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Title: Saraband for Dead Lovers (1935)
Author: Helen Simpson
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eBook No.: 0800831.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: August 2008
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Title: Saraband for Dead Lovers (1935)
Author: Helen Simpson



* * * * *


Everyone knows, who has tried it, that history will not fit into fiction
without some little adjustment here and there, a tampering with the
letter in order that the spirit may have a better chance. Such
adjustments have been made throughout this book, and may easily be
discovered by the historian; but I hope he will not find that violence
has been done to any essential truth.

H. S.
Queen Anne Street, W.I
November, 1934

* * * * *


AQUILINA. Tell him I am gone to Bed: Tell him I am not at Home; tell him
I've better Company with me, or any thing; tell him in short I will not
see him, the eternal troublesome vexatious Fool:--

MAID. But Madam! He's here already, just enter'd the Doors.

--_Venice Preserv'd_. Act III, Scene I.

* * * * *


"I send with all speed," wrote Elizabeth-Charlotte, Duchesse d'Orléans,
tucked away in her little room surrounded by portraits of ancestors, "to
wish you, my dearest aunt and Serene Highness, joy of the recent
betrothal. It will redound to the happiness of Hanover and Zelle. It
links two dominions which have long possessed for each other the
affection natural to neighbours, but which now may justly embrace as
allies. It appears to me that no arrangement could well be more suitable,
and I offer to the high contracting parties my sincerest wishes for a
continuance of their happiness."

The Duchess smiled grimly, dashed her quill into the ink, and proceeded
in a more homely manner.

"Civilities apart, What in heaven's name is the Duke of Hanover about?
This little Sophie-Dorothée will never do; she is not even legitimate,
and as for her mother, you know as well as I do that Eléonore d'Olbreuse
is nothing better than a French she-poodle to whom uncle George William
of Zelle treated himself when he was younger, I will not say more
foolish, and has never been able to get rid of since. What, with all
respect, was your husband thinking of to bring French blood into a decent
German family, and connected with the English throne, too! In brief, my
dearest aunt, all this is a mystery to me. I can only presume that it was
concluded over your head, and that money played the chief role. Men, men,
men! Clink a thaler in their ear, and hold a carrot in front of a donkey,
and forward both animals go, with never a blink, down God knows what
precipice. I do beg of you to write me such details as you have time for,
and to accept my honest hope that a business so ill-judged may not lead
to disaster."

This letter, reaching the Duchess of Hanover immediately after the
wedding, made no very pleasant reading, even allowing for Charlotte's
well-known trick of looking on the gloomier side of all new
relationships, and particularly of marriage. Its sting lay in the
assumption which permitted the writer to criticise the whole affair with
freedom, and to goad the Duchess under cover of her Duke.

The fact was, the whole match was of Duchess Sophia's making; but with
what agonies of troubled pride, what angry tears!

To begin with, the girl Sophia-Dorothea was not exactly illegitimate. She
had been legitimised some six years before as a result of a bargain
struck between her father and his brother Ernest Augustus, now Duke of
Hanover, then Bishop of Osnabruck; after which the official marriage of a
morganatic wife with her ducal husband took place before the wondering
eyes of their daughter, aged ten, who almost at once was swept into the
matrimonial whirlpool with a princeling of Wolfenbüttel. True, this was
only a betrothal, and the young man was carried off by a cannon-ball soon
after; but it showed that the Frenchwoman's daughter need not go begging
for suitors.

The Court of Hanover, holding aloof from these indecent proceedings, hurt
in the very core of its pride by this admission of a half-commoner to the
privileges of rank, turned away its eyes, while its ears remained alert
for scandalous gossip. There was little enough, and that little
ill-founded. The Frenchwoman was faithful to her Duke, and though tongues
made the most of a letter from a Court page found among the
twelve-year-old Dorothea's lesson books, such jejune displays of
depravity were not satisfying. The Court of Hanover, besides, had
problems of conduct peculiarly its own.

The Duke's mistress, Clara von Platen; what, for instance, of her? She
was a part of the State furniture. The Duchess ignored her. The fashion
in mistresses had been set by France and England; they were necessities
of the time, they diverted, at some expense, kings' minds from serious
matters; they were decorative often, and kept the arts alive for their
service. But Platen troubled political waters. Duchess Sophia shrugged,
and wrote high-spirited letters in three languages mocking such impudent
creatures, together with other contemporary vexing trifles. One thing
alone she did not mock. She set theologians jousting, she stirred
philosophies with her chocolate-spoon, but genealogy was her God, and she
would have no lack of reverence there. Her mother had been Bohemia's
lovely ramshackle wandering queen, her brother Rupert grew gouty and
sullen, a pensioner on the bounty of his English nephew Charles. Perhaps
the Duke's mistress had never in her life known such straits of poverty
and humiliation as, in her early days, had the Duke's wife. She knew the
worth of money, did Duchess Sophia, having lacked it in youth, but it
weighed light against blood. Baroness Platen, a backstairs influence,
could not impinge upon the consciousness of Duchess Sophia. The Duchess
of Zelle, risen by letters patent and the fondness of a fool to
pseudo-royalty, did so impinge. Dignity was hurt by her continuing to
breathe under her husband's roof, twenty miles away. How maintain
brotherly relations with the Duke of Zelle, while continuing to treat his
wife as--Sophia's own phrase--a little clot of dirt? How count upon his
help in war while refusing the necessary civil interchanges of gifts and
visits? How forestall in practice his wife's manoeuvres while in theory
omitting to observe her existence? Duchess Sophia's own hope was that the
girl would prove wanton. "Dorothée is _canaille_," she wrote
hopefully to her niece, when the infamous ducal wedding was mooted. "She
will avenge us all--" betray her mean birth in some resounding way, kick
over matrimonial traces, fail in dignity, run off with a groom; all these
things Duchess Sophia hoped of the Frenchwoman's daughter, the
Frenchwoman herself being so armed against scandal.

And yet six years later the girl was in her own house as a daughter, and
the Duchess of Orleans could let her pen run in reprobation, heaving up
tall capitals like lifted hands with something of that joy which the
deserved misfortunes of a relative only can afford.

It was George-Louis, the eldest son of Hanover, who had forced his mother
to this tribulation. He was a sulky, brutal, and courageous young man
with a remote chance of the English throne, but nothing else to recommend
him as a _parti_. Duchess Sophia beheld him without illusion. She
had views, which could hardly be called hopes for him, in her cousin
Charles's country, with her cousin James's daughter. The Duke of York had
a leaning towards Popishness, the English would surely never abide him as
King. His elder daughter had done well for herself in Holland, the
younger, Anne, was free to receive advances. George-Louis knew no
English, but on the whole silence became him better than the kind of
speech he affected, and with a little pocket-money he might make a
sufficient show. He was despatched, expensively, with letters for England
which could very well have travelled by courier.

Unhappily for his less obvious mission, the Duke of York's daughter
disliked him on sight. His pursuit of her, no doubt, was sluggish. He had
been quite comfortable with a mistress, the sister of his father's
Baroness, from the age of sixteen, and found himself not very patient of
his mother's plans for an English marriage. She was always quoting
England at him; it existed in her mind as an Isle of the Blessed, descent
from whose kings gave strength and wisdom, having a mettlesome people
better worth ruling than the mild Germans of her Hanover Duchy. But
George-Louis liked Germans. They displayed right feelings where nobility
was concerned; they were never casual. The English left his barge on the
mud at Greenwich, and sent nobody to meet him; they lopped off the head
of a nobleman while he was there with no more ceremony, his wondering
letter noted, than a cook might show to a pullet. They made him, however,
after much Latin speechifying, a Doctor of Civil Law, and with this sole
acknowledgment of interest in their future possible ruler sent him home.

Duchess Sophia received him with blended feelings of irritation and
relief; after all, the Princess Anne's mother had been a commoner. But
when she surveyed the marriageable young women of Europe, hardly a court
was unblemished; France's bastards, for instance, were legitimised and
gave themselves airs fit to send Madame the Duchess of Orléans into a
swoon of rage. Those with the right quarterings had no money; and though
Duchess Sophia would, if a choice were to be made, have let the money
go--Bohemia was in her blood as well as England--her Duke was not of the
same opinion. Her Duke's ambitions were not lofty; what was within his
grasp, that he would put out his hand to. His brother's Duchy was near,
was rich, would round off his own, and it went with his brother's only

The Duke gave his attention to the matter, urged by his mistress and her
husband. The Platens knew their place. They aspired to no such coronet as
had come the way of Eléonore d'Olbreuse, and cared exactly nothing for
the externals of power. It delighted the Baroness to watch arms being
presented and hats going off whenever the Duke of Hanover took the air,
and to curtsey herself as low as anyone. She savoured with exquisite
pleasure the difference between Ernest Augustus in his laced coat and
Ernest Augustus in his nightshirt, and would dip to the one with all
humility provided she might have her way the other. She saw matters
clearly, an excellent territory going begging, and her sister's young
lover provided for. Ernest Augustus kept his sons short; he had five of
them, and no very princely disposition to spend. The marriage would put
money in George-Louis' pocket, unquestioned money, money of which, if the
settlements were properly managed, he should have the sole disposal. His
affections were not volatile, Baroness Platen's sister might count on
retaining her hold for many years to come. In short, it was to everyone's
advantage to bring off the match.


Matters being so, a courier arrived early one morning bearing a very
secret packet from some person about the Court of Zelle. (The agreeable
brothers maintained spies in each other's houses.) This letter was
written in the simple cipher of the time, wherein news ran its course and
only the names of those concerned in it were disguised. It came first to
Platen's hands, who had no need to get out his key-code from the locked
portfolio that so carefully accompanied him everywhere. He poised his
spectacles and read:

"Frau Sudel is making preparations for the little Federleicht's feast,
two days hence. Unless steps are taken, there may be some crockery
broken, for invitations have gone out to Herr Wolf and his son, and you
know that these, being in a sense relations, are likely to make the most
of a chance to show off. Herr Nimrod would prefer other guests; he takes
_family ties_ seriously. But Frau Sudel is in command, and as for
Federleicht, she is so well disposed to the guests that she has not wept
or beaten her servants for weeks. If it is intended to pay a visit, it
had best be soon."

By which Baron Platen understood that Duke Antony Ulrich of Wolfenbüttel,
encouraged by the Duchess, was about to come forward with an acceptable
son, and that there was every likelihood of the betrothal being announced
at Zelle on September 15th, the birthday of Featherweight, the Princess
Sophia-Dorothea, two days hence. The Baron sent a messenger running to
his wife's quarters. She lay in rooms better lighted and more convenient
in every way than the conjugal apartments, and the messenger, arriving,
was told by her angular maid that she was still asleep. This euphemism
meant that Ernest Augustus was with the Baroness, and as a rule the
messenger had orders to withdraw respectfully on hearing it; but the
envelope he bore had three red strokes of the quill clean across it,
which meant that the business was urgent. With no wink, no grimace,
civilly the messenger insisted.

"Be good enough to wake the esteemed lady, and tell her that I come on
behalf of his Serene Highness."

Snores could be faintly heard through a double door to the left of the
corridor. The maid looked incredulous, and repeated:

"His Serene Highness?"

The messenger inclined at the title, and with no change of expression in
face or voice, said deferentially:

"Leave the old feather-bolster be, but wake her up if you have to spit in
her ear. This letter's for her own hand."

The maid received these instructions without any perceptible disquiet,
and withdrew to the inner door, which she opened. The snores increased in
violence, but did not halt. Low voices answered each other to this
accompaniment, there was the indefinable sound of rapid physical
movement, and a figure in a puce silk robe flowered with damask
pomegranates stood an instant in the door, then came forward. She showed
no care for her appearance before the manservant; her robe fell apart,
her head was swathed in a ridiculous bed-turban of muslin with a twinkle
of gold here and there. Stale paint lay patched on her cheeks and mouth;
her eyes were crusted with sleep, lidded like a snake's, but bright; the
face drowsily lovely. She held out one hand for the paper, keeping the
bed-gown together with the other, and in a deep voice, with a kind of
angry geniality like that of a toper disturbed at his cups, questioned
the messenger.

"What's this? Can't your master settle his own business without this
wet-nursing? Give me your letter."

She took it and turned on the same movement. Over her shoulder came the
one word:


The messenger bowed to her back and obeyed her, standing at attention.
The maid waited with him, her face as blank as his own. Those hidden
snores that had continued with pleasant regularity, a trustful homely
sound, suddenly ceased in a snort. There were voices, one deep and
grumbling, the other loud. In a moment the puce gown was at the door


"Gracious one?"

"Tell the man to be gone, there's no answer."

The messenger bowed once more to the half-shut door, the sound of the
deep and grumbling voice inside it, and made his way down the corridor
without looking back. There was no sense in looking back, nothing to be
seen; but meeting a servant in the Duke's livery he jerked a thumb. The
other waggled a hand and lifted his chin in a certain way, and it was
fully understood between them where their master the Duke had spent the
night. Neither smiled. Neither perceived in the Duke's behaviour anything
to be reprobated. Both were excellent husbands and fathers, who watched
the strangest goings-on above their heads which they made no attempt
either to criticise or to take for example, recognising that any
departure from conventional morality cost money and was not for them.
They understood that these wigged Olympians must somehow beguile the
tedium of enough money and too much time, but no more than the Greeks did
they set out either to emulate or to deplore the exploits of their

Inside the bedroom, under the crimson tent of a vast bed, the Bishop-Duke
was sitting up, nightcap awry, and mouth twisted in a yawn to match.

"Just look at this," Clara Platen ordered, holding her paper under his
nose. He took it, scowled, stretched, and after an instant's glance asked
her how the devil did she expect him to remember the cipher. She answered
with another question.

"What day of the month are we come to?"

He considered, reckoning by the Church calendar. "We're about a week off
St. Matthew; the fourteenth, is it?"

"The fourteenth. And the fifteenth is this little bitch your Serene
Highness' niece's birthday, and the fifteenth is to-morrow, and on the
fifteenth the contract with the Wolfenbüttel will be signed. And when it
is signed you will have something mighty like an enemy on your frontier."

"Twenty-four hours! There's nothing to be done."

"Do you want the Zelle property?"

"It will come to me after my brother's death. I saw to that when I gave
my consent to him marrying. He can't wriggle out of it."

"And what about the money? All he's saved, all he's given to that woman?
Wilhelmsburg, Stillhorn, half a dozen other estates? She's the richest
woman in Germany in her own right. She's no fool. She's feathered her
nest. These Frenchwomen are all practical. It's only the silly
sentimental Germans like me that don't look past the pillow to the

"Aren't you satisfied, Clara? All this fighting--and then the boys, they
take all my ready money."

"And yet you won't look at a plan to get one of them off your hands."

The Duke pulled off his nightcap irritably; and as though reminded by it
of conjugal duties, said gruffly:

"You'll never get the Duchess round." He fingered the letter, pointed to
a phrase. "Frau Sudel;* that's her name for the Frenchwoman."

[* "Sudel" = puddle, dirt.]

"I pay you the compliment of supposing that your Serene Highness--" the
pomegranates crumpled as she sank in a state curtsey--"can give your wife
an order."

"That I can, till I'm black in the face; getting it attended to is
another matter." He considered, shaking his head, with the natural
distaste of an overfed ageing man for action. "It's too late to do

"Zelle is twenty miles away. Ten hours' travelling. I'll do it; I'll go
there and make the demand. That is, my husband shall."

The Duke-Bishop had not lived half a century in the world without
acquiring a certain natural shrewdness which served him sometimes in lieu
of statecraft; he was perfectly well aware that his brother, who retained
a sense of punctilio oddly at variance with his abandon in marrying a
commoner, would regard such an embassy as an insult. Platen, whose
complaisance was known and mocked in the streets, cut no very dignified
figure for all his dignities--Baron of this and that, Prime Minister and
Councillor of State. The Duke, with sufficient brutality, voiced his

"They don't like your sort of husband over there. And my brother doesn't
take much account of any whore except his own."

The Baroness took no notice of this bluntness, concerned as she was for
her Duke-Bishop's pocket.

"In a matter of such urgency, it would do no harm for you to go in

"I? Out of the question. Why, good God, it's half a dozen years since
I've spoken to George William. I'm not going to be the first to make
advances. And to start off by asking a favour--no, put it out of your

"Are you prepared to support your sot of a son all his life?"

The Duke muttered that George was not so bad, a fighter--

"And a spender, too. I've done what I could, put my own sister into his
bed so that he shouldn't get into the hands of some rapacious foreigner.
And this is all the thanks I get. She'll end by having to provide for
him, I see that; already she's lent him more than she can spare.
Princely! And as for me, I go about in the same old dresses, driving the
same old pair of bays. I don't care for show, but it looks badly, the
Duke's lady down at heel like a butcher's housekeeper. I may have to
consider going away from here."

"Clara! Well, but what the devil do you want me to do?"

The silk rustled, the ruddy pomegranates turned silver as their damask
faced another light. Clara von Platen's tone, which had been that of
truculent good-humour, changed all at once to smoothness.

"Serene Highness, I think the matter could be so put to the Duchess that
she would undertake this mission."

The Duke ceased to twirl his nightcap, and stared, heavy lids lifted,
heavy lips parted. Then he laughed.

"If she does, I'll give you a commission on the marriage settlement.
Sophy! She'd as soon burn her family tree."

The Baroness disregarded this, and pounced on his offer.

"How much? The commission?"

"Five per cent," the Duke answered cheerfully, sure of not having to pay.

"Done! Clasp hands on it."

The Duke-Bishop gave his mistress's cheek an affectionate buffet, such an
episcopal blow as is bestowed according to ritual upon candidates for

"I'll clasp anything you like when you come and tell me it's settled."

"Will you stand by the promises I make?"

"In reason."

"Pull that bell for me, then."

The Duke put up a hand and tugged the embroidered bell-rope; a knock
suspiciously instantaneous answered it, but the waiting maid made no
attempt to enter. Baroness von Platen spoke loudly, to be heard through
the panels.

"Send Hans to Her Serene Highness at once; he is to ask if the Prime
Minister's wife may hope for the honour of an audience this morning to
pay her respectful duty."

A voice repeated the message; it was confirmed with a brief word; the
Baroness turned back into the room, and stood akimbo in front of her
lover. She laughed, showing excellent teeth, the eye-teeth longer than
the others, and sharp. The whole face had this fault, a sharpness edging
beauty just out of line.

"Five per cent, and a prince's gratitude! I'll earn it, if I have to
listen to theology for an hour."

"Dress, then. My wife's liberal, but she won't stand a bed-gown. By God,
I believe you may have a chance. She's a fool where the boys are

"That's a true word."

The half-clad figure stiffened, the shaved head went up; with his
nightcap swinging on a finger the Duke rebuked his woman from the bed he
had shared with her."

"I would remind you that you are speaking of a royal  personage."

The pomegranates crumpled, this time not in mockery.

"Serence Highness! No apology can be too humble."

"It is forgotten. You have my best hopes for your success."

Duchess Sophia when the message arrived was up and at her books, reading
Helvetius on the transmutation of gold, a work much studied by her
brother Rupert, and by him sent from England.

"Moreover," wrote the learned doctor, "I may properly query which of the
wisest Philosophers is so Sage, as to be able to comprehend with the
acuteness of his own most dextrous ingeny, with what Obumbracle the
Imaginative, Tinging, Venemous, or Monstrous Faculty of any pregnant
woman, compleat its work in one Moment, if it be deduced with art by some
External Object?"

Duchess Sophia paused, frowned, smiled a little sideways, and pencilled
in the margin of her book a reference to Ecclesiastes, that text which
asks how any man shall understand the growth of bones in the womb. She
looked up from her page to discover a lady-in-waiting at the ready to

"What is it?"

"Serene Highness, a request from the Baroness Platen to be permitted to
come and pay her duty."

"What does she want?"

"That was all the message, Serene Highness."

"I will receive her," said Duchess Sophia after a moment, and returned to
her book. She had got to page 41, where Helvetius speaks of an experiment
done at The Hague.

"The space of two weeks being elapsed, supernatant on the Spirit of Salt,
appeared a most splendid Silver-Starre, so exceeding curious, as if it
had been made with an Instrument by a most ingenious Artist. At the sight
of which, the said Grill, filled with exceeding Joy, signified to us,
that he had seen the Signate Star of Philosophers, touching which he had
read in Basilius, as he thought. I, and many other honest men, did behold
this Star--"

There was an irruption of ladies, rustling, tapping their heels on the
bare polished floor, and the Duchess Sophia, sighing, put away
speculation. She did not rise to greet the Baroness nor put out her hand,
but sat back in her chair, a thin fine-nosed elderly woman, ready to
listen. She was, like the footmen in the Palace, like the little boys
spitting from the town bridge, entirely aware of the relationship in
which this person stood to her husband, but by no sign or word did she
recognise it. Clara Platen for her part felt something of awe for the
woman who disputed with theologians, and put aside Court whisperings as a
man may walk past a stinking ditch with his handkerchief to his nose. She
spoke of Duchess Sophia lightly because she was afraid of her, and she
was afraid because Duchess Sophia was incalculable, not to be angered,
not to be wounded, proof as though her soul walked armoured in a corslet
of steel.

The Duchess spoke the necessary first words, using royalty's most
excellent privilege, that of beginning and ending conversation at

"And your health, Frau Baronin? You should take care of it, you are a
necessary personage."

"Thank your Serene Highness, well. And the Prince of Hanover, if I may
dare to enquire? Recovered?"

The Duchess was not aware that her eldest son had been ill of an
unromantic surfeit of wine; the news had in fact reached Clara Platen in
a note ten minutes before she set out from her own rooms. But she
betrayed nothing of this, and no anxiety.

"These indispositions are seasonable. If he would be guided by me and
take his pinch of antimony now and then, as I do, the Prince would not be

"The whole Court, the whole State, will be relieved to learn that it is
not a putrid infection. Madam, you are known through the world for a
Princess with whom her servants may speak honestly, without fear of

"I hope I have philosophy enough to endure plain speaking. What's your
intention, Baroness?"

Clara Platen hesitated. Duchess Sophia, shrugging, gave a look which sent
the knot of waiting-ladies out of earshot to the other side of the room.
Then the Duke's mistress said, steadily looking into the eyes of the
Duke's wife:

"The Prince is in danger."

Duchess Sophia's expression did not change, the mask of civil interest
did not lift, but for an instant her lids quivered. She answered with
perfect steadiness:

"What threatens him?"

"Sickness. Debts. The chances of war."

Duchess Sophia answered, after a moment, coldly: "These last are men's
matters. He should go to his father."

Clara Platen's blunt good-fellow tone sank a little; she looked down in
awkward embarrassment such as a man might show, and at last with what
seemed an effort spoke again.

"I have reason to know--your Serene Highness will understand that this is
painful for me, considering the channel through which the information
comes--that the sickness is of a nature to affect the posterity of this
noble house."

Duchess Sophia knew the channel; it was Clara Platen's own sister, Frau
Busche, then, from whom George-Louis had his pox. But what could be
Platen's motive for informing her of it, she could not conceive. She
waited, a finger beginning to tap.

"The Prince has said to this person by whom I am informed, that he is
overwhelmed with debt, and can see no way out of it but one that is
dreadful even to consider."

Duchess Sophia laughed, and matched false bluntness with real.

"You are not telling me that my son George-Louis will ever put a pistol
to his head because of money owing, or even because he has caught the pox
off some whore."

"The Prince has said that he will take service abroad."

Again that twitch of the eyelid, so slight, so revealing, that showed the
barb had struck home. George-Louis' liking for the camp, his
unimaginative valour, were traits in him of which his mother was aware,
and which now and then gave her wakeful nights.

"Service with the Emperor. Your Serene Highness knows that in the Empire
there is always war of some kind going on; and the Prince has
said--pardon, Serene Highness, I quote his words--he has said that since
he must rot, it shall be under, and not above ground."

She stopped on that phrase, and the Duchess Sophia's fingers caught it
from her and repeated it upon the table top, tapping, galloping. "Since
he must rot, it shall be underground. Underground. Underground." The
phrase had her son's stamp on it, the decision too was like him; there
truth spoke. Only the woman's motive still puzzled her; and having that
strange unworldliness, that bewilderment in face of everyday humanity
which much philosophical reading imposes, she did not reject the thought
that Platen was moved by honest concern, remorse perhaps. They knew
little of each other beyond compliments face to face, and a woman who
sells  her body, conjectured the Duchess, that liberal woman, need not
harbour all the other vices to match.

She said, therefore, less coldly:

"I am obliged to you. The Prince cannot take service without his father's

"Which the Duke will give."

Duchess Sophia had her answer and did not for an instant think to
disbelieve or dispute it. That George-Louis and his father disagreed even
to blows she was aware. That the Duke, confronted with the alternative of
paying his son's debts or letting him go to the Emperor's army, would
choose the latter, she had no doubt at all. And her mind ran quickly over
such means of getting money as were open to her, the only means she, as a
queen's daughter, had ever known; selling jewels or pawning them,
borrowing from rich commoners in exchange for a place at court, yielding
up treasures of precious stones or privileges. She and her kind had no
way to make riches; they could only exchange what they had, and do
without when they had no more. She would not ask the amount of her son's
debt; but as if her thought had made entry into Platen's mind the woman
answered it.

"My informant lent the Prince such money as she could; she says that the
Jews have got hold of him for a sum--but this may be not wholly true;
however, she has it from the Prince himself; two hundred thousand thalers
was the figure. But this may not be true."

Duchess Sophia put out of her head at once the notion that a bracelet and
a brooch or two might dispose of her son's indebtedness. She forgot her
calm for an instant,' confronted with this unbelievable sum, to exclaim

"Hopeless! The folly of it--"

Then checked; and Baroness Platen began, reasonably and without emphasis,
to speak, making a case for the marriage with Zelle. It would keep
George-Louis at home; it would pay his debts; it would gain territory and
money for Hanover; it would affront Duke Antony Ulrich of Wolfenbüttel.
She had time only to state these desiderata before there was a fluttering
among the distant inquisitive ladies, a voice announcing, and Duchess
Sophia was on her feet to greet her husband Ernest Augustus, who came at
once into the discussion, pat upon his cue. The Baroness effaced herself;
she had given the cue, had taught him his part, and now, confident, was
prepared to wait in the wings among the other _figurantes_ while he
stormed through it. And storm he did, for the debts were real, and anger
against his son rose easily to the necessary heat.

Clara von Platen, standing jovial yet subdued among the Duchess Sophia's
ladies-in-waiting, all of whom searched her with a questing eye,
wondering where the gift lay that had raised her to power, scorning and
envying at once, heard, as the Duke's voice grew gustier, snatches of the
talk. Each maintained a position, disdaining to answer statement with

"I tell you this, that we have between us four sons, and can well afford
to let one go. The people will thank us, and your own stiff-necked
country, if ever we come to it." Thus the Duke.

"I will not have that brat of Zelle in my house, nor call her mother
sister. I have kept them out of my acquaintance these sixteen years, and
I have no mind to take them into my bosom now." Thus the Duchess.

"I will not pay the boy's debts. I have spent enough on him, first and
last. That English journey cost a fortune, and what came of it? You were
ready enough to take a commoner into your bosom there, and a d'Olbreuse
is as good as Anne Hyde any day of the week."

"My uncle lost his head rather than bate a jot of his kingship. Such
conduct is proper, and I am astonished to know you rate your own blood so
low as to pollute it with such stuff as Zelle offers.

"Come now, Sophy--"

The voices sank. Clara von Platen, indifferent to the pretence of
discretion all about her, stared eagerly at the disputants, reading their
looks. The Duke talked earnestly, with something of episcopal unction;
the Duchess listened, inscrutable; she was too far off for a watching eye
to sec the movements of her lids. Threats, threats, thought Clara Platen,
a woman with a nose like that won't yield to a threat. She won't even
snap at the money. But there's a line of approach through her pride. Will
he remember it?

His back was to her, he was speaking, but the Duchess's face in profile
was unyielding, and her fingers rested quietly on Helvetius' small brown
book. Clara Platen moved a little, manceuvred until in the round mirror
at the end of the room she could see the Duke dwindled to a mannikin,
making tiny pleadings to the porcelain figure of his Duchess. A late wasp
sallied in through the long window, darting in aimless angles hither,
thither; Clara Platen made a great sweep of her hand at it, minimised by
the mirror to an insect gesture, but which caught the Duke's eye. He
turned. She innocently put up her fingers to the brooch holding her
laces, a great coronet in diamonds, and let them rest there. He nodded,
and within a few seconds the duel of the voices was resumed.

"There is another matter, our chance of the Electorate. With Zelle in my
pocket, the Emperor would not refuse me."

"Do you deceive yourself. The Emperor has no more liking for bastards
than I have."

"I will tell you what the Emperor has a liking for; a good compact state,
not big enough to threaten, but big enough to help him. A state like that
is dependable. He does not have to be running here and there to half a
dozen princes to get an army together when he wants one. With Zelle, and
the territories George William has bought, we should be in the running
for an Electorate."

"An Electorate! If it were a kingdom, that would be something, perhaps."

"An Elector makes an Emperor out of a man, as the Roman priests make God
out of a wafer. D'you call that nothing? Listen, Sophy--"

Yes, yes, thought Clara Platen, watching, fingers worrying the diamond
crown at her breast, now she's yielding, now she's tempted. The right to
wear a bonnet for her husband, a few extra cannon-shots when she goes on
a visit abroad; how is it that a princess, always used to these things,
should still find them worth gambling for? Thank God that it is so, or we
should never swing her round to this marriage. Strange, though! She will
read her books just the same, and tease her chaplains as Electress just
the same, there will be no change in her way of existence. She will spend
pride to get pride, and go about afterwards in an old dress like a
servant. There goes her hand; he's touched her.

And in fact the Duchess's thin fingers were beginning to drum on her
book. The Duke appeared to halt in his talk, the mirror showed the
watcher his face in miniature; those minuscule features revealed nothing,
success was betrayed only in the cock of his heavy chin. He stooped to
the tapping hand, kissed it as though in thanksgiving, then departed
through a surge of curtseying women.

The Duchess did not immediately summon them about her. She sat still,
faintly frowning for some moments, and at last got to her feet with

"Ladies, you are excused. I am going to my garden for a while, and shall
need no company. Baroness von Platen, our interview is at an end. I am
obliged to you."

The women sank once again as she passed, and afterwards, craning at a
window, perceived their august mistress and highness wandering about the
walks in an old hat, snipping off flower-heads here and there with a pair
of damascened scissors. Her gardeners knew this perambulating mood, and
kept close to their labours, neither standing to attention as she went
by, nor attempting with baskets to follow after her and reverently
retrieve the snippets. She marched in elderly garments, with long
strides, soiling her hands like a market woman, while her mind concerned
itself solely with crowns, quarterings--all the symbols and attributes of
earthly pride.

Duchess Sophia wrestled thus all day. The dinner hour passed; a vast meal
was served and eaten at which neither she nor George-Louis was present.
The Duke's demeanour revealed nothing. Footmen in white gloves set the
dishes to partners, four times covering the long table, poured wines,
obeyed nods; ail was tranquillity. In the late afternoon it was the
Duchess's custom to summon her philosophers or clergymen with any
visiting disputants to her chamber to talk, and in fact one such visitor
was waiting to be summoned, an Irish Canon of Down with the reputation of
a tongue that could split hairs. He had his clean bands on, and was ready
with a civil speech in English for the Duchess, and a number of less
polite Latin gambits for her chaplains, when a footman came to offer
apologies, and to defer--"until a more profitable time,"--tile joys of
dispute. A similar message had been sent to the Hanoverian wranglers, and
her ladies had received permission to absent themselves until evening.

Darkness fell soon, and cloudily. A small erratic wind sprang up that
blew about the rose-trimmings, and hurried leaves here and there
confusedly in front of the Duchess as she walked her paths. Nobody spied
upon her; the windows of the palace, as yet unlit, showed no peering
faces, the gardeners had gathered their tools and, bowing to her upright
back, had gone. The Duke was in his cabinet working with Platen; from
time to time each looked, and caught the other looking, at the sun-shaped
clock in the wall. Baroness Platen too, playing cards with a couple of
young officers, careerists, looking admiringly over her shoulder, was
preoccupied with the time, and constantly asked it, on pretence of
admiring the watch, gold and shagreen, that the more penniless of her
cavaliers readily brought out from his pocket.

Six o'clock, ran the Baroness's thoughts above the march of the cards,
and the old woman's still fighting her pride. What, all this trouble
about being civil to a sister-in-law, a gesture that means no more than
if I set this diamond queen against this heart! Ten minutes and a couple
of courtesies exchanged, against all that money and the bonnet. The
girl's her niece already whether she likes it or not. Six o'clock!

But for all her preoccupation she neglected no chance, played her diamond
knave, her hearts queen at the right moment, and took tricks with both.

"Infallible Baroness! Will you come one evening and show our mess how to

"I'm no match for great blustering soldiers. You have only to go to war
when you want more money, and take it out of other folk's pockets. I, if
I lose, I lose."

"Baroness, we are all your bankers."

"Scandal, scandal." she answered laughing, while her pencil, busy with
the score, worked out on her tablet a little sum that had nothing to do
with it. How much would the dowry be? Three hundred thousand
thalers--annually? Pray heaven. Five per cent on that, every year--

"Lord, Baroness, have you won all that? You're a better player even than
I thought. Fifteen thousand!"

"No, no, Captain. That's to come. And now, I suppose it's no part of any
soldier's duty to procure a mere woman a glass of wine?"

At seven, as the Duke was turning to and fro in his cabinet, and Platen
stood as etiquette ordered, his Serene Highness being on his feet, the
Duchess was announced. She came in wearing a great cloak with a hood,
buff-coloured, unassailable by mud; dressed for travelling. The Duke
stared. Her face was very white, her eyes bright like those of a woman in
fever. She spoke without waiting for his greeting or question.

"The horses are ready. Have you no message for Zelle?"

"You're going? Twenty miles of bad road, there's no post-house fit fur

"I shall travel all night, and sleep when I can."

"We have talked nothing over. We have not discussed any approach to the

She answered that grimly.

"Since I go, you may rest assured that I shall find arguments. I do not
intend to fail. No!"

And she snapped her fingers angrily, the thought having come that perhaps
after all the French bitch might prevail upon her husband to refuse
Hanover's son. The Duke worried still.

"There should be a gift. You go to offer congratulations on the

"We are offering these people our son and our alliance. Do you suggest
that trinkets would lend them lustre?" The Duchess's mouth went sideways,
recollecting the tag which bids fear the Greeks when they bring gifts. No
wooden horse for her, but a beast that could leap and trample; direct
assault, rather than treachery. The Duke, however, thought otherwise.

"Well, but a girl, you know, will expect some trifle. I will write a
personal letter to my brother's wife, mentioning the girl by name, but
the occasion demands something further--"

Duchess Sophia put her right hand to her left, contemptuously stripped
off a ring, an emerald with diamonds held in gold claws, and tossed it to

"Seal this up in a packet. Stamp our coronet large on the wax."

Ernest Augustus frowned.

"Your emerald, Sophy! Is that necessary?"

"No," said she, "not nowadays; but if we had all of us lived in the time
of Paracelsus that stone might have served a purpose. I should have
watched it on her hand, peered into it each morning. Unchastity splits
it, that used to be the story. Now we have no such ready way of
reckoning, these things hide in the blood, and we must look in the eyes
of our grandchildren and read strangeness there before we can cry, The
mother is unfaithful."

The two men stood silent before her bitterness; then Platen busied
himself with wax and a taper, and Duke Ernest Augustus sat down to write.
His big cramped handwriting covered the page, the signature made a strong
pattern at its foot, and he handed it, open, to the Duchess after
sanding. She read it quickly, approved with a nod, and gave it back to be
sealed. When the two packets were ready she stowed them in a deep pocket
inside her cloak, without speaking. The Duke was made uncomfortable by
her look, and her outburst upon the ring, but could see no reason for
either. She had always been a stranger, her Englishness and learning
alarmed him, her rare showings of emotion had come always from causes
inadequate or mysterious to him; and though now he understood something
of her trouble, he could find no way to comfort it; his common sense told
him she was as well aware of the advantages of this match as he. He
could, however, be solicitous for her comfort on the journey, could ask
if she had eaten; and when he discovered that she was fasting, could ring
and order a partridge and wine to be served instantly, under his own eye.
She thanked him, and ate, a paltry meal, but sufficient to re-establish
her husband's conceit of himself as a domestic diplomat. He was
straddling in front of the fire as she ended, but three words brought his
heels together.

"And our son?"

It was true; nobody, during the whole course of the day, had thought to
inform the Prince of bliss impending.

"I will charge myself with that mission, if his Serene Highness

That was Platen, bowing. Duchess Sophia eyed him, and without insolence

"You have always our interests at heart, Baron. But family news comes
best from the family's head." The Duke looked glum. Her hand, that had
been on his sleeve, slid to his hand. "It is much to ask; but you have
asked much of me."

The Duke, by an assenting movement, agreed to inform his eldest son with
all gentleness of the morrow's probable betrothal. At heart, he thought
his Duchess lent the boy a sensitiveness not by any means to be expected.
Debts cleared, and a pretty little bit of a semi-French wife into the
bargain--he ought, thought the Duke, to think himself lucky; and after
the Duchess had gone, lit by flaring resinous torches down to her
carriage, he gave a sudden abrupt laugh which startled his attendants at
the thought of George-Louis languishing, stricken in his pride, and
coming not easily to unlimited money with an appetising girl.


Duchess Sophia drove behind six horses through the night. She swung and
clung in her painted box like a sailor in his cabin, at the mercy of the
troughs and crests of an unfrequented road. Ducal equipages had not
passed this way for a good many years, and the road had fallen to a kind
of slough; it would have to be bettered in future, angrily she resolved,
considering the traffic henceforth to be expected between Hanover and
Zelle. She could not sleep and would not sit allowing anger to exhaust
her in the dark; her discipline of mind repelled such indulgences. She
tugged the bell that rang by her coachman's ear, there was a creaking and
shouting, and the coach halted while she had the candles lit inside a
lantern. The thick glass which protected their flame allowed her light
enough to make out print; she had no wish to read, but only to set her
thoughts running. To this end she opened _The Decay of Piety_, and
as the coach moved from its calm, beginning once more to toss and strain,
gave herself a chance sentence for meditation: "Men engage in designs,
not on intuition of their lawfulness, but profit; and when they are such
as nothing can warrant _a priori_, their only reserve is to make
them good _a posteriori_, to bring a license after the fact, and
justifies their beginning by their end; which how ridiculous soever it
may only seem to sober reason, yet such is the natural shame, or secular
inconvenience of owning an unjust Act, that men will wrap themselves,
though in the thinnest and most diaphanous veils, make use of the
absurdest pretences, and faintest colours to shadow their guilt, and
whilst consciousness bids them say somewhat for themselves, and the case
affords no solid plea, they are driven to these deplorable slights and

Small comfort, small matter for meditation in that! She had argued often
enough that the end does justify the means employed to come at it, and
maintained with spirit a proposition to which her reason had never
assented; but she could not, in the half-darkness, with her soul for
audience, uphold it now. Though she held no faith, and sat, as an English
divine had observed disapprovingly, very loose in her religious
principles, she was tormented through the night by a sense of sin; what
sin, might have puzzled a confessor to name. She was going of her own
free will on an ugly errand, to marry a child to a boor, to cheat a
brother, but her eyes smarted and her conscience upbraided for neither of
these causes. She wept, she endured with closed eyes abominable rackings
of the mind, because through her doing her grandchildren would not be
_chapitré_, must admit to their stainless quarterings one not royal,
and step down a place in their hierarchy of birth. She read and suffered
through the best of the night; dozed at last towards morning; and woke to
find the rolling of the coach soothed to a ground-swell on the High
Street of Zelle, where apprentices turned, with shop shutters in their
hands, to wonder at the six horses. She was at her journey's end; a
sentry with his wits about him saluted the black cockades; her postilions
tugged their horses to a standstill in front of the flowing stone stairs.

Heads pried from windows at the noise, and in no long time a major-domo
with stocking-scams not quite straight at the back, solitary sign of the
haste with which he had dressed, was bowing and backing in front of her.
Duchess Sophia put one question:

"Duke Antony Ulrich--is he come yet?"

No, she was told, the excellent Duke of Wolfenbüttel was not yet in the

"Your master, where?"

At the dressing table, the major-domo thought. Should he send messengers,
prepare his Highness? And meanwhile a cup of chocolate for her Highness?
After which, no doubt, it would be convenient for their Highnesses--

"Which is his dressing room? Take me to it. No chocolate. Do not inform
the Duchess."

She kept her buff cloak about her shoulders; it was muddy, there was mud
on her cheek and forehead under the white ruffled hair. In the mirrors
they passed she dispassionately observed her sunk eyes, all the stains
and stresses of her dress, but made no single movement to modify any part
of her appearance. A door was reached, and the major-domo with his hand
upon it turned to question; the full announcement, all the titles,
Duchess-Consort and the rest, or a simple Serene Highness? His answer was
in movement, the thrust of Duchess Sophia's hand, a stride through the
door, niggardly open, only one wing instead of both, her due; and his
next vision was of his master rising amid a cluster of valets, cropped
and wigless, with astonished wrinkles climbing up his forehead, all under
a ceiling whereon Leda yielded to the Swan.

Duke George William had heard nothing of the stir of his sister-in-law's
arrival, and had expected nothing less. He knew her at once,
however--what other woman in Germany would appear at that hour, in that
get-up, in a man's dressing room, without warning?--and bowed his shaven
head over her hand with genuine pleasure. He respected her, foibles and
all; liked her common sense and her pride, even when these last struck
against his own opinion; and he would have welcomed her friendship. True,
the split between the families was of her making, but she was a Princess
of England, a Princess of Bohemia, whose right to be difficult he
recognised without rancour. He loved his wife and was faithful to her,
but he could see her at times through Duchess Sophia's spectacles.

She entered, full sail upon a compliment.

"Your daughter is spoken of in every letter I receive. I could put you
together a bouquet of adjectives, all sweet-smelling--lovely, graceful,
spirited. I had a great curiosity, I confess, to see her for myself; and
besides, it appeared to me that the family coldness had lasted long

Duke George William would not, if left to himself, have alluded to the
family coldness; but since the blunt Englishwoman had acknowledged it he
would not contradict her.

"I am happy to see you. But how so early?"

"I set out from Hanover last night."

Duke George William looked incredulous, gratified, puzzled, but asked no
further questions, though he perceived that something more than curiosity
lay behind the journey, and looked with apprehension at a certain
half-open door, through which could be seen the white and blue curtains
of a bed. Duchess Sophia observed it.

"But first, where is your wife?"

His gesture confirmed the indication of the glance. Duchess Sophia rose,
and through the door addressed the bed's unseen occupant in her English
voice, pitched in the bridge of the nose.

"I come to convey my compliments on this occasion. No ceremony, I beg
you. Don't rise, don't put yourself to the least trouble, your husband
will entertain me until I am able to greet your daughter in person. All
my apologies, I am troublesome, but I was concerned to be in time with my
good wishes."

The curtains trembled, were parting; but before they could be pulled
aside Duchess Sophia was back in the dressing room, savouring perplexity
in the voice that pursued her:

"Who's there? Who's speaking?"

George William answered loudly:

"My brother's wife. Dress, and come quickly." Astonished silence was
broken by Duchess Sophia speaking low to the Duke.

"No. I have something to say to you. A family matter."

"My wife sits in my council, Duchess."

She answered that in her forthright manner:

"I have nothing against her, but--six years' estrangement is a long time.
Let me come to it by degrees." And she quoted the Dutch proverb: "Jong
rijs is to buigen, maar Been oude boomen."*

[* Young twigs will bend, but not old trees.]

He looked dubious still, but as though the taste of Dutch on her tongue
were palatable, she slipped easily into that speech, which he understood,
and which had been the language of her girlhood. It was odds against the
Frenchwoman understanding, one of a race that despised all other tongues,
and kept vowels pure whatever might happen to blood. Insulting, thus to
discuss her daughter's fate unintelligibly under her nose, but Duchess
Sophia had the grand manner in all things, rudeness included. Twenty-five
years of marriage with a German prince had given her a clue to the
movements of such dignitaries' minds, ponderous and gilded as the
movements of their watches. She was aware, having observed her own
husband, that diplomacies often missed their mark through not being
couched in language of sufficient simplicity, and determined to impose
comprehension bluntly and at once. The chariots of Wolfenbüttel were
approaching, ominous as those with whose threat Jeremiah scourged the
Hebrews, at whose noise and whose rushing and whose rumbling of wheels
fathers should flee, forgetting the peril of their children. Braver than
Israel, Duchess Sophia stood her ground before the advance, and saw to
her children's safety.

"You wonder to see me here"--she put up a hand to the caked-mud
patches--"at this hour, in this disarray. Let pretty speeches alone; I
know how I look. Let all the compliments go, cards on the table, brother.
I am sure I do not know what man I may treat as a rational being, if it
is not you."

Duke George William was bowing to that when a voice came shrill from the
bedroom, a suspicious voice, its German running quick and tilted, after
the manner of France.

"What does her Highness say? Pray let me miss none of it."

George William answered, hesitating; he had none of his brother's
episcopal readiness with words.

"Her Highness asks that--states that she has come to consult us."

Duchess Sophia let go that first person plural in her astonishment at the
behaviour of the blue and white bed curtains. These were agitated; they
opened, closed, bellied and .fell into tranquillity as though some strong
wind possessed them. Seen through the door, these movements in a room
otherwise decorous and unoccupied roused speculations which did not
stretch to the true cause; which was, that George William's duchess was
being prevented by horrified ladies from appearing before her Serene
Highness of Hanover in a sky-blue bedgown. Allowances made for surprise
and relationship, they mutely maintained that it would not do; and the
Duchess Eleanore, who for years had been netting a web of etiquette about
herself, now found it too strong for her resolution. Silently the ladies
overpowered her. She was awake, she was their prey, theirs to wash and
dress and hang with appropriate trinkets. She yielded, panting a little,
the curtains ceased their motion, and Duchess Sophia took up her argument

"I have said that I come on account of your daughter, to see her, to
discover if all the tales of her are true. No doubt they are. Beauty,
grace, the virtues--very nice, but it all matters exactly nothing,
brother. One thing matters only; or should to princes." He looked his
question. "Power. And the dignities and pride, rightful pride, that go
with power. I am here to offer you that; and if your daughter were a
blackamoor or deaf and dumb, I should repeat it."

She perceived in the clouding-over of George William's eye that this was
not the way to take him. How should a stolid country gentleman care if
his grandson wore an electoral bonnet and came out of his own front door
to the clamour of guns? Power meant responsibility, and from
responsibility George William fled when he could, putting off whole
territories on to other shoulders, capably managing and increasing his
money, but indolent for glory. He took his time to consider the
statement, while her thoughts fled this way and that, seeking a way to
involve him, and at last answered clean off the point.

"But I cannot see how the matter is affected by my daughter's

She could not check for this, only told herself that she must be brief
and therefore more direct; a scuffling in the bedroom reassured her that
Duchess Eléonore was not at her listening post.

"Listen. I have seen and heard enough of family quarrels in my life; with
twelve brothers and sisters you may believe it. They waste as much time
and as much money as any war, and end for the most part as wars do; both
sides red in the face, and with empty pockets." George William nodded at
that. "You have a daughter and lands to dispose of. I have a son, and my
son will have a crown, perhaps, if matters in England go forward as I
believe they may. Well, you don't care for that, you are a family man and
a happy one."

"Duchess," the Duke interrupted with difficulty, after thought; her son,
his daughter? "You are talking in riddles still. I am a plain man. I say
to myself, My brother's wife takes many years to make up her mind to pay
us a visit. She is not a woman to disturb herself and leave her books for

He paused. Duchess Sophia came in upon her cue without wavering. The
words stabbed her; she spoke them the more clearly.

"Your daughter for my son. A match; and the house of Brunswick no longer
divided against itself."

Duke George William looked at her, pushed back his wig as though for air,
and rubbed his forehead. He walked aimlessly, a few steps to the right,
then a half-turn; picked up a comb and set it down; looked in at the
bedroom door, behind which a scurry of women told that his wife was
dressing; then returned to his guest. She, sitting motionless, had
followed his mind's working while he paced and wavered. Friendship--a
comfortable thing for the two families. An honour, too, recognition at
last of Eléonore. My brother and his high-nosed wife willing to overlook
the break in royal blood! Why, this means friendship all round. If we
marry into Hanover, we'll have consideration from all the other
courts--Denmark, Prussia. And the land goes to George-Louis in the end;
why not in this way, civilly, decently? And as for aggrandisement, the
troublesome problem of more land to administer, that will come the
grandchildren's way, not mine.

"I have heard," said Duchess Sophia, looking at him directly, "that there
might be some question of a marriage with Wolfenbüttel. I cannot think
that you would sanction union with a husband's brother; incest, for
that's what it comes to."

The troubled Duke, listening against his will for sounds in the courtyard
that would indicate the arrival of Duke Antony Ulrich and his younger son
in their best clothes, jerked round on his heel. His daughter had been
betrothed, and widowed by a cannon ball before she could come to an age
to be wived. No bond of the flesh between her and the dead boy, no reason
in common sense against marriage with the dead boy's brother; and yet,
somehow, the decencies were by the thought of such a match obscurely
affronted. Incest, no! But a nastiness, a kind of lawyerish odour was
over it which from the first, ever since his wife had proposed the match
and even while she vigorously sought it, gave him uneasiness. His Dutch
was not equal to circumlocutions.

"I don't know about that. The contract's as good as signed. They'll be
here this morning with their papers and seals, all ready--"

She broke in.

"Send them home again." Then, as he looked once, and sheepishly, towards
his wife's room: "I am sorry for you, brother, Whichever way you turn
there's a lion in the path. Well, here's my offer, I'll be plain with
you. Patch our quarrel, unite our split territories. Let our
grandchildren be kings and electors, and--mend the road between Hanover
and Zelle."

She held out a hand, tanned and veined, with great yellow diamonds
sparkling away on it. He had almost stooped to it when the subdued
bedroom flurry broke to a sharp sound of curtains withdrawn, and the
Duchess of Zelle, in the blue bedgown, but with her dark hair elaborately
poised and twisted, came in upon them. She was in a fever of curiosity
and mistrust. Warned by the common sense which French blood so generously
accords, she was entirely aware that snobbery yields neither to sentiment
nor years. She knew that her sister Duchess had come to command some
favour; and in her heart envied perhaps the security, the ineffable
insolence which could dispense with preliminary, and say to an enemy
after a decade of silence, Give. Her own dark loveliness seemed not to
defend her, to fall away like a loosened dress from her, leaving the
ageing woman in the chair to eye her naked. She came forward, billowing;
halted, and sought refuge from encounter in a curtsey. She had lived in
courts and knew their ceremony well enough, but this was intimacy,
strangeness, unsureness combined. The Duke, that bluff country gentleman,
alert to every nicety of the hunting field, was helpless in his own
dressing-room. Circumstances had to be long anticipated and simple in
essence for the Duke to be their master.

"My apologies." The woman in the chair greeted her with directntess, no
title of address, no attempt at conciliation, no gesture, except a bend
of the head acknowledging Duchess Eléonore's curtsey. "I come

"It gives us pleasure to welcome you, no matter why you come, or at what
hour." Duchess Eléonore was adequately polite.

"I don't know that I have any right to expect civil phrases, and I do not
make much account of them. I came with a proposal for my brother here.
When I have my answer I shall understand whether or no I am welcome."

"He is accustomed to digest his decisions," said Duchess Eléonore, with a
look at her Duke.

"He must not chew this one long," Duchess Sophia answered.

The Duke knew that well enough. The Wolfenbüttel could not be allowed the
insult of a hopeful greeting. They must be warned, spared the humiliation
of bringing their wedding gifts if these were not to be accepted. He
looked out of the window, dreading to hear the sentries clap arms for
their coach, and still looking away from both women, blurted in Dutch:

"I don't hear good accounts of George-Louis."

He did not translate the name, whose sound was an Open Sesame to Duchess
Eléonore. She broke in, speaking her own tongue:

"Will not her Serene Highness accept the commodity of my dressing-room?
You have told her that we expect the Wolfenbüttel. She will wish to make
changes in her dress."

Duchess Sophia understood perfectly, and was perfectly indifferent to
this sally. She answered drawling in bad French:

"If you do not receive Duke Antony Ulrich, I need make no changes in my

Duchess Eléonore at that checked with a hand to her throat. Her great
eyes implored the Duke to contradict her sister-in-law; but she had lived
with him long enough to know that he who would risk a quarrel for his own
convenience was mild in every other cause. His hesitation and the name of
George-Louis told her the history of the whole interview. The thin-nosed
woman with mud on her cheek had conquered him, rolled him up horse and
foot, by a few civil words and a great many plain ones. Duchess Eléonore
had dreaded just this; and the sickness at her heart was not wholly for
her own failure. She, too, heard no good accounts of George-Louis.

There was a brief running sound outside the great double doors. News of
the arrival? But no chamberlain entered. Instead a small face peered in,
its wide and naughty eyes obscured by curling dark hair. Flowers were
tangled in this, not the decorous artificial flowers of courts, but field
weeds, still dewy, such as the peasant women at weddings sometimes wore.

"Papa!" called Sophia-Dorothea. "How do you like the bride?"

She perceived at that moment the motionless visitor, clapped a hand to
her mouth, and withdrew her head with all speed from the chink in the
door, which closed noiselessly. A sound of flying feet emphasised the
panic of this withdrawal. Duke George William strode to the door in an
instant, and was shouting after her in his tally-ho voice:

"Daughter! Here!"

The feet approached. That this owner was making reluctant faces Duchess
Sophia deduced from the scandalised motion of the Duke's hand--down,
down--as to a tiresome puppy. She came through the door at length past
him, and Duchess Sophia could survey her daughter-in-law, darkly pretty,
plump, and still for the moment as a little field animal frightened.
Duchess Eléonore was at once busy with adjurations. Above the chatter her
eyes continually and imploringly sought those of the Duke.

"Dorothée, we are greatly honoured. Your birthday brings us a welcome
guest from over the border. (Where is your curtsey?) Only a child yet,
Duchess, and we see few visitors here. She is delighted, honoured, only a
little shy. (Your compliment, Dorothée.)"

Sophia-Dorothea said, speaking stiffly and with pauses, like a child
delivering a set speech: "I thank your Serene Highness--and I am
grateful, your Serene Highness--and I am happy to pay my respectful

"I have brought you a betrothal gift," said Duchess Sophia, bringing the
packet out of her cloak with no accompanying compliment.

Sophia-Dorothea, with a little irresistible hop of interest like a bird
drawing near to crumbs, came close, received, unwrapped the packet. Her
childish exclamation rang high: "How kind you are, how kind--an emerald
ring, look, Mamma!"

It was on her finger in an instant, and the plump hand was turning to
catch light through the green stone. Duchess Sophia perceived that Duke
George William was looking at her, refusing to catch his wife's eye, and
understood that he consented to her plan. It was for him to speak to the
girl, however. She held her tongue, and he his, while Sophia-Dorothea
played with her ring in the sunlight, sending darts of light upwards from
the brilliants, marking a flake of shallower green where the flaw of the
emerald ran. Duchess Sophia finally understood that she must make up
Duke George William's mind for him, and that he would not contradict what
she might say in his name. She spoke suddenly to the girl.

"Do you see what arms are cut on that stone?"

There were leopards, chequers, a running deer; the girl had known that
coat from childhood.

"Our own--Serene Highness."

"I had that ring from my husband when I was to marry him. I give it to
you, to stand for my son's gift."

The girl looked down with an expression almost ludicrous, so abruptly did
it change, and tugged at the ring. Her finger had swelled a little from
its constriction, the ring did not immediately yield. She pulled at it
furiously, stupidly, not turning it so that her knuckle might slip
through; tears came into her eyes with the pain, starting to the lashes
instantly, welling, dropping.

She whimpered. At last she had it off, and threw it from her with all her

"I won't take it, no, I won't wear it--" that came loudly.

"You will do as I order you. Put it on--" Duke George William.

"You cannot be so inhuman. The Wolfenbüttel, the shock, the affront--"
Duchess Eléonore.

Sophia-Dorothea by now was openly crying, her arms round her mother, and
pleading: "Mamma, no; don't let me be taken away and married. I'll be
a nun, I'll cut all my hair off and run away."

"Quiet! You'll do what I think best. You'll marry George-Louis if I say
so. What kind of manners are these?" Duke George William shouted them
both down.

His wife turned on him, the girl clasped to her. "And yours? What kind of
manners, to let Antony Ulrich come here with his son, with the very
wedding clothes in their cloak-bags? Depending on your word. And
Dorothée, so happy, gladly obedient." She mastered herself, and spoke
with restraint to Duchess Sophia sitting motionless. "Madame, will you
not say, you whose presence so honours us, will you not say that a
mistake has been made, and go, and let us bless you?" To which Duchess
Sophia answered unmoving: "Madame, I don't know that I will."

She got up at that to take the sobbing girl by her shoulders and turn her
round, away from her mother. Sophia-Dorothea was in a rage childishly
complete and unselfconscious, her mouth was distorted, her cheeks
blubbered, and she hiccuped as she tried to control her sobbing, facing
the old Duchess's steady eyes.

"Behave yourself," commanded Duchess Sophia.

A pause, in which sounded, faint but unmistakable, the chanticleer crow
of trumpets. The Wolfenbüttel had arrived. All four heard, and were held
an instant still by it. Then the group broke. Sophia-Dorothea, knuckling
her eyes, fled through the inner door to the bedroom; her mother
followed, lifting hands in appeal to God; the Duke went to the window and
looked with a kind of reluctant eagerness down into the court, from which
ascended the sound of hoofs stamping, of harness clinking. Duchess Sophia
moved across the room to where her ring had struck a marble faun and
fallen. Stooping with a grunt, for her bones remembered the night they
had spent, she picked it up and examined it for damage. The old setting
was not harmed, the big dirty diamonds held their rank in an oval; but in
the stone itself a crack appeared, some extension of the flaw that no
large emerald lacks. It ran diagonally across the shield, a bar sinister.
Duchess Sophia put no faith in omens; she did not, for all her readings
in alchemy, believe precious stones to be talismans that would answer to
emotional changes, and she did not suppose, for all her tirade to her
Duke, that emeralds had ever burst asunder because wantons wore them.
Still, it was a coincidence. Being a woman very plain-spoken within her
own mind, she put her feeling briefly into thought, and at once hid it
away. If she's not a wanton yet she will be. That will just suit
George-Louis. It's what he's used to. Well--

And becoming suddenly aware of Duke George William's eye upon her, of her
own faintness--she had eaten nothing for over twelve hours--she put the
ring in her pocket, advancing upon him.

"What have you for breakfast, brother?"

Duke George William found this subject more to his taste.

"Breakfast! That's better. But Antony Ulrich?"

"We have time while he is washing. I," touching her cheek, "am past such
vanities. What's this my brother Rupert used to say? Mud chokes no eels."

"No, by God, nor huntsmen neither. We'll keep Antony Ulrich waiting."

"For bride or breakfast?"

"Both. Yes, both. My mind's made up."

"I'm obliged to you, brother."

In this manner, with just such odious ease, was her battle won. But she
had always been able to do as she pleased with George William, save in
the one instance of his marriage. While he, staid gentleman, handed her
downstairs, mirrors, those worst of courtiers, reflected as they passed
the unflattering image of a stolid red-faced man in fine clothes, with a
great peruke curled up in front to make two horns of hair; and Sophia's
memory recalled how, soon after her own marriage to Bishop Ernest
Augustus, this brother of his had become too attentive, his great outdoor
hands too venturesome, so that she had been obliged to ask him plainly
one day for the love of God to let her alone. It occurred to her, with a
little jealous pang, that George-Louis her son also had brothers, and her
thoughts leapt ahead to discover Max or Charles fumbling at George-Louis'
wife, without rebuke. That, perhaps, was the omen of the emerald. She
shrugged (the mirrors sent up the shoulders of half a dozen Sophias) and
addressed to heaven a hope that any scandal might be kept in the family.

Then footmen, bearing silver vessels that steamed, stood away from a
door. Breakfast!


The marriage followed not long after, and not without protests. The
Wolfenbüttel, greeted off-handedly with an announcement of the new
betrothal, refused to rejoice and be glad, refused even to eat from the
table or in the company of persons who had played them so unmannerly a
trick. They took themselves off without unharnessing their horses, and
entered with zest upon the first bitter stages of a family feud. Their
resentment, happily, carried with it no danger, and was regretted by
Duchess Eléonore alone. She had not met with such kindness in Germany
that she could afford to lose even one old friend.

All the first day Sophia-Dorothea was invisible. For twelve hours she lay
wailing on her bed, a governess twittering precepts at her, the Duchess
supporting her head and sobbing sympathy. A servant appearing with a cup
of chocolate found it kicked from his hand; a secretary from the Duke
requiring her presence at dinner retired, after dodging a candlestick, to
concoct as best he could a becoming apology for the Princess's absence.
It was not until evening when George William himself was heard marching
through the schoolroom that there was calm, and then it was of an ominous
kind, a withdrawal the better to leap. The Duke did not argue. Leaning
against the fat cupids of her mantelpiece, which Sophia-Dorothea had
known since she was of a size with them, he gave orders. Tears and
laughter in plenty, singing, prayers, and the pretty silly talk of a
loved and spoiled child, to all these the room was accustomed; never
before had it known this imperious sound. Sophia-Dorothea sat up in her
petticoats decorously to welcome him, forlorn upon the bed, and dared
make no answer; her mother dipped a curtsey when he departed, so alarming
and princely had George William become. But when the footsteps had
retired into the corridor again a concerted scream of despair went up
from the bed and its guardian, and the governess took it upon herself to
send for the castle physician, a calm gentleman, who having spent his day
in the library knew nothing of all the day's happenings, and was able to
give an opinion unprejudiced by the situation. The Princess had cried
herself into an uncontrollable state; the Duchess from sheer rage was
beginning to vomit. He advised bed for them both, and retired once more
to his quills and candles, and his treatise entitled "A consideration of
the methods which Leviticus enjoins upon those who would treat Leprosy."

Duchess Sophia, therefore, dined alone with the Duke, and deplored with
him the unbiddableness of youth. She was not readily amused; but it
occurred to her that though she now sat at his right hand in all the
state accorded to a distinguished visitor, she might very well have been
howling upstairs as his wife. There had been marriage proposals between
them, thirty years before, and she had reason to believe, from an
indiscreet word or two dropped by Ernest Augustus, that the brothers had
played cards for her--piquet, she hoped, where all the lower
denominations were discarded before the game began. Humiliating, that
upon a two or a three should swing the destiny of a queen's daughter!
Decidedly, however, she had had the luck, for George William was without
ambition, unless it might be to kill more beasts in a given time than
some neighbouring sportsman, and he had only this one daughter to set
against Ernest Augustus's roster of sons. She suspected some French arts
there, some thwarting of nature, some care for the figure, and was sure
that this meagre rate of production was not to be attributed to lack of
effort on George William's part, nor to distractions elsewhere. "How
comes it my children by the Queen die or are puny?" "Sir, other ladies
take the full glass; her majesty does as best she can with the
heel-taps." That dialogue between Louis XIV and his doctor had been sent
her by Madame; it was amusing, but here it did not apply. She would, she
thought, have done better by George William than his Frenchwoman.

That lady, torn between detestation of Sophia and dread of her influence,
suddenly, at sight of the bed with the blue curtains, regained
confidence, dressed, and descended to battle. She found her husband and
his sister-in-law amiably in converse, bawling civilities to each other
through the strains of a band which, reckoning noise as homage, was
scraping, plucking, puffing its loudest. The end of the _morceau_
coincided with Duchess Eléonore's entrance; it was as though her
appearance--great eyes sunken but luminous with weeping, dark hair
distractedly piled, like storm-clouds--had stricken them to silence. The
Duke did not rise to greet his wife; it was not her due. Duchess Sophia
did not rise; she remembered Eléonore d'Olbreuse as a lady-in-waiting,
standing and shifting from foot to foot as the princes dined. She spoke
civilly, however, trusting that the Princess might soon recover,
commiserating maternal anxiety.

Duchess Eléonore made no answer beyond a bow, nor did she attempt to
disguise her distress and its cause. Her simplicity suited her enemy
better than the vapours of the afternoon, or that morning's uneasy
politeness, and she gave good square answers to such questions as were
asked. The first, however, was addressed to the Duke.

"You have sent couriers to Hanover?"

The Duke had, in fact, sent a fellow off. Ernest Augustus and his son
would be--he looked at his watch--receiving the news about an hour hence,
and might be trusted to pack at once and set out. "Make ready for them,
madame." The Duchess at that, understanding the uselessness of protest,
forgot her status as a wife and turned mother. Nothing of Niobe was in
her look as she faced Duchess Sophia; she had the wit to know that tears,
though they became her, would not serve her turn with this dry and
tranquil personage. She answered the Duke through his sister-in-law.

"I will prepare my daughter. But there are certain things I must know, and
which you, madame, will perhaps tell me of your own free will. Your
son--" she broke off. "I cannot question without offence."

Duchess Sophia understood very well what was required, but thought she
might as well issue a warning.

"If you take my advice you won't unsettle the girl's mind. Let her
suppose all husbands are alike."

Duchess Eléonore answered simply:

"She will not understand. She has been a witness of happiness all her

She did not look at the Duke, but he was touched, and put out a hand to
squeeze her upper arm like any burgher husband reminded of his courtship.
Duchess Sophia wasted no more sense on the sentimentalists.

"My son is a soldier. When you have said that you have said the best of
him. He has no understanding of any of the arts of peace, and no liking
for them. He is a great spender, but I have never known him have anything
more than a sore head to show for an empty purse." Her voice grew
stronger as she spoke. She was aware of the reality of her power, when
she could decry the merchandise she brought and yet compel these people,
against their judgment and their wills, to buy it. "He is no Prince
Charming, but there must be some lure about him that a parent cannot
discover, for his mistress keeps him in play-money." She saw the Duke
fidget, his wife stiffen, and continued, daring them to comment: "his
mistress, Frau Busche, wife to Frederick's tutor, sister to Baroness

She would have preferred to put it more plainly, to have said: "I put up
with rivalry, I receive Baroness Platen; I, the daughter and
granddaughter of kings. What I do, your little Featherweight can subdue
her base blood to copy." But she had pity on their discomfort and left
the thing at a hint. The Duke said nothing. His wife, with a desperate
gesture, a shuddering which sometimes took her at sight of a doe
slavered by hounds, said strongly:

"That woman must go."

Duchess Sophia made unexpected answer.

"Are you wise?"

"No, no, I am not wise, my God! I see only that a child of sixteen must
not come all at once to ugly knowledge."

"I have told you something of my son," Duchess Sophia answered. "Here is
something to add: he is resentful of changes. If marriage with your
daughter is to mean alteration in his ways, he will break the marriage
rather than the habit."

Even the Duke was shocked by this.

"Come, come, sister, you've seen my girl. Oughtn't she to content any
young man?"

Duchess Sophia answered briefly:

"Princes should not look to find such satisfactions in marriage."

Even at that Duchess Eléonore did not give battle; she held steadily,
with all the respectability of her French Huguenot blood, to the matter
in hand.

"You have spoken frankly of your son, madame. I thank you for that. I
perceive that certain things are, for the sake of peace and quiet, to be
accepted. But not yet, not yet! Sophie-Dorothée will be obedient; she
will learn. I beg only that the lesson may be delayed a little, until she
has acquired the discipline. At present, she will cry any grief from the

True enough, thought Duchess Sophia, remembering the morning's scene. The
girl would be capable of running away, of appealing to the people, of any
enormity at all. Busche must go for a while. She considered, and gave a
frank answer:

"I dare say you are right. We cannot begin by a scandal. But you will be
doing your daughter no service, madame, if you teach her to look for
romance in Hanover. We have no secret meetings, no rope-ladders and
moonshine there. We jog on in our old ways, and do not much care to be
criticised. I remember once trying to teach one of our ladies the rules
of lansquenet. She mastered them soon enough, and won; at the end of the
game she said to me: 'I don't know, Ma'am, but what we did very well
before with our snip, snap, snurre.' Don't let your daughter think she
can better our snip, snap, snurre for us. Tell her to hold her tongue and
her nose too, if the stink of us proves too much for her; and let her
think of George-Louis as she likes, so long as she is civil to him in
public and complaisant to him in bed. But Frau Busche shall go."

Duchess Eléonore had won. She talked no more, but with simplicity and
dignity answered:

"Thank you, madame. I go now to my daughter, with your leave."

The Duke took a deep breath and blew it out slowly as though a hunting
horn were at his lips and he sounding the _Ti a hillaut_ for a beast
gone away. Duchess Sophia, who had no more to say to him, took from her
pocket the book which recalled, together with those plenary aches in her
limbs, the previous night's journey, and began to read of matters
comfortable to theologians, of freewill and damnation, hell hanging upon
some mispersuasion of a text, and the meritoriousness of being factious.
She could track a casuist through argument's mazes as surely as Duke
George William could follow his hunted stags down the woody rides of
forests. Theology was Duchess Sophia's distraction, and preserved her
spirits from melancholy more surely than attendance at music or a play.
She enjoyed the interplay of argument, and to watch premises and
deductions flick here and there swiftly as foils, with subtleties not
distinguishable save to the accustomed eye. She enjoyed, too, the reading
of English, and as Allestree's good rough periods went their way under
her eyes she forgot politics, and her bones, and the ructions sure,
sooner or later, to ensue upon this marriage, and sat smiling, nodding
her head now and then to some bold wordy stroke.

She came back from her invisible world an hour later to discover a
footman handing a letter, addressed in a small French hand; written, too,
in the French language.

"Madame," it began, "I have so much respect for the Duke your husband, as
well as for my own father, that whatever they may pledge me to shall find
me very well content. As for yourself, your Highness must believe that
nobody could be more grateful than I am for your goodness. I will try all
my life long to deserve your consideration, and to show by my humble duty
and respectfulness my understanding of your kindness in accepting me as
your daughter, which duty shall be my pleasure. With all proper
submission I sign myself, Madame, your Highness's very humble and
obedient servant, Sophie-Dorothée."

Very good, thought Duchess Sophia, folding the letter lengthwise to serve
as a book-mark. The mother dictates, the girl accepts, reserving in her
little feather-mind the right to be as troublesome to us as she pleases,
once we are saddled with her. George-Louis must fight his own battles. It
is always easier to be polite and tolerant when one is not anxious about
money; I dare say they will rub along together pretty well.

She sighed involuntarily, for no reason that her intelligence recognised
as valid; then stood up stiffly, shut her book upon the letter of
capitulation, and went off to order a hot bath with herbs and brandy in


Her husband and son paid Duchess Sophia's diplomacy the compliment of
decent haste, and appeared next day looking very fine; the son sullen,
however, and in no mood to make the best of himself. His future wife
fainted at sight of him, an unprompted proof of the distaste his
appearance excited. He was uncomfortable among these too friendly
strangers, lost without his accustomed companions and bottles, unsure how
much of the money he was thus earning would be pouched by his father. A
hundred thousand thalers a year had a good plump sound; but he would have
to support this wife, and pay for her dresses, and maintain her in the
manner to which she had been accustomed, with a pack of ladies,
waiting-maids, outriders, trumpeters and footmen in livery. Angrily he
meditated, and before his mind's eye, that glazed and bloodshot organ of
inner vision, rose the handsome regiment, the batteries that all this
money, rightly used, might equip. He grumbled to his mother. She
shrugged, told him that if every man could make money simply by doing his
duty in bed the world would be full of bankers, and sat down at last to
tell Elizabeth-Charlotte, Duchesse d'Orléans, of the marriage.

"One hundred thousand thalers a year is a very pretty sum, not to mention
the pretty piece that it goes with. But she will meet her match, in both
senses of that word, in George-Louis, my son, the most stubborn animal of
a boy that ever lived. So thick is the crust round his brains that I defy
any man, or woman either, to prove they exist. He does not care much for
the notion of a wife. Still, the money has brought him to it, as it would
have brought anyone in his senses."

The money had to work hard. After the contract was signed--so much a
year, such and such estates entailed, provision for widowhood, provision
for children--when the document was as binding as coloured ribbons, and
wax, and florid ducal signatures could make it, Duchess Sophia sent for
her eldest son, who came into her room smelling of horses, his boots
covered with lather, and stood before her twisting his whip in his
fingers like a great booby of six years old. He feared his mother.

"So it's settled, my son. I congratulate you."

He looked at her, suspecting irony, and gave a brief nod.

"Now for the obligations that don't look so well on paper. Busche will
have to go."

"Let him. He's no use to Frederick. Don't know one card from another."

"Not the man. She--Busche's wife."

He did not move at that; he was hard to surprise. But his very forehead
became red.

"Go? Who says so?"

"I say so. It's not fitting. There's this girl's youth to consider."

"She hates me. I'm damned if I put myself out for her."

"Be good enough to do as I tell you." He stood, lowering. "Draw up that
chair there, and choose yourself a pen. Are you ready? Write--"

He obeyed her, seated himself, picked up the quill and dipped it.
Suddenly he swung round, head and shoulders turning together like a
threatening bull.

"What claim has this little bastard on me?"

His mother eyed him, and gave him the kind of answer he comprehended.

"If you don't want her to bear you little bastards, you'd better be

"By God, she shan't play any of her dirty French tricks on me."

"Then don't give her cause. Write as I dictate. 'Madame: It will be as
well for you to leave Hanover before November 22nd, on which date I bring
home my bride--'"

"I can't send her a letter like that. She wouldn't go. I owe her money."

"How much?"

"How should I know? Five or six thousand thalers."

"Write: 'on which date I bring home my bride. I hope in a short time to
repay the money you were so obliging as to lend me; but such repayment
must be conditional on your withdrawal.' End how you please."

He wrote laboriously, scowling, and when the letter was done threw down
the quill, which rolled, leaving a trail of ink across the paper. His
mother took the sheet, read, and put it before him again.


He did so, and wrote the direction. She folded the letter, herself
dropped wax upon the fold, and sealed it with the gold seal that hung
among other trinkets at her waist. The crowned S stood out sharply upon a
great smudge of wax, unmistakable.

"Now ring."

He obeyed her, and made to leave the room, but she detained him, a hand
on his sleeve, until she had given the servant his order; a courier
immediately for Hanover with this packet. Even when the man had gone she
would not permit George-Louis to escape. With a twist of the wrist that
served her as well as another woman's wink she pointed to a book on the
table, and bade her son read.

"A useful habit for a family man. Cultivate it, my son. Give me now the
pleasure of hearing how you shape." He went to the table, picked up the
book as though it weighed a stone, and returned to her side.

"Well? You know which way up to hold a book, I think? Begin where you see
the marker set; the top paragraph of the left-hand page."

He sat despairingly and began to stumble about among the English phrases,
mispronouncing words.

"We find how sad the doom was of that Servant who wrapt up his talent,
but we have no cause to think it would have been at all easier if he had
melted the Talent into bullets--"

A sound of departing hoofs echoed in the courtyard; her courier had lost
no time. George-Louis too heard the clatter, and raised his head from the
book with a heavy imploring glance which his mother's imperious fingers
beat down again to Mr. Allestree's pages.

"--we have beat our ploughshares into swords, and our pruning hooks into
spears, all the instruments of fertility and growth in Grace into Engines
of war and discord."

His eye, wandering, caught a sentence in thin French writing upon the
paper that served as marker--"your kindness in accepting me as your
daughter--" He clapped-to the book upon it, and blurted at his mother:

"Why should I pay her a compliment my father's never paid you?"

"I am not obliged to answer such a question. Continue."

"A mistress is cleaner, safer than whores: you can't deny that."

"I ask you to read."

"There's no sense in it."


He gave in, went back to the mystifying pages, and blundered along until
the clock struck five, and the room darkened. His mother then, with the
ghost of a laugh, let him go. Her courier had an hour's start on the road
to Hanover.


Sophia-Dorothea meanwhile was in the chapel, angrily and piteously
reasoning with God. It was an unusual place for her to be found in.
Indeed, her mother, to whom any recourse to church on a weekday spelt
Popery, would have been as shocked as was the organist, who, coming in to
practise his epithalamia, stood amazed to discover her Highness up by the
altar rails, kneeling, her shoulders shaking, despairing sounds coming
from her. He pushed back through the door the boy, his blower, and went
away troubled.

Her Highness was arguing with her Creator via her conscience and getting
the worst of it.

"I won't be made do it. They can't make me say Yes. I could wait till
they were standing here and the bishop asked me the question, and then
shout No! No! in all their teeth. Wouldn't they stare! What would happen?
Papa might have me put in prison--" Her mind afforded her two or three
quick colourless pictures of stone hollows under the _Schloss_,
where the air struck cold to her skin as though she walked through
breatheable water; not used now, they told her. (But there were doors
that Kurt would not open, that he had hurried her by.) "Oh Lord God,
what's the use of having brought me into the world if I'm not to be
happy? Duty is happiness--it's not, dear Lord, indeed it isn't, as You'd
know if You ever had to do things You hated. Why, he's not even polite.
He walks like a groom, and belches at meals. He scratches, I saw him, and
his face is horribly fat already. Dear Lord, You don't know. It can't be
right when it makes me sick and faint to have him near me. I wish You
were a woman, I wish the Virgin wasn't Popery; she'd understand. She
never had to go to bed with any horrible man. It's only babies they want,
princes for the succession. Why couldn't You let women alone to have them
by themselves without making it all hateful with men?"

She caught her breath. This was questioning the ways of God, a sin
against which people were warned; more especially women, to whom the ways
of God must always appear inexplicable.

"Lord, I beg your pardon. Lord, I didn't mean to say that everything
wasn't for the best. Everybody knows how much You are always doing for
us, blessing us, and keeping us alive--" Tears overcame her. "But oh,
please, please, why must it be me?"

There was silence in the chapel like that in the cave of an oracle before
the hollow voice begins booming out riddles, as though God were preparing
to answer in person. It frightened Sophia-Dorothea, who started up from
her knees and looked about her, right, left. No one was there, but the
windows on either side held up a dozen coloured reminders of her
obligations, shields, mottoes of dead Dukes whose possessions must not be
allowed to disintegrate nor their names to die. Sacred, the family;
inviolable, the duty to perpetuate and enrich it.

But Sophia-Dorothea's Creator was of quite another mind. My child, said
He, speaking through the clatter and glitter of the shields, shall I tell
you how to know a false god? He is one that demands the wrong sacrifices.
He wrings the spirit, and leaves the body its toys. He is without love
for those who worship him. I love My creatures dearly. The sun and stars
please Me in ministering to you, and your agonies are hateful to Me. My
victims come joyfully, throwing aside, as they run to Me, crowns,
garments, and the silly desires of their flesh. They reach My breast
naked as they departed from it, and the false gods pick up such rubbish
as they drop by the way. Girl, will you be one of My happy runners?

Sophia-Dorothea heard this reasoning, but it was as distasteful to her as
had been the clamour of the painted shields. She could not, despite her
threat to her father, see herself as a nun; such was, she supposed, the
gist of her Creator's suggestion. She wanted, wanted--to escape, to be
her own arbitress, to be let alone, to love; it was all indefinite, but
she did undoubtedly desire these things. On the other, the negative side,
she had absolute certainty.

"Dear Lord, I know what I don't want."

That is a beginning, rejoined her Creator.

"I don't want George-Louis."

For happiness you must not want him, nor any other man, nor any other

"Dear Lord, that's Your happiness, not ours."

If you will not give up everything, then give up nothing. Be all life,
and mettle, and vigour, and love to everything, and that, equally, will
poise you.

"But I want to keep the things that please me, and let the others go."

My poor child! said her Creator, unresentful but sorry, and spoke no


Word went out soon after this to the drummers and ringers and the Mayor
of Zelle--to all those dignitaries whose functions a royal marriage might
bring into play. There were decorations set up in the streets; loyal
banners with mottoes, angels with gilt cornucopias, and painted masts
from which streamers swayed and snapped in the wind. Thus the townspeople
were kept busy. The richer burghers' wives brought out their plate, and
prepared beds for such visiting magnates as might not be accommodated
inside the Castle. A squad of intemperate but harmless persons suddenly
found themselves apprehended by a strengthened watch on the score of
riotousness and set to work out their sentence upon the roads.

In the Castle itself the servants found themselves, for once, with enough
to do. Duchess Eléonore sat daily, with her librarian and an ancient
major-domo at her elbow, looking up pedigrees and allotting rooms or
seats at tables according to the number of quarterings shown by each
guest. Her Duke hunted with his brother the Bishop. Duchess Sophia went
back to Hanover to see to the refurbishing of the Old Palace, a little
shabby ancient dwelling in the very centre of Hanover Town, which was to
house George-Louis and his bride. Baroness von Platen bought some
magnificent new dresses, and spoke roughly to her sister, who had not
obeyed George-Louis' letter, despite the crowned S on the wax and the
near ominous presence of Duchess Sophia.

"What a fool you are," said Clara von Platen, buffeting her sister's ear
as she sat biting her nails and frowning.

"You don't care for that donkey; why do you moon and sulk because you are
asked to take a holiday?"

"She'll get him away from me," Catherine-Maria answered sourly.

"And what then? You've got his notes of hand, haven't you? You needn't
lack for money. Let him go, and thank God."

"I'm not going to be pointed at. 'She's had her day, she's done
for'--that's what they'll all say. His mother wrote that letter. I won't

"You're a fool. She'll send you out of Hanover at the cart's tail."

"Not if you speak to the Duke."

"The Duke won't hear of any impudence to Sophy; she's a king's daughter.
I've warned you."

Catherine-Maria made no answer, and her sister, with an impatient click
of the tongue, left her to brood. Clara von Platen had no patience with
any behaviour that was not pliable, nor with useless defiance. She
herself, when she was crossed in her will, was accustomed to consider the
matter impartially in the light of her power; if she could she would
strike, if she could not strike she would smile. She wasted no effort and
no passion. She cared for money and took pains to earn it. She enjoyed
pulling strings, but knew just which were for her hand. She had not yet
encountered an emergency in which the desire to hurt another should make
her careless of damage to herself; that is to say, she had not so far, in
all her life, been in love. Armed with this single-mindedness and
readiness to cut losses she walked the court proof against disaster as
Duchess Sophia's self. The gulf of the climacteric, however, was between
the two women. Duchess Sophia had passed safely; Clara von Platen was
approaching it, without resentment or fear. There were times when her
womanhood enraged her, when she would have given all her jewels to be
able to go out into the world with a sword, as her needy father had done,
and buy consideration at the point of it. She did at times very heartily
detest her _métier_, not from any moral scruple or reluctance, but
from a contempt for the men through whom power came, who would part with
difficult jewels for easy kisses; and she looked forward to the day when,
such sports being at an end for both of them, the Duke should turn to her
for advice rather than for satisfaction.

Thus the attitude of her sister appeared to her indefensible by reason,
and not to be accounted for by any of the better known unreasons--love,
cupidity, or malice. She shrugged, and went to try on the splendid dress
in which she was to stand at the wedding among the wives of State

George-Louis remained not too unwillingly at Zelle. He was getting used
to his betrothed, and even a little interested. There was excellent sport
to be had, and he was a good horseman and shot. But he missed his habits.
He killed, in the course of his visit, six or seven stags a day, and
smaller game by the dozen, doggedly taking their lives in resentment for
his customary routine disturbed and consequent boredom. Not a soul at
Zelle had seen a battle, or knew a king from a deuce; they were all as
Puritanical as the fellows who had chopped off his uncle Charles's head.
He did not dare make excuses to return to Hanover, knowing very well that
his mother expected just such a departure, and was lying in wait for him.
There was nothing for it but to canter along the forest rides and bring
down the deer, baying, gasping; dabble the blood where it should go, wind
the dogs in, and set off again at a canter, while the body followed on a
funeral cart of its own, escorted by a forester, to the place where the
day's kill was to be displayed. Once a man's body lay on the beasts in
this cart, a beater shot by one of the sportsmen who had mistaken his
movement for the rustle of a hare. "By God," said George-Louis to his
uncle as the pile went past them, "they didn't tell me we were shooting
beaters, Serene Highness; I could have got a dozen if I'd known." The
joke was applauded.

Duchess Sophia meanwhile gave orders to the Hanoverian tradesmen and had
twenty men at work under her own eye upon the small dark rooms of the Old
Palace. She was not niggardly; the decorations were well done, with a
good deal of gilding upon the panels to lighten them. After all, the
girl's own money was to pay for it. Duchess Sophia fitted up as nursery a
low-browed room at the back of the house, with a view upon the gardens,
whose door, when the paint was dry, and the furniture in, she locked. The
key went into a packet, to be given to Sophia-Dorothea the day she
entered the house as a reminder of her duty, and perhaps as a hint of
consolation. Children, thought Duchess Sophia, take one's mind off the
husband, and thanked be God for it!

When the place was ready, not a pin astray, she ordered casually and
hastily a very grand and unbecoming dress, upon which real jewels were
sewn by the tailors under a lady-in-waiting's alert eye, and made ready
to take coach for Zelle. But first she sent for Frau von Platen.

"Baroness, you can give me news of your sister. She has not yet left the
town, I believe."

"Not yet, Serene Highness."

"Make it clear to her that I will not have her here when my son returns
with his wife."

"I have done what I could, Serene Highness, but--" and she came out with
a proverb in Duchess Sophia's own manner--"guter Rath lasst sich geben,
aber gute Sitte nicht."*

[* Good advice may be given, but not good manners.]

"If she will not mend her manners, she must not expect consideration.
There are plenty of reasons why she should behave herself. Do not let her
presume upon her position. A woman may give a prince the pox and still
not be safe from a whipping."

"I have told her as much, Serene Highness. I think she sees reason. I
think she does intend to go."

"I am flattered that she does me the honour to intend to obey me.
Understand that her absence or her presence can be of no moment whatever
to me; I do not observe persons so closely. It is a matter of common
politeness and fittingness. Make her understand that, if you can. Have
you made arrangements to go to Zelle?"

The sudden question took Clara von Platen by surprise. She answered
confidently enough, however, that she had taken that liberty, and was to
set out with her husband the next day.

"I think, Baroness, it will be better if you do not go."

That too was a surprise, but one for which the previous question had in
some obscure way prepared her. She was aware of a shock to her
self-esteem, of disappointment, of resentment; reasoned them down, and
answered bluffly:

"Ma'am! It will look singular if the Prime Minister's wife is not among
the first to wish our new Princess joy."

"In the circumstances it will look more singular still if she does. You
understand me--" Clara's mouth opened--"and I have no wish to argue. You
may suppose that, on various accounts, irregularity will not be frowned
on at Zelle. You are deceived. I need dot no i's; my wish must be enough
for you, as for your sister."

Clara von Platen, governing her expression, dipped in acquiescence, and
waited for dismissal. It came with ironic civility a moment later--"Thank
you, Baroness. I am obliged to you--" and she was able to walk bewildered
out of Duchess Sophia's room, whose walls were autumn with the reds and
browns of books, to consider plans for action.

First, there was no question but that the Duchess must be obeyed. Next,
how to take the sting out of such obedience? A fictitious illness at once
suggested itself; and that must mean--Clara von Platen was
thorough--seclusion for some days. The sickness must be an authoritative
one, no convenient malaise which the ill-intentioned might sneer at or
discount. She recollected, and laughed at the astonishing way the threads
of events weave under and out, a trick that used to be played by the
Turkish boy Selim, who had been captured in the course of the recent war
and sent with two camels to Hanover. Selim made pretensions to magic; the
court ladies could never have enough of his divination by means of keys
dancing on a drum. But one trick he had shown Baroness von Platen in
private, how to hold an ivory ball under the armpit and by the simplest
pressure on it to weaken or stop the pulse. She would be ill, therefore,
and Duchess Sophia's own doctor, a sceptical yet limited old man, should
attend her.

She bestowed herself in bed, whitened her face, and sent for him. He
peered, fingered, clucked; had a moment's gravity, and sat back from her.

"Doctor, make me well at once. The wedding is only two days off, and I
must dance at it."

"Dance to your grave! I don't like this pulse."


"Come now, Baroness, you're a sensible woman. You won't contradict me
on a point so easily to be proved as this. The pulse hardly beats."

"It's true I do feel poorly. But what will the Duchess say?"

"I'll deal with the Duchess." He took out a pocketbook and gently shook
it before her eyes. "You see this? You shall hear what I write. I pay you
the compliment of telling you the truth about yourself; it is the highest
in a doctor's power. Now--" writing: "'I am of opinion, Serene Highness,
that Baroness von Platen should by no means attempt any journey, or any
festivities presently. Her pulse is hardly to be felt; she has a kind of
distemperature which renders any effort inadvisable. On her behalf I
request your Serene Highness's leave for her to be absent from the happy
ceremonies to take place at Zelle.'" He showed it to her. "Will that
calm your apprehensions? What consciences you court ladies have!"

He despatched the note, gave directions for warm soups, and sleep, and a
decoction of juniper, and departed. An hour later came a servant with the
answering note and a parcel from Duchess Sophia.

"I have every sympathy with your indisposition, and readily grant you
leave of absence for so long as may be necessary. To beguile the tedium
of illness I send a recent English work, which may serve to remind you
that I am always interested in your affairs."

Clara von Platen opened the tract. She had a little English and spelt out
without much difficulty the title-page, which announced in the forthright
manner particular to religious controversy, "A Shove to a Heavy-Ars'd
Christian." When she had taken in the sense of this the Baroness laughed,
and for a moment felt something like affection for the old woman and her
grim joking. Sophy would protect the family dignity, would she? Prevent
the mistress from standing beside the wife, and thus preserve her
Bishop-Duke's prestige in his brother's eyes. The Baroness reclined and
considered whether or not she should strike back. At Duchess Sophia?
Dangerous. At the Duke? The source of power. George-Louis? Too
thick-skinned. The girl Sophia, half a commoner, half French, defenceless
among strangers--why not the girl?

Baroness von Platen drank her decoction of juniper and her slops, kept
her bed, and planned. Next day, when the carriages were off through
pouring rain, and footsteps sounded rarely in the courtyard, she sent for
her sister, Catherine-Maria, who came looking sluttish and weary in a
bedgown, still meditating defiance, still undecided.

"So here you are still!"

"And what about you? How about your grand dresses? Has the old woman been
at you too?"

"I'm sick." She looked it; her voice wavered and was feeble. "The doctor
keeps me here."

Catherine-Maria looked at her closely for a second; but the actress was
able, and she was satisfied at once.

"I've been thinking of you. What are you going to do? There's not much
time left."

"I can't decide." Catherine-Maria was at her nails again, and began
pacing. "I won't be sent away like a servant caught stealing. I've done
nothing. She can do nothing to me."

"Not if George-Louis stands by you. But he won't. He wrote that letter at
his mother's orders, you admit it."

"It might be a trick of hers. It was her turn of speaking and there were
none of the names he calls me when we are together"


"_Schweinchen, Gänslein_--"

"_Ach_, love-names from the farm-yard! So you don't think he wants
to get rid of you?"

If I thought that I wouldn't go. I'll plague him. He owes me money."

"He can pay it off now. He's a rich man, with a rich wife.
Respectability, and good-bye, _Schweinchen!_"

Catherine-Maria was white with anger and dismay. She stood still at last,
grinding her fist into her palm.

"Paid off like a servant! Dismissed like a servant. Oh no, oh no, master
Prince George!"

"Stay then."

Catherine-Maria quietened down, for she had a genuine fear of that old
termagant who had threatened her by means of a little S pressed into a
blob of hot wax. Her sister, indifferently lying back, picked up from the
table by her side, on which the potions and their glasses stood, a letter
which she turned about in her hands, scanning it back, then front, for
some sentence she wanted. "Let us see what my husband says about the
matter. He writes from Zelle." She read: "Our bridegroom is lusty, and in
a fair way to be reconciled to his lot. He shows more interest than I
should have supposed in the little wife. He looks at her as though he
would relish the mouthful."

She dropped the letter from her slackened fingers; Catherine-Maria
pounced on it, scanned and cast it down again angrily.

"Cypher! Does Platen indeed say that?"

"You heard me read it."

Catherine-Maria, the blood beginning to flood over her cheek-bones and
down into her neck, stamped once, and burst into loud sobbing. Her sister
turned her head upon the pillow from side to side, wearily, as if in an
attempt to escape the noise.

"My God, Catherine, this is a sick-room, can't you be quiet? You must be
quiet, or go."

"Go!" repeated Frau Busche, gulping and snorting, "I'll stay, d'you hear?
He'll find me here when he arms her up the steps. He can't put me off
like that, like an old dirty glove--"

"Go away! Leave me in peace. What do I care what you do? I care for
nothing. I'm ill."

She closed her eyes and fluttered the lids. Catherine-Maria, alarmed,
clanged the bell by the bedside to summon the women and fled, a
handkerchief to her face, down the corridors to her own apartment. There
she halted, looking at herself in the long glass between two windows,
approaching her smeared face to it, a sob now and then interrupting
breath. Then, in rage at her spoiled looks, she struck her doubled hands
a dozen times against the cold surface, drumming, and abruptly turned
away from her reflection, having grinned at it once.

Baroness von Platen drank the appointed cordial and her women left her
smiling at some inward satisfaction or other.


The marriage took place on November 21st amid the ravings of a
thunderstorm that did not take long to become proverbial. Lightning
whitened the chapel from time to time in defiance of four hundred candles
and their gentle gold. The tallest mast with the longest streamers on it,
that which stood outside the Mayor's house, was struck and fell athwart
the street, killing a child at a window. Guests who had been boarded out
in Zelle town found their way to the Castle in any sort of conveyance
that offered a hood for protection; there was a story told afterwards of
one very fine lady who lay down flat upon the tented church bier, and
thus was borne by four men to the wedding.

Despite the storm there were processions, such as the ample design of the
Castle allowed; the bride's procession winding down one staircase
preceded by singing children, the bridegroom approaching from another
accompanied by gentlemen all in white; the procession of the relatives,
led by Duchess Eléonore on the Duke-Bishop's arm; and the procession of
Lutheran clergy, unable to make much of a show with their black and
white, but walking very portentously and clasping rich red books.

Once the processions had been wheeled and halted, the actual exchange of
vows took very little time. George-Louis stood straight, no bad figure of
a man from the back, and gave his answers soldierly and loud.
Sophia-Dorothea nodded her Yes to the main question, and it had to be put
to her again. Thunder broke out just overhead, making the candles shiver
and the assembly rustle. She gave a little gasp; and George-Louis, with
such an unthinking movement of reassurance as he might have made to a
whimpering puppy, took her arm in his grasp and patted it. She looked up
at him, drew a little nearer, and this time spoke her Yes. The assembly
at her back nodded at each other, applauding the pretty scene, and when
the pastor, having knit them firmly, turned in his exhortation to the
counsels of Ecclesiasticus, the Bishop-Duke, something of a connoisseur
in sermons, found his text apt: "Thou shalt put her on as a robe of
honour, and shalt put her about thee as a crown of joy."

Duchess Sophia, looking at the shields in the windows that had threatened
her daughter-in-law not long before, found not much comfort there among
the emblems which Dukes of Luneburg and Brunswick had carried on their
forays. She sat stiffly, withdrawn, fighting the last of her pride, and
assailed by snatches of irrelevant memory. She recalled the day of her
eldest son's birth, when Elizabeth-Charlotte, now Duchess of Orléans,
inquisitively surveying the preparations, had been led into the garden to
discover a doll in a rosemary bush, with assurances that in just such a
manner would her aunt's baby be found. But the child, not appeased, and
hearing Sophia's moans, crept back unseen into the bedroom and hid there
crying, unnoticed until they moved the big screen and brought a bath to
wash George-Louis. Now in a year's time or so this girl would be moaning
with George-Louis' son. Duchess Sophia had no pity for her, any more than
she had pity for a man going to war, but she hated to take help from this
semi-royal body for breeding, as she would have spurned help in war
offered by a republic.

The exhortation done, the processions re-formed, and slowly, for the
chapel was of a size not convenient for manoeuvring, made their way out
again, along to the great hall where the wedding-feast waited.
George-Louis and his wife, coming at the end of the trail of guests,
clergy, and relatives, did not look at each other as they paced, she with
her hand on his left sleeve, he holding a hat under his right arm. He,
however, once glancing down sideways, was struck with the pallor of her
face, and the red of her  of her bitten lips, and said--his first words
as a  husband:

"What would do you good is some hot soup with a sausage in it."

She shook her head, repenting her involuntary movement towards him when
the thunder alarmed her, determined to resent him. They walked the rest
of the way, and took their places on the dais, glumly and in silence.

They were put to bed in state, with good wishes, bad jokes, and, from
Duchess Eléonore, tears. Even she who had married for love had been
frightened when George-William first came to her, and she was able to
perceive only too clearly that Sophia-Dorothea was in such fear as may
beset a wild animal picked up and held for the first time in a human
hand. She could think of no way to help, except to mix the girl a great
glass of strong hot wine with dried sunflower buds boiled in it; these,
in the herbalist's notion, "surpassing the Artichoke far in procuring
bodily lust." Thus Duchess Eléonore hoped to combine awakening for the
body with a kind of numbness of the faculties. She saw the glass empty
before, suddenly and not kissing her daughter in bed, she quitted the

When at last the doors were shut George-Louis swung his bare feet
down--it was a tall pyramid of a bed--and went over to the fireplace near
which some food had been set. He stood there munching, and sticking out
his feet one by one to the fire, against which his wife saw him in
silhouette as a shaven head with no back to it, a frilled neck like a
lizard, body made shapeless by the night-shirt, and strong lumpy legs.
After a moment he held out his plate in her direction; she shook her head
on the pillow, but he came across to her, climbed the steps and hoisted
himself into bed beside her, still holding the plate, which he put on the

"Good dog," said George-Louis, holding a bit of breast in his fingers
above her nose. She flounced away from him. His hand followed her,
wheedling. "A nice bit of meat for a good little she-dog. Come now,

At that the anger which fatigue and the urgency of good behaviour in
public had kept down all day, possessed her fully.

"If you do that again I'll bite your hand."

"Oho!" George-Louis laughed, supposing that she was entering into the
spirit of the thing. He liked these farmyard games. "I'll look out for
myself. I'm the master. If you bite me, bitchkin, you'll get the whip,
and you won't like that." He gave a sonorous hiccup. "That's bad stuff,
that French wine your father gave us; unwholesome. Well, come on, take
your titbit."

He smeared the meat against her mouth. She twisted, and bit him in the
fleshy part of his hand so fiercely that she felt the blood come up under
her teeth. It was this, and not his instant box on the ear, that made her
let go. He swore, using words which shocked her though she did not know
their meaning, and shook his bleeding hand over the side of the bed. She
sat up clutching at the bell-rope which hung on the wall behind the

"I told you what I'd do. If you touch me again I'll ring and have all
the servants in."

He did not answer her, but sat with his legs swinging, intently composing
a bandage. The night handkerchief that should have bound his head was
handy; he tore the new linen across with an ease that revealed ominous
strength, and tied up the wound neatly, using his teeth to tighten the
knot. That done, he turned with unexpected quickness, and brutally
pulling her fingers apart got possession of the bell-rope; tossed it up,
so that it hung across one of the tester rails quite out of her reach;
then with a chuckle slid under the sheets.

"Well, bitchkin, we'll have to show you who's master. All right, all
right, I don't mind you wriggling. Keep quiet, don't yelp like that, I'm
not hurting you. Ill teach you a few tricks. Now--"

The women servants who came about midday to make the vacated bed found it
much rumpled, as was to be expected, and indeed only right; but what
puzzled sprinkling was a sprinklin of blood on the valance which hung
down, and a neckerchief torn in half, thrown on the floor. "The Serene
Prince will have been taken with nosebleed" was the only opinion they
could arrive at. And folding the sheets without further comment they
carried them off, as was usual, to exhibit them to the Serene parents of
both parties, for these to judge by their condition whether or no the
marriage had been consummated; a matter on which there was general and
immediate agreement.


They travelled to Hanover a fortnight later, Sophia-Dorothea with her
mother-in-law in a great pumpkin-shaped carriage, George-Louis riding, a
far more comfortable way of travelling, the condition of the roads
considered; their wedding thunderstorm had broken the weather, and the
gullies and ruts were awash. They halted that night at Herrenhausen, the
country palace, and made their state entry next day into the town. Like
Zelle, it was decorated and agog; the people had heard rumours of a
pretty bride, and had considerable good-will for George-Louis, who did
them credit in war and spent what money he had in the town. He,
indifferent to popularity, took off his hat from time to time, and bent
his thick lips to some sort of smile; but Sophia-Dorothea was delighted
with the shouting. She carried a posy of spring-flowers--not real ones,
but very creditable scented imitations; and this, as the enthusiasm
mounted at sight of her, she suddenly pulled to pieces and flung in
scraps to her admirers. The flowers were light, they fell near to the
carriage wheels and the horses of the escort; children and young men
jumped forward among the hoofs to secure a rosebud, a scrap of
mignonette, and kissed their trophies to her, as though they drank the
perfume of the flowers to her good luck. She adored this. Her dark eyes
sparkled, she waved to the people, and caught George-Louis' fingers in
excitement which he saw no reason to share. At regular intervals his hand
moved to his hat, and he bowed, right, left, then sat straight again,
looking in front of him. Despite her resolve she could not help speaking
to him.

"Kind people, good people! You never told me they were like this in

"They're not, as a rule."

"It's all for me, say it's for me!"

"Of course it is. They know better than to turn the town upside down for

"I love them. Kind people, I'm happy."

"Be quiet, they'll think you're mad. You don't suppose my mother says
things like that to them."

"More's the pity."

She sat more quietly, though, after that, a trifle clouded by the thought
of Duchess Sophia going about her path and about her bed, and spying out
her ways. But the cheering continued, and the waving from the windows.
Boys shinned up the striped masts that lined the streets to shout for
her. Bells added their noise to the rest.

The girl was quite drunk with the din all about her. As their six white
horses drew up before a pedimented door draped with tapestry, she stood
up and held out her arms to the crowd, bringing her hands together over
her heart again as if she pressed them all to it, tears of happiness
brightening her eyes. Then footmen came running to set steps, and
George-Louis held a hand for her to descend. With her foot on the step,
warned, troubled in some way, she looked up at one of the windows to the
left of the door, and saw standing there, a woman whose sharp face
sneered and was distorted as she stared down.

"Who's that?"

George-Louis looked, did not answer, but gave an impatient tug at her
skirt which nearly pulled her forward off the step. She needed no words
to assure her of that identity; the thrust of George-Louis' underlip was
enough for her. Her father had spoken to her; no tantrums, no
independence, a blind eye when necessary; one must not expect to find the
same manners everywhere. Her mother had hinted at the need for particular
tact in a certain quarter, "which, if you make yourself agreeable to your
husband, may after all not be required of you." That the woman should
insolently await her in her own house was unexpected, ugly, and she could
not all at once, out of her poor little experience of sixteen gay years,
find means to deal with the situation. She hesitated, turning from pale
to scarlet, and at last, barely touching George-Louis' hand, let him lead
her in.

Not so Duchess Sophia, who from her following carriage had observed the
whole incident. She sat rigidly, leisurely descended, and entered the Old
Palace upon her young people's heels; but instead of following them to
the hall where notabilities were waiting to bow their respects, she
turned aside into the ante-room, beckoning a footman to attend her

"Go to the room, third along the corridor from the head of the stairs.
You will find there Frau Busche. If you do not, look for her. Take one of
your fellows to help you. Request her to come here to me."

While the man was gone, she paced, her winged nostrils ominously pinched;
but when the door opened, and the servant's toneless voice announced his
capture, she stood where she was, her back to the door, disdaining to

"Come here to me, Frau Busche. Where I can see you."

The woman had to advance towards that thin stiff back, her heels clicking
some twenty paces before she reached it; had to turn round a table to
meet those eyes. All the time Duchess Sophia made no motion and no sound.
When the woman curtseyed, she still did not speak, but looked as if she
focused her sight upon some object at a considerable distance beyond her.
Then the words came.

"You received my orders."

"Serene Highness

"You received and disobeyed them. You have deliberately affronted my son
and his wife by your presence in their house. Now you arc to be

"But my husband--"

Duchess Sophia laughed. Catherine-Maria put out her hands, incredulous.

"Listen, Ma'am, you must listen to me--"

"You are to take the carriage which will be ready for you in half an
hour; you will give me then a receipt for as many thousand thalers as my
son owes you."

"When I have had payment." Catherine-Maria was defiant.

"I give you your choice between a fine and a whipping. You are to regard
this money as being paid by you to save your back from the hangman's

"If I go," Catherine Maria broke in loudly, "my sister should be turned
away. My sister Clara--she is the schemer."

"Your sister has not offended. I have no more to say to you." Frau Busche
still stood before her, biting the insides of her cheeks, clenching her
hands. "You are dismissed."

Duchess Sophia did not turn. It was the other who must curtsey, turn,
click down the twenty paces to where the servant stood unmoving; to him
Duchess Sophia gave the order, raising her voice:

"Send Krauss to me."

The major-domo came, received orders for a carriage to be in readiness
half an hour hence; and when the matter was settled Duchess Sophia
adjusted her dress with a careless pull or stroke here and there, and
went between the ranks of footmen to the hall, where on a dais, in her
place, she beheld the small plump figure of her son's wife seated. A
spasm of bitter feeling twisted her lip.

"I defend a bastard against the insults of a wanton. I cut myself in
pieces to set mine enemy over me. 'I will declare thy righteousness and
thy works, for they shall not profit thee.' Old Isaiah knew his God

The heralds set up their trumpets, caught each other's eyes, nodded and
blared together for her entrance. A roaring great voice announced her:

"The high and well-born Princess Sophia, of Hanover and Osnabrück Duchess
and Consort!"

As she went up the room notabilities sank bowing before her, like grain
before a strong summer wind.

* * * * *


Why was such Happiness not given me pure?

Why dash'd with cruel Wrongs, and bitter Warnings?

--_Venice Preserv'd_. Act IV, Scene I.

* * * * *


"I am not able to express," wrote Charlotte-Elizabeth of Orléans four
years later, "my felicity at the happy event, which recently has blessed
your house by the addition of a daughter to the family of your eldest
son. My dearest aunt, I thought it was all too good to last. The girl had
luck with her first child; a boy within ten months of the nuptials! But a
paltry daughter three years after will bring down our little lady's proud
crest. True, I did the same thing myself, but then my children had not
the chance of two thrones, and you know Monsieur's little ways; he had no
more liking for the job than I had myself. Indeed how we ever managed our
couple I now can hardly make out, for he could not bear a woman in his
bed, nor to be touched while he slept. Many a time have I lain so far
towards the edge that a turn of my body brought me dump on the floor like
a sack of potatoes, and nobody was more glad than I when he made the
suggestion that we should sleep apart.

"But to this girl. You are very discreet where she is concerned, and
rightly; you are not one, nor am I, to foul your own nest. All the same,
rumours get about, and Lassaye has been indiscreet. You ought never to
have let her go to Italy, even under the shelter of your husband's wing.
Like will to like, and I dare say the French blood in her found nothing
nauseating in the mimping, pimping manners of Lassaye. He reports her
lovely beyond dreams. Well! Bastardy is no hindrance to a woman nowadays
in her career, and the strange thing seems to be that there is nothing
like an illicit connection for bestowing looks. Nobody could be more
securely and legitimately born than I, for example, and yet look what a
fright I am! However, as your proverb says, roses fall but their thorns
remain, and I dare say this thorn in your side will give you a few uneasy
moments yet."

The Duchess of Orléans went a little far, thought Duchess Sophia, reading
this billet; she had been too long in France, where they speak lightly of
such things as bastardy. The letter in return was stiff.

"I thank you for your congratulations, which I know very well proceed
from your good heart towards me. You will be happy to learn that my son's
wife's child is considered my portrait, and in fact, looking at it
without prejudice, and making allowance for the lack of any true nose, I
imagine that I do find some resemblance. Looks are, as you say, a family
matter, but they run in the good line as well as the bad. My mother had
great beauty, and though I may not flatter myself that I resemble her,
yet this little girl has a look of her. There is some natural
disappointment that we have not a second boy, but there is plenty of time
for that. I think you should pay no attention to any boastings or chatter
of the Marquis de Lassaye. From what I am told, he is a _mauvaise
langue_, and wants to have the reputation of a man of conquests
without troubling to earn it."

Having intimated that Charlotte-Elizabeth must in future hold her tongue
where the Princess of Hanover was concerned, Duchess Sophia put down her
pen, and went to see the new baby.

Her daughter-in-law lay on a day bed, looking--the old woman remembered a
phrase in Charlotte-Elizabeth's letter--very like a wild rose. Her cheeks
were regaining their faint flush, her mouth was red, and she had untidy
childish hair. Her baby lay beside her in a gilded French cradle, the
gift of Duchess Eléonore, its amorphous face showing no resemblance
whatever to the thin hooked mask of its grandmother. Sophia-Dorothea got
to her feet when the Duchess was announced. The Duchess allowed her to
stand for a moment and attempt to curtsey; that was part of the
discipline. Then a gesture indicated that sufficient respect had been
paid; the girl lay down again, one hand upon the cradle top.

"Do you find yourself stronger?"

"Thank you, Serene Highness."

"The child takes her food well?"

"Thank you, Serene Highness."

The answers came mechanically, in that tone of submission which the
demi-gods of Hanover preferred. But there were signs of storm, a crumpled
handkerchief, the eyes too bright; a moment's silence, and it broke.

"Serene Highness, I beg you will have the goodness to speak to your son."

"Wait. Send the woman away." Duchess Sophia would not give orders in her
son's house. Sophia-Dorothea dismissed the nurse. "What is it? Can you
not speak to your own husband?"

"There are stories going about--"

"You listen to tales, do you?"

"There are other women. He makes me a laughingstock."

"That is one thing that no other person can do for us. We have only
ourselves to thank if we are laughed at."

"What is marriage, then?" the girl angrily demanded. "Has he no
obligation to me but to fill me with children?"

"And to stand beside you in public. That is about the sum of it."

Sophia-Dorothea struck her hand upon the cradle, and the baby gave a
whimper; it was almost waking.

"If he can please himself, I can please myself."

"No; because there are thrones in question here, and bastards will not
do. A man's bastards dishonour only himself; a woman's dishonour her, and
him, and whatever succession there may be. Let me hear no more of this
sort of talk."

"Then let him be kinder."

"Listen to me. You have no affection for George-Louis. (I am not
reproaching.) What can his behaviour matter to you, how can it touch you?
He was attentive to you during the first year; what was your cry then?
'Go away, leave me alone!' Now you have your wish, he troubles you no
more with his company, you have your children. Any woman who asks more
than that from life may take up gardening."

"You are older than I am. It is easier for you."

"What is easier?"

Sophia-Dorothea heard danger in the tone, but there was no checking. She
went on with a rush:

"To ignore such things. To let the Duke take Countess Platen to Italy.
How I hated to see her there, with her old red face flaunting, and
dressed--you never have such dresses. Standing in your place, and you a
Princess, royal twice over! I hated her, and I told the Duke so, and I
would not speak to her, except when there was no help for it. You talk of
dignity. How is it dignity to smile at such a creature, and be civil to
her? It is cruel of the Duke to oblige you to receive her, and your
patience I honour, but for me, no, no! I won't take orders from that
creature, or any other of their creatures, and I won't sit quietly to
hear those women laugh at me; I won't!"

She was shouting, and the baby, waking completely, joined its voice to
hers in a kind of angry breathless mewling. Duchess Sophia picked it up,
and holding it skilfully, spoke over its damp dark head to the girl on
the day bed.

"Have the goodness never again in my hearing to criticise the Duke. Your
concern is misplaced. My behaviour regards myself, and calls for no
such solicitude from you. As for your own position, it rests with you
to make it tolerable."

The words, coming crisply through the baby's mewling took the faint
colour out of Sophia-Dorothea's face. She made no answer; she was
violently angry at hearing her championship rejected. Duchess Sophia held
the child away from her, eyeing it, and spoke to it with understanding.

"Time fora drink, you think, do you, Princess Thumbelina? Soon then; in a
moment." She questioned its mother. "Does she take to the wet-nurse?"

Sophia-Dorothea would not answer; she pulled the bell, however, for that
necessary woman, who came, curtseyed, and bore Thumbelina away. Duchess
Sophia rose, putting on her formal manner like a veil.

"I am glad to see you restored. You must try a walk as soon as your
strength permits. The wind is from the west, but it does not reach one in
the little wood."

"Thank you, Serene Highness. I will attempt it."

Duchess Sophia nodded approval and departed, musing. Her meditations
returned always to two points: We should not have dismissed Frau Busche;
Platen has made the mischief here.


How to cope with Platen, now that she had withdrawn from the court to a
country house, now that a journey into Italy at Ernest Augustus's side
had given her the imprimatur, _Nihil obstat_, nothing stands in the
way? She lay without the walls like an enemy equipped for a siege. From
time to time Court and town received reminders that she was within
range--a challenge, or some flaming scrap of scandal tossed down between
them. She had money, her yearly commission upon the Princess of Hanover's
dowry; with patience and extreme discretion she now applied herself to
the gathering of power. The first phase was over, when she worked in the
dark, enjoying an influence affecting every soul about the Court, but
which none could trace to its source. Her pliable temper had put up with
obscurity while there was danger. Now danger was gone, her hold upon the
Bishop-Duke was close; she reigned like a Montespan or a Castlemaine, had
her own courtiers, and might skirmish openly, under her own banners,
against whom she chose to challenge. She enjoyed quarrels, and cared
nothing for the noise they made. For example, only with the help of
theology had Duchess Sophia contrived to ignore the vast clatter, the
thudding drums that signalled the disgrace of Ilse.

Ilse was a waiting-woman, a good creature and pretty, who had been some
five years in the service of the Platen. She took orders and asked no
questions. Her mouth did not gape when she beheld, going in with morning
chocolate, the nightcapped head of Ernest Augustus upon her mistress's
pillow. She carried letters without prying into them, and had retained
her virtue, maintaining it without difficulty against the bribes of
complacent young gentlemen who attempted to pay with their persons the
entree into Countess von Platen's circle. Ilse had proposed to wait on
the Countess five years more, by which time she would have gathered money
enough to set up an inn and marry its keeper, a youth to whom she had
been betrothed at eighteen. She was a Catholic, very faithful to her
duties; and so different from ordinary humanity did the Bishop-Duke and
her mistress appear, so little did she speculate upon their behaviour to
judge it, that she ran their errands and made their bed with no sense of
sin whatever. Had any honest person of her village accused Ilse of
earning dubious money she would have reddened, and whitened, and perhaps
struck out at the speaker. She did her duty in that state to which she
had been called, as a servant in the house of the honoured lady, Countess
von Platen, wife to the Prime Minister; and to know gossip or spread it
was as remote from her imagination as though the Countess had been one of
those goddesses that reclined among scarves of cloud upon the ceilings of
Monplaisir, her country house.

This being so, it was astonishing to her, and very shocking, to be
approached by the Duke-Bishop one day in a manner which forbade
misapprehension. He came unexpectedly, the Countess was out riding, and
when search had been made it fell to Ilse's duty to inform his Serene
Highness that her mistress was not to be found. The Duke-Bishop wasted no
words, but in a casual-paternal manner put his arm about her. Ilse had
repulsed this gesture from underlings a hundred times; she knew just the
turn, and swing of the hips, and clack of the open hand that would deal
with it. But she was too timid, and too much in awe to treat him so, and
she endured, trembling, hoping that a little fingering would content him.

Ernest Augustus, however, was in the mood; and, thwarted by the absence
of Countess von Platen, had just as much a mind to her maid. He insisted,
not in words. Ilse, torn between respect for him, respect for herself,
and consideration of the rights of her innkeeper, made such protest as
she might; but finding respectful resistance ineffectual, as such
resistance always must be, she at last gave a loud call for help. Ernest
Augustus hushed her, and from his pocket took a heavy purse. She flung it
from her. It struck and shattered a mirror at the very moment that the
door opened and Countess von Platen, warm from her ride, came striding
in, all plumes and curls, with a whip in her hand.

Clara von Platen had none of Duchess Sophia's tolerance. She understood
the significance of the scene perfectly well; indeed, no woman with eyes
in her head could have missed it--the torn bodice and red cheeks of the
girl, the purse on the floor, and the Duke's sulky refusal to meet her
glance. She took a step forward, lifted her right hand, and brought down
her whip across Isle's bare shoulders. The Duke caught the whip before
the second stroke, and at last met full the anger in his mistress's eyes.

"None of that," said the Duke. "Let her go."

"Is this girl then in your service, Serene Highness?"

"She is in my service, as you are." The girl, observing a nod from him,
fled. "Come now, Clara, no scandal. I am not to account to you for every
action. Besides, good God, you were out."

"I was out! And so you amuse yourself, in my house, on my couch, with one
of my servants. And the girl goes out to preen and boast to her fellows
that she's stood in her mistress's shoes. Who knows--" she stirred the
fallen purse with her foot--"who knows but she, this little greasy maid,
may not find herself set up with a house and horses, and money to spend,
and I can take myself off at half an hour's notice, like my sister!
That's pretty. That's very fine."

"Clara, hold your tongue. The girl's had no money, and for that matter
I've had no fun. Can't you take a joke?"

"A slut in my very room--"

"_Pax, pax vobiscum_! I'm tired of your noise."

But she would not be quiet. She reproached; she cried herself down as a
poor woman helpless and forsaken; she would not weep, for she had to be a
little careful of her appearance, but without that there was enough. It
was a tirade as calculated to its end as any one of Racine's; for the
Duke, though he stood up to them, detested scenes, and knew no way out of
them save by purchase. He had, on this occasion, nothing to offer but
promises; funds were low, the boys were extravagant, a bad harvest in
Zelle meant delay in payment of the yearly stipend. He offered her a
couple of commissions in his regiments to sell. She accepted these, but
asked in addition for a blank warrant. He scribbled it, sitting at her
escritoire; she stuck it away unscanned in her pocket, and smiled at
last. But the Duke, after an hour and a half of wrangling, was no longer
in the mood. His body's energy had been tapped to run along the hidden
conduits of the mind, to be ejected unsatisfactorily in jets of words. He
refused the couch, accepted wine, then ordered his carriage and went
home. Clara von Platen picked up from among clinking glass on the
ante-chamber's floor Ilse's rejected purse, and spilled its contents
without counting into her own.

A ducal policeman-orderly-officer was in constant attendance at
Monplaisir, ostensibly to obey the orders and run the errands of the
Prime Minister, though that discreet man kept for the most part in
Hanover town. The Countess sent for him just so soon as Ernest Augustus
was out of sight, and gave him instructions in the Duke-Bishop's name to
convey her waiting-woman Ilse to the town bridewell, offering her signed
paper as warranty. But the official was a stickler. He read the paper
through, and at last, bowing and hesitating, pointed out that as it stood
the warrant could not apply to a woman. Sure enough the wording was
clear: "This shall be sufficient authority for the conveying of that man
whose name appears above--" Three strong scrapes of Ernest Augustus' pen
underlined the word "man." He would not defend the girl openly from the
trouble to which he had brought her, but he had had compunction enough to
load this charge with blank.

Clara von Platen, with no change of countenance, considered the document
for a moment, then took it from the officer, civilly thanking him for the
care he had displayed. "Since orders are so well examined, the Duke need
have no fear for their carrying out." She then, without haste, wrote a
duplicate of the document, save that the word underlined was changed to
suit her purpose, and signed it boldly with her own name. This, steadily
smiling, she gave to the officer, who accepted it at once. It was no part
of his business to question who bade him do this or that; he, with the
rest of Hanover, knew where the State's authority lay. Not the who, but
the what and the how was his concern; and though he would have knocked
the Mayor on the head without scruple if a warrant to do so had lain in
his pocket, he would have suffered in conscience had he used a truncheon
for that purpose where the document stipulated a sword.

He went now to the kitchen quarters of Monplaisir, and found Ilse
preparing for flight. She implored, she clung; but he had his orders, and
knew what to do with her. A horse with a pillion was ready, and on this,
with her arms about her captor's waist in ironic simulation of a domestic
journey, Ilse travelled to the Spinning House, where prostitutes sat all
day weaving. Here for three days she sat despairing, until the warrant
under which she was committed, signed by the officer from Monplaisir,
countersigned by the keeper of the bridewell, and embodied in a report,
reached the table of the functionary in whose hands lay the maintenance
of public order, the Prime Minister, Count von Platen. He stared, knew
his wife's hand, and did not care for the look of the business at all.
His wife's writ might run, but from the Duke came the authority, his name
should license all such official goings and comings; if it did not, then
his authority was worth nothing, and his power might dwindle down by
delegation from Clara to her secretary, from her secretary to her cook.

With diffidence Platen, now a Count and indispensable, put the paper
before the eyes of his master at their conference. The Duke took it,
searching for his spectacles, and testily asking, "What's this, eh?" But
when he had read it he sat back, angrily blowing out his thick lips with
little explosive sounds, and thrumming on the table. Even he saw the

"A mistake," said he at last to the silently attentive Prime Minister.
"Have the girl out." Count Platen asked no questions, and beckoned to a
secretary to take dictation. Inwardly he was tremulous, thinking that
this time Clara, for all her sense of a situation, had gone too far.

Ilse, released without condition or explanation, could think of no place
save one where she would be safe. An hour later she was in tears before
Sophia-Dorothea at the Old Palace. The Princess of Hanover, cheeks
tinging with indignation, heart labouring at the thought of wrongs so
picturesque, entered the fray with a will. For a week there were
indignant cabals in her rooms, where loyal ladies twittered against
Countess Platen, and Ilse retold her story; which, by reason of the
reticence necessary to be observed concerning the conduct of the Duke,
had become motiveless, hence even more barbarous. The young princes,
George-Louis' brothers, came in to chatter of the iniquity, and to spread
it. They detested Clara von Platen, on whose account their father kept
them short of money. Monplaisir was outer darkness, the Old Palace was
the abode of all true charity and love.

Into this fluttering consciousness of being right, of tattle justified by
its subject-matter, and grievances out for an airing, stalked
George-Louis, one afternoon. He took no part in the politics of his
family and household, disliked his brothers, and had not much kindness
for his wife's enthusiasms, so that his entrance caused astonishment not
free from apprehension. He accepted a cup of chocolate, listened to the
voices, and at last said:

"If you take my advice you'll send this girl off."

"What?" None of the ladies could believe her ears. Their afflicted one,
their delightful wounded dove who so piteously allowed them to tend her,
to be thrust out upon the world again! He gave his reasons, addressing
his wife:

"My father doesn't like it."

"But--" All the ladies looked at each other, remembering that first
version of the story now become unofficial, and the Duke-Bishop's part in

"He don't care she should snap her fingers at Countess Platen." That name
all the ladies echoed in varying degrees of scorn. He talked above their
lisping, like a trumpet sounding over reeds. "And I don't think myself
it's the right thing. You're making an enemy for yourself--" he spoke to
Sophia-Dorothea, "--you mayn't care for that, but a fact's a fact."

That Countess von Platen was, while the Duke-Bishop lasted, Hanover's
sovereign; that she loved a fight, and that, Sophia-Dorothea was no match
for her--there were the facts that were facts. He did not name them, but
the imagination of his wife ranked them at once in order. She was angry,
unreasonably and at once.

"I shall keep Ilse here while I please. She is my servant. I don't
interfere with your grooms."

"I don't pick grooms out of the town gaol. Look at it from the girl's
point of view. It's going to mean trouble for her."

"She's here with me, she's under my protection. I suppose my house--your
house--" she dipped to him--"may be thought safe."

"I won't have her in my house."

That was what he had come to say; having said it he abruptly put down his
chocolate-cup and went. Sophia-Dorothea stood tapping her foot,
malevolently fixing with her eyes the door that had clapped to behind
him. He would not even pay her the compliment of sustaining her judgment
in public; he forbade all her chivalries, the little gusts of humanity
blowing in from some warmer world than his. Frau Busche, her imagination
assured her, was behind it all; Frau Busche, the Platen's sister,
machinating from a distance, powerful still after four years of exile.
She shrugged, feeling the ladies' eyes on her, and tossed up her hands as
if she threw into the air sprigs of some disinfecting herb.

"The girl shall go to my mother."

How wise, acclaimed the ladies, how uncontroversial! The very place, and
Duchess Eléonore the very woman! Sophia-Dorothea frowned while they
applauded, perceiving that even this departure was a victory for
Monplaisir. Clara von Platen's will still prevailed, filtering through
the Duke-Bishop to his son, through George-Louis to his wife, driving the
woman out of Hanover. No matter how the thing was frilled and ornamented,
Clara von Platen had decreed that Ilse was to go, and Ilse was going.

Sophia-Dorothea and her confidants were all mentally of an age when to
cock a snook at the victor takes the sting from defeat. They planned for
a day or two, giggled, were busy in a mysterious manner, gave secret
orders; and two days later a coach drove to the door of the Old Palace at
the hour of Sophia-Dorothea's usual outing. But it was not she who
stepped into it. Down the steps alone, to the astonishment of watching
idlers, came a young woman in a neat servant's dress and shoes with a
bundle or two packed up in linen, just like any farmer's daughter going
home from market. This young person timidly stepped into the gilded
pumpkin, the door was closed upon her by a footman in the state livery,
and off she went, slowly but very magnificently behind four horses, out
of Hanover.

This was the best Sophia-Dorothea could do in the way of defiance. She
was well scolded for it by George-Louis, on the grounds that twenty miles
with that carriage behind them was too much for the horses, and by her
mother-in-law, who, observing her to ignore the Countess's curtsey that
evening with a great pretence of preoccupation, said half a dozen words
in her ear.

"I think you do not see the Prime Minister's wife. No airs, if you

She obeyed, with an underlip stuck out until it looked like some little
red fruit, and said a stiff word or two. Clara von Platen, perfectly
informed of the afternoon's doings, said jovially:

"I'm glad, Serene Highness, that you have got rid at last of that Ilse of

"What's this, Countess?" That was Ernest Augustus, suspicious at sight of
the two women talking.

"Serene Highness, I am congratulating the Princess of Hanover on her good
judgment. You would not recollect; but a silly servant of mine, whom I
dismissed for impertinence a week ago, took herself and her lies to the
Princess, who would have nothing to do with her, and this very afternoon
packed her off."

"In my own chariot," said Sophia-Dorothea, coldly as she could, but
bewildered; had Platen not heard, then, of the state departure?

The Countess wagged a respectful finger at her.

"Cruel, cruel, Serene Highness! The girl did not deserve to be made a
laughing-stock. I hear that when the people ran after the carriage,
hoping for a sight of you, and found her cocked up inside in her duffle
cloak, they gave her some rough music. No, no, she did not deserve that."

And once again, by keeping her temper and a good look-out the Platen won.
She held all the cards, always. She had no softness where she could be
struck. She was invulnerable, invincible. Her good-humour masked her, and
kept insult away, as surely as did Duchess Sophia's disillusion and
withdrawal. Her enemies were young; she grinned down on their manoeuvres
like a man stirring a litter of puppies with his foot, driving them to
ecstasies of silliness. Let one more incident illustrate her quality.

Prince Maximilian, ranging about his mother's room during a rating,
pulled down one of her books and looked into it idly. It was not for once
a theological work, but a compilation wherein somebody had set down
remedies and tests, odd recipes, an alchemical experiment, and a charm or
two. "An Electuary Queen Mary was wont to take for the passion of the
hart. Take damaske roses half blowne out--" He flipped the pages over,
with his forefinger setting up a little crackling defence against his
mother's steady voice. "To make a bath for Melancholy--" "of Emrodes or
Piles--" "Mirabolanorum--" "uskabaugh--" "For a madd or franticke person
" He checked the scurry of the pages, looking down intently upon a short
paragraph, reading, chuckling all of a sudden. His mother had heard that
chuckle before, from men reading the _Cabinet Saryrique, the
Bigarrures_, grubby stuff of the kind; and she was for an instant
surprised that any book from her shelves could excite it. Imperiously she
put out her hand for the book, which Max with a very innocent look gave
her at once. She turned it over, wondering.

"My old nurse Joan's medicine book--"

"Mother, can I have it?"

This request astonished Duchess Sophia completely. While she sat in
silence, her son went on:

"I'd rather have it than twenty thalers. Mother, do give it to me."

"Would you? Rather than twenty thalers?"

Duchess Sophia took from the drawer of her desk a little purse, and held
it upon one palm towards him, the book lying flat on the other. Without
hesitation he chose the book, and was off, after a rudimentary bow,
before she could recover her wits. She suspected mischief, but since the
book in her recollection contained nothing but receipts, including some
that a very young man might find amusing, she let the incident pass.

Cabals began again in Sophia-Dorothea's rooms. The tittering was
incessant, and stopped guiltily whenever George-Louis showed his nose.
There was borrowing of saucepans from the kitchens, expeditions incognito
by ladies to market, and at last, sole result of all these, a phial of
greenish liquor like water that peas have been long boiled in.
Sophia-Dorothea, Max and Gustchen contemplated this phial with such an
uplifting of spirit as might touch more pious persons at the sight of St.
Januarius's liquefying blood, and went about their daily business with
understanding glances, and gestures that indicated a shared secret. Nurse
Joan's book was demurely returned.

All this time preparations for a vast banquet were stirring in the
_Leine Schloss_, the parental palace within the town. Every now and
then these upheavals occurred, when all those entitled to do so would
attend in their best clothes to watch the royalties dine; they were
occasions of the utmost publicity and grandeur, tailor's harvest, cook's
despair, and an ever-recurring chance for climbers. The reigning family's
task was to put on its jewels and to eat, with what dignity the process
of mastication allowed, through a dozen dishes or so. Each course was
blown in by trumpets. Fiddles rasped continuously in the gallery above
the dais. There was little or no conversation. It was a spectacle, to the
tune of tan-tan-tara.

To the sacred board mortals of high standing were sometimes admitted,
generals, visiting princelings, the officers of state and their wives. On
this occasion the Prime Minister and his wife were so privileged. They
looked alien despite the Countess's diamonds, not through any want of
decorum or oddity of dress, but simply lacking the heavy lips, broad
noses, and round dog-like foreheads of the ruling house, whose princes
sat ranked about their parents like small change for two heavy and
valuable coins. Sophia-Dorothea too had nothing of that ducal heaviness;
her dark eyes darted, her hands fluttered like a pair of pennons in a
breeze, she chattered and ate nothing.

The end of the meal was approaching, footmen were bringing bowls of
rose-water for the hands, a pretty and ancient custom which the
Duke-Bishop held to, perhaps with some recollection of the q_uod ore
sumpsimus_ of his Catholic predecessors. Prince Max, sitting by
Countess Platen, fumbled in the wide skirt-pocket of his coat and brought
out a child's toy, a squirt which he aimed like a gun, squinting along
it, at his neighbour. The Countess laughed.

"A new scent, Serene Highness? Has one of your pretty ladies been

"Will you try her complexion wash?" Max answered, with dangerous

"Perhaps I will," the Countess agreed cheerfully. "What's it good for?"

"Paint," said Max, and pushed home the plunger of the squirt. Greenish
cloudy water streamed down Clara von Platen's cheek, discolouring as it
went, gathering up the rouge and powder until the drops that reached her
shoulders were muddy. She put up a napkin to her face with a short sound
like an oath, and took it away stained. Max was grinning, Sophia-Dorothea
three seats away had her handkerchief over her mouth, the attention of
the whole audience was concentrated upon this horseplay at the Olympian
table. Only the strains of the untiring band saved the Countess from
hearing their comments and their laughter. She had two seconds for
thought while the napkin covered her eyes. When it dropped she was shown
laughing, her big pointed teeth all bared, her breasts shaking; no
shrillness in it; a genuine great hostler's laugh. Then she picked up a
roll of bread from the pile near her, sprinkled salt over it, and
scrubbed her smeared cheek with it; illustrating upon her person the old
proverb every one of them had heard at meals as a child. Real colour lay
on her cheek-bones now, with a patch where the crust of the loaf had
scraped her, and with a bow she took a bite from her roll towards Max, as
though she ate his health.

"Salt and bread, Make the cheeks red," said Countess Platen, high above
the fiddles.

And she sat there for the rest of the time that the ducal party kept its
seats, one cheek raddled, mocking herself so that no one might mock her,
ruler of the situation, victor over the attacking infants, good-humoured,

Not so Ernest Augustus. He had seen the outrage, and was half out of his
chair when Clara Platen's gesture saved him from open intervention and
scandal. He sat back, controlled his frown to some slight degree, from
thunderous to stormy, and waited. When the procession had made its way
down the appointed lane of bowing and curtseying coats and dresses, and
the doors had been clapped to upon the family, he stood still as a bull
before the charge and roared out the one word, "Max!"

Two women answered the roar; Duchess Sophia would fight for her boys
whatever their proved enormities, Sophia-Dorothea would not let this
young brother take all the blame.

"Not to-night," said Duchess Sophia, a hand on the Duke's arm.

"Grandpapa--" began Sophia-Dorothea, using the name he liked when her
children played with him.

Ernest Augustus, lowering his head, brought down a foot heavily to the
floor, a stamp of command and fury, and repeated the one word. Max
obeyed, swaggering, the subsequent gesture that ordered him to fall in at
his father's heels, and they stalked from the startled group of relatives
whose eyes followed them down the endless corridor. When the pair had
gone fifty paces Sophia-Dorothea, with something like a sob, picked up
her skirts to be after them. George-Louis caught her arm, and swung her
back so roughly that she stumbled. He said nothing, held her up with a
jerk, and continued to hold her. She faced him.

"Let me go. What will he do to Max?"

"I don't care if he shoots him--skylarking fool!"

"He'd better shoot mc, then. I cooked the peas." At that, recollection of
the fun of the whole silly plot made her smile; George-Louis, seeing it,
gave her arm a shake, and said gruffly:

"Nice work for a Princess of Hanover."

"Nicer work than counting up my husband's mistresses on my fingers."

"You say that, you, with Max in your pocket!"


That was Duchess Sophia, cutting the quarrel in two with a pair of steely
syllables. George-Louis let his wife go, looked at his mother, bowed, and
offered Sophia-Dorothea his arm for departure. They took official leave
of the family and went towards their own carriage, which waited at the
door. The servants, ranged at ten-foot intervals down the corridor, each
holding a large candle cased in brass, had remained expressionless
throughout the entire altercation.

Duchess Sophia went with grave majestic pace to her own apartments; there
she dismissed her lady-in-waiting before she sighed and sat, one hand
tapping. Not even theology could help this trouble of spirit; love for
her sons was the only unreasoning emotion of her life, and it set her
imagination exploring unfamiliar regions, wandering, as the English
doctor Browne had it, in the Americas and untravelled parts of truth.
When they went off to war she fretted, had frequent unsightly dreams, and
wrote them cheerful, even slangy letters; when they spent stupidly she
rated them and paid up. She knew her own weakness in this matter, but it
was one she could not bring herself to discipline. The passion in her was
not spent, and she dreaded lest, if she were to put her sons from her,
she might be brought to the more terrible extragavance of loving God.

Next morning an ill-folded note reached her.

"My father has blown me sky-high; he says I'm to go to the military
prison. Mother, for God's sake! It was only a joke, and the _Grafin_
herself was the first to laugh at it. Make him see reason. If I'm to be
shut up for nothing, next time I'll make it something worth while."

Sophia-Dorothea too had her scribbled message.

"Sisterkin, look here, keep out of this. Don't go near my father, he's
savage just at the moment. I shall be all right, and it was worth it,
anyhow. Did you see her all mottled? Now, promise me!"

Sophia-Dorothea saw through this at once, knew that Max was in bad
trouble, and went without ceremony to her father-in-law. He was pleasant
to her as a rule; she looked charming, she brought money into the family,
she had provided an heir. But this morning he had already had speech with
his wife, and though his temper was not so high as when he had roared for
Max in the corridor, his obstinacy was putting down roots. He had refused
Duchess Sophia's entreaties, made with a bluntness that covered badly her
angry distaste for the task. Unconquerable affection brought her to it;
pride forbade success. Ernest Augustus respected his wife, and his brief
refusal to argue the case was due to a dislike that she should be
involved in any affair that concerned his mistress. He was impatiently
walking about after this interview when the Princess of Hanover was upon

"Grandpapa Duke, where's Max?"

"I cannot have argument about Max's matter, and I cannot have questions."

"I won't argue, I won't ask. I only want to tell you it said in the book
that if you boiled peas and bathed your face in the water it would
dissolve all impurities. Countess Platen's face has impurities an inch
thick all over it, and we thought--"

"Go back to your husband, and tell him from me to keep you in better
order. My own wife, a Princess of England and Bohemia, has never lent
herself to any criticism of me."

"It's because we all love you so that we can't bear jumped-up people
making you look nobody."

The Duke-Bishop at that fairly laid hands on her, not with his usual
unctuousness, but soldierly, and turned her out of the room, squealing.

It was Clara von Platen whose intervention at last released Max from the
fear of common imprisonment. She had pondered the incident, knew herself
to have had the best of it, knew too that a favour from her would humble
the boy more completely than a month under lock and key. She stood over
Ernest Augustus, laughing him out of his ill-humour, joking at her own
appearance; and at last brought an argument out of his own armoury to

"You can't afford to have these younger boys of yours too discontented.
They don't know yet about the will."

"Nobody knows of it. Nobody would tell them."

"The birds of the air carry such things. Keep your sons quiet, don't make
martyrs of them."

This was good advice, and Ernest Augustus knew it. He was in the running
for an Electorate if he could keep his territory together, and prevent it
being split up among five sons according to the usual German practice.
Primogeniture--all to the eldest; that was the operative word of the
will. He grumbled a little; Countess Platen, certain of success, patted
his shoulder and cheek--a rare thing for her, who cared neither to give
nor to take such minor caresses--and dictated the letter which, like a
genie's hand, should pluck away the sentry from before Max's bedroom
door. By midday Max was free and sulky; by four o'clock the story of
Countess Platen's intervention was all over the court, by night all over
the town; and while men reconsidered their estimate of her, women said to
each other:

"_Listig!_* She throws the little fish back."

[* Artful!]


When Countess Platen was at the top of her power, Sophia-Dorothea
impotent save to inflict petty slights, her husband beginning to be
occupied with Frau Busche's successor, the tall corn-coloured
Schulenburg; about this time a rich young man, Count Philip-Christopher
Königsmark, came into Hanover with a train of twenty-nine servants and
twice that number of horses; looked about him, was pleased with the town,
and took a vast overhanging old house near the Leine Schloss, which he
immediately filled with good company. Every sovereign in Europe knew the
Königsmark. Christopher-John, his grandfather, burned Prague, and
practised astrology. Otho-William, his uncle, blew up the Parthenon.
Charles-John, his brother, fought with the Knights of Malta against
Barbary pirates; took a galley single-handed, swarming up a rope in full
armour; survived the blowing up of his vessel to fight in Italy;
travelled France with a female page (seen by Charlotte-Elizabeth
d'Orléans, who sent her aunt a spiteful account of this attendant's
accouchement at an inn); visited Spain, Holland and England, in which
last country he ordered an assassination and ran off with an heiress;
fought for Louis XIV at Courtrai, and was wounded; fought in Catalonia;
fought in Argos; and died, aged twenty-six, of a fever in the Morea.
Philip-Christopher was only so much of a soldier as his blood made
inevitable. He fought a little in Hungary, enough to appease the
hereditary need, and then, with his dead brother's villages and money
tumbling into his hands, discovered more amusing ways of spending them.
Like all his people, he was a wanderer; England knew him, and he had
fought a duel or two in Holland and Venice, where the ladies were kind.
But the English looked down on all nobility save their own, and his
brother's trial for murder, even though he was found not guilty, had made
something of a stench; the Dutch were uninteresting, the Venetians'
eternal carnival offered too little variety in pleasure. He set off
across Europe, remembered perhaps that he had played in the gardens of
Zelle as a child, and halted at Hanover. His sisters joined him there,
lovely creatures both, the one married to a nobleman of Sweden, the other
unattached, but with a wandering eye for suitable princes. The family
began without delay to make friends.

Monplaisir claimed him first. Through Monplaisir all visiting foreigners
passed, there to be sieved into their degrees, approved or sped. Countess
Platen's shrewd eye could judge more truly than all her husband's police
whether a stranger would prove useful or troublesome to the State. She
had, besides, a good rough-and-ready touchstone. A certain quickness and
discipline of the mind, or its lack, is revealed by the demeanour of a
man across a green table; and she was accustomed to tell the Duke when he
grumbled, paying her losses at cards, that thus she obtained, for
trifling sums and in a short time, information that no bribe could have

She planned, accordingly, such a test for Königsmark-; filled her great
comfortable rooms one evening with young men--no women, for these
distracted attention from the cards, and spoilt sport in some directions
while they made it in others. The Duke was there, but informally; there
were no presentations. He cast his eye over the new candidate for
allegiance, liked his looks well enough, but temporised and was pettish
when Countess Platen spoke of a commission in the Hanoverian army.

"You know I don't care for foreigners. Why can't his own king give him a

"Serene Highness, if we all kept to our own quarrels, there'd be an end
of glory." English William was angling for the Duke's support, and this
shot went home. "Besides, I don't say give him a regiment. He's got money."

"That's another matter. Of course, if he's willing to pay--" The Duke
turned up his eyes to hers with sudden intentness. "What's your interest
in him?"

She shrugged her wide shoulders, and gave him the truth.

"I like pretty young men. And I don't like to see good gold go out of
Hanover. Keep him here, let him spend. You tax his tradesmen, and at the
end of it all one or two pieces fall into my pocket."

The Duke laughed at that. It was an explanation that he could understand.
She took instant advantage of this better humour.

"He's not altogether a stranger. Your brother Zelle knows him. He ran
about the gardens there with the Princess when the pair of them were
children. And it's a great family. A prince may think himself of
consequence when one of the Königsmark offers him his sword."

The Duke yielded. He was in no mood for argument, dreading the onset of
an attack of gout, for which Duchess Sophia, whom he trusted in such
matters, had prescribed early hours and one of her comprehensive English
possets. At midnight, therefore, meekly, he took leave and departed for
Hanover in a pumpkin coach over which clambered and clung numberless
footmen in black. The Countess watched the lights of it sway down her
avenue, then returned quickly to her gaming-room and the business of the
evening. Königsmark was standing with three other young men, their game
ended. He was talking, helping out his bad German with thick gestures and
nods of the head. His brown hair fell over his eyes; he brushed it away
with a hand fine as a woman's, and snapped the fingers twice to emphasise
the point of some story he was telling. The face was that of a pretty
young man, yet a fighter; there was something of the burning of Prague,
something of the Parthenon blown sky-high, in the cut of the mouth. A
young man accustomed to please everybody, including himself; having
courage, certainly; but discretion? quick wits? The Countess beckoned
him. Answers to these the game of Cinq-Cents would show.

They cut for deal, having sorted the cards. The Countess won, dealt; and
turned up seven for the trump, an immediate score of ten points.

"This won't last," she warned her opponent.

"I hope it may not," said he, in his odd mixture of German eked out with
French, "for that would mean you were unlucky in love."

"One person's bad luck is another's good."

He did not answer that, except with a smile, and they began their play.
It became evident, after a few cards were cut, what was the object of
each. The Countess was out for the highest score of all, a sequence of
the five top trumps, towards which she had already the king and queen, a
royal marriage.

Not so Königsmark, who, drawing the knave of diamonds at the second
trick, neglected all other combinations in hope of the queen of spades.
They drew, declared, laid cards down. The talon, the stock, and his
chances declined together. Countess Platen, with some notion of what he
was attempting, and the queen he needed safe in her own hand, held up
play for a moment.

"We've settled no stake. Shall we bet now, on these last eight tricks, or
let the game go for love?"

"Love," said he, with a boy's sudden grin. "There's plenty of time for

She nodded agreement, and the cards began to fall. She won easily;
Königsmark had taken no precautions, intent upon his single hope. She
gathered the cards again and scolded him.

"Do you play so recklessly always?"

"It depends on the stakes. Sometimes a man would rather lose than win."

This was said very lightly, as a compliment; no more. They played again,
and again he lost. She was taking his measure as she trumped his tricks.
A gentleman; rash, but no fool; his weakness, self-satisfaction; able to
take well a beating at cards, where vanity may soothe itself with, Luck
is against me, but not a beating at chess, where it is one mind and one
vigilance against another, with no luck to take the blame for defeat.
While she summed his qualities she added the points in her head, as in
this game it is necessary to do; came to a conclusion, smiled, and
knocked gently with her knuckles on the tables, the sign that she had
reached five hundred, victory. Königsmark's under-lip stuck out for an
instant; he too was reckoning, without counters or reminders of the
score, what each of them had won, and the lady, by his count, was fifteen
short of her five hundred. It was so in fact. Countess Platen knew it,
and watched to see if he would let the cheat go or challenge it. But he
had never taken a woman seriously in his life, and the lip protruded for
no more than a second or two. Women always cheated at games, he found.
They liked winning. They had only these small hazards to set against the
great chances open to men of life and death.

He smiled, and pulled out his purse.

There was supper, with a good deal of wine, after the main business of
play stopped. The young man drank, sang, argued, and took no notice of a
great sun-shaped clock. Königsmark had learned in half a dozen countries
how to drink; he had _le vin gai_; he stood on a table and gave them
a song, an English song wherein constancy was mocked:

"From Love our fetters never sprung,
That smiling God, all wanton gay and young,
Shows by his wings he cannot be
Confined to a restless slavery--"

His memory failed, and he finished off with a light swift rhythm of toe
and heel on the table, an exquisite test of sobriety and balance. In a
moment glasses filled to the brim with wine were set in a pattern, and
still he danced among them, spilling no drop, to the tune of their
clapped hands and whistling. His brown hair danced on his shoulders, he
was drunk and flushed and very young. Countess Platen, while her mouth
laughed, eyed him steadily. When he leapt off the table, making way for a
clodhopping ensign of the Brunswickers, she took his arm in her casual
friendly fashion and led him away with her, talking, to a big room hung
with red, cool, with some scented tree or other blossoming outside its
open windows whose fragrance the faint breeze carried within. The quiet
came upon his senses almost like a blow, and for the first time his sure
feet faltered.

"Are you sober enough to listen to a State matter?" Clara von Platen
asked. "Sit there. I've news for you."

"It's an odd thing that while you keep drinking you're not drunk, or if
you are you don't know it. But the moment you stop, and try something
different, something sensible, your legs start playing the fool."

He uttered this profundity owlishly, beating time to its cadences with a
hand that sometimes overdid the gesture. One such miscalculation caused
his fingers to strike the strong bared arm of his hostess. She did not
withdraw, but caught the hand, and said, holding it quiet:

"Listen. Do you want to stay in Hanover? Do you want to serve? We have
plenty good little wars; soon, perhaps a big one, if the Duke makes
up his mind to hold with Orange against the French."

"War's a fool's game," the young man responded with sudden vivacity, "the
way these leaders play it. Winter quarters, and damned uncomfortable at
that, five months of the year; manoeuvres and sieges the rest of the
time. Nobody fights a battle now. It's a lost art, battles. If I had my
way I'd equip a mobile force, and carry my food with me, and strike in
the winter. That's the time. Only these dukes and such won't see it--"

"Listen. The Duke will let you have a regiment to play with."

"Will he?" Enthusiasm lighted. "You're a sensible woman, Countess. Not
offended at my saying that? Well now, as a sensible woman you must know
that everything ought to begin at the beginning. You'll agree to that?"

She agreed; and gently began to finger the hand she still held, exploring
the palm, hot and dry.

"What's the beginning of a soldier? Birth; that's where he begins. And
how are you to get soldiers born? Nobody has enough soldiers. You want to
make it worth a woman's while to propagate; so my suggestion is that you
ought to put a tax on whores--public whores, that is, because they're
sterile--and give the money to every woman that has a child. More for a
boy and less for a girl. That's my idea. But do you think one of these
dukes or kings will look at it?" He suddenly became aware of her fingers,
stroking, skilfully soothing his arm to which they had access by the wide

"What's that you're doing? I like it."

"Do you?"

"When I said 'whores,' I meant no offence."

"I'm sure of that." She laughed, not her guffaw, but a deep animal
chuckle, and pulled him sideways and down.

"Countess, look here, this is a bed we're on."

"Is it?"

"Well, if you don't mind--"

"I don't mind."

The drunken young men in the distant room were dropping off to sleep one
by one, not comfortably, for they had broken a good deal of glass, which
made the floor unacceptable as a place to lie. The ensign who had
succeeded Königsmark on the table was the last to succumb; he supposed
himself by now to be in some kind of inn, and had forgotten where his
room lay. He surveyed his companions with contempt, picked up a
two-branched candlestick in which the candles, though they guttered,
still remained alight, and set out down the corridor to discover his
room. Servants tried to intercept him, but they were drowsy too by now,
and sullen at thought of rooms to be cleared up, after the guests had had
their sleep out. He rebuffed all offers to guide him, waving the candles
so that wax flecked the walls, and they let him go. He found a
providential privy; but reminding himself, after a period of meditation,
that a gentleman and a soldier could not, for the dignity of the service,
sleep in such a place, with a sigh he moved on. One candle by this time
was done for, the other dying. He found a door, and blundered through it,
holding his light high. A great bed hung with red confronted him, out of
whose drawn curtains a man's leg hung, the foot still in a shoe. It
seemed to the ensign that he had never seen a more degrading spectacle.
He approached, and tugged at the shoe. A snore stopped half-way, and the
leg gave an impatient jerk upwards. The ensign drew the curtain to
remonstrate, and saw that though the owner of the shoe was fully dressed
his companion was not; she lay on her back, a sheet halt over her,
displaying curves. The ensign felt mmeasurable embarrassment at his own
intrusion. He met the Opening eyes of the lady with an imploring glance,
a glance that begged indulgence, inspiration--How to reassure her? How to
make naught his discovery? How to bring the situation back to morality?
He thought; a smile dawned. With a bow, withdrawing his eye from the
curves, he made his peace-offering:

"Your pardon--gentlemen."

And reached the door before the last candle went out.


In this manner Königsmark was offered, and accepted, a commission in the
Duke of Hanover's guards, to be colonel in place of George-Louis, moving
ever upwards, with the full weight of family pressure behind him, towards
marshaldom. The Court was open to him, his duty took him to both palaces,
where he made the regulation number of bows, the regulation conversation,
and escaped as soon as he could to the informalities of Monplaisir or his
own tall house near the _Alte Palais_. The promised war against the
Turks took him soon enough to the Morea, where already some ten thousand
of the Emperor's forces had died of malaria, to the greater glory of God.
He fought in the skirmish where Prince Charles of Hanover died, and six
months later came back with a cap and a pistol that had belonged to the
boy, poor relics, all that could be saved for a memory of him. He had
audience of Duchess Sophia for their delivery, and found himself, when
the door opened and the ladies-in-waiting rustled to attention, looking
into the eyes of a very tired old woman. She did not sit, however, but
held herself upright, now and then fingering the cap as it lay on her
table. He told the story, a pitiful one of useless gallantry. Duchess
Sophia heard him to the end without comment. Then, after a moment's
silence, with an effort she said: "I should be glad to know that he
received my letters."

Königsmark remembered the boy's petulance--"my mother's pen must be
growing to her fingers"--his greed for money, his anger when the packets
from Hanover contained none.

"He carried them about his person, Madam."

The poor letters, torn to scraps, twisted to make pipe spills! But when
he saw her face he was glad of the lie. "I am obliged to you, Count
Königsmark. I am happy to think my son had so good a friend by him."

"Madam," said he impulsively, and picked up the lace of her sleeve to
kiss it, "I loved him too."

And though that was true, the tears that lay in his eyes as he lifted
them were not for Charles, but for her. Duchess Sophia was moved; she put
a hand on his bent head, and said in a voice grown strangely thin:

"You have a look of my brother Rupert, when he was young. The good God
give us peace in our time." A pause. "If you could find it convenient to
speak with my daughter the Princess I know she would gladly hear you. She
and my son were friends."

Königsmark, for all the sad tale he was to tell, changed his dark coat
before he went to the Princess. She was young, and had, when she could
put off formality, a delicious foolishness that pleased him. She had an
eye for anything new that was quick as a child's.

He put on a coat of murrey brown with his best lace, and went on foot the
few paces to her palace. The major-domo was doubtful; her Serene Highness
was in the garden with their Serene Highnesses--George and Sophy, the
children. There was also with her, the functionary believed, a number of
ladies. He would, however, advise her Serene Highness; and ushering the
Colonel of Guards into a little ante-room that gave upon the terrace,
made his way into the air. It was thundery. As the major-domo's white
stockings reached the top of the steps, impetuous drenching summer rain
began to fall. Königsmark heard a rattle of it on the windows and turned
from his contemplation of some bulged Brunswick portrait or other to look
out. He saw with amusement a bevy of ladies running towards shelter, the
starch of their _fontanges_ already wilting, dresses beginning to
cling to their arms. The Princess gave her children each one a hand and
pattered along as fast as they did, laughing with them, all three faces
held up to catch the raindrops. They came thus to the steps and were lost
to sight. He waited for the damp heads to come bobbing up. Nothing
appeared, but, dulled by the glass, a loud wail reached him. Rain came in
swathes and thickened the windows. Still at the terrace level no heads
showed. Königsmark, with a shrug of his too fine shoulders, pulled open
the door to the terrace, and ran out, to discover a group on the steps
reasoning, drenched, with a roaring child. The boy George held his
mother's hand; it was Sophy who lay bawling with a bleeding knee,
refusing to rise, refusing to be left. The Princess made to lift her with
one free hand; the leaden child was transmuted, and kicked. Seven ladies
respectfullydeferred their own escape to shelter, but offered no help of
any kind, save one, who held up a silver box of comfits as though luring
a dog. The whole party was involved in one of those dilemmas that
constantly beset Court personages; etiquette held them helpless in its
fine web; not one of these ladies was fitted by her status to cope with
the tantrums of a refractory Highness; none but a Duchess might lift her,
or her peasant nurse.

The Colonel of Guards, a foreigner, walked through the web without
hesitation or apology. He picked up the small girl in one hand, tucked
the boy under the other arm, and went up the steps two at a time in a
whirl of kicking legs. The group followed, relieved but scandalised, in
time to hear an unorthodox dialogue between Princess and rescuer.

"Oh, your coat!" It was velvet, by now hopelessly spotted. "Sophy, bad
child, look at the Count's coat."

"History repeats itself."

Her face changed. "At home, you mean? At Zelle? That time when I wouldn't
obey Mamma--"

"You kicked me."

"To be picked up like that--I hated you. A great strong boy--"

The children, delighted at this foreshadowing of their own misdeeds,
began to jump and clap.

"Mamma, why did you kick him? Mamma, what did he do?" Sophia-Dorothea
with an effort returned to decorum.

"Thank Count Königsmark for his goodness, children." They restrained
themselves at the tone, made a leg and a dip. "And come with me to
change your dresses. We are obliged to the Count."

She gave a hand to each child. The ladies saluted after their manner,
exchanging glances, looking forward to the moment when they could be left
alone. Their cup of chatter was, however, not yet full. Königsmark had
not done with the Princess. He walked beside her in a friendly manner and
the prick-eared ladies heard, before the door was closed by the
major-domo: "I have a message--"

Message from whom? What message? The ladies flew together, and their
tongues rattled questions, conjectures, fantasies. Königsmark waited
meanwhile in the Princess's own writing-room, talking with Eléonore
Knesebeck while Sophia-Dorothea changed her wet muslins. It was a pretty
room, of a comfort more common in England than Germany, yet with some
touch of France. Carpets lay on the floor instead of across tables. There
was a pretty brass clock, where a manikin with an arrow struck the hour.
In china vases here and there fresh flowers stood. On one wall hung a
painting of the Princess Nausicaa naked, playing ball by the sea with her
women. This room a mirror reflected, rounding it, dwindling Nausicaa's
white body, the flowers, the gay strokes of colour in the carpets to a
mere pattern of light. Königsmark surveyed it with a sense of pleasure
not at first to be identified, unreasoning, as a man in summer will hold
out his hands to a fire, and said what came first into his head:

"This has a look of her."

Knesebeck could make nothing of such a remark. To her a room was a room,
and a handsome colonel one's own lover or somebody else's. She giggled,
however, and asked the warrior a question which had long been provoking

"Do the Turks carry their concubines with them to war on the backs of

"They leave the concubines at home, for these arc expensive and not used
to fatigue. Honest women in Turkey are cheap, easily replaced, and
therefore it is their wives that the Turks carry about among the

Knesebeck was off into immediate and immoderate laughter at that, and it
was to the tune of her tinkle that Sophia-Dorothea entered. She had
repented of her impulsiveness, knowing that in an hour it would be all
over the Court, and was resolved to preserve dignity. She said,

"Count Königsmark comes to give us news of the death of Prince Charles, I

Knesebeck checked, nipped her lower lip with her teeth, and withdrew her
head between her shoulders, looking comically penitent. The Princess sat
on a tall caned chair. Königsmark stood before her, the spotted velvet of
his sleeves silently reminding them both of indiscretion, and said
nothing. The Princess, prepared with composure to listen or to speak,
found herself unready for this silent exchange. Dignity ebbed for an
instant; she beat with her foot on the floor.

"Well. Well. You have something to tell me, I think."

"I waited for your Serene Highness to address me." Königsmark knew the
game of Courts, and played it deliberately to tease her.

"Be good enough to proceed."

He told the story, forced by the strange language to a simplicity which
made it poignant. The cavalry of Hanover rode among Albanian hills,
singing; a whistle sounded, high among the rocks on their left; at once
soldiers in white came tumbling downhill on small sure horses; curved
blades swung against straight ones, there was a long high yelling;
Charles, hurt, and weighted by heavy armour, toppled from his mount; a
man in a red high cap picked him up and slung him over his saddle; the
raiders gathered to a trumpet sound, and were off, scrambling among the
rocks, whence puffs of smoke warned the pursuers not to follow.

Sophia-Dorothea listened, her spine stiff against the chair-back, her
hands still. But Charles had been her friend, gay, troublesome, her one
ally since Max was in disgrace, and she could not without distress think
of him bleeding across an enemy saddle. Tears pricked her eyes.

"Dead? Is it sure?"

Königsmark saw no reason here for lies; he had, suddenly, the wish to
hurt her.

"Quite sure, Madam. His neck was cut half through."

She dropped her eyes. As unreasonably as he had wished to hurt, now he
longed to console; with this went a pang of anger against the dead
Charles, surprising in its sharpness.

"I'm sorry, Madam, with all my heart. He spoke of you often."

How? She wanted to ask him. Königsmark remained silent. At last she put
the question, asked the favour, childishly, her hand at her throat:

"It would give me pleasure to hear his Serene Highness's words, if they
were not spoken in confidence."

"He said," Königsmark answered, looking at her directly, "that with you
he could laugh; that you were kind, always his defender."

"Was that all?"

"He said," Königsmark began, and halted. But the high air of false
serenity must be troubled somehow. A girl he had picked, squealing, out
of the fountain at Zelle! "Prince Charles said that his elder brother had
all the luck, and did all the growling, like the dog in the manger."

She could not receive it steadily. Since the easiest emotion to feign is
anger, she covered her discomfiture with this:

"I am astonished that you should think fit to repeat such a thing to me,
if indeed Prince Charles ever said it."

She was, as she spoke, almost genuinely angry with him for making his
approach so abruptly that she must repulse it. He, on the other hand, was
a little tired of her airs.

"Which of us do you impugn, Madam? Prince Charles is dead, and I am not
able to answer a woman." She did not reply. "If your Serene Highness has
no more use for me, I have my duty."

Still she could find nothing to say; she must either withdraw her
scolding or let his bold speech stand. She stood up and gave,
automatically, that small gracious nod which was the sign of an ended
interview. Königsmark made his bow three yards away from her. On an
impulse she thrust out her hand. He looked at her, then took and kissed
it lightly, his brown hair falling forward on her wrist. The manikin on
the clock struck his arrow four times upon the bell.

"Conduct the Count, Knesebeck."

When he had gone she was surrounded by a crowd of abigails who dressed
her like some expensive puppet for dinner; the Duke and Duchess were to
be her guests that night. The structure of a Princess was built up by
degrees, from the simplicity of stockings and shift to the splendid
elaborations of a dress whose stiffened and gleaming shell could have
done its wearer's duty upon a dais. When she was curled and pinned to her
servants' liking she went for one moment, before descending, into the
writing room. It smelled faintly of flowers; Nausicaa fled by her painted
sea, a king's daughter, but happy. Sophia-Dorothea took one of the roses
from a vase and tried it on the breast of her dress among laces and
stitched pearls. It looked pitiful there. After a moment she took it
away, and, carefully biting the stalk as Duchess Sophia had taught her,
put it back in the vase to live a little longer.


Prince Charles was dead, Prince Max had blown two fingers off his left
hand shooting swallows, Prince George-Louis was with his regiments in
Flanders, Hanover was poor, but the royal family, caught in a vicious
circle of precedent, could not take time to mourn. The fair at Brunswick
was a yearly occasion of festivity. To it came merchants from the Baltic
with amber, from Poland with furs, from other parts of Germany with toys,
stuffs, and samples of wine. The Duke-Bishop took money from all these, a
kind of poll-tax plus licence to trade, and he had been accustomed every
year to lend the gathering his benediction. It was a picnic for the
Court. There was a pleasant tiny palace which fitted the Duke and
Duchess, with their immediate following, as neatly as their wigs. The
rest, princes, courtiers, soldiers on leave, had to find themselves room
where they might in a town already lodging a thousand strangers. The
chief inn, "The Sun," refused all comers with the excuse: "We serve
Countess Platen." She paid well, or rather the Duke did; and there had
been a time when Duchess Sophia, hearing Ernest Augustus pelting against
the extravagance, had suggested that apartments should be found for the
Countess in their own little palace. The Duke turned a scandalised face
and refused blankly, giving no reason. His wife knew that he refused out
of respect for her, and sighed. So much money, to save the incommodity of
having the woman and her bed under a roof with them both! Duchess Sophia
had no great feeling about beds, once the danger of bastard children was
past, and she sighed for her neglected gardens, the empty purses of her

This year, for the first time, she refused to accompany the Duke to
Brunswick. She had been ill; he too. But while her sickness came from her
unhappiness, his derived simply from gout, and the Carlsbad waters had
cured it. He was, therefore, though her grief pained him, by no means
unwilling to leave her behind, for it followed that if the Duchess did
not occupy the ladies' wing of Brunswick's little castle, there could be
no scandal in setting up the Countess in it, provided her husband would
stand chaperone.

But the husband, Platen the dependable, for once was compelled to
disoblige his master. He had a fever, caught nobody knew how, which gave
the doctors trouble. They dosed him with brews to make him sweat, and
followed these with further brews to dry him. They bled him and fed him.
Through their ministrations distressing sickness persisted, with a most
inconstant and uncontrollable bowel. There could be no question of moving
him, let alone subjecting him to the junketings of Brunswick Fair.

Another guarantor of the Countess's good name must be found, and Ernest
Augustus, looking about him, could see none more suitable than his son's
wife. He liked to have her near him on such sprees as this; and if the
thought of her questionable behaviour in Venice troubled his mind for an
instant--why, she was no longer so young, she had children of her own,
and such a portent as Lassaye, the Frenchman, was as unlikely as a comet
to repeat itself.

He made known his wishes. The Princess received them at first with
clapped hands. Then, as gossip reached her of Countess Platen's
preparations, her husband's sickness, and last, the news that the
Countess was to be installed in the right wing of the Castle while she,
the heir-apparent's wife, took the left, she stamped, tore a
handkerchief, and went off in a fury to Duchess Sophia.

"Good evening, my daughter."

"Serene Highness." The regulation greeting passed. "Serene Highness, am I
to go to Brunswick?"

"Has not the Duke made his wish known to you?"

"But the Countess is to be there, in the Castle."

"In your husband's absence it is fitting that you should have the company
of some older woman. Since I cannot go, the Prime Minister's wife--"

"Serene Highness, I don't care for it. I'm sad about Charles, and you'll
be alone. Let me stay with you."

"And the Duke's wishes?"

"I won't be in the house with that woman. It will be Schulenburg next."

Duchess Sophia's hand began softly to move upon the brown spine of the
book she held.

"My dear daughter: we are not to have hearts, we are not to have
feelings. That is not within our province. If I were well enough I should
go to Brunswick. We have no more right to inequality of temper than our
own town clock to irregularities of time. The people set their lives upon

"If I must go, I will go. Yes, and I'll see the fair too. I'll dance in a
mask, Max will take me into the booths. I have asked to stay behind, to
be dull with my children, and if that is not allowed, then I'll please

"So long as you are obedient to the Duke and polite to his guests there
is no reason why you should not."

Sophia-Dorothea, the wine taken out of her sails, stood agape. Her
mother-in-law's thin hand left the book and went towards her.

"My dear child, you have had something to bear. But you are to remember
that with us happiness is not to be looked for by the fireside. I find
it"--still holding the small plump hand, she looked down at her book--"in
consideration of things that God has left dark for our comfort, so that
speculation need never exhaust itself."

"But I love life, and while I eat and sleep it goes past."

"And for that, you cry out! Thank your God for it. When the hours drag,
when the day is a weight that you roll like Sisyphus's stone, uphill--"
Duchess Sophia drew a quick breath and let the girl's hand go, as though
she feared that between them by that contact might pass some
intelligence, a revealing of things hidden. "Well now, you'll go to
Brunswick, I think."

"Serene Highness, it makes me angry--"

"Da, da, da! I'm tired."

Sophia-Dorothea went away, angrily frowning, still undecided. As she
passed the room where the Guards officers messed when they took duty,
Königsmark came out, saw her, and stood to attention. She had not meant
to stop, but he smiled at her past his sword, and she checked her angry
march. Having disregarded decorum by greeting the Princess of Hanover
thus friendly, he held his tongue and obliged her to speak.

"Good afternoon."

"Good afternoon, Madam. Are you going to Brunswick?"

That question, coming so pat, startled her; but having decided that his
abruptness came from unfamiliarity with formal German, she was ble to
answer without puffing up at once into royalty:

"It is not decided. And you?"

"If I can get leave. I like to see many people together. I like noise. If
I cannot have a battle, I like a fair."

"I hope your coat is recovered."

"I don't know. I've not worn it since."

"Pity--such a beautiful coat!"

"Her little Highness didn't take cold?"

"She asked for you this morning. 'The kind Count,' she called you--"
Sophia-Dorothea broke off, reddening, remembering the full phrase: "that
kind Count Mamma kicked when she was little." Snatching at dignity, a
proceeding always and deservedly unsuccessful, she could find nothing to
say but: "My husband writes that they may soon perhaps have an encounter
in Flanders."

"The Prince," answered Königsmark, his dark smiling eyes upon her, "has
all the luck."

Dangerous ambiguity! But her cheeks were pink already. She gave her
pretty nod of dismissal and went on towards the door. In her chariot,
bowing to the people, she was aware of a savour in life and a feeling of
happy anticipation such as she had not known since childhood, when every
other day was golden. It was without surprise that she discovered her
mind to be made up.

"Knesebeck, we go to the Fair."

"Oh, darling lady! But how about the Countess?"

"What does she matter, why should she poison it all for us? I'll find you
a lovely officer to dance with."

"I'm not past finding one for myself."

"A lovely officer, with--oh, I don't know; yellow hair, and great strong
arms to up with you and away."

"That's not the one I've got my eye on. I don't like them all hairy and
strong. Womanish, a little. Like Count Königsmark."

"I saw him just now. He hasn't worn his pretty coat since."

"No, and we know why." Knesebeck wagged her finger. "It's because you put
your hand on his sleeve, that day."

"Nonsense. Oh, Knesebeck, dear silly Nell, won't it be fun at the Fair!"

They set off for Brunswick two days later, the Duke on horseback, clouds
of young gentlemen round him showing off their riding; the lathes in
chariots with full equipments, postilions, outriders with horns, and
mounted gallants. Prince Max, his hurt hand still in a sling, sat by
Sophia-Dorothea looking glumly out at the riders. She saw his right hand
from time to time practise a movement, twisting the strap of the window.
It was easy to interpret.

"It won't interfere with your riding. You'll hold the reins in your
right, that's all."

Max did not answer her, beyond a quick frown. He did not care to be read
so easily, even by her. He let the strap fall. She, solicitous, could not
leave him alone.

"It hurts still, does it?"

"No, no, I'm all right." Then, repenting of his abruptness, caught by the
desire to uncover his misery: "I'm done for, anyhow. They'll never give
me a regiment again. Your husband's seen to that."

She could not deny it. She had heard George-Louis' opinion of his brother
as a soldier. He could sometimes phrase a cruel thing neatly enough, and
lie had said that King Louis would never be beaten until the day that Max
deserted to him. Max saw a battle, not as the moment of supreme crisis to
which weeks of preparation tended, but as an occasion for the display of
dash. His cavalry was for ever at full gallop, going nowhere in
particular, his hero was Uncle Rupert, his mother's brother, and his
tactics those of the sabre and spur. He was, besides, unlucky, though his
men loved him, and followed him gallantly into the military gulfs he
contrived for them.

Now that the confidence was begun it went on, shaken out of him in spurts
as the carriage jolted.

"Christian and Gustchen and I; what have we got to look forward to? The
sooner we follow Charles the better. My father wouldn't kick at a
handsome monument apiece, and we'd be out of the way."

"Max, don't."

He turned on her.

"What, hasn't Countess Platen told you anything about my father's will?
Ask her; she knows about it. So does that fellow Colt they've sent out
from England. England doesn't like to think of her future King--my God!
poor devils--doesn't like to think of him as just a German Duke. Elector,
that's what England wants, and an Elector with a nice lot of territory,
too. Looks better, you see. So Gustchen and Christian and I, we're cut
out, and George-Louis takes the lot." He laughed abruptly. "England can't
swallow the Pope, but she'll swill down George-Louis, thick head, women,
and all."

"And have not I to do just that?"

He put his right hand swiftly on her knee; then the grievance was
uppermost again.

"I haven't seen the document, but I've picked up one or two things Colt
let drop, and--I tell you what, sisterkin. If my father makes it worth my
while I'll stick to him and stick to Luther. If he doesn't--"

"You've been talking to that Jesuit again."

"The Emperor's a Catholic, isn't he? We were all Catholics once."

"Oh, don't, don't! Your mother's so unhappy, she frets after Charles; if
you turn your faith it will kill her."

"My mother's tough."

But he quieted, and when he spoke next the bitterness was gone from his

"I won't do anything till I've got proof that the will's been altered.
But how's one to get it? Make love to Platen?" They both laughed. "Or
find somebody--" He started up, and leaning out of the window called to a
horseman that was passing: "Königsmark! Königsmark! Get down and eat with
us. Halt, all! We'll dine here."

The carriage, tugging and jingling, came to rest in the midst of a flat
green marshy country, with hills and forests south and north. Slow rivers
threaded it; in spring the flowers that thrive in such places,
cuckoo-flower and herb Paris, grew unheeded save where children came out
from Peine to gather them for May crowns. The road, a three-rutted way,
went looping here and there across the flat expanse, milestones slanting,
culverts broken; there was no money to spare for mending roads while half
a dozen interests pulled the Duke to war. No habitation showed, but
somewhere, in a direction rendered vague by the fitfulness of the wind
that brought it, the fiddle of a goat-herd sounded.

Königsmark dismounted. A groom took his horse, and the carriage
attendants made themselves busy. There was a basket under the seat which
at Max's orders was carried to a tussock at a little distance, on which
lambs and young goats played King of the Castle in spring. Now the
Princess of Hanover was installed by its side, the two young men
spreading their cloaks for her. She wore a comfortable dress of rusty
cloth, a great cape over it, which she let slip from her shoulders; her
dark hair was bared by the dropping of the hood to the autumn sun. She
had grown a little more plump in the past year, and the roundness became
her; black eyes, full and eager mouth, she had a ripe and southern look.
Königsmark watched her, hardly heeding Max, who, however, went straight
to the point.

"I won't ask you any questions, Philip, but just tell me one thing. Do
you ever have a chance to speak with Countess Platen alone?"

Sophia-Dorothea answered for him, curiosity spurring: "Of course he does.
Monplaisir is his headquarters. Why not? The Countess is, or soon
will be--" she waited an instant, mischievously--"his mother-in-law."

"Who tells you that, Serene Highness?"

"Birds of the air, ladies of the Court, hairdressers, tailors."

"They should know, if any do."

This was not an answer, and Sophia-Dorothea wanted an answer.

"You don't say they are wrong."

"Because for the world I would not contradict a Princess."

Max struck in, tired of this cross-talk.

"Well, but, you see, I've a reason for asking. My father--"

And out came the whole story, England's high-handedness, the Duke's
secretiveness, the younger sons' discontent, Countess Platen's knowledge.
Königsmark listened, pulling at the short grass, from time to time taking
a blade in his small and even teeth. Max ended:

"If it is so, there'll be trouble. We're all of us ready for it. And now
would be a good time, with George-Louis away. But we want to know for
certain before we start. Now, you can get anything you like out of the
Countess, just as she gets what she likes out of my father--"

"What do you mean?"

"Why, you give her pleasure, I suppose. Well, don't let's go into that.
But will you give us what help you can?"

Königsmark asked, still playing with strands of grass:

"Is the Princess concerned in this? What does her husband say?"

Sophia-Dorothea answered for herself:

"He says nothing. He is to have all my father's land, and England too
perhaps. Why should he take his brothers' share as well?"

It was the first time she had spoken in this tone of George-Louis to any
person except Duchess Sophia. Königsmark looked up sharply, and saw the
red underlip trembling, the dark eyes hidden but welling. Her hands came
together in her lap, fingers straining, plaited together. In a moment of
impulse, moved by the sole desire to comfort her, he said:

"Conspirators, then." And struck down his own hand upon the clasped ones.
Her skin was soft, but he could feel, even in that clumsy touch, the
strong little bones beneath, and knew that he had made the gesture for
the sake of the touch. They held the grip for an instant, then parted
with a laugh of self-consciousness.

The postilions were looking towards them, leading the horses towards
their pole again. The sun was lowering; it was time to be gone. The
Princess, on her knees, gravely plucked three of the marsh flowers,
intent as Circe plucking up moly with brass hooks in the full of the
moon. When she had three exactly similar she gave one sprig to Max, one
to Königsmark, and tucked the third into the breast of her dress.

"The sign," said she.

Max took his, and stuck it in the band of his hat. Königsmark brushed a
cheek with his.

"Cool," said he. "Queer that a thing should have life and yet be cold."

"This place," said Max, indicating the marsh. He liked to explain the

Königsmark pulled out a handkerchief, wrapped the flower carefully, and
thrust it inside his shirt.

"It'll die there," said Max, staring.

Königsmark did not answer, buttoning his fine shirt again.
Sophia-Dorothea was astonished to find herself trembling; and when at
last they set out again over her father-in-law's neglected roads she was
grateful to the quivering and restlessness of the carriage, which
dissembled her own.


They came into Brunswick after nightfall. Lights were in all the windows,
the streets seethed; flags and streamers bidding welcome, or extolling
the town, flapped overhead, visible only as the wind brought them within
the radius of some upturned beam, but audible constantly; their tails
sounded overhead like giant fingers snapping. At the palace the Duke was
already installed; the Countess, whose chariot had taken a different
route, and who had not delayed upon it to pick wild flowers, was at
supper with him. The major-domo informed their Serene Highness that there
would be no formal meal to-night; the cooks sent up soup and some hot
spiced wine with excellent promptness, and Max set off into the town;
muttering something about seeing the sights. As for Königsmark, he had
ridden on ahead, and after the gates were passed they had seen no more of
him and his people. Sophia-Dorothea, made aware of fatigue by the ceasing
of its cause, and drowsy with much air, went to her bed in a room giving
upon the courtyard. The rhythm of the sentry's tramp--twelve steps,
stamp, twelve steps--was soothing. She put her dying marsh-flower into a
prayer-book, the prayer-book under her pillow, and having thus sanctified
the symbol as a bravo might say "Hail, Mary!" over his knife, slept upon
comforting considerations of revolt.

Königsmark too had his quarters in the palace, since he came to Brunswick
on duty, as Colonel of his corps. He walked into the guard-room, to the
astonishment of the soldiers, at the same hour that the Princess,
yawning, dismissed her women and snuffed the light. A young ensign was
asleep in the only bed fit for an officer. Königsmark would not
dispossess him. He sat in his stockings before the fire, weary, and in a
rage with himself; he recognised what was happening to him by that which
had happened already a good many times before. He put a hand into his
shirt. The marsh flower, clammy and limp, reminded him of his promise to
get information from a woman who guarded her tongue far more carefully
than the conventionally inviolable parts of her person. A stupid plot;
stupid his own commitment to it. For he could see the end: Max's revolt
failing, the complicity of the Princess discovered, her dog-nosed husband
triumphant and vengeful, his own commission lost, the pleasant days in
Hanover ended. These children, while they understood Countess Platen's
power, supposed it founded only on her skill as a courtesan. But she had
capacity, she had the brain of a general, she was ill to cross.

He started up, called for boots, and went out to inspect the sentries.
They gave him the word, were all alert. The man under the Princess's
window was the most wide awake of the lot, and gave no cause to rate him;
but the Colonel spoke to him abruptly, as though he had committed some
fault only in being posted there, and stamped off noisily across the
gravelled court.

Next day, at four, when the royalties were obliged to be on show watching
peasant children dancing, and distributing prizes for embroidery and
spinning, Countess Platen sent for him. She looked handsome, and greeted
him cheerfully.

"We must relax your duties, Colonel. They keep you away from your

She held her hand for him to kiss, and when he had given it the official
salute turned the palm, ran the whole broad arm past his mouth. He
understood what was expected of him, trusted her judgment too well to
raise difficulties--safe? the Duke?--and began to slip off the sling in
which he carried his sword. She watched him undress, herself not stirring
to unfasten so much as a hook; her eyes were steady and greedy, not
drooping as a woman's should before such an encounter; they were the
appraising eyes of a man. Made uncomfortable by that look, he would not
strip off his shirt. She beckoned him, and when he stood beside her she
put her two hands to where the neck opening of the fine linen ended, and
with a wrench tore it down to the hem. The brutality of the gesture
angered him. He was accustomed to choose, not to be chosen, and he felt
helpless, standing there naked, appraised by a big woman fully dressed in
buckram and silks.

But she was able to make herself desired. He acquitted himself not
unsatisfactorily, and when she put him from her he was able to see that
the bold eyes at last had dropped their lids.

"Königsmark." She spoke low and harshly, still with closed eyes. He
answered with a grunt of enquiry. He had satisfied her, he was not
obliged to be civil. She spoke again, in that voice, so different from
her everyday tones, as though it dragged from her very entrails.
"Königsmark--one day perhaps we might be together."

He answered that casually, thinking she meant another rendezvous:

"At your service; whenever his Serene Goutiness is out of the way."

"Not like that. Together. In some place that would be quiet. In your

"Sweden!" He turned, half into his breeches, and hoisted them into place
before he went on: "That's not possible. The Duke--"

She opened her eyes, and their look now was not greedy, but profoundly
mocking. She lay at ease, legs crossed, skirt lifted to show powerful

"When the Duke changes to Elector he'll have to behave himself. England
won't like a _maîtresse en titre_. There's been too much of that
sort of thing with nephew Charles and nephew James. And so when that
comes, soon now, the Duke will give me my little pension, and we say

He knew that this was the moment to discover what he could. She had
started to talk; she suspected nothing. But knowledge that his question
had a purpose made him stammer as he asked it.

"Is it sure; the Electorate, England?"

"I'll make it sure," said she. Now her voice had lost its harsh languor,
it was her own organ, loud, certain. "He'll do as I tell him, he'll go
with the Emperor against France, and get his bonnet. Do you know why I
make him do that? So that I can be quit of him. So that I can have time
for--other things." She took his hand.

"What a fool I am! You think so."

He was at a loss. Aggression changing thus quickly to a kind of
humility--he did not know what to make of it. She went on, caressing his
hand; the voice had softened.

"I'll tell you something else; laugh, if you like. I have had lovers,
besides the Duke--" she halted, reckoning--"five. No, six. Six, and the
Duke, and that's all. Not so many, for a poor gentlewoman with her way to
make at court. I took them for what I could get, never for what I could
give; not even the Duke--ah, he was handsome when he was younger. Now I'm
forty-four. I tell you the truth. Truth's a weapon, and I put it into
your hand. Six lovers, forty-four years old. And for the first time in

She put his hand roughly from her and stood up, her silk skirts flowing
down with a grassy rustle. She turned away, screwing her fists into her
eyes with an ugly gesture like a little servant of seventeen. She could
have walked the town of Brunswick naked, but she was ashamed of tears.

Königsmark supposed that she turned because she did not care for him to
see the mess of wetted rouge on her cheeks. He was relieved when,
abruptly, she told him to go, and went, a little uneasy to find himself
encumbered with a grand passion. If his vanity found it satisfying to be
thus loved, his soldier's instinct let him know that there was danger in
it. No principle defended him from this danger. He was aware, however,
that according to how he might meet and counter it, so his whole future
would be ordered. The knowledge did not trouble him.

Supper that evening was gay. The Duke during this week stepped down from
the heights, and went back to the manners of his grandfather's day,
comfortably aware that the Brunswickers could not presume on a
condescension which came their way only once a year. There was no
ceremonial eating, nor ceremonial gazing from below the salt. The hall
was filled with Brunswickers dressed ridiculously, in preparation for the
outdoor masked dancing which should succeed the feast, a pretty custom
imported by the Duke from Italy and sonorously condemned by all the
pastors in the town after it was all over, and the Duke gone. But German
taste running to grotesqueness and the macabre where that of Italy was
only gaudy, some of the dresses, and more especially some of the masks,
had a, nightmare look. Ladies, eating contentedly such dishes as sturgeon
boiled with ginger and barberries, or ducks farced with currants, slung
their masks upon their arms, and with each spoonful lifted a warty nose,
or a wolf's jowl, or a face all mouth to the table's level. They had not
many notions for dresses to draw upon, and mostly wore their best,
disguised with some fantasy of feathers or gauze. It was the masks upon
which trouble had been laboured, and these were infinitely varied.

Königsmark, on duty until the supper ended in one of the little
corridors, had received a note. "Isabella may perhaps be waiting in the
thatched summer house by the three birches. Eleven o'clock will find her
there, but only if you have news. A handkerchief carried in the hilt of
your sword will mean you have something to tell."

He laughed at this, and its little atmosphere of intrigue. A conspiracy
carried on in terms of the Italian comedy amused him, for he too had been
in Italy, he knew very well this personage of Isabella, the
disillusioned, the maker of epigrams, the mocker, heartless; and his
mind's eye, seeing the Princess in all her bubbling youth and
ingenuousness, dressed her rather in the pale colours of Colombina, the
gentle, the frank, the happy. He took his handkerchief from his cuff and
drew it through the cut steel of the sword-guard, then strolled towards a
double door by which, supper over, all who came from the hall must pass.
The Duke led the way, untrumpeted here in the intimacy of Brunswick,
florid, but the better of his gout, his son's wife on his arm. He was
cheerful, at ease. In his heart he regretted Louis XIV, who had set the
pitch so high for princes, imposing expense and stiffness upon little
courts where the first corner had been used to give the Duke his shirt,
and the shirt itself had bleached on lavender bushes at the castle door.
He could not lag behind others in formality, with an elector's bonnet
waiting round the corner, and the throne of England on the horizon; he
did his duty. But there were times when he thought that if prestige had
allowed him to poke his nose into the affairs of his people, to ride
about and know them, he might have found congenial occupation at less
expense than that which wars and imported opera entailed.

The Princess wore a dress of white satin, and was made taller by the
upward-sprouting laces of a _fontange_. She laughed and hugged her
father-in-law's arm as they came through the door, looking up in his
face, so that Königsmark, lest she should pass him unseeing, had to
loosen the pin from the lace on his breast and drop it at her feet. She
set her foot on it before she saw him; then, with a little gasp, looked
up to his eyes, and down to his hilt with the handkerchief; blushed, and
stood. The Duke observed the trodden pin, a miniature surrounded by
diamonds: Love holding two hearts over a flame.

"A bad omen," said he, jovially. "Love gives you the slip, Count."

Königsmark laughed, picked up the miniature and quickly set it in its
place. A prince's joke should never be capped; he had, besides, no
rejoinder to make that should he worth while. He was alert to receive any
sign the Princess might make, and even when she had passed he stared
after her. Countess Platen, going by, showed no change in her expression
of good-humour, but she had observed the scene, and recognised the pin.
It was her gift.

The grandees went to their rooms to dress; with a turmoil of talk,
laughter, and shrieking, the Brunswickers arrayed themselves in their
disguises. In transports of fun they nosed, bearded, horned and otherwise
travestied themselves, and having done with the mirrors--every glass in
the Castle had been brought into one long gallery--they edged in groups
into the garden over which a bland moon presided. The fiddlers were
established on a balcony whence the Duke on State occasions was used to
bow; the main dancing took place below, in the courtyard, where dancers
formed into squares, into circles, into long lines down which individuals
scampered. The fiddlers made wigged aldermen and their wide wives
obedient as trees and the mountain tops to Orpheus' lute. They played
known tunes; the first bars of any change came as an order to perform
this or that evolution, to adopt this figure or that. They danced in
parties, eight, twelve, or twenty. There was no clasping of individuals
as in Venice, that place of iniquity, and the unpleasing forms of the
masks invited no enquiry as did Italian yashmaks of black or white lace.
The pastors might have spared their texts; intrigue and indecency found
no place at the Duke's ball. The people looked forward to this yearly
junketing; they had little with which to compare it, save its own
predecessors; and when at last it came it gave a pleasure that needed no

Königsmark watched the door by which the grandees were to join their
guests. A woman dressed as a peasant of the Harz Forest, but topped with
a cat's head, came slipping out. He knew the walk, a quick sliding run
unlike the stride of any peasant; Knesebeck, for certain. A group of
women in the Venetian dress followed her, some of the Princess's women,
he supposed; there was no guessing at identities among their black and
silver. He could not see among them the purple ruff, the small hat with a
purple feather, of Isabella. A soldier of Dürer's day, striped, plumed,
with a great flat hat of three colours and one hand thrust into a
baldric--that was Prince Max. The next corner he recognised; Countess
Platen had told him to look for her as the goddess Diana and there she
was in buskins; a hound's head, the jaws snarling, crowned her, a small
crescent of diamonds between its cars. She halted to speak to him:

"Not changed your dress?"

"I am on duty to-night."

"Give me the pin from your lace." He hesitated, then rendered it,
puzzled; from the hound's jaw came a laugh. "I'll give you something that
will hold firmer. I don't care to see a gift of mine underfoot, even
though it falls by chance."

She went down the steps on that word, and he stood looking downwards
after her. The voice, he noted, had sounded thick and angry, but there
were reasons for this, the mask distorted speech, or she was a little
drunk. That his own manoeuvre with the pin had been clumsy he would not
suppose, nor that the Countess observed, gathered, interpreted his every
movement. He retained a spy or two, in the fashion of that court, and was
resolving to make use of these when he saw Isabella's purple feather go
past, and down among the dancers. Königsmark walked after, through the
crowd, towards his guardroom, looking like the prince in the fairy-tale
who came to seek his love's stolen heart in a witch's castle. Beasts'
heads bobbed at him, creatures with tall pointed cars or noses swollen
into bulbs made forward to tease him. He smiled and went steadily on, his
own hair blowing on his shoulders, his face the only one not hidden or
drawn out of fantasy, until he reached the torchlight streaming from the
guard-room door. Ensign Waldt took his orders, and picked up his sword;
it was close on eleven. Königsmark ran up to his room, swung on a purple
domino, drew the hood half over his face, and disdaining a mask went out,
this time not into the feverish courtyard. The summer-house stood by a
pool whose edge a clump of birches overhung, in that part of the gardens
where ordinarily nobody walked; a private place. He had put off his
sword, but he never cared to be without a weapon, and there was a
stiletto stuck in his stocking. He halted to feel this lying flat along
the calf-muscle, and went on as well as he could through shadow, or
moonlight more perplexing than shadow. He knew his direction, though, and
after a few minutes' walking the roof of the summerhouse blotted out a
triangle of stars.

Within it was dark, but he heard a rustle and spoke low, as the hour and
the silence compelled:


The Princess answered in French; at the sound he was aware of the lifting
of a foreboding, as though he had been expecting another voice, hollow
and angry, to come out of the stillness.

"There's a candle somewhere, Knesebeck brought one."

"Don't light it. This is safer."

Her young voice had a catch in it, as though she were breathing fast. The
excitement of the conspiracy, of this secret meeting by night with a man
alone, had stripped it of the dignity she was accustomed to put on. She
spoke quicker, more naturally, and Königsmark heard, as their talk went
forward, the Highness fade quite away.

"We must hurry. Max is looking for me. Tell me what news you have." He
was about-to put off decision, to say that he had not yet had the chance
to ask questions; but she went on, the words coming coldly: "You were
with Countess Platen this afternoon for two hours."

He said nothing.

"And you have news, for you wore your handkerchief as we asked. Tell me,

"Princess, give this matter up. That's my advice. Let Max go on if he
chooses. You don't know the odds against you."

"What has frightened you? I thought you were our friend."

"Let it go, Princess."

"But I promised Max. Why won't you say what it is?"

"Max!" The blood began to hum in his temples. "What will your husband say
when he finds you working against his chance?"

"I don't want to be a queen."

She said that in so small a voice that he put out a hand instinctively
towards her. It touched her dress. He held the stuff lightly between his
thumb and fingers. She had only to withdraw an inch or two, and the skirt
could have been released. She did not move.

"Aren't all women ambitious?"

"All Countess Platens, you think. What happened when you were with her
to-day? Alone with her, for two hours."

"Do you want the truth?"

"Yes." But she spoke faintly.

"I made love to her. Didn't your spies tell you that? Why did you set
spies on me, Princess?"

"Your fortune's made, then." She tried to laugh.

"You don't understand. What else is there to do with a woman like that?"
He snapped fingers in the darkness. "What does it signify?"

"Nothing to you. That is what women are for, to you. That is how you
think we all are."

There was a silence. Neither moved; but he still held the fold of silk in
his fingers, and now he gave it a little tug that she must feel.

"I don't think that of you."

"It doesn't matter what I am."

"You're not happy."

"Who's happy, nobody's happy, what makes happiness? None of us knows. I
am no worse off than the rest."

Her left hand made a little outward movement as she shrugged, and touched
his as it came again to her side. He left the fold of stuff and caught
her little finger, again so lightly that her least movement might have
withdrawn it. She did not move.

"I want to say something. Will you listen?"

"You are holding me."

He let the finger go at once. Remorseful, her hand came after his, caught
it fully.

"What is it you want to say? I know you're a true friend"

"It's said," he answered, and put the hand to his mouth. "_Il est dit,
il est dit, ce que je voulais dire_."

She let him kiss it. At each kiss she whispered a protest: but the hand
betrayed her, pressing itself on his lips, cupping the roughness of his
chin, reaching to his neck under the hair, at last holding his head
desperately down. When that clasp yielded he felt the weight of her
against him, and the beating of her heart.

Suddenly she stiffened, he too; and they stood together unconscious of
each other, all their lively senses concentrated upon an approaching
sound of footsteps. As though the interrupter could see them they stood
apart, and she put up a hand instinctively, first to her hot checks, then
to her hair. The new corner made a false step, swore. They breathed, and
turned to each other.


"I'll meet him."

Königsmark stepped out of the hut, and saw Max's plumed hat, gigantic,
against the white birches. Max spoke first, and loudly:

"Who's that?"


"You." There was no civil greeting. "Is my sister there?"

Königsmark answered at once:

"She's gone."

"She was here, then?"

"I've already given the Princess my news and my advice."

"Advice, have you?" Max halted to take that in. When he had considered
it, he came a step nearer. They were standing some eight feet apart. "If
you've anything worth saying, say it to me. I don't like this running
with the hare and hunting with the hounds."

"Perhaps I don't understand German well. Are you accusing me?"

Max paused, checked by the threat of the intonation and by the loophole
the last phrase left him. But he was jealous, in some pain from his hand,
and had been drinking.

"Keep out of this business. We don't need your help. You've got a foot in
both camps."

Max's tone was offensive. Königsmark heard the faintest rustle behind
him, and took patience from it. "You're a foreigner, what's it matter to
you which of us has to beg? With my father's coat on your back, and your
hand in Platen's placket--"

At that there was an intake of breath that Königsmark tried to mask by
stepping forward. Max heard it. "There's someone there, you liar."

He tried to shoulder past. Königsmark held him. "What word was that?
Again. My German is not good."

"My sister's there."

"Ah!" Königsmark stood back. "You call me a liar, and you have an arm in
a sling. You are a prudent man."

"'Coward's' as good as 'liar,' any day." There was a rasping of metal;
Max's great sword came out and caught the moonlight it had first known
two centuries before.

In fear lest the Princess should betray herself, aware that Max was
dangerous, Königsmark found the only answer, a laugh. Max checked; as he
stood puzzled, like a bull whose eyes suddenly miss the red cloth,
Königsmark came to him, amicably took his arm, and led him a step or two
away. His left hand gestured over his shoulder, he was smiling, his voice
kept low.

"Hold your tongue, can't you guess who it is in there?" Max turned to
look, but the shadows held their secret. "The Countess, you fool. And now
for God's sake take yourself off. You've done mischief enough already.
She has ears."

Max immediately became sober.

"Did she hear? Did I say anything?"

"I'll smooth it. Be off."

Max was taking in all aspects of the matter, slowly, for that was how
understanding came to him. His face changed, widened to silent laughter.

"Twice in one day." He shook his head in wonder. "And that woman too;
Charles used to call her the original bottomless pit. Nobody'd think it
to look at you. Well, they put the strongest liquors into thin bottles. I
don't apologise, that's not my way. But if you like to consider I didn't
say what I said--"

"Be off."

Max gave Königsmark's shoulder a slap which unbalanced them both, and
turned back towards the Castle. Königsmark stood looking after him, using
him as a skirmisher to know if the way was clear, listening if he made
any encounter. Sophia-Dorothea came to stand beside him.

"I was afraid. How did you make him go?" Königsmark did not answer that.
Instead he made a statement.

"Max loves you."

"He's my brother."

"I don't mean _amitié_, what a brother feels. He desires you. He
would have killed me when he thought you were there."

"Oh!" She shrank at that, but for his danger, not the accusation.

"I have quarrelled with a man before, quarrelled over a woman before; do
you think I don't know how to judge?"

"You dare say that to me!"

"He was drunk, he couldn't hide it. How long has this been going on?
'Max,' you said, 'I promised Max,' you said."

"You are out of your mind. Do you think I care for Max? What right have

They were standing now face to face, close but nut touching, as in the
few moments before the kiss. Their voices were low, as then. But the
passion linking them had changed its quality to a jealousy and anger no
less binding than love.

"You are to answer me, please. Has he touched you?"

"Why should I answer? No. Never."

"You swear that? He watches you. That day on the journey, sitting
together, I saw his eyes go over you. If I see that look again, prince
or no prince I'll kill him."

"Poor Max mayn't look at me, but you--you go up to that room of
Platen's with the great crimson bed--"

"You mind that? You hate it? You're jealous of--"

Say it, give me the happiness."

"I knew a month ago you were her lover. Then I didn't care. How has it
come to be like this so soon?"

"You won't bear me to go to her, it tortures you--Say it with this
against my throat."

The little stiletto was in his hand. He closed hers about it, unsteady
with the trembling of her whole body, and felt the point prick his neck.
But her voice was strong.

"I'll kill you if you're unfaithful."

She turned the blade, holding it upright between his mouth and hers.
"Swear on this."

"On this."

They kissed the blade together, feeling each other's breath warm across
the steel. Then her hand sank, the weapon fell and was forgotten.

Above the Castle a streak of fiery light soared, slackened, and burst in
softly dropping sparks. Another rocket followed, and another, their
tracks crossing, their coloured rains mingling. Königsmark, lifting his
head for an instant, taking through his nostrils the long breath that
recompenses too strong a heart-beat, saw the darting fires, and through
them, faint, infinitely swifter, a real star falling. When evil spirits
come too near the gates of heaven, a Turkish officer once told him,
angels fling these firebrands. He laughed, his cheek against
Sophia-Dorothea's hair.


News of the death of the Palatine Elector sent Ernest Augustus home next
day. Personal mourning might be disregarded, but the demise of a crown,
at this period of purchased loyalties and capricious alliances, was
matter for cogitation. Cavaliers escorted the heavy carriages of the
women as before, but Königsmark no longer rode by the Princess. Though
their relationship was known to no single person, its existence lent
innocent actions too high a colour. That which before was insignificant
had become so changed with possibilities of bliss or disaster that they
dared not risk even the casual companionship of a journey. There was,
besides, that awkwardness between them which succeeds a first avowal. All
the circumstances of silence and darkness that made it possible were
withdrawn, daylight was upon them, and the realisation that love cannot
always be scaling the peaks. Two notes passed, one in a tall soldier's
scrawl, one in the neat running hand of Knesebeck.

"I am required to accompany the Duke. If this should mean speaking or
riding with a certain person, you are to be sure that it is by no choice
of mine. To be with you would be too much happiness. I should betray
something of that which I would not have known. Is it possible that it is
all true? I think we dreamed it. We--only to write that word is joy

"Isabella has your letter, and thanks you for your thought of her. She
will draw no false conclusions, so much she promises. She will write
again, perhaps soon. She values very greatly your expressions of regard."

By ten o'clock they were en route, Max, as before, in the carriage of his
sister-in-law. He looked liverish, small, and cross; the ogre who twirled
a sword under the moon was gone. Sophia-Dorothea, regarding him under her
lashes, was astonished to remember the fear that had stilled her when she
heard his angry voice in the night. She pitied him, as sometimes she
pitied George her husband in the grip of a fever his own indiscretions
had brought on, or George her son after a birthday surfeit. Women, it
seemed to her, though they made fools of themselves no less often than
men, were rarely so naďvely surprised by consequences. This tenderness,
that was in part contempt, she could feel very readily, and when it came
upon her it effaced memory of injuries or treachery.

She had, therefore, no longer any apprehension of danger from Max, and
could be gay with him. In her soft high voice she sang, looking sideways,
a ditty that had found its way across Europe from Paris via the soldiery:

_"Je ne veux point des glands mots
Etre la victime,
De la gloire des héros
Je fais pen d'estime.
N'ai-je pas assez vaincu
Quand j'ai su mettre sur cu
Ma pinte et ma mie, o gué,
Ma pinte et ma mie!"_

But Max was in that state of indignation which the physical inability to
be anything but virtuous unfailingly ensures.

"Where do you get these dirty songs from? George-Louis can't sing."

She disregarded him, save for a beating out of the measure with one
finger on his knee.

"La promenade et le jeu
N'ont den qui me pique,
Un concert me touche pen,
Foin de la musique
Je ne veux pour m'amuser
Que remplir et renverser
Ma plnte et ma mie, ô gué--"

"Be quiet. I've got a head."

"You should learn that song, brother Max. It's all about your complaint.
Too much to drink, and too many girls."

"I suppose Königsmark's been talking to you. Look here; I want you to be
careful of that fellow--"

Immediately apprehension was on her. A secret lover is like a rich man
travelling; every shadow is an ambush, every sound a threat to the
carried treasure. Two days ago she would have met this by an astonished
repetition of the name: "Königsmark!" Now she was silent, unable to trust
her voice to sound indifferent.

"He's in Platen's pocket."

That hurt her, for all she was sure of him, and there sprang up in her
mind a dozen jealous images of the big greedy woman taking casually and
bawdily the homage of his body. She turned her exasperation against Max.

"It was your idea, you who said he could be useful to us. If you chop and
change like this we'll get nowhere."

"What's the matter with you?" She had, in fact, spoken with vivacity, and
bitterly. "I've been thinking, that's all. I was wrong to let you or
anyone else come into this business."

"Why, proud Prince? Do you think you can conquer all by yourself, like

Max's answer to that was brief, and spoken without emphasis.

"I think it will fail. So I'll go on with it alone."

A week ago she would have seen in this declaration only lack of spirit,
the loss of excitement. Now to be cut off from Max's plans meant a
dwindling of opportunity. Returned to Hanover, she could not without
danger see Königsmark alone. There must be some link, some excuse for his
presence which association with Max supplied. He was astonished to hear
her pleading:

"We must have faith, we must work together. Don't shut me out. I want to
share with you. I'm your guarantee. They can't punish me. Zelle and the
money to come--they won't risk offending my father. Let me be with you."

Her voice was urgent, a genuine fear and passion informed it. Max
recognised this urgency, and the covetousness which her gaiety had always
repelled took strength from it. His right hand turned her head roughly
towards him and in a second, blindly, he was kissing her. Her mouth
closed by his, she screamed, an ugly animal sound, and beat with her
fists against the side of his head. Still he held her. In her frenzy she
struck savagely, again and again, at the wounded hand in its sling, till
he grunted with the pain of it and abruptly let her go. She said nothing,
but eyed him. Max, puzzled and angry, his left hand encircled by the
right as if he defended it, said:

"All right, all right, it didn't mean anything."

"One of your family's enough."

Max gave up the attempt to placate and comprehend her. He sat back, and a
mile passed in sullen meditation, till they reached the post-house, when
he suddenly implored her:

"Don't say anything to mother."

She laughed at that, and to torment him shook her head, which might have
meant that she would not agree or that she would not speak; then leaning
back with closed eyes allowed memory to draw close and trouble her.

Königsmark, meanwhile, riding in the Duke's cavalcade, found himself
constantly by Platen's window, from which she signed to him gaily. The
midday halt was called in a village past Sonnenburg, where the Duke,
after a copious meal, was obliged to play the father once more, and to
sit on a balcony watching the evolutions of country children, nodding his
head to the hymns which they tirelessly sang. Countess Platen was not at
his elbow. She had withdrawn without excuse to the best bedroom of the
inn, where she loosened her stays, and having refreshed the colour in her
cheeks with rouge, and her spirits with wine, sent for Königsmark. He
came, stiffly, from the group about the Duke, and knocked at her door
with a military air, to give the impression that she had sent for him
about some matter of the escort. Entering, he found her lying alone,
fully dressed, on the bed by which stood a small lamp in which hair-tongs
were heating. He scowled at the vision.

"You have orders for me?"

She beckoned him over to her. She had the hands of a young woman, smooth,
shapely, characterless, contrasting oddly with her face, over which
strong passions had travelled, leaving their traces. Königsmark did not
obey the gesture.

"Be easy, my little Colonel. I know as well, better than you do, what's
prudent. But I promised you something last night."

He could not for the life of him recollect. He remembered only one hour's
happenings of the previous night, but those incessantly and tormentingly.
The senses by which memory is most easily wakened, touch, hearing and
scent, composed and refashioned again and again the scene in the hut by
the birches. Eyes were left out of it, he had seen nothing of
Sophia-Dorothea; he had learned her shape with his hands, her heart by
broken whispering. When he closed his eyes the kisses, and only the
kisses, lived. He was obsessed. What Countess Platen had promised he
neither knew nor cared, but he had to pretend some concern for it, and
sentences of gratitude came stammering out. She looked at him steadily.

"Not so rough this time, eh?"

He protested that he would be tender.

"I don't ask for sighs, and eyes turned up to the moon. I give my favours
as you give your soldiers their watchword, to prove good faith and test

Still in the dark, he assured her that he did treasure her kindness;
promised discretion; kissed her hand, even. She turned her fingers as he
did that, caught a bunch of hair, and by this pulled his face close to
her own. Looking into his eyes she said:

"You threw down the pin I gave you. Why?"

"It fell. An accident, pure chance."

She gripped his hair with her other hand, and swung this-way and that his
helpless head.

"You are not clever, my little Colonel. Not adroit. I know you. If it
suits your vanity to turn the head of our little donkey of a Crown
Princess, well and good. Amuse yourself; her too, for she has not much
distraction, not much diversity, all the brothers make love as a pig
makes fat--"

"Let me go."

"Don't like to hear that, do you?" She gave his hair a jerk that hurt
him. "Romantic, still? George-Louis, Charles, Max--as like as three beer
barrels. Poor girl! Whether Charles or George or Max gets her children,
the Duchess don't care, nor the Duke. It's all in the family. But they
won't tolerate outsiders."

Königsmark put up his hands at last to hers, brutally loosening the
fingers. She gripped still, laughing while he hurt her. Her eyes did not
quit the anger and dismay that showed clearly in his face. Abruptly, as
though curiosity at last was satisfied, she let him go.

"I'll give you another favour. This one won't tumble on to the floor by

"Kind lady." Freed from her touch he could be reasonable, and could try
to disarm her. "I can't risk that the Duke should know. That would mean
ruin." She smiled crookedly, and he remembered, with panic fear, how she
had said that soon she meant to be quit of the Duke. He went on, however,
despairingly; "I have to think for us both."

The smile at that became a brief laugh; there was real absurdity in this
picture of the inconsequent Königsmark calculating for a woman who held
in her head the affairs of a couple of kingdoms. Her eyes did not relax
their watch. He could not face them, nor stop talking.

"I only say that tokens are risky, they come into the wrong hands, they
make for comment--"

"Understand me well. You are my lover. That's a word meaning much or
little. To me it means much--" She broke off, gnawing her lip. "You can
anger and hurt me. That has not happened before. I must have you for
myself, I won't share you. Can you understand that, you handsome fool?
I'm warning you, I love you. Can you understand that?" Surprisingly her
big mouth began to turn down, the lip to quiver. She had a look that
revolted him, of abasement, of fawning almost; the look of an old bitch
that dribbles and stinks, and frolics with its head, using the antics
that pleased when it was a puppy. She held up her arms to him, and though
he knew he must play for safety, yet he could not stoop to that tremulous
mouth hanging a little open, red stuff crusting the outline of the lips,
the inner part pale. He took the hands and held them together against his
coat, but even to do that there was hesitation. She pulled away, and in
one clumsy yet swift movement snatched the tongs that were reddening
above their flame; darting the points of them upwards she burned a cross
upon his neck just under the jaw. He threw up his head, or the iron would
have marked his cheek; swore with the pain, and with a fencer's movement
knocked the tongs from her hand across the room.

"That won't drop off by chance," said Countess Platen, panting.

Abasement had gone from her eyes, prudence from his. In rage they stared
at each other, he fingering his burn; then his hand dropped to his
sword-hilt, and he went out. Countess Platen lay awhile watching smoke
rise from the pine-board on which her tongs had fallen, biting false red
off her lip and true red into it. Then she rang her handbell, and
prepared to resume the journey.

That evening the travelling Court put up at various inns in the town of
Hamelen, which had been prepared for this honour by hard-riding couriers.
Between the "White Eagle," where the escort was lodged, and the "Golden
Cross," which harboured royalty, letters were exchanged, one in a scrawl,
the other in a neat running hand.

"This day has seemed endless. I think, and I wish, and of all my wishing
and thinking nothing comes but a sore heart. You did not travel alone. I
understand something of the state of mind of your companion, and I
suffered, not doubting you, but fearing for you. I have not known misery,
that is to say, I have not known love, until now. I am not patient, yet I
am condemned to patience as to a galley-oar. My mind is full of you, my
heart admits no image but yours. I shall walk by your window to-night.
Even if I do not see you, a night breeze may blow from your mouth to

"Isabella cannot sleep without assuring you of that which is known to you
already. She begs you to be sure that her good will increases towards you
hourly. She will be by her window (which it is, you had best ascertain
from one of her people) to-night after supper. A candle will be by her
hand. When she snuffs it, that is as much as to say she wishes you well
with all her heart."

Knesebeck, looking up from the dictation of this with a titter, would
have it that a letter containing no warmer expressions than these was not
worth writing. Sophia-Dorothea spoke briefly, she who loved to chatter
and make a history of every dropped pin.

"That is enough. Have you done?" She looked with envy at Knesebeck's hand
holding the quill, and made a movement as if to take it from her, to add
something, or sign. Knesebeck slipped sideways from her seat, inviting
the Princess to take her place. Sophia-Dorothea would not. But she put
her hand inside the laced bodice, and thence, warm from the blood about
her heart, flat on the paper. The ink was yet unsanded. It smeared, and
Knesebeck made haste to fold the note, twittering:

"What will he think? Highness dear, it's all very well, but you won't be
at the window, it wouldn't do."

"I'll be there."

"Highness, sweetness, let Nell do it for you. Let Nell sit up in one of
your dresses, then if anybody's spying--"

"No!" Both were a little startled at the strength of that refusal. "Let
him walk, and look, and think you me--I won't have it. Besides, I want to
see him. I must see him."

"Well, but it's not like being at home, there's no privacy in this place,
people staring all the time, they may notice something."

"I'll only snuff the candle."

"How you say it! Like one of those French tragedy queens in love with the
wrong man."

"The right man."

Knesebeck looked at her inquisitively, made as if to speak; then, at a
loss, held her tongue. Sophia-Dorothea had been standing, vaguely looking
towards the window. Suddenly she became busy, ordered the silver mirror
from her travelling case, and settled down to be plied with brushes,
combs, toilet-waters, scent; to put on, and take off again, such jewels
as she had by her; to hurry her maids and forget them; and all the while
to prepare her heart. She would have liked to run to Königsmark in her
shift, with a hedge-flower in her hair; that would have suited her mood
of unwithholding. But in her, with this longing, worked that other
incomprehensible conviction of women, that where most pains arc taken
most devotion is shown, and to this she yielded. The hour's toilette and
bustling took on a character sacred as that of the vigil before
knighthood. Each change of a jewel or a curl was a little act of faith.

At last she took her candle to sit by the window. Königsmark, still
cloaked and dusty, watching from the shadow of a doorway, saw a little
very fine lady lean forward with the snuffers. He thought, angrily, "Why
does she dress? Who is there with her?" not understanding, taking for
frivolity this ritual decking. Then, seeing how the flame trembled with
her breath so close to it, he was shaken with desire for her, murmuring
in his own language old simple endearments not used since childhood. He
stood there long after the candle was out and the shutters had come
together, and charitable passers-by let him alone for a drunkard.


In October George-Louis made his way home from Flanders. Fighting ceased
by mutual consent with the first heavy rains of autumn; soldiers went
into winter quarters in subdued or friendly towns, the countryside
settled to its cold weather routine with such cattle as was left after
the armies had eaten and spoiled; the officers, men of family and
warriors only by tradition, departed, leaving their regiments to obey
sergeants and ranker lieutenants. The Prince of Hanover had spent an
uninteresting summer shooting at Frenchmen across fields of corn, with no
good pitched battle, no siege, to vary the eternal advances and retreats;
a restless summer in whose intervals his luck at cards had been bad, and
he had been prettily fleeced by a Dutchwoman with a businesslike husband.
He returned, therefore, with relief if not with enthusiasm to his family,
the snows and music of home.

Sophia-Dorothea was summoned by her mother-in-law on the twenty-first of
the month, and told to expect him. After details of the welcome and the
family dinner she came directly to matters more intimate. "You should
have the great bedroom made ready. You do not use it when you are alone,
I think?"

"Such a great cold room, Serene Highness, and I like to be nearer the
children. George-Louis too--he likes to be on the lower floor. It is more

"I am aware of his preferences. They do him no credit. However, from what
I hear, this woman Schulenburg is failing in looks. She is ill, too,
measles, or some such trouble, from which she will not be recovered yet.
You, on the other hand, are at your best." Duchess Sophia measured her up
and down with the eye of a stock-breeder. "This summer has given you back
your bloom. Be thankful, and use it for Nature's purposes."

Sophia-Dorothea whitened.

"Serene Highness, we care nothing for each other, he goes his way--"

"Two children only! That's not security as this house counts it. When
England is joined to our Crown we shall need another son. I have no
patience, nor have the Germans, with queens. You must not fail now in
your duty."

"It's hateful to me. I can't speak to you, his mother, of the things I've
endured from him. Put on my best dress, smile at him like a woman in the
street, accept him--I can't; no, I can't."

Duchess Sophia got up, and her lean hand, unused to caresses, crooked as
for the holding of a book, took firm hold of the Princess's chin.

"Look at me. You say George-Louis goes his way. And you, do you go yours,
by any chance?"

Sophia-Dorothea by an effort held her glance steady upon the old tawny
eyes fading round the iris to blue. She did not answer, for her throat
was dry, and to swallow would have made that, with other things, clear to
Duchess Sophia.

"You know very well that such a thing will not do. I am making no
accusations, your good name is your own affair; but it is of value to
others besides yourself, and is not to be blown on. I put no constraint
upon you. I ask only that your conduct shall give the lie to evil
thinkers. Reconciliation with your husband is the shortest way to make
nothing of suspicions. Let me hear that you understand me. I require an

So suspicions were about already. Her mind flitted in and out of possible
treacheries, indiscretions--but hesitation was dangerous, there was only
one answer, and she gave it, trembling.

"I will order the State bedroom to be made ready."

Duchess Sophia released her with a tap on the cheek. She offered no
approval of this yielding, which to her, as to the Princess, seemed
merely inevitable, and received the farewell curtsey with an indifferent
stately nod. But after Sophia-Dorothea had gone the Duchess went to her
writing table and took from one of its drawers a note, ill-written,

"Beware lest the Prince's offspring show the King's stamp. Brunswick,
beware and awake!" The meaning was perfectly evident, the elementary play
on words--_König, marke_--not to be mistaken. Whence such a warning
could come was the only puzzle. Duchess Sophia, lifting the dirty paper
without distaste to her fine nose, thought she perceived a scent upon it
which gave some notion of the writer. She listened to no gossip, but that
concerning Countess Platen and her latest favourite had been buzzed
loudly enough to reach her ears. Was there not some story of a marriage
between the Swedish Count and the woman's daughter? An ugly solution, but
one by no means to be regretted if it should come to pass. Duchess Sophia
knew less of women than of alchemy, but her own youth, remembered, told
her how Sophia-Dorothea might have come by that second spring, that bloom
of hers. She had yielded too readily to the proposal of a new
understanding with George-Louis, waking suspicion by the very means taken
to lull it. But--Duchess Sophia admitted it, with a shrug, of Eléonore
d'Olbreuse's daughter--she was a good girl. Come next harvest, there
should be another son.

In her pretty room, beneath the picture of Nausicaa, Sophia-Dorothea was
desperately arguing out a plan of conduct.

"The Duchess suspects. We have been sage, we have not met, none of the
letters has miscarried or been opened. How should it be known? But it is
known, and she warned me."

"It's old Platen up to her tricks." Knesebeck had a certain shrewdness,
the necessary darting apprehension which many years of Court intrigue
imposes. "She doesn't know the truth yet. But she's afraid, so she
strikes first. They're not lovers yet, she thinks, and if I put my wits
to it they never will be. So some greasy tale reaches the Duchess by way
of half a dozen whispers. She is loyal, the Duchess. Platen reckoned she
would tell you, and a nod's as good as a wink."

"I must tell him what's being said, what's happened."

"Now, now, Highness dear!"

"A letter, only a letter, there's no harm in that, you can't endanger the
honour of the noble and well-born house of Brunswick by a letter."

"Just at this time, when they're all on the lookout?"

"I must tell him. It terrifies me, the thought of spies. They'll denounce
him, and the Duke will send him away. I shall lose him."

"No, no, not if you're sensible--"

"How can I be sensible? How can I tell what's best to be done when all
the time I'm longing, and frightened, and it's all so dark?"

"The Duchess gave you your hint, you've only to take it."

"That! I won't. Never. Never!"

"Highness, my sweet." Knesebeck took the striving hands, and holding them
tightly against her breast spoke rapidly and gravely. She enjoyed a
complication as much as anyone, but this had gone too far, there was
danger, and she was alarmed for her own part in it all. It seemed to her
small sharp mind that she had better now begin to play the intervening
goddess, loose the spell that lay between the two and let all end in a
masque of Hymen. She had not yet perceived the naked and shivering body
of their passion through its Court tinsel.

"Listen. You know how stories go about in this town; one can't let them
run. You needn't have anything to do with your husband, but you should
seem to receive him. It looks better--he home from the war! And then
perhaps if you were to share his room as before you might find--how
should I know, an old maid like me?" Knesebeck giggled. "You might find
yourself not so displeased with him after all."

Sophia-Dorothea pulled her hands away.

"You don't understand what you talk of. You don't see that it's

"He's your husband. You've had eight years of it," Knesebeck answered

But Sophia-Dorothea was seized with that fierce chastity that will allow
no touch other than the lover's; if not his, none. She had no words for
the feeling which commanded her, and could only repeat, anguished, that
she would not, that such a thing must not be asked of her. Knesebeck
could perceive another way out of the maze, but offered her suggestion
with diffidence.

"If not you, then he must do it. There's nothing else to be contrived,
that I can see."

"He? Königsmark?"

"If he'll mend matters with Platen; if he'll be with her as before--"

A sharp cry interrupted that.

"Darling Highness, you're in love, but be sensible, be wise, think a
little for him." That checked the Princess in her restless stepping about
the room. "You know what will happen, must happen, you said it yourself,
unless something is done. They daren't touch you; but they'll break him,
and send him away."

"No, Nell, no!"

"They will, Highness, my dove, believe me, believe Nell who's older than
you and wiser. There's only the one way or the other of stopping it."

The Princess turned quickly, with a little hissing breath as if a sudden
pain had caught her. She began to walk as before, but halted.

"He stood here, you remember? That day when his coat was wetted, when he
came to tell me of Charles. Here, was it? No, here, he laid his hand
while he talked to me." She put her cheek to the top of the chair-back.
"It's so long ago; I felt happy afterwards, I didn't know why. That's a
strange thing, isn't it? That I shouldn't have known."

But Knesebeck would not play the game of sentiment now. She had often
before been the one to start it, with little sighs, and the recollection
of glances or touches. Now she was alive to her own interest, aware how
her behaviour might be construed by the Duke and his advisers in council,
and determined that this affair must be ended one way or the other.
Cleverly she laboured, like some astute small rat-like animal, to be free
of the net.

"You don't answer Nell, sweetheart. He goes back to Platen or you go back
to the Prince. Now, which shall it be? For there's only these two things
to be done."

"We'll escape. We'll go away together, somehow."

Knesebeck did not trouble to answer that. She merely shook her head
slowly, once, twice. Give up two crowns! And though the Princess had
spoken from her heart she accepted the negations implied by that turning
head. Escape--that presented too many problems of money, of planning,
matters in which she knew herself incompetent. For eight years she had
hardly walked from one room to another without half a dozen persons being
aware of her movements, and this casual vigilance of a Court seemed to
her something not possible to put aside. She bit at her thumbnail while
Knesebeck talked on.

"The Prince comes to-morrow. You'll think it over, you'll be my own good
sugar Highness, because, you see, it's ruin for us all if you don't make
up your mind."

"I must think. Don't torment me, Nell. Don't force me."

"My darling, come to Nell, your head here, that's right. (Does the brooch
hurt your cheek? Away with the nasty thing.) It's because I'm so afraid
for you. I'm kinder than you can understand now in your poor sore heart.
But one thing I do see clearly; you shan't degrade yourself. It's
Königsmark who must take the step. He must make it up with Platen."

"Go to Platen! I'll die rather than that. Don't ever speak of it, Nell,
it's hideous, it's the one thing I won't bear." And vivid lascivient
images beginning to form and couple before her mind's eye, she put her
hands to her face as though the scenes were being lived in the room
before her, shook her head violently, with an effort of the throat like
that which tries to expel the taste of something foetid. "Never that!
I'll take back George-Louis rather--"

Knesebeck suddenly pressed the head to quiet against her shoulder.

"There's my good girl, that's a sensible sweet. Darling Highness, it's
the only way, the best way."

"I haven't said--"

"You needn't say anything. But it shall be so. I'll see to it, I'll give
the orders."

"I must write to him."

Knesebeck was in charge now, she had won her point, and victory gives

"I forbid you. Write, with spies in every corner like spiders,
endangering him, perhaps? I'm ashamed of you."

"Nell, don't scold, I'm so wretched--"

And with that came the first great fall of tears. Knesebeck held her, was
tender; and when the paroxysm was ended, sent for amber, mace, and ale,
which with her own hands she mixed to a calming drink that was fed in
spoonfuls to her mistress until the quivering breaths drew more easily.
When it was time to dress and dine she handed Sophia-Dorothea in to her
bedroom and her women to let them lace her. Thence she went directly to
her own room, where she ate alone and greedily little delicacies to the
French fancy which the cooks prepared for her, bribes to obtain
continuance of her good-will. She was in no hurry.

After the fricassee and the eggs in spun sugar were finished she found
paper and a pen and wrote in the low running hand that was so like her
way of walking:

"Isabella writes in great fear lest something should have been
discovered. How this can be she cannot guess, but she has received
circumstantial warning. She believes that danger threatens from one
quarter only, where of late you have offended. She can see no way to
quiet suspicion but one which is odious to contemplate. _Le
Réformeur_* comes to-morrow, he must find waiting for him a dutiful
complaisant wife. This is the one means whereby she can secure safety for
a secret which is dearer to her than life. She must betray love to save
it, and she implores pardon for a treachery which, were the circumstances
other, she had rather die than commit."

_[* George-Louis.]_

Königsmark was not on duty that night, but his house was not far distant.
Knesebeck slipped on a hood and a pair of clogs and went out through the
rain, to the astonishment of her abigail Maria. At the tall house she
asked for the master. The servants had their orders to introduce any
messenger who held his fingers in a certain way, the middle crossed over
the fore, and Knesebeck, pulling her hood across her eyes, kept them
twisted in this manner. She found Königsmark staring into the fire,
stirring from time to time with his foot a mastiff that lay sleeping and
twitching by his chair. The creature bounded up as Knesebeck entered, and
Königsmark caught it back by the collar, roughly; his slim womanish hands
constrained it while he spoke:

"You here, _confidante?_ You should not have come."

"When you have read what she says, you will see why she dared trust
nobody else."

He took the letter, after a quick look at her, kissed it long and without
self-consciousness, then laughed.

"It is your writing that I salute. I forget that. One day, when it is
safe, ask her if I may not have something in her own hand, three words,
just to keep about me--"

He had opened the paper by now, and his voice dwindled as he read, the
sentence went unfinished. His face contracted; Knesebeck could see,
beneath the lids cast down, his eyeballs flickering, right, left, right,
left, furiously reading, getting at the heart of the letter. He held it
in his left hand; suddenly with the right he struck the paper, looking
up, and his voice, that always stumbled a little among the German
phrases, found those the Princess herself had used.

"Never! That I won't bear. You know what she says here? I'll kill him.
She shan't do it."

"That will not help her. Be reasonable. She thinks only of you."

"Will she think only of me in that sot's bed?" He struck his forehead
twice with his fist; the ring of the thumb made a tiny cut, from which
blood began oozing. "I must see to it that he is put away. My brother did
that in England. Yes, it could be done--"

"You're talking wildly. Don't you see whence all this comes? The letter
tells you plain enough. Platen; she is the enemy."

He picked up the paper again, read it, tossed it down, and put a hand
unconsciously to that place on his jaw where a scar showed.

"She's too well guarded."

"Why must you always be thinking of blood? Make up your quarrel, that's
all you have to do."

"That, no." The dog growled, hearing his voice.

"Don't you see her reason, have you never heard of jealousy? A jealous
woman is a worse enemy than any man ever was or could be."

He was quiet; then as if to get away from the dilemma, to breathe
happiness for a moment, asked:

"The Princess; does she speak of me? What dress does she wear to-day?"

"She's too full of crying. The State bedroom's being put to rights."

"Ah!" He pulled up his sleeve, thrust his naked arm towards the mastiff's
bared fangs. "Bite, slash with your teeth, give me pain so that I need
not think!" The brute dropped to the floor, wriggled his tail, and rolled
slowly over, slavering with idiotic devotion. Königsmark kicked him; he
grunted, but still rolled, adoring.

"You can't get away from it like that." Knesebeck watched, admiring this
extravagance, but there was her own skin to think of, her plan yet to be
imposed. "You must face it, as I said to her. This isn't a time for

"No. It is a choice of pains." He spoke lifelessly, his spasm of
extravagance over. "We know only the one way to be happy, she and I; but
to be unhappy, to be in hell, a thousand ways!"

Knesebeck had no answer to that. She was beginning to see, in his haggard
looks, in her memory of the Princess's weeping, something of the truth.
Love in the Court of Brunswick, despairs and raptures and thoughts of
death; story-book goings-on, to the accompaniment of graduated curtseys,
fourteen dishes to a course, and disputes about pedigree! Though she
conceived it but dimly, she was at a loss. Königsmark spoke.

"She does this for me. She humbles herself for me. That's sweet, to think
of her tears."

"Oh, very sweet indeed, a pretty picture; my Highness crying herself to
sleep in that man's arms while you amuse yourself striking attitudes over
her misery--"

"You fool, do you think I will allow it? But that I, I have the power to
hurt her so deeply--" He stood for a moment quite still, and shaded his
eyes like a man about to enter the torture-room, who puts up a plea for
strength. "I'll write to her. Sit there and wait. Balder will not touch

Knesebeck sat, victory under her hand, but in a kind of fear, while he
squared himself to the table and laboriously, in a foreign tongue, wrote
to the woman who was his heart's country and home.

"The determination expressed in your letter fills me with horror. If my
love gives me any right to command you, I forbid such a sacrifice. If I
may not command, then I drag myself to your feet, and there with tears
flowing implore you never again to submit yourself to that marg. More; if
I learn that you have done so I shall somehow pick a quarrel with him,
and one or other of us does not leave the field alive. I know, my sweet
brune, your reasons, I hold your tenderness to my heart, but I cannot
accept nor endure safety at this price. Better disgrace, better death.

"You have trusted me thus far. Trust me now. Leave it to me to discover a
way past this besieging troop of miseries. Take no step on your own
account. We shall meet on Tuesday, I shall be watching your card-table,
and I cannot write when I think that perhaps I may touch your hand.

"I watch myself daily in the glass. I speak to my image and say, This is
the man that she loves, over and over again. The image only stares and
mutters at me. No, it is not real, it is not living when you and I are
apart, then we are no more than shadows. But at a touch, no matter how
brief, the flesh comes to life, we are warmed, we know ourselves.

"I beg you on my knees, by our love, to do as I desire you."

He sealed the letter carefully, twice, and sat looking at the blank
oblong; they risked no superscriptions. Then he took up a silver bell and
rang it continuously, till three footmen came tumbling in as for an alarm
of fire.

"My horse." Two of the men departed, the other, seeing the letter,
waited. "Why is my room full of stinking lackeys? This is not a pothouse,
for you to come running half a dozen at a time. Get out of here."

The man went rapidly, glancing swiftly under his lids at Knesebeck with
the hood drawn across her face. Königsmark gave her the letter, and asked

"Does she show you what I write?" Knesebeck shook her head. "Tells you,

"She is jealous of anything that comes from you."

"Listen, then; I'll tell you what I do not tell her. I am going to
Monplaisir to-night, but she is not to know it."

Knesebeck gave a little skip, so delighted was she with her success. Both
puppets back in their appropriate beds, and no more danger for Eléonore
Knesebeck, who may finish her days at Court snug as a mouse in a cheese.
But could these two be trusted to pose like a couple of the Elector of
Saxony's Dresden figures, piping and yearning at arm's length for ever?
They would forget. They must forget. We are not in the days of Troy, she
reminded herself; and, consoled, found something to say:

"If it is not known, then it is worth nothing. Show yourself with Platen,
seem to be her squire, make work for the tongues."

He answered simply.

"I don't know yet if I can do it. If I cannot, there is a third way."

"Daggers and scandals, and all the rest of it. I'm ashamed of you--"

"No. To go away."

Knesebeck gazed, unbelieving her good fortune. This was the best solution
of all, for if he stayed, sooner or later the two might come together,
and her trick be discovered. She had not much hope, however. It was
unlikely that such a man should not be able to make his peace with an
ex-mistress who had been dragging herself about like a cat in spring
since his departure.

A knock came at the door, and a footman's voice reported his horse. She
stowed away her letter, and left the house, hardy observed by the grooms
and linkboys gathered to mount their master. Turning the corner she heard
hoofs begin to batter the cobbles behind her, and felt the wind of the
rider's passage.

Once more in her comfortable room, she took Königsmark's letter out of
the breast of her dress, broke the seals, read it carefully, and then
dropped it among the flames. Its urgency alarmed her. For a little while
she could not steady her heart. And an odd feeling, that might have been
jealousy, or pleasure in the ending of a love-affair not her own, invaded
her as she sat waiting for this agitation to die down, and the paper to
be consumed.

It was an hour's ride to Monplaisir. Königsmark was too good a horseman
to vent his own perplexities on his mount; nevertheless, the pressure of
his knees and voice was continued, and he pulled up at Countess Platen's
gates ten minutes this side of the necessary sixty. It was not late, nine
o'clock or a little after, an hour at which guests began to arrive from
Hanover for play, and he was astonished to find the courtyard empty, the
gate-keeper already in his nightcap. He asked the man no questions, ran
up the steps, and was admitted by a footman brought to the door by
curiosity rather than for service. The entrance was ill lit, but he could
see that this man's livery was buttoned awry.

"What's all this? Where's the Countess?"

The Countess was poorly, the man informed him, and kept her bed.
Königsmark stood, slashing his boots with his whip, adapting his plan of
campaign to this new factor. At last:

"Ask if she will receive me."

"She will, sir," the man answered without hesitation or insolence.

"She will, ha! Since when has the Countess taken you into her

"We have our orders, sir. The Count Königsmark to be admitted, any hour,

So easy was the way made for him, so readily would she be appeased.
Hitherto he had seen their relation as a casual though frantic encounter
between equals, the woman demanding what the man could give, the man
lending the woman what she asked; either free at any moment to cock a hat
and snap fingers and go. It was a link without sentiment, brittle, or so
he imagined. This order to the servants proved clearly enough one
partner's mastery of the situation.

"I'll go up, then. Bring a light."

They walked together up the elegant staircase, decorated with gilt
trophies of music and war, and came to the corridor off which Countess
Platen's bedroom lay. At the turn Königsmark took the candlestick from
the man's hand and went on alone. Behind the familiar door he could hear
sounds of talking. He knocked. A woman came to open and fell back with a
small delighted scream.

"Who's there? What is it?" That was the mistress's strong voice; he knew
that it came from her bed.


There was an instant's silence, broken by the sound of the bed-curtains
being pulled, a chink of metal rings. "You! A fine time to choose. Let
him in, Maria." He came towards the bed, speaking as he walked. "I heard
you were sick--"

"Nothing, a silly child's complaint. Don't come nearer." The bed-hangings
were completely closed, he could see no trace of the bed's occupant other
than a twist in the crimson silk that marked where her hand held the
edges of two curtains together. "They say it's carried on the breath. And
besides, I've no wish to be looked at just now."


"Don't be afraid, my little Count, nothing to spoil your beauty. Sit
there. Fetch a chair for him, Maria, and go on with the anointing I

Her waiting-woman picked up the bowl of yellow curdled liquid in which a
couple of feathers rested, offered Königsmark the chair on which it had
been standing, and went, carrying it carefully, to the other side of the
enormous bed.

"What's that she's got there?"

"Women's secrets, vanity, vanity; cream curdled with saffron which Maria
lays on the spots and then I lie in it. It gives me a clownish look,
yellow on red, and so I'll keep the curtains tight, with your

His mind was filled with relief, he was aware of a kind of weakness in
his limbs as though a long strain was at last over. There would be no
love-making expected to-night; a breathing space.

She was talking, and her strong voice sounded gay, despite a kind of

"But I'm less of a portent than Schulenburg. With this rash she looks
like a traveller in Prussia after one night in an inn bed. That's enough
of the measles. Talk; I can't see you, let me hear your voice. It gives
me pleasure that you've come."

She said that with simplicity and feeling. He answered, trying to match
her mood:

"I still carry your token."

"That! I thought of it afterwards, I was angry with myself; and to this
day I can't explain it. That's not the way I go to work, with shrieks and
red-hot tongs. It was like possession."

"Is the devil gone yet?"

"I think so. But don't reckon on it. Wasn't there a man in the Bible?
They drove the devil out of him, and in came seven others, worse than the

"Then I'm not safe?"

"No one's safe in love."

There was a silence. The hand which had been twisting the curtains let
go, and came through between their folds. It was a little reddened with
fever. The shapely youngish fingers beckoned him.

"Philip--why have you come back?"

He did not expect that, and though the answer came pat, he stammered it:

"You were ill. I was sorry."

"Take my hand, don't be afraid of it. Listen: is there something you want
from me?"

"Only--for matters to be as they were."

"Discretion, eh? The Prince is coming home."

His hand shifted a little in her clasp; he answered a thought too

"What has he to do with us?"

"Is that true, Philip?" He hated her use of his name, an intimacy to
which Sophia-Dorothea had not yet come, but he controlled himself to
press her hand for answer.

"Speak; say it. A touch can lie."

"What am I to say? I'm not easy in German--"

"Say it in Turkish, what you please, it's the tone I want. Say that you
come to-night having some affection for me, some feeling in your heart
that's honest."

The hand that lay in his was not so unlike the hand of Sophia-Dorothea.
It had the same plumpness and pointed fingers, it was smooth. He said,
bending his mouth close over it:

"I swear that I come with true feeling in my heart, seeking kindness,
wanting peace."

Fear for his secret, relief that to-night no physical pledge would be
demanded of him; these lent his voice conviction, even to himself he
seemed to speak truth. He heard the Countess draw a breath, felt the
fingers slacken in his, and brought them upwards to kiss them; but with
the movement came a whiff of rancid cream and he turned his cheek

The waiting-woman at the other side of the bed, with dipped feathers
decorously painting wide reddened breasts, looked up to see her Countess
lying motionless, bold eyes closed, and smiling. The kind light of the
candles for once was pitiless. It showed deep lines from mouth to nose,
an ugly horseshoe wrinkle cloven in the forehead, all the lines of the
face blurred and swelled, yet grotesquely conveying abandonment, joy.

"This is something not like the others," said the woman later to one of
her compeers. She had been bidden to escort the Count downstairs, to
bring back word how he looked, what he said before departure; on her
return to the bedroom there had been a ransacking of jewel boxes for this
and that trinket to be sent off next morning to his house; it was one
o'clock before she could quit the bedroom, and then she left the Countess
waking. "No," said Maria to the women who were to watch the rest of the
night, "this is quite another thing. She's silly for him."

"Old age."

"Better not let her hear you. It's pitiful to watch it."

"They say a woman only makes a fool of herself over the first and the

"Well, I know one thing I ought to do. Warn the husband."


"As if he didn't know all about it! Warn the Duke, that's more like

"There's no risk of an accident happening to the Duke."

Astounded silence, then a voice:

"What! Is she wanting to marry this youngster? No, now, that's unheard

"I tell you, she's out of her senses about him."

"Well, for God's sake!"

Maria, satisfied with the stupefaction she had caused, ceased nods and
becks, and made for her bedroom with a pleasant silver bowl full of
caudle to sup before she slept.


The Prince arrived next day, to receive such welcome as the windy streets
and preoccupied townspeople of Hanover afforded. There was little
enthusiasm. He brought back with him no captured standards, none of the
illusions of victory, and left behind in the engulfed mud of Flanders a
good many black-cockaded soldiers who might more usefully have been
ploughing, baking, or unrolling cloth upon counters.

He went first to his father's house, where Duke Ernest Augustus kissed
him on the forehead and asked with enforced jocularity how many men and
thalers he had lost. Duchess Sophia, who wrote freely to her boys when
they were absent, but knew no way to convey her pride and pleasure in
them when they were at her elbow, was obliged to begin with enquiries
after various respectable related princes, duke of this, raugrave of
that, palsgrave of the other. George knew nothing of any of them, or even
that they were relatives; he had no head for pedigrees. But he had been
in talk with the King of England several times, and made the most of
this, knowing his mother's anxiety that the English connection should be
tenderly maintained. A little man, King William, in a wig too big for
him. Not a bad soldier for a Dutchman.

"You were respectful to him?"

"He's not a man you can make free with."

"I should hope not. What news of our cousin the Queen?"

"No children still. She writes to him every day, but that's not the way
to get them."

"Nor is that the way to speculate in such matters as the inheritance of a
crown." He shuffled his feet; his mother's old-fashioned prejudices were
for ever being forgotten. "You have had a wearisome journey. A bath with
pellitory and camomile flowers is refreshing. Take it before you greet
your wife."

He felt himself obliged to ask:

"How's her health?"

"Well. Her spirits, not so well. Your return will help to re-establish
them." George-Louis gave a kind of grin, half deprecating; as usual, he
could not make out how far his mother was in earnest. She went on,
walking with him, one hand on his arm; "Our Sophy is a good girl, and
she is willing to greet you very kindly. Take advantage of this, pay her
some little attention. Your children are in fine fettle. I have only one
regret concerning them"--he looked--"that there are not twice as many.
Well, well, time yet." She clapped his arm in friendliness and let him

He was thus in some way prepared for the state of affairs which he found
existing over the way, in his own house. The rooms to which he was
accustomed were unlighted and empty, and his valets were carrying up
luggage and lighting fires in the dressing room next to the State
apartment. New furnishings, new curtains, a pot of late autumn
flowers--it all looked, mused George-Louis, surveying the room without
expression, like a damned bridal chamber. His wife, however, was nowhere
to be seen, and he dressed himself for the family dinner without making
enquiry for her. Half-way through, while he stood with his head bent back
almost between his shoulder-blades so that a valet might fix the cravat
of new Dutch lace, came scuffling and whispering outside the door, with
at last a timid knock, low down upon it.

"Open," said George-Louis, not moving his head.

A bedchamber gentleman obeyed, the pinning of the lace tie was achieved,
and George-Louis withdrew his gaze from the cornice to bend it upon his
children, who stood before him hand in hand, dutiful but ready to run.

Sophia-Dorothea, a hand upon the shoulder of each, urged them forward.
All three faces were ludicrously alike in their expression of alarm
overlaid with fictitious pleasure. George-Louis, who hated ceremony,
nevertheless respected it, and was a little put about that his family
should choose such a method and such a moment for reunion. It had,
however, the advantage of precluding any marital scene between his wife
and himself, and on the whole he could not regret that their first
meeting should take place before witnesses.

The little boy, obeying a pressure of fingers on his shoulders, began a
poem of welcome, written for the occasion by the palace librarian; his
eyes were cast down, a frown of concentration wrinkled the round
Brunswick dog-forehead.

"Not Rome in all her happiest pomp could show
A greater Caesar than we welcome now.
Laying the sword aside, his mighty hand
Returns to scatter plenty o'er the land,
With god-like bounty recompensing all.
The warrior's blessing on his children fall--"

The wrinkle laboured, changed shape; the small head was turned to hear a
prompting whisper:

"Domestic bliss--"

"Domestic bliss--bliss--" The frown smoothed, recollection came flooding,
and the last couplet emerged at a gallop:

"Domestic bliss his labours still reward,
The Muse's darling and Bellona's lord!"

With a gasp of triumph the eulogy was completed, and the Muse's darling,
taken thus unprepared, was obliged to find some sort of answer.

"That was very well spoken, very clear and pretty." He was in fact no
little touched by the boy's four-square attitude, and there was a
resemblance to himself which he had not before observed. The girl had her
mother's eves, and was looking at him without deference of any kind. He
felt obliged to make mention of her.

"And Sophy, has she lost her tongue?"

"She has learned her welcome too." That was Sophia-Dorothea speaking for
the first time. "Come, Sophy: 'To dear Papa our voice we raise--'"

But Sophy, who at first had seemed inclined to cry, was now overcome by
some infantile joke. She shook her head, refused all cues, and at last
burst out laughing, pointing her fingers at her father's breast, over
which decorations were spangled.

"The pretty stars
I love to see
That shine upon
Our Christmas tree--"

sang the Princess Sophy. Over and over again, pointing at her father and
dancing, she repeated it: "The Christmas tree, the Christmas tree--"

Dark green coat, snowy falls of lace, hanging stars; George-Louis'
appearance did in fact answer more nearly to this simile than to that of
Bellona's bridegroom. Sophia-Dorothea felt laughter coming upon her, and
lest she should release it--an indignity which would not be
forgiven--checked with a stroke of the hand by no means gentle her
daughter's exuberance. George-Louis, happily slow to suppose himself an
object of amusement, and still warm with pleasure in his boy, became

"Very good. You have not wasted your time in the schoolroom, I can see.
Now, I believe I've got one or two presents for good children in my bags

"And for Mamma, too. Mamma taught us."

"Well, yes, there is something too for Mamma." He remembered in time a
pair of gloves, an exquisite pair with cuffs of Mechlin lace that had
cost a fortune and which he had intended for Schulenburg. Pleased with
his own resourcefulness he repeated: "Yes, there is something very
pretty, I can tell you, for Mamma."

Orders were given, valets came staggering in and out with bags, until
that which, contained the presents was at last identified. A silver
windmill to grind pepper, a tiny pistol gave the children pleasure, and
dismissed them. Presentation of the gloves was a more awkward matter;
George-Louis was suddenly oppressed with a notion that he had ordered
initials to be worked into the gloves. Dubiously he brought them out of
their silver paper, and had one bad moment when he saw that this was
indeed so; but the initials, happily, were his own, with the crown above
them. He liked to label that which belonged to him, and also his gifts;
reminded by such outward tokens, he was rarely obliged to forget his own

The valets, the bedchamber gentlemen had withdrawn. It was the moment for
a little warmth.

"So you see, Sophy"--to his wife--"I thought of you, though I doubt if
you paid me the like compliment."

"Indeed, I have thought of you very often."

"Very flattering. My mother said something--"

He halted, astonished at the sudden change, the whiteness of her face.
"She said something--that you'd been low spirited."

"Her Serene Highness is always kind."

"I don't know so much about that," George-Louis answered, with a grin.
But the heinousness of appearing to criticise his mother, daughter and
granddaughter kings, in hearing of his wife, a bastard until her tench
year, brought his face straight again. "At any rate, she said you were
ready to be civil."

"I am. I am prepared."

Even his lack of perception could not miss the overtones in this phrase.

"No need to sound as if you were going to be hanged."

"I'm tired."

She looked deplorable, but very pretty. She had her mother's _flair_
for a scene, and unselfconsciousness in distress. Eyes a little heavy,
cheeks a little pink, were topped by dark hair carelessly dressed, amid
whose curls diamonds hung sparsely, like tear-drops. The dress, however,
was new and becoming; her French blood had not yet been so subdued as to
quit all coquetry, even in sorrow. With the best will in the world to
displease, and for that very reason, she was appetising to George-Louis,
whose natural sluggishness of temper found no spur in indifference; an
acquiescent woman was as wearisome to him as those fields of corn through
which, all summer long, with never a shot fired, he had manceuvred his
troops. Interest in his wife was now awake, as at the time of their
marriage, and for the same cause.

He put out a hand, took her ear, and by it pulled her towards him. She
came, after an instant's involuntary resistance, with shut eyes,
expecting a kiss; the lids trembled, as though she awaited a blow.
George-Louis observed these tremors, laughed, and suddenly with his
disengaged hand tweaked her nose.

Her face changed ludicrously. She glared at him, paused, sneezed. He had
broken the mood, she could not continue her scene. Abandoning tragedy,
she ran off the stage, clacking the door at her back, while her husband
looked after her, then at himself in the glass. The prospect of a set-to
with her after dinner pleased him. He summoned his gentlemen, shook out
the lace over his fine hands, and went downstairs in a very good humour
to dine.

His wife meanwhile, her nose still pink, was crouched over a table,
writing, for the first time in her own hand, to Königsmark:

"I write because I must. Only to think of you gives me the courage of
which I am at this moment in dire need. To look forward is misery; the
past is no better, for there I discover moments of such happiness as it
seems can never come again. At hours like this I can almost regret that
we ever knew each other, so great is the wretchedness that separation
imposes. Misery is more easily remembered, and longer, and more
poignantly than joy. So at least it seems to me now, with joy so distant,
and misery so near. I do not ask you to write, I know well that at the
moment this would be folly, and though I do not care for myself, your
life and safety are precious to me, and must by all means be preserved.
But I must at least see you, though only for a moment, and with no chance
of a word or a clasp of hands. To-morrow it is usual for the officers to
come and pay their respects to Le Reformeur. Pray bring yourself to this
duty, for I shall be present; and you can surely steel yourself for my
sake to an ordeal by no means so terrible as that which I must endure for

"This letter seems cold, ungrateful, and petulant now that I re-read it.
Say to yourself that a sick creature tears the hand it loves, and let
your good-will to me be no less, for if that fails me, I die."

This she sent by the hand of a young page, who adored her; Knesebeck knew
nothing of it. The letter reached Königsmark safely, and set him striding
about his room, ecstatic. He had his comfort at last, Sophia-Dorothea's
own handwriting to kiss; and though the letter puzzled him, with its
reference to an ordeal--surely he had saved her from that?--its evident
pain, despair that even the chill elegant French constructions could not
hide, gave him glad assurance that he possessed her whole spirit.
George-Louis, that unimaginative prince, had been stirred by something of
this same feeling when he watched his wife's eyelids twitch, awaiting his
kiss. The romantic and the clod shared, delighting in it, the sense of
power which the causing of pain confers; thus proving the contention of a
French duke, that deliberate cruelty has less pain to answer for in this
world than man's self-esteem, eternally demanding reassurance.

The dinner differed in no way from all the dinners of a century. Watching
her daughter-in-law, observing how she ate little and daintily, Duchess
Sophia was reminded of the girl's mother, sickened long ago by only
watching the princely feeders at table consuming sausages, red cabbage,
and a favourite Brunswick dish of ginger and onions. She remembered
once--preposterous affectation--d'Olbreuse the lady-in-waiting sliding
down to the floor on a faint during her two hours of standing in
attendance; and a discovery reported by some abigail, that the
Frenchwoman cooked herself small messes on the wood fire in her bedroom
rather than eat what contented their Highnesses. Sensibility! Duchess
Sophia had little patience with it in women, though she admitted the
right of men to fads and tantrums, those privileges of the weaker
vessel. She hoped that the girl would behave herself, realising that
with her, and not George-Louis, the issue lay. He was at his best
to-night, so much she could admit; what clothes could do for him the
Dutch tailors had done; and he talked to his brothers with emphasis and
no lack of sense concerning the campaign and its commanders. His wife,
however, did not look at him that the Duchess could perceive, save once,
when he spoke of resuming the war in the spring, taking bark with him a
few companies of guardsmen "to stiffen our fellows in attack:" then she
did lift her eyes, and the whole face took on a look of terror,
instantly masked.

"She's fond of the children, though," mused Duchess Sophia, drinking ale;
"that may hold her. We can't risk a bastard just now."

She was attentive to the girl when dinner was over; bade her sit at the
ducal card-table, with:

"Advise me in my play; if I win you shall have a share."

But the evening went heavily. Countess Platen was not present to liven
matters, the young princes were sullen at the return of their brother,
Sophia-Dorothea's advice was worth very little to the partnership at
ombre. There was the customary trumpet music, through which Ernest
Augustus only was able to sleep. George-Louis sat, his feet thrust in
front of him, sticking out his lower lip and from time to time passing
his tongue over the upper, eyeing his wife. When the last hand had been
played, and the trumpeters, with deep bows to serene unconscious backs,
were shuffling out of their gallery, he got up almost with impatience,
and walking over to her put a hand on her shoulder. Duchess Sophia marked
an instant rigidity of the whole figure that followed. But the matter was
out of her hands.

"There are times," mused Duchess Sophia, squaring the cards together,
"when I wish I could swallow some of their Popish nonsense. How easy to
light a few candles, and leave them to say your prayers for you while you
sleep! But I doubt God's intervention when it comes to coupling. Pray the
saints, whichever one's business it is, he don't drive her to some folly
with his thick-headedness and temper."

She rose to receive their curtsey and bow, gave George-Louis a nod and
Sophia-Dorothea a tap on the cheek that had in it something of a caress,
something of warning. The girl made no acknowledgment.

They departed together. Twenty footmen with torches showed them to their
carriage, six horses and five men drew and guided the gilt swaying
monster down two narrow streets, a distance of six hundred yards or so;
there ten further footmen ran out with lights to meet them, and they were
home. During the transit nothing was said, but as they parted in the
corridor, at the door of his dressing room he said, nipping her arm:

"Don't go to sleep yet."

She nodded and went on. He undressed quickly, obliged his valets to
unpack a new nightshirt, a bed-gown of crimson satin, and some elegant
Turkish slippers. Of all these Schulenburg should have had first view;
but they went unregretted the way of the Mechlin gloves, in his new
curiosity about his wife. His head, shaved for the convenience of
wig-wearing, looked knobbed and unsightly till he swathed it in a kind of
silk turban. Thus attired he walked, with something of a strut, through
an ante-chamber to the State bedroom, where on an enormous feather
pillow, backed by folds of velvet bearing a coat of arms embroidered,
Sophia-Dorothea lay waiting with a book in her hands. This fact struck

"What's this you're reading?"

She turned it so that he might see the name on the spine; a Bible. He
laughed, finding it poignant and delightful that a woman about to offer
intimate welcome to her husband should begin by filling her mind with

"You're too young for that yet." In fact, she looked a plump eighteen
with her hair on her shoulders. "Don't you know that's not at all a book
for young girls? Give it to me." She abandoned it, and he began, with an
expression to which the Turkish attire added something unpleasing, to
search for the story of Lot and his daughters. It eluded him, however; he
had not handled a Bible for long, and could discover, running the pages
past his thumb, only strange explosions of metaphor, agony, or fear:
"Cry, ye daughters of Rabbah, run to and fro by the hedges--the wheels
were full of eyes--our time is a shadow--bondage--a fiery law." He threw
the book down impatiently, and putting his hand on the bed, vaulted up on
to it.

"And what have you been doing while I was away?"

She began some account of the children, and of her charities, the
progress of the garden at Herrenhausen, some new hangings sent by her
father for the hall. George-Louis let her run down, and then repeated,
wagging his head:

"What have you been doing? I said. You know what a man means when he says
that. Any lovers?"

"Be careful. I've had letters from Hanover."

She was at once on the alert; a sense of danger held her still, while her
mind trembled with conjectures.

"Letters from people who wish me well. I don't need to give you names--"

"I shouldn't care to hear."

"You might care to hear what the letters said; or whom the letters said.
Perhaps you know, though. Eh? Guess now; guess whom they give you for a

"I am not concerned with anything liars may say of me. You should not
believe them. You should have more thought for your honour than to
believe them."

George-Louis was just a little startled by her fierceness. Nobody had
written to accuse his wife, it was his humour to tease her with a
supposition of gossip. But this sudden flinging out, like a bird that
swoops at the intruder too near its nest, put him on his guard.

"A man can't look after his honour when he's absent. Eh? Come, now, no
secrets between husband and wife. Whom have you been hiding in
cupboards?" She did not answer. "Or masking with at Brunswick? I know the
fair; things can very well happen at the fair." Her eyelids flickered; he
was watching, and triumphed. "Ha, so it was there? Now we're nearer the

She turned her head, so that he should not follow the movements of her
eyes, but her breast was restless and it was at her breast that he

"What sort of man would take your fancy, I wonder? Something like the
French prisoners we've been making, all bows and boots, no fight in 'em;
lap-dogs. That's what would suit you, but there's nothing like it in
Hanover, thank God."

"Why will you sit there talking? What have your French prisoners to do
with me?"

"Nothing; they're your countrymen, though, on the mother's side; that's
where you get your fal-lal-las from." The breaths were easing, he could
see; their talk was moving away from the danger point. With a right-about
turn he was back. "But this fellow at Brunswick--"

Terrified, she could not let it pass. Silence would have baffled him, as
stillness in a wild creature baulks the hunter. But Sophia-Dorothea's
thoughts were vivid with Königsmark, he walked lively through her mind;
it was as though the flame within were for ever throwing his shadow
outwards, in her speech, in her look; she imagined that even the blindest
must perceive this shade, and put a name to the reality that cast it.
Supposing George-Louis informed by some spy, and in fear for one secret,
she could find no better way to distract him than to let fall the other.

"I don't know what you've heard that happened at Brunswick; don't mind
it, it's all so hopeless, there's no danger. Poor Max and his schemes!"

"Max! This is new. What about Max? What scheme?"

"There's jealousy of you, you know that. Your father's will--"

"Discontented, are they? Let them; there's no getting by it. Little King
William, he made matters plain."

She had effectively turned him aside from the other enquiry; this matter
touched his having his handful of plunder.

He was serious now, suspicious and dogged. After a silence he began to
question and to argue.

"What's Max at? What's his grievance? He's my brother, I won't see him
lose by this arrangement. It's to please the English. He's only got to
wait awhile; when I'm King there he can dip his hands in as deep as he
likes. He can have a dukedom. Pooh! He can have Hanover, for all I care,
if I get England." She muttered that Max would never be his brother's
pensioner. "What? He takes from my father all the money he can get. My
mother, too. Pensioner! You don't know Max."

"I know him better than you."

"You do?" He looked at her shrewdly and angrily. "You know a great deal.
What's he been plotting? Out with it, you can't tell me there's nothing,
you've said too much. What happened at Brunswick Fair?"

The repetition of those words, their nearness to her mystery, confirmed
an apprehension that had been growing. She saw for an instant, but with
terrifying clearness, just what she had done. As the bird's swoop guides
the seeker, she had, by this diversion, put her lover under her husband's
hand. Königsmark was of the plot, the silly plot, without object, without
chance of success.

She did then what she should have done ten minutes earlier, abandoned
argument and suddenly flung herself towards her husband across the

"Won't you think a little of me, instead of all this asking and
teasing--" She put a hand to his bare neck. The touch set her shivering
uncontrollably, but he might assign that to what cause he pleased. "Be
kind to me. You're home again after so many months."

But George-Louis was now in no mood for her. His security, his
pre-eminence had been touched, and she had a good word for the brother
who threatened them. He pitched her away from him, and slid off the bed.

"That won't do. None of that with me, by God! I want the truth."

"What truth? There's nothing to tell."

He caught her wrist, twisted it brusquely sideways. She buried her face
in the pillow while he hurt her; small animal sounds were forced out and
smothered there; her body curved itself once or twice into an arc and
fell. He was astonished, for he had used something like his full
strength, and had known her squeal for the maladjustment of a pin; he let
her go.

She lay, not moving, and heard the flap of his slippers across the room.
The door banged. Her wrist gave her such pain that she was able to take
refuge in its throbbing, and forget, or refrain from calculating, the
certain consequences of this disastrous night. Nothing gained; one secret
half opened, in which lay a key to the ether; treachery had served no
purpose. Though every beat of her pulse was faithful to her lover, though
she had shuddered at the feeling of her husband's skin against her
fingers, still the humiliation that went most deep was his refusal of her
body. The martyrdom consummated with fire pays itself in ecstasy; the
sacrifice found unacceptable gnaws wormwood.

She made her promised appearance two days later at the paternal palace,
when stay-at-home officers called to pay their respects. This levee was
an affair in the true Hanoverian manner, formality tumbling over into
childishness, and ending cosily with cakes and wine. The Duke was not
present, nor Duchess Sophia. George-Louis, in a breastplate, with his
sword and soldier's hat upon a table near by, stood on a rich carpet at
one end of the room. Behind him his wife sat on a faldstool with her eyes
fixed on him, bowing when he bowed. Two ladies stood by her, who were
supposed to make no acknowledgment whatever of the presence of the
officers; actually they chattered like pies over Sophia-Dorothea's head,
exchanging scandals. When the last presentation had been made pages
trotted up and carried off the military emblems, footmen swarmed in to
cover the table with flagons and small cakes; and gentlemen who had been
backing and filling in what might be termed a courtesy of wigs and
coat-skirts became individuals again, chaffing each other and the Prince
over wine-cups.

Königsmark was not among them. Sophia-Dorothea, achingly aware of this,
heard his name spoken by a young man whom she knew to be one of his

"I called at his house; they couldn't find him."

"He should know the etiquette by now."

"He's sick, I daresay. The measles--"

Both laughed; and the young man, the ensign, turned a little red, seeing
the Princess so near. She went about her duty, grading her smiles in the
proper manner, so that a major who was also a baron should receive a
trifle more cordiality than a major whose father was burgomaster. She had
strength not to speak with Max, figuring sullenly splendid among his
brother's courtiers, beyond the word which was his Serene Highness's due.
All the time her ears were quickened to catch the one name, and did not
hear it.

When at last leave-taking began it was accomplished with soldierly
promptness. In ten minutes the room was empty save for Max, who held his
ground, and after the last bow came slowly to stand in front of his
sister-in-law. George-Louis sat, and taking out a box and scraper began
to grate tobacco for snuff. He heard their interchange, expressionless.

"Where've you been hiding?"

"There have been things to do."

"Since when have you given your servants orders not to receive me?"

"Never!" She was startled; involuntarily she looked at George-Louis. "You
are always my friend."

"I see."

Max swung round. The eyes of both rested on the Prince of Hanover, who
continued to prepare snuff to his liking, untroubled by their silence.
When his box contained a sufficient supply of black dust he looked up and

"I gave that order."

"You did. Give me a reason, will you?"

George-Louis rose deliberately, wearing an impermeable expression which
Max recognised. He had seen it in war, at a council of general officers;
it signified that his brother's mind was made up, that his plan was
prepared to which he would hold though all the circumstances surrounding
it might alter, and though persistence might lead to disaster. It enraged
Max as no word could have done; it was at once contemptuous and content.
He felt Sophia-Dorothea's hand on his arm, twitching his sleeve, pinching
the flesh, but he was past assimilating hints.

"I'm going to know what you mean."

George-Louis surveyed him, and indicated Sophia-Dorothea with a turn of
his snuff-darkened thumb. "Ask the Princess."

Max answered, stammering with anger:

"You and your England! They'll send you back like they did before, with a
flea in your ear. That is, if you ever get there."

George-Louis answered, pursuing his policy: "There's one thing they won't
stand, and that's a King's wife who takes lovers."

Max struck at him. The blow took some of its force from the memory of
that scene in the carriage, her face of disgust when she had said that
one of the brothers was enough for her. George-Louis took the fist on his
forearm, and cast a quick look towards a chair for his sword; but it had
been borne away by pages. Max, while Sophia-Dorothea wrestled to keep his
right hand from his hilt, was blaring:

"Keep your tongue off her. She has more care for your damned honour than
you have. Two days home, and last night with Schulenburg, you swine!"

George-Louis answered phlegmatically, snapping the lid of his box to and

"I don't want you in Hanover. You'd better take yourself off."

"I won't budge for you."

"I'm going to tell my father you've been pestering my wife. Look at her
now. Which of us would a stranger say was her husband?"

Max on this, with, the blundering chivalry upon which his brother had
counted, came out with the truth, dashing down her hand from his mouth.

"Tell father the truth. Tell him I won't see our patrimony signed away,
see you whistling us like dogs to come and take your leavings. Tell him I
know what he's been doing, he and Colt and Platen. The will; I know all
about that. Tell him I know, and I'll fight. I'd slit your throat now if
you had your sword to stand up to me. Leave your wife out of it. If I get
out of Hanover it will be to raise an army. The people are for us. I've
got friends among your own guards--"

There was a rustling sound; Max felt a weight slide against him to his
feet, and saw the curls of the Princess dark beside his shoe. He stooped
at once, lifted her, and putting his fingers into a wine-cup left half
full, sprinkled red drops on her face. His brother watched without
moving, contemplating his own triumph. George-Louis had the primitive
cunning of those hunters who tether a live lamb to lure wolves into a
pit. He was not unskilful in the preparation of such traps, and had no
pity to spare for the apprehensions and staggerings of the lamb. He had
reckoned that the threat to his wife would certainly draw Max into an
admission. As for Sophia-Dorothea, a good fright would keep her in order,
sicken her of conspiracies, and perhaps bring her again to that mood of
repulsion and hatred in which, when property was not threatened, she
pleased him best. He looked upon them both, therefore, almost with,
approbation, as upon enemy prisoners after a battle, and with his own
hand pulled a bell that would summon attendance and help.

The two young guardsmen whose comment on Königsmark's absence had been
overheard by the Princess went out together, and compared notes, walking
away from the palace.

"The Prince asked for him. I said perhaps he didn't understand the
etiquette, a foreigner and so on--but that won't hold water."

"He doesn't miss a great deal, the Prince. He never speaks at the time,
but he keeps things in mind."

"D'you think there's anything in this story that's going about?"

"No, I don't." But Major Eck did not ask what the story was or with whom
it was concerned. "Here's his house, down this way. We might see if he's
at home."

"I called this morning."

"Well; but that was this morning."

The servants, addressed in parade-ground voices, yielded. Looking at each
other, they admitted that the Count was having his dinner alone, that he
was not ill, so far as they knew. The major, who knew the ways of the
house, with a very good show of authority pushed by both dubious footmen,
and marched upstairs.

Königsmark was sitting alone, confronting a table spread with food; only
one dish showed signs of disturbance, and the dog Balder, growling over
the carcase of a bird, accounted for this. An inkstand and paper took
incongruous precedence of partridges and woodcock, and the major observed
that at their entry Königsmark, with a startled, almost a guilty
movement, turned the top paper downwards. He greeted them quietly enough,
called for more plates and wine, and received their scolding with good

"I'm the Duke's man, I owe the Prince nothing. He would not look for me,
I dare say."

"Don't deceive yourself--"

"I could not have been civil to him. I was better away."

"Well, but you failed a lady, too." The wine Königsmark was pouring
halted its stream a moment. "Fräulein Knesebeck was asking for you."

"The Princess was there, then?"

"There, and blooming."

"At her husband's side, no doubt. All aglow with his home-coming."

"She looked gay. She took wine with him very prettily. They seem to have
taught him some manners in Flanders."

"I don't know how he should learn. He frequents no honest women. The
brothels must have recruited a few down-at-heel countesses since my

"He's a fair soldier, though. He can keep his temper--not like Max."

"For God's sake, Eck, have you come here to talk about these damned dull
masters of ours? They don't interest me, nor anyone else. We have to put
up with them, because the fools provide us with wars. But we needn't
bring them up at table."

"Very good, sir."

"I'm not speaking as your superior officer. You may disagree with me or
let it alone."

"I'll let it alone, then, by your leave." Major Eck was a Hanoverian
born, and respected his rulers; obedience is easier if a man does not
permit himself to question the right or the capacity of the power whence
orders come. But he had affection for Königsmark, and being aware of a
quality in the Prince which in any less sacred personage might suit with
the word vindictive, he was concerned to put matters right between them.
"You weren't aware, perhaps, that it's usual for the Guards to show him
some hospitality on an occasion like this--"

"He's done nothing for us; didn't even give us the chance of Flanders.
Here we rot, preserving the Episcopal-Ducal carcase from trouble that
never comes."

Major Eck cast a glance at Ensign Waldt, who, busy with his knife and
glass, kept a face deliberately blank. What the devil's the matter?
enquired this glance. He persevered, however.

"Well, but unless we ply him we'll never get a campaign out of him."

"Ask him to dinner, then, any day you like. Get in a lot of girls, the
poxier the better, and wine in a trough. Ply him! Well, if that's the
only way to get what we all want, let's make him drunk as soon as we

Major Eck put down the glass that was on its way to his mouth. He was

"Königsmark, you don't like this service. Why don't you ask the Duke to
let you be off? You'd be welcome in Saxony, and happier."

He saw, without being able to interpret, the quick lift and fall of the
eyes that received this suggestion. Königsmark took time to answer, and
his hand thrummed the turned paper while he considered. At last he spoke

"It may come to that. But you're right about the Prince. I'll write in
the regiment's name."

They fixed a day. That done, there seemed no more to be said, and the two
officers obeyed a common impulse to leave their Colonel alone.

When the door shut at their backs he took up the paper by his plate, read
what was written there, laughed briefly, crumpled and threw it to the
expectant dog. Then, taking a new sheet, he wrote in haste, careless of

"So you have gone back to him. I knew it already. I could not sleep that
night, fever was in my bones. I slept and saw you together in my dreams.
There was no question of necessity, so do not urge that. And don't urge
duty. You knew that I had taken such steps as would safeguard you, and
you gave me your word that you would rather die than endure him again. A
woman's word! If she can't get one man, then she'll take another, and all
this talk of repugnance, of hatred, is just so much flummery when her
body is offered satisfaction. A hero home from the war is irresistible, I
should have known that. I should have understood that no vows and no
tenderness could prevail against instinct and habit.

"I swear now that I will respect my promise, though you have seen fit to
break yours, for the sake of a lout who goes direct from your arms into
those of a mistress. Did you know it? Schulenburg had him, sickness and
all, not twenty-four hours after you. My promise was this, that if you
received him again I would find means to challenge him. This I will do,
as publicly as I can contrive. I do not care for my life. I know that it
is forfeit, no matter which of us comes off best. But I should think my
blood well spilled if it served to remind you that love cannot live
deceived. A man suffers, suffers, in his bowels, in his brain, in the
very marrow of him, when the woman he may not possess yields herself to
another. It is a hell not to be told.

"I can find no words of farewell."

That sealed, he took another sheet of paper, and wrote, the pen
spluttering under pressure:

"The officers of the first regiment of his Serene Highness the
Duke-Bishop's Guards very humbly and loyally request the honour of his
Serene Highness the Prince of Hanover's presence at dinner in the great
hall of the Armoury on Saturday the ninth of this month."

The first letter reached Sophia-Dorothea as she sat alone in her room
after the prodigious daily dinner. George-Louis had been polite to her
all day, attentive even; when dinner was done he set out to play a
dutiful game of cards with his parents, and requested her company. She
would not look at him nor answer. The morning's scene, if it did not
dispense her from public duty at his side, at least justified the excuse
of migraine. He was pleased at her refusal, laughed, flicked her ear
painfully, and said that he would be back by ten. He had every reason to
be good-humoured; she, to apprehend a renewal of conjugalities, which
this time she could find no reasonable way to repel. Into this atmosphere
the letter came like a cannon shot fired at clouds. Apprehension was
ended, storm took its place, and for ten minutes it seemed to Knesebeck
that the tormented creature shaking, wheeling, and staring about the room
was in fact out of her mind. And when sentences began to shape themselves
these were not reassuring.

"I must go to him."

"Highness, honey, that's wild talk, it would never do. We'll be having
the Prince back in an hour's time."

"I must see him, I tell you."

"Write him a nice letter, and let Nell take it, that's the best way."

"How can I write, put down on paper, this?" Her two hands rapped her
breast. "I must go."

"You shan't go. He'll despise you. What, go and seek a man out--?"

"Seek myself out, tear away this pain somehow."

Knesebeck, in dread for her own skin, aware of twenty possible disasters,
held the beating hands firmly, and opposed to this fiery resolve
barriers of straw. "You don't know the sign, and I won't tell it you."

"I'll go without."

"They won't admit you, his servants."

"Then I'll put back my hood, and say, 'Way for the Princess of Hanover.'"

"You wouldn't dare!" But Knesebeck, with horror surveying the fixed
mouth, knew that she would. "Sweetheart, I'm not thinking of you, you'll
ruin him if you go and are found there."

"He's in despair, he's ready to die, what more harm can I do? Better be
found there, and die together."

"You're mad!" Knesebeck, in fear, shook her mistress roughly, as a nurse
shakes a child to end an hysteria of crying. "No, no, you mustn't go;
it's madness, I say!"

Sophia-Dorothea twisted out of the strong constraining hands and with a
curious little access of dignity, the more startling since all dignity's
trappings were gone, gave an order:

"Fetch the cloak you use. Give me the key of the gate. If the Prince
returns, inform him that I have retired, and bid him not to disturb me."
Then, with a kind of tenderness quite dispassionate, involuntary with her
at the sight of distress: "You are loyal, I know. Don't fear for me. I
must satisfy myself in this matter."

Knesebeck, still tremulous, still twittering reproach and foreboding, had
no resource but to fetch the key and hood. The Princess slipped the key
into the breast of her fine flowered dress, donned the cloak, and with no
other change, disdaining even to slip pattens over her shoes, went out
into a misty night. It was not late, no more than seven o'clock, but dark
already, and the streets were strange to her. She knew them only from a
height in the centre of the road; their corners and alleys were
unfamiliar, the smells from the gutter imperious, and the people jostled
her in their concern to be quickly home and safe from the impending rain.
She was aware of all those things with the surface of her mind above the
anxiety which throbbed there like the drums of a regiment beating to a
forlorn hope; but she made no mistake, and came soon on the house.

That gave her pause for an instant. It was the first time she had seen
even the outside of his dwelling, though she knew it through Knesebeck's
eyes as she knew her own nursery at Zelle; she held to her heart, as she
might have pressed a glove he had worn, the sight of the ancient leaning
place that sheltered him. She stood, seeing it glorified; then came up to
the door, stooping against the soft rain.

The servants recognised the unspoken sesame of her fingers, and made way,
but with crossed glances over her head. She found herself in a passage
whose panels each portrayed a discoloured saint carrying his gilded
emblem; the light accepted only those golds, so that chalices, wheels,
grids and swords stood out unaccompanied against the dark wood. An oldish
man approached her, summoned by the lackeys; and looking downwards
respectfully, so as not to be obliged to wear any expression, told her
that the Count was not in the house, but that he would take any message
or letter and give it into the Count's own hand. She knew this man; he
was the majordomo Nils, of whom Königsmark had spoken once with the
casual affection of a young lord for an old servant. She need have no
reticence with him.

"Take me to some room where I can speak."

He obeyed, going before her with a sidelong motion; deference to her
half-guessed identity would not allow him to turn his back altogether.
She kept the hood about her face, and followed him to the room where
Königsmark took most of his meals and lived; bare, with strong wooden
furniture, no pictures or mirrors, but a trophy of swords and flags on
one wall. The dog Balder, who started up from the floor as they entered,
sank again under the servant's voice and hand.

"I have a message for Count Königsmark. He must be found and brought
here; make no excuses, it must be done."

"If the gracious one orders--but it will not be a matter of five minutes.
The Count is not in Hanover town."

"Not--?" She felt certainty like a knife-thrust; but the need to have
certainty confirmed gave her voice enough to finish the question:

"At the Countess Platen's house, gracious lady. At Monplaisir."

She stood quite still. The servant, whose eyes had never once during
their interview lifted higher than her knees, saw the folds of her cloak
hang motionless as the Virgin's cope when the church statues were dressed
for Easter. She said at last, breathlessly:

"Get me paper and a pen."

He discovered paper in a heap under some books, and pens, but the ink had
dried. With an apology he departed to find some fresh, while she stood by
the table, and unthinking began trimming a quill's point from broad to
narrow, to suit her hand. The glint of the penknife held her eyes and
thoughts for a few seconds; but its little blade could never reach the
heart, no matter how desperately a hand might drive it. The man was long
coming, her misery demanded instant and constant movement; yet she must
leave some memory of her presence, some good-bye. With a sharp stab she
thrust the little blade into her arm, and when the blood welled dipped
the quill in it. A drop splashed on the paper. Underneath this she wrote
one word, Adieu, and walked quickly out of the room, past the astonished
returning servant, into the street, home.

Königsmark returned at some small hour after midnight. The Countess was
still in no condition to receive lovers, and the sole tribute expected of
him was this nightly visit, when he sat by the drawn bed-curtains
answering her questions, spoken with a kind of harsh gentleness, of
Sweden and his childhood. Talking thus about himself he found a kind of
consolation, and was more than once within a breath, finding her so
friendly, of brimming over into confidences; but the womanish and
soldierly instincts that made up his nature ran forward to warn him away.
They had spent the evening playing cards, she sitting up in bed, masked,
for her face was peeling, and playing with attention, playing to win, as
was her custom. He was no match for her. He could never take cards
seriously enough, not even the seven or eight villages of which they had
robbed him could lend the fifty-two baubles an importance beyond that
which they shared with battles and hunting as spurs to Time. At half-past
eleven when the parti came to an end, he had lost, and felt for his purse
to pay. She checked him.

"You owe me nothing. Do you remember the first time we played Cinq-Cents
together? I reckoned the score wrongly."

"I remember."

"You take it quietly."

"Women always cheat."

She waited, looking at him through the mask's eyes, before she answered

"Think a while. Would you be a woman if one of old Sophy's alchemists
could dip you in a crucible and change you? A woman, with privilege to
lie, to cheat, to go underground towards ambition, to flatter your way up
while you have looks, to die leaving behind you a name or no name,
according as you have been wanted or unwanted by men? To be forgiven your
lies, contemptuously, as an idiot or an infant is forgiven?"

He shook his head, laughing, but she was for the moment in no mood to
welcome that young easy laugh.

"You are an ignoramus, my friend. Well, pray God you never grow wise.
Good night; I'm tired. Don't kiss my hand."

But as he went to the door she called him back.

"I told you not to kiss my hand and you obeyed me. That was not very

"I don't understand what you want me to do. Why can you never speak out

"Because I've been a woman forty-four years. I shan't be a woman much
longer." She twitched the curtains back, and the mask down, so that the
reddened and haggard face, with a preposterous spangled turban on top,
confronted him squarely. "I'll speak clear, then, for once. Let me bear a
child of yours, Philip. I could carry it with joy."

He looked up quickly, then down, and stood nonplussed, a little sickened,
while she gazed at him without any care to hide the eagerness and demand
in her eyes. He made, at last, a movement to kiss her hand, but she drew
it away to slip the mask once more into place, and in her ordinary
manner, the voice no longer urgent, dismissed him.

"Take comfort, my little Colonel. A man who understood women would be a
hateful creature; but you are not there yet, nor half-way. I'll spare you
the protestations of devotion. Good night."

He rode home through the mist and occasional cool curtain of rain
disturbed, and thinking how he could best get out of Hanover. An exchange
into the Saxon service--then he remembered what was planned for five days
hence, when the Prince was to dine, and involuntarily kicked his horse
into a canter. The problem would solve itself then, one way or another.

At his house he found the old servant Nils waiting and rated him

"Be off to bed, I don't need wet-nursing."

"There was a lady, my lord. I took her to the west parlour, and she wrote
something there when she had learned you were from home."

"Where is it? Give it me."

"I thought best to leave it where she left it."

Königsmark ran upstairs, snatching the candlestick out of the old man's
hand. Holding this, and waiting for its wavering light to steady, he saw
a white square patch on the table, and brought the candles down to it.
The stain and the word had darkened in the hours that had passed since
she stood there, but he knew that both were done in blood; the penknife's
point was crusted. Nils, following slowly, found his master staring at
this paper, one hand at his throat as if he were choking, the other
hanging, and stepped forward to take the tilting candlestick. It dropped
before he could reach it; the flame falling on a deerskin set the hair
alight, made a stench, and went out. He knelt, bringing a flint and
tinder from his pocket, but the wick was not rekindled before he heard
his master blundering from the room, downstairs in the dark, and away.

Königsmark ran through the silent town, and by the route Sophia-Dorothea
had taken, to the _Alte Palais_. He too had his key to the garden,
though the soldiers on guard were of his own regiment and would not have
halted him. He stole past yews cut to the shapes of birds, and a fountain
whose thread of falling water was overwhelmed now by rain. He knew which
windows had been hers; they were blank. He could not believe that the
woman who had pierced her veins to write that word in blood could now be
sleeping, and waited an hour, throwing his will forward like a siege
engine against their blankness. Only a light, or the shadow of her head
on a curtain; a sound, a sigh! But nothing stirred.

On the ninth day of the month the officers of his Serene Highness the
Duke-Bishop's first regiment of Guards assembled in the
_Rüstkammer_, the ancient hall which for two hundred years had
served for indoor drilling of volunteers, and to which burgomasters,
flattered to find themselves in armour, had bequeathed portraits,
banners, and ancient weapons, spoils of the sempiternal sixteenth-century
wars. The officers wore no uniform; to equip an entire army with
distinctive dresses was beyond the purse of Ernest Augustus, a luxury
which none but magnificent show-kings like Louis XIV could afford, but
there was, for all that, no great diversity of cut or colour in the coats
and laces. A little more gold on the waistcoat or a little less;
sword-hilts less ornate or more; an order ribbon here and there from
shoulder to hip; in these details the chief differences lay. The faces,
coat-skirts and wigs all were full.

The talk ran on professional lines, with a little banter, while they
waited for their guest.

"--I say, and always shall, that we'll never get our men to march
distances till we give up putting them into woollen stockings. Let them
wear good shoes only, with gaiters of leather, and grease their feet
well, and good-bye to blisters."

"We'd be a laughing-stock. I can see the Frenchmen--" with pantomime and
accent the ensign portrayed the enemy's contempt--"'Tallow stockings!
_Ma foi, ça pue_!'"

"Appearance, appearance! You'll be asking us to leave off wigs next,
Major. A good appearance in your troops is half the battle,

"The Frenchmen sole their shoes with wood. God, there's something to be
said for it, every copse your cobblers' supply, instead of waiting till
the tanners are pleased to let you have skins."

"The French! the French! Why not take our notions of equipment from an
ally for a change?"

"You've got to fight the devil with his own weapons. Now, when I was at
Mons I saw--"

But trumpeters brayed that reminiscence silent, and to the tune,
high-flung from brass and silver, of the ducal fanfare George-Louis
entered, with three gentlemen. He wore the dark green coat which suited
him, and his pock-marked face had an expression sufficiently affable; the
prospect of an evening with men, talking et war, and drinking late, was
pleasant to him. The officers stood straight, then doubled as he passed
them, swords lifting their skirts to the angle of a cock's tail-feathers.
Königsmark, coming forward to greet the guest, halted ten feet away from
him to make his bow. The first words were exchanged like musket shots, at
a distance.

"Very gratifying, Colonel, to visit the regiment."

"The regiment is honoured."

"I hope to contrive for you to see some fighting in the spring."

"We look forward to showing what we can do."

Königsmark spoke as to an equal, using no titles of address. George-Louis
may not have observed this; the officers did, and looked uncomfortable,
for their Colonel had been two years in the service, and allowance could
no longer be made for him as a foreigner. But Königsmark escorted the
Prince civilly enough to a place of honour at the cross-table, and
himself took a scat to the left of the guest. Wine was poured as they
came to their places, the procession of servers entered at once, and soon
in a rattle of pewter the unwonted greeting was forgotten.

Half-way through dinner, Königsmark puzzled them again. It was his duty
to propose the toast to their service, to extol the Brunswickers'
achievements, and predict future victories. He rose, and took a roaring
welcome; manners or none, foreign or no, he was a fighter whom most of
them had seen in action.

"Serene Highness--" it was his first use of the title as yet--"gentlemen.
I speak your language badly; that must excuse what lacks. If you do not
care to excuse, then you may call me to account for it, and you will find
me ready to answer in a language we all speak." He touched his sword.

The clamour died down; there were glances. Only George-Louis sat unmoved,
lifting his wine-glass with exquisite hands, his father's hands, to
display which Ernest Augustus had, long ago, learned the guitar,

"I am to give you our health; that is the custom. But we are men enough,
we don't need health. We need other things more; equipment, and good
leadership. Before his Serene Highness the Duke gave me employment here,
I had the luck in Dresden to see something of the Elector of Saxony's
troops. No cheese-paring in Saxony. His soldiers are as fine as
opera-singers. There is always work, experiment, going on in his
armouries. That is an army that keeps as an army should--"

But already murmurs were growing, and a phrase, spoken aloud, came to him
from the right-hand table:

"They're no good to fight. Against the Turks they ran--"

"Right, Captain. And why? Because soldiers want leading, and leaders
don't drop out of the sky. You can't make a leader as you make a
field-marshal, with a yard of ribbon and a gilt stick."

The noise dropped again, quite suddenly. George-Louis' marshaldom was
recent. This was a direct insult from host to guest, and every man in the
room perceived it. Involuntarily faces turned towards the squat figure
sitting sideways in a tall velvet chair, to find in its face no
indication of any sentiment by which they might guide their behaviour.
The squat figure, not budging, not changing expression, setting down a
half-empty glass with deliberation, did speak, however:

"Our soldiers are kept for war, not to smell oranges on parade. Dresden,
you say. If Dresden gave you such paragons to handle I'm astonished you
ever left it."

"I left Dresden," Königsmark answered loudly, and measuring George-Louis
with a fencer's eye, "because it I had stayed I must have served a prince
I despised. He's a man who betrays his adorable wife for a dirty grasping
bitch of a mistress."

It should have brought the rest of George-Louis' wine slashing across his
face. The officers, half-rising, looked for just 'such an issue. But the
squat green figure remained immovable, the face twisted to no pattern of
resentment; only the voice, a little thickened, said:

"Well, Colonel. You obeyed your conscience. And now, let's have the

Königsmark's hand went to his glass. He was furiously angry and restless,
needing to release both fury and energy in quarrel. But his neighbour
caught his hand, and George-Louis sat stubbornly, determined to resent no
insult, taking patience from his blood. He was no coward, but he was
Hanover's, perhaps England's heir, and by virtue of such dignity no
longer a man; his honour was invulnerable, being the honour of a line of
demi-gods. Spittle falls short of Olympus. Königsmark, becoming aware of
this at last, sat down with a bewildered look, the toast uncalled, and a
captain with quick wits and a rich voice broke into their old song of the
Black Brunswicker:

"I carried a pike when I was born,
That made my mother uneasy--"

They seized it, catching the tune away from him, letting out discomfort,
amazement and dismay in a tumult of rhythmic noise, and for the rest of
the evening songs went on, bawdy or sentimental, until the last stalwarts
left above the table were roaring out hymns. Königsmark did not sing. He
sat with a face grown perfectly white, looking before him. George-Louis,
on his right, sang with the rest, and drank until he swayed off his
chair, when the evening's entertainment, for him, was over.

Four orderlies carried him--an officer having loosened the tight
cravat--out to his coach, where his own servants discussed among
themselves, decorously, the problem of what next to do with him. After
such bouts it was their usual custom to deposit him at the house of that
noble lady his mistress, Ermengarda Melusina von Schulenburg. But it was
known that she, having risen imprudently to welcome the Prince, had
caught cold and was now at death's door, with tan-bark strewn outside her
own. The footmen argued it out, and at last agreed very sensibly first to
try what an hour's airing would do for his Serene Highness, and then,
when he was a little more presentable, to take him home. One of them got
into the carriage beside the limp personage to prevent his lolling head
from being cracked against the coachwork as they swung round corners, and
at a brisk pace the four horses set off. Round the town they clattered,
down the high street, down by the Leine river, back again and round. At
the end of an hour the supporting footman was able to report some signs
of returning consciousness, enough, he thought, to enable his Serene
Highness to put one foot in front of the other, if held up at the
shoulders; and accordingly the equipage made its way home.

At the _Alte Palais_ sentries stamped, wheeled, and presented
weapons as field-marshal their Prince was borne up the steps, legs
dangling--the footman's estimate had been too optimistic--muttering
unintelligible complaints. The indoor servants were about, and alert with
lights; it was not much more than ten o'clock, though the drinking had
lasted six hours. They too held conference; and deciding that to bear him
upstairs might cause noise, and disturb the Princess, it was agreed that
the ground-floor bed should be made up for this night. The major-domo
gave his orders, with the result that Sophia-Dorothea, descending from
her children's nursery, where she had gone to be comforted and calmed by
the sight of innocent sleeping creatures, saw a procession skulking down
the broad main stairway; one liveried man carapaced with a mattress,
another with a feather bed, a third bearing reverently two Turkish
slippers and a gown. She began to laugh, then caught her breath and came
towards them.

"What's this? What are you doing?"

The eldest of the footmen and the least cumbered, he of the slippers,
answered woodenly:

"Orders of his Serene Highness. The bed to be made up below."

Her first thought was that Schulenburg must be in the house. Then,
recollecting the woman's plight, she corrected this supposition by
another linked with the first; that George-Louis must be ill, sickening
for the measles, in which case the children must be kept from him, and a
doctor summoned. She would not ask the servants anything further. It was
some relief to have a matter to deal with, a small immediate matter that
would turn her mind from its round. She ran past the man, downstairs and
along the chilly corridor that led to his old rooms. At one door his
chief valet stood, and did not at once give way at sight of her. She had
to order him to step aside, which he seemed to do with reluctance, and
came past him to discover her husband in a chair, red-faced, and talking
gustily like a man in delirium. She went to him; the valets, bowing,
backed away, but looked at each other uncomfortably behind her shoulders.
George-Louis looked at her, steadied his eyes to focus the apparition,
and shot out a hand almost in her face.

"Say good-bye," said he loudly, slurring the words, "I've got to go. He's
got to go, excuse me, that is. Go and he damned for a Swedish pup, that's
what I say."

She was near enough now to perceive what was wrong with him. His breath
was sickly with wine, nastily sweet. The servants expected her to turn,
and be gone out of the room. Instead she dismissed them, and kneeling,
holding the drunken head to face her, she spoke to it urgently:

"What have you been doing? Who's this that you speak of?"

The head rolled knowingly.

"I'm not going to tell you. I manage my own business. Max, I got Max out
of the way. They can't get past me. I represent law. Law. It's the law
that an insubordinate officer gets shot. You'll find that in all the
regulations. Anyway, I say so. Shot, and no questions asked. That's
discipline, that's what I stand for, keeping up respect for general
officers, example to the rest, the silly Swedish pup--"

He checked this running speech, looked astonished and apprehensive for a
moment, then vomited. She drew back from him sharply, put a hand to her
own mouth, and fled upstairs, where she pulled at the bell-rope like one
ringing for a bridal till a page came, the boy she trusted.

"Christian, what time is it?" The manikin on her clock answered, striking
eleven, but she was too distraught to count it, and the boy had to give
her the hour in words. "Christian, are you faithful, can you carry a
letter? Say to yourself that you are saving one life, two perhaps, and
think only that; indeed, there's nothing more."

He stammered, eyes on the floor, that he had no thoughts, that he would
die, let alone carrying a message--

"Yes, yes. Wait then, I'll write it. You'll have to make haste, and you
must find him, no matter where he is. Bring me a light and hold it here,

She wrote, while the boy stiffly held up a four-branched lustre, his eyes
fixed on the opposite wall so as not to spy upon her letter. It was no
more than a sentence or two.

"Come at once with the bearer to the place where he will bring you. Let
nothing hinder you, it is a matter--" She hesitated, then used the lesser
truth and the one more sure to bring him--"of my life and safety. I
implore and command you."

She folded this, but there was no wax, and she put it so, without
fastening, into the boy's hands.

"You took a message for me before. This is to the same person. Don't
speak his name. Bring him to the door by the garden steps. You mustn't

"I'll die first."

"Don't talk of death, you stupid boy, for God's sake." Then, made sorry
by his flickering eyes: "I'll remember that you helped me, Christian."

He went, and for twenty minutes she paced, distracted, from the fire to
the door, from the door to the desk. Königsmark must be out of Hanover by
daylight. How to persuade him?

For she was aware of the curious pride of men, who would strip themselves
of their dearest possessions, risk the loss of love or of country, rather
than accept to be called not brave; as though this quality alone, which
they shared with otters and game-cocks, were that which held them upright
in the sun under God's eye. She tried to plan her persuasions: You cannot
fight twenty men, there is no disgrace in escaping from assassins; once
you gave me your life, you must not throw away that which is not your
own. But this last plea brought to her mind, not the scene by the
birches, but the voice of old Nils, and his face looking awkwardly down
as he told her that Königsmark was with Clara Platen. A woman in love can
pardon one great offence more easily than many lesser treasons;
Sophia-Dorothea only bit her lip, and halted her march a moment for this.
He must live, though she never saw him more, though at the end of his
life he might not be able even to recall her name.

The manikin struck midnight. Immediately afterwards a tap sounded at her
door, and the boy Christian, bright-eyed, stood beckoning on the
threshold. She had forgotten to find or to put on a cloak, and her dress
left arms and neck bare. The boy, observing this, swung his own cloak
off, and put it about her still warm from his shoulders, happy to lend
her something of the pulsing of his blood. They went together by a
servants' staircase to the lower floor of the palace, keeping away from
the main lighted corridor, and through that room with Brunswick portraits
where Königsmark had waited, one rainy summer day. Her solitary
travelling candle's light rose no further than the breastplates of these
minatory princes, their staring eyes and sulking mouths that disapproved
the venture remained unseen. The door was reached, Christian opened,
bowed, closed it, and stood sword in hand on guard, his thoughts an
astonishing confusion of imagined embraces, pleasure in his own selfless
devotion, jealousy, and pride.

On the steps a figure was waiting. As before at Brunswick it was too dark
for the lovers to see faces; they spoke to know each other, whispering
and standing apart:


"It's you."

The word of farewell signed in blood, the reproaching letter, at once
were forgotten. There was nothing between them, neither memory nor
future; they were solitary, out of time, learning each other newly with
mouth, nostrils, hands. It was she who thrust him away at last.

"Listen. There's danger."

"Don't think, don't speak. How long is it since I've held you like this?"

"You must listen. He's planning to kill you."

"I can't think of anything but you. I don't care what anyone plans, I can
take care of myself."

"Not against a regiment--"

"Yes, against a regiment. Sweet, sweet, why did we hurt each other so?"

"We can't know the truth, separated as we are. I think a hundred miseries
when I don't see you; lies, but how can I tell? And then I want you to
suffer, because I'm so wretched."

"I know, and I torment you, but myself most of all."

"You went to her."

"To quiet all this talking. Not for love."

"Say that again, swear it. I want so to believe it."

"I hate her, the painted old madam. Do you suppose I wouldn't rather cut
my hand off?"

"I begged you not to go, I told you I'd take him back again."

"God's bowels, you didn't do it?" She was silent; he stood away from her
throwing both hands up to his head, a wild gesture that she could only
guess at in the dark. "That night? I stood there, there under your
windows till morning, praying, weeping my eyes out. But there was no
sign. And all the time--" A frenzy shook him; his fists threatened the
sky. "I'll kill him now, the drunken pig, in the very bed."

She caught him in both her arms; the frantic hands descended gently
enough to hold her, but still he was groaning and swaying like a man in

"Let that all go, it's over, there's another thing to think of--"

"No, that's the way. Kill him and have done."


"I'd give him a sword. Make him fight. But I'd kill him, and there'd be
an end. Women can't know jealousy. They can't possess, and so they can't
know what jealousy is."

"Why won't you understand? It's real danger, and time's so short--"

"Come with me. You can ride; I remember that from the old days. Come as
you are to my house, I'll lend you clothes, there are horses ready.
You'll be my page--"

She struck her hands against his shoulders, teased again by her indocile
memory; Charlotte-Elizabeth's letter read aloud long ago by Duchess
Sophia came alive in her mind after years of quiescence. "As my carriage
halted by this inn, in front of which stood the young Swedish Count,
flicking his dog's nose, the hostess came rushing downstairs and shouted
for the whole marketplace to hear, _Monsieur, monsieur, votre page
s' accouche!_ At which nobody could help laughing, not even the young man
himself, who stood treat to as many postilions and loafers as could get
near the inn in honour of his paternity." She had been a Princess for
twenty years, a lover some few months only. She could not throw those
years aside; habit, the long discipline of her status, prevailed even
over desire. True, it was Königsmark's brother of whom Charlotte-Elizabeth
had related her story, but the squalid picture was one in which she
could not bear to recognise any figure that might be her own.

"Don't talk so. I only want one happiness, to know you're safe."

"That's not my notion of happiness. I want to go out fighting, and if I
can fight for you, that's heaven." He dropped the whole subject as
suddenly as a child might, and went on, standing a little away from her:
"Will you do something I want very much?"

She did not answer, but looked quickly and piercingly through the dark at
his face, to discover there his meaning, if she could.

"Will you call me by my name?"

She spoke it on a half-breath:



"Philip. What is it, what has hurt you?" He had dropped to his knees with
his arms about her thighs, and she could feel him shaking against her.
Her hand that went to his forehead pressed the eyelids and found them
wet. "Don't, don't, it's not for you to cry. You'll set me off, and I
mustn't, for if I do I shan't have strength." Strength in fact had come
to her from that attitude of childish dependence and pleading to which he
had fallen; all her courage and wit were concerned to be wise for him,
and she spoke as she might have reasoned with her little son. "Now you
mustn't grieve me any more. You mustn't put me to the misery of hearing
that you are taken and put under arrest. Why are you afraid to go? Do you
think I shall change? Do you think that? No, no, never; you know me too
well. While I live I shall love you. But I must be able to think of you
walking free, and see you in my mind laughing, or in battle, yes, in
battle; riding bravely. I would not change, if I could, that which is in
your blood. While I know that you're alive, I can thank God daily. Give
me just this happiness, I ask so little; only to know you're alive."

The bare trees about them had, once or twice, groaned with some pressure
of wind; now to their plaint was added a murmur of light rain. Königsmark
felt the drops as he lifted his face to her gentle, long and trembling
kiss. He did not answer what she had said, but suddenly rose to his feet,
and lifting her in his arms as he had taken the baby Sophy, carried her
slowly up the stone steps and to the door. There he set her down. She put
out her hand in farewell. He did not kiss it, but bowed his forehead to
it in a gesture of submission that she understood, and turned away
quickly as the door opened.

Christian by his candle's light saw that the Princess's cheeks and mouth
were dead-white, and offered his arm at once, bundling away the sword he
held. She looked at him as if she did not see his gesture; then
intelligence came into her eyes, and with the small gracious nod of
ceremony she accepted its support. But her twenty years of training stood
her in better stead than the boy's clenched muscles during the walk to
her room.

* * * * 8


                     Oh, for a Curse
                To kill with!
_Pierre_.  Daggers, Daggers, are much better!
_Jaffeir_. Ha!
_Pierre_.  Daggers.

--_Venice Preserv' d_. Act II, Scene II.

* * * * *


"My dearest Aunt," wrote Charlotte-Elizabeth of Orléans in 1692, "or
rather, let me have the pleasure of writing it, Electoral Highness! I
rejoice that the Emperor has at last awarded the honour of the bonnet to
one who, for family virtue, so entirely deserves it, even though this
should mean another enemy for the land of my adoption and exile. For
exile it is, to dwell in a country where the King's brother's wife has no
higher title than any fishwife that comes to her kitchen with a string of
eels. Madame, indeed! It rings poorly beside your Highness's new

"I hear from various quarters that your Highnesses are well rid of that
young adventurer from Sweden. My letters tell me of most intolerable
doings in Dresden, where his sister Aurora presides, disgracing her sex
and plucking her stupid Elector of money. What do you say to this, for
example? A whole good Saxon valley filled with artificial waters, and
boats in the shape of swans floating round this young person, who
appeared like Venus rising from the sea, in a gilt shell, and with only
the traditional draperies. It is a scandal. I told his Majesty here that
I now took back anything I might have said about the immorality of the
French, and blushed for my countrymen instead; to which he answered with
a laugh that the Elector of Saxony's earlier diversion (bending
horseshoes with his bare hands) was certainly far less expensive. The
fact is, that since these Swedes have come into his good graces he has
exceeded all bounds. Naturally! They feel no responsibility to a
sovereign and a country not their own, and get out of him all they can.

"But I did not bring in Königsmark in order to reflect on the Elector,
who after all is a good prince, and related to persons of high descent
and value, but because he has been talking very indiscreetly and
ungratefully of his sojourn in Hanover. I have heard, my dearest Aunt,
though I have not troubled you with them, a good many rumours in which
his name and that of your daughter-in-law were linked. Now it appears
that these were ill-founded, and I am glad I gave them no credence, for
what do you think? It was Countess Platen for whom he had a tenderness,
and the stories he tells of her when he is in his cups are exceedingly
funny. I hope her correspondents in Dresden have not such long pens as
mine, for she would rage to be informed of such chatter, though the young
man is evidently worthless, and I understand she keeps to none of her
fancies very long. He has lost a great part of his fortune at cards, they
tell me, and a great part of his looks at--I will not guess what game."

Countess Platen had, in fact, correspondents in Dresden; and on the same
day that Duchess Sophia received this letter from her niece was receiving
at Monplaisir a young man, Baron Carl-Johann Vizthum, who acted there as
her spy. He was a poor young man with his way to make, who, lacking the
temperament for battle and the physique which makes for success in
boudoirs, had adopted the profession of troubler of the waters. His eyes
and ears were at the service of half a dozen people, who paid him highly,
and reckoned not without reason upon his discretion. It was the custom
among less scrupulous enquirers to sell information to one client against
another, involving whole societies in a cat's cradle of mistrust.
Carl-Johann avoided this temptation and never lost his patrons, who
regarded him as a man of probity.

It was this person who sat in Countess Platen's parlour by a February
fire, and read to her, from notes kept in a shorthand which he alone
understood, his account of the doings at Dresden. She stood before the
fire, straddled like a man, petticoats bunched up behind her in both
 hands to let the warmth come at her backside, and listened to the
gossip she had paid for.

"I was in company with the Count during the whole of one evening spent in
his sister's rooms. She has great influence with the Elector and her
brother accordingly is very much in favour. The Elector owes him money,
some debt contracted when they were together in Flanders, but does not
pay. The sister, he says, has had the brother's portion. It is certainly
true that Countess Aurora is most lavishly entertained there, but there
is some doubt whether her ascendancy will last much longer."

"Why's that? Is she playing a double game?"

"Another lover? Nothing of that kind, she is very deeply attached to the
Elector. But I have a certain acquaintance, a physician, who told me that
she will bear the Elector a child six months or so hence--accidents
apart, that is."

"Well. And won't that please him?"

The spy, when he did not read from his notes, spoke incautiously. He was
upset, besides, by the thought of that generous and intimate expanse of
flesh which the excitedly leaping flames were warming.

"Your experience, madam, will have told you that princes do not rejoice
at the prospect of pleasure curtailed and a bastard to keep." He began to
stammer. "That is, I should say, the general experience, nothing
particular--my meaning was only that this has been the general
observation." Countess Platen, whose only child had been just such a
bastard as that which Aurora Königsmark was to bear, took no offence, but
let out a great laugh at this; then sighed, for no reason.

"Well. She's to bear him a child, and he don't care for a sickly woman.
Is that what it comes to? Well, a man with a couple of hundred

"One hundred and ninety-one," the spy corrected her.

"--can't be expected to keep any vivid interest in paternity. So the
sister's star will decline. And the brother, the brother; what of him?"

The spy consulted his notes and was off at once, full sail.

"Count Philip is an ornament to any court. He is well-looking, dances,
and dresses well, and sings a good song. He is, however, somewhat given
to drink, and while in this condition is apt to carry a loose tongue. I
have notes here of certain things which he has been heard to say with
regard to their Serene Highnesses the Duke and the Prince--"

"Has he spoken of the Princess?"

The spy sought among his papers, and discovered a leaf; read it with
pressed lips, and put it away to ferret again in the sheaf. Countess
Platen watched, and behind her back one hand snapped finger and thumb
together under the folds of silk stuff.

"I have this, and this, which may be taken to apply to the Princess, but
since he mentioned no name, and since I am always careful not to report
what may be irrelevant matter--"

"I'm judge of that. I know his sentiments and can apply them. Read what
you have."

"He said once, playing dice with the Countess Aurora: 'I can only throw
deuce to-day. It stares up at me like a pair of dark eyes that I left
behind in Hanover. One day I'll stake my life on that adorable deuce.' As
you see, this is not conclusive--"

"What else?"

"Another time I heard him say he didn't care for tall women. His sister
laughed, and told him his tastes must have changed. 'They have changed,'
said he, 'but they'll change no more. Oh, the little women with ripe
mouths! They melt in your arms.' Once more there is nothing, except that
the Princess undoubtedly is not tall, and her lips are very red and

"No name, ever? Even when he's drunk?"

"No, madam. It may be discretion, or it may be that--in short, you cannot
drink from a glass unless somebody has first poured liquor into it."

Countess Platen would not argue this. She was glad to believe that
Königsmark told nothing of the Princess because he had nothing to tell.
Her inner mind, however, that mirror of experience, that ranger along the
ways of men's motives, pricked her with the reminder that love sometimes,
unthinking, will avoid the snares life sets for it; pain, wine, sleep.
But she hushed that murmur.

"Now let me hear what he says of me."

Carl-Johann Vizthum shuffled his papers, and looked up from them quickly,
once, with the glance of a dog guessing at the master's temper. The
Countess perceived his hesitation.

"I pay for the truth, let me remind you."

"It may not be pleasant hearing--"

She let fall her petticoats, and a stride or two carried her to the
table, on which glasses were set, with cordials. There she poured two
full glasses, of which she gave him one.

"Take your courage in both hands and down with it. It's good Hollands;
puts heart into Dutchmen. And I'll take my dose for company."

He drank the fiery stuff, coughed, waited till she was seated in a red
velvet chair, and went on, reading more strongly:

"At a banquet given by his Serene Highness the Elector, Count Königsmark
was called upon for a song. He made no demur, but mounted a chair-r" How
well she could see him, a little flushed, and his hair tumbled, with a
boy's grin and the singing mouth open to show tiny sound teeth. "He
mounted a chair and sang this song, which he assured the company he had
made in your house, and to which he gave the title, 'Lament of Count
Platen.' It goes to the tune of 'Acteon once.'" Precisely uttering, and
tapping out the tune with his left fingers on his knee, Carl-Johann
Vizthum gave the song:

"Acteon once some dames espied
Ere they their naked charms could hide,
But chaste Diana shook her bow,
And planted antlers on his brow.
With hey diddle, high diddle, do.

Just Dian, heed! My spouse discovers
Her privities to twenty lovers.
Shake not awry thy rod divine,
They view the charms, the horns are mine,
With hey diddle, high diddle, do."

Without looking up, and continuing to read fast, the spy proceeded:

"On another occasion he has been heard to say that if a young man goes to
the Countess Platen to plead his advancement, it is not to her ear that
he must address himself. Again: 'She cheats at cards, but what of that?
_Puisqu'elle vous laisse toujours payer de votre personne_.' At a
great dinner, when he had drunk more wine than his head could stand, he
announced very loudly that in Hanover lived the most charitable lady in
Europe. 'Who is that?' the guests asked him. 'It is the Countess Platen,
and I'll tell you why I praise her. She is no longer young, but she
values her smooth skin and has reason to do so; for after all a face is
nothing when the lights are out. This white body she preserves by bathing
it daily in ass's milk, as empresses did in Rome. But the empresses were
pagans, who poured the milk away when they had done with it. Not so Dame
Clara, who at the end of her bathe admits a dozen poor persons with jugs
and canikins, who may bale up the milk and take it away for their
children, no charge made either.' This story caused a good deal of fun,
and was the origin of a new name they have now for soap in Dresden, the
Countess Platen's cheese--"

Carl-Johann looked up under his lashes and saw in the velvet chair four
feet away a Fury seated. He began to stammer:

"I warned you, madam, that there was some unpleasant matter here, but you
would have it. I hope you will regard this as a proof of my integrity,
that I don't doctor up my news to make it palatable. What I hear, that I
put down. It is not my fault if Count Königsmark--"

At that came explosion, a roar like a beast from the woman in the chair.

"Liar, liar, you are employed by enemies, you are bribed by men jealous
of him. Be quiet! I won't hear you, I know the truth, I know the Count.
You had better have watched him longer, and studied his way of speech
before you concocted this dirt, this turd, and fastened it on him. Get
out of my house."

"My pay! There's a month's work here--"

"Get it from your other paymasters. If you stay six seconds longer I'll
have you whipped."

"Madam! I'm a gentleman--"

"My men shall scourge twenty-four quarterings on your back, then. Go, and
be damned to you, and get your double money where you can."

He could not stand his ground, and fairly ran from the room while she
stood glaring, the nails driving into her palms. When Vizthum was gone
she seemed to recollect herself, and after another glass of Hollands rang
the bell twice, the sign to her women that she would come upstairs and to

In the room hung with red Maria was waiting, ready with a silk turban to
keep the dressed hair tidy all night, and some scented oil in a bowl with
which to loosen rouge and powder from her mistress's cheeks. Clara Platen
went direct to the mirror, as was her custom. There, standing, she
surveyed her face closely, frowning, smiling, trying all its expressions,
and turning with a hand-glass to have a clear sight of the profile, the
thickened flesh below the chin. This done, she called Maria to unhook her
bodice, and when it dropped let fall the shift too, so that she stood
naked to the waist, below which a bell of silk flowed cut, and viewed
herself thus in the glass with the same particularity. A brief laugh
ended the inspection; as she turned to thrust her arm into the bed-gown
sleeves she gave one order:

"Fetch the Jacob casket."

Maria went, reassured; for if the posturings had been unwonted this
request for the casket embroidered with the story of Jacob was a nightly
affair. In it were kept letters, and such trifles as Königsmark had
touched or given, and it stood by the bed at night. Maria had never seen
it opened, though she knew well enough what the contents must be.
To-night when the mistress unlocked it with a little key that hung at her
neck, and threw back the lid, Maria, peering discreetly, could see lying
in it one or two papers, some dead leaves, a handkerchief, a
jewelled pin, and a knot of ribbon. These her mistress tumbled out on to
the table in a heap and looking at them steadily said:

"Clear this rubbish away. Put it on the fire."

"The letters, ma'am?"

"Hang them on a hook in the privy; they'll serve some purpose there."

"The handkerchief--it's pretty lace--"

"Burn it. Burn everything. I've finished with you for the night."

The maid Maria carefully turned into her apron the little hoard, and went
out, respectfully curtseying. In the neighbouring room the other abigails
read painfully, and craning over her shoulder, two notes in bad German,
written stiffly in tall characters:

"I am happy, madam, to receive the token of your regard which you were so
generous as to send me this morning. I shall wear it in memory of
inestimable favours granted, and in hope of future kindnesses."

"That was when she sent him the pin. Look, here it is, all bent. Now when
did that come back?"

"He's been edging away for a long time."

"He's off now for good. She's in a terrible state to-night."

"Hans says she was bawling at that little man, that Baron that was here.
He says he thought there'd be murder done, and the little man came out
with a face on him--"

"What's the other letter, Maria? Read it out."

"'Madam, I have received your very gracious letter, but it will not be in
my power to take advantage of the privilege you so amiably offer. I have
this morning taken a purge--'"

Laughter, and half a dozen comments:

"There's a love-letter for you. Thank the Lord my Klaus finds better
things to say than give me news of his belly. They've no decency, the
great people. It's not respectful to any lady. What next, what else?"

"'--this morning taken a purge, and could not take guard to-day for the
same reason. I pray that I may continue to deserve your good opinion.'"

"And that's all? No more, only the two letters? Well, I must say--Let me
have the knot, Maria, it's good ribbon."

"She told me to burn them."

"It's a sin. Burn that good lace, and the pin with the picture?"

"I wouldn't cross her to-night, I'd rather throw slops on my mother's
grave. You haven't seen her. She's halfway mad."

"Well, for God's sake!"

The red room stank, in which Clara Platen lay awake. Dogs had been in it,
there was a musky odour from some pastilles burning, and smoke from the
fire, on to which hair-trimmings had been thrown, belched out as the wind
in the chimney roared or withdrew. One of the small curly dogs, Angel,
her favourite, who had been drowsing on his cushion, took the darkness
and quiet as a signal that he might jump on to the coverlet. He scrambled
up, making a leap from the footstool that served her to ascend, and
landed by her side. She struck him immediately, full on the snout, so
that his jaws opened to a howl, and he bundled off the bed, smarting. She
heard, when he regained his corner, the beat of a tail, apologetic on the

"Like a man," thought Clara Platen, "you only have to hit hard enough.
But I don't want his penitence. I want--"

She did not, even in her mind, speak the word that held her meaning; but
she tossed till almost morning, contriving how best to bring about that
which she would not name.

At last her throbbing body slackened, slept, and had its fulfilment in a
dream that came as the birds were waking. A man lay with her in this
dream. He felt chill, and she said to herself, remembering old women's
tales and the trial of a witch once witnessed, that this was the Devil.
He was vigorous, but grew momently colder as they moved together. At last
she put a hand to his heart when it should have been most urgent, and
found no stir there, no beat at all. She thrust him from her, he tumbled
sideways in a heap, and it was a dead man's face, Königsmark's face, that
she peered at on the pillow. Her own choked scream woke her.


One of the Electoral displays of dining was held next day, and attended
by obsequious Hanover even to the fifth grade of precedence. All went
forward as in the past. There was a ceremonial entry to trumpets,
Electress Sophia leading the procession on her husband's arm, wearing a
magnificent ill-adjusted dress, no rouge, and the superb laces on her
head contemptuously askew. George-Louis followed with his wife, she
holding her fingers curved so that they barely touched his arm. After
that there was a diminuendo. Charles was dead, Max in prison, Gustchen in
Holland, and none of these had left wives or descendants to lend the show
splendour. The Countess Platen, however, splendidly dressed and walking
like an Amazon as she knew how, brought up the rear with dignity. It was
her first public appearance for some little time. She had been unhappy,
and Ernest Augustus once more crippled with gout. They felt a mutual
disinclination for each other's company, and since they were persons
without false sentiment, had let each other alone. But on such an
occasion as this, the gout having subsided and the sick heart solaced
itself with planning, they met with pleasure and no sense of change.

The Countess Platen, dispensed by etiquette from the need for much
talking, used her eyes and her wits to decipher the various Serenities'
moods. Old Sophia was happy; she had an unfortunate English bishop on her
left hand at whom from time to time in excellent English she flung such
questions as: "And you, my lord, what significance do you lend to the
wheels in Ezekiel?" The Elector too was cheerful, being newly released by
his physicians from a diet. George-Louis did not trouble his wife with
talk nor anyone else, but lifted his glass, it seemed to the calculating
eye, somewhat more often than was his usual custom. The English envoy,
Sir William Colt, was engaged in protecting his bishop as well as he
could. The Princess--

Clara Platen looked long and steadily at the Princess. She saw a new
thinness of the face; the stiff bodice did not cling so tightly as it
used. She wore a dress of white brocade with gold flowers, cut very low.
Once she put a hand into her breast and seemed to touch or move something
that lay there, a letter perhaps, which, riding up as she moved,
threatened to show itself and betray her. If a letter, then an unkind
one; her eyes were a little swollen at the lids. Clara Platen, who liked
to reckon truly the forces against her before she began any manoeuvres,
set down now such advantages as the younger woman possessed. Youth, yes;
but with it ignorance, impatience, and credulity. Love, yes; but
vulnerable everywhere. The right to sit in an armchair while Clara Platen
stood or took a stool; power to bend backs, but not to shake swords, to
defy, or even to flee.

The Princess, touching for an instant the letter folded against her side,
remembered phrases from it:

"What, you have been listening to that talker, have you? Believing, what
is more. Believing a man you never saw before in your life against the
man who, since this is the way you treat fidelity, you shall never see
again. A magnificent dinner and merry host, that is what he told you; and
if I say that he arrived dead drunk, so that gloomy Pluto himself might
have headed the board without his noticing, I shall not be credited. I
save my ink, therefore...It delights you to believe that I am faithless,
heartless. At least, I am obliged to think it gives you pleasure, for you
make no effort to find out the truth...After this, you can write lightly
of some baron or other, so handsome, so attentive, with whom you have
danced. Why do I care? If I am a drunkard and whoremaster, what can it
matter to me? But care I do...It is two o'clock, but I shall not sleep,
nor attempt it, for fear I might dream that you were kind and loved me,
and wake from that to reality...I love, hate, desire, despise you..."

Her eyes began slowly to fill with tears. The English bishop, leaning
across with some compliment in unsound French, could not at first succeed
in conveying his meaning; she kept down her eyes, and answered at random,
to his praise of her, "_Oui, milord_." Clara Platen observed the
troubled breathing, the bent head, and knew for one moment a kind of
angry joy; this doll too suffered by reason of the young man in Dresden,
singing, inventing scandalous stories about the women who had yielded.

The grandiloquent dinner ended, their Electoral Highnesses were brayed
out of the great hall by a three-part fanfare, and repaired to another
room free from gapers, where they could settle comfortably to cards.
Lansquenet was the chosen game, for the reason that it admitted any
number, and afforded guests an opportunity of swapping counters with
royalty; also, because it demanded no skill at all of the players, who
after two hours of mastication were apt to find their wits anything but

"You'll play, my lord?" Electress Sophia asked the bishop. She knew him
for a stickler, and the day was Sunday; knew him, too, for a man who
liked to please his temporal betters, and was interested to know whether
principle or politeness would come uppermost. But he was a slippery
bishop, accustomed to polemics in Ireland, and he eluded her neatly.

"Madam, I made my wife a promise long ago never to play cards unless she
were present. This," with a bow to Ernest Augustus, "is where we
Protestant prelates score, for we may put off what we please on the
shoulders of our wives, while the poor Papists, like Europa of old, have
nothing to cling to but a Bull."

The Electress laughed, and left him alone with Count Platen. The table,
therefore, when finally it was made up, held five players only; the
Elector and his wife, the Electoral Prince and his wife, the Countess
Platen. There was no cutting for deal, which went, not by destiny like
hanging and wiving, but by precedence. Ernest Augustus possessed himself
first of the cards, and laid out the primary four in their pattern. The
_réjouissance_ card upon which the stakes were to be laid was a
knave of clubs. Something in the cut of the hair or turn of the head
reminded both Princess and Countess of Königsmark, but they said nothing,
and it was Ernest Augustus who at last commented on the resemblance,
inviting bets.

"Who'll put money on this rascal? God bless me, he has a look of
somebody. I have it! Who'll stake on Königsmark? You ladies, come along
with your counters, we all know your weakness."

Sophia-Dorothea obeyed without comment. George-Louis looked at her
sideways for an instant, then tossed down the minimum stake. The
Electress stood aside. Countess Platen said jovially as she laid down her

"I'd stake my life on him. Handsome, brave, faithful--that doesn't often
come a woman's way."

"I don't know," said Ernest Augustus slowly, beginning to deal, "he's got
plenty of impudence. But courage--that's another thing. I don't like
foreigners; there's no proper loyalty."

He was dealing as he spoke, and turning the cards upwards. The game, an
artless one, consisted only in this: that the company betted against
another knave turning up in the next ten cards. Ten of hearts, ace, a
king, two sevens, nine of spades, two of spades--

"He wins!"

"Not yet, not yet, Countess. Three cards yet to play. Now--" addressing
the pack--"out with another boy, another king's son!"

But the next card was an eight of spades, and the next a queen.
Sophia-Dorothea watched the plump white hands with superstitious fear,
afraid for no reason, awake to omens. The tenth card was turned. Ernest
Augustus flung it down with a laugh, and triumphed.

"Knave of spades! Aha, your fine young man doesn't get it all his own
way." He began to scoop the counters in, having no eye for the whiteness
of his daughter-in-law's cheeks. "He meets his match, does Königsmark.
Now, Countess, what have you to say?"

"I can only lament, Electoral Highness. He's carried off plenty of my

"And your heart too, eh?"

"Oh, hearts! He has those at his belt, by the dozen, as the Indians of
the new world carry scalps. Let it go, it's in good company."

Ernest Augustus laughed, and handed the pack to his son, who took it and
shuffled with dexterity. The swift motions of his hands accorded badly
with his expressionless face.

"Give us an eight of hearts, Electoral Highness. The gipsies call that
card success in love. Let us forget the dangling scalps, and try our
fortune anew."

Sophia-Dorothea could not be silent.

"That is your notion of love, Countess? To change inclinations as you
change your linen--more often, perhaps?"

"Why, Princess, real love, troubadour love, you may compare to the
apparition of ghosts. Everyone talks of such things, but mighty few have
seen them--"

"The cards are waiting. Nine of diamonds. Stake, if you care to."

"--and for my part I'd rather take what the world offers."

"I cannot emulate your philosophy, and would not if I could."

"Countess, Sophia, the cards arc waiting. What is this nonsense you

"We were lamenting together, Electoral Highness, that all marriages
cannot be like that of the Doge and the sea; a prayer, a ring, and
good-bye for another year."

"I don't understand you. The nine of diamonds is up. What offers?"

They played, and George-Louis won. Countess Platen paid with a good
grace, but sighed.

"I don't win at cards. It is my misfortune." She glanced at the Elector,
who stifled a "Mine!" in his cuff. "There's a proverb about it in
English: 'Luck at the tables, none in bed.'"

The Elector gave a loud laugh, and enquired of his wife:

"Is it true, Sophy? You're the dispenser of proverbs."

"There is such a saying. That it's a true one I shouldn't care to vouch."

"True! No. For that would mean that his Electoral Highness, who has just
won a pocketful, was not lucky in the other respect; a conclusion which
nobody will allow."

The Countess smiled across at the Princess, a bow underlining her
compliment. Sophia-Dorothea, that reckless and unhappy letter burning her
breast, unable to bear more of the woman's mockery, started up from the

"Your Electoral Highnesses will excuse me. I don't care to play longer."

Ernest Augustus looked at her astonished, and would have ordered her to
take her place again but for the Electress's hand on his arm.

"Our daughter finds the heat of the fire disturbing. Change your game,
let Count Platen join you and play quadrille a while. Our daughter will
help me to entertain his lordship of Derry."

George-Louis got up at once, saying that there was no betting at
quadrille, and without more explanation went out of the room. Count
Platen knew better than to join his master and his wife after a sign had
been made him to mind his own business, and pretending to have heard
nothing of the Electress's suggestion, engaged himself, with an apology,
in reading certain papers from his pocket. Electress Sophia, one hand on
Sophia-Dorothea's arm, guided her to a stool by the bishop. Herself she
sat near, very upright in a tall carved chair, her hand still laid
delicately upon the younger woman's wrist, wherein she could feel the
hurry and then the slackening of the blood. This was meant as penalty and
protection in one. For if the Countess had behaved inexcusably, the
Princess had too clearly showed her wounds, had lacked tenue. Thus she
must sit upon a stool to remind her that backbone was important, and must
compose herself to be auditor of a theological discussion if she could
not without tantrums take part in a game at cards.

But Sophia-Dorothea perceived only that the Electress had delivered her
from the tormentor, and with a sudden childish impulse turned her hand to
grasp the knotted fingers tightly. Electress Sophia did not reject this
small tenderness, but smiled on the bent head and made some answering
pressure, while the bishop began deferentially to treat of the late
Bishop of Lincoln's pamphlet, 'Episcopacy Not Prejudicial To Regal

At the card table Countess Platen and the Elector played piquet; he had
the better luck, and had settled into a fairly constant good humour. She
watched him, judged her moment, and spoke:

"I hear from Dresden that the Elector is to give our young man high
command in the spring campaign." Ernest Augustus looked up from his
reckoning of points.

"Young man? Königsmark? He's still in my service."

"You don't make use of him, and he's ambitious, like every youngster. The
Elector gave him a wing at manceuvres, and he did marvels, it seems. The
Saxons are looking forward to taking chief credit in the spring, their
preparations have gone forward at speed."

"Saxony can't take my man. I pay him still."

"Then use him yourself. Give him the cavalry. That will save letting Max
out of prison."

"That's true. But then, you see, George-Louis is in command, and he won't
have Königsmark about him."

"The Prince must learn to put private enmities last, when it's a question
of your glory."

"Enmities? I don't know about that. Königsmark was insolent one
night--and then there was that story you told me."

"I told you? What was that?"

"This rumour that he'd been plaguing my daughter-in-law. Can't have that.
It's difficult enough as things are."

Countess Platen laughed, and if the sound had a harsh quality it
sufficiently resembled her usual guffaw to convince. She answered the
Elector with something not unlike truth, her face flushing under the

"That was a passing fancy. He's not the man to keep any woman six months
in mind. I was civil to him, as you know; a stranger and with
credentials, one had to receive him. There was a moment when I thought
that he was eager to make our relationship somewhat closer--"

"What, the young puppy!"

"--but that passed, and now he makes fun of me in Dresden with his sister
and her boon companions." The flush on her cheek-bones held, for there is
a secret shame in loving still and being loved no longer, but she was not
the woman to let any such vanity come in the way of a plan, and she went
on steadily enough: "He tells them that I bathe in milk, and give the
milk to the poor. He makes songs about my husband--"

"I'll strip my coat off his back. By God, Clara, you're an extraordinary
woman. This is how he speaks of you, and yet you'd have him in Hanover,
give him a better command."

Countess Platen answered seriously, and with no pretence at languor or
lover-like cadences:

"I think of your glory first. That alone is important to me, all must
give way to it. Do you suppose that when a prince honours me with his
affection the spite of a boy can have any meaning?"

The Elector heard truth in that. He knew something of her appetite for
power, knew himself for the channel through which power flowed; it
followed that he might not unreasonably expect her fidelity. She went on:

"Bring him back, therefore. You may put the other matter out of your
head. My information is, that he has spoken no word of the Princess in
Dresden, though he has made free with the names of a dozen other ladies,
including my own. The affair is forgotten, if ever it existed, and now he
will have other things to do, besides sighing after the moon."

"George-Louis remains to be dealt with."

"Are not you the master?"

"I'll consider it." He looked once into the corner where the Electress
sat. "Do not return to-night to Monplaisir. Your rooms here are kept in

"I'm honoured," said she, looking full at him. "I am at your Highness's

Thenceforth, for half an hour longer, they played piquet, with no further
lapse into conversation save for the necessary declarations of quint,
terce, or quart. The Electress was enjoying her bishop, but she felt old,
not able for him, and longed for some wily Popish canon, or dialectical
Lutheran pastor to pit against him, that she might sit back in her high
chair and watch the battle like one of Jove's daughters surveying the
plain of Troy. There was, happily, a fixed hour for departure to bed, and
when this struck it was with relief that she rose to receive her
daughter-in-law's curtsey, the bishop's bow--she did not ask his
blessing, nor did he dare accord it unrequired; taking the Elector's arm
punctiliously held ready she went away through double doors, the Princess
following after alone.

When the bishop had been despatched, Countess Platen said to her husband,
folding up his papers and yawning:

"I've a letter for to-morrow's courier. Have you the cabinet key? I'll

"It must have his signature." He recollected the trick which had sent
Ilse to gaol and embarrassed a number of functionaries. "I can't lend

"Never fear, good man. I don't return to Monplaisir to-night."

They went together to the cabinet where Ernest Augustus worked by day.
There Platen sat at the great table, selected a pen, and made ready,
while she walked, her arms wrapped about each other, the flesh on them
rising into little points with cold.

"Are you ready? Direct it to the Count Königsmark, at the house of the
Countess Aurora Königsmark, at Dresden."

Platen obeyed, writing slowly in a fine clerkly script, characterless,

"'Sir, I am commanded by his Electoral Highness to recall to your
recollection that the period of your leave has now expired--'"

"He had no leave. He went off one morning without it, in a very insolent

"I know what I write. Have you taken it?--'has now expired.
Circumstances, which by reason of your absence cannot be familiar to you,
have obliged his Electoral Highness to remove his son, Prince Maximilian,
from the command of the cavalry, which he proposes to send this spring
into Flanders to serve under the King of England. This being so, he can
think of no person more fitting to succeed to such a post than yourself,
and accordingly requires you to return as soon as may be possible to
Hanover. His wishes with regard to you have been made known to the
Electoral Prince, who is prepared to respect them, and to afford you such
opportunities for distinction as may be in his power, during your service
in the field.' End with what flourish of trumpets you please."

Platen wrote carefully, sanded, and sat back, laying the pen in its tray
after drying.

"Clara, what's this you're doing? Those two have been in correspondence;
does the Prince know that?"

"Nobody is to know. I don't buy knowledge to share it."

"You'd better keep them apart."

"Friend Platen, absence kills a fancy, but kindles love. It is like
a strong wind, that blows out candles, but drives fire."

He shrugged his high shoulders, and held out the paper to her. She took
and folded it.

"A courier must be waiting to-morrow at eight. I shall have the signature
by then."

He made a note of that, and stood up.

"Is it true that the Prince concurs? Is that what you're working for, to
bring them into conflict? He won't fight; he's heir to two thrones, and a
man of principle."

"Let me alone. You had better know nothing. What's the hour?"

He looked at his watch, a heavy thing, on whose back the death of
Sarpedon was raised in gold; she, hearing him say that it was close on
midnight, huddled the letter into her dress, and fled.

Two couriers set out next morning. One bore the Elector's letter, signed
and sealed with black wax and three inches of tremendous arms--chequers,
leopards, an eagle displayed, two lions' paws couped, a horse and a stag
in full course, and two antlers, or attires of a stag, all under the
frown of the electoral bonnet; the other, sealed with a sunflower, and a
motto, Mon coeur vous suit toujours, had been written at the same hour,

"It is not possible to live like this. Do you think my lot is so easy,
that I can bear reproaches lightly, and forget them soon? I must live as
my condition commands. I must dress, show myself, smile, and take part in
Court diversions for which, God knows, I have little heart. I should be
glad enough to shut myself up, dress in black, and speak with nobody, but
do you suppose that it would not cause talk, or worse? There is no such
compulsion upon you; you may retire to a forest and live in goat-skins
lamenting, nothing forbids you, but you do not do it. You are the life of
Dresden, all travellers come back with tales of your beauty, gaiety, and
extravagance. I cannot understand, and so cannot pardon you. You do not,
in your heart of hearts, doubt me. You know that I am faithful, every
breath that I draw proves it. Yet you are for ever tormenting me, and I
am helpless. I write that I have wept all night and am wretched; this
does not please you, for you say that it tears your heart to think of me
so. Then, trying to console, I tell you that I have been for a drive, or
found a pleasant partner for dancing, and at once you are up in rage,
accusing me of having forgot you. Your letters are those of a madman. It
would be better for me to try and forget you indeed. But I cannot, I
cannot, and my one consolation is that I shall never see you again; for
if you were near, I should run to your arms, and find there a happiness
that neither reason nor loyalty can justify. Adieu. God help and guard us
both. I shall write no more."


Seven days later Eléonore Knesebeck sat in the window of
Sophia-Dorothea's boudoir reading aloud a romance newly come from Paris,
and stumbling not a little over the French.

"'The widow's age was thirty, but to judge by the freshness of her cheek
and the neatness of her waist this sum of years might have been halved;
while by her show of prudence it might have been doubled. She mourned her
husband with great propriety. Her servants were dressed in the best black
that Paris afforded, the funeral oration was as gratifying as it was
truthful. Only after these duties had been duly performed, did she permit
herself to join in certain Court distractions, and prepare to defend her
heart against the delicate attacks which many gentlemen of quality were
honoured to deliver--'"

"Nell, do you think there's any harm in that?"

"In what, sweet soul? Taking lovers after the husband's death? Indeed I
don't, but you need to have him safe underground first."

"It's folly, isn't it, to break one's heart being faithful. I'm nearly
thirty now, and all the savour, all the spring has gone."

"Highness dear, what have I been preaching this past six months? Love's
not a thing to take so seriously, it ought to be a distraction, not the
business of life."

"I know it, but feelings aren't always to be commanded." She put her
hands to her waist; the silk bodice puckered, fitting her loosely. "I
don't write, I won't write, I'll be brave; but something still makes me

"Sit down and think of something sensible; your dress for Colt's

"I can't go, not to a masquerade." Sophia-Dorothea shook her head
violently and her hand went beat, beat, beat, on the chair. "I'll stay at
home, I can never put on a mask again."

"Don't wear your Isabella, if it reminds you. I know! The Venetian dress.
That's becoming, and all we'll have to do is freshen the gold on the
hat." But the Princess still stood, looking recalcitrant. "Highness dear,
have you made up your mind or not? Have you finished with Tercis or not?"
(It was their name for Königsmark.) "Very well, then, do as he does, go
about, enjoy what conquests you can. There's plenty ready to make
these--what's it the book calls 'em?--delicate attacks."

"It's a strange thing. When I was first married all I wanted was to dance
and be admired. Now I'd as soon go into a convent."

"That won't last. Don't fix your mind so."

"I ought to be glad to have done with it all. No more waiting for
couriers, and trembling, and being reproached. No more apprehension.
Nothing to be discovered."

"Nothing but amuse yourself from this time onwards."

"No more tears for unkindness. No more jealousy. All ended."

"Only laughter, and dancing, and twenty pretty men instead of one."

"Fetch the Venetian dress, Nell. I'll try to wear it."

"That's my darling lady."

She had both hands at her bodice pulling the hooks undone, and Knesebeek
was making for the door, when with hardly a tap this opened to discover
the page Christian. The Princess turned away, holding a neckerchief
across her breast. Knesebeck, standing to shield her, found words for the

"Are you in a lodging-house, do you suppose? You've no fingers to knock
with, I dare say! And not your day for service either--prying and
peeping. Be off!"

The boy Christian did not budge, but this rough greeting spoiled the
scene as he had planned it; no stealing in upon the Princess alone, no
whispering, no tender glance of gratitude for him now. He was indignant
at the charge of prying, and came out plump with the news which was his

"Count Königsmark's in Hanover! I saw him just now ride up to his house."
To Knesebeck: "I put on my livery, anyhow, to come and tell."

Knesebeck gave one quick look at the Princess and muttered some angry
words under her breath. Sophia-Dorothea still kept with her back to them,
standing motionless. When she turned it was to show a look of entire
distress and timorous hands.

"What does it mean? It's a trap. Christian, go to him."

She gave no other instructions but gestured him away, page's livery and
all, to go to her lover through Hanover's observant streets. Knesebeck
caught Christian's braided arm and shook it.

"Don't you dare. What, go running off in that rig, so that everyone sees
where you come from!"

"Don't hinder him, Nell. I must know."

"Know! You must be quiet, and remember what you've been promising all
this morning. As for making yourself ridiculous, I won't allow it, I've
more care for your state than you have--"

The boy interrupted her, after a glance over his shoulder down the

"Somebody's coming. The Electress!"

He stood in the doorway ice-still, in the posture prescribed for pages by
their ceremonial, a little more easy than the attitude expected of
servants. Knesebeck ran to the Princess and hooked her gaping dress. The
Princess herself, passive after her momentary terror, faced the door, and
drooped to the necessary curtsey as Electress Sophia came in.

"Your health, daughter?"

"Your Electoral Highness's health?"

Neither question was answered. It was the ritual beginning to

"Pray ask Fräulein Knesebeck to leave us. And the young man."

Sophia-Dorothea nodded them both away. The Electress took up, as was her
custom, the book lying on the table and looked at its title-page: La
Keine d'Ethiopie: _Historiette Comique_. She turned the pages with a
steady right hand.

"There seems a great deal of nonsense here." Sophia-Dorothea did not
answer, and the Electress began to read aloud in her deep voice, cracked
now like an old bell, the passage where Knesebeck had folded down the

"'_Elle y remedia par les divertissements de la Cour, et par les soins
continuels de defendre son coeur contre force gens de qualité qui s'en
proposoient la conqueste_--' Is this whence you take your rule of

"It is a silly tale, Highness."

The Electress laid the book down, gently, as was her way even with the
most frivolous printed stuff. "Are your preparations made for the English
Minister's entertainment?"

"Is it necessary that I should go?"

"You know the reason for this fete, to celebrate a victory at sea over
the French. We have not, of late, had so many successes that we can
afford to neglect such an opportunity." She turned towards the Princess,
but looked down, and her fingers were not quite still. "You have not
heard perhaps that Count Königsmark is recalled. It seemed to me better
that you should learn this news privately."

At that she looked up suddenly; and Sophia-Dorothea dropped to her knees
by the old woman's skirts, childishly.

"Ma'am, it wasn't by my wish. I didn't send for him. While he was at a
distance I could keep a good face. Now he's here I'm afraid."

"Girl! What do you say?"

But the Princess was wrought past discretion; she was obsessed by her own
problem, thirsty to confide, and so far as the Electress's intention was
concerned, mistaken wholly.

"Won't you let me go? Your son hates me. I've served my purpose. Let me
go back to my father at Zelle. You don't know what it is to be so
helpless as I am, and I can feel plots moving--"

"Is this man your lover?"

"Not yet, I swear it. If you knew how I've struggled--You must help me,
you've been kind to me. Let me go away."

"To be with him?"

"I'm too unhappy, I can't go on like this."

The Electress twitched her skirt away and rose.

"Happiness has nothing to say to conduct. You are strangely mistaken if
you suppose you can make me a party to your intrigue. I knew of it; I
have watched. I thought it possible that news of the man's return might
come on you in some public place, and what then? The Princess of Hanover
turning red and white, God knows what disgraceful behaviour. To avoid
such a scandal I came here in person. You ask me in return to play
procuress. Get up. Once for all, I won't have bastards brought into this

The Princess was on her feet before she was bid, in rage.

"Then you should look to your son, ma'am. What of Schulenburg's child,
and half a dozen others for all I know? And Countess Platen's girl, whose
daughter is she? And your own daughter with her lovers. I never thought
to laugh at you, but I laugh now. No bastards!"

Electress Sophia checked this hysteria with one stern word.

As the sobs dwindled, she went on coolly, but the bridge of her nose was
pinched and white.

"Your mother, base born and intriguer as she is--you might well take
example by her. She gave no scandal, if she brought no lustre." She
thrummed with the baek of her hand upon the little book. "You take too
many of your notions from fribbles like these. You are not a woman of
intelligence, you have not the means to drive a fantasy to success.
Understand your position, and live within it decently. While you attempt
this, you'll find me your friend."

"Friend! friend! when you force me back to subjection, to misery!"

"Listen. The sole wisdom of the fool is to allow others better qualified
to judge for him. Show this wisdom at least. And do not talk of a
sentiment as though it were some inescapable convulsion of nature. It is
a fever, and passes as a fever does."

"Passes, or kills."

"'Men have died, and worms have eaten them--but not for love.' That's
the saying of an English poet; you may read him with profit when you're
sixty, sitting on the English throne."

"I hate you. You made me speak, and now you scorn me. Tell the Elector,
tell George-Louis! I shall get my freedom then."

"Do you suppose I would play so into your hands?" The Electress smiled,
then jerked up her head. "Good God! If you were a private individual I
should let you drop back into the gutter. But you are a princess, and may
be a queen. Therefore I humble yself to such interviews as this. I
repeat: my son's wife may count on me to preserve her good name. Attend
me to your door."

"Ma'am, wait awhile. I'm distracted, I don't know what I say. Don't go in
anger. Have I lost my only friend?"

"Sentimental talk. I have neither leisure nor patience for it. I am your
friend while you conduct yourself as you should. Attend me, pray."


Sir William Colt, kept short of money as a rule by his cheeseparing King,
was determined for once, let the expense be what it would, to do England
honour. He had planned, ingeniously, a garden masque which the
distinguished spectators should behold from indoors, the warmth of fires
at their backs and of good liquor at their hearts. A thousand torches lit
his lawns; and from the lake, wherein fish and frogs lived amiably the
year round, water-lilies had been cut away to leave a free surface on
which miniature ships of battle might ride, exchanging broadsides of
rockets. He was astonished to find the Germans ingenious at such
contrivances, to see how pleasantly they fitted up the ships, and built
little ports upon the lake's shore. The ships had no more than twenty
feet in which to manoeuvre, but they stood so majestically up from the
water, the details of their pennons and rig were so clear, that their
engagement had the look of a veritable battle viewed through the wrong
end of a spyglass. Colt was glad to have this entertainment to offer, for
he was a man who cared little for play, food, or music, those staples of
German existence, and he had found the Hanoverians not conversible. He
walked among his guests, very fine and very civil, pleased to view their
excitement at the movement of the ships, but writing them down barbarians
in his mind. There was no man present who could cap the neat quotation
from Horace that presented itself to his memory: _Nil pictis timidus
navita puppibus fidit_. The Electress might have obliged him, but she
was not present, the only star lacking in his constellation; the Elector
was there, the Prince and Princess, the Prime Minister and his wife. All
these, wearing fantastic and magnificent costumes, but not masked, their
effulgence undimmed, stood in his broad windows and exclaimed as did
lesser men and women when the toy ships shocked each other and heeled
over, smoking. The night, though chilly, was clear. There was a victory
to celebrate. A little complacency was understandable.

Sir William, nevertheless, kept his eyes open. He was prepared to be
interested, for example, in observing the meeting, after many months, of
that gay creature the Princess with, the man gossip lent her for a lover;
but the fellow, though invited, had not been announced by the time
midnight struck. Then, however, when the twelve strokes were tolling, the
fireworks ending, and watchers turning from the windows, there came from
the courtyard in front of the house a hideous sound of yelling, and along
the corridor, into the saloon, raged a troop of young men waving
scimitars, surrounding a robed figure that bestrode a white horse. He
must have ridden it up the staircase, for the saloon was above ground

While applause sounded, the cavalier tossed his reins to a turbaned
groom, leapt down, came towards the exalted group; and there, dropping on
his knees before the Princess, handed her a scroll. Colt observed her.
She stuek out her lace-covered hand like a doll, like a doll's red and
white her cheeks appeared. She accepted the scroll unsmiling, and
unrolled it with a kind of timidity, as though she thought to find in it
some fateful sentence; but there was nothing, only a parody of Eastern
writing. The Turk, still on his knees, brought both hands up to his
forehead, and bowed forward in an attitude of prayer until he kissed her
shoe, muttering some words, gibberish or seeming so; only Sir William
Colt, that discreet and travelled man, made out something that sounded
very much like an endearment in Swedish. His salaam ended, he bounded up,
and disclosed Königsmark's face, laughing; it was thinner than when he
left Hanover, Sir William noted, the eyes sunken yet bright. To pay this
homage openly, kissing his lady's foot as a bashaw before a whole
society, that would have spitted him had he attempted the same thing in
his true guise as a soldier of Hanover--Sir William liked his impudence,
and was preparing with a hand-clap in the Oriental manner to summon
refreshment for the invader, when Königsmark ran to his horse, that stood
near an open window, swung on its back, and spurred it through the window
out into the night. The drop was nothing, the effect spectacular. Sir
William's whole company crowded to gaze, and saw for their pains the
horseman, cloak flying, galloping straight for the lake at its narrowest,
where the last of the little ships were exchanging rockets. Over these he
went, with a leap curved like a scimitar; the rockets' fires reddened the
horse's belly a moment, their smoke obscured the rider, and he was gone,
save for the sound of hoofs thudding on grass.

Sir William as an individual was amused; as an ambassador disquieted. If
only the Princess had laughed or clapped! But she had stood still, save
for a hand that jerked to her throat as the horseman plunged through the
window. He mistrusted her already by reason of her French blood;
suspected her of bringing influence to bear upon the Elector, so that he
joined only with reluctance and after bargaining the coalition against
France. It was not the moment, but discovering the Countess Platen in an
ante-room he offered his arm and made speculation.

"That's a youngster with spirit. When Prince Rupert was young he had
something of that look; but he sat more down to his horse."

Countess Platen did not immediately make answer. When she spoke it was

"This is some of the Dresden behaviour. We may be thankful a seraglio did
not accompany him."

"Ah! He leans that way, does he? Women--"

"The women lean his way. You are not to blame them. Consider what we must
make do with here; buffoons or blockheads, there's no other choice."

Sir William Colt said, with a naďve cock of the head that sought to
convey his extreme unconcern:

"I fear all the shouting, and the appearance of the horse, may have
startled the Princess. She had a look almost of faintness when she
received him."

"You keep your rooms too hot, Sir William. What's in your mind? Are you
suspecting too great an interest in that quarter? Disabuse yourself."

"Indeed, do you assure me so? I heard rumours. I had a hint from England
urging me to prevail upon the Elector to dismiss the young man. But then
he departed for Dresden, and I thought it unnecessary to--in short, I
believed him gone for good." His eyes slid sideways to her face. "Do I
understand he is here now with the Elector's good will?"

"You understand, Sir William, that he is here now with my good will."

"I see, I see." Sir William assembled certain other rumours that recurred
to his memory, of encounters and withdrawals at Monplaisir, and supposed
himself not far from the truth when he deduced from these that the
Countess was faithless to her Elector. Delivered from one problem,
another rose. If she deceived her paymaster with this pretty young man
and were discovered, she would be dismissed and England lose a good
friend. Love where he would, the young man was a danger. Sir William
sighed, but in face of that bold declaration of interest could press the
matter no further. He said, however:

"Ah! As a fighter no doubt he's well enough."

She appeared not to hear him. Her eyes fixed themselves for a moment upon
Sir William's sword; expression vanished from them, they became dull and
stony, looking at the bright hilt under his hand. She spoke at random:

"Do they have a custom in England, when there is a marriage by proxy,
that the false bridegroom and the wife be put to bed, but a sword lies
between them?"

Sir William laughed, and answered that he had never known such a thing.

"We are not a trustful people in such matters. We think it takes more
than a sword to keep lovers out of mischief."

"I don't think so," said Countess Platen. "I believe it might be enough."

And at last, with a shake of the head, her gaze broke away from the hilt.


Her lover's challenge, his public homage, broke down Sophia-Dorothea's
resolve to write no more. She was afraid. In their carriage rumbling home
from Colt's house, that lay a little way out of Hanover among fields, she
was disconcerted by the silence of George-Louis. She could not see his
face, but she guessed at the expression it wore, a kind of patience in
malignity. It was the ill luck of her temperament that she could not take
comfort from silence; it terrified her, and she must break it even though
worse things came. When they had driven a mile without speaking she broke
out with a direct question, pitifully casual:

"Did you not think the Turks played their parts well? Look, this
scroll--" she was still clasping it, beside her fan--"it is in Turkish
writing, though I don't know what it says. And the horse stood so quiet,
until he spurred it. He must be a good horseman." George-Louis did not
answer. "Don't you think so? Were you not entertained?"

"It's of no consequence what I think."

"Don't you like to see new things, to be made laugh, and to wonder what
will come next?"

"I've not much patience with foolery of any kind."

"It was brave, what he did! And his men looked so odd. Some had their
faces blacked."

He turned so that his voice came directly on her ear, and she shrank at
the sound of it.

"I don't know what their game is. I've had my orders from my father, so I
hold my tongue. Else I'd have something to say."

"Why do you speak so angrily?"

"Making a fool of you with his antics, kissing your shoes--"

"You said you'd had orders. What orders?"

"Don't ask questions."

"What do you mean, why do you look like that?"

"You can't tell how I look."

"I hear it in your voice, you're grinning, that horrible look you put on
when you're going to be cruel--"

He laughed. But she was now fully alarmed, sure that some mischief was
intended to Königsmark. They sat beside each other swinging together as
the carriage rounded corners, inclining away as the road straightened,
minds contriving and busy, bodies passive. Trees gave place to houses,
and the clack of hoofs echoed from masonry. Two o'clock swung out from
Hanover's invisible belfries. They spoke no further word all the way.

In her room, undisturbed, for. George-Louis was back in his old quarters
below stairs, she wrote in haste, the Venitian hat lying by her elbow,
tumultuous laces dragging after her hand across the page:

"How foolish you were to-night, with all eyes on you, to kiss my foot! I
could make no sign, but you must believe that in my heart I was glad,
even while I feared for you. They talked afterwards of war. Is it only
the chance of leading a regiment that holds you to Hanover? Would you set
this duty, which for you is supreme enjoyment, against another claim,
less honourable, and perhaps less dear? I am come to an end of that which
I can endure. I have no friend here now. I am alone, for during this past
month the Electress has given my son over into a governor's hands; it is
the custom, they say. If my cruel letters or my silence have not killed
in your heart that feeling which once dwelt there, lend me your help. I
ask no more, not love, not even the tenderness of a friend; only your
help to escape from this bondage in which I live, and which will surely
destroy me. I have nothing, neither money, nor advisers, nor so much
experience of the world as to know which way the post-roads lie. All this
I must borrow, and I turn to you. If you deny me--and I have used you
ill, I know it--then I will walk out of Hanover by night and beg my way
back to my father's house. If you will so far forget my unkindness, pray
let me have word; and speech with you if you can contrive it. I do not
seek anything but what I might ask of a brother, or a friend if I had
one. My women are as ignorant and helpless as myself. Nevertheless, do
not hold yourself bound."

The letter reached Königsmark sprawling on his bed at midday, still in
the Turkish clothes of last night's masquerade. He had, when he leapt
from the window, no plan in his head, but only the hope to still anguish
by motion. That sight of his Princess standing so decorously by her small
sullen husband, Clara Platen behind her, all the watchful intolerant
faces of Hanover about her, put him in mind of a story heard from his
nurse in Sweden; a little girl who went, seeking her lost toy, into the
trolls hill, and never again saw the sun. This was the rhythm to which he
rowelled his horse's sides--"She shall see the sun! She shall see the
sun!" To its tune he went lathering blindly across fields, over a ditch
whose further side he could not see, past farms, to a village, Kirchrode,
which he remembered by its spire, dark against the sky's darkness. There
he knocked with the hilt of his scimitar against a door above which
whined an inn-sign; roused the people, who at first would not open,
fearing his turban, but after parley let him in, and gave him the strong
spirits he asked for. The women crowded at the stair-turn to peep at him
and wonder. He took no heed of them except once, gravely, to drink their
health, and to charge them (in Swedish, some remainder of prudence
dictating) that they should never fall in love.

"You see, ladies, the pity of it. You behold a victim. Yes, a victim, for
all he's got a bottle of liquor inside him, and a pair of trousers big
enough for a platoon. A man who knows what he wants, too; that's the
wretchedest spite of Fate. If you don't know, then your heart's desire
may still be round the corner, or even under your hand. But when you
know, know, know--" he struck his breast thrice, and lapsed into German
again. "Your health, ladies. Mueh good may it do you, drunk in rot-gut.
Get to bed. Here's money. I've business to do. I've got to find a way out
of hell. Good night. Pray for me."

He got up, staggering a little, and went out again to his horse. The inn
people heard the beast cry out as spurs into nto its hide, then a mad
departure, with singing. They were a pious family, and though by no means
sure that this visitant was not the Devil, they did not neglect his
injunction to pray. A candle was lit under the Virgin's statue, and down
they went on their knees, a child of four drowsing against the mother's

"Mother of dolours--"

"Pray for us."

"Thou who didst find no room at the inn. Who wart forced to take refuge
in a stable. Who didst lay thy firstborn in a manger--"

"Pray for us."

"From immoderate sadness. From a cowardly spirit. From the snares of the
Devil. From hardness of heart. From impenitence. From sudden and
unprepared-for death. From eternal damnation--"

"Queen of martyrs, deliver us."

"That thou wouldst vouchsafe to bring consolation and help to all who
call on thee. That thou wouldst succour us in our last agony. That thou
wouldst vouchsafe to obtain for us a happy death--"

"We beseech thee, hear us."

Königsmark was not too drunk to stay on his horse, but he could not give
the creature direction. The stars, by which at night he was accustomed to
ride, were often obscured, and danced before his puzzled sight when they
showed through cloud. He was out of the riotous stage of wine, and coming
to that in which the drinker stands alone before an indifferent world,
guiltless, but troubled by inopportune barbs and misunderstandings. He
wept, sagging on his horse, which progressed at a good rate towards
Hanover town, and lamented his lot to the night.

"I ask so little. I want to fight, just a little battle now and then. I
want a woman--one woman, only one. Nobody can say I'm extravagant in my
desires. The wrong people, that's what it is. The wrong people love me,
or want to fight me, and the ones I want--But he won't fight, can't get
rid of him. How's the world to be run if a man won't answer you, and
still you've got to take off your hat to him? That's not just. Horse, I
tell you, that's not just. You don't have to put up with that--well but,
poor devil, you've been gelded. Apology. No reflection on you. For all we
know you're better off. What's that? A shooting star."

And he halted a moment to recapture a memory that sprang into being, lit
by that streak of light. A Turkish officer--and something about the
angels throwing their spears at those mortals who came too near heaven.
But he could not recapture the memory, any more than he could have read a
sentence of print by that fleeting light, and the fact of being himself
dressed as a Turkish officer bewildered him. His tears continued to flow,
until all recollection of their cause had departed. The horse maintained
a steady pace. Nils, waiting sleepless, helped him to tumble off its back
at his own door.

The Princess's letter, which he was waked to receive, pulled him back to
sanity, and sent him striding in his ludicrous half-dress to scan his own
face in a mirror, and discover eyes reddened a little, cheeks pallid.
This little foppish inspection made, he sent for the man who barbered
him, and while he lay with his head back, yielding to the pressure of
fingers now on this cheek, now on that, he contrived a meeting with his
love as he might have planned an attack upon some town whose defences and
resources were known to him.

The question of flight; he summoned a map to his mind. North lay Zelle,
and the dubious protection of her parents. East, Wolfenbüttel, where she
might, through no fault of her own, have reason to dread the long memory
of an old Duke. South--too long a ride into Hesse or Thuringia.
Westwards; Prussia offered the best chance, for all a Brunswick Princess
shared that coronet. There, owing to the fact that westwards lay war, and
troops must move quickly, the roads favoured a flight. No river lay
between Hanover and the frontier, once its own Leine was passed. The
forests of Blumenausche, the wooded rides of Schauenburg, would be kind
to fugitives, and when they came to the bridge over the Weser at Rintele
they were out of the last dominions of his master and hers. Good, so far.
But chance must be allowed no meddling. She would need a carriage to save
her from a fatigue which might be fatal to the plan. At once, accepting
the need for this carriage, his mind was busy to discover what other use
could be made of it, to what tactical advantage it might be turned. It
might be stored with food, so that during the whole fifty miles they need
call at no inn, show their faces in no house. Horses, though! They must
travel day and night. Four horses at a time, and four relays--that should
do it; with an outrider to lend his help, should one of the team go lame.
These relays must be their own; thus, no weary post-horses, no hanging
about inn-yards, no question asked.

The barber had done. Königsmark dismissed him, and sent for Anders, the
chief groom.

"How many horses have we that can draw a carriage?"

"Well, my lord, they're riding beasts mostly. We've no call for a
carriage since Countess Aurora left us."


"Nothing like, my lord."

"Get twenty together, and don't let it be known I'm buying. Examine them
yourself for soundness. What about a carriage?"

"There's your own, my lord. It wants a lick of paint."

"Let it alone, only paint out the arms on the door. Have new cushions put
to it. When the horses are bought I'll give you orders for provisioning.
But the upholsterers must go to work at once."

"I'd better engage more stabling. We're nigh on full."

"Where's your wits, good God? Not a soul is to know I'm buying them. Get
them here and there, one by one. The first five go to Münder with two
fellows and then wait. (No livery for the men.) The next batch of five
likewise to Lawenau, the next to Lutersen. The last lot may come here,
but no questions encouraged, you understand me? Let me know when you have
carried out these orders and make as good time as you can."

"A week, my lord?"

"At most. Don't spare money. See that your men hold their tongues. If any
word gets out, I'll crucify the fellow that talks with my own hands
against that wall." He knocked his hand against the panelled wood. "Is it

The man hesitated.

"Germans, or our own men, my lord, to go with the horses? Our own fellows
can't, all of them, talk the lingo. I'm thinking, if your lordship
doesn't want to be recognised, better have men who won't draw attention
to themselves. They're wonderful curious about foreigners in these small

"Germans, then. Tell them what I've said."

Anders made his bow and departed to consult with Nils, and get from him
the money to carry out orders. Königsmark, passing the mirror by chance,
saw with satisfaction, a strip of colour on his cheek-bones, eyes no
longer dull. He laughed aloud, and lifting his arms bent them to swell
the muscles.

Anders, conferring with Nils, met a shake of the head and lift of the

"Twenty horses! Ready money, that means. I haven't got it. I haven't got
above five hundred thalers in silver, and here he comes asking enough to
set up a regiment. No hope of money from Sweden before harvest's in, and
then it takes time to get here. A week? That's madness."

"I'm only telling you what my orders are."

"Try what you can do on credit."

"It's not to come out who's buying. He'll crucify anyone with his own
hands, he says, that lets it out; he looked it, too."

"Wait here. I'll go to him."

The ancient Nils made his way to that room to which he had led his master
at some hour of the morning when light, a little thickened, began to make
the sparrows restless. There had been mutterings then, tears, to which he
had paid small attention. In no way did they foreshadow the liveliness
which greeted him now.

"The man I wanted. Come here. What money can you get together? I leave
Hanover in a week."

"Anders spoke to me. I tell you plain, my lord, Saxony broke us. I
haven't the price of a week's living in the house."

"Old grumbler, old close-mouth, don't try to frighten me with that

"It's true, my lord. I don't know what scheme you have in your head. If
it must be, it must. But unless you'll sell some jewels, there's not the

Königsmark sprang up from his map and papers, shook the old man till his
wig loosened, flipped his nose, and sliding an arm round his shoulders,
hugged him.

"Hold your tongue. There's always money. Don't play that old comedy with
me now."

"Before God, my lord."

Königsmark held away from him; saw the lip trembling, a little round tear
in the eye's very corner; and stood back, looking suddenly grave.

"But I tell you I must have it."

"Unless you'll sell a jewel, or dun your debtors at cards, you must want

"You old fool, how can I go to the Jews with a pocket full of diamonds?
What becomes of my credit? How can I press gentlemen for what they owe?
There must be money somewhere."

Nils stood, his hands hanging by his sides. There was something of
resignation in the attitude that touched the young man.

"Old Nils; I know you hate to cross me. Get a Jew here, then. But I can't

"My lord! As if I'd let you do your own business!"

Königsmark had on his thumb the great diamond that had been looted in
Prague. It was a jewel with a history; St. Stephen had worn it. Legends
of Hungary said that it was the original male diamond of the world; if
only the female could be rediscovered and set beside it there would be
such a propagation of stones that mankind need never lack protection
against poison, which diamonds give; besides being the means of
reconciling lovers, subduing evil spirits, and disclosing conspiracies.
Königsmark cared for none of these things, but only for the fineness of
its water, that must compel a good price even from careful hucksters of
the trade.

"Take this, then. Put a cloak on you, and another wig, and see how much
you can get."

"He'll ask whence I had it."

"Then tell him, by God! And tell him I'll string him up by the ears over
a brazier if he talks."

The old man gone, Königsmark returned to his table, and there wrote,
joyfully, easily, in bad French:

"I never knew happiness till now. Your letter wears thin with the kisses
I have put upon it. At last, at last, you run to my arms, and for ever! I
knew it must come to this, unless we died first of longing. I had a mind
last night to catch you up and make off with you lying across my saddle.
You would not have been afraid, for I should have held you close to me.
But this is better. This is the whole of desire.

"Listen. Can you be ready in a week's time, Monday night? I set this
limit, and give this date because I know that the Electress will be at
Herrenhausen, by the orders I have to provide a guard there. Moreover it
is the night of one of the great suppers, when they are all safe till
midnight at least, and stupid after. You must plead illness. Bribe the
doctor if you must, but stay at home that night. Send Knesebeck away
between then and now, I do not trust her. She thinks of herself, she
loves you not with her heart but with her head, as a Princess, not as a
woman. To write such words intoxicates me, when I think that so soon the
Princess will be put off, and the woman remain, to be adored, to be the
delight of my soul and body till death.

"I must see you soon, that the details of our plan may be considered.
Have you strength for an interview in public? That is safest, and there
can be no suspicion if I come with Major Eck, you know him well, on your
reception day at the hour when you drink chocolate. We shall be
surrounded by eyes and ears, but I shall give myself the pleasure of
outwitting them, as I have gone disguised, before now, through enemy
lines in war.

"Shall I write your orders, as for some young officer? I who am your
slave, let me act the part of commander awhile. 'The retreat is fixed for
five o'clock on Monday. You will make no sortie, but keep close within
your trenches until that hour. Send to the rear any person you suspect.
All baggage to be left, save that which is indispensable. By abandoning
our present position triumph is assured.' How sweet it is to write to a
dear lover in the language of war!"


The Countess Platen, in a magnificent bedgown of red velvet, her head
bound round with a kind of turban of the same stuff, was questioning her
spies. It was early in the day; for her own pleasure, the pleasure of
being awake to a world she could guide and subdue, she often held these
morning courts, to which, almost as soon as it was light, came men and
women with stories for her ear, merchants, and an occasional tailor. She
did not trouble herself to look well for them, her cheeks and lips were
left to nature, but she had all the same, in her negligence, a kind of

A man of the Princess's household stood in front of her, expressionlessly
answering questions.

"Nothing at night? No goings or comings out of the way?"

"None, gracious lady."

"You've been sleeping. Can't you sleep in the day? God knows you've
little enough to do."

"I've waked for five nights, gracious lady." His look spoke for him. He
had the dragged look, white with a reddish nose, of the man short of
sleep. "The Princess has not altered her way of life. The only happenings
of this week your ladyship knows."

"What visitors?"

"The usual ladies yesterday to drink tea. One or two gentlemen, the
Count Königsmark and some other of the Guards officers."

"Ah! Were you on duty in the room?"

"Handing the cups, yes, gracious lady."

"Did Count Königsmark speak with the Princess?"

"Not apart. He spoke as twenty others did, making himself agreeable;
later he sang one of his songs. He was very gay."

"What song?"

"They used to sing it when I was with the regiment--'The Brief

'Thursday meet, Friday's sweet,
Saturday sigh and pray.
Sunday rise and bake the pies,
Monday's marriage day.'"

"I know that song, it's an old one. But it starts with Monday--'Monday

"The Count's a foreigner, gracious lady. He started off with Thursday and
made Monday the marriage. Who'd make pies of a Sunday? But maybe it's
different where he comes from."

"Monday!" She paused before the next question.

"How did the Princess look while he sang?"

"A nice colour in her face. She clapped when he ended, but so did all the
ladies. Ladies make a great ado of the Count always."

"Off with you, and keep your eyes open still."

She pondered this information, adding it to that which already she
possessed. First, an attempt to dismiss Knesebeck, countered with such a
storm of tears, such pleadings, that the decree of banishment could not
hold. Why dismiss her, the bosom's ally, unless some plan were in project
which her attendance might hinder? Why take back the dismissal unless she
knew what she should not, and had threatened? Now this rendezvous for
Monday; how lay the significance there? "Sunday rise and bake the
pies"--that was the night of the Electoral supper. Escape next morning?
Or, during the meal another raid, such as that made upon Colt's house, in
disguise? An alarm, perhaps, of fire, of conspiracy, and in the confusion
Princess Featherweight carried off? There were stories of horsemen in
Königsmark's pay going out of the town secretly, westwards. And the
Prince was away, in Berlin with his sister. Could any woman be such a
fool as to give up a crown? And this one loved her children. Clara Platen
could not square what she suspected with what she knew; her mind went
here and there, patiently travelling down blind alleys, while she
listened to the blandishments of Röhrig the goldsmith, and decried his

"Yes, yes, I have money to spend, but your stuff is not good enough.
Great heavy salt cellars, clocks, what use are these to me?"

"What does your ladyship want? I have some ear-rings from France that
look very showy, the designs are very well, but any goldsmith will tell
you, when you come to sell again, what makes the price is weight of
metal, and that only. French stuff is light stuff."

"When you can design as well as a Frenchman I'll listen to you. If the
weight is everything, let us wear nuggets strung round our necks on a
deer sinew, like the Indians. Be off, Röhrig. You waste my time."

The jeweller looked at his stock: a gold cup, a round gold watch set with
diamonds, pendants of grotesque pearls shaped like sea-horses, hearts,
and swollen limbs. His face became a little red, for he was son-in-law to
the Burgomaster, and by no means used to being thus dismissed.

"If it is a question of price--"

"I'm not bargaining with you. This is the stuff innkeepers buy for their
wives. Come back when you have something worth my while."

Röhrig answered angrily, putting his hand into the breast of his coat:

"And what does your ladyship say to this?"

It was the diamond from Königsmark's thumb. Clara Platen, who had seen it
a hundred times, and once unsuccessfully begged it, knew the ring
immediately. She took it in her hand; the facets flickered blue against
her red gown.

"How much?"

But the jeweller's moment of temper was over, and he was alarmed,
remembering too late his vow of discretion.

"It's not for sale."

"Not your property, then?"

"My property, yes." He could not resist that boast. She looked carefully
at the setting, then deep into the central bevel, and restored it without
comment, save to say:

"When you want to sell, I may bid."

And dismissed him to close her eyes and lie back, quiet with the ecstasy
of triumph to come. The stone was her proof. Money, much money, must have
been needed and urgently; no time to wait for help from the all-powerful
sister in Saxony, from peasants sweating too slowly over their sheaves in
Sweden. Monday! She breathed deep.

That night, playing piquet with the Elector, she won; as he fumbled for
his purse, not too willingly, she stopped the gesture.

"Grant me a favour. Something that will cost you nothing."

"That sounds a good bargain. Let me hear."

"To sign this."

He took the paper, and holding it away from his nose, for he was growing
long-sighted with age, read the few words half aloud:

"The bearer is authorised to command the attendance of four grenadiers of
H.S.H. the Elector's guard, to execute without question such orders as
may be given to them: the bearer to be answerable, that such orders in no
way conflict with their duty to H.S.H. and to his State." He put the
paper down, and with a shrewd round eye, head a little to one side,
surveyed the Countess, who returned the look, easily smiling. "Now, now,
what's this? What can you want with four of my grenadiers?"

She eyed him very steadily a moment; shook her head, once to the right,
once to the left, and continued to look at him until he dropped his gaze,
uncomfortable as a dog that is stared at.

"D'you assure me it's nothing that will make trouble?"

"No woman on earth, nor man either, can give that guarantee."

He was silent, pursing up his mouth, and wrinkling the round Brunswick
forehead, smooth for all his years, having none of the horizontal runnels
of thought, but only two upright anger marks between the eyes. At last he
took up the paper, went to the table that held ink and pens, and there
signed it; Ernest Augustus for the man, and a great flourish, figures of
eight, loops, dots, trails like the tendrils of a vine, for the Elector,
Bishop and Duke. He came back slowly to the small table littered with
cards, and stood a moment. Without lifting his eyes he said:

"The young man's safe with you. He may thank his looks for that."

And without waiting for an answer to his comment gave her the paper. She
observed the signature closely, was satisfied, and put the document away.

"You don't often lose so cheaply, Serene Highness." The clock struck
eleven. "Am I to have the happiness of expecting you in my apartments?"

"I'll go to bed. I wish the Electress was here. She'd read to me, and I'd
sleep. Talk of wine--there's nothing like theology for sleep."

Clara Platen made one of her curtseys, body held stiffly by the V-shaped
board in front, skirt swelling and sinking into coloured bosses and
valleys. When she stood upright again he was gone, and she heard him
walking heavily, with an old man's tread, down the corridor.


Knesebeck on Monday morning found her Princess ill. She seemed to have a
fever; she was petulant and refused food.

"My honey lady, let me bring the doctor. He'll take a cup or so of your
blood, and your precious body will set to work to make something without
humours in its place."

But the Princess would have none of this. She had a great opinion of the
infallibility of doctors, and it seemed to her that no pretence could
avail against their wise glances, their skilled fingers.

"The Electress, then. She's got a shelf full of remedy books. She'd come
in gladly from Herrenhausen."

But the Princess had for the Electress's prescience a respect even
greater than that which she accorded to doctors. She muttered a No,
groaned, and tumbled the bedclothes about. Knesebeck, suspicious of this
sharpness, aware and resentful of mysteries, ventured a motion of

"There's something; all this week you've been different. Who knows? It
may be some nasty sickness that should be seen to, for all our sakes.
Nell's anxious, sweetheart. I must have advice, whether you like it or

Sophia-Dorothea at once was out of bed, gripping the wrists of her
lady-in-waiting with cold hands.

"Be quiet. You're troublesome, you won't obey me, already this week I've
wanted to have you gone."

"Highness darling, it's Nell, your own Nell! You can't speak like that--"

"I don't trust you any more."


"No, because you're afraid of being blamed. You're afraid that if I go
away there'll be no place for you, and perhaps they may punish you."

Knesebeck answered, growing pink with anger and dismay:

"It's that man. You never said such things, never thought them, before he
came. I'm sorry he ever showed his nose back in Hanover, the two-faced

Sophia-Dorothea loosed one wrist, drew back her hand, and struck.
Knesebeck screamed, wrenched her other wrist free, and turned to run. The
Princess, desperately following, caught her again.

"Where are you going?"

"To tell the Elector, to warn him. You've got some wickedness in mind,
you and that man."

"You shan't betray me. I'll kill you."

"You're not ill, you're shamming for some purpose. I know my duty--"

The Princess ran to her bell-rope, and tugged it. Christian, the page on
duty, came to the summons.

"Stand there. See that this woman does me no harm."

"Cruel! I have a message for the Elector, the Princess cannot hold me

"Before the door, so. Have you your sword? Don't listen, or heed what she

"I'll save you, despite yourself. If it kills me I'll tell."

Knesebeck ran for the window, from which there was a twelve-foot drop on
to grass. The Princess, astonished, was not quick to perceive her
intention; the boy, though, was across the room in an instant, and caught
her round the waist as she bestrode the sill. They struggled; but the
Princess was watching, and his arms were steeled. Knesebeck's resolution
dwindled, she faltered, and stood still, weeping angrily, and rubbing her
wrist where a bracelet had chafed the skin. Christian looked at his
mistress for orders. She, seeking distractedly, thought of the
dress-closet off her bedroom, windowless but airy, and with a good lock
to the door. Into this Knesebeck was carried, and the key turned upon
her. Christian, panting a little, stood to be commended, but
Sophia-Dorothea, pressing her hands upon her closed eyes, had nothing for
him but an order:

"Wait awhile; I have letters for you to carry."

She sat, her dark hair falling in curls over her face, so that one hand
must constantly push them back while wrote. The boy looked at her with
tende wholly innocent of desire or reproach. His love was a springtime
thing, a flower, which might die, but could never turn bitter. She
was writing:

"To H.S.H. the Elector, with all haste. Sir: being this day incommoded
and obliged to keep my bed, I humbly require your Serene Highness's
permission to absent myself from your table to-night. The indisposition
is slight. My chief concern is that I am deprived of the honour of
waiting upon your Serene Highness, who shall always find me his
affectionate daughter."

The second letter, longer, took less time to write.

"To-night at eleven, come. I cannot feel that happiness is so near, or to
be so easily attained. I do not fear for myself, but I am so
inexperienced, more so than a peasant's daughter; I dread lest some
mistake of mine may bring us both to ruin. Knesebeck has some notion of
what is afoot, and would have hindered it. I had to struggle with her,
and now she is safely out of the way. I cannot talk with her nor the
other women, yet I cannot wait alone until five in the morning. For God's
sake, then, if it is not dangerous for you, let me see and touch you, and
so be assured. I have lived in fetters so long that it seems to me
inconceivable that they should not always hold me; like your dog you told
me of, that when his chain is put on will not budge, though the chain is
fastened to nothing. I am beset by fears for which there is no cause.
All goes well. But I pray you to come."

The boy must deliver this with his own hand; the other might find its way
to the Elector by the usual means of a manservant. Such a man Christian
found snoring on the lackey's bench, rapt in a deeper sleep than is usual
by day; but the fellow sprang up quickly enough, and respectfully took
the billet, with which he hurried to the rooms of Countess Platen. She
read it without comment, and bade him not be all day about his errand;
but she found a gold piece for him, and after he had gone sat a quarter
of an hour motionless in her chair.


Sophia-Dorothea had been sitting with a book, _Les Voyages de
Cyrus_, reading the narrative of the philosopher, and had come to his
lament for the death of Sulima: "Woe is me! This bliss of mine was brief.
Our love, delicate, generous, the admiration of men, found no favour with
the gods, and their chastisement brought upon me that most dire of all
misfortunes, separation from y beloved--"

A whistle came to her ear, very soft, the tune broken; a blackbird will
drop it thus, to resume and repeat a minute later the half-dozen notes it
knows. She stiffened, but did not stir. Christian was at the door. She
heard it open, and though after that no sound reached her she could make
pictures; two figures walking with precaution upstairs, one holding a
lamp high to guide the other; the stiffly braided dress of the page and
the loose jacket, the wide weather-worn cloak of her lover. Her thought
followed each footstep, and when the knock came at her door it chimed
with anticipation. She stood; then, remembering that she herself had
pushed the bolt, ran to the door and spoke through it.

"Who's there?"


She thrust back the bolt; let him in, and did not immediately go to his

"There's nothing--no hindrance? All these hours I've waited; I'm

He took her hand gently, as if for a dance, and paced with her towards
the clock. The manikin was still, but the clock's hands were almost upon
each other. "Not yet twelve. Has it seemed so long?"

"It is easy for you, you have plans to make, orders to give. I, for hours
I have seen no one; I dared not. My only company Nell, crying in the

He laughed. She was indignant.

"You think me a silly woman, because I'm not so well accustomed as you to
these adventures. Despite myself, my heart beats, my hands tremble, the
time seems long. If you were the fifth or sixth, it would be different.
Countess Platen would not trouble herself."

He took her hands.

"I'm your first lover, then?"

"I've not said so."

"A thousand times you've said it. Your eyes when you look at me; your
hands, they don't know yet how to caress." He kissed their palms.
"You're quivering."

"It's not fear."

"It's because I touch you."

She bowed her head to that. He caught her roughly, hurting her, and
held her while he spoke urgently in her ear.

"Let me stay here all night. You daren't sleep. Let me keep you waking.
Let me be your lover; I've had you so often, dreaming." She muttered a No
in the stuff of his coat. "Tell me why. How can you deny me when I can
feel your heart?"

"Not in all this hurry and danger."

"The danger's the spice. Who's to surprise us? The boy's on guard."

"Every sound--" The clock's first beat struck her rigid. "Even that. No.
When we're safe."

"I'll hold you so gently, and my sword by my right hand."

"Not here. He's been here."

George-Louis, he took that "he" to mean; and though it would have given
him pleasure to cuckold the Prince of Hanover in his own bed, he was
sensitive enough to know that he must be gentle to this scruple. He
insisted no more, but lifted her to the long caned couch and sat on the
floor beside it, his head under her hand.

"Talk, Philip. I daren't be silent, I think I hear sounds. Tell me what
we'll do, when we're in--what place is it we go to?"

"Through Westphalia to Holland. At Amsterdam we take ship for Göteborg--"

"Tell me about your house. Who lives there? All this time I've never
asked you; is your mother living?"

"Not now. You'll be mistress. We live much among our people, not like the
landowners here; not like Electoral Princesses. My grandmother knew all
the people for ten miles round and doctored them. There's a great old
book in her handwriting that my nurse was afraid of; there were spells in

"Yes, yes." She looked at her small useless hand as it lay on his hair; a
hand that had never carried keys, nor written but for her own pleasure,
nor even swaddled a child. "How shall I understand such things? They will
hate me and I shall be lonely."

He hardly heard that. He was thinking of the house where he had been
born, square, with fortified cupolas at each corner; even the wall that
protected the kitchen garden was pierced here and there with loopholes,
and there were cannon set by the gates which were fired on feast-days.
The house was ferocious, like an old man who has passed his life at war;
yet, remembering it, Königsmark saw nothing of this. He saw women going
about their never-ending business, heard the whirring of spinning-wheels,
and perceived very sharply the smell of wild strawberries brought in,
heaped on leaves, from the woods. He said, slowly:

"I too shall be a stranger."

He lifted his head, and looked at her face, just below his own; traced
the shape of it with one finger, a square rounded; touched her hot mouth;
closed her eyes by stroking down the lids; and at last, as though she had
been a child asleep, with gentleness kissed her between them.

"Phillip! No! Not yet, don't go. I may sleep, I may miss the hour."

"The boy will wake you. Trust him. I'll come back at dawn."

"Hours yet!" She clung still to his hand.

"Let me go, you little fool, for God's sake!"

It came out roughly; he bit his lip and stooped to be pardoned, but she
was smiling, and without more ado loosed his hand.

"While you were calm I said to myself, he has done this sort of thing so
often. Now I know in your heart you arc trembling, just as I am. Ah, why
can't we take horse now?"

He looked at the open window. There was no sign yet of dawn; a greyness
against which trees stood black came from the sinking moon.

"We must wait for the light. At four o'clock. Be ready."

She showed him a little bundle, jewels, stockings, a comb, all in a
napkin tied by its four ears.

"And you, is your packing clone?"

"I take nothing with me."

He went to the door, beckoning her near him. She came running, and stood
by to shoot the bolt again. He took up the guttering lantern, and walked
with precaution along the corridor, by the wall. When he turned the
corner she still did not shut the door, but waited until his light ceased
to tilt a shadow up and clown the wall. The windings of the corridor cut
off from her all sound, but she followed him with her mind, and when he
must have come to the Rittersaal she did at last bolt the door.


As he entered the Rittersaal, Königsmark, from the instinct which makes a
soldier watchful when he must cross an open space, loosened his sword in
the sheath. He had to make his way diagonally, from a door at one end
beside the hooded fireplace, to one half-way down on the left, by which
the servers entered. His lantern spluttered and flared, then died,
smoking, but already he was at the door, and had only to put out his
fingers to the handle. He found it, turned, and gently pulled. The door
held, resisting in such a manner that he knew it to be locked.

His sword came out, with no care for the noise it made, and he wrapped
his cloak quickly about his left arm to make a shield. There was no
answering rattle, but from near the hood of the fireplace came a sound as
though the steel ring of a guardsman's baldrick clinked on body-steel.
The rasp of the blade had given away his position, and at once there was
a stir of feet. He stepped, more lightly than ever he had danced in
quadrille, to the left again, five, six paces, making for the room's
angle, where he would have cover for back and sides. While he moved he
tried to calculate by the movements and shufflings how many were against
him. Now that the feeble particular rays of the lantern no longer blinded
him, the incomplete darkness of a summer night was revealing shapes that
moved, shadows within shadow. Nobody challenged; by this he knew that he
had to deal with an ambush rather than the execution of any warrant.

He took three more steps to the left. The third brought him against a
fire bucket that hung at shoulder-level, filled with water; his head
knocked the bucket so that it swung on its hook and a little gush of
water came over his neck. He drew in a sharp breath that, with the noise
of the impact, betrayed him. At once the seeking feet turned in his
direction, and straining his eyes he perceived that the attackers were
four. He waited, crouching, and when they seemed to be near enough lunged
at the man on the right. His point struck full on steel, and all at once
the sword-hand was lightened, so that he knew his whole blade had broken
and fallen.

At once the four men pressed on him. The wrapped arm kept one point from
his face, but others struck lower, and he felt a blow like that of a fist
upon his ribs, which was the pommel following through a stroke that
glanced from the bone. He felt himself falling, yet supported. The
transfixing blades upheld him a moment, then he was down with blood
coming from his mouth. He spat, and tried to speak, but he was failing,
and the blood flowed tirelessly.

"Innocent. The Princess--"

He got that out, or seemed to, speaking upwards towards a light which
appeared, with a woman's face above it; immediately this face became
distorted, a grimace exposed the teeth. A woman's heel came down upon his
mouth and trod out the words.

When he had no longer eyes for the light, one of the four men stooped,
looked closely, and spoke with a gasp: "Lord Jesus! Look who it is."

His companions stooped. They eyed each other, and dropped their eyes
immediately again to the figure on the floor. It was Clara Platen who
spoke, stamping her stained shoe:

"Finish, then. Half-done's damnation."

The men still looked. One went on his knees and put the clean steel of a
dagger under his Colonel's nostrils. It remained unclouded. The kneeling
man muttered that it was all very well to talk. If he'd known he'd have
cut his own right hand off--

"The executioner may save you that trouble, my friend. Now for what you
arc to do. Wrap him first in his cloak; the blood runs no longer. Take
him downstairs to that place where workmen have been, you know it, you
passed it to come here. They arc walling up an old privy, the bricks are
laid to within a foot of the top. They'll finish to-morrow. A foot's
enough for him, you may easily pass him through, he's slender. Take a
good light. See no blood shows on the bricks. After, come back to me

The men did not move. She said, reining back her voice, that was agpt to
thunder in anger, to a hoarseness more threatening:

"Ah, so you think you'll sell me? But you'd carry to the Elector a piece
of news that's stale. Under whose hand is this warrant? No, no. This is a
murder by four discontented soldiers. If they're discovered, they'll
hang, and lose their bowels first."

They said nothing, but the kneeling soldier took off his own cloak, and
beckoned with his chin to a comrade to help him. They lifted the dead man
with tenderness, wrapping him, and moving carefully not to tread in the
blood, of which there was much. At last the first man hoisted Königsmark
across his shoulder, two others sheathed their swords and fell in behind
him. The fourth carried a lantern. As they went out, walking in step from
mere habit of discipline, they had the look of men mourning a commander
mortally stricken in battle. It was almost dawn.

Sophia-Dorothea did not dare to sleep. She added a handkerchief or two to
the medley in her bundle, read and let the book fall, marched about the
room to keep her eyelids from drooping, watched the hands of the clock.
When at last it struck four she put on the cloak with a hood that she had
worn on the journey to Brunswick, and took up her bundle to be ready. Her
shoes were ridiculous, with long toes and great bows. She had no sensible
footgear such as the Electress donned to wander in wet weather through
her gardens.

The clock's hands moved on. Outside her window she thought once she heard
the whistle, but it was only a bird waking. She leant out, and saw the
head of the boy Christian standing upright on guard.

"Christian!" He looked up, and came out a little way from the door to
hear her. "Nothing yet?" He shook his head. "Go to the gate by which he
comes. Listen there. Find out."

He went off. She noticed even in the grey light how bright with
sleeplessness were the boy's eyes, and with an odd little movement of
coquetry drew back into the room to view her own eyes in the mirror. They
looked large; but she was ten years older than the boy, and had been
ridden by emotion for days; there were lines about them, and lines
running downwards from the nostrils. She quitted the mirror and went over
to the clock. With her elbows on the carved wood below it she watched the
minute-hand. A weight on a chain pulled it forward smoothly, almost too
slowly for the eye, and would pull so till the chain was wholly unwound,
when it would stop. That men, hanging for so short a time between two
abysses, should have courage thus to measure out the thread that
sustained them! The clock terrified her. She moved away.

By six daylight was established in all the ceremony of a triumphant
summer morning. Thrushes made sallies across the grass, marking it with
thin parallel lines where their feet broke the web of dew. Long shadows
of trees were sucked back as the sun mounted, whose warmth drew scent
from the heap of yesterday's cut grass at a corner of the lawn. Soon, in
the lower garden, scythes would be swinging, slowly and in rhythm, like
the pendulum of a clock. Nowhere did a footstep sound; nowhere was there
any movement, other than that of the lime leaves languidly turning to a
faint wind.

Sophia-Dorothea ran from the window to her dress cupboard and turned the
key. On the floor, with a primrose satin in skirt under her cheek for a
pillow, Knesebeck lay asleep.

"Nell, Nell, wake up and be with me. Don't think how I was unkind to you.
Something's happened, and I'm afraid"


"I never thought," wrote Electress Sophia to her niece, the Raugrafin
Louise at Frankfort six weeks later, "to find this little town of ours at
the head and front of a scandal. And such a strange scandal too, without
beginning nor end to it. In the Wood Market here, to which all our news
finds its way, they say that the witches have made off with Königsmark.
There is no shutting the mouths of the people, and for that matter their
guesses may be as good as my own, for we are all in the dark. His
servants can give us no clue, though they say he was behaving in a very
strange manner for a week before this disappearance, alternately
depressed and frantic. I myself make no conjectures, for what I know is
enough to keep me in thought. In my opinion, if a woman cannot bear her
husband she is better away from him. It gives bad example to see young
people at cross-purposes, and the fact is, the Blessed Virgin herself
could not have made a success of marriage with my eldest boy. Knowing
your discretion I speak so.

"But you ask for an answer that you may make to questioners. Very well,
then; say this: The Crown Princess could not endure her husband, and
therefore her father and his thought it better that she should separate
from him, and live by herself, as she has the means to do, at Ahlden. One
of her father's officers will attend her, which is a very good thing for
him, for he will have a pretty house and full pay, besides obliging the
Duke of Zelle and thereby improving the prospects of his baker's dozen of
children. _A quelque chose malheur est bon_. This must be your
answer. It will be enough to keep all hut the most impertinent quiet."

The Electress ended her letter with affectionate wishes, and having
sealed it laid it upon the pile for the courier, and rang her silver
bell. A secretary came.

"My letters arc ready. What hour is it?"

"Midday, Electoral Highness. The Princess has been waiting this last

"Usher her in when I ring. And give her Electora! Highness her proper
title when you speak of her."

The old woman sat again in her red velvet chair, and put one hand over
her eyes. This farewell tired her, she dreaded what she must do. But she
understood that reason and good sense rather than pity must be allowed to
set the price of behaviour, and that condolence should never be thrown in
as make-weight, when extravagance has made a bad bargain. She composed
herself, rang, and turned her chair a little to face the door.

The eyes are incapable of expression unless surrounding muscles lend it,
and Sophia-Dorothea's eyes stared out from the paint that held her face
smooth like those of the saints in mosaic that stare from walls in
Ravenna. She did not speak, curtseyed low, recovered, stood; all this was

"You had better sit. I have to speak with you. That stool."

She obeyed the hand that stirred briefly to point; sat, was silent.

"You may imagine that it is not for my own pleasure, nor yours either,
that I send for you. Certain matters are to be understood. Soon you leave
this country."

"Of my own will. To live on my own estate and be free."

Electress Sophia went on, measuring her speech very exactly.

"Ahlden was part of your dower, truly. My son restores it to you as a
gift, for you must understand that you have no claim except through him.
Very well. Now, it is the Elector's wish that you hold no further
communication with this family."

"I understand and gladly submit."

"Nor with your children."

Sophia-Dorothea sprang up from her stool.

"That is not the judge's decree. George-Louis is freed of all blame, he
may marry, I may not. I accept that, and to live apart. God knows I have
no great will to live at all. The title, the succession are his. I'll put
off all that and thank him. But the children are mine."

"You are not to see them, write, nor be in touch with them in any way.
That is the decision."

"Whose decision? I swore on the sacrament that I'd never been unfaithful.
I'll swear again, here at your feet--"

"No theatre, pray. I am not to justify this order, but to inform you of

"They are all I have, the only creatures left in the world that love me.
I pleaded with you once, ma'am; you taught me so that I shall never ask
again. But you can follow my heart here by your own, you grieved when you
lost Charles in war. Speak for me. If you will not, then I'll manage in
spite of you, I'll see them, I'll write--"

"Da, da, da! A compliment in one hand, a threat in the other, then one
has both hands full. Listen to me. I think you are not a bad woman, but I
will not have my house, and that of England, disturbed by your goings and
comings, and the children worked upon to pity you. What can you give
them? Neither money, nor connections, nor interest, but only intrigue,
and to teach them hatred of their own people. In return they give
you--what? A caress or two. You may get as much from a spaniel."

"No, no. I'll never submit to it. I'll dress as a servant and find my way
to them--"

"You will be under surveillance in the castle of Ahlden. A gentleman has
been appointed to watch over you. His own future and that of thirteen
children depend on his vigilance, so you may suppose that he will not
easily succumb to temptation."

"A prisoner, then. Say it, make it clear. A prisoner--for how long?"

Electress Sophia did not answer. She had found the interview difficult
enough; now she could not bring herself to say the last two words, For
ever. It was Sophia-Dorothea, not ordinarily skilled to read thoughts,
who breathed them, tapping her breast as though to drive the terror home.

"For ever."

Silence. Then Electress Sophia spoke abruptly, and at random.

"You will need some distraction. It would be well if you could take to
the study of gardens; I believe there is a pretty one, though neglected,
where you are going. There is not the care paid to flowers here that you
may find in England, or in Holland where I was a child. A garden is an
exercise in hope, you labour and plan for the future; and yet not wholly,
for the labour pays itself in health, and in good fatigue. Besides, the
properties of plants may be studied, and their good qualities put in use;
they are not thrown about this world only for the eyes' delight, but to
comfort our stomachs and keep us humble. A mere weed, decocted, will
serve to lay any man, heaven's godson, in the grave; and the same weed,
though a king trample it, he cannot tell how it grows." She got up and
walked to the shelves where a folio lay on its side, heavy, six inches
thick; her old hands strained at it, to lift it. Sophia-Dorothea, obeying
that Court instinct which ordered that the lesser in rank must wait upon
the higher, came forward and took the weight of the great book.

"Lay it on the table," the Electress told her; and when she had done so,
turning over the pages fondly, said: "This has been a solace to me while
I have possessed it. _Theatrum Botanicum_, you see, the Theatre of
Plants; good players too, better than Pantaloon and his mates. I give you
this, for I think you need comfort more than I do, and have longer to
wait for it. A moment; I'll write."

She found her pen, and stooping, wrote in her hand that showed as yet no
tremor: _Fatigatis humus cubile est_. She read it aloud when it was
done, translating as she saw blankness in the younger woman's eyes:

"'To the weary, the bare ground is a bed.' An old saying, none the less
true for that. There is not, I think," said the Electress, looking at her
rings, "a great deal of happiness to be had in this world. The secret is,
to abandon hope of it; at once all things come to your aid. Without
observers, vanity dies; without power, the wish for it. Nature is wiser
than ourselves; little by little she takes away desire, and then, with a
body at rest, comes hope of quiet for our souls. I am older than you. I
know what I speak of."

The Electress shut down the book's cover upon what she had written, and
rang her silver bell. Sophia-Dorothea was weeping. She put up both hands
to her face, on whieh the colours now were sadly streaked and mingled,
held them there an instant; then let them fall and stood, making no
attempt to shield her distress from the Electress's eyes, yellow and
bright as those of an eagle.

"I wanted to be beloved. I wanted kindness."

The Electress suddenly bent, and without touching hands or shoulders put
her lips to the younger woman's forehead just where it joined the hair.
She said nothing, and after the touch stood away. A servant in black
livery entered, obeyed a gesture, took up the heavy book, and went out,
stepping very straight. Sophia-Dorothea curtseyed, and made a
half-movement, a stretching up of her hands, but the Electress had turned
away towards the window, whence she saw for the moment very little; her
hearing, however, was not misted, and in a little while she heard short
faltering steps going away.

One duty remained. She had, as she told the Raugrafin, her own notion of
the truth. Ernest Augustus's looks disturbed her. He had refused to see
Saxony's envoy, Colonel Bannier, when this gentleman came to demand an
account of Königsmark, and went off hunting, though his gout was so
troublesome that he had to follow the stag in a carriage. But more
revealing than his retreat was the advance, the marching and
counter-marching of Countess Platen at Court in a series of new dresses,
her thumb bearing a ring whose bright water the Electress knew. "Arise
and thresh, O daughter of Zion: for I will make thy horn iron and I will
make thy hoofs brass, and thou shalt beat out many people." No more: no
more brazen stamping, no more exalting of the horn.

The Secretary announced:

"The Countess Platen desires your Electoral Highness will remember she
was commanded to attend."

There had been a delay, necessary for the summoning of strength; the
Electress touched books for this, as Antaeus touched earth. She put away
the Bible in which she had been reading, a good Royalist English
compendium with the prayer for martyred Charles, and answered:

"Let the Countess be admitted."

Clara Platen came in, dressed in the colour she had favoured this last
month or two, a red deep as the slow inner blood of a wound. She made her
reverence respectfully, but spoke before she should; she had taken wine,
though it was early.

"Your Electoral Highness sent for me. How can I be so happy as to serve?"

The Electress answered at once, with directness:

"I once spoke with you on the subject of your sister. That was some years
back. No doubt, however, you remember it."

Countess Platen answered, warily, with a question: "My sister has not
again offended?"

"You recollect the reasons I urged for her withdrawal?"

"I believe I do."

"That is fortunate; I need not repeat them now. I require you to follow
her example."

Countess Platen was standing; she had not been offered the usual square
stool by the old woman regarding her so steadily. Two months back, had
this happened, she might have kept her temper, weathered whatever tempest
threatened. But she had been drinking hard during those weeks, besides
dreaming so that she sat upright through all the dark hours, to be waked
from nightmare by the jerk of her own head falling forward. She had
enough liquor in her now to unbalance judgment. Without waiting to be
bidden she pulled forward the stool and sat squarely facing the

"Ha! So I am to go. And for what reason, and how will it come about?"

"You are a subject. Your excuses reflect scandal upon your Prince. You
take money, you maintain spies; and you have blood on your hands."

Clara Platen laughed.

"You think a State is like your chair; a leg's rotten, off with it, and
nail on another. All that is, of a chair, you see. But a State is like a
tree, that lives by what it thrusts out underground in the dark, among
worms and dead bones. Cut its root, and the gay leaves, the strong
branches, are good only for firewood."

"Are you saying that you are necessary to my house? Speak clearly; defend
yourself if you can."

"Your house! What do you bring to it? Blood; the chance of a throne. And
you think, because there were crowns on the sheets you were got in, that
God will care for the rest. Nenni! Put such thoughts away." She surveyed
the old woman's thin nose, hands knotted like the vines that grew for her
ancestors' pleasure. "Do you think--now that the English succession is
sure--do you think it was done by sitting still, and looking like a
picture in a gallery? It was done by watchfulness and bribing; by lying;
by killing. It was done by me. And when your son is on that throne,
George the First of England, Scotland, and the rest of it, my wits will
have set him there, and not your blood."

Electress Sophia sat still, unblinking. When the woman ended she waited,
and spoke:

"Princes have power over men as over money; when they choose, their stamp
may give dross the value of gold, for in this world is no reality, and a
Prince's word is God's at second hand. You have been struck, like a coin,
for a purpose; given a value above that which lies in your own essence.
This your value pays a crown, a throne, things of gold and wood, symbols
which your exchanges put into our hands. Shall we thank you? I tell you,
my mother's brother with his head on the block was king then as truly as
when he first sat on Jacob's stone in Westminster. And I should still be
a king's daughter though to-morrow I sold apples in the street." She put
her hand to the closed Bible, rapped with her knuckles on it. "We owe you
no debt, therefore."

"As you please. I have had my pleasure out of what was done, and only a
fool expects gratitude from courts. Well, the sentence?"

"I am considering," answered the old woman, hand against cheek. There she
sat, all thought withdrawn from her fixed eyes, as though the ancient
diamond on her enemy's thumb had entranced her. Still gazing at this she

"You must leave Hanover. Whether you do so heels first is what I have to
decide. I too have grenadiers." Clara Platen laughed her great
horse-laugh, that burst out of her like a bray from a trumpet.

"Do you think to frighten me with your death's-head held up like a turnip
lantern? Do me this service. Despatch me and let me sleep. I don't fear
anything but sleep--that, and growing old." She rent away red satin,
bared one breast to show a new wound healing below it. "I tried my hand
but the steel snapped, and I can't bring myself again to it. Feet first,
Electoral Highness, only don't let them strike at my face. Give that
order and I'll kiss your hand."

She dipped, catching up a fold of the Elcctress's ample skirt to brush
her mouth across it. Words and gesture were mocking, but the Electress
was not affronted. She was accustomed to hear women plead for life; a
week since one had been brought her from the Spinning House who had
murdered her child, and she remembered the eyes, swelled with tears,
starting, all the whites showing as she yelled for mercy to live.
Countess Platen's grin, above her stubborn plea for death, was more
troubling. She spoke briefly and dryly.

"What request is this? You are drunk, I believe. I am to murder you, am
I, for your convenience? Get up, and cover your body. Why are you such a
noddy as to suppose that to run out of life is to escape judgment?" She
held her eyes upon the face, whose mouth now was being drawn awry, and
suddenly got to her feet. "Some sins ride hard, sink their spurs deep. I
pity you. Yes, and whore that you are, and troubler of my house, by God
I'll pray for you!"

When the woman in red had dragged her dress together and gone, the
Electress took up her Bible and opened it at random to learn heaven's
verdict; guidance she never asked.

"Wherefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold I am against your pillows,
wherewith ye there hunt the souls to make them flie, and I will tear them
from your arms, and will let the souls go, even the souls that ye hunt to
make them flie. Your kerchiefs also will I tear, and deliver my people
out of your hand, and they shall be no more in your hand to be hunted,
and ye shall know that I am the LORD."


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