“Bully!” breathed Amory, his eyes shining behind his pince-nez.
Prince Tabnit hesitated.
“If the princess wishes to speak with us—” he began, and Olivia made a charming gesture of dissent, and all the jewels in her hair and upon her white throat caught the light and were set glittering.
“No,” she said gently, “no, your Highness. I wish to speak in the presence of my people.”
She gave the “my” no undue value, yet it fell from her lips with delicious audacity.
“Indeed,” she said, “I think, your Highness, that I will speak to my people myself.”
THE END OF THE EVENING
The Hall of Kings was very still as Olivia rose. She stood with one hand touching her veil’s hem, the other resting on the low, carved arm of the throne, and at the coming and going of her breath her jewels made the light lambent with the indeterminate colours of those strange, joyous banners floating far above her head.
Her voice was very sweet and a little tremulous—and it is the very grace of a woman’s courage that her voice tremble never so slightly. It seemed to St. George that he loved her a thousand times the more for that mere persuasive wavering of her words. And, while he listened to what he felt to be the prelude of her message, it seemed to him that he loved her another thousand times the more—what heavenly ease there is in this arithmetic of love—for the tender meaning which, upon her lips, her father’s name took on. When, speaking with simplicity and directness of the subject that lay uppermost in the minds of them all, she asked their utmost endeavour in their common grief, it was clear that what she said transcended whatever phenomena of mere experience lay between her and those who heard her, and they understood. The rapport was like that among those who hear one music. But St. George listened, and though his mind applauded, it ran on ahead to the terrifying future. This was all very well, but how was it to help her in the face of what was to happen in three days’ time?
“Therefore,” Olivia’s words touched tranquilly among the flying ends of his own thought, “I am come before you to make that sacrifice which my love for my father, and my grief and my anxiety demand. I count upon your support, as he would count upon it for me. I ask that one heart be in us all in this common sorrow. And I am come with the unalterable determination both to renounce my throne there”—never was anything more enchanting than the way those two words fell from her lips—“and to postpone my marriage”—there never was anything more profoundly disquieting than those two words in such a connection—“until such time as, by your effort and by my own, we may have news of my father, the king; and until, by your effort or by my own, the Hereditary Treasure shall be restored.”
So, serenely and with the most ingenuous confidence, did the daughter of the absent King Otho make disposition of the hour’s events. Amory leaned forward and feverishly polished his pince-nez.