The Red Chancellor
For the ePub edition of this book, the cover was produced by theTranscriber, and placed in the public domain.
SIR WILLIAM MAGNAY, Bart.
Author of “The Man of the Hour,” “Rogues in Arcady,”
“The Pitfall,” etc.
WARD, LOCK & CO., LIMITED
LONDON, MELBOURNE AND TORONTO
|“You may be my friend in this place where I have no friends.”|
|The Red Chancellor]||[Frontispiece|
|I||Duke Johann’s Chapel||5|
|II||The Face in the Light||11|
|IV||The King and the Chancellor||19|
|V||The Deserted Ball-room||23|
|VI||The Capsized Boat||31|
|VII||Supper at the Baroness’s||40|
|VIII||The Beating of Death’s Wings||46|
|XI||A Court Physician||66|
|XII||A Mysterious Occurrence||72|
|XIII||The Stone Sarcophagus||77|
|XVI||The Professor is Maimed||86|
|XV||A Lesson in Geology||91|
|XVI||A Blow is Struck||97|
|XVII||The Jaguar’s Den||104|
|XVIII||A Word of Warning||112|
|XX||The Living Dead||125|
|XXII||The Light in the Wood||138|
|XXIII||What we saw at Carlzig||145|
|XXIV||The Midnight Burial||150|
|XXV||Von Lindheim’s Departure||154|
|XXVI||I Shoot with the Count||160|
|XXVII||The Dish of Sweetmeats||166|
|XXVIII||The Prior’s Room||174|
|XXIX||The Count’s Hospitality||179|
|XXXI||The Dark Way||186|
|XXXII||Asta at Last||194|
|XXXIII||An Ominous Visit||191|
|XXXIV||We Outstrip our Fortune||209|
|XXXVII||The Last Meeting||238|
THE RED CHANCELLOR
DUKE JOHANN’S CHAPEL
“Von Orsova is playing a dangerous game.”
“He takes the risk.”
“Of what?” It was I who asked the question,curious to hear what penalty attached to the handsomeRittmeister’s temerity.
The three men gave glances at each other, asthough inquiring which of them could answer. Myfriend Von Lindheim broke the pause, replying with ashrug—
“He is a Captain of Cavalry, Master of the Horse;a gentleman, noble, no doubt, by birth, but a simple,if magnificent, Rittmeister. The lady”—he glancedround towards the dark shadows of the trees, gaveanother shrug of caution and lowered his voice,—“iswhat we all know. To couple their names ishigh treason; and, a fortiori, it is treason in a higherdegree for the Bursche to aspire.”
“We have not forgotten,” another said, “thecase of poor Steiner.”
I saw they were not inclined to run risks by discussingState secrets under the very walls of thepalace, so postponed the gratification of my curiosityuntil I should get Von Lindheim alone in my roomsor his house. We four had slipped out into the[Pg 6]gardens, to snatch ten minutes for a cigarette fromthe rather dreary formality of a State ball at the palaceof Buyda. My three companions were guests intheir official capacities, being attached to the bureauof the world-known Chancellor Rallenstein; I,Jasper Tyrrell, a mere traveller, through the friendlyoffices of Von Lindheim, to whom I had an introduction.I had gone abroad in a restless, rovingframe of mind, ready for any adventure, and heartilysick of the monotony of inaction, forced inaction,very slightly relieved by the problematical fun ofentertaining big shooting parties at my place inNorfolk. That seemed all I had to look forwardto in the year, and the more I thought of my autumnprogramme the more restless and discontented had Igrown. Even the temporary diversion of marriage,strenuously commended to me by certain not altogetherdisinterested friends, had failed to take holdon my fancy; amusements of that sort can bearranged at any time and at comparatively shortnotice. So one night at dinner, during which severalfriends and relations were good enough to map out avery pretty six months’ programme for me—andthemselves—my resolution was taken, and before Ihad got into bed that night my kit for an extendedsolitary ramble was packed. Next day I made a boltof it, leaving to an astute aunt full authority, byletter, to carry on Sharnston in my absence, and aftera month’s desultory progress found myself at Buyda.
A generation ago there were, as every student ofEuropean diplomacy knows, some very curiouspolitical intrigues (we know more about them now)in several of the Courts of Europe. More or lesssecret acts of aggressive statesmanship were perpetratedwhich, had they not been diplomaticallycovered up or explained away, would have seemedto set the forces of civilization to right-about-face.[Pg 7]But the press, like speech, often serves, in some countriesat any rate, to withhold rather than to give outinformation, while special correspondents are mostlyacclimatized and often merely human.
Still, there was somewhere, in east central Europefor choice, a chance of seeing something of life a littlemore adventurous than the cricket field or the covertat home had to offer, and with young blood in one’sveins, a perfect digestion, a muscular system secondto none at Angelo’s, the idea of a possible runninginto adventures is not displeasing. The dull smoothnessand security of a well-policed community ismonotonous to a man of spirit.
Such were the vague anticipations with which Iset forth, but my imagination certainly never suggestedsuch a series of adventures as that which I wasto pass through before I got back.
I had purposely left my destination uncertain, evento my own mind. In the true spirit of adventure Iwould be bound by no fixed route, but let my fancyand the circumstances of the moment carry mewhither they would. Only one indication of any sortof purpose did I take with me. That was a letterof introduction from an F. O. friend to an old school-fellowof his, Gustav von Lindheim, a rich youngfellow who had been educated in England, and whonow held a post in the Chancellory of his native State.It was in that corner of Europe that something of anadventure seemed most likely to be had, and it wasthere, to pass over my earlier wanderings, that Ieventually found myself.
Through the half-open windows of the great ball-roomcame “Amorettentšnze,” thundered out withmilitary swing and insistence by the resplendentCourt band. In company with my three acquaintancesI had strolled away from the illuminated portionof the gardens, and we were now pacing a dark[Pg 8]and comparatively secluded walk. Encouraged perhapsby the lessened probability of eavesdropping(for methods under Rallenstein, the dread Chancellor’srule, were mediśval, more or less), one of mycompanions remarked:
“Our Princess looks bewitchingly pretty to-night.The bold Rittmeister has indeed an excuse.”
“And she also,” Von Lindheim replied. “Thefellow is the most splendid clothes-peg and wig-blockcombined that I know. He is magnificent, the sort ofmagnificence that does not live to see its grandchildren.”
“He is a fool,” one of the others said, “to snaphis fingers so close to the Jaguar’s snout.”
“Orsova is a fool, my dear Szalay,” Von Lindheimassented, “as I have just hinted.”
“And the Jaguar is couched and ready to springat the right moment.”
“Our dear chief does not make a mistake or letanother man make it against his policy.”
“Ah! He has a plan, and the Herr Rittmeistervon Orsova forms no part of it.”
“No use for him. Prince Theodor——” I beganincautiously, when I was stopped by a subduedchorus of “Hush!”
“Secrets of State, my dear fellow,” Von Lindheimsaid, laughing, but with a warning gesture. “You willget us into trouble. You Englishmen, with your excessof freedom, can’t realize how circumspect wehave to be. You have no Jaguar ever ready for thespring. You don’t know our famous Red Chancellor—evenby reputation.”
Strolling and talking thus, we had passed throughthe gardens and struck into a path, skirting a littlewood beyond the pleasaunce of the royal grounds.My companions stopped and turned.
“I’ll just finish my cigar and follow you,” I said.The Emperadore was too good to throw away for thesake of hurrying back to an entertainment of which,to tell the truth, the petty splendour rather bored me.
Nevertheless, we all turned back together. SuddenlySzalay halted, and pointed into the wood.“What is that?”
We all looked. A light was glimmering from thedepth of the blackness; a light suggested rather thanseen.
“That is Duke Johann’s old chapel there, nowused as a summer-house,” Von Lindheim said.
“Yes; but what can any one be doing there atthis time of night.”
“We ought to investigate,” the third man, D’Urban,said with official zeal.
“Come, then. We can get round this way againto the terrace, and perhaps——”
They had plunged into the wood, making for thelight. I followed them a step or two, then stoppedand regained the path, not seeing how the questionof the irregular illumination could interest me. Enjoyingmy cigar I strolled on. The night was pleasantenough. A slight warm breeze drove the cloudsslowly across a gibbous moon, giving a pretty play oflight and shade. So I sauntered on in a frame ofmind attuned to my present surroundings. I hadbecome so far acclimatized as to take an interest inthe Court intrigues which flourished in the air of thatChancellor-ruled kingdom. I had an idea of seekinga temporary commission in the State cavalry, thatdazzling regiment with its picture-book cattle and itstheatrical accoutrements. I was only awaiting to seewhether there was any grit inside all that fur andbrass and steel and bullion, not caring to ear-markmyself with a regiment of costumiers’ dummies.This doubt made me take a peculiar interest in that[Pg 10]magnificent spectacular warrior, the Rittmeister vonOrsova. Granted he was a fool, he might be a pluckyfool. That the pretty Princess Casilde (and she waslovely) was in love with him, or something near it,was common gossip in the inner circle of Court officialdom.But the despotic Chancellor held other viewsand plans. Having made himself the foremost manin the State (for the King, with all his parade ofauthority, was notoriously under his thumb), he nownursed the one idea of the State’s aggrandizement asthe only way left of increasing his own power. And itwas evident that that aggrandizement could best beattained by allying his master’s house with the richerand more important state of which Prince Theodorwas heir-apparent. Hence the projected marriagebetween that Prince and the Princess Casilde. Suchwas the state of affairs when I found myself in Buyda.
THE FACE IN THE LIGHT
After a while I turned in my walk. It was time toget back to the ball-room if I would not appear toslight the honour shown me in the invitation. I hadrather lost my bearings in the wooded walk, and inreturning had the choice of three paths without knowingwhich one to take. I chose that which seemedto lead directly towards the distant music, andwalked on quickly. It soon appeared that it was notthe path I had come by. It led me much deeper intothe wood than I had been before; still, the musicseemed to grow nearer, and I flattered myself it mightbe a short cut. Hurrying on, I suddenly came upona clearing in the wood. In the middle of this stood asmall building—Duke Johann’s chapel, of which mycompanions had spoken. A quaint little edifice built,so far as the fitful light showed me, in a highly ornatestyle of Moorish architecture.
It was still lighted up dimly; a ray fell across thepath at some little distance in front of me, evidentlyfrom one of the side windows. Neither the place,although it was romantic enough, nor the lightparticularly interested me. But as I went roundtowards the opposite side of the clearing, I wasarrested by a curious sight.
The stream of light which I have spoken of becamesuddenly interrupted, then diffused and broken up,then it swept from side to side. I stopped and watched