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Clementina
by A.E.W. Mason
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"Did you hear a step?" she asked in a low voice.

"No."

And they both listened. No noise came to their ears but the brawling of the torrent. That, however, filled the room, drowning all the natural murmurs of the night.

"Indeed, one would not hear a company of soldiers," said Clementina. She crossed to the window.

"Yet you heard my step, and it waked you," said Wogan, as he followed her.

"I listened for it in my sleep," said she.

For a second time that night they stood side by side looking upon darkness and the spangled sky. Only there was no courtyard with its signs of habitation. Clementina drew herself away suddenly from the sill. Wogan at once copied her example.

"You saw—?" he began.

"No one," said she, bending her dark eyes full upon him. "Will you close the shutter?"

Wogan drew back instinctively. He had a sense that this open window, though there was no one to spy through it, was in some way a security. Suppose that he closed it! That mere act of shutting himself and her apart, though it gave not one atom more of privacy, still had a semblance of giving it. He was afraid. He said,—

"There is no need. Who should spy on us? What would it matter if we were spied upon?"

"I ask you to close that shutter."

From the quiet, level voice he could infer nothing of the thought behind the request; and her unwavering eyes told him nothing.

"Why?"

"Because I am afraid, as you are," said she, and she shivered. "You would not have it shut. I am afraid while it stays open. There is too much expectation in the night. Those great black pines stand waiting; the stars are very bright and still, they wait, holding their breath. It seems to me the whirl of the earth has stopped. Never was there a night so hushed in expectation;" and these words too she spoke without a falter or a lifting note, breathing easily like a child asleep, and not changing her direct gaze from Wogan's face. "I am afraid," she continued, "of you and me. I am the more afraid;" and Wogan set the shutter in its place and let the bar fall. Clementina with a breath of relief came back to her seat at the table.

"How long is it till dawn?" she said.

"We have half an hour," said Wogan.

"Well, that old man—Count von Ahlen, you said—received you, heaped logs upon his fire, stanched your wounds, and asked no questions. Well? You stopped suddenly. Tell me all!"

Wogan looked doubtfully at her and then quickly seated himself over against her.

"All? I will. It will be no new thing to you;" and as Clementina raised her eyes curiously to his, he met her gaze and so spoke the rest looking at her with her own direct gaze.

"Why did he ask no question, seeing me disordered, wounded, a bandit, for all he knew, with a murder on my hands? Because thirty years before Count Philip Christopher von Koenigsmarck had come in just that same way over the lawn to the window, and had sat by that log-fire and charmed the old gentleman into an envy by his incomparable elegance and wit."

"Koenigsmarck!" exclaimed the girl. She knew the history of that brilliant and baleful adventurer at the Court of Hanover. "He came as you did, and wounded?"

"The Princess Sophia Dorothea was visiting the Duke of Wuertemberg," Wogan explained, and Clementina nodded.

"Count Otto von Ahlen, my host," he continued, "had a momentary thought that I was Koenigsmarck mysteriously returned as he had mysteriously vanished; and through these thirty years' retention of his youth, Count Otto could never think of Koenigsmarck but as a man young and tossed in a froth of passion. He would have it to the end that I had escaped from such venture as had Koenigsmarck; he would have it my wounds were the mere offset to a love well worth them; he would envy me. 'Passion,' said he, 'without passion there can be no great thing.'"

"And the saying lived in your thoughts," cried Clementina. "I do not wonder. 'Without passion there can be no great thing!' Can books teach a man so much?"

"Nay, it was an hour's talk with Koenigsmarck which set the old man's thoughts that way; and though Koenigsmarck talked never so well, I would not likely infer from his talk an eternal and universal truth. Count Otto left me alone while he fetched me food, and he left me in a panic."

"A panic?" said Clementina, with a little laugh. "You!"

"Yes. That first mistake of me for Koenigsmarck, that insistence that my case was Koenigsmarck's—"

"There was a shadow of truth in it—even then?" said Clementina, suddenly leaning across the table towards him. Wogan strove not to see the light of her joy suddenly sparkling in her eyes.

"I sat alone, feeling the ghost of Koenigsmarck in the room with me," he resumed quickly, and his voice dropped, and he looked round the little cabin. Clementina looked round quickly too. Then their eyes met again. "I heard his voice menacing me. 'For love of a queen I lived. For love of a queen I died most horribly; and it would have gone better with the queen had she died the same death at the same time—'" And Clementina interrupted him with a cry which was fierce.

"Ah, who can say that, and know it for the truth—except the Queen? You must ask her in her prison at Ahlden, and that you cannot do. She has her memories maybe. Maybe she has built herself within these thirty years a world of thought so real, it makes her gaolers shadows, and that prison a place of no account, save that it gives her solitude and is so more desirable than a palace. I can imagine it;" and then she stopped, and her voice dropped to the low tone which Wogan had used.

"You looked round you but now and most fearfully. Is Koenigsmarck's spirit here?"

"No," exclaimed Wogan; "I would to God it were! I would I felt its memories chilling me as they chilled me that night! But I cannot. I cannot as much as hear a whisper. All the heavens are dumb," he cried.

"And the earth waits," said Clementina.

She did not move, neither did Wogan. They both sat still as statues. They had come to the great crisis of their destiny. A change of posture, a gesture, an assumed expression which might avert the small, the merely awkward indiscretions of the tongue, they both knew to be futile. It was in the mind of each of them that somehow without their participation the truth would out that night; for the dawn was so long in coming.

"All the way up from Peri," said Wogan, suddenly, "I strove to make real to myself the ignominy, the odium, the scandal."

"But you could not," said Clementina, with a nod of comprehension, as though that inability was a thing familiar to her.

"When I reached the hut, and saw that fan of light spreading from the window, as it spread over the lawn beyond Stuttgart, I remembered Otto von Ahlen and his talk of Koenigsmarck. I tried to hear the menaces."

"But you could not."

"No. I saw you through the window," he cried, "stretched out upon that couch, supple and young and sweet. I saw the lamplight on your hair, searching out the gold in its dark brown. I could only remember how often I have at nights wakened and reached out my hands in the vain dream that they would meet in its thick coils, that I should feel its silk curl and nestle about my fingers. There's the truth out, though it's a familiar truth to you ever since I held you in my arms beneath the stars upon the road to Ala."

"It was known to me a day before," said she; "but it was known to you so long ago as that night in the garden."

"Oh, before then," cried Wogan.

"When? Let the whole truth be known, since we know so much."

"Why, on that first day at Ohlau."

"In the great hall. I stood by the fire and raised my head, and our eyes met. I do remember."

"But I had no thought ever to let you know. I was the King's man-at-arms, as I am now;" and he burst into a harsh laugh. "Here's madness! The King's man-at-arms dumps him down in the King's chair! I had a thought to live to you, if you understand, as a man writes a poem to his mistress, to make my life the poem, an unsigned poem that you would never read, and yet unsigned, unread, would make its creator glad and fill his days. And here's the poem!" and at that a great cry of terror leaped from Clementina's lips and held them both aghast.

Wogan had risen from his seat; with a violent gesture he had thrown back his cloak, and his coat beneath was stained and dark with blood. Clementina stood opposite to him, all her quiet and her calmness gone. There was no longer any mystery in her eyes. Her bosom rose and fell; she pointed a trembling hand towards his breast.

"You are hurt. Again for love of me you are hurt."

"It is not my wound," he answered. "It is blood I spilt for you;" he took a step towards her, and in a second she was between his arms, sobbing with all the violence of passion which she had so long restrained. Wogan was wrung by it. That she should weep at all was a thought strange to him; that he should cause the tears was a sorrow which tortured him. He touched her hair with his lips, he took her by the arms and would have set her apart; but she clung to him, hiding her face, and the sobs shook her. Her breast was strained against him, he felt the beating of her heart, a fever ran through all his blood. And as he held her close, a queer inconsequential thought came into his mind. It shocked him, and he suddenly held her off.

"The blood upon my coat is wet," he cried. The odium, the scandal of a flight which would make her name a byword from London to Budapest, that he could envisage; but that this blood upon his coat should stain the dress she wore—no! He saw indeed that the bodice was smeared a dark red.

"See, the blood stains you!" he cried.

"Why, then, I share it," she answered with a ringing voice of pride. "I share it with you;" and she smiled through her tears and a glowing blush brightened upon her face. She stood before him, erect and beautiful. Through Wogan's mind there tripped a procession of delicate ladies who would swoon gracefully at the sight of a pricked finger.

"That's John Sobieski speaking," he exclaimed, and with an emphasis of despair, "Poland's King! But I was mad! Indeed, I blame myself."

"Blame!" she cried passionately, her whole nature rising in revolt against the word. "Are we to blame? We are man and woman. Who shall cast the stone? Are you to blame for that you love me? Who shall blame you? Not I, who thank you from my heart. Am I to blame? What have we hearts for, then, if not to love? I have a thought—it may be very wrong. I do not know. I do not trouble to think—that I should be much more to blame did I not love you too. There's the word spoken at the last," and she lowered her head.

Even at that moment her gesture struck upon Wogan as strange. It occurred to him that he had never before seen her drop her eyes from his. He had an intuitive fancy that she would never do it but as a deliberate token of submission. Nor was he wrong. Her next words told him it was her white flag of surrender.

"I believe the spoken truth is best," she said simply in a low voice which ever so slightly trembled. "Unspoken and yet known by both of us, I think it would breed thoughts and humours we are best without. Unspoken our eyes would question, each to other, at every meeting; there would be no health in our thoughts. But here's the truth out, and I am glad—in whichever way you find its consequence."

She stood before him with her head bent. She made no movement save with her hands, which worked together slowly and gently.

"In whichever way—I—?" repeated Wogan.

"Yes," she answered. "There is Bologna. Say that Bologna is our goal. I shall go with you to Bologna. There is Venice and the sea. Bid me go, then; hoist a poor scrap of a sail in an open boat. I shall adventure over the wide seas with you. What will you do?"

Wogan drew a long breath. The magnitude of the submission paralysed him. The picture which she evoked was one to blind him as with a glory of sunlight. He remained silent for a while. Then he said timidly,—

"There is Ohlau."

The girl shivered. The name meant her father, her mother, their grief, the disgrace upon her home. But she answered only with her question,—

"What will you do?"

"You would lose a throne," he said, and even while he spoke was aware that such a plea had not with her now the weight of thistledown.

"You would become the mock of Europe,—you that are its wonder;" and he saw the corner of her lip curve in a smile of scorn.

"What will you do?" she asked, and he ceased to argue. It was he who must decide; she willed it so. He turned towards the door of the hut and opened it. As he passed through, he heard her move behind, and looking over his shoulder, he saw that she leaned down upon the table and kissed the pistol which he had left loaded there. He stepped out of the cabin and closed the door behind him.

The dark blue of the sky had faded to a pure and pearly colour; a colourless grey light invaded it; the pale stars were drowning; and all about him the trees shivered to the morning. Wogan walked up and down that little plateau, torn by indecision. Inside the sheltered cabin sat waiting the girl, whose destiny was in his hands. He had a sentence to speak, and by it the flow of all her years would be irrevocably ordered. She had given herself over to him,—she, with her pride, her courage, her endurance. Wogan had seen too closely into her heart to bring any foolish charge of unmaidenliness against her. No, the very completeness of her submission raised her to a higher pinnacle. If she gave herself, she did so without a condition or a reserve, body and bone, heart and soul. Wogan knew amongst the women of his time many who made their bargain with the world, buying a semblance of esteem with a double payment of lies. This girl stood apart from them. She loved, therefore she entrusted herself simply to the man she loved, and bade him dispose of her. That very simplicity was another sign of her strength. She was the more priceless on account of it. He went back into the hut. Through the chinks of the shutter the morning stretched a grey finger; the room was filled with a vaporous twilight.

"We travel to Bologna," said he. "I will not have you wasted. Other women may slink into kennels and stop their ears—not you. The King is true to you. You are for the King."

As she had not argued before, she did not argue now. She nodded her head and fastened her cloak about her throat. She followed him out of the hut and down the gorge. In the northeast the sky already flamed, and the sun was up before they reached the road. They walked silently towards Peri, and Wogan was wondering whether in her heart she despised him when she stopped.

"I am to marry the King," said she.

"Yes," said Wogan.

"But you?" she said with her brows in a frown; "there is no compulsion on you to marry—anyone."

Wogan was relieved of his fears. He broke into a laugh, to which she made no reply. She still waited frowning for his answer.

"No woman," he said, "will ride on my black horse into my city of dreams. You may be very sure I will not marry."

"No. I would not have you married."

Wogan laughed again, but Clementina was very serious. That she had no right to make any such claim did not occur to her. She was merely certain and resolved that Wogan must not marry. She did not again refer to the matter, nor could she so have done had she wished. For a little later and while they were not yet come to Peri, they were hailed from behind, and turning about they saw Gaydon and O'Toole riding after them. O'Toole had his story to tell. Gaydon and he had put the courier to bed and taken his clothes and his money, and after the fellow had waked up, they had sat for a day in the bedroom keeping him quiet and telling the landlord he was very ill. O'Toole finished his story as they came to Peri. They went boldly to the Cervo Inn, where all traces of the night's conflict had been removed, and neither Wogan nor the landlady thought it prudent to make any mention of the matter; they waited for Misset and his wife, who came the next day. And thus reunited they passed one evening into the streets of Bologna and stopped at the Pilgrim Inn.



CHAPTER XXI

In the parlour of the Pilgrim Inn the four friends took their leave of the Princess. She could not part from them lightly; she spoke with a faltering voice:—

"Five days ago I was in prison at Innspruck, perpetually harassed and with no hope of release but in you. Now I am in Bologna, and free. I could not believe that any girl could find such friends except in fairyland. You make the world very sweet and clean to me. I should thank you. See my tears fall! Will you take them for my thanks? I have no words which can tell as much of my thoughts towards you. My little woman I keep with me, but to you gentlemen I would gladly give a token each, so that you may know I will never forget, and so that you too may keep for me a home within your memories." To Major Gaydon she gave a ring from off her finger, to Captain Misset a chain which she wore about her neck, to O'Toole, "her six feet four," as she said between laughter and tears, her watch. Each with a word of homage took his leave. Clementina spoke to Wogan last of all, and when the room was empty but for these two.

"To you, my friend," said she, "I give nothing. There is no need. But I ask for something. I would be in debt to you still deeper than I am. I ask for a handkerchief which I dropped from my shoulders one evening under the stars upon the road to Ala."

Wogan bowed to her without a word. He drew the handkerchief from his breast slowly.

"It is true," said he; "I have no right to it;" and he gave it back. But his voice showed that he was hurt.

"You do not understand," said she, with a great gentleness. "You have every right which the truest loyalty can confer. I ask you for this handkerchief, because I think at times to wear it in memory of a white stone on which I could safely set my foot, for the stone was not straw."

Wogan could not trust his voice to answer her. He took her hand to lift it to his lips.

"No," said she; "as at Innspruck, an honest handclasp, if you please."

Wogan joined his three companions in the road, and they stood together for a little, recounting to one another the incidents of the flight.

"Here's a great work ended," said Gaydon at last.

"We shall be historical," said O'Toole. "It is my one ambition. I want to figure in the history-books and be a great plague and nuisance to children at school. I would sooner be cursed daily by schoolboys than have any number of golden statues in galleries. It means the more solid reputation;" and then he became silent. Gaydon had, besides his joy at the rescue of Clementina, a private satisfaction that matters which were none of his business had had no uncomfortable issue. Misset, too, was thankful for that his wife had come safely to the journey's end. O'Toole alone had a weight upon his mind; and when Gaydon said, "Well, we may go to bed and sleep without alarms till sundown to-morrow," he remarked,—

"There's Jenny. It was on my account she ventured with us."

"That's true," said Wogan; "but we shall put an end to her captivity, now we are safe at Bologna. I have friends here who can serve me so far, I have no doubt."

O'Toole was willing to leave the matter in Wogan's hands. If Wogan once pledged himself to Jenny's release, why, Jenny was released; and he went to bed now with a quite equable mind. Wogan hurried off to the palace of the Cardinal Origo, whom he found sitting at his supper. The Cardinal welcomed Wogan back very warmly.

"I trust, your Eminence," said Wogan, "that Farini is now at Bologna."

"You come in the nick of time," replied the Cardinal. "This is his last week. There is a great demand for the seats; but you will see to it, Mr. Wogan, that the box is in the first tier."

"There was to be a dinner, too, if I recollect aright. I have not dined for days. Your Eminence, I shall be extraordinarily hungry."

"You will order what you will, Mr. Wogan. I am a man of a small appetite and have no preferences."

"Your Eminence's cook will be the better judge of what is seasonable. Your Eminence will be the more likely to secure the box in the first tier. Shall we fix a day? To-morrow, if it please you. To-morrow I shall have the honour, then, to be your Eminence's guest."

The Cardinal started up from the table and stared at his visitor.

"You are jesting," said he.

"So little," replied Wogan, "that her Highness, the Princess Clementina, is now at the Pilgrim Inn at Bologna."

"In Bologna!" cried the Cardinal; and he stood frowning in a great perturbation of spirit. "This is great news," he said, but in a doubtful voice which Wogan did not understand. "This is great news, to be sure;" and he took a turn or two across the room.

"Not wholly pleasant news, one might almost think," said Wogan, in some perplexity.

"Never was better news," exclaimed the Cardinal, hastily,—a trifle too hastily, it seemed to Wogan. "But it surprises one. Even the King did not expect this most desirable issue. For the King's in Spain. It is that which troubles me. Her Highness comes to Bologna, and the King's in Spain."

"Yes," said Wogan, with a wary eye upon his Eminence. "Why is the King in Spain?"

"There is pressing business in Spain,—an expedition from Cadiz. The King's presence there was urged most earnestly. He had no hope you would succeed. I myself have some share in the blame. I did not hide from you my thought, Mr. Wogan."

Wogan was not all reassured. He could not but remember that the excuse for the King's absence which the Cardinal now made to him was precisely that which he himself had invented to appease Clementina at Innspruck. It was the simple, natural excuse which came first of all to the tongue's tip, but—but it did not satisfy. There was, besides, too much flurry and agitation in the Cardinal's manner. Even now that he was taking snuff, he spilled the most of it from the trembling of his fingers. Moreover, he must give reason upon reason for his perturbation the while he let his supper get cold.

"Her Highness I cannot but feel will have reason to think slightly of our welcome. A young girl, she will expect, and rightly, something more of ceremony as her due."

"Your Eminence does not know her," interrupted Wogan, with some sharpness. His Eminence was adroit enough to seize the occasion of ending a conversation which was growing with every minute more embarrassing.

"I shall make haste to repair my defect," said he. "I beg you to present my duty to her Highness and to request her to receive me to-morrow at ten. By that, I will hope to have discovered a lodging more suitable to her dignity."

Wogan made his prayer for the Pope's intervention on Jenny's behalf and then returned to the Pilgrim Inn, dashed and fallen in spirit. He had thought that their troubles were at an end, but here was a new difficulty at which in truth he rather feared to guess. The Chevalier's departure to Spain had been a puzzle to him before; he remembered now that the Chevalier had agreed with reluctance to his enterprise, and had never been more than lukewarm in its support. That reluctance, that lukewarmness, he had attributed to a natural habit of discouragement; but the evasiveness of Cardinal Origo seemed to propose a different explanation. Wogan would not guess at it.

"The King is to marry the Princess," said he, fiercely. "I brought her out of Innspruck to Bologna. The King must marry the Princess;" and, quite unawares, he set off running towards the inn. As he drew near to it, he heard a confused noise of shouting. He quickened his pace, and rushing out of the mouth of a side street into the square where the inn stood, came suddenly to a stop. The square was filled with a great mob of people, and in face of the inn the crowd was so thick Wogan could have walked upon the shoulders. Many of the people carried blazing torches, which they waved in the air, dropping the burning resin upon their companions; others threw their hats skywards; here were boys beating drums, and grown men blowing upon toy trumpets; and all were shouting and cheering with a deafening enthusiasm. The news of the Princess's arrival had spread like wildfire through the town. Wogan's spirits rose at a bound. Here was a welcome very different from the Cardinal's. Wogan rejoiced in the good sense of the citizens of Bologna who could appreciate the great qualities of his chosen woman. Their enthusiasm did them credit; he could have embraced them one by one.

He strove to push his way towards the door, but he would hardly have pierced through that throng had not a man by the light of a torch recognised him and bawled out his name. He was lifted shoulder high in a second; he was passed from hand to hand over the heads of the people; he was set tenderly down in the very doorway of the Pilgrim Inn, and he found Clementina at the window of an unlighted room gazing unperceived at the throng.

"Here's a true welcome, madam," said he, cordially, with his thoughts away upon that bluff of hillside where the acclamations had seemed so distant and unreal. It is possible that they seemed of small account to Clementina now, for though they rang in ears and were visible to her eyes, she sat quite unmoved by them.

"This is one tiny square in a little town," he continued. "But its shouts will ring across Europe;" and she turned her head to him and said quietly,—

"The King is still in Spain, is he not?"

Wogan's enthusiasm was quenched in alarm. Her voice had rung, for all its quietude, with pride. What if she guessed what he for one would not let his wildest fancy dwell upon? Wogan repeated to himself the resolve which he had made, though with an alteration. "The King must marry the Princess," he had said; now he said, "The Princess must marry the King."

He began hurriedly to assure her that the King had doubted his capacity to bring the enterprise to a favourable issue, but that now he would without doubt return. Cardinal Origo would tell her more upon that head if she would be good enough to receive him at ten in the morning; and while Wogan was yet speaking, a torch waved, and amongst that close-pressed throng of faces below him in the street, one sprang to his view with a remarkable distinctness, a face most menacing and vindictive. It was the face of Harry Whittington. Just for a second it shone out, angles and lines so clearly revealed that it was as though the crowd had vanished, and that one contorted face glared alone at the windows in a flare of hell-fire.

Clementina saw the face too, for she drew back instinctively within the curtains of the window.

"The man at Peri," said she, in a whisper.

"Your Highness will pardon me," exclaimed Wogan, and he made a movement towards the door. Then he stopped, hesitated for a second, and came back. He had a question to put, as difficult perhaps as ever lips had to frame.

"At Peri," he said in a stumbling voice, "I waked from a dream and saw that man, bird-like and cunning, watching over the rim of the stairs. I was dreaming that a star out of heaven stooped towards me, that a woman's face shone out of the star's bright heart, that her lips deigned to bend downwards to my earth. And I wonder, I wonder whether those cunning eyes had cunning enough to interpret my dream."

And Clementina answered him simply,—

"I think it very likely that they had so much skill;" and Wogan ran down the stairs into the street. He forced his way through the crowd to the point where Whittington's face had shown, but his hesitation, his question, had consumed time. Whittington had vanished. Nor did he appear again for some while in Bologna. Wogan searched for him high and low. Here was another difficulty added to the reluctance of his King, the pride of his Queen. Whittington had a piece of dangerous knowledge, and could not be found. Wogan said nothing openly of the man's treachery, though he kept very safely the paper in which that treachery was confessed. But he did not cease from his search. He was still engaged upon it when he received the summons from Cardinal Origo. He hurried to the palace, wondering what new thing had befallen, and was at once admitted to the Cardinal. It was no bad thing, at all events, as Wogan could judge from the Cardinal's smiling face.

"Mr. Wogan," said he, "our Holy Father the Pope wishes to testify his approbation of your remarkable enterprise on behalf of a princess who is his god-daughter. He bids me hand you, therefore, your patent of Roman Senator, and request you to present yourself at the Capitol in Rome on June 15, when you will be installed with all the ancient ceremonies."

Wogan thanked his Eminence dutifully, but laid the patent on the table.

"You hardly know what you refuse," said his Eminence. "The Holy Father has no greater honour to bestow, and, believe me, he bestows it charily."

"Nay, your Eminence," said Wogan, "I do not undervalue so high a distinction. But I had three friends with me who shared every danger. I cannot accept an honour which they do not share; for indeed they risked more than I did. For they hold service under the King of France."

The Cardinal was pleased to compliment Wogan upon his loyalty to his friends.

"They shall not be the losers," said he. "I think I may promise indeed that each will have a step in rank, and I do not doubt that when the Holy Father hears what you have said to me, I shall have three other patents like to this;" and he locked Wogan's away in a drawer.

"And what of the King in Spain?" asked Wogan.

"I sent a messenger thither on the night of your coming," said the Cardinal; "but it is a long journey into Spain. We must wait."

To Wogan it seemed the waiting would never end. The Cardinal had found a little house set apart from the street with a great garden of lawns and cedar-trees and laurels; and in that garden now fresh with spring flowers and made private by high walls, the Princess passed her days. Wogan saw her but seldom during this time, but each occasion sent him back to his lodging in a fever of anxiety. She had grown silent, and her silence alarmed him. She had lost the sparkling buoyancy of her spirits. Mrs. Misset, who attended her, told him that she would sit for long whiles with a red spot burning in each cheek. Wogan feared that her pride was chafing her gentleness, that she guessed there was reluctance in the King's delay. "But she must marry the King," he still persevered in declaring. Her hardships, her imprisonment, her perilous escape, the snows of Innspruck,—these were known now; and if at the last the end for which they had been endured—Wogan broke off from his reflections to hear the world laughing. The world would not think; it would laugh. "For her own sake she must marry," he cried, as he paced about his rooms. "For ours, too, for a country's sake;" and he looked northwards towards England. But "for her own sake" was the reason uppermost in his thoughts.

But the days passed. The three promised patents came from Rome, and Cardinal Origo unlocked the drawer and joined Wogan's to them. He presented all four at the same time.

"The patents carry the titles of 'Excellency,'" said he.

O'Toole beamed with delight.

"Sure," said he, "I will have a toga with the arms of the O'Tooles embroidered on the back, to appear in at the Capitol. It is on June 15, your Eminence. Upon my soul, I have not much time;" and he grew thoughtful.

"A toga will hardly take a month, even with the embroidery, which I do not greatly recommend," said the Cardinal, drily.

"I was not at the moment thinking of the toga," said O'Toole, gloomily.

"And what of the King in Spain?" asked Wogan.

"We must wait, my friend," said the Cardinal.

In a week there was brought to Wogan one morning a letter in the King's hand. He fingered it for a little, not daring to break the seal. When he did break it, he read a great many compliments upon his success, and after the compliments a statement that the marriage should take place at Montefiascone as soon as the King could depart from Spain, and after that statement, a declaration that since her Highness's position was not meanwhile one that suited either her dignity or the love the King had for her, a marriage by proxy should take place at Bologna. The Chevalier added that he had written to Cardinal Origo to make the necessary arrangements for the ceremony, and he appointed herewith Mr. Charles Wogan to act as his proxy, in recognition of his great services.

Wogan felt a natural distaste for the part he was to take in the ceremony. To stand up before the Cardinal and take Clementina's hand in his, and speak another's marriage vows and receive hers as another's deputy,—there was a certain mockery in the situation for which he had no liking. The memory of the cabin on the mountain-side was something too near. But, at all events, the King was to marry the Princess, and Wogan's distaste was swallowed up in a great relief. There would be no laughter rippling over Europe like the wind over a field of corn. He stood by his window in the spring sunshine with a great contentment of spirit, and then there came a loud rapping on his door.

He caught his breath; he grew white with a sudden fear; you would have thought it was his heart that was knocked upon. For there was another side to the business. The King would marry the Princess; but how would the Princess take this marriage by proxy and the King's continued absence? She had her pride, as he knew well. The knocking was repeated. Wogan in a voice of suspense bade his visitor enter. The visitor was one of her Highness's new servants. "Without a doubt," thought Wogan, "she has received a letter by the same messenger who brought me mine."

The servant handed him a note from the Princess, begging him to attend on her at once. "She must marry the King," said Wogan to himself. He took his hat and cane, and followed the servant into the street.



CHAPTER XXII

Wogan was guided through the streets to the mouth of a blind alley, at the bottom of which rose a high garden wall, and over the wall the smoking chimneys of a house among the tops of many trees freshly green, which shivered in the breeze and shook the sunlight from their leaves. This alley, from the first day when the Princess came to lodge in the house, had worn to Wogan a familiar air; and this morning, as he pondered dismally whether, after all, those laborious months since he had ridden hopefully out of Bologna to Ohlau were to bear no fruit, he chanced to remember why. He had passed that alley at the moment of grey dawn, when he was starting out upon this adventure, and he had seen a man muffled in a cloak step from its mouth and suddenly draw back as his horse's hoofs rang in the silent street, as though to elude recognition. Wogan wondered for a second who at that time had lived in the house; but he was admitted through a door in the wall and led into a little room with French windows opening on a lawn. The garden seen from here was a wealth of white blossoms and yellow, and amongst them Clementina paced alone, the richest and the whitest blossom of them all. She was dressed simply in a white gown of muslin and a little three-cornered hat of straw; but Wogan knew as he advanced towards her that it was not merely the hat which threw the dark shadow on her face.

She took a step or two towards him and began at once without any friendly greeting in a cold, formal voice,—

"You have received a letter this morning from his Majesty?"

"Yes, your Highness."

"Why does the King linger in Spain?"

"The expedition from Cadiz—"

"Which left harbour a week ago. Well, Mr. Wogan," she asked in biting tones, "how does that expedition now on the high seas detain his Majesty in Spain?"

Wogan was utterly dumfounded. He stood and gazed at her, a great trouble in his eyes, and his wits with that expedition all at sea.

"Is your Highness sure?" he babbled.

"Oh, indeed, most sure," she replied with the hardest laugh which he had ever heard from a woman's lips.

"I did not know," he said in dejection, and she took a step nearer to him, and her cheeks flamed.

"Is that the truth?" she asked, her voice trembling with anger. "You did not know?"

And Wogan understood that the real trouble with her at this moment was not so much the King's delay in Spain as a doubt whether he himself had played with her and spoken her false. For if he was proved untrue here, why, he might have been untrue throughout, on the stairway at Innspruck, on the road to Ala, in the hut on the bluff of the hills. He could see how harshly the doubt would buffet her pride, how it would wound her to the soul.

"It is the truth," he answered; "you will believe it. I pledge my soul upon it. Lay your hand in mine. I will repeat it standing so. Could I speak false with your hand close in mine?"

He held out his hand; she did not move, nor did her attitude of distrust relent.

"Could you not?" she asked icily.

Wogan was baffled; he was angered. "Have I ever told you lies?" he asked passionately, and she answered, "Yes," and steadily looked him in the face.

The monosyllable quenched him like a pail of cold water. He stood silent, perplexed, trying to remember.

"When?" he asked.

"In the berlin between Brixen and Wellishmile."

Wogan remembered that he had told her of his city of dreams. But it was plainly not to that that she referred. He shrugged his shoulders.

"I cannot remember."

"You told me of an attack made upon a Scottish town, what time the King was there in the year '15. He forced a passage through nine grenadiers with loaded muskets and escaped over the roof-tops, where he played a game of hide-and-seek among the chimneys. Ah, you remember the story now. There was a chain, I remember, which even then as you told of it puzzled me. He threw the chain over the head of one of those nine grenadiers, and crossing his arms jerked it tight about the man's neck, stifling his cry of warning. 'What chain?' I asked, and you answered,—oh, sir, with a practised readiness,—'The chain he wore about his neck.' Do you remember that? The chain linked your hand-locks, Mr. Wogan. It was your own escape of which you told me. Why did you ascribe your exploits to your King?"

"Your Highness," he said, "we know the King, we who have served him day in and day out for years. We can say freely to each other, 'The King's achievements, they are to come.' We were in Scotland with him, and we know they will not fail to come. But with you it's different. You did not know him. You asked what he had done, and I told you. You asked for more. You said, 'Amongst his throng of adventurers, each of whom has something to his credit, what has he, the chief adventurer?'"

"Well, sir, why not the truth in answer to the question?"

"Because the truth's unfair to him."

"And was the untruth fair to me?"

Mr. Wogan was silent.

"I think I understand," she continued bitterly; "you thought, here's a foolish girl, aflame for knights and monsters overthrown. She cries for deeds, not statecraft. Well, out of your many, you would toss her one, and call it the King's. You could afford the loss, and she, please God, would be content with it." She spoke with an extraordinary violence in a low, trembling voice, and she would not listen to Wogan's stammered interruption.

"Very likely, too, the rest of your words to me was of a piece. I was a girl, and girls are to have gallant speeches given to them like so many lollipops. Oh, but you have hurt me beyond words. I would not have thought I could have suffered so much pain!"

That last cry wrung Wogan's heart. She turned away from him with the tears brimming in her eyes. It was this conjecture of hers which he had dreaded, which at all costs he must dispel.

"Do not believe it!" he exclaimed. "Think! Should I have been at so much pains to refrain from speech, if speech was what I had intended?"

"How should I know but what that concealment was part of the gallantry, a necessary preface to the pretty speeches?"

"Should I have urged your rescue on the King had I believed you what you will have it that I did,—a mere witless girl to be pampered with follies?"

"Then you admit," she cried, "you urged the King."

"Should I have travelled over Europe to search for a wife and lit on you? Should I have ridden to Ohlau and pestered your father till he yielded? Should I have ridden across Europe to Strasbourg? Should I have endangered my friends in the rush to Innspruck? No, no, no! From first to last you were the chosen woman."

The vehemence and fire of sincerity with which he spoke had its effect on her. She turned again towards him with a gleam of hopefulness in her face, but midway in the turn she stopped.

"You spoke to me words which I have not forgotten," she said doubtfully. "You said the King had need of me. I will be frank, hoping that you will match my frankness. On that morning when we climbed down the gorge, and ever since I cheered myself with that one thought. The King had need of me."

"Never was truer word spoken," said Wogan, stoutly.

"Then why is the King in Spain?"

They had come back to the first question. Wogan had no new answer to it. He said,—

"I do not know."

For a moment or two Clementina searched his eyes. It seemed in the end that she was satisfied he spoke the truth. For she said in a voice of greater gentleness,—

"Then I will acquaint you. Will you walk with me for half a mile?"

Wogan bowed, and followed her out of the garden. He could not think whither she was leading him, or for what purpose. She walked without a word to him, he followed without a question, and so pacing with much dignity they came to the steps of a great house. Then Clementina halted.

"Sir," said she, "can you put a name to the house?"

"Upon my word, your Highness, I cannot."

"It is the Caprara Palace," said she, suddenly, and suddenly she bent her eyes upon Wogan. The name, however, conveyed no meaning whatever to him, and his blank face told her so clearly. She nodded in a sort of approval. "No," she said, relenting, "you did not know."

She mounted the steps, and knocking upon the door was admitted by an old broken serving-man, who told her that the Princess Caprara was away. It was permitted him, however, to show the many curiosities and treasures of the palace to such visitors as desired it. Clementina did desire it. The old man led her and her companion to the armoury, where he was for spending much time and breath over the trophies which the distinguished General Caprara had of old rapt from the infidels. But Clementina quickly broke in upon his garrulity.

"I have a great wish to see the picture gallery," said she, and the old man tottered onwards through many shrouded and darkened rooms. In the picture gallery he drew up the blinds and then took a wand in his hand.

"Will you show me first the portrait of Mlle. de Caprara?" said Clementina.

It was a full-length portrait painted with remarkable skill. Maria Vittoria de Caprara was represented in a black dress, and the warm Italian colouring of her face made a sort of glow in the dark picture. Her eyes watched you from the canvas with so life-like a glance you had a thought when you turned that they turned after you. Clementina gazed at the picture for a long while, and the blood slowly mounted on her neck and transfused her cheeks.

"There is a face, Mr. Wogan,—a passionate, beautiful face,—which might well set a seal upon a man's heart. I do not wonder. I can well believe that though to-day that face gladdens the streets of Rome, a lover in Spain might see it through all the thick earth of the Pyrenees. There, sir, I promised to acquaint you why the King lingered in Spain. I have fulfilled that promise;" and making a present to the custodian, she walked back through the rooms and down the steps to the street. Wogan followed her, and pacing with much dignity they walked back to the little house among the trees, and so came again into the garden of blossoms.

The anger had now gone from her face, but it was replaced by a great weariness.

"It is strange, is it not," she said with a faltering smile, "that on a spring morning, beneath this sky, amongst these flowers, I should think with envy of the snows of Innspruck and my prison there? But I owe you a reparation," she added. "You said the King had need of me. For that saying of yours I find an apt simile. Call it a stone on which you bade me set my foot and step. I stepped, and found that your stone was straw."

"No, madam," cried Wogan.

"I had a thought," she continued, "you knew the stone was straw when you commended it to me as stone. But this morning I have learned my error. I acquit you, and ask your pardon. You did not know that the King had no need of me." And she bowed to him as though the conversation was at an end. Wogan, however, would not let her go. He placed himself in front of her, engrossed in his one thought, "She must marry the King." He spoke, however, none the less with sincerity when he cried,—

"Nor do I know now—no, and I shall not know."

"You have walked with me to the Caprara Palace this morning. Or did I dream we walked?"

"What your Highness has shown me to-day I cannot gainsay. For this is the first time that ever I heard of Mlle. de Caprara. But I am very sure that you draw your inference amiss. You sit in judgment on the King, not knowing him. You push aside the firm trust of us who know him as a thing of no account. And because once, in a mood of remorse at my own presumption, I ascribed one trivial exploit—at the best a success of muscle and not brain—to the King which was not his, you strip him of all merit on the instant." He saw that her face flushed. Here, at all events, he had hit the mark, and he cried out with a ringing confidence,—

"Your stone is stone, not straw."

"Prove it me," said she.

"What do you know of the Princess Caprara at the end of it all? You have told me this morning all you know. I will go bail if the whole truth were out the matter would take a very different complexion."

Again she said,—

"Prove that to me!" and then she looked over his shoulder. Wogan turned and saw that a servant was coming from the house across the lawn with a letter on a salver. The Princess opened the letter and read it. Then she turned again to Wogan.

"His Eminence the Cardinal fixes the marriage in Bologna here for to-day fortnight. You have thus two weeks wherein to make your word good."

Two weeks, and Wogan had not an idea in his head as to how he was to set about the business. But he bowed imperturbably.

"Within two weeks I will convince your Highness," said he, and for a good half-hour he sauntered with her about the garden before he took his leave.



CHAPTER XXIII

But his thoughts had been busy during that half-hour, and as soon as he had come out from the mouth of the alley, he ran to Gaydon's lodging. Gaydon, however, was not in. O'Toole lodged in the same house, and Wogan mounted to his apartments, hoping there to find news of Gaydon's whereabouts. But O'Toole was taking the air, too, but Wogan found O'Toole's servant.

"Where will I find Captain O'Toole?" asked Wogan.

"You will find his Excellency," said the servant, with a reproachful emphasis upon the title, "at the little bookseller's in the Piazza."

Wogan sprang down the stairs and hurried to the Piazza, wondering what in the world O'Toole was doing at a bookseller's. O'Toole was bending over the counter, which was spread with open books, and Wogan hailed him from the doorway. O'Toole turned and blushed a deep crimson. He came to the door as if to prevent Wogan's entrance into the shop. Wogan, however, had but one thought in his head.

"Where shall I find Gaydon?" he asked.

"He went towards the Via San Vitale," replied O'Toole.

Wogan set off again, and in an hour came upon Gaydon. He had lost an hour of his fortnight; with the half-hour during which he had sauntered in the garden, an hour and a half.

"You went to Rome in the spring," said he. "There you saw the King. Did you see anyone else by any chance whilst you were in Rome?"

"Edgar," replied Gaydon, with a glance from the tail of his eye which Wogan did not fail to remark.

"Aha!" said he. "Edgar, to be sure, since you saw the King. But besides Edgar, did you see anyone else?"

"Whittington," said Gaydon.

"Oho!" said Wogan, thoughtfully. "So you saw my friend Harry Whittington at Rome. Did you see him with the King?"

Gaydon was becoming manifestly uncomfortable.

"He was waiting for the King," he replied.

"Indeed. And whereabouts was he waiting for the King?"

"Oh, outside a house in Rome," said Gaydon, as though he barely remembered the incident. "It was no business of mine, that I could see."

"None whatever, to be sure," answered Wogan, cordially. "But why in the world should Whittington be waiting for the King outside a house in Rome?"

"It was night-time. He carried a lantern."

"Of course, if it was night-time," exclaimed Wogan, in his most unsuspicious accent, "and the King wished to pay a visit to a house in Rome, he would take an attendant with a lantern. A servant, though, one would have thought, unless, of course, it was a private sort of visit—"

"It was no business of mine," Gaydon interrupted; "and so I made no inquiries of Whittington."

"But Whittington did not wait for inquiries, eh?" said Wogan, shrewdly. "You are hiding something from me, my friend,—something which that good honest simpleton of a Whittington blurted out to you without the least thought of making any disclosure. Oh, I know my Whittington. And I know you, too, Dick. I do not blame you. For when the King goes a-visiting the Princess Caprara privately at night-time while the girl to whom he is betrothed suffers in prison for her courageous loyalty to him, and his best friends are risking their heads to set her free, why, there's knowledge a man would be glad to keep even out of his own hearing. So you see I know more than you credit me with. So tell me the rest! Don't fob me off. Don't plead it is none of your business, for, upon my soul, it is." Gaydon suddenly changed his manner. He spoke with no less earnestness than Wogan,—

"You are in the right. It is my business, and why? Because it touches you, Charles Wogan, and you are my friend."

"Therefore you will tell me," cried Wogan.

"Therefore I will not tell you," answered Gaydon. He had a very keen recollection of certain pages of poetry he had seen on the table at Schlestadt, of certain conversations in the berlin when he had feigned to sleep.

Wogan caught him by the arm.

"I must know. Here have I lost two hours out of one poor fortnight. I must know."

"Why?"

Gaydon stood quite unmoved, and with a remarkable sternness of expression. Wogan understood that only the truth would unlock his lips, and he cried,—

"Because unless I do, in a fortnight her Highness will refuse to marry the King." And he recounted to him the walk he had taken and the conversation he had held with Clementina that morning. Gaydon listened with an unfeigned surprise. The story put Wogan in quite a different light, and moreover it was told with so much sincerity of voice and so clear a simplicity of language, Gaydon could not doubt one syllable.

"I am afraid, my friend," said he, "my thoughts have done you some wrong—"

"Leave me out of them," cried Wogan, impatiently. He had no notion and no desire to hear what Gaydon meant. "Tell me from first to last what you saw in Rome."

Gaydon told him thereupon of that secret passage from the Chevalier's house into the back street, and of that promenade to the Princess's house which he had spied upon. Wogan listened without any remark, and yet without any attempt to quicken his informant. But as soon as he had the story, he set off at a run towards the Cardinal's palace. "So the Princess," he thought, "had more than a rumour to go upon, though how she came by her knowledge the devil only knows." At the palace he was told that the Cardinal was gone to the Archiginnasio.

"I will wait," said Wogan; and he waited in the library for an hour,—another priceless hour of that swiftly passing fortnight, and he was not a whit nearer to his end! He made it his business, however, to show a composed face to his Eminence, and since his Eminence's dinner was ready, to make a pretence of sharing the meal. The Cardinal was in a mood of great contentment.

"It is your presence, Mr. Wogan, puts me in a good humour," he was pleased to say.

"Or a certain letter your Eminence received from Spain to-day?" asked Wogan.

"True, the letter was one to cause all the King's friends satisfaction."

"And some few of them, perhaps, relief," said Wogan.

The Cardinal glanced at Wogan, but with a quite impassive countenance. He took a pinch of snuff and inhaled it delicately. Then he glanced at Wogan again.

"I have a hope, Mr. Wogan," said he, with a great cordiality. "You shall tell me if it is to fall. I see much of you of late, and I have a hope that you are thinking of the priesthood. We should welcome you very gladly, you may be sure. Who knows but what there is a Cardinal's hat hung up in the anteroom of the future for you to take down from its peg?"

The suggestion was sufficiently startling to Wogan, who had thought of nothing less than of entering into orders. But he was not to be diverted by this piece of ingenuity.

"Your Eminence," said he, "although I hold myself unworthy of priestly vows, I am here in truth in the character of a catechist."

"Catechise, then, my friend," said the Cardinal, with a smile.

"First, then, I would ask your Eminence how many of the King's followers have had the honour of being presented to the Princess Clementina?"

"Very few."

"Might I know the names?"

"To be sure."

Cardinal Origo repeated three or four names. They were the names of men known to Wogan for irreproachable loyalty. Not one of them would have gone about the Princess with slanders upon his master; he would have gone bail for them all,—at least, a month ago he would, he reflected, though now indeed he hardly knew where to put his trust.

"Her Highness lives, as you know, a very suitable, secluded life," continued Origo.

"But might not others have had access to her at the Pilgrim Inn?"

"Nay, she was there but the one night,—the night of her arrival. I do not think it likely. For if you remember, I myself went to her early the next morning, and by a stroke of good luck I had already come upon the little house in the garden which was offered to me by a friend of yours for her Highness's service."

"On the evening of our arrival? A friend of mine offered you the house," said Wogan, puzzling over who that friend could be.

"Yes. Harry Whittington."

Wogan started to his feet. So, after all, Whittington was at the bottom of the trouble. Wogan wondered whether he had done wisely not to publish the fellow's treachery. But he could not,—no, he had to make his account with the man alone. There were reasons.

"It was Harry Whittington who offered the house for her Highness's use?" Wogan exclaimed.

"It was an offer most apt and kind."

"And made on the evening of our arrival?"

"Not an hour after you left me. But you are surprised?"

Wogan was reflecting that on the evening of his arrival, and indeed just before Whittington made his offer to Origo, he had seen Whittington's face by the torchlight in the square. That face lived very plainly in Wogan's thoughts. It was certainly not for Clementina's service that Whittington had offered the house. Wogan resumed his seat, saying carelessly,—

"I was surprised, for I had a notion that Whittington lodged opposite the Torre Garisenda, and not at the house."

"Nor did he. He hired it for a friend who has now left Bologna."

"Man or woman?" asked Wogan, remembering that visitor who had drawn back into the alley one early morning of last autumn. The man might very likely have been Whittington.

"I did not trouble to inquire," said the Cardinal. "But, Mr. Wogan, why do you ask me these questions?"

"I have not come yet to the end of them," answered Wogan. "There is one more."

"Ask it!" said his Eminence, crossing his legs.

"Will your Eminence oblige me with a history of the affection of Maria Vittoria, Mlle. de Caprara, for the King?"

The Cardinal uncrossed his legs and bounced in his chair.

"Here is a question indeed!" he stuttered.

"And a history of the King's response to it," continued Wogan, implacably, "with a particular account of why the King lingers in Spain after the Cadiz expedition has put out to sea."

Origo was now quite still. His face was pale, and he had lost in an instant that air of affectation which so contrasted with his broad features.

"This is very dangerous talk," said he, solemnly.

"Not so dangerous as silence."

"Some foolish slanderer has been busy at your ears."

"Not at my ears," returned Wogan.

The Cardinal took his meaning. "Is it so, indeed?" said he, thoughtfully, once or twice. Then he reached out his hand towards an escritoire. "But here's the King's letter come this morning."

"It is not enough," said Wogan, "for the King lingers in Spain, and the portrait of Maria Vittoria glows on the walls of the Caprara Palace, whither I was bidden to escort her Highness this morning."

The Cardinal walked thoughtfully to and fro about the room, but made up his mind in the end.

"I will tell you the truth of the matter, Mr. Wogan. The King saw Mlle. de Caprara for the first time while you were searching Europe for a wife for him. He saw her here one morning at Mass in the Church of the Crucifixion, and came away most silent. Of their acquaintance I need not speak. The King just for one month became an ardent youth. He appealed to the Pope for his consent to marry Mlle. de Caprara, and the Pope consented. The King was just sending off a message to bid you cease your search when you came back with the news that her Highness the Princess Clementina had accepted the King's hand and would shortly set out for Bologna. Sir, the King was in despair, though he showed to you a smiling, grateful face. Mlle. de Caprara went to Rome; the King stayed here awaiting his betrothed. There came the news of her imprisonment. The King, after all, is a man. If his heart leaped a little at the news, who shall blame him? Do you remember how you came privately one night to the King's cabinet and found me there in the King's company?"

"But," stammered Wogan, "I do remember that evening. I remember that the King was pale, discouraged—"

"And why?" said Origo. "Because her Highness's journey had been interrupted, because the marriage now seemed impossible? No, but because Mr. Charles Wogan was back in Bologna, because Mr. Charles Wogan had sought for a private interview, because the King had no more doubt than I as to what Mr. Charles Wogan intended to propose, and because the King knew that what Mr. Wogan set his hand to was as good as done. You remember I threw such hindrances as I could in your way, and made much of the risks you must run, and the impossibility of your task. Now you know why."

Never was a man more confused than Wogan at this story of the Cardinal's. "It makes me out a mere meddlesome fool," he cried, and sat stunned.

"It is an unprofitable question at this time of day," said the Cardinal, with a smile. "Matters have gone so far that they can no longer be remedied. This marriage must take place."

"True," said Wogan.

"The King, indeed, is firmly inclined to it."

"Yet he lingers in Spain."

"That I cannot explain to you, but he has been most loyal. That you must take my word for, so must your Princess."

"Yet this winter when I was at Schlestadt preparing the expedition to Innspruck," Wogan said with a certain timidity, for he no longer felt that it was within his right to make reproaches, "the King was in Rome visiting Mlle. de Caprara."

The Cardinal flushed with some anger at Wogan's persistence.

"Come, sir," said he, "what has soured you with suspicions? Upon my word, here is a man sitting with me who bears your name, but few of those good qualities the name is linked with in my memories. Your King saw Mlle. de Caprara once in Rome, once only. Major Gaydon had come at your request to Rome to fetch a letter in the King's hand, bidding her Highness entrust herself to you. Up to that moment the issue of your exploit was in the balance. But your request was to the King a very certain sign that you would indeed succeed. So the night before he wrote the letter he went to the Caprara Palace and took his farewell of the woman he loved. So much may be pardoned to any man, even by you, who, it seems, stand pinnacled above these earthly affections."

The blood rushed into Wogan's face at the sneer, but he bowed his head to it, being much humbled by Origo's disclosures.

"This story I have told you," continued the Cardinal, "I will make bold to tell to-morrow to her Highness."

"But you must also explain why the King lingers in Spain," Wogan objected. "I am very certain of it. The Princess has her pride; she will not marry a reluctant man."

"Well, that I cannot do," cried the Cardinal, now fairly exasperated. "Pride! She has her pride! Is it to ruin a cause, this pride of hers? Is it to wreck a policy?"

"No," cried Wogan, starting up. "I have a fortnight. I beg your Eminence not to speak one word to her Highness until this fortnight is gone, until the eve of the marriage in Bologna. Give me till then. I have a hope there will be no need for us to speak at all."

The Cardinal shrugged his shoulders.

"You must do more than hope. Will you pledge your word to it?"

Here it seemed to Wogan was an occasion when a man must dare.

"Yes," he said, and so went out of the house. He had spoken under a sudden inspiration; the Cardinal's words had shown him a way which with careful treading might lead to his desired result. He went first to his lodging, and ordered his servant Marnier to saddle his black horse. Then he hurried again to O'Toole's lodging, and found his friend back from the bookseller's indeed, but breathing very hard of a book which he slid behind his back.

"I am to go on a journey," said Wogan, "and there's a delicate sort of work I would trust to you."

O'Toole looked distantly at Wogan.

"Opus," said he, in a far-away voice.

"I want you to keep an eye on the little house in the garden—"

O'Toole nodded. "Hortus, hortus, hortum," said he, "horti—hortus," and he fingered the book at his back, "no, horti, horto, horto. Do you know, my friend, that the difference between the second and fourth declensions was solely invented by the grammarians for their own profit. It is of no manner of use, and the most plaguy business that ever I heard of."

"O'Toole," cried Wogan, with a bang of his fist, "you are no more listening to me than this table."

At once O'Toole's face brightened, and with a shout of pride he reeled out, "Mensa, mensa, mensam, mensae, mensae, mensa." Wogan sprang up in a rage.

"Don't mensa, mensam me when I am talking most seriously to you! What is it you are after? What's that book you are hiding? Let me look at it!" O'Toole blushed on every visible inch of him and handed the book to Wogan.

"It's a Latin grammar, my friend," said he, meekly.

"And what in the world do you want to be addling your brains with a Latin grammar for, when there's other need for your eyes?"

"Aren't we to be enrolled at the Capitol in June as Roman Senators with all the ancient honours, cum titubis—it is so—cum titubis, which are psalters or pshawms?"

"Well, what then?"

"You don't understand, Charles, the difficulty of my position. You have Latin at your finger-ends. Sure, I have often admired you for your extraordinary comprehension of Latin, but never more than I do now. It will be no trouble in the world for you to trip off a neat little speech, thanking the Senators kindly for the great honour they are doing themselves in electing us into their noble body. But it will not be easy for me," said O'Toole, with a sigh. "How can I get enough Latin through my skull by June not to disgrace myself?" He looked so utterly miserable and distressed that Wogan never felt less inclined to laugh. "I sit up at nights with a lamp, but the most unaccountable thing happens. I may come in here as lively as any cricket, but the moment I take this book in my hands I am overpowered with sleep—"

"Oh, listen to me," cried Wogan. "I have only a fortnight—"

"And I have only till June," sighed O'Toole. "But there! I am listening. I have no doubt, my friend, your business is more important than mine," he said with the simplicity of which not one of his friends could resist the appeal. Wogan could not now.

"My business," he said, "is only more important because you have no need of your Latin grammar at all. There's a special deputy, a learned professor, appointed on these occasions to make a speech for us, and all we have to do is to sit still and nod our heads wisely when he looks towards us."

"Is that all?" cried O'Toole, jumping up. "Swear it!"

"I do," said Wogan; and "Here's to the devil with the Latin grammar!" exclaimed O'Toole. He flung open his window and hurled the book out across the street with the full force of his prodigious arm. There followed a crash and then the tinkle of falling glass. O'Toole beamed contentedly and shut the window.

"Now what will I do for you in return for this?" he asked.

"Keep a watch on the little house and the garden. I will tell you why when I return. Observe who goes in to visit the Princess, but hinder no one. Only remember who they are and let me know." And Wogan got back to his lodging and mounted his black horse. He could trust O'Toole to play watchdog in his absence. If the mysterious visitor who had bestowed upon Clementina with so liberal a hand so much innuendo and such an artful combination of truth and falsity, were to come again to the little house to confirm the slanders, Wogan in the end would not fail to discover the visitor's identity.

He dismissed the matter from his mind and rode out from Bologna. Four days afterwards he presented himself at the door of the Caprara Palace.



CHAPTER XXIV

Maria Vittoria received the name of her visitor with a profound astonishment. Then she stamped her foot and said violently, "Send him away! I hate him." But curiosity got the better of her hate. She felt a strong desire to see the meddlesome man who had thrust himself between her and her lover; and before her woman had got so far as the door, she said, "Let him up to me!" She was again surprised when Wogan was admitted, for she expected a stout and burly soldier, stupid and confident, of the type which blunders into success through sheer ignorance of the probabilities of defeat. Mr. Wogan, for his part, saw the glowing original of the picture at Bologna, but armed at all points with hostility.

"Your business," said she, curtly. Wogan no less curtly replied that he had a wish to escort Mlle. de Caprara to Bologna. He spoke as though he was suggesting a walk on the Campagna.

"And why should I travel to Bologna?" she asked. Wogan explained. The explanation required delicacy, but he put it in as few words as might be. There were slanderers at work. Her Highness the Princess Clementina was in great distress; a word from Mlle. de Caprara would make all clear.

"Why should I trouble because the Princess Clementina has a crumpled rose-leaf in her bed? I will not go," said Mlle. de Caprara.

"Yet her Highness may justly ask why the King lingers in Spain." Wogan saw a look, a smile of triumph, brighten for an instant on the angry face.

"It is no doubt a humiliation to the Princess Clementina," said Maria Vittoria, with a great deal of satisfaction. "But she must learn to bear humiliation like other women."

"But she will reject the marriage," urged Wogan.

"The fool!" cried Maria Vittoria, and she laughed almost gaily. "I will not budge an inch to persuade her to it. Let her fancy what she will and weep over it! I hate her; therefore she is out of my thought."

Wogan was not blind to the inspiriting effect of his argument upon Maria Vittoria. He had, however, foreseen it, and he continued imperturbably,—

"No doubt you think me something of a fool, too, to advance so unlikely a plea. But if her Highness rejects the marriage, who suffers? Her Highness's name is already widely praised for her endurance, her constancy. If, after all, at the last moment she scornfully rejects that for which she has so stoutly ventured, whose name, whose cause, will suffer most? It will be one more misfortune, one more disaster, to add to the crushing weight under which the King labours. There will be ignominy; who will be dwarfed by it? There will be laughter; whom will it souse? There will be scandal; who will be splashed by it? The Princess or the King?"

Maria Vittoria stood with her brows drawn together in a frown. "I will not go," she said after a pause. "Never was there so presumptuous a request. No, I will not."

Wogan made his bow and retired. But he was at the Caprara Palace again in the morning, and again he was admitted. He noticed without regret that Maria Vittoria bore the traces of a restless night.

"What should I say if I went with you?" she asked.

"You would say why the King lingers in Spain."

Maria Vittoria gave a startled look at Wogan.

"Do you know why?"

"You told me yesterday."

"Not in words."

"There are other ways of speech."

That one smile of triumph had assured Wogan that the King's delay was her doing and a condition of their parting.

"How will my story, though I told it, help?" asked Mlle. de Caprara. Wogan had no doubts upon that score. The story of the Chevalier and Maria Vittoria had a strong parallel in Clementina's own history. Circumstance and duty held them apart, as it held apart Clementina and Wogan himself. In hearing Maria Vittoria's story, Clementina would hear her own; she must be moved to sympathy with it; she would regard with her own generous eyes those who played unhappy parts in its development; she could have no word of censure, no opportunity for scorn.

"Tell the story," said Wogan. "I will warrant the result."

"No, I will not go," said she; and again Wogan left the house. And again he came the next morning.

"Why should I go?" said Maria Vittoria, rebelliously. "Say what you have said to me to her! Speak to her of the ignominy which will befall the King! Tell her how his cause will totter! Why talk of this to me? If she loves the King, your words will persuade her. For on my life they have nearly persuaded me."

"If she loves the King!" said Wogan, quietly, and Maria Vittoria stared at him. There was something she had not conjectured before.

"Oh, she does not love him!" she said in wonderment. Her wonderment swiftly changed to contempt. "The fool! Let her go on her knees and pray for a modest heart. There's my message to her. Who is she that she should not love him?" But it nevertheless altered a trifle pleasurably Maria Vittoria's view of the position. It was pain to her to contemplate the Chevalier's marriage, a deep, gnawing, rancorous pain, but the pain was less, once she could believe he was to marry a woman who did not love him. She despised the woman for her stupidity; none the less, that was the wife she would choose, if she must needs choose another than herself. "I have a mind to see this fool-woman of yours," she said doubtfully. "Why does she not love the King?"

Wogan could have answered that she had never seen him. He thought silence, however, was the more expressive. The silence led Maria Vittoria to conjecture.

"Is there another picture at her heart?" she asked, and again Wogan was silent. "Whose, then? You will not tell me."

It might have been something in Wogan's attitude or face which revealed the truth to her; it might have been her recollection of what the King had said concerning Wogan's enthusiasm; it might have been merely her woman's instinct. But she started and took a step towards Wogan. Her eyes certainly softened. "I will go with you to Bologna," she said; and that afternoon with the smallest equipment she started from Rome. Wogan had ridden alone from Bologna to Rome in four days; he had spent three days in Rome; he now took six days to return in company with Mlle. de Caprara and her few servants. He thus arrived in Bologna on the eve of that day when he was to act as the King's proxy in the marriage.

It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when the tiny cavalcade clattered through the Porta Castiglione. Wogan led the way to the Pilgrim Inn, where he left Maria Vittoria, saying that he would return at nightfall. He then went on foot to O'Toole's lodging. O'Toole, however, had no news for him.

"There has been no mysterious visitor," said he.

"There will be one to-night," answered Wogan. "I shall need you."

"I am ready," said O'Toole.

The two friends walked back to the Pilgrim Inn. They were joined by Maria Vittoria, and they then proceeded to the little house among the trees. Outside the door in the garden wall Wogan posted O'Toole.

"Let no one pass," said he, "till we return."

He knocked on the door, and after a little delay—for the night had fallen, and there was no longer a porter at the gate—a little hatch was opened, and a servant inquired his business.

"I come with a message of the utmost importance," said Wogan. "I beg you to inform her Highness that the Chevalier Wogan prays for two words with her."

The hatch was closed, and the servant's footsteps were heard to retreat. Wogan's anxieties had been increasing with every mile of that homeward journey. On his ride to Rome he had been sensible of but one obstacle,—the difficulty of persuading the real Vittoria to return with him. But once that had been removed, others sprang to view, and each hour enlarged them. There was but this one night, this one interview! Upon the upshot of it depended whether a woman, destined by nature for a queen, should set her foot upon the throne-steps, whether a cause should suffer its worst of many eclipses, whether Europe should laugh or applaud. These five minutes while he waited outside the door threw him into a fever. "You will be friendly," he implored Mlle. de Caprara. "Oh, you cannot but be! She must marry the King. I plead for him, not the least bit in the world for her. For his sake she must complete the work she has begun. She is not obstinate; she has her pride as a woman should. You will tell her just the truth,—of the King's loyalty and yours. Hearts cannot be commanded. Alas, mademoiselle, it is a hard world at the end of it. It is mortised with the blood of broken hearts. But duty, mademoiselle, duty, a consciousness of rectitude,—these are very noble qualities. It will be a high consolation, mademoiselle, one of these days, when the King sits upon his throne in England, to think that your self-sacrifice had set him there." And Mr. Wogan hopped like a bear on hot bricks, twittering irreproachable sentiments until the garden door was opened.

Beyond the door stretched a level space of grass intersected by a gravel path. Along this path the servant led Wogan and his companion into the house. There were lights in the windows on the upper floor, and a small lamp illuminated the hall. But the lower rooms were dark. The servant mounted the stairs, and opening the door of a little library, announced the Chevalier Wogan. Wogan led his companion in by the hand.

"Your Highness," said he, "I have the honour to present to you the Princess Maria Vittoria Caprara." He left the two women standing opposite to and measuring each other silently; he closed the door and went down stairs into the hall. A door in the hall opened on to a small parlour, with windows giving on to the garden. There once before Lady Featherstone and Harry Whittington had spoken of Wogan's love for the Princess Clementina and speculated upon its consequences. Now Wogan sat there alone in the dark, listening to the women's voices overhead. He had come to the end of his efforts and could only wait. At all events, the women were talking, that was something; if he could only hear them weeping! The sound of tears would have been very comforting to Wogan at that moment, but he only heard the low voices talking, talking. He assured himself over and over again that this meeting could not fail of its due result. That Maria Vittoria had exacted some promise which held his King in Spain he was now aware. She would say what that promise was, the condition of their parting. She had come prepared to say it—and the thread of Wogan's reasonings was abruptly cut. It seemed to him that he heard something more than the night breeze through the trees,—a sound of feet upon the gravel path, a whispering of voices.

The windows were closed, but not shuttered. Wogan pressed his eyes to the pane and looked out. The night was dark, and the sky overclouded. But he had been sitting for some minutes in the darkness, and his eyes were able to prove that his ears had not deceived him. For he saw the dim figures of two men standing on the lawn before the window. They appeared to be looking at the lighted windows on the upper floor, then one of them waved to his companion to stand still, and himself walked towards the door. Wogan noticed that he made no attempt at secrecy; he walked with a firm tread, careless whether he set his foot on gravel or on grass. As this man approached the door, Wogan slipped into the hall and opened it. But he blocked the doorway, wondering whether these men had climbed the wall or whether O'Toole had deserted his post.

O'Toole had not deserted his post, but he had none the less admitted these two men. For Wogan and Maria Vittoria had barely been ten minutes within the house when O'Toole heard the sound of horses' hoofs in the entrance of the alley. They stopped just within the entrance. O'Toole distinguished three horses, he saw the three riders dismount; and while one of the three held the horses, the other two walked on foot towards the postern-door.

O'Toole eased his sword in its scabbard.

"The little fellows thought to catch Charles Wogan napping," he said to himself with a smile, and he let them come quite close to him. He was standing motionless in the embrasure of the door, nor did he move when the two men stopped and whispered together, nor when they advanced again, one behind the other. But he remarked that they held their cloaks to their faces. At last they came to a halt just in front of O'Toole. The leader produced a key.

"You stand in my way, my friend," said he, pleasantly, and he pushed by O'Toole to the lock of the door. O'Toole put out a hand, caught him by the shoulder, and sent him spinning into the road. The man came back, however, and though out of breath, spoke no less pleasantly than before.

"I wish to enter," said he. "I have important business."

O'Toole bowed with the utmost dignity.

"Romanus civis sum," said he. "Sum senator too. Dic Latinam linguam, amicus meus."

O'Toole drew a breath; he could not but feel that he had acquitted himself with credit. He half began to regret that there was to be a learned professor to act as proxy on that famous day at the Capitol. His antagonist drew back a little and spoke no longer pleasantly.

"Here's tomfoolery that would be as seasonable at a funeral," said he, and he advanced again, still hiding his face. "Sir, you are blocking my way. I have authority to pass through that door in the wall."

"Murus?" asked O'Toole. He shook his head in refusal.

"And by what right do you refuse me?"

O'Toole had an inspiration. He swept his arm proudly round and gave the reason of his refusal.

"Balbus aedificabat murum," said he; and a voice that made O'Toole start cried, "Enough of this! Stand aside, whoever you may be."

It was the second of the two men who spoke, and he dropped the cloak from his face. "The King!" exclaimed O'Toole, and he stood aside. The two men passed into the garden, and Wogan saw them from the window.

Just as O'Toole had blocked the King's entrance into the garden, so did Wogan bar his way into the house.

"Who, in Heaven's name, are you?" cried the Chevalier.

"Nay, there's a question for me to ask," said Wogan.

"Wogan!" cried the Chevalier, and "The King!" cried Wogan in one breath.

Wogan fell back; the Chevalier pushed into the hall and turned.

"So it is true. I could not, did not, believe it. I came from Spain to prove it false. I find it true," he said in a low voice. "You whom I so trusted! God help me, where shall I look for honour?"

"Here, your Majesty," answered Wogan, without an instant's hesitation,—"here, in this hall. There, in the rooms above."

He had seized the truth in the same second when he recognised his King, and the King's first words had left him in no doubt. He knew now why he had never found Harry Whittington in any corner of Bologna. Harry Whittington had been riding to Spain.

The Chevalier laughed harshly.

"Sir, I suspect honour which needs such barriers to protect it. You are here, in this house, at this hour, with a sentinel to forbid intrusion at the garden door. Explain me this honourably."

"I had the honour to escort a visitor to her Highness, and I wait until the visit is at an end."

"What? Can you not better that excuse?" said the Chevalier. "A visitor! We will make acquaintance, Mr. Wogan, with your visitor, unless you have another sentinel to bar my way;" and he put his foot upon the step of the stairs.

"I beg your Majesty to pause," said Wogan, firmly. "Your thoughts wrong me, and not only me."

"Prove me that!"

"I say boldly, 'Here is a servant who loves his Queen!' What then?"

"This! That you should say, 'Here is a man who loves a woman,—loves her so well he gives his friends the slip, and with the woman comes alone to Peri.'"

"Ah. To Peri! So I thought," began Wogan, and the Chevalier whispered,—

"Silence! You raise your voice too high. You no doubt are anxious in your great respect that there should be some intimation of my coming. But I dispense with ceremony. I will meet this fine visitor of yours at once;" and he ran lightly up the stairs.

Then Wogan did a bold thing. He followed, he sprang past the King, he turned at the stair-top and barred the way.

"Sir, I beg you to listen to me," he said quietly.

"Beg!" said the Chevalier, leaning back against the wall with his dark eyes blazing from a white face; "you insist."

"Your Majesty will yet thank me for my insistence." He drew a pocket-book out of his coat. "At Peri in Italy we were attacked by five soldiers sent over the border by the Governor of Trent. Who guided those five soldiers? Your Majesty's confidant and friend, who is now, I thank God, waiting in the garden. Here is the written confession of the leader of the five. I pray your Majesty to read it."

Wogan held out the paper. The Chevalier hesitated and took it. Then he read it once and glanced at it again. He passed his hand over his forehead.

"Whom shall I trust?" said he, in a voice of weariness.

"What honest errand was taking Whittington to Peri?" asked Wogan, and again the Chevalier read a piece here and there of the confession. Wogan pressed his advantage. "Whittington is not the only one of Walpole's men who has hoodwinked us the while he filled his pockets. There are others, one, at all events, who did not need to travel to Spain for an ear to poison;" and he leaned forward towards the Chevalier.

"What do you mean?" asked the Chevalier, in a startled voice.

"Why, sir, that the same sort of venomous story breathed to you in Spain has been spoken here in Bologna, only with altered names. I told your Majesty I brought a visitor to this house to-night. I did; there was no need I should, since the marriage is fixed for to-morrow. I brought her all the way from Rome."

"From Rome?" exclaimed the Chevalier.

"Yes;" and Wogan flung open the door of the library, and drawing himself up announced in his loudest voice, "The King!"

A loud cry came through the opening. It was not Clementina's voice which uttered it. The Chevalier recognised the cry. He stood for a moment or two looking at Wogan. Then he stepped over the threshold, and Wogan closed the door behind him. But as he closed it he heard Maria Vittoria speak. She said,—

"Your Majesty, a long while ago, when you bade me farewell, I demanded of you a promise, which I have but this moment explained to the Princess, who now deigns to call me friend. Your Majesty has broken the promise. I had no right to demand it. I am very glad."

Wogan went downstairs. He could leave the three of them shut up in that room to come by a fitting understanding. Besides, there was other work for him below,—work of a simple kind, to which he had now for some weeks looked forward. He crept down the stairs very stealthily. The hall door was still open. He could see dimly the figure of a man standing on the grass.

* * * * *

When the Chevalier came down into the garden an hour afterwards, a man was still standing on the grass. The man advanced to him. "Who is it?" asked the Chevalier, drawing back. The voice which answered him was Wogan's.

"And Whittington?"

"He has gone," replied Wogan.

"You have sent him away?"

"I took so much upon myself."

The Chevalier held out his hand to Wogan. "I have good reason to thank you," said he, and before he could say another word, a door shut above, and Maria Vittoria came down the stairs towards them. O'Toole was still standing sentry at the postern-door, and the three men escorted the Princess Caprara to the Pilgrim Inn. She had spoken no word during the walk, but as she turned in the doorway of the inn, the light struck upon her face and showed that her eyes glistened. To the Chevalier she said, "I wish you, my lord, all happiness, and the boon of a great love. With all my heart I wish it;" and as he bowed over her hand, she looked across his shoulder to Wogan.

"I will bid you farewell to-morrow," she said with a smile, and the Chevalier explained her saying afterwards as they accompanied him to his lodging.

"Mlle. de Caprara will honour us with her presence to-morrow. You will still act as my proxy, Wogan. I am not yet returned from Spain. I wish no questions or talk about this evening's doings. Your friend will remember that?"

"My friend, sir," said Wogan, "who was with me at Innspruck, is Captain Lucius O'Toole of Dillon's regiment."

"Et senator too," said the Chevalier, with a laugh; and he added a friendly word or two which sent O'Toole back to his lodging in a high pleasure. Wogan walked thither with him and held out his hand at the door.

"But you will come up with me," said O'Toole. "We will drink a glass together, for God knows when we speak together again. I go back to Schlestadt to-morrow."

"Ah, you go back," said Wogan; and he came in at the door and mounted the stairs. At the first landing he stopped.

"Let me rouse Gaydon."

"Gaydon went three days ago."

"Ah! And Misset is with his wife. Here are we all once more scattered, and, as you say, God knows when we shall speak together again;" and he went on to the upper storey.

O'Toole remarked that he dragged in his walk and that his voice had a strange, sad note of melancholy.

"My friend," said he, "you have the black fit upon you; you are plainly discouraged. Yet to-night sees the labour of many months brought to its due close;" and as he lit the candles on his chimney, he was quite amazed by the white, tired face which the light showed to him. Wogan, indeed, harassed by misgivings, and worn with many vigils, presented a sufficiently woe-begone picture. The effect was heightened by the disorder of his clothes, which were all daubed with clay in a manner quite surprising to O'Toole, who knew the ground to be dry underfoot.

"True," answered Wogan, "the work ends to-night. Months ago I rode down this street in the early morning, and with what high hopes! The work ends to-night, and may God forgive me for a meddlesome fellow. Cup and ball's a fine game, but it is ill playing it with women's hearts;" and he broke off suddenly. "I'll give you a toast, Lucius! Here's to the Princess Clementina!" and draining his glass he stood for a while, lost in the recollecting of that flight from Innspruck; he was far away from Bologna thundering down the Brenner through the night, with the sparks striking from the wheels of the berlin, and all about him a glimmering, shapeless waste of snow.

"To the Princess—no, to the Queen she was born to be," cried O'Toole, and Wogan sprang at him.

"You saw that," he exclaimed, his eyes lighting, his face transfigured in the intensity of this moment's relief. "Aye,—to love a nation,—that is her high destiny. For others, a husband, a man; for her, a nation. And you saw it! It is evident, to be sure. Yet this or that thing she did, this or that word she spoke, assured you, eh? Tell me what proved to you here was no mere woman, but a queen!"

The morning had dawned before Wogan had had his fill. O'Toole was very well content to see his friend's face once more quivering like a boy's with pleasure, to hear him laugh, to watch the despondency vanish from his aspect. "There's another piece of good news," he said at the end, "which I had almost forgotten to tell you. Jenny and the Princess's mother are happily set free. It seems Jenny swore from daybreak to daybreak, and the Pope used his kindliest offices, and for those two reasons the Emperor was glad to let them go. But there's a question I would like to ask you. One little matter puzzles me."

"Ask your question," said Wogan.

"To-night through that door in the garden wall which I guarded, there went in yourself and a lady,—the King and a companion he had with him,—four people. Out of that door there came yourself, the lady, and the King,—three people."

"Ah," said Wogan, as he stood up with a strange smile upon his lips, "I have a deal of clay upon my clothes."

O'Toole nodded his head wisely once or twice. "I am answered," he said. "Is it indeed so?" He understood, however, nothing except that the room had suddenly grown cold.



CHAPTER XXV

An account remains of the marriage ceremony, which took place the next morning in Cardinal Origo's house. It was of the simplest kind and was witnessed by few. Murray, Misset and his wife, and Maria Vittoria de Caprara made the public part of the company; Wogan stood for the King; and the Marquis of Monti Boulorois for James Sobieski, the bride's father. Bride and bridegroom played their parts bravely and well, one must believe, for the chronicler speaks of their grace and modesty of bearing. Clementina rose at five in the morning, dressed in a robe of white, tied a white ribbon about her hair, and for her only ornament fixed a white collar of pearls about her neck. In this garb she went at once to the church of San Domenico, where she made her confession, and from the church to the Cardinal's Palace. There the Cardinal, with one Maas, an English priest from Rome, at his elbow, was already waiting for her. Mr. Wogan thereupon read the procuration, for which he had ridden to Rome in haste so many months before, and pronounced the consent of the King his master to its terms. Origo asked the Princess whether she likewise consented, and the manner in which she spoke her one word, "Yes," seems to have stirred the historian to paeans. It seems that all the virtues launched that one little word, and were clearly expressed in it. The graces, too, for once in a way went hand in hand with the virtues. Never was a "Yes" so sweetly spoken since the earth rose out of the sea. In a word, there was no ruffle of the great passion which these two, man and woman, had trodden beneath their feet. She did not hint of Iphigenia; he borrowed no plumes from Don Quixote. Nor need one fancy that their contentment was all counterfeit. They were neither of them grumblers, and "fate" and "destiny" were words seldom upon their lips.

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