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face, the other had thrust his chin within the folds of his cravat.
Gaydon had not been able to see the face of either. After nightfall he
remarked that such visits became more frequent. Moreover, they were
repeated on the next day and the next. Gaydon watched, but never got any
nearer to a solution of the mystery. At the end of the sixth day he was
more puzzled and interested than ever, for closely as he had watched he
had not seen the face of any man who had passed in and out of that door.

But he was to see a face that night.

At nine o'clock a messenger from Edgar, the secretary, brought him a
package which contained a letter and the passport for these six days
delayed. The letter warned him that Edgar himself would come to fetch
him in the morning to his audience with James. The passport gave
authority to a Flemish nobleman, the Count of Cernes, to make a
pilgrimage to Loretto with his wife and family. The name of Warner had
served its turn and could no longer be employed.

As soon as the messenger had gone, Gaydon destroyed Edgar's letter, put
the passport safely away in his breast, and since he had not left his
room that day, put on his hat. Being a prudent man with a turn for
economy, he also extinguished his lamp. He had also a liking for fresh
air, so he opened the window, and at the same moment the door of the
house opposite was opened. A tall burly man with a lantern in his hand
stepped out into the street; he was followed by a slight man of a short
stature. Both men were wrapped in their cloaks, but the shorter one
tripped on a break in the road and his cloak fell apart. His companion
turned at once and held his lantern aloft. Just for a second the light
therefore flashed upon a face, and Gaydon at his dark window caught a
glimpse of it. The face was the face of his King.

Gaydon was more than ever puzzled. He had only seen the face for an
instant; moreover, he was looking down upon it, so that he might be
mistaken. He felt, however, that he was not, and he began to wonder at
the business that could take his King to this mysterious house. But
there was one thing of which he was sure amidst all his doubts, Rome was
not the safest city in the world for a man to walk about at nights. His
King would be none the worse off for a second guardian who would follow
near enough to give help and far enough for discretion. Gaydon went down
his stairs into the street. The lantern twinkled ahead; Gaydon followed
it until it stopped before a great house which had lights burning here
and there in the windows. The smaller man mounted the steps and was
admitted; his big companion with the lantern remained outside.

Gaydon, wishing to make sure of his conjectures one way or the other,
walked quickly past him and stole a glance sideways at his face. But the
man with the lantern looked at Gaydon at the same moment. Their eyes
met, and the lantern was immediately held aloft.

"It is Major Gaydon."

Gaydon had to make the best of the business. He bowed.

"Mr. Whittington, I think."

"Sir," said Whittington, politely, "I am honoured by your memory. For
myself, I never forget a face though I see it but for a moment between
the light and the dark, but I do not expect the like from my
acquaintances. We did meet, I believe, in Paris? You are of Dillon's

"And on leave in Rome," said Gaydon, a trifle hastily.

"On leave?" said Whittington, idly. "Well, so far as towns go, Rome is
as good as another, though, to tell the truth, I find them all quite
unendurable. Would I were on leave! but I am pinned here, a watchman
with a lantern. I do but lack a rattle, though, to be sure, I could not
spring it. We are secret to-night, major. Do you know what house this

"No," replied Gaydon. "But I am waited for and will bid you good-night."

He had a thought that the Chevalier, since he would be secret, had
chosen his watchman rather ill. He had no wish to pry, and so was for
returning to his lodging; but that careless, imprudent man, Whittington,
would not lose a companion so easily. He caught Gaydon by the arm.

"Well, it is the house of Maria Vittoria, Mademoiselle de Caprara, the
heiress of Bologna, who has only this evening come to Rome. And so no
later than this evening I am playing link-boy, appointed by letters
patent, one might say. But what will you? Youth is youth, whether in a
ploughboy or a - But my tongue needs a gag. Another word, and I had said
too much. Well, since you will be going, good-night. We shall meet, no
doubt, in a certain house that overlooks the Tiber."

"Hardly," said Gaydon, "since I leave Rome to-morrow."

"Indeed? You leave Rome to-morrow?" said Whittington. "I would I were as
fortunate," and he jerked his thumb dolefully towards the Caprara
Palace. Gaydon hesitated for a moment, considering whether or not he
should ask Whittington to be silent upon their meeting. But he
determined the man was too incautious in his speech. If he begged him
not to mention Gaydon's presence in Rome, he would remember it the more
surely, and if nothing was said he might forget it. Gaydon wished him
good-night and went back to his lodging, walking rather moodily.
Whittington looked after him and chuckled.

Meanwhile, in a room of the house two people sat, - one the slight,
graceful man who had accompanied Whittington and whom Gaydon had
correctly guessed to be his King, the other, Maria Vittoria de Caprara.
The Chevalier de St. George was speaking awkwardly with a voice which
broke. Maria listened with a face set and drawn. She was a girl both in
features and complexion of a remarkable purity. Of colour, but for her
red lips, she had none. Her hair was black, her face of a clear pallor
which her hair made yet more pale. Her eyes matched her hair, and were
so bright and quick a starry spark seemed to glow in the depths of them.
She was a poet's simile for night.

The Chevalier ended and sat with his eyes turned away. Maria Vittoria
did not change her attitude, nor for a while did she answer, but the
tears gathered in her eyes and welled over. They ran down her cheeks;
she did not wipe them away, she did not sob, nor did her face alter from
its fixity. She did not even close her eyes. Only the tears rained down
so silently that the Prince was not aware of them. He had even a thought
as he sat with his head averted that she might have shown a trifle more
of distress, and it was almost with a reproach upon his lips that he
turned to her. Never was a man more glad that he had left a word
unspoken. This silent grief of tears cut him to the heart.

"Maria!" he cried, and moved towards her. She made no gesture to repel
him, she did not move, but she spoke in a whisper.

"His Holiness the Pope had consented to our marriage. What would I not
have done for you?"

The Chevalier stooped over her and took her hand. The hand remained
inert in his.


"Would that I were poor! Would that I were powerless! But I am rich - so
rich. I could have done so much. I am alone - so much alone. What would I
not have done for you?"


His voice choked upon the word, his lips touched her hair, and she
shivered from head to foot. Then her hand tightened fast upon his; she
drew him down almost fiercely until he sank upon his knees by her side;
she put an arm about his shoulder and held him to her breast.

"But you love me," she said quickly. "Tell me so! Say, 'I love you, I
love you, I love you.' Oh that we both could die, you saying it, I
hearing it, - die to-night, like this, my arm about you, your face
against my heart! My lord, my lord!" and then she flung him from her,
holding him at arm's length. "Say it with your eyes on mine! I can see
though the tears fall. I shall never hear the words again after
to-night. Do not stint me of them; let them flow just as these tears
flow. They will leave no more trace than do my tears."

"Maria, I love you," said the Chevalier. "How I do love you!" He took
her hands from his shoulders and pressed his forehead upon them. She
leaned forward, and in a voice so low it seemed her heart was
whispering, not her mouth, she made her prayer.

"Say that you have no room in your thoughts except for me. Say that you
have no scrap of love - " He dropped her hands and drew away; she caught
him to her. "No, no! Say that you have no scrap of love to toss to the
woman there in Innspruck!"

"Maria!" he exclaimed.

"Hush!" said she, with a woful smile. "To-morrow you shall love her;
to-morrow I will not ask your eyes to dwell on mine or your hand to
quiver as it touches mine. But to-night love no one but me."

For answer he kissed her on the lips. She took his head between her
hands and gave the kiss back, gently as though her lips feared to bruise
his, slowly as though this one moment must content her for all her life.
Then she looked at him for a little, and with a childish movement that
was infinitely sad she laid his face side by side with hers so that his
cheek touched hers.

"Shall I tell you my thought?" she asked. "Shall I dare to tell you it?"

"Tell it me!"

"God has died to-night. Hush! Do not move! Do not speak! Perhaps the
world will slip and crumble if we but stay still." And they remained
thus cheek to cheek silent in the room, staring forward with eyes wide
open and hopeful. The very air seemed to them a-quiver with
expectation. They, too, had an expectant smile upon their lips. But
there was no crack of thunder overhead, no roar of a slipping world.

EYES WIDE OPEN AND HOPEFUL." - _Page 136_.] The Chevalier was the first
to move.

"But we are children," he cried, starting up. "Is it not strange the
very pain which tortures us because we are man and woman should sink us
into children? We sit hoping that a miracle will split the world in
pieces! This is the Caprara Palace; Whittington drowses outside over his
lantern; and to-morrow Gaydon rides with his passport northwards to
Charles Wogan."

The name hurt Maria Vittoria like a physical torture. She beat her hands
together with a cry, "I hate him! I hate him!"

"Yet I have no better servant!"

"Speak no good word of him in my ears! He robs me of you."

"He risks his life for me."

"I will pray that he may lose it."


The Chevalier started, thrilled and almost appalled by the violence of
her passion.

"I do pray," she cried. "Every fibre in me tingles with the prayer. Oh,
I hate him! Why did you give him leave to rescue her?"

"Could I refuse? I did delay him; I did hesitate. Only to-day Gaydon
receives the passport, and even so I have delayed too long. Indeed,
Maria, I dare not think of the shame, the danger, her Highness has
endured for me, lest my presence here, even for this farewell, should
too bitterly reproach me."

At that all Maria Vittoria's vehemence left her. She fell to beseechings
and entreaties. With her vehemence went also her dignity. She dropped
upon her knees and dragged herself across the room to him. To James her
humility was more terrible than her passion, for passion had always
distinguished her, and he was familiar with it; but pride had always
gone hand in hand with it. He stepped forward and would have raised her
from the ground, but Maria would have none of his help; she crouched at
his feet pleading.

"You told me business would call you to Spain. Go there! Stay there! For
a little - oh, not for long! But for a month, say, after your Princess
comes triumphing into Bologna. Promise me that! I could not bear that
you should meet her as she comes. There would be shouts; I can hear
them. No, I will not have it! I can see her proud cursed face a-flush.
No! You think too much of what she has suffered. If I could have
suffered too! But suffering, shame, humiliation, these fall to women,
always have fallen. We have learnt to bear them so that we feel them
less than you. My dear lord, believe me! Her suffering is no great
thing. If we love we welcome it! Each throb of pain endured for love
becomes a thrill of joy. If I could have suffered too!"

It was strange to hear this girl with the streaming eyes and tormented
face bewail her fate in that she had not won that great privilege of
suffering. She knelt on the ground a splendid image of pain, and longed
for pain that she might prove thereby how little a thing she made of it.
The Chevalier drew a stool to her side and seating himself upon it
clasped her about the waist. She laid her cheek upon his knee just as a
dog will do.

"Sweetheart," said he, "I would have no woman suffer a pang for me had I
my will of the world. But since that may not be, I do not believe that
any woman could be deeper hurt than you are now."

"Not Clementina?"


Maria uttered a little sigh. Her pain gave her a sort of ownership of
the man who caused it. "Nor can she love as deep," she continued
quietly. "A Sobieski from the snows! Love was born here in Italy. She
robs me of you. I hate her." Then she raised her face eagerly. "Charles
Wogan may fail."

"You do not know him."

"The cleverest have made mistakes and died for them."

"Wogan makes mistakes like another, but somehow gets the better of them
in the end. There was a word he said to me when he begged for my
permission. I told him his plan was a mere dream. He answered he would
dream it true; he will."

"You should have waked him. You were the master, he the servant. You
were the King."

"And when can the King do what he wills instead of what he must? Maria,
if you and I had met before I sent Charles Wogan to search out a wife
for me - "

Maria Vittoria knelt up. She drew herself away.

"He chose her as your wife?"

"If only I had had time to summon him back!"

"He chose her - Charles Wogan. How I hate him!"

"I sent him to make the choice."

"And he might have gone no step beyond Bologna. There was I not a mile
distant ready to his hand! But I was too mean, too despicable - "

"Maria, hush!" And the troubled voice in which he spoke rang with so
much pain that she was at once contrite with remorse.

"My lord, I hurt you, so you see how I am proven mean. Give me your hand
and laugh to me; laugh with your heart and eyes and lips. I am jealous
of your pain. I am a woman. I would have it all, gather it all into my
bosom, and cherish each sharp stab like a flower my lover gives to me. I
am glad of them. They are flowers that will not wither. Add a kiss,
sweetheart, the sharpest stab, and so the chief flower, the very rose of
flowers. There, that is well," and she rose from her knees and turned
away. So she stood for a little, and when she turned again she wore upon
her face the smile which she had bidden rise in his.

"Would we were free!" cried the Chevalier.

"But since we are not, let us show brave faces to the world and hide our
hearts. I do wish you all happiness. But you will go to Spain. There's
a friend's hand in warrant of the wish."

She held out a hand which clasped his firmly without so much as a

"Good-night, my friend," said she. "Speak those same words to me, and no
word more. I am tired with the day's doings. I have need of sleep, oh,
great need of it!"

The Chevalier read plainly the overwhelming strain her counterfeit of
friendliness put upon her. He dared not prolong it. Even as he looked at
her, her lips quivered and her eyes swam.

"Good-night, my friend," said he.

She conducted him along a wide gallery to the great staircase where her
lackeys waited. Then he bowed to her and she curtsied low to him, but no
word was spoken by either. This little comedy must needs be played in
pantomime lest the actors should spoil it with a show of broken hearts.

Maria Vittoria went back to the room. She could have hindered Wogan if
she had had the mind. She had the time to betray him; she knew of his
purpose. But the thought of betrayal never so much as entered her

She hated him, she hated Clementina, but she was loyal to her King. She
sat alone in her palace, her chin propped upon her hands, and in a
little in her wide unblinking eyes the tears gathered again and rolled
down her cheeks and on her hands. She wept silently and without a
movement, like a statue weeping.

The Chevalier found Whittington waiting for him, but the candle in his
lantern had burned out.

"I have kept you here a wearisome long time," he said with an effort. It
was not easy for him to speak upon an indifferent matter.

"I had some talk with Major Gaydon which helped me to beguile it," said

"Gaydon!" exclaimed the Chevalier, "are you certain?"

"A man may make mistakes in the darkness," said Whittington.

"To be sure."

"And I never had an eye for faces."

"It was not Gaydon, then?" said the Chevalier.

"It may not have been," said Whittington, "and by the best of good
fortune I said nothing to him of any significance whatever."

The Chevalier was satisfied with the reply. He had chosen the right
attendant for this nocturnal visit. Had Gaydon met with a more observant
man than Whittington outside the Caprara Palace, he might have got a
number of foolish suspicions into his head.

Gaydon, however, was at that moment in his bed, saying to himself that
there were many matters concerning which it would be an impertinence for
him to have one meddlesome thought. By God's blessing he was a soldier
and no politician. He fell asleep comforted by that conclusion.

In the morning Edgar, the Chevalier's secretary, came privately to him.

"The King will receive you now," said he. "Let us go."

"It is broad daylight. We shall be seen."

"Not if the street is empty," said Edgar, looking out of the window.

The street, as it chanced, was for the moment empty. Edgar crossed the
street and rapped quickly with certain pauses between the raps on the
door of that deserted house into which Gaydon had watched men enter. The
door was opened. "Follow me," said Edgar. Gaydon followed him into a
bare passage unswept and with discoloured walls. A man in a little hutch
in the wall opened and closed the door with a string.

Edgar walked forward to the end of the passage with Gaydon at his heels.
The two men came to a flight of stone steps, which they descended. The
steps led to a dark and dripping cellar with no pavement but the mud,
and that depressed into puddles. The air was cold and noisome; the walls
to the touch of Gaydon's hand were greasy with slime. He followed Edgar
across the cellar into a sort of tunnel. Here Edgar drew an end of
candle from his pocket and lighted it. The tunnel was so low that
Gaydon, though a shortish man, could barely hold his head erect. He
followed Edgar to the end and up a flight of winding steps. The air grew
warmer and dryer. They had risen above ground, the spiral wound within
the thickness of a wall. The steps ended abruptly; there was no door
visible; in face of them and on each side the bare stone walls enclosed
them. Edgar stooped down and pressed with his finger on a round
insignificant discolouration of the stone. Then he stood up again.

"You will breathe no word of this passage, Major Gaydon," said he. "The
house was built a century ago when Rome was more troubled than it is
to-day, but the passage was never more useful than now. Men from
England, whose names it would astonish you to know, have trodden these
steps on a secret visit to the King. Ah!" From the wall before their
faces a great slab of the size of a door sank noiselessly down and
disclosed a wooden panel. The panel slid aside. Edgar and Gaydon stepped
into a little cabinet lighted by a single window. The room was empty.
Gaydon took a peep out of the window and saw the Tiber eddying beneath.
Edgar went to a corner and touched a spring. The stone slab rose from
its grooves; the panel slid back across it; at the same moment the door
of the room was opened, and the Chevalier stepped across the threshold.

Gaydon could no longer even pretend to doubt who had walked with
Whittington to the Caprara Palace the night before. It was none of his
business, however, he assured himself. If his King dwelt with emphasis
upon the dangers of the enterprise, it was not his business to remark
upon it or to be thereby disheartened. The King said very graciously
that he would hold the major and his friends in no less esteem if by any
misfortune they came back empty-handed. That was most kind of him, but
it was none of Gaydon's business. The King was ill at ease and looked as
though he had not slept a wink the livelong night. Well, swollen eyes
and a patched pallid face disfigure all men at times, and in any case
they were none of Gaydon's business.

He rode out of Rome that afternoon as the light was failing. He rode at
a quick trot, and did not notice at the corner of a street a big
stalwart man who sauntered along swinging his stick by the tassel with a
vacant look of idleness upon the passers-by. He stopped and directed the
same vacant look at Gaydon.

But he was thinking curiously, "Will he tell Charles Wogan?"

The stalwart man was Harry Whittington.

Gaydon, however, never breathed a word about the Caprara Palace when he
handed the passport to Charles Wogan at Schlestadt. Wogan was sitting
propped up with pillows in a chair, and he asked Gaydon many questions
of the news at Rome, and how the King bore himself.

"The King was not in the best of spirits," said Gaydon.

"With this," cried Wogan, flourishing the passport, "we'll find a means
to hearten him."

Gaydon filled a pipe and lighted it.

"Will you tell me, Wogan," he asked, - "I am by nature curious, - was it
the King who proposed this enterprise to you, or was it you who proposed
it to the King?"

The question had an extraordinary effect. Wogan was startled out of his

"What do you mean?" he exclaimed fiercely. There was something more than
fierceness in the words, - an accent of fear, it almost seemed to Gaydon.
There was a look almost of fear in his eyes, as though he had let some
appalling secret slip. Gaydon stared at him in wonder, and Wogan
recovered himself with a laugh. "Faith," said he, "it is a question to
perplex a man. I misdoubt but we both had the thought about the same
time. 'Wogan,' said he, 'there's the Princess with a chain on her leg,
so to speak,' and I answered him, 'A chain's a galling sort of thing to
a lady's ankle.' There was little more said if I remember right."

Gaydon nodded as though his curiosity was now satisfied. Wogan's alarm
was strange, no doubt, strange and unexpected like the Chevalier's visit
to the Caprara Palace. Gaydon had a glimpse of dark and troubled waters,
but he turned his face away. They were none of his business.


In an hour, however, he returned out of breath and with a face white
from despair. Wogan was still writing at his table, but at his first
glance towards Gaydon he started quickly to his feet, and altogether
forgot to cover over his sheet of paper. He carefully shut the door.

"You have bad news," said he.

"There was never worse," answered Gaydon. He had run so fast, he was so
discomposed, that he could with difficulty speak. But he gasped his bad
news out in the end.

"I went to my brother major to report my return. He was entertaining his
friends. He had a letter this morning from Strasbourg and he read it
aloud. The letter said a rumour was running through the town that the
Chevalier Wogan had already rescued the Princess and was being hotly
pursued on the road to Trent."

If Wogan felt any disquietude he was careful to hide it. He sat
comfortably down upon the sofa.

"I expected rumour would be busy with us," said he, "but never that it
would take so favourable a shape."

"Favourable!" exclaimed Gaydon.

"To be sure, for its falsity will be established to-morrow, and
ridicule cast upon those who spread and believed it. False alarms are
the proper strategy to conceal the real assault. The rumour does us a
service. Our secret is very well kept, for here am I in Schlestadt, and
people living in Schlestadt believe me on the road to Trent. I will go
back with you to the major's and have a laugh at his correspondent.
Courage, my friend. We will give our enemies a month. Let them cry wolf
as often as they will during that month, we'll get into the fold all the
more easily in the end."

Wogan took his hat to accompany Gaydon, but at that moment he heard
another man stumbling in a great haste up the stairs. Misset broke into
the room with a face as discomposed as Gaydon's had been.

"Here's another who has heard the same rumour," said Wogan.

"It is more than a rumour," said Misset. "It is an order, and most

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Online LibraryA.E. W. MasonClementina → online text (page 8 of 20)