'It is what I want to know!' she cried, the tempest of her scorn increasing. 'Suppose you did - I say, suppose you did believe it?'

'I should make it my business to suppose the contrary,' he answered.

'I thought so. O, you are made of baseness!' said she.

'Madam,' he cried, roused at last, 'enough of this. You wilfully misunderstand my attitude; you outwear my patience. In the name of your parents, in my own name, I summon you to be more circumspect.'

'Is this a request, MONSIEUR MON MARI?' she demanded.

'Madam, if I chose, I might command,' said Otto.

'You might, sir, as the law stands, make me prisoner,' returned Seraphina. 'Short of that you will gain nothing.'

'You will continue as before?' he asked.

'Precisely as before,' said she. 'As soon as this comedy is over, I shall request the Freiherr von Gondremark to visit me. Do you understand?' she added, rising. 'For my part, I have done.'

'I will then ask the favour of your hand, madam,' said Otto, palpitating in every pulse with anger. 'I have to request that you will visit in my society another part of my poor house. And reassure yourself - it will not take long - and it is the last obligation that you shall have the chance to lay me under.'

'The last?' she cried. 'Most joyfully?'

She offered her hand, and he took it; on each side with an elaborate affectation, each inwardly incandescent. He led her out by the private door, following where Gondremark had passed; they threaded a corridor or two, little frequented, looking on a court, until they came at last into the Prince's suite. The first room was an armoury, hung all about with the weapons of various countries, and looking forth on the front terrace.

'Have you brought me here to slay me?' she inquired.

'I have brought you, madam, only to pass on,' replied Otto.

Next they came to a library, where an old chamberlain sat half asleep. He rose and bowed before the princely couple, asking for orders.

'You will attend us here,' said Otto.

The next stage was a gallery of pictures, where Seraphina's portrait hung conspicuous, dressed for the chase, red roses in her hair, as Otto, in the first months of marriage, had directed. He pointed to it without a word; she raised her eyebrows in silence; and they passed still forward into a matted corridor where four doors opened. One led to Otto's bedroom; one was the private door to Seraphina's. And here, for the first time, Otto left her hand, and stepping forward, shot the bolt.

'It is long, madam,' said he, 'since it was bolted on the other side.'

'One was effectual,' returned the Princess. 'Is this all?'

'Shall I reconduct you?' he asking, bowing.

'I should prefer,' she asked, in ringing tones, 'the conduct of the Freiherr von Gondremark.'

Otto summoned the chamberlain. 'If the Freiherr von Gondremark is in the palace,' he said, 'bid him attend the Princess here.' And when the official had departed, 'Can I do more to serve you, madam?' the Prince asked.

'Thank you, no. I have been much amused,' she answered.

'I have now,' continued Otto, 'given you your liberty complete. This has been for you a miserable marriage.'

'Miserable!' said she.

'It has been made light to you; it shall be lighter still,' continued the Prince. 'But one thing, madam, you must still continue to bear - my father's name, which is now yours. I leave it in your hands. Let me see you, since you will have no advice of mine, apply the more attention of your own to bear it worthily.'

'Herr von Gondremark is long in coming,' she remarked.

'O Seraphina, Seraphina!' he cried. And that was the end of their interview.

She tripped to a window and looked out; and a little after, the chamberlain announced the Freiherr von Gondremark, who entered with something of a wild eye and changed complexion, confounded, as he was, at this unusual summons. The Princess faced round from the window with a pearly smile; nothing but her heightened colour spoke of discomposure.

Otto was pale, but he was otherwise master of himself.

Prince Otto a Romance Page 37

Robert Louis Stevenson

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