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Title: God and the King (1911)
Author: Marjorie Bowen
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Language: English
Date first posted: December 2009
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: God and the King (1911)
Author: Marjorie Bowen


* * * * *


"LUCTOR ET EMERGO"
--MOTTO OF ZEELAND


* * * * *

DEDICATED
VERY GRATEFULLY
TO
MAJOR-GENERAL F. DE BAS

Director of the Military Historical Branch
General Staff of the Dutch Army

* * * * *


CONTENTS


PART I


THE REVOLUTION


I.     THE AFTERNOON OF JUNE 30TH, l688
II.    THE EVENING OF JUNE 30TH, l688
III.   THE NIGHT OF JUNE 30TH, l688
IV.    THE MESSENGER FROM ENGLAND
V.     THE PRINCESS OF ORANGE
VI.    THE LETTERS OF MR. HERBERT
VII.   THE SILENT WOOD
VIII.  THE POLICY OF THE PRINCE
IX.    FRANCE MOVES
X.     THE ENGLISH AMBASSADOR
XI.    THREE PAWNS
XII.   FRANCE MOVES AGAIN
XIII.  THE GREAT ENTERPRISE
XIV.   STORMS
XV.    THE SECOND SAILING
XVI.   NEWS FROM ENGLAND
XVII.  FAREWELL TO HOLLAND
XVIII. BY THE GRACE OF GOD


PART II


THE QUEEN

I.      A DARK DAWNING
II.     THE KING AT BAY
III.    THE BEST OF LIFE
IV.     THE SECRET ANGUISH
V.      A WOMAN'S STRENGTH
VI.     GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!
VII.    THE SHADOW
VIII.   FEAR
IX.     CHRISTMAS EVE
X.      THE QUEEN
XI.     THE BITTER PARTING


PART III


THE KING


I.      VITA SINE AMOR MORS EST
II.     THE KING IS NEEDED
III.    ATTAINMENT
IV.     A MAN'S STRENGTH
V.      A LEADER OF NATIONS
VI.     THE KING'S AGENT
VII.    THE BANK OF ENGLAND
VIII.   THE BREAKING FRIENDSHIP
IX.     PEACE
X.      THE BROKEN FRIENDSHIP
XI.     THE KING'S HUMILIATION
XII.    APATHY
XIII.   FRANCE CHALLENGES
XIV.    THE VANGUARD OF THE WORLD
XV.     THE EVE OF WAR
XVI.    GOD AND THE KING


* * * * *




PART I - THE REVOLUTION


"Un prince profond dans ses vues; habile à former des ligues et à reunir
les esprits; plus heureux à exciter les guerres qu'à combattre; plus à
craindre encore dans le secret du cabinet, qu'à la tête des armées; un
ennemi que la haine du nom Français avoit rendu capable d'imaginer de
grandes chose et de les exécuter; un de ces génies qui semblent être nés
pour mouvoir à leur gré les peuples et les souverains--un grand
homme..."--MASSILLON, _Oraison Funèbre de M. le Dauphin_.

* * * * *



CHAPTER I - THE AFTERNOON OF JUNE 30th, 1688


"There is no managing an unreasonable people. By Heaven, my lord, they do
not deserve my care."

The speaker was standing by an open window that looked on to one of the
courts of Whitehall Palace, listening to the unusual and tumultuous
noises that filled the sweet summer air--noises of bells, of shouting,
the crack of fireworks, and the report of joyous mock artillery.

It was late afternoon, and the small apartment was already left by the
departing daylight and obscured with a dusky shade, but no candles
were lit.

There was one other person in the room, a gentleman seated
opposite the window at a tall black cabinet decorated with gold
lacquer Chinese figures, that showed vivid even in the twilight. He was
watching his companion with a gentle expression of judgment, and
twirling in his slim fingers a half-blown white rose.

An over-richness of furniture, hangings, and appointments
distinguished the chamber, which was little more than a cabinet.
The flush of rich hues in the Mortlake tapestries, the gold on the
China bureau, the marble, gilt, and carving about the mantel,
two fine and worldly Italian paintings and crystal sconces, set in
silver, combined to give the place an overpowering air of lavishness;
noticeable in one corner was a large ebony and enamel crucifix.

The persons of these two gentlemen were in keeping with
this air of wealth, both being dressed in an opulent style, but in
themselves they differed entirely from each other.

Neither was young, and both would have been conspicuous in any company
for extreme handsomeness, but there was no further likeness.

He at the window was by many years the older, and past the prime of life,
but the magnificence of his appearance created no impression of age.

Unusually tall, finely made and graceful, he carried himself with great
dignity; his countenance, which had been of the purest type of
aristocratic beauty, was now lined and marred--not so much by years, as
by a certain gloom and sourness that had become his permanent expression;
his eyes were large, grey, and commanding, his mouth noble, but
disfigured by a sneer, his complexion blond and pale, his nose delicately
formed and straight; a fair peruke shaded his face and hung on to his
shoulders; he was dressed, splendidly but carelessly, in deep blue
satins, a quantity of heavy Venice lace, and a great sword belt of
embroidered leather.

The other gentleman was still in the prime of life, being under fifty,
and looking less than his age.

Slight in build, above the medium height, and justly proportioned,
handsome and refined in feature, dressed with great richness in the
utmost extreme of fashion, he appeared the very type of a noble idle
courtier, but in his long, straight, heavy-lidded eyes, thin sensitive
mouth, and the deeply cut curve of his nostril was an expression of power
and intelligence above that of a mere favourite of courts.

He wore his own fair hair frizzed and curled out on to his shoulders and
brought very low on to his forehead; under his chin was a knot of black
satin that accentuated the pale delicacy of his complexion; every detail
of his attire showed the same regard to his appearance and the mode. Had
it not been for that unconscious look of mastery in the calm face he
would have seemed no more than a wealthy man of fashion. In his
beautifully formed and white hands he held, as well as the rose, a
handkerchief that he now and then pressed to his lips; in great contrast
to the other man, who appeared self-absorbed and natural, his movements
and his pose were extremely affected.

A pause of silence wore out; the man at the window beat his fingers
impatiently on the high walnut back of the chair beside him, then
suddenly turned a frowning face towards the darkening room.

"My lord, what doth this presage?"

He asked the question heavily and as if he had much confidence and trust
in the man to whom he spoke.

My lord answered instantly, in a voice as artificial as the fastidious
appointments of his dress.

"Nothing that Your Majesty's wisdom and the devotion of your servants
cannot control and dispel."

James Stewart turned his eyes again to the open casement.

"Do you take it so lightly, my lord?" he asked uneasily. "All London
shouting for these disloyal prelates--the city against me?"

Lord Sunderland replied, his peculiarly soothing tones lowered to a kind
of caressing gentleness, while he kept his eyes fixed on the King.

"Not the city, sir. Your Majesty heareth but the mobile--the handful that
will always rejoice at a set given to authority. The people love Your
Majesty and applaud your measures."

"But I am not popular as my brother was," said the King, but half
satisfied, and with an angry look towards London.

The Earl was ready with his softly worded reassurances.

"His late Majesty never put his popularity to the test--I think he could
not have done what you have, sir--is not the true Faith "--here my lord
crossed himself--"predominant in England--hath Your Majesty any
Protestant left in office--have you not an Ambassador at the Vatican, is
not a holy Jesuit father on the Council board, Mass heard publicly in
Whitehall--the papal Nuncio openly received?--and hath not Your Majesty
done these great things in three short years?"

A glow overspread the King's sombre face; he muttered a few words of a
Latin prayer, and bent his head.

"I have done a little," he said--"a little--"

Sunderland lowered his eyes.

"Seeing this is a Protestant nation, Your Majesty hath done a deal."

The King was silent a moment, then spoke, gloomy again.

"But, save yourself, my lord, and Dover and Salisbury, no person of
consequence hath come into the pale of the Church--and how hath my
Declaration of Indulgence been received? Discontent, disobedience from
the clergy, insolence from the Bishops, and now this,--near to
rebellion!" His eyes darkened. "Could you have heard the army on Hounslow
Heath, my lord--they shouted as one man to hear these traitors had been
acquitted."

He began to stride up and down the room, talking sternly, half to
himself, half to Sunderland, the speech of an angry, obstinate man.

"But I'll not give way. Who is this Jack Somers who defended them? Make a
note of him--some Whig cur! The Dissenters too, what is the Anglican
Church to them that they must stand by her? Do I not offer them also
freedom of conscience? Do not they also benefit by the repeal of the Test
Act?"

Sunderland made no remark; he sat with his hand over the lower part of
his face. By the expression of his eyes it might seem that he was
smiling; but the light was fading, and James did not look at his
minister.

"I'll break the Colleges too. Let them look to it. I'll go on. Am I not
strong enough? They are rebels at Oxford--I'll take no rebellion--that
was my father's fault; he was not strong enough at first--it must be put
down now--_now_, eh, my Lord Sunderland?"

He stopped abruptly before the Earl, who rose with an air of humility.

"It is my poor opinion, oft repeated, that Your Majesty must stop for
nothing, but take these grumblers with a firm hand and crush them."

This counsel, though not new, seemed to please the King.

"You have ever given me good advice, my lord." He paused, then added,
"Father Petre is always speaking against you, but I do not listen--no, I
do not listen."

"It is my misfortune to be unpopular with the Catholics, though I have
done what might be for their service."

"I do not listen," repeated the King hastily; he seated himself in the
carved chair beside the bureau. "But I must tell you one thing," he
added, after an instant. "M. Barillon thinketh I go too far."

Sunderland remained standing.

"He hath told me so," he answered quietly.

"What doth he mean?" asked James eagerly, and with the air of depending
entirely on the other's interpretation.

"This," replied the Earl suavely--"that, good friend as His Christian
Majesty is to you, it doth not suit his pride that you, sir, should grow
great without his help--he would rather have Your Majesty the slave than
the master of the people, rather have you dependent on him than a free
ally."

"I'll not be dictated to," said the King. "My brother was too much the
creature of Louis, but I will not have him meddle in my affairs."

"M. Barillon doth his duty to his master," answered the Earl. "Your
Majesty need pay no attention to his warnings--"

"Warnings!" echoed the King, with sullen fire. "I take no warnings from
an Ambassador of France." Then he sat forward and added in a quick,
half-baffled fashion, "Yet there are dangers--"

"What dangers, sire?"

"The people are so stubborn--"

"They complain but they bow, sire; and soon they will not even complain."

"Then M. Barillon mentioned--" The King paused abruptly.

"What, sire?"

"My nephew, William."

As he spoke James glanced quickly at Sunderland, who returned the gaze
calmly and mildly.

"My nephew, William--what is he plotting?"

"Plotting, Your Majesty?"

"He hath never been friendly to me," broke out the King fiercely. "Why
did he refuse his consent to the Indulgence? He who hath always stood for
toleration?"

"As the head of the Protestant interest in Europe he could do no less,
sire."

"He hath suborned my daughter," continued the King, in the same tone.
"Seduced her from her duty--but now "--he crossed himself--"God be
thanked, I have an heir. I do not need to so consider these Calvinists
"--he gave the word an accent of bitter dislike--"yet I doubt he meaneth
mischief--"

"I do not think so, sire. His hands are so full in keeping his own
country afloat he can scarce have the time to meddle--"

The King interrupted.

"He _doth_ meddle--his design is to drag me into a war with France--I
doubt he hath more intrigues afoot in England than we wot of, my lord.
Did M. de Zuylestein come wholly to congratulate us on the birth of the
Prince? He is over often closeted with the Whig lords--and so was
Dyckfelt--a knowing man."

Sunderland answered frankly.

"His Highness must have an interest in the kingdom of which his wife was
till so lately the heiress, and I doubt not that he would try to foster
discontents among the opposition, since he can hardly like the present
policy of Your Majesty, having all his life been under the endeavour of
persuading England to join his coalition against France--but he hath not
the power (nor, I think, the will) to disturb Your Majesty."

James smiled reflectively.

"I believe he hath his hands full," he admitted. "He is not so steady in
the states." His smile deepened as he thought on the critical situation
of his son-in-law, then vexation conquered, and he added sharply, "M.
Barillon said he but waited a chance to openly interfere--he would not
send the English regiments back, which looked ill, and he is very
friendly with Mr. Sidney--"

The King paused.

"Mr. Sidney is your uncle, my lord," he added, after a little, "and a
close friend of the Prince of Orange--I was warned of that."

"By M. de Barillon?" asked Sunderland gently.

"Yes, my lord. But I took no heed of it--yet is it true that my Lady
Sunderland wrote often to Mr. Sidney when he was at The Hague, and that
you were privy to it?"

"There was some little exchange of gallantries, sire, no more. My lady is
close friends with Mr. Sidney, and would commission him for horses,
plants, candles, and such things as can be bought with advantage at The
Hague."

"And did she write to the Lady Mary?"

Sunderland smiled.

"She had that honour once--the subject was a recipe for treacle water."

"Well, well," said the King, in a relieved tone of half apology, "I am so
hedged about I begin to distrust my best servants. I must be short with
M. Barillon; he maketh too much of my friendship with His Majesty."

"That is the jealousy of France, sire, that ever desireth a hand in your
affairs."

James answered testily.

"Let them take care. M. Barillon said my envoys abroad had sent me
warning of what my nephew designed--that is not true, my lord?"

"I have received no such letters, sire, and Your Majesty's foreign
correspondence toucheth no hands but mine."

The King rose and struck the bell on the black lacquer cabinet; his
exceedingly ill-humour was beginning, as always, to be softened by the
influence of Lord Sunderland, who had more command over him than even the
Jesuit, Father Petre, who was commonly supposed to be his most intimate
counsellor.

When the summons was answered the King called for candles, and went over
to the window again.

The dusk was stained with the glow of a hundred bonfires, lit by good
Protestants in honour of the acquittal of the seven bishops charged with
treason for offering His Majesty a petition against the reading of the
Declaration of Indulgence from the pulpits of the Anglican churches; the
verdict and the demonstration were alike hateful to the King, and he
could scarce restrain his furious chagrin as he saw the triumphant
rockets leap into the deep azure sky.

He thought bitterly of the murmuring army on Hounslow Heath; had they
been steadfastly loyal he would hardly have restrained from setting them
on to the defiant capital which they had been gathered together to
overawe.

The candles were brought, and lit the rich little chamber with a ruddy
light that showed the glitter of glass and gilt, lacquer and silver, the
moody face of the King, and the calm countenance of his minister.

"My nephew would never dare," muttered His Majesty at last, "nor would
Mary be so forgetful of her duty--" He turned into the room again. "I
think you are right, my lord; he hath too much to do at home. But I am
glad I did recall Mr. Sidney--a Republican at heart--who is like his
brother."

"Of what designs doth Your Majesty suspect the Prince?" asked Sunderland
quietly.

The King answered hastily.

"Nothing--nothing."

"Doth M. de Barillon," asked the Earl, "think His Highness might do what
Monmouth did?"

At this mention of that other unhappy nephew of his who had paid for his
brief rebellion on Tower Hill, the King's face cleared of its look of
doubt.

"If he tried," he answered sombrely, "he would meet with the same
reception--by Heaven, he would! No gentleman joined Monmouth, none would
join the Prince."

"'Tis certain," said Sunderland. "But what causeth Your Majesty to
imagine His Highness would attempt so wild a design as an armed descent
on England?"

"He buildeth a great navy," remarked James.

"To protect the States against France. Reason showeth that the suggestion
of His Highness' conduct that M. de Barillon hath made is folly. The
Prince is the servant of the States; even if he wished, he could not use
their forces to further his private ends, and is not the Princess
daughter to Your Majesty, and would she help in an act of rebellion
against you?"

"No," replied the King, "no--I do not think it. If the Dutch do choose to
build a few ships am I to be stopped? My Lord Halifax," he added, with
eagerness, "advised the giving back of the city charters and the
reinstatement of the Fellows of Magdalen--but I will not--I'll break 'em,
all the disloyal lot of 'em."

A slight smile curved my lord's fine lips.

"Halifax is ever for timorous counsels."

"A moderate man!" cried James. "I dislike your moderate men--they've
damned many a cause and never made one. I'll have none of their sober
politics."

"The best Your Majesty can do," said Sunderland, "is to gain the
Dissenters, call a packed parliament of them and the Catholics in the
autumn, pass the repeal of the Test Act, treat French interference
firmly, strengthen the army, and bring the Irish to overawe London. There
will be no murmurs against your authority this time a year hence."

James gave my lord a pleased glance.

"Your views suit with mine," he replied. "I'll officer the army with
Catholics--and look to those two judges who favoured these bishops. We
will remove them from the bench."

He was still alternating between ill-humour at the open display of
feeling on the occasion of the public cross he had received in the matter
of the bishops and the satisfaction my lord's wholly congenial counsel
gave his obstinate self-confidence.

A certain faith in himself and in the office he held, a still greater
trust in the religion to which he was so blindly devoted, a tyrannical
belief in firm measures and in the innate loyalty of church and people
made this son of Charles I, sitting in the very palace from which his
father had stepped on to the scaffold at the command of a plain gentleman
from Hampshire, revolve schemes for the subjugation of England more
daring than Plantagenet, Tudor, and Stewart had ventured on yet; he
desired openly and violently to put England into the somewhat reluctant
hands of the Pope, and beside this desire every other consideration was
as nothing to His Majesty.

"Let 'em shout," he said. "I can afford it." And he thought of his young
heir, whose birth secured the Romish succession in England; an event that
took the sting even from the acquittal of the stubborn bishops.

"Your Majesty is indeed a great and happy Prince," remarked my lord, with
that softness that gave his compliments the value of sincere meaning.

The King went up to him, smiled at him in his heavy way, and touched him
affectionately on the shoulder.

"Well, well," he answered, "you give good advice, and I thank you, my
lord."

He fell into silence again, and the Earl took graceful leave, left the
cabinet gently, and gently closed the door.

When outside in the corridor he paused like one considering, then went
lightly down the wide stairs.

In the gallery to which he came at the end of the first flight was a
group of splendid gentlemen talking together; my lord would have passed
them, but one came forward and stopped him; he raised his eyes; it was M.
Barillon.

"You have come from His Majesty?"

"Yes, sir," answered the Earl.

"I do hope you did impress on him the need for a great caution," said M.
Barillon quickly, and in a lowered voice, "The temper of the people hath
been very clearly shown to-day."

"I did my utmost," said my lord ardently. "Advised him to make
concessions, warned him that the Prince was dangerous, but his obstinate
temper would have none of it--"

M. Barillon frowned.

"I hope you were earnest with him, my lord; there is no man hath your
influence--"

My lord's long eyes looked steadily into the Frenchman's face.

"Sir," he said, "you must be aware that I have every reason to urge His
Majesty caution, since there is none as deep in his most disliked
measures than myself, and if the Whigs were to get the upper hand "--he
shrugged gracefully--"you know that there would be no mercy for me."

The French Ambassador answered hastily--

"Not for an instant do I doubt your lordship. Faith, I know His Christian
Majesty hath no such friend as yourself in England--but I would impress
on you the danger--things reach a crisis, my lord."

He bowed and returned to his companions, while the Earl passed through
the galleries of Whitehall, filled with courtiers, newsmongers, place
seekers, and politicians, and came out into the courtyard where his chair
waited.

While his servant was fetching the sedan my lord put on his laced hat and
lingered on the step.

A tall soldier was keeping the guard; my lord regarded him, smiled, and
spoke.

"Fellow, who is your master?"

The man flushed, saluted, and stared awkwardly.

"Come," smiled the Earl whimsically. "Whom do you serve?"

The startled soldier answered stupidly--

"God and the King, your honour."

"Ah, very well," answered the Earl slowly; he descended the steps and
took a pinch of snuff. "So do we all--it is merely a question of which
God and which King."



CHAPTER II - THE EVENING OF JUNE 30TH, 1688


Before entering his sedan, Lord Sunderland gently bade the chairman carry
him round the back ways; that strange quantity, the People, that every
statesman must use, fear, and obey, was abroad, roused and dangerous
to-night, and my lord's diplomacy moved delicately among high places but
never came into the street to handle the crowd; he could lead, control,
cajole kings and courtiers, deal with continents on paper, but he was
powerless before the people, who hated him, and whom he did not trouble
to understand; he was aristocrat of aristocrat.

He was now the most powerful man in the three kingdoms, and, next to Lord
Jefferies, the most detested; he was the only considerable noble (the
other converts, Dover and Salisbury, being mean men) who had sacrificed
his religion to the bigotry of the King; many courtiers to whom all
faiths were alike had rejected open apostasy, but my lord had calmly
turned renegade and calmly accepted the scorn and comment cast upon his
action; but he did not care to risk recognition by the People bent on
celebrating a Protestant triumph.

A little before he had gone down to Westminster Hall to give that
technical evidence against the bishops, without which they could not have
been tried (for he was the only man who had seen Sancroft pass in to the
King with the petition, and therefore the only man who could prove
"publication in the county of Middlesex"), and it had taken some courage
to face the storm that had greeted the King's witness.

My lord did not wish for another such reception, and: as he proceeded
down the quiet dark streets he looked continuously from the window of his
chair in anticipation of some noisy band of Londoners who would challenge
his appearance.

And that pale gentleman who peered out on to the bonfire-lit night had
soon been dragged from the shadow of the satin-lined sedan and flung down
into the gutter and trampled on and murdered, as was Archbishop Sharp by
the Covenanters, had he been seen and recognized by some of the bands of
youths and men who marched the streets with straw Popes and cardboard
devils to cast to the flames.

My lord remarked that in every window, even of the poorest houses, seven
candles burned, the tallest in the centre for the Archbishop, the other
six for his colleagues; my lord remarked the rockets that leapt above the
houses and broke in stars against the deep blue; my lord heard, even as
he passed through the quietest alleys, the continuous murmur of the
People rejoicing, as one may in a backwater hear the muffled but
unsubdued voice of the sea.

When he reached his own great mansion and stepped from the chair, he saw
that his house also was illuminated, as was every window in the great
square.

He went upstairs to a little room at the back, panelled in walnut and
finely furnished, where a lady sat alone.

She was of the same type as my lord--blonde, graceful, worn, and
beautiful--younger than he, but looking no less.

She was writing letters at a side table, and when he entered rose up
instantly, with a little sigh of relief.

"'Tis so wild abroad to-night," she said.

The Earl laid down on the mantelshelf the overblown white rose he had
brought from Whitehall, and looked at his wife.

"I see we also rejoice that the bishops are acquitted," he remarked.

"The candles, you mean? It had to be--all the windows had been broken
else. They needed to call the soldiers out to protect the Chapel in
Sardinia Street."

He seated himself at the centre table and pulled from his pocket several
opened letters that he scattered before him; his wife came and stood
opposite, and they looked at each other intently across the candles.

"What doth it mean?" she asked.

"That the King walketh blindly on to ruin," he answered concisely, with a
wicked flashing glance over the correspondence before him.

"The People will not take much more?"

"No."

"Well," said Lady Sunderland restlessly, "we are safe enough."

He was turning over the papers, and now lowered his eyes to them.

"Some of your letters to my Uncle Sidney have been opened," he remarked.
"This is M. Barillon his work--the King taxed me to-day with being privy
to the intrigue."

"I have thought lately that we were suspected," she answered quickly. "Is
this--serious?"

"No; I can do anything with the King, and he is bigot, r blind, and
credulous to a monstrous degree."

"Even after to-day!" exclaimed my lady.

"He believeth the nation will never turn against him," said the Earl
quietly. "He thinketh himself secure in his heir--and in the Tories."

"Not half the people will allow the child is the Queen's, though," she
answered. "Even the Princess Anne maketh a jest of it with her women, and
saith His Highness was smuggled into Whitehall in a warming-pan by a
Jesuit father--"

"So you have also heard that news?"

"Who could help it? 'Tis common talk that 'tis but a device of the King
to close the succession to the Princess Mary. And though you and I, my
lord, know differently, this tale is as good as another to lead the
mobile."

The Earl was slowly burning the letters before him by holding them in the
flame of the wax-light of a taper-holder, and when they were curled away
casting them on the floor and putting his red heel on them.

"What are these?" asked the Countess, watching him.

"Part of His Majesty's foreign correspondence, my dear, warning him to
have an eye to His Highness the Stadtholder." She laughed, half
nervously.

"It seemeth as if you cut away the ladder on which you stood," she said.
"If the King should suspect too soon--or the Prince fail you--"

"I take the risks," said Sunderland. "I have been taking risks all my
life."

"But never one so large as this, my lord."

He had burnt the last letter and extinguished the taper; he raised his
face, and for all his fine dressing and careful curls he looked haggard
and anxious; the gravity of his expression overcame the impression of
foppery in his appearance; it was a serious man, and a man with
everything at stake on a doubtful issue, who held out his hand to his
wife.

She put her fingers into his palm and stood leaning against the tall back
of his chair, looking down on him with those languishing eyes that had
been so praised at the court of the late King, now a little marred and
worn, but still brightly tender, and to my lord as lovely as when Lely
had painted her beautiful among the beautiful.

"You must help me," he said, his court drawl gone, his voice sincere.

"Robert," smiled my lady, "I have been helping you ever since I met you."

"'Tis admitted," he answered; "but, sweetheart, you must help me again."

She touched lightly his thin, powdered cheek with her free hand; her
smile was lovely in its tenderness.

"What is your difficulty?"

Subtle, intricate and oblique as his politics always were, crafty and
cunning as were his character and his actions, with this one person whom
he trusted Sunderland was succinct and direct.

"The difficulty is the Princess Mary," he answered.

"Explain," she smiled.

He raised his hand and let it fall.

"You understand already. Saying this child, this Prince of Wales, will
never reign--the Princess is the heiress, and not her husband, and after
her is the Princess Anne. Now it is not my design to put a woman on the
throne, nor the design of England--we want the Prince, and he is third in
succession--"

"But he can act for his wife--"

"His wife--there is the point. Will she, when she understandeth clearly
what is afoot, support her husband, her father, or herself?"

The Countess was silent a little, then said--

"She hath no reason to love her father; he hath never sent her as much as
a present since she went to The Hague, nor shown any manner of love for
her."

"Yet he counteth on her loyalty as a positive thing--and hath she any
cause to love her husband either?"

Lady Sunderland's smile deepened.

"Ladies will love their husbands whether they have cause or no."

The Earl looked gently cynical.

"She was a child when she was married, and the match was known to be
hateful to her; she is still very young, and a Stewart. Do you not think
she is like to be ambitious?"

"How can I tell? Doth it make so much difference?" He answered
earnestly--

"A great difference. If there is a schism between her and the Prince his
hands are hopelessly weakened, for there would be a larger party for her
pretensions than for his--"

"What do you want me to do, dear heart?"

"I want a woman to manage a woman," smiled the Earl. "The Princess is
seldom in touch with diplomats, and when she is--either by design or
simplicity--she is very reserved."

"She is no confidante of mine," answered the Countess. "I only remember
her as a lively child who wept two days to leave England, and that was
ten years ago."

"Still," urged my lord, "you can find some engine to do me this great
service--to discover the mind of the Princess."

Lady Sunderland paused thoughtfully.

"Do you remember Basilea Gage?" she asked at length.

"One of the maids of honour to Her Majesty when she was Duchess?"

"Yes; since married to a Frenchman who died, and now in Amsterdam--she
and the Princess Royal were children together--I knew her too. Should I
set her on this business?"

"Would she be apt and willing?"

"She is idle, clever, and serious--but, my dear lord, a Romanist."

The Earl laughed at his wife, who laughed back.

"Very well," he said. "I think she will be a proper person for this
matter."

He put the long tips of his fingers together and reflected; he loved, of
all things, oblique and crooked methods of working his difficult and
secret intrigues.

When he spoke it was with clearness and decision.

"Tell this lady (what she must know already) that the King's measures in
England have forced many malcontents to look abroad to the Princess
Royal, the next heir, and her husband to deliver them from an odious
rule; say that His Majesty, however, is confident that his daughter would
never forget her obedience, and that, if it came to a crisis between her
father and her husband, she would hinder the latter from any design on
England and refuse her sanction to any attempt on his part to disturb His
Majesty--say this requireth confirmation, and that for the ease and peace
of the government (alarmed by the late refusal of Her Highness to concur
in the Declaration of Indulgence) and the reassurance of the mind of the
King, it would be well that we should have private knowledge of the
disposition of Her Highness, which, you must say, you trust will be for
the advantage of the King and his just measures."

The Countess listened attentively; she was seated now close to her
husband, a pretty-looking figure in white and lavender, half concealed in
the purple satin cushions of the large chair.

"I will write by the next packet," she answered simply.

"So," smiled the Earl, "we will use the zeal of a Romanist to discover
the knowledge we need for Protestant ends--"

As he spoke they were interrupted by a servant in the gorgeous liveries
that bore witness, like everything else in the noble mansion, both to my
lord's extravagance and my lady's good management.

"Mr. Sidney was below--would his Lordship see him?"

"Go you down to him," said the Earl, looking at his wife. "You can make
my excuses."

He dismissed the servant; my lady rose.

"What am I to say?" she asked, like one waiting for a lesson to be
imparted.

He patted the slim white hand that rested on the polished table near his.

"Find out all you can, Anne, but be cautious--speak of our great respect
for His Highness, but make no definite promises--discover how deep they
go in their commerce with him."

Again they exchanged that look of perfect understanding that was more
eloquent of the feeling between them than endearments or soft speeches,
and the Countess went down to the lavish withdrawing-room, as fine as the
chambers in Whitehall, where Mr. Sidney, uncle of my lord (but no older)
waited.

They met as long friends, and with that air of gracious compliment and
pleasure in each other's company which the fact of one being a beautiful
woman and the other a man of famous gallantry had always given to their
intercourse; if every jot of my lady's being had not been absorbed in her
husband she might have been in love with Mr. Sidney, and if Mr. Sidney
had not followed a fresh face every day of the year he might have found
leisure to fall in love with my lady; as it was, he was very constant to
her friendship, but had not, for that, forgotten the lovely creature she
was, and she knew it and was pleased; in their hearts each laughed a
little at the other and the situation; but my lady had the more cause to
laugh, because while Mr. Sidney always dealt ingenuously with her, she
was all the while using him to further her husband's policies, and there
was not a pleasant word she gave him that was not paid for in information
that she turned to good account.

To-day she found him less the composed gallant than usual; he seemed
roused, disturbed, excited.

"The town to-day!" he exclaimed, after their first greetings. "Here is
the temper of the people plainly declared at last!"

The Countess seated herself with her back to the candles on the gilt
side-table and her face towards Mr. Sidney; he took his place on the
wand-bottomed stool by the empty hearth, where the great brass dogs stood
glimmering.

The windows were open, admitting the pleasant, intangible sense of summer
and the distant changing shouts and clamour of the crowd.

With a kindly smile Lady Sunderland surveyed Henry Sidney, who without
her advantage of the softening shadows showed a countenance finely lined
under the thick powder he wore; man of fashion, of pleasure, attractive,
mediocre in talents, supreme in manners and tact, owning no deep feelings
save hatred to the King, whose intrigues had brought his brother to the
block in the last reign, and a certain private loyalty to the laws and
faith of England, Henry Sidney betrayed his character in every turn of
his handsome face and figure. A man good-humoured, sweet-tempered but
lazy, yet sometimes, as now, to be roused to the energy and daring of
better men. In person he was noticeable among a court remarkable for
handsome men; he had been in youth the most famous beau of his time, and
still in middle age maintained that reputation.

His political achievements had not been distinguished. Sent as envoy to
the States, he had so managed to ingratiate himself with the Prince of
Orange as, in spite of the opposition of the English court, to be
appointed commander of the English Regiment in the Dutch service, and the
mouthpiece of His Highness to the English Whigs.

James, who had always disliked him, had recalled him from The Hague
despite the protests of the Stadtholder, and he had found himself so out
of favour with Whitehall as to deem it wiser to travel in Italy for a
year, though he had never relaxed his correspondence either with the
Prince or the great Protestant nobles who had been thrown into the
opposition by the imprudent actions of the King.

He was in London now at some risk, as Lady Sunderland knew, and she
waited rather curiously to hear what urgency had brought him back to the
centre of intrigue.

His acceptance of her graceful excuses for the Earl was as formal as her
offering of them; so long ago had it been understood that she was always
the intermediary between her astute lord and the powerful Whig opposition
of which Mr. Sidney was secretly so active a member.

"You and your friends will be glad of this," she said.

He looked at her a hesitating half second, then replied with an unusual
sincerity in the tones generally so smooth and expressionless.

"Every Catholic who showeth his face is insulted, and a beadle hath been
killed for endeavouring to defend a Romist chapel--the people are up at
last."

"I know," she answered calmly. "I feared that my lord would not be safe
returning from Whitehall."

"If they had seen him, by Heaven, he would not have been!" said Mr.
Sidney. He spoke as if he understood the people's point of view. Lax and
careless as he was himself, Sunderland's open and shameless apostasy
roused in his mind some faint shadow of the universal hatred and scorn
that all England poured on the renegade.

My lady read him perfectly; she smiled.

"How are you going to use this temper in the people?" she asked. "Is it
to die out with the flames that consume the straw Popes, or is it to
swell to something that may change the face of Europe?"

Mr. Sidney rose as if his restless mood could not endure his body to sit
still.

"It may change the dynasty of England," he said.

My lady kept her great eyes fixed on him.

"You think so?" she responded softly.

His blonde face was strengthened into a look of resolve and triumph.

"The King hath gone too far." He spoke in an abrupt manner new to him.
"No bribed electorate or packed parliament could force these measures--as
we have seen to-day." There was, as he continued, an expression in his
eyes that reminded the Countess of his brother Algernon, republican and
patriot. "Is it not strange that he hath forgotten his father so soon,
and his own early exile?" he said.

"His over-confidence playeth into your hands," she answered. He gave a
soft laugh, approached her, and said, in his old caressing tones--

"Frankly, my lady--how far will the Earl go?"

"With whom?" she smiled.

"With us--the Prince of Orange and the Whigs, ay--and the honest Tories
too."

She played with the tassels of the stiff cushion behind her.

"My lord hath the greatest affection and duty for His Highness, the
greatest admiration for him, the greatest hopes in him--"

"Come, Madam," he responded, "we are old friends--I want to know my lord
his real mind."

"I have told it you," she said, lifting candid eyes, "as far as even I
know it--"

"You must know that His Highness hath in his desk letters from almost
every lord in England, assuring him of admiration and respect--what was
M. Dyck felt over here for--and M. Zuylestein?--we want to know what the
Earl will do."

"What are the others--_doing_?" asked the Countess lightly. He saw the
snare, and laughed.

"My hand is always for you to read, but there are others seated at this
game, and I may not disclose the cards."

My lady lent forward.

"You cannot," she said, in the same almost flippant tone, "expect my lord
to declare himself openly a Whig?"

"He might, though, declare himself secretly our friend."

"Perhaps," she admitted, then was silent.

Intimate as he was with the Countess, Mr. Sidney was not close with her
lord, and felt more than a little puzzled by that statesman's attitude.
Sunderland, he knew, was in receipt of a pension, probably a handsome
pension, from France; he was loathed by the Whigs and caressed by the
King; as Lord President and First Secretary he held the highest position
in the Kingdom; the emoluments of his offices, with what he made by
selling places, titles, pardons, and dignities, were known to be
enormous; his conversion to the Church of Rome had given him almost
unlimited influence over James; and his great experience, real talents,
and insinuating manners made him as secure in his honours as any man
could hope to be; yet through his wife he had dallied with the Whigs,
written, as Sidney knew, to the Prince of Orange, and held out very
distinct hopes that he would, at a crisis, help the Protestants.

Certainly he had not gone far, and it was important, almost vital, to the
opposition that he should go farther, for he had it in his power to
render services which no other man could; he only had the ear of James,
the control of the foreign correspondence, the entire confidence of M.
Barillon, and he alone was fitted to mislead the King and the Ambassador
as to the schemes of their enemies, as he alone would be able to open
their eyes to the full extent of the ramifications of the Protestant
plots.

It was the Countess who broke the silence, and her words were what she
might have chosen could she have read Mr. Sidney's thoughts.

"My lord, who is the greatest man in the kingdom, hath more to stake and
lose than you Whigs who are already in disgrace with His Majesty."

"I know that very well," he answered; "but if the government fell,
remember there are some who would fall with it beyond the hope of ever
climbing again. One is my Lord Jefferies, another my Lord Sunderland."

She looked at him calmly.

"They are both well hated by the people," she said. "I do admit it." She
leant forward in her chair. "Do you think it would be worth while for my
lord to stake the great post he holdeth for the chance of safety if..."

She hesitated, and he supplied the words.

--"if there was a revolution," he said.

"Do you talk of revolutions!" she exclaimed.

His fair face flushed.

"Listen," he answered briefly.

My lady turned her delicate head towards the window. Beyond her brocade
curtains lay the dark shape of London, overhung with a glow of red that
stained the summer sky. She sat silent. Mr. Sidney stood close to her,
and she could hear his quick breathing; he, as she, was listening to the
bells, the shouting, the crack of fireworks, now louder, now fainter, but
a continuous volume of sound.

"The people--" said Mr. Sidney.

"Do they make revolutions?" she asked.

"If there is a man to guide them they do--"

"Well?"

"Before, there was Cromwell."

"And now--"

"Now there is William of Orange."

My lady rose.

"His Highness," she said quietly but firmly, "may be assured that he hath
a friend, a _secret_ friend in my lord."

Mr. Sidney looked anxiously into her eyes.

"May I rely on that?"

She smiled rather sadly.

"You, at least, can trust me."

Mr. Sidney bowed over her slender hand.

"You are a sweet friend, and a clever woman, but--"

Lady Sunderland interrupted him.

"I am sincere tonight. We see our dangers. You shall hear from me at the
Hague."



CHAPTER III - THE NIGHT OF JUNE 30TH, 1688


Some hours after his parting with Lady Sunderland, Mr. Sidney left a
modest house in Greg Street, Soho Fields, in company with a common
tarpaulin, whose rough clothes were in strong contrast to the rich
appointments of the notable beau he accompanied.

It was a fine night, but cloudy. The two men proceeded in silence towards
Gerrard Street, the sailor with his hands in his pockets and Mr. Sidney
swinging his cane.

Every house they passed had the seven candles in the windows, and the
sound of bells and shouting was as persistent as it had been in the
drawing-room of Sunderland House; the street was empty save for a few
wandering link-boys and beggars.

As they, walking rapidly and steadily, approached St.
Martin-in-the-Fields, the feeble rays of the oil-lamps over every tenth
door, that only served to illuminate the signs and cast great shadows
from the passers-by, were absorbed in a red glare that touched the brick
fronts of the precise houses with a deep glow.

"A bonfire," remarked Mr. Sidney.

The tarpaulin answered in the accents of a gentleman.

"A pope-burning--had we not best take another way?"

As Mr. Sidney hesitated the other added, with a laugh--

"After all, is it not a good omen? Let us see this martyrdom," and he
pressed into the confines of the crowd gathered round an enormous
bonfire, which blazed in front of the church steps.

Mr. Sidney followed, and the two found themselves absorbed into the
multitude of apprentices, shopkeepers, clerks, and citizens of all
descriptions, who were engaged in celebrating the acquittal of the
bishops by burning His Holiness in effigy.

For awhile they were unnoticed in the general excitement, then Mr.
Sidney's appearance was remarked. His plumed hat, his sword, his curling
peruke, and the rich velvet mantle that concealed his person instantly
told them that he was not of their class. Suspicion was roused that he
was a spy of the Court, and they began to rudely jostle him; but the
sailor, who kept closely beside him, laughed good-humouredly, and cried--

"Gently, my friends. We are good Protestants come to see the burning of
the Devil and the Pope."

"Sure," came a quick answer, "if you were popish dogs you would scarce be
here to-night!"

Sidney smiled at the eager young man who spoke.

"No," he said. "Long live the King, the Church, and the Laws--eh, my
friend?"

"I do not know so much about the first--but all my heart the second and
third!"

The sailor looked sharply at the speaker, who was a youth of two-or
three-and-twenty, very plainly dressed, almost shabby, with a keen, dark
face, intelligent, ardent eyes, and a quantity of untidy curly hair. He
seemed to be a student or clerk, and was obviously the leading spirit of
a band of youths of his own age, who were making most of the noise and
clamour.

He in his turn closely scrutinized the sailor, then said, in abrupt tones
of friendliness--

"I'll get you through. You and the gentleman get behind me, and I'll make
'em give away--"

With the quick energy that seemed his characteristic he shouldered his
way through the press and forced a passage for Mr. Sidney and the sailor,
bringing them to the steps of the church, where they had a good view over
the crowd, and stood directly behind the bonfire.

He paused, a little breathless with fighting through the throng, and with
blows given and taken, and asked Mr. Sidney, whose splendour seemed to
somewhat overawe him, if he had ever seen a pope-burning before.

"Never," smiled that gentleman; but the sailor added instantly--

"I have, many a time; 'tis the finest fun in the world."

The young man looked at him with the sharp suspicious curiosity of youth.
He was quick to notice the difference between speech and dress, and his
instant's glance further confused him. The strong light of the bonfire
showed a resolute-looking man, dressed in the coarse worn clothes of a
common sailor, but unmistakeably a gentleman. He seemed amused and
interested. A pleasant smile lit his face, and his grey eyes were bright
and self-contained.

"You were like to be clapt up if the watch caught you at this," he said.

The youth was gloriously scornful.

"The watch! Do you think we would disperse for a regiment?"

"Look out for the regiments then," smiled the sailor. "There are sixteen
thousand men on Hounslow Heath."

"How many of 'em would take arms against the city?" was the instant
retort. "They too are good Protestants."

"I perceive that you are something of a Politic," said Mr. Sidney; and
then all further remark was cut short by the arrival of the procession
carrying the Pope, at sight of which an almost solemn hush fell on the
crowd, who stopped supplying the bonfire with squibs, oil, and tar, and
drew back in close ranks before the steps of the church.

The Pope was a huge figure of straw with a wax face, carried in a chair
on the shoulders of four men. He was clothed in an expensive scarlet silk
robe, and wore on his head a tiara of painted pasteboard, decorated with
sparkling glass; his scornful and saturnine face, which, if meant for the
reigning pontiff, was a cruel libel on the most honourable and simple of
men, was turned a little to one side in the action of listening to a huge
black-homed Devil who was busily whispering in his ear, one stiff hand
was raised with two fingers lifted in blessing, and the other (both
formed of white gloves stuffed, with glass beads on the backs) hung
limply by his side.

The young man who had befriended Mr. Sidney and his friend gave some kind
of a whistling signal, upon which the greater number of the crowd broke
into verses of a doggerel song against popery and the bishops. As each
sang different words and tune the result was a mere lusty din, in which
not a syllable was distinguishable; nevertheless the hundred voices of
hate, derision, scorn, and triumph addressing the dumb grotesque image of
a loathed religion had an impressive significance and contained a deep
warning.

For these were not isolated nor feeble voices--the will and purpose of a
great nation echoed in them--nor were they the voices of mere fanaticism,
but the cries of protest raised by a jealous people whose liberties had
been struck at and broken.

In the faces the leaping flames brought into relief against the
surrounding darkness might be traced that fearless English spirit that
would not for long own a master; in the coarse jeers, Toots, and hisses
might be discerned that devotion to the reformed faith that had united
Anglican and Dissenter (despite the high bid the King had made for the
favour of the latter), in stern and unyielding opposition to the Romanist
worship that was in vain being forced on them.

Mr. Sidney wondered if James could see these faces and hear these voices
it would give him pause; if even his hard bigotry would not learn
something of the temper of a strong people roused. It seemed incredible
that if the King could see these people now that he could forget Cromwell
and his own exiled youth.

The dummy Pope was lowered from his seat of mock triumph and pitched
forward into the centre of the flames, the Devil clinging to him, at
which a savage roar rose as if real flesh and blood had been sacrificed
to appease fierce passions.

Mr. Sidney a little drew back against the flame-flushed pillars behind
him. As the spreading fire scorched his face so the temper of the crowd
put a kind of awe into his heart.

"Who is to manage these?" he murmured. He was no statesman. Then he
pulled his companion by the sleeve. "There was a man killed to-day--let
us get on--"

But the sailor, with his arms folded across his breast, was watching the
bonfire, in the heart of which the Pope appeared to be writhing as he
shrivelled, while his wax face ran into one great tear, his tiara shrunk
and disappeared, and the Devil, a black patch in the redness, emitted
horrid fumes of sulphur as he was consumed.

"'Tis a pretty show," he said briefly.

"But one not pleasing to the King's Majesty, do you think?" flashed the
dark youth who had been their guide.

"No," smiled the other. "I think it would grieve His Majesty even more
than the acquittal of the holy fathers--"

The young man laughed; he seemed very excited.

"See you, sir, if you wait awhile you will see a warming-park burnt--with
the pretended Prince of Wales, that Popish brat, within!"

Mr. Sidney interrupted.

"We have a boat to catch at Gravesend, if you could make a passage for
us, my friend--"

More than a little flattered at being thus addressed by so fine a
gentleman, the youth, by various shouted commands to his companions,
elbowings and blows administered in a lively manner, steered Mr. Sidney
and the sailor out of the crowd with the same dexterity that he had
guided them to the church steps.

On the confines of the press, Mr. Sidney, rather breathless, shook out
his mantle and adjusted his hat. The glow from the bonfire cast their
shadows long and leaping over the grass. In the distance towards the
archery fields and the Mall were other crowds and processions to be seen
passing in and out of the trees, and another bonfire was burning in front
of the mansion of the Protestant Northumberlands. The air was full of the
harsh colour of artificial light, the smell of powder and tar, of burning
rag and oil, belching smoke and the crack of squib, rocket and bomb,
mingled with noisy shouting of anti-Popish songs and hoarse cheers for
the bishops, the Dissenters, and the Protestant succession.

"This must be pleasant music at Whitehall," remarked the sailor, with
good-humoured indifference. He was standing now full in the light of the
lantern at the corner of the church, and the young man, who had been
looking at him with great eagerness, exclaimed softly--

"It is Admiral Herbert!"

He turned instantly.

"My name is not for public hearing to-night," he said quickly. "And, God
of Heaven, boy, how did you know me?"

The young man flushed.

"You used to come to the 'Rose' in Charing Cross--near here, you
remember? My uncle kept it--"

Arthur Herbert smiled.

"Yes--I remember; and who are you?"

"A scholar at St. John's now," answered the youth, in the same eager,
excited way; "that is thanks to my Lord Dorset--"

"Why, I recall," said Mr. Sidney; "'tis my lord's last genius, sure--he
who wrote a satire against the court last year with one Charley
Montague--a parody on Mr. Dryden's bombast, which sorely vexed him--"

"The same, sir," answered the young man, flushing deeper with pleasure.
"Lord Dorset is the Maecenas of the age, as I have truly found--"

"Well," said the Admiral, "you seem a likely spark--stick to your
Pope-burning and you'll find yourself at Court yet--that is good advice.
What is your name? I don't read poetry."

"I don't write it, sir," retorted the other, with an engaging touch of
impudence. "Only verses--a little satire and a little truth."

Arthur Herbert laughed.

"Well, what is your name?"

"Prior, sir--Matthew Prior."

"Good evening, Mr. Prior, and remember that you did not see me
to-night--silence, mind, even to your friends the Whigs."

"I know enough for that, sir," responded the student simply..

He took off a battered hat with a courtly air of respect, and discreetly
turned away and slipped back into the crowd.

The two gentlemen continued their way.

"We run some risk, you observe," smiled Mr. Sidney. "Who would have
reckoned on that chance?"

"None but good Protestants are abroad to-night," answered the Admiral;
"but I doubt if you will be safe in London much longer--"

"I will come to The Hague as soon as I dare--tell His Highness so much;
but I would not have my going prejudice those who must remain at their
posts--it would give a colour to rumours if I was to return to The
Hague--"

"My Lord Sunderland manageth the rumours," smiled Herbert.

"My Lord Sunderland," repeated Mr. Sidney reflectively, "is difficult
stuff to handle. I tell you plainly that I do not know how far he will
go."

"But he will not betray us?"

"No--I can go warrant for that."

They turned down the Strand and walked along the river, which was lively
with water-men and boats of music and great barges.

"M. Zuylestein will be sending Edward Russell with further news," said
Mr. Sidney. "Look out for him, I pray you, at The Hague."

"Edward Russell must be weary of running to and fro England and Holland,"
remarked Herbert.

"And how long will the King allow M. Zuylestein to drill parties against
him?" Mr. Sidney answered shortly.

"Mr. Russell hath my reason of hatred to the house of Stewart, and as for
M. Zuylestein he is too clever to give His Majesty a chance to
interfere."

They paused at one of the landing stages, and Herbert shouted to an idle
pair of oars that was looking for custom.

"Now, farewell," he said, "lest you shame my appearance--I shall be at
Gravesend to-night and, given fair wind, at Maaslandsluys in a day." He
pressed Mr. Sidney's hand, smiled, and hastened down the steps.

With a sobbing swish of water the boat drew up; the oars clanked in the
rowlocks. Mr. Sidney watched the tall figure in the red breeches of the
sailor step in, look back and wave his hand; then the boat joined the
others that covered the dark river, and was soon lost to sight in the
cross glimmers of lanterns and half-seen shapes.

Mr. Sidney remained gazing down the Thames--behind him the great capital
rejoicing with their bells and rockets and bonfires, their shouting and
singing, behind him the luxurious palace where the King must be enduring
a sharp humiliation. Mr. Sidney smiled; he thought with a keenness rare
in his soft nature of his brother who had laid down his life on Tower
Hill through the intrigues of the Duke of York, now King. It astonished
himself how much the memory of that injury rankled. He had not loved his
brother to half the measure that he hated the man who had brought him to
death. Indolent in mind and temper, he loathed cruelty, and the blood of
Algernon Sidney was not the only witness to the cruelty of James Stewart.
Mr. Sidney had seen the look on the fair face of Lord Monmouth when he
landed at the Tower stairs; he had seen well-born men and women,
implicated only indirectly in the late rebellion, shipped off to Virginia
as slaves, while the Italian Queen and her women quarrelled over the
price of them; he had seen, in this short reign, many acts of an
extraordinary tyranny and cruelty, and his thoughts dealt triumphantly on
Mr. Herbert, slipping down the river out of the tumult and excitement to
the quiet of Gravesend with an important little paper in his seaman's
coat pocket.



CHAPTER IV - THE MESSENGER FROM ENGLAND


Madame de Marsac, one time Miss Basilea Gage and maid of honour to the
Queen of England, sat in the window-place of an inn in The Hague and
looked down into the street. There was an expression of indifference on
her face and of listlessness in her attitude, though a man in black
velvet was standing near to her and speaking with an appearance of great
energy, and he was M. D'Avaux, minister of King Louis XIV to the States
General.

Basilea was Romanist, of a family who had held that faith

since the days of Queen Mary Tudor; her husband, two years dead, an
officer in the French Army, had left her with a small fortune and no
regrets, since she was yet undecided as to whether she had liked him or
no; though too clever to be unhappy she was miserably idle, and had
drifted from Paris back to London, and from London to Amsterdam, where
her late lord's people were prominent among the powerful French faction,
and still without finding any interest in life.

It was M. D'Avaux, with whom she had some former acquaintance, who had
urgently requested her to come to The Hague, and she was here, listening
to him, but without enthusiasm, being more engaged in watching the great
number of well-dressed people who passed up and down the wide, clean
street.

M. D'Avaux perhaps noticed her inattention, for he broke his i' discourse
with an abrupt question.

"Would you care to see a revolution in your country--'49 over again with
the Prince of Orange in place of Cromwell?"

She turned quickly, obviously startled. Though so indifferent to actual
happenings, she was tenacious of tradition, and she felt a vast, though
passive, admiration for the action of King James in re-establishing in
his kingdoms the ancient faith that was hers.

"Why--you mean--" she began, and paused, searching his face with puzzled
dark eyes.

"I mean, Madame," said M. D'Avaux strongly, "that your King is cutting
away the supports that prop his throne--you must know something of the
feeling in England."

"Yes," she assented; "the trouble with the colleges, the declaration of
Indulgence, and some rare malicious talk of the Prince of Wales--but
nothing like--a revolution!"

The Frenchman smiled.

"Let me tell you some facts. When Henry Sidney was Envoy here he was in
reality the channel of communication between the Opposition in England
and His Highness--even since his recall he hath served the same turn--and
these last months Edward Russell hath been coming and going with messages
between the Prince and those great Protestants whom the King hath put out
of office."

"If this is known," cried Basilea, "surely it can be prevented--it is
treason!"

"What is treason in England, Madame, is loyalty at The Hague--and do you
imagine that I have any influence with the States, who are entirely under
the rule of the Prince?"

"I have noticed," answered Basilea, "a monstrous number of English and
French Protestants at The Hague, but thought they came here for a mere
refuge."

"They come here," said M. D'Avaux drily, "for revenge--since the Edict of
Nantes was revoked all the Huguenots look to the Prince, and since he
refused his assent to the declaration of Indulgence every Englishman who
is not a Romanist looketh to him also."

Basilea rose; the sunshine was over her curls and blue dress, and shook a
red light from the garnets at her wrist; her eyes narrowed; she was
interested by this clear talk of important events.

"What could the Prince do?" she asked quietly.

M. D'Avaux replied with some passion.

"This is the tenth year of the uneasy peace forced on His Highness by His
Majesty and the late King Charles, and not a month of that time that he
hath not been working to be avenged on us for the terms we obtained
then--he hath combined powers in secret leagues against us, he hath vexed
and defied us at every turn, and he hath never, for one moment, ceased to
intrigue for the help of England against us--in some final issue."

"But England," said Basilea quickly, "is entirely bound to France--"

"Yes; and because of that, and because the Prince of Orange knoweth it,
King James is in a desperate strait--"

"Why?"

"Madame, I know the Prince tolerably well--he never relinquishes any idea
that hath a firm hold on his mind, and what he cannot accomplish by
diplomacy he will assay by force."

"By force!" echoed Basilea, staring at the Ambassador.

He came a little nearer to her and lowered his voice.

"What is the business that keepeth Edward Russell on messenger duty to
and fro The Hague and London? What is the business that keepeth the
Prince for ever riding from his villa to the States? Why are all the
harness makers of the Provinces making bridles, bits, and spurs? Why is
the Prince, if there is not some great design afoot, buying up load after
load of hay--why are new ships being built, fresh troops being raised?"

"Surely," answered Basilea, "I have heard it said that the States were
making ready in case the dispute between King Louis and the Pope anent
Cologne should involve attack on their frontiers."

"I do not believe it," said M. D'Avaux. "But King James and Lord
Sunderland take your view--they will not be roused, they will not see,
and daily they further rouse that loyalty which is their sole support. I
am well informed from England that not one man in ten believeth the
Prince of Wales to be the King's son, and that they regard the producing
of him as a mere fraud to cheat the Princesses of their birthright."

"What do you mean, what do you think?" asked Basilea. "It is not possible
that the Prince should claim his wife's inheritance by force of arms?"

"You put it very succinctly," said M. D'Avaux. "That is exactly what I
think he will do."

Basilea was silent. The, to her, amazing aspect of international politics
disclosed in M. D'Avaux's brief and troubled summary filled her with
dismay and anger. The domestic government of England did not concern her,
since she did not live under it, and her family, being Romanist, were
more prosperous under King James than they had ever been. She had not
given much thought to the justice or wisdom of the means the King had
taken to convert his kingdom, but she approved of the principle. She had
no admiration for the Prince of Orange, and no sympathy for the cause he
upheld.

"He would never," she remarked, continuing her thoughts aloud, "dare the
scandal of an open rupture betwixt himself and His Majesty, who is both
his uncle and his wife's father--"

"There is nothing but dislike between them since the King recalled Sidney
and the Prince refused his assent to the repeal of the Test Act--"

"But the Princess," interrupted Basilea. "Why, I used to know her, and I
dare assure you she is not one to forget her duty."

"Her duty!" repeated M. D'Avaux.

He looked at her intently.

"You have touched the reason why I asked you to come to The Hague," he
said. "I want you to wait on the Princess and obtain from her some
assurance that she would never countenance any menace to her father--"

"I am sure she would not," answered Basilea at once.

"I do hope it, for if she will not support her husband his design is as
good as hopeless, since it is her claim, not his own, he must put
forward."

Basilea smiled.

"She is a Stewart, must be a little ambitious, if nothing else, and hers
was not a love-match that she should sacrifice everything to her
husband."

She glanced quickly at M. D'Avaux, and added--

"But you still look doubtful--"

"Madame," he replied earnestly, "the Princess is a very ardent
Protestant--"

"She was not at Whitehall."

"--She hath," he continued, "lived ten years with the Prince--"

"They say in England that he doth not treat her kindly--"

"His Majesty hath done his best to put discord between them--when Her
Highness discovered that her chaplain and one of her women, Anne
Trelawney, were working on His Majesty's orders to make mischief betwixt
the Prince and herself, she dismissed them. I thought that looked ill for
us."

Basilea shook her head, still smiling.

"An English princess will not be so soon subdued--I'll undertake to get
assurances from Her Highness that she is ignorant of these tales of the
designs of the Prince, and that she would never support them if she knew
of them."

Basilea spoke with some animation; she felt sure of what she said, and
was not ill pleased to be of service to her own and her adopted country
in this, as she thought it, pleasant fashion.

She remembered Mary Stewart as a lively, laughing girl, who had detested
and opposed her marriage with much spirit, and she had no fear that she
would find that wilful gay Princess difficult to manage.

M. D'Avaux was not so confident.

"You do not know the Prince," he remarked, and Basilea laughed.

"He is not so redoubtable where women are concerned, I think," she
answered; "at least allow me to try."

"I ask it of you," he said gravely; "for more hangs on this than I dare
think."

"Sure, you need not fear the Prince," she returned, "if he had the most
wicked will in the world--the difficulties in his way are
unsurmountable."

"France," he replied, "must make them so."

On that he took his leave, and left Basilea with more busy thoughts than
had been hers for some while since.

She returned to the window-seat, propped her chin on her palm, and
looked down the street. She was a pretty seeming woman, slender, dusky
brown in the hair and eyes, of a just height and proportion, and her
person was shown to advantage by the plain French style of her gown and
ringlets, which had a graceful simplicity wholly wanting in the stiff
fashions prevailing in England and the Low Countries.

Her window looked upon an end of the Buitenhof, one of the two great
squares that formed the centre of The Hague so admired by strangers; it
was planted with lime trees, now past their flowering time, but still
fragrant and softly green in the gentle air of July.

A great number of people of both sexes, finely dressed, were passing up
and down, on foot, on horseback, and in little open chariots and sedans.
Basilea noticed many unmistakeably English, Scotch, and French of varying
degrees of qualities--soldiers, divines, gentlemen, and women mingling
with the crowd, hastening past with intent faces or lounging with idle
glances at each other in hopes to detect a friend or patron.

She opened the window and leaned out so that she could see the Buitenhof
with the straight lines and arches of the government buildings of the
States, the trees that shaded the great fishpond called the Vyver, and
the open square where the carriages passed on their way to the
fashionable promenade of the Voorhout and Toorviveld.

Among all the varying figures that caught her glance was that of a tall
man in the garb of an English seaman--red breeches, a tarred coat, a
cocked hat with his captain's colours, and a heavy sword.

She noticed him first because he stopped to ask directions of two
passers-by, English also, and because he was, even among so many, of a
fine and showy appearance.

He turned at first towards the arches that led through to the Binnenhof
and the Hall of the Knights, then hesitated, turned back, and retraced
his steps until he was just under Basilea's window.

Here he paused again, and accosted a stout gentleman in the dress of an
Anglican priest, who was dashing through the press with a great air of
importance and hurry.

On seeing the tarpaulin he greeted him with noisy surprise and pleasure,
and drew him a little out of the crowd, and proceeded to converse eagerly
with the unction of the inveterate talker.

Basilea laughed to herself as she observed the seaman's efforts to
escape, and to obtain some answer to a question first.

At last he seemed to accomplish both, for he wrenched himself from the
powerful presence of the priest, and hastened towards the Stadhuis, while
the other called after him in a voice meant to be subdued, but still so
resonant that Basilea could hear every word: "The Prince will be back
to-morrow evening!"

The seaman waved his hat, nodded, and hastened on. Basilea wondered why a
common sailor should be concerned as to when His Highness returned to The
Hague, and concluded, rather angrily, that here was evidence of one of
the manifold intrigues which the Whigs, M. D'Avaux had assured her,
carried on almost openly in Holland.



CHAPTER V - THE PRINCESS OF ORANGE


Basilea de Marsac waited on Her Highness the day after her interview with
M. D'Avaux; a curious coincidence had strengthened her desire to see the
Princess, and piqued her curiosity as to the sentiments of that lady. One
of the fast packets that were constantly plying between the States and
England had brought her a letter from Lady Sunderland, who was, to
Basilea, a person who of all others must find it her interest and duty to
be intensely loyal. My lady wrote a long and involved letter, but the sum
of it seemed to be what M. D'Avaux had put much more plainly, namely,
that the King's party (among whom was, of course, Lord Sunderland) had
become alarmed at the crisis the actions of His Majesty had brought upon
the country in attempting to push forward his own religion, and that they
feared an active interference on the part of the Prince of Orange, now
his wife's claims were indefinitely postponed by the birth of the Prince
of Wales, and his hopes of an English alliance against the French for
ever shattered by the policy of King James.

Lady Sunderland concluded by asking of Basilea what M. D'Avaux had
asked--that she should discover the mind of the Princess, and draw some
promise from her for the satisfaction of Royalist and Romanist, to the
effect that Her Highness would never let her title to the English throne
be a handle for her husband's political designs.

Basilea was half roused, half amused by the double errand. She was not
very well informed about politics, but she felt in her heart an absolute
doubt of any revolution in England. All her life there had been talk of
it, but it had always ended in a few executions or fights in Scotland, or
some such vague conclusions in which she had never been very interested;
but she could understand that Lady Sunderland did not feel lukewarm in
the matter. Ever since the May of last year, when the Earl had been
converted to the Church of Rome (a step which none other of the King's
ministers had taken), he had been as detested in England as it was
possible for a man to be. The King alone protected him, and if he fell,
there was little doubt that his fall also would be swift and terrible.

Basilea liked the Countess; she was better pleased to serve her than to
serve M. D'Avaux, and she anticipated, with pleasure, being able to write
in answer that the Princess was still a Stewart, despite ten years'
residence in Holland.

It was late afternoon when Basilea had her audience (accorded without
difficulty) at the Prince's villa beyond The Hague, called the 'huis ten
bosch' by reason of the beautiful wood and deer park in which it stood.
This house had been built by the Prince's grandmother, Amalia of Solms,
and contained the famous hall which she had decorated in honour of her
husband, the Stadtholder Frederick Henry. There was no splendour,
however, in the apartments Basilea saw; the appointments were neat and
comfortable, but neither lavish nor rich, and she had known English
ladies better served as to the quantity and appearance of servants than
was the Princess Royal of England.

In a room at the back, that overlooked a formal garden filled with roses
and box hedges, Basilea found the mistress of the quiet house and the
lady whose mind two great kingdoms were anxious to know.

It was a chamber panelled in walnut, and furnished by chairs with worked
seats and stools with fringed covers, several fine pieces of Eastern
furniture, and many shelves on which stood curious and vivid china
monsters and vases, and low pots filled with roses.

Basilea did not know which of the two young ladies seated by the window
was the Princess, so utterly had ten years worked their change.

She hesitated after her courtsey, and the taller of the two ladies came
forward and took her hand warmly.

"Are you Basilea Gage with whom I used to play at Twickenham?" she asked.
"Why did you not come to see me sooner?"

She smiled half wistfully, and turned to her companion. "This is
Mademoiselle Dyckfelt, and this is Madame de Marsac, Anne, whom I told
you was coming to-day."

She had a timid way of speaking, as if she was shy, and, to Basilea,
something of the formal in her manner, as if she was preoccupied.

The Dutch lady was like most of her countrywomen whom Basilea had
observed, very fair and pretty, with that glow and robust brightness that
gave the women of Holland their reputation for handsomeness. She was
plainly dressed in grey branched with silver, and was engaged in working
a chair-cover in cross stitch. The vivid green and blue of the wools she
used showed off her small, plump white hands--a common beauty among her
nation.

The Princess began talking of England and the people she remembered
there; while Basilea answered she observed Mary, who seemed to her
disappointingly strange and indifferent.

Still little more than a girl, she was extremely beautiful, uniting her
father's aristocratic grace and her mother's soft charm; though dignified
and above the common height, she bore herself humbly and with a
deprecating sweetness.

Basilea was not the only one who at first sight had been impressed with
the air of simple purity which heightened and glorified Mary's beauty,
for it was impossible to find a fault in her person or manner: she was
unconscious of herself, tactful, without affectations or vanities,
watchful for others, and charming in address, though with that pretty
reserve that Basilea Lulled formality.

Her features were not unlike those of her ancestress--another Mary
Stewart, Queen of Scotland--soft and lovely, childlike in profile, with
the gentle curve of contour; but grave and rather sad in the full look,
and with the expression of a woman, and a woman who has observed,
grieved, and pitied.

Her brown eyes were very large, misty, and continually narrowed from weak
sight, her hair, of the Stewart red-brown, hung in thick natural curls
from a simple knot in her neck.

She gained no advantage from her dress, which would not have offended a
Puritan: the straight, boned bodice and stiff falling stuff of a dull
pink colour held no line of grace, and the prim ruffles to wrist and
throat were more decorous than becoming. At the English court her attire
would have been considered ugly, if not ridiculous, and Basilea did not
find it pleasing. She was not herself of a type that can afford to forego
the advantages of adornment, and she reflected that with the Princess's
beauty and her own taste she could have made a sumptuous appearance.

While thus inwardly admired and criticized, Mary was speaking of England
and all her one-time friends there, and Mademoiselle Dyckfelt making
comments in pretty broken English, accompanied with a little gasping
laugh which Basilea had noticed in many Dutch people.

Through all her amiable converse Mary betrayed some slight inner
agitation and expectation, as if she feared the visit might have another
meaning than mere courtesy; and Basilea guessed that she, whose position
was one of such importance in Europe, must be used to oblique attempts to
sound her views.

With a half-faint amusement she made her own essay--

"Highness, I was in good hopes that you would not seem such a stranger to
me, because I am instructed to make the venture to speak with you--"

Mary looked at her quickly, and interrupted--

"By whom instructed?"

"Lady Sunderland, Madame, for whom your Highness was wont to have some
kindness."

The Princess flushed, and Basilea wondered why, as her sole answer was--

"I think Lady Sunderland a good woman."

Basilea smiled.

"She is also, as Your Highness knoweth, a great politic, which I never
was nor could be, and hath set me to ask Your Highness some questions
bearing on great affairs."

"Great affairs," said Mary under her breath. She rose gravely. "I think
we must not plague Mademoiselle Dyckfelt with this talk. Will you,
Madame, come into the garden?"

The Dutch maiden rose and unlatched the long window, then returned
placidly to her sewing.

Mary and Basilea descended a few steps into the formal garden, mainly
composed of box hedges and clipt rose bushes, with a square pond in the
centre bordered with little yellow yew trees in wooden tubs and precise
beds of pinks and herbs.

The tall and beautiful trees of the deer park in which the villa stood
rose up, with the elegant air of loftiness peculiar to the trees of a
perfectly flat country where they are the highest things the eye has
within range; the air also was characteristic, being of that strangely
exhilarating quality of salt freshness that in every part of the United
Provinces served as a perpetual reminder of the sea. It was warm to-day,
and the sun was golden in the foliage, and lay in scattered flecks of
light among the flowers, and on the pond where two water lilies were
slowly closing to the evening.

"You may speak quite frankly now," said Mary, as they proceeded slowly
down the gravel path. "Have you a message from Lady Sunderland?"

"No, Madame," said Basilea, surprised that the Princess should seem to
expect it. "Only--it is difficult to express, Highness--but there are
monstrous tales abroad in France, England, and even here--"

The Princess looked at her silently.

"They do say," continued Basilea, "that His Highness meddleth in the
affairs of England, and these rumours give disquietude to His Majesty--"

Mary broke in, rather breathless--

"I know nothing of business--my husband heareth so much of it abroad that
he is glad to talk of other matters at home. What doth Lady Sunderland
want of me?"

Basilea answered directness with directness.

"She wisheth to know--that the Earl may put it privately before His
Majesty--your mind on the matter between His Highness and the King."

"What matter is that?" asked Mary.

Basilea was at a loss.

"Your Highness must know better than I: as for these horrible rumours--"

Mary paused by a rose bush and asked steadily--

"What rumours?"

"I think it would be unseemly to name them!"

"I will hold you excused," said the Princess, still gravely.

"Then, Madame, 'tis said that His Highness is so exasperate with the
policy of His Majesty and postponement of your claim by the birth of the
Prince, that he might attempt to do what my Lord Monmouth did--"

Mary's fine fingers pulled delicately at the rose leaves.

"My husband and that poor unhappy gentleman are such different characters
and in such different situations," she said, "that there can be no
comparison. I think the Prince would never do as the Duke did."

Basilea looked at her keenly.

"'Tis asserted, Lady Sunderland saith, that the Prince is in league with
all the discontents of England, that he sheltereth many at The Hague--"

"This country," answered the Princess quietly, "hath always been a refuge
for the unfortunate, and it is reasonable that the near connection of my
husband to the throne should give him an interest in English business."

Basilea was older than the Princess, whose air of extreme gentleness
further emboldened her to take, half unconsciously, a masterful tone.

"I can assure Lady Sunderland that His Highness is innocent of the
designs imputed to him."

Mary glanced up from the rose bush; she smiled very slightly. "Why, you
must go to the Prince for that assurance; I know nothing about it."

Basilea stirred the gravel with her square-toed red shoe.

"You must know, Madame," she said slowly, "whether you would hinder or
further the Prince his projects?"

Mary flushed, and the full brown eyes narrowed.

"Neither you nor I," she answered, "can discuss His Highness his
projects, which ever have been and will be for the good of Europe."

Basilea looked at her curiously.

"I fear Your Highness will think me impertinent, but," she thought of the
grave words of M. D'Avaux, and the memory urged her not to be put off by
the evasiveness of the Princess, "but there are strange things said in
Paris and London--"

"Madame de Marsac," interrupted Mary gently, "if my father hath cause to
complain of me, he must send a direct messenger."

Basilea felt herself rebuked.

"I do not carry His Majesty's complaints, Highness," she answered humbly.
"I am but the poor engine of the fears of my Lady Sunderland, who saith
that in London the Prince his name is on the lips of all the discontents,
and it is feared that they might set him up as a pretender; and since
that could not be if you refused your consent, it would be a great
comfort to His Majesty and his faithful ministers if you would give that
assurance."

The Princess took a step forward, then stopped as if by an effort of
self-control.

"I cannot deal with these secret and underground counsels," she said
firmly; "and my poor brains are not fit for business."

"This is not business, Highness," urged Basilea.

"Whatever you call it," demanded the Princess, "why did you undertake
it?"

"Because M. D'Avaux--" began Basilea, then stopped vexed; she had not
meant to mention that name.

"M. D'Avaux," repeated Mary, with a heightened colour; "so he hath a mind
to know what I shall do if a certain crisis cometh?"

Both the tone and the words seemed to betray more interest and knowledge
than she had yet disclosed, and Basilea was encouraged.

"M. D'Avaux is an acquaintance of mine," she said frankly.

"Ah yes," replied Mary; "you are a Papist, and your husband was a
Frenchman. I think that meaneth," she added courteously, "that we cannot
see things the same."

"Your Highness doth not desire to behold Europe embroiled in another
war!"

Mary answered earnestly--

"There is nothing further from my wishes, and no ambition of mine," she
added half wistfully, "would disturb anybody's peace. I bless my God that
I know the life I am suited to, and I thank Him that He hath given me the
grace to know when I am happy."

She put her hand gently on Basilea's sleeve.

"It is getting too dark to remain here, and you have not even looked at
my roses!"

Basilea admitted herself defeated. She was a little chagrined at the
thought of the lame report she would have to give M. D'Avaux, but she
could press no more, especially as she had an uneasy feeling that the
Princess thought the less of her for the errand she had come upon.

She left talk of politics, and Mary accompanied her with easy courtesy to
the front of the villa, where her hired chariot waited with her maid
yawning herself to death over an old-fashioned romance by Mademoiselle de
Scudery, which she had found in the inn parlour.

The sky was paling and flushing behind the great avenue of trees rich in
their full leafage, and the rooks were noisy in the branches.

"This is a pretty spot, Highness," said Basilea, on the impulse of the
moment.

Mary smiled.

Two men were mounting the few wide entrance steps. Basilea noticed them,
because one was the red-breeched sailor whom she had seen yesterday
beneath her window, the other was a slight gentleman in a circular mantle
turned up over one shoulder, wearing riding boats and carrying a whip;
Basilea saw his horse being led off by a bareheaded groom.

She could not restrain her curiosity at seeing the seaman entering the
Prince's villa.

"Doth Your Highness know that man?" she asked. Mary glanced at the two as
she closed the gate in the garden wall. "Which?" she asked, smiling.

"The English sailor--"

"No; but he hath good credentials, for that is the Prince with him," said
Mary quietly.

Basilea was further surprised; she endeavoured to gain a closer view of
the Stadtholder and his companion, but they had entered the house; she
was satisfied, however, that she had something to tell M. D'Avaux.

"You must not marvel at the companion of His Highness," continued the
Princess; "there are many come here who are glad to wear disguises, owing
to the rancour of the persecution of the Protestants in France."

Basilea courtsied her leave. She was quite convinced that the seaman was
not French nor on any message from France, and she was beginning to be
convinced, too, that the Princess was marvellously changed and different,
and that it would be well for neither Lady Sunderland nor M. D'Avaux to
be too sure of her compliance.

Mary allowed her to depart without that demonstration of kindness with
which she had received her, and Basilea stepped into her chariot feeling
disappointed and dissatisfied.

Mary, still standing by the garden wall at the side of the house, watched
the little coach swing out of sight down the long darkening drive, and
when it was lost in the shadows ran lightly up the steps and in through
the tall doors; there, in the light painted vestibule, she found the
Prince and the English seaman conversing.

She paused, flushed, and breathing in pants. The Prince took off his hat,
and said--

"This is the Princess, sir."

The sailor turned quickly, and gave her a sharp look as he bowed.

"This is Admiral Herbert, Madame," continued the Prince, "who is new come
from England."

The colour receded from Mary's face. She glanced in a half frightened way
at her husband.

"Oh," she murmured, "I wished to speak to you--but it can wait--for I
suppose Admiral Herbert his business is...important."

There was a tenseness of containment among the three of them, as if they
were all aware of great events and would not speak of them.

"If the Princess is informed--" began Arthur Herbert.

The Stadtholder interrupted.

"The Princess knoweth everything, Mr. Herbert."

Arthur Herbert betrayed the slightest surprise, covered instantly by a
ready turn of speech.

"Her Highness will understand, then, the importance of my business."

He bowed again, very courteous, to Mary, who answered
instantly--

"I will not hinder you, Mr. Herbert, not for an instant."

The Prince looked at her.

"Send for me when I am free, Madame."

With that they both saluted her, and turned into the room at the right of
the vestibule.

Mary stood motionless in the twilight, staring at the spot where the
English messenger had stood, peered at the closed door that concealed
him, then went softly and, it seemed, fearfully away.



CHAPTER VI - THE LETTERS OF MR. HERBERT


When Admiral Herbert found himself closeted with William of Orange, he
had some eagerness in observing that Prince whose name was so much in the
mouths of men, and who had grown to be a kind of lodestar to Protestant
England.

The first thing that impressed a courtier of the Stewarts, used to a
lavish and extravagant habit of living, was that there was no splendour
in the plain dark room, the stern furnishing of which seemed almost
parsimony in a royal Prince, nor any manner of display about the
Stadtholder himself, who, with his own hands, shifted the candles in the
brass sticks from the mantelshelf to the table, and set open the window
on the summer woods.

Arthur Herbert looked keenly at him; he had dropped his hat and mantle on
to a chair, and his person was fully revealed in the steady red candle
glow.

He was at this time in his thirty-seventh year, at the height of his
reputation: the most respected statesman, one of the most feared generals
and powerful rulers in Europe, the head of the nation which was supreme
in trade and maritime dominion, the foremost champion of the reformed
religion, first Prince of the blood in England, the close ally and
councillor of the Empire, of Spain, the Northern States, Germany, and, as
it was whispered, of the Pope, the leader of the English opposition, and
husband to the heiress of that country, the rallying point for the
discontents and indignations of all those whom the King of France had
injured or the King of England put out of humour.

This combination of circumstance and quality that had given him the
unique position he held, made him the most discussed and famous figure at
present before the eyes of men. Even where he was abused and decried he
was never forgotten, and shared in the minds of the French almost as much
attention as their own exalted King.

Added to his present fame was the glamour of past heroism, the history of
his splendid house, the great deeds of his ancestors, his own breaking
from unhappy childhood and desolate youth to power in one day of chaos
and ruin, blood and despair, his almost miraculous deliverance of his
country, constant devotion to it, and his firm adherence to the
persecuted religion were unique in the history of princes, and lived in
the minds of men.

The man who was of this estimation in Europe, who possessed so many
extraordinary qualities, and had had so strange a history, appeared to
the Englishman as a gentleman of no particular appearance of energy,
rather below than above the middle height, and of a frail physique and
slenderness of proportion rare in a man of action, and which reminded
Herbert of my Lord Shaftesbury, whose impetuous and fiery manners had
counteracted the effect of his feeble person.

The Stadtholder differed there, being entirely composed and stately, and
holding himself with a certain stiff control, as one trained to maintain
dignity and the foremost place in the sight of men.

His countenance was manly, grave, and remarkable, chiefly by reason of
his large brilliant eyes of a lively hazel, sparkling and expressive, and
his thick dark brown hair, which he wore falling on to his collar like an
old-fashioned cavalier; his high aquiline nose, full mouth very firmly
set, slightly cleft chin and hollowed cheeks, clear and tanned
complexion, conveyed a subtle sense of youth and simplicity, despite his
rather severe and austere expression, as if at heart he was still as
ardent as when he wrested the three conquered provinces from the French;
his face, though thin and worn, was unlined.

He wore a violet riding coat of a heavy fashion, and a cravat of thick
Bruges lace and a plain sword. Herbert would never have taken him for a
soldier. He wondered if he would ever please the English as he had done
the Dutch, or courts as he did people, and was conscious of an
unreasonable feeling of incongruity in this being the man looked to as
the saviour of England, indeed of half Europe.

The Prince pulled off his gloves slowly, the while looking on the floor.
He was seated the other side of the table to Herbert, who thought he had
found some reluctance or difficulty in speaking, perhaps because he was
using English, with which language he was tolerably familiar, but spoke
with no kind of grace, but rather a distaste.

"You are sent by Mr. Sidney?" he asked at last.

He had a short, strong way of speaking; his manner was stately to
coldness. Arthur Herbert looked in vain for any trace of emotion or
curiosity as to the momentous errand he must know that he, Herbert, had
come upon, or even, as he reflected rather vexedly, any welcome for
himself.

"By Mr. Sidney and some others, sir," he answered.

The Prince put his gloves on the table, and raised his eyes.

"You have, Mr. Herbert, brought some answer to my late request that some
powerful English families should give me a written invitation to this
expedition to which the Protestant lords have so constantly, and, of
late, so insistently urged me."

Admiral Herbert put his hand into the breast of his common coat, and
pulled out a sealed packet, which he handed to the Prince.

"This association, Your Highness, of which you have had advices from my
Lord Shrewsbury and Mr. Sydney, is at length signed by seven of our great
men, and I pray Your Highness to take it as full warrant for interfering
in the present miserable estate of England."

After having delivered this speech, Admiral Herbert looked straightly at
the Prince, who was slowly breaking the seals. He felt more enthusiasm
for the cause than for His Highness, and more warmly for both when he was
not in the actual presence of the Prince, whose personal coldness had an
ill effect on the Englishman's impatient nature.

"This is Mr. Sidney his hand," remarked the Prince.

Arthur Herbert laid another letter on the dark, shining table. "There is
also a personal letter from that gentleman." William looked rapidly over
the contents of the packet, and his thin cheek flushed.

"This is definite," he said.

"Your Highness asked that it might be."

The Prince took up the other letter, and read it over with great
quickness.

"Mr. Sidney saith my Lord Nottingham would not sign," he remarked; "is
that timidity?"

"Some manner of prudence, I suppose, sir; but he will not betray our
design. He gave us leave to take his life if we thought him capable of
it; but I believe he can go to Court and not discover any sign of the
concern he is under, so close a man he is."

"Oh, he is honest," said William dryly. He took up the first letter
again; it was signed at the bottom by seven numbers, thus: 25, 24, 27,
29, 31, 35, 33; the Prince did not require the code sent him by Henry
Sidney to discover the names these numbers stood for; he had the cipher
by heart, and knew that the seven who had signed were Lord Shrewsbury,
Lord Devonshire, Lord Danby, Lord Lumley, the suspended Compton, Bishop
of London, Admiral Russell, and Mr. Sydney himself. They represented a
body of opinion that was weighty; if they were not many, they were
powerful, and the Prince himself had said that he did not need many names
if they were those of great families. Lord Halifax, who had been one of
his warmest supporters, had shrunk from the first hint of anything so
violent as a revolution, and the Prince had forbidden the design to be
opened to him; for the scruples of Lord Nottingham he had also been
prepared; therefore the signatures were the utmost that he could have
hoped for; but he gave no sign of excitement or satisfaction, but sat
thoughtfully looking at the two papers in his hand.

"Mr. Sidney saith that you are well instructed in these affairs, Mr.
Herbert," he said at last, raising his great eyes. "This paper is well
composed and comprehensive, but it saith nothing of how far the King is
suspicious of these gentlemen and their correspondence with me. And that
is an important matter."

Admiral Herbert answered instantly.

"The King is kept amused by my Lord Sunderland, sir, who hath his entire
confidence."

"My Lord Sunderland hath not openly joined you?"

"No, sir; and in truth his conduct is a mystery, but Mr. Sidney hath a
pledge from the Countess that he will not betray us."

"I am tolerably sure of my lord," answered the Prince. "He hath control
of the foreign correspondence, hath he not?"

"Yes, Your Highness. We have felt some fears for M. D'Albeville, the King
his envoy here, it being generally believed that he is in the pay of M.
Barillon."

"He receiveth some kind of pension from him," said the Prince calmly,
"and maketh him all manner of promises. But he is better fee'd by me, and
I do know that he sendeth beguiling letters home."

"Then I think there is no one likely to open the King his eyes. It all
resteth now on the resolution of Your Highness." The Prince very faintly
smiled.

"They suggest any attempt, if any be made, this year, do they not?" he
said, instantly grave again.

"At once, sir, is what we should wish."

The Prince rose and crossed to the hearth.

"This winter would be the soonest," he answered quietly. "Tell me more of
England--it is the King his purpose to call a packed parliament in the
autumn?"

Arthur Herbert replied with a kind of angry energy that betrayed the
force that had involved him in these intrigues.

"The charters being taken from the towns, the franchise is in the King
his hands, and is only to be granted to those who will swear to return
His Majesty his candidate, the Protestant Lord-Lieutenants have been
displaced by Catholic, and they have orders to let no one into office who
will not consent to the repeal of the Test Act--so we are all officered
by Papists, and to be a Protestant is to starve."

"My uncle," said the Prince, with an accent of cold contempt, "would
never make a good tyrant; when liberty is conquered 'tis by more subtle
ways than this."

Arthur Herbert's eyes sparkled.

"I tell you, sir, that in one place where the electorate hath been
reduced to fifteen, even these are so little to be relied upon, the King
was told his man had no chance."

"Why, surely," answered William, "the English are not of a spirit to
endure this monstrous breakage of the laws."

Arthur Herbert looked at him again with that half admiration, half
dislike; in truth there was nothing in common between the two men but
enthusiasm for the same cause--in the one transient, impulsive, based on
personal interest; in the other strong, unchanging, deep as life itself.

Some weeks ago the Englishman had received a letter from the Prince
offering him his protection, and Arthur Herbert could not recognise in
the quiet Stadtholder the writer of that warm, firm, courteous, well
turned letter, but none too quick as his perceptions were, they perceived
that there must be something in this man that he had missed; the fire and
ardour might escape him, but it must be there. Meanwhile, gratitude was
still his cue; warming with a real sense of the grievous hurts done to
the liberties of England, he proceeded to enlarge on the text of the
letter, to paint the distracted, exasperated condition of the public mind
in England, the common hopes of the Prince, the ardent desire among the
most prudent and knowing men of affairs for his active interference
before the packed parliament was called to force the repeal of the Test
Act, the disbelief in the young heir being a child of the Queen's, and
the small chance that either the army or the navy would be loyal to
James.

The Prince listened with attention but no sign of feeling; when Mr.
Herbert finished William crossed to the window and closed it, the draught
was setting the candles guttering.

"M. Zuylestein hath been successful?" he asked, and coughed a little.

"He seemeth a most able man, sir; at his secret house in Greg Street all
this hath been considered and performed. We did desire him to remain in
England until we had an answer from Your Highness, and, to give a
careless air to his staying, he hath gone into the country."

"It is well," answered the Prince, approaching the table. "Mr. Herbert,
you shall have your answer very soon. I shall to-night consult with M.
Fagel and M. Dyckfelt, who, as you know, were aware of these affairs from
the first inception of them; to-morrow I will advise with you again.
Meanwhile I will ask you to take your entertainment at my house."

He paused to draw breath, as he always did after any save those very
brief sentences he usually employed. The asthma he had had for years was
obvious in these painful gasping breaths and constant coughs.

"You have done me a great service," he continued. "I am very much obliged
to you; you are a man of spirit."

Admiral Herbert rose.

"I am greatly indebted to the generosity of Your Highness; but there are
spies at The Hague, and it might give a colour to reports already too
persistent were I discovered to be lodging with Your Highness. Among the
fugitives from England in the town I am easily hid."

Again William gave his faint, instantly checked smile.

"I am glad that you are not forgetful of prudence, Mr Herbert. We cannot
be too careful."

Mr. Herbert hesitated, eyed the Prince, then said, with more boldness
than he felt--

"I must tell Your Highness that there is one matter, too delicate to
commit to writing, that hath been in debate among your friends in
London--"

"Ah?" questioned the Prince.

"--'tis the attitude of the Princess, sir."

William seemed to slightly stiffen and straighten.

"What should her attitude be but the same as mine?" he asked.

Mr. Herbert coloured.

"Forgive me, sir, she is King James his daughter--"

The Prince interrupted--

"Also my wife," he said quietly, but with extraordinary force and, it
seemed, pride. "You shall hear the lady for yourself, sir,"

He touched a heavy bell on the table and a servant instantly appeared.

"Request the presence of Her Highness," he said, then spoke again to
Herbert when the man had gone.

"It is only just that in this great issue in which she is so intimately
concerned that you should hear her mind from her own lips."

"No one doubteth the loyalty of the Lady Mary to yourself, sir," answered
Mr. Herbert, lying cheerfully, for he had been one of the most cynical in
discussing this same loyalty in London.

William coughed again, and seated himself by the table with his Frisian
lace handkerchief pressed to his lips. Mr. Herbert was suddenly impressed
by the fact that he looked not only ill but in pain.

A little pause of silence, and the Princess entered. She had changed her
gown, and wore a dress of the same stiff pattern in white brocade, with
tinsel and a ribbon of pearls in her hair.

William rose and gave her one look as she closed the door, then lowered
his eyes as he spoke.

"Madame, Mr. Herbert cometh from England with an invitation to me from my
friends there to go there with a force to protect the laws and the
religion--"

"Ah!" exclaimed Mary; she came straight to the table and dazzled in the
candlelight. Mr. Herbert looked at her, and noticed only her comeliness;
he was not a man to distinguish types or degrees in beauty. If a woman
were pretty, to him she was nothing more, and the prettier she was the
less he credited her with sense or strength. The Princess's air of
dignity and spiritual look did not save her from this judgment; he
dismissed her as a pleasing young creature, useful for nothing save to
smile and work fantastic finery when she was not saying her prayers. He
smiled, therefore, at the Prince's grave way of speaking to her; she
seemed, he noticed, much moved, her body quivered, and she fixed her eyes
on her husband with a painful intensity.

"You know," he continued, with a certain simplicity that had a curious
effect, taken with his great seriousness, "the project that was first
suggested to me by Lord Mordaunt a year gone; this hath been repeated by
weightier men, and the times are riper--"

He paused rather abruptly.

"Will you tell Mr. Herbert that you would approve of this undertaking?"
he finished, and with a palpable effort.

Mary withdrew her eyes to fix them on Mr. Herbert. "Surely," she said,
"you do not require that assurance from me?"

She gave a little weak laugh, and clasped her hands tightly and unclasped
them.

"I do not know what words to choose to convince you how utterly I am in
the hands of my husband, nor how foolish I am in matters of business."
She drew a deep breath, and added, with a blushing earnestness, "If
circumstances permit my husband to make this attempt, my will is one with
his in the design, which I consider holy as well as just--"

Mr. Herbert bowed, and the bright young beauty added with the gravity
that was her manner--

"--but if my husband his design was not just, I fear I should still
support him in it!"

Mr. Herbert could do nothing but bow to this outspoken statement; if the
words were spontaneous or learnt, lesson fashion, from the Prince, was no
matter to him. They set at rest the doubts some of the seven,
particularly Lord Danby, had raised concerning her attitude.

He took his leave of the Princess, and she seemed like one amazed, as if
she neither saw nor heard him. The Prince went with him into the
antechamber, and the last look Herbert had of Mary was the sight of her
standing quite still, with her face as pale as the little braid of pearls
in her dark hair, and the fingers of her right hand pressed to the tinsel
bows on her stiff bodice.

In a few moments the Prince returned, and then she moved abruptly and
took the tall-backed walnut chair Mr. Herbert had occupied, pushed it
from the table, and gazed up at her husband.

He had still the two letters in his hand. He looked at Mary. With the
departure of the Englishman his manner had entirely changed; this was
very noticeable, though he said nothing.

"You are fatigued," said Mary in a shaking voice, "so fatigued--I know--"

He cast the letters down between them.

"Oh, silly!" he answered, "that must be always thinking of my fatigues!"

He put his thin hand over hers, that rested on the edge of the table, and
gave an excited little laugh.

"Thou hast heard this man, Mary...I think I am pledged to an
extraordinary task."



CHAPTER VII - THE SILENT WOOD


Mary answered simply, but with a dreadful force of emotion--

"You will go?"

He replied to her tone more than to her words.

"Nay, I must." He pressed the fingers lying cold under his. "Do thou
forgive me, but I must."

"Oh, God pity me!" cried Mary.

The Prince flushed.

"There is no other way to preserve Christendom," he said; "if I do not
take this step there is a life's work wasted, and we are no better than
we were in '72."

"I know," she answered hastily. "I know--but--oh, that our duty had lain
another way! Yet I will not be weak; if I cannot help I will not hinder."

She bit her lip to keep back tears, it seemed, and smiled valiantly.

"Tell me all that Mr. Herbert said," she asked.

He broke out at that.

"These foreigners! That black-avised stalwart thinketh of nothing but his
own interest. He cometh here, in his feeble disguise, like a boy playing
at a game, and, by Heaven, 'tis the manner they all take it in--"

"You must not call them foreigners," said Mary, in a quick distress;
"your mother's people and mine--"

The Prince lifted his hand from hers, and let it fall impatiently.

"Foreigners tome! Once I may have felt that tie, but now I dislike them
when they flatter and when they sneer." He changed abruptly to a tenderer
tone. "What had you to say to me?"

"Nothing," she answered, "of importance beside this news; only that an
old schoolfellow of mine--a meddling Papist--(God forgive me, but I liked
her not) sought to sound me to-day, set on by M. D'Avaux, who must guess
something--but what is that beside this?"

She pointed piteously to the letters.

"They have committed themselves now, these gentlemen," remarked William,
with a certain grim satisfaction. "They can scarcely go back on their
written word, even these weathercocks of Englishmen."

"They want you to go--this year?" She could not keep a certain energy of
fear from her tone.

"Before the parliament is called in the autumn," he said concisely.

Mary rose abruptly and crossed to the window. The rustle of her stiff
gown made a noticeable sound in the stillness, which was deep and
intense--the inner stillness of the house set in the outer stillness of
the wood. The glance of the Prince followed her. He stood silent.

"There must be difficulties." She spoke without looking round.

"Difficulties! Ah yes, and these English do not guess one-half of them."

She made no reply. Her head bent and her fingers fumbled at the latch,
which she presently undid, and a great breath of cool air, pure, with the
perfume of a hundred trees, swept into the room.

The wood was motionless, the boughs dark against a lighter sky; one or
two stars pulsed secretively through and above the leafage, for all the
summer night they had a cold look, as if they circled in far-off frozen
latitudes.

Mary knew and loved the wood so well that she was sensitive to those
subtle changes in it which were like moods in a human being; to-night,
unseen, shadowed like the thought of coming trouble, it seemed to her
sad, mysterious, and lonely, as the image of retreating happiness.

She rested her head against the mullions, and presently put her hands up
to her face. Her husband, who had stood without a movement by the table
watching her, at this crossed over to her side.

"I would to God," he said with energy, "that this could be helped. I
would the scandal of a break with your father could be avoided. But he
hath had every chance to be my friend and ally--you must admit, Mary,
that he hath had every chance."

The few words conveyed to the Princess his meaning. She knew that he
referred to his long uphill struggle, lasting close on twenty years, to
induce England to shake off the yoke of France, and, in taking her proper
place among nations, restore the balance of power in Europe. Throughout
the years of the disgraceful reign of his Uncle Charles, William had
never swerved from his policy of endeavouring to detach him from France,
for it was very evident that but little headway could be made against
Louis while England was in his pay. When James had come to the throne,
the Stadtholder, with the utmost patience, had changed his tactics to
please the new King, and had, as he said, given him every chance to put
himself at the head of the inevitable conflict between France and Europe,
which must shortly take place.

Mary knew this; she knew how reluctantly her husband would employ force
against so near a kinsman, how unwillingly he would leave Holland, how
much long experience had taught him to mistrust the levity of the
English, even those most professedly friendly to him, and she was aware
that only a tremendous need could force him to this tremendous
resolution, which was at once more daring and more necessary than any man
could realize save himself.

In her heart she blamed her father most bitterly for forcing on them this
hateful expedient; but would not say so, nor open her heart at all on
that matter, lest her lips said more than her conscience could approve.

So to this remark that she so perfectly understood she replied nothing,
and did not move her hands from her face.

The Prince spoke again rapidly.

"Everything is strained to breaking-point, and he who strikes the first
blow will have the advantage. If I go into the fight again without the
help of England, I am no better than a man fighting with tied hands--"

He paused, and added with vigour--

"We cannot do it alone. We must have England."

It was what he had said sixteen years ago in '72, and the years had made
the need more, not less, imperative, He continued, as if he justified
himself to that still figure of his wife, with her hands before her face.

"I am forced to this decision. No consideration of justice, of ambition,
nay, even of diplomacy or good sense, can move His Majesty to break off
with France; his insults to the liberty of England are incredible. He
hath done all he can to thwart, cross, and hamper me. And now is the
moment when we must try conclusions."

The Princess's white brocade shivered with her trembling. "I know," she
murmured--"I know."

But she was weeping, and the tears ran down through her fingers.

The Prince was at a loss to know why she was so distressed. She had long
been involved with him in the growing rupture with her father, to whom no
affection or respect bound her, but the mere name of duty, and lately she
had been well aware that the actions of the King were driving the Prince
into open opposition.

He looked at her, rather pale, and frowned.

"You think of your father..." he said, "your father..."

Mary, who knew that tears vexed him, endeavoured to check her sobbing;
but she could not control her voice to speak.

"I am indeed unfortunate," added the Prince rather grimly, "that to do
what I must do I am under the necessity of the scandal of a breach in my
own family."

She answered faintly, pressing her handkerchief to her eyes, "God forgive
me, I did not think of His Majesty."

"Of what, then?"

There was the slightest pause, and then she answered steadily, still
staring out at the dark wood--

"Of--ourselves. Of the great change this will make--success or failure."

The Prince was silent.

"I have been," continued Mary, very low, "so happy herein the life most
suited to me, in this dear country, where every one is so good as to love
me a little."

The candlelight glimmered in the little braid of pearls in her hair and
flowed in lines of light down her thick satin gown, showed, too, her
cheek colourless and glistening with tears.

The Prince, standing close to her, with his back to the window, watched,
but neither spoke nor moved.

"It is nigh ten years," she said, "since you went to the war...and now
the peace will be broken again...And I know not how I can well bear it if
you leave me."

The Prince was still silent, and studied her dimly seen face (for her
back was to the light) with what was almost a passionate attention.

"I am a poor creature," she added, with a kind of desperate contempt for
herself, "to think of my wretched self at such a juncture; what are my
own melancholies compared to what you must undergo? Yet, humanly
speaking, I have no courage to face this crisis...that my father should
be guilty of such a horrible crime against Church and State, and you
bound by your duty to oppose him by force--"

"It had to be," said the Prince sombrely. "This rupture was inevitable
from the first, though I tried to deny it to myself. But in my heart I
knew, yea, ever since '72, that England would never get herself out of
this tangle from within."

"But it is hard," replied Mary; "even though I know the hand of God in
it--"

She turned her eyes, tearless now, but moist and misty, on her husband,
and added simply--

"If you knew how happy I have been here you would understand how I dread
the mere chance of leaving it--"

"I shall return," he answered. "It is not possible nor wishful that I
should dethrone the King; but I will get such a handle to English affairs
that they will never league with France again; and thou--thou needest not
leave The Hague for an hour."

"There is the least of my troubles disposed of," she answered sadly. "For
you forget how your poor wife loves you, and how the thoughts of the
manifold perils, and your own rash temper that will not regard dangers,
will put me into a fright which will come between me and God Himself."

The tears gushed up again, but she checked them, dabbing her eyes with a
damp handkerchief, while she exclaimed on the gasp of a trembling laugh--

"If I cry any more I shall be blind for a week!"

The Prince put his hand on her shoulder.

"'Tis a silly to spend tears for me," he said, "who will go into no more
dangers than I have ever been used to, and who only taketh the common
risk of common men--" He paused a moment, then added abruptly--

"Yet God He knoweth these tears of thine are all I have in the world for
my solace, and I was one of Fortune her favourites, child, to have you to
my wife."

His hand fell from her white sleeves, and she caught it between hers so
that the rings he wore pressed into her palms.

"Only love and pity me a little," she said, "and I can bear anything. For
surely I only live to serve you."

A pause fell, more hushed than common silence; they stood side by side
looking out on to the wood, now sad and dark, which had surrounded all
their united lives.

Mary was in that mood which takes refuge from the real facts in symbol.
She did not look back on her life, but on the history of the wood since
she had known it; radiant in summer, complaining in the wind, silent in
the rain, bare and bright and wonderful amid the snow, flushed with
loveliness in the spring. She thought that this pageant had ended for
her, that though the wood might bloom and change she would never see it
again after these leaves fell; she had been haunted, though not troubled,
all her life by the presentiment of an early death, and now this feeling,
which she had never imparted to any, became one with the feeling that the
wood was passing, ending for her, and that all the thousand little joys
and fears associated with the trees, the flowers, the sunshine, and the
snow, were fading and perishing to a mere memory.

Her fingers tightened on the Prince's hand.

"Tis such a beautiful night," she said in a strange voice; "it maketh me
feel I must die."

He, who all his life had lived on the verge of death, smiled to hear
these words uttered by blooming youth.

"You," he said calmly, "have no need to think of that for many a year.
Death and you! Come, you have stared too long into the dark."

Reluctantly she let his hand free, and latched the window with something
of a shiver, but smiled too at the same time, in a breathless way.

"What will you do now?" she asked.

The Prince went to the table and snuffed the candles with the shining
brass snuffers, and the flames rose up still and pointed.

"I have sent for M. Dyckfelt and M. Fagel," he answered, and seated
himself on one of the stiff walnut chairs. His face was bloodless under
the tan of his outdoor life. The excitement that had shown when Mr.
Herbert left had utterly gone; he was composed, even sombre and
melancholy, and his thoughts were not to be guessed by his countenance.

Mary looked at him with an almost terrified longing for him to disclose
his mind, to some way speak to her, but he seemed every second to sink
deeper into a silence that was beyond her meddling.

She moved about the room softly, picked up her sewing from a cabinet in
the corner, and began disentangling the coloured cottons that had been
hastily flung together.

The Prince looked round at her suddenly.

"Have you seen Dr. Burnet of late?" he asked.

"Yes--he came yesterday when you were out hunting."

"Well," said William, "not a word of this to him--I would not trust him
with anything I would not say before my coachman."

Mary smiled; she shared her husband's dislike to the officious, bustling
clergyman who considered himself so indispensable to the Protestant
cause, and who was tolerated for the real use he had been to the Prince.

"Can you not trust my discretion?" she asked.

He gave her a brilliant smile.

"Why, I think you are a fair Politic, after all--"

The usher, entering to say that the Grand Pensionary and M. Dyckfelt were
without, interrupted him, and the Princess, pale and grave again, said
hastily--

"I will go but I shall be in the withdrawing-room when
they have gone"

She waited till William had dismissed the usher, then added, in a
tremble--

"--You will let me know what you have decided? I could
not sleep else," she added piteously.

He held out his hand and drew her up to him."

"Child," he said earnestly, "'tis already decided; 'tis only the means to
be discussed and those thou shalt hear at once."

He patted her hand and let her go. With a kind of wild
gaiety she caught up her sewing silks. She was laughing, but it was a
laughter more desperate than her gravity. She did not look at the Prince
again, but hurried from the room, a gleam of satins in the sombre
setting.

The Prince looked after her, then picked up the two letters from England.



CHAPTER VIII - THE POLICY OF THE PRINCE


Gaspard Fagel, Grand Pensionary of Holland, and M. Dyckfelt, entered the
little room where the Prince awaited them. They were both statesmen who
had been trained under the last Grand Pensionary, John de Witt, whose
Parliamentary Republic had kept the Prince twenty years out of his
hereditary offices, and both retained something of the simplicity and
sternness of their early life, especially M. Dyckfelt, who wore the
plain falling band of the Republican era and a suit old-fashioned in
primness and sombre colour.

He was a cleverer man than M. Fagel, who was utterly and entirely under
the dominion of the Stadtholder, and saw too clearly with his master's
eyes even to have an opinion of his own, His manner to the Prince was the
more humble, but both addressed him with that deep respect which does not
preclude perfect openness.

William looked at them both sharply, then down at the letters in his
hand.

"I have received the invitation from England for which I have been
waiting," he said.

M. Dyckfelt bowed, and M. Fagel answered--

"May I congratulate Your Highness--"

"Not yet," interrupted William. "Listen first to these letters--they ask
almost the impossible."

He made a little gesture to the straight chairs the other side of the
table, and the two seated themselves. M. Dyckfelt had flushed with
eagerness and excitement, M. Fagel looked tired and ill. They were both
considerably older than the Prince, both men of a fine type with honest,
shrewd faces.

William drew his chair nearer the table and held the letters under the
glow of the flame of the tall wax candles.

"These," he said, looking down at the flowing English writing, "were
brought me by Mr. Herbert, whom I suppose you met, M. Dyckfelt, in
England, and are written by Mr. Sidney."

He paused with a little cough; neither of the other two men spoke.

"In the preamble," continued William, "they say that they are pleased to
learn from M. Zuylestein that I will be of assistance to them, but they
fear the difficulties; and though every one is so dissatisfied with the
King his government it would not be safe to speak to them beforehand--and
though they might venture themselves on my landing they will do nothing
now." He smiled unpleasantly, and added, "In brief, they are on the
winning side, and I must go with strength enough to defend myself until
they can be gotten into some order. For the army, they say the discontent
is such that the King could not count on them, and for the navy, they
believe not one in ten would do him any service in such a cause."

"Mine own observations confirm this advice," said M. Dyckfelt, with his
eyes fixed on the Prince. "And M. Zuylestein hath writ the same."

William made no comment on that.

"Now," he said, "we come to the gist of the business, which is, that
these gentlemen fear affairs will be worse next year, both by the
officering of the army with Irish Catholics, the calling of a packed
Parliament to pass the repeal of the Test Act, and the employment of
violent means against the remaining liberties of the Protestants."

He raised his brilliant eyes to the two intent faces opposite. "Therefore
they wish me to undertake this expedition this year."

A soft exclamation broke from Gaspard Fagel.

"Can it be done?"

"If it must be done it can be done," said the Prince firmly; "and I think
it is 'nunc aut nunquam,' M. Fagel."

M. Dyckfelt gave a movement of irrepressible excitement.

"Do they not recognise the difficulties of Your Highness?" William looked
again at the letter.

"These are their words, Mynheer: 'If the circumstances stand so with Your
Highness, that you believe you can get here time enough, in a condition
to give assistance this year sufficient for a relief under these
circumstances which have been so represented, we who subscribe this will
not fail to attend Your Highness upon your landing, and to do all that
lies in our power to prepare others to be in as much readiness as such an
action is capable of, where there is so much danger in communicating an
affair of such a nature, till it be near the time of its being made
public.' Then follow their difficulties: 'We know not what alarm your
preparations for this expedition may give, or what notice it will be
necessary for you to give the States beforehand, by either of which means
their intelligence or suspicions here may be such as may cause us to be
secured before your landing--"

William laid the paper down.

"That is their main trouble--they doubt whether I can be so secret as not
to cause them and all like to support me to be clapt up before I
sail--and wish to know my opinion on it--further, they mislike my
compliment to the King on the birth of the Prince of Wales, which hath,
they say, done me injury among the Protestants, of whom not one in a
thousand believeth the child to be the Queen's--and for the rest--dare I,
will I, adventure on the attempt?"

He drew a deep breath as he finished this speech, and fixed his eyes on
the dark, uncurtained square of the window as if he pictured something in
his mind too vast, too confined, for the narrow room, and must imagine it
filling the silent night without.

M. Fagel spoke, very low.

"Your Highness doth not hesitate?"

"I cannot," answered the Prince simply; "for it is the only way to gain
England from France."

In those plain words lay the whole policy of his life--to gain England
from France, to weigh the balance of Europe against Louis by throwing
into the scale against him a nation so powerful, so wealthy, and
anciently so glorious as England; for ten years he had been at the
hopeless task of gaining England through her King, now he was going to
ignore the King and go straight to the people; but confident as he was
in his destiny, the difficulties of the project seemed overwhelming.

He turned again to the letter.

"This is signed by seven great lords," he said, "but I do not know that
they are any of them great Politics--Mr. Russell and Mr. Sidney are the
most knowing in affairs, and the last sendeth me words of no great
encouragement--"

He picked up the other letter.

"There is advice here that I should take M. de Schomberg for the second
in command, for he is beloved in England."

"Hath he not been too long in the service of France?" asked M. Fagel.

"Yet he resigned all his posts when the Edict of Nantes was revoked,"
said M. Dyckfelt. "And being so staunch a Protestant, and so famous a
captain, it would be well if Your Highness could borrow him, as Mr.
Sidney saith."

"He is very knowing in his profession," said William, without enthusiasm;
"but I doubt he will be too dear--apart from his age, and, God forgive
me, I do not relish a lieutenant of eighty."

He leant forward with one arm resting on the dark table. Behind him was
the shadowed mantelshelf and the dark picture of a storm that occupied
the whole width of the chimney shaft, obscured in gloom and touched only
vaguely now and then with passing glimmers of candlelight. The Prince's
face, which wore an extraordinary expression of concentration and
resolve, was thrown out clearly against this darkness, for the lights
stood directly before him, and the two men watching him, almost with
suspended breath, were (though so familiar with his features) powerfully
impressed by this intent look of unconscious strength in the mobile mouth
and glowing eyes.

There was the same spirit of enthusiastic energy in his words, though his
utterance was laboured and his voice husky from so much speaking.

"Those are the difficulties of the English," he said. "Aline, you
know,"--he brought his fine hand down lightly on the table,--"after all
they are--as always--summed up in one word--France."

The manner in which he stressed that name was almost startling in its
bitterness, hatred, and challenge.

"Is it possible," asked M. Fagel, who was always at first afraid of the
daring schemes of the Prince, "for you to deceive the French?"

"M. D'Avaux is a clever man," answered William grimly, "but Albeville and
Sunderland will lull King James, and even I think M. Barillon. My Lord
Sunderland," he added, with some admiration, "is the finest, most
bewitching knave I have ever met--"

"Then," said M. Dyckfelt, "there are a many at the Court whose interest
it is to keep the King deceived--namely, those nobles whose letters of
service I brought to Your Highness--and from what I observed of His
Majesty he was so infatuate with his own conceptions of affairs as to
give scant hearing to good advice."

"That may be," answered M. Fagel. "But will France be so easily beguiled?
M. D'Avaux at The Hague itself must suspect."

"He doth already," said William, in a kind of flashing shortness; "but he
cannot _prove_ his suspicions."

"Your Highness," asked M. Fagel, still anxious, "must take an army and a
fleet with you--"

"You do not think," answered the Stadtholder, "that I would go with a
handful of adventurers, like my poor Lord Monmouth?"

"Then," urged the Grand Pensionary, "what is to become of the States with
all their defences beyond the seas and you absent?"

An expression of pain crossed William's face.

"It must be risked," he said, in his hoarse, tired voice. "Do you not
suppose I have counted these risks?" he added half fiercely.

M. Fagel looked at him straightly.

"Will the States permit Your Highness to take these risks?" he asked.

"I must hope to God that the States will trust me as they have done
before," answered William, with dignity.

"Your Highness must lay down new ships, raise new companies, and under
what pretence?"

"It can be done," said William. "Have not Algerine corsairs shown
themselves in the North Sea? There is one excuse."

M. Dyckfelt spoke now.

"I see other difficulties. I do not think that Your Highness need fear
the loyalty of the States, but what of your Romanist allies, the Pope
himself?"

"The Pope," said William calmly, "is on the verge of war with Louis over
the Cologne affair, and as long as I stand against France I am assured of
his secret support--and as for England, I have it from a sure hand that
His Holiness was so offended by the sending of Lord Castlemaine as envoy
that all King James his compliments to his nuncio have had no effect."

He could not forbear a smile, for in truth the sending of a man who owed
his very title to an infamous wife to the court of the saintly Pontiff
was one of those almost incredible blunders it is difficult to believe
even of a stupid man.

"I have good hopes from that incident," continued the Prince. "The King
who made that mistake may make others."

"Ah! Highness," said M. Dyckfelt, "the mistakes of King James will not
help you so much as your own wisdom."

William glanced at the speaker. In the faith and trust of such lay his
surest strength. These men, incorruptible, clever, industrious, devoted,
and patriotic, such as the two now facing him, were the bulwark of the
position he had held fifteen years, the instruments of all his projects.
These thoughts so moved in his mind that he was constrained to speak
warmly.

"Mynheer, neither on my own understanding nor on the mistakes of my
enemies do I rely, but on the services of such as you and M. Fagel."

Praise was rare from the Prince they served, and at the sound of it the
two grave diplomats coloured.

M. Dyckfelt answered.

"Where should Your Highness find perfect loyalty if not in us?"

"God be thanked," said William, with a contained passion, "I have no
cause to doubt my own people. But here," he added frankly, "we have to
deal with foreigners, and those a nation of all others light and
changeable in politics, arrogant and wilful. At present every noble out
of office for not attending Mass, and every officer removed to give place
to an Irish Papist, is for me; every courtier who thinketh the King
insecure is my very good friend, and every country gentleman deprived of
his vote raileth against King James--it will take some diplomacy,
gentlemen, to combine these into a firm support for my design, and at the
same time to conciliate the Catholics."

"There is a great body of fanatics very eager to call Your Highness their
champion," said M. Dyckfelt.

"The Hague is full of them," replied the Prince; "but as each man
spendeth all his energies in advancing his own grievances and his own
schemes there is not much use in them. Methinks the Tories are a surer
strength, but they love me not--only use me to save their liberties. The
Whigs shout for me, but know me not--"

"They are a corrupt and shallow people," said M. Fagel.

M. Dyckfelt, who had spent several months in England marshalling the
discontented factions, and putting them under the leadership of the
Prince, answered this statement of the Grand Pensionary.

"There are many able, knowing, and patriotic men among them, though,
being out of office, they are not so commonly heard of as the knaves who
make the ministry."

William spoke with some impatience.

"Heaven help me, I would never trust an Englishman, unless it were Mr.
Sidney; for when they are honest they are lazy, as Lord Halifax and Sir
William Temple, and too indifferent to business to be stirred; and when
they are dishonest, which I ever found the great majority, they are the
most shameless creatures in the world."

"Yet in the present instant Your Highness must trust them." William
smiled grimly.

"Their heads are on their secrecy this time, Mynheer. Besides, I think
these men are spirited enough if I can use them before their indignation
cools."

There was a second's pause of silence, then M. Fagel spoke.

"Your Highness will require a vast deal of money."

"Yes," said the Prince dryly; "but I believe that it can be raised.'

"In England?" inquired M. Dyckfelt.

"--and among the French refugees here--and from my own fortune, Mynheer,
which hath ever exceeded my wants--also, Mynheer, I hope the States will
help."

"How great a sum would it be, Highness?"

William, who had the whole project already clear in his head, and had
made careful calculations as to the cost, answered at once.

"About three hundred thousand pounds."

M. Fagel was silent. His secret thought was, that to raise this money,
overcome all opposition, and complete every preparation by the autumn was
impossible.

The Prince was quick to divine his doubt.

"You think I cannot do it?" he asked, with that breathlessness that was a
sign of his rare excitement.

"No, Highness. I think of France."

"France!" cried William. "I think of France also."

"If they should attack us while you were absent--or even before you were
ready--"

William lifted his hand gravely and let it fall lightly on the smooth
surface of the table.

"Ah, _if_--M. Fagel," he said solemnly; "but that is in God His keeping,
where all our destinies be--and we can but fulfil them."

He smiled a little as if he thought of other things, and his bright gaze
again sought the window, but instantly he recalled himself.

"I need detain you no more to-night--I shall need to see the States
separately and the Amsterdamers--everything must be put in train
immediately."

All three rose. The two older men were much moved; before the mind of
each were pictures of ten years ago when with the same deliberate courage
and heroic fatalism the Prince had pitted himself against France and been
forced by the treachery of Charles Stewart into the peace of Nymwegen.

Ten years ago, and ever since William had been working for and planning a
renewal of the war he had then been forced to conclude; now it seemed
that he had accomplished his desire, and that his re-entry into the
combat would be in a manner to take the breath of Europe.

Grave men as these two were, and well used to the spectacle of high
policies, they felt that extraordinary thrill which shakes those about to
watch the curtain draw up on tremendous events.

They knew that in that quiet little room actions were being resolved and
put in train that would stir every court in Europe and make all the pomp
of Versailles show hollow if successful; and looking on the Prince, they
could not think of failure.

When they had taken their leave, William locked the two letters in a
Chinese escritoire. Mr. Sidney had requested that they, being in his
known hand, might be destroyed, but the Prince considered his desk as
safe as the fire, and was always loath to burn papers of importance.

In that same inner drawer where these letters now lay were offers of
services from many famous English names, and that correspondence with
Henry Sidney which had prepared the way for the invitation received
to-night; also all the letters from King James written since the marriage
of Mary, which the Prince had carefully kept.

As he turned the little gold key in the smooth lock he thought of his
father-in-law and of the personal aspect of his undertaking. Though he
would very willingly have avoided the odium and scandal that he must
incur by a break with so near a relation, he had no feelings of affection
or even respect for King James. They were antagonistic in religion,
character, aims, and policy. James had opposed the Prince's marriage, and
ever since he had come to power opposed his every wish and desire. The
withdrawal of Sidney from The Hague, the sending of Skelton in his stead,
the attempt to recall and place at the disposal of France the English
troops in the service of the State, his refusal to interfere with Louis'
insulting seizure of Orange, his constant spyings in the household of the
Princess, his endeavour to convert her to his own faith, had been all so
many widenings of a breach that had never been completely closed; and, on
the other hand, the Prince knew that the King had never forgiven him
three things--the League of Augsburg (which confederacy of the German
Princes against France was known to be his work, though his name did not
appear in it), the refusal, really his, though nominally the State's, to
return the English troops or to put Skelton at the head of them, and his
refusal to countenance the Declaration of Indulgence, even when
accompanied by the tempting bribe of alliance against France.

They were, and always had been, natural enemies, despite the accident of
the double tie of blood and marriage, and even the conventional
compliments of their rank had long since been worn thin between them.
William was indebted to his uncle for nothing. James did not even give
his eldest daughter an allowance, while his youngest received a princely
income; but the Prince, faithful to his unchanging policy, would have
passed all this, would James have but done what Charles had always been
pressed to do by his nephew, namely, join the States in an alliance
against France. The Prince had, indeed, with this end in view,
endeavoured to please the King on his first accession, and would have
worked with him loyally as an ally.

But for the last year he had seen clearly, and with mingled wrath and
pity, that James was bent on the old dishonest policy of packed
parliaments, French money, and corrupt ministers, added to which was an
intolerant, almost insane, bigotry which, discountenanced by the Pope
himself and displeasing to all moderate Catholics, was an impossible
scheme of government, and in William's eyes, all religious considerations
apart, the act of a madman or a fool.

And it did not suit his statecraft to have either on the throne of
England. He had waited a long time for this country, which he had seen
from boyhood was essential to his schemes for the balance of power and
the liberty of Europe, and now was his moment.

As he walked up and down the plain little room he vowed that the
difficulties should be conquered, and that even if the Bourbon lilies
were flying over Brussels he would lead an armament to England that year.



CHAPTER IX - FRANCE MOVES


Midway through September and a beautiful day of pure gold the Prince was
riding home through the brown-leaved woods that surrounded his villa.
Contrary to his custom, he rode slowly, and constantly checked his fine
animal, for he was thinking deeply, and those moments when he rode to and
from his house were almost the only time when he was alone and not under
the necessity of speaking to some one. He had just come from the last of
the private sittings of the States, which had given their formal assent
to the gigantic enterprise he meditated. He had now no further difficulty
with his own country. The merchants, exasperated by the refusal of King
Louis to allow herrings and woven goods from Holland into his country,
had stifled opposition to the Prince in Amsterdam. He had always been
sure of the rest of the Provinces, who, after the late persecutions of
Protestants in France, the refusal to allow the Dutch in that country to
retire to Holland, the constant fears they had been under since King
James commenced rebuilding his navy and King Louis commenced his
aggressions in Cologne, looked to the Prince with that same passionate
devotion as they had done in '72, and trusted to him to save them again
from dangers little less pressing; for, the last year past, Gaspard Fagel
had been encouraging this dread of an armed alliance between France and
England which seemed so near consummation and would be fatal to the very
existence of the United Provinces.

It was from abroad came the difficulties that, for the last six months,
had made the Prince's days almost unbearably anxious; and as the time
drew near that anxiety became a lively torture absolutely unguessed at by
those who judged the Prince by his calm, almost cold quiet. Certainly the
Spartan boy with the ferret under his cloak showed no more heroic
fortitude than did the Stadtholder during these weeks of preparation. Of
those who surrounded him perhaps only two, his friend William Bentinck
and Gaspard Fagel, understood his position, and even these could not
share his sufferings, however much they might his disquietude.

From the allies whom, during the last two years, he had been marshalling
into a league against Louis, there was little to fear, though it required
delicate handling not to offend Catholic potentates such as the Pope and
the Emperor; but from France was fearful and pressing danger, and
England, where eventually success or failure must lie, was a suspicious
quantity to William, who had been tricked and dealt ill with (though
never deceived) by English politics all his life.

If the certain news of his expedition reached James and that monarch
clapt up the Protestant lords and united with Louis in an attack on the
United Provinces, William would have to face another '72 over again, and
with but little better chance of success than he had then; if Louis made
an attack on the frontiers of Brabant or the Spanish Lowlands before the
Prince sailed the States would refuse to allow his departure, and the
moment in England would be lost, perhaps for ever; if, most terrible
alternative of all, he took all the forces of his country, naval and
military, to England, and there met with opposition, delays, even
defeat--if James roused and the English bulk were faithful to him and
Louis seized the opportunity to pour his troops into defenceless Holland
while her ships and men were absent--then the Prince, who loved his
country with a deep and intense passion, would have to accuse himself as
the author of her ruin.

Certainly he was jeopardizing the utmost any man could--the dearest thing
in the world to him, beside which his own life was not even taken into
consideration--and yet the only other course was to risk this same
beloved liberty of his country, not by violent means, but by inaction and
gradual weakening before a stronger power, and this was against all the
teaching of his race, all the experience of his life, his own imperious
temper, and the settled conviction both of his soul and his intelligence
of what was the best, not alone for Holland but for Europe.

As he approached the 'huis ten bosch' he brought his reluctant horse to a
slow walk. M. D'Avaux had done what the Prince had long expected,
requested a private, informal audience, and William had told him that he
should be walking in the garden at the back of his house that afternoon.
As the time for this interview approached the Prince felt a weariness
unutterable at the thought of meeting his enemy; he knew very well what
M. D'Avaux had to say and what his own answers would be, and a smooth
passage at arms with the French Ambassador was the last thing suited to
his present temper.

Day after day he had to listen to, arbitrate among, encourage, check,
guide, and advise the impetuous, arrogant English gathered at The Hague,
and lately joined by men of importance such as my Lord Shrewsbury and my
Lord Manchester, and this, to one of his reserve, was perhaps the most
distasteful side of his task; it left him no leisure even for his one
diversion of hunting, since it filled all the little time left from
business, and begat in him a fatigue that longed for the relaxation of
the unending strain.

He had an almost feverish love of exercise and fresh air, and as he came
within sight of the plain front of his house showing at the end of an
avenue of magnificent trees he stayed his horse altogether and sat still
in the saddle looking about him; three things that he loved dearly, clear
sunshine, pure salt air, and intense quiet beguiled him into forgetting
for a few seconds his deep anxieties.

The atmosphere had that peculiar mellow quality of soft light found only
in the Low Countries; the trees were motionless, and their leaves hung
clear cut from the graceful branches in burning hues of crimson, gold,
and brown; wreaths and twists of fallen leaves lay in the damp cold
grass, and fine brittle twigs scattered over the hard paths where the
frost had made little glittering ridges; the sky was blue, but blue hazed
in gold; a large piece of water reflected the polished trunks of beeches
patched with moss, the twisting red roots of brambles, and the foxy
colour of broken ferns; two swans moved slowly along this lake, and the
water was in sluggish ripples against their dead white breasts; their
feet seemed to stir with difficulty, and they left a clear track behind,
which showed that a thin breath of frost had passed over the water,
dulling the surface.

The man on the horse noticed this, and it brought him back to what was
ever rolling in his thoughts. If this sign of an early and severe winter
was made good, he would have the less to fear for the United Provinces,
since they were almost impossible to invade in the depth of snow and ice.
This was one reason in his choosing this season for his expedition. As he
watched the two silent swans and the film of frost they displaced, his
whole face changed with the intensity of his thought; he straightened in
the saddle and clutched the reins tightly in his thickly gloved hands;
before the frosts had ceased and the waters were running free in spring
he would deal with France on equal terms or be dead in the endeavour.

Heated by the wave of inner exaltation that shook him he lightly touched
his great grey horse and took the avenue at a gallop, drew rein at the
villa steps, and blew a little whistle he carried. When the groom came he
dismounted, and entering the private garden by the door in the wall to
the right of the house walked slowly to the covered alley where he had
promised to meet M. D'Avaux.

The garden had the same stillness as the wood; the late chilled roses
hung motionless on their stems, the curious agave plants and Italian
laurels were stiff against the wall, a deep border of St. Michael's
daisies showed a hard colour of purple about the three steps of the
sundial and the flat basin where the fat carp shook golden gleams under
the curling withering water-lily leaves.

As the Prince turned into the walk at the end of the garden, shaded
overhead with ilex trees and edged with a glossy border of box, he saw
the Frenchman pacing the sunless path.

William touched his hat and the Ambassador bowed. The Prince's sharp
glance detected that he was something out of countenance.

"I wonder, M. D'Avaux, what you can have to say to me."

"Yet Your Highness is well able to guess," de Avaux answered, with the
air of a compliment.

William looked at him again; he detested all Frenchmen, and since the day
when, a grave child of eleven and a state prisoner, he had sat sternly in
his coach in the Voorhout, and refused to yield precedence to M.
D'Èstrees, he had especially hated the French envoys to the States, who
had always been, in the truest sense, his enemies; the only thing that
softened him to M. D'Avaux was that diplomat's cleverness. The Prince,
who loved a worthy antagonist, admired him for his real wit and skill in
the long and bitter game that had been played between them; nevertheless,
there was, in the full bright glance he cast on him, a quality that his
antagonist did not mistake.

"I fear," added the Ambassador, "that I do not find Your Highness very
well disposed towards me."

"This is matter of business, is it not, Monsieur?" answered the Prince.
"When you have opened your subject I will discover my disposition to it."

They were walking up and down the long walk; the thick gold sunshine
slipped through the ilex branches and flickered on the Frenchman's black
satins and the Prince's heavy fur-edged cloak. M. D'Avaux held his hat in
his hand, but the Prince still wore his brown beaver.

"I am very sorry," said the Frenchman, in his quiet, pleasant manner, but
with obvious indication of the concern he was under, "that I have had so
few opportunities of assuring you in what esteem my master holdeth Your
Highness--"

William made no reply.

"These are no idle words," continued M. D'Avaux, fingering the black
curls of his peruke on his breast. "Despite all unfortunate differences,
His Majesty hath, as all Europe, a great admiration for the courage,
wisdom, and address of Your Highness--"

"Is it not rather late for these compliments, M. D'Avaux?"

"There is an object in them, Monseigneur," answered the Ambassador; "for
in consequence of the feeling of His Majesty to Your Highness I am
speaking to you now instead of to the States."

"Ah," said William. He switched at the box hedge with his short
riding-whip. "Do you not, Monsieur, consider myself and the States
as one?"

"History, Monseigneur, showeth that the House of Orange and the United
Provinces have not always been of the same sentiments and design."

"They are so, however, now, Monsieur," answered the Prince dryly; "and
whatever your business, you may put it before myself or the States,
whichever you choose."

M. D'Avaux bit his lip; he read in William's curt words a reminder that
he was absolute with the States and more confident than ever of his power
over them; he was nettled into a colder tone.

"Yet I think that Your Highness would rather hear me than let me take my
message to Their High Mightinesses."

William coughed. His cloak was fur-lined, but he constantly shivered; the
shade, even of a September day, was hateful to him.

"Come into the sun," he said, and turned out of the alley into the
clear-lit garden. They walked slowly towards the sundial and the carp
basin, M. D'Avaux prodding the hard gravel with his cane and the Prince
with his switch under his arm.

"Well, your business," said William calmly.

"Monseigneur," replied M. D'Avaux, with sincerity and some earnestness,
"I think that you are embarked on a dangerous enterprise."

"The French say so," answered the Prince. "I have been told of the most
extraordinary reports in your gazettes and pamphlets."

"I do not obtain my information from gazettes and pamphlets, Your
Highness," answered the Ambassador firmly, "but from more reliable
sources."

William paused by the carp pond and the bed of violet daisies. "What is
your information?" he asked.

"The last which Your Highness would wish in the hands of France."

"You seem to think, Monsieur," said William, with the shadow of a smile,
"that I am an enemy of His Majesty."

He was not looking at the Frenchman, but down at the bed of daisies that
he stirred gently with his whip as he spoke. M. D'Avaux looked sharply at
his haughty aquiline profile, and answered with a quickening of the
breath--

"His Majesty cannot forget what you said at your table a year ago,
Monseigneur. You said, Your Highness, when you heard that His Majesty had
seized and dismantled Orange on the claim of the House of Longueville,
that you would teach him what it was to insult a Prince of Orange, and
you refused to retract or explain the words."

"His Majesty," replied William, "hath neither retracted nor explained the
deed."

"Your Highness has often repeated those words."

The Prince lifted his brilliant eyes.

"I shall repeat them again, Monsieur," he said, in his strained low
voice, "and again until I obtain satisfaction."

He saw that M. D'Avaux had made the allusion to humiliate him, and though
there was no sign of it in his countenance the shaft had told, for the
insulting seizure of his personal princely apanage, for which he had been
powerless to avenge himself, had been the hardest to bear of all the
insolences of France, and the revenues had been a real loss.

"You see," bowed M. D'Avaux, "that we have some reason to believe Your
Highness the enemy of France."

The Prince continued to look at him steadily.

"His Christian Majesty is very interested in my affairs," he said.

"It is the affairs of King James," returned the Frenchman, with some
grandeur, "that my master is interested in--"

"How doth that touch the States?"

"It toucheth Your Highness, for we believe that you make preparations to
lead an armament against His Britannic Majesty." William lowered his eyes
almost disdainfully.

"I perceive," he said, "that you do get your information from the
gazettes after all--"

"No," answered M. D'Avaux softly. "I will tell Your Highness where I get
my information. You know of one Verace, of Geneva?"

The Prince's whip still stirred leisurely among the daisies.

"He was steward once to the Princess and dismissed."

"As early as August, Monseigneur, this Verace wrote to M. Skelton giving
information of the intrigues of Your Highness, the Princess, and M.
Bentinck."

He watched the effect of his shaft, but the Prince was unmoved.

"You might as well quote the gazettes, Monsieur," he said. "These
letters, Your Highness, were sent by M. Skelton to my Lord Sunderland,"
replied M. D'Avaux, "and he took no heed of them--we have reason to
believe that they never reached the King."

William answered dryly--

"None of this is very interesting, Monsieur. You have had the assurances
of M. Van Citters in London, of M. Castagnana, King James himself is
content, M. D'Albeville is content, and it is not for France to take this
part of interfering on the information of cast-off servants."

"I have had other news from Rome," said M. D'Avaux coldly, "of the
intrigues of Your Highness with the Vatican. Your Highness, methinks,
knoweth something of some letters which went in to the Pope in a basket
of wax fruit."

William gave him a quick glance.

"Take these advices to the court of England, which they concern,
Monsieur."

"Your Highness is very well aware that all the foreign intelligence that
goeth to England is under the control of M. de Sunderland--who is your
very good friend."

The Prince faintly smiled.

"I thought M. de Sunderland was believed the very good friend of France."

"He may," said M. D'Avaux, rather hotly, "deceive M. Barillon, but he
doth not deceive me."

"It is unfortunate," remarked the Prince, "that you are not Ambassador to
London. I think your abilities wasted here, Monsieur."

"I thank Your Highness." He bowed grandly. "Such as my talents are, I
find scope for them at The Hague--I only regret that my confrère is no
longer M. Skelton."

He said this knowing that Mr. Skelton was detested by the Prince, who had
made his residence in Holland unendurable to him. The dislike was
returned by the Englishman, who was the close ally of M. D'Avaux in the
attempt to expose and ruin the plans of William. William, however, had
triumphed in ousting Skelton from The Hague, and his successor,
D'Albeville, was, as M. D'Avaux knew to his vexation, a mean creature
that no one could long depend on.

"Mr. Skelton," said the Prince, "is no doubt extremely useful in Paris.
And I must ask you, Monsieur, to let me know the true object of this
audience, which was not, I think, to discuss these puerile rumours."

The Frenchman flushed; he had always found the Prince

U difficult to come to conclusions with. William had a short, flashing
way of scorn, an inscrutable calm, that even now, when, in his certain
knowledge of the Prince's intended enterprise, M. D'Avaux felt he had the
upper hand, was difficult to face.

M. D'Avaux felt himself, as always, confused and heated; he believed that
the Prince was laughing at him and at France, and a wave of anger shook
him both against the supine James who would not be roused, and his own
government who would not credit half the information he sent home. He
tried that dry directness which his opponent employed with such effect.

"Your Highness will scarcely deny that you intend a descent on England?"

"I should," answered William, "be a fool if I did not deny it when asked
by you, Monsieur."

M. D'Avaux thrust his cane into the crevices of the stone pedestal of the
sundial.

"Whatever Your Highness may say--I know."

"Ah!" answered William, "but can you prove?"

"To the satisfaction of my own intelligence, Monseigneur," said M.
D'Avaux vigorously. "You cannot suppose that I have been unobservant as
to your measures since the beginning of the year."

William kept his eyes fixed on the carp sluggishly moving R. round the
fountain basin.

"It would interest me, M. D'Avaux," he said, "to hear what you have
discovered of these measures of mine."

"You shall hear, Monseigneur." The Frenchman spoke as one spurred and
goaded. "For one thing, I know that you obtained four million guilden
from the States for repairing the fortifications of Brabant--that this
money was to be payable in four years, and you have raised it in one.
Your Highness hath the money, and the forts are untouched."

William was silent.

"Another public fund of equal value you have diverted from its proper
use; you have farmed out the revenues of the Admiralty, and this, with
your own great fortune, maketh Your Highness master of a huge
treasure--apart from the money you are constantly raising among the
French and English refugees. For what purpose is all this wealth'
intended?"

"You say you know," replied William, without looking up. "And, my faith,
what kind of an answer can you expect from me?"

"Your Highness can give no good reason."

"None of any sort, to you, on any part of my conduct," said the Prince
coldly. "You already overstep your province."

Pale, but firm, M. D'Avaux stood his ground.

"I do not overstep my duty to my master if I ask why Your Highness
persuaded the States to build forty new ships of war, and secretly added
twelve by your own authority--why these ships were sent publicly to
remote stations and secretly brought back--why a great army is encamped
at Nymwegen--why M. Bentinck is so continually closeted with the Elector
and Your Highness with the States, the German Princes, the Landgrave of
Hesse and M. Castagnana--why seven thousand Swedish mercenaries have been
hired, and a huge number of Dutch soldiers and sailors secretly raised
and privately drilled?"

The Prince turned his back to the sundial, so that he faced the
Ambassador; his hands, clasped behind him, held his riding-whip; his face
was inscrutable.

"Well, what else?" he asked dryly.

"Only this, that Your Highness and your creatures may deceive the King of
England into thinking it is against Denmark and the Corsairs that all
these preparations are being made, but you cannot so deceive the King of
France."

"And yet," returned the Prince, "I thought His Majesty gave but a cold
attention to your alarms."

This, accompanied by a pointed smile, told M. D'Avaux that William was
quite well aware that it had not been so easy to rouse Louis to a sense
of his danger. The Frenchman bit his lip; he had a master-stroke in
reserve.

"Your Highness is a very able Prince," he said, on an oblique line of
attack, "but my master pays well and is well served. I know who, under so
many different names and pretences, purchaseth and hireth transport boats
in so many different ports; I know who ordereth the bakers of Amsterdam
to make biscuit, the saddlers to make bridles and saddles--why all the
artillery is leaving the towns and coming down to the coasts--why
magazines of hay are waiting in all the seaports, and why English
noblemen are living furtively at The Hague."

He paused and looked narrowly at the Stadtholder, who, he was confident,
must be taken aback at this knowledge of his plans; but the Prince was so
immovable that the wild thought occurred to M. D'Avaux--is it really
Denmark or his own country, as King James contends?

"I cannot conceive why you come to me with this," said William.

"To warn you, Monseigneur."

"Of what?" flashed the Prince.

"Of France," answered M. D'Avaux impressively.

William drew a deep breath.

"You should know better than to seek to frighten me, M. D'Avaux. I am not
by nature timorous."

"I warn Your Highness," repeated the Ambassador. "I remind you that you
are not a sovereign Prince."

"I rule a sovereign state, Monsieur."

"The first magistrate of a republic, Monseigneur, cannot behave as a
king. Since Your Highness will give me no satisfaction, I shall go to the
States."

"You will do as you wish," answered William; "but you are, nevertheless,
perfectly well aware that I rule the States."

M. D'Avaux bowed.

"Give me credit for that discernment--the card I play is not an appeal
from Your Highness to the States--"

"What then?"

The Frenchman moved a little farther back, still in a courtier's
attitude, with his hat in his hand, looking intently at the Prince, who
stood on the steps of the sundial with the violet daisies brushing his
cloak and boots.

"Mr. Skelton hath prevailed on M. de Louvois to command me to say to the
States that there is such friendship between His Majesty and King James
that any attack on Britain would be regarded in the same light as an
attack on France. That," added M. D'Avaux softly, "may make the States
see their interests as different from those of Your Highness."

William gave not the least sign of surprise or confusion.

"So it is Mr. Skelton's advice to endeavour to frighten the States?" he
remarked.

"I shall deliver my message to-morrow," said M. D'Avaux, "and then Your
Highness will see if the States are prepared for an attack--an instant
attack on their frontiers--if they are prepared to allow you and their
whole strength to leave a country which France is menacing. You saved the
Provinces in '72--without you they could not save themselves now--"

"You must follow out your instructions, Monsieur," said the Prince.

He stepped down from the sundial and looked narrowly at the Ambassador.

"You have nothing more to say?" he added.

"Nothing, Monseigneur, unless Your Highness can give me the assurances I
was bid to ask--"

"What would be the use of that, Monsieur, when you know, as you say,"
returned the Stadtholder.

M. D'Avaux was slightly baffled; he thought that the Prince must betray
more concern unless he had some counter-stroke to this of the threat to
the States.

He answered with dignity--

"Then I need trouble Your Highness no further."

"Very well," answered William. "I am sorry that you have wasted your
time, Monsieur; but I always was of a tolerably positive disposition, and
difficult to turn."

"All Europe knoweth that," answered M. D'Avaux, with a little flush; for
the Prince's words were an obvious assertion of the fact that he would
not alter his plans for any French threats--an obvious challenge.

They walked down the hard gravel path between the beds of late roses. At
the garden gate the Prince parted from M. D'Avaux with that simplicity
which was his natural manner, but generally credited to him for guile.

"I am obliged to you for this courtesy," he said. "Au revoir, Monsieur."

"I thank Your Highness," answered M. D'Avaux, with a grand bow.

The Prince closed the gate on him, and went instantly into the house by
the back entrance. And so straight to his private room, where a little
company, consisting of M. Fagel, M. Bentinck, M. Dyckfelt, the envoy of
M. Castagnana, Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, the envoy of the
Elector of Hanover, a Prince of Lunenburgh, and the Landgrave of Hesse
were awaiting him.

They all rose at his entrance. He came swiftly and breathlessly to the
table, flung off his hat, and said--

"Gentlemen, M. D'Avaux knoweth everything--that villain D'Albeville hath
betrayed us. There is a bomb to be dropped to-morrow that is like to
blast us all."



CHAPTER X - THE ENGLISH AMBASSADOR


"M. D'Albeville?" echoed the Landgrave.

"It can be none other, Highness," answered William, with energy. "No one
else was privy to my Lord Sunderland his part--"

M. Fagel gave a quick exclamation.

"He knoweth that?"

"Yes--he scenteth it," said the Stadtholder grimly. "And he hath a pretty
idea of the preparations, only he doth not guess either their magnitude
nor their forwardness."

He seated himself, and the others took their places again. There was, in
the whole assembly, a breathless air of expectation and excitement. The
room was full of steady mellow sunshine, which brought out every detail
of the persons of the gentlemen about the walnut table and glimmered in
the fair hair of M. de Lunenburgh, who sat facing the window.

The Stadtholder glanced round these intent faces and took off his gloves,
unclasped his cloak, and said, in a passionate voice, directly addressing
the Grand Pensionary--

"M. Fagel, the design is to frighten the States, by declaring that any
design against England will at once provoke France into an attack on the
Provinces."

M. Fagel was silent. This stroke was unexpected and tremendous. If Louis
fell on the frontiers of the States, Their High Mightinesses would
certainly not permit the Prince and the army to sail for England.

"You know my opinion," continued William, looking at the Spaniard, "that
if M. de Castagnana can but keep Ostend, Mons, and Namur till the spring,
I shall then have settled this English business, and be able to return
with a sufficient force to drive the French out of Flanders."

"I think," said M. Fagel, "that the States would not take the risks, and
this threat from France will have a very ill effect among the common
people."

"And," added M. Dyckfelt, who had primary charge of English affairs, "if
M. D'Avaux and M. Skelton succeed in undeceiving King James as to the
true design of M. de Sunderland that would be a shrewd blow--"

"One which shall not be delivered," said the Prince firmly. "M. de
Sunderland is the one man who can keep the foreign intelligence from the
King, and he stayeth in office. M. D'Albeville is a dirty tool, but there
is more use to be got out of him--"

"But he, Your Highness, you say hath betrayed us?" questioned M. de
Hesse.

"And now he can betray them," said William. "By Heaven, Highness, do you
think we, at this stage of our endeavours, shall trip over an insect like
this D'Albeville?"

He finished his sentence with a smile at M. de Hesse. He was himself of a
German House, a German Prince and a Grandee of the Holy Empire, and had
always an affection for and a powerful influence over the Landgraves,
Electors, and Princes who made up the German confederacy.

M. de Hesse responded--

"We are, as ever, ready to do what Your Highness thinketh fit in this
juncture."

"Ah!" answered William warmly. "I should do ill to fail with such
friends--"

"Should we not," asked M. Bentinck, "consult with some of the English at
The Hague?"

"No," said the Stadtholder firmly. "They have none of them any conception
of continental affairs, and at present are engaged in disputing over the
form of the Declaration, for they seem already to be split into very
decided parties."

M. Fagel and M. Dyckfelt both considered it a mistake not to more fully
trust the English nobles, but both were aware that the Prince's distrust
of that nation (but too well founded on experience) was not to be shaken.

The German Princes and Ministers were willing enough to keep the threads
of the coalition as much as possible in their own hands, and none of them
could believe that a youth like Lord Shrewsbury and an eccentric rake
like Lord Mordaunt could be of use in serious counsels.

The envoy of the Elector of Hanover proceeded to lay before William the
plans for the fortifications of the Rhine which the Germans had agreed to
defend with troops, replacing those withdrawn by the States, in the same
way as M. de Castagnana had engaged to fortify the frontier of Brabant on
the side of Flanders.

William surveyed the plans and listened to the explanations, in which the
Landgrave and M. de Lunenburgh eagerly joined, with an elated
satisfaction which even the stroke about to be dealt by M. D'Avaux could
not destroy. His spirits, as ever, rose with increasing difficulties and
dangers, and after having to listen to the thousand, to him, paltry
arguments of the English party leaders, this talk of the real heart of
affairs, the hand-to-hand grips with France, had a ringing pleasure for
his ears.

M. Fagel, withdrawn into the window embrasure, was speaking with William
Bentinck, a tall, fair, and handsome man, of a quiet dignity, a few years
older than the Stadtholder, and that Prince's closest friend, of the
probable effect of this move planned by the wit and watchfulness of Mr.
Skelton and M. D'Avaux, when an usher entered to inform His Highness that
the English Ambassador requested an immediate audience.

William was roused at once from his maps and papers, and a movement of
excitement silenced the low, serious voices.

"M. D'Albeville!" exclaimed the Stadtholder. His eyes flashed, and he
rose. "Conduct him here."

As the usher left, all looked at the Prince.

"Why should he come?" asked M. de Lunenburgh.

William laid his hand affectionately on the German's brown velvet sleeve.

"My child," he said softly, "whatever he hath come for, we will turn him
to our own uses."

At this moment the English Ambassador entered, amid an absolute silence;
he paused on the threshold and glanced at the men before him: the
Stadtholder between M. de Lunenburgh, the Landgrave and the Hanoverian
envoy at the opposite side of the dark circular walnut table; the
Spaniard, very splendid in gold brocade that caught the sun, standing
with his back to the hearth, and opposite him in the dazzling length of
the window M. Bentinck with the two Dutch ministers.

So were gathered in this small, plain room representatives of the most of
the members of the huge coalition which the formidable Stadtholder had
laboured so long to combine against France; and M. D'Albeville, standing
for England, equally precious both to these allies and to Louis,
instinctively drew back a little, as one who has stepped among silent
enemies.

He was a slight Irishman, and had been handsome, but dissipation,
poverty, and meanness had given him a haggard and livid appearance; he
wore gaudy, but tarnished, finery, and a huge red-brown peruke that hung
in knots of heavy curls either side his sharp face.

"I desired a private audience, Highness," he said, speaking in perfect
French.

"We are private here, M. le Marquis," answered William, handing the
packet of papers back to M. de Hesse. "And we are glad that you have
come, for we had business to discuss with you."

He seated himself at that, and M. D'Albeville came to the opposite side
of the table, so directly facing him; the others remained standing.

"You," said William, with energy, "have been trying to fool me, M. le
Marquis. You have seen fit to convey warnings to the court of England and
to M. D'Avaux."

The look of fear that was never quite absent from the Irishman's face
deepened; he seemed to shrink into his stiff buckram and brocade clothes.

"So God help me--" he began.

"Oh, enough of your oaths!" cried the Prince, in a sudden burst of fury.
"Do you think I have time to listen to your cursed excuses? How much have
you told that damned Frenchman?"

So direct, terrible, and sincere was his passion that the object of it
retreated towards the door, and even the spectators were awed.

"I protest," answered the Ambassador, dry-lipped, "I have told nothing. I
have sent reassuring messages to His Majesty, as Your Highness knoweth--"

"Were you not well enough paid for them," demanded William fiercely,
"that you must go cry your wares in the French market?"

"Monseigneur, you are misinformed--"

The Prince cut him short.

"M. D'Avaux hath been told of M. de Sunderland's part--you told him. Hath
King James been warned also?"

"I came to tell Your Highness so," stammered M. D'Albeville. "Not by me,
God knoweth; but I had this morning a message--"

"From whom?"

"Not from my Lord Sunderland--_direct from His Majesty_ bidding me ask
the States the reason of the preparations of Your Highness--"

The Stadtholder glanced at his friends; he was still taut with passion.
Dealing with mean creatures such as this roused that rare fury in him
that brought him out of himself.

"So now you are afraid, eh?" he asked. "You are not quite so sure which
is the winning side, M. le Marquis--"

M. D'Albeville came nearer the table. Another fear conquered his fear of
the terrible Prince.

"I cannot go on," he said feverishly. "I dare not. I can help you no
more, Monsieur. I must deliver that message, and I must tell the King
everything--"

"You will deliver the message," interrupted William grimly; "but you will
not open the eyes of His Majesty until I bid you."

The Irishman clutched his hand on his breast, with a contortion of terror
and despair on his face. He had been playing fast and loose between
France and Holland so long that he scarcely knew how far he had betrayed
one to the other, only that of late he had kept the greater faith with
the Prince, who terrorized him, as did all the English envoys, except
those he won by friendship, such as Temple and Sidney.

M. D'Albeville was now convinced that, in view of the coming French
action, the Prince could not succeed, and he wished fervently that he was
before James or Louis that he might gain a good price by telling what he
knew of William's plans. He already regretted having come before His
Highness, yet he had not dared act without warning him, and had been in
some hopes of persuading him of his own faith and use.

Disappointed in this, he groaned aloud, began a feeble sentence that died
on his lips, and cast a furtive glance for a way of escape.

This did not fail of notice by the Prince.

"Bentinck," he said, "look to the door."

That nobleman stepped quietly in front of it, and the wretched Ambassador
shrilled a protest.

"Doth Your Highness intend violence?"

"I intend to make use of you, Monsieur!" cried the Prince. "We are men in
earnest. Do you think that we should allow you to in any way incommode
us?"

"It will be Tower Hill for me!" cried M. D'Albeville. "I dare keep
silent no longer--if my Lord President goeth, what protection have I
got?"

"M. de Sunderland shall not go until I have sailed from Helvoetsluys,"
said William. "How much hath M. D'Avaux promised you for telling
everything to the Court of St. James?"

M. D'Albeville shrugged, but obviously brightened as the talk changed to
money.

"You are quite mistaken, Your Highness--"

"How much was it?" interrupted William.

"Naturally, if I could help M. D'Avaux--I should expect some
consideration for the trouble--"

The Prince for a moment took his great eyes from the Irishman and
addressed a rapid sentence in Dutch to M. Dyckfelt, who at once went to
the Chinese bureau at the side of the fireplace and unlocked a drawer.

"I must deliver the message to the States," said M. D'Albeville, between
cringing and defiance. He was really afraid of what might have happened
in England--Sunderland might be in disgrace, and the whole intrigue
discovered by James, for all he knew.

"It is my wish that you should," answered William. "It will come very pat
with M. D'Avaux his message."

M. Dyckfelt put on the table a gold standish, a sheet of paper, and a
casket, which last the Prince kept before himself.

"M. le Marquis," he said, "you will do me one more service--you will
write to His Majesty that his suspicions are quite unfounded, that my
preparations, you are assured, are against Denmark, and that no credit is
to be given to the tales of M. Skelton and M. D'Avaux about M. de
Sunderland."

The Ambassador's face became absolutely blanched; he moistened his lips,
and murmured, "I dare not--I dare not," between dry breaths.

"You dare not refuse," answered William. "I could so expose you that not
a court in Europe would employ you. Besides, it is enough that I command
you. Sit down and write."

M. D'Albeville came slowly nearer the table.

"I would do anything to serve Your Highness, but not this--it is too
late--it has gone too far--"

"Write," said the Stadtholder briefly. "I pay well, you know that."

M. D'Albeville sat down in the chair opposite the paper and standish.

"But His Majesty will learn from others, and I shall be recalled
and"...he complained miserably..."death...treason is death. Oh, my God,
I cannot do--"

"M. le Marquis," interrupted William, "His Majesty is simple enough to
trust you, and for the rest I protect those whom I use."

M. D'Albeville shivered and took up the pen. He had, and knew it, no
chance with the Prince, whose potent personality always completely
mastered his. He dared not, from some sheer unnameable fear, refuse or
resist, but the damp stood on his brow and his heart was cramped at the
thought of the possible vengeance of the master whom he was betraying.

"You know what to write," said William. "Put it in your own hand and your
own style--you do not, I think, use cipher--"

Tears of terror, rage, and mortification stood in the Irishman's eyes. He
had come to excuse himself from a service that had become too dangerous,
and found himself overpowered into going still greater lengths. He could
not bring himself to write the letter which would eventually cut him off
from all hope of pardon from England.

"He shall write," said the Prince, in a low tone, to M. de Hesse, "if I
have to hold a pistol to his head the while."

And he came softly round behind the Ambassador's chair.

"Gentlemen," complained M. D'Albeville, "is this a way to treat the
representative of His Britannic Majesty"

The Landgrave and M. de Lunenburgh closed nearer round him.

M. D'Albeville looked up at the grave faces bent on him, and began to
write.

"Make haste," said the Prince, drawing a round filigree watch from his
pocket and glancing at the time.

The Ambassador groaned and drove his pen the faster; in a few moments the
sheet of paper was covered, sanded, and signed.

"There is my ruin, Highness," said M. D'Albeville dramatically, handing
it with shaking fingers.

"Men like you are never ruined," returned the Prince. He glanced over the
letter, ill spelt, ill expressed, but all that Sunderland would need to
quiet the fears of his master.

The Prince folded it across, and M. D'Albeville held out his hand.

"By your leave, M. le Marquis, I will post this." William opened the
casket M. Dyckfelt had brought from the Chinese bureau, and took out a
couple of little linen bags, which he slid along the table towards the
crumpled figure of the Ambassador; the glint of gold could be seen
between the wide meshes. "The audience is over," he added dryly.

M. D'Albeville got to his feet and began to pick up the money and thrust
it into the huge flap pockets of his silver-branched coat, making the
while little sounds of protest, and shaking his head dismally.

"Listen," said the Prince vigorously. "You will give your message to the
States to-morrow, and you will send no letters of any kind to England
until I request you to--"

"I am always the servant of Your Highness," said M. D'Albeville with a
dreary submission, yet with a kind of satisfaction in the bribe that lay
heavy in his pockets; the Prince always paid better than M. _D'Avaux,
kept short by M. de Louvois, who disliked him.

"All packets leaving our ports are watched," remarked William. "So do not
try to send any secret messages to England."

The Ambassador picked up his white-plumed hat, that had fallen to the
floor, then came towards the Prince with a humble gesture, as if he would
have kissed his hand; but William drew back with a haughty disgust that
brought a blush even to d M. D'Albeville's brazen cheek. He withdrew
backwards, M. Bentinck opened the door for him, and closed it after he
had departed, bowing.

"By Heaven!" burst out the Landgrave, "to think that a great nation
should send as representative such a rascal!"

"His Majesty hath always been unlucky, Highness," answered William, "in
the gentlemen he sendeth to The Hague. To use such tools!" he added
impatiently; "but I think we have checkmated M. D'Avaux.--M. Fagel," he
turned swiftly to the Grand Pensionary, "you see your part? The two
messages will come the same day, and you are to protest that there must
be some secret alliance between France and England that the States have
been kept in the dark about, and that we can give no answer till that is
explained; you must feign alarm which will further inflame the people
against France and her designs, and so we may provoke King James into
repudiating the French alliance and offending His Christian Majesty."

Having thus indicated the policy that his genius had instantly conceived,
he paused with a little cough, then laughed, which he seldom did save
when he had discomfited some one. He laughed now, thinking of M. D'Avaux,
and there was a malicious note in it that would not have pleased that
diplomat to hear.

The German princes laughed also, in a more good-natured fashion, and the
whole company moved from their places with a sense that a final resolve
had been reached.

"Come, gentlemen," said the Prince in his tired voice, "I think we have
earned our dinner."

He handed to M. Fagel the letter written by M. D'Albeville.



CHAPTER XI - THREE PAWNS


Three English gentlemen were walking slowly round the Vyverburg on the
side where stand the spacious courts of the Buitenhof; the ground beneath
their feet was thickly covered with dry yellow leaves, and the trees
above their heads almost bare, but the sun shone as strong as summer on
the placid surface of the water, and gleamed with a red fire in the rows
of long windows of the Government buildings; the sky was a great luminous
space of blue gold, against which the trees and houses the other side of
the lake showed with a tender clarity, like the pictures of that great
artist, Ver Meer of Delft.

There were swans and ducks on the lake; they, like the water on which
they swam, were touched with this universal hue of gold, and seemed to be
cleaving a way through glimmering mists of sunshine.

The three gentlemen paused by one of the posts protecting the edge of the
water; it was near evening, and under the calm was the sense of a little
rising wind, salt from the sea. Not a word was spoken between these three
who had fallen from much talk to idleness; all had the same, subject in
their minds, though each coloured it with his own temperament; all of
them were remarkable-looking men, and typical of some aspect of the great
movement of which they formed a part.

The eldest was a man still in his prime, red-haired and tanned to an
unnatural darkness, with something stern, sad, and passionate in his
face, and an abruptness in his movements; he wore the splendid
appointments of a soldier; across his shoulder was twisted a rich
oriental scarf of coloured silk and gold threads; his name was Fletcher
of Saltoun, a noble Scot, who had returned from the Turkish war to assist
in the enterprise of the Stadtholder.

The second was a youth of singular sweetness of expression and delicacy
of feature, plainly dressed in grey; the charm of his appearance was
marred solely by a black silk patch which he wore over his left eye; he
was staring at the water with a melancholy air, and now and then sighed;
this was Charles Talbot, eleventh Earl of Shrewsbury, dismissed last year
from the army and the Lord-Lieutenancy of Staffordshire for refusing to
abjure his religion; he had mortgaged his estates for £40,000, which was
now at the Bank of Amsterdam at the service of the Prince. He was for the
moment but one of the many refugees at The Hague.

The third was by far the most remarkable, and bore most signs of
greatness: young, though a Little older than the Earl, he was not,
perhaps, half the height, being hunch-shouldered to a deformity, and thin
and meagre in body; his face, livid and lined with disease, wore a
sparkling expression of energy, his eyes, large, noble, and ever changing
in expression with a kind of restless animation, scorn, impatience, and
dare-devilry; even now, when standing still, he thrummed with his fingers
on the railing and whistled 'Lillibulero' under his breath.

He was that Lord Mordaunt whose fiery, careless courage had urged this
expedition on the Prince a year ago.

Fretting under the languor and idleness engendered by the beautiful late
afternoon and the serene fair prospect, he proceeded to lead his
companions out of the silence to which they were so obviously inclined.

"Where will the Prince land, eh, my lord?" he asked of Shrewsbury. "In
the south-west or the north-east?"

He knew that my lord could not know what was not yet decided, but the
question served to break the pause.

"Why, 'tis even what they argue about," answered the Earl. "Lord
Dunblaine was with His Highness yesterday, and gave as his father',
advice that we should choose the north, because 'tis so easy to obtain
horses in Yorkshire--"

"Or because my Lord Danby," sneered Mordaunt, "hath such a pull in that
county that he hopeth to get His Highness into his hands."

"The Prince is very secret," said Mr. Fletcher.

"He listeneth to all and agreeth with none," answered my Lord Mordaunt.

"He might be more open," complained the Earl, who of the three was most
in the favour of William; but Mordaunt perhaps understood the Prince
better.

"Dr. Burnet is to draw up the letter to the Church," remarked Mr.
Fletcher. "I ever disliked him."

"He is translating the Prince his Declaration also," said the Earl
discontentedly. I do hope the Prince will not be led by such an
extreme Low Churchman--"

"M. Fagel wrote it," answered Mordaunt. "His Highness said the English
were all such party men he would not trust them to prepare it. He is
himself writing the letter to the army--you have heard? He is clever with
the pen."

"He may," broke out Mr. Fletcher, "trust Dr. Burnet as much as he
pleaseth; but if he is to put his confidence in my Lord Danby we are as
good as lost--"

"Better my Lord Danby than my Lord Sunderland," interrupted Shrewsbury;
"it surpriseth me that he can deal with such a knave."

Lord Mordaunt gave an impatient pirouette.

"Why is there all this delay--delay?" he cried, "_I_ would have sailed
months ago!"

Mr. Fletcher roused at that. He was innocent enough in the matter of
politics to have been one of those who accompanied, with hope of success,
Lord Monmouth on his fatal expedition, and to consider the Prince's
attempt as such another enterprise.

"You are right," he said gloomily. "The King will get wind of it, and
Dartmouth will have his ships spread all round the coast to prevent a
landing."

"I am sick of The Hague--sick!" exclaimed Mordaunt impetuously. "If His
Highness don't leave the cursed place soon, I'll go without him!"

Shrewsbury laughed, then Mordaunt himself good-humouredly; Mr. Fletcher
stared at the slow-sailing ducks. He did not care much what happened, but
he hated inaction, and began to regret the Turks who had provided it.

"You have heard that Skelton hath been recalled and lodged in the Tower?"
asked Mordaunt.

"Yes," said Shrewsbury; "it was in the letters this morning. It might
have been expected after His Majesty's denial of a French alliance and
reprimand to M. Barillon."

"Sure bad policy," said Mr. Fletcher, but without enthusiasm, "and a good
stroke for the Prince."

In truth none of these gentlemen guessed what a stroke. James had
actually stepped into the trap laid for him, and, seeing how great an
advantage the appearance of an alliance between him and France gave the
States, had angrily repudiated the suggestion, and haughtily reprimanded
M. Barillon for French interference with his affairs. Sunderland,
prepared by the Prince, had urged him on to this course, and the letters
of M. D'Albeville had served to back the Lord-President's reassurances.
The Prince had been triumphant in this encounter, the States and the
people were warmer in his cause than ever after this proof, as they took
it, of a connection, between France and England, dangerous to themselves.
M. D'Avaux, since the disgrace of Skelton, was silent with mortification,
and a kind of lull hung over Europe; William was looking with a terrible
anxiety towards Flanders, where Louis had his troops threatening the
frontiers of the Spanish Lowlands, and so the United Provinces. What
would Louis do now the King of England had rejected his warnings and
refused his aid? On the answer to that question the fate of Protestant
Europe depended.

But these three knew and cared little of these matters; their minds were
set wholly on the domestic policies of England, and occupied with a vague
ideal of liberty for their own faith and their country's laws, not
unmingled with some desire for vengeance on the party now uppermost.

"I saw Sir James Stair to-day," said Mr. Fletcher suddenly; "he hath come
from Leyden to join the Prince. I suppose he will take to himself the
affairs of Scotland."

"Nay," answered the Earl; "the Prince is all for William Carstares, a
poor, mean Scottish minister; but, sir, more in the Prince his confidence
than any of us--"

"Carstares," cried Mordaunt, with flashing eyes, "hath been under torture
with secrets of M. Fagel in his keeping, and never betrayed them. A brave
man!"

Shrewsbury shrugged his shoulders delicately.

"I wish we sailed to-morrow," said Fletcher of Saltoun.

The restless Mordaunt moved on, and the others sauntered beside him.

"The boats are all creeping down to the sea laden with arms," he said
excitedly. "They lie thick as pebbles among the reeds of the islands of
the Rhine and Meure. Sirs, ye should see them."

"I had the Prince his command to stay at The Hague," answered Shrewsbury.
"Saw you these boats?"

"That I did, and pontoons, and transports, and the hay slung in ropes in
the ports, and the great trains of artillery..."

They were walking towards the Gevangenpoort, the prison gate which rose
up by the side of the Vyver. The hazy sky was changing to a tawny colour
behind the dark roof lines of the houses, flushed here and there with
gold and a stain of purple; little pale, shell-coloured clouds floated
away to the uppermost heights of heaven where the clear blue was still
untouched, and the water began to glow and burn with the reflected fires
of the sky.

The clear chimes of the Groote Kerk struck the hour, and the sound of
oncoming horsemen caused the few passers-by to pause before entering the
narrow way of the prison arch.

A cavalcade came into sight from the direction of the Stadhuis, and moved
at a swift trot towards the Gevangenpoort--a number of gentlemen, with
two riding before the others.

As they passed every hat was removed.

"The Prince returning from Helvoet," said Lord Mordaunt, and the three
uncovered as the horsemen approached.

The Stadtholder was mounted on a huge grey Flemish horse, and on his
right hand rode the Maréchal de Schomberg, still erect and magnificent;
the two were talking with a certain stiff courtesy; behind them came the
Spanish envoy, M. Zuylestein, M. Zolms, and M. Auverqueverque, together
with a number of Dutch and German nobles.

The Prince saw the three Englishmen and saluted very graciously; the
setting sun was for a moment full on his grave face, then he passed
through the prison arch, and the company clattered over the cobbles out
of sight.

"No Englishman with him, mark you," said Mr. Fletcher.

"Mr. Herbert told me that he _could_ not be open with us," replied
Shrewsbury.

"Yet Herbert is to have the command of the expedition, is he not

"They say so; but he is full of discontent. Admiral Evertgen hath spoken
against him to the Prince, methinks."

Mr. Fletcher saluted one of his countrymen whom he had recognized, and
the three turned back.

A steady dusk was descending, extinguishing the colours in the sky, in
the water, in the windows of the Binnenhof, and blurring those in the
dresses of the people passing to and fro; only the trees and the houses
retained their distinctness and sharpness of outline, and they took on a
marvellous colour of living silver grey. Long deep shadows blended with
the water the beautiful irregular buildings that had been the theatre of
so many great events; the swans stood out, a dead white, from hues
rapidly darkening and mysterious; their feathers were ruffled by a long
breeze that swept chilly from the sea and salt dunes at Scheveningen.

A yellow light sprang up in one of the lower windows of the Binnenhof,
and cast reflections far beneath it in the water.

"Did you ever hear the story of John de Witt, the late Grand Pensionary?"
asked Shrewsbury, pulling his cloak about him. "M. Bentinck told me, and
kept me out of bed with the tale--"

"Why should you think of that now?" asked Mordaunt curiously.

"You see that light there--the first to be lit in the Binnenhof?--that
was his room, and M. Bentinck said that always when one passed late one
would see that candle shine and know that M. de Witt was still waking."

"He got a poor reward," said Mr. Fletcher. "He was torn to bits on the
Plaats, was he not?"

"Anyone whose memory goeth back sixteen years will give you an account of
it," answered my Lord Mordaunt dryly. "I wish I had been beside M. de
Witt that day with a sword in my hand!"

The Earl sighed.

"How cold it bloweth! A severe winter is presaged, do you not think, my
lord?" he said. Then abruptly: "Why should good men meet such ends?"

Lord Mordaunt laughed.

"You ask me to explain ingratitude? By Heaven, I have not the wit for the
task."

"Ingratitude!" frowned Shrewsbury; "but these people love the Prince
because he hath done them great services--"

"But shall we?" interrupted Mordaunt. "Ah, sir, I think the Prince will
meet the same spirit as did John de Witt, should he ever rule in
England--"

"Why, God forbid!" exclaimed Mr. Fletcher.

"What?" demanded Mordaunt sharply--"that we should ever be ungrateful?"

"No; that His Highness should ever rule in Britain." Lord Mordaunt
answered with some intensity--

"Are you so simple, sir, as to think we can have a man like that among us
not ruling us?"

Lord Shrewsbury was doubtfully silent. His timorous nature had been
startled by the sudden action into which circumstances had spurred it. A
sense of loyalty, a terror of underhand methods, a dread of anything so
violent as a revolution made him already secretly regret the part he had
so far played so well.

Mr. Fletcher answered carelessly and thoughtlessly--

"You set too high a value on the little Prince. His life is not worth a
year's purchase."

Lord Mordaunt flashed an extraordinary look over the fine person of the
speaker, and the comely youth of the Earl. His thin hand clutched on to
his sword-belt, and his haggard face flushed.

"You set too high a value on bone and muscle!" he cried, with a
passionate sneer. "You are jolly fellows, both of you; but who will
remember you when you have been dead a year? But men," he added with a
terrible energy, "will talk of the Prince of Orange, and of me."

They stared at him, amazed at this outburst, and Shrewsbury, seeing what
a frail, deformed creature he was, blushed with a kind of shame.

"Good God!" said Mr. Fletcher, "I am not working for
fame, my lord."

"No!" flashed Lord Mordaunt; "creatures of clay--of clay! Prettily
coloured, but a breath of the fire that burneth in the little plain
vessels would crack you in a day."

He gave a flourishing bow, and walked off towards the
Stadhuis.

"An Eccentric," remarked Mr. Fletcher, looking after him.

"I fear so. He will put himself into a passion at a word; but he would
pledge his whole fortune for you if you were in need of it," answered the
Earl. "How suddenly dark it is; let us, sir, go home."



CHAPTER XII - FRANCE MOVES AGAIN


It was mid-October; the Prince's preparations were complete, even to the
putting of the horses on board, and yet there was silence from France. A
terrible lull of suspense hushed the United Provinces, and of all the
anxious hearts there was none so anxious as that of the man who had
staked this great wager--the Stadtholder.

On this day, the nineteenth of the month, he returned from the camp at
Nymwegen, where he had been reviewing the troops long since secretly
raised and drilled by him, and now sanctioned by the States, entered The
Hague privately, and rode to the Binnenhof, where he was closeted with M.
Fagel, who gave him the last assurances that all opposition, even from
the Republican or Loeventein party, was extinct.

When he left the Grand Pensionary and came out into the still corridors
of the Binnenhof, he stood thoughtfully for a moment, at the head of the
staircase, thinking of the various threads, all so different in texture,
that he had almost succeeded in weaving into the completed pattern of his
design.

His own country, the German princes, the Empire, Spain, Sweden, England,
the Pope--all combined at last with one aim, to answer the aggressions of
France.

For ten years, ever since the Peace of Nymwegen had been forced on him,
he had been working through gloom, disappointment, discouragement, for
this end. His answer to the revocation of the Nantz edict and the seizure
of Orange had been the League of Augsburg, which was now bearing fruit,
and all Europe was directed against France.

Toil, energy, courage, patience, and genius were telling. The young
disinherited Prince, who had been treated as a mere pawn by Charles and
Louis, the general of twenty-two with a miserable army, who had been
offered humiliating terms by the French, insolently victorious, had
slowly grown to be a power that both Bourbon and Stewart feared, and
whose influence was predominant over the larger half of the Continent.

His rapid thoughts went back over the years to those black days of blood
and despair when he had been put at the head of his country's fortunes
and trusted with her sole hopes. Defeat--disappointment had often been
his in his struggle to maintain the position of the States in Europe, but
even to his own judgment, and he ranked his own achievements low, it
seemed that success had waited on all his apparent failures, for his
country was not only free but great, and he not only independent but
powerful.

Slowly he began to descend the stairs, which were full of a misty
sunlight. When he reached the first landing-place a man stepped from one
of the tall doors, and, seeing the Prince, bowed and stood very
respectfully waiting for him to pass.

William paused, came to a stop, and regarded this man with a close, keen
scrutiny.

He stood so still that the object of his gaze lifted surprised eyes, and
the two looked at each other.

The Prince stood at the bottom of the flight of stairs, one hand resting
on the polished newel post. He was in buff military attire and carried
over his right arm a heavy dark cloak; he wore a black beaver that shaded
his brow, but the rich light was full on his face, which expressed a
strong emotion sternly contained.

Behind him a blue and green tapestry hung on the dark wall; it showed a
sea fight with curious ships and curling waves, and banners rising
through smoke; the sun showed every thread in it--every crease, and the
latent gold in the heavy chestnut locks of the Prince.

"M. Heinsius," he said softly.

"Your Highness?"

The Prince did not change his position nor move his brilliant gaze.

"I think to leave the States very soon, as you know, Mynheer; you know
also under what circumstances." He paused a second, then added: "I have
your good wishes, Mynheer?"

Antoon Heinsius coloured from chin to brow. He had been of the Loeventein
party and in favour of France, but his policy had changed lately to an
adherence to the Stadtholder; he had not expected this to be remarked by
William.

"Every true heart in Holland," he answered strongly, "must pray for the
success of Your Highness."

William descended to the landing-place and laid his frail hand, half
concealed in embroidered linen ruffles, on the sleeve of M. Heinsius.

"You are the kind of man I want. M. Fagel is old and in failing
health--he needeth help," he said. "You are a patriot; you would, I
think, do anything for the States."

The words were poor compared to the fire and energy in the Stadtholder's
strained but steady voice, and the purpose in the gentle firm touch of
his hand on the other man's arm.

M. Antoon Heinsius answered instantly, with a deepening of the colour in
his fine handsome face--

"Your Highness doth me exceeding honour."

"I am never better pleased," said William, "than when I can make a man
like you my friend."

"Your friend--your servant, Highness," murmured M. Heinsius. He was
considerably moved by this kindness from one usually so stately and
reserved, and one whom he had of late, as he understood his policy
better, warmly admired.

"You know my aims, my plans of government," continued the Stadtholder;
"you will know what to do in my absence,--by serving Holland you serve
more than Holland."

M. Heinsius answered earnestly--

"Before God I will do my best."

"Your best is well worth having, Mynheer. I have noticed your career."

The two men, but a little time since in opposition, looked with complete
understanding into each other's eyes. The Prince had won the fine loyalty
of M. Heinsius as he won all whom he set himself to gain, as he won
ultimately, indeed, all those who served him and came to know him
intimately.

"The States have acted to the wishes of Your Highness?" asked M.
Heinsius.

"The States have trusted me," answered the Prince. "Even the Loeventein
faction are eager for me to depart on this expedition, in the hopes,
maybe "--he smiled--"that I shall be slain or affronted. But I have
anxieties."

He paused and looked at the water of the Vyverberg that lay glinting with
autumn gold beneath the window.

"Mynheer," he added, "a country is a high stake--one's own country.
Mynheer," he looked again into the face of the older man, "you have
perhaps thought there was some wantonness in this my resolve, you have
thought that I may have dared too much in offering to take beyond seas
all the defences of the States."

"Never!" answered M. Heinsius firmly. "I understand and I applaud the
policy of Your Highness."

"It is," said the Stadtholder, "on a sure bottom and to be justified.
Yet, until I know what France doth, I am no better than a man on the
rack."

"You think--even now?"

"Even now--if they were to fall on the frontier! Nought there but the
Spaniards! But a little while will show us."

He paused again, then said, weighing his words, and with a strange
mingling of simplicity and dignity.

"I am no King in this country, Mynheer, but the servant of the Republic,
and you, who are a knowing man and one who hath the common welfare at
heart, I would have hold me justified in this I do. I have been believed
ambitious, but my ambition is one with the good of the States, and God
knoweth that I do not take this tremendous risk from any such paltry
motive, but because it is our chance, which if we do not take we are as
good as lost."

"It is no flattery to say that I agree with Your Highness, who seeth
farther and more clearly than most men."

"You will hear them," answered William, "talk of England, and what I do
to gain England, and how much store I set by that country. Be not
deceived; England is but a counter in the game I play, and, if I succeed,
will be but one of many allies which we will lead against France. And
always with me, Mynheer Heinsius, it is the Republic--always."

He spoke with intensity and emotion that were the more moving in contrast
to his usual sternness.

"The deeds of Your Highness have proved your words," answered Antoon
Heinsius in an unsteady voice.

The Stadtholder sighed.

"I will not disguise from you that my sufferings are terrible--my
disquietude almost unbearable, for it is the _Republic_ at stake," he
said.

He gave his hand to M. Heinsius, who kissed it very lowly, and left the
Binnenhof.

He had not so much as a footboy in attendance, and rode rapidly to the
'huis ten bosch' with little regard for the salutes and respectful homage
of those he passed. His contemplated enterprise, the very daring of
which, owing to his usual caution, was the more awe-inspiring, made him
even more than ever an object of admiration and attention at The Hague.

Once within the bounds of his own woods he was enwrapped in the gracious
loveliness of the trees--the quiet of the frost-bound earth, and had
almost reached the house before he met anyone; then, round the turn of
the long main avenue came a lady, very gracefully riding a white horse.

The Prince gave her a quick glance, touched his beaver, and was passing
with no slacking of his pace, but she drew rein and said in a faint
voice--

"Your Highness--" with a little gesture that seemed to entreat him to
stay.

He turned his horse instantly.

"I am leaving The Hague, sir," she said, speaking English, which was
obviously her native tongue. "I have the permission of Her Highness to go
see my sister who is sadly worse."

She was young, very slender, and carried herself with a certain air of
fire and pride, a certain poise of dignity and animation charming to
behold; her features were ordinary, but vivacious and intelligent; there
was a certain set or cast in her brown eyes not unattractive, and her
hair, in a hundred gleaming hues of gold, red, and deep honey colour,
hung in thick curls on to her riding coat, cut like a man's and thickly
embroidered with gold.

"Madame Bentinck is worse?" repeated William in a quick distress.

"They did say so. I felt I should go."

"I am grieved a thousand times," he added, "and for M. Bentinck,"--he
spoke with real feeling, but with that touch of constraint (unlike his
usual reserve) which marked her manner to him--"and for you, Madam."

Miss Villiers hesitated a second, then said abruptly--

"I did not think to meet you. I shall not see you again before you sail.
Take my poor wishes with you."

"I have been so bold as to feel sure of them," he answered gravely. She
was silent, but he did not ride on, but sat with slack reins looking at
her, half in the thick autumn sunlight, half in the shade of the close
tree trunks, for the sun was sinking.

They had not spoken to each other alone for years; but when she had first
come to The Hague with his wife there had been a swift attraction between
them, which, for all her discretion and his reserve, had not failed to be
seized upon by the English agents to work discords in the Court of The
Hague. It was not so long ago that the Princess's Chaplain, Dr. Covell,
and Miss Trelawney, had been dismissed by Mary for inventing and
spreading this kind of gossip for the benefit of those spies of the
English Court who were ever endeavouring to estrange the Prince from his
wife.

The Stadtholder was sensitive to these malicious scandals. He rather
avoided Miss Villiers, who, on her part, was utterly indifferent to
report and, secure in the position the marriage of her sister to M.
Bentinck gave her, troubled herself not in the least either about Mary's
gentle dislike or her own unpopularity in The Hague. She had great
gifts--wit and courage and understanding, enthusiasm and self-control;
she was very reserved, no one knew her well, not the Prince now, though
once he had had her inspiring friendship, her brilliant advice, her
ardent attention; she was still of service to him, but always through the
medium of her sister and M. Bentinck. It was strange to both of them to
come face to face like this in those woods in which, near ten years ago,
they had walked together, and he had told her of his hopes and fears
previous, and just after the Peace of Nymwegen.

He smiled and she frowned; each wondered how much that friendship had
been worth to the other; Miss Villiers thought that she had long been
balanced with his wife in his affections; he, that she had never
considered him as more than the embodiment of a policy that she
admired--both were wrong.

"Tell me," she said suddenly, "are you still in fears of the French?"

"The greatest fears. Until I know how they are going to move I consider
the whole plan in jeopardy. If they should march on the frontiers--"

"God forbid!" she exclaimed fervently. "When will you know?"

"I am utterly in the dark."

"I shall not sleep until you have safely sailed," she said. "For what is
to become of England if this faileth?"

"It must not fail," he answered quietly.

Miss Villiers looked at him strangely.

"No," she remarked; "I do not think you will fail--in the end."

She lowered her eyes, patted the strong arched neck of her horse, and
added--

"I have seen my Lord Shrewsbury and my Lord Manchester, and laboured to
strengthen them in your cause." She smiled. "They are discontented
already."

"Does it matter?" asked William.

"A vast deal. You must, sir, try to please the English more; they do not
love you."

"Then I cannot make them."

She raised her eyes again.

"Perhaps you do not quite understand us--the English--though you have
known a many by now--"

"I do not even understand you, Madam," he answered, "save that you have
done great services to the cause I stand for, and for that," he added
earnestly, "you must not think me ungrateful. Some day I may be able to
share prosperity with my friends."

He said the last sentence with a warmth yet a simplicity wholly charming.
Miss Villiers paled and averted her eyes.

"What use is my advice!" she exclaimed bitterly. "What use am I!"

He looked in surprise at this sudden alteration in her even demeanour.

"It hath been of use to us," he said gravely. "And what you say now is
just, and I will remember it--"

Miss Villiers suddenly laughed.

"Yes; you must be very civil, sir, to the English, and--you must never
trust them!"

She touched up her horse.

"Sure I will not detain Your Highness--"

He took off his hat.

"I have writ to M. Bentinck," he said earnestly; "but tell him yourself
what a great concern I am under as to your sister her health--and that he
must send a messenger with news."

Elizabeth Villiers bent her head, smiled rather sadly, and they parted;
he towards the house at the end of the long avenue, and she through
gold-red glittering woods into the hazy autumn distance.

When he reached the steps of his villa he saw another woman awaiting
him--the Princess, standing in the full last light, with a light cloak
about her. As soon as she beheld his approach she came forward, and was
at his stirrup before he had dismounted.

"There is a galloper from Flanders with news," she said; her voice was
strained, and she clasped her hands tightly together to steady them.

A broken exclamation escaped the Prince.

"If the French are marching on the frontiers I cannot go!"

The grooms came forward and took his great horse; he sprang from the
saddle and went with the Princess up the shallow sun-flooded steps.

"Oh, my dear!" cried Mary under her breath, "if there are ill advices--"

He pressed her hand fiercely.

"I cannot leave the country if they are invading Flanders--"

In the simple vestibule was the impatient messenger--a young Spanish
officer, who went, very courtly, on one knee when the Prince entered, and
handed a packet from M. de Castagnana.

"News of the French?" demanded William swiftly.

"I do believe so, Highness."

The Stadtholder broke open the dispatch, glanced down the close lines of
Spanish, and turned instantly to his pale wife, whose eyes were fixed on
him with a piteous intensity.

"The French have abandoned Flanders!" he cried; "their troops are pouring
into Germany--the States are safe, thank God! thank God--"



CHAPTER XIII - THE GREAT ENTERPRISE


All difficulties were overcome. Louis, angry at the English King's
rejection of his advices, and perhaps hoping that his great enemy would
run on disaster in his audacious undertaking, or perhaps believing that
it was now too late in the year for any such expedition, had suddenly
diverted his troops into Germany, where in a few days he had taken every
fort along the Rhine; successes celebrated with great pomp in Paris, but
worthless indeed to Louis should William accomplish what he was now free
to attempt, and bring England out of her shackles into the alliance
against France.

The Prince's preparations were complete; his Declaration had been
published and circulated in England by the arts of his friends, his ships
and troops were ready, even to the embarking of the soldiery, and he
himself had to-day taken his farewell audience of the States; for now the
south-west wind had changed, and the great fleet gathered at Goree was
free to sail.

Mary, in the chilly autumn garden of the 'huis ten bosch,' waited his
return. Four times a day she went to public prayers, but not all her
ardent faith could quell the tumult in her soul; her anxieties were not
to be repressed, even at the communion table, which added to her
distress, her self-reproach, her uneasiness.

She walked up and down the bare alleys, the hard gravel paths, with a
quick step, between the newly-turned flower-beds, the late yellowing
plants, and stiff evergreens.

The violet St. Michael's daisies were brown and withered on their stems,
the last roses had fallen, and the carp been removed from the fish basin,
where the water lay frost-bound under a thin covering of ice; there was
no sun to cast a shadow from the finger of the grey sundial, and the sky
was obscured with low, floating, changing clouds; a little wind brought
the salt pure air from the sea-coast and stirred Mary's bright locks
inside her miniver hood.

As she was pacing her most familiar and beloved walk, the little alley at
the end of the garden, sheltered by interlacing trees now bare, the sound
of a footstep brought her to turn with a glad expectancy.

But it was not the Prince, only M. Auverqueverque, a noble who had long
been his friend, and who had saved his life amid the bloody steppes of
St. Denis, and for this reason always high in Mary's regard.

"Do you come from the States, sir?" she asked wistfully, speaking in
English, for her Dutch was still very indifferent, and she was shy of
using it save on a necessity.

"Yes, Madam, and I left His Highness conversing with M. Fagel and M.
Heinsius."

The Princess stood still. Her loose velvet coat, of a bright blue colour,
served to accentuate the pallor of her face, which was worn and strained
in expression; her eyes were reddened with recent weeping, and narrowed
with a look of trouble.

"There was no opposition to him--now, I think," she said, with a sudden
smile.

"Madam--none; there was great enthusiasm and great grief at the going of
His Highness," answered M. Auverqueverque warmly. "He alone was
unmoved--I would you could have heard his words, Madam--' I have had no
thought,' he said, 'since I did undertake this position I hold, save for
the good of the States, and I do take God to witness that, if I have
erred, it hath been because I am human, and not through lack of affection
for, or care of, this country. Now, going to make the endeavour to be of
service to our common faith, I do commend to your care and guardianship
all that I hold dear--these States and my wife'--and at this they were
stirred to tears, Madam, for there was not one who could not remember
what he had brought them through."

Mary was silent; she pressed her handkerchief to her lips and looked
towards the house. M. Auverqueverque regarded her tenderly.

"The States professed great devotion to Your Highness," he said, "and
spoke from their hearts."

"I do thank you," she answered, in a very low tone. "Will you not come
into the house?"

He followed her across the bare garden, and there was nothing said
between them, each being deeply engaged with different thoughts on the
same subject.

As they neared the villa, one of the gentlemen of the Princess's
household came to meet them and acquainted Mary that a lady who besought
her charity implored her for an immediate audience.

The Princess was well used to these applications. Out of her meagre
allowance she contrived to greatly assuage the sufferings of the
distressed refugees at The Hague, and this liberality of hers being
known, she received more petitions than she could at all comply with,
which was a source of great distress to her gentle heart.

"Alas!" she said; "I have already a great list of persons unsatisfied,
and worthy cases, too; but it is more than I dare put before His Highness
in this present juncture--"

"This seemeth, Your Highness, a gentlewoman of the better sort, English,
and most earnest for speech with you."

"I can but see her," answered Mary quickly. "Only I trust she will not
raise her hopes of what I can do for her. M. Auverqueverque, forgive me."

With a little curtsy to that gentleman she entered the house. "Where is
this gentlewoman?"

In her withdrawing room, she was told, and there Mary proceeded, without
ceremony, still wearing her cloak.

The small but handsome room held a pleasant sense of comfort in contrast
to the dead grey weather without. A great log fire cast a glittering
light over the dark furniture, and in the full glow of it stood a tall
lady wrapped in a crimson mantle that half disclosed an embroidered
sacque, and wearing, twisted round her head and shoulders, a fine Eastern
scarf embroidered in many colours; she was much older than Mary, and
looked fatigued to illness; her large fair eyes were heavily shadowed and
her mouth strained, but her appearance was one of great beauty.

When the Princess entered she made a little deprecating, half-expectant
movement forward, as if hoping for recognition; but she was utterly
strange to Mary, who looked at her in some embarrassment, seeing at once
that this was no ordinary supplicant.

The strange lady gazed at her sadly.

"Ten years have changed you to beauty and me to age, Highness," she said,
in a voice of singular sweetness. "You have forgotten me. And I should
scarcely have known Your Highness."

"Indeed," answered Mary, a little bewildered, "I cannot recall you. But I
do perceive that you are my countrywoman; perhaps I knew you at
Whitehall?"

"It was there we met, Madam,--and of late we have corresponded--"

"Why, who are you, Madam?"

The elder lady cast herself to her knees before the Princess, and
answered with some wildness--

"I am the unfortunate wife of my Lord Sunderland!"

"My Lady Sunderland! Madam, you must not kneel. Oh, what hath passed in
England to bring you here?"

Mary impetuously raised the Countess, who kissed her bands in a kind of
frantic entreaty.

"Where is the Earl?" cried Mary, with a flush of agitation.

"He hath fled," whispered Lady Sunderland, "to Amsterdam, where he is in
hiding. We have lost everything--everything; his life was in danger;
there was no man in all the ministry hated like my lord--"

The painful colour burnt in Mary's cheek.

"His Majesty discovered--the intrigues--with us?" she asked.

"No--else it had been Tower Hill; but the Catholics undermined him--my
lord could not hold his own--he was dismissed all his offices, and when
the Prince his Declaration was spread abroad, there rose such a spirit in
the nation that we were no longer safe, and while we could, we fled."

Mary took a quick step across the room and laid her trembling hand on
Lady Sunderland's arm.

"The King--knoweth?" she asked.

"The last dispatch of M. D'Albeville told him, and he was struck silent
with dismay."

"Alas! alas!" was wrung from Mary, "that this should have had to be! It
is my father, Madam, and I do a bitter thing against him--"

She sank into the great walnut chair by the fire, and the ready tears
overbrimmed and ran down her white cheeks.

"Your Highness hath a patriotic public duty to perform," said Lady
Sunderland. "And must not think of this--"

"No," answered Mary unsteadily, "no;" she stretched out her hand and drew
the other woman towards her; "but you--you have taken a strange part, my
lady--"

"My lord," said the Countess earnestly, "hath served His Highness to his
own extreme peril, and now I am come to plead a pardon for him from
you--"

"But you yourself," urged Mary; "what have you felt towards these
affairs?"

She rose, still holding the fluttering hand of Lady Sunderland, and
looked steadily into her eyes.

"I have done as my lord directed," was the answer. "I have served him all
my life. I shall serve him--always."

Mary dropped her hand. The thought that stirred her was that she could
not judge, since that same unquestioning devotion ruled her life too.

"My lord his services," she said faintly, "are not such as the Prince can
with honour reward."

"Nor," answered my lady with some pride, "such as he can with honour
ignore--"

"He is apostate," said Mary; "that cannot be forgiven."

"It can be pardoned."

"What would you, Madam? The Earl is no subject of the Prince."

"He is his supplicant--as I am; he might have gone to France, but he hath
put himself at the mercy of His Highness."

"The Prince is ever generous," answered Mary, "but what he can do here I
know not."

She drew away a little from the Countess, for in her thoughts were rising
the remembrances of all the ignoble parts my lord had played, and the ill
reports she had received of him and his wife from her sister, the
Princess Anne.

"You must see the Prince," she said, something coldly.

Lady Sunderland was quick to notice this change of manner.

"I am a woman in bitter trouble," she answered. "I stand before you no
better than a beggar. If it were not that I might still be of use to my
lord, I would pray to die."

"You are very weary," said Mary, with instant kindness. She drew her to
seat herself on the long brocade couch--"Poor soul, I doubt that you are
very sad!"

Lady Sunderland looked at her wildly, then burst into anguished tears.

"Ah, Madam!" cried Mary, bending over her, "I do beseech you take
comfort."

The Countess kept her face hidden, and her bowed shoulders heaved.

"Nothing shall happen to the Earl, I dare swear."

Lady Sunderland looked up.

"Forgive me. I have not wept for so long, My son, my eldest son, is
recently dead in Paris in an obscure duel--I hoped so much from
him--once. Dead I Indeed I know not what I say."

Mary shuddered. She recalled the Lady Sunderland of former
days--brilliant, ambitious, superbly happy--a woman she herself had
looked up to with a half awe as a personification of all the allurement
of that splendid life she had left so early; she thought of all the
unscrupulous intrigues, bargains, deceits, buyings and sellings this lady
had helped her shameless husband with; the extraordinary double game they
had played so long and successfully. But looking at this, the sudden end,
penniless, bereaved exile, she felt no scorn, only a great pity; for the
Countess had been faithful, and Mary thought that a great virtue in a
woman.

"I did not know that of Lord Spencer," she said gently. "I am very sorry;
it is sad for you."

The Countess dried her eyes swiftly.

"I do not know why I should weep for him," she answered half fiercely;
"he went near to break my heart. He was what they call worthless."

She paused, and Mary stood silent; she was not unaware that the sharpest
prick to Lord Sunderland's magnificence had ever been that poor useless
rake, his son, nor ignorant of the Countess's long endeavour to make some
show before the world in this matter, and now that broken pride opened
its heart to her, a stranger, the sadness of it held her mute.

Lady Sunderland's wet strained eyes looked past the fireglow to the bare
boughs and cloudy heavens framed in the tall window.

"It is much better that he is gone," she continued. "Yet--last night I
went on the deck of the packet and it was all so dark and cold, not a
star, and the waves sounding, but not to be seen, and I remembered how
little he was once, and how warm in my arms, and then methought he was
somewhere crying for me in the chill blackness...abroad--in a poor
lodging with no friend."

She wrung her hands together with irrepressible horror. "My God!" she
cried, "there's a way to die!"

Mary caught her arm.

"You must not think of it like that; there is another side to it--God is
very merciful, I know nothing--but in heaven there is great pity for all
of us."

The Countess turned and stared at her a moment, with her handkerchief to
her lips, then said unsteadily--

"I never meant to speak like this--but Your Highness is so gentle--"

Mary smiled.

"I must carry you to my Lady Argyll, Lady Balcarres that was, who is here
with her daughters--"

She turned swiftly, for the door opened, and a familiar voice behind her
said eagerly her name--"Marie, Marie--"

It was the Prince; as he entered he paused, seeing the Countess, who had
instantly risen.

"Lady Sunderland!" he exclaimed, before Mary could speak, and stood
amazed.

They had last seen each other on the occasion of the Prince's last visit
to England, and though he knew her at once he found her considerably
changed.

"The Earl hath fallen?" he added swiftly.

Lady Sunderland was mistress of herself immediately on his appearance. By
force of her long training she fell into the same manner she would have
used to him at Whitehall or Windsor; she gave him a great courtly curtsy.

"The Earl is a refugee at Amsterdam, Your Highness," she said, "and I am
here beseeching charity."

"Ah." William drew a quick breath. "I thought my lord was safe
enough--the King discovered him?"

"No, sir, the Catholics unseated him."

The Prince crossed slowly to the fire.

"So," he said slowly--"well, Madam, the Earl is safe in Amsterdam, and
the Princess will make you welcome."

A flush of reviving hope kindled the refugee's pale cheek.

"We are assured of the gracious protection of Your Highness?" she asked
ardently.

"My lord hath done me considerable service," answered William. "But,
Madam, he is not loved by those English I have about me now." He smiled
dryly. "Yet, if he will lie quiet awhile--I am not ungrateful--"

"It is all we ask," said Lady Sunderland warmly. "My lord wisheth only to
live in quiet obscurity unless he can serve Your Highness--some way--"

William gave her a keen look.

"I hardly think," he answered, "that M. de Sunderland is fitted for quiet
obscurity--but perhaps he will endure it a little while. I leave for
Helvoetsluys to-morrow."

"God bless this noble enterprise Your Highness hath on hand!" cried the
Countess fervently. "Could you see the crowds waiting outside Whitehall
and a-studying the weathercock and praying for a Protestant wind you
would be heartened further in your daring!"

The Prince took a swift look at his wife, who stood with averted face by
the window.

"The King--how took he the news?" he asked.

"I heard that he was all bewildered (being then deeply engaged in the
Cologne dispute and thinking nothing of this, like a man besotted) and
would not part with the Declaration of Your Highness, but carried it
about with him re-reading it--then he called the bishops to ask if they
had put their hands to the invitation, and they gave him no--after which
he made all manner of concessions, like one in a panic fear--"

"Concessions?" interrupted the Prince.

"Sir, he gave back the charter to the city with due solemnity, and their
privileges to the fellows of Oxford and Cambridge, and there was held an
inquiry into the birth of the Prince of Wales--all of which but wasted
the dignity of His Majesty and brought more ridicule than respect--for
all are equally eager for Your Highness, and these concessions come too
late."

"Too late, indeed," said William quietly. "I hope this week to be in
England. How came you across, Madam? I have stopped the packet service
lest they carry too sure advices of what we do here--"

Lady Sunderland smiled sadly.

"In a little owler, sir, we slipped off from Margate sands, and the
weather was so terrible we were like to have been whelmed by the
overtopping waves; yet we gained Maaslandsluys, and from there my lord
went on to Amsterdam--"

"He was wise," said the Prince, "not to come to The Hague."

Lady Sunderland looked at Mary, who had stood motionless so long.

"Your Highness--may I not retire? I have taken too much of your time--"

The Princess turned about with a little start.

"Where are you lodging?" she asked.

"With one Madame de Marsac--known, I think, to Your Highness--"

"You must stay with me," answered Mary warmly, yet with a curious absent
air of distraction. "I will take you to the other English ladies--"

She looked at her husband.

"I shall come back," she said. He gave a little nod which cut short the
graceful gratitude of the Countess, and the two ladies left.

Now he was alone he seated himself near to the fire with that air of
utter fatigue that was like apathy and seemed at times, when he was out
of the sight of men, to overwhelm his great spirit.

He sat quite still, gazing into the fire from under drooping lids, and
when Mary softly returned he did not move.

She slipped behind his chair and took the stool the opposite side of the
hearth; she had put off her cloak; the firelight touched her brown dress
and brown hair to a beautiful ruby warmth and gave a false rosiness to
her pale face.

"I am grieved for Lady Sunderland," she said.

The Prince answered absently.

"Ah yes--I believe she is a knave like him--but they are clever, and he
at least hath some root of patriotism in him."

"Yet I am sorry that you must use such people."

He made no reply, but continued to gaze sadly and sternly into the fire.

Mary gave a little shudder.

"I cannot believe that to-morrow we go to Helvoetsluys--"

Her voice broke, and she steadied it hastily.

"The States are coming also, are they not, to see your departure?"

"They are paying me that compliment," he answered indifferently.

"What chance will your poor wife have to speak to you then--amid that
pomp--"

He sat up and looked at her with instant attention.

"Have you something that you wish to say to me, Marie?"

"Yes," she said earnestly. "I do desire to ask you--for your own sake--to
see that no harm happeneth to--my father." Now she had spoken she sat
very pale and distressed, but fixing him with her soft brown eyes
ardently.

He flushed, and seemed much moved.

"That you should need to ask--" he began, then checked himself. "I
promise," he said.

"For your own dear sake," she cried, "forgive me for speaking of
this--but let people know you would not have him hurt--"

He gazed at her intently.

"This is hard for you," he replied. "I could not go without your sanction
and your help--"

He broke off again. Speech, which had always seemed inadequate to him,
now seemed to merely travesty his feelings.

She too was silent; she had lowered her eyes and seemed to be thinking
deeply. The Prince studied her with an almost painful intensity.

She was so lovely, so gracious, so sweet, so high souled...he remembered
how he had disliked and despised her, treated her with neglect, then
indifference, made no effort to please or win her; and yet she, during
the ten years of their marriage, had never from the first failed in
obedience, sweetness, self-abnegation, nor once faltered from a
passionate devotion to his interests, an unchanging belief in him, and
now, for him, she was doing violence to her own heart and setting
herself in active opposition against her father, a tremendous thing for
such a nature to bring itself to. As he gazed at her fair youth, pale
with anxiety for him, he felt she was the greatest triumph of his life,
and her love an undeserved miracle.

And there came to his mind a certain conversation that he had had with
Sir William Temple in a sunny garden at Nymwegen before his marriage. He
remembered that the Englishman had smiled at his scornful talk of the
Princess, and had said--"Do not despise good women because there are so
many of them--"

Mary suddenly moved and rose. The sun had parted the loose clouds and a
fine ray fell through the tall window and shone in her bright hair and
satin skirt. His thoughts were scattered by her movement; he rose also.

She smiled at him.

"How kind you are to me," she said, trembling, and very low. "Dear God!"
he exclaimed softly, as if he was mocked. "In what way?"

"In giving me so much more of your company of late," answered Mary
simply.

The Prince looked at her strangely.

"Women are wonderful," he said humbly.



CHAPTER XIV - STORMS


The long sand-dunes about the village of Scheveningen were covered with
spectators to the number of several thousands, comprising nearly the
entire population of The Hague, several strangers, refugees from other
parts of Holland, and many French, German, and English; they were
principally women, children, and old men, or those in the sober attire of
merchants, clerks, servants, or shopkeepers.

One single object seemed to animate these people; they were all utterly
silent, and all directed their gaze in one direction--that of the sea.

There, covering the entire sweep of water and obscuring the great horizon
itself, rode that huge armament which contained the whole strength of the
Republic, and on which was staked her hopes and her safety.

This fleet had weighed anchor during the stillness of the previous night;
a few hours after the wind had turned to the south and so brought all the
ships on the north coast, where, for half a day, they had been in full
view of The Hague.

The weather was still and warm, the sky a sunny blue, and the long
stretches of the dunes touched from their usual greyness to a gold look.
Towards afternoon a fine mist rose shimmering from the sea and gave a
curious unreal flatness to the naval pageantry, as if it was some
magnificent vision painted between sea and sky.

Without speaking, save in short whispers to each other, without moving,
save to change their places by a few steps, the people continued to gaze
at the gorgeous spectacle, the like of which no living man had been able
to see before.

There were no less than sixty-five great ships of wars, splendid vessels
rising high above the waves, with much gold on them, seventy vessels of
burden in attendance on them and five hundred transports.

These ships carried five thousand cavalry and ten thousand infantry of
the magnificent Dutch army, the six British regiments in the employ of
the States, the French Protestants formed into a regiment by the Prince
after the Edict of Nantz was revoked, and the whole artillery of every
town in the Republic, which had been left stripped of all defences save
twelve ships of war and the German troops on the Rhine frontier.

The immobile, silent effect of this great and terrible fleet, spreading
for miles and representing the entire strength of a vast maritime power,
making little progress and waiting for the wind, wrought a kind of
exaltation in the hearts of the spectators, all of whom felt their
fortunes dependent on the success of this enterprise, and most of whom
had friends and relations on board, or in England, whose lives were now
at the hazard.

But no dread of personal loss or discomfiture, no fear for those dear to
them, could equal the grand swell of pride the Dutch felt at beholding
the magnificence of the Republic they had built up out of blood and
tears, the power of the Religion they had preserved through perils and
agonies inconceivable, and which had now grown, from a little feeble
spark, to a torch to illume half the world.

The dangers to which they were exposed, the chances of attack from a
powerful enemy while their defences were abroad courting the fortune of
war and the hazard of the winds and sea, the fact that their artillery
was gone and their frontier was on one side in the possession of their
enemies and on the other but protected by German mercenaries, could not
check the sense of glory that stirred them as they watched the changing
leagues of ships, so near, yet so silent and beyond communication.

The exiles, French and English, gazed with more sullen feelings; but
while no national pride was thrilled in their bosoms, the thought of
their former wrongs and suffering and the anticipation of their speedy
avenging made them no less fiercely wish success to those spreading sails
wooing the wind for England. And there was one foreigner, who loved
Holland as her own country, and whose heart beat with a pride and a
terror as intense as that which inspired any of the Dutch.

This was the wife of the Stadtholder, who had yesterday returned from
Helvoetsluys. She had been above two hours riding up and down the sands
watching the slow passing of the fleet; in her company were the English
ladies, the Countesses of Sunderland and Argyll and some of her own
attendants; she had been very silent, and, now, as the afternoon was
fading, she touched up her beast and galloped away from all of them along
the dunes.

She reined her black horse at a higher point where some sparse poplar
trees, stunted, leafless, and tufts of crackling grass grew out of the
dry white sand, and looked round at the great sweep of sea covered with
ships and the great curve of shore covered with people.

Then her glance returned to the object where it had rested since she
first rode down to Scheveningen, the blue flag hanging heavily above the
"Brill," the ship in which the Prince sailed.

Amid all the crossed lines of mighty masts, intricate cordage, and
strained sails she had never failed to distinguish, now in sun, now in
shade, sometimes lifted by the breeze, sometimes slack, this standard,
though she was very shortsighted, and much clear to the other spectators
was a blur to her. When she used her perspective glass she could
sometimes read the legend on this flag, which was the motto of the House
of Orange with the ellipsis filled in--"I will maintain the liberties of
England and the Protestant Religion."

Mary rode out farther along the dunes, the crisp sand flying from her
horse's feet. She was a fine horsewoman, and had dropped the reins on her
saddle to hold her glass. The wind was keen on her face and swept back
the long curls from her ears and fluttered the white plume in her beaver.
Though she was near so vast a multitude no human sound disturbed the
clear stillness; there was only the long beat of the surf on the smooth
wet sand and an occasional cry of some pearl-coloured sea-bird as he
flashed across the golden grey.

In Mary's heart all terror, remorse, sadness had been absorbed by strong
pride; the doubts, shames, fears that had tortured her were gone; she did
not think of her father, of her danger, of her loneliness, only that she,
of all the women there, was the beloved wife of the man who led this--a
nation's strength--into war for that cause which to her was the holiest
of all causes, the new liberty against the ancient tyranny, tolerance
against oppression--all that she symbolized by the word Protestantism.

She was so absorbed in this ecstasy of pride and enthusiasm at the sight
on which she gazed that she started considerably to hear a voice close
beside her say--

"Is it not a magnificent spectacle, Madam?" Mary turned quickly and saw a
plainly dressed lady on a poor hired beast riding close up to her.
Solitude was dear to the Princess, but to rebuke an advance was
impossible to her nature.

"Are you from The Hague?" she asked gently.

"Yes, Madam, I came there yesterday."

She was English, and obviously did not know Mary, who was moved by
something pitifully eager and wistful in her worn thin face and stooping
figure.

"You are belike one of the English exiles?" she suggested kindly.

The other opened out at once with a glow of gratitude at the interest.

"My husband was an officer in the Staffordshire, Madam, and we had no
money but his pay, so when he refused to abjure there was nothing for us
but exile."

Mary pointed to the fleet.

"He--your husband--is there?"

"Yes--the Prince gave him a pair of colours in one of the English
regiments."

"You should be proud," smiled Mary.

She answered simply--

"I am very proud. I pray God to bless the Prince day and night. Where
should such as I be but for him? You, I see, Madam, are also English."

"Yes."

The stranger lady glanced at Mary's gold-braided coat and splendid horse.

"But not a refugee?" she questioned.

"No--my home is at The Hague. I am married to a Dutchman."

The other was looking out to sea again.

"Can you tell me how the ships are disposed?" she asked.

"What is your name, Madam?"

"Dorothy Marston."

"Well, Mrs. Marston, those in the foremost squadron, to the left "--Mary
indicated them with her riding-stock--"have on board the English and
Scotch, commanded by General Mackay--they sail under the red flag of
Admiral Herbert."

"Who is given the van out of compliment to the English," remarked Mrs.
Marston, with sparkling eyes.

Mary drew an excited breath.

"Those scattered ships, under the white flag, are the Germans, the Prince
his guards and Brandenburgers under Count Zolms, and these that bring up
the van are the Dutch and the French Huguenots under the Count of
Nassau--this squadron is under the orders of Admiral Evertgen."

"And where, Madam, is the Prince?"

"In the centre--you can see his flag with his arms--it is called the
'Brill.'"

"Thank you, Madam--it is a noble sight, is it not?"

Mary laughed softly; she was so secure in her own exaltation, that she
felt a kind of pity for the rest of the world.

"Your husband is aboard the fleet?" asked Mrs. Marston, with friendly
curiosity.

"Yes," said Mary quietly.

"Well, there is heartache in it as well as pride for us, is not there,
Madam?"

Mary answered with sparkling animation, her eyes on the blue flag.

"That is for afterwards."

Mrs. Marston sighed.

"I know--but one storm--"

"Speak not of storms," answered Mary, "when we have all whom we love on
board yonder ships--"

"Not _all_."

Mary turned her eyes from the fleet that was gradually becoming enveloped
in the mists of the darkening afternoon. "How--not all?"

"There are always the children," answered the other lady, with a bright
tenderness. "I have three, Madam, whom we keep in Amsterdam, as The Hague
is so expensive--"

Mary's horse started, and she caught up the reins and clutched them to
her bosom. "They are--boys?" she asked, in a changed voice.

"Two, Madam. If they had gone I should indeed be desolate--but they are
too young, and I am selfish enough to be glad of it."

Mary sat motionless. The whole sky was darkening, and hurrying clouds
hastened the twilight. The waves were growing in size and making a longer
roar as they curled over on to the land; the great ships of war could be
seen tossing as their wind-filled sails drove them forwards, and the
little boats were pitched low on their sides.

"It indeed seemeth like a storm," said Mary faintly; her courage, her
pride, had utterly gone; the eyes she strained to fix on the blue flag
were sad and wild.

"A storm?" echoed Mrs. Marston. "O God, protect us!"

Suddenly a low deep murmur rose from the distant multitude. "What is
that?"

"They have lit the lantern on the Prince his ship," said Mary, very low.

The English exile thrilled to see the great clear light hoisted amid the
masts and cordage, sparkling, a beacon through the stormy dusk; her
thoughts travelled from her children, whom so lately she had spoken of.

"It is sad," she remarked, "that the Prince hath no heir."

"His cousin, the Stadtholder of Friseland, is his heir," answered Mary,
with sudden harshness.

"Ah yes; I meant no child. My husband saith it is cruel for any man and
terrible for a great Prince--for how useless all seemeth with none to
inherit! And such an ancient family to end so suddenly--"

Mary murmured something incoherent, of which Mrs. Marston took no notice.

"I would not be the Princess," she continued, "for her chances of a
crown, would you, Madam? It is a cruel thing--I met in Utrecht a
Scotswoman who had been her tirewoman, and she told me that the poor lady
was like a maniac after her second hopes were disappointed and for
ever--"

Mary put out her hand; her face was concealed by the deeping dusk and the
shade of her hat.

"Please stop," she said, in a hard voice. "I--you do not understand--do
people _talk_ of this? God is hard, it seems--and you have children, and
I _pitied_ you. I have been too proud--but humbled enough, I think."

Her speech was so confused and broken that the English lady could make no
sense of it; she stared at her in surprise.

"Why, my speech annoys you, Madam."

Mary was facing the sea again.

"No--continue--people _talk_ of this?" She was facing the overwhelming
bitterness of the discovery that her inmost anguish, which had been too
sacred to take on her own lips, was matter for common gossip. It was an
extraordinary shock, so carefully had the subject always been ignored
before her, and yet, she told herself fiercely, she might have known that
it was discussed in the very streets, for it was a matter that affected
nations.

"You must have heard it spoken of if you have lived any time in Holland,"
answered Mrs. Marston--"ay, or in England either--they say 'tis a pity
the Princess cannot do as the Queen did, and smuggle an heir out of a
warming-pan--why, see, the ships are moving out of sight!"

A great wind had risen which tore the clouds across the paling sky and
drove the ships across the rising sea; already a widening expanse of
waves showed between the fleet and the sands from which the people were
beginning to depart in silent groups; all mist had gone, swept away like
vapour from a mirror, and every tumbling crested wave was clear in the
storm-light. Mary held herself rigid, watching the blue flag lurching to
the pitching of the high vessel; a mere speck it was now, and near the
horizon, and she watched it with no feeling of pride now, that was; the
momentary exaltation had passed, been crushed utterly by a few careless
words.

Mrs. Marston spoke again, but Mary did not hear her; she was alone in a
world of her own. The rapidly disappearing fleet was blurred to her
vision, but she could still see the great light at the prow of the
"Brill" as the crowded canvas bent and leapt before the sudden fury of
the wind.

"A storm," she said, aloud--"a storm."

Her horse moved along the dunes and she did not check him; against the
blue-black clouds was the indistinct figure of Dorothy Marston on her
little knock-kneed hack, excitedly waving her handkerchief to the
disappearing ships.

Mary passed her without speaking, then suddenly turned and galloped back
towards Scheveningen, where, in front of the church, her attendants were
waiting for her; she rode in among them, and, for some reason she could
not have herself explained, passed her own friends and singled out Lady
Sunderland.

"Let us go home," she said; "it is going to be a stormy night."

The Countess at once noticed the change in her manner--the brave calm
changed to piteously controlled trouble, the superb pride turned to
trembling sorrow.

"Those ships, Highness," she answered, "can weather very fierce storms."

"Yet a little accident might sink them," returned Mary, in a quivering
voice--"like hearts, Madam, that are so hurt with little pricks yet will
survive a deep thrust--"

She lifted her beautiful face to the failing light; even the lantern on
the "Brill" had disappeared now; the dark sea was almost clear of sail,
the horizon was obscured in part by the passing of the vanguard, but for
the rest was silver white, a line of radiance fast being obscured by the
overwhelming threatening clouds.

In silence Mary turned and rode back to The Hague; the other ladies
whispered together, but she said nothing until they reached the huis ten
bosch'; then the rain was falling in cold drops and the heavy wind was
casting down the snapped branches along the wide bare avenue.

They dismounted, and Mary turned impulsively to the little quiet group.

"You are extraordinarily kind to me," she said, "and I must thank you
all."

She smiled a little and went from them to her chamber, and then walked
straight to the window embrasure and stood listening to the growing sound
of the wind that lashed the darkness with spreading fury.

She would not come down to supper or even change her clothes, though she
was usually very careful not to disturb the routine of her well-ordered
life; yet, in this little intimate court where every one was her friend,
she felt she might allow herself this solitude.

With the increasing darkness the storm rose to fierce height; the rain
dashed against the window-pane, making the glass shiver, and the wind was
tearing through the wood as if every tree must break before it. Mary took
off her hat and cloak and called for candles; when they were brought she
sent for Lady Sunderland.

The Countess came, looking wan and old; she wore no rouge, and the fair,
carelessly dressed hair showed the grey locks unconcealed.

Mary turned to her dry-eyed.

"Do you hear the storm?" she said. She was seated on a low red stool by
the window and held a Prayer Book in her right hand.

"My Lady Argyll is weeping downstairs," said Lady Sunderland; "but I
perceive that Your Highness hath more constancy."

Mary held up the Prayer Book.

"I have been trying to set my mind on this," she answered, "but the devil
is busy about me--and I cannot fix my thoughts on anything but--those
ships--"

Lady Sunderland, who had made a great clatter with her devotions at
Whitehall, with the sole object of covering her husband's apostasy, but
who had no real religion, knew not what to say.

"God," continued the Princess gravely, "must surely protect an enterprise
so just, but since His ways are mysterious it might be His will to bring
us to disaster, and, humanly speaking, it is a terrible night."

"I fear they will be diverted from their course," said the Countess,
"since faith cannot still the winds--"

Mary rose and handed her the Prayer Book.

"I think we should pray--will you read?--I have had a course of humours
in my eyes, and of late they are so weak--"

The Countess took the book with shaking fingers, then laid it down on the
blue-and-white chintz-covered chair beside her. "I cannot," she said half
fiercely. "It is, Madam, no use." Mary looked at her curiously, and a
pause of silence fell, during which the triumphant progress of the storm
seemed to gather and swell abroad like a trumpet blast without the dark
window.

Presently Mary said in a moved and barely audible voice--

"Madam--about your son--have you ever thought that you would--forgive
me--but he was nothing but pain to you--"

She paused, and Lady Sunderland answered from a kind of self-absorption--

"I did my best. It all seemeth so pointless now we are ruined--I thought
of the name, but there is his brother--a cold, hard spirit who hath no
kindness for me."

Mary was looking at her intently.

"That must be terrible," she said, breathing quick. "To have children who
love one not--do you not think, perhaps, Madam, that it might be
better--to--to have none?"

Suddenly Lady Sunderland saw what she meant, divined the desperate appeal
for comfort disguised in the halting sentence.

"I do think so, truly, Madam," she answered instantly.

"My children have, for all my care, been but discomfort to me."

"But there was the time when they were little," said Mary, with a note in
her voice that caused Lady Sunderland to turn away her face. "And you
must have been glad of them--I--ah forgot what I was saying."

She was young enough herself to be the Countess's daughter, and that lady
felt a great desire to take her in her arms and weep over her, but a
certain reserve and majesty about Mary's very simplicity prevented her
from even discovering her sympathy.

"It is very strange to me to think of my husband abroad in this great
storm," said the Princess, looking up at the window. "I bless my God that
I have the trust to believe that he is safe," she added quietly. "It was
as if my heart was torn out when he left me, and since I have been in a
kind of numbness."

"It is hard on women that they must always sit at home," remarked the
Countess; she thought of her own lord lurking in the back streets of
Amsterdam; she would rather have been with him than playing her part at
The Hague.

The wind rose on a great shriek that seemed to rattle every board in the
house.

Mary winced back from the window, and her face was white even in the
candle glow.

"Let us go to prayers," she said faintly.



CHAPTER XV - THE SECOND SAILING


The next day the Prince of Orange re-entered Helvoetsluys attended by
four maimed ships, the rest having been utterly scattered and dispersed
by the fearful storm; he then, though giddy and scarce able to stand
through seasickness, proceeded, with a serene composure, to go from ship
to ship animating his discomfited followers, and refused to be put on
shore, lest it should be taken as a sign that he was discouraged in his
enterprise and intended to postpone his sailing till the spring.

For the next week the great ships of war with tattered sails and broken
masts came creeping out of the ports and creeks where they had taken
shelter to join the fleet at Helvoetsluys.

Many of the horses had been thrown overboard to save the others, and one
transport had been lost on the coast of Ireland, but there was no further
damage, and the Prince by his great constancy, enthusiasm, spirit, and
courage soon had all repaired and made fit, though he caused it to be put
in the Dutch Gazette that he was utterly confounded and his forces so
broken by the storm that he could not possibly sail before April, and
copies of these Gazettes he saw were smuggled into England, where they
were read by King James, who was mightily pleased by this news--and said
it was no wonder since the Host had been exposed a week, and thereupon he
withdrew all the concessions that the reported coming of the Prince had
frightened him into, and so showed plainly that fear and not desire had
wrung them from him; and both the relaxing and the tightening of his rule
were fatally too late for his fortunes, for men had no longer any trust
in his word or sincerity, and half the great lords were pledged to the
Prince,

And the greater number thought there could be no salvation save in his
coming, so gave no heed to the actions of the King, but watched the
weather-cocks and prayed for a Protestant wind.

Within Whitehall was a medley of priests and women, mingled with some
honest gentlemen who really were loyal to the Kingship and the House of
Stewart, and who were in no way listened to, and silent courtiers who
were pledged to William, about the stern foolish King who alternated
between weak hesitation and self-confident obstinacy.

Sunderland had kept the business of the Kingdom together, and now
Sunderland was gone everything fell into bewildering chaos; the King,
distracted between the advices of M. Barillon and the fears of Father
Petre, the tears of the Italian Queen and the sullen coldness of his
nobles, bitterly regretted Sunderland, whose intrigues he had not as yet
any glimpse of. There was a fine fleet the King might have relied on, and
the Admiral, Lord Dartmouth, was loyal enough, but the Duke of Grafton,
son of the late King, and a rude handsome rake, went down privately to
Plymouth and extorted a secret promise from most of the Captains that
they would not fight for a Catholic King against a Protestant Prince.

The Army was gathered on Hounslow Heath with the object of overawing the
capital, and the advice of those spirited gentlemen who were truly
desirous to see the King retain his dignities was that he should put
himself at the head of it and so advance to meet the invader.

But the spirit that had inspired James when he was rowed with his flag
through the fires of Solebay had long left him; his courage had been the
mere flash of youth and noble blood; he was old now, and his soul sank
before danger; the terrors of his father's fate, the miseries of his own
exiled youth, came upon him with horrible vividness; he let disasters
crowd down upon him, and clung to his priests and his faith with the
despair of stupidity.

Meanwhile the Prince of Orange, having taken a second leave of his wife
and the States, sailed with great pomp, the sound of trumpets, the
flutter of flags, and the discharge of artillery, from Helvoet, having
been but eleven days repairing his ships, replacing his horses, and
reassembling his fleet, and having, by the serenity of his behaviour, the
unfaltering decision of his actions, the wisdom of his proposals,
snatched glory from disappointment, as was ever the way of this Prince.

The little advice packets that darted out from the coast of England to
watch his movements reported that he was making for the north, in which
direction, with a brisk gale in his sails, he indeed steered for twelve
hours; but when the night fell and the advice packets had hastened home
with news, the Prince signalled to his fleet to tack about, which it did,
and, with all the sail it could spread, put before the wind to the
westward, and under a fair sky bore for the coasts of Devon.

This ruse had its full effect, for Lord Feversham, who commanded the
English troops, was bid march northwards, and all the cattle were ordered
to be driven from the coasts of Yorkshire.

With the next dawn the Dutch van made the Channel, along which it
stretched for twenty miles in full view of England and France, the shores
of both these countries being covered with spectators who viewed a sight
such as had not been seen in these waters since the great Armada crossed
these seas, a hundred years before.

The magnificence of this procession of mighty ships, which took seven
hours to pass, going at their full speed before a strong east wind, the
strength and purpose that they symbolized, the power of the Religion,
once despised and oppressed, but that now was able to split the world
into factions, whose name showed beneath the arms of Orange, that family
which of all others had been most distinguished in the defence of
liberty, the sheer pomp of war in the great vessels with their guns,
flags, and netting, their attendant ships and companies of soldiers on
board, the prestige of the man who led this daring expedition, all
combined to thrill the hearts of those who watched, whether on the French
or English coasts, whether they uttered curses or blessings, prayers for
failure or success.

About noon, they then being in Calais roads, the Prince gave orders to
lay by, both to call a council of war and to strike terror into the two
watching nations by displaying his strength in this narrow sea.

Accordingly he himself changed to the foremost vessel, taking with him
his own standard, and there waited for the rest of the armament to come
up, which they presently did, and formed into one body, sixteen ships
square, only a league at each side, from either shore, and when they were
drawn up, the Prince, from that ship which was nearest the English coast,
signalled that the two famous forts of Calais and Dover were to be
saluted, which was done at the same moment with great thunder of the
deep-mouthed artillery, which was an astonishing spectacle that there
should be in Dover Straits a fleet so huge that it could salute these two
forts at the same time and be but a league from either. There was
something awful in the sound of this warlike courtesy, to the ears of
both nations, and some awe and terror mingled with their admiration as
the smoke obscured the green dancing waves.

From Dover Castle there was no reply, the doubt of England being
expressed in this silence; but from Calais came a proud answering salute
as from a mighty foe who honours himself by the formalities of respect to
his adversary, and the Prince standing on the upper deck amid the
slow-clearing gunpowder vapour flushed to hear again the French guns who
had last spoken to him among the heights of St. Denis, ten years ago.

At the council of war now held it was decided that the disposition of the
fleet should be changed, for news had come that the English, who lay at
the Gunfleet, were making full endeavours to overtake and fight the
Dutch, for though Lord Dartmouth knew that half his officers were pledged
to the Prince, and his men very doubtful of engaging in the cause of the
King, yet he resolved to use his utmost powers to prevent the landing of
His Highness, for he was under personal obligations to James, who had
always treated him more as a friend than a subject, and was filled with
an honourable desire to serve His Majesty in this crisis.

The Prince, knowing this from my Lord Grafton, was eager to avoid a
conflict, for however well disposed the English sailors might be to his
religion and person, he wisely suspected that a nation so proud, and in
particular so jealous of their prestige on the sea, would, when faced in
order of battle with those people whom they had so often and so recently
fought, forget everything save the desire to achieve a victory over that
Republic which alone disputed with them the over-lordship of the ocean.

For this reason His Highness had given Admiral Herbert the command of his
armament, that the English might salve their arrogance by the thought
that an Englishman led this invading force; yet he secretly believed that
the names of Herbert and Russell would not prove so potent a motive for
peace, as the sight of the foreign flags, jacks, and haughty ships would
prove an incentive to rage in the bosoms of the British, who could
endure, it seemed, any hardship but the idea of foreign dominion.

Therefore it was decided that the Prince and the transports with the
troops should continue to lead the van with three ships of war to guard
him, and so, sailing down the Channel, make the coast of England, in the
west, and that the bulk of the fleet should remain in the van ready to
engage the English should they leave their station and venture into the
open straits.

But this, though it was the thing he most longed to accomplish, Lord
Dartmouth found impossible, for that east wind so favourable to the hopes
of the Prince was a tyrant to him and held him helpless abreast of the
Long Sands, with his yards and topmasts down incapable of purchasing his
anchors, while he beheld some of the Dutch vessels pass within his very
sight making triumphantly for the coast he was bidden protect while his
ships rode at their station useless as a fishing fleet.

And this was in some part the fault of my Lord Dartmouth, who cursed the
wind in a passion of misery, for he had ignored the advice of His
Majesty, who was a knowing man in naval affairs, which was to anchor east
of the Gallopper, so that his ships might be free to move which way they
pleased, instead of which he acted on his own sense, which was not equal
to the King's advice; as was proved, for the scouts, who were left at the
Gallopper, captured a Dutch transport, and if they had been greater in
strength might have served the whole body of the invader the same.

Now in full sight of the shores of these two countries, England and
France, the Dutch fleet performed their evolutions, with the pomp of war,
the discharge of artillery, the music of trumpets and drums, and the
salutes of the entire armament to the ship which carried the Prince and
his standard as she made her way to the van; and this all under a blue
sky crystal-clear that reflected in the tumbling waves lashed by the
strong high English wind a hundred tints of azure and water-green, above
which the smoke hung in light vapours.

The Prince, under full sail, made for Torbay, which was large enough to
contain a great number of the transports, but the Dutch pilot, not being
just in his reckoning, went past both that port and the next, which was
Dartmouth. The third port was Plymouth, but this being a naval station
and a well-fortified place, the Prince was by no means inclined to risk a
landing there, since he was not certain of the disposition of the
inhabitants towards him, and his great object on land, as on sea, was to
avoid a combat, since his sole argument for interfering in the affairs of
England was the wish of the English themselves and the invitation of
their principal nobles, as he had acknowledged in his Declaration, and it
would give a very ill look to this claim of his if his landing was
opposed by a bloody fight.

Yet to tack about to enter Torbay was attended by almost equal danger,
since the wind had changed, and Lord Dartmouth with his entire fleet had
left Long Sands and was now under full sail in pursuit.

The Prince, distracted by these conflicting considerations, knew not what
course to take, and was tortured by the most cruel anxiety, since to
either advance or retire might be followed by misfortunes fatal to his
whole design.

While he was still undecided as to what orders to give and which risks to
choose, the wind changed in an instant to the south, which had the effect
of bringing the Prince within a few hours into Torbay and forcing the
English Admiral back to Long Sands.

It being the 4th of November when the Prince saw the cliffs of Devon and
the great natural harbour overlooked by the tourelles and towers of
Brixham and Torquay, he was anxious to effect a landing there, because it
was both his birthday and the anniversary of his marriage, and so he put
off in a cock boat with a few of the English nobles and M. Bentinck, and
came ashore at Brixham, where there were none but fishermen to receive
him, the which stood about staring half in admiration, half in awe,
thinking maybe of Monmouth's landing not so far off nor so long ago, and
how the county had suffered for it under the executions of my Lord Chief
Justice.

The Prince called for horses, which were being landed as fast as might be
where the water was shallower; yet it was not possible to make the
landing effectual till the morrow, and but few of the transports were
able to land that night.

The Prince, who had well studied the map of England, resolved to march to
Exeter and there wait the coming of his English friends; but for this
night the wooden tent that he used in war was put up in a neighbouring
field, to the great amazement of the country-folk, who had never beheld
anything of this nature.

The friends and followers of the Prince being gathered about him to
congratulate and flatter, among them came his chaplain, Dr. Burnet,
expounding in his usual talkative excitement on the marvellous success of
the expedition.

The Prince was more than ordinarily cheerful, and spared the rebuke with
which he usually checked the meddling enthusiast.

He gave the Englishman his hand, and looking round the darkening
landscape said, with a smile--

"Well, doctor, what do you think of predestination now?"



CHAPTER XVI - NEWS FROM ENGLAND


The weeks that followed, so full of great events, passions, movements,
and suspenses in Britain, passed with an almost uneventful calm in The
Hague, where the Princess, round whose rights half the turmoil had
arisen, and the wives of many eminent men engaged in, or affected by, the
rapid changing of events, waited for the packets that brought the English
letters, and lived in between their coming in a kind of retired anxiety
supported by prayers and saddened by tears.

The Elector of Brandenburg and his wife came on a visit to Mary, and she
entertained them as best she might with her heart aching with other
thoughts. They went, and she was alone again and free' to go to and from
her chapel and wait for her letters and wonder and dread the future
through the cold winter days in the quiet town, which seemed, as she was,
to be waiting with suspended breath.

The progress of affairs in England came brokenly and from various
sources, letters arrived slowly, at irregular intervals, delayed by
ice-blocked rivers, storms at sea, detained messengers. At first the news
was of the Prince's progress to Exeter and the cold reception of that
city, the long delay of his friends to join him, the mere wondering
apathy of the country-people, who made no movement one way or another,
save to make a spectacle of the passing of this foreign army and to
petition the Prince that he would, when he could, remove the hearth tax.

The next news was that when the Prince was near resolved to return home
the spirited English gentry began to rise in his favour, the Lord Wharton
and the Lord Colchester marched from Oxford to join him, and my Lord
Lovelace broke through the militia, and though arrested once and taken to
Gloucester, yet forced out of prison, and with the help of some young
gentlemen who had taken up arms for the Prince, drove all the Papists out
of that city, and so joined His Highness at Exeter; soon after the Lord
Delamere came from Nottingham and took Chester, which, under a Papist,
Lord Molineux, held out for the King, and my Lord Danby rose up in the
North, and with other persons of quality seized on the city of York and
turned out the Papists and clapt up the Mayor, while Colonel Copley, with
the aid of some seamen, seized Hull and the powder magazine, and the Earl
of hath took Plymouth from the Earl of Huntingdon and declared for the
Prince, as did all the seaport towns in Cornwall.

At which, the news ran, the King went to join his army at Salisbury,
having sent the Prince of Wales to Portsmouth, but afterwards returned to
Windsor upon an alarm of the approach of M. de Schomberg, and so to
London, where he found his favourite, Lord Churchill, his son-in-law,
Prince George, and his daughter, Anne, had fled to the Prince of Orange,
attended by the suspended Bishop of London, who had signed the invitation
to His Highness. Then followed news of the skirmish at Wincanton, where
some of the Prince's guards under Lieutenant Campbell were put to the
rout by the King's men, commanded by that gallant Irishman, Patrick
Sarsfield; soon the fleet, growing cold in the service of His Majesty,
sent up an address for a free parliament and the army deserted by the
regiment.

Now the King took out of the Tower Sir Bevil Skelton, late ambassador to
Versailles, cast there for the move he had concerted with M. D'Avaux,
which if truly followed had saved the King, as he now came to say, and so
made Sir Bevil governor of the Tower and Master of the Keys of the
Kingdom.

After which he went to Hungerford in great despair of mind, where,
advised by the Queen and the Jesuits, he sent overtures to the Prince,
offering to defer all grievances to the calling of a free parliament, the
writs for which the Lord Chancellor Jefferies had already been bid to
issue.

The Lords Halifax, Nottingham, and Godolphin, having taken this message,
brought back an answer which was the best the King could have hoped for,
since it made only those demands which were reasonable, such as that the
Papists should be removed from office and that Tilbury Fort and the Tower
of London should be put into the hands of the Capital.

But when they returned with these terms to Whitehall, the commissioners
found that the King, either through fearfulness or weakness, or wrought
on by the advices of M. Barillon, had taken the extraordinary
resolutions--first, of sending his wife and son to France, and secondly,
of flying London himself, leaving the government in chaos. Upon which
these three lords, perceiving they had been sent on a mock embassy,
became for ever incensed against His Majesty. He left a letter for the
commander of the army, a Frenchman, Lord Feversham, which that general
took to be an order for the disbanding of the forces, which finally put
everything into the greatest disorder.

The next letters that came to The Hague were full of the Prince's success
against the Irish Guards at Twyford Bridge, outside the town of Reading,
and the behaviour of the multitude in London, who, as soon as they heard
of the departure of the King and the Jesuits, and the near approach of
the Prince of Orange, got together and demolished all the new mass
chapels and convents; among which was the great monastery of St. John,
which had been two years building at a great expense, but was now burnt
down and the goods seized as the monks were hurriedly removing, besides
all the timber stored in Smithfield for the finishing, which was stacked
into a bonfire and burnt at Holborn by the river fleet.

Likewise the chapels in Lime Street and Lincoln's Inn Fields, the
lodgings of the resident of the Duke of Florence, and Nild House, which
was the mansion of the Spanish Ambassador, were spoiled and defaced; yet
to the great credit of the English people, in all this heat and
excitement, there was not one slain or even hurt.

To put a stop to these mischiefs, the lords who were then in London went
to the Guildhall and, having demanded the keys of the Tower from Sir
Bevil Skelton and delivered them to the Lord Lucas, they took upon
themselves the governance of the kingdom for the maintenance of order and
the prevention of bloodshed. At first they associated with themselves the
magistrates of the city, but on finding that those who are born traders
cannot contest with gentlemen in great affairs, they used them not as
their colleagues but as their servants, and gave their orders as the King
had done.

Soon after they invited the Prince, who was now at Windsor, to London,
and the same day that he received their address he was presented with
another to the same effect from the city of London, which he accepted
with more pleasure, and let it be seen that he did; for his titles and
encouragements had always come from the people, and his enemies from the
nobles, both in his own country and England.

To the anxious hearts at The Hague all seemed now clear for a peaceful
conclusion, when the news came that the King, having by foul weather been
cast upon the coast of Kent, was there stopped and roughly handled by
several of the common people who knew him not.

When the governing lords heard of this they sent an express begging His
Majesty to return to London, which he did after some difficulty, and on
Sunday, being the 16th of December, entered the capital, attended by some
troops of the Life Guards and Grenadiers; and a set of boys following him
with cheers put up his spirits so that he thought he had the people with
him again.

At this juncture he sent the Lord Feversham to His Highness at Windsor,
asking him to come to St. James's and settle matters; but His Highness
had by now perceived that no settlement of any difficulty could be
arrived at while this obstinate, foolish, and fearful King remained in
London, and, having discovered that His Majesty had no courage to resist
authority, he took a high hand, arrested the Lord Feversham for
travelling without a passport, and sent three lords to Whitehall with a
message desiring the King to retire to Ham, having first secured all the
posts and avenues about Whitehall by replacing the English guards by
Dutch. On receipt of the message the King instantly agreed, only asking
that it might be Rochester and not Ham, which desire being communicated
to the Prince by messenger (His Highness being then at Zion House), who
sent an answer by M. Bentinck that he gave his consent, only adding that
he wished His Majesty to leave early that he might not meet him on the
road.

So the King, having with him the Earl of Arran and a few other gentlemen,
went by barge to Gravesend and so overland to Rochester, where he lay in
the house of Sir Richard Head.

The afternoon of this day on which the King left London for ever, the
Prince and his retinue came to St. James's, the whole city shouting and
blazing in his honour. But having always hated these displays, and
despising the levity that prompted them, he drove by a back way to the
Palace, and the people got no sight of him. All the persons of quality in
town now flocked to offer their congratulations, and the city sent up a
most obliging address which His Highness very cordially received; soon
the lords and the city requested the Prince to take the government on
himself, which he did, his first act being one which gave him peculiar
satisfaction--he ordered M. Barillon to leave the kingdom in twenty-four
hours, and had him escorted to the coast by Dutch guards, which was a
severe knock to the pride of France.

As to the affairs of the kingdom, he ordered writs to be issued for the
calling of a Convention, which was to consist of all persons who had sat
in parliament during the reign of His Majesty Charles II.

All this was great and triumphant news to the States and the Princess.
The nobility then at The Hague came to compliment Her Highness, and three
deputies were sent from the States-General to congratulate the Prince,
and were magnificently received by the English.

The Prince then commanded all Papists to depart out of London and
Westminster within three days, and to engage the city in his interest he
asked them for a loan, and though the security was but his bare word and
the sum he asked but a hundred thousand, they subscribed three hundred
thousand and paid it in, in so many days.

His Majesty being gone to Windsor so as not to prejudice the meeting of
the Convention, that body came together on the 22nd of January, and after
having humbly thanked His Highness for their deliverance, prayed him to
continue to administer the government, and appointed a day of
thanksgiving, fell to considering what course they should take.

With comparative ease they declared the throne vacant by the flight of
the King, but were not so quick in deciding who should fill it. The
Prince meanwhile kept silence, observing the same composure that he had
maintained during the whole progress of the Revolution, even hunting,
staying at private houses, and keeping out of the capital; only sending
one brief letter to the Convention, in which he prayed them to come
quickly to a decision, as there was the safety of Europe to consider.

Despite this withdrawal of himself, this calm that he displayed in the
midst of the turmoil, he was the pivot round which all circled, the one
authority respected by all, the one defence against anarchy and
mischievous confusion.

The English, who knew in their hearts that they could not do without him,
could by no means make up their minds what to do with him, and soon,
after their custom, split into very decided parties, which were most
violent against each other and got every day farther from a settlement.

At this time the news that reached The Hague was of the most astonishing
and unwelcome to the Princess, and this was the manner of her receiving
it, one day, very cold, in late January. She was riding in her chariot in
the Voorhout, reflecting on this extraordinary revolution in her native
country, and thinking of her father (who was now fled to France), when
she was accosted by M. D'Avaux, who still remained at The Hague.

The Princess was much surprised by this, and was giving a mere formal
salute, when M. D'Avaux, with his hat clasped to his bosom, galloped up
to her open chariot in such a manner that she could do nothing but desire
it to stop.

"Ah, Madam," said he, smiling, and very courteous, "am I to condole with
the daughter of King James or congratulate the wife of the Prince of
Orange?"

She looked at him, very pale, but with a great majesty.

"You are to respect a woman in an extraordinary and sad situation,
Monsieur," she answered gravely.

"Extraordinary indeed, Your Highness," said M. D'Avaux. "But scarcely sad
to you, I think, who are like to be Queen."

It flashed through Mary's mind how near to war they must be with France
before he could venture to speak so.

She answered instantly--

"I take no public reprimand from the Ambassador of France, Monsieur."

M. D'Avaux bowed.

"More a congratulation, Highness, to the future sovereign of England."

Her look of amaze was not to be concealed. His keen eyes, that never left
her face, remarked it.

"Ah, Your Highness hath not heard the last news from England?" he asked
quietly.

"News from England!" repeated Mary, "I hear nothing else--"

"Then you will have heard that the Convention is for making you Queen,
Madam," he answered, "which perhaps is not quite the consummation His
Highness desired."

Mary gazed at him a second, then made a motion with her gloved hand to
the coachman.

"It is cold to keep the horses waiting," she said, and so drove on.

Cold indeed, and the snow beginning to fall in heavy flakes across the
straight fronts of the noble houses in the Voorhout; the people of
quality gathered there on horseback and on foot began to scatter before
the chilly wind and slow darkness. The Princess shuddered inside her fur
coat, and drove back to the huis ten bosch.'

As she passed down the gaunt avenues of bare trees overshadowing frozen
water and frozen ground, showing between their dark trunks glimpses of a
pale February sunset fast being blotted out by the thick snow clouds, she
felt to her very heart the awful desolation of approaching change, the
wild regret for a happy period closed, the unnameable loneliness which
assailed her when she considered how she was being caught up and hurried
into a whirl of events foreign and distasteful.

When she reached home she asked for her letters; but evidently the packet
that had brought M. D'Avaux his had none for her. She made no comment,
but played basset awhile with Lady Sunderland, went early to her prayers,
then wept herself to sleep.



CHAPTER XVII - FAREWELL TO HOLLAND


Soon after the Groote Kerk had struck midnight, one of the Princess's
Dutch ladies came to the chamber of her mistress with the news that
letters from England had come, it being the command of Mary that she
should always be roused, whatever the hour, when the mail arrived.

She came out now, in her undress--a muslin nightshift with an overgown of
laycock, and with her hair, which was one of her principal beauties,
freed from the stiff dressing of the day and hanging about her
shoulders--into the little anteroom of her bedchamber, where the candles
had been hastily lit and the tiled stove that burnt day and night stirred
and replenished.

There were two letters. She had no eyes save for that addressed in the
large careless hand of the Prince, and tore it open standing under the
branched sconce, where the newly-lit candles gave a yet feeble light from
hard wax and stiff wick, while the Dutch lady, excited and silent, opened
the front of the stove and poked the bright sea coals.

The Princess, who had waited long for this letter, owing to the
ice-blocked river, was sharply disappointed at the briefness of it; the
Prince requested her to make ready to come at once to England, as her
presence was desired by the Convention, told her what to say to the
States, and remarked that the hunting at Windsor was poor indeed compared
to that of Guelders.

Mary laid the letter down.

"I must go to England, Wendela," she said to her lady; then sat silent a
little, while the candles burnt up to a steady glow that filled the room
with a fluttering light of gold.

"Is my Lady Sunderland abed?" asked Mary presently.

"No, Madam; she was playing cards when I came up."

"Will you send her to me, Wendela?"

The lady left the room and Mary noticed the other letter, which she had
completely forgotten. She took it up and observed that the writing was
strange; she broke the seals and drew nearer the candles, for her eyes,
never strong, were now blurred by recent tears.

The first words, after the preamble of compliments, took her with
amazement. She glanced quickly to the signature, which was that of Lord
Danby, then read the letter word for word, while her colour rose and her
breath came sharply.

When she had finished, with an involuntary passionate gesture and an
involuntary passionate exclamation, she dashed the letter down on the
lacquer bureau.

Lady Sunderland, at this moment entering, beheld an expression on the
face of the Princess which she had never thought to see there--an
expression of sparkling anger.

"Ill news from England, Highness?" she asked swiftly.

"The worst news in the world for me," answered Mary. Then she cried,
"This is what M. D'Avaux meant!"

The Countess raised her beautiful eyes. She was very fair in rose-pink
silk and lace, her appearance gave no indication of misfortune, but in
her heart was always the sharp knowledge that she was an exile playing a
game, the stake of which was the greatness, perhaps the life, of her
husband.

"What news, Highness?" she questioned gently.

Mary was too inflamed to be reserved, and, despite the vast difference in
their natures, a great closeness had sprung up between her and the
Countess during these weeks of waiting.

"They wish to make me Queen," she said, with quivering lips, "to the
exclusion of the Prince. My Lord Danby, whom I never liked, is leading a
party in the Convention, and he saith will have his way--"

Lady Sunderland was startled.

"What doth His Highness say?"

"Nothing of that matter--how should he? But he would never take that
place that would be dependent on my courtesy--he!" She laughed
hysterically. "What doth my lord mean?--what can he think of me? I,
Queen, and the Prince overlooked?--am I not his wife? And they know my
mind. I told Dr. Burnet, when he meddled in this matter, that I had sworn
obedience to the Prince and meant to keep those vows--"

She paused, breathless and very angry; her usual vivacity had changed to
a blazing passion that reminded Lady Sunderland of those rare occasions
when His late Majesty had been roused.

"My lord meant to serve you," she said.

"To serve me!" repeated Mary, "when he is endeavouring to stir up this
division between me and the Prince--making our interests different--"

"You are nearer the throne, Highness--"

Mary interrupted impatiently--

"What is that compared to what the Prince hath done for England? Can they
think," she added, with a break in her voice, "that I would have done
this--gone against--His Majesty--for a crown--for anything save my duty
to my husband? What must _he_ think of me--these miserable intrigues--"

She flung herself into the red brocade chair in front of the cabinet, and
caught up the offending letter.

"Yet," she continued, with a flash of triumph, "this will give me a
chance to show them--where my duty lieth--"

She took up her pen, and Lady Sunderland came quickly to the desk.

"What do you mean to do?" she asked curiously.

"I shall write to my lord, tell him my deep anger, and send his letter
and a copy of mine to the Prince."

Lady Sunderland laid her hand gently on Mary's shoulder.

"Think a little--"

Mary lifted flashing eyes.

"Why should I think?"

"This is a crown you put aside so lightly!"

The Princess smiled wistfully.

"I should be a poor fool to risk what I have for a triple crown!"

"Still--wait--see," urged the Countess; "'tis the crown of England that
my lord offereth--"

"Do you think that anything to me compared to the regard of the Prince?"
asked Mary passionately. "I thought that you would understand. Can you
picture him as my pensioner--him! It is laughable, when my whole life
hath been one submission to his will. Oh, you must see that he is
everything in the world to me...I have no one else--" She continued
speaking rapidly, almost incoherently, as was her fashion when greatly
moved. "At first I thought he would never care, but now he doth; but he
is not meek, and I might lose it all--all this happiness that hath been
so long a-coming. Oh, I will write such a letter to my lord!"

"You sacrifice a good deal for the Prince," said the Countess half sadly.

"Why," answered Mary, "this is easier than going against my father, and
giving the world cause to scorn me as an unnatural daughter--"

Her lips quivered, but she set them proudly.

"I have talked enough on this matter, God forgive me, but I was angered
by this lord's impertinence."

The Countess made some movement to speak, but Mary checked her.

"No more of this, my Lady Sunderland," she said firmly. She took a sheet
of paper from the bureau and began to write.

Lady Sunderland moved to the stove and watched her intently and with some
curiosity. The wife of my late Lord President was tolerably well informed
in English politics, and knew that the Tories would rather have the
daughter than the nephew of the Stewarts on the throne, and that the
great bulk of the general nobility would rather have a woman like the
Princess than a man like the Prince to rule them.

She did not doubt that Mary, with her nearer claim, her English name and
blood, would readily be accepted by the English as Queen, and that the
nation would be glad to retain the services of her husband at the price
of some title, such as Duke of Gloucester--which had been proposed for
him before--and whatever dignity Mary chose to confer on him. She
certainly thought that this scheme, pleasing as it might be to Whig and
Tory, showed a lack of observation of character on the part of the
originator, my Lord Danby; Lord Sunderland had always declared that it
was the Prince they needed, not his wife, and that they would never
obtain him save for the highest price--the crown.

Yet the Countess, standing in this little room, watching Mary writing
with the candlelight over her bright hair and white garments, seeing her
calmly enclose to the Prince Lord Danby's letter and a copy of her
answer, could not help some wonder that this young woman--a Stewart, and
born to power and gaiety--should so lightly and scornfully put aside a
crown--the crown of England.

When Mary had finished her letters and sealed them, she rose and came
also to the stove. She looked very grave.

"The Prince saith not one word of our losses," she remarked--"Madame
Bentinck, I mean, and M. Fagel, yet both must have touched him nearly. I
am sorry for M. Bentinck, who hath had no time to grieve."

"What will happen in England now, Highness?" asked the Countess, thinking
of the Earl.

"I suppose," said Mary, breathing quickly, "they will offer the Prince
the throne...he commandeth my presence in England...I must leave
Holland--"

"You love the country?"

"Better than my own. I was not made for great affairs. I love this quiet
life--my houses here, the people..."

She broke off quickly.

"What will you do, Madam?"

Lady Sunderland indeed wondered.

"Go join my lord in Amsterdam," she answered half recklessly. "An exile
remains an exile."

"The Prince," said Mary gravely, "hath some debt to my lord. He never
forgetteth his friends--or those who serve him."

"I thank you for that much comfort, Madam."

"You must return to England--to Althorp," continued the Princess gently;
"you have done nothing that you should stay abroad--"

Lady Sunderland shook her head.

"What is Althorp to me, God help me! I think my home is in Amsterdam--I
shall go there when Your Highness leaveth for England."

Mary put her cool hand over the slim fingers of the Countess that rested
on the back of the high walnut chair.

"Are you going with Basilea de Marsac?"

"Yes; she is a good soul."

"A Catholic," said Mary, with a little frown; "but I like her too--better
than I--"

"She hath become very devoted to Your Highness; she is very lonely."

"What was her husband?"

Lady Sunderland smiled.

"An incident."

Mary smiled too, then moved back to the bureau.

"I must get back to bed; I have a sore throat which I must nurse." She
coughed, and moistened her lips. "I am as hoarse as a town-crier." She
laughed again unsteadily and rang the silver bell before her. "I never
pass a winter without a swelled face or a sore throat."

The Dutch waiting lady entered, and Mary gave her the letters.

"See that they go at the earliest--and, Wendela, you look tired, get to
bed immediately."

With no more than this she sent off her refusal of three kingdoms. When
they were alone again she rose and suddenly embraced Lady Sunderland.

"Do you think I shall come back to Holland?" she asked under her breath.

"Why--surely--"

"Ah, I know not." She loosened her arms and sank on to the stool near
the stove. "Sometimes I feel as if the sands were running out of me. You
know," she smiled wistfully, "I have an unfortunate name; the last Mary
Stewart, the Prince his mother, was not thirty when she died--of
smallpox."

She was silent, and something in her manner held Lady Sunderland silent
too.

"A terrible thing to die of," added Mary, after a little. "I often think
of it; when you are young it must be hard, humanly speaking, but God
knoweth best."

"I wonder why you think of that now asked Lady Sunderland gently.

"I wonder I We must go to bed...this is marvellous news we have had
to-night...to know that I must sail when the ice breaketh...good night,
my Lady Sunderland."

The Countess took her leave and Mary put out the candles, which left the
room only illumed by the steady glow from the white, hot heart of the
open stove.

Mary drew the curtains from the tall window and looked out.

It was a clear frosty night, utterly silent; the motionless branches of
the trees crossed and interlaced into a dense blackness, through which
the stars glimmered suddenly, and suddenly seemed to disappear.

The chimes of the Groote Kerk struck the half-hour, and the echoes dwelt
in the silence tremblingly.

Mary dropped the curtain and walked about the room a little. Then she
went to the still open desk and took up the remaining letter--that of the
Prince.

With it in her hand she stood thoughtful, thinking of her father in
France, of all the extraordinary changes and chances which had brought
her to this situation, face to face with a dreaded difference from
anything she had known.

She went on her knees presently, and rested her head against the stool,
worked by her own fingers in a design of beads and wool, and put the
letter against her cheek, and desperately tried to pray and forget
earthly matters.

But ever between her and peace rose the angry, tragic face of her father
and the stern face of her husband confronting each other, and a
background of other faces--the mocking, jeering faces of the
world--scorning her as one who had wronged her father through lust of
earthly greatness.



CHAPTER XVIII - BY THE GRACE OF GOD


The Princess's boat, with her escort of Dutch warships, rode in the
Thames at last. The frost had broken, and she arrived not long after her
letter to Lord Danby had scattered that statesman's party, and frustrated
his hopes of placing her on the throne. The Prince having soon after
declared his mind to the lords in council, that he would accept no
position dependent on his wife's pleasure or the life of another (for
there had been talk of a regency, leaving the King the nominal title),
made it clear that if his services were to be retained, if he was not to
abandon them to the confusion, strife, and disaster from which his
presence alone saved them, he must be King. All parties uniting, then, on
what was now proved to be the winning side, the Convention voted the
offer of the crown to the Prince and Princess jointly--the sole
administration to rest with him.

The succession, after naming the direct line, was left vague to please
the Prince, who was free to flatter himself that he could choose his own
heir.

This news had come to Mary before she left The Hague, and she knew that
the day after her landing there would be a formal offering and acceptance
of the crown of Great Britain. She beheld the prospect with extraordinary
sensations as, passing Gravesend, and leaving her vessel and escort at
Greenwich, she proceeded in a state barge to the more familiar reaches of
the river, Rotherhithe, Wapping, and presently the Tower, rising golden
grey in the chill spring sunshine, by the bridge with the deep crazy
arches through which the water poured in dangerous rapids. Crowded with
houses was this old bridge, and in the centre a little chapel with a
bell, now ringing joyfully.

Mary remembered it all--the long busy wharves, now taking holiday; the
barges, boats, and compact shipping now hung with flags; Galley Key,
where the slaves in chains unlade the oranges, silks, and spices from the
East; the houses, on the side of Surrey, among which rose the spire of
the great church at Southwark; the merchants' houses built down to the
water's edge, with pleasant gardens filled with poplar trees and set with
the figureheads of ships in which some adventurer had sailed his early
travels long ago in the time of Elizabeth Tudor; and the distant prospect
of the city itself shimmering now under an early haze of sunshine.

All was utterly strange, yet nothing was altered; it looked the same as
when, weeping to leave England, she had come down these waters in a barge
with her silent husband, ten years ago, and waited at Gravesend for the
wind.

One difference attracted Mary's eyes. Behind and beyond the Tower a mass
of scaffolding rose that dominated the whole city, and through the
crossed poles, boards, and ropes, she could discern the majestic outline
of the dome of that vast church which had been slowly rising out of the
ashes of the old St. Paul's since she was a child.

At the Tower Wharf she landed, laughing hysterically, and hardly knowing
what she did. They gave her a royal salute of cannon, and she saw all the
guards drawn up in squares, with their spears in the midst, and a red way
of brocade carpet laid down for her, and a coach with white horses and
running footmen, and beyond, a press of noblemen and officers, and the
sheriffs and aldermen of the city with the Lord Mayor.

She hesitated on the gangway, amidst her ladies, her spirit completely
overwhelmed. She looked round desperately for some one to whom to say--"I
cannot do it--I cannot put it through. I must die, but I cannot be
Queen."

The complete incomprehension on the excited faces of these ladies, the
strangeness of many of them, recalled her with a shock to herself; she
felt as if she had been on the point of betraying her husband. She
recalled his last letter, in which he had asked her to show no grief or
hesitation in her manner, and, biting her lips fiercely, she stepped
firmly on to English soil, and managed somehow to respond to the lowly
salutations of the crowd pressing to receive her. The Prince was by the
coach door; she noticed that he wore his George and garter, which he had
not done perhaps twice before. There were a great many gentlemen behind
him, many of them those whom she had already met at The Hague, others
strange to her, several of the Dutch officers, and M, Bentinck in
mourning for his wife.

Mary, still English enough to think her country the finest in the world,
was thrilled with pleasure to see how respectfully all these great nobles
held themselves to the Prince. She was used to see him receive this
homage in his own country and from the magnates of the Empire, but these
Englishmen were to her more than any German princes.

The Prince took her hand and kissed it, and said very quickly in Dutch--

"I would that this had been in Holland."

The English gentlemen bowed till their long perukes touched their knees,
Mary entered the coach with Lady Argyll and a Dutch lady, the Prince
mounted his white horse, and the cavalcade started through the expectant
city with all that pomp which the people would not forgo and the Prince
to-day could not avoid.

All London was eager for a sight of the Princess. The last Queen,
foreign, proud Romanist, and hard, had never been a favourite, the Queen
Dowager had never counted for anything, and was now a forgotten figure in
Somerset House; but Mary was English, Protestant, and her image had long
been faithfully cherished in England as that of a native Princess who
would some day restore the old faith. Therefore her greeting was such as
made her turn pale; she had never before heard such thunders of
acclamation, popular as she was in the United Provinces.

Every road, every housetop, all the windows, alleys, and turnings were
filled with well-dressed, orderly people, who cheered her and cheered the
Prince till Mary felt dizzy. She saw in this their true title to the
crown; the lords were but obeying the people in setting it on their
heads, and she recalled how these same Londoners had besieged the doors
of Westminster Hall, while the Convention was sitting, and threatened to
use violence if the Prince was not elected King.

Her appearance of beautiful youth, her sparkling excitement, her gracious
smiles made a favourable impression, and further roused the enthusiasm
which the very stiff demeanour of the Prince, to whom this display was
hateful, was apt to damp.

By the time they reached Whitehall she was more popular than he, and the
nobles who rode in the procession thought to themselves that the English
wife would serve to keep the foreign husband in the affections of the
people.

Whitehall was filled with English, Dutch, and Scotch waiting to kiss her
hand: Mr. Sidney was there, Mr. Herbert, Mr. Russell, Lord Shrewsbury,
Lord Devonshire, Lord Halifax, Lord Godolphin, Lord Danby, and others
whom she did not know or had forgotten; their background was that
splendid palace, seeming vast and magnificent indeed after her houses in
Holland, which she had left so sadly ten years ago. Then she had wept,
now she laughed and was very gracious, but in her heart she was as
reluctant to enter Whitehall as she had ever been to leave it; the
memories the place aroused were poignant, not sweet.

It was three hours before she found herself alone with the Prince in that
gorgeous little chamber that had once been her father's, and still
contained his pictures, statues, his monogram and arms on chairs and
carvings.

The instant he had closed the door the Prince kissed her in silence, Sand
she burst into speech.

"Are you satisfied? Are you pleased? Is this another step in your
task--they--these people--will they help? How long the time hath seemed!"

"To me also," said the Prince unsteadily.

She stepped back to look at him anxiously: he was extravagantly vestured
in embroidered scarlet, lace, jewels, the George and garter conspicuous,
and a great star of diamonds on his breast. A close scrutiny showed that
he looked more ill and weary than she had ever known him.

"You are changed," she said quickly. "Oh, my dear, the climate doth not
suit you--"

He smiled languidly.

"I would we had met in Holland," he answered. "I am sick for Holland,
Marie."

"Already?"

He seated himself in the deep window-seat that overlooked the privy
garden and she took the low stool beside, studying him wistfully for one
hint of that enthusiasm and elation which she hoped would be called forth
by his splendid success.

"We could not have asked God for a more happy ending," she said in a
trembling voice.

"They--the English--will declare against France," he answered, but
without spirit, and as if it was an effort to speak at all. "If I could
get them into the field this spring--" He was interrupted by his cough,
which was violent and frequent, and he flung the window open impatiently.
"There is no air in this place," he continued, in a gasping voice; "their
smoky chimneys and their smells are killing me; I cannot endure London."

"We need not live here," said Mary quickly.

"They think so," he returned; "'tis our post, where we are paid to be--"

The scarcely concealed bitterness with which he spoke of England was a
matter of amaze and terror to Mary, in whose ears still rang the
enthusiastic shouts of the people and the flatteries of the courtiers.

"But you are popular--" she began.

"Hosanna to-day, and to-morrow crucify!" he answered. "I shall not long
be popular--the great lords have not loved me from the first. They offer
me the throne because there is no other to serve their turn, and I take
it because it is the only way to secure them against France. But I
undertake hard service, Marie."

"You mean--the difficulties?"

"The difficulties! I confess I am overwhelmed by them; everything is
confusion--everything! To get the bare Government on a business footing
would take a year's hard work, saying every one was honest--and every one
is corrupt. I can trust none of them. There is Ireland in a ferment and
the Scottish affairs in a tangle; there are a hundred different parties,
with indecipherable politics, waiting to fly at each other's throats; the
Church is hydra-headed with factions--and a cow might as well be set to
catch a hare as I set to put this straight, and I have had the business
of Europe to conduct already."

Mary's pride and pleasure were utterly dashed. Troubles and difficulties
she had been prepared for, but they had been vague and distant; she had
not thought to find the Prince already whelmed in them. She reflected
swiftly on the anxiety, labour, and anguish that had gone to this
expedition, the odium they bad both incurred, the violence she had done
her own feelings, and she wondered desperately if it had been worth the
price.

The Prince took her hand, having noticed the paling of her face and the
distress in her eyes.

"We will talk of other things," he said, with an effort over his tired
voice. "I am weak to burden you at once with this; you at least will be
beloved here--"

Mary broke in passionately--

"I do not love England--nor want to be Queen. I doubt I can do it--I was
made for little things and peace--I hate this palace," she glanced
desperately round her father's splendour; "our own homes--where we were
so happy--are they not better?"

The Prince went very pale.

"I should not have repined," he said; "it is my task, which I must put
through...the part you have been made to take is the worst for me--the
part you may have to take--"

"If it serveth you I am very content," she answered; "if I can do
anything to help I shall be happy--"

The tears sprang into the Prince's eyes. He looked away out of the
window.

"Marie--about His late Majesty--I could not help--that he was stopped in
Kent...I would not have had it happen--"

"Do not fear," she answered wildly, "that I do not in everything hold you
justified?"

Her voice broke, and she began to weep.

The Prince rose and helped her to her feet.

"We must not show tears here," he said gently, "for we are not at
home--but among many enemies--"

She dried her eyes and smiled bravely.

"Do we feel constraint so soon?"

"We pay something," he said sadly, "that we are, by the grace of God,
Monarchs of England."




PART II - THE QUEEN



"I have really hardly had time to say my prayers, and was feign to run
away to Kensington, where I had three hours of quiet, which was more than
I had had together since I saw you.

"That place made me think how happy I was there when I had your dear
company; but now--I will say no more, for I shall hurt my own eyes, which
I now want more than ever.

"Adieu! Think of me and love me as much as I shall you, who I love more
than my life."--QUEEN MARY TO KING WILLIAM, 15th July 1690.

"Every hour maketh me more impatient to hear from you, and everything I
hear stir I think bringeth me a letter...I have stayed till I am almost
asleep in hopes; but they are vaine, and I must once more go to bed and
wished to be waked with a letter, which I shall at last get, I
hope...adieu! Do but love me and I can bear anything."--QUEEN MARY TO
KING WILLIAM, July 1690.

--"My poor heart is ready to break every time I think in what perpetual
danger you are; I am in greater fears than can be imagined by any who
loves less than myself.

"I count the hours and the moments, and have only reason left to
think--as long as I have no letters all is well...I never do anything
without thinking--now, it may be, you are in the greatest dangers, and
yet I must see company on my set days; I must play twice a week; nay, I
must laugh and talk, tho' never so much against my will. I believe that I
dissemble very ill to those who know me; at least it is a great
constraint to myself, yet I must endure it. All my movements are so
watched, and all I do so observed, that if I eat less, speak less, or
look more grave, all is lost in the opinion of the world; so that I have
this misery added to that of your absence and my fears for your dear
person, that I must grin when my heart is ready to break, and talk when
my heart is so oppressed I can scarce breathe...Besides, I must hear of
business, which, being a thing I am so new in and so unfit for, doth but
break my brains the more and not ease my heart...

"Farewell! Do but continue to love me and forgive the taking up so much
of your time to your poor wife, who deserves more pity than ever any
creature did, and who loves you a great deal too much for her own ease,
tho' it can't be more than you deserve."--QUEEN MARY TO KING WILLIAM, 5th
September 1690.



CHAPTER I - A DARK DAWNING


In the King's antechamber at Kensington House my Lord Dorset and one of
his pensioners (of which he had a many) awaited an audience of His
Majesty.

It was a year since the Revolution, a cold-wet autumn, and Kensington
House, recently bought from my Lord Nottingham, stood blank and sad among
dripping wet trees.

Lord Dorset strolled to the window and looked out on the great park
spreading to the horizon. He, in common with every other Englishman,
found both house and grounds an ill substitute for Whitehall, where the
King would never go when not forced, spending his time at Hampton Court,
Holland House, or here, in this half-built villa, still disfigured with
the scaffolding poles of the alterations Mr. Wren was putting in hand.
Lord Dorset sighed; he was a tolerant, sweet-natured man, more interested
in art than politics; he had been magnificent as Lord Buckhurst, and was
more magnificent as Marquess and holder of the office of Lord
Chamberlain.

Presently the Lords Shrewsbury and Nottingham came out of the King's
Cabinet; the first looked downcast, the second sour.

Dorset lifted his eyebrows at Shrewsbury, who said dolefully as he
passed--

"Good God! we are like to get on the rocks--nothing is right."

When the two Secretaries of State had passed, Lord Dorset remarked to his
young companion, with a kind of good-natured softness--

"You see--I have brought you to Court in an ill time; perchance I had
best not press for an audience to-day--"

But even as he spoke the door of the Cabinet opened and the King came
out.

He stood for a second in the doorway, looking at the few gentlemen
standing about the bare, large room; then his glance fell on Lord Dorset,
who moved forward with his splendid air of grace.

"Is it the wrong moment to present to the notice of Your Majesty the
young poet of whom I spoke yesterday?"

The King's large open eyes turned to the pale and agitated young man in
question, who instantly went on his knees.

"A poet?" repeated William; the word to him conveyed a mild, but scarcely
harmless madness. He thought the patronage of these people an irritating
trait in his Lord Chamberlain. "Have we not already poets in our Court?"

Lord Dorset smiled.

"This poet, sir, is also a very good Protestant, and one who did much
service in writing of satires--"

"We have always uses for a clever pen," said William, in whose own
country the printing press was a powerful political engine. He turned
gravely to the young man--

"What is your name?"

"Matthew Prior, Your Majesty."

"You wish a post about the Court, Mr. Prior?"

The aspirant lifted sincere and ardent eyes.

"I have desired all my life to serve Your Majesty," he answered, which
was true enough, for he cherished an almost romantical admiration for
William.

"My Lord Dorset," said the King, "is a fine guarantee for any man; we
will find some place for you--" He cut short protestations of gratitude
by saying, "You must not expect us to read your poems, Mr. Prior."

"Your Majesty was ever severe on that art," smiled Lord Dorset.

"I do not understand it," said William simply; but the Lord Chamberlain
had a fine enough perception to discern that there had been more poetry
in the actions of the King's life than ever Matthew Prior could get on
paper. He took the following silence for dismissal, and withdrew with his
grateful pensioner.

The King drew out his watch, glanced at it, and called up one of the
ushers at the further doors.

"When Lord Halifax arriveth bid him come at once to us."

He hesitated a moment, looking at the sombre prospect of grey and rain to
be seen through the long windows, then returned to his private room and
closed the door.

A wood fire burnt between two brass andirons and filled the plain closet
with warmth, above the walnut bureau hung a map of the United Provinces,
and on the high mantelshelf stood several ornaments and vases in
blue-and-white delft.

The King seated himself in the red damask covered chair before the desk,
and mechanically took up the quill that lay before him; but presently it
fell from his fingers and he leant back in his seat, staring at the map
of his country.

Since his coronation in April last, nay, since his first assuming the
government a year ago, everything had gone wrong, and he had been blamed
for it; nothing could exaggerate the difficulties of his position. He had
partially expected them, for he was not naturally sanguine, but his worst
imaginings had fallen short of the actual happenings.

Affairs had now reached a crisis. In England, Scotland, and Ireland was a
deadlock, on the Continent imminent peril, and the King, for the first
time in his life, doubted his own capacity to deal with such huge
obstacles as those which confronted and threatened to overwhelm him.

Sitting utterly still, he mentally faced the task before him.

He believed that to fail utterly was impossible, since that would be to
deny the teaching of his own soul, and so, God; but he might fail
partially, and he might, even in winning a small measure of success,
forfeit tremendous stakes.

The loss of personal ease, of his popularity in England, a complete
misunderstanding of his motives, the rancorous, malicious hate of his
enemies--these things he had, from the moment of his coronation, been
prepared for; but it might be that he would be called upon to make vaster
sacrifices--the friendship of many former supporters, even their
long-cherished love and loyalty, the trust and confidence of the allies,
the admiration of the dissenting churches throughout Europe, even his own
peace of soul. Everything in brief, that he valued, save the love of Mary
and the friendship of William Bentinck, must be pledged, and might be
lost in this forthcoming conflict.

He had honestly and justly tried to satisfy the English, but had met with
utter failure. They reproached--reviled him, complained, and loudly
voiced their dissatisfaction; he had not pleased one of those who had
placed him on the throne. The chaotic state of the Government might, to a
superficial observer, appear to give some warrant for their discontent;
but, as the King cynically observed to himself, they were incapable of
even suggesting a remedy for the ills they so decried; he did everything,
and Whig and Tory alike agreed in putting all burdens on his shoulders,
then in blaming his administration.

In the crisis of '88 their action had been oblique. They had shifted the
almost intolerable confusion of affairs into his hands, then stood back
to watch and criticise, while he, who had already the business of half
Europe on his mind, made what order he could out of jarring chaos. His
health had broken under the strain; even his friends noticed a new
languor in him, which the English were quick to dub sloth. Deprived of
his one recreation of hunting--for which he had no time--hardly able to
endure the stenches and smoke of London, his reserved temper taxed almost
beyond bearing by the incessant, unreasonable, shortsighted quarrelling
by which he was surrounded, he felt his strength slipping like water
through his hands.

His popularity had gone as he had predicted it would. The Jacobites were
already a tremendously strong party, and his own ministers were half of
them already beginning to traffic with the exiled King--who was now in
Ireland with French troops, and of whom it had been said that, would he
but change his religion, he could not be kept out of England six weeks.

William, reviewing his position, smiled at the shallow taunts that
accused him of having thirsted for a crown.

He was working like a galley-slave for England--working with insufficient
money, false servants, unfriendly onlookers, and an apathetic nation
ready to seize on frivolous pretexts to dub him unpopular--and his reward
for labours, that perhaps not one of his subjects had any conception of,
was the nominal dignity of kingship and the long-fought-for alliance of
England with the States.

He was certainly paying a bitter price.

All the great nobles were dissatisfied. The King had a keen dislike of
party, and his ideal of government was a cabinet comprising of the best
men of every faction to advise a ruler free to decide the final issue of
every question. He had tried this scheme in England, equally honouring
Whig and Tory, and taking his ministers from the rival ranks.

The plan had been an utter failure; each faction wanted the supreme
control. The Whigs wanted the King to become their champion, and avenge
them indiscriminately on every Tory; the Tories, who had always been
opposed to William, refused to work with the Whigs; Danby, created
Marquess of Caermarthen at the Coronation, was furious because he had not
the privy seals; Halifax, to whom they had been given, grudged Danby the
Marquisate; the two Secretaries, Shrewsbury and Nottingham, were scarcely
on speaking terms; Russell, now Lord Orford, and Herbert, now Lord
Torrington, quarrelled fiercely over the naval affairs; at the Treasury
Board, Lord Mordaunt, now Earl of Monmouth and Lord Delamere, both hot
Whigs, did their best to disparage their colleague, Lord Godolphin, who,
of all the Government, was the quietest man and the one most esteemed by
the King; Clarendon, the Queen's uncle, had refused to take the oaths;
and his brother Rochester was suspected of plotting with James. There
was, in fact, scarcely one Englishman, even among those who had
accompanied William to England, whom he could trust, yet the advancement
and favour he showed his Dutch friends was made the matter for perpetual
and noisy complaint.

On the other hand, the Church of England, which owed its very existence
to the Revolution, proved itself unreasonable and ungrateful; it refused
stubbornly to grant any concessions to Nonconformists, and wished severe
penalties visited on the Papists.

Added to this, the home government was rotten to the core, the army and
navy in a miserable state, the people overtaxed, business disorganised,
the treasury empty, credit low, every one discontented, Ireland in the
possession of James, a revolt in Scotland, and, on the Continent, the
French making unchecked progress, and the Dutch beginning to complain
that they were being neglected for the English.

When it is considered that the man who was to face and overcome these
difficulties was disliked, distrusted, misunderstood, and betrayed on
every hand, it can be no wonder that even his brave soul was drooping.

His position was in every way complex. By nature imperious, arrogant, of
the proudest blood in Europe, he had a high idea of the kingly
prerogative, and by instinct leant to the Tories; but the Whigs claimed
him as peculiarly their champion, and it was undoubtedly to their
influence that the Revolution was due. As King of England he was head of
the Anglican Church and swore to uphold it; but he was a Calvinist
himself, and the whole tenor of his life had been towards that broad
toleration which the Church regarded with abhorrence. He was avowedly
latitudinarian and set his face resolutely against any form of
persecution for religious belief, and while this attitude cost him the
support of the Church, his refusal to treat the Catholics harshly lost
him the alliance of the Dissenters, who regarded him as disappointingly
lukewarm in the true cause.

A gentle treatment of the Papists was essential to William's foreign
policy, since he had promised his Catholic allies--Spain, the Emperor,
and the Pope, to protect those of this persuasion--and it was, besides,
his own conviction of justice and the general good. He had therefore
forced through Parliament the Toleration Act, which was, however, too
limited to heal the internecine disorders of religious parties; he had
then endeavoured to bridge the schism between Nonconformists and
Anglicans by the Comprehension Bill, but the measure was before its time
and failed to pass.

Many of the bishops and clergy having refused to take the oaths and been
obliged to resign, William had been forced to make new appointments,
every one of which, including that of his chaplain, Dr. Burnet, to Sarum,
caused universal dissatisfaction.

There had been a mutiny in the army which had to be repressed by Dutch
troops--a further grievance to the English, who began to bitterly resent
foreign soldiers in their midst; yet on these troops alone could the
King rely.

William's lieutenant, the popular and brilliant Schomberg, had proved an
expensive failure. He was at present in Ireland, with a huge army dying
of fever about him, doing nothing but writing maddening letters of
complaint to the King, who had, on the other hand, to listen to the
ceaseless goadings of the English Parliament, who wished to know why
Ireland was not reduced, and, until that plague spot was attended to, who
refused to turn their attention to the Continent, where the great events
gathered that were ever next William's heart.

Those were the great difficulties, but there were many smaller vexations,
such as the party the Princess Anne, under the influence of those
adventurers--the Churchills--was forming against the Court; the sulky,
unreasonable behaviour of Lord Torrington at the Admiralty Board; the
constant necessity the King was under of going to London (the air of
which was literally death to him), and of dining in public at
Whitehall--a practice he detested; the lack of money for the buildings at
Hampton Court and Kensington, which were both in an uncomfortable state
of incompletion; his own ignorance on little technical points of
administration and costume, which made him dependent on his English
advisers--all these were added annoyances and humiliations that went far
to unman a nature well inured to strenuous difficulties.

The King made a little movement forward in his chair with a short cough,
as if he caught his breath, his eyes still fixed on the map of the United
Provinces; his haggard face slightly flushed as if he was moved by some
intense thought.

The latch clicked, and William turned his head quickly.

In the doorway was the handsome figure of the tolerant, able, and cynical
chief adviser to the Crown, the Lord Privy Seal, my Lord Marquess
Halifax.



CHAPTER II - THE KING AT BAY


My Lord Marquess left His Majesty after a dry and formal interview
concerned with minor but necessary business, and, leaving the King still
sitting before the map of the United Provinces, proceeded to the
incomplete and ill-furnished council-chamber, where my lords Shrewsbury,
Caermarthen, Nottingham, and Godolphin were gloomily conferring.

Halifax was the only man in the assembly not of decided Whig or Tory
politics--it was believed that this was the reason that the King had
elected him to fill the highest place in his councils. Lord Caermarthen,
who, jealous of his elevation, was known to be secretly working his
downfall, greeted him with haughty frankness.

"I hope, my lord," he said, "your interview with His Majesty hath had
some smack of satisfaction in it--"

"Why, none," answered the Lord Privy Seal; "there is no satisfaction
anywhere."

He seated himself on one of the red damask covered stools by the table,
and looked with a kind of cynical amusement at the other ministers, all
of whom, he well knew, were, however diverse their several opinions (with
the exception of Lord Godolphin), doing their utmost to oust him from the
position he held. His mobile, easy, and delicate face was turned towards
the meagre but noble figure of Caermarthen, in whom he recognised his
chief enemy. Indeed, that statesman, who, as Lord Danby, had himself
narrowly escaped the attacks of Jack Howe in the last Parliament, was
endeavouring to stir up the present Commons to impeach Halifax.

"His Majesty," added the Lord Privy Seal, in his pleasant, tolerant
voice, "is very discontented with all of us."

Shrewsbury--a duke now, and crowded with dignities beyond his
years--blushed.

"What are we to do?" he asked, in a kind of frantic way. The other
Secretary, Nottingham, dark as a Spaniard and sour in expression,
remarked briefly--

"We can do nothing until we see which way the Parliament moveth."

"The Parliament," said Caermarthen, "will do nothing until some
satisfaction is given for the money voted to Ireland. Schomberg, I doubt,
is doited; he hath not moved since he landed--"

"The King," put in Halifax, "is desperate to go to the Continent, where
the allies clamour for him and King Louis gaineth headway every week--"

Caermarthen sprang up from the window-seat.

"By God, he cannot go abroad until Ireland is settled!" he cried; "the
country will not stand any war but that--"

"The King," answered the Lord Privy Seal, "hath such a mind to France one
would think he took England but on the way--"

"France," said Shrewsbury, with feverish anxiety, "is not the question;
we have to think of England. War was declared last May, and we are still
incapable of putting a single regiment in the field. By Heaven, the
Government is too disjointed for us to interfere in foreign affairs!"

"You should have thought of that, my lord," answered

Nottingham dryly, "when you put a foreigner on the throne." A deep colour
again flushed Shrewsbury's beautiful face. "I judged from His Majesty's
reputation that he would have done better," he murmured.

"His Majesty is a great man," said Halifax placidly. Caermarthen shrugged
his shoulders.

"Is it the kind of greatness that will help England?"

"Or your party to places, my lord?" retorted the Lord Privy Seal
shrewdly.

Caermarthen's thin face darkened.

"His Majesty doth not know his friends," he said.

"He will not be a party leader," returned Halifax; "but I do doubt
whether England will be ever governed save by factions--"

Shrewsbury came up to the table and looked round the faces of his
colleagues. He was by far the youngest of the company, and his soft
good-looks were incongruous to the importance of his position; Lord
Godolphin, a quiet, thin man, who so far had not opened his lips or taken
any notice of anything, now fixed his eyes on Shrewsbury, and kept them
there keenly while the Duke spoke.

"Sirs, what is to be done? We have very good assurance that the
Government cannot hold--nay," he added, with increasing agitation, "if
King James were to land to-morrow, who would stay him from the throne?"

"His Majesty," said Lord Godolphin quietly.

Caermarthen caught the words.

"His Majesty! I have little faith in him now; he is a dying man--"

"The doctors," added Nottingham gloomily, "give him another year--"

"No more, I truly think," said Halifax calmly. "The Dutchmen themselves
say they hardly know him for the man he was at The Hague--"

"What then?" cried Shrewsbury, in a desperate frankness. "Are we all to
fall into the laps of women and my Lord Marlborough?"

"The Queen could never hold the throne," answered Halifax; "she is not
loved," he smiled; "the people dislike her for her false position--"

"By God!" interrupted Caermarthen hotly; "what know you of Her Majesty?
She would rule better than any Stewart hath done yet--"

"Maybe, and wed another foreigner," retorted Shrewsbury. "Besides, I
think you are wrong. No woman could rule England now--"

"Nor any man, it seemeth," smiled Halifax sadly. "For my part I am weary
of all of it--and so, I think," he added, "is His Majesty. He is greatly
angered that the Bill of Indemnity is changed into a Bill of Pains and
Penalties, and there are such heats over it--"

"What course doth he think to take?" asked Shrewsbury abruptly.

"He said very little to-day," answered Halifax. "Our talk was all of
business; he is of an extraordinary industry," this with admiration, "and
hath mastered the details of the government already. Were he a stronger
man I should have no fear for England--"

"Talk--antic talk!" cried Caermarthen impatiently; "and are no nearer a
solution--"

The sound of the opening of the heavy carved door caused them all to
pause. Godolphin, who was the only one facing it, rose respectfully; the
others turned.

It was the King.

His bright glance went from face to face. He came slowly to the head of
the table, and seated himself in the wand-bottomed chair there; his
ministers were on their feet waiting for him to speak. Surprised as they
were by this unexpected appearance, their agitation showed in their
faces, Shrewsbury in particular was colourless; only Lord Godolphin
remained perfectly composed.

The King continued to look from one to the other; he wore a heavy brown
velvet thickly braided with gold, and held in his right hand a paper
written upon, and folded across.

"Affairs," he said, in his tired voice, with his peculiar short manner of
speaking, "have reached a crisis, my lords, and I have come to acquaint
you with my resolution."

He leant forward a little, and rested his right arm on the table,'
keeping his dark, powerful eyes fixed on these ministers whom he read so
perfectly.

"My lords," he continued quietly, almost gently, "it is a year since I
took up the government of this country, and in that time I have done
nothing to please any one of you." He coughed and pressed his
handkerchief to his lips. "I have done my best to govern justly," he
added proudly, "but I confess I took up a task beyond my powers. My
lords, I cannot rule a disaffected country with disaffected ministers. I
admit I do not understand you. As I am often reminded, I am a foreigner."

The five nobles made a common movement as of painful expectation The
King's plain speaking took all words from them; Shrewsbury was painfully
agitated.

"What doth Your Majesty propose?" asked Halifax anxiously.

The King opened out the paper on the dark walnut table, and laid his
right hand on it. He wore round this wrist a bracelet of red glass or
crystal, cut into facets, that caught and threw back the light; it
gleamed now strongly through the thick Bruges lace of his ruffles.

"I mean," he said, "to resign the crown and return to Holland--where I am
needed," he added strongly.

"My God!" exclaimed Caermarthen; the rest were silent. The King surveyed
their changed and utterly amazed faces with a gleam in his eyes.

"My convoy is in readiness," he said, "and here, my lords, is the speech
in which I announce my intention to Parliament--" he glanced at Sidney
Godolphin--"my lord," he added with dignity, "will do me a last service
and correct my poor English--"

Caermarthen broke out passionately--

"Sir, you cannot know what you are saying--this is unheard of--"

"I know very well what I am saying, my Lord Marquess," answered William.
"I cannot please you, but I think the Queen can. I believe you would be
faithful to her--she is English; but as for me, you can manage your
business better without me--and I am needed on the Continent."

He rose, and Halifax, rather pale, came up to him.

"What is to become of England if Your Majesty leaveth us?"

"The Queen will please you," repeated William.

"This action on the part of Your Majesty will mean chaos," cried
Shrewsbury desperately.

The King smiled sternly.

"No confusion could be worse than what we now endure--perhaps alone ye
can put it straight."

They looked at each other. In their hearts they all knew that the King,
and the King alone held them together and kept them from France; to the
Whigs his departure would mean ruin, and among the Tories there was not
one man capable of undertaking a tithe of what the King--who had foreign
affairs exclusively in his hands--performed.

"What is Your Majesty's reason for this bitter resolve?" cried
Caermarthen.

"I am needed in Holland," said William. "I have, my lord, my lifework to
do. There are certain things put to my hand for me to accomplish, and I
have pursued them through too many difficulties to be thwarted now by the
disputes of the English Parliament--"

He spoke with a sudden force that lashed them.

"I took this crown," he added, holding his hand to his breast, "that I
might, with God His help, put England in her ancient place among nations,
not that I might lose myself in heated factions and blind animosities."

"If Your Majesty desert us we are all undone," said Caermarthen
passionately.

"Ah, my lords," answered William, "I am not of a nature to be the puppet
between your parties. God gave me a disposition different--I cannot mix
in these your politics."

His cough interrupted him; he gave a little shudder, and sank back into
the walnut-backed chair.

"There are some things beyond a man's strength," he said hoarsely, "and
I, hampered as I am, cannot govern England."

"I," cried Halifax sincerely, "have tried to help Your Majesty--"

"And what is your reward?" asked William quickly. "Parliament is so
pressing on you, my lord, that I shall have to forego your services--what
is any honest man's reward in this country? As angry dogs ye rend each
other. My God, will there never be an end to these dissensions?"

He crushed the rough draft of his speech up in his hand and flung it on
the table.

"There is my answer to this question," he said, and made to rise again,
but Shrewsbury came forward and cast himself on his knees before him.

"I entreat Your Majesty to consider--to reflect--to spare us, to spare
this unhappy country--"

The King looked wildly but not unkindly into the fair, agitated young
face.

"I cannot do what you want of me," he answered. "Everything I do
displeaseth--I stand for toleration and ye will have no manner of
toleration--bath not the Indemnity Bill become a Bill of Pains and
Penalties? Is not Parliament busy looking up charges of twenty years ago
against men of position? Is not the Church crying out against the
Dissenters, and the Dissenters against the Papists?"

They were all silent; Shrewsbury on his knees by the King's chair.

"As to the civil government," continued William, "ye know perfectly well
what corruption is there. For the last two reigns every honour in the
gift of the Crown hath been put up to sale with women and priests for
brokers--I can trust no one save, of course, yourselves, my lords," he
added, with a faint sarcasm. "There is neither honesty nor industry nor
credit in any department of the administration. I can do no more."

Lord Godolphin came forward from the window; he was known to be higher in
favour with the King than any there, and the others waited with a silent,
anxious curiosity for him to speak.

"I think Your Majesty will change your resolution," he said, with sudden
warmth, "for the sake of Europe."

"For the sake of Europe, my lord, I shall persist in it." Sidney
Godolphin looked straightly at the King.

"No--Your Majesty is not the man to shirk difficulties--bear with us a
little."

"My lord," answered William, "if all were as you I should have no
difficulties--rise up, my lord of Shrewsbury; this is not your fault."

The Duke got to his feet and retired to the deep window-seat; he appeared
utterly overwhelmed.

"I undertook to serve a King," said Godolphin, deeply moved. "Let me
resign that service while you are still my King--if Your Majesty becomes
Prince of Orange I become a private gentleman. I pray Your. Majesty
accept my resignation."

"And mine, sir," added Halifax.

"I hope that you will serve the Queen," replied William; he leant back in
his chair and his face was colourless against the red brocade cushion.

"It was to Your Majesty I swore obedience," said Godolphin firmly.

"I set you free of those oaths--all of you, my lords--my convoy waiteth
at Gravesend. In Holland I can be of service--not here." He, with
infinite weariness, sat up and took his speech from the table. "Take
this, my lord." He held it out to Lord Godolphin.

The minister went on one knee.

"I cannot be a party to this," he said. "Your Majesty must forgive
me--but I cannot--"

The blood rushed into the King's thin cheek.

"What do you want of me?" he cried passionately. "You know I do not shirk
labour. I have worked like a government clerk since I have been in
London, and I am well used to it--but it is no use."

Godolphin answered him with equal passion.

"Is all this labour to come to nothing, sir? If Your Majesty giveth up,
there will be no heart in any of us--everything will fly asunder, and we
be unprotected for the French and Irish to overrun. Your presence, your
Dutch troops alone keep order. Without you we are lost again, and worse
than we were before '88

"Your Majesty cannot--Your Majesty must not," cried Caermarthen.

Shrewsbury raised his face; he was trembling, and weeping softly.

"God in heaven!" he whispered, under his breath. Nottingham looked at him
with contempt.

"Will Your Majesty forsake your friends?" he asked sombrely. "Where do we
stand if Your Majesty resigns the position we asked you to accept?"

"Sir," said Halifax firmly, "the Prince of Orange cannot go back on what
he hath undertaken."

William leant forward, resting against the table; his eyes filled with
tears, and he gave a short cough as if he caught his breath.

"You ask too much of any man--to rule this country under the
disadvantages that whelm me," he said faintly. "I was not made to be
cabined in these small factions--"

"We cannot do without Your Majesty," said Halifax sharply. "Are all your
glorious deeds and achievements to end in this, sir?"

The King put his hand before his eyes and sobbed heavily.

"O God," cried Godolphin, in bitter distress, "what pass is here?" He
turned on the others. "Is this to what we have brought the Prince who
saved us?"

The tears were in his own eyes, and his voice was broken.

Halifax spoke to Caermarthen.

"This is like to be the end of us, my lord," he remarked. "Cry 'finis' I
for the play is over now."

The King continued to weep; his whole frail figure was shaken with his
passion. The last cold daylight was over his gold broideries and the
crimson bracelet round his wrist. Caermarthen was pacing to and fro in a
kind of frenzy.

"What is to do!" he asked himself. "What is to do!" and he clutched the
cambric ruffles on his bosom.

Godolphin again dropped on his knees before the King and took William's
cold left hand to his lips.

"Your Majesty will not leave us," he murmured, in a quivering tone.

The King lifted his great eyes, blurred, yet bright, with tears.

"If I stay," he answered, "it is on certain terms--I _will_ not be the
puppet of factions." He stopped, exhausted; he composed himself and
flushed feverishly; his speech was interrupted by continual and painful
coughing. "I will not be a party to persecution." He clenched his thin
hand on the smooth curved arm of his chair, and spoke with a force and
energy that gripped and almost frightened his listeners. "A measure must
be passed to prevent it--and I must go to The Hague next spring."

"Ireland--" began Caermarthen.

William caught up the word.

"I will go to Ireland--since ye think so much of that wretched country I
will get it--"

Even in the midst of their relief that they had moved him the ministers
were shaken at this resolution.

"Your Majesty cannot be spared from London," exclaimed Halifax.

"I shall prorogue Parliament before I leave," answered William fiercely.
"That or nothing, my lords. I do not stay here to be King Log--"

They bowed before his terms as they had done in the crisis of '88; only
Shrewsbury, who saw the downfall of his party in the prorogation of a
Whig Parliament, made a feeble protest.

"Fever is epidemic in Ireland--the health of Your Majesty--"

"You fear to lose me, my lord, before I have served your turn!" was
struck out of the King; then he amended his contempt, for he was ever
fond of Shrewsbury. "It is the only thing to do--if the reduction of
Ireland is necessary before the Continental Campaign--I must go." He
looked sharply round. "Gentlemen, do you take these terms--will you unite
to help me to them?"

"We have no choice," said Lord Godolphin, and he tore the
draft of the King's speech across.



CHAPTER III - THE BEST OF LIFE


It was early May; the King was walking in his park at Kensington, with
his friend, William Bentinck, Earl of Portland.

It was the eve of his departure for Ireland; he had yesterday prorogued
Parliament, and laughed a little as he related the discomfiture of the
Whigs at his speech.

"I shall be glad to be under canvas again," he added. "For myself it will
be a holiday, but I pity the poor Queen." He repeated with great
tenderness--"the poor Queen!"

"How doth she take your going?" asked the Earl.

"Ah, heavily--what have I brought her but affliction? Sometimes I think of
that--"

He spoke sadly, and pressed Bentinck's hand.

"Be good to the Queen," he said wistfully. "As you love me, William, help
the Queen when I am not here...I think women have the harder part."

"I have great faith in her courage and wisdom, sir," said the Earl.

"There is no woman like her," answered the King, under his breath. He
added aloud, with a flashing smile, "As there is no friend in the world
like you!"

"Ah, sir," cried Portland, much moved, "you ever flattered me."

He was not so reserved as the King nor yet so demonstrative.

William could express by word and letter, strong passion, but this was
not possible to William Bentinck. Devotion to his master was the motive
power of his life, but he could not say so.

The King again pressed his hand affectionately. They were walking under
limes, and hawthorns white with blossom. The sky shone cloudy blue, and
the pale English sunshine was over the young grass.

William looked round him with the sick eyes of exile; thoughts of Holland
tugged so sharply at his heart that he gave a little suppressed sound of
pain.

"What of this Crone and Fuller plot?" asked Portland suddenly.

"I am sorry to leave that on the Queen her hands," said William quietly;
"but I do not think it serious."

"Some great men are implicated?"

"I do not doubt it."

Portland hesitated a moment, then said--

"Nottingham's spies intercepted letters to St. Germains, he saith--who
were they from?"

"People of no station," answered the King. "Nottingham is over zealous."

"And you, sir, are over easy."

William smiled at him, and seated himself on a wooden bench under one of
the limes.

"That is an old complaint between us, is it not?" he said kindly. "Dear
lord, let it be--"

Portland smiled also; he was not satisfied; he stirred his cane among the
scattered hawthorn flowers and his fair face hardened. After a little he
asked his dismissal, and turned towards Kensington House.

The King remained alone in the park, sitting a little droopingly; he
hardly ever held himself erect now; he had shifted his sword-belt so that
the weapon was across his knees, and he held pommel and point of the
scabbard with his bare, delicate hands; his clothes were dark and plain;
he wore high riding-boots and a beaver with a great plume of white
feathers. So still he sat, and so shaded was his figure in the deep
glowing shadow cast by the lime boughs of budding foliage, that a young
man coming moodily along the path was upon him before he noticed that any
sat there.

"Ah, sire!" he exclaimed, in confusion, and pulled off his hat.

William looked up at him; it was the Duke of Shrewsbury.

"I am glad to see you, my lord. I wished to speak to you."

"I was about to seek an audience of Your Majesty."

Shrewsbury was in a painful agitation, further increased by this sudden
meeting with the King, utterly unlooked for. It was rare to find William
at leisure or on foot.

The King's deep eyes regarded him sadly and kindly.

"Was it to a second time offer your resignation?" he asked.

Shrewsbury went crimson under his powder; he seemed to find it difficult
to maintain even a show of composure.

"Yes, Your Majesty," he answered.

"Very well," said William quietly. "I am sorry that you will not serve me
till my return from Ireland."

"Sire, my health," murmured the Duke faintly--"I have had a fall from my
horse--I am not fit."

Still holding his sword in both hands, the King rose.

"My lord--is that your sole reason?" he asked gently.

The blood ebbed from the young man's soft face; he answered with an
effort.

"My sole reason, Your Majesty."

William continued to fix his eyes on him.

"My lord, when did you last see Roger Fuller?"

Shrewsbury shivered; he stammered painfully.

"I--I--do not know--the fellow--"

"I take your word, my lord," said William gravely.

He dropped his sword, and laid his hand with a gentle dignity on the
young man's heaving shoulder.

"Remember I trust you," he added quietly.

"Sir," cried Shrewsbury, through pale lips--"what is your meaning--do you
think--"

"I think that you are a man of honour," said William.

"You have given me your word, and I trust you. Remember it."

"Your Majesty," began the Duke wildly, "I never meant--"

"Hush," interrupted the King. "I know nothing. Take care of your health,
my lord."

He touched his hat and moved on. The young Duke looked after him with
eyes of agony, then stumbled wretchedly away through the trees.

William proceeded slowly to the privy garden, which was full of stocks,
pinks, wallflowers, aloes, and early roses.

He found the Queen and Lady Nottingham seated in front of a great bush of
box clipped into the shape of a peacock. Between them was a length of
yellow silk that they were sewing with blue beads in little crosses and
stars.

At the King's approach Lady Nottingham rose and retired with a courtsey.
Mary looked after her kindly.

"She is a sweet lady--I like her vastly," she said.

"You find most ladies sweet, do you not?" answered the King; he seated
himself beside her on the bench, and took up the end of silk Lady
Nottingham had laid down.

"I have spoilt your work. But I wished to tell you something, Marie."

Mary glanced at him anxiously; she was slightly pale, and wore a black
scarf wrapped round her head and shoulders; her petticoat was striped red
and frilled at the foot, her over-gown dark blue and spread round her in
circling folds of glittering silk. For all the sombre heaviness of this
stately dressing she looked very young--sad, also, for all the desperate
gaiety to which she was continually nerved.

The King looked about him to see that they were not overheard, then said,
in a low voice--

"I have accepted my Lord Shrewsbury his resignation." Mary waited,
catching her breath.

"He," continued William, "hath tampered with His late Majesty."

The Queen gave a little sound of distress, and dropped her sewing.

"Shrewsbury!" she whispered.

"I have sure proof of it," said the King. "I am sorry for him," he added
simply; "and for myself, it something moved me, for I ever liked my
lord."

Mary flushed and clenched her hands on her lap.

"How base every one is," she cried, and the angry tears glittered in her
eyes.

"There is not much honour in England, Marie. Have a care of all of
them--particularly of that knave"--he spoke with strong force--"that
villain, my Lord Marlborough--"

"Need he be of the Council?" she asked eagerly.

"Child, he is the best soldier in England, and if I was to leave you a
Council of honest men they could not be of this nation--trust none of
them."

"God help me," said the Queen. "I know not how I shall support myself
when you are not here--but how weak I am to talk thus--my part is little
compared to yours."

She smiled with a pitiful brightness, and the King, looking at her,
flushed as if he had been hurt and suppressed the pain.

"Talk no more of this," he said quickly--"in this little time we have
together--"

Mary laid her hand on his.

"How pale the sunshine is--not thick and golden like The Hague--the
flowers seem so different too; is not that a silly fancy?" She smiled
again, and her voice quivered.

"You are not happy here, Marie."

She answered hastily.

"Happy wherever I have your dear company--but I confess I am a coward
without you--but God is greater than our hopes, our fears, our desires;
He knoweth best."

When her soft voice ceased the only sounds were those of water running in
the lead basin of a fountain hidden somewhere behind the alleys of
wych-elm, and the occasional distant blows of a hammer from the workman
engaged on the scaffolding of Kensington House.

She spoke again at last, her white fingers tightening over his.

"I wonder if you will ever rest--if achievement will ever come--at last,
if you will ever think your work done--"

"How can I?" he answered. "That is my sole excuse to live--that there is
something for me to do--and I am so used to work I think I could not
rest--"

"It hath been hard--hard and long," said Mary. "You must be so weary of
it all--the lying, the treachery, the weakness, the opposition, the
delays, the disappointments--"

The King smiled faintly.

"Yet I have done something--"

"So much!" exclaimed Mary proudly. "But I do long for you to have some
leisure now...for both of us...to be alone, at last--"

"When the war is over--"

She interrupted gently.

"When the war is over! Alas!" She shook her head. "So long still to
wait." She smiled. "I would that you had not been a great man, dear--but
just a simple citizen." She laughed charmingly. "And we would live at The
Hague always and have a great garden where you should grow 'La Solitaire'
for the thousand gulden prize--and I would polish all the furniture
myself--and I could call you 'Willem' then before all the world, and we
should have long days together...and you would read of great events in
the _Gazette_ and never want to mix in them, and I should laugh at those
unhappy kings and queens--"

Her husband looked at her in silence.

"So you see I am a good housewife, no more!" she continued, in a kind of
wild gaiety. "Alas, I have no brains for business!"

"I have thought, too," said William, "that I would like to be a mere
gentleman watching events, not guiding them; but these thoughts are
beneath us--and idle visions."

"Idle visions!" repeated the Queen. "And you must go to the war
again--Death's target--and I must stay behind and keep my countenance! I
am such a poor weak fool!" she added, in bitter self-reproach.

The King raised her head and pressed it against his heart.

"That kind of fool I could never have done without," he said impetuously.
"If I have ever achieved anything, the credit is to you, my dearest, my
dearest--"

He dropped her hand, and abruptly broke his speech.

"What more can I want than to hear you say that?" answered Mary. "Only
love me and I can bear anything--"

The King's brilliant eyes rested on her pale but smiling face; he spoke
slowly, and his tired voice was hoarse and unequal.

"When I was a boy--a youth--I was so proud, so self-confident...I
remember I thought I was capable of anything--I took my inexperience, my
handful of soldiers, into the field against France--against Condé! I had
been very much alone, and so learnt reserve that I had almost lost the
power of expression--I was also very unhappy--I think I had no support in
the world but my pride--I thought God had elected me to be his Captain--"

He paused, but Mary did not speak. Only the little gurgle of the unseen
fountain broke perfect stillness.

"I remember," continued William, "the first time I went to Middleburg and
heard the people shout for me--and saw the Town Council bowing...I never
had felt so lonely. Twenty years ago--and I have greatly changed, but in
a fashion I have kept the vows I made then to God--I have not turned back
from defending His Faith--but that was before He pleased to humble me by
constant defeat. I was so confident, Marie! Ah, could I recapture that
exaltation of the morning it would all be so easy--I felt so glad of what
I had to do--but now!"

He raised his hand lightly and lightly let it fall; his profile was
towards the Queen now, and his gaze directed towards the English
hawthorns that showed above the box hedge of the privy garden.

"But though," he added, "it hath all darkened since then, I think God
meant me to go on--for He sent you, my wife...and you are the one thing
that hath never failed me."

She hid her face in her hands, and sat trembling; the little tray of blue
beads fell from her lap, and they were scattered over the gravel path.

"If I am not good at gratitude," said the King haltingly, "yet believe
me--while you are there I can endure anything. After all, there is
nothing in the world for me but you and Holland, and while I have both
why should I complain of any difficulties?"

Mary raised her face.

"If I could think I made that difference to you!" she said. "You have
given me the best of life," he answered gravely.



CHAPTER IV - THE SECRET ANGUISH


In that ancient palace called Hampton Court, on the banks of the Thames,
the Queen of England walked through the rooms that were rebuilding, and
tried to subdue her soul to peace.

The King was at the war in Ireland, and she, with the aid of the nine
councillors--men divided by personal spites and party differences--was
ruling England through a bitter and desperate crisis.

Mary, a woman and utterly unused to business (though she had always taken
an intelligent interest in politics), yet found all these men, on whose
wisdom she was supposed to rely, peevish and silly. Marlborough was using
her sister to stir up opposition against the Government,--she strongly
suspected him, Godolphin, and Russell of having made their peace with
King James; Caermarthen she personally disliked; the Crone and Fuller
plot had proved to be a widespreading affair, in which there appeared
every possibility of her uncles being involved; the country was denuded
of troops, and the fleet in disorder; the treasury empty, and the French
threatening the Channel.

These were the first few moments of leisure the Queen had known since her
husband's departure; she was eager to have Hampton Court ready for his
return, and so had come eagerly to see the progress of the rebuilding and
alterations.

Here again she was met with difficulties and humiliations. Sir
Christopher Wren, the architect, was in want of money, the workmen were
unpaid, the contractors refused to deliver any more Portland stone on
credit.

Mary had no money, and knew not where to get it; she soothed Sir
Christopher as best she could, and desperately resolved that these debts
should be paid; the thought of them was an added vexation. She felt there
was a kind of meanness in so lacking money, and that the rebuilding of
Hampton Court, which had been her one pleasure, was a reproach and a
mistake.

M. de Ginckle had written to her from Ireland that they were so
straitened in the camp that the King had refused to sign for wine for his
own table, and was drinking water with the men.

Mary thought of this passionately as she surveyed the unfinished building
the grumblers declared such an unwarranted luxury, and remembered the
noble fortune William had lavished on the public cause.

Under some pretence, she slipped away from her ladies and Sir
Christopher, and, with a wild longing to be alone, made her way to some
of the old deserted Tudor rooms of the palace, opened now for the first
time for perhaps fifty years.

In the wing in which Mary found herself there were near a hundred
chambers, and she, new to the palace, was soon lost in the maze of
apartments.

She was wildly glad to be alone, to drop, for a moment, the mask of
composed gaiety that she ever kept over her anxiety.

Door after door she opened, and room after room she traversed, until she
reached a little winding stairway that led to a chamber in one of the
fine red turrets with the graceful decorated chimney-stacks that Sir
Christopher was so calmly destroying.

Stairway and chamber were both covered with thick white dust; the bolts
on the door were rusty and loose; there was no furniture save an old
rotting chest, rudely carved; but the walls were beautifully panelled
with oak in a linen pattern, and the low lancet window disclosed a
perfect view.

Mary went straight to it, leant her sick head against the mullions, and
gazed over the fair prospect of unkept garden, field, meadow, and river,
all shimmering under a July sun. The Thames showed argent gold between
banks of willow and alder; stretches of daisies, buttercups, clover, and
poppies reached to distant groves of elm, oak, and beech.

In the nearer glades deer wandered in and out of the sweeping shadows,
and the air was soft with the whispers of the ringdove.

Such a different England this seemed from that England shown in London,
so far removed from war and discord, danger and alarm.

The lonely young Queen felt her own desolation heightened by the
solitude; she became almost afraid of the silence.

When she reflected that the person who was everything to her was distant,
exposed to many perils, that her father was opposed to him in battle,
that the great responsibility of government was intrusted to her, and
that she had no one on whom she could rely or even to whom open her heart
(for William Bentinck had, after all, been summoned to Holland), she felt
a melancholy creep over her spirit that was near despair.

The sun was warm on the sill where her hand rested and on her cheek; she
leant a little farther out of the narrow window, that had neither glass
nor casement, and fixed her eyes on the pulsing flow of the river.

A little sound behind her caused her to turn quickly with a nervous
start.

Before a small worm-eaten inner doorway that she had not noticed stood a
comely child of five or six years, gazing at her intently. The colour
fluttered into the Queen's face; they stood staring at each other--the
woman and the child--as if they were both afraid.

"What are you doing here?" asked Mary coldly, after a second.

The child did not answer; he had as little expected to see this tall
young lady in the fine blue gown as she had expected to see him.

"You have no business here," said Mary, in the same tone; "this is
private. Go, find your people."

And she turned towards the window again so that she could not see him.

He answered now.

"I have lost my way."

"There are the stairs," said Mary, without looking round. "Go down there,
and you will find your way."

There was silence, and she waited a little; then looked over her shoulder
to see him still standing there, staring at her.

"Why don't you go?" she asked harshly. 'You are not allowed here."

"Yes, ma'am, I am," he replied. "Father said I could go where I liked."

"Who is your father?"

The child laid a delicate finger on the smooth carving of the wall.

"He maketh--these," he explained.

"A carver," said Mary. "Is he working here?"

"Yes, ma'am. We come every day; there is another little boy--you are the
mother of the other little boy?" he questioned.

"No," said Mary coldly.

"He isn't here to-day," remarked the child rather sadly. "When he is we
go out, because he is a bigger boy than me. If you had been his mother I
thought you might have taken me out."

"Your father can take you out."

"Father is working with Master Wren. Do you know Master Wren?"

"Yes."

"He goeth up and down in a basket outside the house. Once I went too, and
he held me so tight that it hurt. He is too old to play with."

He came a little farther into the room, eying Mary wistfully. She was
stately as well as tall, and the high lace commode she wore, and the
stiff arrangement of her heavy curls, further added to her dignity. The
child looked at her in some awe.

"Are you cross with me?" he asked gravely.

"No," answered the Queen--"no--but your father will be looking for
you--best go and find him."

"I have lost my way," he said, subdued by her coldness. "I was asleep in
there." He pointed to the little sunny annexe to the turret from which he
had come. "I am glad I met you, ma'am."

"Why?" asked Mary.

The child smiled, in an effort to win her.

"I get frightened when I am alone," he said. "Don't you, ma'am?"

"Sometimes," answered the Queen; she bit her lip and fixed her narrowed
brown eyes on the boy; he was fair, and rather delicate, and wore a
shabby suit of red tabinet.

He slowly and reluctantly moved towards the narrow dark stairs.

"I wish this house was finished," he said plaintively. "It is so large.
The King will live here," he added. "I saw the King talking once to Mr.
Wren."

Mary gave him no encouragement to stay, but he still lingered by the
rotting door, that swung back against the wall, and looked at her with
wide, puzzled eyes.

"I am going now," he said at last; his hands went to his cravat, which
was sadly knotted. "Would you tie this for me first? Father don't like me
to look untidy."

"Come here," said Mary.

He came at once and stood before her.

"I don't think I can do it," said the Queen unsteadily.

^ She took hold of the scrap of cambric awkwardly, while he obediently
held his head up; but her cold fingers bungled, and the bow was clumsy.

"I can't do it," she murmured.

"You are so tall, ma'am!"

She looked into his upturned face.

"Too tall to be so stupid," she answered, and untied the bow. "Have you a
mother?" she asked suddenly, holding his shoulder gently.

"No, ma'am."

"Ah, poor soul!"

She spoke so sadly that he was distressed.

"What is the matter, ma'am?"

"I was thinking of what we both have missed," said Mary gently.

His bright eyes were bewildered. The Queen drew him to the old chest,
seated herself there, and again tied the cravat. "What is your name?" she
asked, as she smoothed it.

"James, ma'am--it was the King his name when I was born," he added
proudly.

Mary drew a quick breath.

"But you serve King William."

"I know," he answered dutifully. "He is a soldier, father saith. I would
like to be a soldier, ma'am."

Mary smiled; though she had done with his cravat she still kept her hands
lightly on his shoulder.

"Not a wood-carver?"

He shook his head.

"Father saith, 'Better be a soldier these days--there is no living
else,'" he quoted wisely.

"There is time enough to decide," said Mary softly; her ringed right hand
timidly caressed his hair, scarcely touching it. "Have you many toys?"

"No, ma'am."

"Do you care for them?"

He considered.

"Books," he said, with a little frown, "that you can tear the
pictures out of--pictures of fights, ma'am--and blackamoor's teeth."

"What are they?" asked Mary, gazing earnestly at him; she spoke with a
catch in her breath.

He put his hand into his pocket and produced several cowrie shells.

"There, ma'am--they come from far away." His eyes glittered. "It would be
good to be a sailor, would it not, ma'am?"

"You are a grave child," said Mary; she drew him softly nearer to her,
and bent her beautiful pale face near to his. "You pray for the King, do
you not?"

"On Sunday, ma'am."

"Pray for him whenever you say your prayers--and for the Queen."

He nodded.

"The poor Queen!" he said.

"Why do you say that?" asked Mary, startled.

"Master Wren said those words--like that--' the poor Queen!' ma'am."

Mary stared at him intently; her arms tightened about him. Suddenly she
pressed him up to her bosom, where his little head rested patiently among
her thick laces.

"The poor Queen!" she whispered wildly, and drew him closer, till he was
half frightened by the force of her embrace and the beating of her heart
beneath his cheek.

"Oh, ma'am!" he cried, "I have even dropped the blackamoor's teeth."

She let him go, and watched him with desperate eyes while he searched and
recovered the gleaming white shells from the dusty floor.

As he busily sought for one in the shadow of the chest, a soft whistle
sounded twice; he sprang to his feet at once.

"That is my father--I must go now, ma'am."

The Queen held out her hands appealingly.

"Will you not kiss me?"

He came obediently and held up his unconscious face.

Mary's lips touched his brow in the saddest salute he was ever like to
know. He did not offer to return it, but made a little bow, and so left
her. She sat quite still, listening to the sound of his unequal footsteps
departing; then she stooped and picked up the shell he had abandoned.

She fancied that it was still warm and moist from his tight clutch, and
as she looked at it the tears veiled her eyes and fell on to her
trembling palm.

"O God!" she cried aloud, with a passion that had slipped her control.
"Ye had no right to make childless women!"

She flung the shell from her, and buried her face in her hands, while the
painful sobs heaved her body.

She had not long even the comfort of lonely weeping, for the sound of
voices and footsteps coming up the narrow stairs caused her to rise
heavily, with a start of self-reproach.

It was her secret boast that she had not allowed a tear or a sigh to
escape her in public since the King had gone. She dried her poor tired
eyes hastily, and bit her lips to steady them, while she thrust her
sorrows back into her heart with that placid courage that never failed
her. She descended the stairs and faced the people who were, she knew,
looking for her.

She was not prepared to see Lord Nottingham, whom she had left at
Whitehall; the sight of him among her attendants caused her to pause at
the foot of the stairs.

"You, my lord!" she cried faintly.

His dark face showed obvious relief at her appearance.

"I have been searching for Your Majesty," he said, with
some reproach. "I have ridden hot after Your Majesty from
London--"

"There must be grave news," said Mary, knowing that
otherwise he would not have come himself.

"There is, Madam the gravest."

Mary raised her head; she was perfectly composed.

"From the King?" she asked.

"No, Madam."

Mary smiled superbly.

"Then it is not the worst." She was colourless to the lips, but bore
herself with majesty. "What is it, my lord?"

Nottingham was always tragical in his discourse, and now his face and
tone were gloomy in the extreme.

"Madam, M. de Waldeck and the allies have been defeated
at Fleurus, M. de Tourville and the French fleet have been spied under
full sail for the coast of Devon. There is no relying on our
sailors--there is a panic in the city."

The Queen's eyes flashed with something of her husband's
look when fronted with disaster.

"We will to London," she said "there to face these
misfortunes."



CHAPTER V - A WOMAN'S STRENGTH


The council of nine was sitting at Whitehall waiting for news from the
English Fleet, which, under command of Lord Torrington, had sailed out
from Plymouth to meet the French.

The Queen sat at the head of the table, as usual silent and as usual
watchful; at her right hand Lord Caermarthen, at her left Lord
Devonshire, the others along the table, and at the foot Sir John Lowther.

The room was very handsome: the walls of varied-coloured tapestry, the
cornices of gilt wood, and the floor covered with rugs from Persia.
Through the tall, majestic window might be seen a view of housetops and a
little turret with a bell clear against a sky of flaming summer blue.

Mary was seated in a heavy chair with crimson cushions; she wore a violet
dress of stiff damask satin and a petticoat flounced with lace; her arms
were covered to the wrist with ruffles of muslin, and she held a long
chicken skin fan with ivory mounts and an emerald in the handle; her
shortsighted and narrowed eyes dwelt anxiously and critically on the
faces of these men in whose hands she, and England, lay.

Facing her, Sir John Lowther, commonplace, courtly, agitated, was
stabbing the polished table with a broken quill; to his left sat Edward
Russell, impatient, blond, swaggering; to his right, Pembroke, gentle,
hesitating, reserved. Godolphin, thin and hectic, was, as ever, mute and
self-effacing; his companion was the restless, feverish, and volatile
Monmouth, extravagantly dressed and fiery in manner.

Opposite him sat the gloomy honourable Nottingham, and another man, an
object of peculiar dislike and suspicion both to the King and Queen, John
Churchill, recently created Earl of Marlborough.

Of all the company he was the most remarkable in appearance--young, tall,
of extreme good looks, though florid and flamboyant in type, of a calm,
easy, and courtly demeanour, but obviously not an aristocrat nor anything
of a great gentleman, but rather of a kind of vulgarity, even in his
richly coloured beauty, and in that different to the other ministers, who
were all of noble appearance; he was dressed in scarlet silk and wore a
very rich sword-belt; he sat opposite the window, and the sunlight made
his splendour glitter.

My Lord Devonshire was of another and more winning type of handsomeness;
his young face was refined and delicate in feature, yet expressed an
ardent strength and a proud decision; he looked continually at the Queen,
and seemed, with the exception of Caermarthen, to be the only one who had
much sympathy or regard for her position.

"The conspirators--" began Nottingham heavily. He was drawing up a list
of the suspected names; he had industrious spies, as the Whigs had found
to their cost.

"Well, my lord?" asked Godolphin imperturbable. He had made his peace
with King James himself, but was calm in the knowledge that he had been
far too cunning to leave evidence of it in anybody's hands.

Nottingham pursed his lips; he added a name to his list, and handed the
paper with a significant look to Russell, who shrugged and passed it on
to Monmouth.

"These are people to be put under arrest, are they not?" asked that
nobleman.

"Yes," said Nottingham dryly. "Shall I leave that last name?"

The paper was now in Lord Marlborough's hands; he smiled serenely, and
put up his glass.

Mary spoke, and her woman's voice sounded strangely in the council
chamber.

"What is this name?"

Marlborough inclined with great deference towards her. "The Earl of
Clarendon, Your Majesty."

The other councillors were silent; he was the Queen's uncle, and even the
most callous of them felt some pity for her dilemma. Devonshire cast an
indignant look on Marlborough, whom he hated, but nothing could put that
gentleman out of countenance.

"I will erase the name," muttered Nottingham.

The Queen put out her hand in a gesture to stay him.

"No, my lord. I know," she said, with great dignity, "and you all know,
that my Lord Clarendon is far too guilty to be left out."

"A wise decision, Your Majesty," remarked Marlborough calmly.

She set her lips in disdain of him, and turned to the haggard Lord
President on her right. She had never liked Caermarthen, even though she
owed her marriage largely to him, but she softened to him now; since the
King's departure he had worked incessantly. He was in extreme ill-health,
and she believed he was loyal.

"My lord," she said, "should we not soon have news from Lord Torrington?
It is twenty-four hours since he had our orders to fight."

"We are better waiting for that news than listening to it, Your Majesty,"
said Admiral Russell bluntly.

Mary knew that he was largely inspired by professional jealousy.

"Oh, sir," she answered, "we will have more trust in the man on whom the
fate of three kingdoms dependeth."

"Madam," said Lord Devonshire, "I do not think Lord Torrington a man to
be intrusted with the fate of three kingdoms." Mary answered with
animation.

"That censure hath been passed before, my lord--and at the privy
council--but since we must trust my lord let us pray God he will not fail
us."

"He would not like those orders to fight," exclaimed Edward Russell, who
had been the main means of sending them. "A cautious man!"

"One who was not cautious should have been sent to urge him!" cried
Monmouth, who was angry that his entreaty to be permitted to join the
fleet had been refused.

Mary pressed her fan to her lips and sat mute; in truth, the agony she
endured was not to be soothed with words. Her whole being was strung for
the arrival of the next letters, not only from Torrington, who was now
the sole defence of England, but from Ireland, where she knew her father
and husband were rapidly approaching face to face.

"Maybe," said the Lord President, "Torrington never got Your Majesty's
dispatch--"

Monmouth, who was discussing with Godolphin the details of Fuller's
confession (that conspirator having turned informer to save his neck),
swung round violently in his seat.

"Dear Lord!" he exclaimed. "Do you mean that he may be still idle at St.
Helens?"

"It may be--the advice packets last reported that he had not moved, and
that M. de Tourville was beyond the Needles."

"Oh, were I on board," cried Monmouth, "there should be a battle--I
pledge my life on it!"

Mary was perfectly pale; she still held her fan to her lips and sat
silent, so motionless that it seemed as if she scarcely breathed.

"He had positive orders to fight," said Godolphin.

"Oh, my lord," answered Marlborough sweetly, "is it not believed that
this invasion is in concert with these plots among the malcontents?"

"Do you mean that Lord Torrington is a traitor?" asked Caermarthen
bluntly; he gave Marlborough a glance that conveyed he thought him one.

The Queen dropped her fan and clenched it tightly in her right hand.

"Gentlemen, this is no time for these insinuations, with the enemy on the
coast. We," she said proudly and courageously, "we trust all those in our
service, and have faith in God who hath it all in His keeping."

She paused; the effort of speaking had brought the colour into her face,
her eyes sparkled, and the western sunlight trembled in her auburn hair.
They waited silently, watching her with curiosity and some judgment. She
was principally conscious of the malignant smiling eyes of my Lord
Marlborough.

"This is our decision," she continued, with unfaltering voice, "that
Admiral Russell and my Lord Monmouth go down to the coast, and there join
the fleet, and give our commands to Lord Torrington that, for the honour
of England, he fight the French, whom he must now outnumber since his
juncture with the Dutch. My lords, the council is over."

It was the first time that she had given her commands to her advisers,
almost the first time she had announced her opinion on their discussions;
but she left them no chance to doubt that she meant what she said; she
had the manner of Kings.

"Let these disloyal subjects," she added, pointing to Lord Nottingham's
list, "be at once lodged in the Tower."

She rose, gave her hand to Lord Caermarthen, and descended from her high
chair with a soft heavy sound of silks.

"England is Your Majesty's debtor," said Lord Devonshire, bowing low.

She answered with her sweet stateliness.

"I do what a woman can, my lord."

"Your Majesty doth what few women would," said Caermarthen warmly; he had
for her a real and deep devotion.

She turned as if she would have rebuked his compliment, but checked
herself at sight of his worn and ghastly face, livid with fatigue and
anxiety.

"I am like your lordship," she answered kindly, "I am fond of my
country."

He coloured with pleasure, and bent over her fine hand. "Now I must go
wait for letters." She smiled and left them with her usual little formal
salutation.

Devonshire looked round at the other councillors.

"There is more courage in that lady than in most of us," he said gently.
I did mark the tears lying in her eyes even while she smiled."

"She will need her courage," answered Caermarthen briefly; "for seldom
hath the country been in the pass it is now."

Mary had gone no farther than the antechamber with the French tapestries
and crystal candelabra when she was met by the news that the Duke of
Shrewsbury required an immediate audience.

Her face hardened; she could not forgive Shrewsbury either his secret
treachery or the vexation he had caused the King by his sudden
resignation; she hesitated, then commanded his presence.

When he entered she was standing before the great gilt mantelpiece, very
cold and contained.

"What is the reason of your coming, my lord?" she said.

His gentle face was flecked with feverish colour in the cheeks, he drew
his breath sharply, his riding-suit was dusty; indeed, he was spent with
rapid riding.

"Madam," he answered, "upon this news--that M. de Tourville rode at the
Isle of Wight--I am come at once to London to offer Your Majesty my
services--my sword--"

"You, my lord!" exclaimed Mary.

"Madam," he said, "for the second time all I have is at the service of
His Majesty."

She looked at him steadily; she could not doubt his sincerity. He was
again the man he had been in '88. Danger struck a fine spirit out of him,
she thought, and she the more deplored his miserable defection of late.

"Ah, my lord," she said sadly, "when His Majesty wished for your services
you refused them--"

"Then," cried Shrewsbury, "the French were not on the coasts."

She saw in his eagerness a desperate remorseful desire to make atonement,
and further softened.

"I am in such a strait that I can refuse no offers," she said; "but, sir,
I have no work for you."

"Send me to the Fleet, Madam--put me under my Lord Marlborough with the
army. I will serve as a volunteer--as anything--"

"Had you shown this spirit before His Majesty went to Ireland I had been
more grateful," Mary replied gently. "But I am glad to know of your
loyalty, my lord."

"Madam, this is an urgent crisis--there is almost an open panic--as I
rode up from Epsom, the people came running out of their cottages crying
that the French were coming; in the country all are looking out their
arms--"

The Queen interrupted.

"Some, I fear, with the design of joining the invader."

"Why, God forbid!" he cried.

"I have commanded the Guards down to Devon to seize the arms and houses
of suspect persons," said Mary quietly; "and to-night, my lord, all the
leaders of this Fuller plot will be in prison--yea, even to my Lord
Clarendon."

"Ah!" exclaimed Shrewsbury sharply.

Mary fixed him with a proud but kind gaze.

"There are many others whose guilt I know who have not been arrested,"
she said slowly.

The young Duke pressed his hand to the embroidered ruffles over his
bosom.

"Why is Your Majesty thus tender with these--traitors?" he asked, in a
trembling voice.

"It is my policy," she answered quietly. "I am only a woman, and must
trust to instinct. My lord, I will ask your advice about this matter."

"My advice?" he stammered, very pale.

"Yes. Supposing a great nobleman who had finely served His Majesty in
'88--one whom His Majesty loved and trusted--had, in a moment of
weakness, of temptation, betrayed him, and then, being remorseful, I
think, left his service--supposing, I say, that this gentleman came
forward now, with offers of help, should I not trust him?"

Shrewsbury stood mute.

"I think I should," said Mary softly. "He is an English gentleman, and he
would not take advantage of my great difficulties to intrigue against me;
he would not take advantage of my confidence to lead his people to join
the French--am I not right?"

The Duke raised his head; his face was pitifully trembling. "Your
Majesty's generosity would not be misplaced," he answered hoarsely.

"I am glad you think so, my lord. I may trust him, then?"

"I pledge my life you may," said Shrewsbury ardently.

"Thank you, my lord--I shall find you at your town house?"

"I shall wait there to receive the commands of Your Majesty." Mary moved
a little from the mantelpiece and held out her hand.

Shrewsbury went on one knee to kiss the soft fingers.

"I hope to see you at court once more," she said, with a pretty smile. "I
hope you will serve the King again when we are through this difficult
pass."

He answered from his heart--

"I would serve His Majesty with my life."

When he had gone Mary went to the window, for the light was beginning to
fade, and drew from her waist a crystal watch enamelled with white
violets.

It was nearly time for her supper. She resided now at Whitehall to please
the people, and to please the people dined nearly always in public, a
practice the King detested and could scarcely ever be brought to do; that
penance was over for to-day, but she had other disagreeable duties to
perform.

She rang the handbell on an ormolu bureau between the windows, and asked
the Dutch usher who came if Lord Feversham was without.

He had, it seemed, been long awaiting an audience.

The Queen commanded him to be brought to her, and seated herself in the
yellow brocade chair to the right of the fireplace.

Lord Feversham, a Frenchman, a Catholic, and Chamberlain of the Dowager
Queen Catherine's household, entered with a most lowly obeisance.

Mary looked at him haughtily.

"You can guess the matter on which we have sent for you?" she asked,
speaking in French.

"I fear I have again fallen under Your Majesty's displeasure."

"Both you and your mistress are very much in our displeasure," answered
Mary. "It was our duty to reprimand you three days ago for leaving out
the prayers for the success of His Majesty in the services held in Her
Majesty's chapel, and we listened for near an hour to your excuses, nor
could make much sense of them. And now the offence is repeated."

"I entreat Your Majesty to believe that it was an oversight," answered
Feversham humbly.

"Disloyalty and insolence prompts such oversights," flashed the Queen.
"We will not take it, my lord; for though we may be meek, yet we stand
for His Sovereign Lord the King. Tell Queen Catherine so, and bid her
to-night put up prayers for the success of my Lord Torrington against our
enemies the French--"

Feversham winced, and stole a startled glance at the woman he had
believed to be an amiable cipher; the young beauty's demeanour as she sat
stately and resolved in her regal gown undeceived him.

"When we rode abroad in Hyde Park to-day," she continued, "we did note
many swarming villains, French and Irish, who gave us impertinent and
joyous looks as if they did anticipate a triumph, and maybe Her Majesty
thinketh also that she may do as she list now M. de Tourville is in the
Channel. But we have no fear of any kind as to the issue of these
matters, nor shall we be weak. Some great men will lie in the Tower
to-night. Bid your mistress take care."

She rose, and her full height, with heels and head-dress, was more than
his. He made as if to speak.

"There is no more to say," she said coldly, and left him discomfited.

No news came, but many rumours found their way into the crowded galleries
at Whitehall, where the anxious courtiers waited and endeavoured to read
the situation in the Queen's face and manner.

She baffled them all, both at her supper-table and afterwards, when she
sat down to basset as usual in that splendid hall where King Charles had
held his festivals. She was gay and gracious and unconcerned--some even
thought her unfeeling. She appeared to notice nothing; but her eyes and
ears were quick for it all--the whispers, the looks, the ill-concealed
fears and hopes.

She was, she knew, absolutely alone; not one of the throng about her
could she confide in, and very few could she trust. She suspected that
many of them were but waiting for a slackening of her courage to call all
lost and hasten to make their peace with James; ill news from the Fleet
or from Ireland might mean instant rebellion, she was well aware.

Meanwhile she played basset and made no mistake in her moves.

When it was near ten of the clock Lord Nottingham entered the room. The
Queen's eyes at once distinguished him among the crowd.

She continued dealing the cards. When he approached her she looked up
with a steady smile.

Her lips shaped the one word--

"News?"

He placed a dispatch on the card-table beside her fan and gloves. She saw
at once that it was not from Ireland, and she drew a breath between
relief and disappointment.

Her glance went swiftly round the faces now undisguisedly watching her,
and then she broke the seal.

While she read her bosom heaved, and those nearest her saw the colour
faintly stain her face.

She folded up the letter and rose. The ace of spades fell from her lap to
the shining floor.

There was a pause of silence. Mary's eyes were the eyes of a creature at
bay.

"This is evil news," she said, at length, to Lord Nottingham, and a proud
little smile curved her lips.

She had just read that Lord Torrington had been utterly defeated off
Beachy Head by the French, who were landed at Tynemouth.

"What will Your Majesty do?" he asked, under his breath. "The courier
saith the enemy is in possession of the west--"

She crushed up Lord Torrington's letter in a passionate right hand; she
saw that his defeat had been inglorious. The Dutch had been in the van
all day and were near annihilated; the English, mere spectators, had
drawn off to Plymouth almost untouched.

"The French are landed," she said, "but we English will not let them far
advance. I will call upon the city of London. Summon to me the Lord
Mayor."



CHAPTER VI - GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!


On the evening of the fourth day after the defeat at Beachy Head, the
Queen, who would abate none of her state during this time of anxiety,
but rather kept it more splendidly, as a besieged general will hang out
all his flags when his garrison becomes scant, so as to defy and deceive
the enemy, held court in the most sumptuous gallery of Whitehall.

The land was full of panic, of terror, of mistrust, but the spirit of the
people had risen to the need. The city of London had responded finely to
the Queen's appeal; a hundred thousand pounds had been paid into the
treasury, she had to-day reviewed the train-bands in Hyde Park and
received an address assuring her of the loyalty of the capital.

The spirit she showed made her suddenly popular. The distant King and the
Dutch were viewed with more favour. Hatred of the French was an emotion
powerful enough to overcome all lesser dislikes, and the whole nation,
Whig and Tory, Protestant and Catholic, shook with rage at the part Lord
Torrington had made the British navy play.

It was apparent to all the world that he, irritated by orders he
conceived were devised by his rival Russell, had sacrificed the Dutch,
whom he believed were so unpopular that no outcry would be raised at
their destruction, to the English.

Admiral Evertgen, the admiral of the States, had, with heroic valour,
fought his ships all day long against the overwhelming armament of
France, while the English fleet looked on, and only came forward at
nightfall to tow the disabled Dutch hulks away and destroy them at
Plymouth.

Popular fury rose high. The London crowd would gladly have torn
Torrington limb from limb. Mary sent him to the Tower and dispatched a
special envoy to the States with the best and most flattering apology she
could devise; her very blood burnt with shame that her husband's people
should be thus sacrificed and her own behave so basely; she ordered the
wounded Dutch seamen to be tended in the English hospitals, and wrote a
letter of compliment to the gallant Evertgen.

She had, in every direction, done what she could, and the spirit of
England had responded; but the situation was still acute, might yet turn
to utter disaster, and though people might shout for her in the street,
there was little but enmity, jealousy, and opposition among those by whom
she was personally surrounded.

Even her own sister was, under the influence of the Marl-boroughs, her
enemy, and the Catholic Queen Dowager had no love for her; it was these
two women she was watching as she sat in her lonely weariness beneath a
candelabra of fifty coloured candles.

Anne, beautiful, but stout and sullen, lacking all vivacity and charm,
was making knots near the gilt chair of the little dark Portuguese lady
who had been the wife of the second Charles.

Catherine very seldom came to court, and would not have been there now,
as Mary reflected with a swelling heart, had the last news been of
victory instead of defeat.

The Princess, who lost no opportunity of vexing her sister, was attired
in the free and gorgeous costume of the last two reigns, in defiant
contrast to the decorous modes the Queen had made fashionable, and
Catherine of Braganza wore a stiff farthingale of brown brocade sewn with
pearls.

Presently Anne, becoming aware that Mary was watching her, broke into
challenging laughter, which rang false enough at this juncture.

Mary hung her head; it seemed terrible that the wretched family divisions
to which she had been forced to be a party should be increased by this
breach between her only sister and herself. On a sudden impulse she sent
her new maid of honour, Basilea de Marsac, with a message requesting
Anne's company.

The Princess tossed her head and came reluctantly; she was at no pains
whatever to conceal her rebellious attitude towards the throne.

Mary greeted her gently.

"It would be more fitting if you would give me some of your company,
Anne; Queen Catherine's sentiments are well noised abroad--you need
not--laugh--with her at such a time."

Anne sank down on the other end of the settee; the ladies behind the
Queen withdrew, leaving the sisters alone; the musicians were playing a
monotonous little march in the gallery.

"We should display a united front now," continued Mary unsteadily.

"I don't know what you mean, Madam," answered Anne almost insolently; she
never used any manner of respect to the Queen; she considered that she
was of as much importance; she never ceased to flaunt that she was the
mother of the child who would be the future King of England.

Mary gazed at her pouting, overblown comeliness with sad eyes.

"You will not understand," she answered. "You take a pleasure in doing
everything contrary to what I do--"

Anne smoothed her grey satin skirt with a plump white hand. "Our tastes
are different," she said.

Mary was silent. Anne kept her languid eyes downcast, then jerked out--

"I have writ to the King for the vacant Garter for my Lord Marlborough. I
hope Your Majesty will use your influence?" Mary coloured hotly.

"You have writ to the King in Ireland on such a matter?"

"And so hath the Prince. It is allowable to write to the King, I hope?"

"You should have spoken to me first," answered Mary, with trembling lips.
"I have no mind that the King should be vexed with these things. I do not
think he meaneth the Garter for Lord Marlborough."

Anne flung up her head with a force that set her huge pearl earrings
quivering.

"And who better deserveth it, I should like to know? I suppose it is
meant for Lord Portland, or some other Dutchman?"

"Anne, you are infatuate to speak so. The services of my Lord Marlborough
have been well rewarded."

At that Anne burst out with what had evidently been her secret grievance.

"He is slighted on every possible occasion--'tis he who should have
reviewed the militia this afternoon!"

Mary turned angrily.

"This is my Lady Marlborough her doing; she put this into your head,
Anne, and it is too much."

"Yes, it is too much," answered Anne, "that Your Majesty should have such
a dislike to my friend."

"Her insolence," exclaimed Mary, "is beyond all bearing. I have it on
good report that she hath spoken of the King with great disrespect."

"She ain't the only one if she hath," retorted Anne. "His Majesty ain't
so popular--"

"I command you stop," said Mary, in a cold tone of deep anger.

Anne submitted sulkily.

"La, I meant no harm."

"You go too far," answered Mary in a low controlled tone. "His Majesty
thinketh it ungenerous to quarrel with a woman, or your behaviour would
have been put a stop to before. I, perhaps, shall not be so long
enduring. I cannot and will not take the defiance of my Lady
Marlborough--no, nor your incivility either, Anne."

"I don't suppose Your Majesty would hesitate to clap me up if you dared,"
said Anne, lashed by the attack on her favourite. "There is one of your
relations in the Tower, and where the uncle is the sister may follow; but
I warn Your Majesty that I have the Parliament behind me--"

Again Mary interrupted.

"Leave me until you can command yourself."

Anne hesitated, but the music that had screened their talk had ceased,
and beyond a point Mary always quelled her. She rose, courtsied
haughtily, and withdrew to the other end of the gallery, where Lady
Marlborough--a gorgeous blonde shrew with a vulgar voice--was playing
comet with Prince George for partner.

Mary closed her eyes for a second. This sordid quarrel with her sister,
mainly based on demands for money, was the last bitterness of her
position; she had tried every means of conciliation in vain. Lady
Marlborough's hold on her puppet was too firm, and Anne but took
advantage of any kindness from the Queen to press for an addition to her
already huge allowance.

The violins played a gavotte. Mary sat motionless, listening to the
subdued volume of talk by which she was surrounded, and thinking of that
far-distant day when she had danced with her husband in this very room--a
week or so before her marriage.

She recalled how she had enjoyed dancing, and wondered to think how dead
that passion was.

"I used to think," she thought, "that a dance measure would lure me from
my grave, and now the gayest melody written will not move me."

She gazed over her shoulder at her reflection in the tall mirror against
the wall to the left; she beheld a fair image, in yellow silk and
diamonds, with a very proud carriage. A Queen, young and beautiful--the
description sounded like a favoured creature from one of those fairy
tales she used to read; she knew the reality--a tired woman, unutterably
lonely, estranged from all her family, childless, and forlorn.

Queen Catherine came to take her leave.

"No news yet from Ireland?" she asked, in her awkward English.

Mary courteously rose before the woman who had been Queen in Whitehall
when she was a child.

"None, Madam."

The Queen Dowager hesitated a moment, then said--

"I have not failed of late to put up prayers for His Majesty's good
success."

"I thank you, Madam."

Catherine of Braganza pulled at her curling feather fan and laughed.

"We are both in a strange position, are we not?"

"The positions God put us in," said Mary coldly. She wondered why the
other woman paused to talk.

The Queen Dowager continued to smile over her fan. "I think to go back to
Portugal."

"That must be as Your Majesty pleaseth."

"England is no longer the same to me."

Mary's hand tightened on the rich back of the settle. She read perfectly
well the scorn of the Stewart's wife for the usurper and the Protestant.

"I find Whitehall a little dull," continued Catherine, with a malicious
twist of her lip. "Geneva bands and black coats are a strange sight in
these halls--"

"Certainly they were not seen here in the days of my Lady Portsmouth,"
flashed Mary.

The little Portuguese winced slightly, but ignored the thrust.

"I do not blame Your Majesty," she said. "You are not so fortunate in
your court as I was; the Dutch," she raised her thin shoulders in a
shrug, "do not make the best of courtiers--"

"No," answered Mary impetuously; "but they make good husbands, Madam."

Catherine made no attempt to turn this hit. She put her hand to her dark
throat, and her large melancholy eyes filled with tears. She answered the
thought and not the words.

"I cared as much as you do, all the same;" she said, "and I shall always
be a Jacobite for his--worthless--sake."

"Forgive me," murmured Mary instantly. "I had no right. But do you be
charitable. I am in great trouble, Madam, and very much alone."

Catherine lifted her small olive face with a kind of defiant brightness.

"We have that loneliness in common, Madam. If you or I had an heir it
would have all been different. I shall say a mass for your husband his
safety. Good night, Your Majesty."

She swept her grave foreign courtsey and retired, followed by her silent
duennas. Mary stood pressing her handkerchief to her lips, and felt the
whole pageant of people, lights, speech, music, swing past her like
reflections on troubled water--broken, scattered without substance or
meaning.

No news came.

She dismissed the Court presently and went to her rooms; it was late,
long past ten o'clock, yet she would not go to bed, but sat in her
cabinet writing to the King. Sheet after sheet she covered with news,
hopes, fears, love, entreaties for God's blessings--all her heart indeed
laid out before her one confidant.

The candlelight hurt her eyes, weaker of late with work and tears, and at
last she folded up the letter unfinished. The express did not go till the
morning, and she hoped that by then she might have the long-looked-for
news from Ireland.

When she rose from her desk she was utterly tired, yet could not
rest--there was so much to do.

Her letter to Admiral Evertgen, which she had written with great pains in
Dutch, had been returned as unintelligible, and now she must write again
in English, which language the Admiral understood perfectly, it seemed.
There was the question of the command of the Fleet on her mind; Russell
and Monmouth had been met at Canterbury by the news of the disaster of
Beachy Head, and now were back in London, hot against Torrington; Mary
feared that the King would be vexed with her for having let them leave
the council, yet she must again send some one to the Fleet, now without a
commander. Her choice had fallen on Pembroke, who was an admiral, and
Devonshire, whom she could trust, and thereupon Caermarthen had taken
umbrage, and it had been a weary work of tact and sweetness to prove to
him that he was indispensable in London and could not be spared--yet
perhaps she had been wrong, and she should have let him go.

All these lesser anxieties crowded on her weary soul, aching with the
desire for news from the King, and, as she left her cabinet and came into
her bedchamber, a profound melancholy overthrew her gallant spirit.

Only two of her ladies were up--Madame de Marsac and Madame Nienhuys.
Mary told them to go to bed, and cast herself into the window-seat and
pulled the curtains apart from before the windows open on the warm soft
night.

"It is Your Majesty who should go to bed," said Madame Nienhuys firmly.

Mary shook her head.

"I cannot. I cannot sleep until I get a letter."

"You neither sleep nor eat," protested the Dutch lady.

"I am very well," smiled Mary sadly. "Go to bed, like a good creature--"

"Indeed, Madam, I will not leave you in this state."

"Have you been with me so long that you become disobedient? Very well, put
out some of the candles--the light hurts my eyes."

Basilea de Marsac rose softly and extinguished all the candles, save
those on the mantelshelf. The large rich chamber was full of grateful
shadow. Mary's yellow gown gleamed secretively like gold through a veil.

She took the diamonds from her neck and arms and gave them to Madame
Nienhuys. She pulled off her rings slowly, and dropped them into her lap,
looking the while out on to the July dark, that seemed to her to be
painted with the menacing forces of war, flags, banners hanging bloody to
their poles, the hot, smoking mouths of cannon, the glitter of armour
through the dust--her husband's army and her father's struggling together
to the death.

She rose so suddenly that the rings fell and rolled all over the floor.

"I think I will go to bed after all," she said faintly.

They undressed her in silence and left her wide-eyed in the great crimson
bed, canopied and plumed and enriched with the arms of England.

When they had gone she lay for a while quite still. There was no moon,
and she could not distinguish a single object in the room, and only
uncertainly the dim spaces of the window.

All that had seemed small, petty, and wretched in the daytime seemed a
thousand times more mean and unworthy now. She was haunted by the stiff
little figure of Queen Catherine, whose personality had suddenly flashed
out on her, by the fair sullen image of Anne, and the vulgar enmity of
Lady Marlborough. She was tortured by the idea that she had done
everything wrong...

She sat up in bed and locked her hands over her heart.

"I must not despair--God will not let me despair," she clung to that
word, "God--ah, He knoweth best--He seeth what man cannot see--therefore
He did not give me children, knowing I could not have endured this if
their safety had been at stake."

The Palace clock struck one. Like an echo came the bell of the Abbey
Church, then the dead silence again.

The Queen rose from her bed and made her way lightly to the
dressing-table. After a little fumbling she found the tinderbox and
struck a light.

The silver table, the enamel, jade, and gold boxes glittered into points
of light. In the depths of the mirror she saw her own face lit by the
little flame she held.

It flared out between her cold fingers. She struck another and lit one of
the tall candles in the red copper stands.

By the dim wavering light she found her scarlet shoes and a little mantle
of fox's fur that she put on over her muslin nightdress. She then took up
the candlestick, which was so heavy that it made her wrist shake, and
quietly left the room, which opened into the cabinet.

Here she paused at the red lac desk, unlocked it with the gold key she
wore round her neck, and took out a packet tied with orange ribbon.

These were the letters she had received from the King since his
departure. She looked at them tenderly, took up her candle again, and
passed on through an antechamber to a private door that led straight into
the chapel.

Her feeble light gave her glimpses of the lofty walls panelled in cedar
wood, the majestic altar of white marble gilt, and the great painting
brought from Italy--all heavenly blue, and deep crimson, and angelic
faces breaking from rosy clouds.

Mary went to the altar steps, set the candle on the topmost one, then
fell on her knees with her letters pressed to her heart.

As she prayed she bent lower and lower till her beautiful head touched
the marble, and there it rested while she sobbed out her humble prayers
for her husband, her father, for England, for her own poor tired soul.

She grew cold as she lay across the altar steps, and peaceful in her
heart. She thought God was not so displeased with her; a confidence rose
in her bosom that he would not let His cause fail though her weakness...

A gentle confusion came over her senses, and she fell into a kind of
swoon; when this passed she found that her candle had burnt to the socket
and gone out, and that a blue dawn was lighting the glowing arms of
England in the painted glass windows.

She got to her feet, shivering but calm, and went back stealthily through
the vast silent rooms, filled with the early sun, and so reached her bed;
and, for the first time for weeks, fell placidly asleep. Next morning
when she woke she was very silent; but, as her ladies thought, more at
ease.

She had hidden her letters under her pillow, and when she was dressed
slipped them into her gown.

As she left her apartments on the way to the chapel she was met by Lord
Nottingham.

The news from Ireland at last!

"The King is safe, Madam," said my lord, in pity of her face. She stood
speechless; those about her were little less moved. The silence hung
heavy.

"His late Majesty is also safe," added my lord delicately. She spoke
then.

"I--I thank you."

She tore open her letters, but could not read them.

"Oh, tell me, sir," she said hoarsely.

"Madam, the King hath had a great victory at Boyne Water. Ireland is
conquered."

Even as he spoke the bells broke out from a thousand steeples and the
guns of the Tower boomed triumph.

"The news is just abroad," said Nottingham.

Mary flushed into a glorious exaltation.

"The _King_ hath redeemed us all!" she cried, with inexpressible pride.
"The _King_ hath saved us!"

"Not the King alone, Madam," answered my lord, with a flush on his
shallow face--"listen to these--"

From without came the sound of wild joyous murmurs from the crowd that
had gathered to hear the news. As it sped from mouth to mouth a frenzy of
relief and triumph shook the people. They burst into one shout that
drowned the cannon and the bells--

"Long live the Queen! God save and bless the Queen!"



CHAPTER VII - THE SHADOW


Mr. Matthew Prior, Private Secretary to the Earl of Portland, was
enjoying the winter sunshine in the gardens of Hampton Court Palace.

It was the year 1694, and near Christmas. Many vast events had taken
place since the young poet had been first introduced to the Court by my
Lord Dorset--plots, counter-plots, change of ministers, of parliaments,
the defeat of Landen and Steinkirk, the great victory at La Hogue, the
loss of the Smyrna Fleet, four bloody campaigns, four winters of gloom,
depression, and internal convulsion, and still, as by a kind of miracle,
the two lonely princes ruling England maintained their station and kept
their faces calmly to their enemies.

Mr. Prior was a grateful soul; he adored the King and worshipped the
Queen; he had berhymed both copiously, and was ever ready to use his
sword or his wit in their behalf. The last of the King's unending
differences with the Parliament was on the matter of the Triennial Bill,
and Mr. Prior had his tablets on his knee and his pencil in his hand.

He was engaged in composing a pamphlet in defence of His Majesty's action
in firmly refusing to curtail the regal authority by passing an Act that
permitted no parliament to sit longer than three years.

But it was cold, and the neat little secretary found his fingers too
stiff to write. He returned his papers to his pocket, rose, and walked on
briskly.

Both palace and grounds were now very noble, being designed closely after
the King's house at Loo: trees, thirty-five years old, had been
transplanted either side of a wide canal that had been cut opposite the
Palace; beds were shaped, walks laid down, shrubs cut after the Dutch
style; every endeavour had been used to make the place as much like
Holland as possible. Even now, in mid-winter, topiary art had preserved
monstrous box hedges and bushes in the shape of windmills, birds, and
animals.

The day was cloudy, but the sun streamed through in a fine gold light on
the splendid front of the Palace, still unfinished but very imposing.

Mr. Prior turned to the left, where was the privy garden directly beneath
the royal apartments, and the covered walk where the Queen would sit in
summer with her ladies, sewing and reading. There, too, was a small sunk
Dutch garden, with a fountain in the centre and tiled paths, bare now of
everything save a few evergreens, but in the spring a mass of blooms from
Holland.

Here walked two ladies and a gentleman, all muffled in furs, and talking
together with some earnestness.

Mr. Prior took off his hat; he recognized the Queen, his patron, the Earl
of Portland, and Lady Temple. He was passing respectfully on when Mary
called to him.

He came up to her, and she paused to speak to him.

"My lord tells me you are just returned from The Hague?" questioned Mary.

Yes, Madam."

"I envy you," said the Queen wistfully; "it is, Mr. Prior, such a dream
with me to see The Hague again."

The ardent little poet thought he had never seen her look so beautiful.
There was an almost unnatural lustre in her eyes, an almost unnatural
brightness on her lip and cheek; the fresh wind had stirred the auburn
hair from her brow, and the fitful sunlight touched it to sparkles of red
gold.

"The Hague liveth only in hopes of one day seeing Your Majesty," he
answered. "You are most extraordinarily beloved there, Madam."

"They were always very good to me," said Mary simply. "I still feel an
exile here--but you must not breathe that, Mr. Prior," she added almost
instantly.

"Are you returning to Holland?"

"Very soon, Madam."

"Well," smiled Mary, "I hope that when next I see you it may be at my
house in The Hague--for I have good hopes that I may be free to go there
soon. Let me at least flatter myself so."

She dismissed him kindly and continued her walk, keeping her gloved hand
affectionately on Lady Temple's arm.

"What is this of the Duke of Leeds?" she asked Portland.

"They say he is to be impeached in the new Parliament, Madam, for taking
money from the East India Company!"

Mary frowned.

"That is a hit at me," added Portland calmly.

"And at the King," she said proudly. "There is no end to the spite of
these people. Heard you also that Sir John Dalrymple must go for the
Glencoe affair?"

"If the Parliament had their way, it would be his head and not his place
he lost."

"It seemeth to have been a cruel thing," said Mary, "if it is true? But I
am sorry for the Duke of Leeds (Danby he always is to me) for he has been
a faithful servant."

"The King would like to employ Sunderland, who lieth quiet at Althorp,"
said Portland, with some bitterness. "A villain if there ever was one!"

Mary glanced at him anxiously.

"The King doth not _love_ Sunderland," she said, "but might find him
useful."

"Will he persuade His Majesty to pass the Triennial Bill?" asked Lady
Temple.

"No man can do that," answered the Queen. "If any could have done it, it
would have been your lord, a year ago--but nothing will move the King
once his mind is resolved." She laughed, and added, "You both have known
him longer than I have--tell me if you ever knew him change his
decision?"

"Never," said Portland. "When he was a child he was immovable."

"Sir William hath wasted eloquence on him more than once," smiled Lady
Temple.

The sun had suddenly gone in, and a greyness overspread the gardens.

"Let us go in," said Mary.

They entered the Palace by the private door that led to the King's
apartments. Portland prepared to leave for Whitehall, where His Majesty
stayed to open the Parliament, and the two ladies went to the Queen's
great gallery, that was fine and beautifully furnished, though but ill
heated by the one fireplace where the pine logs blazed.

They joined the little company gathered about the fire and protected by
tall lacquer and silk screens.

Mary took off her furs and drew close to the flames. She was shivering
violently.

"The room is too large," she said, "but a noble apartment, is it not?"
She had taken great pride in furnishing Hampton Court and Kensington
House, and in introducing and making fashionable the arts and crafts of
Holland--the pottery, the brass-ware, the painted wood, and wrought
silver.

The ladies answered in eager praises. The Queen's modest court now
consisted of a set of gentle ladies, Dutch and English, who were her
constant companions; their piety, their charity, their blameless lives,
their industry with the needle, made them utterly different to the ladies
of the two last reigns, and set an example which had made soberness
fashionable, at least in many homes; for Mary had won England as, many
years before, she had won her husband, and was now nearly as beloved in
London as at The Hague--at least among the common people.

One fashion she set was a rage through the country--this was the
collecting of strange and monstrous pieces of old china.

Above the yellow brocade chair where she now sat was a shelf laden with
vases and figures of extraordinary shapes and violent colours. Mary loved
them all; she looked up at them with a little smile, then took up the
book from which she had been reading to her ladies, but dropped it on to
her lap, and sat with an air of lassitude, gazing into the flames.

"The truth is," she said, "I have a great headache, and have had one this
three days past."

"It is the wind," answered Lady Nottingham.

Mary shivered.

"I have taken cold, I think," she remarked. She laughed; she was more
than usual gay.

She was expecting the King in a few days, and, for the moment, the
troubles and difficulties had a little cleared from his path. For the
first time since the war began the last campaign had decided in favour of
the allies; the weight of England was beginning to tell in the balance.
Mary could not forget that; it coloured her days with pleasure.

"I think the ball will be popular," she continued irrelevantly; "every
one seemeth very pleased--"

"What is the date, Madam?" asked Lady Temple.

"The twenty-eighth--about a week from now," answered Mary. "I am to have
a new dress!" She laughed again; she seemed, for her, to be very excited.
"I shall put it on presently, and you must judge of it."

She leant back in her chair, and was suddenly silent. The short day was
darkening; sullen crimson, presaging rain, burnt fitfully in the west,
and a gloomy brightness reflected through the windows of the great
gallery, and struck changeful colour from the mother-of-pearl figures on
the black china screens.

Mary coughed and shivered. She turned to Madame Nienhuys.

"When is your cousin coming to Court?" she asked.

"Not yet, Madam. I had a letter from The Hague yesterday from her mother
saying she would send her in the spring."

"Why not sooner?" asked the Queen.

"She saith she is frightened by the reports of the plague in London."

"They say it is worse this year," assented Mary. "And the smallpox."

"And the smallpox, Madam. But it is foolish of my cousin to be so timid."

"Yes," said Mary gravely; "since timidity will save no one. God doth His
will, despite our fears."

She opened the work-table beside her and took out a chair-cover she was
working with a design of birds and flowers on a black ground. She made a
languid attempt to thread the needle, then dropped the sewing as she had
the book.

"I will try that gown on," she said, "and then we will make tea in the
little antechamber--this is so large."

The ladies rose with a pretty rustle of skirts, folded up their work, and
followed Mary through Sir Christopher's noble apartments to her chamber,
which was very exactly furnished but cold.

On the canopied bed of blue and yellow damask lay the Queen's new gown,
and two sewing-girls sat on low stools and stitched the lace into the
sleeves.

At Mary's approach they rose silently.

"How cold it is!" shivered Mary. "Put me down a grumbler, but we had
warmer houses at The Hague."

"But the dress is beautiful!" cried Lady Nottingham, and the five ladies
gathered about the bed with exclamations of admiration.

It was of white velvet, embroidered with little wreaths of coloured silk
flowers opening over a silver petticoat trimmed with flounces of lace.
The sewing-maidens eyed it shyly, and blushed at the compliments
bestowed.

"I must dance in that," smiled Mary. "Dancing used to be one of my
prettiest pleasures, as you may remember, my Lady Temple!"

"Will Your Majesty try it on?" asked Basilea de Marsac.

"Yes," laughed Mary, "the sewing-girls will help me; get you into the
other room and make the tea--"

The ladies trooped off, and the two sempstresses timidly helped Mary out
of her brown velvet and laced her into the state dress.

A fire was burning, and the Queen stood between it and the bed, facing
the long glass mirror above the mantelshelf that was crowded with china
grotesques. As they pinned, arranged, and draped the rich silk about her,
Mary felt a sudden great fatigue; her limbs were heavy beneath her, and
she gave a little sigh of weariness.

The dress was cut very low, and one sleeve was yet unfinished, so her
shoulders and left arm were bare save for her shift, and, as she moved
for her skirt to be adjusted, that slipped. The Queen noticed this in the
mirror, and put up her right hand to draw it up, when suddenly a deep
shiver ran through her. She stepped back, clutching the dress together on
her shoulder.

"It is too dark to see," she said levelly. "There is a silver lamp in my
cabinet--will you fetch that?"

The sewing-girls looked surprised. The light still held, and there were
candles in the room; but they left at once, with respectful courtesies.

The instant they had gone the Queen sprang to the door and locked it,
then went back to the bed and leant heavily against the post nearest the
fire.

She felt sick and weak; her head was giddy.

"Be quiet--be quiet," she said aloud, and pressed her clenched knuckles
against her leaping heart.

Only for a second did this weakness endure. She returned to the glass and
turned her chemise down; there she saw again what had made her send the
sewing-girls away--a large purple patch on the white flesh, unmistakable.

For an instant she stood gazing, then sat down in the majestic arm-chair
beside the bed. There was another test she knew of--she winced from
applying it, yet presently rose and took from a side-table near the tall
clock a rat-tailed spoon she used for rose-water.

She put the bowl of this far back into her mouth, and then withdrew it;
the silver was covered with bright blood.

Footsteps sounded without. Mary flung the spoon on to the fire and softly
unlocked the door.

The sempstresses entered with the silver lamp, dutifully lit and placed
it on the mantelshelf.

Mary stood holding her garments tightly together on her breast.

"Have you ever had the smallpox?" she asked gently. They both answered
together.

"Yes, Your Majesty; but not the black smallpox, an it please Your
Majesty."

Mary looked into their fair, undisfigured faces.

"No," she answered; "the black smallpox is ever fatal, is it not--"

"They say so, Your Majesty," said the elder girl, pinning up the lace on
the silver underskirt. "And there is a deal of it in London now, Your
Majesty."

Mary made no reply. They finished with the dress and left her, having
laced her into the brown velvet.

The Queen put out the silver lamp and went into the ante-chamber where
the ladies were chattering over the tea Lady Temple was making in a
Burmese silver urn.

Mary seated herself near the fire.

"We will go to Kensington House to-morrow," she said. Then,
noticing Lady Temple's look of surprise, she added, with a slight tremor
in her voice, "I have a fancy to be near the King."



CHAPTER VIII - FEAR


My Lord Sunderland was climbing from obscurity, disgrace, and infamy to
that great position he had once held--climbing very cautiously, working
secretly, biding his time, venturing a little here, a little there,
helped always by my lady and some few ancient friends.

The King had been obliged to leave him out of the Act of Grace. He was,
nevertheless, at this moment waiting for a private audience of His
Majesty, who had already visited him in his princely palace at Althorp.

The King had gone in state to Parliament; my lord did not care to yet
take his seat in the House on great occasions; he preferred to wait in
Whitehall and reflect quietly on his policies.

He believed that the summit of his ambitions was about to be reached; he
had staked on William of Orange twenty years ago, and had never lost
faith in him. The King was not a man to be ungrateful. Sunderland saw
close within his grasp the moment he had worked for steadily,
unscrupulously, so long--the moment when William of Orange and he should
rule England together.

From his seclusion at Althorp he had watched the King's stormy reign, and
known that if he had been at William's right hand half the troubles would
have been averted or smoothed over.

He was even scheming to make the Court popular; the attitude of the
people towards his hero considerably annoyed him.

It was undeniable that the irreproachable example of the Court awoke in
the English more ridicule than respect or admiration; they regarded with
a sneer the sincere efforts of the gentle young Queen to elevate and
dignify her position, to improve the tone of a corrupt society. The
industrious simplicity of the King, his dislike of blasphemy,
evil-speaking, and frivolous amusements, his private tolerance, justice,
and modesty were as so many causes of offence to a people regretting
former princes so much more suited to their temper. They missed the
pageant that had continually entertained them at Whitehall, the money
that had been squandered by the Court in a manner so pleasing to the
national extravagance, the continual spectacle of the King in the obvious
exercise of gracious royalty, even the gay ladies whose histories had
diverted a generation. This humour provoked cynical smiles from William
and distressed comment from Mary. Sunderland resolved to alter it; he saw
the truth; he knew that nothing but genius in the man every one combined
to disparage could have kept the nation together, and nothing but the
greatest courage and strength on the part of the woman they affected to
dismiss as a cipher could have maintained a government during the Irish
war.

Sunderland largely blamed the ministers. Halifax had failed, Caermarthen
(now Leeds) was failing, the others had never been really trusted by the
King, who relied mainly on secret advisers, such as Carstairs, Temple,
his Dutch friends, and lately Sunderland himself.

My lord knew that he could do better than any of these; he had the great
advantage of understanding the King; he even believed that he could make
him again as beloved in England as he had been in '88.

William was no boor, but of noble blood thrice refined; his passionate
nature and the constant control he had put it under made him break out
fiercely sometimes against the foolish and the vexatious; he never
flattered, and he took no trouble to please women. Natural modesty and
the languor of ill-health made him refuse to concede to the national love
of display; but he was beloved abroad, and Sunderland believed he could
be beloved in England. My lord resolved to persuade him to go to
Newmarket this year; he flattered himself that he had a considerable
influence over William.

He became impatient for the King to return; he went to the window and
looked at the surging crowd beyond the courtyard waiting for a sight of
the Royal coach. It was not likely to be greeted very warmly, for the
King was, a second time, going to veto the Triennial Bill, a great
popular measure which, from the first, he had set his face against.

Sunderland upheld him; to consent to the Bill would be an enormous
concession to the people, and my lord had no love for the democracy, but,
like William, had a high ideal of the rights of the Crown. He took
pleasure now in thinking of the King's firm stand and the disappointment
of this crowd when the news of the vetoed Bill was flashed from mouth to
mouth.

As he watched, standing within the silver-corded curtains, a party of
halberdiers suddenly scattered the people to right and left, a company of
soldiers drove up, and then the Royal coach came, unusually fast,
swinging on its leathers.

A deep hum rose from the crowd; some broke into cheering, hats were
thrown up, and handkerchiefs waved. Sunderland had never seen the King
receive such a cordial reception.

He withdrew from the window, surprised, a little puzzled. The satisfied
murmur of the crowd continued.

"Why--is it possible--" cried my lord.

He hastened to seek out the King.

William was in his dressing-room, disrobing. M. Zulestein was with him,
and several other nobles.

Gold-embroidered purple, scarlet and ermine, the collar and star of the
George lay tossed on one of the gilt walnut chairs; the King, in silk
shirt and white satin breeches, sat by a marquetry dressing-table with a
letter in his hand.

Sunderland entered as one sure of his welcome. William had promised him
countenance if he would come to Court.

"Your Majesty--" he began.

The King looked at him blankly; his face, between the dark curls, was of
a startling whiteness.

"Ah, sir," said Sunderland, "do I break in upon Your Majesty?"

"No," answered William vaguely.

My lord looked round the other nobles; they seemed strangely silent.

"Sir, how went it in Parliament?" he asked, approaching the King.

William made a heavy effort to answer.

"I--well enough--they--" His voice trailed off.

Sunderland stood utterly amazed. Was this man going to fail?

"Sir, the Triennial Bill?" he questioned half fearfully.

The King rose; he seemed utterly unnerved; he whom my lord had ever
considered beyond the touch of weakness. "I passed it," he said faintly.

The colour flashed into Sunderland's face.

"You did!" he cried. "You made; that great concession. By God, if any but
Your Majesty had made that statement I should have disbelieved them--"

The King did not seem to hear him; he called distractedly for his coat,
and walked up and down the splendid little chamber with his head bent.

Sunderland, sick at heart, drew M. de Zulestein aside.

"What is the matter with the King?" he whispered. "I should not have
known him--"

"He hath been all day like a man in a confusion," answered the Master of
the Robes.

"And to give way," muttered Sunderland. "To concede like any weakling!"

William mechanically took from one of the lords his coat, sword, and hat,
and stood still a moment before the chair on which his orders glittered
on his robes, like frozen coloured water gleaming in the winter sunlight.

"Is the coach ready?" he asked abruptly.

"Your Majesty," reminded M. de Zulestein, "is to dine in public here
to-day--"

"No," said the King, "I will go at once to Kensington House--hasten the
coach--"

"But there are a number of people already gathered--it will cause
grievous offence--"

The King stared at him with wild dark eyes.

"My God, I will not stay an instant."

M. de Zulestein bowed.

At this moment Lord Portland entered; they saw him with profound relief,
believing that, if any could, he would fathom and combat the King's
humour.

At sight of him William flushed with animation. Portland crossed to him
at once; he seemed himself troubled in his manner.

The King caught his hand and pressed it inside his open satin waistcoat,
over his heart.

"Do you feel that?" he asked. "Have you ever known it beat so?--that is
fear, William, fear--"

He spoke in his own language, and with an extraordinary I energy and
passion.

"The letter," asked Portland tenderly, "that was handed you as we
started--"

"From Sir Thomas Millington," said the King; he put it into his friend's
hands and sank on to the chair beside the dressing-table; he seemed
utterly unconscious of the watchful eyes upon him, of the presence,
indeed, of any but Portland.

That lord read the letter of Sir Thomas (he was the King's physician)
with, it seemed, some relief.

"Why, he merely saith the Queen is not well."

William answered hoarsely--

"Lady Temple came to Whitehall this morning when you were abroad...you
know _she_ hath never had the smallpox." His voice broke; he stared out
of the window at the winter sky.

"God in Heaven!" exclaimed Portland. "You do not think of _that_?"

"Lady Temple," muttered the King, "said--_she_ had sent from
Kensington--every one, even to the maid-servants--who had not had the
smallpox--"

"That is but her own sweet kindness," cried Portland--"she cannot know--"

"I am afraid, afraid," answered the King. "My father, my mother, my
uncle...all dead of that..."

He sprang up and turned to the door. Sunderland was in his way, and
stayed him gently.

"Sir--I entreat you do not disappoint the people--stay in Whitehall to
dine--"

William looked at him fiercely.

"Do you not hear that the Queen is sick?"

Sunderland's face was cold; he was disappointed in the King. "What of
this Bill for the Calling of Parliaments?" he said.

"I would like to hear some good reason for that concession on the part of
Your Majesty."

William made no answer; he put out his hand and motioned my lord out of
his way. Sunderland stepped aside and the King left the room. They heard
his high heels going quickly down the corridors.

Portland turned to M. de Zulestein.

"Why, he hath known two days that the Queen was not well."

"It was Lady Temple," answered the Master of the Robes. "She told him Her
Majesty was worse than she would admit."

"But the doctors--"

"You know the King hath never had any trust in doctors--and certainly it
giveth an ill-colour that she hath sent away all that are like to be
infected."

"Meanwhile the Bill is passed," said Sunderland. "And I have misreckoned
on the King."

He took his leave haughtily of the Dutch nobles, and they went after the
King. An excited and disturbed crowd filled the galleries and the
banqueting hall where the dishes were already on the table and the lords
ready to serve.

The King had already left Whitehall in the Duke of Leeds' coach, with no
other company but that nobleman.

So completely deceived were the spectators who lined the way from the
Palace to the post office in Charing Cross to see the great people drive
away from Parliament that they, recognizing the arms and liveries of
Leeds (now unpopular by reason of the East India scandals), hooted
lustily, with no conception that the King was beside my lord.

Nor did either King or minister care one whit whether the crowd hooted or
cheered. Leeds was on the verge of ruin, and knew it, yet thought little
about that; he had a peculiar regard for the Queen, a peculiar loyalty
towards the King; his thoughts, like his master's, were with that lady
whose life meant so much to England.

In half an hour they were at Kensington House; in a few minutes more the
King, the Duke's mantle over his white satins and the garter still round
his knee, was by Mary's side in the long Queen's gallery.

She was seated close to the fire with Basilea de Marsac and Madame de
Nienhuys--very languidly seated, with her hands in her lap and a blue
scarf about her shoulders.

Her extravagant joy at the King's coming was piteous to see.

"So soon!" she cried, and her whole face changed. "I thought it could not
be till this evening...but were they not expecting you to dine at
Whitehall?"

"No matter for that," he answered breathlessly. "You--you are no worse?"

"Oh, I am well again," smiled Mary; "but you will make yourself unpopular
if you disappoint the people--yet I am glad you came--I thought I must
see you--that is why I came from Hampton yesterday, forgive me--but even
the sound of the Tower guns as you went to Parliament was company--"

She paused, and seemed rather exhausted by the effort of speaking.
William noticed with unutterable anxiety that the hand he held was
burning hot and that she shivered continuously, yet she was so joyous,
smiling, and lovely he could not trust his own fears.

The two ladies had withdrawn to the other end of the gallery. The King
took the stool beside Mary.

"Did you pass the Parliament Bill?" she asked.

"Yes," he said, never taking his eyes from her face and speaking as if it
was a matter of no moment.

"Ah, why?" she asked, startled.

"I did not care; what doth it matter? Do not talk of business, Marie."

"No," she said softly; "let us forget great affairs for once. I am so
weary, dear."

"But you are better?" He could scarcely control his voice. She smiled
brightly.

"Oh yes; I was out driving this morning, and afterwards talking to Dr.
Burnet, and you know that taketh some energy--I think to have my ball
just the same next Saturday. I have remedied myself and not troubled the
doctors."

He wished to ask her why she had given the orders about her household
that had so shaken him, but could not bring the words to his lips.

Mary coughed a little, and sat up.

"I wanted to ask you something," she said. "I am always begging--am I
not?"

He pressed the hand he held between his so fiercely that his heavy rings
hurt her, but she continued smiling.

"About Greenwich Palace," she added rather faintly. "I want it for a
hospital--"

"I know, I know," he answered remorsefully. "You have spoken of it
before. It hath always been the cursed money, but you shall have it if I
have to pawn my furniture."

"There are so many old seamen about," murmured Mary--"poor and
wounded--and many of them were at La Hogue and helped save us all. I used
to see them when I took my airing in Hyde Park, begging--one could not
forbear tears. And the hospitals are full. But Greenwich--"

"It shall be," said William. "Give that no more thought. Wren shall draw
plans. It shall be as you wish, only get well again, and that shall be my
thank offering."

Looking and smiling at him she sat silent while the firelight flooded her
figure with gorgeous light; in that moment's stillness both of them
thought of love as a terrible thing.

Mary suddenly closed her eyes.

"Your mother," she said softly, "do you remember her?" He answered under
his breath--

"Yes. Your name, my dear, your family, should I not remember her?"

"When she died she was no older than I am--I often think how strangely
near her grave is. I think that Chapel in Westminster a sad spot. But if
we live with our thoughts on Death how can we be afraid? God would not
let one be afraid."

"Why do you speak of death?" asked the King, in a trembling voice. "You
frighten me--"

"Ah no," whispered Mary. "Death is not fearful. I have been idle to-day,
and thought of many strange things. I recalled a portrait of your mother
I found in a desk of yours when I first came to Holland--a limning in
little with white violets on the back, and these words, 'J'aime un seul.'
That was a pretty thought of hers."

She moved her head restlessly on the red cushions and lifted her heavy
lids.

"I would we were at The Hague again," she said wistfully.

"You shall go," he replied impetuously. "When the spring cometh we will
go together to The Hague, and be free of all of it--"

"There is the war."

"Let Waldeck take the command this campaign--I will stay with you. We
have had so little time together all these years." Mary gazed tenderly
into his ardent face.

"The spring seemeth so far off. Hold my hand. I feel as if the world
might pass from beneath us if we could sit thus and I not notice. You
will be with me this Christmas-tide?"

"I shall not leave you," he said hoarsely. "I will nurse you till you are
well again. But you are not ill?" he added piteously.

"No--tired a little." She sat up and put her hands on his shoulders. "You
do not regret the day they married you to your poor little cousin?" The
soft brown eyes were full of yearning. "She was such a foolish child, so
ignorant--"

He could not speak, but made a movement of his hands to hers as if to
stop her.

"Let me speak," said Mary sweetly. "I have thought so much about it
lately. We learnt everything so late--our mistakes last of all, I think,
and I have made many mistakes. Perhaps another woman would have helped
you more. But I have done my best--I wanted to say that--I have always
done my best."

He managed to answer, but almost incoherently.

"You shame me--utterly shame me--you--know what you have been to me--"

Mary dropped her hands; the tears gathered in her eyes. "And I am
childless," she faltered.

He sprang up as if he wrenched himself free from torture.

"Do not leave me," entreated Mary feebly. "I think I am not very well,
after all, and you promised to stay--forgive me--but indeed I think of it
and your great kindness."

He turned about and leant over her chair. Mary clung to him with hot
hands.

"No one could have loved you more," she said, in great agitation--"too
much, for my own peace--"

Her fever-flushed face drooped against the lace on his bosom; he put his
arm round her, and she gave a great sigh; the tears were on her lashes
and running slowly down her face; he kissed her loose hair and the hand
on his shoulder.

"God," he said, in an unsteady whisper, answering his own desperate
fears, "could not be so cruel."



CHAPTER IX - CHRISTMAS EVE


Kensington House was hushed and dark; in only one room did a light burn,
and that was where the Queen of England sat alone in her cabinet with the
door locked and two tapers burning on her desk.

It was long past midnight on Christmas Eve, and she supposed in bed; the
stillness was intense; the ticking of the little brass clock sounded loud
and steady--a solitary noise.

Mary sat at the desk with her papers spread before her; she had burnt
many of them in the candle-flame, and a little pile of ashes lay on the
cold hearth.

It was four days since she had first sickened, and the doctors said this
and that, disagreeing with each other, and constantly changing their
opinion; but Mary had never been deceived; she had cheated herself, she
had cheated the King, into a belief that she was lately better, but from
the moment in her bedchamber at Hampton Court when the thought of her
danger had first flashed on her, she had had an absolute premonition that
this was the end. All her life had been coloured by the sense she would
not live past youth. The first shock over, she did not grieve for
herself, but terribly, more terribly than she had conceived she could,
for the King.

At first a kind of wild joy had possessed her that she would go first;
but the agony of leaving him alone was almost as awful as the agony of
being left.

Because she could not endure to face his anguish she had so far concealed
from him both her certainty of her own approaching end and her own belief
as to her malady. Dr. Radcliffe alone among the physicians had said
smallpox, and been laughed at for his opinion, but the Queen knew that he
was right. "Malignant black smallpox," he had said, and she knew he was
right in that also.

Few recovered from this plague; few lived beyond the week.

Alone in the little cabinet, consecrated by so many prayers, meditations,
and tears, the young Queen faced her fate.

"I am going to die," she said to herself. "I am going to die in a few
days."

She sat back in her chair and caught her breath. The stillness seemed to
ache in her ears. So little done, so much unfinished, so many storms,
troubles, attempts, poor desperate endeavours, and now--the end.

She recalled that when the King had been last on the Continent she had
been ill of a sore throat, and been so melancholy on account of the
dismal state of public affairs, the ingratitude and malice of the people,
that she had wished to die, but checked that thought, believing that she
could still be of service to her husband. And now it was no wish or idle
fancy, but the very thing itself.

And she must leave him.

Her deep piety made her think the agony she endured at that thought a
punishment for having so deeply loved a human creature. She tried to fix
her mind on God, but earthly affection was stronger. The image of heaven
became dim beside the image of him to whom her whole heart had been
given; the very tenderness that had been provoked in him by her illness
made it harder.

At last she rose and went over to a little gilt escritoire in the corner;
there were locked away all the letters she had ever had from the King,
some from her father, a Prayer Book of her mother's before her
conversion, some of her own meditations and prayers, her diary, and
various little trifles with poignant associations.

With the keys in her hand she hesitated, but courage failed her to open
any of the drawers; she returned to the large bureau and took up a sheet
of paper.

She felt ill and cold; her limbs were heavy, her eyes ached, and her head
was full of pain. She made a strong effort of will to take up the quill
and write; at first the pen shook so there were mere ink-marks on the
paper.

What she wrote were a few last requests to the King: that her jewels and
clothes might be given to her sister Anne, that her servants might be
looked after, that he would remember his promise with regard to the
hospital at Greenwich, and that if Leeds was disgraced the King would
deal mildly with him--"for he hath ever been a good servant to us."

She did not trust herself to add words of affection, but wrote beneath,
"The Lord have thee in His keeping," folded it up with the ink scarce
dry, and rose to unlock the top drawer of the escritoire and place the
paper within.

That done she relocked it and placed the key in her bosom.

All her other papers and letters she had destroyed; her private affairs
were in order; she had not a debt nor an obligation in the world. There
was nothing more to do.

She put her hands before her eyes and endeavoured to settle her thoughts,
to dismiss earthly matters and think only of God, but she could not put
the King out of her heart. Her thoughts ran past her own death, and saw
him lonely amidst his difficulties, without her aid to smooth over little
frictions, without her company in his infrequent leisure, without her
sympathy in his disappointments; in a thousand little ways he scarcely
knew of she had been able to help him, and now there would be no one--no
one to watch and notice and understand as she had done; she could not
trust even Portland to do what she had done.

"God forgive me for this weakness," she murmured, in great distress. "God
strengthen and make it easy for us both."

She rose and went to the window; she could see the black sky pierced here
and there by a few stars as the clouds parted--nothing else.

On an instant the deep silence was rent by a clamour of sweet sound; the
sharp strong pealing of church bells rang out over the sleeping city.

Mary knew that it was the village church of Kensington practising for
Christmas; she sank into the window-seat and fixed her eyes on those few
distant pale cold stars.

She could not steady her thoughts. Old memories, pictures of dead days,
arose and disturbed her. She saw the sunlight on the red front of the
house at Twickenham and the little roses growing over the brick, herself
as a child playing in the garden, and the figure of her father standing
by the sundial looking at her, as he had stood once on one of his rare
visits--very handsome and tall and grave with long tasselled gloves in
his hand, she saw the hayfields beyond St. James's and the summer-tanned
labourers working there and a little girl in a blue gown asleep on a
gathered sheaf and Lady Villiers pointing out the last swallow and how
low it flew--so low that the light of the setting sun was over its back
and it was like a thing of gold above the rough stubble--she saw pictures
of The Hague--that beautiful town, and her own dear house, and the
wood...

She remembered her presentiment, before William left for England, that
they were looking at the wood together for the last time.

All over now, mere memory, and memory itself soon to end; she would never
see the flowers again either in England or Holland; she had looked her
last on blue sky and summer sun; she would never more go down to Chester
to welcome the King home from the war; she would never again cut the
sweet briar roses to place in the blue bowls at Hampton Court.

It frightened her that she thought so of these earthly things, that she
could not detach her mind from the world. She endeavoured to fix her
attention on the bells, and they seemed to shake into the words of an
ancient hymn she had known as a child--

"O Lord, let Thou my spirit rise
From out this Press of turning Strife.
Let me look into Thy awful eyes
And draw from Thee Immortal Life."

The bells seemed to change into one of the endless little Dutch carillons
that she heard so often in her dreams; she put her hands before her
face--

"Take, dear Lord, the best of me,
And let it, as an Essence pressed
Like unto Like, win Immortality
Absorbed in Thy unchanging rest."

The bells paused and shuddered as if a rude hand had checked them; the
melody hesitated, then changed rhythm; a single bell struck out from the
rest in clear ringing, then stopped.

For a little space the air was full of echoes, then a mournful stillness
fell. The Queen remained in the window-seat with her hands before her
eyes.

When she raised her head one of the candles had guttered out and the
other was near its end.

She had lost the sense of time, almost of place; it would have given her
no surprise to find she was sitting in the garden at The Hague or going
down the waterways of Holland in her barge; she did not notice the
darkness so ill-dispersed by that one flame burning tall, ragged, and
blue in the great silver stick; she began to say over her prayers in a
kind of exaltation; she went on her knees and pressed her face against
the smooth wood of the window-frame; she was murmuring to herself under
her breath as if she tried to lull her own soul to sleep; she got up at
last, not knowing what she did, and unlatched the window.

She looked out on a ghastly dawn, pallid above the leafless trees,
against which a few flakes of snow fell heavily. The Queen stared at this
picture. The cold wind entered the chamber and a snowflake lightly
drifted in and changed to a crystal drop on the window-seat.

She latched the window again and turned into the room; the last candle
had been out hours; the wax was hard round the frozen wick; a whole night
had passed with the drawing of a breath, and this was Christmas morning.

Above the chimney-piece was a mirror in a gold and ebony frame; the Queen
stepped up to it and looked at herself; she beheld a woman without
colour; her gown was black and her face and throat indistinguishable from
her crumpled lace collar; her hair was dark and without a glint in the
dead light; the pearls in her ears were ghostly pale; she thought her
features were very changed, being hollowed and sunk.

"They cover the faces of the dead," she thought curiously; "they will
soon cover mine." She put her hand delicately under her chin. "Poor face,
that will never laugh or blush--or weep again!"



CHAPTER X - THE QUEEN


Dr. Burnet was returning from his diocese of Sarum to Kensington Palace,
where he had been called by the grave reports of the Queen's sickness.

On Christmas Day she had been something better, but towards the evening
notably worse; on Wednesday prayers were offered in all the churches, and
the new primate, Dr. Tenison, was summoned to join the other prelates in
attendance at Kensington.

The Bishop of Sarum was joined in London by M. Zulestein, for whom he had
a peculiar friendship, and who came to urge haste.

The Master of the Robes hoped that the Bishop's presence might have some
effect upon the astonishing and immoderate agitation of the King; he
confessed he had been glad to escape from the atmosphere of anxiety and
grief at Kensington.

V Soldier and priest made a melancholy journey in M. Zulestein's coach.
The Capital was very silent and awed. There could be no doubt now that
the Queen was beloved.

"If she goes," said M. Zulestein bluntly, "he can never hold the throne.
His very title to it would be questioned. Without her where are we all?"

Dr. Burnet answered unsteadily; he was deeply attached to Mary.

Do not speak like that, sir. She must live--even if it be smallpox, is
she not young and strong? Did not the King recover?"

"He had it but slightly," answered M. Zulestein. "He was back at the army
in twenty days. They say it was his own resolution not to die and the
services of M. Portland that saved him, but I do not think this lady hath
any such will to live."

"God bless us," cried the Bishop, "who would have thought a man of the
King's feeble constitution would have survived the Queen!" He shook his
head sorrowfully. "She was our principal hope, our support--a prince of
an extraordinary goodness."

"If she dieth she hath the better part," answered the Dutchman. "I know
not how the King will well bear it--he hath hardly slept since her
illness--for fear of his cough disturbing her he will not lie in her
chamber, but hath his camp-bed in the anteroom--yet he is never on it--he
hath himself nursed her--day and night with such devotion and care as
moveth the heart." He paused, and added, with great emotion, "Had you
seen him as I have, in all manner of dangers and fatigues and troubles,
always master of himself, and of such an heroical courage that he
inflamed those about him, you would find it, sir, terrible to see him as
he is now."

"When I last saw him he was struck beyond expression," answered Dr.
Burnet. "But I never thought his temper would bear an open display of
emotion."

"You know him as well as any Englishman--yet you do not know him," said
M. Zulestein.

The pompous self-love of the Bishop was rather hit at this, but he let it
pass (as he would not have done at any other time), and neither spoke
again before they reached Kensington House.

They found the household in much disorder--the courtyard filled with
carriages, the corridors with messengers waiting for the news. M.
Zulestein told his companion that the Princess Anne (in open disgrace on
account of her championship of my Lord Marlborough, who had been
discovered in flagrant treachery) had sent a humble loving message, and
that the King had replied warmly, but requested her not to come till
there was a turn for the better.

Dr. Burnet thought this answer of the King's looked as if the doctors
held out hope; he shouldered his way through the crowd to the Queen's
private apartments, and rather breathless and without ceremony he and M.
Zulestein put aside the ushers and entered the first antechamber of
Mary's apartments.

It was empty save for a couple of curious, frightened servants; but the
door into the next room was open, and the two newcomers beheld an
extraordinary scene.

A little group with their faces hidden stood before the window; near them
at the table was a florid, coarse-featured man, plainly dressed, and cast
down before him a gentleman in a violet coat--on his knees with his hands
raised in a gesture of abandoned entreaty.

The back of this gentleman was towards Dr. Burnet.

"Dear God!" he muttered, seizing M. Zulestein's arm, "is it--the King?"

M. Zulestein, utterly pale, made a gesture of assent, and hastened
forward. The man before whom the King knelt stepped back in a kind of
desperation, and cried--

"If Your Majesty were to offer me your three kingdoms I could give you no
other answer!"

At this the King fell forward on his face, and he was lying so, prone,
when the Bishop and M. Zulestein entered.

Dr. Radcliffe wiped his forehead with his handkerchief, and looked round
half-defiantly.

"Gentlemen," he said hoarsely, "I take you to witness I have done my
duty. His Majesty asked the truth. It is smallpox, and Her Majesty is
sinking rapidly. I was not called in until it was too late."

Portland had come from the window, and was raising the King. "You have
some courage, sir," he said grimly.

Dr. Radcliffe retorted in self-defence--

"I did not undertake this for pleasure, your lordship; there was no one
else would dare tell His Majesty."

Portland got the King to his feet; the others stood awkward and still;
William looked round and saw Dr. Burnet.

"Did you hear?" he asked, under his breath--"did you hear?"

He sank into the chair by the table. The Bishop approached with some
faltering words of comfort, but the King cut him short.

"They say there is no hope of the Queen!" he broke out. "No hope I was
the most happy creature upon earth, and now shall be the most miserable!
There was no fault in her, not one--you know her as well as any, but you
could not know her as I did--there was a worth in her none could know but
I!"

With that he burst into a passion of tears, and hid his face on the table
in an abandonment of agony which amazed those about him, who knew neither
what to say nor do in face of this overthrow of the Master whom they had
always regarded as one who would preserve a decent control in the face of
any sorrow, since he was a soldier and a statesman, and had kept his
countenance in many a bitter crisis, and always shown a singular pride in
controlling his passions--so much so, as to be stately and cold even to
those he loved; yet here he wept before the very staring servants and
gave no heed. Lord Portland thought there was something womanish and
unworthy in this desperate grief; he went up to the King and spoke with a
kind of heat.

"Will you give way thus? Where is your trust in God?"

He was speaking not to the King of England, but to William of Nassau, at
whose side he had faced so many years of danger, his companion in arms,
his truest friend.

"She will go to everlasting peace," he said, with energy. "You, who have
faced so much, can face the loss of her--for her sake, for her eternal
good."

If the King heard these words they did not touch him; he raised his head
a little, and broke into incoherent lamentation in a misery of tears.

Portland spoke to Dr. Radcliffe.

"How long," he asked, "will it be?"

"She may," answered the doctor, in a lowered voice, "live another day, my
lord, no more; the smallpox are now so sunk there is no hope of raising
them."

"Should she not be warned of her danger?"

"That is as the King wishes."

"The King!" echoed Portland, in a tone of despair. He turned again to his
master. "Sire," he said gently, "will you have the Queen told?"

William looked up; the tears were streaming down his face for any one to
see; he continually shuddered violently, and spoke so hoarsely Portland
could with difficulty catch the words.

"I'll not believe it yet--I cannot--these doctors--must save her--"

"Dr. Tenison," answered Portland, "is with her now--it were best that he
should tell her of her condition--"

The King broke out into ejaculations of anguish.

"There was none like her in all the world--none! No one could know her
great goodness. O God, my God, this is more than I can bear!"

Portland turned his eyes away, broken himself.

"I am amazed," whispered Dr. Burnet; "for surely I never thought him
capable of such emotion."

Dr. Radcliffe touched Portland on the arm.

"Look to His Majesty," he said. "I think this will prove beyond his
endurance--I will to the Queen."

He took his leave softly. The King lifted his head and looked after him.

"He said there was no hope!" he cried. "No hope!"

"God is your hope," answered Portland strongly.

"Talk not of God, for this is death and damnation to me--if she leaves me
nothing matters on earth or in heaven--what have I done--what have I done
that the Devil is let loose on me?" He cast his eyes round wildly, and
staggered to his feet. "She was all I had--all--I should have died
first--I might have died happy--I have not lived so wickedly I should be
punished thus--but they mistake, these doctors--she cannot die--no, it is
not possible."

They were all silent. The scene was painful almost past bearing. The
King's agonies went beyond all bounds. None of them, though they were all
men who had known him most of his life, had believed that his temper was
capable of such passion. Dr. Burnet's fluent self-assurance was
checked--he stood dumb and staring; the Dutch nobles gazed in horror and
dismay at this spectacle of a proud man's utter overthrow. Portland
remained beside him, and the King supported himself by holding heavily on
to his arm.

"Doctors mistake, do they not?" he cried, between the long shudders that
shook him. "How often have they not said--I should die--but I lived."

"Alas," answered Portland unsteadily, "I would not have you deceive
yourself--Radcliffe was very certain. But you will command yourself--"

"I--I have no strength," gasped the King; "my soul is broken within me. O
God!" he sobbed, "save her or let me go!"

He turned about and threw out his hand like a blind man feeling his way,
then fell back into Portland's arms.

"Fainted," said my lord laconically. With the help of M. Zulestein he
laid him on the stiff couch between the windows. One of the servants
hurried for a doctor, and in the moment's confusion my Lord Leeds entered
unnoticed.

Portland, as he moved from the King's couch, was the first to see him.

"Ah, my lord," he said sorrowfully, "what is to become of us all?"

"The King," murmured Portland, much moved, "is incapable of anything--do
you take the direction of affairs."

"Nay, you, my lord," answered Leeds. "You are His Majesty's nearer
friend."

"And your Grace is English--it will be more politic should you take this
office--what of the Queen?"

"I have just come from her antechamber--even the pages and serving-maids
are in tears--this is a heavy business." He himself seemed like a man
utterly overcome. "She is certainly sinking--she is in private discourse
now with the Archbishop."

"Doth she know?--"

Leeds shook his head.

"Dr. Tenison waiteth the King's commands to tell her--but I think she
hath an inner knowledge."

M. Auverqueverque came from the group by the window and whispered
Portland that the King was conscious.

At this Leeds, ever warm-hearted and impulsive, went on his knees beside
the couch and pressed the King's cold hand affectionately to his lips.

William sat up with his head drooping; his back was to the light, and his
thick curls almost concealed his face; he held his handkerchief to his
lips and shivered continually.

"The Queen," said Leeds, very low, "hath asked for Your Majesty."

The King murmured something incoherent.

"And the Archbishop," continued Leeds, with a grave gentleness, "thinketh
she should be told of her danger."

"I would not have her deceived--in so important a matter," whispered;
the King--"tell him so." He leant forward and took Leeds by the
shoulders. "Is it not an awful thing that she should die she to die you
ever loved her God bless you for that, my lord she had a sad life"--his
voice became very indistinct--"she will not be sorry but as for me--"

His hands loosened on the Duke's shoulders, and with a little moan he
fell into another fainting fit, so long and deathlike that they feared
for his reason or his life; it seemed, indeed, as if he would scarcely
survive her whose danger caused his despair.



CHAPTER XI - THE BITTER PARTING


The Queen's bed stood out into the room, facing the long windows which
looked on to the winter twilight; it was hung with four curtains of gold
and blue damask sewn with many-coloured wreaths of flowers that Mary and
her maids had worked when seated under the alley of wych-elm at Hampton
Court.

The coverlet was of crimson satin embroidered with great roses of England
and fringed with bullion. The Queen lay so still that the heavy folds
were scarcely disturbed about her limbs. The curtains round the head of
the bed had been drawn forward, and the pillows and the face of the Queen
were in shadow.

She wore a lace cap with long lappets fastened beneath her chin and a
little jacket of blue silk over her muslin nightgown. She was not
disfigured, it being the most deadly symptom of her disease that there
was no sign of it beyond the deep purple marks that had told Dr.
Radcliffe--black smallpox--from the first, and the constant internal
bleeding of her throat that had so exhausted her; that had stopped now,
and she lay quite free from pain quiet for several hours; not sleeping;
sleep, she said, gave her no ease.

To the right of the bed the King knelt with his face hidden in the quilt.
There were several prelates and doctors in the room, and by the head of
the bed Lady Temple, Madame Nienhuys, Basilea de Marsac, and Lady
Portland, the Earl's second wife and Lady Temple's daughter.

At a whispered word from Dr. Radcliffe, Tenison, the new Archbishop of
Canterbury, successor to the saintly Tillotson, so beloved by the King
and Queen, approached the bed.

As his footfall broke the tense silence Mary lifted her languid eyes; he
came round to her left, and stood, in a sorrowful attitude, looking down
on her.

"Be seated, my lord," she faltered.

But out of respect to her and the presence of the King he remained
standing.

Mary made a feeble motion with her right hand, which lay outside the
coverlet, and sweetly stammered her repeated commands that he should sit.

Dr. Tenison obeyed, and with a heavy heart. Her gentle patience made his
duty the harder. Dr. Radcliffe had just told him that since she now
seemed tranquil and in full consciousness he might tell her of her
approaching end.

The Bishop, a good heavy man, set about his task with pain and
tenderness.

"Your Majesty will forgive me plain speaking, but I am entrusted by the
King--"

She lay with her face towards him, and her brown eyes narrowed. He
hesitated, fearing to greatly agitate her, and sought for a form of words
in which to cast his speech.

"I am greatly grieved to see that Your Majesty is no better," he said.
"Your consolation will come from heaven, not earth." She instantly
perceived his drift.

"You are come to tell me that I am dying?" she asked faintly.

He was startled that she had so instantly understood, and could not, for
the moment, speak.

"I thank my God," continued the Queen, "that I have had this in my
thoughts from the first. And there is nothing to be done. Search for a
little escritoire in my cabinet and give it to the King. That is the end
of earthly matters."

She closed her eyes and gave a little sigh.

"Will it please Your Majesty receive the Sacrament?" asked the
Archbishop.

"Yes," she said at once. "Yes."

He left her, and she turned her head languidly and gazed before her at
the window.

Lady Temple came forward lovingly, and looked down at her with sorrowful
eyes.

"Before you light the candles," whispered Mary, "will you draw the
curtains a little that I may see the sky?"

Lady Portland crossed the floor delicately and pulled back the heavy gold
thread and scarlet damask from the December twilight.

A pale glow of colourless light fell across the glittering bed, the wan
face of the Queen, and the motionless kneeling figure of her husband.

She could see loose grey clouds, an indistinct trail of yellow fire low
behind the leafless trees which tossed slowly in a feeble wind.

She gave another little sigh and again closed her eyes. Lady Portland,
weeping, drew the curtains. Basilea de Marsac and Madame de Nienhuys lit
the candles on the mantelshelf, on the table between the windows, and the
crystal lamp ornamented with the rose, the shamrock, and thistle in
silver that hung from the centre of the ceiling.

The Queen lay still all this while; she did not speak till Dr. Tenison
approached her bed again, and all the prelates in the chamber went on
their knees.

"I doubt if I can swallow the bread," she murmured anxiously.

The bishops in the room took the Sacrament with her; they were all heavy
with grief, and the Primate faltered in his ministrations, but she was
utterly calm; she followed the holy office clearly with no hesitation.
Despite her fears, she swallowed the bread without difficulty, and
thanked Dr. Tenison sweetly when he had done, and lay for awhile, praying
it seemed. She was so resigned that it seemed she rather desired to die
than live.

Presently she whispered, "I would speak to the King."

They all withdrew from the bed to the far end of the room and the
antechamber. Mary put out a trembling hand and touched the bent dark head
that rested on her quilt.

"Ah, love!" she said.

He raised his face, moving for the first time since she had fallen
asleep, two hours ago.

"They have told me," whispered Mary, "that I must say farewell--I always
knew--forgive me that I had not the courage to tell you." She smiled. "I
am so tired, and I have so much to say."

With her right hand she drew a small gold key from the bosom of her gown
and gave it him.

"The little escritoire," she explained. "I asked him to give it you--only
a few trifles--but you will understand."

He took it with a shudder, her left hand he held between his tightly; he
did not speak; his face was as white, as hallowed, as shadowed by death,
it seemed, as hers.

"I have not done much," she said; "but I have had such a little time, and
it was difficult--indeed difficult. God will know I did my poor best. And
I never failed in love, and I tried to do His will, but I have done
nothing, and I meant to do so much--"

The King forced his voice.

"You have been a creature we were none of us fit to touch," he muttered.
"You--you--oh, Marie!"

He hid his face upon her hand, and she felt his hot tears on her fingers.

"Do not grieve," she whispered. "There is still so much for you to do--"

"No more," he answered passionately; "that is over now--I shall never do
anything again--never!"

Mary half raised herself on the pillows; a feverish colour came into her
cheeks.

"You are rebelling against God," she said, between agitated breaths. "You
_must_ go on--your work is not finished; but the prospects are so
splendid--"

"What is that to me?" he answered, in bitter despair. "I am a poor weak
creature--I can do nothing--it was always you, your hope, your faith--I
am no better than a thing of nought; in taking you God mocks me--"

"No--no," cried Mary, with a desperate strength. "You are going on--you
will conquer--do not make it hard for me to die--"

She sank on to her pillows, coughing a little.

"I have prayed God not to let you despair--I have asked Him to comfort
you--"

"There is no more comfort for me," he answered. "I want you--nothing but
you on earth or in heaven--"

Mary turned her face towards him; the dark auburn hair, beneath the fine
veiling of lace, hung over the edge of the tumbled pillow and touched his
hand.

"Oh, my husband," she said faintly; "I have loved you with a passion that
cannot end with death. You cannot--ever be alone again--I shall be
there--"

Her voice sank and died; she made an effort to lean towards him. He
caught her to his bosom and kissed her cold forehead with lips as cold.

"Go on," she stammered, "do not give up--the goal is nearly won--"

She became slack in his arms; he laid her back on the pillow, and rose.

She was smiling up at him, but there was an awful change in her face.

He put his hand before his eyes, and fell down beside her bed,
motionless, along the shining floor.

Mary clasped her hands on her bosom, and her head drooped to one side;
she continually coughed, and her lids closed heavily.

Lady Temple had run forward as the King fell; Portland and Leeds raised
and carried him, easily enough, into the antechamber.

Dr. Radcliffe gave the Queen a cordial; she thanked him, and seemed a
little revived.

"Let me sit up," she whispered. Her ladies raised her against the
piled-up cushions. "The King "--she added--"the King?--my eyes are
weak--I thought--he left me--"

"Dear Lady," answered Dorothy Temple, commanding her own tears, "he is in
the next chamber--"

She knew while she spoke that he had fallen into a succession of fits so
terrible that not one doctor there thought he could live.

"Perhaps," gasped Mary, "it were better if we--were spared--a final
farewell--I could not well bear it--"

She leant against Lady Temple's shoulder, and her lips moved in prayer.
Her face was very troubled, and she continually sighed. "Madam, are you
at peace?" asked Lady Temple.

"I am not sorry to go to God," she answered; "but I am weak about the
King--I would I might have been spared a little longer with him."

Presently she fell asleep, peacefully it seemed, and still with prayers
on her lips.

Lady Temple crept from the bed where Lady Portland pulled the curtains to
shield the Queen from the light, and asked Dr Radcliffe how long it might
be now?

He shook his head sadly.

"A few hours, my lady."

Dorothy Temple burst out into subdued grief.

"We have the greatest loss in this lady! I have known her since she was a
child, and she had never a fault--this is a bitter thing for all of us,
and for England."

The doctor answered grimly--

"A more bitter thing even than you imagine, my lady. I do not think the
King will live."

She looked at him in utter terror, and at that moment Portland came out
of the antechamber.

"Will you go to His Majesty, doctor?" he said, in a shaking voice.
"Millington doth not know what to do."

Radcliffe left them, and Lady Temple desperately seized hold of
Portland's arm.

"Oh, William," she whispered; "how is the King?"

"Sorely stricken," he answered. "Is this to be the end? that he should die
for a woman!"

Lady Portland came softly from the bed to her mother and her husband.

"Doth it not seem cruel that the Queen should die?" she murmured. "They
say there is no hope."

"The Queen!" echoed Portland. "I think of the King--"

"Can you not," urged his wife anxiously, "rouse him and bring him back to
her? When she wakes she will surely ask for him--"

Portland, with a little sigh of despair and weariness, went into the
antechamber.

It was well lit and full of people. The King was seated on his
camp-bed--a dishevelled, pitiful figure--lamenting to himself with a
violence and boundless passion that had the force and incoherence of
insanity.

The only one of the company who had the courage to approach him was a
new-corner, my Lord Sunderland; pale, quiet, elegantly dressed, he stood
between the King and the wall, and gazed down on his master with an
extraordinary expression of resolution and consideration.

Portland went up to him, not without a sense of jealousy for the King's
dignity, that was so shattered before these foreigners and a man like
Sunderland.

"Sire," he said firmly. "Sire!"

William did not even look up; he was twisting his hands together and
staring at the floor, breaking out into the bitter protests of a mind
deranged.

Sunderland looked sharply at Portland.

"What do you want of him, my lord?" he asked.

"I would recall him to himself that he may take farewell of the Queen,"
answered Portland sternly. "But he, it seemeth, is no longer William of
Nassau."

Sunderland made no answer to this; he laid his hand lightly on the King's
shoulder.

"Your Highness!" he said.

The ancient title struck some chord of memory. The King raised his head;
Sunderland was certainly startled at his face. "Who spoke to me?" asked
William thickly.

"The Prince of Orange," answered the Earl, "cannot fail before
anything--the King of England _must_ not--"

"Fail?" muttered the King. "Fail? Have I failed? They put too much upon
me. Did they tell you of the Queen? My enemies may be satisfied now, for
I shall never lift my head again--"

"The Queen," said Sunderland, "will not depart in peace unless she
leaveth you calm. Sire, for her sake will you not recall your ancient
courage?"

The King shook his head in a faint, exhausted fashion.

"You would not have thought that she would die so young," he murmured,
"would you--she was gay, too--there was to have been a ball to-night--and
she cannot live till morning--"

Lady Temple came from the Queen's room and whispered something to Lord
Portland, who instantly addressed the King.

"Sire, the Queen is awake."

William rose; his cravat and waistcoat were undone over his shirt, his
eyes bloodshot and dim, his hair dishevelled and damp on his forehead; he
seemed to be making a tremendous effort for control; he noticed his
disordered clothes.

"I would not frighten her "--it was Sunderland and not Portland to whom
he spoke. The Dutchman drew back a pace. It was ironical that at such a
moment the King should turn to such a man; but William had first roused
at Sunderland's address, and seemed to look to him for guidance as he had
looked, almost unconsciously, to him for support fifteen years ago, in
the bitter days before his marriage.

The proud, stern, lonely, and scorned young Prince had then opened his
heart to the dishonest, worldly, and cynical minister, and the bond of
sympathy that must have been between them then showed now, when the King,
fainting with mental agony, clung blindly to Sunderland's unmoved, gentle
strength.

Portland marked it then and marked it now; he felt his own love useless
in the face of my lord's charm. William had not even noticed his
presence. He left him in the arms of Sunderland and returned to the
Queen's chamber.

Dr. Tenison had been reading the Scriptures to her, and stood now by her
bed with the Bible in his hand.

Lady Temple and her daughter were behind him. The younger woman was
crying sadly.

Portland went up to the other side of the Queen's bed.

Mary raised her deep brown eyes and looked at him earnestly.

"My lord," she whispered--he bent over her and she caught his stiff cuff
with feverish fingers--"do not let the King despair...do not let him give
up...I shall have indeed lived in vain if he gives up...so near too..."
She paused to gather strength, and he was too moved to answer. "At first
I was so afraid of you," she added wistfully, "so fearful of intruding on
you and him--you were his friend before ever I came, and will be when I
am gone--but of late you have tolerated me--only a woman, but I have not
hindered his destiny--I let nothing stand in the way of his
service--indeed, if I have ever vexed you, forgive me--"

"Madam," responded Portland tenderly, "you have been the great comfort of
all of us, and we shall be utterly undone without you."

She shook her head on the tumbled pillow.

"I was only a foreigner--a stranger; you were ever extraordinarily kind
to me--do not let the King stop--for this."

She fell on to silence, being greatly weakened by this effort of speech,
and Portland withdrew to the end of the bed to allow Dr. Radcliffe to
approach.

The Queen's words had roused curious memories in the mind of William
Bentinck. It did not seem so many years ago since the fair, thoughtless,
timid English girl had come, as she said, a foreigner--a stranger--to The
Hague, unwanted, mistrusted, despised for her youth and her kinsman's
treachery, regarded by her husband as an interruption--a vexation--the
mere burden of a marriage of convenience that had been a political
failure; and now she had grown to be the support of all his designs, and
he was brought to a madness of despair because she lay dying, and those
same aims and endeavours which her coming had intruded upon, to his
anger, were now nothing to him if she should no longer be there to share
them.

It was now past midnight. The Queen, having swallowed Dr. Radcliffe's
cordial, spoke again, and took farewell of her ladies.

"This was to have been our dance to-night," she murmured. "I am sorry to
have spoilt your pleasure--"

"There will never be any more pleasure for me," answered Dorothy Temple,
who loved her exceedingly, "until I meet Your Majesty in Heaven--"

Mary was silent, lying very still. There was a little stir in the chamber
as the King entered, followed by Lord Sunderland, who kept his eyes on
him keenly.

The King went straight to his wife's side, and lifted the glittering
curtain up.

The silence was heavy as these two looked at each other. "Tell me," he
said, "what to do--what you would have me do--"

The Queen tried to answer; but speech was beyond her power; and when she
found that she could no more speak to him, for the might of death on her
tongue, two tears rolled down her hollow cheeks, and, by the size of
them, it was seen that she was dying indeed, for they were large as the
grey pearls in her ears.

"Give me one word," said the King, and he bent low over her. She made a
second attempt, but in vain. A long shudder shook her, blood came to her
lips, and the tears on her face rolled off on to the pillow.

"She cannot speak!" exclaimed the King; he fell along the bed and laid
his face against her hand. Sunderland touched him. He gave a sighing sob
like a woman, and fainted.

My Lord Leeds helped lift and carry him to the back of the chamber; the
others remained about the Queen, who was sinking so rapidly that they
feared she would go before the King recovered his senses.

She put up her hands in the attitude of praying, then dropped them and
turned her head about on the pillow as if she looked for the King; not
seeing him, she moaned and fell into a little swoon, breathing heavily.

The watchers held painful vigil thus for near an hour, when she opened
her eyes suddenly and began to speak, in a distinct though low voice; but
the words she used showed that her thoughts began to break.

"We have such a short time," she said, "what can any of us do?--I hope
this will show you cannot expose yourself with impunity--I shall give God
thanks as long as I live for having preserved you--think of me a little
and be more careful--Lord Nottingham saw my tears, I could not
restrain--my father, my father, there is such a great light here, like
the sun at Twickenham, no, The Hague--a letter at last--he loves, after
all--"

She moved and half sat up; the lace had fallen from her head, and her
hair hung in a dark mass over her shoulders; an extraordinary look of
ecstasy overspread her wan face.

"Give me the child," she whispered, and held out her arms; then she
coughed a little and dropped back.

A slight convulsion shook her; her breath clove her lips apart, and her
lids fluttered over her eyes.

The clergymen were on their knees reading the prayer for the dying. As
they finished, Dr. Radcliffe put out the candle, on the table by the bed,
that shone over the Queen's face.

"It is over," he said; "Her Majesty is dead."

The Palace clock struck the four quarters, and then the hour of one.

The King opened his eyes and looked about him on the hushed kneeling
figures. Portland endeavoured to restrain him, but he rose from the couch
and moved slowly and languidly towards the bed.

No one dared speak or move.

When he saw the still, disordered coverlet, the shadowed face, the white
hand on which the wedding-ring glowed ghastly bright, he put his hand to
his breast, and stood for a full minute so, gazing at her; then his
senses reeled back to oblivion and he fainted again, falling at the feet
of the Archbishop, as that clergyman rose from his knees.

As he lay along the floor they marked how slight and frail he was, and,
when they lifted him, how light his weight, and how reluctantly and
slowly the heart that had beaten so high stirred in his bosom.




PART III - THE KING


Man is God's masterpiece
--FRANCIS QUARLES



CHAPTER I - VITA SINE AMOR MORS EST


Henry Sidney, Lord Romney, and the Earl of Portland were walking up and
down the cloisters of Westminster Abbey. It was the end of April--a
bitter spring following a severe winter; constant clouds blotted out the
sun, and sudden falls of snow had left the square of grass in the centre
of the cloisters wet and white.

The Earl, muffled to the chin in a red mantle, and carrying a great muff
of brown fur, was talking earnestly to Lord Romney, who, though a
feather-head and useless in politics, was more loved by the King than any
Englishman, and of unimpeachable loyalty to the throne.

"This," said Portland, with energy, "is death or madness--nay, worse than
either, for he is but a figure of himself that deceiveth us into thinking
we have a King."

"God knoweth," returned Romney, who looked old and worn, sad and
dejected, "never have we so needed his wisdom and his courage. Whom can
we trust since the death of Her Majesty? Not even my Lord Nottingham."

"Sunderland," said the Earl, "is creeping back to favour--the knave of
two reigns, who would get a third King in his clutches--and the Lord
Keeper is very active in the House. Now I have done what I can to
transact necessary business since the Queen's death--but I cannot do
much, for the malice against foreigners is incredible--"

"No one but the King can do anything!" broke out Romney.

"I at least can do no more," admitted Portland. "And certainly my heart
misgiveth me that this is going to be the end--in miserable failure."

"Why--not failure," protested the Englishman.

Portland paused by the clustered pillars which divided the open windows;
a few ghastly flakes of snow were falling from a disturbed sky against
the worn, crumbling, and grey masonry.

"Miserable failure," repeated the Earl; his fine fair face was pale and
stern in the colourless shadows of the heavy arches. "Parliament needeth
a leader, the Republic needeth her magistrate, the allies their
commander--there is very much to do--with every day, more--and the man
who should do it is as useless as a sick girl."

"I think," said Romney, with some gentleness, "that his heart is broken."

"A man," flashed Portland, "hath no right to a broken heart. Good God,
could we not all discover broken hearts if we took time to probe them? I
know the Queen's worth, what she was to him, and all of us--but is she
served by this weakness of grief? He would best commemorate her by making
no pause in his task."

"That is a hard doctrine," answered the Englishman half sadly.

"It is a hard fate to be a great man, my lord--the destinies of nations
are not made easily nor cheaply. When the King began his task he was
prepared for the price--he should not now shirk the paying of it--"

"It is higher than he thought would be exacted, my lord." Portland
answered sternly--

"You surely do not understand. What was she, after all, but an incident?
He had been ten years at his work before she came."

The snow fell suddenly, and, caught and whirled by a powerful wind,
filled the air with a thick whiteness like spreading smoke; it blew
against the two gentlemen, and in a second covered their mantles with
glittering crystals.

Romney stepped back and shook it from him.

"Shall we not go into the church," he said, with a shiver, "and persuade
the King return?"

"It doth not matter if he be at her grave or in his cabinet," answered
Portland gloomily, "since his temper is the same wherever he be."

Romney turned towards the low door that led into the Abbey.

"Did you mark," he said irrelevantly, "that the robin was still on her
gravestone?"

"Yes," replied Portland; "it hath been singing there since she was
buried."

They entered the large, mysterious church. The snowstorm had so obscured
the light from the tall, high windows that the columns, roof, and tombs
were alike enveloped in a deep shade; it was very cold and the air hung
misty and heavy.

Above the altar, to their right, swung a red burning lamp that gave no
light, but showed as a sudden gleam of crimson.

On the altar itself burnt four tall candles that gleamed on the polished
gold sacred vessels and faintly showed the sweep of marble and the
violet-hued carpet beyond the brass rails which divided the altar from
the steps.

There was only one person visible in this large, cold, dark church, and
that was a man in the front pew, entirely in black, who neither sat nor
knelt, but drooped languidly against the wooden rest in front of him,
with his face hidden in his right hand.

Portland and Romney took off their hats and approached the altar; they
had nearly reached it before they noticed the King, whom they had left at
his wife's grave.

Their footsteps were very noticeable in the sombre stillness. The King
looked up and rose, holding heavily to the arm of the pew.

Romney hesitated, but Portland stepped up to William. "We had best
return, sire."

The King was silent, his eyes fixed on the altar and the fluttering gold
light that dwelt there--a radiance in the gloom.

Portland touched his arm and he moved then, with no sign of animation,
towards the Abbey door; his two friends followed shivering in the great
spaces of the church that were more bitterly cold than the outer air.

The King's eyes turned to the shadowed dark aisles which led to the
chapel of the seventh Henry and the spot where the Queen, a few months
ago young, and beautiful, and gay, now lay among her royal kinsmen, dust
with dust.

The King opened the heavy door and stepped out into the bitter light of
the snowstorm which hid sky and houses, whitened the coach waiting and
the liveries of the impatient footmen who walked about in the endeavour
to keep warm. The King himself was in an instant covered from head to
foot; he gave a lifeless shudder as one so sick with life that sun and
snow were alike to him.

He entered the coach and the two lords followed him; there was no word
spoken; his friends had lost heart in the fruitless endeavour of comfort;
he had scarcely spoken since the Queen's death, scarcely raised his eyes;
for six weeks he had remained in his chamber, and now he came abroad it
was to no purpose, for he took no interest in anything in life.

He gave himself much to religious observances, and was often closeted
with the Archbishop; he uttered no word of complaint, never even had
mentioned his wife's name, which was the more remarkable after the first
frantic passion of his grief; he would attend to no business and see no
one; he replied to the addresses of the Houses only by a few incoherent
words; his answers as they appeared in the _Gazette_ were written by
Portland.

He fainted often, and his spirits sunk so low that the doctors feared he
would die of mere apathy, for all their devices were useless to rouse him
to any desire to live.

Portland could do nothing. M. Heinsius, Grand Pensionary of Holland,
wrote in vain from The Hague; that long, intimate, and important
correspondence was broken by the King for the first time since his
accession; the allies clamoured in vain for him whose guidance alone kept
the coalition together; factions raged in parliament with no authority to
check them; the Jacobites raised their heads again, and, the moment the
breath was out of the Queen, began their plots for a French invasion and
the assassination of the one frail life that stood for the forces of
Protestantism; this was generally known, though not proved, but the King
cared for none of it.

The home government, since the retirement of Leeds after the East India
scandal, was in many hands, mostly incompetent; foreign affairs fared
worse, for these the King had always kept almost entirely in his own
control, and had scarcely even partially trusted any of his English
ministers on these matters, that, as he was well aware, neither their
knowledge nor their characters fitted them to deal with. Portland held
many of the clues to the King's immense and intricate international
policy, and he had done what he could with matters that could not wait,
but he could not do everything, nor do anything for long, and what he
could not do was left undone.

As the Royal coach swung into Whitehall courtyard the sudden snowstorm
had ceased and a pale, cold ray of sun pierced the disturbed clouds.

The King had lately taken a kind of horror to his villa at Kensington,
and resided at Whitehall, though he had always detested this palace, and
the foul air of London was perilous to his health.

There was, however, no pretence even of a Court. The ladies, with their
music, their sewing, their cards and tea drinking, had vanished; the
Princess Anne, nominally reconciled to the King, lived at St. James's,
and no woman came to Court now; the great galleries, chambers, and
corridors were empty save for a few Dutch sentries and ushers and an
occasional great lord or foreign envoy waiting to ask my Lord Portland
when His Majesty would be fit to do business.

Without a word or a look to any the King passed through the antechamber
to his private apartments. Portland stopped to speak to Lord Sunderland,
who was talking to the Lord Keeper, Sir John Somers, the Whig lawyer, as
industrious, as honest, and as charming as any man in England, and an
extraordinary contrast to Sunderland in character. The two were, however,
for a moment in league, and had together brought about that
reconciliation of the King and the Princess Anne that set the throne on a
firmer basis, though neither had as yet dared to bring forward my Lord
Marlborough.

Romney, who disliked the everyday virtues of the middle-. class Lord
Keeper, would have preferred to follow the King, but William gave him no
invitation, but entered his apartments and closed the door, so he had to
join the little group of three.

Their talk was for a while of general matters--of the heats in parliament
and the prospects of the campaign of the allies under Waldeck and
Vaudemont; each was silent about the matter uppermost in his mind--the
recovery of the King. Portland, the lifelong friend, upright, noble,
stern; Romney, gay, impulsive, shallow, but loyal and honest; Somers,
worthy, tireless, a Whig, and of the people; Sunderland, aristocrat and
twice told a traitor, shameless, secretive, and fascinating, by far the
finest statesman of the four--all these had one object in common, to
rouse the man on whom depended the whole machinery of the English
government and the whole fate of the huge coalition against France, which
had taken twenty years to form.

Sunderland, heartily disliked by the other three, yet master of all of
them, suddenly, with delicate precision, came to the heart of the matter.

"Unless all Europe is to slip back into the hands of France," he said,
"the King _must_ take up his duties."

"This temper of his is making him most unpopular," remarked Somers, who,
honestly grateful to his master, had always endeavoured to turn people
and parliament to an affection for the King. "Though the Queen was
greatly beloved they resent this long mourning."

"She held the King and country together," answered Sunderland. "Her
English birth, her tactful, pretty ways did His Majesty more service here
than a deal of statecraft--the Jacks know that; the country is swarming
with them, and unless it is all to end in disaster--the King _must_ act
his old part."

Portland flushed.

"You say so, my lord, but who is to rouse a man utterly prostrate?
Nothing availeth to draw him from his sloth."

"He is neither dead nor mad," said Sunderland calmly. "And grief is a
thing that may be mastered. He should go to Flanders in May and take
command of the allies."

"It is impossible!" broke out Sidney. "Did you mark him but now? He
hardly lifts his eyes from the floor, and I have not heard him speak one
word these ten days."

Sunderland answered quietly--

"A man who hath done what he hath cannot utterly sink into apathy--there
is a spirit in him which must respond, if it be but rightly called upon."

"Will _you_ assay to rouse His Majesty?" asked Portland haughtily.

Sunderland's long eyes narrowed.

"I am bold to try where your lordship hath failed," he said, with a
deference that was like insolence; "but it is a question of great
matters, and I will make the trial."

"You will make it in vain, my lord," answered Romney. "The King is beyond
even your arts."

Sunderland delicately lifted his shoulders.

"We can but see." He looked rather cynically round the other three men.
"If the King is out of the reach of reason it is as well we should know
it, my lords."

Portland did not reply. He bitterly resented that this man, whom he
scorned and despised, should gain this intimacy with the King's weakness;
but he led the way to William's apartments. He had practically control of
affairs since the King's collapse, and no one questioned his coming or
going.

They found William in his cabinet that overlooked the privy gardens, at
the bottom of which the river rolled black and dismal in contrast to the
glitter of the snow on the paths and flower-beds.

The King sat by the window, gazing out on this prospect, his head sunk on
his breast and his left arm along the sill of the window. The crimson cut
crystal bracelet round his wrist was the only light or colour on his
person, for he wore no sword, and his heavy black clothes were unbraided
and plain; the considerable change in his appearance was largely
heightened by this complete mourning, for he had seldom before worn
black, having, indeed, a curious distaste to it. He had been born in a
room hung with funeral trappings and lit only with candles, and for the
first months of his life never left this black chamber, which had caused,
perhaps, a certain revulsion in him to the sables of mourning, which he
had worn only once before, when, a pale child of ten, he had been dressed
in black for his young mother, that other Mary Stewart whose coffin lay
in Westminster within a few feet of that of his wife.

He did not seem to notice that any had entered upon his privacy. Portland
glanced back at Romney and the Lord Keeper with a look that seemed to
convey that he felt hopeless of my Lord Sunderland doing what he had
boasted; but that lord went forward with his usual quiet carriage.

A large fire filled the room with cheerful light that glowed on the
polished Dutch pottery and rich Dutch pictures on the mantelshelf and
walls. On a marquetry bureau, with glittering brass fuchsia-shaped
handles, was a pile of unopened letters, and amid them a blue-glazed
earthenware dragon that used to stand in the Queen's withdrawing-room at
Hampton Court.

Sunderland paused, looking at the King. The three other men remained
inside the door, watching with painful attention.

"Sire," said the Earl, "there is news from France. M. de Luxembourg, who
was your greatest enemy, is dead."

The King did not move.

"It is a great loss to King Louis," added Sunderland. "They say M. de
Villeroy is to have the command."

William slowly turned his head and looked at the speaker, but without
interest or animation, almost, it seemed, without recognition.

Sunderland came nearer. A book was lying on the window-seat, he glanced
at it--it was Dr. Tenison's sermon on the text, "I have sworn and am
steadfastly purposed to keep thy righteous judgments," which had been
preached after the Queen's death, and printed by the King's command.

Sunderland spoke again.

"The Whigs have ousted my Lord Leeds and his friend Trevor--and continue
to press heavily upon him."

Again it was doubtful if the King heard; he fixed his large mournful eyes
steadily upon the Earl, and made no sign nor answer.

Sunderland, finding neither of these matters touched the King, drew from
the bosom of his grey satin waistcoat a roll of papers.

"Sir Christopher Wren showed me these this morning," he said, "and
doubted if he dared bring them to Your Majesty. They are those plans for
the turning of Greenwich Palace into a hospital that Her Majesty had ever
at heart."

The three men watching caught their breath at the delicate bluntness of
my lord. This time there could be no doubt that the King had heard; he
made some incoherent answer and held out his hand for the plans, which he
unrolled and gazed at.

"It should be a noble monument," said the Earl softly, "to Her Majesty
and those who fell at La Hogue fight. Sir Christopher would have an
inscription along the river frontage saying she built it, and a statue of
her--looking along the Thames to London."

The King answered in a low voice--

"Let it be put in hand at once."

"Will Your Majesty see Sir Christopher?"

William lifted his eyes from the drawings.

"No--let him get to work," he murmured; then, after a second, "Do you not
think it will be a worthy monument?"

"So fine that I can but think of one more worthy," answered Sunderland.

A languid colour touched the King's hollow cheek.

"What is that?"

"The completion of Your Majesty's life-work."

There was silence. The King paled again and looked out of the window.

"I cannot talk of business," he said hoarsely, after a while.

"I speak of the Queen--her wishes," answered Sunderland. "She greatly
desired the building of Greenwich Hospital, but she still more desired
the preservation of this realm--and of the Republic."

At this last word the King gave a little shiver.

"The Republic," repeated Sunderland, "needeth Your Majesty."

William looked round again--his face was troubled.

"You speak to a dead man," he said, in a hurried whisper. "I have
finished."

"If that be so," replied the Earl, "we and the United Provinces are lost,
and King Louis will triumph after all, yea, after all the toil, and loss,
and patience, and endeavour, France will triumph over Europe. Your
Majesty had better not have flung the gauntlet in '72--better to have
bowed to France then than submit now."

The King seemed disturbed; he laid the plans of Greenwich down and moved
his hands restlessly.

"I am not fit for--anything," he muttered. "I am not capable of military
command--there are others--I have been at this work twenty years--let
some other take it up--"

"There is no other," said Sunderland. "This is Your Majesty's task, and
no one else can undertake it."

The King looked round in a desperate fashion; he saw the three men at the
other end of the room.

"Why do you come bating me?" he asked. "I tell you there is nothing more
in me "--he laid his hand on his heart--"all is dead--here."

A sudden violent cough shook him; he gasped with pain. "In a few months I
shall be with her," he added, and his voice was so weak and shaken that
Sunderland could scarcely catch the words.

"Doth not Your Majesty believe in predestination?" William was silent.

"Doth not Your Majesty believe that God hath some further use for you?"

The King answered simply and with infinite sadness--

"I think He hath had from me all the work I am capable of."

"No," said Sunderland. "Your greatest tasks, your greatest victories lie
before you. William of Nassau will not die while the battle rageth. God,
who put you in the vanguard of the world, will not let you fall out with
the deserters."

The King drew a sharp breath; he seemed considerably moved and agitated;
his dark eyes turned to Sunderland. "What is it to you whether I fail or
no?" he asked wildly. The Earl smiled.

"I stand for England, sire. Besides that, I always believed in you, and
you are the only man in Europe worth serving." William flushed.

"You speak very boldly."

"I spoke boldly to Your Majesty in '77. I said to you then, you are the
Prince for England--your moment will come. The little things, sir, often
clog, and hamper, and bewilder, but in the end the big things win--as
Your Majesty will win, though through wearisome ways. Sir, kingdoms are
large stakes. Sir, to be a champion of a creed is a great responsibility,
and he who taketh it up must forgo the grief of common men, for surely
his tears are demanded as well as his blood."

William sat motionless, with his hand to his side.

"You think I can take it all up again?" he asked, in his hoarse, strained
voice. "My God I I think it is too late."

Sunderland turned and whispered something to Somers, who left the room;
to the King he said--

"I entreat Your Majesty see a young officer new come from Flanders."



CHAPTER II - THE KING IS NEEDED


Sunderland remained by the silent King, on whom he kept his clear, strong
glance; Portland and the beautiful Romney went into the antechamber,
where they could speak freely.

"What charlatan's trick is this?" said the Earl, in a low, angry voice.
"Who is this officer from Flanders? It is strange to hear my Lord
Sunderland mouth these godly sentiments--he, a man merely fighting for a
place--"

"Yet he spoke," admitted Romney, "and we were silent. And he roused the
King. If it be mere self-interest it had the effect of sincerity."

Portland made no answer; he knew that he could not have spoken to William
with the quiet tact and insinuating boldness that Sunderland had, but he
knew also that he had served and loved the King in a way Sunderland could
probably not even understand, and his heart swelled at what he considered
calculated tricks to goad the King into filling a position where he might
be useful to my lord; in this Portland's rigid honesty was unfair to
Sunderland, who, though he was knavish sometimes in his means, was seldom
knavish in his ends, and perhaps strove for as high an ideal as William
Bentinck, though by different ways.

Lord Romney spoke again.

"After all, what doth it matter--if the King could be drawn out of his
sloth?"

Portland's fair face was still dark and sombre; he rather despised the
Englishman; he rather regretted the day when he had come to England to
take up these perilous honours among a people who detested him. Romney
glanced at him, gave a little shrug, and returned to the King's room; his
love for William was of a different quality, his code was easier; he was
thankful that the King should, under any circumstances, recover his
balance, and he, Henry Sidney, could see no great dishonour in the public
actions of my Lord Sunderland, and regarded him from no such stern
standpoint as did William Bentinck.

He found the King had moved and now sat beside the bureau piled with the
untouched correspondence. Sunderland was still at the window looking out
at the inky line of the river between the white banks and the slow
progress of a barge with dull yellow sails that struggled with a sluggish
wind past Whitehall stairs.

Romney went over to him.

"You have done much, my lord," he whispered warmly; "we must all be
grateful."

Sunderland turned his faded, powdered face from the window.

"He will finish the campaign yet, I think," he answered.

The Lord Keeper and Lord Portland re-entered the room, and with them was
a third gentleman, who went at once to Lord Sunderland, like one waiting
for directions; that nobleman took him gently by the arm and drew him
towards the King, who had not yet looked up.

"Sire," he said, "Your Majesty knoweth M. van Keppel, who hath been some
years in your service."

The King raised his eyes and saw the splendid figure of a young Dutch
officer standing before him with great humility and respect.

"Yes, I remember you, Mynheer," he murmured, with a faint animation, and
speaking his own language.

Sunderland stepped back and the young soldier went on one knee.

"Are you come from Flanders?" asked William.

"Yes, sire."

"From my Cousin Vaudemont's force?"

"Yes, sire."

"What is your business with us?" asked the King faintly. Joost van Keppel
rose.

"My business is more than I dare broach," he said humbly. The King looked
at him kindly.

"I shall not be angry." He exerted himself to graciousness, and his
glance seemed to rest with a wistful kind of pleasure on the youth.

Certainly Joost van Keppel had an appearance well calculated to win the
hearts of those who looked upon him, for a mingled sweetness and ardour
made a kind of radiance in his face, as if he gave forth the light of
hope and courage. He was tall and robust, of a bright fairness, with dark
brown eyes of an extraordinary power and gentleness, a smiling, strong
mouth, and a fine carriage of nobility in his port; his rich-coloured
brown hair hung in full curls over his gay and vivid uniform; there was a
great quantity of gold on his sword belt and in his shoulder knots; in
the firelight he glittered from head to foot with a changing light of
gold; but despite his youthful strength and the magnificence of his
appointments the prevailing impression of his person was that of a
gentle, soft, and winning sweetness that sat very graciously on the
unconscious demeanour of a noble soldier.

"Were you not a page to us?" asked the King.

"Yes, Your Majesty. I was with those who had the honour to come to
England with Your Majesty," answered M. van Keppel. "Your Majesty showed
me great kindness in promoting me."

He had a gentle and charming address, an eager air of deference wholly
pleasing.

"I had forgotten," said the King. "So you have come from Flanders?"

He gave a little sigh.

"Oh, sire!" cried Joost van Keppel, "I am come to tell Your Majesty that
we need you!"

The King sat up and looked at Portland and the Englishmen.

"Ah!" he said, in an angry, broken voice. "What device is this you put
upon me? No use, my lords, no use; this back will bear no more burdens."

"Absolve me," cried Portland. "I know nothing of this--"

"A trick," continued the King--"a trick to spur me. What are you,
Mynheer, to come and tell me of my duty?"

M. van Keppel threw himself again on his knees.

"The King is needed," he repeated, with great passion. "I love Your
Majesty enough to dare tell you so. Sire, the Republic crieth out to Your
Majesty!"

"Who told you to speak thus?" asked William bitterly.

"M. Heinsius," answered the young soldier instantly. At that name the
King changed countenance.

"M. Heinsius," he muttered; then he fixed M. van Keppel with a keen look
and added--"Why did he choose you?"

"Because Your Majesty used to have some kindness for me," was the reply,
given with a frank modesty; "because no man living could revere Your
Majesty more than I do."

"I am not used to be so courted," said William sternly. "You have too
ready a tongue. M. Heinsius may find another messenger."

He rose and would have turned away, but the young man, still on his
knees, caught the King's stiff silk coat skirts.

"Will the Prince of Orange ever refuse to listen to the appeal of the
United Provinces?" he asked, with singular sweetness and force.

William looked down at him, hesitated, then said faintly--

"Rise, Mynheer. I am not your King. As for the Republic "--he sank into
the great wand-bottomed chair again and said abruptly--"how think they
the campaign will go?"

M. van Keppel got to his feet and stood his full splendid height.

"M. de Vaudemont saith, sire, that if Your Majesty would come to lead us
there is no question that the allies might do more than they have ever
done." He paused a moment, then continued, "M. de Boufflers is guarding
the banks of the Sambre; a great army is collected from the Lys to the
Scheldt. M. de Villeroy, they say, is to fix his headquarters at Tournay;
but the allies are ready to take the field--operations could begin next
month. M. de Vaudemont and M. Heinsius have written so to Your Majesty."

William glanced at the pile of unopened correspondence; he flushed and
looked again at M. van Keppel.

"Sire," said the young soldier proudly, "there is Fleurus, Steinkirk, and
Landen to avenge. I rode past Namur a week ago and saw the Bourbon lilies
flying above the keep."

"Namur!" repeated William, and his eyes widened.

The loss of Namur had been the worst disaster of all the disasters of the
war. William had perhaps never known such humiliation as when the great
fortress fell before his eyes.

"M. de Vauban," continued Joost van Keppel, "hath added to the
fortifications of M. Kohorn and declared the town impregnable; they have
fixed a vaunting notice over the gate defying us to retake it--but, sire,
it could be done."

"There spoke a soldier!" flashed the King. "That spirit in my men wrested
back the three Provinces in '74!"

"That spirit is alive still, sire--they who drove back the French thin
could take Namur now."

William looked at Sunderland.

"Would your English be pleased," he asked, "if we took Namur?"

"There is nothing would so delight the people as a great victory in the
Low Countries," answered that nobleman.

"So they defy us," said the King. "And Namur is even more important than
it was; it must be the strongest fortress in Europe. Certainly it is a
prize worth while."

M. van Keppel spoke again.

"M. de Maine is to be sent with M. de Villeroy."

"So they send M. de Maine to fight us, do they?" exclaimed the King. "We
should be the equal of M. de Maine."

He looked kindly and steadily at M. van Keppel.

"My child," he said, "you are a good patriot, and that is the best thing
in the world to be. We must give you a regiment. We hope to see you in
Flanders."

He smiled and the young soldier, who had been taught all his life to
regard him as the first of living men, bowed, overwhelmed, with tears of
pleasure in his eyes.

William gave him his hand and Joost van Keppel kissed it reverently,
then, at a delicate sign from Sunderland, retired, folic wed by the Lord
Keeper.

The King sat very quiet, looking into the fire. Portland came and stood
behind his chair.

"Will you go out to the war?" he asked.

"Yes," said William simply.

Sunderland darted a sideway look at Portland, who flushed.

"I am indeed glad of that," he said sternly.

"That is a gallant youngster," said the King. "I ever liked him. I will
keep him about me; he is a pleasant creature."

"He is," replied Portland; "a rakehelly good-for-nought, as every one
knows."

William smiled faintly; he was the most tolerant of men, and had no
interest in those faults that did not cross his designs.

"I have loved rakes before," he said, and looked at my Lord Romney.

The two Englishmen laughed a little, but Portland answered, with some
anger--

"He is a young prodigal with more debts than wits; you should not have
given him your hand."

The King did not resent his friend's brusque address, he answered
quietly, in his weak voice--

"It would give me pleasure to pay some of those debts." Sunderland softly
put in a remark.

"M. van Keppel is the most obliging, sweet-tempered gentleman in the
world, and one most devoted to Your Majesty."

"And a great friend of your lordship," said Portland, with a cold
haughtiness. He perceived, as he thought, a design on the part of
Sunderland and Somers, with perhaps Marlborough behind them, to put up a
rival to share with him the King's affections, which had been wholly his
for near their joint lives, and he could not contain his scorn and
resentment, nor was he assuaged by the obvious unconsciousness of the
King.

Romney made some attempt to shift the subject; he came forward in the
easy gracious way habitual to him.

"Your Majesty will be soon for Flanders, then?" he asked. "It is a noble
resolution."

William rose.

"I think it is my duty," he answered. He took up the plans of Greenwich
Palace from the window-sill. "I think it is all there is for me to do. I
thank you, my lords," he added, with dignity, "for having so long borne
with me."

He gave a little bow and left them to enter the inner room. As the door
closed on him Sunderland smiled at the other two.

"Have I not succeeded?" he demanded. "He is roused, he will go out to the
war, I even think that he will take Namur."

"You are very clever, my lord," admitted Romney, "and surely you have
done the King a great service."

Portland broke in hotly--

"You pulled the strings of your puppet very skilfully; you know how to
deal with the weaknesses of men, but those who are the King his friends
do not love to see him practised on for party purposes."

"I stand for more than party purposes," answered Sunderland, with sudden
haughtiness. "My cause is the King his cause--that is sufficient--and for
the rest, my deeds are not answerable at the tribunal of your virtues, my
lord."

Portland came a step nearer to him.

"You scarce believe in God--you are little better than an atheist--yet
all these terms are glib upon your tongue, and your tool, a shallow
popinjay, can prate very nicely of sacred things. You are not
sincere--you care for nothing--for no one."

Romney made a little movement as if he would have stepped between the two
earls, but Sunderland answered unmoved--

"I have my policy too much at heart to jeopardize it by expounding it
myself. I fear that my principles would suffer by my lack of eloquence."

"Your principles!" cried Portland. "Your policy--what is it?"

"Too precious a thing for me to risk on a turn of the tongue; I repeat,
my lord. I speak in actions. Watch them and know my answer."



CHAPTER III - ATTAINMENT


It was the commencement of the campaign of 1695; as yet nothing had been
done either side. The men at Versailles who managed the war had
concentrated their forces in Flanders, and there the allies had gathered
to meet them; the Elector of Bavaria and other princes of the Empire were
encamped with the Germans guarding Brussels; the Brandenburghers and
Spanish lay at Huy; the Dutch and British under the command of the King
of England, at Ghent.

The French waited. Villeroy was not Luxembourg; he had no genius for
command, and he was hampered by the presence of the Duc de Maine, his
pupil and his superior, who showed no aptitude for war, not even common
courage. Boufflers watched the King of England, the meaning of whose
marches he could not fathom; his oblique moves might cover a design on
either Ypres or Dunkirk; for a month they continued, and neither Villeroy
nor Boufflers suspected an attempt on Namur.

But on June 28th, the King, the Elector, and the Brandenburghers advanced
with a swift concerted movement straight on Namur with such suddenness
and rapidity that M. de Boufflers had scarcely time to throw himself into
the fortress before the three divisions of the allied army closed round
the walls of the town.

The Prince de Vaudemont had been left in Flanders to watch Villeroy. That
general believed he could wipe out this force and then drive the allies
from Namur--he said as much in his dispatches to Versailles; but M. de
Vaudemont effected a masterly retreat into Ghent, and the easiness of the
French Court was disturbed, especially as it was whispered that an action
had been avoided owing to the poltroonery of M. de Maine.

M. de Kohom, the principal engineer of the allies, had set his heart on
the capture of the fortress that he had seen taken by his great master
and rival, M. de Vauban. The Frenchman had since added considerably to
the fortifications, and rendered Namur the strongest fortress in the
world, and M. de Kohorn was spurred by professional pride into a
desperate attempt to make good his failure of three years ago.

A week after the trenches were opened the English foot guards gained the
outworks on the Brussels side; on the seventeenth the first counterscarp
of the town was captured; on the twentieth the Germans gained Vauban's
line of fortifications cut in the rock from the Sambre to the Meuse and
the great sluice or waterworks; on the twenty-third the Dutch and English
made conquest of the second counterscarp, and the town capitulated,
Boufflers and the garrison retiring into the citadel, leaving behind them
about fifteen hundred wounded men to be cared for by the allies.

On the 6th of August the allies, led by the King of England, marched into
Namur by the St. Nicolas Gate, and prepared for the last and terrible
assault on the garrison.

Villeroy, who had meantime taken the petty towns of Dixmuyde and Deynse,
endeavoured to induce the King to raise the siege of Namur by menacing
Brussels, which he shelled and greatly damaged; but in vain, for William
was not to be lured into relinquishing his prey, and Villeroy, after two
days, marched on to Enghien, and, having collected the greater number of
the French troops in the Netherlands, amounting in all to over eighty
thousand men, advanced to the relief of Namur.

But the Prince de Vaudemont having now joined the allied forces it was
considered that they were strong enough to face Villeroy, and at the same
time continue the siege of the castle and hold the town.

On the fifteenth the French host fired a salute of ninety guns as a
haughty promise of relief to Boufflers; from then to the nineteenth the
two mighty armies faced each other, neither making any movement. Europe
held its breath, Paris and London, The Hague and Vienna, Brussels, still
half prostrate from French fires, Rome and Madrid waited in almost
unbearable suspense for the result of the promised and, it seemed,
inevitable combat between the two finest and largest armies that had ever
met on European soil.

Boufflers burnt fire signals every night on his watch-towers, which urged
haste to Villeroy, who still lay beyond the mighty ring of the
confederate army who incessantly stormed the citadel.

On the nineteenth the King rose at dawn, got his forces under arms, and
rode from post to post surveying his troops and watching the enemy; he
was in the saddle from four in the morning till nightfall, and tired out
three horses. When he returned to his tent that had been pitched in the
encampment on the west of the town near the Abbey of Salsines, there was
no portion of his vast army that he had not personally inspected.

He dined alone; the Elector of Bavaria and the other German princes being
in immediate command of the troops that were actually storming Namur.

He expected that Villeroy would attack him as soon as it was light, and
his preparations were complete.

He had an interview with M. Dyckfelt, who was with the army as
representative of the States General, and was then alone, it being about
ten of the clock and a hot summer night.

All the light in the tent came from a silver lamp suspended from the
cross-poles, which gave an uncertain and wavering illumination. The King
sat in the shadows; on the little table beside him was his sword, his
pistols, and a map of Namur.

He was thinking of twenty-three years ago when, in his early youth, he
had first led an army against France; his entire force then had numbered
little more than the servants, footmen, and attendants in his retinue
now. All Europe had been against him, half his country in the hands of
the enemy, the home government in the control of the opposing factions.
The man of forty-four looked back at the achievements of the youth of
twenty-one with an extraordinary sense--almost of wonder.

He recalled with painful vividness how Buckingham and Arlington had come
to offer him the shameful terms of France and England, their scorn at his
rejection of the bitter bargain, and how even William Bentinck, gay and
thoughtless then, had despaired. Hopeless, indeed, it had seemed; there
had not been one to believe in him; but he had never doubted his own
destiny.

And now he was justified in what he had undertaken, at least that,
whatever sorrows, humiliations, and disappointments had darkened his way
the outward semblance was of great and steady success.

The Prince, who had been little better than a State prisoner and a pawn
in the politics of Europe, heir to a ruined family and leader of a
despairing nation, was now a King, directing half Europe, with one of the
mightiest armies the world had seen behind him. Of the monarchs who had
offered to silence his despised defiance with dishonourable terms one was
now dead, and he held his kingdoms; and the other, who then had
threatened to overrun the world, was now with difficulty holding his own
against a coalition that included all the principal countries of Europe.

Not without concession, infinite patience, endless trouble, and long
waiting had William got these allies together. For the support and the
millions of England he was paying a price none but himself could gauge
the bitterness of. To Scandinavia he had had to sacrifice some of his
cherished maritime privileges; Spain, the most provoking of the
confederates, had been kept by much expenditure of art and money; the
German princes had been held together by a title, a garter, a subsidy, an
honour, a promise of a prospective dignity. Now, before the walls of
Namur, the man whose genius and indomitable courage had, during twenty
years, toiled towards this end, might feel that he was beginning to taste
his reward.

He was facing France, equal to equal; he was feared and respected
throughout the world. The Protestant faith, threatened with extinction by
Louis, he had placed on a basis from which, as long as any faith lasted,
it could never be displaced. His country was free, and prosperous, and
foremost among nations again; the power of France was already too
crippled for there to be longer any fear of her upsetting the balance of
power.

The English fleet, useless since Elizabeth, again was mistress of the
seas. Russell passed unmolested between Spain and Italy, defied the
remnant of the French fleet imprisoned in Toulon port, and dared the
whole of the Mediterranean seaboard. Berkeley passed unmolested along the
French coast, burnt Granville, shelled Calais and Dunkirk, and kept the
English flag high and undisputed above the Channel.

The man who had been the boy who had once passionately resolved to do
these things found the realization of them different indeed to those
bright imaginings. Attainment of fame, honour, power, success could not
give more than a faint remembrance of the throb of exultation the
youthful Prince had felt when he, penniless, unsupported, hampered in
every possible way, had first flung his challenge to overwhelming odds.
Then there had been everything to do; but ardent courage and unspoilt
faith had gilded difficulties, and the heroic pride of youth had smiled
at obstacles; now the loss of a love the boy had never dreamt of had made
all things else appear small to the man.

Twenty years of toil, of acquaintance with treachery, deceit, smallness,
weakness, twenty years of misunderstood endeavour, of constant strain, of
constant fatigue had done their work. The fine spirit did not shrink from
its task, but never again could it recapture the early glow of hope, the
early ecstasy of labour, the early pride of achievement.

What was his achievement, after all. He might well think that the God he
had served so patiently had mocked him. He had loved but to lose his
love; he had bartered his personal ease, almost his liberty, almost his
pride for bitter honours held in exile; his health was utterly worn out,
his days were a continual weariness and pain; he was again as lonely as
he had been when he was the prisoner of the States; he had no heir, and
the main branch of his family died with him; if he could not finish
himself his task he must entrust it to strangers to complete. Surely all
was utter vanity and vexation. The cold consolations of a sombre faith
only supported him. He clung to those beliefs in which Mary had died, and
faced the few years that at best remained to him with the same high
courage with which she had met her fate.

He rose presently, in the perfect stillness, and went to the entrance of
his tent, lifted the flap, and looked out.

The French red flares on the towers of Namur were visible across the
great plain of the Sambre and Meuse; the starlight showed the huge
encampment stretching out of sight under the clear sky; near by a sentry
paced with his musket over his shoulder; it was very hot and not a blade
of grass stirred in the absolute arrested stillness.

Presently a surgeon passed through the tents carrying a lantern and
followed by a servant leading a mule laden with his chest. The light
flickered awhile amid the canvas then disappeared; a dog barked and a man
whistled to it; the silence fell again as intense as before.

The King went back and flung himself on his couch; he could not come near
sleep, but lay watching the long, pale beams of light the lamp cast over
the worn grass that formed the floor of the hastily constructed tent.

His mind kept dwelling on his first campaign, his miserable army, his own
ignorance of all but book tactics, his lack of money, of authority--yet
that had been the first spark of that fire that now lit Europe. He had
formed and trained his own armies--Dutch, Brandenburghers, Swedes,
Germans, and lately the English--until they were equal to those
consummate French troops who had laughed at him in '72; but they fought
with no more devotion and courage than the handful of Hollanders who had
rallied round him then, now incorporated into the famous Dutch Guards,
the most beloved of all his beloved army.

He thought of these Guards marching against Villeroy now, feared and
honoured, and his heart fluttered faintly with a fleeting pleasure that
they should ever face the French on these terms.

He closed his eyes and instantly there spread before him a vision of the
great banqueting hall at Whitehall hung with black, and the banners and
armours of his family, while in the centre was a mighty catafalque of
black velvet which bore an open coffin, at the foot of which lay a royal
crown and sceptre. She who rested there was covered to the chin in gold
stuff, and round her head was twisted her dark, curling, auburn hair.

The King sprang up and walked up and down the uneven ground; he drew from
under his shirt and cravat a long, black ribbon, to which was attached a
gold wedding-ring and a long lock of that same rich hair that he had seen
in his vision.

He paused under the lamp and gazed at it; in that moment he prayed that
he might find his death in to-morrow's battle with as much passion as any
poor wretch ever prayed for hope of life. He was still standing so,
forgetful of time and place, when he heard voices without, and hastily
put the ribbon back over his heart.

The flap was raised and the figure of a young officer showed against the
paling sky.

"Is it M. van Keppel?" asked the King quietly.

"Yes, sire." The speaker entered. He had been sent with the King's
commands to the Elector of Bavaria.

"M. de Bavaria understands everything?" inquired William. "He is quite
ready, sire."

"So are we," said the King. "I should think M. de Villeroy would make the
attack in an hour or so--the dawn is breaking, is it not--"

"The sun was just rising, sire, above the river, as I rode from the camp
of His Highness."

"Yet the light is very faint here. Will you, Mynheer, light the other
lamp?" The King spoke gently, but he had quite regained that command of
himself which rendered his demeanour so stately and impressive.

M. van Keppel obeyed and was then retiring, but William, who was seated
by the table, asked him to stay.

"I may have another message for you," he added.

The officer bowed.

William rang the little hand-bell near him and a valet instantly appeared
from the curtained inner portion of the tent. The King lived very simply
when at the camp. He now asked for wine, and when it was brought made M.
van Keppel drink with him, which honour caused the young soldier to
redden with pleasure.

"I hear," said William, "that the garrisons of Dixmuyde and Deynse have
been sent prisoners to France. That breaketh the treaty we made for the
exchange of captives--treachery and insolence, it seemeth, are the only
methods of France."

"Treachery and insolence will not for ever prevail," answered Joost van
Keppel, in his sweet, ardent voice. "The fortunes of Your Majesty begin
to overleap the arrogance of France."

"There will be a great battle to-day," remarked the King quietly and
irrelevantly.

The powerful summer dawn, strengthening with every moment,_ penetrated
the tent and mingled with the beams of the two lamps. The King sat in the
crossed lights; his gentleman knelt before him, fastening the great gilt
spurs to his close riding-boots. He looked at Joost van Keppel gravely
and kindly; his face, pale in its proper complexion, was tanned darkly by
the Lowland sun; his eyes were extraordinarily bright and flashing, but
languid lidded and heavily shadowed beneath; his large, mobile mouth was
set firmly; his long, thick curls hung over his black coat, across which
showed the blue ribbon and star that he had not removed since he had
reviewed his forces yesterday.

"Mynheer," he said to M. van Keppel. "Lift the flap and look out--"

The young Dutchman obeyed and a full sunbeam struck across the dim
artificial light.

"A fine day," remarked William; he was ever fond of sun and warmth.

As M. van Keppel stood so, holding back the canvas and gazing over the
tents that spread across the plain of the Meuse, a gentleman, armed on
back and breast with a gold inlaid cuirass, wrapped in a black silk
mantle and carrying a hat covered with white plumes, rode up, dismounted,
and entered the King's tent without a word of ceremony.

M. van Keppel bowed very respectfully; it was the Earl of Portland.

On seeing the King alone with the young officer his face darkened; he
answered the King's greeting of unconscious affection with stern
brusqueness.

"There are letters from England--I met the messenger," he said, and laid
the packet on the table by the wine-glasses.

Joost van Keppel was quick to see the instant shock that William quivered
under, and to perceive the cause of it. When last the King had been at
the war not a post had arrived from London without a letter from the
Queen. The young man thought Portland had acted with some harshness; he
came forward and, said impulsively--

"Letters from England, my lord, are not of such importance: that they
cannot wait till after the battle."

This was to Portland incredible impertinence; he stared at the flushed,
generous face with bitterly angry eyes; but William seemed relieved.

"Yes, let the news wait," he said, and rose.

"If this was known in London what would they say?" broke out Portland.

"How can it be known in London when I have none here but friends?"
answered the King.

"I thank Your Majesty for including me with M. van Keppel as your
friend," flashed Portland.

The King looked at him sharply, then from one man to another.

"Mynheer van Keppel," he said, "you will return to M. de Bavaria and tell
him to be in readiness for a message from as."

The officer bowed with great deference and sweetness to his master and
the Earl, and instantly retired.

"Will you not read those letters?" asked Portland, in no way appeased.

William gave him a glance between reproach and wonder, broke the seals,
and looked over the letters.

"Nothing," he said, when he laid them down, "save that some sugar ships
from Barbadoes have been taken by the French, that there is great
uneasiness on the Stock Exchange."

"Nothing of M. de Leeds?" asked Portland.

"No," said the King; he was standing up and his gentleman buckled him
into his light cuirass; "but I will not have him touched--he is punished
enough." He added, with some contempt, "Is Leeds so much worse than the
herd that he should be hunted from it?"

"A corrupt man," answered Portland gloomily; "but you were always tender
with him."

William was silent. His obligation to Leeds consisted entirely .of that
nobleman's devotion to the Queen; he thought that Portland knew this and
despised him for such sentiment in politics. Neither spoke any more on
the subject.

"M. Montague is a clever man," remarked the King, after a little;
"another pensioner of my Lord Dorset. How goeth the other, your
secretary?"

"Ah, Prior," replied the Earl, "well enough, but I think him an atheist.
His poetry is full of heathen gods, and when I probed him on the subject
he was not satisfactory in his answers, but well enough."

"Put my Lord Sarum on to converting him," said William drily; "but I
should not take much account of his poetry."

The King's gentleman went into the back part of the tent and Portland
instantly addressed his master with great heat.

"Sir, I must tell you that it is a source of great wonder to all that you
should so encourage, favour, and caress a worthless young rake like M.
van Keppel--a mere hanger-on to court favour; your dignity suffers by
it--"

The King interrupted.

"Are you jealous--you--of him?" he asked mournfully.

"I have enough to make me jealous," was the hot answer, "when I see the
creature of such as my Lord Sunderland creep into your affections."

The King answered in gentle, dignified tones, without a touch of anger or
resentment--

"You are indeed wrong. I like M. van Keppel for himself--I find him sweet
and intelligent, a willing servant--and I have not too many. But you
know, even while you speak, that nothing could come between me and you."

"I think he hath come between us," said Portland sternly r "during the
whole campaign he hath hardly left your side. I believe you even consult
him as to your actions--he!--why, the whole camp knoweth his reputation.
I could tell some tales--"

The King broke in.

"I'll hear no scandals. You know that of me. If we are to listen to
tale-bearing there is not one of us safe. If I favoured any man do you
not think there would be tales against him? But I did not think to find
you leaning on gossip."

He still spoke with an utter calm; but Portland took his words heavily.

"If you choose to reprimand me--" he began.

"Forgive me," said the King instantly. "I thought you would understand.
Indeed, forgive me. I would do anything in the world not to vex you."

The return of the gentleman with William's gloves and cloak cut short the
conversation. The King fastened his sword-belt over his shoulder and
adjusted the weapon; as he took up his hat with the long black feathers a
magnificent Brandenburgher officer entered, followed by M. Dyckfelt.

"Your Majesty," said the Dutchman quietly, "M. de Villeroy hath retreated
in the night leaving M. de Boufflers to his fate."

The Brandenburgher went on one knee and handed William
a dispatch from the commander of the scouts, who had seen
the last vanishing rearguard of the French.

The King showed no emotion of any kind.

"Count," he said to the officer, "you will go to M. de
Bavaria and request him to make an immediate assault on
Namur."

When the officer had withdrawn, with profound obeisance,
William turned to Portland.

"I will ask you to go to M. de Boufflers and demand a
surrender. Tell him that there is no further hope for him
from M. de Villeroy, and that if he wisheth to spare his garrison he must
capitulate to-day."

Portland bowed gravely and turned away. William looked
after him keenly, then took up his perspective glass, his gloves, and his
baton, and left the tent.



CHAPTER IV - A MAN'S STRENGTH


De Boufflers refused to surrender; he was a Maréchal de France, he had
still many thousand men, including M. Megrigny, the engineer esteemed
second only to M. de Vauban, and the castle was deemed impregnable.

The assault was fixed for one in the afternoon. The King of England, the
Elector of Bavaria, the Landgrave of Hesse, other German potentates and
the officers of their staff gathered on the rocky promontory immediately
below the ramparts of the citadel; before them rose the castle ringed
with walls, batteries, palisades, fosses, dykes, and traverses, and set
back two miles or more in elaborate ramparts and outworks.

The allies had formed a complete circumvallation round the huge fortress,
and had opened their trenches at the very foot of the rock which M. de
Vauban had fortified with such deadly skill.

The day was extraordinarily hot and cloudless; the sun, being now just
overhead, blazed with equal light on the ruined town, the lofty castle,
on counterscarp, glacis, and half-moon, on the trenches, the defences of
wattled sticks lined with sandbags, on the distant spreading encampment
of the allies, on the still more distant sparkle of the Meuse, which
glittered across the great plain and on the walls of the Abbey of
Saisines.

It shone, too, on a thousand flags, a thousand squads of men moving with
bayonets and matchlocks set to the attack, and gleamed in the armour of
the little group of gentlemen who were directing the operations, and
sometimes sent a long ray of burning light from their perspective glasses
as they turned them on the castle or the approaching regiments of their
own troop as they defiled through the town.

It had been arranged that the assault was to be made in four places at
once, by the Dutch, Brandenburghers, Bavarians, and English severally;
the first three were tried and veteran troops, the fourth, however,
consisted of recruits who were seeing their first campaign and had never
been under fire before; the best English troops had marched to encounter
Villeroy, and had not been summoned to the attack.

The King turned his glasses on the trenches where these regiments waited;
they were under the command of John Cutts, as brave and gallant an
officer as ever breathed.

William put down his glasses and looked up at the grim citadel.

"This is a severe test for them," he remarked.

The Electoral Prince was taking a bet from the exultant Kohorn that they
would enter Namur by the 31st of August. William laughed.

"I am sorry that Your Highness should put money on our failure," he said.
"I hear that the betting in London is greatly in our favour."

"This is a matter of dates, Your Majesty," answered M. de Bavaria. "I say
`No' only to August the 31st."

"I am glad M. de Kohorn is so confident," said William graciously to the
great engineer.

M. de Hesse, who wore on his finger a watch in a great ring of
brilliants, remarked that the time was near ten minutes to one; M. de
Bavaria bowed profoundly and galloped off to direct his own men in
person; the King looked keenly round to see that none of his servants
were lurking in the line of fire. Interference was almost as unendurable
to him as cowardice; more than once during the siege he had been
exasperated into horsewhipping some daring footmen or valet out of the
trenches. During the assault of July the 27th he had been considerably
vexed to see M. Godfrey, one of the directors of the new Bank of England,
among his officers, and had severely reprimanded him for his presence in
so dangerous a position.

"But I run no more risk than you, sire," M. Godfrey had protested.

The King's answer and the sequel were long remembered.

"I, sir," he replied, "may safely trust to God, since I am doing my duty
in being here, while you--"

The sentence remained unfinished, for a French cannon shot laid M.
Godfrey dead at the King's side. William had hoped that this would prove
a lesson to useless meddlers, but even since he had been provoked by
various people who had business at the camp, and who strayed into the
trenches to get a view of real fighting, often with no conception of the
danger of the slow dropping bombs and bullets.

But this afternoon the King's eagle eyes were satisfied that the works
were clear of sightseers; it had been fairly well spread abroad that this
assault would be, beyond experience, terrible, and those whose duty did
not take them to the front were well in the rear.

M. de Hesse and the other Germans having galloped off to their posts, the
King remained alone with his staff, midway between the ramparts that were
to be attacked and the English trenches, full in the cross-line of fire,
and motionless and conspicuous as a target on the little jutting shelf of
rock; his officers were a little way behind, and his figure was
completely outlined against the blue gap of sun-filled air behind the
rock slope.

He rode a huge grey Flemish horse, dark as basalt and as smooth--very
lightly trapped with red leather linked with silver gilt--that he managed
as well as a man can. He had always been renowned for his consummate
horsemanship, and this great beast, that had taken two footmen to hold in
before he mounted, he held delicately with one hand on the reins with
such a perfect control, that the creature was utterly motionless on the
narrow ledge of slippery rock.

The hot air was full of different distant and subdued sounds--the rattle
of the guns, the clink of the matchlocks striking the cobbles of the town
below, the tramp of feet, the neighing of horses, and, occasionally, the
crowing of a cock on some farm outside Namur.

The King sat with his reins loose, holding in his right hand his baton
that he rested against his hip. He was intently watching the English
trenches.

The clocks of the churches in Namur struck one; instantly a loud report
and a jet of flame came from the trenches below; two barrels of gunpowder
had been blown up as a signal for the attack.

Before the smoke had cleared, all the minor sounds were silenced by the
steady beat of drums and kettledrums, and the King perceived the
Grenadiers marching from behind their defences and earthworks steadily
towards the ramparts of Namur--these were the men of Cutt's own regiment.
They were immediately followed by the four new battalions. They came on
steadily, in good order, with their bright, unspoilt colours in their
midst, their colonels riding before them. The King could discern the
slender figure of John Cutts marching on foot before the Grenadiers with
his drawn sword in his hand.

There was no sign from the castle. The English leapt, man after man, the
last deep trench of their own earthworks, and suddenly, at a word from
their leader, whose voice came faintly to the King's ears, broke into a
run and dashed up the slope at the foot of the rock, and full at the
first wall of the French fortifications.

Instantly the batteries of the garrison opened a terrible fire, and a
confused echo to their thunder told that the other three divisions of the
confederates were meeting a like reception.

The English kept on; the little body of the Grenadiers, with the four
battalions supporting them and at the head of all John Cutts, climbed the
face of the rock with no sign of disorder.

The King wheeled his horse round to face them, and his brilliant eyes
never left their ranks.

The French commenced fire from the guns behind their first palisade,
which swept the ranks of the advancing English with deadly effect.

Almost every officer of the Grenadiers fell on the hot, bare rock. The
drums began to give a disconnected sound, the colours wavered, but the
men pressed on, with Cutts still running before them and the recruits
doggedly behind them.

The King sent one of his officers with orders for the English batteries
to open fire as soon as the breach had been made.

There was, in the space of a few seconds, hardly an officer left among
the English, the colonels, captains, and lieutenants, who had dashed
forward to encourage their men, were lying scattered about the
hill-side--patches of scarlet and steel--with their riderless horses
running frantically back towards the camp.

Still Cutts came on. The smoke was thick about him, but the King could
see him clearly as he came every moment nearer. The Grenadiers had gained
a firm footing on the ledge of rock beneath the palisade, and were about
to hurl themselves against it. The cannonade was now supplemented by a
storm of bullets. Cutts gave a shout, raised his sword, and pitched to
the ground, shot through the head, while the thinned ranks of the
Grenadiers rolled backwards down the rocks.

The King uttered a passionate exclamation; a bomb, cast from the castle,
burst near him, and his horse reared frantically at the explosion. When
he had quieted the animal and the smoke had cleared, he saw two of the
Grenadiers coming towards him supporting John Cutts between them. As they
reached a deep, natural gully that cleft the rock, one fell and rolled
down the precipice; the other caught his officer by the arm and swung him
across the chasm; the King galloped up to them.

"Is my lord slain?" he asked.

The wounded man lifted his brown eyes and laughed. Blood blotched the
left side of his face and ran through the bright brown English locks.

"Why, no, sir," he answered.

"I am glad of that," said the King. "But your men are being repulsed--"

"God help me--not for long!" cried my lord, and dashed the blood out of
his eyes, and with that movement fainted.

"Call up my surgeon," commanded William to one of his officers. Lord
Cutts was carried out of the firing line, and the King again directed his
attention to the English, who, leaderless, were nevertheless dashing
forward, though without order or method, sheer against the French fire.

"It is too much for them," muttered William.

This wild charge was suddenly checked by a deep precipice blown in the
rock by underground powder magazines; the raw soldiers stood helpless,
baffled. The air was of a continuous redness; the half-naked French
gunners could be seen, running in and out of their vaulted galleries and
crouching, behind the black shape of the guns; flying fragments of shell,
masonry, and rock fell among the leaderless English, who hesitated, gave
way, and retreated down the bloody slope they had gained, each rank
falling back on the other in confusion, while a shout of triumph rose
from the fiery ramparts of Namur.

The King urged his beautiful horse up the zigzag path. The bullets
flattened themselves on the rocks about him with a dull, pattering sound;
the horse laid back its ears and showed the scarlet of its nostrils; the
King, with infinite skill and gentleness, brought it to a higher ridge
where he could better survey the heights. The English, rolling back
beneath him, looked up and saw him though the smoke, the sun darting
broken rays off the star on his breast. He took off his hat covered with
black plumes and waved it to them to encourage them to come on. A ragged
cheer broke from them; they plunged forward again, but a terrific fire
swept them back with half their number fallen. At this moment the King
saw Lord Cutts, hatless and with a bandaged head, running up towards the
glacis.

William rode up to him. The red fire was about them as if it had been the
colour of the atmosphere.

"My lord," said the King, reining up his horse, "they cannot do it."

A young man in a splendid uniform came riding through the strong smelling
smoke.

"Sire," he said, saluting, "the Bavarians are giving way--their general
hath fallen--"

William spoke swiftly to the Englishman.

"Can you rally your men to the assistance of the Bavarians, my lord? 'Tis
hopeless to attempt to make a breach here."

John Cutts smiled up at his master; he had to shout to make his voice
heard through the rattle of the cannonade--

"'Tis done, Your Majesty!"

His gallant figure slipped, like a hound from the leash, into the smoke,
towards where the English Footguards were retreating, and William,
pointing with his baton to where he rode that his officers might follow
him, swept round the ramparts to where the Bavarians wavered before the
fire of the French. Regiment after regiment had hurled in vain against
the palisades, the ditches and clefts were choked with corpses, and in
every squad of men a great lane was torn every time the French gunners
fired their pieces, while the Dragoons stood on the glacis, sword in
hand, ready to cut down whoever should touch the palisade.

"They are very determined," remarked William calmly, glancing up at the
red-hot line of fire bursting from the French batteries; "but so am I."

As he spoke a bullet passed through his hair so close to his cheek that
he felt the warm whizz of it; and another, almost simultaneously, tore
through the ends of his scarf.

"For God's sake, sire," cried the officer near him, "this is certain
death."

But the King took no heed of him; his sparkling eyes were fastened on the
faltering ranks of Bavaria, who were being borne, steadily but surely,
down the slopes, leaving dead behind them, their commander, and most of
their officers.

At the very moment when it seemed that they had hopelessly lost ground,
John Cutts came running up with the colours of the Grenadiers in one hand
and his sword in the other, behind him two hundred of the English
recruits whom he had rallied from the retreat.

The Bavarians, encouraged by this help, took heart and came forward again
and began climbing up the rock; but Cutts and his English dashed ahead of
them right into the cannon fire, forced their way through the palisade,
and engaged in a hand to hand fight with the gunners and Dragoons, who
were driven back from their defences and hurled over their own ramparts
on to the bayonets of the Bavarians below. In a few moments the English
had captured the battery, swung the guns round and directed them at the
Castle. With a shout the Bavarians dashed through the breach in the wall
and, climbing over corpses of men and horses, poured into the enemy's
lines.

The King watched them as they scaled ditches and trenches and palisade,
then made a detour round the fire-swept face of the rock to the point the
Dutch had been ordered to attack. Splendid soldiers, splendidly
commanded, they had already gained the position and with very little
loss; the French gunners lay in torn and mangled heaps behind their
pieces, which the Dutch were engaged in turning on the garrison.

William now gave orders that his batteries were to be brought in play
from every available position, both on the ramparts gained and from every
rock and out-work in the possession of the allies. He himself rode
through the broken wall and took up his position inside the French
palisades, where his horse could scarcely find a footfall for the dead
and dying. The air was so full of powder smoke that the walls and turrets
of the castle appeared to hang as in a great fog with no visible
foundations; the crack of musketry was incessant, and little threads of
flame ran across the dark heavy vapour; fragments of rock and wall rolled
continually down the slope--dislodged by bombs bursting or the explosion
of barrels of gunpowder. But this was as nothing to the cannonade. When
the combined batteries of the allies opened on Namur, the oldest soldier
could remember no such fire--it was a bombardment such as had never been
known in war. The French gunners dropped one after another before they
could put their fuses to their pieces, and were obliged to take refuge in
their underground galleries; the roar was unceasing, and the continual
flames lit up the rocks, the chasms, the bastions with as steady and
awful a glare as if the world was on fire.

A body of Dragoons made a gallant sally out on to the glacis, but were
swept down to a man before they had advanced a hundred yards. The Dutch,
under cover of the French palisades, picked off with musket shot every
Frenchman who appeared within range, portions of the walls and curtains
began to fall in, the sacking and wattles, put up to catch the bullets,
caught fire and flared up through the smoke.

The King could scarcely see his own staff-officers for the glare and
harsh blinding vapour. His ears were filled with the lamentations of the
mangled and delirious wretches who lay scattered about the glacis, and
the sharp screams of the wounded, riderless horses who galloped in their
death agony across the ramparts and hurled themselves from the precipices
beneath. The King caressed his own animal; the insensibility of his
profession had not overcome his love of horses. He never could look with
ease at the sufferings of these gallant creatures; for the rest, he was
utterly unmoved. He turned his face towards the fires that made many a
veteran wince, and there was not the slightest change in his composure
save that he was more than ordinarily cheerful, and showed, perhaps, more
animation than he had done since the death of his wife. Having satisfied
himself that the Dutch had silenced all the French batteries at this
point, he rode to the demi-bastion where the Brandenburghers P fought the
Dragoons in a terrible battle which was resulting in the French being
driven back on to the fire of their own guns. Here he drew up his horse
on the edge of a fosse that had a cuvette in the middle of it with a
covered way along it, from which the French were still firing from
platoons and muskets.

The King thrust his baton through the folds of his scarf and laid his
hand on the tasseled pistol in his holster; he guided his horse commonly
and by choice with his left hand, for his right arm had been shot through
twice, at St. Neff and the Boyne, and was less easily fatigued with the
sword than the reins. He now looked about him and perceived that his way
to the Brandenburghers was completely barred by some traverses to
intercept fire, besides by the fosse from the gazons of which the
soldiers were firing, and, on the glacis which slopes before it, several
gunners were hauling a battery into place; not far behind them a fierce
fire was being maintained from a projecting javelin.

The French, lurking in the cuvette, saw the King, and, recognising him by
his great star, proceeded to take deliberate aim. He looked round for his
staff, whom his impetuous advance had completely out-distanced, then
galloped his horse right along the counter-scarp in full range of the
enemy's fire. A dozen muskets were aimed at him; he seemed not to notice
them, but set his horse at a little fosse that crossed his path, and
leapt over the dead French and bloody gazons that filled it. The ground
on the other side was so cut, dissected, and strewn with boulders and
fragments of rock, that the quivering horse paused, frightened by the
shower of bullets, and, not perceiving a foothold, the King slipped out
of the saddle without leaving go of the reins, ran along by the horse's
head, guiding him through the débris, and mounted again without touching
the saddle, a well-known feat of the riding school. He was now almost up
to the Brandenburghers, who raised a great shout as they saw him
galloping up through the smoke. He rode along the front of their ranks
and glanced up at the French crouching on their earth-works waiting for
the assault.

The King drew his sword.

"We must get nearer than this," he said to the officer in command. He set
spurs to his horse, and, wheeling round, charged straight at the lines of
France, the Brandenburghers after him with an irresistible rush.

An officer of Dragoons rose up from his comrades and struck up with his
sword at the figure on the huge grey charger. The King leant out of the
saddle, parried the thrust with his weapon. The Frenchman, hit by a
bullet in the lungs, rolled over with his face towards the citadel; the
last thing he saw on earth was the King of England high on the distant
heights of Namur with the column of Brandenburghers behind him and before
him, through the glare the tattered banner of the Bourbons waving from
the keep.



CHAPTER V - A LEADER OF NATIONS


When the late evening fell it was obvious that nothing could save Namur,
the allies had advanced a mile on the outworks of the castle. M. de
Boufflers sent to request a two days' truce that he might bury the dead
who filled fosse and ditch. The King granted it. Before the time expired
the Maréchal offered to surrender if he was not relieved in ten days.
William at once refused. His terms were instant surrender or instant
attack. M. de Boufflers capitulated, terms were speedily agreed upon, the
garrison was to go free, the citadel, stores, and arms to be left in
possession of the allies.

On the 6th September, under a blazing sun, a maréchal de France, for the
first time since France had been a kingdom, delivered up a powerful
castle to the enemy. It was the first obvious sign of that tide of
fortune that had been steadily setting against France since '88. It meant
more even than the conquest of the strongest fortress in the world--it
meant that the arms of Louis were no longer invincible.

The garrison, reduced to five thousand, less than half their original
number, marched out through the breach made by the guns of the
confederate army, which was drawn up in lines of foot and horse that
reached to the banks of the glittering Meuse.

The French came with full honours, with the beat of drums and the ensigns
erect, but their spirits were heavy with a bitter humiliation. Their
reverse was as unexpected as it was tremendous.

M. de Boufflers and his staff came last of the garrison, the Maréchal
decked with all the pomp of war, gold encrusted cuirass, silk scarf,
orders, a splendid white horse trapped in gilt and crimson, and a blue
saddle cloth semé with lilies.

He held his bare sword erect and his face was set sternly. He was
exceedingly troubled by the ceremony in which he was about to take part.
He would not, and could not, as a subject of King Louis, acknowledge the
Prince of Orange as King of England, but it was difficult to treat a
victorious general (and certainly a King _de facto_) with less than
respect and retain his own dignity, especially as the astute Frenchman
was perfectly well aware that William was King of England and would never
be shaken from his throne now in favour of the old man who was wearing
Louis' patience thin with his complaints and demands. Moreover Portland
had insinuated that the allies would take any slight to William very ill
indeed; so, between mortification at his position, his duty to his
master, his desire to avoid the ridiculous and not offend the conventions
of martial courtesy, the Maréchal was in a perturbed temper indeed. But
as he neared the spot where the allied sovereign awaited him, even his
dilemma was forgotten in his curiosity to see the man who filled so
tremendous a part in the world, who for twenty years had withstood
France, who had risen to absolute power in his own country, who had
gained two kingdoms by diplomacy and a third by conquest, who was the
soul of a huge coalition and one of the greatest soldiers in Europe, the
man who was always spoken of in Paris with hatred and some fear, as an
upstart, a usurper, a heretic, one who had broken through sacred family
ties for the sake of personal ambition, and stirred Europe into a turmoil
to obtain a crown.

This feeling was shared by every officer behind him. They were all eager
to see the Prince whom they had learnt from King James to regard as a
pitiless, cold self-seeker, and from Louis as a royal adventurer
unscrupulous and impudent.

Not far from the castle the commanders of the allied forces were drawn
up, the German Princes, the representatives of Spain and the Northern
States and the United Provinces on horseback, and near them, in a calash,
or light open travelling coach, the King of England.

M. de Boufflers reined up his horse a few paces away; a handsome young
gentleman with a very proud carriage, wearing a scarlet cloak, was the
foremost of the group. M. de Boufflers knew him for Maximilien of
Bavaria.

The garrison came on slowly past the four black coach horses held by
footmen wearing the livery of England, until the Maréchal found himself
face to face with the occupant of the coach and the Elector who sat his
horse immediately beside the door.

There was a pause of silence; M. de Boufflers went pale under the eyes,
and looked with the irresistible attraction of great curiosity at the man
in the coach, who was surrounded by these brilliant and immovable escorts
of princely horsemen.

He had heard the person of this Prince often described, and common report
had drawn a picture of him familiar to the minds of men, but he found the
original totally different, though there were the salient
characteristics, the frail stature, the strongly marked features, the
brilliant eyes, so well known throughout Europe.

But the swift and general impression he made was entirely other to what
the Frenchman had expected. He saw a gentleman with an extraordinary air
of stillness and repose, dressed richly and rather heavily in black and
gold, wearing the George and the Ribbon of the Garter, but no other
decoration, and a hat with black feathers cocked back from his face; he
wore a long neckcloth of Flanders lace, the ends of which were drawn
through the buttonholes of his brocade waistcoat, after the English
fashion. He sat leaning a little towards M. de Bavaria, and held in his
right hand a cane with a gold top.

There was something in his expression, his bearing, wholly unlooked for
by M. de Boufflers, who could put no name to it, but thought, in a
confused way, that he had never seen a man whose principal occupation was
war appear less of a soldier.

The King, without moving, fixed his dark, flashing eyes on the Frenchman,
and smiled, almost imperceptibly.

M. de Boufflers performed the salute of the sword; he lowered his weapon,
not directly at the King, but it was too high an honour for the Elector,
and William alone bent his head in acknowledgment.

The silence was profound as the gleaming weapon was returned to its
sheath. M. de Boufflers drew his breath unsteadily. He would go no
further; he spoke to the Prince to avoid the royal terms of address.

"Your Highness, I must congratulate you upon your good fortune though it
is my own ill luck--but I must console myself that I have held even Namur
three months against such an army and such generals."

The Elector uncovered and, turning to the King, repeated with profound
respect what the Maréchal had said.

William touched his hat in a formal salute silently. M. de Boufflers
coloured with vexation. The deference of the Elector, so much his own
superior, made his own attitude, he thought, appear ridiculous, but he
haughtily maintained it.

"I surrender to Your Highness the keys of the Castle of Namur," he said,
and handed them with a bow to the Elector, who at once presented them to
the King.

"Sire," said M. de Bavaria, very lowly, "M. de Boufflers has the honour
to request me to present to Your Majesty the keys of Namur."

William took them and again saluted.

"I, with Your Majesty's permission, will inform M. de Boufflers that Your
Majesty is satisfied that the terms of the capitulation are fulfilled?"

"Yes, Highness," answered William gravely, but still (as M. de Boufflers
was supremely conscious), with that slight smile.

"His Majesty," said the Elector, "is pleased to compliment you, monsieur,
upon your gallant defence of the citadel."

"I thank Your Highness," answered the Maréchal, colouring deeply. Neither
he nor his officers could altogether conceal their astonishment and
vexation at seeing the proudest Princes of Germany treat William of
Orange with as great a deference as his meanest courtiers used to their
own master.

"We need not detain you, monsieur," said the Electoral Prince.

M. de Boufflers bowed over his saddle and passed on, his staff officers
behind him, all riding at the salute as they passed the allied
Sovereigns.

When the last had gone, William, who had never taken his eyes from the
cavalcade, spoke to M. Dyckfelt who rode close to the carriage.

"Mynheer," he said, "you will inform M. de Boufflers that he is our
prisoner until the garrisons of Dixmuyde and Deynse are released."

M. Dyckfelt departed with a body of Dutch cavalry, and, as the King drove
off, he could hear the indignant exclamations of the French officers as
the Maréchal was asked to deliver up his sword. The King drove to his
tent across the town of Namur, which was like a barracks and a
battlefield for soldiers and wounded. His bodyguard of princes raised a
fine cloud of white dust from the dry roads, the air was still foul with
the smell of powder and burning buildings, the sun burnt in the acrid
heavens with a sheer cloudless heat that seemed to draw all freshness and
moisture out of the earth, even the two great rivers had a hard, molten
look in the glare as if they were lead, not water.

The commanders of the confederacy dined with the King; the tent was hot,
but shaded from the intolerable glare by three poor scorched chestnut
trees that cast a meagre shadow over the canvas.

The Electoral Prince sat at the King's right, the Earl of Portland at his
left, and, for the first time, Joost van Keppel was at the King's table,
an honour that was not grudged by any of the potentates, for the young
soldier was exceedingly popular, being amiable, generous, sweet tempered,
and deferential, but Portland marked it with a bitter heart.

William, seated in a vermeil armchair, wearing his hat, and treated by
the others as if they were no more than his subjects, gave the
toast--"The allied army "--in a whisper to the Elector, who passed it
round the table. It was drunk in silence, and the long meal, served on
gold and crystal, began.

The King spoke hardly at all, save to utter a few sentences to Portland,
who received them coldly, and the others were, out of deference, silent,
all being, indeed, too elated with their recent great success (the
greatest they had achieved during the war), and too occupied in their own
thoughts with what this would mean to their several interests, to care
for speech.

When the meal was nearly over, M. Dyckfelt came to say that M. de
Boufflers, after protesting violently, had delivered up his sword and
returned to Namur as a prisoner of the allies.

"We will send him to Huy until we receive the two garrisons," said
William languidly, "though I doubt that we put too high a price on M. de
Boufflers."

"His Master," remarked M. de Vaudemont, "must redeem him even at a higher
rate."

"Ah, cousin," answered the King, "His Majesty will return the men for
pride's sake."

"And there is the English post in," said M. Dyckfelt, "all in a reek from
skirting Villeroy's forces."

"Why must you remind me of England?" asked William. Portland interposed
quickly--

"Surely you will return almost immediately? Is this not a good juncture
to call a parliament?"

"This is not a good season to discuss politics." The King administered
his reproof in the gentlest manner, but Portland, with a curt bow,
instantly set down his glass, rose, and left the tent.

William flushed, and a kind of tremor ran through the company. They
thought that the King would not take this even from Portland.

But, after a second, he turned to the Prince de Vaudemont. "My cousin,"
he said quietly, "will you go after my lord and persuade him that he is
unreasonable?"

The princes glanced at each other covertly as M. de Vaudemont obeyed. M.
van Keppel coloured violently; he knew perfectly well who Portland's
wrath was directed against, but his anger was not personal but for his
master thus openly slighted.

The King sat silent, drinking slowly and looking down at the damask
cloth. In a few moments M. de Vaudemont returned alone.

It seemed almost incredible that Portland should refuse to return when
sent for by the King and by such a messenger; William looked up.

"Sire," said M. de Vaudemont, "M. de Portland asks your Majesty to excuse
his attendance."

The King made no answer; he was outwardly composed, but the Elector,
glancing at his face, guessed that his triumph was as nothing to him
compared to the coldness of his friend.

M. de Hesse broke the silence.

"M. de Kohorn lost his bet after all!" he remarked; "until this moment I
had forgotten it."

"I am a hundred pistoles the richer," answered the Elector, glad of the
discussion, "and yet I thought to lose--it was the victory of a few hours
only."

William suddenly laughed.

"Gentlemen," he said, slightly raising his glass, "I give you the loser
of that wager and the man who took Namur--Baron Menno Kohorn."



CHAPTER VI - THE KING'S AGENT


In a fine dark room of a mansion in London, three men sat in attitudes of
bewildered trouble and despair, and a fourth, standing by a table of
highly polished walnut wood, looked at them with a white, bitter face.

It was August of 1696, and exactly a year since the fall of Namur had
induced France to consent to open negotiations for a peace. A Congress
sat now at Ryswick, but with at present little hope of immediate success.
The King was again with the troops in Flanders, and England was face to
face with the most momentous crisis in her history. There was, literally,
not enough money to carry on the Government.

When the King had returned from the last campaign, he had supported
Somers and Montague in the recoinage scheme, by which the mutilated and
clipped money of the realm was to be reminted; the plan was so daring as
to frighten most of the King's advisers, but Montague, having secured a
certain Isaac Newton as master of the Mint, proceeded to put his plans
into execution with skill and address. He was also largely responsible
for the scheme of the Bank of England, which, after paying a million and
a half for its charter, had enjoyed the confidence of the Government
until Robert Harley and Foley revived Chamberlayne's wild project of a
Land Bank. The King, anxious for money to commence the campaign and carry
on the government during his absence, had passed an Act before he
prorogued Parliament, establishing the Land Bank, which was to advance
him two and a half millions at seven per cent.

The Tories declared that their scheme would soon ruin the earlier bank;
Charles Montague thought so too, though he and most other thoughtful
observers were certain that the Land Bank was an unpractical conception,
a mere delusion. But the country was not with them; the country
gentlemen, Whig and Tory, believed they saw an infallible way of
obtaining riches, the King wanted the money too much to inquire into the
means that produced it, and the Land Bank appeared to flourish while the
Bank of England tottered and showed every sign of ultimate failure.

The Directors found it impossible to redeem the paper money that they had
put in circulation, and that malice or necessity demanded the payment of.
There was scarcely any money to be had; the mint worked day and night to
turn out the new milled coin, but the moment it appeared it was hoarded
by the panic-stricken public. The paper money fluctuated in value so as
to be almost useless, stock jobbers caused constant scares on the
Exchange, credit was paralysed, and the country was only held together by
Montague's device of exchequer bills bearing a small rate of interest.

The discovery of the assassination plot and the Jacobite schemes of
invasion had strengthened the King's position at home and made him as
popular as he had been in '88, but it had resulted in the recall of the
fleet from the Mediterranean, the renewed supremacy of the French in
those waters, and the instant defection of the Duke of Savoy, thus
causing the first rift in the coalition that William's unwearied skill
had maintained against the arts of Louis for seven years.

He was now powerless to bribe or threaten. Early in the war Kohorn and
Athlone had burnt the huge stores that Louis had built with vast expense
at Givet, and France had staggered under the blow, but William was
helpless to take advantage of it. The treachery of the Duke of Savoy, the
state of the English finances, the general exhaustion of the allies,
caused M. de Caillières, the French representative at Ryswick, to change
his tone, go back from the pledge he had given that William should be
recognised by Louis, and propound arrogant terms.

Meanwhile the letters from the King became desperate; only his personal
influence kept the army, which was literally starving, together. He had
pledged his private fortune and strained his private credit in the United
Provinces as far as he could.

And the subscription list of the Land Bank at Exeter 'Change remained
blank; only a few hundreds had been added to the five thousand
contributed by the King as an example.

William even authorized the summoning of Parliament 'during his absence;
but the ministers dare not risk this expedient. He then sent Portland to
London to represent to the Council of Regency that something must be
devised to raise money, or, in his own words to Shrewsbury, "All is lost,
and I must go to the Indies."

It was Portland who now faced the three ministers in Shrewsbury's rich
withdrawing-room.

These three were the Lord Keeper, Godolphin, the one Tory in the Council,
and First Commissioner of the Treasury, and Shrewsbury himself, now again
Secretary of State, and as devoted to the Government as if he had never,
in an hour of weakness, tampered with St. Germains; he was, perhaps, of
the seven Lords Justices now governing England, the one most liked and
trusted by the King.

Portland's usual slowness of speech and manner had giver way to an
animated vigour.

"The King must have money," he said, "at any cost--from anywhere; those
were my last instructions, and, gentlemen, there is more than even the
army at stake; it is the whole reputation, the whole credit, nay, the
whole existence of England."

Even the lofty-minded Somers, whose courage had dared the Recoinage Bill,
was silenced; his lined, haggard, and bloodless face was frowning with
anxiety.

Godolphin, even at this crisis contained and self-effacing, though
looking downcast and sombre, fixed his eyes on Portland blankly.

Shrewsbury, emotional, overstrung, and harassed, broke into speech,
flushing painfully from red to white as he spoke, the Colberteen lace on
his bosom rising and falling with his unsteady breath.

"We can only obtain forty thousand pounds from the Land Bank
subscriptions, and then under pressure and on hard terms," he cried.

All the company knew this, but my lord was apt to waste words. Portland
looked at him in some disgust.

"Forty pence would be as useful," he said dryly. "Come, my lords, this
Land Bank scheme has ended in failure; but is there no alternative to
declaring England bankrupt?"

"By Heaven, I can see nothing else to do," returned Shrewsbury; "but,
since anything is better than lying down under misfortune, I have put
some hopes on to these negotiations with the Bank of England."

But it might be read from his tone that these hopes of succour from that
almost defunct institution were faint indeed.

Portland began walking up and down the room; he was resolved, if it was
within the bounds of possibility, to obtain this money; he had spent many
weary hours trying to screw out of Harley and Foley even half the sum
they had talked of raising, and it had been so much waste time. The
commission had expired a week ago, the offices in Exeter 'Change were
closed, and Portland was no nearer the object of his journey. There
remained now only the Bank of England, which had only been saved from
bankruptcy by a call of twenty per cent. on its shareholders, and
Portland could see no bright prospects from an institution, half ruined,
whose directors were in an ill humour against the Government, and barely
able to hold their own in the present crisis.

He stopped at last before Shrewsbury, and clasped the back of the chair
beside him; his fair face was set, his blue eyes hard and bright. Perhaps
he was the more resolute to do the King this service since he was deeply
offended with him personally on account of Joost van Keppel's rise to
favour, and their long and deep friendship had reached a crisis that
could scarcely end in anything but a final severance of their affection.

"I will not return to Flanders without the money," he declared sombrely;
"it must be found; if this Bank faileth Parliament must be called."

Shrewsbury answered in desperate peevishness--

"I have done all I could--I have been almost on my knees to the
dictators--I am baited out of my life! By God, I would sooner be a
hangman or a butcher than a statesman!"

A silence of despair fell over the little company. Godolphin wiped his
lips, and looked out of the window at the sun-baked street; he was
wondering, with a sick sense of personal failure, what would happen to
him if king, government, and country crashed on ruin. Somers was equally
silent, but his thoughts were far different; he would have made any
sacrifice in his power to save the kingdom from disaster.

They were interrupted by an usher announcing, "Mr. Charles Montague." A
little movement of interest animated them all. Portland turned wide,
expectant eyes on the new-comer; his plain common sense was quick to
discern genius; he had recognized it of late in the Chancellor of the
Exchequer, as he had recognized it years ago in his master.

Mr. Montague advanced slowly, and seemed to enjoy the stir his coming
made; it was obvious that he considered the brilliant success of his
career entirely due to his own gifts--an opinion his colleagues
considered as unamiable as it was correct.

He was a little man, and walked with a strutting air; his clothes were of
the utmost extravagance of fashion, and glistened with gold and silver
thread; his peruke was curled and powdered elaborately; and in the hat he
held in his hand was a small flashing mirror among the feathers--the last
whim of the mode; but there was a pride and containment in his sharp
features, a power and purpose in his keen eyes, that overshadowed any
fopperies of dress.

He began speaking at once, and abruptly, but with much grace in the
delivery.

"My lords, I am just come from the directors of the Bank. I have been
closeted with them all day, and they have promised me they will do what
they can. I asked for two hundred thousand pounds. I told them it was the
very least there was any use in offering to His Majesty. And I told them
it must be in gold or silver "--he waved his hand--"no paper, I said, for
Flanders."

He seated himself, with another flourishing gesture, on the chair near
Portland. Under all his affectations was noticeable a deep pride and
satisfaction; the Bank on which everything now depended was his scheme;
that of his rival, Harley, had ended in dismal failure. He felt that his
brilliant career would be more brilliant still if his project saved the
Government now.

"Two hundred thousand!" said Shrewsbury forlornly. The Land Bank had
promised two and a half million, and the King's last entreaty had been
for eight hundred thousand; but Portland caught even at this.

"It would be something," he said; "it would cover His Majesty's most
pressing wants--"

"It is all," answered Mr. Montague, "that I dare ask for--in hard
money--at such a time."

"We are fortunate if we obtain it," remarked Somers. "Is it promised?"

"No, Sir John," admitted the Chancellor; "for they cannot do it without
another call of twenty per cent. on their subscribers, and they may not
decide that themselves, but must submit it to the vote in a general
court--"

"Why," interrupted the Duke, "there must be six hundred with a right to
vote at such a meeting!"

"About that number, I think, your Grace," said Mr. Montague.

"Why, good-bye then to our hopes of even this beggarly sum!" cried
Shrewsbury. "Are six hundred likely to agree to lending even sixpence to
the Government?"

"Beggarly sum!" repeated Mr. Montague. "My Lord Portland here can tell
you what long debate and diplomacy it took to secure even the promise of
that amount--"

"Yes, I know, Mr. Montague," answered the Earl grimly; "and I think the
sum worth any sacrifice. We must have it. Could you have seen His
Majesty, gentlemen, as I left him at Attere, surrounded by straying
troops on the verge of mutiny, sending off agents to endeavour to raise a
few thousands on his word in Amsterdam, you would not consider two
hundred thousand paltry."

He spoke with a personal emotion that surprised the Englishmen, who
believed that his relations with the King were painfully strained. They
respected him for his loyalty, though none of them had ever liked him,
and Somers at least gave him a quiet look of sympathy.

Shrewsbury broke out into half-hysterical petulance.

"Why are we doing it all? What use is there in any of it? We might as
well give it up now as afterwards. I confess that I have not the health
or spirit to endure more of it."

Mr. Montague smiled; he knew perfectly well the motive behind every
action he undertook, and what was the object of his labours. The younger
son of a younger son, and ten years ago a Poor Scholar at Cambridge, he
was now one of the greatest men in the Three Kingdoms, and able to confer
benefits on the Crown.

"There is no living in the world on any other terms than endurance," he
remarked complacently, "and a financier, your Grace, must learn to face a
crisis."

"The good God knoweth I am not one," returned the Duke gloomily.

"When is the general court to be held?" asked Portland; his one thought
to get the money from these men somehow, and return with it to the
desperate King.

"On the fifteenth," said the Chancellor, "and I have sufficient faith in
the patriotism of the shareholders to believe they will stand by His
Majesty."

Godolphin, who had been so silent hitherto that his presence was scarcely
noticed, spoke now from the window-seat.

"You have done us a great service, Mr. Montague. I think we should all be
very grateful."

This came gracefully from a member of that Tory party that had supported
Harley's bank. Mr. Montague bowed, very gratified; my lord had that soft
way of conciliating possible enemies with outspoken courtesy.

Portland made no such speeches; he considered it only the bare duty of
the English to adequately support the King, whose life, ever since his
accession, had been one struggle to obtain money from the English
Parliament.

He took up his hat and saluted the company.

"I must endure with what patience I may till the fifteenth," he said, and
left them gravely.

He went out into the sunny streets of London, and turned towards the
Mall. There was no coach waiting for him; he was frugal in his habits to
a fault, and uninterested in any kind of display. No one would have taken
him for anything but a soldier home from Flanders, tanned at the wars--an
obvious foreigner with a stiff military carriage.

The town was very empty. The state of anxiety, suspense, and danger the
country was passing through was not to be guessed at from the well-kept
houses, the few leisurely passers-by, and the prosperous shops with their
wares displayed behind neat diamond panes.

Portland, passing the pillared façade of Northumberland House and the
bronze statue of Charles r. on horseback, came into the Mall, past the
tennis-court and archery butts, where several people were practising, to
the pond covered with wild fowl and overshaded with elm and chestnut that
gave a thick green colour to the water. To his right was a row of
handsome houses looking on to the avenue of trees in the Mall, and at
most of the windows people were seated; for it was near the turn of the
afternoon, and a pleasant coolness began to temper the heat of the day.

Portland looked at these people: fashionably dressed women, with lap dogs
or embroidery, drinking tea or talking; easy-looking men smoking or
reading one of the new sheets which had flooded the country since the
lapse of the censorship of the press--all comfortable, well-to-do,
self-satisfied, and rather insolent in their enjoyment of the sunshine,
and the shadow of the trees, and their own comfortable homes.

William Bentinck seated himself on a bench under one of the great elms;
he felt bitter towards these people--towards England; he came near to
hating the country even as they hated him; he had a swift impression that
these lazy, prosperous citizens were the real masters, and he, and his
friends, and the King, little better than slaves.

He looked at the women and recalled the poor Queen, who had had scarce
half an hour's ease since she had set foot on the quay by the Tower; who
had toiled and kept a brave face and a high heart, and done everything
that duty demanded of her--and for what reward?--to be reviled, abused,
slighted and, finally, to die of one of the hideous diseases the great
city engendered, and be forgotten in the changeable factions that
continued their quarrels even before she was in her grave.

He looked at the men, and thought of the last letter from the King he
carried in his pocket; he saw some of the lines in it as if the paper was
spread before him--"I am in greater distress for money than can well be
imagined. I hope God will help instead of abandoning me; but indeed it is
hard not to lose all courage." It seemed to Portland that Shrewsbury was
right. What was the use of any of it?--what goad kept them all at their
tasks? What was the aim of all this incredible labour, endeavour,
fatigue, courage, and patience?

Did the King endure what he was enduring that these people might make
knots, and drink tea, and sun themselves on the Mall in peace?

Did he, William Bentinck, who was fond of gardening, and a quiet life,
and his own country, spend his life between war and exile, conflict and
distasteful company, that the boys in the tennis-courts might play their
games and laugh and shout as much as they wished?

If it were so, the objects seemed miserable compared to the labour.

But there was something more behind it all; Portland could not put a
name to it; he supposed that one day God would explain.



CHAPTER VII - THE BANK OF ENGLAND


The Lord Justices who formed the Council of Regency were, with the
exception of my Lord of Canterbury, waiting, on this momentous 15th of
August, in the long gallery leading out of the Council Chamber in
Whitehall.

Several other great men were there also; Sunderland, Romney, Wharton, the
Duke of Leeds--still, by the King's clemency, nominally Lord President,
though he had, since his disgrace over the East India scandal, none of
the honours or powers of that position, and was indeed no more than a
cipher where he had once been all-powerful--Marlborough--who, since the
Queen's death, vigorously supported Government, while he waited with
serene patience for the death of William and the accession of the
Princess his mistress--Admiral Russell, and Portland, all filled by that
anxiety that so nearly touched every one of them--would the Bank of
England raise the money to carry on the government until Parliament met
on the King's return?

There were two women present--Lady Sunderland, who was talking to Lord
Romney, and Elizabeth Villiers, now Lady Orkney, conversing with much
animation with Lord Sunderland. Portland observed her with very strong
dislike. Though she was his first wife's sister he had never been in the
least intimate with her; he could not forgive her the influence she had
gained and exerted over William, who had taken her advice and consulted
her opinion often enough when she had first come with Mary to The Hague.
The usual tale-bearing, back-biting, mischief-making, and scandal had
stopped this friendship, but not before her wit and intelligence had
proved of great service to the Stadtholder, who, as Portland knew, had
continued to employ her in delicate negotiations, even after he became
King; and though she and William had scarcely seen each other for many
years, Portland believed that she still used an oblique influence through
Sunderland, with whom she had formed a close friendship, which Portland
considered very typical of Elizabeth Villiers.

He suspected her of being in some deep intrigue to supplant him by Joost
van Keppel, towards whom his feelings were now near hatred. He knew that
she had never liked him, and she was quite well aware that he had again
and again told the King it was undignified to employ a woman in his
affairs, and had even opposed the title and estates given to her husband
on her marriage. Portland heard the tales this gave rise to if the King
did not; Portland was vexed by the revival of old scandals if Lady
Villiers was not; he loathed the woman and resented her presence here
to-day.

As he continued to stare at her across the splendid gallery, she suddenly
looked round at him, gave Sunderland a quick sentence, and to Portland's
equal surprise and vexation crossed over to him.

"It is a long time since we have met," she said, and gave one of her
straight smiles.

She was dressed in violet and silver, and wore a great Indian scarf about
her shoulders as if it were cold, instead of August.

"I have been too employed to wait on your ladyship," answered Portland.

She took no notice of that, but said abruptly--

"How did you leave the King?"

"As much at ease as a man in his position could be," said the Earl
grimly.

Lady Orkney did not look at Portland, but rather absently down the room.

"He must be fairly weary of it all," she replied. "Do you think," she
added rather sharply, "he hath recovered from the death of the Queen?"

"No, madam, nor will he ever," said my lord sternly.

"How you dislike me!" cried Lady Orkney softly. "And I would have been a
good friend to you if you would have let me--believe me"--she looked at
him full now--"I would never do an ill turn to one of the King's
friends."

"What is this, madam?" he asked haughtily.

"Oh, you understand," she answered. "You know that M. van Keppel is a
friend of mine, and you have tried to do him ill offices--I tell you that
you have no cause--Joost van Keppel will harm nobody. Let him be."

Portland was silent in sheer disdain. Elizabeth Villiers fixed him with
her queer eyes; her pronounced cast was very noticeable.

"You should not dislike me," she said, "because I sometimes help the
King--Joost van Keppel will help him too, even in such follies as
courtesy and an obliging temper--a sweet reverence might mean much to a
broken man--consider that, my lord."

He answered brusquely.

"I consider that Joost van Keppel is a worthless young rake-hell, and
that those who push him into His Majesty's favour can have only mean
motives."

"You certainly do not understand," she said quietly. A sudden thought
flashed to Portland.

"Was it you, my lady," he asked, "who put Sunderland to bring van Keppel
forward with his tale of Namur when the King was sick?"

"Have you only just guessed it?" she answered.

"I might have known it was a woman's trick," he said bitterly. "What made
you think of such a device?"

She smiled and made no answer.

"And why did you employ M. van Keppel?" added Portland. "Because," said
Lady Orkney, "he was of the age the King's son might have been."

Portland stared.

"A woman's trick, you see." She smiled. "Women think of these things--do
not consider me as a vulgar intriguer, even if you cannot understand, and
let M. van Keppel be--I think he will console the King a little."

"I, at least, am above your devices and those of my Lord Sunderland," he
answered roughly.

Lady Orkney replied, still smiling, but with infinite sadness--"Could you
see into my heart you would know that I am not so happy but that you
might spare me."

She gave a little courtsey and left him. He watched her return to the
window and look out at the alleys and parterres of the privy garden.

He had been a little confused, but in no way appeased by her
conversation. She had confessed that she and Sunderland were behind van
Keppel, towards whom his thoughts turned with added dislike; then he
tried to banish consideration of all three of them, and to fix his mind
on the money he must obtain for the King.

Devonshire (the Lord Steward), Pembroke (Keeper of the Privy Seal), and
Dorset (the Lord Chamberlain), were talking apart, and Portland joined
them.

Pembroke informed him that Montague had gone down to the General Meeting
of the Bank of England and had promised to return immediately with the
news of the result of the Directors' proposition to the Company.

"If these hopes vanish," said Devonshire gloomily, "what are we to turn
to next?"

"A Parliament and taxes," answered Dorset concisely.

"Oh, my lord," cried Pembroke, "Mr. Locke will tell you that is bad
finance."

"Mr. Locke is a philosopher," remarked Dorset good-humouredly.

"Good God, we get choked with 'em," remarked the magnificent Devonshire.
"Now Montague hath brought Mr. Newton into the Mint and Somers is always
deep with Mr. Locke--"

"And my Lord Portland," cried Dorset, with the irrepressible levity of
his class and nation, "deep with a poet for his secretary."

"As for that same poet," said Portland gravely, "I tell you, my lord,
that he now goeth to Church, and will not write profane verses on a
Sabbath."

"A triumph indeed for the godliness of your lordship," said Devonshire
demurely.

"Is this poor Matt Prior?" asked Dorset. "His verses on the taking of
Namur were very neat."

"I did not read them," answered Portland dryly. "I never could endure
poetry or play-acting--the King is plagued with enough to paper London."

"I remember in The Hague," smiled Devonshire, "when His Majesty was
expecting a promise of money from Amsterdam by every post, and I took in
a letter which I thought was it--but which proved to be a copy of verses
on his safe crossing from England, with a fresh heathen god in every
line--His Majesty's curses were powerful for a Christian Prince--and he
declared it had given him a distaste for the very sight of poetry."

Dorset laughed; he remembered the occasion also as the only one on which
he had heard violent language from the austere King. Portland was
disgusted that they could amuse themselves with these recollections
during such anxious moments; it was only another proof, he thought, of
the shallowness of the English politicians. And even these anecdotes
turned on the King's lack of money; it must be six years since Devonshire
was at The Hague, and William was still in the same straits. Portland
wondered if the time would ever come when he would be free of these
burdens, and doubted it.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer entered the gallery, and instantly
everybody formed a little group about him, including the two ladies, to
whom he gave a flourishing and gallant greeting.

"I must tell you," he said, in a voice and with a manner that strove to
be indifferent, yet with a face flushed with pride, "that the money hath
been subscribed to His Majesty."

Portland drew a great breath of relief.

"Promised," continued Montague, "in gold and silver, which will be ready
to be packed up and taken to Flanders to-morrow."

"How was this accomplished?" asked Devonshire. "I hardly thought, this
cruel year, they could do it."

"Thank God they have," murmured Shrewsbury; "for if this had failed I
know not what we should have done."

"Your Grace," answered Mr. Montague, "when I lent my support to this Bank
I did not think it was likely to be a failure. Yet I must confess that I
had some misgivings to-day when I entered the General Court--there was my
Lord Mayor in the chair, looking as gloomy as need be, and six hundred or
more of the company, all thrifty merchants. Sir John got up and read the
speech Composed by the Directors and sat down again in none too easy a
frame of mind, it seemed, and a great hum went up from the subscribers,
and you might see them turning to each other and whispering, but making
no kind of public response; then up sprang Sir John again, and implored
them stand by the King--at which one rose and said, `We desire nothing
more than to oblige His Majesty, but it is a hard thing to ask for gold
these times, and our notes of hand should be good enough.' 'Nothing but
gold is any use to His Majesty in Flanders,' declared Sir John. 'I am
asking you for this sacrifice for nothing less than the preservation of
the kingdoms, otherwise I could not in conscience do it.' At last, after
some murmuring, it was put to the vote, and all held up their hands for
sending the money, and Sir John came to me all in a tremble, and hoped I
would remember that the Bank had saved the Government--he said it had
been as anxious an hour as he was ever like to have in his life. At
hearing the resolution of the Bank, several gentlemen, who had been
waiting without, came in to buy shares, and several thousand pounds'
worth were subscribed before I left."

At the conclusion of this speech Mr. Montague looked round his company
with an air of conscious satisfaction. Portland had gone to write this
news off to the King, caring indeed for nothing but the sheer fact that
he could return to Attere immediately with the money, but the others,
including even the feeble, disgraced Leeds, had listened with eager
interest.

"Well done," cried Lady Orkney. "Mr. Montague, you are a miracle of
wit--and I am going to follow the example of these same gentlemen and
purchase stock in this Bank of yours."

"So am I," declared Devonshire. "I will send my agent down there
to-night, sir, the service it hath done cannot be overestimated."

In a breath every Minister in the room had promised to show the same
instance of attachment to the institution that had saved the Government,
and when the energetic young Chancellor left Whitehall the
congratulations of the whole Council of Regency were ringing in his ears.

He entered his smart coach and drove straight to the Mint, where men were
working day and night at the milled money which he and his friend Mr.
Newton were turning out at the rate of a hundred and twenty thousand a
week. Fifteen thousand was the highest amount the former master of the
Mint had declared it was possible to produce in that time, but Mr. Newton
had done the incredible in reforming the Mint. It was to his apartments
Charles Montague went now, twirling his cane and fluttering his laces.

The Warden of His Majesty's Mint and Exchanges and Professor of
Mathematics at Cambridge was a gentleman a little past middle life, of a
very refined aristocratic appearance, with an air of extraordinary calm
and stillness.

He wore a murrey-coloured coat, a small grey peruke, and a little brooch
of rubies in a plain lace cravat. When Mr. Montague entered he was seated
at a table covered with a multitude of papers. He looked up instantly;
his delicate features expressed a very winning composed dignity.

"I wished to speak to you about the new Mint at Chester, Mr. Newton,"
said the Chancellor; his manner was totally different from that he had
used to the Ministers at Whitehall.

"Another Mint, yes, Mr. Montague," answered the Warden, in the same grave
tone. "Those at York and Norwich have been very popular, but I fear we
have not enough trained men to spare yet--though I am having them taught
as fast as may be."

"I want more than will suffice for Chester," said the Chancellor briskly.
"I thought of York and Exeter as likely stations."

He seated himself by the window and looked out on the pleasant prospect
of the sunny river and glistening roofs.

"The people take it very well," he added. "One could not have hoped to
pass through the crisis better; there is a good temper and a good sense
shown very gratifying."

"Why, yes," said Mr. Newton; "but one may always look for both from the
English."

A servant entered with a letter, which he glanced at and laid down with a
gentle little sound of displeasure.

"What is that?" asked Mr. Montague.

"Oh, 'tis from Flamsteed; he is ever dunning me to go see his observatory
at Greenwich--he cannot believe that there is anything in the world more
important than stars, nor that I do not love to be teased with
mathematical things when I am about the King's business."

Mr. Montague glanced at the astronomer's sealed letter.

"Speaking of the King's business," he remarked, "the Bank of England hath
promised to advance the two hundred thousand for the troops in Flanders."

Mr. Newton looked up quickly.

"Why, I am glad of that. Sir, this is a great thing--it will greatly
raise the credit of the Bank."

"I think," replied the young Chancellor, "without vanity, that the Bank
of England is an institution that will live."



CHAPTER VIII - THE BREAKING FRIENDSHIP


Two men were riding side by side through the forest of Soignies; before
and behind them was a great army. It was a May night, with the moon full
overhead and casting long shadows from the tall, dark, motionless trees.
News had been received at the camp the evening before that the French
were threatening Brussels, and the confederate army was marching to save
the Capital.

These two men who rode in the centre were alone, though part of such an
immense force; for the Dutch guards, who marched before and behind them
were several yards distant; they were both wrapped in long military
cloaks. One, who was the King-Stadtholder, the commander of the allies,
was mounted on a white horse; the other, William Bentinck, Earl of
Portland, rode a great brown steed. The King was speaking very earnestly,
in a lowered voice suited to the hush of the warm night and the solemnity
of the long defiles they traversed.

"I must tell you of the dispatch I received from my Lord Devonshire. I
had scarcely received it before we broke camp, or I had told you before.
This John Fenwick, the Jacobite, hath made a cunning confession, designed
to put the Government into a confusion. He accuseth Godolphin,
Shrewsbury, Marlborough, and Russell of being deep with St. Germains."

Portland made no answer.

"It was," continued the King, "no news to me, as you know."

"What have you done?" asked the Earl.

"I have done nothing yet. I shall write to Devonshire ordering the trial
of this Fenwick to proceed."

"And for these lords?"

"I shall affect to disbelieve this evidence," answered William. "And
Shrewsbury, at least, I shall assure of my trust."

"And so traitors flourish!"

There was silence for awhile, only broken by the jingle of the harness,
the fall of the horses' feet, and the tramp of the army before and
behind. The faces of the two men were hidden from each other; they could
only discern outline of horse and figure as the moonlight fell between
the elms and oaks.

The King spoke again.

"I have learnt to be tolerant of treason. These men serve me--even
Marlborough--instruments all of them! And Shrewsbury I ever liked. I will
not have him put out for this."

"You will even let them remain in office?"

"Surely," answered the King, "it would be beneath me to stoop to
vengeance? And what else would this be? Both policy and kindness dictate
to me this course."

Portland's voice came heavily out of the morning shadows.

"You are too lenient to every sort of fault. These men do not even know
you spare them--they think you are fooled. Marlborough will laugh at
you."

"What doth that matter if he serveth my turn? He is a villain, but a
great man--he should be useful to England."

The King spoke in strained, weary accents, and with, it seemed, but
little interest.

"Besides," he added, "I do not believe half of what Fen-wick saith."

Portland retorted sharply.

"You did not believe the assassination plot itself until I produced
Prendergrass, who had heard them discuss who was to fire the bullet on
Turnham Green."

The King answered simply--

"One becometh so well used to these attempts, I should have been dead ten
times if assassins could have done it. That was not the way ordained."

"I hope," said Portland dryly, "that your clemency will be rewarded. I,
for one, could well wish to see these traitors come to their
punishment--yea, and such men as Sunderland--"

William interrupted.

"I hope they will leave me Sunderland--I could ill do without him, But I
hear he is likely to be pressed hard in the Commons."

"I cannot wonder," returned Portland, "but only at you who continue to
employ such a man."

The King did not answer at once. The moon was sinking and taking on a
yellow colour, the shadows were fainter and blended one with another, the
trunks, branches, and clustering leaves of the great trees began to show
dimly against a paling sky; there was a deep stir of freshness in the
still air, the perfume of grass, bracken, and late violets. The steady,
unbroken tramp of the great army seemed to grow louder with the first
lifting of the night; the men, in ranks of not more than four, could be
seen defiling through the yet dark forest.

The King spoke, looking ahead of him.

"Of late I can do nothing to please you," he said in a whisper. "It is
not pleasant to me to have this growing coldness."

"Your Majesty hath other friends," answered Portland bitterly.

"You are unreasonable," said the King, in the same sad, broken voice. "I
cannot withdraw my favour from M. van Keppel--justice and dignity forbid
it. You should understand that, William. I also might have my complaints;
it is not easy for me to keep the peace between you and M. van Keppel.
Your constant quarrels make my household in a perpetual tumult--and, I
must say it, it is not M. van Keppel who is generally the aggressor."

"His is presence is an offence," declared Portland hotly; "a creature of
my Lord Sunderland, a flattering, smooth-tongued boy--a dissolute rake
who hath done nothing for your service!"

The King turned his face towards his friend.

"It cuts me to the heart," he said, with great emotion, "that you should
dream--for one second--that he could make me ever forget or undervalue
all the services I owe to you. Nothing could alter my affection for you;
it is my great grief that you should not feel that as I do."

"You have changed," was all Portland said.

The King lifted his eyes to the sky showing between the trees they rode
past, his haggard face was faintly visible in the increasing light.

"Yes, I have changed," he said slowly. "Perhaps even you cannot guess how
much. I could not convey to you how utterly indifferent all the world is
to me save only my hope to a little more complete the task God put upon
me. Your friendship is all that is left to me. Nothing hath been real
since--she--died. I only act and think and go through my days because I
believe she would have wished it. I only do this and that because I
think--she would have done it. I only keep on because she wished that,
even at the last. I only endure to live because I dare to hope she may be
somewhere--waiting--"

His voice sank so low as to be almost incoherent; Portland could scarcely
catch the words. They came to a little hollow beside the path that was
filled with spring flowers opening to the dawn, daisies and lilies and
tufts of fresh green.

The King spoke again.

"For the rest, all is dead--here," he lightly touched his heart. "You
alone have the power to hurt me, and you should use it tenderly."

Portland had meant to resign his position in the King's household, so
intolerable had it become to him, but now restrained himself.

"I will serve you till death," he said, with his air of cold, high
breeding. "Your Majesty must believe that of me." William gave a little
sigh.

"What of this Congress at Ryswick?" added Portland, "and your suggestion
that I should see M. de Boufflers?"

He thought that it would be something of a compromise if he could still
continue to serve the King yet get away from the odious van Keppel.

"They will never do anything at Ryswick," answered the King wearily.
"They fill their time with ceremonies and vexations, and this time a
hundred years might find them still arguing there. And I am resolute for
peace now as all my life I have been resolute for war. No need to explain
my policy to you. We shall never get better terms than France offereth
now, and they must not be lost through the intolerable impertinences of
Spain, who hath contributed nothing but rigmaroles to the coalition from
the first."

"I think," said Portland, "I could get some satisfaction from M. de
Boufliers."

The French Maréchal had formed a friendship with Portland when he had
been his prisoner at Huy, after the fall of Namur, and it had recently
occurred to William to use this friendship to open negotiations between
England and France, regardless of the formal mummeries of the Congress,
which seemed to be likely to be as protracted as that held at Mymwegen in
'79.

It was William's object to discover if Louis was in earnest. The
listlessness of Spain, the ambition of the Emperor must bow if once
France, England, and Holland came to terms. What he proposed was daring
and unconstitutional. He had not informed a single English politician of
his plan, and Portland, whom he thought to employ, was not even an
Englishman, but William was never stopped by any fear of responsibility.
If he could accomplish an honourable peace (the very best he could obtain
he knew would be only a breathing space, for there was the tremendous
question of the Spanish Succession ahead), he cared nothing for the
temper of the English parliament or the complaints of the allies, and in
the United Provinces he was practically absolute. He had before suggested
to Portland that he should write and open negotiations with Boufflers,
and had mentioned Hal, midway between Brussels and Mons, as a likely
place for an interview. He now, on Portland's words, reverted to this and
discussed the details of the scheme that was to give peace to Europe in
his weary, low, and strained voice, broken by constant coughs.

The forest of Soignies began to break; the trees became thinner and were
scattered to right and left like echelons of soldiers, the whole heaven
was clear of cloud, and the sun, just rising above the plains of Brabant,
filled the air with a steady colour of pearl-blue.

A little wind touched the trees, then was silent; the constant noise of
birds accompanied the tramp of the heavy infantry and the distant,
unequal rumble of the gun carriages and baggage waggons.

The King loosened his cloak, cast it over his holster, and looked back at
the army following him through the wood.

"If we sign peace this year this will be my last campaign," he remarked.

Portland looked at him quickly.

"The Spanish question--there will be war there--and before long."

"But I have so few years to live," answered the King simply; "for with
this peace my work would be done. No, I think I shall never lead an army
across the Netherlands again."

They rode clear of the trees now, and saw before them the beautiful
valley soft and veiled in the mists of morning.

The King fixed his eyes on the spot where Brussels lay. If Villeroy had
outmarched him and was bombarding the capital as he had bombarded it last
year, the allies had been checkmated and there would be little hope for
the prospects of peace.

Scouts were sent out to ascertain the movements of the enemy; no sign of
their fires could be discerned. William thought that his activity had
saved Brussels and that there were no fears from Villeroy. He pushed on,
and, by ten in the morning, after having ridden fifteen hours, reached
the still unmolested ramparts of the capital from which the Spanish flag
was yet flying.

He instantly took up his position before the walls and proceeded to
strongly entrench himself on the very spot from which Villeroy had
dropped his shells into Brussels near a year ago when the allies were
before Namur.

It appeared that he had saved the magnificent city by a few hours; before
midday the French came up, but, finding the confederate army already so
strongly fortified, fell back across Brabant without firing a shot.

The King, as he rode about surveying the encampment, sent for Portland.

The Earl came, and the two men looked at each other steadily; the hasty
earthworks, the rising canvas, the sights and sounds of the camp were
about them, overhead the blazing blue faintly hazed with clouds of heat.

William held out his thin, bare right hand.

"Since I think you are resolute to leave me," he said, "I would have you
go to Hal to meet M. de Boufflers." He added with great sweetness, "I put
the fate of Europe in your hands, and could put it in none more worthy."



CHAPTER IX - PEACE


The Earl of Sunderland was again as great as he had been when he held
James Stewart infatuate in his power, and as well hated throughout the
country as then. The King had long consulted him in private, and now he
was recognized as principal adviser to the Crown, and carried the gold
key that was the symbol of the office of Lord Chamberlain.

He had no rival. Halifax was dead; Leeds a mere shadow; his intrigues had
brought about the resignation of Godolphin, who had been implicated in
the disclosures of Sir John Fenwick; Shrewsbury, stricken with remorse at
his own treachery and the King's generosity, was but a figure in the
background; and the other ministers, even such as Romney, who was
William's personal friend, had little influence; Portland's power was not
what it had been, and his rival, M. van Keppel, largely owed his fortunes
to Sunderland. The Lord Chamberlain was supreme in this year 1697, the
year of the peace framed by Portland and Boufflers in the orchard at Huy
and signed by the Congress at the King's palace of Ryswick.

This peace was an honourable close to an honourable conflict. Louis
recognised William as King of England, and granted most of the terms
desired by the allies, not one of whom complained that they had been
forgotten or slighted by the King in the framing of the articles. The
delay of Spain and the Emperor to sign, despite William's entreaties, had
resulted in the fall of Barcelona and Louis' consequent rise of terms,
the principal of which was the retention of Strassburg--a severe blow to
Austria. But, on the whole, the peace was favourable to the coalition,
and in England and Holland at least was received with unbounded
rejoicing. William's return from the Continent was the signal for a
display of loyalty as enthusiastic as that which had greeted the exiled
Charles in '66.

William, to whose diplomacy the peace was owing, as the war had been
owing to his indomitable energy, was at the very zenith of his reputation
at home and abroad. He avoided the pageants, processions, triumphal
arches, and general laudations, both from a natural modesty and a cynical
perception of their hollowness, which was but too well justified, for the
first act of the Parliament was to inflict cruel mortification on him by
disbanding, at the instance of the Tory agitator, Robert Harley, the army
which had done such magnificent service. Sunderland's utmost arts could
only retain ten thousand men, including the King's beloved Dutch Guards.

This action was, to William, the worst of policy, besides a personal
slight that he could not but feel that he had ill deserved. The peace was
to him but an armed truce before the inevitable struggle for the Spanish
possessions, and the part that he was to play in that struggle was
considerably weakened by the disbanding of the troops which made England,
save for her Navy, powerless again in Europe.

The English Parliament, profoundly ignorant of continental affairs, and
not in the least understanding the spacious policy of the King, thought
only of the power a standing army put in the hands of the Crown, and were
not to be moved from their resolve.

William, driven back, as he had so often been, on his own innate
statesmanship, endeavoured to accomplish by wit what he was now powerless
to accomplish by arms, and secretly framed with Louis the Partition
Treaty, by which the vast dominions of the imbecile and dying King of
Spain were to be divided between Louis' grandson Phillippe d'Anjou, and
William's candidate, the infant son of the Elector of Bavaria, who
derived his claim through his dead mother, Maria Antonia.

The King had disdained to consult the English ministers until he had
completed this treaty, and then only curtly demanded the necessary
signatures; from the nation it was a profound secret.

Sunderland disapproved of this daring policy of the King's. He thought
that many of the domestic troubles of the reign might have been avoided
if William had been less resolute to keep foreign affairs entirely in his
own hands, but the King's well-founded distrust of the levity, treachery,
and ignorance of the English, and their personal malice towards him as a
foreigner, could not be moved by the most specious of Sunderland's
arguments. William refused to put any faith in the crowds who shouted
after his coach, in the ringing and the toasts, in the bales of loyal
addresses that were laid daily at his feet. He knew perfectly well that
at bottom he was neither understood nor liked, and that all this
rejoicing was not for the King, but because a peace, pleasing to English
pride, had been signed; because bank stock had risen from sixty to
ninety, paper money to par, the guinea from eighteen shillings to
twenty-one; because the new milled coins were in every hand and an era of
prosperity was following the crisis of '96.

Sunderland watched all these things with some misgiving. Under all his
honours and greatness was a lurking uneasiness. He began to lose his
courage at being so hated; hints of impeachment had risen in the House
more than once; he could scarcely show his face abroad without a burst of
popular fury. In the opinion of the people he should not have been
intrusted with one of the highest offices under the Crown, but have been
starving in exile, or dead, long since in the Tower, as his colleague
under James--Lord Jefferies. The ministers, too, could ill disguise their
dislike of him. He had befriended the Whigs, and they owed him a cold
allegiance, but he had no real supporter save the King, whose will alone
kept him where he was; and he had more enemies than he could count,
including Portland, who hated him exceedingly.

When the King had created Joost van Keppel Earl of Albemarle, Portland
had offered to resign his post and retire, and only by the intercession
of M. de Vaudemont and the passionate entreaties of his one flatterer,
the King, had he been induced to stay another year, which was employed in
the gorgeous embassy to France from which he had just returned, to find
Sunderland all-powerful and Albemarle in full possession of the King's
confidence.

Sunderland saw that his temper was strained to the utmost, and that
affairs in the King's household must soon reach a crisis. Although he
used Albemarle as a balance against a man who hated him, Sunderland had
no ill-will towards Portland, and wished to spare the King the agony he
knew he would feel on the earl's retirement. He would have wished
Shrewsbury to stay too--the King liked the young duke--but here, as in
Portland's case, Sunderland felt matters had gone too far.

He was waiting now, in the King's gallery at Kensington, to intercept and
argue with Shrewsbury, whom he knew was about to have an interview with
William, and with the object, he suspected, of insisting on his often
refused resignation.

He came at last, after his time and slowly, with a languid carriage and
an unsteady step that expressed great wretchedness. Sunderland moved out
of the embrasure of the window; Shrewsbury paused; and the two noblemen,
alike only in birth and country, so totally different in character,
intellect, and aim, yet both in the same service, faced one another.

Shrewsbury looked ill, miserable, even slightly dishevelled, his dark
clothes were careless and plain, the beauty that had once made him famous
as "The King of Hearts" was scarcely to be traced in his strained
features, though he was not yet past his first youth. In contrast,
Sunderland, though worn and frail, looked less than his years, and was
habited very fashionably and gorgeously in black tissue of gold with
diamond buttons, his peruke was frizzled and powdered, and he wore a bow
of black velvet beneath his chin; his handsome, delicate features wore
that expression of watchful, smiling repose which was so seldom from his
face that it had come to be one with it, as the faint chiselling on an
alabaster bust.

Shrewsbury showed some agitated emotion as the Lord Chamberlain stepped
before him.

"I am due with His Majesty," he said.

"I know," answered the earl; "and I think I guess your business with the
King."

Shrewsbury paled and said nothing; a defiant look hardened his eyes.

"You," continued the Lord Chamberlain, "are going, my lord, to force your
resignation on His Majesty."

"Well--if I am?" Shrewsbury moistened his lips desperately. "It is, your
Grace, a most ill-advised thing to do."

"I have heard many people say that, my lord," answered the young duke,
"and I have allowed myself to be too long persuaded. I cannot and I will
not stay at Court."

Sunderland gazed at him steadily out of his long, clear eyes.

"You only give colour to the disclosures of Sir John Fenwick, which every
one disbelieved. And no one more strongly than His Majesty."

"I bear the taint--the imputation," muttered Shrewsbury. "I cannot and
will not endure it. My position is insupportable."

"Marlborough and Russell are in the same position, and find it easy
enough to bear," said Sunderland quietly.

The Duke answered with some pride--

"I am not such as they. They act from their standards--I from mine."

He thought, and might have added, that he was not such as the man to whom
he spoke. Sunderland was stained with treacheries, disloyalties, corrupt
practices, and shameless false-dealing, the very least of which were more
than the one lapse that was wearing Shrewsbury to misery with remorse.

The Earl took another tone.

"Think of the King. You call yourself friend to him; he is as harrassed
now as he ever was before the war. He hath not too many men to help
him--the Tories grow in strength every day. You have been of great
service to His Majesty--the greatest in '88. Will you forsake him
now--when he needeth you most?"

Shrewsbury put out a trembling hand.

"I have heard these arguments before. Lady Orkney hath been soliciting me
to change my resolution--for the same reason that you bring forth. But I
am a broken man; I am ill; I must get to the country; I cannot serve His
Majesty--"

So speaking, in rapid, disconnected sentences, he gave a wild glance at
the Earl's passive face, the fine lines of which had taken on an almost
imperceptible expression of contempt and disgust, and passed on to the
King's cabinet, which he entered abruptly.

The King was, as usual, at his desk, which was placed between the tall
windows which looked on to the beautiful park, now grey and desolate
under the afternoon sky of mid-November.

A great fire burnt on the hearth, and the glancing light from it threw
into relief the furnishing of the room, every article of which bore
evidence to the exile's wistful love of his own country. On the
mantelshelf were the tall yellow, white, and blue vases from Delft; the
brass fire-irons were Dutch, as were the painted tiles, the black,
heavily polished chairs and tables; the exquisite paintings of peaches,
carnations, grapes, and butterflies on the wall; and the elaborate china
calendar above the King's desk. William was always consistently loyal to
the products of his own land; his full cravat, shirt, and wrist-ruffles
were now, as generally, of the fine Frisian lawn embroidery, and the
buttons of his black silk coat were of the wonderful filigree gold-work
for which the States were famous.

He looked up sharply as Shrewsbury entered, and seemed a little
disappointed, as if he had been expecting some one else; but instantly
commanded himself, and greeted the Duke affectionately.

Shrewsbury looked at him wretchedly, crossed to the hearth irresolutely,
then burst out impetuously--

"Sire--I must resign--I can take your wage no longer--" The King's full
bright eyes swept over him in a quick glance of understanding.

"I have told you," he said, with a gentleness that had a note of pity in
it, "that I hold you innocent of those scandalous slanders that villain
Fenwick flung. I have assured you, my lord, of my affection, of my need
and wish for your service."

Shrewsbury bit his lower lip, and stared blindly into the scarlet heart
of the fire.

"My health will not permit me--" he began.

"Ah, tush!" interrupted the King, with a little smile. "Your health is
good enough."

Compared to his own, it was indeed. Shrewsbury could not, for very shame,
argue that plea.

"I think you have another reason, your Grace," added William, kindly and
a little sadly. "And I am an old enough friend for you to confide in
me--"

Still the Duke could not speak, but trembled and looked into the fire.

"You are a man of honour," said the King. "I have and do trust you. I
shall never forget the services you rendered me, when such services were
vital indeed; I believe I do not lack gratitude; I should never--I could
never--desert a friend."

He exerted himself to speak with courtesy and animation, and there was
real feeling behind his words; gratitude was indeed almost a fault with
him. Cold as he appeared to outsiders, nothing could turn him when he had
once given his affection; he had often, at the expense of his own
interests and popularity, defended and upheld his friends.

Shrewsbury clasped the edge of the chimneypiece and tried to speak, but
made only some incoherent sound.

"Let me hear no more of resignation, my lord," said William. The Duke
turned and looked at him desperately, then suddenly and utterly broke
down.

"I am guilty, sire!" he cried. "I betrayed you, and you know it!"

He fell into the chair beside him, and covered his white face with his
quivering hands.

"Your generosity is more than I can endure," he gasped. "I have been a
villain, and I have a bitter punishment!"

The King rose and looked at his minister. A heavy silence hung in the
brilliantly firelit little chamber. The Duke was sobbing wretchedly.

William went slightly pale.

"Fenwick spoke the truth," cried Shrewsbury; "I have tampered with St.
Germains--"

The King crossed over to the young man, and laid his thin, beautiful hand
on the bowed shoulders.

"You are my friend," he said simply. "I trust you and wish to keep you
with me. Nothing else, my dear lord, is of any matter."

Shrewsbury's answer came hoarsely.

"It is of great matter to me that I have lost my honour--" The King
answered gently.

"While you say that, my lord Duke, you can have lost nothing--"

Shrewsbury would not speak or look up. William returned to his seat at
the desk, and began turning over the papers before him. After a few
minutes he said, with his eyes still on his letters--

"I have heard nothing--I know nothing--I trust you to continue in my
service, my dear lord--"

The Duke sprang up and stood with his back to the fire.

"I cannot--I am not fit," he said desperately, yet with resolution.

William flashed a glance over his shoulder.

"Will you not serve England, then?" he cried, with a deep note in his
voice, and waited for the answer, gazing brilliantly at the haggard young
man.

"No--no," muttered Shrewsbury. "I am broken--I am not fit--"

There was a little silence. It was the King who spoke first.

"I can say no more," he said quietly. "You have decided. I trust that you
will justify your resolution to yourself."

The Duke came heavily to the desk, laid the seals that were the symbol of
his office on the desk, and was turning silently away, when the King held
out his hand impulsively.

"My lord," he said, with much warmth and kindness, "even if I should
never see you again--I should never forget '88."

Shrewsbury seized the frail hand, kissed it with tears, and went
violently from the room.

William gave a little sigh, pushed back his chair, and put his hand to
his head, coughing.

He was not long alone. Sunderland entered the little cabinet with his
cautious light step and an expression that had a little lost its usual
composure.

"The little Duke hath resigned," said the King laconically.

A rare ejaculation of impatience and contempt broke from the Lord
Chamberlain. "Every one falleth away!" he exclaimed. "There goeth the
last link with the Whigs!"

William gave a short laugh.

"I suppose that you will be the next, my lord?" he said shrewdly.

The Earl went rather pale.

"I will hold office as long as I can, Your Majesty," he answered. "But it
is a hard thing to maintain my position in the face of all England. But
whether I am in office or no, I shall, sir, always serve you."

The King lifted his dark eyes.

"I believe you will, my lord," he said simply; "we are old allies now.
Well--we have not either of us much more to do--the people have their
peace, and we have our positions, and may grow roses, and build villas,
and wait for death."



CHAPTER X - THE BROKEN FRIENDSHIP


The Earl of Portland, newly returned from his gorgeous embassy to France,
sat in his apartments at Kensington reading and re-reading a letter.

It was written in a large and flowing hand, unequal in parts, as if the
writer had been greatly agitated. The contents, which the Earl had now
almost by heart, were strange and sad.


"KENSINGTON, April 1699.

"Since I cannot dispute with you, I will say nothing to you on the
subject of your retirement; but I cannot refrain from telling you of my
extreme sorrow, which is far deeper than you can ever imagine, and
assures me that if you felt even the half you would very quickly change
your resolution--which may it please the good God to inspire you to do
for your own good and my repose. At least I hope that you will not refuse
to keep the key of office, for I am content that it should not oblige you
to anything, and, besides, I entreat you to let me see you as often as
you can, which would be a great consolation to me in the affliction which
you have caused me, which cannot prevent me from loving you ever
tenderly."


It was written in French and signed with the letter 'G,' which had always
been affixed to this long, intimate correspondence which had continued
now for thirty-three years--since they had been children--continued
through war and peace, trouble, disaster, illness, bereavement,
disappointment without cloud or shadow--and this was the end.

William Bentinck had resolved to resign the King's service.

This was the end--in miserable, trivial jealousy. The friendship that had
lasted so long, keen and pure, so devoted, had strained and broken.
Portland sat, with this sad appeal in his hand, and knew that it was
over.

He did not acknowledge that he was unreasonable; he had served William
faithfully and devotedly, both as friend and servant, and he had been
greatly rewarded; he was one of the wealthiest subjects in Europe; he had
an English earldom, and the Garter that foreign kings envied; he was
Gentleman of the Bedchamber, Privy Councillor, Groom of the Stole, and
Keeper of the King's Gardens; the King had supported him again and again
against the Commons, taken his advice, flattered him by an open display
of his friendship, entrusted him with the important embassy to France,
enriched his son, and, when the breach began to grow, spared nothing to
heal it. Few kings could have ever entreated a subject as William had
entreated Bentinck.

But he would not dismiss Albemarle; he listened to Sunderland; and
everything was nothing to Portland compared to the fact that he should
have to share the King's confidence with this young, untried,
light-hearted young man.

When he returned from Paris he had found Albemarle in possession of rooms
in the Palace that he considered belonged to him in virtue of one of his
offices, and the little incident had confirmed his resolution of quitting
the Court. He would be second to no one, least of all to a man whom he
considered as the tool of a faction that he loathed and despised.

He was well aware that Albemarle was popular, and that he was not; that
he had few supporters in his point of view, and that Albemarle had a
great following gained by his universal sweetness, good sense, and
humility.

He was well aware, too, that the King had never more needed his
friendship than now; for the present session of Parliament had inflicted
one cruel humiliation on him, and was about to inflict another.

The King's grants of lands in Ireland had been looked into and
revoked--even such as he had given to the noble Ginckel, who had done
such service, and Meinhard de Schomberg, son of the soldier who had died
for England on the banks of Boyne Water,

William, who had disappointed his enemies by preserving a serene
composure when he had been forced to consent to the disbanding of the
troops, had scarcely been able to conceal his mortification at this
malice on the part of the Tories, and was still further moved by the
agitation rising in the Commons to turn all foreign soldiers out of the
kingdom, including the famous Dutch Guards and the refugee French
Huguenots whom William had long had in his service.

But none of this shook William Bentinck's stern resolution to leave the
Court.

He folded the letter, put it into his pocket, glanced at the brass
bracket-clock in one corner of the room, and went, for the last time, to
accompany the King on his way to the Cabinet meeting at Whitehall, which
William had summoned with the desperate intention of urging his ministers
to try some expedient with the Parliament to enable him to keep the Dutch
Guards.

Portland descended heavily into the courtyard where the coaches waited.

It was a sunny afternoon, and half the soft-coloured brick of the Palace
was in a tender light. Some pigeons were gathered round the clock, which
was on the point of striking four.

Monsieur Zulestein was there, Sunderland, Devonshire, and Monsieur
Auverquerque. Portland kept apart from all of them, and drew the point of
his cane up and down the cobbles; his eyes were fixed on the door which
led to the staircase to the King's apartments.

As the clock struck the hour William appeared in this doorway, and paused
at the head of the steps and looked round the courtyard with narrowed
eyes.

He wore black and a star, his hollow cheeks were flushed--unusual for
him--and he was breathing with obvious difficulty.

He saw Portland, and his whole face changed; he smiled, and his eyes
widened with an indescribable look.

Portland met that glance, and a quick pang gripped his heart; he
remembered days of long ago, in camp and cabinet, a frail young man
facing the French outside Utrecht, speaking to the Senate at The Hague,
firing the people, encouraging a fainting country, leading the mad charge
at St. Nelf, fainting over his work during tedious days and nights...

Portland made a step forward; then he saw, behind the King, the ardent,
youthful face of my Lord Albemarle, and he fell back.

William slowly descended the steps. The lackeys opened the coach door,
and the gentleman came round.

The King looked to Portland, who still stood apart.

"Will you accompany me, my lord?" he said gently.

The seat in his coach was an honour to which his brother-in-law, Prince
George, had aspired in vain. Of late Portland had frequently refused it,
and in terms so curt as to excite the horror of those who heard. Now the
King was making a last appeal--his brilliant eyes, his moved voice were
reminding William Bentinck of his letter and of the long friendship which
the 'G' that signed it was a symbol of.

There fell the slightest pause; then Portland answered with a harshness
that would have been discourteous to an equal--

"I pray you excuse me. I keep my own company to-day."

At this, which was little less than a public insult, the King flushed a
dark red, and those about him knew not where to look.

"My Lord Sunderland," commanded William, "you will accompany us."

He entered the coach, the Lord Chamberlain followed, and Portland, very
white but unshaken, mounted his own vehicle.

The Royal coach started. Sunderland said not a word and made not a
movement, but sat erect, opposite the King, as they drove out under the
early budding trees.

William broke out into a sudden, deep passion.

"Is this the Prince of Orange "--he cried, striking his breast--"who was
something in Europe? Is this he, the sport of such as Harley, and
insulted by those who loved him once?"

"My lord must be out of his wits," replied Sunderland. "I could have
struck him."

"This is too much--this is indeed the end," said the King. "He leaves the
Court. By God, I was Nassau once, if I am only King of England now!"

"He must still love Your Majesty--" urged the Lord

Chamberlain.

"Love!" echoed William. "Doth love inspire such cruelty?" His speech was
broken by a violent fit of coughing, which caused the tears to run down
his face. Sunderland looked at him in weary despair, and wondered if he
could survive his present griefs.

"The Guards," gasped the King, leaning back in his corner--"I must keep
those Guards--and the French for whom I promised to provide--Ginckle and
Schomberg too--" His hoarse voice became incoherent, he pressed his
handkerchief to his lips and stared out at the groves of Kensington Park
with hunted eyes.

"We will do all we may, sire," replied Sunderland; but he felt not half
the conviction he endeavoured to put into his voice. The party in power
now hated the King and hated the Dutch; they were not likely to be
merciful in their triumph.

Sunderland could not understand this blind fury against the foreigner. It
might have been thought that two nations, both manly and given to a plain
religion, both engaged in trade and eager for liberty, could have had
much in common, especially when only divided by a strip of narrow sea,
and considering that there was no rancour of ancient dispute between
them. But at the bottom of each was a fatal difference--a levity, an
extravagance, and a narrow arrogance in the English; a prudence, a
seriousness, a reserve in the Dutch--that prevented any real friendliness
despite the specious complexion of a common cause, and had been gradually
fanned by jealousy and party spirit into an obstinate temper, against
which the arts of Sunderland were of no avail.

"They must not go," repeated the King in great agitation; "if they do, I
go with them--I have told Somers so. I am a foreigner also." He paused;
then added, with intense feeling, "I have been too great to become the
pensioner of a handful of commoners, the butt of your Harleys and Jack
Howes...I will not take this humiliation."

"Your Majesty must think of the United Provinces," said Sunderland. "If
you were to resign the crown, what of the English alliance?"

This simple question had more weight with William than all the
protestations of Lord Somers. He went very pale, and half closed his
eyes. In the inevitable, in the nearing contention over the Spanish
succession, the dear bought alliance of England would be more necessary
than ever to the Republic; but the King's imperious pride, so long
controlled, outweighed almost his deep love of his country.

"Let Anne and Marlborough rule you," he said, in a low, passionate voice.
"A fool and a villain would maybe please you better. If my soldiers go I
cannot in honour stay."

"You must, sire," answered Sunderland. He looked out of the coach window
at the white, dusty sweep of Kensington High Street, the cottages with
the early flowers before them and the orchard trees covered with their
first green. "Your Majesty must remain," repeated Sunderland heavily.
"England needeth you."

William gave a cynical laugh.

"England hath had some work out of me--I have laboured for my pay. I am
not a young man now, and old for my years. I should wish to die in
Holland."

The Earl looked quickly at his master.

"Sire, you must not speak of death."

"I am a dying man," said the King quietly. "A few months--no more, I
think."

Sunderland could not gainsay him. In his own heart he felt a curious
chill of apathy, as if it was nearing the end; the very sunshine without,
falling so placidly on thatch and flowering tree, looked strangely
remote. It seemed a long time to Robert Spencer since he had been at
leisure to notice the mysterious light of spring. He laughed also, but
with a softer note than the King had used.

"Rest is good after labour," he said irrelevantly.

William was also looking out of the window at fields and clouds.

"God alone knoweth if I am damned or saved," he remarked strongly; "but I
have done His will as it was revealed to me."

Sunderland glanced at the Calvinist, who in those words had declared his
religion. His own creeds were very different; but both men, now at the
end, found themselves on much the same level.

Neither spoke again till they reached the courtyard of Whitehall, when
the King remarked, with an air of disgust, on the fog of smoke that
overhung the city.

As he dismounted from the coach he paused and glanced round the
gentlemen; for the first time in his life he ignored my Lord Portland,
but, with a delicacy that Sunderland was quick to notice, he equally
ignored Albemarle, and passed into the palace leaning on the arm of
Monsieur de Zulestein.



CHAPTER XI - THE KING'S HUMILIATION


Everything had been in vain. Harley pressed his narrow triumph, and the
King, after a bitter struggle, consented to let the Dutch soldiers go and
to retain the kingship, though he had drawn up a passionate farewell
speech to the ungrateful parliament, and shown it to Somers, Sunderland,
and Marlborough, now the governor of the little Duke of Gloucester, the
heir to the throne.

It was my Lord Chamberlain, fast feeling himself falling before the
wolves of faction, who urged the King to sacrifice even this to those
great designs to which he had given his life--it was Sunderland who put
the needs of Republic before him as he had after the Queen's death; and
William had again responded, even out of the depths of agony.

But as the day approached for the departure of those Guards who had been
with him since he had first marched out of The Hague against the French,
whom he had led again and again in battle, who kept watch every night
while he slept, who were devoted to him--not as the King of England, but
as William of Orange--as the time drew near for him to say farewell to
his friend de Ginckle and Monsieur de Schomberg, as he received daily the
petitions of the poor French who had fought for him loyally, and to whom
he had promised his protection, his spirit gave way. He made the last
sacrifice of his pride, and he who had dealt haughtily with kings wrote a
request in his own hand humbly asking the Parliament, as a personal
favour to himself, to allow him to retain the Dutch Guards.

He sent the message down to the House by Lord Ranelagh, his Master of the
Horse; and now, in his little cabinet at Kensington that had seen so many
vigils of toil and sorrow, awaited the answer of the Commons.

Before him lay the draft of the message he had sent--

"His Majesty is pleased to let the House know that the necessary
preparations are made for transporting the Guards who came with him into
England, unless, out of consideration to him, the House is disposed to
find some way of continuing them longer in his service, which His Majesty
would take very kindly."

To this humility had William of Orange stooped; beneath this paper was
another, half hidden by it--the farewell speech he had drawn up. His own
words flashed up at him in his own impetuous handwriting: "Feeling that
you have so little regard to my advice, that you take no manner of care
of your own security, and that you expose yourselves to evident ruin by
divesting yourselves of the only means of defence, it would not be just
or reasonable that I should be witness of your ruin."

If he could but go down to the House and cast that at them--leave
England, and die peacefully in Holland!

But Sunderland was right; he must endure even this for the sake of the
Republic--and surely, even such as Harley could not refuse his personal
appeal.

In his agitation and impatience he began pacing up and down the narrow
room. He was in wretched health; night after night he could not sleep for
grief and mortification; his headaches, his fainting-fits were frequent
and terrible; even this gentle walking to and fro soon exhausted him; he
sank into the window-seat coughing and holding his side, where his heart
was beating with a dragging pain.

Soon inaction became intolerable; he rose, nearly struck the bell to
summon M. Zulestein or M. Auverquerque, hesitated, did not, left the
cabinet and his own apartments, and came out into the sunny quiet
galleries of the palace.

Deep in thought, he walked slowly, with bent head and his hands clasped
behind him under the full skirts of his brocade coat, when a sudden sound
of voices caused him to look up.

He was in the empty antechamber leading to the King's gallery, the door
of which was half open; it was from behind it that the voices came; one
of them, very clear, serene, and beautiful in tone, was speaking as the
King paused; the words came very levelly and distinctly--

"He actually asked it as a favour, you say? And of course they will
refuse. I should have thought that the little upstart would have known by
now that we ain't to be lorded by foreigners."

The King stepped back with an instinctive shock, as if he had put his
foot on a sword. He knew the voice to be that of the man whom he most
despised and loathed--John Churchill, my Lord of Marlborough. Though he
was very well aware how he was traduced, lampooned, slandered, and abused
behind his back, he had never heard himself referred to in these cool
terms of contempt; though he knew these things were said, he had never
actually figured what it would be to overhear them.

The blood rushed to his heart and lay there like a weight. He was of a
family that had given an Emperor to the West five hundred years ago, and
John Churchill was scarce of gentle blood and had climbed on infamy. The
King's right hand crossed over to his sword hilt. The beautiful, insolent
voice began again. William instantly pushed open the door and entered the
long gallery.

At once silence fell. There were two men, Marlborough and Torrington,
near the first window, and a small, weary, anxious-eyed and
forlorn-looking child seated near them on a purple stool, making paper
boats.

Torrington went scarlet at sight of the King, but Marlborough swept a
graceful bow, without the least change in his composure. William looked
at him steadily. He could have sent him to the block--not once, but many
times, yet he had spared him even the humiliation of a pardon in
affecting to ignore his treasons. It was curious to him to look at this
man--young, splendid in towering strength and opulent beauty, rich,
prosperous, advancing from power to power, infamous, heartless,
conscienceless, the man who would be ruling England very shortly now, and
in whose hands would rest the completion or the ruin of the task to which
he, the King, had given his life.

Torrington, fearful lest William had overheard, made some stumbling
remark about their presence. The King seated himself on the window-seat
and coughed.

"Ah yes, I forgot that I was to have a visit from His Highness," he said.
He looked languidly at the little Duke of Gloucester, Anne's sole child
and heir of England. "Come here, sir," he added kindly, "and tell us of
your studies."

The child came obediently and stood by the King's knee, gazing at him
with very large eyes that shone as if they had a light behind them and
were themselves of crystal. He was about ten, remarkably thin and as pale
as wax to his very lips, which were compressed with a painful expression
of control; the blue veins showed across his high temples, which were
shaded by fine, light auburn hair. He wore a very stiff and heavy suit of
crimson and gold, a miniature sword, and the garter under his knee. My
lord his governor eyed him with the same kind of interest as a trader
feels towards some object which, indifferent as it is to himself, he yet
hopes to get a good price for.

William took him gently by the shoulders and drew him closer.

"What are they teaching you, eh?" he asked.

The child answered in a precise, toneless voice--

"I am progressing very well, I thank Your Majesty. The dead languages and
mathematics, history, and the philosophy and errors of the ancients, the
creation of the world and the feudal system; the Gothic Constitution and
the beneficiary law are among my next subjects."

"Doth Your Highness remember all these grave matters?" asked the King,
with a faint smile.

"I remember very well, sir, when I have not a headache."

"What gives you headache, Highness?"

The little Duke answered gravely--

"If it were not blasphemy, Your Majesty, I should say that it was
acquiring religious knowledge and listening to sermons; but Dr. Burnett
says that is a temptation of the devil to induce me to give up my
studies."

"Dr. Burnet is making a scholar of you," answered William; "but you are
to be a king and a soldier--do not forget that."

A pale colour came into the grave little face.

"Oh, I _want_ to be a soldier. I like the riding-school; but things you
like are of the devil, Dr. Burnet saith." He looked anxiously at the
King, as if hoping for a contradiction.

"I think that is beyond Dr. Burnet to decide," replied William. "And Your
Highness must not let any one speak ill of soldiers--there is nothing
better for a man to be. As God hath called you to be a king you will best
serve Him by being what you feel a king should be--before all, a brave
soldier."

The child gave a short sigh.

"I fear it is a very difficult thing to be a king," he said anxiously.

"Perhaps the most difficult thing in the world," answered William. "But
Your Highness will reign in happier times."

"Sometimes," continued the little Duke, frowning painfully, "when my head
aches and I cannot remember, and Dr. Burnet is angry with me, and I feel
so tired, I wish I did not have to be a king--I wish--" He paused.

"What?" asked William; he put his fine hand delicately over the soft
hair.

"That I was in heaven," said the child simply.

"Already!" cried the King. He went very white; he had seen a sudden look
of Mary in Mary's sister's child.

The Duke nodded.

"But it is wicked to want to go before God calls you," he said, quoting,
obviously, his worthy tutor; "and being tired is a temptation of the
devil."

"A strong one," answered the King shortly, and then was silent; it seemed
terrible to him that this child should begin where he left off, in utter
fatigue and despondency. He put his arm round the fragile little body.

"Highness," he said, "I will give you a troop of Horse, and you shall
drill them yourself, and you shall have some hours off your studies for
it, and I will come and give you lessons in soldiering."

The little Duke's face flushed and changed in a marvellous fashion; he
caught the King's free hand and kissed it passionately.

"But Dr. Burnet--" he faltered instantly.

"God doth not only speak through Dr. Burnet," replied William. "Men and
horses are more than paper and ink for all that I could ever see; ay, and
dogs and swords more than Greek and Latin. The devil is as likely to be
between the pages of a book as out in the open, with the animals whom you
might love more than men, so faithful they are. My lord!" he called to
Marlborough, who had withdrawn with Torrington, and the magnificent Earl
came instantly, with his winning air of deference. "This child is too
much closeted," said the King. "Look to it, my lord, that he is more on
horseback."

"Dr. Burnet findeth him an apt pupil, sir," responded Marlborough, with
the serenity and courtesy of indifference. "And Her Highness is very
satisfied."

"But we are not," said William quietly. "It is our intention to give His
Highness a troop of Horse." Then he was silent, for he recalled in a
flash that his own beloved companions in arms might be taken from him
with no more regard than Marlborough would show in taking wooden toys
from this child. Perhaps some such thought was in my lord's mind; he
smiled and let his fine eyes rest mildly on the King.

The little Duke clung to the voluminous ruffles on the King's breast; his
face was scarlet with excitement, and had for the moment lost its
premature look of wisdom and anxiety.

"When you next go to Flanders may I come too?" he whispered.

"Why, this is peace, Highness," smiled William.

"But there will be war again, will there not, sir?"

"God forbid," answered the King solemnly, "for we have utterly disarmed
ourselves."

Seeing him so suddenly grave the Duke was silent, and the old look of
wonder and question came back into his eyes. William turned to him again.

"But you will be a great soldier yet; remember me in your first battle,
Highness."

The child fondled the King's star, and William, with exquisite
tenderness, lifted his long smooth curls of auburn hair, and passed them
round his fingers.

"Stewart locks," he murmured, and his voice trembled with the thought of
what had been, what might have been, and what could now never be; and
another ringlet of this hued hair that lay hidden in his bosom seemed to
turn into a dagger that pierced into his heart.

With a great effort he put the child from him and rose.

"Bring His Highness to see us soon, my lord," he said to Marlborough;
"and see he learns no lackey's tricks such as the vulgar one of speaking
scornfully of your masters in your masters' houses, which faults, like
the vile treasons of mean men, are beneath us to punish; but we would not
have the child ape these manners."

Marlborough's serene face slightly flushed; he could not, for all his
self-command, answer; he bowed very low under the King's straight gaze.

"You will not forget the soldiers, sir?" cried the little Duke anxiously.

"On my honour, no," answered William. "Tell Her Highness I shall soon
wait on her."

He bent and kissed the smooth auburn head and then the upturned,
grateful, earnest little face.

My lord left with his charge, and Torrington was soon after dismissed;
the King remained in the window-seat. After awhile came my Lords
Devonshire, Somers, and Dorset, straight from Westminster, looking very
gloomy about this business of the breaking of the troops, and after them
Lord Ranelagh, back with his answer from the Commons.

The King came forward a step to meet him, and Ranelagh, felt the blood
leave his own face as he saw the look that sprang into William's haggard
eyes.

He stood silent, and the other lords glanced at each other furtively.

The King put his hand to his heart.

"Why"--he looked round the distressed faces--"why--they have
not--refused?"

Ranelagh dropped to one knee.

"Alas, sire," he began, "'twas from the first hopeless...Harley hath such
a hold--"

William interrupted.

"The Commons have refused our request?"

Ranelagh dared not make words about it.

"Yes, sire," he answered, in a broken voice.

"Ah!" exclaimed William. He turned away from all of them, and walked up
and down the long shining floor; after a moment or so he paused beside
Dorset, and said, in a very curious tone--

"I must get beyond sea to to breathe a little."

None of them ventured to speak, and he moved to the
window again; there on the seat was the little crumpled paper boat
William of Gloucester had been making out of a scrap of his lesson paper.

The King saw it, and a sudden passion kindled in him; he
cast his eyes wildly about him, and exclaimed, with the vehemence of
agony--

"Had _I_ a son, by God, these Guards should not leave me!"



CHAPTER XII - APATHY


Matthew Prior, secretary to the English Embassy at The Hague, walked in
the wonderful gardens at Loo, where the King Stadtholder lived in
retreat.

It was early summer of the first year of the new century; there was peace
in Europe, prosperity in England and the United Provinces; the work of
William of Orange seemed finished indeed; he had dismissed the Parliament
that had so insulted and humiliated him without a word, and as soon as it
was up had gone into retirement at Loo; he had lost, it seemed, all
interest in England, and even in the affairs of Europe. When the death of
the infant Electoral Prince had reduced the first Partition Treaty to
wastepaper, William had framed another with the Archduke Charles as
claimant; the discovery of this had provoked great wrath in England.

Portland, Somers, and Montague had been threatened with impeachment; M.
Canales, the Spanish Ambassador, had delivered an impertinent memorial to
William, who was now regarded as a powerless cipher in a Parliament-ruled
country, and the King had ordered him to be dismissed, and recalled his
ambassador from Madrid. As long as Louis kept to the second Partition
Treaty--and William could not doubt but that he would keep so grave an
undertaking--he cared nothing for what they did in England; he left the
government in the hands of a feeble Tory ministry, of which the late
Queen's uncle, Lord Rochester, was the head, and, heedless of the
complaints and murmurs, remained in retirement at Guelders.

Matthew Prior thought this a sorry end for his hero. This flinging of
everything to chance, this cynical indifference, this apathetic calm,
seemed a poor conclusion for all that high hope, that serene courage,
that long, splendid, patient endeavour, that continuous, glorious action.

He thought sorrowfully that it was now too late. The King was no longer a
power in Europe; he had been crossed and humbled before all the world,
his army had been taken from him, his private grants revoked, his public
policy abused, his friends, his ministers, attacked, that Spanish
government that in the days of his greatness had humbly offered him the
Spanish Netherlands, now dared to insult him; and he was a dying man.

Matthew Prior sighed gloomily as he walked through the formal grounds
with their exact parterres, flower-beds, groves, and alleys, their twin
fountains and regular groups of trees.

The King had been at dinner when he arrived, and he was waiting his
audience with some sinking of the heart; he had not seen William since
the peace was proclaimed, three years ago.

It was about three of the clock when he was sent for, and conducted into
the large dining-room where the King was still at table.

The Palace, which was one of the most admired in Europe, had been built
by William with lavish magnificence on the site of his favourite
hunting-box. Mr. Prior, who had seen Versailles, was impressed by the
commodious nobility of the apartments through which he passed.

The dining-room was large, lofty, and cool, though filled with the
reflected sunlight that shone in the thick trees that shaded the terrace
on to which the four tall windows opened. The walls were hung with
pictures of the Princes of the House of Orange, wearing armour and
holding the baton of authority; above the deep fireplace was a portrait
of Queen Mary in red and ermine, clasped with emeralds and pearls.

The whole room was full of the sense of afternoon sun, but was in shade
by reason of the trees without; yet here and there the gold light
penetrated and lay in glowing patches on walls, floor, and the white lace
cloth that covered the long table that occupied the centre of the
chamber.

A number of gentlemen sat round this table on velvet-covered stools; the
dishes had been removed; the wineglasses and bottles showed pleasantly on
the white linen.

At the head of the table sat the King, in a low arm-chair; beside him was
a huge white boar-hound, who rested his long head on his master's knee.
William's right arm was round this animal, whom he caressed with
affectionate movements of his fingers.

Mr. Prior glanced round the company; he knew them all by sight: there was
M. Albemarle, seated nearest to the King, N. Ginckel, my Lord Romney, my
Lord Wharton, my Lord Pembroke, M. Zulestein, and M. Auverquerque; they
were all laughing at something that featherbrain Lord Romney was
relating, and most of them were in hunting attire and leant carelessly on
the table.

Matthew Prior looked at the King with searching interest.

William was leaning back in a languid attitude, with his black plumed hat
pulled over his eyes; he wore a full coat of velvet brocade in a dark
purple, with the huge embroidered elbow-cuffs, now fashionable, and
under-sleeves of gold tissue; a great quantity of heavy lace fell over
his scarlet waistcoat and at his wrists; the long, thick, dark curls of
his peruke half concealed the flash of his star.

This extravagant vesture increased the extreme delicacy of his
appearance; he seemed sunk and fainting under the weight of velvet, silk,
and lace. His face was pale and hollow, his eyes heavy-lidded and deeply
shadowed beneath; constant pain had drawn his mobile mouth into an
expression of endurance; his cleft chin, usually carried slightly raised,
was sunk on his bosom.

Mr. Prior, as he came up to make his bow, noticed that His Majesty's
hands were so thin that the diamond ring that he wore on the third finger
of the hand that caressed the dog had slipped round till the rose was
towards the palm.

He looked at the young secretary without interest.

"From The Hague?" he asked, and his voice was broken to a whisper with
his unceasing asthma.

Mr. Prior went on one knee and handed the letter with which he had been
charged. William motioned him to put it on the table by the wineglasses.

"Nothing of importance, eh?" he said.

"I think not, sire; it was merely to ask instructions as to how matters
were to be arranged with Monsieur Heinsius with regard to the Spanish
questions--"

"Let that wait," returned the King indifferently. He leant forward and
took up his wineglass. "How do you like our house of Loo, Mr. Prior?"

"I think it worthy of Your Majesty."

"The gardens are at their finest," remarked William languidly.

Mr. Prior rose and awaited commands; but the King seemed to quickly
forget his presence, and the other gentlemen took no notice of him at
all; most of them were far gone in wine, and William was drinking
heavily--a new thing, for he had ever been the most moderate of men and
intolerant of excess in others.

The King turned his indifferent gaze on Romney and Wharton, who were
arguing together.

"Discussing a Republic for England, my lords?" he asked. "Something of
the kind, sir," said Wharton.

"Well, I will disappoint you yet," answered William. "I will bring King
James's son over on you and give you another Stewart king--"

"Why, that is as Your Majesty pleaseth," replied Wharton impudently.

"Or there is Toni of Pembroke," continued William; "there is a good block
of wood out of which to chip a king!"

Pembroke raised a heated face at this mention of his name.

"Sir," he cried, leaning down the table towards the King, "my Lord
Albemarle telleth me that I was insolent last night."

"So you were--damned insolent," said the King, in his quiet, tired,
unmoved voice.

"I could not have been in my senses," said Pembroke, in a slightly
maudlin tone.

"Oh, silly," cried the King, "you were drunk as any trooper; but I never
mind what a man saith after his tenth bottle."

Romney laughed.

"You'll get more wisdom out of Tom then than when he is sober, sir!"

"And even more folly out of you, Harry," said His Majesty dryly.

He filled his tall glass, and was raising it when he glanced at
Albemarle, who was looking at him steadily.

William laughed.

"Are you thinking of the doctors?" he asked.

"Your Majesty will ever disregard their advice," replied the young man,
in a moved voice.

The King laughed again, not at all pleasantly or graciously.

"Do you think I would forego even the gratification this affordeth "--he
touched the bottle contemptuously--"for years of life?"

He drank the wine, using all the while his left hand, for his right arm
was round the boar-hound.

"Dr. Ratcliffe aspired to wit this morning," he said. "' I would not have
you cough for your three kingdoms,' he remarked. "' Doctor,' I told him,
"tis the three kingdoms killing me, not the cough.'" He looked round and
saw Mr. Prior still standing between the table and the green-gold light
of the window.

"Why, Mr. Prior, I play the indifferent host," he murmured. "Join
us--take your place--"

Romney and Wharton good-humouredly made way for the young poet, who drew
another stool modestly to the table. He was surprised at the easy air of
familiarity that reigned; the way these men spoke to the King, and the
way in which he accepted it. The three older Dutchmen, Mr. Prior noticed,
Mr. Zulestein, M. Auverquerque, and my Lord Athlone, were the gravest of
the company; he fancied they were there only out of loyalty to the King.

Albemarle began talking to Wharton; they entered into a lively discussion
of their separate racing-stables. The King leant back against the crimson
cushions of his chair and turned his head so that he looked out of the
window.

Mr. Prior gazed at him; he seemed absorbed in thought. Mr. Prior knew
that it was the face of a dying man and a heartbroken man; there was not
a line of hope, of peace, or pride in that wan countenance; only the
serenity of grief, the apathy of utter weariness--a man worn out, done
for, awaiting scornfully an inglorious end. And he had done great things;
he had been a light to encourage half the world--a name to rally nations.

"He should have died 'outside Namur," thought Mr. Prior, and felt the
tears smarting against his lids.

He was not deceived by the boon companions, the drinking, the careless
talk. He knew that the King cared for none of it, save as a means to
hasten death; indeed, the little poet wondered, what had he to live
for?--the Queen had gone, then Portland, then the army--his task was
finished.

It might have been an hour or more that the King lay back in his chair
looking out on the slow-waving, full-leaved boughs, through which the
changing sunlight moved; while the noisy talk of the others filled the
shadowy spaces of the mellow, lofty room.

Albemarle looked at him often and anxiously, but did not speak.

At last William moved, rousing the sleeping dog.

"I will go into the garden," he said, "before the sun leaves it. I would
see those Turkey pears."

Joost van Keppel rose instantly. The King took his arm and got up slowly,
coughing with the effort of movement. Mr. Prior was shocked to see that
he could not stand alone, but must support himself on Albemarle's young
strength.

The others rose, save my Lord Pembroke, who had been asleep this
half-hour across the table. The King saw him--an unpleasing spectacle of
a stout gentleman with peruke awry and a coarsely red face, breathing
heavily through his open mouth, with a wet stain of wine under his cheek
and over his cravat.

Mr. Prior expected a burst of anger from the King; but, instead, His
Majesty, still holding on to my Lord Albemarle's arm, broke into a long
fit of laughter, in which the others joined for no reason at all save
their vacant humours.

The poet could not force even a smile. William's unusual and immoderate
amusement had a sad sound to him.

Romney and Wharton went to drag Pembroke to his feet, and the King
continued laughing.

He was still laughing when an usher and a courier entered the room.

"From England, sire," said the latter, dropping to one knee.

Albemarle sobered instantly. The King ceased laughing and let go my
lord's arm, holding himself upright by aid of the table edge.

"Well, what of England?" he muttered. "We have no great interest in
England."

"Grave news, Your Majesty," answered the exhausted courier, who had
ridden fast from the Hague.

The King took the dispatch and broke it open; it was from Lord Rochester,
and contained a few lines written in haste: "His Highness the Duke of
Gloucester died suddenly last night of a chill. He desired to be
remembered to Your Majesty."

William's hands trembled; the news was serious in so far as it meant that
the English succession was now absolutely unsettled. But he was not
thinking of that, but of the white, anxious child's face framed in those
auburn curls, and the gallant spirit looking out of troubled eyes that
had faced the miseries of royalty so bravely.

"My Lord of Gloucester is dead," he said briefly, flinging down the
dispatch. "They might have spared their Greek and Latin--poor sweet
wretch!" His voice shook a little. "I am glad he had his troop of Horse."
Then, during the little pause of consternation that held them all mute,
he spoke again: "And I am glad he did not live to be a King."



CHAPTER XIII - FRANCE CHALLENGES


The sentry on duty at the foot of the great staircase in Hampton Court
Palace was nearly asleep.

The palace had been silent for hours; ever since he had relieved the
soldier before him he had not heard a sound. It was now nearly three
o'clock and beginning to be dark on the huge, gloomy stairway, for it was
mid-November and a mist had risen all day from the river.

The sentry yawned and then shivered. Wren's palace was neither very
cheerful nor very well warmed. The sentry preferred Whitehall, with the
noises of the city without and the coming and going of people to the
public galleries.

His Majesty was in residence at Hampton Court, but that made little
difference. He lived so quietly and saw so few people, that he might, the
sentry thought, as well have stayed at Loo. He only came, as was well
known, to open Parliament, and the moment it was up he would be off again
to Holland--a poor compliment to England; and now there was not the
excuse of the campaigns.

The sentry yawned again and stretched himself, after carefully resting
his musketoon against the dark wall; then he looked up the stairs, which
were painted with great, scrambling, heathen figures that swarmed up to
the roof, where they were lost in the fast gathering shadows. He then
walked up and down to keep himself warm, and began to wonder how much
longer now before he was changed; it was difficult to keep count of the
time because he had lost the last chiming of King Henry's great, painted
clock.

Presently the door at the head of the stairs opened, very slowly, but
with a distinct sound in the perfect silence.

The sentry caught up his musketoon, thinking that this was one of the
officers from the guard-room, and peered cautiously up the stairway.

It was, however, a gentleman in private clothes who was slowly closing
the door after him with, it seemed, some difficulty.

The sentry, who knew no one had gone up, wondered who it could be. The
stairs were so dark that he could distinguish no more than a slight
figure, hatless, and wearing a cloak.

There was a moment's pause and silence, then the newcomer began to
descend the wide, shadowed stairs, and the sentry knew who it was--there
was only one person who moved about the palace with that slow and painful
step, and that was the King.

The man drew back, rigid, to his post. He wondered that the King should
be coming down the state staircase unattended and on such an inclement
day. As he stood, stiff at the salute, he watched the frail figure
crawling with dragging pauses through the dusk.

The King had one hand on the heavy balustrade, and, by grasping this,
helped himself along. His head was bowed, and he continually paused to
cough or gasp for breath, his hesitating and unequal steps began to rasp
in the sentry's brain--he wished some one else would come. It seemed an
intolerable length of time as the King made his difficult progress from
step to step, and the cloaked figure with the bent, hidden face and the
one white hand, so thin that every bone in it showed, moving slowly down
the baluster, affected the solitary watcher with a sense almost of
terror.

As the King approached this terror increased, as if some ghostly or
unearthly presence neared. The hall and stairway rapidly darkened, and
the King was but a shadow among shadows when he at length reached the
last step and stood grasping the post with his left hand and holding his
heart with his right.

He stood there so long and so silently that the sentry's sense
of discomfort increased, and he felt a strong desire to turn and fly.

Presently the King moved, with difficult, faltering steps, across the
hall, and unlatched the door that gave on the courtyard. As he did so, a
full ray of ghastly light fell across the obscurity, and the reason of
the sudden darkness was explained, for a thin cloud of snow could be seen
against the grey masonry of the palace.

The sentry, who knew that it was dangerous for the King to go out save
when the weather was very fair, was startled to see him standing there
with the chill wind stirring his cloak and the bitter light of the snow
on his face. He stepped forward instinctively, but the King did not hear
him.

After a few seconds William passed out, and, acting on an irresistible
impulse, the sentry followed him.

The King turned to the left under the covered arcade, and, half resting
himself on the inner wall, made weary progress, the snow drifting in
through the open arches as far as his feet. He was continually so shaken
with his cough that he had to pause, and once the sentry caught a short
ejaculation of pain.

They had made almost the circuit of the courtyard and had come to another
entrance to the palace, when a second sentry crossed their path. William
murmured something, passed him without looking back; the soldier stared
after him, then caught sight of the other following.

"What is this?" he asked, in a quick whisper.

The sentry explained as best he could. Ought the King to go out alone--to
go out this weather at all?--why, he could hardly crawl, and his cough
hurt one to hear.

The second sentry only knew that they were to stay at their posts; he
advised his companion to go back to his lest the captain discovered. As
for the King, it was known that he was not good for long anyhow, and it
was no business of theirs.

The other soldier was not so sure; he thought my Lord Albemarle ought to
know, at least. The King might easily be murdered by the French or the
Jacks, and then they would be blamed.

But by now William had disappeared. The soldiers continued arguing in
subdued voices, when they were interrupted by the approach of a slim
gentleman in furs and velvet, who came with an easy, graceful step along
the arcade. Both the men knew him; he was the great Earl of Sunderland.

His quick eye noticed two soldiers in place of one, and that they were
talking. His suspicions, that never lay very deep, were instantly roused,
he clapt his hand to his sword and paused.

The man who had followed the King found courage to speak.

"My lord, I humbly ask the pardon of your lordship, but His Majesty hath
gone out unattended in this foul weather, and I was bold enough to follow
His Majesty, thinking of all the late plots."

"Who are you?" demanded Sunderland.

"May it please your lordship, the sentry at the foot of the state
staircase."

My lord narrowed his eyes on the man.

"You were on guard once outside Whitehall on the day the bishops were
acquitted. I spoke to you--' God and the King'--you recall, fellow?"

The soldier was silent with astonishment at the memory of my lord; for
himself, he recollected very well, but it was marvellous that a great
nobleman should remember such an incident during so many years.

Sunderland gave him no time to speak.

"Where did His Majesty go?"

The soldier humbly pointed out the way, and my lord turned on his heel
and went rapidly across the dark, snowy courtyard. He had reached the
farther court, untouched by Sir Christopher and still of the fashion of
the great cardinal and Harry Tudor, before he saw the King ahead of him,
a solitary figure in the grey afternoon.

My lord was instantly beside him.

"Sire, I must speak with you, and at once."

William looked round calmly.

"Come to the river--I had a mind to see the river." Sunderland, standing
uncovered, answered with energy and decision--

"Sire, if you have no regard for your own health, consider mine. This
weather is death."

William took his arm.

"No, Robert, 'tis the fireside that is death to me--to sit and doze like
a sick woman in shawls; but come into the great Hall, where we may be
undisturbed. Dr. Burnet is in my apartments with a packet of sermons." He
paused to cough, and then added: "As for your news--you are going to
offer me your resignation."

"That," said Sunderland, "and something else."

"Important?"

"Of the greatest importance."

They turned back across the courtyard, came to a dark archway, and
mounted a few steps to the left of it that led straight into the great
banqueting hall of Cardinal Wolsey, that, all dismantled and unfurnished
as it was, had the air of a vast, deserted church. It was even colder
than the outer air, and only an obscure light filtered through the tall
stained-glass windows.

But William liked the place for its very sombreness. He led the way to
the room beyond, that was hung with old arras and suits of armour, and
lit by an oriel window, brilliant, even now, with coats and
emblazonments.

A circular seat ran round this window, and in front of it was a table.

Here the King and his minister seated themselves. William leant back
against the stained-glass, he was wrapped in his cloak to the chin, and
his face was quite colourless; only his eyes fixed Sunderland with a look
clear, vivid, and penetrating as ever.

"So even you are leaving me?" he said.

My lord laid his hat on the table and began to pull off his gloves.

"As to that," he answered, "I am assured that there are a hundred and
sixty voices in the House for my impeachment. My friends could not face
that. And I am too old, sire, and too tired to brave what I once would
have braved."

William nodded.

"I would not ask it of you."

Sunderland detached the Lord Chamberlain's gold key from his crimson
waistcoat and placed it on the pale oak table.

"I shall be always at your service--just the same," he said; "but J shall
never climb again." He smiled. "This is the sum of it, sire--I have no
title that I was not born to, I shall have an impaired estate, a detested
memory--but I have lived my life, and I have no regrets--none."

"You take with you my deep thanks and gratitude," responded William, with
animation. "I could never have done what I have done but for you. You
will remain my friend, if not my minister. What is your other news?"

"Of far greater importance, sire. Of terrible meaning to Your Majesty."

William's eyes flashed. He leant forward.

"To do--with France?" he breathed.

"Yes, sire. The courier from Paris will be here to-night, but the news is
all abroad in London now."

The King's hollow cheek flushed.

"Tell me," he commanded.

Sunderland hesitated; it was not easy to tell a great statesman that he
had been duped, that his laborious schemes had ended in humiliating
failure. It was not easy to tell a dying man that his life-work was all
to do again.

"Well?" urged the King imperiously.

"Sire, when the King of Spain died and left his crown to Philippe
D'Anjou, Your Majesty was not disturbed?"

"No--because of the Partition Treaties."

Sunderland looked away, and said in a low voice--

"King Louis hath flung over the Partition Treaties, accepted the will,
and published a memorial justifying his action."

On hearing that he had been so cheated, deceived, betrayed, that, for the
first time in his life, he had made a huge political mistake, a blunder,
in trusting France, and that France had been all this time laughing at
him, that he had been King Louis' dupe, that he was despised and
challenged by the court he had once humbled, William gave a little gasp
like a sob, and sat very still.

"Louis," continued Sunderland, "defies you, the Republic, and the
Emperor, and thinks of nothing but seating his grandson on the throne of
Spain."

William sprang up with the energy of a strong man.

"My God!" he cried, "I was a fool to trust France. I should have known! I
should have known!"

A colour was in his face, his eyes were brilliant, his breast heaved.

"Their effrontery!" he cried again; "their shameful effrontery! I did not
think even they would have broken a solemn treaty made in the face of the
whole world! I must confess I am a dupe," he added proudly, "but if faith
and honour are to be disregarded 'tis easy to cheat any man."

He sank back on the window-seat and pressed his hand to his forehead.

"They think I am a cipher now--a King without an army--a dying man, but I
am he who met them single-handed once and could again." His voice, broken
and weak as it was, expressed an extraordinary enthusiasm and resolution.
"France shall pay for this. I will commit Europe to demand payment, even
if I do not live to see it given. Dear Lord I Both Louis think that while
I draw a breath a Bourbon shall rule over Spain, the Netherlands, Milan,
Sicily--the Indies?"

He rose and began to walk about; his eyes had flashed no brighter in his
youth. He clasped his sword-hilt and half drew it from the scabbard.

"The sword, the sword!" he said, "no way but that. Did I not ever say so?
The sword shall bring them to their knees yet; that is the only way to
deal with France."

Sunderland sat silent. He was appalled at the thought of the task before
the King if he would resist the aggressions of Louis; for the English
were in no humour for another war, and had been from the first inclined
to the King of Spain's will, not the Partition Treaty--principally,
perhaps, because William had framed the latter.

My lord ventured to hint some of this.

"I know," answered William quietly. "The blindness here is
incredible--the ignorance, the malice, astonishing. It is the utmost
mortification to me that I cannot at once act with the rigour I should,
but I have performed some hard tasks before. _I must bring England into
this_. And there is the Republic--when did she fail? She is with me
always."

He came and sat by Sunderland again, rested his elbows on the table and
looked down at the floor, supporting his head on his left hand.

He was face to face with, and had instantly and deliberately undertaken,
a task more difficult and tremendous than those he had carried through in
'72 and '88. It would be the greatest action of his life--and he had
perhaps a few months, at most a few years, to live. There were as many
odds against him as there had ever been; so many, so continuous, had been
his humiliations and sorrows, that a few moments ago he had not desired
to live another day. Now he found himself called to the supreme task of
all his laborious career--a task which, if successful, would crown his
work with ultimate triumph, however distant, and which, if it failed,
would make his whole life useless indeed.

He looked at his wasted hand lying on the table. Every breath was a pain
to him. He had scarcely the strength to sit upright. He had to be lifted
on to his horse, or into his coach. The doctors gave him dates beyond
which he could not live; but his spirit was unchanged since the day that
it had inspired him to wrest his country from the conqueror, and it rose
now to such a strength of enthusiasm that it actually laughed at the
weakness of the poor body that held it...

William of Orange looked up smiling.

"I shall succeed," he said. "I shall succeed."



CHAPTER XIV - THE VANGUARD OF THE WORLD


Again the trees were yellowing in the splendid park at Loo; again the
autumn sun fell tenderly over the Palace and the stiff beds of late
roses.

William of England and Monsieur Heinsius were standing by the sundial,
which was the centre of formal walks and exact parterres.

They were discussing the progress of that endeavour the King had set
himself nearly a year ago, when he learnt of Louis's breaking of the
Partition Treaty--a year of toil, of patience, of skill, of tact, of
sacrifice on the part of William; and it had met with success. Even the
English Parliament had not been able to resist his exquisite management.
Meanwhile he was quietly forming the Grand Alliance and feeling his way
to hurl the inevitable challenge at France.

He was leaning now on a thick polished malacca cane, with a gold and
ivory handle, from which swung two heavy crimson tassels, and listening
to the Grand Pensionary of Holland, who had been in everything the
perfect friend, the perfect servant.

"We can do no more," M. Heinsius was saying; "the States are in
readiness. We must wait for England."

"I have been doing that," answered William, "all my life." And he sighed
a little, though not with discouragement. There had of late been every
sign that the temper of the English was changing. They began to murmur at
the Parliament and its constant thwarting of the King. Louis had been, as
usual, insolent in his triumph, and British pride began to rise at French
insults. William had waited with infinite patience, worked with infinite
skill. He still waited and still worked, but with a sure hope of success.
Louis, in the infatuation of his success, might easily commit some
arrogant action that would inflame the people of England beyond the
control of any faction-ridden Commons.

William took out his crystal and gold filigree watch and set it by the
sundial. The sky, the trees, the walks and groves, the stately lines of
the Palace, were all radiant in an amber-coloured light. The breeze was
warm as mid-summer, and lifted the leaves with a pleasant sound. The King
raised his eyes to the peaceful autumn beauty, and there was a look in
them that was never absent when he was in his own country--an unconscious
expression of the deep passion he felt for his own land, for the very air
of it, the very grass and trees and clouds.

Presently he and M. Heinsius went into the house. Some German princes
were to dine with the King. All his Dutch friends were there also (save
only Portland), and it seemed like the old days again when the
Stadtholder would escape for a few days' hunt to Guelders--when he was
young and everything was yet to do.

Albemarle, lately invested with the garter, and radiant under his
splendours and in the satisfaction of great abilities finding scope, had
newly come from London, and during the meal William questioned him on the
state of parties there. His answers were satisfactory: the men of Kent
had lately sent a stern memorial to the Parliament, requesting them to
give up their internal quarrels and aid the King in helping his allies in
a fitting manner to resist French dominion in Europe.

The King spoke affectionately and gratefully to Albemarle; then leant
back in his chair, and was, after his habit, silent.

His reserve had grown on him more and more of late; he scarcely spoke at
all save to his intimates, and saw only those when he was obliged.

Towards the end of the long dinner he roused himself, and, leaning
towards M. Heinsius, who sat on his right, said a curious thing.

It was--"Do you think Monsieur de Witt would be proud of his pupil now?"

M. Heinsius could find no answer.

"He was about the age I am now when he met his end," continued William,
in a quiet tone. "After all, he had a happier life than I have
had...Monsieur de Witt! How long ago it seemeth!"

He filled his glass, and lifted it as if he drank a silent toast. He
looked down the rich table and the splendid guests and up at the portrait
of his wife above the dark chimney-piece.

A full ray of dusky sunlight struck across the canvas and gave the
painted face something of the glow and bloom of life. The large brown
eyes seemed to sparkle, the red lips to move, the white breast to heave.
The King was still looking straight at this picture when a messenger
entered.

At a glance William saw that his dispatches were from England and France.
He set the wine down, and broke open that from London.

M. Heinsius, intently watching him, saw his countenance change, a violent
flush rise to his cheek, and his hands tremble.

He pulled his hat over his eyes to cover his emotion, and nervously tore
open the French dispatch. M. Heinsius saw that this was in the hand of my
Lord Manchester, English Ambassador in Paris.

When the King had read it he was composed again, but even paler than
usual. He folded both the letters up and placed them in the huge flap
pocket of his coat; then he cast his dimmed but still eagle eye round the
table.

"Gentlemen," he said, in a firm voice, "His late Majesty King James is
dead at St. Germains."

He pushed back his chair a little and drew a quick breath.

"And King Louis hath shamelessly outraged us by proclaiming his son, the
pretended Prince of Wales, as King of Great Britain."

For a moment the company could not grasp the import of this news: it was
too monstrous.

"His Christian Majesty hath been foolish before," added William, with
grim meaning; "never, I think, as foolish as this."

"By God!" cried M. Heinsius, "there will be no further difficulty with
England now!"

The silence broke into murmurs and exclamations. The King took no notice
of them; he was thinking of the meaning of this in Europe. Louis had now
broken the Treaty of Ryswyck as he had the Partition Treaties. The result
would be instant and inevitable war. Even the peace party in the English
Commons could not hang back now...

He turned suddenly to Albemarle.

"Send at once to London that M. Poussin is to leave as
quickly as M. Barillon did in '88." He laughed shortly. "This will be the
second time I have turned a French Ambassador out of London! And
Manchester shall be recalled at once." He rose. "Gentlemen," he said,
addressing the eager Dutch and Germans, "this meaneth our third war with
France; and this time I think it will be conclusive, and we, not France,
be left the vanguard of the world."



CHAPTER XV - THE EVE OF WAR


Service was being held in the Royal Chapel at Hampton Court.

There were not many people there: only the King, the officers of his
household, and one or two others, including Mr. Prior, new come from The
Hague.

William knelt alone in his pew while his chaplain delivered the final and
beautiful prayers of the Anglican service; he was not listening to or
repeating these prayers.

The old austerity of his stern religion had become softened with his
vaster knowledge and experiences, nor could his firm conception of a wide
tolerance maintain the narrow prejudices of sectarian belief; but the old
teaching of the faith that had supported his youth and manhood through so
much was still strong in him. It suited his nature and his circumstance;
it was the creed of his beloved country, and had ever been under the
especial protection of his family. The heart of the King was still as
Calvinist as it had been when he learnt his grim theology from Pastor
Trigland. Though he knelt in English churches and listened to Anglican
services, it pleased him to close his eyes and imagine himself back in
the bare whitewashed Groote Kerk, an eager grave boy, a silent anxious
man, seated in the stiff pew watching the sunlight fall athwart the
massive, tall pillars, and drawing stern comfort and noble inspiration
from the pastor's thunderous declamation of the theology of Geneva.

This morning the picture came before him with a peculiar and painful
vividness. He put his hand over his eyes and thought that he could hear
the little stir of Mary's gown beside him, and that if he put out his
hand he would touch hers, warm on her Prayer Book...

Long after the prayers had ceased he continued kneeling, and when he at
last rose there was a curious expression on his face.

When he left the Chapel his words were to know if Albemarle had yet
arrived.

No, he was told, but my lord might be expected any hour, as the packet
from Holland had got in last night.

The King had constantly shown a wistful impatience for the return of
Albemarle, when he had parted from him with great pain; but my lord was
the only person who knew his exact wishes in the matter of the disposal
of the troops in the United Provinces and whom he could entrust with his
minute instructions to M. Heinsius.

He now calculated that my lord, even riding all night, could scarcely be
there before midday, and he ordered out his horse and said he would ride
in the park awhile. It was a day in February, and mild and fine. Of late,
too, he had been unexpectedly better in health, and had even hunted and
spent hours on horseback.

As the little company left the Chapel, Mr. Prior fell behind to speak
with Lord Buckhurst, son of my Lord Dorset, Mr. Prior's former patron.

"Everything is done, is it not?" he asked eagerly.

"Everything," said my young lord, with enthusiasm. "We--and the
allies--will take the field this spring. God bless His Majesty!"

"Ay, he did it. I would I could have heard his speech to Parliament. They
say, sir, it hath roused Europe like the trumpet-call to charge--"

"Europe, Mr. Prior, and the Commons of England. I think no nobler words
were ever heard in Westminster--he raised them all above themselves--you
have read the speech? It is in a dozen different tongues already. England
might hold the balance of Europe, he said, if she would exert her ancient
vigour and forget her unhappy internal animosities;--and she will, Mr.
Prior, she will--thanks to His Majesty."

My Lord Buckhurst was only voicing the general sentiment of enthusiasm
and loyalty that William had at last succeeded in rousing.

"Will the King take the campaign this year?" asked Matthew

Prior, as they strolled out into the magnificent gardens.

"I do not think so--it is to be my Lord Marlborough."

"A man who was ever detested by the King."

"His Majesty saith he is the greatest general and statesman. Next year he
might go himself--there seemeth hope that he might be recovered then."

They passed the yew hedges and fountains, the famous patterned
flower-beds, and came out by King Charles's Long Canal, with the
resplendent avenue of trees rising up lofty against the pale spring sky
and fading into a fair, hazy distance. Coming now into the park where the
fresh grass was pushing up through the dead damp leaves of last autumn,
and the little groups of slender deer moved delicately through the open
sloping glades, they perceived the King riding with two grooms, and
holding his hat in his hand to catch the full strength of the faint sun
on his face.

He drew up his horse as he saw the two gentlemen, and spoke to them
kindly, telling them of the new fine entrance-gates he proposed to make
from the Palace grounds to Bushey Park.

He looked more animated and cheerful than he had done for a long while.
He was mounted on a splendid young sorrel horse, that he managed with all
his old skill.

"A new fellow," he remarked. "The grooms warned me he was spirited, but I
could scarcely be afraid of a horse--eh?" He faintly smiled and patted
the great creature's glossy neck with his thin, white, ungloved hand.

My Lord Buckhurst looked at the frail figure of the King and the great
power of the animal, and indeed wondered that he could manage him. He
secretly agreed with the grooms that William was perhaps relying too much
on his exquisite horsemanship in mounting such an untried brute.

"I hope," said William, "that I shall find my Lord Albemarle when I
return."

He touched up the horse and galloped away out of sight down the long
avenue, the grooms after him.

Lord Buckhurst and Mr. Prior lingered a little in the pleasant dim sun
and shade, talking over this great prospect opening out over Europe, and
the part the nations of the world would play in the coming
struggle--which could not fail to establish for ever the Protestant faith
and the liberty of peoples.

Presently the sun clouded over, and they were for returning to the
Palace, when the distant sound of hoofs on the grass caused them to look
round, thinking this might be the King returning.

What they saw was a riderless horse--a monstrous sorrel horse--galloping
across the glade, with the stirrups flying loose.

"The King--his horse!" exclaimed Mr. Prior breathlessly. Lord Buckhurst
said nothing; he turned and ran swiftly towards where the animal had come
from. Cumbered as he was with sword, full extravagant vesture, and, a
wide-bottomed peruke, youth brought him easily over the ground, and in a
few minutes he came to the spot he made for--a little clearing beyond the
great trees of the avenue, with Mr. Prior breathless at his heels.

They saw there what they had been dreading to see: the King lying on the
ground, and the two frightened grooms coming up, one dismounted and in an
embarrassment to know what to do with his horse, the other giving doleful
exclamations and cries for help.

William had raised himself on one elbow, and was holding a handkerchief
to his mouth.

Buckhurst and Prior rushed up to him.

"Are you hurt, sire?" cried my lord.

The King removed the handkerchief from his lips; it was scarlet with
blood.

"No," he answered. "The brute threw me over that molehill--the first
time, my lord, I have been thrown--"

He put his hand to the shoulder on which he had fallen.

"Something broken, I think," he said, in a fainter voice. "They were
right--I overestimated my skill--I have not the seat--I--once--had."

My lord endeavoured to raise him, tenderly enough; but at the attempt to
move the King's face went of an ashy colour, and he fainted with pain.

"This is the end," murmured my lord. "Take him up, Mr. Prior--dear God, I
think this is the end."

With the aid of the two servants, who had now left their horses, they
carried him back, by easy degrees, into the Palace, and his own
apartments.

Before the doctor could be called he came to his senses and asked for
Albemarle. On being told he had arrived, he bid him rest a little before
he delivered his news, and, having sent the message, called M. Zulestein
to bring him his yet unfinished letter to M. Heinsius.

When it was brought, and quill and ink, he sat up in his great chair with
arms, and added painfully these words: "God be praised, all difficulties
are overcome," and his name.

He bid them, in a broken whisper, send off this letter immediately, and
fell back again in his chair, very white and frowning.

The alarmed gentlemen were for his seeing the doctor immediately, but he
desired to give Albemarle his audience first.

My lord came on the instant, spurred and dusty, and all in a reek from
travel.

He entered, with a breathless air of dread, the throne-room, where they
had brought the King.

William was seated in a great low chair of red velvet, in front of the
blue dais and throne, which bore in silver the Royal arms and the motto
of Nassau: "Je Maintaindrai." He still wore his buff hunting-coat with
the gold galloon on the wide skirt and the tight doeskin boots with the
gilt spurs; his waistcoat was open on his laced shirt, and he held his
right hand over his heart.

Lord Albemarle fell on his knees and passionately kissed the King's free
hand.

William looked down at him affectionately, and said, between quick little
gasps--

"How go matters in Holland?"

"Well, sire, well--everything is in readiness. The States are willing to
everything that Your Majesty wisheth; all the preparations are complete
for an early campaign--but you, Your Majesty--"

"Tell me of Holland," interrupted William faintly.

Albemarle looked round the company, and hesitated; but at a sign from M.
Zulestein obeyed the King, and spoke of the affairs of the Republic, and
of their response to the King's call to arms.

William of Orange listened to these words, that told him his
lifework was at last accomplished, with such calm that it seemed
indifference, or as if he was giving no attention to the matter of the
discourse; he never changed his attitude or raised his downcast eyes. It
seemed as if even this could not rouse him now.

When Albemarle paused at last and waited, half fearfully, William spoke,
but so faintly that my lord, kneeling close as he was, could hardly catch
the words.

"I have often wished to die," he murmured; "but now I
might wish to live and see this prospect fulfilled; but I draw near my
end--the end--the end--"

He said the word three times with so many little sighs, and
then fainted, dropping his hand from his heart.



CHAPTER XVI - GOD AND THE KING


Monsieur Heinsius sat in the little room at the Binnenhof, which had
belonged to the Grand Pensionnaries of Holland ever since the Republic
had been formed. The furniture and the tall clock in the corner were
unchanged since the time of the great John de Witt; the window looked on
the Vyverberg, where the swans were floating on the grey, shining, and
placid water. It was a day in late March, the year 1702, and the clock of
the Groote Kerk had just struck four.

There was a pause in M. Heinsius's strenuous work; for the moment he had
nothing to do, and he was very glad of the rare leisure. He had not been
in good health for some time, and to-day felt feverish and heavy in his
limbs; he winced at the effort of giving instructions to his secretaries,
putting up his papers, and going home, so remained, half dozing in his
chair, looking at the peaceful surface of the lake, and the still bare
trees, and neat brick houses beyond.

Before him, on his old black polished bureau, lay the last letter from
the King-Stadtholder, which had given him great pleasure, for alarming
reports had been current in The Hague as to the health of His Majesty
since his accident at Hampton Court; but in this he said not one word of
his illness. The last words were--"I am infinitely concerned to learn
that your health is not yet quite established. May God be pleased to
grant you a speedy recovery. I am unalterably your good friend, William."

True, the letter was dated the 10th of February, and had been delayed in
the coming, and M. Heinsius knew that there might be other news in the
packets that were held up in the North Sea by the spring storms; but he
believed that the King would not so have written had he been in any
danger.

Then an extraordinary thing happened to M. Heinsius. He was leaning back
in his chair, weary and exhausted, his head aching with a little fever,
and a kind of lassitude on his senses, when something caused him to move
his head sharply and look through the open door into the next chamber,
where two of his secretaries usually worked.

They were, however, now absent in the Assembly, and M. Heinsius believed
himself alone in the two rooms; he was therefore surprised to see a young
man standing in this outer chamber looking out at the Vyverberg and The
Hague with an arrested air of intense interest.

M. Heinsius moved round in his chair, but felt no desire to speak. Both
the rooms were full of early sunshine and absolutely silent. M. Heinsius
observed the stranger with a sensation of vague wonder.

He was very young--little more than a boy--but of a very grave, still
carriage; he wore a violet coat, a black sash, a plain sword, and a
cravat of Frisian needlework; his clothes were of the fashion of thirty
years ago--of the time of John de Witt.

He was very slender and slight; his hair, which was long, thick, and
heavily curling, of a deep chestnut colour, fell either side a thin hawk
face that M. Heinsius could only imperfectly see; he wore one jewel, and
that was the colour of the Garter.

M. Heinsius neither spoke nor moved. Presently the youth turned and came
towards the Grand Pensionary's cabinet, walking stiffly, and holding his
hat under his arm. M. Heinsius noticed the old-fashioned rosettes on his
square-toed shoes.

He came steadily through the sunlight, his glance cast thoughtfully down,
and advanced to the desk before which M. Heinsius sat; he moved between
the Grand Pensionary and the window, and, leaning forward, put his right
hand, which was ringless and beautiful, on the letter of William of
Orange.

Then he lifted a pair of eyes of singular power and of a marvellous
brilliancy, and flashed a smile at M. Heinsius.

"It is finished," he said, pressing his palm on the letter. "But you will
know what to do."

Then he turned and looked out of the window with wistful passion, as of
one leaving something he loves, and sighed a little. After a moment he
moved away, reluctantly it seemed, and went as he had come, slowly and
gravely into the outer chamber, with the sunshine all about him.

M. Heinsius rose now, and turned to follow him; when he reached the door
of the anteroom he found it empty...

The Grand Pensionary returned to his seat and hid his face in his hands,
telling himself that he had the fever; he tried to think and argue with
himself, but it was a useless effort, and he fell presently into a little
sleep--or swoon--from which he only roused when he felt a touch on his
shoulder, and started up to find the room dark and his secretary standing
with a candle and a packet in his hand.

"From England?" murmured M. Heinsius.

"Yes, Mynheer."

The Grand Pensionary took the letter eagerly, hoping to see the writing
of the King; but it was addressed in the hand of my Lord Albemarle.

"I have been exhausted unto sleep," he said. "Light me the candles--I
will read this and go home."

The candles, in their pale brass sticks, illumined the dark, simple room,
the black shining desk, the pale worn face of M. Heinsius, as he opened
the letter from England.

It was dated at Kensington House, and this was what the Grand Pensionary
read--


"I have to offer you the saddest and most unwelcome news in the world,
which indeed I am not yet able to write plainly.

"My beloved master died yesterday between seven and eight of the evening,
which is a loss that we and indeed all Europe cannot be too sensible of.

"He died with the greatest courage and serenity, speaking not at all
during his last days, save to thank us graciously for our services. He
had no words even for the priests who came about him, which may cause
some scandal here.

"I believe his thoughts to have been always on the Republic, from some
short ejaculations he made, even while the prayers for the dying were
being read. I think that even at the very last his sole concern was the
United Provinces.

"He asked for my lord of Portland, who came; but His Majesty was past
speech, yet he took my lord's hand very tenderly, and carried it up to
his heart, which was then at the last beat, and died in that attitude,
after but a short struggle with his breath.

"They found a locket of the late Queen's hair fastened by a black ribbon
to his sword-arm.

"As he was spared nothing during his life, neither was he at his death;
for the doctors say now that he must have been in great and perpetual
agony, for his broken collar-bone had pierced his lungs--yet not a single
murmur escaped him. His courage was of the most resplendent any man may
have--for it was tried in every way.

"I cannot write a fuller account, for I am struck beyond expression by
this event. You will, of course, hear of it from others.

"There is very little grief here. They talk of a statue--but when shall
we see it raised? They are busy praising Queen Anne, who is the silliest
creature I know--a strange people, these English; I am out of humour with
them, and you will see me at The Hague very soon.

"I must tell you that the Earl of Sunderland died in retirement at
Althorp a few weeks since, despised and neglected by all. But the King
remained his friend to the end, and even consulted with him secretly, and
he had the faithful attendance of my lady, who is as good a woman as any
I ever met, and, God knows, a lonely one now.

"People here, I think, cannot realize what His Majesty did, nor the task
he put through when he was in a manner dying, nor their own ingratitude.
But you and I know, and England will come to enjoy the fruits of his work
in the years that are coming--and in Holland he can never be forgotten,
for he was the greatest of the family of the noblest and most patriotic
princes whom the world hath ever seen, and while we are a people we shall
revere his name.

"There is much to tell you; but I cannot write of business now, and think
to see you soon.--Mynheer the Grand Pensionary, your affectionate friend,

"ALBEMARLE."


M. Heinsius put down the letter; he felt scarcely sad; a glorious
enthusiasm stirred his heart; the room seemed all too confined for his
mood; he went to the window, pushed it open, and looked out at the dark
water and the dark houses beyond, where the lights were beginning to show
in the windows.

Now there was no doubting the identity of the young man of his vision,
nor what the words meant--

"It is finished, but you know what to do."

The Grand Pensionary knew; he held in his hands all the
clues to the vast policies of his late master; he could guide the
Republic though the coming great events of war as the King would have
wished.

The peaceful evening fell to complete darkness; still Antoon
Heinsius stood looking over The Hague. The King hath gone
to give his account to God, he thought, and God will say--Not in vain did
I make you my captain--not in vain.



THE END



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