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PRINCE RODERICK.

By James Brinsley-Richards,

Author of ‘Seven Years at Eton,’ ‘The Duke’s Marriage,’ etc. VOL. I.—CHAPTER VIII. “ You have won gokltu opinions from Tristan,” said the prince to me next morning. His “ scribbling fit ” had abated, and looking out of the window at the sunlit lake, which sparkled like a vast sheet of crystal, reflecting the blue of the sky, he remarked that it was fine weather lor an outing. *‘ Do you feel inclined for a ride ? If so, be ready in half an hour. Come dressed as you are.” I had promised Harold Crowe that, if free, I would go out with him for a sail on the lake, so having put on a pair of boots with spurs I went to tell him of the change in my arrangements. “ Well, perhaps you can join us later,” he suggested. “Sonuenthal and 1 are going to lunch at the Swan, for 1 have some painting to do there.” Palette and mahlstick in hand, he was rubbing some color into the portrait of his pretty goose-girl. “ That’s Frida Silas,” he said, “ but I can’t get her cheeks right. I want the nectarine tints, and I’m making English pudding apples.” “ You are doing a capital picture, though.” “Do you really think so?” he asked, pleased, “ You see I must work in earnest, for I am anxious to paint a good set of peasant types for the prince before _ I go, I’ve not come here to play the cheeryidler.” I thought as Harold said this that his opinion of the prince had improved since we came to Griinsee, and that he wished to stand well with him.

Joe brought me my riding whip and a message requesting me to meet His Highness at the landing-stage. I went there and found the launch under steam. After I had waited a few minutes the prince came out unattended, and we started without delay. The launch had a sumptuous cabin and a deck with an awning. Here we sat on easychairs, and were carried along at a swift smooth rate, without much puffing from the engine or noise from the screw. The little ship, English made, with a powerful Clyde engine, cut the water straight as a dart, and the four Greeks on board were able seamen who knew their business.

We were making for the farthermost point north of the Griinsee, a village called Steindorf, where tho horses were to wait us. The nearer shore being exposed to the sun, our course lay diagonally across the lake, so that we might get under the shadow of the tree - robed hills which skirted the opposite side. As we passed from the limpid light green water of the sunny expanse, in which the bows of the launch ploughed two long trails of glassy bubbles without foam, we seemed to glide into dark water of inlinite depth, for the hills cast a shade of several hundred yards' breadth. The scenery, which had been light and lovely before, became grand from this point; and the engine slackened speed to enable us to get a good view of an island half a mile from the outer shore, on which stood the stately ruin of a temple. I had spied this island through the telescope from the palace, but knew nothing about the building on it. As we came aoreast of the islet the Greek sailors removed their red bonnets and signed themselves. Prince Roderick, who was smoking, turned his head towards me to watch the effect which the building produced. I now observed that the ruin was that of a new temple which had never been completed. " You have heard of Hugo Schwarzfeld, the architect," he said. " The poor man has gone mad, and this is his unfinished work; but lam tired of telliDg the story to my guests, so I have had it printed. Read this."

He handed me a printed card i» a mahogany frame with a handle like thai of a bill of fare in a London club, and I reacj : THE TEMPLE ON SWAN I3LASD. j This temple was designed by Hugo Hcbwjarzfeld. It was to be dedicated to Human Great-ness—-not to the greatness won on battlefields or by stateiimanahir, or by nmterworkji of genius; for this greatuess meets with suffidient honor and reward. Bat to the greatness of noble deeds done in obscure places. To' the , strength of heart which keep 3 a man honest under temptation, just under provocation, ] generous in poverty, unselfish i'.i suffering. To , the daring and Belf-sacrificing spirit, to the , patience, untiring kindness, and magnanimity which have ennobled individuals of the human race and established the claim of man to bo above the beast. To this greatness, which is the attribute of no religion, people, or class—which exists everywhere and is seldom found, or when found, recognised—to this greatness which can bear to be ignored and despised, but which now and then reveals itaelf in soul-3tirring deeds that cannot be hidden, and which console man for the infinite baseness of some among his fellowcreatures—to this greatness it was intended to raise a memorial. .... , Tho architect caught the idea of the founder, enlarged it, became impassioned by it, and lost his reason in the effort to give his thoughts expression in art. His work in unfinished. People —ignorant people—now Bay that the artist's genius, released from his body, haunts the island under the form of a brilliant light, which hovera over the ruins at night. The light has been seen, if one may tmst the word of people who say so; and if these again can trmtthe evidence of their own senses. But men of science doubt even th»t ranch. Men of science have given explanations of the light, but none of them agree. "Hugo Schwarzfeld is a great man," obaerved the prince, without waiting for any remark of mine. " Out of my little egg he hatched an eagle; but I was not prepared for the grandeur of his schemes, and, truth to say, it would have required a larger fortune than I possess to carry them out. The story goes that it was I who drove Schwarzfeld nut of his mind ; the fact is, I had to tell him frankly that I could not afford the twenty million marks or so which he talked of spending. Then he made an attempt to kill me." " Literally, sir ?" "Oh yes, and I had a narrow escape. I came down one morning to look at the works, and found Schwarzfeld had collected a quantity of blasting powder, vowing that his temple, as you see it now, was unworthy of its destination, and that he would make a clean sweep of it. I saw he was delirious, and gently remonstrated with him, but he flew into a fearful passion, accusing me of being a renegade to my own idea and of grudging money. When he had worked himself up into a frenzy he swore that he and I should perish together in the ruins of our misbegotten monument; and making a rush at one of the powder barrels, cracked, the head with a hatchet and dropped a lighted fuse into the hole. I had just time to skip behind one of those pillars when the slab of marble on which I had been standing was blown into a thousand fragments. Schwarzfeld was picked up for dead twenty yards off. Pleasant, wasn't it?" _ «• I suppose he was put under restraint after that?" , «. " Yes; and we hushed up the affair as far as possible. But the moat fantastic fableß remain current about my share in the raising of this temple. Some say that I aimed at founding a new religion, and that poor Schwarzfeld and I celebrated unholy rites together. Others are convinced, on the strength of some drawings found among Schwarzfeld'u cartoons, that we were building a shrine of erotio love, which was to be stocked with the portraits and statues of good - looking jades." Here the prince laughed, and said that he cared not a ducat for most pretty faces, as some accounted prettiness. "So far as my ideas of a gallery went, it would have been filled with portraits of good people, but doubtless some of them would have been uncouth enough, and I question if there would have been many women among them, at least young and pretty women." Could my strange master be a misogynist? was the question that occurred to me: and Prince Roderick, as though answering my thoughts, proceeded: "It ]ie& large gallery that could contaiAr'the portraits of ail the good women whom you might'gather out of any one small town, ay, or from any village, though countrywomen are harder than those Titttowns. ' gobd-the bad ones are the exception, and these haVe been degraded by men. Man has all the defects of women, such as they are, and those of his own sex besides. His selfishness makes a brute of him as compared with the ordinary woman, even when he is at his best as a man. As for tfhe great deeds which women will accomplish for Jove, they are not to be aumbered or

measured, and, thank God, there are some loving unselfish men too. But in the dedication of our temple I was thinking rather of loveless ones, and of deeds done without calculation of reward. That which is done for love is repaid. Ingratitude does not defraud it; for love suffices to

itself. But the deed which sets a man's own misunderstanding wife against him, which loses the woman her lover—the deed which gets no support at the time of its accomplishment—which causes only pain and doubt to the doer, but which is nevertheless persevered in for results that will appear in after time—this is indeed greatness. But perhaps it was only a crazy thought to try and give artistic symbols to such greatness; and I am not sure that I can myself define what I sought to do, and I see how easily the sublime in Schwarzfeld's plan and mine could have merged into the ridiculous."

The launch was scudding over the dark water, and the overhanging pines formed a vault above our heads. Swan Island was a speck behind us, and we could see the steeple of Steindorf Church tapering above the white cottages of a hillside village. One more islet had to be passed ; it was called Rose Island, aud the fragrance of a thousand bushes in flower -vas wafted to us as we shot by it. Pointing to a promontory, the prince suddenly ejaculated :

" That's where I threw poor Mira Vogelsang into the lake; I presume you have heard all about it."

" Not much, sir; something vague." "I was sure you had heard something," rejoined the prince bitterly, "andl'll wager you were never told that I nearly lost my life in rescuing the girl. She had been singing to me in a boat one of the divinest songs ever composed, and I was under the complete thrall of it, when the silly thing abruptly wound up with a vulgar jingle from some Viennese music-hall song, and threw her stout arms round my neck. Startled from my dream, and forgetting where I was, I gave her an impatient shove, and over she went, plump! Der Teukl! she weighs a hundred kilogrammes, and pulled me down three times as though her struggling limbs had been Rhine weeds. Happily there were sailors in the boat, and we were both pulled out. If Mira bad got drowned my enemies would have raised a cry of cold-blooded murder, and I should have been handed over to the mad doctor?." " Who are. your enemies, sir ? Excuse the question, but I may be better able to serve you if I know to what dangers you are exposed." I spoke these words on the impulse of the moment, for I felt I must seize this opportunity of telling the prince that he cculd depend on me, and ask him to trust me. Not a muscle of his face moved. He hesitated just for a moment, and a careless smile broke over his intelligent features as he replied: "Count Hocbort and a strong Court party wish to keep me from the throne, as lam sure you know. They blacken my character, and hope that I shall grow dismayed by my own unpopularity and abdicate my rights. But this I shall not do, and when they discover how determined I am, perhaps they will let me alone. At all events these enemies would not, I think, take my life. I have other enemies —political fanatics—who think I have betrayed them because they have misunderstood me. These msn would stick a knife between my shoulders if they dared, or could, but" I do not fear them. I have other enemies, again, in the persons whom I have obliged but have been compelled to drop because they became tiresome ; and I am now on the way to making new enemies, more powerful and dangerous than any of the others, by designs on which the happiness of my life depends, and in which I mean to succeed or die. But here we are at Steindorf."

The launch drew up alongside a small pier, and I saw in the road beyond two horses held by liveried grooms and a throng of villagers watching to see us land. All heads were bared as the prince stepped over the gangway, and an old man, who was the burgomaster, advanced, hat iu hand, to pay some compliments. The prince answered courteously, but declined an invitation to go up to the burgomaster's house and refresh himself. A village girl stood with a bouquet which she had evidently come to present, but was too bashful to do so. The prince colled her forward, took a flower from the nosegay, and stuck it into his buttonhole; then kissed her hand, to her great confusion, and sprang lightly into the saddle.

" We have a sharp ride before us," he muttered to me half in a whisper, as he spurred his horse into a canter.

CHAPTER IX,

We were well mounted, and after we had cantered clear of the village our horses settled into a smart trot. We rode away from the lake, and it was soon shut out of sight by our turning the foot of a hill. For some distance we rode along a road between two hills, then branched off, ascended high ground, and entered a wood. Here I lost my bearings. I had not been taking attentive notice of the ground we crossed, for, having to ride a neck's length to rearward of the prince on his left, and to keep my ears open to catch His Royal Highness's casual remarks, I had also to restrain my horse from lessening the respectful distance which should divido a prince from his equerry. My horse being the more spirited of the two, this was not easy. The brute pulled hard at the snaffle, tossed at the curb, aud if touched with the spur would have shot past the prince like a ball from a catapult. As this was my first trial on horseback, I was anxious to show that I could ride properly ; the more so as I began to suspect that this particularly mettlesome beast had been selected for me on purpose to test my skill. We were about twenty minutes in the wood, now trotting, now walking down a zigzag track with gentle gradients, till we debouched on to an open road winding down the sides of a hill for a couple of miles. I had expected to find hills on our left, but they were on our right, so I was quite out in my topography. Up to the moment of our entering the wood, all the peasants whom we met had recognised the prince and Baluted him humbly. But beyond the wood he was not known. Countrymen occasionally touched their hats out of civility to us as strangers; but there was no recognition. Putting his horse at an amble as we descended the hill, the prince pointed to a village in the plain and told mo we would dismount there, and that he would leave me for several hours as he had a visit to pay. He might be absent all the afternoon, he said, so that he would make an appointment with me for six o'clock. " You needn't spend a dull time though, for there are some interesting ruins of an abbey in the neighborhood, and about three kilometres off an odd little market town called Bidstadt. But if you ride, keep your horse fresh for our return to Griinsee ; and at the inn please speak to me only in English, for I don't want anybody to know who I am." There was nothing for it but to obey without asking questions. Wo dismounted at the inn, and whilst I followed the ostler to the stable the prince went on his way. It was in nowise singular that he should part company' with me; but I had not expected it, and could not shake off a childish feeling of annoyance that he should have vouchsafed me no hint as to where he was going. After all I had seen and heard, my sense of responsibility had become too acute to be pleasant. I had not the least idea as to where I was, and was afraid to ask. Lest any cyphers or crowns on our saddlery should betray the Prince's identity 1 examined every article when the horses had been stalled, then feeling I should best avoid curiosity by going out as though I knew my way, I started for a stroll along the high road, determined to be guided by the finger posts. Half an hour's walk brought me to a guardhouse, with a Btriped sentry-box, where a soldier, not wearing the uniform of Krohbeirn," stood sentinel. Apparently I had reached the frontier of tho kingdom. No passport waß requested, and I walked on, but uneasy meditations returned. When the prince proposed' our riding excursion I imagined it was an impromptu thought, but it seemed now that he must have formed a plan, and perhaps gone on some escapade into the neighboring State. Of course he had a right to leave the kingdom,

but why had he not taken me a little into his confidence.

Presently, however, I turned to gaze at the landscape, and noticed a large country house or chateau standing on a hill on the Kronheim side of the border. A peasant woman was passing, and I asked her to whom the place belonged. She spoke in palok, but I caught the words " Princess Sophia of Kronheim," and this reassured me, for I knew that the lady named was Prince Roderick's aunt, and there was nothing improbable in the inference that he had gone to spend an afternoon with this relative. The nearest market town was called Badstadt. It was the place where the ' Gazette' which was always slandering the prince was printed. As it was market day, I passed up the crowded main street without attracting observation. Country gentlemen in dirty gaiters, farmers, and drovers were haggling for pigs and cattle, and the door of the principal hotel, the Kaiser Max, was blocked up with shabby gigs and ill-groomed nags. Nothing is so rare in Germany as to see a gentleman's trap well appointed, A bookseller's shop stood near the inn, and some 'Baedeker's Guides,'in German, were exposed in the window. This was a relief, for I went in and bought one, and while waiting for my luncheon of stewed beef and beer in the eating room of the hotel —a place reeking of onions and tobacco—l was enabled to take a lesson in geography. It appeared from the map that we were much.nearer to the Palace of Giiinsee than I had thought, our ride having brought us round to the valley side of the lake. The hills which skirted the road I had just walked were those which closed the prospect of waving grass land to be seen from the palace when one looked towards the near shore. The 'Guide' recommended the ruined Cistercian abbey, of which the prince had spoken, as a place worth seeing, so thither I bent my steps, after doing my bist with the stewed beef in its sauce of chopped girkins and prunes. The ruins were in charge of a sacristan, who belonged to a adjoining village church, and I was amused at the old fellow's attempts to be facetious at the expense of the departed monks. He must have learned his pleasantries from parties of American tourists and German students, who somehow always talk as if these monks must have been merry dogs. The sacristan was rather abashed by my remarking that the sleeping arrangements of the friars did not betoken a very joyous style of living. The dormitory was in good preservation—a large stone hall with no provision of any kind for firing, and it must hnve been perishingly cold in winter. As we came out of the abbey an old woman with a gipsy faoe stood offering photographs at a crumbling ivied gate, where lizards were to be seen ducking in and out of the crevices.

"Does your Grace want his fortune told ?" she asked, and willing, like Robinson in Richard Doyle's book, to encourage native industry wherever I went, I held out my hand with a " mark" in it.

" You have coi: ? from far, and you have far to go, but you are not home yet," she crooned, shaking tier head. " Beware your companion. Blul ' blut!" (Blood ! blood !) " You say that because you think I am a soldier."

But she only repeated " Blut, bint," and, closing my hand quietly, pushed it from her. I made sure that the hag had seen me riding with Prince Roderick, and that his evil reputation has suggested this little scene of soothsaying, the which troubled me not at all. It was now time to return to the inn, where we had left our horses. I arrived there shortly before six, and sat down iu an arbored garden by the roadside, ordering some coffee. The day had been gloriously fine, but had now turned sultry, and the sky was overcast. I expected every minute that the prince would appear, but a whole hour passed, then another, and there were no signs of him. The sky was now heavy with clouds, and a wind was rising. " We shall have rain to-r.ight," remarked the landlord, coming out to take a look at me. " Have you far to ride, gracious sir" (gnadiger HerrJ ? " To Steindorf," I replied, fancying that we might return by the road that had brought U3. "To Steindorf is far," said the landlord, in a stolid German way, and as he seemed disposed to prolong our conversation I asked him to show me to a room where I could wash my hands. I was now growing rather alarmed, and for the first time it struck me as curious that the prince should not have brought a groom with him. If he had been going to visit his aunt it would have been only natural that he should have been escorted by a servant, and have 6tabled his horse at the Schloss ; nor did there seem to be any reason why a mystery should have been made on the subject with me. As darkness came on I could no longer conceal from tho landlord that I was anxious about my companion, but being debarred from speaking frankly, I could only say that he had gone to pay a visit, and I concluded that he had been detained for dinner. To give myself some countenance, I ordered lights to be brought and something to eat; but I could neither eat nor drink, and paced the little bedroom with boarded floor, wondering how long I might have to wait, and at what hour it might be my duty to send a messenger to Sonnenthal and take him into council. The wind had become boisterous, the rumbling of thunder was heard, and soon it began to pour iu torrents. The diamondpaned casement rattled on the hook that kept it open, and had to be closed. It was nearly ten o'clock, and the situation was becoming serious ; for it was extremely improbable that the prince would come and join me for a night ride in such weather. My last hope was that he might send to give me news of himself and allay my fears. The window being shut, and the wind and thunder raging outside, I could hear little of what was going on in the house. All at once, however, I fancied there were sounds of horses' hoofs, and a minute later the landlord came in saying : •' Your companion, gracious sir, is downstairs and mounting." I paid for my refreshments and the stablin'g, and was down the staircase in a trice, the landlord crying after me : "You can have beds in the house, gracious sir. Don't start out to ride on such a night as this. Qolt im Himmel, it's a dreadful night." An ostler was holding my horse, and had thro vi 'i a sack over the saddle to keep it dry in th<- il .wnpour. By the light of the oil lamp li'i'ijriDg over the yard gate I caught sight of the prince already mounted and in the road. He called out something to me which was inaudible, and gave a loud laugh, then turned his bridle and galloped off, I following as fast as I could. Astonished exclamations were uttered by half a dozen loafers, who had sallied out of the tap-room to see us start.

I was too thankful at having the prince with me again safe and sound to expect either explanation or apology from him. In fact, I ceased to think of the anxieties he had caused me, having quite enough to preoccupy me in keeping my horse from bolting. We were going at a furious rate, and the prince's horse, which was a strong galloper and not nervous, kept three lengths ahead of mine in a Bteady stride. My horse went on playing tricks—swerved at every white stone, shied and snorted at the lightning, and twice, when claps of thunder pealed, slewed right round and tried madly to go back. The rain descended pitilessly ; my arms were heavy from the water that soaked my sleeves, and streams poured clown my neck off my hat. I had ne<rer had such a ride. We were not going by the road which had brought us from Steindorf, and this at least was satisfactory, as I guessed the prince was making for home by the shortest way through the grass valley. He knew the road, for he pounded along without stopping, until we came to a hill, *vhere he had to slacken speed, and there I overtook him. Ho spoke not a word, but bent his head to the storm and rode on, patting his horse's neck. A thick mufiler (which he had not worn in the morning) was round his throat, and concealed almost the whole of his face, as I noticed once when a plunge of my horse brought me abreast of him. As soon as level ground was reached he set off again at a good trot, and upon our coming to the brow of the hill, and beginning the descent on the other side, he went away at a renewed gallop, much too fast even for a first-rate rider down such a road. To

bo sure the road was broad, but I had to weigh on my near rein to keep to the hillside, for any curvet of my horse on a steep like this would have sent us rolling Heavens knows where. From the top of the hill lightscould be seen seen in the valley, but as we approached the base these vanished; for a stretch of wood began half-way down the hill, and continued for a short distance over the plain. The noise of the trees, as the wind rushed through them, rustling their millions of leaves, bending the trunks and making the rotten branches crack, was bewildering, However, our down hill gallop ended, and dashing across a high road, which separated the declivity from the level part of the wood, charged into an avenue which was pitch dark, Rapidly as we crossed the road I beheld a man dart from behind a tree close to the prince’s horse. The same moment there was a double flash, which I took for lightning, and two sharp reports. But these were unmistakeable. They were gun shots. I had ridden past the man as into the darkness of a cavern, and could not see what had happened. But I heard a cry, with the sound of a fall, a terrified shriek from the horse in front—the shriek of a wounded horse, too well known to cavalry soldiers—and some hideous crackling of twigs. The horrible truth broke upon me that the prince had been shot, had fallen off his horse, and was being dragged along with his foot in the stirrup! How I reined in, dismounted, and stumbled over a prostrate body, cannot be described. The prince’s horse had fallen, and was lying on his back kicking in death convulsions. I had passed the bridle of my horse through my arm lest he should decamp, but he reared and tugged so violently that I had to engage in a struggle with him, and clutch him tight by the nostrils, before I could make him stand steady, while I groped for the prince and raised him. Something warm trickled over my face and hands, and I knew it to be blood. The body was quite inert—no sigh or breath came from the lips. I felt for the wound, but my hand slipped in blond ; and at anew movement from my horse, which jerked me aside, the body glided off my arm, the lifeless knees bent, and it rolled heavily on to the sodden road. “ 0 God ! what shall I do ?” I cried aloud for help in the utter darkness, shouting again and again with all my might, But no sound could he heard except the wind, the rain, and the rustling of those millions of leaves.

(To be continued.)

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18891102.2.33.2

Bibliographic details

PRINCE RODERICK., Issue 8054, 2 November 1889, Supplement

Word Count
5,073

PRINCE RODERICK. Issue 8054, 2 November 1889, Supplement

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