The Traveller in the Fur Cloak
STANLEY J. WEYMAN
AUTHOR OF "OVINGTON'S BANK"
I HAD one or two things to do before I left the town, and I was turning from the door of the Golden Stag when my eyes encountered a shabby calash, which was loading up a few paces from the entrance. The postboy, as dingy as the carriage, was already in the saddle and the two travellers were in their seats and were evidently waiting only until one of them, the girl of the gallery, whose empty room was now accounted for, had said her last word to her escort of the day before. It was clear that she had fallen on someone to share the expense of a tand-schute. and l glanced with some curiosity at the person beside her. to see what manner of companion she had found To my surprise I recognized the handsome over-dressed woman whom l had seen driving out of Grossenhayn behind the army postillion. I had not liked her looks then, and l did not like them now; and it crossed my mind to feel sorry for the girl. But the next moment the postboy cracked his ragged whip, the old lady stood back, crying “Auf Wiedersehen!” and the carriage jolted away over the stones in the direction of the Berlin Gate.
1 started on my errands. I had put on my oldest clothes, but as I proposed to travel to Hamburg by water, and wished to attract as little notice as possible, I still doubted their fitness, and I made search for a clothier's shop. There I exchanged my coat and hát for a student's peaked cap and one of those ill-cut waistless coats beloved of Burschen. I had purposely omitted to shave, and by thrusting my stock into my pocket and throwing open my collar I made myself into a passable imitation of a student. I bought an iron-shod stick on which to swing my satchel, and five minutes later I was on the quay, below the long wooden bridge. Here i had no difficulty in finding the craft of which the students had spoken to me.
f WAS late, but river life is leisurely, and the boat 1 was just preparing to cast off. She was one of those heavy flat-bottomed craft, as much rafts as boats, that come down from the Bohemian highlands and are broken up at Hamburg and sold to the shipyards for timber. As a rule their voyages are made in the spring, but that summer, as Napoleon found to his cost when the flood carried away his bridges at Donau, had been wet, and the Elbe was still high. Making its voyage at this season the unwieldy vessel was crowded with passengers, and for a time I saw nothing of my five acquaintances. I was not sorry for this, for at the moment I had no particular taste for their company, though I thought that it might be useful when the time came for passing Magdeburg, now in French hands. For, though I had brought my passport, in the name of Wagenmacher,
I had no mind to produce it, if it could be avoided.
The sun shone, and a southerly wind raised a glittering ripple on the broad stream, and as I watched the church towers and grey walls of Wittenberg—more beautiful without than within—receding behind us, I experienced an elation and a freedom to which I had been long a stranger. I was able to forget the equivocal position in which I had placed myself and its possible outcome; and lounging against the clumsy ropes that served for bulwarks,
I fed my eyes on the sparkling water and the low green banks, or viewed with pleasure the queer costumes and snowwhite caps of the peasants who surrounded me. Somewhere, forward, three voices were singing a glee to the tinkling notes of a zither, and already the beer-boy was making his round. On all sides onion-scented meals were being produced from coarse-colored handkerchiefs, everywhere smiles and contentment met
the eye. And this was Germany—Germany under the heel of Napoleon, the Germany which the Burschen had represented to be heaving with unhappiness and discontent! Inevitably I thought of Pope’s lines on the small effect that governments or laws, conquerors or kings have on the happiness of nations.
ELOW Wittenberg the Elbe is no longer a picturesque
banks, it flows on, slow and placid. Not only has it long left behind it the rocks and rapids of the Saxon Switzerland, but even the valley in which it runs has here widened to a plain. Now and again islands part the stream, or low-wooded hills rise gently from the level; or pink and white fyamlets peeping from the trees, or the gardens and towers of some lordly Schloss break the foreshore. At times we hardly seemed to move, so slow was our progress, at times the current caught us and urged us on. But I was in no hurry. I viewed with pleasure, I looked forward with contentment to days of inaction. If I thought at moments and with misgiving of Ellis’s position and of Klatz—Klatz whom I still stubbornly suspected—it was to comfort myself with the reflection that the rogue would be puzzled. He might well think that our separation was a ruse and conjecture that while my Chief pursued his journey with pomp, the despatches on which he had set his heart were in my care, and fast receding in the distance. The thought was cheering, and I found in it some warrant for the step I had taken.
My departure might lessen Ellis’s risk. On the other hand, though Perceval spoke German fluently, he had not that intimate knowledge of the country and the dialect which had recommended me, young as I was, for the mission.
He could not pass as
safely as I could for a native. But then on his arrival in Berlin he would doubtless report himself to the Danish minister, and also to St. Marsan, the French resident, and obtaining from the latter, or from the Prussian Foreign Office, new credentials would regularise his position.
I felt no doubt that he would take that course. Nevertheless as the day wore on I drew less satisfaction from the thought. The heat increased as the sun rose overhead, and our progress, at two miles an hour, grew tedious. I found less to distract me, the novelty wore off, I yawned. At noon we tied up for an hour, which proved to be two, and I fell in with the students who— to cure I fancy a morning headache—had taken more beer than was good for them. Three o’clock saw the deck cumbered with sleepers, the glee had become a brawling chorus and it was but very, very slowly that we now progressed. All hope of reaching Magdeburg that night was laid aside, and we had not even reached Dessau, when late in the evening the clumsy craft put in to the left bank. We were ordered to go ashore and rejoin the boat at Dessau at five in the morning.
I HAD no mind to spend the night with my friends, the Burschen, and having waited in a quiet corner until I had seen them stream away with the greater part of the company along the road to the town, I turned into the garden of a beer-house in the little village at which we had tied up. It was overfull, but I found a seat and ordered a simple meal. No one took any notice of the solitary student, and having eaten and paid, I took up my satchel and strolled away towards the town which lies a few furlongs inland.
It was dusk but not dark, for the sky was clear and the plain open. I fancied the distance to be about a mile and I suppose I had covered some third of this and was dwelling on the charms of a good bed, when I came to a place where the road forked, a narrow firwood dividing the branches. I paused, but quickly made up my mind and I was taking the left hand track which seemed to lead more directly towards the lights of the town, when I heard voices in front—the loud voices of persons quarrelling. As I went on, the voices grew louder, and gradually two figures took shape in the darkness cast on the road by the trees. Apparently the quarrel had by this time passed from words to blows, for the nearer figure was retreating before the other, and at the same time there came from it cries of remonstrance and alarm. I took the retiring party to be a woman—it was much the shorter—but I could not be sure even of that.
What passed next passed in a few moments. The bleating cries rose to a shriek, a blow fell, and the woman, if it was a woman, either tripped backwards or fell to the ground. The aggressor raised his weapon again, I caught a halfchoked cry, and I sprang forward to intervene. I hurled my satchel at the man, and followed it up, brandishing my iron-shod stick.
“Stand back!” I challenged. “Have a care, man! What is it?”
My sudden appearance or my cudgel took the rascal by surprise and he retreated three or four paces, leaving his victim lying in the road. “What is it to you?” he replied with a grisly oath, but still backing before me as I advanced. “Go your way!” “Not till I know more—” I never finished the sentence, and I do not know what followed. For with that the
thing came to an end for me.
I remember, or I fancy I remember, a stunning shock, and I presume—I have no doubt rightly—that I was struck on the head from behind, by the person I had essayed to protect. But even that is an inference drawn after the event.
At any rate there came for me a blank—darkness—silence.
And afterwards? Well, a slow struggling back to life through fevered wastes and dreadful parched places. But the pain-racked visions, the shadowy figures, the void always yawning for my reeling senses, that haunted my mind, and were, I suppose, so many stages in the return to consciousness, form no part of the story. A day came when, though my memory of the past was hazy, I could think and speak, raise my head from the pillow and once more, as the nurses say, take notice.
By that time the room in which I lay had become, owing to brief flashes of consciousness fairly familiar to me. The tall, curtained windows through which the sun peeped when the veilleuse was not glimmering in its basin, the old woman in the mob-cap who flitted to and fro with a cup and a spoon, or at other times slumbered in a vast chaise-longue, the doctor in his ' powdered wig who stared at me, owl-like, his chin on the gold knob of his cane, even the dainty lady with golden hair, viewed at first as an angel, who at rare intervals smiled at me from the doorway—all these I had come to know, and to take for granted. But on this particular morning I knew myself;
I knew that the thin hands lying on the coverlet were mine, and the bearded chin; knew that I was Francis Cartwright of the F.O., and not only wondered how I came to be lying there, but had the desire to learn and the strength to ask. Six weeks!
Had I really lain there six weeks? Shaved? Yes, I would like to be shaved. In His Highness’s country-house, was I? Really! But what Highness? Oh, the Grand Duke of
Zerbst. Very, very kind of him to take me in! I murmured. I was still very weak and as I tried to express my gratitude the tears rose to my eyes.
“You’re English, aren’t you?” the old lady asked in her turn.
I admitted it.
“You’ve talked—he-he! And Her Highness heard of it. She is English, and she had you brought here from the servants’ quarters. The gracious Hoffurstliche lady has been to see you most days. How did you come to be murdered? Ach, the all-machtiger Gott may know, not I! Some rogues of Burschen brought you in looking like death, and with your pockets turned out —wunderbar! Everything taken, everything, every-
thing! The very linings stripped!”
“He! he! That one?” The old dame rubbed her nose with her horn-rimmed spectacles. “Well, to be sure it is her room—when she is here.”
“Oh! And who is she, if you please?”
“No great lady if you are thinking that, my man. Just,” with a grin, “the Lady Babetta’s governess. But of good—yes, of soldierly stock.”
“Nein, nein! Danish is she—of Altona.”
And that—that, strange to say, touched the chord of memory, and brought all back to me; the girl waiting
with her attendant in the courtyard of the Golden Stag at Wittenberg, the scene at the Rathhaus, the quarrel with Perceval Ellis, the voyage down the Elbe; all the events of the days preceding my collapse, which hitherto had been wrapt in a mist, that it had pained me to probe. All this now came to mind—and I groaned. The parting, which I had meant to be an affair of days, had grown into a matter of weeks. What must they be saying of me in England? What must they be thinking of me at the Office? And the alarm of my family, when they learned that Ellis had returned alone and for all explanation could give but the bare, the damning story of our parting—of my desertion.
THE knowledge overwhelmed me, and I lay for an hour gazing at the wall in a stupor, seeing only disgrace before me. Then, mercifully, I slept and when I awoke the curtains had been withdrawn from the tall windows, the sunshine was streaming into the room, I could see from my pillow the urns and parterres, the statues and fountains of the Ducal Gardens. And though nothing was changed, I drew a stolid kind of courage from the outlook. After all, what could I do? Days, weeks, perhaps, must elapse before I could muster strength to travel, and in the meantime to fret against fate, to consume myself with impatience would not help. Too weak to contend, I let the thought of the future slip from me, and sinking into the easy ways of an invalid as into a featherbed, put care and all but the present from me, looked forward to the next meal, and grumbled at the fat that floated on my suppe.
And they were infinitely kind to me—I say it with gratitude. The day came when I was carried out in
a chair, and henceforth I spent much of my time on the Terrace, now watching the child princess as she careered up and down behind her hoop, her bouffant skirts billowing about her slim legs, now contemplating with amusement the lean stately figure of the Grand Duke as, cane and snuff-box in hand, he paced with dignity to and fro. Often a page followed him, bearing a flute on a velvet cushion, and from time to time His Highness would halt, exchange in lofty fashion his cane for the flute, and resuming his progress pour forth to the September airs some del’cate trilling melody, some morceau of Lulli or Corelli. He wore— the good ancient gentleman was thirty years older than his consort—his hair dressed pigeon-wing fashion, with a ribboned queue, a narrow coat of the old regime, silk stockings and red-heeled shoes; and to eyes accustomed of late to the bullet heads, the boots and spurs, and virile dress of war, he appeared a strange survival. I seemed to see in him the old slumberous Germany with its easy - going princelings and fat canons, its high-pitched roofs and chiming belfries, its Hof rath of this and Frei-Ritter of that —the Germany still almost mediaeval, into which like a dark thunderbolt of war the modern Napoleon had burst, hurling down all, devastating all, sweeping away all, even that'J shadowy and venerable Empire, which after some sort had bound all together. It was a contrast that was to be even more closely presented to me —but not yet.
ND he was courteous, the Grand Duke, as he was quaint. No day passed that he did not approach my chair, bid me with condescension to remain seated, enquire with affability but with real kindness, how I did. Doubtless I owed this in some degree to the fact that his wife had discovered in me an old acquaintance. Coming up to speak to me on my first appearance in the ’open, she had paused, gazed at me for a moment in smiling perplexity, then asked me if she had not seen me somewhere.
I had discovered this some days before, and had my answer ready. “Your Highness’s recollection,” I said, “is as flattering as it is accurate. I was for a short time Charge d’Affaires at Berlin in my brother’s absence.
She clapped her hands. “Mr. Cartwright! ’ she exclaimed. “Of course! In 1804 or ’05. ou were my partner in a polonaise? I remember!”
“At the Princess Radziwill’s dance. Highness,^1 had the honor.”
“To be sure! Ah, poor Louise, how often I think of her, and what troubles she has gone through since that day! But how—heavens, Mr. Cartwright, how do you come to be here? In Germany? And like this?”
“With a broken head?” I answered, smiling, and told her as much as I thought wise. Naturally we became friendly—the better friends I think because we shared not only a common fatherland, but a sense of humor in which those about her were wanting. A dainty, gracious figure, she moved amid the fountains and statues as if she had stepped out of a picture by Watteau; now teasing her husband who adored her, now romping with the child, now making fun of her ancient Lady in Waiting, who, toiling after her, spoiled her and scolded her by turns.
IT MUST be confessed that as I grew a little stronger not only the Lady in Waiting, but Her Highness’s whole entourage furnished me with amusement which she was mischievous enough to share. The war had depleted the Grand Ducal forces by one-half—thirty of
the rank and tile under Graf von Heeren, the Captain of the Guard, having joined “our cousin of Prussia’s army in the field.” Worse still, Napoleon’s imposts had made such inroad* on the treasury as much to restrict the splendor of the household. One day it was the trumpet* that announced His Highness’s dinner that were mute the remaining trumpeter had a cold and could not blow! Another day it was the Lady in Waiting whose attendance failed—she was collecting the eggs in company with the Minister of Financewho I suppose checked them. On another it was the Maid of Honor who was absent she was counting the linen. Or at times the weekly game of chess, played by the Grand Duke on a gigantic chess-board in the garden, the pieces being members of the household grotesquely disguised as Castles and Knights and the like, was threatened with ruin. Pieces were lacking, and the absent ones had to be supplied from the town, while the Court Physician was elevated to the honors of the platform in place of the Graf von Heeren, His Highness’s customary opponent.
ON SUCH occasions the Grand Duchess’s eyes would meet mine and twinkle, and the old Grand Duke would lift his hands to heaven and cry "Allmächtiger Gott!" in a tone of distress, irresistibly funny. Yet let me do him justice. On one day in the week the gardens were open to the townsfolk, poor and rich, gentle and simple. Some would even bring their meals and partake of them in quiet corners. On that day the fountains played, the four sentries mounted guard, the Grand 1 >ucal flag flew to every air, the Grand Ducal band played; and then it was a tine and touching thing to see with what kindness and simplicity the prince mixed with his people, enquired after their concerns, or tapped their flaxen haired children on the head, his dignity as safe from trespass as if he had been surrounded by a thousand guards. For it is a singular fact that where tie gradations of rank are fixed and immutable, in practice they are often and safely ignored.
They were pleasant sunny days that I spent on the Terrace, a smiling spectator while Babetta skipped and the old Lady in Waiting scolded, and the fountains played and the Grand Duchess laughed. I exchanged the dressing gown in which I had made my first appearance. and which I fancy had once graced His Highness’s illustrious form, for a suit, abstracted I suspect from the Ober-Forster’s wardrobe. Later I left my chair and day by day wandered farther from it, and presently I descended to the Gardens. And I should have been as content as I was grateful, had I been care-free. But as my strength returned, anxiety, thoughts of the past and fear for the future, returned with it. What was passing at home? At the Office? What was being said of me. and thought of me? Soon, very soon I must be moving. I must be leaving this haven, I must be facing the world and its chill.
Sooner indeed than I expected. For one day when the Duchess was talking to me—a little disjointedly I fancied, and as if she had something on her mind, Babetta ran up to her. “I want my Norma! I want my Norma!” she cried pettishly.
“And so do I, Liebling,” her mother replied. “And next week Gott sei gedankt, I shall have her, and a good angel-like child—instead of the runagate, much-tomischief-inclined imp that I have.”
“Who is Norma, Highness?” I asked, though I had little doubt of the answer.
“Babetta's governess, Fraulein Mackay—a quite delightful young person of whom I am fond. She has been absent two months attending her father, who is ill—at Altona.”
“Danish, then?” I said. “But the name sounds— “Scotch, of course, and so is she. But her father is in the Danish service—was in the Swedish, but passed over with the territory. So Danish we call her—since to be English is not very safe here, you understand. Which brings me, Mr. Cartwright,” more gravely, “to something I have been wishing to say to you. Do you know that I am not very easy about you, my friend?” “Indeed?”
AS something occurred,” I asked, “to—to—” “To make me uneasy?” the Grand Duchess replied. “No,” breaking off and speaking to the child, who had returned to her side, “No, Babetta, run away and play now. I am talking to Mr. Cartwright. If you are tired of slipping, go and feed the carp. Has something occurred?” she continued, returning to me, “Yes. I am sorry to say that something has, of a rather serious kind. Naturally when you were brought here and it was not thought that you would live, no secret was made of your presence. The police, both here and at the Prussian frontier, seven miles away were informed, and there was a hue and cry after your assailants. Later, when it came to my ears that you were English, the household were charged to say nothing about it,
and I fancy that the order was observed. Nevertheless some hint of the fact must have leaked out, for two days ago I learned that enquiries were being made about you, and made by the last man whom the Grand Duke would willingly take into his confidence.”
“INDEED,” I said. The news was unpleasant, but the desire to bear oneself well before a woman led me to speak lightly. “And who—if I may presume to inquire, Highness—is this inquisitive gentleman?” “The Burgomaster, Huth. A wretched tool—in the French interests. A man whom we have long suspected of being employed to spy upon us.”
“And you fear that he is on the track?”
“He has undoubtedly made inquiries; and if he learns for certain that you are an Englishman it may not stop there. An Englishman is as rare here as a white crow. And in as much peril. And you have no passport or papers, you see.”
“They were taken from me, by the robbers.”
“Just so, my friend, but who will believe that? And you were disguised as a Bursch—that is the difficulty.
I do not wish to alarm you,” but I could see that she was no little alarmed herself, “but if Huth comes to suspect that you are a spy, you will be in considerable danger.”
“Just so,” I rejoined with as much indifference as I could muster. “I see that. But even so I can hardly think that this Huth would dare—”
“To interfere with the Grand Duke’s guest?” Her lip curled. “No, thank God, we have not come down to that, Mr. Cartwright, low as we have fallen! No! He would not dare, presumptuous as he is! But, alas, that is not the end of the story. The armies on the Danube are dispersing, and large bodies of French troops are marching northwards on their return to Hanover and the Hansa towns. Mostly they pass by way of Leipzig or Hameln. But detachments have gone by Wittenberg, and yesterday a request, which in our situation,” again her lip curled, “is a command, was received in the town to provide quarters, brandy and bread for five hundred men. Some one of importance is with them, for the largest house in the town is being prepared for him. Now what I fear is that Huth may communicate his suspicions to the French on their passage, and in that event your situation may become perilous. It is for that reason I have thought it right to speak to you.”
THE child was playing within sight, the sun of a warm October still shone, the splash of the fountains still fell pleasantly on the ear—but I felt a chill creep over me. The gardens with their flowers and statues, their glitter and gaiety, took on the look of the dropscene of a theatre, behind which the real drama was preparing. With difficulty I suppressed a shiver, and “You think, then, Highness—and I am infinitely grateful to you for your solicitude—you think that I ought to go beloie—”
“Before the French arrive?”—gravely—“I do. I am ashamed to say it, Mr. Cartwright, but were I to tell you that the Grand Duke could protect you—in all circumstances—I should be doing you a wrong. His Highness, sovereign prince as he is, has not the power to protect you, if suspicion be once aroused! No, alas! No more than the Grand Duke of Baden had to protect his unhappy guest at Ettingen, or than the Free City of Nuremberg to save that poor bookseller, when they seized there and murdered at Brantzau! If the King of Prussia, even before Jena, dared not move a man to succor his subjects in Anspach, if after our downfall he failed to secure the safety of his own Minister, Stein, you may guess what protection you are likely to enjoy in our little Duchy! Why,” with a gesture of despair, “even my brother in Ross-shire has more real power among his factors and cotters, ay, a hundred times more than has the Grand Duke in his dominions if but one word fall from the mouth of Napoleon! Shame on us, shame on us, but it is so! Stfl]^—” recox ering her calmness and speaking more lightly, though her heightened color proved how much she was moved— “still we ate not come to that yet. Theie is no call for immediate haste. You are still weak, and this is but Tuesday. The French do not arrive until Friday. If you leave us on Thursday it will be soon enough, and will give you two moie days in which to regain strength. We will see that you cross the frontier safely, and in twenty-four hours you may be in Berlin, where you will be in a better position to defend yourself.”
“Certainly,” I agreed, and I added some words of heartfelt thanks. “Certainly I will do that. To the Danish Ministry I can look for some protection, and Baron Bronberg is an old acquaintance. I shall alight there and he will identify me at the Foreign Office. Count Hardenberg also knows me, and when I tell him my story he can hardly refuse to grant me a safe conduct.”
She looked her relief, and became once more her charming self. “Good!” she said. “That is a great relief to me. Your presence once recognized in Berlin,
your position will be entirely altered. After that whatever is done will be the affair of every Chancellerie, and even Napoleon will not be anxious to touch the person of an Envoy a nez du monde entier. Yet,” rubbing her piquant nose with the handle of her fan, “I do not know what he will not dare, he has so often overridden exrery law, and every privilege! Ah, the despot!”
“But only,” I replied cheerfully—and without an effort, for I had until Friday and the risk was dissipated as soon as seen—“where the prize has been worth the odium. And I cannot flatter myself that I am of so much value. I may incur a short detention in Berlin, or at worst be interned until the end of the war.”
“But even that,” with a grimace, “would not be pleasant.”
“No, but compared with the fate of a spy it is a small matter. In the present, Highness,” I added with feeling, “I am more concerned how I may express my profound gratitude to you and to the Grand Duke— for all your kindness.”
“To the Grand Duke—c’est ca, Monsieur! His heart is of gold—no one knows it better than I! But for me,” with emotion, “am I not a countrywoman? Am I not also English? Have I not also a right to be proud— proud when I think that it is my country that stands, ever and unflinching in the tyrant’s way? That thwarts his schemes, and tarnishes his triumphs, and alone bars his way to that Empire of the world at which he aims. Ay, and that, for every enemy, every coalition his genius overthrows, raises up another enemy and even another coalition! What prizes had been Malta and Egypt, my friend, if Nelson had not destroyed him at the Nile! How splendid Austerlitz, if Trafalgar had not trodden on its heels! How welcome Wagram, if Talavera had not poisoned the cup! He may flatter himself that he is Charlemagne, but while the tides flow, and the sea is salt and England stands, he will never be Alexander! English? Ah, but I am proud to be English! To be more English than the English—as is every exile! I am more proud of, more conscious of the mother that bred me than the home-children! And shall an Englishman thank me when I succor him? Shall I not rather thank fortune for the opportunity?”
HER feeling so irradiated her beauty that I could liken her to no ore I had ever seen except to herfriend, the Patriot Queen, the Queen of Prussia and of Heaits. I could not trust myself to speak. I bent over her hand and kissed it.
She blushed, not at my action, but at her own vehemence. And smiling, “Now I leave you, my friend. You have two days. Eat, drink and grow strong. Play battledore with Babetta. Her Norma returns tomorrow, and it fits in well. The return carriage can convey you to Berlin on Thursday. As fai as we can, we will see that you are provided with all things fitting, and when the opportunity occurs you can repay me with caps a l’anglaise and millinery from Bond Street. Dear, delightful Bond Street, how I long to walk down your pavement!”
She tripped, laughing, away, and not before it was time if I was to leave her without a heartache. Shall I be thought the worse of, shall I appear very silly if I own that I spent the next half hour in foolish musings —in dreams of what might have been had we met earlier, had I been the first to besiege that loyal and generous heart, to encounter the smiles of those arch and bewitching eyes—and had there been no Grand Duke of Zerbst to force me to raise my plebeian siege. At any rate, that is what I did, and I had been more or less than man if I had not. But at length with a laugh at my own folly I shook myself out of my tender musings, I paid to hei beauty and her goodness the tribute of a sigh, and turned to the review of my own affairs.
A grey landscape, but I had to avow that it might have been worse. The peril that had for a moment peeped above the horizon had sunk out of sight, thanks to the warning we had received. But apart from that the outlook was harsh enough to one who had for weeks been lapped in ease and fenced from care by the privileges of illness. For an invalid to return to the world is always a trial; but in my case the return involved things to be done and things to. be suffered, which went indeed against the grain.
IT WOULD not be pleasant to tell my story to Hardenberg. The figure I should cut in the German Minister’s eyes would be at best little to my credit. And the story told and that oideal over, I was but at the beginning of my troubles. I had still the Office at home to face and the Chief; and I could imagine no coloi that I could putupon my actions, that would commend them either to the one or the other. And Perceval Ellis who had doubtless returned, seething xxith indignation, and denouncing my desertion? And my colleagues who would one and all condemn me? It was plain, too plain that whatever face I might succeed in putting upon the situation, I could not hope to escape reprimand, and certainly I could not hope for further employment. It
would be much, if by the use of my small influence, and the intercession of friends, I could escape the brand of absolute dismissal.
And all because in a moment of irritation I had lost my temper and taken one false step! All, I now saw, because of that d—d Klatz, and my feeling about him! Que drôle de bete I had been to suspect the man, and to persist in my suspicions! Ten to one—for did not the attack on Ellis at Wittenberg, whithei I and not Klatz had insisted on going, go far to prove it—he had been as innocent as I, and as ignorant. Now that I reviewed the matter coldly I saw this; and I saw, too, that the fact, which I should not be able to deny, riddled my only defence through and through.
' I 'HE gaiety and glitter of the gardens laid out after the fashion of Versailles—but how unlike the Versailles I had last seen in ’02 triste and deserted!—were so little in unison with my thoughts that I presently retired to my room. Here I stood foi a while, gazing at the portrait of the girl on the easel, but for the moment sunk in a reverie so deep that I saw nothing of that which was before my eyes. Later, and as I awoke to the face before me I was seized with wonder at the series of chances that had first presented the girl to me in her own person, and then in this limned semblance. Through how many hot and fevered nights had I lain, my eyes fixed on that countenance, uncertain whether I looked on a real watcher, or on a figment of my dreams! Through how many days had I turned restlessly on my pillow, seeking a cooler place for my head, until every lineament of the face on the canvas had become as familiar to me as the features of my own sister. Viewed at leisure, the face as I gazed at it seemed to strike a note of sadness. I fancied, or I really saw, in the grave eyes and the drooping lips something of the loneliness and appeal which the girl’s attitude had betrayed on that ill-starred evening at Wittenberg. The eyes that met mine, that followed me to whatever part of the room I went, that seemed to be trying to convey to me a message or a warning, wrought on me oddly, impressed me with a sense of tragedy, inspired me with a vague apprehension.
t'ANCY, of course, pure fancy I told myself! And on
the morrow I should be convinced of it. I should see the girl as she was, and the chances were that the light of every-day life would dissipate at a stroke this bizarre impression and with it the spell which the brooding eyes and oval face, so often viewed, had laid upon me. After all, it was not hard to account for the impression. I had begun by seeing the girl ill at ease and in strange surroundings and doubtless I had let the circumstances colour my vision. To-morrow I should see her alight full of life and spirits, thankful that the weary journey was over, and delighted to return to a milieu that welcomed her. In place of the Ophelia that I had created, I should see a commonplace English Frauleir, with no weeds in her hair and no cloud in her life, descend from a dusty German postchaise as little romantic as herself.
Which, nevertheless, was a sight I was not to see. There was indeed to be an arrival on the Wednesday, but the newcomer did not turn out to be Fraulein Mackay. That was my last day at the Schloss, and Babetta had commanded me to a final game at battledore after dinner. We had retired for the purpose to her favourite playground, a circle of fine turf, surrounded by a lime hedge, wherein four ancient moss-grown seats of carved stone stood recessed. We had been playing for some time, the shuttlecock had been in the air for an unconscionable period, and I remember that Babetta, her childish treble quivering with excitement, was counting the strokes, when—I think it must have been about three o’clock, for I was facing south-west and the sun was in my eyes—I heard an impatient voice summoning me by name. I turned to see who wanted me, made my stroke too late, and the shuttlecock fell to the ground.
“Oh, clumsy!” cried Babetta. “Three hundred and forty! And we might have gone on to—•”
“Freiherr! Freiherr!" Breathless with running, a page appeared at the entrance to the circle. “You are to go to your room, if you please! Auf einmal!"
“Wunderbar!" I exclaimed. “Why? What has
“Her Highness sent me!” the boy panted. “It is an order. I was to take you back.”
But Babetta broke in. “Pig! Dummer Junge!” she shrieked, stamping with anger. “How dare you intrude? How dare you break in in this fashion when I—”
“Stop! Stop!” I said. “Let me understand! If it is Her Highness’s order—”
“It is, Freiherr, it is!” the boy said eagerly. “I was to take you back at once by the way I came.”
I threw dowr my battledore. “Excuses, Princess!” I said. “I must obey.” Then to the lad, “Go on, I am with you.” It was strange, and rather disturbing, but there must be a reason foi it.
I left Babetta, still screaming out childish abuse, and I followed the boy. Skirting one hedge and another, turning this way and that, but always under covert—no doubt
the young rascal had played truant in his time—we traversed the gardens as far as the foot of the steps leading up to the Terrace. There the boy signed to me to pause, and moving before me, he looked up and down. Apparently he found the coast clear, for he beckoned to me to advance, and together we hurried across the open space.
But safe in my room I collared him. “Now, mein Knabe, out with it!” I said. “What is it? What is the matter? If this is any trick of you young scamps—”
“ Nein! Nein!” he cried. “Her Highness bade me and I obeyed. And I contrived it cleverly, eh?” with a grin.
“Oh, I knew the way. But I fancy, if you must know, Excellency—”
“That someone has arrived unlooked for, and Her Highness,” slyly, “did not wish you to be seen.”
“Oh,” I said. “Is that all?” But lightly as I spoke I felt a check. Who could it be, whose coming loomed so important that the Grand Duchess had put herself out for him? “Then you can tell your mistress,” I added, “that I have obeyed, and convey to her my grateful acknowledgments. But don’t do so if she be in company.”
“Have I fleas in my ear?” the young rogue replied, and with an impudent wink he ran off. But I noticed that he retired not by the window and the terrace but by the corridor that led through the house.
T FELT anxious and I waited until the sound of his foot1 steps had died away, then I opened the door and listened. Yes, there was an unusual stir in the Schloss, a flutter of skirts as women scuttled to their rooms, a hurrying of feet on the floor above, a slamming of doors, a murmur of voices breaking out and sinking again. Something fell with a crash, a man swore, a bell rang sharply. “Go out by the other door, fool!” some one cried, and a moment later as I still listened, my apprehensions by no means allayed, the trumpets blared out, sharp, brazen, imperious— calling, I judged, the guard together.
Certainly something of moment had happened.
I wondered what it could be; wondered uneasily. I had a notion, but I did not wish to accept the notion. I left the door, I crossed the room to the window, and peeped out, keeping myself concealed. Yes, here, too, all was nowcommotion. Footmen w-ere carrying out chairs, among them a state chair for the Grand Duke, another for Her
Highness, a third almost as important. The major-domo was shifting the seats here and there, sending for footstools, standing back to judge of the effect, adding a table in front of the first chair. Next it was the Chamberlain who appeared, white staff in hand, a valet running beside him and setting right his stock. He, too, cast a look at the arrangement, nodded, departed. His place was taken by a Sergeant of the Guard who posted four sentries at intervals along the edge of the Terrace. Then he too departed.
AND now the officers of the household began to mus• ter, red-necked, flustered old gentlemen, with powdered heads and queues, in uniforms hastily put on, and not of the newest. They grouped themselves behind the chairs, and then there followed a pause, presently broken by a murmur of voices as the Grand Duke came into view, walking beside the Grand Duchess and attended by the White Staff and two or three ladies. As they passed my window I fancied that Her Highness cast a hasty glance at it, but I was hidden by the curtains. They took their seats, and simultaneously the Court Physician, last to arrive, came bustling up, puffing and blowing, from the Gardens, his face under his great white wig, almost as scarlet as his coat.
Then, another pause. I had time to note that the Grand Duke wore the Black Eagle on his gray silk coat and that the Grand Duchess’s bodice flashed w-ith diamonds set about a portrait. The Grand Duke said something, Her Highness slowly waved her fan. Suddenly the trumpets blared out again, I caught a sound of footsteps advancing along the Terrace, the clink of a sword, the ring of spurs. The Grand Duke rose to his feet, benevolent and formal, an old-fashioned figure, not unimposing. I looked out eagerly.
The Chamberlain came into sight first; behind him, a small stoutish man in uniform—a green coat, girt about the waist with a broad gold sash with pendant ends, white breeches, high boots. The stiff upstanding collar of his coat was embroidered with gold, and he wore gold spurs. A trim, brisk man in the prime of life, he advanced with a firm step, his head high. Behind him walked two officers, their breasts glittering, their hands on their hilts. The Chamberlain stood aside, bowed low.
“Monseigneur le Maréchal, le Prince d'Eckmuhl,” he announced in his voice of ceremony.
“I am happy in the opportunity,” said the small stoutish man in a courteous tone.
Ay, Davout! Of all men the last w-hom I desired to see. It w-as Davout—he who had governed Belgium, had governed Poland, w-ho now as good as governed Germany, as Napoleon’s proconsul! Whose harsh regime, mitigated only by the iron discipline that he maintained, w-hose devotion to his Master, w-hose hatred of England were commonplaces in the mouths of those whose business it was to w-eigh men' I felt a chill run down my spine, and interposing a curtain I fell back from the w-indow.
HT HIS w-as certainly the last man by w-hom I could wish to be discovered! I w-as English, in a country where no Englishman might be, and I was without papers or passport, lurking in w-hat might pass for a disguise! More, I was w-ithin tw-enty miles of the jealously guarded fortresses of Magdeburg and Torgau. To be discovered in such circumstances and by such a man might expose me to serious risk, and I no longer wondeied that Her Highness had w-ith such haste consigned me to my room, or that in the panic caused by the Marshal’s sudden arrival, she had found no opportunity of explaining matters.
Having withdrawn from the window-, I failed to be a w-itness of w-hat passed outside during the first minute or two. Then curiosity got the better of alarm, and reflecting that the man could have no reason to suspect my presence, I returned to my place. Screened by the curtain I looked out.
He was seated now, and, leaning a little back in his chair, was engaged in conversation with the Duchess, w-hose fan moving to and fro betrayed, I thought, a soupçon of nervousness. He held his plumed hat in his lap—a bald little man, w-ith nothing but a good breadth of forehead and something of hardness in his eyes to distinguish him from other men. I recalled the portrait draw-n of him by one w-ho had seen him at Anspach in Continued on page 39
Continued from page 23
1805—“a little smooth-pated unpretentious man, who was never tired of dancing,”—and inadequate as it had seemed at the time, I now found it strangely near the mark.
BUT he did not impress me the less on that account. On the contrary. He was, it was quite true, a little, smoothpated man with easy, with even polished manners—and I could picture him waltzing with all a small man’s verve and abandon, a figure in a salon that would not attract a second glance. But then,
I reflected, how much must lie behind that deceptive appearance! What formidable things! What an iron will, what a ruthless determination, what an intense devotion to his master, what a fanatical hatred of that master’s enemies! little man had been the ruler of many lands, and now in Prussia was the power behind the throne —irresistible! In his easy manners I found nothing strange, for almost alone among Napoleon’s Marshals he was of the old noblesse. But at nineteen he had cut himself off from his caste, had flung himself into the Revolution, and at twentyone he had broken the fiery unruly elements of the Revolution to the discipline he loved. He had fought his way upwards, seeing service in every land, had commanded under the First Consul the cavalry of the Army of Italy, at the Emperor’s accession had _ received his baton, by virtue, it was said at the time, of his connection by marriage with the Buonaparte family, rather than on his merits. But at Ulm and at Austerlitz he had shone, and on the fourteenth of October, 1805, Prussia’s fatal day, he had silenced his critics and had earned, as no other Marshal ever earned, the jealousy of the Master he served.
For on the very day on which Napoleon at Jena had crushed a wing of the Prussian forces, Davout, surprised and deserted by Bernadotte who should have covered him, had defeated the main body at Auerstadt, beating forty-nine thousand men with twenty-two thousand, a clear interval of thirteen miles separating the two battles.
AN INTERVAL surely sufficient! But it had not suited Napoleon to acknowledge it. With a decision as audacious as politic, he had treated the two conflicts as one and had taken to himself his Marshal’s laurels. And ' Davout had accepted the decision. He had hidden his thoughts and been silent. He had allowed not a word of complaint to escape him. He had continued to serve with the same stern fidelity, and at Wagram, when all hung in the balance, and Napoleon’s star seemed trembling to its wane, he had by the most delicate operation of the day, turned the Austrian flank, dislodged him by desperate fighting from his position on the heights, and decided the campaign.
He had done this almost under my own eyes—the little smooth-pated man, who now sat, leaning slightly forward, holding his hat on his knees as he chatted. There was no one, it was said, whom Napoleon trusted so entirely. He was Head of the Military Police of the Empire, and among the duties specially assigned to him was the secret service. In Belgium he had made it his boast that he had shot or hung every spy to the last man. And above all things, he was noted for his hatred of England, which he regarded as the irreconcilable foe, the stirrer-up of strife, the fomenter of war, the nation of shop-keepers, that paid others to fight its battles!
Altogether and in brief, a very remarkable and a very formidable little man. Fond of dancing? Yes, but how many men had he sent to dance on nothing!
NO DOUBT under other circumstances the man would not have impressed me so strongly. I should have viewed him with curiosity, perhaps even with admiration. But as things were, the sight of him, the very unimpressiveness of him, when one did not meet the hard directness of his gaze, chilled me. If he discovered my presence, the consequence might be serious, for even to be interned in Magdeburg till the end of the war would not be pleasant, and that might not be the worst. In 1801 I had seen Buonaparte and talked with him face to face. I had met Massena, and spoken to Lannes—in the same year. And in 1805
I had become acquainted with Berthier at the Corbetz ieviews. But Davout I had never met, and such proof of my j identity as he might be willing to accept, it would not be easy to obtain.
I had reached this stage when I saw j that the party was breaking up. The Marshal was taking leave of the Grand Duke; I could hear more than one exchange of “Monseigneur” for “Votre Altesse.” But no, it was the Grand Duke who was withdrawing, the Marshal remained and under Her Highness’s guidance was descending to the gardens. Women are more adaptable than men, and I suspected that she was more at her ease with the formidable visitor than her husband, who, good easy man, benevolent but not clever, might well feel himself overweighted.
The two were not long away. A few minutes only elapsed before they reappeared on the Terrace, and now I thought that Davout would certainly go. But no, again I was disappointed; the two began to pace up and down, and apparently on the best of terms. As they passed the window I caught fragments of conversation, and I guessed that the Grand Duchess had been felicitating the Marshal on his new title, for “I am infinitely obliged to Your Highness,” reached me, “and to be frank I am grateful to the Emperor, for his kindness relieves me from an embarrassment. My old title of Auerstadt has an unpleasant sound in Prussian ears, and I would not willingly—”
I lost the rest, but a moment later they passed again, and this time I noticed that the lady looked a trifle put out—her colour was higher, her fan moved more quickly. Whether she had ventured to reproach him for his severity, I could not say, but I judged that something of the kind had passed between them, for his manner was that of one politely defending himself. “Il faut faire a l'ennemi,” I heard him say, “tout le mal necessaire, mais ne lui faire que le mal necessaire, et reprimer impitoyablement tout mal qui n'aurait pas pour but unique le succes de la guerre. Voici ma regle, Madame, qui est toujours presente a mon esprit. C'est pourtant, j'avoue, un rude metier que je sais.”
AFTER that they were absent a little - longer, and when they again came into sight I observed that the Grand Duchess’s face wore a more gentle look. She was listening attentively, her countenance turned towards the Marshal, her fan hanging idle from her wrist. Unluckily he was not speaking as they went by, and I gained no clue to the subject which had brought that softer look to her eyes. A moment later the two officers who had spent their time in conversation with the Household, disengaged themselves with many bows, and I guessed that Davout was taking leave—but away to the right, beyond my sight, where the end of the Terrace abutted on the Entrance Gates, and the town.
Two minutes later Her Highness appeared at my window, but I own that it irritated me to see that her face still wore that softened look. “No, you must not come out, Mr. Cartwright,” she said, glancing quickly to right and left. “Please do not show yourself. I will tell you why presently.”
“At any rate Your Highness has spent a pleasant hour,” I said, grudgingly. For hitherto I had had a kind of monopoly of her, and I could not bear that the enemy should share her good-will. And then, while all this had been going on, here had I been hidden out of the wTay, in my room! “And made a charming acquaintance,”
SHE did not see, or would not see, my ill-temper. “He has a heart,” she replied. “One would not think so from all one has heard, Mr. Cartwright. But it is so.”
“He appears to have proved it to you,”
I said jealously.
She looked at me, a gleam of amusement in her eyes. “To be sure,” she said, I “he is not a stock or a stone. He was tellj ing me about—.” And she paused, willing ! I think to draw me on.
“About what—if I may presume to inquire?” I asked sulkily, rising to the fly.
“About his wife, monsieur,” with a moue, half triumphant, half tender.
“Of his Aimée, who is certainly his Bien Aimée! To whom he writes every day, bien entendu, this man of iron. Oh, he was delightful, I assure you, while he talked of her. He might have been a little boutiquier, six months married, and separated from his Marthe or his Mathilde! Or a preux chevalier, like Mr. Cartwright, six days engaged to his—to his Norma, shall 1 say,” her laughing eyes passing by me, and pouncing by chance on the portrait behind me—“and sighing for the honeymoon! Oh, I assure you he was charming in that mood—M. le Prince!"
“Her Highness amuses herself,” I said. 1 could not help it.
She made an odd little face at me. “And Mr. Cartwright—what is he doing? Is it possible that he is fain—to amuse himself also? Fie, my friend! Who was homeless and we took him in? Friendless and we comforted him?” Her tone grew more grave. “Hungry and thirsty and we—”
BUT I could not bear that she should go on, and “Forgive me, forgive me, Highness!” I cried. After all it was but a passing folly—what right had I to be jealous? “I am an ungrateful beast! Believe me, I shall never forget the kindness I have received from you—and from the Grand Duke.”
“That is better,” she said. “For it is due to him. He is the best of men. And indeed we have no time to quarrel, Mr. Cartwright—no time and no reason, my friend, for we must part—here and now. The Prince sups with us and I must be dressing. And you must be going—while you may. The Fraulein has not returned —I know not why, for she should have been here hours ago. But you cannot wait, and I have ordered that a carriage shall be ready for you at five to-morrow morning.”
“Then the Marshal—”
She nodded. “Yes, he has heard some word of you, I fear. I fear so. He informed the Grand Duke that there was a matter on which he desired to see him tomorrow—a trifle, but unpleasant. And I have no doubt that Huth has seen him. But, n'importel If you start as I have said, at five to-morrow, you will be half way to Berlin before the storm breaks.”
“I am sorry that the Grand Duke should be incommoded,” I said lamely.
She shrugged her shoulders. “After all —he is the Grand Duke,” with a touch of pride. “And with you safe and out of reach we can afford to smile even though Monseigneur le Prince frowns. His Highness will tell him who you are and that you will be to be found, if he desires to question you, in Berlin. He can then take what steps he pleases. You will have been identified by that time and no great harm can happen to you. And now, Mr. Cartwright,” and as she gave me her hand, she looked at me very kindly, “we must say farewell.”
“Say rather au revoir—in better times, Madam,” I answered, hardly able to control my voice.
“Alas,” sorrowfully, “the better times may be long in coming! And you—are going home! Home, my friend!” And there was I know not what of pathos in her voice. “You will see the sea and the white cliffs of England, you will walk in Bond Street, you will hear the dear English tongue, hear the very beggars speak it! And one day perhaps you will hear the grouse call, and watch the autumn sun reddening the bracken on the hills that fall down to Loch Duich! But there, farewell, farewell, Mr. Cartwright! Think of me sometimes, my friend.”
SHE turned abruptly away, but I knew that there were tears in her eyes. And I—I could not have spoken had I wished!
I sat for an hour, feeling very lonely and making, perhaps, a little more of my melancholy than was necessary. I understood that I was not to show myself, and as the evening closed in, and the corners of the room grew shadowy, until even the face on the easel gleamed but palely through the dusk, I felt myself deserted. The servants were busy with the entertainment and did not come near me. Now and again a thin stream of music penetrated to my ears and I guessed that the Grand Ducal band was playing at the supper; once some door being open, I caught the lilt of a gavotte,
one of Handel’s I fancied, and I thought that all the world was gay but I.
A little later a servant brought in lights and my supper, and later still the Grand Duke’s secretary appeared, and smelling more of secrecy than I thought was called for, placed in my hands half a dozen rouleaux of thalers; a sum amply, nay, generously sufficient for the expenses of my journey, which nevertheless it was not quite pleasant to receive. However, I was penniless, and there was no help for it, and as I drew out a receipt—the Secretary I could see thought his Master unduly lavish—I tried to make my acknowledgments commensurate with the man’s expectations.
The receipt given, he laid on the table a handsome fur cloak—almost as handsome a cloak as that which I had provided for the Envoy Extraordinary when in the first blush of hope and exhilaration I had left England for Vienna. “His Highness trusts that you will accept this in memory of your visit,” he said.
It was a kind and thoughtful gift and I knew whom I had to thank for it. I accepted it, and requested him to convey my most grateful thanks to His Highness. “Is the Prince of Eckmuhl still here?” I asked as the man prepared to leave me.
“Yes. Her Highness,” an unexpected gleam of humour in his eyes, “is-graciously singing to him—English ballads.”
“Witching the beast with hostile minstrelsy” rose to my lips, but I crushed down the indiscretion, and only said, “So! Indeed!”
AGAIN the man yielded to his feelings.
“Even a black cow gives white milk,” he said gravely, “if properly milked.”
“To be sure,” I assented as gravely. “It is true.”
“Then mein Herr will be called at four?” he rejoined, as he turned to the door. “The carriage will be at the Entrance Gates at five, if he will be good enough to be ready.”
I replied that I would be ready, and with a final bow he left me, the receipt in his hand. A stiff fellow, but with an unusual streak of humour in him—for a German.
They kept early hours at the Schloss, and I went betimes to bed, still feeding my melancholy. For an hour or more I sighed most romantically; and then having real troubles to face, and turning my mind to them—and trouble is a rare fosterer of slumber—I fell asleep. Two or three times during the night, I awoke and nervously consulted my watch by the light of the veilleuse, but always to find that the hour for rising was not come. Then as often happens, a little before the time, I went off into a sound nap, and when I awoke the sun was not only up, but was flooding my chamber with its beams. I leapt out of bed in a panic—it must be long past four! Had they forgotten to call me? Or what had happened? There was a handbell on the table and hastily drawing on some clothes I opened the door and rang the hand-bell in the corridor. I glanced at my watch. It wanted little of seven. Seven! Good heavens!
1WAS vexed beyond measure and fearing that I was somehow in fault, I was the less able to curb my impatience. I opened the door again and looked out. No one! The corridor was empty. I fetched the bell and was about to ring it more loudly when I heard slip-shod feet coming my way, and a moment later the old lady who had nursed me appeared, emerging from a side-passage. I did not wait for her to reach me. “Why was I not called,” I cried in wrath, “at four as was arranged? It is seven o’clock. Seven!” “Hist!” she muttered, and glanced over her shoulders. Then, “It is not so simple as that, young gentleman. The gates are watched—it’s lucky for you we learned it in time. There is no going out or in—for you. The great man who was here yesterday has seen to that, though he looked as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, plague take him! You don’t want to walk into the mouse-trap, do you?”
“But what is to be done then?” I asked, aghast. This was serious news.
“That is to be seen,” she rejoined with German phlegm. “Truth is I don’t know.
But for the present you’d best go back to your room and stay there. Stay there and keep close, young gentleman. There’s others thinking for you, and more than you deserve if you ask me,” with a sharp look.
“But if I cannot get out?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “After all the coil’s of your own making,” she said. “No use to blame us.”
THAT was cold comfort and so I found it, when old Martha had gone, and in obedience to her warning I had sneaked back to my room and closed the door. The money that the Grand Duke had sent me lay on the table, the fur cloak hung across a chair, and as I dressed I eyed them wistfully. For by this time, had things gone as we had planned, I should have been far on the road to Berlin. Instead I was cooped up here, forbidden to show myself, a fugitive without the excitement of flight. And all too clearly I recognized that the sentimental dejection of the evening before had been so much time wasted, which it would have been wiser in me to devote to the consideration of my own plight, and the prospect before me.
What was the prospect before me? In effect, if it was indeed on my account that the gates were watched, if things had reached that point, my position might become very serious indeed. But how serious I still shrank from deciding. The diplomat soon learns, it is the first lesson he does learn, that his person is sacred. That is the privilege, that is the pride of the ambassador, and of all about him. He needs nerve, for he must take on himself vast responsibilities, but the nerve is moral, not physical; the contests in which he engages are of the mind, not of the muscles; he is trained to the clash of wits, not of arms. The consequence is that lapped in personal security, and taught to consider that he is not as other men, he finds it hard to believe that either his life or his liberty is threatened. Even when they are menaced, he is reluctant to admit it, since by the very admission he strips himself of his privilege. Instinctively, then, he turns his eyes from the danger point, and persuades himself, in the face of reason, that the thing cannot be.
That had been my own habit of mind, even when I had warned Perceval Ellis that the journey he proposed to take was not without its perils. For I had not really put much faith in those perils; and now when they seemed to be taking a solid and a very ugly shape, the old habit persisted, and I would fain shy from the grisly apparition. It was not the kind of thing that I had been accustomed to face, and I shrank from admitting that I was really cast for the part.
BUT I could not altogether shut my eyes to facts. The French in their German campaign had levied harsh exactions, and had lived on the country, but they had not been guilty of gross excesses. Discipline had been maintained. But against the rights of states, and the privileges of ambassadors, they had again and again transgressed. In the case of Rumbold, of Wagstaffe the messenger, of Taylor at Cassel, of Wynn at Dresden, they had gone out of their way to trample upon international usage; and they had done this with a vengeance wherever an Englishman was in question.
That being so, I could not deny that the position in which I had placed myself laid me open. I might be an envoy, or attached to one. But I had nothing about me to prove it, no attendants, no credentials, no papers. And Davout, if I had to deal with him, might deny the fact, and maintain that in travelling where I was, in disguise, off the main road, and in the neighbourhood of his fortresses, I had forfeited my claim to protection. It is an old sour saying proverbial among soldiers, that every ambassador is a spy; and if the Marshal could lay hands on me, the case might be made to look very unpleasant for me.
Then I had to consider that if the worst happened, England was far, and if the news ever crossed the sea at all—through the Duchess par exemple—what could England do beyond what she was doing? There would be a protest, protocols, rejoinders—I knew the file by heart; but
nothing would be done, the conversations would die away, and in twelve months the incident and my fate would be alike forI gotten.
So 1 passed. 1 confess, some very uneasy moments that morning, now paring the room, now listening at the door; and even with pride to help me 1 had much ado to keep panic at bay. And 1 had nothing to distract me. no employment, no means of learning what was passing, or what impended. About nine a servant brought nn and a roll, but. glum and stolid, the man had nothing to say. 1 fancied that he looked at me curiously, ami that « as all.
I T W AS ten before anything happened. L riten at last 1 caught the sound of footsteps in the corridor, and someone knocked sharply at my door. I opened it, thankful that here at length was something. no matter what, to break the monotony of suspense. With astonishment I found the Grand Duchess herself, standing outside. Her Highness had the old Gräfin von Hess In attendance, and a single glance showed me that the sentiment of the previous evening had vanished. Her eyes met mine with a look as keen and direct as eyes of so liquid a blue could cast.
Moreover, she began with no word of greeting, but "Mr. Cartwright,” she said at once, and her voice was as sharp as her looks, "What is this story about Wittenberg? Toll me at once, if you please! Ami briefly, for I must not be missed, and my time is short."
"Of Wittenberg?” I exclaimed, more surprised than I can say. Indeed for a moment 1 was honestly puzzled.
"Yes. yes, of Wittenberg—and you? They have some story it has come to the Prince of Eckmuhl’s ears—that you were at a Restauration there, drinking toasts--toasts that you should not have drunkwith a party of students. Drinking to Major Schill—that unfortunate! They have chapter and verse for it, and I cannot tell you how important it is that you should be able to deny the tale.”
II’ SHE had struck me in the face, I should hardly have been more taken aback. I could not speak, I could not utter a word. The affair at the Rathskeller had passed so entirely from my mind that for weeks I had not given a thought to it. A mere trifle at the time, it had come by now to belong to another, a far-off life. Judge then what I felt, judge of my dismay, when at this most unfortunate moment it rose to confront me.
I suppose that my face told the tale for “You don’t mean to say that it is true?” she exclaimed, clapping her hands softly together. “No, no!”
“Pm—Pm afraid it is,” I faltered. “In part.”
“Schill and all? Oh, Mr. Cartwright,” in a voice of keen reproach, “how could you be so imprudent? How could you be so thoughtless? In your position? And what a dilemma you have placed yourself in! And us, who are helping you. I did not believe a word of it—not a syllable, when they told me!”
And still I had not a word to say. I could only look at her in shame and perplexity. For I saw that if I told the truth, if I avowed the real motive which had led me to join those accursed students,
I should condemn myself out of my own mouth. The desire to obtain information —what defence was that in the mouth of an alleged spy? I should be delivering myself into Davout’s hands. I should be making his case for him—and all the case he could desire!
“Speak!” she repeated urgently. “Don’t
I found my voice at last. “You must give rne up." I said. It was all I could say.
“If it were as easy as that!” she rejoined. And again she clapped her hands softly. ‘‘You know it is not. You know that we cannot do that! Oh dear, oh dear, Mr. Cartwright,” in a voice of poignant distress, “how are we to save you? The Marshal is coming at twelve with a demand for you, and every gate is watched by his people. If in the meantime you put a foot outside you will be arrested, and J fear, I fear,” with increasing distress, “that he is inexorable.
He says that it was England that paid and inspired Schill, and that belief makes him as hard as granite. Oh dear, dear, Í do not know what we can do.”
“Do nothing, Madam,” I said earnestly; and I thank heaven that I was
able to speak so that she saw that I meant it. “The folly was mine and I must pay for it. 1 will go to him and give myself up. It is the least that I carTdo, and after all there was nothing that passed at Wittenberg that meant anything. When I explain—”
“But, Highness,” 1 said stoutly. “This is my affair. Let me—”
But "No! No!” she cried imperiously. “And don’t distract me! 1 must think! I must plan something! Oh, I can manage it, I must manage it. We cannot abandon you. Only—we do not trust all about us, and 1 must not be seen coming to you again. The Countess will not let me, indeed.” And in truth the old Grafin’s snowy head-dress, which in the half light of the corridor looked like nothing so much as a huge cauliflower, was shaking with reprehension. “So if you get a hint, act on it at once! Do not wait. You understand?” urgently. “Act on the instant, if you hear from me. We have but until noon and it is after ten now.”
She nodded, waved her hand, and with the old lady hobbling after her, tripped away. I saw them turn the corner of the passage—they disappeared. She had not given me time to thank her.
I went into my room and shut myself in, and I confess I was shaken. I saw my danger, saw that it was real and imminent, and for a moment I felt hot all over. But I was quite as much oppressed by doubt as by fear. What ought I to do? What was it my duty to do? Ought I to free the Grand Duke from his embarrassment and this brave woman from her responsibility, by going out and giving myself up? One moment I was certain on the point, and I snatched up the cloak and looked for my hat. The next, with my hand on the hasp of the window I hesitated. In Berlin, with the backing I might get—in Berlin, the whole matter could be explained. Things would look wholly different then. And that being so, would it not be foolish of me to fling all away on the impulse of a moment? To give up all my chances and perhaps sacrifice my life—merely to save the Grand Duke from a temporary embarrassment? And the Duchess? She would not thank me, I was sure. I should only be inflicting on her unnecessary pain.
I LAID down my cloak and hat, and professional arguments came to my aid. After all Davout had no right to arrest me within the Grand Duke’s sovereignty; why should I, then, aid him in his usurpation? Why condone the breach by offering myself as a sheep to the slaughter? No, I would remain where I was, and if a way of escape presented itself, I would take it.
It was not the more heroic choice, and it remained to be seen whether it would avail. I had still to learn whether the Duchess’s ingenuity would prove equal to the task, and in a state of suspense, painful to remember, I awaited the event. I had until noon, it was already close on eleven. If Her Highness acted she must act quickly—quickly! I wandered from door to window. I looked out on the gardens, anxious to discern some proof, some indication that she was at work.
Presently I perceived signs that there was something in preparation. There were movements on the Terrace; a bevy of servants crossed it and went down to the gardens. One bore a pair of long white staves, another a bundle of flags, a third a chair of state. By and by an odd figure came into view, and began to pace the length of the Terrace. And at that my heart sank, for I recognized in the figure merely one of the pawns in the gardenchess game. So that was all! They were going to play chess. I was in peril, I was in suspense, the minutes were speeding by, and with true courtly frivolity they were going to—play chess!
TT CERTAINLY was so, for presently 1 another and a stranger figure appeared —a canvas-covered knight, his visor raised, bestriding a canvas hobby-horse. He paused on the Terrace, at his leisure chose, deliberately, a seat in the sun and, disengaging himself from his steed, sat down to wait. Him, a second pawn followed, and a third, each making his way down to the gardens. Then, in a whirl of laughter and flying garments,
Babetta! Babetta, prancing and sidling, swathed in one of the chess-suits, and dragging after her a vast train. The dress was ludicrously too large for her, but undeterred by this, or by the fact that she was as good as blindfolded—for nothing was visible of her face—she jigged this way and that, now waving her arms and curtseying to the windows, now with a great part of the skirts gathered up in her arms, gambolling wildly up and down. Laughter eddied from her, and little hoots of defiance. “Me voici! Me void! La Tour! La Tour!” she cried, a fantastic, leaping, freakish figure, that at another time would have amused me sufficiently. Every moment I looked to see Martha or another run out to seize her, for it was clear that the child had eloped with some one’s dress.
BUT no one came after her, and presently she reached a spot opposite to my window. There she fell to a new game; whirling round one way until she had wound her train about her legs, then pirouetting the other way until she was again enmeshed. She had done this twice when I caught the sharp note of a whistle, and as quickly the strange figure bounded to my window and tapped on it.
I opened it, dumfounded, she tumbled into the room, and in a trice with frantic movements had disengaged her flushed, laughing face, and tumbled hair.
“Did I not do it well?” she panted proudly. “It is for you, Monsieur. Put it on, and when the whistle sounds again, join that knight on the seat there, and go down to the chess. You are a Castle— you have no face, you look through these holes. Hauser—Hauser is the Knight— will tell you where to stand. You are Chemnitz, the herbalist, if any one asks you. When the game is over go straight out through the gates with the other pieces—there are seven or eight from the town—and go down the main street till you come to Puckler’s on the right side, next the bridge. He has a carriage waiting for you.”
TP HE lesson—it was evidently a lesson, A tripped fluently off her tongue, but before it was half told I had caught her drift, and had begun to drag on the ungainly garment that she had put off. Distended by circular wires, and borne on the shoulders by straps, it was, viewed from outside, a fair imitation of a round tower.
“Did I not do it well?” she repeated, in high glee. “That whistle was to say that there was no one looking. It is the best dress of all for hiding one.”
“Am I right, Princess?” I asked.
“Parfaitement! But no! When Chemnitz wears it he fills it. The walls stick out.”
I hurried it off again, and slipped into the fur cloak, remembered the money too, and pocketed it. Then on with the Castle masque again, “Is that better?”
She clapped her hands. “Oh, magnifique! Colossal! Now you are stout—like a German!”
“Good,” I said. “Will you be good enough to take a message for me to Her Highness? Will you tell her—”
But the whistle sounded and cut me short, and Babetta pushed me towards the window. “Tout de suite! Tout de suite!” she urged. “Go to Hauser! You see him? Go down with him. Do what he tells you!”
T HASTENED to obey, climbing clum1 sily through the window on to the Terrace. For a moment, the scope of my vision limited by the eyelet holes, I was? at a loss. Then I picked up the Knight who was mounting his hobby horse at leisure, and I moved stiffly towards him. He bade me by a gesture to accompany him, and “Right hand square, back line is yours” he muttered, as we proceeded slowly, and cautiously, lifting our skirts, down the stone steps to the Gardens. “I am next to you. And say little, gnädiger Herr—Chemnitz is a sulky fellow. When it is over join me—I also am going into the town. Slowly, slowly, mein Plerr! Do not hurry!”
Sauntering with as easy an air as a man can assume whose limbs are swaddled in a long nightshirt and his head in a linen basket, I arrived by his side at the ground.
It was a warm day for the end of October, and the sun shone on a scene certainly strange enough. The pieces, some red, some white and thirty in number, lounged or chatted in twos and threes
on either side of the board. This was a rectangular space, paved in alternate squares with black and white marble and framed in smooth green sward. At either end rose a wide marble rostrum finely designed, and so shaped that the middle and the two ends curved forward. Each of these balconies was capacious enough to seat five or six persons, besides the player whose chair of state occupied the middle projection. Against the black and white pavement and the green turf the scattered pieces in their red or white masques produced a gay and lively effect: so much so, indeed, that though my heart beat more quickly than was pleasant, and between the heat and the lack of air I was in a perspiration, I could not but admire it.
I FANCY that my arrival had been carefully timed. But accidents will happen, and one had perhaps delayed the Grand Ducal party, for there was a pause which I found very trying. Hauser, engaging me in talk at a little distance from the others, shielded me as well as he could from strange overtures; but presently one of the other pieces, a Bishop, crossed the board towards me, evidently with the intention of joining us. Hauser did what he could. He seized the man by his dress, drew him aside, and for a minute or more held him in conversation. But the Bishop was pertinacious and restive, he had business, it appeared, with Chemnitz and twice he tried to get round my friend. The third time he succeeded. Breaking from Hauser’s detaining hand he took me by a loose fold of my disguise, and,
“Chemnitz,” he said, “how is it to be? Are you going to give me the price of that ham? It’s yes or no, man, for I can’t wait any longer. Is it a bargain?”
“NeinI” I grunted, perspiring more than ever, and wishing with all my heart that he and his ham were in a still hotter place “Nein! Nein!”
“Eh! What?” in angry surprise. “You won’t? Oh, but -you can’t treat me so to the rules of business contrary. I kept it for you, my friend, and it is not too friendly now to—”
Crack! A staff fell sharply on the front of the nearer rostrum, and “Places! To your places!” cried a shrill, commanding treble. It was Babetta’s; the child had perceived my difficulty and with equal resource had seen how to deliver me from it. “March, mein Herren, if you please!” And crack! crack! the staff falling on the front of the rostrum gave weight to her order. “Places!”
YOU may take it from me that I was not behind-hand in obeying. I shook off my business friend and in a twinkling got Hauser between us. The Bishop, placed on the other side of him, and perforce divided from his bargain, made an attempt to continue the discussion across the Knight’s crupper. “My ham, my ham!” he began, but I would not listen and Hauser cut him short. “Have done with your ham, Fichte!” he growled. “The Princess has her eye on you! Have a care!” and seeing that this was the fact Herr Fichte subsided, grumbling.
Thank heaven, a moment later the trumpets sounded high, in honour of the Grand Duke’s arrival. He mounted the rostrum behind me, and took his seat, attended by two or three of his gentlemen. His opponent, the Court Physician, with a great show of humility, ascended the other rostrum, but did not venture to sit down. The Duchess and the old Gräfin with several ladies, chose to sit on the sward beside the board. A Court Official bade all be silent, and a kind of Master of the Board, armed with a wand as long as a salmon rod, took his stand at the righthand end of each rostrum. Apparently his business was to pass on the players’ orders, and if need be, to hasten the latters’ movements with a touch of his rod. The trumpets sounded a challenge, the lists were opened, the mimic tournament began.
I knew that all that I should be called upon to do was of the simplest. But between the heat and my excitement, I ■ was extremely uncomfortable. All sorts of untoward accidents rose before my mind. What if I made some stupid blunder and was ordered to unmask? Or what if the real Chemnitz, whom I supposed to be locked up in some distant room, escaped and put in an appearance—as damnably unwelcome as the ghost in Hamlet? Or suppose I were to faint with the heat? Or ■—and now there! There was Hauser, my
0iiy and dependence, gone from me— moved two squares to the front, leaving my flank unprotected! By and by I should be left alone, commanded by eyes on every side. 1 wondered if my boots were visible. They were of English make, they might betray me. Or there might be some formality, usual when a piece was moved, which 1 in my ignorance should omit!
And, confound it, the piece that masked me *n front was gone also! Presently I should have to move, half a dozen spaces
at once, half across the board, perhaps, and how should I acquit myself? Could I do it with the trained step, the stiff bearing of the drilled pieces? I waited—waited nervously for the word of command, fearful lest I should fail to hear it, apprehensive that I should attract notice in some way.
I stared straight before me, wound up to move. And oh, how hot it was! And how oppressive the silence between the moves.
To be Continued