The Dynamiter

Page 47

From such a tragic passage, death, and death alone, could save me; and it is no fault of mine if I continue to exist.

'But you, madam,' continued the young man, addressing himself more directly to myself, 'were doubtless born to save the prince and to confound our purposes. My life you have prolonged; and by turning the key on my companion, you have made me the author of his death. He heard the hour strike; he was impotent to help; and thinking himself forfeit to honour, thinking that I should fall alone upon his highness and perish for lack of his support, he has turned his pistol on himself.'

'You are right,' said Prince Florizel: 'it was in no ungenerous spirit that you brought these burthens on yourself; and when I see you so nobly to blame, so tragically punished, I stand like one reproved. For is it not strange, madam, that you and I, by practising accepted and inconsiderable virtues, and commonplace but still unpardonable faults, should stand here, in the sight of God, with what we call clean hands and quiet consciences; while this poor youth, for an error that I could almost envy him, should be sunk beyond the reach of hope?

'Sir,' resumed the prince, turning to the young man, 'I cannot help you; my help would but unchain the thunderbolt that overhangs you; and I can but leave you free.'

'And, sir,' said I, 'as this house belongs to me, I will ask you to have the kindness to remove the body. You and your conspirators, it appears to me, can hardly in civility do less.'

'It shall be done,' said the young man, with a dismal accent.

'And you, dear madam,' said the prince, 'you, to whom I owe my life, how can I serve you?'

'Your highness,' I said, 'to be very plain, this is my favourite house, being not only a valuable property, but endeared to me by various associations. I have endless troubles with tenants of the ordinary class: and at first applauded my good fortune when I found one of the station of your Master of the Horse. I now begin to think otherwise: dangers set a siege about great personages; and I do not wish my tenement to share these risks. Procure me the resiliation of the lease, and I shall feel myself your debtor.'

'I must tell you, madam,' replied his highness, 'that Colonel Geraldine is but a cloak for myself; and I should be sorry indeed to think myself so unacceptable a tenant.'

'Your highness,' said I, 'I have conceived a sincere admiration for your character; but on the subject of house property, I cannot allow the interference of my feelings. I will, however, to prove to you that there is nothing personal in my request, here solemnly engage my word that I will never put another tenant in this house.'

'Madam,' said Florizel, 'you plead your cause too charmingly to be refused.'

Thereupon we all three withdrew. The young man, still reeling in his walk, departed by himself to seek the assistance of his fellow- conspirators; and the prince, with the most attentive gallantry, lent me his escort to the door of my hotel. The next day, the lease was cancelled; nor from that hour to this, though sometimes regretting my engagement, have I suffered a tenant in this house.

THE SUPERFLUOUS MANSION (Continued).

As soon as the old lady had finished her relation, Somerset made haste to offer her his compliments.

'Madam,' said he, 'your story is not only entertaining but instructive; and you have told it with infinite vivacity. I was much affected towards the end, as I held at one time very liberal opinions, and should certainly have joined a secret society if I had been able to find one. But the whole tale came home to me; and I was the better able to feel for you in your various perplexities, as I am myself of somewhat hasty temper.'

'I do not understand you,' said Mrs. Luxmore, with some marks of irritation. 'You must have strangely misinterpreted what I have told you. You fill me with surprise.'

Somerset, alarmed by the old lady's change of tone and manner, hurried to recant.

'Dear Mrs.

The Dynamiter Page 48

Robert Louis Stevenson

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