A.E. W. Mason.

Clementina online

. (page 18 of 20)
Online LibraryA.E. W. MasonClementina → online text (page 18 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


in Spain?"

Wogan was utterly dumfounded. He stood and gazed at her, a great trouble
in his eyes, and his wits with that expedition all at sea.

"Is your Highness sure?" he babbled.

"Oh, indeed, most sure," she replied with the hardest laugh which he had
ever heard from a woman's lips.

"I did not know," he said in dejection, and she took a step nearer to
him, and her cheeks flamed.

"Is that the truth?" she asked, her voice trembling with anger. "You did
not know?"

And Wogan understood that the real trouble with her at this moment was
not so much the King's delay in Spain as a doubt whether he himself had
played with her and spoken her false. For if he was proved untrue here,
why, he might have been untrue throughout, on the stairway at Innspruck,
on the road to Ala, in the hut on the bluff of the hills. He could see
how harshly the doubt would buffet her pride, how it would wound her to
the soul.

"It is the truth," he answered; "you will believe it. I pledge my soul
upon it. Lay your hand in mine. I will repeat it standing so. Could I
speak false with your hand close in mine?"

He held out his hand; she did not move, nor did her attitude of distrust
relent.

"Could you not?" she asked icily.

Wogan was baffled; he was angered. "Have I ever told you lies?" he asked
passionately, and she answered, "Yes," and steadily looked him in the
face.

The monosyllable quenched him like a pail of cold water. He stood
silent, perplexed, trying to remember.

"When?" he asked.

"In the berlin between Brixen and Wellishmile."

Wogan remembered that he had told her of his city of dreams. But it was
plainly not to that that she referred. He shrugged his shoulders.

"I cannot remember."

"You told me of an attack made upon a Scottish town, what time the King
was there in the year '15. He forced a passage through nine grenadiers
with loaded muskets and escaped over the roof-tops, where he played a
game of hide-and-seek among the chimneys. Ah, you remember the story
now. There was a chain, I remember, which even then as you told of it
puzzled me. He threw the chain over the head of one of those nine
grenadiers, and crossing his arms jerked it tight about the man's neck,
stifling his cry of warning. 'What chain?' I asked, and you
answered, - oh, sir, with a practised readiness, - 'The chain he wore
about his neck.' Do you remember that? The chain linked your hand-locks,
Mr. Wogan. It was your own escape of which you told me. Why did you
ascribe your exploits to your King?"

"Your Highness," he said, "we know the King, we who have served him day
in and day out for years. We can say freely to each other, 'The King's
achievements, they are to come.' We were in Scotland with him, and we
know they will not fail to come. But with you it's different. You did
not know him. You asked what he had done, and I told you. You asked for
more. You said, 'Amongst his throng of adventurers, each of whom has
something to his credit, what has he, the chief adventurer?'"

"Well, sir, why not the truth in answer to the question?"

"Because the truth's unfair to him."

"And was the untruth fair to me?"

Mr. Wogan was silent.

"I think I understand," she continued bitterly; "you thought, here's a
foolish girl, aflame for knights and monsters overthrown. She cries for
deeds, not statecraft. Well, out of your many, you would toss her one,
and call it the King's. You could afford the loss, and she, please God,
would be content with it." She spoke with an extraordinary violence in a
low, trembling voice, and she would not listen to Wogan's stammered
interruption.

"Very likely, too, the rest of your words to me was of a piece. I was a
girl, and girls are to have gallant speeches given to them like so many
lollipops. Oh, but you have hurt me beyond words. I would not have
thought I could have suffered so much pain!"

That last cry wrung Wogan's heart. She turned away from him with the
tears brimming in her eyes. It was this conjecture of hers which he had
dreaded, which at all costs he must dispel.

"Do not believe it!" he exclaimed. "Think! Should I have been at so much
pains to refrain from speech, if speech was what I had intended?"

"How should I know but what that concealment was part of the gallantry,
a necessary preface to the pretty speeches?"

"Should I have urged your rescue on the King had I believed you what you
will have it that I did, - a mere witless girl to be pampered with
follies?"

"Then you admit," she cried, "you _urged_ the King."

"Should I have travelled over Europe to search for a wife and lit on
you? Should I have ridden to Ohlau and pestered your father till he
yielded? Should I have ridden across Europe to Strasbourg? Should I have
endangered my friends in the rush to Innspruck? No, no, no! From first
to last you were the chosen woman."

The vehemence and fire of sincerity with which he spoke had its effect
on her. She turned again towards him with a gleam of hopefulness in her
face, but midway in the turn she stopped.

"You spoke to me words which I have not forgotten," she said doubtfully.
"You said the King had need of me. I will be frank, hoping that you will
match my frankness. On that morning when we climbed down the gorge, and
ever since I cheered myself with that one thought. The King had need of
me."

"Never was truer word spoken," said Wogan, stoutly.

"Then why is the King in Spain?"

They had come back to the first question. Wogan had no new answer to it.
He said, -

"I do not know."

For a moment or two Clementina searched his eyes. It seemed in the end
that she was satisfied he spoke the truth. For she said in a voice of
greater gentleness, -

"Then I will acquaint you. Will you walk with me for half a mile?"

Wogan bowed, and followed her out of the garden. He could not think
whither she was leading him, or for what purpose. She walked without a
word to him, he followed without a question, and so pacing with much
dignity they came to the steps of a great house. Then Clementina halted.

"Sir," said she, "can you put a name to the house?"

"Upon my word, your Highness, I cannot."

"It is the Caprara Palace," said she, suddenly, and suddenly she bent
her eyes upon Wogan. The name, however, conveyed no meaning whatever to
him, and his blank face told her so clearly. She nodded in a sort of
approval. "No," she said, relenting, "you did not know."

She mounted the steps, and knocking upon the door was admitted by an old
broken serving-man, who told her that the Princess Caprara was away. It
was permitted him, however, to show the many curiosities and treasures
of the palace to such visitors as desired it. Clementina did desire it.
The old man led her and her companion to the armoury, where he was for
spending much time and breath over the trophies which the distinguished
General Caprara had of old rapt from the infidels. But Clementina
quickly broke in upon his garrulity.

"I have a great wish to see the picture gallery," said she, and the old
man tottered onwards through many shrouded and darkened rooms. In the
picture gallery he drew up the blinds and then took a wand in his hand.

"Will you show me first the portrait of Mlle. de Caprara?" said
Clementina.

It was a full-length portrait painted with remarkable skill. Maria
Vittoria de Caprara was represented in a black dress, and the warm
Italian colouring of her face made a sort of glow in the dark picture.
Her eyes watched you from the canvas with so life-like a glance you had
a thought when you turned that they turned after you. Clementina gazed
at the picture for a long while, and the blood slowly mounted on her
neck and transfused her cheeks.

"There is a face, Mr. Wogan, - a passionate, beautiful face, - which might
well set a seal upon a man's heart. I do not wonder. I can well believe
that though to-day that face gladdens the streets of Rome, a lover in
Spain might see it through all the thick earth of the Pyrenees. There,
sir, I promised to acquaint you why the King lingered in Spain. I have
fulfilled that promise;" and making a present to the custodian, she
walked back through the rooms and down the steps to the street. Wogan
followed her, and pacing with much dignity they walked back to the
little house among the trees, and so came again into the garden of
blossoms.

The anger had now gone from her face, but it was replaced by a great
weariness.

"It is strange, is it not," she said with a faltering smile, "that on a
spring morning, beneath this sky, amongst these flowers, I should think
with envy of the snows of Innspruck and my prison there? But I owe you a
reparation," she added. "You said the King had need of me. For that
saying of yours I find an apt simile. Call it a stone on which you bade
me set my foot and step. I stepped, and found that your stone was
straw."

"No, madam," cried Wogan.

"I had a thought," she continued, "you knew the stone was straw when
you commended it to me as stone. But this morning I have learned my
error. I acquit you, and ask your pardon. You did not know that the King
had no need of me." And she bowed to him as though the conversation was
at an end. Wogan, however, would not let her go. He placed himself in
front of her, engrossed in his one thought, "She must marry the King."
He spoke, however, none the less with sincerity when he cried, -

"Nor do I know now - no, and I shall not know."

"You have walked with me to the Caprara Palace this morning. Or did I
dream we walked?"

"What your Highness has shown me to-day I cannot gainsay. For this is
the first time that ever I heard of Mlle. de Caprara. But I am very sure
that you draw your inference amiss. You sit in judgment on the King, not
knowing him. You push aside the firm trust of us who know him as a thing
of no account. And because once, in a mood of remorse at my own
presumption, I ascribed one trivial exploit - at the best a success of
muscle and not brain - to the King which was not his, you strip him of
all merit on the instant." He saw that her face flushed. Here, at all
events, he had hit the mark, and he cried out with a ringing
confidence, -

"Your stone is stone, not straw."

"Prove it me," said she.

"What do you know of the Princess Caprara at the end of it all? You
have told me this morning all you know. I will go bail if the whole
truth were out the matter would take a very different complexion."

Again she said, -

"Prove that to me!" and then she looked over his shoulder. Wogan turned
and saw that a servant was coming from the house across the lawn with a
letter on a salver. The Princess opened the letter and read it. Then she
turned again to Wogan.

"His Eminence the Cardinal fixes the marriage in Bologna here for to-day
fortnight. You have thus two weeks wherein to make your word good."

Two weeks, and Wogan had not an idea in his head as to how he was to set
about the business. But he bowed imperturbably.

"Within two weeks I will convince your Highness," said he, and for a
good half-hour he sauntered with her about the garden before he took his
leave.




CHAPTER XXIII


But his thoughts had been busy during that half-hour, and as soon as he
had come out from the mouth of the alley, he ran to Gaydon's lodging.
Gaydon, however, was not in. O'Toole lodged in the same house, and Wogan
mounted to his apartments, hoping there to find news of Gaydon's
whereabouts. But O'Toole was taking the air, too, but Wogan found
O'Toole's servant.

"Where will I find Captain O'Toole?" asked Wogan.

"You will find his Excellency," said the servant, with a reproachful
emphasis upon the title, "at the little bookseller's in the Piazza."

Wogan sprang down the stairs and hurried to the Piazza, wondering what
in the world O'Toole was doing at a bookseller's. O'Toole was bending
over the counter, which was spread with open books, and Wogan hailed him
from the doorway. O'Toole turned and blushed a deep crimson. He came to
the door as if to prevent Wogan's entrance into the shop. Wogan,
however, had but one thought in his head.

"Where shall I find Gaydon?" he asked.

"He went towards the Via San Vitale," replied O'Toole.

Wogan set off again, and in an hour came upon Gaydon. He had lost an
hour of his fortnight; with the half-hour during which he had sauntered
in the garden, an hour and a half.

"You went to Rome in the spring," said he. "There you saw the King. Did
you see anyone else by any chance whilst you were in Rome?"

"Edgar," replied Gaydon, with a glance from the tail of his eye which
Wogan did not fail to remark.

"Aha!" said he. "Edgar, to be sure, since you saw the King. But besides
Edgar, did you see anyone else?"

"Whittington," said Gaydon.

"Oho!" said Wogan, thoughtfully. "So you saw my friend Harry Whittington
at Rome. Did you see him with the King?"

Gaydon was becoming manifestly uncomfortable.

"He was waiting for the King," he replied.

"Indeed. And whereabouts was he waiting for the King?"

"Oh, outside a house in Rome," said Gaydon, as though he barely
remembered the incident. "It was no business of mine, that I could see."

"None whatever, to be sure," answered Wogan, cordially. "But why in the
world should Whittington be waiting for the King outside a house in
Rome?"

"It was night-time. He carried a lantern."

"Of course, if it was night-time," exclaimed Wogan, in his most
unsuspicious accent, "and the King wished to pay a visit to a house in
Rome, he would take an attendant with a lantern. A servant, though, one
would have thought, unless, of course, it was a private sort of visit - "

"It was no business of mine," Gaydon interrupted; "and so I made no
inquiries of Whittington."

"But Whittington did not wait for inquiries, eh?" said Wogan, shrewdly.
"You are hiding something from me, my friend, - something which that good
honest simpleton of a Whittington blurted out to you without the least
thought of making any disclosure. Oh, I know my Whittington. And I know
you, too, Dick. I do not blame you. For when the King goes a-visiting
the Princess Caprara privately at night-time while the girl to whom he
is betrothed suffers in prison for her courageous loyalty to him, and
his best friends are risking their heads to set her free, why, there's
knowledge a man would be glad to keep even out of his own hearing. So
you see I know more than you credit me with. So tell me the rest! Don't
fob me off. Don't plead it is none of your business, for, upon my soul,
it is." Gaydon suddenly changed his manner. He spoke with no less
earnestness than Wogan, -

"You are in the right. It is my business, and why? Because it touches
you, Charles Wogan, and you are my friend."

"Therefore you will tell me," cried Wogan.

"Therefore I will not tell you," answered Gaydon. He had a very keen
recollection of certain pages of poetry he had seen on the table at
Schlestadt, of certain conversations in the berlin when he had feigned
to sleep.

Wogan caught him by the arm.

"I must know. Here have I lost two hours out of one poor fortnight. I
must know."

"Why?"

Gaydon stood quite unmoved, and with a remarkable sternness of
expression. Wogan understood that only the truth would unlock his lips,
and he cried, -

"Because unless I do, in a fortnight her Highness will refuse to marry
the King." And he recounted to him the walk he had taken and the
conversation he had held with Clementina that morning. Gaydon listened
with an unfeigned surprise. The story put Wogan in quite a different
light, and moreover it was told with so much sincerity of voice and so
clear a simplicity of language, Gaydon could not doubt one syllable.

"I am afraid, my friend," said he, "my thoughts have done you some
wrong - "

"Leave me out of them," cried Wogan, impatiently. He had no notion and
no desire to hear what Gaydon meant. "Tell me from first to last what
you saw in Rome."

Gaydon told him thereupon of that secret passage from the Chevalier's
house into the back street, and of that promenade to the Princess's
house which he had spied upon. Wogan listened without any remark, and
yet without any attempt to quicken his informant. But as soon as he had
the story, he set off at a run towards the Cardinal's palace. "So the
Princess," he thought, "had more than a rumour to go upon, though how
she came by her knowledge the devil only knows." At the palace he was
told that the Cardinal was gone to the Archiginnasio.

"I will wait," said Wogan; and he waited in the library for an
hour, - another priceless hour of that swiftly passing fortnight, and he
was not a whit nearer to his end! He made it his business, however, to
show a composed face to his Eminence, and since his Eminence's dinner
was ready, to make a pretence of sharing the meal. The Cardinal was in a
mood of great contentment.

"It is your presence, Mr. Wogan, puts me in a good humour," he was
pleased to say.

"Or a certain letter your Eminence received from Spain to-day?" asked
Wogan.

"True, the letter was one to cause all the King's friends satisfaction."

"And some few of them, perhaps, relief," said Wogan.

The Cardinal glanced at Wogan, but with a quite impassive countenance.
He took a pinch of snuff and inhaled it delicately. Then he glanced at
Wogan again.

"I have a hope, Mr. Wogan," said he, with a great cordiality. "You shall
tell me if it is to fall. I see much of you of late, and I have a hope
that you are thinking of the priesthood. We should welcome you very
gladly, you may be sure. Who knows but what there is a Cardinal's hat
hung up in the anteroom of the future for you to take down from its
peg?"

The suggestion was sufficiently startling to Wogan, who had thought of
nothing less than of entering into orders. But he was not to be diverted
by this piece of ingenuity.

"Your Eminence," said he, "although I hold myself unworthy of priestly
vows, I am here in truth in the character of a catechist."

"Catechise, then, my friend," said the Cardinal, with a smile.

"First, then, I would ask your Eminence how many of the King's followers
have had the honour of being presented to the Princess Clementina?"

"Very few."

"Might I know the names?"

"To be sure."

Cardinal Origo repeated three or four names. They were the names of men
known to Wogan for irreproachable loyalty. Not one of them would have
gone about the Princess with slanders upon his master; he would have
gone bail for them all, - at least, a month ago he would, he reflected,
though now indeed he hardly knew where to put his trust.

"Her Highness lives, as you know, a very suitable, secluded life,"
continued Origo.

"But might not others have had access to her at the Pilgrim Inn?"

"Nay, she was there but the one night, - the night of her arrival. I do
not think it likely. For if you remember, I myself went to her early the
next morning, and by a stroke of good luck I had already come upon the
little house in the garden which was offered to me by a friend of yours
for her Highness's service."

"On the evening of our arrival? A friend of mine offered you the house,"
said Wogan, puzzling over who that friend could be.

"Yes. Harry Whittington."

Wogan started to his feet. So, after all, Whittington was at the bottom
of the trouble. Wogan wondered whether he had done wisely not to publish
the fellow's treachery. But he could not, - no, he had to make his
account with the man alone. There were reasons.

"It was Harry Whittington who offered the house for her Highness's use?"
Wogan exclaimed.

"It was an offer most apt and kind."

"And made on the evening of our arrival?"

"Not an hour after you left me. But you are surprised?"

Wogan was reflecting that on the evening of his arrival, and indeed just
before Whittington made his offer to Origo, he had seen Whittington's
face by the torchlight in the square. That face lived very plainly in
Wogan's thoughts. It was certainly not for Clementina's service that
Whittington had offered the house. Wogan resumed his seat, saying
carelessly, -

"I was surprised, for I had a notion that Whittington lodged opposite
the Torre Garisenda, and not at the house."

"Nor did he. He hired it for a friend who has now left Bologna."

"Man or woman?" asked Wogan, remembering that visitor who had drawn back
into the alley one early morning of last autumn. The man might very
likely have been Whittington.

"I did not trouble to inquire," said the Cardinal. "But, Mr. Wogan, why
do you ask me these questions?"

"I have not come yet to the end of them," answered Wogan. "There is one
more."

"Ask it!" said his Eminence, crossing his legs.

"Will your Eminence oblige me with a history of the affection of Maria
Vittoria, Mlle. de Caprara, for the King?"

The Cardinal uncrossed his legs and bounced in his chair.

"Here is a question indeed!" he stuttered.

"And a history of the King's response to it," continued Wogan,
implacably, "with a particular account of why the King lingers in Spain
after the Cadiz expedition has put out to sea."

Origo was now quite still. His face was pale, and he had lost in an
instant that air of affectation which so contrasted with his broad
features.

"This is very dangerous talk," said he, solemnly.

"Not so dangerous as silence."

"Some foolish slanderer has been busy at your ears."

"Not at my ears," returned Wogan.

The Cardinal took his meaning. "Is it so, indeed?" said he,
thoughtfully, once or twice. Then he reached out his hand towards an
escritoire. "But here's the King's letter come this morning."

"It is not enough," said Wogan, "for the King lingers in Spain, and the
portrait of Maria Vittoria glows on the walls of the Caprara Palace,
whither I was bidden to escort her Highness this morning."

The Cardinal walked thoughtfully to and fro about the room, but made up
his mind in the end.

"I will tell you the truth of the matter, Mr. Wogan. The King saw Mlle.
de Caprara for the first time while you were searching Europe for a wife
for him. He saw her here one morning at Mass in the Church of the
Crucifixion, and came away most silent. Of their acquaintance I need not
speak. The King just for one month became an ardent youth. He appealed
to the Pope for his consent to marry Mlle. de Caprara, and the Pope
consented. The King was just sending off a message to bid you cease your
search when you came back with the news that her Highness the Princess
Clementina had accepted the King's hand and would shortly set out for
Bologna. Sir, the King was in despair, though he showed to you a
smiling, grateful face. Mlle. de Caprara went to Rome; the King stayed
here awaiting his betrothed. There came the news of her imprisonment.
The King, after all, is a man. If his heart leaped a little at the news,
who shall blame him? Do you remember how you came privately one night
to the King's cabinet and found me there in the King's company?"

"But," stammered Wogan, "I do remember that evening. I remember that the
King was pale, discouraged - "

"And why?" said Origo. "Because her Highness's journey had been
interrupted, because the marriage now seemed impossible? No, but because
Mr. Charles Wogan was back in Bologna, because Mr. Charles Wogan had
sought for a private interview, because the King had no more doubt than
I as to what Mr. Charles Wogan intended to propose, and because the King
knew that what Mr. Wogan set his hand to was as good as done. You
remember I threw such hindrances as I could in your way, and made much
of the risks you must run, and the impossibility of your task. Now you
know why."

Never was a man more confused than Wogan at this story of the
Cardinal's. "It makes me out a mere meddlesome fool," he cried, and sat
stunned.

"It is an unprofitable question at this time of day," said the Cardinal,
with a smile. "Matters have gone so far that they can no longer be
remedied. This marriage must take place."

"True," said Wogan.

"The King, indeed, is firmly inclined to it."

"Yet he lingers in Spain."

"That I cannot explain to you, but he has been most loyal. That you must
take my word for, so must your Princess."

"Yet this winter when I was at Schlestadt preparing the expedition to
Innspruck," Wogan said with a certain timidity, for he no longer felt
that it was within his right to make reproaches, "the King was in Rome
visiting Mlle. de Caprara."

The Cardinal flushed with some anger at Wogan's persistence.

"Come, sir," said he, "what has soured you with suspicions? Upon my
word, here is a man sitting with me who bears your name, but few of
those good qualities the name is linked with in my memories. Your King


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20

Online LibraryA.E. W. MasonClementina → online text (page 18 of 20)