'There is where you shall attend my further orders. O, now, no more!' he cried, with a gesture, as the old man opened his lips. 'You have sufficiently marked your zeal to your employer; and I begin to weary of a moderation you abuse.'
The Chancellor moved to the appointed chair and took his seat in silence.
'And now,' said Otto, opening the roll, 'what is all this? it looks like the manuscript of a book.'
'It is,' said Gotthold, 'the manuscript of a book of travels.'
'You have read it, Doctor Hohenstockwitz?' asked the Prince.
'Nay, I but saw the title-page,' replied Gotthold. 'But the roll was given to me open, and I heard no word of any secrecy.'
Otto dealt the Chancellor an angry glance.
'I see,' he went on. 'The papers of an author seized at this date of the world's history, in a state so petty and so ignorant as Grunewald, here is indeed an ignominious folly. Sir,' to the Chancellor, 'I marvel to find you in so scurvy an employment. On your conduct to your Prince I will not dwell; but to descend to be a spy! For what else can it be called? To seize the papers of this gentleman, the private papers of a stranger, the toil of a life, perhaps - to open, and to read them. And what have we to do with books? The Herr Doctor might perhaps be asked for his advice; but we have no INDEX EXPURGATORIUS in Grunewald. Had we but that, we should be the most absolute parody and farce upon this tawdry earth.'
Yet, even while Otto spoke, he had continued to unfold the roll; and now, when it lay fully open, his eye rested on the title-page elaborately written in red ink. It ran thus:
MEMOIRS OF A VISIT TO THE VARIOUS COURTS OF EUROPE, BY SIR JOHN CRABTREE, BARONET.
Below was a list of chapters, each bearing the name of one of the European Courts; and among these the nineteenth and the last upon the list was dedicated to Grunewald.
'Ah! The Court of Grunewald!' said Otto, 'that should be droll reading.' And his curiosity itched for it.
'A methodical dog, this English Baronet,' said Gotthold. 'Each chapter written and finished on the spot. I shall look for his work when it appears.'
'It would be odd, now, just to glance at it,' said Otto, wavering.
Gotthold's brow darkened, and he looked out of window.
But though the Prince understood the reproof, his weakness prevailed. 'I will,' he said, with an uneasy laugh, 'I will, I think, just glance at it.'
So saying, he resumed his seat and spread the traveller's manuscript upon the table.
CHAPTER II - 'ON THE COURT OF GRUNEWALD,' BEING A PORTION OF THE TRAVELLER'S MANUSCRIPT
IT may well be asked (IT WAS THUS THE ENGLISH TRAVELLER BEGAN HIS NINETEENTH CHAPTER) why I should have chosen Grunewald out of so many other states equally petty, formal, dull, and corrupt. Accident, indeed, decided, and not I; but I have seen no reason to regret my visit. The spectacle of this small society macerating in its own abuses was not perhaps instructive, but I have found it exceedingly diverting.
The reigning Prince, Otto Johann Friedrich, a young man of imperfect education, questionable valour, and no scintilla of capacity, has fallen into entire public contempt. It was with difficulty that I obtained an interview, for he is frequently absent from a court where his presence is unheeded, and where his only role is to be a cloak for the amours of his wife. At last, however, on the third occasion when I visited the palace, I found this sovereign in the exercise of his inglorious function, with the wife on one hand, and the lover on the other. He is not ill-looking; he has hair of a ruddy gold, which naturally curls, and his eyes are dark, a combination which I always regard as the mark of some congenital deficiency, physical or moral; his features are irregular, but pleasing; the nose perhaps a little short, and the mouth a little womanish; his address is excellent, and he can express himself with point. But to pierce below these externals is to come on a vacuity of any sterling quality, a deliquescence of the moral nature, a frivolity and inconsequence of purpose that mark the nearly perfect fruit of a decadent age.