"Yes; our Majesty—our King"—replied De Launay—"For some inscrutable reason or other he has suddenly adopted the dangerous policy of speaking his mind. What now?"
"What now? Why nothing particular just now,—unless you have something to tell me. Which, judging from your entangled expression of eye, I presume you have."
De Launay hesitated a moment. The Professor saw his hesitation.
"Do not speak, my friend, if you think you are committing a breach of confidence," he said composedly—"In the brief affairs of this life, it is better to keep trouble on your own mind than impart it to others."
"Oh, there is no breach of confidence;" said De Launay, "The thing is as public as the day, or if it is not public already, it soon will be made so. That is where the mischief comes in,—or so I think. Judge for yourself!" And in a few words he gave the gist of the interview which had taken place between the King and the emissary of the Jesuits that morning.
"Nothing surprises me as a rule,"—said the Professor, when he had heard all—"But if anything could prick the sense of astonishment anew in me, it would be to think that anyone, king or commoner, should take the trouble to speak truth to a Jesuit. Why, the very essence of their carefully composed and diplomatic creed, is to so disguise truth that it shall be no more recognisable. Myself, I believe the Jesuits to be the lineal descendants of those priests who served Bel and the Dragon. The art of conjuring and deception is in their very blood. It is for the Jesuits that I have invented a beautiful new verb,—'To hypocrise.' It sounds well. Here is the present tense,—'I hypocrise, Thou hypocrisest, He hypocrises:—We hypocrise, You hypocrise, They hypocrise.' Now hear the future. 'I shall hypocrise, Thou shalt hypocrise, He shall hypocrise; We shall hypocrise, You shall hypocrise, They shall hypocrise.' There is the whole art of Jesuitry for you, made grammatically perfect!"
De Launay gave a gesture of impatience, and flung away the end of his half-smoked cigar.
"Ach! That is a sign of temper, Roger!" said Von Glauben, shaking his head—"To lift one's shoulders to the lobes of one's ears, and waste nearly the half of an exceedingly expensive and choice Havana, shows nervous irritation! You are angry, my friend—and with me!"
"No I am not," replied De Launay, rising from his chair and beginning to pace the room—"But I do not profess to have your phlegmatic disposition. I feel what I thought you would feel also,—that the King is exposing himself to unnecessary danger. And I know what you do not yet know, but what this letter will no doubt inform you,"—and he drew an envelope bearing the Royal seal from his pocket and handed it to the Professor—"Namely,—that his Majesty is bent on rushing voluntarily into various other perils, unless perhaps, your warning or advice may hinder him. Mine has no effect,—moreover I am bound to serve him as he bids."
"Equally am I also bound to serve him;"—said Von Glauben, "And gladly and faithfully do I intend to perform my service wherever it may lead me!" Whereupon, shaking himself out of his recumbent position, like a great lion rolling out of his lair, he stood upright, and breaking the seal of the envelope he held, read its contents through in silence. Sir Roger stood opposite to him, watching his face in vain for any sign of astonishment, regret or dismay.
"We must do as he commands,"—he said simply as he finished reading the letter and folded it up for safe keeping—"There is no other way; not for me at least. I shall most assuredly be at the appointed place, at the appointed hour, and in the appointed manner. It will be a change; certainly lively, and possibly beneficial!"
"But the King's life—"
"Is in God's keeping!" said Von Glauben,—"Believe me, Roger, no harm comes undeservedly to a brave man with a good conscience! It is a bad conscience which invites mischief. I am a great believer in the law of attraction. The good attracts the good,—the bad, the bad. That is why truthful persons are generally lonely—because nearly all the world's inhabitants are liars!"
"But the King—" again began Sir Roger.
"The King is a man!" said Von Glauben, with a flash of pride in his eyes—"Which is more than I will say for most kings! Who shall blame him for asserting his manhood? Not I! Not you! Who shall blame him for seeking to know the real position of things in the country he governs? Not I! Not you! Our business is to guard and defend him—with our own lives, if necessary,—we shall do that with a will, Roger, shall we not?" And with an impulsive quickness of action, he took a sword from a stand of weapons near him, drew it from its scabbard and kissing the hilt, held it out to De Launay who did the same—"That is understood! And for the rest, Roger my friend, take it all lightly and easily—as a farce!—as a bit of human comedy, with a great actor cast for the chief role. We are only supers, you and I, but we shall do well to stand near the wings in case of fire!"
He drew himself up to his great height and squared his shoulders,—then smiled benevolently.
"I believe it will be all very amusing, Roger; and that your fears for the safety of his Majesty will be proved groundless. Remember, Court life is excessively dull,—truly the dullest form of existence on earth,—it is quite natural that he who is the most bored by it should desire some break in the terrible monotony!"
"The monotony will certainly be broken with a vengeance, if the King continues in his present humour!"—said De Launay grimly.
"Possibly! And let us hope the comfortable self-assurance and complacency of a certain successful Minister may be somewhat seriously disturbed!" rejoined Von Glauben,—"For myself, I assure you I see sport!"
"And I scent danger,"—said De Launay—"For if any mischance happen to the King, the Prince is not ripe enough to rule."
A slight shadow darkened the Professor's open countenance. He looked fixedly at Sir Roger, who met his gaze with equal fixity.
"The Prince,"—he said slowly—"is young—"
"And rash—" interposed De Launay.
"No. Pardon me, my friend! Not rash. Merely honest. That is all! He is a very honest young man indeed. It is unfortunate that he is so; a ploughman may be honest if he likes, but a prince—never!"
De Launay was silent.
"I will now destroy a world"—continued Von Glauben, "Kings, emperors, popes, councillors and common folk, can all perish incontinently,—as— being myself for the present the free agent of the Deity concerned in the matter,—I have something else to do than to look after them,"—and he took up the glass vessel containing the animalculae he had been watching, and cast it with its contents into a small stove burning dimly at one end of the apartment,—"Gone are their ambitions and confabulations for ever! How easy for the Creator to do the same thing with us, Roger! Let us not talk of any special danger for the King or for any man, seeing that we are all on the edge of an eternal volcano!"
De Launay stood absorbed for a moment, as if in deep thought. Then rousing himself abruptly he said:—
"You will not see the King, and speak with him before to-morrow night?"
"Why should I?" queried the Professor. "His wish is a command which I must obey. Besides, my good Roger, all the arguments in the world will not turn a man from having his own way if he has once made up his own mind. Advice from me on the present matter would be merely taken as an impertinence. Moreover I have no advice to give,—I rather approve of the plan!"
Sir Roger looked at him; and noting the humorous twinkle in his eyes smiled, though somewhat gravely.
"I hope, with you, that the experiment may only prove an amusing one," he said—"But life is not always a farce!"
"Not always, but often! When it is not a farce it is a tragedy. And such a tragedy! My God! Horrible—monstrous—cruel beyond conception, and enough to make one believe in Hell and doubt Heaven!"
He spoke passionately, in a voice vibrating with strong emotion. De Launay glanced at him wonderingly, but did not speak.
"When you see tender young children tortured by disease," he went on,— "Fair and gentle women made the victims of outrage and brutality— strong men killed in their thousands to gain a little additional gold, an extra slice of empire,—then you see the tragic, the inexplicable, the crazy cruelty of putting into us this little pulse called Life. But I try not to think of this—it is no use thinking!"
He paused,—then in his usual quiet tone said:
"To-morrow night, then, my friend?"
"To-morrow night," rejoined De Launay,—"Unless you receive further instructions from the King."
At that moment the clear call of a trumpet echoing across the battlements of the palace denoted the hour for changing the sentry. "Sunset already!" said Von Glauben, walking to the window and throwing back the heavy curtain which partially shaded it, "And yonder is Prince Humphry's yacht on its homeward way."
De Launay came and stood beside him, looking out. Before them the sea glistened with a thousand tints of lustrous opal in the light of the sinking sun, which, surrounded by mountainous heights of orange and purple cloud, began to touch the water-line with a thousand arrowy darts of flame. The white-sailed vessel on which their eyes were fixed, came curtseying over the waves through a perfect arch of splendid colour, like a fairy or phantom ship evoked from a poet's dream.
"Absent all day, as he has been," said De Launay, "his Royal Highness is punctual to the promised hour of his return."
"He is, as I told you, honest;" said Von Glauben, "and it is possible his honesty will be his misfortune."
De Launay muttered something inaudible in answer, and turned to leave the apartment.
Von Glauben looked at him with an affectionate solicitude.
"What a lucky thing it is you never married, Roger! Otherwise you would now be going to tell your wife all about the King's plans! Then she, sweet creature, would go to confession,—and her confessor would tell a bishop,—and a bishop would tell a cardinal,—and a cardinal would tell a confidential monsignor,—and the confidential monsignor would tell the Supreme Pontiff,—and so all the world would be ringing with the news started by one little pretty wagging tongue of a woman!"
A faint flush coloured De Launay's bronzed cheek, but he laughed.
"True! I am glad I have never married. I am still more glad—of circumstances"—he paused,—then went on, "which have so chanced to me that I shall never marry." He paused again—then added—"I must be gone, Von Glauben! I have to meet Prince Humphry at the quay with a message from his Majesty."
"Surely," said the Professor, opening his eyes very wide, "The Prince is not to be included in our adventure?"
"By no means!" replied De Launay,—"But the King is not pleased with his son's frequent absences from Court, and desires to speak with him on the matter."
Von Glauben looked grave.
"There will be some little trouble there," he said, with a half sigh— "Ach! Who knows! Perhaps some great trouble!"
"Heaven forbid!" ejaculated Sir Roger,—"We live in times of peace. We want no dissension with either the King or the people. Till to-morrow night then?"
"Till to-morrow night!" responded Von Glauben, whereupon Sir Roger with a brief word of farewell, strode away.
Left to himself, the Professor still stood at his window watching the approach of the Prince's yacht, which came towards the shore with such swift and stately motion through the portals of the sunset, over the sparkling water.
"Unfortunate Humphry!" he muttered,—"What a secret he has entrusted me with! And yet why do I call him unfortunate? There should be nothing to regret—and yet—! Well! The mischief was done before poor Heinrich von Glauben was consulted; and if poor Heinrich were God and the Devil rolled into one strange Eternal Monster, he could not have prevented it! What is done, can never be undone!"
"IF I LOVED YOU!"
A singular pomp is sometimes associated with the announcement that my Lord Pedigree, or Mister Nobody has 'had the honour of dining' with their Majesties the King and Queen. Outsiders read the thrilling line with awe and envy,—and many of them are foolish enough to wish that they also were Lords Pedigree or Misters Nobody. As a matter of sad and sober fact, however, a dinner with royal personages is an extremely dull affair. 'Do not speak unless you are spoken to,' is a rule which, however excellent and necessary in Court etiquette, is apt to utterly quench conversation, and render the brightest spirits dull and inert. The silent and solemn movements of the Court flunkeys,—the painful attitudes of those who are not 'spoken to'; the eager yet laboured smiles of those who are 'spoken to ';—the melancholy efforts at gaiety—the dread of trespassing on tabooed subjects—these things tend to make all but the most independent and unfettered minds shrink from such an ordeal as the 'honour' of dining with kings. It must, however, be conceded that the kings themselves are fully aware of the tediousness of their dinner parties, and would lighten the boredom if they could; but etiquette forbids. The particular monarch whose humours are the subject of this 'plain unvarnished' history would have liked nothing better than to be allowed to dine in simplicity and peace without his conversation being noted, and without having a flunkey at hand to watch every morsel of food go into his mouth. He would have liked to eat freely, talk freely, and conduct himself generally with the ease of a private gentleman.
All this being denied to him, he hated the dinner-hour as ardently as he hated receiving illuminated addresses, and the freedom of cities. Yet all things costly and beautiful were combined to make his royal table a picture which would have pleased the eyes and taste of a Marguerite de Valois. On the evening of the day on which he had determined, as he had said to himself, to 'begin to reign,' it looked more than usually attractive. Some trifling chance had made the floral decorations more tasteful—some amiable humour of the providence which rules daily events, had ordained that two or three of the prettiest Court ladies should be present;—Prince Humphry and his two brothers, Rupert and Cyprian, were at table,—and though conversation was slow and scant, the picturesqueness of the scene was not destroyed by silence. The apartment which was used as a private dining-room when their Majesties had no guests save the members of their own household, was in itself a gem of art and architecture,—it had been designed and painted from floor to ceiling by one of the most famous of the dead and gone masters, and its broad windows opened out on a white marble loggia fronting the ocean, where festoons of flowers clambered and hung, in natural tufts and trails of foliage and blossom, mingling their sweet odours with the fresh scent of the sea. Amid all the glow and delicacy of colour, the crowning perfection of the perfect environment was the Queen-Consort, lovelier in her middle-age than most women in their teens. An exquisite figure of stateliness and dignity, robed in such hues and adorned with such jewels as best suited her statuesque beauty, and attended by ladies of whose more youthful charms she was never envious, having indeed no cause for envy, she was a living defiance to the ravages of time, and graced her royal husband's dinner-table with the same indifferent ease as she graced his throne, unchanging in the dazzling light of her physical faultlessness. He, looking at her with mingled impatience and sadness, almost wished she would grow older in appearance with her years, and lose that perfect skin, white as alabaster,—that glittering but cold luminance of eye. For experience had taught him the worthlessness of beauty unaccompanied by tenderness, and fair faces had no longer the first attraction for him. His eldest son, Prince Humphry, bore a strong resemblance to himself,—he was tall and slim, with a fine face, and a well-built muscular figure; the other two younger princes, Rupert and Cyprian, aged respectively eighteen and sixteen, were like their mother,—beautiful in form and feature, but as indifferent to all tenderness of thought and sentiment as they were full of splendid health and vigour. And, despite the fact that the composition and surroundings of his household were, to all outward appearances, as satisfactory as a man in his position could expect them to be, the King was intellectually and spiritually aware of the emptiness of the shell he called 'home.'
Love was lacking; his beautiful wife was the ice-wall against which all waves of feeling froze as they fell into the stillness of death. His sons had been born as the foals of a racing stud might be born,—merely to continue the line of blood and succession. They were not the dear offspring of passion or of tenderness. The coldness of their mother's nature was strongly engendered in them, and so far they had never shown any particular affection for their parents. The princes Rupert and Cyprian thought of nothing all day but sports and games of skill; they studied serious tasks unwillingly, and found their position as sons of the reigning monarch, irksome, and even ridiculous. They had caught the infection of that diseased idea which in various exaggerated forms is tending to become more or less universal, and to work great mischief to nations,—namely, that 'sport' is more important than policy, and that all matters relating to 'sport,' are more worth attention than wisdom in government. Of patriotism, or love of country they had none; and laughed to scorn the grand old traditions and sentiments of national glory and honour, which had formerly inspired the poets of their land to many a wild and beautiful chant of battle or of victory. How to pass the day—how best to amuse themselves—this was their first thought on waking every morning,—football, cricket, tennis and wrestling formed their chief subjects of conversation; and though they had professors and tutors of the most qualified and certificated ability, they made no secret of their utter contempt for all learning and literature. They were fine young animals; but did less with the brains bestowed upon them than the working bee who makes provision of honey for the winter, or the swallow that builds its nest under warmly sheltered eaves.
Prince Humphry, however, was of a different nature. From a shy, somewhat unmanageable boy, he had developed into a quiet, dreamy youth, fond of books, music, and romantic surroundings. He avoided the company of his brothers whenever it was possible; their loud voices, boisterous spirits and perpetual chatter concerning the champions of this or that race or match, bored him infinitely, and he was at no pains to disguise his boredom. During the last year he seemed to have grown up suddenly into full manhood,—he had begun to assert his privileges as Heir- Apparent, and to enjoy the freedom his position allowed him. Yet the manner of his enjoyment was somewhat singular for a young man who formed a central figure in the circle of the land's Royalty,—he cared nothing at all for the amusements and dissipations of the time; he merely showed an abnormal love of solitude, which was highly unflattering to fashionable society. It was on this subject that the King had decided to speak with him,—and he watched him with closer attention than usual on this particular evening when his habit of absenting himself all day in his yacht had again excited comment. It was easy to see that the Prince had been annoyed by the message Sir Roger de Launay had conveyed to him on his arrival home,—a message to the effect that, as soon as dinner was concluded, he was required to attend his Majesty in private; and all through the stately and formal repast, his evident irritation and impatience cast a shadow of vague embarrassment over the royal party,—with the exception of the princes Rupert and Cyprian, who were never embarrassed by anything, and who were more apt to be amused than disquieted by the vexation of others. Welcome relief was at last given by the serving of coffee,—and the Queen and all her ladies adjourned to their own apartments. With their departure the rest of the circle soon dispersed, there being no special guests present; and at a sign from De Launay, Prince Humphry reluctantly followed his father into a small private smoking-room adjacent to the open loggia, where the equerry, bowing low, left the two together.
For a moment the King kept silence, while he chose a cigar from the silver box on the table. Then, lighting it, he handed the box courteously to his son.
"Will you smoke, Humphry?"
The King seated himself; Prince Humphry remained standing.
"You had a favourable wind for your expedition today;" said the monarch at last, beginning to smoke placidly—"I observe that The Islands appear to have won special notice from you. What is the attraction? The climate or the scenery?"
The Prince was silent.
"I like fine scenery myself,—" continued the King—"I also like a change of air. But variation in both is always desirable,—and for this, it is unwise to go to the same place every day!"
Still the Prince said nothing. His father looked up and studied his face attentively, but could guess nothing from its enigmatical expression.
"You seem tongue-tied, Humphry!" he said—"Come, sit down! Let us talk this out. Can you not trust me, your father, as a friend?"
"I wish I could!" answered the young man, half inaudibly.
"And can you not?"
"No. You have never loved me!"
The King drew his cigar from his mouth, and flicking off a morsel of ash, looked at its end meditatively.
"Well—no!—I cannot say honestly that I have. Love,—it is a ridiculous word, Humphry, but it has a meaning on certain occasions!— love for the children of your mother is an impossibility!"
"Sir, I am not to blame for my mother's disposition."
"True—very true. You are not to blame. But you exist. And that you do exist is a fact of national importance. Will you not sit down?"
"At your command, Sir!" and the Prince seated himself opposite his father, who having studied his cigar sufficiently, replaced it between his lips and went on smoking for a few minutes before he spoke again. Then he resumed:—
"Your existence, I repeat, Humphry, is a fact of national importance. To you falls the Throne when I have done with it, and life has done with me. Therefore, your conduct,—your mode of life—your example in manners—concern, not me, so much as the nation. You say that you cannot trust me as a friend, because I have never loved you. Is not this a somewhat childish remark on your part? We live in a very practical age—love is not a necessary tie between human beings as things go nowadays;—the closest bond of friendship rests on the basis of cash accounts."
"I am perfectly aware of that!" said the Prince, fixing his fine dark eyes full on his father's face—"And yet, after all, love is such a vital necessity, that I have only to look at you, in order to realize the failure and mistake of trying to do without it!"
The King gave him a glance of whimsical surprise.
"So!—you have begun to notice what I have known for years!" he said lightly—"Clever young man! What fine fairy finger is pointing out to you my deficiencies, while supplying your own? Do you learn to estimate the priceless value of love while contemplating the romantic groves and woodlands of The Islands? Do you read poetry there?—or write it? Or talk it?"
Prince Humphry coloured,—then grew very pale.
"When I misuse my time, Sir," he said—"Surely it will then be needful to catechise me on the manner in which I spend it,—but not till then!"
"Fairly put!" answered the King—"But I have an idea—it may be a mistaken idea,—still I have it—that you are misusing your time, Humphry! And this is the cause of our present little discussion. If I knew that you occupied yourself with the pleasures befitting your age and rank, I should be more at ease."
"What do you consider to be the pleasures befitting my age and rank?" asked the Prince with a touch of satire; "Making a fool of myself generally?"
The King smiled.
"Well!—it would be better to make a fool of yourself generally than particularly! Folly is not so harmful when spread like jam over a whole slice of bread,—but it may cause a life-long sickness, if swallowed in one secret gulp of sweetness!"
The Prince moved uneasily.
"You think I am catechising you,—and you resent it—but, my dear boy, let me again remind you that you are in a manner answerable to the nation for your actions; and especially to that particular section of the nation called Society. Society is the least and worst part of the whole community—but it has to be considered by such servants of the public as ourselves. You know what James the First of England wrote concerning the 'domestic regulations' on the conduct of a prince and future king? 'A king is set as one on a stage, whose smallest, actions and gestures all the people gazinglie do behold; and, however just in the discharge of his office, yet if his behaviour be light or dissolute, in indifferent actions, the people, who see but the outward part, conceive preoccupied conceits of the king's inward intention, which although with time, the trier of all truth, will evanish by the evidence of the contrarie effect, yet, interim patitur justus, and prejudged conceits will, in the meantime, breed contempt, the mother of rebellion and disorder.' Poor James of the 'goggle eyes and large hysterical heart' as Carlyle describes him! Do you not agree with his estimate of a royal position?"
"I am not aware, Sir, that my behaviour can as yet be called light or dissolute;" replied the Prince coldly, with a touch of hauteur.
"I do not call it so, Humphry"—said the King—"To the best of my knowledge, your conduct has always been most exemplary. But with all your excessive decorum, you are mysterious. That is bad! Society will not endure being kept in the dark, or outside the door of things, like a bad child! It wants to be in the room, and know everything and everybody. And this reminds me of another point on which the good English James offers sound advice. 'Remember to be plaine and sensible in your language; for besides, it is the tongue's office to be the messenger of the mind, it may be thought a point of imbecilitie of spirit, in a king to speak obscurely, much more untrewly, as if he stood in awe of any in uttering his thoughts.' That is precisely your mood at the present moment, Humphry,—you stand 'in awe'—of me or of someone else,—in 'uttering your thoughts.'"
"Pardon me, Sir,—I do not stand in awe of you or of anyone;" said the Prince composedly—"I simply do not choose to 'utter my thoughts' just now."
The King looked at him in surprise, and with a touch of admiration. The defiant air he had unconsciously assumed became him,—his handsome face was pale, and his dark eyes coldly brilliant, like those of his beautiful mother, with the steel light of an inflexible resolve.
"You do not choose?" said the King, after a pause—"You decline to give any explanation of your long hours of absence?—your constant visits to The Islands, and your neglect of those social duties which should keep you at Court?"
"I decline to do so for the present," replied the young man decisively; "I can see no harm in my preference for quietness rather than noise,— for scenes of nature rather than those of artificial folly. The Islands are but two hours sail from this port,—little tufts of land set in the sea, where the coral-fishers dwell. They are beautiful in their natural adornment of foliage and flower;—I go there to read—to dream—to think of life as a better, purer thing than what you call 'society' would make it for me; you cannot blame me for this?"
The King was silent.
"If it is your wish,"—went on the Prince—"that I should stay in the palace more, I will obey you. If you desire me to be seen oftener in the capital, I will endeavour to fulfil your command, though the streets stifle me. But, for God's sake, do not make me a puppet on show before my time,—or marry me to a woman I hate, merely for the sake of heirs to a wretched Throne!"
The King rose from his chair, and, walking towards the garden, threw the rest of his cigar out among the foliage, where the burning morsel shone like a stray glowworm in the green. Then he turned towards his son;—his face was grave, almost stern.
"You can go, Humphry!" he said;—"I have no more to say to you at present. You talk wildly and at random, as if you were, by some means or other, voluntarily bent upon unfitting yourself for the position you are destined to occupy. You will do well, I think, to remain more in evidence at Court. You will also do well to be seen at some of the different great social functions of the day. But I shall not coerce you. Only—consider well what I have said!—and if you have a secret"— he paused, and then repeated with emphasis—"I say, if you have a secret of any kind, be advised, and confide in me before it is too late! Otherwise you may find yourself betrayed unawares! Good-night!"
He walked away without throwing so much as a backward glance at the Prince, who stood amazed at the suddenness and decision with which he had brought the conversation to a close; and it was not till his tall figure had disappeared that the young man began to realize the doubtful awkwardness of the attitude he had assumed towards one who, both as parent and king, had the most urgent claim in the world upon his respect and obedience. Impatient and angry with himself, he crossed the loggia and went out into the garden beyond. A young moon, slender as a bent willow wand, gleamed in the clear heavens among hosts of stars more brilliantly visible than itself, and the soft air, laden with the perfume of thousands of flowers, cooled his brain and calmed his nerves. The musical low murmur of the sea, lapping against the shore below the palace walls, suggested a whole train of pleasing and poetical fancies, and he strolled along the dewy grass paths, under tangles of scented shrubs and arching boughs of pine, giving himself up to such idyllic dreams of life and life's fairest possibilities, as only youthful and imaginative souls can indulge in. He was troubled and vexed by his father's warning, but not sufficiently to pay serious heed to it. His 'secret' was safe so far;—and all he had to do, so he considered, was to exercise a little extra precaution.
"There is only Von Glauben,"—he thought, "and he would never betray me. Besides it is a mere question of another year—and then I can make all the truth known."
The lovely long-drawn warble of a nightingale broke the stillness around him with a divine persistence of passion. He listened, standing motionless, his eyes lifted towards the dark boughs above him, from whence the golden notes dropped liquidly; and his heart beat quickly as he thought of a voice sweeter than that of any heavenly-gifted bird, a face fairer than that of the fabled goddess who on such a night as this descended from her silver moon-car to enchant Endymion;—and he murmured half aloud—
"Who would not risk a kingdom—ay! a thousand kingdoms!—for such happiness as I possess! It is a foolish, blind world nowadays, that forgets the glory of its youth,—the glow, the breath, the tenderness of love!—all for amassing gold and power! I will not be of such a world, nor with it;—I will not be like my father, the slave of pomp and circumstance;—I will live an unfettered life—yes!—even if I have to resign the throne for the sake of freedom, still I will be free!"
He strolled on, absorbed in romantic reverie, and the nightingale's song followed him through the winding woods down to the shore, where the waves made other music of their own, which harmonised with the dreamy fancies of his mind.
Meanwhile, the King had sought his consort in her own apartments. Walking down the great corridor which led to these, the most beautiful rooms in the palace, he became aware of the silvery sound of stringed instruments mingling with harmonious voices,—though he scarcely heeded the soft rush of melody which came thus wafted to his ears. He was full of thoughts and schemes,—his son's refusal to confide in him had not seriously troubled him, because he knew he should, with patience, find out in good time all that the young Prince had declined to explain,— and his immediate interest was centred in his own immediate plans.
On reaching the ante-room leading to the Queen's presence-chamber, he was informed that her Majesty was listening to a concert in the rosery. Thither he went unattended,—and passing through a long suite of splendid rooms, each one more sumptuously adorned than the last, he presently stepped out on the velvet greensward of one of the most perfect rose gardens in the world—a garden walled entirely round with tall hedges of the clambering flowers which gave it its name, and which were trailed up on all sides, so as to form a ceiling or hanging canopy above. In the centre of this floral hall, now in full blossom, a fountain tossed up one tall column of silver spray; and at its upper end, against a background of the dainty white roses called "Felicite perpetuelle" sat the Queen, in a high chair of carved ivory, surrounded by her ladies. Delicious music, performed by players and singers who were hidden behind the trees, floated in voluptuous strains upon the air, and the King, looking at the exquisite grouping of fair women and flowers, lit by the coloured lamps which gleamed here and there among the thick foliage, wondered to himself how it chanced, that amid surroundings which were calculated to move the senses to the most refined and delicate rapture, he himself could feel no quickening pulse, no touch of admiration. These open-air renderings of music and song were the Queen's favourite form of recreation;—at such times alone would her proud face soften and her eyes grow languid with an unrevealed weight of dreams. But should her husband, or any one of his sex break in upon the charmed circle, her pleasure was at once clouded,—and the cold hauteur of her beautiful features became again inflexibly frozen. Such was the case now, when perceiving the King, she waved her hand as a sign for the music to cease; and with a glance of something like wonderment at his intrusion, saluted him profoundly as he entered the precincts of her garden Court. But for once he did not pause as usual, on his way to where she sat,—but lightly acknowledging the deep curtseys of the ladies in attendance, he advanced towards her and raising her hand in courtly homage to his lips, seated himself carelessly in a low chair at her feet.
"Let the music go on!" he said; "I am here to listen."
The Queen looked at him,—he met her eyes with an expression that she had never seen on his face before.
"Suffer me to have my way!" he said to her in a low tone—"Let your singers finish their programme; afterwards do me the favour to dismiss your women, for I must speak with you alone."
She bent her head in acquiescence; and re-seated herself on her ivory throne. The sign was given for the continuance of the music, and the King, leaning back in his chair, half closed his eyes as he listened dreamily to the harmonious throbbing of harps and violins around him, in the stillness of the languid southern night. His hand almost brushed against his wife's jewelled robes—the scent of the great lilies on her breast was wafted to him with every breath of air, and he thought—"All this would be Paradise,—with any other woman!" And while he so thought, the clear tenor voice of one of the unseen singers rang out in half gay, half tender tones:
If I loved you, and you loved me, How happy this little world would be— The light of the day, the dancing hours, The skies, the trees, the birds and flowers, Would all be part of our perfect gladness;— And never a note of pain or sadness Would jar life's beautiful melody If I loved you, and you loved me!
'If I loved you!' Why, I scarcely know How if I did, the time would go!— I should forget my dreary cares, My sordid toil, my long despairs, I should watch your smile, and kneel at your feet, And live my life in the love of you, Sweet!— So mad, so glad, so proud I should be, If I loved you, and you loved me!
'If you loved me!' Ah, nothing so strange As that could chance in this world of change!— As well expect a planet to fall, Or a Queen to dwell in a beggar's hall— But if you did,—romance and glory Might spring from our lives' united story, And angels might be less happy than we— If I loved you and you loved me!
'If I loved you and you loved me!' Alas, 't is a joy we shall never see! You are too fair—I am too cold;— We shall drift along till we both grow old, Till we reach the grave, and gasping, die, Looking back on the days that have passed us by, When 'what might have been,' can no longer be,— When I lost you, and you lost me!
The song concluded abruptly, and with passion;—and the King, turning on his elbow, glanced with a touch of curiosity at the face of his Queen. There was not a flicker of emotion on its fair cold calmness,— not a quiver on the beautiful lips, or a sigh to stir the quiet breast on which the lilies rested, white and waxen, and heavily odorous. He withdrew his gaze with a half smile at his own folly for imagining that she could be moved by a mere song to any expression of feeling,—even for a moment,—and allowed his glance to wander unreservedly over the forms and features of the other ladies in attendance who, conscious of his regard, dropped their eyelids and blushed softly, after the fashion approved by the heroines of the melodramatic stage. Whereat he began to think of the tiresome sameness of women generally; and their irritating habit of living always at two extremes,—either all ardour, or all coldness.
"Both are equally fatiguing to a man's mind," he thought impatiently— "The only woman that is truly fascinating is the one who is never in the same mind two days together. Fair on Monday, plain on Tuesday, sweet on Wednesday, sour on Thursday, tender on Friday, cold on Saturday, and in all moods at once on Sunday,—that being a day of rest! I should adore such a woman as that if I ever met her, because I should never know her mind towards me!"
A soft serenade rendered by violins, with a harp accompaniment, was followed by a gay mazurka, played by all the instruments together,—and this finished the musical programme.
The Queen rose, accepting the hand which the King extended to her, and moved with him slowly across the rose-garden, her long snowy train glistering with jewels, and held up from the greensward by a pretty page, who, in his picturesque costume of rose and gold, demurely followed his Royal lady's footsteps,—and so amid the curtseying ladies-in-waiting and other attendants, they passed together into a private boudoir, at the threshold of which the Queen's train-bearer dropped his rich burden of perfumed velvet and gems, and bowing low, left their Majesties together.
Shutting the door upon him with his own hand, the King drew a heavy portiere across it,—and then walking round the room saw that every window was closed,—every nook secure. The Queen's boudoir was one of the most sacred corners in the whole palace,—no one, not even the most intimate lady of the Court in personal attendance on her Majesty, dared enter it without special permission; and this being the case, the Queen herself was faintly moved to surprise at the extra precaution her husband appeared to be taking to ensure privacy. She stood silently watching his movements till he came up to her, and bowing courteously, said:—
"I pray you, be seated, Madam! I will not detain you long."
She obeyed his gesture, and sank down in a chair with that inimitable noiseless grace which made every attitude of hers a study for an artist, and waited for his next words; while he, standing opposite to her, bent his eyes upon her face with a certain wistfulness and appeal.
"I have never asked you a favour," he began—"and—since the day we married,—I have never sought your sympathy. The years have come and gone, leaving no visible trace on either you or me, so far as outward looks go,—and if they have scarred and wrinkled us inwardly, only God can see those scars! But as time moves on with a man,—I know not how it is with a woman,—if he be not altogether a fool, he begins to consider the way in which he has spent, or is spending his life,— whether he has been, or is yet likely to be of any use to the world he lives in,—or if he is of less account than the blown froth of the sea, or the sand on the shore. Myriads and myriads of men and women are no more than this—no more than midges or ants or worms;—but every now and then in the course of centuries, one man does stand forth from the million,—one heart does beat courageously enough to send the firm echo of its pulsations through a long vista of time,—one soul does so exalt and inspire the rest of the world by its great example that we are, through its force reminded of something divine,—something high and true in a low wilderness of shams!"
He paused; the Queen raised her beautiful eyes, and smiled strangely.
"Have you only just now thought of this?" she said.
He flushed, and bit his lip.
"To be perfectly honest with you, Madam, I have thought of nothing worth thinking about for many years! Most men in my position would probably make the same confession. Perhaps had you given me any great work to do for your sake I should have done it! Had you inspired me to achieve some great conquest, either for myself or others, I should no doubt have conquered! But I have lived for twenty-one years in your admirable company without being commanded by you to do anything worthy of a king;—I am now about to command Myself!—in order to leave some notable trace of my name in history."
While he thus spoke, a faint flush coloured the Queen's cheeks, but it quickly died away, leaving her very pale. Her fingers strayed among the great jewels she wore, and toyed unconsciously with a ruby talisman cut in the shape of a heart, and encircled with diamonds. The King noted the flash of the gems against the whiteness of her hand, and said:
"Your heart, Madam, is like the jewel you hold!—clear crimson, and full of fire,—but it is not the fire of Heaven, though you may perchance judge it to be so. Rather is it of hell!—(I pray you to pardon me for the roughness of this suggestion!)—for one of the chief crimes of the devil is unconquerable hatred of the human race. You share Satan's aversion to man!—and strange indeed it is that even the most sympathetic companionship with your own sex cannot soften that aversion! However, we will not go into this;—the years have proved you true to your own temperament, and there is nothing to be said on the matter, either of blame or of praise. As I said, I have never asked a favour of you, nor have I sought the sympathy which it is not in your nature to give. I have not even claimed your obedience in any particular strictness of form; but that is my errand to you to-night,— indeed it is the sole object of this private interview,—to claim your entire, your unfaltering, your implicit obedience!"
She raised her head haughtily.
"To what commands, Sir?" she asked.
"To those I have here written,—" and he handed her a paper folded in two, which she took wonderingly, as he extended it. "Read this carefully!—and if you have any objections to urge, I am willing to listen to you with patience, though scarcely to alter the conditions laid down."
He turned away, and walked slowly through the room, pausing a moment to whistle to a tiny bird swinging in a gilded cage, that perked up its pretty head at his call and twittered with pleasure.
"So you respond to kindness, little one!" he said softly,—"You are more Christ-like in that one grace than many a Christian!"
He started, as a light touch fell on his shoulder, and he saw the Queen standing beside him. She held the paper he had given her in one hand, and as he looked at her enquiringly she touched it with her lips, and placed it in her bosom.
"I swear my obedience to your instructions, Sir!" she said,—"Do not fear to trust me!"
Gently he took her hands and kissed them.
"I thank you!" he said simply.
For a moment they confronted each other. The beautiful cold woman's eyes drooped under the somewhat sad and searching gaze of the man.
"But—your life!—" she murmured.
"My life!" He laughed and dropped her hands. "Would you care, Madam, if I were dead? Would you shed any tears? Not you! Why should you? At this late hour of time, when after twenty-one years passed in each other's close company we are no nearer to each other in heart and soul than if the sea murmuring yonder at the foot of these walls were stretching its whole width between us! Besides—we are both past our youth! And, according to certain highly instructed scientists and philosophers, the senses and affections grow numb with age. I do not believe this theory myself—for the jejune love of youth is as a taper's flame to the great and passionate tenderness of maturity, when the soul, and not the body, claims its due; when love is not dragged down to the vulgar level of mere cohabitation, after the fashion of the animals in a farmyard, but rises to the best height of human sympathy and intelligent comprehension. Who knows!—I may experience such a love as that yet,— and so may you!"
She was silent.
"Talking of love,"—he went on—"May I ask whether our son,—or rather the nation's son, Humphry,—ever makes you his confidante?"
"Never!" she replied.
"I thought not! We do not seem to be the kind of parents admired in moral story-books, Madam! We are not the revered darlings of our children. In fact, our children have the happy disposition of animal cubs,—once out of the nursing stage, they forget they ever had parents. It is quite the natural and proper thing, born as they were born,—it would never do for them to have any over-filial regard for us. Imagine Humphry weeping for my death, or yours! What a grotesque idea! And as for Rupert and Cyprian,—it is devoutly to be hoped that when we die, our funerals may be well over before the great cricket matches of the year come on, as otherwise they will curse us for having left the world at an inconvenient season!" He laughed. "How sentiment has gone out nowadays, or how it seems to have gone out! Yet it slumbers in the heart of the nation,—and if it should ever awaken,— well!—it will be dangerous! I asked you about Humphry, because I imagine he is entangled in some love-affair. If it should be agreeable to your humour to go with me across to The Islands one day this week, we may perhaps by chance discover the reason of his passion for that particular kind of scenery!"
The Queen's eyes opened wonderingly.
"The Islands!" she repeated,—"The Islands? Why, only the coral-fishers live there,—they have a community of their own, and are jealous of all strangers. What should Humphry do there?"
"That is more than I can tell you," answered the King,—"And it is more than he will himself explain. Nevertheless, he is there nearly every day,—some attraction draws him, but what, I cannot discover. If Humphry were of the soul of me, as he is of the body of me, I should not even try to fathom his secret,—but he is the nation's child—heir to its throne—and as such, it is necessary that we, for the nation's sake, should guard him in the nation's interests. If you chance to learn anything of the object of his constant sea-wanderings, I trust you will find it coincident with your pleasure to inform me?"
"I shall most certainly obey you in this, Sir, as in all other things!" she replied.
He moved a step or two towards her.
"Good-night!" he said very gently, and detaching one of the lilies from her corsage, took it in his own hand. "Good-night! This flower will remind me of you;—white and beautiful, with all the central gold deep hidden!"
He looked at her intently, with a lingering look, half of tenderness, half of regret, and bowing in the courtliest fashion of homage, left her presence.
She remained alone, the velvet folds of her train flowing about her feet, and the jewels on her breast flashing like faint sparks of flame in the subdued glow of the shaded lamplight. She was touched for the first time in her life by the consciousness of something infinitely noble, and altogether above her in her husband's nature. Slowly she drew out the paper he had given her from her bosom and read it through again—and yet once again. Almost unconsciously to herself a mist gathered in her eyes and softened into two bright tears, which dropped down her fair cheeks, and lost themselves among her diamonds.
"He is brave!" she murmured—"Braver than I thought he could ever be—"
She roused herself sharply from her abstraction. Emotions which were beyond her own control had strangely affected her, and the humiliating idea that her moods had for a moment escaped beyond her guidance made her angry with herself for what she considered mere weakness. And passing quickly out of the boudoir, in the vague fear that solitude might deepen the sense of impotence and failure which insinuated itself slowly upon her, like a dull blight creeping through her heart and soul, she rejoined her ladies, the same great Queen as ever, with the same look of indifference on her face, the same chill smile, the same perfection of loveliness, unwithered by any visible trace of sorrow or of passion.
The next day the heavens were clouded; and occasional volleys of heavy thunder were mingled with the gusts of wind and rain which swept over the city, and which lashed the fair southern sea into a dark semblance of such angry waves as wear away northern coasts into bleak and rocky barrenness. It was disappointing weather to multitudes, for it was the feast-day of one of the numerous saints whose names fill the calendar of the Roman Church,—and a great religious procession had been organized to march from the market-place to the Cathedral, in which two or three hundred children and girls had been chosen to take part. The fickle bursts of sunshine which every now and again broke through the lowering sky, decided the priests to carry out their programme in spite of the threatening storm, in the hope that it would clear off completely with the afternoon. Accordingly, groups of little maidens, in white robes and veils, began to assemble with their flags and banners at the appointed hour round the old market cross, which,—grey and crumbling at the summit,—bent over the streets like a withered finger, crook'd as it were, in feeble remonstrance at the passing of time,—while glimpses of young faces beneath the snowy veils, and chatter of young voices, made brightness and music around its frowning and iron-bound base. Shortly before three o'clock the Cathedral bells began to chime, and crowds of people made their way towards the sacred edifice in the laughing, pushing, gesticulating fashion of southerners, to whom a special service at the Church is like a new comedy at the theatre,—women with coloured kerchiefs knotted over their hair or across their bosoms—men, more or less roughly clad, yet all paying compliment to the Saint's feast-day by some extra smart touch in their attire, if it were only a pomegranate flower or orange-blossom stuck in their hats, or behind their ears. It was a mixed crowd, all of the working classes, who are proverbially called 'the common,' as if those who work, are not a hundred times more noble than those who do nothing! A few carriages, containing some wealthy ladies of the nobility, who, to atone for their social sins, were in the habit of contributing largely to the Church, passed every now and again through the crowd, but taken as a spectacle it was simply a 'popular' show, in which the children of the people took part, and where the people themselves were evidently more amused than edified.
While the bells were ringing the procession gradually formed;—a dozen or more priests leading,—incense-bearers and acolytes walking next,— and then the long train of little children and girls carrying their symbolic banners, following after. The way they had to walk was a steep, winding ascent, through tortuous streets, to the Cathedral, which stood in the centre of a great square on an eminence which overlooked the whole city, and as soon as they started they began to sing,—softly at first, then more clearly and sweetly, till gradually the air grew full of melody, rising and falling on the capricious gusts of wind which tore at the gilded and emblazoned banners, and tossed the white veils of the maidens about like wreaths of drifting snow. Two men standing on the Cathedral hill, watched the procession gradually ascending—one tall and heavily-built, with a dark leonine head made more massive-looking by its profusion of thick and unmanageable hair— the other lean and narrow-shouldered, with a peaked reddish-auburn beard, which he continually pulled and twitched at nervously as though its growth on his chin was more a matter of vexation than convenience. He was apparently not so much interested in the Church festival as he was in his companion's face, for he was perpetually glancing up at that brooding countenance, which, half hidden as it was in wild hair and further concealed by thick moustache and beard, showed no expression at all, unless an occasional glimpse of full flashing eyes under the bushy brows, gave a sudden magnetic hint of something dangerous and not to be trifled with.
"You do not believe anything you hear or read, Sergius Thord!" he said —"Will you twist your whole life into a crooked attitude of suspicion against all mankind?" He who was named Sergius Thord, lifted himself slowly from the shoulders upwards, the action making his great height and broad chest even more apparent than before. A gleam of white teeth shone under his black moustache.
"I do not twist my life into a crooked attitude, Johan Zegota," he replied. "If it is crooked, others have twisted it for me! Why should I believe what I hear, since it is the fashion to lie? Why should I accept what I read, since it is the business of the press to deceive the public? And why do you ask me foolish questions? You should be better instructed, seeing that your creed is the same as mine!"
"Have I ever denied it?" exclaimed Zegota warmly—"But I have said, and I say again that I believe the news is true,—and that these howling hypocrites,—" this with an angry gesture of his hand towards the open square where the chanting priests who headed the procession were coming into view—"have truly received an unlooked-for check from the King!"
Sergius Thord laid one hand heavily on his shoulder.
"When the King—when any king—does anything useful in the world, then you may hang me with your own hands, Zegota! When did you ever hear, except in myths of the past, of a monarch who cared for his people more than his crown? Tell me that! Tell me of any king who so truly loved the people he was called upon to govern, that he sacrificed his own money, as well as his own time, to remedy their wrongs?—to save them from unjust government, to defend them from cruel taxation?—to see that their bread was not taken from their mouths by foreign competition?—and to make it possible for them to live in the country of their birth in peace and prosperity? Bah! There never was such a king! And that this man,—who has for three years left us to the mercy of the most accursed cheat and scoundrel minister that ever was in power,—has now declared his opposition to the Jesuits', is more than I will or can believe."
"If it were true?"—suggested Zegota, with a more than usually vicious tug at his beard.
"If it were true, it would not alter my opinion, or set aside my intention," replied Thord,—"I would admit that the King had done one good deed before going to hell! Look! Here come the future traitresses of men—girls trained by priests to deceive their nearest and dearest! Poor children! They know nothing as yet of the uses to which their lives are destined! If they could but die now, in their innocent faith and stupidity, how much better for all the world!"
As he spoke, the wind, swooping into the square, and accompanied by a pattering gust of rain, fell like a fury upon the leaders of the religious procession and tore one of the great banners out of the hands of the priest who held it, beating it against his head and face with so much force that he fell backward to the ground under its weight, while from a black cloud above, a flash of lightning gleamed, followed almost instantaneously by a loud clap of thunder, which shook the square with a mighty reverberation like that of a bursting bomb. The children screamed,—and ran towards the Cathedral pellmell; and for a few moments there ensued indescribable confusion, the priests, the people, and the white-veiled girls getting mixed together in a wild hurly- burly. Sergius Thord suddenly left his companion's side, and springing on a small handcart that stood empty near the centre of the square, his tall figure rose up all at once like a dark apparition above the heads of the assembled crowd, and his voice, strong, clear, and vibrating with passion, rang out like a deep alarm bell, through all the noise of the storm.
"Whither are you going, O foolish people? To pray to God? Pray to Him here, then, under the flash of His lightning!—in the roll of His thunder!—beneath His cathedral-canopy of clouds! Pray to Him with all your hearts, your brains, your reason, your intelligence, and leave mere lip-service and mockery to priests; and to these poor children, who, as yet, know no better than to obey tyrants! Would you find out God? He is here—with me,—with you!—in the earth, in the sky, in the sun and storm! Whenever Truth declares a living fact, God speaks,— whenever we respond to that Truth, God hears! No church, no cathedral contains His presence more than we shall find it here—with us—where we stand!"
The people heard, and a great silence fell upon them. All faces were turned toward the speaker, and none appeared to heed the great drops of fast-falling rain. One of the priests who was trying to marshal the scattered children into their former order, so that they might enter the Cathedral in the manner arranged for the religious service, looked up to see the cause of the sudden stillness, and muttered a curse under his breath. But even while the oath escaped his lips, he gave the signal for the sacred chanting to be resumed, and in another moment the 'Litany of the Virgin' was started in stentorian tones by the leaders of the procession. Intimidated by the looks, as well as by the commands of the priests, the girls and children joined in the chanting with tremulous voices, as they began to file through the Cathedral doors and enter the great nave. But a magnetic spell, stronger than any invocation of the Church, had fallen upon the crowd, and they all stood as though caught in the invisible web of some enchanter, their faces turned upwards to where Thord's tall figure towered above them. His eyes glittered as he noted the sudden hush of attention which prevailed, and lifting his rough cap from his head, he waved it towards the open door of the Cathedral, through which the grand strains of the organ rolling out from within gave forth solemn invitation:—
"Sancta Dei Genitrix, Ora pro nobis!"
sang the children, as they passed in line under the ancient porch, carved with the figures of forgotten saints and bishops, whose stone countenances had stared at similar scenes through the course of long centuries.
"Sancta Dei Genitrix, ora pro nobis!" echoed Sergius Thord—"Do you hear it, O men? Do you hear it, O women? What does it teach you? 'Holy Mother of God!' Who was she? Was she not merely a woman to whom God descended? And what is the lesson she gives you? Plainly this—that men should be as gods, and women as the mothers of gods! For every true and brave man born into the world has God within him,—is made of God, and must return to God! And every woman who gives birth to one such, true, brave man, has given a God-incarnated being to the world! 'Sancta Dei Genitrix!' Be all as mothers of gods, O women! Be as gods, O men! Be as gods in courage, in truth, in wisdom, in freedom! Suffer not devils to have command of you! For devils there are, as there are gods;—evil there is, as there is good. Fiends are born of women as gods are—and yet evil itself is of God, inasmuch as without God there can be neither evil nor good. Let us help God, we His children, to conquer evil by conquering it in ourselves—and by refusing to give it power over us! So shall God show us all goodness,—all pity! So shall He cease to afflict His children; so will He cease to torture us with undeserved sorrows and devilish agonies, for which we are not to blame!"
He paused. The singing had ceased; the children's procession had entered the Cathedral, and the doors still stood wide open. But the people remained outside, crowded in the square, and gathering momentarily in greater numbers.
"Look you!" cried Sergius Thord—"The building which is called the Sanctuary of God, stands open—why do you not all enter there? Within are precious marbles, priceless pictures, jewels and relics—and a great altar raised up by the gifts of wicked dead kings, who by money sought to atone for their sins to the people. There are priests who fast and pray in public, and gratify all the lusts of appetite in private. There are poor and ignorant women who believe whatsoever these priests tell them—all this you can see if you go inside yonder. Why do you not go? Why do you remain with me?"
A faint murmur, like the rising ripple of an angry sea, rose from the crowd, but quickly died away again into silence.
"Shall I tell you why you stay?" went on Thord,—"Because you know I am your friend—and because you also know that the priests are your enemies! Because you know that I tell you the truth, and that the priests tell you lies! Because you feel that all the promises made to you of happiness in Heaven cannot explain away to your satisfaction the causes of your bitter suffering and poverty on earth! Because you are gradually learning that the chief business of priestcraft is to deceive the people and keep them down,—down, always down in a state of wretched ignorance. Learn, learn all you can, my brothers—take the only good thing modern government gives you—Education! Education is thrown at us like a bone thrown to a dog, half picked by others and barely nourishing—but take it, take it, friends, for in it you shall find the marrow of vengeance on your tyrants and oppressors! The education of the masses means the downfall of false creeds,—the ruin of all false priests! For it is only through the ignorance of the many that tyrannical dominion is given into the hands of the few! Slavish submission to a corrupt government would be impossible if we all refused to be slaves. O friends, O brothers, throw off your chains! Break down your prison doors! Some good you have done already—be brave and strong to do more! Press forward fearlessly and strive for liberty and justice! To-day we are told that the King has refused crown-lands to the Jesuits. Shall we be told to-morrow that the King has dismissed Carl Perousse from office?"
A long wild shout told how this suggestion had gone straight home to the throng.
"Shall we be told this, I ask? No! Ten thousand times no! The refusal of the King to grant the priests any wider dominion over us is merely an act of policy inspired by terror. The King is afraid! He fears the people will revolt against the Church, and so takes part with them lest there should be trouble in the land, but he never seems to think there may be another kind of revolt against himself! His refusal to concede more place for the accursed practice of Jesuitry is so far good; but his dismissal of Perousse would be still better!"
A perfect hurricane of applause from the people gave emphatic testimony to the truth of these words.
"What is this man, Carl Perousse?" he went on—"A man of the people— whose oaths were sworn to the people,—whom the people themselves brought into power because he promised to remain faithful to them! He is false,—a traitor and political coward! A mere manufacturer of kitchen goods, who through our folly was returned to this country's senate;—and through our still further credulity is now set in almost complete dominion over us. Well! We have suffered and are suffering for our misplaced belief in him;—the question is, how long shall we continue to suffer? How long are we to be governed by the schemes of Carl Perousse, the country's turncoat,—the trafficker in secret with Jew speculators? It is for you to decide! It is for you to work out your own salvation! It is for you to throw off tyranny, and show yourselves free men of reason and capacity! Just as the priests chant long prayers to cover their own iniquity, so do the men of government make long speeches to disguise their own corruption. You know you cannot believe their promises. Neither can you believe the press, for if this is not actually bought by Perousse, it is bribed. And you cannot trust the King; for he is as a house divided against itself which must fall! Slave of his own passions, and duped by women, what is he but a burden to the State? Justice and power should be on the side of kings,—but the days are come when self-interest and money can even buy a throne! O men, O women, rouse up your hearts and minds to work for yourselves, to redress wrongs,—to save your country! Rouse up in your thousands, and with your toil-worn hands pull down the pillars of iniquity and vice that overshadow and darken the land! Fight against the insolent pride of wealth which strives to crush the poor; rouse, rouse your hearts!—open your eyes and see the evils which are gathering thick upon us!—and like the lightnings pent up in yonder clouds, leap forth in flame and thunder, and clear the air!"
A burst of frantic acclamation from the crowd followed this wild harangue, and while the loud roar of voices yet echoed aloft, a band of armed police came into view, marching steadily up from the lower streets of the city. Sergius Thord smiled as he saw them approach.
"Yonder comes the Law!" he said—"A few poor constables, badly paid, who if they could find anything better to do than to interfere with their fellow-men would be glad of other occupation! Before they come any nearer, disperse yourselves, my friends, and so save them trouble! Go all to your homes and think on my words;—or enter the Cathedral and pray, those who will—but let this place be as empty of you in five minutes as though you never had been here! Disperse,—and farewell! We shall meet again!"
He leaped down from his position and disappeared, and in obedience to his command the crowd began to melt away with almost miraculous speed. Before the police could reach the centre of the square, there were only some thirty or forty people left, and these were quietly entering the Cathedral where the service for the saint whose feast day was being celebrated was now in full and solemn progress.
For one instant, on the first step of the great porch, Sergius Thord and his companion, Johan Zegota, met,—but making a rapid sign to each other with the left hand, they as quickly separated,—Zegota to enter the Cathedral, Thord to walk rapidly down one of the narrowest and most unfrequented streets to the lower precincts of the city.
The afternoon grew darker, and the weather more depressing, and by the time evening closed in, the rain was pouring persistently. The wind had ceased, and the thunder had long since died away, its force drenched out by the weight of water in the clouds. The saint's day had ended badly for all concerned;—many of the children who had taken part in the procession had been carried home by their parents wet through, all the pretty white frocks and veils of the little girls having been completely soaked and spoilt by the unkind elements. A drearier night had seldom gloomed over this fair city of the southern sea, and down in the quarters of the poor, where men and women dwelt all huddled miserably in overcrowded tenements, and sin and starvation kept hideous company together, the streets presented as dark and forbidding an aspect as the heavy skies blackly brooding above. Here and there a gas- lamp flared its light upon the drawn little face of some child crouching asleep in a doorway, or on the pinched and painted features of some wretched outcast wending her way to the den she called 'home.' The loud brutal laughter of drunken men was mingled with the wailing of half-starved and fretful infants, and the mean, squalid houses swarmed with the living spawn of every vice and lust in the calendar of crime. Deep in the heart of the so-called civilized, beautiful and luxurious city, this 'quarter of the poor,' the cancer of the social body, throbbed and ate its destructive way slowly but surely on, and Sergius Thord, who longed to lay a sharp knife against it and cut it out, for the health of the whole community, was as powerless as Dante in hell to cure the evils he witnessed. Yet it was not too much to say that he would have given his life to ease another's pain,—as swiftly and as readily as he would have taken life without mercy, in the pursuit of what he imagined to be a just vengeance.
"How vain, after all, is my labour!" he thought—"How helpless I am to move the self-centred powers of the Government and the Throne! Even were all these wretched multitudes to rise with me, and make havoc of the whole city, should we move so much as one step higher out of the Gehenna of poverty and crime? Almost I doubt it!"
He walked on past dark open doorways, where some of the miserable inhabitants of the dens within, stood to inhale the fresh wet air of the rainy night. His tall form was familiar to most of them,—if they were considered as wolves of humanity in the sight of the law, they were all faithful dogs to him; doing as he bade, running where he commanded, ready at any moment to assemble at any given point and burn and pillage, or rob and slay. There were no leaders in the political government,—but this one leader of the massed poor could, had he chosen, have burned down the city. But he did not choose. He had a far- sighted, clear brain,—and though he had sworn to destroy abuses wherever he could find them, he moved always with caution; and his plans were guided, not by impulse alone, but by earnest consideration for the future. He was marked out by the police as a dangerous Socialist; and his movements were constantly tracked and dodged, but so far, he had done nothing which could empower his arrest. He was a free subject in a free country; and provided he created no open disturbance he had as much liberty as a mission preacher to speak in the streets to those who would stop to listen. He paused now in his walk at the door of one house more than commonly dingy and tumble-down in appearance, where a man lounged outside in his shirt-sleeves, smoking.
"Is all well with you, Matsin?" he asked gently.
"All is well!" answered the man called Matsin,—"better than last night. The child is dead."
"Dead!" echoed Thord,—"And the mother——"
"Asleep!" answered Matsin. "I gave her opium to save her from madness. She was hungry, too—the opium fed her and made her forget!"
Thord pushed him gently aside, and went into the house. There on the floor lay the naked body of a dead child, so emaciated as to be almost a skeleton; and across it, holding it close with one arm, was stretched a woman, half clothed, her face hidden in her unbound dark hair, breathing heavily in a drugged sleep. Great tears filled Thord's eyes.
"God exists!" he said,—"And He can bear to look upon a sight like this! If I were God, I should hate myself for letting such things be!"
"Perhaps He does hate Himself!" said the man Matsin, who had also come in, and now looked at the scene with sullen apathy—"That may be the cause of all our troubles! I don't understand the ways of God; or the ways of man either. I have done no harm. I married the woman—and we had that one child. I worked hard for both. I could not get sufficient money to keep us going; I did metal work—very well, so I was told. But they make it all abroad now by machinery—I cannot compete. They don't want new designs they say—the old will serve. I do anything now that I can—but it is difficult. You, too,—you starve with us!"
"I am poor, if that is what you mean," said Thord,—"but take all I have to-night, Matsin—" and he emptied a small purse of silver coins into the man's hand. "Bury the poor little innocent one;—and comfort the mother when she wakes. Comfort her!—love her!—she needs love! I will be back again to-morrow."
He strode away quickly, and Matsin remained at his door turning over the money in his hand.
"He will sacrifice something he needs himself, for this," he muttered. "Yet that is the man they say the King would hang if ever he got hold of him! By Heaven!—the King himself should hang first!"
Meanwhile Sergius Thord went on, slackening his pace a little as he came near his own destination, a tall and narrow house at the end of the street, with a single light shining in one of the upper windows. There was a gas-lamp some few paces off, and under this stood a man reading, or trying to read, a newspaper by its flickering glare. Thord glanced at him with some suspicion—the stranger was too near his own lodging for his pleasure, for he was always on his guard against spies. Approaching more closely, he saw that though the man was shabbily attired in a rough pilot suit, much the worse for wear, he nevertheless had the indefinable look and bearing of a gentleman. Acting on impulse, as he often did, Thord spoke to him.
"A rough night for reading by lamplight, my friend!" he said.
The man looked up, and smiled.
"Yes, it is, rather! But I have only just got the evening paper."
"Any special news?"
"No—only this—" and he pointed to a bold headline—"The King versus The Jesuits."
"Ah!" said Thord, and he studied the looks and bearing of the stranger with increasing curiosity. "What do you think of it?"
"What do I think? May I ask, without offence, what you think?"
"I think," said Thord slowly, "that the King has for once in his life done a wise thing."
"'For once in his life!'" repeated the stranger dubiously—"Then I presume your King is, generally speaking, a fool?"
"If you are a subject of his—" began Thord slowly——
"Thank Heaven, I am not! I am a mere wanderer—a literary loafer—a student of men and manners. I read books, and I write them too,—this will perhaps explain the eccentricity of my behaviour in trying to read under the lamplight in the rain!"
He smiled again, and the smile was irresistibly pleasant. Something about him attracted Thord, and after a pause he asked:
"If you are, as you say, a wanderer and a stranger in this town, can I be of service to you?"
"You are very kind!" said the other, turning a pair of deep, dark, grey meditative eyes upon him,—"And I am infinitely obliged to you for the suggestion. But I really want nothing. As a matter of fact, I am waiting for two friends of mine who have just gone into one of the foul and filthy habitations here, to see what they can do for a suddenly bereaved family. The husband and father fell dead in the street before our eyes,—and those who picked him up said he was drunk, but it turned out that he was merely starved,—merely!—you understand? Merely starved! We found his home,—and the poor widow is wailing and weeping, and the children are crying for food. I confess myself quite unable to bear the sight, and so I have sent all the money I had about me to help them for to-night at least. By my faith, they are most hopelessly, incurably miserable!"
"Their lot is exceedingly common in these quarters," said Thord, sorrowfully. "Day after day, night after night, men, women and children toil, suffer and die here without ever knowing what it is to have one hour of free fresh air, one day of rest and joy! Yet this is a great city,—and we live in a civilized country!" He smiled bitterly, then added—"You have done a good action; and you need no thanks, or I would thank you; for my life's work lies among these wretched poor, and I am familiar with their tragic histories. Good-night!"
"Pray do not go!" said the stranger suddenly—"I should like to talk to you a little longer, if you have no objection. Is there not some place near, where we can go out of this rain and have a glass of wine together?"
Sergius Thord stood irresolute,—gazing at him, half in liking, half in distrust.
"Sir," he said at last, "I do not know you—and you do not know me. If I told you my name, you would probably not seek my company!"
"Will you tell it?" suggested the stranger cheerfully—"Mine is at your service—Pasquin Leroy. I fear my fame as an author has not reached your ears!"
Thord shook his head.
"No. I have never heard of you. And probably you have never heard of me. My name is Sergius Thord."
"Sergius Thord!" echoed the stranger; "Now that is truly remarkable! It is a happy coincidence that we should have met to-night. I have just seen your name in this very paper which you caught me reading—see!— the next heading under that concerning the King and the Jesuits— 'Thord's Rabble.' Are not you that same Thord?"
"I am!" said Thord proudly, his eyes shining as he took the paper and perused quickly the few flashy lines which described the crowd outside the Cathedral that afternoon, and set him down as a crazy Socialist, and disturber of the peace, "And the 'rabble' as this scribbling fool calls it, is the greater part of this city's population. The King may intimidate his Court; but I, Sergius Thord, with my 'rabble' can intimidate both Court and King!"
He drew himself up to his full majestic height—a noble figure of a man with his fine heroic head and eagle-like glance of eye,—and he who had called himself Pasquin Leroy, suddenly held out his hand.
"Let me see more of you, Sergius Thord!" he said,—"You are the very man for me! They say in this paper that you spoke to a great multitude outside the Cathedral this afternoon, and interfered with the religious procession; they also say you are the head of a Society called the Revolutionary Committee;—now let me work for you in some department of that business!"
"Let you work for me?" echoed Thord astonished—"But how?"
"In this way—" replied the other—"I write Socialistic works,—and for this cause have been expelled from my native home and surroundings. I have a little money—and some influence,—and I will devote both to your Cause. Will you take me, and trust me?"
Thord caught his extended hand, and looked at him with a kind of fierce intentness.
"You mean it?" he said in thrilling tones—"You mean it positively and truly?"
"Positively and truly!" said Leroy—"If you are working to remedy the frightful evils abounding in this wretched quarter of the poor, I will help you! If you are striving to destroy rank abuses, I ask nothing better than to employ my pen in your service. I will get work on the press here—I will do all I can to aid your purposes and carry out your intentions. I have no master, so am free to do as I like; and I will devote myself to your service so long as you think I can be of any use to you."
"Wait!" said Thord—"You must not be carried away by a sudden generous impulse, simply because you have witnessed one scene of the continual misery that is going on here daily. To belong to our Committee means much more than you at present realize, and involves an oath which you may not be willing to take! And what of the friends you spoke of?"
"They will do what I do," replied Leroy—"They share my fortunes— likewise my opinions;—and here they come,—so they can speak for themselves," this, as two men emerged from a dark street on the left, and came full into the lamplight's flare—"Axel Regor, Max Graub—come hither! Fortune has singularly favoured us to-night! Let me present to you my friend—" and he emphasized the word, "Sergius Thord!"
Both men started ever so slightly as the introduction was performed, and Thord looked at them with fresh touches of suspicion here and there lurking in his mind. But he was brave; and having once proceeded in a given direction was not in the habit of turning back. He therefore saluted both the new-comers with grave courtesy.
"I trust you!" he then said curtly to Leroy, "and I think you will not betray my trust. If you do, it will be the worse for you!"
His lips parted in a slight sinister smile, and the two who were respectively called Axel Regor and Max Graub, exchanged anxious glances. But Leroy showed no sign of hesitation or alarm.
"Your warning is quite unnecessary, Sergius Thord," he said,—"I pledge you my word with my friendship—and my word is my bond! I will also hold myself responsible for my companions."
Thord bent his head in silent recognition of this assurance.
"Then follow me, if such is your desire," he said—"Remember, there is yet time to go in another direction, and to see me no more; but if you once do cast in your lot with mine the tie between us is indissoluble!"
He paused, as though expecting some recoil or hesitation on the part of those to whom he made this statement, but none came. He therefore strode on, and they followed, till arriving at the door of the tall, narrow house, where the light in the highest window gleamed like a signal, he opened it with a small key and entered, holding it back courteously for his three new companions to enter with him. They did so, and he closed the door. At the same moment the light was extinguished in the upper window, and the outside of the house became a mere wall of dense blackness in the driving rain.
Up a long uncarpeted flight of stairs, and into a large lofty room on the second storey, Thord led the way for his newly-found disciples to follow. It was very dark, and they had to feel the steps as they went, their guide offering neither explanation nor apology for the Cimmerian shades of gloom. Stumbling on hands and knees they spoke not a word; though once Max Graub uttered something like an oath in rough German; but a whisper from Leroy rebuked and silenced him, and they pursued their difficult ascent until, arriving at the room mentioned, they found themselves in the company of about fifteen to twenty men, all sitting round a table under two flaring billiard lamps, suspended crookedly from the ceiling. As Thord entered, these men all rose, and gave him an expressive sign of greeting with the left hand, the same kind of gesture which had passed between him and Zegota on the Cathedral steps in the morning. Zegota himself was one of their number. There was also another personage in the room who did not rise, and who gave no sign whatever. This was a woman, who sat in the embrasure of a closed and shuttered window with her back to the whole company. It was impossible to say whether she was young or old, plain or handsome, for she was enveloped in a long black cloak which draped her from shoulder to heel. All that could be distinguished of her was the white nape of her neck, and a great twist of dead gold hair. Her presence awakened the liveliest interest in Pasquin Leroy, who found it impossible to avoid nudging his companions, and whispering—
"A woman! By Heaven, this drama becomes interesting!"
But Axel Regor and Max Graub were seemingly not disposed to levity, and they offered no response to their lighter minded comrade beyond vague hasty side-looks of alarm, which appeared to amuse him to an extent that threatened to go beyond the limits of caution. Sergius Thord, however, saw nothing of their interchange of glances for the moment,— he had other business to settle. Addressing himself at once to the men assembled, he said.—
"Friends and brothers! I bring you three new associates! I have not sought them; they have sought me. On their own heads be their destinies! They offer their names to the Revolutionary Committee, and their services to our Cause!"
A low murmur of approbation from the company greeted this announcement. Johan Zegota advanced a little in front of all the rest.
"Every man is welcome to serve us who will serve us faithfully," he said. "But who are these new comrades, Sergius Thord? What are they?"
"That they must declare for themselves," said Thord, taking a chair at the head of the table which was evidently his accustomed place—"Put them through their examination!"
He seated himself with the air of a king, his whole aspect betokening an authority that would not be trifled with or gainsaid.
"Gott in Himmel!"
This exclamation burst suddenly from the lips of the man called Max Graub.
"What ails you?" said Thord, turning full upon him his glittering eyes that flashed ferocity from under their shaggy brows—"Are you afraid?"
"Afraid? Not I!" protested Graub—"But, gentlemen, think a moment! You speak of putting us—myself and my friends—through an examination! Why should you examine us? We are three poor adventurers—what can we have to tell?"
"Much, I should imagine!" retorted Zegota—"Adventurers are not such without adventures! Your white hairs testify to some experience of life."
"My white hairs—my white hairs!" exclaimed Graub, when a touch from Axel Regor apparently recalled something to his mind for he began to laugh—"True, gentlemen! Very true! I had forgotten! I have had some adventures and some experiences! My good friend there, Pasquin Leroy, has also had adventures and experiences,—so have we all! Myself, I am a poor German, grown old in the service of a bad king! I have been kicked out of that service—Ach!—just for telling the truth; which is very much the end of all truth telling, is it not? Tell lies,—and kings will reward you and make you rich and great!—but tell truth, and see what the kings will give you for it! Kicks, and no halfpence! Pardon! I interrupt this so pleasant meeting!"
All the men present looked at him curiously, but said nothing in response to his outburst. Johan Zegota, seating himself next to Sergius Thord, opened a large parchment volume that lay on the table, and taking up a pen addressed himself to Thord, saying—
"Will you ask the questions, or shall I?"
"You, by all means! Proceed in the usual manner."
Whereupon Zegota began.—
"Stand forth, comrades!"
The three strangers advanced.
"Your names? Each one answer separately, please!"
"Of what nationality, Pasquin Leroy?"
Leroy smiled. "Truly I claim none!" he said; "I was born a slave."
The words were repeated in tones of astonishment round the room.
"Why, yes, a slave!" repeated Leroy quietly. "You have heard of black slaves,—have you not heard of white ones too? There are countries still, where men purchase other men of their own blood and colour;— tyrannous governments, which force such men to work for them, chained to one particular place till they die. I am one of those,—though escaped for the present. You can ask me more of my country if you will; but a slave has no country save that of his master. If you care at all for my services, you will spare me further examination on this subject!"
Zegota looked enquiringly at Thord.
"We will pass that question," said the latter, in a low tone.
"You, Axel Regor—are you a slave too?"
Axel Regor smiled languidly.
"No! I am what is called a free-born subject of the realm. I do what I like, though not always how I like, or when I like!"
"And you, Max Graub?"
"German!" said that individual firmly; "German to the backbone— Socialist to the soul!—and an enemy of all ruling sovereigns,— particularly the one that rules me!"
Thord smiled darkly.
"If you feel inclined to jest, Max Graub, I must warn you that jesting is not suited to the immediate moment."
"Jesting! I never was more in earnest in my life!" declared Graub,— "Why have I left my native country? Merely because it is governed by Kaiser Wilhelm!"
Thord smiled again.
"The subject of nationality seems to excite all three of you," he said, "and though we ask you the question pro forma, it is not absolutely necessary that we should know from whence you come. We require your names, and your oath of fealty; but before binding yourselves, I will read you our laws, and the rules of membership for this society; rules to which, if you join us, you are expected to conform."
"Suppose, for the sake of argument," said Pasquin Leroy,—"that after hearing the rules we found it wisest to draw back? Suppose my friends, —if not myself,—were disinclined to join your Society;—what would happen?"
As he asked the question a curious silence fell upon the company, and all eyes were turned upon the speaker. There was a dead pause for a moment, and then Thord replied slowly and with emphasis:—
"Nothing would happen save this,—that you would be bound by a solemn oath never to reveal what you had heard or seen here to-night, and that you would from henceforth be tracked every day and hour of your life by those who would take care that you kept your oath!"
"You see!" exclaimed Axel Regor excitedly, "There is danger——"
"Danger? Of what?" asked Pasquin Leroy coldly;—"Of death? Each one of us, and all three of us would fully merit it, if we broke our word! Gentlemen both!"—and he addressed his two companions, "If you fear any harm may come to yourselves through joining this society, pray withdraw while there is yet time! My own mind is made up; I intend to become familiar with the work of the Revolutionary Committee, and to aid its cause by my personal service!"
A loud murmur of applause came from the company. Axel Regor and Max Graub glanced at Leroy, and saw in his face that his decision was unalterable.
"Then we will work for the Cause, also," said Max Graub resignedly. "What you determine upon, we shall do, shall we not, Axel?"
Axel Regor gave a brief assent.
Sergius Thord looked at them all straightly and keenly.
"You have finally decided?"
"We have!" replied Leroy. "We will enrol ourselves as your associates at once."
Whereupon Johan Zegota rose from his place, and unlocking an iron safe which stood in one corner of the room, took out a roll of parchment and handed it to Thord, who, unfolding it, read in a clear though low voice the following:—
"We, the Revolutionary Committee, are organized as a Brotherhood, bound by all the ties of life, death, and our common humanity, to destroy the abuses, and redress the evils, which self-seeking and tyrannous Governments impose upon the suffering poor.
"Firstly: We bind ourselves to resist all such laws as may in any degree interfere with the reasonable, intellectual, and spiritual freedom of man or woman.
"Secondly: We swear to agitate against all forms of undue and excessive taxation, which, while scarcely affecting the rich, make life more difficult and unendurable to the poor.
"Thirdly: We protest against the domination of priestcraft, and the secret methods which are employed by the Church to obtain undue influence in Governmental matters.
"Fourthly: We are determined to stand firmly against the entrance of foreign competitors in the country's trade and business. All heads and ruling companies of firms employing foreigners instead of native workmen, are marked out by us as traitors, and are reserved for traitors' punishment.
"Fifthly: We are sworn to exterminate the existing worthless Government, and to replace it by a working body of capable and intelligent men, elected by the universal vote of the entire country. Such elections must take place freely and openly, and no secret influence shall be used to return any one person or party to power. Those attempting to sway opinion by bribery and corruption, will be named to the public, and exposed to disgrace and possible death.
"Sixthly: We are resolved to unmask to the public the duplicity, treachery, and self-interested motives of the Secretary of State, Carl Perousse.
"Seventhly: We are sworn to bring about such changes as shall elevate a Republic to supreme power, and for this purpose are solemnly pledged to destroy the present Monarchy."
"These," said Sergius Thord, "are the principal objects of our Society's work. There are other points to be considered, but these are sufficient for the present. I will now read the rules, which each member of our Brotherhood must follow if he would serve us faithfully."
He turned over another leaf of the parchment scroll he held, and continued, reading very slowly and distinctly:
"Rule 1.—Each member of the Revolutionary Committee shall swear fidelity to the Cause, and pledge himself to maintain inviolable secrecy on all matters connected with his membership and his work for the Society.
"Rule 2.—No member shall track, follow, or enquire into the movements of any other member.
"Rule 3.—Once in every month all members are expected to meet together at a given place, decided upon by the Chief of the Committee at the previous meeting, when business will be discussed, and lots drawn, to determine the choice of such members as may be fitted to perform such business.
"Rule 4.—No member shall be bound to give his address, or to state where he travels, or when or how he goes, as in all respects save that of his membership he is a free man.
"Rule 5.—In this same respect of his membership, he is bound to appear, or to otherwise report himself once a month at the meeting of the Committee. Should he fail to do so either by person, or by letter satisfactorily explaining his absence, he will be judged as a traitor, and dealt with accordingly.