She had come quite close up to him and laid her hand upon his arm. 'As for the order - no, Heinrich, never! I will never believe it. I will die ere I believe it. You have some secret purpose - what, I cannot guess - but not one word of it is true.'

'Shall I show it you?' he asked.

'You cannot,' she answered. 'There is no such thing.'

'Incorrigible Sadducee!' he cried. 'Well, I will convert you; you shall see the order.' He moved to a chair where he had thrown his coat, and then drawing forth and holding out a paper, 'Read,' said he.

She took it greedily, and her eye flashed as she perused it.

'Hey!' cried the Baron, 'there falls a dynasty, and it was I that felled it; and I and you inherit!' He seemed to swell in stature; and next moment, with a laugh, he put his hand forward. Give me the dagger,' said he.

But she whisked the paper suddenly behind her back and faced him, lowering. 'No, no,' she said. 'You and I have first a point to settle. Do you suppose me blind? She could never have given that paper but to one man, and that man her lover. Here you stand - her lover, her accomplice, her master - O, I well believe it, for I know your power. But what am I?' she cried; 'I, whom you deceive!'

'Jealousy!' cried Gondremark. 'Anna, I would never have believed it! But I declare to you by all that's credible that I am not her lover. I might be, I suppose; but I never yet durst risk the declaration. The chit is so unreal; a mincing doll; she will and she will not; there is no counting on her, by God! And hitherto I have had my own way without, and keep the lover in reserve. And I say, Anna,' he added with severity, 'you must break yourself of this new fit, my girl; there must be no combustion. I keep the creature under the belief that I adore her; and if she caught a breath of you and me, she is such a fool, prude, and dog in the manger, that she is capable of spoiling all.'

'All very fine,' returned the lady. 'With whom do you pass your days? and which am I to believe, your words or your actions?'

'Anna, the devil take you, are you blind?' cried Gondremark. 'You know me. Am I likely to care for such a preciosa? 'Tis hard that we should have been together for so long, and you should still take me for a troubadour. But if there is one thing that I despise and deprecate, it is all such figures in Berlin wool. Give me a human woman - like myself. You are my mate; you were made for me; you amuse me like the play. And what have I to gain that I should pretend to you? If I do not love you, what use are you to me? Why, none. It is as clear as noonday.'

'Do you love me, Heinrich?' she asked, languishing. 'Do you truly?'

'I tell you,' he cried, 'I love you next after myself. I should be all abroad if I had lost you.'

'Well, then,' said she, folding up the paper and putting it calmly in her pocket, 'I will believe you, and I join the plot. Count upon me. At midnight, did you say? It is Gordon, I see, that you have charged with it. Excellent; he will stick at nothing - '

Gondremark watched her suspiciously. 'Why do you take the paper?' he demanded. 'Give it here.'

'No,' she returned; 'I mean to keep it. It is I who must prepare the stroke; you cannot manage it without me; and to do my best I must possess the paper. Where shall I find Gordon? In his rooms?' She spoke with a rather feverish self-possession.

'Anna,' he said sternly, the black, bilious countenance of his palace ROLE taking the place of the more open favour of his hours at home, 'I ask you for that paper. Once, twice, and thrice.'

'Heinrich,' she returned, looking him in the face, 'take care. I will put up with no dictation.'

Both looked dangerous; and the silence lasted for a measurable interval of time. Then she made haste to have the first word; and with a laugh that rang clear and honest, 'Do not be a child,' she said. 'I wonder at you. If your assurances are true, you can have no reason to mistrust me, nor I to play you false. The difficulty is to get the Prince out of the palace without scandal.

Prince Otto a Romance Page 55

Robert Louis Stevenson

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