Chapter 2WHEN Otto mounted to his rolling prison he found another occupant in a corner of the front seat; but as this person hung his head and the brightness of the carriage lamps shone outward, the Prince could only see it was a man. The Colonel followed his prisoner and clapped-to the door; and at that the four horses broke immediately into a swinging trot.
`Gentlemen,' said the Colonel, after some little while had passed, `if we are to travel in silence, we might as well be at home. I appear, of course, in an invidious character; but I am a man of taste, fond of books and solidly informing talk, and unfortunately condemned for life to the guard-room. Gentlemen, this is my chance: don't spoil it for me. I have here the pick of the whole court, barring lovely woman; I have a great author in the person of the Doctor -- `
`Gotthold!' cried Otto.
`It appears,' said the Doctor bitterly, `that we must go together. Your Highness had not calculated upon that.'
`What do you infer?' cried Otto; `that I had you arrested?'
`The inference is simple,' said the Doctor.
`Colonel Gordon,' said the Prince, `oblige me so far, and set me right with Herr von Hohenstockwitz.'
`Gentlemen,' said the Colonel, `you are both arrested on the same warrant in the name of the Princess Seraphina, acting regent, countersigned by Prime Minister Freiherr von Gondremark, and dated the day before yesterday, the twelfth. I reveal to you the secrets of the prison-house,' he added.
`Otto,' said Gotthold, `I ask you to pardon my suspicions.'
`Gotthold,' said the Prince, `I am not certain I can grant you that.'
`Your Highness is, I am sure, far too magnanimous to hesitate,' said the Colonel. `But allow me: we speak at home in my religion of the means of grace: and I now propose to offer them.' So saying, the Colonel lighted a bright lamp which he attached to one side of the carriage, and from below the front seat produced a goodly basket adorned with the long necks of bottles. `Tu spem reducis -- how does it go, Doctor?' he asked gaily. `I am, in a sense, your host; and I am sure you are both far too considerate of my embarrassing position to refuse to do me honour. Gentlemen, I drink to the Prince!'
`Colonel,' said Otto, `we have a jovial entertainer. I drink to Colonel Gordon.'
Thereupon all three took their wine very pleasantly; and even as they did so, the carriage with a lurch turned into the high-road and began to make better speed.
All was bright within; the wine had coloured Gotthold's cheek; dim forms of forest trees, dwindling and spiring, scarves of the starry sky, now wide and now narrow, raced past the windows, through one that was left open the air of the woods came in with a nocturnal raciness; and the roll of wheels and the tune of the trotting horses sounded merrily on the ear. Toast followed toast; glass after glass was bowed across and emptied by the trio; and presently there began to fall upon them a luxurious spell, under the influence of which little but the sound of quiet and confidential laughter interrupted the long intervals of meditative silence.
`Otto,' said Gotthold, after one of these seasons of quiet, `I do not ask you to forgive me. Were the parts reversed, I could not forgive you.'
`Well,' said Otto, `it is a phrase we use. I do forgive you, but your words and your suspicions rankle; and not yours alone. It is idle, Colonel Gordon, in view of the order you are carrying out, to conceal from you the dissensions of my family; they have gone so far that they are now public property. Well, gentlemen,
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|