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- Temporal Power - 1/110 -


TEMPORAL POWER

A STUDY IN SUPREMACY

BY MARIE CORELLI

CONTENTS

I. THE KING'S PLEASAUNCE

II. MAJESTY CONSIDERS AND RESOLVES

III. A NATION OR A CHURCH?

IV. SEALED ORDERS

V. "IF I LOVED YOU!"

VI. SERGIUS THORD

VII. THE IDEALISTS

VIII. THE KING'S DOUBLE

IX. THE PREMIER'S SIGNET

X. THE ISLANDS

XI. "GLORIA--IN EXCELSIS!"

XII. A SEA PRINCESS

XIII. SECRET SERVICE

XIV. THE KING'S VETO

XV. "MORGANATIC" OR--?

XVI. THE PROFESSOR ADVISES

XVII. AN "HONOURABLE" STATESMAN

XVIII. ROYAL LOVERS

XIX. OF THE CORRUPTION OF THE STATE

XX. THE SCORN OF KINGS

XXI. AN INVITATION TO COURT

XXII. A FAIR DEBUTANTE

XXIII. THE KING'S DEFENDER

XXIV. A WOMAN'S REASON

XXV. "I SAY--'ROME'!"

XXVI. "ONE WAY--ONE WOMAN!"

XXVII. THE SONG OF FREEDOM

XXVIII. "FATE GIVES--THE KING!"

XXIX. THE COMRADE OF HIS FOES

XXX. KING AND SOCIALIST

XXXI. A VOTE FOR LOVE

XXXII. BETWEEN TWO PASSIONS

XXXIII. SAILING TO THE INFINITE

XXXIV. ABDICATION

CHAPTER I

THE KING'S PLEASAUNCE

"In the beginning," so we are told, "God made the heavens and the earth."

The statement is simple and terse; it is evidently intended to be wholly comprehensive. Its decisive, almost abrupt tone would seem to forbid either question or argument. The old-world narrator of the sublime event thus briefly chronicled was a poet of no mean quality, though moved by the natural conceit of man to give undue importance to the earth as his own particular habitation. The perfect confidence with which he explains 'God' as making 'two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, the lesser light to rule the night,' is touching to the verge of pathos; and the additional remark which he throws in, as it were casually,--'He made the stars also,' cannot but move us to admiration. How childlike the simplicity of the soul which could so venture to deal with the inexplicable and tremendous problem of the Universe! How self-centred and sure the faith which could so arrange the work of Infinite and Eternal forces to suit its own limited intelligence! It is easy and natural to believe that 'God,' or an everlasting Power of Goodness and Beauty called by that name, 'created the heavens and the earth,' but one is often tempted to think that an altogether different and rival element must have been concerned in the making of Man. For the heavens and the earth are harmonious; man is a discord. And not only is he a discord in himself, but he takes pleasure in producing and multiplying discords. Often, with the least possible amount of education, and on the slightest provocation, he mentally sets Himself, and his trivial personal opinion on religion, morals, and government, in direct opposition to the immutable laws of the Universe, and the attitude he assumes towards the mysterious Cause and Original Source of Life is nearly always one of three things; contradiction, negation, or defiance. From the first to the last he torments himself with inventions to outwit or subdue Nature, and in the end dies, utterly defeated. His civilizations, his dynasties, his laws, his manners, his customs, are all doomed to destruction and oblivion as completely as an ant-hill which exists one night and is trodden down the next. Forever and forever he works and plans in vain; forever and forever Nature, the visible and active Spirit of God, rises up and crushes her puny rebel.

There must be good reason for this ceaseless waste of human life,--this constant and steady obliteration of man's attempts, since there can be no Effect without Cause. It is, as if like children at a school, we were set a certain sum to do, and because we blunder foolishly over it and add it up to a wrong total, it is again and again wiped off the blackboard, and again and again rewritten for our more careful consideration. Possibly the secret of our failure to conquer Nature lies in ourselves, and our own obstinate tendency to work in only one groove of what we term 'advancement,'--namely our material self- interest. Possibly we might be victors if we would, even to the very vanquishment of Death!

So many of us think,--and so thought one man of sovereign influence in this world's affairs as, seated on the terrace of a Royal palace fronting seaward, he pondered his own life's problem for perhaps the thousandth time.

"What is the use of thinking?" asked a wit at the court of Louis XVI. "It only intensifies the bad opinion you have of others,--or of yourself!"

He found this saying true. Thinking is a pernicious habit in which very great personages are not supposed to indulge; and in his younger days he had avoided it. He had allowed the time to take him as it found him, and had gone with it unresistingly wherever it had led. It was the best way; the wisest way; the way Solomon found most congenial, despite its end in 'vanity and vexation of spirit.' But with the passing of the years a veil had been dropped over that path of roses, hiding it altogether from his sight; and another veil rose inch by inch before him, disclosing a new and less joyous prospect on which he was not too-well-pleased to look.

The sea, stretching out in a broad shining expanse opposite to him, sparkled dancingly in the warm sunshine, and the snowy sails of many yachts and pleasure-boats dipped now and again into the glittering waves like white birds skimming over the tiny flashing foam-crests. Dazzling and well-nigh blinding to his eyes were the burning glow and exquisite radiance of colour which seemed melted like gold and sapphire into that bright half-circle of water and sky,--beautiful, and full of a dream-like evanescent quality, such as marks all the loveliest scenes and impressions of our life on earth. There was a subtle scent of violets in the air,--and a gardener, cutting sheafs of narcissi from the edges of the velvety green banks which rolled away in smooth undulations upward from the terrace to the wider extent of the palace pleasaunce beyond, scattered such perfume with his snipping shears as might have lured another Proserpine from Hell. Cluster after cluster of white blooms, carefully selected for the adornment of the Royal apartments, he laid beside him on the grass, not presuming to look in the direction where that other Workman in the ways of life sat silent and absorbed in thought. That other, in his own long-practised manner, feigned not to be aware of his dependant's proximity,--and in this fashion they twain--human beings made of the same clay and relegated, to the same dust--gave sport to the Fates by playing at Sham with Heaven and themselves. Custom, law, and all the paraphernalia of civilization, had set the division and marked the boundary between them,--had forbidden the lesser in world's rank to speak to the greater, unless the greater began conversation,--had equally forbidden the greater to speak to the lesser lest such condescension should inflate the lesser's vanity so much as to make him obnoxious to his fellows. Thus,--of two men, who, if left to nature would have been merely--men, and sincere enough at that,--man himself had made two pretenders,--the one as gardener, the other as--King! The white narcissi lying on the grass, and preparing to die sweetly, like sacrificed maiden-victims of the flower-world, could turn true faces to the God who made them,--but the men at that particular moment of time had no real features ready for God's inspection,--only masks.

"C'est mon metier d'être Roi!" So said one of the many dead and gone martyrs on the rack of sovereignty. Alas, poor soul, thou would'st have been happier in any other 'métier' I warrant! For kingship is a profession which cannot be abandoned for a change of humour, or cast


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