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Title: Majesty - A Novel
Author: Couperus, Louis, 1863-1923
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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MAJESTY

A Novel

by

LOUIS COUPERUS

Newly Translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos

With a Preface by Stephen McKenna



New York
Dodd, Mead and Company
1921



PREFACE


The betting-book in one of London's oldest and most famous clubs
contains a wager, with odds laid at one hundred sovereigns to ten, that
"within five years there will not remain two crowned heads in Europe."
The condition--"in the event of war between Great Britain and
Germany"--was imposed by the date of the wager, for one member was
venturing his hundred to ten at a moment when another was dining with
him to kill time before the British prime minister's ultimatum took
effect: the imperial German government had to deliver its reply before
midnight, by Greenwich time, or eleven o'clock, by Central European
reckoning.

Since the fourth of August, 1914, the King of the Hellenes, the Czar of
Bulgaria, the Emperor-King of Austria-Hungary, the German Kaiser and a
host of smaller princes have abdicated and sought asylum in countries
left neutral by the war; the Czar of All the Russias also abdicated, but
was executed without an opportunity of escape. Thus, though republican
and royalist may protest that the wager was too sanguine or too
pessimistic, the challenger must have taken credit for his prescience,
as three of the great powers and two of the lesser converted, one after
another, their half-divine sovereign into their wholly material scapegoat;
by no great special pleading he might claim that the bet was won in
spirit if not in fact when the morning of Armistice Day shewed monarchy
surviving only in Spain, Italy, Roumania and Greece, in the small
liberal kingdoms of Scandinavia and the Netherlands, in the minute
principality of Monaco, in the crowned republic of Great Britain and
Ireland and in the eternal anachronism of the Ottoman Empire. And the
time-limit of five years had been exceeded by only three months.

In the peaceful period, four times longer, between the publication of
_Majesty_ in 1894 and the outbreak of the Great War, historians were
kept hardly less busy with their record of fallen monarchs and
extinguished dynasties: King Humbert of Italy was assassinated in 1900;
King Alexander of Servia, with his queen, in 1903; King Carlos of
Portugal, with the heir-apparent, in 1908; and the Sultan Abdul Hamid
was deposed and imprisoned in 1909. Before the year 1894 no ruler of
note had removed himself or been removed since the assassination of the
Czar Alexander II in 1881; this study of "majesty" in its strength and,
still more, in its weakness was published at a time when even the
autocrat was more secure on his throne than at any period since "the
year of revolution," 1848.

If _Majesty_ is to be regarded as a _roman à clef_, there is a
temptation, after six and twenty years, to call Couperus 'prophetic:' to
call him that and nothing else is to turn blind eyes to the intuitive
understanding which is more precious than divination, to ignore, in one
book, the insight which illumines all and to overlook the quality which,
among all the chronicles of kings, penetrates beyond romance and makes
of _Majesty_ an essay in human psychology. So long as the fairy-tales of
childhood are woven about handsome princes and the fair-haired daughters
of kings, there is no danger that the setting of royalty will ever lose
its glamour; so long as "romantic" means primarily that which is
"strange," the writer of romance may bind his spell on all to whom
kings' houses and queens' gardens are an unfamiliar world; so long as
the picturesque and traditional hold sway, the sanction and titles of
kingship, the dignities and the procedure, the inhibitions and aloofness
of royalty will fascinate, whether they like it or not, all those in
whose veins there is no "golden drop" of blood royal. A romance of
kingship, alike in the hands of dramatist, melodramatist and sycophant,
is certain of commercial success.

The strength of this temptation is to be measured by the number of
novels written round the triumphs and intrigues of kings, their amours
and tragedies, their conflicts and disasters: King Cophetua and "King
Sun," Prince Hal and Richard the Second, Louis the Eleventh and Charles
the First, a king in hiding, a king in exile, a king in disguise; so
long as he is a king, he is a safe investment for the romantic writer.
But the weakness of those who succumb to this temptation is to be
measured by their failure to make kings live in literature. Those few
who survive beyond the brief term of ephemeral popularity survive more
by reason of their office than of themselves and Jan de Witt makes
little show beside Louis the Sixteenth; their robes are of so much
greater account than their persons that the feeblest German prince cuts
a more imposing figure than the strongest president of the Swiss
Confederation.

Those who stand out in despite of their romantic setting, the human,
perplexed Hamlets and vacillating, remorseful Richards, are inevitably
few; and few they are likely to remain so long as the frame outshines
the picture and the prince is labelled and left a celestial being apart,
or labelled and dragged into passing sentimental contrast with men less
exalted; it would seem that to regard a king first as a man and
afterwards as an hereditary office-holder was to waste his romantic
possibilities. This, nevertheless, is what Couperus has set himself to
do in _Majesty_; he presents his family of kings as a branch of the
human family; their dignity ceases to be stupefying when all are equally
high-born; they wear their uniforms and robes as other men wear the
conventional clothes of their trade; and, stripping them of their titles
and decorations, he paints his group of men and women who have been born
to rule, as others are born to till the soil; to marry for love or
reasons of state, as others marry for love or reasons of convenience; to
experience such emotions as are common to all men and to face the
special duties and dangers apportioned to their caste by the
organization of society:

_"... The Gothlandic family,"_ says Couperus, _"... lived [at
Altseeborgen] for four months, without palace-etiquette, in the greatest
simplicity. They formed a numerous family and there were always many
visitors. The king attended to state affairs in homely fashion at the
castle. His grandchildren would run into his room while he was
discussing important business with the prime minister.... He just patted
their flaxen curls and sent them away to play, with a caress.... From
all the courts of Europe, which were as one great family, different
members came from time to time to stay, bringing with them the
irrespective nuances of different nationality, something exotic in
accent and moral ideas, so far as this was not merged in their
cosmopolitanism."_

To this "one great family" the organization of society apportioned with
one hand special privileges and exemptions, with the other special
hardships and dangers. Revolution, to these professional rulers, was
what successful trade rivalry is to a store-keeper; assassination was a
daily risk to which store-keepers are commonly not exposed:

_"... Such is the life of rulers: the emperor lay dead, killed by a
simple pistol-shot; and the court chamberlain was very busy, the masters
of ceremonies unable to agree; the pomp of an imperial funeral was
prepared in all its intricacy; through all Europe sped the after-shudder
of fright; every newspaper was filled with telegrams and long
articles...._

_"All this was because of one shot from a fanatic, a martyr for the
people's rights._

_"The Empress Elizabeth stared with wide-open eyes at the fate that had
overtaken her. Not thus had she ever pictured to herself that it would
come, thus, so rudely, in the midst of that festivity and in the
presence of their royal guest...."_

It is to be understood, none the less, that she had always expected it
to come: assassination is one of the special risks attaching to majesty
at all times when one form of kingship or the whole institution of kings
is debated and criticized. _"When the intellectual developments or
culture of a race,"_ wrote Heine, in _The Citizen Kingdom in 1832,
"cease to accord with its old established institutions, the necessary
result is a combat in which the latter are overthrown. This is called a
revolution. Until this revolution is complete, so long as the reform of
these institutions does not agree at all points with the intellectual
development, the habits and the wants of the people, during this period
the national malady is not wholly cured and the ailing and agitated
people will often relapse into the weakness of exhaustion and at times
be subject to fits of burning fever. When this fever is upon them, they
tear the lightest bandages and the most healing lint from their old
wounds, throw the most benevolent and noble-hearted nurses out of window
and themselves roll about in agony, until at length they find themselves
in circumstances or adapt themselves to institutions that suit them
better."_

So much for the race, in the gripe of growing-pains; but what of the
nurses? How little benevolent or noble-hearted soever they be, nurses
are bound by the honour of their profession and by personal pride not to
forsake their patients. In one passage of _Majesty_ the crown-prince is
shaken by fundamental doubts of his own inherited right to rule; he
questions and analyses until he is brought to heel by his imperial
father who remembers that an excess of "victorious analysis" rotted the
intellectual foundations of the old order and prepared the way for the
logical French revolution. In another passage the boy realizes without
any qualification that he at least is unfitted for the burthen of empire
and that it is better to abdicate in favour of his brother or to commit
suicide than to play Atlas with a world that he cannot sustain; once
more, his imperial father silences any admission that his own flesh and
blood can be too degenerate for the task of majesty. And so, at the
moral sword-point, this hereditary nurse is held to the duty and
privilege of standing by an hereditary patient whom he cannot relieve
with "the most healing lint" and who may at any moment throw him out of
window.

Not even in thought may majesty abdicate: a prince inherits his
philosophy as he inherits his title.

_"Life is so simple,"_ proclaims the collectivist Zanti.

_"'As you picture it, but not in reality,' objected Herman._

_"Zanti looked at him angrily, stopped still, to be able to talk with
greater ease, and, passionately, violently, exclaimed:_

_"'And do you in reality find it better than I picture it? I do not,
sir, and I hope to turn my picture into reality. You and yours once,
ages ago, made your picture reality; now it is the turn of us others:
your reality has lasted long enough....'_

_"Othomar, haughtily, tried to say something in contradiction; the old
man, however, suddenly turned to him and, gently though roughly, with
his penetrating, fanatical voice which made Othomar shudder:_

_"'For you, sir, I feel pity!... Do you know why? Because the time will
come!... The hour will come. Perhaps it is very near. If it does not
come in your father's reign, it will come in your reign or your son's.
But come it will! And therefore I feel pity for you. For you will not
have enough love for your people. Not enough love to say to them, "I am
as all of you and nothing more. I will possess no more than any of you,
for I do not want abundance while you suffer need. I will not rule over
you, for I am only a human being like yourselves and no more human than
you." Are you more human? If you were more, then you would be entitled
to rule, yes, then, then.... See here, young man, you will never have so
much love for your people as to do all this, oh, and more still and
more! You will govern and possess abundance and wage war. But the time
will come! Therefore I have pity for you ... although I oughtn't to!'"_

The dead weight of inheritance, always a psychological fascination for
Couperus, becomes doubly fascinating when one generation after another
inherits an undwindling legacy of divine, ironic whim. As, in _The Books
of the Small Souls_ and in _Old People and the Things that Pass_, the
children and grandchildren are born with minds tainted by prenatal
memories, so, in _Majesty_, a prenatal influence has ordered the life
and determined the fate of an infant who first draws breath as Count of
Lycilia, eldest son of the Duke of Xara, himself crown-prince and eldest
son of the Emperor of Liparia. There is no escape, no lack of heirs to
the ironic inheritance: _"'If it's a son,'"_ says the empress mother, on
the morrow of her husband's assassination, _"'it will be a Duke of
Xara....'_

_"And then the Emperor of Liparia ... lost his self-restraint. In one
lightning-flash, one zig-zag of terror, he saw again his life as
crown-prince, he thought of his unborn son. What would become of this
child of fate? Would it be a repetition of himself, of his hesitation,
his melancholy and his despair?..."_

If _Majesty_ be a _roman à clef_, "this child of fate," with his father
and mother and sisters, had his short spell of hesitation, melancholy
and despair ended in 1918 by the revolver-shots of his gaolers. If
Othomar be not a portrait of the Czar Nicolas II., it is hard to believe
that the character was not suggested by him; though the Czar Alexander
III. died a natural death, he would seem to have supplied a parallel for
the Emperor Oscar, as Alexander II. supplied one for the liberal
emperor, Othomar XI. The fanatical Zanti has his model in Count Tolstoi;
and even the tragic romance of Prince von Lohe-Obkowitz has its
historical counterpart.

But the interest and value of the book do not lie in any fancied
resemblance, among the characters, to living or dead kings; the study of
Prince Othomar does not depend on any likeness to the Czar Nicolas II.;
Couperus succeeds or fails not as a court painter, but as a great
sympathetic and imaginative artist who does or does not create, in the
unfamiliar atmosphere of a court, first the collective life and spirit
of a caste long trained to formalize its life and suppress its emotions,
then a group of human characters who stand out compelling and vital
against the posturing, shadowy kings and queens of romance.

To the composition of _Majesty_ go the understanding and the historic
sense, the irony and tenderness that enable Couperus in later books to
draw with unfaltering touch his exquisite portraits of old age and
youth, of men and women, in their moments of solitude and in their
reactions upon one another. Few men have stepped so lightly and surely
across the confines of the centuries and the continents; his intuition
makes him equally at home in Alexandria and the Hague, with women and
men, in the second century and in the twentieth; and it is not benumbed
by the surface inhumanity of a court. When the Archduchess Valérie had
lost her lover, the crown-prince could not understand her being able to
talk as usual at dinner.

_"It irritated him, his want of penetration of the human heart: how
could he develop it? A future ruler ought to be able to see things at a
single glance.... And suddenly, perhaps merely because of his desire for
human knowledge, the thought arose within him that she was concealing
her emotions, that perhaps she was still suffering intensely, but that
she was pretending and bearing up: was she not a princess of the blood?
They all learnt that, they of the blood, to pretend, to bear up! It was
bred in their bones."_

Perhaps it was bred in his bones, perhaps it was his mere desire for
human knowledge that gave Couperus his penetration into the emotions
which they of the blood were taught to conceal. In none of his books has
he lavished more sympathy than in his painting of Prince Othomar's
vacillation and passionate good-will, his timidity and desperate
courage; nowhere has he used greater tenderness than in his sketch of
the chivalry and gratitude which did duty for love in the passionless
union of Valérie and the crown-prince.

                                                     STEPHEN MCKENNA.

LINCOLN'S INN, LONDON, 7 _October_, 1920.



TRANSLATOR'S NOTE


My first translation of _Majesty_ was written in collaboration with my
dear friend Ernest Dowson and published in the year 1895. A small
edition was sold by the London publisher to Messrs. D. Appleton &
Company and has long been out of print. Messrs. Appleton, with
characteristic generosity, have relinquished to the present publishers
any copyright which they had established in the book and have thus
enabled me to produce this new version. For even a translator's style
undergoes notable modifications in a quarter of a century; and I should
not have been satisfied to see this novel reissued in its earlier
English form. The story should not therefore be regarded as a mere
reprint.

Incidentally, when collating the old Teixeira-Dowson version with the
original, I was struck with the chaste and discreet appearance of the
Dutch as compared with the English edition, soiled as the latter was on
every page with a splash of capital letters. Is it some innate snobbery
or merely lack of intelligence or thought that induces English
writers--and for long myself among them--to dab a capital at the head of
such nouns as the "emperor," the "crown-prince," the "duke," the
"chancellor," "empire" and "state," nay, even the "major," the
"professor," the "doctor," or of such adjectives as "royal" and
"imperial"? If we are to write of the "Major" and the "Professor," why
not be still more lavish with our capitals and write of the
"Midshipman," the "Postmistress" and the "Postman"? Anyhow, I felt that
a suitable time had come to experiment with an innovation and I decided
to reduce my capital letters to a minimum and to affix them to titles
only when these were followed by the name. Even the Germans do not
distinguish their titles with capitals; they have the more logical habit
of beginning every substantive with a capital; and, in their murky
language, this habit has one advantage, that it assists the reader to
hunt the elusive verbs to their lair. The English have not this reason
nor this excuse.

My thanks are due not only to Messrs. Appleton but also to Mr. Stephen
McKenna, the most acceptable of our younger novelists, who in his
admiration for the elder craftsman, has volunteered to write a preface
to Louis Couperus' present masterpiece.

                                         ALEXANDER TEIXEIRA DE MATTOS.

VENTNOR, I.W., 1 _November_, 1920.



MAJESTY



CHAPTER I



1

Lipara, usually a city white as marble: long, white rows of villas on a
southern blue sea; endless, elegant esplanades on the front, with palms
whose green lacquer shimmered against an atmosphere of vivid blue ether.
But to-day there drifted above it, heavily, a sombre, grey sky, fraught
with storm and tragedy, like a leviathan in the firmament. And this grey
sky was full of mystery, full of destiny, of strange destiny: it
precipitated no thunder, but remained hanging over the city, merely
casting faint shadows over the brightness of its palaces, over the width
of its squares and streets, over the blue of its sea, its harbour, where
the ships, upright, still, anxious, raised their tall masts on high.

White, square, massive, amid the verdure of the Elizabeth Parks, in the
more intimate mystery of its own great plane-trees--the celebrated
plane-trees of Lipara, world-famed trees--stood the Imperial, the
emperor's palace, quasi-Moorish, with white, pointed arcades: it stood
as the civic crown of the capital, one great architectural jewel,
separated from the city, though standing in its very midst, by all that
park-like verdure.

The empress, Elizabeth of Liparia, sat in the private drawing-room of
her apartments in the right wing; she sat with a lady-in-waiting, the
Countess Hélène of Thesbia. The windows were open; they opened on the
park; the famous plane-trees rose there, knotty with age,
wide-spreading, anxious, motionless with their trimmed leaves, between
which a dull-green twilight shimmered upon the lawns which ran into the
distance, rolling softly and smoothly, like tight-stretched velvet, into
an endless violet vista, with just here or there the one strident white
patch of a statue.

A great silence buzzed its strange sound of stillness indoors from the
park; it buzzed around the empress. She sat smiling; she listened to
Hélène reading aloud; she tried to listen, she did not always
understand. A nervous dread haunted her, surrounded her, as with an
invisible net of meshes, unbreakable. This dread was for her husband,
her children, her elder son, her daughters, her younger boy. This dread
crept along the carpet beneath her feet; it hung from the ceiling above
her head, stole round about her through the whole room. This dread was
in the park: it came from afar, from the violet vistas; it swept over
the lawns and climbed in through the open windows; it fell from the
trees, it fell from the sky, the grey, thunder-laden sky. This dread
trembled through Liparia, through the whole of Liparia, through the
whole empire; it trembled in, in to the empress, enveloping her whole
being....

Then Elizabeth drew a deep breath and smiled. Hélène had looked up to
her at a certain sentence with a light stress of voice and eyes,
pointing the dialogue of the novel; this made the empress smile and she
listened afresh. The anxiety smouldered in her, but she extinguished it
with abounding acquiescence, acquiescence in what was to happen, in what
must happen.

The novel which Hélène was reading was _Daniële Cortis_, a work that was
in vogue at court because the Princess Thera had liked it. The countess
read carefully and with great expression; the rhythm of the Italian came
from her lips with the elegance of very pointed Venetian glass, flowery
and transparent. And the empress wondered that Hélène could read so
beautifully and that she did not seem to feel the anxiety which
nevertheless stole about everywhere, like a spectre.

There was a knock at the door leading from the anteroom; a flunkey
opened the door; a lady-in-waiting appeared between the hangings and
curtseyed:

"His highness Prince Herman," she announced in a voice that hesitated a
little, as though she knew that this hour of the afternoon was almost
sacred to the empress.

"Ask the prince to come in," replied the empress: her voice, with all
its haughtiness, sounded kind and attractive and sympathetic. "We have
been expecting the prince so long...."

The door remained open, the lady-in-waiting disappeared, the flunkey
waited at the hangings, motionless, for the prince to come. His firm
tread sounded, approaching quickly, through the anteroom; and he made a
pleasant entrance, with friendliness in his healthy, red face and the
joy of meeting in his large grey eyes, with their gleaming black pupils.
The flunkey closed the door behind him.

"Aunt!"

The prince stepped towards the empress with both hands outstretched. She
had risen, as had Hélène, and she moved a step towards him; she took his
two hands and allowed him to kiss her heartily on both cheeks.

Hélène curtseyed.

"Countess of Thesbia," said the prince, bowing.

"So you have come at last!" said the empress, with jesting discontent.
She shook her head, but could not but look kindly at his pleasant,
handsome, healthy face. "Why did you not telegraph for certain when you
were coming? Then Othomar would have gone to the station, but now...."

She shrugged her shoulders with a smile of regret, as much as to say
that now it could not be helped that his reception had only been _tel
quel_....

"But, aunt," said Herman--the tone of his voice implied that he would
never have demanded this of Othomar--"I have been excellently received:
General Ducardi, Leoni, Fasti, our worthy minister and Siridsen...."

"Othomar will be sorry all the same," said the empress. "He is out
driving now with Thera. Thera is driving her new bays. I can't
understand why they went; it is sure to rain!"

The empress resumed her seat, with an anxious look at the weather
outside; the prince and Hélène likewise sat down. A cross-fire of
enquiries after the two families was kindled between the empress and her
nephew; they had not seen each other for months. There was much to be
discussed; the times were full of disaster; and the empress showed a
long telegram which the emperor had sent from Altara about the
inundations. Her fingers shook as they held the message.

She was still a woman of remarkable beauty, in spite of her grown-up
children. But the charm of her beauty was apparent to very few. In
public that beauty acquired a hardness as of a cameo: fine, clear-cut
lines; great, cold, brown eyes, without expression; a cold, closed
mouth; before people her slender figure assumed something stiff and
automatic; she even showed herself thus before the more intimate circles
of the court. But when she was seen, as now, in the seclusion of her own
drawing-room, with no one except her nephew, whom she loved almost as
much as her own children, and one little lady-in-waiting whom she
spoilt, then, in spite of the dread which she repressed deep down in her
heart, she became another woman. In her simple grey silk--she was in
slight mourning for a relation--what was stiff and automatic in her
figure changed into a gracious suppleness of carriage and movement, as
spontaneous as the other was studied; the cameo of her face became
animated; a look almost of melancholy came into her eyes; and, above
all, a laugh about that cold, hard mouth was as a gleam of sympathy that
rendered her unrecognizable to one who had seen her for the first time
cold, stiff and austere.

Prince Herman of Gothland was the second son of her sister, the Queen of
Gothland. A tall, sturdy lad in his undress uniform as a naval
lieutenant, with the healthy, Teutonic fairness of the house of
Gothland: a firm neck, broad shoulders, the swelling chest of an
athlete, the determined quickness of movement of a lively nature, more
than sufficient intelligence in his large grey eyes with the black
pupils and with now and then a single pleasant, soft note in his
baritone voice, a note that caused a momentary slight surprise and
rendered him attractive when it sounded gently in the midst of his
virility. And now that he sat there, easily, simply, pleasantly and yet
with a certain dignity that did not permit him an absolute excess of
joviality; now that he spoke, with his sweet voice, of his father, his
mother, his brothers and sisters and asked after his uncle, the Emperor
Oscar of Liparia, asked after Othomar, Thera: now, yes, now he aroused
in the empress a delicate feeling of family affection, something of a
secret bond of blood, a very solid support of relationship amid the
isolation of their respective grandeurs, the grandeurs of Liparia and
Gothland. Yonder, at the other side of Europe, far, far away from her
and yet so near through the magnetism of this delicate feeling, she felt
Gothland lying as one vast plain of love, whither she could allow her
thoughts to wander. She was no longer giddy with melancholy and dread in
that she was so high together with those whom she loved, her husband and
her children, for she was not high alone: in her highness she leant
against another highness, Liparia against Gothland, Gothland against
Liparia. It brought moist tears to her eyes, it brought a melancholy
that was like happiness clinging to her breath. The spectre of dread had
disappeared. She could have embraced her nephew; she would have liked to
tell him all this: his mere presence gave her this feeling, a feeling of
comfort and of strength; she had not known it for months.



2

The door was opened; the flunkey stood stiff and upright, with a fixed
look that stared straight before him, in the shadow of the hangings.
Princess Thera and Othomar entered. The princess went up gaily and
kindly to her cousin, they kissed; Othomar also embraced Herman, with a
single word. But, in comparison with the natural utterances of the
empress and of Thera, this single word of the Duke of Xara sounded
studied and smilingly cold, not intimate, and carried a needless air of
etiquette. It failed to conceal a translucent insincerity, a transparent
show that made no effort to simulate affection, but seemed quite simply
what at this moment it could not but seem, a greeting of feigned
kindness between two cousins of the same age. Prince Herman was
accustomed to this: there was no intimacy between him and Othomar; and
this was the more striking when they saw each other for the first time
after several months; it affected the empress keenly, disagreeably.

The conversation again turned upon the inundations in the north. The
empress showed her children the latest telegram, the same that she had
shown to Herman; it mentioned fresh disasters: still more villages swept
away, towns harassed by the swollen and overflowing rivers, after a
month of rain that had resembled the Flood. It had caused the emperor to
proceed three days ago to the northern provinces; but they at court were
now every moment expecting his orders that the crown-prince should
replace him there, as he himself was returning to Lipara because of the
cabinet crisis.

The crown-prince discussed all this a little coldly and formally. He was
a young man of twenty-one, slender and of short stature, very slightly
built, with delicate, melancholy features and dull, black eyes, that
generally stared straight before him; a young moustache tinted his upper
lip as with a stripe of Indian ink. He had a way of drooping his head a
little on his chest and then looking up from under his eyelids; he
generally sat very quiet; his hands, which were small and broad but
delicate, rested evenly upon his knees; and he had a trick of carrying
his left hand to his eyes and then--he was a little short-sighted--just
peering at his ring. He was tightly girt in the blue-and-white uniform
of a captain in the lancers, the uniform which he generally wore in
public: its silver frogs lent a certain breadth to his slenderness; on
his right wrist he wore a narrow, dull-gold bracelet.

"This is the first letter," said the empress. "Read it out, Thera...."

The princess took the letter. The emperor wrote:

"It is heartrending to see all this and to be able to do so little. The
whole district south of the Zanthos, from Altara to Lycilia, is one
expanse of water; where villages stood there now float the remains of
bridges and houses, trees, accumulations of roofs, dead cattle, carts
and household furniture and, as we were going along the Therezia Dyke,
which--God be praised!--still stands firm at Altara, a cluster of
corpses was slowly washed straight before our feet in one gigantic
embrace of death...."

The crown-prince had suddenly turned pale; he remained sitting in his
usual attitude, peering at his ring, with the trick that was his habit.
Thera read on. When the crown-prince looked up he met his mother's eyes.
She nodded to him with her eyelids, unseen by the others, who were
listening to the letter; he smiled--a smile full of heartbreaking
melancholy--and answered her with the same invisible quiver of the
eyelids; it was as though he understood that gentle greeting and drew a
scrap of comfort from it for a mysterious, silent sorrow that depressed
him within himself, that lay on his breast like an oppression of the
breath, like a nightmare in his waking life.

But Prince Herman was already talking about the ministerial crisis: it
was momentarily expected that the authoritative government, rendered
powerless, since the new elections, in the house of deputies with its
majority of constitutionals, would proffer its resignation to the
emperor. The question, as always, was that of a revision of the
constitution, which the constitutionals desired and the
authoritatives--taking the side of the emperor--opposed. The Empress
Elizabeth heaved a sigh of fatigue: how often had not this question of a
revision of the constitution, which in Liparia always meant an extension
of the constitution and a restriction of the imperial authority, come
looming up during their twenty years' reign as a personal attack upon
her husband! Resembling his long line of Liparian ancestors,
hereditarily autocratic, Oscar could never forgive his father, Othomar
XI., for allowing a constitution to be passed in his more liberal reign.
And now, at this crisis, it was no small thing that they were asking,
the constitutionals. The house of peers, hereditary and authoritative,
the emperor's own body, which cancelled every proposal of a too
constitutional character sent up from the house of deputies, was no
longer to stand above them, hereditary and therefore, because of its
hereditary nature, invariably authoritative: they wanted to make it
elective! Even Othomar XI., with his modern ideas in favour of a
constitution, would never have suffered this attack upon one of the most
ancient institutions of the empire, an attack which would shake Liparia
to its foundations....

While Herman was debating this, casually, his words lightly touching
this all-important question, it seemed to Othomar as though he were
turning giddy. A world passed through his head, rushing with rapid
clouds through his imagination; and out of these clouds visions loomed
up before him, pale-red, quick as lightning, terrible as a kind of
apocalypse, the universe ending in a dynamite explosion. Out of these
clouds there flashed up for an instant a scene, a recollection of the
history of his imperial inheritance: an emperor of Liparia murdered
centuries ago by one of his favourites at a court festival. Revolutions
in other countries of Europe, the French revolution, flickered up with a
blood-red reflection; the strikes in the quick-silver mines of the
eastern provinces grinned at him out of them, out of the clouds, the
world of clouds storming through his thoughts.... And so many more, so
many more, all so rapid, with the rapidity of their lightning-flashes;
he could not grasp them, the ruddy lightning-flashes; it all just
flickered through him and then away: it flickered away, far away!... And
it seemed strange to him that he was sitting there, in his mother's
drawing-room, with the stately park swarming behind the plate-glass
windows, with tints of old, medieval gold-leather, now, in the lowered
gleam of the sun-rays; with his mother opposite him, so sweet, so
daintily gentle in the intimacy of this short, uninterrupted meeting:
his cousin talking and his sister replying and the little
lady-in-waiting listening with a smile.... How strange to sit like this,
so easily, so peacefully, so serenely, in the seclusion of their palace,
as though Liparia were not shaking like an old, crazy tower!... Yes,
they were talking about the crisis, Herman and Thera, but what did
talking amount to? Words, nothing but words! Why this endless stringing
together of words, beautiful, empty words, which a sovereign is obliged
to string together and then utter to his subjects, now on this occasion,
now on that? No, no, they were not in his province, speeches! For what,
after all, were they supposed to express, this or that? What was right,
what was just, what was right and just for their empire, this or that?
How could one know, how could one be certain, how could one avoid
hesitating, seeking, groping, blind-folded? Even if he had a thousand
eyes all over the empire, would he be able to see everything that might
happen? And, if he were omniscient, would he always be able to know what
would be right? The constitution: was it good for a country to have a
constitution or not? In Russia: was it good in Russia? A republic: would
a republic be better? And who was right? Was his father right in wanting
to reign as an absolute monarch, with his hereditary house of peers, in
which he, Othomar, now recalled his admission, as Duke of Xara, at his
eighteenth year, with the ducal crown and the robes and chain of the
order of the Imperial Orb? Or was the house of deputies right? Would it
be a good thing to place a restriction upon absolute sovereignty? It was
difficult to decide.... The inundations: "It is heartrending to see all
this and to be able to do so little.... An expanse of water all the way
to Lycilia, a cluster of corpses in the embrace of death...."

It lightened.

Dull, heavy rumblings rolled through the sky; thick drops fell hard as
liquid hail upon the leaves of the plane-trees; the whole park seemed to
shiver, dreading the threatening cloud-burst. Hélène rose and closed the
open window.

Then Othomar heard a strange sound: Syria.... Had they ceased talking of
the house of peers? Syria, Syria....

"The king and queen were to have come next week, but they have now
postponed their visit," said the empress.

"Because of the inundations," added Thera. "They are going to
Constantinople first. I only wish they would remain with the sultan...."

"This visit seems to me at least to be something of an infliction," said
Herman, laughing. "And how long do they stay, aunt?"

The empress raised her shoulders to say that she did not know: the
approaching visit of the King and Queen of Syria pleased neither her nor
the emperor, but it was not to be avoided.... However, not wishing to
say much on this subject before Hélène, she replied:

"All the court festivities are now postponed, as you know, Herman,
because of these terrible disasters. You will have a quiet time, my boy.
You had better go with Othomar to Count Myxila's this evening...."

Count Myxila, the imperial chancellor, was that day keeping his sixtieth
birthday. He was the emperor's principal favourite. That morning he had
been to the empress to receive her congratulations. The crown-prince
was, by the emperor's desire, to appear for a moment at the reception in
the chancellor's palace.

Prince Herman glanced at Othomar enquiringly, as though expecting a word
from him too.

"Of course," the Duke of Zara hastened to say. "Myxila will reckon on
seeing Herman...."



3

When, at half-past ten in the evening, Othomar and Herman returned from
the chancellor's palace in a downpour of rain, it was known among the
empress' entourage also that the government had resigned; the princes
had met the ministers at Count Myxila's; the crisis had thrilled through
the outward ceremonial of the reception like a threatening shudder of
fever. Also there was a telegram from the emperor for the Duke of Xara:

"I wish your imperial highness to proceed to Altara to-morrow.

                                                          "OSCAR."

The telegram did not come as a surprise, but was the natural
consequence of the resignation of the government and of the emperor's
return, for the emperor did not wish to leave the scene of the disasters
without the consolation that the heir-apparent was about to replace him.

After a moment spent with the empress, Othomar withdrew to his own
apartments. He sent for his equerry, Prince Dutri, and consulted with
him shortly and in a few words, after which the equerry hurried away
with much ado. In his dressing-room Othomar found his valet, Andro, who
had been warned by one of the chamberlains and was already busily
packing up.

"Don't pack too much," he said, as the valet rose respectfully from the
trunk before which he was kneeling. "It would only be in the way...."

So soon as he had said this, he failed to see the reason. Nor did the
valet seem to take any notice of it: kneeling down again before the
trunk, he continued to pack what he thought fit. It would be quite right
as Andro was doing it, thought Othomar.

And he flung himself into a chair in his study. One of the windows was
open; a single standard lamp in a corner gave a dim light. The furious
downpour raged outside; a humid whiff of wet leaves drifted indoors.

The prince was tired, too tired to summon Andro to pull off his tight
patent-leather boots. He was wearing the white-and-gold uniform of a
colonel of the throne-guards, the imperial body-guard; the chain of the
order of the Imperial Orb hung round his neck; other decorations studded
his breast. The reception at the imperial chancellor's still whirled
before his eyes; in his brain buzzed, mingling with the rain, the
inevitable conversations about the crisis, the government, the house of
peers. He saw himself the crown-prince, always the crown-prince, always
too condescending, too affable, not sufficiently natural, not simple,
not easy like Herman; and he saw Herman moving easily through the rooms
of the chancellor's palace, asking quite simply to be introduced to the
ladies, now by Count Myxila and again by an equerry. And he envied his
cousin, who was a second son. Herman did not cause the atmosphere around
him to freeze at once, as did he, with the cold imperial look of his
crown-princedom.

He saw the ministers, the ministers who were about to retire, each with
his own interests at heart instead of those of Liparia. He suspected
this from their humble attitudes before him, the crown-prince, when he
had spoken to all of them.... He felt that they were only playing a
part, that there was much in them that they did not allow to transpire;
and he suddenly asked himself why, why this should all be so, why so
much show, nothing but show.... And he was suffering now, deep in his
breast; the tightness of his uniform, loaded with decorations, oppressed
him....

He saw old Countess Myxila and some other ladies, whom he had seen
curtseying amid the crackling of their trains and the sudden downward
glitter of their diamonds, whom he had seen flushing with pleasure
because the Duke of Xara had taken notice of them. And the wife also of
the court-marshal, the Duchess of Yemena, who had so long been absent
from court in voluntary exile at her estate in Vaza: he saw her
approaching on Prince Dutri's arm. For he did not know her: years ago,
when she was at court, he was a boy of fifteen, undergoing a strict
military education, seldom with the empress and never at the court
festivals; he had never seen the duchess at that time.

Now, in the twilight of that one lamp, with the weather raging outside,
he saw her once more and she became as it were transparent in the lines
of the rain; she looked strange, seen through the rain, as through a
curtain of wet muslin. A tall woman, voluptuously formed, half-naked
under the white radiance of her diamond necklace, that was how she
approached him: her hair blue-black with a gleam in it, her face a
little pale under a thin bloom of rose powder; she came nearer, slowly,
hesitating, in her yellow-gold figured satin, edged with heavy sable;
she bowed before him, with a deep, reverential curtsey before the
imperial presence: her head sank upon her breast, the tiara in her black
hair shot forth rays, her whole stature curved down as with one
serpentine line of grace in the material of gleaming gold that shone
about her bosom and seemed to break over the thick folds of her train
with a filagree of light. He had spoken to her. She rose from the
billows of her reverential grace; she replied, he forgot what; her eyes
sparkled upon his like black stars. She had made an impression upon him.
He thought it was because he had heard her much spoken of as a woman
with a life full of passion, a thing that was a riddle to him. His
education had been military and strictly chaste, his youth had remained
uncorrupted by the easy morals of the court, perhaps because his
parents, after a long and secret separation, known to none but
themselves, had come together again from a need of family-life and
mutual support; the Empress Elizabeth had forgiven the Emperor Oscar and
submitted to his infidelities as inevitable. Round about him Othomar had
never had occasion to observe the life of the senses. At the university
of Altara, where he had studied, he had never taken part, except
officially, in the diversions of the students; he had always remained
the crown-prince, not from haughtiness, but because he was unable to do
otherwise, from lack of ease and tact.

And something in the duchess had made an impression on him, as of a
thing unknown. He felt in this woman, who curtseyed so deeply before him
with her sphinx-like smile, a world of emotion and knowledge which he
did not possess; he had felt poor in comparison with her, small and
insignificant. What was it that she possessed and he not? Was it a
riddle of the soul? Were there such things, soul-enigmas, and was it
worth while to try to fathom them? Such a woman as she, was she not
quite different from his mother and sisters? Or did his equerries, among
themselves, speak of his sisters too as they spoke of the duchess? And
this life of passion, this life of love for so many, was that then the
truth? Did they not slander her, the equerries, or at least did they not
make truth seem different from what it was, as they always did in
everything, as if the truth must always be made to seem other to a
prince than to a subject?

He felt tired. And he sat on, striving in vain to drive from him the
whirl of the strange figures of that reception seen through a
transparency of rain. Before him, as though in his room, they all walked
through one another: the ministers, the equerries, Count Myxila and the
duchess....

A knock, a chamberlain:

"Prince Herman is asking whether he may intrude on your highness for a
minute."

He nodded yes. After a moment Prince Herman entered.

"You are always welcome, Herman," said Othomar; and his voice sounded
cold in spite of himself.

"I have come to ask you something," said Herman of Gothland. "I should
much like to go with you to Altara to-morrow; but I want to be certain
that you don't mind. I would not have asked it of my own accord, if my
aunt hadn't spoken of it. What do you think?"

Othomar looked at Herman; Othomar did not like his cool voice:

"If you do so out of sympathy, because you happen to be at Lipara, by
all means," he began....

"Let me tell you once more: I am doing this chiefly because of ... your
mother."

His voice sounded very emphatic.

"Do it for her then," replied Othomar, gently. "It will give me great
pleasure if you go with me for my mother's sake."

Herman realized that he had been unnecessarily cool and emphatic. He was
sorry. The empress had asked him to accompany Othomar. He had hesitated
at first, knowing that there was a lack of sympathy between Othomar and
him. Then he had yielded, but had not known how to ask Othomar. His
usual ease of manner had forsaken him, as it always did in Othomar's
presence.

"Very well, then," Herman stammered, awkwardly.

Othomar put out his hand:

"I understand your intention perfectly. Mamma would like you to go too,
because she will then be sure that there is some one with me whom I can
trust in everything. Isn't that it?"

Herman pressed his hand:

"Yes," he said, pleased, contented, feeling no annoyance that Othomar
had had the best of the conversation, delighted that his cousin took it
like this. "Yes, just so; that's how it is. Don't let me detain you now:
it's late. Good-night...."

"Good-night...."

Herman went. It was still pouring with rain. Othomar sat down again; the
chill of the rainy night pressed coldly into the room and fell upon his
shoulders. But he remained staring motionlessly at the tips of his
boots.

Andro entered softly:

"Does your highness wish me to...."

Othomar nodded. The valet first closed the window and drew the blind and
then knelt before the prince, who, with a gesture of fatigue, put out
his foot to him and rested the heel of his boot on the man's knee.



4

The downpour ceased during the night; but it was raining again in the
morning. It was seven o'clock; a sultry moisture covered the colossal
glass roof of the station, as though it had been breathed upon from end
to end. The special train stood waiting; the engine gave short, powerful
snorts, like a discontented, tired beast. A great multitude, a buzzing
accumulation of vague people filled the glass hall; a detachment of
infantry--two files, to right and left; the uniforms, dark-red and
pale-grey; above, a faint glitter of bayonets--drew two long stripes of
colour diagonally through the sombre station, cut the crowd into two and
kept a broad space clear in front of the imperial waiting-room.

Dissatisfaction hovered over the crowd; angry glances flashed; rough
words crackled sharply through the air, mingled with curses; a
contemptuous laugh sounded in a corner.

There was a long wait; then a cheer was heard outside: the prince had
arrived in front of the station. The waiting-room became filled with
uniforms, glistening faintly in the morning light; brief sentences were
exchanged in a low voice.

Othomar entered with Herman and the Marquis of Dazzara, the governor of
the capital, the highest military authority, whose rich uniform stood
out against the simpler ones of the others, even against those of the
princes; they were followed by adjutants, Liparian and Gothland
equerries, aides-de-camp. The mayor of the town and the managing
director of the railway stepped towards Othomar and saluted him; the
mayor stumbled through long phrases before the two princes.

"Why wasn't the approach to the platform closed to the public?" asked
General Ducardi of the director, after the adjutant-general had glanced
at the platform through the lace curtains, curious about the humming
outside.

The director shrugged his shoulders:

"That was our first intention; it was done in that way when the emperor
left," he replied. "But a special message was received from the
Imperial, urgently requesting us not to shut off the platform; it was
the Duke of Xara's wish."

"And how about all those soldiers?"

"By command of the governor of the capital. An aide-de-camp came and
told us that a detachment of infantry was coming as a guard-of-honour."

"Was that aide-de-camp also from the Imperial?"

"No, from the governor's palace...."

Ducardi shrugged his shoulders; an angry growl fluttered his great, grey
moustache. He walked straight up to the crown-prince:

"Is your highness aware that there is a detachment of infantry outside?"
he said, interrupting the mayor's long sentences.

The governor heard him and drew nearer.

"A detachment?... No," said Othomar, in astonishment.

"Did your highness not command it, then?" Ducardi continued.

"I? No," Othomar repeated.

The governor bowed low; the general's loud, gruff voice unnerved him.

"I thought," said the governor, urbanely, but mumbling, stammering--and
he tried to be at once humble before the prince and haughty towards the
general--"I thought it would be well to safeguard your highness against
possible ... possible unpleasantness, especially as your highness
desired ... desired that the platform should remain open to the
public...."

Othomar looked out as Ducardi had done; he saw the infantry drawn up and
the crowd behind; angry, murmuring, drab, threatening:

"But, excellency," he said, aloud, to the governor, "in that case it
would have been better to shut off the platform entirely. This is quite
wrong. The police would have been sufficient to prevent any crowding."

"I was afraid of ... of unpleasantness, highness. Troubled times, the
people so discontented," he whispered, fearing to be overheard by the
equerries.

"Quite wrong," repeated Othomar, angrily, nervously excited. "Let the
infantry march off."

"That's out of the question now," Ducardi hastened to say, with an
unhappy smile. "You understand that that can't be done."

The conversation had been carried on aside, in a half-whispering tone;
yet everybody seemed to listen. All eyes were gazing on the group
surrounding the princes; the others were silent.

"Then let us prolong this regrettable situation as little as possible;
we may as well go," said Othomar; and his voice quivered high, young and
nervous in his clear throat.

The doors were opened; Othomar, in his hurry, stepped out first; the
equerries and aides-de-camp did not follow him at once, as they had to
make way for Prince Herman, who happened to be a little behind. Herman
hurried up to Othomar; the others followed.

The princes made a movement of the head to left and right as though to
bow; but their eyes met the fixed, round eyes of the soldiers, who had
presented arms with a flash; they saluted and walked on to their
compartment a little quickly, with an unpleasant feeling in their backs.

Under the colossal glass roof of the station, behind the files of
soldiers, the crowd stood as still as death, for the humming had almost
ceased; there was no curse nor scornful word heard, but also no cheer,
no loud, loyal hurrah sweet to the ears of princes.

And the faces of those vague people, separated by uniforms and bayonets
from their future ruler, remained gazing fixedly with dull, hostile
eyes, with firmly-closed lips, full of forced restraint, as though to
stare him out of existence in the imperial compartment.

The princes waved their hands from the windows to the dignitaries, who
stood on the platform bowing, saluting. The engine whistled, shrieked,
tore the close atmosphere of humidity under the dome; the train left the
station, drove into the early morning, which was lighter outside the
glass roof, glided as it were over the rainy town upon viaducts, with
canals, streets, squares beneath it; farther on, the pinnacles and
spires of the palaces and churches; the two marble towers of the
cathedral, with the doves nestling in the renascence tracery of the
lace-work of its steeples, standing out pale-white against the sky,
which was now turning blue; then, in the centre of the town--green and
wide, one oasis--the Elizabeth Parks, the white mass of the Imperial
and, behind that, the gigantic bend of the quays, the harbour with its
forest of masts, the oval curve of the horizon of the sea, all wet,
glittering, raining in the distance.

Othomar looked sombrely before him. Herman smiled to him:

"Come, don't think about it any more," he advised him, adding with a
laugh, "Our poor governor has had his appetite spoilt for to-day."

General Ducardi muttered an inward curse:

"Monstrously stupid," Herman heard him mumbling.

"I wanted to show them," said Othomar, suddenly.... He had intended to
say, "that I am not afraid of them." He threw a glance around him, saw
the eyes of Prince Dutri, his equerry, fixed upon him like a basilisk's
and let his voice change from proud to faint-hearted; sadly he
concluded, "that I love them and trust them so completely. Why need it
have happened like this?..."

His voice had sounded faint, to please Prince Dutri; but it displeased
the general. He first glanced aside at his crown-prince and then at the
Prince of Gothland; he drew a comparison; his eye continued to rest
appreciatively, in soldierly approval, on the smart naval lieutenant,
broad and strong, sitting with his hands on his thighs, bending forward
a little, looking back at the white capital as it receded before his
eyes through the slanting rainbeams....

       *       *       *       *       *

After four hours' travelling, Novi, in the province of Xara. The train
stops; the princes and their suite alight, consult clocks, watches. They
express surprise, they walk up and down the platform for half an hour,
for an hour. Prince Herman engages in a busy conversation with the
station-master. It is still raining.

At last the special from Altara is signalled. The train glides in and
stops; the Emperor Oscar alights from the imperial compartment. He is
followed by generals and aides-de-camp: their uniforms, the emperor's
included, have lost something of their smartness and hang in tired
creases from their shoulders, like clothes worn a long time. The
emperor, still young, broad and sturdy and only just turning grey, walks
with a firm step; he embraces his son, his nephew, brusquely, hastily.
The imperial party disappear into the waiting-room; Ducardi and one of
the Gothlandic officers follow them. The interview, however, is a short
one: in ten minutes they reappear on the platform; brief words and
handshakes are exchanged; the emperor steps back into his compartment,
the crown-prince into his. The prince's train waits until his father's
passes it--a last wave of the hand--then it too steams away....

Care lies like a cloud upon Othomar's forehead. He remembers his
father's words: in a desperate condition, our fine old city. The
Therezia Dyke may be giving way; so little energy in the municipal
council; thousands of people without a roof to cover them, fleeing,
spending the night in churches, in public buildings. And his last word:

"Send some of them to St. Ladislas...."

Othomar reflects; all are silent about him, depressed by the after-sound
of the emperor's words, which have painted the disaster anew, brought it
afresh before their eyes: the eyes of Ducardi, who knows himself to be
more ready with sword in war than with sympathy in cases of inundation;
the eyes of Dutri, still filled with the mundane glamour of the
incomparable capital. Some part of their self-concentration falls
silent; a thought of what they are about to see crosses their minds.

And Othomar reflects. What shall he do, what can he do? Is it not too
much that is asked of him? Can he, _can_ he combat the stress of the
waters?

"Oh, this rain, this rain!" he mutters, secretly clenching his fist.

Five hours' more travelling. The towers of the city, the crenulated
outline and Titanic plateaus of St. Ladislas, with its bastions, shoot
up on the horizon, shift to one side when approached. The train stops,
in the open country, at a little halting-place; the princes know that
the Central Station is flooded; the whole railway-management has been
transferred to this halt. And suddenly they stand in the presence of the
smooth, green, watery expanse of the Zanthos, which has spread itself
into one sea of water, broad and even, hardly rippled, like a wrath
appeased. A punt is waiting and carries them through ruins of houses,
through floating household goods. A dead horse catches on to the punt; a
musty odour of damp decay hovers about. At an over-turned house, men in
a punt are busied fishing up a corpse; it hangs on their boat-hooks with
slack arms and long, wet hair, the pallid, dead head drooping backwards;
it is a woman. Herman sees Othomar's lips quiver.

Now they float through a street of tall, deserted houses in a poor
suburb. This part has been flooded for days. They alight in a square;
the people are there; they cheer. Louder and louder they cheer, moved by
the sight of their prince, who has come across the water to save them. A
group of students shout, call out his name and cheer and wave their
coloured caps.

Othomar shakes hands with the mayor, the minister for waterways, the
governor of Altara and other dignitaries. His heart is full; he feels a
sob welling up from his breast.

From among the group of students one steps forward, a big, tall lad:

"Highness!" he cries. "May we be your guard-of-honour?"

Etiquette hardly exists here, though the dignitaries look angry.
Othomar, remembering his own student days, not yet so long ago, presses
the student's hand; Prince Herman does the same; and the students grow
excited and once more shout and clamour:

"Hurrah! Hurrah! Othomar for ever! Gothland for ever!"

Behind this square the city is perceived to be in distress, a silent
distress from yet greater danger threatening: the old coronation-city,
the city of learning and tradition, the sombre monument of the middle
ages; she looks grey compared with white Lipara, which lies laughing
yonder and is beautiful with new marble on her blue sea, but which does
not love her sovereigns so well as she does, the dethroned capital, with
her gigantic Romanesque cathedral, where the sacred imperial crown with
the cross of St. Ladislas is pressed on the temples of every emperor of
Liparia. Though her masters are faithless to her and have for centuries
lived in their white Imperial over yonder and no longer in the old
castellated fortress of the country's patron saint, she, the old city,
the mother of the country, remains faithful to them with her maternal
love and not because of her oath, but because of her blood, of her
heart, of all her life, which is her old tradition....

       *       *       *       *       *

But, like his father, Othomar was not this time to go to the Castle of
St. Ladislas: the fortress lay too high and too far from the town, too
far from the scene of disasters. Open carriages stood in waiting; they
stepped in, the students flung themselves on horseback; the princes were
to take up their residence in the palace of the cardinal-archbishop, the
primate of Liparia, in the Episcopal, which, together with the cathedral
and the Old Palace, formed one colossal, ancient, grey mass, a town in
itself, the very heart of the city.

They rode quickly on. The people cheered; they look upon them as a train
of deliverers who, they thought, would at last bring them safety.
Between the departure of the emperor and the arrival of the prince a
depression had reigned which, at the sight of Othomar, changed into
morbid enthusiasm.

It became suddenly dark, but not through the sun's setting--it was only
five o'clock in the month of March in the south--it became dark because
of the clouds, the ships in the sky carrying in their tense,
bowl-shaped, giant sails water which already was beginning to trickle
down again in drops. Under that grey sky the cheering of the people rose
in a minor key, when suddenly, as though the swollen clouds were
bursting open with one rent, a flood dashed down in a solitary,
perpendicular sheet of water.

Othomar was sitting with Herman and Ducardi in the first carriage.

"Would not your highness prefer to have the carriage closed?" asked the
old general, helping the prince on with his cape.

Othomar hesitated; he had no time to answer the general; the crowd
increased, became thicker, cheered; and he bowed in acknowledgement,
saluted, nodded. The heavy rain clattered straight down. The hard
rainbeams ran down the princes' and the general's necks, down their
backs, soaked their knees. The crowd stood sheltered under an irregular
roof of umbrellas, as though grouped under wet, black stars, filled the
narrow streets of the old city, pressed in between the outriders and the
carriage: the coachman had to drive more slowly.

"Won't you have the carriage shut?" Herman repeated after Ducardi.

Othomar still hesitated. Then--and he himself thought his words a little
theatrical and did not know how they would sound--he answered aloud:

"No, do not let us be afraid of the water; they have all suffered from
the water here."

But Ducardi looked at him; he felt something quiver inside him for his
prince....

The carriage remained open. In one of the landaus following, Prince
Dutri looked round furiously to see how much longer the Duke of Xara
meant to let himself be saturated with rain and his suite with him. In
the narrow, high streets near the cathedral they had to drive almost at
a walking-pace, right through the cheering of the crowding populace.
Soaked to the skin, the Crown-prince of Liparia with his following
arrived at the cardinal-archbishop's; they left a trail of water behind
them on the staircases and in the corridors of the Episcopal.



5

In changed uniforms, a short dinner with the high prelate; a few canons
and minor ecclesiastics sit down with them. The room is large and
sombre, barely lighted with a feeble glimmer of candles; the silver
gleams dully on the dressers of old black oak; the frescoes on the
walls--sacred subjects--are barely distinguishable. A silent haste
quickens the jaws; the conversation is conducted in an undertone; the
servants, in their dark livery, move as though on tiptoe. The cardinal,
on either side of whom the princes are seated, is tall and thin, with a
refined, ascetic face and the steel-blue eyes of an enthusiast; his
voice issues from low down in his throat, like that of an oracle; he
says something of the Lord's will and makes a submissive gesture with
both hands, the fingers lightly outspread, as Jesus does in the old
pictures. One of the priests, the cardinal's private secretary, a young
man with a round, pink face and soft, white hands, laughs rather loudly
at a joke of Prince Dutri, who, sitting next to him, tells a story about
a countess in Lipara whom they both know. The cardinal casts a stern
glance at the frivolous secretary.

After the hurried dinner, the princes and their suite ride into the town
on horseback, cheered wherever they go. The water already mounts close
to the cathedral and the Archiepiscopal Palace. Groups of men, women and
children, sobbing, flow towards the prince, as he rides across the dark
squares; they carry torches about him, as the gas is not everywhere
lighted; the ruddy flares look strange, romantic, over the ancient dark
mass of the walls and are reflected with long streaks of blood in the
water lying in the narrow alleys. A large house of many storeys and rows
of little windows appears to have suddenly gone under: a sudden
mysterious pressure of water, filtering from the foundations through the
masonry of the cellars, making its treacherous way through the least
crack or crevice. The inhabitants save themselves in skiffs, which pass
with little red lights through the black, watery town; a child cries at
the top of its voice. They are poor people there in hundreds, living,
packed as in boxes. The princes alight and step into a boat and are
rowed to the spot; it becomes known who they are; they themselves help
an old woman with three children, all wet to the waist, to climb on to a
raft; they themselves give them money, shout instructions to them. And
they point to the old fortress of St. Ladislas as a refuge....

But a cry arises, farther on, a cry at first not clearly perceived in
the darkness of the evening, then at last distinctly audible:

"The Therezia Dyke! The Therezia Dyke!..."

The princes want to go there; it is not possible on horseback; the only
way is in boats. Prince Herman himself grasps the sculls; in the next
boat Dutri declares to Von Fest, one of the Gothlandic equerries, that,
taken all round, he thinks Venice more comfortable....

"The Therezia Dyke! The Therezia Dyke!..."

The dyke lies like the black back of a great, long beast just outside
the town, on the left bank of the Zanthos, and protects the whole St.
Therezia district, the eastern portion of the city, which stands
tolerably high, from the river, which generally overflows in springtime.
The boats glide over the water-streets; a landing is possible in the
Therezia Square; lanterns are burning; torches flare, ruddy
scintillations dart over the water. The square is large and wide; the
houses stand black round about it and surround it in the night with
their irregular lines of gables and chimneys, with the massive pile of
the church of St. Therezia, whose steeples are lost in the dark sky; in
the centre of the square rises a great equestrian statue of a Liparian
emperor, gigantic in motionless bronze, stretching one arm, sword in
hand, over the petty swarming of the crowd.

Othomar and Herman have sent their three equerries, Dutri, Leoni and Von
Fest, for whom horses have been found and saddled, to the dyke, which
protects a whole suburb of villas, factories and the St. Therezia
railway-station against the waters of the Zanthos, which has already
poured its right bank over the country and is drowning it. The princes
stand in the middle of the square on the steps of the pedestal of the
statue; they would have liked to go on farther, but the mayor himself
has begged them to stay where they are: farther on mortal danger
threatens at every moment.... All that could be done has been done;
there is nothing more to do but wait.

Quarters of an hour, half-hours, pass. This waiting for terrible news
calms them; they hope afresh. The officers ride to and fro; the villas
and factories yonder are deserted: a whole town lies empty, forsaken.
Prince Dutri, turning his horse, which he has ridden out of breath,
assures them that the embankment will hold firm; after he has spoken
with the princes, he is surrounded: it is the occupiers of the villas,
the manufacturers, who overwhelm him with questions, fortified by the
self-assurance of the imperial equerry. Dutri gallops off once more.

Now the doors of the church are opened wide, quite wide; at the end of
the vista, between the pillars, the tiny lights glitter on the altar; a
procession files out slowly: a mitred bishop, priests, acolytes, singing
and carrying banners and swinging clouds of smoke from their censers;
behind the upraised crucifix, the relics of St. Therezia, in their
antique shrine of medieval gold and crystal and precious stones, round
or roughly cut; it is borne under a canopy and in the shimmering gleam
of candles it glitters and sparkles like a sacred jewel, like a
constellation, across that sombre square, through that black night of
disaster; flicker the giant emeralds, glitters the precious chased gold
and before the Most Holy the crowded populace draws back on either side
and falls upon its knees. This is the fifth time to-day that the
procession goes its round, that the reliquary is borne on high, to
exorcize the calamity. It passes the statue, the princes kneel down; the
Latin of the chant, the gleam of the relics in their shrine, the cloud
of the incense pass over them with the blessing of the bishop....

The procession has brought stillness to the square, but a murmur now
approaches as from afar.... The crowd seems to surge as though in one
wave, nobody is now kneeling; the very procession is broken up and
confused. Through the throng rushes the report: the dyke has given
way!...

They do not yet believe it; but suddenly from above the fort of St.
Ladislas, which spreads its ramparts about the castle, a shot thunders
out and vibrates over the black city and shakes through the black sky as
though its rebound were breaking against the lowering clouds. A second
shot thunders after it, as with giant cymbals of catastrophe, a third
... the whole town knows that the Zanthos has broken the dyke.

The whole square is in confused motion, like a swarm of ants; troops of
tardy fugitives still come thronging in, poor ones now and indigent, who
had not been able to fly earlier, who had been still hoping; through the
crush Prince Dutri, panting, cursing, on horseback, terror in his eyes,
strives to reach the statue; the distant murmur as of a sea comes nearer
and nearer. Men scatter along the streets, on foot or in boats; the
disordered procession, with the glitter of its reliquary, seeming to
reel on the billows of a human sea, scatters towards the church.

"Is not even the square safe?" asks Othomar.

He can hardly speak, his chest seems cramped as it were with iron, his
eyes fill with tears, an immense despair of impotence and pity suffuses
his soul.

The mayor shakes his head:

"The square lies lower than the suburbs, highness; you cannot remain
here. For God's sake go back to the Episcopal in a boat!..."

But the princes insist on remaining, though the murmur grows louder and
louder.

"Go into the church in that case, highnesses: that is the only safe
place left," the mayor beseeches. "I beg you, for God's sake!"

The square is already swept clean, the torch-bearers lead the princes to
the steps of the church; the Zanthos comes billowing on, like a soft
thunder skimming the ground.

Inside the church the organ sounds; they sing, they pray all through the
night. And the whole night long everything outside remains chaotically
black, gently murmuring....

When the first dawn pales over the sky, which begins in the distance to
assume tints of rose and grey, faint opal and mother-of-pearl, Othomar
and Herman and the equerries emerge on the steps of the church.

The square stands under water; the houses rise out of the water; the
statue of Othomar III. waves its bronze arm and sword over a lake that
ripples in the morning breeze.

From the Therezia Square to the Cathedral Square everything lies under
water.



6

"TO HER IMPERIAL MAJESTY THE EMPRESS OF LIPARIA

                                 "THE EPISCOPAL,
                                          "ALTARA,
                                   "--_March_, 18--.

"MY ADORED MOTHER,

"Your letter reproaches me with not writing to you two days ago, without
delay; forgive me, for my thoughts have so constantly been full of you.
But I felt so tired yesterday, after a busy day, and I lacked the
strength to write to you in the evening. Let me tell you now of my
experiences.

"You describe to me the terrible impression produced at Lipara by the
telegram from here about the breach in the Therezia Dyke and how none
slept at the Imperial. We too were up all night, in St. Therezia's
Church. No such fearful inundation has been remembered for fifty years;
at the time of that which my father remembers in his childhood, the
Therezia Square was not flooded and the water only came as far, they
say, as the great iron-factory.

"How can I describe to you what I felt that night, while we were hoping
and waiting, hoping in turn that God and His Holy Mother would ward off
this disaster from us and waiting for the catastrophe to burst forth! We
stood on the pedestal of the equestrian statue, unable to do anything
more. Oh, that impotence about me, that impotence within me! I kept on
asking myself what I was there for, if I could do nothing to help my
people. Never before, dearest Mother, have I felt this feeling of
impotence, of inability to counteract the inevitable, so possess my
soul, until it was wholly filled with despair; but neither have I ever
so thoroughly realized that everything in life has its two sides, that
the greatest disaster has not only its black shadow but also its bright
side, for never, never have I felt so strongly and utterly, through my
despair, the love for our people, a thing that I did not yet know could
exist in our hearts as a truth, as I then felt it quivering all through
me; and this love gave me an immense melancholy at the thought that all
of them, the millions of souls of our empire, will never know, or, if
they did know, believe that I loved them so, loved them as though my own
blood ran in their veins. Nor do I wish to deceive myself and I well
know that I should never have this feeling at Lipara, but I have it
here, in our ancient city, which gives us all her sympathy. I feel here
that I myself am more of a Slav, like our Altarians, than a Latin, like
our southerners in Lipara and Thracyna; I feel here that I am of their
blood, a thing that I do not feel yonder.

"No doubt much has been said and written in the papers about the want of
tact of the Marquis of Dazzara, with his foolish guard-of-honour at the
station at our departure; be that as it may, I felt great sadness in the
train to think that, in spite of their having come to see me leave, they
did not seem to love me. I know you will again disapprove of this as
false sensitiveness on my part, but I cannot help it, my dear Mother: I
am like that, I am hypersensitive to sympathy in general and to the
utterances of our people in particular. And for that reason too I love
the people here, very simply and childishly perhaps, because they show
that they love me: enthusiasm everywhere, genuine, unaffected enthusiasm
wherever we go; and yet what are we able to do for them, except give
them money! I find this sympathy among the lowest: workmen and labourers
whom I had never seen before to my knowledge and to whom I could only
speak three or four words of comfort--and I can never find much else to
say, it is always the same--and among the soldiers, although they must
feel instinctively, in spite of never seeing me except in uniform, that
I am no soldier at heart; and also among the students, the priests, the
civic authorities and the higher functionaries. Yesterday we went round
everywhere, to all the places appointed as refuges: not only the
barracks and shops and factories, but even some of the rooms at the
law-courts, two of the theatres and the prison, poor souls! And also St.
Ladislas. From the Round Tower we had a view of the surrounding country:
towards the east there was nothing but water and water, like a sea. My
heart felt as though screwed tight into my breast.

"We went to the university also. I remembered most of the professors
from two years ago, when I was here as an undergraduate.

"It was a terrible scene outside the town. Oh, Mamma, there were
hundreds, there were thousands of corpses, laid out side by side on a
meadow, as in a mortuary, before the burial, for identification! I saw
harrowing scenes, my heart was torn asunder: troops of relations who
sought or who, sobbing, had found. A terrible air of woe filled the
whole atmosphere. I felt sick and turned quite pale, it required all my
energy to prevent myself from fainting, but Herman put his arm through
mine and supported me as well as he was able without ostentation, while
a couple of doctors from among the group of physicians to whom I was
speaking gave me something to smell. Oh, Mamma, it was a terrible
spectacle, all those pallid, shapeless, swollen corpses, on the green
grass, and, above, the sky, which had become deep blue again!

"I have informed the municipal council, in accordance with your wish and
my father's, that you are each of you presenting a personal donation of
a million florins and I presented my own at the same time. The whole
world seems in sympathy with us; money is flowing in from every side,
but the damage is like a pit that cannot be filled up. As you say, the
donation of our Syrian friends is truly princely and oriental.

"What more have I to tell you? I really do not know; my brain is
confused with a nightmare of ghastly visions and I have difficulty in
thinking logically. But I promise you, my dear Mother, to do what I can
and to do it with all my might; and all I ask is that you will send me a
single word to tell me that you are not too dissatisfied with your boy.

"As my father desires, I will stay here another week; it seems to do the
people good to see us, they love us so. They were enraptured when it was
announced that after my departure you and Thera were coming to Altara.
You with your soft hand will be able to do so much that we have omitted.
How they do love us here! And why are we not always at St. Ladislas?
Though the fortress is sombre, it is bright with their sympathy.

"But do not let me write to you so poetically in these distressful days,
in which we should be practical. Herman's society does me a deal of good
and I can do more when he is by my side. General Ducardi is a fine,
indefatigable fellow, as always. The others have all been very willing
and practical; and, if I may be allowed respectfully to differ from my
Father, I am inclined to think that the municipal council does what it
can. It is true, an English engineer told me that with better
precautions and a more thorough supervision the Therezia Dyke would
perhaps have held out; however, I don't know.

"Herman will accompany me on my journey through the provinces. We shall
go to Lycilia and Vaza and so far as possible to the lowlands. These are
of course in the worst case.

"I have just received the telegrams: the Marquis of Dazzara dismissed
and the Duke of Mena-Doni--I don't like that man--governor of the
capital! Lipara under martial law! And will my father succeed in
preserving our house of peers by this dissolution of the house of
deputies?

"Dearest Mother, his eminence has just sent to ask me to receive him. I
do not want to keep him waiting and therefore close my letter hurriedly;
with a fond embrace, I am, with fondest and most respectful love,

                                             "your own boy,
                                                           "OTHOMAR."



CHAPTER II


1

The Province of Vaza also, lying to the north of the Altara Highlands,
the Alpine range of the Gigants, was harassed in parts by the Zanthos.
The capital, Vaza, was flooded. In the neighbourhood of the
mountain-slopes the province had been spared. There vast terraces of
vineyards lay, alternating with forests of chestnut-trees and
walnut-trees and olives. The glittering white snow-line of the
mountain-tops surged up against a dazzling blue sky, piercing it with
its crests and biting long pieces out of the deep azure in ragged lines;
it seemed to whet ice-teeth, gleaming white fangs, against the metal of
the firmament, which was like burnished steel. There, enthroned on its
rocks, twelve miles from the town, stood old Castel Vaza, the castle of
the dukes of Yemena and counts of Vaza, surrounded by parks and woods,
half castle, half citadel, strong, simple, medieval, rough in outline,
with its four towers and its square patches of battlements, rounding off
the horizon about it on every side and keeping it aloof. Near at hand, a
swarm of little villages; in the distance, the towers and steeples, the
huddled roofs of Vaza; still farther, in the circle of panorama that
broadly girt the towers, the wide Zanthos, winding down to hurl itself
into the sea, and Lycilia, white in the sun with its little squares of
houses, set brilliantly on the blue of the water; then a second sea: the
mountain-tops, surging away in snowy vistas and distant mists. And, also
glittering in the sun, those strange lakes on the Zanthos: the water
which the full river had vomited, the inundations....

       *       *       *       *       *

The square castle, enclosing a courtyard in its four wings, has two more
wings added at the back, in a newer style of more elegant renascence,
and looking on the park, in which lie the ornamental basins, like oval
dishes of liquid silver, set in emerald lawns. The fallow deer graze
there, dreaming, as it were, and graceful, roaming slowly on slim legs:
sometimes, suddenly, extending themselves, their heads thrown back,
their eyes wild, they run some distance, a number of them, fleeing
before an unseen terror; others, calmer, graze on, laconically,
philosophically.

The dukes of Yemena and counts of Vaza are one of the oldest families of
the empire; and their ancestral tree is rooted ages back, before the
time of the first emperor of Liparia. The present duke, court-marshal
and Constable of Liparia, has three children of his first marriage: the
heir to his title, the young Marquis of Xardi, aide-de-camp to the
emperor, and two daughters, younger, girls still, at a convent.

The duchess is alone at the castle. She is sitting in a large boudoir,
built out with a triangular loggia, and looking over the park, the
basins, the deer. A breeze is blowing outside; and the rapid clouds,
which, like flaky spectres, like rags hidden beneath diaphanous veils,
chase one another through the clear blue sky, trail their shadows, like
quick eclipses, across the park, just tinting it with passing darkness,
which darkens the deer in their turn and then makes them gleam brown
again in the sun. It is silent outside; it is silent in the castle. The
castle stands secluded; within, the servants move softly through the
reception-rooms and corridors, speaking in whispers, in expectation of
the august visitors.

Lunch is over. The duchess lies half-out-stretched on a couch and gazes
at the deer. She is not yet dressed and wears a tea-gown, loose, with
many folds: _vieux rose broché_, salmon-coloured plush and old lace.
When she is alone, she likes plenty of light, from a healthy need of
space and air; the curtains are drawn aside from the tall bow-windows
and the shrillness of the spring sky comes streaming in. But the light
does not suit her beauty; for, though her hair is still raven black, her
complexion has the dullness of faded white roses; her eyes, which can be
beautiful, large, liquid and dark, look full of lassitude, encircled
with pale-yellow shadows; and very clearly visible are the little
wrinkles at the side, the little grooves etched around the delicate
nose, the lines that have lengthened the mouth and draw it down.

The duchess rises slowly; she passes through a door that leads to her
bedroom and dressing-room and stays away for a few moments. Then she
returns; in both hands, pressing it to her, with difficulty, she carries
an obviously heavy casket and sets it on the table in front of the
couch. The casket is of old wrought silver enriched with gilt chasing
and great blue turquoises, of that costly renascence work which is not
made nowadays. She selects a little straight, gold key from her bracelet
and unlocks the casket. The jewels glisten--pearls, brilliants,
sapphires, emeralds--and catch in their facets all the spring light of
the sky, blue, white and yellow. But the duchess presses a spring
unclosing a secret drawer, from which she takes two packets of letters
and some photographs.

The photographs all show the face of a man no longer young, a strange
face, half-dreamy, half-sensual, filled with great mystery and great
charm. The photographs show him in the elaborate uniform of an officer
of the throne-guards, in fancy-dress as a medieval knight, in flannels
and in ordinary mufti. The duchess' eyes pass slowly from one to the
other; she compares the likenesses, a sad smile about her mouth and
melancholy in her eyes. Then she unties the ribbons of the letters,
takes them out of the carefully preserved envelopes, unfolds them and
reads here and there and reads again and refolds them....

She knows by heart the phrases that still tell her of a strange passion,
the most fervent, the truest, the simplest and perhaps for that reason
the strangest that she has ever felt, that has surrounded her with fairy
meshes of fire. Though her eyes look out again at the deer--the sunshine
streams like fluid gold over the park--between her and the peaceful
landscape there rise up, transparent, in tenderly gleaming
phantasmagorias, remembrances of the past, the pictures of that love,
and it seems to her as though sparks are dancing before her eyes, as
though brilliant curves and scintillations of light are swarming on
every hand. She lives through past events in a few moments; then she
closes her eyes, draws her hand over her forehead and thinks how sad it
is that the past is nothing more than a little memory, which flies like
dust and ashes through our souls which we sometimes endeavour, in vain,
to collect in a costly urn. How sad it is that one cannot go on
mourning, though one wish to, because life does not permit it! Nothing
but that dust and ashes in her soul ... and those letters, those
photographs....

She locks them away again and now gazes at the jewels. And she looks
well into her own heart, sees herself exactly as she is, for she knows
that she has been loyal, always, loyal to him and to herself: loyal when
their love broke like a glittering rainbow of sparkling colours on a
wide firmament and she became unwilling to see or to exist and withdrew
from the court into this castle and let it be rumoured that a lingering
illness was causing her to pine away. And she mourned and mourned, first
sobbing and wringing her hands, then calmer in despair, then ... The
deer had gone on grazing there, as though they always remained
unchanged. But she....

       *       *       *       *       *

She had been loyal, always: in her despair and also in what followed, in
the abatement of that despair. Then she was saddest of all, because
despair was able to abate. Then sad, because she still lived and felt
vitality within her. Then ... because she began to grow bored. Because
of all this a great despair had filled her strange soul, luxuriantly, as
with the morbid blossoms of strange orchids. She hated, despised, cursed
herself. But nothing changed in her. She was bored.

She led a solitary life at the castle. Her husband and her stepson were
at Lipara; her stepdaughters, to whom she was much attached, were
finishing their education at a convent, of which an imperial princess, a
sister of the emperor, was abbess.

She was alone, she never saw anybody. And she was bored. Life awoke in
her anew, for it had only slumbered, she had deemed it dead, had wished
to bury it in a sepulchre around which her memories should stand as
statues. Within herself, she felt herself to be what she had always
been, in spite of all her love: a woman of the world, hankering after
the glamour of imperial surroundings, that court splendour which fatally
reattracts and is indispensable to those who have inhaled it from their
birth as their vital air. And, at moments when she was not thinking of
her despair, she thought of the Imperial, saw herself there, brilliant
in her ripe beauty, made much of and adored as she had always been.

Then she caused her stepson, the Marquis of Xardi, to spread the rumour
that she was convalescent. A month later, in the middle of the winter
season, after a great court festival but before one of the intimate
assemblies in the empress' own apartments, she requested an audience of
Elizabeth.

Thus she beheld herself in true, clear truth and was deeply mournful in
her poor soul filled with desire of love and desire of the world and
humanity, because life insisted on continuing so cruelly, as in a mad
triumphal progress, crushing her memories under its chariot-wheels,
clattering through her melancholy with its trumpet-blasts, making her
see the paltriness of mankind, the pettiness of its feeling, the
littleness of its soul, which is nevertheless the only thing it has....

       *       *       *       *       *

The duchess locks the twice-precious casket away again. She forgets what
is going on about her, what is awaiting her; she gazes, dreams and lives
again in the past, with the enjoyment which a woman finds in the past
when she loses her youth.

There is a knock at the door, a footman appears and bows:

"Excellency, the cook begs urgently to be allowed to speak to you in
person...."

"The cook?..."

She raises her beautiful face, dreaming, half-laughing, with its profile
like Cleopatra's, so Egyptian in its delicacy and symmetry, settles
herself a little higher on the couch and leans on her hand:

"Let him come in...."

Everything returns to her, reality, the actual day; and she smiles
because of it and shrugs her shoulders: such is life.

The footman goes out; the cook enters in his white apron and white cap:
he is nervous and, now that his mistress is already frowning her
eyebrows because of his disrespectful costume, he begins to stammer:

"Forgive me, excellency...."

And he points with an unhappy face to his apron, his white sleeves....

And he complains that the head gamekeeper has not provided sufficient
ortolans. He cannot make his pasty; he dares not take it upon himself,
excellency.

She looks at him with her sphinx-like eyes; she has a great inclination
to burst out laughing at his comical face, his despairing gestures, his
outstretched arms, to laugh and also to cry wildly and loudly.

"What are we to do, excellency, what are we to do?"

The town is too far away; there is no time to send there before dinner
and, for the matter of that, they never have anything in the town.
Besides, it is really the steward's fault, excellency; the steward
should have told her excellency....

"There are larks," she says.

"Those were to go to Lipara to-morrow, excellency, to his excellency the
duke!"

The duchess shrugs her shoulders, laughing a little:

"It can't be helped, my friend. His imperial highness the Duke of Xara
comes before his excellency, does he not? Make a _chaufroid_ of larks."

Yes, that is what he had thought of doing, but he had not ventured to
suggest it. Yes, that would do very well, admirably, excellency.

She gives another little laugh and then nods, to say that he can go. The
cook, evidently relieved, bows and disappears. She rises, looks at
herself in a mirror as she stands erect in her lazily creased folds of
pink and salmon-colour and old lace, stretches her arms with a gesture
of utter fatigue and rings for her maid, after which she enters her
dressing-room. Does she want to laugh again ... or to cry again? She
does not know; but she does know that she has to get dressed....
Whatever confront a person, love or ortolan-pasty, that person must
dress, must dress and eat and sleep ... and after that the same again:
dress ... and eat ... and sleep....



2

Three carriages, with postillions, bring Othomar, Herman and the others
along the broad, winding, switchback road to Castel Vaza. It is five
o'clock in the afternoon; the weather is mild and sunny, but not warm: a
fresh breeze is blowing. The landscape is wide and noble; with each turn
of the road come changes in the panorama of snow-clad mountains. The
country is luxuriantly beautiful. The little villages through which they
drive look prosperous: they are the duke's property. Between Vaza and
the castle the land has been spared by the water: the overflowing of the
Zanthos has inundated rather the eastern district. It is difficult here
to think constantly of that dreadful flood and of the condition of
Lipara yonder, which the emperor has proclaimed in state of siege. It is
so beautiful here, so full of spring life; and the sunset after a fine,
summery day is here devoid of sadness. The chestnut-trees waft their
fresh green fans; and the sky is still like mother-of-pearl, though a
dust of twilight is beginning to hover over it. A lively conversation is
in progress between the princes, Ducardi and Von Fest, who sit in the
first carriage: they talk with animation, laugh and are amused because
the villagers sometimes, of course, salute them, as visitors to the
castle, with a touch of the cap or a kindly nod, but do not know who
they are. Prince Herman nods to a handsome young peasant-girl, who stays
staring after them open-mouthed, and recalls the delightful big-game
hunt last year when he was the duke's guest, together with the emperor
and Othomar. They did not see the duchess that time: she was unwell....
General Ducardi tells anecdotes about the war of fifteen years ago.

And they all find some difficulty in fixing their faces in official
folds when they drive through the old, escutcheoned gate over the
lowered drawbridge into the long carriage-drive and are received by the
chamberlain in the inner courtyard of the castle. This is prescribed by
etiquette. The duchess must not show herself before the chamberlain,
surrounded by the duke's whole household, has bidden the Duke of Xara
welcome in the name of his absent master and offered the crown-prince a
telegram from Lipara, which the steward hands him on a silver tray. This
telegram is from the Duke of Yemena; it says that his service and that
of his son, the Marquis of Xardi, about the person of his majesty the
emperor, the Duke of Xara's most gracious father, prevent them from
being there to receive their beloved crown-prince in their castle, but
that they beg his imperial highness to look upon the house as his. The
prince reads the telegram and hands it to his aide-de-camp, the Count of
Thesbia. Then, conducted by the chamberlain, he ascends the steps and
enters the hall.

Notwithstanding that it is still daylight outside, the hall is
brilliantly lighted and resembles a forest full of palm-trees and
broad-leaved ornamental plants. The duchess steps towards the
crown-prince and breaks the line of her graciousness in a deep curtsey.
He has seen her bow like this before. But perhaps she is still handsomer
in this plain black velvet gown and Venetian lace, cut very low, her
splendid bosom exposed, white with the grain of Carrara marble, her
statuesque arms bare, a heavy train behind her like a wave of ink; a
small ducal coronet of brilliants and emeralds in her hair, which is
also black, with a gold-blue raven's glow.

She bids the princes welcome. Othomar offers her his arm. Prince Herman
and the equerries follow them up the colossal staircase, through the
hedge of flunkeys, who stand motionless with fixed eyes that do not seem
to see. Then through a row of lighted rooms and galleries to a great
reception-room, glittering with light from the costly rock-crystal
chandelier, in which the candle-light coruscates and casts expansive
gleams and shimmers over the marble mosaic of the floor and along the
decorative mirrors, in their frames of heavy Louis-XV. arabesques, and
the paintings by renascence masters on the walls.

A momentary standing reception is held, a miniature court: in their
dazzling uniforms--for it was a delightful, though long drive from Vaza
and the men had had time to change into their full-dress uniforms in the
town--the equerries and aides come, one after the other, to kiss the
duchess' hand; except the Gothlandic officers, she knows them all,
nearly all intimately; she is able to speak an almost familiar word to
each of them, while the gold of her voice melts between her laughing
lips and her great, Egyptian eyes look out, strangely dreaming. So she
stands for a moment as a most adorable hostess between the two princes,
she, a woman, alone among these officers who surround them, in the midst
of a cross-fire of compliments and badinage that sparkles around them
all. Then the steward appears, while the doors open out and the table is
revealed brightly glittering, and bows before his mistress as a sign
that she is served. The duchess takes the crown-prince's arm; the
gentlemen follow.

The dinner is very lively. They are an intimate circle, people
accustomed to meet one another every day. The duchess sees that an easy
tone is preserved, one of light familiarity, which restrains itself
before the crown-prince, yet gives a suggestion of the somewhat cavalier
roughness and _sans-gêne_ that is the fashionable tone at court. The
Gothlandic officers are evidently not in the secret; Von Fest, a giant
of a fellow, looks right and left and smiles. For the rest, the duchess
possesses this smart, informal manner in a very strong degree, but
moderates herself now, although she does sometimes lean both her shapely
elbows on the table. The crown-prince once more has that indescribable
stiffness which makes things freeze around him; the ease which he
displayed at Altara has again made way for something almost constrained
and at the same time haughty; his smiles for the duchess are forced; and
the handsome hostess in her heart thinks her illustrious guest an
insufferable prig.

Possibly Othomar behaves as he does because of the conversations, which
all focus themselves about the duchess and concern the gossip of the
Imperial; the inundations are hardly mentioned, hardly either the state
of siege in the capital; only a single word now and again recalls them.
But for the greater part all this seems to be forgotten here, in these
delightful surroundings, at this excellent dinner, under the froth of
the soft gold lycilian from the duke's private vineyard. This lycilian
is celebrated and they also celebrate it now: even the crown-prince
touches glasses with the duchess with a courteous word or two, which he
utters very ordinarily, but which they seem to think a most witty
compliment, for they all laugh with flattering approbation, with glances
of intelligence; and the duchess herself no longer thinks him so
insufferable, but beams upon him with her full and radiant laugh. But
what has he said? He is astounded at himself and at their laughter. He
intended nothing but a commonplace; and....

But he remembers: it is always like that; and he now understands. And he
thinks them feeble and turns to Ducardi and Von Fest; he forces the
conversation and suddenly begins to talk volubly about the condition of
the town of Vaza, which also has suffered greatly. Then about Altara. He
gives the duchess a long description of the bursting of the Therezia
Dyke. The duchess thinks him a queer boy; for an instant she fancies
that he is posing; then she decides that for some reason or other he is
a little shy; then she thinks that he has fine, soft eyes, looking up
like that under his eyelids, and that he has a pleasant way of telling
things. She turns right round to him, forgets the officers around her,
asks questions and, with her elbows on the table and a goblet of
lycilian in her hand, she listens attentively, hangs on the young
imperial lips and feels an emotion. This emotion comes because he is so
young and august and has those eyes and that voice. She is attracted by
his hands, with their broad, delicate shape, as of an old strength of
race that is wearing out; she notices that he looks now and then at his
ring. And, becoming serious, she talks of the dreadful times, of all
those thousands of poor people without a roof over their heads, without
anything.... This is, however, only the second moment that she has
thought of those thousands; the first was that short half-hour when the
duke's chaplain was asking her for money and how she wished it
bestowed.... She remembers that, at the time of this conversation with
the chaplain, a cutter from Worth's was waiting for her to try on the
very dress which she is now wearing and she thinks that life's accidents
are really most interesting. She knows, in her inner consciousness, that
this philosophy is as the froth of champagne and she herself laughs at
it. Then she again listens attentively to Othomar, who is still telling
of the nocturnal watch in St. Therezia's Church. The officers have grown
quiet and are listening too. His imperial highness has made himself the
centre of conversation and dethroned the duchess. She has noticed this
too, thinks it strange of him but nice, above all does not know what she
wants of him and is charmed.



3

After dinner a cosy gathering in two small drawing-rooms. One of them
contains a billiard-table; and the duchess herself, gracefully pointing
her cue, which she holds in her jewelled fingers, plays a game with
Prince Herman, Leoni and young Thesbia. Sometimes, in aiming, she hangs
over the green table with an incredible suppleness in her heavy lines;
and the beautiful Carrara breast heaves the Venetian lace and the black
velvet up and down at each rapid movement. In the other room, under a
lamp of draped lace, Othomar and General Ducardi and the Gothlandic
equerries are attentively engaged in studying on an accurately detailed
ordnance-map the route which they are to follow to-morrow on horseback to
the inundated villages. The steward and a footman go round with coffee
and liqueurs.

When the game of billiards is over, the duchess comes into the next room
with her gentlemen, laughing merrily. The prince and his officers look
up, politely smiling, from their map, but she, bewitchingly:

"Oh, don't let me disturb you, highness!..."

She takes Dutri's arm for a stroll on the terrace outside. The doors are
open, the weather is delicious: it is a little cool. The steward hangs a
fur cloak over her bare shoulders. On the long terrace outside she walks
with Dutri to and fro, to and fro, constantly passing the open doors and
as constantly throwing a glance to the group under the lamp: bent heads
and fingers that point with a pencil. Her step is light on the arm of
the elegant equerry; her train rustles gaily behind her. She talks
vivaciously, asks Dutri:

"How are you enjoying your tour?"

"Bored to death! Nothing and nobody amusing, except the primate's
secretary!... Those Gothlanders are bores and so terribly provincial!
And it's tiring too, all this toiling about! You see, I look upon it as
war and so I manage to carry on; if I were to look upon it as times of
peace, I should never pull through. Fortunately our reception has been
tolerably decent everywhere. Oh, there is no doubt the crown-prince is
making himself popular...."

"A nice boy," she says, interrupting him. "I had hardly seen him for a
long time since, when he was studying at Altara; after that I only
remember seeing him once or twice at the Imperial, shot up from a child
like an asparagus-stalk and yet a mere lad. I remember it still: he
flushed when I curtseyed to him. Then again lately, at Myxila's...."

Dutri is very familiar with the duchess: he calls her by her Christian
name, he always flirts with her a little, to amuse himself, from
swagger, without receiving any further favours; they know each other too
well, they have been in each other's confidence too long and she looks
upon him more as a _cavaliere servente_ for trifling services and little
court intrigues than as one for whom she could ever feel any sort of
"emotion."

"_Ma chère Alexa_, take care!" says he, wagging his finger at her.

"Why?" she retorts, defiantly.

"As if I did not see...."

She laughs aloud:

"See what you please!" she exclaims, indifferently, with her voice of
rough _sans-gêne_, which is in fashion. "No, my dear Dutri, you needn't
warn me, I assure you! Why, my dear boy, I have two girls to bring out
next year! In two years' time I may be a grandmamma. I have given up
that sort of thing. I can't understand that there are women so mad as
always to want that. And then it makes you grow old so quickly...."

Dutri roars; he can't restrain himself, he chokes with laughing....

"What are you laughing at?" she asks.

He looks at her, shakes his head, as though to say he knows all about
it:

"Really, there's no need for you to play hide-and-seek like that with
me, Alexa. I know as well as you do ... that you yourself are one of
those mad women!..."

He bursts out laughing again; and this time she joins in:

"I?"

"Get out! You want that as much as you want food and sleep at regular
intervals. You would have been dead long ago, if you had not had your
periodical 'emotions'. And, as to growing old, you know you hate the
very thought of it!"

"Oh no! I do what I can to remain young, because that's a duty which one
owes to one's self. But I don't fight against it. And you shall see,
when the time comes, that I shall carry my old age very gracefully...."

"As you carry everything."

"Thanks. Look here: when I begin to go grey, I shall put something on my
hair that will make me grey entirely and I will powder it, do you see?
That's all!"

"A good idea...."

"Dutri...."

He looked at her, understood that she wanted to ask him something. They
walked on for an instant silently, in the dark; constantly walking to
and fro, they each time passed twice through the light that fell in two
wide patches through the doors on to the terrace. The park was full of
black shadow and the great vases on the terrace shone vaguely white;
above, the sky hung full of stars.

"What did you want to ask me?" asked the equerry.

She waited till they had passed through the light and were again walking
in the darkness:

"Do you ever hear of him now?"

"Thesbia had a letter from him the other day, from Paris. Not much news.
He's boring himself, I believe, and running through his money. It's the
stupidest thing you can do, to run through your money in Paris. I think
Paris a played-out hole. Of course it couldn't be anything else. A
republic is nothing at all. So primitive and uncivilized. There were
republics before the monarchies: Paradise, with Adam and Eve, was a
republic of beasts and animals; Adam was president...."

"Don't be an idiot. What did he write?"

"Nothing particular. But what a mad notion of his, to send in his papers
as captain of the guards! How did he come to do it? Tell me, what
happened between you two?"

They were walking through the light again and she did not answer; then,
in the darkness:

"Nothing," she said; and her voice no longer had that affected smartness
of brutality and _sans-gêne_, but melted in a plaintive note of
melancholy.

"Nothing?" said Dutri. "Then why...?"

"I don't know. We had talked a great deal together and so gradually
began to feel that we could no longer make each other happy. I really
can't remember the reason, really I can't."

"A question of psychology therefore. This comes of all that sentiment.
You're both very foolish. Meddling with psychology when you're in love
is very imprudent, because then you start psychologizing on yourselves
and cut up your love into little bits, like a tart of which you are
afraid you won't be able to get enough to eat. Practise psychology on
somebody else, that's better: as I do on you, Alexa."

"Come, don't talk nonsense, Dutri. Don't you know anything more about
him?"

"Nothing more, except that he has made himself impossible for our set.
And that perhaps through your fault, Alexa, and through your
psychology."

She walked silently, leaning on his arm; her mouth trembled, her
Egyptian eyes grew moist:

"Oh!" she said; and she suddenly made the equerry stand still, grasped
his arm tightly and looked him straight in the face with her moist eyes.
"I loved him, I loved him, as I have never loved any one! I ... I still
love him! If he were to write me one word, I should forget who I was, my
husband, my position, I should go to him, go to him.... Oh, Dutri, do
you know what it means, in our artificial existence, in which everything
is so false around you, to ... to ... to have really loved any one? And
to know that you have that feeling as a sheer truth in your heart? Oh, I
tell you, I adore him, I still adore him ... and one word from him, one
word...."

"Lucky that he's more sensible than you, Alexa, and will never say that
word. Besides, he has no money: what would you do if you were with him?
Go on the stage together? What a volcano you are, Alexa, what a
volcano!"

He shook his foppish, curly head disapprovingly, adjusted the heavy
tassels of his uniform. She took his hand, still serious, not yet
relapsing into her tone of persiflage:

"Dutri, when you hear from him, will you promise to tell me about him? I
sometimes hunger for news of him...."

She looked at him with such intense, violent longing, with such hunger,
that he was startled. He saw in her the woman prepared to do all things
for her passion. Then he smiled, flippant as always:

"What silly creatures you all are! Very well, I promise. But let us go
in now, for the geographical studies seem to be finished and I am dying
for a cup of tea...."

They went indoors. Busying herself at the tea-table, letting her fingers
move gracefully over the antique Chinese cups, she straightway asked the
crown-prince which road his highness proposed to take, feeling great
concern about the inundated villages, the poor peasants, agreeing
entirely in all things with the Duke of Xara, bathing in the sympathy
which she gathered from his sweet, black, melancholy eyes--eyes from
which she felt tempted to kiss all the melancholy away--bathing in his
youthful splendour of empire....

Dutri helped her to sugar the tea. He watched her with interest: he knew
her fairly well, she retained very little enigma for him; yet she always
amused him and he always found in her a fresh subject for study.



4

It was one of the historic apartments of Castel Vaza, an ancient, sombre
room in which the emperors of Liparia who had been guests of the dukes
of Yemena had always slept on an old, gilt bed of state, raised five
steps from the floor, a bed around which the heavy curtains of dark-blue
brocade and velvet hung from an imperial crown borne by cherubs. On the
walls were portraits of all the emperors and empresses who had rested
there: the dukes of Yemena had always been much loved by their
sovereigns and the pride of the ducal family was that every Liparian
emperor had been at least one night its guest. Historical memories were
attached to every piece of furniture, to every ornament, to the gilt
basin and the gilt ewer, to everything; and the legends of his house
rose one by one in Othomar's mind as he stretched himself out to rest.

He was very weary and yet not sleepy. He felt a leaden stiffness in his
joints, as though he had caught cold, and a continuous shiver passed
through his whole body, a mysterious quivering of the nerves, as if he
were a tense string responding to a touch. The week spent at Altara, the
subsequent five days at Vaza, the drives in the environs had tired him
out. During the day he could not find a moment's time to yield to this
fatigue, but at night, as he lay stretched for rest, it shattered him,
without being followed by a healthy sleep.

He was used to his little camp-bed, on which he slept in his austere
bedroom at the Imperial, the bed on which he had slept since childhood.
The state-beds, at the Episcopal, at Vaza and now here, made him feel
strange, laid-out and uncomfortable. His eyes again remained open,
following the folds of the tall curtains, seeking to penetrate the
shadows which the faint light of a silver lamp drove creeping into the
corners. He began to hear a loud buzzing in his ears.

And he thought it curious to be lying here on this bed on which his
ancestors had already lain before him. They all peered at him from the
eight panels in the walls. What was he? An atom of life, a little stuff
of sovereignty, born of them all; one of the last links of their long
chain, which wound through the ages and led back to that mysterious,
mystical origin, half-sacred, half-legendary, to St. Ladislas
himself.... Would that same thing come after him also, a second chain
which would wind into the future? Or...? And to what purpose was the
ever-returning, endless, eternal renascence of life? What would be the
end, the great end?...

Suddenly, like a vision, the night on the Therezia Square recurred to
his mind, the thundering salute from the fort, thrice repeated, and the
mighty, roaring onslaught of an approaching blackness, resembling a sea.
Was it only a humming in his ears, or ... or was it really roaring on
again? Did the black future come roaring on, in reply to his question as
to the end, the great end, with the same sound of threatening waters
which nothing could withstand? It burst through dykes; it dragged with
it all that was thrown up as a protection, inexorable, and--with its
grim, black, fateful frown and the sombre pleats of its inundations,
which resembled a shroud trailing over everything that was doomed--it
marched to where they stood, his kin, on their high station of majesty
by the grace of God and of St. Ladislas; to where his father sat, on
their age-old throne, crowned and sceptred and bearing the orb of empire
in his imperial palm; and it did not seem to know that they were divine
and sacred and inviolate: it seemed to care for nothing in its rough,
sombre, indifferent, unbelieving, roaring profanation; for suddenly,
fiercely, it dragged its black waves over them, dragged them with
it--his father, his mother, all of them--and they were things that had
been, they of the blood imperial, they became a legend in the glory of
the new day that rose over the black sea....

His ancestors stared at him and they seemed to him to be spectres,
themselves legends, falsities against which tradition would no longer
act as a protection. They seemed to him like ghosts, enemies.... He
opened wider his burning eyes upon their stiff, trained and robed or
harnessed figures, which seemed to step towards him from the eight
panels of the walls, in order to stifle him in their midst, to oppress
him in a narrow circle of nightmare on his panting breast, with iron
knees forcing the breath out of his lungs, with iron hands crushing his
head, from which the sweat trickled over his temples.

Then he felt afraid, like a little child that has been told creepy
stories, afraid of those ghosts of emperors, afraid of the glimpses of
visions which again flashed pictures of the inundations before him: the
meadow with the corpses, the men in the punt fishing up the woman. The
corpses began suddenly to come to life, to burst out laughing, with
slits of mouths and hollow eyes, as though they had been making a fool
of him, as though there had been no inundations; and the dusk of the
bed-chamber, filled with emperors, pressed down upon him as with
atmospheres of nitrogen.

"Andro! Andro!" he cried, in a smothered utterance and then louder, as
though in mortal anguish, "Andro! Andro!..."

The door at the end of the room was thrown open; the valet entered,
alarmed, in his night-clothes. The reality of his presence broke through
the enchantment of the night and exorcized the ghosts back into
portraits.

"Highness!..."

"Andro, come here...."

"Highness, what's the matter?... How you frightened me, highness! What
is it?... I thought...."

"What, Andro?"

"Nothing, highness. Your voice sounded so terribly hoarse! What's the
matter?..."

"I don't know, Andro: I am ill, I think; I can't sleep...."

The man wiped Othomar's clammy forehead with a handkerchief:

"Will your highness have anything to drink? A glass of water?..."

"No, thank you, thank you.... Andro, can you come and sleep in here?"

"If you wish it, highness...."

"Yes, here, at the foot of my bed. I believe I'm not very well,
Andro.... Bring your pillow in here."

The man looked at him. He was not much older than his prince. He had
waited on him from childhood and worshipped him with the worship of a
subject for majesty; he felt wholly bound to him, tied to him; he knew
that the prince was not strong, but also that he never complained....

Growing suddenly angry, he turned to go to his room and fetch his
pillow:

"No wonder, when they fag and tire you like this!" he cried, unable any
longer to restrain his fury. "General Ducardi no doubt thinks that you
have the same tough hide as himself!"

Muttering in his moustache, he went away, returned with his pillow and
laid it on the step of the bed of state:

"Are you feverish?" he asked.

"No ... yes, perhaps a little. It will pass off, Andro. I ... I am...."

He dared not say it.

"I am a little nervous," he continued; and his eyes went anxiously round
the room, where the emperors were once more standing quiet.

"Would you like a doctor fetched from Vaza?"

"No, no, Andro, by no means. What are you thinking of, to make such a
disturbance in the middle of the night? Go to sleep now, down there...."

"Will you try to sleep also then, my 'princie'?" he asked, with the
endearing diminutive which in his language sounded like a caress.

Othomar nodded with a smile and suffered him to shake up his pillows
after the manner of a nurse.

"What a bed!" muttered Andro. "It might be a monument in a cemetery!..."

Then he lay down again, but did not sleep; he stayed awake. And, when
Othomar asked, after an interval:

"Are you asleep, Andro?"

"Yes, your highness," he answered, "nearly."

"Is there anything murmuring in the distance? Is it water or ... or is
it my fancy?"

The man listened:

"I can hear nothing, highness.... You must be a little feverish."

"Take a chair and come and sit by the head of the bed...."

The man did as he was told.

"And let me feel you near me: give me your hand, so...."

At last Othomar closed his eyes. In his ears the buzzing continued,
still continued.... But under the very buzzing, while the lightness in
his head lifted like a mist, the Crown-prince of Liparia fell asleep,
his clammy hand in the hard hand of his body-servant, who watched his
master's restless sleep in the quivering round the mouth, the jerking of
the body, until, to quiet him, he softly stroked the throbbing forehead
with his other hand, muttering compassionately, with his strange,
national voice of caress:

"My poor princie!..."

The dawn rose outside; the daylight seemed to push the window-curtains
asunder.



5

The next morning the duchess was to preside at the breakfast-table: she
was in the dining-room with all the gentlemen when Othomar entered, as
the last, with Dutri. His uniform of blue, white and silver fitted him
tightly; and he saluted, smilingly, but a little stiffly, while Herman
shook hands with him and the others bowed, the duchess curtseying
deeply.

"How pale the prince looks!" Leoni said to Ducardi.

It was true: the prince looked very pale; his eyes were dull, but he
bore himself manfully, ate a little fish, trifled with a salmi of game.
Yet the prince's fatigue was so evident that Ducardi asked him, softly,
across the table:

"Is your highness not feeling well?..."

All eyes were raised to Othomar. He wished to give the lie to their
sympathy:

"I'm all right," he replied.

"Did your highness have a bad night?" continued Ducardi.

"Not very good," Othomar was compelled to acknowledge, with a smile.

The conversation continued, the duchess gave it a new turn; but after
breakfast, on the point of departure--the horses stood saddled in the
courtyard--Ducardi said, bluntly:

"We should do better not to go, highness."

Othomar was astonished, refused to understand.

"You look a little fatigued, highness," added Ducardi, shortly; and,
more softly, deprecatingly, "And it's not surprising either, that the
last few days have been too much for you. If your highness will permit
me, I would recommend you to take a rest to-day."

Already a soft feeling of relaxation overcame the prince; he felt too
much delighted at this idea of rest to continue his resistance. Yet his
conscience pricked him at the thought of his father: a feeling of shame
in case the emperor should hear of his exhaustion, which seemed so
clearly evident.

And he absolutely insisted that the expedition should not be abandoned
altogether. He yielded to Ducardi in so far as not to go himself and to
take repose, provided that they thought he needed it; but he urgently
begged Prince Herman and the others to follow the route planned out for
that day and to go. And this he said with youthful haughtiness, already
relieved at the thought of the day of repose before him--a whole day,
unexpectedly!--but above all afraid of allowing his joy to be perceived
and therefore sulking a little, as though he wished to go too, as though
he thought General Ducardi foolish, with his advice....

The gentlemen went. The duchess herself conducted Othomar to the west
wing, pressed him to rest in her own boudoir. Through the windows of the
gallery Othomar saw Herman and the others riding away; he followed them
for an instant with his eyes, then went on with the duchess and across
the courtyard saw a groom lead back to the stables the horse that had
been saddled for him, patting its neck. He was still disturbed by
mingled emotions: the pleasant anticipation of resting, a little anxiety
lest he should betray himself, a certain feeling of shame....

In the boudoir the duchess left him alone. It was quiet there; outside,
the lordly fallow-deer grazed peacefully. The repose of the boudoir of a
woman of the world, with the rich, silent drapery of silken stuffs, the
inviting luxury of soft furniture, the calm brilliancy of ornaments each
a costly object of art, surrounded him with a hushed breathlessness,
like a haze of muslin, fragrant with an indefinable, gentle emanation,
which was that woman's very perfume. The indolence of this present
moment suddenly overwhelmed Othomar, a little strangely, and dissolved
his thoughts in gentle bewilderment. He felt like a runaway horse that
has suddenly been pulled up and stands still.

He sat down for a minute and looked out at the deer. Then he rose,
reflected whether he should ring and thought better to look round for
himself. On the duchess' little writing-table--Japanese lacquer inlaid
with mother-of-pearl landscapes and ivory storks--he found a sheet of
paper, a pencil.

And he wrote:

                 "To HER MAJESTY ELIZABETH
                    "EMPRESS OF LIPARIA.

                                  "CASTEL VAZA,
                                 "--_April_, 18--.

"Pray do not be alarmed if the newspapers exaggerate and say that I am
ill. I was a little fatigued and Ducardi advised me to rest to-day.
Herman and the others have gone on; to-morrow I hope myself to lead our
second expedition from here. The day after that we go to Lycilia.

                                                              "OTHOMAR."

Then he rang and, when the footman appeared:

"My valet, Andro."

In a few moments Andro appeared. "Ask for a horse, Andro," said Othomar,
"ride to Vaza and dispatch this telegram as quickly as you can to her
majesty the empress...."

Andro went out and the strange, indolent vacancy overcame Othomar once
more. The sun shone over the park, the deer gleamed with coats like
cigar-coloured satin. The last fortnight passed once more before
Othomar's eyes. And it was as though, in the vistas of that very short
past, he saw spreading out like one great whole, one vast picture of
human distress, the misery which he had beheld and endeavoured to
soften. And the great affliction that filled the land made his heart
beat full of pity. A slack feeling of melancholy, that there was so much
affliction and that he was so impotent, once more rose within him, as it
never failed to do when he was alone and able to reflect. Then he felt
himself small, insignificant, fit for nothing; and something in his soul
fell feebly, helplessly from a factitious height, without energy and
without will. Then that something lay there in despair and upon it,
heavy with all its sorrow, the whole empire, crushing it with its
weight.

Serious strikes had broken out in the eastern quicksilver-mines, beyond
the Gigants. He remembered once making a journey there and suffering
when he saw the strange, ashy-pale faces of the workmen, who stared at
him with great, hollow eyes and who underwent a slow death through their
own livelihood, in a poisonous atmosphere. And he knew that what he had
then seen was a holiday sight, the most prosperous sight that they were
able to show him; that he would never see the black depths of their
wretchedness, because he was the crown-prince. And he could do nothing
for them and, if they raised their heads still more fiercely than they
were doing now, the troops, which had already started for the district,
would shoot them down like dogs.

He panted loudly, as though to pant away the weight upon his chest, but
it fell back again. The image of his father came before his mind, high,
certain, conscious of himself, unwavering, always knowing what to do,
confident that majesty was infallible, writing signatures with big, firm
letters, curtly: "Oscar." Everything signed like that, "Oscar," was
immaculate in its righteousness as fate itself. How different was he,
the son! Then did the old race of might and authority begin to yield
with him, as with a sudden crack of the spine, an exhaustion of the
marrow?

Then he saw his mother, a Roumanian princess, loving her near ones so
dearly; womanliness, motherliness personified, in their small circle; to
the people, haughty, inaccessible, tactless as he was, unpopular, as he
was, too, at least in Lipara and the southern part of the empire. He
knew it: beneath that rigid inaccessibility she concealed her terror,
terror when she sat in an open carriage, at the theatre, at ceremonial
functions, or in church, or even at visits to charitable institutions.
This terror had killed within her all her great love for humanity and
had morbidly concentrated her soul, which was inclined by nature to take
a wider outlook, upon love for that small circle of theirs. And beneath
this terror hid her acquiescence, her expectation of the catastrophe,
the upheaval in which she and hers were to perish!...

He was their son, the heir to their throne: whence did he derive his
impotent hesitation, which his father did not possess, and his love for
their people, which his mother no longer possessed? His ancestors he
knew only by what history had taught him: in the earlier middle-ages,
barbarian, cruel; later, displaying a refined sensuality; one monarch, a
weakling, ruled entirely by favourites, a _roi-fainéant_, under whom the
empire had fallen a prey to intestinal divisions and foreign greed;
afterwards, more civilized, a revival of strength, a reaction of
progress after decline, followed by the glory and greatness of the
empire to the present day.... To the present day: to him came this
inheritance of greatness and glory. How would he handle it, how would he
in his turn transmit it to his son?

Then he felt himself so small, so timid that he could have run away
somewhither, away from the gaping eyes of his future obligations....



6

The luncheon had all the intimacy of a most charming _tête-à-tête_,
served in the small dining-room, with only the steward waiting at table.
The duchess enquired very sympathetically how Othomar was; the prince
already felt really rested, showed a good appetite, was gay and
talkative, praised the cook and the famous lycilian wine. When the
duchess after luncheon proposed to him to go for a small excursion in
the neighbourhood, he thought it an excellent idea. He himself wished to
ride--he knew that the duchess was an excellent horsewoman--but Alexa
dissuaded him, laughingly, said that she was afraid of General Ducardi,
who had recommended the prince to rest, and thought that a little drive
in an open carriage would be less tiring. She had remembered betimes
that a riding-habit made her look old and heavy; and she was very glad
when the prince gave way.

The weather had remained delightful: a mild sun in a blue sky. The
landscape stretched wide, the mountains stood shrill and steep, pointing
their ice-laden crests into the ether. The drive had all the charm of an
incognito free from etiquette, with the prince, in his undress uniform,
seated beside the duchess, in a simple, dark gown of mauve corduroy
velvet, in the elegant, light victoria, on which the coachman sat alone,
without a footman, setting the two slender bays briskly about. The sun
gleamed in patches over the horses' sleek hides and cast its reflections
in the varnish of the carriage, in the facets of the cut-glass lamps, on
the coachman's tall hat and in the buttons of Othomar's uniform. All
this sparkle scintillated with short, bright flashes; and thus, lightly
flickering, the carriage glided along the road, through a couple of
villages, whose inhabitants saluted their duchess, but did not know who
the simple young officer was, sitting beside her. A breeze had dried
away the dampness of the preceding days and light clouds of dust blew up
from under the quick-rolling wheels.

The duchess talked fluently, of Lipara, the emperor, the empress. She
possessed the tact of knowing intuitively what to say and what to speak
about, when she was anxious to please. Her voice was a charm. She was
sometimes capable of great simplicity and naturalness, generally when
she was not thinking of making an impression. Intuitively she assumed
towards the prince, to make him like her, that same simplicity which was
her nature. It made her seem years younger: the smart brusqueness that
was in fashion flattered her much less and made her appear older and
even vulgar, whereas now she grew refined in the natural distinction of
an ancient race. The little black veil on her hat hid the ugly wrinkles
about her eyes, which gleamed through it like stars.

The prince remembered stories told by his equerries--including
Dutri--about the duchess; he remembered names mentioned in a whisper. He
did not at this minute believe in these slanders, as he considered them
to be. Sensible as he was to sympathy, he was won over by hers, which he
read in her intuitively; and it made him think well and kindly of her,
as he thought of all who liked him.

The carriage had been going between terraces of vineyards, when
suddenly, as though by surprise, it drove past a castle, half-visible
through some very ancient chestnut-trees.

"What estate is that?" asked the prince. "Who are your neighbours,
duchess?"

"No one less than Zanti, highness," replied the duchess: she shivered,
but tried to jest. "Balthazar Zanti lives here, with his daughter."

"Zanti! Balthazar Zanti!" cried Othomar, in a tone of astonishment.

He stood up and looked curiously at the castle, which lay hidden behind
the chestnut-trees:

"But how is it, duchess, that last year, when I was hunting here with
the emperor, with the duke, I never heard of Prince Zanti or that he
lived here?"

The duchess laughed:

"Presumably, highness, because the duke's covers lie in the opposite
direction"--she made a vague gesture--"and you never drove past this way
and because his majesty will never suffer the name of Balthazar Zanti to
be uttered in his presence."

"But none of the equerries...."

The duchess laughed still more merrily, looked at the prince, who was
also chuckling, and said:

"It is certainly unpardonable of them not to have informed you more
fully of the curiosities in the province of Vaza. But ... now that I
think of it, highness, it's quite natural. The castle was empty last
year: Zanti was travelling about the country, making speeches. You
remember, they were afterwards forbidden by law. His name, therefore,
had no local significance here at the time...."

The prince was still staring at the castle, which never came fully into
view, when the carriage, in a turn of the road, almost touched a little
group as it drove past them, against the slope of a vineyard: an old
man, a young girl, a dog. The girl was frail, slender, pale,
fair-haired, dressed in furs in spite of the sun and retaining beneath
them a certain morbid elegance; she sat on the grass, wearing a dark fur
toque on her silvery fair hair; her long, white hand, ungloved,
soothingly and insistingly patted the curly head of the retriever, which
barked at the carriage. Next to her stood a tall, erect old man, looking
eccentric in a wide, grey smock-frock: a grey giant, with a heavy beard
and sombre eyes, which shone with a dull light from under the brim of a
soft felt hat. The dog barked; the girl bowed--she recognized the
duchess as a neighbour--without knowing who the prince was; the old man,
however, looked straight before him, frowning and making no sign. The
carriage rattled past.

"That was Zanti," whispered the duchess.

"Zanti!" repeated the prince. "And how long has he been living here?"

"Only a very short time: I believe the doctors think the air of Vaza
good for his daughter."

"Was that young girl his daughter?"

"Yes, highness. I have seen her once before; she appears to be
delicate."

"Prince Zanti, is he not?"

"Certainly, highness; but, by his own wish, Zanti quite plain.... Titles
are all nonsense in the nineteenth century, highness."

She jested and yet felt a silent shudder, she knew not why. She thought
it ominous that Zanti had come to live so near to Castel Vaza.
Shivering, she gave a quick side-glance at the prince. She perceived a
strange pensiveness drawing over his face like a shadow. Then, to change
the conversation and to think no longer of that horrid man:

"You are looking much better, highness, than you did this morning. The
air has done you good...."

She suppressed her shiver. The prince, on the other hand, remained
strange: a sudden emotion seemed to be stirring within him. When they
were back at the castle, in the boudoir, the duchess offered herself to
make the prince a cup of tea. He stood looking out of the window at the
deer, but, while she busied herself with the crested, gilt array of her
tea-table, she saw him turn pale, white as chalk--as he had looked that
morning--his eyes dilating strangely:

"What is the matter, highness?" she cried, in alarm, approaching him.

He turned towards her, tried to laugh:

"I beg your pardon, duchess; I am very discourteous ... to behave like
this, but ... but that man took me by surprise." He laughed. "I did not
know that he was here; and then the air ... that rarefied air...."

He put his hand to his forehead; she saw him grow paler, his blood
seemed to be running out of him, he staggered....

"Highness!" she cried.

But Othomar, groping vaguely with his hand for a support, fell up
against her; she caught him in her arm, against her bosom, mortally
frightened, and saw that he had swooned. A thin sweat stood on his
forehead; his eyes closed beneath their weary lids, as though they were
dying away; his mouth was open without breathing.

The duchess was violently alarmed; she was mortally frightened lest
anything serious should happen to the Duke of Xara, alone with her in
the castle; she suddenly felt that the future of Liparia was entrusted
to the support of her arms; she already saw the prince lying dead,
herself disgraced at the Imperial.... All this flashed across her brain
at the first moment. But she looked at him long; and a gentle expression
overspread her face: pride, that the Duke of Xara lay there
half-fainting on her shoulder, and sudden passion, containing much
motherliness and pity, blended into a strange feeling in her soul. She
softly smoothed back his hair, wiped his perspiring forehead with her
handkerchief.... And the strange sensation became still stranger within
her, intenser in its two constituent parts: intenser in pride, intenser
in compassionate love, that of a mistress and mother in one. Then, with
a smile, she pressed the handkerchief, lightly moistened with the
imperial sweat, to her trembling lips. The soft aroma of the moisture
seemed to intoxicate her with a fragrance of virile youth.... She
thought of the letters and photographs in the silver casket with the
turquoises. A deep melancholy, because of life, smarted through her
soul; yet more of her memories seemed to fly away like dust. Then,
refusing to yield any longer to this melancholy, she bent her head and,
serious now, giving herself to the present, which revived her with new
happiness, she pressed her lips, trembling still more than before, on
Othomar's mouth. For a moment she lingered there; her eyes closed; then
she gave her kiss.

They opened their eyes together, looked at each other. Earnestly sombre,
almost tragically, she flashed her glance into his. He said nothing,
remained gazing at her, still half in her arms. The colour came mantling
back to his cheeks. Their eyes imbibed one another. He felt the unknown
opening before him, he felt himself being initiated into the world of
knowledge which he suspected in her and did not know of himself. But he
felt no joy because of it; her eyes continued sombre. Then he merely
took her hand, just pressed it in a solitary caress and said, his eyes
still gazing into her deep, quiet, dark glances of passion, his features
still rigid with surprise:

"I was feeling a little giddy, I fear, just now? Please forgive me,
duchess...."

She too continued to look at him, at first sombrely, then in smiling
humility. Her pride soared to its climax with one beat of its wings: the
mouth of her future emperor was still sealed with her kiss! Her love
touched her inner life as a wafting breeze skims over a lake, rippling
its surface into utter silver with a single fresh gust and stirring it
to its very depths; she worshipped him because of his youthful majesty,
which so graciously accepted her kiss without further acknowledgment,
because of his imperial candour, his boyish voice, his boyish eyes, the
pressure of his hand: the only thing he had given her; and she
experienced all this as a very strange, proud pleasure: the delight of
assimilating that candid youth, that maiden manhood, as a magic potion
that should restore her own youth to her.



7

They dined late that evening, as they had waited for Herman and the
others. The conversation at table turned upon the condition of the
lowlands, upon the peasants, who had lost their all. The duchess was
silent; the conversation did not interest her, but her silence was
smiling and tranquil.

That evening Othomar again studied the map with Ducardi, under the
lace-covered lamp. The evening had turned cold, the terrace-doors were
closed. The duchess did not feel inclined for billiards, but sat talking
softly with Dutri in the second drawing-room. She looked superb, serene
as a statue, in her dress of old lace, pale-yellow, her white bosom
rising evenly with her regular breathing; a single diamond star gleamed
in her front hair.

Othomar pointed with the pencil across the map:

"Then we can go like this, along this road.... Look, General Ducardi;
look here, Colonel von Fest: this is where I drove this afternoon with
the duchess; and here, I believe, is where Zanti lives. Did you know
that?"

The officers looked up, looked down at the spot to which the
crown-prince pointed, expressed surprise:

"I thought that he lived in the south, in Thracyna," said the young
Count of Thesbia.

Othomar repeated what the duchess had told him.

"Zanti!" cried Herman. "Balthazar Zanti? Why, but then it is he!... I
was talking this afternoon to a party of peasants; they told me of the
new huts which a new landlord was fitting up in the neighbourhood, but
they spoke in dialect and I could not understand them clearly; I thought
they said Xanti and I never suspected that it could be Balthazar Zanti.
So he's the man!"

"Huts?" asked Othomar.

"Yes, a village of huts, it seems; they said he was so rich and so
generous and was housing I don't know how many peasants, who had lost
all that they possessed."

"I now remember reading in the papers that Zanti had gone to live at
Vaza," said Leoni.

"I should like to see those huts: we can take them on our way
to-morrow," said Othomar.

General Ducardi compressed his bushy eyebrows:

"You know, highness, that his majesty is anything but enamoured of Zanti
and is even thinking of exiling him. It would perhaps be more in
accordance with his majesty's views to ignore what Zanti is doing here
for the moment."

Othomar, however, was not disposed to yield to the general; a youthful
combativeness welled in his breast.

"But, general, to ignore anybody's good work in these times is neither
gracious nor politic."

"I am convinced that, if his majesty knew that Zanti was occupying his
castle here, he would have specially requested your highness to hold no
communication with the man," said Ducardi, with emphasis.

"I am not so sure of that, general," said Othomar, drily. "I believe, on
the contrary, that, if his majesty knew that Zanti was doing so much for
the victims of the inundations, his majesty would overlook a good deal
of his amateur communism."

Ducardi gnawed his moustache with a wry smile:

"Your highness speaks rather light-heartedly of that amateur communism.
Zanti's theories and practice are more than mere dilettantism...."

"But, general," rejoined Othomar, gently, "I really do not understand
why Zanti's socialism need prevent us at this moment--I repeat, at this
particular moment--from appreciating what he is doing, nor why it need
interfere with our visiting his huts, considering that we have come to
Vaza to inform ourselves of everything that concerns the
inundations...."

Ducardi looked at him angrily. He was not accustomed to being
contradicted like this by his highness. The others listened. The duchess
herself, attracted by the discussion, amid which she heard Othomar's
voice ringing with youthful authority, had approached with Dutri,
curiously.

"To say the least of it, it could do no harm just to see those huts: I
must grant my cousin as much as that, general," said Herman of Gothland,
who was beginning to like Othomar.

Von Fest also supported this view, convincingly, roundly, honestly,
thought that they could do no less, having regard to the victims whom
Zanti had housed. Every one now gave his opinion: Leoni thought it
impossible that the crown-prince should visit Vaza and not those huts;
it would look as though his highness were afraid of a bugbear like
Zanti. The fact that Othomar was contradicting Ducardi gave them all
grounds for thwarting the old general, who hitherto had conducted the
expedition with a sort of military tyranny which had frequently annoyed
them. Even Dutri, who as a rule was rather indifferent, joined forces
with them, cynically, his eyes gleaming because Ducardi for once was
being put in his place. He winked at the duchess.

And only Siridsen and Thesbia took Ducardi's side, hesitating because
the general declared with such conviction that the emperor's will would
be different from his son's wish; especially Thesbia:

"I can't understand why the prince insists so," he whispered to the
duchess in alarm. "Ducardi's right: you yourself know how the emperor
loathes Zanti...."

The duchess shrugged her handsome shoulders with a smile, listening to
Othomar, whom she heard defending himself, supported by ejaculations and
nods from the others.

"Well," she heard Ducardi answer, drily, "if your highness absolutely
insists that we should go to Zanti's, we will go; I only hope that your
highness will always remember that I did not agree with you in this
matter...."

The Duke of Xara now answered laughingly, was the first to make peace
after this victory; and, as to the rest of the route to Lycilia, which
they worked out on the map, he agreed with the general in everything,
with little flattering intonations of approval and appreciation of his
penetrating and practical judgement....

"He may not have the makings of a great commander," whispered Dutri to
the duchess, "but he will turn out a first-rate little diplomatist...."

But Ducardi was inwardly very angry. For a moment he thought of
ascertaining the emperor's wishes by a secret telegram, but he rejected
this idea, as it would make a bad impression at the Imperial if the Duke
of Xara were not left free in such an apparent trifle. He therefore only
attempted, next morning, once more to dissuade Othomar from the visit,
but the prince held firm.

"You seem very much opposed to this expedition, general," said Von Fest.
"Isn't it really quite reasonable?"

"You don't know the prejudice his majesty has against that man,
colonel," replied the general. "As I have told you before, his majesty
is thinking of exiling him and is sure to do so when he hears that he
has now shut himself in his castle, doubtless with the object of
stirring up the peasantry, as he has already stirred up the workmen in
the towns. The man is a dangerous fanatic, colonel: dangerous especially
because he has money with which to put his visions into practice. He
instigates the lower orders not to fulfil their military duties because
it is written: 'Thou shalt not kill.' He looks upon marriage as a
useless sacrament; and I have heard that his followers simply come to
him and that he marries them himself, with a sort of blessing, which in
its turn is based upon a text, I forget which. He is always writing
socialistic pamphlets, which are promptly seized and suppressed, and he
makes seditious speeches. And the man is even standing for the house of
deputies!"

"One who abjures his title a member of the house of deputies!" smiled
Von Fest.

"Oh, his doctrine swarms with such inconsistencies!" growled Ducardi.
"He will tell you of course that, so long as there is nothing better
than the house of deputies, he is content to be a member of it. And the
crown-prince wants to take notice of what a man like that does!"

Von Fest shrugged his shoulders:

"Let him be, general. The prince is young. He wants to know and see
things. That's a good sign."

"But ... the emperor will never approve of it, colonel!" thundered the
general, with an oath.

Again Von Fest shrugged his shoulders:

"Nevertheless I should not dissuade him any longer, general. If the
prince wants a thing, let him have it, it will do him good.... And, if
he gets blown up by his father afterwards, that will do him good too, by
way of reaction."

Ducardi looked him straight in the face:

"What do you think of our prince?" he asked, point-blank.

Von Fest returned the general's glance, smilingly, looking straight into
his searching eyes. He was honest by nature and upright, but enough of a
courtier to be able to dissimulate when he thought necessary:

"A most charming lad," he replied. "But life--or rather he himself--will
have to change him very much if he is to hold his own ... later on."

The officers understood each other. Ducardi heaved a deep sigh:

"Yes, there are difficult times coming," he said, with an oath.

"Yes," answered the Gothlandic colonel, simply.

The princes mounted their horses in the courtyard; they took the same
road along which Othomar had driven with the duchess the previous
afternoon past Zanti's castle. Leoni had learnt where the huts lay; the
mountains began to retreat, the road wound curve after curve beneath the
trampling hoofs of the horses. Suddenly the Zanthos spread itself out on
the horizon: the wide expanse of flooded water, one great lake under the
broad, gleaming, vernal sky.

"That must be they," said Leoni.

His finger pointed to a hamlet of long wooden buildings, evidently newly
built, smelling of fresh timber in the morning breeze. As they rode
nearer, they saw carpenters and masons; a whole work-yard came into
view, full of busy movement, with stacks of red bricks and piles of long
planks. Singing was heard, with a pious intonation, as of psalms.

Ducardi, whose custom was always to ride in front, to the left of the
crown-prince, deliberately reined in his horse, allowed the others to
come up with him; Othomar perceived that he did not wish to act on this
occasion. He thought it petty of the general and said to Thesbia:

"Ask if Zanti is here."

The aide-de-camp turned and put the question to a sort of foreman. None
of the workpeople had saluted; the equerries doubted whether they had
recognized the crown-prince. Yes, Zanti was there. Plain "Zanti." Very
well, he would fetch him.

The man went. He was long away. Othomar, waiting with the others on
horseback, already began to find his position difficult, lost his tact,
assumed his stiff rigidity, talked in forced tones to Herman. He found
it difficult to wait when one had never done so hitherto. It made him
nervous and he made his horse, which was tugging at the reins with
skittish movements of its head, nervous too and was already thinking
whether it would not be better to ride on....

But just then Zanti, with the foreman who had called him, approached,
slowly, making no effort to hurry. He looked under his hand from a
distance at the group of officers on horseback, flashing in the
sunlight; stood still; asked the foreman some question or other; looked
again.

"The unmannerly fellow!" muttered Thesbia.

The aide-de-camp rode up to him angrily, spoke in a loud voice of his
imperial highness the Duke of Xara; the duke wished to see the huts.

"They are not huts," said Zanti, in peevish contradiction.

"What then?" asked the aide, haughtily.

"Dwellings," answered Zanti, curtly.

Thesbia shrugged his shoulders with annoyance. But the crown-prince
himself had ridden up and saluted Zanti before the latter had vouchsafed
any greeting:

"Will your excellency give us leave to look at what you are doing for
the victims of the inundations?" he asked, politely, gently, graciously.

"I'm not an excellency," muttered the grey-beard, "but, if you like to
look, you can."

"We should like to," replied Othomar, a little haughtily, "but not
unless we have your entire approval. You are the master on your own
estate; and, if our visit is unwelcome, we will not force our presence
on you."

Zanti looked him in the eyes:

"I repeat, if you like to look round, you can. But there is not much to
see. Everything is so simple. We make no secret of what we do. And the
estate is not mine: it belongs to all of them."

Othomar dismounted, the others followed; with difficulty Leoni and
Thesbia found a couple of boys to hold the horses in return for a tip.

Othomar and Herman had already walked ahead with the old man:

"I hear that you are doing much good work to mitigate the disaster of
the inundations," said Othomar.

"The inundation is not a disaster."

"Not a disaster!" asked Herman, surprised. "What then?"

"A just punishment of heaven. And there will be more punishments. We
live in sinful times."

The princes exchanged a quick glance; they saw that the conversation
would not go very easily.

"But the sinners whom heaven punishes you assist for all that, Mr.
Zanti," said Herman. "For all these huts...."

"Are not huts. They are sheds, workshops or temporary dwellings. They
will grow into a settlement, if such be God's will ... to enable men to
live simply, by their work. Life is so simple, but man has made it so
strange and complicated."

"But you take in the peasants who have lost their all through the
inundations?" Herman persisted.

"I don't take them. When they feel their sins, they come to me and I
save them from destruction."

"And do they not come to you also without feeling their sins, because
they feel that they will get food and lodging for nothing?"

"They get no food and lodging for nothing: they have to work here, sir!"
said the old man. "And perhaps more than you, who walk about in a
uniform.... They are paid, according to the amount of work they do, out
of the common fund. They are building here and I build with them. Do you
see this tree here and this axe? I was employed in felling down this
tree when you came and interrupted me."

"A capital exercise," said Herman. "You look a vigorous man."

"So you say you are forming a settlement here?" asked Othomar.

"Yes, sir. The cities are corrupt; life in the country is purifying.
Here they live; farther on lies arable land, which I give them, and
pasture-land; I shall buy cattle for them."

"So you are simply trying to recruit farmers here?" asked Herman.

"No, sir!" answered the grey-beard gruffly. "I recruit no farmers; they
are not my farmers. They are their own farmers. They work for themselves
and I am a simple farmer like them. We are all equal...."

"You are a simple farmer," Prince Herman echoed, "yet you live in a
castle."

"No, young man," replied Zanti, "I do not live in a castle; I live
_here_; my daughter lives there by herself. She is ill.... She would not
be able to stand an alteration in her mode of life, or any deprivation.
But she will not live long...."

He glanced up, looked at the Princes alternately, askance, almost
anxiously:

"She is my only weakness, I think," he said, in a faint, deprecating
voice. "She is my sin; I have called in doctors for her and believe in
what they say and prescribe. You see, she would not be able to do it ...
to follow me in all things, for she has too much of the past in her poor
blood. For her, a castle and comfort are necessities, vital necessities.
Therefore I leave her there.... But she will not live long.... And then
I shall sell it and divide the money, every penny of it, among them
all.... You see, that is my weakness, my sin; I am only human...."

The princes saw him display emotion; his hands trembled. Then he seemed
to feel that he had already spoken to them too much and too long of what
lay nearest to his heart, his sin. And he pointed to the buildings,
explained their uses....

"I have read some of your pamphlets, Mr. Zanti," said the crown-prince.
"Do you apply your ideas on matrimony here?"

"I apply nothing," the grey-beard growled, resuming his tone of
contradiction. "I leave them free to do as they please. If they wish to
get married according to your law, they can; but, if they come to me, I
bless them and let them go in peace, for it is written, 'Again I say to
you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning any thing
whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done for them by my father who is
in heaven. For where there are two or three gathered together in my
name, there am I in the midst of them.'"

"And how do you rule so many followers?" asked Herman.

"I don't rule them, sir!" roared the old man, clenching his fists, his
face red with fury. "I am no more than any of them. The father has
authority in his own household and the old men give advice, because they
have experience: that is all. Life is so simple...."

"As you picture it, but not in reality," objected Herman.

Zanti looked at him angrily, stopped still, to be able to talk with
greater ease, and, passionately, violently, exclaimed:

"And do you in reality find it better than I picture it? I do not, sir,
and I hope to turn my picture into reality. You and yours once, ages
ago, made your picture reality; now it is the turn of us others: your
reality has lasted long enough...."

Othomar, haughtily, tried to say something in opposition; the old man,
however, suddenly turned to him and, gently though roughly, said, his
penetrating, fanatical voice which made Othomar shudder:

"For you, sir, I feel pity! I do not hate you, although you may think I
do. I hate nobody. The older I have grown, the less I have learned to
hate, the more softness has entered into me. See here: I hear something
in your voice and see something in your eyes that ... that attracts me,
sir. I tell you this straight out. It is very foolish of me, perhaps, to
talk like this to my future emperor. But it is so: something in you
attracts me. And I feel pity for you. Do you know why? Because the time
will come!"

He suddenly pointed upwards, with a strange impressiveness, and
continued:

"The hour will come. Perhaps it is very near. If it does not come in
your father's reign, it will come in your reign or your son's. But come
it will! And therefore I feel pity for you. For you will not have enough
love for your people. Not enough love to say to them, 'I am as all of
you and nothing more. I will possess no more than any of you, for I do
not want abundance while you suffer need. I will not rule over you, for
I am only a human being like yourselves and no more human than you.' Are
you more human? If you were more, then you would be entitled to rule,
yes, then, then ... See here, young man: you will never have so much
love for your people as to do all this, oh, and more still and more! You
will govern and possess abundance and wage war. But the time will come!
Therefore I have pity for you ... although I oughtn't to!"

Othomar had turned pale; even Herman gave a little shudder. It was more
because of the oracular voice of the man who was prophesying the doom of
their sovereignty than because of his words. But Herman shook off his
shudder and, angrily, haughtily:

"I cannot say that you are polite to your _guests_, Mr. Zanti," he said.
"I do not speak of his imperial highness...."

Zanti looked at Othomar:

"Forgive me," he said. "I spoke like that for your sake. Your eyes are
like my daughter's. That's why I spoke as I did."

Herman burst out laughing:

"A valid reason, no doubt, Mr. Zanti."

Othomar, however, signed to him to cease his tone of persiflage and also
with a glance restrained his equerries, who had listened to Zanti's
oracular utterances in speechless indignation: the old man had addressed
Othomar almost in a whisper. His last words, however, which resounded
with emotion, changed this indignation into bewilderment, calmed their
anger, made them regard the prophet as half a madman, whose treason the
crown-prince was graciously pleased to excuse. And the officers looked
at one another, raised their eyebrows, shrugged their shoulders. Dutri
grinned. Othomar asked Zanti coolly whether they had not better proceed.

The settlement was very much in its first stage; yet a few farm-houses
were beginning to rise up, chestnut-trees lay felled, hundreds of
peasants were busily working.

The group of officers excited great curiosity; the princes had been
recognized. On almost every side the people stopped work, followed the
uniforms with their eyes.

The princes and their suite felt instinctively that a hostile feeling
was passing through Zanti's peasants. When they asked a question here
and there about the sufferings experienced, the answer sounded curt and
rough, with a reference to the will of God, and was always like an echo
of Zanti's own words. Pecuniary assistance seemed uncalled for. And
Zanti had really nothing to show. The settlement made a poor impression
on Othomar, perhaps because of a sort of mortified sovereignty. He was
accustomed always to be approached with respect, as a future majesty;
and his sensitiveness was more deeply wounded by Zanti's bluntness, by
the surliness of Zanti's peasants, than he himself was willing to admit.
He felt that at this spot they saw in him not the crown-prince who loved
his people and wanted to learn how to succour them, but the son of a
tyrant, who would act as a tyrant also when his turn came. He felt that,
though Zanti called himself the apostle of peace, this peace was not in
his disciples; and, when he looked into their rough, sullen faces, he
saw hatred gleam luridly from deep, hollow eyes, as with sudden
lightning-flashes....

The weight of it all fell heavily upon his chest; his impotence pressed
with a world of inconsolable misery and unappeasable grief upon his
shoulders, as though to bear him to the ground. It was the misery and
grief not of one, but of thousands, millions. Vindictive eyes multiplied
themselves around him in a ferment of hatred; each one of his people who
asked happiness of him, demanding it and not receiving it, seemed to be
there, staring at him with those wide eyes....

He felt himself turning giddy with an immense feeling of helplessness.
He looked for nothing more, this was the end. And he was not surprised
at what happened: the man with the brown, hairy, distorted face, who
rushed upon him like a nightmare and laid hold of him, full of hatred. A
foul, tobacco-laden breath swept over his face, a coarse knife in a
coarse fist flashed towards his throat....

A cry arose. A shot rang out, sharp, determined, with no suspicion of
hesitation. The man cursed out a hoarse yell, gnashing his teeth in
revolt, and struggled, dying. His brains splashed over Othomar, soiling
the prince's uniform. And the man plumped down at his feet on the
ground, grown limp at once, with relaxed muscles, still clutching the
knife in his hairy fingers. All this had happened in a single instant.

It was Von Fest who had fired the shot from a revolver. The colonel drew
up his broad figure, looked around him, still held the revolver raised
at a threatening slant. The people stood staring, motionless, perplexed
by the sudden reality before their eyes.

Zanti, stupefied, gazed at the corpse; then he said, while the startled
officers stood by in fussy confusion around the prince:

"Now go and, if you can, go in peace!..."

Full of bitterness, he pointed to the corpse. He shook his head, with
the grey locks under the felt hat; tears sprang to the corners of his
eyes.

"Thou shalt not kill!" they heard him mutter. "They seem not to know
that yet; nobody knows it yet!..."

A strange, mad look troubled his normally clear, grey eyes; he seemed
for a moment not to know what he should do. Then he went to a tree,
caught up the axe and, without taking further notice of the princes,
began to hew like a lunatic, blow upon blow....

The officers hurried to their horses. Dutri gave a last look back: near
the corpse, now surrounded by peasants, he saw a woman standing; she
sobbed, her desperate arms flung to heaven, she howled, she shook her
fist at the equerry's turned face, screaming.

Othomar had said nothing. He heard the woman howling behind him. He
quivered in every nerve. On the road, preparing to mount, Ducardi asked
him, agitatedly:

"Shall we return to Castel Vaza, highness?"

The prince looked at the general haughtily. Quickly the thought flashed
through him that the general had strongly opposed his coming here. He
shook his head.

Then his eyes sought Von Fest: they glanced up at the colonel under
their eyelids, deep-black, moist, almost reproachful.

But he held out his hand:

"Thank you, colonel," he said, in a husky voice.

The colonel pressed the hand which the prince offered him:

"Glad to be of service, highness!" he replied, with soldierly
brusqueness.

"And now let us go on to the Zanthos," said Othomar, walking up to his
horse.

But the old general could master himself no longer. In these last
moments he had felt all his passionate love--seated hereditarily, firmly
in his blood, of a piece with him, his very soul and all that soul--for
the reigning house. His fathers had died for it in battle, without
hesitation. And with the mad, wide embrace of his long, powerful old
arms, he ran up to Othomar, grateful that he was alive, pressed him as
if he would crush him against his breast, until the buttons of his
uniform scratched Othomar's cheek, and cried, sobbing, under his
trembling moustache:

"My prince, my prince, my prince!..."



8

The attempt on Othomar's life was known at Castel Vaza before the
princes returned, from peasants of the duke's, who had told the
castle-servants long stories of how the prince had been severely
wounded. The duchess had at first refused to believe it; then, in rising
anxiety, in the greatest tension and uncertainty, she had walked about
the corridors. She had first tried to persuade herself that the people
were sure to exaggerate. When she reflected that, in the event of
Othomar's being wounded, the princes and the equerries would have
returned at once, she became more tranquil and waited patiently.

But the chamberlain, who had been to Vaza, returned in dismay: people
were very uneasy in the town, pressing round the doors of the
newspaper-offices to read the bulletins, which mentioned the attempt
briefly, with the provoking comment that further particulars were not
yet to hand. The duchess realized that by this time the bulletin had
also been telegraphed to Lipara; and she feared not only that Othomar
had met with harm, but that she herself would lose favour with the
empress....

When the duchess at last, after long watching from a window in the west
corridor, saw the princes and their suite come trotting, very small,
along a distant road, she could not restrain herself and went to meet
them in the courtyard. But she saw that Othomar was unhurt. The Duke of
Xara dismounted, smiled, gave her his hand; she kissed it, curtseying,
ardently; her tears fell down upon it. The chamberlain approached,
assured Othomar, in the name of all the duke's servants, of their
heartfelt gratitude that the Duke of Xara had been spared, by the grace
of God and the succour of St. Ladislas.

Ducardi had not been able to telegraph from anywhere before, but he now
sent in all haste to Vaza with a message for the emperor, mentioning at
the same time that the prince had calmly resumed the expedition
immediately after the attempt upon his life. Dinner took place amid a
babel of voices; the duchess was greatly excited, asked for the smallest
details and almost embraced Von Fest. The crown-prince drank to his
preserver and every one paid him tribute.

Afterwards Ducardi advised the crown-prince, in an aside, to retire
early to rest. The general spoke in a gentle voice; it seemed as though
the thought that he might have lost his crown-prince had made him fonder
of him. Herman too pressed Othomar to go to bed.

He himself had grown calm, but a vague feeling of lassitude had come
over all his being: he had even drunk Von Fest's health in a strangely
weary voice. He now took their advice, withdrew, undressed himself; his
soiled uniform, which he had changed before dinner, still hung over a
chair; he shuddered to think that he had worn it the whole afternoon:

"Those things!" he said to Andro, who was still quite confused and,
nervously weeping, was tidying up. "Burn them, or throw them away, throw
them away."

Othomar flung himself in his dressing-gown on a couch in the room
adjoining his bedroom. This was also an historical apartment, with
tapestry on the walls representing scenes from the history of Lipara:
the Emperor Berengar I., triumphantly riding into Jerusalem, with his
crusaders holding aloft their white banners; the Empress Xaveria, seated
on horseback in her golden armour before the walls of Altara, falling
backwards, struck dead by a Turkish arrow....

The prince lay staring at them. A deadly calm seemed to make him feel
nothing, care about nothing. In his own mind he reviewed the whole
historical period from Berengar to Xaveria. He knew the dates; the
scenes passed cloudily before his eyes as though tapestries were being
unrolled, kaleidoscopically, with the faded colours of old artwork. He
saw himself again, a small boy, in the Imperial, in an austere room,
diligently learning his lessons; he saw his masters, relieving one
another: languages, history, political economy, international law,
strategy; it had all heaped itself upon his young brain, piled itself
up, built itself up like a tower. By way of change, his military
education--drilling, riding, fencing--conducted by General Ducardi, who
praised him or grumbled at him, or growled at the sergeants who
instructed him. He had never been able to learn mathematics, had never
understood a word of algebra; in many subjects he had always remained
weak: natural philosophy and chemistry, for instance. For a time he had
taken great pleasure in the study of mineralogy and zoology and botany;
and afterwards he had shown some enthusiasm for astronomy. Then came the
university and his legal studies....

He remembered his little vanities as a child and as a boy, when in his
ninth year he had become a lieutenant in the throne-guards; when later
he had received the Garter from the Queen of England and the Black Eagle
from the German Emperor and the Golden Fleece from the Queen-regent of
Spain. With such minor vanity there had always been mingled a certain
dread of possible obligations which the Garter or the Eagle might imply:
obligations which hovered vaguely before his eyes, which he dared not
define and still less ask about of Ducardi, of his father. Gradually
these threatening obligations had become so heavy and now, now they were
the weights that bore upon his chest....

The weights.... But he did not stir, feeling strangely calm. Then he
thought of Von Fest, of the duchess.... Yesterday, her kiss.... He had
lain swooning on her shoulder and she had kissed him and long watched
him with passionate looks. And all those stories of the equerries....

Then it came as with a fierce wave foaming over his absolute
calmness....

Why had that man hated him, tried to murder him, tried to slay him like
a beast?... Pride welled up in him, pride and despair. The man had
touched him, soiled him with his breath, him, the crown-prince, the Duke
of Xara! He gnashed his teeth with rage. That was a thing which Berengar
I. would never have suffered! Off with his head! Off with his head!...
Oh, that populace which did not know, which did not feel, which pressed
up against him, seething and foaming against the throne, which terrified
his mother, however haughtily she might look beyond it into the
distance, with her imperial composure!...

How he hated it, hated it, with all the hatred of his house for those
who were now free and were yet once its slaves! How he would have them
shot down, have them shot down when he came into power!...

He looked at Xaveria: she herself was shot down, the haughty amazon;
backwards she fell, wounded by the arrow of a Turkish soldier. And he,
that morning, if Von Fest had not....

He threw himself back wildly, buried his face in his hands and sobbed.
No, no, oh no! He would not shoot them down, not kill them, not hate
them! He was not like that: he might be like that for a moment, but he
was not like that! He was fond of his people; he was so grateful when
they rejoiced, when he was able to help them. Surely he would never have
them shot on! He was only growing excited now. What was there in his
soul for all of them, for those millions, of whom he had perhaps seen
only a few thousands and knew only a few hundreds, but one great love,
which threw out arms to them in every direction, to embrace them? Had he
not felt this in that black night on the Therezia Square? Were hatred
and violence his? No, oh no! He was soft, perhaps too soft, too
irresolute, but he would grow older, he would grow stronger; he would
wish to and he would make all of them happy. Oh, if they only cared for
him, if they only loved him with their great mass of surging, black,
frothing humanity, a sable Milky Way of swarming souls, each soul a
spark, like his own; oh, if they only loved him! But they must not hate
him, not look at him with those bloodshot eyes of hatred, not aim at his
throat with those coarse, hairy fingers, not try to murder him, O God,
not try to slay him like a bullock, with a common knife, him, their
future sovereign!...

And he felt that they did not belong to him and did not know him and did
not understand him and did not love him, all of them, and that they
hated him merely out of instinct, because he was born upon the throne!

And his despair because of all this spanned out, immense, a desert of
black night, which he felt eternities wide around him; and he sobbed,
sobbed, like an inconsolable child, because this was as it was and would
become more desperate with each day that brought him nearer to his
future as emperor and to their future: the mournful day which would rise
upon the destruction of the old world....

Then there came a knock at a little door; and the door was softly
opened....

"Who's there?" he asked, startled, feeling the breach of etiquette, not
understanding why Andro had not come through the anteroom to announce
whoever it might be.

"If your highness permits me...."

He recognized the duchess' soft voice, rose, went to the door:

"Come in, duchess...."

She entered, hesitatingly; she had thrown a long cloak over her bare
shoulders to go through the chilly passages of the castle....

"Forgive me, highness, if I intrude ... if I disturb you...."

He smiled, said no, apologized for his costume, feeling surprised and
pleased....

She saw that his eyes were swimming with moisture:

"I am indiscreet," she said, "but I couldn't help it; I felt I must find
out how you were, highness.... Perhaps I wished to surprise you as well:
I don't quite know. Something impelled me: I could not help coming to
you. You are my guest and my crown-prince; I longed to see for myself
how you were.... Your highness bore up well at dinner, but I felt...."

Her voice flowed on, soft and monotonous, as though with drops of
balsam. He asked her to sit down; she did so; he sat down by her side;
the dark cloak slipped off and she was magnificent, with her white neck,
siren-like in her opalescent, pale-green watered silk. He noticed that
she had laid aside the jewels which she had worn at dinner.

"I wanted to come to you quietly, through that door," she resumed, "in
order to tell you once more, to tell you alone, how unspeakably thankful
I am that your highness' life has been preserved...."

Her voice trembled; her ebony glances grew moist; the light of the great
candles in the silver candelabra shimmered over the silk of her dress,
played with soft light and slumbering shadow in the modelling of her
face, in the curve of her bosom.

He pressed her hand; she retained his:

"Was your highness crying when I came in?" she asked.

His tears were still flowing, a last sob heaved through his body.

"Why?" she asked again. "Or am I indiscreet?..."

He looked at her; at this moment he could have told her everything. And,
though he contained himself, yet he gave her the essence of his grief:

"I was sad," he said, "because they seem to hate me. Nothing makes me so
sad as their hatred."

She looked at him long, felt his sorrow, understood him with her
feminine tact, with her courtier-like swiftness of comprehension, which
had ripened in the immediate contact of her sovereigns. She understood
him: he was the crown-prince, he must suffer his special princely
suffering; he must drink an imperial cup of bitterness to the dregs. She
remembered that she herself had suffered, so often and so violently, for
love, passionate woman that she was; she understood that his suffering
was different from hers, but doubtless more terrible, as it seized him
already at so young an age and as it depended not upon his own single
soul, but upon the millions of souls of his empire. She too had suffered
because she had not been loved; he also suffered like that. And so in
one instant she understood him quite entirely, with all her strange
woman's heart.

A thrill of compassion welled up in her breast as a yet unknown delight
and, like a fervent, gentle oracle, she uttered the words:

"They do not all hate you...."

He recognized her passionate glances of the day before. He remembered
her kiss. He looked at her long, still hesitating a little in the
presence of the unknown. Then he extended his arms and, with a dull cry
of despair, hoarse with hunger for consolation, he called to her in his
helplessness:

"Oh, Alexa!..."

She first smiled, with radiant eyes, then flung herself bodily into his
young arms, crushing him against her bare breast. She felt like a maid
and a mother in one. But, when he clung to her in a wild passion of
despair, she felt herself to be nothing but a lover. She knew that he
would be her last love. The knowledge made her proudly sad and
diabolically happy. Her kisses clattered upon his eyes like hail....

And in their love, that night, they mingled the wormwood of what they
both were suffering, each seeking consolation for life's sorrows in the
other....



9

 "To HIS IMPERIAL HIGHNESS THE DUKE OF XARA,
                             "LYCILIA.

                          "THE IMPERIAL,
                                  "LIPARA,
                             "--_April_, 18--.


"MY DEAR BROTHER,

"I want to tell you before you read it in those tedious papers that our
respected father and emperor this morning, on my tenth birthday, dubbed
me a knight of St. Ladislas in the knights' hall of the palace. You can
understand how proud I feel. I shall not tell you about the ceremony,
because you will remember that yourself. I was very much impressed as I
walked up to our father between all those tall knights in their blue
mantles and knelt before his throne. I wore my new uniform of a
lieutenant in the guards. The king-at-arms, the Marquis of Ezzera, held
up the rule of the order on a cushion, on which I took the oath. I must
have looked rather small with my little mantle: the cross of St.
Ladislas was just as big on it, however, as on those of all the others.
I felt that they were all looking over my head; and that is not a
pleasant feeling when you are the hero of the day. But of course I am
the youngest of the knights, so there is no harm in my being a little
shorter. The sword our father gave me is also a little smaller than that
of the other knights, but the hilt is rather pretty and blazes with
precious stones. Still, I think I prefer the chasing on the scabbard of
yours, but when I am eighteen--so in eight years from now!--I am to have
another sword and of course another mantle too.

"Mamma was terribly alarmed and nervous when she heard of that man who
attacked you and she wanted to have you recalled at once, because it did
not seem safe where you are; and she simply could not understand that
this could not be done. But safe: who is safe nowadays? One's not safe
in war either and not even here in the Imperial. One shouldn't think so
much of all that safety, that's what I say; but of course mamma is a
woman and therefore she thinks differently from what we do. The riots
and the martial law also upset her, but I think it rather jolly:
everything's military now, you know. That Von Fest is a fine fellow. I
should like to shake hands with him and to thank him myself; but, as I
can't, I beg you _particularly_ to do so for me and _on no account_ to
forget it. You have heard, no doubt, through General Ducardi, that papa
is going to make Von Fest a commander of the Imperial Orb. What a pity
that we can't create him a knight of St. Ladislas, but for that of
course he would have to be a Liparian and not a Gothlander.

"Now, dear brother, I must finish, because Colonel Fasti is expecting me
for my fencing-lesson. Give my _very kindest_ regards to Herman and
General Ducardi and remember me to the others; and accept for yourself
the fond embrace of your affectionate brother,

                                                 "BERENGAR,
                                        "Marquis of Thracyna
                                    "(Knight of St. Ladislas)."



CHAPTER III


1

It was after the opening of the new parliament. The sun streamed as
though with square patches of molten gold along the white palaces of the
town, touching with blue what was shadow in the corners.

Two regiments of grenadiers, red and blue, stood in two double lines,
drawn up along the principal streets which led from the Parliament House
to the Imperial. The crowd pressed and tossed and cheered; all the
windows, open wide, swarmed with heads; people looked on from every
balcony. A shot thundered from Fort Wenceslas on the sea; the emperor
returned; the grenadiers presented arms in company after company....

       *       *       *       *       *

The lancers lead the van, blue and white, with streaming pennants at the
points of their lances, six squadrons of them. The whole strength of the
throne-guards, white, with breastplates of glittering gold flashing in
the sunlight above the black satin skins of the stallions, ride halberd
on thigh, surrounding the gently swaying state-carriages, scintillating
with rich gilding and bright crystal and two of them crowned with the
imperial crown, with teams of six and eight plumed greys. The horses
foam over their bits, impatient, nervously pawing the ground, prancing
because of the slow, ceremonious pace along the blinding, flagged
roadway. In the first coach, the master of ceremonies, the Count of
Threma; in the second, with the crown and the team of eight--and the
roar of the cheering rises from behind the hedge of soldiers--the
emperor, his uniform all gold, his robes of scarlet and ermine, his
crown upon his head. It is the only time that the people have seen their
emperor wear his crown.

And they cheer. But the emperor makes no acknowledgment: through the
glass of the coach he looks out, to left and right in turns, at the
crowd, with a proud smile of self-consciousness and victory; and his
face, full of race, full of force, cold with will, proud with authority,
is inaccessible in its smile as that of a Roman emperor on his triumphal
entry.

It is a triumphal entry, this return from the Parliament House to his
Imperial: a triumph over that which they denied him and upon which he
has now laid his heavy hand, showing them all that his mere will can
bend them to his word and purpose. And the cheers rise louder and louder
from that capricious crowd, restrained like a woman by a ruler whom it
now adores for his strength and admires for his imperial might, upon
which he leans, as he passes from the Parliament House to his own
palace, as though it were a whole army that lived upon his nod; and
louder and louder, louder and louder the cheers ring out that sunny
afternoon over the marble houses; and the emperor smiles continually, as
though his smile meant:

"Cheer away! What else can you do but cheer?..."

In the next coach rides the Duke of Xara, robed, crowned; he stares
rigidly over the vociferating crowd with the same glance that his mother
reserves for the populace. In the next to that, the new governor-general
of the capital, the head of the emperor's military household, the Duke
of Mena-Doni, a rougher soldier than the Marquis of Dazzara and a less
practised courtier, under whose military fist the white capital, like a
beaten slave, crouched low during the martial law proclaimed after a
single hour of disturbance that ventured to follow upon the emperor's
decision to dissolve the house of deputies. His coarse, sensual mouth
smiles with the same smile as that of the emperor, whose rude force he
seems to impersonate; and he too seems to say:

"Cheer away, shout hurrah!"

Then the following carriages: the imperial chancellor, Count Myxila; the
ministers: seven of them forming part of the twelve who wished to
resign, the others chosen from among the most authoritative of the old
nobility in the house of peers itself!

Cheer away, shout hurrah!

Behind the coaches of the higher court-officials, the Xara cuirassiers,
the crown-prince's own regiment; behind them, a regiment of colonials:
Africans, black as polished ebony, with eyes like beads, their thick
mouths thrust forwards, clad in the muslin-like snow of their burnouses;
behind them, two regiments of hussars on heavy horses, in their long,
green, gold-frogged coats and their tall busbies.

Was ever parliament opened thus before, with such a display of military
force? And outside the town, on the high parade-grounds, do not the
people know that there are troops drawn together from every province,
camping there for the manoeuvres, the date of which has been
accelerated? And the increased garrisons of the forts, the squadron in
the harbour? Do the people themselves feel that they can do nothing else
than cheer and is that why they are cheering now, happy once more in
their cheering, with Roman docility and southern submission, enamoured
of the emperor because of the weight of his crushing fist, loving the
crown-prince for the attractive charm of his attitude in the north, or
perhaps because they think him interesting after an unsuccessful attempt
on his life?

And they seem not to feel that, through the grenadiers presenting arms,
they see neither the emperor nor the crown-prince saluting; they cheer
away, loving them in spite, perhaps because, of their indifference; they
cheer away like madmen....

Slowly the procession wends its way along the interminable main streets.
The whole city, despite its marble, trembles with the clatter of the
horses' hoofs upon the flagged pavement. Between the front escort and
the endless escort in the rear, the state-carriages, with their
glittering throne-guards, shimmer like a kind of jewel, small, rare,
carefully guarded. The cavalry are at this moment the soul of Lipara,
their echoing step its heart-beat; and between the grenadiers and the
tall houses the massed and cheering populace seems to have hardly room
to breathe.

The procession approaches the Imperial. Along the immense marble
fore-court the lancers and cuirassiers range themselves on three sides,
before the wings and along the front. Outside them the guards are drawn
up in line. The Africans close off the courtyard....

The carriages pull up; and the emperor alights. With the crown-prince by
his side, he goes through the vestibule up the stairs. The corridors of
the palace swarm with gold-laced uniforms; a packed suite crowds up
behind Oscar and Othomar. The master of the robes, with twelve grooms of
the bed-chamber, comes towards the emperor, who takes off his crown, as
does the crown-prince; their robes are unfastened for them.

They go to the great white hall, white with the Corinthian columns with
gilt capitals. The empress and the Princess Thera are there, surrounded
by their ladies. It is a great day: in this sun-apotheosis of the
opening of parliament the monarchy is triumphing over the threats of the
future and deferring that future itself. The empress, in her trailing
pale-mauve velvet, steps towards her spouse and curtseys before him
ceremoniously. The princess, the mistress of the robes, all the ladies
curtsey....

Outside, in front, the square is now filled by the multitude; an excited
popular clamour surges up against the immovable palace, as it were the
sea against a rock. The doors of the centre balcony are opened. The
emperor and the prince will show themselves....

"Only just salute once," whispers the emperor to his son, sternly.

The sun outside rains down gold upon the swarming mass, tinging it with
many-changing, chameleon, southern tints between the white, motionless
wings of the Imperial, whose caryatids look down placidly. The imperial
pair step on the balcony. Hats are thrown up towards them; the yelling
bellows with a shout as from a single noisy, vulgar throat and echoes
through the open doors against the gilt ceiling and columns of the white
hall. The empress is frightened by it, turns pale; her breath
catches....

On the balcony the Emperor of Liparia salutes his excited people with a
solitary wave of the hand; the Duke of Xara bows his head slightly.



2

There was no more talk of a revision of the constitution and reform of
the hereditary house of peers. The constitutional majority of
three-fourths which is required in the house of deputies before such a
proposal can be taken into consideration, though there at first, no
longer existed after the new elections. Oscar, immediately after his
return from Altara, had shown them his daring strength. Lipara was
surrounded with troops: this was as well, for the manoeuvres, for the
King of Syria, who was expected. The forts were strengthened, the fleet
lay in the harbour; then came the imperial decree that the house of
deputies should simply ... be dissolved. What an outcry, after the
promulgation of that decree, in the newspapers and in the streets! For
one moment, at night, there was an abortive riot. But the emperor,
furious with the Marquis of Dazzara for his delay in taking prompt and
energetic measures, had next day affirmed his august dissatisfaction.
The marquis was shown that there were moments when the emperor was not
to be trifled with; the emperor dismissed him personally, on the spot,
and told him he could go. Crushed, his eyes full of despair, the marquis
left the Imperial; in the fore-court his carriage crossed that of the
Duke of Mena-Doni, lieutenant-general of the hussars; he saw the duke's
sensual, Neronic head, covetous with ambition, staring up at the front
of the palace. The marquis threw himself back in his carriage, wringing
his hands and weeping like a child....

That same morning martial law was proclaimed at Lipara and the Duke of
Mena-Doni appointed governor of the capital. With a great military
display and a speech of three words the emperor dissolved the house of
deputies. The people trembled, beaten off, thrashed, reduced to
crouching at the imperial feet. The decree was issued for the general
election. Must the people be chastised to make them attached to their
emperor? Was it because of the innumerable articles in the newspapers of
the northern provinces--Altara, Vaza and Lycilia--which bestowed all
their sympathy upon their most charming, charitable crown-prince,
indefatigable, omnipresent, mitigating what suffering he could? Was it
because of the colossal, fabulous presents of millions contributed from
the imperial privy purse to the fund for the victims of the disaster?
The result of the elections became known: the new house of deputies
contained a bare, impotent majority of constitutionals. What did it
profit that the liberal papers shrieked of intrigue and undue pressure?
Without and within the city lay the army; each day the emperor showed
himself, with by his side the Duke of Mena-Doni....

The emperor invited the old ministry to remain in office, but dismissed
those of the ministers who were not absolutely authoritative.

The crisis was at an end. The great spring manoeuvres were to take place
on the parade-ground so soon as the King and Queen of Syria arrived at
Lipara.

In Othomar there sprang up a vast admiration for his father. He did not
love him with the fondness, the intimacy, the still almost childish
dependence with which he loved the empress; he had always looked up to
him; as a child he had been afraid of him. Now, after the personal
courage which he had seen the emperor display, the sovereign power which
he had watched him exercise, his majesty rose higher before Othomar's
eyes, as it were the statue of a demi-god. He felt himself a lowly
mortal beside him, when he thought:

"What should _I_ have done, if I had had to act in this case? Should I
have dared to take the prompt decision to dissolve the house of deputies
and should I not have feared an immediate revolution in every corner of
the country? Should I, after the disturbances, have dared to dismiss the
Marquis of Dazzara at once, like a lackey, attached as he was to our
house and descended from our most glorious nobility? Should I have dared
to summon that duke, that swashbuckler, with his cruel face, even before
I had dismissed the marquis, so that the one arrived as the other
departed?"

And he already saw himself hesitating in imagination, not knowing what
would be best, above all not knowing what would be most just; he
pictured himself advised by old Count Myxila, at last determined to
dissolve the deputies, but not dismissing the marquis, not declaring
martial law in Lipara and assembling the troops too late and seeing the
revolution burst out at all points simultaneously, with bomb upon
bomb....

To do what was most just, this seemed to him the most difficult thing
for a sovereign.

But the emperor's monarchic triumph had this result, that, clearly as
Othomar saw his own weakness, a reflex of strength and determination was
cast upon him from his father himself, by whose side he stood. Moreover,
he had not much time for brooding. Each day brought its special duties.
Scarcely was he able to allow himself one hour of solitary repose. He
was accustomed to this life of constant movement, of constant public
appearances, now here, now there, so thoroughly accustomed to it that he
did not feel the fatigue which was already exhausting him before his
tour in the north and which had now eaten into his nerves and marrow. He
gave this fatigue no thought, regarded it perhaps as an organic languor,
a transitory symptom, which was bound to pass. And each day brought its
own fatigue. Thus he had grown accustomed to rise early, at seven every
morning; Lipara then still lay white and peaceful in its rosy slumber of
the dawn; he rode out on his thorough-bred Arab, black Emiro, with his
favourite collie close behind him, galloping with him, its pointed nose
poked out, its shaggy collar sticking up; unaccompanied by equerries, he
rode through the park of the Imperial to the Elizabeth Parks, in the
afternoon the resort of elegant carriages and horsemen, but in the
morning peaceful, wide and deserted, with barely a solitary early rider,
who made way respectfully for the prince and took his hat off low. Then
he rode along the white quays with their villas and palm-trees, their
terraces and aloes; and the incomparable harbour lay before him, always
growing an intenser blue beneath the pink morning light, which became
cruder. Higher up, the docks, the ships, the hum of industry already
audible. Slowly he walked his horse along the harbour; in the porticoes
of the villas he sometimes caught a glimpse of a woman's figure, saw her
eyes following him through roses and clematis. He loved this ride
because of the soft, fresh air, because of his horse, his dog, because
of his solitude with these two, because of the long, silent quays, the
wide, silent sky, the distant horizon still just enveloped in latest
morning mist. The morning breeze blew against his forehead under his
uniform cap; thoughts wandered at random through his brain. Then he
shook himself free from this voluptuousness, rode back to the town and
went to the Xaverius Barracks, occupied by the lancers; to the Wenceslas
Barracks occupied by the grenadiers; or to the Berengar Barracks,
occupied by the hussars. Here he enquired, investigated, inspected; and
here he found his equerries, Dutri and Leoni; he rode back with them to
the palace, and repaired to his father's room. This was the hour when
Count Myxila came to the emperor and when affairs of state were
discussed with the imperial chancellor; lately the crown-prince had
assisted at these meetings. Next he visited the empress, who was
expecting him: it was generally a most delightful moment, this which
they spent confidentially together before lunch, a moment full of charm
and intimacy. He sat close by her on a low chair, took her hand, poured
out to her the burdens of his heart, communicated to her his anxiety
about the future, about himself when later he himself would wear the
crown. At such times his eyes peered up through their lashes, with their
dark melancholy; his voice was querulous and begged for comfort. And she
encouraged him: she told him that nothing happened but what had to
happen; that everything was inevitable in the world's great chain of
events, joined link by link; that he must wait for what might come, but
at the same time do his duty; and that he must not unnerve himself with
such endless pondering, which led to nothing. He told her how he feared
his own hesitation and how he suspected that his decisions would always
come too late; and she, gently laughing, replied that, if he knew his
own faults so well, he should train himself to make his mind. He
questioned her about justice--the one thing that seemed impossible to
him on earth--and she referred him to his own feeling, as a human soul.
But yet, intensely sweet as these hours were, he felt that he remained
the same under their interchange of words and that, though words had
been exchanged, nothing was changed within him. Wherefore he thought
himself wicked and was afraid that he did not love his mother enough,
with enough conviction. Then he looked at her, saw her smiling, divined
beneath her smile the nervous dread which would never again relinquish
its grasp of her and felt that she spoke like this only for his sake, to
cheer him, and not from conviction. And his thoughts no longer wandered
discursively about him, as on his morning ride along the quays: they
fell like fine mists one upon the other in his imagination and formed
his melancholy.

Lunch was taken privately. After lunch he sat for an hour to Thera, who
was painting his portrait. In the afternoon there were always different
things to do: exhibitions, charities, institutions of all kinds to be
visited, a foundation-stone to be laid, a man-of-war to be launched.
Every minute was filled; and each day filled his minutes differently
from the day before. Dinner was always a meal of great etiquette and
splendour; every day there were numerous guests: diplomatists, high
officials, officers. It lasted long; it was an emperor's daily
ceremonial banquet. Then in the evening the parties at court, or at the
houses of the ambassadors or dignitaries; the theatres and concerts. The
prince, however, never stayed late. He then read or worked for a couple
of hours in his own room; at twelve o'clock he went to bed.

He was used to this life of monotonous variety, had grown up in it. So
soon as he returned from Lycilia to Lipara--the city was then still
under martial law--he found it waiting for him busier than ever; the
opening of parliament had followed close upon his return. The emperor
was pleased with the crown-prince's conduct in the north, perhaps
because of the praise which the northern newspapers bestowed upon the
Duke of Xara for his ready sympathy, because of his moment of
popularity. He wanted to let his son take more and more part in affairs
of state and discussed them with him more frequently either alone or in
the company of the imperial chancellor. But the stern measures of
drastic violence which the Duke of Mena-Doni had taken--he himself at
Lipara, his officers at Thracyna: furious charges of hussars against the
threatening crowds--these revolted Othomar; he had heard of them with
anguish and despair, though he knew that there was nothing to be
achieved by gentleness. And with his veneration for the emperor, as for
a demi-god of will and force, there was mingled a certain antipathy and
grudge, which divided him from his father and made any interchange of
thought between them difficult.

Now, after the opening of parliament, the town, the whole country had
quieted down; the troops, however, remained on the parade-ground, for
the approaching manoeuvres. The arrival of the King and Queen of Syria
was fixed. Othomar's days succeeded one another as before. He was
entertained at banquets by the officers of the throne-guards and of the
other regiments to which he belonged. Yes, this was his hour of
popularity. It was already said that his surname one day would be
Othomar the Benevolent. It was at this time that he laid the
foundation-stone of a great alms-house, to whose establishment the will
of an immensely wealthy, childless duke--one of the oldest Liparian
families, which had become extinct--had contributed millions.

Othomar's gentleness was in amiable contrast with Oscar's justly exerted
but rough force. He himself, however, was inwardly very much astonished
at this talk of benevolence: he liked to do good, but did not feel the
love of doing good as a leading feature in his character.

After the dinner given to him by the staff-officers, Othomar was to go
in the evening with Ducardi, Dutri and Leoni to the Duke of Yemena, to
thank the court marshal officially for the hospitality shown him at
Castel Vaza. The duke occupied at Lipara a large, new house; his old
family-residence was at Altara.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is nine o'clock; the crown-prince is not yet expected. The duke and
duchess, however, are already receiving their guests; the duchess sent
out numerous invitations when Othomar announced his visit. The spacious
reception-rooms fill up: almost the whole of the diplomatic corps is
present, as are some of the ministers and great court-officials with
their wives, old Countess Myxila and her daughters and a number of
officers. They form the intimate circle of the Imperial. A jaunty
familiarity prevails among them, with the _sans-gêne_ in vogue.

Near the duchess stands Lady Danbury, the wife of the British first
secretary, and the Marquis of Xardi, the duke's son. They are talking
busily about the Dazzaras:

"I've seen them," says Lady Danbury. "It's shocking, shocking. They're
living at Castel Dazzara, that old ruin in Thracyna, with their five
daughters, poor things! The ceilings are falling in. Three crooked old
men in livery; and the liveries even older than the servants. And debts,
according to what I hear, debts! I was astonished to see how old the
marchioness had grown; she has taken it terribly to heart, it seems."

"Grown old?" asks the duchess. "I thought she looked quite young still,
last time I saw her...."

She detests Lady Danbury, who is tall, thin and sharp-featured, her
appearance rather suggesting that of a graceful adder. And she
continues:

"She still looked so well; she is slender, but she has a splendid neck
and shoulders.... I really cannot understand how she can have grown so
old...."

And, as though brooding over this puzzle, the duchess stares at the lean
shoulders of Lady Danbury.

Xardi's eyes glitter; he expects a skirmish.

"They say that the marquis _used_ to be one of your intimates, don't
they?" the Englishwoman insinuates.

But that hateful "used to be" grates on Xardi's nerves.

"I am very fond of the Dazzaras," says the duchess; "but"--and she
laughs mysteriously and meaningly--"he was always an unlucky bird...."

"His excellency the Duke of Mena-Doni," the butler announces.

"The rising sun!" Xardi whispers to Lady Danbury.

Mena-Doni bows before the duchess, who smiles upon him. Lady Danbury,
standing by Xardi's side, continues:

"And the lucky bird?"

"Oh no!" says Xardi, with decision. "At least, not altogether...."

They look at each other and laugh:

"Imperial eagles are the finest birds, after all, don't you think?" says
Lady Danbury, jestingly.

"What do you know about it?"

"Alas, I am too unimportant to know anything! Before I get so far in my
zoological studies...."

"But what have you heard?"

"What everybody hears when Dutri can't hold his tongue."

"What about?"

"About a certain tender parting at Castel Vaza...."

The Marquis of Xardi bursts out laughing. Lady Danbury suddenly clutches
his arm:

"I say, Xardi, I know less slender people than the Marchioness of
Dazzara who would fall into a decline if they lost the imperial favour.
_Et toi?_"

The marquis laughs loudly and:

"Even the crown-princely favour," he whispers, behind Lady Danbury's
Watteau fan.

And they chuckle with laughter together.

"His imperial highness the Duke of Xara; their excellencies Count
Ducardi, Prince Dutri and the Marquis of Leoni!" are announced, slowly
and impressively.

There is a slight movement in the groups. The room divides into two
rows; a couple of ladies get entangled in their trains and laugh. Then
they all wait.

Othomar appears at the open door; Ducardi, Dutri and Leoni are behind
him. The old duke hastens towards the prince; the Marquis of Xardi
hurriedly thrusts Lady Danbury's fan into her hand and joins his father.

The old duke is a well-knit, elegant man, full of racial refinement,
with a clean-shaven face; he is dressed simply in evening-clothes, with
the broad green riband of a commander of the Imperial Orb slanting
across his breast and the grand cross of St. Ladislas round his neck.

Othomar wears his full-dress uniform as colonel of the Xara Cuirassiers,
silver, red and white; he holds his plumed helmet under his arm; he
presses the duke's hand, he addresses him with genial words; but, in the
ingenuousness of his youthful soul, he feels bitter remorse gnawing at
his conscience now that he speaks of Castel Vaza, now that he listens to
the cordial protestations of the duke. Othomar also shakes hands with
the Marquis of Xardi.

Then the duchess approaches and greets the crown-prince with her famous
curtsey. Lady Danbury envies her her grace and asks herself how it is
possible, with those statuesque lines; she cannot deny that the Duchess
of Yemena is a splendid woman.... Between the duke and the duchess, the
prince walks down the row of bowing guests; the Marquis of Xardi follows
with the equerries.

Othomar has seen the duchess once or twice at the Imperial since his
return to Lipara, but never alone. They now exchange courteous phrases,
with official voices and intonations. The groups form once more, as at
an intimate rout.

The duchess walks on with Othomar, till they reach the long
conservatory, dimly lighted, dusky-green, with the stately palm-foliage
of the tall plants, with the delicate tracery of the bamboos, which
exude beads of dew against the square panes. They are silent for a
moment, looking at each other; and Othomar feels that his emotions for
this woman are nothing more than fleeting moments, cloudlets in his
soul. The unknown has opened out to him, but has turned to disillusion.
Nevertheless he is thankful to her for what she gave him: the
consolation of her passion, while his eyes were still moist with tears.
She strengthened him by this consolation and made him discover his
manhood. But everything in life is twofold; and his gratitude has a
reverse of sin. He sees the duke in the distance holding an animated
conversation, underlined with elegant, precise gestures, with Ducardi;
and remorse softly pierces his boyish soul.

And next to his gratitude he feels his disillusion. Love! Is this
love?... He feels nothing; nothing new has come into his heart. He sees
how deliciously beautiful the duchess is in her ivory brocade, her train
edged with dark fur, her bodice cut square, a string of pearls round her
neck. The half-light drifts past her through the plants, a faery green,
with a gentle slumbering and with shadows full of mystery; her face,
with its delicate smile, stands out against the background of blurred
darkness. He recalls her kiss and the mad embrace of her arms. Yes, it
was a blissful enervation, an intoxication of the flesh, an unknown
giddiness, a physical comfort. But love: was it love?... And he has to
make up his mind: perhaps it is love; and, though he feels something
lacking in his soul, he makes up his mind for all that: yes, perhaps
that is what it is ... love.

"And when shall I see your highness again?" she whispers.

The question is put crudely and surprises him. But this single second of
momentary solitude is so precious to the duchess that she cannot do
otherwise. She observes his surprise and adores him for his innocence;
and her eyes gaze so beseechingly that he replies:

"To-morrow I am dining with the French ambassador; after that I am going
to the opera.... Can I find you here at eleven o'clock?"

He is surprised at the logical sequence of his thoughts, at his
question, which sounds so strangely in his ears. But she answers,
laughing disconcertedly:

"For God's sake, highness, not here, at eleven o'clock! How could we!...
But ... come to ... Dutri's...."

She stammers; she remembers the equerry's luxurious flat and sees
herself there again ... with others. And in her confusion she does not
perceive that she has wounded him deeply and torn his sensitiveness as
though with sharp claws; she fails all the more to perceive this,
because he answers, confusedly:

"Very well...."

They return, laughing, with their official, colourless voices; they walk
slowly: he, so young in his silver uniform, with the helmet, with its
drooping plume, under the natural grace of his rounded arm; she, with
her expansive brilliancy, trailing her ivory train, waving her fan of
feathers and diamonds to and fro against her Carrara-marble bosom. All
eyes are turned in their direction and observe the duchess' triumph....

And Othomar now knows that his "love" will become what is called a
_liaison_, such as he has heard of in connection with this one and that,
or read of in novels. He had not yet imagined such an arrangement. He
does not know how he is to tell Dutri that he has made an assignation
with the duchess in his rooms; and, when he thinks of the equerry,
something of his innate sovereignty is chipped off as little pieces of
marble or alabaster might be from a frail column....

Joining the duke and the general, he talks of the approaching
manoeuvres. He now sees the duchess standing at a distance and Mena-Doni
bending his Neronic head close to her face. His great antipathy for this
man is mingled with jealousy. And, while he smiles and listens to the
Duke of Yemena, he feels that he now knows for certain that his love
after all _is_ love, because jealousy plays a part in it.



3

Next morning, when Othomar rode out alone, he was thinking the whole
time of Dutri. The difficulty of broaching the subject to his equerry
struck him as unsurmountable. His heart beat when he met Dutri waiting
for him in the Xaverius Barracks. But the young officer had the tact to
whisper to him, very calmly and courteously, as though it were the
simplest matter in the world:

"I was talking with the Duchess of Yemena, highness.... Her excellency
told me that your highness wished to speak to her in private and did me
the honour.... Will your highness take this key?..."

Othomar mechanically accepted the key. His face remained rigid and
serious, but inwardly he felt much annoyed with the duchess and did not
understand how and why she could drag Dutri into their secret. The ease
and simplicity with which she had evidently done so flashed across him
as something alarming. A confusion seemed to whirl through his head, as
though the duchess and Dutri had, with one breath, blasted all sorts of
firm convictions of his youth. He thought of the old duke. He considered
all this wrong. He knew that Dutri was a young profligate; he was in the
habit of hearing the whole gazette of court scandal from him, but he had
never believed one-half of what Dutri related and had often told the
equerry bluntly that he did not like to hear ill spoken of people whom
they saw daily, people attached to his house. Now it seemed to him that
everything that Dutri had said might be true and that yet worse things
might well take place. This key, offered with such simple politeness,
with such libertine ease, appeared to him as an object of searing
dishonour. He was already ashamed of having put the thing in his
pocket....

He went on, however. The key burnt him while he spoke with General
Ducardi and, on his return to the Imperial, with his father and Myxila.
Before going to visit the empress, who was awaiting him, he locked it
away in his writing-table; then slowly, his forehead overshadowed, step
by step he went through the long galleries to the empress' apartments.
In the anteroom the lady-in-waiting rose, curtseyed, knocked at the door
and opened it:

"His highness the Duke of Xara...."

Othomar silently made the sign of the Cross, as though he were entering
a church:

"May God and His Mother forgive me!" he murmured between his lips.

Then he entered the empress' room.

She was sitting alone in the large drawing-room, at one of the open
windows overlooking the park. She wore a very simple, smooth, dark
dress. It struck him how young she looked; and he reflected that she was
younger than the duchess. An aureole of delicate purity seemed to quiver
around her tall, slender form like an atmosphere of light and gave her a
distinction which other women did not possess. She smiled to him; and he
came up slowly and kissed her hand.

She had not yet seen him that day; she took his head between her cool,
slim hands and kissed him.

He sat down on a low chair by her side. Then she passed her hand over
his forehead:

"What's the matter?" she asked.

He looked at her and said there was nothing particular. She suspected
nothing further; this was not the first time he brought her a clouded
forehead. She stroked it once more:

"I promised papa to have a serious talk with you," she said.

He looked up at her.

"He thought it better that I should talk to you, because it was his idea
that I could do so more easily. For the rest, he is very pleased with
you, my boy, and rejoices to find that you have such a clear judgement,
sometimes, upon various political questions."

This opinion of his father's surprised him.

"And about what did you promise to talk to me?"

"About something very, very important," she said, with a gentle smile.
"About your marriage, Othomar."

"My marriage?..."

"Yes, my boy.... You will soon be twenty-two. Papa married much later in
life, but he had many brothers. They are dead. Uncle Xaverius is in his
monastery. And we--papa and I--are not ever likely to have any more
children, Othomar."

She put her arms about him and drew him to her. She whispered:

"We have no one but you, my boy, and our little Berengar. And ... papa
therefore thinks that you ought to marry. We want an hereditary prince,
a Count of Lycilia...."

His eyes became moist; he laid his head against her:

"Two to become emperor? Berengar, if I should be gone before him: is not
that enough, mamma?"

She smilingly shook her head in denial. No, that was not certainty
enough for the house of Czyrkiski-Xanantria.

"Mamma," he said, gently, "when sociologists speak of the social
question, they deplore that so many children are born among the
proletariate and they even hold the poor parents, who have nothing else
but their love, responsible for the greater social misery which they
cause through those children. Does not this reproach really affect us
also? Or do you think an emperor so happy?"

Her brow became overcast.

"You are in one of your gloomy moods, Othomar. For God's sake, my boy,
do not give way to them. Do not philosophize so much; accept life as it
has been given to you. That is the only way in which to bear it. Do not
reflect whether you will be happy, when you are emperor, but accept the
fact that you must become emperor in your turn."

"Very well, for myself: but why children, mamma?"

"What sovereign allows his house to die out, Othomar? Do not be foolish.
Cling to tradition: that is all in all to us. Don't have such strange
ideas upon this question. They are not those of a future--I had almost
said--autocrat; they are not those of a monarch. You understand,
Othomar, do you not? You must, you must marry...."

Her voice sounded more decided than usual, sounded almost hard.

"And, dearest boy," she continued, "thank the circumstances and marry
now, as quickly as possible. Our relations with foreign countries are at
this moment such that there are no particular indications as to whom you
ought to marry. You can more or less pick and choose. For you are the
crown-prince of a great empire, my boy, of one of the greatest empires
in Europe...."

He tried to speak; she continued, hurriedly:

"I repeat, you can--very nearly--choose. You don't know how much that
means. Appreciate this, appreciate the circumstances. Travel to all the
courts of Europe that are worth considering. Use your eyes, make your
choice. There are pretty princesses in England, in Austria...."

Othomar closed his eyes an instant, as though exhausted with weariness:

"Later on, mamma," he whispered.

"No, my boy," said the empress, "do not speak of later on, do not put
off. Think it over. Think how you will order your journey and whom you
will take with you and then talk it over with papa and Myxila. Will you
promise?"

He just pressed his head against her and promised, with a weary smile.

"But what's the matter with you, my boy?" she asked. "What is it?"

His eyes grew moist.

"I don't know, mamma. I am so tired sometimes...."

"Aren't you well?"

"Yes, I'm all right, but I am so tired...."

"But why, my child?"

He began to sob softly:

"Tired ... of everything ... mamma."

She looked at him for a long time, shook her head slowly,
disapprovingly.

"Forgive me, mamma," he stammered, wiping his eyes. "I shan't give way
like this again...."

"You promised me that once before, Othomar dear."

He leant his head against her once more, like a child:

"No, really," he declared, caressingly, "I really will resist it. It is
not right of me, mamma. I will employ myself more, I shall grow
stronger. I swear to you I shall grow stronger for your sake...."

She again looked long in his eyes, with her pure smile. Utter tenderness
went out from her to him; he felt that he would never love any one so
much as his mother. Then she took him in her arms and pressed him close
against her:

"I accept your promise and I thank you ... my poor boy!" she whispered
through her kiss.

At this moment there came a buzz of young voices, as though from birds
set free, out of the park, through the open windows. The tripping of
many little feet grated on the gravel. A high, shrill, childish voice
suddenly rang with furious words from among the others; the others were
silent....

The empress started with a shock that was electric. She drew herself up
hastily, deadly pale:

"Berengar!" she cried; and her voice died away.

"And I shall tell his majesty what a scoundrel you are and then we'll
see! Then we'll see, then we'll see!..."

The empress trembled as she leant out of the window. She saw ten or
eleven little boys; they looked perplexed.

"Where is his highness?" she asked.

"His highness is over there, ma'am!" shyly answered a little count,
pointing to the back-court, which the empress could not see.

"But what is happening? What a noise to make! Send his highness here at
once! Berengar! Berengar!"

His highness, Berengar, was called and came. He passed through the
little dukes and counts and looked up at the window through which his
mother was leaning. He was a small, sturdily built, vigorous little
chap; his face was crimson with indignation, his two small, furious eyes
were like two black sparks.

"Berengar, come here!" cried the empress. "What is all this? Why can't
you play without quarrelling?"

"I'm not quarrelling, mamma, but ... but I shall tell papa ... and ...
and then we'll see! Then we'll ..."

"Berengar, come in here at once, through the palace, at once!" commanded
the empress.

Othomar looked out from behind the empress at the group of boys. He saw
Berengar speak a word of apology to the biggest little duke and
disappear through the back-court.

A minute later, the boy entered the room.

"Berengar," said the empress, "it's very bad manners to make such a
noise in the park ... and just behind the palace too."

The boy looked at her with his serious little crimson face:

"Yes, mamma," he assented, gently.

"What happened?"

Berengar's lips began to tremble.

"It was that beastly sentry ..." he began.

"What about the sentry?"

"He ... he didn't present arms to me!"

"Didn't the sentry present arms to you? Why not?"

"I don't know!" cried Berengar, indignantly.

"But surely he always does?"

"Yes, but this time he did not. He did the first time when we passed,
but not the second time.... We were playing touch and, when we ran past
him the second time, he didn't present arms!"

Othomar began to scream with laughter.

"There's nothing to laugh at!" cried Berengar, angrily. "And I shall
tell papa and then you shall see."

"But, Berengar," said the empress, "did you expect the man to present
arms to you every time you ran past him while you were playing touch?"

Berengar reflected:

"He might at least have done it the second time. If it had been three,
or four, or five times, I could have understood.... But only the second
time!... What can the boys have thought of me?"

"Listen, Berengar," said the empress, "whatever happens, it is not at
all proper for you to call people names, whoever they may be, nor to
make such a noise in the park, right behind the palace. An emperor's son
never calls names, not even to a sentry. So now you must go straight to
that sentry and tell him you are sorry you lost your temper so."

"Mamma!" cried the child, in consternation.

The empress' face was inflexible:

"I insist, Berengar."

The boy looked at her with the greatest astonishment:

"But am I to say that ... to the sentry, mamma?"

"Yes."

Evidently Berengar at this moment failed to understand the order of the
universe; he suspected for an instant that the revolution had broken
out:

"But, mamma, I can't do that!"

"You must, Berengar, and at once."

"But, mamma, will papa approve of it?"

"Certainly, Berengar," said Othomar. "Whatever mamma tells you to do
papa of course approves of."

The boy looked up at Othomar helplessly; his little face grew long, his
sturdy little fists quivered. Then he burst into a fit of desperate
sobbing.

"Come, Berengar, go," the empress repeated.

The child was still more dismayed by her severity: that was how he
always saw her stare at the crowd, but not at her children. And he threw
himself with the small width of his helpless little arms into her
skirts, embraced her and sobbed, with great, gulping sobs:

"I can't do it, mamma, I can't do it!"

"You must, Berengar...."

"And ... and ... and I _shan't_, I _shan't!_" the boy screamed, in a
sudden fury, stamping his foot.

The empress did nothing but look at him, very long, very long. Her
reproachful glance crushed the boy. He sobbed aloud and seemed to forget
that his little friends outside would be sure to hear his highness
sobbing. He saw that there was nothing to be done, that he must do it.
He must! His imperial highness Berengar Marquis of Thracyna, knight of
St. Ladislas, must say he was sorry to a sentry and one moreover who
denied him, his highness, his rights.

His medieval little childish soul was all upset by it. He understood
nothing more. He only saw that he must do as he was told, because his
mother looked at him with such a sad expression:

"Othomar!" he sobbed, in his despair. "Othomar! Will ... you ... go with
me ... then? But how am I to do it, how am I to do it?"

Othomar smiled to him compassionately and held out his hand to him. The
empress nodded to the princes to go.

"How am I to do it? O God, how am I to do it?" she still heard
Berengar's voice sobbing desperately in the lobby.

Elizabeth had turned deadly pale. As soon as she was alone, she sank
into a chair, with her head flung back. Hélène of Thesbia entered at
this moment:

"Madam!" cried the young countess. "What is it?"

The empress put out her hand; Hélène felt that it was icy cold.

"Nothing, Hélène," she replied. "But Berengar frightened me so terribly.
I thought ... I thought they were murdering him!"

And in an hysterical fit of spasmodic sobbing she threw herself into the
countess' arms.



4

That night, before Othomar left with his equerries to dine at the French
ambassador's, he drew Dutri aside:

"I see, prince, that her excellency the duchess confides in you fully,"
he said, in curt tones. "I do not doubt that her confidence is well
placed. But I assure you of this: if it should ever appear that it was
misplaced, I shall never--now or at any later period--forget it...."

Dutri looked up strangely; he heard his future emperor address him. Then
he pouted like a sulky child and said:

"I cannot say that your highness is very grateful for the hospitality
which I have offered you...."

Othomar smiled painfully and gave him his hand....

"Or that it is kind of your highness to threaten me to-day with your
displeasure," Dutri continued.

"I know you, Dutri," the prince said in his ear. "I know your tongue.
That's my only reason for warning you.... And now, for God's sake, say
no more about this, for it ... it all gives me pain...."

Dutri was silent, thought him a child and a prince in one. He shrugged
his shoulders silently at Othomar's incomparable innocence, but he
shuddered when he thought of a possible disgrace. He had no fortune; his
position with the crown-prince was his life, his ambition, his all, for
now and for later, when the prince should be emperor!... How pleased he
had been at first that Alexa had told him everything, that he knew a
secret of his prince, who never seemed to have any secrets! A vague
pleasure that this secret would give him a power over his future emperor
had already flitted through his head, full of frivolous calculations.
And now the prince was threatening him and that power was frustrated at
its very inception! And Dutri was now almost sorry that he had learned
this secret; he even feared that the emperor might come to hear of it,
that he would be visited with the father's displeasure even before the
son's....

"If only Alexa had not dragged me into it!" he complained to himself,
with his shallow fickleness of thought.

But, although Dutri was silent and even contradicted the rumour, the
crown-prince's _liaison_ was discussed, possibly only because of Alexa's
triumphant glances whenever Othomar addressed a word to her at a
reception, at a ball. Nevertheless, Dutri's contradiction introduced a
certain confusion--for he was known as a ready blabber--and people did
not know what to think or what to believe.

But Othomar did not feel happy in his love. The fierce passion of this
woman with her fiery glances, who overpowered him one moment with her
kisses and the next crept before him like a slave and crouched at his
feet in humility before her future sovereign, at first astonished him
and, in one or two of his fits of despair, carried him away, but in the
long run aroused in him a feeling of disinclination and opposition. In
the young equerry's scented flat where they met--it was as dainty as any
young girl's sitting-room and padded like a jewel-case--he sometimes
felt a wish to repulse this woman, for all that she loved him with her
strange soul and did not feign her love; he felt a wish to kick her, to
beat her. His temperament was not fit for so animal a passion. She
seemed to harry his nerves. She revolted him at times. And yet ... one
single word from him and she mastered her fierceness, sank down humbly
by his side, softly stroked his hand, his head; and he could not doubt
that she adored him, perhaps a little because he was the crown-prince,
but also greatly for himself.

And so April came; already it was almost summer; the King and Queen of
Syria were expected. They had been first to the sultan and afterwards to
the court of Athens. From Liparia they were to go on to the northern
states of Europe. On the day of their arrival, Lipara fluttered with
flags; the southern sun, already potent, rained down gold upon the white
city; the harbour rippled a brilliant blue. A hum of people--tanned
faces, many peasants from Thracyna still clad in their parti-coloured
national dress--swarmed and crowded upon the quays. On the azure of the
water, as on liquid metal, the ironclads, which were to welcome the king
and queen and serve as their escort, steamed out to the mouth of the
harbour. There, on the _Xaveria_, with their suite of admirals and
rear-admirals, were the two princes, Othomar and Berengar, and their
brother-in-law, the Archduke of Carinthia. Innumerable small boats
glided rapidly over the sea, like water-spiders.

A shot from Fort Wenceslas, tearing the vivid ether, announced the
moment at which the little fleet met the Syrian yacht and the oriental
potentates left her for the _Xaveria_. From the villas on the quays,
from the little boats full of sight-seers, every glass was directed
towards the blue horizon, tremulous with light, on which the ships were
still visibly shimmering. Half an hour later there rose, as though
coming from the Imperial, the cheers of the multitude, surging louder
and louder towards the harbour. Through the rows of the grenadiers, who
lined the streets from the palace to the pavilion where the august
visitors were to land, came the landaus, driven by postillions, in which
their majesties sat. These were followed by the carriages of the two
sisters, the Archduchess of Carinthia and Thera, and of the suite.

The fleet, with the Syrian yacht in its centre, had steamed back into
the harbour. Across the guard-of-honour formed by the throne-guards,
through the purple draperies and the flags, the crowd were able to see
something of the meeting of the sovereigns in the pavilion. They shouted
their hurrahs; and then the procession drove to the Imperial, the
emperor with the King of Syria in the first carriage, the empress with
the queen in the next; after these, the landaus with the princes and
princesses and the suite.

A series of festivals and displays followed. After the tragedies of the
inundations and the parliamentary crisis, a mood of gaiety blew over the
capital, as it glittered in the sun, and lasted till late in the lighted
rooms and parks of the Imperial. This gaiety was because of the eastern
queen. The King of Syria may have had a few drops of the blood of
Solomon still flowing through his veins. But the queen was not of royal
descent. She was the daughter of a Syrian magnate and her mother's name
was not mentioned in the _Almanach de Gotha_. That mother was doubtless
a favourite of dubious noble descent, but nobody knew who she had been
exactly. A _demi-mondaine_ from Paris or Vienna, who had stranded in the
east and made her fortune in the harem of some great Syrian? A
half-European, half-Egyptian dancer from a Cairene or Alexandrian
dancing-house? Whoever she was, her lucky daughter, the Queen of Syria,
showed an unmistakable mixture of blood, something at once eastern and
European. Next to the true Semitic type of the king, who possessed a
certain nervous dignity in his half-European, half-oriental uniform
glittering with diamonds, the queen, short, fat, chubby, pale-brown, had
the exuberant smiles, the restless movements, the turning head and
rolling eyes of a woman of colour. Her very first appearance, as she sat
in the carriage, next to the delicate figure of the Empress Elizabeth,
in a gaudy travelling-dress and a hat with great feathers, bowing and
laughing on every side with profuse amiability, had affected the
Liparians, accustomed to the calm haughtiness of their own rulers, with
an apparently inextinguishable gaiety. The Queen of Syria became the
universal topic of conversation; and every conversation referring to her
was accented with a smile of wickedness. Withal she seemed so entirely
good-natured that it was impossible to say a word against her; and
people were only amused about her. They remembered that the Syrians had
subscribed fabulous sums at the time of the inundations. And the
merriment that blew over Lipara was a southern merriment, free from
malice and vented in sheer jolly laughter and delight, because the
Liparians had never seen so droll a queen.

The great manoeuvres took place on the parade-ground. The king
accompanied the emperor and the princes on horseback, with a bevy of
European and oriental aides-de-camp. Their consorts with their suite
watched the march-past from landaus. Berengar marched bravely with his
company of grenadiers, in which he was a lieutenant, as well as he could
march with his short little legs, and stiffened his small features, so
as not to betray the difficulty it cost him to keep pace with his men's
long step. The hussars astonished the Syrian monarch by their unity with
their horses, when in wild career they threw themselves half off and in
still more rapid rushes picked up a flag from the ground, swung
themselves up again with a yell and waved the bunting. The Africans
executed their showy fantasias, brandished their spears, which flashed
like loosened sheaves of sunbeams, and came fluttering on in clouds of
white burnouses and dust, amid which their negro heads clustered darkly
in endless black patches and their eyes glistened.

In addition there was a military tournament, followed by garden-parties,
races, regattas, popular games and fireworks. Lipara was one city of
pleasure. Every day it was traversed by royal processions, the array of
uniforms glittered like live gold, the imperial landaus rattled in the
sun, with the spokes of their wheels flashing through the light dust
which flew up from the flagged pavements of the town. Most brilliant of
all, like drops of white flame, were the diamonds which the Syrian pair
wore even in the streets. At night, when the sun ceased shining, there
shone over the white town, vague with evening light, and over its violet
harbour, festoons of salamanders and gaudy bridges of fire, factitiously
bright beneath the silent silver glances of the stars; rockets fell
hissing into the water, on which the boats showed black, and left behind
them a faint, oppressive savour of gunpowder in the night.

In the great hall of pillars the ceremonial banquets followed one after
the other, with a display of gold plate of incredible value. The Queen
of Syria wore her curious, theatrical costumes, her broad bosom always
crossed by the blue ribbon of an order covered with badges; her hair was
dressed with tall plumes, hung with small diamonds. She talked with
great vivacity, thankful for the kindness of her Liparian friends, for
the enjoyment and for the cheering. Her profuse gestures enlivened
everybody, introduced an element of fun into the stately Liparian
etiquette. Elizabeth herself could not but laugh at them. The queen
played her royal part with the self-possession of a bad but good-natured
actress. She spoke to everybody, spread amiable little atoms of her
small, chubby, brown majesty over one and all. Next her sat the king,
looking dignified and wise as Solomon. The emperor praised him for a
sensible, broad-minded sovereign: the king had already paid many visits
to Europe. The Syrian aide-de-camps were dignified too, calm and
composed, a little stiff in their ways, adapting themselves to western
manners; the queen's ladies-in-waiting wore the trains of their Paris or
London dresses a little strangely, but still looked slender in them,
brown and attractive, with their curly little heads and long,
almond-shaped eyes: still they would have been prettier in draped
gold-gauze.

The Syrians stayed twelve days before going on to Italy. It was the last
evening but one: in the Imperial a suite of fourteen rooms had been
lighted up around the great ballroom for a ball. Three thousand
invitations had been sent out. In the fore-court and in the neighbouring
main-streets stood the grenadiers.

The ballroom was at the back of the palace; the tall, balconied windows
were open and looked across their balustrades upon the shadows of the
park of plane-trees. The band resounded from the groups of palms in the
gallery. The imperial quadrille had been formed in the centre of the
room: the emperor with the queen, the king and the empress, the Archduke
of Carinthia and Thera, Othomar with the archduchess. The other official
quadrilles formed their figures around them. Hundreds of guests looked
on.

From the coruscating rock-crystal of the chandeliers, the electric light
flowed in white patches out of the high dome, glided along the
inlaid-marble walls and porphyry pillars of the ballroom and poured in
millions of scintillations on the smooth facets of the jewels, on the
gold of the uniforms and court-dresses, on the shimmering white brocades
of the trains; for white was prescribed: all the ladies were in white;
and the snow of the velvets, the lily glow of the satins were
silver-shrill. One blinding whirl of refulgence passed through the
immense room with its changing glamours. For the light never stood
still, continually changed its brightest spot, turned the ball into one
glittering kaleidoscope. The light gilded each bit of gold-lace, was
caught in every brilliant, hung in every pearl. The music seemed to be
one with that light; the brass resounded like gold.

The Duchess of Yemena stood among a group of diplomatists and equerries;
she rose monumental in her beauty, which was statuesque and splendid in
this wayward illumination. She seemed supernaturally tall, thanks to the
heavy Watteau plait which trailed from her back in white brocade. She
wore her tiara of emeralds and brilliants; and the same green stones
sparkled in a great jewelled spray that blossomed over her bodice.

The emperor came up to her; she drooped in her famous curtsey and Oscar
jested with her for a moment. When the emperor had passed on, she saw
the crown-prince approach. She curtseyed again; he bowed smilingly and
offered her his arm. Slowly they went through the ballroom.

"I have something important to say to you," he whispered, in a
conversational tone.

He could not move away with her; they would be missed. So they continued
to walk through the rooms.

"It is so long since I saw you ... alone!" she whispered, reproachfully,
in the same voice. "And what did ... what did your highness wish to say
to me?"

They spoke cautiously, with the smile of cool conversation on their
lips, deadening the sound of their voices, casting indifferent glances
around them, to see whether they could be overheard.

"Something ... that I have long wanted to tell you.... A decision I have
to take...."

The words came crumbling in fragments from his lips and not sounding
with their true accent, from caution. She perceived that he was about to
tell her some great piece of news. She trembled without knowing why....
He himself did not know whether what he was doing was cruel or not: he
did not know this woman well enough for that. But he did know that he
had purposely chosen this difficult moment for his interview, because he
was uncertain how she would bear it ... how she would bear it in a
_tête-à-tête_, when she would be able to give way to her passion. Here
he knew how she would bear it: smilingly, as a woman of the world,
although it turned to anguish for her. Perhaps after all he was
cruel.... But it was too late now: he must go through with it.

She looked up at him, moving the feathers of her fan. He continued:

"A decision.... When our Syrian guests have left ... I ... I am going on
a journey...."

"Where to, highness?"

"To ... to different European courts...."

She asked nothing more; her smile died away; then she smiled again, like
an automaton. She asked nothing more, because she well knew what it
meant when a crown-prince went on a journey to different European
courts. That meant a bridal progress. And she merely said, in a voice
that could not but sound plaintively:

"So soon?..."

So soon!... Was her imperial romance to last so short a time? She had
indeed known that this might be the end of it, for she knew him to be
too pure to retain her by the side of a young consort. Also she had
pictured an end like this after a year, two years perhaps, she
withdrawing herself, and she had pictured to herself that she would do
so without any feeling of spite against her young future empress. But
now! So soon! Barely a few weeks! So short a time as that no romance of
her life had ever lasted! She felt an aching melancholy; a mist hazed
over her eyes; and the lights of the ballroom shimmered before her as if
through water. She constantly forgot to smile, but, so soon as she
remembered, she smiled again:

"So soon?..."

"It must be...."

Yes, it must be, it could not be otherwise. For her, this was the end of
her life. She felt no despair because of this ending; only a smarting
sorrow. It was the end. After this imperial romance there would be no
other. Oh no, never more! She would sacrifice her youth to it; she would
launch her stepdaughters into society. She would be grateful that she
had lived and would now grow old. But old: she was still so young, she
still felt herself so young! She now first perceived how she loved her
crown-prince. And she would have liked to be elsewhere, far from the
brilliant ball, to embrace him once more alone, for the last time....
Oh, this sorrow because everything must end, as though nothing were more
than a fleeting perfume!...

"I am trusting you, duchess," he now said. "I hope you will say nothing
about this journey. You understand, it is all still a secret; no choice
has been made yet ... it has been discussed with no one except their
majesties and Myxila. I can trust you, can't I?"

She smilingly nodded yes.

"But I wanted to tell you at once," he continued.

She smiled again. At this moment a strange storm seemed to burst ...
behind the palace, under the palace, where? Right through the blare of
the music and the blaze of the light, a crash of thunder shook and
rolled. It was as though the palace had been struck by lightning, for
immediately afterwards, through the open windows, there came from one of
the back-wings of the palace a rattling clatter of stones, which seemed
tossed into the air, of great rafters, which fell noisily and roughly,
of shivers of glass, which seemed to be splintering shrilly on every
side....

The music was suddenly silenced. The uniforms, the court-trains rushed
to the open balconies, which overlooked the park; but the night was
dark, the park was hushed. A last couple of rafters seemed to be still
falling, with a last crash of stones....

In the bright glare of the electric light, faces turned deathly pale,
like the faces of corpses. Eyes stared at one another in terror. The
duchess half-sank against Othomar when she saw Elizabeth tear past her
with wild, vacant eyes and out at a door, her long, white velvet train
trailing madly after her, round the corner. The mistress of the robes
followed her; so did Hélène of Thesbia. The emperor appeared to give the
chamberlains some hurried orders; then he also left the ballroom,
accompanied by a few officers.

Shortly afterwards the music again burst forth from the balcony in the
gallery. Many equerries and aides-de-camp were seen bowing to their
partners, the ladies trembling as they rose. The ball proceeded; the
uniforms and trains glittered as before in the windings of the waltz.
But the smiles seemed to have been obliterated from the dancers'
features and their pallid faces turned the ball into a dance of death.

Leoni, shivering, bowed before Othomar:

"A dynamite explosion, low down in the cellars of the western back-wing.
The anterooms of his majesty's private apartments are destroyed. His
majesty requests your highness to make every effort to continue the
ball. All officers and court-ladies are commanded to dance."

The duchess clutched Othomar's arm, almost fainting. The rumour spread
around them. The equerries dragged their partners along half-swooning.
Two were seen carried away in a dead faint. The Queen of Syria stood
vacantly beside the Archduke of Carinthia, who put his arm round her
heavy waist to dance. She did not yet seem able to make up her mind.

Othomar passed his arm round the duchess:

"O God, I can't do it!" she stammered. "For God's sake, highness, don't
ask me!..."

"We must," he said. "His majesty wishes it...."

"His majesty wishes...." she repeated.

Her legs trembled beneath her as though with electric thrills. Then she
let him take her and they danced.

Every one danced.

The empress had rushed up the stairs and along the galleries to the
bedroom-floor. She did not see that two ladies were following her; she
thrust back a door:

"Berengar!" she screamed.

The young prince's bedroom was lighted. The boy had half-risen, in his
little shirt, from his camp-bed. His valet and a chambermaid stood in
dismay in the middle of the room.

"Berengar!" the empress gasped out, rejoicing when she saw him unharmed.

She threw her arms around him, pressed him to her bosom.

"Oh, mamma, you're hurting me!" cried the boy, indignantly.

Her jewels had brought a drop of blood from his little bare chest. She
now embraced him more gently, with nervous sobs that choked in her
throat. A spray of diamond ostrich-feathers fell to the ground; the maid
picked them up with awkward fingers.

"Mamma, are they blowing up the palace?"

"No, Berengar, no, it's nothing...."

"Mamma, I want to go and look! I must see what's happening!"

"Berengar...."

The door had been left open; the emperor entered, calmly. The ladies
stood in the corridor, waiting for the empress....

"Papa, may I go with you and look?"

"No, Berengar, there's nothing to see. Go to sleep...."

Then he offered his arm to Elizabeth:

"Madam," he said, tranquilly.

She threw him an imploring glance. He continued to hold out his arm to
her. Then she kissed the boy once more, soothed him to sleep:

"Wait a moment," she stammered to Oscar.

She went to the glass; the maid, with her clumsy fingers, fastened the
jewelled spray to the edge of the low-cut bodice, spread out the square
train.

"I'm ready," the empress said to Oscar, in a lifeless voice.

She took his arm; the emperor just pressed her hand; and they nodded
once more to Berengar and went.

Arm-in-arm the imperial pair appeared for the second time at the ball.
The empress was pale but smiling. She was magnificent, delicate with
dainty majesty in the trailing white velvet, upon which, on the bodice
and over the front of the skirt, flickered sprays of diamond
ostrich-feathers, formed into fleurs-de-lys. An empress' crown of
brilliants crowned her small, round head.

It was two o'clock. Generally the sovereigns were accustomed to stay
till one o'clock at the court balls. The Queen of Syria, however, in her
exuberant love of life, had begged them to stay longer. They had
consented. Had they left at one o'clock, the explosion would have taken
place at the moment when Oscar would probably just have entered his
apartments. They had first talked of the anterooms only: but it would
now appear that great damage had also been done to the emperor's own
room.

Supper began. They supped in a large hall; from every table rose a
palm-tree and the hall was thus turned into a forest of palms. The floor
was strewn with gold sand, which powdered the trains as their wearers
walked upon it. Electric light shone through the long leaves like
moonlight. In this moonlight the faces remained deadly white, like
patches of chalk, above the glittering crystal and all the gold plate.
The music clattered with great cymbal-strokes of brass.



5

"To HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF GOTHLAND.

                           "IMPERIAL,
                                "LIPARA,
                        "--_May_, 18--.

"MY DEAREST SISTER,

"At last I can find time to write to you. The excitement of the visit of
our good Syrians is over and Lipara has calmed down. But my reflections
are nothing but sadness. And this is why, Olga.

"I fear that Othomar is much more ill than the doctors perceive. He has
become thinner and looks very bad. He never complains much, but yet he
told me lately that he often felt tired. The doctors think that he needs
a rest and recommend a long sea-voyage. His journey through Europe,
about which I wrote to you in my last, will have to be postponed. And
now I want to ask you a favour.

"I know that Herman is soon going to take a long voyage on the _Viking_
to India, Japan and America; and it would be my fondest wish at this
moment that Othomar might accompany him. When the doctors advised a
sea-voyage, I discussed the matter to Oscar, but we came to no decision.
My boy, you must know, Olga, has no friend of his own age; and this made
me so sad and we did not know how nor with whom to send him on this
voyage in a way which would be pleasant for him and which would not
involve a solitary banishment from our home-circle. He is on excellent
terms with his equerries, but yet that is not what I should desire: a
cordial, mutual, confidential friendship with some one of his own age
with whom he could spend a certain time, solely with a view to enjoyment
and relaxation.

"I know quite well that it is to some extent my boy's fault and due to
his innate diffidence and reticence. Nevertheless he has qualities for
which he could easily be loved, if they were known, if he allowed them
to appear. Don't you agree, Olga? You are fond of him too: it is not
only my own blind mother's love that finds my son lovable and
sympathetic? And that is why I should be so very glad if Herman would
take him with him and learn to know him better: who knows whether they
would not then come to love each other! Othomar has already told me
that, on their journey through the north of Liparia, they were drawn
much closer together than they had thought they would be; but it was a
busy time: every moment was filled with duties and business and they had
no time to talk together and get to know each other. And yet, at such a
difficult period of united labour, two young men can learn to know each
other even without talking. At any rate, they have already become more
friendly. At one time, Olga, they used to dislike each other, to my
bitter sorrow; they would even not meet; even outwardly there was
nothing but coolness between them: oh, how unhappy all this used to make
me, when I saw our boys so hostile to each other and remembered how _we_
used to be, Olga, when we were girls together in our beautiful old
castle near Bucharest! How we lived bound up in each other! Olga, Olga,
how terribly long ago that all is! Our parents are dead, our brothers
dispersed, the castle is deserted and we are separated: when do we see
each other? Scarcely now and then, for a couple of days at a time, when
we meet somewhere for a wedding of relations; and then these are always
restless days, when we can see next to nothing of each other. Then,
sometimes, not even every year, a fortnight either in Gothland or here.
You sometimes reproach me that I, who am so fond of Gothland, come to
you so seldom, but it is always for the same reason: Othomar does not
care to leave Liparia and I can't leave my husband. I can be strong when
I am at his side, but alone I am so weak, Olga. That anything might
happen to _him_ which I should not share increases my dread unbearably.
I felt that again quite lately, when I was with Thera at Altara: our
visit was announced and binding; and, however unwilling I was to leave
Oscar, I was obliged to go, was I not? It was just at that trying
period; Lipara was under martial law. But Oscar wished me to go and I
went. Oh, how I suffered at that time!

"But I am becoming used to my fears, I do not complain and I accept life
as it comes; I only hope that my boy will also learn to accept it thus.
Perhaps he will learn. Indeed it is not so easy for him, for he will
have to do more than his mother, who, as a woman, can be much more
passive; and it is easier to learn to acquiesce passively than actively.
But the Saints will surely give him strength later to bear his lot and
his crown; this I rely upon. And yet, O Olga, it makes me so immensely
sad that we are sovereigns! But let me not continue in this strain: it
weakens one, it is not right, it is not right....

"There is also a secret reason why I should like to get Othomar away
from Lipara, though it always grieves me so much to part from my
darling. There seems after all to be some truth in those rumours about
the Duchess of Yemena: Oscar asked Myxila about it and he could not deny
it and even said that it was generally known. I do my best not to take
it too much to heart, Olga, but I think it a terrible thing. O God, let
me not think or write about it any more; otherwise it will go whirling
so in my poor head! What can my son see in a woman who is older than his
own mother! What a terrible world, this is, Olga, in which these things
take place; and how can there be such women, whom you and I will never
understand! For, after all, temperament is not everything: every woman
has her own heart; and in that we ought all to see one another; but it
would seem that we can't. In my sadness about this, I prefer to assume
that the woman loves my boy and therefore deceives her husband. Oh, it
is so wicked also of my boy: why need he be like this, he who is
otherwise so good! I just assume that she loves him. Not long ago we had
my last drawing-room, the function with which, as you know, our
winter-season ends; and, when she came up to me and bowed before me and
pressed her lips to my hand, she must have felt my disapproval and my
sadness radiating from my fingers, for she rose out of her curtsey with
a desperate look of anguish in her eyes and a sort of sob in her throat!
I stared at her coldly, but all the same I pitied her, Olga, for, when a
woman of our world is so little able to control herself at a ceremonial
moment, in the presence of her empress, her soul must have sustained a
severe shock: do you not think so too?

"We are now quiet. In a week we are going to our summer-quarters in
Xara, at Castel Xaveria; the weather is already very hot here. I should
so much like to have your answer before we leave and to know how Herman
takes my request. I know that he is very fond of me and will doubtless
gladly grant it and that he will try to like Othomar for my sake; and
let me hasten to add that it is also _Othomar's_ dearest wish that he
should travel with Herman. The sea-voyage did not attract him in the
least at first, because he knew of no one to take with him and he said
he preferred to go with us to Castel Xaveria; but, when I mentioned
Herman, he joined in my plan entirely.

"Olga, what will the summer bring us, peace or not? I dare not hope. The
winter has been horrible; our northern provinces have not yet recovered
from the disasters. The misery there is irretrievable. There is an
epidemic of typhoid and there have been many cases of cholera. The
strikes in the east are now over, but I am so afraid of that rough,
violent repression. Oh, if everything could only be done with
gentleness! That attempt on Othomar's life and the explosion at the last
ball have also made me so ill. How I should love to see you and take you
in my arms: can you not come to Castel Xaveria and spend the summer with
us? It would give me such intense, such intense pleasure!

"Kiss Siegfried and the children for me. And answer me soon, will you
not? I embrace you fervently.

"Your affectionate sister,

                                                       "ELIZABETH."



CHAPTER IV


1

August, on the Baltic. The grey billows curl against the rocks with
high, rounded crests of thick foam. The sky above is one wide cupola,
through which drift great mountain-ranges of grey-white clouds. They
come up slowly, filling the firmament with their changing, shadowy
masses, like chains of rocks and Alps floating on the air, and slowly
drift away again. The sea has a narrow beach, with many crumbling
cliffs; quite close at hand loom sombre green pine-woods. With the gloom
of the pine-woods for a background, as it were half out of the cliffs
rises old Altseeborgen. It is a weather-beaten castle, at which the
writhing waves seem to gnaw; its three tall, uneven towers soar round
and massive into the sky. The broad road to the castle slants up from
the woods terrace-wise and leads to the esplanade at the back, where the
main entrance is. Round the castle the wide granite terraces are cut
into stairs, with their rugged balustrades, whose freestone is worn away
by the salt air. These terraces enjoy a more extensive view of the sea
as they rise higher, higher; and, seen from the topmost terrace, the sea
lies against the beach, to right and left, in one great, strangely
mobile expanse, a living element. Across the sea the south-winds blow
upon the castle; the pine-woods shelter it to some extent from the
northernly gales.

From the tallest tower an imposing standard flaps gaily in the air: two
yellow stripes and a white stripe between, with the dark patch of the
crenellated fortress which forms the arms of Gothland. It floats there
on the sunless morning like a smile in the sky; it swells and falls limp
again and then again lets itself be blown high up by the wind, which
comes swinging lustily over the water.

A young man and a girl are walking on the beach; they talk, smile, look
at each other. She is taller than he, with a very fair complexion; under
her little sailor-hat a few of her auburn tresses, tangled by the wind,
blow across her face; she keeps on smoothing them away. She wears a
simple blue serge skirt and a white blouse, with a broad leather belt
around her waist. Her dainty little feet, in their black-silk stockings
and yellow-leather shoes, are constantly uncovered by the wind. She
carelessly swings a pair of gloves in her hand.

The young man wears a light check summer suit and a straw hat. He is
short and slender; his black eyes have a look of gentle melancholy. He
appears to be telling the girl by his side a tale of travel; she
listens, with her smile.

Round about them, in spite of the wind, the atmosphere is full of peace.
Walking along the beach, they go by the castle, pass round behind it and
look up. From one of the windows somebody gaily waves a hand and calls
out something. They try to hear, with their hands to their ears, but
they shrug their shoulders: the wind has blown the words away. They wave
their hands again and walk on.

They do not go far, however, always along the beach. Yonder lies the
fishing-village, lie a couple of small villas, almost cottages. One of
them seems just to have been taken by a large family, for the
holiday-month no doubt; a hum of voices issues from it, children chase
one another along the beach; a tiny girl, in running, bumps against the
young man.

"Hullo there!" he says, pleasantly, with a laugh.

Laughing they walk on.

The children run along. A fisherman comes with his nets, grins cheerily
and mutters a greeting. A fat lady in the verandah has been watching the
young people inquisitively; she sees the fisherman touch his cap and
beckons to him:

"Who are that lady and gentleman?"

The fisherman points cheerily to Altseeborgen:

"From the castle."

"But who are they?" asks the lady, alarmed.

"Well, the gentleman is the Prince of Liparia and the young lady is an
Austrian princess," says the fisherman, as if it could not well be
anybody else.

The lady looks in dismay after the princely pair and then in despair at
her running children. The young couple are just turning back in their
walk; they are now laughing even more gaily than before and are
hastening a little towards the castle, as though they had delayed too
long. The lady, still pale, does not dare to offer excuses, but makes a
low bow; she receives a pleasant greeting in return.



2

The royal family of Gothland were in the habit of spending the whole
summer at Altseeborgen. The beach was particularly well-suited for
laying out a watering-place around the fishing-village, but King
Siegfried would never hear of this: the beach and the village were royal
domains; a few modest villas were all that he had granted permission to
build. Generally these were visited in the summer by two or three
middle-class families with their children. Altseeborgen should never
become a modern bathing-place, however excellent the fashionable world
might consider it as a means of summer display, lying as it did in the
immediate neighbourhood of the royal castle.

But the Gothlandic family made a point of guarding the freedom of their
summer lives. They lived there for four months, without
palace-etiquette, in the greatest simplicity. They formed a numerous
family; and there were always many visitors. The king attended to
state-affairs in homely fashion at the castle. His grandchildren would
run into his room while he was discussing important business with the
prime minister, who came down to Altseeborgen on certain days. He just
patted their flaxen curls and sent them away to play, with a caress.
Staying at the castle were the Crown-prince Gunther and the
Crown-princess Sofie, a German princess--Duke and Duchess of
Wendeholm--with their four children, a girl and three boys. Next to the
duke came Prince Herman; next to him Princess Wanda, twenty years of
age; next to her, the younger princes, Olaf and Christofel. In addition
there were always two old princesses, sisters of the king, widows of
German princes. From all the courts of Europe, which were as one great
family, different members came from time to time to stay, bringing with
them their respective _nuances_ of a different nationality, something
exotic in voice and manner, so far as all this was not merged in their
cosmopolitanism.

Othomar had been three months at sea with Herman; they had touched shore
in India, China, Japan and America. They had travelled incognito, so as
to escape all official receptions, and Othomar had borne no other title
than that of Prince Czykirski. The voyage had done Othomar much good: he
was even feeling so well that he had written to the Empress Elizabeth
that he would like to stay some time longer in the family-circle at
Altseeborgen, but that he would afterwards undertake his
long-contemplated journey to the European courts.

Their easy life in each other's company had done much to bring the
cousins closer together. Herman had learnt to see in Othomar, beneath
his stiffness and lack of ease, a young crown-prince who was afraid of
his future, but who possessed much reasonableness and was willing to
learn to acquiesce in life and to fortify himself for his coming yoke of
empire. He understood Othomar and felt sorry for him. He himself took a
vital pleasure in life: merely to breathe was an enjoyment; his
existence as a second son, with only his naval duties, which he loved by
heredity, as a descendant of the old sea-kings might well love them,
opened before him a prospect of nothing but continued, cloudless freedom
from care; that he was a king's son gave him nothing but satisfaction
and delight; and he appreciated his high estate with jovial pleasure,
skimming the cream from a chalice out of which Othomar in due time would
drink gall and wormwood. If at first he compared Othomar with his
brother, the Duke of Wendeholm--a crown-prince too, of Gothland
he--Herman now compared them no longer; his judgement had become more
reasonable: he understood that no comparison was possible. Liparia was a
tremendous, almost despotic empire; the people, especially in the south,
always very fickle, always kept in check by force, on account of their
childish uncertainty as to what, in their capriciousness, they would do
next. The Gothlanders, on the other hand, calmly liberal in temperament,
devoid of noisy vehemence, ranged themselves peacefully, with their
long-established, ample constitution, round King Siegfried, whom they
called the father of his country. That Gunther was not afraid of having
to wear the crown one day, was this a reason why Othomar should be
without his fear? Did Othomar not possess the gentler qualities, which
are valued in the narrow circle of intimate surroundings and arouse
esteem among a few sympathetic natures, rather than that fiercer
brilliancy of character, which makes its possessor stand out in clear
relief in high places and awakens admiration in the multitude? Was this
boy, with his soul full of scruples, his nostalgia after justice, his
yearning for love, his easily wounded sensitiveness, was he the son of
his ancestors, the descendant of Berengar the Strong, Wenceslas the
Cruel, son of the warlike Xaveria, or was he not rather the child of his
gentle mother alone?

It was not in Herman's way to reflect much and long on all this, but it
came to him suddenly, abruptly, like a new view that is opened out in a
brighter light. And what had been antipathy in him became compassion,
friendship and astonishment at the disposition of the universe, which
knew not what else to do with a soul like Othomar's but to crush it
beneath a crown.

The simple family-life at Altseeborgen worked on Othomar like a cure. He
felt himself reviving amid natural surroundings, his humanity developing
wide and untrammelled. Accustomed as he was to the ceremonial life of
the Imperial, with its court-etiquette strictly maintained by the
Emperor Oscar, he was at first surprised, but soon delighted by the
almost homely simplicity of his Gothlandic relations. In former years,
it is true, he had paid an occasional brief visit to Altseeborgen, but
had never stayed long enough to be able to count himself, as now, quite
one of themselves.

Othomar was at this moment the only visitor from abroad, except the
Archduchess Valérie, a niece of the Emperor of Austria. Did the young
people suspect anything, or not? Were their names coupled together by
the younger princes and princesses? Not so, to all outward seeming: only
once or twice had Princess Sofie or Princess Wanda found it necessary to
hush her young brothers with a glance. And yet it was with a serious
intention that the Queen of Gothland, in concert with the Emperor of
Liparia and Valérie's parents--the Archduke Albrecht and the Archduchess
of Eudoxie, who lived at Sigismundingen Castle--had brought the young
people together. The Emperor Oscar would certainly have preferred one of
the young Russian grand-duchesses, a niece of the Czar, for his
daughter-in-law; but the difference in religion remained an
insurmountable obstacle; and the emperor, despite his preference, had no
objection to the Austrian alliance.

Perhaps Othomar and Valérie divined this intention, but the secret
caused no constraint between them; they were both so accustomed to
hearing the names of well-known princes or princesses connected with
theirs and even to seeing them mentioned in the papers: announcements of
betrothals which were immediately contradicted; they had even jested
together about the number of times that public opinion had married them
to this one or to that, each time to somebody else; sometimes even the
news came as a surprise to themselves, which they found in the
newspapers and laughed at. They paid no heed therefore to the rare
mischievous remarks of Prince Olaf or Prince Christofel, sturdy lads of
seventeen and fifteen, who thought it great fun to tease. And all this
time Queen Olga, so sensible and reasonable, brought not the least
influence to bear upon them. She had invited them together, but she did
nothing more. Perhaps she observed silently how they behaved towards
each other and wrote just one letter on the subject to her sister, but
she kept quite outside the meshes which were weaving between their two
crowned lives. Yet it was difficult for her to stand aloof. She was fond
of Valérie and thought that this marriage would be in every way good.
But added to that came urgent letters from Sigismundingen and even from
Vienna, where they wished for nothing more eagerly than to see the young
archduchess Duchess of Xara. For this, apart from the natural
inclination of the Austrian court to set store by a renewed alliance
with Liparia, there were other reasons of a more intimate character.



3

The sun had appeared through the clouds in the afternoon and made the
grey of the sky and the water turn blue with the hazy blueness of a
northern summer. The sea glowed and put on scales of gold; the
weather-beaten castle stood blistering its broad granite pile in the
sun, as an old man does his back. The striped canvas awning was lowered
on the top terrace, which led into the great hall through three glass
doors. Rugs lay scattered over the ground. Princess Sofie and the
Archduchess Valérie sat in great wickerwork chairs, painting in
water-colours. From the hall sounded, monotonously, the soft exercises
of Princess Elizabeth, the crown-princess' eldest daughter, who was
practising. Princess Wanda sat on the ground, romping a trifle
boisterously with her youngest two nephews, Erik and Karl. On a long
wicker chair lay Prince Herman, with both legs up; next to him was a
little table heaped with newspapers and periodicals, some of which had
fallen to the ground; a great tumbler of sherry-cobbler stood on the
wicker ledge of his chair; the blue smoke rose from a cigarette between
his fingers.

Sofie and Valérie compared their sketches and laughed. They looked at
the sky, which was bisected by the awning: the clouds, woolly white,
surged one above the other; the sea was dazzling with its golden scales,
like a giant cuirass.

"What are you two painting there?" asked Herman, who was turning the
pages of an illustrated paper.

"Clouds," replied Valérie, "nothing but clouds. I have persuaded Sofie
to make studies of clouds with me. Presently, if you're not too lazy,
you must come and look at my album." She gave a little laugh. "It
contains nothing but clouds!"

"By Jove!" drawled Herman. "How very odd!..."

"Yes," said Sofie, dreamily, "clouds are very nice, but you never know
how to catch them: they change every instant."

"Erik," said Herman, "just ask Aunt Valérie to lend me her album."

"No, no," cried Wanda, "go and fetch it yourself, lazybones!..."

But Erik wanted to go; and there came a great struggle. Wanda hugged the
little fellow tight in her arms; Karl joined in: there was a general
romp and Wanda, laughing, fell sideways to the ground.

"But, Wanda!" said Sofie, reprovingly.

Valérie stood up and went to Herman:

"With all this, you're not seeing my clouds, you lazy boy. I suppose I
must take pity on you. Look...."

Herman now suddenly drew himself up and took the album:

"How funny!" he said. "Yellow and white and violet and pink. All
sunsets!"

"And sunrises. I dare say I see more of them than you do!"

"The things you see in clouds, Valérie! It's astonishing. How one person
differs from another! I should never take it into my head to go and
sketch clouds. You ought to come for a cruise with me one day; then you
could make whole collections of clouds."

"Why didn't you propose that earlier?" said Valérie, jestingly. "Then I
might have joined you and Xara."

"But where is Othomar?" said Herman.

Valérie said that she did not know....

Herman sipped his sherry-cobbler. Wanda wanted a taste, but Herman
refused and told her to ring for a glass for herself. Wanda insisted; he
seized her by the wrists.

"But Wanda!" Sofie repeated, reprovingly, languidly, drawing her hand
over her forehead and laying down her brush.

Wanda laughed gaily:

"But Wanda!" she mimicked.

And they all laughed at Sofie, including Sofie herself:

"Did I speak like that?" she asked, with her languid voice. "I don't
know: I get so sleepy here, so lazy...."

They were all making fun of Sofie, when voices sounded from the hall,
shrill, old voices. It was the two dowagers, with Othomar; the old
ladies were talking in a courtly, mincing way to the young prince, who
brought them chairs. The aunts had had a siesta after lunch; they now
made their reappearance, with tapestrywork in large reticules. All
greeted them with great respect, beneath which lurked a spark of
mischief.

"_Pardon, lieber Herzog_," murmured old Princess Elsa, the older of the
two, "I would rather have that little chair...."

Princess Marianne also wanted a small, straight chair; the old ladies
thanked Othomar with an obeisance for his gallantry, sat down stiffly
and began their embroidery: great coats-of-arms for chair-backs. They
were very stately, with clear-cut but wrinkled faces, grey _tours_ and
black lace caps; they wore crackling watered-silk gowns, of
old-fashioned cut. Now and then they exchanged a quick, sharp word, with
a sudden crackling movement of their sharp cockatoo-profiles; they gazed
thoughtfully for a moment out to sea, as though they were bound to see
something important arriving out of the distance; then they resumed
their work. Their old-fashioned, stately, tight-laced, shrivelled
figures formed a strange contrast with the easiness of the young people
in their simple serge summer suits: they made Princess Wanda's tangled
hair and rumpled blouse look perfectly disreputable.

A third old lady came sailing up; she seemed as though she were related
to the two dowagers, but was actually Countess von Altenburg, who used
to be mistress of the household to Princess Elsa. Behind her were two
footmen, carrying trays with coffee and pastry, the old princesses'
_goûter_. The countess made a stately curtsey before the young princes.

"The territory is occupied," whispered Herman to Valérie.

They had all sat down again and among themselves were teasing Othomar
with his three Fates, as they called them, unheard by the aunts or the
countess, who was rather deaf. A noisy babel of tongues ensued: the
aunts spoke German and screamed, to make themselves heard, something
about the calmness of the sea into the poor old ears of the countess,
who poured out the coffee and nodded that she understood. The younger
princes talked English for the most part; Herman sometimes spoke a word
or two of Liparian to Othomar; and the children, who had gone to play on
a lower terrace, chattered noisily in Gothlandic and French
indifferently.

The footmen had brought out afternoon tea and placed it before Princess
Sofie, when a lady-in-waiting appeared. She bowed to the young
crown-princess and said, in Gothlandic:

"Her majesty requests your royal highness to come to her in the small
drawing-room."

"Mamma has sent for me," said Princess Sofie, in English, rising from
her chair. "Wanda, will you pour out the tea? Children, will you go
upstairs and get dressed? Wanda, tell them again, will you?"

The crown-princess went through the hall, a great, round, dome-shaped
apartment, full of stags' antlers, elks' heads, hunting-trophies, and
then up a staircase. In the queen's anteroom the footman opened the door
for her. Queen Olga was sitting alone; she was some years older than her
sister, the Empress of Liparia, taller and more heavily built; her
features, however, had much in common with Elizabeth's, but were more
filled out.

"Sofie," she at once began, in German, "I have had a letter from
Sigismundingen...."

The Duchess of Wendeholm had sat down:

"Anything to do with Valérie?" she asked, in alarm.

"Yes," the queen said, with a reflective glance. "Poor child!..."

"But what is it, Mamma?"

"There, read for yourself...."

The queen handed the letter to her daughter-in-law, who read it
hurriedly. The letter was from the Archduchess Eudoxie, Valérie's
mother, written with a feverish, excited hand, and said, in phrases
which tried to seem indifferent but which betrayed a great satisfaction,
that Prince Leopold of Lohe-Obkowitz was at Nice with Estelle Desvaux,
the well-known actress, that he was proposing to resign his titular
rights in favour of his younger brother and that he would then marry his
mistress. The letter requested the queen or the crown-princess to tell
this to Valérie, in the hope that it would not prove too great a shock
to her. Further, the letter ended with violent attacks upon Prince
Leopold, who had caused such a scandal, but at the same time with
manifest expressions of delight that now perhaps Valérie would no longer
dream of becoming the lady of a domain measuring six yards square! The
archduke added a postscript to say that this was not a vague report but
a certainty and that Prince Leopold himself had told it to their own
relations at Nice, who had written to Sigismundingen.

"Has Valérie ever spoken to you about Prince Lohe?" asked the queen.

"Only once in a way, mamma," replied the Duchess of Wendeholm, handing
back the letter. "But we all know well enough that this news will be a
great blow to her. Is she not in the least prepared for it?"

"Probably not: you see, we had none of us heard or read anything about
it! Shall I tell her? Poor child!..."

"Shall I do so, mamma? As I told you, Valérie _has_ spoken to me...."

"Very well, you do it...."

The duchess reflected, looked at the clock:

"It is so late now: I'll tell her after dinner; we are none of us
dressed yet.... What do you think?"

"Very well then, after dinner...."

The crown-princess went out: it was time to hurry and dress. At seven
o'clock a loud, long bell sounded. They assembled in the hall; the
dining-room looked out with its large bow-windows upon the pine-forest.
It was a long table: King Siegfried, a hale old sovereign with a full,
grey beard; Queen Olga; the Crown-prince Gunther, tall, fair,
two-and-thirty; Princess Sofie and her children; Othomar, sitting
between his aunt and Valérie; Herman and Wanda; Olaf and Christofel; the
two dowagers with Countess von Altenburg; equerries, ladies-in-waiting,
chamberlains, Princess Elizabeth's governess, the little princes'
tutors....

The conversation was cheerful and unconstrained. The ladies wore simple
evening-frocks; the king was in dress-clothes, the younger princes and
equerries in dinner-jackets. The young princesses wore light summer
dresses of white serge or pink _mousseline-de-laine_; they had stuck a
flower or two from the conservatory into their waist-bands.

Valérie talked merrily; Herman once more teased her about her
cloud-sketches, but Othomar said that he admired them very much. Queen
Olga and Princess Sofie exchanged a glance and were quieter than the
others. The king also looked very thoughtfully at the young people.
After dinner the family dispersed; the crown-prince and Herman went for
a row on the sea, with the younger princes and the children, in two
boats. Wanda and Valérie, their arms wound around each other's waists,
strolled up and down along the front-terrace; the awning was already
drawn up for the night. The sea was still blue, the sky pearl-grey and
no longer so bright; above the horizon the sun still burnt ragged rents
in the widely scattered clouds.

The girls strolled about, laughed, looked at the two little boats on the
sea and waved to them. Very far away, a steamer passed, finely outlined,
with a dirty little ribbon of smoke. The young princes shouted, "Hurrah!
Hurrah!" and hoisted their little flag.

"Do look at those papers of Herman's!" said Valérie. "Aunt Olga hates
that untidiness...."

She pointed to all the magazines and newspapers which the servants had
forgotten to clear away. They lay over the long wicker chair, on the
table and on the ground.

"Shall I ring to have them cleared away?" asked Wanda.

"Oh, never mind!" said Valérie.

She herself picked up one or two papers, folded them, put them together;
Wanda again waved to the boats with her handkerchief.

"My God!" she suddenly heard Valérie murmur, faintly.

She looked round: the young archduchess had turned pale and sunk into a
chair. She had dropped the papers again; one of them she held tight,
crushing it convulsively; she looked down at it with eyes vacant with
terror:

"It's not true," she stammered. "They always lie.... They lie!"

"What is it, Valérie?" cried Wanda, frightened.

At this moment the Duchess of Wendeholm came out through the hall:

"Valérie!" she called.

The girl did not hear. The duchess came nearer:

"Valérie!" she repeated. "Could I talk to you for a moment, alone?"

The archduchess raised her pale little face. She seemed not to hear, not
to understand.

"My God!" whispered the duchess to Wanda. "Does she know?"

"What?" asked Wanda.

But a footman also came through the hall; he carried a silver tray with
letters. There were a couple of letters for the duchess; he presented
them to her first; then one to Valérie. In spite of her blurred eyes,
the archduchess seemed to see the letter; she snatched at it greedily.
The man withdrew.

"O ... God!..." she stammered at last.

She pulled the letter from the envelope, half-tearing it in her
eagerness, and read with crazy eyes. Sofie and Wanda looked at her in
dismay.

"O ... God!" screamed the archduchess in agony. "It's true ... it's true
... it's true! ... Oh!..."

She rose, trembling, looked about her with wild eyes and threw herself
madly into the duchess' arms. A loud sob burst from her throat, as
though a pistol-shot had gone through her heart.

"He writes it to me himself!" she cried out. "Himself! It's true what
the paper says.... Oh!..."

And she broke down, with her head on Sofie's shoulder. Sofie led her
back into the hall; Valérie allowed herself to be dragged along like a
child. Wanda followed, crying, wringing her hands, without knowing why.
From the boats, which were now very far away, the young princes waved
once more; little Princess Elizabeth even tried to call out something;
she could not understand why Wanda and Valérie were such muffs as not to
wave back.

The sun sank on the horizon; the glowing clouds were all masked in
little frothy, gold-rose mists with shining edges; but evening fell, the
sky grew dark: one by one the little pink clouds melted away; still one
last cloud, as though with two wings formed of the last rays of the
setting sun, flickered up softly, as if to fly, and then suddenly sank,
with broken wings, into the violet dusk. The first stars twinkled,
brightly visible.



4

Next morning, very early, at half-past five, the Archduchess Valérie
climbed down the terraces of Altseeborgen. She had merely told her maid
that she would be back in time for breakfast, which the family took
together. Resolutely, as though impulsively, she descended terrace after
terrace. She met nobody but a couple of servants and sentries. She
walked along the bottom terrace to the sea; there was a little square
harbour, cut out of the granite, where the rowing- and sailing-boats lay
moored in a boat-house. She chose a long, narrow gig and unhooked it
from its iron chain. She took her seat adroitly and grasped the sculls:
a few short strokes took her clear of the little harbour and out to sea.

A south-westerly wind was blowing over the sea. The water was strangely
grey, as though it were mirroring in its oval the uncertain sky above: a
dull-white sky in which hung dirty shreds of clouds blown asunder. The
horizon was not visible; light mists floated over it, blotting out the
division between sea and sky with smeared tints. The wind blew up
strongly.

Valérie removed her little sailor-hat; and her hair blew across her
face. She had intended to row to the fishing-village, but she at once
felt that it was beyond her strength to work up against the wind. So she
let herself go with the wind. For a moment she thought of the weather,
the wind, the sky; then she cast aside all thought. She pulled sturdily
at the sculls.

Though the sea was comparatively calm, the boat was constantly swinging
over the smooth back of a wave and then sinking down again. Splashes of
spray flew up. When Valérie, after a little while, looked round, she was
a trifle startled to see Altseeborgen receding so far from her. She
hesitated once more, but soon let herself go again....

On leaving the castle, she had had no thought, only an impulse to act.
Now, with her very action, thought rose up again within her, as though
roused from its lethargy by the wind. Valérie's eyes stared before her,
wide and burning, without tears.

It was true, it was real. This was the wheel continually revolving in
her thoughts. It was true, it was real. It was in the papers which
Herman had been skimming through for hours; Sofie had told her; his own
letter informed her of it.

She no longer had that letter, it was destroyed. But every word was
still branded on her imagination.

It was his letter, written in his own words, in his style. How she had
once worshipped his every word! But these words, were they indeed his?
Did he write like that? Could she picture to herself that he would ever
speak thus to her?

He would not like to make her unhappy by loving her against the wish of
her parents, her imperial relations. It was true, of course, that he was
not her equal in birth. His house was of old nobility, but nothing more.
She was of the blood royal and imperial. He was grateful to her for
stooping to him and wishing to raise him to her level. But it was not
right to do this. The traditions of mankind should be inviolate: it was
not right, especially for them, the great ones of the earth, to act
against tradition. They should be grateful for the love which had
brought happiness to their souls, but they must not expect more. It was
not the wish of Vienna that they should love each other. Would he ever
be able to make her entirely happy, would she, if they were married and
retired with their love to a foreign country, never look back with
yearning and feel homesick for the splendour from which he had dragged
her down? For, if they married, he would be still less her equal than he
was before, thanks to his emperor's disfavour. No, no, it could not be.
They must part. They were not born for each other. For a short moment
they had shared the glorious illusion that they were indeed born for
each other; that was all. He would be grateful to her for that memory
all his life long.

With a breaking heart he took leave of her: farewell, farewell! It was
all over: his proud career, his life, his all. He begged her to forgive
him. He knew that he was too weak to love her against the will of his
sovereign. And for that he begged her to forgive him. She would hear a
woman's name mentioned in connection with his own: for this also he
begged her pardon. He did not love that woman, but she was willing to
console him in his grief....

The wind had suddenly increased in violence, with heavy, regular blasts.
The sky was dark overhead. The waves rolled more wildly against the boat
and swung it up on their backs as it were on the backs of sleek
sea-monsters. The spray had wetted Valérie. She looked round.
Altseeborgen lay very far away, scarcely within sight; she could just
see the flag defined against the sky like a tiny ribbon.

"I must be mad," she thought. "Where am I going to?... I must turn
back...."

But it was difficult to bring the boat round. Each time the wind beat it
off again and drove it farther. Despair came upon Valérie, body and
soul, moral and physical despair.

"Well, let it be," she thought.

She let the sculls drop, drifted farther away, away. And why not? Why
should she not let herself drift away? Without him, without him ... she
could not live! Her happiness was ruined; what was life without
happiness? For she wanted happiness, it was essential to her....

She sat half-huddled in the boat. The sculls flapped against the sides.
A wave broke over her. Her eyes stared burning before her, into the
distance.

A second wave broke; her feet were wet through. She slowly drew herself
up, looked at the angry sea, at the lowering sky. Then she grasped the
sculls again, with a sigh of pain:

"Come on!" she thought.

She rose higher and sank lower. But with a frantic effort she made the
boat turn:

"It _shall!_" she bit out between her teeth. She kept the boat's head to
the wind and began to row. It _shall_. She wrinkled her forehead,
gnashed her jaws, grated her teeth together. She felt her muscles
straining. And she rowed on, up against the wind. With her whole body
she struggled up against the stiff breeze. It _shall_. It _must_. And
she grew accustomed to the exertion; she rowed on mechanically. So much
accustomed did she grow to it that she began to sob as she rowed....

O God, how she had loved him, with all her soul! Why? Could she tell?
Oh, if he had only been a little stronger, she would have been so too!
What mattered to them the disfavour of her uncle the emperor, so long as
they loved each other? What the fury of their parents, so long as they
loved each other? What did they care for all Europe, so long as they
cared for each other? Nothing, nothing at all.... If he had only dared
to grasp happiness for them, when it fluttered before them, as it
flutters only once before mortal men! But he had not dared, he felt
himself too weak to risk that grasp, he acknowledged it himself.... And
now ... now it was over, over, over....

As she sobbed she rowed on. Her arms seemed to swell, to burst asunder.
A few thick drops of rain fell. What was she really rowing on for? The
sea meant death, release from life, oblivion, the extinction of
scorching pain. Then why did she row on?

"O God, I don't know!" she answered herself aloud. "But I must! I
must!..."

And with successive jerks of her strong imperial body she worked herself
back, towards life....

But at Altseeborgen they were in great alarm. It was three hours since
Valérie had left the castle. The maid was unable to say more than that
her highness had assured her she would be back to breakfast. The
sentries had seen her go down the terraces, but had paid no further heed
to the direction which her highness had taken. They thought it was
towards the woods, but they were not sure....

Every minute the alarm increased; no suspicion was uttered, but they all
read it in one another's eyes. King Siegfried ordered that they should
themselves set out and search quietly, so as to attract no attention
among the household and the people of the village. There could be no
question of her having lost her way: the pine-woods were not extensive
and Valérie knew Altseeborgen well. And there was nothing besides the
woods, the beach and the village.

The king and the crown-prince themselves went into the woods, with an
equerry. Herman and his younger brother Olaf went into the village, to
the left; Othomar and Christofel along the sea, to the right. The queen
remained behind with the princesses, in palpitating uncertainty. For all
their efforts to bear up and to eat their breakfasts, a sort of rumour
had already spread through the castle.

Othomar had gone with Christofel along the rocky shore; the rain began
to come down, in hard, thick drops.

"What are we really looking for here?" asked Othomar, helplessly.

"Perhaps she has thrown herself into the sea!" answered the young
prince.

And for the first time of his life, he felt afraid of those depths,
which meant death. Unconsciously they went on, on, on....

"Let's go back," said Othomar.

Nevertheless they continued to go on; they could not give in....

Then a scream sounded over the water: they started, but at first saw
nothing.

"Did you hear?" asked Christofel, turning pale, thinking of ghostly
legends of the sea.

"A sea-mew, I expect," said Othomar, listening, however.

The scream was repeated.

"There, don't you see something?" asked Christofel, pointing.

He pointed to a long streak that came surging over the water.

Othomar shook his head:

"No, that's impossible!" he said. "It's a fisher-lad."

"No, no, it's a rowing-boat!" cried Christofel.

They said nothing more, they ran along. The streak became plainer: a
gig; the scream rang out again, piercingly.

"My God!... Valérie!" shouted Othomar.

She called back a few words; he only partly understood them. She was
rowing not far from the shore towards the castle. Othomar took off his
coat, his shoes, his socks, turned up his trousers, his shirt-sleeves.

"Take those with you," he cried to Christofel, "and go back to the
castle, tell them...."

He ran on his bare feet over the rocks and into the sea, flung himself
into the water, swam out to the boat. It was very difficult for him to
climb into the little gig without capsizing it. It lurched madly to
right and left; however, with a single, quick, light movement, Othomar
managed to jump in.

"I give up...." said Valérie, faintly.

She let go the sculls; he seized them and rowed on. For an instant she
fell against him, but then sat up straight, so as not to hamper him.



5

The young archduchess did not appear at luncheon; she was asleep. Not
long before dinner--it was raining and the queen was taking tea in the
hall with the princesses, the aunts, the children--she appeared. She
looked rather pale; her face was a little drawn, her eyes strangely wide
and burning. She was wearing a simple summer costume of some soft,
pale-lilac material, with two white ribbons tied round her waist; the
colour went well with her strange hair, which now looked brown and then
again seemed auburn. The queen held out her hand to Valérie, shook her
head and said:

"You naughty girl! How you frightened us!"

Valérie kissed the queen on the forehead:

"Forgive me, aunt. The wind was so strong, I could hardly make way
against it. I oughtn't to have gone. But I felt a need ... for
movement."

The queen looked at her anxiously:

"How are you feeling now?"

"Oh, very well, aunt! Rather stiff; and a little headache. It's nothing.
Only my hands are terribly blistered: just look...."

And she laughed.

The old aunts asked for copious details of what had happened: it was
difficult to make them understand. Wanda sat down between the two of
them, told them the story; their sharp cockatoo-profiles kept on wagging
up and down at Wanda, in astonishment. The aunts pressed their hands to
their hearts and looked at Valérie with terror in their eyes; she smiled
to them pleasantly. When Countess von Altenburg appeared, the aunts took
the old mistress of the household between them and in their turn told
her the story, screeching it into the countess' poor old ears. King
Siegfried entered; he went up to Valérie, who rose, took her head in his
hands, looked at her and shook his grey head; nevertheless he smiled.
Then he looked at his sisters; he was always amused at them; they were
still in the middle of their story to the countess and kept on taking
the words out of each other's mouths.

"Come, it was not so dreadful as all that!" said the king, interrupting
them. "It's very nice to go rowing like that, once in a way, and an
excellent remedy for a sick-headache. You ought to try it, Elsa, when
you have one of yours."

The old princess looked at him with a sugary smile; she never knew
whether her brother meant a remark of this kind or not. She shook her
stately head slowly from side to side:

"No, _lieber Siegfried_, that is more than we can do. _Unsere liebe
Erzherzogin_ is still a young thing!..."

Othomar, Gunther and Herman entered: they had been playing billiards;
the young princes followed them. Valérie gave a little shiver, rose and
went up to Othomar:

"I thank you, Xara," she said. "I thank you a thousand, thousand times!"

"But what for?" replied Othomar, simply. "I did no more than row you a
bit of the way back. There was no danger. For, if you had been too tired
to go on rowing, you could always have jumped into the sea and swum
ashore. You're a strong swimmer. You would only have lost the boat."

She looked at him:

"That's true," she said. "But I never thought of it. I was ...
bewildered perhaps. I should not have done that; I had a fixed idea that
I had to row back. If I hadn't been able to keep on rowing, I should
certainly.... Don't refuse my thanks, I beg of you: accept them."

She put out her hand; he pressed it. He looked up at her with quiet
surprise and failed to understand her. He did not doubt but that she had
that morning left the castle with the intention of committing suicide.
Had she felt remorse on the water, or had she not dared? Did she want to
live on and did she therefore turn back? Was she so shallow that she had
already recovered from the great grief which had crushed her the night
before? Did she realize that life rolls with indifferent chariot-wheels
over everything, whether joy or pain, that is part of ourselves and that
it is best to care for nothing and also to feel nothing? What of all
this applied to her? He was unable to fathom it. And once more he saw
himself standing perplexed before the question of love! What was this
feeling worth, if it weighed so little in a woman's heart? How much did
it weigh with him for Alexa? What was it then?... Or was it something
... something quite different?

At dinner Valérie talked as usual and he continued not to understand
her. It irritated him, his want of penetration of the human heart: how
could he develop it? A future ruler ought to be able to see things at a
glance.... And suddenly, perhaps merely because of his desire for human
knowledge, the thought arose within him that she was concealing her
emotions, that perhaps she was still suffering intensely, but that she
was pretending and bearing up: was she not a princess of the blood? They
all learnt that, they of the blood, to pretend, to bear up! It was bred
in their bones. He looked at her askance, as he sat next to her: she was
quietly talking across him to the queen. He did not know whether he had
guessed right and he still hesitated between the two thoughts: was she
bearing up, or was she shallow? But, yet he was happy at being able to
hesitate about her and to refute that first suspicion of shallowness by
his second thought. He was happy in this, not solely because of Valérie,
that she should be better than he had thought at first; he was happy
especially for the general conclusion which he was able to draw: that a
person is mostly better, thinks more deeply, cherishes nobler feelings
than he allows to appear in the everyday commonplaces of life, which
compel him to occupy himself with momentary trifles and phrases. A
delicate satisfaction took possession of him that he had thought this
out so, a contentment that he had discovered something beautiful in
life: a beautiful secret. Everybody knew it perhaps, but nobody let it
be perceived. Oh yes, people were good; the world was good, in its
essence! Only a strange mystery compelled it to seem different, a
strange tyranny of the universal order of things.

He glanced around the long table. Every face wore a look of kindness and
sympathy. He was attached to his uncle so calm, gentle and strong, with
the seeming dogged silence of his Norse character, with his tranquil
smile and now and then a little gleam of fun, aimed especially at the
old aunts, but also at the children and even at the equerries, the
ladies-in-waiting. He knew that his uncle was a thinker, a philosopher;
he would have liked to have a long discussion with him on points of
philosophy. He was fond also of his aunt, a first-rate queen: what a lot
she did for her country, what a number of charities she called into
existence; a first-rate mother: how sensibly she performed her difficult
task, the bringing up of royal children! She was more beloved in her
country than was his mother, whom yet he adored, in hers; she had more
tact, less fear, less haughtiness also towards the crowd. It should
perhaps have been the other way about: his mother queen here, her sister
empress yonder....

And the crown-prince, with his simple manliness; Herman, with his
joviality; the younger brothers, with their vigorous, boyish chaff: how
fond he was of them! Sofie, Wanda, the children: how he liked them all!
He even liked the aunts and the devoted old mistress of the household.
Oh, the world was good, people were good! And Valérie was not
indifferent, but suffered in quiet silence, as a princess of the blood
must suffer, with unclouded eyes and a smile!

After dinner Queen Olga took Othomar's arm:

"Come with me for a moment," she said.

The rain had ceased; a footman opened the French windows. Behind the
dining-room lay a long terrace looking upon the woods. The queen put her
arm in Othomar's and began to walk up and down with him:

"And so you are going to leave us?" she asked.

He looked at her with a smile:

"You know I am, aunt; with much regret. I shall often long for
Altseeborgen, for all of you. I feel so much at home in your circle. But
yet I am anxious to see mamma again: it's nearly four months since I saw
her last."

"And are you feeling better?"

"How could I but feel better, aunt? The voyage with Herman made me ever
so much stronger; and living here with you has been a delightful
after-cure. A delightful holiday."

"But your holiday will soon be over. Will you now be able to play your
part again?"

He smiled, while his sad eyes expressed calm resignation:

"Certainly, aunt. Life can't be always holidays. I should think I had
had my fill of them, doing nothing for six weeks except lie on the sand,
or in the woods, or in that most comfortable wicker chair of Herman's!"

"Have you done nothing besides?" she said, playfully.

"How do you mean?"

"Saved Valérie's life, for instance?"

He gave a slight movement of gentle impatience: "But, aunt, I didn't
really. I suppose the papers will go and say I did, but there was really
no saving in the matter. Valérie knows how to swim and she was close to
the shore."

"I've had a letter from papa, Othomar."

"From papa?"

"Yes.... Have you never thought of ... Valérie?"

He reflected for a second:

"Perhaps," he laughed.

"Do you feel no affection for her?"

"Certainly, aunt.... I thought papa preferred the Grand-duchess Xenia?"

The queen shrugged her shoulders:

"There's the question of her religion, you know. And papa would be just
as glad of an Austrian alliance.... How do you propose to make the
journey? And when do you start?"

"Ducardi and the others will be here this week. Towards the end of the
week. First to Copenhagen, London, Brussels, Berlin and then to Vienna."

"And to Sigismundingen."

"Yes, Sigismundingen, if papa wishes."

"But what do you wish, Othomar?"

He looked at her gently, smiling, shrugged his shoulders:

"But, aunt, what wish have I in the matter?"

"Could you grow fond of Valérie?"

"I think so, aunt; I think she is very sweet and very capable and
thorough."

"Yes, that she certainly is, Othomar! Would you not speak to her before
you go?"

"Aunt...."

"Why shouldn't you?"

"Aunt, I can't do that. I am only staying a few days longer, and ..."

"Well?"

"Valérie has had a great sorrow. She cannot but still be suffering under
it. Think, aunt, it was yesterday. Good God, yesterday!... And to-day she
was so calm, so natural.... But it must be so, mustn't it? She must
still be suffering very severely. She went on the sea this morning, in
this weather: we don't know, do we, aunt, but we all think the same
thing! Perhaps we are quite mistaken. Things are often different from
what they seem. But, however that may be, she is certainly in distress.
And so I can't ask her, now...."

"It's a pity, as you're here together. A thing of this sort is often
settled at a distance. If it was arranged here, you would perhaps not
need to make the journey."

"But, aunt, papa was so bent upon it!"

"That's true; but then nothing was yet decided."

"No, aunt, let me make the journey. For in any case it's impossible to
arrange things here. If papa himself asked me, I should tell him ...
that it was impossible."

"Papa does ask you, Othomar, in his letter to me."

He seized her hands:

"Aunt, in that case, write to him and say that it's impossible, at this
moment ... oh, impossible, impossible! Let us spare her, aunt. If she
becomes my wife, she will still become so while she loves another. Will
that not be terrible enough for her, when it is decided months hence?
Therefore let us spare her now. You feel that too, as a woman, don't
you? There are no affairs of state that make it necessary for my
marriage to take place in such a hurry."

"Yet papa wishes you to marry as soon as possible. He wants a
grandson...."

He made no reply; a look of suffering passed over his face. The queen
perceived it:

"But you're right," she replied, giving way. "It would be too cruel.
Valérie, I may tell you, is bearing up wonderfully. That's how a future
Empress of Liparia ought to be...."

He still made no reply and walked silently beside her; her arm lay in
his; she felt his arm tremble:

"Come," she said, gently, "let us go in; walking up and down like this
is fatiguing...."



6

Ducardi, Dutri, Leoni and Thesbia arrived at Altseeborgen; they were to
accompany Othomar on his official journey through Europe.

It was one of the last days, in the morning, when Othomar was walking
with Herman towards the woods. The sun was shining, the woods were
fragrant, the foot slid over the smooth pine-needles. The princes sat
down on the ground, near a great pool of water; around them rose the
straight pine-trunks, with their knotty peaks of side-branches; the sky
faded into the distance with blue chinks showing between the projecting
foliage of needles.

Herman leant against a tree-trunk; Othomar stretched himself flat on his
back, with his hands beneath his head:

"It will soon be over now," he said, softly.

Herman made no reply, but mechanically swept the pine-needles together
with his hand. Nor did Othomar speak again; he swallowed his last
moments of relaxation and repose in careful draughts, each draught a
pure joy that would never return. In the woods a stillness reigned as of
death, as though the earth were uninhabited; the melancholy of things
that are coming to an end hung about the trees.

Suddenly Othomar took Herman's hand and pressed it:

"Thank you," he said.

"What for?" asked Herman.

"For the pleasure we have had together. Mamma was right: I did not know
you, Herman...."

"Nor I you, dear fellow."

"It has been a pleasant time. How delightfully we travelled together,
like two tourists! How grand and glorious India was, don't you think?
And Japan, how curious! I never cared much for hunting; but, when I was
with you, I understood it and felt the excitement of it: I shall never
forget our tiger-hunt! The eyes of the brute, the danger facing you:
it's invigorating. At a moment like that, you feel yourself becoming
primitive, like the first man. The look of one of those tigers drives
away a lot of your hesitation. That's another danger, which mamma is
always so afraid of: oh, how enervating it is; it eats up all your
energy!... And the nights on the Indian Ocean, on board our _Viking_.
That great wide circle around you, all those stars over your head. How
often we sat looking at them, with our legs on the bulwarks!... Perhaps
it's a mistake to sit dreaming so long, but it rests one so, it rests
one so! I shall never forget it, never...."

"Well, old chap, we must do it again."

"No, one never does anything again. What's done is done. Nothing
returns, not a single moment of our lives. Later on it is always
different...."

He looked round about him, as though some one might be listening; then
he whispered:

"Herman, I have something to tell you."

"What is it?"

"Something to confide to you. But first tell me: that time with the
tiger, you didn't think me a great coward, did you?"

"No, certainly not!"

"Well, I'm a coward for all that. I'm frightened, always frightened. The
doctors don't know it, because I never tell them. But I always am...."

"But of what, my dear chap?"

"Of something inside myself. Look here, Herman, I'm so afraid ... that I
shall not be able to stick it out. That at a given moment of my life I
shall be too weak. That suddenly I shall not be able to act and then,
then ..."

He shuddered; they look at each other.

"It won't do," he continued, mechanically, as though strengthened by
Herman's glance. "I shall fight against it, against that dread of
mine.... Do you believe in presentiments?"

"Yes, inversely: mine always turn out the opposite!"

"Then I hope that my presentiment won't come true either."

"But what is it?"

"That within the year ... one of us ... at Lipara ... will be dead."

Herman stared at him fixedly. For all his manliness and his muscular
strength, there lay deep down within him a certain heritage of the
superstition that comes murmuring from the sea as with voices of distant
prophecy, a superstition lulled by the beautiful legends of their
Gothlandic sea, which, syren-like, sings strange, mystic fairy-tales.
Perhaps he had never until this moment felt that some of it flowed in
his rich blood; and he tried to shake it off as nonsense:

"But Othomar, do be rational!" he said.

"I can do nothing to prevent it, Herman. I don't think about it, but I
feel little sharp stings, like thoughts suddenly springing up. And
lately ... oh, lately, it has been worse; it has become a dream, a
nightmare! I was walking through the shopping-streets of Lipara and from
all the shops came black people and they measured out bales of black
crape, with yard-measures, till the streets were filled with it and the
crape lay in the town as though in clouds and surged over the town like
a mass of black muslin. It made everything dark: the sun could not shine
through it and everything lay in shadow. The people did not seem to
recognize me and, when I asked what all that crape was for, they
whispered in my ears, 'Hush, hush, it's ... it's for the Imperial!' ...
O Herman, then I woke and I was damp with perspiration and it was as
though I still heard it echoing after me: 'For the Imperial, it's for
the Imperial!'"

Herman got up; he was a little nervous:

"Come," said he, "shall we go?... Dreams: don't pay any attention to
dreams, Othomar!"

Othomar also rose:

"No, I oughtn't to pay attention to them," he repeated, in a strange
tone. "I never used to."

"Othomar," Herman began, decidedly, as though he wished to say
something.

"Don't talk to me for a minute; let me be for a moment," Othomar
interrupted, quickly, anxiously.

They walked through the woods in silence. Othomar looked about him,
strangely, looked at the ground. Herman compressed his lips tightly and
puckered up his forehead: he was annoyed. But he said nothing. In a few
minutes Othomar's strange glances grew calmer and quieted down into
their usual gentle melancholy.

Then he gave a little sigh, as if he were catching his breath:

"Don't be angry," he said, putting his arm through Herman's.

His voice had resumed its usual tone.

"Perhaps it's as well that I have told you; now perhaps it will leave
me. So don't be angry, Herman.... I promise you I shan't talk like that
again and I shall do my best also not to think like that any more. But,
when I have anything on my mind, I must tell it to somebody. And surely
that's much better than for ever keeping silent about it! And then, you
see, soon I shall have no more time to think of such things: to-morrow
we shall be at Copenhagen and then life will resume its normal course.
How can I have talked so queerly? How did I take it into my head? Even I
can't remember. It seems very silly now, even to myself."

He gave a little laugh and then, earnestly:

"After all, I'm glad that we have had a talk by ourselves, that I have
been able to thank you. We're friends now, aren't we?"

"Yes, of course we're friends," replied Herman, laughing in the midst of
his annoyance. "But all the same I shall never know you thoroughly!"

"Don't say that just because of a single presentiment, which I think
foolish myself. What else is there in me that's puzzling?..."

"No, there's nothing else!" Herman assented. "You're a good chap. I
don't know how it has come about, but I like you very much...."

They left the woods; the sea lay before them. Like life itself, it lay
before them, with all the mystery of its depths, wherein a multiple soul
seemed to move, rounding wave upon wave. Nameless and innumerable were
its changes of colour, its moods of incessant movement; and it spewed a
foam of passion on its fiercely towering crests. But this passion was
merely its superficial manifestation, the exuberance of its endless
vitality: from its depths there murmured, in the inimitable melodies of
its millions of voices, the mystery of its soul, as it were a glory
which the sky above alone knew.



7

"TO HIS IMPERIAL HIGHNESS THE DUKE OF XARA,
       "OSBORNE HOUSE, ISLE OF WIGHT.

                             "IMPERIAL,
                                 "LIPARA,
                      "--_September_, 18--.

"DEAR SON,

"It was a great pleasure to receive your letter, telling us of the
cordial welcome which you met with first at Copenhagen and now in
England. We must however express our surprise at what Aunt Olga wrote to
us and our regret that you did not act according to our wishes; the
Emperor of Austria and the Archduke Albrecht express the same regret in
their letters to us. We presume that we did not express ourselves
definitely enough in our letter to Aunt Olga: otherwise we cannot
imagine why she did not urge you more strongly to ask the Archduchess
Valérie for an interview and to speak to her of the important matter
which we all at this moment have so much at heart. You would then have
been able to announce your engagement _sous cachet_ at the courts which
you are now visiting; and the betrothal could have been celebrated, at
the conclusion of journey, at Sigismundingen. Whereas now you have
probably placed yourself in a false position towards our friends Their
Majesties of Denmark and of England, as all the newspapers are speaking
of a possible betrothal to the Archduchess Valérie and the press is
already so kind as to discuss the _pros_ and _cons_ of this alliance in
a loud voice. Your journey, however, would have had to take place _in
any case_, as it had already been so long announced--your illness
intervened to postpone it--and as it is therefore nothing more than an
act of courtesy towards our friends.

"Once again, your neglect to act in accordance with our wishes causes us
great regret. We perceive in you, Othomar, a certain tendency towards
_bourgeois_ hypersensitiveness, which we hope you will learn to master
with all the strength you possess. Few of us have in this life escaped a
sorrow such as Prince von Lohe-Obkowitz has caused your future bride,
but it remains an entirely personal and subordinate feeling and should
not be allowed to interfere _in the least_ with affairs of such great
political importance as the marriage of a future emperor of Liparia. The
archduchess will doubtless, when she is older, learn to look at this in
the same light; and we hope that she will very soon realize that her
affection for Prince Lohe could never have brought her happiness, as it
would have caused a rupture with his imperial majesty her uncle and with
all her relations.

"Master yourself, Othomar, we ask and urge. You sometimes have ideas and
entertain proposals which are not those of a ruler. We have noticed this
more than once or twice: among other occasions, when you visited Zanti
at Vaza. We did not like to reproach you with this at the time, as we
were otherwise very well pleased with you. Your dearest wish will no
doubt be that we shall always remain so.

"We hope therefore to see you three weeks hence at Sigismundingen, where
the Archduchess Valérie will by then have returned from Altseeborgen to
meet you and where we shall also meet the Emperor of Austria.

"It is our fervent hope that the long voyage with Herman will have done
you much good and that your wedding will take place at Altara _as soon
as possible_. This glad prospect affords us a pleasant diversion from
our difficulties with the army bill, which is encountering such stubborn
opposition in the house of deputies, though we hope for all that to
succeed in carrying it, as it is essential that our army should be
increased.

"We cordially embrace you.

                                                             "OSCAR."



CHAPTER V



1

It was after the state banquet in the castle at Sigismundingen, where
the imperial families of Liparia and Austria were assembled to celebrate
the betrothal of the Duke of Xara and the Archduchess Valérie. It was in
September: the day had been sultry and in the evening the oppressive
heat still hung brooding in the air.

Dinner was just over and the imperial procession returned through a long
corridor to the reception-rooms. All the balcony-windows of the
brightly-lighted gallery stood open; beneath, as in an abyss of river
landscape, flowed the Danube, rolling against the rocks, while above it
towered the castle with its innumerable little pointed turrets. The
mountain-tops were defined in a sombre, violet amphitheatre against the
paler sky, which was incessantly lit with electric flashes, as of
noiseless lightning. The wood stood gloomy and black, shadowy, sloping
up with the peaked tops of its fir-trees against the mountains; in the
distance lay small houses, huddled in the dusk of the evening, like some
straggling hamlet, with here and there a yellow light.

The Emperor of Liparia gave his arm to the mother of the bride, the
Archduchess Eudoxie; then followed the Emperor of Austria with the
Empress of Liparia, the Archduke Albrecht with the Empress of Austria,
Othomar with Valérie....

Valérie, lightly pressing Othomar's arm, withdrew with him from the
procession:

"It was so warm in the dining-room; you will excuse me," she said to
Othomar's sister, the Archduchess of Carinthia, who was following with
one of her Austrian cousins.

Valérie's smile requested the archduchess to go on. The others followed:
the august guests, the equerries, the ladies-in-waiting; they smiled to
the betrothed imperial couple, who stood in one of the open
window-recesses to let them pass.

They remained alone in the gallery, before the open window:

"I need air," said Valérie, with a sigh.

He made no reply. They stood together in silence, gazing at the evening
landscape. He was wearing the uhlan uniform of the Austrian regiment
which he commanded; and a new order glittered amongst the others on his
breast: the Golden Fleece of Austria. She seemed to have grown older
than she was at Altseeborgen, in her pink-silk evening-dress, with wide,
puffed sleeves of very pale-green velvet, a tight-curled border of white
ostrich-feathers edging the low-cut bodice and the train.

"Shall I leave you alone for a little, Valérie?" he asked, gently.

She shook her head, smiling sadly. Her bosom seemed to heave with
uncontrollable emotion.

"Why, Othomar?" she asked. "I am lonely enough at nights, with my
thoughts. Leave me alone with them as little as you can...."

She suddenly held out her hand to him:

"Will you forgive your future empress her broken heart?" she asked,
suddenly, with a great sob.

And her pale, shrunken face turned full towards him, with two eyes like
those of a stricken doe. An irrepressible feeling of pity caused
something to well up unexpectedly in his soul; he squeezed her hand and
turned away, so as not to weep.

He looked out of the window. Some of the pointed towers, visible from
here, rose with an air of sombre romance against the sky, which was
luminous with electricity. Below them, romantically, murmured the
Danube. The mountains were like the landscape in a ballad. But no
ballad, no romance echoed between their two hearts. The prose of the
inevitable necessity was the only harmony that united them. But this
harmony also united them in reality, brought them together, made them
understand each other, feel and live at one with each other. They were
now for a minute alone and their eyes frankly sought the depths of each
other's souls. There was no need for pretence between these two: each
saw the other's sorrow lying shivering and naked in the other's heart.

It was not the riotous passion of despair that they beheld. They saw a
gentle, tremulous sadness; they looked at it with wide, staring eyes of
anguish, as children look who think they see a ghost. For them that
ghost issued from life itself: life itself became for them a ghostly
existence. They themselves were spectres, though they know that they
were tangible, with bodies. What were they?

Dream-beings, with crowns; they lived and bowed and acted and smiled as
in a dream, because of their crowns. They did not exist: a vagueness did
indeed suggest in their dream-brains that something might exist, in
other laws of nature than those of their sphere, but in their sphere
they did not exist....

His hand was toying mechanically with some papers that lay near him, on
the mirror-bracket between two of the window-recesses; they were
illustrated periodicals, doubtless left there by some chamberlain. He
took one up, to while their sad silence, and opened it. The first thing
that he saw was their own portraits:

"Look," he said.

He showed them to her. They now turned over the pages together, saw the
portraits also of their parents, a drawing of the castle, a corner of
Sigismundingen Park. Then together they read the announcement of their
engagement. They were first each described separately: he, an
accomplished prince, doing a great deal of good, very popular in his own
country and cordially loved by the Emperor of Austria; she, every inch a
princess, born to be the empress of a great empire, with likewise her
special accomplishments. The eyes of all Europe were fixed upon them at
the moment. For their marriage would not only be an imperial alliance of
great political importance, but would also tie a knot of real harmony:
their marriage was a love-match. There had been attempts to make it seem
otherwise, but this was not correct. In Gothland, in the home circle at
Altseeborgen, the young couple had learnt to know each other well; their
love had sprung like an idyll from the sea and the Duke of Xara had once
even saved the archduchess' life, when she had ventured out too far, in
stormy weather, in a rowing-boat. Their love was like a novel with a
happy ending. The Emperor Oscar would rather have seen the Grand-duchess
Xenia crown-princess of Liparia and attached great value to an alliance
with Russia, but he had yielded before his son's love.... And the
article ended by saying that the wedding would take place in October in
the old palace at Altara.

They read it together, with their mournful faces, their wide, fixed
eyes, which still smarted with staring into each other's souls. Not a
single remark came from their lips after reading the article; they only
just smiled their two heartrending smiles; then they laid the paper
down again. And she asked, with that strange calm with which this
betrothed pair were trying to get to know each other:

"Othomar ... do you care for nobody?"

A flush suffused his cheeks. Did she know of Alexa?

"I did once think that I ... that I was in love," he confessed; "but I
do not believe that it was really love. I now believe that I do not
possess the capacity to concentrate my whole soul upon a feeling for one
other soul alone; I should not know how to find it, that one soul, and I
should fear to make a mistake, or to deceive myself.... No, I do not
believe that I shall ever know that exclusive feeling. I rather feel
within me a great, wide, general love, an immense compassion, for our
people. It is strange of me perhaps...."

He said it almost shyly, as though it were something abnormal, that
general love, of which he ought to be ashamed before her.

"A great love," he explained once more, when she continued to look at
him in silence; and he made an embracing gesture with his arms, "for our
people...."

"Do you really feel that?" she asked, in surprise.

"Yes...."

A sort of vista opened out before her, as though an horizon of light
were dawning right at the end of her dark melancholy; but that horizon
was so far, so very far away....

"But, Othomar," she said, "that is very good. It is very beautiful to
feel like that!"

He shrugged his shoulders:

"Beautiful? How do you mean? I cannot but feel it when I see all the
misery that exists ... among our people, the lower orders, the very
lowest especially. If they were all happy and enjoying abundance, there
would be no need for me to feel it. So what is there beautiful about
it?"

She gave a little laugh:

"I can't argue against that, it's too deep for me. I can't say that I
have ever thought over those social questions; they have always existed
as they are and ... and I have not thought about them. But I can feel,
with my feminine instinct, that it is beautiful of you to feel like
that, Othomar."

She took his hand and pressed it; her face lit up with a smile. Then she
looked, pensively, into the dark landscape beneath them and she
shivered.

"It's turning chilly," he said. "We had better go in, Valérie; you'll
catch cold here."

She just felt at her bare neck:

"Presently," she said.

They glanced down, at the murmuring Danube. A mist began to rise from
the river and filled the valley as it were with light strips of muslin.

"Come," he urged.

"Look," she said. "How deep that is, is it not?"

He looked down:

"Yes," he replied.

"Don't you feel giddy?" she asked.

He looked at her anxiously:

"No, not giddy; at least, not at once...."

"Othomar," she said, in a whisper, "I once sat here for a whole evening.
I kept on looking down; it was darker than now and I saw nothing but
blackness and it kept on roaring through those black depths. It was the
evening after our engagement was decided. I felt such pain, I suffered
so! I thought that I had won a victory over myself, but they left me no
peace and the only use of my victory was to give me strength to do
battle again. The news that I was to be your wife came as unexpectedly
... as my great sorrow came! Then I felt so weak because it overwhelmed
me so, because they left me no peace. Oh, they were so cruel, they did
not leave me a moment to recover my breath! I had to go on again, on!
Then I felt weak. I thought that I should never overcome my weakness. I
sat here for hours, looking at the Danube. It made me giddy.... At last
I thought that I had made up my mind ... to throw myself down.... I
already saw myself floating away, there, there, down there, right round
the castle.... Why did I not do it? I believe because of ... of him,
Othomar. I loved him, I love him _now_, though I ought to have more
pride. I would not punish him by committing suicide. He is so weak. I
know him: it would have haunted him all his life long!... Then ... then,
Othomar, I ran away and I prayed! I no longer knew what to do!"

She hid her face full of anguish in her hands, with a great sob. His
eyes had filled with tears; he saw how she trembled. He threw a
terrified side-glance at the deep stream below, which roared as though
calling....

"Valérie," he stammered, in alarm; "for God's sake let us go in. It's
too cold here and ... and...."

She looked at him anxiously too, with haggard eyes:

"Yes, let us go, Othomar!" she whispered. "I am getting frightened here:
we have that in our family; there is still so much romance flowing in
our veins...."

She took his arm; they went indoors together. But, before entering the
suite of anterooms that led to the reception-rooms, she detained him for
yet a moment:

"I don't know whether we shall see each other alone again before you
return to Lipara. And I still wanted to thank you for something...."

"For what?" he asked.

"For ... something that Aunt Olga told me. For ... sparing me at
Altseeborgen. Thank you, Othomar, thank you...."

She put her arm around his neck and gave him a kiss. He kissed her in
return.

And they exchanged their first caress.



2

The next day the imperial family of Liparia travelled back from
Sigismundingen to Lipara. The reception at the central station was most
hearty; the town was covered with bunting; in the evening there were
popular rejoicings. The officers of the various army-corps gave the
crown-prince banquets in honour of his betrothal. The Archduchess
Valérie's portraits were exposed in the windows of all the
picture-shops; the papers contained long articles full of jubilation.

It was a few hours before the dinner given by the officers of the
throne-guards to their imperial colonel when Othomar was, as it were
suddenly, overcome by a strange sensation. He was in his writing-room,
felt rather giddy and had to sit down. The giddiness was slight, but
lasted a long time; for a long time the room seemed to be slowly trying
to turn round him and not to succeed; and this gave a painful impression
of resistance on the part of its lifeless furniture. One of Othomar's
hands rested on his thigh, the other on the ruff of the collie which had
laid its head upon his knee. He remained sitting, bending forward.

When the giddiness had passed, he retained a strange lightness in his
head, as though something had been taken out of it. He leant back
cautiously; the collie, half-asleep, dreamily opened its eyes and then
dozed off again, its head upon Othomar's knee, under his hand. An
irresistible fatigue crept up Othomar's limbs, as though they were
sinking in soft mud. It surprised him greatly, this feeling; and,
looking sideways at the clock, without moving his head, lest he should
bring on the giddiness again, he calculated that he had an hour and a
half before dinner. This prospective interval relieved him and he
remained sitting, as though calculating his fatigue: whether it would
pass, whether it would leave his body.

It lasted a long time, so long indeed that he doubted whether he would
be able to go. When three-quarters of an hour had passed, he pressed the
bell which stood near him on the table. Andro entered.

"Andro...." he began, without continuing.

"Does your highness wish to dress? Everything is put out...."

Othomar just patted the dog's head, as it still lay dozing motionless
against his knee.

"Is your highness unwell?"

"A little giddy, Andro; it is passing off already."

"But is your highness right in going? Had I not better send for Prince
Dutri?"

Othomar shook his head decidedly and rose:

"No, I'm late as it is, Andro. Come, help me with my things...."

And he entered his dressing-room.

He appeared at the dinner, but made excuses to the officers for his
evident languor. He just joined in the toasts by raising his glass, with
a smile. It struck them all that he looked very ill, emaciated,
hollow-eyed and white as chalk in his white-and-gold uniform.
Immediately after dinner he returned to the Imperial, without
accompanying them to the Imperial Jockey Club, the club of the _jeunesse
dorée_.

He slept heavily; a misty dream hovered through his night. The man who
had tried to murder him at Zanti's grinned at him with clenched fists;
then the scene changed to the Gothlandic sea and he rowed Valérie along,
but, however hard he rowed, the three towers of the castle always drew
farther away, unapproachable....

When he awoke, it was already past eight. He reflected that it was too
late for his usual morning ride and remained lying where he was. He rang
for Andro:

"Why didn't you wake me at seven o'clock?"

"Your highness was sleeping so soundly, I dared not; your highness was
not well yesterday...."

"And so you just let me sleep? Very well.... Send word to her majesty
... that I am not well."

The man looked at him anxiously:

"What is the matter with your highness?"

"I don't know, Andro ... I am a little tired. Where's Djalo?"

"Here, highness...."

The collie ran in noisily, put its great paws on the camp-bed, wriggled
its haunches wildly to and fro as it wagged its tail....

Then, suddenly, it lay down quietly beside the bed.

The empress sent back to say that she would come at once; she was not
yet dressed.... With calm, open eyes Othomar lay waiting for her.

She entered at last, a little agitated with anxiety. She questioned him,
but learnt nothing from his vague, smiling replies. She laid her hand on
his forehead, felt his pulse and could not make up her mind whether he
had any fever. There was typhoid about: she was afraid of it....

The physicians-in-ordinary were called and relieved her mind: there was
no fever. The prince seemed generally tired; he had doubtless
over-exerted himself lately. He must rest....

The emperor was astonished: the prince had just been resting and had
stayed on for weeks at Altseeborgen. What had been the use of it then!

The rumour ran through the palace, the town, the country, through
Europe, that the Duke of Xara was keeping his room because of a slight
indisposition. The physicians issued a simple and very reassuring
bulletin.

However, in the afternoon Othomar got up and even dressed himself, but
not in uniform. He had had some lunch in his bedroom and now went to
Princess Thera's apartments. She sat drawing; with her was a
lady-in-waiting, the young Marchioness of Ezzera.

The princess was surprised to see her brother:

"What! Is that you? I thought you were in bed!..."

"No, I'm a little better...."

He bowed to the marchioness, who had risen and curtseyed.

"Won't you go on with the portrait?" asked Othomar.

Thera looked at him:

"You're looking so pale, poor boy. Perhaps I'd better not. It tires you
so, that sitting, doesn't it?"

"Yes, sometimes, a little...."

They were now standing before the portrait; the marchioness had retired,
as she always did when the brother and sister were together. The
painting was half-covered with a silk cloth, which Thera pulled aside:
it was already a young head full of expression, in which life began to
gleam behind the black, melancholy eyes, and painted with broad, firm
brushwork, with much reflection of outside light, which fell upon one
side of the face and brought it into relief, throwing it forward out of
the shadow in the background.

"Is it almost finished?" asked Othomar.

"Yes, but you've kept me waiting awfully long for the final touches:
just think, you've been away for four months. I haven't been able to
work at it all that time. But, you know ... you've changed. If only I
shan't have to leave it like this. It's no longer like you...."

"It'll begin to be like me again, when I'm looking a little better!"
answered Othomar.

But the princess became rather nervous; she suddenly drew the silk cloth
over it again....

Othomar did not appear at dinner; he went to bed early. The next day the
doctors found him very listless. He was up but not dressed; he lay in
his dressing-gown on the sofa in his room, with the collie at his feet.
He complained to the empress that he had such a queer feeling in his
head, as though it were about to open and pour out all its contents.

For days this condition remained unchanged: a total listlessness, a
total loss of appetite, a visible exhaustion.... The empress sat by his
side as he lay on his sofa staring through the open windows into the
green depths of the park of plane-trees. The birds chirped outside;
sometimes Berengar's small, shrill voice sounded among them, as he
played with a couple of his little friends. The empress read aloud, but
it tired Othomar, it made his head ache....

After a long conversation between the three doctors and the emperor and
empress, Professor Barzia was summoned from Altara for a consultation:
the professor was a nerve-specialist of European fame.

In the emperor's room the emperor, the empress and Count Myxila sat
waiting for the result of the examination and the subsequent
consultation. It lasted long. They did not speak while they waited: the
empress sat staring before her with her quiet expression of
acquiescence; the emperor walked irritably to and fro. The old
chancellor, with his stern, proud face and bald head, stood pensively
near the window.

Then the doctors were announced. They appeared, Professor Barzia leading
the way, the others following. The empress fancied that she read the
worst on the professor's pale, rigid features; one of the physicians,
however, nodded his big, kind head compassionately from behind his
colleague, to reassure her.

"Well?" asked the emperor.

"We have carefully examined his imperial highness, sir," the professor
began. "The prince is quite free from organic disease, though his
constitution is generally delicate."

"What's wrong with him then?" asked Oscar.

"The prince's nervous system seems to us, sir, to have undergone an
alarming strain."

"His nerves? But he's never nervous, he's always calm," exclaimed the
emperor, stubbornly.

"All the more reason, sir, to appreciate the prince's self-restraint.
His highness has evidently kept himself going for a long time; and the
effort has been too much for him at last. He is calm now, as your
majesty says. But his calmness does not alter the fact that his nerves
are completely run down. His highness has clearly been overtaxing his
strength."

"And in what way?" asked the emperor, haughtily.

"That, sir, would no doubt be better known to those at court than to me,
who come fresh from my study and my hospitals. Your majesty will be able
to answer that question yourself. I can only give you a few indications.
His highness told me that he remembered sometimes feeling those fits of
giddiness and exhaustion even before the great floods in the north. That
was in March. It is now September. I imagine that his highness has been
leading a very active life in the meantime?"

The emperor made movements with his eyebrows as if he could not
understand: tremulous motions of his powerful head, with its fleece of
silvering hair.

"The journey to the north may in fact have affected his highness,
professor," the empress began.

She was sitting haughtily upright, in her plain dark dress. Her face was
expressionless, her eyes were cold. She spoke in a matter-of-fact tone,
as though she were not a mother.

"His highness is very sensitive to impressions," she continued, "and he
received a good many at Altara that were likely to shock him."

The professor made a slight movement of the head:

"I remember, ma'am, seeing his highness at the identification of the
corpses in the fields," he said. "His highness _was_ very much
affected...."

"But to what does all this tend?" asked the emperor, still recalcitrant.

"It tends to this, sir, that his highness has presumably allowed himself
no rest since that time...."

"His highness has allowed himself months of rest!" exclaimed the
emperor.

"Will your majesty permit us to cast our eyes backwards for a moment?
After the very fatiguing journey in the north, the prince returned
straight to conditions of political excitement--Lipara was then under
martial law--and afterwards came the bustle of a festival time, when the
King and Queen of Syria were here...."

The emperor shrugged his shoulders.

"After that, the prince, acting on the advice of my respected
colleagues, went on a sea-voyage to restore his health. No doubt his
highness then enjoyed some days of rest; but the great hunting-trips in
which he took part with Prince Herman were beyond a doubt too much for
his highness' strength. Now, quite recently, his highness has been
betrothed: this may have caused him some excitement. I am casually
mentioning a few of the main facts, sir. I know nothing of the prince's
inner life: if I knew something of that, it would certainly make many
things much easier for me. But this is certain: his highness has from
day to day led a too highly agitated existence, whatever the agitations
may have been, great or small. That his highness did not collapse
earlier is no doubt due to an uncommon power of self-control, of which I
believe the prince himself to be unconscious, and an uncommon sense of
duty, which is also quite spontaneous in his highness. These are high
qualities, sir, in a future ruler...."

A faint flush dyed the empress' cheeks; a milder expression suffused the
coldness of her features.

"And what is your advice, professor?" she asked.

"That his highness should take an indefinite rest, ma'am."

"His highness' marriage was fixed for next month," remarked the empress,
in an enquiring tone.

Professor Barzia's face became quite white and rigid.

"It would be simply inexcusable, if his highness' marriage were to take
place next month," he said, with his even, oracular voice.

"Postponed, then?" asked the emperor, with suppressed rage.

"Without doubt, sir," replied the professor, with cool determination.

"My dear professor," the emperor growled between his teeth, with a
pretence of geniality, "you speak of rest and of rest and of rest. Good
God, I tell you, the prince has _had_ rest, months and months of it!...
Do I ever rest so long? Life is movement; and government is movement. We
can't allow ourselves to rest. Why should a young man like the prince be
always resting? I never remember resting like that, when I was
crown-prince! He may not be as strong as I am, but yet he is of our
race! Excitement, you say! Good God, what excitement? Political
excitement? That fell to _my_ share, not the prince's! And I had no need
of rest after it. And has a prince to go and rest when he gets engaged
to be married? Really, professor, this is carrying hygiene beyond all
limits!"

"Sir, your majesty has done me the honour to ask my opinion of the
prince's condition. I have given that opinion to the best of my
knowledge."

"It's rest, then?"

"Undoubtedly, sir."

"But how long do you want him to rest?"

"I am not able to fix a date, sir."

"How long do you want his marriage postponed?"

"Indefinitely, sir."

The emperor paced the room; something unusual passed over his powerful
features, a look of anguish....

"That's impossible," he muttered, curtly.

All were silent.

"It's impossible," he, repeated, dully.

"Then his highness will marry, sir," said Barzia.

The emperor stood still:

"What do you mean?" he asked, gruffly.

"That nothing can prevail with your majesty in this most important
matter ... except your own sense of what is right and reasonable."

The emperor's breath came in short gasps between his full, sensual lips;
his veins swelled thick on his low, Roman forehead; his strong fists
were clenched. No one had ever seen Oscar like this before; nor had any
one ever dared so to address him....

"Explain yourself more clearly," he thundered into the professor's rigid
face.

Barzia did not move a muscle:

"If his highness is married next month ... it means his death."

The empress remained sitting stiff and upright, but she turned very
pale, shuddered and closed her eyes as though she felt giddy.

"His death?" echoed the emperor, in consternation.

"Or worse," rejoined Barzia.

"Worse?"

"The extinction of your majesty's posterity."

The emperor rapped out a furious oath and struck his fist on the huge
writing-table. The bronze ornaments on it rang. Myxila drew a step
nearer:

"Sir," he said, "there is nothing lost. If I understand Professor
Barzia, his highness' illness is only temporary and is curable."

"Certainly, excellency," replied Barzia. "So long as it is not forced to
become incurable and chronic."

Oscar bit his lips convulsively. His glittering eyes stood out small and
cruel. It struck Myxila how much, at this moment, he resembled a
portrait of Wenceslas the Cruel.

"Professor," he hissed, "we thank you. Stay at Lipara till to-morrow, so
as to observe his highness once more."

"I will obey your majesty's commands," said Barzia.

He bowed, the physicians bowed; they withdrew. Left alone with the
empress and the imperial chancellor, Oscar no longer restrained his
rage. Like a beast foaming at the mouth, he walked fiercely up and down
with heavy steps, gurgling as though the breath refused to come through
his constricted throat:

"Oh!" he gnashed between his teeth, bursting out at last. "That boy,
that boy!... He's not even fit to get married! His duchess: he was able
to get married to her! And that boy, oh, that boy is to succeed me,
_me!_..."

A furious laugh of contempt grated from between his large, white teeth,
with biting irony.

The empress rose:

"Count Myxila," she said, trembling, "may I beg your excellency to come
with me?"

She turned to leave the room. Myxila, hesitating, was already following
her to the door.

"What for?" roared the emperor. "What's the reason of that? I have
something more to say to Myxila."

The empress gave the emperor a look as cold as ice:

"It is my express wish, sir, that Count Myxila should go with me," she
said, in the same trembling voice. "I think your majesty needs solitude.
Your majesty is saying things which a father must not even think and
which a sovereign must certainly not say in the presence of a subject,
not even in that of one of his highest subjects...."

The emperor tried to interrupt her.

"Your majesty," continued the empress, with a haughty tremor, cutting
the words from him with her icy-cold, trembling voice as though with a
knife, "is saying these things of the future Emperor of Lipara ... and I
wish _no_ subject, not even Count Myxila, to hear such things; and,
moreover, your majesty is saying these things of _my son_: therefore I
do not wish to hear them myself, sir! Excellency, I request you once
more to come with me."

"Go then!" shouted the emperor, like a madman. "Go, both of you: yes,
leave me alone, leave me alone!"

He walked furiously up and down, flung the chairs one against the other,
roared like an angry caged lion. He took a bronze statue from a bracket
in front of a tall mirror that rose to the ceiling in gilt arabesques:

"There then!" he lashed out, while his passion seemed to seethe mistily
in his bewildered brain, to shoot red lightning-flashes from his
bloodshot eyes, to drive him mad because of his impotence against the
senseless fate and logic of circumstance.

Like an athlete he brandished the heavy statue through the air; like a
child he hurled it at the great mirror, which fell clattering in a
flicker of shreds.

The empress and Myxila had left the room.



3

The ordinary court-life continued; the empress' first drawing-room took
place. The reception-rooms leading to the great presence-chamber were
lit up, though it was day-time; the ladies entered, handed their cards
to the grand chamberlain, signed their names and waited until their
titles were called out by the masters of ceremonies. They stood in
low-necked dresses; the long white veils fell in misty folds of gauze
from the feathers and jewelled tiaras. It was the first display of the
new costumes of the season, the fashion which had sprung into life and
now moved and had its being; but the crowded rooms seemed but the
antechambers of that display and the upgathered trains gave an
impression of preparation for the solemn second, the momentary
appearance before her majesty.

The Duchess of Yemena was waiting, her train also thrown over her arm,
with the two marchionesses her stepdaughters, whom she was about to
present to the empress, when she saw Dutri, bowing, apologizing,
twisting through the expectant ladies, to make way for himself through
the crowded room:

"Dutri," she beckoned, as he did not seem to perceive her.

He reached her after some difficulty, bowed, paid his compliments to the
little marchionesses. They stood with stiff little faces, frightened,
round eyes and tight-closed mouths; and the lines of their girlish
figures displayed the shyness of novices. With an awkward grace, they
kept arranging their heavy court-trains over their arms. They just
smiled at Dutri's words; then they looked stiff again, compared the
other ladies' dresses with their own.

"Dutri," whispered the duchess, "how is the prince?"

"Just the same," the equerry whispered in reply. "Terribly
melancholy...."

"Dutri," she murmured, sinking her voice still lower, "would there be no
chance for me to see him?"

Dutri started in dismay:

"How do you mean, Alexa? When?"

"Presently, after the drawing-room...."

"But that is impossible, Alexa! The prince sees no one but their
majesties and the princess; he talks to nobody, not even to his
chamberlains, not even to us...."

"Dutri," she insisted, with her hand on his arm, "do your best. Help me.
Ask for an interview for me. If you help me ... I will help you too...."

He looked at her expectantly.

"What do you think of Hélène?" she asked.

"I think Eleonore prettier," he smiled.

"Well, come to us oftener, to my special days; we never see anything of
you. I will prepare the duke...."

She dangled the rich match before his eyes: he blinked them, as he
continued to look at her and smile.

"But then you must help me!" she continued, with a gentle threat.

"I will do my best, Alexa, but I can promise nothing," he just had time
to reply. "Wait for me after the drawing-room, in one of the other
rooms," he whispered, accompanying her for a few steps.

All this time the titles were being cried, ceremoniously, slowly; the
ladies moved on, dropped their trains, blossomed out.

"Her excellency the Duchess of Yemena, Countess of Vaza; their
excellencies the Marchionesses of Yemena...."

The duchess moved on, the girls followed her, crimson, with beating
hearts. They passed through a long gallery, dropping their trains; at
the door of the presence-room, before they entered, stood flunkeys who
spread out the heavy court-mantles.

"Her excellency the Duchess of ..."

The titles rang out for the second time, this time through the
presence-chamber and with a sound of greater reverence, because they
echoed in the listening ears of welcoming majesty.

The duchess and the marchionesses entered. Between the wide hangings of
dark-blue velvet, on which glittered the cross of St. Ladislas, and
under the canopy supported by gilt pillars, sat the empress, like an
idol, glittering in the shadow in her watered-silver brocade, the ermine
imperial mantle falling in heavy folds to her feet, a small diadem
sparkling upon her head. To the right of the throne, on a low stool, sat
the Princess Thera, on the left stood the mistress of the robes, the
Countess of Threma; round about, on either side, a crowd of
ladies-in-waiting, court-officials, equerries, maids of honour, grooms
of the bed-chamber....

The duchess made her curtsey, approached the throne and with great
reverence, as though with diffident lips, touched the jewelled
finger-tips, which the empress held out like a live relic. Then the
duchess took two steps backwards; the marchionesses, one after the
other, followed her example, surprising everybody by the attractive
freshness of their first court-movements, in which the touch of
awkwardness became a charm. Then the bows, in a long ritual of
withdrawal, backwards. They disappeared through other doors, found
themselves in a long gallery, entered other reception-rooms, where
people stood waiting for their carriages. And the two girls looked at
each other, seeking each other's impressions, still crimson with the
excitement in their vain little hearts and strangely surprised at the
incomprehensible briefness of this first and all-important moment of
their lives as grown-up people, as ladies accompanying their mamma to
the Imperial, where they would thenceforth lead their existence. For how
many months beforehand they had thought and dreamed of this moment; now,
suddenly, with surprising quickness, it was over....

The duchess chucked Hélène under the chin, put Eleonore's veil straight,
said that they had curtseyed beautifully, that she had herself even
noticed how pleased the Countess of Threma had been with them. Then she
chatted busily with the other ladies, introduced the little
marchionesses, promised visits. Then she turned to a flunkey:

"Go and see where my carriage is and tell it to leave the rank and drive
up last. Here...."

She gave him a gold coin; the flunkey disappeared. A nervous impatience
seized the duchess; she looked out anxiously for Dutri. At last her eyes
caught sight of him; he came up with his fatuous fussiness:

"Alexa, it's impossible...."

"Have you asked the prince?"

"No, not yet; there's the question, to begin with, whether he'll see
_me_. But then ... how am I to take you to him? There are always
servants hanging about in the doorways, to say nothing of the guards and
halberdiers; in the anterooms you run up against a chamberlain at any
moment. Really, it is impossible."

She grew angry:

"Begin by asking him. We'll see later how we're to get to him."

Dutri made graceful gestures of despair:

"But, Alexa, can't you really understand ... that it is impossible?..."

She made no reply, not wishing to reflect, her head filled with her
stubborn fixed idea to see the prince, to insist on seeing him. And,
suddenly, turning to him:

"Very well, if you don't care to do anything for me, you needn't think I
shall help you in _any_ way."

Her nervous, angry voice sounded louder than her first whispered words:
the two girls heard her.

"Alexa," he besought her, gently.

"No, no," she resisted, curtly.

He thought of his debts and of Eleonore:

"I'll try," he whispered, in despair.

She promptly rewarded him with a smile; he went, hurried away again,
with his eternal air of fussy importance, because of his young imperial
master, who was so sadly ill. In the anteroom he found the chamberlain
on duty:

"Would the prince be willing to see me?"

The chamberlain shrugged his shoulders:

"I'll ask," he said.

He speedily returned: the prince had sent word that Dutri could come in.

Dutri entered. Othomar lay on a couch covered with tiger-skins, in front
of his writing-table. He had grown thinner; his eyes were hollow, his
complexion was wan; his neck protruded frail and wasted from the loose
turn-down collar of his silk shirt, over which he wore a velvet jacket.
In his hand he held an open book. Djalo, the collie, lay on the floor.

Dutri the voluble began to press his request in rapid sentences
following close upon one another's heels....

"The duchess?" repeated Othomar, faintly. "No, no...."

Dutri galloped on, simulated melancholy, employed words of gentle,
insinuating sadness. Othomar's face assumed an expression which was
strange to it and quite new: it was as though the melancholy of his
features were crystallizing into a stubborn obstinacy, a silent
doggedness.

"No," he said once more, while his voice, too, sounded dogged and
obstinate. "Make my apologies to the duchess, Dutri. And where ... where
would she wish to see me?"

"I did not fail to point out this difficulty to her excellency; but
perhaps, if your highness would be so gracious ... one might
nevertheless...."

Othomar closed his eyes and threw his head back; his hand fell loosely
upon the collie's head. He made no further reply and his lips were
tightly compressed.

Dutri still hesitated: what could he do, what should he tell Alexa?...

But the door opened and the empress entered. The drawing-room was over;
she had put off her robes and the crown, but she still wore her stiff,
heavy dress of silver brocade. She looked coldly at Dutri and bowed her
head slightly, as a sign for him to go: the equerry beat a confused
retreat, without his usual tact.

Othomar half-rose from his couch:

"Mamma!..."

She sat down beside him, stroked his forehead with her hand:

"How do you feel?"

He smiled and blinked with his eyes, without replying.

"What was Dutri doing here?"

"He wanted ... Oh, mamma, never mind, don't ask me!... How beautiful you
look! May I, too, kiss your hand?"

Winningly, jestingly he took her hand and kissed it. She took his book
from his fingers, read the treasonable title:

"Are you reading again, Othomar?... You know you mustn't read so much.
And why all these strange books?..."

On the table lay Lassalle, Marx, works by Russian nihilists, a pamphlet
by Bakounine, pamphlets by Zanti.... The little work which he was
reading was by a well-known Liparian anarchist and entitled, _Injustice
by the Grace of God;_ it overthrew everything: religion and the state;
it addressed itself directly to the crowned tyrants in power; it
addressed itself directly to Oscar.

"Is it to get back your health, Othomar, that you read this sort of
thing?" she asked, in a tone of pained reproach.

"But, mamma, I must see what it is that they want...."

"And what do they want?"

He looked pensively before him:

"I don't know what they want, I can't understand them. They employ very
long sentences, the same sentences over and over again, with the same
words over and over again. I can just make out that they disapprove of
everything that exists and want something different. But yet
sometimes...."

"Sometimes what?"

"Sometimes they say terrible things, terrible because they sound so
true, mamma. When they speak of God and prove that He does not exist,
when they describe our whole system of government as a monstrosity and
reject all authority, including our own.... They sometimes speak like
children who have suddenly learnt to talk and to judge; and then
sometimes they suddenly speak clearly; and then very primitive thoughts
arise in me: if God exists, why is there any injustice and misery; and
our authority: on what right is that founded? O God, mamma, what right
have we to reign over others, over millions? Tell me--but argue from the
beginning: don't argue backwards; don't begin with us: begin with our
first rulers, our usurpers--what right had they? And does ours merely
spring from theirs? Oh, these problems, these simple problems: who can
solve them, my God, who can solve them?..."

Elizabeth suddenly turned pale. She stared at him as though he had gone
mad:

"Who gives you these books?" she asked, harshly, hoarsely, anxiously.

"Dutri, Leoni; Andro has also fetched me some."

"They're mad!" exclaimed the empress, rising. "Why do you ask for them?"

"I want to know, mamma...."

"Othomar," she cried, "will you do what I ask?"

"Yes, mamma," he replied, gently, "but sit down again and ... and don't
be angry. And ... and don't say 'Othomar.' And ... and go and change
your dress: oh, I can't see you in that dress; you are so far from me;
your voice doesn't reach me and I daren't kiss you: you are not my
mother, you are the empress! Mamma, O mamma!..."

His voice appealed to her. A powerful emotion awoke in her.

"O my boy!" she cried, with a half-sob breaking in her throat.

"Yes, yes, call me that.... Mamma, let's be quick and find each other
again, let us not lose each other. What is your request?"

"Give me all those books."

"I will give them to you; they make me no happier, when all is said!"

"But then why are you unhappy, my boy, my boy?"

"Mamma, look at the world, look at our people, see how they suffer, see
how they are oppressed! What shall I ever be able to do for them! I
shall always be powerless, in spite of all our power! Oh, it grows so
dark in front of me, I can see nothing more, I have no hope; only
Utopians have any hope left, but I ... I no longer hope, for I can do
nothing, nothing!... O my God, mamma, the whole country is falling upon
me and crushing me and I can do nothing, nothing!... I shall have to
reign and I shall not be able to, mamma. What am I? A poor sickly boy:
how can I become emperor? I don't know why it is, mamma, nor what it
comes from, but I don't feel like a future emperor, I feel like a feeble
child! I feel like your child, your boy, and nothing more...."

He seemed about to throw himself into her arms, but on the contrary he
flung himself backwards, as though he were frightened by her brilliant
attire; his head dropped nervelessly on his chest, his arms fell loosely
down. She saw his movement: her first feeling was one of regret that she
had come to him in court-dress, longing as she did to see him, not
allowing herself the time to change. But this regret passed through her
as a transient emotion, for it was followed by an intense dizziness, as
though a yawning abyss opened at her feet, as though the earth retreated
and black nothingness gaped before her. A despair as of utter impotence
enveloped her soul. Vaguely she stretched out her arms and threw them
round his neck, as though she were groping in the dark, with wandering
eyes:

"My boy, don't talk like that any more, because ... when you talk like
that, you take away my strength too!" she whispered, in alarm. "For how
can it be helped? You must, we all must...."

"Forgive me, mamma, but I ... I shall not be able to. Oh, I see it
clearly now! I am not excited, I am calm. I see it, I prophesy it, it
can never be...."

"But papa is still so young and so strong, my boy; and, when you grow
older...."

"The older I grow, the more impossible it will be, mamma. I was always
frightened of it as a child, but I never realized it so desperately as
now. No, mamma, it cannot be. Now that I am ill, I have plenty of time
to reflect; and I now see before me what the end of all our trouble is
bound to be...."

His eyes gazed at the floor in despair; she still half-clung to him,
helplessly; a menacing shiver seemed to float through the room.

"Mamma...."

She made no response.

"I must tell you of my resolve...."

"What resolve?..."

"Will you tell it to papa?"

"What, what, Othomar ... my boy?"

"That I can't marry ... Valérie, because...."

"Later, later: you needn't marry yet...."

"No, mamma, I never can, because I...."

She looked at him beseechingly, enquiringly.

"Because I want to abdicate ... my rights ... in favour of ...
Berengar...."

She made no reply; feebly she drooped against him, not knowing how to
console and cheer him, and softly and plaintively began to sob. It was
as though her soul was being flooded with anguish, slowly but
persistently, until it brimmed over. She reproached herself with it all.
He was her child: the future Emperor of Liparia had derived this
weakness from her. And the manifestation of this agonizing mystery of
heredity before her despairing eyes deprived her of all her strength, of
all her courage, of all her power of acquiescence and resignation.

"Mamma," he repeated.

She sobbed on.

"Don't be so disconsolate.... Berengar will be better than I.... You'll
tell papa, won't you?... Or no, never mind, if it costs you too great an
effort: I'll tell him myself...."

She started up nervously from her despair:

"O my God, no! Othomar, no! Don't talk to him about it: he is so
passionate, he would ... he would murder you! Promise me that you will
not talk to him about it! _I_ will tell him--O my God!--_I_ will tell
him...."

But a tremor of hope revived within her.

"But, Othomar, I ask you, why do you do this? You are ill now, but you
will get better and then ... then you will think differently!"

He gazed out before him: his presentiment quivered through him; he saw
his dream again: the streets of Lipara filled with crape, right up to
the sky, where it veiled the sunlight. And over his features there
passed again that new air of hardness, of dogged obstinacy which made
him unrecognizable; he shook his head slowly from side to side, from
side to side:

"No, mamma, I shall never think differently. Believe me, it will be
better so."

When she saw him like that, her new hope collapsed again and she sobbed
once more. Sobbing, she rose; amid her sorrow yawned a void; she was
losing something: her son.

"Are you going?" he asked.

She nodded yes, sobbing.

"Do you forgive me?"

She nodded yes again. Then she gave him a smile, a smile full of
despair; lacking the strength to kiss him, she went out, still sobbing.

He remained alone and rose from his couch. He stood in the middle of the
room; his eyes stared at the collie:

"Why need I give her pain!" he thought.

Everything in his soul hurt him.

"Why did I go on that voyage with Herman?" he asked himself again. "It
was in those first days of rest that I began to think so much. And yet
Professor Barzia says, 'Rest!' ... What does he know about me? What does
one person know about another?... Djalo!" he cried.

The collie ran up, wriggling, joyfully.

"Djalo, what is right? How ought the world to be? Must there be kings
and emperors, Djalo, or had we better all disappear?"

The dog looked at him, wagging its tail violently; suddenly it jumped up
and licked his face.

"And why, Djalo, need one man always make the other unhappy? Why need
princes make their people unhappy? Will life always remain the same, for
ages and ages?..."

Othomar sank into a heap on the couch; his hand fell on the dog, which
licked it passionately.

"Oh!" he sobbed. "My people, my people!..."

       *       *       *       *       *

At this moment the last carriages were driving away in the fore-court of
the Imperial; the staring crowd, behind the grenadiers, peeped curiously
at the pretty ladies glistening through the glass of the state-coaches.
The Duchess of Yemena's carriage came last of all.



4

A spirit of gloom seemed to haunt the ringing marble halls of the
Imperial, a dim melancholy to stifle the cadences of the voices and
their echoes and to hang from the tall ceilings as it had been a heavy
web of atmosphere. It was autumn; the first parties were to take place;
the first court-ball was given. But it seemed to be given because there
was no help for it: it was a slow, official, tedious function. The more
intimate circles of the Imperial, those of the Duchess of Yemena and the
diplomatic body, regretted the more select assemblies in the smaller
rooms of the empress. They looked upon those great balls as necessary
inflictions. The empress' smaller dances, however, were always favoured
as most charming entertainments. But the empress had decided that they
should not take place, because of the illness of the crown-prince. At
this first great ball their majesties appeared only for a brief moment,
to take part in the imperial quadrille....

Grey ashes fell over the glittering mood of imperial festivity which so
short a time ago had been the usual atmosphere of the palace. The
dinners, once the glories of day after day, were shortened; only the
most necessary invitations were given. The emperor himself maintained a
constant mood of sullenness: the army bill for the augmentation of the
active forces was still attacked in principle in the house of deputies;
and the emperor was resolved at all costs to uphold his minister of war.
Moreover, thanks to the dash of childishness that showed through all his
energy, he had not recovered from his disappointment at the postponement
of the Duke of Xara's marriage. He seemed in a continual state of
irritation because his Liparian world would not go as he wanted it to
go.

Neither the empress nor the prince himself thought it a favourable
moment to communicate the mournful resolution to the emperor. But for
this very reason the empress began silently to cherish fresh hope.
Nothing had been said yet: the humiliating secret existed only between
her son and herself. Humiliating, because what public reason could he
allege for resigning the succession? What pretext would sound plausible
enough to conceal the true motive of weakness and impotence? And yet he
was her child and Oscar's! It seemed to the empress unfeasible to
communicate Othomar's wish to his father and to tell the emperor that
his own son had no capacity for government. Oh, what sacrifice would she
not be prepared to make, if only she could spare her child this
humiliation! But was he really so powerless to master himself and to
draw himself up, proudly, under the weight of what was as yet no more
than a prince's coronet? Had she but known how to counteract his
discouragement; but she had merely sobbed, merely given way before his
despair; in vain had she sought in his soul the secret spring that
should cause him to rise from the impotence into which the languor of
his reflections had made him sink.... And yet she felt that there must
be a secret spring, because she instinctively divined its presence in
the souls of all her equals: it was the mystery of their sovereignty,
the reason why they were sovereigns, the reason of their prerogative.
She possessed the adorable, child-like faith that in them, the crowned
heads, there exists a common essence of distinction which raises them
above the crowd: that single drop of sacred blood in their veins, that
single atom of inherited divinity, which sheds lustre through their
souls. She believed in their high exclusive right of majesty. Because
she believed in that even as she believed in her sinfulness as a human
being and in the absolution of her confessor, the Archbishop of Lipara,
she could never for one instant doubt their right divine as rulers.
Whatever people might think, or write, or want different, theirs was the
right: of this she was certain, as certain as of the Trinity. That
Othomar had doubted the existence of God had struck her as impious, but
it had not shattered her so much as his disbelief in their right. Was he
alone then lacking in that essence of distinction, that sacred golden
drop of blood, that divine atom? And, if he lacked it, if he, the
crown-prince, lacked majesty, was this monstrous lack her fault, the
fault of the mother who bore him?

The suspicion of this guilt crushed her; and before she even dared to
speak to Othomar she humbled herself before the archbishop. The prelate,
alarmed at these portents in the mysterious melancholy of the Imperial,
had scarcely known how to comfort her. After that, she remained
prostrate for hours before her crucifix. She prayed with all her soul,
prayed for light for herself and for her son, prayed for strength and
that the spark might descend upon Othomar. When she had prayed thus, so
long and with such conviction, there came over her, like an afflatus of
the Holy Ghost, a sense of peace. She became herself again, she awaited
events, regained her credulous fatalism, her conviction that nothing
happens but what must happen and is right. What was wrong did not
happen. If it were fated that Othomar must receive that spark, that
would be right; if it were fated that he must abdicate, that would be
right too, O God, right with a strange, inscrutable rightness!...

Because the days had passed without her having yet spoken to the
emperor, she hoped anew; she hoped that Othomar would be his old self
again and no longer seek his own degradation. But it was as though she
hoped in spite of everything; for, each time that she now saw Othomar,
she found him duller and more exhausted, more helpless beneath the
certainty of his weakness. Professor Barzia, who treated the prince
personally and twice a day gave him his cold-water douche in the palace,
seemed to be least uneasy about Othomar's physical weakness. The prince
was not robust, but the professor divined in his delicate constitution
the presence of the element that had sprung from the first rough,
sensual strength of the Czyrkiski race: the Slavonic element, which had
become enervated through its Latin admixtures, but had lingered on; a
secret toughness, an indestructible factor of unsuspected firmness,
which lay deep down, like a foundation, and upon which much seemed to be
built that was very slender and fragile. What had once been rude
strength the professor believed he had discovered in a certain
toughness; what had been cruelty and lust, in a certain enervation,
which had hitherto been held in check by self-restraint and a
spontaneous sense of duty, but which now suddenly revealed itself in
this excessive lassitude. Barzia distinctly perceived in Othomar the
scion of his ancestors; and he considered that, though the rich physical
vigour of the original sovereign blood had become refined, as if it were
now flowing more thinly through feebler veins, yet that blood was not so
impoverished that the delicacy of this future emperor need be ascribed
to racial exhaustion. Possibly Barzia's sudden affection for the prince
tinged this physiological diagnosis with excessive optimism; at any
rate, the professor had not the least fear of this fragility, or even of
this nervous weakness. What he did fear was lest those mental qualities
which had so suddenly endeared the prince to him should not be able to
maintain themselves during this period of fatigue and exhaustion.
Spontaneous, unreflected, uncalculated he knew those virtues to be in
the prince, as it were a treasure unknown to himself: would they be
lost, now, in these mournful days, or would they remain, perhaps
develop, become more and more refined, make up to Othomar in moral
strength for what he lacked in physical strength and in this way cure
him? For the professor knew it: these qualities alone could effect a
cure....

Othomar himself thought neither of his virtues nor of his blood: he
thought of his future and thought of it with an hourly-increasing dread.
When the empress asked Barzia whether this rest would be good for the
prince and whether distraction would not be better, the professor
declared that the prince had had plenty of distraction lately. He must
first get over his fatigue, get over it entirely; it mattered less with
what the prince kept his brain occupied for the moment....

But Barzia did not mean this altogether and would doubtless have been
very far from meaning it at all, had he known of what the prince was
thinking, or been fully able to judge his utter lack of mental
elasticity.

And the days passed by. Othomar did not mention his resolution to the
empress again, desiring to give her as little pain as possible; neither
did the empress allude to it: she hoped on.

But in Othomar's meditations it revolved incessantly, like a wheel: he
was able to do nothing for his people and yet he loved them; he did not
know how to govern them, he would abdicate his rights and his title of
crown-prince: Berengar should become Duke of Xara....

The small prince came and paid his brother a short visit every morning;
he always wore his little uniform, looking like a sturdy little general
in miniature, and Othomar watched him with a smile.

Was there no wish to rule in the boy's medieval little brain, was there
no jealousy in his passionate little heart? Othomar remembered the
history of Liparia, in the cruel times of their early middle-ages, that
terrible drama--they still showed at St. Ladislas the chamber where it
had been enacted--that second son stabbing his elder brother in his lust
for the crown and hurling the corpse from an oriel window into the
Zanthos, which flowed beneath the fortress. What had the boy inherited
of this rivalry? And, though this rivalry had been wholly refined into
less salient feelings, would not an immense happiness enter Berengar's
small princely soul if he were to learn that he might be crown-prince
now and that one day he would be ... emperor? But what would the boy
think of him, Othomar, for giving away all this magnificence of his own
free will? Would he despise him, while yet feeling grateful to him, or
would he cherish mistrust, suspecting a lurking mystery behind all this
greatness, which Othomar cast from him?...

At such times Othomar would draw the little fellow to him with silent
compassion, but would take pleasure in feeling the firm muscles of his
sturdy little arms and listening to his short, crisp little speeches.
Then Berengar rode away and Djalo was allowed to run with him through
the park: in an hour he would bring the dog back to Othomar and talk
with great importance of his lessons, which were just beginning.

And, when Berengar had gone, Othomar lay thinking about him in his long
hours of reverie, already looked upon his brother as actually
crown-prince, erased his own name from the list of future sovereigns,
thought of what he would do when he was cured and had shaken off the
last remnant of his purple, remembered his uncle Xaverius, who was the
abbot of a monastery, and pictured himself studying, compiling works on
history and sociology....



5

These were autumn days. The sunny blue of the sky was often clouded with
grey; in the morning the winds blew from the north, blew over the sea
till it became the colour of steel; then the sun broke through and shone
very warmly for a couple of hours, with an occasional cold blast,
suddenly and treacherously rushing round the corners of the streets;
then, at four or half-past four o'clock, the sun was extinguished and
the pale sky was left exhaling its icy chillness on the open harbour,
between the white palaces, in the streets and squares.

It was a treacherous time of year: the empress and Berengar had caught
cold driving in an open carriage; they both kept their rooms and Othomar
in his turn went to visit them; the empress was coughing, the little
prince had a temperature; there was never so much illness about as now,
the doctors declared. And a melancholy continued to brood through the
halls of the Imperial, through the whole town, where the imperial family
were no longer seen at the opera and at parties. Never had the daily
dinners at the Imperial been so short, with so few guests; and it made
an insurmountably sad impression not to see the empress seated next to
the emperor, delicate, distinguished, august, but in her stead the
Princess Thera, who seemed quite incapable of bringing a smile to
Oscar's grim and peevish features.

Othomar did not even know that those about the empress were anxious on
her behalf: she always received him with all the cheerfulness that she
could muster, in spite of the pain on her chest; the doctors told him
nothing, no one gave him the bulletins, every one tried to spare him;
and besides there was really less anxiety in the Imperial than in the
town and throughout the country. But the little prince received Othomar
with less meekness than did the empress; and every day there were silent
rages, sulking displays against the doctors for keeping him in bed.

Once, when the crown-prince came to see Berengar, the doctors were with
him; the fever had increased, but the little prince wanted to get out of
bed; he was naughty, used ugly names, had even struck the good-natured,
big-headed doctor and pummelled him with his little clenched fist.

"As soon as you're better, Berengar," said Othomar, after first
reproving him, "I shall make you a present."

"What of?" asked the boy, eagerly. "But I am better now!"

"No, no, you must do what the doctors tell you and not vex them."

"And what will you give me then?"

Othomar looked at him long and firmly.

"What shall I have then?" repeated the child.

"I mustn't tell you yet, Berengar; it's really rather big for you
still."

"What is it then? A horse?"

"No, it's not as big as a horse, but heavier. Don't ask any more about
it and also don't try and guess what it is, but be obedient: then you'll
get better and then you shall have it."

"Heavier than a horse and not so big!..." Berengar pondered, with
glowing cheeks.

With his head bowed on his breast, dragging his footsteps, Othomar
returned to his room. He stayed there for hours, sitting silently,
gloomily, in the same attitude; as usual, he did not appear at dinner
and hardly ate what Andro brought him. Then he went to lie down on his
couch, took up a book to read, but put it down again and raised himself
up, as though with a sudden impulse:

"Why not now?" he thought. "Why keep on postponing it?..."

Night fell, but the upper corridors of the palace were not yet lighted;
dragging his fatigue through this dusky shadow, Othomar went to the
emperor's anterooms. The chamberlain announced him.

Oscar sat at his writing-table, pen in hand.

"Am I disturbing you, papa? Or can I speak to you?"

"No, you're not disturbing me.... Have you been to see mamma?"

"Yes, this afternoon; she was pretty well, but Berengar's temperature
was higher."

The emperor glanced up at him:

"Worse than this morning?"

"I don't know: he was rather feverish."

The emperor rose:

"Do you want to talk to me?"

"Yes, papa."

"Wait a moment, then. I've not been to Berengar yet to-day."

He went out, leaving the door ajar.

Othomar remained alone. He sat down. He looked round the great
work-room, which he knew so well from their morning consultations with
the chancellor. Lately, however, he had not attended these. He thought
over what he should say; meanwhile his eyes wandered around; they fell
upon the great mirror with its gilt arabesques; something seemed strange
to him. Then he rose and walked up to the glass:

"I was under the impression there was a flaw near the top of it," he
thought. "I can't well be mistaken. Has it been renewed?"

He was still standing by the looking-glass, when Oscar returned:

"Berengar is not at all well; the fever is increasing," he said; and the
tone of his voice hesitated. "Mamma is with him...."

Absorbed as he was in his own meditations, it did not strike Othomar
that the little prince must have become worse for the empress, who was
herself ill, to go to him.

"And about what did you want to speak to me?" asked the emperor, as the
prince remained silent.

"About Berengar, papa."

"About Berengar?"

"About Berengar and myself. I have been contrasting myself with him,
papa. We are brothers, we are both your sons. Which of us, do you think,
takes most after you ... and ... our ancestors?"

"What are you driving at, Othomar?"

"At what is right, papa: right and just. Nature is sometimes unjust and
blind; she ought to have let Berengar be born first and me next ... or
even left me out altogether."

"Once more, what are you driving at, Othomar?"

"Can't you see, papa? I will tell you. Is Berengar not more of a monarch
than I am? Is that not why he's your favourite? And ought I to deprive
him of his natural rights for the sake of my traditional rights? I want
to abdicate in his favour, papa. I want to abdicate everything, all my
rights."

"The boy's mad," muttered Oscar.

"All my rights," repeated Othomar, dreamily, as though he foresaw the
future: his little brother crowned.

"Othomar, are you raving?" asked the emperor.

"Papa, I am not raving. What I am now telling you I have thought over
for days, perhaps weeks; I don't know: time passes so quickly.... What I
am telling you I have discussed with mamma: it made her cry, but she did
not oppose me. She looks at it as I do.... And what I tell you holds
good; I have made up my mind and nothing can make me change it.... I am
fond of Berengar; I am glad to give up everything to him; and I shall
pray that he may become happy through my gift. I am convinced--and so
are you--that Berengar will make a better emperor than I. What talent do
I possess for ruling?..."

He shrugged his shoulders in helplessness, with a nervous shudder that
jolted them:

"None," he answered himself. "I have no talent, I can do nothing. I do
not know how to decide--as now--nor how to act; I shall always be a
dreamer. Why then should I be emperor and he nothing more than the
commander-in-chief of my army or my fleet? Surely that can't be right;
that can't have been what nature intended.... Papa, I give it him, my
birthright, and I ... I shall know how to live, if I must...."

The emperor had listened to him with his elbows on the table and his
hands under his chin and now sat staring at him with his small, pinched
eyes:

"Do you mean all this?" he asked.

"Yes, papa."

"You're not delirious?"

"No, papa, I'm not delirious."

"Then you're mad."

The emperor rose:

"Then you're mad, I tell you. Othomar, realize that you're mad and
return to your senses; don't become quite insane."

"Why do you call me insane, papa? _Can't_ you agree with me that
Berengar would be better than I?"

His father's cruel glances stabbed Othomar through and through:

"No, you're not insane in that; you're right there...."

"And why, then, am I insane because I wish, for that reason, to abdicate
in his favour?"

"Because it's impossible, Othomar."

"What law prevents me?"

"My will, Othomar."

The prince drew himself up proudly:

"Your will?" he cried. "Your will? You acknowledge that I am nothing of
a prince except by birth? You acknowledge that Berengar does possess
your capacity for ruling and you will not, you _will_ not have me
abdicate? And you think that I shall fall in with that will?..."

He uttered a hoarse laugh:

"No, papa, I shall pay no heed to that will. You can carry through your
will in everything, but not in this. Though you called out your whole
army, you could not prevail against me here. There is a limit to the
power of human will, papa, and nothing, nothing, nothing can prevent me
from considering myself unfit to reign and from _refusing_ to wear a
crown!"

The emperor seized Othomar's wrists; his hot breath hissed in Othomar's
face:

"You damned cub!" he snarled between his large, white teeth. "You
wretched nincompoop! You're right: there's nothing of the emperor in
you; there never will be. If I didn't know better, I'd say you were the
son of a footman. You're right, you're incompetent. You're nothing: our
crown doesn't fit you. And yet, though I had to lock you up in a prison,
so that no one might hear of your baseness, you shall _not_ abdicate
your rights. My will extends farther than you can see. Do you hear? You
shan't do it, you shan't resign, though from this moment onwards I have
to hide you, as a disgrace, from the world. Your slack brain can't
understand that, can it? You can't understand that I'm fonder of
Berengar than of a poltroon like you and that nevertheless I won't have
him as my successor in your stead? Then I shall have to tell you. I
won't have it, so as not to let the world see the degeneration of our
race. I will not have the world know how pitiably we have deteriorated
in you; and I would rather ... I would rather murder you than allow you
to abdicate!"

Fiercely Oscar took the prince by his shoulders, pushed him backwards on
a couch, on which Othomar sank in a huddled attitude, while his father
continued to hold him like a prey in the grip of his strong hands:

"But I tell you," continued the emperor, "I tell you, you are _not_ the
son of a footman, you are my son; and I shall not murder you, because I
am your father. I will only say this to you, Othomar: you might have
spared me this. I believe you have a high opinion of your own delicacy
of feeling, but you have not the very least feeling. You do not even
feel that you have been contemplating a villainy, the villainy of a
proletarian, a slave, a pariah, a wretch. You have not felt even for an
instant the pain you would cause me by such an infamy. You saw that I
was fonder of your brother; you thought that I should approve of your
cowardly proposal. Not for a moment did the thought occur to you that,
with that cowardice of yours, you would give _me_ the greatest pain that
I could ever experience!..."

Othomar, utterly crushed, had fallen back upon the couch. He was no
longer able to distinguish what was just and what was true; he no longer
knew himself at that minute; his father's words lashed his soul like
whips. And he felt no strength within him to resist them: the insulting
reproaches kept him down, as though he had been thrashed. Infamy and
disgrace, insanity and degeneration: he collapsed beneath them; he
gulped down the mud of them, till he felt like suffocating. And that he
did not suffocate and continued to breathe, continued to live, that the
light was bright around him, that things remained unchanged, that the
outside world knew nothing: all this was despair to him. For a moment he
thought of his mother. But he wished for darkness, for death, to hide
himself, himself and his shame, his degeneration, the leprosy of his
pariah-temperament.... It flashed through him in the second after that
last lash of reproach, flashed across his despondent soul. He knew that
Oscar always kept a loaded revolver in an open pigeon-hole of his
writing-table. His brain grew tense in the effort of thinking how to
reach it. He rose, approached the pigeon-hole; suddenly he sprang
towards it, stretched out his hand and seized the pistol....

Did Oscar believe that his son had been driven mad by his last words and
now wanted his father's life? Did he perceive this ecstasy of suicide in
his offspring, was his quivering brain penetrated by the horrible
thought that self-destruction would be the pariah's last refuge? Be this
as it might, he rushed at Othomar. But the prince lightly leapt out of
his reach, pointed the revolver, with wild eyes, with distorted
features, in senseless despair, upon himself, upon his own forehead, on
which the veins swelled blue....

"Othomar!" roared the emperor.

At this moment hurried footsteps were heard outside, confused words
sounded in the anteroom and the Marquis of Xardi, the emperor's
aide-de-camp, alarmed and flurried, threw the door wide open....

"Sir!" he exclaimed. "The empress asks if your majesty will come to
Prince Berengar this instant...."

The shot had gone off, into the wall. Blood dripped from Othomar's ear.
The emperor had caught hold of the crown-prince and torn the revolver,
still loaded in five chambers, from him; a second shot went off in that
brief moment of struggle, into the ceiling, Othomar remained standing
vacantly.

"Marquis!" the emperor hissed out at Xardi. "I don't know what you
think, but I tell you this: you've seen nothing, you think nothing. What
happened here before you came in ... did not happen."

He pointed his finger, threateningly at Xardi:

"Should you ever forget, marquis, that it did not happen, then I shall
forget who you are, though your pedigree dates back farther than ours!"

Xardi stood deathly pale before his emperor:

"My God, sir!..."

"What do you mean by entering your sovereign's room in this unmannerly
fashion? Even the Duke of Xara has himself announced, marquis!"

"Sir...."

"What? Speak up!..."

"Her majesty...."

"Well, her majesty?"

"Prince Berengar ... the fever has increased ... he is delirious, sir,
and the doctors ..."

The emperor turned pale:

"Is he dead?" he asked, fiercely. "Tell me at once."

"Not dead, sir, but...."

"But what?"

"But the doctors ... have no hope...."

With an oath of anguish the emperor pushed the aide aside and darted out
of the room.

The prince remained standing. Life returned to him: a reality full of
anguish, born of nightmare. His eyes swam with tears:

"Xardi," he implored, "Xardi ... your house has always been loyal to our
house; swear to me that you will be silent."

The marquis looked at the crown-prince in consternation:

"Highness...."

"Swear to me, Xardi."

"I swear to you, highness," said the aide, subdued; and he stretched out
his fingers to the crucifix hanging on the wall.

Othomar pressed his hand:

"Did Prince Berengar...." He could scarcely speak. "Did Prince Berengar
become so ill suddenly?..."

"The fever is increasing every moment, highness, and he is
delirious...."

"I will go to him," said Othomar.

He wiped the blood from his ear with his handkerchief and held the
cambric, which was at once soaked through, against it.

In the last anteroom he passed the chamberlain and looked at him
askance.

Xardi stopped for a moment:

"The Duke of Xara has hurt himself slightly," he said. "He was examining
the emperor's revolver when I went in and he started: two shots went
off."

"I heard them," whispered the chamberlain, pale as death.

"There might have been an accident...."

They were silent for a moment; their glances were full of understanding;
a shudder crept down their backs. The chill night seemed to be
descending over the palace as with clouds of evil omen.

"And ... the little prince?..." asked the chamberlain, shivering.

Xardi shrugged his shoulders; his eyes grew moist, through innate,
immemorial love for his sovereigns:

"Dying," he answered, faintly.



6

The crown-prince passed through the anteroom: one of the doctors stood
dipping poultices into a basin of ice; a valet was bringing in a pail of
fresh ice. The door of the bedroom was open and Othomar remained
standing at the door. The little prince lay on his camp-bed, talking in
a low, sing-song tone; the empress, pale, suffering, bearing up in spite
of everything, sat beside him with Princess Thera.

The emperor exchanged brief words with the two other doctors, whose
features were overcast with a stark hopelessness; a mordant anguish
distorted Oscar's face, which became furrowed with deep wrinkles:

"My God, he doesn't know me, he doesn't know me!" Othomar heard the
emperor complain.

"Nor me," murmured the empress.

"What can it be? What, what, what can it be?" sang the little prince;
and his usually shrill little voice sounded soft as a bird's melody: it
was as though he were playing by himself. "I'm to have a present from my
brother, from my brother, something nice!" he sang on.

The empress could distinguish his words, but she did not understand; and
when he went on to sing the name of the crown-prince, with his title:

"Othomar, O Othomar of Xara, of Xara!..." she turned to the door and
gently implored:

"Othomar, he's calling your name; come, perhaps he will know you!"

Othomar approached; he went past the emperor and knelt down by the bed;
a smile lit up Berengar's little face.

"He is becoming calmer," said the kind doctor, whose tears were running
down his cheeks, to Oscar. "Does your majesty see? The prince recognizes
his highness the duke...."

A note of gladness sounded in his voice.

But a violent jealousy distorted the emperor's features:

"No, no," he said.

"Certainly, sir, only look," the doctor insisted, his hope reviving.

"O Othomar, O Othomar of Xara!" sang the little prince: he had
recognized his brother, but did not see him in the flesh, saw him only
in his waking dream, through the mist of his fever.

"What do you bring me that's nice? Smaller than a horse, but heavier?
Heavier? Oh, how heavy it is, how heavy, heavy, heavy!..."

His little voice came as though with an effort, as though he were
lifting something; his convulsive, small, broad hands made a gesture of
laborious lifting.

"Berengar," said the crown-prince; and his voice broke, his heart sank
within him....

"Othomar," replied the child.

A cry of anguish escaped the emperor.

"Yes, you're always so good to me," continued the little prince in his
sing-song. "You always give me such nice things. You know, those lovely
guns on my last birthday? And that pistol? But mamma's afraid of
that!... Are you dying, Othomar? Look, there's blood on your ear.... But
when people bleed they die! Are you dying, Othomar? Look, blood on your
coat...."

The empress remained sitting straight upright; she glared from Berengar
at the bleeding wound of her eldest son....

"Blood, blood, blood!" sang Berengar. "Othomar is dying! Yes, he always
gives me so many nice things, does Othomar. I have so many already, many
more than all the other children of Liparia put together! And what am I
to have now?... Still more?... That nice thing: what is it? I can feel
it: it's so heavy; but I can't see it...."

The doctor had come from the anteroom and approached with the poultices.

"I can't see it!... I can't see it!..." the boy sang out, painfully and
faintly.

When the doctor applied the poultices, Berengar struggled, began to cry,
as though a great sorrow was springing up in his little heart:

"I can't see it!" he sobbed. "I shall never see it!..."

A violent paroxysm succeeded the sobbing: he struck out wildly with his
arms, pulled off the poultices, threw the ice off his head, stood up
mad-eyed in his bed, flung away the sheets.... Othomar rose, the empress
also. The emperor sat in a chair, his face covered with his hands, and
sobbed by Princess Thera's side. The doctors approached the bed,
endeavoured to calm Berengar, but he struck them: the fever mounted into
his little brain in madness.

At this moment Professor Barzia entered: he was not staying in the
palace; he had been sent for at his hotel.

"What is your highness doing here?" he said, point-blank, to Othomar.

The crown-prince made no reply.

"Your highness will retire to your own rooms at once," the professor
commanded.

"Save my boy!" exclaimed the emperor, broken, sobbing.

"I am saving the crown-prince first, sir: he is killing himself here!"

"Very well, but next save _him!_" shouted Oscar, fiercely.

The other doctors had given orders: a tub was brought in, filled with
lukewarm water, regulated by a thermometer.... But Othomar saw no more:
he rushed away, driven out by Barzia's stern glances. He rushed along
the corridors, through a group of officers and chamberlains, who stood
anxiously whispering and made way for him. He plunged into his own room,
which was not lighted. In the dark, he thought he was flinging himself
upon a couch, but bumped upon the ground. There he remained lying. Then,
as though crushed by the darkness, he began to croon, to moan, to sob
aloud, with sharp, hysterical cries.

Andro entered; his foot struck against the prince. He lit the gas, tried
to lift his master. But Othomar lay heavy as lead; fierce and prolonged,
his nervous cries came jolting from his throat. Andro rang, once, twice,
three times; he went on ringing for a long time; at last a footman and a
chamberlain appeared together, at different doors.

"Call Professor Barzia!" cried Andro to the footman. "Excellency, will
you help me lift his highness?" he begged the chamberlain.

But, when the footman turned round, he ran against the professor, who
could do nothing for the little prince and had followed the
crown-prince. He saw Othomar lying on the floor, moaning, screaming....

"Leave me alone with his highness," he ordered, with a glance around
him.

The chamberlain, Andro, the footman obeyed his order.

The professor was a tall old man, heavily-built and strong; he
approached the prince and lifted him in his arms, notwithstanding the
leaden heaviness of hysteria. Thus he held him, merely with his arms
around him, upon the couch and looked deep into his eyes, with hypnotic
glances. Suddenly Othomar ceased his cries; his voice was hushed. His
head fell feebly upon Barzia's shoulder. The professor continued to hold
him in his arms. The prince became calm, like a quieted child, without
Barzia's having uttered a word.

"May I request your highness to go to bed?" said the professor, with a
gentle voice of command.

He assisted Othomar to get up and himself lit the light in the bedroom
and helped the prince off with his coat.

"What has made your highness' ear bleed?" asked Barzia, whose fingers
were soiled with clotted blood.

"A revolver-shot," Othomar began, faintly; his closed and averted eyes
told the rest.

The professor said nothing more. As though Othomar were a child, he went
on helping him, washed his ear, his neck, his hands, with a mother's
gentleness. Then he made him lie down in bed, covered him over, tidying
the room like a servant. Then he went and sat by the bed, where Othomar
lay staring with strange, wide-open eyes: he took the prince's hand and
sat thus for a long time, looking softly down upon him. The light
behind, turned down low, threw Barzia's large head into the shadow and
just glanced upon his bald cranium, from which a few grey locks hung
down his neck. At last he said, gently:

"Your highness wishes to get well, do you not?"

"Yes," said Othomar, in spite of himself.

"How does your highness propose to do so?" asked the professor.

The prince did not answer.

"Doesn't your highness know? Then you must think it over. But you must
keep very calm, will you not, very calm...."

And he stroked Othomar's hand with a gentle, regular motion, as though
anointing it with balsam.

"For your highness must never again give way to nervous attacks. Your
highness must study how to prevent them. I am giving your highness much
to think about," continued Barzia, with a smile. "I am doing this
because I want to let your highness think of other things than of what
you are thinking. I want to clear your brain for you. Are you tired and
do you want to go to sleep, or shall I go on talking?"

"Yes, go on," whispered the prince.

"There are days of great grief in store for the Imperial," the doctor
resumed, gently. "Your highness must think of those days without
permitting yourself to be overcome by the grief of them.... The little
prince will probably not recover, highness. Will you think of that ...
and think of your parents, their poor majesties? There are days like
these for a nation, or for a single family, in which grief seems to pile
itself up. For does not this day, this night seem to mark the end of
your race, my prince?... Lie still, lie still, don't move: let me talk
on, like a garrulous old man.... Does your highness know that the
emperor to-day, for the first time in his whole life, cried, sobbed? His
younger son is dying. Between this boy and the father is a first-born
son, who is very, very ill.... Is not all this the end?"

"Yet, if God wills it so," whispered Othomar.

"It is our duty to be resigned," said Barzia. "But does God will it so?"

"Who can tell?..."

"Ask yourself, but not now, highness: to-morrow, to-morrow.... After the
saddest nights ... the mornings come again...."

The professor rose and mixed a powder in a glass of water:

"Drink this, highness...."

Othomar drank.

"And now lie quiet and close those wide eyes."

"I shall not be able to sleep though...."

"That is not necessary, only close those eyes...."

Barzia stroked them with his hand; the prince kept them closed. His hand
again lay in the hand of the professor.

A hush descended upon the room. Outside, in the corridors and galleries,
perplexed steps approached at times, from the distance, in futile haste;
then they sounded away, far away, in despair. A world of sorrow seemed
to fill the palace, there, outside that room, until it held every hall
of it with its dark, tenebrous woe. But in this one room nothing
stirred. The professor sat still and stared before him, absorbed in
thought; the crown-prince had fallen asleep like a child.



7

Next morning the day rose upon an empire in mourning. Prince Berengar
had passed away in the night.

Othomar had slept long and woke late, as in a strange calm. When
Professor Barzia told him of the young prince's end--the apathy of the
last moments, after a raging fever--it seemed to him as if he already
knew it. The great sorrow which he felt was singularly peaceful, without
rebellion in his heart, and surprised himself. He remained lying calmly
when the professor forbade him to get up. He pictured to himself without
emotion the little prince, motionless, with his eyes closed, on his
camp-bed. Mechanically he folded his hands and prayed for his brother's
little soul.

He was not allowed to leave his room that day and saw only the empress,
who came to him for an instant. He was not at all surprised that she too
was calm, dry-eyed: she had not yet shed tears. Even when he raised
himself from his pillows and embraced her, she did not cry. Nor did he
cry, but only his own calmness astonished him: not hers. She stayed for
but a moment; then she went away, as though with mechanical steps, and
he was left alone. He saw nobody else that day except Barzia: not even
Andro entered his room.

Outside the chamber, the prince, judging from certain steps in the
corridors, certain sounds of voices--the little that penetrated to
him--could divine the sorrow of the palace; he pictured sad tidings
spreading through the land, through Europe and causing people to stand
in consternation in the presence of death, which had taken them by
surprise. Life was not secure: who could tell that he would be alive
to-morrow! Vain were the plans of men: who could tell what the hour
would bring forth! And he lay thinking of this calmly, in the singular
peacefulness of his soul, in which he saw the futility of struggling
against life or against death.

Not till next day did Barzia give him leave to get up, late in the
afternoon. After his shower-bath, he dressed calmly, in his lancer's
uniform, with crape round the sleeve. When he saw himself in the glass,
he was surprised at his resemblance to his mother, at seeing how he now
walked with the same mechanical step. Barzia allowed him to go to the
empress' sitting-room. He there found her, the emperor, Thera and the
Archduke and Archduchess of Carinthia, who had arrived at Lipara the
evening before. They sat close together, now and then softly exchanging
a word.

Othomar went up to the emperor and would have embraced him; Oscar,
however, only pressed his hand. After that Othomar embraced his sisters
and his brother-in-law. Then he sank down by the empress, took her hand
in his and sat still. She looked attenuated and white as chalk in her
black gown. She did not weep: only the two princesses sobbed,
persistently, again and again.

The family dined alone in the small dining-room, unattended by any of
the suite. A depression had descended upon the palace, which seemed
wholly silent at this hour, with but now and then the soft footsteps
through the galleries of an aide-de-camp carrying a funeral-wreath, or a
flunkey bringing a tray full of telegrams. After the short dinner, the
family retired once more to the empress' drawing-room. The hours dragged
on. Night had fallen. Then the Archbishop of Lipara was announced.

The imperial family rose; they went through the galleries, unattended,
to the great knights' hall. Halberdiers stood at the door, in mourning.
They entered. The emperor gave his hand to the empress and led her to
the throne, whose crown and draperies were covered with crape. On either
side were seats for Othomar, the princesses, the archduke.

In the middle of the hall, in front of the throne, rose the catafalque,
under a canopy of black and ermine. On it lay the little prince in
uniform. Over his feet hung a small blue knight's mantle with a great
white cross; a boy's sword lay on his breast; and his little hands were
folded over the jewelled hilt. By his little head, somewhat higher up,
shone, on a cushion, a small marquis' coronet. Six gilt candelabra with
many tall candles shone peacefully down upon the lad's corpse and left
the great hall still deeper in shadow: only, outside, the moon rose in
the distant blue, nocturnal sky; here and there it tinged with a white
glamour the trophies and suits of armour that hung or stood like iron
spectres in niches and against the walls. At the foot of the catafalque,
on a table like an altar, with a white velvet cloth, a great gilt
crucifix spread out its two arms, between two candelabra, in
commiseration.

With drawn swords, motionless as the armour on the walls, stood four
blue-mantled knights of St. Ladislas, two at either side of the
catafalque.

A soft scent of flowers was wafted through the hall. All round the
catafalque wreaths of every kind of white blossom were stacked in great
heaps; the fragrance of violets outscented all the others.

They sat down: the emperor, the empress and their four children. Slowly
the archbishop entered with his priests and choir-boys. Then the
imperial party knelt on cushions placed before their seats. The prelate
read the prayers for the dead; and the chanted _Kyrie Eleison_ and
_Agnus Dei_ besought mercy for Berengar's little soul amongst the souls
in purgatory, quivered softly through the vast hall, were wafted with
the scent of the flowers over the motionless, sleeping face of the
imperial child....

The rite came to an end; the prelate sprinkled the holy water, went
sprinkling around the catafalque. The princes left the hall, but Othomar
stayed on:

"I want to lay my wreath," he whispered to the empress.

The priests also departed, slowly; the crown-prince expressed to the
four knights, who were waiting to be relieved by others, his wish to be
left alone for a moment. They too withdrew. Then he saw Thesbia appear
at the door, with a large white wreath in his hand. He went to the
aide-de-camp and took the wreath from him.

Othomar remained alone. The hall stretched long and broad, with darkness
at either end. The moon had risen higher, seemed whiter, cast a ghostly
glamour over the suits of armour. In the centre, as though in sanctity,
between the pious light of the tall candles, rose the catafalque, lay
the prince.

The crown-prince mounted two steps of the catafalque and placed his
wreath. Then he looked at Berengar's face: no fever distorted it now; it
lay peaceful-pale, as though sleeping. All sounds had died away in the
hall; a deadly silence reigned. Here the world of sorrow which had
filled the palace and the country seemed to have become sanctified in an
ecstasy of calm. And Othomar saw himself alone with his soul. The
uncertainty of life, the vanity of human intentions were again revealed
to him, but more clearly; they were no longer black mystery, they became
harmony. It was as though he saw the whole harmony of the past: in all
Liparia's historic past, in the whole past of the world there sounded
not one false note. All sorrow was sacred and harmonious, tending more
closely to the lofty end, which would be in its turn a beginning and
never anything but harmony. Resignation descended upon his mood like a
spirit of holiness; his strange calmness became resignation. It was as
though his nerves were relaxed in one great assuagement.

And his resignation contained only the sadness that never again would he
hear the high-pitched little commanding voice of the boy whom he had
loved, that this little life had run its course, so soon and for ever.
His resignation contained only the surprise that all this was ordered
thus and not as he had imagined it. He himself would have to wear the
crown which he had wished to relinquish to Berengar. And it now seemed
to him as though he himself were receiving it back from the dead boy's
hands. This no doubt was why he felt no touch of rebellion in his soul,
why he felt this peace, this sense of harmony. His gift was returning to
him as a legacy.

Long he stood thus, thinking, staring at his motionless little brother;
and his thoughts became simplified within him: he saw lying straight
before him the road which he should follow....

Then he heard his name:

"Othomar..."

He looked up and saw the empress at the door. She approached:

"Barzia was asking where you were," she whispered. "He was uneasy about
you...."

He smiled to her and shook his head to say no, that he was calm.

She came close, climbed the steps of the catafalque and leant against
his arm:

"How peaceful his little face is!" she murmured. "Oh, Othomar, I have
not yet given him my last kiss! And to-morrow he will no longer belong
to me: all those people will then be filing past."

"But now, mamma, he still belongs to us ... to you...."

"Othomar ..."

"Mamma ..."

"Shall I not have ... to lose you also?"

"No, mamma, not me.... I shall go on living ... for you...."

He embraced her; she looked up at him, surprised at his voice. Then she
looked again at her dead child. She released herself from her son's
arms, raised herself still higher, bent over the little white face and
kissed the forehead. But, when the stony coldness of the dead flesh met
her lips, she drew back and stared stupidly at the corpse, as though she
understood for the first time. Her arms grew stiff with cramp; she wrung
her fingers; she fell straight back upon Othomar.

And her eyes became moist with the first tears that she had shed for
Berengar's death and she hid her head in Othomar's arms and sobbed and
sobbed....

Then he led her carefully, slowly, down the steps of the catafalque, led
her out of the hall. In the corridor they came across Barzia; the
prince's calm and quiet face, as he supported his mother, eased the
professor's mind....

So soon as the empress and crown-prince had left the knights' hall, four
knights of St. Ladislas entered in their blue robes. They took up their
positions on either side of the catafalque and stood motionless in the
candle-light, staring before them, watching in the night of mourning
over the little imperial corpse, on which the blue light of the moon now
descended.... The priests too entered and prayed....

The palace was silent. When Othomar had consigned his mother, at the
door of her apartments, to the care of Hélène of Thesbia, he went
through the galleries to his own rooms. But, on turning a corridor, he
started. The great state-staircase yawned, faintly lighted, at his feet,
with beneath it the hollow space of the colossal entrance-hall.
Upholsterers were occupied in draping the banisters of the staircase
with crape gauze, for the time when the coffin should be carried
downstairs. With wide arms they measured out the mists of black, threw
black cloud upon cloud; the clouds of crape heaped themselves up with a
dreary flimsiness, up and up and up, seeming to fill the whole staircase
and to rise stair upon stair as though about to conquer the whole palace
with their gloom....

The upholsterers did not see the crown-prince and worked on, silently,
in the faint light. But a cold thrill passed through Othomar. In deathly
pallor he stared at the men there, at his feet, measuring out the crape
and sending clouds of it up to him. He recalled his dream: the streets
of Lipara overflowing with crape till the very sun reeled.... His blood
seemed to freeze in his veins....

Then he made the sign of the Cross:

"O God, give me strength!" he prayed in consternation....



8

Next day, through the guard of honour of the grenadiers, the people
filed past the little prince's body. The following morning, it was
removed to Altara and interred in the imperial vault in St. Ladislas'
Cathedral. Princes Gunther and Herman of Gothland had come over for the
ceremony, but the Duke of Xara was forbidden by Professor Barzia to take
part in it: he remained at Lipara.

The Gothlandic princes and their suite returned with the Emperor Oscar
to the capital, where, at her sister's pressing request, Queen Olga had
also come, with Princess Wanda. And, in the mourning stillness of the
Imperial, the family drew together in a narrow circle of intimacy. After
her first tears, the Empress Elizabeth had lost her unnatural calm and
constantly gave way to violent fits of sorrow, which Queen Olga or
Othomar had difficulty in allaying. The emperor was inconsolable,
indulging his grief with childish vehemence. Nobody had ever seen him
like that before, nobody recognized him. The fact that he had lost his
favourite child aroused his soul to rebellion against God. In addition
to this, he had very much taken to heart his last conversation with
Othomar, in which the prince had spoken to him of abdicating. The
emperor had not returned to the subject, but it was never out of his
thoughts. He feared that he would have to discuss it with Othomar again.
He was furious when he felt how powerless he was to prevent the
crown-prince from taking this desperate resolution. And he pictured the
legal results if the prince maintained his purpose: the Archduchess of
Carinthia empress, the archduke prince-consort and the house of
Czyrkiski no longer reigning in the male line on the throne of Liparia.
The possibility of this contingency, taken in conjunction with his
sorrow at Berengar's death, made the Emperor Oscar suffer with that very
special suffering of a monarch in whose veins still flows all the
hereditary attachment to the greatness of his ancestors and who hopes to
see this endure for all time. And he was also inconsolable for the loss
of the child whom he loved best, more profoundly but also more silently,
in greater secrecy, since he did not speak of it; and this probably made
him feel more bitterly the thought of the future which he saw imaged
before him. He had not even mentioned it to the empress, because of a
certain superstitious dread.

And with this mental sorrow--that his robust soul, which had always
retained a touch of childishness, was allowing itself to feel weak, as
though it were the soul of any other mortal instead of his, a
monarch's--there was mingled his substantial annoyance about the army
bill. There would be three hundred millions needed: one hundred millions
had already been voted for the increase of the infantry; the other two
hundred, for the artillery, Count Marcella, the minister for war, had
not yet succeeded in obtaining. The majority of the army committee was
against this colossal arming of the frontier-forts; the minister already
expected a violent opposition in the house of deputies and was fully
prepared for his fall. None of the three--Oscar, Myxila or Marcella--was
willing to make the least compromise. And Oscar moreover was prepared to
support his minister to the point of impossibility.

It was at this time that Othomar made General Ducardi teach him the
question, thoroughly, that he studied the staff-charts and military
statistics and reports of the committee, that he followed the
parliamentary discussions from out of his solitude. He held long
deliberations with the general. He had, however, not for months attended
the morning conferences in his father's room. But one morning he dressed
himself--as was now no longer his regular habit--in uniform and sent a
chamberlain to ask Oscar whether the emperor would permit him to be
present at Count Marcella's audience. The emperor shrugged his shoulders
in surprise, but combated his antipathy and sent word to his son that he
might come. So soon as the minister and the imperial chancellor were
with the emperor, Othomar joined them. He had grown still more slender
and the silver frogs of his lancer's uniform barely sufficed to lend a
slight breadth to his slimness; he was pale and a little sunken in the
cheeks; but the glance of his eyes had lost its former feverish
restlessness and recovered its melancholy calm, together with a certain
stiffness and haughtiness. He refrained at first from taking part in the
discussion, let the emperor curse, the chancellor shrug his shoulders
and rely on the impossible, the minister declared that he would never
give in. Then, however, he asked Oscar for leave to interpose a word. He
took a pencil; with a few short, decided lines of demonstration on the
maps, with a few simple, accurate indications on the registers, with a
few figures which he quoted, correctly, by heart, he showed that he was
quite conversant with the subject. He expressed the opinion that, in so
far as he could gather from the reports of the committee, from the mood
of the house of deputies, it remained an undoubted fact that the two
hundred millions would be refused ... and that the minister would fall.
He repeated these last words with emphasis and then looked firmly first
at his father and then at Count Marcella. Then, in his soft voice, which
rose and fell in logical tones, with serene words of conviction, he
asked why they should not submit to circumstances and make the best of
them. Why not accept the one hundred millions for the infantry as so
much gained and--for this after all would be possible without immediate
danger--endeavour to distribute the other two hundred over a period of
four or five years. He felt certain that an increase of twenty millions
or so a year would not meet with such violent opposition. By this
arrangement Count Marcella would be able to maintain himself in office
and to be supported by the emperor....

When he had ceased, his words were succeeded by a pause. His advice, if
not distinguished by genius, was at least practical and made the most of
this critical situation. Count Myxila slowly nodded his head in
approval. The emperor and Count Marcella could not at once adhere to
Othomar's idea and were obstinate, as though they still hoped to force
the army bill through, unchanged as conceived at first. But the
chancellor took the same view as the crown-prince, proved still more
clearly that an arrangement of this sort would be the only one by which
his majesty would be able to retain Count Marcella's services. And the
end of the matter was that the Duke of Xara's proposal should be taken
into consideration.

When Myxila and Marcella had gone, the emperor asked the prince to wait
a moment longer:

"Othomar," he said, "it gives me great pleasure to see you once more
occupying yourself with the affairs of our country...."

He hesitated an instant, almost anxiously:

"What conclusion may I draw from this ... for the future?" he continued
at last, slowly.

The crown-prince understood him:

"Papa," he said, gently, "I have had my moments of discouragement. I
shall perhaps have them again. But forget ... what we were discussing
just before Berengar's death. I have given up all thought of
abdicating...."

The emperor drew a deep breath.

"I am religious, papa, and I have faith," continued the prince. "Perhaps
an almost superstitious faith. I plainly see, in what has happened, the
hand of God...."

He passed his hand over his forehead, with a meditative gaze:

"The hand of God," he repeated. "I had a presentiment that one of us
would die within this year. I thought that I myself should be the one to
die. That is perhaps why, papa, I did not see how monstrous it was of me
to take the resolution which I did. I was not thinking of myself, who
was bound to die in any event; I thought only of Berengar. But now he is
dead and I am alive; and I shall now think of myself. For I feel that I
do not belong to myself. And I feel that it is this that should support
us through life: this feeling that we do belong not to ourselves but to
others. I have always loved our people and I have wished to help them
vaguely, in the abstract; I threw out my hands, without knowing why, and
when I did not make good, it drove me to despair...."

He suddenly stopped and looked timidly at his father, as though he had
gone too far in delivering his thoughts. But Oscar sat calmly listening
to him; and he continued:

"And I now know that this despair is not right, because with this
despair we keep ourselves for ourselves and cannot give ourselves to
others. You see--" he rose and smiled--"I cannot manage to cure myself
of my philosophy, but I hope now that it will tend to strengthen me
instead of enervating me, as it now flows from quite a different
principle."

The emperor gave a little shrug of the shoulders:

"Every one must work out his own theory of life, Othomar. I can only
give you this advice: do not be carried away by enthusiasm and keep your
point of view high. Do not analyse yourself out of all existence, for
such abnegation does not last and inevitably harks back to the old
rights. I do not reflect so much as you do; I am more spontaneous and
impulsive. But I will not condemn you for being different: you can't
help it. Perhaps you belong to this age more than I do. I only wish to
look at the result of your reflections; and this result is that you're
giving yourself back to ordinary life and to the interests of your
country. And this rejoices me, Othomar. Nor do I wish to look too far
into the future; I dare say that later too you will not have my ideas, I
dare say that later you will reign with a brand-new constitution, with
an elected upper house. I expect you will encounter much opposition from
the authoritative party among the nobles.... But, as I say, I do not
wish to go into that too far and I am content to rejoice at your moral
convalescence. And I am very grateful to you for the advice you gave us
just now. It was quite simple, but we should never have thought of it by
ourselves. We are too conservative for that. I think now that what you
propose will be the best thing to be done and that it can't be done
otherwise...."

He held out his hand; Othomar grasped it.

"And," he continued with the great magnanimity which, for all his
despotic haughtiness, lay at the very root of his soul, "do not bear any
malice because of ... of the words I used to you, Othomar. I am violent
and passionate, as you know. I was fonder of Berengar than of you. But
you yourself loved the boy. Bear me no malice, for his sake.... You are
my son too and I love you, if only because of the fact that you are my
son and the last of my race.... Forgive my candour."

Then he pressed Othomar in his arms. It struck him painfully to feel the
frailty of the prince in his firm embrace, so immediately upon his
words: "the last of my race...." A strange, bitter despair shot through
his soul; yet he clearly divined the mystery of this frailty: an unknown
moral spring, which he himself lacked, in the direct simplicity of his
nature, but which, to his great surprise, he felt in his son. When the
prince was gone and Oscar, left alone, thought of this and sought that
spring in what he knew of his son, he did not find it, yet felt that,
whatever it might be, it was something to be envied, a strength tougher
than muscular strength. He looked about him; his eyes fell upon a
portrait of the empress on his writing-table. How often had he not
stared at it in irritation because of their successor, who was so wholly
her son! But, as though a gleam of light passed before his eyes, he now
looked at the delicate features without the old annoyance; and a
grateful warmth began to glow within him. Whatever it were, Othomar had
derived this mysterious strength from his mother. It saved him and
spared him for his country, for his race. And--who knew?--perhaps this
mystery was just the element which their race needed, a necessary
constituent of its new lease of life.... He did not seek to penetrate
any farther; the future--even though it was now emerging more clearly
out of its first dimness--had no attraction for him. He loved the past,
those iron centuries with their heroes of emperors. But he felt that
everything was not lost. In his pious belief in the Almighty, he
thought, as did his son, of the hand of God. If it must be so, it was
right. God's will was inscrutable.

And grateful to the empress, grateful for the light that shone before
him, he bent his knees to the crucifix on the wall and prayed for his
two sons. He prayed long for the son who was to bear his crown, but
longer for the soul of the child of his own blood, whose loss would be
the grief that would always be as wormwood in the depths of his soul,
which was now outpoured in gratitude....



9

_From the Diary of Alexa Duchess of Yemena, Countess of Vaza._

                                            "--_November_, 18--.

"The crown-prince has not come with the emperor. Professor Barzia
forbade it, because he considered that the big hunting-parties with
which the emperor wishes to divert his thoughts from his grief for our
little prince would be too fatiguing for my sweet invalid. Still, I hear
from Dutri that he is making distinct progress and has already resumed
his daily morning rides.

"It is all over with me. Poor sinful heart within me, die! For, after
this last flower of passion that blossomed in you, I wish you to die to
the world. For the sake of the purity of my imperial flower, I wish you
now to die. Nothing after this, nothing but the new life which I see
lifting before me....

"And yet I am still young; I look no older in my glass than I did a year
ago. I have no need to abdicate my feminine powers unless I wish to. And
that is how every one looks at it, for I know that they whisper of the
Duke of Mena-Doni, as though he would be happy to replace my adored
crown-prince in my affections. But it's not true, it's not true. And I'm
so glad of it, that they do not realize me and do not know anything,
that they do not understand that I want to let my imperial love fade
away in purity and wish to cherish no earthly love after it.

"Dear love of my heart, you have raised me to my new life! You were
still a sin, but yet you purified me, because you yourself were purified
by the contact of that sacred something which is in majesty. Oh, you
were the last sin, but already you were purer than the one before! For I
have been a great sinner: I have immolated up all my sinful woman's life
to consuming passion; and it has left nothing but ashes in my heart!
Great scorching love of my life for him who is now dead--may his soul
rest in peace!--I will not deny you, because you have been my most
intense earthly pleasure, because through you I first learnt to know
that I possessed a soul and because you thus brought me nearer to what I
now see before me; but yet, what were you but earthliness? And my
chaster imperial love, what were you too but earthliness? Gentle
sovereign of my soul, what will God have you be but earthly? An empire
awaits you, a crown, a sceptre, an empress. God wills it and therefore
it is good, that you are earthly, while your earthliness is at the same
time consecrated by your pious faith. But I, I have been less than
merely earthly: I was sinful. And now I wish that my heart should wholly
die within me, because it is nothing than sin. Then shall my heart be
born again, in new life....

"I have prayed. For hours I lay on the cold marble in the chapel, till
my knees pained me and my limbs were stiff. I have confessed my sinful
life to my sainted confessor, his lordship of Vaza. Oh, the sweetness of
absolution and the ecstasy of prayer! Why do we not earlier feel the
blessed consolation that lies in the performance of our religious
duties! Oh, if I could lose myself utterly in that sweet mystery, in
God; if I could go into a convent! But I have my two stepdaughters. I
must bring them into society; it is my duty. And the bishop thinks that
that is my penance and my punishment: never to be able to withdraw into
a hallowed seclusion, but to continue breathing the sinful atmosphere of
the world.

"I will give my castle in Lycilia, where we never go--my own castle and
estate--to our Holy Church for a convent for Ursulines of gentle birth.
I went there with the bishop the other day. Oh, the great gloomy rooms,
the shadowy frescoes, the sombre park! And the chapel, when the new
windows are added, through which the light will fall in a mystic medley
of colour! My dearest wish is to be allowed to grow old there, and to
die far away from the world: but shall I ever be permitted? Holy Mother
of God, shall I ever be permitted?

       *       *       *       *       *

"Am I sincere? Who knows? What do I myself know? Do I truly feel this
purification of my soul, or do I remain the woman I am? A dreadful doubt
rises in me; it is Satan entering into me! I will pray: Blessed Virgin,
pray for me!

       *       *       *       *       *

"I have become calmer; prayer has strengthened me. Oh, full of anguish
are the doubts which tear me from my conviction! Then Satan says that I
am deluding myself into this conviction, to console myself in my
destitution, and that I have become religious for want of occupation. At
such times I see myself in the glass, young, a young woman. But, when I
pray, the doubts retire from my sinful mood and I look back shuddering
upon my wicked past. And then the new life of my future once more shines
up before me....

"Beloved prince, sovereign of my soul, here in these pages which none
shall ever read I take leave of you, because it was not vouchsafed me to
bid you farewell at a moment of tangible reality. Oh, I shall often,
perhaps from day to day, still see you in the crush of the world, in the
ceremonial of palaces; but you will never again belong to me and so I
take leave of you! Whatever I may be--a twofold sinner perhaps, longing
only for Heaven because the earth has lost its charm for me--I have been
true to you, as I always have been, in love. I have seen you bowed down,
you so frail, beneath your heavy yoke of empire; and I have felt my
heart brimming over with pity for you. I have tried to give you my poor
sinful consolation as best I could. May Heaven forgive me! I met you at
a moment when the tears were flowing from your dear eyes with bitterness
because people hated you and had dared with sacrilegious hands to strike
at your imperial body; and I tried to give you what I could of
sweetness, so as to make you forget that bitterness. Ah, perhaps I was
even then not quite sincere; perhaps I am even not so now! But that
would be too terrible; that would make me despise myself as I cannot do!
And I will at least retain this illusion, that I was sincere, that I did
wish to comfort you, that, sinful though it was, I did comfort you, that
I did, in very truth, love you, that I still love you now, that I shall
no longer love you--because I must not--as your mistress, but that I
shall do so as your subject. The blood in my veins loves yours, your
golden blood! And, when I myself have found peace and no longer doubt
and hesitate, my last days shall be spent only in prayer for you, that
you also may receive peace and strength for your coming task of
government. I feel no jealousy of her who will be my future empress. I
know that she is beautiful and that she is younger than I. But I do not
compare myself with her. I shall be her subject as I am yours. For I
love you for yourself and I love everything that will be yours. You are
my emperor; you are already my emperor, more than Oscar! Farewell, my
prince, my crown-prince, my emperor! When I see you again, you will be
nothing more to me than my emperor and my emperor alone!

       *       *       *       *       *

"To HIS IMPERIAL HIGHNESS THE DUKE OF XARA,

                              "LIPARA.

                            "CASTEL VAZA,
                     "--_November_, 18--.

"MY BELOVED PRINCE,

"Pardon me if I venture to send you the accompanying pages. I meant at
first to send you a long letter, a letter of farewell. And I did write
you many, but did not send them to you and destroyed them. Then I wrote
to you only for myself, took leave of you for myself. But can I trace
what goes on within me, what I think from one moment to the other? I did
miss it so: my sweet farewell, which would still bind me in some
intimate way to you! And so I could not refrain--at last, after much
vacillation of mind--from sending you these pages, which I had written
only for myself. At your feet I implore you graciously to accept them,
graciously to read them. Then destroy them. Through them you will learn
the last thoughts that I have dared to consecrate to the mystery that
was our love....

"I press my lips to your adored hands.

                                                             "ALEXA."



CHAPTER VI



1

The Empress Elizabeth rode with Hélène of Thesbia in a victoria,
preceded by an outrider, from St. Ladislas to the Old Palace, which,
together with the cathedral and the Episcopal, formed one gigantic
building. Here, at Altara, the Archduke Albrecht and the Archduchess
Eudoxie, with the imperial bride, had taken up their abode on the
previous day. From the tall fortress--a broad mass of granite with
crenulated plateaus and squat towers, overlooking Altara--the road
wandered downwards, indistinguishable beneath the old chestnut-trees, in
tortuous zig-zags. The dust flew up under the wheels; on both sides lay
villas, with terraces gay with vases and flowers and statues, sloping
lower and lower towards the town. The villas blazed with bunting; the
blue-and-white flags with the white crosses revelled in all their gaudy
newness among the dusty foliage of the old trees and acacias.

It was June, six months after the death of the little prince; but the
mourning had been lightened because of the approaching nuptials of the
Duke of Xara, which the emperor wished to see celebrated as early as
possible. The empress, however, still wore heavy mourning, which she
would not lay aside before the day of the wedding; Hélène was in grey;
the liveries were grey.

Many pedestrians, horsemen, carriages passed along the road and stopped
respectfully; the empress bowed to left and right; she received cheers
and salutations from the balconies of the villas. In this warm summer
weather a mellow welcome, a soft gaiety reigned all along the road; the
road, with its villas where the people sat in groups, emitted a
friendliness which affected the empress pleasantly and made her heart
swell in her breast with a gentle melancholy. Children ran about and
played in white summer suits; they stopped suddenly and, like well-bred
children, accustomed to seeing members of the imperial family pass
daily, they bowed low, the boys awkwardly, the girls with new-learnt
curtseys. Then they went on playing again.... And the empress smiled at
a large family, old and young people together, who sat on a terrace,
doubtless celebrating a birthday, and laughed and drank, with many
glasses and decanters before them, the children with their mouths full
of cake. So soon as they saw the outrider, they all stood up and waved,
some with their glasses still in their hands, and the empress, laying
aside her usual stiffness, bowed back with a winning smile.

And it was as though she were driving through a huge, luxurious village;
for a moment she forgot the light obsession that depressed her, forgot
why she was this day going to Valérie and allowed herself to be lulled
by her delight in the love that she divined all round her. It was the
love of the old Liparian patrician families--noble or not noble--for
their sovereigns. It was a caress which she never felt at Lipara. And
she remembered Othomar's letter, at the time of last year's inundations:

"Why are we not oftener at Altara?"

She could not for a moment desist from bowing. But she was now
approaching the town: the old houses shifted like the wings at a
theatre; the whole town shifted nearer, gay with flags, which threw an
air of youth over its old stonework. The streets were full: thousands of
visitors, native and foreign, were at Altara; there was not a room to be
had in the hotels. And the empress could scarcely speak a word to
Hélène; she could do nothing but bow and bow, perpetually....

In the fore-court of the Old Palace, the infantry composing the guard of
honour of the Austrian bride were drawn up and presented arms as the
empress drove in. The Archduchess Eudoxie was awaiting the empress.

"How is Valérie?" Elizabeth at once asked.

"Better, calmer," replied the archduchess. "Much better than I dared
hope. But she will receive no one...."

"Do send to ask whether I can see her...."

The archduchess' lady-in-waiting left the room: she returned with the
message that her imperial highness was expecting the empress.

Elizabeth found Valérie lying on a sofa, wearing a white lace tea-gown,
looking very pale, with great, dark, dull eyes; she rose, however:

"Forgive me, ma'am," she said, in apology.

Elizabeth embraced her with great tenderness; the archduchess added:

"I was not well, I felt so tired...."

But then her eyes met Elizabeth's and she saw that the empress did not
expect her to exhibit superhuman endurance. She nestled up against her
and cried softly, as one cries who has already wept long and
passionately and is now exhausted with weeping and has not the strength
to weep except very, very softly. The empress made her sit down, sat
down beside her and caressed her with a soothing movement of her hand.
Neither of the two spoke; neither of the two found words in the
difficult relation which at that moment they bore one to the other.

Two days ago, the day before that fixed for the bride's journey to
Altara, the news had arrived that Prince von Lohe-Obkowitz had shot
himself in Paris. The actual reason of this suicide was not known. Some
thought that the prince had taken much to heart the disfavour of the
Emperor of Austria and the quarrel with his own family; others that he
had lost a fortune at baccarat and that his ruin was completed by the
bohemian extravagance of his wife, the notorious Estelle Desvaux, who
herself had been ruined more than once in her life, but had always
retrieved her position by means of a theatrical tour and the sale of a
few diamonds. Others again maintained that Prince Lohe had never been
able to forget his love for the future Duchess of Xara. But, whatever
might be suggested in Viennese court-circles, nothing was known for
certain. Valérie had by accident read the report, which they had tried
to conceal from her, in the same newspaper in which, now almost a year
ago, she had, also by accident, on the terrace at Altseeborgen, read the
news of Prince Lohe's proposed marriage and surrender of his rights. Her
soul, which had no tendency to mysticism, nevertheless, in the shock of
despair that now passed through it, became almost superstitious because
of this repetition of cruelty. But when, months ago, she had combated
and worn out her sorrow, it had been followed by an indifference to any
further suffering that she might yet have to experience in life. The
death of her illusions was a final death; after her betrothal she had as
it were found herself with a new soul, hardened and girt about with
indifference. It was strange that in this indifference the only thing to
which she continued sensible was that exquisiteness in Othomar's
character: his delicacy in sparing her at Altseeborgen, against Oscar's
desire; his wide feeling of universal love for his people; all his
gentle nature and simple sense of duty.... But, however indifferent she
might generally think herself to be, this second incident struck her
cruelly, as though a refinement of fate had chosen the moment for it.
The official journey from Sigismundingen to Altara had been a martyrdom.
Valérie had endured like an automaton the receptions on the frontiers,
the welcome at the Central Station at Altara, with the greeting of her
imperial bridegroom, who had there kissed her, and the addresses of the
authorities, the offering of bread and salt by the canons of the chapter
of St. Ladislas. She had swallowed it, their bread and salt. And then
the drive through the town, gay with bunting and with triumphal arches
erected from street to street, to the Old Palace, in the open landau
with the emperor and her bridegroom, amid the cheering of the populace
which cut her ears and her overexcited nerves as though with sharp-edged
knives! Then, at the palace, it had struck Othomar how like a hunted
fawn she looked, with her frightened eyes. Prince Lohe's death was known
at Altara; and, though the people had cheered, cheered from true
affection for the future crown-princess, they had stared at her because
of that tragedy, curious and eager to see an august anguish shuddering
in the midst of their festivities, hunted through arches of green and
bunting. They had seen nothing. Valérie had bowed, smiled, waved her
hand to them from the balcony of the Old Palace, standing by Othomar's
side! They had seen nothing, nothing, for all their tense expectation.
But then Valérie's strength had come to an end. Her part was played: let
the curtain fall. Othomar left her alone, with a pressure of the hand.
For hours she sat lifelessly; then night came; she could not sleep, but
she was able to sob.

Now it was next day; she was lying down exhausted, but really she had
shed her last tear, fought her last fight, recovered her indifference:
no sorrows that were still in store for her could ever hurt her now!

Yet the fond embrace of Othomar's mother softened her; and she again
found her tears.

They exchanged barely a few words and yet they felt a mutual sympathy
passing between them. And through the midst of her sorrow Valérie could
see her duty, which would at the same time be her strength: no bitter
indifference, but an acquiescence in what her life might be. Oh, she had
imagined it differently in her dreams as a young girl: she had pictured
it to herself as more agreeable and smiling and as finding its
expression more naturally, more spontaneously and without so much
calculation! But she had awakened from her dreams; and where else should
she seek her strength but in her duty?... And she conquered herself,
whatever might be destroyed in her soul, by an unsuspected vitality--her
real nature--even more than by her thoughts. She dried her eyes,
mentioned that it was near the time when a deputation of young Liparian
ladies was to come and offer her a wedding-present; and the empress left
her alone, that she might dress.

She appeared presently, in a white costume embroidered with dull gold,
in the drawing-room where her parents sat with the empress and with
Hélène of Thesbia and the Austrian ladies-in-waiting. Shortly after,
Othomar came too, with his sisters and the Archduke of Carinthia. And,
when the deputation of young ladies of rank was announced and appeared,
with Eleonore of Yemena in its midst, Valérie listened with her usual
smile to the address recited by the little marchioness, with a gracious
gesture accepted from the hands of two other girls the great case which
they caused to fly open, showing, upon light velvet, a triple necklace
of great pearls. And she was able to find a few pretty phrases of
thanks: she uttered them in a clear voice; and no one who heard her
would have suspected that she had passed a sleepless night, bathed in
tears, with before her eyes the lifeless body of a young man with
shattered temples.

The young ladies of the deputation were permitted to see the
wedding-presents, which were displayed in a large room; Princess Thera
and the ladies-in-waiting accompanied them. There, in that room, it was
like a sudden gleam of brilliancy, flashing in the daylight from the
long tables on which the presents stood surrounded by flowers: the
heavily-gilt candelabra, gilt and crystal table- and tea-services, gilt
and silver caskets from various towns, an Altara Cathedral in silver,
silver ships with delicate, swelling sails from naval institutions and
jewelled gifts from all the royal friends and relations in Europe. On a
satin cushion lay, like a fairy trinket, a sparkling duchess' diadem of
big sapphires and brilliants, one of the presents of the bride's future
parents-in-law. And very striking was Princess Thera's present: the Duke
of Xara's portrait, a work of art that had already been seen at
exhibitions in both capitals. But it had little likeness to the original
left and was therefore the despair of the princess. It was younger, more
indecisive, feebler than the prince looked now: a little thinner than of
old, but with a fuller moustache and a lightly curling beard on his
cheeks. The melancholy eyes had acquired more of the Empress Elizabeth's
cold glance; in other respects too Othomar resembled his mother more
than before. But what was still noticeable in the young prince, in his
nervous refinement, was the look of race, his trenchant distinction, his
air of lawful haughtiness. He had lost much of his rigidity, his stiff
tactlessness, and had gained something more resolute and assured; and,
in spite of his colder look, this inspired more confidence in a
crown-prince than his always winning but somewhat feeble presence of
former days. The thoughts seemed to be more sharply outlined on his
features, the words to come more pointedly from between his lips; he
seemed to have more self-reliance, to care less for what others might
think of him. It was, although not yet quite consciously, that unique
princely feeling awakening within him: his simple, proud, innate
confidence in the single drop of golden blood which ran through his
veins and gave him his rights....

It was Professor Barzia especially who, attached as he was to Othomar
and treating him personally every day, had aroused this self-confidence
with his words, which were prompted both by his knowledge of mankind and
by his love for the dynasty, as well as by a personal affection for the
crown-prince. The cold-water douches had braced the prince up, but the
suggestions of the professor, who had aroused Othomar's latent practical
qualities as it were from their subconscious hiding-place, had probably
been a still more efficacious remedy. The prince had learnt to govern
himself and had become dearer to the professor than ever....

This devotion, born of a discovery of what others did not know to
exist--high qualities of temperament--was enhanced by Barzia's fostering
of those same qualities; and, when the prince's marriage could be fixed,
the professor looked with as much pride as affection upon his patient,
whom he declared to be physically cured and considered, in his own mind,
to be morally cured as well....



2

Two days later was the day of the imperial wedding. The town swarmed
from early morning with the people who had streamed in from the environs
and who noisily thronged the narrower streets. For already at an early
hour the main thoroughfares had been closed by the infantry, from the
fortress to the Old Palace and the cathedral. And Altara, usually grey,
old, weather-beaten, was unrecognizable, gaudy with flags, fresh with
festoons of greenery, decked with draperies and tapestries hanging from
its balconies. A warm, southern May sun shed patches of light over the
town; and the red and blue and white and green of the waiting uniforms,
with the even flash of the bayonets above them, drew broad lines of
colour through the city, with a gaiety almost floral, right up to the
Castle of St. Ladislas.

Through the streets, closed to public traffic, court-carriages drove to
and fro, filled with glittering uniforms: royal guests who were being
carried to St. Ladislas or the Old Palace. There were Russian, German,
British, Austrian, Gothlandic uniforms; briskly, as though preparing for
the ceremonial moment, they flashed through Altara, through its long,
empty streets lined with soldiers.

Beneath the chestnuts on the Castle Road the villas also teemed with
spectators, sitting or moving in the gardens and terraces; and, in the
sunbeams that filtered through the foliage of the trees, the ladies'
light summer costumes and coloured sun-shades cast variegated patches:
it was as though garden-parties were taking place from villa to villa,
while people waited for the procession of the bridegroom, who, in
accordance with Liparian etiquette, was to drive from St. Ladislas to
fetch his bride from the Old Palace.

       *       *       *       *       *

Eleven o'clock. From the Fort of St. Ladislas booms the first gun; other
guns boom after it minute by minute. A buzz of excitement passes along
the whole of the Castle Road. On the almost imperceptible incline appear
trumpets and kettle-drums, preceding heralds on horseback. Behind them
come the slashing throne-guards, round the gilt and crystal
gala-carriages. The court chamberlain, the Count of Threma, in the
first; in the second, with the imperial crown and the plumed team of
eight greys caparisoned in scarlet--and the cheering from the villas
rises higher and higher--the emperor with the Duke of Xara by his side;
in the following coaches the assembled majesties and highnesses of
Europe: the Empress of Liparia, the German Emperor and Empress, the King
and Queen of Gothland, Russian grand-dukes, the Duke of Sparta and the
Prince of Naples.... The imperial chancellor, the ministers, the robed
members of the house of peers.... And the endless procession passes
slowly amid the roar of the cannon down the Castle Road, through the
main streets and into the heart of the city. There, in the Old Palace,
the bride is waiting with all her Austrian relations: the emperor and
empress, the Archduke Albrecht and the Archduchess Eudoxie....

It is here that the marriage-treaty is signed, on the gilt table,
covered with gold brocade, upon which the emperors and empresses of
Liparia have written their signatures since centuries, upon which, after
the imperial bride and bridegroom, the august witnesses sign the
contract....

Now the whole procession goes through gallery after gallery to the New
Sacristy. It is a ceremonious parade of some minutes' duration: the
trumpeters, the heralds, the masters of ceremonies; the blue-robed
knights of St. Ladislas: the white-and-gold throne-guards; the Emperor
Oscar with the Duke of Xara, the Emperor of Austria with the bride....
Slowly she walks by her uncle's side, her head a little bent, as though
beneath the weight of her princess' coronet, from which the lace veil
floats, lightly shading her bare neck, which is studded with drops of
brilliants. Her gown is of stiff, heavy satin brocade, embroidered with
silver-thread in front and smothered in emblematic patterns of pearls;
great, white velvet puffed sleeves burgeon at her shoulders; the train
of silver brocade and white velvet is so long that six maids-of-honour
bear it after her, swaying from its silver loops. Behind the
maids-of-honour follow the bridesmaids, dressed all alike, carrying
similar bouquets: they are Princess Thera, Princess Wanda, German,
English and Austrian princesses. And the majesties and highnesses
follow; the procession flows into the New Sacristy; here the
cardinal-archbishop, Primate of Liparia, with all his mitred clergy,
receives the bridegroom and the bride....

In the cathedral waits the crowd of invited guests. Despite the beams of
the summer sun, a mystic twilight of shadow hovers through the tall and
stately arches of the cathedral and the daylight blossoms only on the
motley windows of the side-chapels; in the vaultings it is even dark.
But the high altar is one blaze of innumerable candles....

The imperial chancellor, the ministers, the ambassadors, the whole
diplomatic body, the members of both houses of parliament, the judges of
the high court have entered; they fill the tiers that have been erected
to right and left. And the whole cathedral is filled: one great swarm of
heavy, rustling silks--the low-necked dresses of the ladies, whose
jewels twinkle and flash--and one blaze of gold on the glittering
military and diplomatic uniforms, which like great sparks light up the
twilight of the cathedral.

Then the trumpets sound, the organ peals its jubilant tones in the
solemn festival-march; the first procession enters through the sacristy:
the German Emperor with the Empress Elizabeth of Liparia, the
Archduchess Eudoxie and a long retinue.... Now the trumpets sound, the
organ peals unceasingly; and the invited majesties with their suites and
the representatives of the foreign powers enter in group after group.
The canopied spaces to right and left of the choir begin to fill up.

Soon the second procession follows: the dignitaries in front, with the
insignia of state; the Emperor Oscar, leading the Duke of Xara: both
wear over their golden uniforms the long draped blue robes of St.
Ladislas, with the large white cross gleaming on the left arm; four
crown-princes follow as the bridegroom's four witnesses: the Duke of
Wendeholm, the Czarevitch, the Duke of Sparta and the Prince of Naples;
the knights of St. Ladislas, the officers of the throne-guards,
equerries and pages follow after....

And suddenly a choir of high voices vibrates crystal-clear and proclaims
a blessing on the bride, who cometh in the name of the Lord.... The
third procession has entered the cathedral: the Emperor of Austria and
the Archduke Albrecht, leading the bride, with her maids of honour and
her bridesmaids; and she seems to be one white wealth of illustrious
maidenhood among her white and floral-fragrant retinue. And the anthem
scatters its notes as with handfuls of silver lilies before her feet;
her solemn advent arouses an emotion that quivers through all that whirl
of splendour, through the whole cathedral. Now, at last, appears the
fourth procession: the cardinal-archbishop, Primate of Liparia, with his
bishops and canons and chaplains; the high ecclesiastics take their
seats in the tall carved choir-stalls; the rite begins....

The sun seems to have waited till this moment to come shooting down,
through the tall, party-coloured, pointed windows, in which the life of
St. Ladislas glitters with its small, square, gem-like pictures,
shooting down in a slanting sheaf of rays upon the choir, upon the
priests, upon the canopies under which the majesties are sitting,
upon the bride-groom and bride.... And all the colours--the old
gold of the altar, the new gold of the uniforms, the brocades, the
crown-jewels--flame up as though the sun were setting them ablaze: one
fire of changing sparks which, together with the numberless candles on
the altar, suddenly irradiates the church. The diadems of the princesses
are like crowns of flame, the orders of the princes like a firmament of
stars. The acolytes swing incense which is wafted misty blue, delicate,
transparent in the sunshine; the sunshine filters through the blonde
lace veil of the kneeling bride, lights a glowing fire over her
white-and-silver train, illuminates her as with an apotheosis of light
that reflects a maidenly pallor upon her. Her bridegroom kneels beside
her, wholly enfolded in his blue robe, with on his arm the sheen of the
white cross. Both now hold long tapers in their hands. And the primate,
with his jewelled mitre and his stiff gold dalmatic covered with
jewelled scrolls, raises his eyes, spreads his hands on high and
stretches them in benediction above the bent imperial heads....

The chant swells high again: the _Te Deum laudamus_, as though the waves
of the voices were rising upon the waves of the organ, higher and
higher, up through the cathedral to the sky in one ecstasy of sacred
music. The old, granite, giant fabric seems to quiver with emotion, as
though the music became its soul, and sends forth over Altara from all
its bells a swelling sea of sound, bronze in the depths and molten out
of every metal into gold of crystal purity in the highest height of
audible sound....

An hour later. On the closed Cathedral Square movement begins again,
among the waiting gala-carriages. Now the procession returns to St.
Ladislas, but behind the Emperor Oscar's carriage Othomar and Valérie
now ride together. And the city cheers and shouts its hurrahs; the
houses groan with the clamour among all the flags and trophies. The
guards present arms; and amid this festive uproar it passes unperceived
how yonder in the smaller streets fighting goes on, arrests are made, a
well-known anarchist is almost murdered by the imperialistic
populace....

With its costly pageant, now heightened by the white presence of the
young Duchess of Xara and her own retinue, the endless and endless
procession returns, through the town, up the Castle Road; and there too
the villas now obtain a sight of Valérie and cheer and cheer and
cheer....

It is in the white throne-room that Othomar and Valérie hold their
court; one and all defile before them: the ministers and ambassadors,
the members of both houses, of the courts of justice, corporations and
deputations. After the court, the breakfast, at which the table glitters
with the ceremonial gold and jewelled plate, used only at imperial
weddings. After the breakfast, the last observance: in the gold hall--a
vast low hall, Byzantine in architecture and decoration, ages old and
unchanged--the torch-dance; the procession of the ministers, who carry
long, lighted links in gilt handles, while Othomar and Valérie keep on
inviting the highnesses according to rank, invite all the highnesses in
turns and march round behind the ministers.... It is a monotonous
ceremony, continually repeated: the ministers with the torches, Othomar
with a princess and surrounded by the Knights of St. Ladislas, Valérie
with a prince and all her white suite; and it is a relief when the
function is finished and the newly-married couple have withdrawn to
change their dress. Then they appear: Othomar as commanding officer of
the Xara Cuirassiers, Valérie in her white cloth travelling-dress and
hat with white feathers; and they make their adieus. An open landau
awaits them; and with a compact escort of Xara Cuirassiers they drive
anew through the town, drive in every direction, showing themselves
everywhere, bowing to one and all, and at last drive out to the castle
where they will spend the first days of the honeymoon: Castle Zanthos,
quite near the town, on the broad river....

And the old weather-beaten capital, which remains full of majesties,
which still flutters with pennants, which in the evening is one yellow
flame and red glow of fireworks and illumination, seems all the same,
without the newly-married couple, to have lost the attraction which
turned it into a centre of festivity and splendour and imperial
ceremony; and in the evening, despite the illuminations and fireworks
and gala-performances, the Central Station is besieged by thousands who
are leaving....



3

It was months after the wedding of the Duke of Xara that the Emperor
Oscar, entering his work-room very early in the morning and moving
towards his writing-table, caught sight of a piece of cardboard, with
large, black letters pasted on it, lying on the floor by the window. He
did not pick it up; though he was alone, he did not turn pale, but on
his low forehead the thick veins swelled with rage to feel that he was
not safe from their treason even in his own room. He rang and asked for
his valet, a trusted man:

"Pick up that thing!" he commanded. And he roared, through the silence,
"How did it get here?"

The valet turned pale. He read the threatening words of abuse, with
their big, fat letters, on the ground before stooping and taking the
card in his trembling hand.

"How did it get here?" repeated the emperor, stamping his foot.

The valet swore that he did not know. In the morning no one was allowed
to enter the room except himself; he had come half an hour ago to open
the windows and then had seen nothing:

"The only explanation, sir, is that some one must have stolen into the
park and flung it through the window...."

This doubtless was the only explanation, but it was an explanation that
irritated the emperor greatly. It was not the first time that the
emperor had found such notices in the intimacy of his writing-room. The
result was the sudden arrest of servants, of soldiers belonging to the
various guards in the Imperial; but arrests and enquiries had brought
nothing to light and therefore made an all the more painful impression.
The guards of the palaces, the guards at the gilt railings of the park,
where this merged into the Elizabeth Parks--the public gardens of the
capital--were already increased; the secret police, the emperor's own
police, even kept a sharp watch on the guards themselves.

The Emperor Oscar looked fixedly at the valet; for a moment the thought
rose in him to have the man himself examined, but he at once realized
the absurdity of any such suspicion: the man had been his personal
servant for years and years, was entirely devoted to him and stood
answering Oscar's long stare with calm, respectful eyes, evidently
pondering the mystery of the strange riddle.

"Burn that thing," commanded the emperor, "and don't talk about it."

Subsequently Oscar had a long interview with the head of his secret
police, with whom he had lately had every reason to be satisfied: secret
printing-presses of anarchist papers, which were continually being
distributed, had been ferreted out; a plot to wreck the imperial train
on its way from Castel Xaveria, the summer-palace in Xara, to Lipara had
been frustrated; suspicion of being connected with anarchist committees
had fallen upon a clerk in one of the government-offices and even upon a
young officer and it was proved that the suspicion was correct in both
cases. Quite recently the police had discovered a workshop in which men
were taught how to manufacture dynamite-bombs and infernal machines. But
who the insolent miscreants were who succeeded in flinging their
threatening letters into the emperor's own room: this they had not been
able to discover. For a whole week the windows had been watched from the
park and all that time nothing had been seen; it was now a couple of
days since that secret watch had been given up. The head of the secret
police felt convinced that the culprits were lurking in the Imperial
itself and acquainted with the emperor's private habits. Sudden visits
were paid to the rooms of any servants at the Imperial of whom there was
the least doubt; and, when a groom was found to be in possession of an
anarchist leaflet containing words of insult directed against the
emperor, the man was banished to one of the convict sections of the
eastern quick-silver-mines. This banishment was the introduction to
numberless other banishments; they followed one another in quick
succession; the victims were soldiers, sailors, many minor provincial
officials: the press had even ceased to report all the banishments. The
censorship was rendered more severe; newspapers were continually being
suspended, their editors fined and imprisoned; the imperialist papers,
Count Myxila's organs, almost despotically indicated the required tone.
A socialist meeting was dispersed by hussars with drawn swords; serious
disturbances followed in the capital and infected the other large towns,
Thracyna, Xara, even Altara. A strike of dock-labourers filled Lipara
for weeks with rising insubordination; policemen were cruelly murdered
at the docks in broad daylight.

The Duke of Mena-Doni was the Emperor Oscar's right hand during this
period; and his rough displays of force kept the capital so far in
subjection that no riot burst out, that the everyday life of sunny,
laughing luxury went on, that the elegant carriages continued every
afternoon at five o'clock to stream to the Elizabeth Parks, where the
Empress or the Duchess of Xara still showed themselves daily for a
moment. But thousands of protecting eyes were secretly supervising this
apparent carelessness; the troops were confined to barracks; gleaming
escorts of cuirassiers accompanied the imperial landaus.

The empress also had asked Othomar to abandon his solitary morning rides
and never to show himself unattended. The Duke and Duchess of Xara
inhabited the Crown Palace, a comparatively new building on the quays,
where they kept up an extensive court; and in this palace the emperor
also caused domiciliary visits to be made and it appeared that there
were anarchists lurking among the staff.

This treason within their very palaces kept the empress in a constant
shudder of terror: she lived in these days an unceasing life of dread
whenever she was separated from the emperor. For she was least terrified
when she showed herself by Oscar's side, at exhibitions, at public
ceremonies, at the Opera; and this was strange: she did not at such
times think of him, but, if they were not with her, thought rather of
her children, as though the catastrophe could happen only at some place
where she would not be present.

The empress saw in Othomar so very much her own son that, in the
intimacy of their morning conversations--for the crown-prince still paid
his mother a short visit every morning--she was surprised not to find in
him her own dread, but on the contrary all her own resignation, which
was the reverse side of it. But since his marriage she had found him
altogether changed, no longer, in these short moments of their private
intercourse, complaining, hesitating, searching, but speaking calmly of
what he must do, filled with an evident harmony that gave a restful
assurance to his words, his gestures and even his actions. With this
assurance he retained a quiet, dignified modesty: he did not put his
views forward at all violently; he continued to possess that
receptiveness for the views of others which had always been one of his
most prominent and attractive qualities. He was undoubtedly old for his
young years: any one who did not know better would have given him more
than his twenty-three years, now that he was allowing his crisp beard to
grow.... And yet, yet, especially in these troubled days, his old fears
would often well up within him and he would remain sitting alone for
minutes at a time, staring at a vague point in his room, listening to
the murmurs of the future, as he had listened in that haunting night
among his forefathers at Castel Vaza. He then felt that, suddenly, as
with a garment, all his new resignation in life was slipping from him,
falling from his shoulders. But he had learnt so to govern himself that
nobody, not his father, not his mother, not even the crown-princess,
noticed anything of this mental dizziness, which left him ice-cold in
his short periods of solitude, doubting his right, full of strange, soft
compassion for his people....

It was, actually, the old illness which thus, periodically, seethed in
him again like an evil sap, flowing through his veins, enfeebling his
nerves, crushing him internally, as though he would never be cured of
it. But he grew accustomed to it, no longer felt despair because of it,
even knew, during the few minutes that the malady lasted, that it would
pass and afterwards regained that sense of harmony which above all
constituted his resignation.

It was in these days of silent fermentation that there was talk of a
marriage between Princess Thera and the Prince of Naples; nothing was
yet decided between the two families, but the young prince was invited
to Lipara to attend the great autumn manoeuvres. Shoots were arranged;
different festivities followed one upon the other. Othomar had in these
days to combat those sudden weaknesses more than ever: a strange
feeling, a shivering, a mysterious terror remained with him and no
longer left him, a terror which he dared not analyse, for fear of
discovering motives which would cause him to lose his calmness entirely.
There revived within him the recollection of the fact that shortly after
his marriage he had dreamt a dream more or less similar to his former
dream: the sinister capital filling with crape. It happened while he was
still residing with his young wife at Castel Zanthos and he had attached
no importance to it, because he considered that this second dream was
only a shadow of the former one, only the remembrance of what had
already happened and nothing more. But now, in these days of busy
celebrations in honour of the prince who was visiting their court, with
the ferment of popular discontent like a turbid, gloomy element beneath
the surface brilliancy of all their imperial display, the memory of it
revived and the terrors and shudders became more and more plainly
defined in his imagination and at one moment he felt his former nervous
weakness come over him to such an extent that he found an excuse to
summon Professor Barzia from Altara and had a long interview with the
specialist of which he did not even speak to the Duchess of Xara. When
the professor had gone, Othomar felt relieved and strengthened; only the
thought lingered within him that it was not right for a future sovereign
to be so much under the influence of a stronger mind as he was under
that of Barzia; and he proposed next time not to call in the professor's
power of suggestion, but to cure himself, in the privacy of his own
soul. This plan, to rely on his own strength in future, made him find
himself again for good and all....

The day after his interview with Barzia, he spent the whole morning and
afternoon in the company of the Prince of Naples, with whom he visited
different places and, in so doing, displayed a gaiety and liveliness
which were rarely witnessed in the Duke of Xara. The members of their
suite were astonished at this radiant cheerfulness of the crown-prince,
in whom they had grown used to perceiving always a strain of melancholy.
That evening there was a great state-banquet at the Imperial. After
dinner, the imperial family were to accompany their guest to the Opera,
where a gala-performance was to take place and a famous tenor was to
sing.

In these days, whenever the imperial family appeared in public, severe
precautionary measures were taken under the guise of glittering display.
A strong and close-packed escort of cuirassiers pranced round the
carriages which drove that night to the great opera-house. The street at
the side of the building containing the emperor's private entrance was
closed off; a guard of honour lined the staircase; the secret police
mingled with the expectant audience, which included all the smart
society of the capital....

The imperial box, with its dark-violet draperies and gold tassels, was
just over the stage of the colossal theatre. The first act was
finished--they were playing _Aïda_--when the trumpet-blasts clanged out
from the orchestra and the august personages appeared: the emperor, the
empress, the Prince of Naples, the Duke and Duchess of Xara, Princess
Thera. And their entry seemed to electrify the hitherto dull, waiting,
nervously indifferent mood of the crowded house, as though, upon their
appearance, the light in the lustres shone more brilliantly, the house
blazed out with all the changeful flickerings of its jewels, all its
flashing gilt, all the curiosity of the bright eyes that gazed at the
imperial centre-group; as though the ladies' costumes suddenly blossomed
out with one rustle of heavy silken fabrics, while the unfurled fans
fluttered to and fro as though a breeze were blowing through many
flowers in unstinted light....

Then the curtain rising on the second act, with all its melodrama of
royal Egyptian state: the victory after the war and the consequent
dances; the hero's love for the Ethiopian slave; and the Pharaoh's
jealous daughter and the procession of the gods with the sackbuts: all
sung, orchestrated, swelling symphonically in a square frame against a
painted background; a stirring picture of royal Egyptian antiquity
chanted before the eyes of modern royalty, of a modern audience,
indifferent to the rest so long as they met wherever society decided
that they should meet at the moment, under the eyes of the emperor and
his family and his illustrious young guest.... The passions on the stage
unbridling themselves in swelling bursts of music, a world of music, of
love and despair, of war and triumph and priestly ambition in music, all
music, as though life were music, music the soul and essence of the
world.... And, beneath the glamour of this music and of this factitious
life, the visible acting of the players, the glory of the famous tenor,
with his too-modern head, his dress marked by unreal because unwarlike
splendour, his bows and his smile aimed at the real world outside his
small, framed world of make-believe, aimed at the audience that
applauded after the emperor had deigned to clap his hands....

It was at this moment, this moment of ovation, this moment of lustrous
triumph for the tenor, of applause led by the imperial hands. It was at
this moment: the Emperor Oscar turning to his aide-de-camp, the Marquis
of Xardi, behind him ... the aide listening respectfully to his
majesty's command that he should summon the singer to the
withdrawing-room of the imperial box ... the Empress Elizabeth and the
Duchess of Xara, glittering in their gala, their jewels, in smiling
conversation with the young foreign crown-prince who was their guest ...
Othomar still with his gaiety of the afternoon, jesting with Thera and
the ladies-in-waiting ... the whole house gazing, when the curtain had
fallen for the last time, at all of them, in their blaze of luxury and
light....

At this moment, in the topmost gallery a sudden tumult, a struggle of
soldiers and police with one man.... A sudden rough scrimmage up there
in the midst of the most mundane expansion of aristocratic pageantry.
And all eyes no longer directed to the imperial box, but upwards....
Then, the man, struggling, releasing himself with superhuman strength
from the grasp of his assailants, surging forwards, from out of their
throng, like a black lightning-flash of fate: dark, curly head, eyes
flashing hatred, fixed and fanatical, one arm suddenly outstretched
towards the imperial grandeur below, as though at a target, with
inexorable aim. The whole house one tumult, one shout, one shriek; wide
gestures of helpless arms: all this very quick, lasting barely a
second.... A shot ... and yet another shot....

       *       *       *       *       *

The emperor is hit in the breast; he falls against the empress, whose
bare, jewelled bosom he suddenly soils with blood, which at once soaks
his gold uniform through and through ... not golden blood: rich red
blood.... But the empress throws up her arms in despair; her strident
scream rings through the house. She falls back into the embrace of the
Duchess of Xara. The emperor has sunk into the arms of Xardi and of
Othomar; a furious oath forces its way through his tight-clenched teeth,
while he tears open his gory uniform so fiercely that the buttons fly
around him....



4

Outside, the Opera Square, brightly lighted with many-armed, monumental
lamp-posts, had at once become dark and swarming, filled with a vast
mob; the whole town poured into it from every street; the alarm drew
everybody thither, as though with a magnet. Detachments of hussars were
already moving through the town, keeping order among the excited
populace; the Duke of Mena-Doni was everywhere at once, trampling down
the revolution with the military at his command in whatsoever corner it
seemed to lift its head. The sky above was dark and frowning. It began
to rain....

The rumour sped that the emperor had died. It was not true. Wrestling
for breath, the sovereign lay in the crush-room of the opera-house,
amidst the panic of his family, of his suite, of the hurrying doctors.
He must not be moved, they said. He insisted. He refused to die here. He
was set on returning to his Imperial. And, straining the springs of his
energy, he commanded, he drew himself up, with the blood spurting from
his throat; Othomar and the aides supported him....

Outside, in the square, the mob grew in numbers, the panic increased,
riot seethed up from among those black clusters of people. Continual
fights burst out between groups of men, dock-labourers, and the guard in
front of the building, the police. The court-carriages returned empty,
under escort, to the palace.

Other carriages, cabs, tried here and there to force a way through the
people; they were surrounded by cuirassiers, who protected them with
drawn swords. Volumes of curses and abuse spattered up against them,
against the vaguely transparent windows, behind which were patches of
light colours, flashing sparks of jewels. Women's scared eyes peered out
fixedly, askance, without moving.

In the corridors, on the huge, monumental staircase of the opera-house,
people hustled one another, fought to get through; then suddenly all
eyes, staring wide, looked up above: the emperor was passing, bleeding,
panting for breath, surrounded by his kin.... A feeling of awe stopped
the crush for a moment; then they pressed on again.... Ladies fled till
they found themselves behind the scenes, where they mingled their
aristocracy with the bohemianism of the actors and actresses, all mixed
up, confused, amidst the terrified, humming crowd of ballet-girls,
priestesses of Isis. Gratuities were lavished: anything for a carriage,
a cab....

The Duchess of Yemena stood there with her daughters; they were looking
out for their carriage, which they had sent for at least ten times.... A
stage-carpenter shrugged his shoulders indifferently: he did not know
where to get a carriage from.

"I won't wait any longer," said the duchess, shuddering.

The girls clung to her, sobbing hysterically. She obtained a leather bag
from an actress; she hastily took off her jewels, ordered the girls to
do the same. They crammed them into the bag. She slipped a gold coin
into a dresser's hand, asked her to pin up their trains, to pin them
high, asked her to find them some black shoes. Other ladies, waiting and
half-swooning with fright, looked at her, saw her thus, strangely
practical. She succeeded in buying three long black cloaks and three
black hats from a group of chorus-girls, flung one cloak over herself,
flung the others over the sobbing little marchionesses.

"I'm frightened, mamma!" sobbed Eleonore.

The duchess was determined to get home somehow:

"Come, come along!" she urged, driving the two girls before her.

The other ladies, in alarm, watched them disappear through a back-door
into a side-street....

The duchess pressed the bag with the jewels to her:

"For God's sake, don't cry; keep your heads!" she ordered her daughters.
"Walk on quietly and not too fast. Wrap your cloaks well round you."

She walked on, tall and erect between the two little trembling
marchionesses, in those chorus-girls' clothes; rain poured down.
Clusters of people ran up against them; they mingled with them; for a
moment she lost Hélène:

"Wait a moment!" she said to Eleonore.

And they remained standing amid the press of people; troops came jogging
on; socialistic songs of triumph carolled up coarsely.... Then she went
back with Eleonore, pushing, shoving, giving Hélène an opportunity to
get back to her:

"Now both give me an arm: here!..."

They did as they were told; thus, seemingly calm, slowly, slowly, as
though they were sight-seers who had also come to look, they reached the
Opera Square, where the mob was swarming up against the guards.
Carriages passed, at a walking-pace, escorted by soldiers. A wretched
old hired growler, with a gaunt hack, pushed a muddy wheel right up
against her, grazing her knees; a cuirassier of the escort raised his
sword threateningly against her....

"My God!" she cried, awe-struck, clutching the children.

She had first recognized the driver, in a dirty coat: a footman from the
Imperial, whose face she remembered. Then, with a swift glance into the
cab, she recognized--just close to a lamp-post with a number of
ornamental branches--the emperor leaning against Othomar and her own
stepson, Xardi. But the marquis did not recognize her, for, startled by
the great light, he quickly turned his face away and bent, sombrely,
protectingly, over the emperor and the crown-prince....

The girls had seen nothing; the duchess said nothing, afraid of
betraying them.... She felt all her pluck and assurance forsake her; she
shuddered from head to foot. She could not restrain her tears for her
poor emperor, who was dying, who was returning to his palace in such a
guise. A great, dark terror took possession of her. The rain trickled
over her bosom....

"Keep your cloaks round you!" she again admonished her daughters.

Then she went on, dragging herself along and the girls as well, beside
her, stumbling on their feet...

But a whirl of people swept across the Opera Square; there seemed to be
a fight in progress: a heap of men, surrounding a group of
police-constables and soldiers, in whose midst a madman wrestled with
forcible gestures; a coarse clamour rose on high. At the lighted, open
windows of the opera-house, above the perystile, still decked in its
bright, festal illumination, face after face, appeared, actors still in
costume looked on....

"Mamma, we shall never get through!" sobbed Eleonore, softly.

The duchess thought in despair of the great Empress Avenue in which
their town-house stood; it was so far away: how would they ever reach
it, how would they ever get home?...

"They're murdering him, they're murdering him, they shan't murder him!"
bleated the people round them.

Then the duchess understood, then she saw and the girls also saw: the
mob, furious, foaming at the mouth--avengers now, though at first
malcontents, perhaps even anarchists: such were the Liparians!--the mob
pressing against the soldiers and constables, in the midst of whom the
emperor's murderer still made fight with his large, frenzied gestures.
And the avengers stormed this circle of protecting police; they dragged
the man out.... They dragged him right under the eyes of the duchess, of
her daughters....

"Ugh, ugh, ugh!" they roared brutally, men and women alike.

They tore the clothes from his body, they beat him; and he howled back.
They struck him to the ground with cudgels and trampled on him with
coarse shoes; his blood flowed; his brains spattered from his crushed
skull....

Then, at the sight of blood, they became like wild beasts; they grinned
and smacked their lips with delight.

Eleonore fell back fainting against the duchess, but Alexa shook her by
the arm:

"Keep up, keep up, for God's sake keep up, can't you?" she cried out
aloud. "I can do nothing with you if you faint!"

Her strong hands goaded the little marchioness back into life and again
she dragged them on, staggering....



5

The emperor, who refused to die, lived by sheer energy for two days
longer, with his perforated lungs, panting for breath.

And such were the Liparians: the man, the murderer, seized in the
opera-house, despite the police and the guard, had been battered into a
shapeless mass by the malcontents themselves....

And such is life: the emperor of a great country was shot dead by a
fanatic in the midst of his kith and kin and life went on.... The
country was as extensive as before: a rich, naturally beautiful,
southern empire; tall, snow-clad mountains in the north; medieval and
modern towns, lying in broad provinces; the residential capital itself,
white in its golden autumn sunshine, with its Imperial, beneath a blue
sky, close to the blue sea, round which circled the quays....

And such is the life of rulers: the emperor lay dead, killed by a simple
pistol-shot; and the court chamberlain was very busy, the masters of
ceremonies unable to agree; the pomp of an imperial funeral was prepared
in all its intricacy; through all Europe sped the after-shudder of
fright; every newspaper was filled with telegrams and long articles....

All this was because of one shot from a fanatic, a martyr for the
people's rights.

The Empress Elizabeth stared with wide-open eyes at the fate that had
overtaken her. Not thus had she ever pictured to herself that it would
come, thus, so rudely, in the midst of that festivity and in the
presence of their royal guest; thus, glancing past her, striking only
her husband and not crushing them all, at one blow, all their imperial
pride! It had come to pass and ... she still feared, she still went on
fearing, more now than before: for her son!... It seemed to her as if
she were fearing for the first time....

It was the day before the funeral of the Emperor Oscar, when the Duchess
of Xara, now the young empress, was seized with indisposition and the
doctors declared that she was _enceinte_.

The emperor's remains had already been removed in great pomp to Altara.
At St. Ladislas the Altarians were to see him lying in state between
thousands of flaming candles, with the brilliant insignia of the supreme
power at his feet; after that he was to be removed to the imperial vault
in the cathedral....

On that day too at Lipara, whose whiteness took tones of sombre twilight
beneath mourning decorations and flags flown at half-mast, the salutes
from Fort Wenceslas echoed over the town, thundering in dull tones their
regular, heavy, monotonous bombardment of farewell. Lonely,
majestically, in the town resounding with the salutes, stood the
Imperial, empty, with its caryatids staring with gloomy, downcast eyes.
The young emperor, Othomar XII., was at Altara, leading the solemn
procession. The empress-mother was at the Crown Palace, with the young
Empress Valérie.... Over their glamour, still shining, shone new
glamours, in life which had continued, which was continuing still....

The two empresses sat side by side. Valérie held Elizabeth gently in her
arms; at regular intervals the guns boomed from the fort, through the
palace...

Then Elizabeth drew herself up painfully from her daughter-in-law's arms
and spoke in low, oracular tones:

"If it's a son ... it will be a Duke of Xara.... He would so much have
liked to see a Count of Lycilia...."

The guns boomed; the two empresses, in deep mourning, wept and sobbed.
And now for the first time after a long interval--as there had also been
a long interval at Berengar's death--Elizabeth realized all her loss,
her sorrow, her misery, her despair; and she felt that that emperor, to
whom, as a very young princess, now four-and-twenty years ago, she had
been given in marriage, without love, she had come to love in this
quarter of a century of their life in common on his high pinnacle of
sovereignty....

That evening Othomar returned and, alone with his wife, with his mother,
he sobbed with them, the young emperor, whom no one had seen weeping in
the cathedral at Altara. For the Empress Elizabeth had repeated yet once
more:

"If it's a son ... it will be a Duke of Xara...."

And then the Emperor of Liparia had lost his self-restraint. In one
lightning-flash, one zig-zag of terror, he saw again his life as
crown-prince, he thought of his unborn son. What would become of this
child of fate? Would it be a repetition of himself, of his hesitation,
his melancholy and his despair?

And then with irrepressible sobs, suddenly overwhelmed by the menace of
the future, he sobbed out his grief for his father who had been and his
son who was to be! He sobbed, with his head in the arms of his young
empress, who, suddenly realizing that she must comfort him, had grown
calm and looked calmly down upon him, taking their life of majesty upon
her shoulders as though it were an oppressive, heavy mantle of purple
and ermine and nothing more, taking it up so valiantly because there
flowed in her veins as in his one single drop of sacred golden blood,
common to all of their order, their might upon earth and their right
before God....



6

       "To HER IMPERIAL AND ROYAL HIGHNESS EUDOXIE
                  "ARCHDUCHESS OF AUSTRIA,
                                  "SIGISMUNDINGEN.

                                "ST. LADISLAS,
                                       "ALTARA,
                                "--_May_, 18--.

"MY DEAR MOTHER,

"I cannot tell you how your letter pained me. For God's sake, do not
excite yourself so and say such terrible things. We too regretted
intensely that you could not be present at our coronation and that your
rheumatic fever obliged you to remain at Sigismundingen; but why need
you, dear mother, look upon that fever as a punishment from God? And why
need you look upon it as a punishment from God that you did not see your
fondest illusion fulfilled and were not able to be present in our old
cathedral when Othomar, after being crowned by the primate, with his own
hands crowned me Empress of Liparia? You were not there, but yet it came
about: your illusion is truth, after all. And I tell you this without
the least, oh, believe me, without the _least_ bitterness!... A
punishment for forcing me, against my will? You must be ill indeed, ill
in body and mind, poor mother, to be able to write like that: it makes
me smile a little, I no longer recognize you. And let my smile bear
witness that I am not unhappy: oh, far from it! Our happiness is hardly
ever what we ourselves intend it to be and what we regret that it is
not....

"If you were to see me, you would see that I am not unhappy. It is May,
the sun is shining, the oriel-windows are open. In the distance, when I
look out, I can see the Zanthos winding away in a broad, gleaming
expanse of water. Close by my writing-table stands your beautiful big
silver cradle; and through the closed lace curtains I can see my little
Duke of Xara slumbering.... I don't know how to write all this to you, I
have no command of words in which to express it fully to you; but what I
feel, with this wide river landscape before me and this precious little
child by my side: oh, mamma, it is not unhappiness! It is a feeling
which hides a great deal of melancholy, but which hides nothing more
sombre than that. And really why should it, in spite of that melancholy,
not be even happiness? I am young, I am empress and I see life before
me! Round about me, I see my country, I see my people: I want it to
become the people of my heart, of my soul, entirely. I don't yet know
how, but I want to live for this people, I want to live together with
Othomar. Oh, I grant you, how I am to do that I don't yet know, but I
shall find a way, together with him! And, having a husband and a child
and a people, an emperor, a crown-prince and an empire, have I then no
aim in life? And, having an aim in life--and such a tremendous
aim!--have I not then also happiness? Is happiness anything other than
to have found a lofty, a noble aim in life?

"I am so anxious to convince you. And, if you saw me here, at our quiet
St. Ladislas, now that all the agitation of the coronation-festivities
is past, you would believe me. Othomar loves St. Ladislas and proposes
to come here every year for a month in the spring. It is considered a
good omen that my child was born here, for you know the feeling of the
Liparians, their wish to see the crown-prince of their country born at
St. Ladislas, under the immediate protection of the patron saint.

"Othomar, however, is not here at the moment: he has gone for a few days
to Lipara--of course, you know this from the papers--and writes to me
twice a day. I asked him to do this so that I might be fully informed as
to his state of mind. The tragedy of his father's death, the Emperor
Oscar's two days' death-agony affected Othomar so violently, so
violently: my God, how can I find words to describe that terror to you!
How can I still live in hope, after all that I have already suffered in
my short life and seen around me in the way of terror! And yet, yet it
is like that, for youth is so strong and I, I am strong, I _must_ be
strong....

"I admired my young emperor, in those terrible days, for his outward
calm, through which the storm-flood of all his emotions never burst
loose before the eyes of the world. Directly after the funeral, the
ceremony of signing the five sacred deeds; the immediate agitation of
the accumulated affairs of state.... A month later, the new elections,
the constitutional majority in the house of deputies, the resignation of
the ministry.... All this you will have seen in the papers.... After
that, the birth of our son and then our coronation, at the moment when
Liparia seemed shaken to its foundations! And now Othomar is at Lipara,
because of the new constitutional ministry.... Then Count Myxila, who
does not agree with Othomar's modern ideas and who has even ventured to
reproach him with some vehemence for abandoning all his father's views
upon government so shortly after his violent death and who is now
tendering his resignation.... Othomar will make an effort to keep him,
though he himself realizes that it will not be possible.... And the
revision of the constitution in the immediate future, with so many
drastic changes, probably with the inauguration of the upper and lower
chambers, while the house of peers will continue its outward existence,
but will be actually nothing more than an honorary consulting body.
These are concessions, if you will have it so, but then, you know,
Othomar has quite different ideas from his father's and, when he makes
these concessions, he undoubtedly makes them to the past and not to the
future nor to himself....

"Life is cruel, cruel in its changes and cruel even in its renascences;
and for us rulers all this is perhaps even more cruel; but the world
belongs to the future....

"The Empress Elizabeth is still here: she has suddenly grown so old, so
grey and very dull and depressed; and she does not know what to do:
whether to remain with her household at the Imperial, to stay on here at
St. Ladislas, or to retire to Castel Xaveria.... All the imperial
palaces and castles are whirling through her poor head: her private
properties and the crown domains; she does not know where she wants to
go; we of course continue to urge her not to leave the Imperial: it is
large enough to enable her to retain almost all her own military and
civil household....

"Dearest mother, I will write to you again soon: my head is still too
much in a whirl; I have touched on too many topics; my woman's brains
are not capable of thinking that all out logically and coherently and
writing it down.... And I have only been empress for such a short time
and I am only twenty-two, though I no longer feel so young.... This
letter is but a hurriedly-written reply to your doleful self-reproach,
which I now beseech you in Heaven's name to put aside _entirely_. Now
that I write this to you, the evening of my betrothal-dinner at
Sigismundingen rises before my mind. We were such a strange engaged
couple, Othomar and I! I asked him--smile at this, mamma, and don't cry
about it--whether he loved anybody. He said no. He told me he loved his
people and he stretched out his arms, as though he would have embraced
them. His people! The dawn of a new idea--old no doubt to thousands and
ages old, but new to me, as a new day is new--shone out before me, threw
light over my gloomy sufferings, brightened a road before me....

"That road, mamma, I now see stretching before me clearer and clearer
every day; and I mean to follow it with my husband and my child, with my
emperor and my crown-prince ... my crown-prince, who is waking and
crying for me!

"May God grant me strength, mamma!

                                                             "VALÉRIE."





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