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series of acts of violent and ever-increasing arrogance, expressing the vanity and levity inherent in his nature. Scarcely was he established in the royal favour than he distinguished himself by striking an offending gentleman in the very presence of his sovereign–an act of such gross disrespect to royalty that his hand would have paid forfeit, as by law demanded, had not the maudlin king deemed him too lovely a fellow to be so cruelly maimed.

Over the mind and will of King Charles his ascendancy became even greater than it had been over that of King James; and it were easy to show that the acts of George Villiers’ life supplied the main planks of that scaffold in Whitehall whereupon Charles Stuart came to lose his head. Charles was indeed a martyr; a martyr chiefly to the reckless, insolent, irresponsible vanity of this Villiers, who, from a simple country squire with nothing but personal beauty to recommend him, had risen to be, as Duke of Buckingham, the first gentleman in England.

The heady wine of power had gone to his brain, and so addled it that, as John Chamberlain tells us, there was presently a touch of craziness in him–of the variety, no doubt, known to modern psychologists as megalomania He lost the sense of proportion, and was without respect for anybody or anything. The Commons of England and the immensely dignified Court of Spain–during that disgraceful, pseudo-romantic adventure at Madrid–were alike the butts of this parvenu’s unmeasured arrogance But the crowning insolence of his career was that tragicomedy the second act of which was played on a June evening in an Amiens garden on the banks of the river Somme.

Three weeks ago–on the 14th May, 1625, to be precise–Buckingham had arrived in Paris as Ambassador Extra-ordinary, charged with the task of conducting to England the King of France’s sister, Henrietta Maria, who three days earlier had been married by proxy to King Charles.

The occasion enabled Buckingham to fling the reins on to the neck of his mad vanity, to indulge to the very fullest his crazy passion for ostentation and magnificence. Because the Court of France was proverbially renowned for splendour and luxury, Buckingham felt it due to himself to extinguish its brilliance by his own. On his first coming to the Louvre he literally blazed. He wore a suit of white satin velvet with a short cloak in the Spanish fashion, the whole powdered over with diamonds to the value of some ten thousand pounds. An enormous diamond clasped the heron’s plume in his hat; diamonds flashed in the hilt of his sword; diamonds studded his very spurs, which were of beaten gold; the highest orders of England, Spain, and France flamed on his breast. On the occasion of his second visit he wore a suit of purple satin, of intent so lightly sewn with pearls that as he moved he shook them off like raindrops, and left them to lie where they fell, as largesse for pages and the lesser fry of the Court.

His equipages and retinue were of a kind to match his personal effulgence. His coaches were lined with velvet and covered with cloth of gold, and some seven hundred people made up his train. There were musicians, watermen, grooms of the chamber, thirty chief yeomen, a score of cooks, as many grooms, a dozen pages, two dozen footmen, six outriders, and twenty gentlemen, each with his own attendants, all arrayed as became the satellites of a star of such great magnitude.

Buckingham succeeded in his ambition. Paris, that hitherto had set the fashion to the world, stared mouth-agape, dazzled by the splendour of this superb and scintillating ambassador.

Another, by betraying consciousness of the figure that he cut, might have made himself ridiculous. But Buckingham’s insolent assurance was proof against that peril. Supremely self-satisfied, he was conscious only that what he did could not be better done, and he ruffled it with an air of easy insouciance, as if in all this costly display there was nothing that was not normal. He treated with princes, and even with the gloomy Louis XIII., as with equals; and, becoming more and more intoxicated with his very obvious success, he condescended to observe approvingly the fresh beauty of the young Queen.

Anne of Austria, then in her twenty-fourth year, was said to be one of the most beautiful women in Europe. She was of a good height and carriage, slight, and very gracefully built, of a ravishing fairness of skin and hair, whilst a look of wistfulness had come to invest with an indefinable tenderness her splendid eyes. Her childless marriage to the young King of France, which had endured now for ten years, had hardly been successful. Gloomy, taciturn, easily moved to suspicion, and difficult to convince of error, Louis XIII. held his wife aloof, throwing up between himself and her a wall of coldness, almost of dislike.

There is a story–and Tallemant des Raux gives credit to it– that in the early days of her reign as Queen of France, Richelieu had fallen deeply in love with her, and that she, with the mischief of an irresponsible young girl, had encouraged him, merely to betray him to a ridicule which his proud spirit had never been able to forgive. Be that or another the reason, the fact that Richelieu hated her, and subjected her to his vindictive persecution, is beyond dispute. And it was he who by a hundred suggestions poisoned against her the King’s mind, and thus kept ever open the gulf between the two.

The eyes of that neglected young wife dilated a little, and admiration kindled in them, when they rested upon the dazzling figure of my Lord of Buckingham. He must have seemed to her a figure of romance, a prince out of a fairy-tale.

That betraying glance he caught, and it inflamed at once his monstrous arrogance. To the scalps already adorning the belt of his vanity he would add that of the love of a beautiful young queen. Perhaps he was thrilled in his madness by the thought of the peril that would spice such an adventure. Into that adventure he plunged forthwith. He wooed her during the eight days that he abode in Paris, flagrantly, openly, contemptuous of courtiers and of the very King himself. At the Louvre, at the Hotel de Chevreuse, at the Luxembourg, where the Queen-Mother held her Court, at the Hotel de Guise, and elsewhere he was ever at the Queen’s side.

Richelieu, whose hard pride and self-love had been wounded by the Duke’s cavalier behaviour, who despised the fellow for an upstart, and may even have resented that so shallow a man should have been sent to treat with a statesman of his own caliber–for other business beside the marriage had brought Buckingham to Paris– suggested to the King that the Duke’s manner in approaching the Queen lacked a proper deference, and the Queen’s manner of receiving him a proper circumspection. Therefore the King’s long face became longer, his gloomy eyes gloomier, as he looked on. Far, however, from acting as a deterrent, the royal scowl was mere incense to the vanity of Buckingham, a spur to goad him on to greater daring.

On the 2nd of June a splendid company of some four thousand French nobles and ladies, besides Buckingham and his retinue, quitted Paris to accompany Henrietta Maria, now Queen of England, on the first stage of her journey to her new home. The King was not of the party. He had gone with Richelieu to Fontainebieau, leaving it to the Queen and the Queen-Mother to accompany his sister.

Buckingham missed no chance upon that journey of pressing his attentions upon Anne of Austria. Duty dictated that his place should be beside the carriage of Henrietta Maria. But duty did not apply to His Insolence of Buckingham, so indifferent of whom he might slight or offend. And then the devil took a hand in the game.

At Amiens, the Queen-Mother fell ill, so that the Court was compelled to halt there for a few days to give her Majesty the repose she required. Whilst Amiens was thus honoured by the presence of three queens at one and the same time within its walls, the Duc de Chaulnes gave an entertainment in the Citadel. Buckingham attended this, and in the dance that followed the banquet it was Buckingham who led out the Queen.

Thereafter the royal party had returned to the Bishop’s Palace, where it was lodged, and a small company went out to take the evening cool in the Bishop’s fragrant gardens on the Somme, Buckingham ever at the Queen’s side. Anne of Austria was attended by her Mistress of the Household, the beautiful, witty Marie de Rohan, Duchess of Chevreuse, and by her equerry, Monsieur de Putange. Madame de Chevreuse had for cavalier that handsome coxcomb, Lord Holland, who was one of Buckingham’s creatures, between whom and herself a certain transient tenderness had sprung up. M. de Putange was accompanied by Madame de Vernet, with whom at the time he was over head and ears in love. Elsewhere about the spacious gardens other courtiers sauntered.

Now either Madame de Chevreuse and M. de Putange were too deeply engrossed in their respective companions, or else the state of their own hearts and the tepid, languorous eventide disposed them complacently towards the affair of gallantry upon which their mistress almost seemed to wish to be embarked. They forgot, it would seem, that she was a queen, and remembered sympathetically that she was a woman, and that she had for companion the most splendid cavalier in all the world. Thus they committed the unpardonable fault of lagging behind, and allowing her to pass out of their sight round the bend of an avenue by the water.

No sooner did Buckingham realize that he was alone with the Queen, that the friendly dusk and a screen of trees secured them from observation, than, piling audacity up on audacity, he determined to accomplish here and now the conquest of this lovely lady who had used him so graciously and received his advances with such manifest pleasure.

“How soft the night! How exquisite!” he sighed.

“Indeed,” she agreed. “And how still, but for the gentle murmur of the river.”

“The river!” he cried, on a new note. “That is no gentle murmur. The river laughs, maliciously mocking. The river is evil.”

“Evil?” quoth she. He had checked in his step, and they stood now side by side.

“Evil,” he repeated. “Evil and cruel. It goes to swell the sea that soon shall divide me from you, and it mocks me, rejoicing wickedly in the pain that will presently be mine.”

It took her aback. She laughed, a little breathlessly, to hide her discomposure, and scarce knew how to answer him, scarce knew whether she took pleasure or offense in his daring encroachment upon that royal aloofness in which she dwelt, and in which her Spanish rearing had taught her she must ever dwell.

“Oh, but Monsieur l’Ambassadeur, you will be with us again, perhaps before so very long.”

His answer came in a swift, throbbing question, his lips so near her face that she could feel his breath hot upon her cheek.

“Do you wish it, madame? Do you wish it? I implore you, of your pity, say but that you wish it, and I will come, though I tear down half a world to reach you.”

She recoiled in Wright and displeasure before a wooing so impetuous and violently outspoken; though the displeasure was perhaps but a passing emotion, the result of early training. Yet she contrived to answer him with the proper icy dignity due to her position as a princess of Spain, now Queen of France.

“Monsieur, you forget yourself. The Queen of France does not listen to such words. You are mad, I think.”

“Yes, I am mad,” he flung back. “Mad with love–so mad that I have forgot that you are a queen and I an ambassador. Under the ambassador there is a man, under the queen a woman–our real selves, not the titles with which Fate seeks to dissemble our true natures. And with the whole strength of my true nature do I love you, so potently, so overwhelmingly that I will not believe you sensible of no response.”

Thus torrentially he delivered himself, and swept her a little off her feet. She was a woman, as he said; a queen, it is true; but also a neglected, coldly-used wife; and no one had ever addressed her in anything approaching this manner, no one had ever so much as suggested that her existence could matter greatly, that in her woman’s nature there was the magic power of awakening passion and devotion. He was so splendidly magnificent, so masterful and unrivalled, and he came thus to lay his being, as it were, in homage at her feet. It touched her a little, who knew so little of the real man. It cost her an effort to repulse him, and the effort was not very convincing.

“Hush, monsieur, for pity’s sake! You must not talk so to me. It . . . it hurts.”

O fatal word! She meant that it was her dignity as Queen he wounded, for she clung to that as to the anchor of salvation. But he in his egregious vanity must of cours e misunderstand.

“Hurts!” he cried, and the rapture in his accents should have warned her. “Because you resist it, because you fight against the commands of your true self. Anne!” He seized her, and crushed her to him. “Anne!”

Wild terror gripped her at that almost brutal contact, and anger, too, her dignity surging up in violent outraged rebellion. A scream, loud and piercing, broke from her and rang through the still garden. It brought him to his senses. It was as if he had been lifted up into the air, and then suddenly allowed to fall.

He sprang away from her, an incoherent exclamation on his lips, and when an instant later Monsieur de Putange came running up in alarm, his hand upon his sword, those two stood with the width of the avenue between them, Buckingham erect and defiant, the Queen breathing hard and trembling, a hand upon her heaving breast as if to repress its tumult.

“Madame! Madame!” had been Putange’s cry, as he sprang forward in alarm and self-reproach.

He stood now almost between them, looking from one to the other in bewilderment. Neither spoke.

“You cried out, Madame,” M. de Putange reminded her, and Buckingham may well have wondered whether presently he would be receiving M. de Putange’s sword in his vitals. He must have known that his life now hung upon her answer.

“I called you, that was all,” said the Queen, in a voice that she strove to render calm. “I confess that I was startled to find myself alone with M. I’Ambassadeur. Do not let it occur again, M. de Putange!”

The equerry bowed in silence. His itching fingers fell away from his sword-hilt, and he breathed more freely. He had no illusions as to what must have happened. But he was relieved there were to be no complications. The others now coming up with them, the party thereafter kept together until presently Buckingham and Lord Holland took their leave.

On the morrow the last stage of the escorting journey was accomplished. A little way beyond Amiens the Court took its leave of Henrietta Maria, entrusting her now to Buckingham and his followers, who were to convey her safely to Charles.

It was a very contrite and downcast Buckingham who came now to Anne of Austria as she sat in her coach with the Princesse de Conti for only companion.

“Madame,” he said, “I am come to take my leave.”

“Fare you well, Monsieur l’Ambassadeur,” she said, and her voice was warm and gentle, as if to show him that she bore no malice.

“I am come to ask your pardon, madame,” he said, in a low voice.

“Oh, monsieur–no more, I beg you.” She looked down; her hands were trembling, her cheeks going red and white by turns.

He put his head behind the curtains of the coach, so that none might see him from outside, and looking at him now, she beheld tears in his eyes.

“Do not misunderstand me, madame. I ask your pardon only for having discomposed you, startled you. As for what I said, it were idle to ask pardon, since I could no more help saying it than I can help drawing breath. I obeyed an instinct stronger than the will to live. I gave expression to something that dominates my whole being, and will ever dominate it as long as I have life. Adieu, madame! At need you know where a servant who will gladly die for you is to be found.” He kissed the hem of her robe, dashed the back of his hand across his eyes, and was gone before she could say a word in answer.

She sat pale, and very thoughtful, and the Princesse de Conti, watching her furtively, observed that her eyes were moist.

“I will answer for the Queen’s virtue,” she stated afterwards, “but I cannot speak so positively for the hardness of her heart, since without doubt the Duke’s tears affected her spirits.”

But it was not yet the end. As Buckingham was nearing Calais, he was met by a courier from Whitehall, with instructions for him regarding the negotiations he had been empowered to carry out with France in the matter of an alliance against Spain– negotiations which had not thriven with Louis and Richelieu, possibly because the ambassador was ill-chosen. The instructions came too late to be of use, but in time to serve as a pretext for Buckingham’s return to Amiens. There he sought an audience of the Queen-Mother, and delivered himself to her of a futile message for the King. This chimerical business–as Madame de Motteville shrewdly calls it–being accomplished, he came to the real matter which had prompted him to use that pretext for his return, and sought audience of Anne of Austria.

It was early morning, and the Queen was not yet risen. But the levees at the Court of France were precisely what the word implies, and they were held by royalty whilst still abed. It was not, therefore, amazing that he should have been admitted to her presence. She was alone save for her lady-in-waiting, Madame de Lannoi, who was, we are told, aged, prudent and virtuous. Conceive, therefore, the outraged feelings of this lady upon seeing the English duke precipitate himself wildly into the room, and on his knees at the royal bedside seize the coverlet and bear it to his lips.

Whilst the young Queen looked confused and agitated, Madame de Lannoi became a pillar of icy dignity.

“M. le Duc,” says she, “it is not customary in France to kneel when speaking to the Queen.”

“I care nothing for the customs of France, madame” he answered rudely. “I am not a Frenchman.”

“That is too obvious, monsieur,” snapped the elderly, prudent and virtuous countess. “Nevertheless, whilst in France perhaps monsieur will perceive the convenience of conforming to French customs. Let me call for a chair for Monsieur le Duc.”

“I do not want a chair, madame.”

The countess cast her eyes to Heaven, as if to say, “I suppose one cannot expect anything else in a foreigner,” and let him kneel as he insisted, placing herself, however, protectingly at the Queen’s pillow.

Nevertheless, entirely unabashed, heeding Madame de Lannoi’s presence no more than if she had been part of the room’s furniture, the Duke delivered himself freely of what was in his mind. He had been obliged to return to Amiens on a matter of State. It was unthinkable that he should be so near to her Majesty and not hasten to cast himself at her feet; and whilst gladdening the eyes of his body with the sight of her matchless perfection, the image of which was ever before the eyes of his soul, allow himself the only felicity life now held for him–that of protesting himself her utter slave. This, and much more of the kind, did he pour out, what time the Queen, embarrassed and annoyed beyond utterance, could only stare at him in silence.

Apart from the matchless impudence of it, it was also of a rashness beyond pardon. Unless Madame de Lannoi were the most circumspect of women, here was a fine tale for Court gossips, and for the King’s ears, a tale that must hopelessly compromise the Queen. For that, Buckingham, in his self-sufficiency and arrogance, appears to have cared nothing. One suspects that it would have pleased his vanity to have his name linked with the Queen’s by the lips of scandal.

She found her tongue at last.

“Monsieur le Duc,” she said in her confusion, “it was not necessary, it was not worth while, to have asked audience of me for this. You have leave to go.”

He looked up in doubt, and saw only confusion; attributed it perhaps to the presence of that third party to which himself he had been so indifferent. He kissed the coverlet again, stumbled to his feet, and reached the door. Thence he sent her a flaming glance of his bold eyes, and hand on heart–

“Adieu, madame!” said he in tragic tones, and so departed.

Madame de Lannoi was discreet, and related at the time nothing of what had passed at that interview. But that the interview itself had taken place under such conditions was enough to set the tongue of gossip wagging. An echo of it reached the King, together with the story of that other business in the garden, and he was glad to know that the Duke of Buckingham was back in London. Richelieu, to vent his own malice against the Queen, sought to feed the King’s suspicions.

“Why did she cry out, sire?” he will have asked. “What did M. de Buckingham do to make her cry out?”

“I don’t know. But whatever it was, she was no party to it since she did cry out.”

Richelieu did not pursue the matter just then. But neither did he abandon it. He had his agents in London and elsewhere, and he desired of them a close report upon the Duke of Buckingham’s movements, and the fullest particulars of his private life.

Meanwhile, Buckingham had left behind him in France two faithful agents of his own, with instructions to keep his memory green with the Queen. For he intended to return upon one pretext or another before very long, and complete the conquest. Those agents of his were Lord Holland and the artist Balthazar Gerbier. It is to be presumed that they served the Duke’s interests well, and it is no less to be presumed from that which followed that they found her Majesty willing enough to hear news of that amazingly romantic fellow who had flashed across the path of her grey life, touching it for a moment with his own flaming radiance. In her loneliness she came to think of him with tenderness and pity, in which pity for herself and her dull lot was also blent. He was away, overseas; she might never see him again; therefore there could be little harm in indulging the romantic tenderness he had inspired.

So one day, many months after his departure, she begged Gerbier– as La Rochefoucauld tells us–to journey to London and bear the Duke a trifling memento of her–a set of diamond studs. That love-token–for it amounted to no less–Gerbier conveyed to England, and delivered to the Duke.

Buckingham’s head was so completely turned by the event, and his desire to see Anne of Austria again became thereupon so overmastering, that he at once communicated to France that he was coming over as the ambassador of the King of England to treat of certain masters connected with Spain. But Richelieu had heard from the French ambassador in London that portraits of the Queen of France were excessively abundant at York House, the Duke’s residence, and he had considered it his duty to inform the King. Louis was angry, but not with the Queen. To have believed her guilty of any indiscretion would have hurt his gloomy pride too deeply. All that he believed was that this was merely an expression of Buckingham’s fanfaronading, thrasonical disposition, a form of vain, empty boasting peculiar to megalomaniacs.

As a consequence, the King of England was informed that the Duke of Buckingham, for reasons well known to himself, would not be agreeable as Charles’s ambassador to his Most Christian Majesty. Upon learning this, the vainglorious Buckingham was loud in proclaiming the reason (“well known to himself”) and in protesting that he would go to France to see the Queen with the French King’s consent or without it. This was duly reported to Richelieu, and by Richelieu to King Louis. But his Most Christian Majesty merely sneered, accounted it more empty boasting on the part of the parvenu, and dismissed it from his mind.

Richelieu found this attitude singularly exasperating in a King who was temperamentally suspicious. It so piqued and annoyed him, that when considered in addition to his undying rancour against Anne of Austria, it is easily believed he spared no pains to obtain something in the nature of a proof that the Queen was not as innocent as Louis insisted upon believing.

Now it happened that one of his London agents informed him, among other matters connected with the Duke’s private life, that he had a bitter and secret enemy in the Countess of Carlisle, between whom and himself there had been a passage of some tenderness too abruptly ended by the Duke. Richelieu, acting upon this information, contrived to enter into correspondence with Lady Carlisle, and in the course of this correspondence he managed her so craftily–says La Rochefoucauld–that very soon she was, whilst hardly realizing it, his Eminence’s most valuable spy near Buckingham. Richelieu informed her that he was mainly concerned with information that would throw light upon the real relations of Buckingharn and the Queen of France, and he persuaded her that nothing was too insignificant to be communicated. Her resentment of the treatment she had received from Buckingham, a resentment the more bitter for being stifled–since for her reputation’s sake she dared not have given it expression–made her a very ready instrument in Richelieu’s hands, and there was no scrap of gossip she did not carefully gather up and dispatch to him. But all was naught until one day at last she was able to tell him something that set his pulses beating more quickly than their habit.

She had it upon the best authority that a set of diamond studs constantly worn of late by the Duke was a love-token from the Queen of France sent over to Buckingham by a messenger of her own. Here, indeed, was news. Here was a weapon by which the Queen might be destroyed. Richelieu considered. If he could but obtain possession of the studs, the rest would be easy. There would be an end–and such an end!–to the King’s obstinate, indolent faith in his wife’s indifference to that boastful, flamboyant English upstart. Richelieu held his peace for the time being, and wrote to the Countess.

Some little time thereafter there was a sumptuous ball given at York House, graced by the presence of King Charles and his young French Queen. Lady Carlisle was present, and in the course of the evening Buckingham danced with her. She was a very beautiful, accomplished and ready-witted woman, and to-night his Grace found her charms so alluring that he was almost disposed to blame himself for having perhaps treated her too lightly. Yet she seemed at pains to show him that it was his to take up again the affair at the point at which it had been dropped. She was gay, arch, provoking and irresistible. So irresistible that presently, yielding to the lure of her, the Duke slipped away from his guests with the lady on his arm, and they found themselves at the foot of the garden in the shadow of the water-gate that Inigo Jones had just completed for him. My lady languished at his side, permitted him to encircle her with a protecting arm, and for a moment lay heavily against him. He caught her violently to him, and now her ladyship, hitherto so yielding, with true feminine contrariness set herself to resist him. A scuffle ensued between them. She broke from him at last, and sped swift as a doe across the lawn towards the lights of the great house, his Grace in pursuit between vexation and amusement.

But he did not overtake her, and it was with a sense of having been fooled that he rejoined his guests. His questing eyes could discern her nowhere. Presently he made inquiries, to be told that she had desired her carriage to be called, and had left York House immediately upon coming in from the garden.

He concluded that she was gone off in a pet. It was very odd. It was, in fact, most flagrantly contradictory that she should have taken offense at that which she had so obviously invited. But then she always had been a perverse and provoking jade. With that reflection he put her from his mind.

But anon, when his guests had departed, and the lights in the great house were extinguished, Buckingham thought of the incident again. Cogitating it, he sat in his room, his fingers combing his fine, pointed, auburn beard. At last, with a shrug and a half- laugh, he rose to undress for bed. And then a cry escaped him, and brought in his valet from an adjoining room. The riband of diamond studs was gone.

Reckless and indifferent as he was, a sense of evil took him in the moment of his discovery of that loss, so that he stood there pale, staring, and moist of brow. It was no ordinary theft. There were upon his person a dozen ornaments of greater value, any one of which could have been more easily detached. This was the work of some French agent. He had made no secret of whence those studs had come to him.

There his thoughts checked on a sudden. As in a flash of revelation, he saw the meaning of Lady Carlisle’s oddly contradictory behaviour. The jade had fooled him. It was she who had stolen the riband. He sat down again, his head in his hands, and swiftly, link by link, he pieced together a complete chain.

Almost as swiftly he decided upon the course of action which he must adopt so as to protect the Queen of France’s honour. He was virtually the ruler of England, master in these islands of an almost boundless power. That power he would exert to the full this very night to thwart those enemies of his own and of the Queen’s, who worked so subtly in concert. Many would be wronged, much harm would be done, the liberties of some thousands of freeborn Englishmen would be trampled underfoot. What did it matter? It was necessary that his Grace of Buckingham should cover up an indiscretion.

“Set ink and paper yonder,” he bade his gaping valet. “Then go call M. Gerbier. Rouse Lacy and Thom, and send them to me at once, and leave word that I shall require a score of couriers to be in the saddle and ready to set out in half an hour.”

Bewildered, the valet went off upon his errand. The Duke sat down to write. And next morning English merchants learnt that the ports of England were closed by the King’s express command– delivered by his minister, the Duke of Buckingham–that measures were being taken–were already taken in all southern ports–so that no vessel of any kind should leave the island until the King’s further pleasure were made known. Startled, the people wondered was this enactment the forerunner of war. Had they known the truth, they might have been more startled still, though in a different manner. As swiftly as couriers could travel–and certainly well ahead of any messenger seeking escape overseas– did this blockade spread, until the gates of England were tight locked against the outgoing of those diamond studs whirls meant the honour of the Queen of France.

And meanwhile a diamond-cutter was replacing the purloined stones by others, matching them so closely that no man should be able to say which were the originals and which the copies. Buckingham and Gerbier between them guided the work. Soon it was accomplished, and a vessel slipped down the Thames, allowed to pass by those who kept close watch to enforce the royal decree, and made sail for Calais, which was beginning to manifest surprise at this entire cessation of traffic from England. From that vessel landed Gerbier, and rode straight to Paris, carrying the Queen of France the duplicate studs, which were to replace those which she had sent to Buckingham.

Twenty-four hours later the ports of England were unsealed, and commerce was free and unhampered once more. But it was twenty- four hours too late for Richelieu and his agent, the Countess of Carlisle. His Eminence deplored a fine chance lost through the excessive power that was wielded in England by the parvenu.

Yet that is not quite the end of the story. Buckingham’s inflamed and reckless mind would stop at nothing now to achieve the object of his desires–go to France and see the Queen. Since the country was closed to him, he would force a way into it, the red way of war. Blood should flow, ruin and misery desolate the land, but in the end he would go to Paris to negotiate a peace, and that should be his opportunity. Other reasons there may have been, but none so dominant, none that could not have been remved by negotiation. The pretexted casus belli was the matter of the Protestants of La Rochelle, who were in rebellion against their king.

To their aid sailed Buckingham with an English expedition. Disaster and defeat awaited it. Its shattered remnant crept back in disgrace to England, and the Duke found himself more detested by the people than he had been already–which is saying much. He went off to seek comfort at the hands of the two persons who really loved him–his doting King and his splendid wife.

But the defeat had neither lessened his resolve nor chastened his insolence. He prepared a second expedition in the very teeth of a long-suffering nation’s hostility, indifferent to the mutinies and mutterings about him. What signified to him the will of a nation? He desired to win to the woman whom he loved, and to accomplish that he nothing recked that he should set Europe in a blaze, nothing recked what blood should be poured out, what treasure dissipated.

Hatred of him by now was so widespread and vocal, that his friends, fearing that soon it would pass from words to deeds, urged him to take precautions, advised the wearing of a shirt of mail for greater safety.

But he laughed sneeringly, ever arrogant and scornful.

“It needs not. There are no Roman spirits left,” was his contemptuous answer.

He was mistaken. One morning after breakfast, as he was leaving the house in the High Street, Portsmouth, where he lodged whilst superintending the final preparations for that unpopular expedition, John Felton, a self-appointed instrument of national vengeance, drove a knife to the hilt into the Duke’s breast.

“May the Lord have mercy on your soul!” was the pious exclamation with which the slayer struck home. And, in all the circumstances, there seems to have been occasion for the prayer.

IX. THE PATH OF EXILE

The Fall of Lord Clarendon

Tight-wrapped in his cloak against the icy whips of the black winter’s night, a portly gentleman, well advanced in years, picked his way carefully down the wet, slippery steps of the jetty by the light of a lanthorn, whose rays gleamed lividly on crushed brown seaweed and trailing green sea slime. Leaning heavily upon the arm which a sailor held out to his assistance, he stepped into the waiting boat that rose and fell on the heaving black waters. A boathook scraped against the stones, and the frail craft was pushed off.

The oars dipped, and the boat slipped away through the darkness, steering a course for the two great poop lanterns that were swinging rhythmically high up against the black background of the night. The elderly gentleman, huddled now in the stern-sheets, looked behind him–to look his last upon the England he had loved and served and ruled. The lanthorn, shedding its wheel of yellow light upon the jetty steps, was all of it that he could now see.

He sighed, and settled down again to face the poop lights, dancing there above the invisible hull of the ship that was to carry Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, lately Lord Chancellor of England, into exile. As a dying man looks down the foreshortened vista of his active life, so may Edward Hyde–whose career had reached a finality but one degree removed from the finality of death–have reviewed in that moment those thirty years of sincere endeavour and high achievement since he had been a law student in the Temple when Charles I. was King.

That King he had served faithfully, so faithfully that when the desperate fortunes of the Royalist party made it necessary to place the Prince of Wales beyond the reach of Cromwell, it was in Sir Edward Hyde’s care that the boy was sent upon his travels. The present was not to be Hyde’s first experience of exile. He had known it, and of a bitter sort, in those impecunious days when the Second Charles, whose steps he guided, was a needy, homeless outcast. A man less staunch and loyal might have thrown over so profitless a service. He had talents that would have commanded a price in the Roundhead market. Yet staunchly adhering to the Stuart fortunes, labouring ceaselessly and shrewdly in the Stuart interest, employing his great ability and statecraft, he achieved at long length the restoration of the Stuarts to the Throne of England. And for all those loyal, self-denying labours in exile on the Stuart behalf, all the reward he had at the time was that James Stuart, Duke of York, debauched his daughter.

Nor did Hyde’s labours cease when he had made possible the Restoration; it was Hyde who, when that Restoration was accomplished, took in hand and carried out the difficult task of welding together the old and the new conditions of political affairs. And it was Hyde who was the scapegoat when things did not run the course that Englishmen desired. As the head of the administration he was held responsible even for those acts which he had strongly but vainly reprobated in Council. It was Hyde who was blamed when Charles sold Dunkirk to the French, and spent the money in harlotry; it was Hyde who was blamed because the Queen was childless.

The reason for this last lay in the fact that the wrong done to Hyde’s daughter Anne had now been righted by marri age with the Duke of York. Now the Duke of York was the heir-apparent, and the people, ever ready to attach most credit to that which is most incredible and fantastic, believed that to ensure the succession of his own grandchildren Hyde had deliberately provided Charles with a barren wife.

When the Dutch, sailing up the Thames, had burnt the ships of war at Chatham, and Londoners heard the thunder of enemy guns, Hyde was openly denounced as a traitor by a people stricken with terror and seeking a victim in the blind, unreasoning way of public feeling. They broke his windows, ravaged his garden, and erected a gibbet before the gates of his superb mansion on the north side of Piccadilly.

Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, and Lord Chancellor of England, commanded the love of his intimates, but did not possess those qualities of cheap glitter that make for popularity with the masses. Nor did he court popularity elsewhere. Because he was austere in his morals, grave and sober in his conduct, he was hated by those who made up the debauched court of his prince. Because he was deeply religious in his principles, the Puritans mistrusted him for a bigot. Because he was autocratic in his policy he was detested by the Commons, the day of autocracy being done.

Yet might he have weathered the general hostility had Charles been half as loyal to him as he had ever been loyal to Charles. For a time, it is true, the King stood his friend, and might so have continued to the end had not the women become mixed up in the business. As Evelyn, the diarist, puts it, this great man’s fall was the work of “the buffoones and ladys of pleasure.”

It really is a very tangled story–this inner history of the fall of Clarendon, with which the school-books are not concerned. In a sense, it is also the story of the King’s marriage and of Catherine of Braganza, his unfortunate little ugly Queen, who must have suffered as much as any woman wedded to a sultan in any country where the seraglio is not a natural and proper institution.

If Clarendon could not be said to have brought about the marriage, at least he had given it his suffrages when proposed by Portugal, which was anxious to establish an alliance with England as some protection against the predatory designs of Spain. He had been influenced by the dowry offered–five hundred thousand pounds in money, Tangier, which would give England a commanding position on the Mediterranean, and the Island of Bombay. Without yet foreseeing that the possession of Bombay, and the freedom to trade in the East Indies–which Portugal had hitherto kept jealously to herself–were to enable England to build up her great Indian Empire, yet the commercial advantages alone were obvious enough to make the match desirable.

Catherine of Braganza sailed for England, and on the lath of May, 1662, Charles, attended by a splendid following, went to meet his bride at Portsmouth. He was himself a very personable man, tall– he stood a full six feet high–lean and elegantly vigorous. The ugliness of his drawn, harsh-featured face was mitigated by the glory of full, low-ridded, dark eyes, and his smile could be irresistibly captivating. He was as graceful in manner as in person, felicitous of speech, and of an indolent good temper that found expression in a charming urbanity.

Good temper and urbanity alike suffered rudely when he beheld the wife they brought him. Catherine, who was in her twenty-fifth year, was of an absurdly low stature, so long in the body and short in the legs that, dressed as she was in an outlandish, full-skirted farthingale, she had the appearance of being on her knees when she stood before him. Her complexion was sallow, and though her eyes, like his own, were fine, they were not fine enough to redeem the dull plainness of her face. Her black hair was grotesquely dressed, with a long fore-top and two great ribbon bows standing out, one on each side of her head, like a pair of miniature wings.

It is little wonder that the Merry Monarch, the fastidious voluptuary, with his nice discernment in women, should have checked in his long stride, and halted a moment in consternation.

“Lord!” was his wry comment to Etheredge, who was beside him. “They’ve brought me a bat, not a woman.”

But if she lacked beauty, she was well cowered, and Charles was in desperate need of money.

“I suppose,” he told Clarendon anon, “I must swallow this black draught to get the jam that goes with it.”

The Chancellor’s grave eyes considered him almost sternly what time he coldly recited the advantages of this marriage. If he did riot presume to rebuke the ribaldry of his master, neither would he condescend to smile at it. He was too honest ever to be a sycophant.

Catherine was immediately attended–in the words of Grammont–by six frights who called themselves maids-of-honour, and a governess who was a monster. With this retinue she repaired to Hampton Court, where the honeymoon was spent, and where for a brief season the poor woman–entirely enamoured of the graceful, long-legged rake she had married–lived in a fool’s paradise.

Disillusion was to follow soon enough. She might be, by he grace of her dowry, Queen of England, but she was soon to discover that to King Charles she was no more than a wife de jure. With wives de facto Charles would people his seraglio as fancy moved him; and the present wife defacto, the mistress of his heart, the first lady of his harem, was that beautiful termagant, Barbara Villiers, wife of the accommodating Roger Palmer, Earl of Castle- maine.

There was no lack–there never is in such cases–of those who out of concern and love for the happily deluded wife lifted the veil for her, and made her aware of the facts of his Majesty’s association with my Lady Castle-maine–an association dating back to the time when he was still a homeless wanderer. The knowledge would appear to have troubled the poor soul profoundly; but the climax of her distress was reached when, on her coming to Whitehall, she found at the head of the list of ladies-in-waiting assigned to her the name of my Lady Castlemaine. The forlorn little woman’s pride rose up before this outrage. She struck out that offending name, and gave orders that the favourite was not to be admitted to her presence.

But she reckoned without Charles. For all his urbane, good- tempered, debonair ways, there was an ugly cynical streak in his nature, manifested now in the manner in which he dealt with this situation. Himself he led his boldly handsome favourite by the hand into his wife’s presence, before the whole Court assembled, and himself presented her to Catherine, what time that Court, dissolute and profligate as it was, looked on in amazement at so outrageous a slight to the dignity of a queen.

What followed may well have exceeded all expectations. Catherine stiffened as if the blow dealt her had been physical. Gradually her face paled until it was grey and drawn; tears of outraged pride and mortification flooded her eyes. And then, as if something snapped within her brain under this stress of bitter emotion, blood gushed from her nostrils, and she sank back in a swoon into the arms of her Portuguese ladies.

Confusion followed, and under cover of it Charles and his light of love withdrew, realizing that if he lingered not all his easy skill in handling delicate situations could avail him to save his royal dignity.

Naturally the experiment was not to be repeated. But since it was his wish that the Countess of Castlemaine should be established as one of the Queen’s ladies–or, rather, since it was her ladyship’s wish, and since Charles was as wax in her ladyship’s hands–it became necessary to have the Queen instructed in what was, in her husband’s view, fitting. For this task he selected Clarendon. But the Chancellor, who had so long and loyally played Mentor to Charles’s Telemachus, sought now to guide him in matters moral as he had hitherto guided him in matters political.

Clarendon declined the office of mediator, and even expostulated with Charles upon the unseemliness of the course upon which his Majesty was bent.

“Surely, sire, it is for her Majesty to say who shall and who shall not be the ladies of her bedchamber. And I nothing marvel at her decision in this instance.”

“Yet I tell you, my lord, that it is a decision that shall be revoked.”

“By whom, sire?” the Chancellor asked him gravely.

“By her Majesty, of course.”

“Under coercion, of which you ask me to be the instrument,” said Clarendon, in the tutorly manner he had used with the King from the latter’s boyhood. “Yourself, sire, at a time when your own wishes did not warp your judgment, have condemned the very thing that now you are urging. Yourself, sire, hotly blamed your cousin, King Louis, for thrusting Mademoiselle de Valliere upon his queen. You will not have forgotten the things you said then of King Louis.”

Charles remembered those unflattering criticisms which he was now invited to apply to his own case. He bit his lip, admitting himself in check.

But anon–no doubt in obedience to the overbearing suasion of my Lady Castlemaine–he returned to the attack, and sent the Chancellor his orders in a letter demanding unquestioning obedience.

“Use your best endeavours,” wrote Charles, “to facilitate what I am sure my honour is so much concerned in. And whosoever I find to be my Lady Castlemaine’s enemy in this matter, I do promise upon my word to be his enemy so long as I live.”

My Lord Clarendon had few illusions on the score of mankind. He knew his world from froth to dregs–having studied it under a variety of conditions. Yet that letter from his King was a bitter draught. All that Charles possessed and was he owed to Clarendon. Yet in such a contest as this, Charles did not hesitate to pen that bitter, threatening line: “Whosoever I find to be my Lady Castlemaine’s enemy in this matter, I do promise upon my word to be his enemy so long as I live.”

All that Clarendon had done in the past was to count for nothing unless he also did the unworthy thing that Charles now demanded. All that he had accomplished in the service of his King was to be swept into oblivion by the breath of a spiteful wanton.

Clarendon swallowed the draught and sought the Queen, upon that odious embassy with whose ends he was so entirely out of sympathy. He used arguments whose hollowness was not more obvious to the Queen than to himself.

That industrious and entertaining chronicler of trifles, Mr. Pepys, tells us, scandalized, in his diary that on the following day the talk of the Court was all upon a midnight scene between the royal couple in the privacy of their own apartments, so stormy that the sounds of it were plainly to be heard in the neighbouring chambers.

You conceive the poor little woman, smarting under the insult of Charles’s proposal by the mouth of Clarendon, assailing her royal husband, and fiercely upbraiding him with his lack not merely of affection but even of the respect that was her absolute due. And Charles, his purpose set, urged to it by the handsome termagant whom he dared not refuse, stirred out of his indolent good- nature, turning upon her, storming back, and finally threatening her with the greater disgrace of seeing herself pack ed home to Portugal, unless she would submit to the lesser disgrace he thrust upon her here.

Whether by these or by other arguments he made his will prevail, prevail it did. Catherine of Braganza swallowed her pride and submitted. And a very complete submission it was. Lady Castlemaine was not only installed as a Lady of the Bedchamber, but very soon we find the Queen treating her with a friendliness that provoked comment and amazement.

The favourite’s triumph was complete, and marked by an increasing insolence, most marked in her demeanour towards the Chancellor, of whose views on the subject, as expressed to the King, she was aware. Consequently she hated him with all the spiteful bitterness that is inseparable from the nature of such women. And she hated him the more because, wrapped in his cold contempt, he moved in utter unconcern of her hostility. In this hatred she certainly did not lack for allies, members of that licentious court whose hostility towards the austere Chancellor was begotten of his own scorn of them. Among them they worked to pull him down.

The attempt to undermine his influence with the King proving vain–for Charles was as well aware of its inspiration as of the Chancellor’s value to him–that crew of rakes went laboriously and insidiously to work upon the public mind, which is to say the public ignorance–most fruitful soil for scandal against the great. Who shall say how far my lady and the Court were responsible for the lampoon affixed one day to my Lord Clarendon’s gatepost:

Three sights to be seen:
Dunkirk, Tangier, and a barren queen.

Her ladyship might well have considered the unpopularity of the Chancellor as the crown of her triumph, had this triumph been as stable as she could have wished. But, Charles being what he was, it follows that her ladyship had frequent, if transient, anxious jealousies to mar the perfection of her existence, to remind her how insecure is the tenure of positions such as hers, ever at the mercy of the very caprice to existence.

And then, at long length, there came a day of horrid dread for her, a day when she found herself bereft of her influence with her royal lover, when pleadings and railings failed alike to sway him. In part she owed it to an indiscretion of her own, but in far greater measure to a child of sixteen, of a golden-headed, fresh, youthful loveliness, and a nature that still found pleasure in dolls and kindred childish things, yet of a quick and lively wit, and a clear, intelligent mind, untroubled either by the assiduity of the royal attentions or the fact that she was become the toast of the day.

This was Miss Frances Stewart, the daughter of Lord Blantyre, newly come to Court as a Lady-in-Waiting to her Majesty. How profound an impression her beauty made upon the admittedly impressionable old Pepys you may study in his diary. He had a glimpse of her one day riding in the Park with the King, and a troop of ladies, among whom my Lady Castlemaine, looking, as he tells us, “mighty out of humour.” There was a moment when Miss Stewart came very near to becoming Queen of England, and although she never reached that eminence, yet her effigy not only found its way into the coinage, but abides there to this day (more perdurable than that of any actual queen) in the figure of Britannia, for which she was the model.

Charles wooed her openly. It was never his way to study appearances in these matters. He was so assiduous that it became customary in that winter of 1666 for those seeking the King at Whitehall to inquire whether he were above or below–“below” meaning Miss Stewart’s apartments on the ground-floor of the palace, in which apartments his Majesty was a constant visitor. And since where the King goes the Court follows, and where the King smiles there the Court fawns, it resulted that this child now found herself queering it over a court that flocked to her apartments. Gallants and ladies came there to flirt and to gossip, to gamble and to pay homage.

About a great table in her splendid salon, a company of rustling, iridescent fops in satin and heavy periwigs, and of ladies with curled head-dresses and bare shoulders, played at basset one night in January. Conversation rippled, breaking here and there into laughter, white, jewelled hands reached out for cards, or for a share of the heaps of gold that swept this way and that with the varying fortunes of the game.

My Lady Castlemaine, seated between Etheredge and Rochester, played in silence, with lips tight-set and brooding eyes. She had lost, it is true, some L1500 that night; yet, a prodigal gamester, and one who came easily by money, she had been known to lose ten times that sum and yet preserve her smile. The source of her ill-humour was not the game. She played recklessly, her attention wandering; those handsome, brooding eyes of hers were intent upon watching what went on at the other end of the long room. There, at a smaller table, sat Miss Stewart, half a dozen gallants hovering near her, engaged upon a game of cards of a vastly different sort. Miss Stewart did not gamble. The only purpose she could find for cards was to build castles; and here she was building one with the assistance of her gallants, and under the superintendence of his Grace of Buckingham, who was as skilled in this as in other equally unstable forms of architecture.

Apart, over by the fire, in a great chair of gilt leather, lounged the King, languidly observing this smaller party, a faint, indolent smile o n his swarthy, saturnine countenance. Absently, with one hand he stroked a little spaniel that was curled in his lap. A black boy in a gorgeous, plumed turban and a long, crimson surcoat arabesqued in gold–there were three or four such attendants about the room–proffered him a cup of posses on a golden salver.

The King rose, thrust aside the little blackamoor, and with his spaniel under his arm, sauntered across to Miss Stewart’s table. Soon he found himself alone with her–the others having removed themselves on his approach, as jackals fall back before the coming of the lion. The last to go, and with signs of obvious reluctance, was his Grace of Richmond, a delicately-built, uncomely, but very glittering gentleman.

Charles faced her across the table, the tall house of cards standing between them.

Miss invited his Majesty’s admiration for my Lord of Buckingham’s architecture. Pouf! His Majesty blew, and the edifice rustled down to a mere heap of cards again.

“Symbol of kingly power,” said Miss, pertly. “You demolish better than you build, sire.”

“Oddsfish! If you challenge me, it were easy to prove you wrong,” quoth he.

“Pray do. The cards are here.”

“Cards! Pooh! Card castles are well enough for Buckingham. But such is not the castle I’ll build you if you command me.”

“I command the King’s Majesty? Mon Dieu! But it would be treason surely.”

“Not greater treason than to have enslaved me.” His fine eyes were oddly ardent. “Shall I build you this castle, child?”

Miss looked at him, and looked away. Her eyelids fluttered distractingly. She fetched a sigh.

“The castle that your Majesty would build for any but your Queen must prove a prison.”

She rose, and, looking across the room, she met the handsome, scowling eyes of the neglected favourite. “My Lady Castlemaine looks as if she feared that fortune were not favouring her.” She was so artless that Charles could not be sure there was a double meaning to her speech. “Shall we go see how she is faring?” she added, with a disregard for etiquette, whose artlessness he also doubted.

He yielded, of course. That was his way with beauty, especially with beauty not yet reduced into possession. But the characteristic urbanity with which he sauntered beside her across the room was no more than a mask upon his chagrin. It was always thus that pretty Frances Stewart used him. She always knew how to elude him and, always with that cursed air of artlessness, uttered seemingly simple sentences that clung to his mind to tantalize him.

“The castle your Majesty would build for any but your Queen must prove a prison.” What had she meant by that? Must he take her to queen before she would allow him to build a castle for her?

It was an insistent, haunting thought, wracking his mind. He knew there was a party hostile to the Duke of York and Clarendon, which, fearing the succession of the former, and, so, of the grandchildren of the latter, as a result of Catherine of Braganza’s childlessness, strongly favoured the King’s divorce.

It was a singular irony that my Lady Castlemaine should be largely responsible for the existence of that party. In her hatred for Clarendon, and her blind search for weapons that would slay the Chancellor, she had, if not actually invented, at least helped to give currency to the silly slander that Clarendon had deliberately chosen for Charles a barren queen, so as to ensure the ultimate succession of his own daughter’s children. But she had never thought to see that slander recoil upon her as it now did; she had never thought that a party would come to rise up in consequence that would urge divorce upon the King at the very moment when he was consumed by passion for the unattainable, artlessly artful Frances Stewart.

It was Buckingham, greatly daring, who slyly made himself that party’s mouthpiece. The suggestion startled Charles, voicing, as perhaps it did, the temptation by which he was secretly assailed. He looked at Buckingham, frowning.

“I verily believe you are the wickedest dog in England.”

The impudent gallant made a leg. “For a subject, sire, I believe I am.”

Charles–with whom the amusing word seems ever to have been more compelling than the serious–laughed his soft, mellow laugh. Then he sighed, and the frown of thought returned.

“It would be a wicked thing to make a poor lady miserable only because she is my wife, and has no children by me, which is no fault of hers.”

He was a thoroughly bad husband, but his indolent good-nature shrank from purchasing his desires at the price of so much ignominy to the Queen. Before that could come to pass it would be necessary to give the screw of temptation another turn or two. And it was Miss Stewart herself who–in all innocence–supplied what was required in that direction. Driven to bay by the importunities of Charles, she announced at last that it was her intention to retire from Court, so as to preserve herself from the temptations by which she was beset, and to determine the uneasiness which, through no fault of her own, her presence was occasioning the Queen; and she announced further, that, so desperate had she been rendered that she would marry any gentleman of fifteen hundred pounds a year who would have her in honour.

You behold Charles reduced to a state of panic. He sought to bribe her with offers of any settlements she chose to name, or any title she coveted, offering her these things at the nation’s expense as freely and lightly as the jewels he had tossed into her lap, or the collar of pearls worth sixteen hundred pounds he had put about her neck. The offers were ineffectual, and Charles, driven almost to distraction by such invulnerable virtue, might now have yielded to the insidious whispers of divorce and re- marriage had not my Lady Castlemaine taken a hand in the game.

Her ladyship, dwelling already, as a consequence of that royal infatuation for Miss Stewart, in the cold, rarefied atmosphere of a neglect that amounted almost to disgrace, may have considered with bitterness how her attempt to exploit her hatred of the Chancellor had recoiled upon herself.

In the blackest hour of her despair, when hope seemed almost dead, she made a discovery–or, rather, the King’s page, the ineffable Chiffinch, Lord Keeper of the Back Stairs and Grand- Eunuch of the Royal Seraglio, who was her ladyship’s friend, made it and communicated it to her There had been one ardent respondent in the Duke of Richmond to that proclamation of Miss Stewart’s that she would marry any gentleman of fifteen hundred pounds a year. Long enamoured of her, his Grace saw here his opportunity, and he seized it. Consequently he was now in constant attendance upon her, but very secretly, since he feared the King’s displeasure.

My Lady Castlemaine, having discovered this, and being well served in the matter by Chiffinch, spied her opportunity. It came one cold night towards the end of February of that year 1667. Charles, going below at a late hour to visit Miss Stewart, when he judged that she would be alone, was informed by her maid that Miss was not receiving, a headache compelling her to keep her room.

His Majesty returned above in a very ill-humour, to find himself confronted in his own apartments by my Lady Castlemaine. Chiffinch had introduced her by the back-stairs entrance. Charles stiffened at sight of her.

“I hope I may be allowed to pay my homage,” says she, on a note of irony, “although the angelic Stewart has forbid you to see me at my own house. I come to condole with you upon the affliction and grief into which the new-fashioned chastity of the inhuman Stewart has reduced your Majesty.”

“You are pleased to be amused, ma’am,” says Charles frostily.

“I will not,” she returned him, “make use of reproaches which would disgrace myself; still less will I endeavour to excuse frailties in myself which nothing can justify, since your constancy for me deprives me of all defence.” Her ladyship, you see, had a considerable gift of sarcasm.

“In that case, may I ask you why you have come?”

“To open your eyes. Because I cannot bear that you should be made the jest of your own Court.”

“Madam!”

“Ah! You didn’t know, of course, that you are being laughed at for the gross manner in which you are being imposed upon by the Stewart’s affectations, any more than you know that whilst you are denied admittance to her apartments, under the presence of some indisposition, the Duke of Richmond is with her now.”

“That is false,” he was beginning, very indignantly.

“I do not desire you to take my word for it. If you will follow me, you will no longer be the dupe of a false prude, who makes you act so ridiculous a part.”

She took him, still half-resisting, by the hand, and in silence led him, despite his reluctance, back by the way he had so lately come. Outside her rival’s door she left him, but she paused at the end of the gallery to make sure that he had entered.

Within he found himself confronted by several of Miss Stewart’s chambermaids, who respectfully barred his way, one of them informing him scarcely above a whisper that her mistress had been very ill since his Majesty left, but that, being gone to bed, she was, God be thanked, in a very fine sleep.

“That I must see,” said the King. And, since one of the women placed herself before the door of the inner room, his Majesty unceremoniously took her by the shoulders and put her aside.

He thrust open the door, and stepped without further ceremony into the well-lighted bedroom. Miss Stewart occupied the handsome, canopied bed. But far from being as he had been told, in “a very fine sleep,” she was sitting up; and far from presenting an ailing appearance, she looked radiantly well and very lovely in her diaphanous sleeping toilet, with golden ringlets in distracting disarray Nor was she alone. By her pillow sat one who, if at first to be presumed her physician, proved upon scrutiny to be the Duke of Richmond.

The King’s swarthy face turned a variety of colours, his languid eyes lost all trace of languor. Those who knew his nature might have expected that he would now deliver himself with that sneering sarcasm, that indolent cynicism, which he used upon occasion. But he was too deeply stirred for acting. His self- control deserted him entirely. Exactly what he said has not been preserved for us. All that we are told is that he signified his resentment in such terms as he had never before used; and that his Grace, almost petrified by the King’s most royal rage, uttered never a word in answer. The windows of the room overlooked the Thames. The King’s eyes strayed towards them. Richmond was slight of build, Charles vigorous and athletic. His Grace took the door betimes lest the window should occur to his Majesty, and so he left the lady alone with the outraged monarch.

Thereafter Charles did not have it all quite his own way. Miss Stewart faced him in an indignation nothing less than his own, and she was very far from attempting any such justification of herself, or her conduct, as he may have expected.

“Will your Majesty be more precise as to the grounds of your complaint?” she invited him challengingly.

That checked his wildness. It brought him up with a round turn. His jaw fell, and he stared at her, lost now for words. Of this she took the fullest advantage.

“If I am not allowed to receive visits from a man of the Duke of Richmond’s rank, who comes with honourable intentions, then I am a slave in a free country. I know of no engagement that should prevent me from disposing of my hand as I think fit. But if this is not permitted me in your Majesty’s dominions, I do not believe there is any power on earth can prevent me going back to France, and throwing myself into a convent, there to enjoy the peace denied me at this Court.”

With that she melted into tears, and his discomfiture was complete. On his knees he begged her forgiveness for the injury he had done her. But Miss was not in a forgiving humour.

“If your Majesty would graciously consent to leave me now in peace,” said she, “you would avoid offending by a longer visit those who accompanied or conducted you to my apartments.”

She had drawn a bow at a venture but shrewdly, and the shaft went home Charles rose, red in the face. Swearing he would never speak to her again, he stalked out.

Later, however, he considered. If he felt bitterly aggrieved, he must also have realized that he had no just grounds for this, and that in his conduct in Miss Stewart’s room he had been entirely ridiculous. She was rightly resolved against being lightly worn by any man. If anything, the reflection must have fanned his passion. It was impossible, he thought, that she should love that knock-kneed fellow, Richmond, who had no graces either of body or of mind, and if she suffered the man’s suit, it must be, as she had all but said, so that she might be delivered from the persecution to which his Majesty had submitted her. The thought of her marrying Richmond, or, indeed, anybody, was unbearable to Charles, and it may have stifled his last scruple in the matter of the divorce.

His first measure next morning was to banish Richmond from the Court. But Richmond had not stayed for the order to quit. The King’s messenger found him gone already.

Then Charles took counsel in the matter with the Chancellor. Clarendon’s habitual gravity was increased to sternness. He spoke to the King–taking the fullest advantage of the tutelary position in which for the last twenty-five years he had stood to him–much as he had spoken when Charles had proposed to make Barbara Palmer a Lady of the Queen’s Bedchamber, saving that he was now even more uncompromising. The King was not pleased with him. But just as he had had his way, despite the Chancellor, in that other matter, so he would have his way despite him now. This time, however, the Chancellor took no risks. He feared too much the consequences for Charles, and he determined to spare no effort to avoid a scandal, and to save the already deeply-injured Queen. So he went secretly to work to outwit the King. He made himself the protector of those lovers, the Duke of Richmond and Miss Stewart, with the result that one dark night, a week or two later, the lady stole away from the Palace of White-hall, and made her way to the Bear Tavern, at the Bridge-foot, Westminster, where Richmond awaited her with a coach. And so, by the secret favour of the Lord Chancellor, they stole away to Kent and matrimony.

That was checkmate indeed to Charles who swore all manner of things in his mortification. But it was not until some six weeks later that he learnt by whose agency the thing had been accomplished. He learnt it, not a doubt, from my Lady Castlemaine.

The estrangement between her ladyship and the King, which dated back to the time of his desperate courtship of Miss Stewart, was at last made up; and once again we see her ladyship triumphant, and firmly established in the amorous King’s affections. She had cause to be grateful to the Chancellor for this. But her vindictive nature remembered only the earlier injury still unavenged. Here at last was her chance to pay off that score. Clarendon, beset by enemies on every hand, yet trusting in the King whom he had served so well, stood his ground unintimidated and unmoved–an oak that had weathered mightier storms than this. He did not dream that he was in the power of an evil woman. And that woman used her power. When all else failed, she told the King of Clarendon’s part in the flight of Miss Stewart, and lest the King should be disposed to pardon the Chancellor out of consideration for his motives, represented him as a self-seeker, and charged him with having acted thus so as to make sure of keeping his daughter’s children by the Duke of York in the succession.

That was the end. Charles withdrew his protection, threw Clarendon to the wolves. He sent the Duke of Albemarle to him with a command that he should surrender his seals of office. The proud old man refused to yield his seals to any but the King himself. He may have hoped that the memory of all that lay between them would rise up once more when they were face to face. So he came in person to Whitehall to make surrender. He walked deliberately, firmly, and with head erect, through the hostile throng of courtiers–“especially the buffoones and ladys of pleasure,” as Evelyn says.

Of his departure thence, his disgrace now consummated, Pepys has left us a vivid picture:

“When he went from the King on Monday morning my Lady Castlemaine was in bed (though about twelve o’clock), and ran out in her smock into her aviary looking into Whitehall Gardens; and thither her woman brought her her nightgown; and she stood, blessing herself at the old man’s going away; and several of the gallants of Whitehall–of which there were many staying to see the Chancellor’s return–did talk to her in her birdcage; among others Blandford, telling her she was the bird of passage.”

Clarendon lingered, melancholy and disillusioned, at his fine house in Piccadilly until, impeached by Parliament, he remembered Strafford’s fate, and set out to tread once more and for the remainder of his days the path of exile.

Time avenged him. Two of his granddaughters–Mary and Anne– reigned successively as queens in England.

X. THE TRAGEDY OF HERRENHAUSEN

Count Philip Koenigsmark and the Princess Sophia Dorothea

He was accounted something of a scamp throughout Europe, and particularly in England, where he had been associated with his brother in the killing of Mr. Thynne. But the seventeenth century did not look for excessively nice scruples in a soldier of fortune; and so it condoned the lack of virtue in Count Philip Christof Koenigsmark for the sake of his personal beauty, his elegance, his ready wit, and his magnificent address. The court of Hanover made him warmly welcome, counting itself the richer for his presence; whilst he, on his side, was retained there by the Colonelcy in the Electoral Guard to which he had been appointed, and by his deep and ill-starred affection for the Princess Sophia Dorothea, the wife of the Electoral Prince, who later was to reign in England as King George I.

His acquaintance with her dated back to childhood, for they had been playmates at her father’s ducal court of Zell, where Koenigsmark had been brought up. With adolescence he had gone out into the world to seek the broader education which it offered to men of quality and spirit. He had fought bulls in Madrid, and the infidel overseas; he had wooed adventure wherever it was to be met, until romance hung about him like an aura. Thus Sophia met him again, a dazzling personality, whose effulgence shone the more brightly against the dull background of that gross Hanoverian court; an accomplished, graceful, self-reliant man of the world, in whom she scarcely recognized her sometime playmate.

The change he found in her was no less marked, though of a different kind. The sweet child he had known–she had been married in 1682, at the age of sixteen–had come in her ten years of wedded life to the fulfilment of the handsome promise of her maidenhood. But her beauty was spiritualized by a certain wistfulness that had not been there before, that should not have been there now had all been well. The sprightliness inherent in her had not abated, but it had assumed a certain warp of bitterness; humour, which is of the heart, had given place in her to wit, which is of the mind, and this wit was barbed, and a little reckless of how or where it offended.

Koenigsmark observed these changes that the years had wrought, and knew enough of her story to account for them. He knew of her thwarted love for her cousin, the Duke of Wolfenbuttel, thwarted for the sake of dynastic ambition, to the end that by marrying her to the Electoral Prince George the whole of the Duchy of Luneberg might be united. Thus, for political reasons, she had been thrust into a union that was mutually loveless; for Prince George had as little affection to bring to it as herself. Yet for a prince the door to compensations is ever open. Prince George’s taste, as is notorious, was ever for ugly women, and this taste he indulged so freely, openly, and grossly that the coldness towards him with which Sophia had entered the alliance was eventually converted into disgust and contempt.

Thus matters stood between that ill-matched couple; contempt on her side, cold dislike on his, a dislike that was fully shared by his father, the Elector, Ernest Augustus, and encouraged in the latter by the Countess von Platen.

Madame von Platen, the wife of the Elector’s chief minister of state, was–with the connivance of her despicable husband, who saw therein the means to his own advancement–the acknowledged mistress of Ernest Augustus. She was a fleshly, gauche, vain, and ill-favoured woman. Malevolence sat in the creases of her painted face, and peered from her mean eyes. Yet, such as she was, the Elector Ernest loved her. His son’s taste for ugly women would appear to have been hereditary.

Between the Countess and Sophia there was a deadly feud. The princess had mortally offended her father-in-law’s favourite. Not only had she never troubled to dissemble the loathing which that detestable woman inspired in her, but she had actually given it such free and stinging expression as had provoked against Madame von Platen the derision of the court, a derision so ill-concealed that echoes of it had reached its object, and made her aware of the source from whence it sprang.

It was into this atmosphere of hostility that the advent of the elegant, romantic Koenigsmark took place. He found the stage set for comedy of a grim and bitter kind, which he was himself, by his recklessness, to convert into tragedy.

It began by the Countess von Platen’s falling in love with him. It was some time before he suspected it, though heaven knows he did not lack for self-esteem. Perhaps it was this very self- esteem that blinded him here to the appalling truth. Yet in the end understanding came to him. When the precise significance of the fond leer of that painted harridan’s repellent coquetry was borne in upon him he felt the skin of his body creep and roughen But he dissembled craftily. He was a venal scamp, after all, and in the court of Hanover he saw opportunities to employ his gifts and his knowledge of the great world in such a way as to win to eminence. He saw that the Elector’s favourite could be of use to him; and it is not your adventurer’s way to look too closely into the nature of the ladder by which he has the chance to climb.

Skilfully, craftily, then, he played the enamoured countess so long as her fondness for him might be useful, her hostility detrimental. But once the Colonelcy of the Electoral Guards was firmly in his grasp, and an intimate friendship had ripened between himself and Prince Charles–the Elector’s younger son– sufficiently to ensure his future, he plucked off the mask and allied himself with Sophia in her hostility towards Madame von Platen. He did worse. Some little time thereafter, whilst on a visit to the court of Poland, he made one night in his cups a droll story of the amorous persecution which he had suffered at Madame von Platen’s hands.

It was a tale that set the profligate company in a roar. But there was one present who afterwards sent a report of it to the Countess, and you conceive the nature of the emotions it aroused in her. Her rage was the greater for being stifled. It was obviously impossible for her to appeal to her lover, the Elector, to avenge her. From the Elector, above all others, must the matter be kept concealed. But not on that account would she forgo the vengeance due. She would present a reckoning in full ere all was done, and bitterly should the presumptuous young adventurer who had flouted her be made to pay.

The opportunity was very soon to be afforded her. It arose more or less directly out of an act in which she indulged her spite against Sophia. This lay in throwing Melusina Schulemberg into the arms of the Electoral Prince. Melusina, who was years afterwards to be created Duchess of Kendal, had not yet attained to that completeness of lank, bony hideousness that was later to distinguish her in England. But even in youth she could boast of little attraction. Prince George, however, was easily attracted. A dull, undignified libertine, addicted to over-eating, heavy drinking, and low conversation, he found in Melusina von Schulemberg an ideal mate. Her installation as maitresse en-titre took place publicly at a ball given by Prince George at Herrenhausen, a ball at which the Princess Sophia was present.

Accustomed, inured, as she was to the coarse profligacy of her dullard husband, and indifferent to his philandering as her contempt of him now left her, yet in the affront thus publicly offered her, she felt that the limit of endurance had been reached. Next day it was found that she had disappeared from Herrenhausen. She had fled to her father’s court at Zell.

But her father received her coldly; lectured her upon the freedom and levity of her manners, which he condemned as unbecoming the dignity of her rank; recommended her to use in future greater prudence, and a proper, wifely submission; and, the homily delivered, packed her back to her husband at Herrenhausen.

George’s reception of her on her return was bitterly hostile. She had been guilty of a more than usual, of an unpardonable want of respect for him. She must learn what was due to her station, and to her husband. He would thank her to instruct herself in these matters against his return from Berlin, whither he was about to journey, and he warned her that he would suffer no more tantrums of that kind.

Thus he delivered himself, with cold hate in his white, flabby, frog-face and in the very poise of his squat, ungainly figure.

Thereafter he departed for Berlin, bearing hate of her with him, and leaving hate and despair behind.

It was then, in this despair, that Sophia looked about her for a true friend to lend her the aid she so urgently required; to rescue her from her intolerable, soul-destroying fate. And at her elbow, against this dreadful need, Destiny had placed her sometime playmate, her most devoted friend–as she accounted him, and as, indeed, he was–the elegant, reckless Koenigsmark, with his beautiful face, his golden mane, and his unfathomable blue eyes.

Walking with him one summer day between clipped hedges in the formal gardens of Herrenhausen–that palace as squat and ungraceful as those who had built and who inhabited it–she opened her heart to him very fully, allowed him, in her overwhelming need of sympathy, to see things which for very shame she had hitherto veiled from all other eyes. She kept nothing back; she dwelt upon her unhappiness with her boorish husband, told him of slights and indignities innumerable, whose pain she had hitherto so bravely dissembled, confessed, even, that he had beaten her upon occasion.

Koenigsmark went red and white by turns, with the violent surge of his emotions, and the deep sapphire eyes blazed with wrath when she came at last to the culminating horror of blows endured.

“It is enough, madame,” he cried. “I swear to you, as Heaven hears me, that he shall be punished.”

“Punished?” she echoed, checking in her stride, and looked at him with a smile of sad incredulity. “It is not his punishment I seek, my friend, but my own salvation.”

“The one can be accomplished with the other,” he answered hotly, and struck the cut-steel hilt of his sword. “You shall be rid of this lout as soon as ever I can come to him. I go after him to Berlin to-night.”

The colour all faded from her cheeks, her sensitive lips fell apart, as she looked at him aghast.

“Why, what would you do? What do you mean?” she asked him.

“I will send him the length of my sword, and so make a widow of you, madame.”

She shook her head. “Princes do not fight,” she said, on a note of contempt.

“I shall so shame him that he will have no alternative–unless, indeed, he is shameless. I will choose my occasion shrewdly, put an affront on him one evening in his cups, when drink shall have made him valiant enough to commit himself to a meeting. If even that will not answer, and he still shields himself behind his rank–why, there are other ways to serve him.” He was thinking, perhaps, of Mr. Thynne.

The heat of so much reckless, romantic fury on her behalf warmed the poor lady, who had so long been chilled for want of sympathy, and starved of love. Impulsively she caught his hand in hers.

“My friend, my friend!” she cried, on a note that quivered and broke. “You are mad–wonderfully beautifully mad, but mad. What would become of you if you did this?”

He swept the consideration aside by a contemptuous, almost angry gesture. “Does that matter? I am concerned with what is to become of you. I was born for your service, my princess, and the service being rendered . . .” He shrugged and smiled, threw out his hands and let them fall again to his sides in an eloquent gesture. He was the complete courtier, the knight-errant, the romantic preux- chevalier all in one.

She drew closer to him, took the blue lapels of his military coat in her white hands, and looked pathetically up into his beautiful face. If ever she wanted to kiss a man, she surely wanted to kiss Koenigsmark in that moment, but as she might have kissed a loving brother, in token of her deep gratitude for his devotion to her who had known so little true devotion.

“If you knew,” she said, “what balsam this proof of your friendship has poured upon the wounds of my soul, you would understand my utter lack of words in which to thank you. You dumbfound me, my friend; I can find no expression for my gratitude.”

“I ask no gratitude,” quoth he. “I am all gratitude myself that you should have come to me in the hour of your need. I but ask your leave to serve you in my own way.”

She shook her head. She saw his blue eyes grow troubled.

He was about to speak, to protest, but she hurried on. “Serve me if you will–God knows I need the service of a loyal friend–but serve me as I shall myself decide–no other way.”

“But what alternative service can exist?” he asked, almost impatiently.

“I have it in mind to escape from this horrible place–to quit Hanover, never to return.”

“But to go whither?”

“Does it matter? Anywhere away from this hateful court, and this hateful life; anywhere, since my father will not let me find shelter at Zell, as I had hoped. Had it not been for the thought of my children, I should have fled long ago. For the sake of those two little ones I have suffered patiently through all these years. But the limit of endurance has been reached and passed. Take me away. Koenigsmark!” She was clutching his lapels again. “If you would really serve me, help me to escape.”

His hands descended upon hers, and held them prisoned against his breast. A flush crept into his fair cheeks, there was a sudden kindling of the eyes that looked down into her own piteous ones. These sensitive, romantic natures are quickly stirred to passion, ever ready to yield to the adventure of it.

“My princess,” he said, “you may count upon your Koenigsmark while he has life.” Disengaging her hands from his lapels, but still holding them, he bowed low over them, so low that his heavy golden mane tumbled forward on either side of his handsome head to form a screen under cover of which he pressed his lips upon her fingers.

She let him have his will with her hands. It was little enough reward for so much devotion.

“I thank you again,” she breathed. “And now I must think–I must consider where I can count upon finding refuge.”

That cooled his ardour a little. His own high romantic notion was, no doubt, to fling her there and then upon the withers of his horse, and so ride out into the wide world to carve a kingdom for her with his sword. Her sober words dispelled the dream, revealed to him that it was not quite intended he should hereafter be her custodian. And there for the moment the matter was suspended.

Both had behaved quite recklessly. Each should have remembered that an Electoral Princess is not wise to grant a protracted interview, accompanied by lapel-holding, hand-holding, and hand- kissings, within sight of the windows of a palace. And, as it happened, behind one of those windows lurked the Countess von Platen, watching them jealously, and without any disposition to construe the meeting innocently. Was she not the deadly enemy of both? Had not the Princess whetted satire upon her, and had not Koenigsmark scorned the love she proffered him, and then unpardonably published it in a ribald story to excite the mirth of profligates?

That evening the Countess purposefully sought her lover, the Elector.

“Your son is away in Prussia,” quoth she. “Who guards his honour in his absence?”

“George’s honour?” quoth the Elector, bulging eyes staring at the Countess. He did not laugh, as might have been expected at the notion of guarding something whose existence was not easily discerned. He had no sense of humour, as his appearance suggested. He was a short, fat man with a face shaped like a pear–narrow in the brow and heavy in the jowl. “What the devil do you mean?” he asked.

“I mean that this foreign adventurer, Koenigsmark, and Sophia grow too intimate.”

“Sophia!” Thick eyebrows were raised until they almost met the line of his ponderous peruke. His face broke into malevolent creases expressive of contempt.

“That white-faced ninny! Bah!” Her very virtue was matter for his scorn.

“It is these white-faced ninnies can be most sly,” replied the Countess, out of her worldly wisdom. “Listen a moment now.” And she related, with interest rather than discount, you may be sure, what she had witnessed that afternoon.

The malevolence deepened in his face. He had never loved Sophia, and he felt none the kinder towards her for her recent trip to Zell. Then, too, being a libertine, and the father of a libertine, it logically followed that unchastity in his women- folk was in his eyes the unpardonable sin.

He heaved himself out of his deep chair. “How far has this gone?” he demanded.

Prudence restrained the Countess from any over-statement that might afterwards be disproved. Besides, there was not the need, if she could trust her senses. Patience and vigilance would presently afford her all the evidence required to damn the pair. She said as much, and promised the Elector that she would exercise herself the latter quality in his son’s service. Again the Elector did not find it grotesque that his mistress should appoint herself the guardian of his son’s honour.

The Countess went about that congenial task with zeal–though George’s honour was the least thing that concerned her. What concerned her was the dishonour of Sophia, and the ruin of Koenigsmark. So she watched assiduously, and set others, too, to watch for her and to report. And almost daily now she had for the Elector a tale of whisperings and hand-pressings, and secret stolen meetings between the guilty twain. The Elector enraged, and would have taken action, but that the guileful Countess curbed him. All this was not enough. An accusation that could not be substantiated would ruin all chance of punishing the offenders, might recoil, indeed, upon the accusers by bringing the Duke of Zell to his daughter’s aid. So they must wait yet awhile until they held more absolute proof of this intrigue.

And then at last one day the Countess sped in haste to the Elector with word that Koenigsmark and the Princess had shut themselves up together in the garden pavilion. Let him come at once, and he should so discover them for himself, and thus at last be able to take action. The Countess was flushed with triumph. Be that meeting never so innocent–and Madame von Platen could not, being what she was, and having seen what she had seen, conceive it innocent–it was in an Electoral Princess an unforgivable indiscretion, to take the most charitable view, which none would dream of taking. So the Elector, fiercely red in the face, hurried off to the pavilion with Madame von Platen following. He came too late, despite the diligence of his spy.

Sophia had been there, but her interview with the Count had been a brief one. She had to tell him that at last she was resolved in all particulars. She would seek a refuge at the court of her cousin, the Duke of Wolfenbuttel, who, she was sure–for the sake of what once had lain between them–would not now refuse to shelter and protect her. Of Koenigsmark she desired that he should act as her escort to her cousin’s court.

Koenigsmark was ready, eager. In Hanover he would leave nothing that he regretted. At Wolfenbuttelyy, having served Sophia faithfully, his ever-growing, romantic passion for her might find expression. She would make all dispositions, and advise him when she was ready to set out. But they must use caution, for they were being spied upon. Madame von Platen’s over-eagerness had in part betrayed her. It was, indeed, their consciousness of espionage which had led to this dangerous meeting in the seclusion of the pavilion, and which urged him to linger after Sophia had left him. They were not to be seen to emerge together.

The young Dane sat alone on the window-seat, his chin in his hands, his eyes dreamy, a faint smile on his shapely lips, when Ernest Augustus burst furiously in, the Countess von Platen lingering just beyond the threshold. The Elector’s face was apoplectically purple from rage and haste, his breath came in wheezing gasps. His bulging eyes swept round the chamber, and fastened finally, glaring, upon the startled Koenigsmark.

“Where is the Princess?” he blurted out.

The Count espied Madame von Platen in the back ground, and had the scent of mischief very strong. But he preserved an air of innocent mystification. He rose and answered with courteous ease:

“Your Highness is seeking her? Shall I ascertain for you?”

At a loss, Ernest Augustus stared a moment, then flung a glance over his shoulder at the Countess.

“I was told that her Highness was here,” he said.

“Plainly,” said Koenigsmark, with perfect calm, “you have been misinformed.” And his quiet glance and gesture invited the Elector to look round for himself.

“How long have you been here yourself?” Feeling at a disadvantage, the Elector avoided the direct question that was in his mind.

“Half an hour at least.”

“And in that time you have not seen the Princess?”

“Seen the Princess?” Koenigsmark’s brows were knit perplexedly. “I scarcely understand your Highness.”

The Elector moved a step and trod on a soft substance. He looked down, then stooped, and rose again, holding in his hand a woman’s glove.

“What’s this?” quoth he. “Whose glove is this?”

If Koenigsmark’s heart missed a beat–as well it may have done– he did not betray it outwardly. He smiled; indeed he almost laughed.

“Your Highness is amusing himself at my expense by asking me questions that only a seer could answer.”

The Elector was still considering him with his ponderously suspicious glance, when quick steps approached. A serving-maid, one of Sophia’s women, appeared in the doorway of the pavilion.

“What do you want?” the Elector snapped at her.

“A glove her Highness lately dropped here,” was the timid answer, innocently precipitating the very discovery which the woman had been too hastily dispatched to avert.

The Elector flung the glove at her, and there was a creak of evil laughter from him. When she had departed’ he turned again to Koenigsmark.

“You fence skilfully,” said he, sneering, “too skilfully for an honest man. Will you now tell me without any more of this, precisely what the Princess Sophia was doing here with you?”

Koenigsmark drew himself stiffly up, looking squarely into the furnace of the Elector’s face.

“Your Highness assumes that the Princess was here with me, and a prince is not to be contradicted, even when he insults a lady whose spotless purity is beyond his understanding. But your Highness can hardly expect me to become in never so slight a degree a party to that insult by vouchsafing any answer to your question.”

“That is your last word, sir?” The Elector shook with suppressed anger.

“Your Highness cannot think that words are necessary?”

The bulging eyes grew narrow, the heavy nether lip was thrust forth in scorn and menace.

“You are relieved, sir, of your duties in the Electoral Guard, and as that is the only tie binding you to Hanover, we see no reason why your sojourn here should be protracted.”

Koenigsmark bowed stiffly, formally. “It shall end, your Highness, as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements for my departure–in a week at most.”

“You are accorded three days, sir.” The Elector turned, and waddled out, leaving Koenigsmark to breathe freely again. The three days should suffice for the Princess also. It was very well.

The Elector, too, thought that it was very well. He had given this troublesome fellow his dismissal, averted a scandal, and placed his daughter-in-law out of the reach of harm. Madame von Platen was the only one concerned who thought that it was not well at all, the consummation being far from that which she had desired. She had dreamt of a flaming scandal, that should utterly consume her two enemies, Sophia and Koenigsmark. Instead, she saw them both escaping, and the fact that she was–as she may have supposed–effectively separating two loving hearts could be no sort of adequate satisfaction for such bitter spite as hers. Therefore she plied her wicked wits to force an issue more germane to her desires.

The course she took was fraught with a certain peril. Yet confident that at worst she could justify it, and little fearing that the worst would happen, she boldly went to work. She forged next day a brief note in which the Princess Sophia urgently bade Koenigsmark to come to her at ten o’clock that night in her own apartments, and with threat and bribe induced the waiting woman of the glove to bear that letter.

Now it so happened that Koenigsmark, through the kind offices of Sophia’s maid-of-honour, Mademoiselle de Knesebeck, who was in the secret of their intentions, had sent the Princess a note that morning, briefly stating the urgency of departure, and begging her so to arrange that she could leave Herrenhausen with him on the morrow. He imagined the note now brought him to be in answer to that appeal of his. Its genuineness he never doubted, being unacquainted with Sophia’s writing. He was aghast at the rashness which dictated such an acsignation, yet never hesitated as to keeping it. It was not his way to hesitate. He trusted to the gods who watch over the destinies of the bold.

And meanwhile Madame von Platen was reproaching her lover with having dealt too softly with the Dane.

“Bah!” said the Elector. “To-morrow he goes his ways, and we are rid of him. Is not that enough?”

“Enough, if, soon as he goes, he goes not too late already,” quoth she.

“Now what will you be hinting?” he asked her peevishly.

“I’ll be more plain. I will tell you what I know. It is this. Koenigsmark has an assignation with the Princess Sophia this very night at ten o’clock–and where do you suppose? In her Highness’s own apartments.”

The Elector came to his feet with an oath. “That is not true!” he cried. “It cannot be!”

“Then I’ll say no more,” quoth Jezebel, and snapped her thin lips.