Long Live the King
The following morning the Countess Loschek left for a holiday. Minna, silent and
wretched, had packed her things for her, moving about the room like a broken thing. And
the Countess had sat in a chair by a window, and said nothing. She sent away food
untasted, took no notice of the packing, and stared, hour after hour, ahead of her.
Certain things were clear enough. Karl could not now be reached by the old methods. She
had, casting caution to the winds, visited the shop where Peter Niburg was employed. But
he was not there, and the proprietor, bowing deeply, disclaimed all knowledge of his
whereabouts. She would have to go to Karl herself, a difficult matter now. She would
surely be watched. And the thousand desperate plans that she thought of for escaping
from the country and hiding herself, - in America, perhaps, - those were impossible for
the same reason. She was helpless.
She had the choice of but two alternatives, to do as she had been commanded, for it
amounted to that, or to die. The Committee would not kill her, in case she failed them. It
would be unnecessary. Enough that they place the letter and the code in the hands of the
authorities, by some anonymous means. Well enough she knew the Chancellor's
inflexible anger, and the Archduchess Annunciata's cold rage. They would sweep her
away with a gesture, and she would die the death of all traitors.
A week! Time had been when a week of the dragging days at the Palace had seemed
eternity. Now the hours flew. The gold clock on her dressing-table, a gift from the
Archduchess, marked them with flying hands.
She was, for the first time, cut off from the gossip of the Palace. The Archduchess let her
severely alone. She disliked having anything interfere with her own comfort, disliked
having her routine disturbed. But the Countess surmised a great deal. She guessed that
Hedwig would defy them, and that they would break her spirit with high words. She
surmised preparations for a hasty marriage - how hasty she dared not think. And she
guessed, too, the hopeless predicament of Nikky Larisch.
She sat and stared ahead.
During the afternoon came a package, rather unskillfully tied with a gilt cord. Opening it,
the Countess disclosed a glove-box of wood, with a design of rather shaky violets burnt
into the cover. Inside was a note:
I am very sorry you are sick. This is to put your gloves in when you travel. Please excuse
the work. I have done it in a hurry. FERDINAND WILLIAM OTTO.
Suddenly the Countess laughed, choking hysterical laughter that alarmed Minna; horrible
laughter, which left her paler than ever, and gasping.