Part 4 out of 8
almost fretfully. "It's so interesting. The enemy's soldiers
would come up the river in boats, and along that road on foot.
And then we would raise the guns and shoot at them. And the
guns would drop back again, before the enemy had time to aim at
But Hedwig's interest was so evidently assumed that he turned
to the Countess. The Countess professed smiling terror, and
stood a little way back from the guns, looking on. But Prince
Ferdinand William Otto at last coaxed her to the top of the
"There's a fine view up there," he urged. "And the guns won't
hurt you. There's nothing in them."
To get up it was necessary to climb an iron ladder. Hedwig was
already there. About a dozen young officers had helped her up,
and ruined as many pairs of white gloves, although Hedwig could
climb like a cat, and really needed no help at all.
"You go up," said the Crown Prince eagerly. "I'll hold your
bag, so you can climb."
He caught her handbag from her, and instantly something snapped
in it. The Countess was climbing up the ladder. Rather
dismayed, Prince Ferdinand William Otto surveyed the bag.
Something had broken, he feared. And in another moment he saw
what it was. The little watch which was set in one side of it
had slipped away, leaving a round black hole. His heart beat a
"I'm awfully worried," he called up to her, as he climbed.
"I'm afraid I've broken your bag. Something clicked, and the
watch is gone. It is not on the ground."
It was well for the Countess that the Colonel was talking to
Hedwig. Well for her, too, that the other officers were
standing behind with their eyes worshipfully on the Princess.
The Countess turned gray-white.
"Don't worry, Highness," she said, with stiff lips, "The watch
falls back sometimes. I must have it repaired."
But long after the tour of the ramparts was over, after
ammunition-rooms had been visited, with their long lines of
waiting shells, after the switchboard which controlled the
river mines had been inspected and explained, she was still
Prince Ferdinand William Otto, looking at the bag later on, saw
the watch in place and drew a long breath of relief.
Old Adelbert of the Opera had lost his position. No longer, a
sausage in his pocket for refreshment, did he leave his little
room daily for the Opera. A young man, who made ogling eyes at
Olga, of the garde-robe, and who was not careful to keep the
lenses clean, had taken his place.
He was hurt in his soldier's soul. There was no longer a place
in the kingdom for those who had fought for it. The cry was
for the young. And even in the first twenty-four hours a
subtle change went on in him. His loyalty, on which he had
built his creed of life, turned to bitterness.
The first day of his idleness he wandered into the back room of
the cobbler's shop near by, where the butter-seller from the
corner, the maker of artificial flowers for graves, and the
cobbler himself were gathered, and listened without protest to
such talk as would have roused him once to white anger.
But the iron had not yet gone very deep, and one thing he would
not permit. It was when, in the conversation, one of them
attacked the King. Then indeed he was roused to fury.
"A soldier and a gentleman," he said. "For him I lost this leg
of mine, and lost it without grieving. When I lay in the
hospital he himself came, and - "
A burst of jeering laughter greeted this, for he had told it
many times. Told it, because it was all he had instead of a
leg, and although he could not walk on it, certainly it had
supported him through many years.
"As for the little Crown Prince," he went on firmly, "I have
seen him often. He came frequently to the Opera. He has a
fine head and a bright smile. He will be a good king."
But this was met with silence.
Once upon a time a student named Haeckel had occasionally
backed him up in his defense of the royal family. But for some
reason or other Haeckel came no more, and old Adelbert missed
him. He had inquired for him frequently.
"Where is the boy Haeckle?" he had asked one day. "I have not
seen him lately."
No one had replied. But a sort of grim silence settled over
the little room. Old Adelbert, however, was not discerning.
"Perhaps, as a student, he worked too hard" he had answered his
own question. "They must both work and play hard, these
students. A fine lot of young men. I have watched them at the
Opera. Most of them preferred Italian to German music."
But, that first day of idleness, when he had left the
cobbler's, he resolved not to return. They had not been
unfriendly, but he had seen at once there was a difference. He
was no longer old Adelbert of the Opera. He was an old man
only, and out of work.
He spent hours that first free afternoon repairing his frayed
linen and his shabby uniform, with his wooden leg stretched out
before him and his pipe clutched firmly in his teeth. Then,
freshly shaved and brushed, he started on a painful search
after work. With no result. And, indeed, he was hopeless
before he began. He was old and infirm. There was little that
he had even the courage to apply for.
True, he had his small pension, but it came only twice a year,
and was sent, intact, to take care of an invalid daughter in
the country. That was not his. He never used a penny of it.
And he had saved a trifle, by living on air; as the concierge
declared. But misfortunes come in threes, like fires and other
calamities. The afternoon of that very day brought a letter,
saying that the daughter was worse and must have an operation.
Old Adelbert went to church and burned a candle for her
recovery, and from there to the bank, to send by registered
mail the surgeon's fee.
He was bankrupt in twenty-four hours.
That evening in his extremity he did a reckless thing. He
wrote a letter to the King. He spent hours over it, first
composing it in pencil and then copying it with ink borrowed
from the concierge. It began "Sire," as he had learned was the
form, and went on to remind His Majesty, first, of the hospital
incident, which, having been forty years ago, might have
slipped the royal memory. Then came the facts - his lost
position, his daughter, the handicap of his wooden leg. It
ended with a plea for reinstatement or, failing that, for any
sort of work.
He sent it, unfolded, in a large flat envelope, which also he
had learned was the correct thing with kings, who for some
reason or other do not like folded communications. Then he
waited. He considered that a few hours should bring a return.
No answer came. No answer ever came. For the King was ill,
and secretaries carefully sifted the royal mail.
He waited all of the next day, and out of the mixed emotions of
his soul confided the incident of the letter to Humbert, in his
The concierge smiled in his beard. "What does the King care?"
he demanded. "He will never see that letter. And if he did -
you have lived long, my friend. Have you ever known the King
to give, or to do anything but take? Name me but one
And that night, in the concierge's bureau, he was treated to
many incidents, all alike. The Government took, but gave
nothing. As well expect blood out of a stone. Instances were
given, heartlessness piled on heartlessness, one sordid story
And as he listened there died in old Adelbert's soul his
flaming love for his sovereign and his belief in him. His eyes
took on a hard and haunted look. That night he walked past the
Palace and shook his fist at it. He was greatly ashamed of
that, however, and never repeated it. But his soul was now an
open sore, ready for infection.
And Black Humbert bided his time.
On the day of the excursion to the fortress old Adelbert
decided to appeal to his fellow lodger, Herman Spier. Now and
then, when he was affluent, he had paid small tribute to Herman
by means of the camp cookery on which he prided himself.
"A soldier's mess!" he would say, and bring in a bowl of soup,
or a slice of deer meat, broiled over hot coals in his tiny
stove. "Eat it, man. These restaurants know nothing of food."
To Herman now he turned for advice and help. It was difficult
to find the clerk. He left early, and often came home after
midnight in a curious frame of mind, a drunkenness of
excitement that was worse than that of liquor.
Herman could not help him. But he eyed the old soldier
appraisingly. He guessed shrewdly the growing uneasiness
behind Adelbert's brave front. If now one could enlist such a
man for the Cause, that would be worth doing. He had talked it
over with the concierge. Among the veterans the old man was
influential, and by this new policy of substituting fresh blood
for stale, the Government had made many enemies among them.
"In a shop!" he said coldly. "With that leg? No, my friend.
Two legs are hardly enough for what we have to do."
"Then, for any sort of work. I could sweep and clean."
"I shall inquire," said Herman Spier. But he did not intend
to. He had other plans.
The old man's bitterness had been increased by two things.
First, although he had been dismissed without notice, in the
middle of the week, he had been paid only up to the hour of
leaving. That was a grievance. Second, being slow on his
feet, one of the royal motorcars had almost run him down, and
the police had cursed him roundly for being in the way.
"Why be angry?" observed the concierge, on this being reported
to him. "The streets are the King's. Who are the dogs of
pedestrians but those that pay the taxes to build them?"
At last he determined to find Haeckel, the student. He did not
know his Christian name, nor where he lodged. But he knew the
corps he belonged to, by his small gray cap with a red band.
He was very nervous when he made this final effort. Corps
houses were curious places, he had heard, and full of secrets.
Even the great professors from the University might not enter
without invitation. And his experience had been that students
paid small respect to uniforms or to age. In truth, he passed
the building twice before he could summon courage to touch the
great brass knocker. And the arrogance of its clamor, when at
last he rapped, startled him again. But here at least he need
not have feared.
The student who was also doorkeeper eyed him kindly. "Well,
comrade?" he said.
"I am seeking a student named Haeckel, of this corps," said old
And had violated all etiquette, too, had he but known it!
"Haeckle?" repeated the doorkeeper. "I think - come in,
comrade. I will inquire."
For the name of Haeckel was, just then, one curiously
He disappeared, and old Adelbert waited. When the doorkeeper
returned, it was to tell him to follow him, and to lead the way
There dawned on the old man's eyes a curious sight. In a long
basement room were perhaps thirty students, each armed with a
foil, and wearing a wire mask. A half dozen lay figures on
springs stood in the center in a low row, and before these
perspiring youths thrust and parried. Some of them, already
much scarred, stood and watched. This, then, was where the
students prepared themselves for duels. Here they fought the
mimic battles that were later on to lead to the much-prized
Old Adelbert stared with curious, rather scornful eyes. The
rapier he detested. Give him a saber, and a free field, and he
would show them. Even yet, he felt, he had not lost his
cunning. And the saber requires cunning as well as strength.
Two or three students came toward him at once. "You are
seeking Haeckle?" one of them asked.
"I am. I knew him, but not well. Lately, however, I have
thought - is he here?"
The students exchanged glances. "He is not here," one said.
"Where did you know him?"
"He came frequently to a shop I know of - a cobbler's shop, a
neighborhood meeting-place. A fine lad. I liked him. But
recently he has not come, and knowing his corps, I came here to
They had hoped to learn something from him, and he knew
nothing. "He has disappeared," they told him. "He is not at
his lodging, and he has left his classes. He went away
suddenly, leaving everything. That is all we know."
It sounded sinister. Old Adelbert, heavy-hearted, turned away
and climbed again to the street. That gateway was closed, too.
And he felt a pang of uneasiness. What could have happened to
the boy? Was the world, after all, only a place of trouble?
But now came good fortune, and, like evil, it came not singly.
The operation was over, and his daughter on the mend. The fee
was paid also. And the second followed on the heels of the
He did not like Americans. Too often, in better days, had he
heard the merits of the American republic compared with the
shortcomings of his own government. When, as happened now and
then, he met the American family on the staircase, he drew
sharply aside that no touch of republicanism might contaminate
On that day, however, things changed.
First of all, he met the American lad in the hallway, and was
pleased to see him doff his bit of a cap. Not many, nowadays,
uncovered a head to him. The American lad was going down;
Adelbert was climbing, one step at a time, and carrying a small
basket of provisions.
The American boy, having passed, turned, hesitated, went back.
"I'd like to carry that for you, if you don't mind."
"I am very strong," said the American boy stoutly.
So Adelbert gave up his basket, and the two went up. Four long
flights of stone stairs led to Adelbert's room. The ascent
took time and patience.
At the door Adelbert paused. Then, loneliness overcoming
prejudice, "Come in," he said.
The bare little room appealed to the boy. "It's very nice,
it?" he said. "There's nothing to fall over."
"And but little to sit on," old Adelbert added dryly.
"However, two people require but two chairs. Here is one."
But the boy would not sit down. He ranged the room, frankly
curious, exclaimed at the pair of ring doves who lived in a box
tied to the window-sill, and asked for crumbs for them.
Adelbert brought bread from his small store.
The boy cheered him. His interest in the old saber, the
intentness with which he listened to its history, the
politeness with which he ignored his host's infirmity, all won
the old man's heart.
These Americans downstairs were not all bad, then. They were
too rich, of course. No one should have meat three times a
day, as the meat-seller reported they did. And they were
paying double rent for the apartment below. But that, of
course, they could not avoid, not knowing the real charge.
The boy was frankly delighted. And when old Adelbert brought
forth from his basket a sausage and, boiling it lightly, served
him a slice between two pieces of bread, an odd friendship was
begun that was to have unforeseen consequences. They had
broken bread together.
Between the very old and the very young come sometimes these
strong affections. Perhaps it is that age harkens back to the
days of its youth, and by being very old, becomes young again.
Or is it that children are born old, with the withered, small
faces of all the past, and must, year by year, until their
maturity, shed this mantle of age?
Gradually, over the meal, and the pigeons, and what not, old
Adelbert unburdened his heart. He told of his years at the
Opera, where he had kept his glasses clean and listened to the
music until he knew by heart even the most difficult passages.
He told of the Crown Prince, who always wished opera-glasses,
not because he needed them, but because he liked to turn them
wrong end before, and thus make the audience appear at a great
distance. And then he told of the loss of his position.
The American lad listened politely, but his mind was on the
Crown Prince. "Does he wear a crown?" he demanded. "I saw him
once in a carriage, but I think he had a hat."
"At the coronation he will wear a crown."
"Do people do exactly what he tells them?"
Old Adelbert was not certain. He hedged, rather. "Probably,
whenever it is good for him."
"Huh! What's the use of being a prince?" observed the boy, who
had heard of privileges being given that way before. "When
will he be a king?"
"When the old King dies. He is very old now. I was in a
hospital once, after a battle. And he came in. He put his
hand on my shoulder, like this" he illustrated it on the
child's small one - " and said - " Considering that old
Adelbert no longer loved his King, it is strange to record that
his voice broke.
"Will he die soon?" Bobby put in. He found kings as much of a
novelty as to Prince Ferdinand William Otto they were the usual
thing. Bobby's idea of kings, however, was of the "off with
his head" order.
"Who knows? But when he does, the city will learn at once.
The great bell of the Cathedral, which never rings save at such
times, will toll. They say it is a sound never to be
forgotten. I, of course, have never heard it. When it tolls,
all in the city will fall on their knees and pray. It is the
custom." Bobby, reared to strict Presbyterianism and
accustomed to kneeling but once a day, and that at night beside
his bed, in the strict privacy of his own apartment, looked
rather startled. "What will they pray for?" he said.
And old Adelbert, with a new bitterness, replied that the sons
of kings needed much prayer. Sometimes they were hard and did
"And then the Crown Prince will be a king," Bobby reflected.
"If I were a king, I'd make people stand around. And I'd have
an automobile and run it myself. But has the Crown Prince only
a grandfather, and no father?"
"He died - the boy's father. He was murdered, and the Princess
his mother also."
Bobby's eyes opened wide. "Who did it?"
"Terrorists," said old Adelbert. And would not be persuaded to
That night at dinner Bobby Thorpe delivered himself of quite a
speech. He sat at the table, and now and then, when the
sour-faced governess looked at her plate, he slipped a bit of
food to his dog, which waited beside him.
"There's a very nice old man upstairs," he said. "He has a
fine sword, and ring-doves, and a wooden leg. And he used to
rent opera-glasses to the Crown Prince, only he turned them
around. I'm going to try that with yours, mother. We had
sausage together, and he has lost his position, and he's never
been on the Scenic Railway, father. I'd like some tickets for
him. He would like riding, I'm sure, because walking must be
pretty hard. And what I want to know is this: Why can't you
give him a job, father?"
Bobby being usually taciturn at the table, and entirely
occupied with food, the family stared at him.
"What sort of a job, son? A man with one leg!"
"He doesn't need legs to chop tickets with."
The governess listened. She did not like Americans.
Barbarians they were, and these were of the middle class, being
in trade. For a scenic railway is trade, naturally. Except
that they paid a fat salary, with an extra month at Christmas,
she would not be there. She and Pepy, the maid, had many
disputes about this. But Pepy was a Dalmatian, and did not
"He means the old soldier upstairs," said Bobby's mother
softly. She was a gentle person. Her eyes were wide and
childlike, and it was a sort of religion of the family to keep
them full of happiness.
This also the governess could not understand.
"So the old soldier is out of work," mused the head of the
family. Head, thought the governess! When they wound him
about their fingers! She liked men of sterner stuff. In her
mountain country the men did as they wished, and sometimes beat
their wives by way of showing their authority. Under no
circumstances, she felt, would this young man ever beat his
wife. He was a weakling.
The weakling smiled across the table at the wife with the soft
eyes. "How about it, mother?" he asked. "Shall the firm of
'Bobby and I' offer him a job?"
"I would like it very much," said the weakling's wife, dropping
her eyes to hide the pride in them.
"Suppose," said the weakling, "that you run up after dinner,
Bob, and bring him down. Now sit still, young man, and finish.
There's no such hurry as that."
And in this fashion did old Adelbert become ticket-chopper of
the American Scenic Railway.
And in this fashion, too, commenced that odd friendship between
him and the American lad that was to have so vital an effect on
the very life itself of the Crown Prince Ferdinand William Otto
Late that evening, old Adelbert's problem having been solved,
Pepy the maid and Bobby had a long talk. It concerned itself
mainly with kings. Pepy sat in a low chair by the tiled stove
in the kitchen, and knitted a stocking with a very large foot.
"What I want to know is this," said Bobby, swinging his legs on
the table: "What are the Terrorists?"
Pepy dropping her knitting, and stared with open mouth. "What
know you of such things?" she demanded.
"Well, Terrorists killed the Crown Prince's father, and - "
Quite suddenly Pepy leaped from her chair, and covered Bobby's
mouth with her hand. "Hush!" she said, and stared about her
with frightened eyes. The door into the dining-room was open,
and the governess sat there with a book. Then, in a whisper:
"They are everywhere. No one knows who they are, nor where
they meet." The superstition of her mountains crept into her
voice. "It is said that they have the assistance of the evil
one, and that the reason the police cannot find them is because
they take the form of cats. I myself," she went on
impressively, "crossing the Place one night late, after
spending the evening with a friend, saw a line of cats moving
in the shadows. One of them stopped and looked at me." Pepy
crossed herself. "It had a face like the Fraulein in there."
Bobby stared with interest through the doorway. The governess
did look like a cat. She had staring eyes, and a short, wide
face. "Maybe's she's one of them," he reflected aloud.
"Oh, for God's sake, hush!" cried Pepy, and fell to knitting
rapidly. Nor could Bobby elicit anything further from her.
But that night, in his sleep, he saw a Crown Prince, dressed in
velvet and ermine, being surrounded and attacked by an army of
cats, and went, shivering, to crawl into his mother's bed.
THE COMMITTEE OF TEN
On the evening of the annual day of mourning, the party
returned from the fortress. The Archduchess slept. The Crown
Prince talked, mostly to Hedwig, and even she said little.
After a time the silence affected the boy's high spirits. He
leaned back in his chair on the deck of the launch, and watched
the flying landscape. He counted the riverside shrines to
himself. There were, he discovered, just thirteen between the
fortress and the city limits.
Old Father Gregory sat beside him. He had taken off his flat
black hat, and it lay on his knee. The ends of his black
woolen sash fluttered in the wind, and he sat, benevolent hands
folded, looking out.
>From guns to shrines is rather a jump, and the Crown Prince
found it difficult.
"Do you consider fighting the duty of a Christian?" inquired
the Crown Prince suddenly.
Father Gregory, whose mind had been far away, with his boys'
school at Etzel, started.
"Fighting? That depends. To defend his home is the Christian
duty of every man."
"But during the last war," persisted Otto, "we went across the
mountains and killed a lot of people. Was that a Christian
Father Gregory coughed. He had himself tucked up his soutane
and walked forty miles to join the army of invasion, where he
had held services, cared for the wounded, and fired a rifle,
all with equal spirit. He changed the subject to the big guns
at the fortress.
"I think," observed the Crown Prince, forgetting his scruples,
"that if you have a pencil and an old envelope to draw on, I'll
invent a big gun myself."
Which he proceeded to do, putting in a great many wheels and
levers, and adding, a folding-table at the side on which the
gunners might have afternoon tea - this last prompted by the
arrival just then of cups and saucers and a tea service.
It was almost dark when the launch arrived at the quay. The
red carpet was still there, and another crowd. Had Prince
Ferdinand William Otto been less taken up with finding one of
his kid gloves, which he had lost, he would have noticed that
there was a scuffle going on at the very edge of the red
carpet, and that the beggar of the morning was being led away,
between two policemen, while a third, running up the river
bank, gingerly deposited a small round object in the water, and
stood back. It was merely one of the small incidents of a
royal outing, and was never published in the papers. But
Father Gregory, whose old eyes were far-sighted, had seen it
all. His hand - the hand of the Church - was on the shoulder
of the Crown Prince as they landed.
The boy looked around for the little girl of the bouquet. He
took an immense interest in little girls, partly because he
seldom saw any. But she was gone.
When the motor which had taken them from the quay reached the
Palace, Hedwig roused the Archduchess, whose head had dropped
forward on her chest. "Here we are, mother," she said. "You
have had a nice sleep."
But Annunciata muttered something about being glad the wretched
day was over, and every one save Prince Ferdinand William Otto
seemed glad to get back. The boy was depressed. He felt,
somehow, that they should have enjoyed it, and that, having
merely endured it, they had failed him again.
He kissed his aunt's hand dutifully when he left her, and went
with a lagging step to his own apartments. His request to have
Hedwig share his supper had met with a curt negative.
The Countess, having left her royal mistress in the hands of
her maids, went also to her own apartment. She was not
surprised, on looking into her mirror, to find herself haggard
and worn. It had been a terrible day. Only a second had
separated that gaping lens in her bag from the eyes of the
officers about. Never, in an adventurous life, had she felt so
near to death. Even now its cold breath chilled her.
However, that was over, well over. She had done well, too. A
dozen pictures of the fortress, of its guns, of even its mine
chart as it hung on a wall, were in the bag. Its secrets, so
securely held, were hers, and would be Karl's.
It was a cunningly devised scheme. Two bags, exactly alike as
to appearance, had been made. One, which she carried daily,
was what it appeared to be. The other contained a camera, tiny
but accurate, with a fine lens. When a knob of the fastening
was pressed, the watch slid aside and the shutter snapped. The
pictures when enlarged had proved themselves perfect.
Pleading fatigue, she dismissed her maid and locked the doors.
Then she opened the sliding panel, and unfastened the safe.
The roll of film was in her hand, ready to be deposited under
the false bottom of her jewel-case.
Within the security of her room, the Countess felt at ease.
The chill of the day left her, to be followed by a glow of
achievement. She even sang a little, a bit of a ballad from
her native mountains:
He has gone to the mountains,
The far green mountains.
(Hear the cattle lowing as they drive them up the hill!)
When he comes down he'll love me;
When he comes down he'll marry me.
(But what is this that touches me with fingers dead and chill?)
Still singing, she carried the jewel-case to her table, and sat
down before it. Then she put a hand to her throat.
The lock had been forced.
A glance about showed her that her code-book was gone. In the
tray above, her jewels remained untouched; her pearl collar,
the diamond knickknacks the Archduchess had given her on
successive Christmases, even a handful of gold coins, all were
safe enough. But the code-book was gone.
Then indeed did the Countess look death in the face and found
it terrible. For a moment she could not so much as stand
without support. It was then that she saw a paper folded under
her jewels and took it out with shaking fingers. In fine,
copperplate script she read:.
MADAME, -To-night at one o'clock a closed fiacre will await
you in the Street of the Wise Virgins, near the church. You
will go in it, without fail, to wherever it takes you.
(Signed)THE COMMITTEE OF TEN
The Committee of Ten! This thing had happened to her. Then it
was true that the half-mythical Committee of Ten existed, that
this terror of Livonia was a real terror, which had her by the
throat. For there was no escape. None. Now indeed she knew
that rumor spoke the truth, and that the Terrorists were
everywhere. In daylight they had entered her room. They had
known of the safe, known of the code. Known how much else?
Wild ideas of flight crossed her mind, to be as instantly
abandoned for their futility. Where could she go that they
would not follow her? When she had reacted from her first
shock she fell to pondering the matter, pro and con. What
could they want of her? If she was an enemy to the country, so
were they. But even that led nowhere, for after all, the
Terrorists were not enemies to Livonia. They claimed indeed to
be its friends, to hold in their hands its future and its
betterment. Enemies of the royal house they were, of course.
She was nearly distracted by that time. She was a brave woman,
physically and mentally of hard fiber, but the very name signed
to the paper set her nerves to twitching. It was the Committee
of Ten which had murdered Prince Hubert and his young wife; the
Committee of Ten which had exploded a bomb in the very Palace
itself, and killed old Breidau, of the King's Council; the
Committee of Ten which had burned the Government House, and had
led the mob in the student riots a year or so before.
Led them, themselves hidden. For none knew their identity. It
was said that they did not even know each other, wearing masks
and long cloaks at their meetings, and being designated by
In this dread presence, then, she would find herself that
night! For she would go. There was no way out.
She sent a request to be excused from dinner on the ground of
illness, and was, as a result, visited by her royal mistress at
nine o'clock. The honor was unexpected. Not often did the
Archduchess Annunciata so favor any one. The Countess, lying
across her bed in a perfect agony of apprehension, staggered
into her sitting-room and knelt to kiss her lady's hand.
But the Archduchess, who had come to scoff, believing not at
all in the illness, took one shrewd glance at her, and put her
hands behind her.
"It may be, as you say, contagious, Olga," she said. "You
would better go to bed and stay there. I shall send Doctor
Wiederman to you."
When she had gone the Countess rang for her maid. She was cool
enough now, and white, with a cruel line about her mouth that
Minna knew well. She went to the door into the corridor, and
Then she turned on the maid. "I am ready for you, now."
"Madame will retire?"
"You little fool! You know what I am ready for!"
The maid stood still. Her wide, bovine eyes, filled with
alarm, watched the Countess as she moved swiftly across the
room to her wardrobe. When she turned about again, she held in
her hand a thin black riding-crop. Minna's ruddy color faded.
She knew the Loscheks, knew their furies. Strange stories of
unbridled passion had oozed from the old ruined castle where
for so long they had held feudal sway over the countryside.
"Madame!" she cried, and fell on her knees. "What have I done?
Oh, what have I done?"
"That is what you will tell me," said the Countess, and brought
down the crop. A livid stripe across the girl's face turned
slowly to red.
"I have done nothing, I swear it. Mother of Pity, help me! I
have done nothing."
The crop descended again, this time on one of the great sleeves
of her peasant costume. So thin it was, so brutal the blow,
that it cut into the muslin. Groaning, the girl fell forward
on her face. The Countess continued to strike pitiless blows
into which she put all her fury, her terror, her frayed and
The girl on the floor, from whimpering, fell to crying hard,
with great noiseless sobs of pain and bewilderment. When at
last the blows ceased, she lay still.
The Countess prodded her with her foot. "Get up," she
But she was startled when she saw the girl's face. It was she
who was the fool. The welt would tell its own story, and the
other servants would talk. It was already a deep purple, and
swollen. Both women were trembling. The Countess, still
holding the crop, sat down.
"Now!" she said. "You will tell me to whom you gave a certain
small book of which you know."
"But what book? I have given nothing, madame. I swear it."
"Then you admitted some one to this room?"
"No one, madame, except - " She hesitated.
"There came this afternoon the men who clean madame's windows.
No one else, madame."
She put her hand to her cheek, and looked furtively to see if
her fingers were stained with blood. The Countess, muttering,
fell to furious pacing of the room. So that was it, of course.
The girl was telling the truth. She was too stupid to lie.
Then the Committee of Ten indeed knew everything - had known
that she would be away, had known of the window cleaners, had
known of the safe, and her possession of the code.
Cold and calculating rage filled her. Niburg had played her
false, of course. But Niburg was only a go-between. He had
known nothing of the codebook. He had given the Committee the
letter, and by now they knew all that it told. What did it not
She dismissed the girl and put away the riding-crop, then she
smoothed the disorder of her hair and dress. The court
physician, calling a half hour later, found her reading on a
chaise longue in her boudoir, looking pale and handsome; and
spent what he considered a pleasant half-hour with her. He
loved gossip, and there was plenty just now. Indications were
that they would have a wedding soon. An unwilling bride,
perhaps, eh? But a lovely one. For him, he was glad that
Karnia was to be an ally, and not an enemy. He had seen enough
of wars. And so on and on, while the Countess smiled and
nodded, and shivered in her very heart.
At eleven o'clock he went away, kissing her hand rather more
fervently than professionally, although his instinct to place
his fingers over the pulse rather spoiled the effect. One
thing, however, the Countess had gained by his visit. He was
to urge on the Archduchess the necessity for an immediate
vacation for her favorite.
"Our loss, Countess," he said, with heavy gallantry.. "But we
cannot allow beauty to languish for need of mountain air."
Then at last he was gone, and she went about her heavy-hearted
preparations for the night. From a corner of her wardrobe she
drew a long peasant's cape, such a cape as Minna might wear.
Over her head, instead of a hat, she threw a gray veil. A
careless disguise, but all that was necessary. The sentries
through and about the Palace were not unaccustomed to such
shrouded figures slipping out from its gloom to light, and
perhaps to love.
Before she left, she looked about the room. What assurance had
she that this very excursion was not a trap, and that in her
absence the vault would not he looted again? It contained now
something infinitely valuable - valuable and incriminating -
the roll of film. She glanced about, and seeing a silver vase
of roses, hurriedly emptied the water out, wrapped the film in
oiled paper, and dropped it down among the stems.
The Street of the Wise Virgins was not near the Palace. Even
by walking briskly she was in danger of being late. The wind
kept her back, too. The cloak twisted about her, the veil
whipped. She turned once or twice to see if she were being
followed, but the quiet streets were empty. Then, at last, the
Street of the Wise Virgins and the fiacre, standing at the
curb, with a driver wrapped in rugs against the cold of the
February night, and his hat pulled down over his eyes. The
Countess stopped beside him.
"You are expecting a passenger?"
With her hand on the door, the Countess realized that the
fiacre was already occupied. As she peered into its darkened
interior, the shadow resolved itself into a cloaked and masked
figure. She shrank back.
"Enter, madame," said a voice.
The figure appalled her. It was not sufficient to know that
behind the horrifying mask which covered the entire face and
head, there was a human figure, human pulses that beat, human
eyes that appraised her. She hesitated.
"Quickly," said the voice.
She got in, shrinking into a corner of the carriage.
Her lips were dry, the roaring of terror was in her ears. The
Then commenced a drive of which afterward the Countess dared
not think. The figure neither moved nor spoke. Inside the
carriage reigned the most complete silence. The horse's feet
clattered over rough stones, they turned through narrow,
unfamiliar streets, so that she knew not even the direction
they took. After a time the noise grew less. The horse padded
along dirt roads, in darkness. Then the carriage stopped, and
at last the shrouded figure moved and spoke.
"I regret, Countess, that my orders are to blindfold you."
She drew herself up haughtily.
"That is not necessary, I think."
"Very necessary, madame."
She submitted ungracefully, while he bound a black cloth over
her eyes. He drew it very close and knotted it behind. In the
act his -fingers touched her face, and she felt them cold and
clammy. The contact sickened her.
"Your hand, madame."
She was led out of the carriage, and across soft earth, a
devious course again, as though they avoided small obstacles.
Once her foot touched something low and hard, like marble.
Again, in the darkness, they stumbled over a mound. She knew
where she was, then - in a graveyard. But which? There were
many about the city.
An open space, the opening of a gate or door that squealed
softly, a flight of steps that led downward, and a breath of
musty, cold air, damp and cellar-like.
She was calmer now. Had they meant to kill her, there had been
already a hundred chances. It was not death, then, that
awaited her - at least, not immediate death. These
precautions, too, could only mean that she was to be freed
again, and must not know where she had been.
At last, still in unbroken silence, she knew that they had
entered a large space. Their footsteps no longer echoed and
re-echoed. Her guide walked more slowly, and at last paused,
releasing her hand. She felt again the touch of his clammy
fingers as he untied the knots of her bandage. He took it off.
At first she could see little. The silence remained unbroken,
and only the center of the room was lighted. When her eyes
grew accustomed, she made out the scene slowly.
A great stone vault, its walls broken into crypts which had
contained caskets of the dead. But the caskets had been
removed; and were piled in a corner, and in the niches were
rifles. In the center was a pine table, curiously incongruous,
and on it writing materials, a cheap clock, and a pile of
documents. There were two candles only, and these were stuck
in skulls - old brown skulls so infinitely removed from all
semblance to the human that they were not even horrible. It
was as if they had been used, not to inspire terror, but
because they were at hand and convenient for the purpose. In
the shadow, ranged in a semicircle, were nine figures, all
motionless, all masked, and cloaked in black. They sat,
another incongruity, on plain wooden chairs. But in spite of
that they were figures of dread. The one who had brought her
made the tenth.
Still the silence, broken only by the drip of water from the
ceiling into a tin pail.
Had she not known the past record of the men before her, the
rather opera bouffe setting with which they chose to surround
themselves might have aroused her scorn. But Olga Loschek knew
too much. She guessed shrewdly that, with the class of men
with whom they dealt, it was not enough that their name spelled
terror. They must visualize it. They had taken their cue from
that very church, indeed, beneath which they hid. The church,
with its shrines and images, appealed to the eye. They, too,
appealed to the eye. Their masks, the carefully constructed
and upheld mystery of their identity, the trappings of death
about them - it was skillfully done.
Not that she was thinking consecutively just then. It was a
mental flash, even as her eyes, growing accustomed to the
darkness made out the white numeral, from one to ten, on the
front of each shroud-like cloak.
Still no one spoke. The Countess faced them.
Only her eyes showed her nervousness; she stood haughtily, her
head held high. But like most women, she could not endure
silence for long, at least the silence of shrouded figures and
"Now that I am here," she demanded, "may I ask why I have been
It was Number Seven who replied. It was Number Seven who,
during the hour that followed, spoke for the others. None
moved, or but slightly. There was no putting together of
heads, no consulting. Evidently all had been carefully
"Look on the table, Countess. You will find there some papers
you will perhaps recognize."
She took a step toward the table and glanced down. The
code-book lay there. Also the letter she had sent by Peter
Niburg. She made no effort to disclaim them.
"I recognize them," she said clearly.
"You acknowledge, then, that they are yours?"
"I acknowledge nothing."
"They bear certain indications, madame."
"Do you realize what will happen, madame, if these papers are
turned over to the authorities?"
She shrugged her shoulders. And now Number Seven rose, a tall
figure of mystery, and spoke at length in a cultivated, softly
intoned voice. The Countess, listening, felt the voice vaguely
familiar, as were the burning eyes behind the mask.
"It is our hope, madame," he said, "that you will make it
unnecessary for the Committee of Ten to use those papers. We
have no quarrel with women. We wish rather a friend than an
enemy. There be those, many of them, who call us poor
patriots, who would tear down without building up. They are
wrong. The Committee of Ten, to those who know its motives,
has the highest and most loyal of ideals - to the country."
His voice took on a new, almost a fanatic note. He spoke as
well to the other shrouded figures as to his comrades. No mean
orator this. He seldom raised his voice, he made no gestures.
Almost, while she listened, the Countess understood.
They had watched the gradual decay of the country, he said.
Its burden of taxation grew greater each year. The masses
sweated and toiled, to carry on their backs the dead weight of
the aristocracy and the throne. The iron hand of the
Chancellor held everything; an old King who would die, was
dying now, and after that a boy, nominal ruler only, while the
Chancellor continued his hard rule. And now, as if that were
not enough, there was talk of an alliance with Karnia, an
alliance which, carried through, would destroy the hope of a
The Countess stared.
"No wall is too thick for our ears," he continued. "Our eyes
see everywhere. And as we grow in strength, they fear us.
Well they may."
He grew scornful then. To gain support for the tottering
throne the Chancellor would unite the two countries, that
Karl's army, since he could not trust his own, might be called
on for help. And here he touched the Countess's raw nerves
with a brutal finger.
"The price of the alliance, madame, is the Princess Hedwig in
marriage. The Committee, which knows all things, believes that
you have reason to dislike this marriage."
Save that she clutched her cloak more closely, the Countess
made no move. But there was a soft stir among the figures.
Perhaps, after all, the Committee as a whole did not know all
"To prevent this alliance, madame, is our first aim. There are
others to follow. But" - he bent forward - "the King will not
live many days. It is our hope that that marriage will not
occur before his death."
By this time Olga Loschek knew very well where she stood. The
Committee was propitiatory. She was not in danger, save as it
might develop. They were, in a measure, putting their case.
She had followed the speaker closely. When he paused, she was
ready for him. "But, even without a marriage, at any time now
a treaty based on the marriage may be signed. A treaty for a
mutually defensive alliance. Austria encroaches daily, and has
Germany behind her. We are small fry, here and in Karnia, and
we stand in the way."
"King Karl has broken faith before. He will not support
Livonia until he has received his price. He is determined on
"A marriage of expediency," said the Countess, impatiently.
The speaker for the Committee shrugged his shoulders.
"Perhaps," he replied. "Although there are those of us who
think that in this matter of expediency, Karl gives more than
he receives. He is to-day better prepared than we are for war.
He is more prosperous. As to the treaty, it is probably
already signed, or about to be. And here, madame, is the
reason for our invitation to you to come here.
"I have no access to state papers," the Countess said
"You are too modest," said Number Seven suavely, and glanced at
the letter on the table.
"The matter lies thus, madame. The Chancellor is now in
Karnia. Doubtless he will return with the agreement signed.
We shall learn that in a day or so. We do not approve of this
alliance for various reasons, and we intend to take steps to
prevent it. The paper itself is nothing. But plainly,
Countess, the need a friend in the Palace, one who is in the
confidence of the royal family."
"And for such friendship, I am to secure safety?"
"Yes, madame. But that is not all. Let me tell you briefly
how things stand with us. We have, supporting us, certain
bodies, workingmen's guilds, a part of the student body, not so
much of the army as we would wish. Dissatisfied folk, madame,
who would exchange the emblem of tyranny for freedom. On the
announcement of the King's death, in every part of the kingdom
will go up the cry of liberty. But the movement must start
here. The city must rise against the throne. And against that
there are two obstacles." He paused. The clock ticked, and
water dripped into the tin pail with metallic splashes. "The
first is this marriage. The second - is the Crown Prince
Ferdinand William Otto."
The Countess recoiled. "No!"
"A moment, madame. You think badly of us." Under his mask the
Countess divined a cold smile. "It is not necessary to
contemplate violence. There are other methods. The boy could
be taken over the border, and hidden until the Republic is
firmly established. After that, he is unimportant."
The Countess, still pale, looked at him scornfully. "You do my
intelligence small honor."
"Where peaceful methods will avail, our methods are peaceful,
"It was, then, in peace that you murdered Prince Hubert?"
"he errors of the past are past." Then, with a new sternness:
" Make no mistake. Whether through your agency or another,
Countess, when the Cathedral bell rouses the city to the King's
death, and the people wait in the Place for their new King to
come out on the balcony, he will not come."
The Countess was not entirely bad. Standing swaying and
white-faced before the tribunal, she saw suddenly the golden
head of the little Crown Prince, saw him smiling as he had
smiled that day in the sunlight, saw him troubled and forlorn
as he had been when, that very evening, he had left them to go
to his lonely rooms. Perhaps she reached the biggest moment of
her life then, when she folded her arms and stared proudly at
the shrouded figures before her.
"I will not do it," she said.
Then indeed the tribunal stirred, and sat forward. Perhaps
never before had it been defied.
"I will not," repeated the Countess.
But Number Seven remained impassive. "A new idea, Countess!"
he said suavely. "I can understand that your heart recoils.
But this thing is inevitable, as I have said. Whether you or
another but perhaps with time to think you may come to another
conclusion. We make no threats. Our position is, however, one
of responsibility. We are compelled to place the future of the
Republic before every other consideration."
"That is a threat."
"We remember both our friends and our enemies, madame. And we
have only friends and enemies. There is no middle course. If
you would like time to think it over - "
"How much time?" She clutched at the words.
With time all things were possible. The King might die soon,
that night, the next day. Better than any one, save his
daughter Annunciata and the physicians, she knew his condition.
The Revolutionists might boast, but they were not all the
people. Once let the boy be crowned, and it would take more
than these posing plotters in their theatrical setting to
"How much time may I have?"
"Women vary," said Number Seven mockingly. "Some determine
quickly. Others - "
"May I have a month?"
"During which the King may die! Alas, madame, it is now you
who do us too little honor!"
"A week?" begged the Countess desperately.
The leader glanced along the line. One head after another
"A week it is, madame. Comrade Five!"
The one who had brought her came forward with the bandage.
"At the end of one week, madame, a fiacre will, as to-night, be
waiting in the Street of the Wise Virgins."
"And these papers?"
"On the day the Republic of Livonia is established, madame,
they will be returned to you."
He bowed, and returned to his chair. Save for the movements of
the man who placed the bandage over her eyes; there was
absolute silence in the room.
Prince Ferdinand William Otto was supremely happy. Three quite
delightful things had happened. First, Nikky had returned. He
said he felt perfectly well, but the Crown Prince thought he
looked as though he had been ill, and glanced frequently at
Nikky's cigarette during the riding-hour. Second, Hedwig did
not come to the riding-lesson, and he had Nikky to himself.
Third, he, Prince Ferdinand William Otto, was on the eve of a
This last, however, was not unmixed happiness. For the one day
the sentence of exile was to be removed so that he might lunch
with the King, and he was to have strawberry jam with his tea,
some that Miss Braithwaite's sister had sent from England. But
to offset all this, he was to receive a delegation of citizens.
He had been well drilled for it. As a matter of fact, on the
morning of Nikky's return, they took a few minutes to go over
the ceremony, Nikky being the delegation. The way they did it
Nikky went out into the corridor, and became the Chamberlain.
He stepped inside, bowed, and announced: "The delegation from
the city, Highness," standing very stiff, and a trifle
bowlegged, as the Chamberlain was. Then he bowed again, and
waddled out - the Chamberlain was fat - and became the
This time he tried to look like a number of people, and was not
so successful. But he looked nervous, as delegations always do
when they visit a Royal Highness. He bowed inside the door,
and then came forward and bowed again.
"I am, of course, standing in a row," said Nikky, sotto voce.
"Now, what comes next?"
"I am to shake hands with every one."
So they shook hands nine times, because there were to be nine
members of the delegation. And Nikky picked up a brass inkwell
from the desk and held it out before him.
"Your Highness," he said, after clearing his throat, for all
the world as Prince Ferdinand William Otto had heard it done
frequently at cornerstones and openings of hospitals, "Your
Highness - we are here to-day to felicitate Your Highness on
reaching the mature age of ten. In testimonial of our - our
affection and - er loyalty, we bring to you a casket of gold,
containing the congratulations of the city, which we beg that
Your Highness may see fit to accept. It will be of no earthly
use to you, and will have to be stuck away in a vault and
locked up. But it is the custom on these occasions, and far be
it from us to give you a decent present that you can use or
Prince Ferdinand William Otto had to cover his mouth with his
hand to preserve the necessary dignity. He stepped forward and
took the ink-well. "I thank you very much. Please give my
thanks to all the people. I am very grateful. It is
beautiful. Thank you."
Whereupon he placed the ink-well on the desk, and he and Nikky
again shook hands nine times, counting, to be sure it was
right. Then Nikky backed to the door, getting all tangled up
in his sword, bowed again and retired.
When he reentered, the boy's face was glowing.
"Gee!" he said, remembering this favorite word of the American
boy's. "It's splendid to have you back again, Nikky. You're
going to stay now, aren't you?"
"I am." Nikky's voice was fervent.
"Where did you go when you went away?"
"I took a short and foolish excursion, Highness. You see,
while I look grown-up I dare say I am really not. Not quite,
anyhow. And now and then, like other small boys I have heard
of, I - well, I run away. And am sorry afterward, of course."
Miss Braithwaite was not in the study. The Prince looked
about, and drew close -to Nikky. "Did you, really?"
"I did. Some day, when you are older, I'll tell you about it.
I - has the Princess Hedwig been having tea with you, as
Carelessly spoken as it was, there was a change in Nikky's
voice. And the Crown Prince was sensitive to voices.
Something similar happened to Monsieur Puaux, the French tutor,
when he mentioned Hedwig.
"Not yesterday. We went to the fortress. Nikky, what is it to
be in love?"
Nikky looked startled, "Well," he said reflectively, "it's to
like some one, a lady in your case or mine, of course; to - to
like them very much, and want to see them often."
"Is that all?"
"It's enough, sometimes. But it's more than that. It's being
dreadfully unhappy if the other person isn't around, for one
thing. It isn't really a rational condition. People in love
do mad things quite often."
"I know some one who is in love with Hedwig."
Nikky looked extremely conscious. There was, too, something
the Crown Prince was too small to see, something bitter and
hard in his eyes. "Probably a great many are," he said. "But
I'm not sure she would care to have us discuss it."
"It is my French tutor."
Nikky laughed suddenly, and flung the boy to his shoulder. "Of
course he is!" he cried gayly. "And you are, and the
Chancellor. And I am, of course." He stood the boy on the
"Do you think she is in love, with you?"demanded the Crown
Prince, very seriously.
"Not a bit of it, young man!"
"But I think she is," he persisted. "She's always around when
"Not this morning."
"But she is, when she can be. She never used to take
riding-lessons. She doesn't need them." This was a grievance,
but he passed it over. "And she always asks where you are.
And yesterday, when you were away, she looked very sad."
Nikky stood with his hand on the boy's shoulder, and stared out
through the window. If it were so, if this child, with his
uncanny sensitiveness, had hit on the truth! If Hedwig felt
even a fraction of what he felt, what a tragedy it all was!
He forced himself to smile, however. "If she only likes me
just a little," he said lightly, "it is more than I dare to
hope, or deserve. Come, now, we have spent too much time over
love and delegations. Suppose we go and ride."
But on the way across the Place Prince Ferdinand William Otto
resumed the subject for a moment. "If you would marry Hedwig,"
he suggested, an anxious thrill in his voice, "you would live
at the Palace always, wouldn't you? And never have to go back
to your regiment?" For the bugaboo of losing Nikky to his
regiment was always in the back of his small head.
"Now, listen, Otto, and remember," said Nikky, almost sternly.
"It may be difficult for you to understand now, but some day
you will. The granddaughter of the King must marry some one of
her own rank. No matter how hard you and I may wish things to
be different, we cannot change that. And it would be much
better never to mention this conversation to your cousin.
Girls," said Nikky, "are peculiar."
"Very well," said the Crown Prince humbly. But he made careful
note of one thing. He was not to talk of this plan to Hedwig,
but there was no other restriction. He could, for instance,
take it up with the Chancellor, or even with the King
to-morrow, if he was in an approachable humor.
Hedwig was not at the riding-school. This relieved Prince
Ferdinand William Otto, whose views as to Nikky were entirely
selfish, but Nikky himself had unaccountably lost his high
spirits of the morning. He played, of course, as he always
did. And even taught the Crown Prince how to hang over the
edge of his saddle, while his horse was cantering, so that
bullets would not strike him.
They rode and frolicked, yelled a bit, got two ponies and
whacked a polo ball over the tan-bark, until the Crown Prince
was sweating royally and was gloriously flushed.
"I don't know when I have been so happy," he said, dragging out
his handkerchief and mopping his face. "It's a great deal
pleasanter without Hedwig, isn't it?"
While they played, overhead the great hearse was ready at last.
Its woodwork shone. Its gold crosses gleamed. No fleck of
dust disturbed its austere magnificence.
The man and the boy who had been working on it stood back and
"All ready," said the man, leaning on the handle of his long
brush. "Now it may happen any time."
"It is very handsome. But I am glad I am not the old King."
The boy picked up pails and brushes. "Nothing to look forward
to but - that."
"But much to look back on," the man observed grimly, "and
little that is good."
The boy glanced through a window, below which the riding-ring
stretched its brown surface, scarred by nervous hoofs. "I
would change places with the Crown Prince," he said enviously.
"Listen to him! Always laughing. Never to labor, nor worry,
nor think of the next day's food - "
"Young fool!" The man came to his shoulder and glanced down
also. "Would like to be a princeling, then! No worry. No
trouble. Always play, play!" He gripped the boy's shoulder.
"Look, lad, at the windows about. That is what it is to be a
prince. Wherever you look, what do you see? Stablemen?
Grooms? Bah, secret agents, watching that no assassin, such
perhaps as you and I, lurk about."
The boy opened wide, incredulous eyes. "But who would attack a
child?" he asked.
"There be those, nevertheless," said the man mockingly. "Even
a child may stand in the way of great changes."
He stopped and stared, wiping the glass clear that he might see
better. Nikky without his cap, disheveled and flushed with
exertion, was making a frantic shot at the white ball, rolling
past him. Where had he seen such a head, such a flying mop of
hair? Ah! He remembered. It was the flying young devil who
had attacked him and the others that night in the by-street,
when Peter Niburg lay stunned!
Miss Braithwaite had a bad headache that afternoon, and the
Crown Prince drove out with his aunt. The Archduchess
Annunciata went shopping. Soon enough she would have Hedwig's
trousseau on her mind, so that day she bought for Hilda - Hilda
whose long legs had a way of growing out of skirts, and who was
developing a taste of her own in clothes.
So Hilda and her mother shopped endlessly, and the Crown Prince
sat in the carriage and watched the people. The man beside the
coachman sat with alert eyes, and there were others who scanned
the crowd intently. But it was a quiet, almost an adoring
crowd, and there was even a dog, to Prince Ferdinand William
Otto's huge delight.
The man who owned the dog, seeing the child's eyes on him, put
him through his tricks. Truly a wonderful dog, that would
catch things on its nose and lie dead, rousing only to a
whistle which its owner called Gabriel's trumpet.
Prince Ferdinand William Otto, growing excited, leaned quite
out of the window. What is your dog's name?" he inquired, in
his clear treble.
The man took off his hat and bowed. "Toto, Highness. He is of
"He is a very nice dog. I have always wanted a dog like that.
He must be a great friend."
"A great friend, Highness." He would have expatiated on the
dog, but he was uncertain of the etiquette of the procedure.
His face beamed with pleasure, however. Then a splendid
impulse came to him. This dog, his boon companion, he would
present to the Crown Prince. It was all he had, and he would
give it, freely, even though it left him friendless.
But here again he was at a loss. Was it the proper thing? Did
one do such things in this fashion, or was there a procedure?
He cocked an eye at the box of the carriage, but the two men
sat impressive, immobile.
Finally he made up his mind. Hat in hand, he stepped forward.
"Highness," he said nervously, "since the dog pleases you, I -
I would present him to you."
"To me?" The Crown Prince's voice was full of incredulous joy.
"Yes, Highness. If such a thing be permissible."
"Are you sure you don't mind?"
"He is the best I have, Highness. I wish to offer my best."
Prince, Ferdinand William Otto almost choked with excitement.
"I have always wanted one," he cried. "If you are certain you
can spare him, I'll be very good to him. No one," he said,
"ever gave me a dog before. I'd like to have him now, if I
The crowd was growing. It pressed closer, pleased at the boy's
delight. Truly they were participating in great things. A
small cheer and many smiles followed the lifting of the dog
through the open window of the carriage. And the dog was
surely a dog to be proud of. Already it shook hands with the
Perhaps, in that motley gathering, there were some who viewed
the scene with hostile eyes, some who saw, not a child glowing
with delight over a gift, but one of the hated ruling family, a
barrier, an obstacle in the way of freedom. But if such there
were, they were few. It was, indeed, as the Terrorists feared.
The city loved the boy.
Annunciata, followed by an irritated Hilda, came out of the
shop. Hilda's wardrobe had been purchased, and was not to her
The crowd opened, hats were doffed, backs bent. The
Archduchess moved haughtily, looking neither to the right nor
left. Her coming brought no enthusiasm. Perhaps the curious
imagination of the mob found her disappointing. She did not
look like an Archduchess. She looked, indeed, like an
unnamiable spinster of the middle class. Hilda, too, was shy
and shrinking, and wore an unbecoming hat. Of the three, only
the Crown Prince looked royal and as he should have looked.
"Good Heavens," cried the Archduchess, and stared into the
"He is mine," said the Crown Prince fondly. "He is the
cleverest dog. He can do all sorts of things."
"Put him out."
"But he is mine," protested Ferdinand William Otto. "He is a
gift. That gentleman there, in the corduroy jacket - "
"Put him out," said the Archduchess Annunciata.
There was nothing else to do. The Crown Prince did not cry.
He was much too proud. He thanked the donor again carefully,
and regretted that he could not accept the dog. He said it was
a wonderful dog, and just the sort he liked. And the carriage
He went back to the Palace, and finding that the governess
still had a headache, settled down to the burnt-wood frame.
Once he glanced up at the woolen dog on its shelf at the top of
the cabinet. "Well, anyhow," he said sturdily, "I still have
AS A MAN MAY LOVE A WOMAN
Hedwig came to tea that afternoon. She came in softly, and
defiantly, for she was doing a forbidden thing, but Prince
Ferdinand William Otto had put away the frame against such a
contingency. He had, as a matter of fact, been putting cold
cloths on Miss Braithwaite's forehead.
"I always do it," he informed Hedwig. "I like doing it. It
gives me something to do. She likes them rather dry, so the
water doesn't run down her neck."
Hedwig made a short call on the governess, prostrate on the
couch in her sitting-room. The informality of the family
relationship had, during her long service, been extended to
include the Englishwoman, who in her turn found nothing
incongruous in the small and kindly services of the little
Prince. So Hedwig sat beside her for a moment, and turned the
cold bandage over to freshen it.
Had Miss Braithwaite not been ill, Hedwig would have talked
things over with her then. There was no one else to whom she
could go. Hilda refused to consider the prospect of marriage
as anything but pleasurable, and between her mother and Hedwig
there had never been any close relationship.
But Miss Braithwaite lay motionless, her face set in lines of
suffering, and after a time Hedwig rose and tiptoed out of the
Prince Ferdinand William Otto was excited. Tea had already
come, and on the rare occasions when the governess was ill, it
was his privilege to pour the tea.
"Nikky is coming," he said rapidly, "and the three of us will
have a party. Please don't tell me how you like your tea, and
see if I can remember."
"Very well, dear," Hedwig said gently, and went to the window.
Behind her Prince Ferdinand William Otto was in a bustle of
preparation. Tea in the study was an informal function, served
in the English manner, without servants to bother. The Crown
Prince drew up a chair before the tea service, and put a
cushion on it. He made a final excursion to Miss Braithwaite
and, returning, climbed on to his chair.
"Now, when Nikky comes, we are all ready," he observed.
Nikky entered almost immediately.
As a matter of fact, although he showed no trace of it, Nikky
had been having an extremely bad time since his return; the
Chancellor, who may or may not have known that his heart was
breaking, had given him a very severe scolding on the way back
from Wedeling. It did Nikky good, too, for it roused him to
his own defense, and made him forget, for a few minutes.
anyhow, that life was over for him, and that the Chancellor
carried his death sentence in his old leather dispatch case.
After that, arriving in the capital, they had driven to the
little office in a back street, and there Nikky had roused
himself again enough to give a description of Peter Niburg, and
to give the location of the house where he lived. But he
slumped again after that, ate no dinner, and spent a longish
time in the Place, staring up at Annunciata's windows, where he
had once seen Hedwig on the balcony.
But of course Hedwig had not learned of his return, and was
sitting inside, exactly as despairing as he was, but obliged to
converse with her mother in the absence of the Countess. The
Archduchess insisted on talking French, for practice, and they
got into quite a wrangle over a verb. And as if to add to the
general depression, Hilda had been reminded of what anniversary
it was, and was told to play hymns only. True, now and then,
hearing her mother occupied, she played them in dotted time,
which was a bit more cheerful.
Then, late in the evening, Nikky was summoned to the King's
bedroom, and came out pale, with his shoulders very square. He
had received a real wigging this time, and even contemplated
throwing himself in the river. Only he could swim so damnably
But he had the natural elasticity of youth, and a sort of
persistent belief in his own luck, rather like the Chancellor's
confidence in seven as a number - a confidence, by the way,
which the Countess could easily have shaken. So he had wakened
the next morning rather cheerful than otherwise, and over a
breakfast of broiled ham had refused to look ahead farther than
That afternoon, in the study, Nikky hesitated when he saw
Hedwig. Then he came and bent low over her hand. And Hedwig,
because every instinct yearned to touch his shining, bent head,
spoke to him very calmly, was rather distant, a little cold.
"You have been away, I think?" she said.
"For a day or two, Highness."
The Crown Prince put a small napkin around the handle of the
silver teapot. He knew from experience that it was very hot.
His face was quite screwed up with exertion.
"And to-day," said Nikky reproachfully, "to-day you did not
"I did not feel like riding," Hedwig responded listlessly. "I
am tired. I think I am always tired."
"Lemon and two lumps," muttered the Crown Prince. "That's
Nikky's, Hedwig. Give it to him, please."
Nikky went a trifle pale as their fingers touched. But he
tasted his tea, and pronounced it excellent.
Prince Ferdinand William Otto chattered excitedly. He told of
the dog, dilating on its cleverness, but passing politely over
the manner of its return. Now and then Hedwig glanced at
Nikky, when he was not looking, and always, when they dared,
the young soldier's eyes were on her.
"She will take some tea without sugar," announced the Crown
While he poured it, Hedwig was thinking. Was it possible that
Nikky, of every one, should have been chosen to carry to Karl
the marriage arrangements? What an irony! What a jest! It
was true there was a change in him. He looked subdued, almost
"To Karnia?" she asked, when Prince Ferdinand William Otto had
again left the room. "Officially?"
"Not - exactly."
"Where, in Karnia?"
"I ended," Nikky confessed, "at Wedeling."
Hedwig gazed at him, her elbows propped on the tea-table.
"Then," she said, "I think you know."
"I know, Highness."
"And you have nothing to say?"
Nikky looked at her with desperate eyes. "What can I say,
Highness? Only that - it is very terrible to me - that I - "
He rose abruptly and stood looking down at her.
"That you -"said Hedwig softly.
"Highness," Nikky began huskily, "you know what I would say.
And that I cannot. To take advantage of Otto's fancy for me, a
child's liking, to violate the confidence of those who placed
me here - I am doing that, every moment."
"What about me?" Hedwig asked. "Do I count for nothing? Does
it not matter at all how I feel, whether I am happy or
wretched? Isn't that as important as honor?"
Nikky flung out his hands. "You know," he said rapidly. "What
can I tell you that you do not know a thousand times? I love
you. Not as a subject may adore his princess, but as a man
loves a woman."
"I too!" said Hedwig. And held out her hands.
But he did not take them. Almost it was as though he would
protect her from herself. But he closed his eyes for a moment,
that he might not see that appealing gesture. "I, who love you
more than life, who would, God help me, forfeit eternity for
you - I dare not take you in my arms."
Hedwig's arms fell. She drew herself up. "Love!" she said.
"I do not call that love."
"It is greater love than you know," said poor Nikky. But all
his courage died a moment later, and his resolution with it,
for without warning Hedwig dropped her head on her hands and,
crouching forlornly, fell to sobbing.
"I counted on you," she said wildly. "And you are like the
others. No one cares how wretched I am. I wish I might die."
Then indeed Nikky was lost. In an instant he was on his knees
beside her, his arms close about her, his head bowed against
her breast. And Hedwig relaxed to his embrace. When at last
he turned and looked up at her, it was Hedwig who bent and
"At least," she whispered, "we have had this, We can always
remember, whatever comes, that we have had this."
But Nikky was of very human stuff, and not the sort that may
live by memories. He was very haggard when he rose to his feet
- haggard, and his mouth was doggedly set. "I will never give
you up, now," he said.
Brave words, of course. But as he said them he realized their
futility. The eyes he turned on her were, as he claimed her,
without hope. For there was no escape. He had given his word
to stay near the Crown Prince, always to watch him, to guard
him with his life, if necessary. And he had promised, at
least, not to block the plans for the new alliance.
Hedwig, with shining eyes, was already planning.
"We will go away, Nikky," she said. "And it, must be soon,
because otherwise - "
Nikky dared not touch her again, knowing what he had to say.
"Dearest," he said, bending toward her, "that is what we cannot
"No?" She looked up, puzzled, but still confident dent. "And
why, cowardly one?"
"Because I have given my word to remain with the Crown Prince."
Then, seeing that she still did not comprehend, he explained,
swiftly. After all, she had a right to know, and he was
desperately anxious that she should understand. He stood, as
many a man has stood before, between love and loyalty to his
king, and he was a soldier. He had no choice.
It was terrible to him to see the light die out of her eyes.
But even as he told her of the dangers that compassed the child
and possibly others of the family, he saw that they touched her
remotely, if at all. What she saw, and what he saw, through
her eyes, was not riot and anarchy, a threatened throne, death
itself. She saw only a vista of dreadful years, herself their
victim. She saw her mother's bitter past. She saw the austere
face of her grandmother, hiding behind that mask her
But all she said, when Nikky finished, was: "I might have known
it. Of course they would get me, as they did the others." But
a moment later she rose and threw out her arms. "How skillful
they are! They knew about it. It is all a part of the plot.
I do not believe there is danger. All my life I have heard
them talk. That is all they do - talk and plan and plot, and
do things in secret. They made you promise never to desert
Otto, so that their arrangements need not be interfered with.
Oh, I know them, better than you do. They are all cruel. It
is the blood."
What Nikky would have said to this was lost by the return of
Prince Ferdinand William Otto. He came in, carrying the empty
cup carefully. "She took it all," he said, "and she feels much
better. I hope you didn't eat all the bread and butter."
Reassured as to this by a glance, he climbed to his chair.
"We're all very happy, aren't we?" he observed. "It's quite a
party. When I grow up I shall ask you both to tea every day."
That evening the Princess Hedwig went unannounced to her
grandfather's apartment, and demanded to be allowed to enter.
A gentleman-in-waiting bowed deeply, but stood before the door.
"Your Highness must pardon my reminding Your Highness," he said
firmly, "that no one may enter His Majesty's presence without
"Then go in," said Hedwig, in a white rage, "and get the
The gentleman-in-waiting went in, very deliberately, because
his dignity was outraged. The moment he had gone, however,
Hedwig flung the door open, and followed, standing, a figure of
tragic defiance, inside the heavy curtains of the King's
"There is no use saying you won't see me, grandfather. For
here I am."
They eyed each other, the one, it must be told, a trifle
uneasily, the other desperately. Then into the King's eyes
came a flash of admiration, and just a gleam of amusement.
"So I perceive," he said. "Come here, Hedwig."
The gentleman-in-waiting bowed himself out. His hands, in
their tidy white gloves, would have liked to box Hedwig's ears.
He was very upset. If this sort of thing went on, why not a
republic at once and be done with it?
A Sister of Charity was standing by the King's bed. She had
cared for him through many illnesses. In the intervals she
retired to her cloister and read holy books and sewed for the
poor. Even now, in her little chamber off the bedroom, where
bottles sat in neat rows, covered with fresh towels, there lay
a small gray flannel petticoat to warm the legs of one of the
The sister went out, her black habit dragging, but she did not
sew. She was reading a book on the miracles accomplished by
pilgrimages to the shrine of Our Lady of the Angels, in the
mountains. Could the old King but go there, she felt, he would
be cured. Or failing that, if there should go for him some
emissary, pure in heart and of high purpose, it might avail.
Over this little book she prayed for courage to make the
suggestion. Had she thought of it sooner, she would have
spoken to Father Gregory. But the old priest had gone back to
his people, to his boys' school, to his thousand duties in the
Sometime later she heard bitter crying in the royal bedchamber,
and the King's tones, soothing now and very sad.
"There is a higher duty than happiness," he said. "There are
greater things than love. And one day you will know this."
When she went in Hedwig had gone, and the old King, lying in
his bed, was looking at the portrait a his dead son.
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
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
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
FERDINAND WILLIAM OTTO.
Suddenly the Countess laughed, choking hysterical laughter that
alarmed Minna; horrible laughter, which left her paler than
ever, and gasping.
The old castle of the Loscheks looked grim and inhospitable
when she reached it that, night. Built during the years when
the unbeliever overran southern Europe, it stood in a
commanding position over a valley, and a steep, walled road led
up to it. The narrow windows of its turrets were built, in
defiance of the Moslem hordes, in the shape of the cross. Its
walls had been hospitable enough, however, when the crusaders
had thronged by to redeem the Holy Sepulcher from the grasp of
the infidel. Here, in its stone hall, they had slept in weary
rows on the floor. From its battlements they had stared south
and east along the road their feet must follow.
But now, its ancient glory and good repute departed, its
garrison gone, its drawbridge and moat things of the past, its
very hangings and furnishings mouldering from long neglect, it
hung over the valley, a past menace, an empty threat.
To this dreary refuge the Countess had fled. She wanted the
silence of its still rooms in which to think. Wretched
herself, its wretchedness called her. As the carriage which
had brought her from, the railway turned into its woods; and
she breathed the pungent odor of pine and balsam, she relaxed
for the first time.
Why was she so hopeless? She could escape.
She knew the woods well. None who followed her could know them
so well. She would get away, and somewhere, in a new world,
make a fresh start. Surely, after all, peace was the greatest
thing in the world.
Peace! The word attracted her. There were religious houses
where one would be safe enough, refuges high-walled and secure,
into which no alien foot ever penetrated. And, as if to answer
the thought, she saw at that moment across the valley the
lights of Etzel, the tower of the church, with its thirteen
bells, the monastery buildings behind it, and set at its feet,
like pilgrims come to pray, the low houses of the peasants.
For the church at Etzel contained a celebrated shrine, none
other than that of Our Lady of the Angels, and here came, from
all over the kingdom, long lines of footsore and weary
pilgrims, seeking peace and sanctity, and some a miracle.
The carriage drove on; Minna, on the box, crossed herself at
sight of the church, and chatted with the driver, a great
figure who crowded her to the very edge of the seat.
"I am glad to be here," she said. "I am sick of grandeur. My
home is in Etzel." She turned and inspected the man beside
her. "You are a newcomer, I think?"
"I have but just come to Etzel."
"Then you cannot tell me about my people." She was
"And you," inquired the driver, - "you will stay for a visit?"
"A week only. But better than nothing."
"After that, you return to the city?"