Part 6 out of 11
She stood silent, looking at him,--pale and fair as an ivory statue of
Psyche, seen against the dark background of the heavily-branched trees.
Her mind was stunned and confused; she had not yet grasped the full
consciousness of her position,--but as he spoke, the old primitive
lessons of faith, steadfastness of purpose, and unwavering love and
trust in God, which her adopted father had instilled into her from
childhood, rose and asserted their sway over her startled, but unspoilt
"You need not claim it!" she said, slowly; "It is yours always! I shall
do whatever you tell me, even if you command me to die for your sake!"
With a swift impulsive action, full of grace and spirit, he dropped on
one knee and kissed her hand.
"And so I pledge my faith to my Queen!" he said joyously. "Gloria! my
'Glory-of-the-Sea'!--you will forgive me for having in this one thing
misled you? Think of me as your sailor lover still!--it is a much
harder thing to be a king's son than a simple, independent seafarer!
Pity me for my position, and help me to make it endurable! Come now
with me down to that rocky nook on the shore where I first saw you,--
and I will tell you exactly how everything stands,--and how I trust to
your love for me and your courage, to clear away all the difficulties
before us. You do not love me less?"
"I could not love you less!" she replied slowly; "but I cannot think of
you as quite the same!"
A shadow of pain darkened his face.
"Gloria," he said sadly; "If your love was as great as mine you would
She stood a moment wavering and uncertain; their eyes were riveted on
each other in a strange spiritual attraction--her soft lips were a
little relaxed from their gravity as she steadfastly regarded him. She
was embarrassed, conscious, and very pale; but he drank in gratefully
the wonder and shy worship of those pure eyes,--and waited. Suddenly
she sprang to him and closed her arms about his neck, kissing him with
simple and loving tenderness.
"I do forgive! Oh, I do forgive!" she murmured; "Because I love you, my
darling--because I love you! Whatever you wish I will do for your
love's sake--believe me!--but I am frightened just now!--it is as if I
did not know you--as if someone had taken you suddenly a long way off!
Give me a little time to recover my courage!--and to know"--here a
faint smile trembled on her beautiful curved mouth--"to know,--and to
_feel_,--that you are still my own!--even though the world may try
to part you from me!--still my very own!"
The warmth of passionate feeling in her face flushed it into a rose-
glow that spread from chin to brow,--and clasping her to his breast, he
gave her the speechless answer that love inscribes on eyes and lips,--
then, keeping his arm tenderly about her, he led her gently into the
path through the pinewood, which wound down to their favourite haunt by
The moonlight had now increased in brilliancy, and illumined the
landscape with all the opulence, splendour and superabundance of
radiance common to the south,--the air was soft and balmy, and one
great white cloud floating lazily under the silver orb, moved slowly to
the centre of the heavens,--the violet-blue of night falling around it
like an imperial robe of state. The two youthful figures passed under
the pine-boughs, which closed over them odorously in dark arches of
shadow, and wended their slow way down to the seashore, from whence
they could see the Royal yacht lying at anchor, every tapering line of
her fair proportions distinctly outlined against the sky, and all her
masts shining as if they had been washed with silver dew; and the Heir-
Apparent to a throne was,--for once in the history of Heir-Apparents,--
happy--happy in knowing that he was loved as princes seldom or never
are loved,--not for his power, not for his rank, but simply for himself
alone, by one of the most beautiful women in the world, who,--if she
knew neither the ways of a Court, nor the wiles of fashion,--had
something better than either of these,--the sanctity of truth and the
strength of innocence.
Réné Ronsard, coming back from his pleasurable duties as host and
chairman to his fishermen-friends, found the cottage deserted, and
smiled, as he sat himself down in the porch to smoke, and to wait for
the lover's return.
"What a thing it is to be young!" he sighed, as he gazed meditatively
at the still beauty of the night around him;--"To be young,--and in
love with the right person! Hours go like moments--the grass is never
damp--the air is never cold--there is never time enough to give all the
kisses that are waiting to be given; and life is so beautiful, that we
are almost able to understand why God created the universe! The rapture
passes very quickly, unfortunately--with some people;--but if I ever
prayed for anything--which I do not--I should pray that it might remain
with Gloria! It surely cannot offend the Supreme Being who is
responsible for our existence, to see one woman happy out of all the
tortured millions of them! One exception to the universal rule would
not make much difference! The law that the strong should prey on the
weak, nearly always prevails,--but it is possible to hope and believe
that on rare occasions the strong may be magnanimous!"
He smoked on placidly, considering various points of philosophic
meditation, and by and by fell into a gentle doze. The doze deepened
into a dream which grew sombre and terrible,--and in it he thought he
saw himself standing bareheaded on a raised platform above surging
millions of people who all shouted with one terrific uproar of unison--
"Regicide! Regicide!" He looked down upon his hands, and saw them red
with blood!--he looked up to the heavens, and they were flushed with
the same ominous hue. Blood!--blood!--the blood of kings,--the dust of
thrones!--and he, the cause! Choked and tormented with a parching
thirst, it seemed in the dream that he tried to speak,--and with all
his force he cried out--"For her sake I did it! For her sake!" But the
clamour of the crowd drowned his voice,--and then it was as if the
coldness of death crept slowly over him,--slowly and cruelly, as though
his whole body were being enclosed within an iceberg,--and he saw
Gloria, the child of his love and care, laid out before him dead,--but
robed and crowned like a queen, and placed on a great golden bier of
state, with purple velvet falling about her, and tall candles blazing
at her head and feet. And voices sang in his ears--"Gloria! Gloria in
excelsis Deo!"--mingling with the muffled chanting of priests at some
distant altar; and he thought he made an attempt to touch the royal
velvet pall that draped her beautiful lifeless body, when he was
roughly thrust back by armed men with swords and bayonets who asked him
"What do you here? Are you not her murderer?"--and he cried out wildly
"No, no! Never could I have harmed the child of my love! Never could I
hurt a hair of her head, or cause her an hour's sorrow! She is all I
had in the world!--I loved her!--I loved her! Let me see her!--let me
touch her!--let me kiss her once again!" And then the scene suddenly
changed,--and it was found that Gloria was not dead at all, but walking
peacefully alone in a garden of flowers, with lilies crowning her, and
all the sunshine about her; and that the golden bier of state had
changed into a ship at sea which was floating, floating westward
bearing some great message to a far country, and that all was well for
him and his darling. The troubled vision cleared from his brain, and
his sleep grew calmer; he breathed more easily, and flitting glimpses
of fair scenes passed before his dreaming eyes,--scenes in some
peaceful and beautiful world, where never a shadow of sorrow or trouble
darkened the quiet contentment of happy and innocent lives. He smiled
in his sleep, and heaved a deep sigh of pleasure,--and so, gently
awoke, to feel a light touch on his shoulder, and to see Gloria
standing before him. A smile was on her face,--the fragrance of the
woodlands and the sea clung about her garments,--she held a few roses
in her hand, and there was something in her whole appearance that
struck him as new, commanding, and more than ever beautiful.
"You have returned alone?" he said wonderingly.
"Yes. I have returned alone! I have much to tell you, dear! Let us go
OF THE CORRUPTION OF THE STATE
The large gaunt building, which was dignified by the name of the
'People's Assembly Rooms,' stood in a dim unfashionable square of the
city which had once been entirely devoted to warehouses and storage
cellars. It had originally served a useful purpose in providing
temporary shelter for foreign-made furniture, which was badly
constructed and intrinsically worthless,--but which, being cheaply
imported and showy in appearance, was patronized by some of the upper
middle-classes in preference to goods of their own home workmanship.
Lately, however, the foreign import had fallen to almost less than
nothing; and whether or no this was due to the secret machinations of
Sergius Thord and his Revolutionary Committee, no one would have had
the hardihood to assert. Foreign tradesmen, however, and foreign
workmen generally had certainly experienced a check in their inroads
upon home manufactures, and some of the larger business firms had been
so successfully intimidated as to set up prominent announcements
outside their warehouses to the effect that "Only native workmen need
apply." Partly in consequence of the "slump" in foreign goods, the
"Assembly Rooms," as a mere building had for some time been shut up,
and given over to dust and decay, till the owners of the property
decided to let it out for popular concerts, meetings and dances, and so
make some little money out of its bare whitewashed walls and
comfortless ugliness. The plan had succeeded fairly well, and the place
was beginning to be known as a convenient centre where thousands were
wont to congregate, to enjoy cheap music and cheap entertainment
generally. It was a favourite vantage ground for the disaffected and
radical classes of the metropolis to hold forth on their wrongs, real
or imaginary,--and the capacities of the largest room or hall in the
building were put to their utmost extent to hold the enormous audiences
that always assembled to hear the picturesque, passionate and striking
oratory of Sergius Thord.
But there were one or two rare occasions when even Sergius Thord's
attractions as a speaker were thrown into the background, by the
appearance of that mysterious personality known as Lotys,--concerning
whom a thousand extravagant stories were rife, none of which were true.
It was rumoured among other things as wild and strange, that she was
the illegitimate child of a certain great prince, whose amours were
legion--that she had been thrown out into the street to perish,
deserted as an infant, and that Sergius Thord had rescued her from that
impending fate of starvation and death,--and that it was by way of
vengeance for the treatment of her mother by the Exalted Personage
involved, that she had thrown in her lot with the Revolutionary party,
to aid their propaganda by her intellectual gifts, which were many. She
was known to be very poor,--she lived in cheap rooms in a low quarter
of the city; she was seldom or never seen in the public thoroughfares,
--she appeared to have no women friends, and she certainly mixed in no
form of social intercourse or entertainment. Yet her name was on the
lips of the million, and her influence was felt far beyond the city's
radius. Even among some of the highest and wealthiest classes of
society this peculiar appellation of "Lotys," carrying no surname with
it, and spoken at haphazard had the effect of causing a sudden silence,
and the interchange of questioning looks among those who heard it, and
who, without knowing who she was, or what her aims in life really were,
voted her "dangerous." Those among the superior classes who had by rare
chance seen her, were unanimous in their verdict that she was not
beautiful,--"but!"--and the "but" spoke volumes. She was known to
possess something much less common, and far more potent than beauty,--
and that was a fascinating, compelling spiritual force, which
magnetised into strange submission all who came within its influence,--
and many there were who admitted, though with bated breath that 'An' if
she chose' she could easily become a very great personage indeed.
She herself was, or seemed to be, perfectly unconscious of the many
discussions concerning her and her origin. She had her own secret
sorrows,--her sad private history, which she shut close within her own
breast,--but out of many griefs and poverty-stricken days of struggle
and cruel environment, she had educated herself to a wonderful height
of moral self-control and almost stoical rectitude. Her nature was a
broad and grand one, absolutely devoid of pettiness, and full of a
strong, almost passionate sympathy with the wrongs of others,--and she
had formed herself on such firm, heroic lines of courage and truth and
self-respect, that the meaner vices of her sex were absolutely unknown
to her. Neither vanity, nor envy, nor malice, nor spleen disturbed the
calmly-flowing current of her blood,--her soul was absorbed in pity for
human kind, and contemplation of its many woes,--and so living alone,
and studiously apart from the more frivolous world, she had attained a
finely tempered and deeply thoughtful disposition which gave her
equally the courage of the hero and the resignation of the martyr. She
had long put away out of her life all possibility of happiness for
herself. She had, by her unwearying study of the masses of working,
suffering men and women, come to the sorrowful conclusion that real
happiness could only be enjoyed by the extremely young, and the
extremely thoughtless,--and that love was only another name for the
selfish and often cruel and destructive instincts of animal desire. She
did not resent these ugly facts, or passionately proclaim against the
gloomy results of life such as were daily displayed to her,--she was
only filled with a profound and ceaseless compassion for the evils
which were impossible to cure. Her tireless love for the sick, the
feeble, the despairing, the broken-hearted and the dying, had raised
her to the height of an angel's quality among the very desperately poor
and criminal classes;--the fiercest ruffians of the slums were docile
in her presence and obedient to her command;--and many a bold plan of
robbery,--many a wicked scheme of murder had been altogether foregone
and abandoned through the intervention of Lotys, whose intellectual
acumen, swift to perceive the savage instinct, or motive for crime, was
equally swift to point out its uselessness as a means of satisfying
vengeance. No preacher could persuade a thief of the practical
ingloriousness of thieving, as Lotys could,--and a prison chaplain,
remonstrating with an assassin after his crime, was not half as much
use to the State as Lotys, who could induce such an one to resign his
murderous intent altogether, before he had so much as possessed himself
of the necessary weapon. Thousands of people were absolutely under her
moral dominion,--and the power she exercised over them was so great,
and yet so unobtrusive, that had she bidden the whole city rise in
revolt, she would most surely have been obeyed by the larger and
fiercer half of its population.
With the moneyed classes she had nothing in common, though she viewed
them with perhaps more pity than she did the very poor. An overplus of
cash in any one person's possession that had not been rightfully earned
by the work of brain or body, was to her an incongruity, and a
defection from the laws of the universe;--show and ostentation she
despised,--and though she loved beautiful things, she found them,--as
she herself said,--much more in the everyday provisions of nature,
than in the elaborate designs of art. When she passed the gay shops in
the principal thoroughfares she never paused to look in at the
jewellers' windows,--but she would linger for many minutes studying the
beauty of the sprays of orchids and other delicate blossoms, arranged
in baskets and vases by the leading florists; while,--best delight of
all to her, was a solitary walk inland among the woods, where she could
gather violets and narcissi, and, as she expressed it 'feel them
growing about her feet.' She would have been an extraordinary
personality as a man,--as a woman she was doubly remarkable, for to a
woman's gentleness she added a force of will and brain which are not
often found even in the stronger sex.
Mysterious as she was in her life and surroundings, enough was known of
her by the people at large, to bring a goodly concourse of them to the
Assembly Rooms on the night when she was announced to speak on a
subject of which the very title seemed questionable, namely, "On the
Corruption of the State." The police had been notified of the impending
meeting, and a few stalwart emissaries of the law in plain clothes
mixed with the in-pouring throng. The crowd, however, was very
orderly;--there was no pushing, no roughness, and no coarse language.
All the members of Sergius Thord's Revolutionary Committee were
present, but they came as stragglers, several and apart,--and among
them Paul Zouche the poet, was perhaps the most noticeable. He had
affected the picturesque in his appearance;--his hat was of the
Rembrandt character, and he had donned a very much worn, short
velveteen jacket, whose dusty brown was relieved by the vivid touch of
a bright red tie. His hair was wild and bushy, and his eyes sparkled
with unwonted brilliancy, as he nodded to one or two of his associates,
and gave a careless wave of the hand to Sergius Thord, who, entering
slowly, and as if with reluctance, took a seat at the very furthest end
of the hall, where his massive figure showed least conspicuous among
the surging throng. Keeping his head down in a pensive attitude of
thought, his eyes were, nevertheless, sharp to see every person
entering who belonged to his own particular following,--and a ray of
satisfaction lighted up his face, as he perceived his latest new
associate, Pasquin Leroy, quietly edge his way through the crowd, and
secure a seat in one of the obscurest and darkest corners of the badly
lighted hall. He was followed by his comrades, Max Graub and Axel
Regor,--and Thord felt a warm glow of contentment in the consciousness
that these lately enrolled members of the Revolutionary Committee were
so far faithful to their bond. Signed and sealed in the blood of Lotys,
they had responded to the magnetism of her name with the prompt
obedience of waves rising to the influence of the moon,--and Sergius,
full of a thousand wild schemes for the regeneration of the People, was
more happy to know them as subjects to her power, than as adherents to
his own cause. He was calmly cognisant of the presence of General
Bernhoff, the well-known Chief of Police;--though he was rendered a
trifle uneasy by observing that personage had seated himself as closely
as possible to the bench occupied by Leroy and his companions. A faint
wonder crossed his mind as to whether the three, in their zeal for the
new Cause they had taken up, had by any means laid themselves open to
suspicion; but he was not a man given to fears; and he felt convinced
in his own mind, from the close personal observation he had taken of
Leroy, and from the boldness of his speech on his enrolment as a member
of the Revolutionary Committee, that, whatever else he might prove to
be, he was certainly no coward.
The hall filled quickly, till by and by it would have been impossible
to find standing room for a child. A student of human nature is never
long in finding out the dominant characteristic of an audience,--
whether its attitude be profane or reverent, rowdy or attentive, and
the bearing of the four or five thousand here assembled was remarkable
chiefly for its seriousness and evident intensity of purpose. The
extreme orderliness of the manner in which the people found and took
their seats,--the entire absence of all fussy movement, fidgeting,
staring, querulous changing of places, whispering or laughter, showed
that the crowd were there for a deeper purpose than mere curiosity. The
bulk of the assemblage was composed of men; very few women were
present, and these few were all of the poor and hard-working classes.
No female of even the lower middle ranks of life, with any faint
pretence to 'fashion,' would have been seen listening to "that dreadful
woman,"--as Lotys was very often called by her own sex,--simply because
of the extraordinary fascination she secretly exercised over men.
Pasquin Leroy and his companions spoke now and then, guardedly, and in
low whispers, concerning the appearance and demeanour of the crowd, Max
Graub being particularly struck by the general physiognomy and type of
the people present.
"Plenty of good heads!" he said cautiously. "There are thinkers here--
and thinkers are a very dangerous class!"
"There are many people who 'think' all their lives and 'do' nothing!"
said Axel Regor languidly.
"True, my friend! But their thought may lead, while, they themselves
remain passive," joined in Pasquin Leroy sotto-voce;--"It is not at all
impossible that if Lotys bade these five thousand here assembled burn
down the citadel, it would be done before daybreak!"
"I have no doubt at all of that," said Graub. "One cannot forget that
the Bastille was taken while the poor King Louis XVI. was enjoying a
supper-party and 'a little orange-flower-water refreshment' at
Leroy made an imperative sign of silence, for there was a faint stir
and subdued hum of expectation in the crowd. Another moment,--and Lotys
stepped quietly and alone on the bare platform. As she confronted her
audience, a low passionate sound, like the murmur of a rising storm,
greeted her,--a sound that was not anything like the customary applause
or encouragement offered to a public speaker, but that suggested
extraordinary satisfaction and expectancy, which almost bordered on
exultation. Pasquin Leroy, raising his eyes as she entered, was
startled by an altogether new impression of her to that which he had
received on the night he first saw her. Her personality was somehow
different--her appearance more striking, brilliant and commanding.
Attired in the same plain garment of dead white serge in which he had
previously seen her, with the same deep blood-red scarf crossing her
left shoulder and breast,--there was something to-night in this mere
costume that seemed emblematic of a far deeper power than he had been
at first inclined to give her. A curious sensation began to affect his
nerves,--a sudden and overwhelming attraction, as though his very soul
were being drawn out of him by the calm irresistible dominance of those
slumbrous dark-blue iris-coloured eyes, which had the merit of
appearing neither brilliant nor remarkable as eyes merely, but which
held in their luminous depths that intellectual command which
represents the active and passionate life of the brain, beside which
all other life is poor and colourless. These eyes appeared to rest upon
him now from under their drooping sleepy white eyelids with an
inexpressible tenderness and fascination, and he was suddenly reminded
of Heinrich Heine's quaint love-fancy; "Behind her dreaming eyelids the
sun has gone to rest; when she opens her eyes it will be day, and the
birds will be heard singing!" He began to realise depths in his own
nature which he had till now been almost unconscious of; he knew
himself to a certain extent, but by no means thoroughly; and awakening
as he was to the fact that other lives around him presented strange
riddles for consideration, he wondered whether after all, his own life
might not perhaps prove one of the most complex among human conundrums?
He had often meditated on the inaccessibility of ideal virtues, the
uselessness of persuasion, the commonplace absurdity, as he had
thought, of trying to embody any lofty spiritual dream,--yet he was
himself a man in whom spiritual forces were so strong that he was
personally unaware of their overflow, because they were as much a part
of him as his breathing capacity. True, he had never consciously tested
them, but they were existent in him nevertheless.
He watched Lotys now, with an irritable, restless attention,--there
was a thrill of vague expectation in his soul as of new things to be
done,--changes to be made in the complex machinery of human nature,--
and a great wonder, as well as a great calm, fell upon him as the first
clear steady tones of her voice chimed through the deep hush which had
prepared the way for her first words. Her voice was a remarkable one,
vibrant, yet gentle,--ringing out forcefully, yet perfectly sweet. She
began very simply,--without any attempt at a majestic choice of words,
or an impressive flow of oratory. She faced her audience quietly,--one
bare rounded arm resting easily on a small uncovered deal table in
front of her;--she had no 'notes' but her words were plainly the
result of deliberate and careful thinking-out of certain problems
needful to be brought before the notice of the people. Her face was
colourless,--the dead gold hair rippling thickly away in loose clusters
from the white brows, fell into their accustomed serpentine twisted
knot at the nape of her neck; and the scarlet sash she wore, alone
relieved the statuesque white folds of her draperies; but as she spoke,
something altogether superphysical seemed to exhale from her as heat
exhales from fire--a strange essence of overpowering and compelling
sweetness stole into the heavy heated air, and gave to the commonplace
surroundings and the poorly clothed crowd of people an atmosphere of
sacredness and beauty. This influence deepened steadily under the
rhythmic cadence of her voice, till every agitated soul, every
resentful and troubled heart in the throng was conscious of a sudden
ingathering of force and calm, of self-respect and self-reliance. The
gist of her intention was plainly to set people thinking for
themselves, and in this there could be no manner of doubt but that she
succeeded. Of the 'Corruption of the State' she spoke as a thing
thoroughly recognised by the masses.
"We know,--all of us,"--she said, in the concluding portion of her
address, "that we have Ministers who personally care nothing for the
prosperity or welfare of the country. We know--all of us,--that we have
a bribed Press; whose business it is to say nothing that shall run
counter to Ministerial views. We know,--all of us,--that it is this
bribed Ministerial press which leads the ignorant, (who are not behind
the scenes,) to wrong and false conclusions;--and that it is solely
upon these wrong and false conclusions of the wilfully misled million,
that the Ministry itself rests for support. On one side the Press is
manipulated by the Jews; on the other by the Jesuits. There is no
journal in this country that will, or dare, publish the true reflex of
popular opinion. Therefore the word 'free' cannot be applied to that
recording-force of nations which we call Journalism; inasmuch as it is
now a merely purchased Chattle. We should remember, when we read
'opinions of the Press,'--on any great movement or important change in
policy, that we are merely accepting the opinions of the bound and paid
Slave of Capitalists;--and we should take care to form our judgment for
ourselves, rather than from the Capitalist point of view. Were there a
strong man to lead,--the shiftiness, treachery, and deliberate neglect
practised on the million by those who are now in office, could not
possibly last;--but where there is no strength, there must be
weakness,--and where a long career of deceit has been followed, instead
of a course of plain dealing, failure in the end is inevitable. With
failure comes disaster; and often something which augments disaster--
Revolt. The people, weary of constant imposition,--of incessant delays
of the justice due to them,--as well as the unscrupulous breaking of
promises solemnly pledged,--will--in the long run, take their own way,
as they have done before in history, of securing instant amelioration
of those wrongs which their paid rulers fail to redress. Who will dare
to say that, under such circumstances, it is ill for the people to act?
Sometimes it is a greater Consciousness than their own that moves them;
and the wronged and half-forgotten Cause of all worlds makes His
command known through His creatures, who obey His impulse,--even as the
atoms gathering in space cluster at His will into solar systems, and
bring forth their burden of life!"
She paused, and leaning forward a little, her eyes poured out their
flashing searchlight as it seemed into the very souls of her hearers.
"Dear friends!--dear children!" she said, and in her tone there was the
tenderness of a great compassion, almost bordering on tears,--"What is
it, think you all, that makes the age in which we live so sad, so
colourless, so restless and devoid of hope and peace? It is not that we
are the inhabitants of a less wonderful or less beautiful world,--it is
not as if the sun had ceased to shine, or the birds had forgotten how
to sing! Triumphs of science,--triumphs of learning and discovery,
these are all on the increase for our help and furtherance. With so
much gain in evident advancement, what is it we have lost?--what is it
we miss?--whence come the dreariness and emptiness and satiety,--the
intolerable sense of the futility of life, even when life has most to
offer? Dear children, you are all so sad!--many of you so broken-
hearted!--why is it?--how is it? Poverty alone is not the cause,--for
it is quite possible to be poor, yet happy! True enough it is that in
these days you are ground down by the imposition of taxes, which try
all the strength of your earnings to pay; but even this is an evil you
could mitigate for yourselves, by strong and united public protest. How
is it that you do not realise your own strength? You are not like the
poor brutes of the field and forest, who lack the reason which would
show them how superior in physical force alone they are to the
insignificant biped who commands them. Could the ox understand his own
strength, he would never be led to the slaughter-house;--he and his
kind would become a terror instead of a provision. You are not oxen,--
yet often you are as patient, as dull, as blind and reasonless as they!
You form clubs, societies, and trades-unions;--but in how many cases
do you not enter upon small and querulous differences which so weaken
your unity that presently it falls to pieces and has no more power in
it? This is what your tyrants in trade rely on and hope for; the
constant recurrence of quarrels and dissensions among yourselves. No
Society lasts which tolerates conflicting argument or differing
sentiments in itself. Why is it that the Jesuits,--whom you are all
unanimous in hating,--are still the strongest political Brotherhood on
the face of the earth? Because they are bound to maintain in every
particular the tenets of their Order. No matter how vile, or how
reprehensibly false their theories, they are compelled to carry on the
work and propaganda of their Union, despite all loss and sacrifice to
themselves. This is the secret of their force. Expelled from one land,
they take root in another. Suppressed entirely by Pope Clement XIV., in
1773, they virtually ignored suppression, and took up their
headquarters in Russia. The influence they exerted there still lies on
the serf population, like one of the many chains fastened to a Siberian
exile's body. Yet they were driven from Russia in 1820,--from Holland
in 1816,--from Switzerland in 1847, and from Germany in 1872. Latterly
they have been expelled from France. Nevertheless, in spite of these
numerous expulsions, and the universal odium in which they are held,--
they still flourish; still are they able to maintain their twenty-two
generals and their four Vicars;--and still all countries have, in their
turn, to deal with their impending or fulfilled invasion. Why is it
that a Society so criminal in historic annals, should yet remain as a
force in our advanced era of civilization? Simply, because it is of One
Mind! Bent on evil, or good,--self-renunciation or self-
aggrandisement,--it is still of One Mind! Friends,--were you like them,
also of One Mind, your injuries, your oppressions, your taxations would
not last long! The remedy for all is easy, and rests with yourselves,--
only yourselves! But some of you have lost heart--and other some have
lost patience. You look round upon the squalid corners of this great
city--you shudder at the cruelty of the daily life with which you have
to contend,--you enter poor rooms, which you are compelled to call
'home,' where the sick and dying, the newly-born and the dead are
huddled all together,--ten, and sometimes fifteen in one small den of
four whitewashed walls;--and sickened and tired, you cry out 'Is life
worth no more than this? Is God's scheme for the human race no more
than this? Then why were we born at all? Or, being born, why may we not
die at once, self-slain?' Ah, yes, dear friends!--you often feel like
this; we all of us often feel like this! But--it is not God who has
made life thus hard for you,--it is yourselves! It is you who consent
to be down-trodden,--it is you who resign your freewill, your thought,
your originality of character, into the dominating power of others.
True,--wealth controls affairs to a vast extent nowadays,--but there is
a stronger power than wealth, and that is Soul! It is not the
possession of gold that has given the greatest men their position. This
is a commercial age, we own,--and certainly,--because of the base and
degrading love of accumulation,--Intellectuality is for the moment
often set aside as something valueless--but whenever Intellectuality
truly asserts itself, there is at once made visible an acting force of
the Divine, which is practically limitless and irresistible. Think for
yourselves, friends!--do not let a hired Press think for you! Think for
yourselves--judge for yourselves, and act for yourselves! By your
observation of a statesman's life, you shall know his capabilities. If
he has once been a turncoat, he will be a turncoat again. If he has
been known to speculate privately in a forthcoming political crisis,
which he alone knows of in advance----"
Here the speaker was interrupted by what sounded more like a snarl than
a shout. "Pérousse! Pérousse!"
The name was hissed out, and tossed from one rank to another of the
audience, and one or two of the police present glanced enquiringly
towards Bernhoff their chief,--but he sat with folded arms and
inscrutable demeanour, making no sign. Lotys raised her small,
beautifully-shaped white hand to enjoin silence. She was obeyed
"I speak of no one man," she said with deliberate emphasis; "I accuse
no one man,--or any man! I say 'if' any man gambles with State policy,
he is a traitor to the country! But such gambling is not a novelty in
the history of nations. It has been practised over and over again. Only
mark you all this one God's truth!--that whenever it _has_
occurred--whenever the rulers of a State _are_ corrupt,--whenever
society sinks into such moral defilement that it sees nothing better,
nothing higher than the love of money,--then comes the downfall!--then
Ruin and Anarchy set up their dominion,--and Heaven's rage rolls out
upon the offenders, till their offence be cleansed away in rivers of
blood and tears!"
She waited a moment,--and changing her attitude, seemed as it were, to
project her thought into her audience, by the sudden passion of her
commanding gesture, and the flash of her deep luminous eyes.
"We have heard of the Great Renunciation!" she said; "How God Himself
took human form, and came to this low little earth to prove how nobly
we should live and die! But in our day,--we with our preachers and
teachers, our press and our parliamentary orators,--our atheistical
statesmen on all hands, have come upon the Great Obliteration!--the
Obliteration of God altogether in our ways of life! We push Him out, as
if He were not. He is not in our Churches--He is not in our Laws--He
is not in our Commerce. Only when we are brought low by pain and
sickness--when we are confronted by death itself--then we call out
'God! God!' like cowards, praying for help from the Power we have
negatived all our lives! Here is the evil, O children all!--we have
forgotten Our Father! We arrange all our affairs in life without giving
Him a thought! Our pleasures, our gains, our advantages,--are
calculated without consulting His good pleasure. He is last, or not at
all,--when He should be first, and in everything! The end of this is
misery;--it must be so; it cannot by law be anything else. For what is
God? Who is God? God is a name merely,--but we give it to that Unseen,
but ever working Force which rules the Universe! The coldest atheist
that ever breathed must own that somehow,--by some means or other,--
the Universe _is_ ruled,--for if it were not, we should know
nothing of it. Therefore, when we set aside, or leave out the
consciousness and acknowledgment of the Ruler, the ruling of our
affairs must, of necessity, go wrong!
"I cannot preach to you--I cannot out of my own conscience recommend to
you one or the other form of faith as the way to peace and wisdom;--but
I can and do Beseech you to remember the Note Dominant of this great
Universe--the Note that sounds through high and low,--through small and
great alike!--and that must and will in due course absorb all our
discords into Everlasting Harmony! Try not to put this fact out of your
lives,--that Justice and Order are the rule of the spheres; and that
whenever we depart from these, even in the smallest contingency,
confusion reigns. How hard it is to believe in Justice and Order, you
will tell me,--when the poor are not treated with the same
consideration as the rich,--and when money will buy place and position!
True! It is hard to believe,--but it is believable nevertheless. As the
lungs and the heart are the life of the human body, so are Justice and
Order the life of the Universe,--and when these are pushed out of
place, or become diseased in the composition of a human state or
community, then the life of that state or community is threatened;--and
unless remedies are quickly to hand, it must end. You all know the
position of things among yourselves to-day;--you all know that there is
no trust to be placed in Churches, Kings or Parliaments;--that the
world is in a state of ferment and unrest,--moving towards Change;--
change imminent--change, possibly, disastrous! And if it is You who
know, it is likewise You who must seize the hour as it approaches!--
seize it as you would seize a robber by the throat, and demand its
business;--search its heart;--deprive it of its weapons;--and learn
from it its message! A message it may be of wild alarm--of tearing up
old conventions;--of thrusting forth old abuses; a message full of
clamour and outcry--but whatever the uproar, doubt not that we shall
hear the voice of the Forgotten God thundering in our ears at the
close! We shall have found our way closer to Him--and with penitence
and prayer, we shall ask to be forgiven for having wandered away from
Him so long!
"And will He not pardon? Yes,--He will, because He must! To Him we owe
our existence;--He alone is responsible for our life, our probation,
our progress, our striving through many errors towards Perfection! He,
who sees all, must needs have pity for His creature Man! Out of the
evolutions of a blind Time, He has made the poor weak human being, who
in the first days of his sojourn on earth had neither covering nor
home. Less protected than the beasts of the forest, he found himself
compelled to Think!--to think out his own means of shelter,--to
contrive his own weapons of defence. Slowly, and by painful degrees,
from Savagery he has emerged to Civilization;--wherefore it is evident
that his Maker meant Thought to be his first principle, and Action his
second. He who does not work, shall not eat;--he who does not use all
his faculties for improvement, shall by and by have none to use.
Injustice and corruption are amongst us, merely because we ourselves
have failed to resist their first inroads. Who is it that complains of
wrong? Let him hasten to his own amending,--and he will find a thousand
hands, a thousand hearts ready to work with him! All Nature is on the
side of health in the body, as of health in the State. All Nature
fights against disease,--physical and moral. Therefore do not,--dear
friends and children!--sit idle and passive, submitting yourselves to
be deceived, as if you had no force to withstand deception! Show that
you hate lies, and will have none of them,--show that you will not be
imposed upon--and decline to be led or governed by party agents, who
persuade you to your own and your country's destruction! The voice of
the People can no longer be heard in a purchased Press;--let it echo
forth then, in stronger form than ephemeral print, which to-day is
glanced at, and to-morrow is forgotten;--wherever and whenever you are
given the chance to meet, and to speak, let your authority as the
workers, the ratepayers, and supporters of the State be heard; and do
not You, without whom even the King could not keep his throne, consent
to be set aside as the Unvalued Majority! Prove, by your own firm
attitude that without You, nothing can be done! It is time, oh people
of my heart!--it is time you spoke clearly! God is moving His thought
through your souls--God stirs in you the fear, the discontent, the
suspicion that all is not well with your country;--and it is the Spirit
of God which breathes in the warning note of the time--
"'Hark to the voice of the time!
The multitude think for
And weigh their condition each one;
The drudge has
a spirit sublime,
And whether he hammers or delves,
when his labour is done;
And learns, though he groan under poverty's ban,
That freedom to Think, is the birthright of man!'
"Learn," she continued,--as a low deep murmur of agreement ran through
the room; "Learn to what strange uses God puts even such men of this
world, whose sole existence has been for the cause of amassing money!
They have acted as the merest machines, gathering in the millions;--
gathering, gathering them in! For what purpose? Lo, they are smitten
down in the prime of their lives, and the gold they have piled up is at
once scattered! Much of it becomes used for educational purposes;--and
some of these dead millionaires have, as it were thrown Education at
the heads of the people, and almost pauperised it. Far away in Great
Britain, a millionaire has recently made the Scottish University
education 'free' to all students,--instead of, as it used to be, hard
to get, and well worth working to win. Now,--through the wealth of one
man, it is turned into a pauper's allowance;--like offering the
smallest silver coin to a reduced gentleman. The pride,--the skill,--
the self-renunciation,--the strong determination to succeed, which form
fine character, and which taught the struggling student to win his own
University education, are all wiped out;--there is no longer any
necessity for the practice of these manly and self-sustaining virtues.
The harm that will be done is probably not yet perceivable; but it will
be incalculable. Education, turned into a kind of pauper's monopoly,
will have widely different results to those just now imagined! But with
all the contemptuous throwing out of the unneeded kitchen-waste of
millionaires,--still Education is the thing to take at any price, and
under any circumstances;--because it alone is capable of giving power!
It alone will 'put down the mighty from their seats, and exalt the
humble and the meek.' It alone will give us the force to fight our
taskmasters with their own weapons, and to place them where they should
be, coequal with us, but not superior,--considerate of us, but not
commanding us,--and above all things, bound to make their records of
such work as they do for the State--clean!"
A hurricane of applause interrupted her,--she waited till it subsided,
then went on quietly.
"There should be no scheming in the dark; no secret contracts for which
we have to pay blindly;--no refusal to explain the way in which the
people's hard-earned money is spent; and before foreign urbanities and
diplomacies and concessions are allowed to take up time in the Senate,
it is necessary that the frightful and abounding evils of our own
land,--our own homes,--be considered. For this we purpose to demand
redress,--and not only to demand it, but to obtain it! Ministers may
refuse to hear us; but the Country's claims are greater than any
Ministry! A King's displeasure may cause court-parasites to tremble--
but a People's Honour is more to be guarded than a thousand thrones!"
As she concluded with these words, she seemed to grow taller, nobler,
more inspired and commanding,--and while the applause was yet shaking
the rafters of the hall, she left the platform. Shouts of "Lotys!
Lotys!" rang out again and again with passionate bursts of cheering,--
and in response to it she came back, and by a slight gesture commanded
"Dear friends, I thank you all for listening to me!" she said simply,
her rich voice trembling a little; "I speak only with a woman's impulse
and unwisdom--just as I think and feel--and always out of my great love
for you! As you all know, I have no interests to serve;--I am only
Lotys, your own poor friend,--one who works with you, and dwells among
you, seeing and sharing your hard lives, and wishing with all my heart
that I could help you to be happier and freer! My life is at your
service,--my love for you is all too great for any words to express,--
and my gratitude for your faith and trust in me forms my daily
thanksgiving! Now, dear children all,--for you are truly as children in
your patience, submission and obedience to bitter destiny!--I will ask
you to disperse quietly without noise or confusion, or any trouble that
may give to the paid men of law ungrateful work to do;--and in your
homes, think of me!--remember my words!--and while you maintain order
by the steadiness and reasonableness of your difficult lives, still
avoid and resent that slavish obedience to the yoke fastened upon you
by capitalists,--who have no other comfort to offer you in poverty than
the workhouse; and no other remedy for the sins into which you are
thrust by their neglect, than the prison! Take, and keep the rights of
your humanity!--the right to think,--the right to speak,--the right to
know what is being done with the money you patiently earn for others;--
and work, all together in unity. Put aside all petty differences,--all
small rancours and jealousies; and even as a Ministry may unite to
defraud and deceive you, so do you, the People, unite to expose the
fraud, and reject the deception! There is no voice so resonant and
convincing as the voice of the public; there is no power on earth more
strong or more irresistible than the power of the People!"
She stood for one moment more,--silent; her eyes brilliant, her face
beautiful with inspired thought,--then with a quiet, half-deprecatory
gesture, in response to the fresh outbreak of passionate cheering, she
retired from the platform. Pasquin Leroy, whose eyes had been riveted
on her from the first to the last word of her oration, now started as
from a dream, and rose up half-unconsciously, passing his hand across
his brow, as though to exorcise some magnetic spell that had crept over
his brain. His face was flushed, his pulses were throbbing quickly. His
companions, Max Graub and Axel Regor, looked at him inquisitively. The
audience was beginning to file out of the hall in orderly groups.
"What next?" said Graub; "Shall ye go?"
"I suppose so," said Leroy, with a quick sigh, and forcing a smile;
"But--I should have liked to speak with her----"
At that moment his shoulder was touched by a man he recognised as Johan
Zegota. He gave the sign of the Revolutionary Committee bond, to which
Leroy and his comrades responded.
"Will you all three come over the way?" whispered Zegota cautiously;
"We are entertaining Lotys to supper at the inn opposite,--the landlord
is one of us. Thord saw you sitting here, and sent me to ask you to
"With pleasure," assented Leroy; "We will come at once!"
Zegota nodded and disappeared.
"So you will see the end of this escapade!" said Max Graub, a trifle
crossly. "It would have been much better to go home!"
"You have enjoyed escapades in your time, have you not, my friend? Some
even quite recently?" returned Leroy gaily. "One or two more will not
They edged their way out among the quietly moving crowd, and happening
to push past General Bernhoff, that personage gave an almost
imperceptible salute, which Leroy as imperceptibly returned. It was
clear that the Chief of Police was acquainted with Pasquin Leroy, the
'spy' on whose track he had been sent by Carl Pérousse, and moreover,
that he was evidently in no hurry to arrest him. At any rate he allowed
him to pass with his friends unmolested, out of the People's Assembly
Rooms, and though he followed him across the road, 'shadowing him,' as
it were, into a large tavern, whose lighted windows betokened some
entertainment within, he did not enter the hostelry himself, but
contented his immediate humour by walking past it to a considerable
distance off, and then slowly back again. By and by Max Graub came out
and beckoned to him, and after a little earnest conversation Bernhoff
walked off altogether, the ring of his martial heels echoing for some
time along the pavement, even after he had disappeared. And from within
the lighted tavern came the sound of a deep, harmonious, swinging
"Way, make way!--for our banner is unfurled,
Let each man
stand by his neighbour!
The thunder of our footsteps shall roll
through the world,
In the March of the Men of Labour!"
"Yes!" said Max Graub, pausing to listen ere re-entering the tavern--
"If--and it is a great 'if'--if every man will stand by his neighbour,
the thunder will be very loud,--and by all the deities that ever lived
in the Heaven blue, it is a thunder that is likely to last some time!
The possibility of standing by one's neighbour is the only doubtful
THE SCORN OF KINGS
Inside the tavern, from whence the singing proceeded, there was a
strange scene,--somewhat disorderly yet picturesque. Lotys, seated at
the head of a long supper-table, had been crowned by her admirers with
a wreath of laurels,--and as she sat more or less silent, with a rather
weary expression on her face, she looked like the impersonation of a
Daphne, exhausted by the speed of her flight from pursuing Apollo.
Beside her, nestling close against her caressingly, was a little girl
with great black Spanish eyes,--eyes full of an appealing, half-
frightened wistfulness, like those of a hunted animal. Lotys kept one
arm round the child, and every now and again spoke to her some little
caressing word. All the rest of the guests at the supper-board were
men,--and all of them members of the Revolutionary Committee. When
Pasquin Leroy and his friends entered, there was a general clapping of
hands, and the pale countenance of Lotys flushed a delicate rose-red,
as she extended her hand to each.
"You begin your career with us very well!" she said gently, her eyes
resting musingly on Leroy; "I had not expected to see you to-night!"
"Madame, I had never heard you speak," he answered; and as he addressed
her, he pressed her hand with unconscious fervour, while his eloquent
eyes dilated and darkened, as, moved by some complex emotion, she
quickly withdrew her slender fingers from his clasp. "And I felt I
should never know you truly as you are, till I saw you face the people.
He paused. She looked at him wonderingly, and her heart began to beat
with a strange quick thrill. It is not always easy to see the outlines
of a soul's development, or the inchoate formation of a great love,--
and though everything in a certain sense moved her and appealed to her
that was outside herself, it was difficult to her to believe or to
admit that she, in her own person, might be the cause of an entirely
new set of thoughts and emotions in the mind of one man. Seeing he was
silent, she repeated softly and with a half smile.
"Now," continued Leroy quickly, and in a half-whisper; "I do know you
partly,--but I must know you more! You will give me the chance to do
His look said more than his words, and her face grew paler than before.
She turned from him to the child at her side--
"Pequita, are you very tired?"
"No!" was the reply, given brightly, and with an upward glance of the
"That is right! Pasquin Leroy my friend! this is Pequita,--the child we
told you of the other night, the only daughter of Sholto. She will
dance for us presently, will you not, my little one?"
"Yes, indeed!" and the young face lighted up swiftly at the suggestion;
while Leroy, taking the seat indicated to him at the supper-table,
experienced a tumult of extraordinary sensations,--the chief one of
which was, that he felt himself to have been 'snubbed,' very quietly
but effectually, by a woman who had succeeded, though he knew not how,
in suddenly awakening in him a violent fever of excitement, to which he
was at present unable to give a name. Rallying himself, however, he
glanced up and down the board smilingly, lifting his glass to salute
Sergius Thord, who responded from his place at the bottom of the
table,--and very soon he regained his usual placidity, for he had
enormous strength of will, and kept an almost despotic tyranny over his
feelings. His companions, Max Graub and Axel Regor, were separated from
him, and from each other, at different sides of the table, and Paul
Zouche the poet, was almost immediately opposite to him. He was glad to
see that he was next but one to Lotys--the man between them being a
desperado-looking fellow with a fierce moustache, and exceedingly
gentle eyes,--who, as he afterwards discovered, was one of the greatest
violinists in the world,--the favourite of kings and Courts,--and yet
for all that, a prominent member of the Revolutionary Committee. The
supper, which was of a simple, almost frugal character, was soon
served, and the landlord, in setting the first plate before Lotys, laid
beside it a knot of deep crimson roses, as an offering of homage and
obedience from himself. She thanked him with a smile and glance, and
taking up the flowers, fastened them at her breast. Conversation now
became animated and general; and one of the men present, a delicate-
looking young fellow, with a head resembling somewhat that of Keats,
started a discussion by saying suddenly--
"Jost has sold out all his shares in that new mine that was started the
other day. It looks as if he did not think, after all his newspaper
puffs, that the thing was going to work."
"If Jost has sold, Pérousse will," said his neighbour; "The two are
concerned together in the floating of the whole business."
"And yet another piece of news!" put in Paul Zouche suddenly; "For if
we talk of stocks and shares, we talk of money! What think you, my
friends! I, Paul Zouche, have been offered payment for my poems! This
very afternoon! Imagine! Will not the spheres fall? A poet to be paid
for his poems is as though one should offer the Creator a pecuniary
consideration for creating the flowers!"
His face was flushed, and his eyes deliriously bright.
"Listen, my Sergius!" he said; "Wonders never cease in this world; but
this is the most wonderful of all wonders! Out of the merest mischief
and monkeyish malice, the other day I sent my latest book of poems to
"Shame! shame!" interrupted a dozen voices. "Against the rules, Paul!
You have broken the bond!"
Paul Zouche laughed loudly.
"How you yell, my baboons!" he cried; "How you screech about the rules
of your lair! Wait till you hear! You surely do not suppose I sent the
book out of any humility or loyalty, or desire for notice, do you? I
sent it out of pure hate and scorn, to show him as a fool-Majesty, that
there was something he could not do--something that should last when
_he_ was forgotten!--a few burning lines that should, like
vitriol, eat into his Throne and outlast it! I sent it some days ago,
and got an acknowledgment from the flunkey who writes Majesty's
letters. But this afternoon I received a much more important document,
--a letter from Eugène Silvano, secretary to our very honourable and
trustworthy Premier! He informs me in set terms, that his Majesty the
King has been pleased to appreciate my work as a poet, to the extent of
offering me a hundred golden pieces a year for the term of my natural
life! Ha-ha! A hundred golden pieces a year! And thus they would fasten
this wild bird of Revolutionary song to a Royal cage, for a bit of
sugar! A hundred golden pieces a year! It means food and lodging--warm
blankets to sleep in--but it means something else,--loss of
"Then you will not accept it?" said Pasquin Leroy, looking at him with
interest over the rim of the glass from which he was just sipping his
"Accept it! I have already refused it! By swift return of post!"
Shouts of "Bravo! bravo!" echoed around him on all sides; men sprang up
and shook hands with him and patted him on the back, and even over the
dark face of Sergius Thord there passed a bright illumining smile.
"Zouche, with all thy faults, thou art a brave man!" said the young man
with the Keats-like head, who was in reality confidential clerk to one
of the largest stockbrokers in the metropolis; "A thousand times better
to starve, than to accept Royal alms!"
"To your health, Zouche!" said Lotys, leaning forward, glass in hand.
"Your refusal of the King's offered bounty is a greater tragedy than
any you have ever tried to write!"
"Hear her!" cried Zouche, exultant; "She knows exactly how to put it!
For look you, there are the true elements of tragedy in a worn coat and
scant food, while the thoughts that help nations to live or die are
burning in one's brain! Then comes a King with a handful of gold--and
gold would be useful--it always is! But--by Heaven! to pay a poet for
his poems is, as I said before, as if one were to meet the Deity on His
way through space, scattering planets and solar systems at a touch, and
then to say--'Well done, God! We shall remunerate You for your creative
power as long as You shall last--so much per aeon!'"
"You wild soul!" he said; "Would you starve then, rather than accept a
"I would!" answered Paul. "Look you, my brave Pasquin! Read back over
all the centuries, and see the way in which these puppets we call kings
have rewarded the greatest thinkers of their times! Is it anywhere
recorded that the antique virgin, Elizabeth of England, ever did
anything for Shakespeare? True--he might have been 'graciously
permitted' to act one of his sublime tragedies before her--by Heaven!--
she was only fit to be his scrubbing woman, by intellectual comparison!
Kings and Queens have always trembled in their shoes, and on their
thrones, before the might of the pen!--and it is natural therefore that
they should ignore it as much as conveniently possible. A general,
whose military tactics succeed in killing a hundred thousand innocent
men receives a peerage and a hundred thousand a year,--a speculator who
snatches territory and turns it into stock-jobbing material, is called
an 'Empire Builder'; but the man whose Thought destroys or moulds a new
World, and raises up a new Civilization, is considered beneath a
crowned Majesty's consideration! 'Beneath,' by Heaven!--I, Paul
Zouche, may yet mount behind Majesty's chair, and with a single rhyme
send his crown spinning into space! Meanwhile, I have flung back his
hundred golden pieces, with as much force in the edge of my pen as
there would be in my hand if _you_ were his Majesty sitting there,
and I flung them across the table now!"
Again Leroy laughed. His eyes flashed, but there was a certain regret
and wistfulness in them.
"You approve, of course?" he said, turning to Sergius Thord.
Sergius looked for a moment at Zouche with an infinitely grave and
"I think Paul has acted bravely;" he then said slowly; "He has been
true to the principles of our Order. And under the circumstances, it
must have been difficult for him to refuse what would have been a
"Not difficult, Sergius!" exclaimed Zouche, "But purely triumphant!"
Thord smiled,--then went on--"You see, my friend," and he addressed
himself now to Leroy; "Kings have scorned the power of the pen too
long! Those who possess that power are now taking vengeance for
neglect. Thousands of pens all over the world to-day are digging the
grave of Royalty, and building up the throne of Democracy. Who is to
blame? Royalty itself is to blame, for deliberately passing over the
claims of art and intellect, and giving preference to the claims of
money. The moneyed man is ever the friend of Majesty,--but the
brilliant man of letters is left out in the cold. Yet it is the man of
letters who chronicles the age, and who will do so, we may be sure,
according to his own experience. As the King treats the essayist, the
romancist or the historian, so will these recording scribes treat the
"It is possible, though," suggested Leroy, "that the King meant well in
his offer to our friend Zouche?"
"Quite possible!" agreed Thord; "Only his offer of one hundred gold
pieces a year to a man of intellect, is out of all proportion to the
salary he pays his cook!"
A slight flush reddened Leroy's bronzed cheek. Thord observed him
attentively, and saw that his soul was absorbed by some deep-seated
intellectual irritation. He began to feel strangely drawn towards him;
his eyes questioned the secret which he appeared to hold in his mind,
but the quiet composure of the man's handsome face baffled enquiry.
Meanwhile around the table the conversation grew louder and less
restrained. The young stockbroker's clerk was holding forth eloquently
concerning the many occasions on which he had seen Carl Pérousse at his
employer's office, carefully going into the closest questions of
financial losses or gains likely to result from certain political
moves,--and he remembered one day in particular, when, after purchasing
a hundred thousand shares in a certain company, Pérousse had turned
suddenly round on his broker with the cool remark--"If ever you breathe
a whisper about this transaction, I will shoot you dead!"
Whereat the broker had replied that it was not his custom to give away
his clients' business, and that threats were unworthy of a statesman.
Then Pérousse had become as friendly as he had been before menacing;
and the two had gone out of the office and lunched together. And the
confidential clerk thus chattering his news, declared that his employer
was now evidently uneasy; and that from that uneasiness he augured a
sudden fluctuation or fall in what had lately seemed the most valuable
stock in the market.
"And you? Your news, Valdor," cried one or two eager voices, while
several heads leaned forward in the direction of the fiercely-
moustached man who sat next to Lotys. "Where have you been with your
fiddle? Do you arrive among us to-night infected by the pay, or the
purple of Royalty?"
Louis Valdor, by birth a Norseman, and by sympathies a cosmopolitan,
looked up with a satiric smile in his dark eyes.
"There is no purple left to infect a man with, in the modern slum of
Royalty!" he said; "Tobacco-smoke, not incense, perfumes the palaces of
the great nowadays--and card-playing is more appreciated than music!
Yet I and my fiddle have made many long journeys lately,--and we have
sent our messages of Heaven thrilling through the callous horrors of
Hell! A few nights since, I played at the Russian Court--before the
beautiful Empress--cold as a stone--with her great diamonds flashing on
her unhappy breast,--before the Emperor, whose furtive eyes gazed
unseeingly before him, as though black Fate hovered in the air--before
women, whose lives are steeped in the lowest intrigue--before men,
whose faces are as bearded masks, covering the wolf's snarl,--yes!--I
played before these,--played with all the chords of my heart vibrating
to the violin, till at last a human sigh quivered from the lips of the
statuesque Empress,--till a frown crossed the brooding brow of her
spouse--till the intriguing women shook off the spell with a laugh, and
the men did the same with an oath--and I was satisfied! I received
neither 'pay,' nor jewel of recognition,--I had played 'for the honour'
of appearing before their Majesties!--but my bow was a wand to wake the
little poisoned asp of despair that stings its way into the heart under
every Royal mantle of ermine, and that sufficed me!"
"Sometimes," said Leroy, turning towards him; "I pity kings!"
"I' faith, so do I!" returned Valdor. "But only sometimes! And if you
had seen as much of them as I have, the 'sometimes' would be rare!"
"Yet you play before them?" put in Max Graub.
"Because I must do so to satisfy the impresarios who advertise me to
the public," said Valdor. "Alas!--why will the public be so foolish as
to wish their favourite artist to play before kings and queens? Seldom,
if ever, do these Royal people understand music,--still less do they
understand the musician! Believe me, I have been treated as the veriest
scullion by these jacks-in-office; and that I still permit myself to
play before them is a duty I owe to this Brotherhood,--because it
deepens and sustains my bond with you all. There is no king on the face
of the earth who has dignity and nobleness of character enough to
command my respect,--much less my reverence! I take nothing from kings,
remember!--they dare not offer me money--they dare not insult me with a
jewelled pin, such as they would give to a station-master who sees a
Royal train off. Only the other day, when I was summoned to play before
a certain Majesty, a lord-in-waiting addressed me when I arrived with
the insolent words--'You are late, Monsieur Valdor!--You have kept the
King waiting!' I replied--'Is that so? I regret it! But having kept his
Majesty waiting, I will no longer detain him; au revoir!' And I
returned straightway to the carriage in which I had come. Majesty did
without his music that evening, owing to the insolence of his flunkey-
man! Whether I ever play before him again or not, is absolutely
immaterial to me!"
"Tell me," said Pasquin Leroy, pushing the flask of wine over to him as
he spoke; "What is it that makes kings so unloved? I hate them myself!
--but let us analyse the reasons why."
"Discuss--discuss!" cried Paul Zouche; "Why are kings hated? Let Thord
"Yes--yes! Let Thord answer first!" was echoed a dozen times.
Thord, thus appealed to, looked up. His melancholy deep eyes were
sombre, yet full of fire,--lonely eyes they were, yearning for love.
"Why are kings hated?" he repeated; "Because today they are the effete
representatives of an effete system. I can quite imagine that if, as in
olden times, kings had maintained a position of personal bravery, and
personal influence on their subjects, they would have been as much
beloved as they are now despised. But what we have to see and to
recognise is this: in one land we hear of a sovereign who speculates
hand-and-glove with low-born Jew contractors and tradesmen,--another
monarch makes no secret of his desire to profit financially out of a
gambling hell started in his dominions,--another makes his domestic
affairs the subject of newspaper comment,--another is always
apostrophising the Almighty in public;--another is insane or stupid,--
and so on through the whole gamut. Is it not natural that an
intelligent People should resent the fact that their visibly governing
head is a gambler, or a voluptuary? Myself, I think the growing
unpopularity of kings is the result of their incapability for
"Now let me speak!" cried Paul Zouche excitedly; "There is another root
to the matter,--a root like that of a certain tropical orchid, which
according to superstition, is shaped like a man, and utters a shriek
when it is pulled out of the earth! Pull out this screaming mystery,--
hatred of kings! In the first place it is because they are hateful in
themselves,--because they have been brought up and educated to take an
immeasurable and all-absorbing interest in their own identity, rather
than in the lives, hopes and aims of their subjects. In the second--as
soon as they occupy thrones, they become overbearing to their best
friends. It is a well-known fact that the more loyal and faithful you
are to a king, the more completely is he neglectful of you! 'Put not
your trust in princes,' sang old David. He knew how untrustworthy they
were, being a king himself, and a pious one to boot! Thirdly and
lastly,--they only give their own personal attention to their
concubines, and leave all their honest and respectable subjects to be
dealt with by servants and secretaries. Our King, for example, never
smiles so graciously as on Madame Vantine, the wife of Vantine the
wine-grower;--and he buys Vantine's wines as well as his wife, which
brings in a double profit to the firm!"
Leroy looked up.
"Are you sure of that?"
Zouche met his eyes with a stare and a laugh.
"Sure? Of course I am sure! By my faith, your resemblance to his
Majesty is somewhat striking to-night, my bold Leroy! The same straight
brows--the same inscrutable, woman-conquering smile! I studied his
portrait after the offer of the hundred golden pieces--and I swear you
might be his twin brother!"
"I told you so!" replied Leroy imperturbably;--"It is a hateful
resemblance! I wish I could rid myself of it. Still after all, there is
something unique in being countenanced like a King, and minded as a
"True!" put in Thord gently;--"I am satisfied, Pasquin Leroy, that you
are an honest comrade!"
Leroy met his eyes with a grave smile, and touched his glass by way of
"You do not ask me," he said then, "whether I have been able to serve
your Cause in any way since last we met?"
"This is not our regular meeting," said Johan Zegota; "We ask no
questions till the general monthly assembly."
"I see!" And Leroy looked whimsically meditative--"Still, as we are
all friends and brothers here, there is no harm in conveying to you the
fact that I have so far moved, in the appointed way, that Carl Pérousse
has ordered the discovery and arrest of one Pasquin Leroy, supposed to
be a spy on the military defences of the city!"
Lotys gave a little cry.
"Not possible! So soon!"
"Quite possible, Madame," said Leroy inclining his head towards her
deferentially. "I have lost no time in doing my duty!" And his eyes
flashed upon her with a passionate, half-eager questioning. "I must
carry out my Chief's commands!"
"But you are in danger, then?" said Sergius Thord, bending an anxious
look of enquiry upon him.
"Not more so than you, or any of my comrades are," replied Leroy; "I
have commenced my campaign--and I have no doubt you will hear some
results of it ere long!"
He spoke so quietly and firmly, yet with such an air of assurance and
authority, that something of an electric thrill passed through the
entire company, and all eyes were fixed on him in mingled admiration
"Of the 'Corruption of the State,' concerning which our fair teacher
has spoken to-night," he continued, with another quick glance at Lotys
--"there can be no manner of doubt. But we should, I think, say the
'Corruption of the Ministry' rather than of the State. It is not
because a few stock-jobbers rule the Press and the Cabinet, that the
State is necessarily corrupt. Remove the corruptors,--sweep the dirt
from the house--and the State will be clean."
"It will require a very long broom!" said Paul Zouche. "Take David
Jost, for example,--he is the fat Jew-spider of several newspaper
webs,--and to sweep him out is not so easy. His printed sheets are read
by the million; and the million are deluded into believing him a
"Nothing so easy as to prove him unreliable," said Leroy composedly;
"Then the million will continue to read his journals out of sheer
curiosity, to see how long a liar can go on lying!" said Zouche;--
"Besides a Jew can turn his coat a dozen times a day; he has inherited
Joseph's 'coat of many colours' to suit many opinions. At present Jost
supports Pérousse, and calls him the greatest statesman living; but if
Pérousse were once proved a fraud, Jost would pen a sublimely-
conscientious leading article, beginning in this strain;--' We are now
at liberty to confess that we always had our doubts of M. Pérousse!'"
A murmur of angry laughter went round the board.
"There was an article this evening in one of Jost's off-shoot
journals," went on Zouche, "which must have been paid for at a
considerable cost. It chanted the praises of one Monsignor Del Fortis,
--who, it appears, preached a sermon on 'National Education' the other
day, and told all the sleepy, yawning people how necessary it was to
have Roman Catholic schools in every town and village, in order that
souls might be saved. The article ended by saying--'We hear on good
authority that his Majesty the King has been pleased to grant a
considerable portion of certain Crown lands to the Jesuit Order, for
the necessary building of a monastery and schools'----"
"That is a lie!" broke in Pasquin Leroy, with sudden vehemence. "The
King is in many respects a scoundrel, but he does not go back on his
Axel Regor looked fixedly across at him, with a warning flash in the
light of his cold languid eyes.
"But how do you know that the King has given his word?"
"It was in the paper," said Leroy, more guardedly; "I was reading about
it, as you know, on the very night I encountered Thord."
"Ah! But you must recollect, my friend, that a statement in the papers
is never true nowadays!" said Max Graub, with a laugh; "Whenever I read
anything in the newspaper, unless it is an official telegram, I know it
is a lie; and even official telegrams have been known to emanate from
By this time supper was nearly over, and the landlord, clearing the
remains of the heavier fare, set fruit and wine on the board. Sergius
Thord filled his glass, and made a sign to his companions to do the
same. Then he stood up.
"To Lotys!" he said, his fine eyes darkening with the passion of his
thought. "To Lotys, who inspires our best work, and helps us to retain
our noblest ideals!"
All present sprang to their feet.
Pasquin Leroy fixed a straight glance on the subject of the toast,
sitting quietly at the head of the table.
"To Lotys!" he repeated; "And may she always be as merciful as she is
She lifted her dark-blue slumbrous eyes, and met his keen scrutinizing
look. A very slight tremulous smile flickered across her lips. She
inclined her head gently, and in the same mute fashion thanked them
"Play to us, Valdor!" she then said; "And so make answer for me to our
friends' good wishes!"
Valdor dived under the table, and brought up his violin case, which he
unlocked with jealous tenderness, lifting his instrument as carefully
as though it were a sleeping child whom he feared to wake. Drawing the
bow across the strings, he invoked a sweet plaintive sound, like the
first sigh of the wind among the trees; then, without further
preliminary wandered off into a strange labyrinth of melody, wherein it
seemed that the voices of women and angels clamoured one against the
other,--the appeals of earth with the refusals of Heaven,--the
loneliness of life with the fulness of immortality,--so, rising,
falling, sobbing, praying, alternately, the music expostulated with
humanity in its throbbing chords, till it seemed as if some Divine
interposition could alone end the heart-searching argument. Every man
sat motionless and mute, listening; Paul Zouche, with his head thrown
back and eyes closed as in a dream,--Johan Zegota's hard, plain and
careworn face growing softer and quieter in its expression,--while
Sergius Thord, leaning on one elbow, covered his brow with one hand to
shade the lines of sorrow there.
When Valdor ceased playing, there was a burst of applause.
"You play before kings,--kings should be proud to hear you!" said
"Ah! So they should," responded Valdor promptly; "Only it happens that
they are not! They treat me merely as a _laquais de place_,--just
as they would treat Zouche, had he accepted his Sovereign's offer. But
this I will admit,--that mediocre musicians always get on very well
with Royal persons! I have heard a very great Majesty indeed praise a
common little American woman's abominable singing, as though she were a
prima-donna, and saw him give a jewelled cigar-case to an amateur
pianist, whose fingers rattled on the keyboard like bones on a tom-tom.
But then the common little American woman invited his Majesty's 'chères
amies' to her house; and the amateur pianist was content to lose money
to him at cards! Wheels within wheels, my friend! In a lesser degree
the stock-jobber who sets a little extra cash rolling on the Exchange
is called an 'Empire Builder.' It is a curious world! But kings were
never known to be 'proud' of any really 'great' men in either art or
literature; on the contrary, they were always afraid of them, and
always will be! Among musicians, the only one who ever got decently
honoured by a monarch was Richard Wagner,--and the world swears that
_his_ Royal patron was mad!"
Paul Zouche opened his eyes, filled his glass afresh, and tossed down
the liquor it contained at a gulp.
"Before we have any more music," he said, "and before the little
Pequita gives us the dance which she has promised,--not to us, but to
Lotys--we ought to have prayers!"
A loud laugh answered this strange proposition.
"I say we ought to have prayers!" repeated Zouche with semi-solemn
earnestness,--"You talk of news,--news in telegram,--news in brief,--
official scratchings for the day and hour,--and do you take no thought
for the fact that his Holiness the Pope is ill--perhaps dying?"
He stared wildly round upon them all; and a tolerant smile passed over
the face of the company.
"Well, if that be so, Paul," said a man next to him, "it is not to be
wondered at. The Pope has arrived at a great age!"
"No age at all!--no age at all!" declared Zouche. "A saint of God
should live longer than a pauper! What of the good old lady admitted to
hospital the other day whose birth certificate proved her beyond doubt
to be one hundred and twenty-one years old? The dear creature had not
married;--nor has his Holiness the Pope,--the real cause of death is
in neither of them! Why should he not live as long as his aged sister,
possessing, as he does the keys of Heaven? He need not unlock the
little golden door, even for himself, unless he likes. That is true
orthodoxy! Pasquin Leroy, you bold imitation of a king, more wine!"
Leroy filled the glass he held out to him. The glances of the company
told him Zouche was 'on,' and that it was no good trying to stem the
flow of his ideas, or check the inconsequential nature of his speech.
Lotys had moved her chair a little back from the table, and with both
arms encircling the child, Pequita, was talking to her in low and
"Brethren, let us pray!" cried Zouche; "For all we know, while we sit
here carousing and drinking to the health of our incomparable Lotys,
the soul of St. Peter's successor may be careering through Sphere-
Forests, and over Planet-Oceans, up to its own specially built and
particularly furnished Heaven! There is only one Heaven, as we all
know,--and the space is limited, as it only holds the followers of St.
Peter, the good disciple who denied Christ!"
"That is an exploded creed, Zouche," said Thord quietly; "No man of any
sense or reason believes such childish nonsense nowadays! The most
casual student of astronomy knows better."
"Astronomy! Fie, for shame!" And Zouche gave a mock-solemn shake of the
head; "A wicked science! A great heresy! What are God's Facts to the
Church Fallacies? Science proves that there are millions and millions
of solar systems,--millions and millions of worlds, no doubt
inhabited;--yet the Church teaches that there is only one Heaven,
specially reserved for good Roman Catholics; and that St. Peter and his
successors keep the keys of it. God,--the Deity--the Creator,--the
Supreme Being, has evidently nothing at all to do with it. In fact, He
is probably outside it! And of a surety Christ, with His ideas of
honesty and equality, could never possibly get into it!"
"There you are right!" said Valdor; "Your words remind me of a
conversation I overheard once between a great writer of books and a
certain Prince of the blood Royal. 'Life is a difficult problem!' said
the Prince, smoking a fat cigar. 'To the student, it is, Sir,' replied
the author; 'But to the sensualist, it is no more than the mud-stye of
the swine,--he noses the refuse and is happy! He has no need of the
Higher life, and plainly the Higher life has no need of him. Of
course,' he added with covert satire, 'your Highness believes in a
Higher life?' 'Of course, of course!' responded the Royal creature,
unconscious of any veiled sarcasm; 'We must be Christians before
anything!' And that same evening this hypocritical Highness 'rooked' a
foolish young fellow of over one thousand English pounds!"
"Perfectly natural!" said Zouche. "The fashionable estimate of
Christianity is to go to church o' Sundays, and say 'I believe in God,'
and to cheat at cards on all the other days of the week, as active
testimony to a stronger faith in the devil!"
"And with it all, Zouche," said Lotys suddenly; "There is more good in
humanity than is apparent."
"And more bad, beloved Lotys," returned Paul. "Tout le deux se disent!
But let us think of the Holy Father!--he who, after long years of
patient and sublime credulity, is now, for all we know, bracing himself
to take the inevitable plunge into the dark waters of Eternity! Poor
frail old man! Who would not pity him! His earthly home has been so
small and cosy and restricted,--he has been taken such tender care of--
the faithful have fallen at his feet in such adoring thousands,--and
now--away from all this warmth and light and incense, and colour of
pictures and stained-glass windows, and white statuary and purple
velvets, and golden-fringed palanquins,--now--out into the cold he must
go!--out into the darkness and mystery and silence!--where all the
former generations of the world, immense and endless, and all the old
religions, are huddled away in the mist of the mouldered past!--out
into the thick blackness, where maybe the fiery heads of Bel and the
Dragon may lift themselves upward and leer at him!--or he may meet the
frightful menace of some monstrous Mexican deity, once worshipped with
the rites of blood!--out--out into the unknown, unimaginable Amazement
must the poor naked Soul go shuddering on the blast of death, to face
he truly knows not what!--but possibly he has such a pitiful blind
trust in good, that he may be re-transformed into some pleasant living
consciousness that shall be more agreeable even than that of Pope of
Rome! 'Mourir c'est rien,--mais souffrir!' That is the hard part of it!
Let us all pray for the Pope, my friends!--he is an old man!"
"When you are silent, Zouche," said Thord with a half smile; "We may
perhaps meditate upon him in our thoughts,--but not while you talk thus
volubly! You take up time--and Pequita is getting tired."
"Yes," said Lotys; "Pequita and I will go home, and there will be no
"No, Lotys! You will not be so cruel!" said Zouche, pushing his grey
hair back from his brows, while his wild eyes glittered under the
tangle, like the eyes of a beast in its lair; "Think for a moment! I do
not come here and bore you with my poems, though I might very well do
so! Some of them are worth hearing, I assure you;--even the King--
curse him!--has condescended to think so, or else why should he offer
me pay for them? Kings are not so ready to part with money, even when
it is Government money! In England once a Premier named Gladstone, gave
two hundred and fifty pounds a year pension to the French Prince,
Lucien Buonaparte, 'for his researches into Celtic literature'! Bah!
There were many worthier native-born men who had worked harder on the
same subject, to choose from,--without giving good English money to a
Frenchman! There is a case of your Order and Justice, Lotys! You spoke
to-night of these two impossible things. Why will you touch on such
subjects? You know there is no Order and no Justice anywhere! The
Universe is a chance whirl of gas and atoms; though where the two
mischiefs come from nobody knows! And why the devil we should be made
the prey of gas and atoms is a mystery which no Church can solve!"
As he said this, there was a slight movement of every head towards
Lotys, and enquiring eyes looked suggestively at her. She saw the look,
and responded to it.
"You are wrong, Zouche!--I have always told you you are wrong," she
said emphatically, "It is in your own disordered thoughts that you see
no justice and no order,--but Order there is, and Justice there is,--
and Compensation for all that seems to go wrong. There is an
Intelligence at the core of Creation! It is not for us to measure that
Intelligence, or to set any limits to it. Our duty is to recognize it,
and to set ourselves as much as possible in harmony with it. Do you
never, in sane moments, study the progress of humanity? Do you not see
that while the brute creation remains stationary, (some specimens of it
even becoming extinct), man goes step by step to higher results? This
is, or should be, sufficient proof that death is not the end for us.
This world is only one link in our chain of intended experience. I
think it depends on ourselves as to what we make of it. Thought is a
great power by which we mould ourselves and others; and we have no
right to subvert that power to base uses, or to poison it by distrust
of good, or disbelief in the Supreme Guidance. You would be a thousand
times better as a man, Zouche, and far greater as a poet, if you could
believe in God!"
She spoke with eloquence and affectionate earnestness, and among all
the men there was a moment's silence.
"Well, _you_ believe in Him;" said Zouche at last, "and I will
catch hold of your angel's robe as you pass into His Presence and say
to Him;--' Here comes poor Zouche, who wrote of beautiful things among
ugly surroundings, and who, in order to be true to his friends, chose
poverty rather than the gold of a king!'"
Lotys smiled, very sweetly and indulgently.
"Such a plea would stand you in good stead, Zouche! To be always true
to one's friends, and to persistently believe in beauty, is a very long
step towards Heaven!"
"I did not say I _believed_ in beauty," said Zouche suddenly and
obstinately;--"I dream it--I think it--but I do not see it! To me the
world is one Horror--nothing but a Grave into which we all must fall!
The fairest face has a hideous skull behind it,--the dazzling blue of
the sea covers devouring monsters in its depths--the green fields, the
lovely woodlands, are full of vile worms and noxious beetles,--and
space itself swarms with thick-strewn worlds,--flaming comets,--blazing
nebulae,--among which our earth is but a gnat's wing in a huge flame!
Horrible!--horrible!" And he spoke with a kind of vehement fury. "Let
us not think of it! Why should we insist on Truth? Let us have lies!--
dear, sweet lies and fond delusions! Let us believe that men are all
honest, and women all loving!--that there are virgins and saints and
angels, as well as bishops and curates, looking after us in this wild
world of terror,--oh, yes!--let us believe!--better the Pope's little
private snuggery of a Heaven, than the crushing truth which says 'Our
God is a consuming fire'! Knowledge deepens sorrow,--truth kills!--we
must--we must have a little love, and a few lies to lean upon!"
His voice faltered,--and a sudden ashy paleness overspread his
features,--his head fell back helplessly, and he seemed transfixed and
insensible. Leroy and one or two of the others rose in alarm, thinking
he had swooned, but Sergius Thord warned them back by a sign. The
little Pequita, slipping from the arms of Lotys, went softly up to him.
"Paul! Dear Paul!" she said in her soft childish tones.
Zouche stirred, and stretching out one hand, groped with it blindly in
the air. Pequita took it, warming it between her own little palms.
"Paul!" she said; "Do wake up! You have been asleep such a long time!"
He opened his eyes. The grey pallor passed from his face; he lifted his
head and smiled.
"So! There you are, Pequita!" he said gently; "Dear little one! So
brave and cheerful in your hard life!"
He lifted her small brown hand, and kissed it. The feverish tension of
his brain relaxed,--and two large tears welled up in his eyes, and
rolled down his cheeks. "Poor little girl!" he murmured weakly; "Poor
little hard-working girl!"
All the men sat silent, watching the gradual softening of Zouche's
drunken delirium by the mere gentle caress of the child; and Pasquin
Leroy was conscious of a curious tightening of the muscles of his
throat, and a straining compassion at his heart, which was more like
acute sympathy with the griefs and sins of humanity than any emotion he
had ever known. He saw that the thoughtful, pitiful eyes of Lotys were
full of tears, and he longed, in quite a foolish, almost boyish
fashion, to take her in his arms and by a whispered word of tenderness,
persuade those tears away. Yet he was a man of the world, and had seen
and known enough. But had he known them humanly? Or only from the usual
standpoint of masculine egotism? As he thought this, a strain of sweet
and solemn music stole through the room,--Louis Valdor had risen to
his feet, and holding the violin tenderly against his heart, was
coaxing out of its wooden cavity a plaintive request for sympathy and
attention. Such delicious music thrilled upon the dead silence as might
have fitted Shelley's exquisite lines.
"There the voluptuous nightingales,
Are awake through all the broad noon-day,
When one with bliss or sadness fails,
And through the windless ivy-boughs
Sick with sweet love, droops dying away
On its mate's music-panting bosom;
Another from the swinging blossom,
Watching to catch the languid close
Of the last strain; then lifts on high
The wings of the weak melody,
Till some new strain of feeling bear
The song, and all the woods are mute;
When there is heard through the dim air
The rush of wings, and rising there
Like many a lake-surrounded flute
Sounds overflow the listener's brain,
So sweet that joy is almost pain."
"Thank God for music!" said Sergius Thord, as Valdor laid aside his
bow; "It exorcises the evil spirit from every modern Saul!"
"Sometimes!" responded Valdor; "But I have known cases where the evil
spirit has been roused by music instead of suppressed. Art, like
virtue, has two sides!"
Zouche was still holding Pequita's hand. He looked ill and exhausted,
like a man who had passed through a violent paroxysm of fever.
"You are a good child, Pequita!" he was saying softly; "Try to be
always so!--it is difficult--but it is easier to a woman than to a man!
Women have more of good in them than men!"
"How about the dance?" suggested Thord; "The hour is late,--close on
midnight--and Lotys must be tired."
"Shall I dance now?" enquired Pequita.
Lotys smiled and nodded. Four or five of the company at once got up,
and helped to push aside the table.
"Will you play for me, Monsieur Valdor?" asked the little girl, still
standing by the side of Zouche.
"Of course, my child! What shall it be? Something to suggest a fairy
hopping over mushrooms in the moonlight?--or Shakespeare's Ariel
swinging on a cobweb from a bunch of may?"
Pequita considered, and for a moment did not reply, while Zouche, still
holding her little brown hand, kissed it again.
"You are very fond of dancing?" asked Pasquin Leroy, looking at her
dark face and big black eyes with increasing interest.
She smiled frankly at him.
"Yes! I would like to dance before the King!"
"Fie, fie, Pequita!" cried Johan Zegota, while murmurs of laughter and
playful cries of 'Shame, Shame' echoed through the room.
"Why not?" said Pequita; "It would do me good, and my father too! Such
poor, sad people come to the theatre where I dance,--they love to see
me, and I love to dance for them--but then--they too would be pleased
if I could dance at the Royal Opera, because they would know I could
then earn enough money to make my father comfortable."
"What a very matter-of-fact statement in favour of kings!" exclaimed
Max Graub;--"Here is a child who does not care a button for a king as
king; but she thinks he would be useful as a figure-head to dance to,--
for idiotic Fashion, grouping itself idiotically around the figure-
head, would want to see her dance also--and then--oh simple
conclusion!--she would be able to support her father! Truly, a king has
often been put to worse uses!"
"I think," said Pasquin Leroy, "I could manage to get you a trial at
the Royal Opera, Pequita! I know the manager."
She looked up with a sudden blaze of light in her eyes, sprang towards
him, dropped on one knee with an exquisite grace, and kissed his hand.
"Oh!--you will be goodness itself!" she cried;--"And I will be
grateful--indeed I will!--so grateful!"
He was startled and amazed at her impulsive action, and taking her
little hand, gently pressed it.
"Poor child!" he said;--"You must not thank me till I succeed. It is
very little to do--but I will do all I can."
"Someone else will be grateful too!" said Lotys in her rich thrilling
voice; and her eyes rested on him with that wonderful magnetic
sweetness which drew his soul out of him as by a spell; while Zouche,
only partially understanding the conversation said slowly:--
"Pequita deserves all the good she can get; more than any of us. We do
nothing but try to support ourselves; and we talk a vast amount about
supporting others,--but Pequita works all the time and says nothing.
And she is a genius--she does not know it, but she is. Give us the
Dagger Dance, Pequita! Then our friend Leroy can judge of you at your
best, and make good report of you."
Pequita looked at Lotys and received a sign of assent. She then nodded
"You know what to play?"
Valdor nodded in return, and took up his violin. The company drew back
their seats, and sat, or stood aside, from the centre of the room.
Pequita disappeared for a moment, and returned divested of the plain
rusty black frock she had worn, and merely clad in a short scarlet
petticoat, with a low white calico bodice--her dark curls tumbling in
disorder, and grasping in her right hand a brightly polished,
unsheathed dagger. Valdor began to play, and with the first wild chords
the childish figure swayed, circled, and leaped forward like a young
Amazon, the dagger brandished aloft, and gleaming here and there as
though it were a snaky twist of lightning. Very soon Pasquin Leroy
found himself watching the evolutions of the girl dancer with
fascinated interest. Nothing so light, so delicate or so graceful had
he ever seen as this little slight form bending to and fro, now gliding
with the grace of a swan on water--now leaping swiftly as a fawn,--
while the attitudes she threw herself into, sometimes threatening,
sometimes defiant, and often commanding, with the glittering steel
weapon held firmly in her tiny hand, were each and all pictures of
youthful pliancy and animation. As she swung and whirled,--sometimes
pirouetting so swiftly that her scarlet skirt looked like a mere red
flower in the wind,--her bright eyes flashed, her dark hair tangled
itself in still richer masses, and her lips, crimson as the
pomegranate, were half parted with her panting breath.
"Brava! Brava!" shouted the men, becoming more and more excited as
their eyes followed the flash of the dagger she held, now directed
towards them, now shaken aloft, and again waved threateningly from side
to side, or pointed at her own bosom, while her little feet twinkled
over the floor in a maze of intricate and perfectly performed steps;--
and "Brava!" cried Pasquin Leroy, as breathless, but still glowing and
bright with her exertions, she suddenly out of her own impulse, dropped
on one knee before him with the glittering dagger pointed straight at
"Would that please the King?" she asked, her pearly teeth gleaming into
a mischievous smile between the red lips.
"If it did not, he would be a worse fool than even I take him for!"
replied Leroy, as she sprang up again, and confronted him. "Here is a
little souvenir from me, child!--and if ever you do dance before his
Majesty, wear it for my sake!"
He took from his pocket a ring, in which was set a fine brilliant of
unusual size and lustre.
She looked at it a moment as he held it out to her.
"Oh, no," she faltered, "I cannot take it--I cannot! Lotys dear, you
know I cannot!"
Lotys, thus appealed to, left her seat and came forward. Taking the
ring from Leroy's hand, she examined it a moment, then gently returned
"This is too great a temptation for Pequita, my friend," she said
quietly, but firmly. "In duty bound, she would have to sell it in order
to help her poor father. She could not justly keep it. Let me be the
arbiter in this matter. If you can carry out your suggestion, and
obtain for her an engagement at the Royal Opera, then give it to her,
but not till then! Do you not think I am right?"
She spoke so sweetly and persuasively, that Leroy was profoundly
touched. What he would have liked would have been to give the child a
roll of gold pieces,--but he was playing a strange part, and the time
to act openly was not yet.
"It shall be as you wish, Madame!" he said with courteous deference.
"Pequita, the first time you dance before the King, this shall be
He put aside the jewel, and Pequita kissed his hand impulsively,--as
impulsively she kissed the lips of her friend Lotys--and then came the
general dispersal and break-up of the assembly.
"Tell me;" said Sergius Thord, catching Leroy's hand in a close and
friendly grasp ere bidding him farewell; "Are you in very truth in
personal danger on account of serving our Cause?"
"No!" replied Leroy frankly, returning the warm pressure; "And rest
assured that if I were, I would find means to elude it! I have managed
to frighten Carl Pérousse, that is all--and Jost!"
"Jost!" echoed Sergius; "The Colossus of the Press? Surely it would
take more than one man to frighten him!"
"I grant you the Jewish centres of journalism are difficult to shake!
But they all depend on stocks and shares!"
A touch on his arm caused him to turn round,--Paul Zouche confronted
both him and Thord, with a solemn worn face, and lack-lustre eyes.
"Good-night, friends!" he said; "I have not kicked at a king with my
boot, but I have with my brain!--and the effort is exhausting! I am
going home to bed."
"Where is your home?" asked Leroy suddenly.
Zouche looked mysterious.
"In a palace, dear sir! A palace of golden air, peopled with winged
dreams! No money could purchase it;--no 'Empire Builder' could build
it!--it is mine and mine alone! And I pay no taxes!"
"Will you put this to some use for me?" said Leroy, holding out a gold
piece; "Simply as comrade and friend?"
Zouche stared at him.
"You mean it?"
"Of course I mean it! Zouche, believe me, you are going to be the
fashion! You will be able to do _me_ a good turn before long!"
Zouche took the gold piece, and as he took it, pressed the giver's
"You mean well!" he said tremulously; "You know--as Sergius does, that
I am poor,--often starving--often drunk--but you know also that there
is something _here_!"--and he touched his forehead meaningly. "But
to be the 'fashion'! Bah! I do not belong to the Trade-ocracy! Nobody
becomes the 'fashion' nowadays unless they have cheated their
neighbours by short weight and falsified accounts! Good-night! You
might be the King from your looks;--but you have something better than
kingship--Heart! Good-night, Pequita! You danced well! Good-night,
Lotys! You spoke well! Everyone does everything well, except poor
Pequita ran up to him.
"Good-night, dear Paul!"
He stooped and kissed her gently.
"Good-night, little one! If ever you show your twinkling feet at the
Opera, _you_ will be the 'fashion'--and will you remember Paul
"Always--always!" said Pequita tenderly; "Father and Lotys and I will
always love you!"
Zouche gave a short laugh.
"Always love me! Me! Well!--what strange things children will say, not
knowing in the least what they mean!"
He gave a vague salute to the entire company, and walked out of the
tavern with drooping head. Others followed him,--every man in going,
shook hands with Lotys and Sergius Thord,--the lamps were extinguished,
and the landlord standing in the porch of his tavern watched them all
file out, and bade them all a cordial farewell. Pequita's home was with
her father in the house where Sergius Thord dwelt, and Lotys kissing
her tenderly good-night, left her to Thord's care.
"And who will see you home, Lotys?" enquired Thord.
"May I for once have that honour?" asked Pasquin Leroy. His two
companions stared in undisguised amazement, and there was a moment's
Then Lotys spoke.
"You may!" she said simply.
There was another silence while she put on her hat, and wrapped herself
in her long dark cloak. Then Thord took Pequita by the hand.
Leroy turned to his two friends and spoke to them in a low tone.
"Go your ways!" he said peremptorily; "I will join you later!"
Vain were their alarmed looks of remonstrance; and in another moment
all the party had separated, and only Max Graub and Axel Regor remained
on the pavement outside the tavern, disconsolately watching two figures
disappearing in the semi-shadowed moonlight--Pasquin Leroy and Lotys--
walking closely side by side.
"Was there ever such a drama as this?" muttered Graub, "He may lose his
life at any moment!"
"If he does," responded Regor, "It will not be our fault. We do our
best to guard him from the consequence of one folly,--and he
straightway runs into another! There is no help for it; we have sworn
to obey him, and we must keep our oath!"
They passed slowly along the street, too absorbed in their own
uncomfortable reflections for the interchange of many words. By the
rules of the Revolutionary Committee, they were not allowed 'to follow
or track any other member' so they were careful to walk in a reverse
direction to that taken by their late comrades. The great bell of the
Cathedral boomed midnight as they climbed towards the citadel, and the
pale moon peeping whitely through piled-up fleecy clouds, shed a silver
glare upon the quiet sea. And down into the 'slums,' down, and ever
deeper, into the sad and cheerless 'Quarter of the Poor' Pasquin Leroy
walked as though he trod lightly on a path of flowers,--his heart
beating high, and his soul fully awakened within him, thrilled, he knew
not why, to the heart's core by the soft low voice of Lotys,--and glad
that in the glimpses of the moonlight her eyes were occasionally lifted
to his face, with something of a child's trust, if not of a woman's
AN INVITATION TO COURT
The spring was now advancing into full summer, and some time had passed
since the Socialist party had gathered under their leaders to the voice
of Lotys. Troublous days appeared to be impending for the Senate, and
rumours of War,--war sometimes apparently imminent, and again suddenly
averted,--had from time to time worried the public through the Press.
But what was even more disturbing to the country, was the proposed
infliction of new, heavy and irritating taxes, which had begun to
affect the popular mind to the verge of revolt. Twice since Lotys had
spoken at the People's Assembly Rooms had Sergius Thord addressed huge
mass meetings, which apparently the police had no orders to disperse,
and his power over the multitude was increasing by leaps and bounds.
Whenever he spoke, wherever he worked, the indefatigable Pasquin Leroy
was constantly at his side, and he, in his turn began to be recognized
by the Revolutionary Committee as one of their most energetic members,
--able, resolute, and above all, of an invaluably inscrutable and self-
contained demeanour. His two comrades were not so effectual in their
assistance, and appeared to act merely in obedience to his
instructions. Their attitude, however, suited everyone concerned as
well as, if not better than, if they had been overzealous. Owing to
what Leroy had stated concerning the possibility of his arrest as a
spy, his name was never mentioned in public by one single member of the
Brotherhood; and to the outside Socialist following, he therefore
appeared simply as one of the many who worked under Sergius Thord's
command. Meanwhile, there were not lacking many other subjects for
popular concern and comment; all of which in their turn gave rise to
anxious discussion and vague conjecture. A Cabinet Council had been
held by the Premier, at which, without warning, the King had attended
personally, but the results were not made known to the public. Yet the
general impression was that his Majesty seemed to be perfectly
indifferent to the feelings or the well-being of his subjects; in fact,
as some of them said with dismal shakings of the head, "It was all a
part of the system; kings were not allowed to do anything even for the
benefit of their people." And rising Socialism, ever growing stronger,
and amassing in its ranks all the youthful and ambitious intellects of
the time, agreed and swore that it was time for a Republic. Only by a
complete change of Government could the cruelly-increasing taxation be
put down; and if Government was to be changed, why not the dummy
figure-head of Government as well?
Thus Rumour talked, sometimes in whispers--sometimes in shouts;--but
through it all the life of the Court and fashion went on in the same
way,--the King continued to receive with apparent favour the most
successful and most moneyed men from all parts of the world; the Queen
drove or walked, or rode;--and the only prospective change in the
social routine was the report that the Crown Prince was about to leave
the country for a tour round the world, and that he would start on his
journey in his own yacht about the end of the month. The newspapers
made a great fuss in print over this projected tour; but the actual
people were wholly indifferent to it. They had seen very little of the
Crown Prince,--certainly not enough to give him their affection; and
whether he left the kingdom or stayed in it concerned them not at all.
He had done nothing marked or decisive in his life to show either
talent, originality of character, or resolution; and the many 'puffs'
in the press concerning him, were scarcely read at all by the public,
or if they were, they were not credited. The expression of an ordinary
working-man with regard to his position was entirely typical of the
general popular sentiment;--"If he would only do something to prove he
had a will of his own, and a mind, he would perhaps be able to set the
Throne more firmly on its legs than it is at present."
How thoroughly the young man _had_ proved that he indeed possessed
'a will of his own,' was not yet disclosed to the outside critics of
his life and conduct. Only the King and Queen, and Professor von
Glauben knew it;--for even Sir Roger de Launay had not been entrusted
with the story of his secret marriage. The Queen had received the news
with her usual characteristic immobility. A faint cold smile had parted
her lips as she listened to the story of her son's romance,--and her
reply to the King's brief explanation was almost as brief:--
"Nearly all the aristocracy marry music-hall women!" she said; "One
should therefore be grateful that a Crown Prince does not go lower in
his matrimonial choice than an innocent little peasant!"
"The marriage is useless, of course," said the King; "It has satisfied
Humphry's exalted notions of honour; but it can never be acknowledged
"Of course not!" she agreed languidly; "It certainly clears up the
mystery of The Islands, which you were so anxious to visit;--and I