If we have misgoverned here in Grunewald, are the people of Gerolstein to bleed and pay for our mis-doings? Never, madam; not while I live. But I attach so much importance to all that I have heard to-day for the first time - and why only to-day, I do not even stop to ask - that I am eager to find some plan that I can follow with credit to myself.'
'And should you fail?' she asked.
'Should I fail, I will then meet the blow half-way,' replied the Prince. 'On the first open discontent, I shall convoke the States, and, when it pleases them to bid me, abdicate.'
Seraphina laughed angrily. 'This is the man for whom we have been labouring!' she cried. 'We tell him of change; he will devise the means, he says; and his device is abdication? Sir, have you no shame to come here at the eleventh hour among those who have borne the heat and burthen of the day? Do you not wonder at yourself? I, sir, was here in my place, striving to uphold your dignity alone. I took counsel with the wisest I could find, while you were eating and hunting. I have laid my plans with foresight; they were ripe for action; and then - 'she choked - 'then you return - for a forenoon - to ruin all! To-morrow, you will be once more about your pleasures; you will give us leave once more to think and work for you; and again you will come back, and again you will thwart what you had not the industry or knowledge to conceive. O! it is intolerable. Be modest, sir. Do not presume upon the rank you cannot worthily uphold. I would not issue my commands with so much gusto - it is from no merit in yourself they are obeyed. What are you? What have you to do in this grave council? Go,' she cried, 'go among your equals? The very people in the streets mock at you for a prince.'
At this surprising outburst the whole council sat aghast.
'Madam,' said the Baron, alarmed out of his caution, 'command yourself.'
'Address yourself to me, sir!' cried the Prince. 'I will not bear these whisperings!'
Seraphina burst into tears.
'Sir,' cried the Baron, rising, 'this lady - '
'Herr von Gondremark,' said the Prince, 'one more observation, and I place you under arrest.'
'Your Highness is the master,' replied Gondremark, bowing.
'Bear it in mind more constantly,' said Otto. 'Herr Cancellarius, bring all the papers to my cabinet. Gentlemen, the council is dissolved.'
And he bowed and left the apartment, followed by Greisengesang and the secretaries, just at the moment when the Princess's ladies, summoned in all haste, entered by another door to help her forth.
CHAPTER VIII - THE PARTY OF WAR TAKES ACTION
HALF an hour after, Gondremark was once more closeted with Seraphina.
'Where is he now?' she asked, on his arrival.
'Madam, he is with the Chancellor,' replied the Baron. 'Wonder of wonders, he is at work!'
'Ah,' she said, 'he was born to torture me! O what a fall, what a humiliation! Such a scheme to wreck upon so small a trifle! But now all is lost.'
'Madam,' said Gondremark, 'nothing is lost. Something, on the other hand, is found. You have found your senses; you see him as he is - see him as you see everything where your too-good heart is not in question - with the judicial, with the statesman's eye. So long as he had a right to interfere, the empire that may be was still distant. I have not entered on this course without the plain foresight of its dangers; and even for this I was prepared. But, madam, I knew two things: I knew that you were born to command, that I was born to serve; I knew that by a rare conjuncture, the hand had found the tool; and from the first I was confident, as I am confident to-day, that no hereditary trifler has the power to shatter that alliance.'
'I, born to command!' she said. 'Do you forget my tears?'
'Madam, they were the tears of Alexander,' cried the Baron. 'They touched, they thrilled me; I, forgot myself a moment - even I! But do you suppose that I had not remarked, that I had not admired, your previous bearing? your great self-command? Ay, that was princely!' He paused.