'And when have I obliged you with an order? Replaced, let us rather say. But to touch upon these trifles; instance me a few.'
'The routine of government, from which your Highness has so wisely dissociated his leisure . . . ' began Greisengesang.
'We will leave my leisure, sir,' said Otto. 'Approach the facts.'
'The routine of business was proceeded with,' replied the official, now visibly twittering.
'It is very strange, Herr Cancellarius, that you should so persistently avoid my questions,' said the Prince. 'You tempt me to suppose a purpose in your dulness. I have asked you whether all was quiet; do me the pleasure to reply.'
'Perfectly - O, perfectly quiet,' jerked the ancient puppet, with every signal of untruth.
'I make a note of these words,' said the Prince gravely. 'You assure me, your sovereign, that since the date of my departure nothing has occurred of which you owe me an account.'
'I take your Highness, I take the Herr Doctor to witness,' cried Greisengesang, 'that I have had no such expression.'
'Halt!' said the Prince; and then, after a pause: 'Herr Greisengesang, you are an old man, and you served my father before you served me,' he added. 'It consists neither with your dignity nor mine that you should babble excuses and stumble possibly upon untruths. Collect your thoughts; and then categorically inform me of all you have been charged to hide.'
Gotthold, stooping very low over his desk, appeared to have resumed his labours; but his shoulders heaved with subterranean merriment. The Prince waited, drawing his handkerchief quietly through his fingers.
'Your Highness, in this informal manner,' said the old gentleman at last, 'and being unavoidably deprived of documents, it would be difficult, it would be impossible, to do justice to the somewhat grave occurrences which have transpired.'
'I will not criticise your attitude,' replied the Prince. 'I desire that, between you and me, all should be done gently; for I have not forgotten, my old friend, that you were kind to me from the first, and for a period of years a faithful servant. I will thus dismiss the matters on which you waive immediate inquiry. But you have certain papers actually in your hand. Come, Herr Greisengesang, there is at least one point for which you have authority. Enlighten me on that.'
'On that?' cried the old gentleman. 'O, that is a trifle; a matter, your Highness, of police; a detail of a purely administrative order. These are simply a selection of the papers seized upon the English traveller.'
'Seized?' echoed Otto. 'In what sense? Explain yourself.'
'Sir John Crabtree,' interposed Gotthold, looking up, 'was arrested yesterday evening.'
'It this so, Herr Cancellarius?' demanded Otto sternly.
'It was judged right, your Highness,' protested Greisengesang. 'The decree was in due form, invested with your Highness's authority by procuration. I am but an agent; I had no status to prevent the measure.'
'This man, my guest, has been arrested,' said the Prince. 'On what grounds, sir? With what colour of pretence?'
The Chancellor stammered.
'Your Highness will perhaps find the reason in these documents,' said Gotthold, pointing with the tail of his pen.
Otto thanked his cousin with a look. 'Give them to me,' he said, addressing the Chancellor.
But that gentleman visibly hesitated to obey. 'Baron von Gondremark,' he said, 'has made the affair his own. I am in this case a mere messenger; and as such, I am not clothed with any capacity to communicate the documents I carry. Herr Doctor, I am convinced you will not fail to bear me out.'
'I have heard a great deal of nonsense,' said Gotthold, 'and most of it from you; but this beats all.'
'Come, sir,' said Otto, rising, 'the papers. I command.'
Herr Greisengesang instantly gave way.
'With your Highness's permission,' he said, 'and laying at his feet my most submiss apologies, I will now hasten to attend his further orders in the Chancery.'
'Herr Cancellarius, do you see this chair?' said Otto.