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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 285 pages of information about The Wanderer's Necklace.

“Which you treated but ill, Olaf, for it is spotted as though with blood.”

“The Augustus spilt some wine over it.”

“Aye, my mistress told me the story.  Also that of how you would have eaten the poisoned fig, which you snatched from the lips of Constantine.”

“And what else did your mistress tell you, Martina?”

“Not much, Olaf.  She was in a very strange mood last night, and while I combed her hair, which, Olaf, was as tangled as though a man had handled it,” and she looked at me till I coloured to the eyes, “and undid her diadem, that was set on it all awry, she spoke to me of marriage.”

“Of marriage!” I gasped.

“Certainly—­did I not speak the word with clearness?—­of marriage.”

“With whom, Martina?”

“Oh! grow not jealous before there is need, Olaf.  She made no mention of the name of our future divine master, for whosoever can rule Irene, if such a one lives, will certainly rule us also.  All she said was that she wished she could find some man to guide, guard and comfort her, who grew lonely amidst many troubles, and hoped for more sons than Constantine.”

“What sort of a man, Martina?  This Emperor Charlemagne, or some other king?”

“No.  She vowed that she had seen enough of princes, who were murderers and liars, all of them; and that what she desired was one of good birth, no more, brave, honest, and not a fool.  I asked her, too, what she would have him like to look upon.”

“And what did she say to that, Martina?”

“Oh! she said that he must be tall, and under forty, fair-haired and bearded, since she loved not these shaven effeminates, who look half woman and half priest; one who had known war, and yet was no ruffler; a person of open mind, who had learnt and could learn more.  Well, now that I think of it, by all the Saints!—­yes, much such a man as you are, Olaf.”

“Then she may find them in plenty,” I said, with an uneasy laugh.

“Do you think so?  Well, she did not, neither did I. Indeed, she pointed out that this was her trouble.  Among the great of the earth she knew no such man, and, if she sought lower, then would come jealousies and war.”

“Indeed they would.  Doubtless you showed her that this was so, Martina.”

“Not at all, Olaf.  I asked her of what use it was to be an Empress if she could not please her own heart in this matter of a husband, which is one important to a woman.  I said also, as for such fears, that a secret marriage might be thought of, which is an honest business that could be declared when occasion came.”

“And what did she answer to that, Martina?”

“She fell into high good humour, called me a faithful and a clever friend, gave me a handsome jewel, told me that she would have a mission for me on the morrow—­doubtless that which I now fulfil, for I have heard of no other—­said, notwithstanding all the trouble as to the Augustus and his threats, that she was sure she would sleep better than she had done for nights, kissed me on both cheeks, and flung herself upon her knees at her praying-stool, where I left her.  But why are you looking so sad, Olaf?”

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