"Glad!" echoed the King; "For what reason, pray?"
"I am afraid, Sir," said the young man with a smile, "his gladness was but a part of his science! He said it was better for a prince to wed a healthy and beautiful commoner, than the daughter of a hundred scrofulous kings!"
With a movement of intense indignation, the monarch sprang up from the chair in which he had just seated himself.
"Now, by Heaven!" he exclaimed; "Von Glauben goes too far! He shall suffer for this!"
"Why?" queried the Prince calmly; "You know that what he says is perfectly true. True? Why, there is scarcely a Royal house in the world save our own, without its hereditary curse of disease or insanity. We pay more attention to the breeding of horses than the breeding of kings!"
The plain candour and veracity of the statement, left no room for denial.
"You have seen Gloria," went on the Prince; "You know she is the most beautiful creature your eyes ever rested upon! Von Glauben told me you were stricken dumb, and almost stupefied at sight of her——"
"Damn Von Glauben!" said the King.
His son smiled ever so slightly, but continued.
"You have made yourself acquainted with her history—"
"Yes!" said the King; "That she is a foundling picked up from the sea— a castaway from a wreck!—no one knows who her father and mother were, and yet you, in your raving madness and folly of love, would make her Crown Princess and future Queen!"
The Prince went on unheedingly.
"She is beautiful—and the simple method of her bringing up has left her unspoilt and innocent. She is ignorant of the world's ways—because —" and his voice sank to a reverential tenderness—"God's ways are more familiar to her!" He paused, but his father was silent; he therefore went on. "She is healthy, strong, simple and true,—more fit for a throne, if such were her destiny, than any daughter of any Royal house I know of. Happy the nation that could call such a woman their Queen!"
"As I have already told you, Humphry," returned the King, "you are in love!—with the love of a headstrong, passionate boy for a beautiful and credulous girl. I do not propose to discuss the subject further. You are willing to go abroad, you tell me,—then make your preparations at once. I will select one or two necessary companions for you, and you can start when you please. I would let Von Glauben accompany you, but— for the present—I cannot well spare him. Your intended voyage must be made public, and in this way nothing will be known of the manner in which you have privately chosen to make a fool of yourself. I will explain the situation to the Queen;—but beyond that I shall say nothing. Let me know by to-morrow how soon you can arrange your departure."
The Prince bowed composedly, and was about to retire, when the King called him back.
"You do not ask my pardon, Humphry, for the offence you have committed?"
The young man flushed, and bit his lip.
"Sir, I cannot ask pardon for what I do not consider is wrong! I have married the woman I love; and I intend to be faithful to her. You married a woman you did not love—and the result, according to my views, and also according to my experience of my mother and yourself, is more or less regrettable. If I have offended you, I sincerely beg your forgiveness, but you must first point out the nature of the offence. Surely, it must be more gratifying to you to know that I prefer to be a man of honour than a common seducer?"
The King looked at him, and his own eyes fell under his son's clear candid gaze.
"Enough! You may go!" he said briefly.
The door opened and closed again;—he was gone.
The King, left alone, fixed his eyes on the sparkling line of the sea, brightly blue, and the flower-bordered terrace in front of him. Life was becoming interesting;—the long burdensome monotony of years had changed into a variety of contrasting scenes and colours,—and in taking up the problem of human life as lived by others, more than as lived by himself, he had entered on a new path, untrodden by conventionalities, and leading, he knew not whither. But, having begun to walk in it, he was determined to go on—and to use each new experience as a guide for the rest of his actions. His son's marriage with a commoner—one who indeed was not only a commoner but a foundling—might after all lead to good, if properly taken in hand,— and he resolved not to make the worst of it, but rather to let things take their own natural course.
"For love," he said to himself somewhat bitterly, "in nine cases out of ten ends in satiety,—marriage, in separation by mutual consent! Let the boy travel for a year, and forget, if he can, the fair face which captivates him,—for it is a fair face,—and more than that,—I honestly believe it is the reflex of a fair soul!"
His eyes grew dreamy and absorbed; away on the horizon a little white cloud, shaped like the outspread wings of a dove, hovered over the sea just where The Islands lay.
"Yes! Let him see new scenes—strange lands, and varying customs; let him hear modern opinions of life, instead of reading the philosophies of Aurelius and Epictetus, and the poetry written ages ago by the dead wild souls of the past;—and so he will forget—and all will be well! While for Gloria herself,—and the old revolutionist Ronsard—we shall doubtless find ways and means of consolation for them both!"
Thus he mused,—yet in the very midst of his thoughts the echoing memory of a golden voice, round and rich with delight and triumph rang in his ears:
"My King crown'd me! And I and he Are one till the world shall cease to be!"
THE PROFESSOR ADVISES
"I have discovered the secret of successful living, Professor," said the King, a couple of hours later as, walking in one of the many thickly wooded alleys of the palace grounds, he greeted Von Glauben, who had been told to meet him there, and who had been waiting the Royal approach with some little trepidation,—"It is this,—to draw a straight line of conduct, and walk in it, regardless of other people's crooked curves!"
The Professor looked at him, and saw nothing but kindliness expressed in his eyes and smile,—therefore, taking courage he replied without embarrassment,—
"Truly, Sir, if a man is brave enough to do this, he may conquer everything but death, and even face this last enemy without much alarm."
"I agree with you!" replied the monarch; "And Humphry's line has certainly been straight enough, taken from the point of his own perspective! Do you not think so?"
Von Glauben hesitated a moment—then spoke out boldly.
"Sir, as you now know all, I will frankly assure you that I think his Royal Highness has behaved honourably, and as a true man! Society pardons a prince for seducing innocence—but whether it will pardon him for marrying it, is quite another question! And that is why I repeat, he has behaved well. Though when he first told me he was married, I suffered a not-to-be-explained misery and horror; 'For,' said he—'I have married an angel!' Which naturally I thought (deducting a certain quantity of the enthusiasm of youth for the statement) meant that he had married a bouncing housemaid with large hands and feet. 'That is well,' I told him—'For divorce is now made easy in this country, and you can easily return the celestial creature to her native element!' At which I resigned myself to hear some oaths, for violent expletives are always refreshing to the masculine brain-matter. But his Royal Highness maintained the good breeding which always distinguishes him, and merely proceeded with his strange confession of romance,—which, as you, Sir, are now happily aware of it, I need not recapitulate. Your knowledge of the matter has lifted an enormous burden from my mind; Ach! Enormous!"
He gave a deep breath, and drew himself up to his full height—squared his shoulders, and then, as it were stood firm, as though waiting attack.
The King laughed good-naturedly, and took him by the arm.
"Tell me all you know, Von Glauben!" he said; "I am acquainted with the gist and upshot of the matter,—namely, Humphry's marriage; but I am wholly ignorant of the details."
"There is little to tell, Sir," said Von Glauben;—"Of the Prince's constant journeyings to The Islands we were all aware long ago; but the cause of those little voyages was not so apparent. To avoid the suspicion with which a Royal visitor would be viewed, the Prince, it appears, assumed to be merely one of the junior officers on his own yacht,—and under this disguise became known and much liked by the Islanders generally. He fell in love at first sight with the beautiful girl your Majesty saw yesterday—Gloria; 'Glory-of-the-Sea'—as I sometimes call her, and they were married by the old parish priest in the little church among the rocks—the very church where, as her adopted father, Ronsard, tells me, he heard the choristers singing a 'Gloria in Excelsis' on the day he found her cast up on the shore."
"Well!" said the King, seeing that he paused; "And is the marriage legal, think you?"
"Perfectly so, Sir!" replied Von Glauben; "Registered by law, as well as sanctified by church. The Prince tells me he married her in his own name,—but no one,—not even the poor little priest who married them,— knew the surname of your Majesty's distinguished house, and I believe, —nay I am sure—" here he heaved an unconscious sigh, "it will bring a tragedy to the girl when she knows the true rank and title of her husband!"
"How came you to make her acquaintance? Tell me everything!—you know I will not misjudge you!"
"Indeed, Sir, I hope you will not!" returned the Professor earnestly;— "For there was never a man more hopelessly involved than myself in the net prepared for me by this romantic lover, who has the honour to be your son. In the first place, directly I heard this confession of marriage, I was for telling you at once; but as he had bound me by my word of honour before he began the story, to keep his confidence sacred, I was unable to disburden myself of it. He said he wanted to secure me as a friend for his wife. 'That,' said I firmly, 'I will never be! For there will be difficulty when all is known; and if it comes to a struggle between a pretty fishwife and the good of a king— ach!—mein Gott!—I am not for the fishwife!'"
The King smiled; and Von Glauben went on.
"Well, he assured me she was not a fishwife. I said 'What is she then?' 'I tell you,' he replied, 'she is an angel! You will come and see her; you will pass as an old friend of her sailor husband; and when you have seen her you will understand!' I was angry, and said I would not go with him; but afterwards I thought perhaps it would be best if I did, as I might be able to advise him to some wise course. So I accompanied him one afternoon in the past autumn to The Islands (he was married last summer) and saw the girl,—the 'Glory-of-the-Sea.' And I must confess to your Majesty, my heart went down before her beauty and innocence in absolute worship! And if you were to kill me for it, I cannot help it—I am now as devoted to her service as I am to yours!"
"Good!" said the King gently;—"Then you must help me to console her in Humphry's absence!"
Professor Von Glauben's eyes opened widely, with a vague look of alarm.
"In his absence, Sir?"
"Yes! I am sending him abroad. He is quite willing to go, he tells me. His departure will make all things perfectly easy for us. The girl must remain in her present ignorance as to the position of the man she has really married. The sailor she supposes him to be will accompany the Prince on his yacht,—and it must be arranged that he never returns! She is young, and will easily be consoled!"
Von Glauben was silent.
"You will not betray the Prince's identity with her lover," went on the King, "and no one else knows it. In fact, you will be the very person best qualified to tell her of his departure, and—in due time, of his fictitious death!"
They were walking slowly under the heavy shadow of crossed ilex boughs,—and Von Glauben came to a dead halt.
"Sir," he said, in rather unsteady accents; "With every respect for your Majesty, I must altogether decline the task of breaking a pure heart, and ruining a young life! Moreover, if your Majesty, after all your recent experiences,"—and he laid great emphasis on these last words, "thinks there is any ultimate good to be obtained by keeping up a lie, and practising a fraud, the lessons we have learned in these latter days are wholly unavailing! You began this conversation with me by speaking of a straight line of conduct, which should avoid other people's crooked curves. Is this your Majesty's idea of a straight line?"
He spoke with unguarded vehemence, but the King was not offended. On the contrary, he looked whimsically interested and amused.
"My dear Von Glauben, you are not usually so inconsistent! Humphry himself has kept up a lie, and practised a fraud on the girl——"
"Only for a time!" interrupted the Professor hastily.
"Oh, we all do it 'only for a time.' Everything—life itself—is 'only for a time!' You know as well as I do that this absurd marriage can never be acknowledged. I explained as much to Humphry; I told him he could guard himself by the morganatic law, provided he would consent to a Royal alliance immediately—but the young fool swore it would be bigamy, and took himself off in a huff."
"He was right! It would be bigamy;—it is bigamy!", said the Professor; "Call it by what name you like in Court parlance, the act of having two wives is forbidden in this country. The wisest men have come to the conclusion that one wife is enough!"
"Humphry's ideas being so absolutely childish," went on the King, "it is necessary for him to expand them somewhat. That is why I shall send him abroad. You have a strong flavour of romance in your Teutonic composition, Von Glauben,—and I can quite sympathise with your admiration for the 'Glory-of-the-Sea' as you call her. From a man's point of view, I admire her myself. But I know nothing of her moral or mental qualities; though from her flat refusal to give me her husband's name yesterday, I judge her as wilful,—but most pretty women are that. And as for my line of conduct, it will, I assure you, be perfectly 'straight,'—in the direction of my duty as a King,—apart altogether from sentimental considerations! And in this, as in other things,—" he paused and emphasised his words—"I rely on your honour and faithful service!"
The Professor made no reply. He was, thinking deeply. With a kind of grim scorn, he pointed out to himself that his imagination was held captive by the mental image of a woman, whose eyes had expressed trust in him; and almost as tenderly as the lover in Tennyson's 'Maud' he could have said that he 'would die, To save from some slight shame one simple girl.' Presently he braced himself up, and confronted his Royal master.
"Sir," he said very quietly, yet with perfect frankness; "Your Majesty must have the goodness to pardon me if I say you must not rely upon me at all in this matter! I will promise nothing, except to be true to myself and my own sense of justice. I have given up my own country for conscience' sake—I can easily give up another which is not my own, for the same reason. In the matter of this marriage or 'mesalliance' as the worldly would call it,—I have nothing whatever to do. While the Prince asked me to keep his secret, I kept it. Now that he has confided it to your Majesty, I am relieved and satisfied; and shall not in any way, by word or suggestion, interfere with your Majesty's intentions. But, at the same time, I shall not assist them! For as regards the trusting girl who has been persuaded that she has won a great love and complete happiness for all her life,—I have sworn to be her friend;—and I must respectfully decline to be a party to any further deception in her case. Knowing what I know of her character, which is a pure and grand one, I think it would be far better to tell her the whole truth, and let her be the arbiter of her own destiny. She will decide well and truly, I am sure!"
He ceased; the King was silent. Von Glauben studied his face attentively.
"You are a thinker, Sir,—a student and a philosopher. You are not one of those kings who treat their kingship as a license for the free exercise of intolerant humours and vicious practices. Were you no monarch at all, you would still be a sane and thoughtful man. Take my humble advice, Sir—for once put the unspoilt nature of a pure woman to the test, and find out what a grand creature God intended woman to be, in her pristine simplicity and virtue! Send for Gloria to this Court;— tell her the truth!—and await the result with confidence!"
There was a pause. The King walked slowly up and down; at last he spoke.
"You may be right! I do not say you are wrong. I will consider your suggestion. Certainly it would be the straightest course. But first a complete explanation is due to the Queen. She must know all,—and if her interest can be awakened by such a triviality as her son's love- affair—" and he smiled somewhat bitterly,—"perhaps she may agree to your plan as the best way out of the difficulty. In any case"—here he extended his hand which the Professor deferentially bowed over—"I respect your honesty and plain speaking, Professor! I have reason to approve highly of sincerity,—wherever and however I find it,—at the present crisis of affairs. For the moment, I will only ask you to be on your guard with Humphry;—and say as little as possible to him on the subject of his marriage or intended departure from this country. Keep everything as quiet as may be;—till—till we find a clear and satisfactory course to follow, which shall inflict as little pain as possible on all concerned. And now, a word with you on other matters."
They walked on side by side, through the garden walks and ways, conversing earnestly,—and by and by penetrating into the deeper recesses of the outlying woodlands, were soon hidden among the crossing and recrossing of the trees. Had they kept to the open ground, from whence the wide expanse of the sea could be viewed from end to end, their discussions might perhaps have been interrupted, and themselves somewhat startled,—for they would have seen Prince Humphry's yacht, with every inch of canvas stretched to the utmost, flying rapidly before the wind like a wild white bird, winging its swift, straight way to the west where the sun shot down Apollo-like shafts of gold on the gleaming purple coast-line of The Islands.
AN "HONOURABLE" STATESMAN
It is not easy to trace the causes why it so often happens that semi- educated, and more or less shallow men rise suddenly to a height of brilliant power and influence in the working of a country's policy. Sometimes it is wealth that brings them to the front; sometimes the strong support secretly given to them by others in the background, who have their own motives to serve, and who require a public representative; but more often still it is sheer unscrupulousness,—or what may be described as 'walking over' all humane and honest considerations,—that places them in triumph at the helm of affairs. To rise from a statesman to be a Secretary of State augurs a certain amount of brain, though not necessarily of the highest quality; while it certainly betokens a good deal of dash and impudence. Carl Perousse, one of the most prominent among the political notabilities of Europe, had begun his career by small peddling transactions in iron and timber manufactures; he came of a very plebeian stock, and had received only a desultory sort of education, picked up here and there in cheap provincial schools. But he had a restless, domineering spirit of ambition. Ashamed of his plebeian origin, and embittered from his earliest years by a sense of grudge against those who moved in the highest and most influential circles of the time, the idea was always in his mind that he would one day make himself an authority over the very persons, who, in the rough and tumble working-days of his younger manhood, would not so much as cast him a word or a look. He knew that the first thing necessary to attain for this purpose was money; and he had, by steady and constant plod, managed to enlarge and expand all his business concerns into various, important companies, which he set afloat in all quarters of the world,—with the satisfactory result that by the time his years had run well into the forties, he was one of the wealthiest men in the country. He had from the first taken every opportunity to insinuate himself into politics; and in exact proportion to the money he made, so was his success in acquiring such coveted positions in life as brought with them the masterful control of various conflicting aims and interests. His individual influence had extended by leaps and bounds till he had become only secondary in importance to the Prime Minister himself; and he possessed a conveniently elastic conscience, which could be stretched at will to suit any party or any set of principles. In personal appearance he was not prepossessing. Nature had branded him in her own special way 'Trickster,' for those who cared to search for her trademark. He was tall and thin, with a narrow head and a deeply-lined, clean-shaven countenance, the cold immovability of which was sometimes broken up by an unpleasant smile, that merely widened the pale set lips without softening them, and disclosed a crooked row of smoke-coloured teeth, much decayed. He had small eyes, furtively hidden under a somewhat restricted frontal development,—his brows were narrow,—his forehead ignoble and retreating. But despite a general badness, or what may be called a 'smirchiness' of feature, he had learned to assume an air of superiority, which by its sheer audacity prevented a casual observer from setting him down as the vulgarian he undoubtedly was; and his amazing pluck, boldness and originality in devising ways and means of smothering popular discontent under various 'shows' of apparent public prosperity, was immensely useful to all such 'statesmen,' whose statesmanship consisted in making as much money as possible for themselves out of the pockets of their credulous countrymen. He was seldom disturbed by opposing influences; and even now when he had just returned from the palace with the full knowledge that the King was absolutely resolved on vetoing certain propositions he had set down in council for the somewhat arbitrary treatment of a certain half- tributary power which had latterly turned rebellious, he was more amused than irritated.
"I suppose his Majesty wants to distinguish himself by a melodramatic coup d'etat" he said, leaning easily back in his chair, and studying the tips of his carefully pared and polished finger-nails;— "Poor fool! I don't blame him for trying to do something more than walk about his palace in different costumes at stated intervals,—but he will find his 'veto' out of date. We shall put it to the country;—and I think I can answer for that!"
He smiled, as one who knows where and how to secure a triumph, and his equanimity was not disturbed in the least by the unexpected arrival of the Premier, who was just then announced, and who, coming in his turn from the King's diplomatic reception, had taken the opportunity to call and see his colleague on his way home.
"You seem fatigued, Marquis!" he said, as, rising to receive his distinguished guest, he placed a chair for him opposite his own. "Was his Majesty's conversazione more tedious than usual?"
Lutera looked at him with a dubious air.
"No!—it was brief enough so far as I was immediately concerned," he replied;—"I do not suppose I stayed more than twenty minutes in the Throne-room altogether. I understand you have been told that our proposed negotiations are to be vetoed?"
"I have been told—yes!—but I have been told many things which I do not believe! The King certainly has the right of veto; but he dare not exercise it."
"Dare not?" echoed the Marquis—"From his present unconstitutional attitude it seems to me he dare do anything!"
"I tell you he dare not!" repeated Perousse quietly;—"Unless he wishes to lose the Throne. I daresay if it came to that, we should get on quite as well—if not better—with a Republic!"
Lutera looked at him with an amazed and reluctant admiration.
"You talk of a Republic? You,—who are for ever making the most loyal speeches in favour of the monarchy?"
"Why not?" queried Perousse lightly;—"If the monarchy does not do as it is told, whip it like a naughty child and send it to bed. That has been easily arranged before now in history!"
The Marquis sat silent,—thinking, or rather brooding heavily. Should he, or should he not unburden himself of certain fears that oppressed his mind? He cleared his throat of a troublesome huskiness and began,—
"If the purely business transactions in which you are engaged——"
"And you also," put in Perousse placidly.
The Premier shifted his position uneasily and went on.
"I say, if the purely business transactions of this affair were publicly known——"
"As well expect Cabinet secrets to be posted on a hoarding in the open thoroughfare!" said Perousse. "What afflicts you with these sudden pangs of distrust at your position? You have taken care to provide for all your own people! What more can you desire?"
Lutera hesitated; then he said slowly:—
"I think there is only one thing for me to do,—and that is to send in my resignation at once!"
Carl Perousse raised himself a little out of his chair, and opened his narrow eyes.
"Send in your resignation!" he echoed; "On what grounds? Do me the kindness to remember, Marquis, that I am not yet quite ready to take your place!"
He smiled his disagreeable smile,—and the Marquis began to feel irritated.
"Do not be too sure that you will ever have it to take," he said with some acerbity; "If the King should by any means come to know of your financial deal——"
"You seem to be very suddenly afraid of the King!" interrupted Perousse; "Or else strange touches of those catch-word ideals 'Loyalty' and 'Patriotism' are troubling your mind! You speak of my financial deal,—is not yours as important? Review the position;—it is simply this;—for years and years the Ministry have been speculating in office matters,—it is no new thing. Sometimes they have lost, and sometimes they have won; their losses have been replaced by the imposition of taxes on the people,—their gains they have very wisely said nothing about. In these latter days, however, the loss has been considerably more than the gain. 'Patriotism,' as stocks, has gone down. 'Honour' will not pay the piper. We cannot increase taxation just at present; but by a war, we can clear out some of the useless population, and invest in contracts for supplies. The mob love fighting,—and every small victory won, can be celebrated in beer and illuminations, to expand what is called 'the heart of the People.' It is a great 'heart,' and always leaps to strong drink,—which is cheap enough, being so largely adulterated. The country we propose to subdue is rich,—and both you and I have large investments of land there. With the success which our arms are sure to obtain, we shall fill not only the State coffers (which have been somewhat emptied by our predecessors' peculations), but our own coffers as well. The King 'vetoes' the war; then let us hear what the People say! Of course we must work them up first; and then get their verdict while they are red- hot with patriotic excitement. The Press, ordered by Jost, can manage that! Put it to the country; (through Jost);—but do not talk of resigning when we are on the brink of success! I will carry this thing through, despite the King's 'veto'!"
"Wait!" said the Marquis, drawing his chair closer to Perousse, and speaking in a low uneasy tone; "You do not know all! There is some secret agency at work against us; and, among other things, I fear that a foreign spy has been inadvertently allowed to learn the mainspring of our principal moves. Listen, and judge for yourself!"
And he related the story of David Jost's midnight experience, carefully emphasising every point connected with his own signet-ring. As he proceeded with the narration, Perousse's face grew livid,—once or twice he clenched his hand nervously, but he said nothing till he had heard all.
"Your ring, you say, had never left the King's possession?"
"So the King himself assured me, this very afternoon."
"Then someone must have passed off an imitation signet on David Jost," continued Perousse meditatively. "What name did the spy give?"
Carl Perousse opened a small memorandum book, and carefully wrote the name down within it.
"Whatever David Jost has said, David Jost alone is answerable for!" he then said calmly—"A Jew may be called a liar with impunity, and whatever a Jew has asserted can be flatly denied. Remember, he is in our pay!"
"I doubt if he will consent to be made the scapegoat in this affair," said Lutera; "Unless we can make it exceptionally to his advantage;—he has the press at his command."
"Give him a title!" returned Perousse contemptuously; "These Jew press- men love nothing better!"
The Marquis smiled somewhat sardonically.
"Jost, with a patent of nobility would cut rather an extraordinary figure!" he said; "Still he would probably make good use of it,— especially if he were to start a newspaper in London! They would accept him as a great man there!"
Perousse gave a careless nod; his thoughts were otherwise occupied.
"This Pasquin Leroy has gone to Moscow?"
"According to his own words, he was leaving this morning."
"I daresay that statement is a blind. I should not at all wonder if he is still in the city. I will get an exact description of him from Jost, and set Bernhoff on his track."
"Do not forget," said the Marquis impressively, "that he told Jost in apparently the most friendly and well-meaning manner possible, that the King had discovered the whole plan of our financial campaign. He even reported me as being ready to resign in consequence——"
"Which apparently you are!" interpolated Perousse with some sarcasm.
"I certainly have my resignation in prospect," returned Lutera coldly— "And, so far, this mysterious spy has seemingly probed my thoughts. If he is as correct in his report concerning the King, it is impossible to say what may be the consequence."
"Why, what can the King do?" demanded Perousse impatiently, and with scorn for the vacillating humour of his companion; "Granted that he knew everything from the beginning——"
"Including your large land purchases and contract concessions in the very country you propose war with," put in the Marquis,—"Say that he knew you had resolved on war, and had already started a company for the fabrication of the guns and other armaments, out of which you get the principal pickings—what then?"
"What then?" echoed Perousse defiantly—"Why nothing! The King is as powerless as a target in a field, set up for arrows to be aimed at! He dare not divulge a State secret; he has no privilege of interference with politics; all he can do is to 'lead' fashionable society—a poor business at best—and at present his lead is not particularly apparent. The King must do as We command!"
He rose and paced up and down with agitated steps.
"To-day, when he told me he had resolved to 'veto' my propositions, I accepted his information without any manifestation of surprise. I merely said it would have to be stated in the Senate, and that reasons would have to be given. He agreed, and said that he himself would proclaim those reasons. I told him it was impossible!"
"And what was his reply?" asked the Marquis.
"His reply was as absurd as his avowed intention. 'Hitherto it has been impossible,' he said; 'But in Our reign we shall make it possible!' He declined any further conversation with me, referring me to you and our chief colleagues in the Cabinet."
"Well! I pay no more attention to a King's sudden caprice than I do to the veering of the wind! He will alter his mind in a few days, when the exigency of the matters in hand becomes apparent to him. In the same way, he will revoke his decision about that grant of land to the Jesuits. He must let them have their way."
"What benefit do we get by favouring the Jesuits?" asked Lutera.
"Jost gets a thousand a year for putting flattering notices of the schools, processions, festivals and such nonsense in his various newspapers; and our party secures the political support of the Vatican in Europe,—which just now is very necessary. The Pope must give his Christian benediction not only to our Educational system, but also to the war!"
"Then the King has set himself in our way already, even in this matter?"
"He has! Quite unaccountably and very foolishly. But we shall persuade him still to be of our opinion. The ass that will not walk must be beaten till he gallops! I have no anxiety whatever on any point; even the advent of Jost's spy, with an imitation of your signet on his finger appears to me quite melodramatic, and only helps to make the general situation more interesting,—to me at least;—I am only sorry to see that you allow yourself to be so much concerned over these trifles!"
"I have my family to think of," said the Marquis slowly; "My reputation as a statesman, and my honour as a minister are both at stake." Perousse smiled oddly, but said nothing. "If in any way my name became a subject of popular animadversion, it would entirely ruin the position I believe I have attained in history. I have always wished,—" and there was a tinge of pathos in his voice—"my descendants to hold a certain pride in my career!"
Perousse looked at him with grim amusement.
"It is a curious and unpleasant fact that the 'descendants' of these days do not care a button for their ancestors," he said; "They generally try to forget them as fast as possible. What do the descendants of Robespierre, (if there are any), care about him? The descendants of Wellington? The descendants of Beethoven or Lord Byron? Among the many numerous advantages attending the world-wide fame of Shakespeare is that he has left no descendants. If he had, his memory would have been more vulgarised by them, than by any Yankee kicker at his grave! One of the most remarkable features of this progressive age is the cheerful ease with which sons forget they ever had fathers! I am afraid, Marquis, you are not likely to escape the common doom!"
Lutera rose slowly, and prepared to take his departure.
"I shall call a Cabinet Council for Monday," he said; "This is Friday. You will find it convenient to attend?"
Perousse, rising at the same time, assented smilingly.
"You will see things in a better and clearer light by then," he said. "Rely on me! I have not involved you thus far with any intention of bringing you to loss or disaster. Whatever befalls you in this affair must equally befall me; we are both in the same boat. We must carry things through with a firm hand, and show no hesitation. As for the King, his business is to be a Dummy; and as Dummy he must remain."
Lutera made no reply. They shook hands,—not over cordially,—and parted; and as soon as Perousse heard the wheels of the Premier's carriage grinding away from his outer gate, he applied himself vigorously to the handle of one of the numerous telephone wires fitted up near his desk, and after getting into communication with the quarter he desired, requested General Bernhoff, Chief of the Police, to attend upon him instantly. Bernhoff's headquarters were close by, so that he had but to wait barely a quarter of an hour before that personage,—the same who had before been summoned to the presence of the King,— appeared.
To him Perousse handed a slip of paper, on which he had written the words 'Pasquin Leroy.'
"Do you know that name?" he asked.
General Bernhoff looked at it attentively. Only the keenest and closest observer could have possibly detected the slight flicker of a smile under the stiff waxed points of his military moustache, as he read it. He returned it carefully folded.
"I fancy I have heard it!" he said cautiously; "In any case, I shall remember it."
"Good! There is a man of that name in this city; trace him if you can! Take this note to Mr. David Jost"—and while he spoke he hastily scrawled a few lines and addressed them—"and he will give you an exact personal description of him. He is reported to have left for Moscow,— but I discredit that statement. He is a foreign spy, engaged, we believe, in the work of taking plans of our military defences,—he must be arrested, and dealt with rigorously at once. You understand?"
"Perfectly," replied Bernhoff, accepting the note handed to him; "If he is to be discovered, I shall not fail to discover him!"
"And when you think you are on the track, let me have information at once," went on Perousse; "But be well on your guard, and let no one learn the object of your pursuit. Keep your own counsel!"
"I always do!" returned Bernhoff bluntly. "If I did not there might be trouble!"
Perousse looked at him sharply, but seeing the wooden-like impassiveness of his countenance, forced a smile.
"There might indeed!" he said; "Your tact and discretion, General, do much to keep the city quiet. But this affair of Pasquin Leroy is a private matter."
"Distinctly so!" agreed Bernhoff quietly; "I hold the position entirely!"
He shortly afterwards withdrew, and Carl Perousse, satisfied that he had at any rate taken precautions to make known the existence of a spy in the city, if not to secure his arrest, turned to the crowding business on his hands with a sense of ease and refreshment. He might not have felt quite so self-assured and complacent, had he seen the worthy Bernhoff smiling broadly to himself as he strolled along the street, with the air of one enjoying a joke, the while he murmured,—
"Pasquin Leroy,—engaged in taking plans of the military defences—is he? Ah!—a very dangerous amusement to indulge in! Engaged in taking plans!—Ah!—Yes!—Very good,—very good; excellent! Do I know the name? Yes! I fancy I might have heard it! Oh, yes, very good indeed— excellent! And this spy is probably still in the city? Yes!—Probably! Yes—I should imagine it quite likely!"
Still smiling, and apparently in the best of humours with himself and the world at large, the General continued his easy stroll by the sea- fronted ways of the city, along the many picturesque terraces, and up flights of marble steps built somewhat in the fashion of the prettiest corners of Monaco, till he reached the chief promenade and resort of fashion, which being a broad avenue running immediately under and in front of the King's palace facing the sea, was in the late sunshine of the afternoon crowded with carriages and pedestrians. Here he took his place with the rest, saluting a fellow officer here, or a friend there,—and stood bareheaded with the rest of the crowd, when a light gracefully-shaped landau, drawn by four greys, and escorted by postillions in the Royal liveries, passed like a triumphal car, enshrining the cold, changeless and statuesque beauty of the Queen, upon whom the public were never weary of gazing. She was a curiosity to them—a living miracle in her unwithering loveliness; for, apparently unmoved by emotion herself, she roused all sorts of emotions in others. Bernhoff had seen her a thousand times, but never without a sense of new dazzlement.
"Always the same Sphinx!" he thought now, with a slight frown shading the bluff good-nature of his usual expression; "She is a woman who will face Death as she faces Time,—with that cold smile of hers which expresses nothing but scorn of all life's little business!"
He proceeded meditatively on his way to the palace itself, where, on demand, he was at once admitted to the private apartments of the King.
Silver-white glamour of the moon, and velvet darkness of deep branching foliage held the quiet breadth of The Islands between them. Low on the shore the fantastic shapes of one or two tall cliffs were outlined black on the fine sparkling sand,—tiny waves rose from the bosom of the calm sea, and cuddling together in baby ripples made bubbles of their crests, and broke here and there among the pebbles with low gurgles of laughter, and in the warm silence of the southern night the nightingales began to tune up their delicate fluty voices with delicious tremors and pauses in the trying of their song. The under- scent of hidden violets among moss flowed potently upon the quiet air, mingled with strong pine-odours and the salt breath of the gently heaving sea,—and all the land seemed as lonely and as fair as the fabled Eden might have been, when the first two human mated creatures knew it as their own. To every soul that loves for the first time, the vision of that Lost Paradise is granted; to every man and woman who know and feel the truth of the divine passion is vouchsafed a flashing gleam of glory from that Heaven which gives them to each other. For the voluptuary—for the animal man,—who like his four-footed kindred is only conscious of instinctive desire, this pure expansion of the heart and ennobling of the thought is as a sealed book,—a never-to-be- divulged mystery of joy, which, because he cannot experience it, he is unable to believe in. It is a glory-cloud in which the privileged ones are 'caught up and received out of sight.' It transfuses the roughest elements into immortal influences,—it colours the earth with fairer hues, and fills the days with beauty; every hour is a gem of sweet thought set in the dreaming soul, and the lover, at certain times of rapt ecstasy, would smile incredulously were he told that anyone living could be unhappy. For love goes back to the beginning of things,—to the time when the world was new. It has its birth in that primeval light when 'the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.' If it is real, deep, passionate and disinterested love, it sees no difficulties and knows no disillusions. It is a sufficient assurance of God to make life beautiful. But in these days of the eld-time of nations, when all things are being mixed and prepared for casting into a new mould of world-formation, where we and our civilizations are not, and shall not be,—any more than the Egyptian Rameses is part of us now,—love in its pristine purity, faith and simplicity, is rare. Very little romance is left to hallow it; and it is doubtful whether the white moon, swinging like a silver lamp in heaven above the peaceful Islands, shed her glory anywhere on any such lovers in the world, as the two who on this fair night of the southern springtime, with arms entwined round each other, moved slowly up and down on the velvet greensward outside Ronsard's cottage,—Gloria and her 'sailor' husband.
Gloria was happy,—and her happiness made her doubly beautiful. Clad in her usual attire of white homespun, with her rich hair falling unbound over her shoulders in girl-fashion, and just kept back by a band of white coral, she looked like a young goddess of the sea; her lustrous, starlike eyes gazed up into the tender responsive ones of the handsome stripling she had so trustfully wedded, and not a shadow of doubt or fear darkened the heaven of her confidence. She did not know how beautiful she was,—she did not realise that her body was like one of the unfettered, graceful and perfectly-proportioned figures of women left to our wondering reverence by the Greek sculptors,—she had never thought about herself at all, not even to compare her fair brilliancy of skin with the bronzed, weather-beaten faces of the fisher-folk among whom she dwelt. Resting her delicate classic head against the encircling arm of her lover and lord, her beauty seemed almost unearthly in its pure transparency of feature, outlined by the silver glimmer of the moonbeams; and the young man by her side, with his handsome dark head, tall figure and distinguished bearing, looked the fitting mate for her fair, blossoming womanhood. No two lovers were ever more ideally matched in physical perfection; and as they moved slowly to and fro on the soft dark grass, brushing the dewy scent from hanging rose-boughs that pushed out inviting tufts of white and pink bloom here and there from the surrounding foliage, they would have served many a poet for some sweet idyll, or romance in rhyme, which should hold in its stanzas the magic of immortality. Yet there was a shade of uneasiness in the minds of both,—Prince Humphry was more silent than usual, and seemed absorbed in thought; and Gloria, looking timidly up from time to time at the dark poetic face of her 'sailor' lover, felt with a woman's quick instinct that something was troubling him, and remorsefully concluded that she was to blame,—that he had heard of her having been seen by the King, and that he was evidently vexed by it. He had arrived that evening suddenly and unexpectedly; for she and her 'little father,' as she called Rene Ronsard, had just begun their frugal supper, when the Crown Prince's yacht swept into the bay and dropped anchor. Half an hour later he, the much-beloved 'junior officer' in the Crown Prince's service had appeared at the cottage door, greatly to their delight, for they did not expect to see him so soon. They had supped together, and then Ronsard himself had gone to superintend a meeting at a small social club he had started for the amusement of the fisher-folk, wisely leaving the young wedded lovers to themselves. And they had for a long time been very quiet, save for such little words of love as came into tune with the interchange of caresses,—and after a pause of anxious inward thought, Gloria ventured on a timid query.
"Dearest,—are you very angry with me?"
He started,—and stopping in his walk, turned the fair face up between his two hands, as one might lift a rose on its stem, and kissed it tenderly.
"Angry? How can I ever be angry with you, Sweet? Besides what cause have I for anger?"
"I thought, perhaps—" murmured Gloria, "that if the Professor told you what I did yesterday,—when the King came—"
"He did tell me;" and the Prince still gazed down on that heavenly beauty which was the light of the world to him. "He told me that you sang;—and that your golden voice was a musical magnet which drew his Majesty to your feet! I am not surprised,—it was only natural! But I could have wished it had not happened just yet; however, it has happened, and we must make the best of it!"
"It was my fault," said the girl penitently;—"I had the fancy to sing; and I would sing, though the good Professor told me not to do so!"
The Prince was silent. He was bracing his mind to the inevitable. He had determined that on this very night Gloria should know the truth. For he was instinctively certain that if he went abroad, as his father wished him to do, some means would be taken to remove her altogether from the country before his return; and his idea was to tell her all, and make her accompany him on his travels. As his wife, she was bound to obey him, he argued within himself; she should, she must go with him! Unconsciously Gloria's next words supplied him with an opening to the subject.
"Why did you never tell me that the Professor was in the King's service?" she asked. "He seemed to know him quite well,—indeed, almost as a friend!"
"He is the King's physician," answered the Prince abruptly; "And, therefore, he is very greatly in the King's confidence."
He walked on, still keeping his arm round her, and seemed not to see the half-frightened glance she gave him.
"The King's physician!" she echoed;—"He does not seem a great person at all,—he is quite a simple old German man!"
Her lover smiled.
"To be physician to the King, my Gloria, is not a very wonderful honour! It merely implies that the man so chosen is perhaps the ablest fencer with sickness and death; the greatness is in the simple old German himself, not in the King's preference. Von Glauben is a good man."
"I know it;" said Gloria gently; "He is good,—and very kind. He said he would always be my friend,—but he was very strange in his manner yesterday, and almost I was vexed with him. Do you know what he said? He asked me what I should do if you—my husband, had deceived me? Can you imagine such a thing?"
Now was the supreme moment. With a violently beating heart the Prince halted, and putting both arms round her waist, drew her up to him in such a way that their eyes looked close into each other's, and their lips were within kissing touch.
"Yes, my sweetest one! I can imagine such a thing! Such a thing is possible! Consider it to be true! Consider that I have deceived you!"
She did not move from his clasp, but into her large, lovely trusting eyes came a look of grief and terror, and her face grew ashy pale.
"In what way?" she whispered faintly; "Tell me! I—I—cannot believe it!"
"Gloria,—Gloria! My love, my darling! Do not tremble so! Do not fear! I have not deceived you in any evil way,—what I have done was for your good and mine; but now—now there is no longer any need of deception,— you may, and shall know all the truth, my wife, my dearest in the world! You shall know me as I truly am at last!"
She moved restlessly in his strong clasp,—she was trembling from head to foot, as if her blood was suddenly chilled.
"As you truly are!" she echoed, with pale lips—"Are you not then what I have believed you to be?"
And she made an effort to withdraw herself entirely from his embrace. But he held her fast.
"I am your husband, Gloria!" he said, "and you are my wife! Nothing can alter that; nothing can change our love or disunite our lives. But I am not the poor naval officer I have represented myself to be!—though I am glad I adopted such a disguise, because by its aid I wooed and won your love! I am not in the service of the Crown Prince,—except in so far as I serve my own needs! Why, how you tremble!"—and he held her closer—"Do not be afraid, my darling! Lift up your eyes and look at me with your own sweet trusting look,—do not turn away from me, because instead of being the Prince's servant, I am the Prince himself!"
"The Prince!" And with a cry of utter desolation, Gloria wrenched herself out of his arms, and stood apart, looking at him in wild alarm and bewilderment. "The Prince! You—you!—my husband! You,—the King's son! And you have married me!—oh, how cruel of you!—how cruel! —how cruel!"
Covering her face with her hands, she broke into a low sobbing,—and the Prince, cut to the heart by her distress, caught her again in his arms.
"Hush, Gloria!" he said, with an accent of authority, though his own voice was tremulous; "You must not grieve like this! You will break my heart! Do you not understand? Do you not see that all my life is bound up in you?—that I give it to you to do what you will with?—that I care nothing for rank, state or throne without you?—that I will let all the world go rather than lose you? Gloria, do not weep so!—do not weep! Every tear of yours is a pang to me! What does it matter whether I am prince or commoner? I love you!—we love each other!—we are one in the sight of Heaven!"
He held her passionately in his arms, kissing the soft clusters of hair that fell against his breast, and whispering all the tenderest words of endearment he could think of to console and soothe her anguish. By degrees she grew calmer, and her sobs gradually ceased. Dashing the tears from her eyes, she looked up,—her face white as marble.
"You must not tell Ronsard!" she said in faint tones that shook with fear; "He would kill you!"
The Prince smiled indulgently; his only thought was for her, and so long as he could dry her tears, Ronsard's rage or pleasure was nothing to him.
"He would kill you!" repeated Gloria, with wide open tear-wet eyes; "He hates all kings, in his heart!—and if he knew that you—you—my husband,—were what you say you are;—if he thought you had married me under a disguise, only to leave me and never to want me any more——"
"Gloria, Gloria!" cried the Prince, in despair; "Why will you say such things! Never to want you any more! I want you all my life, and every moment of that life! Gloria, you must listen to me—you must not turn from me at the very time I need you most! Are you not brave? Are you not true? Do you not love me?"
With a pathetic gesture she stretched out her hands to him.
"Oh, yes, I love you!" she said; "I love you with all my heart! But you have deceived me!—my dearest, you have deceived me! And if you had only told me the truth, I would never,—for your own sake,—have married you!"
"I know that!" said the Prince; "And that is why I determined to win you under the mask of poverty! Now listen, my Princess and my Queen!— for you are both! I want all your help—all your love—all your trust! Do not be afraid of Ronsard; he will, he can do nothing to harm me! You are my wife, Gloria,—you have promised before God to obey me! I claim your obedience!"
She stood silent, looking at him,—pale and fair as an ivory statue of Psyche, seen against the dark background of the heavily-branched trees. Her mind was stunned and confused; she had not yet grasped the full consciousness of her position,—but as he spoke, the old primitive lessons of faith, steadfastness of purpose, and unwavering love and trust in God, which her adopted father had instilled into her from childhood, rose and asserted their sway over her startled, but unspoilt soul.
"You need not claim it!" she said, slowly; "It is yours always! I shall do whatever you tell me, even if you command me to die for your sake!"
With a swift impulsive action, full of grace and spirit, he dropped on one knee and kissed her hand.
"And so I pledge my faith to my Queen!" he said joyously. "Gloria! my 'Glory-of-the-Sea'!—you will forgive me for having in this one thing misled you? Think of me as your sailor lover still!—it is a much harder thing to be a king's son than a simple, independent seafarer! Pity me for my position, and help me to make it endurable! Come now with me down to that rocky nook on the shore where I first saw you,— and I will tell you exactly how everything stands,—and how I trust to your love for me and your courage, to clear away all the difficulties before us. You do not love me less?"
"I could not love you less!" she replied slowly; "but I cannot think of you as quite the same!"
A shadow of pain darkened his face.
"Gloria," he said sadly; "If your love was as great as mine you would forgive!"
She stood a moment wavering and uncertain; their eyes were riveted on each other in a strange spiritual attraction—her soft lips were a little relaxed from their gravity as she steadfastly regarded him. She was embarrassed, conscious, and very pale; but he drank in gratefully the wonder and shy worship of those pure eyes,—and waited. Suddenly she sprang to him and closed her arms about his neck, kissing him with simple and loving tenderness.
"I do forgive! Oh, I do forgive!" she murmured; "Because I love you, my darling—because I love you! Whatever you wish I will do for your love's sake—believe me!—but I am frightened just now!—it is as if I did not know you—as if someone had taken you suddenly a long way off! Give me a little time to recover my courage!—and to know"—here a faint smile trembled on her beautiful curved mouth—"to know,—and to feel,—that you are still my own!—even though the world may try to part you from me!—still my very own!"
The warmth of passionate feeling in her face flushed it into a rose- glow that spread from chin to brow,—and clasping her to his breast, he gave her the speechless answer that love inscribes on eyes and lips,— then, keeping his arm tenderly about her, he led her gently into the path through the pinewood, which wound down to their favourite haunt by the sea.
The moonlight had now increased in brilliancy, and illumined the landscape with all the opulence, splendour and superabundance of radiance common to the south,—the air was soft and balmy, and one great white cloud floating lazily under the silver orb, moved slowly to the centre of the heavens,—the violet-blue of night falling around it like an imperial robe of state. The two youthful figures passed under the pine-boughs, which closed over them odorously in dark arches of shadow, and wended their slow way down to the seashore, from whence they could see the Royal yacht lying at anchor, every tapering line of her fair proportions distinctly outlined against the sky, and all her masts shining as if they had been washed with silver dew; and the Heir- Apparent to a throne was,—for once in the history of Heir-Apparents,— happy—happy in knowing that he was loved as princes seldom or never are loved,—not for his power, not for his rank, but simply for himself alone, by one of the most beautiful women in the world, who,—if she knew neither the ways of a Court, nor the wiles of fashion,—had something better than either of these,—the sanctity of truth and the strength of innocence.
Rene Ronsard, coming back from his pleasurable duties as host and chairman to his fishermen-friends, found the cottage deserted, and smiled, as he sat himself down in the porch to smoke, and to wait for the lover's return.
"What a thing it is to be young!" he sighed, as he gazed meditatively at the still beauty of the night around him;—"To be young,—and in love with the right person! Hours go like moments—the grass is never damp—the air is never cold—there is never time enough to give all the kisses that are waiting to be given; and life is so beautiful, that we are almost able to understand why God created the universe! The rapture passes very quickly, unfortunately—with some people;—but if I ever prayed for anything—which I do not—I should pray that it might remain with Gloria! It surely cannot offend the Supreme Being who is responsible for our existence, to see one woman happy out of all the tortured millions of them! One exception to the universal rule would not make much difference! The law that the strong should prey on the weak, nearly always prevails,—but it is possible to hope and believe that on rare occasions the strong may be magnanimous!"
He smoked on placidly, considering various points of philosophic meditation, and by and by fell into a gentle doze. The doze deepened into a dream which grew sombre and terrible,—and in it he thought he saw himself standing bareheaded on a raised platform above surging millions of people who all shouted with one terrific uproar of unison— "Regicide! Regicide!" He looked down upon his hands, and saw them red with blood!—he looked up to the heavens, and they were flushed with the same ominous hue. Blood!—blood!—the blood of kings,—the dust of thrones!—and he, the cause! Choked and tormented with a parching thirst, it seemed in the dream that he tried to speak,—and with all his force he cried out—"For her sake I did it! For her sake!" But the clamour of the crowd drowned his voice,—and then it was as if the coldness of death crept slowly over him,—slowly and cruelly, as though his whole body were being enclosed within an iceberg,—and he saw Gloria, the child of his love and care, laid out before him dead,—but robed and crowned like a queen, and placed on a great golden bier of state, with purple velvet falling about her, and tall candles blazing at her head and feet. And voices sang in his ears—"Gloria! Gloria in excelsis Deo!"—mingling with the muffled chanting of priests at some distant altar; and he thought he made an attempt to touch the royal velvet pall that draped her beautiful lifeless body, when he was roughly thrust back by armed men with swords and bayonets who asked him "What do you here? Are you not her murderer?"—and he cried out wildly "No, no! Never could I have harmed the child of my love! Never could I hurt a hair of her head, or cause her an hour's sorrow! She is all I had in the world!—I loved her!—I loved her! Let me see her!—let me touch her!—let me kiss her once again!" And then the scene suddenly changed,—and it was found that Gloria was not dead at all, but walking peacefully alone in a garden of flowers, with lilies crowning her, and all the sunshine about her; and that the golden bier of state had changed into a ship at sea which was floating, floating westward bearing some great message to a far country, and that all was well for him and his darling. The troubled vision cleared from his brain, and his sleep grew calmer; he breathed more easily, and flitting glimpses of fair scenes passed before his dreaming eyes,—scenes in some peaceful and beautiful world, where never a shadow of sorrow or trouble darkened the quiet contentment of happy and innocent lives. He smiled in his sleep, and heaved a deep sigh of pleasure,—and so, gently awoke, to feel a light touch on his shoulder, and to see Gloria standing before him. A smile was on her face,—the fragrance of the woodlands and the sea clung about her garments,—she held a few roses in her hand, and there was something in her whole appearance that struck him as new, commanding, and more than ever beautiful.
"You have returned alone?" he said wonderingly.
"Yes. I have returned alone! I have much to tell you, dear! Let us go in!"
OF THE CORRUPTION OF THE STATE
The large gaunt building, which was dignified by the name of the 'People's Assembly Rooms,' stood in a dim unfashionable square of the city which had once been entirely devoted to warehouses and storage cellars. It had originally served a useful purpose in providing temporary shelter for foreign-made furniture, which was badly constructed and intrinsically worthless,—but which, being cheaply imported and showy in appearance, was patronized by some of the upper middle-classes in preference to goods of their own home workmanship. Lately, however, the foreign import had fallen to almost less than nothing; and whether or no this was due to the secret machinations of Sergius Thord and his Revolutionary Committee, no one would have had the hardihood to assert. Foreign tradesmen, however, and foreign workmen generally had certainly experienced a check in their inroads upon home manufactures, and some of the larger business firms had been so successfully intimidated as to set up prominent announcements outside their warehouses to the effect that "Only native workmen need apply." Partly in consequence of the "slump" in foreign goods, the "Assembly Rooms," as a mere building had for some time been shut up, and given over to dust and decay, till the owners of the property decided to let it out for popular concerts, meetings and dances, and so make some little money out of its bare whitewashed walls and comfortless ugliness. The plan had succeeded fairly well, and the place was beginning to be known as a convenient centre where thousands were wont to congregate, to enjoy cheap music and cheap entertainment generally. It was a favourite vantage ground for the disaffected and radical classes of the metropolis to hold forth on their wrongs, real or imaginary,—and the capacities of the largest room or hall in the building were put to their utmost extent to hold the enormous audiences that always assembled to hear the picturesque, passionate and striking oratory of Sergius Thord.
But there were one or two rare occasions when even Sergius Thord's attractions as a speaker were thrown into the background, by the appearance of that mysterious personality known as Lotys,—concerning whom a thousand extravagant stories were rife, none of which were true. It was rumoured among other things as wild and strange, that she was the illegitimate child of a certain great prince, whose amours were legion—that she had been thrown out into the street to perish, deserted as an infant, and that Sergius Thord had rescued her from that impending fate of starvation and death,—and that it was by way of vengeance for the treatment of her mother by the Exalted Personage involved, that she had thrown in her lot with the Revolutionary party, to aid their propaganda by her intellectual gifts, which were many. She was known to be very poor,—she lived in cheap rooms in a low quarter of the city; she was seldom or never seen in the public thoroughfares, —she appeared to have no women friends, and she certainly mixed in no form of social intercourse or entertainment. Yet her name was on the lips of the million, and her influence was felt far beyond the city's radius. Even among some of the highest and wealthiest classes of society this peculiar appellation of "Lotys," carrying no surname with it, and spoken at haphazard had the effect of causing a sudden silence, and the interchange of questioning looks among those who heard it, and who, without knowing who she was, or what her aims in life really were, voted her "dangerous." Those among the superior classes who had by rare chance seen her, were unanimous in their verdict that she was not beautiful,—"but!"—and the "but" spoke volumes. She was known to possess something much less common, and far more potent than beauty,— and that was a fascinating, compelling spiritual force, which magnetised into strange submission all who came within its influence,— and many there were who admitted, though with bated breath that 'An' if she chose' she could easily become a very great personage indeed.
She herself was, or seemed to be, perfectly unconscious of the many discussions concerning her and her origin. She had her own secret sorrows,—her sad private history, which she shut close within her own breast,—but out of many griefs and poverty-stricken days of struggle and cruel environment, she had educated herself to a wonderful height of moral self-control and almost stoical rectitude. Her nature was a broad and grand one, absolutely devoid of pettiness, and full of a strong, almost passionate sympathy with the wrongs of others,—and she had formed herself on such firm, heroic lines of courage and truth and self-respect, that the meaner vices of her sex were absolutely unknown to her. Neither vanity, nor envy, nor malice, nor spleen disturbed the calmly-flowing current of her blood,—her soul was absorbed in pity for human kind, and contemplation of its many woes,—and so living alone, and studiously apart from the more frivolous world, she had attained a finely tempered and deeply thoughtful disposition which gave her equally the courage of the hero and the resignation of the martyr. She had long put away out of her life all possibility of happiness for herself. She had, by her unwearying study of the masses of working, suffering men and women, come to the sorrowful conclusion that real happiness could only be enjoyed by the extremely young, and the extremely thoughtless,—and that love was only another name for the selfish and often cruel and destructive instincts of animal desire. She did not resent these ugly facts, or passionately proclaim against the gloomy results of life such as were daily displayed to her,—she was only filled with a profound and ceaseless compassion for the evils which were impossible to cure. Her tireless love for the sick, the feeble, the despairing, the broken-hearted and the dying, had raised her to the height of an angel's quality among the very desperately poor and criminal classes;—the fiercest ruffians of the slums were docile in her presence and obedient to her command;—and many a bold plan of robbery,—many a wicked scheme of murder had been altogether foregone and abandoned through the intervention of Lotys, whose intellectual acumen, swift to perceive the savage instinct, or motive for crime, was equally swift to point out its uselessness as a means of satisfying vengeance. No preacher could persuade a thief of the practical ingloriousness of thieving, as Lotys could,—and a prison chaplain, remonstrating with an assassin after his crime, was not half as much use to the State as Lotys, who could induce such an one to resign his murderous intent altogether, before he had so much as possessed himself of the necessary weapon. Thousands of people were absolutely under her moral dominion,—and the power she exercised over them was so great, and yet so unobtrusive, that had she bidden the whole city rise in revolt, she would most surely have been obeyed by the larger and fiercer half of its population.
With the moneyed classes she had nothing in common, though she viewed them with perhaps more pity than she did the very poor. An overplus of cash in any one person's possession that had not been rightfully earned by the work of brain or body, was to her an incongruity, and a defection from the laws of the universe;—show and ostentation she despised,—and though she loved beautiful things, she found them,—as she herself said,—much more in the everyday provisions of nature, than in the elaborate designs of art. When she passed the gay shops in the principal thoroughfares she never paused to look in at the jewellers' windows,—but she would linger for many minutes studying the beauty of the sprays of orchids and other delicate blossoms, arranged in baskets and vases by the leading florists; while,—best delight of all to her, was a solitary walk inland among the woods, where she could gather violets and narcissi, and, as she expressed it 'feel them growing about her feet.' She would have been an extraordinary personality as a man,—as a woman she was doubly remarkable, for to a woman's gentleness she added a force of will and brain which are not often found even in the stronger sex.
Mysterious as she was in her life and surroundings, enough was known of her by the people at large, to bring a goodly concourse of them to the Assembly Rooms on the night when she was announced to speak on a subject of which the very title seemed questionable, namely, "On the Corruption of the State." The police had been notified of the impending meeting, and a few stalwart emissaries of the law in plain clothes mixed with the in-pouring throng. The crowd, however, was very orderly;—there was no pushing, no roughness, and no coarse language. All the members of Sergius Thord's Revolutionary Committee were present, but they came as stragglers, several and apart,—and among them Paul Zouche the poet, was perhaps the most noticeable. He had affected the picturesque in his appearance;—his hat was of the Rembrandt character, and he had donned a very much worn, short velveteen jacket, whose dusty brown was relieved by the vivid touch of a bright red tie. His hair was wild and bushy, and his eyes sparkled with unwonted brilliancy, as he nodded to one or two of his associates, and gave a careless wave of the hand to Sergius Thord, who, entering slowly, and as if with reluctance, took a seat at the very furthest end of the hall, where his massive figure showed least conspicuous among the surging throng. Keeping his head down in a pensive attitude of thought, his eyes were, nevertheless, sharp to see every person entering who belonged to his own particular following,—and a ray of satisfaction lighted up his face, as he perceived his latest new associate, Pasquin Leroy, quietly edge his way through the crowd, and secure a seat in one of the obscurest and darkest corners of the badly lighted hall. He was followed by his comrades, Max Graub and Axel Regor,—and Thord felt a warm glow of contentment in the consciousness that these lately enrolled members of the Revolutionary Committee were so far faithful to their bond. Signed and sealed in the blood of Lotys, they had responded to the magnetism of her name with the prompt obedience of waves rising to the influence of the moon,—and Sergius, full of a thousand wild schemes for the regeneration of the People, was more happy to know them as subjects to her power, than as adherents to his own cause. He was calmly cognisant of the presence of General Bernhoff, the well-known Chief of Police;—though he was rendered a trifle uneasy by observing that personage had seated himself as closely as possible to the bench occupied by Leroy and his companions. A faint wonder crossed his mind as to whether the three, in their zeal for the new Cause they had taken up, had by any means laid themselves open to suspicion; but he was not a man given to fears; and he felt convinced in his own mind, from the close personal observation he had taken of Leroy, and from the boldness of his speech on his enrolment as a member of the Revolutionary Committee, that, whatever else he might prove to be, he was certainly no coward.
The hall filled quickly, till by and by it would have been impossible to find standing room for a child. A student of human nature is never long in finding out the dominant characteristic of an audience,— whether its attitude be profane or reverent, rowdy or attentive, and the bearing of the four or five thousand here assembled was remarkable chiefly for its seriousness and evident intensity of purpose. The extreme orderliness of the manner in which the people found and took their seats,—the entire absence of all fussy movement, fidgeting, staring, querulous changing of places, whispering or laughter, showed that the crowd were there for a deeper purpose than mere curiosity. The bulk of the assemblage was composed of men; very few women were present, and these few were all of the poor and hard-working classes. No female of even the lower middle ranks of life, with any faint pretence to 'fashion,' would have been seen listening to "that dreadful woman,"—as Lotys was very often called by her own sex,—simply because of the extraordinary fascination she secretly exercised over men. Pasquin Leroy and his companions spoke now and then, guardedly, and in low whispers, concerning the appearance and demeanour of the crowd, Max Graub being particularly struck by the general physiognomy and type of the people present.
"Plenty of good heads!" he said cautiously. "There are thinkers here— and thinkers are a very dangerous class!"
"There are many people who 'think' all their lives and 'do' nothing!" said Axel Regor languidly.
"True, my friend! But their thought may lead, while, they themselves remain passive," joined in Pasquin Leroy sotto-voce;—"It is not at all impossible that if Lotys bade these five thousand here assembled burn down the citadel, it would be done before daybreak!"
"I have no doubt at all of that," said Graub. "One cannot forget that the Bastille was taken while the poor King Louis XVI. was enjoying a supper-party and 'a little orange-flower-water refreshment' at Versailles!"
Leroy made an imperative sign of silence, for there was a faint stir and subdued hum of expectation in the crowd. Another moment,—and Lotys stepped quietly and alone on the bare platform. As she confronted her audience, a low passionate sound, like the murmur of a rising storm, greeted her,—a sound that was not anything like the customary applause or encouragement offered to a public speaker, but that suggested extraordinary satisfaction and expectancy, which almost bordered on exultation. Pasquin Leroy, raising his eyes as she entered, was startled by an altogether new impression of her to that which he had received on the night he first saw her. Her personality was somehow different—her appearance more striking, brilliant and commanding. Attired in the same plain garment of dead white serge in which he had previously seen her, with the same deep blood-red scarf crossing her left shoulder and breast,—there was something to-night in this mere costume that seemed emblematic of a far deeper power than he had been at first inclined to give her. A curious sensation began to affect his nerves,—a sudden and overwhelming attraction, as though his very soul were being drawn out of him by the calm irresistible dominance of those slumbrous dark-blue iris-coloured eyes, which had the merit of appearing neither brilliant nor remarkable as eyes merely, but which held in their luminous depths that intellectual command which represents the active and passionate life of the brain, beside which all other life is poor and colourless. These eyes appeared to rest upon him now from under their drooping sleepy white eyelids with an inexpressible tenderness and fascination, and he was suddenly reminded of Heinrich Heine's quaint love-fancy; "Behind her dreaming eyelids the sun has gone to rest; when she opens her eyes it will be day, and the birds will be heard singing!" He began to realise depths in his own nature which he had till now been almost unconscious of; he knew himself to a certain extent, but by no means thoroughly; and awakening as he was to the fact that other lives around him presented strange riddles for consideration, he wondered whether after all, his own life might not perhaps prove one of the most complex among human conundrums? He had often meditated on the inaccessibility of ideal virtues, the uselessness of persuasion, the commonplace absurdity, as he had thought, of trying to embody any lofty spiritual dream,—yet he was himself a man in whom spiritual forces were so strong that he was personally unaware of their overflow, because they were as much a part of him as his breathing capacity. True, he had never consciously tested them, but they were existent in him nevertheless.
He watched Lotys now, with an irritable, restless attention,—there was a thrill of vague expectation in his soul as of new things to be done,—changes to be made in the complex machinery of human nature,— and a great wonder, as well as a great calm, fell upon him as the first clear steady tones of her voice chimed through the deep hush which had prepared the way for her first words. Her voice was a remarkable one, vibrant, yet gentle,—ringing out forcefully, yet perfectly sweet. She began very simply,—without any attempt at a majestic choice of words, or an impressive flow of oratory. She faced her audience quietly,—one bare rounded arm resting easily on a small uncovered deal table in front of her;—she had no 'notes' but her words were plainly the result of deliberate and careful thinking-out of certain problems needful to be brought before the notice of the people. Her face was colourless,—the dead gold hair rippling thickly away in loose clusters from the white brows, fell into their accustomed serpentine twisted knot at the nape of her neck; and the scarlet sash she wore, alone relieved the statuesque white folds of her draperies; but as she spoke, something altogether superphysical seemed to exhale from her as heat exhales from fire—a strange essence of overpowering and compelling sweetness stole into the heavy heated air, and gave to the commonplace surroundings and the poorly clothed crowd of people an atmosphere of sacredness and beauty. This influence deepened steadily under the rhythmic cadence of her voice, till every agitated soul, every resentful and troubled heart in the throng was conscious of a sudden ingathering of force and calm, of self-respect and self-reliance. The gist of her intention was plainly to set people thinking for themselves, and in this there could be no manner of doubt but that she succeeded. Of the 'Corruption of the State' she spoke as a thing thoroughly recognised by the masses.
"We know,—all of us,"—she said, in the concluding portion of her address, "that we have Ministers who personally care nothing for the prosperity or welfare of the country. We know—all of us,—that we have a bribed Press; whose business it is to say nothing that shall run counter to Ministerial views. We know,—all of us,—that it is this bribed Ministerial press which leads the ignorant, (who are not behind the scenes,) to wrong and false conclusions;—and that it is solely upon these wrong and false conclusions of the wilfully misled million, that the Ministry itself rests for support. On one side the Press is manipulated by the Jews; on the other by the Jesuits. There is no journal in this country that will, or dare, publish the true reflex of popular opinion. Therefore the word 'free' cannot be applied to that recording-force of nations which we call Journalism; inasmuch as it is now a merely purchased Chattle. We should remember, when we read 'opinions of the Press,'—on any great movement or important change in policy, that we are merely accepting the opinions of the bound and paid Slave of Capitalists;—and we should take care to form our judgment for ourselves, rather than from the Capitalist point of view. Were there a strong man to lead,—the shiftiness, treachery, and deliberate neglect practised on the million by those who are now in office, could not possibly last;—but where there is no strength, there must be weakness,—and where a long career of deceit has been followed, instead of a course of plain dealing, failure in the end is inevitable. With failure comes disaster; and often something which augments disaster— Revolt. The people, weary of constant imposition,—of incessant delays of the justice due to them,—as well as the unscrupulous breaking of promises solemnly pledged,—will—in the long run, take their own way, as they have done before in history, of securing instant amelioration of those wrongs which their paid rulers fail to redress. Who will dare to say that, under such circumstances, it is ill for the people to act? Sometimes it is a greater Consciousness than their own that moves them; and the wronged and half-forgotten Cause of all worlds makes His command known through His creatures, who obey His impulse,—even as the atoms gathering in space cluster at His will into solar systems, and bring forth their burden of life!"
She paused, and leaning forward a little, her eyes poured out their flashing searchlight as it seemed into the very souls of her hearers.
"Dear friends!—dear children!" she said, and in her tone there was the tenderness of a great compassion, almost bordering on tears,—"What is it, think you all, that makes the age in which we live so sad, so colourless, so restless and devoid of hope and peace? It is not that we are the inhabitants of a less wonderful or less beautiful world,—it is not as if the sun had ceased to shine, or the birds had forgotten how to sing! Triumphs of science,—triumphs of learning and discovery, these are all on the increase for our help and furtherance. With so much gain in evident advancement, what is it we have lost?—what is it we miss?—whence come the dreariness and emptiness and satiety,—the intolerable sense of the futility of life, even when life has most to offer? Dear children, you are all so sad!—many of you so broken- hearted!—why is it?—how is it? Poverty alone is not the cause,—for it is quite possible to be poor, yet happy! True enough it is that in these days you are ground down by the imposition of taxes, which try all the strength of your earnings to pay; but even this is an evil you could mitigate for yourselves, by strong and united public protest. How is it that you do not realise your own strength? You are not like the poor brutes of the field and forest, who lack the reason which would show them how superior in physical force alone they are to the insignificant biped who commands them. Could the ox understand his own strength, he would never be led to the slaughter-house;—he and his kind would become a terror instead of a provision. You are not oxen,— yet often you are as patient, as dull, as blind and reasonless as they! You form clubs, societies, and trades-unions;—but in how many cases do you not enter upon small and querulous differences which so weaken your unity that presently it falls to pieces and has no more power in it? This is what your tyrants in trade rely on and hope for; the constant recurrence of quarrels and dissensions among yourselves. No Society lasts which tolerates conflicting argument or differing sentiments in itself. Why is it that the Jesuits,—whom you are all unanimous in hating,—are still the strongest political Brotherhood on the face of the earth? Because they are bound to maintain in every particular the tenets of their Order. No matter how vile, or how reprehensibly false their theories, they are compelled to carry on the work and propaganda of their Union, despite all loss and sacrifice to themselves. This is the secret of their force. Expelled from one land, they take root in another. Suppressed entirely by Pope Clement XIV., in 1773, they virtually ignored suppression, and took up their headquarters in Russia. The influence they exerted there still lies on the serf population, like one of the many chains fastened to a Siberian exile's body. Yet they were driven from Russia in 1820,—from Holland in 1816,—from Switzerland in 1847, and from Germany in 1872. Latterly they have been expelled from France. Nevertheless, in spite of these numerous expulsions, and the universal odium in which they are held,— they still flourish; still are they able to maintain their twenty-two generals and their four Vicars;—and still all countries have, in their turn, to deal with their impending or fulfilled invasion. Why is it that a Society so criminal in historic annals, should yet remain as a force in our advanced era of civilization? Simply, because it is of One Mind! Bent on evil, or good,—self-renunciation or self- aggrandisement,—it is still of One Mind! Friends,—were you like them, also of One Mind, your injuries, your oppressions, your taxations would not last long! The remedy for all is easy, and rests with yourselves,— only yourselves! But some of you have lost heart—and other some have lost patience. You look round upon the squalid corners of this great city—you shudder at the cruelty of the daily life with which you have to contend,—you enter poor rooms, which you are compelled to call 'home,' where the sick and dying, the newly-born and the dead are huddled all together,—ten, and sometimes fifteen in one small den of four whitewashed walls;—and sickened and tired, you cry out 'Is life worth no more than this? Is God's scheme for the human race no more than this? Then why were we born at all? Or, being born, why may we not die at once, self-slain?' Ah, yes, dear friends!—you often feel like this; we all of us often feel like this! But—it is not God who has made life thus hard for you,—it is yourselves! It is you who consent to be down-trodden,—it is you who resign your freewill, your thought, your originality of character, into the dominating power of others. True,—wealth controls affairs to a vast extent nowadays,—but there is a stronger power than wealth, and that is Soul! It is not the possession of gold that has given the greatest men their position. This is a commercial age, we own,—and certainly,—because of the base and degrading love of accumulation,—Intellectuality is for the moment often set aside as something valueless—but whenever Intellectuality truly asserts itself, there is at once made visible an acting force of the Divine, which is practically limitless and irresistible. Think for yourselves, friends!—do not let a hired Press think for you! Think for yourselves—judge for yourselves, and act for yourselves! By your observation of a statesman's life, you shall know his capabilities. If he has once been a turncoat, he will be a turncoat again. If he has been known to speculate privately in a forthcoming political crisis, which he alone knows of in advance——"
Here the speaker was interrupted by what sounded more like a snarl than a shout. "Perousse! Perousse!"
The name was hissed out, and tossed from one rank to another of the audience, and one or two of the police present glanced enquiringly towards Bernhoff their chief,—but he sat with folded arms and inscrutable demeanour, making no sign. Lotys raised her small, beautifully-shaped white hand to enjoin silence. She was obeyed instantly.
"I speak of no one man," she said with deliberate emphasis; "I accuse no one man,—or any man! I say 'if' any man gambles with State policy, he is a traitor to the country! But such gambling is not a novelty in the history of nations. It has been practised over and over again. Only mark you all this one God's truth!—that whenever it has occurred—whenever the rulers of a State are corrupt,—whenever society sinks into such moral defilement that it sees nothing better, nothing higher than the love of money,—then comes the downfall!—then Ruin and Anarchy set up their dominion,—and Heaven's rage rolls out upon the offenders, till their offence be cleansed away in rivers of blood and tears!"
She waited a moment,—and changing her attitude, seemed as it were, to project her thought into her audience, by the sudden passion of her commanding gesture, and the flash of her deep luminous eyes.
"We have heard of the Great Renunciation!" she said; "How God Himself took human form, and came to this low little earth to prove how nobly we should live and die! But in our day,—we with our preachers and teachers, our press and our parliamentary orators,—our atheistical statesmen on all hands, have come upon the Great Obliteration!—the Obliteration of God altogether in our ways of life! We push Him out, as if He were not. He is not in our Churches—He is not in our Laws—He is not in our Commerce. Only when we are brought low by pain and sickness—when we are confronted by death itself—then we call out 'God! God!' like cowards, praying for help from the Power we have negatived all our lives! Here is the evil, O children all!—we have forgotten Our Father! We arrange all our affairs in life without giving Him a thought! Our pleasures, our gains, our advantages,—are calculated without consulting His good pleasure. He is last, or not at all,—when He should be first, and in everything! The end of this is misery;—it must be so; it cannot by law be anything else. For what is God? Who is God? God is a name merely,—but we give it to that Unseen, but ever working Force which rules the Universe! The coldest atheist that ever breathed must own that somehow,—by some means or other,— the Universe is ruled,—for if it were not, we should know nothing of it. Therefore, when we set aside, or leave out the consciousness and acknowledgment of the Ruler, the ruling of our affairs must, of necessity, go wrong!
"I cannot preach to you—I cannot out of my own conscience recommend to you one or the other form of faith as the way to peace and wisdom;—but I can and do Beseech you to remember the Note Dominant of this great Universe—the Note that sounds through high and low,—through small and great alike!—and that must and will in due course absorb all our discords into Everlasting Harmony! Try not to put this fact out of your lives,—that Justice and Order are the rule of the spheres; and that whenever we depart from these, even in the smallest contingency, confusion reigns. How hard it is to believe in Justice and Order, you will tell me,—when the poor are not treated with the same consideration as the rich,—and when money will buy place and position! True! It is hard to believe,—but it is believable nevertheless. As the lungs and the heart are the life of the human body, so are Justice and Order the life of the Universe,—and when these are pushed out of place, or become diseased in the composition of a human state or community, then the life of that state or community is threatened;—and unless remedies are quickly to hand, it must end. You all know the position of things among yourselves to-day;—you all know that there is no trust to be placed in Churches, Kings or Parliaments;—that the world is in a state of ferment and unrest,—moving towards Change;— change imminent—change, possibly, disastrous! And if it is You who know, it is likewise You who must seize the hour as it approaches!— seize it as you would seize a robber by the throat, and demand its business;—search its heart;—deprive it of its weapons;—and learn from it its message! A message it may be of wild alarm—of tearing up old conventions;—of thrusting forth old abuses; a message full of clamour and outcry—but whatever the uproar, doubt not that we shall hear the voice of the Forgotten God thundering in our ears at the close! We shall have found our way closer to Him—and with penitence and prayer, we shall ask to be forgiven for having wandered away from Him so long!
"And will He not pardon? Yes,—He will, because He must! To Him we owe our existence;—He alone is responsible for our life, our probation, our progress, our striving through many errors towards Perfection! He, who sees all, must needs have pity for His creature Man! Out of the evolutions of a blind Time, He has made the poor weak human being, who in the first days of his sojourn on earth had neither covering nor home. Less protected than the beasts of the forest, he found himself compelled to Think!—to think out his own means of shelter,—to contrive his own weapons of defence. Slowly, and by painful degrees, from Savagery he has emerged to Civilization;—wherefore it is evident that his Maker meant Thought to be his first principle, and Action his second. He who does not work, shall not eat;—he who does not use all his faculties for improvement, shall by and by have none to use. Injustice and corruption are amongst us, merely because we ourselves have failed to resist their first inroads. Who is it that complains of wrong? Let him hasten to his own amending,—and he will find a thousand hands, a thousand hearts ready to work with him! All Nature is on the side of health in the body, as of health in the State. All Nature fights against disease,—physical and moral. Therefore do not,—dear friends and children!—sit idle and passive, submitting yourselves to be deceived, as if you had no force to withstand deception! Show that you hate lies, and will have none of them,—show that you will not be imposed upon—and decline to be led or governed by party agents, who persuade you to your own and your country's destruction! The voice of the People can no longer be heard in a purchased Press;—let it echo forth then, in stronger form than ephemeral print, which to-day is glanced at, and to-morrow is forgotten;—wherever and whenever you are given the chance to meet, and to speak, let your authority as the workers, the ratepayers, and supporters of the State be heard; and do not You, without whom even the King could not keep his throne, consent to be set aside as the Unvalued Majority! Prove, by your own firm attitude that without You, nothing can be done! It is time, oh people of my heart!—it is time you spoke clearly! God is moving His thought through your souls—God stirs in you the fear, the discontent, the suspicion that all is not well with your country;—and it is the Spirit of God which breathes in the warning note of the time—
"'Hark to the voice of the time! The multitude think for themselves, And weigh their condition each one; The drudge has a spirit sublime, And whether he hammers or delves, He reads when his labour is done; And learns, though he groan under poverty's ban, That freedom to Think, is the birthright of man!'
"Learn," she continued,—as a low deep murmur of agreement ran through the room; "Learn to what strange uses God puts even such men of this world, whose sole existence has been for the cause of amassing money! They have acted as the merest machines, gathering in the millions;— gathering, gathering them in! For what purpose? Lo, they are smitten down in the prime of their lives, and the gold they have piled up is at once scattered! Much of it becomes used for educational purposes;—and some of these dead millionaires have, as it were thrown Education at the heads of the people, and almost pauperised it. Far away in Great Britain, a millionaire has recently made the Scottish University education 'free' to all students,—instead of, as it used to be, hard to get, and well worth working to win. Now,—through the wealth of one man, it is turned into a pauper's allowance;—like offering the smallest silver coin to a reduced gentleman. The pride,—the skill,— the self-renunciation,—the strong determination to succeed, which form fine character, and which taught the struggling student to win his own University education, are all wiped out;—there is no longer any necessity for the practice of these manly and self-sustaining virtues. The harm that will be done is probably not yet perceivable; but it will be incalculable. Education, turned into a kind of pauper's monopoly, will have widely different results to those just now imagined! But with all the contemptuous throwing out of the unneeded kitchen-waste of millionaires,—still Education is the thing to take at any price, and under any circumstances;—because it alone is capable of giving power! It alone will 'put down the mighty from their seats, and exalt the humble and the meek.' It alone will give us the force to fight our taskmasters with their own weapons, and to place them where they should be, coequal with us, but not superior,—considerate of us, but not commanding us,—and above all things, bound to make their records of such work as they do for the State—clean!"