“How did you come here?” he asked.
Fortunately the repulsive coldness with which the Council had met my earnest appeals, which I had fairly shrieked at them, had restored to some extent the balance of my reason. The thought flashed over me that I must not betray Rudolph.
“Through yonder open window,” I replied.
“How did you reach it?” asked the Prince.
“I climbed up the ivy vine to it.”
“What did you come here for?” he asked.
“To appeal to you, in the name of God, to prevent the coming of this dreadful outbreak.”
“The man is a religious fanatic,” said one of the Council to another; “probably one of the street preachers.”
The Prince drew two or three of the leaders together, and they whispered for a few minutes. Then he went to the door and spoke to Rudolph. I caught a few words: “Not leave—alive—send for Macarius—midnight—garden.”
Rudolph advanced and took me by the arm. The revulsion had come. I was dazed—overwhelmed. There swept over me, like the rush of a flood, the dreadful thought: “What will become of Estella?” I went with him like a child. I was armed, but an infant might have slain me.
When we were in the hall, Rudolph said to me, in a hoarse whisper:
“I heard everything. You meant nobly; but you were foolish—wild. You might have ruined us all. But there is a chance of escape yet. It will be an hour before the assassin will arrive. I can secure that much delay. In the meantime, be prudent and silent, and follow my directions implicitly.”
I promised, very humbly, to do so.
THE FLIGHT AND PURSUIT
He opened the door of a room and pushed me into it. “Wait,” he whispered, “for my orders.” I looked around me. It was Rudolph’s room—the one I had been in before. I was not alone. There was a young gentleman standing at a window, looking out into the garden. He turned around and advanced toward me, with his hand extended and a smile on his face. It was Estella! looking more charming than ever in her masculine dress. I took her hand. Then my heart smote me; and I fell upon my knees before her.
“O Estella,” I cried, “pardon me. I would have sacrificed you for mankind—you that are dearer to me than the whole human race. Like a fool I broke from my hiding-place, and appealed to those hearts of stone—those wild beasts—those incarnate fiends—to spare the world the most dreadful calamity it has ever known. They proposed to murder ten million human beings! I forgot my task—my duty—you—my own safety—everything, to save the world.”
Her eyes dilated as I spoke, and then, without a trace of mock modesty, without a blush, she laid her hand upon my head and said simply:
“If you had done less, I should have loved you less. What am I in the presence of such a catastrophe? But if you are to die we can at least perish together. In that we have the mastery of our enemies. Our liberty is beyond their power.”