough for me--possibly not so safe for the Premier.
However, I will write to him to-morrow, just to let him know I received
In the meantime, while David Jost was thus cogitating unpleasant and
even dangerous possibilities, which were perhaps on the eve of
occurring to himself and certain of his associates in politics and
journalism, Pasquin Leroy was hurrying along the city streets under the
light of a clear, though pallid and waning moon. Few wanderers were
abroad; the police walked their various rounds, and one or two
miserable women passed him, like flying ghosts in the thin air of
night. His mind was in a turmoil of agitation; and the thoughts that
were tossing rapidly through his brain one upon the other, were such as
he had never known before. He had fathomed a depth of rascality and
deception, which but a short month ago, he could scarcely have believed
capable of existence. The cruel injury and loss preparing for thousands
of innocent persons through the self-interested plotting of a few men,
was almost incalculable,--and his blood burned with passionate
indignation as he realized on what a verge of misery, bloodshed,
disaster and crime the unthinking people of the country stood, pushed
to the very edge of a fall by the shameless and unscrupulous designs of
a few financiers, playing their gambling game with the public
confidence,--and cheating nations as callously as they would have
cheated their partners at cards.
"Thank God, it is not too late!" he murmured; "Not quite too late to
save the situation!--to rescue the people from long years of undeserved
taxation, loss of trade and general distress! It is a supreme task that
has been given me to accomplish!--but if there is any truth and right
in the laws of the Universe, I shall surely not be misjudged while
He quickened his pace;--and to avoid going up one of the longer
thoroughfares which led to the citadel and palace, he decided to cross
one of the many picturesque bridges, arched over certain inlets from
the sea, and forming canals, where barges and other vessels might be
towed up to the very doors of the warehouses which received their
cargoes. But just as he was about to turn in the necessary direction,
he halted abruptly at sight of two men, standing at the first corner in
the way of his advance, talking earnestly. He recognized them at once
as Sergius Thord and the half-inebriated poet, Paul Zouche. With
noiseless step he moved cautiously into the broad stretch of black
shadow cast by the great façade of a block of buildings which occupied
half the length of the street in which he stood, and so managing to
slip into the denser darkness of a doorway, was able to hear what they
were saying. The full, mellow, and persuasive tone of Thord's voice had
something in it of reproach.
"You shame yourself, Zouche!" he said; "You shame me; you shame us all!
Man, did God put a light of Genius in your soul merely to be quenched
by the cravings of a bestial body? What associate are you for us? How
can you help us in the fulfilment of our ideal dream? By day you mingle
with litterateurs, scientists, and philosophers,--report has it that
you have even managed to stumble your way into my lady's boudoir;--but
by night you wander like this,--insensate, furious, warped in soul,
muddled in brain, and only the heart of you alive,--the poor
unsatisfied heart--hungering and crying for what itself makes
Zouche broke into a harsh laugh. Turning up his head to the sky, he
thrust back his wild hair, and showed his thin eager face and
glittering eyes, outlined cameo-like by the paling radiance of the
"Well spoken, my Sergius!" he exclaimed. "You always speak well! Your
thoughts are of flame--your speech is of gold; the fire melts the ore!
And then again you have a conscience! That is a strange possession!--
quite useless in these days, like the remains of the tail we had when
we were all happy apes in the primeval forest, pelting the Megatherium
or other such remarkable beasts with cocoanuts! It was a much better
life, Sergius, believe me! A Conscience is merely a mental
Appendicitis! There should be a psychical surgeon with an airy lancet
to cut it out. Not for me!--I was born perfect--without it!"
He laughed again, then with an abrupt change of manner he caught Thord
violently by the arm.
"How can you speak of shame?" he said--"What shame is left in either
man or woman nowadays? Naked to the very skin of foulness, they flaunt
a nudity of vice in every public thoroughfare! Your sentiments, my
grand Sergius, are those of an old world long passed away! You are a
reformer, a lover of truth--a hater of shams--and in the days when the
people loved truth,--and wanted justice,--and fought for both, you
would have been great! But greatness is nowadays judged as 'madness'--
truth as 'want of tact'--desire for justice is 'clamour for notoriety.'
Shame? There is no shame in anything, Sergius, but honesty! That is a
disgrace to the century; for an honest man is always poor, and poverty
is the worst of crimes." He threw up his arms with a wild gesture,--
"The worst of crimes! Do I not know it!"
Thord took him gently by the shoulder.
"You talk, Zouche, as you always talk, at random, scarcely knowing, and
certainly not half meaning what you say. There is no real reason in
your rages against fate and fortune. Leave the accursed drink, and you
may still win the prize you covet--Fame."
"Not I!" said Zouche scornfully,--"Fame in its original sense belonged
also to the growing-time of the world--when, proud of youth and the
glow of life, the full-fledged man judged himself immortal. Fame now is
adjudged to the biped-machine who drives a motor-car best,--or to the
fortunate soap-boiler who dines with a king! Poetry is understood to be
the useful rhyme which announces the virtues of pills and boot-
blacking! Mark you, Sergius!--my latest volume was 'graciously accepted
by the King'! Do you know what that means?"
"No," replied Thord, a trifle coldly; "And if it were not that I know
your strange vagaries, I should say you wronged your election as one of
us, to send any of your work to a crowned fool!"
Zouche laughed discordantly.
"You would? No, you would not, my Sergius, if you knew the spirit in
which I sent it! A spirit as wild, as reckless, as ranting, as defiant
as ever devil indulged in! The humility of my presentation letter to
his Majesty was beautiful! The reply of the flunkey-secretary was
equally beautiful in smug courtesy: 'Sir, I am commanded by the King to
thank you for the book of poems you have kindly sent for his
acceptance!' I say again, Thord, do you know what it means?"
"No; I only wish that instead of talking here, you would let me see you
"Home! I have no home! Since _she_ died--" He paused, and a grey
shadow crossed his face like the hue of approaching sickness or death.
"I killed her, poor child! Of course you know that! I neglected her,--
deserted her--left her to die! Well! She is only one more added to the
list of countless women martyrs who have been tortured out of an unjust
world--and now--now I write verses to her memory!" He shivered as with
cold, still clinging to Thord's arm. "But I did not tell you what great
good comes of sending a book to the King! It means less to a writer
than to a boot-maker. For the boot-maker can put up a sign: 'Special
Fitter for the ease of His Majesty's Corns'--but if a poet should say
his verse is 'accepted' by a monarch, the shrewd public take it at once
to be bad verse, and will have none of it! That is the case with my
"Why did you send it?" asked Thord, with grave patience. "Your business
with kings is to warn, not to flatter!"
"Just so!" cried Zouche; "And if His Most Gracious and Glorious had
been pleased to look inside the volume, he would have seen enough to
startle him! It was sent in hate, my Sergius,--not in humility,--just
as the flunkey-secretary's answer was penned in derision, aping
courtesy! How you look, under this wan sky of night! Reproachful, yet
pitying, as the eyes of Buddha are your eyes, my Sergius! You are a
fine fellow--your brain is a dome decorated with glorious ideals!--and
yet you are like all of us, weak in one point, as Achilles in the heel.
One thing could turn you from man into beast--and that would be if
Lotys loved--not you--she never will love you--but another!"--Thord
started back as though suddenly stabbed, and angrily shook off his
companion, who only laughed again,--a shrill, echoing laugh in which
there was a note of madness and desolation. "Bah!" he exclaimed; "You
are a fool after all! You work for a woman as I did--once! But mark
you!--do not kill her--as I did--once! Be patient! Watch the light
shine, even though it does not illumine your path; be glad that the
rose blooms for itself, if not for you! It will be difficult!--
meanwhile you can live on hope--a bitter fruit to eat; but gnaw it to
the last rind, my Sergius! Hope that Lotys may melt in your fire, as a
snowflake in the sun! Come! Now take the poor poet home,--the drunken
child of inspiration--take him home to his garret in the slums--the
poet whose book has been accepted by the King!"
Pulling himself up from his semi-crouching position, he seized Thord's
arm again more tightly, and began to walk along unsteadily. Presently
he paused, smiling vacantly up at the gradually vanishing stars.
"Lotys speaks to our followers on Saturday," he said; "You know that?"
Thord bent his head in acquiescence.
"You will be there, of course. I shall be there! What a voice she has!
Whether we believe what she says or not, we must hear,--and hearing, we
must follow. Where shall we drink in the sweet Oracle this time?"
"At the People's Assembly Rooms," responded Thord; "But remember,
Zouche, she does not speak till nine o'clock. That means that you will
be unfit to listen!"
"You think so?" responded Zouche airily, and leaning on Thord he
stumbled onward, the two passing close in front of the doorway where
Pasquin Leroy stood concealed. "But I am more ready to understand
wisdom when drunk, than when sober, my Sergius! You do not understand.
I am a human eccentricity--the result of an _amour_ between a
fiend and an angel! Believe me! I will listen to Lotys with all my
devil-saintly soul,--you will listen to her with all your loving,
longing heart--and with us two thus attentive, the opinions of the rest
of the audience will scarcely matter! How the street reels! How the old
moon dances! So did she whirl pallidly when Antony clasped his Egyptian
Queen, and lost Actium! Remember the fate of Antony, Sergius! Kingdoms
would have been seized and controlled by men such as you are, long
before now--if there had not always been a woman in the case--a
Cleopatra--or a Lotys!"
Still laughing foolishly, he reeled onwards, Sergius Thord half-
supporting, half-leading him, with grave carefulness and brotherly
compassion. They were soon out of sight; and Pasquin Leroy, leaving his
dark hiding-place, crossed the bridge with an alert step, and mounted a
steep street leading to the citadel. From gaps between the tall leaning
houses a glimpse of the sea, silvered by the dying moonlight, flashed
now and again; and in the silence of the night the low ripple of small
waves against the breakwater could be distinctly heard. A sense of holy
calm impressed him as he paused a moment; and the words of an old
monkish verse came back to him from some far-off depth of memory:
Lord Christ, I would my soul were clear as air,
With only Thy pure radiance falling through!
He caught his breath hard--there was a smarting sense as of tears in
"So proudly throned, and so unloved!" he muttered. "Yet,--has not the
misprisal and miscomprehension been merited? Whose is the blame? Not
with the People, who, despite the prophet's warning, 'still put their
trust in princes'--but with the falsity and hollowness of the system!
Sovereignty is like an old ship stuck fast in the docks, and unfit for
sailing the wide seas--crusted with barnacles of custom and prejudice,
--and in every gale of wind pulling and straining at a rusty chain
anchor. But the spirit of Change is in the world; a hurrying movement
that has wings of fire, and might possibly be called Revolution! It is
better that the torch should be lighted from the Throne than from the
He went on his way quickly,--till reaching the outer wall of the
citadel, he was challenged by a sentinel, to whom he gave the password
in a low tone. The man drew back, satisfied, and Leroy went on,
mounting from point to point of the cliff, till he reached a private
gate leading into the wide park-lands which skirted the King's palace.
Here stood a muffled and cloaked figure evidently watching for him; for
as soon as he appeared the gate was noiselessly opened for his
admittance, and he passed in at once. Then he and the person who had
awaited his coming, walked together through the scented woods of pine
and rhododendrons, and talking in low and confidential voices, slowly
THE KING'S VETO
The Marquis de Lutera was a heavy sleeper, and for some time had been
growing stouter than was advisable for the dignity of a Prime Minister.
He had been defeated of late years in one or two important measures;
and his colleague, Carl Pérousse, had by gradual degrees succeeded in
worming himself into such close connection with the rest of the members
of the Cabinet, that he, Lutera, felt himself being edged out, not only
from political 'deals,' but from the profits appertaining thereto. So,
growing somewhat indifferent, as well as disgusted at the course
affairs were taking, he had made up his mind to retire from office, as
soon as he had carried through a certain Bill which, in its results,
would have the effect of crippling the people of the country, while
helping on his own interests to a considerable degree. At the immediate
moment he had a chance of looming large on the political horizon. Carl
Pérousse could not do anything of very great importance without him;
they were both too deeply involved together in the same schemes. In
point of fact, if Pérousse could bring the Premier to a fall, the
Premier could do the same by Pérousse. The two depended on each other;
and Lutera, conscious that if Pérousse gained any fresh accession of
power, it would be to his, Lutera's, advantage, was gradually preparing
to gracefully resign his position in the younger and more ambitious
man's favour. But he was not altogether comfortable in his mind since
his last interview with the King. The King had shown unusual signs of
self-will and obstinacy. He had presumed to give a command affecting
the national policy; and, moreover, he had threatened, if his command
were not obeyed, to address Parliament himself on the subject in hand,
from the Throne. Such an unaccustomed, unconstitutional idea was very
upsetting to the Premier's mind. It had cost him a sleepless night; and
when he woke to a new day's work, he was in an extremely irritable
humour. He was doubtful how to act;--for to complain of the King would
not do; and to enlighten the members of the Cabinet as to his Majesty's
declared determination to dispose amicably of certain difficulties with
a foreign power, which the Ministry had fully purposed fanning up into
a flame of war, might possibly awaken a storm of dissension and
"We all want money!" said the Marquis gloomily, as he rose from his
tumbled bed to take his first breakfast, and read his early morning
letters--"And to crush a small and insolent race, whose country is rich
in mineral product, is simply the act of squeezing an orange for the
necessary juice. Life would be lost, of course, but we are over-
populated; and a good war would rid the country of many scamps and
vagabonds. Widows and orphans could be provided for by national
subscriptions, invested as the Ministry think fit, and paid to
applicants after about twenty years' waiting!" He smiled sardonically.
"The gain to ourselves would be incalculable; new wealth, new schemes,
new openings for commerce and speculation in every way! And now the
King sets himself up as an obstacle to progress! If he were fond of
money, we could explain the whole big combine, and offer him a share;--
but with a character such as he possesses, I doubt if it would work!
With some monarchs whom I could name, it would be perfectly easy. And
yet,--for the three years he has been on the throne, he has been
passive enough,--asking no questions,--signing such documents as he has
been told to sign,--uttering such speeches as have been written for
him,--and I was never more shocked and taken aback in my life than
yesterday morning, when he declared he had decided to think and act for
himself! Simply preposterous! An ordinary man who presumes to think and
act for himself is always a danger to the community--but a king! Good
Heavens! We should have the old feudal system back again."
He sipped his coffee leisurely, and opened a few letters; there were
none of very pressing importance. He was just about to glance through
the morning's newspaper, when his man-servant entered bearing a note
marked 'Private and Immediate.' He recognized the handwriting of David
"Anyone waiting for an answer?" he enquired.
The man retired. The Marquis broke the large splotchy seal bearing the
coat-of-arms which Jost affected, but to which he had no more right
than the man in the moon, and read what seemed to him more inexplicable
than the most confusing conundrum ever invented.
"MY DEAR MARQUIS,--I received your confidential messenger last night,
and explained the entire situation. He left for Moscow this morning,
but will warn us of any further developments. Sorry matters look so
grave for you. Should like a few minutes private chat when you can
spare the time.--
"Yours truly, DAVID JOST."
Over and over again the Marquis read this brief note, staring at its
every word and utterly unable to understand its meaning.
"What in the world is the fellow driving at!" he exclaimed angrily--
"'My messenger'! 'Explained the entire situation'! The devil! 'Left for
Moscow'! Upon my soul, this is maddening!" And he rang the bell
"Who brought this note?" he asked, as his servant entered.
"Mr. Jost's own man, Excellency."
"Has he gone?"
"Wait!" And sitting down he wrote hastily the following lines:
"DEAR SIR,--Your letter is inexplicable. I sent no messenger to you
last night. If you have any explanation to offer, I shall be disengaged
and alone till 11.30 this morning.
"Yours truly,--DE LUTERA."
Folding, sealing, and addressing this, he marked it 'Private' and gave
it to his man.
"Take this yourself," he said, "and put it into Mr. Jost's own hands.
Trust no one to deliver it. Ask to see him personally, and then give it
to him. You understand?"
His note thus despatched, the Marquis threw himself down in his arm-
chair, and again read Jost's mysterious communication.
"Whatever messenger has passed himself off as coming from me, Jost must
have been crazy to receive him without credentials," he said. "There
must be a mistake somewhere!"
A vague alarm troubled him; he was not moved by conscientious scruples,
but the idea that any of his secret moves should be 'explained' to a
stranger was, to say the least of it, annoying, and not conducive to
the tranquillity of his mind. A thousand awkward possibilities
suggested themselves at once to his brain, and as he carried a somewhat
excitable disposition under his heavy and phlegmatic exterior, he fumed