A crown of straw



title page





Copyright, 1896,
By Dodd, Mead and Company.

University Press:
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U. S. A.



The term novel has been made to cover books of such diverse character, now-a-days, that the reader is almost entitled to demand of a novelist that he shall affix some distinct label to the book he is putting forth, and make it clear beforehand whether his work is a dialogue on religion, a satire on morals, a political tract, a study in slum life, or a mere romance. This consideration must serve as my excuse for saying a few words about the ideas which have guided me in writing the present work; although I shall incur the danger of a comparison between the moon at which I have aimed, and the humble tree which I have hit.

In this story, then, as in some others which I have written, or am writing, I have sought to embody the romance of contemporary history. It cannot be true that one age or country is in reality more poetical than any other; the difference, if any, must be that it requires a little more imagination[vi] to perceive the romance which lies around us, than that which is ready gathered for us in the pages of the historian. If it be said that some of the greatest masters have gone to past times for their inspiration, their disciple may perhaps allege that as a reason for not venturing into the well-trodden ground. But in fact many of the books which have been most admired in the class of what are called historical novels have owed a part of their charm to the flavour of antiquity which their accomplished writers have contrived to impart to them by mannerisms of style and by the copious use of historical allusion. However great the attraction of such writing may be, it must not be forgotten that the greatest, perhaps the first, of historical romancers—I mean Shakespeare—relied upon no such artifices, but on the intrinsic interest of his themes and his dramatic presentation of them. Neither is it the antiquarian taste which is appealed to by such a book as the “Three Musketeers.” It may even be affirmed, on the other hand, that the interest with which stories are thus invested is essentially false, and foreign to the story-teller’s art.

The keen pleasure with which the historical scholar reads the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” is the accidental result of time, and certainly never[vii] entered into the aims of the composer or compiler of those works. The novels of Emile Zola may similarly fascinate the student in years to come, because he will feel that the manners they record are genuine. But with what confidence can he regard the Wardour Street properties which bulk so largely in the novels of some modern writers? Unless these books tell stories whose interest is independent of adventitious attraction, assuredly they will not continue to be read.

The true aim of the artist in fiction must always be to describe an interesting action,—the Greeks would have said, a great action. The characters which still live for us in fiction are those which their creators have revealed to us through their actions. The analytical novel of character, as it is termed, bears the same relation to true romance as the surgeon’s anatomical model bears to a portrait of Velasquez. It is the business of the story-teller to produce, not a photograph of one who sits in a chair, but a kinetoscope, with every limb in motion. The analytical novelist, when he has written his analytical novel, should regard it as merely a preparatory study, and should tear it up and then write a real novel in which the characters so carefully analysed will by their movements disclose[viii] all those traits of which their creator has laboured to convince himself.

This is why the play is greater than the novel. The playwright—robbed of his Chorus—cannot inflict upon us these tedious dissertations, he cannot leave his persons standing about idly on the stage, while he lectures to us on their inner nature as revealed to his Röntgen vision. The story told in these pages was conceived by the author as the subject of a play. The only reason it appears in the guise of a novel is because, when it was written, the author had no acquaintance with theatrical managers, and a play written merely to be read in a book has always appeared to him a monstrosity. He therefore reconstructed his romance, making such alterations as seemed needful when the characters were no longer visible of themselves, and when, moreover, he was debarred from that crowding of circumstance, that rush and climax of events, which the stage demands and justifies, but which on the written page would seem abrupt and harsh.

Most readers will trace in the hero of this book a resemblance to a certain king whose fate attracted attention not so very many years ago. I would ask that the comparison shall be carried no farther. This book is in no sense taken[ix] from history. All that I have intended to do has been to conceive a romantic interpretation for a tragical event, and to set forth that interpretation as a story to be read for its own sake, if at all.

A. U.



 Prologue 1
I. The Garden of Eden 15
II. The Spy 30
III. The Princess Hermengarde’s Disclosure 44
IV. A Double Traitor 58
V. Johann’s Mission 73
VI. King and Regicide 86
VII. Hermengarde’s next Move 98
VIII. An Anarchist King 114
IX. Dorothea’s Choice 134
X. The Cares of a Chancellor 150
XI. Hermengarde drops a Hint 165
XII. Harun al Rashid 177
XIII. The State Prison 191
XIV. Herr Moritz’s Plan 204
XV. No. 79 218
XVI. The First Warning 230
XVII. The Coming of the Kaiser 244
XVIII. The State Ball 256
XIX. A Declaration of War 270
XX. The Second Warning 284
XXI. The Blow Falls 296
XXII. A Royal Madman 307
XXIII. Hermengarde’s Triumph 317
 Epilogue 328





In the inner room of a small, dimly lighted house, half hidden behind the dark walls of the arsenal of Stuttgart, in Germany, a group of three men were occupied in loading a pistol.

Their method of proceeding was singular. They were seated around a small deal table which stood at the far end of the room from the door. On the table was a small open lamp, and the dirty yellow flame which struggled upwards from its untrimmed wick flared upon the faces of the three, and brought them into pallid relief against the surrounding shadow. As the sickly light wandered off into the corners of the bare, gloomy room, it revealed the obscure form of a fourth man, younger than any of the first three, who sat by himself on a bench next to the door.

The group engaged in loading the pistol, absorbed in their task, took no notice of their comrade, who watched them with brooding eyes as they bent their heads together across the table, or spoke to each other[2] in low whispers from time to time. Once or twice he turned his head and gazed abstractedly at the door. It was locked; and the high, narrow window at the opposite end of the chamber was closely shuttered and barred.

The leader of the party, a man whose grey hairs and deeply wrinkled face showed him to be by many years the eldest of the four, had commenced the proceedings by opening a small wooden case which lay on the table between the three, and taking out the pistol, which he first carefully examined, and then handed silently to the man seated next to him.

This man, a burly giant, with tremendous red whiskers and beard, in which his face was almost concealed, caught at the pistol with a grunt of satisfaction. In his huge grasp the weapon looked like a toy, as he held it up to the light, glanced down the barrel, and snapped the trigger. At this sound the youth by the door started ever so slightly, and a frown contracted his brows. Then the red-bearded giant passed on the pistol to the last of the three.

“Here, Johann,” he remarked in low tones, “see if you can find anything wrong with it.”

The man addressed as Johann, who appeared much younger than either of his companions, received the pistol in silence, as silently turned it over, and passed it back to the old man.

The pistol was of old-fashioned make, and had but a single barrel. Evidently it was only meant to fire one shot.

[3]While the others were handling it, the leader had gone on with his preparations. From the small wooden case already mentioned he had taken out a small powder-flask, a wad, a short steel ramrod, and a bullet. To these he added an ordinary percussion-cap, and last of all came a bar of black sealing-wax, and a curious narrow stick tipped with a steel button. On this button a cipher of some kind appeared to be engraved.

Having ranged these articles on the table before himself and his comrades, the old man received back the pistol, and proceeded to load it at the muzzle from the powder-flask. Slowly the stream of black salt trickled out, sprinkling its course with tiny sparks of light, as the sharp-edged particles caught and flashed back the glow from the sputtering lamp. Then the weapon again changed hands, and the man with the red beard fitted in the wad, and vigorously rammed it home.

This done, he handed the pistol again to Johann, with the whispered exclamation, “Now for the sugar-plum!”

His younger comrade took it from him as quietly as before, dropped in the bullet, and returned the weapon once more to the senior of the three.

All this time the young man by the door had neither moved nor spoken. A faint shiver which passed through his frame when the bullet tinkled against the edge of the barrel alone told that he was keenly alive to what was going forward.

Now came the remarkable part of the ceremony. As soon as the old man got possession of the pistol for the[4] third time, he rose solemnly to his feet, and taking up the bar of sealing-wax, ignited it over the naked flame of the lamp. As the wax hissed and flared up, he brought it directly over the upright muzzle of the pistol, allowing the burning drops to fall right down the barrel. The next moment he dropped the bar of sealing-wax, and seizing the narrow rod already described, plunged it down the barrel, and sealed the bullet firmly in its place.

The giant, who had watched this operation with the closest attention, now took the pistol once more, and completed the work of preparation by fitting on the percussion-cap, over which he allowed the hammer to close down.

All being ready, Johann received the loaded weapon in his hands, while the fourth member of the party rose from his seat beside the door, and advanced at a given signal towards the others.

“Don’t be afraid, Karl,” said the big man good-naturedly, as he caught sight of his young comrade’s face. “The pistol has not been loaded for you.”

The two others frowned at this remark, and the elder man held up his hand in rebuke.

“Hush! Our brother is right to feel afraid—afraid lest the sealed bullet should fail to reach its mark.” And he thoughtfully scanned the young man’s features, now looking almost livid in the wan glow of the lamp.

Meanwhile the other young man had risen to his feet. Holding the mysterious weapon in his hand, he put the following question to his comrade:—

[5]“Brother, the lot has chosen you to fire this pistol. Are you ready to take it, and carry out the instructions you will receive?”

“I am,” came in husky tones from the youth.

He put out a shaking hand, and received the pistol from Johann.

Then the elder man pulled out a drawer in the table, took out a piece of paper, wrote on it a single word of seven letters, and handed it to the man with the red beard.

He glanced at it amid a dead silence, nodded his head, and passed it on to Johann, who by this time had sat down again. He read the word with a grim smile, and returned the paper to the leader of the party.

The old man solemnly folded up the paper, sealed it with the cipher already used for the bullet, and placed it in the hands of the giant.

It was now his turn to rise and address the agitated Karl.

“Here are your instructions. Do you undertake to return here, if you are alive and free, at the end of three months, and give an account of your mission?”

“I do.”

This time it was little more than a hoarse whisper which came from the young man.

The others appeared satisfied.

The old man arose, and moving out from behind the table, went up to the youth and gave him a solemn embrace.

The good-natured giant followed, and took advantage[6] of the opportunity to whisper in his comrade’s ear—

“Keep up a good heart, my boy; and if you want help, rely on us.”

Then Johann made a step forward, but stopped short.

He was interrupted by an unexpected sound.

The noise of hurrying feet was heard in the passage outside, and was instantly followed by a succession of low distinct taps on the bottom panel of the door.

The four men simultaneously raised their heads and exchanged glances of inquiry and alarm. Only on the face of one of them, he who held the sealed weapon beneath his dress, was the look of dread chequered by a faint expression of relief.

The next moment Johann moved towards the door.


The word written inside the sealed paper was a name.

The name was Leopold.

Who was this Leopold—and for what cause had his name come to figure so ominously in these surroundings? To-day he is forgotten; the whole of Europe rang then with the name of Leopold IX., the wicked King of Franconia.

A few words as to this personage will serve to throw[7] light on the more recent events with which this story is concerned.

The race from which he sprang has long held an evil renown upon the Continent. For more than a century a dark cloud has overshadowed the royal line of Astolf. A mysterious taint in the blood has broken out time after time in the Franconian princes, betraying itself in wild freaks and excesses, which are rather whispered of than named. A monotonous chronicle of madness and crime makes up the gloomy annals of the House.

Something of this doubtless has been due to the peculiar character of their sovereignty. While smaller kingdoms, with narrower resources, have played an independent part on the European stage, Franconia, hampered by its position in the great Germanic body, has remained a petty State, compelled to be a mere satellite in the train of one of the two great monarchies which have contended for the dominion of Germany. In former ages her kings had received ambassadors, and their alliance had been alternately courted by Austria and France. To-day, closely enswathed in the iron bonds of Prussia’s military empire, the Franconian kingdom has ceased to have an international existence. In the eyes of diplomacy she is no better than a province of the Kaiser’s dominions, and in the council of nations her voice is no longer heard.

Yet within their own borders the kings of Franconia continue to be supreme. Deprived of their authority in the great questions of peace and war, in all matters of local interest they rule their kingdom with an independent[8] sway. It would even seem as though the peculiar relations between them and the Imperial Government had added to the security of their throne. It would require no ordinary degree of misgovernment to provoke a rebellion whose success must mean the extinction of Franconian nationality, and its final subjection to the formidable Prussian yoke.

Their situation resembles that of those satraps who reign with absolute power over the provinces of Oriental empires. The difference is that they are irremovable, and hand on their dominion to their heirs.

To the intoxication of despotism add the intoxication of security. The strongest brain will reel under such pressure. History recalls the line of maniacs who slew and wantoned in Imperial Rome.

In modern Europe a bloodthirsty despot has become an impossibility. A king no longer dares to kill his subjects for the pleasure of it. All that has been put an end to by a glorious invention of the physicians. They have invented the word monomania, a tremendous exorcism, the mere utterance of which reduces the most powerful monarch to impotence, scares away his courtiers, paralyses the arms of his guards, and tears him from his throne to bury him behind iron doors.

It was with this spell that their bewildered subjects had fought the kings of Franconia for the last two generations. There was only one man in the kingdom more powerful than the monarch. This was the Court physician.

He glided in and out among the brightly dressed[9] throng of courtiers, wrapped in his black cloak, with his finger on his lips, and watched everything. It was like the mummy at the Egyptian feast, only more terrible, as if it had been a mummy which might at any instant start to life, and bid the giver of the feast take its place in the sarcophagus.

When the time came, the physician unclosed his lips and pronounced the fatal word. Then the king disappeared silently from view, and a new ruler took his place.

This was the new Vehmgericht.

Like the ancient Venetian doges, the kings of Franconia walked everywhere, surrounded by an atmosphere of mysterious dread. Secret eyes were upon them always. Oubliettes were prepared under their feet, into which they never knew the moment when they might not be cast. And from these oubliettes there was no chance of escape.

The dooms of science are more relentless than the dooms of superstition. In the bosom of a Grand Inquisitor there might lurk mercy as much as a grain of mustard seed. Mercy is a word which science is unable to comprehend. Its judgments are merely conclusions. Mathematical reasoning cannot be bent aside by emotional considerations.

Leopold IX. was the worst king of this line. This was because he was the most sane. He was selfish, ignorant, utterly heartless, grasping, cruel, lustful, a glutton, and a bad son and father. But he was neither a drunkard nor an epileptic. To such a[10] man science had nothing to say. The secret inquisitor was powerless. Leopold IX. had broken the curse. He was too much like the average man to be mad.

His younger brother Otto had been an easier victim. Within a year of his marriage with the beautiful Hermengarde of Schwerin-Strelitz, he had disappeared. Men whispered that the stately, cold-looking bride had given her approval to this consummation. Be that as it may, Otto passed the years till his death plaiting straw, like many another of the Astolf princes. Some of them plaited crowns; these were light and easy to wear.

Leopold reigned on. His people had to suffer a great deal. A few of his exploits are on record.

A jeweller in the capital had made his fortune. He was getting old, and meant to retire. The last transaction he undertook was a heavy purchase of diamonds. The stones were lying in his safe, when one night a troop of masked burglars broke in and carried off everything. The police of the capital were under the royal control, and on this particular night they had left that quarter of the city deserted. The robbers got off in perfect safety, and the old jeweller was ruined. Shortly afterwards he left the city. It was rumoured that he had retired to Stuttgart, the capital of a neighbouring kingdom.

A sergeant in the royal bodyguard had been imprisoned for a few months, and then banished, shortly before this event. This punishment had been awarded[11] for certain angry expressions which he had been heard to use about his royal master. The fellow had been let off lightly, as his mind was supposed to be affected by a family trouble. His daughter, a very beautiful young girl, had taken her own life and that of her unborn infant. The name of its father had not transpired. This sergeant was a man remarkable for his size and for the redness of his beard.

Riding out in the royal park one day, Leopold met a forester’s boy, a lad of seventeen. He gave him a cut across the face with his whip, which drew blood. This boy, too, had not been seen for some time. His name was Karl Fink.

Leopold had a wise dread of education. The schools which he found existing in his kingdom he would have put down if he dared. His anger was roused when he learned that some of the young artisans in his capital had started night classes in which they studied draughtsmanship, mathematics, and engineering. He ordered his police to break up these schools, and prosecute the ringleaders of the movement. They were afterwards discharged, but those of them who were still bent on acquiring knowledge had to turn their steps abroad. The chief of these young men was one Johann Mark, a journeyman printer.

Of late Leopold had begun to show himself more cruel. His own son Maximilian, it was said, had to endure a good deal at his father’s hands.

Maximilian was a shy, delicate youth, with a passion for art and music. He resembled his mother, a gentle[12] princess of Spanish birth, who was commonly believed to have died of a broken heart. Some there were who spoke of direct acts of violence, but history cannot dwell on the gossip of chamberwomen. Leopold had sought a fresh alliance abroad without success, and was now living in morganatic relations with an ugly countess of fifty.

She was the only person in his dominions who was not afraid of him.

It was known that she exerted her influence with his father on behalf of Maximilian, and saved him from much ill-usage. Very likely she did this with an eye to her future interest. Maximilian thought it was sheer good nature, and liked the woman.

Leopold hated her.

For the rest he was a short, squat man, with a red face, and prominent eyes like marbles, of some colour between blue and green; and he had a habit, when excited, of pressing his forefinger lengthways against his upper lip.

He was forty-eight years of age, and had reigned since he was twenty-nine.


Johann stepped cautiously towards the door.

Arrived before the keyhole, he put his eye to it. All was dark outside.

[13]“Who are you?” he whispered after a moment’s pause.

The answer came also in a whisper. It seemed to satisfy him. Nodding to his comrades inside to signify that all was right, he quietly unlocked the door.

The man who entered was not a particularly striking figure in himself, but there was that in his appearance which instantly aroused the interest of the four inmates of the room, and caused them to gather eagerly around him.

His clothes were disordered, his face was flushed and bedewed with perspiration, and his short, quick breaths bore witness to the exertion he had made in getting there. But it was not this which arrested the attention of the others. They perceived a nervous excitement in his bearing, and an eager light in his eye, which warned them that he was the bearer of extraordinary tidings.

His first act on entering was to look round and number with a glance the men who stood inside. This done, a sigh of relief escaped him.

“Thank Heaven, I am in time!” he exclaimed.

“Why, what is it?” demanded the old man.

The new-comer dropped on to the bench beside the door before answering. Then, assuming a more solemn expression, he said in impressive tones—

“Your work has been done. This morning King Leopold went mad and cut his throat. He died at noon.”

As soon as he had finished speaking the young man[14] who had been entrusted with the sealed weapon gave a loud cry, and tottered as though he would fall.

The giant rushed to his assistance, and, taking the pistol from his nerveless clasp, handed it to the leader.

He took it, and pointed it downwards.

“You have spoken truth,” he said gravely. “God has done our work.”

And he fired the pistol.

He was about to throw away the smoking weapon when Johann stepped forward and laid his hand upon it.

“Stay. It may be wanted yet,” he observed quietly.

“For whom?” the old man asked, with astonishment.

“For Maximilian.”

The other four men recoiled.

Half an hour after the house was empty. The comrades had dispersed. It was to be after many years, and under widely different circumstances, that some of them were to meet again.

Meanwhile Maximilian ascended the throne and reigned in peace.



Can you see him, father?”

The old forester looked round, and saw his daughter coming down the narrow path, bordered with dwarf apple trees, which led from the front door of the cottage to the garden gate.

Answering by a slight shake of the head, he turned round again, and leant over the gate, resuming his occupation of drawing long slow puffs at a huge pipe which he held in one hand. The pipe had a long cherry-wood stem, ending in a deep china bowl, which was capped with a lid of copper. From the holes in this lid came thin blue spirals of smoke, which floated away till they were lost to view against the green background of forest.

Dorothea ran forward lightly, her white muslin skirts just touching the espaliers as she passed, and, coming up to the gate, leant over it beside her father. She rested her soft cheek against his arm, and gazed with dreamy eyes at the smoke-rings, trying to follow them till they dissolved in the surrounding atmosphere.

The summer heat lay like a film over the afternoon. The hush of the landscape was not even disturbed by[16] the call of a bird or the dry chirp of a cricket. In front of the gateway at which they stood stretched a clear space of rolling turf for one or two hundred paces, at the end of which the grass began to go out of sight beneath short undergrowth and scattered trees, the fringe of a stately woodland. To the right and left of the forester’s lodge the trees gathered in again. Behind, it was approached by a footpath over a widening tract of fields, a tongue of meadow-land thrust into the forest. Far away over the fields, had they looked, rose the faint tower of a church and the signs of a peopled land.

“It is more than two months since he first began coming here,” murmured the young girl, presently. “I wonder who he can be?”

The forester turned his head and smiled, as though there were something in his daughter’s words which caused him secret amusement. Then he took another deep puff at his pipe, and answered—

“It is best not to ask. If he wished us to know he would tell us himself. Take care to please him, without being too curious.”

“I know he comes from the Castle, so he must be one of the gentlemen of the Court,” said Dorothea, speaking slowly, as if to herself. “Who knows? perhaps he is a count.”

As she uttered the word Castle, she raised her eyes, and turned them on an opening in the forest in front, between which and the cottage gate there ran a beaten path. For, a mile and more away through that forest,[17] there rose the royal Castle of Neustadt; and old Franz Gitten was a forester in the service of King Maximilian.

This time Franz spoke more roughly, as if ill pleased with Dorothea’s words.

“It is no business of ours who he is. As long as he likes to come here and drink our cider he is welcome. I tell you not to trouble your head about it.”

Checked in this direction, the girl let a few minutes pass before speaking again.

“I wonder why he comes here so often,” was her next remark. “Surely the wines at the Castle must be better than our cider.”

Again the forester smiled to himself, as he went on smoking without any response.

Dorothea continued—

“The King is at Neustadt now. Will you take me over, some time, father? I have never seen the King.”

Old Franz interrupted her. He raised himself up, with a grunt of satisfaction, and stood looking at the opening in the wood.

Dorothea followed the direction of his glance, and uttered an exclamation.

Two men had just emerged from the shadow of the forest, and were walking through the sheet of sunlight which lay between it and the forester’s lodge.

The ages of these two men differed by a good many years. The elder of the two was a man of over forty, tall, with auburn hair, and restless eyes which glanced perpetually from side to side as he walked along. His dress was easy—a knickerbocker suit of brown velveteen,[18] with a loose open collar, and crimson tie, and a hat of soft black felt with a wide brim. This brim he pulled down over his face as soon as the sunlight struck upon it, and thus partly screened his features from the curious gaze of Dorothea.

“Whom is he bringing with him?” she whispered to her father. “This is the first time he has not come alone.”

The forester took no notice of the question. His attention, after the first brief look, was engaged by the other of the two companions.

In itself the younger man’s figure was not striking. He was short, and yet too slender for symmetry. It was his face which aroused interest, and, with the long straight nose and pointed chin, conveyed the curious suggestion of a younger and handsomer Don Quixote. The delicate contour of the features was like a woman’s, and there was something at once strange and fascinating in the colour of the eyes, which glowed in the bright sunshine with that pale green flame only seen in the field of a rich sunset or in the hollow of certain shells of the Indian seas. But an almost uncanny note was that struck by the young man’s costume. He wore a close-fitting suit of a shade of green exactly matching the grass across which he was walking, so that it was nearly as difficult for the eye to follow the outline of his figure as it is to pick out a green caterpillar against a leaf. This affectation was carried out even to the green acacia stick which swung between his fingers. Only his hat and boots were black, the former similar to his[19] companion’s, but enriched by the addition of a tiny band of gold lacework round the edge. He walked with a light, swift step, and as he came within view of the figures at the lodge gate his face relaxed into a pleased smile.

As the two drew near the entrance, Franz took his pipe from his mouth, and held the gate open for them to pass. At the same time he removed his hat and greeted the younger one, who entered first, with a deep bow.

“Good day, Herr Maurice,” he said, in respectful tones.

“Good day, Franz,” responded the other carelessly. “I have brought my friend, Herr Auguste, to taste your cider. And how is my little Dorothea?”

He went up to her as he spoke, took her in his arms, and kissed her on the forehead. The young girl submitted to the embrace with an unconsciousness which was more innocent than any show of bashfulness. Then he turned to his companion.

“Here, Auguste, let me present you to the Fräulein.”

The elder man gravely lifted his hat and bowed. Dorothea returned a deep curtsey, and then made a movement towards the door of the cottage.

“I will go into the house and get another glass for Herr Auguste,” she said to the one who was called Maurice.

He nodded, and, beckoning his friend to follow, led the way to a corner of the garden, where a quaint, old-fashioned arbour made a pleasant nook to shelter in[20] from the glare of the sun outside. In the arbour stood a rustic table, formed out of a broad slice sawn off the trunk of an oak tree, and still retaining the bark round its uneven edge. It was supported by an upright log, cut, perhaps, from a branch of the same tree. The table was set out with a tall silver flagon of antique workmanship, and a long narrow goblet of dark green glass of a manufacture peculiar to the district. The two men seated themselves on a bench of materials to match the table, and gazed thoughtfully at one another for a moment without speaking.

Presently Maurice raised his hand and gave the other a playful tap on the shoulder.

“Come, Auguste, why so serious? What do you think of my favourite, now you have seen her? Remember, I want you to tell me frankly.”

Auguste played with the glass goblet, and looked away from his friend’s eyes.

“I am wondering what would happen if I were to take you at your word,” he answered, with a smile of some cynicism.

“What do you mean?”

“It is easy to ask for a frank opinion. It is not so easy to receive it, when it does not happen to be the one we want.”

“Auguste! Why do you talk like that? Surely you cannot help liking her?”

The other man shook off his moody fit, and sat upright.

“She is perfectly charming, my dear friend. You[21] have discovered a gem. I am only trying to think what you will do with it.”

The young man gave a dissatisfied frown.

“How long have you learned to be so discreet?” he said in a tone of reproach. “What have we to do with the future? Surely it is enough to enjoy this moment while it lasts? Since I found out this delightful spot, I have been happy. Your absence has been my only cause of regret; and even that I have forgotten during the hours I have spent here in the company of this beautiful child.”

“Ah,” murmured the other, with a touch of sadness, “the sunshine of love soon puts out the fire of friendship.”

“No, no,” protested Maurice, eagerly. “Do you trust me so little after all these years? When have I ever doubted you?”

He spoke earnestly. The elder man was moved. Laying his hand gently on his friend’s arm, he said softly—

“I know. You must forgive my jealousy. The only wonder is that I have had you to myself for so long.”

“And you have still. Believe me, you do not understand my feelings towards this child. Love? I hardly know whether it is love or not. And she? She, I am certain, has never guessed what brings me here day after day. I almost wish she did. I am afraid sometimes lest, if I ever speak to her of love, I shall frighten her from me altogether, like some timid bird.”

He broke off, catching the sound of footsteps on the[22] gravel path outside. The next moment Dorothea herself appeared under the archway which led into the arbour, framed like a picture in the green trellis-work. She bore in her hand a second goblet, like the first, but with a small piece chipped out of the rim.

“You must excuse the flaw, sir,” she said, with a bright smile, as she set it down before Herr Auguste. “It was done by my cousin Johann when he was a boy.”

Rising from his seat at this moment, Maurice moved to the other side of the table, and invited Dorothea to take the place by his side; but she preferred to remain standing, and busied herself in pouring out cider for her guests. Auguste kept his eyes fixed on the pair, and shrewdly noted everything as he sipped from time to time at the pale straw-coloured beverage in the cool green chalice.

The other two kept up a half-confidential chat, during which old Franz drew slowly near, and took up a post of observation on the path outside. His face wore an expression of satisfaction, though he threw an occasional glance of suspicion at Auguste.

Suddenly, during a pause in the conversation, Maurice bethought himself, and slipped one hand into the pocket of his jacket.

“See,” he said, drawing into view a small parcel wrapped in tissue paper, “I have brought you a keepsake.”

Dorothea’s eyes sparkled. Half eagerly, half timidly, she held out her hand.

[23]Laughingly the young man placed the packet in her outstretched palm. She tore off the wrappings, and the next instant was gazing in breathless delight at a tiny brooch, which had a bright yellow carbuncle in the centre, set round with a ring of white petals, each of them represented by a pearl.

“It is a daisy! Oh, how beautiful!” she exclaimed. “Look, father; see what Herr Maurice has given me!”

And before Maurice could check the movement, she had darted out of the arbour to show her treasure to the forester.

Franz weighed it in his hand, and inspected it with the careful eye of a dealer.

“The Herr is very generous,” he remarked approvingly. “It must be worth at least a hundred florins.”

Auguste, who overheard him, could not forbear a smile. He knew that the little brooch had been specially manufactured by the most famous jeweller in Paris, and that it had taken weeks to bring together the perfectly shaped gems which formed the petals of the flower.

But Dorothea had been appalled by the magnitude of the sum named by her father. She came back slowly, and gazed at Maurice with a look of shy alarm.

“It is too good for me,” she said doubtfully. “You might have given it to one of the ladies up at the Castle.”

Maurice laughed.

“Yes, I think I might have prevailed on one of them to accept it—what do you say, Auguste?”

[24]“I do not know one lady of the Court on whom it would look better than on the Fräulein,” was the response.

“Come, let me see it on your neck,” said Maurice. “I think I am entitled to fasten it in its place.”

He went towards her for the purpose; and Auguste, glancing round to see if the forester were still about, strolled out of the arbour and joined him.

Left alone with Dorothea, Maurice took a more caressing tone; and the young girl, on her side, seemed to feel more at her ease. They sat side by side, and talked to each other in low tones which could not be heard outside.

After a little while, however, Dorothea noticed that her companion was in a more serious mood than was his wont. Some change seemed to have come over him, and now and again she caught him gazing at her with a meditative air, as if he wished to say something, but were doubtful how to begin.

At length, after a longer pause than usual, he said slowly—

“Have you ever been away from here, Dorothea? Have you seen anything of the outside world?”

“Oh, yes,” she answered readily. “I often go into the village, and once or twice father has taken me to Dresselburg.” This was the name of a small market town some seven miles away. “Besides,” she added, “I sometimes go to the Castle when the Court is not there, and see all over it.”

“Ah!” The young man’s face brightened, as if he[25] had found the opening he sought. “Do you like the Castle? Do you think you should care to come and live there yourself, and see the Court as well?”

Dorothea’s blue eyes grew round with awe.

“Oh!” she cried breathlessly, too overcome by the suggestion to take it in all at once. But the next moment she gave her head a shake which stirred all the little golden curls that fringed her face. “I do not think I should like it,” she said. “I should be afraid of all those people. And King Maximilian—if he were to speak to me I think I should sink into the earth.”

A frown crossed the young man’s face.

“Is Maximilian so very terrible, then?” he asked. “Has any one taught you to dread him?”

“No, no. It is not that. But it is because he is the King. I should feel afraid of him—I do not know why. And yet I have often wished that I could see him, if I could be hidden behind something, so that he would not know I was there.”

“You do not feel unkindly towards him, then?”

“Unkindly? Oh, no! How could I, when he is our King? I bless him every night when I say my prayers, and ask God not to let him go mad, like his father.”

The young man trembled. He allowed one or two minutes to go by in silence, and when he spoke again his voice was low and indistinct.

“Do you think,” he said slowly—“do people say, that there is any likelihood of that?”

[26]“I never heard that,” was the answer. “But of course it is in the blood, and they say that when that is so, it may break out at any moment. Do you think it is true that Doctor Krauss, the great mind doctor, is always on the watch, and follows the King secretly wherever he goes?”

She stopped, surprised at the agitation of her companion, who had buried his face in his hands, and was stifling a groan.

“What is it, Herr Maurice?” she asked anxiously. “Are you ill? Shall I call father?”

“No. Say nothing. Take no notice.”

And he got up abruptly, and made his way out of the arbour.

In the mean time Herr Auguste had gone for a stroll round the garden with old Franz.

On the way he engaged in conversation about Dorothea.

“How old is your daughter?” he began.

“Just seventeen, Excellency.”

“Do not call me that,” said the other quickly. “I have no title, except plain Herr.”

“As the Herr pleases,” returned the forester bowing, with evident incredulity. “Dorothea is a good girl,” he added. “She does what her father tells her, in everything.”

“Humph! And pray what is to be the end of this?” He jerked his hand back in the direction of the arbour.

The old man assumed a look of impenetrable stupidity.

[27]“I do not understand. Herr Maurice is very kind and generous. He comes here often, and has made us many presents.”

“Nonsense, man! That is not the way to talk to me. Do you think I am blind? But perhaps I ought to tell you my name, and then you may know who I am. Have you heard of Auguste Bernal?”

Franz bowed with deep respect. The name was well known to every one connected with the Court.

“His Majesty’s friend?” he said.

“Yes. Understand that my only interest in this matter is a friendly one. I wish no ill to you or your charming little daughter. But what advice am I to give to my friend Maurice? You are not a fool, and you must know what an affair like this is likely to lead to.”

The forester drew himself up and gave his questioner a cunning leer.

“I have seen to that,” he said. “I have spoken to Herr Maurice already. He has promised to make me Ranger of the forest, and to settle a pension on Dorothea for life.”

He spoke with an air of pride, like one who feels that he has done everything that can reasonably be expected of him, and come well out of a trying situation.

Bernal turned on him a look of the most profound disgust, which the forester was too absorbed in his inward self-gratulation to perceive. They walked on in silence for a short time.

[28]“Your daughter does not understand the meaning of these attentions yet,” remarked Bernal, presently.

The father shrugged his shoulders.

“She has been well brought up,” was the response.

“By you?” asked the other, dryly.

Franz nodded, with perfect unconsciousness.

“And by her mother,” he added. “She died three years ago next midsummer.”

“Poor child!” murmured Bernal.

By this time they had completed a circuit, and were again drawing near to the arbour, from which they were in time to see the young man rush out, looking deeply disturbed. Auguste quickened his steps to come up to his friend, whom he took affectionately by the arm.

“Has anything happened?” he inquired in low tones.

“No, nothing. Do not ask me about it. It was only an accidental remark which jarred on me. But it is time for us to be going.”

Dorothea came out to them with wonder and concern written on her face.

“Good-bye, little one,” said Maurice, tenderly; and once more he embraced her.

She looked up at him humbly.

“I have not offended you, sir? You will come again?” she pleaded.

“My dear little creature, you offend me! Of course I shall come again. You do look forward to my visits, then?” he said, with a brighter face.

[29]“Very much, sir; and so does father.”

“Ah! Well, good-bye.”

He took a step from her.

“Thank the Herr Maurice for his handsome present before he goes,” came in the tones of a drill-sergeant from the forester.

Before Dorothea could obey, Maurice had seized his friend’s arm, and was walking rapidly towards the gate, with Franz hurrying after them to open it.

Dorothea followed more slowly, and stood there beside her father to watch the two visitors disappearing among the trees.

While they were still absorbed in gazing at the opening down which the others had vanished, Dorothea gradually became aware of some subtle change in the landscape. At first she thought it must be a chillness in the air; then she fancied a cloud must have passed across the drooping sun. But no, the bright sunshine still lay on the forest, and bathed the sward before the garden gate. What was it, then? As she withdrew her eyes from the spot on which they had been fixed, she perceived with a start what had been knocking, as it were, at the door of her consciousness.

A long dark shadow, the shadow of a man coming with noiseless steps, had stolen across the grass in front of where she stood, and lay like a black pointing finger on the ground.



Dorothea and her father both looked round and caught sight of the new-comer at the same moment. They saw a tall, handsome fellow of about thirty, dressed like an artisan of good standing. The dust on his boots showed that he had walked a long way. His dark, firmly stamped features bore the marks of thought and endurance, and his whole bearing was bold, resolute—almost defiant.

Old Franz drew back with a scowl as this stranger presented himself before the gate. But Dorothea, after one look at his face, gave a glad cry, and, darting through the gateway, clasped her arms round his neck and kissed him on both cheeks.

The young man received her embrace with an indulgent smile, while he turned a stern glance on the forester.

“Father,” exclaimed Dorothea, releasing her hold, “don’t you see? It is Johann!”

“Yes, I see it’s Johann,” muttered the old man, in a tone half surly and half timorous, as he slowly extended his hand. “And what wind blows you here?” he demanded.

[31]“I had business in the neighbourhood, and I thought Dorothea would be glad to see me,” was the curt response. “But you must say nothing about my visit,” he added, turning to the girl. “No one must know that I have been here.”

Dorothea looked bewildered. Her father gave a dissatisfied grunt.

“More mysteries,” he remarked. “You will get into trouble again one of these days, mark my words. I shouldn’t wonder if you were in some conspiracy at this very moment.”

“Well, uncle, I have not asked you to join in it, anyway,” retorted Johann. “Who are those two men who have just gone into the forest?”

Before answering Franz snatched time to throw a warning look at his daughter, as a hint to keep silence.

“Only two gentlemen from the Castle, who came here to drink a cup of our cider. I don’t want to be brought into disgrace by you and your doings,” he went on hastily, not relishing the new turn to the conversation. “It is bad enough to hear about your goings-on in Mannhausen. I can’t think why they don’t clap the whole lot of you into prison.”

“For what? For demanding that the people may have freedom to better their lot?”

“Oh, don’t talk to me about the people! Old King Leopold knew how to deal with fellows like you. You were afraid of him, but now you have the insolence to attack King Maximilian, who is too good for you. Don’t let me catch you in any of your seditious practices[32] here, that’s all, or the King shall hear of it, as sure as my name’s Franz Gitten.”

The forester spoke bitterly. There is no hatred like the hatred of the favoured servant for those who would enfranchise him against his will. Johann frowned as though he were about to make some angry reply, when Dorothea laid a gentle hand upon his arm, and looked up beseechingly in his face.

“Don’t, Johann! Don’t talk about it any more. Come in and rest after your journey, and have something to eat. We have got a hare pie and a custard.”

The young man’s features relaxed their sternness. He turned and followed her into the house, while Franz resumed his post of sentinel at the gate. But this time the puffs of smoke from the china bowl came in fierce, uneven jerks, and an uneasy frown crossed and recrossed his face.

His daughter led Johann inside the house, into the kitchen, where he seated himself on the old-fashioned settle, while she busied herself in getting ready a meal.

“So gentlemen come here from the Castle, do they?” murmured the young man half to himself. “I wonder what is the attraction that brings them here?”

He glanced at his cousin as she moved lightly to and fro in the sunshine. The yellow beams splashed on her rippling hair like rain falling upon running water.

“How old are you by this time, Dorothea?”

“Seventeen next birthday, Johann. I am making myself a dress with long skirts to go to church in.”

[33]“And where did you get that pretty brooch?”

Dorothea smiled with innocent gratification, as she answered—

“Herr Maurice gave it me—one of those gentlemen you saw going away.”

“Ha!” Johann sat up, alert. “Then this is not the first time they have come here?”

“It is the first time his friend has been here, but Herr Maurice comes nearly every day.”

“Does he? And pray who is this Herr Maurice? What is his surname, and what is he at the Court?”

“We do not know—at least, I don’t, though I sometimes think my father has some idea. But when I ask him he always says that if Herr Maurice wished us to know who he was he would tell us of his own accord.”

“I see. My uncle is prudent. What kind of man is he? Young? Handsome?”

“Oh, no—not young. At least, I should think he was quite thirty.” Johann smiled. “And not so very handsome. There is something in his eyes that almost frightens me sometimes. I fancy he is shy. He often sits thinking by himself, and never says a word.”

Johann looked less and less pleased as he listened, and almost forgot to eat his food.

“Well, do not have too much to say to him, Dorothea. I don’t like gentlemen who do not give their names, and make presents of brooches, and sit thinking by themselves. Do you like him? Should you miss him if he left off coming here?”

[34]Dorothea began to grow uneasy under this fire of questions.

“Miss him? Yes, of course; this place is so lonely that I should miss any one. Do you like the hare?”

“Ay. Is it one of the King’s?”

“You must ask father that. He shot it. But where have you been all this while? and why have you never come here?”

“I have been in the capital working at my trade, of course. They don’t print newspapers in the forest; so, you see, I should starve if I spent much time here.”

Dorothea stole up to him, and whispered a timid question.

“I hope it isn’t true what father said about conspiracies? You don’t really hate the good young King, do you, Johann?”

“I don’t hate any one who is good. But never mind the King. I haven’t come here to talk about him. Give me some cider, if you can spare any from your friend who gives the brooches.”

The young girl gave a swift look at him, then, turning away, with a gesture equally swift she snapped the brooch from her neck, and slipped it into her pocket. Then she went to fetch the cider.

A soon as Johann had refreshed himself sufficiently, he got up, and announced that he must take his departure. Dorothea followed him out to the gate, where her father was still lounging, with a sullen but determined look on his face.

[35]“Where are you going?” was the only remark he vouchsafed by way of farewell to his nephew.

Johann pointed to the path through the woodland, by which the two friends had disappeared. His uncle instantly gripped him by the arm.

“No,” he cried hoarsely; “not that way! Not to the Castle!”

“Why not?” demanded Johann, fiercely. “Are you afraid of my discovering who is the gentleman who has fallen in love with your—cider?”

He pronounced the last word with a sarcastic emphasis which made the old man recoil, and turn a startled glance at Dorothea. The girl was gazing from one to the other with quickly dawning consciousness.

“I had one errand to the Castle already; now I have two,” pursued the young man, pitilessly. “Be assured I will find out this Herr Maurice, and demand an explanation from him.”

“No, no!” exclaimed the alarmed forester, carried away by his fears. “You must not meddle with Herr Maurice. I know who he is.”

Johann’s eyes flashed.

“What? Out with it, man, or it will be the worse for him and you!”

The old man gave an anxious glance at his daughter, and then bent forward and whispered two words in his nephew’s ear. His caution was thrown away.

“The King! I might have known it was that cursed race!”

And without even looking at Dorothea, Johann[36] threw wide the gate, and strode on into the depth of the forest.

His first rush of anger worn off, Johann went forward steadily, shaping his course straight towards the royal palace, and walking with the step of one who has an errand of weight.

The forester and his daughter stood helplessly gazing in the direction in which he had vanished from their sight. Dorothea’s mind was overwhelmed beneath a sensation of amazement. The revelation made by Johann’s parting words was enough to keep her thoughts busy, without giving them time to dwell upon the significance of his sudden departure. But old Franz was seriously alarmed as he stood there turning over the threatening language which he had just heard his nephew use.

For these were restless times, and even the old forester in his snug retreat had heard something of the discontents which were agitating the distant capital, and in stirring up which he suspected that his nephew had borne an active part. He had heard of Johann’s connection with revolutionary societies during the reign of the old King, Leopold IX., and now that these fanatics were raising their heads again in enmity to the mild government of Maximilian, he felt pretty sure that Johann was having a finger in the pie.

“What do they want?” he grumbled, rather to himself than to his daughter. “They have changed King Stork for King Log, and still they are not satisfied. And now this reckless fellow is going to do something[37] that will bring disgrace upon his family, and perhaps lose me my post!”

Too much agitated to say anything, Dorothea turned from him and went indoors, her mind in a state of pitiable confusion. The startling information which she had just received, coupled with the bitter language used by her cousin, produced on her the effect of a stunning blow. In every life there come moments which change the whole current of existence, and which set up barriers between the past and the future that can never be repassed. To Dorothea it seemed as though she had suddenly awaked from childhood, as from a pleasant dream, to find herself confronted with a new life which she did not understand. During the next few hours she went about her little household employments with a forlorn sense of discomfort, the meaning of which she struggled to realise in vain.

In the mean time, if it were Johann’s object to overtake Maximilian and his companion on their way to the Castle, he was destined to fail. The two friends had, quite unconsciously, baffled any pursuit by striking into a by-path, along which they made their way back undisturbed.

Coming along they discussed the situation at the forester’s lodge. The King was anxious to know what impression Dorothea had produced on his friend.

“You promised to speak plainly, Auguste,” he reminded him. “Tell me exactly what you think of her.”

“You need hardly ask,” was the answer. “I have[38] never seen a more charming little creature. It is not merely her face which is so captivating, but her exquisite gentleness and innocence. Why, she does not even suspect that you love her. And her manners are as graceful as if she had spent all her days in a palace.”

“So she has,” responded Maximilian warmly. “She has lived in the palace of Nature, in this noble forest, far removed from the vulgar surroundings that transform the poor of cities into little better than brutes.”

“I am afraid I cannot agree with you there,” said Bernal. “So far as I can see, her surroundings have very little to do with it. I have known many cases of refinement among the denizens of slums, and I have never come across a more depraved brute than that old man we have just left.”

“What makes you say that?” asked the King, uneasily.

“His own confession. The fellow boasted openly to me of the price for which he had agreed to sell his daughter. You ought to be ashamed of stooping to such a bargain.”

Maximilian blushed and bit his lip.

“I am ashamed of it,” he said. “I loathe that man as much as you do. He is so odious to me that the thought of having to encounter him almost deters me from going there, sometimes. But what else could I do? I could not expect him to understand the nature of my feelings towards his daughter. As soon as he showed me what kind of man he was, I thought the[39] best plan was to take him at his own value, and bribe him to stand aside and hold his tongue.”

“Nevertheless it was a miserable thing to do. How should you feel if the girl were to learn the understanding you had come to with her father?”

“Ah, that is what I dread most. At all costs I must keep her innocent. You little know—and yet perhaps you do know—how deeply I feel about that girl. Surely you have been in love at some time, Auguste. You must see how difficult it is for me. I am not like the man whose love is hopeless because it is fixed on one too far above him. What I have to fear is that my love will prevail too easily, not for my own sake, but because I have the misfortune to be a king. That is why I have been coming here secretly. I want to win Dorothea’s heart, Auguste. I do not want her to become my slave. I want her to love me.”

“I am afraid she does not love you yet, my friend. Perhaps she is too young. Perhaps even in your assumed character she looks upon you as one too far above her to be thought of as a lover.”

“I am afraid of that, too. I ought to have gone there as a peasant, or as one of the foresters. But my first visit was quite accidental, and I have gone on ever since on the same footing.”

Auguste considered a moment as he walked along. Then he made a suggestion.

“Why not take her away from her father, and place her in some better position?”

“I have thought of that,” answered Maximilian.[40] “But I hardly dare do that yet. You see, she is little more than a child, and as shy and timid as a fawn. I fear to break the spell by taking any step that might open her eyes. It is not only because I do not want to influence her consent that I have kept my rank concealed. I am almost equally afraid of frightening her, and causing her to become uneasy and constrained with me. I have watched her carefully; and from something which she let drop only to-day, I foresee what might happen if she got an inkling of whom I really was.”

“But this state of things cannot last forever. Sooner or later she must find it all out.”

“I know; and that is what torments me. The very shyness and simplicity which make me love her must perish as soon as I once declare my love. That is my curse. What can I do? I can only go on and enjoy this Arcadian life as long as fate allows it to last. When it is over—”

He did not finish the sentence, and for a little while the pair strode on side by side in silence, the elder man picking his way carefully over the dead branches and little spots of moisture which broke the path, while the younger one crunched blindly over everything in his way, his eyes half-closed in dreamy abstraction.

“Yes? When it is over?”

It was Auguste who spoke, with a meditative glance at his friend’s countenance.

“I cannot make up my mind. I do not know yet what I shall do.”

[41]“You forget that you are in love,” observed the other cynically. “Perhaps there is not so much room for doubt as to what you will do as you suppose.”

The King smiled at him with a slight tinge of scorn.

“Perhaps you do not understand me, Auguste. The doubt in my mind is whether I shall make Dorothea—”

He hesitated. His friend stopped dead, and gazed at him in unconcealed dismay.


Maximilian stopped too, and looked steadily back at him.

“My wife.”

This time Auguste was fairly astounded. For some moments he could do nothing but stand and stare at the speaker. At length his lips parted, and the exclamation escaped him—

“Good heavens! Are you mad?”

It was the second time that afternoon that the word had been pronounced in the young man’s hearing. He turned pale, and, casting himself on the ground at the foot of a tree, burst into tears.

Overwhelmed with sorrow and remorse, his friend knelt down beside him, and tenderly sought to soothe him into a calmer frame of mind. For some time he could effect nothing, but at last the King conquered his weakness. He arose, and, thrusting his arm through his companion’s in token of forgiveness, they proceeded in silence to the palace.

In the glorious woodland lurk deadly enemies to man—the[42] fierce wild boar and the treacherous gliding adder. Maximilian went through the forest with his friend, in ignorance that its green shades concealed the presence of two men who represented two threatening dangers in his path. He recked not of the stern, resolved messenger who was tramping steadily behind, with a grim purpose written on his face. As little did he dream that he was being preceded on his way back by another messenger, whose watchful eye had seen him enter and leave the forester’s lodge, who had started up from his hiding-place in the brushwood when the two friends emerged from the lodge gate, and, plunging into the thickness of the trees, hurried on before them to the Castle.

The spy was a young man of nearly the same age as Maximilian himself; he was dressed in a livery or uniform of green cloth, bound at the edges with red braid, of the colour of holly-berries, and ornamented with buttons of the same warm tint. He was not ill favoured—at first sight his face looked handsome—but there was a weakness in the lines of the chin, the hair and eyebrows were too light, and the eyes were of that sort that blink and turn away when closely gazed into.

Dodging skilfully in and out among the trees like a practised woodman, and breaking into a run whenever the nature of the ground allowed of it, he was not long in covering the distance to the further edge of the woodland. He took a round-about course, and emerged at a point which would not suggest to any chance[43] onlooker the direction from which he had really come. Once out in the open grounds before the Castle, he walked swiftly up to a side entrance and made his way quietly into the building.

The Castle of Neustadt was an imposing pile dating from that period of the last century when the German kinglets were engaged in imitating the age of Louis XIV., and smaller copies of the Versailles arose in every quarter of the Empire.

Safe within this huge but ugly palace, the spy lost no time in threading his way through the corridors, with the assured air of one who felt himself at home, till he came to a suite of apartments situated on the first floor of the left wing. There he stopped, and rapped confidently at a door.

His knock was answered by a page wearing the royal livery, who appeared instantly to recognize him.

“Tell the Princess Hermengarde that Karl Fink is in attendance.”

The page nodded at these words, and withdrew from the door. The next minute he returned.

“Her Royal Highness will see you now,” he said.

And, beckoning Karl to follow, he led the way into the presence of the King’s aunt.



The Princess Hermengarde was one of those characters of whom much is said but little is known.

It was said that she was proud. It was believed that she was ambitious. It was admitted that she had once been beautiful. In the days before her marriage, when she was still the heiress to the Duchy of Schwerin-Strelitz, she had been flattered with the title of the belle of Europe. In her thirty-sixth year she was still handsome and commanding, but the youthful loveliness had disappeared. What years had failed to do had been wrought more surely by disappointed hope and wounded pride. In the words of Count von Stahlen, the Court wit, the Princess Hermengarde was an old woman of middle age.

Her mortifications had begun, when she was still under twenty, with the birth of a male heir to her father’s Grand Duchy. Before that event she had been looked upon as one of the most brilliant matches in Europe, and Austrian archdukes and British princes of the blood were said to have made overtures for her[45] hand. When the blow fell which reduced her at one stroke to a position of insignificance, two royal wooers, who had been contending for her smiles immediately before, withdrew from their courtship with a precipitation which, in a lower class of life, might have exposed them to the suspicion of being fortune hunters. One of them went off in hot haste to St. Petersburg, where he was just in time to secure a Grand Duchess of the house of Romanoff. The other, not quite so fortunate, fell back upon a Scandinavian princess.

It was while still smarting from these insulting desertions, that Hermengarde had consented to accept the hand of Otto, the younger brother of Leopold IX. The match was a brilliant enough one in the fallen state of her fortunes, though far different to such an alliance as had seemed at one time within her reach. At this time Maximilian, Leopold’s only child, was a delicate boy of twelve, and there being no other life between Prince Otto and the throne, his wife might still cherish the possibility of one day reigning over a kingdom.

But the unfortunate young Princess had not yet exhausted the enmity of fortune. Within a few months of their marriage, Otto began to show traces of that savage cruelty which seemed to be part of the hereditary taint in the Franconian line. For a long time his proud young wife submitted in silence, and allowed no hint of her sufferings to reach the outside world. But when her son was born, and her husband’s senseless brutality went so far as to threaten the infant, her maternal instinct and her ambition together took arms,[46] and she faced her tyrant with unexpected courage. Strange things were related in the gossip of the Court concerning the scenes which took place between the Franconian Prince and the mother of his child. The miserable state of affairs culminated, it was said, in the haughty Princess fleeing at midnight from her apartments, clad in little beside a cloak, and bearing her child in her arms, to take refuge in the quarters of the Baron von Sigismark, Comptroller of the Household, and his wife, from the murderous violence of her husband.

Immediately afterwards Prince Otto went mad, or rather his madness was officially announced. Hermengarde went into retirement, devoting herself to the training of her son; but after the deaths of her husband and of King Leopold, she had returned to the Court, where she lived on good terms with her nephew, and discharged some of the functions which would have fallen to a queen-consort, had Maximilian been married.

Her apartments in the left wing of the Castle of Neustadt corresponded in situation with those occupied by the King himself in the right wing, and looked out over the decorated gardens to the belt of forest beyond. On this particular afternoon the Princess had been sitting in the window of her boudoir, gazing abstractedly out upon the park, while a look of deep thought rested on her proud features. It was her habit to sit thus, with her chin resting upon her hand. In the days of her youthful triumphs, a portrait of her, in[47] this attitude, had been circulated all over Europe, and perhaps it was this recollection which had caused her to adopt the posture as a favourite one ever since. By-and-by she had tired of waiting alone, and struck a small silver gong by her side.

The summons was obeyed by the page in attendance.

“Karl Fink has not been here?” inquired the Princess.

“No, Madam, not yet.”

“Go and see who is in the ante-room, and bring me word.”

The page darted off, and immediately returned. “The Count von Sigismark has just come, your Royal Highness. He is talking with the Lady Gertrude.”

“Ah! Is there no one else outside?”

“No, Madam. Count von Stahlen and Baron von Hardenburg have just gone away.”

“Good,” Hermengarde dismissed the lad with a nod, and then stood considering for a few seconds. Presently she lifted her head, and moved quietly towards the outer room.

The Count von Sigismark was the same personage whose protection she had sought fifteen years before. He was of a type which is fast disappearing in constitutionally-governed countries—a courtier statesman. Under King Leopold he had held the post of Comptroller of the Household, and in that capacity had neglected no opportunity of quietly serving the heir to the throne. Maximilian stood in need of kindness, and was not ungrateful for it. His first act of authority on[48] ascending the throne had been to raise Von Sigismark from the rank of baron to that of count, and by a rapid course of promotion, the fortunate Comptroller soon found himself exalted to the highest position in the State as Chancellor of Franconia, and head of the Government. His powers had long been practically unchecked by interference from his royal master, and the epigrammatist Von Stahlen had gone so far as to give him the nickname of “the Regent”—a dangerous compliment, with which the cautious old Count was by no means pleased.

The favour which he enjoyed under Maximilian did not lead the wary courtier to neglect those in whose hands the power of the future might lie. While the present King remained without a direct heir, Hermengarde’s young son stood next in the succession to the throne. The Chancellor had carefully kept up his friendship with the Princess, and had induced her to receive his daughter Gertrude into her household. The Count was now a widower, and Gertrude was his only child.

The two young gentlemen with whom he had found his daughter engaged on this occasion were well-known characters in the Court. One has already been mentioned as its recognised wit; the other was his inseparable companion and admirer, whose business in life was to publish to the world the masterpieces of epigram which fell from his friend’s lips. These epigrams were thought by some to have more personality than point. It was Von Stahlen who had invented for Maximilian[49] the sobriquet of “King of the Fairies.” This was complimentary, but most of his shafts were barbed with satire. Thus he had described Franconia in her relations with Prussia as “the kettle tied to the dog’s tail,” and had characterised the diplomacy of the Chancellor as “irritating efforts to soothe Bismarck.” Most people failed to see anything clever in these sayings, but everybody felt that it would be unpleasant to have the indefatigable Von Hardenburg spreading similar remarks about themselves. The Count von Stahlen was therefore universally dreaded and disliked, and was the most sought-after man in the whole Court.

Even Gertrude had not escaped his railing tongue. Having neglected him recently under the influence of some flattering attentions from King Maximilian himself, he had taken his revenge by referring to her as “the royal milkmaid”—a galling allusion to the fact that the fortunes of the Sigismarks had been founded less than three hundred years before by a dairyman in Mannhausen.

It was only natural that the beauty should now show herself extraordinarily gracious to her returning admirer. Seated on a low chair beside the couch on which she was leaning, the Count was just finishing an anecdote deeply to the discredit of a noblewoman who happened to be Gertrude’s bosom friend, when they were interrupted by the entrance of Von Sigismark.

“For shame!” laughed Gertrude, rising to greet her father. “How dare you tell me such things! You know the Viscountess is my friend.”

[50]“The very reason why I repeated it to you,” retorted the wit. “I know that with you it will go no further. Good morning, Chancellor.”

The Minister included both young men in a sombre recognition. Then he turned to his daughter.

“Is the Princess well to-day?”

“Yes. Shall I let her know you are here?”

“Presently. I want a word with you first.”

Von Stahlen and his companion took the hint.

“Will you excuse us, Lady Gertrude?” said the Count, with laboured courtesy. “Von Hardenburg and I have an important appointment—political business. I hope, Chancellor, you will not think that you have driven us away.”

And, preserving a smile of bland innocence, he retired, his henchman walking after him with ill-suppressed delight.

The old Chancellor followed them to the door with a scowl.

“These young fools are growing unbearable,” he remarked severely. “You should not encourage them so much. They can do you no good. Von Stahlen has nearly run through his inheritance, and the other never had any inheritance to run through.”

“They are nothing to me,” was the reply. “I find the Count amusing sometimes, that is all.”

“Well, do not be seen with them too much. The King might hear of it.”

“The King?” Gertrude turned a startled look on her father.

[51]“I said the King. I think you know what I mean.”

“Father! Do you really think he cares—that he notices—what I do?”

The Chancellor nodded.

“I am sure of it. I have watched him for some time, and, unless I am deceived, he thinks more of you than he has yet thought of any other woman.”

A bright blush came on the girl’s face.

“Do you really think so? I have sometimes thought—and yet, lately, I have doubted again. But, after all, even if the King did care for me, what could come of it?”

Her father indulged in a deep smile.

“What should you say if a crown came of it?” He rather whispered than spoke the words.

“Oh, no! You cannot be in earnest? Surely the King would not marry any one not of royal blood?”

“Perhaps so. And yet perhaps not so.” The old Count cast a cautious look around him before going on. “You know the cloud that rests upon the race of Astolf: their alliance is not very eagerly sought. The other reigning houses remember the fate of Maximilian’s father, and of his grandfather, and of his uncle Otto.”

“Father!”—there was a note of real fear in the girl’s voice—“you do not mean that you think the King is affected by such a taint?”

“Heaven forbid! I have never thought anything of the kind. Maximilian is not like his House. But nevertheless the possibility is there, and he may find[52] it easier to choose a queen among his own subjects than abroad.”

Before the subdued girl could make any further answer, a door opened at the end of the apartment.

“Hush!” whispered the Chancellor, hastily. “Not a hint of this before the Princess. Remember that the King’s marriage means to her an obstacle between her son and the throne.”

And assuming an air in which cheerful friendliness was only tempered by the proper admixture of deference, he turned to greet Hermengarde.

On her part, the Princess approached him rather with the air of an old friend than a superior in rank.

“I am so glad to find you here, my dear Chancellor,” she said graciously. “It must be so pleasant for you to snatch a few minutes from the dry affairs of State for the society of our dear Gertrude. I only hope that you will not mind my joining in your talk?”

“You do us too much honour, Madam,” was the courtier’s answer. “But I feel sure that you will approve of the advice I have been giving my daughter—not to listen too much to the empty talk of the young fops who haunt the Court.”

“You are quite right, Count,” said Hermengarde, with an approving nod. “You have a right to look higher for your daughter. Your rank and services to the State entitle you to expect no ordinary son-in-law. And you, too, Gertrude,” she continued, fixing her keen gaze on the girl’s telltale face, “perhaps you[53] have already fixed your thoughts on some suitor of pretensions lofty enough to satisfy even your father’s just ambition for you.”

“Madam,” Gertrude stammered out, “I have no thoughts in the matter, except to obey my father.”

“An admirable answer!” exclaimed the Princess, lightly. “Count, I congratulate you on your child. I only hope mine will prove as obedient. But I am forgetting what I was about to say to you. Have you been much in the company of the King lately?”

The Chancellor lifted his head and darted a swift glance at her, and then drew back a couple of inches, with the instinctive movement of one who feels himself on dangerous ground.

“Not more than usual, Madam. There has been nothing to take me specially into his Majesty’s company.”

“Quite so. And you have not noticed anything unusual in his demeanour—anything that has led you to suspect that something important was going on?”

This time the Minister failed to conceal his nervous apprehension.

“I confess I fail to understand you, Madam. So far as I know, the King has been engaged in his ordinary pursuits. Of course, he is a good deal taken up with the preparations for taking possession of this new palace of his at Seidlingen.”

The Princess watched Von Sigismark keenly as he spoke, and a slight look of scorn passed across her[54] countenance, to be instantly replaced by an indulgent smile.

“I see that I am about to astonish you. What should you say if I were to tell you that I have discovered that my nephew is in love?”

In spite of his habitual caution, the old Count could not resist the impulse to turn and look at his daughter, who, on her part, utterly failed to conceal her embarrassment from the keen eyes of the Princess. Before either of them could speak, Hermengarde followed up her thrust.

“Come, I see that I have surprised you both. Yet I should have thought that you, at least, Gertrude, would have noticed something.”

“I, Madam?” The unfortunate girl could say no more, so completely did she feel herself at the mercy of her royal tormentor.

“Yes, come; you are not going to pretend that you know nothing about my nephew’s feelings. Why, it is not two months since the whole Court believed that he had lost his heart to you.”

The Chancellor felt it was time for him to come to his daughter’s rescue.

“Surely your Royal Highness is jesting? My daughter would never dare to entertain such an idea. Every one knows that a king of Franconia must marry in his own rank.”

Hermengarde shrugged her shoulders.

“Kings of Franconia do strange things sometimes,” she retorted with significance. “But I see that you[55] are both in the dark. Yet this affair has been going on now for several weeks, though it has only come to my knowledge within the last few days.”

Gertrude made an effort to rally her courage and take part in the conversation.

“Perhaps it is the Baroness von Steinketel that you refer to, Madam?” she timidly suggested.

Hermengarde smiled. The Baroness, a fat, overdressed woman of about forty, whose chief attraction consisted in a never-failing flow of animal spirits, had made herself the laughing-stock of the Court by her undisguised attempts to attract the notice of Maximilian. It was easy to see what a consolation it would have been to Gertrude to have no worse rival than this.

“I had better enlighten you at once,” said the Princess. “My eccentric nephew has not looked so high as the Baroness von Steinketel. He has bestowed his affections on a young peasant girl, the daughter of one of the royal foresters.”

The countenance of her two listeners underwent a change. On the Chancellor’s face the expression of anxiety was succeeded by one of relief.

“I understand you, Madam. Thank Heaven it is no worse! I confess that you seriously alarmed me. But, of course, a mere intrigue of that kind need not be taken very seriously. Gertrude, perhaps it would be better if you were to ask the Princess’s leave to retire.”

“Stay, do not be too confident,” interposed the[56] Princess, warningly; “I am afraid this affair may turn out to be more serious than you think. You have heard the tale of King Cophetua. For my part I should not be surprised at anything on the part of Maximilian.”

The Minister started, and gazed at Hermengarde in alarm, as if to ascertain whether any graver meaning lurked beneath her words. She returned a look as serious as his own, and proceeded to enlighten him.

“The name of this young girl is Dorothea Gitten, and her father’s lodge is on the other side of the forest, scarcely two miles away. Every day for the past month and more, my nephew has been going there. If he takes a servant as escort, he leaves him at the edge of the wood, and enters the forester’s garden alone. There he sits by the hour in an arbour, pretending to drink cider, while the charming Dorothea keeps him company. All the time he treats her with as much respect as if she were a princess. In short the whole proceeding appears like a regular courtship, which may have the most surprising consequences.”

If Hermengarde had hoped to surprise the Chancellor into any hasty expression of opinion, however, she was disappointed. The old courtier listened to her in silence, striving to regain his composure in order to think the matter over at his leisure. At the close of her narrative, he remarked in his most diplomatic tone—

“I am greatly obliged by your confidence, Madam. I recognise the importance of what you have told me,[57] which will of course remain a strict secret for the present. It is too soon to come to any decision on it as yet. Our best course, no doubt, will be to watch quietly, and wait.”

The Princess smiled rather scornfully.

“I dare say you are right, my dear Chancellor. However, I am glad to think that the responsibility no longer rests on my shoulders. Think the matter over, and come to me again.”

Von Sigismark took the implied dismissal, and bowed himself out with every demonstration of respect.

“So much for the father,” murmured the Princess to herself. “Now for the daughter.”

She was about to address Gertrude aloud, when the page rapped at the door and announced that Karl Fink was in attendance.

Hermengarde’s eyes lit up with satisfaction.

“Let him come in at once,” she commanded. “Gertrude, I should like you to hear what this young man has to say.”

And the next minute the young forester in the green livery stood before them.



Karl Fink was a familiar figure at the Castle. He was a favourite with the young King, who had chosen him from among the other foresters to be his regular attendant, and had lodged him in the royal quarter of the Castle. This Gertrude knew, but neither she nor Hermengarde was aware of a certain episode in the young forester’s early life which might not be without its effect on the future.

Karl entered the room with the confident air of one assured of his reception. But on seeing Gertrude he stopped short and cast a look of inquiry at the Princess.

“Come here, Karl,” she said graciously, in answer to the look. “You may speak freely before the Lady von Sigismark, who knows what you have come to tell me. Has the King been to see the pretty peasant again to-day?”

“Yes, your Royal Highness. And, what is more, to-day, for the first time, he did not go alone. He took Herr Bernal with him.”

The Princess listened to Karl, but addressed her answering remarks to Gertrude.

[59]“Ah, that looks serious. As long as men keep an idea to themselves it may come to nothing, but when they begin to ask the advice of their friends, depend on it they have made up their minds.”

The Princess paused a moment to let her words sink into the girl’s mind, and then asked her:—

“Is there anything you would like to ask about, that Karl may be able to tell us?”

Gertrude looked up, struggling hard to preserve an air of indifference.

“This girl, I suppose you have seen her?” she said to the young forester. “Is she so very beautiful?”

“She is, my lady, most beautiful. They call her the Fawn of the Forest. Her hair shines like a sunbeam, and her skin is as soft and pink as the leaf of a wild rose. Every one admires her.”

Hermengarde turned towards the jealous belle with a cruel smile—

“You see, Gertrude, if even this man is so carried away, what the King must think of her. And she is young, too. Why, you are scarcely twenty, but this girl is some years under you. How old is she, Karl?”

“Scarcely seventeen, Madam.”

“You hear. No wonder my nephew is so fascinated.”

Gertrude was unable to make any reply to these stabs. Karl seized the opportunity of adding a fresh item to his report.

“His Majesty took her a present to-day,” he observed;[60] “a brooch set with jewels, which came from Paris this morning.”

“Did he?” The Princess turned again to her victim. “I think the King once gave you a brooch?”

“No, Madam, it was a bracelet,” answered the girl sullenly, half stifled with mingled shame and anger.

Hermengarde saw that she had gone far enough, and dismissed her emissary.

“Thank you, Karl, that will do. Come to me again if you have anything fresh to tell.”

The fellow took himself away, and Hermengarde proceeded to talk seriously to the girl whose mind she had been working upon.

“Listen to me, my dear Gertrude; I brought that man in because I wanted you to understand for yourself how serious this matter may become. If any one else were concerned I should look upon it as a mere intrigue, but I have the very gravest fears as to what Maximilian may do. He is strange in many ways; you must have noticed it. Speak freely, have you not sometimes feared of late that he was becoming worse than formerly?”

This was a bolder hint than she had ventured on with the cautious Chancellor. But Gertrude had not yet been wrought up to the pitch at which she could receive such a suggestion complacently.

“No, surely not, Madam!” she exclaimed, in real dismay. “Surely there is no fear of that kind for the King.”

[61]Hermengarde sighed, and assumed a resigned expression.

“We must always be prepared for the worst,” she replied. “I confess I have been a little alarmed for some time. I only hope nothing will happen till my son is older and better fitted to take a public part. By-the-by”—she spoke as if desirous to turn the conversation—“have you noticed the Prince lately? He is growing fast, and will soon begin to make a stir among you young ladies. I cannot help thinking he is handsome.”

“I have not noticed,” answered Gertrude, absently. “At least, yes—I beg your pardon, Madam—yes, his Highness is certainly much improved.”

“I should like you to be friends,” said the Princess, sweetly. “Be so good as to ring the bell for me, and if Ernest is in the Castle, I will send for him.”

Gertrude obeyed wonderingly, and the page was dismissed in search of the young Prince.

“There is no more refining education for a young man than the society of polished women,” observed the Princess, with the air of a philosopher. “I wish I could persuade you to give some of your time occasionally to my bantling, and teach him a little of your own grace.”

Gertrude blushed and bowed low, overwhelmed by such unexpected familiarity on the part of the proud Hermengarde.

“Your condescension overpowers me, Madam,” she said. “There is nothing I should think more[62] delightful than to enjoy the society of his Royal Highness.”

“I know the risk I run,” returned the Princess, smiling, and shaking her head in an almost playful manner. “I know how difficult it is for a young man to pass much time in your society and come off heart-whole.” She watched the flush of vanity animate the girl before her, and added thoughtfully, as if speaking to herself: “After all, the age when royal alliances were of importance to the welfare of kingdoms has passed. Why should we attach so much importance to marriages with foreign royalty? Too often such affairs turn out disastrously for those concerned, while a marriage within the circle of the national nobility would have brought happiness and content.”

Gertrude listened greedily, hardly venturing to believe her ears. Was it possible that the royal Hermengarde, the haughtiest princess in all Germany, in whose eyes the Hohenzollerns were parvenus, and who was accustomed to speak of the Guelphs as bourgeois, was now actually contemplating with indifference the possibility of her son marrying a mere private noblewoman, and was even hinting that she should feel no great displeasure if she, Gertrude von Sigismark, turned out to be the lucky bride!

Before she could reduce her thoughts to clearness, the door was opened by a tall, slim lad of fifteen or sixteen, who stood awkwardly on the threshold, looking into the room, his figure slightly stooped, and his dark eyes fixed with an inscrutable expression, from which[63] dread was not entirely absent, upon the Princess Hermengarde.

The Princess caught sight of him, and a smile of fondness softened the asperity of her features.

“Well, Ernest, come in and pay your respects to this young lady,” she exclaimed encouragingly. “You surely know the Lady Gertrude von Sigismark well enough?”

The lad moved forward, shuffling his feet rather nervously as he walked. Gertrude went half-way to meet him, and made as if she would have carried the young Prince’s extended hand to her lips. But this Hermengarde would not permit.

“For shame, Ernest! Where is your gallantry? If any hand is to be kissed, it should be the Lady Gertrude’s. Come, my boy, look into her face. You are old enough to say whether it is worth looking at.”

The Prince lifted his eyes reluctantly as high as the girl’s chin, and responded ungraciously—

“I don’t know—yes, I suppose so.”

“Fie!” exclaimed Hermengarde, laughing at the boy’s seriousness. “Is that the way you pay compliments to ladies? It is time we took him in hand, Gertrude, and trained him to be more polite.”

But if Gertrude had experienced any momentary chagrin, she was quick to cover it.

“I think you are unjust to the Prince, Madam,” she responded. “A compliment paid after some consideration is all the more valuable.”

[64]“Mother,” broke in the boy, “can I go for my ride in the park now?”

“I dare say you can; but why are you in such a hurry to leave us? Perhaps Lady Gertrude is interested in horses. Ask her.”

Ernest turned to the girl as if his own interest in her had been quickened by the suggestion, and put the question in his own words—

“Are you? Do you ever ride?”

“I am very fond of horses,” answered Gertrude, with her most ingratiating smile; “and I ride whenever I can get a cavalier to escort me.”

“There is a chance for you!” cried Hermengarde to her son, pleased to see how quickly Gertrude had fallen into her new part. “You are in luck this afternoon. Quick, ask her if she will share your ride.”

Thus prompted, the Prince had no option but to comply, though he did not throw much heartiness into his invitation. But Gertrude showed enough alacrity for both.

“I shall be delighted with the honour, Prince, if you do not mind waiting while I put on my habit.”

“Don’t be long, then,” was the boy’s response.

Gertrude, with a swift reverence to the Princess, darted away to get ready, and surprised and annoyed Von Stahlen, who had returned to the ante-room to wait for her, by sweeping past him with the bare announcement that she was going to ride with Prince Ernest.

The Count sat silent and motionless in his chair for[65] fully twenty minutes after this snub, and then turned to the patiently expectant Von Hardenburg and launched this withering remark—

“I thought it was time for the Princess Hermengarde to engage a nurse for her baby.”

In the mean time, as soon as the door closed upon Gertrude, the Princess Hermengarde had called Ernest to her side, and lovingly laid her hand upon his forehead.

“When shall I live to see that curly head wearing a crown?” she murmured fondly.

The boy drew back and frowned.

“I do not want to be king,” he said in a decided voice. “Besides, I love Cousin Maximilian, and I do not want him to die. Don’t you love him?”

“Of course I do,” responded Hermengarde, soothingly, regarding her son nevertheless with an anxious look. “But you should not say that you do not want to be king, my boy. Above all, be careful not to talk like that with any one but me; you cannot tell what harm it might do. Your cousin Maximilian is not strong, and a thousand things might happen to bring you to the throne.”

The boy pouted sullenly.

“Why doesn’t Maximilian marry?” he grumbled. “Am I the only heir?”

“You are the only near one. You have a distant cousin, Count von Eisenheim, but he is hardly to be reckoned among the Franconian royal family. Do not speak as if you shrank from your destiny, Ernest.[66] Maximilian will never marry—I tell you as a secret—never. It is for you to marry, and one of these days, when you are a little older, I will talk to you about your beautiful cousin, Louisa of Schwerin-Strelitz. In the mean time, the less you speak about these things the better. Only be careful to show yourself gracious to Lady Gertrude, and also to her father, the Chancellor.”

“But I do not like him,” remonstrated Prince Ernest. “He is disagreeable; he stares at me when he meets me, in a way I do not like.”

“Nonsense, child, that is your fancy. Besides, if it were true, that would be all the more reason you should be civil and pleasant to him. Mark my words, before long you will find him very friendly. Now run away, and see that the horses are ready for your ride.”

The boy needed no second bidding. He sprang to the door, and Hermengarde, left to her own thoughts, settled down into her favourite attitude beside the window, with a pondering look upon her brow.

While these shadowy intrigues were taking shape in one corner of the palace, in another quarter of the same building a very different plot was making headway.

The connecting link between the two was Karl. When the young forester returned to his room in the royal corridor, to his astonishment, he found a visitor awaiting him. A tall, dark man, a few years older than himself, was seated on a chair, with his arms folded, in an attitude of quiet resolution.

[67]He looked up at Karl’s entrance, but made no other movement.

“Who are you?” demanded the favourite. “How did you come here?”

“I came here easily enough,” replied the stranger, coolly. “I told the people below that I was your brother. Perhaps you have forgotten the brotherhood between us.”

Karl’s face fell, and he gazed uneasily at the bronzed features of his visitor, who returned his stare with calm unconcern.

“I do not recognise you,” he faltered. “What is your name, and what do you want here?”

“My name is Johann Mark!” Karl uttered a sharp cry. “And I want your aid to gain me a private interview with King Maximilian.”

The young courtier began to change colour, and his limbs trembled. Dropping all further question as to his visitor’s right to be there, he asked anxiously—

“What is it you want with the King?”

Johann gave him a warning look.

“Everything. Be wise, ask no more questions.”

“I dare not do what you ask. You have no right to expect it of me. I am a loyal servant of the King.”

“Loyal?” He pronounced the word with an intense scorn. “Karl Fink loyal! Come, speak out; how much must I give you to conceal me in some place where Maximilian will be likely to pass alone?”

“Nothing. It is no use to tempt me. I will not. I dare not,” he protested, with a tremor in his voice.

[68]Johann’s look became threatening.

“Sit down,” he said. “I see that I must talk to you. I must remind you of some things that you have forgotten—things that happened before you turned a courtier. You lie under the misfortune of having had a moment of courage in your past, Karl—a fit of manly independence. You were whipped into it, I think, by old King Leopold; and in that fit you fled to Stuttgart.”

Karl interrupted. He had grown very pale, and his teeth were almost chattering.

“Don’t speak of that,” he implored. “Don’t remind me of that.”

“I must remind you,” was the deliberate answer. “I must remind you of a certain meeting-place behind the Arsenal.”

“Hush! Not so loud, for God’s sake!”

Johann returned a contemptuous smile, and continued in the same tone—

“I must remind you of a certain brotherhood composed of other Franconians who had felt the weight of Leopold’s hand, and of a night when a certain youth was initiated and swore—do you recollect the oath?”

“I recollect too much. In mercy do not keep dwelling on that.”

“Well, since you recollect it, I will pass on. Your comrades have been dispersed since then, Karl, but they have not forgotten you. We have watched your career with interest. We have seen you return to your old pursuits, and escape this time without a whipping.[69] We have even watched you entering the palace, and becoming the favourite—valet, is it, or groom?—of the young King. We gave you credit for good motives. We said to ourselves—‘He has gone in there to be in a position to serve us when the time comes.’ For that reason we spared you, Karl. We have left you alone all this time because we had no need of your services. Now we have need of them. What do you say? Are you prepared to serve us?”

The unfortunate forester had listened to this biting speech in stony silence. But at its close he roused himself for a last effort, and angrily replied—

“By what right do you make these demands on me? Oh, I know; I have felt this coming all along. All these years the remembrance of that wretched act of folly has overhung me like a storm-cloud, and I have never risen in the morning without wondering whether it would burst before night. You call yourselves the friends of freedom, you extol the name of liberty, and all the time you are coercing others, using the hasty words extorted from a boy to bind the grown man and compel him to commit crimes at your dictation. I tell you that you are worse tyrants yourselves than any of those you conspire against. Look at me. I am happy here; King Maximilian has done me no harm, he has shown me every favour; I have lost all the inclinations that made me join you ten years ago, I have forgotten you, and only desire to be left in peace. And yet you track me down like bloodhounds, and order me to risk my[70] neck at your bidding. What could be worse tyranny than that?”

Johann had listened perfectly unmoved to the other’s passionate protests. He hardly deigned to answer them.

“It is a case of tyranny against tyranny. There is no such thing as free will in this world, Karl. Kings use their weapons, and we use ours. They have their troops, their judges, their spies. We have our oaths and our daggers. If we are dealing with men of ignoble minds that can only be swayed by selfish considerations we have to employ the arguments that appeal to them. If kings use bribes, we must use threats.”

He paused, and for some moments nothing more was said. Then Johann spoke again—

“After all, we do not really ask very much of you. In enterprises of this kind a faint-hearted ally is more dangerous than an enemy. All I want of you is to place me somewhere where I may meet the King. You can go where you like, and no one need know that you were concerned in the affair.”

“What is it that you mean to do?” demanded Karl sullenly.

For answer Johann thrust his hand into an inner pocket of his coat, and produced a pistol, at the sight of which the other man recoiled, with a fresh cry.

“I think you know this pistol. I think the last time it was loaded you held it in your hand. You had been chosen by the lot to fire it then: I have been chosen now.”

[71]“But then it was loaded for Leopold, and he is dead,” urged the trembling Karl.

“True, and therefore this time it has been loaded for Maximilian. What is there in that to surprise you?”

“But what has he done? His fancies are harmless; he is not bad and cruel; if he does no good he does no evil; he goes on his own way and leaves the people alone.”

“The fancies of kings are never harmless,” replied Johann sternly. And rising to his feet, to give more emphasis to his language, he went on in the tone of a man who feels deeply every word he says: “Not to do good is in itself a crime on the part of the ruler. How many men in Maximilian’s position, with his power to bless mankind, would make a paradise of Franconia! It is not only the active ill-doer that we have to war against; we must cut down the barren fig-tree as well. No; let a king be kingly, let him be a father to his people, let him comfort them in their sorrows, teach them in their ignorance; let him protect the poor from the spoliations of the rich, provide openings for labour in public works for the benefit of the whole nation, feed the hungry, build hospitals for the infirm, give homes to the aged; let him come down into the arena and fight his people’s battle; let him be our example, and our guide to lead us on, or let him cease to reign!”

Another silence followed, broken only by the uneasy fidgeting of Karl upon his seat, as he tried to think of some way of escape from his position. At last Johann put a stop to his hesitation.

[72]“Come,” he said sternly, “no more delay. It is your life or his. Take me to the place where I can carry out my errand or—”

The wretched minion rose up shuddering, and led the way out of the room.



Treading cautiously for fear of being overheard by any chance passer-by, Karl led his master’s enemy down the corridor giving on to the royal apartments, and out into a spacious gallery which ran across the whole southern side of the Castle, and connected its two wings. This gallery was almost turned into a conservatory, by the whole of one side being given up to a row of windows so large and near together as to make the wall appear one expanse of glass. Along the floor, in front of these windows, ran a series of blossoming shrubs, bright-hued azaleas, or sweetly scented lemon and myrtle, giving the whole place a fresh and romantic air. As soon as they had reached this gallery Karl turned to his companion:—

“This is where the King generally walks about this hour. He may be alone, or he may be with his friend.”

Johann glanced round. The place seemed suited for his purpose. The foliage of the plants would afford him a hiding-place, where he could lurk until the opportunity came for him to carry out his purpose.

[74]“That will do,” he said briefly.

Karl glanced at his face as if meditating another appeal for mercy, but found no encouragement to speak. He turned and hurried away, sick at heart, while Johann selected a nook in which to conceal himself.

It is hardly necessary to add much to the reasons given by Johann for his presence in the Castle. He had come there as the emissary of the society to which he referred in his conversation with Karl, a society founded ten years before, in the reign of Leopold IX.

Originally the society had consisted of five persons. Of these one was dead. Another had long since made a home in the United States of America. The third was he who had taken advantage of the old King’s death to abandon the paths of conspiracy, and who had become the servant and confidant of Leopold’s successor. Two of the original members still remained: one, a man remarkable for his size and for his thick red beard, had succeeded to the post of president; the other was Johann himself.

For some years after Maximilian’s accession the work of the society had seemed at a standstill. But it is a truth often illustrated in history that the spirit of revolt engendered by the oppressions of a strong bad king breaks out under the rule of a mild but weak successor. Maximilian’s offence towards his subjects had been simple indifference. A dreamer and a poet, he had shown himself utterly averse to the practical business of kingship, and, absorbed in his æsthetic pursuits, he had left the cares of government to his Chancellor.[75] While the Minister was engaged in levying taxes, and keeping a tight rein on public opinion, the young King was withdrawing himself from the sight of his subjects, and spending his time in some distant hunting-lodge with a few favourite companions, or perhaps assisting at the production, on a lavish scale, of one of those operas which were beginning to make his intimate friend Bernal celebrated throughout Europe.

It was not long before these caprices began to take an extravagant turn, which gave an opening for the public discontent. Once a fancy seized Maximilian, he never stopped to count the cost, and his Ministers found that the best way to preserve their power was to furnish him ungrudgingly with the funds required to satisfy his whims. It was natural that the revolutionary party should seize on this ground of attack, and hold up the thoughtless young King as a vampire, draining the life-blood of the people to supply his selfish luxuries.

Matters had just been brought to a head by Maximilian’s last crowning extravagance, the celebrated palace of Seidlingen.

Seidlingen had been over three years in preparation. Riding one day in the mountains which border the northwest of Franconia, the King had come upon a beautiful little valley shut in on all sides by lofty hills. In the middle of the valley lay a deep blue lake, several miles in extent, overshadowed by the mountains, and bordered by dark pine forests. Charmed with the romantic situation, Maximilian had conceived the idea[76] of erecting a palace on the very edge of the lake, and transforming the valley into a veritable fairy kingdom, in which he might roam undisturbed. How many millions had actually been spent in realising this splendid dream were not accurately known. It was supposed that the Ministers, afraid to disclose the truth, had distributed a large part of the cost among various heads of civil and military expenditure. All that public opinion could do was to take note of the colossal works involved, and from them to arrive at some estimate of the appalling cost.

It was known that thousands of men had been at work in the lovely valley. Part of the mountain had been levelled to obtain a site for the palace and the extensive gardens which spread away from the border of the lake. Another part had been cut away to make room for a magnificent road, broad and smooth as the boulevards of a capital, and bordered with trees and waterfalls and vistas of artificially embellished landscape. In one place an immense stretch of forest had to be cleared; in another, huge trees, selected for their size and beauty, had to be transplanted from distant regions. The whole of the lake, some ten or twelve square miles of water, had first to be drained away that its bed might be deepened and cleansed from weeds, and then to be refilled, and kept at a constant high level by means of immense dams of masonry, and by the construction of artificial water-courses, and the laying of miles of underground pipes. Its waters had to be stocked with rare fish from all the[77] rivers of Europe and America, and its banks to be lined here and there with costly marble quays, to facilitate landing from the sumptuous pleasure craft, built of priceless woods, which were transported thither across the mountains. A net-work of canals lined with marble, ran through the gardens, and on their smooth waters exquisite boats inlaid with ivory, and shaped like swans and dolphins, glided past Chinese towers, and kiosks, and crystal caves from which concealed musicians were to pour out melodies upon the voyager’s ear. At one time it had actually been in contemplation to connect these canals with a larger one extending the whole way to the river Rhine, but another kingdom had to be crossed, and the compensation demanded by its government was so enormous that even Maximilian stopped short, and the dream of making a seaport in the heart of the German highlands was abandoned.

All that art could desire or science execute had been done to render the palace itself one of the wonders of the world. In mere size it was inferior to the state palace in Mannhausen, far inferior to such huge piles as Versailles and the Roman Vatican. A poet does not build like a conqueror. Maximilian’s object had not been to stupefy mankind, but to delight himself. Almost more wealth had been lavished on the wonderful accessories than on the main edifice—that is to say, on the aviaries, the hothouses, and above all on the unique and gorgeous theatre destined for the production of the grandest works of Mozart and Beethoven and Bernal.[78] But it was in the beauty of its design, and the perfection of its finish, that Seidlingen rose superior to every other palace on the globe. The barrack-like stateliness of Potsdam, the homely majesty of Windsor, were alike put out of the comparison. It was the complete and final fusion of the mediæval and the classic, a Gothic castle breathed upon by the spirit of the Renaissance, and transformed into a dazzling temple of art. Beneath stretched broad terraces and solemn colonnades, above soared fairy-like turrets and thin spires of delicate tracery. It was the beauty and glory of the South, brooded over by the deep immortal spirit of the North.

And now the rumour ran that Seidlingen was finished, and that the King was about to go and take possession. This was the signal for the discontent, which had long been gathering head, to break into a ferment. The revolutionary societies redoubled their activity, recruits came flocking to them in shoals, and already the more daring minds spoke of open insurrection against the royal Government. It only remained for some one man, more daring than the rest, to give the signal of revolt.

This was the crisis for which Johann had long been waiting. He called together the members of his own brotherhood, which had renewed its numbers, and producing the very weapon which had been provided ten years before for the assassination of Leopold, boldly demanded that it should be loaded once more. His comrades consented, and by his own desire he was[79] entrusted with the carrying out of the society’s sentence. The dawn of the following day saw him set forth from Mannhausen, carrying in his breast the sealed pistol, and bound for the place where the Court was then in residence.

Stopping on his way at Franz Gitten’s cottage, what he had learned there confirmed his resolution, and he had come away armed, as he believed, with a fresh justification for the deed he was going to commit.

He had hardly settled himself in what seemed to be a secure hiding-place, when a door opened at the far end of the gallery, and Maximilian and Bernal entered arm-in-arm.

The King had discarded the dress he had worn for his walk through the forest, and was now clad in a plain suit of black velvet, trimmed with deep lace ruffles at the throat and wrists. The only mark of his rank was a small cap of the same stuff which he wore, while his companion was bare-headed.

As if he had changed his mood with his clothes, the young man came in laughing and rallying his friend.

“Why, Auguste, what nonsense you talk! Did you hear Von Stahlen’s latest? He declares that the Steinketel has jilted me! He thinks I have been cut out by Von Hardenburg. It is lucky that Seidlingen will be ready for me to retire to, to hide my despair.”

Auguste did not seem quite to share his friend’s cheerfulness. His face wore a troubled expression.

“I suppose you have no idea what your fairyland[80] has actually cost,” he observed. “I cannot help fearing it will make you unpopular with the nation.”

Maximilian laughed.

“I see what it is,” he retorted lightly; “you have been reading the newspapers. I never do, not even the Cologne Gazette. My dear Auguste, if you are going to take life seriously, all confidence between us must be at an end. Remember that I am the King of the Fairies, and my politics are those of A Midsummer Night’s Dream!”

Auguste smiled rather half-heartedly.

“That is all very well, Max, but you know the inhabitants of Franconia are not fairies, and the taxes they have to pay are not fairy gold.”

“My dear friend, I really believe that you have turned Republican. I shall hear next that you are a candidate for the Chamber on the Opposition side. What are the Franconians to you, or to me either? Philistines all, my friend, Philistines all. I look upon myself as a divinely appointed instrument of retribution. I am the avenger of the poets they have imprisoned, and the musicians they have insulted, and the painters they have starved. Let them pay their taxes. It is the only homage to genius they have ever rendered. I am the only prophet who has ever been honoured in his own country, and they honour me because they have to. Make your mind easy; and when we get to the Happy Valley we will lock the gates and give orders that no newspapers are to be admitted except that one at Athens which is published in verse!”

[81]Auguste shook his head.

“It is lucky for you that the Chancellor takes the business of government a little more seriously. What would you do if a revolutionary mob invaded your Happy Valley?”

“Offer them refreshments, of course, and then make them listen to one of your operas. If that did not subdue their fierceness, nothing would,” added Maximilian, unable to resist the temptation to banter his friend. “But tell me, Auguste, do you seriously suppose that any one wants to deprive me of the throne in favour of poor Ernest?”

Bernal did not at once reply to this question. While the two had been talking they had continued to stroll up and down the gallery, and in letting his eyes wander from side to side, the musician had caught sight through the gathering dusk of something which he fancied to be unusual in the appearance of one of the shrubs before the windows.

Restraining his curiosity for the moment, he walked on, and as Maximilian was waiting, he forced himself to return some answer.

“I am afraid that is not the question. You may have enemies whose designs go farther than a mere change of masters. Be serious for one moment, Max. Other kings have to take precautions to guard themselves, and why should not you do the same?”

“Oh, that will be all right You will find that Seidlingen is well guarded, though it has been more with the idea of keeping out impertinent admirers than the[82] mysterious enemies you talk about. I have had a palisade put up all round the mountains, and at every mile or so I shall have small pickets of troops, whose duty it will be to patrol the boundary, and see that no one attempts to cross. There is only one road leading into the valley, the one I have had made, and that will be guarded at the entrance by a small fort pierced by an iron gate, which will be kept locked, and only opened by a written order from me or the Chancellor. So you see the Anarchists won’t have much chance to disturb us.”

While he was speaking, they had strolled back till they again came opposite the spot which had attracted the musician’s attention. He contrived to gradually bring himself to a halt, Maximilian following his example without perceiving that his companion’s movements were governed by any special purpose. Bernal fixed his gaze upon a dark shadow under the foliage, while Maximilian continued to speak.

“The real difficulty I shall have,” he said, “is to avoid the visits of persons who cannot very well be turned back by a sentry. I am afraid from what I hear that my preparations have roused the curiosity of the Kaiser, and that his Imperial Majesty is likely to inflict his formidable presence on me, unless I can think of some pretext for keeping him away.”

Bernal still listened, but the King’s words fell dully on his ear. His whole attention was absorbed by a frightful discovery. Gazing steadfastly into the shadow, he had all at once become aware that his look was[83] returned. There, at a distance of a few feet from him, was a pair of dark eyes fixed deliberately upon his own. By a tremendous effort of will he suppressed all outward signs of agitation, lest he should alarm the man before him, and continued to gaze calmly back, as if unconscious of what he saw. His thoughts, travelling with terrific rapidity, went over the dangers of the situation. The King and himself were totally unarmed, they were alone in the gallery, and, thanks to Maximilian’s morbid love of privacy, there were no attendants likely to be within hail. Who could the concealed watcher be? Only a desperate man would have dared to risk the danger of thus invading the royal apartments in a way which sufficiently proclaimed the threatening character of his errand. If this man were armed, the King’s life, both their lives, were at his mercy.

The only chance of escape that presented itself to Bernal’s mind, was to feign unconsciousness, and draw the King gradually away to the end of the gallery. Then, by a sudden movement, he could urge him through the doorway, and fasten it against the enemy. With a strange feeling of dizziness creeping over him, he contrived to say a few words in answer to his companion.

“That is what I was afraid you would say. If the Kaiser is really anxious to come, in your own interest you ought to make him welcome, and show him every attention. He may be a useful friend or a dangerous foe.”

He was quite unconscious whether he was talking[84] sense or nonsense; as long as he could maintain the appearance of composure it was all he cared for. Maximilian, wholly unsuspicious, launched out into a reply.

“My dear Auguste, you are talking like old Von Sigismark. Of course, all that is very true; but it is no reason why I should submit to the penalty of that barbarian’s presence, if there is any reasonable way of avoiding it. I come to you for sympathy, not for good advice.”

As the King finished speaking, Bernal felt a sudden shock. Still gazing into the depths of those flaming eyes, he had become aware by some subtle instinct that the man lurking in the shadow knew that he was detected. There was only one moment’s more breathing-time, till the assassin should learn that this knowledge in turn had been discovered by his observer.

Trembling under the imminence of the peril, Bernal felt irritated at having to reply to the King, as a man racked by some torturing pain resents having to respond to the commonplace observations of those around him.

“I never talk like Von Sigismark. I simply meant that if there were no way of avoiding it, you should submit with as much grace as possible.”

Maximilian smiled at the peevishness of his friend’s tone.

“You are a Job’s comforter, Auguste. If you say much more I shall make you my Chancellor; so be careful.”


The crisis had come. A flash of the eyes which he had been watching with such feverish anxiety, convinced Bernal that the last stage had been arrived at. The enemy had already learned that Bernal had detected him. He now knew that Bernal was aware of this.

The fence of eyes was over. The two were as much face to face as if both were out in the middle of the apartment. Bernal set his teeth together and drew back a step, while Johann sprang to his feet, throwing down the shrub which had protected him, and levelled his pistol, at the distance of four paces, at the King’s breast.

“If either of you moves or makes the least cry, I fire.”



None of us know beforehand how we shall act in moments of stress and fear. Bernal, when he saw embodied before him the danger to which he had looked forward, lost his self-control, and turned round to the King with a nervous movement, as if he would catch hold of him to restrain him from hasty action. But Maximilian, after the first natural start of astonishment, stood perfectly still, his eyes fixed steadily on this man who had suddenly come forward to threaten his life, gazing at him with more of curiosity than dread.

The intruder stepped a pace nearer, keeping his weapon pointed at the King, while his finger rested against the trigger. Nevertheless, he did not at once fire. To kill in cold blood is hard. And the republican, on his part, was not free from some natural feeling of curiosity as he looked for the first time on this scion of a race against which he had sworn vows of hatred.

“Have you anything to say before I fire?” he asked, unconsciously seeking to gain time to strengthen his resolve.

[87]Maximilian drew himself up with a proud gesture. The softer side of his character seemed to have suddenly died out. In the presence of this enemy he was every inch a king.

“Why have you come here?” he demanded, as haughtily as if he had been surrounded by his guards, and the man before him had been a defenceless prisoner. “What is it that you want?”

“You see plainly enough. I am here to kill you.”

Bernal could not restrain a stifled cry. Maximilian lifted his hand rebukingly to enjoin silence, without removing his eyes from the enemy’s face.

“Why do you wish to take my life?” he asked, in a firm voice.

Johann had to pause and collect his thoughts before he could answer. He felt ever so slightly disconcerted. The situation was altogether unlike what he had anticipated. He had come there breathing wrath against one whom he pictured as a Heliogabalus, dissolved in vice and luxury, and he had steeled himself beforehand against threats or bribes or prayers for mercy; and now, here he was face to face with a pale, thoughtful-eyed young man, whose principal feeling seemed to be wonder, tempered with indignation, at his presence.

“Because you are a king,” he said at length, speaking slowly, and trying to rouse his dormant anger as he went along. “You hold the supreme power in the country. For ten years you have reigned over Franconia; and how have you used your power? For the gratification of your own selfish pleasures. While the[88] poor starve in your capital, you waste millions in luxury. You build new palaces; you lavish favours on artists and musicians”—he glanced involuntarily at Bernal as he spoke—“your whole time is given up to enjoyment, and you have never given a moment’s thought to the welfare of the millions whom you call your subjects. You value operas more than the lives of men.”

He stopped, feeling slightly dissatisfied with the weakness of his language. He would have liked to crush this calm, self-possessed questioner with a few scathing words—but somehow the words had refused to come.

During this harangue a slightly contemptuous look came on Maximilian’s face. He answered with spirit.

“I do not believe that any one need starve in Franconia. You are speaking unfairly. If I spend money in the ways you talk of, does it not all come back into the pockets of the people? I never heard that it was considered a crime to encourage art, or that a king was forbidden to have his private friends. And when you accuse me of not valuing the lives of men, you forget that during my reign Franconia has been kept from war. None of my subjects have been made to shed one drop of blood for me. I have never even signed a death-warrant.”

“What does that matter? I am not speaking of foreign war. The deadliest war is that which goes on from day to day between rich and poor; and that war you have never lifted a finger to check. The millions[89] you have wasted on palaces—which are of no use to any one but yourself—might have been used for great public works for the benefit of mankind—hospitals, almshouses, bridges, aqueducts to bring the pure water of the hills into the Mannhausen slums. A king has higher duties than encouraging art. It is his duty to be the shepherd of the nation he rules.”

Maximilian listened, this time with an air of interest. He replied in milder and more friendly tones than he had yet used.

“I think I understand you. I see that there is something in what you say. I have been too much in the habit of thinking that the best king was the one who interfered with his subjects least. You will admit, at all events, that I have never tried to play the tyrant. But I see that I might have done something more—such things as you point out. Yet the people have a constitution. Why have their elected representatives not undertaken some of these works?”

Johann found it more and more difficult to reply harshly to this gentle reasoning on the part of the man whom he had come to take vengeance upon. He tried to convince himself that this was mere acting—a mere ruse to gain time, and he spoke again more rudely than before.

“That is right; lay the blame on others. Where is the money for such things to come from, when every penny that can be wrung out of the people is being squandered by you? Besides, these representatives, as you call them, represent only the richer classes.[90] They are as much out of touch with the poor, they have as little sympathy with them, as you. Their turn will come before long; in the mean time we must begin at the head. These excuses come too late. You have had ten years in which to show your good intentions, and now we can wait no longer.”

Maximilian resumed his haughty air.

“I did not mean to make excuses, sir. I thought you were speaking sincerely, and I meant to do the same. But, since you have made up your mind already, this conversation is useless. You had better fire that pistol.”

Johann felt a sensation of shame, coupled with an unsatisfactory doubt as to whether he had rightly judged the young man whose life he was about to take. Without removing his finger from the trigger, he slightly lowered the pistol, and responded.

“I can fire as soon as there is the least danger of interruption. But I have not come here to insult you. You asked me why I wished to take your life, and I have told you. I do not accuse you of wilfully injuring the people, but of neglecting your duties towards them for the sake of your own pleasures. You say that the best king is the one who leaves his people alone. In that case we do not need a king at all. Why should we spend millions of money on a useless ornament? No, we are sick of the whole system. We have made up our minds to teach rulers their duty, whether they be kings or presidents or prime ministers. So long as there is one wretched man in this country[91] whose wretchedness you have the power to cure, and you do not use that power, you are guilty in the sight of God and man. I have lived among the people all these years, while you have been dreaming of art and palaces. I have seen their misery, I have heard their prayers, which there has been no one to answer. There must be an end to all this. If motives of compassion have no force, if appeals to justice are useless, we must appeal to fear. We must terrify governments into doing their duty; we must teach them that neglect may make the wretched dangerous, that misery breeds assassins.”

His eyes flashed, and his form grew more erect under the inspiration of his own fierce language. For the first time the young King drooped his head.

“I do not blame you,” he answered mildly; “you have made me realise your point of view better than I have ever done before. Only you talk as if the task of grappling with these evils were an easy one, while to me it seems very hard. Suppose we could change places, and you were King for the next six months, how would you set to work to remedy it?”

This unexpected suggestion fairly took the republican aback. He had to consider before he replied.

“To me the idea of kingship is repugnant. I could not rule except by the consent of the people. My first step would be to lay down the crown, and organise a Republican government.”

“And Prussia?” suggested Maximilian. “Suppose half a million troops were marched across the[92] border to suppress your Republic and set up a new king?”

Johann bit his lip. For the moment he could think of no answer.

Maximilian pursued his advantage. The shock of peril seemed to have stimulated his mind and given him unwonted energy. He went on, speaking clearly and earnestly—

“See here, sir. If I thought you believed in my sincerity I would make a proposition to you. I would ask you to release me on parole for six months, and during that time you should take my place, and run the government on your own lines. At the end of the six months we would come back here, to this gallery, exactly as we are now. I would put that pistol into your hand, still loaded, and you should then decide whether to fire it or not, as you pleased.”

The revolutionist heard this proposal with feelings of almost ludicrous dismay. He realised that the ground was being cut from under him.

“But it would be impossible,” he objected weakly. “Such an arrangement could never be carried out. Your Court, your Ministers, would all refuse to recognise me. I could accomplish nothing.”

“Not by yourself, I admit. But I did not mean that you should take my place quite literally. What I meant was that you should in effect use my authority, such as it is. You have condemned me, no doubt justly, for not making a good use of my power. I want to see what you can do with it, and I also want[93] you to see for yourself the nature of the obstacles that lie in the way of realising your ideals. If you accept my offer I will provide rooms in the Castle for you; you shall stay here in some nominal capacity—as my private secretary, for instance—or, if you prefer it, simply as my guest. You shall then put your ideas into shape; every suggestion which you make I will lay before my Ministers as if it came from myself; and you shall be present at our consultations, and judge for yourself what are the powers of a king, and how far they can be exercised for the good of the people. At the end of that time, as I have said, we shall return exactly to our former positions, and perhaps you will then understand me better than you do now. What do you say? Will you accept my offer?”

Bernal, who had been a silent but deeply interested listener to this debate, hardly knew whether to regard Maximilian’s scheme as a serious outcome of his idealistic nature, or as a bold and skilful manœuvre to outwit the revolutionist. He looked anxiously at Johann to see what impression had been produced on him by the King’s proposal.

But Johann was himself too much of a Quixote to suspect that he stood in the presence of a Machiavelli. Completely vanquished by the King’s magnanimity, he was about to throw down his weapon, when all at once a fresh thought struck him. He had just remembered the forester’s daughter.

“Wait,” he said sternly, bending an angry look upon Maximilian. “I have another account to settle[94] with you. This time it is not a question of neglecting your subjects, but of taking too much interest in them. We have met once to-day already. I saw you leave Franz Gitten’s lodge.”

Maximilian drew back, mortified at his rebuff. At Johann’s last words an exclamation of annoyance burst from him. So his secret had been discovered, and by this violent man.

Misinterpreting the exclamation as a sign of guilt, the other proceeded to a denunciation.

“Yes; not satisfied with all that your boasted art can do for you, you must stoop to prey on the virtue of an innocent young girl, whose only crime is the poverty which leaves her defenceless to your guilty passions.”

He stopped, astonished at the effect produced by his words. Maximilian, his whole face flushed with righteous anger, silenced him with an imperious gesture, and replied warmly—

“Not another word! You insult that noble young girl as much as me by your suspicions. I swear to you that I have never said one evil word, nor harboured one impure thought towards her. I love her as sincerely as you have ever loved—if you ever did love any one. Ask the Herr Bernal there, and he will tell you that this very evening on our way home, I informed him that I contemplated making Dorothea my wife.”

Johann stared at him like one transfixed.

“Dorothea! My cousin!” was all he could utter.

[95]“Your cousin!” came as a simultaneous exclamation from the lips of both the others.

A profound silence succeeded. Maximilian was the first to speak. Turning to his friend, he said mournfully—

“You see, Auguste, my foreboding was true. Now she will know I am the King, and perhaps she will never learn to love me after all.”

Johann hung his head, and let the pistol drop from his passive fingers on to the floor.

Then all at once there was a loud noise, the door of the gallery was thrown open, and a great throng of guards and attendants and members of the Court flocked in, with the Chancellor and Princess Hermengarde among them, and rushed towards the group.

“That must be the man! Seize him!” cried the Chancellor, pointing to Johann.

Johann made a quick movement as if to pick up his fallen weapon, when Maximilian bent forward and whispered to him—

“I give you my parole.”

The next instant a dozen eager hands were clutching at the conspirator on all sides, and Von Sigismark’s voice rang out—

“Take him away, and chain him in the strongest room in the Castle.”

Before the soldiers had time to do anything, a counter-order came sternly and proudly from the lips of the King.

[96]“Stop! Release your prisoner. He has our pardon.”

The Chancellor made a step forward, dismay and incredulity written on his face.

“Pardon me, Sire,” he ventured to remonstrate, “but this man came here with the intention of assassinating you. See, there is his pistol on the floor.”

Hearing the Chancellor’s words, one or two of the soldiers thought fit to retain their hold of the prisoner, till they saw what would come of it. The young King noticed this partial disobedience, and turned upon them pale with anger.

“Fellows, did you hear me?” he demanded, in such threatening tones, that they fairly cowered. “Release this man, I say!”

The men saw their mistake; they forthwith let go their hold, and Johann stood erect.

Then Maximilian condescended to reply to his Minister.

“Whatever purpose this man came here with, he has abandoned it of his own accord. He had dropped his weapon before you entered. I have had an opportunity of talking with him, and I do not regret his having come here. For the present he will remain in the Castle, and I desire that he may be well treated. Karl!”

The favourite stepped forward, trembling with the expectation that his treachery had been discovered and that he was about to receive its reward.

“Take this gentleman to the Chamberlain’s office,”[97] said the King. “See that an apartment is provided for him in my own quarter of the palace, and that he has all he wants.” And turning to Johann, who had remained silent and unmoved through this scene, he added, “I shall send for you later on.”

And after a few words of thanks to the throng who had accompanied Von Sigismark, for their coming to his assistance, the King linked his arm in Bernal’s, and withdrew from the gallery.



The unexpected interruption to the scene between Maximilian and the intended assassin was due to the tardy repentance of Karl Fink.

On leaving Johann in the gallery he had retired at first to his own room, where he flung himself on the bed, and lay writhing in misery, straining his ears for the sound of the pistol’s fire. At one moment he pictured to himself the arrest of the murderer, followed perhaps by a denunciation of himself as the accomplice; at another his thoughts reverted to the many acts of kindness shown him by his young master, and he groaned aloud in remorse for his betrayal.

As the minutes slipped by and he heard nothing, a gleam of fresh hope stole into his mind. It might not be too late even now to interfere and save the King’s life. In that case he thought he knew Maximilian well enough to be secure of forgiveness for his previous treachery. Inspired with sudden courage, he sprang to his feet and rushed out of the room.

As he approached the entrance to the gallery a fresh idea struck him. His solitary interference might not be sufficient to avert the danger which threatened the[99] King, while it would certainly expose him to the vengeance of Johann and his fellow-conspirators. He made up his mind as he ran along to go round to the apartments of the King’s aunt, and inform her of the situation, leaving it to her to summon assistance for her nephew.

It did not take long for him to burst, all pale and trembling, into the presence of the Princess.

She was not alone. With her was the Count von Sigismark, who had come to tender her his thanks for her graciousness in inviting his daughter to ride with Prince Ernest—perhaps also to try and ascertain what meaning lay under this proceeding on the part of a woman who seldom acted without a motive.

As soon as Karl could command his breath he panted out—

“Quick! There is a man concealed in the south gallery, who has come here to murder the King. His name is Johann Mark, and he is a member of a secret society.”

For an instant Hermengarde gave way to sheer affright. Then, in a flash, she recovered herself, and darted a strange and awful look towards the Chancellor. But he either did not see or did not comprehend the look. As soon as the sense of Karl’s announcement had reached his brain, he sprang up and rushed out through the open door, uttering loud cries for help. In a few seconds the whole Castle was roused, and an effective force was coming to the King’s rescue in the manner already described.

[100]When Hermengarde left the gallery after witnessing the strange termination of the events which had taken place there, she made an almost imperceptible signal to the Chancellor to follow her to her own apartments.

The old courtier felt uneasy at the idea of having to discuss what had just transpired with his formidable patroness. He would have preferred to have had time for consideration. But he did not dare to neglect her commands, and they were speedily closeted together.

“Well, what do you think of this?” demanded the Princess as soon as they were alone.

“I can hardly answer you, Madam. I confess that at present I do not understand what has occurred. I am in the dark.”

Hermengarde smiled at this excessive caution.

“As I have had the honour to remark to you once before to-day,” she said, “kings of Franconia sometimes do strange things. But I do not think I have ever heard of their doing a more extraordinary one than publicly pardoning an assassin, and at the same time inviting him to become their guest.”

The Chancellor fidgeted nervously.

“It certainly appeared as if he had come here with the intention of committing some crime. But perhaps his Majesty had succeeded in convincing him of his wickedness before we arrived on the scene.”

“Or perhaps he had succeeded in convincing his Majesty,” sneered the Princess. “It appears to me that our arrival was most inopportune. We were[101] clearly not wanted, my dear Chancellor. By what right do we take it on ourselves to interrupt the King when he is conversing with his friends?”

The old Count knitted his brows, but preserved a discreet silence. He pricked up his ears at Hermengarde’s next question.

“Can you tell me whether the revolutionary societies are very active in Mannhausen just now?”

“I believe they are, Madam. I have received information lately that a great many secret meetings are being held, and the police anticipate some formidable outbreak, unless we are beforehand with them by arresting the ringleaders.”

“Exactly. And do you think the effect will be discouraging, or the reverse, when they learn that one of their ringleaders has been publicly received in the palace, and enjoys the favour of the King? Why, the whole country will ring with it. People will say that his Majesty is in sympathy with these wretches.”

“I hope it is not so bad as that. Surely the King’s action was simply a piece of generosity—rather high-flown, perhaps, but without the least political significance. At least, as long as his Majesty entrusts me with the burden of government, you may rest assured that I shall not be a party to any yielding to sedition.”

“Yes, as long as you are entrusted with it, Count. But, unless you look out, you may find that the King is listening to other advisers behind your back. The scene which has just taken place was hardly calculated to raise your authority in the eyes of the Court.”

[102]And leaving this poisoned shaft to do its work in the slow mind of the Chancellor, Hermengarde dismissed him graciously, and summoned her favourite page.

“Go and find Karl Fink,” she commanded. “Say that you have a private message for him, and when you are sure that you cannot be overheard, tell him from me to be at the west corner of the Castle terrace in ten minutes’ time. Tell him to wrap himself up.”

The message from the Princess found Karl in his own room, whither he had just retired after Johann was comfortably lodged in accordance with the King’s directions. To his relief his former comrade had said but little when they were again together.

“You see, Karl,” he observed sarcastically, “your fears were groundless. Everything has passed off well, and you will not lose your head, after all.”

“Swear that you will never let the King know who it was that brought you into the gallery,” urged the other, still filled with apprehension.

Johann regarded him pityingly.

“Poor fool! If you have forgotten the oaths by which we bound ourselves at Stuttgart, I have not. Fear nothing; you are safe this time. But beware how you hatch any further treachery. Next time you may not escape so lightly.”

Karl would have been only too glad to follow this advice, by abstaining from all further part in the intrigues which were going forward around him. Nevertheless, when the page came to summon him to attend on his mistress, he did not dare to send back a refusal.

[103]Hermengarde meanwhile had proceeded to divest herself of her jewels and of her outer skirt, and to put on a homely walking dress such as might have been worn by a woman of the middle class. This done she emerged cautiously from her apartment, and stole down by a back staircase to the rendezvous.

It was getting dark, and the night threatened to be a stormy one. She noted the signs of rough weather, and was about to re-enter the Castle to obtain a cloak, when she saw the figure of a man coming towards her.

It was Karl. With the warning of his former comrade still ringing in his ears, he came along reluctantly, feeling only too sure that his assistance was required for some purpose which would not bear the light.

As soon as he was near enough to recognise the Princess’s countenance, he said, with a sort of timid insolence—

“I hope your Royal Highness does not want me for long, as I may be summoned at any moment by his Majesty.”

Hermengarde frowned impatiently. She readily divined the weak and timorous character of her instrument.

“It is on his Majesty’s service that I require you,” she answered firmly. “You are to accompany me to the lodge where this Dorothea Gitten dwells.”

Karl’s lingering dread of Johann was still greater than his awe of the Princess.

“Does his Majesty know that we are going there?” he ventured to ask.

[104]Then Hermengarde began to see that something was the matter. By an effort she suppressed her pride for the moment, and condescended to make a half-confidant of the servant.

“I thought you understood by this time, Karl,” she said, “the cause of the interest I take in this matter. Do you suppose that if I regarded it as a mere common love adventure I should take the trouble to go and see this girl? It is because I have fears as to what it may lead to, owing to my knowledge of your master’s character. You are familiar with the fate of King Leopold, and you must see how necessary it is that his friends should watch carefully over King Maximilian, whose eccentricities have already created a wide feeling of apprehension.”

As her meaning slowly penetrated the man’s mind, he fairly staggered.

“God in Heaven!” he exclaimed. “Surely your Royal Highness does not believe that the King is going mad!”

“I have said nothing of the kind,” returned the Princess quickly, seeing that she had gone too far. “You have better opportunities of seeing than most of his attendants. Have you noticed anything strange in his Majesty’s conduct of late?”

“Heaven forbid, your Royal Highness!”

Hermengarde shrugged her shoulders. Karl drew back a step.

“Forgive me, Madam, but I dare not come with you,” he said in a low voice.

[105]“Silence, fellow!” answered the Princess, speaking in low but menacing tones. “Do you wish the King to know that you have been playing the spy all these months, and carrying reports of all his movements to me? Do you suppose that I could not crush you like an eggshell if it were worth my while? You have gone too far to disobey me now. Lead on to the cottage.”

The unfortunate wretch submitted without another word, and they started off through the forest, Karl going in front and the Princess keeping up close behind.

For the next half-hour not a word was spoken. Then they gradually emerged from the thick growth of wood and found themselves on the edge of the little clearing.

“Stay here,” commanded the Princess, “and wait for my return.”

Only too glad to escape further risk, Karl bowed, and slunk back behind the shadow of a large ash, while the Princess advanced alone to the door of the forester’s hut.

It was by this time dark, and the glow of a lamp shone out through the window of a room to the right of the Gothic porch. As Hermengarde knocked at the door this light was seen to move and pass out into the hall. Then came the noise of turning the lock, and the door opened, and Dorothea stood before her, holding the lamp high above her head.

In spite of her habitual self-possession, the Princess could not restrain a start of admiration which testified[106] that she now understood the King’s infatuation. She quickly recovered herself, and addressed the young girl.

“I come from the Castle yonder,” she said, “and have missed my path in the wood. I thought you would let me rest here for a little before I returned.”

“Oh, yes; come in, if you please,” was Dorothea’s answer, in soft, musical tones, that yet had a faint undertone of pathos in them which had been missing earlier in the day.

The Princess followed her into the low, oak-roofed parlour where she had been sitting, and accepted the wooden armchair, with a loose red cushion on the seat, which she pushed forward. Franz was not there. Dorothea explained that her father had gone out to make his round of the forest, and look out for poachers.

“And does he leave you here all alone?” queried Hermengarde, assuming an air of sympathy in order to set the girl at her ease.

“Oh, yes, Madam. I am not afraid. I have been accustomed to stay here alone since my mother died. But won’t you have some refreshment while you are resting? We have a hare in the larder, and some white bread, which I make myself.”

“Not anything to eat, thank you, my dear,” responded Hermengarde, graciously. “But I have heard that you make some most delicious cider; can you spare me a glass of that?”

Dorothea flushed at the compliment.

[107]“I shall be very pleased if you will taste it,” she said; “but I am afraid you will be disappointed.”

She stepped to a cupboard in the wall beside the fireplace, and drew forth the silver flagon. She had taken in her hand the famous glass out of which Maximilian was accustomed to drink; but after a moment’s hesitation she put it back again, and chose the one with the slight flaw in its rim.

“This is a very old glass; I hope you will not mind its being chipped,” she said, as she filled it with the bright liquid, and offered it to the Princess.

“You need not make any excuses,” the Princess answered. “A glass which is good enough for a king to drink out of is surely good enough for me.”

Dorothea gave a great start, and turned a pained, questioning look on the speaker, who only smiled in return.

“Why do you say that, Madam? Who has told you about the King?” asked the agitated girl.

The Princess put on a look of amused surprise.

“My dear child, surely you did not suppose it was such a secret? The King of Franconia cannot come day after day to the same place without people hearing of it. I ought to congratulate you. His Majesty is said to be very much charmed with—your cider.”

The meaning smile which accompanied these last words went like a stab through the shrinking girl, coming as it did in the wake of the explosion which had taken place that afternoon.

“Please do not talk like that,” she implored. “I[108] assure you, Madam, that up to an hour ago I never even dreamt that he was the King. His Majesty called himself simply Herr Maurice when he was here, and I looked upon him as merely a young gentleman of the Court. And indeed he never did or said anything to make me think of him as anything more than a friend. And it was all so innocent and pleasant up till to-day. And then Johann saw him, and told me who he was, and hinted at such terrible things that he made me weep.”

At this name of Johann a look of vivid intelligence flashed from Hermengarde’s eyes. It was scarcely an hour since she had heard that name under circumstances which made it difficult for her to have forgotten it.

“Johann!” she exclaimed. “Do you mean a tall man, with dark hair and a pointed beard?”

“Yes. Do you know him?” cried Dorothea in natural surprise.

Hermengarde, taken aback for the moment, hardly knew what answer to make.

“He is now in the Castle,” she said at length. “He has had an interview of some kind with the King, who has taken him into favour, and invited him to remain.”

Dorothea was utterly bewildered. Only two hours ago her cousin had left her, breathing hatred against the false Maurice. Now she learned that all his wrath had apparently been appeased, and replaced by quite opposite feelings. It was more than she could understand.

Meanwhile Hermengarde sat busily revolving in her[109] mind the new light thrown upon the King’s extraordinary action in pardoning his would-be assassin.

“Is Johann a friend of yours?” she demanded presently, looking up.

“He is my cousin,” answered Dorothea, with simplicity; “he is my greatest friend in the world.”

The Princess sat silent for a time, sipping her cider and watching Dorothea. At length she seemed to have made up her mind what course to pursue, and putting down her glass, asked quietly—

“How should you like to come and stay at the Castle for a time, and see your cousin?”

A troubled look came over the girl’s face.

“I should not like it at all. I do not think I could bear it, to be there with all those lords and ladies. They would despise me, and I should be afraid of them.”

“I do not think you would find that they despised you if you came there as my guest,” answered the Princess, gravely.

Dorothea’s eyes rounded once more. There seemed to be nothing but surprises in store for her to-day.

“Pardon me, Madam, but you have not—you did not tell me—”

“My name is Hermengarde. I am the King’s aunt.” And she lay back in her chair to see how the young girl would take the announcement.

Dorothea’s first feeling was one of dismay. All these startling events coming one upon another had completely unsettled her mind. She felt herself being[110] gradually swept out of her depth. The old peaceful life of childhood was over, and she was being called upon to go forth into the world under circumstances of trial and danger of which she had never had any conception.

She directed an earnest, imploring gaze at the Princess, as if asking whether she could throw herself upon her for sincere and friendly counsel. Then she said—

“I hardly know how to speak to your Royal Highness. I am afraid that you must think me very presumptuous. I hope you believe that I never knew it was his Majesty.”

Hermengarde looked at her graciously, not ill pleased at the evident awe she had excited.

“I do not think you are presumptuous in the least, my dear. On the contrary, if I found any fault with you, it would be that you are too shy, and have not enough confidence in yourself. For instance, when you are speaking to me on a friendly footing like this, it is quite unnecessary to call me ‘your Royal Highness.’ Address me simply as ‘Madam,’ or ‘Princess.’ And in the same way, you need only say ‘Sire’ to the King. It is only by servants, or on occasions of ceremony, that the formal titles are used. You see, I am giving you your first lesson in Court manners already, because I mean you to accept my invitation; and I wish you to be at home in the Castle.”

“Thank you—Madam.”

“That is right.”

[111]“And you are not offended with me for having let the King come here, and give me presents?”

“Certainly not. I blame my nephew for deceiving you, because, though I am sure he had no ill intentions, he ought to have foreseen that the matter would be regarded in an unfavourable light by people generally, and that he was exposing you to unjust remarks.”

Poor Dorothea! The recollection of Johann’s words gave point to the observations of the Princess. She turned to her with looks of misery.

“Oh, Madam! And do people think—are they saying—such horrible things? What shall I do?”

“It is precisely on this account that I have come here,” answered Hermengarde, assuming a comforting tone. “I desire to protect you from evil tongues, by taking you into my own household. No man, whoever he may be, is a fitting adviser for a girl, like one of her own sex. So long as you stay in this cottage you are at the mercy of Maximilian’s good feelings, in which you ought not to blindly trust. Come and make your home with me, and the King will be compelled to adopt an honourable course towards you. What that will be, it is not for me to say. And the mere fact that I have given you my friendship will instantly silence any malicious slanders that may be abroad.”

Dorothea attempted to express her gratitude, but the stress of her emotions overcame her all at once, and before Hermengarde knew what she was doing, the forester’s child had flung herself down at the feet of[112] the Princess, and bowed her golden head in the proud, stern-minded woman’s lap.

For a moment a soft look came into Hermengarde’s eyes, such as they had not known for many a year, and she murmured gently—

“Poor girl, poor girl!”

In another instant her face had resumed its usual cold expression. She stooped and raised Dorothea from the ground, getting up herself at the same time.

“There, my child, be still. You have a friend in me, whatever happens. And my friendship is not given to everybody. Now I will leave you to think over my offer; only let me give you one caution, do not discuss the matter with anybody else. It is a thing which you must decide for yourself, without help. If you make up your mind to come to me, do not wait, but present yourself at the Castle at any time, and I shall be ready and pleased to welcome you. Till then, good-bye.”

The agitated young girl could only stammer fresh words of thanks as she took up the lamp and ushered her visitor to the door. She was going to walk further with her, to point out the way, but the Princess stopped her.

“Do not come out, child. I can find my way back from here. Good night.”

And without waiting for the farewells of the grateful Dorothea, she hastened forward to the spot where she had left her guide.

As soon as the Castle was in sight Hermengarde[113] turned to the favourite and handed him a generous bribe.

“I shall not forget you, Karl,” she said. “And remember that silence and discretion will double the value of your services.”

Karl accepted the money greedily enough, and stole away to his own quarters, while the Princess returned to her apartments absorbed in thought.

And this time she made no attempt to enter into communication with the Chancellor on the subject of the step she had seen fit to take.



The next morning, after breakfast, Maximilian and Auguste Bernal were alone together in the small room which constituted the royal cabinet. It was furnished plainly, with little of that æsthetic display which showed itself in the King’s other apartments, and the walls were lined with volumes of a heavy and forbidding appearance; the presence of which, Maximilian was accustomed to say, exercised a sobering influence upon his mind, and disposed him to deal with serious business.

On this occasion he seemed to be suffering under the reaction from last night’s exciting ordeal, and talked in a wild strain to which even Auguste, used as he was to all his companion’s varied moods, hardly knew how to reply.

“Let us look the situation in the face,” Maximilian was saying, with perfect outward seriousness. “How am I to carry out my promise? Shall I send for Von Sigismark, and order him to proclaim the Millennium?”

“If you do that I am afraid the Chancellor will hand in his resignation,” was the answer.

[115]“Really? I never thought of that. Then I could appoint Herr Mark at once, and leave him to his own devices.”

“And all the other ministers and officials would resign too, and there would be no one to carry on the government. No, seriously, my dear Max, whatever you do you must go to work gradually, and, above all, you must not give the Kaiser an excuse to interfere. I should strongly advise you to try and win over the Chancellor. He may be an old fool, but he is faithful, and his name commands confidence. It will be much better to work through him for a time.”

Maximilian shrugged his shoulders impatiently.

“I dare say you are right. I suppose I must feel my way at first. But I very much doubt whether we shall get Von Sigismark at his age to take kindly to any new departure.”

“Well, you can but try. We do not yet know what this Mark, or whatever his name is, proposes to do. Why not have him in here first, and talk things over with him?”

“A good idea. Yes, that is the first step.”

The King got up, and walked past his friend to the bell-knob, which he pushed.

“Ask Herr Mark if he will kindly step this way,” he said to the page in attendance. “Mind,” he added sharply, as the lad was turning to go, “convey my message in those exact words.”

“Yes, your Majesty.” And the page withdrew, looking rather surprised.

[116]“I don’t want him to go and say, ‘The King commands your attendance,’” explained Maximilian, “or very likely a man like that would refuse to come.”

“It is lucky I am not so thin-skinned,” said Bernal, laughing. “They always say that to me.”

“Do they? I will put a stop to it,” flashed Maximilian.

“No, no. The less such people understand our friendship, the sweeter it is to me.” And the musician patted the King affectionately on the arm as he returned past him to his seat.

Maximilian gave his friend a look soft as a woman’s.

Before they had time to say anything more Johann was announced.

The republican had passed an anxious time since the memorable scene in the gallery. The circumstances in which he found himself were enough to bewilder his judgment. A life-long plotter against kings, he was now installed in a royal palace, under the protection of a king. What would his comrades in the capital think of this strange ending to his mission? Would they not condemn him as one who had broken his sacred oaths, under the influence of royal blandishments? The thought was a disquieting one, but, on the other hand, he could console himself by the thought of the triumph which would be his if he succeeded in really accomplishing some of the great ideals of the Socialists by means of his royal disciple. To have enlisted a king on the side of the revolution—was not this a unique achievement; one which might lead[117] to consequences of untold magnitude? It might be possible in the course of a comparatively short time, and by perfectly peaceful stages, to transform Franconia into that model land which has been the dream of each generation of enthusiasts, though each generation may cherish different ideas of what the model land should be like. And if Franconia led the way successfully, who could doubt that the rest of Europe would quickly follow? Johann was like most of his fellows in assuming that men were reasoning beings. Once prove to them clearly what their true interests were, and he believed they would surely act on the knowledge. Of the power of the passions on human conduct he made no account. That the vast bulk of mankind cared far more for gratifying the craving or antipathy of the moment than for their rational welfare, he was sublimely unconscious. Of such stuff are apostles made.

He entered the King’s presence feeling slightly uneasy as to his reception under their new relations, and troubled also by his anxiety to avoid playing the courtier, while yet showing enough civility to secure the goodwill of his convert.

Maximilian greeted him cordially, but without rising, and invited him to a seat between the musician and himself.

“This is my friend, Herr Bernal,” he said, as Johann stiffly took the seat offered to him. “He is not a politician, as I dare say you know, but we can reckon on his goodwill.”

Johann bowed constrainedly.

[118]“I have often heard your name, sir, and I have heard one or two of your operas, though music is not much in my line.”

Bernal could not resist a satirical smile at his friend.

“That is your misfortune, Herr Mark. Have you ever read the English poet Shakespeare?”

“I have read him in the translation.”

“Ah, but the poetry is much better in the original.” And glancing at Maximilian, he quoted in English—

“The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
Let no such man be trusted.”

The King could not restrain a smile; but he saw that the republican was annoyed, and hastened to change the subject.

“I want to lose no time, as you see, in acting on my promise,” he said, addressing Johann. “You convinced me yesterday that I was a bad king; now I want you to tell me how to become a better one.”

Johann had been rubbed the wrong way by Bernal’s ill-disguised sarcasm. He replied ungraciously—

“If you are in earnest, sir, and really wish me to explain my ideas, I shall be very glad to do so. But you must allow me to speak to you quite plainly.”

“That is exactly what I wish. I intend to send for the Count von Sigismark presently, to take him into consultation; but, before he comes, I thought it would[119] be better for us to have a little discussion, so that we may see our way more clearly.”

“Certainly,” said Johann, brightening up.

“No doubt you have some proposals which could be taken in hand at once, if we can get the Chancellor to agree with them.”

“Yes. There are many things which could be done. The only difficulty is to decide where to begin. The ideal at which we aim, as I dare say you know, is the abolition of all government, except for purposes of organisation, and the transformation of society into a vast co-operative machine for the production and equal distribution of wealth amongst all its members. We aim at doing away with artificial mediums of exchange, such as money, and thus preventing the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few individuals; we mean to replace the present costly system of litigation by a simple and speedy method of arbitration; and to render military armaments unnecessary, by establishing a court for the settlement of international disputes, pending the consolidation of all nations into one united family. Those are a few of our main principles.”

“You will have to leave the armament question alone for the present, or there will be the Kaiser to be reckoned with,” remarked Bernal, dryly.

“I expect the Kaiser himself will be coming here before long,” observed Maximilian, “and then I will get him to give you an interview, and you can try and convert him.”

[120]“Only take my advice,” added the musician, “and don’t try to convert him with a pistol, because he is a rather good missionary in that line himself.”

Johann frowned, and the King cast a reproving look at his friend.

“Now, Auguste, we shall have enough opposition as it is, without your discouragement.” And he turned once more to Johann.

“Of course, to me, all these things you describe seem a long way off. Whether we shall ever get to them I cannot pretend to say. But, in the mean time, it must be possible to take some steps in the right direction. You spoke yesterday of various things, some of which seemed to be feasible enough. Hospitals, for instance, and public works.”

The Socialist’s face fell. It was a great descent to these petty reforms from the high ideals which he had just been sketching out.

“True, your Majesty.” The title fell from him unconsciously, and only Bernal noticed that it had been used. “Of course, a great deal of good might be done in that way at once. But surely it is hardly worth while to waste time over that, when you might be beginning the greater work. Why not commence with some told step which would rally round you all the friends of progress, and convince the world that you were in earnest?”

“What kind of step do you mean?”

Johann hesitated. Those among whom he moved were more accustomed to dealing in general programmes[121] than to considering the practical method of carrying them out.

“Suppose you commenced by nationalising the land and the means of production,” he suggested, after a minute’s consideration. “That would be a great step gained. Then we could proceed to re-arrange the conditions of labour, by shortening the hours of toil, and equalising the wages for mental and manual work.”

Maximilian was a little puzzled.

“I am afraid I hardly know enough about these things to discuss them with you. I think perhaps we had better send for the Chancellor at once, and you can explain your proposals to him.”

Bernal got up and rang the bell without waiting for more. Inwardly he was impatient to see the Socialist and the Prime Minister confronting each other.

“Tell the Count von Sigismark that I desire his attendance,” said the King, as soon as his page appeared.

While they were waiting for the Count, he returned to what he had been saying.

“You have no doubt thought out these vast changes until they appear easy and natural to you; but I have given such little attention to political affairs, that I feel quite in the dark as to how we ought to proceed. The Chancellor understands the practical side of government, and you and he may be able to work out some definite scheme.”

“Of course you may find the Count a little prejudiced[122] at first,” threw in Bernal “You must remember that he is elderly, and his training may have narrowed his mind.”

Johann looked at him, uncertain whether to reply angrily, or to pass over his words as unworthy of notice. Before he could come to a decision Von Sigismark entered the cabinet.

“Good morning, Count,” said the King, in his most friendly manner. “Be good enough to sit down. I want your assistance.”

The Chancellor greeted the King respectfully, and obeyed, casting a severe look at the republican, and a not very friendly one at Bernal.

Maximilian at once broached the subject.

“They tell me I govern my kingdom badly,” he said; “I have made up my mind to reform. The Herr Mark, whom you see here, has devoted himself to these subjects, and he has been good enough to promise me his assistance. I want you to hear some of his ideas, in order that you may consider the best way of carrying them out.”

The Chancellor frowned sullenly as he answered—

“I am ready to hear anything which your Majesty orders me to listen to.”

This did not sound promising, and the King bit his lip as he turned to Johann.

“Tell the Count von Sigismark what you propose,” he said briefly.

The republican fidgeted uneasily before he began, and made fruitless attempts to catch the eye of the[123] Minister, which travelled alternately between his master’s countenance and the ceiling of the room.

“I have been explaining to the King some of the ideas which are held by men of enlightened views—that is to say, by friends of progress—with regard to the reformation of society.” Thus far he had tried to address the Chancellor direct, but he now gave it up as a bad job, and turned towards Maximilian, who encouraged him by a nod to go on. “His Majesty wished me to begin by suggesting a simple practical step which would be easy to carry out, before realising what may be called our main object, namely, the collective production and distribution of wealth.”

He paused. The Chancellor’s features were set in stony impassiveness. To all appearance he was unconscious that anything was being said.

“That is right. Go on, Herr Mark,” threw in the King, coming to the rescue.

“The reform that occurred to me was the nationalisation of the land and its adjuncts. That would mean taking all the soil of the country, together with the buildings, railways, mines, machinery, and other means of wealth-production into the hands of the government. We should then be able to alter the conditions of labour, and after securing to all the workers a fair remuneration according to the value of their work, and equalising and reducing the hours of toil, the surplus would pass into the coffers of the State, and we could use it in public works, and in bestowing pensions on the aged and infirm. Of course, this would only be[124] the preliminary stage. We hope ultimately to dispense entirely with money as an exchange medium, and replace it by State coupons representing so much labour. But before doing that we shall have to absorb the whole machinery of distribution, so that the State will be the sole possessor of wealth.”

Carried away by his theme, the Socialist had gone on further than he intended. Pulling himself up with difficulty, he glanced once more at the forbidding face of the Count von Sigismark, only to see its former impassiveness replaced by an expression of mingled horror and contempt.

“Well,” said Maximilian to the Minister, “you have heard Herr Mark’s programme. What do you say to it?”

Von Sigismark withdrew his eyes from the ceiling.

“Do I understand that your Majesty really entertains these monstrous proposals seriously?”

“Certainly I do. And I shall be obliged if you will express your opinion of them in milder language.”

“I beg your Majesty’s pardon. I am an old servant of the Crown—I have served your Majesty faithfully for ten years, and his Majesty the late king for twenty-five years before that—and I have never before been asked to listen to such suggestions as I have just heard. I implore your Majesty to dismiss these pernicious ideas at once. I can remember the time when the papers which published such things would have been suppressed, and the men who preached them imprisoned. I am getting an old man, and I take the[125] liberty of speaking plainly. This gentleman is proposing a revolution, nothing more nor less.”

Maximilian grew a little pale, and sat more upright in his chair.

“I regret, Count, that you should think it your duty to address such remonstrances to me, though I give you credit for your loyal intentions. But you have heard what I said. Herr Mark has made a definite suggestion, what he calls nationalising the land. I do not at present understand the best means to put that suggestion into effect. I have sent for you to ask you if you do. Be good enough to answer me.”

The Count’s expression changed from anger to alarm, and from alarm back to indignation, as he listened to the King’s words. He replied in subdued tones—

“It is difficult for me to answer your Majesty in any different way. This is a proposal, as I understand it, to confiscate the greater part of the wealth of the country. In the first place, the legislature would never even look at such a measure. In the second, its passing, its mere introduction even, would be the signal for a revolution. The whole of the propertied classes, the nobility, the army, the townspeople, all but the lowest of the populace, would be up in arms. Your Majesty’s government could not last another day. Your throne would not be safe. I tremble to think what might happen. I dare not even hint at the possible consequences to your Majesty.”

The King grew paler yet.

[126]“In other words, you refuse to assist me?”

“Your Majesty, as I have already said, I am getting an old man, and I have served the Crown of Franconia for thirty-five years. I begin to fear that I can do so no longer. I must humbly beg your Majesty to permit me to send in my resignation.”

So saying, he rose to his feet. The King seemed about to burst out in violence; but, catching a warning glance from Bernal, he restrained himself by an effort, and answered in mild tones—

“No, Von Sigismark, we must not part like this. No doubt you have been taken by surprise, possibly I ought to have prepared you more gradually. At present you have not had time to consider things calmly. Do not speak any more of resignation, but retire now, and let us renew our conversation on these proposals at some future time.”

“As your Majesty pleases,” murmured the old man. And he walked out of the room with a troubled look.

The troubled look did not leave his face as he hastened with uneven steps down the royal corridor, and out into the gallery where the strange scene of the day before had taken place. In the gallery he encountered the Count von Stahlen with his inseparable companion. The Chancellor gave them a sharp nod and was going past, but the wit stopped in front of him.

“Ha! Good morning, Chancellor!” he exclaimed. “I hope nothing has occurred to put you out. They say the King has turned Anarchist.”

[127]Von Sigismark darted an angry frown at the jester, and hurried away, his ears tingling with the mocking laughter of the faithful Von Hardenburg.

Maximilian sat in silence after the Chancellor’s departure, staring moodily before him, while Johann anxiously watched his face.

Bernal was the first to speak.

“You will have to get the old Count alone and talk with him, if you want to get him to assist you.”

Maximilian rose from his seat and approached Johann.

“You see, Herr Mark, the position I am in. After what has passed this morning you will be able to understand how little power is really enjoyed by the most absolute monarchs. In my whole kingdom I do not know of one man whom I can rely on to carry out my wishes. Realise the truth: society, as we see it, is merely an equilibrium of forces; it can only be disturbed by force, and it is as difficult and as dangerous for a king to commence a revolution as for any private man.”

He moved to the window of the room, overlooking a corner of the royal park, and stood gazing out.

Johann rose to his feet, looking much disturbed.

“I can appreciate the difficulties of your position, sir,” he observed respectfully, “and I quite see that it is hopeless to attempt to do anything with the Count von Sigismark. But why should we be in his hands? Surely it is possible to find some other Minister more[128] in sympathy with progressive ideas? You are the King of Franconia, and if these people find out that you mean to go forward there will soon be plenty of them to rally round you. Do not be discouraged because one old man is jealous at seeing his authority weakened.”

The King listened, but shook his head, and replied without turning round—

“It is because I feel that Von Sigismark is a type of all the others that I am discouraged. Depend upon it they will all have the same tale. And how can I fight against them? As you heard me say just now, I am ignorant of these things; I have never paid any attention to State affairs. My people do not know me, they never see or hear of me; I am a stranger in my own capital. What chance have I against my Ministers, who have the whole affairs of the kingdom in their hands? The only men who wield power in Europe to-day are the specialists, and I am not a specialist in government.”

“Then become one, sir. Assert your rightful place in the government, compel these men to lay the business of their departments before you; begin gradually by making little changes here and there, and when you have an opportunity, dismiss one of them as a warning to the rest. Start a few of those minor reforms of which we were speaking before, and become popular with the nation. Take up your residence in Mannhausen, and go about among the people and acquire their confidence. In a short time you will be stronger[129] than any of your Ministers, and you will be in a position to dispense with their services altogether if they refuse to carry out your policy. Oh, sir, think what a sublime part you might play. Think of the grand task of inaugurating the greatest revolution, and the last, in the history of mankind! What are all the achievements of all the monarchs who ever lived compared with this? The names of Napoleon and Charlemagne and Cæsar would sink into insignificance beside yours. Even Mahomet, even Buddha, even Christ, did not achieve the emancipation of their species.”

He stopped abruptly, overcome by his emotion, and the King, bowing his head till his forehead rested on the window-pane, made no reply.

Presently the musician said quietly—

“It seems to me that I ought to leave off writing operas. This is a bolder conception than any I have ever dared to use.”

Johann gave him an irritated look. There was something in the other’s easy nature which jarred upon his own rigid disposition.

“Well, my friend,” said the King at length, looking round, “I am not going to give up. I will try and keep my promises to you yet. But I wish, for your sake, that you had got a better ally. I am afraid I am the wrong man for work like this. You are trying to pierce an armour plate with an ivory needle.”

He remained silent for a short time, and then added, in a more cheerful tone of voice—

“There is another subject about which I wish to[130] speak to you—your cousin Dorothea. You said you were at the cottage yesterday. Did you say anything to her about me?”

Johann hung his head.

“I saw you leaving,” he answered, “and, finding that she did not know who you were, I told her. I am afraid I expressed myself rather harshly about you. I judged of course merely by appearances.”

Maximilian sighed.

“I do not in the least blame you. No doubt you took the natural view. What I am sorry for is that the old pleasant state of things has been destroyed, and I shall never be able to go there again on the former footing. But perhaps it is as well, it was bound to have come before long.”

“The moment I see Dorothea, I shall take care to tell her that I misjudged your Majesty.”

“Thank you, that is kind of you. Now that she knows who I am, I hardly know how she will feel to me. You will respect my confidence when I tell you that, if I were satisfied that Dorothea loved me as I love her, I believe I should have sufficient courage to make her Queen of Franconia in spite of a thousand Von Sigismarks. But I dread inexpressibly the idea of forcing her inclinations in any way. Will you act as my ambassador? Will you use your freedom as a relation to ascertain as well as you can what her feelings really are? And try, if you can, to inspire her with confidence in me. Tell her that a king is not such a very dreadful personage after all.”

[131]“I will, sir; I will go and see her at once, and I hope I shall bring you good news.”

He left the cabinet; and as he did so Bernal got up and came across to the window where the King was standing.

“Well, Max, after this you will believe me when I say that I do not envy you the position of King of Franconia.”

Maximilian sighed, and turned his eyes once more out on to the park.

“What can I do? Men are not like the characters in your operas. I cannot control their actions, and mould their characters to suit the parts I want them to play.”

“And why should you? Do not take this man Mark too seriously. You and I have the character of idealists and dreamers, but we are sober matter-of-fact persons compared with him. I grant you his ideas are noble, but they are impossible. Trust me, after a few more interviews such as we have had to-day, he will begin to see the hopelessness of his wild schemes. I heard him call you ‘your Majesty’ twice. Build him a hospital in Mannhausen, and set him up as director; that will give him something to occupy his mind.”

“Ah, but that would not relieve me. How can I help feeling the truth there is in his words, in what he said to me yesterday? After all, he is right; I am the King, and I cannot get rid of my responsibility. I wish I could. If I could help matters by abdicating, I think I should do it. But I am afraid poor Ernest would not be much of an improvement.”

“Don’t think of that. After all, they cannot say[132] that you are a bad king. Let these revolutionists fight their own battle, if they have the courage of their convictions. You can always look on and see fair play, and if they get put into prison you can let them out again. Why should you be expected to take all the risk, and carry out the work single-handed? Come, you must not let your mind dwell so much on this business. We have managed to get along together pretty well before this cropped up, and why should you let your whole life be upset by this fellow’s exhortations?”

Maximilian laid his hand on his friend’s shoulder.

“Do not think that I mean to let anything of this sort interfere with our friendship, Auguste. Nothing can come between you and me—you know me too well to think that. But I passed through an experience yesterday, and it has left its mark. When that man stood there, with his pistol covering me, and spoke to me as he did, I felt that I was listening to a voice which I had been trying to shut out all my life, and which at last had pierced its way into my selfish isolation. It was the voice of humanity, the voice of duty. Auguste, he was right. My people have a right to demand that I shall govern them like a king, or give up my crown. What have I ever done for Franconia? What return have I ever made to the millions who work and toil and serve me, and supply me with the sums I have lavished on my own pleasures? This talk of revolution may be idle; I fear it is. I may not be able to reorganise society, to divide the wealth[133] of the few among the many, to change the conditions of labour, to alter the great channels in which human life has run for thousands upon thousands of years. But surely I could do something, Auguste; something not quite unworthy of my trust; something that would better the lot of these millions; something to lighten their burdens and to make their lives less like the brutes’; something that would make them look up to me and bless me, and would make me feel that my life had not been a mere waste of existence, like a river running through the desert and losing itself miserably in the barren sands.”

Auguste was deeply moved.

“My friend, you are a better man than I am. You are worthier of your crown than you think.”

The words had hardly left his lips when he saw a sharp took of mingled pain and dread start on the King’s face. He drew back hastily from the window-pane, and turned his eyes into the room.

“What is it?” questioned Auguste, peering out in the direction in which his friend had been looking.

He saw nothing, except the figure of a tall, spare man, clad in the grave costume of the nineteenth century. His long frock coat was buttoned closely round his figure, and he held his hands behind his back, and stooped slightly as he walked towards the palace with slow, deliberate steps.

“Who is that man? Do you know him?”

And the King answered beneath his breath—

“Yes; it is the Court physician, Doctor Krauss.”



Franz Gitten sat on a wooden seat at the side of his cottage porch, and puffed discontentedly at the long pipe with the china bowl. Through the open door of the lodge came an occasional sound of the rattling of crockery, and the clashing of knives and forks. It was the hour after the midday meal, and his daughter was busy in the kitchen.

Franz smoked and listened, and over his face there deepened a look of resentment. It was the look of a man who feels that he has been hardly used. He had worn the same look all day, and whenever his eye had caught Dorothea’s, he had thrown a reproachful expression into it, as of a father who had striven hard for his child’s welfare, and had been rewarded by that child with ingratitude.

Nothing had passed between the two on the subject which was uppermost in both their minds. Since Johann’s stunning revelation of the day before, a barrier had for the first time sprung up between them. Dorothea’s trustful confidence in her father had apparently gone forever, but whether out of a lingering[135] respect for him, or from a forlorn wish not to have her suspicions of him turned into certainties, she had refrained from seeking any explanation of his conduct with regard to the King’s visits.

Franz, on his side, did not venture to broach the topic first. He perceived the shock which had been given to Dorothea’s mind, and he dared not risk making the breach wider. But his watchful eyes noted that the King’s gift had disappeared from its place, and he drew the augury that things were not going altogether favourably, and that his promotion to the post of ranger of the forest was further out of reach than it had seemed the day before.

Not daring to quarrel openly with his daughter, he was endeavouring to wear down her obstinacy by an attitude of sulky aloofness. In the mean time his bitterest wrath was reserved for the person whom he looked upon as the author of all the trouble, his nephew Johann.

It was while he was thus brooding sullenly over his grievances that he heard the click of the gate-latch, and looked round to see the enemy coming boldly towards him.

Instantly he rose from his seat, and pulled-to the door of the cottage.

“Now, sir, what have you come here again for?” he demanded, as soon as his nephew came up.

The other gave him a look, half contemptuous, half angry.

“I wonder you dare to look me in the face,” he said.[136] “You, with your miserable cunning; what have you been expecting as the result of these secret visits of the King?”

“That is not your business. What right had you to thrust your oar in, and terrify that silly girl with your blustering talk?”

“It is my business, as long as Dorothea is my cousin. You had better speak plainly; did you wish to see your daughter ruined?”

“Don’t talk like that to me. Do you suppose I don’t know what I am about? If you had only left things alone a little longer, his Majesty might have made her a countess—think of that! The Countess von Gitten!”

Johann replied with a look of loathing, beneath which the old man fairly shrank.

“You wretched, shameless—bah! I am ashamed to bandy words with you. You may thank your stars that Dorothea’s simple innocence has done more for her than all your hateful scheming. If you will only leave well alone, if you would only go and bury yourself for the next six months, there would be a chance of her becoming something higher than a countess.”

The old forester drew back astonished. He hardly grasped the full import of his nephew’s words, but he gathered enough to feel his hopes rapidly reviving within him.

“How? What do you mean? Why do you say that?” he asked eagerly.

[137]“I say it because I have had the honour of talking on the subject with King Maximilian himself.”

“You! With King Maximilian!” The forester’s manner suddenly became deferential.

“Yes. Since yesterday I have been staying in the Castle as the King’s guest. He has taken me into his confidence, and as it will be impossible to keep you in ignorance, I may as well tell you—but beware how you repeat it—that it is possible that he may make Dorothea his Queen.”

Franz lifted his hands in utter bewilderment.

“God in heaven! I always thought he was queer in the head; but I never thought he was so mad as that!”

Johann started. He heard the voice of public opinion, coming from the mouth of a knave.

“Remember,” he said sternly, “on your life you are not to say a word about this.”

“My dear nephew,” exclaimed the delighted Franz, “you may trust me absolutely. But I suppose I may tell Dorothea. Let us go inside.”

And he laid his hand on the knob of the door, inwardly resolving to persuade Dorothea that this was what he had foreseen all along.

“Stop!” cried Johann. “That is the very thing you are not to do. The King wishes her to be absolutely free, and he has sent me here to sound her feelings without letting her know of his intentions.”

The forester’s face fell. Forbidden to bring his parental authority to bear, he felt less confident of the issue.

[138]“The King will be here later on,” added Johann, “and, if you take my advice, you will let him see as little of yourself as possible. You are not exactly a father-in-law for King Maximilian to be proud of.”

“For all that he shall make me a count when he marries Dorothea,” muttered Franz, as his nephew brushed past him into the cottage.

On consideration, however, he thought there was wisdom in Johann’s remark; and instead of lying in wait as usual to welcome the King, when he arrived, he threw a gun over his shoulder, and made off into another quarter of the forest.

Johann walked straight into the kitchen, where he found his little cousin in the act of polishing a large metal dish-cover. Something seemed to have changed in her since yesterday, for, instead of running to embrace him, she stood still and received his kiss with a slight air of constraint.

“I have come to have a quiet talk with you,” remarked Johann, dropping on to an old-fashioned settee which ran along one of the walls of the kitchen. “You can leave that cover alone.”

But Dorothea seemed to have developed a vein of obstinacy since yesterday.

“I can do this, and listen to you at the same time,” she retorted, rubbing away vigorously.

“Ah, you will soon leave off that when you hear my news,” remarked Johann, complacently. “Where do you think I spent last night?”

“At the Castle.”

[139]“What! Who told you? Have you been listening?”

“I was told so by the Princess Hermengarde. She said the King and you were great friends.”

Johann sprang half out of his seat with surprise.

“The Princess Hermengarde! Where did you see her?”

“She came here last night. She was exceedingly kind. After all, there is no reason why you should be the only one to have friends at the Castle.”

The young man scarcely heeded this gentle sarcasm. He was greatly perplexed by the news of Hermengarde’s intervention. It was true he knew very little about the Princess; but he felt sure that she was not the kind of woman to act from mere benevolence. He could only suppose that she had fathomed the King’s ulterior design, and was proceeding to ingratiate herself with the future Queen of Franconia. Where the King goes, the courtiers will soon follow.

“Well, do not trust her too far,” he said at length. “Be civil to her, but do not have too much to say to her.”

“Why do you say that?” demanded Dorothea.

“Because I know more about her than you. You do not understand these people as I do.”


Dorothea turned away to the dish-cover with renewed energy. The young man tried to attract her attention.

“Dorothea! Listen. Yesterday I spoke to you rather harshly about King Maximilian. You told me[140] he had been coming here day after day to see you, and I naturally put a bad construction on his conduct. Now I find I was unjust. I have found out more than I can say at present, but enough to convince me that he is one of the noblest and sincerest of men.”

“I am glad to hear that, because I always liked him.” She said this quite calmly, and without ceasing from her occupation. “Perhaps you will find out you have been unjust to the Princess as well.”

“My dear girl! What has come over you? Do you doubt my word when I tell you that I distrust the Princess? I only warn you for your good.”

“Thank you, Johann.” And she gave him a bow over the dish-cover.

“Now, there is a thing I want to ask you. The King has been coming here a good deal, and you have had plenty of opportunities to understand him. Have you guessed how he feels towards you?”

Silence for a time. The polishing continued more earnestly than ever. Then, in a low voice—

“I think I guessed yesterday.”

“That he loved you?” Johann spoke triumphantly. “Well, then, what do you think of it? Supposing he were not the King, should you be willing to accept him?”

Silence. That cover seemed to require a great deal of brightening. There must even have been spots on it, for Dorothea’s face was bent so closely down to it that Johann could not see how she received his question.

[141]The clumsy ambassador thought he could take silence for consent. Stepping a little outside the bounds of his instructions in his confidence, he said—

“Well, perhaps before very long you may find that he will ask you to be his wife!”

He spoke in the tone of one who expects to produce a sensation. But he was destined to be disappointed. Dorothea received his intimation with strange calmness, and did not even interrupt her labours for more than an instant.

He felt driven to remonstrate with her.

“Come, you take it very coolly. Do you mean to say that you anticipated this?”

“I hardly know. But it makes no difference. I shall not marry the King.”

“What! What do you say?” His astonishment passed into rebuke. “Be serious. Put down that miserable thing, and consider what you are saying. You do not seem to understand. He will make you Queen of Franconia.”

She left off her work for a moment, and looked him full in the face.

“I do not want to be Queen of Franconia. I am not fit for it. I am only a peasant girl, and I should be miserable if I had to spend my life in a Court.”

“Nonsense! This is absurd. If I am not miserable there, why should you be? Is it because you are too young to understand what you are refusing, or because you do not love the King after all?”

[142]The polishing still went on, but more fitfully, as if the arm of the polisher were getting tired.

“I did not think that you attached so much importance to rank, Johann. You used to be a republican.”

He flushed angrily.

“So I am still. It is not the rank I think of, but the influence it will give you for good. Do you know that the King is already half-converted to my ideas? He has asked me to stay with him and assist in reforming his government. And think what it would be to have you, a daughter of the people, on the throne, always by the King’s side to persuade him to the right course! No woman ever had a more glorious opportunity. We should work together like one family. Do not let any girlish folly hold you back, when your marriage with the King is the one thing I rely on, the foundation stone on which everything rests. What is there to prevent you, really? You do not dislike the King?”

“No, I do not dislike the King.”

“Then why should you hesitate? Come, Dorothea, you and I have always been good friends ever since we were children, but I do not think I could forgive you, if you refused to help me in this. Think it over before the King comes, and at all events do not break off with him altogether. Promise me that?”

The polishing had grown feebler. It ceased.

“Very well. I will promise not to break off with him yet.”

And then Johann thought it prudent to get up and[143] go out of reach; and no sooner was he gone than Dorothea laid down the gleaming cover right in a pool of water, so that all the polishing would have to be done over again.

After which she went quietly out of the kitchen and upstairs to her own room, to prepare for the visit of the King.

On this afternoon Maximilian came by himself, only attended as far as the forest by his favourite Karl.

He came along with beating heart, murmuring to himself the fragment of an old German song:—

“Ill for the man who loves a child;
Better to woo the wood-bird wild,
Flying free in the middle air.”

Over and over again he reckoned up all the smiles he had ever received from Dorothea, and every look and word which could betoken the secret growth of love. And as he thought, and as he counted, his heart grew great within him, and his step grew buoyant, and the old earth seemed to bend and swing beneath him, and all the branches of the trees to wave salutes, and every leaf and blade to toss for joy, as he strode onward to meet his bride.

And ever and anon, from the very bottom of his heart there crept up a cold doubt like a mist, and blotted out all his tender pictures one by one; and his spirit wavered and went down like the flame of a fire when the rain falls on it; and bitterly he reproached his fortune that had done so much for him, but yet[144] could not do this one last thing—like the mighty roaring Nasmyth hammer, that can crush a cannon-ball and stroke an eggshell, but yet cannot give a new curve to the stalk of the tiniest flower.

So he came on, impatiently, and yet dreading to reach his journey’s end.

When he arrived at the forester’s lodge, he found no one waiting to receive him. He passed through the gate and took his way to the arbour, where he sat down alone.

But Dorothea had watched for his coming, and when she saw him she set the flagon and the unbroken glass on a tray, and brought them out to him.

He rose up at her entrance, and looked at her steadfastly, but he did not venture to embrace her as of old. She greeted him with a new deference, which had taken the place of her former shy friendliness, and poured out the cider for him to drink, and waited.

“Sit down, my child,” he said gravely, setting her the example. “So they have told you who I am at last?”

“Yes, Sire.”

She sat down, but not on the same seat with him, nor did he seem to expect it.

“No, Dorothea, you are not to call me that. Let me still be the Herr Maurice when I am here, at least.”

There followed a pause which it was difficult for either of them to break. At last Maximilian said—

“Do you remember what you said to me yesterday[145] about sinking through the earth if the poor King caught sight of you? You won’t feel like that any more, will you?”

And he gazed at her with a look at once so beseeching and so desponding, that her heart melted towards him, and she suddenly made up her mind what to do, and dropped her eyes and fell on her knees beside him, and caught his hand and cried—

“My King! Forgive me, I am young and ignorant, and I am not worthy of your love.”

Then an infinite tenderness, which was the greatest happiness he had ever known, filled Maximilian’s soul, and he stooped and lifted her up, and clasped her to him once, and kissed her on the forehead and on the lips, and set her down beside him.

“My darling, I have loved you all this time, and never dared to tell you, for fear I might frighten you and lose your confidence. And I did not mean you to know who I was till I had won your love in return. And now, what do you say? Do you think you can bring yourself to love me after all?”

“I will try.”

She said it in a whisper so low and faint that only the ear of a lover could have caught the words. But he was satisfied. And they sat on there together for more than an hour, while he talked to her, and tried to diminish the gulf that lay between them, and to soothe her into security. And every now and then he ventured to put in a word of love, and watched her colour rise, or saw her shyly droop her head, and felt[146] that he could wish for no greater joy than to sit on like that forever.

But at last he felt that he must leave her, and began to say farewell. And it occurred to him to give her a warning.

“All this is our secret, is it not, little one?” he said gently. “No one but our two selves need know anything of what has passed between us, as yet. When the time comes that you have conquered your doubts, and can look me in the face, and tell me that you feel towards me as I feel towards you, then the world shall hear of it. In the mean time, if any strangers should come here to satisfy their curiosity or to make their court to you because they think you have influence with me, have nothing to do with them. You will remember this, will you not?”

Dorothea nodded, with a troubled look. Already the meshes of Court intrigue were beginning to close around her, already the simple peasant girl was beginning to draw her breath with difficulty in a courtly atmosphere. Ought she to tell Maximilian of his aunt’s invitation? Or ought she rather to be guided by the Princess’s warnings against bestowing too much confidence on any one not of her own sex?

Before she could make up her mind between these conflicting appeals the King had given her a parting embrace, and was gone.

She had left her seat and accompanied him as far as the garden gate, and when he turned back he saw her looking after him with a sweet, pathetic smile.

[147]She stayed in the same attitude for many minutes. But when her cousin, seeing from a distance that the King had gone, came up to her, eager to find out how matters stood, she received him with an outburst of temper quite foreign to her gentle character, refused to answer a single question, and rushed from him into the house, where she took refuge in her own room.

Much puzzled, Johann turned his steps into the park, where he happened to come across his uncle.

“Well, Johann, what has happened?” demanded Franz, anxiously. “Has the King been to see her?”

“Yes, he has been and gone; and that is all I can tell you,” was the ill-tempered answer, as Johann strode onward in the direction of the Castle.

Franz was alarmed by his nephew’s words and manner. He hastened towards the cottage, determined to have it out with his daughter.

On his arrival, however, she was still upstairs, and by the time she had come downstairs he had had time for reflection. Her serious air somewhat intimidated him, and contributed to make him delay his parental inquiries. He therefore left her alone till supper-time, consoling himself for the violence to his feelings thus caused, by numerous applications to a bottle, containing something which he considered more wholesome than the cider for which his cottage was famed.

By this means he at last brought himself up to the requisite pitch of courage, and bluntly attacked his daughter.

“Now, Dorothea, I am not going to stand any more[148] of this nonsense. I am your father and your best friend, and I have a right to know what is going on.”

The girl directed a glance at him in which he thought he detected alarm, but she made no other answer. He assumed a more determined tone.

“I insist on your telling me exactly what has happened. The King has been here—you know he is the King now—and I want to know exactly what he said.”

“I am sorry I cannot tell you, father. His Majesty forbade me to talk about it.”

The forester snapped his fingers.

“That for his Majesty! What right has he to give orders to my daughter? I will teach you that I am the authority here; and I will teach him too, if he tries that game on.”

Dorothea looked at him gravely, and rose from her seat.

“Where are you going? Sit down. You can talk to Johann fast enough when he comes here; but when your own father is speaking to you, you want to run away. I won’t have that fellow coming to my house; do you hear? It is my belief he would like to marry you himself; but you have got a better tune to sing to than that.”

“You are wrong, father; indeed, you are,” broke out the girl, indignantly. “I don’t believe he has ever thought of such a thing. He is not—he does not care for me in that way at all.”

[149]“Never mind whether he does or not. It’s not him I am talking about, but King Maximilian. Now, is he going to marry you, or not? That’s what I want to know.”

Dorothea gave a shiver of discomfort, and turned to the door.

Her father sprang at her and seized her by the wrist.

“Now, are you going to answer me or not?”

“I cannot.” And though her lips were quivering, she returned his angry look with one so firm that he dropped her arm, and with a muttered oath returned to his seat.

Dorothea escaped from the room, and did not come back. The forester finished his supper, growling all the time to himself, and then fastened up the house and went to bed earlier than usual.

An hour after he had fallen asleep, Dorothea softly opened her bedroom door and crept out. She was dressed for walking, and in her hand she carried a small bundle. Tiptoeing past her father’s door, she went softly down the stairs and approached the front door. It was easy work to draw the bolts and open it, and as soon as this was done she stole outside, and pulled the door gently after her.

Then she ran rapidly down the garden path and out through the gate, and plunged into the thickness of the forest.

Dorothea had made up her mind to accept the invitation of the Princess Hermengarde.



The Count von Sigismark stared at his private secretary, and his private secretary stared back respectfully at the Count von Sigismark.

“Where did you hear that?” demanded the Count.

“From Von Hardenburg. He was telling it to everybody as Von Stahlen’s latest.”

“An impertinent fool! And he said—?”

“That the Lady Gertrude—”

“I’ll wager it was something more insolent than that! Yes, had been—”

“Had been cut out by the ‘Poacher’s Child.’”

“It is disgraceful. The fellow ought to be turned out of the palace.”

And he drummed his fingers impatiently on the table before him.

The Chancellor had passed a very uneasy time since his parting with the King the previous day. He had hardly had time to cool down after his interview with the revolutionist when he received a report from the Minister of the Interior, representing the state of things in Mannhausen in an alarming light, and soliciting[151] authority for the adoption of special measures of repression. His reply had been to wire to his colleague to come to Neustadt, and he was now impatiently expecting his arrival.

Herr Moritz, the Minister referred to, was a comparatively young man, a protégé of his own, on whose devotion to himself he placed the greatest reliance, while he felt that his plebeian origin was a guarantee against his ever becoming a dangerous rival for power. The entrance of the young Minister at this moment brought an expression of relief to his patron’s countenance. The Chancellor quickly sent away his secretary, and drawing a chair close beside that on which he had made his colleague sit down, he poured into his ear a full account of the events of the past two days.

Thoroughly acquainted with the Chancellor’s character and views, it did not take Herr Moritz long to grasp how things stood in the Castle. The Count was still expatiating on the evil influence over the King wielded by Johann when a summons arrived for the Chancellor to wait upon his Majesty.

“Come with me, Moritz,” said the Count, “and see if you cannot do something to open the young fool’s eyes.”

He drew the younger Minister along with him, and they proceeded to the royal cabinet together.

On the way they encountered the man whose irreverent tongue had so greatly provoked the old Count. Von Sigismark glared at him fiercely, when,[152] to his surprise, Von Stahlen put on an air of the greatest sympathy, and respectfully accosted him.

“My dear Chancellor, has it come to this. I am inexpressibly grieved.”

“Why, what do you mean, sir?” cried the bewildered Von Sigismark.

“I hope I am not taking a liberty, but I inferred that you and the Herr Moritz were on your way to tender the resignations of the Ministry to his Majesty.”

The Chancellor received this ill-timed jest with a furious look, and turned away. But Moritz, who was not disposed to submit to such remarks without making any retort, stopped long enough to say—

“At all events, my lord, I am glad to think there will be no vacancy in the office of Court fool.”

Von Stahlen bit his lip. His comrade, the Baron, glanced at him apprehensively. He felt that his reputation was at stake, and trembled. Then, before the Minister could get out of reach, he responded—

“Thanks, Herr. You shall have my good word with the new Premier, Herr Mark. But no doubt you and he have met already.”

Herr Moritz took this as an insulting allusion to his humble extraction, and flushed angrily. But there was no time for further recrimination, unless he wished to be left behind. So he hurried off after the Chancellor, leaving Von Stahlen to enjoy the felicitations of his faithful admirer.

Von Sigismark sent in the name of his colleague,[153] and the two were at once admitted to the King’s presence.

After leaving Dorothea on the day before, Maximilian had returned to the palace in a more cheerful frame of mind.

Meeting his young cousin in the grounds of the Castle, he had stopped to have a chat with him. Ernest was engaged in teaching one of his dogs the not very difficult trick of standing on its hind legs and answering a species of catechism. As soon as he saw Maximilian, however, he forgot the dog and ran forward to welcome him.

“Cousin Max! Where have you been? I have not seen you all day.”

“Where have you been?” retorted Maximilian, taking the boy’s head in his hands, and playfully wrestling with him.

Ernest pretended to be angry.

“Leave me alone, will you? I wouldn’t go out riding to-day, for fear my mother would make me take Gertrude von Sigismark with me again. I hate women, don’t you?”

“Certainly. Every well-regulated mind hates women,” responded Maximilian, gravely. “But why should your mother want you to take the Lady Gertrude with you?”

“I don’t know. That’s what I was going to ask you. It isn’t as if she were a clever woman or knew anything. Fancy, she asked me if Wolf had ever caught a fox?”

[154]And he pointed to the dog he had been playing with—a handsome Pomeranian.

The King laughed.

“Perhaps your mother wants you to learn manners, you young cub.”

“Oh, bother manners! What is the use of being a prince if I can’t do what I like? And I do wish she wouldn’t talk—” He stopped suddenly, recollecting his mother’s warning, and blushed red.

Maximilian disdained to take advantage of the boy’s simplicity by questioning him.

“Well, what were you doing with Wolf before I came?” he said. “Show me.”

Ernest called the dog to him, only too pleased to show him off.

“Now, Wolf, attention!”

The dog raised himself on his hind legs, and made a ludicrous attempt to remain perfectly motionless while preserving his balance.

“Present arms to the Chancellor!”

A growl was the response.

“Present arms to the King!”

The dog remained quiet.

“Present arms to the Kaiser!”

A short bark from Wolf.

“Now present arms to Cousin Max!”

The dog lifted his forepaws high in the air, and instantly found himself on all fours, when he began leaping and capering round his young master.

[155]“There! What do you think of that?” exclaimed the delighted lad.

His cousin smiled, half mournfully.

“Very clever indeed, Ernest; but, mark my words, Wolf will be poisoned one of these days.”

And with this enigmatic remark he turned and resumed his way to the Castle.

The rest of the day he spent either alone or in the society of Bernal, who found his royal friend’s conversation a trifle tedious, perpetually recurring, as it did, to the subject of Dorothea.

In the morning, however, Maximilian’s conscience reminded him of his pledges to Johann, and after a previous talk with the revolutionist he sent for Von Sigismark to see what he could do with him in a private interview.

“Mind, be firm with him!” were the Chancellor’s last words to Moritz, as he preceded his colleague into the royal cabinet, where the King gave them a gracious welcome.

“You will remember, Count,” said Maximilian as soon as they were seated, “that we adjourned our discussion yesterday. I thought that if you and I met by ourselves we should be more likely to come to an understanding. However, I am very pleased that Herr Moritz should be present, as I wish all my Ministers to know of my intentions.”

The two Ministers exchanged glances.

“I hope, Sire,” the Chancellor ventured to remark, “that your Majesty has had time to consider the difficulties[156] which lie in the way of any revolutionary changes, such as were referred to by the person who was here yesterday.”

“Difficulties! Everything is difficult to those who are not in earnest about it. But is the present state of things free from difficulties either? You know I have taken no part in the government. I was to blame for it. I have left matters entirely in your hands and those of my other Ministers, and now what do I hear? My capital is on the very eve of a revolt, and you have never warned me of it.”

“It was precisely in order to warn your Majesty, and to get your sanction for the necessary preventive measures, that Herr Moritz came here to-day,” returned Von Sigismark. “Let his Majesty know the truth,” he added, turning to the other.

“There is nothing to be really alarmed at, in my opinion,” said the Minister for the Interior; “but undoubtedly there is need for caution and firmness. Ever since the relaxation of the police laws, which followed your Majesty’s accession, there has been, I regret to say, a steady growth in the strength of the revolutionary societies. Of course these societies are to be found in all the capitals of Europe, but for some reason they have lately been particularly active in Mannhausen. The actual number enrolled is about two thousand.”

“Three thousand,” threw in Maximilian.

The Minister looked surprised and annoyed.

“Possibly your Majesty has better sources of information than I have,” he began.

[157]“I have.”

The King’s tone was severe.

“I beg your pardon, Sire. I will tell the police that they have under-estimated the numbers of the enrolled. But, as I was about to say, the danger lies not so much in the number of actual members of these societies, as in the very widespread sympathy with them and their aims which prevails among the poorer classes. If the Socialists were to make any open demonstration against the government, there is reason to fear that they would receive the active support of great numbers who are now passively looking on. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary, in my opinion, that we should not wait for the conspirators to take the first step, but that we should at once take precautionary measures.”

“And that is the state of things in which I find my kingdom after only ten years’ reign!” exclaimed the King. “It seems to me that it is rather late in the day to speak of preventive measures now. Every good law passed, every evil institution swept away, is a preventive measure against such conspiracies as you describe, and such measures ought to have been taken long ago.”

The Ministers hung their heads. The old Count answered—

“I am sorry to hear that you are dissatisfied with the results of our efforts to serve you, Sire. I can only express a hope that you will not judge us entirely by one incident like this. Possibly your Majesty might[158] never have been disturbed by the news of these troubles but for the arrival of this Herr Mark.”

The King turned on him sharply.

“Possibly not, as you say, Count; but when I find myself confronted in my own palace by a man with a loaded pistol pointed at my head, I think you will admit that I have some reason to inquire into the state of things which has brought him there.”

The Chancellor was silenced. His colleague tried to come to his assistance.

“Perhaps I could give you some information about Herr Mark, Sire. I have heard of him before.”

“Sir,” retorted Maximilian, “he came here, as he told me plainly enough, to assassinate me. I dare say you may have heard of similar events in his past career, but have you heard of anything worse than that?”

“Heaven forbid, Sire!”

“Then it seems to me that it is useless to discuss Herr Mark’s antecedents.”

There was an awkward pause. Both the Ministers felt that they were getting the worst of it. The King was the first to renew the conversation.

“But now let us understand each other. You admit that the present state of affairs cannot continue, that something must be done. Pray what do you propose?”

“My suggestion, Sire,” said Herr Moritz, taking it on himself to reply, “is that, in the first place, we should paralyse the movement by at once arresting the ringleaders.”

[159]“Including, I presume, the one who is at present residing in the Castle?” broke in the King, sarcastically.

“I look upon him as the most dangerous man in Franconia,” returned the Minister, firmly; “but, of course, it is for your Majesty to decide how he shall be dealt with.”

“And your other proposals?”

“That a law should be passed rendering it penal to belong to any political association the objects of which are not reconcilable with loyalty to the throne. If that did not prove sufficient I should ask your Majesty for permission to declare Mannhausen in a state of siege, and try any revolters by martial law.”

“I see. And am I to take it, Count, that you endorse Herr Moritz’s recommendations?”

“Most decidedly so, Sire. In my humble opinion nothing else can save us from a dangerous rebellion.”

“Very good. Now listen. I positively forbid the arrest of any of the ringleaders, as you term them, of this agitation. If they proceed to open breaches of the law, of course you are at liberty to bring them before the ordinary tribunals. But I will consent to no new legislation, nor to the adoption of the other repressive measures which have been mentioned. The only true remedy for the discontent which exists is to take away the grievances from which the people are suffering, and bring the government into touch with the popular will. Those are the lines on which I intend to proceed. At our last interview,” he turned to[160] the Chancellor, who sat listening in hardly veiled consternation, “a policy was suggested to which you objected. Now I require you to submit to me a programme of your own, embodying measures for the removal of distress, and meeting the principal demands of the people.”

The Chancellor sat helpless, unable to make any reply to this speech, in which he recognised a tone of authority wholly new in his experience of the young monarch. It was again left to the younger Minister to answer for both.

“Your Majesty’s commands are, of course, binding on your Ministers,” he said, in tones of deep respect. “But you will perhaps permit us to confess our ignorance of some of the points which your Majesty has, as it were, taken for granted. You have spoken of distress, as if there were some generally recognised distress prevailing in the country at present. If there be anything of the kind it should be within my province to hear of it, and of course to apply remedies. I can only say, with the greatest deference to your Majesty’s better knowledge, that no hint of any such distress has reached me.”

The King moved, and opened his mouth as if to interrupt. But he remained silent, regarding the Minister with a puzzled air.

Herr Moritz saw that he had made an impression and pursued his advantage.

“You have also spoken of demands on the part of the people. The elected representatives of the people,[161] composing the Lower Chamber of the Legislature, have made no demands, so far as I am aware, which have not been granted, wholly or partly. The only demands to which I can suppose your Majesty to refer are those of the Socialists, whose numbers, taking the figures supplied to you, are only three thousand.”

“But you said yourself that they had the active support of the poorer classes.”

“In Mannhausen, true, Sire,” responded the Minister quickly; “but Mannhausen does not represent Franconia. On the contrary, the nation as a whole is profoundly loyal. The reigning dynasty is regarded as a guarantee of the national independence, and the people have sense enough to see that any attack on the present government would be simply an invitation to Prussia to absorb us like Hanover.”

Maximilian leant his head upon his hands with a weary look.

“What am I to do?” he asked helplessly. “I hear one story from one side, and now I hear the very opposite.”

“Inquire for yourself, Sire,” was the eager response. “Appoint a Commission to gather evidence and report on the state of the country and the needs of the people.”

The old Chancellor looked up and frowned. To his mind even this proposal savoured of the guillotine and the dynamite bomb.

Maximilian closed the discussion in despair.

“I will consider your suggestion,” he said. “It is at[162] least better than naked repression. In the mean time, take no steps with regard to the Mannhausen plots till you see me again.”

The two Ministers rose, and took their leave. As soon as they were gone the King sent for Johann, with whom he engaged in earnest conversation.

The Count von Sigismark, meanwhile, was congratulating himself on the comparative success with which his colleague had baffled Maximilian.

“We cannot complain,” he said, as they strolled back to his private room through the spacious corridors of the Castle. “We have put him off for a time, at all events. But it was unfortunate that you should have made that admission about the working class being in sympathy with the Socialists.”

“But you told me to let the King know the truth,” objected the other.

The Count heaved a deep sigh.

“My dear Moritz, you will never make a statesman! And then, why did you suggest a Commission? A most dangerous proceeding!”

“Not if we put our own men upon it, surely,” answered the young man, deprecatingly.

“But, my dear fellow, the King will insist on that scoundrel of a Mark taking part in it. No, the Commission will never do. I tell you what it is, Moritz, we must get this man away from the King at any price. Do you think—” He glanced round to see that no one was near, and then whispered something in his companion’s ear at which the other fairly started.

[163]“No, no, my lord; we must not think of that.”

The Count said nothing more, and they got to his apartment.

There they found the Lady Gertrude, who sprang impatiently towards her father as he entered.

On seeing who was with him she restrained herself with some slight confusion, and blushed as she acknowledged the warm greeting of the young Minister. But her father’s inquiring look quickly recalled her to the object which had brought her into his apartments, and she said—

“I have been waiting for an opportunity to see you all day. I have something important which I must tell you privately.” And she glanced at Herr Moritz.

He made a movement towards the door, but the Count stopped him.

“Wait! Do not go just yet.” And he led his daughter aside into a corner of the room.

“Now, be quick! What is it?” he asked, expecting to hear merely of some personal trouble of the capricious beauty. She quickly undeceived him.

“You have heard of that girl whom the King has been noticing lately—the forester’s daughter?”

“Yes; what of her?”

“Did you know that she was in the Castle?”

“No! Here! Good heavens!”

“Yes. She came last night. The Princess Hermengarde has taken her into her service—as a reader, she pretends.”

The old Count stared helplessly at his daughter.

[164]“What does this mean? What is she aiming at now? Curse the woman!” He turned round to his colleague. “Here, Moritz, you ought to know my daughter’s news.” And he repeated what Gertrude had told him.

Moritz looked grave.

“I should look into this without delay, if I were you,” he said anxiously. “You had better have an interview with the Princess, and try to obtain an explanation. Does the King know of this?” he added, turning to Gertrude.

“I believe not. In fact, I am sure. Her arrival was kept quite secret; and the Princess has let very few people see her up to the present.”

Moritz turned to his patron.

“You see, sir, this paves the way for you. You can appear to be acting on behalf of the King.”

“I think you are right. Shall I find the Princess in her apartments now?”

“Yes,” answered Gertrude.

“Then I will go there at once. And you wait here till I return, Moritz.” And he hurried away.

He had not bidden Gertrude to remain behind as well; but she did.



If Dorothea had consulted some of those familiar with the Court, as to which of her various friends she would be least wise to trust in, the answer in almost every case would have been—the Princess Hermengarde. Nevertheless, it was to the Princess she fled from the new complexities which beset her life at the forester’s lodge.

Though far from expecting her invitation to be so promptly accepted, Hermengarde had been careful to leave instructions that Dorothea should be admitted to her at any time when she might present herself. When, therefore, the exhausted and trembling girl arrived at the Castle after her flight through the forest, she found no difficulties in the way of her entrance.

The hour was half-past ten, which was not quite so late in the palace as in the cottage, and Hermengarde, when Dorothea was announced, was sitting alone with her son, whom she was trying to interest in a game of draughts. In this her success had been doubtful, for the boy was staring blankly at the board, where two solitary men, who formed the survivors of his own[166] army, were being pursued to their doom by a whole troop of kings in his mother’s service. He was yawning audibly between the moves, and welcomed the interruption caused by the new arrival by a loud sigh of relief.

“Let the Fräulein come in here,” said Hermengarde to the page in attendance. And Dorothea entered.

As she came in, Ernest turned round in natural curiosity to see what she was like. The result seemed to be satisfactory, for he got up and offered her his hand, to the surprise of his mother.

Dorothea, unused to the ways of Courts, took the young Prince’s hand unaffectedly in her own, and by that simple act confirmed the good impression.

“This is my son, Prince Ernest Leopold,” observed Hermengarde, with the slightest possible emphasis on the “Prince.”

Dorothea shrank back a little and blushed. The Princess good-naturedly reassured her.

“But I hope you will be good friends. Sit down here by me, and tell me why you have come. Ernest you can say good night.”

The boy obeyed, and withdrew with more reluctance than he generally showed at quitting his mother’s presence.

“He is a little shy for his age,” remarked the Princess, as the door closed behind him; “but no doubt he will grow out of it before long. You would hardly take him for sixteen, would you?”

[167]Dorothea made some suitable reply, and began to feel more at ease under the influence of this homely talk.

“And now, my dear child, tell me what is the matter?” said Hermengarde, patting the girl’s hand affectionately.

By way of answer Dorothea poured out the story of the day’s events, the hints of a royal marriage dropped by Johann, the promise which she had given to Maximilian to try and reciprocate his love, and, finally, the coarse attempt of her father to take the control of her conduct. The Princess listened, watching her with steady eyes, and nodding occasionally to herself. At the close Dorothea’s voice began to tremble, and she finished off with a broken appeal to her protectress.

“I have no one to tell me what to do,” she said. “All this has come upon me so suddenly. Two days ago I was like a child, without a care in the world, except when one of the hens laid an egg where I could not find it. And now there is nothing but trouble and difficulty, and I feel as if I should like to run away and hide myself. And you said I might come to you, and, oh, if you will only help me—”

She broke down, sobbing. Hermengarde extended her arm, and drew the girl to her bosom.

“I will help you, my dear,” she said, touched, apparently in spite of herself, by the young girl’s simple confidence in her.

“I think I see something in all this that you do not see yourself yet,” the Princess remarked presently.[168] “But, in the meanwhile, I promise that you shall not marry the King unless you really wish it.”

Dorothea murmured her thanks.

“Still, as you have given your word, I don’t think you must break off with him just at present. Stay here with me for a time, and see how a Court life suits you. My nephew will have plenty of opportunities of meeting you here, and in time everything will arrange itself quietly, without any trouble.”

So the compact was sealed between the two, and Dorothea remained.

She found her new position rather trying at first, but it was made as easy for her as possible by the thoughtfulness of Hermengarde, who kept her close to herself, and only suffered her to make the acquaintance of one or two of the ladies in attendance.

Among these was the Chancellor’s daughter, whom Hermengarde apparently had no desire to keep in the dark. Dorothea, of course, had no knowledge of the former relations between the Lady von Sigismark and Maximilian, but Gertrude was on the defensive from the first, against the girl whom she considered in the light of a rival.

Matters were not improved in this quarter by the rather obvious preference which Prince Ernest showed for the peasant girl; and it taxed all his mother’s resources to keep up the fiction of an intimacy between Gertrude and the Prince. So unlike his mother did the boy show himself in everything, and so different from all that she sought to make him, that there were[169] times when, in her despair, she was ready to admit to herself that Von Stahlen’s designation of him as “The Changeling” was not altogether wide of the mark.

Although Dorothea’s installation in her household had been so quietly managed, the Princess did not, of course, expect it to remain a secret for many hours. Palaces are built of glass, and Hermengarde had taken her measures with a view to that publicity which she affected to shun.

She was, therefore, perfectly prepared for the visit of the Chancellor, whom she received with easy cordiality.

“You are not looking quite yourself to-day, Count,” she observed, after he had seated himself at her invitation. “I hope it is not true that you have been harassed in the cabinet by the King’s Socialist friend?”

The Count had not expected this attack. He turned his eyes away as he responded cautiously—

“The King is of a generous disposition, and no doubt it carries him farther than is quite prudent at times. However, I am happy to say that his Majesty and I understand each other. We have just had a conversation, at which the Socialist, as your Royal Highness terms him, was not present, and I think I may say that there is no immediate cause for anxiety in that direction.”

Hermengarde permitted a smile of scorn to show itself for one moment, before she rejoined—

“Indeed! I congratulate you. I was led to fear, from what I heard, that the King had taken up a rather[170] alarming attitude. But perhaps you have been able to bring him to see things in a more rational light. Has Herr Mark been sent away?”

“No, Madam; I cannot say he has. But I have heard,” he pursued, catching at the opening she had given him, “of the arrival of a person whose presence I should have thought you would have considered equally embarrassing.”

“You mean the Fräulein Gitten, of course,” remarked the Princess, with composure. “Has the King been informed of it?”

“Not yet, I believe. But of course he must hear of it very soon, if she remains. That is why I have ventured to present myself before you. In the light of your Royal Highness’s own remarks a couple of days ago, it is surely a rather serious matter.”

He spoke deprecatingly. Hermengarde sat up and looked him in the face.

“It is a serious matter,” she said boldly. “It is serious for you, and for me, and for all of us—far more serious than you think. Have the goodness to recollect what you said on the last occasion when we discussed the King’s relations with this girl. Even then I hinted to you that it was no mere passing intrigue; but you were disinclined to share my view.”

“True, Madam, and I should be equally disinclined now; but the step which you have taken in introducing her into the palace, where she must constantly come under the King’s eye, makes the affair more important.”

[171]“I think not. As far as my nephew is concerned, it matters little whether he meets her here in my apartments, or in her father’s cottage. On the whole, perhaps, he will have fewer opportunities of seeing her now than before. The difference is this, that the affair must now become public, and if the King of Franconia is courting a peasant girl, the whole world will know it. And that is exactly what I desire.”

The Chancellor looked at her anxiously. Rendered secure against consequences by her royal blood, it was easy for Hermengarde to run where it would be dangerous for him to creep. He dared not imitate her frankness, and yet it was necessary for him if possible to penetrate her designs.

“You will pardon my dulness,” he said, speaking with some hesitation, “if I do not quite grasp your position. I do not understand that you really desire the King to marry this young person?”

“I think such a marriage would be the act of a madman,” was the quick reply.

The old courtier, in spite of his training, could not repress a start. He hastened to pass on.

“Then I presume that you think the publicity given to the affair will deter his Majesty from going on?”

“It may have that effect, certainly. But I will be perfectly open with you, my dear Count.” The Chancellor instantly became on his guard. “The fact is that I do not choose to be in the dark as to what is taking place. I want to know the worst, and if my nephew really contemplates making this girl the Queen of[172] Franconia, I think I have a right to know it—and perhaps to prevent it. I suppose I may take it that you, as the King’s principal adviser”—the Count bit his lip—“would feel it your duty to oppose such a match by every means in your power.”

“Every legitimate means, undoubtedly, Madam.”

A slight frown passed across Hermengarde’s face.

“Quite so. And it may become necessary—of course I do not say that it will—to take very strong measures against the King’s infatuation. In that case it is essential that we should have public opinion on our side. The presence of the girl here in the Castle will ensure that. The whole Court will have the opportunity of observing the King’s conduct, and forming their own opinions on it. That very rude man, Von Stahlen, who said such spiteful things about our dear Gertrude,”—the Chancellor looked uneasy—“will make some of his disagreeable epigrams. In short, we shall be able to arouse such a feeling that the King will have to abandon his purpose, or—”

She stopped, and darted a piercing glance at Von Sigismark. He trembled, and fidgeted with his beard. The Princess thought the time had come to play the trump card she held in reserve.

“Do you know why this escaped lunatic, Mark, or whatever he is called, wields such influence over the King?” she demanded abruptly.

The Count gazed at her with new alarm.

“I cannot say, unless it is because the King believes him to be sincere.”

[173]“Then you were not aware that the man is a cousin of your future Queen?”

This time the Chancellor made no attempt to conceal his astonishment and dismay.

“Great heavens! Is that true?” he exclaimed, with uncourtly freedom.

Hermengarde leaned back, enjoying his confusion, and regarded him with a sardonic smile.

“You see I am your friend, Count. Although you are quite right to be careful, you may find it the best policy to join hands with me, after all.”

Then, before the Count could recover sufficiently from his consternation to make any reply, she added—

“Now, let me point out to you another thing. This man, from what I have heard of him, is not of a character to lend himself for an instant to anything that would be contrary to the code of honour or morals which prevails among his class. Do you suppose, then, that he would remain here on terms of intimacy with Maximilian unless he, at all events, believed that the King meant to marry his cousin honourably? Tell me frankly, are you prepared to see this girl Queen of Franconia, and Herr Mark Chancellor?”

The Count shrank before her searching gaze. But he never spoke frankly; it was by pursuing a very different policy that he had reached and maintained his present position.

“What you tell me is very serious, Madam,” he said, as soon as he could collect himself. “It calls for the most anxious consideration. I hardly feel justified[174] in expressing my opinion off-hand. I can only say that I am deeply sensible of your goodness in giving me this information, and I will take care to keep you informed beforehand of any steps which I may think it necessary to take.”

The Princess breathed impatiently. Then she made her last move.

“The fact is, my dear Count, that you and I cannot come to an understanding too soon. The present situation is an uncomfortable one for us all. We never know from day to day what the King may take it into his head to do. That scene in the gallery was enough to set people talking, and then there was that affair with your daughter.” The Count looked up. “Fortunately, nothing came of it, but it has put both you and her in a false position in the eyes of the Court. Now she will naturally feel disinclined to look at any beside a royal suitor. Do you know”—and the Princess bent slightly towards him with her most gracious expression—“I fancy I have detected a growing intimacy between her and my son. Ernest is too young to think about marrying at present, it is true, but I have formed no plans for him; and owing to the unhappy reputation which overhangs the house of Astolf—though Ernest is so little of an Astolf that I have no fears for him—it may not be easy to procure him a royal bride. He is a good lad, and will make a good king if he should one day come to the throne. Just sound your daughter, some time, and find out whether she really is inclined to the Prince.”

[175]The gorgeous bait had been skilfully thrown, but the wary old courtier did not rise to it. He looked at the Princess, and became more on his guard than ever.

“It is exceedingly gracious on your part, Madam, to even suggest such a possibility. But, as you have said, the Prince is too young to think of such things for many years, and I should incur much blame if, in my position, I encouraged any such ambitions for my daughter. And I feel sure that Gertrude knows her duty to the royal house too well to entertain any ideas so far above her station.”

He made a movement to go, and the Princess, who could not wholly conceal her chagrin at this rebuff, made no effort to detain him.

As he was approaching the door, however, it was opened quickly from the other side by the page, who went up to his royal mistress.

“If your Royal Highness pleases, Karl Fink is in attendance.”

Hermengarde glanced hastily at the Chancellor to see if he had heard the name. An equally hasty movement on his part betrayed that he had both heard and been roused to attention.

“Tell him to come in,” said the Princess, defiantly. “Wait one minute, Count; this may be a message for you as well as for me.”

Von Sigismark bowed, and retraced his steps till he stood in front of her.

Karl entered, with an air of mingled distress and alarm.

[176]“Well, what is it?”

The man turned his eyes from Hermengarde to the Count von Sigismark, and back again, before answering.

“Madam, his Majesty has left the palace secretly, in company with Herr Mark. He has left a note saying that he may be absent for several days. And no one knows where they have gone.”



The throng was at its greatest, the glare of gas was at its fullest, the clamour and the confusion were at their height. Round every dirty stall the scrambling and fighting and quarrelling went on as if life itself were the matter of every bargain. Old, crumpled women, with blinking eyes, thrust themselves forward into the ring made out of the darkness by the rolling smoky flame which swung over the butcher’s barrow, and they groped obscenely with wart-eaten fingers among the shapeless remnants of oozing, dark-red meat. Their lips seemed to twist in and out over their black broken teeth, as they whined and grumbled over every pfennig of the price. Half-naked boys, foul, like young apes, writhed and bit at each other in the bloody gutter below for scraps of offal and rotten fruit and all the wretched refuse of a street market. Men, old and young, came lurching out through the low doorways of dirty taverns, and stood in the mud outside, bewildered, breathing beer into the reeking night; after which they swaggered off, trampling brutally among the women and children, on their way to the dens where[178] they passed the hours of sleep. When the din of sounds permitted any utterance to be heard distinctly, the words were either some oath, or the use-deadened complaint of one of the huckstering women, or else the hideous wail of a neglected infant. Over all rang out continually the coarse confident tones of the stall-keepers, as they shouted out their trade patter; rattling the greasy coins as they received them, and now and again stopping to bite the edge of a thaler before thrusting it into the dirty leather pouch which held their gains.

It was Saturday night in the great slum market of Mannhausen. And into the midst of this squalid scene came two young men, one of whom was the King of Franconia.

His coming to the capital was the result of a decision come to after his last conversation with the Count von Sigismark. Thoroughly wearied by his Ministers’ stubborn attitude, and the hopeless contradictions between them and Johann, he had eagerly welcomed a suggestion from the latter that he should make a secret visit to Mannhausen, and there inquire for himself into the condition of the people, and learn from their own lips what were the burdens under which they suffered.

Fortunately for the success of the scheme, Maximilian had never permitted himself to be photographed since his accession, and had only been in the capital twice during the same period. Even on those two occasions most of his time had been spent in Mannhausen’s[179] famous art gallery, so that the chances of his being recognised were hardly worth taking into account.

The evening of their arrival had been devoted to procuring suitable disguises. The next day Maximilian’s guide had led him through the various public institutions of the city. He had gone into the Royal Courts, where he had seen injustice dispensed under all the forms of law. He had visited the great central infirmary and beheld the miserable patients, dreading the recovery which would dismiss them to the greater misery of their homes. He had passed through the empty churches, and beheld the richly-decorated shrines from which no help came to the baptised heathen of the streets outside. Finally Johann had taken him into the Lower House of the Legislature, having secured a pass from a member of the Extreme Left who was secretly in touch with the revolutionists.

They found the Chamber in a state of unusual excitement over the anticipated visit of the Imperial Kaiser. It had been intimated that only a limited number of the deputies could be admitted to the public ceremony of reception, and this snub had been the signal for a storm of indignation which was at its height when Maximilian entered the gallery. He listened for an hour to the excited deputies, wrangling for the right to pay homage to a despot, and at last remarked with some bitterness to Johann—

“If these are the kind of men whom the people themselves choose to govern them, God help the people!”

[180]“Yes,” said Johann, unmoved; “these are the representatives of the bourgeoisie, and this is how they legislate for the workers.”

They went out, and as the hour of eleven approached Johann drew his companion along towards the market, promising to show him the whole misery of the city at one glance.

When he found himself in the centre of the vile place, and its full details were revealed to him, Maximilian shrank appalled. He had never even conceived the existence of such wretchedness, of such loathsome degradation.

“What is this? Where are we?” he demanded of his guide, clutching him by the arm. “Who are these frightful creatures?”

“Your subjects,” was the grave retort; “those who your Ministers tell you have no grievances and no ungratified desires.”

“But it is horrible. They look more like fantastic goblins than human beings. And the children! Look at the children!”

“Yes,” said Johann, unmoved, for he was familiar with the sight. “Of such is the kingdom of—hell.”

While they were still standing there one of the young wretches caught sight of them from the gutter, and quickly fighting his way out of the throng ran up to them, whining for something to buy bread.

The boy had handsome dark eyes, with a pathetic look in them, and before Johann could warn him the King impulsively put his hand into his pocket and drew[181] forth the largest silver coin he could find. The boy, who had perhaps never handled so much money at once in his life, actually tore it from Maximilian’s fingers, and set up a wild yell, half of triumph, half of derision at the King’s folly in parting with the coin. Drawn by the sound, the whole ragged crew came rushing up and beset the King; while the first boy darted off for his life, to conceal his spoil from the thievish violence of his companions.

For some time the King and Johann strove in vain to beat off the swarm, who surrounded them on all sides, uttering threats and curses and entreaties all together, while some of the more reckless made attempts to pick their pockets. A group of drunken men noticed what was going on, and encouraged the lads, one or two of the younger men even coming up and assuming a threatening demeanour on the edge of the crowd, as if to intimidate the two victims from resistance.

At last one of the stall-keepers had his attention drawn to the row, and undertook to quell it, fearing possibly that his trade might suffer if scenes of open violence were allowed in the market. Taking up a long leather strap, he strode into the middle of the struggling mass of boys, and lashed them right and left with cruel force. The wretches instantly recognised a master, and fled in all directions, leaving Maximilian little less shocked at the brutality of his rescuer than grateful for the deliverance.

“Was it necessary to cut so hard?” he ventured to say, after thanking the man.

[182]“The young vermin! Yes, and not half so hard as they deserve. They are thieves, the whole lot of them, and they will get worse as they grow older. It would be a good thing if the government would make short work of them!” And he turned towards his stall.

Maximilian followed him, reluctant to part with one who had, in his brutal way, done him a kindness.

“Are there no schools to which these boys could be sent?” he asked.

“Schools! Plenty of schools; but how do you expect to get them there, unless you send an officer for them every day? And even then they would hide themselves out of his reach. Besides, what could you do with them if you got them in a school? They would only make the other boys as bad as themselves. A prison is the sort of school they want.”

The King turned away discouraged. Johann whispered in his ear—

“You see, there are Von Sigismarks in all ranks. That is the kind of man whom your Ministers would bring before you to tell you about the poorer classes.”

“Will it be safe to question one of these women?” asked the King.

“Yes; but let me do it. I understand these people better than you.”

Johann singled out a woman who might have been any age between forty and sixty. She had just bought a small quantity of firewood, and was filling her apron with the sticks.

“Halloa, mother!” said the Socialist. “That’s[183] not a very big load to cook your Sunday dinner with.”

The old crone glanced up at him crookedly out of her dull, narrow eyes.

“Who told you I had any Sunday dinner to cook?” she returned sullenly, yet not altogether refusing to enter into conversation.

“Come, it’s not so bad as that, is it?” said Johann. “Where does your man work?”

“He’s dead,” she returned indifferently. “I’ve only got a son to support me; and it’s little enough he earns, what with a bad chest and rheumatism in both legs.”

Perhaps she scented a possible gift, for she made no attempt to move off, though the apron was now full.

“What is he, then?” asked Johann, letting his hand slip quietly into his pocket.

“Working carpenter he was; but now he can’t get regular work, and has to take any odd job. He don’t often get more than five or six marks in the week, and half of that goes for the room.”

“That’s bad. When did your husband die?”

“Thirteen years ago next Christmas. He was a bricklayer, he was, earning good wages; but one of his mates dropped a brick on his head and killed him. I got ten pounds from the club; but that soon went.”

“And you’ve had no one but your son to support you ever since?”

“Ay; except when the girls gave me something. The eldest was a good one; but she died in hospital.”

[184]“And the others?”

“They went on the streets, both of them. One’s in the asylum now, and the other’s gone to Berlin; and I’ve never heard from her since. It was hunger drove them to it,” she added, with a faint effort to meet any possible feeling of disapproval in the mind of her questioner. It was evident that she was long past any such feeling herself.

Johann looked at the King, who turned away, sick at heart.

“Well, here’s a trifle towards your next dinner,” said Johann, dropping a couple of coins into the woman’s skinny claw. A larger sum might have attracted too much notice.

The miserable creature clutched the money fast, but showed no other sign of satisfaction, and turned her back on them without going through the form of thanks.

“My God! And is there no remedy for such misery as that?” exclaimed Maximilian, as soon as she was out of hearing.

“That is a question you can put to the Chancellor,” was the response. “We think there is one. In our scheme a woman like that would become entitled to a pension from the State when her husband was killed. But, you see, in order to give it to her, we should have to plunder the wealthy classes. And what chance do you suppose such a measure would have of passing through the assembly whose debates we have listened to to-day?”

[185]“Ah! And what would you do with these fearful children?”

“Take them into homes provided by the State. Not huge pauper establishments, but cottages scattered through the country, with a matron in charge of each half-dozen youngsters. There they would be taught to read and write, and brought up to useful trades. If it were possible to make good citizens of them, we should do it; if any of them proved incorrigible, we should transfer them to institutions where they would be under restraint, and have no opportunity of perpetuating the race. In that way the hereditary pauper and criminal class would die out.”

The King nodded his head gravely. They had left the immediate neighbourhood of the stalls, and were approaching one of the taverns, which was at that moment vomiting forth a troop of sodden drinkers.

“Shall we question one of these fellows?” Johann inquired doubtfully.

“Yes. Let us go through with it, now we are here,” answered the King.

The revolutionary picked out a man who seemed in a slightly less degraded condition than the rest, and beckoned him aside.

“What do you want?” asked the man, suspiciously.

“My name is Mark,” said Johann; “I am a member of the Socialist League, and I thought you might like to come to one of our meetings.”

The other became faintly interested.

“I hold with you,” he said, speaking in the coarse[186] dialect of his class. “I hold with you; but I don’t care about coming to meetings. They aren’t much in my line.”

“But why not? How can we succeed unless the working classes will rally round us?”

“Oh, that’s all right. We’ll rally right enough as soon as you make it worth our while. Show us something to go for, that’s all.”

“But we want to be organised first. Why should not you give your time to the work, instead of drinking about in places like that?”

He pointed to the tavern. The man looked slightly ashamed.

“Look here, it’s no good preaching,” he muttered. “It’s all very well for you fellows, but curse me if I see any good in making a fuss. I live a hard life, and it isn’t much good if I can’t go on the spree sometimes. All a poor man has got is the beer. I dare say if I was the King and lived in a palace, with nothing to do but enjoy myself, I should find it easy enough to keep sober.”

“What do you work at?” asked Johann.

“I’m a potter,” was the answer; “I get my eighteen marks a-week, and I get as much enjoyment out of it as I can. It isn’t as if I had any fear of growing old. The potters never live beyond fifty.”

Maximilian shuddered.

At this moment another man coming along towards the tavern caught sight of the speaker, and gave him a nod.

[187]“Here, Müller,” cried the potter, “come here! Here’s a Socialist!”

Müller replied with an oath.

“No Socialists for me; give me beer,” he said, and swung through the tavern door.

“He’s about right,” said the potter, with a laugh. And with a nod to Johann he went back after his comrade.

“I see your difficulty is not only with the wealthy classes,” commented the King, moodily, as they moved on.

“True. But it is the rule of the wealthy which has produced such men as these. What can we say to a state of society which condemns a whole class to die off at the age of fifty, most of them earlier still?”

“It is horrible. Could not their work be done by machinery?”

“Probably it could. But the first introduction of machinery would mean that hundreds, or thousands, of men would be thrown into the streets to starve. So that the change would only mean for them that they were to die at once, instead of in ten or twenty years.”

“How would you deal with them, then?”

“Compensate them, provide for them until they could obtain a livelihood in other trades. But your Ministers would never hear of that. If a railway is being made for the benefit of the community, and it is necessary to take a rich man’s land, the State sees that he shall be compensated up to the hilt. But when a new machine is introduced, equally for the benefit of[188] the community, and it takes away the livelihood of the poor man, the State never dreams of compensating him. That would be robbery, plunder, blasphemy, all that is wicked and intolerable.”

Maximilian listened with a heavy heart to the Socialist’s words. How much there was to redress, and how ill he was fitted to redress it!

They gradually came to the end of the market, and turned into a street leading back to their lodging. As they came round the corner they encountered a young woman, scarcely more than a girl she seemed, who stepped up to them smiling. The traces of great beauty were still visible in her painted face, and something in the carriage of her head brought up the image of Dorothea for an instant before Maximilian’s eye, and he stopped short.

Johann shook his head and walked on, as the girl began to address them after the manner of her class. She turned to Maximilian, who stood hesitating, and laid her hand familiarly upon his arm.

He started, and shook her off with a gesture of loathing. The next moment his manner changed, and he addressed her in compassionate tones.

“I will give you some money,” he said; “and I should like to ask you a few questions.” And he beckoned to Johann, who had come to a halt a few paces in front and turned round to wait for his companion.

The girl stared in wonder, as she held out her hand. When she perceived that it was being filled with gold, she burst into a profusion of thanks.

[189]“Never mind thanking me,” said the King. “I wish you to understand that I am your friend, and if it is in my power to help you, I shall be glad to do so.”

The girl shook her head.

“No one can do that,” she answered, speaking naturally for the first time.

“Why not? How did you come to take to this life?”

“It’s a long story. There was a young man who had promised to marry me, and I trusted him, like too many others.”

Johann smiled cynically. Fortunately she could not see his face, and the King listened to her with a kind look, which disarmed her in spite of herself.

“And he refused to marry you afterwards?”

“Yes.” The girl seemed reluctant to say more; but, after another glance at her questioner, she added, “You see, I had a baby, and then he was ashamed of me.”

“He deserved to be—” Maximilian checked himself. “And the baby?” he asked gently. “Is it still alive?”


She said the word harshly, but as the calm friendly eyes of the King continued to read her own she melted again.

“He died after just three months, and I sold everything I had to bury him. Then I came here.”

“I am so sorry.”

“It was better as it was. I would not have had him grow up to be like one of these young thieves.”

[190]Maximilian thought of his experiences of that night, and sighed.

“Come, let me help you,” he said, after a minute’s pause. “You do not like the life you are leading. Should you not like to leave it, and go back to your home?”

“No. Better leave me alone. You cannot help me.”

“Do not say that. Perhaps my power is greater than you think. Are your parents living?”

“Yes. O my God, why do you make me speak of them?” she burst out. “You can do nothing for me. You do not know, you cannot understand. My father, I can see him now, with the great family Bible on his knee, reading out the curse, and then solemnly striking my name out of the names of his children. And my mother, looking on, and weeping, but bidding me go forth and never return, lest my example should corrupt her other daughters. And so I am an outcast, an outcast forever, and no repentance will ever restore me to my place at the old fireside. And you, not if you were the King himself, you could never change the hearts of those two, and make them love me as they did when I was a little child.”

She broke off, sobbing, and before the King could stay her, she had turned, and was fleeing away in the darkness of the night.



For some time after the parting words of the girl, Maximilian and his companion walked on in silence. Johann saw that the King was profoundly affected by what he had just listened to, and did not venture to disturb his reflections. At length Maximilian raised his head, and gave utterance to the thoughts of his mind.

“She is right, Johann. There are some things beyond my power, or yours, to alter. We may change social conditions, we may care for men’s health, we may add to the comfort of their lives; but how are we to war against evil passions, how can we prevent such wrongs as that poor creature has suffered, how root out the superstitions which thrive under the name of religion, and darken the whole nature of mankind?”

“Even here we can do something,” was the firm reply. “We do not believe that there is anything in human nature so fixed that it cannot be transformed by the right means. Do away with marriage, and you abolish the degradation of love; merge the household into the community, and you render it impossible for[192] the happiness of the child to be blighted by the prejudices and ignorance of its parents.”

Maximilian looked at him in some consternation. This was the first time that Johann had expounded this part of the doctrines of his sect, and the new disciple was somewhat taken aback.

“Is that part of the Socialist programme?” he asked. “Do your friends aim at abolishing marriage and the family?”

“I will not go so far as to say that it is a recognised item in our programme,” was the answer. “Many Socialists are not educated up to these views, and others regard them as something that can better be dealt with at a later stage, after we have brought about the economical freedom of society. But personally I cannot see how we can ever make the species really happy until we have thoroughly reorganised society on these points as well.”

“But surely the people in general would never consent to such steps as these. If you had a Republic to-morrow you would have the majority against you.”

“No doubt that would be so at first. We can only wait, and do our best to enlighten them.”

“Well, at all events I am glad you do not make that a vital question,” said Maximilian, a good deal relieved. “I do not think I should care to hint at anything of that sort to the Chancellor.”

The revolutionist sighed. He saw that his pupil was still lagging far behind his own position, and that[193] it would be necessary to use great caution in bringing him on.

Presently Maximilian spoke again.

“Well, after what I have seen and heard to-night I am convinced that you are in the right as to one thing. The present state of affairs is wrong, and the only question is how to set about righting it. If my Ministers will do nothing, I promise you that I will go on without them.”

For answer Johann turned half round and wrung the King’s hand in silence.

“Now,” continued Maximilian, “I should like to see more of your party. I want to come in touch with them. You say there are three thousand members of the Socialist League in Mannhausen?”

“In Franconia,” corrected Johann. “There are several provincial branches, but of course the one here is the most numerous, and gives the lead to the others.”

“Tell me”—the King spoke with a little hesitation—“was it the League which sent you to Neustadt?”

“Oh, no; certainly not. I came here as the agent of a small secret society, which was founded in the reign of your father. The League is a public organisation, and does not undertake any measures of that kind.”

“Good. Now, what I want you to do is to take me to a meeting of the League, so that I may see something of its working for myself. When does it meet next?”

Johann looked slightly disturbed at this bold suggestion.[194] Knowing as he did the kind of language which was indulged in at these meetings, language of which the last few days had done much to make him realise the extravagance, he could hardly help feeling a little uneasy at the King’s proposal to be present.

“There is a meeting to-morrow night,” he responded cautiously, “to which I thought of going, but I hardly know whether it would be wise for you to come. Some of our members hold rather strong views about monarchy, and you might hear something—”

Maximilian did not wait for him to finish.

“Don’t be afraid of shocking me,” he said good-humouredly. “I dare say I shan’t hear anything worse than I have deserved, and after all”—with a side smile—“it won’t be worse than having a pistol pointed at my head.”

Johann blushed. But a new objection had occurred to him.

“I forgot to say that the meetings are only open to members,” he observed. “You see, we have to be cautious on account of the police. It has been rumoured that they mean to make a raid upon us before long.”

“They won’t dare to do that after what I said to Herr Moritz,” replied Maximilian, confidently. “As to the other point, what is there to prevent my becoming a member of the League?”

This time the Socialist was fairly staggered. But strange as the suggestion sounded, it was difficult for him to think of any valid reason for rejecting it. On[195] the contrary, it might be that such a step would be most desirable, by committing the King irrevocably, and giving the revolutionary party a stronger hold upon him than the mere private compact which bound him to Johann personally.

He turned the matter over in his mind, and it ended in his procuring a card of membership for Maximilian, which enrolled him as a member of the Socialist League, under the name of Karl Josef. On the following evening at eight o’clock they crossed the threshold of the hall in which the Socialists were assembled.

But they did not make their entrance together. Maximilian followed his introducer at a few paces in the rear, and slipped quietly into a back seat where he was unobserved, while Johann walked boldly forward through the gathering to the seats reserved for members of the governing committee of the League.

As he made his way up the floor he became conscious that the eyes of all present were turned upon him. This was his first appearance among his comrades since his famous expedition to Neustadt, and public rumour had already informed those present that the man who had gone to the Castle on a mission to assassinate King Maximilian, had remained there as his guest and friend. Hence, most of the looks directed at the returning wanderer were of a decidedly unfriendly character, and there was a slight murmur in the hall when they saw one whom they had come to regard as a recreant coolly taking his former place among them as if nothing had happened.

[196]The stir drew the attention of the president, and, seeing that it would be useless to proceed with the other business till the meeting was satisfied as to Johann’s right to be present, he rose abruptly to invite him to make an explanation.

“Comrades,” he said, “I see in the hall a member of the League about whose doings we have heard a good deal during the last few days. It is currently reported that he has been staying in the Castle of Neustadt, and that though he went there with an object which some of us may not have approved, he is now high in the favour of the King. It is naturally difficult for us to reconcile this with his continued membership of our body; but we are Socialists, and we judge no man unheard. Before we proceed with the ordinary business of the meeting, therefore, I deem it right to call upon comrade Johann Mark for an explanation, and I ask all present to give him a fair hearing.”

These words were received with applause, and Johann instantly mounted the platform.

His appearance was the signal for a chilling silence, which struck unpleasantly on his nerves, used as he had been to be greeted with applause as one of the favourite orators of the society. Nevertheless, he did not allow himself to be daunted, but began at once, facing the audience boldly, and speaking in a loud, steady voice.

“Comrades, I am glad that you are at least willing to grant me a hearing, although it seems that some of you have already condemned me in my absence. I did not come here to-night to defend my character as a Socialist[197] and a republican—a more advanced republican, perhaps, than any man in the room. I rely upon my own record in the past: I was fighting for our principles in the dark days of King Leopold, and it is not likely that I should desert them now that we are on the eve of a glorious triumph. I came here simply to tell you as friends and fellow-workers of what I have been trying to do for the cause. The president has referred to the object with which I went to Neustadt. I went there to shoot King Maximilian with this pistol”—a thrill ran through the assembly as he produced the weapon and held it out before their gaze—“and I did so because I believed him to be a bad and worthless ruler.”

Here the speaker was interrupted for a moment by ironical applause from some of his listeners. He went on with a heightened colour.

“If I still believed him to be bad and worthless, I should use this weapon still. If in a year’s time, or in ten years’ time, I believe it, I shall go there again and do what I meant to have done this time. The only reason why King Maximilian is still alive is because I have been convinced that, whatever he may have been in the past, he now sincerely wishes to do whatever he can to help us in the objects we have at heart.”

At this point the incredulity of the meeting broke forth in scornful murmurs, which the president in vain attempted to suppress.

Johann felt his anger kindling.

“I was promised a fair hearing!” he shouted out[198] above the disturbance. “Hear me out before you interrupt. You have been quick enough to assume that the King had converted me to the cause of reaction: did it never occur to you as possible that I might have converted the King to the cause of revolution? I tell you plainly, as I stand here, that there is no man in this room who, as I believe, is more sincere in desiring to see our principles triumph than Maximilian IV.”

Some of the audience could not refrain from mocking laughter at this statement. The rest stared at the speaker in stubborn disbelief.

“You do not believe me. I dare say not. You think, perhaps, that the King has only to hold up his hand in order to bring about everything which we want.” (Hear, hear.) “Fools, have you ever realised what a government is; that it is a huge organisation, running in a groove, from which it is as difficult to turn it without reducing the whole state of society to chaos as it is to throw an express train off the rails without upsetting it? That is why I have been staying at Neustadt, that I might see with my own eyes what the difficulties are, and do what I could to help the King in overcoming them. Do you think I have learned nothing in these few days? I have learned a great deal, and this most of all, that no one man, not even though he be a king, can change the whole structure of society at a moment’s notice. There are the Ministers to deal with, the legislature, the sullen resistance of the whole official and propertied classes. Give him time, and if nothing changes for[199] the better at the end of the next six months I pledge myself to leave the King and come back to you.”

The meeting had been set against Johann by the air of superior knowledge which he had assumed, as much as by the unpalatable conclusions to which he sought to lead them. The murmurs of suspicion and dislike swelled in a tumult as he went on. At the first break a voice from the centre of the hall demanded—

“Let him abdicate!”

This sentiment was received with a sound of cheering which told how strongly the feelings of the audience were inflamed against the King and his champion. Maximilian, who had listened to it all with downcast head, moved uneasily in his seat, and looked for a moment as if he would have made for the platform himself.

But Johann stilled the clamour with a contemptuous wave of his hand.

“I was not afraid of King Maximilian’s guards,” he cried, “and I am not afraid of you. If there is a man in this room who is prepared to take this pistol from me and go with it to the palace, let him come forward.”

And he held it out defiantly. The effect was magical. Not one of his judges responded to the challenge. The whole crowd shrank from his glance, and allowed him to continue in silence.

“You ask me why he does not abdicate? What good would that do? Do you think that a dull-witted[200] boy like Prince Ernest would be any better for you than Maximilian? How would you like to have the Princess Hermengarde for a Regent?” The Princess’s name was received with hisses. “I thought so. I thought you would at least see that much.” He could not refrain from taunting them, forgetting that his true object was not to silence but to persuade. Maximilian, watching the scene, was tortured by the unskilfulness of his advocate. It was not thus that he had wrought on Johann himself in the gallery at Neustadt.

“Surely it is better for us,” the orator proceeded, “to have a man on the throne who sympathises with us. Even if the King fails to perform what I hope from him, he leaves us free to go on with our own work independently. It is not as if I were asking you to desist from the movement. No, I rather urge you to go on more boldly now than ever. Do not trust in me or in the King, but act exactly as you would have done if I had never gone to Neustadt.”

These words produced a favourable impression, and for the first time there was a slight sound of applause.

Johann eagerly followed up his success.

“And you can go on with all the more confidence, knowing that you have a friend at Court. The King will protect you from your enemies. Only the day before yesterday I happen to know that he gave orders that the police were to take no steps against you without his permission.”

While his lips were yet moving, and as if these words had been a preconcerted signal, a loud whistle sounded[201] outside, the door was violently burst in, and a body of police with drawn staves marched into the hall.

An exciting scene followed. The bulk of those present sprang to their feet and made a wild rush for the doorway, through which some of them escaped, only to fall into the hands of a reserve force stationed in the street outside. Others, more determined, stood their ground, and engaged in a free fight with the officers who attempted to capture them, while the president sat pale and motionless in his chair, waiting to be arrested; and Johann, fairly unmanned under the influence of a feeling of sickening despair, reeled backward and clung for support to the table, while his horrified glance traversed the miserable scene.

Maximilian himself, after the first shock of alarm, stood up quietly to deliver himself into custody, but underneath this apparent calm the fiercest rage possessed him, and he inly swore to make the author of this outrage bitterly repent his disobedience.

A very few minutes sufficed for all resistance to be quelled. The prisoners were handcuffed together in pairs and marched off through the deserted streets, and as night fell Maximilian IV., King of Franconia, found himself the inmate of a cell in his own State prison.

So large was the number of arrests made at the meeting that even the ample accommodation at the disposal of the governor of the prison seemed likely to prove insufficient. Each man, as he passed in through the gates, had his name taken down in a book, and was assigned to a separate cell. When the whole of[202] the vacant cells had been thus allotted, a number of prisoners remained undisposed of.

While the governor was wondering how he was to deal with the surplus, he was relieved to see the Minister of the Interior arrive on the scene.

“Welcome, Herr Moritz!” he exclaimed. “I was just fearing that I might have to send for your Excellency.” And he quickly explained how matters stood.

The Minister stepped up to the governor’s desk—it was in the bureau through which the prisoners were passed on being received into the gaol—and cast his eyes carelessly over the pages of the admission book.

“There is only one thing for it, Herr Governor,” he said, in answer. “You must put them two in a cell.”

“Of course that is against the regulations, but if your Excellency authorises it?” said the other, hesitating.

“Certainly, I authorise it. By the way, I see a name here of a man whom I used to know something about—Karl Josef. You have put him in No. 79. Is that a fairly comfortable room?”

“It is one of the best in the prison. Now you mention it, I remember I was struck by something distinguished in the air of that prisoner, and that was why I gave it to him.”

“It was a proof of your discrimination. Let him have a respectable companion, if you can find one.”

“Oh, I think I shall be able to dispose of the rest without using his room, if your Excellency takes an interest in him.”

[203]Herr Moritz frowned.

“Certainly not. I am not interested in any man who has broken the law. Let him be treated exactly like the rest.”

The governor hastened to murmur an apology, and the work of taking the prisoners’ names and distributing them among the cells was resumed.

The Minister stood idly looking on till a prisoner entered, in the custody of an officer, who appeared to be unconnected with the rest, and who gave his name as Hans Trübner. Then Herr Moritz bent over and whispered in the governor’s ear—

“He looks a better class of man. Suppose you send him to No. 79.”

The governor nodded and gave the required directions. Shortly afterwards the Minister bade him a friendly good night and strolled away.



The intelligence of Maximilian’s mysterious departure had fallen like a bombshell upon the conference between the Princess Hermengarde and Von Sigismark.

Striving to command her secret thoughts, the Princess, with a nod, dismissed her henchman Karl, and turned an inquiring look upon the old Count.

Interpreting this as an invitation, the Count, who was unable to wholly hide his consternation, returned slowly to his chair. He sat down, and for some moments scrutinised the countenance of his royal ally. But it was in vain that he sought to read anything in that stern and composed face.

At length he was obliged to break silence.

“This is a new development, Madam. I confess I was not prepared for it. When I left the King an hour or two ago, he had accepted a proposal on the part of Herr Moritz and myself to hold an inquiry into the alleged grievances of the people, and he seemed content to wait for the result before taking any further steps.”

“Herr Moritz? Is he still in the Castle?”

[205]“Yes, I believe so.”

The Chancellor replied with reluctance. He did not wish his subordinate introduced into the intrigue of which Hermengarde was the centre.

“That is well. We may have to avail ourselves of his services presently.”

“True. I did not think of that. You mean to ascertain where they have gone?”

“I mean, to have them followed. I know where they have gone.”

“You know!” The Count could not conceal his surprise.

“Is it so very difficult to tell? Surely you do not think this man has taken Maximilian away on some country excursion? There is only one place to which he would be likely to lead him. You said yourself that there had been talk of an inquiry into the condition of the people. Of course they have set out to make that inquiry. You will find them in Mannhausen.”

Von Sigismark started to his feet.

“Of course! Pardon me, Madam, but, with your permission, I will go at once and telegraph to have the trains met and examined.”

Hermengarde shook her head.

“I am not sure that will be the wisest course. This affair must not be allowed to get abroad. We cannot afford to run any risks. It will be far better for Herr Moritz to go himself to Mannhausen, and put detectives on the track of this man Mark. He is sure to be known to the police, and by watching his usual haunts,[206] they are certain to find him sooner or later; and then it will be an easy task to find the King.”

“And when we have found him?”

“Really, that is a question which I have not considered. It is hardly for me to teach the King’s Ministers their duty to the King.”

The Chancellor felt disconcerted. He began to repent of his over-cautious tactics in their previous conversation. He saw that he was now in the position of one asking for assistance, and that the Princess realised, and was preparing to take advantage of, that fact.

“Perhaps,” he responded, “I am presuming on your goodness in discussing with me other proceedings of his Majesty during the last few days. I think I understood you to confide in me that you had entertained certain fears as to his—”

“Fears as to his marriage. Certainly,” put in the Princess quickly, as the old courtier hesitated.

“Pardon me, Madam, I think you even went a little further,” he retorted, determined not to be put off. “Unless I deceived myself, I understood that your Royal Highness felt some alarm as to his Majesty’s conduct generally—alarm which had reference to the unhappy calamity which has overtaken other members of the Royal House.”

This was plain speaking at last. Hermengarde carefully restrained herself from any display of eagerness.

“Perhaps I spoke more rashly than I should have done; but I felt that with such an old friend as yourself,[207] and such a loyal servant of the King, I could unburden my mind quite freely. However, you did not share my anxiety on that score, and I trust you have dismissed my words from your mind.”

“Again pardon me; no. On the contrary, I have most carefully weighed and considered them, and particularly so in the light of this last singular freak on the King’s part.”

The Princess was a woman. She could not resist the temptation of a sneer.

“I see. It is the King’s conduct in abandoning your counsels for those of Herr Mark which has opened your eyes.”

The old man’s eyes gleamed dangerously for an instant. Then he pounced like a hawk on the opening she had given him.

“If you think, Madam, for one moment that I am capable of being actuated by any personal pique in a matter of such grave importance, I have only to apologise for having intruded on you so long, and to ask permission to retire.”

Hermengarde saw her mistake. She put out her hand with a soothing gesture.

“No, no, my dear Count; you have quite mistaken my meaning. I did not intend my words to be taken seriously. It is of the last importance that you and I should not misunderstand each other in so delicate a crisis. Let us throw off all reserve, and discuss the situation plainly. Are you prepared to do so, if I set the example?”

[208]“I am.”

“Very good. I will put the facts as briefly as I can, and you interrupt me if I omit anything. First, let me see how we are interested. My son is at present the heir to the throne. It is, therefore, to my interest that the King should not marry. Merely to prevent a marriage with this girl or that would not be of much use, because, if he lived and retained his mental capacity, it would be easy for him to find a wife to whom I could raise no objection. Indeed, he is quite capable of going off and contracting a secret marriage; and it is partly to guard against such a step that I have brought this girl to the palace.”

The Count nodded emphatically.

“I, therefore, or rather my son, have everything to gain, and nothing to lose, if it should turn out that our fears are well founded, and the King has to be put under restraint. Now, what is your position? For ten years the King has entrusted you with supreme power; and, if I may be permitted to say so, you have used it with admirable discretion. The country has been quiet, and the Court has been contented. But now, what has happened? A stranger—worse, a criminal—has sprung out of the earth, and, like Jonah’s gourd, he has grown up and overshadowed you in a single night. He has converted the King to schemes which not only involve your political overthrow, but which may well lead to a revolution, and the spoliation of the whole class to which you belong. And he has an additional hold upon him, through his mad infatuation for his cousin. As[209] things stand, therefore, your fall is merely a question of months, perhaps only of days.”

The Chancellor interposed a faint objection.

“Before dispensing with my services, his Majesty would at least have to find some man of responsibility who was able to take my place. And where would he get one, prepared to take office on such conditions?”

“Anywhere. Out of the ranks of your own colleagues, who are all ready to step into your shoes. Perhaps Herr Moritz is at this moment meditating a scheme for persuading the King that he will make a more pliable instrument than you.”

The Chancellor frowned, but attempted no reply.

“On the other hand, supposing the King to lose his power, who would replace him as Regent? My son would naturally take the office when he came of age, but until then, on whom would it devolve?”

“On one of two persons,” said Von Sigismark, seeing that she desired him to answer. “On yourself or on the Count von Eisenheim.”

“Von Eisenheim!” exclaimed the Princess in some surprise. “But he is too remote. Surely the Council would not pass over the mother of the King?—I mean of the King-expectant.”

There is an old saying, once familiar in the mouths of statesmen, that deposed monarchs seldom live long. Was it the recollection of this proverb that made the subtle courtier stare so strangely at the Princess when she made her unfortunate slip?

[210]“No doubt you are right,” was all he remarked.

“At all events,” pursued the Princess, “that is a matter in which I shall count on your good offices, if I may.”

The Chancellor bowed low.

“In that case,” she went on, “I need not say that there would be no change in your position. Politics have always been distasteful to me, and I do not think Ernest is likely to take much interest in them for many years to come. You would remain as you were till the other day, the virtual ruler of Franconia, instead of holding office at the caprice of one whose state of mind is becoming only too apparent, and subject to the interference and dictation of an upstart who aims at nothing short of wholesale robbery and murder.”

“You have said enough, Madam. If the King is indeed going mad, we cannot too soon have the fact ascertained.”

Hermengarde leant back in her chair and fixed a long and searching gaze upon the Chancellor. This time it was she who failed to penetrate beneath the impassive mask of the courtier.

“And how are we to ascertain it?” she said at length, putting the question apparently with reluctance. “We can show the public that he is contemplating marriage with a peasant girl; that he has made an assassin his bosom friend; that he has urged his Ministers to start a revolution, and has gone off secretly to the slums of Mannhausen to fraternise with the enemies of society and of his throne.”

[211]“All that is not enough. The public will expect medical evidence.”

“You mean—”

“Dr. Krauss must be consulted.”

“He is here.”


“Yes, in the Castle. I sent for him two days ago.”

Von Sigismark trembled. This woman’s terrible activity frightened him. He felt himself, as it were, swept off his feet. It was some time before he ventured to make a fresh remark.

“Have you considered, Madam, how we are to bring his Majesty and the Doctor together?”

One of those strange still smiles, which, in a woman like Hermengarde, were more menacing than a frown, came on her lips for an instant, and vanished again.

“Is that indispensable?” was all she said.

“Undoubtedly. We cannot expect Dr. Krauss to act on hearsay. He will require to examine the King personally, in order to arrive at an opinion.”

“Indeed. Then in that case I am afraid I do not see any immediate chance of success.”

Von Sigismark cogitated, while the Princess kept a cold watchful glance upon his face, out of the corners of her eyes. Soon an idea occurred to him; he resisted it for a time, but at length gave way to it, and expressed it in words.

“Herr Moritz is here. He is a man of considerable shrewdness. Why not consult him?”

[212]“But that would involve taking him into our confidence.”

“True, Madam; but, after all, what have we to fear? Our action is perfectly loyal. Certain proceedings on the King’s part have led us to fear that his mind may be suffering from over-excitement, and we desire that he may have the advantage of a physician’s advice. What is there in that that we should hesitate to confide to a discreet man like Herr Moritz, a man, moreover, holding a high official post?”

“Putting it in that way, we certainly run no great risk. But is this colleague of yours to be trusted?”

“Absolutely. His devotion to me is unbounded, and I can answer for his discretion as much as for my own.”

“In that case, I consent.”

Hermengarde summoned the page, and despatched him to the Chancellor’s cabinet. While they waited, the two intriguers fell into attitudes like those of wrestlers reposing for a brief spell in the intervals of an exhausting struggle.

It was with no small surprise that the Minister of the Interior received the summons. But no trace of this feeling appeared in his countenance as he entered the room, and with perfect calmness saluted the Princess, and accepted the seat which she assigned to him with a silent gesture.

The Chancellor addressed him.

“We have sent for you, Herr Moritz, to invite your[213] co-operation in an affair of an extremely delicate nature, in which the strictest secrecy is essential.”

The Minister bowed in a matter-of-fact way, evidently quite unconscious of what was coming.

“The fact is that the Princess Hermengarde and myself have lately become uneasy about the King.” Herr Moritz could not repress a slight start. “You had the advantage of seeing his Majesty to-day, and I believe you fully shared my sense of the danger to which his intimacy with this fanatical Socialist was likely to lead. Well, already we have had a warning of what is coming. The King and this man have left the Castle by stealth, and we suspect that they have gone secretly to Mannhausen.”

Herr Moritz’s face showed a grave apprehension.

“I see that you realise the seriousness of this. The first step we have to take is to ascertain their whereabouts, and this comes into your province. You will have to direct the police to watch for the appearance of Herr Mark, and as soon as he is found, to track the King through him.”

“I think that will not be difficult.”

“Very good. But that is not all. Of course, as soon as we know where the King is, we can bring pressure to bear on him to return; but there is a more important question behind. Both her Royal Highness and myself are inclined to see in this escapade the symptom of an excited state of mind in his Majesty which, in the interests of the dynasty, calls for the most careful attention. I do not wish to put it more strongly than that.”

[214]“I quite understand, sir.”

“Very good. Then, as soon as his Majesty returns, we want to induce him, if possible, to see the physician, Dr. Krauss. The question is, how can we bring this about without provoking painful suspicions? I thought that your suggestions might be useful as to this.”

“Would it not be possible to get his Majesty to consult Dr. Krauss as to some other ailment?”

“Impossible. Krauss is known as a mind-specialist simply. The mere mention of his name would suggest the worst.”

“It was Dr. Krauss who was called in, in the case of my husband,” added the Princess, speaking for the first time. “And he attended King Leopold in his last hours. I have noticed that my nephew has always avoided admitting him into his presence. He once came on him accidentally in this very room, and I have never forgotten the look he gave him.”

Herr Moritz turned his eyes on the Princess while she was speaking.

“In that case, Madam,” he said, when she had finished, “I think I see the only way in which it can be managed.”

And drawing his seat nearer as he lowered his voice, he proceeded to develop his plan.

As he went on, the Princess and Von Sigismark exchanged quick glances. At the end Hermengarde rose to her feet.

“Allow me to thank you, sir, for your very valuable[215] aid. Go, and do not lose a moment in carrying out what you propose.”

Herr Moritz bowed sedately and left the room. The old Chancellor followed, gnawing his lip.

Hermengarde, left to herself, remained motionless in her seat for a considerable time, plunged in profound thought. After a time she rose, crossed the floor quietly, opened the door into the adjoining saloon and looked through.

An hour before she had left her son Ernest there engaged in a game of chess with Gertrude von Sigismark, while Dorothea Gitten was employed on some embroidery work in a far corner. Now she beheld Gertrude sitting by herself, absently toying with the chessmen, while Ernest had placed himself on a stool beside the forester’s daughter, and was eagerly talking to her.

Giving a slight stamp of her foot to draw their attention, the Princess addressed her son—

“Ernest, do you not see that Lady Gertrude is ready for another game?”

The boy turned to her, frowning, but did not rise from his seat.

“It is my fault,” Gertrude hastened to explain. “I was compelled to go and see some one, and I have only this minute returned.”

Hermengarde gave her a quick glance of suspicion, then she remarked, without seeming to address any one in particular—

“It seems that the King has just left the Castle for[216] a few days. No doubt he has gone on one of his usual excursions.”

Ernest did not pay much heed, but the two girls looked at her with surprise, and Gertrude ventured to ask—

“Is it known where his Majesty has gone to, Madam?”

“I believe not. I am told that he took Herr Mark with him.”

“Johann!” This time it was Dorothea who spoke. “Has he gone away without leaving any message?”

The Princess smiled pleasantly.

“You forget he did not know you were in the Castle,” she said.

Then, turning once more to Ernest, she added—

“Come, sir, Lady Gertrude is waiting. Dorothea, I want you in the other room.”

Dorothea arose and followed her mistress, while Ernest grudgingly took his place at the chessboard.

The next two days in the Castle passed without incident. Dorothea was still kept secluded to some extent from the Court, but as she grew more accustomed to her new sphere, she gradually enlarged the number of her friends. Enemies she had none, with perhaps a single exception, for her gentleness and simplicity won over all who approached her. Even the Count von Stahlen was conquered, and announced in confidence to his satellite that he himself stood in serious danger of becoming the Poacher’s Son-in-law.

The fondness for her society shown by the young[217] Prince was not long in exciting remark, a fondness which his mother seemed doubtful whether to encourage or restrain. All the awkwardness and constraint which marked his intercourse with the ladies of the Court vanished when he found himself in the company of the peasant girl. He came to her on all occasions, took her into his confidence about everything, and would have asked her to ride out with him if the Princess had not interfered.

In the mean time, Hermengarde was anxiously awaiting intelligence from Mannhausen. From time to time she sent for the Chancellor and questioned him, but found he was still without news. At last, early on the Monday morning he came to her, bringing the following laconic message—

“I have carried out the arrangement. K. will arrive at noon.

P. Moritz.


NO. 79

Maximilian had submitted quietly to his arrest and subsequent incarceration in cell No. 79. More from shame than from prudence, he was careful to avoid betraying his identity to those around him, whether the Socialists, in whose eyes he must have appeared a deceiver, or the police, to whom his presence might seem too much like a freak of madness. His wisest course was evidently to wait till he was alone in his cell, and then endeavour to communicate privately with his Ministers. Nevertheless, it was with a feeling of deep disquietude that he heard the iron-bound door clang to upon him, and the key grate in the lock.

No sooner did he find himself left alone than he gave way to a burst of anger.

“This ends my submission to the Chancellor!” he cried, striding wildly up and down the narrow limits of the chamber. “The moment I am out of here I will get rid of him, and have a Minister who will obey me instead of thwarting and defying me. Why not Moritz? He seems to have brains, and not to be a mere fossil like Von Sigismark. I must sound him on the first opportunity, and find whether he is willing to act.”

[219]For some time he continued to pace the floor, storming against his captivity, and revolving the means of procuring his release. Deep down in his heart there was a faint, undefined dread as to whether release would be so much a matter of course as he had assumed; whether the cell in which he found himself might not prove the ante-room to another and a more terrible prison. But the presence of this shadowy dread he would not recognise, curbing his thoughts and forcing them to dwell on the punishment he should award his disobedient Chancellor.

While he was still restlessly moving to and fro, he heard steps in the corridor outside, and the rattling of a key placed in the lock. The door was opened, and a warder came in, followed by the individual who had just been entered as Hans Trübner in the governor’s book.

“What does this mean?” demanded the King, angrily, with something of a royal air.

“The prison is full, sir,” returned the warder with some respect, “and we are obliged to put two prisoners in every cell.”

With that he turned and went out again, locking the door after him.

Maximilian made an effort to restrain his indignation.

“Are you one of the Socialists?” he asked the new-comer, who had advanced towards him.

“I was arrested along with the others,” answered the stranger, speaking as to a comrade, but with a[220] certain deference which caused Maximilian to regard him with a closer scrutiny.

“May I ask your name?”

“I am called Hans Trübner. And you?”

The King repeated the name he had himself assumed. They sat down and entered into conversation.

After a few remarks had been exchanged on the probable result of the evening’s events Herr Trübner turned to the subject of Johann’s address.

“What did you think of Johann Mark?” he asked. “Do you believe there is any good to be got out of King Maximilian?”

“Why not?” was the answer. “Why should not the King be as sincere as we are?”

“Because his interests are totally opposed to ours. We are republicans, aiming to overthrow royalty, and deprive him of his crown.”

“That does not make it impossible to sympathise with you. Kings have laid down their crowns before now of their own accord. Look at Charles the Fifth, and again at the Emperor Diocletian.”

“But they were men of mature years, worn out with labours, who sought for repose in their declining years,” objected Herr Trübner.

“Then what do you say to the example of Çakya-Muni, the Buddha, who forsook his palace and his wife and newly born son, to devote himself to the task of finding a cure for the misery of his fellow-men?”

“True, but he was animated by a religious impulse.”

“And is not Socialism also a religion?” returned[221] Maximilian, his voice taking a more and more earnest tone, as though he perceived a grave importance underlying this strange debate. “Is every one who departs from the narrow line of selfish interest, under the influence of this new spirit of our times, to be branded as a hypocrite—or a madman?”

Herr Trübner darted a questioning glance at his companion, as he replied—

“Then you seriously suggest that his Majesty—that Maximilian—has passed through something like a religious conversion, which has led him, or will lead him to throw in his lot with the Socialists?”

“It is surely one explanation.”

“It is a very strange one.”

“Is anything too strange to believe of a prince of the line of Astolf?”

This bitter remark seemed completely to bewilder the King’s fellow-prisoner. He stared at Maximilian strangely, and sank his voice almost to a whisper as he put the next question.

“Pardon me if I hardly know how to take your words. Of course I know the hereditary tendencies of the royal house; but do you suggest that there may be some connection between those sad tendencies and this new attitude of the King towards our party?”

Maximilian had grown paler, but he preserved the composure of his voice, as he replied—

“I have always understood that scientists traced a sort of connection between religious enthusiasm and actual mania. Where are we to draw the line between[222] sanity and insanity? What do you say yourself? Are not all men insane on some point? And if the great multitude remain in a condition of dull stupidity all their lives, and perish under the weight of their own incapacity, are they, therefore, more sane than the man whose excess of mental activity sometimes leads him into acts of extravagance?”

The other seemed to listen appreciatively to this reasoning. But at its close he shook his head.

“No doubt you are right in the main. No doubt in many cases the line may be a difficult one to draw. But there are other cases in which madness is as clearly marked a disease as cancer or small-pox. And this is especially so where the disease is proved to be hereditary in a family.”

Maximilian’s manner became slightly more agitated. For a moment he spoke as if forgetting his assumed character.

“Ah, that is it!” he exclaimed passionately. “That is the true hereditary curse, not the madness, but the suspicion it engenders in others’ minds! In the case of an ordinary individual you see nothing serious in a little eccentricity, a certain degree of enthusiasm; you may sneer at him, you may even admire him. But when you are told that his grandfather cut his throat, or his great-grandfather died in an asylum, then you shake your head and whisper, ‘Beware of him! He is showing the hereditary tendency. He is going mad!’”

He stopped, and glanced with a certain apprehension[223] at his listener. But the other showed no sign of surprise at this outbreak. On the contrary, he appeared to have been considerably impressed by the King’s words, as he sat with bent head and eyes drooped towards the ground.

“Then what do you think really,” he said, at length, directing his gaze once more at Maximilian, “is the King’s state of mind?”

“I think he is as mad as most other men, and as mad as he ever will be,” was the cynical response.

And, as if unwilling to prolong the conversation, Maximilian rose from his seat, and again began restlessly pacing the narrow limits of the chamber.

His fellow-prisoner sat on, watching him silently. A little time afterwards the door of the cell was again opened.

A strange warder appeared, who cast his eye indifferently over the two prisoners, as he inquired—

“Which of you is named Hans Trübner?”

The man so designated instantly rose, and, in obedience to the warder’s instructions, followed him from the cell.

Left to himself, Maximilian, who had taken no outward notice of the incident, flung himself at full length on the floor and groaned aloud.

Presently he raised his head sharply, and cast alarmed glances over the walls and ceiling of the room. Then he rose quickly and settled himself in a calmer attitude on a chair. Hardly had he done so when the sound of the door being unlocked again broke upon his ear.

[224]He turned round, and saw the door open to admit the Minister of the Interior. He came in quietly, closed the door behind him, and stood in front of the King.

Herr Moritz had taken his measures with some skill, to avoid giving rise to suspicions on the part of the governor of the prison, or any of the subordinate agents whom it was necessary to employ.

Acting in pursuance of the scheme originally submitted by him to Princess Hermengarde and the Chancellor, he had meant to use the Socialist meeting as a trap in which to catch the King’s Socialist companion, and thus learn his master’s whereabouts. But as soon as he learnt through a trusted spy that Maximilian himself had entered the hall of meeting, he had determined on the bold step of arresting all present, rightly judging that the King would refrain from disclosing himself at the first, and that he would thus have an opportunity of at once carrying out the second and more delicate part of his task. Part of his proceedings has been already described. It only remained for the Minister, after allowing a suitable time to elapse, to return to the prison, and inform the governor that he had received secret information which made it desirable for him to privately examine the prisoner entered as Karl Josef. To avoid provoking curiosity he did not make any direct reference to the other inmate of No. 79, but contrived to meet him, and exchange a few hurried whispers with him, in one of the prison corridors. It was immediately after this that he presented himself before the King.

[225]Maximilian’s first feeling on beholding the Minister was one of angry astonishment. But almost instantaneously he contrived to quell all outward signs of excitement. Assuming his most stern and distant manner, he demanded—

“Well, sir, why are you here?”

“I have come to ask if your Majesty has any commands for me,” was the Minister’s calm reply.

“How did you know I was here?” was his next question.

“I thought it was my duty to know it, Sire. Your disappearance caused some uneasiness in the palace, and knowing something of the dangers to which your Majesty’s person might be exposed among the revolutionists in Mannhausen, I ventured to take precautions for your safety.”

“In other words, you have had me watched.”

“Only by the most trusted of my officers, Sire, on whose discretion I can entirely rely.”

“This is a pretty state of affairs. Can I not go about in my own capital without being dogged by police spies?”

“Your Majesty had given me no orders. It is the duty of my Department to watch over your safety, and in the absence of any express prohibition I did not dare to leave your Majesty without protection. There is no crowned head in Europe, Sire, except the Queen of England, who is not similarly watched. And even she is, on the rare occasions when she visits her capital.”

[226]“And why is she not watched? Because her people are free,” said the King, sharply.

The Minister permitted himself a faint smile.

“The English are a strange race, Sire. It is the best country to be a rebel in, and the worst one to be a ruler in, that I know.”

Maximilian returned to a former remark of the Minister’s.

“You talk of having no orders. You have disobeyed the only order I did give you. I said that no more proceedings were to be taken against the Socialists without my express authority, and you have dared to make these wholesale arrests.”

“I have to humbly ask your Majesty’s pardon. It is true that I received that order, and I fully intended to obey it. Unfortunately, not anticipating that any step of this kind was in immediate contemplation by the police, I neglected to give them instructions in time. It appears that they acted on their ordinary principles, which are to watch all meetings, and break them up directly they become seditious. I am given to understand that language disrespectful to your Majesty was being freely indulged in on this occasion, and those in charge had, of course, no idea that your Majesty was present.”

Maximilian frowned sullenly at this rather lame explanation. But to express open disbelief in it must have meant the immediate resignation of the Minister, probably of the entire Ministry—in short, a declaration of open war. And he was still on the wrong side of the[227] door of No. 79. Nor were these the only considerations present to his mind, as he rather ungraciously responded—

“Well, sir, I will say no more on the subject. You will of course order the immediate release of all the persons arrested at the meeting.”

Herr Moritz bowed.

“Your Majesty has only to sign an order to that effect.”

The King looked somewhat relieved. Then a sudden thought seemed to cross his mind, and he gave a bitter smile. An instant after his manner changed again, and he addressed Herr Moritz in a more friendly tone than he had yet used.

“Be seated; I have something more to say to you.”

Up till now the Minister had remained standing. He now obeyed the King with an expression of face which showed that he, too, felt that a critical moment had been safely passed.

“What is your age, Herr Moritz?”

“Forty-four, Sire,” replied the Minister, with an intonation of surprise at the question.

“And the Count von Sigismark’s?”

Herr Moritz instantly became grave.

“I believe, seventy-one or two.”

“Exactly; the older a man is the more difficult it is for him to receive new ideas. It has occurred to me once or twice lately that I have been rather unreasonable in expecting Von Sigismark to appreciate my views[228] on the subject of social reform. Possibly if I had discussed them with you in the first place we should have been more likely to understand each other.”

“I should esteem it an honour to listen to your views at any time, Sire. At the same time, of course my position forbids me to initiate any practical steps which are not sanctioned by my chief.”

The King caught at what looked like a hint in these words.

“If that means that in order to secure your active assistance I must alter existing arrangements, I see no reason why that should not be done. The Count has been Chancellor a good many years, but it is time that he thought of making way for a younger man.”

Herr Moritz raised his hand deprecatingly.

“I fear I have misled you, Sire. I could not willingly accept any arrangements which included the dismissal of the Count von Sigismark.”


“Because, but for the Count, I should now be a government clerk at a thousand florins a-year. He has made me what I am; I owe everything to him.”

Maximilian bit his lip, and then gave vent to a deep sigh.

“I have found one faithful man in my kingdom,” he murmured, “and he is faithful to my enemy!”

“Do not say that, Sire!” remonstrated Moritz. “I am certain that the Chancellor would not oppose your Majesty in anything unless he believed it was against your own interests.”

[229]Maximilian’s only reply was a mournful smile. Then, rising to his feet, he observed—

“We are forgetting the release of the prisoners, and it is very late. Make out an order at once for me to sign, and send on a confidential messenger to the palace to prepare rooms for me to-night. I shall sleep in Mannhausen and return to Neustadt in the morning.”

“You shall be obeyed, Sire.”

The Minister quitted the cell, and in less than half an hour afterwards the astonished governor found himself passing out his crowd of inmates as quickly as he had passed them in.



When Maximilian found himself outside the gates of the State prison, it was not with the light step of a captive released that he took his way to the palace. Once in his own apartments, which had been hastily got ready for him, he issued strict injunctions that no one should be admitted to his presence. If Herr Mark should come to the palace, he was to be requested to follow the King to Neustadt in the morning. These orders given, the young monarch locked the door on all his attendants and gave himself up to the flood of emotion which was surging within him. Without entertaining even the pretence of seeking slumber, he remained all night in his cabinet, seated in an attitude of gloomy dejection, or dragging his steps wearily and almost furtively up and down the room. Sometimes he came to a halt opposite the various pictures hanging upon the walls, most of them portraits of those of his ancestors who had worn the Franconian crown. Once, in a momentary transport, he tore down the picture of his wretched father, and seemed about to destroy it; but more sober thoughts came to his aid, and he reluctantly replaced it on the wall.

[231]Thus the hours of the night passed, in miserable self-communing, and his face grew paler and more haggard, and the dark lines of exhaustion deepened themselves under his eyes, and his hair swept in disorder over his forehead; and he passed by degrees into a condition of listless apathy which ended in a brief spell of unrestful sleep.

With the first streak of dawn he rose, and went and looked at himself in a mirror which decorated the wall over the fireplace. The sight of his own aspect made him shrink. Withdrawing into a neighbouring apartment, furnished as a dressing-room, he made a hurried toilette, remembering for the first time to exchange the disguise in which he had been arrested for clothes a little less inconsistent with his rank. This done, he rang for his attendants, snatched a hasty breakfast, and departed in a closed carriage to take the first train for Neustadt.

There was another passenger at the railway station, also setting out for the King’s destination, a passenger whose form was shrouded in a long dark overcoat, while his face was overshadowed by a wide-brimmed hat. Maximilian caught a hasty glimpse of him in passing, but turned quickly away, making no sign nor gesture of recognition.

Two hours later the King was back in his apartments at the Castle, where his first act was to dispatch Karl in search of the musician Bernal. Not till he heard the well-known step of his old friend in the ante-room did his face relax for an instant from the expression of[232] nervous dread and wretchedness which had haunted it ever since his sojourn in the prison.

But when Bernal entered the King’s presence there was a constraint in his manner which was new in Maximilian’s experience of him. Instead of welcoming his friend with open arms, the musician stood aloof, coldly waiting to be addressed.

It instantly struck the King that this coolness arose from jealousy at his departure in the Socialist’s company, without having taken Auguste into his confidence, and he hastened to apologise for this breach of friendship. But the musician was not at once appeased.

“It is the first time in all these years that you have treated me so,” he said reproachfully. “Of course I know I have no right to be consulted as to your political designs, but there was a time when you would not have gone away like that, without even a word to let me know where you were, and when I might expect to see you again.”

Jealousy is sometimes the most grateful proof of affection. To Maximilian, at this moment, there was something consoling in his friend’s complaint. He laid his hand with a caressing touch on the other’s arm.

“I am sorry, Auguste, indeed,” he said mildly. “I admit I was wrong. I can only tell you that no one ever repented anything more than I have done this expedition. Would to God that I had had you by my side last night!”

And he proceeded to give a brief sketch of his adventures.[233] When he came to the conversation with the man who had been intruded into his cell, the musician gave him a look of anxious inquiry.

“Yes,” said Maximilian in answer to the unspoken question, lowering his voice to a whisper, “I recognised him almost from the first minute. It was Dr. Krauss.”

“Oh, Max, this is terrible!” exclaimed his friend. “To think that they should dare do such a thing! Have you any idea who it was that sent him there?”

Maximilian shook his head.

“I can prove nothing,” he said despairingly. “I suspect the Chancellor and Moritz. But even if I were sure, what could I do? The mere fact of their venturing on such a step would convince everybody that there were some grounds for it. And then the fact of my presence at the Socialist meeting—all would tell against me!” He broke off abruptly, struggled with his emotions for some few moments, then broke down, and flung himself into his friend’s arms, crying wildly—

“Auguste! Stand by me! I have no one I can trust but you!”

The last reserve of Bernal appeared to give way before this appeal. He folded the King in an affectionate embrace, which seemed to give him greater consolation than any words. In a few minutes the fit passed off, and they were quietly discussing affairs in the Castle.

It was thus that Maximilian learned to his astonishment[234] that Dorothea had been for the last three days a member of the Princess Hermengarde’s suite. Maximilian’s royal instinct rose in arms at the idea that the Princess had dared to interfere in his affairs without his permission, and he at once declared his resolve to go and demand an explanation of her conduct.

At the same time that Maximilian was holding this conversation with his friend, the Princess was giving secret audience to the Court physician himself.

The Chancellor was also present. He had been careful to intercept the physician on his arrival at the Castle, and after hastily exchanging a few words with him, had conducted him by the back staircase into Hermengarde’s presence.

The restrained air with which Von Sigismark saluted her warned the Princess immediately that some communication had already passed between the two. She was quick to perceive that all was not going well with her projects, and almost involuntarily hardened her face into a frown as she composed herself to hear the specialist’s report.

Dr. Krauss proceeded, in as calm a manner as if he were discussing the case of an ordinary patient, with his friends, to describe the stratagem by which he had been mingled among the victims of the police raid and introduced into the King’s presence. He added the information of the King’s subsequent release and return to Neustadt by the same train as himself.

Hermengarde found it difficult to conceal her agitation as she listened to his narrative.

[235]“And no doubt, sir, it is in consequence of your observations that my nephew has been restored to freedom?” she remarked at the first pause.

“Yes, Madam. As a result of my conversation with him, during which I believe no suspicion as to whom I was entered his mind, I have no hesitation in declaring that at present there is nothing in his Majesty’s state of health which would justify any measures of restriction.”

Hermengarde breathed hard, and directed a searching glance at Von Sigismark. But the old Count’s face wore the look she had learned to dread, the sanctimonious uprightness of the loyal servant, tempered by the courtier’s deference to the personage who held the station of aunt to the King.

She turned again to the physician, speaking in a voice which, do what she would, sounded dry and constrained—

“I rejoice to hear that so far our worst fears are not justified. Have you detected any symptoms which indicated that there might be danger in the future?”

“I cannot say I did, Madam. At present there is no trace of anything in his Majesty’s condition which might not be found in multitudes of persons who pass through life without ever incurring the suspicion of unsoundness. Of course, I have to bear in mind the constitutional taint which he has probably inherited, and which must always be a reason for care and watchfulness on the part of his friends. His Majesty has no doubt a highly nervous temperament. I will even go so far as to say that any very great stress of excitement,[236] any great and sudden shock to the nerve centres, might produce derangement; but there is no indication of anything of that sort at present; and if his Majesty can be induced to use care and prudence it may never come at all.”

The Princess bent her eyes on the Chancellor with that strange expression which he, on his side, had come to regard with inward disquietude. He endeavoured to feign unconsciousness of it as he observed—

“I am sure, Herr Doctor, that the Princess and myself are under a deep obligation to you for so fully setting our fears at rest. I agree with you in hoping confidently that no such crisis as you refer to may ever arise. Should there be any occasion to fear it we shall in any case have the advantage of your advice and services.”

The physician bowed and rose to leave the room, and the Chancellor imitated his movement.

“One moment, Count,” said the Princess, lifting her hand. “I have something I should like to say to you.”

“As you please, Madam,” he responded, hardly veiling his unwillingness. “Perhaps, Doctor, you will be good enough to wait on the stairs till I join you.”

Dr. Krauss signified his consent with a nod, and left them. The Count remained standing.

Hermengarde gazed at him steadily for a few seconds.

“May I ask what you propose to do now?” she inquired.

[237]“Madam, my first task is to keep my head on my shoulders. After what we have just heard, I am compelled to remember how perilously near I stand to the ground of high treason. Your Royal Highness cannot be expected to enter into my situation. The worst that can happen to you is a retirement to Schwerin-Strelitz, but a poor Franconian Minister is in a very different position.”

“True. I do not forget what you have said. I have no wish to ask you to take any step involving real danger.”

“Then, Madam, I implore you, let us abandon this affair for the present.”

“For the present, yes. But there is one other factor in the situation. Do you recollect who has announced his intention of visiting Franconia?”

“You mean the Kaiser?”

“I do. When the Kaiser is here I shall take the opportunity of consulting him. May I ask whether you would be prepared to take a course to which he gives his sanction?”

The Count considered for a little while.

“I think I should, Madam, in certain contingencies.”

Before the Princess could say anything more, the door opposite to that by which Dr. Krauss had made his exit was dashed open, and Prince Ernest ran in, exclaiming—

“Mother, here is Cousin Max!”

The two conspirators exchanged looks of alarm,[238] which they contrived to transmute into smiles of friendly welcome as Maximilian crossed the threshold.

He gravely saluted them, not without throwing a note of inquiry into his glance at the Chancellor, which made the Minister feel decidedly uncomfortable.

Then he turned to the Princess.

“Aunt, will you allow me to have a word with you in private?”

The Chancellor hastened to withdraw, only too pleased at the opportunity, and Ernest reluctantly followed him from the room.

The moment they were gone Maximilian put off the nephew, and became the King of Franconia.

“Madam,” he said sternly, “I have come to ask you for an explanation of the presence of the Fräulein Gitten in your apartments.”

And he flung himself into a chair without deigning to ask the Princess to follow his example.

But Hermengarde had been perfectly prepared for this inquiry, and did not allow herself to be disconcerted by her nephew’s rudeness.

“The Fräulein came here of her own accord, Sire,” she said, with cold dignity. “Though, I admit, I was guilty of the offence of telling her that she would find a welcome with me, if she should ever want to leave her father’s roof. I was rash enough to think you would rather know that a young girl in whom you were interested was safe under the protection of your uncle’s widow, than exposed to the brutal roughness of a[239] drunken father, or wandering through the forest without a place in which to lay her head.”

“Brutal roughness! What do you mean, Madam? Be careful what you say.”

“It is my habit to be careful of what I say, and of what I do as well,” was the retort, in which the King detected a subtle innuendo which made him shrink. “But if you have not entire confidence in my words, I should be glad to be allowed to send for the Fräulein herself, whom your Majesty will perhaps believe when she tells you that she fled to me at midnight to escape from, as I understood her, the actual blows of this man Gitten.”

Maximilian was completely conquered. He rose to his feet, deeply agitated, and said—

“Aunt Hermengarde, I beg your forgiveness. I am much ashamed of myself to have judged your conduct so wrongly. But I am hardly myself; certain things which have happened lately have disturbed me very much.”

He paused, and glanced at her as if hesitating whether to take her into his confidence. But perhaps a subtle instinct warned him against such a step. The atmosphere of Courts breeds distrust; and whom should a king distrust more than those who will profit by his ceasing to wear the crown?

“You have earned my gratitude,” he observed finally. “If there is anything I can do to repay you, you may command me at any time.”

“I will only ask one favour,” returned the Princess,[240] with a smile. “Allow me to bring my friend Dorothea to Seidlingen.”

Maximilian smiled back. Had he not been in love, he might have suspected some underlying danger in this ready complaisance of the Princess. As it was, he thanked her without going further.

His aunt added to the proofs of her good nature by begging him to excuse her for a few minutes, and sending in Dorothea to him as soon as she got outside.

And Maximilian shook off his cares, and began again to dream of happiness.

In the mean time, Johann Mark had returned to the Castle alone. Unable to have access to the King, he wandered out into the gardens, where he strolled moodily up and down, revolving in his mind the events of the last twenty-four hours.

In this occupation he was interrupted by Bernal, who had discovered him from a window, and come out on purpose to have a conversation with him. Johann had not yet got over his first repugnance to the composer, and greeted his approach with a marked lack of cordiality.

But Bernal was not to be rebuffed. He resolutely engaged with the Socialist, and quickly brought him to the subject which was uppermost in his own mind.

“My friend King Maximilian seems to be a good deal harassed by what has been happening lately,” he said. “He has told me all about his adventures in Mannhausen.”

The republican frowned.

[241]“I do not know that there was much to tell,” he retorted roughly. “Of course, it was unpleasant for him to be arrested, but I should not think that need trouble him very much.”

“It is not merely the arrest. He has had a great deal of worry all along, ever since his attempt to introduce these new ideas.”

It seemed to Johann that he was being attacked.

“And whose fault is that?” he demanded. “It is the Ministers who refuse to obey his orders and who raise all kind of obstacles to everything which the King wants done.”

“I dare say they do; I have no doubt they are very much to blame,” returned the composer quietly. “But I am not looking at the matter from a political point of view, but as the King’s personal friend; and when I see him worried and ill, I have a right to feel concerned. I have known the King longer than you have, and I know that he is of a very sensitive temperament, and ought not to be exposed to troubles of this kind.”

Johann’s manner became still more hostile.

“I think, sir,” he said with some bitterness, “you have shown pretty plainly from the first that you have not much sympathy with the cause that the King has pledged himself to support. You no doubt would rather he continued to spend his time in building sumptuous palaces, and in listening to operas. But I believe that he has at last awakened to his real duty in life; and no matter what it may cost him at first, I believe it is better[242] for him to go on with his task than to sink back into the condition of a sybarite, with no aim beyond his own selfish pleasures.”

Bernal flushed under these severe remarks, but he resolutely kept his temper.

“All that may be so, Herr Mark,” he replied; “at all events I am not going to dispute it with you. If King Maximilian were an ordinary man I should not say another word. But what I want you to remember, when you are urging him on to all kinds of violent measures, is this, that if you press things too far, if you harass him beyond a certain point, the result may be such as you little think of.”

Johann stared at him bewildered.

“Excuse me, sir, but I do not understand you.”

“What I mean is this, that the King comes of a morbid stock. Up to the present he has been kept free from any great cause of agitation, and he has shown no sign of the hereditary curse of his family; but let there be too great a strain put upon him, let him receive one or two more shocks like last night, and I tremble for the effect upon his brain.”

Johann drew himself up, and an incredulous smile came upon his lips.

“So that is it!” he cried scornfully. “As long as a king wastes his substance and the hard-earned taxes of his subjects in any sort of frivolous pleasure and riot, he is perfectly sound and sane; but the moment he begins to take an interest in the people, the moment he begins to make any practical attempt to better their lot, then,[243] in your opinion, he is going mad! Thank you for speaking so plainly. At last we understand each other. You had better go and tell your fears to some one who will be more ready to believe in them—the Chancellor, for instance. As far as I am concerned, I think that the King has at last become sane, after being mad all his life.”

And with this reply, the Socialist turned his back, and strode away with a fierce air.

While Bernal, deeply dejected, was still standing, as though in doubt what course to pursue, he was accosted by Karl, who had come towards him from the palace.

“What is it? Does the King want me?”

“No, sir; at least I have not been sent by his Majesty. The Princess Hermengarde commanded me to say that she hopes to have the pleasure of seeing you in her Royal Highness’s apartments after dinner.”

Bernal felt a slight shiver.

“Tell the Princess that I am much honoured by her invitation, and I shall be there.”



And now for a time all other matters at Court fell into the background, and every mind was taken up with the preparations for the coming visit of the Kaiser.

The character of the young man who at this time had only recently succeeded to the Imperial throne of Germany was still to some extent a matter of conjecture. It was known that Providence had endowed him with a very ample share of confidence in his own abilities, and belief in his own prerogatives. It was very quickly discovered that these qualities in the young ruler were not tempered by any great measure of consideration for either the rights or the abilities of others. In his domestic relations he would have deserved great praise if he had been able occasionally to forget the character of the sovereign in that of the brother or son. As a Crown Prince he had suffered under the suspicion of having lent himself to an intrigue for the exclusion of his father from the throne; and such rumours obtained more credence from a certain vein of extravagance which marked all his public actions, and had led the irrepressible Von Stahlen[245] to invent for him the name of “The Barn-door Emperor.”

One of his first acts after his accession had been to dismiss, under circumstances of some harshness, a great statesman whose services to his country and to the Imperial family had been such as have hardly been equalled in modern history. The Kaiser’s assumption of personal control over his government had not been marked by any great new departure; but what was wanting in deeds was more than made up in verbal declarations of the most imposing character. Short of requiring them to pay him divine honours, there seemed to be no limit to the claims which their new Emperor made upon the submission of his astounded subjects. That absolute power over their fortunes and their lives which the great Frederick earned by his achievements, and which he used with discreet moderation, was asserted by his untried descendant in harangues which resounded over Europe. The doctrine of the Divine right of kings was revived in the nineteenth century, and the Kaiser might have exclaimed with Louis XIV., “L’État, c’est moi.

The foundation on which the Kaiser rested his edifice of despotic power was the military system. The army over which he wielded the supreme command was carefully indoctrinated by him with the spirit of an exclusive society, privileged above the rest of the community on condition of lending its implicit support to his personal authority. Regiments gave dinners in the Kaiser’s honour, at which he made speeches inviting them to[246] look down upon their fellow subjects as beings of an inferior order. Sentries shot down private citizens in cold blood, for fancied affronts, and were rewarded by the personal congratulations of the Emperor. The Kaiser assumed the character of a military chieftain encamped with his followers upon the German soil, like an invader in a conquered city.

In territories like those of Franconia and the other states which preserved a partial independence, it was the theory of the German constitution that the local monarch retained the control of his army in time of peace. But the Kaiser was accused of working secretly to upset this system, and to gather the whole of the military power into his own hands. Considerable distrust had been aroused by these tactics, and an almost open breach existed between the King of Wurtemburg and the Kaiser on this account, at the time of the long-talked-of visit to Maximilian. Kaisers, like more common persons, are not above killing two birds with one stone, and it was known in the Chancelleries of the states concerned that the Kaiser’s journey was prompted quite as much by his desire to overcome this hostility, as by his curiosity to view the wonders of Seidlingen.

Thither, to the famous scene of Maximilian’s extraordinary creation, the whole Franconian Court repaired in state to receive its august visitor. The King had sent on Bernal in advance, to see that his ideas had been completely carried out to the last detail; and as soon as a favourable report was received Maximilian[247] followed with the rest of the Court, and made his first formal entrance into his new domain.

The railway ended at a distance of eight miles from the Castle itself. From there the royal party were driven in carriages up the new road which Maximilian’s engineers had constructed, past the fountains and waterfalls which had been artfully scattered along the route, and under the archway, guarded by cannon, which gave access to the hidden valley.

Exclamations of wonder and delight burst from the lips of the courtiers as they rolled through the rocky gateway, and the full beauty of the fairyland within burst upon their sight. The gardens, the strange trees, the flower-beds, the canals and aqueducts, the kiosks and gondolas, all combined to produce the illusion of a scene upon the stage, rather than a sober reality of waking life. The season of the year—it was early June—helped to show off all the natural features at their best. And the culminating point was reached when the Castle itself came into view, built of dazzling marble, with every turret and pinnacle flashing in the sunshine, like a palace of silver built by genii at the command of the prince in some eastern tale.

Here, in the midst of these splendours, the more serious business of life seemed out of place for a time, and the whole Court abandoned itself to enjoyment. The King moved about with a lighter step, proud of the success of his work; the Princess Hermengarde put on her most gracious demeanour; and the Count von Sigismark, snatching time from the cares of office,[248] mingled with the pleasant throng, and condescended to receive the raillery of Von Stahlen on his supposed exchange of the post of Chancellor of Franconia for that of Grand Vizier of Seidlingen. Even the stern Johann forgot his jealousy of the King’s æsthetic tastes, and yielded for a time to the fascination of his surroundings.

As for Dorothea, she was completely carried away by all she saw. Shaking off the sense of her strange position, with the elastic spirit of youth, she seemed to regain in the air of Seidlingen the gayety and lightness of the old days when Maximilian first came seeking her in the forest lodge. The King gave every moment he could spare to her society, and when he was elsewhere, she roamed about the gardens under the protection of her cousin, whose harsh nature softened insensibly under the influence of the girl’s sweet temper.

Nor was the young Prince Ernest behindhand in offering her his company. Whether in despair of obtaining the old Chancellor’s support for her schemes, or actuated by some deeper motive, his mother had all at once ceased to thrust him into the arms of Gertrude von Sigismark, and the vain girl again found herself obliged to fall back on the homage of such lesser lights of the Court as the Von Stahlens and Von Hardenburgs. Deeply mortified at this second failure to retain a royal admirer, she set herself to fathom the nature of the intrigue between her father and the Princess. Aided by the reluctant hints which she had the art to extract from Herr Moritz, who came to and fro between[249] Seidlingen and the capital, she was not long in reaching the conviction that her father was to blame for her present disappointment, and that it only rested with him to make her the future Queen of Franconia. The result was just such as Hermengarde had anticipated all along: Gertrude became her secret ally, and persistently urged the Chancellor to do everything in his power to conciliate the Princess.

In the mean time nothing was seen outwardly but sports and pleasures. In the midst of this magnificent picnic the Kaiser arrived to glorify the festivities with his patronage.

After King Maximilian had received him in state at the entrance of the demesne, and conducted him to the Castle, the two monarchs with their Chancellors retired to an inner room to hold a consultation on the political questions which the Kaiser desired to discuss. As soon as the affairs of Wurtemburg and other minor matters were disposed of, the Emperor took Maximilian familiarly by the arm, and asked him to walk with him round the gardens.

The King assented politely, and the two sovereigns strolled out together, while Von Sigismark led the Imperial Chancellor, General von Bernerstauf, into his own apartments.

At first the talk between King and Emperor turned upon the various objects which they were viewing, but by degrees it drifted round to more personal matters. The Kaiser inquired as to the truth of the reports which had reached him of the attempt on Maximilian’s life,[250] and in response Maximilian related almost exactly what had taken place, down to the release of Johann Mark by his orders, and his reception as a familiar guest in the palace.

The Kaiser, who had contrived by some of his measures to incur the reproach of Socialism, from old-fashioned statesmen, without having earned the confidence of the Socialists themselves, was not an unsympathetic listener to Maximilian’s account.

“If I had been in your place I should have knocked the fellow down first, and talked to him afterwards,” he remarked, with the rough frankness which he affected. “But all the same, I am interested in your Herr Mark. Of course, the man ought to be hanged, but I don’t blame you for listening to what he had to say. I hold that in these days a king ought to be his own prime minister, and not suffer the dictation of a set of officials. I don’t think much of that Chancellor of yours. The man is past his work; why don’t you get rid of him and have a younger man, who understands modern ideas?”

Maximilian was much pleased at receiving this measure of encouragement from so influential a quarter.

“I have been considering my position lately,” he answered. “Up to the present, as I dare say you know, I have not taken much interest in the practical work of government. But Herr Mark has convinced me that I ought, as you put it, to be my own prime minister. I do not want to treat Von Sigismark harshly, but I have[251] certainly found him very much disposed to thwart me when I ask him to listen to any new views. If it is not taking a liberty to make the suggestion, you would confer a great obligation on me by saying a few words to him privately while you are here, just to show him that my ideas are not so unreasonable as he seems to suppose.”

“I will,” returned the Kaiser heartily, clapping his brother monarch on the back. “We reformers must stand by each other. I had just the same difficulty to fight with myself, when I first came to the throne, but I soon showed these people that I was not to be trifled with, and now they either obey me or—go.”

“Mark himself is here in the Castle now. I thought perhaps you might be willing to see him, and give me the benefit of your judgment on some of his ideas.”

The Kaiser shook his head vigorously.

“No! I never do. It is a mistake to lower one’s self to the level of these people. They only despise you for it, and hate you more in the end than if you had always held them at arm’s length. Look at poor Alexander II. of Russia; if he had not emancipated the serfs they would never have assassinated him.”

Maximilian was much struck by these observations. He began to perceive that this young monarch, of whose headstrong folly the whole world was talking, hid some real capacity beneath his extravagant demeanour. They were of much the same age, the Kaiser had reigned fewer years than himself, and yet[252] how much more had he learned of the art of governing men!

While the two rulers were thus exchanging confidences, their Ministers were conversing with apparently equal cordiality, though with far less real sincerity.

The German Chancellor, like his master, was keenly curious about the recent events at Neustadt, but the account he elicited from Von Sigismark was much more guarded than that given by Maximilian to the Kaiser. The old Count would not admit that there had been any definite attempt on the King’s life; on the other hand, he spoke with unconcealed aversion of Johann and his influence over the King’s mind.

“The man is a blatant demagogue of the most extreme type,” he said, vindictively. “He aims at universal confiscation, and the abolition of monarchy and aristocracy—the whole French Revolution over again, in short. Since he has obtained the King’s ear I am in a state of perpetual apprehension as to what may happen next. Imagine the consequences, not merely to Franconia but to the whole Empire, if such a man is allowed to have his way!”

“What you say is indeed very serious,” was the cautious response. The Imperial Minister stood in far too much awe of his master to commit himself to any very definite expression of opinion without having the royal instructions.

Von Sigismark was restrained by no such consideration. He had come, in fact, to a point at which boldness was the most prudent policy.

[253]“It would be an immense relief to me,” he observed, “to know that I had the Kaiser’s approval in the stand which I have felt it necessary to make against this man’s interference in the affairs of the government. My own master, of course, has never been a politician, and I am sure he would pay great attention to anything which fell from his Imperial Majesty.”

“I will take care that the Kaiser is informed of the situation,” replied Von Bernerstauf. “I know that he has the highest regard both for King Maximilian and for yourself.”

“The fact is that there is another reason for my desiring to be put in possession of the Kaiser’s wishes,” went on the Count, lowering his voice, “a reason of so delicate a nature that I hardly deem it consistent with my duty to mention it to any other ear but his Majesty’s own. You will pardon my reserve, General?”

The General nodded gravely, with the air of one who understands more than is expressed.

“Your caution does you honour, my dear Count. I wish to be informed of nothing which the Emperor does not himself desire me to know. I will, if that is your meaning, endeavour to obtain for you a private audience of the Kaiser.”

“Thank you, that is what I desire,” answered Von Sigismark.

And the two Ministers passed on to topics of a lighter nature.

Later in the day the Kaiser and his Chancellor were closeted together, and the latter repeated the[254] purport of his conversation with the Franconian Minister.

The Kaiser was at first disinclined to grant the audience requested.

“I do not think I ought to encourage this person to come to me behind his master’s back,” said he, with some haughtiness. “Anything which he has to say may be quite well said through you.”

“As you please, Sire.” The Kaiser’s Ministers were trained not to criticise but to acquiesce.

“I know perfectly well that the King and his Chancellor do not quite hit it,” went on the Kaiser, familiarly. “I have heard all about it from the King himself. It is all about this Socialist who has undertaken to teach them how to conduct the government. But it seems to me that the more they quarrel among themselves, the better for my authority. What do you say, Von Bernerstauf?”

“I agree entirely with your view, Sire, if I may say so respectfully. No doubt the alarm of Count von Sigismark is very much exaggerated. Of course, there will be always time for your Majesty to step in if anything like a revolution should become imminent.”

“I should like to see a revolution!” exclaimed the Kaiser, with warmth. “Do you know what I should do? March into Franconia with an army of a hundred thousand men, declare the dynasty suspended, and mediatise the kingdom. It would simply mean another Hanover added to my dominions.”

[255]Von Bernerstauf assumed an expression of the most profound admiration.

“You foresee everything, Sire!” he cried, with an imitation of his master’s own bluffness.

But the Kaiser quickly recalled himself from these visions of aggrandisement.

“Have you any idea, General, what the reason was which the Count was afraid to mention to you?”

“I have my suspicions, Sire. I have had the opportunity of conversing with other members of the Court, and from various circumstances I am led to think that possibly the Count has some fears for the King’s sanity.”


The Kaiser remained for the next few minutes plunged in profound thought. At last he raised his eyes to Von Bernerstauf’s.

“In that case I will receive the Count. Go and bring him here immediately.”



The Castle of Seidlingen was illuminated. Every window flashed with light, and all the roofs and turrets were picked out in brilliant lines of fire. Through the conservatories and gardens, and along the winding waterways, stretched the rows of many-coloured lamps; the trees were hung with Chinese lanterns of the quaintest pattern, and out in the lake a large floating platform was moored, from which every now and then a sheaf of golden rockets ascended to the sky. At the far end of the grounds, where the mountain began to rise abruptly from the artificial level of the garden, an immense arch of fire shone out against the dark background of the forest, and displayed in burning letters a motto of welcome to the Kaiser.

Within the Castle the dazzling display reached its height. A magnificent ball-room of dimensions large enough to afford space for a thousand persons was lavishly decorated with trophies of flags and weapons, mingled with flowers, and lit up by a double row of white wax candles running round the walls. On the floor, shining with its perfect polish, moved a gorgeous[257] crowd of all the highest personages in Maximilian’s kingdom, together with many illustrious visitors from other parts of Germany, who had attended to do honour to the head of the Empire.

A rope of vermilion velvet marked off the area reserved for royal personages, and within this area the ball had been opened by a State quadrille, in which the Kaiser was obliged by etiquette to take for his partner the Grand Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, while Maximilian led out the consort of the Hereditary Margrave of Anspach. The Princess Hermengarde fell to a Prince of the House of Prussia, a brother of the Kaiser’s, and the Margrave completed the Imperial set with a Princess of another reigning family.

As soon as these illustrious personages had gone through their dance, the velvet rope was removed, and the other guests were at liberty to take part in the waltz which succeeded. Maximilian seized the first opportunity to relinquish the Margravine to another partner and wandered down the room in search of Dorothea.

He found her with some difficulty, shyly ensconced in a corner at the lower end of the ball-room, and at once requested her to join him in the waltz.

Covered with confusion at being thus singled out before a crowd of spectators, the young girl drew back, murmuring—

“Please do not ask me. Think of what the people will say if we are seen together! And besides, I am not fit to dance in such a company. I have never[258] danced before in my life, except amongst children and servants.”

But Maximilian would take no denial. Inspirited by the music and by the intoxication of the whole surroundings, he felt himself able to brave public opinion.

“Now or never, Dorothea,” he answered gayly. “I am not ashamed of you”—and, bending down, he added in a whisper—“my future Queen.”

Dorothea turned pale, but offered no further resistance. He led her out in triumph, and presently they were circling round the floor beneath the keen glances of a thousand eyes.

Meanwhile the Kaiser, out of courtesy to his host, had approached the Princess Hermengarde as soon as the quadrille was over, and invited her to become his partner in the next dance.

Hermengarde accepted, and they took one turn round the floor. Then she pleaded fatigue, and the Kaiser conducted her to a couch at the top of the room. He sat down beside her, and presently the course of the dance brought Maximilian and his partner across their field of view.

“Who is that girl with your nephew?” inquired the Kaiser, carelessly.

Hermengarde gave him a look full of meaning.

“She is the daughter of one of the royal foresters,” she answered. “At present she occupies the position of my reader, but before very long she may be dancing within the velvet rope, with your Majesty for a partner.”

[259]The Kaiser flushed angrily.

“I do not understand you, Madam!”

“Hush! We may be observed.” And the Princess turned her head, as if occupied in watching the dancers. Then she leant over towards the Kaiser and whispered something in his ear.

He started, but controlled himself instantly, and they continued to converse for some time.

Maximilian danced on. And as he danced bright thoughts came crowding on him, and the spectres overshadowing his path melted away, and he felt himself again a king, happy in his youth and in his power, and needing only to crown his happiness, that greatest of all treasures, love that is returned.

So, after the waltz was over, and the music of the orchestra was hushed for a brief space, he led out Dorothea into the open air beneath the lamp-lit avenues of blossom. His example was followed by others, and ere long quite half the crowd had deserted the dancing-floor, and were wandering in couples or in larger parties through the fairyland outside. Some of the boats were unmoored, and sent gliding along the peaceful waters of the canals, while one party, still more daring, headed by the Prussian Prince, boldly launched upon the bosom of the lake in a yacht with silken sails, in which they glided past the floating raft of fireworks, and up into the deep shadows of the forest.

Maximilian did not stray very far. He brought Dorothea to a place where the lake formed a little[260] natural bay, the edges of which had been carpeted with a thick bank of fine white sand specially brought from the coast of England. From this spot there was a view right down the lake to its farthest bend; and as the palace lay behind them it was possible to indulge in a sense of isolation almost like that enjoyed by a wanderer on some lonely seashore.

Here a low seat had been constructed of wicker-work, under the shelter of a magnolia, upon the edge of the sand. To this the King brought Dorothea, and they sat down side by side in silence.

Something warned the forester’s daughter that the King had come there with her for some serious purpose. She tried to calm the beating of her heart by taking in the cool night air in long deep breaths.

Maximilian, on his part, was at first too much agitated to speak. His whole being seemed to tremble in the grasp of an overmastering emotion, and it was as much as he could do to keep his very teeth from knocking together, in the violence of his agitation.

They sat, and watched the merry party on board the yacht sail past, and disappear in the darkness which overhung the distance of the waters. Then a great fountain of gold fire spouted upward as if out of the bosom of the lake, and fiery serpents darted and zig-zagged across the face of the heavens.

“See,” said Maximilian, speaking at length, in a low, dreamy voice, “like the wonders which art has brought about in this once desolate valley are the wonders which love works in the heart of man.”

[261]Dorothea did not venture to make a reply. The young man continued—

“Till I found you, Dorothea, I had never loved a woman. When I was a boy I was too shy to seek their society, and as I grew up I became accustomed to consider them as creatures of a different nature, incapable of entering into my feelings, or sharing my mystic views of life. But when I came to the lodge that first day by accident, and saw you, I realised for the first time that something was wanting in my life, and, as the days and weeks passed on, I discovered that what I had missed was worth more than all that I possessed, and that my life till then had been a gloomy wilderness like this dark valley shut in among its lonely mountains. Dorothea, they say that our race is under a curse, that there is no member of the House of Astolf who may not sooner or later find himself stricken down in the midst of his power and pleasures, and confined in a gloomy cell. I have seen my father’s fate, and my uncle Otto’s, and ever since I was a boy that fearful dread has dogged my steps, and been beside me night and day. And I have sought to drown it in all sorts of distractions, and to withdraw myself from all strangers’ eyes, and bury myself alone with one or two whom I could trust, and where I could move about freely, without feeling that there were eyes upon me which were the eyes of spies, watching and waiting for the first indication to enable them to cast a net around me, and strangle me without remorse. All that is what I have borne, and am still bearing, and it[262] has weighed me down, and made me unlike other men, so that I have sometimes feared that my fate would be like a prophecy fulfilling itself, and the very dread of madness would drive me mad. But to-night, under the influence of my love for you, I feel a different being, I know that I am strong enough to fight and overcome this haunting enemy, I know that I never shall be mad while I love you, and you love me.”

He stopped, too deeply moved to proceed. Dorothea drooped her golden head, like a buttercup filled with rain, and sighed softly to herself.

Presently he regained calmness enough to go on.

“But, Dorothea, there is one thing greater than love, and that is truth. I am afraid—afraid to ask you if you love me. Oh, if you did, if you could tell me truly that you loved me, it would be better for me than if yonder lake were turned into silver, and yonder castle into gold, better than if all the kings and emperors of the earth came here to resign their crowns into my hand, better than if an enchanter’s wand smote the earth to sleep, and bound the wheels of time in fetters of light, and bade this hour last for ever!”

Dorothea opened her lips like one who breathes with pain, but her voice froze in her throat.

“Yet believe me,” went on Maximilian, in tones of exquisite tenderness, “that I would not have you give me any false hopes. If you cannot yet make up your mind whether you love me, tell me so, and I will wait. But if you have made up your mind, and know you can never love me, tell me that, and though I shall[263] never cease to love you, I will go away and persecute you no more. Perhaps it will still be in my power to make you happy. Perhaps your nature can never really find itself at home in this life of Courts, but only in some quiet nook where you will be able to live the life from which I selfishly dragged you, and where in time you may come to forget that your peace was ever troubled by the love of mad King Maximilian.”

A large tear took shape in Dorothea’s eye, and fell heavily upon the arid surface of the sand. She turned and answered her lover.

“You are too good to me, Sire—”

“No, not that! After this hour you must call me Maximilian for the rest of our lives, whatever happens.”

“Maximilian.” The syllables flowed out with a soft cadence, like water falling upon silver wires, and Maximilian learned for the first time to love his name, a name by which his house preserved the memory of the gentle, dreaming Emperor, Albert Dürer’s friend, the last representative of chivalry, he who more than any other summed up in himself that quaint and mystic Holy Roman Empire which symbolised the union of the barbarian and the citizen, the marriage between the North and the South, that Empire which at its best was only a dream and an imagination, a long crusade in which the rough feudal knighthood of the Teuton lands descended century after century across the Alpine barrier, warring vainly against that mighty necromantic power encamped upon the hills of Rome.

“Maximilian, it makes me sad to hear you speak like[264] this, because I cannot make you any return. When you first came to me, and asked me to love you, I hardly knew what love meant, and I thought that perhaps by trying I could render myself worthy of your love. And I have tried, believe me. But now I know more than I did then. I understand things better, and I know that though I might become your wife, yet I should never be able to feel towards you as you do towards me.”

She spoke hesitatingly, almost shamefacedly, yet there was that in her words which went to Maximilian’s heart. He caught his breath, and pressed his hand hard upon his bosom, as though he felt a sensible pang.

“Thank you, Dorothea.” He in his turn lingered over the name as if it were some magic spell, the mere utterance of which had power to soothe his grief. “I had no right to hope for any other answer. But do not regret having listened to me this once. It is a greater joy than you know to be allowed even to tell my love to you, though I tell it in vain. And your very presence has an influence over me, and gives me more courage to bear my lot. Do not weep, my beloved; but before I leave you, give me one kiss as a token to remember you by in the time to come.”

She tried to check her tears, and, forgetting everything but pity, she put her arm round the young man’s neck and kissed him yearningly, like a child that would win forgiveness from those who love it.

[265]As she relaxed her embrace Maximilian hastily withdrew himself from it, and silently strode away.

Hardly had he gone a dozen paces, when he was encountered by Johann, moodily wandering apart, after a vain attempt to find his cousin. The King gave him a look of the deepest dejection.

“What is it?” exclaimed Johann, impulsively. “Is anything wrong?”

“I may tell it to you,” answered Maximilian, halting for a moment; “you are in the secret already. My dream is over; I have learnt that Dorothea does not love me.”

“But she will!” cried Johann, much disturbed. “She is too young to know her own mind. She has not had time to get accustomed to this new life. Give her more.”

The King shook his head sadly.

“It is useless, my friend. She is not too young to love. I know her too well to expect her to change. I will vex her no more.”

And he went on hastily.

Johann stood frowning and looking after him. Then his own face suddenly flushed, and he drew a deep breath. He seemed to be labouring to subdue some disturbing emotion as he stepped forward in the direction from which the King had just come.

As he had anticipated, his path brought him straight to Dorothea, who was still sitting beside the little beach, and striving to check her sobs. She raised her[266] head quickly at his approach, and a look of apprehension came into her eyes.

Her cousin came to a stand in front of her, with the stern air of a judge about to rebuke an offender.

“Well,” he said in a severe voice, “I hope you realise what you have done.”

“Has the King told you?” she asked timidly.

“Yes; he has told me that you have refused him—refused to become a queen, with the grandest opportunities of playing a noble part in history that any woman ever had.”

“But, Johann, I am not fit for such a position. It terrifies me. I do not want to play a grand part. All I want is to be allowed to go on living peacefully, away from all these plots and intrigues and revolutions. I wish the King had never seen me, and then I might still be in the old lodge, without a care in the world, except to milk the cow and get ready my father’s meals.”

“Dorothea! You talk like a child. Are all the schemes to which I have given up my life to be hampered and perhaps ruined by the obstinacy of a girl who cannot raise her mind above the level of the dairy?”

“But surely it is not my fault, Johann,” she remonstrated, with a little more spirit. “I did not want the King to love me, and I never undertook to interfere in your schemes. I was happy before all this came about. Why should I be dragged into these affairs, when I never wished to be?”

[267]Johann did not condescend to answer this last question.

“I cannot understand you,” he observed bitterly. “I do not suppose there is another girl in the whole of Germany, from the Kaiser’s sisters down, who would not be glad of the offer which you have thrown away. There must be some reason for it.”

“There is a reason for it,” returned Dorothea, beginning to show some resentment at her cousin’s masterful tone.

“And what is it?”

“Simply that I do not love the King.”

“Perhaps you love some one else,” said Johann, in a tone of anger and dismay.

A bright flush overspread Dorothea’s cheeks.

“Perhaps I do,” she retorted boldly, rising at the same time from her seat, and making a movement to go.

“Ah! And have you any objection to tell me the name of this fortunate man?”

“Yes. I will never tell you!” cried Dorothea, wildly. “And I will never speak to you again.”

She turned and ran rapidly off, while Johann remained as if rooted to the ground, gazing after her with an expression of hopeless bewilderment.

Meanwhile, Maximilian, his brow overcast, and his whole manner burdened with a melancholy too great to be concealed, had reappeared in the ball-room, where the Kaiser and Hermengarde were just finishing a whispered conversation.

[268]“I can well understand,” the Princess was saying, “that you did not attach much weight to the alarms of a weak-minded old man like the Chancellor; and besides, as you have pointed out, political follies could be checked at any time. But a mésalliance would be a very different thing. We cannot afford to have the royal caste contaminated by the intrusion of peasants.”

The Kaiser nodded earnestly.

“And there is this additional danger,” pursued the Princess, “that a freak of this kind might be carried out too secretly for any one to interfere before it was too late. It would cause me no surprise if my nephew were to walk into my apartments at any moment, and inform me that he had provided the Court with a queen.”

“That will never do; that must be prevented at all costs,” muttered the Kaiser.

“I was sure you would say so. The whole idea is insane,” returned the Princess. “Besides,” she pursued artfully, “what we desire is to see our King allied with some great European House. Think what an advantage it would be for Franconia if we could induce you to bestow one of your sisters upon the King! I know that, were my son likely to ascend the throne, such a match would become my highest ambition for him.”

The Kaiser smiled shrewdly, but made no reply.

“Then may I take it that you are prepared to sanction such steps as may be deemed necessary?”[269] inquired the Princess, striving not to betray her agitation.

“Whatever the Privy Council of Franconia decides upon will receive my sanction,” was the guarded answer. “I will consult further with my Chancellor and with the Count von Sigismark as to the proper course to be pursued, and cause a communication to be made to you.”

The Princess was compelled to be satisfied with this. She murmured her thanks, and the Kaiser rose, and walking down the ball-room, met Maximilian near the entrance.

“Where is your kinsman, the Count von Eisenheim?” he asked. “How is it that I do not see him here?”

“He received an invitation,” replied the King, abstractedly, “but declined it on the plea of ill health. He has not been to Court for very many years.”

“Indeed. Where does he live?”

“At the Castle of Eisenheim. You will pass it on your way back to Berlin.”

“Ah! Come out with me into the grounds. I should like to see the illuminations.”

And he drew the King away.



The following morning the Kaiser, after a long conversation with General von Bernerstauf, sent for the Franconian Chancellor, and was closeted with him for nearly an hour. At the close of the interview, which was kept secret from the whole Court, Von Sigismark took his way with a deeply anxious air to the Princess Hermengarde’s apartments.

Shortly afterwards the departure of the Kaiser was announced. He was accompanied by Maximilian to the railway, but a visible change had come over his demeanour towards the King, and they parted on far less cordial terms than they had met on the day before.

The next day or two the Court was occupied in settling down after the festivities. Hermengarde noted, with some apprehension, that the King had ceased to pay open attention to Dorothea, and she went so far as to sound her delicately on the subject. But Dorothea, considering Maximilian’s confidence as sacred, refused to say anything definite to her mistress about what had passed.

[271]Still she revealed enough to make the Princess fear for the success of her plans founded on the King’s infatuation for Dorothea, and she consequently sent for the Chancellor time after time, and held long conferences with him which led to no immediate result.

Things might have remained in this position for some time, had not the catastrophe suddenly been brought on by the action of the revolutionary party in the capital.

Emboldened by the release of all the prisoners arrested the previous week, and by the rumours which began to gain ground that the King had been induced by Johann to interfere in their favour, the leaders of the agitation suddenly issued a manifesto calling upon the whole of the working classes throughout Franconia to hold simultaneous demonstrations in Mannhausen and all the other large towns of the kingdom, on a certain day, to demand various points in the Socialist programme. The moment a copy of this manifesto was brought to the Minister of the Interior he set off in haste for Seidlingen, to lay it before the Chancellor.

The electric wire had already conveyed some intimation to the Count of the events transpiring in Mannhausen, and Herr Moritz found his chief in a state of the utmost alarm and dejection.

“It has come at last,” he said, “as we might have anticipated. If we let this demonstration take place it is all over with the government. These men are deliberately challenging us, and any appearance of weakness on our part will be the signal for open rebellion.”

[272]“I fear you are right,” responded the younger Minister. “I have reason to know that the state of feeling in Mannhausen is most dangerous. The law-abiding classes are fast becoming terrorised. They hear on all sides that the King is in sympathy with the revolutionists, and they are losing all confidence in the protection of the government.”

“We must see the King at once,” said the Chancellor, “and insist on his authorising us to prevent these meetings by force. Failing that—”

He hesitated and glanced at his colleague.

“Whatever action you may decide upon, Herr Count, you may rely upon my support,” said the other, eagerly. “I even think it right to let you know that his Majesty has sounded me to ascertain if I should be willing to replace you in the Chancellorship, and that I informed him that I could not listen to any such proposals.”

The old Chancellor clenched his hands with rage.

“God in Heaven! And this is the man whom I have been trying to save all this time! That is how he repays my devotion, is it! Come, it is time to act.”

And he led the way out of the room and towards the royal cabinet.

At this very moment, as it happened, the King was engaged with Johann and Bernal in discussing the revolutionary manifesto.

Johann had come, full of confidence, to enlist the King’s sympathy for the demonstration, but had found his efforts strenuously, and even bitterly, opposed by[273] Auguste, who insisted that the Socialists were not justified in seeking to force Maximilian’s hand, and that it would be a fatal mistake on the King’s part to appear to yield to violence.

Maximilian, whose keenly sensitive nature was still smarting from the taunts to which he had listened at the Socialist meeting, considered himself bound in honour not to offer any official resistance to the revolutionists. He listened to his friend’s remonstrances at first with mildness, but finally became impatient, and closed the discussion by saying, in impatient tones—

“I have passed my word, and I cannot go back from it. If these men think they can help on their cause by such means better than by waiting for me to act, they are entitled to their opinion, and I have no right to withstand them. As Herr Mark told me that day in the gallery, I must either accomplish something myself, or stand aside for those who will. I have not succeeded in doing anything up to the present, and this is the natural result.”

“I am sorry you take such a view,” responded the musician. “I have given you my advice, the advice, not of a politician, but of a personal friend whose only aim is your own good. I hope you will not live to regret having refused to listen to me.”

And with these harsh words he went out of the cabinet, leaving Maximilian much distressed. Immediately afterwards the two Ministers were announced.

“Now we shall have a tough fight of it,” remarked[274] the King with a sigh, to Johann, “but you will see I shall not give way.”

The Ministers were shown in, and respectfully greeted their master. Johann, the Chancellor noticed with a contemptuous nod; his colleague, not at all.

“I think I know what you have come about, gentlemen,” said the King, trying to assume an air of cheerful indifference.

For answer the old Count slowly unfolded the manifesto, and laid it in front of Maximilian.

“Yes, I have just been hearing about this. The working men are going to hold some meetings to discuss the very topics which I put before you the last time we held a consultation. There is nothing very formidable in that.”

“Pardon me, Sire,” said the Chancellor, gravely, “but my colleague and I regard it as most formidable. We regard it, and it is intended by the promoters to be regarded, as a declaration of war against your government. If successful it will be undoubtedly, as we are informed, followed up by an outbreak of armed rebellion.”

“Oh, come, gentlemen, I think you take it too seriously. It will be time enough to deal with the armed rebellion when it comes. This is simply a question of peaceful demonstrations, such as I understand are permitted in every other country of Europe, except Russia.”

“I greatly fear you have been misled as to the character of these meetings, Sire,” answered the Count,[275] with a hostile glance towards Johann, who sat listening with a confident smile which irritated the Minister beyond measure. “My colleague here, who has this minute arrived from Mannhausen, tells me that the utmost terror prevails there, and the citizens are in daily expectation of a revolt. Your Majesty, I am certain, would not wish to hear that your capital was in flames, and the dwellings of your loyal subjects given over to pillage by a ruffianly mob.”

Johann made an impatient movement. The King checked him by a gesture full of dignity.

“Moderate your language, if you please, my lord Chancellor. I have already had to make that request to you once; do not let me have to do so again. It is you who are really responsible for this manifesto. Had you lent a more willing ear to the proposals of Herr Mark, and allowed it to be seen that my government was preparing measures for the removal of social grievances, we should never have heard of this. But you raised objections, you asked for delay, you assured me that there was no real discontent among the people; and, as a consequence, these people have had to take action for themselves. And now,” continued Maximilian, raising his voice, and speaking with a sternness which fairly cowed the old Chancellor—“and now you come to me, and tell me in effect that all your former assurances were untrue, and that the capital is seething with discontent, and about to break out in open revolt against you. I cannot trust you, sir. You have misled me, and I will bolster you up no longer. If you have no better[276] plan for meeting the just complaints of my subjects than breaking up peaceful meetings and cramming the gaols with prisoners”—here he included Herr Moritz in an angry glance—“then in Heaven’s name let them rebel! God helping me, I will not interfere. You may retire.”

The two Ministers arose, pale and trembling, and withdrew without a word.

Johann advanced towards Maximilian.

“Sire, you are worthy to be a king! I release you from your parole. Henceforth I trust you as I would myself.”

Once outside the door the Chancellor and his colleague stood still, gazing at each other in consternation.

“You are right,” murmured Herr Moritz at length. “It is time to act.”

“And I will act,” was the answer. “Come this way.”

And he led his colleague into the presence of the Princess Hermengarde.

As soon as she caught sight of their grave and anxious faces, Hermengarde knew that the decisive moment for which she had so impatiently waited was come at last. Concealing her gratification as decently as she could, she received the two Ministers graciously, and gave orders that no one should be admitted to interrupt their conference.

Von Sigismark came directly to the point.

“We have come, Madam, under a sense of the heaviest[277] responsibility to inform you that, in our opinion, his Majesty, King Maximilian is no longer capable of governing. In the interests of the dynasty and of the Kingdom of Franconia it is necessary that his person should be put under restraint, and a regent appointed to exercise the royal authority.”

This fatal declaration, thus formally conveyed in the cold official words of the Chancellor, affected the Princess like the touch of a block of ice. She trembled, and the full gravity of the situation rose before her mind.

It was some little time before she answered—

“Your announcement does not take me by surprise. For some time past I have been reluctantly driven to the same conclusion. Though I regard my nephew with the most tender affection, I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that his conduct has not of late been that of a sane man.”

The two conspirators, who had been plotting with this end in view for so long, exchanged these sentences with a lofty seriousness which seemed born of the crisis. It was as if they were conducting a solemn rehearsal for the benefit of an audience.

It was the Count’s turn to resume.

“Under these circumstances it becomes my duty to summon a secret meeting of the Privy Council of Franconia without delay, to take its instructions in the crisis, and I venture to ask your consent to appear before the Council in person, and acquaint it with your views, to which the utmost weight will naturally be attached by the Councillors.”

[278]The Princess interposed a question.

“You consider it necessary to call the Council together before adopting any measures with regard to the King’s person?”

“Undoubtedly, Madam. In a matter of such terrible gravity I dare not act on my own responsibility. It is not as if there had been any violent outbreak of mania which would justify Dr. Krauss in ordering the immediate restraint of his Majesty.”

“I quite see your position. With reference to the Doctor—I suppose you will consult him before summoning the Council?”

“I must do so. It is indispensable that he should be brought to modify his views on the King’s state of health. I understand that he is still secretly in the Castle.”

“Yes. I requested him not to leave the Court for the present. Do you anticipate that it will be easy to induce him to change his opinion?”

“I do not doubt that you and I together, Madam, will be able to convince him that it is necessary for the public safety that he should.”

Hermengarde bowed silently, with a look which showed that she understood the meaning underlying the Minister’s words.

“In addition,” he pursued, “I have the written authority of the Kaiser for the step which we propose to take. I ascertained from Dr. Krauss some time ago, on the occasion when we last consulted him, in fact, that the Kaiser’s authority would have great weight with him.”

[279]The Princess looked much relieved.

“The Doctor’s assistance will be the more necessary,” said Herr Moritz, speaking for the first time, “because we shall have to contend, of course, with the determined opposition of the King’s personal intimates.”

Hermengarde looked at him with a slight touch of contempt.

“I should not have thought that the opposition of Herr Mark would have counted for very much,” she remarked sarcastically.

“I was thinking rather of Herr Bernal,” replied the Minister. “He is a man of great eminence, of a European reputation, in fact, and he might rouse public opinion in the King’s favour to a dangerous extent. And there is also the confidential servant, Karl Fink.”

“Fink can be bought,” replied the Princess, calmly. “He has been in my pay for a considerable time. And I do not think Herr Bernal’s opposition will be quite so formidable as you expect. He has been greatly alienated by the King’s sudden friendship for this new man; and, in short, I think you may leave Herr Bernal in my hands.”

The two men glanced at each other in astonishment. Hermengarde was flattered by the effect she had produced.

“But you have not told me,” she resumed, turning to Von Sigismark, “how you intend to deal with the question of the Regency.”

“The ordinary course would be for the Regency to go to the heir of the throne, Prince Ernest Leopold.[280] He being a minor, it will be the duty of the Privy Council to nominate a Regent till the Prince comes of age. I have no doubt that the choice will fall upon your Royal Highness.”

The Princess could not restrain a gratified smile.

“In that case I hope I shall be privileged to retain your assistance in the position you have filled so long and so ably. And I also trust that Herr Moritz will consent to give my government the benefit of his high abilities.”

Von Sigismark simply bowed. His colleague murmured a few words of thanks.

“But there is another matter, of a more personal nature, on which I am anxious to arrive at an understanding with you, Count,” the Princess was continuing, when she stopped, warned by a significant glance from the Chancellor.

The latter turned to his subordinate.

“As we have finished dealing with State affairs, perhaps the Princess will allow you to withdraw to my room. I shall be with you in a very few minutes.”

Herr Moritz promptly retired, and the Count turned to Hermengarde.

“I thought you might possibly intend to mention some matter on which I have not yet taken Herr Moritz into my confidence,” he explained. “I do not consult him about everything, though he is a very worthy man. I believe he is much attached to my daughter.”

Hermengarde gave a slight inclination of her head.[281] She understood why the younger Minister had been dismissed.

“Your discretion is perfect, my dear Chancellor,” she said, falling into a more familiar tone. “I was about to refer to your daughter. Since I last spoke to you on the subject my son has manifested a decided partiality for her, and I am inclined to think she is not quite indifferent to it. Supposing the arrangements we have just been discussing are successfully carried out, is there any reason why we should stand in the way of these young people’s happiness?”

It was the second time that the tempting suggestion had been held out to the old courtier. And this time he did not reject it.

“Madam, I should be unworthy of the great honour you do me if I pretended any longer that such an alliance would not be the greatest gratification to which I could possibly aspire. My daughter’s feelings are known to me, and I can only say that if the Prince should honour her with his hand he will find in her a wife whose devotion to him may perhaps atone in some measure for her inferiority in rank.”

He kissed the Princess’s hand with every demonstration of respect, and withdrew.

“At last,” muttered Hermengarde to herself, as she rose and feverishly paced the room. “At last the goal is within reach. All along I have felt a lurking distrust of that old man, but now, thanks to his daughter, I have conquered him, and my triumph is secure.”

The Chancellor took his way thoughtfully to his[282] own apartments. The part he had to play became more difficult at every moment. He was not blind to the secret of Herr Moritz’s devotion to his interests, and he was not ill pleased to find his daughter bearing Moritz company when he arrived on the scene. He even affected to joke with the young Minister on the subject. In truth, the old Count felt a real affection for his protégé, and, in spite of his plebeian origin, had secretly destined him for his own successor in the Chancellorship.

But all other projects had to yield for the present to the great business in hand. For some time the Chancellor hesitated whether to let his daughter into the secret; but finally, concluding that her ignorance of what was going forward might lead to greater dangers than her knowledge, he decided to take her into his confidence.

As soon as Herr Moritz had left them together, therefore, he proceeded to enlighten her. Although Gertrude had been aware that some serious intrigue was on foot between the Princess Hermengarde and her father, she had never dreamt of the real issues involved, and was thunderstruck at learning that the King was to be declared mad. The first exclamation which rose to her lips disconcerted her father—

“But he is no more mad than I am!”

“Hush! He may not be mad in the sense that an ordinary person is said to be mad when he believes that he is the Archangel Gabriel, or that his bones are made of glass. But the King’s madness is far more dangerous. He believes that it is his duty to promote[283] a bloody revolution in his own kingdom. The welfare of five millions of people is at stake, and for their sakes he must be deprived of his tremendous power for harm.”

Gertrude did not require much convincing, and she listened greedily while her father repeated to her the offer of the Prince’s hand.

“Do not build upon it overmuch,” he warned her, in conclusion. “The Princess is a dangerous and deceitful woman, and I do not trust her to the extent that she supposes. This offer is very probably a mere decoy, intended to secure my support in the matter of the Regency. Of course it is necessary that we should affect to believe in her good faith, but at the same time there is no need to alienate old friends whom we may be glad to fall back upon afterwards.”

He glanced at the chair which had just been occupied by Herr Moritz, and Gertrude understood.

That night a telegram arrived at Seidlingen directed to King Maximilian and marked “Private.”

It was delivered unopened into the King’s hands. He removed the envelope, and read the following message—

Allow me to respectfully urge your Majesty to prohibit the Socialist demonstrations at once, or consequences will follow which it will be too late to avert. Your loving subject and kinsman,

Friedrich von Eisenheim.”

It was the first time he had heard from the recluse since his accession to the throne.



My dear Dorothea, surely you are not the one person in the Court who has failed to observe the King’s state of mind. I thought you had better opportunities than any of us for knowing the truth.”

Dorothea shrank back and trembled, lifting her eyes helplessly to the scornful face of the speaker.

The bitter feelings of jealousy towards Dorothea which had been nursed in the breast of Gertrude von Sigismark for so long, had at last found utterance. Emboldened by the disclosure made to her by the Chancellor on the day before, to expect the momentary downfall of the King, to be followed by the dismissal from Court of her young rival, she no longer thought it worth while to place any restraint on her feelings, nor could she resist the pleasure of being the first to crush Dorothea with the news of her royal lover’s fate.

But Dorothea had no thoughts to give to the taunts of her enemy. Her whole mind was absorbed in anxiety on behalf of the King.

“I do not believe it!” she cried passionately. “His Majesty is perfectly well. I will go and ask the Princess if what you say is true.”

[285]And before the dismayed Gertrude could stop her, Dorothea, flushed and weeping, went in and fell on her knees before her mistress.

“What is the matter, my child?” inquired the Princess, her stern face relaxing with sympathy.

“Oh, Madam, is it true what they are saying?” the girl faltered out. “Do people really think that the King is going mad?”

Hermengarde’s face instantly grew black.

“Who has been telling you that?” she demanded, so wrathfully that Dorothea was frightened afresh.

“The Lady Gertrude von Sigismark said so,” she responded, trembling.

She did not add anything as to Gertrude’s ill nature towards herself, but Hermengarde was quick to perceive what had taken place.

“The vain, insolent minx!” she muttered between her teeth. Then, speaking more gently, she replied to Dorothea—

“I am ashamed of Lady Gertrude. Her jealousy completely blinds her. You must pay no attention to what she says. I have seen for some time that she was irritated at the friendship the King and I have shown you, but I did not think she would dare to indulge her ill feeling in such a manner. What she has said is high treason, and I shall rebuke her severely for it, and so will the Chancellor. As for you, my dear child, depend on me. Whatever happens, always remember that Hermengarde of Schwerin-Strelitz is your friend, not because the King admires you, but in[286] spite of it.” She stooped to bestow a caress on the agitated girl, and then added, “Now go, and tell the Lady Gertrude I desire her attendance immediately. And be careful not to breathe a word of this to any one else.”

She dismissed Dorothea, who found Gertrude outside and conveyed Hermengarde’s message to her. Gertrude received the summons in silence, and sullenly proceeded into the presence of the Princess, feeling no slight dread as to her reception. Her dread was amply justified, and before she re-emerged she was made to feel that it would have been better for her to have bitten her tongue than made her ill-timed display of spite.

But, as the Princess feared might be the case, the incident did not end there. A few hours after, Dorothea, wandering in the gardens by herself, came upon Johann Mark.

Her first impulse was to turn and avoid him, as she had done ever since their quarrel on the night of the ball; but the next moment she made up her mind to sacrifice her own personal feelings in the interests of Maximilian. She therefore walked straight up to her cousin, and at once began—

“Cousin Johann, I have something very serious to tell you about the King. He is in danger.”

Johann had assumed an air of some severity on the first appearance of his cousin, which he altered into condescension on her coming up, as he thought, to make friends with him. But directly he heard what[287] she had to say, all thoughts of their quarrel were forgotten.

“What is it?” he cried anxiously. “Do you mean the Socialist demonstrations?”

“No. I have not heard anything about Socialists. It is something far worse than that. Johann,” her voice dropped to a whisper, “tell me, have you ever heard it rumoured that the King was going mad?”

He started back in alarm. The very suggestion which had been made to him a short time before by Maximilian’s most intimate friend and favourite! Was it possible that Dorothea, too, had been infected by the base fear?

“Certainly not!” he exclaimed indignantly. “He is as sane as any man in Germany. Do you mean to say that you have dared to suspect such a thing?”

“Oh, no!” protested Dorothea, earnestly. “Never for one instant have I thought of it. But—and that is why I wanted to consult you—I am afraid the King has enemies who think that his mind is giving way, and who reckon on his not being allowed to reign much longer.”

Johann smote his breast

“Infamous, infamous!” was all he could say at first. “But who are these enemies?” he added, turning quickly to his cousin.

“I do not know. I know nothing beyond the fact that some one spoke to me this morning, almost threatening me with what I have said, as if it were certain to come to pass.”

[288]“Who was it that spoke to you?”

“I hardly know whether I have a right to say.”

“You must. For the King’s sake, Dorothea!”

“Well, it was the Lady Gertrude von Sigismark.”

“Von Sigismark! The Chancellor’s daughter!”

Johann ground his teeth together. That name revealed all. He pondered for a minute.

“I understand everything now,” he said at length. “You have done the greatest service in telling me this; Heaven grant it may not be too late. This is evidently some plot to dethrone the King, because he has dared to take up the cause of the people. And I am responsible for this! It is the result of my coming to Neustadt! Well, I must save him; that is all. There is not a moment to be lost. I will warn him at once, and as soon as I have put him on his guard, I will go to Mannhausen, and expose the whole plot to the people.”

Dorothea stood listening intently, her cheeks flushed with admiration for the young man’s energy and resolution.

He noticed her emotion, and a new thought occurred to him.

“But, Dorothea,” he said inquiringly, “surely you must have come to love the King at last, since you are so much concerned about him?”

She dropped her head quickly.

“No, Johann. You do not understand me. I shall never love him. I wish you would see that I am just what you are to him, a devoted friend, and nothing more.”

[289]“Then it is true,” pursued her cousin, feeling his way delicately, “that there is some one else?”

“Yes,” said Dorothea, blushing, “it is true.”

“And do you still object to tell me who it is?”

Dorothea looked at him gravely.

“Some day perhaps I shall tell you,” she said. And she turned hastily and ran away, leaving Johann with a sense of disappointment which he could not quite analyse, and which continued to trouble him in the midst of his anxieties about the King.

His first step was to return to the palace, where he made his way straight to Maximilian’s apartments. On the threshold he was met by Karl.

“Tell his Majesty I ask to see him immediately,” he said abruptly.

“His Majesty has given strict orders that he is not to be disturbed by any one,” was the glib answer.

Johann stamped his foot.

“Go at once, and tell his Majesty that I ask to see him on a matter of life and death.”

“Wait here then, and I will try what I can do.”

Karl disappeared and was absent for a minute, during which the republican impatiently paced the corridor.

Karl returned, looking obstinate.

“His Majesty is very sorry, but he cannot possibly receive you.”

Johann darted a look at the minion which made him quail.

“Go and tell the King that I demand an audience in the name of the people.”

[290]“I dare not.”

Johann drew back and made a sign which the other had seen him make once before on a memorable occasion. He submitted at once.

“Well, I will try again; but I warn you it will be useless.”

He again went inside. After a somewhat longer absence he came back, and said stolidly—

“His Majesty cannot see you now. You can come later in the day.”

“I will not wait. Go back, and tell his Majesty that one hour is worth his kingdom.”

Karl withdrew, shaking in every limb, and Johann waited, breathing hard, and with the sweat breaking out on his forehead.

When Karl came back this time he was no longer alone. Auguste Bernal accompanied him, looking pale and concerned.

The composer drew Johann aside, and whispered in his ear—

“Herr Mark, I implore you not to come in to the King just now. He is extremely ill, so ill in fact that I fear the least excitement might produce a terrible paroxysm. You understand. I dare not let this be known to a soul except yourself.”

Johann’s face became ghastly as he listened. He searched the other’s face as if he would read his very heart; but finally he bowed his head and went away, with his limbs trembling beneath him.

Hardly had the sound of his footsteps died away[291] when Maximilian’s voice was heard from inside, sounding calm as usual—

“Does any one want to see me, Auguste?”

Bernal and Karl exchanged dark glances, and the former hastened back inside.

Hermengarde’s sentinels had done their work.

Johann lost no more time. He hastened to the stable, ordered a horse to be saddled instantly on the King’s business, and galloped off at full speed towards the distant railway station.

As he drew up to the top of the hill which separated the enchanted valley from the outer world, he saw a State carriage, drawn by four horses with postilions, drive rapidly through the archway which guarded the royal demesne, and come swinging down past him towards the Castle. Hardly had he gained the gateway himself than another similar carriage drew up, a person closely wrapped up leant out of the window and gave a password to the officer in charge of the gate, and this carriage followed on after its predecessor. Behind, at a little distance, Johann could see a third carriage rolling swiftly up the long road which led from the station.

He checked his horse under the archway, and asked with affected carelessness of the officer—

“Who was that man who spoke to you from the carriage?”

The officer looked at Johann, and appeared to recognise him. His position in the King’s favour had hitherto naturally led to deference on the part of the[292] underlings of the Court. But on this occasion the officer’s manner was brusque almost to rudeness.

“That was the Privy Councillor von Layern, Herr Mark. Ride on, if you please; I have no instructions to stop you.”

Johann started violently, and his horse gave a plunge. He pulled the rein to turn round.

“Stop!” cried the officer, noticing the action. “I have instructions to prevent your returning, unless you give me the password.” And he deliberately drew a revolver.

Johann gave a groan, and setting spurs to his horse, dashed madly on down the road. As he did so the third carriage came up, halted a moment, and then rolled on beneath the frowning gateway, and was lost to view.

Johann had been seen to leave the Castle by Bernal. Satisfied that the coast was now clear, he repaired to the presence of the Princess Hermengarde, whom he found anxiously awaiting an intimation that the Privy Council was in session.

As he entered her apartments, Prince Ernest went out, looking strangely disturbed.

His mother had just taken the same step with regard to him which the Chancellor had been rash enough to take with regard to Gertrude. But Hermengarde had delayed imparting the secret till the last moment, and it was indispensable that her son’s mind should be prepared before the conspiracy actually took effect.

Knowing his fondness for Maximilian, she dared not[293] give the boy any idea of the motives which were really at work in her mind, but spoke to him as if his cousin’s madness were a fact which she had been forced reluctantly to believe in by convincing medical testimony. Ernest received the terrible revelation with a strange passiveness. At first he seemed hardly to understand the full meaning of the disclosure. When he had taken it in he hung his head as if ashamed, and without offering any comment, stole out of his mother’s presence.

Wearing a dazed surreptitious look, he went on through the rooms which formed the Princess’s quarter of the Castle, and calling his favourite dog to accompany him, made his way round by a back staircase to Maximilian’s apartments.

Here he was interrupted, as Johann had been, by the vigilant Karl. But the Prince brushed him aside.

“I want to see my cousin,” he said. “I know all about it. My mother has just told me. I will see that you are not blamed.”

And Karl not daring to oppose physical resistance, the lad thrust his way past him into Maximilian’s cabinet.

He found the King seated at a table, with a map of Franconia spread out before him, into which he was sticking pins with various coloured heads. Maximilian looked up, and smiled pleasantly at his cousin’s entrance.

“Why, Ernest, how is it that you have come in so quietly? Surely there is some one outside?”

“Yes, Karl Fink is there; but I told him to let me[294] pass.” The boy stared strangely at his cousin, and added naïvely, “What are you doing with those pins?”

Maximilian was rather amused by the lad’s coolness.

“Look here, and I will show you,” he said. “You see these pins with red heads; they are to mark all the large towns and villages. The small blue pins show where there are railways running already, and these yellow ones I am using to mark out the routes where I think there ought to be new railways made.”

“But why?”

“Because I have found out that there are a lot of men in my kingdom who have no work to do, and I want to give them a chance of earning their bread, and at the same time benefiting the country at large by giving the farmers better means of sending their produce to the markets. You see, Ernest, a king ought not to spend all his time in enjoying himself, as I have been doing till lately; he ought to study the wants of his people, and care for them.”

The boy regarded him with a puzzled air.

“But is this really true?” he asked doubtfully. “Are these things really for what you say? I thought perhaps they were only things to play with.”

Maximilian laughed.

“I see you have a very poor opinion of my character for business,” he returned jestingly. “But, unfortunately, I have found it does not do to be always playing; and you will find that out, too, if you ever come to the throne.”

He stopped, and fidgeted for a moment under the[295] boy’s steady, disconcerting stare. His nerves seemed to be affected by some influence in the atmosphere, and he shivered slightly.

“Why do you look at me like that, Ernest?” he demanded petulantly.

The lad’s expression became gravely sorrowful.

“Because I want to see what it is like to be mad!”



I want to see what it is like to be mad.”

The words struck on Maximilian’s ear like the grinding crash of a collision upon the ear of the sailor sleeping peacefully in his berth, far out upon the waste of waters. He sprang to his feet, and confronted the young Prince with terrible eyes.

“What are you saying? Who taught you that?”

Ernest recoiled, terror-stricken.

“My mother told me of it,” he blurted out helplessly, backing towards the door to secure a refuge from the King’s wrath.

Maximilian struck furiously upon a gong. Karl rushed in, evidently in a state of alarm.

“Take this boy away,” said the King, fiercely, “and send me Bernal here at once, and Johann Mark.”

Karl darted off, accompanied by Ernest, who, in his hurry to escape from his cousin’s presence, forgot to call his dog after him; and Maximilian paced the room with frantic strides till the attendant returned. Auguste was with him.

[297]“Herr Mark has left the Castle,” explained the agitated Karl. “He took a horse from the stable an hour ago, saying that it was on your Majesty’s service, and rode away at a gallop.”

Maximilian tore at his hair.

“Traitor! He has deserted me in the hour of need, after working my ruin!” he cried in the first moment. But on reflection, he added, “Perhaps he has gone to get help. We shall see.”

Bernal affected to be ignorant of the cause of the King’s excitement.

“Has anything happened?” he inquired. “What is it that has disturbed you?”

Maximilian glanced from his face to that of Karl, and back again. The musician was unable to meet his eye. Karl, better used to hypocrisy, displayed the most genuine tribulation.

“Auguste,” said the King, speaking solemnly and mournfully, “you remember what I told you of the night I passed in prison in Mannhausen. The conspirators have gone on with their work. My aunt has joined them, and I have just learnt from Ernest that they are openly declaring me”—it required an effort to bring out the word—“mad. I adjure you,” he added, beseechingly, “in the name of our sacred friendship, to tell me whether you had any inkling of this?”

The man thus addressed shifted his position uneasily, and cast down his eyes.

“I have had certain fears,” he said, in low, indistinct[298] tones, “that if you drove the Ministers too far, they would succeed in convincing the public that you ought not to be entrusted with the royal power. No doubt your refusal to proclaim these wretched meetings has been the last straw. Maximilian!—perhaps it is not yet too late—give up this Socialist and his wild ideas; you have not been the same man since he came—”

The King interrupted him with a gesture so imperious and so scornful, that the musician fairly cowered beneath it.

“And you—you whom I have loved as a brother, you to whom I have shown my inmost heart—you have deserted me! Sir, never dare to address me again in the name you have used. Henceforth to you I am the King of Franconia—and a stranger. You will leave my palace to-morrow, and you may take with you the thirty pieces of silver you have earned.”

Without attempting a reply, Bernal turned and went out of the King’s presence.

Maximilian turned to Karl.

“And you, Karl, why should you be faithful to me? All my friends have betrayed me; why do not you go and join them? Doubtless you will be rewarded well.”

Stricken to the heart, the wretched attendant fell on his knees before his master, and began to sob.

“See,” said Maximilian, speaking aloud as if to some witness of the scene, “this poor youth, on whom I have bestowed neither titles nor honours, whom I simply fed from day to day, and treated as some creature of a lower nature, he clings to me when all my friends and[299] my Ministers, and my very kinsmen, have cast me off. What have I done to deserve this poor fellow’s faithfulness? Karl, if I survive this day as King of Franconia, you shall be made a Count; and I will bestow upon you the motto, ‘Only true.’”

The miserable Karl cast himself grovelling at full length upon the floor.

“No, no,” said Maximilian, raising him gently, “do not distress yourself so much for me, Karl. I have been a kind master to you, have I not?—but you have served me well. You, at least, have nothing to reproach yourself with. Come, let us act. I will know the worst at once. Go instantly to the Chancellor, and tell him I command his presence without a moment’s delay.”

Karl bowed his head, unable to speak, and fled from the room.

The King walked to an iron cupboard in a corner of the cabinet, unlocked it, and took out a golden circlet, which represented the crown of Franconia on all occasions except the coronation ceremony itself. He placed the diadem upon his head, closed the cupboard, and seated himself at the head of the table, on which the map, with its parti-coloured pins, was still spread.

There he sat silently, awaiting his doom.

Maximilian’s agony was not of long duration. The tramp of many feet was heard in the ante-room, the door swung back, and the Chancellor von Sigismark entered, clad in his official robes, and bearing in his hands a great parchment scroll, blazoned with the arms of the State, from the foot of which swung, by a silken cord, a huge[300] round of wax stamped by the Great Seal of the Franconian kingdom.

After him filed in, in solemn procession, nearly the whole of the members of the Privy Council, the only notable absentee being the Count von Eisenheim, the distant kinsman of the King. The other Ministers and high officers of State followed; and in the rear stole the Princess Hermengarde, with Auguste Bernal and a third figure whose presence destroyed the last doubt in Maximilian’s breast as to his fate—the sombre-coated Court physician.

“On your allegiance,” exclaimed the King, as the party filed in before him, “I order every one except the Chancellor to retire.”

Not a soul obeyed. All cast looks at the young monarch, in which he read pity or horror. Without waiting, the Count proceeded to read from the parchment in his hands.

“Whereas it has pleased Almighty God,” the document began, “to afflict his Majesty, Maximilian Charles Leopold Joseph Marie von Astolf, King of Franconia, Grand Duke of Thuringia and Swabia, Prince of Astolf, Marquis of Este and Ferrara, Count of Lech, Meyer, and Ratisbon, Lord of Hohenlingen, Lord of Stürn, Lord of Neustadt, Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece, etc., etc., with unsoundness of mind: Now we, the members of the Privy Council of Franconia, having received and considered the testimony of Herman Krauss, doctor of medicine, physician to his[301] said Majesty, and of her Royal Highness, Hermengarde of Schwerin-Strelitz, Princess of Franconia, aunt to his Majesty, and of the illustrious Count von Sigismark, Chancellor of Franconia, and of Herr Paul Moritz, Minister of the Interior, Herr Auguste Bernal, his Majesty’s intimate friend, Karl Fink, his Majesty’s confidential attendant, and divers others, do hereby pronounce his said Majesty to be incapable of governing; and whereas his Royal Highness, Prince Ernest Leopold Friedrich Hugo Marie von Astolf, heir-presumptive to the throne, has not yet attained the age of eighteen, we furthermore hereby appoint her Royal Highness, the Princess Hermengarde aforesaid, mother of the said Prince Ernest Leopold, to be Regent of the kingdom until his Royal Highness shall attain the said age of eighteen, and we do hereby invest her with all the powers, rights and prerogatives of his Majesty for such period, and entrust her with the custody of his Majesty’s person. Done by the Privy Council at Seidlingen this fifth day of June, 18—.

Wilhelm von Sigismark, Chancellor.
Christian Silbur, Clerk.”

The reading of this act was received in absolute silence, except when the Chancellor came to the name Karl Fink, when the King uttered a stifled cry, and glanced over the throng in search of his attendant. But Karl had slunk away, unable to endure the exposure of his baseness.

The Chancellor, with several others of the Council,[302] had anticipated a fearful explosion on the part of their victim, and a body of guards had been ordered into the ante-room, in case of any forcible resistance. But their apprehensions were disappointed. As the Count folded up his parchment, a strange, baffled, hunted look spread over the King’s features. He gazed at the array of countenances before him with a sickly smile for one moment, and then, bursting into a vacant laugh, leant back in his chair, and exclaimed—

“Wolf! Wolf! Won’t some one bring Wolf to me?”

The dog, which had been left behind by Prince Ernest, crept forward at the sound of its name, and licked the King’s hand.

While these events were passing in the Castle of Seidlingen, Johann was approaching the capital as fast as the train could carry him.

On his arrival at Mannhausen, the first sound that struck upon his ear as he emerged from the station was the voice of a newsboy shouting out the deposition of the King. The telegraph had been quicker than the train.

Without giving a moment to rest or refreshment, he sprang into a carriage, and drove off to the house of his old friend and comrade, Schwartz, the man with the red beard. Schwartz was completely taken by surprise at his appearance. Indeed, his manner was so embarrassed that if Johann’s mind had been free to take in anything but the fate of the King, he must have perceived that something was wrong.

[303]“I have come here straight from Seidlingen,” he burst out, without waiting for Schwartz, “to rouse the revolutionary party on behalf of King Maximilian. He is the victim of a vile plot, solely on account of his sympathy with us. They are scheming to depose him as a madman, though he is no more insane than you are.”

Schwartz listened coldly.

“I was just about to go to a meeting of the revolutionary committee,” he said. “You had better come with me.”

Johann eagerly assented, and as they walked along, poured into his companion’s ear the history of the last few weeks. Schwartz heard him without vouchsafing any reply. The two men seemed to have exchanged natures. Still Johann suspected nothing.

The Committee was assembled in a small private meeting-place when they arrived. The chair was vacant, and Schwartz at once walked up to the head of the room, and occupied it, leaving Johann by the door. The sullen, hostile looks of those present were the first signs that roused the intruder to a sense of what was coming.

“The first business before us,” calmly announced Schwartz, as soon as he had placed himself in the chair, “is the reading of the minutes of our last meeting.”

A sensation made itself felt through the gathering, and all eyes were directed towards Johann as the secretary proceeded to read in a cold, metallic voice.

[304]This was the last item in the minutes—

“Moved by Comrade Meyerbeer, seconded by Comrade Hirst, and carried unanimously, that Johann Mark be expelled from all further connection with the revolutionary movement, as a friend and favourer of monarchy.”

The republican reeled beneath the blow. His first impulse was to rush from the meeting. But before the chairman could affix his signature to the fatal page, he gathered himself together, and strode proudly up the room.

“You have condemned me in my absence,” he cried, sternly. “Will you give me a hearing now?”

The chairman, after consulting his comrades with a glance, bowed his head in token of consent, and Johann, seizing the permission, launched forth into a full statement of all that had happened since his first meeting with King Maximilian. He wound up his harangue by reiterating what he had already told Schwartz as to the true nature of the conspiracy against the King, and implored those present to banish prejudice from their minds, and come to the rescue of one who was about to fall in their cause.

The meeting heard him out in perfect silence. Schwartz took it upon himself to reply.

“Johann Mark,” he said, gravely, “we have been friends for years, and it goes to my heart to have to cast you off. But the cause is more sacred than friendship. We believe you to be sincere; we do not condemn you, as we might, to the penalties of a traitor;[305] but you have gone over to the enemy, and henceforth there can be no more comradeship between you and us.”

Johann stamped his foot.

“I know you,” he exclaimed bitterly. “You talk of liberty and brotherhood, and yet you calmly stand by and see the sacrifice of the only king who ever showed himself ready to serve the cause of liberty and brotherhood. What are your real motives? Not love of the principles you proclaim so loudly! Not love of the people! But blind hatred for a name.”

“Stop!” It was Schwartz who raised his voice harshly over the angry murmur arising in the hall. “If you have been blinded and deceived, we have not. I know these Astolfs; I know this race of vipers. My daughter and her child were foully done to death by the father of this Maximilian; their blood cries out for vengeance; and rather than stir one inch to save him from his fate, I swear to you that if he were here at this moment, I would strangle him with my own hands!”

A dreadful silence followed the dreadful oath. Johann, sick to his very heart, sank his head upon his breast, and went away out of the company, and out of their communion for ever.

Henceforth he had nothing more to do in Mannhausen. If the King were to be delivered, it must be by his unaided efforts. He took his way back to the railway station at which he had so recently arrived, and as he walked along he saw, staring at him from every[306] wall and hoarding, a proclamation prohibiting the revolutionary demonstration on pain of treason, and signed in the name of Hermengarde, Regent of Franconia.

The following Sunday, armed troops patrolled the streets of Mannhausen, and of all the principal towns in Franconia. In some places the proposed demonstrations were abandoned altogether. In others, the revolutionists gathered, only to be charged, ridden down, and bayoneted by the soldiery. Many were killed, hundreds were taken and thrown into prison, there to await the sternest penalties of the law. The whole revolutionary movement was extinguished as if by a breath, and the Regent’s government received the applause of the civilised world.



The Regent Hermengarde sat in her former apartments giving audience to Karl Fink. She had not transferred herself to the royal suite, as Maximilian still occupied it, under the guardianship of Dr. Krauss and Karl himself, pending her decision as to his future place of confinement.

The demeanour of the attendant showed that his communication to the Princess had been of the gravest nature. His mistress, however, maintained her customary frigid calmness.

“You were perfectly right to acquaint me with this,” she was saying, “but on no account must you mention it to any one else, not even to the physician. At the same time it is only what might have been anticipated. The late King’s fate is an instance. Perhaps it is truer mercy to the unhappy young man to wish that he might find some such release from his wretched state. At all events I shall not attach the least blame to you if the worst should happen. It will be my care to find you another post where your merits will be rewarded.”

[308]Karl bowed, with a shudder which he was unable to conceal from the searching eyes of the Princess, and silently withdrew.

Hermengarde gave a deep breath and looked as if some care had been removed from her mind. Then she turned to a private writing-table and proceeded slowly to compose a letter to the Kaiser.

Several days had elapsed since the overthrow of the King. During this time she had been busily employed. In the course of some of her numerous interviews with the Count von Sigismark, he had presumed to refer in guarded terms to the coming betrothal between Prince Ernest and his daughter. Hermengarde, however, had met these allusions by insisting on the impropriety of pressing on the affair while Maximilian’s misfortune was still fresh in the public mind, and the Chancellor had appeared satisfied. Neither of them had ventured into the presence of their victim since his deposition from power. Hermengarde received daily reports as to his condition from Karl, and the Chancellor from Dr. Krauss. The Privy Councillors had not yet left the Castle.

But there was one thing of which Karl had failed to inform his dreaded mistress.

That very morning, as he was strolling by himself in a lonely part of those beautiful grounds in which Maximilian had looked forward to enjoying so much happiness, a figure suddenly glided out from behind a tree, and stood before him. It was Johann.

The ex-conspirator had succeeded in evading the[309] numerous sentries, and, making his way into the valley by night, over the mountains, had been lurking in the neighbourhood till he could obtain an opportunity of accosting Karl alone. Ignorant of his recent expulsion from the secret society, Karl still dreaded him one degree more than the Princess, and dared not refuse his demand to be privately admitted to the presence of the imprisoned King.

As soon as night had fallen he let in Johann by a secret postern which had been designed by Maximilian for his own use, and ushered him with every precaution into the royal cabinet.

The sight of the change which had passed over the young man whom he had last seen in the pride of health and beauty, the cynosure of an attentive Court, struck Johann to the heart. He rushed forward and fell on his knees for the first time before the discrowned monarch.

“My King! My royal master! Look at me; it is I, your faithful Johann Mark.”

Maximilian thrust aside a mass of grey tangled locks, and turned a dull gaze upon the man whose voice had reached his ears.

“Ah!” he said, “it is you. I wondered where you were. Go to my aunt, the Princess Regent; she will take you into her favour like the rest.”

“No, no, Sire, do not speak to me like that. Do not think me a traitor. I have been away trying to organise a rising in your favour, but now I have come back to rescue you.”

[310]“Fool, fool, I say,” answered Maximilian. “I have no rewards to give you. Why should you be more stupid than the others? They were wise enough to leave me—Von Sigismark, Auguste, Karl, all of them have gone. Why should you stay here?”

Johann struggled to maintain his composure.

“Your Majesty breaks my heart when you say such things. Can you not believe in me? I have come here by stealth, I know a secret path over the mountain by which we may escape together. Disguise yourself and come with me, and we will make our way to some distant land where your enemies cannot reach you.”

The King gravely shook his head.

“No, you do not understand. Have they not told you? I am mad. Where can a madman find refuge? I am better here—here among my faithful friends.”

Johann rose to his feet, his eyes flashing indignantly.

“I do not believe it, Sire! You are not mad, or if you are, then so am I too, and I will share your fate.”

Maximilian also rose, and touched Johann with his finger, as if to assure himself that he was there in flesh and blood. Then he smiled mirthlessly.

“Why, no, my friend, you are right, I am not really mad. But you see that they all think so. The Chancellor thinks so, and so does Auguste—he was my greatest friend, you know, and I could not expect strangers to think better of me than he does. He was a great musician. Did you ever hear his opera, The Vikings?”

[311]Johann did not know how to answer. His breast heaved with painful emotion. Maximilian thrust an arm through his, in the old familiar way, and led him to the window. The chamber was situated on the side of the Castle which overlooked the lake, and the dark waters, glittering with reflected stars, rolled up to the very foot of the wall.

“Look,” said the King, in a tone of restrained exultation. “There is my refuge. I can escape when I like, you see.”

“But there is no boat there,” said Johann, trying to give the best meaning to his master’s words.

“I do not want a boat, Johann,” was the reply. “They would see me if I escaped from them in a boat, and follow after and bring me back again. When I escape it will be by a way so secret that all their spies will not be able to track me, and all their guards will not be able to bring me back.”

A long silence followed. Johann began to try and form some fresh plan by which to aid his unhappy master. Presently the King’s manner changed, his form seemed to collapse, he withdrew his arm and crept back to the chair on which he had been sitting before.

Johann followed him respectfully.

“Is there anything I can do for your Majesty to-night before I leave you for a short time?” he asked.

“I want to see my cousin Ernest,” was the response, muttered in sullen tones. “They will not let me see Ernest, though he is my heir.”

[312]“Your wishes shall be obeyed, Sire. I will have Prince Ernest sent here.”

He passed out into the ante-room, where Karl was waiting anxiously. The physician had gone elsewhere for a time, and Karl was in solitary control.

“Go at once to Prince Ernest, and bring him here. The King wants to see him,” commanded Johann.

Karl knew the character of the man he had to deal with too well to attempt excuses. All he ventured to say was—

“It will be difficult to manage, and I may be some time. Who will guard the King?”

“I will. I will stay here till you return, and as soon as you have brought the Prince, you shall let me out by the way I came in.”

Before going on his errand Karl ventured a question.

“What do you think of his Majesty’s condition?”

“That is a subject which I will not discuss with you. Do what I tell you, or—”

The traitor did not wait to hear anything further, but hurried off.

In half an hour he returned conducting the young Prince, who appeared thoroughly frightened.

“Do not be afraid,” said Johann kindly to the lad. “The King wishes to say something to you, that is all. You will find him very gentle, but he is unhappy. Try to soothe him.”

With these words he pushed the Prince inside, and followed Karl to the private outlet.

[313]As soon as Ernest found himself in his cousin’s presence, he uttered a cry of astonishment.

Maximilian had employed the half-hour which had just elapsed in attiring himself in the complete trappings of his royal station. He had put on the ermine robe, thrown the collar of the Golden Fleece around his shoulders, girded on the sword of State, and grasped the golden sceptre in his hand. In this pomp he received his young kinsman.

Overawed by this extraordinary display, the Prince was about to fall on one knee before his cousin, as he had been accustomed to do on occasions of great ceremony. Maximilian checked him.

“Do not pay homage to me, Ernest,” he said sadly. “No one does that now. I shall not be King much longer. I have sent for you to tell you that. You are my heir, and when I am gone you will wear these ornaments, and sit on the throne of Franconia.”

“Oh, Cousin Max! I cannot bear it!” And the poor boy began to weep.

“You need not cry, Ernest. You cannot help me. You have not plotted against me, and bribed my friends and servants. You have not spent the moments when my head lay on your breast in calculating how to betray me. You have not watched me from day to day, for something which you might seize upon to carry to my enemies as a symptom of insanity. If you gave me food I should not spit it out again in secret, for fear it might be poisoned!”

The boy’s eyes grew large with horror.

[314]“What do you mean? Poison!” he cried.

“Yes; but have no fear, they will not poison you. But when you are King, Ernest, do not forget your people. That is a crime for which you will deserve to be punished as I am. Rule them, Ernest, but rule them yourself; let no Ministers come between you and them, and usurp your power from you. Govern them justly but kindly; if they make complaints, listen to them; if they have just grievances, redress them. Let no wrong be done with impunity in any corner of the land. Trust no reports from others; see with your own eyes and hear with your own ears. Remember that you are but the first of servants after all. Try to make your people happier; do not be content with mere submission, do not wait till discontent grows dangerous. Study their problems, find out their needs beforehand. Above all, love them, Ernest, and they will love you, and no traitors will ever dare to conspire against your throne, and tear your crown from you like this.”

He wrenched the diadem roughly from his head and made as if to cast it on the floor. But a new impulse suddenly coming to sway his mind, he strode up to where his young cousin stood trembling and speechless.

“Take it, it is yours. See, I crown you, Ernest V. of Franconia!”

And he thrust the circlet forcibly down upon the lad’s brow.

“No! No! Take it away!” cried Ernest, wildly. “It hurts me.”

[315]“Why, so it should,” returned Maximilian, grimly. “Did you think crowns were pleasant things to wear? It will hurt you more presently, Ernest, it will grow red-hot, and sear a mark upon your forehead that will never wear away.”

“You frighten me! I do not know what all this means. I feel something inside me, as if my head would burst.”

“Why, there again, that is one of the symptoms, Ernest. You are an Astolf, too, poor child, your mother forgets that. But you must have these other things as well. The crown is not enough.”

And with the excitement mounting in his brain, the King tore off collar and robe and sword-belt, and thrust them almost by force upon the resisting boy. He finished by placing the sceptre in his hand, and then knelt down upon one knee before him.

“Hail, your Majesty! Now go and show your subjects their new King!”

“Max, Cousin Max, I feel ill; something is the matter in my head. Am I going mad?”

“Mad? Why not, Ernest? We are all mad, we Astolfs. It is in the blood. We inherit it with our kingdom. My father died mad, so did yours. What matter; they have not found you out yet, as they did me. Hide it, Ernest, be cunning, cringe to that old fox Von Sigismark, marry his vain daughter, and he will never pull you down.”

The boy gave a wild laugh.

“Gertrude! I hate her! They shall never make[316] me marry her. I would rather go mad than do that.”

Maximilian laughed too, and clapped his hands.

“It works, it works!” he cried frantically. “The poison in the crown works, I knew it would!”

Suddenly the wildness left him, he crouched down shuddering, and raised a finger to his lips.

“Hush! I hear some one. It is the doctor. Be careful; we must try and deceive him.” And he shrank down again in his seat.

The door was opened, and Dr. Krauss came in. He glanced round, and his eyes fell upon the young Prince in his strange masquerade.

He turned sternly to the King.

“What do you mean by this, Sire? These things must be taken from you if you play such tricks. Be good enough to take them off, your Royal Highness,” he added, speaking to Ernest, “and come back to your apartments.”

And after helping the dazed lad to rid himself of the royal insignia, he took him by the hand and led him out.

The King walked towards the window.



As the door of the cabinet closed, leaving Maximilian by himself, with the ensigns of his monarchy strewed upon the table and the floor, the clock of the Castle began to strike ten.

Before the notes had finished, a solitary horseman came riding swiftly down the road which formed the main approach to the Castle. He had come through the guarded gateway on the crest of the hill without a check, all the sentinels having presented arms as he went silently past them at full speed. He pulled up his reeking horse at the steps leading up into the Castle, and dismounted alone.

At this moment a loud splash was heard in the lake, followed by a solitary cry.

Immediately the great doors were opened with a clang, and a crowd of servants and guards came running out, with torches in their hands, and shouting confused directions to each other. They streamed down to the margin of the water, the lights tossing above their heads like banners as they went. Here they scattered, some searching up and down the edges[318] of the lake, while others tumbled hastily into the boats which lay moored along the marble quay, and pushed themselves off from the shore. The torches gleamed fitfully, first in the air and then in the dark mirror of the water, as the boats glided to and fro, with a noise of oars, and every now and then a muttered direction from men standing up in the bows. Over all towered the high wall of the Castle, its lighted windows showing out brilliantly against the gloom of the night. And the casement of one window was open, and flapped slowly overhead, like the wing of some huge bird of prey, and moaned. Finally, there was a subdued shout, the wandering lights on the water gathered together in an awfully narrow ring about one point, and one of the boats tilted slightly, as some weight was slowly dragged in over the side. Then the boats came back, rowing heavily to the shore, and from the foremost boat a burden was lifted, and laid with reverence upon the bank.

The stranger, who had stood watching all this time, uncovered his head, and stepped forward to look at the dead body. Then he solemnly crossed himself, and went on his way into the Castle.

By this time a new misfortune had befallen Johann.

Hardly had he left the precincts of the Castle, when he ran almost into the arms of two soldiers who were aimlessly straying through the gardens. He was quickly recognised, and the pair at once took him into their custody, and carried him before the Chancellor, who ordered him to be detained in strict confinement.

[319]The news of his arrest quickly spread, and it was not long before it reached the ears of Dorothea. She at once sought the presence of the Princess Regent.

During these last few days a secret estrangement had sprung up between Hermengarde and her favourite. Though without any true idea of the Princess’s share in the fall of Maximilian, Dorothea could not help perceiving that her patroness was to some extent hostile to the poor King, and the confidence she had formerly felt in her friendship had received a great shock. The absorption of the Princess in the cares of her new situation had kept them apart a good deal, and when they met, the girl could no longer greet Hermengarde with the same frank affection as before, and Hermengarde, on her part, shrank more into herself, and no longer indulged in the occasional touches of tenderness by which she had won Dorothea’s heart.

But on the present occasion all these restraints were brushed aside. Dorothea rushed in, and fell kneeling before her mistress, crying—

“Madam, Johann has come back, and they have made him a prisoner!”

The stern features of the Regent were irradiated by a smile of a softness rarely seen there.

“Have no fear my child,” she said soothingly. “Did I not tell you that, whatever happened, I was your friend.”

And lifting her up, she sounded a gong for the page, whom she despatched with strict orders to have Johann brought before her at once.

[320]“And now,” she said, turning to Dorothea, “I have something to say to your cousin which I do not wish you to hear. Go into my bedroom while I receive him.”

Dorothea went through a door behind the Princess, still too much moved to be able to express her gratitude in words. She had scarcely disappeared when the outer door opened and admitted Karl.

His face told the Princess all.

“Maximilian is dead?” she said.

“Yes, Madam. He threw himself out of the window of his room into the lake. His body is being dragged for by the soldiers.”

Hermengarde crossed herself.

“Go and tell the Chancellor that I desire his attendance immediately.”

The awe-struck wretch departed, and she sank down upon a seat, a prey to the most conflicting emotions.

The arrival of Johann Mark disturbed her reflections. He was accompanied by two guards, whom the Princess haughtily dismissed.

“Herr Mark,” she said, “we have never met before, but I have reason to think you regard me as your enemy. Nevertheless I have sent for you to tell you that you are a free man. The Chancellor will be here immediately, and I shall direct him to make you out a free pardon for everything which may have been laid to your charge.”

The prisoner gazed at her in bewilderment. Was[321] this the woman whom every one regarded as the embodiment of selfishness and unscrupulous ambition?

“Madam, I must tell you,” he said at length, “that, if you release me, I shall renew my efforts on behalf of the King.”

Hermengarde gravely shook her head.

“King Maximilian is no more. My son is now King of Franconia.”

Johann broke down, and the Princess allowed him time to recover himself, watching him soberly the while.

“I do not wonder at your emotion,” she said. “I wish that my son might have such friends.”

“But why, Madam,” asked Johann, as soon as he could speak—“why do you show me this unexpected kindness?”

“I do it at the request of your cousin Dorothea,” was the answer. “She has a deep affection for you. I do not know whether it is returned.”

“It is indeed,” was the warm response. “Ah, Madam, since you are so good as to interest yourself in Dorothea, may I entreat you to watch over her here? Her father is not fit to have charge of her.”

“I know that. But you, have you never thought of taking his place by a dearer right?”

“Madam, I will confess the truth to you. Such an idea never came into my mind till the other day. I was even guilty of urging her to accept the offers of the King. When she refused finally, she admitted to me that it was because she loved another. And then, for[322] the first time, a light seemed to strike into my own heart, and I found out, too late, that I loved her myself.”

Hermengarde’s sombre face relaxed once more.

“Foolish young man,” she said softly, “did you never think who it was that had won your little playmate’s heart?”

The young man started, a joyful glow broke out over his features. The Princess went quickly to the bedroom door, opened it, and brought forth the blushing Dorothea.

“Here is your cousin, child. He has not yet found out whom it is you are in love with.”

One look between the two was enough. They were folded in each other’s arms.

The Princess detached a string of magnificent diamonds from her neck.

“Here is my wedding present,” she said, casting it round the young girl. “Now go, and if you sometimes hear evil things said of Hermengarde of Schwerin-Strelitz, remember that she was your friend.”

And bestowing a last kiss upon Dorothea’s cheek, she pushed them out of the room.

The Chancellor came in directly afterwards. He found the Princess in her most haughty mood.

“You have heard of my nephew’s sad fate,” she said briefly, “and you are no doubt making all the necessary arrangements for the proclamation of my son.”

“I am, Madam.”

[323]“While I remember it, I desire you will at once make out a full and complete pardon for Johann Mark. I have ordered him to be set at liberty.”

The Chancellor ventured to remonstrate.

“Are you aware, Madam, of the serious character of this man?”

“Yes, sir, I am. But I have found a remedy for all that. He is now my very good friend.”

Still the Chancellor faintly objected. He could not so soon forego his vengeance on the man who had done so much to thwart him.

“Your Royal Highness bears in mind the consequences of the unhappy event which has just taken place. There will have to be—of course as a matter of form—a fresh appointment in regard to the Regency.”

“Of course, and in regard to the Chancellorship too, I presume,” retorted Hermengarde, sharply. “In the mean time, we both hold our offices, and if it is my last act as Regent and your last act as Chancellor, I order you to make out this pardon.”

“You shall be obeyed, Madam,” replied the Count. And he kept his word.

Secure in her son’s accession, Hermengarde now thought the time was come to throw off the mask she had worn so long.

“There is another consequence of this event which your loyalty will no doubt be quick to recognise,” she said.

The Chancellor bowed, as one who knew what was coming.

[324]“I refer of course to my son’s marriage. As King of Franconia, this is now a matter which has passed out of our hands, and we must be prepared to sacrifice our private wishes to the interests of the State.”

“Quite so, Madam. I anticipated that you would be compelled to take this view, and it does not find me unprepared. I may before long have the honour of soliciting your Royal Highness’s favour for a marriage between my daughter and Herr Moritz.”

“I shall be much gratified to be present at it,” replied Hermengarde. “I have some reason to hope, I may tell you privately, that the Kaiser may be induced to bestow one of his sisters on the King.”

Used as he was to Court duplicity, the Count could not repress a slight grimace at this cool intimation.

“An admirable arrangement,” he said, preparing to withdraw; “but, as you have said, Madam, this matter has now passed out of our hands.”

As soon as he was gone Hermengarde rose, and proceeded to seek out her son in his own rooms. At the door of the sleeping-room she was stopped by an attendant, who said—

“His Majesty is asleep. He has been unwell, and the doctor has given the strictest orders that he is not to be disturbed.”

Hermengarde showed some slight alarm.

“I hope it is nothing serious?” she said.

“I believe not, Madam.”

“Well, I will not disturb him. Send the doctor to me.”

[325]She returned thoughtfully towards her own room. On the threshold she encountered Karl.

“Well, has the body been found?”

“Oh, yes, Madam. But, pardon my asking, does your Royal Highness know that the Privy Council is in session?”

“The Privy Council! Without my authority! Take me there at once!”

Karl led the way, heartily cursing himself for having played so blindly into the hands of the Princess.

At the door of the Council-room, the guards would have stopped her, but the imperious woman literally thrust them aside, and forced her way into the room.

The whole of the Councillors staying in the Castle were present. But there was one addition to the number assembled on the last occasion, a man whom Hermengarde had never seen before, tall, dark, with iron-grey hair, and an expression of the most profound melancholy on his countenance. He sat in a chair at the head of the Council table, with the old Chancellor on his right hand, and had just finished affixing his signature to a parchment when the Princess burst in upon them.

At first this personage clearly failed to recognise the Princess. But the Chancellor leant over and whispered in his ear. He at once rose, the other Councillors following his example.

“Come in, Madam,” he said gravely. “We were about to send to desire your presence. Will you take that seat.” And he pointed to one near himself.

[326]“What does all this mean?” demanded Hermengarde, disdaining the proffered seat. “I do not know who you are, sir.”

“My name is Frederick von Astolf. You have perhaps heard of me as the Count von Eisenheim.”

Hermengarde turned pale, and gazed blankly around her. Still she preserved her wrathful tone.

“I presume you have a right to be here, as a Privy Councillor, my lord. But why has the Council met without my authority?”

The Count von Eisenheim turned to the Chancellor, with a glance signifying a desire that he should answer the question. Von Sigismark eagerly complied, and his voice had in it a ring of a long-suppressed resentment.

“It is my duty, Madam, as Chancellor, to call the Council together on a demise of the crown, in order to proclaim the new sovereign. In this case, moreover, we had also to appoint a Regent.”

“Well?” It seemed to Hermengarde that she could scarcely breathe.

“The Council has proclaimed your son King, by the style of Ernest V. And it has declared his Royal Highness Frederick Leopold von Astolf, Regent.”

Hermengarde’s eyes flashed with fury.

“Be careful, sir. Be careful, gentlemen. By what right have you passed me over?”

The Chancellor again gave the answer.

“By the family statutes of the House of Astolf, and by the Franconian Constitution, the Regency goes of[327] right to the next heir to the crown. It would have been illegal to appoint you, Madam.”

The Princess began to realise the bitter truth. She had been completely outwitted by the servile courtier. He had been preparing this blow from the very first.

“Enough,” she said, with some dignity. “I will not say more to you, now. In two years my son will take the government into his own hands, and then your authority will be over.”

“I fear not, Madam.” It was the Regent who spoke, and Hermengarde, looking at him, saw the deep mournfulness on his face assume a new and dreadful significance. And then, before anything could happen, she was aware of the presence of the tall, spare figure, clad in its long black coat, the sight of which, walking across the gardens of Neustadt on a memorable morning, had fallen like a blight upon Maximilian’s heart. And she reeled back, and sank bereft of spirit upon the ground with the slow deliberate words beating like hammers upon her brain: “Madam, the King, your son, is mad!”



When the curtain falls on a tragedy in real life, the actors do not take off their dresses and depart to other scenes. They linger upon the stage, and those who care to do so, may watch the slow settling-down of the passions that once led on to the catastrophe.

Most of the characters in this story are still alive.

Johann and Dorothea are married, and dwell together peacefully in an ancient German city. The ardent reformer keeps to his old ideal, but his methods of working for it have greatly changed. He now believes that till his fellow-countrymen are of one mind as to the value of freedom, it is idle to try and thrust a republic upon them by force; and that when they are of one mind the republic will come of its own accord. He has founded a newspaper, in which he preaches his social gospel, in language sobered by the experiences he has gone through.

The Count von Eisenheim still holds the Regency. But old Von Sigismark is no longer Chancellor. His daughter’s persistence has caused him, not very willingly,[329] to resign in favour of her husband, who is now the Baron von Moritz.

The musician Bernal has recently produced his great opera, The Jomsburg Saga, into which he has introduced a touching allusion to Maximilian’s fate. It has been received with applause throughout Germany.

In the same room in the Castle of Seidlingen, from which its builder took his fatal plunge, Ernest V. of Franconia drags out his existence. Over him the Court physician and a number of attendants, chief of whom is Karl Fink, maintain a surveillance which is never broken. Twice in every year, he is visited by a grey-haired woman, who passes through the ranks of the servants closely veiled, but with a step which still retains some of the stateliness that once distinguished the Princess Hermengarde.

When the visit is over, the stricken mother returns to her lonely home, in a distant corner of the kingdom, where she lives under the name of the Countess Walstadt, and bestows the larger part of her revenues upon the poor. The only pleasure she permits herself is the occasional society of Dorothea, who generally brings with her a little girl named Hermengarde, with flaxen hair and big blue eyes, who sits on the elder woman’s knee, and shyly accepts her caresses.

Only one name is never mentioned between the two friends, and Dorothea will never know the entire truth concerning the fate of Maximilian: whether he was in reality mad; or whether he was only deemed so by the brief-lived swarm that infests God’s glorious creation,[330] and re-makes God in its own image, and sets up the standards of its own blind limitations, and proclaims them to be the laws of life.

“He has outsoared the shadow of their night—
Envy and calumny and hate and pain.”



Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

Archaic or variant spelling has been retained.