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Chapter 12 WHOM THE GODS DESTROY AND A FEW OTHERS

  • Some time passed before Fitzgerald became aware of Maurice's departure. Whe_e saw that he and Madame were alone, he said nothing, but pulled all th_uicker at his clay. He wondered at the desire which suddenly manifeste_tself. Fly? Why should he fly? The beat of his pulse answered him… . What _ine thing it was to feel the presence of a woman—a woman like this! What _ine thing always to experience the content derived from her nearness!
  • He looked into his heart; there was no animosity; there was nothing at all bu_ sense of gratefulness. In the dreary picture of his life there was now a_llumined corner. He had ceased to blame her; she was doing for her countr_hat he, did necessity so will, would do for his. And after all, he could no_ar against a woman—a woman like this. His innate chivalry was too deep- rooted.
  • How soft her voice was! The color of her hair and eyes followed him night an_ay. Once he had been on the verge of sounding Maurice in regard to Madame, Maurice was so learned in femininities; but this would have been a_cknowledgment of his ignorance, and pride closed his mouth. It was al_mpossible, but then, why should he return to his loneliness withou_ttempting to find some one to share it with him? The king was safe; his dut_as as good as done; his conscience was at ease in that direction. He neede_ot love, he thought, so much as sympathy… . Sympathy. He turned over the wor_n his mind as a gem merchant turns over in his hand a precious jewel.
  • Sympathy; it was the key to all he desired—woman's sympathy. There was nothin_ut ash in the bowl of his pipe, but he continued to puff.
  • Madame was seated at the piano again, idly thrumming soft minor chords. Sh_as waiting for him to speak; she wanted to test his voice, to know an_easure its emotion. At times she turned her head and shot a sly glance at hi_s he sat there musing. There was a wrinkle of contempt and amusement lurkin_t the corners of her eyes. Had Maurice been there he would have seen it.
  • Fitzgerald might have gazed into those eyes until doomsday, and never hav_een else than their gray fathoms. Minute after minute passed, still he di_ot speak; and Madame was forced to break the monotony. She was not sure tha_he countess could hold Maurice very long.
  • "Of what are you thinking, Monsieur?" she asked, in a soft key.
  • He started, looked up and laid the pipe on the sill. "Frankly, I was thinkin_hat nothing can be gained by keeping us prisoners here." He told the li_ather diffidently.
  • "Not even forgiveness?" The lids of the gray eyes drooped and the musi_eased.
  • "Forgiveness? O, there is nothing to forgive you; it is only your mistress _an not forgive. On the contrary, there is much to thank you for."
  • "Still, whatever I do or have done is merely in accordance with her Highness'_ishes."
  • He moved uneasily. "It is her will, not yours."
  • "Yes; the heart of Madame Amerbach is supine to the brain of Madame th_uchess." She rose and moved silently to the window and peered out. He though_er to be star-gazing; but she was not. She was endeavoring to see wher_aurice and the countess were.
  • "Madame, shall I tell you a secret?"
  • "A secret? Tell me," sitting in the chair next to his.
  • "This has been the pleasantest week I have known in thirteen years."
  • "Then you forgive me!" Madame was not only mistress of music but of tones.
  • "Yes."
  • And then, out of the fullness of his lonely heart, he told her all about hi_ife, its emptiness, its deserts, its longings. Each sentence was a knif_laced in her hands; and as she contemplated his honest face which coul_onceal nothing, his earnest eyes which could hide nothing, Madame wa_onscious of a vague distrust of herself. If only he had offered to fight, sh_hought. But he had not; instead, he was giving to her all his weapons o_efense.
  • "Ah, Monsieur, you do wrong to forgive me!" impulsively.
  • He smiled.
  • "Why should you be friendly to me when I represent all that is antagonistic t_ou?"
  • "To me you represent only a beautiful woman."
  • "Ah; you have been taking lessons of your friend."
  • "He is a good teacher. He is one of those men whom I admire. Women have neve_astered him. He knows so much about them."
  • "Yes?" a flicker in her eyes.
  • "Beneath all his banter there is a brave heart. He is a rare man who, havin_rain and heart to guide, follows the heart." He picked up the pipe and bega_o play a tattoo on the sill. "As for me, I know nothing of women, save what _ave read in books, and save that I have been too long without them."
  • "And you have gone all these years without knowing what it is to love?" To _an less guileless, this question would not have been in good taste.
  • Fitzgerald was silent; he dared not venture another lie.
  • "What! you are silent? Is there, after all, a woman somewhere in your life?"
  • "Yes." He continued to tap the pipe. His gaze wandered to the candles, straye_ack to the window, then met hers steadfastly, so steadfastly, that she coul_ot resist. She was annoyed.
  • "Tell me about her."
  • "My vocabulary is too limited. You would laugh at me."
  • "I? No; love is sacred." She had boasted to Maurice that she was withou_onscience; she had only smothered it. "Come; is she beautiful?"
  • "Yes." These questions disturbed him.
  • "Certainly she must be worthy or you would not love her. She is rich?"
  • "That does not matter; I am." He was wishing that Maurice would hurry back; the desire to fly was returning.
  • "And she rejected you and sent you to the army?"
  • "She has not rejected me, though I dare say she would, had I the presumptio_o ask her."
  • "A faint heart, they say—"
  • "My heart is not faint; it is my tongue." He rose and wandered about the room.
  • Her breath was like orris, and went to his head like wine.
  • "Monsieur," she said, "is it possible that you have succumbed to the charms o_adame the countess?"
  • He laughed. "One may admire exquisite bric-a-brac without loving it."
  • "Bric-a-brac! Poor Elsa!" and Madame laughed. "If it were the countess I coul_id you."
  • "Love is not merchandise, to traffic with."
  • Madame's cheeks grew warm. Sometimes the trick of fence is beaten down by _yro's stroke.
  • "Eh, bien, since it is not the countess—"
  • He came toward her so swiftly that instinctively she rose and moved to th_pposite side of her chair. Something in his face caused her to shiver. Sh_ad no time to analyze its meaning, but she knew that the shiver was no_nmixed with fear.
  • "Madame, in God's name, do not play with me!" he cried.
  • "Monsieur, you forget yourself," for the moment forgetting her part.
  • "Yes, there is no self in my thoughts since they are all of you! You know tha_ love you. Who could resist you? Thirteen years? They are well wasted, in th_nd to love a woman like you."
  • Before she could withdraw her hands from the top of the chair he had seize_hem.
  • "Monsieur, release me." She struggled futilely.
  • "I love you." He began to draw her from behind the chair.
  • "Monsieur, Monsieur!" she, cried, genuinely alarmed; "do not forget that yo_re a gentleman."
  • "I am not a gentleman now; I am a man who loves."
  • Madame was now aware that what she had aroused could not be subdued by angr_ords.
  • "Monsieur, you say that you love me; do not degrade me by forcing me into you_rms. I am a woman, and weak, and you are hurting me."
  • He let go her hands, and they stood there, breathing deeply and quickly. Bu_or her it was a respite. She had been too precipitate. She brought togethe_he subtle forces of her mind. She could gain nothing by force; she must us_unning. To hold him at arm's length, and yet to hold him, was her desire. Sh_ad reckoned on wax; a man stood before her. All at once the flutter o_dmiration stirred in her heart. She was a soldier's daughter, the daughter o_ man who loved strong men. And this man was doubly strong because he wa_earless and honest. She read in his eyes that a moment more and he had kisse_er, a thing no man save her father had ever done.
  • "O, Monsieur," she said lightly, "you soldiers are such forward lovers! Yo_ave not even asked me if I love you." He made a move to regain her hands.
  • "No, no!" darting behind the chair. "You must not take my hands; you do no_ealize how strong you are. I am not sure that my heart responds to yours."
  • "Tell me, what must I do?" leaning across the chair.
  • "You must have patience. A woman must be wooed her own way, or not at all.
  • What a whirlwind you are!"
  • "I would to heaven," with a gesture indicative of despair, "that you had kep_e behind bars and closed doors." He dropped his hands from the chair an_ought the window, leaning his arms against the central frame.
  • Madame had fully recovered her composure. She saw her way to the end.
  • "It is true," she said, "that I do not love you, but it is also true that I a_ot indifferent to you. What proof have I that you really love me? None, sav_our declaration; and that is not sufficient for a woman such as I am. Shall _lace my life in your hands for better or for worse, simply because you sa_ou love me?"
  • "My love does not reason, Madame."
  • She passed over this stroke. "I do not know you; it is not less than natura_or me to doubt you. What proof have I that your declaration of love is not _cheme to while away your captivity at my expense? My heart is not one to b_aken by storm. There is only one road to my affections; it is narrow. Othe_en have made love to me, but they have hesitated to enter upon this self-sam_oad."
  • "Love that demands conditions? I have asked none."
  • Madame blushed. "A man offers love; a woman confers it."
  • "And what is this narrow road called which leads to your affections? Is you_eart a citadel?"
  • "It is called sacrifice. Those who dwell in my heart, which you call _itadel, enter by that road."
  • "Sacrifice?" Fervor lighted his face again. "Do you wish my fortune? It i_ours. My life? It is yours. Do you wish me to lead the army of the duches_nto Bleiberg? It shall be done. Sacrifice? I have sacrificed the best year_f youth for nothing; my life has been made up of sacrifices."
  • "Monsieur, if I promised to listen to you here-after, if I promised a hear_hat has never known the love of man, if I promised lips that have never know_he lips of any man save my father—" She moved away from the chair, within a_rm's length of him. "If I promised all these without reservation, would yo_id me to give back to the duchess her own?"
  • Instantly her arms were pinioned to her sides, and he had drawn her so clos_hat she could feel his heart beat against her own.
  • "Have no fear," he said. The voice was unfamiliar to her ears. "I shall no_iss you. Let me look into your eyes, Madame, your eyes, and read the li_hich is written there. My fortune and my life are not enough. Keep your love, Madame; I have no wish to purchase it. What! if I surrender my honor it i_greed that you surrender yours? A love such as mine requires a wife. Yo_ould have me break my word to the dead and to the living, and you expect m_o believe in your promises! Faugh!" He pushed her from him, and resumed hi_tand by the window.
  • The hate of a thousand ancestors surged into her heart, and she would hav_iked to kill him. Mistress! He had dared. He had dared to speak to her as n_ther man living or dead had dared. And he lived. All that was tigerish in he_oul rose to the surface; only the thought of the glittering goal stayed th_utburst. She had yet one weapon. A minute went by, still another; silence. _and was laid tremblingly on his arm.
  • "Forgive me! I was wrong. Love me, love me, if you must. Keep your honor; lov_e without conditions. I—" She stumbled into the chair, covered her eyes an_ell to weeping.
  • Fitzgerald, dumfounded and dismayed, looked down at the beautiful head. H_ould fight angry words, tempests of wrath—but tears, a woman's tears, th_ears of the woman he loved!
  • "Madame," he said gently, "do you love me?"
  • No answer.
  • "Madame, for God's sake, do not weep! Do you love me? If you love me—if yo_ove me—"
  • She sprang to her feet. Once again she experienced that shiver; again he_onscience stirred.
  • "I do not know," she said. "But this I may say: your honor, which you hol_bove the price of a woman's love, will be the cause of bloodshed. Mothers an_ives and sisters will execrate your name, brave men will be sacrifice_eedlessly. What are the Osians to you? They are strangers. You will do fo_hem, and uselessly, what you refuse to do for the woman you profess to love.
  • I abhor bloodshed. Your honor is the offspring of pride and egotism. Can yo_ot see the inevitable? War will be declared. You can not help Leopold; bu_ou can save him the degradation of being expelled from his throne by force o_rms. The army of the duchess is true to its humblest sword. Can you say tha_or the army of the king? Would you witness the devastation of a beautifu_ity, by flame and sword?
  • "Monsieur, Austria is with us, and she will abide with us whichever way w_ove. Austria, Monsieur, which is Leopold's sponsor. And this Leopold, is he _an to sit upon a throne? Is he a king in any sense of the word? Would a kin_ubmit to such ignominy as he submits to without striking a blow? Would h_ermit his ministers to override him? Would he permit his army to murmur, hi_gents to plunder, his people to laugh at him, if he possessed one kingl_ttribute? No, no! If you were king, would you allow these things? No! Yo_ould silence all murmurs, you would disgorge your agents, you would throttl_hose who dared to laugh.
  • "Put yourself in the duchess's place. All these beautiful lands are hers b_ight of succession; is she wrong to desire them? What does she wish t_ccomplish? She wishes to join the kingdom and the duchy, and to make a grea_ingdom, as it formerly was. Do you know why Leopold was seated upon th_hrone?
  • "Some day the confederation will decide to divide all these lands int_idbits, and there will be no one to oppose them. Madame the duchess wishes t_e strong enough to prevent it. And you, Monsieur, are the grain of sand whic_tops all this, you and your pride. Not even a woman's love—There, I have sai_t!—not even a woman's love—will move your sense of justice. Go! leave me.
  • Since my love is nothing, since the sacrifice I make is useless, go; you ar_ree!" The tears which came into her eyes this time were genuine; tears o_hagrin, vexation, and of a third sensation which still remained a mystery t_er.
  • To him, as she spoke, with her wonderful eyes flashing, a rich color suffusin_er cheeks and throat and temples, the dim candle light breaking against th_uddy hair; honor or pride, whichever it was, was well worth the losing. H_as a man; it is only the pope who is said to be infallible. His honor coul_ot save the king. All she had said was true. If he held to his word ther_ould be war and bloodshed.
  • On the other hand, if he surrendered, less harm would befall the king, and th_oss of his honor—was it honor?—would be well recompensed for the remainder o_is days by the love of this woman. His long years of loneliness came back; h_avered. He glanced first at her, then at the door; one represented all tha_as desirable in the world, the other more loneliness, coupled wit_nutterable regret. Still he wavered, and finally he fell.
  • "Madame, will you be my wife?"
  • "Yes." And it seemed to her that the word, came to her lips by no volition o_ers. As she had grown red but a moment gone, she now grew correspondingl_ale, and her limbs shook. She had irrevocably committed herself. "No, no!" a_he saw him start forward with outstretched arms, "not my lips till I am you_ife! Not my lips; only my hands!"
  • He covered them with kisses.
  • "Hush!" as she stepped back.
  • It was time. Maurice and the countess entered the room. Maurice glanced fro_adame to Fitzgerald and back to Madame; he frowned. The Englishman, who ha_ever before had cause to dissemble, caught up his pipe and fumbled it. Thi_ct merely discovered his embarrassment to the keen eyes of his friend. He ha_orgotten all about Maurice. What would he say? Maurice was something like _onscience to him, and his heart grew troubled.
  • "Madame," Maurice whispered to the countess, "I have lost all faith in you; you have kept me too long under the stars."
  • "Confidences?" said Madame, with a swift inquiring glance at the countess.
  • "O, no," said Maurice. "I simply complained that Madame the countess had kep_e too long under the stars. But here is Colonel Mollendorf, freshly returne_rom Brunnstadt to inform you that the army is fully prepared for an_mergency. Is not that true, Colonel?" as he beheld that individual standin_n the doorway.
  • "Yes; but how the deuce—your pardon, ladies!—did you find that out?" demande_he Colonel.
  • "I guessed it," was the answer. "But there will be no need of an army now.
  • Come, John, the Colonel, who is no relative of the king's minister of police, has not the trick of concealing his impatience. He has something important t_ay to Madame, and we are in the way. Come along, AEneas, follow your faithfu_chates; Thalia has a rehearsal."
  • Fitzgerald thrust his pipe into a pocket. "Good night, Madame," he sai_iffidently; "and you, countess."
  • "Good night, Colonel," sang out Maurice over his shoulder, and together th_air climbed the stairs.
  • Fitzgerald was at a loss how to begin, for something told him that Mauric_ould demand an explanation, though the affair was none of his concern. H_illed his pipe, fired it and tramped about the room. Sometimes he picked u_he end of a window curtain and felt of it; sometimes he posed before one o_he landscape oils.
  • "You have something on your mind," said Maurice, pulling off his hussar jacke_nd kicking it across the room.
  • "Madame has promised to be my wife."
  • "And the conditions?" curtly.
  • Fitzgerald pondered over the other's lack of surprise. "What would you do i_ou loved a woman and she promised to be your wife?"
  • "I'd marry her," sitting down at the table.
  • "What would you do in my place, and Madame had promised to marry you?" puffin_uickly.
  • "I'd marry her," answered Maurice, banging his fist on the table, "even if al_he kings and queens of Europe rose up against me. I would marry her, if I ha_o bind her hands and feet and carry her to the altar and force the priest a_he point of a pistol, which, in all probability, is what you will have t_o."
  • "I love her," sullenly.
  • "Do you know who she is?"
  • "No."
  • "Would it make any difference?"
  • "No. Who is she?"
  • "She is a woman without conscience; she is a woman who, to gain her miserabl_nds, will stop neither at falsehood, deceit nor bloodshed. Do you want me t_ell you more? She is—"
  • "Maurice, tell me nothing which will cause me to regret your friendship. _ove her; she has promised to be my wife."
  • "She will ruin you."
  • "She has already done that," laconically.
  • "Do you mean to tell me—"
  • "Yes! For the promise of her love I am dishonored. For the privilege o_issing her lips I have sold my honor. To call her mine, I would go throug_ell. God! do you know what it is to be lonely, to starve in God-forsake_ands, to dream of women, to long for them?"
  • "And the poor paralytic king?"
  • "What is he to me?"
  • "And your father?"
  • "What are my dead father's wishes? Maurice, I am mad!"
  • "You are a very sick man," Maurice replied crossly. "What's to become of al_hese vows—"
  • "You are wasting your breath! Do you remember what Rochefoucauld said o_adame de Longueville?—`To win her heart, to delight her beautiful eyes, _ave taken up arms against the king; I would have done the same against th_ods!' Is she not worth it all?" with a gesture of his arms which sent th_ive coals of his pipe comet-like across the intervening space. "Is she no_orth it all?"
  • "Who?—Madame de Longueville? I thought she was dead these two hundred years!"
  • "Damn it, Maurice!"
  • "I will, if you say so. The situation is equal to a good deal of plain, hones_amning." Maurice banged his fist again. "John, sit down and listen to me.
  • I'll not sit still and see you made a fool. Promises? This woman will kee_one. When she has wrung you dry she will fling you aside. At this moment sh_s probably laughing behind your back. You were brought here for this purpose.
  • Threats and bribes were without effect. Love might accomplish what the othe_wo had failed to do. You know little of the ways of the world. Do you kno_hat this house party is scandalous, for all its innocence? Do you know tha_adame's name would be a byword were it known that we have been here more tha_wo weeks, alone with two women? Who but a woman that feels herself abov_onvention would dare offer this affront to society? Do you know why Madam_he countess came? Company for Madame? No; she was to play make love to me t_eep me out of the way. Ass that I was, I never suspected till too late!
  • Madame's name is not Sylvia Amerbach; it is—"
  • The door opened unceremoniously and in walked the Colonel.
  • "Your voices are rather high, gentlemen," he said calmly, and sat down in a_asy chair.