'Bind up his wound.'

'Madam, I have no means,' protested the Chancellor.

'Can you not take your handkerchief, your neck-cloth, anything?' she cried; and at the same moment, from her light muslin gown she rent off a flounce and tossed it on the floor. 'Take that,' she said, and for the first time directly faced Greisengesang.

But the Chancellor held up his hands and turned away his head in agony. The grasp of the falling Baron had torn down the dainty fabric of the bodice; and - 'O Highness!' cried Greisengesang, appalled, 'the terrible disorder of your toilette!'

'Take up that flounce,' she said; 'the man may die.'

Greisengesang turned in a flutter to the Baron, and attempted some innocent and bungling measures. 'He still breathes,' he kept saying. 'All is not yet over; he is not yet gone.'

'And now,' said she 'if that is all you can do, begone and get some porters; he must instantly go home.'

'Madam,' cried the Chancellor, 'if this most melancholy sight were seen in town - O dear, the State would fall!' he piped.

'There is a litter in the Palace,' she replied. 'It is your part to see him safe. I lay commands upon you. On your life it stands.'

'I see it, dear Highness,' he jerked. 'Clearly I see it. But how? what men? The Prince's servants - yes. They had a personal affection. They will be true, if any.'

'O, not them!' she cried. 'Take Sabra, my own man.'

'Sabra! The grand-mason?' returned the Chancellor, aghast. 'If he but saw this, he would sound the tocsin - we should all be butchered.'

She measured the depth of her abasement steadily. 'Take whom you must,' she said, 'and bring the litter here.'

Once she was alone she ran to the Baron, and with a sickening heart sought to allay the flux of blood. The touch of the skin of that great charlatan revolted her to the toes; the wound, in her ignorant eyes, looked deathly; yet she contended with her shuddering, and, with more skill at least than the Chancellor's, staunched the welling injury. An eye unprejudiced with hate would have admired the Baron in his swoon; he looked so great and shapely; it was so powerful a machine that lay arrested; and his features, cleared for the moment both of temper and dissimulation, were seen to be so purely modelled. But it was not thus with Seraphina. Her victim, as he lay outspread, twitching a little, his big chest unbared, fixed her with his ugliness; and her mind flitted for a glimpse to Otto.

Rumours began to sound about the Palace of feet running and of voices raised; the echoes of the great arched staircase were voluble of some confusion; and then the gallery jarred with a quick and heavy tramp. It was the Chancellor, followed by four of Otto's valets and a litter. The servants, when they were admitted, stared at the dishevelled Princess and the wounded man; speech was denied them, but their thoughts were riddled with profanity. Gondremark was bundled in; the curtains of the litter were lowered; the bearers carried it forth, and the Chancellor followed behind with a white face.

Seraphina ran to the window. Pressing her face upon the pane, she could see the terrace, where the lights contended; thence, the avenue of lamps that joined the Palace and town; and overhead the hollow night and the larger stars. Presently the small procession issued from the Palace, crossed the parade, and began to thread the glittering alley: the swinging couch with its four porters, the much-pondering Chancellor behind. She watched them dwindle with strange thoughts: her eyes fixed upon the scene, her mind still glancing right and left on the overthrow of her life and hopes. There was no one left in whom she might confide; none whose hand was friendly, or on whom she dared to reckon for the barest loyalty. With the fall of Gondremark, her party, her brief popularity, had fallen. So she sat crouched upon the window-seat, her brow to the cool pane; her dress in tatters, barely shielding her; her mind revolving bitter thoughts.

Meanwhile, consequences were fast mounting; and in the deceptive quiet of the night, downfall and red revolt were brewing.

Prince Otto a Romance Page 67

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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