`O, what do you care for oaths -- or I either? What would you swear by? Wine, women, and song? It is not binding,' she said. She had come quite close up to him and laid her hand upon his arm. `As for the order -- no, Heinrich, never! I will never believe it. I will die ere I believe it. You have some secret purpose -- what, I cannot guess -- but not one word of it is true.'
`Shall I show it you?' he asked.
`You cannot,' she answered. `There is no such thing.'
`Incorrigible Sadducee!' he cried. `Well, I will convert you; you shall see the order.' He moved to a chair where he had thrown his coat, and then drawing forth and holding out a paper, `Read,' said he.
She took it greedily, and her eye flashed as she perused it.
`Hey!' cried the Baron, `there falls a dynasty, and it was I that felled it; and I and you inherit!' He seemed to swell in stature; and next moment, with a laugh, he put his hand forward. Give me the dagger,' said he.
But she whisked the paper suddenly behind her back and faced him, lowering. `No, no,' she said. `You and I have first a point to settle. Do you suppose me blind? She could never have given that paper but to one man, and that man her lover. Here you stand -- her lover, her accomplice, her master -- O, I well believe it, for I know your power. But what am I?' she cried; `I, whom you deceive!'
`Jealousy!' cried Gondremark. `Anna, I would never have believed it! But I declare to you by all that's credible that I am not her lover. I might be, I suppose; but I never yet durst risk the declaration. The chit is so unreal; a mincing doll; she will and she will not; there is no counting on her, by God! And hitherto I have had my own way without, and keep the lover in reserve. And I say, Anna,' he added with severity, `you must break yourself of this new fit, my girl; there must be no combustion. I keep the creature under the belief that I adore her; and if she caught a breath of you and me, she is such a fool, prude, and dog in the manger, that she is capable of spoiling all.'
`All very fine,' returned the lady. `With whom do you pass your days? and which am I to believe, your words or your actions?'
`Anna, the devil take you, are you blind?' cried Gondremark. `You know me. Am I likely to care for such a preciosa? `Tis hard that we should have been together for so long, and you should still take me for a troubadour. But if there is one thing that I despise and deprecate, it is all such figures in Berlin wool. Give me a human woman -- like myself. You are my mate; you were made for me; you amuse me like the play. And what have I to gain that I should pretend to you? If I do not love you, what use are you to me? Why, none. It is as clear as noonday.'
`Do you love me, Heinrich?' she asked, languishing. `Do you truly?'
`I tell you,' he cried, `I love you next after myself. I should be all abroad if I had lost you.'
`Well, then,' said she, folding up the paper and putting it calmly in her pocket, `I will believe you, and I join the plot. Count upon me. At midnight, did you say? It is Gordon, I see, that you have charged with it. Excellent; he will stick at nothing -- `
Gondremark watched her suspiciously. `Why do you take the paper?' he demanded. `Give it here.'
`No,' she returned; `I mean to keep it. It is I who must prepare the stroke; you cannot manage it without me; and to do my best I must possess the paper. Where shall I find Gordon? In his rooms?' She spoke with a rather feverish self-possession.
`Anna,' he said sternly, the black, bilious countenance of his palace ROLE taking the place of the more open favour of his hours at home, `I ask you for that paper. Once, twice, and thrice.'
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