I have borne much this evening in your service. I have suffered. I was made to suffer in your service.' She unfolded her fan as she spoke. Quick as her pulses beat, the fan waved languidly. She betrayed her emotion only by the brightness of her eyes and face, and by the almost insolent triumph with which she looked down upon the Princess. There were old scores of rivalry between them in more than one field; so at least von Rosen felt; and now she was to have her hour of victory in them all.

'You are no servant, Madame von Rosen, of mine,' said Seraphina.

'No, madam, indeed,' returned the Countess; 'but we both serve the same person, as you know - or if you do not, then I have the pleasure of informing you. Your conduct is so light - so light,' she repeated, the fan wavering higher like a butterfly, 'that perhaps you do not truly understand.' The Countess rolled her fan together, laid it in her lap, and rose to a less languorous position. 'Indeed,' she continued, 'I should be sorry to see any young woman in your situation. You began with every advantage - birth, a suitable marriage - quite pretty too - and see what you have come to! My poor girl, to think of it! But there is nothing that does so much harm,' observed the Countess finely, 'as giddiness of mind.' And she once more unfurled the fan, and approvingly fanned herself.

'I will no longer permit you to forget yourself,' cried Seraphina. 'I think you are mad.'

'Not mad,' returned von Rosen. 'Sane enough to know you dare not break with me to-night, and to profit by the knowledge. I left my poor, pretty Prince Charming crying his eyes out for a wooden doll. My heart is soft; I love my pretty Prince; you will never understand it, but I long to give my Prince his doll, dry his poor eyes, and send him off happy. O, you immature fool!' the Countess cried, rising to her feet, and pointing at the Princess the closed fan that now began to tremble in her hand. 'O wooden doll!' she cried, 'have you a heart, or blood, of any nature? This is a man, child - a man who loves you. O, it will not happen twice! it is not common; beautiful and clever women look in vain for it. And you, you pitiful schoolgirl, tread this jewel under foot! you, stupid with your vanity! Before you try to govern kingdoms, you should first be able to behave yourself at home; home is the woman's kingdom.' She paused and laughed a little, strangely to hear and look upon. 'I will tell you one of the things,' she said, 'that were to stay unspoken. Von Rosen is a better women than you, my Princess, though you will never have the pain of understanding it; and when I took the Prince your order, and looked upon his face, my soul was melted - O, I am frank - here, within my arms, I offered him repose!' She advanced a step superbly as she spoke, with outstretched arms; and Seraphina shrank. 'Do not be alarmed!' the Countess cried; 'I am not offering that hermitage to you; in all the world there is but one who wants to, and him you have dismissed! "If it will give her pleasure I should wear the martyr's crown," he cried, "I will embrace the thorns." I tell you - I am quite frank - I put the order in his power and begged him to resist. You, who have betrayed your husband, may betray me to Gondremark; my Prince would betray no one. Understand it plainly,' she cried, ''tis of his pure forbearance that you sit there; he had the power - I gave it him - to change the parts; and he refused, and went to prison in your place.'

The Princess spoke with some distress. 'Your violence shocks me and pains me,' she began, 'but I cannot be angry with what at least does honour to the mistaken kindness of your heart: it was right for me to know this. I will condescend to tell you. It was with deep regret that I was driven to this step. I admire in many ways the Prince - I admit his amiability. It was our great misfortune, it was perhaps somewhat of my fault, that we were so unsuited to each other; but I have a regard, a sincere regard, for all his qualities. As a private person I should think as you do.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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