“Now it hath come to pass that age hath laid its hand upon my brother, and he waxes feeble. The cares of state do tax him sore. Therefore he wills that you shall come to him and be already Duke—in act, though not yet in name. Your servitors are ready—you journey forth to-night.
“Now listen well. Remember every word I say. There is a law as old as Germany that if any woman sit for a single instant in the great ducal chair before she hath been absolutely crowned in presence of the people, she shall die! So heed my words. Pretend humility. Pronounce your judgments from the Premier’s chair, which stands at the foot of the throne. Do this until you are crowned and safe. It is not likely that your sex will ever be discovered; but still it is the part of wisdom to make all things as safe as may be in this treacherous earthly life.”
“Oh; my father, is it for this my life hath been a lie! Was it that I might cheat my unoffending cousin of her rights? Spare me, father, spare your child!”
“What, huzzy! Is this my reward for the august fortune my brain has wrought for thee? By the bones of my father, this puling sentiment of thine but ill accords with my humor.
“Betake thee to the Duke, instantly! And beware how thou meddlest with my purpose!”
Let this suffice, of the conversation. It is enough for us to know that the prayers, the entreaties and the tears of the gentle-natured girl availed nothing. They nor anything could move the stout old lord of Klugenstein. And so, at last, with a heavy heart, the daughter saw the castle gates close behind her, and found herself riding away in the darkness surrounded by a knightly array of armed, vassals and a brave following of servants.
The old baron sat silent for many minutes after his daughter’s departure, and then he turned to his sad wife and said:
“Dame, our matters seem speeding fairly. It is full three months since I sent the shrewd and handsome Count Detzin on his devilish mission to my brother’s daughter Constance. If he fail, we are not wholly safe; but if he do succeed, no power can bar our girl from being Duchess e’en though ill-fortune should decree she never should be Duke!”
“My heart is full of bodings, yet all may still be well.”
“Tush, woman! Leave the owls to croak. To bed with ye, and dream of Brandenburgh and grandeur!”
FESTIVITY AND TEARS
Six days after the occurrences related in the above chapter, the brilliant capital of the Duchy of Brandenburgh was resplendent with military pageantry, and noisy with the rejoicings of loyal multitudes; for Conrad, the young heir to the crown, was come. The old Duke’s, heart was full of happiness, for Conrad’s handsome person and graceful bearing had won his love at once. The great halls of the palace were thronged with nobles, who welcomed Conrad bravely; and so bright and happy did all things seem, that he felt his fears and sorrows passing away and giving place to a comforting contentment.