His valets are devoted; his chamberlain a slave; and yet one cry might ruin all.'

'They must be overpowered,' he said, following her to the new ground, 'and disappear along with him.'

'And your whole scheme along with them!' she cried. 'He does not take his servants when he goes a-hunting: a child could read the truth. No, no; the plan is idiotic; it must be Ratafia's. But hear me. You know the Prince worships me?'

'I know,' he said. 'Poor Featherhead, I cross his destiny!'

'Well now,' she continued, 'what if I bring him alone out of the palace, to some quiet corner of the Park - the Flying Mercury, for instance? Gordon can be posted in the thicket; the carriage wait behind the temple; not a cry, not a scuffle, not a footfall; simply, the Prince vanishes! - What do you say? Am I an able ally? Are my BEAUX YUEX of service? Ah, Heinrich, do not lose your Anna! - she has power!'

He struck with his open hand upon the chimney. 'Witch!' he said, 'there is not your match for devilry in Europe. Service! the thing runs on wheels.'

'Kiss me, then, and let me go. I must not miss my Featherhead,' she said.

'Stay, stay,' said the Baron; 'not so fast. I wish, upon my soul, that I could trust you; but you are, out and in, so whimsical a devil that I dare not. Hang it, Anna, no; it's not possible!'

'You doubt me, Heinrich?' she cried.

'Doubt is not the word,' said he. 'I know you. Once you were clear of me with that paper in your pocket, who knows what you would do with it? - not you, at least - nor I. You see,' he added, shaking his head paternally upon the Countess, 'you are as vicious as a monkey.'

'I swear to you,' she cried, 'by my salvation . . . '

'I have no curiosity to hear you swearing,' said the Baron.

'You think that I have no religion? You suppose me destitute of honour. Well,' she said, 'see here: I will not argue, but I tell you once for all: leave me this order, and the Prince shall be arrested - take it from me, and, as certain as I speak, I will upset the coach. Trust me, or fear me: take your choice.' And she offered him the paper.

The Baron, in a great contention of mind, stood irresolute, weighing the two dangers. Once his hand advanced, then dropped. 'Well,' he said, 'since trust is what you call it . . .'

'No more,' she interrupted, 'Do not spoil your attitude. And now since you have behaved like a good sort of fellow in the dark, I will condescend to tell you why. I go to the palace to arrange with Gordon; but how is Gordon to obey me? And how can I foresee the hours? It may be midnight; ay, and it may be nightfall; all's a chance; and to act, I must be free and hold the strings of the adventure. And now,' she cried, 'your Vivien goes. Dub me your knight!' And she held out her arms and smiled upon him radiant.

'Well,' he said, when he had kissed her, 'every man must have his folly; I thank God mine is no worse. Off with you! I have given a child a squib.'

CHAPTER XII - PROVIDENCE VON ROSEN: ACT THE SECOND SHE INFORMS THE PRINCE

IT was the first impulse of Madame von Rosen to return to her own villa and revise her toilette. Whatever else should come of this adventure, it was her firm design to pay a visit to the Princess. And before that woman, so little beloved, the Countess would appear at no disadvantage. It was the work of minutes. Von Rosen had the captain's eye in matters of the toilette; she was none of those who hang in Fabian helplessness among their finery and, after hours, come forth upon the world as dowdies. A glance, a loosened curl, a studied and admired disorder in the hair, a bit of lace, a touch of colour, a yellow rose in the bosom; and the instant picture was complete.

'That will do,' she said. 'Bid my carriage follow me to the palace. In half an hour it should be there in waiting.'

The night was beginning to fall and the shops to shine with lamps along the tree-beshadowed thorough-fares of Otto's capital, when the Countess started on her high emprise.

Prince Otto a Romance Page 56

Robert Louis Stevenson

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