The Story of the Queen

IN TWO PARTS. PART TWO.

WHEN, the next evening, following his friend, Fairfax was announced in the drawing-room of the duchess, his welcome was not only that cordial one extended to the American of fabulous wealth, but that of a friend of the house; nor was he made to feel any difference of station, — taking out the Baroness Dalma, and sitting opposite the marquis. He was speaking with the duchess, before dinner was announced, when the Princess Adria entered. The scarlet gauzes of Dalma behind her made her whiteness dazzling. She wore a little coronet of diamonds, and chains of diamonds hanging halfhid, half-revealed, in the long flowing of her lace drapery, made her a thing of light. “I will wear them all,” she had said to her dresser; “my mother’s, and those my cousin gave me when I came away.” And she added to herself, as she stood before the mirror, “He shall know the worst.”

The worst was an apparition of splendor. The Princess Adria. For an instant a sharp red flashed on Fairfax’s cheek, as if a hand had struck him, — as instantly gone. As he bowed, no one but Her Highness heard him say, “The wood-nymph must plead with the princess for my forgiveness.” And he turned from this woman, white and cold as an icicle, to Dalma.

“You never know where you are with these royalties,” said the duchess afterward, with her more than English contempt for anything not English. “Perhaps I should have shown her the list, but we were told she was to see our life as it is. Fancy! Could she be displeased that Fairfax was here? But he has been here and at Charles Chetwynd’s so much I forget he is n’t one of us. In fact, when he sent us those Kaura pines from the south seas, I felt if he was n’t a prince there was some mistake, — the hundred towering black giants keeping guard over the conservatories ! These kings and kinglets, — once you forget, and they remember, and out of clear sky they turn on you, and the blueness of their blood becomes appalling! ”

The duchess herself looked at such things with a good deal of perspective, having been born an American. But she was darkening counsel just then by words without knowledge. For it was in the conservatories that Fairfax, returning for something there, leaving Chetwynd to be overtaken later on his way home through the park, saw floating down the shadow under the huge black guarding giants of Kaura pines a shining white phantom, who drew near holding out both hands.

“Are ‘ Things,’ then, of so much moment ? ” she said, the smile on her lips, but a steady gravity in the depths of the jewel eyes.

“Some things,” he replied, “in the regard they receive make barriers of an absolute nature. Between thee and me is a great gulf fixed.” And he took the two hands and lifted them to his lips and was gone.

The Princess Adria was sitting alone with the duchess the next day. She had read to her a letter from her cousin, the King, and they had been talking rather intimately. She dropped the letter presently, and looking at the duchess a few moments, she said, “I am much younger than you are ” —

“Alas, yes,” said the duchess.

“And sometimes I need the advice of a good woman not immediately interested in my entourage, my affairs. I do not know why I am sent here, except that the duke is a far-off kinsman, except to see ” — She hesitated, and added, “You yourself are not, —you have not always ” —

“No,” said the other laughing, “I was not. I was simply Miss Melton, with a big fortune. Not so big as the huge belongings of Fairfax to be sure. What in the world can a man do with fifty million pounds? I could manage with ten. Really, it is not in good taste! Oh no, not any such figure as that, — but big enough to buy a duchy ! ”

“And — has it satisfied you? The duchy? Forgive me if I am ” —

“Entering where angels fear to tread ? ” said the good-natured listener. “Angels have never feared to tread where I am. Yes, I find it agreeable to be an English duchess. I don’t think much of any other kind. But to tell you the truth, it might have been quite different to what it is if — now, shall I speak openly ? — if my husband and I had not — had not grown to care. Perhaps we would not have married but for the fortune, — you see I am frank, — but the fortune being given, why, love had its way.”

“You are a good wife,” said Adria timidly and in a low tone, leaning toward her, “a good mother. A wise woman, it may be. Tell me, would love have been enough without the rest ? Would you resign all this, ” and she made a wide gesture with her arms, “ if it were a question between this and love ? ”

“I don’t know what I would have done when I was young and a fool. But now,” — and she laid her hand on the arm of the young princess, — “now I know that not all the kingdoms and principalities and powers in creation weigh a feather in the scale with the love of a good man.”

“Do you know,” said the duchess when, an hour or two later her husband found her in the south garden, “I was wrong about the young royalty last night. She is as human as the rest of us.” She had a rose in her hand, and she held it up over her head. “This is under the rose,” she said gayly. “But, — lend me your ear, — I more than suspect that Fairfax might have half a chance there.”

“Fairfax! ” cried her husband. “That is simply preposterous! ”

“But two hundred million dollars.”

“Why, she is the heir-presumptive to a throne. The Margravine is just dead, dead of grief over the drowning of her boy, and there is nothing between our princess and power but the imbecile old Grand Duke, who will drop off any day.”

“Well, —if one should prefer Fairfax to power ? ”

“But, my love, it would involve all Europe in a broil. It is a moot point if the next heir is the Emperor or the Comte de Bourbon Thurm. The Emperor would not only claim but seize. And the petty kingdom has such strategic importance, that not one of the great powers would allow it. And unless your little royalty means to precipitate a general war, she will take the goods the gods provide.”

“But afterwards. Could she not marry where she pleased ? ”

“No. Only where her people pleased.”

“Oh! I would rather be a milkmaid! ”

“It is to be doubted if Her Highness would. Indeed, I believe her husband is already selected. You have seen him, — the Prince Porpirio-Dassa. And the alliance will add some important provinces and much wealth to the kingdom. ”

“That wretch! ”

“My dear, he is cousin to ten kings, ” said the duke, with a laugh.

“I don’t care if he is the cousin of St. George and the Dragon! And you would really consent to such a thing ? ”

“My consent has nothing to do with it. I would advise it, though. I fancy she will consent.”

“Well, to be sure, crowns don’t grow on every bush. But you have made me shiver. How cold and damp the evening is! There is positively a frost in the dew! ” And she drew her chiffons about her, hurrying away.

“The new chef does very well, don’t you think ? ” said the duke, striding along beside her.

“ Oh yes, a cordon bleu. Lord ! As if anything signified ! ”

But if the duchess found it chilly that summer evening, the two sitting on the marble bench beneath the cedar were wrapped in rosy warmth. They were building a new Utopia. Its shining porticoes rose lofty and white before them, the beautiful appearance of what might be. They saw wealth and wisdom re-creating homes and people, —■ no more savagery in cities, no more starving in forests, no luxury to rot men’s souls, no want to dwarf their bodies, pure bridals, lovely children, a race, if lower than the angels, yet strong with the strength of powers used toward achievement, a race filled with the spirit of good, — a dream that might become waking fact if others, following one of all but boundless wealth, united in the wish to renovate the world. “Yes,” said Fairfax, “in such a world man would be

‘Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man
Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless,
Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king
Over himself ; just, gentle, wise ;
Nor yet exempt, though ruling them like slaves,
From chance, and death, and mutability,
The clogs of that which else might oversoar
The loftiest star of unascended heaven
Pinnacled dim in the intense inane.’ ”

The soft night-wind lifted the level boughs of the cedar as he was speaking, and the moonlight, falling over him, gave his face a sort of splendor, and falling on Adria, surrounded her with a silvery aureola, making her beauty something unearthly as their dream. Then the boughs fell again, and shadow with them, and the two sat in the darkness, silent, all the fragrances of the summer night stealing about them. The moments seemed drawing into ages; but ages of bliss. They had not known each other a week? They had known each other since their atoms came together! Far off a nightingale’s song blew a bubbling breath of music. The night, the darkness, the sweetness of earth and heaven seemed pressing them closer together, till their arms were about each other and their faces touched.

A night of joy, — the only pure and perfect joy the Princess Adria was to know in all her life. Three days between heaven and earth, in that dimension which has no bound in time or space; and then the messengers had gone and come again, and her letters ordered Adria to the King.

She went. But Fairfax followed. Her heart was in her mouth, but her courage was in both hands.

“There has been nothing underhand, sire, ” she said to the King, feeling that she desecrated the holy of holies, but knowing it must be done. “ I supposed there might be those about me whose duty it was to make report; and I walked openly. It is difficult for me to speak. But if I fail in maidenliness, it is because all that is life to me is in the balance. I hoped,” she went on, compelling herself, as he listened and made no further sign, “that when Your Majesty should see him, more noble than mere nobility makes a man, when you understood to what far ends his vast wealth would carry this kingdom, you might approve ” —

“Approve of your marriage outside a royal house ! ” roared the King, purple in the face.

She stood before him, very erect, but her head a little bent, in a simple stateliness ; even the King feeling the spell of her dark beauty in the pale blue transparence of the gauzy gown she wore. “There must always be a precedent,” she said.

“You are mad ! ” declared the King. “ Do you think a minor power, ready to be snatched into fragments by the greater ones, is in any condition to make precedents ? Do you suppose the people could smile on an alliance with an unknown stranger ” —

“Pardon, Majesty. But why, then, should the people care, if I resign all pretension to the crown ? ”

“Resign? You cannot resign ! The Court goes into mourning to-day for the Grand Duke, and you stand at my right hand. Moreover, it is Destiny. Every - thing has pointed to you. One after one all who stood between you and me have dropped away. There has been a murrain on them. They have been accomplishing the will of God. You must yield to it. Could you resign, it would mean struggle between Bourbon Thurm and the Emperor, destruction to the kingdom, revolution, ruin ! It is the folly of a fool to waste words on so childish yet so monstrous a thought as yours. Have you no love of country ? Will you see this sovran power reduced to suzerainty, this ancient state degraded to a province ” —

“But, sire, sire,” said the girl, extending imploring hands, “if you yourself saw the advantage of that which you forbid, the enormous wealth spent in public works, in lessening taxes, in exciting industrial activity with new enterprises, in bringing new blood, new life, into the kingdom, and the uses of the intimate friendship which should follow with the great power across the seas, — if you yourself stood by me, then the people ” ——

“The people ! They would tear you limb from limb. Tut, tut! ” said the King. “You talk like the worm to the bird. Listen ! Under the law such a marriage, were it possible, would be morganatic, its children illegitimate, with no right to the throne at all ” —

“Oh, so much happier they ! ” she cried, clasping her hands.

“That is as it may be. We cannot go into sentimental considerations. It would simply postpone the present situation and all its potential evils. And the fact is, my word is pledged to Borpirio-Dassa, and it is yours to redeem it. All the courts of Europe are to be notified at once; the marriage is to take place out of hand, that I may see the succession secured before I am gathered to my fathers, as it may happen to me with any sudden shock ” —

“ I do not wish to give Your Majesty any shock. But as I have not been consulted in this matter, it is hardly necessary for me to refuse my consent. But I assure you in this moment, sire, I will marry no one but the man I love ! ”

The King was controlling himself by great effort. “You have known him — perhaps less than a month ? ” he said. “You have loved him ” —

“Ever since, a young girl, I saw him hunting in the Long Chase ! ”

The old King was silent a while. “Child,” he said then more gently, “I am sorry for you. But this is the fate of kings. We do not live for ourselves. We die to ourselves. Your duty is to obey. Your duty is to become the wife of Porpirio-Dassa, to prevent the dismemberment of the kingdom, to stand between the people and ruin. My God ! ” he cried, lifting his trembling hands, “am I to have insubordination at my own hearth ? If this man, this American, does not leave the kingdom in twenty-four hours, there are no deeps of the salt mines too dark to hold him while he lives! ”

“Your Majesty could not dare. He belongs to a nation that will take care of its own in the uttermost parts of the earth. And if he goes, I go with him, ” said Adria. And with a low reverence she left the presence.

“Dalma, ” she said, when in her own apartment, “you can go and come more freely. Will you find Mr. Fairfax and tell him I will be at the Terminus tonight at midnight ? I shall take nothing but a hand-bag and my mother’s jewels. And perhaps, at some time, Dalma, you, you, too, will come ” —

“Do you think I am not going with you? ” cried Dalma. “Thank heaven, I am no one, and can do as I please. And your people shall be my people ! ”

“Oh, Dalma! ” said the princess, her arms around her, her head bowed upon Dalma’s. “How could I live without you ! ”

“If the atmosphere of making the world over is not too rare, ” said Dalma, laughing through her tears.

In the evening of that day, the stately dinner over, the King sent for the Princess Adria. “I wish you to come with me,” he said. “I am not offended by your self-will, your determination. I would have you use both. You will need them. But I wish you — freed from passion and near that which is most sacred — to make a vigil of thought and prayer in the chapel under which lies the dust of all our kings.” And giving her his hand, he led her down through long corridors and into the chapel, and up to the high altar, where he left her.

A requiem service for the Grand Duke had just closed. The place was quite deserted. The long dying roll of the organ throbbed through her as she stood there. One by one the lights went out, and the place was dark except for a dim one near the altar. She was alone here over the dust of those that won the glory of her name and race. She remembered even now the fearful joy with which she had come here once with Dalma, years ago, feeling the spot sacrosanct and full of a lofty poetry. Tonight she only felt that to this pass of sorrow had these kings brought her.

Sorrow? Was it sorrow to be making her days one with those of him she loved? To be going out with him into the larger world, to drink of this wine of life he held to her lips, this sacramental wine? It is true she would leave behind her obeisance and royal adulation. But she had never cared for it. The freedom would be like wings. And she would hear and see no more of this people who could dare to stand between her and her will, between her and happiness! The poor unwitting people! She had had such schemes for their welfare, she had built such bright hopes concerning them ! Well; there were other people; she would work for them with Fairfax. It would be good to work for any one with Fairfax.

Yet, alas, these needed her so much; from the old Nana of the forest to the young Nanas of the town. These had a right to her work. These had been committed to her by the kings, her fathers, lying here beneath her feet. These suffered now because the kings, her fathers, had fought wars with their blood, had lived lives of splendor in high palaces, with wine in jeweled tankards, with meats on golden plates, with sumptuous dress and gems, all wrung from the labor of these people who ate black bread that the kings might have white and all that white bread meant.

It was true that under the mild rule of her cousin things had been better with them; but she had seen how they could be better still, taxes lifted, work found, revenue produced. She had meant that every man in the kingdom should own his home, that every woman should be free to prove what was best, till from a line of mothers with every power developed sons should be born, who would lift the kingdom to a plane where no other kingdom stood, and create such wide benefit, such intelligence, such culture, such fostering of the arts of peace, that a stranger breathing it would feel the uplifting, the enlarging atmosphere of happiness.

Nor had it been the baseless fabric of a dream; she had seen the way clear with a people loving a young queen and understanding her purposes ; and when she had added to her previous thought the power for righteousness inherent in Fairfax’s prodigious wealth, her hopes had known no bound.

And despite her feeling now, she knew that as she had laid her plans for their prosperity she had grown to love these people ; there had been times when she had felt like opening her arms wide to them, these dear people of her dreams and hopes! And now she was abandoning it all, abandoning them, — oh, worse than that, — leaving them to their enemies! For if the Bourbon Thurm came in, all that had been accomplished would fall to pieces under his imbecile sceptre. And the Emperor would never suffer the other; and if the imperial power came in there would be oppression, degradation, and in any event struggle. For if the great powers refused countenance to the Emperor, as they would refuse, then war, bloodshed, ruin! The peaceful little kingdom trampled to a bloody sod, homes destroyed, hearts broken, — alas, alas, what was the breaking of one heart to all of these!

She had sunk upon the cushions while the wild swift thoughts, with all their retinue of feeling, raced through her consciousness as boiling bubbles in her blood might race. Far off through the palace halls she heard the silver chiming of clocks, one after one; then the big bell of the tower of the Prince of Peace tolled twelve. She sprang to her feet. Fairfax was waiting for her! She saw him pacing the platform, looking into the darkness, saw the light on his fair head, saw the eager eye, the kindling cheek, the smile of confidence, saw the smile fade, the dismay follow, saw the long stretch of his desert life, — oh, it was not the breaking of one heart only, it was the heart of Fairfax, too! And then, by some ominous necromancy, she saw, as if passing palpably before her eyes, the procession of weeping women, of wounded men, of starving children, a flock of the crimes that always set their feet in the footprints of war, and dead man after dead man rose corpse-white but with discolored gashes and staring with accusing eyes, wide-open eyes, fixed, and fixed on hers. “Oh, help, help! ” she cried, as she flung herself prone upon the floor before the altar.

She may have lain there an hour. In the whirl of bitter fears and fancies she knew she had not fainted. But when at last she rose, putting back her fallen hair, as if she pushed aside also the cloud of terror, the moonlight was streaming in at the clerestory windows and lying on the effigies of old King Thurm and his wife, a man who in his day rode fetlock deep in blood. What profited him his riding now, with that condemning stain of gules upon his breast? And then she saw the moonlight touch with white radiance the marble statue of an angel bearing the cup of communion as if it were the Holy Grail. The heavenly smile upon the skiey face was full of pitying love; but through the transfixed and bleeding heart of the Mother of God, in the painted pane above, a crimson spark shot into the cup the angel held, and glowed there like live fire till the moon swam on. “It is the cup of gall and bitterness,” she exclaimed, “and it is given me to drink. ” And she lifted her hands where she stood and prayed for strength.

The short summer night had passed. The gray of morning made the place chill as the touch of death, when automatically she stepped aside into the royal closet, feeling half as if she moved with wings, tired though she was, yet wrought upon by tremendous forces. The spot seemed to afford protection; she would stay for the morning service.

The first sunbeam poured through the stained windows and filled the spaces with jeweled splendor, when the King came in. And presently the organ pealed forth a magnificat, so joyous, so sweet, so strong, that sorrow seemed lost in it. When, prayer and praise being ended, the King turned to her, she bowed her head before him in witness of her obedience, and he put his hand on it and blessed her. Hours afterward, she felt that touch where the blessing seemed to burn.

“Find him, ” she said to Dalma, who would have met her with wonder and reproach, but was silent before the pale awfulness of her face. “Tell him I will not see him. I will not write to him. I will open no letter from him. He must be to me as if he had never been. Oh, my God, he must forget I was more than a dream ! ”

Still in too exalted a state for sleep, the princess leaned that night over her balcony and saw the great picture of the starry heavens painted in the depths of the lake beneath, beautiful, unreal, a universe farther still, tempting one into its hollow. But as her glance went up never had the ranks of the stars shone with such magnificence, wheeling on the blue-black field of the night. “Each set in his place, they submit to law. Let me submit, let me submit! ” she cried. “I, too, am set in my place, oh, so small a place beneath this vastness ! But not small since power stoops into it ! O Lord God, King of heaven and earth, as thy hand has poured into me this right to rule, pour also thy spirit! ”

There was great rejoicing everywhere when the arrangements of the marriage were announced. There were deputations, addresses, offerings. Dignitaries came from this court and from that, bearing gifts and honors. PorpirioDassa sent his bride the jewels his crusading ancestor brought from the empire of the East; there were no rubies in Christendom equaling their bloodred flame.

Adria passed through it all like a sleep-walker. She seemed to wake only when, after the nuptial benediction in the cathedral of the Prince of Peace, she paused a moment in the lofty door beside her husband,— her gown of woven pearls and silver whose long train, lifted by her ladies, was like moonlight on the sea, and her enveloping veil, making her like a spirit, — and looking down on the people thronging in the square, a mass of glad humanity, her heart went out to them. She had given herself for them. She felt that instant the tenderness that comes for that for which one has sacrificed greatly, — she who had sacrificed soul and sense ! They were her people, — she loved them ! A smile like a burst of sunshine illumined her face ; involuntarily she dropped the arm she held and stretched her hands toward them. Wild shouts of joy answered her. Seeing Porpirio-Dassa, perhaps the multitude understood her motive, her deed, her love. But the outcry made her turn hurriedly and take the prince’s arm, bending her head and drawing her veil closer as she descended the steps, covered with cloth of gold, to the gilded coach whose eight white horses, splendid in scarlet and gold, and satin-clad postilions, whirled them away.

It was when they came back from the Summer Palace which the King had lent them that His Majesty, in the audience to which he had summoned her alone, said, “The country air agrees with you. You have proved the virtue of obedience. I see you happy.”

“Sire,” she said, looking at him fearlessly, “ there is another life. In that life may you be a worm that I may tread on you ! ”

The King laughed. “A ruler and his heir have never been too friendly, I hear,” he said. “And there must be brief rebellions to the yoke. Yet, princess, you and I are of one accord. Look you ! Do you think I, also, I have sacrificed nothing for this people ? I have never spoken of it before; I shall never speak of it again. But do you remember that my wife Elena, although she brought me no children, brought into the kingdom the salt mines, the marble quarries, the turquoise beds, that augmented revenue and created work for thousands ? And I never let myself know she was either hunched or crazed ! No, ” as he saw her lips part, “I do not ask sympathy. I do not expect contrition. It is not I you just now insulted. It is the Lord ; — since the king is king by God’s grace and the vicegerent of the divine power. Ask pardon of God.”

And hesitating, swaying, the last work of her submission, Adria fell upon her knees and asked pardon of the King.

She accepted in the act his heirship from heaven. And going, with reactionary force as far back into mediæval darkness as Fairfax went forward beyond the light of to-day, she confessed the divine right of kings.

“I sent for you to-day,” said the King presently, “ to tell you that henceforth I associate you with myself in the government. You are to sit in my council. And your voice is to have its full weight.”

And the people understood, before long, that the new thought of them and of their liberties was hers, and they were already yielding her a romantic worship when very instantly the King joined the long line of kings who had gone before, and left at last the crown to her.

“I had been thinking,” said the Baroness Dalma, “that His Majesty would be abdicating and retiring to the Palace of the Hills, with the Senhora Rossiznola for wife. It would have been his ghastly joke.”

“Never! ” said Adria. “He would have been crucified with all the Rossiznolas beside him, rather than surrender that which he believed to be his trust from God.”

What a day was that of the young Queen’s coronation ! One would have said there was no man in the kingdom who had not felt crowned in her crowning — or woman either. The sun blazing in the blue heaven, banners and bannerols and leafy canopies, the purple of the church, the white and scarlet of the soldiery, the populace vari-colored as beds of blossoms, — all made holiday ; the streets were paved with flowers, the air was rent with bell-ringing and glad cries, with, singing bands of boys, and the fires leaped at night from hill to hill to the utmost boundary of land and sky. And if there were gayeties in the great houses, there was feasting in the cottages; and down in the beautiful palace of the Shore of Shadow, where the young Queen chose to make her home, the lights burned to mid-day with royal cheer.

But although the young Queen made part of the rejoicing, she herself was wrapped in a kind of awe, for, in the moment when, kneeling, she received the chrism and the crown, she felt that she took the vows before God not only for herself, but for her unborn child.

The Queen sat one day on the lawn of one of the terraces of the Shore of Shadow, where an Indian rug was spread under the great plane tree. She had dispatched her papers, and leaned back in her chair with a book fallen from her hand, —Machiavelli’s Prince; and she was wondering why once she had found it so abhorrent, since, even if portions were revolting now, there was in it a wisdom for the wise.

Dalma sat with her, her close friend as ever; she had no confidante. They were looking across the lawn, whose sheets of live emerald lay between the deep shadows cast by the great trees behind, at a boat far up the lake where the wind went ruffling it blue and silver. “It is like life,” said the Queen. “One sail in sun and one in shadow.”

“And we know nothing of the shadow,” said Dalma.

“Sometimes that is best,” said the Queen.

“There is a man, ” said Dalma, then, looking not at the Queen with the sunlight flecking her white raiment and making the somewhat melancholy traits of her dark beauty radiant, but straight before her into the far air, “there is a man who has gone out to the great South to add an empire to an empire. He has regarded the civilization of his own people as the greatest the world has reached. But yet he conceives a greater. He has associated with himself a number of those who believe with him in what they call the human potentiality. He is under the nominal protection of his own land. But he needs no protection. If he had not carried it into the common treasury, his wealth would make his will absolute; but his will is law without it, for it is the fulfillment of old hopes for an ideal state ” —

“ Dreams, — dreams! ” said the Queen.

“An idler, a law-breaker there is deported,” continued Dalma. “The simple government requires an inappreciable tax. It is expected that the free ports shall receive the commerce of the world, and build a realm as beautiful, as powerful, as old Venice, but without the tyranny and sin and crime. Powerful for inspiration; and with that moral force which is a panoply. The accretion of individual wealth is made impossible; but individual comfort is everywhere secured, and with it individual virtue and responsibility.”

“Dreams. Idle dreams.”

“The beauty of surrounding nature there is so prodigal, there is such luxuriance of loveliness, that it already begins to feed the beauty of art; and nurtured in health, in self-forgetfulness, in culture, it is intended that a people shall at last grow up equal to the perfection in the thought of God, and whose blood shall overflow into other veins, and one day re-create all the peoples of the earth! That is the way it has been told to me, — word for word. And this man’s name ” —•

“ It does not signify, ” said the Queen.

“This man’s name is Chetwynd,” said Dalma.

“Pshaw ! ” said the Queen.

“Did I say Chetwynd? Chetwynd is with him. You remember the marquis ? I should have said Fairfax, For ” —

“Fairfax,” said the Queen, as if dreamily, her finger on her lip. “One lives so many lives in a lifetime. I remember no one of the name of Fairfax.” And she rose, drawing her longlace cloak about her, and walked swiftly away.

“ Well, well, and Peter denied the Lord! ” said Dalma to herself.

As the Queen moved into the shadow of the wood she was joined by her husband, who went along beside her. Dalma knew that in her heart Adria must loathe the man; but she saw that not the quiver of a muscle betrayed it. Porpirio-Dassa was the husband of the Queen, and whether worthy or not, the Queen exacted for him every right and courtesy, and began by extending them herself. Yet Dalma saw that as she walked she did not allow the flutter of one of her long ribbons to touch him. “And if I had listened to Chetwynd,” said Dalma, “I would be far away from this attendance on silent martyrdom. And if I had n’t much heart for founding empire and regenerating races, it is no bed of roses to help a woman endure. ” And then Dalma was remembering the first time the Princess Adria had ever seen Porpirio-Dassa, —he too eagerly occupied with the band-master over a fantasia of his writing in her honor to hasten to her side, and afterwards paying court by puffing out his fat white cheeks over the flute’s part in the piece, — a flute-player, a small, lean soul, to whom a false note on his pipe, a wrinkle in his ribbon, obscured the large concerns of people and government and God.

And so time, which is merciful to all men, brought Adria to her hour, and bore her through it. And her little son lay in the lawns of his cradle. And the kingdom was hanging on the breath that fluttered like the fainting wings of a butterfly upon her lip, while she lay sinking into an abyss of nothingness.

Effort had proved idle. The heart was failing. “Imperceptible,” the physician listening for its beat said to another, and to the weeping women. They had forgotten she was the Queen, — she was a woman dying, and leaving the world of youth and light. “If,” murmured the physician, “ if there were anything to rouse her, to reach her vitality, to call upon her nervous force ” —• And then the Baroness Dalma, who had been sent for long since, went at the word and lifted the baby from his cradle and laid him beside the sunken form in the bed, upon the outstretched arm.

The Prince Porpirio-Dassa waited in a distant wing of the palace; he disliked the sight and sound of suffering. Now and then he read a page in his French novel, but it did not fix his attention. His situation seemed to him to be poetic and picturesque. Now and then he tried a minor strain on his flute, half under his breath. He found the time tedious; some ladies helped him wile it away in gossip and picquet.

In the chapel the chaplains offered prayer from hour to hour. And here and there throughout the palace groups of the great nobles talked together, almost hesitating to whisper their apprehension of the havoc to be wrought by the slack and careless hand of PorpirioDassa’s possible regency through a long minority.

But where the Queen lay, the soft murmur of the breeze in the branches without made the hush within more solemn. One started at the occasional tap of the vine on the lattice. And the faint shuddering sigh after long intervals of silence seemed more awful than the silence.

After that first fearful failing and sinking, although Adria was unconscious of external things, she had been intensely conscious throughout her inner life. Across the darkness every circumstance in her days of joy or sorrow had sprung into vivid light. She saw the child in the old castle, and the people in the forest, the hunter in the Long Chase, the young girl first learning from the King what the future held for her. She saw the sheet of tossing sea from the English cliffs, the wings of the eagles, and the bright face of Fairfax; and her heart gave a great surge. She rose on that surge into a skiey region of light and joy only to sink into succeeding hollows of deep darkness where, like the wreckage of storm, floated by detached memories of the King’s word, and of the coming of Porpirio-Dassa and his flute. Then for a while a mad maze of trouble, till over it rose, like a city shining in the sun, thought of the blessing of her people; like a city shining in the clouds, thought of the great empire in the South; and a waft of dreamful ease stole over her. How sweet, how sweet, to rest! Oh, let her dream forever! But like a thousand stings followed remembrance of the anger of the nobles at the rights given to the people, of the factious remonstrances, the atmosphere of conspiracy, the delaying, the hindering, the depleting of chosen measures, the clash of wills, the struggle of opposing interests, the fear, the feverish hope, the eagerness, the deadly fatigue, — and oh, to be done with it all! What was this life that she should cling to it? This unendurable life, the life of Porpirio-Dassa, —his wife, the mother of his children, the listener to his trifles, — the unlovely, the loathly life ! How blest to lay it down and be off and away! Oh, suffer her, suffer her to go! So gently, so slowly, the tide was bearing her down, drifting, drifting, —how cool the shadow, how tranquil the current !

What a burden was this that went slipping from her shoulders as she swam in the soft, cool waters, — the trouble of the people, the pride of the Court, the clamor of the Chambers, the days, the dreadful days and nights of Porpirio-Dassa! Oh, never to see that face, to hear that voice again! Off, off, off, let it go, all this burden, this cruel load, falling, falling, even though she fell with it!

Perhaps, then, for a space all was suspension. And when she became aware of herself again, she was floating through wide vapors, folded in their soft touch, as if she herself were exhaled to thin air. Ah, what rest, what peace! It seemed as if a wide smile were breaking through the dimness and lighting all the way, as if she were just entering some vast nimbus. But what — what was this weight she held — ah, the thing she was about to surrender to the hands that gave it, the crown, the cruel crown! And the burden, — she had cast it off, but it was still at hand and trailing after. Something teased her, too; there was a pressure against her arm, —oh yes, — a little child, — it had floated to her out of this great deep. She remembered now, they had told her she had a son. Perhaps he had died also, and was going out with her. Best so, — Porpirio-Dassa’s son! No, no, her son, her own ! It was from the mother the son inherited. How warm he was! That little head against her breast, how dear! He was warm, he was living, he was going to live! Then he must be reared so that every drop of the Dassa blood should be counteracted. Great heaven of heavens, she must live to do it! He must be reared to know the duties of kingship, to feel that the weight of his crown is the weight of his gift from God, to represent God to his people through his divine authority, to be anointed to service, to justify his blood sanctified through generations of kings! And there was no one to do it but herself. Oh, she must live, she must live! She had been weak, she had been willful; she had drifted on this pleasant tide too long; she must draw in that burden trailing away. But how, how? Oh, for a breath of fresh air, something to blow away these vapors ! Oh, for some hand to lift her from this clinging, cobwebby mesh! She must live ! She must live for the boy, for the kingdom, for the people. She had no right to lay down her trust. It was betrayal. God! God! God! she cried in her soul.

At that moment the physician, releasing her hand, laid it upon her breast. Something hurt her then, — a prick, a fret. It was the ring she wore, had always worn. Yes, the ring the King had given her, under its jewel the particle of the sword that won the kingdom. What was this he had said ? To remember — yes, yes, the iron, the iron in her blood! And with the thought a spark of life struck up. In the instant she was slipping under the burden again, as in the forest she and Dalma took old Nana’s fagots on their shoulders. As if she rose, buoying herself up from dark gulfs, she opened her eyes. “I am going to live, ” she said to Dalma, who was bending over her.

It was the next summer that the Queen sat again on the terrace-lawn at the Shore of Shadow, where the carpet was laid beneath the plane tree, holding her little son upon her knee, running her fingers through the thistle-down of his curls, looking into his dark eyes that were her eyes, kissing his waxen loveliness. She had suffered a great change in the year. The beauty was still there, but it was different, — a moonlighted sort of beauty, ethereal, pale, the spirit looking through like a flame behind transparency.

The child grew sleepy; and there was a little silence before Dalma said, — her voice so low it was like a wind blowing far away, — “ I told you once of the man founding the empire in the South. It was a mighty thought. It has already met more than the beginnings of good fortune, of fruition. But his living share in it is done. They have made his grave out of a rock of the sea, an island rock. Over him is immense sky, around him illimitable sea. He has his part in storm and sunshine and infinite elemental loneliness. Only they have built there a shaft, a giant finger of light, that shall last as long as the rock itself, and on its peak, the cable laid from land, an electric lamp burns nightly to tell the way to those that sail the sea.”

The Queen had grown very white. But the effort to lift the sleeping child and rest his head upon her neck brought the color to her cheek. She looked out a moment steadily into the deeps of the sky. “In heaven,” she murmured, “they neither marry nor are given in marriage.”

Harriet Prescott Spofford.