Polonaise

Polonaise by Jane Aiken Hodge

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Authors: Jane Aiken Hodge
betrayed us. Our friends in England could easily reach a country vicarage. You would not wish to know yourself responsible for your parents’ death.’
    â€˜You wouldn’t!’
    â€˜Where the future of Poland is at stake, we would do anything. Risking our own lives, why should we care about those of others? I tell you, now, once and once only. If we so much as suspect that you are betraying us at Rendomierz, your mother will die. You will live on, to mourn her and serve us. And if you fail us again, it will be your father’s turn. Now, do you understand us? And the oath you have sworn?’
    â€˜Yes.’ Wine spilled from her glass, making a blood-red patch on the table. ‘I understand.’

Chapter 6
    Night after night, Glynde prowled his room, waiting for the summons that did not come. The trapdoor was securely bolted on the underside, or he might have ventured, uninvited, down into that dark and secret corridor. In the daytime, there was never a chance to be alone with the Princess, since Jan was always at his side, while she was surrounded by an ever-increasing throng of wedding guests.
    Daily messengers arrived now from the bridegroom, each one bringing a more impressive gift: one perfect pearl, a thoroughbred Arab mare, a set of sables… Prince Ovinski was not far behind. Brass and silver in the ornate little baroque church had been polished and polished again; peasants from miles around were camping in the pleasure gardens, waiting to see their Princess married. She moved always surrounded by a loving crowd. Watching her, Glynde felt his right hand raking through his hair, that old nervous gesture his Aunt Maud had worked so hard to cure. And at night, sleep would not come, or if it did, brought passionate, frustrating dreams.
    Jan was restless, too. ‘I hate to stay and watch it,’ he said, as the two of them returned from an intentionally exhausting ride in the forest. ‘To see her throw herself away like this. What do you say? Shall we cut and run for Warsaw?’
    It was enormously tempting. But suppose she were planning to send for him just once more? On her last night of freedom perhaps? Besides: ‘How could we? It would be the most appalling affront. And specially from you, her cousin.’
    â€˜You’re right, of course. And, who knows, when she sees the man, she may change her mind. And if she did, would need all our support.’
    â€˜Yours perhaps, as a member of the family,’ said Glynde bitterly. But how could he even think of leaving, his commission for Canning so totally unfulfilled? Fathoms deep inlove with the Princess, he had put off, every night until the next one, the questions he should have been asking her. He was paying for it now. Talk among the wedding guests who thronged the salons was curiously superficial; no information to be gathered there. Family news was enthusiastically exchanged, down to the last marriage of the remotest cousin. When the ladies rose and left the gentlemen after dinner, hunting stories, not politics, were the rule, with an occasional reference to a campaign of long ago, but even this was obviously dangerous ground.
    â€˜Is it us they don’t trust, or each other?’ he asked Jan now, reining in his horse at the bottom of the pleasure gardens, before they reached the noisy bustle of the stables.
    â€˜A bit of both, don’t you think?’ Jan knew what he meant. ‘When you come right down to it, after all, it’s a police state, isn’t it? Even here, under all the luxury, you feel it. And there are Austrians here for the wedding, don’t forget. Not to mention Russians and even a Prussian or two. It’s amazing how the family web is woven across Europe. Don’t you find it so? Or is it the same in England?’
    â€˜Not quite to such an extent. We have political differences within families, of course. I’m a Tory, for instance, my older brother is a Whig, we’re

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