I Will Maintain - Marjorie Bowen - ebook

“A man of unwearied industry, inflexible constancy, sound, clear, and deep understanding and untainted integrity; so that whenever he was blinded, it was by the passion that he had for that which he esteemed the good and interest of the State.”

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A man of unwearied industry, inflexible constancy, sound, clear, and deep understanding and untainted integrity; so that whenever he was blinded, it was by the passion that he had for that which he esteemed the good and interest of the State.”—Sir William Temple, Observations on the United Provinces, 1672.


“There is one subject that we seldom touch upon,” said Sir William. “And that is one upon which I am curious to hear you speak.”John de Witt looked up quickly. “Ah, sir,” he smiled faintly. “You are of a probing disposition—what is this subject?” “The Prince.” “The Prince—” repeated M. de Witt, and an intent expression that might have been trouble came into his full brown eyes. “What is there to say of His Highness?” he added.The English Ambassador laughed in the soft and pleasant way he had; he was standing by the long window, and, as he answered, glanced out at the wych elms and pale sunshine that filled the garden of M. de Witt. “The situation is piquant—between good friends you must allow it——”The Grand Pensionary rose. “Between good friends, Sir William, the situation is dangerous. I am aware of it—but the Prince—the Prince is only a child.”Sir William moved from the window with a little shiver. “Your Dutch weather!” he said. “I think the damp has got into my very bones——” “But you like the house?” asked de Witt “It hath a large garden for the children when they stay with me—and since it was not possible to remain where I was, I thought I could do no better.”Sir William answered gently, aware of the allusion, veiled under commonplace words, to the late death of Wendela de Witt. It seemed to him, composed and close observer as he was, even of his friends, that the Grand Pensionary had changed more than a little since he had lost his wife. “It is a noble mansion,” he said. “I could be selfish enough to wish this library at Sheen.”He looked, with the approval of a fine taste, round the lofty apartment panelled in mellow-hued, carved wood, and lined with shelves filled with rare and costly volumes; a few handsome portraits hung above the bookcases, and over the high chimney-piece a rich but sombre picture of fruit and flowers showed; on the blue-tiled hearth were brass andirons, and on the table in the centre of the chamber candlesticks were set, also brass, but polished so that they shone like gold.At a small desk by the far window sat a secretary in a dark dress, writing. “The house hath been a palace,” continued Sir William. “Therefore should not be the residence of a republican?” smiled John de Witt. “Nay,” he added simply, “the house is well enough, but I took it for the garden; and now you look on my one luxury—my books—for the rest the furnishings are simple—too simple for Cornelia’s taste, as she will tell you if you stay to dinner,—nay, I doubt not she tells my lady now.”Sir William crossed to one of the bookcases, took a volume down and opened it at random. As John de Witt came up behind him, he spoke in a low tone, looking at the book. “Who is the new secretary?”The Grand Pensionary seemed slightly surprised. “He?—a young man from Guelders.” He glanced to where the person in question sat absorbed in writing. “He was recommended to me by de Groot—he is diligent and silent—I like him.”Sir William’s white fingers slowly turned the leaves of the volume he held. “Then we may talk freely?” “As always in my house.”The Englishman glanced up. His face, which was of a dark, soft, luxurious style of indolent good looks, expressed a watchful yet friendly kind of amusement and interest; his air was slightly cynical, wholly pleasant, as if viewing follies that never tempted him to participate in them he yet found them harmless and tolerated them, good-humouredly. “Well, then, of the Prince,” he said. “What are you going to do?”John de Witt frowned. “You think I am afraid of His Highness.”Sir William answered with the ready courtesy that took all appearance of sincerity from his speech— “All Europe knows that you are afraid of nothing—yet, for Holland’s sake, you might tremble a little now.”The cloud did not lift from the Grand Pensionary’s noble face. He put out his hand and rested it on the edge of one of the bookshelves, and his delicate fingers tapped restlessly on the polished wood. “Diplomacy as well as friendship dictates frankness to me,” he answered in his slow, stately, yet gentle way,—“nor is there much I could conceal from such an observer as yourself, Sir William. The Orange party have wearied me, have thwarted me, have alarmed me; I find them unreasonable, powerful and dangerous—I speak of the party, not of the Prince.” “Why not of him?” “I have no right. He has ever shown himself quiet, tractable, obedient,” was the quick reply. “We have never had to complain of his behaviour.” “Yet he is the focus for much discontent,” smiled the Englishman, “the magnet for much ambition.”The Grand Pensionary smiled also, uplifting his melancholy eyes. “His Highness is but seventeen, immersed in study, brought up as a republican—I think he is even ignorant of these agitations in his name. He could not live more quietly.”But it did not escape Sir William that the Grand Pensionary spoke like a man trying to reassure himself. “The Prince is your pupil—forgive me, but, as I said, the situation is curious. You, sir, a republican—for seventeen years the head of a Republic which has been a fine nation, and a wealthy, and a lesson to all of us—you undertake the education of a Prince who is the heir of the House on whose ruin you founded your Republic; you bring this young man up in your ideas, you teach him this, that, as you will; you are not his master but his friend—he is to regard himself as a mere citizen of the country that is his heritage—well, it is a curious experiment, Mynheer de Witt.”The Grand Pensionary answered quietly— “I have done all I can—since we speak privately, not as politicians, I will say that I have no hope to always exclude His Highness from all power. I think that when he comes of age he will obtain the command of the army; nor do I regret it—the House of Orange has rendered such service to Holland that there should be some gratitude, some trust shown this Prince.”Sir William closed the book he held and replaced it on the shelf. “Meanwhile I train him to serve his country,” continued de Witt, with a faint smile. “You serve your country well, Mynheer,” remarked the Englishman, watching him. “I serve my ideals,” said the Grand Pensionary.The Englishman very slightly shrugged his shoulders. “In these days!—you have been successful, but I should watch this little Prince——” “We stand firm—The Triple Alliance, the treaty of Breda—the Perpetual Edict,” quoted de Witt.The diplomat who had framed the first had never approved of the last. “There you went too far,” he said. “There I secured the liberty of Holland,” answered the Grand Pensionary, still with that faint smile on his full, finely cut mouth, “and made impossible a recurrence of 1650—this Prince’s father brought his troops to the gates of Amsterdam, no man shall do that again; by abolishing the office of Stadtholder I do away with the fear of a king, and so, sir, secure my Republic.” “Amen to that,” answered Sir William. “You have the confidence of the idealist. I love you for it, but I cannot be so sanguine—the Prince, if he is heir to nothing else, hath the name, the prestige, and that is a strange spell to work with the people.”He looked, as he spoke, with the interest of the worldly man at a noble simplicity he admires but cannot comprehend. John de Witt was his friend, they had much in common, respected each other’s character and talents, but Sir William Temple had never ceased to marvel at John de Witt.The Grand Pensionary was silent; a deep thoughtfulness came into his face. The Englishman watched him, smiling a little coldly. “Do you think that I am not loved in the United Provinces?” asked de Witt suddenly.Sir William fingered the ends of his cravat. The other did not wait for an answer so leisurely composed. “This young man is popular—it sometimes seems, Sir William, as if he was heir to the heart of the people——” “He has the name.” “The name!—and, with the people, is not that everything? I think nothing weighs against the name. The Prince does little to make himself beloved, but there are those who clamour for him as if he owned his ancestor’s virtues with his ancestor’s titles.” And again M. de Witt repeated, “the name!”Then, as if resolute to close the subject, he laid his hand familiarly on Sir William’s velvet sleeve. “Will you not come into the garden?—the gardens, I have two that open into one. But you know too much, my poor trees will be shamed.”They crossed the room and stepped out of the high window. The young secretary from Guelders leant back in his chair and watched them walking under the elms.Not a word of their conversation had been lost on him, and now that he could no longer hear what they said he pondered, in his quick yet laborious way, over their previous speech.He had been in M. de Witt’s service a week. It was in the course of his duty to overhear diplomatic talk, to read, and make notes on, political papers, and, though he had always considered himself well informed, he began to find that what was knowledge in Guelders was ignorance at the Hague.He reviewed, rather sourly, the change in his feelings this week had brought about. He had been so proud of the post, so grateful for de Groot’s recommendation, so confident of what his own energy and industry would do for him; and now he did not feel at all confident.Not that his trust in himself was diminished; but he had already begun to doubt if he had taken his services to the best market or pledged himself to the most profitable of masters.He bit his quill and fixed his eyes on M. de Witt, who was standing, not far away, on the gravel path talking to his companion.The secretary marked with a calculating glance the Grand Pensionary’s stately figure, clothed sombrely in black, his pale oval face, under jawed, the full but curiously firm and clean-cut mouth shaded by the slight moustache, the large, weary brown eyes, the high brow over which fell the soft dark hair that was just beginning to be touched with grey, and contrasted his melancholy, noble air with the vivacious ease of the splendid Englishman whose rich comeliness was enhanced by his elegant and costly dress.As he looked, the young man from Guelders wondered. M. de Witt had been Grand Pensionary of the United Provinces for seventeen years; the secretary had long taken him for granted as something always there, immovable as the law he represented, and had no more questioned the authority than he had the power of this first magistrate of the Republic.Only with difficulty and by forcing his mind back to his childhood could he recall something of the famous coup d’état that had made M. de Witt head of the State.He recollected dimly the excitement that had filled the country when the young Stadtholder, William the Second, had tried to seize Amsterdam and the absolute power of a king. He remembered going with other boys of his own age to break the windows of a house that had sported Orange favours, and being rebuked by the minister, and made to stay longer in the gaunt white church praying for strength to curb his feelings.He remembered, too, the news of the sudden death of the Prince who had threatened their liberties, and how they had thanked God for it solemnly. After that there had been the Republic, which he had taken unquestioningly. M. de Witt stood for the United Provinces; as for the last Prince of Orange, born after his father’s death, the heir of a fallen House, the secretary had never heard much of him. There had been quarrels as to his education between M. de Witt and his uncle the Elector, between his grandmother and his mother the English Princess.…The secretary remembered hearing, without interest, of the death of this lady in England, and of how her son, more than ever a State prisoner, was being educated by M. de Witt.There seemed no reason why he, Florent Van Mander, of the town of Arnheim, a prudent, able young Dutchman, honourably and profitably employed in the service of the Grand Pensionary, should be so laboriously recalling every detail he had ever heard of William of Orange.But two things had taken hold of a nature naturally observant, cautious, yet energetic and aspiring: the first was the conviction that M. de Witt held a position by no means as secure as it seemed, a position that, despite the treaty of Breda, despite the Triple Alliance, was one that he, the new secretary, must watch carefully if he would not be entangled in a falling cause; and the second was the impression that this youth, the son of the late Stadtholder, was a latent force in Holland that might one day become tremendous, overwhelming. “He has the name,” Sir William Temple had said, and the words had seized Florent Van Mander’s slow but not dull imagination. He thought that the Englishman had expressed less than he felt, and longed to hear him again on the subject.He had only seen Sir William twice, but there was something in his easy, almost careless, manner, in the slightly disdainful shrewdness of his remarks, that inspired the secretary with a respect he did not entertain for John de Witt. He had an uncomfortable feeling that the Grand Pensionary was a man who might be, without much difficulty, fooled. “I serve my ideals,” he had said.That annoyed Van Mander. He had not a very clear conception of an idealist, but he was tolerably certain that no man could be one and still be successful in a practical way, and it had struck him as a pointless and rather weak thing to say—“I serve my ideals.”He had noted other remarks, too, of the same trend; a certain loftiness of outlook, an unworldly tolerance of detraction and malice, that did not please him. He would have preferred a master more eagerly alive to his own advantage, more conscious of evil in others and prepared to fight it on its own grounds.Sir William had also said other things that remained in the young secretary’s mind. He had spoken of the curious situation, the Republican Minister instructing and watching the Prince—at once tutor and jailer—and Florent Van Mander thought that it was indeed curious, and a little foolish, too, on the part of John de Witt.And there were yet other aspects of the situation that the previous conversation had not touched on, but which were nevertheless present to the roused mind of the secretary.This Prince was cousin of the King of France, a figure of dazzling and alarming greatness, and nephew of the King of England; and both these were of an aspect menacing to the Republic, true—there was the Triple Alliance, but——The young secretary became aware that he had bitten his pen till it was split and useless, and he laid it down with a vexed look. He greatly disliked to do anything careless or unmethodical, or even to become absorbed in reflections not in themselves necessary to present business.He took out another quill, mended it, and glanced again out of the window.The Grand Pensionary and Sir William had been joined by Agneta de Witt—a pale, graceful, fragile-looking child—and Cornelia Van Bicker, the mistress of the house.Looking at these ladies moving under the shifting, pale shadows of the trees, the young man’s rather hard eyes softened. He had the Dutchman’s intense respect for domestic affections, and to think of the recent death of Wendela de Witt moved him. He had never seen her, but he knew that she had been good and gentle, patient and adoring, like her daughter Agneta, and he guessed at the great loneliness that her loss had left in the heart of John de Witt. He thought of it whenever he saw her sister, Cornelia Van Bicker, or one of her quiet, sweet-voiced children.As he watched, the little party turned towards the house, Sir William in his blue-and-gold velvet ruffled with ribbon, his heavy curls falling round his handsome face, walking beside the Grand Pensionary, who had no relief to his black garments save his broad linen collar, and between them the little figure of Agneta in her white gown and prim cap, holding herself soberly, while before them moved the sister of Wendela de Witt, self-contained, plainly dressed, with the fading, changing, sunlight flickering over her dark dress.Florent Van Mander returned to the letter he was copying, for he observed the Grand Pensionary was leaving the others and returning to the library.When M. de Witt opened the window and entered, he rose, waiting his instructions. “I have finished these documents, Mynheer,” he said, pointing to some papers given him by another secretary. “Van Ouvenaller thought they should be copied in case you care to submit them to Their High Mightinesses.” “What are they?” asked John de Witt. He always spoke gently and courteously; to-night Van Mander found himself noticing it. “Letters from the Provinces, Mynheer,” he answered, “dealing with the riots in the name of the Prince of Orange——” “Ah, that.” The Grand Pensionary frowned thoughtfully. “The burgomasters should be able to deal with it.” “It seems in Zeeland——” “You have a letter from Zeeland?” “From Mynheer Van Teel—one Michael Tichelaer is inciting the people to violence in Middelburg.” “Michael Tichelaer,” M. de Witt repeated thoughtfully. “Yes, I remember the man—I must write to Mynheer Van Teel.” He paused a moment, then added, “I fear we are too lenient.”The secretary sorted and neatly arranged the papers. It was not his place to offer comment, but there were many things that he burned to say.Meanwhile the Grand Pensionary was regarding him with a kindly if remote interest. The young man had been warmly recommended for zeal and industry, and so far he had found both; he saw too, for himself, resolution and capacity in the blunt, firm features, in the alert grey eyes and erect figure. “You are satisfied with your position, Mynheer Van Mander?” he asked. “Quite, Mynheer,”—the secretary precisely tied the ribbons of the portfolio,—“is it not an enviable one?” “You may make it so,” answered John de Witt quietly, yet with a kind of glow in his voice, “—because you are in the way to serve your country, and that is indeed an enviable thing.”Florent Van Mander was silent. His country was not much in his thoughts; he meant to serve success. “I think there is nothing more to-night,” said M. de Witt. “You will be wishing to get home—have you comfortable lodgings?” he added kindly. “Yes, Mynheer, in the Kerkestraat.” “You must dine with us soon. Will you leave out the letter from Middelburg? I need not remind you to be early in the morning—there is somewhat to do. Good-night, Mynheer.” “Good-night, Mynheer.”M. de Witt smiled in his melancholy, half tender, half distant fashion and left the room.Florent Van Mander put away the papers, setting aside in an upper drawer the letter from Van Teel, locked the desk and placed the key on his watch-chain.The sunlight in the garden was taking on a deeper hue and flushing the walls of the library and the well-filled bookcases to a red-gold colour; the leaves of the wych elms shook in a trembling, joyous kind of life and motion in the strong yet gentle breeze that was arising.The deep, solemn chimes of the Groote Kerk struck six.It was later than the secretary had supposed; he usually had his dinner at this hour. He took his eyes from the quiet beauty of the garden and hastened to leave the house.The dining-room door was open as he passed down the hall, and he had a glimpse of the company gathered round the plainly furnished table. John de Witt at the head of it, saying grace with an earnest composure; Cornelia Van Bicker standing with folded hands, the bright English face of Lady Temple above her falling lace collar; and Sir William, tolerant, good-humouredly amused and placid.The young secretary passed out into the street. The sunshine was pleasant down the Kneuterdyk Avenue, bright in the windows of the houses opposite, and gay in the trees that were just turning a faint tint of yellow. A saltish breeze touched Van Mander’s face, it was blowing straight across the flat country, up from the sea at Scheveningen, and brought with it memories of the dunes, the sand, and the foam.An unnamable, an unreal excitement stole into the blood that usually ran so coolly; just as if the young man had suddenly heard commanding music or seen a flag flung out against the sky. This feeling had been with him slightly ever since he had entered the service of John de Witt; to-night it culminated.In the Englishman’s words, he thought— “He has the name.”Florent Van Mander could not forget that remark nor the tone in which it was spoken. It seemed to give the clue to his own restlessness, his curiosity as to the Prince—his discontent with his new master.The name!The sense of it, the power, were about him in the keen breeze, in the sunlit trees, in the whole atmosphere of the royal Hague.As he turned home he repeated it to himself— “William of Orange.…”


Florent Van Mander, comfortable after his dinner, sitting at his open window smoking, and watching the people pass up and down the Kerkestraat, was surprised, not disagreeably, by the servant entering his solitude to announce a visitor owning a foreign name she stumbled over.Hyacinthe St. Croix—Van Mander had known him in Arnheim when he himself was a magistrate’s clerk there, ambitious, with an eye on the Hague, and the Frenchman a half disavowed agent of the Marquis de Pomponne, some one who had travelled the Provinces several times already, observing, noting, making acquaintances and gathering information where he could.The young secretary called for candles—he had been sitting in the dark—and closed the window.On the heels of the maid with the lights came St. Croix, better dressed, more self-confident, more assured in manner than formerly.The two greeted each other formally. “I did not know that you were at the Hague,” said Van Mander. “How did you find me?”The Frenchman laid his hat and gloves on one of the high-backed chairs. “I was passing through Arnheim the other day—I called upon your uncle and he told me. You have a good post.”Florent put a chair for his guest and took one himself the other side of the small dark table; between them stood the two heavy branch candlesticks, glimmering each in the light of the other candles that illuminated the small, neat room with its deep window-seat, polished wood furniture, plain engravings on the walls and Delft pottery on the chimney-piece.Florent refilled his pipe and invited the other to smoke. The two long clays soon filled the chamber with slow, fragrant smoke. “So you are in the service of M. de Witt,” remarked St. Croix. “Yes.”The Frenchman smiled as he pondered on the best means of getting what he wanted from the laconic Dutchman; it was astonishingly difficult, he found, to deal with a nation so blunt and so reserved.In the silence that followed Florent stared at him stolidly, marking every detail of his appearance, his short red jacket of the newest French fashion showing the laced shirt beneath, the cravat and ruffles of lace, the silk stockings and shoes with ribbon rosettes, the frizzled, fair hair that framed the small-featured, rather insignificant face of Hyacinthe St. Croix.Van Mander had the national contempt of foreign luxury, but these signs of prosperity annoyed him in a slow kind of way. He knew St. Croix was of the small gentry, no better born than himself, and not so long ago no better dressed; now he contrasted this gay attire with his own serviceable grey and worsted hose, and wished he had been the one to find such profitable employment. “How do you like M. de Witt?” asked St. Croix suddenly. “Very well,” said Florent.The Frenchman regarded him out of narrowed eyes, and asked again, with equal abruptness— “Have you seen the Prince of Orange?” “No.” “But you have heard, since you have been at the Hague, a great deal of him?” “I have heard of him,” answered Florent.St. Croix laid down his pipe. “You have drawn your own conclusions, of course,” he said. “You were always shrewd.”Florent was flattered and excited; he managed to show neither feeling. “I have drawn some conclusions,” was all he admitted. “On the position of the Prince—and of M. de Witt?” “I have only been at the Hague a week——”But Hyacinthe St. Croix knew fairly well the man he dealt with. “Come,” he said in an intimate tone that swept aside evasion, “you know as well as I do that this Government must fall.”The words gave the young secretary a shock. He sat silent, sucking his pipe, not wishing to admit that he was startled.The Frenchman leant back calmly in his chair. “The whole feeling of the country is against M. de Witt,” he continued. “You must have seen it.”It occurred to Florent, in a vague, impersonal sort of way, that the Grand Pensionary’s secretary had no right to be listening to these things, or even to be speaking at all to a Frenchman intriguing for his Ambassador; but he told himself that he served success, and success did not seem to lie with M. de Witt. “Yet we are at peace at home and abroad,” he remarked, to probe the other.St. Croix smiled. “You think of the Triple Alliance,” he said. “True—only signed this year,” returned Florent. “Still there is always France.” “Also do not be too sure of England,” said St. Croix. “Despite the Triple Alliance—she stands very well with France—I could tell you something——”Florent Van Mander looked him straight in the face. “Do you mean that France and England might combine for the restoration of the Prince of Orange?”The Frenchman lifted his eyebrows. “Upon conditions—they might. If there were a war what could M. de Witt do?”Van Mander thought a moment. “He beat England in ’56—but now——” “He could do nothing against France—that is obvious.” “Yes, it is obvious,” admitted Florent. “And the prospect is threatening.” “I know——” “Well, you see the part the Prince will play?”There was a little pause, then the Dutchman said slowly— “He is King Louis’ cousin and King Charles’ nephew——” “You take me,” replied St. Croix, “the Prince is related to their Majesties—and he has no cause to love M. de Witt.”Florent drew a quick breath. “You think he … would work for France?” “Can there be a doubt of it?” smiled St. Croix.There was no answer from Florent. He laid down his pipe and sat still, considering.Rumours, whispers, hints were taking at last tangible form: this young prisoner, pupil of M. de Witt, was to be the instrument to deliver the country into the rapacious hands of France. Well, there was little cause to wonder; indeed he had almost guessed it. The Prince had, as St. Croix said, little cause to love either M. de Witt or his Republic.He raised his grey eyes and looked into the Frenchman’s face— “These are strange things to say to a Dutchman and a servant of M. de Witt.”St. Croix answered quickly— “But you serve success.”At these words, that he did not recall having ever uttered to this man, Florent was again silent. It was perfectly true; he was at the beginning of his career and ambitious; he had no desire to follow a falling cause. The Republic was no more to him than the Prince, he told himself; and there was no reason that he should not, out of the crisis that threatened, earn a place and distinction for himself.St. Croix observed him closely. He was not afraid of having said too much, for he had read his man, some years before, in Guelders. “It seems I serve the wrong master now,” said Florent at last, with a grim set to his mouth. “I must not look out for fortune in the train of M. de Witt.”The Frenchman answered slowly and with meaning— “There is fortune, and great fortune, to be found in the service of M. de Witt, by men like you who know how to look for it.…”Once more Florent was silent. He kept his eyes fixed on the dark surface of the table, where the reflected lights of the candles glimmered. He thought that he understood. “The Prince,” continued St. Croix, “and the power behind the Prince, can be very well served by one in the pay of M. de Witt.”Florent was now sure that he understood. Not by being loyal to his master, but by betraying him was he to satisfy his ambitions. The way of success lay not with the Grand Pensionary—but with the Prince, who was another name for France.For the moment his instinct was to resent this calm suggestion that he was the willing instrument of foreign intrigue, but quick reflection showed him the folly of it. St. Croix knew him; some time past, in Guelders, he had taken money for such information of Dutch politics as he could command. His hesitation took another form. “How am I to know that this Prince of yours is worth serving—at a risk?” he said. “You know that France is worth serving.” “Buat died,” remarked Florent dryly, “for tampering with France.” “Buat was a fool,” returned St. Croix; “and we do not want any knight-errantry from you—one of M. de Witt’s secretaries cannot fail to be useful—you will see how.” “Yes, I see how,” answered Florent; “but at present M. de Witt represents the Government and the law, and the Prince is a powerless cipher——” “Not so powerless; we are in touch with him, he commands a section of the nobles—and he has the name.”Florent, hearing again the words used by Sir William Temple, started inwardly. It was curious that the name that owed its prestige and its weight to the fact that it was the name of the man who had first given Holland her liberty was to be used now to aid in her downfall. “He is a boy,” said Van Mander quickly. “He has been brought up by M. de Witt—educated as a republican——”St. Croix smiled. “Is M. de Witt clever enough to train a prince into a commoner? I do not think so.”Interest shone in Florent’s grey eyes. “How far has the Prince gone—with France?” “He is of an extraordinary caution—he will not commit himself while he is in the power of M. de Witt, but take it from me that he does not love him.… Has he cause to?—after the Act of Exclusion?… His only hope lies in England and France, and he knows it.” “You confirm what I have ever heard,” answered Florent. “The Prince is only a figure-head,—a cloak to cover the designs of France.”St. Croix nodded. “Put it so if you will. And now,” he instinctively lowered his voice, “I come to the main object of my visit.”A little colour flushed Florent’s face. He had wondered from the first what particular meaning there could be in St. Croix seeking him out. His position was one of power certainly, if put to a traitorous use, but De Pomponne must have many agents and spies. He waited. “You will understand,” continued St. Croix, leaning forward across the table, “that the Prince is kept very close. His governor, his tutors, his gentlemen, are all M. de Witt’s men and practically his jailers. He cannot go abroad unattended nor receive any one alone; his letters are read—his movements, his speech, watched. It is almost impossible for us to convey to him any message—M. le Marquis de Pomponne’s audiences are formal, and always under the eye of some creature of M. de Witt,—here you can help us.”Florent still waited. He would not, on the first asking, have betrayed M. de Witt wholesale, but he was not averse to some service to the other side.The Frenchman smoothed down the ruffles at his wrist, keeping his eyes on his listener. “M. de Witt visits the Prince almost every day—Tuesday afternoons he devotes to instructing him in politics, afterwards going to the assembly in the Binnenhof. It is his practice to take one of his secretaries with him—it would be possible for this man to convey a packet to the Prince.”Florent answered quietly, but his eyes shone— “You want me to try?” “Yes.” “A servant of the Prince whom we have used,” St. Croix went on, “as a go-between has lately been suspected, and dismissed by M. de Witt; we are hard put to it for a means to communicate with the Prince.”Florent straightened himself in the stiff chair. To-morrow was Tuesday. “Van Ouvenaller accompanied M. de Witt last week,” he said. “I think it very likely that M. de Witt will request me to do so this—but I shall be left in the antechamber.…”St. Croix shrugged his shoulders. “As to that—you must find your chance—better wait than risk detection.… I leave it to your discretion.” “I am not imprudent,” smiled Florent. “Give me the packet—if I go I will attempt it; if not I can, as you say, wait.…”The Frenchman took a thick, folded letter from the inner lining of his red coat and laid it on the table between them. “If that reach His Highness safely it will be a service M. de Pomponne will not forget,” he said impressively. “I will do my best,” answered Florent, “but I still value my place; while M. de Witt is Grand Pensionary I think it worth while to be in his good graces.”Hyacinthe St. Croix rose. “France has her heel on Europe,” he said. “With the help of this little Prince she will have the United Provinces—” he began to pull on his fringed gloves—“I give this Government two—three years—no more.” “There is England,” remarked Florent, still thinking of the Triple Alliance. “England—like Sweden—may take her price,” returned St. Croix.Florent rose too. “The politics of this land are shaken up and down like sand tossed in the palm,” he said, as if he had suddenly roused himself. “I am in the employ of the Government, but in no way bound to any master—tell M. le Marquis de Pomponne so—as M. de Witt’s secretary I know something.…” “How much?” asked St. Croix, lacing his gloves.Florent answered steadily— “I know that M. de Witt is afraid.” “Of France—of England?” “Of William of Orange.” “He hath good cause,” answered St. Croix. He picked up his hat with the fine buckle, his satin-lined cloak. “I think if His Highness once gave the signal the whole country would be in arms. There is a strange revulsion of feeling against this ideal republic, is there not?”Florent was taciturn again. He raised one of the brass candlesticks. “The stairs are very dark,” he said, and opened the door. He made no show of friendliness or hospitality, no attempt to draw the Frenchman. He wanted to be alone. “When shall I see you again?” he asked.St. Croix hitched up his sword-belt. “Better not meet here again, nor at the house of M. le Marquis where I stay.… There is a small tavern kept by a Frenchman near the Nieuwe Kerk—the Nieuwe Doelen he calls it—we may meet there—say Wednesday evening—six of the clock.”Florent came out on to the landing with his visitor and held the candle so that a flickering radiance was cast down the sombre stairway. “I will come if I can,” he answered slowly. “Au revoir,” said St. Croix, and added some laughing commonplace for the benefit of any maid-servant who might be in hearing.Florent waited with the light until the gay feather and mantle had disappeared round the bend of the stairs, then he returned to his room and took up the letter left by St. Croix. It was sealed in three places with the Marquis de Pomponne’s signet, and addressed formally to: “His Highness William Henry, Prince of Orange Nassau,” etc., as if the scribe had enjoyed writing out the fine titles.Fine titles indeed to belong to an insignificant tool of France—but Florent at once checked that foolish reflection. The Prince was behaving prudently, much in his way as he, Florent Van Mander, was, in following success and securing his own ambitions. He was doing, in fact, the one thing there was for him to do—a bargain with France or England was his one means of escape.Florent turned the letter over. He was curious to know exactly what it contained; he wished that he had asked St. Croix.He was curious, also, to see the Prince, to judge him for himself. He thrilled with unreasonable excitement at the thought of meeting him.A distant, threatening noise coming from the street below made him quickly put the letter into his pocket and go to the window.He was not in much doubt of what it was—another of those noisy, useless Orange riots, dispersed by the train-bands and always ignored by M. de Witt; a handful of discontented people headed by boyish enthusiasts like the young student Jacob Van der Graef. Florent was not greatly interested in them.He leant out of the window.Everything had faded into the heavy grey of a cloudy night; the straight lines of the houses opposite the great tower of the Groote Kerk, the poplar tree that rustled so persistently; a new moon, clear out, hard, shone through the hurrying vapours.By the street-lamps’ feeble glow Florent could see some people running up the street towards the scene of the riot; they carried sticks and swords, and some wore Orange favours.He smiled cynically to himself, reflecting how little they knew that the Prince whom they shouted for as an embodiment of all patriotic virtue was in reality sacrificing them to their greatest enemy, bargaining away their liberty for his personal advancement.They are mostly fools, he thought, and shivered back from the sea wind, closing the window.For a long while he sat silent in his comfortable room, smoking, and staring at his own shadow the candlelight cast over the dark walls. Once or twice he took the letter given by Hyacinthe St. Croix out of his pocket and fingered and scrutinised it, thinking the while—thinking.And from without came the remote sounds of the students fighting, shouting, tussling with the train-bands in the name of William of Orange.Florent Van Mander almost envied men who could be so simple.


“Do you accompany M. de Witt to-day?” asked Van Ouvenaller.Florent replied without looking up— “Yes.” “I think he will be out of humour,” remarked the other secretary,—“I do not mean angry, like other men, but sad.”The note of admiration in his voice was marked. Florent continued docketing the papers, letters from England, before him; Van Ouvenaller, who had just entered the library, stood against the desk looking down at him. “It is this pastor,” he continued. “He has very ill repaid M. de Witt’s courtesy.” “Mynheer the Pastor Simon Simonides?” inquired Florent. “I saw him—why did he come here?” “By the order of Their High Mightinesses,” answered the other, with some satisfaction, “to ask M. de Witt’s pardon for a sermon he preached some days ago—before you came to the Hague.”Florent glanced up. “A treasonable sermon?” “He strove to stir the people into sedition by accusing them of ingratitude to the Prince of Orange, and spoke very burningly against the Republic.” “He looked sour and fierce,” said Florent, “but M. de Witt was very gracious to him.” “Too gracious,” returned Van Ouvenaller, with some heat. “He said as sole reproof—‘Mynheer, you have outstepped your duty, which is to heal, not to create, discord,’ and with that made him stay to dinner. But the old man was not softened; he left as hot against us as he had come.” “Why should M. de Witt care?” asked Florent.Van Ouvenaller slightly smiled. “You do not know him; he cannot bear to feel any against him—if he thinks the people dislike, distrust him, it strikes at his heart. It is the same with the Prince. I swear that since Mynheer took over His Highness’ education his one idea has been to gain his friendship.”The speaker’s worn, plain face lit; it was clear he admired his master—to a foolish extent Florent thought.Van Ouvenaller spoke again. “You have not seen the Prince?” “No—I am curious.”The older secretary made no answer. He fixed his eyes on the picture of the garden seen through the straight window, with the afternoon sunshine in the trees and the figure of Agneta de Witt seated in the shade, spinning, her brass-bound Bible beside her.Florent gazed too. “This must be dull for M. de Witt’s children.”Van Ouvenaller answered quickly— “They do not live here, but with M. de Witt’s sister, at Dordt. This is a visit.” “Then without them,” smiled Florent, “this great house must be very dull indeed.” “It is quiet,” said Van Ouvenaller simply, “but one is too immersed in affairs to notice it; and M. de Witt will always live quietly now Madame de Witt is dead.”Then he drew out his watch and added, in a changed tone— “M. de Witt will be waiting for you—have you the papers?”Florent put them into the red velvet bag that went daily to and fro in the Hague, containing, as a foreigner remarked, half scornful, half admiring, “the most important documents in Europe,” took his hat and cloak from the wall, saluted Van Ouvenaller and stepped into the hall. He did not need to betake himself to the Grand Pensionary’s private cabinet, for John de Witt came down the wide, pleasant stairs with his hat on. “You are punctual.” He smiled, drawing on his gloves slowly. He was entirely in black save for his falling lace collar, and looked pale and tired. “I have been a little delayed to-day. We go first, Mynheer Van Mander, to His Highness’ house”—he avoided pointedly the word “palace,”—“afterwards to the Binnenhof.”Florent ventured on no comment. He half resented the notable simplicity with which the Grand Pensionary of the United Provinces walked through the streets of the Hague attended only by himself carrying the famous red bag. Of what use was power, he thought, if it but meant the taking up of an enormous weight of cares and anxieties and receiving in return the treatment of an ordinary burgher citizen?John de Witt did not speak as they went along, and it was with an absorbed, though courteous, air that he returned the many salutations bestowed. Florent wondered what he was reflecting upon, and if the grim unfriendliness of the old Calvinist pastor still troubled him. Then, as they reached the low buildings of the Palace, he snatched his own thoughts to the moment. He must have his wits about him—there was St. Croix’s letter.They were received by Mynheer Van Ghent, the Prince’s governor, in a fine but gloomy chamber with a painted ceiling.Half the Palace, considered now the property of the State, was locked up, and the Prince allowed but the use of one wing. To Florent the room had an air of mournful splendour—built for a palace and used as a prison—there was a sense of sombre dreariness over the whole building; the furniture was scant and plain, there were no pictures on the walls, and the bookcases, plain and austere, held volumes of a severe look and character, mostly on mathematics or tactics.A gloomy place for a young man to live in, watched by enemies; a dreary place for a Prince to be brought up in, surrounded by cold faces, by suspicion, distrust, and enmity; a cheerless habitation for the heir to a ruined House, friendless, early orphaned, and forced to guard his every word and look.M. de Witt’s policy might be that of conciliation and concession; he might hold out his hand sincerely, and with his heart in it, but it was not easy to imagine life as very pleasant for the young Prince in these stern environments.Mynheer Van Ghent talked a little with the Grand Pensionary. Florent had heard that the Prince hated his governor; it was common knowledge that he had fallen ill of chagrin when forced to part with his former tutor, his uncle Mynheer de Zuylestein. Florent therefore observed Mynheer Van Ghent closely, and found in him nothing displeasing, but rather a kind of melancholy austerity and a gentle demeanour.He stood a little apart from him and his master, and could not hear what the two were saying; their voices were low and guarded. He wondered where the Prince was; if he would see him; if he would, possibly, be able to convey Pomponne’s letter.…The heavy door at the end of the room, which was not far from him, opened quietly; a young man stepped into the apartment and closed the door after him.Florent was startled, taken aback, confused. The young man regarded him out of a pair of remarkable eyes, gave him a slow, mournful, unsmiling glance, and seemed to hesitate.Florent was not sure. The youth was plainly, even shabbily dressed, and looked too grave and tall for seventeen.But de Witt turned and held out his hand. “I find Your Highness well?” he inquired.William of Orange crossed the room. “I am very well,” he answered respectfully. He bent his head to his governor and to the Grand Pensionary. “Will you come into the other room to-day, Mynheer?” he added. “I have desired a fire there.”Florent Van Mander was studying him greedily now, cursing himself, too, for a lost chance. That moment when the Prince entered he could have slipped the package into his very hand if only he had known him at first sight. He drew the letter out of his pocket, watching the Prince the while.M. de Witt had his back to him.Certainly His Highness was tall for his age, and with none of the awkwardness of boyhood; he was elegant rather, delicately made, and carried himself with an air of unnatural, almost dangerous, quiet and control.Despite his plain dress and subdued manner, he was not in the least insignificant, but of a noticeable and princely appearance. To Florent, even at this first glance, a personality masterful and attractive.The three came down the room towards the secretary, the Prince a little in advance.Florent could note his face, pale and clear complexioned, with a high-arched nose and curved lips set firmly, wonderful eyes, hazel green, large and brilliant under dark reddish brows, and a low white forehead shaded with heavy auburn curls that fell on to his linen collar,—M. de Witt’s secretary had that swift impression of the Prince and as swift an inspiration. He stooped as if to pick something up. “Your Highness dropped this,” he said as the Prince reached him. He held out his handkerchief, concealed in it the Frenchman’s letter.William of Orange turned his head. There was a look about his brow and mouth as if he controlled incessant pain, but neither that nor the expression of gravity that made him appear old for his years could destroy the charm of his youth. His eyes fixed on Florent. “Thank you, Mynheer,” he said, and put out his small, aristocratic hand.Florent thrilled as their fingers touched. The Prince slipped the handkerchief into his pocket and passed on.Now that it was done Florent marvelled that he had had the temerity to venture it. The Prince, though he must have known that it was not his handkerchief, and have felt at once the packet inside the cambric, gave not the slightest sign of discomposure. It was perfectly done; Florent saw in it the training of one brought up amid spies and enemies—but he had risked something in taking this youth’s prudence so for granted.The Prince did not look at the secretary again, but passed into the next chamber with M. de Witt.As he closed the door he gave a sharp glance at the Grand Pensionary, then crossed to a little table by the window and seated himself there.They were in a small room, lit by a fire that burnt pleasantly between the andirons on the blue-tiled hearth. The walls were hung with stamped leather; in one corner stood a globe, and beside it a desk covered with maps and plans.M. de Witt took the chair by the fireplace and turned so that he faced the Prince. His sad, tender eyes were fixed with an almost yearning expression on the graceful figure of the young man who, half leaning against the desk, sat waiting, in an expressionless, quiet attitude.The Grand Pensionary loosened his heavy cloak. “We will have no lesson to-day, Highness,” he said. “I have to speak of practical politics—and am here to talk gravely with you.” “That is as you wish, Mynheer,” answered William. He had a voice naturally changeful and musical, but, like his eyes and his movements, it was controlled to a cold expressionlessness. “I hope that it will also be your wish,” said M. de Witt, “when I tell you that it is of the affairs of Holland I desire to speak.” “I am always at the disposal of Their High Mightinesses,” replied William, with the slightest inflection of sarcasm.John de Witt made an open gesture with his fine right hand as if to sweep aside all formality and convention. “It must not be like this between us, Highness,” he said, with great gentle sweetness. “Of late you have met me somewhat coldly. Why?”William sat up slowly, his eyes were averted. “I have often assured you, Mynheer,” he answered, “of my duty and affection. Have Their High Mightinesses anything to complain of?”Again there was that faint stress on the pompous title.M. de Witt regarded him steadily. “I spoke for myself, Highness, thinking that the services I have rendered you, the affection I have always felt for you might have kept me some place in your esteem.”Still the Prince would not answer the appeal in the words, even by raising his eyes. “I have always striven,” he said, “to express my gratitude to you, Mynheer, for your constant care.”There was a look almost of wonder on the noble face of M. de Witt, as if he could hardly credit the unmoved composure of this boy. “I have not come, Highness, to exchange with you the language of diplomacy,” he said.William looked up now. “It is the only language I have had the chance to learn, Mynheer.”John de Witt gazed at him gently and sadly. “I have never taught you anything but frankness, Highness—I have deserved both your trust and your affection. It has been my dearest wish, my most cherished hope, that I might educate you to become my friend, my ally in the government of the United Provinces.”The Prince made the slightest movement and again averted his eyes. “You are no child now,” continued M. de Witt; “and must fairly well understand your position … and mine.” “I understand both, Mynheer,” answered William. “You have been educated as a citizen of Holland, and it is to the citizen of Holland that I have come to speak to-day.” M. de Witt paused a moment. He was slightly flushed, and his voice was full of emotion. “I have striven to make you worthy of your grandfather and of that ancestor of yours who secured us our liberty, and it is my wish to obtain for you those dignities that are the heritage of your House—all that are compatible with the safety of this Republic.”William, still looking away, spoke slowly— “The Republic has nothing to fear from me, Mynheer. I, surely, am of but little account in the State.”M. de Witt was observing him very closely. “You have the name, Highness,” he said; “you must know that. And it is a power, you must know that also. You are the heir of the family that once ruled Holland, and you are used as the rallying point of all the malcontents.”William glanced up with a curious, intense expression. “You speak very frankly, Mynheer.” “I have no object to serve by dissimulation,” answered John de Witt. “I come to you single-mindedly. I can claim to have always spoken openly to you, Highness, since you first were of an age to understand these matters.”He paused, bending his eyes on the Prince. His manner and speech were weighty. His entire thought, his entire energy seemed concentrated on what he said; as if he, the great and lofty statesman, strove by sheer force of strength of character to overwhelm, rouse, and conquer the impassive youth before him. “Openly I spoke to you once before, Highness. When Their High Mightinesses passed the Perpetual Edict I told you that we abolished the office of the Stadtholder out of regard for the liberty of the country. I assured you of my friendship—but I told you plainly that we would risk no recurrence of 1650.”The Prince coughed slightly and lowered his eyes. “I remember, Mynheer, very well.” “And now, again, I have to speak of the safety of the United Provinces, Highness.”William answered without moving— “What have I to do, Mynheer, with the safety of the State?” “I will make that clear to you,” said John de Witt gravely. “I cannot tell how much you know of what this party does in your name; I refuse to believe that you encourage them——” “Could I have been more dutiful to the State, more quiet than I have been?” interrupted William. He gave no sign of any feeling or agitation save that the wild-rose colour of delicate health had deepened in his thin cheeks. “You have been too quiet,” answered the Grand Pensionary. “I want you to act, Highness.”He waited a second, but the Prince did not speak. “I am greatly troubled,” continued M. de Witt, with a stately simplicity, “by these men who strive to hinder and oppose the Government. You know their names, Count Frederick William, M. Beverningh, M. Zuylestein, M. Fagel——” “None of these are my friends save M. Zuylestein,” returned the Prince; “and you have good cause to know, Mynheer, that I see nothing of him——” “M. Zuylestein left your service because I doubted his loyalty to the Republic,” said John de Witt sternly; “and now he works discord in Zeeland. And for the others, whether you know it or not, they traffic in your name, Highness.” “In what manner, Mynheer?” “In what manner?—they meddle with France and England, they sow dissension in the town councils, in the Assembly itself; they riot in the street—I think that you must know it, Highness.… Every reasonable concession hath been made, but no reasonable concession will content them. It was agreed that the question of the Captain-Generalship, of the seat in the Council of State, should be postponed until you were of age; they agitate for these honours now—you must know this also, Highness.”The Prince glanced at him sideways, then looked very quickly down again. “In Zeeland, where you are premier noble, your partisans make the excuse of your titles of Ter Veere and Flushing to demand your appearance in their council now they consider you of age.” And for the third time he added—“You must know this, Highness.”He paused impressively, and his eyes were dark and ardently commanding on the Prince.William put his hand to his brow as if he made a mechanical movement to ease a constant pain there. “What do you wish me to do?” he asked quietly.M. de Witt answered at once— “I want you to disown this party—they may act without your sanction, they cannot act in face of your disapproval—I want you as an ally, as a friend——” “I am powerless as either, Mynheer,” returned the Prince; “and,” he suddenly turned his wonderful eyes on the Grand Pensionary, “since you designate these you speak of as my friends, to what in me do you appeal to act against them?”There was a flash of imperiousness in his tone new to M. de Witt. It was almost the manner of a king to a subject; it gave the Grand Pensionary the bewildered sense that he, with twenty years’ experience of affairs and the management of men, was not equal to this boy whom he had seen grow up, whom he had himself educated. “I appeal to you as a citizen of the Republic,” he said. “I have not brought you up to put yourself before your country—” he hesitated a moment before continuing, “I have always thought you of too great a nature to prefer the phantom of personal aggrandisement to the good of the Commonwealth——”It seemed as if, on an impulse, William was about to speak, but he checked himself, and M. de Witt went on— “Will you let yourself, Highness, be used to stir up faction in the State?—will you be an instrument in the hands of ambitious place-seekers?” “I cannot help my birth, Mynheer,” answered the Prince, “nor prevent the people from using my name.”He had not lowered his clear, brilliant glance, and the two pairs of eyes met across the small, firelit room. John de Witt’s met a fathomless, inscrutable look, and a horrible mistrust of this too composed youth crept into his mind—a distrust he had known before and always fought against and dismissed—But William of Orange was the nephew of Charles of England and the cousin of Louis of France. “I believe France meditates the destruction of the United Provinces,” De Witt said suddenly. “Colbert envies our commerce and King Louis is mad for conquest.… I do not trust England.”The Prince, never altering his easy attitude, nor changing the level tones of his voice, nor in any way taking heed of the feeling that surged behind de Witt’s words, put his hand slowly to his breast, where, in the pocket of his black waistcoat, lay the letter wrapped in Florent Van Mander’s handkerchief. “What has this to do with the object of your coming, Mynheer?” he asked.The Grand Pensionary found the almost unnatural composure and control of this boy agitating him; the colour came into his face. “France might seize any pretext,” he said. “Any pretext—if we are to stand we must be united——”William slightly raised his fine red brows. “So distinguished a statesman as yourself, Mynheer—will know how to meet any misfortune that threatens you.”M. de Witt regarded him earnestly. Had he failed—had the royal breed been too powerful for all his careful training? He thought he traced in the commanding eyes and curved mouth of the Prince the arrogance, the hauteur of regal blood, not so easy to quench or overcome—had he failed?… Many had foretold he would. Had he undertaken too confidently the task of making into a staunch, loyal republican the heir of the oldest House in Europe, the son of a man who had risked all in an attempt at sovereign power and of a woman too proud to speak to a commoner.… “You speak as if with hate of me,” he said, and there was a half sad confession of failure in the words. “But for Holland—you love Holland?”William was leaning against the side of his chair, resting his hand on the arm of it. “Both you and my country, Mynheer,” he replied, “have my duty and my affection; my position makes me powerless to help either.…”M. de Witt gave him a flashing glance. “You can serve your country, Highness, by withdrawing from all association with these noisy partisans of yours—by letting it be known that you do not desire to be regarded as the Prince of Orange, heir to an extinct office, but as a citizen of the United Provinces.”The Prince coughed, and again put his hand to his head. The delicate colour had faded from his face, he was pale to the lips. “You best qualify yourself for the offices that may one day be yours by quiet study and severe application,” continued M. de Witt. “Not by endeavouring to thrust yourself (upon the selfish suggestions of sordid ambition) into power for which your youth renders you unfit, and into places from which the law debars you.”William gave one of his rare, slow smiles; it seemed to rob the Grand Pensionary’s speech of half its weight and meaning. “My docility hath not deserved this, Mynheer,” he said. “Half the people at the Hague would not know me if they saw me, and you accuse me of endeavouring to win the suffrage of the mob——” “No,” interrupted De Witt. “No.…” “You accuse me,” continued William, “of selfish ambition.… I have not lifted a finger to alter my position—I have always been the humble servant of yourself, Mynheer, and Their High Mightinesses.” “This is evasion,” said the Grand Pensionary in a mournful anger. “I came to Your Highness with an appeal—will you work with me or no?” “I am always at your service,” answered the Prince.It seemed that in no way could M. de Witt break through this even, immovable courtesy. His anger began to rise against a nature that could turn to him this hard reserve. He recalled his patient services, his honest attempt to win the Prince, his frankness towards the Orange party, his loyal endeavour that his young ward should not suffer for the misfortune of his House, his eagerness to establish a friendship with the Prince so that one day they might work together for the good of the land. Now it would seem all this had largely been in vain. The first time he put it to the issue he found that he dealt with intractable, unyielding, perhaps treacherous, material … treacherous—that stinging thought, not to be banished, roused him almost unbearably. “