Our zeal is no less, although our power may be inadequate.'

'How much, Herr Grafinski, have we in the treasury?' asked Otto.

'Your Highness,' protested the treasurer, 'we have immediate need of every crown.'

'I think, sir, you evade me,' flashed the Prince; and then turning to the side-table, 'Mr. Secretary,' he added, 'bring me, if you please, the treasury docket.'

Herr Grafinski became deadly pale; the Chancellor, expecting his own turn, was probably engaged in prayer; Gondremark was watching like a ponderous cat. Gotthold, on his part, looked on with wonder at his cousin; he was certainly showing spirit, but what, in such a time of gravity, was all this talk of money? and why should he waste his strength upon a personal issue?

'I find,' said Otto, with his finger on the docket, 'that we have 20,000 crowns in case.'

'That is exact, your Highness,' replied the Baron. 'But our liabilities, all of which are happily not liquid, amount to a far larger sum; and at the present point of time it would be morally impossible to divert a single florin. Essentially, the case is empty. We have, already presented, a large note for material of war.'

'Material of war?' exclaimed Otto, with an excellent assumption of surprise. 'But if my memory serves me right, we settled these accounts in January.'

'There have been further orders,' the Baron explained. 'A new park of artillery has been completed; five hundred stand of arms, seven hundred baggage mules - the details are in a special memorandum. - Mr. Secretary Holtz, the memorandum, if you please.'

'One would think, gentlemen, that we were going to war,' said Otto.

'We are,' said Seraphina.

'War!' cried the Prince, 'and, gentlemen, with whom? The peace of Grunewald has endured for centuries. What aggression, what insult, have we suffered?'

'Here, your Highness,' said Gotthold, 'is the ultimatum. It was in the very article of signature, when your Highness so opportunely entered.'

Otto laid the paper before him; as he read, his fingers played tattoo upon the table. 'Was it proposed,' he inquired, 'to send this paper forth without a knowledge of my pleasure?'

One of the non-combatants, eager to trim, volunteered an answer. 'The Herr Doctor von Hohenstockwitz had just entered his dissent,' he added.

'Give me the rest of this correspondence,' said the Prince. It was handed to him, and he read it patiently from end to end, while the councillors sat foolishly enough looking before them on the table.

The secretaries, in the background, were exchanging glances of delight; a row at the council was for them a rare and welcome feature.

'Gentlemen,' said Otto, when he had finished, 'I have read with pain. This claim upon Obermunsterol is palpably unjust; it has not a tincture, not a show, of justice. There is not in all this ground enough for after-dinner talk, and you propose to force it as a CASUS BELLI.'

'Certainly, your Highness,' returned Gondremark, too wise to defend the indefensible, 'the claim on Obermunsterol is simply a pretext.'

'It is well,' said the Prince. 'Herr Cancellarius, take your pen. "The council," he began to dictate - 'I withhold all notice of my intervention,' he said, in parenthesis, and addressing himself more directly to his wife; 'and I say nothing of the strange suppression by which this business has been smuggled past my knowledge. I am content to be in time - "The council,"' he resumed, '"on a further examination of the facts, and enlightened by the note in the last despatch from Gerolstein, have the pleasure to announce that they are entirely at one, both as to fact and sentiment, with the Grand- Ducal Court of Gerolstein." You have it? Upon these lines, sir, you will draw up the despatch.'

'If your Highness will allow me,' said the Baron, 'your Highness is so imperfectly acquainted with the internal history of this correspondence, that any interference will be merely hurtful. Such a paper as your Highness proposes would be to stultify the whole previous policy of Grunewald.'

'The policy of Grunewald!' cried the Prince.

Prince Otto a Romance Page 40

Robert Louis Stevenson

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book