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Title: Anno Domini 2000; or, Woman's Destiny
Author: Vogel, Julius
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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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Internet Archive)



ANNO DOMINI 2000;
OR,
_WOMAN'S DESTINY_.

BY
SIR JULIUS VOGEL, K.C.M.G.

LONDON:
HUTCHINSON AND CO.,
25, PATERNOSTER SQUARE.
1889.


Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.


Dedicated
TO
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
THE EARL OF CARNARVON,
WHO, BY HIS SUCCESSFUL EFFORTS TO CONSOLIDATE
THE CANADIAN DOMINIONS, HAS
GREATLY AIDED THE CAUSE
OF FEDERATION.



CONTENTS.


                                   PAGE
PROLOGUE                              3


CHAPTER I.

THE YEAR 2000--UNITED BRITAIN        27


CHAPTER II.

THE EMPEROR AND HILDA FITZHERBERT    59


CHAPTER III.

LORD REGINALD PARAMATTA              67


CHAPTER IV.

A PARTIAL VICTORY                    83


CHAPTER V.

CABINET NEGOTIATIONS                 99


CHAPTER VI.

BAFFLED REVENGE                     119


CHAPTER VII.

HEROINE WORSHIP                     165


CHAPTER VIII.

AIR-CRUISERS                        177


CHAPTER IX.

TOO STRANGE NOT TO BE TRUE          193


CHAPTER X.

LORD REGINALD AGAIN                 215


CHAPTER XI.

GRATEFUL IRELAND                    233


CHAPTER XII.

THE EMPEROR PLANS A CAMPAIGN        251


CHAPTER XIII.

LOVE AND WAR                        261


CHAPTER XIV.

THE FOURTH OF JULY RETRIEVED        287


CHAPTER XV.

CONCLUSION                          295


EPILOGUE                            309



PROLOGUE.

A.D. 1920.


George Claude Sonsius in his early youth appeared to have before him a
fair, prosperous future. His father and mother were of good family, but
neither of them inherited wealth. When young Sonsius finished his
university career, the small fortune which his father possessed was
swept away by the failure of a large banking company. All that remained
from the wreck was a trifling annuity payable during the lives of his
father and mother, and this they did not live long to enjoy. They died
within a year of each other, but they had been able to obtain for their
son a fairly good position in a large mercantile house as foreign
correspondent. At twenty-five the young man married; and three years
afterwards he unfortunately met with a serious accident, that made him
for two years a helpless invalid and at the end of the time left him
with his right hand incapable of use. Meanwhile his appointment had
lapsed, his wife's small fortune had disappeared, and during several
years his existence had been one continual struggle with ever-increasing
want and penury. The end was approaching. The father and mother and
their one crippled son, twelve years old, dwelt in the miserable attic
of a most dilapidated house in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of
London. The roof over their heads did not even protect them from the
weather. The room was denuded of every article of furniture with the
exception of two worthless wooden cases and a horsehair mattress on
which the unhappy boy stretched his pain-wrung limbs.

Early in life this child suffered only from weakness of the spine, but
his parents could afford no prolonged remedial measures. Not that they
were unkind to him. On the contrary, they devoted to him every minute
they could spare, and lavished on him all the attention that affection
comparatively powerless from want of means could dictate. But the food
they were able to give him was scant instead of, as his condition
demanded, varied and nutritious. At length chronic disease of the spine
set in, and his life became one long misery.

Parochial aid was refused unless they would go into the poor-house, but
the one thing Mrs. Sonsius could not bring herself to endure was the
separation from her son which was demanded of her as a condition of
relief.

For thirty hours they had been without food, when the father, maddened
by the moanings of his wife and child, rushed into the street, and
passing a baker's shop which appeared to be empty, stole from it a loaf
of bread. The proprietor, however, saw the action from an inner room. He
caught Sonsius just as he was leaving the shop. He did not care to give
the thief in charge, necessitating as it would several attendances at
the police court. He took the administration of justice into his own
hands, and dealt the unhappy man two severe blows in the face. To a
healthy person the punishment would have done comparatively little harm,
but Sonsius was weakened by disease and starvation, and the shock of the
blows was too much for him. He fell prone on the pavement, and all
attempts to restore him to consciousness proved unavailing.

Then his history became public property. Scores of people remembered the
pleasant-mannered, well-looking young man who had distinguished himself
at college, and for whom life seemed to promise a pleasant journey. The
horrible condition of his wife and child, the desperation that drove him
to the one lapse from an otherwise stainless life, the frightful
contrast between the hidden poverty and the gorgeous wealth of the great
metropolis, became themes upon which every newspaper dilated after its
own fashion. Some papers even went so far as to ask, "Was it a crime for
a man to steal a loaf of bread to save his wife and child from
starvation?"

In grim contrast with the terrible conclusion of his wretched career,
the publicity cast upon it elicited the fact that a few weeks earlier
he had inherited by the death of a distant relative an enormous fortune,
all efforts to trace him through the changes of residence that
increasing poverty had necessitated having proved unavailing. Now that
the wretched father and husband was dead, the wife for whom the bread
was stolen had become a great lady, the boy was at length to receive the
aid that wealth could give him. Poor George Claude Sonsius has nothing
to do with our story, but his fate led to the alleviation of a great
deal of misery that otherwise might have been in store for millions of
human beings.

Loud and clear rang out the cry, "What was the use of denouncing slavery
when want like this was allowed to pass unheeded by the side of
superfluous wealth?" The slave-owner has sufficient interest in his
slaves, it was alleged, as a rule, to care for their well-being. Even
criminals were clothed and fed.

Had not, it was asked, every human being the right to demand from a
world which through the resources of experience and science became
constantly more productive a sufficiency of sustenance?

The inquest room was crowded. The coroner and jury were strongly
affected as they viewed the body laid out in a luxuriously appointed
coffin. Wealth denied to the living was lavished on the dead. No longer
in rags and tatters, the lifeless body seemed to revert to the past.
Shrunken as was the frame, and emaciated the features, there remained
evidence sufficient to show that the now inanimate form was once a fine
and handsome man.

The evidence was short, and the summing up of the coroner decisive. He
insisted that the baker had not wilfully committed wrong and should not
be made responsible for the consequences that followed his rough
recovery of his property. A butcher and a general provision dealer on
the jury took strongly the same view. How were poor tradesmen to protect
themselves? They must take the law in their own hands, they argued,
otherwise it would be better to submit to being robbed rather than
waste their time in police courts. They wanted a verdict of justifiable
homicide. Another juryman (a small builder) urged a verdict of
misadventure; at first he called it peradventure. But the rest of the
jury felt otherwise. Some desired a verdict of manslaughter, and it was
long before the compromise of "Death by accident" was agreed to.

Deep groans filled the room as the result was announced. That same night
a large crowd of men and women assembled outside the baker's shop with
hostile demonstrations. The windows were destroyed, and an attempt made
to break in the door. A serious riot would probably have ensued but for
the arrival of a large body of police.

Again the fate of George Sonsius became the familiar topic of the press.
But the impression was not an ephemeral one.

The fierce spirit of discontent which for years had been smouldering
burst into flames. A secret society called the "Live and Let Live" was
formed, with ramifications throughout the world. The force of numbers,
the force of brute strength, was appealed to.

A bold and outspoken declaration was made that every human being had an
inherent right to sufficient food and clothing and comfortable lodging.
Truly poor George Sonsius died for the good of many millions of his
fellow-creatures. Our history will show the point at length achieved.

Shortly after poor Sonsius' death a remarkable meeting was held in the
city of London. The representatives of six of the largest financial
houses throughout the globe assembled by agreement to discuss the
present material condition of the world and its future prospects. There
was Lord de Cardrosse, head of the English house of that name and chief,
moreover, of the family, whose branches presided over princely houses of
finance in six of the chief cities of the continent of Europe. Second
only in power in Great Britain, the house of Bisdat and Co. was
represented by Charles James Bisdat, a man of scarcely forty, but held
to be the greatest living authority on abstruse financial questions.
The Dutch house of Von Serge Brothers was represented by its head,
Cornelius Julius Von Serge. The greatest finance house in America,
Rorgon, Bryce and Co., appeared by its chief, Henry Tudor Rorgon; and
the scarcely less powerful house of Lockay, Stanfield and Co., of San
Francisco, Melbourne, Sydney, and Wellington, was represented by its
chief, Alfred Demetrius. The German and African house of Werther, Scribe
and Co. was present in the person of its head, Baron Scribe; and the
French and Continental houses of the De Cardrosse family were
represented by the future head of the family, the Baroness de Cardrosse.
The deliberations were carried on in French.

Two or more of these houses had no doubt from time to time worked
together in one transaction; but their uniform position was one of
independence towards each other, verging more towards antagonism than to
union. In fact, the junction for ordinary purposes of such vast powers
as these kings of finance wielded would be fatal to liberty and freedom.

A single instance will suffice to show the power referred to, which
even one group of financiers could wield.

Five years previously all Europe was in a ferment. War was expected from
every quarter. It depended not on one, but on many questions. The
alliances were doubtful. Nothing seemed certain but that neutrality
would be impossible, and that the Continent would be divided into two or
more great camps. The final decision appeared to rest with Great
Britain. There an ominous disposition for war was displaying itself. The
inclination of the Sovereign and the Cabinet was supposed to be in that
direction. But the family of De Cardrosses throughout Europe was for
peace. The chief of the family was the head of the English house, and it
was decided he should interview the Prime Minister of England and
acquaint him with the views of this great financial group. His reception
was not flattering; but if he felt mortified, he did not show it. He
expressed himself deeply sensible of the honour done to him by his being
allowed to state his opinions; and with a reverential inclination he
bowed himself from the presence of the greatest statesman of his day,
the Right Honourable Randolph Stanley. That afternoon it was bruited
about that, in view of coming possibilities, the De Cardrosse family had
determined to realise securities all over Europe and send gold to
America. The next morning a disposition to sell was reported from every
direction, and five millions sterling of gold were collected for
despatch to New York. In twenty-four hours there was a panic throughout
Great Britain and Europe. The Bank of England asked for permission to
suspend specie payments, but could indicate no limit to which such a
permission should be set. It seemed as if Europe would be drained of
gold.

The great rivals of the De Cardrosses looked on and either could not or
would not interfere. A hurried Cabinet meeting was convened, and as a
result a conference by telephone was arranged between the Prime Minister
of Great Britain and the Ministers of the Great Powers of Europe.
Commencing by twos and threes, the conference developed into an
assemblage for conversational purposes of at least twenty of the chief
statesmen and diplomatists of the Old World. Rumour said that even
monarchs in two or three cases were present and inspired the telephonic
utterances of their Ministers. How the result was arrived at was known
best to those who took part in the conference, but peace and disarmament
were agreed on if certain contingencies involving the exercise of vast
power and the expenditure of enormous capital could be provided for. No
other conclusion could be arrived at, and one way or the other the
outcome had to be settled within twenty-four hours. The conference had
lasted from ten o'clock to four. At five o'clock by invitation Lord de
Cardrosse waited on the Prime Minister, who received him much more
cordially than before.

"You have caused me," he said, "to learn a great deal during the last
forty-eight hours."

"I could not presume to teach you anything. Events have spoken," was the
reply.

"And who controlled them if not the houses of De Cardrosse?"

"You do us too much honour. It is you who govern; we are of those who
are governed."

"The alliance between power and modesty," said the Prime Minister, with
pardonable irony, "is irresistible. Tell me, my Lord, is it too late for
your views to prevail?"

A slight, almost imperceptible start was the only movement the De
Cardrosse made. The enormous self-repression he was exercising cannot be
exaggerated. The future strength of the family depended on the issue.
There was, however, no tremor in his voice when he answered, "If you
adopt them, I do not think it is too late."

"But do you realise the sacrifices in all directions that have to be
made?" said the Minister in faltering tones.

"I think I do."

"And you think to secure peace those sacrifices should be made?"

"I do."

"Will you tell me what those sacrifices are?" he asked.

Lord de Cardrosse smiled. "You desire me," he said, "to tell you what
you already know." Then he proceeded to describe to the amazed Prime
Minister in brief but pregnant terms one after the other the conditions
that had been agreed on. Once only he paused and indicated that the
condition he was describing he accepted reluctantly.

"I do not conceal," said the astounded Prime Minister, "my surprise at
the extent of your knowledge; and clearly you approve the only
compromise possible. It is needless to tell you that the acceptance of
this compromise requires the use of means not at the disposal of the
Governments. In one word, will it suit you to supply them?"

"I might," responded Lord de Cardrosse, "ask you until two o'clock
to-morrow to give an answer; but I do not wish to add to your anxiety.
If you will undertake to entirely and absolutely confine within your own
breast the knowledge of what my answer will be, I will undertake that
that answer at two o'clock to-morrow shall be 'Yes.'"

Silently they shook hands. Probably these two men had never before so
thoroughly appreciated the strength and speciality of their several
powers.

The panic continued until two o'clock the following day, when an
enormous reaction took place. The part the De Cardrosse family played in
securing peace was suspected by a few only. Its full extent the Prime
Minister alone knew. He it was who enjoyed the credit for saving the
world from a desolating war.

And now, after an interval of five years, the sovereigns of finance met
in conclave. In obedience to the generally expressed wish, Lord de
Cardrosse took the chair. "I need scarcely say," he began, "that I am
deeply sensible of the compliment you pay me in asking me to preside
over such a meeting. We in this room represent a living power throughout
the globe, before which the reigning sovereigns of the world are
comparatively helpless. But, because of our great strength, it is
undesirable that we should work unitedly except for very great and
humane objects. For the mere purpose of money-making, I feel assured you
all agree with me in desiring no combination, no monopoly, that would
pit us against the rest of the world."

He paused for a moment, evidently desiring to disguise the strength of
the emotion with which he spoke.

He resumed in slower and apparently more mastered words. "I wish I could
put it to you sufficiently strongly that our houses would not have
considered any good that could result to them and to you a sufficient
excuse for inviting such a combination. We hold that the only cause that
could justify it is the conviction that for the good of mankind a vast
power requires to be wielded which is not to be found in the ordinary
machinery of government."

A murmur of applause went round the table; and Mr. Demetrius, with much
feeling, said, "You make me very happy by the assurance you have given.
I will not conceal from you that our house anticipated as much, or it
would not have been represented. We are too largely concerned with
States in which free institutions are permanent not to avoid anything
which might savour of a disposition to combine financial forces for the
benefit of financial houses."

Lord de Cardrosse then proceeded to explain that his family, in serious
and prolonged conclave, could come to no other conclusion than that
certain influences were at work which would cause great suffering to
mankind and sap and destroy the best institutions which civilisation and
science had combined to create. The time had come to answer the
question, Should human knowledge, human wants, and human skill continue
to advance to an extent to which no limit could be put, or should the
survival of the fittest and strongest be fought out in a period of
anarchy?

"It amounts," he said in a tone of profound conviction, "to this: the
ills under which the masses suffer accumulate. There is no use in
comparing what they have to-day with what they had fifty years ago. A
person who grows from infancy to manhood in a prison may feel contented
until he knows what the liberty is that others enjoy. The born blind are
happier than those who become blind by accident. To our masses the
knowledge of liberty is open, and they feel they are needlessly deprived
of it. Wider and wider to their increasing knowledge opens out the
horizon of possible delights; more and more do they feel that they are
deprived of what of right belongs to them."

He paused, as if inviting some remarks from his hearers.

Mr. Bisdat, who spoke in an interrogative rather than an affirmative
tone, took up the thread.

"I am right, I think, in concluding that your remarks do not point
against or in favour of any school of politics or doctrines of party.
You direct our notice to causes below the surface to which the
Government of the day--I had almost said the hour,--do not penetrate,
causes which you believe, if left to unchecked operation, will undermine
the whole social fabric."

"It is so," emphatically replied Lord de Cardrosse. "The evils are not
only apparent; but equally apparent is it that no remedy is being
applied, and that we are riding headlong to anarchy."

Again he paused, and Mr. Rorgon took up the discussion. "If we," he
said, "the princes of finance, do not find a remedy, how long will the
enlarged intelligence of the people submit to conditions which are at
war with the theory of the equality and liberty of mankind?"

"Yes," said the Baroness de Cardrosse, speaking for the first time, "it
is clear that there is a limit to the inequality of fortune to which men
and women will submit. Equality of possessions there cannot be; but, if
I may indulge in metaphor, we cannot expect that the bulk of humankind
will be content with being entirely shut out from the sunlight of
existence."

The gentlemen present bowed low in approval; and Mr. Demetrius said,
"The simile of the Baroness is singularly appropriate. There are myriads
of human beings to whom the sunshine of life is denied. A too universal
evil invites resistance by means which in lesser cases might be scouted.
In short, if the remedy is left to anarchy, anarchy there will be. Even
in our young lands the shadow of the coming evil is beginning to show
itself. Indeed," he added, with an air of musing abstraction, "it is not
unfair to deduce from what has been said, that, even if the evils are
less in the new lands of the West and the South, superior general
intelligence may more than proportionally increase the wants of the
multitude and the sense of wrong under which they labour."

The conference extended over three days. Every one agreed that
interference with the ordinary conditions of finance was inexpedient
except in extreme cases, but they were unanimous in thinking that an
extreme case had to be dealt with. They finally decided by the use of an
extended paper currency, with its necessary guarantees, to increase the
circulating medium and to raise the prices both of products and labour.
Some other decisions were adopted having especial reference to the
employment of labour and insurance against want in cases of disablement
through illness, accident, or old age.

So ended the most remarkable conference of any age or time.



CHAPTER I.

THE YEAR 2000--UNITED BRITAIN.


Time has passed. There have been many alterations, few of an extreme
character. The changes are mostly the results of gradual developments
worked out by the natural progress of natural laws. But as constant
dropping wears away a stone, constant progression, comparatively
imperceptible in its course, attains to immense distances after the
lapse of time. This applies though the momentum continually increases
the rate of the progress. Thus the well-being of the human kind has
undoubtedly increased much more largely during the period between 1900
and 2000 than during the previous century, but equally in either century
would it be difficult to select any five years as an example of the
turning-point of advancement. Progression, progression, always
progression, has been the history of the centuries since the birth of
Christ. Doubtless the century we have now entered on will be yet more
fruitful of human advancement than any of its predecessors. The
strongest point of the century which


     "Has gone, with its thorns and its roses,
       With the dust of dead ages to mix,"


has been the astonishing improvement of the condition of mankind and the
no less striking advancement of the intellectual power of woman.

The barriers which man in his own interest set to the occupation of
woman having once been broken down, the progress of woman in all
pursuits requiring judgment and intellect has been continuous; and the
sum of that progress is enormous. It has, in fact, come to be accepted
that the bodily power is greater in man, and the mental power larger in
woman. So to speak, woman has become the guiding, man the executive,
force of the world. Progress has necessarily become greater because it
is found that women bring to the aid of more subtle intellectual
capabilities faculties of imagination that are the necessary adjuncts of
improvement. The arts and caprices which in old days were called
feminine proved to be the silken chains fastened by men on women to lull
them into inaction. Without abating any of their charms, women have long
ceased to submit to be the playthings of men. They lead men, as of yore,
but not so much through the fancy or the senses as through the
legitimate consciousness of the man that in following woman's guidance
he is tending to higher purposes. We are generalising of course to a
certain extent. The variable extent of women's influence is now, as it
has been throughout the ages past, the point on which most of the dramas
of the human race depend.

The increased enjoyment of mankind is a no less striking feature of the
last hundred years. Long since a general recognition was given to the
theory that, whilst equality of possession was an impossible and indeed
undesirable ideal, there should be a minimum of enjoyment of which no
human being should be deprived unless on account of crime. Crime as an
occupation has become unknown, and hereditary crime rendered impossible.
On the other hand, the law has constituted such provisions for reserves
of wealth that anything more than temporary destitution is precluded.
Such temporary destitution can only be the result of sheer improvidence,
the expenditure, for instance, within a day of what should be expended
in a week. The moment it becomes evident, its recurrence is rendered
impossible, because the assistance, instead of being given weekly, is
rendered daily. Private charity has been minimised; indeed, it is
considered to be injurious: and all laws for the recovery of debts have
been abolished. The decision as to whether there is debt and its amount
is still to be obtained, but the satisfaction of all debt depends solely
on the sense of honour or expediency of the debtor. The posting the
name of a debtor who refuses to satisfy his liabilities has been found
to be far more efficacious than any process of law.

The enjoyment of what in the past would have been considered luxuries
has become general. The poorest household has with respect to comforts
and provisions a profusion which a hundred years since was wanting in
households of the advanced classes.

Long since there dawned upon the world the conviction--

First. That labour or work of some kind was the only condition of
general happiness.

Second. That every human being was entitled to a certain proportion of
the world's good things.

Third. That, as the capacity of machinery and the population of the
world increased production, the theory of the need of labour could not
be realised unless with a corresponding increase of the wants of
mankind; and that, instead of encouraging a degraded style of living, it
was in the interests of the happiness of mankind to encourage a style of
living in which the refinements of life received marked consideration.

Great Britain, as it used to be called, has long ceased to be a bundle
of sticks. The British dominions have been consolidated into the empire
of United Britain; and not only is it the most powerful empire on the
globe, but at present no sign is shown of any tendency to weakness or
decay. Yet there was a time--about the year 1920--when the utter
disintegration of the Empire seemed not only possible, but probable.

The Irish question was still undecided. For many years it had continued
to be the sport of Ministers. Cabinet succeeded Cabinet; each had its
Irish nostrum; each seemed to think that the Irish question was a good
means of delaying questions nearer home. The power of the nation
sensibly waned. What nation could be strong with pronounced disaffection
festering in its midst? At length, when rumours of a great war were rife
upon the result of which the very existence of Great Britain as a nation
might depend, the Colonies interposed. By this time the Canadian,
Australasian, and Cape colonies had become rich, populous, and powerful.
United, they far exceeded in importance the original mother-country.

At the instigation of the Premier of Canada, a confidential
intercolonial conference was held. In consequence of the deliberations
that ensued, a united representation was made to the Prime Minister of
England to the effect that the Colonies could no longer regard without
concern the prolonged disquiet prevailing in Ireland. They would suffer
should any disaster overtake the Empire, and disaster was courted by
permitting the continuation of Irish disaffection. Besides, the
Colonies, enjoying as they did local government, could see no reason why
Ireland should be treated differently. The message was a mandate, and
was meant to be so. The Prime Minister of England, however, puffed up
with the pride of old traditions, did not or would not so understand it,
and returned an insolent answer. Within twenty-four hours the Colonial
Ministers sent a joint respectful address to the King of England
representing that they were equally his Majesty's advisers with his
Ministers residing in England, and refusing to make any further
communications to or through his present advisers.

The Ministry had to retire; a new one was formed. Ireland received the
boon it had long claimed of local government, and the whole Empire was
federated on the condition that the federation was irrevocable and that
every part of it should fight to the last to preserve the union. The
King of England and Emperor of India was crowned amidst great pomp
Emperor of Britain. All parts of the Empire joined their strength and
resources. A federal fleet was formed on the basis that it was to equal
in power in every respect the united fleets of all the rest of the
world. Conferences with the Great Powers took place in consequence of
which Egypt, Belgium, and the whole of the ports bordering the English
Channel and Straits of Dover, and the whole of South Africa became
incorporated into the empire of Britain. Some concessions, however,
were made in other directions. These results were achieved within
fifteen years of the interference by the Colonies in federal affairs,
and the foundation was laid for the powerful empire which Britain has
become. Two other empires and one republic alone approach it in power,
and a cordial understanding exists between them to repress war to the
utmost extent possible. They constitute the police of the world. Each
portion of the Emperor of Britain's possessions enjoys local government,
but the federal government is irresistibly strong. It is difficult to
say which is the seat of government, as the Federal Parliament is held
in different parts of the world, and the Emperor resides in many places.
With the utmost comfort he can go from end to end of his dominions in
twelve days.

If a headquarter does remain, it may probably be conceded that
Alexandria fulfils that position.

The House of Lords has ceased to exist as a separate chamber. The peers
began to feel ashamed of holding positions not in virtue of their
abilities, but because of the accident of birth. It was they who first
sought and ultimately obtained the right to hold seats in the elective
branch of the Legislature; and finally it was decided that the peerage
should elect a certain number of its own members to represent it in the
Federal Parliament: in other words, the accidents of birth were
controlled by the selection of the fittest.

Our scene opens in Melbourne, in the year 2000--a few years prior to the
date at which we are writing. The Federal Parliament was sitting there
that year. The Emperor occupied his magnificent palace on the banks of
the Yarra, above Melbourne, which city and its suburbs possessed a
population of nearly two millions.

In a large and handsome room in the Federal buildings, a young woman of
about twenty-three years of age was seated. She was born in New Zealand.
She entered the local parliament before she was twenty.[A] At
twenty-two she was elected to the Federal Parliament, and she had now
become Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs. From her earliest
youth she had never failed in any intellectual exercise. Her
intelligence was considered phenomenal. Her name was Hilda Richmond
Fitzherbert. She was descended from families which for upwards of a
century produced distinguished statesmen--a word, it should be
mentioned, which includes both sexes. She was fair to look at in both
face and figure. Dark violet eyes, brown hair flecked with a golden
tinge, clearly cut features, and a glorious complexion made up a face
artistically perfect; but these charms were what the observer least
noticed. The expression of the face was by far its chief attraction, and
words fail to do justice to it. There was about it a luminous
intelligence, a purity, and a pathos that seemed to belong to another
world. No trace of passion yet stamped it. If the love given to all
humanity ever became a love devoted to one person, the expression of the
features might descend from the spiritual to the passionate. Even then
to human gaze it might become more fascinating. But that test had not
come. As she rose from her chair you saw that she was well formed,
though slight in figure and of full height. She went to an instrument at
a side-table, and spoke to it, the materials for some half-dozen letters
referring to groups of papers that lay on the table. When she concluded,
she summoned a secretary, who removed the papers and the phonogram on
which her voice had been impressed. These letters were reproduced, and
brought to her for signature. Copies attached to the several papers were
initialled. Meanwhile she paced up and down the room in evident deep
distraction. At length she summoned a messenger, and asked him to tell
the Countess of Middlesex that she wished to see her. In a few minutes
Lady Middlesex entered the room. She was about thirty years of age, of
middle height, and pleasing appearance, though a close observer might
imagine he saw something sinister in the expression of her countenance.
After a somewhat ceremonious greeting, Miss Fitzherbert commenced: "I
have carefully considered what passed at our last interview. It is
difficult to separate our official and unofficial relations. I am still
at a loss to determine whether you have spoken to me as the Assistant
Under-Secretary to the Under-Secretary or as woman to woman."

Lady Middlesex quickly rejoined, "Will you let me speak to you as woman
to woman, and forget for a moment our official relations?"

"Can you doubt it?" replied Miss Fitzherbert. "But remember that our
wishes are not always under our control, and that, though I may not
desire to remember to your prejudice what you say, I may not be able to
free myself from recollection."

"And yet," said Lady Middlesex, with scarcely veiled irony, "the world
says Miss Fitzherbert does not know what prejudice means!"

The slightest possible movement of impatience was all the rejoinder
vouchsafed to this speech.

Lady Middlesex continued, "I spoke to you as strongly as I dared, as
strongly as my position permitted, about my brother Reginald--Lord
Reginald Paramatta. He suffers under a sense of injury. He is miserable.
He feels that it is to you that he owes his removal to a distant
station. He loves you, and does not know if he may venture to tell you
so."

"No woman," replied Miss Fitzherbert, "is warranted in regarding with
anger the love of a good man; but you know, or ought to know, that my
life is consecrated to objects that are inconsistent with my
entertaining the love you speak of."

"But," said Lady Middlesex, "can you be sure that it always will be so?"

"We can be sure of nothing."

"Nay," replied Lady Middlesex, "do not generalise. Let me at least enjoy
the liberty you have accorded me. If you did not feel that there were
possibilities for Reginald in conflict with your indifference, why
should you trouble yourself with his removal?"

"I have not admitted that I am concerned in his removal."

"You know you are; you cannot deny it."

Miss Fitzherbert was dismayed at the position into which she had
allowed herself to be forced. She must either state what truth forbade
or admit that to some extent Lord Reginald had obtained a hold on her
thoughts.

"Other men," pursued Lady Middlesex, with remorseless directness, "have
aspired as Reginald does; and you have known how to dispose of their
aspirations without such a course as that of which my brother has been
the object."

"I have understood," said Miss Fitzherbert, "that Lord Reginald is
promoted to an important position, one that ought to be intensely
gratifying to so comparatively young a man."

"My brother has only one wish, and you are its centre. He desires only
one position."

"I did not infer, Lady Middlesex," said Miss Fitzherbert, with some
haughtiness, "that you designed to use the permission you asked of me to
become a suitor on your brother's behalf."

"Why else should I have asked such permission?" replied Lady Middlesex,
with equal haughtiness. Then, with a sudden change of mood and manner,
"Miss Fitzherbert, forgive me. My brother is all in all to me. My
husband and my only child are dead. My brother is all that is left to me
to remind me of a once happy home. Do not, I pray, I entreat you,
embitter his life. Ask yourself--forgive me for saying so--if ambition
rather than consecration to a special career may not influence you; and
if your conscience replies affirmatively, remember the time will come to
you, as it has come to other women, when success, the applause of the
crowd, and a knowledge of great deeds effected will prove a poor
consolation for the want of one single human being on whom to lavish a
woman's love. Most faculties become smaller by disuse, but it is not so
with the affections; they revenge themselves on those who have dared to
disbelieve in their force."

"You assume," said Miss Fitzherbert, "that I love your brother."

"Is it not so?"

"No! a thousand times no!"

"You feel that you might love him. That is the dawn of love."

"Listen, Lady Middlesex. That dawn has not opened to me. I will not
deny, I have felt a prepossession in favour of your brother; but I have
the strongest conviction that my life will be better and happier because
of my refusing to give way to it. For me there is no love of the kind.
In lonely maidenhood I will live and die. If my choice is unwise, I will
be the sufferer; and I have surely the right to make it. My lady, our
interview is at an end."

Lady Middlesex rose and bowed her adieu, but another thought seemed to
occur to her. "You will," she said, "at least see my brother before he
goes. Indeed, otherwise I doubt his leaving. He told me this morning
that he would resign."

Miss Fitzherbert after a moment's thought replied, "I will see your
brother. Bid him call on me in two hours' time. Good-bye."

As she was left alone a look of agony came over her face. "Am I wise?"
she said. "That subtle woman knew how to wound me. She is right. I
could love; I could adore the man I loved. Will all the triumphs of the
world and the sense of the good I do to others console me during the
years to come for the sunshine of love to which every woman has a claim?
Yes, I do not deny the claim, high as my conception is of a woman's
destiny." After a few moments' pause, she started up indignantly. "Am I
then," she ejaculated half aloud, "that detestable thing a woman with a
mission, and does the sense of that mission restrain me from yielding to
my inclination?" Again she paused, and then resumed, "No, it is not so.
I have too easily accepted Lady Middlesex's insinuation. I am neither
ambitious nor philanthropic to excess. It is a powerful instinct that
speaks to me about Lord Reginald. To a certain extent I am drawn to him,
but I doubt him, and it is that which restrains me. I am more disposed
to be frightened of than to love him. Why do I doubt him? Some strong
impulse teaches me to do so. What do I doubt? I doubt his loving me
with a love that will endure, I doubt our proving congenial companions,
and--why may I not say it to myself?--I doubt his character. I question
his sincerity. The happiness of a few months might be followed by a life
of misery. I must be no weak fool to allow myself to be persuaded."

Hilda Fitzherbert was a thoroughly good, true-hearted, and lovable girl.
Clever, well informed, and cultivated to the utmost, she had no
disposition to prudery or priggishness. She was rather inclined to
under- than over-value herself. Lady Middlesex's clever insinuations had
caused her for the moment to doubt her own conduct; but reflection
returned in time, and once more she became conscious that she felt for
Lord Reginald no more attachment than any woman might entertain for a
handsome, accomplished man who persistently displayed his admiration.
She was well aware that under ordinary circumstances such feelings as
she had, might develop into strong love if there were no reverse to the
picture; but in this case conviction--call it, if you will, an
instinct--persuaded her there was an opposite side. She felt that Lord
Reginald was playing a part; that, if his true character stood revealed
to her, an unfathomable abyss would yawn between them.

Her reflections were disturbed by the entrance of a lady of very
distinguished mien. She might indeed look distinguished, for the Right
Honourable Mrs. Hardinge was not only Prime Minister of the empire of
Britain, but the most powerful and foremost statesman in the world. In
her youth she had been a lovely girl; and even now, though not less than
forty years of age, she was a beautiful--it might be more correct to
say, a grand--woman. A tall, dignified, and stately figure was set off
by a face of which every feature was artistically correct and capable of
much variety of expression; and over that expression she held entire
command. She had, if she wished it, an arch and winning manner, such as
no one but a cultivated Irishwoman possesses; the purest Irish blood ran
through her veins. She could say "No" in a manner that more delighted
the person whose request she was refusing than would "Yes" from other
lips. An adept in all the arts of conversation, she could elicit
information from the most inscrutable statesmen, who under her influence
would fancy she was more confidential to them than they to her. By
indomitable strength she had fought down an early inclination to
impulsiveness. The appearance still remained, but no statesman was more
slow to form opinions and less prone to change them. She could, if
necessary, in case of emergency, act with lightning rapidity; but she
had schooled herself to so act only in cases of extreme need. She had a
warm heart, and in the private relations of life no one was better
liked.

Hilda Fitzherbert worshipped her; and Mrs. Hardinge, childless and with
few relations, loved and admired the girl with a strength and tenacity
that made their official relations singularly pleasant.

"My dear Hilda," she said, "why do you look so disturbed, and how is it
you are idle? It is rare to find you unoccupied."

Hilda, almost in tears, responded, "Dear Mrs. Hardinge, tell me, do
tell me, what do you really think of Lord Reginald Paramatta?"

If Mrs. Hardinge felt any surprise at the extraordinary abruptness of
the question, she did not permit it to be visible.

"My dear, the less you think of him the better. I will tell you how I
read his character. He is unstable and insincere, capable of any
exertion to attain the object on which he has set his mind; the moment
he has gained it the victory becomes distasteful to him. I have offered
him the command of our London forces to please you, but I tell you
frankly I did so with reluctance. Nor would I have promoted him to the
post but that it has long ceased to possess more than traditional
importance. Those chartered sybarites the Londoners can receive little
harm from Lord Reginald, and the time has long passed for him to receive
any good. Such as it is, his character is moulded; and professionally he
is no doubt an accomplished officer and brave soldier. Besides that, he
possesses more than the ordinary abilities of a man."

Hilda looked her thanks, but said no more than "Your opinion does not
surprise me, and it tallies with my own judgment."

"Dear girl, do not try to dispute that judgment. And now to affairs of
much importance. I have come from the Emperor, and I see great
difficulties in store for us."

Probably Hilda had never felt so grateful to Mrs. Hardinge as she did
now for the few words in which she had expressed so much, with such fine
tact. An appearance of sympathy or surprise would have deeply wounded
the girl.

"Dear mamma," she said--as sometimes in private in moments of affection
she was used to do--"does his Highness still show a disinclination to
the settlement to which he has almost agreed?"

"He shows the most marked disinclination, for he told me with strong
emotion that he felt he would be sacrificing the convictions of his
race."

The position of the Emperor was indeed a difficult one. A young,
high-spirited, generous, and brave man, he was asked by his Cabinet to
take a step which in his heart he abhorred. A short explanation is
necessary to make the case clear. When the Imperial Constitution of
Britain was promulgated, women were beginning to acquire more power; but
no one thought of suggesting that the preferential succession to the
direct heirs male should be withdrawn.

Meanwhile women advanced, and in all other classes of life they gained
perfect equality with regard to the laws of succession and other
matters, but the custom still remained by which the eldest daughter of
the Emperor would be excluded in favour of the eldest son. Some
negotiations had proceeded concerning the marriage of the Emperor to the
daughter of the lady who enjoyed the position of President of the United
States, an intense advocate of woman's equality. She was disposed, if
not determined, to make it a condition of the marriage that the eldest
child, whether son or daughter, should succeed. The Emperor's Cabinet
had the same view, and it was one widely held throughout the Empire.
But there were strong opinions on the other side. The increasing number
of women elected by popular suffrage to all representative positions and
the power which women invariably possessed in the Cabinet aroused the
jealous anger of men. True, the feeling was not in the ascendant, and
other disabilities of women were removed; but in this particular case,
the last, it may be said, of women's disabilities, a separate feeling
had to be taken into account. The ultra-Conservatives throughout the
Empire, including both men and women, were superstitiously tenacious of
upholding the Constitution in its integrity and averse to its being
changed in the smallest particular. They felt that everything important
to the Empire depended upon the irrevocable nature of the Constitution,
and that the smallest change might be succeeded by the most organic
alterations. The merits of the question mattered nothing in their
opinion in comparison with the principle which they held it was a matter
of life and death not to disturb.

It was now proposed to introduce a Bill to enable the Emperor to
declare that the succession should be to the eldest child. The Cabinet
were strongly in favour of it, and to a great extent their existence as
a Government depended on it. The Emperor was well disposed to his
present advisers, but, it was no secret, was strongly averse to this one
proposal. The contemplated match was an affair of State policy rather
than of inclination. He had seldom met his intended bride, and was not
prepossessed with her. She was good-looking and a fine girl; but she had
unmistakably red hair, an adornment not to his taste. Besides, she was
excessively firm in her opinions as to the superiority of women over
men; and he strongly suspected she would be for ever striving to rule
not only the household, but the Empire. It is difficult to fathom the
motives of the human mind, difficult not only to others, but to the
persons themselves concerned. The Emperor thought that his opposition to
placing the succession on an equality between male and female was
purely one of loyalty to his ancestors and to the traditions of the
Empire. But who could say that he did not see in a refusal to pass the
necessary Act a means of escaping the distasteful nuptials? Mrs.
Hardinge had come from a long interview with him, and it was evident
that she greatly doubted his continued support. She resumed, "His
Highness seems very seriously to oppose the measure, and indeed quite
ready to give up his intended marriage. I wonder," she said, looking
keenly at Hilda, "whether he has seen any girl he prefers."

The utter unconsciousness with which Hilda heard this veiled surmise
appeared to satisfy Mrs. Hardinge; and she continued, "Tell me, dear,
what do you think?"

"I am hardly in a position to judge. Does the Emperor give no reasons
for his opposition?"

"Yes, he has plenty of reasons; but his strongest appears to be that
whoever is ruler of the Empire should be able to lead its armies."

"I thought," said Miss Fitzherbert, "that he had some good reason."

"Do you consider this a good reason?" inquired Mrs. Hardinge sharply.

"From his point of view, yes; from ours, no," said Hilda gently, but
promptly.

"Then you do not think that we should retreat from our position even if
retreat were possible?"

"No," replied Hilda. "Far better to leave office than to make a
concession of which we do not approve in order to retain it."

"You are a strange girl," said Mrs. Hardinge. "If I understand you
rightly, you think both sides are correct."

"I think that there is a great deal to be said on both sides, and this
is constantly the case with important controversies. Between the metal
and the flint the spark of truth is struck. I should think it no
disgrace to be defeated on a subject about which we could show good
cause. I might even come to think that better cause had been shown
against us after the discussion was over; but to flee the discussion, to
sacrifice conviction to expediency--that would be disgraceful."

"Then," said Mrs. Hardinge, with some interest, "if the Emperor were to
ask your opinion, you would try to persuade him to our side?"

"Yes and no. I would urge strongly my sense of the question and my
opinion that it is better to settle at once a controversy about which
there is so much difference of opinion. But I should respect his views;
and if they were conscientious, I should not dare to advise him to
sacrifice them."

An interruption unexpected by Miss Fitzherbert, but apparently not
surprising to Mrs. Hardinge, occurred. An aide-de-camp of the Emperor
entered. After bowing low to the ladies, he briefly said, "His Imperial
Majesty desires the presence of Miss Fitzherbert."

A summons so unusual raised a flush to the girl's cheek. She looked at
Mrs. Hardinge.

"I had intended to tell you," said that lady, "that the Emperor
mentioned he would like to speak to you on the subject we have been
considering." Then, turning to the aide-de-camp, she said, "Miss
Fitzherbert will immediately wait on his Majesty."

The officer left the room.

Hilda archly turned to Mrs. Hardinge. "So, dear mamma, you were
preparing me for this interview?"

"Dear child," said the elder lady, "you want no preparation. Whatever
the consequences to me, I will not ask you to put any restraint on the
expression of your opinions."

FOOTNOTE:

[A] Every adult of eighteen years of age was allowed to vote and was
consequently, by the laws of the Empire, eligible for election.



CHAPTER II.

THE EMPEROR AND HILDA FITZHERBERT.


The Emperor received Miss Fitzherbert with a cordial grace, infinitely
pleasing and flattering to that young lady. She of course had often seen
his Majesty at Court functions, but never before had he summoned her to
a separate audience. And indeed, high though her official position and
reputation were, she did not hold Cabinet rank; and a special audience
was a rare compliment, such as perhaps no one in her position had ever
previously enjoyed.

The Emperor was a tall man of spare and muscular frame, with the dignity
and bearing of a practised soldier. It was impossible not to recognise
that he was possessed of immense strength and power of endurance. He had
just celebrated his twenty-seventh birthday, and looked no more than
his age. His face was of the fair Saxon type. His eyes were blue,
varying with his moods from almost dark violet to a cold steel tint. Few
persons were able to disguise from him their thoughts when he fixed on
them his eyes, with the piercing enquiry of which they were capable. His
eyes were indeed singularly capable of a great variety of expression. He
could at will make them denote the thoughts and feelings which he wished
to make apparent to those with whom he conversed. Apart from his
position, no one could look at him without feeling that he was a
distinguished man. He was of a kindly disposition, but capable of great
severity, especially towards any one guilty of a mean or cowardly
action. He was of a highly honourable disposition, and possessed an
exalted sense of duty. He rarely allowed personal inclination to
interfere with public engagements; indeed, he was tenaciously sensitive
on the point, and sometimes fancied that he permitted his judgment to be
obscured by his prepossessions when he had really good grounds for his
conclusions. On the very subject of his marriage he was constantly
filled with doubt as to whether his objection to the proposed alteration
in the law of succession was well founded on public grounds or whether
he was unconsciously influenced by his personal disinclination to the
contemplated union. He realised the truth of the saying of a very old
author--


     "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."


After indicating to Miss Fitzherbert his wish that she should be seated,
he said to her, "I have been induced to ask your attendance by a long
conversation I have had with Mrs. Hardinge. I have heard the opinions
she has formed, and they seem to me the result of matured experience. It
occurred to me that I would like to hear the opinions of one who,
possessed of no less ability, has been less subject to official and
diplomatic exigencies. I may gather from you how much of personal
feeling should be allowed to influence State affairs."

"Your Majesty is very gracious," faltered Hilda, "but Mrs. Hardinge has
already told you the opinion of the Cabinet. Even if I differed from it,
which I do not, I could not venture to obtrude my view on your Majesty."

"Yes, you could," said the Emperor, "if I asked you, or let me say
commanded you."

"Sir, your wishes are commands. I do not pretend to have deeply studied
the matter. I think the time has come to finally settle a long-mooted
question and to withdraw from woman the last disability under which she
labours."

"My objection," interposed the Emperor, "or hesitation is in no manner
caused by any doubt as to woman's deserving to be on a par with man in
every intellectual position."

"Then, Sir, may I ask, why do you hesitate? The greatest Sovereign that
ever reigned over Great Britain, as it was formerly called, was a
woman."

"I cordially agree with you. No Sovereign ever deserved better of the
subjects of the realm than my venerated ancestress Queen Victoria. But
again I say, I do not question woman's ability to occupy the throne to
the greatest advantage."

"Why, may I ask, then does your Majesty hesitate?"

"I can scarcely reply to my own satisfaction. I give great heed to the
objections commonly stated against altering the Constitution, but I do
not feel certain that these alone guide me. There is another, and to me
very important, reason. It appeals to me not as Sovereign only, but as
soldier. My father and my grandfather led the troops of the Empire when
they went forth to battle. Happily in our day war is a remote
contingency, but it is not impossible. We preserve peace by being
prepared for war. It seems to me a terrible responsibility to submit to
a change which might result in the event of war in the army not being
led by its emperor."

"Your Majesty," said Miss Fitzherbert, "what am I to say? To deny the
cogency of your reasons is like seeking to retain power, for you know
the fate of the Cabinet depends upon this measure, to which it has
pledged itself."

"Miss Fitzherbert," said the Emperor gravely, "no one will suspect you
of seeking to retain office for selfish purposes, and least of all would
I suppose it, or I would not ask your counsel. Tell me now," he said,
with a winning look, "as woman to man, not as subject to Sovereign, what
does your heart dictate?"

"Sir," said Miss Fitzherbert with great dignity, rising from her seat,
"I am deeply sensible of the honour you do me; and I cannot excuse
myself from responding to it. In the affairs of life, and more
especially State affairs, I have noticed that both sides to a
controversy have frequently good grounds for their advocacy; and,
moreover, it often happens that previous association fastens on each
side the views it holds. I am strong in the belief, we are right in
wishing this measure to pass; but since you insist on my opinion, I
cannot avoid declaring as far as I, a non-militant woman, can judge,
that, were I in your place, I would hold the sentiment you express and
refuse my sanction."

Hilda spoke with great fervour, as one inspired. The Emperor scarcely
concealed his admiration; but he merely bowed courteously, and ended the
interview with the words, "I am greatly indebted to you for your
frankness and candour."



CHAPTER III.

LORD REGINALD PARAMATTA.


As Miss Fitzherbert returned to her room, she did not know whether to
feel angry or pleased with herself. She was conscious she had not served
the interest of her party or of herself, but she realised that she was
placed in a situation in which candour was demanded of her, and it
seemed to her that the Emperor was the embodiment of all that was
gracious and noble in man.

Her secretary informed her that Lord Reginald Paramatta was waiting to
see her by appointment.

Lord Reginald was a man of noticeable presence. Above the ordinary
height, he seemed yet taller because of the extreme thinness of his
frame. Yet he by no means wore an appearance of delicacy. On the
contrary, he was exceedingly muscular; and his bearing was erect and
soldierlike. He was well known as a brilliant officer, who had deeply
studied his profession. But he was not only known as a soldier: he held
a high political position. He had for many years continued to represent
an Australian constituency in the Federal Parliament. His naturally dark
complexion was further bronzed by exposure to the sun. His features were
good and strikingly like those of his sister, the Countess of Middlesex.
He had also the same sinister expression. The Paramattas were a very old
New South Wales family. They were originally sheep-farmers, or squatters
as they used to be called. They owned large estates in New South Wales
and nearly half of a thriving city. The first lord was called to the
peerage in 1930, in recognition of the immense sums that he had devoted
to philanthropic and educational purposes. Lord Reginald was the second
son of the third and brother of the fourth peer. He inherited from his
mother a large estate in the interior of New South Wales.

Miss Fitzherbert greeted Lord Reginald with marked coolness. "Your
sister," she said, "told me you were kind enough to desire to wish me
farewell before you left to take the London command, upon which allow me
to congratulate you."

"Thanks!" briefly replied his Lordship. "An appointment that places me
so far from you is not to my mind a subject of congratulation."

Miss Fitzherbert drew herself up, and with warmth remarked, "I am
surprised that you should say this to me."

"You ought not to be surprised," replied Lord Reginald. "My sister told
you of my feelings towards you, if indeed I have not already
sufficiently betrayed them."

"Your sister must have also told you what I said in reply. Pray, my
lord, do not inflict on both of us unnecessary pain."

"Do not mistake my passion for a transitory one. Miss Fitzherbert,
Hilda, my life is bound up in yours. It depends on you to send me forth
the most happy or the most miserable of men."

"Your happiness would not last. I am convinced we are utterly unsuited
to each other. My answer is 'No' in both our interests."

"Do not say so finally. Take time. Tell me I may ask you again after the
lapse of some few months."

"To tell you so would be to deceive. My answer can never change."

"You love some one else, then?"

"The question, my lord, is not fair nor seemly, nor have you the right
to put it. Nevertheless I will say there is no foundation for your
surmise."

"Then why finally reject me? Give me time to prove to you how thoroughly
I am in earnest."

"I have not said I doubted it. But no lapse of years can alter the
determination I have come to. I hope, Lord Reginald, that you will be
happy, and that amidst the distractions of London you will soon forget
me."

"That would be impossible, but it will not be put to the test. I shall
not go to London. I believe it is your wish that we should be
separated."

"I have no wish on the subject. There is nothing more to be said,"
replied Hilda, with extreme coldness.

"Yes, there is. Do not think that I abandon my hope. I will remain near
you. I will not let you forget me. I leave you in the conviction that
some day you will give me a different answer. When the world is less
kind to you than hitherto, you may learn to value the love of one
devoted being. There is no good-bye between us."

Hilda suppressed the intense annoyance that both his words and manner
occasioned. She merely remarked, with supreme hauteur, "You will at
least be good enough to rid me of your presence here."

Her coldness seemed to excite the fury of Lord Reginald beyond the point
of control. "As I live, you shall repent this in the future," he
muttered in audible accents.

Shortly afterwards a letter from Lord Reginald was laid before the
Premier. He was gratified, he wrote, for the consideration the official
appointment displayed; but he could not accept it: his parliamentary
duties forbade his doing so. If, he continued, it was considered that
his duty as an officer demanded his accepting the offer, he would send
in his papers and retire from the service, though of course he would
retain his position in the Volunteer force unless the Emperor wished
otherwise.

It should be explained that the Volunteer force was of at least equal
importance to the regular service. Officers had precedence
interchangeably according to seniority. Long since the absurdity had
been recognised of placing the Volunteer force on a lower footing than
the paid forces. Regular officers eagerly sought to be elected to
commands in Volunteer regiments, and the colonel of a Volunteer regiment
enjoyed fully as much consideration in every respect as the colonel of
any of the paid regiments. The duty of defending all parts of the Empire
from invasion was specially assigned to volunteers. The Volunteer force
throughout the Empire numbered at least two million, besides which there
was a Volunteer reserve force of three quarters of a million, which
comprised the best men selected from the volunteers. The vacancies were
filled up each year by fresh selections to make up the full number. The
Volunteer reserve force could be mobilised at short notice, and was
available for service anywhere. Its members enjoyed many prized social
distinctions. The regular force of the Empire was comparatively small.
In order to understand the availability of the Volunteer reserve force,
regard must be had to the immense improvement in education. No child
attained man or woman's estate without a large theoretical and practical
knowledge of scientific laws and their ordinary application. For
example, few adults were so ignorant as not to understand the modes by
which motive power of various descriptions was obtained and the
principles on which the working depended--each person was more or less
an engineer. A hundred years since, education was deemed to be the
mastering of a little knowledge about a great variety of subjects.
Thoroughness was scarcely regarded, and the superficial apology for
preferring quantity to quality was "Education does not so much mean
imparting knowledge as training the faculties to acquire it." This
plausible plea afforded the excuse for wasting the first twenty years of
life of both sexes in desultory efforts to acquire a mastery over the
dead languages. "It is a good training to the mind and a useful means of
learning the living languages" was in brief the defence for the shocking
waste of time.

Early in the last century it fell to the lot of the then Prince of
Wales, great-grandfather to the present Emperor, to prick this
educational bladder. He stoutly declared that his sons should learn
neither Latin nor Greek. "Why," he said, "should we learn ancient
Italian any more than the Italians should learn the dialects of the
ancient Britons?"

"There is a Greek and Latin literature," was the reply, "but no
literature of ancient Britain."

"Yes," replied the Prince, "there is a literature; but does our means
of learning the dead languages enable two persons in ten thousand after
years of study to take up promiscuously a Latin or Greek book and read
it with ease and comfort? They spend much more time in learning Latin
and Greek than their own language, but who ever buys a Latin or Greek
book to read when he is travelling?"

"But a knowledge of Latin is so useful in acquiring living languages."

"Fudge!" said this unceremonious prince, who, by the way, was more than
an average classical scholar. "If I want to go to Liverpool, I do not
proceed there by way of New York. I will back a boy to learn how to
speak and read with interest three European languages before he shall be
able, even with the aid of a dictionary, to laboriously master the
meaning of a Latin book he has not before studied." He continued, "Do
you think one person out of fifty thousand who have learnt Greek is so
truly imbued with the spirit of the Iliad as are those whose only
acquaintance with it is through the translations of Derby, Gladstone,
or even Pope? It is partly snobbishness," he proceeded, with increased
warmth. "The fact is, it is expensive and wasteful to learn Greek and
Latin; and so the rich use the acquirement as another means of walling
up class against class. At any rate, I will destroy the fashion; and so
that there shall be no loss of learning, I will have every Greek and
Latin work not yet translated that can be read with advantage by decent
and modest people rendered into the English language, if it cost me a
hundred thousand pounds: and then there will be no longer an excuse for
the waste of millions on dead languages, to say nothing of the loss
occasioned by the want of education in other subjects that is consequent
on the prominence given to the so-called classical attainments."

The Prince was equal to his word. Science and art, mathematical and
technical acquirements, took the place of the classics; and people
became really well informed. Living languages, it was found, could be
easily learnt in a few months by personal intercourse with a fluent
speaker.

This digression has been necessary to explain how it was that the
volunteers were capable of acquiring all the scientific knowledge
necessary to the ranks of a force trained to the highest military
duties. As to the officers, the position was sufficiently coveted to
induce competitors for command in Volunteer regiments to study the most
advanced branches of the profession.

It will be understood Lord Reginald, while offering to retire from the
regular service, but intending to retain his Volunteer command, really
made no military sacrifice, whilst he took up a high ground embarrassing
to the authorities. He forced them either to accept his refusal of the
London command, and be a party to the breach of discipline involved in a
soldier declining to render service wherever it was demanded, or to
require his retirement from the regular service, with the certainty of
all kinds of questions being asked and surmises made.

It was no doubt unusual to offer him such a splendid command without
ascertaining that he was ready to accept it, and there was a great risk
of Miss Fitzherbert's name being brought up in an unpleasant manner.
Women lived in the full light of day, and several journals were in the
habit of declaring that the likes and dislikes of women were allowed far
too much influence. What an opportunity would be afforded to them if
they could hang ever so slightly Lord Reginald's retirement on some
affair of the heart connected with that much-envied young statesman Miss
Fitzherbert!

Mrs. Hardinge rapidly realised all the features of the case. "He means
mischief, this man," she said; "but he shall not hurt Hilda if I can
help it." Then she minuted "Write Lord Reginald that I regret he is
unable to accept an appointment which I thought would give him pleasure,
and which he is so qualified to adorn." She laughed over this sentence.
"He will understand its irony," she thought, "and smart under it." She
continued, "Add that I see no reason for his retirement from the regular
service. It was through accident he was not consulted before the offer
was officially made. I should be sorry to deprive the Empire of his
brilliant services. Mark 'Confidential.'" Then she thought to herself,
"This is the best way out of it. He has gained to a certain extent a
triumph, but he cannot make capital out of it."



CHAPTER IV.

PARTIAL VICTORY.


Parliament was about to meet, and the Emperor was to open it with a
speech delivered by himself. Much difference of opinion existed as to
whether reference should be made to the question of altering the nature
of the succession. The Emperor desired that all reference to it should
be omitted. He told Mrs. Hardinge frankly he had decided not to agree to
an alteration, but he said his greatest pain in refusing was the
consciousness that it might deprive him of his present advisers. If the
recommendation were formally made, he should be compelled to say that he
would not concur until he had recourse to other advisers. He wished her
not to impose on him such a necessity.

"But," said Mrs. Hardinge, "your Majesty is asking us to hold office at
the expense of our opinions."

"Not so," replied his Majesty. "All pressing need of dealing with the
question is over. I have resolved to break off the negotiations with the
President of the United States for her daughter's hand. I do not think
the union would be happy for either, and I take exception to the strong
terms in which the President has urged a change in the succession of our
imperial line. You see that the question is no longer an urgent one."

"I hardly know to which direction our duty points," Mrs. Hardinge said.
"We think the question urgent whether or not your Majesty marries at
once."

"Pray do not take that view. There is another reason. I have determined,
as I have said, not to accept such advice without summoning other
advisers. In adopting this step, I am strictly within my constitutional
rights; and I do not say, if a new Cabinet also recommends an alteration
in the law of succession I will refuse to accept the advice. I will
never voluntarily decline to recognise the constitutional rights which
I have sworn to uphold. So it might be that a change of Cabinet would
not alter the result, and then it would be held that I had strained my
constitutional power in making the change. I do not wish to appear in
this or any other question to hold individual opinions. Frankly I will
tell you that I doubt if you have the strength to carry your proposed
change even if I permitted you to submit it. If I am correct in my
conjecture, the question will be forced on you from the other side; and
you will be defeated on it. In that case I shall not have interfered;
and, as I have said, I prefer not to do so. So you see, Mrs. Hardinge,
that I am selfish in wishing you to hold back the question. It is in my
own interest that I do so, and you may dismiss all feeling of
compunction."

"Your Majesty has graciously satisfied me that I may do as you suggest
without feeling that I am actuated by undue desire to continue in
office. I agree with your Majesty the parliamentary result is doubtful.
It greatly depends on the line taken by Lord Reginald Paramatta and the
forty or fifty members who habitually follow him."

The Emperor's speech was received with profound respect. But as soon as
he left the council-chamber a murmur of astonishment ran round. It was
generally anticipated that the announcement of the royal marriage would
be made.

The Federal Chamber was of magnificent dimensions. It accommodated with
comfort the seven hundred and fifty members and one thousand persons
besides. The Chamber was of circular shape. A line across the centre
divided the portion devoted to the members from that occupied by the
audience. The latter were seated tier on tier, but not crowded. The
members had each a comfortable chair and a little desk in front, on
which he could either write or by the hand telegraph communicate
telegrams to his friends outside for retransmission if he desired it. He
could receive messages also, and in neither case was the least noise
made by the instrument.

The council-chamber possessed astonishing acoustic powers. Vast as were
its dimensions, a comparatively feeble voice could be clearly heard at
the remotest distance. As soon as some routine business was concluded
the leader of the Opposition, a lady of great reputation for
statesmanship, rose, and, partly by way of interrogation, expressed
surprise that no intimation had been made respecting the future
happiness of the reigning family. This was about as near a reference to
the person of the Sovereign as the rules of the House permitted. Mrs.
Hardinge curtly replied that she had no intimation to make, a reply
which was received with a general murmur of amazement. The House seemed
to be on the point of proceeding to the ordinary business, when Lord
Reginald Paramatta rose and said "he ventured to ask, as no reference
was made to the subject in the speech, what were the intentions of the
Government on the question of altering the law of succession of the
imperial family."

This interruption was received with much surprise. Lord Reginald had
long been a member possessed of great influence. He had a considerable
following, numbering perhaps not less than fifty. His rule of conduct
hitherto had been to deprecate party warfare. He tried to hold the
balance, and neither side had yet been able to number him and his
following as partisans. That he should lead the way to an attack of an
extreme party character seemed most astonishing. The few words that he
had uttered were rapidly translated into meaning that he intended to
throw in his lot with the Opposition. Mrs. Hardinge, however, appeared
to feel no concern as she quietly replied that she was not aware that
the question pressed for treatment. "I am afraid," said Lord Reginald,
"that I am unable to agree with this opinion; and it is my duty to test
the feelings of the House on the subject." Then he read to the intently
listening members a resolution of which he gave notice that it was
desirable, in order that no uncertainty should exist on the subject, to
record the opinion of the House that the law of succession should not
be altered. Loud cheers followed the announcement; and the leader of the
Opposition, who was equally taken by surprise, congratulated Lord
Reginald, with some little irony, on the decided position he had at last
assumed. Mrs. Hardinge, without any trace of emotion or anxiety, rose
amidst the cheers of her side of the House. The noble and gallant
member, she said, had given notice of a resolution which the Government
would consider challenged its position. It would be better to take it
before proceeding to other business, and if, as she expected, the reply
to the Imperial speech would not occasion discussion, to-morrow could be
devoted to it. Lord Reginald replied to-morrow would suit him, and the
sitting soon came to an end.

Mrs. Hardinge could not but feel surprise at the accuracy of the
Emperor's anticipation. She was sure he was not aware of Lord Reginald's
intention, and she knew that the latter was acting in revenge for the
slight he had received at the hands of Hilda Fitzherbert. She felt that
the prospect of the motion being carried was largely increased through
Lord Reginald having so cleverly appropriated it to himself. But it was
equally evident from the cordiality with which the proposal was received
that, if Lord Reginald had not brought it on, some one else would. She
saw also that the Countess of Cairo (the leader of the Opposition) had
rapidly decided to support Lord Reginald, though she might have
reasonably objected to his appropriating the subject. "He is clever,"
Mrs. Hardinge reflected. "He accurately gauged Lady Cairo's action. What
a pity neither Hilda nor I can trust him! He is as bad in disposition as
he is able in mind."

The next day, after the routine business was disposed of, Lord
Reginald's resolution was called on. That it excited immense interest
the crowded state of the hall in every part attested. Two of the
Emperor's aides-de-camp were there, each with a noiseless telegraph
apparatus in front of him to wire alternately the progress of the
debate. Reporters were similarly communicating with the _Argus_, _Age_,
and _Telegraph_ in Melbourne, and with the principal papers in Sydney,
Brisbane, Adelaide, and New Zealand.

Lord Reginald rose amidst loud cheers from the Opposition side of the
House. He made a temperate but exceedingly able speech. He would explain
before he concluded why he had taken the lead in bringing the question
on. Hitherto he had not sought to take a prominent place in politics. He
was a soldier by profession, and he would infinitely prefer
distinguishing himself as a soldier than as a politician; and, as he
would show, it was as a soldier that he came forward. He disclaimed any
hostility to the equality of the sexes or any objection to the
increasing power in public affairs to which women were attaining. He
fully recognised that the immense progress of the world during the last
hundred years was largely due to the intellectual advancement of women.
He equally rejected the idea that women were unfitted to rule over a
constitutionally governed empire.

Then he dwelt at great length on the inexpediency of permitting the
Constitution to be altered in any one particular, and this part of his
speech was warmly cheered by a considerable section on each side of the
Chamber. The effect of these remarks was, however, marred as far as the
Government party were concerned by a sneering reference to their
disposition to changes of all kinds; and he attempted a feeble joke by
insinuating that the most desirable change of all might be a change of
government.

Then he came to his main argument and explained that it was this
consideration which had impelled him to take up the question. He was, as
he had said, a soldier; but he was not one who overlooked the misery
caused by war. He did not long for war, nor did he think that war was a
probable contingency; but he felt that the British Empire should always
be ready for war as the best means of avoiding it, and as a soldier he
believed no greater prestige could be given to the forces of their vast
dominions than the knowledge that the Emperor was ready to lead them in
person. "I would not," he said, "exclude the female line; but I would
not give it larger probabilities of succession than it enjoys at
present. Again, as a soldier I declare that the interests of the Empire
forbid our doing anything to limit the presence at the head of his
forces of the ruler of the Empire."

Lord Reginald sat down amidst cheers. He had been listened to with
profound attention, and parts of his speech were warmly applauded.
Still, on the whole, the speech was not a success. Every one felt that
there was something wanting. The speaker seemed to be deficient in
sincerity. The impression left was that he had some object in view. The
malign air with which the little joke was uttered about a change of
government was most repelling. It came with singularly bad grace from
one who tried to make out that he was unwillingly forced into opposition
to a Government with which he had been friendly.

Mrs. Hardinge rose amidst loud and continuous cheers. She combated each
argument of the last speaker. She admitted her great disinclination to
change the Constitution, but, she asked, was reverence for the
Constitution promoted by upholding it on the ground not of its merits,
but of the inexpediency of varying it? She freely admitted that her
feelings were in favour of changing the laws of succession, but she had
not brought forward any proposal to that effect, nor, as an advocate of
a change, did she see any immediate or early need of bringing down
proposals. Was it a good precedent to make great Ministerial changes
depend on resolutions affecting not questions before the House, not
proposals made by the Government, but sentiments or opinions they were
supposed to entertain? This was a great change in parliamentary
procedure, a larger one than those changes which the noble lord had
sneeringly credited her with advocating. Then she gave Lord Reginald a
very unpleasant quarter of an hour. She pictured him as head of the
Government in consequence of carrying his resolution; she selected
certain unpopular sentiments which he was known to entertain, and,
amidst great laughter, travestied Lord Reginald's defence of his fads
in response to resolutions of the same kind as they were now discussing.
She grew eloquent even to inspiration in describing the abilities of the
female Sovereigns of the past. And as to the soldier's point of view she
asked did not history tell them that the arms of the country had been as
successful under female as under male rulers? The noble lord, she said,
amidst roars of laughter, had intended to come forward as a soldier;
but, for her part, she thought he had posed as a courtier, and
sarcastically she hinted that he was as able in one capacity as the
other. "He is sad, sir," she continued, "over the possibility that any
one but the Emperor should lead the forces; but if all that is said as
to the noble lord's ambition be correct, he would prefer leading the
troops himself to following the lead of the most exalted commander." She
concluded with an eloquent appeal to her own party. She did not deny the
opinions of her colleagues and herself, but asked was it wise to allow a
great party to be broken up by a theoretical discussion upon a subject
not yet before the country, and which for a long while might not come
before it? Mrs. Hardinge's speech was received most enthusiastically,
and at its conclusion it was clear that she had saved her party from
breaking up. Not a vote would be lost to it. The result merely depended
on what addition Lord Reginald's own following could bring to the usual
strength of the Opposition. After some more debating a division ensued,
and the resolution was lost by two votes only. Both sides cheered, but
there was breathless silence when Mrs. Hardinge rose. She made no
reference to the debate beyond the very significant one of asking that
the House should adjourn for a week.



CHAPTER V.

CABINET NEGOTIATIONS.


Mrs. Hardinge tendered the resignation of the Government to the Emperor,
who at once sent for Lady Cairo, the leader of the Opposition. He asked
her to form an administration.

"Your Majesty," she said, "knows that, though I am in opposition to the
present Premier, I greatly admire both her ability and honesty of
purpose. I am not at all satisfied that she is called on to resign, or
that the small majority she had on the late resolution indicates that
she has not a large following on other questions."

"I hold," said the Emperor, "the balance evenly between the great
parties of the State; and I respect the functions of the Opposition no
less than those of the Government. It is the opinion of my present
advisers that a strong administration is necessary, and that, after such
a division as that of the other night, the Opposition should have the
opportunity offered to them of forming a Government."

"I respect," replied Lady Cairo, "Mrs. Hardinge's action, and under like
circumstances would have pursued a like course. But though Mrs. Hardinge
is right in offering us the opportunity, it does not follow that we
should be wise in accepting it."

"You are of that," replied the Emperor, "of course the best judge. But I
should not like so grave a step as the one which Mrs. Hardinge has felt
it her duty to take to be construed into a formality for effacing the
effect of a vote of the House. I am averse," said the wise ruler, "to
anything which might even remotely make me appear as the medium of, or
interferer with, parliamentary action. I esteem Mrs. Hardinge, and I
esteem you, Lady Cairo; but if the resignation now tendered to me went
no further than at present, it might justly be surmised that I had
permitted myself to be the means of strengthening what Mrs. Hardinge
considered an insufficient parliamentary confidence. I therefore ask you
not to give me a hasty answer, but to consult your friends and endeavour
to form a strong Government."

No more could be said. Lady Cairo, with becoming reverence, signified
her submission to the Emperor's wishes. She summoned her chief friends
and colleagues, and had many earnest conferences with them separately
and collectively. It was readily admitted that, if they formed a
Government, there was a considerable number of members who, though not
their supporters, would protect them in a fair trial. It was indeed
certain that Mrs. Hardinge would be too generous to indulge in factious
opposition, and that, if they avoided any notoriously controversial
measure, she would herself help them to get through the session. But
Lady Cairo was a large-minded statesman. She loved power, but, because
she loved it, was averse to exercising it on sufferance. She could not
but be sensible such would be her position, and that she would have to
trust less to the strength of her own party than to the forbearance of
her opponents. Besides, there was a point about which a great difference
of opinion existed. She could not attempt to form a Government unless in
combination with Lord Reginald, who moved the resolution. The animosity
he had displayed to the Government made it probable, almost certain,
that he would do what he could to aid her; it might even be expected
that he would induce all or nearly all of his followers to come over to
her; but again and again she asked herself the question would such an
alliance be agreeable to her? Joint action during an animated debate was
widely different from the continued intimacy of official comradeship.
She liked Lord Reginald no better than other persons liked him. She had
very clear perceptions, and was of a high and honourable nature. Lord
Reginald inspired her with distrust. It was his misfortune to awaken
that feeling in the minds of those persons with whom he came into
contact. Her most trusted colleagues were generally of the same opinion,
though several prominent members of the party thought it a mistake not
to accept the opportunity and test its chances.

Her intimate friends expressed their opinion with diffidence. They would
not accept the responsibility of dissuading her from taking office. They
knew that it was a high position and one to which individually she would
do justice, and they knew also that many contingencies might convert a
Government weak at the outset into a strong one. But she could read
between the lines, the more especially that she shared the distrust at
which they hinted. Two of the colleagues she most valued went so far as
to leave her to understand that they would not join her Government,
though of course they would support it. They excused themselves on
private grounds; but she was shrewd enough to see these were the
ostensible, not the real, reasons. Lady Cairo was not one of those
persons who habitually try to persuade themselves to what their
inclinations lead. What she had said to the Emperor satisfied the most
fastidious loyalty. She was perfectly free to take office. No one could
question either her action or her motive. She need not fear the world's
opinion if she consulted her own inclination, and nineteen out of twenty
persons would have been satisfied. She was not; she still saw before her
the necessity of acting with one colleague at least, Lord Reginald, who
would be distasteful to her: and as a strong party statesman, she was
not well disposed generally to the bulk of his followers, whose
inclination led them to endeavour to hold the balance of power between
contending parties. She determined on consulting her aged mother, now a
confirmed invalid, but once a brilliant and powerful statesman, noted
for her high sense of honour.

"My dear," said this helpless lady when she had heard all her daughter
had to tell her, "no one but yourself can measure the strength or the
justice of the distaste you feel for the alliance you must make if you
accept the splendid responsibilities offered to you. But the distaste
exists, and it is not likely to become less. I doubt if you are
justified in disregarding it. Your time will come, my dear; and it will
be a pleasure to you to think that you have not sought it at the expense
of a personal sacrifice of doubts, that would not exist if all grounds
for them were wanting. You must decide. I will go no further than to say
this. I cannot persuade you to allow your inclination for office to
overrule your disinclination to a powerful section of those who must
share your responsibilities. It is sadly often the case that the
instinct to sacrifice inclination is more reliable than the disposition
to follow it."

Three days after their last interview the Emperor again received Lady
Cairo.

"Your Majesty, I have to decline, with great respect and much gratitude
for the confidence you reposed in me, the task of forming a Government
with which you graciously charged me."

"Is this your deliberate decision? I am told that you would have no
difficulty in carrying on the business of the session if Lord Reginald
and his party supported you.'

"That is a contingency, Sir, on which I could not count."

"How! He has not promised to support you?"

"I have not asked him. Our chance presence in the same division lobby
did not appear to me a sufficient basis of agreement."

"Then," said the Emperor, "the mover of the resolution that has
occasioned so much trouble has not been consulted?"

"It is so, your Majesty, as far as I am concerned. I did not understand
that you made coalition with him a condition of my attempt to form a
Government. I hope, Sir, you acquit me of having disregarded your
wishes."

"I do, Lady Cairo. I made no conditions, nor was I entitled to do so. I
left you quite free. Only it seemed to me you must act with the support
of Lord Reginald and his following, and that therefore you would
necessarily consult him."

"I would not say anything in disparagement of Lord Reginald; but may it
not be that my party do not think there has been such habitual agreement
with him as to warrant our assuming that a coalition would be for the
public interest, to say nothing of our own comfort?"

"I see," muttered the Emperor in barely audible voice, "always the same
distrust of this man, able and brave though he be." Then aloud, "Lady
Cairo, what am I to do? Should I send for Lord Reginald and ask him to
attempt to form a Government?"

"I implore your Majesty not to ask me for advice. Mrs. Hardinge is still
in power. May I," she said in a tone of pathetic entreaty, "utter half a
dozen words not officially, but confidentially?"

"Certainly you have my permission."

"Then, Sir, you will understand me when I say that personal opinions,
confidence, trust, and liking may have so much to do with the matter
that it will be graciously kind of your Majesty to allow me to state
only this much in my place in the House: that, after considering the
charge you entrusted to me, I felt compelled to refuse it, not believing
that I could form a Government which would enjoy the confidence of a
majority of the House."

"Let it be so," said the Emperor good-humouredly. "That may be your
version. I must not put my troubles upon you."

"Your Majesty is most good, most kind. I can never be sufficiently
grateful."

The Emperor had gained one more devoted admirer. Few who came into
personal contact with him failed to be fascinated by his wonderful
sympathy and grace. All human character appeared an open book to his
discernment.

He sent for Mrs. Hardinge. "I fear," he said, "you will not be pleased
at what I am about to say. Lady Cairo has declined to form a Government.
I may have to refuse to accept your resignation, or rather to ask you to
withdraw it. First, however, I wish your advice; but before I formally
seek it tell me would it be distasteful to you to give it."

He paused to afford an opportunity to Mrs. Hardinge to speak, of which
she did not avail herself.

"Lady Cairo," he continued, "did not communicate at all with the mover
of the resolution, Lord Reginald. Will you be averse to my asking you to
advise me on the subject?"

It will be observed that he did not ask for the advice. He well knew, if
he did so, Mrs. Hardinge would be bound to declare that he had asked for
advice, and whether she gave it or not, would still be unable to conceal
that it was sought from her. The Emperor now only put his question on
the footing of whether she was willing that he should seek her opinion.
Mrs. Hardinge appreciated his consideration. It all came back to the
point that the objection to Lord Reginald was of a personal nature, and
as such it was in the last degree distasteful to every one to be mixed
up with its consideration.

"Your Majesty," said Mrs. Hardinge, "has a claim to seek my advice on
the subject; but there are reasons which make me very averse to giving
it. If I can avoid doing so, you will make me very grateful."

The Emperor mused. "Whatever the special reasons may be, why should I
force on so valuable a public servant the necessity of making a lifelong
enemy of this unscrupulous man? To me his enmity matters little. I will
myself decide the point. Lord Reginald did not carry his resolution, and
Mrs. Hardinge need not have tendered her resignation. She did offer it;
and, guided by constitutional rule, I sent for the leader of the
Opposition. I did not take advice from Mrs. Hardinge as to whether I
should send for Lord Reginald or Lady Cairo. I acted on my own
responsibility, as in such cases I prefer doing. I am opposed to the
principle of a retiring Minister selecting his or her successor. I had
the right to suppose that Lady Cairo would consult Lord Reginald, though
not to complain of her failing to do so. If I send for Lord Reginald, it
must be of my own initiative There is no reason why I should consult
Mrs. Hardinge now, seeing that I did not consult her at first. So much
then is settled. Now I must myself decide if I will send for Lord
Reginald. It will be distasteful to me to do so. I have no confidence in
the man, and it would be a meaningless compliment, for he cannot form a
Government. Why should I make a request I know cannot be complied with?
Constitutional usage does not demand it; in fact, the precedent will be
injurious. Because of a sudden accidental combination, the
representative of a small party has no right to be elevated into the
most important leader. Such a practice would encourage combinations
injurious to party government. If I had intended to send for Lord
Reginald, I ought to have summoned him before I sought Lady Cairo. I am
quite satisfied that the course I pursued was constitutional and wise,
and I should throw doubt upon it by sending for Lord Reginald now."
These reflections were made in less time than it takes to write them
down.

"Mrs. Hardinge," said the Emperor, "we now begin our official
interview. Be kind enough to efface from your mind what has hitherto
passed. I have to ask you to withdraw your resignation. Lady Cairo, the
leader of the Opposition, has declined to act, on the ground that she
cannot form a Government which will sufficiently possess the confidence
of a majority of the House."

"It shall be as your Majesty wishes," said Mrs. Hardinge.

When the House met, Mrs. Hardinge, by agreement with Lady Cairo, merely
stated that, after the division of last week, she had felt it her duty
to tender the resignation of her Government to the Emperor.

Lady Cairo in very few words explained that the Emperor had sent for her
and entrusted her with the formation of a Government, and that, after
sufficient consideration, she resolved it was not desirable she should
undertake the task, as she could not rely on a majority in the House and
could not submit to lead it on sufferance.

Mrs. Hardinge again rose, and explained that, at the request of the
Emperor, she had withdrawn her resignation. Loud cheers from all sides
of the House followed the intimation.

Public feeling during the week had abundantly shown itself to be against
a change of government upon what really amounted to a theoretical
question, as the matter was not before the House upon which the
resolution was nearly carried. It was argued that even if carried it
would have been a most unsatisfactory reason for a change of government.

There was one member in the Chamber to whom all that had passed was gall
and wormwood. Lord Reginald left the House last week a marked and
distinguished man. For the first twenty-four hours he received from
those persons throughout the Empire who made it their business to stand
well with "the powers that be" congratulations of a most flattering
description. To-day there was "none so poor to do him reverence."

The change was intolerable to a man of his proud and haughty
disposition. The worst feature of it was that he could not single out
any one specially for complaint. There was no disguising from himself
what every one in the House knew, and what every one throughout the
Empire soon would know: that the Emperor himself and the leaders of both
the great parties did not think him worthy of consideration. As we have
seen, there was no actual slight; that is to say, constitutional usages
had been followed. But to his mind he had been slighted in a most marked
and offensive fashion. Why was he not sent for at first? Why did not
Lady Cairo consult him? Why was Mrs. Hardinge asked to withdraw her
resignation without his assistance being sought--he, the mover of the
resolution; he, the man who brought on the crisis about which miles of
newspaper columns had since been written? He forgot that no one had
asked him to take the action he did, that he had sought no advice on the
subject, and that politicians who elect to act on their own account have
no right to complain of the isolation they court. Scarcely any one spoke
to him. A member near him, noticing his extreme pallor, asked him if he
was unwell; but no one seemed to care about him or to remember that he
had had anything to do with the crisis which, to the rejoicing of all
sides, was over. "The newspapers," he thought, "will not forget." They
had blamed him during the last week; now they would ridicule and laugh
at him. He writhed at the reflection; and when he reached the quiet of
his own home, he paced his large study as one demented. "I will be
revenged," he muttered over and over again. "I will show them I am not
so powerless a being; they shall all repent the insult they have put on
me: and as for that girl, that image of snow--she has set Mrs. Hardinge
against me. She shall grovel at my feet; she shall implore me to marry
her."



CHAPTER VI.

BAFFLED REVENGE.


Hilda's most confidential secretary was her sister, Maud Fitzherbert.
She was some two or three years younger, a lovely, graceful girl, and
possessed of scarcely less intellectual power than Hilda. She had
perhaps less inclination for public life; but both the girls were
learned in physical laws, in mathematics, in living languages, in
everything, in short, to which they devoted their extraordinary mental
powers. They adored each other, and Maud looked up to Hilda as to a
divinity.

The latter was writing in her room. Maud came to her. "Lord Montreal is
most anxious to see you for a few minutes."

Lord Montreal was a fine-looking, handsome young man of twenty-five
years of age. He was a brave soldier, a genial companion, and a general
favourite. He was the second son of the Duke of Ontario. He had known
the Fitzherberts since they were children, and the families were
intimate. Hilda greeted him cordially.

"I will not detain you," he said; "but I have had important information
confided to me in strict secrecy. I cannot tell you who was my
informant, and you must not use my name. Will you accept the
conditions?"

"I must, I suppose, if you insist on them."

"I must insist on them. My information much concerns my commanding
officer, Lord Reginald Paramatta, with whom I am only on formal terms;
and therefore my name must not appear. As to my informant, his condition
was absolute secrecy as to his name. The gist of what he told me was
that Lord Reginald is organising a secret society, with objects
certainly not loyal to the Emperor, if indeed they are not treasonable.
I gathered that there is something more contemplated than theoretical
utterances, and that action of a most disastrous character may follow if
steps to arrest it be not at once taken. The information was imparted to
me in order that I might bring it to you. I feel that I have been placed
in a false position by being made the recipient without proof of
statements so damaging to my superior officer; and though I fear that I
may be placing a trouble upon you, I have on reflection not thought
myself warranted in withholding the statement, as it was made to me with
the object of its reaching you. Never again will I give assurances about
statements the nature of which I do not know."

Miss Fitzherbert seemed to be destined to annoyance through Lord
Reginald. She was now called to set the detective power in force against
a man who a few days since so eagerly sought her hand.

"I certainly wish," she said, "that you will not give promises which
will land you into bringing me information of this kind."

"You surely," said Montreal, "do not care for Lord Reginald?"

"I may not and do not care for him, but it is not agreeable to be asked
to search out criminal designs on the part of a person with whom one is
acquainted."

"Forgive me, Hilda," said Montreal. "It was thoughtless of me not to
think that I might give you pain. But, you see, I regard you as
indifferent to everything but public affairs. Now Maud is different;"
and he looked at the fair girl who still remained in the room, with eyes
in which warm affection was plainly visible.

"Maud has a heart, of course; but I have not," said Hilda, with more
irritation than she was accustomed to display.

The poor girl had suffered much annoyance during the last few days, and
the climax was attained that afternoon when she read in a paper
purposely sent to her a strangely inverted account of her relations with
Lord Reginald. According to this journal, Mrs. Hardinge had treated Lord
Reginald cruelly because she could not induce him to respond to the
affection which her protegée Hilda Fitzherbert felt for the great
soldier. In spite of, or perhaps on account of, her vast mental power,
Hilda was possessed of a singularly sensitive character. She gave
herself up to public affairs in the full conviction that women could do
so without sacrificing in the smallest degree their self-respect. She
had a high conception of the purity and holiness of woman's individual
existence, and it seemed to her a sacrilege to make the public life of a
woman the excuse for dragging before the eyes of the world anything that
affected her private feelings. She was intensely annoyed at this
paragraph. In the end, we may say in anticipation. Lord Reginald did not
come out of it with advantage. The next issue of the paper contained the
following passage: "In reference to what appeared in our columns last
week about Miss Fitzherbert, we must apologise to that lady. We are
informed by Mrs. Hardinge that the facts were absolutely inverted. It is
not Lord Reginald who is unwilling. It is Lord Reginald who has received
a _decidedly_ negative reply."

Hilda was not one to readily inflict her own annoyances on others. She
recovered herself in a moment as she saw the pained look on Maud's face.
"Forgive me, Montreal; forgive me, Maud," she said. "I have much to
disturb me. I did not mean to be unkind. Of course, Montreal, I should
have liked your aid in this matter; but as you cannot give it, I must
see what I can do without it. Good-bye, Montreal. Maud dear, send at
once to Colonel Laurient, and ask him if he will do me the kindness to
come to see me at once."

Colonel Laurient was a very remarkable man. He was on his mother's side
of an ancient Jewish family, possessing innumerable branches all over
the world. At various times members of the family had distinguished
themselves both in public life and in scientific, commercial, and
financial pursuits. Colonel Laurient was the second son of one of the
principal partners in the De Childrosse group, the largest and most
wealthy financial house in the world. When his education was completed,
he decided not to enter into the business, as his father gave him the
option of doing. He had inherited an enormous fortune from his aunt, the
most celebrated scientific chemist and inventor of her day. She had left
him all the law permitted her to leave to one relation. He entered the
army, and also obtained a seat in Parliament. As a soldier he gained a
reputation for extreme skill and discretion in the guerilla warfare that
sometimes was forced on the authorities in the British Asiatic
possessions. On one occasion by diplomatic action he changed a powerful
foe on the frontier of the Indian possessions to a devoted friend, his
knowledge of languages and Asiatic lore standing him in good stead. This
action brought him to the notice of the Emperor, who soon attached him
to his personal service, and, it was said, put more faith in his
opinions than in those of any person living. He was rather the personal
friend than the servant of the Emperor.

Some twenty years before the date of our story it was found necessary to
give to the then Sovereign a private service of able and devoted men.
It was the habit of the Emperor of United Britain to travel about the
whole of his vast dominions. The means of travelling were greatly
enlarged, and what would at one time have been considered a long and
fatiguing expedition ceased to possess any difficulty or inconvenience.
A journey from London to Melbourne was looked upon with as much
indifference as one from London to the Continent used to be. It became
apparent that either the freedom of the Emperor to roam about at
pleasure must be much curtailed, or that he must be able to travel
without encroaching on the ordinary public duty of his constitutional
advisers. Thus a species of personal bodyguard grew up, with the members
of which, according as his temperament dictated, the Sovereign became on
more or less intimate personal terms. The officers holding this coveted
position had no official status. If there was any payment, the Emperor
made it. There was no absolute knowledge of the existence of the force,
if such it could be called, or of who composed it. That the Sovereign
had intimate followers was of course known, and it was occasionally
surmised that they held recognised and defined positions. But it was
merely surmise, after all; and not half a dozen people outside of
Cabinet rank could have positively named the friends of the Emperor who
were members of the bodyguard.

Colonel Laurient retired from Parliament, where he had rather
distinguished himself in the treatment of questions requiring large
geographical and historical knowledge; and it was commonly supposed, he
wished to give more attention to his military duties. In reality he
became chief of the Emperor's bodyguard, and, it might be said, was the
eyes and ears of the Sovereign. With consummate ability he organised a
secret intelligence department, and from one end of the dominions to the
other he became aware of everything that was passing. Not infrequently
the Emperor amazed Cabinet Ministers with the extent of his knowledge of
immediate events. Colonel Laurient never admitted that he held any
official position, and literally he did not hold any such position. He
received no pay, and his duties were not defined. He loved the Emperor
personally for himself, and the Emperor returned the feeling. Really the
most correct designation to give to his position was to term him the
Emperor's most devoted friend and to consider that in virtue thereof the
members of the bodyguard regarded him as their head, because he stood to
them in the place of the Emperor himself.

Hilda Fitzherbert knew something, and conjectured more, as to his
position. She was frequently brought into communication with him, and
after she heard Lord Montreal's story she instantly determined to
consult him. He came quickly on her invitation. He was always pleased to
meet her.

Colonel Laurient was a tall, slender man, apparently of about
thirty-five years of age. His complexion was very dark; and his silky,
curly hair was almost of raven blackness. His features were small and
regular, and of that sad but intellectual type common to some of the
pure-bred Asiatic races. You would deem him a man who knew how to
"suffer and be strong;" you would equally deem him one whom no
difficulty could frighten, no obstacle baffle. You would expect to see
his face light up to enjoyment not because of the prospect of ordinary
pleasure, but because of affairs of exceeding gravity which called for
treatment by a strong hand and subtle brain. His manner was pleasing and
deferential; and he had a voice of rare harmony, over which he possessed
complete control. Cordial greetings passed between him and Miss
Fitzherbert. There was no affectation of apology being necessary for
sending for him or of pleasure on his part at the summons. Briefly she
told him of Lord Montreal's communication. He listened attentively, then
carelessly remarked, "Lord Reginald's conduct has been very peculiar
lately."

Do what she would, the girl could not help giving a slight start at this
remark, made as it was with intention. Colonel Laurient at once
perceived that there was more to be told than he already was aware of.
He knew a great deal that had passed with Lord Reginald, and guessed
more; and gradually, with an apparently careless manner, he managed to
elicit so much from Hilda that she thought it wiser to tell him
precisely all that had occurred, especially the account of her last
interview with Lord Reginald and his subsequent letter resigning his
appointment.

"Confidences with me," he said, "are entirely safe. Now I understand his
motives, you and I start on fair terms, which we could not do whilst you
knew more than I did."

Then they discussed what had better be done. "It may be," Colonel
Laurient said, "that there is nothing in it. There is a possibility that
it is a pure invention, and it is even possible that Lord Reginald may
have himself caused the invention to reach you for the purpose of giving
you annoyance. Montreal's informant may have been instigated by Lord
Reginald. Then there is the possibility--we may say probability--that
the purposes of the society do not comprise a larger amount of
disaffection or dissatisfaction than the law permits. And, lastly,
there is let us say the barest possibility that Lord Reginald, enraged
to madness, may have determined on some really treasonable action. You
know in old days it was said, 'Hell has no fury like a woman scorned;'
but in our time we would not give the precedence for wounded vanity to
woman; man is not wanting in the same susceptibility, and Lord Reginald
has passed through a whole series of humiliating experiences. I knew
some of them before I saw you this afternoon. You have filled up the
list with a bitter from which he doubtless suffers more than from all
the rest."

Miss Fitzherbert appeared to care little for this strain of conjecture.
"What is the use of it?" she said. "However infinitesimal the risk of
treasonable designs, the Emperor must not be allowed to run it."

"You are right," said Colonel Laurient. "I do not, as you know, appear
in these matters; but I have means of obtaining information of secret
things. Within twenty-four hours I will see you again and let you know
what it all means. We can then decide the course to take."

Some explanation is necessary to enable Colonel Laurient's remarks about
the limits of disaffection to be understood. Freedom of thought and
expression was amongst the cardinal liberties of the subject most
prized. In order to recognise its value, it was long since determined
that a line should be drawn beyond which the liberty should not extend.
It was argued that nothing could be more cruel than to play with
disaffection of a dangerous nature. Not only was it the means of
increasing the disaffection, but of gradually drawing eminent people
into compromising positions. The line then was drawn at this
point:--upon any subject that did not affect the fundamental principles
of the Constitution change might be permissible, but any advocacy or
even suggestion of destroying those fundamental principles was regarded
as treasonable. The Constitution was so framed as to indicate within
itself the principles which were susceptible of modification or change,
such, for example, as the conditions of the franchise and the modes of
conducting elections. But there were three fundamental points concerning
which no change was allowable, and these were--first, that the Empire
should continue an empire; secondly, that the sovereignty should remain
in the present reigning family; and thirdly, that the union of the
different parts of the dominion was irrevocable and indissoluble. It
will be remembered that a great aversion had been expressed by the
upholders of the Constitution to the proposal to change the law of
succession within the imperial family. It could not be said to touch on
the second fundamental principle, as it did not involve a change of
dynasty; yet many thought it too nearly approached one of the sacred,
unchangeable principles.

As regards the fundamental principles, no discussion was permissible. To
question even the wisdom of continuing the Empire, of preserving the
succession in the imperial family, or of permitting a separation of any
of the dominions was held to be rank treason; and no mercy was shown to
an offender. Outside of these points changes could be made, and
organisations to promote changes were legitimate, however freely they
indulged in plain speech. The conduct of the Emperor himself was
legitimately a subject of comment, especially on any point in which he
appeared to fail in respect to the Constitution he had sworn to uphold.
It need scarcely be said that the Constitution was no longer an
ill-defined and unwritten one. Such a Constitution worked well enough as
long as the different parts of the Empire were united only during
pleasure. When the union became irrevocable, it was a natural necessity
that the conditions of union should be defined.

It may be convenient here to state some of the broad features of the
governing and social system. It has already been said that, without
approaching to communism, it had long since been decided that every
human being was entitled to a share in the good things of the world, and
that destitution was abhorrent. It was also recognised that the
happiest condition of humanity was a reasonable amount of work and
labour. For that very reason, it was decided not to make the labour
distasteful by imposing it as a necessity. The love of work, not its
necessity, was the feeling it was desirable to implant. Manual work
carried with it no degradation, and there was little work to be done
which did not require intelligence. Mere brute force was superseded by
the remarkable contrivances for affording power and saving labour which
were brought even to the humblest homes. The waves, tides, and winds
stored up power which was convertible into electricity or compressed
air; and either of these aids to labour-saving could be carried from
house to house as easily as water. If men and women wished to be idle
and State pensioners, it was open to them to follow their inclination;
but they had to wear uniforms, and they were regarded as inferior by the
healthy body politic. The aged, infirm, and helpless might enjoy State
aid without being subjected to such a humiliation or to any disability.
The starting-point was that, if a person was not sufficiently criminal
to be the inmate of a prison, he should not be relegated to a brutal
existence. It was at first argued that such a system would encourage
inaction and idleness; the State would be deluged with pensioners. But
subtler counsels prevailed. Far-seeing men and women argued that the
condition of the world was becoming one of contracted human labour; and
if the viciously inclined refused to work, there would be more left to
those who had the ambition to be industrious. "But," was the rejoinder,
"you are stifling ambition by making the lowest round of the ladder so
comfortable and luxurious." To this was replied, "Your argument is
superficial. Survey mankind; and you will see that, however lowly its
lowest position, there is a ceaseless, persistent effort to rise on the
part of nearly every well-disposed person, from the lowliest to the most
exalted." Ambition, it was urged, was natural to man, but it was least
active amongst the poverty-crushed classes. Mankind as a whole might be
described as myriads of units striving to ascend a mountain. The number
of those contented to rest on the plateaus to which they had climbed was
infinitesimal compared with the whole. It would be as difficult to
select them as it would be to pick out a lazy bee from a whole hive.
Whether you started at the lowest class, with individuals always on the
point of starvation, with families herded together with less decency
than beasts of the fields, and with thousands of human beings who from
cradle to grave knew not what happiness meant, or made the start from a
higher elevation, upon which destitution was impossible, there would
still continue the climbing of myriads to greater heights and the
resting on plateaus of infinitesimally few; indeed, as poverty tended to
crush ambition, there would be a larger range of aspiration accompanying
an improvement in the condition of the lowliest class. And so it proved.

The system of government and taxation followed the theory of the range
above destitution. Taxes were exacted in proportion to the ability to
pay them. The payments for the many services the Post Office rendered
were not regarded as taxation. The customs duties were looked upon as
payments made in proportion to the desires of the people to use dutiable
goods. If high customs duties meant high prices, they also meant high
wages.

The Empire, following the practice of other countries, was utterly
averse to giving employment to the peoples of foreign nations. Every
separate local dominion within the Empire was at liberty to impose by
its legislature what duties it pleased as between itself and other parts
of the Empire, but it was imperatively required to collect three times
the same duties on commodities from foreign countries. This was of
course meant to be prohibitive of foreign importations, and was
practicable because the countries within the Empire could supply every
commodity in the world. It was argued that to encourage foreign
importations merely meant to pit cheap labour against the price for
labour within the Empire. Besides the customs duties, the revenue was
almost entirely made up of income tax and succession duties. Stamp
duties, as obstacles to business, were considered an evidence of the
ignorance of the past. The first five hundred pounds a year of income
was free; but beyond that amount the State appropriated one clear fourth
of all incomes. Similarly one quarter of the value of all successions,
real or personal, in excess of ten thousand pounds, was payable to the
State; and disposition by gifts before death came within the succession
values. A man or woman was compelled to leave half his or her property,
after payment of succession duty, in defined proportion to the children
and wife or husband, as the case might be, or failing these to near
relations; the other half he or she might dispose of at pleasure. It was
argued that to a certain extent the amasser of wealth had only a life
interest in it, and that it was not for the happiness of the successors
of deceased people to come into such wealth that the ambition to work
and labour would be wanting. The system did not discourage the amassment
of wealth; on the contrary, larger fortunes were made than in former
times. Higher prices gave to fortunes of course a comparatively less
purchasing power; but taking the higher prices into consideration, the
accumulation of wealth became a more honourable ambition and a
pleasanter task when it ceased to be purchased at the expense of the
comfort of the working classes.

The customs duties belonged to the separate Governments that collected
them, and the quarter-income tax and succession duties were equally
divided between the Imperial and the Dominion Governments. Thus the
friction between them was minimised. The Imperial Government and the
Dominion Governments both enjoyed during most years far more revenue
than they required, and so large a reserve fund was accumulated that no
inconvenience was felt in years of depression. Part of the surplus
revenues arising from the reserve fund was employed in large educational
and benevolent works and undertakings. The result of the system was that
pecuniary suffering in all directions was at an end; but the ambition to
acquire wealth, with its concomitant powers, was in no degree abated.

Of course there was not universal content--such a condition would be
impossible--but the controversies were, as a rule, less bitter than the
former ones which prevailed between different classes. The man-and-woman
struggle was one of the large points of constant difference, and again
there was much difference of opinion as to whether the quarter-income
and succession duties might be reduced to a fifth. It was argued, on the
one hand, that the reserve funds were becoming too large, and that the
present generation was working too much for its successors. On the other
hand, it was urged that the present generation in working for its
successors was merely perpetuating the gift which it had inherited, and
that by preserving the reserve funds great strength was given to contend
against any reverses that the future might have in store. Another point
of controversy was the strength of the naval and military forces. A
comparatively small school of public men argued that the cost and
strength might be materially reduced without risk or danger, but the
general feeling was not with them.

This has been a long digression, but it was necessary to the
comprehension of our story. It will easily be understood from what has
been said that, supposing the alleged action of Lord Reginald was
dictated by revenge, it was difficult to see, unless he resorted to
treasonable efforts, what satisfaction he could derive from any
agitation.

Colonel Laurient the next afternoon fulfilled his promise of waiting on
Hilda. She had suffered great anxiety during the interval--the anxiety
natural to ill-defined fears and doubts. He looked careworn, and his
manner was more serious than on the previous day. "I have found out all
about it," he said; "and I am sorry there is more cause for anxiety than
we thought yesterday. It is undoubtedly true that Lord Reginald is
organising some combination; and although the proof is wanting, there is
much reason to fear that his objects are not of a legitimate nature. It
is impossible to believe, he would take the trouble which he is
assuming, to deal only with questions to which he has never shown an
inclination. I am persuaded that behind the cloak of his ostensible
objects lies ambition or revenge, or perhaps both, pointing to extreme
and highly dangerous action."

"You are probably right," said Miss Fitzherbert, who knew from the
manner of the Emperor's favourite that he was much disturbed by what he
had heard. "But even so, what obstacle lies in the way of putting an end
to the projected action, whatever its nature?"

"There is a great obstacle," promptly replied the Colonel; "and that is
the doubt as to what the nature of the project is. Lord Reginald is a
clever man; and notwithstanding his late failure, he has plenty of
friends and admirers, especially among his own sex, and amongst
soldiers, both volunteers and regulars. I have ascertained enough to
show me that the leaders intend to keep within ostensibly legitimate
limits until the time comes to unfold their full design to their
followers, and that then they will trust to the comradeship of the
latter and to their fears of being already compromised."

Hilda was quick of apprehension. "I see they will organise to complain
perhaps of the nature of the taxation, and only expose their treasonable
objects at a later time."

Colonel Laurient gazed on her with admiration. "How readily you
comprehend!" he said. "I believe you alone can grapple with the
situation."

The girl flushed, and then grew pale. She did not know what physical
fear meant. Probably, if her feelings were analysed, it would have been
found that the ruling sensation she experienced was an almost delirious
pleasure at the idea that she could do a signal service to the Emperor.

She replied, however, with singular self-repression. "I am not quick
enough," she said, with a slight smile, "to understand how I can be of
any use."

"The organisation has been proceeding some time, although I fancy Lord
Reginald has only lately joined and accepted the leadership. It numbers
thousands who believe themselves banded together only to take strong
measures to reduce taxation, on the ground that the reserve funds have
become amply large enough to permit such reduction. But the leaders have
other views; and I have ascertained that they propose to hold a meeting
three days hence, at which it is possible--nay, I think, probable--there
will be an unreserved disclosure."

"Why not," said Miss Fitzherbert, "arrest them in the midst of their
machinations?"

"There lies the difficulty," responded the Colonel. "It entirely depends
on the nature of the disclosures whether the Government authorities are
entitled to take any action. If the disclosures fall short of being
treasonable, it would be held that there was interference of a most
unpardonable character with freedom of speech and thought; and the last
of it would never be heard. Dear Miss Fitzherbert," he said caressingly,
"we want some one at the meeting with a judgment so evenly balanced and
accurate that she will be able on the instant to decide if the
treasonable intentions are sufficiently expressed or if it would be
safer not to interfere. I know no one so quick and at the same time so
logical in her judgment as you. In vain have I thought of any one else
whom it would be nearly so safe to employ."

"But how could it be managed?" inquired Hilda. "Every one knows my
appearance. My presence would be immediately detected."

"Pray listen to me," said the Colonel, delighted at having met with no
strenuous opposition. He had feared, he would have great difficulty in
persuading Miss Fitzherbert to take the part he intended for her; and,
to his surprise, she seemed inclined to meet him half-way. Then he
explained that the meeting was to be held in the Parliamentary Hall, a
celebrated place of meeting. It had been constructed with the express
purpose of making it impossible that any one not inside the Hall could
hear what was taking place. The edifice was an enormous one of stone.
Inside this building, about fifteen feet from the walls all round, and
twenty feet from the roof, was a second erection, composed entirely of
glass. So that as long as the external building was better lighted than
the interior one the presence of a human being could be detected outside
the walls or on the roof of the hall of meeting. The chamber was
artificially cooled, as indeed were most of the houses in the cities of
Australia, excepting during the winter months.

"This is the place of all others," said Miss Fitzherbert, "where it
would be difficult for an unauthorised person to be present."

"Not so," replied Colonel Laurient. "The inside hall is to be in
darkness, and the exterior dimly lighted. Only the vague outlines of
each person's form will be revealed; and every one is to come cloaked,
and with a large overshadowing hat. From what I can gather, the
revelation is to be gradual and only to be completed if it should seem
to be approved during its progress. I expect Lord Reginald will be the
last to give in his adhesion, so that it might be said he was deceived
as to the purpose of the meeting if he should see fit to withdraw from
the declaration of its real object. Mind, you are to be sole judge as to
whether the meeting transgresses the line which divides the legitimate
from the treasonable."

"Why not act yourself?" said Hilda.

"If you think for a moment," he replied, "you will understand my
influence is maintained only so long as it is hidden. If I appeared to
act, it would cease altogether. Unfortunately I must often let others do
what I would gladly do myself. Believe me, it is painful to me to put
tasks on you of any kind, much less a task of so grave a nature. By
heavens!" he exclaimed, carried away for a moment, "there is a reason
known to me only why I might well dread for myself the great service you
will do the Emperor."

He was recalled to himself by the amazed look of the girl. "Forgive me,"
he ejaculated. "I did not mean anything. But there is no danger to you;
of that be assured."

"Colonel Laurient," said Hilda gravely, "you ought to know me well
enough not to suppose I am guided by fear."

"I do know it," he answered, "otherwise I should not have asked you to
undertake the great task I have set before you. No woman whose mind was
disturbed by alarm could do justice to it."

He told her that in some way, he did not mention how, he had control
over the manager of the building, who had let it under a false
impression, and asked her if she was aware of the comparatively late
discovery of how to produce artificial magnetism.

"I ought to be," she replied, with a smile, "for I am credited with
having been the first to discover the principle of the remote branch of
muscular magnetising electricity on which it depends."

"I had forgotten," he said, with an answering smile. "One may be
forgiven for forgetting for a moment the wide nature of your
investigations and discoveries."

Then he explained to her that the principle could be put into practice
with perfect certainty and safety, and that he would take care
everything was properly arranged. He would see her again and tell her
the pass-words, the part of the Hall she was to occupy, and the mode she
was to adopt to summon assistance.

The evening of the meeting came, and for half an hour there were
numerous arrivals at the many doors of the huge building. Each person
had separately to interchange the pass-words at both the outer and inner
doors. At length about twelve hundred people were assembled. The lights
outside the glass hall were comparatively feeble. The powerful electric
lamps were not turned on. The inner hall was unlighted, and received
only a dull reflection from the outer lights. Some surprise was
expressed by the usual frequenters of the Hall at the appearance inside
the glass wall of a wooden dais, sufficiently large to hold three or
four people, and with shallow steps on one side leading up to it.
Inquiry was made as to its object. The doorkeeper, suitably instructed,
replied carelessly it was thought, they might require a stage from which
the speakers could address the audience. The present meeting certainly
did not want it. The speakers had no desire to individually bring
themselves into notice. Hilda, muffled up as were the rest, quietly took
a seat close to the steps of the dais. No president was appointed; no
one appeared to have any control; yet as the meeting proceeded it was
evident that its tactics had been carefully thought out, and that most,
if not all, of the speakers were fulfilling the parts allotted to them.

First a tall, elderly man rose, and with considerable force and fluency
enlarged upon the evils of the present large taxation. He went into
figures, and his speech ought to have been effective, only no one seemed
to take any interest in it. Then there loomed on the meeting the person
apparently of a middle-aged woman. The cloaks and hats carefully
mystified the identities of the sexes and individual peculiarities. This
speaker went a little further. She explained that maintaining the Empire
as a whole entailed the sacrifice of regulating the taxation so as to
suit the least wealthy portions. She carefully guarded herself from
being more than explanatory. The comparative poverty of England and the
exactions of the self-indulgent Londoners, she said, necessitated a
scale of taxation that hardy and rich Australia, New Zealand, and Canada
did not require. Then a historically disposed young woman rose and dwelt
upon the time when England thought a great deal more of herself than of
the Colonies and to curry favour with foreign countries placed them on
the same footing as her own dominions. Little by little various speakers
progressed, testing at every step the feelings of the audience, until at
last one went so far as to ask the question whether the time would ever
come when Australia would be found to be quite large and powerful enough
to constitute an empire of itself. "Mind," said he, "I do not say the
time will come." Then an apparently excited Australian arose. She would
not, she said, say a word in favour of such an empire; but she, an
Australian bred and born, and with a long line of Australian ancestors,
was not going to listen to any doubts being thrown on Australia or
Australians. The country and the people, she declared, amidst murmuring
signs of assent, were fit for any destiny to which they might be called.
Then a logical speaker rose and asked why were they forbidden to discuss
the question as to whether it was desirable to retain the present limits
of the Empire or to divide it. He would not state what his opinion was,
but he would say this: that he could not properly estimate the arguments
in favour of preserving the integrity of the Empire unless he was at
liberty to hear the arguments and answer them of those who held an
opposite opinion. When this speaker sat down, there was a momentary
pause. It seemed as if there was a short consultation between those who
were guiding the progress of the meeting. Whether or not this was the
case, some determination appeared to be arrived at; and a short, portly
man arose and said he did not care for anybody or anything. He would
answer the question to which they had at length attained by saying that
in his opinion the present empire was too large, that Australia ought to
be formed into a separate empire, and that she would be quite strong
enough to take care of herself.

The low murmur of fear with which this bold announcement was heard soon
developed into loud cheers, especially from that part of the Hall where
the controlling influence seemed to be held. Then all restraint was cast
aside; and speaker after speaker affirmed, in all varieties of
eloquence, that Australia must be an empire. Some discussed whether New
Zealand should be included, but the general opinion appeared to be that
she should be left to her own decision in the matter. Then the climax
was approached. A speaker rose and said there appeared to be no doubt in
the mind of the meeting as to the Empire of Australia; he hoped there
was no doubt that Lord Reginald Paramatta should be the first Emperor.
The meeting seemed to be getting beyond the control of its leaders. It
did not appear to have been part of their programme to put forward Lord
Reginald's name at this stage. It was an awkward fix, for no person by
name was supposed to be present, so that he could neither disclaim the
honour nor express his thanks for it. One of the controllers, a grave,
tall woman, long past middle age, dealt with this difficulty. They must
not, she said, go too far at first; it was for them now to say whether
Australia should be an empire. She loved to hear the enthusiasm with
which Lord Reginald Paramatta's name was received. Australia boasted no
greater or more distinguished family than the Paramattas; and as for
Lord Reginald, every one knew that a braver and better soldier did not
live. Still they must decide on the Empire before the Emperor, and each
person present must answer the question was he or she favourable to
Australia being constructed into a separate empire? They could not in
this light distinguish hands held up. Each person must rise and throw
off his or her cloak and hat and utter the words, "I declare that I am
favourable to Australia being constituted an empire." Then, evidently
with the intention of making the controllers and Lord Reginald speak
last, she asked the occupant of the seat to the extreme left of the
part of the Hall most distant from her to be the first to declare.
Probably he and a few others had been placed there for that purpose. At
any rate, he rose without hesitation, threw off his cloak, removed his
hat, and said, "I declare myself in favour of Australia being
constituted an empire." Person after person from left to right and from
right to left of each line of chairs followed the same action and
uttered the same words, and throughout the Hall there was a general
removal of cloaks and hats. At length it came to Hilda Fitzherbert's
turn. Without a moment's hesitation, the brave girl rose, dropped her
cloak and hat, and in a voice distinctly heard from end to end of the
Hall said, "I declare I am not in favour of Australia being constituted
an empire."

For a second there was a pause of consternation. Then arose a Babel of
sounds: "Spy!" "Traitor!" "It is Hilda Fitzherbert;" "She must not leave
the Hall alive;" "We have been betrayed." Shrieks and sobs were amongst
the cries to be distinguished. Then there arose a mighty roar of "She
must die," and a movement towards her. It was stilled for a moment. Lord
Reginald rose, and, with a voice heard above all the rest, he thundered
forth, "She shall not die. She shall live on one condition. Leave her to
me;" and he strode towards her.

In one second the girl, like a fawn, sprang up the steps of the dais,
and touched a button concealed in the wall, and then a second button.
Words are insufficient to describe the effect.

The first button was connected with wires that ran through the flooring
and communicated to every being in the Hall excepting to Hilda, on the
insulated dais, a shock of magnetic electricity, the effect of which was
to throw them into instantaneous motionless rigidity. No limb or muscle
could be moved; as the shock found them they remained. And the pressure
of the second button left no doubt of the fact, for it turned on the
electric current to all the lamps inside and outside of the Hall, until
the chamber became a blaze of dazzling light. There was no longer
disguise of face or person, and every visage was at its worst. Fear,
terror, cruelty, or revenge was the mastering expression on nearly every
countenance. Some faces showed that the owners had been entrapped and
betrayed into a situation they had not sought. But these were few, and
could be easily read. On the majority of the countenances there was
branded a mixture of greed, thwarted ambition, personal malignity, and
cruelty horrible to observe. The pose of the persons lent a ludicrous
aspect to the scene. Lord Reginald, for instance, had one foot in front
of the other in the progress he was making towards Hilda. His body was
bent forward. His face wore an expression of triumphant revenge and
brutal love terrible to look at. Evidently he had thought there "was joy
at last for my love and my revenge." Hilda shuddered as she glanced down
upon the sardonic faces beneath her, and touched a third button. An
answering clarionet at once struck out the signal to advance, and the
measured tread of troops in all directions was heard. The poor wretches
in the Hall preserved consciousness of what was passing around, though
they could not exercise their muscular powers and felt no bodily pain.
An officer at the door close to the dais saluted Miss Fitzherbert. "Be
careful," she said, "to put your foot at once on the dais and come up to
me." He approached her. "Have you your orders?" she asked.

"My orders," he said, "are to come from you. We have photographers at
hand."

"Have a photograph," she instructed him, "taken of the whole scene, then
of separate groups, and lastly of each individual. Have it done
quickly," she added, "for the poor wretches suffer mental, if not
physical, pain. Then every one may go free excepting the occupants of
the three top rows. The police should see that these do not leave
Melbourne."

She bowed to the officer, and sprang down the steps and out of the Hall.
At the outer door a tall form met her. She did not require to look--she
was blinded by the light within--to be convinced that it was Colonel
Laurient who received her and placed her in a carriage. She was
overcome. The terrible scene she had passed through had been too much
for her. She did not faint; she appeared to be in a state of numbed
inertness, as if she had lost all mental and physical power. Colonel
Laurient almost carried her into the house, and, with a face of deathly
pallor, consigned her to the care of her sister. Maud had been partly
prepared to expect that Hilda would be strongly agitated by some painful
scene, and she was less struck by her momentary helplessness than by the
agonised agitation of that usually self-commanding being Colonel
Laurient. Probably no one had ever seen him like this before. It may be
that he felt concern not only for Hilda herself, but for the part he had
played in placing her in so agitating a position.



CHAPTER VII.

HEROINE WORSHIP.


It was nearly twelve o'clock before Hilda roused herself from a long and
dreamless slumber, consequent upon the fatigue and excitement of the
previous evening. She still felt somewhat exhausted, but no physician
could have administered a remedy so efficacious as the one she found
ready to hand. On the table beside her was a small packet sealed with
the imperial arms. She removed the covering; and opening the case
beneath, a beautifully painted portrait of the Emperor on an ivory
medallion met her enraptured gaze. The portrait was set round with
magnificent diamonds. But she scarcely noticed them; it was the painting
itself that charmed her. The Emperor looked just as he appeared when he
said to her, "Tell me now as woman to man, not as subject to emperor."
There was the same winning smile, the same caressing yet commanding
look. She involuntarily raised the medallion to her lips, and then
blushed rosy red over face and shoulders. She turned the medallion, and
on the back she found these words engraved: "Albert Edward to Hilda, in
testimony of his admiration and gratitude." He must have had these words
engraved during the night.

The maid entered. "Miss Fitzherbert," she said, "during the last two
hours there have been hundreds of cards left for you. There is quite a
continuous line of carriages coming to the door, and there have been
bundles of telegrams. Miss Maud is opening them."

Hilda realised the meaning of the line--


     "Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame."


Then the maid told her Mrs. Hardinge was most anxious to see her and was
waiting. She would not allow her to be awakened. Hilda said she would
have her bath and see Mrs. Hardinge in the little boudoir adjoining her
dressing-room in a few minutes.

Quite recovered from her last night's agitation, Hilda looked her best
in a charmingly fashioned dressing-gown as she entered the room where
Mrs. Hardinge was waiting to receive her.

"My dear, dear girl," said that lady as she embraced her, "I am
delighted. You are well again? I need not ask. Your looks proclaim it.
You are the heroine of the hour. The Emperor learnt everything last
night, and the papers all over the world are full of it to-day. Maud
says the telegrams are from every part of the globe, not only within our
own empire, but from Europe, and the United States, and South America.
You are a brave girl."

"Pray do not say so, Mrs. Hardinge. I only did my duty--what any one in
my place would have done. Tell me all that has happened."

Mrs. Hardinge, nothing reluctant, replied with animated looks and
gestures. "Laurient has told me everything. You instructed the officer,
it seems, to keep a watch over only the occupants of the three further
rows. Lord Reginald had left those, and was approaching you. The
officer, following your words literally, allowed him to leave unwatched.
Some sixty only of the people were placed under espionage. Nearly every
one of the rest who were present is supposed to have left Melbourne,
including Lord Reginald. We sent to his house to arrest him, but he had
departed in one of his fastest long-distance air-cruisers. It is
supposed that he has gone to Europe, or to America, or to one of his
remote estates in the interior of this continent. I am not sure that the
Emperor was displeased at his departure. When the intelligence reached
him, he said to me, 'That will save Miss Fitzherbert from appearing in
public to give evidence. As for the rest, it does not matter. They have
been fooled to serve that man's ends.' So now they are free. But their
names are known; indeed, their ridiculous appearance is immortalised. A
likeness was taken of every one, but the _tout ensemble_ is superbly
grotesque. It is well so few people know the secret of artificial
magnetism."

Hilda showed Mrs. Hardinge the Emperor's magnificent present, and asked
what was she to do. Should she write a letter of thanks?

"Do so," said the shrewd woman of the world. "Who knows that he will not
value the acknowledgment as you value the gift?"

Again Hilda's face was suffused in red. "I must go away," she said to
herself, "until I can better command myself." Then she begged Mrs.
Hardinge not to mention about the Emperor's gift. "I shall only tell
Maud of it. I felt it was right to tell you."

"Of course it was," said Mrs. Hardinge; "but it may be well not to
mention it further. There are thousands of persons who honour and admire
you; but there are thousands also who already envy you, and who will not
envy you the less because of this great deed."

Then she told Hilda that the Emperor wished to do her public honour by
making her a countess in her own right. Hilda shrank from the
distinction. "It will lose me my seat in Parliament," she said.

"No. You will only have to stand for re-election, and no one will oppose
you."

"But," said the girl, "I am not rich enough."

"If report is correct, you soon will be. The river-works in New Zealand
are nearly finished; they will make you, it is said, a millionaire."

"I had forgotten them for the moment, but it is not safe to count on
their success until the test is actually made. This reminds me that they
will be finished next week; and my friends in New Zealand think that my
sister and I ought to be present, if only in honour of our dear
grandfather, who left us the interest we hold in the river. Can you
spare me for ten days?"

"Of course I can, Hilda dear. The change will do you good. Laurient is
going. He is said to have an interest in the works. And Montreal is
going also. He too had an interest, but I think he parted with it."

They discussed whether Hilda should go to the fête that was to be held
on Monday to celebrate the centenary of the completion of the irrigation
of the Malee Scrub Plains.

These plains were once about as desolate and unromantic a locality as
could be found; but a Canadian firm, Messrs. Chaffey Brothers, had
undertaken to turn the wilderness into a garden by irrigation, and they
had entirely succeeded. An enormous population now inhabited the
redeemed lands, and a fête was to be held in commemoration of the
century that had elapsed since the great work was completed. The Emperor
himself had agreed to be there. Hilda begged to be excused. Her nerves
were shaken. She would dread the many congratulations she would receive
and the requests to repeat over and over again the particulars of the
scene which inspired her now with only horror and repulsion.

"You must not show yourself to-day," Mrs. Hardinge said; "and I will cry
you off to-morrow on the ground of illness. Next day go to New Zealand,
and by the time you return you will be yourself again."

"You may say too I am abundantly occupied," said Hilda archly as Maud
entered the room with an enormous package of open telegrams in her
hands. "Dear Hilda, you do look well to-day. I am so pleased," said the
delighted girl as she flung down the telegrams and embraced her sister.
There was something singularly pathetic in the love of these two girls.
Mrs. Hardinge left them together. Hilda showed the medallion in strict
confidence. Maud was literally enraptured with it. "How noble, how
handsome, he is! I know only one other man so beautiful." Then she
paused in confusion; and Hilda rather doubted the exception, though she
knew it was their old playfellow Montreal who was intended.

"Who is the traitor," she said, "you dare to compare with your
Sovereign?"

Maud, almost in tears, declared she did not mean what she said. The
Emperor was very handsome.

"Do not be ashamed, my dear, to be true to your feelings," said Hilda
sententiously. "A woman's heart is an empire of itself, and he who
rules over it may be well content with a single loyal subject."

"Nonsense, Hilda! Do not tease me. An emperor, too, may rule over a
woman's heart."

This was rather carrying the war into the opposite camp. Miss
Fitzherbert thought it time to change the subject. They discussed the
telegrams. Then Maud told Hilda how frightfully agitated Laurient was
the previous evening. Finally they decided they would go to New Zealand
the day after the next. They debated if they should proceed in their own
air-cruiser or in the public one that left early every morning. It was
about a sixteen hours' journey in the public conveyance, but in their
own it would take less time. Besides, they wished to go straight to
Dunedin, where the girls had a beautiful residence, and where their
friends were chiefly located. Hilda represented Dunedin in the New
Zealand Parliament, and local government honours had been freely open to
her; but, under the tutelage of Mrs. Hardinge, she had preferred
entering into federal politics, though she continued in the New Zealand
Parliament. Most of the leading federal statesmen interested themselves
with one or other Dominion government. There was such an absence of
friction between the federal and the separate dominion governments that
no inconvenience resulted from the dual attention, while it led to a
more intimate knowledge of local duties. Maud bashfully remembered that
Lady Taieri had asked them to go to Dunedin on her beautiful cruiser.
"She was making up a party," said Maud; "and she mentioned that Colonel
Laurient and Lord Montreal were amongst the number."

Hilda saw the wistful look in Maud's eyes. "Let us go with Lady Taieri,"
she said; and so it was arranged.



CHAPTER VIII.

AIR-CRUISERS.


We trust our readers will not be wearied because it is necessary to give
them at some length an explanation concerning the aerial machines to
which reference has so often been made as air-cruisers. It need scarcely
be said that from time immemorial a great deal of attention has been
directed to the question whether aerial travelling could he made
subservient to the purposes of man. Balloons, as they were called, made
of strong fabrics filled with a gas lighter than air, were to some
extent used, but rarely for practical purposes. They were in
considerable request for military objects, and it is recorded that
Gambetta managed to get out of Paris in a balloon when that city was
beleaguered by the German army in 1871. The principle of the balloon
was the use of a vessel which, weighing, with all its contents, less
than a similar volume of the atmosphere, would consequently rise in the
air. But evidently no great progress could be made with such an
apparatus. The low specific gravity of the atmosphere forbade the hope
of its being possible to carry a heavy weight in great quantity on a
machine that depended for its buoyancy on a less specific gravity.
Besides, there was danger in using a fabric because of its liability to
irreparable destruction by the smallest puncture.

The question then was mooted, Could not an aerial machine be devised to
work although of higher specific gravity than the air? Birds, it was
argued, kept themselves afloat by the motion of their wings, although
their weight was considerably greater than a similar volume of the air
through which they travelled. This idea was pursued. The cheap
production of aluminium, a strong but light metal, gave an impulse to
the experiment; and it was at length proved quite satisfactorily that
aerial travelling was practicable in vessels considerably heavier than
the air, by the use of quickly revolving fans working in the directions
that were found to be suitable to the progress of the vessel. But great
power was required to make the fans revolve, and the machinery to yield
great power was proportionately heavy. It was especially heavy if
applied separately to a portion of the fans, whilst it was dangerous to
rely on one set of machinery, since any accident to it would mean
cessation of the movement of the whole of the fans and consequently
instant destruction. It was considered that, for safety's sake, there
should be at least three sets of fans, worked by separate machinery, and
that any one set should be able to preserve sufficient buoyancy although
the other two were disabled. But whilst it was easy to define the
conditions of safety, it was not easy to give them effect. All
applications of known engines, whether of steam, water gas, electricity,
compressed air, or petroleum, were found to be too bulky; and although
three sets of machines were considered necessary, one set only was
generally used, and many accidents occurred in consequence. The aerial
mode of travelling was much employed by the adventurous, but hundreds of
people lost their lives annually.

At length that grand association the Inventors' Institution came to the
rescue. The founders of the Inventors' Institution, though working
really with the object of benefiting humanity, were much too wise to
place the undertaking on a purely philanthropic basis. On the contrary,
they constructed it on a commercial basis. The object was to encourage
the progress of valuable inventions, and they were willing to lend sums
from trifling amounts to very large ones to aid the development of any
invention of which they approved. They might lend only a trifle to
obtain a patent or a large sum to make exhaustive experiments. The
borrower had to enter into a bond to repay the amount tenfold or to any
less extent demanded by the Institution at its own discretion. It was
clearly laid down that, when the invention proved a failure through no
fault of the inventor, he would not be asked for any repayment. In case
of moderate success, he would only be asked for moderate repayment, and
so on. The fairness of the Institution's exercise of discretion was
rarely, if ever, called into question. Once they lent nearly thirty
thousand pounds to finally develop an invention. Within four years they
called upon the inventor to repay nearly three hundred thousand, but he
was nothing loath. The invention was a great commercial success and
yielding him at the rate of nearly a million per annum. This association
offered a large reward for the best suggestion as to the nature of an
invention to render aerial travelling safe, quick, and economical. A
remarkable paper gained the prize.

The writer was an eminent chemist. He expressed the opinion that the one
possible means of success was the use of a power which, as in the case
of explosives, could be easily produced from substances of comparative
light weight. He urged, it was only of late years that any real
knowledge of the nature of explosives was obtained. It was nearly four
hundred years after the discovery of gunpowder before any possible
substitutes were invented. It was again a long time before it was
discovered that explosives partook of two distinctly separate
characters. One was the quick or shattering compound producing
instantaneous effect; the other was the slow or rending compound of more
protracted action. He dwelt on the fact that in all cases the force
yielded by explosives was through the change of a solid into a gaseous
body, and that the volume of the gaseous body was greatly increased by
the expansion consequent on the heat evolved during decomposition. The
total amount of heat evolved during decomposition did not differ, but
evidently the concentration of heat at any one time depended on the
rapidity of the decomposition. The volume of gas, independent of
expansion by heat, varied also with different substances. Blasting oil,
for instance, gave nearly thirteen hundred times its own volume of gas,
and this was increased more than eight times by the concentration of
heat; gunpowder only yielded in gas expanded by heat eight hundred times
its own volume: or, in other words, the one yielded through
decomposition thirteen times the volume of the other. He went on to
argue that what was required was the leisurely chemical decomposition of
a solid into a gas without sensible explosion, and of such a slow
character as to avoid the production of great heat. He referred, as an
example of the change resulting from the contact of two bodies, to the
effect of safety matches. The match would only ignite by contact with a
specially prepared surface. This match was as great an improvement on
the old primitive match, as would be a decomposing material the force of
which could be controlled, an improvement on the present means of
obtaining power. He expressed a positive opinion that substances could
be found whose rapidity of decomposition, and consequent heat and
strength, could be nicely regulated, so that a force could be employed
which would not be too sudden nor too strong to be used in substitution
of steam or compressed air. He was, moreover, of opinion that, instead
of the substances being mixed ready for use, with the concurrent danger,
a mode could be devised of bringing the different component parts into
contact in a not dissimilar manner to the application of the safety
match, thereby assuring absolute immunity from danger in the carriage of
the materials. This discovery could be made, he went on to say; and upon
it depended improvement in aerial travelling. Each fan could be impelled
by a separate machine of a light weight, worked with perfect safety by a
cheap material; for the probabilities were, the substance would be
cheaply producible. Each aerial vessel should carry three or four times
the number of separate fans and machinery necessary to obtain buoyancy.
The same substances probably could be used to procure buoyancy in the
improbable event of all the machines breaking down. Supposing, as he
suspected would be the case, that the resultant gas of the decomposition
was lighter than air, a hollow case of a strong elastic fabric could be
fastened to the whole of the outside exposed surface of the machine; and
this could be rapidly inflated by the use of the same material. The
movement of a button should be sufficient to produce decomposition, and
as a consequence to charge the whole of this casing with gas lighter
than the air. As the heat attending the decomposition subsided the
elastic fabric would sufficiently collapse. The danger then would not be
so much of descending too rapidly through the atmosphere as of remaining
in it; a difficulty, however, which a system of valves would easily
overcome.

The Institution offered twenty-five thousand pounds for a discovery on
the lines indicated; and the Government offered seventy-five thousand
pounds more on the condition that they should have the right to purchase
the invention and preserve it as a secret, they supplying the material
for civil purposes, but retaining absolute control over it for military
purposes. This proviso was inserted because of the opinion of the writer
that the effects he looked for might not so much depend on the chemical
composition of the substances as on their molecular conditions, and that
these might defy the efforts of analysts. If he was wrong, and the
nature of the compound could be ascertained by analysis, the Government
need not buy the invention; they could leave the discoverer to enjoy its
advantages by patenting it, and share with other nations the uses that
could be made of it for purposes of warfare.

It was some time before the investigations were completely successful.
There was no lack of attention to the subject, the inducements being so
splendid. Many fatal accidents occurred through the widely spread
attention given to the properties of explosives and to the possibility
of modifying their effects. On one occasion it was thought that success
was attained. Laboratory experiments were entirely satisfactory, and at
length it was determined to have a grand trial of the substance. A large
quantity was prepared, and it was applied to the production of power in
various descriptions of machinery. Many distinguished people were
present, including a Cabinet Minister, a Lord of the Admiralty, the
Under-Secretary for Defence, the President of the Inventors'
Institution, several members of Parliament, a dozen or more
distinguished men and women of science, and the inventor himself. The
assemblage was a brilliant one; but, alas! not one of those present
lived to record an opinion of the invention. The substance discovered
was evidently not wanting in power. How far it was successful no one
ever learnt. It may have been faultily made or injudiciously employed.
But the very nature of the composition was lost, for the inventor went
with the rest. An explosion occurred; and all the men and women within
the building were scattered miles around, with fragments of the edifice
itself. The largest recognisable human remains discovered were the
well-defined joint of a little finger. A great commotion followed. The
eminent chemist who wrote the paper suggesting the discovery was covered
with obloquy. Suggestions were made that the law should restrain such
investigations. Some people went so far as to describe them as
diabolical. All things, however, come to those who wait; and at length a
discovery was made faithfully resembling the one prognosticated by the
great chemist.

Strange to say, the inventor or discoverer was a young Jewish woman not
yet thirty years of age. From childhood she had taken an intense
interest in the question, and the terrible accident above recorded
seemed to spur her on to further exertion. She had a wonderful knowledge
of ancient languages, and she searched for information concerning
chemical secrets which she believed lost to the present day. She had a
notion that the atomic structure of substances was better known to
students in the early ages. It was said that the hint she acted on was
conveyed to her by some passage in a Chaldean inscription of great
antiquity. She neither admitted nor denied it. Perhaps the
susceptibilities of an intensely Eastern nature led her to welcome the
halo of romance cast over her discovery. Be that as it may, it is
certain she discovered a substance, or rather substances which, brought
into contact with each other, faithfully fulfilled all that the chemist
had ventured to suggest. Together with unwavering efficiency there was
perfect safety; and so much of the action depended on the structure, not
the composition, that the efforts of thousands of _savants_ failed to
discover the secret of the invention. What the substances were in
composition, and what they became after decomposition was easily
determined, but how to make them in a form that fulfilled the purpose
required defied every investigation.

The inventor did not patent her invention. After making an enormous
fortune from it, she sold it to the Government, who took over the
manufactory and its secrets; and whilst they sold it in quantity for
ordinary use, they jealously guarded against its accumulation in foreign
countries for possible warlike purposes. This invention, as much almost
as its vast naval and military forces, gave to the empire of Britain the
great power it possessed. The United States alone affected to underrate
that power. It was the habit of Americans to declare that they did not
believe in standing armies or fleets. If they wanted to fight, they
could afford to spend any amount of treasure; and they could do more in
the way of organising than any nation in the world. They were not going
to spend money on keeping themselves in readiness for what might never
happen. But we have not now to consider the aerial ships from their
warlike point of view.

It should be mentioned that the inventor of this new form of power was
the aunt of Colonel Laurient. She died nearly twenty years before this
history, and left to him, her favourite nephew, so much of her gigantic
fortune as the law permitted her to devise to one inheritor.



CHAPTER IX.

TOO STRANGE NOT TO BE TRUE.


A little after sunrise on a prematurely early spring morning at the end
of August Lady Taieri's air-cruiser left Melbourne. There was sufficient
heat to make the southerly course not too severe, and it was decided to
call at Stewart's Island to examine its vast fishery establishments. A
gay and happy party was on board. Lord and Lady Taieri were genial,
lively people, and liked by a large circle of friends. They loved
nothing better than to assemble around them pleasant companions, and to
entertain them with profuse hospitality. No provision was wanting to
amuse the party, which consisted, besides the two Miss Fitzherberts,
Lord Montreal, and Colonel Laurient, of nearly twenty happy young people
of both sexes. General and Lady Buller also were there. The General was
the descendant of an old New Zealand family which had acquired immense
wealth by turning to profitable use large areas of pumice-stone land
previously supposed to be useless.

The Bullers were always scientifically disposed; and one lady of the
family, a professor of agricultural science, was convinced that the
pumice-stone land could be made productive. It was not wanting in
fertilising properties; but the difficulty was that on account of its
porous nature, it could not retain moisture. Professor Buller first had
numerous artesian wells bored, and obtained at regular distances an
ample supply of water over a quarter of a million of acres of pumice
land, which she purchased for two shillings an acre. After a great many
experiments, she devised a mixture of soil, clay, and fertilising agents
capable of being held in water by suspension. She drenched the land with
the water thus mixed. The pumice acted as a filter, retaining the
particles and filtering the water. As the land dried it became less
porous. Grass seed was surface-sown. Another irrigation of the charged
water and a third, after some delay, of clear water, completed the work.
When once vegetation commenced, there was no difficulty. The land was
found particularly suitable for subtropical fruits and for grapes. Vast
fruit-canning works were established; and a special effervescent wine
known as Bullerite was produced, and was held in higher estimation than
the best champagne. Whilst more exhilarating, it was less intoxicating.
It fetched a very high price, for it could be produced nowhere but on
redeemed pumice land. Not a little proud was General Buller of his
ancestor's achievement. He was in the habit of declaring that he did not
care for the wealth he inherited in consequence; it was the genius that
devised and carried out the reclamation, he said, which was to him its
greatest glory. Nevertheless in practice he did not seem to disregard
the substantial results he enjoyed. General Buller was a soldier of
great scientific attainments. His only child, Phoebe, a beautiful girl
of seventeen, was with them. She was the object of admiration of most
of the young men on board, Lord Montreal alone excepted. Beyond some
conventional civilities, he seemed unconscious of the presence of any
one but Maud Fitzherbert; and she was nothing reluctant to receive his
attentions.

The cruiser was beautifully constructed of pure aluminium. Everything
conducive to the comfort of the passengers was provided. The machinery
was very powerful, and the cruiser rose and fell with the grace and ease
of a bird. After clearing the land, it kept at about a height of fifty
feet above the sea, and, without any strain on the machinery, made
easily a hundred miles an hour.

About four o'clock in the afternoon a descent was made on Stewart's
Island. The fishing establishments here were of immense extent and
value. They comprised not only huge factories for tinning the fresh fish
caught on the banks to the south-east, but large establishments for
dressing the seal-skins brought from the far south, as also for sorting
and preparing for the market the stores of ivory brought from near the
Antarctic Pole, the remnants of prehistoric animals which in the regions
of eternal cold had been preserved intact for countless ages.

To New Zealand mainly belonged the credit of Antarctic research.
Commenced in the interests of science, it soon became endowed with
permanent activity on account of its commercial results. A large island,
easily accessible, which received the name of Antarctica, was discovered
within ten degrees of the Pole, stretching towards it, so that its
southern point was not more than ten miles from the southern apex of the
world. From causes satisfactorily explained by scientists, the
temperature within a hundred-mile circle of the Pole was comparatively
mild. There was no wind; and although the cold was severe, it was
bearable, and in comparison with the near northern latitudes it was
pleasant. On this island an extraordinary discovery was made. There were
many thousands of a race of human beings whose existence was hitherto
unsuspected. The instincts of man for navigating the ocean are well
known. A famous scientific authority, Sir Charles Lyell, once declared
that, if all the world excepting one remote little island were left
unpeopled, the people of that island would spread themselves in time
over every portion of the earth's surface. The Antarctic Esquimaux were
evidently of the same origin as the Kanaka race. They spoke a language
curiously little different from the Maori dialect, although long
centuries must have elapsed since the migrating Malays, carried to the
south probably against their own will, found a resting-place in
Antarctica. Nature had generously assimilated them to the wants of the
climate. Their faces and bodies were covered with a thick growth of
short curly hair, which, though it detracted from their beauty, greatly
added to their comfort. They were a docile, peaceful, intelligent
people. They loved to come up to Stewart's Island during the winter and
to return before the summer made it too hot for them to exist, laden
with the presents which were always showered upon them. They were too
useful to the traders of Stewart's Island not to receive consideration
at their hands. The seal-skins and the ivory obtained from Antarctica
were the finest in the world, and the latter was procured in immense
quantities from the ice-buried remains of animals long since extinct as
a living race.

Lady Taieri's friends spent a most pleasant two hours on the island.
Some recent arrivals from Antarctica were objects of great interest. A
young chief especially entertained them by his description of the
wonders of Antarctica and his unsophisticated admiration of the
novelties around him. He appeared to be particularly impressed with
Phoebe Buller. The poor girl blushed very much; and her companions were
highly amused when the interpreter told them that the young chief said
she would be very good-looking if her face was covered with hair, and
that he would be willing to take her back with him to Antarctica. Lady
Taieri proposed that they should all visit the island and be present at
the wedding. This sally was too much. Phoebe Buller retired to her
cabin on the cruiser, and was not seen again until the well-lighted
farms and residences on the beautiful Taieri plains, beneath the flying
vessel, reminded its occupants that they were close to their
destination.

During the next six days Lady Taieri gave a series of magnificent
entertainments. There were dances, dinner-parties, picnics, a visit to
the glacier region of Mount Cook, and finally a ball in Dunedin of
unsurpassed splendour. This was on the eve of the opening of the
river-works; and all the authorities of Wellington, including the
Governor and his Ministers, honoured the ball with their presence.

An account of the river-works will not be unacceptable. So long since as
1863 it was discovered that the river Molyneux, or Clutha as it was
sometimes called, contained over a great length rich gold deposits. More
or less considerable quantities of the precious metal were obtained from
time to time when the river was unusually low. But at no time was much
of the banks and parts adjacent thereto uncovered. Dredging was resorted
to, and a great deal of gold obtained; but it was pointed out that the
search in that manner was something like the proverbial exploration for
a needle in a haystack. A great scientist, Sir Julius Von Haast,
declared that during the glacial period the mountains adjacent to the
valley of the Molyneux were ground down by the action of glaciers from
an average height of several thousand feet. Every ounce of the
pulverised matter must have passed through the valley drained by the
river; and he made a calculation which showed that, if the stuff
averaged a grain to the ton, there must be in the interstices of the
river bed many thousands of tons of gold.

Nearly fifty years before the period of this history the grandfather of
Hilda and Maud Fitzherbert set himself seriously to unravel the problem.
His design was to deepen the bed of the Mataura river, running through
Southland, and to make an outlet to it from Lake Whakatip.
Simultaneously he proposed to close the outlet from the lake into the
Molyneux and, by the aid of other channels, cut at different parts of
the river to divert the tributary streams, to lay bare and clear from
water fully fifty miles of the river bed between Lake Whakatip and the
Dunstan. It was an enormous work. The cost alone of obtaining the
various riparian and residential rights absorbed over two millions
sterling. Twice, too, were the works on the point of completion, and
twice were they destroyed by floods and storms.

Mr. Fitzherbert had to take several partners, and his own enormous
fortune was nearly dissipated. He had lost his son and his son's wife
when his grandchildren, Hilda and Maud, were of tender age. After his
death the two girls found a letter from him in which he told them he had
settled on each of them three thousand pounds a year and left to them
jointly his house and garden near Dunedin, with the furniture, just as
they had always lived in it. Beyond this comparatively inconsiderable
bequest, he wrote, he had devoted everything to the completion of the
great work of his life. It was certain now that the river would be
uncovered; and if he was right in his expectations, they would become
enormously wealthy. If it should prove he was wrong, "which," he
continued, "I consider impossible, you will not think unkindly of the
old grandfather whose dearest hope it was to make you the richest girls
in the world." The time had come when these works, upon which so much
energy had been expended, and which had been fruitful of so many
disappointments, were to be finished; and a great deal of curiosity as
to the result was felt in every part of the Empire. Hilda and Maud
Fitzherbert had two and a half tenths each of the undertaking, and
Montreal and his younger brother had each one tenth, which they had
inherited, but it was understood that Montreal had parted with his own
share to Colonel Laurient; two tenths were reserved for division amongst
those people whose riparian and other rights Mr. Fitzherbert had
originally purchased; and of the remaining tenth one half was the
property of Sir Central Vincent Stout, Baronet, a young though very able
lawyer, the other half belonged to Lord Larnach, one of the wealthiest
private bankers in the Empire. There was by no means unanimity of
opinion concerning the result of the works. Some people held, they would
prove a total failure, and that the money spent on them had been wasted
by visionary enthusiasts; others thought, a moderate amount of gold
might be obtained; while very few shared the sanguine expectations which
had led old Fitzherbert to complacently spend the huge sums he had
devoted to his life's ideal. And now the result of fifty years of toil
and anxiety was to be decided. It was an exceptionally fine day, and
thousands of people from all parts of New Zealand thronged to the
ceremony. Some preferred watching the river Molyneux subside as the
waters gradually ran out; others considered the grander sight to be the
filling of the new channel of the Mataura river.

It had been arranged that two small levers pressed by a child would
respectively have the effect of opening the gates that barred the new
channel to the Mataura and of closing the gates that admitted the lake
waters to the Molyneux. As the levers were pressed a signal was to run
down the two rivers, in response to which guns stationed at frequent
intervals were to thunder out a salute.

Precisely at twelve the loud roar of artillery announced the transfer of
the waters. Undoubtedly the grander sight was on the Mataura river. The
progress of the liberated water as it rushed onward in a great seething,
foaming, swirling mass, gleaming under the bright rays of the sun,
formed a picture not easily to be forgotten. But the other river
attracted more attention, for there not only nature played a part, but
the last scene was to be enacted in a drama of great human interest. And
this scene was more slowly progressing. The subsidence of the water was
not very quick. The Molyneux was a quaint, many-featured river, partly
fed by melted snow, partly by large surface drainage, both finding their
way to the river through the lake, and by independent tributaries. At
times the Molyneux was of great volume and swiftness. On the present
occasion it was on moderate terms--neither at its slowest nor fastest.
But as the river flowed on without its usual accession from the lake
and the diverted tributaries, an idealist might have fancied that it was
fading away through grief at the desertion of its allies. Lady Taieri's
party were located on a dais erected on the banks of the river about
twenty miles from the lake. After an hour or so the subsidence of the
water became well marked; and occasionally heaps of crushed quartz,
called tailings, from gold workings on the banks, became visible. Some
natural impediments had prevented these from flowing down the river and
built them up several feet in height. Here and there crevices, deep and
narrow or shallow and wide, became apparent.

The time was approaching when it would be known if there was utter
failure or entire success or something midway between. It had been
arranged that, if any conspicuous deposit of gold became apparent, a
signal should be given, in response to which all the guns along the
river banks should be fired.

At a quarter past one o'clock the guns pealed forth; and loud as was the
noise they made, it seemed trifling compared with the cheers which ran
up and down the river from both banks from the throats of the countless
thousands of spectators. The announcement of success occasioned almost
delirious joy. It seemed as if every person in the vast crowd had an
individual interest in the undertaking. The telephone soon announced
that at a turn in the river about seven miles from the lake what
appeared to be a large pool of fine gold was uncovered. Even as the news
became circulated there appeared in the middle of the river right
opposite Lady Taieri's stand a faint yellow glow beneath the water.
Gradually it grew brighter and brighter, until at length to the eyes of
the fascinated beholders there appeared a long, irregular fissure of
about twenty-five feet in length by about six or seven in width which
appeared to be filled with gold. Some of the company now rushed forward,
and, amidst the deafening cheers of the onlookers, dug out into boxes
which had been prepared for the purpose shovelsful of gold. Fresh boxes
were sent for, but the gold appeared to be inexhaustible. Each box held
five thousand ounces; and supposing the gold to be nearly pure, fifty
boxes would represent the value of a million sterling.

Five hundred boxes were filled, and still the pool opposite Hilda was
not emptied, and it was reported two equally rich receptacles were being
drained in other parts. Guards of the Volunteer forces were told off to
protect the gold until it could be placed in safety.

Hilda and Maud were high-minded, generous girls, with nothing of a
sordid nature in their composition; but they were human, and what human
being could be brought into contact with the evidence of the acquisition
of such vast wealth without feelings of quickened, vivid emotion? It is
only justice to them to say that their feelings were not in the nature
of a sense of personal gratification so much as one of ecstatic pleasure
at the visions of the enormous power for good which this wealth would
place in their hands. Every one crowded round with congratulations. As
Colonel Laurient joined the throng Hilda said to him, "Why should I not
equally congratulate you? You share the gold with us."

"Do I?" he said, with his inscrutable smile. "I had forgotten."

Lord Montreal, with a face in which every vestige of colour was wanting,
gravely congratulated Hilda, then, turning to her sister, said in a
voice the agitation of which he could not conceal, "No one, Miss Maud,
more warmly congratulates you or more fervently wishes you happiness."

Before the astonished girl could reply he had left the scene. It may
safely be said that Maud now bitterly regretted the success of the
works. She understood that Montreal, a poor man, was too proud to owe to
any woman enormous wealth. "What can I do with it? How can I get rid of
it?" she wailed to Hilda, who in a moment took in the situation.

"Maud dearest," she said, "control yourself. All will be well." And she
led her sister off the dais into the cruiser, in which they returned to
Lady Taieri's house. They met Montreal in the gallery leading to their
apartments. He bowed gravely.

Maud could not restrain herself. "You will kill me, Montreal," she said.
"What do I care for wealth?"

"Maud, you would not have me sacrifice my self-respect," he said, and
passed on.

He seemed almost unconscious where he was going. He was roused from his
bitter reverie.

"Colonel Laurient will be greatly obliged if you will go to him at
once," said a servant.

"Show me to his room," replied Montreal briefly.

"Laurient," said Montreal, "believe me, I am not jealous of your good
fortune."

"My good fortune!" said Laurient. "I do not know of anything very good.
I always felt sure that you would pay me what you owe me."

"Pay you what I owe you!" said Montreal, in a voice of amazement.

"Yes," replied Laurient. "You know that I come of a race of
money-lenders, and I have sent for you to ask you for my money and
interest."

But Montreal was too sad to understand a joke; and Laurient had noticed
what passed with Maud, and formed a shrewd conjecture that the gold had
not made either of them happy.

"Listen to me," he continued. "It is three years since you came to me
and asked me to buy your share in the Molyneux works, as you had need of
the money. I replied by asking what you wanted for your interest. You
named a sum much below what I thought its value--a belief which to-day's
results have proved to be correct. I am not in the habit of acquiring
anything from a friend in distress at less than its proper value, and I
was about to say so when I thought, 'I will lend this money on the
security offered. I will not worry Montreal by letting him think that he
is in debt and has to find the interest every half-year. There is quite
sufficient margin for interest and principal too; and when the gold is
struck, he will repay me.' I made this arrangement apparent in my will
and by the execution of a deed of trust. The share is still yours, and
out of the first money you receive you can repay me. Nay," he said,
stopping Montreal's enthusiastic thanks. "I said I was a money-lender.
Here is a memorandum of the interest, and you will see each year I have
charged interest on the previous arrears--perfect usury. Go, my dear
boy. I hate thanks, and I do not want money."

Montreal could not control himself to speak. Two minutes afterwards he
was in Hilda and Maud's sitting-room. "Forgive me, Maud darling! I have
the share. I thought I had lost it," he said incoherently; but he made
his meaning clear by the unmistakable caress of a lover.

Hilda left the room--an example the historian must follow.



CHAPTER X.

LORD REGINALD AGAIN.


The following telegram reached Hilda next morning: "I heartily
congratulate you, dear Hilda, on the success of your grandfather's great
undertaking. The Emperor summoned me and desired me to send you his
congratulations. I am also to say that he wishes as a remarkable event
of his reign to show his approval of the patience, skill, and enterprise
combined in the enormous works successfully concluded yesterday. The
honour is to come to you as your grandfather's representative. Besides
that, on account of your noble deed last week he wished to raise you to
the peerage. He will now raise you to the rank of duchess, and suggests
the title of Duchess of New Zealand; but that of course is as you wish.
You must, my dear, accept it. A duchess cannot be an under-secretary,
and I am not willing to lose you. Mr. Hazelmere has repeated his wish to
resign; and I now beg you to enter the Cabinet as Lord President of the
Board of Education, a position for which your acquirements peculiarly
fit you. Your re-election to Parliament will be a mere ceremony. Make a
speech to your constituents in Dunedin. Then take the waters at
Rotomahana and Waiwera. In two months you can join us in London, where
the next session of Parliament will be held. You will be quite recovered
from all your fatigue by then."

In less than two weeks Hilda, Duchess of New Zealand, was re-elected to
Parliament by her Dunedin constituents. Next day she left for Rotomahana
with a numerous party of friends who were to be her guests. She had
engaged the entire accommodation of one of the hotels.

Maud and Hilda before they left Dunedin placed at the disposal of the
Mayor half a million sterling to be handed to a properly constituted
trust for the purpose of encouraging mining pursuits, and developing
mining undertakings.

New Zealand was celebrated for the wonderfully curative power of its
waters. At Rotomahana, Te Aroha, and Waiwera in the North Island, and at
Hammer Plains and several other localities in the Middle Island
innumerable springs, hot and cold, existed, possessing a great variety
of medicinal properties. There was scarcely a disease for which the
waters of New Zealand did not possess either cure or alleviation. At one
part of the colony or another these springs were in use the whole year
round. People flocked to them from all quarters of the world. It was
estimated that the year previous to the commencement of this history,
more than a million people visited the various springs. Rotomahana, Te
Aroha, and Waiwera were particularly pleasant during the months of
October, November, and December. Hilda proposed passing nearly three
weeks at each. Rotomahana was a city of hotels of all sizes and
descriptions. Some were constructed to hold only a comparatively few
guests and to entertain them on a scale of great magnificence. Every
season these houses were occupied by distinguished visitors. Not
infrequently crowned heads resorted to them for relief from the maladies
from which even royalty is not exempt. Others of the hotels were of
great size, capable indeed of accommodating several thousands of
visitors. The Grandissimo Hotel comfortably entertained five thousand
people. Most of the houses were built of ground volcanic scoria, pressed
into bricks. Some of them were constructed of Oamaru stone, dressed with
a peculiar compound that at the same time hardened and gave it the
appearance of marble. The house that Hilda took appeared like a solid
block of Carrara marble, relieved with huge glass windows and with
balconies constructed of gilt aluminium. Balconies of plain or gilt
aluminium adorned most of the hotels, and gave them a very pretty
appearance. Te Aroha was a yet larger city than Rotomahana, as, besides
its use as a health resort, it was the central town of an extensive and
rich mining district. Waiwera was on a smaller scale, but in point of
appearance the most attractive. Who indeed could do justice to thy
charms, sweet Waiwera? A splendid beach of sand, upon which at short
intervals two picturesque rivers debouched to the sea, surrounded with
wooded heights of all degrees of altitude, and with many variations in
the colour of the foliage, it is not to be wondered at that persons
managed in this charming scene to forget the world and to reveal
whatever of poetry lay dormant in their composition. Few who visited
Waiwera did not sometimes realise the sentiment--


     "I love not man the less, but nature more."


Hilda had duly passed through the Rotomahana and Te Aroha cures, and she
had been a week at Waiwera, when one morning two hours after sunrise, as
she returned from her bath, she was delighted at the receipt of the
following letter, signed by Mrs. Hardinge: "I have prepared a surprise
for you, dearest Hilda. Mr. Decimus has lent me his yacht, and I am
ready to receive you on board. Come off at once by yourself. We can talk
over many things better here than on shore."

A beautifully appointed yacht lay in the offing six hundred yards from
the shore, and a well-manned boat was waiting to take Hilda on board.
She flew to her room, completed her toilet, and in ten minutes was on
the boat and rowing off to the yacht. She ascended the companion ladder,
and was received on deck by a young officer. "I am to ask your Grace to
wait a few minutes," he said. Hilda gazed round the entrancing view on
sea, land, and river, beaming beneath a bright and gorgeous sun,
forgetting everything but the sense of the loveliness around her. She
could never tell how long she was so absorbed. She aroused herself with
a start to feel the vessel moving and to see before her the dreaded
figure of Lord Reginald Paramatta.

Meanwhile the spectators on the shore were amazed to see Hilda go off to
the yacht alone, and the vessel weigh anchor and steam away swiftly.
Maud and Lady Taieri, returning from their baths along the beautiful
avenue of trees, were speedily told of the occurrence, and a council
rapidly held with Laurient and Montreal. Mrs. Hardinge's letter was
found in Hilda's room.

"Probably," said Lady Taieri, "the morning is so fine that Mrs. Hardinge
is taking the Duchess for a cruise while they talk together."

"I do not think so," said the Colonel. "Look at the speed the vessel is
making. They would not proceed at such a rate if a pleasant sail were
the only object. She is going at the rate of thirty miles an hour."

Maud started with surprise, and again glanced at the letter. "You are
right, Colonel Laurient," she said, with fearful agitation; "this
writing is like that of Mrs. Hardinge, but it is not hers. I know her
writing too well not to be sure it is an imitation. Oh, help Hilda; do
help her! Montreal, you must aid. She is the victim of a plot."

Meanwhile the vessel raced on; but with a powerful glass they could make
out that there was only one female figure on board, and that a male
figure stood beside her.

"Hilda," said Lord Reginald, bowing low, "forgive me. All is fair in
love and war. My life without you is a misery."

"Do you think, my lord," said the girl, very pale but still courageous,
"that this course you have adopted is one that will commend you to my
liking?"

"I will teach you to love me. You cannot remain unresponsive to the
intense affection I bear you."

"True love, Lord Reginald, is not steeped in selfishness; it has regard
for the happiness of its object. Do you think you can make me happy by
tearing me from my friends by an artifice like this?"

"I will make it up to you. I implore your forgiveness. Try to excuse
me."

Hilda during this rapid dialogue did not lose her self-possession. She
knew the fears of her friends on shore would soon be aroused. She
wondered at her own want of suspicion. Time, she felt, was everything.
When once doubt was aroused, pursuit in the powerful aerial cruiser
they had on shore would be rapid.

"I entreat you, Lord Reginald," she said, "to turn back. Have pity on
me. See how defenceless I am against such a conspiracy as this."

Lord Reginald was by nature brave, and the wretched cheat he was playing
affected him more because of its cowardly nature than by reason of its
outrageous turpitude. He was a slave to his passions and desires. He
would have led a decently good life if all his wishes were capable of
gratification, but there was no limit to the wickedness of which he
might be guilty in the pursuit of desires he could not satisfy. He
either was, or fancied himself to be, desperately in love with Hilda;
and he believed, though without reason, that she had to some extent
coquetted with him. Even in despite of reason and evidence to the
contrary, he imagined she felt a prepossession in his favour, that an
act of bravery like this might stir into love. He did not sufficiently
understand woman. To his mind courage was the highest human quality, and
he thought an exhibition of signal bravery even at the expense of the
woman entrapped by it would find favour in her eyes. Hilda's words
touched him keenly, though in some measure he thought they savoured of
submission. "She is imploring now," he thought, "instead of commanding."

"Ask me," he said, in a tone of exceeding gentleness, "anything but to
turn back. O Hilda, you can do with me what you like if you will only
consent to command!"

"Leave me then," she replied, "for a time. Let me think over my dreadful
position."

"I will leave you for a quarter of an hour, but do not say the position
is dreadful."

He walked away, and the girl was left the solitary occupant of the deck.
The beautiful landscape was still in sight. It seemed a mockery that all
should appear the same as yesterday, and she in such dreadful misery.
Smaller and smaller loomed the features on the shore as the wretched
girl mused on. Suddenly a small object appeared to mount in the air.

"It is the cruiser," she exclaimed aloud, with delight. "They are in
pursuit."

"No, Hilda," said Lord Reginald, who suddenly appeared at her side, "I
do not think it is the cruiser; and if it be, it can render you no aid.
Look round this vessel; you will observe guns at every degree of
elevation. No cruiser can approach us without instant destruction."

"But you would not be guilty of such frightful wickedness. Lord
Reginald, let me think better of you. Relent. Admit that you did not
sufficiently reflect on what you were doing, and that you are ready to
make the only reparation in your power."

"No," said Lord Reginald, much moved, "I cannot give you up. Ask me for
anything but that. See! you are right; the cruiser is following us. It
is going four miles to our one. Save the tragedy that must ensue. I have
a clergyman in the cabin yonder. Marry me at once, and your friends
shall come on board and congratulate you as Lady Paramatta."

"That I will never be. I would prefer to face death."

"Is it so bitter a lot?" said Lord Reginald, stung into irritation. "If
persuasion is useless, I must insist. Come to the cabin with me at
once."

"Dare you affect to command me?" said Hilda, drawing herself up with a
dignity that was at once grave and pathetic.

"I will dare everything for you. It is useless," he said as she waved
her handkerchief to the fast-approaching cruiser. "If it come too close,
its doom is sealed. Be ready to fire," he roared out to the captain; and
brief, stern words were passed from end to end of the vessel. "Now,
Hilda, come. The scene is not one fit for you. Come you shall," he said,
approaching her and placing his arm round her waist.

"Never! I would rather render my soul to God," exclaimed the brave,
excited girl.

With one spring she stood on the rail of the bulwarks, and with another
leapt far out into the ocean. Lord Reginald gazed on her in speechless
horror, and was about to follow overboard.

"It is useless," the captain said, restraining him. "The boat will save
her."

In two minutes it was lowered, but such was the way on the yacht that
the girl floating on the water was already nearly a mile distant. The
cruiser and the boat raced to meet her. The yacht's head also was
turned; and she rapidly approached the scene, firing at the cruiser as
she did so. The latter reached Hilda first. Colonel Laurient jumped into
the water, and caught hold of the girl. The beat was near enough for one
of its occupants with a boathook to strike him a terrible blow on the
arm. The disabled limb fell to his side, but he held her with iron
strength with his other arm. The occupants of the cruiser dragged them
both on board; and Colonel Laurient before he fainted away had just time
to cry out, "Mount into the air, and fly as fast as you can." The scene
that followed was tragical. Two of the occupants of the boat had grasped
the sides of the cruiser, and were carried aloft with it. Before they
could be dragged on board a shot from the yacht struck them both, and
crushed in part of the side of the vessel, besides injuring many sets of
fans. Another shot did damage on the opposite side. But still she rose,
and to aid her buoyancy the casing was inflated. Soon she was out of
reach of the yacht; and, with less speed than she left it, she returned
to Waiwera. The yacht turned round, and steamed out to sea at full
speed.

Hilda's immersion did her no harm, but her nerves were much shaken, and
for many days she feared to be left alone. Colonel Laurient's arm was
dreadfully shattered. The doctor at first proposed amputation, but the
Colonel sternly rejected the suggestion. With considerable skill it was
set, and in a few days the doctors announced that the limb was saved.
Colonel Laurient, however, was very ill. For a time, indeed, even his
life was in danger. He suffered from more than the wounded arm. Perhaps
the anxiety during the dreadful pursuit as to what might be happening
on board the yacht had something to do with it.

Hilda was untiring in her attention to Laurient; no sister could have
nursed him more tenderly, and indeed it was as a sister she felt for
him.

One afternoon, as he lay pale and weak, but convalescent, on a sofa by
the window, gazing out at the sea, Hilda entered the room with a cup of
soup and a glass of bullerite. "You must take this," she said.

"I will do anything you tell me," he replied, "if only in acknowledgment
of your infinite kindness."

"Why should you talk of kindness?" said the girl, with tears in her
eyes. "Can I ever repay you for what you have done?"

"Yes, Hilda, you could repay me; but indeed there is nothing to repay,
for I suffered more than you did during that terrible time of
uncertainty."

The girl looked very sad. The Colonel marked her countenance, and over
his own there came a look of weariness and despair. But he was brave
still, as he always was. "Hilda, dearest Hilda," he said, "I will not
put a question to you that I know you cannot answer as I would wish; it
would only pain you and stand in the way perhaps of the sisterly
affection you bear for me. I am not one to say all or nothing. The sense
of your presence is a consolation to me. No, I will not ask you. You
know my heart, and I know yours. Your destiny will be a higher and
happier one than that of the wife of a simple soldier."

"Hush!" she said. "Ambition has no place in my heart. Be always a
brother to me. You can be to me no more." And she flew from the room.



CHAPTER XI.

GRATEFUL IRELAND.


At the end of October Maud was married from the house of the two sisters
in Dunedin. No attribute of wealth and pomp was wanting to make the
wedding a grand one. Both Maud and Montreal were general favourites, and
the number and value of the presents they received were unprecedented.
Hilda gave her sister a suite of diamonds and one of pearls, each of
priceless value. One of the most gratifying gifts was from the Emperor;
it was a small miniature on ivory of Hilda, beautifully set in a diamond
bracelet. It was painted by a celebrated artist. The Emperor had
specially requested the Duchess to sit for it immediately Maud's
engagement became known. It was surmised that the artist had a
commission to paint a copy as well as the original.

Immediately after the wedding Lord and Lady Montreal left in an
air-cruiser to pass their honeymoon in Canada, and the Duchess of New
Zealand at once proceeded to London, where she was rapturously received
by Mrs. Hardinge. She reached London in time to be present at its
greatest yearly fête, the Lord Mayor's Show, on the 9th November.
According to old chronicles, there was a time when these annual shows
were barbarous exhibitions of execrable taste, suitably accompanied with
scenes of coarse vulgarity. All this had long since changed. The annual
Lord Mayor's Show had become a real work of elaborated art. Either it
was made to represent some particular event, some connected thread of
history, or some classical author's works. For example, there had been a
close and accurate representation of Queen Victoria's Jubilee
procession, again a series of tableaux depicting the life of the
virtuous though unhappy Mary Queen of Scots, a portrayal of
Shakespeare's heroes and heroines, and a copy of the procession that
celebrated the establishment of local government in Ireland. The
present year was devoted to a representation of all the kings and queens
of England up to the proclamation of the Empire. It began with the
"British warrior queen," Boadicea, and ended with the grandfather of the
present Emperor. Each monarch was represented with his or her retinue in
the exact costumes of the respective periods. No expense was spared on
these shows. They were generally monumental works of research and
activity, and were in course of preparation for several years.

In many respects London still continued to be the greatest city of the
Empire. Its population was certainly the largest, and no other place
could compare with it in the possession of wealthy inhabitants. But
wealth was unequally distributed. Although there were more people than
elsewhere enjoying great riches, the aggregate possessions were not as
large in proportion to the population as in other cities, such as
Melbourne, Sydney, and Dublin. The Londoners were luxurious to the verge
of effeminacy. A door left open, a draught at a theatre, were
considered to seriously reflect on the moral character of the persons
responsible for the same. A servant summarily dismissed for neglecting
to close a door could not recover any arrears of wages due to him or
her. Said a great lady once to an Australian gentleman, "Are not these
easterly winds dreadful? I hope you have nothing of the kind in your
charming country."

"We have colder winds than those you have from the east," he replied.
"We have blasts direct from the South Pole, and we enjoy them. My lady,
we would not be what we are," drawing himself up, "if the extremes of
heat and cold were distasteful to us."

She looked at him with something of curiosity mixed with envy.

"You are right," she said. "It is a manly philosophy to endeavour to
enjoy that which cannot be remedied."

The use of coal and gas having long since been abandoned in favour of
heat and light from electricity, the buildings in London had lost their
begrimed appearance, and the old dense fogs had disappeared. A city of
magnificent buildings, almost a city of palaces, London might be termed.
Where there used to be rookeries for the poor there were now splendid
edifices of many stories, with constant self-acting elevators. It was
the same with regard to residence as with food and clothing. The
comforts of life were not denied to people of humble means.

Parliament was opened with much pomp and magnificence, and a mysterious
allusion, in the speech from the throne, to large fiscal changes
proposed, excited much attention. The Budget was delivered at an early
date amidst intense excitement, which turned into unrestrained delight
when its secrets were revealed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the
Right Honourable Gladstone Churchill, examined critically the state of
the finances, the enormous accumulations of the reserve funds all over
the dominions, and the continued increase of income from the main
sources of revenue. "The Government," he said, "are convinced the time
has come to make material reductions in the taxation. They propose that
the untaxable minimum of income shall be increased from five to six
hundred pounds, and the untaxable minimum of succession value from ten
to twelve thousand pounds, and that, instead of a fourth of the residue
in each case reverting to the State, a fifth shall be substituted." Then
he showed by figures and calculations that not only was the relief
justifiable, but that further relief might be expected in the course of
a few years. He only made one exception to the proposed reductions.
Incomes derived from foreign loans and the capital value of such loans
were still to be subject to the present taxation. Foreign loans, he
said, were mischievous in more than one respect. They armed foreign
nations, necessitating greater expense to the British Empire in
consequence. They also created hybrid subjects of the Empire, with
sympathies divided between their own country and foreign countries.
There was room for the expenditure of incalculable millions on important
works within the Empire, and those who preferred to place their means
abroad must contribute in greater proportion to the cost of government
at home. They had not, he declared, any prejudice against foreign
countries. It was better for them and for Britain that each country
should attend to its own interests and its own people. Probably no
Budget had been received with so much acclamation since that in which
the Chancellor of the Exchequer declared the policy of the Empire to be
one of severe protection to the industries of its vast dominions.

Singularly, it was Lord Gladstone Churchill, great-grandfather of the
present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who made the announcement, seventy
years previously, that the time had arrived for abandoning the free
trade which however he admitted had been of benefit to the parent
country prior to federation.

The proposed fiscal reforms were rapidly confirmed; and Parliament rose
towards the middle of December, in time to allow members to be present
at the great annual fête in Dublin. We have already described how it was
that the federation of the Empire, including local government in
Ireland, was brought about by the intervention of the Colonies. The
Irish people, warm-hearted and grateful, felt they could never be
sufficiently thankful. They would not allow the declaration of the
Empire to be so great an occasion of celebration, as the anniversary of
the day on which the premiers of the six Australasian colonies, of the
Dominion of Canada, and of the South African Dominion met and despatched
the famous cablegram which, after destroying one administration,
resulted in the federation of the empire of Britain. A magnificent group
representing these prime ministers, moulded in life-size, was erected,
and has always remained the most prominent object, in Dublin. The
progress of Ireland after the establishment of the Empire was
phenomenal, and it has since generally been regarded as the most
prosperous country in the world. Under the vivifying influence of
Protection, the manufactures of Ireland advanced with great strides.
Provisions were made by which the evils of absenteeism were abated.
Formerly enormous fortunes were drawn from Ireland by persons who never
visited it. An Act was passed by which persons owning large estates but
constantly absent from the country were compelled to dispose of their
property at a full, or rather, it might be said, an excessive, value.
The Government of Ireland declared that the cost of doing away with the
evils of absenteeism was a secondary consideration. The population of
Ireland became very large. Hundreds of thousands of persons descended
from those who had gone to America from Ireland came to the country,
bringing with them that practical genius for progress of all sorts which
so distinguishes the American people. The improvement of Ireland was
always in evidence to show the advantages of the federation of the
Empire and of the policy of making the prosperity of its own people the
first object of a nation.

The Irish fête-day that year was regarded with even more than the usual
fervour, and that is saying a great deal. It was to be marked by a
historical address which Mrs. Hardinge had consented to deliver. Mrs.
Hardinge was the idol of the Irish. With the best blood of celebrated
Celtic patriots in her veins, she never allowed cosmopolitan or national
politics to make her forget that she was thoroughly Irish. She gloried
in her country, and was credited with being better acquainted with its
history and traditions than any other living being. She spoke in a large
hall in Dublin to thousands of persons, who had no difficulty in hearing
every note of the flexible, penetrating, musical voice they loved so
well. She spoke of the long series of difficulties that had occurred
before Ireland and England had hit upon a mode of living beneficial and
happy to both, because the susceptibilities of the people of either
country were no longer in conflict. "Undoubtedly," she said, "Ireland
has benefited materially from the uses she has made of local government;
but the historian would commit a great mistake who allowed it to be
supposed that aspirations of a material and sordid kind have been at the
root of the long struggle the Irish have made for self-government. I
put it to you," she continued, amidst the intense enthusiasm of her
hearers, "supposing we suffered from the utmost depression, instead of
enjoying as we do so much prosperity, and we were to be offered as the
price of relinquishing self-government every benefit that follows in the
train of vast wealth, would we consent to the change?" The vehement "No"
which she uttered in reply to her own question was re-echoed from
thousands of throats. She directed particular attention to what she
called the Parnell period. "Looked at from this distance," she said, "it
was ludicrous in the extreme. Government succeeded Government; and each
adopted whilst in office the same system of partial coercion, partial
coaxing, which it condemned its successor for pursuing. The Irish
contingent went from party to party as they thought each oscillated
towards them. Many Irish members divided their time between Parliament
and prison. The Governments of the day adopted the medium course: they
would not repress the incipient revolution, and they would not yield to
it. Agrarian outrages were committed by blind partisans and weak tools
who thought that an exhibition of unscrupulous ferocity might aid the
cause. The leaders of the Irish party were consequently placed on the
horns of a dilemma. They had either to discredit their supporters, or to
admit themselves favourable to criminal action. They were members of
Parliament. They had to take the oath of allegiance. They did not dare
to proclaim themselves incipient rebels." Then Mrs. Hardinge quoted,
amidst demonstrative enthusiasm, Moore's celebrated lines--


     "Rebellion, foul, dishonouring word,
     Whose wrongful blight so oft has stained
     The holiest cause that tongue or sword
     Of mortal ever lost or gained--
     How many a spirit born to bless
     Has shrunk beneath that withering name
     Whom but a day an hour's success,
     Had wafted to eternal fame."


"But, my dear friends," pursued Mrs. Hardinge, "do not think that I
excuse crime. The end does not justify the means. Even the harm from
which good results is to be execrated. The saddest actors in history
are those who by their own infamy benefited or hoped to benefit others.


     "For one sad losel soils a name for aye,
     However mighty in the olden time;
     Not all that heralds rake from coffined clay,
     Nor florid prose, nor honeyed words of rhyme
     Can blazon evil deeds or consecrate a crime."


When the applause these lines elicited subsided, Mrs. Hardinge dilated
on the proposed Home Rule that Mr. Gladstone offered. Naturally the
Irish party accepted it, but a close consideration convinced her that it
was fortunate it was not carried into effect. The local powers Mr.
Gladstone offered were very moderate, far less than the Colonies then
possessed, whilst, as the price of them, Ireland was asked to virtually
relinquish all share in the government of the country. Gladstone saw
insuperable difficulties in the way of establishing a federal
parliament; and without it his proposals, if carried into operation,
would have made Ireland still more governed from England than it was
without the so-called Home Rule. In fact, the fruition of Mr.
Gladstone's proposals would have driven Ireland to fight for
independence. "We Irish are not disposed," declared Mrs. Hardinge, "to
submit to be excluded from a share in the government of the nation to
which we belong. Mr. Gladstone would virtually have so excluded us; and
if we had taken as a boon the small instalment of self-government he
offered, we could only have taken it with the determination to use the
power we acquired for the purpose of seeking more or of gaining
independence. Yes, my fellow-countrymen," she continued amidst loud
cheers, "it was good for us, seeing how happily we now live with
England, that we did not take Mr. Gladstone's half-measure. Yet there
was great suffering and great delay. Weariness and concession stilled
the question for a time; but the Irish continued in a state of more or
less suppressed irritation, both from the sense of the indignity of not
being permitted local government, and from the actual evils resulting
from absenteeism. Relief came at length. It came from the great
Colonies the energy of all of us--Irish, English, and Scotch--had built
up." Long, continuous cheering interrupted the speaker. "You may well
cheer," she continued. "The memory of the great colonial heroes whose
action we this day commemorate, and whom, as usual, we will crown with
wreaths of laurel, will always remain as green in our memory as the Isle
of Erin itself." She proceeded to describe individually the prime
ministers of the Colonies who had brought the pressure to bear upon the
Central Government. "The Colonies," she said, "became every day, as they
advanced in wealth and progress, more interested in the nation to which
they belonged. They saw that nation weakened and discredited at home and
abroad by the ever-present contingency of Irish disaffection. They felt,
besides, that the Colonies, which had grown not only materially, but
socially, happy under the influence of free institutions, could not
regard with indifference the denial of the same freedom to an important
territory of the nation. Their action did equal honour to their
intellect and virtue."

Mrs. Hardinge concluded by describing with inimitable grace the various
benefits which had arisen from satisfying Ireland's wants. "The boon she
received," the speaker declared, "Ireland has returned tenfold. It was
owing to her that the Empire was federated; at one moment it stood in
the balance whether this great cluster of States should be consolidated
into the present happy and united Empire or become a number of
disintegrated communities, threatened with all the woes to which weak
States are subject."

After this address Mrs. Hardinge, in the presence of an immense
multitude, placed a crown of laurel on the head of each of the statues
of the colonial statesmen, commencing with the Prime Minister of Canada.
Those statues later in the day were almost hidden from sight, for they
were covered with a mass of many thousand garlands.



CHAPTER XII.

THE EMPEROR PLANS A CAMPAIGN.


One day early in May Colonel Laurient was alone with the Emperor, who
was walking up and down the room in a state of great excitement. His
eyes glittered with an expression of almost ferocity. The veins in his
forehead stood out clear and defined, like cords. No one had seen him
like this before. "To think they should dare to enter my territory! They
shall never cease to regret it," he declared as he paced the room. Two
hours before, the Emperor had been informed that the troops of the
United States had crossed into Canada, the excuse, some dispute about
the fisheries, the real cause, chagrin of the President at the Emperor's
rejection of her daughter's hand.

"This shall be a bitter lesson to the Yankees," continued the Emperor.
"They do not know with whom they have to deal. I grant they were right
to seek independence, because the Government of my ancestor goaded them
to it. But they shall learn there is a limit to their power, and that
they are weak as water compared with the parent country they abandoned.
Listen, Laurient," he went on more calmly as he took a seat by a table
on which was spread a large map of the United States and Canada. "I have
made up my mind what to do, and you are to help me. You are now my first
military aide-de-camp. In that capacity and as head of the bodyguard you
may appear in evidence."

"I shall only be too glad to render any assistance in my power. I
suppose that the troops will at once proceed to Canada?"

"Would you have me," said the Emperor, "do such a wrong to my Canadian
subjects? You know, by the constitution of the Empire, each State is
bound to protect itself from invasion. Do you think that my Canadian
volunteers are not able to perform this duty?"

"I know, your Majesty, that no finer body of troops is to be found in
the Empire than the Canadian volunteers and Volunteer reserve. But I
thought you seemed disinclined to refrain from action."

"There you are right, nor do I mean to remain idle. No; I intend a
gigantic revenge. I will invade the States myself."

Colonel Laurient's eyes glittered. He recognised the splendid audacity
of the idea, and he was not one to feel fear. "Carry the war into the
enemy's camp!" he said. "I ought to have thought of it. It is an
undertaking worthy of you, Sir."

"I have arranged everything with my advisers, who have given me, as
commander of the forces, full executive discretion. You have a great
deal to do. You will give, in strict confidence, to some person
information which he is to cause to be published in the various papers.
That information will be that all the ships and a large force are
ordered immediately to the waters of the St. Lawrence. To give reality
to the intelligence, the newspapers are to be severely blamed and
threatened for publishing it. But you are to select trustworthy members
of the bodyguard who are verbally to communicate to the admirals and
captains what is really to be done. Nothing is to be put in writing
beyond the evidence of your authority to give instructions, which I now
hand to you. Those instructions are to be by word of mouth. All the
large, powerful vessels on the West Indian, Mediterranean, and Channel
stations are to meet at Sandy Hook, off New York, on the seventeenth
evening from this, with the exception of twenty which are to proceed to
Boston. They are to carry with them one hundred thousand of the
Volunteer reserve force, fifty thousand of the regular troops, and fifty
thousand ordinary volunteers who may choose to offer their services. In
every case the ostensible destination is Quebec. My faithful volunteers
will not object to the deceit. Part of the force may be carried in
air-cruisers, of which there must be in attendance at least three
hundred of the best in the service. The air-cruisers as soon as it is
dark on the evening appointed are to range all round New York for miles
and cut and destroy the telegraph wires in every direction. Twenty of
the most powerful, carrying a strong force of men, are to proceed to
Washington during the night and bring the President of the United States
a prisoner to the flagship, the _British Empire_. They are to leave
Washington without destroying property. About ten o'clock the men are to
disembark at New York from the air-cruisers, and take possession of
every public building and railway station. They are also during the
night to disembark from the vessels. There will be little fighting. The
Yankees boast of keeping no standing army. They have had a difficulty to
get together the hundred and fifty thousand men they have marched into
Canada. Similar action to that at New York is to be adopted at Boston.
As soon as sufficient troops are disembarked I will march them into
Canada at the rear of the invaders, and my Canadian forces are to attack
them in front. I will either destroy the United States forces or take
them prisoners. All means of transport by rail or river are to be
seized, and also the newspaper offices. The morning publication of the
newspapers in New York and Boston is to be suppressed; and if all be
well managed, only a few New York and Boston people will know until late
the day after our arrival that their cities are in my hands. My largest
yacht, the _Victoria_, is to go to New York. I will join it there in an
air-cruiser. Confidential information of all these plans is to be
verbally communicated to the Governor of Canada by an aide-de-camp, who
will proceed to Ottawa to-morrow morning in a swift air-cruiser. During
this night you must arrange for all the information being distributed by
trusty men. I wish the intended invasion to be kept a profound secret,
excepting from those specially informed. Every one is to suppose that
Canada is the destination. I want the United States to strengthen its
army in Canada to the utmost. As to its fleet, as soon as my vessels
have disembarked the troops they can proceed to destroy or capture such
of the United States vessels of war as have dared to intrude on our
Canadian waters."

The Emperor paused. Colonel Laurient had taken in every instruction. His
eyes sparkled with animation and rejoicing, but he did not venture to
express his admiration. The Emperor disliked praise. "Laurient," he
continued as he grasped his favourite's hand, "go. I will detain you no
longer. I trust you as myself." The Colonel bowed low and hastened away.

It may seem that the proposed mobilization was incredible. But all the
forces of the Empire were constantly trained to unexpected calls to
arms. Formerly intended emergency measures were designed for weeks in
advance; and though they purported to be secret, every intended
particular was published in the newspapers. This was playing at
soldiering. The Minister presiding over all the land and sea forces has
long since become more practical. He orders for mobilization without
notice or warning, and practice has secured extraordinarily rapid
results.



CHAPTER XIII.

LOVE AND WAR.


We seldom give to Hilda her title of Duchess of New Zealand, for she is
endeared to us, not on account of her worldly successes, but because of
her bright, lovable, unsullied womanly nature. She was dear to all who
had the privilege of knowing her. The fascination she exercised was as
powerful as it was unstudied. Her success in no degree changed her
kindly, sympathetic nature. She always was, and always would be,
unselfish and unexacting. She was staying with Mrs. Hardinge whilst the
house she had purchased in London was being prepared for her. When Maud
was married, she had taken Phoebe Buller for her principal private
secretary. Miss Buller was devoted to Hilda, and showed herself to be a
very able and industrious secretary. She had gained Hilda's confidence,
and was entrusted with many offices requiring for their discharge both
tact and judgment. She was much liked in London society, and was not
averse to general admiration. She was slightly inclined to flirtation,
but she excused this disposition to herself by the reflection that it
was her duty to her chief to learn as much as she could from, and about
every one. She had a devoted admirer in Cecil Fielding, a very able
barrister. As a rule, the most successful counsel were females. Men
seldom had much chance with juries. But Cecil Fielding was an exception.
Besides great logical powers, he possessed a voice of much variety of
expression and of persuasive sympathy. But however successful he was
with juries, he was less fortunate with Phoebe. That young lady did not
respond to his affection. She inclined more to the military profession
generally and to Captain Douglas Garstairs in particular. He was one of
the bodyguard, and now that war was declared was next to Colonel
Laurient the chief aide-de-camp. By the Colonel's directions, the
morning after the interview with the Emperor, he waited on the Duchess
of New Zealand to confer with her as to the selection of a woman to take
charge of the ambulance corps to accompany the forces on the ostensible
expedition to Canada. Hilda summoned Phoebe and told her to take Captain
Garstairs to see Mary Maudesley, and ascertain if that able young woman
would accept the position on so short a notice.

Hilda had always taken great interest in the organisation of all
institutions dedicated to dealing with disease. Lately she had
contributed large sums to several of these establishments in want of
means, and she had specially endowed an ambulance institution to train
persons to treat cases of emergency consequent on illness or accident.
She had thus been brought into contact with Mary Maudesley, and had
noticed her astonishing power of organisation and her tenderness for
suffering. Mary Maudesley was the daughter of parents in humble life.
She was about twenty-seven years of age. Her father was subforeman in a
large metal factory. He had risen to the position by his assiduity,
ability, and trustworthiness. He received good wages; but having a large
family, he continued to live in the same humble condition as when he was
one of the ordinary hands at the factory. He occupied a flat on the
eighth story of a large residential building in Portman Square, which
had once been an eminently fashionable neighbourhood. Besides the
necessary sleeping accommodation, he had a sitting-room and kitchen. His
residence might be considered the type of the accommodation to which the
humblest labourers were accustomed. No one in the British Empire was
satisfied with less than sufficient house accommodation, substantial
though plain food, and convenient, decent attire.

Mary when little more than fourteen years old had been present at an
accident by which a little child of six years old was knocked down and
had one leg and both arms broken. The father of the child had recently
lost his wife. He lived in the same building as the Maudesleys, and
Mary day and night attended to the poor little sufferer until it
regained health and strength. Probably this gave direction to the
devotion which she subsequently showed to attendance on the sick. She
joined an institution where nurses were trained to attend cases of
illness in the homes of the humble. She was perfectly fearless,
notwithstanding she had been twice stricken down with dangerous illness,
the result of infection from patients she had nursed.

Miss Buller thought it desirable to see Miss Maudesley at her own house,
both because it might be necessary to consult her further, and because
she wished to observe what were her domestic surroundings. They were
pleased with what they saw. The flat was simply but usefully furnished.
There was no striving after display. Everything was substantial and good
of its kind without being needlessly expensive. Grace and beauty were
not wanting. Some excellent drawings and water-coloured paintings by Mr.
Maudesley and one or two of his children decorated the walls. There
were two or three small models of inventions of Mr. Maudesley's and one
item of luxury in great beauty in the shape of flowers, with which the
sitting-room was amply decorated. We are perhaps wrong in terming
flowers luxuries, for after all, luxuries are things with which people
can dispense; and there were few families who did not regard flowers as
a necessary ornament of a home, however humble it and its surroundings
might be.

Miss Buller explained to Miss Maudesley that the usual head of the war
ambulance corps required a substitute, as she was unable to join the
expedition. It was her wish as well as that of the Duchess of New
Zealand that Miss Maudesley should take her place. Fortunately Miss
Maudesley's engagements were sufficiently disposable to enable her to
accept the notable distinction thus offered to her. Miss Buller was
greatly pleased with the unaffected manner in which she expressed her
thanks and her willingness to act.

Captain Garstairs returned with Phoebe Buller to her official room.
"Good-bye, Miss Buller," he said. "I hope you will allow me to call on
you when I return, if indeed the exigencies of war allow me to return."

"Of course you will return. And why do you call me Miss Buller?" said
the girl, with downcast eyes and pale face. For the time all traces of
coquetry were wanting.

"May I call you Phoebe? And do you wish me to return?"

"Why not? Good-bye."

The cold words were belied by the moistened eyes. The bold soldier saw
his opportunity. Before he left the room they were engaged to be
married.

It is curious how war brings incidents of this kind to a crisis. At the
risk of wearying our readers with a monotony of events, another scene in
the same mansion must be described.

The Emperor did Mrs. Hardinge the honour of visiting her at her own
house. So little did she seem surprised, that it almost appeared she
expected him. She, however, pleaded an urgent engagement, and asked
permission to leave Hilda as her substitute. The readiness with which
the permission was granted seemed also to be prearranged, and the
astonished girl found herself alone with the Emperor before she had
fully realised that he had come to see Mrs. Hardinge. He turned to her a
bright and happy face, but his manner was signally deferential.

"You cannot realise, Duchess, how I have longed to see you alone once
more."

Hilda, confused beyond expression, turned to him a face from which every
trace of colour had departed.

"Do you remember," he proceeded, "the last time we were alone? You
allowed me then to ask you a question as from man to woman. May I again
do so?"

He took her silence for consent, and went on in a tone from which he
vainly endeavoured to banish the agitation that overmastered him.
"Hilda, from that time there has been but one woman in the world for me.
My first, my only, love, will you be my wife?"

"Your Majesty," said the girl, who as his agitation increased appeared
to recover some presence of mind, "what would the world say? The Emperor
may not wed with a subject."

"Why not? Am I to be told that, with all the power that has come to me,
I am to be less free to secure my own happiness than the humblest of my
subjects? Hilda, I prefer you to the throne if the choice had to be
made. But it has not. I will remain the Emperor in order to make you the
Empress. But say you can love the man, not the monarch."

"I do not love the Emperor," said the girl, almost in a whisper.

These unflattering words seemed highly satisfactory to Albert Edward as
he sought from her sweet lips a ratification of her love not for the
Emperor, but the man.

They both thought Mrs. Hardinge's absence a very short one when she
returned, and yet she had been away an hour.

"Dear Mrs. Hardinge," said the Emperor, with radiant face, "Hilda has
consented to make me the happiest man in all my wide dominions."

Mrs. Hardinge caught Hilda in her arms, and embraced her with the
affection of a mother. "Your Majesty," she said at length, "does Hilda
great honour. Yet I am sure you will never regret it."

"Indeed I shall not," he replied, with signal promptitude. "And it is
she who does me honour. When I return from America and announce my
engagement, I will take care that I let the world think so."

On the evening which had been fixed, the war and transport vessels and
air-cruisers met off New York; and in a few hours the city was in the
hands of the Emperor's forces. There was a little desultory fighting as
well as some casualties, but there were few compared with the magnitude
of the operation. The railway and telegraph stations, public buildings,
and newspaper offices were in the hands of the invaders. Colonel
Laurient himself led the force to Washington. At about four o'clock in
the morning between twenty and thirty air-cruisers, crowded with armed
soldiers, reached that city. With a little fighting, the Treasury and
Arsenal were taken possession of, and the newspaper offices occupied.
About one thousand men invaded the White House, some entering by means
of the air-cruisers through the roof and others forcing their way
through the lower part of the palace. There was but little resistance;
and within an hour the President of the United States, in response to
Colonel Laurient's urgent demand, received him in one of the principal
rooms. She was a fine, handsome woman of apparently about thirty-five
years of age. Her daughter, a young lady of seventeen, was in attendance
on her. They did not show much sign of the alarm to which they had been
subjected or of the haste with which they had prepared themselves to
meet the British envoy. They received Colonel Laurient with all the
high-bred dignity they might have exhibited on a happier occasion.
Throughout the interview his manner, though firm, was most deferential.

"Madam," he said, bowing low to the President, "my imperial master the
Emperor of Britain, in response to what he considers your wanton
invasion of British territory in his Canadian dominions, has taken
possession of New York, and requires me to lead you a prisoner to the
British flagship stationed off that city. I need scarcely say that
personally the task so far as it is painful to you is not agreeable to
me. I have ten thousand men with me and a large number of air-cruisers.
I regret to have to ask you to leave immediately."

The President, deeply affected, asked if she might be allowed to take
her daughter and personal attendants with her.

"Most certainly, Madam," replied Laurient. "I am only too happy to do
anything to conduce to your personal comfort. You may be sure, you will
suffer from no want of respect and attention."

Within an hour the President, her daughter, and attendants left
Washington in Colonel Laurient's own air-cruiser. An hour afterwards a
second cruiser followed with the ladies' luggage. Meanwhile the
telegraph lines round Washington were destroyed, and the officers of
the forces stationed at Washington were made prisoners of war and taken
on board the cruisers. At six o'clock in the morning the whole of the
remaining cruisers left, and rapidly made their way to New York. The
President, Mrs. Washington-Lawrence, and her daughter were received on
board the flagship with the utmost respect. The officers vied with each
other in showing them attention, but they were not permitted to make any
communication with the shore. About noon the squadron, after
disembarking the land forces, left for the St. Lawrence waters, and
succeeded in capturing twenty-five of the finest vessels belonging to
the United States, besides innumerable smaller ones. The Emperor left
fifty thousand men, well supplied with guns, arms, and ammunition, in
charge of New York, and at the head of an army of one hundred thousand
men, the flower of the British force in the Northern Hemisphere,
proceeded rapidly to the Canadian frontier. About a hundred miles on the
other side of the frontier they came upon traces of the near presence
of the American forces.

Here it was that the most conspicuous act of personal courage was
displayed, and the hero was Lord Reginald Paramatta. He happened to be
in London when war was announced, and he volunteered to accompany one of
the battalions. It should be mentioned that no proceedings had been
initiated against Lord Reginald either for his presence at the
treasonable meeting, or for his attempted abduction of Hilda. Her
friends were entirely averse to any action being taken, as the publicity
would have been most repugnant to her. It became necessary early in the
night to ascertain the exact position of the American forces, and to
communicate with the Canadian forces on the other side, with the view to
joint action. The locality was too unknown and the night too dark to
make the air-cruisers serviceable. The reconnoitring party were to make
their way as best they could through the American lines, communicate
with the Canadian commander, and return as soon as possible in an
air-cruiser. Each man carried with him an electric battery of intense
force, by means of which he could either produce a strong light, or
under certain conditions a very powerful offensive and defensive weapon.

Only fifty men were to compose the force, and Lord Reginald's offer to
lead them was heartily accepted. His bravery, judgment, and coolness in
action were undeniable. At midnight he started, and, with the assistance
of a guide, soon penetrated to an eminence from which the lights of the
large United States camp below could be plainly discerned. The forces
were camped on the plain skirted by the range of hills from one of which
Lord Reginald made his observations. The plain was of peculiar shape,
resembling nearly the figure that two long isosceles triangles joined at
the base would represent. The force was in its greatest strength at the
middle, and tapered down towards each end. Far away on the other edge of
the plain, evidence of the Canadian camp could be dimly perceived. The
ceaseless movements in the American camp betokened preparations for
early action. After a long and critical survey both of the plain and of
the range of hills, Lord Reginald determined to cross at the extreme
left. The scouts of the Americans were stationed far up upon the chain
of hills, and Lord Reginald saw that it would be impossible to traverse
unnoticed the range from where he stood to the point at which he had
determined to descend to the plain. He had to retire to the other side
of the range and make his progress to the west (the camp faced the
north) on the outer side of the range that skirted the camp. The hill
from which he had decided to descend was nearly two miles distant from
the point at which he made his observation. But the way was rough and
tortuous, and it took nearly two hours to reach a comparatively low hill
skirting the plain at the narrowest point. The force below was also
narrowed out. Less than half a mile in depth seemed to be occupied by
the American camp at this point. The Canadian camp was less extended.
Its extreme west appeared to be attainable by a diagonal line of about
two miles in length, with an inclination from the straight of about
seventy degrees. Lord Reginald had thus to force his way through nearly
half a mile of the camp, and then to cross nearly two miles between both
forces.

The commander halted his followers, and in a low tone proceeded to give
his instructions. The men were to march in file two deep, about six feet
were to separate each rank, and the files were to be twenty feet apart.
Each two men of the same file were to carry extended between them the
flexible platinum aluminium electric wire, capable of bearing an
enormous strain, that upon a touch of the button of the battery, carried
by each man, would destroy any living thing which came in contact with
it. Lord Reginald and the officer next to him in rank, who was none
other than Captain Douglas Garstairs, were to lead the way. In a few
moments the wires between each two men were adjusted. They were to
proceed very slowly down the hill until they were observed, then with a
rush, to skirt the outside of the camp. Once past the camp, the wires
were to be disconnected, and the men, as much separated as possible,
were to make to the opposite camp with the utmost expedition. Slowly and
noiselessly amidst the intense shadow of the hill Lord Reginald and his
companion led the way towards the extreme end of the camp. They had
nearly reached the level ground when at three feet distance a sentry
stood before them and shouted, "Who goes there?" Poor wretch, they were
his last words. Lord Reginald and his companion with a rapid movement
rushed on either side of him, and the moment the wire touched him he
sank to the ground a lifeless mass. Then ensued a commotion almost
impossible to describe. Lord Reginald and Captain Garstairs were noted
runners. They proceeded at a strong pace outside of the tents. As the
men rushed out to stop them, the fatal wire performed its ghastly
execution. Three times three men sank lifeless in their path, before
they cleared the outside of the tents. The Americans could only fire at
intervals, for fear of hitting their own men. Of the twenty-five
couples of Lord Reginald's force, fifteen passed the tents; twenty of
the brave men were stricken down, whilst the way was strewn with the
bodies of the Americans who had succumbed to the mysterious electric
force. And now the time had come for each one to save himself. The wires
were disconnected, the batteries thrown down, and for dear life every
one rushed towards the Canadian camp. But the noise had been heard along
the line, and a wonderful consequence ensued. From end to end of the
American camp the electric lights were turned on to the strength of many
millions of candle-power. The lights left the camp in darkness; the rays
were turned outwards to the spare ground that separated the camps. The
Canadians responded by turning on their lights, and the plain between
the two camps was irradiated with a dazzling brightness which even the
sunlight could not emulate. The forlorn hope dashed on. Thousands of
pieces were fired at the straggling men. It was fortunate they were so
much apart, as it led to the same man being shot at many times. Of the
thirty who passed the tents ten men at intervals fell before the
murderous fire. Lord Reginald had been grazed by a shot the effects of
which he scarcely felt. He and his companions were within a hundred
yards of safety. But that safety was not to be. Captain Garstairs was
struck. "Good-bye, Reginald. Tell Phoebe Buller----" He could say no
more. Lord Reginald arrested his progress, and as coolly as if he were
in a drawing-room lifted the wounded man tenderly and carefully in his
arms, and without haste or fear covered the intervening distance to the
Canadian camp. He was not struck. Who indeed shall say that he was aimed
at? His great deed was equally seen by each army in the bright blaze of
light; and when he reached the haven of safety, a cheer went up from
each side, for there were brave men in both armies, ready to admire
deeds of valour. Only ten men reached the Canadian camp; but, under the
sanction of a flag of truce, five more were brought in alive, and they
subsequently recovered from their wounds. Captain Garstairs was shot in
the leg both above and below the knee. He remained in the Canadian camp
that day. At first it was feared he would lose the limb. But, to
anticipate events, when the Emperor's forces joined the Canadian, Mary
Maudesley took charge of him; and Captain Garstairs had ample cause to
congratulate himself on the visit he had paid to secure the services of
that lady. He was in the habit of declaring afterwards that it was the
most successful expedition of his life, for it was the means of securing
him a wife and of saving him a limb.

Lord Reginald rapidly explained the situation to the Canadian
commander-in-chief. The Emperor's army could come up in three hours. It
was evident from the movements under the hills opposite, as shown by the
electric light, that the Americans did not mean to waste time. It was
probable that at the first dawn of day they would set their army in
motion; and it was arranged that the Canadians, without hastening the
action, should, on the Americans advancing, proceed to meet them, so
that they would be nearer the Emperor's forces as these advanced in rear
of the enemy. Scarcely half an hour after he reached the Canadian lines
Lord Reginald ascended in a swift air-cruiser, and passing high above
the American camp, reached the Emperor's forces before day dawned.

Lord Reginald briefly communicated the result of his expedition. He took
no credit to himself, did not dwell on the dangerous passage nor his
heroic rescue of Captain Garstairs. Nevertheless the incident soon
became known, and enhanced Lord Reginald's popularity.

The army was rapidly in motion; and after the Canadian and American
forces became engaged, the British army, led by the Emperor in person,
appeared on the crest of the hills and descended towards the plains. The
American commander-in-chief knew nothing of the British army in his
rear. Tidings had not reached him of the occupation of New York and
Boston. The incident of the rush of Lord Reginald and his party across
the plain from camp to camp and the return of an air-cruiser towards
the United States frontier had occasioned him surprise; but his mind did
not dwell on it in the midst of the immediate responsible duties he had
to perform. On the other hand, he was expecting reinforcements from the
States; and when the new force appeared on the summit of the hills, he
congratulated himself mentally; for the battle with the Canadian army
threatened to go hard with him. Before he was undeceived the British
troops came thundering down the hills, and he was a prisoner to an
officer of the Emperor's own staff. The British troops went onwards, and
the destruction of the American forces was imminent. But the Emperor
could not bear the idea of the carnage inflicted on persons speaking the
same language, and whose forefathers were the subjects of his own
ancestors. "Spare them," he appealed to the commander-in-chief. "They
are hopelessly at our mercy. Let them surrender."

The battle was stayed as speedily as possible; and the British and
Canadian forces found themselves in possession of over one hundred and
thirty thousand prisoners, besides all the arms, ammunition, artillery,
and camp equipage. It was a tremendous victory.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE FOURTH OF JULY RETRIEVED.


The prisoners were left at Quebec suitably guarded; but the British and
Canadian forces, as fast as the railways could carry them, returned to
New York. The United States Constitution had not made provision for the
imprisonment or abduction of the President of the Republic, and there
was some doubt as to how the place of the chief of the executive should
be supplied. It was decided that, as in the President's absence on
ordinary occasions the deputy President represented him, so the same
precedent should be followed in the case of the present extraordinary
absence.

The President, however, was not anxious to resume her position. It was
to her headstrong action that the invasion of Canada was owing. The
President of the United States possesses more individual power in the
way of moving armies and declaring war than any other monarch. This has
always been the case. A warlike spirit is easily fostered in any nation.
Still the wise and prudent were aghast at the President's hasty action
on what seemed the slight provocation of the renewal of the immemorial
fisheries dispute. Of course public opinion could not gauge the sense of
wrong that the rejection by the Emperor of her daughter's hand had
occasioned in the mind of the President. Now that the episode was over,
and the empire of Britain had won a triumph which amply redeemed the
humiliation of centuries back, when the English colonies of America won
their independence by force of arms, public opinion was very bitter
against the President. The glorious 4th of July was virtually abolished.
How could they celebrate the independence and forget to commemorate the
retrieval by their old mother-country of all her power and prestige? No
wonder then that Mrs. Washington-Lawrence did not care to return to the
States!

"My dear," she said to her daughter in one of the luxurious cabins
assigned to them on the flagship, "do you think that I ought to send in
my resignation?"

"I cannot judge," replied the young lady. "You appear quite out of it.
Negotiations are said to be proceeding, but you are not consulted or
even informed of what is going on."

"If it were not for you," said the elder lady, "I would never again set
foot on the United States soil. Captain Hamilton" (alluding to the
captain of the vessel they were on, the _British Empire_) "says I ought
not to do so."

"I do not see that his advice matters," promptly answered the young
lady. "If Admiral Benedict had said so, I might have considered it more
important."

"I think more of the captain's opinion," said Mrs. Washington-Lawrence.

"Perhaps he thinks more of yours," retorted the unceremonious daughter.
"But what do you mean about returning for my sake?"

"My dear, you are very young, and cannot remain by yourself. Besides,
you will want to settle in the United States when you marry, to look
after the large property your father left you, and that will come to you
when you are twenty-one."

"I think, mother, you have interfered quite sufficiently about my
marrying. We should not be here now but for your anxiety to dispose of
me."

Mrs. Washington-Lawrence thought this very ungrateful, for her efforts
were not at the time at all repugnant to the ambitious young lady.
However, a quarrel was averted; and milder counsels prevailed. At length
the elder lady confessed, with many blushes, Captain Hamilton had
proposed to her, and that she would have accepted him but for the
thought of her daughter's probable dissatisfaction.

This aroused an answering confession from Miss Washington-Lawrence. The
admiral, it appeared, had twice proposed to her; and she had consented
to his obtaining the Emperor's permission, a condition considered
necessary under the peculiar circumstances.

The Emperor readily gave his consent. It was an answer to those of his
own subjects who had wished him to marry the New England girl with the
red hair, and opened the way to his announcing his marriage with Hilda.

The two weddings of mother and daughter took place amidst much rejoicing
throughout the whole squadron. The Emperor gave to each bride a
magnificent set of diamonds. Negotiations meanwhile with the United
States proceeded as to the terms on which the Emperor would consent to
peace, a month's truce having been declared in the meanwhile. Mrs.
Hardinge and Hilda met the chief ministers of the two powerful empires
in Europe, and satisfied them that the British Government would not ask
anything prejudicial to their interests.

The terms were finally arranged. The United States were to pay the
empire of Britain six hundred millions sterling and to salute the
British flag. The Childrosse family and Rorgon, Mose and Co. undertook
to find the money for the United States Government. The Emperor
consented to retire from New York in six months unless within that time
a plebiscite of that State and the New English States declared by a
majority of two to one the desire of the people to again become the
subjects of the British Empire, in which case New York would be
constituted the capital of the Dominion of Canada. To anticipate events,
it may at once be said that the majority in favour of reannexation was
over four to one, and that the union was celebrated with enormous
rejoicing. Most of the United States vessels were returned to her, and
the British Government, on behalf of the Empire, voluntarily
relinquished the money payment, in favour of its being handed to the
States seceding from the Republic to join the Canadian Dominion. This
provision was a wise one, for otherwise the new States of the Canadian
Dominion would have been less wealthy than those they joined.



CHAPTER XV.

CONCLUSION.


The Emperor went to Quebec for a week, and thence returned to London, in
the month of July. There he announced his intended marriage, and that it
would very soon take place. The ovations showered on the Emperor in
consequence of his successful operations in the United States defy
description. He was recognised as the first military genius of the day.
Many declared that he excelled all military heroes of the past, and that
a better-devised and more ably carried-into-effect military movement was
not to be found in the pages of history, ancient or modern.

At such a time, had the marriage been really unpopular, much would have
been conceded to the desire to do honour to his military successes. But
the marriage was not unpopular in a personal sense. There was great
difference of opinion as to the wisdom of an emperor marrying a subject
instead of seeking a foreign alliance. On the one hand, difficulties of
court etiquette were alleged; on the other, it was contended that
Britain had nothing to gain from foreign marriage alliances, that she
was strong enough without them, and that they frequently were sources of
weakness rather than strength.

The Duchess of New Zealand sat alone in her study in the new mansion in
London of which she had just taken possession. It was magnificently
furnished and decorated, but she would soon cease to have a use for it.
She was to be married in a week, and the Empress of Britain would have
royal residences in all parts of her wide dominions. She intended to
make a present of her new house, with its contents, to Phoebe Buller on
her marriage with Colonel Garstairs. He won his promotion in the United
States war. She was writing a letter to her sister, Lady Montreal. A
slight noise attracted her attention. She looked up, and with dismay
beheld the face of Lord Reginald Paramatta. "How dare you thus intrude?"
she said, in an accent of strong indignation, though she could scarcely
restrain a feeling of pity, so ill and careworn did he look.

"Do not grudge me," he said, in deprecatory tones, "a few moments of
your presence. I am dying for the want of you."

"My lord," replied Hilda, "you should be sensible that nothing could be
more distasteful to me than such a visit after your past conduct."

"I do not deny your cause of complaint; but, Hilda--let me call you so
this once--remember it was all for love of you."

"I cannot remember anything of the kind. True love seeks the happiness
of the object it cherishes, not its misery."

"You once looked kindly on me."

"Lord Reginald, I never loved you, nor did I ever lead you to believe
so. A deep and true instinct told me from the first that I could not be
happy with you."

"You crush me with your cruel words," said Lord Reginald. "When I am
away from you, I persuade myself that I have not sufficiently pleaded my
cause; and then with irresistible force I long to see you."

"All your wishes," said the girl, "are irresistible because you have
never learned to govern them. If you truly loved me, you would have the
strength to sacrifice your love to the conviction that it would wreck my
happiness." The girl paused. Then, with a look of impassioned sincerity,
she went on, "Lord Reginald, let me appeal to your better nature. You
are brave. No one more rejoiced than I did over your great deed in
Canada. I forgot your late conduct, and thought only of our earlier
friendship. Be brave now morally as well as physically. Renounce the
feelings I cannot reciprocate; and when next I meet you, let me
acknowledge in you the hero who has conquered himself."

"In vain. In vain. I cannot do it. There is no alternative for me but
you or death. Hilda, I will not trifle with time. I am here to carry you
away. You must be mine."

"Dare you threaten me," said she, "and in my own house?" Her hand was on
the button on the table to summon assistance, but he arrested the
movement and put his arm round her waist. With a loud and piercing
scream, Hilda flew towards the door. Before she reached it, it opened;
and there entered a tall man, with features almost indistinguishable
from the profuse beard, whiskers, and moustache with which they were
covered. Hilda screamed out, "Help me. Protect me."

"I am Laurient," he whispered to the agitated girl. "Go to the back
room, and this whistle will bring immediate aid. The lower part of the
house and staircase are crowded with that man's followers." Hilda rushed
from the room before Lord Reginald could reach her. Colonel Laurient
closed the door, and pulled from his face its hirsute adornments. "I am
Colonel Laurient, at your service. You have to reckon with me for your
cruel persecution of that poor girl."

"How came you here?" asked Lord Reginald, who was almost stunned with
astonishment.

"My lord," replied Laurient, "since your attempt at Waiwera to carry the
Duchess away you have been unceasingly shadowed. Your personal
attendants were in the pay of those who watched over that fair girl's
safety. Your departure from Canada was noted, the object of your stay in
London suspected. Your intended visit to-day was guessed at, and I was
one of the followers who accompanied you. But there is no time for
explanation. You shall account to me as a friend of the Emperor for your
conduct to the noble woman he is about to marry. She shall be persecuted
no longer; one or both of us shall not leave this room alive."

He pulled out two small firing-pieces, each with three barrels. "Select
one," he said briefly. "Both weapons are loaded. We shall stand at
opposite ends of this large room."

At no time would Lord Reginald have been likely to refuse a challenge
of this kind, and least of all now. His one desire was revenge on some
one to satisfy the terrible cravings of his baffled passions. "I am
under the impression," he said, with studied calmness, "that I already
owe something to your interference. I am not reluctant to acquit myself
of the debt."

In a few minutes the help Hilda summoned arrived. Laurient had taken
care to provide assistance near at hand. When the officers in charge of
the aid entered the room, a sad sight presented itself. Both Lord
Reginald and Colonel Laurient were prostrate on the ground, the former
evidently fatally stricken, the latter scarcely less seriously wounded.

They did not venture to move Lord Reginald. At his earnest entreaty,
Hilda came to him. It was a terrible ordeal for her. It was likely both
men would die, and their death would be the consequence of their vain
love for her. But how different the nature of the love, the one
unselfish and sacrificing, seeking only her happiness, the other
brutally indifferent to all but its own uncontrollable impulses. It
seemed absurd to call by the same name sentiments so widely opposite,
the one so ennobling, the other so debasing.

She stood beside the couch on which they had lifted him. "Hilda," he
whispered in a tone so low, she could scarcely distinguish what he said,
"the death I spoke of has come; and I do not regret it. It was you or
death, as I told you; and death has conquered." He paused for a few
moments, then resumed, "My time is short. Say you forgive me all the
unhappiness I have caused you."

Hilda was much affected. "Reginald," she faltered, "I fully, freely
forgive you for all your wrongs to me; but can I forget that Colonel
Laurient may also meet his death?"

"A happy death, for it will have been gained in your service."

"Reginald, dear Reginald, if your sad anticipation is to be realised,
should you not cease to think of earthly things?"

"Pray for me," he eagerly replied. "You were right in saying my passions
were ungovernable, but I have never forgotten the faith of my
childhood. I am past forgiveness, for I sinned and knew that I was
sinning."

"God is all-merciful," said the tearful girl. She sank upon her knees
before the couch, and in low tones prayed the prayers familiar to her,
and something besides extemporised from her own heart. She thought of
Reginald as she first knew him, of the great deeds of which he had been
capable, of the melancholy consequence of his uncontrolled love for
herself. She prayed with an intense earnestness that he might be
forgiven; and as she prayed a faint smile irradiated the face of the
dying man, and with an effort to say, "Amen," he drew his last breath.

Three days later Hilda stood beside another deathbed. All that care and
science could effect was useless; Colonel Laurient was dying. The fiat
had gone forth; life was impossible. The black horses would once more
come to the door of the new mansion. He who loved Hilda so truly, so
unselfishly, was to share the fate of that other unworthy lover. Hilda's
grief was of extreme poignancy, and scarcely less grieved was the
Emperor himself. He had passed most of his time since he had learnt
Laurient's danger beside his couch, and now the end was approaching. On
one side of the bed was the Emperor, on the other Hilda, Duchess of New
Zealand. How puerile the title seemed in the presence of the dread
executioner who recognises no distinction between peasant and monarch.
The mightiest man on earth was utterly powerless to save his friend, and
the day would come when he and the lovely girl who was to be his bride
would be equally powerless to prolong their own lives. In such a
presence the distinctions of earth seemed narrowed and distorted.

"Sir," said the dying man, "my last prayer is that you and Hilda may be
happy. She is the noblest woman I have ever met. You once told me," he
said, turning to her, "that you felt for me a sister's love. Will you
before I die give me a sister's kiss and blessing?" Hilda, utterly
unable to control her sobs, bent down and pressed a kiss upon his lips.
It seemed as if life passed away at that very moment. He never moved or
spoke again. He was buried in the grounds of one of the royal
residences, and the Emperor and Hilda erected a splendid monument to his
memory. No year ever passed without their visiting the grave of the man
who had served them so well.

Their marriage was deferred for a month in consequence of Colonel
Laurient's death, but the ceremony was a grand one. Nothing was wanting
in the way of pomp and display to invest it with the utmost importance.
Throughout the whole Empire there were great rejoicings. It really
appeared as if the Emperor could not have made a more popular marriage,
and that unalloyed happiness was in store for him and his bride.



EPILOGUE.


Twenty years have passed. The Emperor is nearly fifty, and the Empress
is no longer young. They have preserved their good looks; but on the
countenance of each is a settled melancholy expression, wanting in the
days which preceded their marriage. Their union seemed to promise a
happy life, no cloud showed itself on the horizon of their new
existence, and yet sadness proved to be its prominent feature. A year
after their marriage a son was born, amidst extravagant rejoicings
throughout the Empire. Another year witnessed the birth of a daughter,
and a third child was shortly expected, when a terrible event occurred.
A small dog, a great favourite of the child, slightly bit the young
prince. The animal proved to be mad, a fact unsuspected until too late
to apply adequate remedial measures to the boy, and the heir to the
Empire died amidst horrible suffering. The grief of the parents may be
better imagined than described. The third child, a boy, was prematurely
born, and grew up weak and sickly. Two more children were subsequently
born, but both died in early childhood. The princess, the elder-born of
the two survivors, grew into a beautiful woman. She was over eighteen
years old when this history reopens. Her brother was a year younger. The
contrast between the two was remarkable. Princess Victoria was a fine,
healthy girl, with a lovely complexion. She inherited her mother's
beauty and her father's dignity and grace of manner. She was the idol of
every one with whom she came in contact. The charm and fascination of
her demeanour were enhanced by the dignity of presence which never
forsook her. Her brother, poor boy, was thin and delicate-looking, and a
constant invalid, though not afflicted with any organic disease. They
both were clever, but their tastes were widely apart. The Princess was
an accomplished linguist; and few excelled her in knowledge of history,
past and contemporaneous. She took great interest in public affairs. No
statesman was better acquainted with the innumerable conditions which
cumbered the outward seeming of affairs of state. Prince Albert Edward,
on the contrary, took no heed of public affairs. He rarely read a
newspaper; but he was a profound mathematician, a constant student of
physical laws: and, above all, he had a love for the study of human
character. When only sixteen, he gained a gold medal for a paper sent in
anonymously to the Imperial Institute, dealing with the influence of
circumstances and events upon mental and moral development. The essay
was very deep, and embodied some new and rather startling theories,
closely reasoned, as to the effects of training and education.

The Princess was her father's idol; and though he was too just to wish
to prejudice his son's rights, he could not without bitter regret
remember that but for his action long ago his daughter would have been
heiress to the throne. Fate, with strange irony, had made the Empress
also alter her views. The weak and sickly son had been the special
object of long years of care. The poor mother, bereaved of three
children out of five, clung to this weak offspring as the shipwrecked
sailor to the plank which is his sole chance of life. The very notion of
the loved son losing the succession was a cruel shock to her. The
theoretical views which she shared with Mrs. Hardinge years since, were
a weak barrier to the promptings of maternal love.

So it happened that the Emperor ardently regretted that he had prevented
the proposed change in the order of succession, and the Empress as much
rejoiced that the views of her party had not prevailed. But the Emperor
was essentially a just man. He recognised that before children had been
born to him the question was open to treatment, but that it was
different now when his son enjoyed personal rights. Ardently as he
desired his daughter should reign, he would not on any consideration
agree that his son should be set aside without his own free and full
consent. What annoyed him most was the fallacy of his own arguments long
ago. It will be remembered, he had laid chief stress on the probability
that the female succession would reduce the chance of the armies being
led by the Emperor in person in case of war. But it was certain that, if
his son succeeded, he would not head the army in battle. The young
Prince had passed through the military training prescribed for every
male subject of the Empire, but he had no taste for military knowledge.
Not that he wanted courage; on the contrary, he had displayed
conspicuous bravery on several occasions. Once he had jumped off a yacht
in rough weather to save one of his staff who had fallen overboard; and
on another occasion, when a fire took place at sea, he was cooler and
less terror-stricken than any of the persons who surrounded him. But for
objects and studies of a militant character he had an aversion, almost a
contempt; and it was certain he never would become a great general. The
fallacy of his principal objection to the change in the order of
succession was thus brought home to the Emperor with bitter emphasis.

Perhaps the worst effect of all was the wall of estrangement that was
being built up between him and the Empress. When two people constantly
in communication feel themselves prevented from discussing the subject
nearest to the heart and most constant to the mind of each, estrangement
must grow up, no matter how great may be their mutual love. The Emperor
and Empress loved each other as much as ever, but to both the discussion
of the question of succession was fraught with bitter pain.

The time had, however, come when they must discuss it. The Princess had
already reached her legal majority, and the Prince would shortly arrive
at the age which was prescribed as the majority of the heir to the
throne. His own unfitness for the sovereignty and the exceeding
suitability of his sister were widely known, and the newspapers had just
commenced a warm discussion on the subject. The Cabinet, too, were
inclined to take action. Many years since, Mrs. Hardinge died quite
suddenly of heart disease; and Lady Cairo had for a long period filled
the post of Prime Minister. Lady Garstairs, _née_ Phoebe Buller, was
leader of the Opposition. She was still a close friend of the Empress,
and she shared the opinion of her imperial mistress that the subject had
better not be dealt with. But Lady Cairo, who had always thought it
ought to have been settled before the Emperor's marriage, was very much
embarrassed now by the strong and general demand that the question
should be immediately reopened. She had several interviews with the
Emperor on the subject. His Majesty did not conceal his personal desire
that his daughter should succeed, or his opinion that she was signally
fitted for the position; but nothing, he declared, would induce him to
allow his son's rights to be assailed without the Prince's full and free
consent. Meanwhile the Prince showed no sign. It seemed as if he alone
of all the subjects of the Empire knew and cared nothing about the
matter. He rarely spoke of public affairs, and scarcely ever read the
newspapers, especially those portions of them devoted to politics.

The Emperor felt a discussion with the Empress could no longer be
avoided; and we meet them once more at a long and painful interview, in
which they unburdened the thoughts which each had concealed from the
other for years past.

"Dear Hilda," said the Emperor, "do not misunderstand me. I would rather
renounce the crown than allow our son's rights to be prejudiced without
his approval."

"Yes, yes, I understand that," said the Empress; "and I recognise your
sense of justice. I do not think that you love Albert as much as you do
Victoria, and you certainly have not that pride in him which you have in
her; whilst I--I love my boy, and cannot bear that he should suffer."

"My dear," said the Emperor, "that is where we differ. I love Albert,
and I admire his high character; but I do not think it would be for his
happiness that he should reign, nor that he should now relinquish all
the studies in which he delights, in order to take his proper position
as heir to the throne. In a few weeks he will be of age; and if he is to
succeed me, duties of a most onerous and constant character will devolve
on him. He is, I will do him the justice to say, too conscientious to
neglect his duty; and I believe he will endeavour to attend to public
affairs and cast away all those studies that most delight him: but the
change will make him miserable."

"You are a wise judge of the hearts and ways of men and women, and it
would ill become me to disregard your opinion; but, Albert, does it not
occur to you that our Albert might live to regret any renunciation he
made in earlier life?"

"I admit the possibility," said the Emperor; "but he is stable and
mature beyond his years. His dream is to benefit mankind by the studies
he pursues. He has already met with great success in those studies, and
I think they will bring their own reward; but should anything occur to
make him renounce them, he may, I admit, lament too late the
might-have-been."

"Supposing," said the Empress, "he married an ambitious wife and had
sons like you were, dear Albert, in your young manhood?"

"One cannot judge one's self; yet I think I should have accepted
whatever was my position, and not have allowed vain repinings to prevent
my endeavouring to perform the duties that devolved on me."

"Forgive me, Albert, for doubting it. You would, I am sure, have been
true to yourself."

"You confirm my own impression. Recollect, Hilda, true ambition prompts
to legitimate effort, not to vain grief for the unattainable. It may be
that Victoria's own children will succeed; but Albert's children, if
they are ambitious, will not be denied a brilliant career."

"I cannot argue the matter, for it is useless to deny that I refuse to
see our son as he is. I love him to devotion, yet the grief is always
with me that the son is not like the father."

"Hilda dear, he is not like the father in some respects; but the very
difference perhaps partakes of the higher life. When the last day comes
to him and to me, who shall say that he will not look back to his
conduct through life with more satisfaction than I shall be able to do?"

"I will not allow you to underrate yourself. You are faultless in my
eyes. No human being has ever had cause to complain of you."

"Tut! tut! You are too partial a judge." But he kissed her tenderly, and
his eyes gleamed with a pleasure for a very long while unknown to them,
as she brought to him the conviction that the love and admiration of her
youth had survived all the sorrows of their after-lives.

At this juncture the Prince entered the room. "Pardon me," he said. "I
thought my mother was alone;" and he was about to retire. The Emperor
looked at the Empress, and he gathered from her answering glance that
she shared with him the desire that all reserve and concealment should
be at an end. In a moment his resolution was formed. His son should know
everything and decide for himself.

"Stay, Albert," he said. "I am glad to have an opportunity of talking
with you in the presence of your mother."

"I am equally glad, Sir. Indeed, I should have asked you later in the
day to have given me an audience."

"Why do you wish to see me?" said the Emperor, who in a moment suspected
what proved to be the case: that his son anticipated his own wish for an
exchange of confidence.

"During the last few days it has become known to me, Sir, that a
controversy is going on respecting the order of succession to the
throne. I have," producing a small package, "cuttings from some of the
principal newspapers from which I gather there is a strong opinion in
favour of a change in the order of succession. I glean from them that by
far the larger number are agreed on the point that it would be better my
sister should succeed to you." He paused a moment, and then in a clear
and distinct tone said, "I am of the same opinion."

The Empress interposed. "Are you sure of your own mind? Do you
recognise what it is you would renounce--the position of foremost ruler
on the wide globe?"

"I think I realise it. I am not much given to the study of
contemporaneous history, but I am well acquainted with all the
circumstances of my father's great career." The parents looked at each
other in surprise. "Yes; there is no one," he resumed, "who is more
proud of the Emperor than his only son."

With much emotion the father clasped the son's hand. "What is it you
wish, Albert?" he said.

"I would like Victoria to be present if you would not mind," replied the
Prince, looking at his mother. "May I fetch her?"

The Empress nodded. "You will find her in the next room."

The Princess Victoria was a lovely and splendid girl. It was impossible
to look at her without feeling that she would adorn the highest
position. The Emperor's face lighted up as he glanced at her; and the
Empress, much impressed with what her husband had said, kissed the
Princess with unusual tenderness. She probably wished her daughter to
feel that she was not averse to any issue which might result from the
momentous interview about to take place.

"Sir," said the young Prince, addressing his father, "I know how
important your time is, so I will not prolong what I wish to say. Until
I saw these papers," holding up the extracts, "I confess I was unaware
of the great interest which is now being taken in the question of the
succession. But I cannot assert that the subject is new to me; on the
contrary, I have thought it over deeply, and it was my intention to
speak to you about it when in a few weeks I should attain my majority."

"My dear boy, pray believe that it was through consideration to you I
have refrained from speaking to you on the subject."

"I know it, Sir, and thank you," said the boy with feeling; "but the
time has come when there must be no longer any reserve between us. You
know, I do not take much interest in public affairs, and I fear it has
grieved you that my inclinations have been so alien to what my position
as heir to the throne required. But I am not unacquainted with the
principles of the constitution of the Empire. I will not pretend that I
have studied them from a statesman's point of view. They have absorbed
my attention in the course of my favourite study of human character. I
have closely (if it did not seem conceited, I might say philosophically)
investigated the Constitution with the object of determining to what
extent it operates as an educational medium affecting the character of
the nation. The question of the succession is settled by the
Constitution Act, and no alteration is possible in justice, that does
not fully reserve the rights of all living beings. I am first in the
order of succession, and no law of man can take it from me excepting
with my full consent."

"Albert," interrupted the Emperor, "you say rightly; and I assure you
that I am fully prepared to adopt this view. No consideration will
induce me to consent to any alteration which will prejudice you
excepting with your own desire; and indeed I am doubtful if even with
your desire I should be justified in allowing you at so early a period
of your life to make a renunciation."

"I am grateful, Sir, for this assurance. Its memory will live in my
mind. And now let me say that, having for a long while considered the
subject with the utmost attention I could give to it, I am of opinion
that the present law by which the female succession is partly barred is
not a just one. I will not, however, say that it ought to be altered
against a living representative; but I decidedly think that it should be
amended as regards those unborn. The decision I have come to then does
not depend upon the amendment in the Constitution which I believe to be
desirable. It arises from personal causes. I believe that my sister
Victoria is as specially fitted for the dignity and functions of
empress, as I am the reverse."

The Princess Victoria started up in great agitation. She was not without
ambition, and it could not be questioned that the position of empress
had fascinating attraction for her active mind and courageous spirit.
But she dearly loved her brother, and her predominant feeling at the
moment was regard for his interests. "Albert," she said with great
energy, "I will not have you make any sacrifice for me. You will be a
good and clever man, and will adorn whatever position you are called
to."

"I thank you, Victoria," said the boy gravely. "I am delighted that you
think so well of me. But you must not consider I am making a sacrifice.
My inclinations are entirely against public life. The position of next
heir, and in time of emperor, would give me no pleasure. My
ambition--and I am not without it--points to triumphs of a different
kind. No success in the council or in the field would give me the
gratification that the reception of my paper by the Imperial Institute
occasioned me, and the gold medal which I gained without my name as
author being known. Why I have dwelt on your fitness for the position,
Victoria, is because I do not believe that I should be justified in
renouncing the succession unless I could honestly feel that a better
person would take my place."

"Albert," interposed the Empress, "let your mother say a word before you
proceed further. I will not interfere with any decision that may be
arrived at. I leave that to your father, in whose wisdom I have implicit
faith. But I must ask you, Have you thought over all contingencies, not
only of what has happened in the past or of what is now occurring, but
of what the future may have in store?"

"I have, my mother, thought over the future as well as the past."

"You may marry, Albert. Your wife may grieve for the position you have
renounced; you may have children: they may inherit your father's grand
qualities. Will you yourself not grieve to see them subordinate to their
cousins, your sister's children?"

"Mother, I probably shall not marry; and if I do, my renunciation of the
succession will justify me in marrying as my heart dictates, and not to
satisfy State exigencies. I shall be well assured that whomever I marry
will be content to take me for myself, and not for what I might have
been. As to the children, they will be educated to the station to which
they will belong, surely a sufficiently exalted one."

The Emperor now interposed. "You are young," he said, "to speak of wife
and children; but you have spoken with the sense and discretion of
mature years. I understand, that if you renounce the succession, you
will do so in the full belief that you will be consulting your own
happiness and not injuring those who might be your subjects, because you
leave to them a good substitute in your sister."

"You have rightly described my sentiments," said the boy.

"Then, Albert," said the Emperor, "I will give my consent to the
introduction of a measure that, preserving your rights, will as regards
the future give to females an equal right with males to the succession.
As regards yourself, I think the Act should give you after your majority
a right, entirely depending on your own discretion, of renunciation in
favour of your sister, and provide that such renunciation shall be
finally operative."

Our history for the present ends with the passage of the Act described
by the Emperor; an Act considered to be especially memorable, since it
removed the last disability under which the female sex laboured.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is perhaps desirable to explain that three leading features have been
kept in view in the production of the foregoing anticipation of the
future.

First, it has been designed to show that a recognised dominance of
either sex is unnecessary, and that men and women may take part in the
affairs of the world on terms of equality, each member of either sex
enjoying the position to which he or she is entitled by reason of his or
her qualifications.

The second object is to suggest that the materials are to hand for
forming the dominions of Great Britain into a powerful and beneficent
empire.

The third purpose is to attract consideration to the question as to
whether it is not possible to relieve the misery under which a large
portion of mankind languishes on account of extreme poverty and
destitution. The writer has a strong conviction that every human being
is entitled to a sufficiency of food and clothing and to decent lodging
whether or not he or she is willing to or capable of work. He hates the
idea of anything approaching to Communism, as it would be fatal to
energy and ambition, two of the most ennobling qualities with which
human beings are endowed. But there is no reason to fear that ambition
would be deadened because the lowest scale of life commenced with
sufficiency of sustenance. Experience, on the contrary, shows that the
higher the social status the more keen ambition becomes. Aspiration is
most numbed in those whose existence is walled round with constant
privation. Figures would of course indicate that the cost of the
additional provision would be enormous, but the increase is more seeming
than real. Every commodity that man uses is obtained by an expenditure
of more or less human labour. The extra cost would mean extra employment
and profit to vast numbers of people, and the earth itself is capable of
an indefinite increase of the products which are necessary to man's use.
The additional employment available would in time make work a privilege,
not a burden; and the objects of the truest sympathy would be those who
would not or who could not work. The theory of forcing a person to
labour would be no more recognised than one of forcing a person to
listen to music or to view works of art. Of course it will be urged that
natives of countries where the earth is prolific are not, as a rule,
industrious. But this fact must be viewed in connection with that other
fact that to these countries the higher aims which grow in the path of
civilisation have not penetrated. An incalculable increase of wealth,
position, and authority would accompany an ameliorated condition of the
proletariat, so that the scope of ambition would be proportionately
enlarged. There would still be much variety of human woe and joy; and
though the lowest rung of the ladder would not descend to the present
abysmal depth of destitution and degradation, the intensely
comprehensive line of the poet would continue as monumental as ever,--


     "The meanest hind in misery's sad train still looks beneath him."


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     "'Letts's complete Popular Atlas' is certainly one of the very
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     particulars it is an improvement on other atlases."--_Graphic._

     "The publishers may boast that they have succeeded in combining an
     atlas with a statistical encyclopædia. Maps are lavishly
     provided.... It is a marvel of cheapness, and of great and
     painstaking labour."--_Scotsman._


London: HUTCHINSON & CO., 25, Paternoster Square.





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