Chapter 8

HALF an hour after, Gondremark was once more closeted with Seraphina.

`Where is he now?' she asked, on his arrival.

`Madam, he is with the Chancellor,' replied the Baron. `Wonder of wonders, he is at work!'

`Ah,' she said, `he was born to torture me! O what a fall, what a humiliation! Such a scheme to wreck upon so small a trifle! But now all is lost.'

`Madam,' said Gondremark, `nothing is lost. Something, on the other hand, is found. You have found your senses; you see him as he is -- see him as you see everything where your too-good heart is not in question -- with the judicial, with the statesman's eye. So long as he had a right to interfere, the empire that may be was still distant. I have not entered on this course without the plain foresight of its dangers; and even for this I was prepared. But, madam, I knew two things: I knew that you were born to command, that I was born to serve; I knew that by a rare conjuncture, the hand had found the tool; and from the first I was confident, as I am confident to-day, that no hereditary trifler has the power to shatter that alliance.'

`I, born to command!' she said. `Do you forget my tears?'

`Madam, they were the tears of Alexander,' cried the Baron. `They touched, they thrilled me; I, forgot myself a moment -- even I! But do you suppose that I had not remarked, that I had not admired, your previous bearing? your great self-command? Ay, that was princely!' He paused. `It was a thing to see. I drank confidence! I tried to imitate your calm. And I was well inspired; in my heart, I think that I was well inspired; that any man, within the reach of argument, had been convinced! But it was not to be; nor, madam, do I regret the failure. Let us be open; let me disclose my heart. I have loved two things, not unworthily: Grünewald and my sovereign!' Here he kissed her hand. `Either I must resign my ministry, leave the land of my adoption and the queen whom I had chosen to obey -- or -- ' He paused again.

`Alas, Herr von Gondremark, there is no "or,"' said Seraphina.

`Nay, madam, give me time,' he replied. `When first I saw you, you were still young; not every man would have remarked your powers; but I had not been twice honoured by your conversation ere I had found my mistress. I have, madam, I believe, some genius; and I have much ambition. But the genius is of the serving kind; and to offer a career to my ambition, I had to find one born to rule. This is the base and essence of our union; each had need of the other; each recognised, master and servant, lever and fulcrum, the complement of his endowment. Marriages, they say, are made in heaven: how much more these pure, alborious, intellectual fellowships, born to found empires! Nor is this all. We found each other ripe, filled with great ideas that took shape and clarified with every word. We grew together -- ay, madam, in mind we grew together like twin children. All of my life until we met was petty and groping; was it not -- I will flatter myself openly -- it WAS the same with you! Not till then had you those eagle surveys, that wide and hopeful sweep of intuition! Thus we had formed ourselves, and we were ready.'

`It is true,' she cried. `I feel it. Yours is the genius; your generosity confounds your insight; all I could offer you was the position, was this throne, to be a fulcrum. But I offered it without reserve; I entered at least warmly into all your thoughts; you were sure of me -- sure of my support -- certain of justice. Tell me, tell me again, that I have helped you.'

`Nay, madam,' he said, `you made me. In everything you were my inspiration. And as we prepared our policy, weighing every step, how often have I had to admire your perspicacity, your man-like diligence and fortitude! You know that these are not the words of flattery; your conscience echoes them; have you spared a day? have you indulged yourself in any pleasure? Young and beautiful, you have lived a life of high intellectual effort, of irksome intellectual patience with details. Well, you have your reward: with the fall of Brandenau, the throne of your Empire is founded.'

`What thought have you in your mind?' she asked. `Is not all ruined?'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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