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   Chapter 27 — THE SONG OF FREEDOM

Temporal Power: A Study in Supremacy By Marie Corelli Characters: 39885

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Revolution! The flame-winged Fury that swoops down on a people like a sudden visitation of God, with the movement of a storm, and the devastation of a plague in one! Who shall say how, or where, the seed is sown that springs so swiftly to such thick harvest! Who can trace its beginnings-and who can predict its end! Tragic and terrible as its work has always seemed to the miserable and muddle-headed human units, whose faults and follies, whose dissoluteness and neglect of the highest interests of the people, are chiefly to blame for the birth of this Monster, it is nevertheless Divine Law, that, when any part of God's Universe-House is deliberately made foul by the dwellers in it, then must it be cleansed,-and Revolution is the burning of the rubbish,-the huge bonfire in which old abuses blazon their destruction to an amazed and terror-stricken world. Yet there have been moments, or periods, in history, when the threatening conflagration could have been stayed and turned back from its course,-when the useless shedding of blood might have been foregone-when the fierce passions of the people might have been soothed and pacified, and when Justice might have been nobly done and catastrophe averted, if there had been but one brave man,-one only!-and that man a King! But in nearly all the convulsive throes of nations, kings have proved themselves the weakest, tamest, most cowardly and ineffectual of all the heads of the time-ready and willing enough to sacrifice the lives of thousands of brave and devoted men to their own cause, but never prepared to sacrifice themselves. Hence the cause of the triumph of Democracy over effete Autocracy. Kings may not be more than men,-but, certes, they should never be less. They should not practise vices of which the very day-labourer whom they employ, would be ashamed; nor should they flaunt their love of sensuality and intrigue in the faces of their subjects as a 'Royal example' and distinctive 'lead' to vulgar licentiousness. The loftier the position, the greater the responsibility;-and a monarch who voluntarily lowers the social standard in his realm has lost more adherents than could possibly be slain in his defence on the field of honour.

The King who plays his part as the hero of this narrative, was now fully aware in his own mind and conscience of the thousands of opportunities he had missed and wasted on his way to the Throne when Heir-Apparent. Since the day of his 'real coronation,' when as he had expressed it to his thoughts, he had 'crowned himself with his own resolve,' he had studied men, manners, persons and events, to deep and serious purpose. He had learned much, and discovered more. He had been, in a moral sense, conquered by his son, Prince Humphry, who had proved a match for him in his determined and honourable marriage for love, and love only,-though born heir to all the conventions and hypocrisies of a Throne. He,-in his day,-had lacked the courage and truth that this boy had shown. And now, by certain means known best to himself, he had fathomed an intricate network of deception and infamy among the governing heads of the State. He had convinced himself in many ways of the unblushing dishonesty and fraudulent self-service of Carl Pérousse. And-yet-with all this information stored carefully up in his brain he, to all appearances, took no advantage of it, and did nothing remarkable,-save the one act which had been so much talked about-the refusal of land in his possession to the Jesuits for a 'religious' (and political) settlement. This independent course of procedure had resulted in his excommunication from the Church. Of his 'veto' against an intended war, scarcely anything was known. Only the Government were aware of the part he had taken in that matter,-the Government and-the Money-market! But the time was now ripe for further movement; and in the deep and almost passionate interest he had recently learned to take in the affairs of the actual People, he was in no humour for hesitation.

He had mapped out in his brain a certain plan of action, and he was determined to go through with it. The more so, as now a new and close interest had incorporated itself with his life,-an emotion so deep and tender and overwhelming, that he scarcely dared to own it to himself,-scarcely ventured to believe that he, deprived of true love so long, should now be truly loved for himself, at last! But on this he seldom allowed his mind to dwell,-except when quite alone,-in the deep silences of night;-when he gave his soul up to the secret sweetness which had begun to purify and ennoble his innermost nature,-when he saw visioned before him a face,-warm with the passion of a love so grand and unselfish that it drew near to a likeness of the Divine;-a love that asked nothing, and gave everything, with the beneficent glory of the sunlight bestowing splendour on the earth. His lonely moments, which were few, were all the time he devoted to this brooding luxury of meditation, and though his heart beat like a boy's, and his eyes grew dim with tenderness, as in fancy he dreamed of joy that might be, and that yet still more surely might never be his,-his determined mind, braced and bent to action, never faltered for a second in the new conceptions he had formed of his duty to his people, who, as he now considered, had been too long and too cruelly deceived.

Hence, something like an earthquake shock sent its tremor through the country, when two things were suddenly announced without warning, as the apparent results of the various Cabinet Councils held latterly so often, and in such haste. The first was, that not only had his Majesty accepted the resignation of the Marquis de Lutera as Premier, but that he had decided-provided the selection was entirely agreeable to the Government-to ask M. Carl Pérousse to form a Ministry in his place. The second piece of intelligence, and one that was received with much more favour than the first, by all classes and conditions of persons, was that the Government had issued a decree for the complete expulsion of the Jesuits from the country. By a certain named date, and within a month, every Jesuit must have left the King's dominions, or else must take the risk of a year's imprisonment followed by compulsory banishment.

Much uproar and discussion did this mandate excite among the clerical parties of Europe,-much indignation did it breed within that Holy of Holies situate at the Vatican,-which, having launched forth the ban of excommunication, had no further thunderbolts left to throw at the head of the recreant and abandoned Royalty whose 'temporal power' so insolently superseded the spiritual. But the country breathed freely; relieved from a dangerous and mischievous incubus. The educational authorities gave fervent thanks to Heaven for sparing them from long dreaded interference;-and when it was known that the excommunicated King was the chief mover in this firm and liberating act, a silent wave of passionate gratitude and approval ran through the multitudes of the people, who would almost have assembled under the Palace walls and offered a grand demonstration to their monarch, who had so boldly carried the war into the enemy's country and won the victory, had they not been held back and checked from their purpose by the counter-feeling of their disgust at his Majesty's apparently forthcoming choice of Carl Pérousse as Prime Minister.

Swayed this way and that, the people were divided more absolutely than before into those two sections which always become very dangerous when strongly marked out as distinctly separated,-the Classes and the Masses. The comfortable wedge of Trade, which,-calling itself the Middle-class,-had up to the present kept things firm, now split asunder likewise,-the wealthy plutocrats clinging willy-nilly to the Classes, to whom they did not legitimately belong; and the men of moderate income throwing in their lot with the Masses, whose wrongs they sympathetically felt somewhat resembled their own. For taxation had ground them down to that particularly fine powder, which when applied to the rocks of convention and usage, proves to be of a somewhat blasting quality. They had paid as much on their earnings and their goods as they could or would pay;-more indeed than they had any reasonable right to pay,-and being sick of Government mismanagement, and also of what they still regarded as the King's indifference to their needs, they were prepared to make a dash for liberty. The expulsion of the Jesuits they naturally looked upon as a suitable retaliation on Rome for the excommunication of the Royal Family; but beyond the intense relief it gave to all, it could not be considered as affecting or materially altering the political situation. So, like the dividing waves of the Red Sea, which rolled up on either side to permit the passage of Moses and his followers-the Classes and the Masses piled themselves up in opposite billowy sections to allow Sergius Thord and the Revolutionary party to pass triumphantly through their midst, adding thousands of adherents to their forces from both sides;-while they were prepared to let the full weight of the billows engulf the King, if, like Pharaoh and his chariots, he assumed too much, or proceeded too far.

Professor von Glauben, seated in his own sanctum, and engaged in the continuance of his "Political History of Hunger," found many points in the immediate situation which considerably interested him and moved him to philosophical meditation.

"For,-take the feeling of the People as it now is," he said to himself; "It starts in Hunger! The taxes,-the uncomfortable visit of the tax-gatherer! The price of the loaf,-concerning which the baker, or the baker-ess, politely tells the customer that it is costly, because of the Government tax on corn; then from the bread, it is marvellous how the little clue winds upward through the spider-webs of Trade. The butcher's meat is dearer,-for says he-'The tax on corn makes it necessary for me to increase the price of meat.' There is no logical reason given,-the fact simply is! So that Hunger commences the warfare,-Hunger of Soul, as well as Hunger of body. 'Why starve my thought?' says Soul. 'Why tax my bread?' says Body. These tiresome questions continue to be asked, and never answered,-but answers are clamoured for, and the people complain-and then one fierce day the gods hear them grumble, and begin to grumble back! Ach! Then it is thunder with a vengeance! Now in my own so-beloved Fatherland, there has been this double grumbling for a long time. And that the storm will burst, in spite of the so-excellently-advertising Kaiser is evident! Hoch!-or Ach? Which should it be to salute the Kaiser! I know not at all,-but I admit it is clever of him to put up a special Hoarding-announcement for the private view of the Almighty God, each time he addresses his troops! And he will come in for a chapter of my history-for he also is Hungry!-he would fain eat a little of the loaf of Britain!-yes!-he will fit into my work very well for the instruction of the helpless unborn generations!"

He wrote on for a while, and then laid down his pen. His eyes grew dreamy, and his rough features softened.

"What has become of the child, I wonder!" he mused; "Where has she gone, the 'Glory-of-the-Sea'! I would give all I have to look upon her beautiful face again;-and Ronsard-he, poor soul-silent as a stone, weakening day after day in the grasp of relentless age,-would die happy,-if I would let him! But I do not intend to give him that satisfaction. He shall live! As I often tell him, my science is of no avail if I cannot keep a man going, till at least a hundred and odd years are past. Barring accidents, or self-slaughter, of course!" Here he became somewhat abstracted in his meditations. "The old fellow is brave enough,-brave as a lion, and strong too for his years;-I have seen him handle a pair of oars and take down a sail as I could never do it,-and-he has accepted a strange and difficult situation heroically. 'You must not be involved in any trouble by a knowledge of our movements.' So Prince Humphry said, when I saw him last,-though I did not then understand the real drift of his meaning. And time goes on-and time seems wearisome without any tidings of those we love!"

A tap at the door disturbed his mental soliloquy, and in answer to his 'Come in,' Sir Roger de Launay entered.

"Sorry to interrupt work, Professor!" he said briefly; "The King goes to the Opera this evening, and desires you to be of the party."

"Good! I shall obey with more pleasure than I have obeyed some of his Majesty's recent instructions!" And the Professor pushed aside his manuscript to look through his spectacled eyes at the tall equerry's handsome face and figure. "You have a healthy appearance, Roger! Your complexion speaks of an admirable digestion!"

De Launay smiled.

"You think so? Well! Your professional approval is worth having!" He paused, then went on; "The party will be a pleasant one to-night. The King is in high spirits."

"Ah!" And Von Glauben's monosyllable spoke volumes.

"Perhaps he ought not to be?" suggested Sir Roger with a slight touch of anxiety.

"I do not know-I cannot tell! This is the way of it, Roger-see!" And taking off his spectacles, he polished them with due solemnity. "If I were a King, and ruled over a country swarming with dissatisfied subjects,-if I had a fox for a Premier,-and was in love with a woman who could not possibly be my wife,-I should not be in high spirits!"

"Nor I!" said De Launay curtly. "But the fox is not Premier yet. Do you think he ever will be?"

Von Glauben shrugged his shoulders.

"He is bound to be, I presume. What else remains to do? Upset everything? Government, deputies and all?"

"Just that!" responded Sir Roger. "The People will do it, if the King does not."

"The King will do anything he is asked to do-now-" said the Professor significantly; "If the right person asks him!"

"You forget-she does not know-" Here checking himself abruptly, Sir Roger walked to the window and looked out. It was a fair and peaceful afternoon,-the ocean heaved placidly, covered with innumerable wavelets, over which the seabirds flew and darted, their wings shining like silver and diamonds as they dipped and circled up and down and round the edges of the rocky coast. Far off, a faint rim of amethyst under a slowly sailing white cloud could be recognized as the first line of the shore of The Islands.

"Do you ever go and see the beautiful 'Gloria' girl now?" asked Sir Roger suddenly. "The King has never mentioned her since the day we saw her. And you have never explained the mystery of your acquaintance with her,-nor whether it is true that Prince Humphry was specially attracted by her. I shrewdly suspect--"

"What?"

"That he has been sent off, out of harm's way!"

"You are right," said the Professor gravely; "That is exactly the position! He has been sent off out of harm's way!"

"I heard," went on De Launay, "that the girl-or some girl of remarkable beauty had been seen here-actually here in the Palace-before the Prince left! And such an odd way he left, too-scuttling off in his own yacht without-so far as I have ever heard-any farewells, or preparation, or suitable companions to go with him. Still one hears such extraordinary stories--"

"True!-one does!" agreed the Professor; "And after proper experience, one hears without listening!"

De Launay looked at him curiously.

"The girl was certainly beautiful," he proceeded meditatively; "And her adopted father,-Réné Ronsard,-was not that his name?-was a quaint old fellow. A republican, too!-fiery as a new Danton! Well! The King's curiosity is apparently satisfied on that score,-but"-here he began to laugh-"I shall never forget your face, Von Glauben, when he caught you on The Islands that day!-never! Like an overgrown boy, discovered with his fingers in a jam-pot!"

"Thank you!" said the Professor imperturbably; "I can assure you that the jam was excellent-and that I still remember its flavour!"

Sir Roger laughed again, but with great good-humour,-then he became suddenly serious.

"The King goes out alone very often now?" he said.

"Very often," assented the Professor.

"Are we right in allowing him to do so?"

"Allowing him! Who is to forbid him?"

"Is he safe, do you think?"

"Safer, it would seem, my friend, than when laying a foundation-stone, with ourselves and all his suite around him!" responded the Professor. "Besides, it is too late now to count the possible risks of the adventure he has entered upon. He knows the position, and estimates the cost at its correct value. He has made himself the ruler of his own destiny; we are only his servants. Personally, I have no fear,-save of one fatality."

"And that?"

"Is what kills many strong men off in their middle-age," said Von Glauben; "A disease for which there is no possible cure at that special time of life,-Love! The love of boys is like a taste for green gooseberries,-it soon passes, leaving a disordered stomach and a general disrelish for acid fruit ever afterwards;-the love of the man-about-town between the twenties and thirties is the love of self;-but the love of a Man, after the Self-and-Clothes Period has passed, is the love of the full-grown human creature clamouring for its mate,-its mate in Soul even more than in Body. There is no gainsaying it-no checking it-no pacifying it; it is a most disastrous business, provocative of all manner of evils,-and to a king who has always been accustomed to have his own way, it means Victory or Death!"

Sir Roger gazed at him perplexedly,-his tone was so solemn and full of earnest meaning.

"You, for example," continued the Professor dictatorially, fixing his keen piercing eyes full upon him; "You are a curious subject,-a very curious subject! You live on a Dream; it is a good life-an excellent life! It has the advantage, your Dream, of never becoming a reality,-therefore you will always love,-and while you always love, you will always keep young. Your lot is an exceedingly enviable one, my friend! You need not frown,-I am old enough-and let us hope wise enough-to guess your secret-to admire it from a purely philosophic point of view-and to respect it!"

Sir Roger held his peace.

"But," continued the Professor, "His Majesty is not the manner of man who would consent to subsist, like you, on an idle phantasy. If he loves-he must possess; it is the regal way!"

"He will never succeed in the direction you mean!" said Sir Roger emphatically.

"Never!" agreed Von Glauben with a profound shake of his head; "Strange as it may seem, his case is quite as hopeless as yours!"

The door opened and closed abruptly,-and there followed silence. Von Glauben looked up to find himself alone. He smiled tolerantly.

"Poor Roger!" he murmured; "He lives the life of a martyr by choice! Some men do-and like it! They need not do it;-there is not the least necessity in the world for their deliberately sticking a knife into their hearts and walking about with it in a kind of idiot rapture. It must hurt;-but they seem to enjoy it! Just as some women become nuns, and flagellate themselves,-and then when they are writhing from their own self-inflicted stripes, they dream they are the 'brides of Christ,' entirely forgetting the extremely irreligious fact that to have so many 'brides' the good Christ Himself might possibly be troubled, and would surely occupy an inconvenient position, even in Heaven! Each man,-each woman,-makes for himself or herself a little groove or pet sorrow, in which to trot round and round and bemoan life; the secret of the whole bemoaning being that he or she cannot have precisely the thing he or she wants. That is all! Such a trifle! Church, State, Prayer and Power-it c

an all be summed up in one line-'I have not the thing I want-give it to me!'"

He resumed his writing, and did not interrupt it again till it was time to join the Royal party at the Opera.

That evening was one destined to be long remembered in the annals of the kingdom. The beautiful Opera-house, a marvel of art and architecture, was brilliantly full; all the fairest women and most distinguished men occupying the boxes and stalls, while round and round, in a seemingly never-ending galaxy of faces, and crowded in the tiers of balconies above, a mixed audience had gathered, made up of various sections of the populace which filled the space well up to the furthest galleries. The attraction that had drawn so large an audience together was not contained in the magnetic personality of either the King or Queen, for those exalted individuals had only announced their intention of being present just two hours before the curtain rose. Moreover, when their Majesties entered the Royal box, accompanied by their two younger sons, Rupert and Cyprian, and attended by their personal suite, their appearance created very little sensation. The fact that it was the first time the King had showed himself openly in public since his excommunication from the Church, caused perhaps a couple of hundred persons to raise their eyes inquisitively towards him in a kind of half-morbid, half-languid curiosity, but in these days the sentiment of Self is so strong, that it is only a minority of more thoughtful individuals that ever trouble themselves seriously to consider the annoyances or griefs which their fellow-mortals have to endure, often alone and undefended.

The interest of the public on this particular occasion was centred in the new Opera, which had only been given three times before, and in which the little dancer, Pequita, played the part of a child-heroine. The libretto was the work of Paul Zouche, and the music by one of the greatest violinists in the world, Louis Valdor. The plot was slight enough;-yet, described in exquisite verse, and scattered throughout with the daintiest songs and dances, it merited a considerably higher place in musical records than such works as Meyerbeer's "Dinorah," or Verdi's "Rigoletto." The thread on which the pearls of poesy and harmony were strung, was the story of a wandering fiddler, who, accompanied by his only child (the part played by Pequita), travels from city to city earning a scant livelihood by his own playing and his daughter's dancing. Chance or fate leads them to throw in their fortunes with a band of enthusiastic adventurers, who, headed by a young hare-brained patriot, elected as their leader, have determined to storm the Vatican, and demand the person of the Pope, that they may convey him to America, there to convene an assemblage of all true Christians (or 'New Christians'), and found a new and more Christ-like Church. Their expedition fails,-as naturally so wild a scheme would be bound to do,-but though they cannot succeed in capturing the Pope, they secure a large following of the Italian populace, who join with them in singing "The Song of Freedom," which, with Paul Zouche's words, and Valdor's music was the great chef d'oevre of the Opera, rousing the listeners to a pitch of something like frenzy. In this,-the last great scene,-Pequita, dancing the 'Dagger Dance,' is supposed to infect the people with that fervour which moves them to sing "The Freedom Chorus," and the curtain comes down upon a brilliant stage, crowded with enthusiasts and patriots, ready to fight and die for the glory of their country. A love-interest is given to the piece by the passion of the wandering fiddler-hero for a girl whose wealth places her above his reach; and who in the end sacrifices all worldly advantage that she may share his uncertain fortunes for love's sake only.

Such was the story,-which, wedded to wild and passionate music, had taken the public by storm on its first representation, not only on account of its own merit, but because it gave their new favourite, Pequita, many opportunities for showing off her exquisite grace as a dancer. She, while preparing for the stage on this special night, had been told that her wish was about to be granted-that she would now, at last, really dance before the King;-and her heart beat high, and the rich colour reddened in her soft childish face, as she donned her scarlet skirts with more than her usual care, and knotted back her raven curls with a great glowing damask rose, such as Spanish beauties fasten behind tiny shell-like ears to emphasise the perfection of their contour. Her thoughts flew to her kindest friend, Pasquin Leroy;-she remembered the starry diamond in the ring he had wished to give her, and how he had said, 'Pequita, the first time you dance before the King, this shall be yours!'

Where was he now, she wondered? She would have given anything to know his place of abode, just to send him word that the King was to be at the Opera that night, and ask him too, to come and see her in her triumph! But she had no time to study ways and means for sending a message to him, either through Sholto, her father, who always waited patiently for her behind the scenes,-or through Paul Zouche, who, though as librettist of the opera, and as a poet of new and rising fame, was treated by everyone with the greatest deference, still made a special point of appearing in the shabbiest clothes, and lounging near the side-wings like a sort of disgraced tramp all the time the performance was in progress. Neither of them knew Leroy's address;-they only met him or saw him, when he himself chose to come among them. Besides,-the sound of the National Hymn played by the orchestra, warned her that the King had arrived; and that she must hold herself in readiness for her part and think of nothing else.

The blaze of light in the Opera-house seemed more dazzling than usual to the child, when her cue was called,-and as she sprang from the wings and bounded towards the footlights, amid the loud roar of applause which she was now accustomed to receive nightly, she raised her eyes towards the Royal box, half-frightened, half-expectant. Her heart sank as she saw that the King had partially turned away from the stage, and was chatting carelessly with some person or persons behind him, and that only a statuesque woman with a pale face, great eyes, and a crown of diamonds, regarded her steadily with a high-bred air of chill indifference, which was sufficient to turn the little warm beating heart of her into stone. A handsome youth stared down upon her smiling,-his eyes sleepily amorous,-it was the elder of the King's two younger sons, Prince Rupert. She hated his expression, beautiful though his features were,-and hated herself for having to dance before him. Poor little Pequita! It was her first experience of the insult a girl-child can be made to feel through the look of a budding young profligate. On and on she danced, giddily whirling;-the thoughts in her brain circling as rapidly as her movements. Why would not the King look at her,-she thought? Why was he so indifferent, even when his subjects sought most to please him? At the end of the second act of the Opera a great fatigue and lassitude overcame her, and a look of black resentment clouded her pretty face.

"What ails you?" said Zouche, sauntering up to her as she stood behind the wings; "You look like a small thunder-cloud!"

She gave an unmistakable gesture in the direction of that quarter of the theatre where the Royal box was situated.

"I hate him!" she said, with a stamp of her little foot.

"The King? So do I!" And Zouche lit a cigarette and stuck it between his lips by way of a stop-gap to a threatening violent expletive; "An insolent, pampered, flattered fool! Yet you wanted to dance before him; and now you've done it! The fact will serve you as a kind of advertisement! That is all!"

"I do not want to be advertised through his favour!" And Pequita closed her tiny teeth on her scarlet under-lip in suppressed anger; "But I have not danced before him yet! I will!"

Zouche looked at her sleepily. He was not drunk-though he had,-of course,-been drinking.

"You have not danced before him? Then what have you been doing?"

"Walking!" answered Pequita, with a fierce little laugh, her colour coming and going with all the quick wavering hue of irritated and irritable Spanish blood, "I have, as they say 'walked across the stage.' I shall dance presently!"

He smiled, flicking a little ash off his cigarette.

"You are a curious child!" he said; "By and by you will want severely keeping in order!"

Pequita laughed again, and shook back her long curls defiantly.

"Who is that cold woman with a face like a mask and the crown of diamonds, that sits beside the King?"

It was Zouche's turn to laugh now, and he did so with a keen sense of enjoyment.

"Upon my word!" he exclaimed; "A little experience of the world has given you what newspaper men call 'local colour.' The 'cold woman with the face like a mask,' is the Queen!"

Pequita made a little grimace of scorn.

"And who is the leering boy?"

"Prince Rupert."

"The Crown Prince?"

"No. The Crown Prince is travelling abroad. He went away very mysteriously,-no one knows where he has gone, or when he will come back."

"I am not surprised!" said Pequita; "With such a father and mother, and such impudent-looking brothers, no wonder he wanted to get away!"

Zouche had another fit of laughter. He had never seen the little girl in such a temper. He tried to assume gravity.

"Pequita, you are naughty! The flatteries of the great world are spoiling you!"

"Bah!" said Pequita, with a contemptuous wave of her small brown hands. "The flatteries of the great world! To what do they lead? To that!" and she made another eloquent sign towards the Royal box;-"I would rather dance for you and Lotys, and Sergius Thord, and Pasquin Leroy, than all the Kings of the world together! What I do here is for my father's sake-you know that!"

"I know!" and Zouche smoked on, and shook his wild head sentimentally,-murmuring in a sotto-voce:

"What I do here, is for the need of gold,-

What I do there, is for sweet love's sake only;

Love, ever timid there, doth here grow bold,-

And wins such triumph as but leaves me lonely!"

"Is that yours?" said Pequita with a sudden smile.

"Mine, or Shakespeare's," answered Zouche indolently; "Does it matter which?"

Pequita laughed, and her cue being just then called, again she bounded on to the stage; but this time she played her part, as the stock phrase goes, 'to the gallery,' and did not once turn her eyes towards the place where the King sat withdrawn into the shadow of his box, giving no sign of applause. She, however, had caught sight of Sergius Thord and some of her Revolutionary friends seated 'among the gods,' and that was enough inspiration for her. Something,-a quite indefinable something,-a touch of personal or spiritual magnetism, had been fired in her young soul; and gradually as the Opera went on, her fellow-players became infected by it. Some of them gave her odd, half-laughing glances now and then,-being more or less amazed at the unusual vigour with which she sang, in her pure childish soprano, the few strophes of recitative and light song attached to her part;-the very prima-donna herself caught fire,-and the distinguished tenor, who had travelled all the way from Buda Pesth in haste, so that he might 'create' the chief r?le in the work of his friend Valdor, began to feel that there was something more in operatic singing than the mere inflation of the chest, and the careful production of perfectly-rounded notes. Valdor himself played the various violin solos which occurred frequently throughout the piece, and never failed to evoke a storm of rapturous plaudits,-and many were the half-indignant glances of the audience towards the Royal shrine of draped satin, gilding, and electric light, wherein the King, like an idol, sat,-undemonstrative, and apparently more bored than satisfied. There was a general feeling that he ought to have shown,-by his personal applause in public,-a proper appreciation of the many gifted artists playing that evening, especially in the case of Louis Valdor, the composer of the Opera itself. But he sat inert, only occasionally glancing at the stage, and anon carelessly turning away from it to converse with the members of his suite.

The piece went on;-and more and more the passion of Pequita's pent-up little soul communicated itself to the other performers,-till they found themselves almost unconsciously obeying her 'lead.' At last came the grand final act,-where, in accordance with the progress of the story, the bold band of 'New Christians' are fought back from the gates of the Vatican by the Papal Guard; and the Roman populace, roused to enthusiasm, gather round their defeated ranks to defend and to aid them with sympathy and support in their combat,-breaking forth all together at last in the triumphant 'Song of Freedom.' Truly grand and majestic was this same song,-pulsating with truth and passion,-breathing with the very essence of liberty,-an echo of the heart and soul of strong nations who struggle, even unto death, for the lawful rights of humanity denied to them by the tyrants in place and power. As the superb roll and swell of the glorious music poured through the crowded house, there was an almost unconscious movement among the audience,-the people in the gallery rose en masse, and at the close of the first verse, responded to it by a mighty cheer, which reverberated through and through the immense building like thunder. The occupants of the stalls and boxes exchanged wondering and half-frightened looks,-then as the cheer subsided, settled themselves again to listen, more or less spell-bound, as the second verse began. Just before this had merged into its accompanying splendid and soul-awakening chorus,-Pequita,-having obtained the consent of the manager to execute her 'Dagger Dance' in the middle of the song, instead of at the end,-suddenly sprang towards the footlights in a pirouette of extravagant and exquisite velocity-while,-checked by a sign from the conductor, the singers ceased. Without music, in an absolute stillness as of death, the girl swung herself to and fro, like a bell-flower in the breeze,-anon she sprang and leaped like a scarlet flame-and again sank into a slow and voluptuous motion, as of a fairy who dreamingly glides on tiptoe over a field of flowers. Then, on a sudden, while the fascinated spectators watched her breathlessly,-she seemed to wake from sleep,-and running forward wildly, began to toss and whirl her scarlet skirts, her black curls streaming, her dark eyes flashing with mingled defiance and scorn, while drawing from her breast an unsheathed dagger, she flung it in the air, caught it dexterously by the hilt again, twisted and turned it in every possible way,-now beckoning, now repelling, now defending,-and lastly threatening, with a passionate intensity of action that was well-nigh irresistible.

Caught by the marvellous subtlety of her performance, quite one half the audience now rose instinctively, all eyes being fixed on the strange evolutions of this whirling, flying thing that seemed possessed by the very devil of dancing! The King at last attracted, leaned slightly forward from his box with a tolerant smile,-the Queen's face was as usual, immovable,-the Princes Rupert and Cyprian stared, open-mouthed-while over the whole brilliant scene that remarkable silence brooded, like the sultry pause before the breaking of a storm. Triumphant, reckless, panting,-scarcely knowing what she did in her excitement,-Pequita, suddenly running backward, with the lightness of thistle-down flying before the wind, snatched the flag of the country from a super standing by, and dancing forward again, waved it aloft, till with a final abandonment of herself to the humour of the moment, she sprang with a single bound towards the Royal box, and there-the youthful incarnation of living, breathing passion, fury, patriotism, and exultation in one,-dropped on one knee, the flag waving behind her, the dagger pointed straight upward, full at the King!

A great roar,-like that of hundreds of famished wild beasts,-answered this gesture; mingled with acclamations,-and when 'The Song of Freedom' again burst out from the singers on the stage, the whole mass of people joined in the chorus with a kind of melodious madness. Shouts of 'Pequita! Pequita!' rang out on all sides,-then 'Valdor! Valdor!'-and then,-all suddenly,-a stentorian voice cried 'Sergius Thord!' At that word the house became a chaos. Men in the gallery, seized by some extraordinary impulse of doing they knew not what, and going they knew not whither, leaped over each other's shoulders, and began to climb down by the pillars of the balconies to the stalls,-and a universal panic and rush ensued. Terrified women hurried from the stalls and boxes in spite of warning, and got mixed with the maddened crowd, a section of which, pouring out of the Opera-house came incontinently upon the King's carriage in waiting,-and forthwith, without any reflection as to the why or the wherefore, smashed it to atoms! Then, singing again 'The Song of Freedom,'-the people, pouring out from all the doors, formed into a huge battalion, and started on a march of devastation and plunder.

Sergius Thord, grasping the situation from the first, rushed out of the Opera-house in all haste, anxious to avert a catastrophe, but he was too late to stop the frenzied crowd,-nothing could, or would have stopped them at that particular moment. The fire had been too long smouldering in their souls; and Pequita, like a little spark of fury, had set it in a blaze. Through private ways and back streets, the King and Queen and their sons, escorted by the alarmed manager, escaped from the Opera unhurt,-and drove back unobserved to the Palace in a common fiacre-and a vast multitude, waiting to see them come out by the usual doors, and finding they did not come, vented their rage and disgust by tearing up and smashing everything within their reach. Then, remembering in good time, despite their excitement, that the manager of the Opera had done nothing to deserve injury to himself or his property, they paused in this work of destruction, and with the sudden caprice of children, gave out ringing cheers for him and for Pequita;-while their uncertainty as to what to do next was settled for them by Paul Zouche, who, mounting on one of the pedestals which supported the columns of the entrance to the Opera, where his wild head, glittering eyes and eager face looked scarcely human, cried out:

"Damnation to Carl Pérousse! Why do you idle here, my friends, when you might be busy! If you want Freedom, seek it from him who is to be your new Prime Minister!"

A prolonged yell of savage approval answered him,-and like an angry tide, the crowd swept on and on, gathering strength and force as it went, and pouring through the streets with fierce clamour of shouting, and clash of hastily collected weapons,-on and on to the great square, in the centre of which stood the statue of the late King, and where the house of Carl Pérousse occupied the most prominent position. And the moon, coming suddenly out of a cloud, stared whitely down upon the turbulent scene,-one too often witnessed in history, when, as Carlyle says, 'a Nation of men is suddenly hurled beyond the limits. For Nature, as green as she looks, rests everywhere on dread foundations, and Pan, to whose music the Nymphs dance, has a cry in him that can drive all men distracted!'

In such distraction, and with such wild cry, the night of Pequita's long-looked-for dance before the King swept stormily on towards day.

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