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glad - in whichever way you find its consequence."

She stood before him with her head bent. She made no movement save with
her hands, which worked together slowly and gently.

"In whichever way - I - ?" repeated Wogan.

"Yes," she answered. "There is Bologna. Say that Bologna is our goal. I
shall go with you to Bologna. There is Venice and the sea. Bid me go,
then; hoist a poor scrap of a sail in an open boat. I shall adventure
over the wide seas with you. What will you do?"

Wogan drew a long breath. The magnitude of the submission paralysed him.
The picture which she evoked was one to blind him as with a glory of
sunlight. He remained silent for a while. Then he said timidly, -

"There is Ohlau."

The girl shivered. The name meant her father, her mother, their grief,
the disgrace upon her home. But she answered only with her question, -

"What will you do?"

"You would lose a throne," he said, and even while he spoke was aware
that such a plea had not with her now the weight of thistledown.

"You would become the mock of Europe, - you that are its wonder;" and he
saw the corner of her lip curve in a smile of scorn.

"What will you do?" she asked, and he ceased to argue. It was he who
must decide; she willed it so. He turned towards the door of the hut and
opened it. As he passed through, he heard her move behind, and looking
over his shoulder, he saw that she leaned down upon the table and kissed
the pistol which he had left loaded there. He stepped out of the cabin
and closed the door behind him.

The dark blue of the sky had faded to a pure and pearly colour; a
colourless grey light invaded it; the pale stars were drowning; and all
about him the trees shivered to the morning. Wogan walked up and down
that little plateau, torn by indecision. Inside the sheltered cabin sat
waiting the girl, whose destiny was in his hands. He had a sentence to
speak, and by it the flow of all her years would be irrevocably ordered.
She had given herself over to him, - she, with her pride, her courage,
her endurance. Wogan had seen too closely into her heart to bring any
foolish charge of unmaidenliness against her. No, the very completeness
of her submission raised her to a higher pinnacle. If she gave herself,
she did so without a condition or a reserve, body and bone, heart and
soul. Wogan knew amongst the women of his time many who made their
bargain with the world, buying a semblance of esteem with a double
payment of lies. This girl stood apart from them. She loved, therefore
she entrusted herself simply to the man she loved, and bade him dispose
of her. That very simplicity was another sign of her strength. She was
the more priceless on account of it. He went back into the hut. Through
the chinks of the shutter the morning stretched a grey finger; the room
was filled with a vaporous twilight.

"We travel to Bologna," said he. "I will not have you wasted. Other
women may slink into kennels and stop their ears - not you. The King is
true to you. You are for the King."

As she had not argued before, she did not argue now. She nodded her head
and fastened her cloak about her throat. She followed him out of the hut
and down the gorge. In the northeast the sky already flamed, and the sun
was up before they reached the road. They walked silently towards Peri,
and Wogan was wondering whether in her heart she despised him when she
stopped.

"I am to marry the King," said she.

"Yes," said Wogan.

"But you?" she said with her brows in a frown; "there is no compulsion
on you to marry - anyone."

Wogan was relieved of his fears. He broke into a laugh, to which she
made no reply. She still waited frowning for his answer.

"No woman," he said, "will ride on my black horse into my city of
dreams. You may be very sure I will not marry."

"No. I would not have you married."

Wogan laughed again, but Clementina was very serious. That she had no
right to make any such claim did not occur to her. She was merely
certain and resolved that Wogan must not marry. She did not again refer
to the matter, nor could she so have done had she wished. For a little
later and while they were not yet come to Peri, they were hailed from
behind, and turning about they saw Gaydon and O'Toole riding after them.
O'Toole had his story to tell. Gaydon and he had put the courier to bed
and taken his clothes and his money, and after the fellow had waked up,
they had sat for a day in the bedroom keeping him quiet and telling the
landlord he was very ill. O'Toole finished his story as they came to
Peri. They went boldly to the Cervo Inn, where all traces of the night's
conflict had been removed, and neither Wogan nor the landlady thought it
prudent to make any mention of the matter; they waited for Misset and
his wife, who came the next day. And thus reunited they passed one
evening into the streets of Bologna and stopped at the Pilgrim Inn.




CHAPTER XXI


In the parlour of the Pilgrim Inn the four friends took their leave of
the Princess. She could not part from them lightly; she spoke with a
faltering voice: -

"Five days ago I was in prison at Innspruck, perpetually harassed and
with no hope of release but in you. Now I am in Bologna, and free. I
could not believe that any girl could find such friends except in
fairyland. You make the world very sweet and clean to me. I should thank
you. See my tears fall! Will you take them for my thanks? I have no
words which can tell as much of my thoughts towards you. My little woman
I keep with me, but to you gentlemen I would gladly give a token each,
so that you may know I will never forget, and so that you too may keep
for me a home within your memories." To Major Gaydon she gave a ring
from off her finger, to Captain Misset a chain which she wore about her
neck, to O'Toole, "her six feet four," as she said between laughter and
tears, her watch. Each with a word of homage took his leave. Clementina
spoke to Wogan last of all, and when the room was empty but for these
two.

"To you, my friend," said she, "I give nothing. There is no need. But I
ask for something. I would be in debt to you still deeper than I am. I
ask for a handkerchief which I dropped from my shoulders one evening
under the stars upon the road to Ala."

Wogan bowed to her without a word. He drew the handkerchief from his
breast slowly.

"It is true," said he; "I have no right to it;" and he gave it back. But
his voice showed that he was hurt.

"You do not understand," said she, with a great gentleness. "You have
every right which the truest loyalty can confer. I ask you for this
handkerchief, because I think at times to wear it in memory of a white
stone on which I could safely set my foot, for the stone was not straw."

Wogan could not trust his voice to answer her. He took her hand to lift
it to his lips.

"No," said she; "as at Innspruck, an honest handclasp, if you please."

Wogan joined his three companions in the road, and they stood together
for a little, recounting to one another the incidents of the flight.

"Here's a great work ended," said Gaydon at last.

"We shall be historical," said O'Toole. "It is my one ambition. I want
to figure in the history-books and be a great plague and nuisance to
children at school. I would sooner be cursed daily by schoolboys than
have any number of golden statues in galleries. It means the more solid
reputation;" and then he became silent. Gaydon had, besides his joy at
the rescue of Clementina, a private satisfaction that matters which were
none of his business had had no uncomfortable issue. Misset, too, was
thankful for that his wife had come safely to the journey's end. O'Toole
alone had a weight upon his mind; and when Gaydon said, "Well, we may go
to bed and sleep without alarms till sundown to-morrow," he remarked, -

"There's Jenny. It was on my account she ventured with us."

"That's true," said Wogan; "but we shall put an end to her captivity,
now we are safe at Bologna. I have friends here who can serve me so far,
I have no doubt."

O'Toole was willing to leave the matter in Wogan's hands. If Wogan once
pledged himself to Jenny's release, why, Jenny _was_ released; and he
went to bed now with a quite equable mind. Wogan hurried off to the
palace of the Cardinal Origo, whom he found sitting at his supper. The
Cardinal welcomed Wogan back very warmly.

"I trust, your Eminence," said Wogan, "that Farini is now at Bologna."

"You come in the nick of time," replied the Cardinal. "This is his last
week. There is a great demand for the seats; but you will see to it, Mr.
Wogan, that the box is in the first tier."

"There was to be a dinner, too, if I recollect aright. I have not dined
for days. Your Eminence, I shall be extraordinarily hungry."

"You will order what you will, Mr. Wogan. I am a man of a small
appetite and have no preferences."

"Your Eminence's cook will be the better judge of what is seasonable.
Your Eminence will be the more likely to secure the box in the first
tier. Shall we fix a day? To-morrow, if it please you. To-morrow I shall
have the honour, then, to be your Eminence's guest."

The Cardinal started up from the table and stared at his visitor.

"You are jesting," said he.

"So little," replied Wogan, "that her Highness, the Princess Clementina,
is now at the Pilgrim Inn at Bologna."

"In Bologna!" cried the Cardinal; and he stood frowning in a great
perturbation of spirit. "This is great news," he said, but in a doubtful
voice which Wogan did not understand. "This is great news, to be sure;"
and he took a turn or two across the room.

"Not wholly pleasant news, one might almost think," said Wogan, in some
perplexity.

"Never was better news," exclaimed the Cardinal, hastily, - a trifle too
hastily, it seemed to Wogan. "But it surprises one. Even the King did
not expect this most desirable issue. For the King's in Spain. It is
that which troubles me. Her Highness comes to Bologna, and the King's in
Spain."

"Yes," said Wogan, with a wary eye upon his Eminence. "Why is the King
in Spain?"

"There is pressing business in Spain, - an expedition from Cadiz. The
King's presence there was urged most earnestly. He had no hope you would
succeed. I myself have some share in the blame. I did not hide from you
my thought, Mr. Wogan."

Wogan was not all reassured. He could not but remember that the excuse
for the King's absence which the Cardinal now made to him was precisely
that which he himself had invented to appease Clementina at Innspruck.
It was the simple, natural excuse which came first of all to the
tongue's tip, but - but it did not satisfy. There was, besides, too much
flurry and agitation in the Cardinal's manner. Even now that he was
taking snuff, he spilled the most of it from the trembling of his
fingers. Moreover, he must give reason upon reason for his perturbation
the while he let his supper get cold.

"Her Highness I cannot but feel will have reason to think slightly of
our welcome. A young girl, she will expect, and rightly, something more
of ceremony as her due."

"Your Eminence does not know her," interrupted Wogan, with some
sharpness. His Eminence was adroit enough to seize the occasion of
ending a conversation which was growing with every minute more
embarrassing.

"I shall make haste to repair my defect," said he. "I beg you to present
my duty to her Highness and to request her to receive me to-morrow at
ten. By that, I will hope to have discovered a lodging more suitable to
her dignity."

Wogan made his prayer for the Pope's intervention on Jenny's behalf and
then returned to the Pilgrim Inn, dashed and fallen in spirit. He had
thought that their troubles were at an end, but here was a new
difficulty at which in truth he rather feared to guess. The Chevalier's
departure to Spain had been a puzzle to him before; he remembered now
that the Chevalier had agreed with reluctance to his enterprise, and had
never been more than lukewarm in its support. That reluctance, that
lukewarmness, he had attributed to a natural habit of discouragement;
but the evasiveness of Cardinal Origo seemed to propose a different
explanation. Wogan would not guess at it.

"The King is to marry the Princess," said he, fiercely. "I brought her
out of Innspruck to Bologna. The King must marry the Princess;" and,
quite unawares, he set off running towards the inn. As he drew near to
it, he heard a confused noise of shouting. He quickened his pace, and
rushing out of the mouth of a side street into the square where the inn
stood, came suddenly to a stop. The square was filled with a great mob
of people, and in face of the inn the crowd was so thick Wogan could
have walked upon the shoulders. Many of the people carried blazing
torches, which they waved in the air, dropping the burning resin upon
their companions; others threw their hats skywards; here were boys
beating drums, and grown men blowing upon toy trumpets; and all were
shouting and cheering with a deafening enthusiasm. The news of the
Princess's arrival had spread like wildfire through the town. Wogan's
spirits rose at a bound. Here was a welcome very different from the
Cardinal's. Wogan rejoiced in the good sense of the citizens of Bologna
who could appreciate the great qualities of his chosen woman. Their
enthusiasm did them credit; he could have embraced them one by one.

He strove to push his way towards the door, but he would hardly have
pierced through that throng had not a man by the light of a torch
recognised him and bawled out his name. He was lifted shoulder high in a
second; he was passed from hand to hand over the heads of the people; he
was set tenderly down in the very doorway of the Pilgrim Inn, and he
found Clementina at the window of an unlighted room gazing unperceived
at the throng.

"Here's a true welcome, madam," said he, cordially, with his thoughts
away upon that bluff of hillside where the acclamations had seemed so
distant and unreal. It is possible that they seemed of small account to
Clementina now, for though they rang in ears and were visible to her
eyes, she sat quite unmoved by them.

"This is one tiny square in a little town," he continued. "But its
shouts will ring across Europe;" and she turned her head to him and said
quietly, -

"The King is still in Spain, is he not?"

Wogan's enthusiasm was quenched in alarm. Her voice had rung, for all
its quietude, with pride. What if she guessed what he for one would not
let his wildest fancy dwell upon? Wogan repeated to himself the resolve
which he had made, though with an alteration. "The King must marry the
Princess," he had said; now he said, "The Princess must marry the King."

He began hurriedly to assure her that the King had doubted his capacity
to bring the enterprise to a favourable issue, but that now he would
without doubt return. Cardinal Origo would tell her more upon that head
if she would be good enough to receive him at ten in the morning; and
while Wogan was yet speaking, a torch waved, and amongst that
close-pressed throng of faces below him in the street, one sprang to his
view with a remarkable distinctness, a face most menacing and
vindictive. It was the face of Harry Whittington. Just for a second it
shone out, angles and lines so clearly revealed that it was as though
the crowd had vanished, and that one contorted face glared alone at the
windows in a flare of hell-fire.

Clementina saw the face too, for she drew back instinctively within the
curtains of the window.

"The man at Peri," said she, in a whisper.

"Your Highness will pardon me," exclaimed Wogan, and he made a movement
towards the door. Then he stopped, hesitated for a second, and came
back. He had a question to put, as difficult perhaps as ever lips had to
frame.

"At Peri," he said in a stumbling voice, "I waked from a dream and saw
that man, bird-like and cunning, watching over the rim of the stairs. I
was dreaming that a star out of heaven stooped towards me, that a
woman's face shone out of the star's bright heart, that her lips deigned
to bend downwards to my earth. And I wonder, I wonder whether those
cunning eyes had cunning enough to interpret my dream."

And Clementina answered him simply, -

"I think it very likely that they had so much skill;" and Wogan ran down
the stairs into the street. He forced his way through the crowd to the
point where Whittington's face had shown, but his hesitation, his
question, had consumed time. Whittington had vanished. Nor did he appear
again for some while in Bologna. Wogan searched for him high and low.
Here was another difficulty added to the reluctance of his King, the
pride of his Queen. Whittington had a piece of dangerous knowledge, and
could not be found. Wogan said nothing openly of the man's treachery,
though he kept very safely the paper in which that treachery was
confessed. But he did not cease from his search. He was still engaged
upon it when he received the summons from Cardinal Origo. He hurried to
the palace, wondering what new thing had befallen, and was at once
admitted to the Cardinal. It was no bad thing, at all events, as Wogan
could judge from the Cardinal's smiling face.

"Mr. Wogan," said he, "our Holy Father the Pope wishes to testify his
approbation of your remarkable enterprise on behalf of a princess who is
his god-daughter. He bids me hand you, therefore, your patent of Roman
Senator, and request you to present yourself at the Capitol in Rome on
June 15, when you will be installed with all the ancient ceremonies."

Wogan thanked his Eminence dutifully, but laid the patent on the table.

"You hardly know what you refuse," said his Eminence. "The Holy Father
has no greater honour to bestow, and, believe me, he bestows it
charily."

"Nay, your Eminence," said Wogan, "I do not undervalue so high a
distinction. But I had three friends with me who shared every danger. I
cannot accept an honour which they do not share; for indeed they risked
more than I did. For they hold service under the King of France."

The Cardinal was pleased to compliment Wogan upon his loyalty to his
friends.

"They shall not be the losers," said he. "I think I may promise indeed
that each will have a step in rank, and I do not doubt that when the
Holy Father hears what you have said to me, I shall have three other
patents like to this;" and he locked Wogan's away in a drawer.

"And what of the King in Spain?" asked Wogan.

"I sent a messenger thither on the night of your coming," said the
Cardinal; "but it is a long journey into Spain. We must wait."

To Wogan it seemed the waiting would never end. The Cardinal had found
a little house set apart from the street with a great garden of lawns
and cedar-trees and laurels; and in that garden now fresh with spring
flowers and made private by high walls, the Princess passed her days.
Wogan saw her but seldom during this time, but each occasion sent him
back to his lodging in a fever of anxiety. She had grown silent, and her
silence alarmed him. She had lost the sparkling buoyancy of her spirits.
Mrs. Misset, who attended her, told him that she would sit for long
whiles with a red spot burning in each cheek. Wogan feared that her
pride was chafing her gentleness, that she guessed there was reluctance
in the King's delay. "But she must marry the King," he still persevered
in declaring. Her hardships, her imprisonment, her perilous escape, the
snows of Innspruck, - these were known now; and if at the last the end
for which they had been endured - Wogan broke off from his reflections to
hear the world laughing. The world would not think; it would laugh. "For
her own sake she must marry," he cried, as he paced about his rooms.
"For ours, too, for a country's sake;" and he looked northwards towards
England. But "for her own sake" was the reason uppermost in his
thoughts.

But the days passed. The three promised patents came from Rome, and
Cardinal Origo unlocked the drawer and joined Wogan's to them. He
presented all four at the same time.

"The patents carry the titles of 'Excellency,'" said he.

O'Toole beamed with delight.

"Sure," said he, "I will have a toga with the arms of the O'Tooles
embroidered on the back, to appear in at the Capitol. It is on June 15,
your Eminence. Upon my soul, I have not much time;" and he grew
thoughtful.

"A toga will hardly take a month, even with the embroidery, which I do
not greatly recommend," said the Cardinal, drily.

"I was not at the moment thinking of the toga," said O'Toole, gloomily.

"And what of the King in Spain?" asked Wogan.

"We must wait, my friend," said the Cardinal.

In a week there was brought to Wogan one morning a letter in the King's
hand. He fingered it for a little, not daring to break the seal. When he
did break it, he read a great many compliments upon his success, and
after the compliments a statement that the marriage should take place at
Montefiascone as soon as the King could depart from Spain, and after
that statement, a declaration that since her Highness's position was not
meanwhile one that suited either her dignity or the love the King had
for her, a marriage by proxy should take place at Bologna. The Chevalier
added that he had written to Cardinal Origo to make the necessary
arrangements for the ceremony, and he appointed herewith Mr. Charles
Wogan to act as his proxy, in recognition of his great services.

Wogan felt a natural distaste for the part he was to take in the
ceremony. To stand up before the Cardinal and take Clementina's hand in
his, and speak another's marriage vows and receive hers as another's
deputy, - there was a certain mockery in the situation for which he had
no liking. The memory of the cabin on the mountain-side was something
too near. But, at all events, the King was to marry the Princess, and
Wogan's distaste was swallowed up in a great relief. There would be no
laughter rippling over Europe like the wind over a field of corn. He
stood by his window in the spring sunshine with a great contentment of
spirit, and then there came a loud rapping on his door.

He caught his breath; he grew white with a sudden fear; you would have
thought it was his heart that was knocked upon. For there was another
side to the business. The King would marry the Princess; but how would
the Princess take this marriage by proxy and the King's continued
absence? She had her pride, as he knew well. The knocking was repeated.
Wogan in a voice of suspense bade his visitor enter. The visitor was one
of her Highness's new servants. "Without a doubt," thought Wogan, "she
has received a letter by the same messenger who brought me mine."

The servant handed him a note from the Princess, begging him to attend
on her at once. "She must marry the King," said Wogan to himself. He
took his hat and cane, and followed the servant into the street.




CHAPTER XXII


Wogan was guided through the streets to the mouth of a blind alley, at
the bottom of which rose a high garden wall, and over the wall the
smoking chimneys of a house among the tops of many trees freshly green,
which shivered in the breeze and shook the sunlight from their leaves.
This alley, from the first day when the Princess came to lodge in the
house, had worn to Wogan a familiar air; and this morning, as he
pondered dismally whether, after all, those laborious months since he
had ridden hopefully out of Bologna to Ohlau were to bear no fruit, he
chanced to remember why. He had passed that alley at the moment of grey
dawn, when he was starting out upon this adventure, and he had seen a
man muffled in a cloak step from its mouth and suddenly draw back as his
horse's hoofs rang in the silent street, as though to elude recognition.
Wogan wondered for a second who at that time had lived in the house; but
he was admitted through a door in the wall and led into a little room
with French windows opening on a lawn. The garden seen from here was a
wealth of white blossoms and yellow, and amongst them Clementina paced
alone, the richest and the whitest blossom of them all. She was dressed
simply in a white gown of muslin and a little three-cornered hat of
straw; but Wogan knew as he advanced towards her that it was not merely
the hat which threw the dark shadow on her face.

She took a step or two towards him and began at once without any
friendly greeting in a cold, formal voice, -

"You have received a letter this morning from his Majesty?"

"Yes, your Highness."

"Why does the King linger in Spain?"

"The expedition from Cadiz - "

"Which left harbour a week ago. Well, Mr. Wogan," she asked in biting
tones, "how does that expedition now on the high seas detain his Majesty


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Online LibraryA.E. W. MasonClementina → online text (page 17 of 20)