MoboReader> Literature > Temporal Power: A Study in Supremacy

   Chapter 8 — THE KING’S DOUBLE

Temporal Power: A Study in Supremacy By Marie Corelli Characters: 35834

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


As Leroy rose to speak, there was a little commotion. Max Graub upset his glass, and seemed to be having a struggle under the table with Axel Regor.

"What ails you?" said Leroy, glancing at his friends with an amazed air-"Are you quarrelling?"

"Quarrelling!" echoed Max Graub, "Why, no-but what man will have his beer upset without complaint? Tell me that!"

"You upset it!" said Regor angrily-"I did not."

"You did!" retorted Graub, "and because I pushed you for it, you showed me a pistol in your pocket! I object to be shown a pistol. So I have taken it away. Here it is!" and he laid the weapon on the table in front of him.

A look of anger darkened Leroy's brows.

"I was not aware you carried arms," he said coldly.

Sergius Thord noticed his annoyance.

"There is nothing remarkable in that, my friend!" he interposed-"We all carry arms,-there is not one of us at this table who has not a loaded pistol,-even Lotys is no exception to this rule."

"Now by my word!" said Graub, "I have no loaded pistol,-and I will swear Leroy is equally unarmed!"

"Entirely so!" said Leroy quietly-"I never suspect any man of evil intentions towards me."

As he said this, Lotys leaned forward impulsively and stretched out her hand,-a beautiful hand, well-shaped and white as a white rose petal.

"I like you for that!"-she said-"It is the natural attitude of a brave man!"

A slight colour warmed his bronzed skin as he took her hand, pressed it gently, and let it go again. Axel Regor looked up defiantly.

"Well, I do suspect every man of evil intentions!" he said, "So you may all just as well know the worst of me at once! My experience of life has perhaps been exceptionally unpleasant; but it has taught me that as a rule no man is your friend till you have made it worth his while!"

"By favours bestowed, or favours to come?" queried Thord, smiling,-"However, without any argument, Axel Regor, I am inclined to think you are right!"

"Then a weapon is permissible here?" asked Graub.

"Not only permissible, but necessary," replied Thord. "As members of this Brotherhood we live always prepared for some disaster,-always on our guard against treachery. Comrades!" and raising his voice he addressed the whole party. "Lay down your arms, all at once and together!"

In one instant, as if in obedience to a military order, the table was lined on either side with pistols. Beside these weapons, there was a goodly number of daggers, chiefly of the small kind such as are used in Corsica, encased in leather sheaths. Pasquin Leroy smiled as he saw Lotys lay down one of those tiny but deadly weapons, together with a small silver-mounted pistol.

"Forewarned is forearmed!" he said gaily;-"Madame, if I ever offend, I shall look to you for a happy dispatch! Gentlemen, I have still to make my speech, and if you permit it, I will speak now,-unarmed as I am,-with all these little metal mouths ready to deal death upon me if I happen to make any observation which may displease you!"

"By Heaven! A brave man!" cried Zouche; "Thord, you have picked up a trump card! Speak, Pasquin Leroy! We will forgive you, even if you praise the King!"

Leroy stood silent for a moment, as if thinking. His two companions looked up at him once or twice in unquestionable alarm and wonderment, but he did not appear to be conscious of their observation. On the contrary, some very deeply seated feeling seemed to be absorbing his soul,-and it was perhaps this suppressed emotion which gave such a rich vibrating force to his accents when he at last spoke.

"Friends and Brothers!" he said;-"It is difficult for one who has never experienced the three-fold sense of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity until to-night, to express in the right manner the sense of gratitude which I, a complete stranger to you, feel for the readiness and cordiality of the welcome you have extended to me and my companions, accepting us without hesitation, as members of your Committee, and as associates in the work of the Cause you have determined to maintain. It is an Ideal Cause,-I need not tell you that! To rescue and protect the poor from the tyranny of the rich and strong, was the mission of Christ when He visited this earth; and it would perhaps be unwise on my part, and discouraging to yourselves, to remind you that even He has failed! The strong, the selfish, and the cruel, still delight in oppressing their more helpless fellows, despite the theories of Christianity. And it is perfectly natural that it should be so, seeing that the Christian Church itself has become a mere system of money-making and self-advancement."

A burst of applause interrupted him. Eyes lightened with eager enthusiasm, and every face was turned towards him. He went on:-

"To think of the great Founder of a great Creed, and then to consider what his pretended followers have made of Him and His teaching, is sufficient to fill the soul with the sickness of despair and humiliation! To remember that Christ came to teach all men the Gospel of love,-and to find them after eighteen hundred years still preferring the Gospel of hate,-is enough to make one doubt the truth of religion altogether! The Divine Socialist preached a creed too good and pure for this world; and when we try to follow it, we are beaten back on all sides by the false conventionalities and customs of a sacerdotal system grown old in self-seeking, not in self-sacrifice. Were Christ to come again, the first thing He would probably do would be to destroy all the churches, saying: 'I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity!' But till He does come again, it rests with the thinkers of the time to protest against wrongs and abuses, even if they cannot destroy them,-to expose falsehood, even if they cannot utterly undo its vicious work. Seeing, however, that the greater majority of men are banded on the side of wealth and material self-interest, it is unfortunately only a few who remain to work for the cause of the poor, and for such equal rights of justice as you-as we-in our present Association claim to be most worthy of man's best efforts. It may be asked by those outside such a Fraternity as ours,-'What do they want? What would they have that they cannot obtain?' I would answer that we want to see the end of a political system full of bribery and corruption,-that we desire the disgrace and exposure of such men as those, who, under the pretence of serving the country, merely line their own coffers out of the taxes they inflict upon the people;-and that if we see a king inclined to favour the overbearing dominance of a political party governed by financial considerations alone,-a party which has no consideration for the wider needs of the whole nation, we from our very hearts and souls desire the downfall of that king!"

A low, deep murmur responded to his words,-a sound like the snarl of wolves, deep, fierce, and passionate. A close observer might perhaps have detected a sudden pallor on Leroy's face as he heard this ominous growl, and an involuntary clenching of the hand on the part of Axel Regor. Max Graub looked up.

"Ah so, my friends! You hate the King?"

No answer was vouchsafed to this query. The interruption was evidently unwelcome, all eyes being still fixed on Leroy. He went on tranquilly:

"I repeat-that wherever and whenever a king-any king-voluntarily and knowingly, supports iniquity and false dealing in his ministers, he lays himself open to suspicion, attack, and dethronement! I speak with particular feeling on this point, because, apart from whatever may be the thoughts and opinions of these who are assembled here to-night, I have a special reason of my own for hating the King! That reason is marked on my countenance! I bear an extraordinary resemblance to him,-so great indeed, that I might be taken for his twin brother if he had one! And I beg of you, my friends, to look at me long and well, that you make no error concerning me, for, being now your comrade, I do not wish to be mistaken for your enemy!"

He drew himself up, lifting his head with an air of indomitable pride and grace which well became him. An exclamation of surprise broke from all present, and Sergius Thord bent forward to examine his features with close attention. Every man at the table did the same, but none regarded him more earnestly or more searchingly than Lotys. Her wonderful eyes seemed to glow and burn with strange interior fires, as she kept them steadily fixed upon his face.

"Yes-you are strangely like the King!" she said-"That is,-so far as I am able to judge by his portraits and coins. I have never seen him."

"I have seen him,"-said Sergius Thord, "though only at a distance. And I wonder I did not notice the strange resemblance you bear to him before you called my attention to it. Are you in any way related to him?"

"Related to him!" Leroy laughed aloud. "No! If the late King had any bastard sons, I am not one of them! But I pray you again all to carefully note this hateful resemblance,-a resemblance I would fain rid me of-for it makes me seem a living copy of the man I most despise!"

There was a pause,-during which he stood quietly, submitting himself to the fire of a hundred wondering, questioning, and inquisitorial eyes without flinching.

"You are all satisfied?" he then asked; "You, Sergius Thord,-my chief and commander,-you, and all here present are satisfied?"

"Satisfied?-Yes!" replied Thord; "But sorry that your personality resembles that of a fool and a knave!"

A strange grimace distorted the countenance of Max Graub, but he quickly buried his nose and his expression together in a foaming glass of beer.

"You cannot be so sorry for me as I am for myself!" said Leroy, "And now to finish the few words I have been trying to say. I thank you from my heart for your welcome, and for the trust you have reposed in me and my companions. I am proud to be one of you; and I promise that you shall all have reason to be glad that I am associated with your Cause! And to prove my good faith, I undertake to set about working for you without a day's delay; and towards this object, I give you my word that before our next meeting something shall be done to shake the political stronghold of Carl Pérousse!"

Sergius Thord sprang up excitedly.

"Do that," he said, "and were you a thousand times more like the King than you are, you shall be the first to command our service and honour!"

Loud acclamation followed his words, and all the men gathered close up about Leroy. He looked round upon them, half-smiling, half-serious.

"But you must tell me what to do!" he said. "You must explain to me why you consider Pérousse a traitor, and how you think it best his treachery should be proved. For, remember, I am a stranger to this part of the country, and my accidental resemblance to the King does not make me his subject!"

"True!" said Paul Zouche,-his eyes were feverishly bright and his cheeks flushed-"To be personally like a liar does not oblige one to tell lies! To call oneself a poet does not enable one to write poetry! And to build a cathedral does not make one a saint! To know all the highways and byways of the Pérousse policy, you must penetrate into the depths and gutter-slushes of the great newspaper which is subsidised by the party to that policy! And this is difficult-exceedingly difficult, let me assure you, my bold Pasquin! And if you can perform such a 'pasquinade' as shall take you into these Holy of Holy purlieus of mischief and money-making, you will deserve to be chief of the Committee, instead of Sergius! Sergius talks-he will talk your head off!-but he does nothing!"

"I do what I can,"-said Thord, patiently. "It is true I have no access to the centres of diplomacy or journalism. But I hold the People in the hollow of my hand!"

He spoke with deep and concentrated feeling, and the power of his soul looked out eloquently from the darkening flash of his eyes. Leroy studied his features with undisguised interest.

"If you thus hold the People," he said,-"Why not bid them rise against the evil and tyranny of which they have cause to complain?"

Thord shook his head.

"To rouse the People," he replied, "would be worse than to rouse a herd of starving lions from their forest dens, and give them freedom to slay and devour! Nay!-the time is not yet! All gentle means must be tried; and if these fail-why then-!"

He broke off, but his clenched hand and expressive glance said the rest.

"Why do you not use the most powerful of all the weapons ever invented for the destruction of one's enemies-the Pen?" asked Max Graub. "Start a newspaper, for example, and gibbet your particular favourite Carl Pérousse therein!"

"Bah! He would get up a libel case, and advertise himself a little more by that method!" said Zegota contemptuously; "And besides, a newspaper needs unlimited capital behind it. We have no rich friends."

"Rich friends!" exclaimed Lotys suddenly; "Who speaks of them-who needs them? Rich friends expect you to toady to them; to lick the ground under their feet; to fawn and flatter and lie, and be anything but honest men! The rich are the vulgar of this world;-no one who has heart, or soul, or sense, would condescend to seek friendships among those whose only claim to precedence is the possession of a little more yellow metal than their neighbours."

"Nevertheless, they and their yellow metal are the raw material, which Genius may as well use to pave its way through life," said Zegota. "Lotys, you are too much of an idealist!"

"Idealist! And you call yourself a realist, poor child!" said Lotys with a laugh; "I tell you I would sooner starve than accept favour or assistance from the merely rich!"

"Of course you would!" said Zouche, "And is not that precisely the reason why you are set in dominion over us all? We men are not sure of ourselves-but-Heaven knows why!-we are sure of You! I suppose it is because you are sure of yourself! For example, we men are such wretched creatures that we cannot go long without our food,-but you, woman, can fast all day, and scorn the very idea of hunger. We men cannot bear much pain,-but you,-woman,-can endure suffering of your own without complaint, while attending to our various lesser hurts and scratches. Wherefore, just because we feel you are above us in this and many other things, we have set you amongst us as a warning Figurehead, which cries shame upon us if we falter, and reminds us that you, a woman, can do, and probably will do, what we men cannot. Imagine it! You would bear all things for love's sake!-and, frankly speaking, we would bear nothing at all, except for our own immediate and particular pleasure. For that, of course, we would endure everything till we got it, and then-pouf!-we would let it go again in sheer weariness and desire for something else! Is it not so, Sergius?"

"I am glad you know yourself so well!" said Thord gloomily. "Personally, I am not prepared to accept your theory."

"Men are children!" said Lotys, still smiling; "And should be treated as children always, by women! Come, little ones! To bed, all of you! It is growing late, and the rain has ceased."

She went to the window, and unbarring the shutters, opened it. The streets were wet and glistening below, but the clouds had cleared, and a pale watery moon shone out fitfully from the misty sky.

"Say good-night, and part;" she continued. "It is time! This day month we will meet here again,-and our new comrades will then report what progress they have made in the matter of Carl Pérousse."

"Tell me," said Leroy, approaching her, "What would you do, Madame, if you had determined, on proving the corruption and falsehood of this at present highly-honoured servant of the State?"

"I should gain access to his chief tool, David Jost, by means of the Prime Minister's signet," said Lotys,-"If I could get the signet!-which I cannot! Nor can you! But if I could, I should persuade Jost to talk freely, and so betray himself. He and Carl Pérousse move the Premier and the King whichever way they please."

"Is that so-?" began Leroy, when he was answered by a dozen voices at once:-

"The King is a fool!"

"The King is a slave!"

"The King accepts everything that is set before him as being rightly and wisely ordained,-and never enquires into the justice of what is done!"

"The King assumes to be the friend of the People, but if you ask him to do anything for the People, you only get the secretary's usual answer-'His Majesty regrets that it is impossible to take any action in the matter'!"

"Wait!-wait!-" said Leroy, with a gesture which called for a moment's silence; "The question is,-Could the King do anything if he would?"

"I will answer that!" said Lotys, her eyes flashing, her bosom heaving, and her whole figure instinct with pride and passion; "The King could do everything! The King could be a man if he chose, instead of a dummy! The King could cease to waste his time on fools and light women!-and though he is, and must be a constitutional Monarch, he could so rule all social matters as to make them the better,-not the worse for his influence! There is nothing to prevent the King from doing his most kingly duty!"

Leroy looked at her for a moment in silence.

"Madame, if the King heard your words he might perhaps regret his many follies!" he said courteously;-"But where Society is proved worse, instead of better for a king's influence, is it not somewhat too late to remedy the evil? What of the Queen?"

"The Queen is queen from necessity, not from choice!" said Lotys;-"She has never loved her husband. If she had loved him, perhaps he might,-through her,-have loved his people more!"

There was a note of pathos in her voice that was singularly tender and touching. Anon, as if impatient with h

erself, she turned to Sergius Thord.

"We must disperse!" she said abruptly; "Daybreak will be upon us before we know it, and we have done no business at all this evening. To enrol three new associates is a matter of fifteen minutes; the rest of our time has been wasted!"

"Do not say so, Madame!" interposed Max Graub, "You have three new friends-three new 'sons of your blood,' as you so poetically call them,-though, truly, I for one am more fit to be your grandfather! And do you consider the time wasted that has been spent in improving and instructing your newly-born children?"

Lotys turned upon him with a look of disdain.

"You are a would-be jester;" she said coldly; "Old men love a jest, I know, but they should take care to make it at the right time, and in the right place. They should not play with edge-tools such as I am, though I suppose, being a German, you think little or nothing of women?"

"Madame!" protested Graub, "I think so much of women that I have never married! Behold me, an unhappy bachelor! I have spared any one of your beautiful sex from the cruel martyrdom of having to endure my life-long company!"

She laughed-a pretty low laugh, and extended her hand with an air of queenly condescension.

"You are amusing!" she said,-"And so I will not quarrel with you! Good-night!"

"Auf wiedersehn!" and Graub kissed the white hand he held. "I shall hope you will command me to be of service to you and yours, ere long!"

"In what way, I wonder," she asked dubiously; "What can you do best? Write? Speak? Or organize meetings?"

"I think," said Graub, speaking very deliberately, "that of all my various accomplishments, which are many-as I shall one day prove to you-I can poison best!"

"Poison!"

The exclamation broke simultaneously from all the company. Graub looked about him with a triumphant air.

"Ah so,-I know I shall be useful," he said; "I can poison so very beautifully and well! One little drop-one, little microbe of mischief-and I can make all your enemies die of cholera, typhoid, bubonic plague, or what you please! I am what is called a Christian scientific poisoner-that is a doctor! You will find me a most invaluable member of this Brotherhood!"

He nodded his head wisely, and smiled. Sergius Thord laid one hand heavily on his shoulder.

"We shall find you useful, no doubt!" he said, "But mark me well, friend! Our mission is not to kill, but to save!-not to poison, but to heal! If we find that by the death of one traitor we can save the lives of thousands, why then that traitor must die. If we know that by killing a king we destroy a country's abuses, that king is sent to his account. But never without warning!-never without earnest pleading that he whom the laws of Truth condemn, may turn from the error of his ways and repent before it is too late. We are not murderers;-we are merely the servants of justice."

"Exactly!" put in Paul Zouche; "You understand? We try to be what God is not,-just!"

"Blaspheme not, Zouche!" said Thord; "Justice is the very eye of God!-the very centre and foundation of the universe."

Zouche laughed discordantly.

"Excellent Sergius! Impulsive Sergius!-with big heart, big head and no logic! Prove to me this eternal justice! Where does it begin? In the creation of worlds without end, all doomed to destruction, and therefore perfectly futile in their existence? In the making of man, who lives his little day with the utmost difficulty, pain and struggle, and is then extinguished, to be heard of no more? The use of it, my Sergius!-point out the use of it! No,-there is no man can answer me that! If I could see the Creator, I would ask Him the question personally-but He hides Himself behind the great big pendulum He has set swinging-tick-tock!-tick-tock! Life-Death!-Life-Death!-and never a reason why the clock is set going! And so we shall never have justice,-simply because there is none! It is not just or reasonable to propound a question to which there is no answer; it is not just or reasonable to endow man with all the thinking powers of brain, and all the imaginative movements of mind, merely to turn him into a pinch of dust afterwards. Every generation, every country strives to get justice done, but cannot,-merely for the fact that God Himself has no idea of it, and therefore it is naturally lacking in His creature, man. Our governing-forces are plainly the elements. No Divine finger stops the earthquake from engulfing a village full of harmless inhabitants, simply because of the injustice of such utter destruction! See now!-look at the eyes of Lotys reproaching me! You would think they were the eyes of an angel, gazing at a devil in the sweet hope of plucking him out of hell!"

"Such a hope would be vain in your case, Zouche," said Lotys tranquilly; "You make your own hell, and you must live in it! Nevertheless, in some of the wild things you say, there is a grain of truth. If I were God, I should be the most miserable of all beings, to look upon all the misery I had myself created! I should be so sorry for the world, that I should put an end to all hope of immortality by my own death."

She made this strange remark with a simplicity and wistfulness which were in striking contrast to the awful profundity of the suggestion, and all her auditors, including the half-tipsy Zouche, were silent.

"I should be so sorry!" she repeated; "For even as a mortal woman my pity for the suffering world almost breaks my heart;-but if I were God, I should have all the griefs of all the worlds I had made to answer for,-and such an agony would surely kill me. Oh,-the pain, the tears, the mistakes, the sins, the anguish of humanity! All these are frightful to me! I do not understand why such misery should exist! I think it must be that we have not enough love in the world; if we only loved each other faithfully, God might love us more!"

Her eyes were wet; she caught her breath hard, and smiled a little difficult smile. Something in her soul transfigured her face, and made it for the moment exquisitely lovely, and the men around her gazed at her in evidently reverential silence. Suddenly she stretched out both her hands:

"Good-night, children!"

One by one the would-be-fierce associates of the Revolutionary Committee bent low over those fair hands; and then quietly saluting Sergius Thord, as quietly left the room, like schoolboys retiring from a class where the lessons had been more or less badly done. Paul Zouche was not very steady on his feet, and two of his comrades assisted him to walk as he stumbled off, singing somewhat of a ribald rhyme in mezza-voce. Pasquin Leroy and his two friends were the last to go. Lotys looked at them all three meditatively.

"You will be faithful?" she said.

"Unto death!" answered Leroy.

She came close up to him, placing one hand on his arm, and glanced meaningly towards Sergius Thord, who was standing at the threshold watching Zouche stumbling down the dark stairs.

"Sergius is a good man!" she said; "One of the mistaken geniuses of this world,-savage as a lion, yet simple as a child! Whoever, and whatever you are, be true to him!"

"He is dear to you?" said Leroy on a sudden impulse, catching her hand; "He is more to you than most men?"

She snatched away her hand, and her eyes lightened first with wrath, then with laughter.

"Dear to me!" she echoed,-"to Me? No one man on earth is dearer to me than another! All are alike in my estimation,-all the same barbaric, foolish babes and children-all to be loved and pitied alike! But Sergius Thord picked me out of the streets when I was no better than a stray and starving dog,-and like a dog I serve him-faithfully! Now go!"

She stretched out her hand in an attitude of command, and there was nothing for it but to obey. They therefore repeated their farewells, and in their turn, went out, one by one, down the tortuous staircase. Sholto, the hunchback, was below, and he let them out without a word, closing and barring the door carefully behind them. Once in the street and under the misty moonlight, Pasquin Leroy nodded a careless dismissal to his companions.

"You will return alone?" enquired Max Graub.

"Quite alone!" was the reply.

"May I not follow you at a distance?" asked Axel Regor.

Leroy smiled. "You forget! One of the rules we have just sworn to conform to, is-'No member shall track, follow or enquire into the movements of any other member.' Go your ways! I will thank you both for your services to-morrow."

He turned away rapidly and disappeared. His two friends remained gazing somewhat disconsolately after him.

"Shall we go?" at last said Max Graub.

"When you please," replied Axel Regor irritably,-"The sooner the better for me! Here we are probably watched,-we had best go down to the quay, and from thence--"

He did not finish his sentence, but Graub evidently understood its conclusion-and they walked quickly away together in quite an opposite direction to that in which Leroy had gone.

Meanwhile, up in the now closed and darkened house they had left behind them, Lotys stood looking at Sergius Thord, who had thrown himself into a chair and sat with his elbows resting on the table, and his head buried in his hands.

"You make no way, poor Sergius!" she said gently. "You work, you write, you speak to the people, but you make no way!"

He looked up fiercely.

"I do make way!" he said; "How can you doubt it? A word from me, and the massed millions would rise as one man!"

"And of what use would that be?" enquired Lotys. "The soldiers would fire on the people, and there would be riot and bloodshed, but no actual redress for wrong. You work vainly, Sergius!"

"If I could but kill the King!" he muttered.

"Another king would succeed him," she said. "And after all, if you only knew it, the King may be a miserable man enough-far more miserable, perhaps, than any of us imagine ourselves to be. No, Sergius!-I repeat it, you work vainly! You have made me the soul of an Ideal which you will never realise? Tell me, what is it you yourself would have, out of all your work and striving?"

He looked at her with great, earnest, burning eyes.

"Power!" he said. "Power to change the mode of government; power to put down the tyranny of priestcraft-power to relieve the oppressed, and reward the deserving-power to make of you, Lotys, a queen among women!"

She smiled.

"I am a queen among men, Sergius, and that suffices me! How often must I tell you to do nothing for my sake, if it is for my sake only? I am a very simple, plain woman, past my youth, and without beauty-I deserve and demand nothing!"

He raised himself, and stretched out his arms towards her with a gesture of entreaty.

"You deserve all that a man can give you!" he said passionately. "I love you, Lotys! I have always loved you ever since I found you a little forsaken child, shivering and weeping on the cold marble steps of the Temesvar place in Buda. I love you!-you know I have always loved you!-I have told you so a hundred times,-I love you as few men love women!"

She regarded him compassionately, and with a touch of wistful sorrow in her eyes. Her black cloak fell away on either side of her in two shadowy folds, disclosing her white-robed form and full bosom, like a pearl in a dark shell.

"Good-night, Sergius!" she said simply, and turned to go.

He gave an exclamation of anger and pain.

"That is all you say-'Good-night'!" he muttered. "A man gives you his heart, and you set it aside with a cold word of farewell! And yet-and yet-you hold all my life!"

"I am sorry, Sergius," she said, in a gentle voice; "very sorry that it is so. You have told me all this before; and I have answered you often, and always in the same way. I have no love to give you, save that which is the result of duty and gratitude. I do not forget!-I know that you rescued me from starvation and death-though sometimes I question whether it would not have been better to have let me die. Life is worth very little at its utmost best; nevertheless, I admit I have had a certain natural joy in living, and for that I have to thank you. I have tried to repay you by my service-"

"Do not speak of that," he said hurriedly; "I have done nothing! You are a genius in yourself, and would have made your way anywhere,-perhaps better without me."

She smiled doubtfully.

"I am not sure! The trick of oratory does not carry one very far,-not when one is a woman! Good-night again, Sergius! Try to rest,-you look worn out. And do not think of winning power for my sake; what power I need I will win for myself!"

He made no answer, but watched her with jealous eyes, as she moved towards the door. On the threshold she turned.

"Those three new associates of yours-are they trustworthy, think you?"

He gave a gesture of indifference.

"I do not know! Who is there we can absolutely trust save ourselves? That man, Leroy, is honest,-of that I am confident,-and he has promised to be responsible for his friends."

"Ah!" She paused a moment, then with another low breathed 'good-night' she left the room.

He looked at the door as it closed behind her-at the chair she had left vacant.

"Lotys!" he whispered.

His whisper came hissing softly back to him in a fine echo on the empty space, and with a great sigh he rose, and began to turn out the flaring lamps above his head.

"Power!-Power!" he muttered-"She could not resist it! She would never be swayed by gold,-but power! Her genius would rise to it-her beauty would grow to it like a rose unfolding in the sun! 'Past youth, and without beauty' as she says of herself! My God! Compare the tame pink-and-white prettiness of youth with the face of Lotys,-and that prettiness becomes like a cheap advertisement on a hoarding or a match-box! Contrast the perfect features, eyes and hair of the newest social 'beauty,'-with the magical expression, the glamour in the eyes of Lotys,-and perfection of feature becomes the rankest ugliness! Once in a hundred centuries a woman is born like Lotys, to drive men mad with desire for the unattainable-to fire them with such ambition as should make them emperors of the world, if they had but sufficient courage to snatch their thrones-and yet,-to fill them with such sick despair at their own incompetency and failure, as to turn them into mere children crying for love-for love!-only love! No matter whether worlds are lost, kings killed, and dynasties concluded, love!-only love!-and then death!-as all sufficient for the life of a man! And only just so long as love is denied-just so long we can go on climbing towards the unreachable height of greatness,-then-once we touch love, down we fall, broken-hearted; but-we have had our day!"

The room was now in darkness, save for the glimmer of the pale moon through the window panes, and he opened the casement and looked out. There was a faint scent of the sea on the air, and he inhaled its salty odour with a sense of refreshment.

"All for Lotys!" he murmured. "Working for Lotys, plotting, planning, scheming for Lotys! The government intimidated,-the ministry cast out,-the throne in peril,-the people in arms,-the city in a blaze,-Revolution and Anarchy doing their wild work broad-cast together,-all for Lotys! Always a woman in it! Search to the very depth of every political imbroglio,-dig out the secret reason of every war that ever was begun or ended in the world,-and there we shall find the love or the hate of a woman at the very core of the business! Some such secrets history knows, and has chronicled,-and some will never be known,-but up to the present there is not even a religion in the world where a Woman is not made the beginning of a God!"

He smiled somewhat grimly at his own fanciful musings, and then, shutting the window, retired. The house was soon buried in profound silence and darkness, and over the city tuneful bells rang the half-hour after midnight. Four miles distant from the 'quarter of the poor,' and high above the clustering houses of the whole magnificent metropolis, the Royal palace towered whitely on its proud eminence in the glimmer of the moon, a stately pile of turrets and pinnacles; and on the battlements the sentries walked, pacing to and fro in regular march, with regular changes, all through the night hours. Half after midnight! 'All's well!' Three-quarters, and still 'All's well' sounded with the clash of steel and a tinkle of silvery chimes. One o'clock struck,-and the drifting clouds in heaven cleared fully, showing many brilliant stars in the western horizon,-and a sentry passing, as noiselessly as his armour and accoutrements would permit, along the walled battlement which protected and overshadowed the windows of the Queen's apartments, paused in his walk to look with an approving eye at the clearing promise of the weather. As he did so, a tall figure, wrapped in a thick rain-cloak, suddenly made its unexpected appearance through a side door in the wall, and moved rapidly towards a turret which contained a secret passage leading to the Queen's boudoir,-a private stairway which was never used save by the Royal family. The sentry gave a sharp warning cry.

"Halt! Who goes there?"

The figure paused and turned, dropping its cloak. The pale moonlight fell slantwise on the features, disclosing them fully.

"T is I! The King!"

The soldier recoiled amazed,-and quickly saluted. Before he could recover from his astonishment he was alone again. The battlement was empty, and the door to the turret-stairs,-of which only the King possessed the key,-was fast locked; and for the next hour or more the startled sentry remained staring at the skies in a sort of meditative stupefaction, with the words still ringing like the shock of an alarm-bell in his ears:

"'T is I! The King!"

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