Part 1 out of 7
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THE PUPPET CROWN
by Harold MacGrath
TO THE MEMORY OF THAT GOOD FRIEND
COMRADE OF MY YOUTH
I. THE SCEPTER WHICH WAS A STICK
II. THE COUP D'ETAT OF COUSIN JOSEF
III. AN EPISODE TEN YEARS AFTER
IV. AN ADVENTURE WITH ROYALTY
V. BEHIND THE PUPPET BOOTH
VI. MADEMOISELLE OF THE VEIL
VII. SOME DIALOGUE, AN SPRAINED ANKLE, AND SOME SOLDIERS
VIII. THE RED CHATEAU
IX. NOTHING MORE SERIOUS THAN A HOUSE PARTY
X. BEING OF LONG RIDES, MAIDS, KISSES AND MESSAGES
XI. THE DENOUEMENT
XII. WHOM THE GODS DESTROY AND A FEW OTHERS
XIII. BEING OF COMPLICATIONS NOT RECKONED ON
XIV. QUI M'AIME, AIME MON CHIEN
XV. IN WHICH FORTUNE BECOMES CARELESS AND PRODIGAL
XVI. WHAT HAPPENED AT THE ARCHBISHOP'S PLACE AND AFTER
XVII. SOME PASSAGES AT ARMS
XVIII. A MINOR CHORD AND A CHANGE OF MOVEMENT
XIX. A CHANCE RIDE IN THE NIGHT
XX. THE LAST STAND OF A BAD SERVANT
XXI. A COURT FETE AT THE RED CHATEAU
XXII. IN WHICH MAURICE RECURS TO OFFENBACH
XXIII. A GAME OF POKER AND THE STAKES
XXIV. THE PRISONER OF THE RED CHATEAU
XXV. THE FORTUNES OF WAR
XXVI. A PAGE FORM TASSO
XXVII. WORMWOOD AND LEES
XXVIII. INTO THE HANDS OF AUSTRIA
XXIX. INTO STILL WATERS AND SILENCE
Ah Love! Could you and I with Him conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire
Would not we shatter it to bits--and then
Re-mold it nearer to the Heart's desire!
- Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
THE SCEPTER WHICH WAS A STICK
The king sat in his private garden in the shade of a potted
orange tree, the leaves of which were splashed with brilliant
yellow. It was high noon of one of those last warm sighs of
passing summer which now and then lovingly steal in between the
chill breaths of September. The velvet hush of the mid-day hour
There was an endless horizon of turquoise blue, a zenith
pellucid as glass. The trees stood motionless; not a shadow
stirred, save that which was cast by the tremulous wings of a
black and purple butterfly, which, near to his Majesty, fell,
rose and sank again. From a drove of wild bees, swimming hither
and thither in quest of the final sweets of the year, came a low
murmurous hum, such as a man sometimes fancies he hears while
standing alone in the vast auditorium of a cathedral.
The king, from where he sat, could see the ivy-clad towers of
the archbishop's palace, where, in and about the narrow windows,
gray and white doves fluttered and plumed themselves. The garden
sloped gently downward till it merged into a beautiful lake
called the Werter See, which, stretching out several miles to
the west, in the heart of the thick-wooded hills, trembled like
a thin sheet of silver.
Toward the south, far away, lay the dim, uneven blue line of the
Thalian Alps, which separated the kingdom that was from the
duchy that is, and the duke from his desires. More than once the
king leveled his gaze in that direction, as if to fathom what
lay behind those lordly rugged hills.
There was in the air the delicate odor of the deciduous leaves
which, every little while, the king inhaled, his eyes half-
closed and his nostrils distended. Save for these brief moments,
however, there rested on his countenance an expression of
disenchantment which came of the knowledge of a part ill-played,
an expression which described a consciousness of his unfitness
and inutility, of lethargy and weariness and distaste.
To be weary is the lot of kings, it is a part of their royal
prerogative; but it is only a great king who can be weary
gracefully. And Leopold was not a great king; indeed, he was
many inches short of the ideal; but he was philosophical, and by
the process of reason he escaped the pitfalls which lurk in the
path of peevishness.
To know the smallness of the human atom, the limit of desire,
the existence of other lives as precious as their own, is not
the philosophy which makes great kings. Philosophy engenders
pity; and one who possesses that can not ride roughshod over men,
and that is the business of kings.
As for Leopold, he would rather have wandered the byways of Kant
than studied royal etiquette. A crown had been thrust on his
head and a scepter into his hand, and, willy-nilly, he must wear
the one and wield the other. The confederation had determined
the matter shortly before the Franco-Prussian war.
The kingdom that was, an admixture of old France and newer
Austria, was a gateway which opened the road to the Orient, and
a gateman must be placed there who would be obedient to the will
of the great travelers, were they minded to pass that way. That
is to say, the confederation wanted a puppet, and in Leopold
they found a dreamer, which served as well. That glittering bait,
a crown, had lured him from his peaceful Osian hills and
valleys, and now he found that his crown was of straw and his
scepter a stick.
He longed to turn back, for his heart lay in a tomb close to his
castle keep, but the way back was closed. He had sold his
birthright. So he permitted his ministers to rule his kingdom
how they would, and gave himself up to dreams. He had been but a
cousin of the late king, whereas the duke of the duchy that is
had been a brother. But cousin Josef was possessed of red hair
and a temper which was redder still, and, moreover, a
superlative will, bending to none, and laughing at those who
tried to bend him.
He would have been a king to the tip of his fiery hair; and it
was for this very reason that his subsequent appeals for justice
and his rights fell on unheeding ears. The confederation feared
Josef; therefore they dispossessed him. Thus Leopold sat on the
throne, while his Highness bit his nails and swore, impotent to
Leopold leaned forward from his seat. In his hand he held a
riding stick with which he drew shapeless pictures in the yellow
gravel of the path. His brows were drawn over contemplative eyes,
and the hint of a sour smile lifted the corners of his lips.
Presently the brows relaxed, and his gaze traveled to the
opposite side of the path, where the British minister sat in the
full glare of the sun.
In the middle of the path, as rigid as a block of white marble,
reposed a young bulldog, his moist black nose quivering under
the repeated attacks of a persistent insect. It occurred to the
king that there was a resemblance between the dog and his master,
the Englishman. The same heavy jaws were there, the same
fearless eyes, the same indomitable courage for the prosecution
of a purpose.
A momentary regret passed through him that he had not been
turned from a like mold. Next his gaze shifted to the end of the
path, where a young Lieutenant stood idly kicking pebbles, his
cuirass flaming in the dazzling sunshine. Soon the drawing in
the gravel was resumed.
The British minister made little of the three-score years which
were closing in on him, after the manner of an army besieging a
citadel. He was full of animal exuberance, and his eyes, a
trifle faded, it must be admitted, were still keenly alive and
observant. He was big of bone, florid of skin, and his hair--
what remained of it--was wiry and bleached. His clothes,
possibly cut from an old measure, hung loosely about the girth--
a sign that time had taken its tithe. For thirty-five years he
had served his country by cunning speeches and bursts of fine
oratory; he had wandered over the globe, lulling suspicions here
and arousing them there, a prince of the art of diplomacy.
He had not been sent here to watch this kingdom. He was touching
a deeper undercurrent, which began at St. Petersburg and moved
toward Central Asia, Turkey and India, sullenly and irresistibly.
And now his task was done, and another was to take his place,
to be a puppet among puppets. He feared no man save his valet,
who knew his one weakness, the love of a son on whom he had shut
his door, which pride forbade him to open. This son had chosen
the army, when a fine diplomatic career had been planned--a
small thing, but it sufficed. Even now a word from an humbled
pride would have reunited father and son, but both refused to
speak this word.
The diplomat in turn watched the king as he engaged in the
aimless drawing. His meditation grew retrospective, and his
thoughts ran back to the days when he first befriended this
lonely prince, who had come to England to learn the language and
manners of the chill islanders. He had been handsome enough in
those days, this Leopold of Osia, gay and eager, possessing an
indefinable charm which endeared him to women and made him
respected of men. To have known him then, the wildest stretch of
fancy would never have placed him on this puppet throne,
surrounded by enemies, menaced by his adopted people, rudderless
and ignorant of statecraft.
"Fate is the cup," the diplomat mused, "and the human life the
ball, and it's toss, toss, toss, till the ball slips and falls
into eternity." Aloud he said, "Your Majesty seems to be well
"Yes," replied the king, smiling. "I am making crowns and
scratching them out again-- usurping the gentle pastime of their
most Christian Majesties, the confederation. A pretty bauble is
a crown, indeed--at a distance. It is a fine thing to wear one--
in a dream. But to possess one in the real, and to wear it day
by day with the eternal fear of laying it down and forgetting
where you put it, or that others plot to steal it, or that you
wear it dishonestly--Well, well, there are worse things than a
"No one is honest in this world, save the brute," said the
diplomat, touching the dog with his foot. "Honesty is
instinctive with him, for he knows no written laws. The gold we
use is stamped with dishonesty, notwithstanding the beautiful
mottoes; and so long as we barter and sell for it, just so long
we remain dishonest. Yes, you wear your crown dishonestly but
lawfully, which is a nice distinction. But is any crown worn
honestly? If it is not bought with gold, it is bought with lies
and blood. Sire, your great fault, if I may speak, is that you
haven't continued to be dishonest. You should have filled your
private coffers, but you have not done so, which is a strange
precedent to establish. You should have increased taxation, but
you have diminished it; you should have forced your enemy's hand
four years ago, when you ascended the throne, but you did not;
and now, for all you know, his hand may be too strong. Poor,
dishonest king! When you accepted this throne, which belongs to
another, you fell as far as possible from moral ethics. And now
you would be honest and be called dull, and dream, while your
ministers profit and smile behind your back. I beg your
Majesty's pardon, but you have always requested that I should
The king laughed; he enjoyed this frank friend. There was an
essence of truth and sincerity in all he said that encouraged
"Indeed, I shall be sorry to have you go tomorrow," he said, "for
I believe if you stayed here long enough you would truly make a
king of me. Be frank, my friend, be always frank; for it is only
on the base of frankness that true friendship can rear itself."
"You are only forty-eight," said the Englishman; "you are young."
"Ah, my friend," replied the king with a tinge of sadness, "it
is not the years that age us; it is how we live them. In the
last four years I have lived ten. To-day I feel so very old! I
am weary of being a king. I am weary of being weary, and for
such there is no remedy. Truly I was not cut from the pattern of
kings; no, no. I am handier with a book than with a scepter; I'd
liever be a man than a puppet, and a puppet I am--a figurehead
on the prow of the ship, but I do not guide it. Who care for me
save those who have their ends to gain? None, save the archbishop,
who yet dreams of making a king of me. And these are not my people
who surround me; when I die, small care. I shall have left in the
passing scarce a finger mark in the dust of time."
"Ah, Sire, if only you would be cold, unfriendly, avaricious. Be
stone and rule with a rod of iron. Make the people fear you,
since they refuse to love you; be stone."
"You can mold lead, but you can not sculpture it; and I am lead."
"Yes; not only the metal, but the verb intransitive. Ah, could
the fires of ambition light your soul!"
"My soul is a blackened grate of burnt-out fires, of which only
a coal remains."
And the king turned in his seat and looked across the crisp
green lawns to the beds of flowers, where, followed by a maid at
a respectful distance, a slim young girl in white was cutting
the hardy geraniums, dahlias and seed poppies.
"God knows what her legacy will be!"
"It is for you to make it, Sire."
Both men continued to remark the girl. At length she came toward
them, her arms laden with flowers. She was at the age of ten,
with a beautiful, serious face, which some might have called
prophetic. Her hair was dark, shining like coal and purple, and
gossamer in its fineness; her skin had the blue-whiteness of
milk; while from under long black lashes two luminous brown eyes
looked thoughtfully at the world. She smiled at the king, who
eyed her fondly, and gave her unengaged hand to the Englishman,
who kissed it.
"And how is your Royal Highness this fine day? he asked, patting
the hand before letting it go.
"Will you have a dahlia, Monsieur?" With a grave air she
selected a flower and slipped it through his button-hole.
"Does your Highness know the language of the flowers?" the
"Dahlias signify dignity and elegance; you are dignified,
Monsieur, and dignity is elegance."
"Well!" cried the Englishman, smiling with pleasure; "that is
turned as adroitly as a woman of thirty."
"And am I not to have one?" asked the king, his eyes full of
paternal love and pride.
"They are for your Majesty's table," she answered.
"Your Majesty!" cried the king in mimic despair. "Was ever a
father treated thus? Your Majesty! Do you not know, my dear,
that to me 'father' is the grandest title in the world?"
Suddenly she crossed over and kissed the king on the cheek, and
he held her to him for a moment.
The bulldog had risen, and was wagging his tail the best he knew
how. If there was any young woman who could claim his unreserved
admiration, it was the Princess Alexia. She never talked
nonsense to him in their rambles together, but treated him as he
should be treated, as an animal of enlightenment.
"And here is Bull," said the princess, tickling the dog's nose
with a scarlet geranium.
"Your Highness thinks a deal of Bull?" said the dog's master.
"Yes, Monsieur, he doesn't bark, and he seems to understand all
I say to him."
The dog looked up at his master as if to say: "There now, what
do you think of that?"
"To-morrow I am going away," said the diplomat, "and as I can
not very well take Bull with me, I give him to you."
The girl's eyes sparkled. "Thank you, Monsieur, shall I take him
"No, but when I leave your father. You see, he was sent to me by
my son who is in India. I wish to keep him near me as long as
possible. My son, your Highness, was a bad fellow. He ran away
and joined the army against my wishes, and somehow we have never
got together again. Still, I've a sneaking regard for him, and I
believe he hasn't lost all his filial devotion. Bull is, in a
way, a connecting link."
The king turned again to the gravel pictures. These Englishmen
were beyond him in the matter of analysis. Her Royal Highness
smiled vaguely, and wondered what this son was like. Once more
she smiled, then moved away toward the palace. The dog, seeing
that she did not beckon, lay down again. An interval of silence
followed her departure. The thought of the Englishman had
traveled to India, the thought of the king to Osia, where the
girl's mother slept. The former was first to rouse.
"Well, Sire, let us come to the business at hand, the subject of
my last informal audience. It is true, then, that the consols
for the loan of five millions of crowns are issued to-day, or
have been, since the morning is passed?"
"Yes, it is true. I am well pleased. Jacobi and Brother have
agreed to place them at face value. I intend to lay out a park
for the public at the foot of the lake. That will demolish two
millions and a half. The remainder is to be used in city
improvements and the reconstruction of the apartments in the
palace, which are too small. If only you knew what a pleasure
this affords me! I wish to make my good city of Bleiberg a thing
of beauty --parks, fountains, broad and well paved streets."
"The Diet was unanimous in regard to this loan?"
"In fact they suggested it, and I was much in favor."
"You have many friends there, then?"
"Friends?" The king's face grew puzzled, and its animation faded
away. "None that I know. This is positively the first time we
ever agreed about anything."
"And did not that strike you as rather singular?"
"Of course, the people are enthusiastic, considering the old
rate of taxation will be renewed?" The diplomat reached over and
pulled the dog's ears.
"So far as I can see," answered the king, who could make nothing
of this interrogatory.
"Which, if your Majesty will pardon me, is not very far beyond
"I have ministers."
"Who can see farther than your Majesty has any idea."
"Come, come, my friend," cried the king good-naturedly; "but a
moment gone you were chiding me because I did nothing. I may not
fill my coffers as you suggested, but I shall please my eye,
which is something. Come; you have something to tell me."
"Will your Majesty listen?"
"And to hear?"
"I promise not only to listen, but to hear," laughing; "not only
to hear, but to think. Is that sufficient?"
"For three years," began the Englishman, "I have been England's
representative here. As a representative I could not meddle with
your affairs, though it was possible to observe them. To-day I
am an unfettered agent of self, and with your permission I shall
talk to you as I have never talked before and never shall again."
The diplomat rose from his seat and walked up and down the path,
his hands clasped behind his back, his chin in his collar. The
bulldog yawned, stretched himself, and followed his master,
soberly and thoughtfully. After a while the Englishman returned
to his chair and sat down. The dog gravely imitated him. He
understood, perhaps better than the king, his master's mood.
This pacing backward and forward was always the forerunner of
something of great importance.
During the past year he had been the repository of many a secret.
Well, he knew how to keep one. Did not he carry a secret which
his master would have given much to know? Some one in far away
India, after putting him into the ship steward's care, had
whispered: "You tell the governor that I think just as much of
him as ever." He had made a desperate effort to tell it the
moment he was liberated from the box, but he had not yet
mastered that particular language which characterized his
"To begin with," said the diplomat, "what would your Majesty say
if I should ask permission to purchase the entire loan?"
THE COUP D'ETAT OF COUSIN JOSEF
The king, who had been leaning forward, fell back heavily in his
seat, his eyes full wide and his mouth agape. Then, to express
his utter bewilderment, he raised his hands above his head and
limply dropped them.
"Five millions of crowns?" he gasped.
"Yes; what would your Majesty say to such a proposition?"
"I should say," answered the king, with a nervous laugh, "that
my friend had lost his senses, completely and totally."
"The fact is," the Englishman declared, "they were never keener
nor more lucid than at this present moment."
"But five millions!"
"Five millions; a bagatelle," smiling.
"Certainly you can not be serious, and if you were, it is out of
the question. Death of my life! The kingdom would be at my ears.
The people would shout that I was selling out to the English,
that I was putting them into the mill to grind for English sacks."
"Your Majesty will recollect that the measure authorizing this
loan was rather a peculiar one. Five millions were to be
borrowed indiscriminately, of any man or body of men willing to
advance the money on the securities offered. First come, first
served, was not written, but it was implied. It was this which
roused my curiosity, or cupidity, if you will."
"I can not recollect that the bill was as you say," said the
"I believe you. When the bill came to you, you were not expected
to recollect anything but the royal signature. Have you read
half of what you have signed and made law? No. I am serious.
What is it to you or to the people, who secures this public
mortgage, so long as the money is forthcoming? I desire to
purchase at face value the twenty certificates."
"As a representative of England?"
The diplomat smiled. The king's political ignorance was well
known. "As a representative of England, Sire, I could not
purchase the stubs from which these certificates are cut. And
then, as I remarked, I am an unfettered agent of self. The
interest at two per cent. will be a fine income on a lump of
stagnant money. Even in my own country, where millionaires are
so numerous as to be termed common, I am considered a rich man.
My personal property, aside from my estates, is five times the
amount of the loan. A mere bagatelle, if I may use that
"Impossible, impossible!" cried the king, starting to his feet,
while a line of worry ran across his forehead. He strode about
impatiently slapping his boots with the riding stick. "It is
"Why do you say impossible, Sire?"
"I can not permit you to put in jeopardy a quarter of a million
pounds," forgetting for the moment that he was powerless.
"Aha!" the diplomat cried briskly. "There is, then, beneath your
weariness and philosophy, a fear?"
"A fear?" With an effort the king smoothed the line from his
forehead. "Why should there be fear?"
"Why indeed, when our cousin Josef--" He stopped and looked
toward the mountains.
"I was thinking what a fine coup de maitre it would be for his
Highness to gather in all these pretty slips of parchment given
under the hand of Leopold."
"Small matter if he should. I should pay him." The king sat down.
"And it is news to me that Josef can get together five millions."
"He has friends, rich and powerful friends."
"No matter, I should pay him."
"Are you quite sure?"
"What do you mean?"
"The face of the world changes in the course of ten years. Will
there be five millions in your treasury ten years hence?"
"The wealth of my kingdom is not to be questioned," proudly,
"nor its resources."
"But in ten years, with the ministers you have?" The Englishman
shrugged doubtfully. "Why have you not formed a new cabinet of
younger men? Why have you retained those of your predecessor,
who are your natural enemies? You have tried and failed."
The expression of weariness returned to the king's face. He knew
that all this was but a preamble to something of deeper
significance. He anticipated what was forming in the other's
mind, but he wished to avoid a verbal declaration. O, he knew
that there was a net of intrigue enmeshing him, but it was so
very fine that he could not pick up the smallest thread whereby
to unravel it. Down in his soul he felt the shame of the
knowledge that he dared not. A dreamer, rushing toward the
precipice, would rather fall dreaming than waken and struggle
"My friend," he said, finally, sighing, "proceed. I am all
"I never doubted your Majesty's perspicacity. You do not know,
but you suspect, what I am about to disclose to you. My hope is
that, when I am done, your Majesty will throw Kant and the rest
of your philosophers out of the window. The people are sullen at
the mention of your name, while they cheer another. There is an
astonishing looseness about your revenues. The reds and the
socialists plot for revolution and a republic, which is a thin
disguise for a certain restoration. Your cousin the duke visits
you publicly twice each year. He has been in the city a week at
a time incognito, yet your minister of police seems to know
nothing." The speaker ceased, and fondled the dahlia in his
The king, noting the action, construed it as the subtle old
diplomat intended he should. "Yes, yes! I am a king only for her
sake. Go on. Tell me all."
"The archbishop and the chancellor are the only friends you
possess. The Marshal, from personal considerations merely,
remains neutral. Your army, excepting the cuirassiers, are
traitors to your house. The wisest thing you have done was to
surround yourself with this mercenary body, whom you call the
royal cuirassiers, only, instead of three hundred, you should
have two thousand. Self-interest will make them true to you. You
might find some means to pay them, for they would be a good
buffer between you and your enemies. The president of the Diet
and the members are passing bills which will eventually
undermine you. How long it will take I can not say. But this
last folly, the loan, which you could have got on without, caps
the climax. The duke was in the city last week unknown to you.
Your minister of finance is his intimate. This loan was a
connivance of them all. Why ten years, when it could easily be
liquidated in five? I shall tell you. The duke expects to force
you into bankruptcy within that time, and when the creditor
demands and you can not pay, you will be driven from here in
"And where will you go? Certainly not to Osia, since you traded
it for this throne. It was understood, when you assumed the
reign, that the finances of the kingdom would remain
unimpeachable. Bankrupt, the confederation will be forced to
disavow you. They will be compelled to restore the throne to
your enemy, who, believe me, is most anxious to become your
"This is an independent state,--conditionally. "The
confederation have formed themselves into a protectorate. Why? I
can only guess. One or more of them covet these beautiful lands.
What are ten years to Josef, when a crown is the goal? Your
revenues are slowly to decline, there will be internal troubles
to eat up what money you have in the treasury. O, it is a plot
so fine, so swiftly conceived, so cunningly devised that I would
I were twenty years younger, to fight it with you! But I am old.
My days for acting are past. I can only advise. He was sure of
his quarry, this Josef whose hair is of many colors. Had you
applied to the money syndicates of Europe, the banks of England,
France, Germany, or Austria, your true sponsor, the result would
always be the same: your ruin. Covertly I warned you not to sign;
you laughed and signed. A trap was there, your own hand opened
it. How they must have laughed at you! If you attempt to
repudiate your signature the Diet has power to overrule you.
"Truly, the shade of Macchiavelli masks in the garb of your
cousin. I admire the man's genius. This is his throne by right
of inheritance. I do not blame him. Only, I wish to save you. If
you were alone, why, I do not say that I should trouble myself,
for you yourself would not be troubled. But I have grown to love
that child of yours. It is all for her. Do you now understand
why I make the request? It appears Quixotic? Not at all. Put my
money in jeopardy? Not while the kingdom exists. If you can not
pay back, your kingdom will. Perhaps you ask what is the
difference, whether I or the duke becomes your creditor? This:
in ten years I shall be happy to renew the loan. In ten years,
if I am gone, there will be my son. You wonder why I do this. I
repeat it is for your daughter. And perhaps," with a dry smile,
"it is because I have no love for Josef."
"I will defeat him!" cried the king, a fire at last shining in
"You will not."
"I will appeal to the confederation and inform them of the plot."
"The resource of a child! They would laugh at you for your pains.
For they are too proud of their prowess in statecraft to
tolerate a suspicion that your cousin is a cleverer man than all
of them put together. There remains only one thing for you to do."
"And what is that?" wearily.
"Accept my friendship at its true value."
The king made no reply. He set his elbows on the arms of the
rustic seat, interlaced his fingers and rested his chin on them,
while his booted legs slid out before him. His meditation
lengthened into several minutes. The diplomat evinced no sign of
"Come with me," said the king, rising quickly. "I will no longer
dream. I will act. Come."
The diplomat nodded approvingly; and together they marched
toward the palace. The bulldog trotted on behind, his pink
tongue lolling out of his black mouth, a white tusk or two
gleaming on each side. The Lieutenant of the cuirassiers saluted
as they passed him, and, when they had gone some distance, swung
in behind. He observed with some concern that his Majesty was
The business of the kingdom, save that performed in the Diet,
was accomplished in the east wing of the palace; the king's
apartments, aside from the state rooms, occupied the west wing.
It was to the business section that the king conducted the
diplomat. In the chamber of finance its minister was found busy
at his desk. He glanced up casually, but gave an ejaculation of
surprise when he perceived who his visitors were.
"O, your Majesty!" he cried, bobbing up and running out his
chair. "Good afternoon, your Excellency," to the Englishman,
adjusting his gold-rimmed glasses, through which his eyes shone
pale and cold.
The diplomat bowed. The little man reminded him of M. Thiers,
that effervescence of soda tinctured with the bitterness of iron.
He understood the distrust which Count von Wallenstein
entertained for him, but he was not distrustful of the count.
Distrust implies uncertainty, and the Englishman was not the
least uncertain as to his conception of this gentleman of
There were few men whom the count could not interpret; one stood
before him. He could not comprehend why England had sent so
astute a diplomat and politician to a third-rate kingdom. Of
that which we can not understand we are suspicious, and the
guilty are distrustful. Neither the minister of police nor his
subordinates could fathom the purpose of this calm, dignified
old man with the difficult English name.
"Count," began the king, pleasantly, "his Excellency here has
made a peculiar request."
"And what might that be, Sire?"
"He offers to purchase the entire number of certificates issued
to-day for our loan."
"Five millions of crowns?" The minister's astonishment was so
genuine that in jerking back his head his glasses slipped from
his nose and dangled on the string.
The Englishman bowed again, the wrinkle of a smile on his face.
"I would not believe him serious at first, count," said the king,
laughing easily, "but he assured me that he is. What can be
done about it?"
"O, your Majesty," cried the minister, excitedly, "it would not
be politic. And then the measure--"
"Is it possible that I have misconstrued its import?" the
diplomat interposed with a fine air of surprise.
"You are familiar--" began the count, hesitatingly.
"Perfectly; that is, I believe so."
"Has nothing whatever to do with the matter. Something greater,
which goes by the name of self-interest."
"Ah," said the count, his wrinkles relaxing; "then it is on your
"But five millions of crowns--two hundred and fifty thousand
pounds!" The minister could not compose himself. "This is a
vast sum of money. We expected not an individual, but a
syndicate, to accept our securities, to become debtors to the
various banks on the continent. But a personal affair! Five
millions of crowns! The possibilities of your wealth overwhelm
The Englishman smiled. "I dare say I have more than my share of
this world's goods. I can give you a check for the amount on the
bank of England."
"Your Majesty's lamented predecessor--"
"Is dead," said the king gently. He had no desire to hear the
minister recount that ruler's virtues. "Peace to his ashes."
"Five millions of crowns!" The minister had lost his equipoise
in the face of the Englishman's great riches, of which hitherto
he had held some doubts. Suddenly a vivid thought entered his
confused brain. The paper cutter in his hand trembled. In the
breathing space allowed him he began to calculate rapidly. The
king and the diplomat had been in the garden; something had
passed between them. What? The paper cutter slowly ceased its
uneven movements. The count calmly placed it behind the inkwells.
. . . . The Englishman knew. The glitter of gold gave way to
the thought of the peril. A chasm yawned at his feet. But he was
an old soldier in the game of words and cross-purposes.
"We should be happy to accord you the privilege of becoming the
kingdom's creditor," he said, smiling at the diplomat, whom
nothing had escaped. "I am afraid, however, that your request
has been submitted too late. At ten o'clock this morning the
transfer of the certificates would have been a simple matter.
There are twenty in all; it may not be too late to secure some
of them." He looked tranquilly from the Englishman to the king.
The smiling mask fell from the king's face; he felt that he was
lost. He tried to catch his friend's eye, but the diplomat was
deeply interested in the console of the fireplace.
"They seem to be at a premium," the Englishman said, "which
speaks well for the prosperity of the country. I am sorry to
have troubled you."
"It would have been a pleasure indeed," replied the count. He
stood secure within his fortress, so secure that he would have
liked to laugh.
"It is too bad," said the king, pulling his thoughts together.
"Your Majesty is giving the matter too much importance," said
the diplomat. "It was merely a whim. I shall have the pleasure
and honor of presenting my successor this evening."
The count bent low, while the king nodded absently. He was
thinking that a penful of ink, carelessly trailed over a sheet
of paper, had lost him his throne. He was about to draw the arm
of the diplomat through his own, when his step was arrested by
the entrance of a messenger who presented a letter to the
minister of finance.
"With your Majesty's permission," he said, tearing open the
envelope. As he read the contents, his shoulders sank to their
habitual stoop and benignity once more shone in the place of
alertness. "Decidedly, fate is not with your Excellency to-day.
M. Jacobi writes me that four millions have already been
disposed of to M. Everard & Co., English bankers in the
Konigstrasse, who are representing a French firm in this
particular instance. I am very sorry."
"It is of no moment now," replied the Englishman indifferently.
The adverb which concluded this declaration caught the keen ear
of the minister, who grew tall again. What would he not have
given to read the subtle brain of his opponent, for opponent he
knew him to be! His intense scrutiny was blocked by a pair of
most innocent eyes.
"Well," said the king impatiently, "let us be gone, my friend.
The talk of money always leaves a copperish taste on my tongue."
Arm in arm they passed from the chamber. When the door closed
behind them, the minister of finance drew his handkerchief
across his brow.
"Everard & Co.," mused the Englishman aloud. "Was it not indeed
a stroke for your cousin to select them as his agents? You will
in truth be accused of selling out to the English. But there is
a coincidence in all this."
"I am lost!" said the king.
"On the contrary, you are saved. Everard & Co. are my bankers
and attorneys; in fact, I own an interest in the firm."
"What is this you tell me?" cried the king.
"Sire, we English have a peculiar trait; it is asking for
something after we have taken it. The human countenance is a
fine picture book. I should like to read that belonging to your
cousin Josef, providing I could read unobserved."
"My friend!" said the king.
"Say nothing. Here is the bulldog; take him to her Royal
Highness with my compliments. There is no truer friend than an
animal of his breed. He is steadfast in his love, for he makes
but few friends; he is a good companion, for he is
undemonstrative; he can read and draw inferences, and your
enemies will be his. I shall bid you good afternoon. God be with
"Ah, to lose you now!" said, the king, a heaviness in his heart
such as presentiment brings.
The diplomat turned and went down the grand corridor. The
bulldog tugged at his chain. Animals are gifted with prescience.
He knew that his master had passed forever out of his life.
Presently he heard the voice of the princess calling; and the
glamour of royalty encompassed him,--something a human finds
hard to resist, and he was only a dog.
Meanwhile another messenger had entered the chamber of finance
and had gone. On the minister's desk lay a crumpled sheet of
paper on which was written:
"Treason and treachery! It has at this moment been ascertained
that, while pretending to be our agents in securing the consols,
M. Everard & Co. now refuse to deliver them into the custody of
Baron von Rumpf, as agreed, and further, that M. Everard & Co.
are bankers and attorneys to his Excellency the British minister.
He must not leave this city with those consols."
With his eyes riveted on these words, the minister of finance,
huddled in his chair, had fallen into a profound study.
There were terrible times in the house of Josef that night.
AN EPISODE TEN YEARS AFTER
One fine September morning in a year the date of which is of no
particular importance, a man stepped out of a second-class
carriage on to the canopied platform of the railway terminus in
the ancient and picturesque city of Bleiberg. He yawned, shook
himself, and stretched his arms and legs, relieved to find that
the tedious journey from Vienna had not cramped those appendages
He stood some inches above the average height, and was built up
in a manner that suggested the handiwork of a British drill-
master, his figure being both muscular and symmetrical. Besides,
there was on his skin that rich brown shadow which is the result
only of the forces of the sun and wind, a life in the open air.
This color gave peculiar emphasis to the yellow hair and
mustache. His face was not handsome, if one accept the Greek
profile as a model of manly beauty, but it was cleanly and
boldly cut, healthful, strong and purposeful, based on
determined jaws and a chin which would have been obstinate but
for the presence of a kindly mouth.
A guard deposited at his feet a new hatbox, a battered traveling
bag and two gun cases which also gave evidence of rough usage.
The luggage was literally covered with mutilated square and
oblong slips of paper of many colors, on which were printed the
advertisements of far-sighted hotel keepers all the way from
Bombay to London and half-way back across the continent.
There was nothing to be seen, however, indicative of the
traveler's name. He surveyed his surroundings with lively
interest shining in his gray eyes, one of which peered through a
monocle encircled by a thin rim of tortoise shell. He watched
the fussy customs officials, who, by some strange mischance,
overlooked his belongings. Finally he made an impatient gesture.
"Find me a cab," he said to the attentive guard, who, with an
eye to the main chance, had waved off the approach of a station
porter. "If the inspectors are in no hurry, I am."
"At once, my lord;" and the guard, as he stooped and lifted the
luggage, did not see the start which this appellation caused the
stranger to make, but who, after a moment, was convinced that
the guard had given him the title merely out of politeness. The
guard placed the traps inside of one of the many vehicles
stationed at the street exit of the terminus. He was an
intelligent and deductive servant.
The traveler was some noted English lord who had come to
Bleiberg to shoot the famed golden pheasant, and had secured a
second-class compartment in order to demonstrate his incognito.
Persons who traveled second-class usually did so to save money;
yet this tall Englishman, since the train departed from Vienna,
had almost doubled in gratuities the sum paid for his ticket.
The guard stood respectfully at the door of the cab, doffed his
cap, into which a memento was dropped, and went along about his
The Englishman slammed the door, the jehu cracked his whip, and
a moment later the hoarse breathings of the motionless engines
became lost in the sharper noises of the city carts. The unknown
leaned against the faded cushions, curled his mustache, and
smiled as if well satisfied with events. It is quite certain
that his sense of ease and security would have been somewhat
disturbed had he known that another cab was close on the track
of his, and that its occupant, an officer of the city
gendarmerie, alternately smiled and frowned as one does who
floats between conviction and uncertainty. At length the two
vehicles turned into the Konigstrasse, the principal
thoroughfare of the capital, and here the Englishman's cab came
to a stand. The jehu climbed down and opened the door.
"Did Herr say the Continental?" he asked.
"No; the Grand."
The driver shrugged, remounted his box, and drove on. The Grand
Hotel was clean enough and respectable, but that was all that
could be said in its favor. He wondered if the Englishman would
haggle over the fare. Englishmen generally did. He was agreeably
disappointed, however, when, on arriving at the mean hostelry,
his passenger plunged a hand into a pocket and produced three
"You may have these," he said, "for the trouble of having them
exchanged into crowns."
As he whipped up, the philosophical cabman mused that these
tourists were beyond the pale of his understanding. With a
pocket full of money, and to put up at the Grand! Why not the
Continental, which lay close to the Werter See, the palaces, the
royal and public gardens? It was at the Continental that the
fine ladies and gentlemen from Vienna, and Innsbruck, and Munich,
and Belgrade, resided during the autumn months. But the Grand--
ach! it was in the heart of the shops and markets, and within a
stone's throw of that gloomy pile of granite designated in the
various guide books as the University of Bleiberg.
The Englishman had some difficulty in finding a pen that would
write, and the ink was oily, and the guest-book was not at the
proper angle. At last he managed to form the letters of his name,
which was John Hamilton. After some deliberation, he followed
this with "England." The proprietor, who acted as his own clerk,
drew the book toward him, and after some time, deciphered the
"Ah, Herr John Hamilton of England; is that right?"
"Yes; I am here for a few days' shooting. Can you find me a man
to act as guide?"
"This very morning, Herr."
Then he proceeded up the stairs to the room assigned to him. The
smell of garlic which pervaded the air caused him to make a
grimace. Once alone in the room, he looked about. There was
neither soap nor towel, but there was a card which stated that
the same could be purchased at the office. He laughed. A pitcher
of water and a bowl stood on a small table, which, by the
presence of a mirror (that could not in truth reflect anything
but light and darkness), served as a dresser. These he used to
good advantage, drying his face and hands on the white
counterpane of the bed, and laughing quietly as he did so. Next
he lit a pipe, whose capacity for tobacco was rather less than
that of a lady's thimble, sat in a chair by the window, smoked
quietly, and gazed down on the busy street.
It was yet early in the morning; sellers of vegetables, men and
women peasants, with bare legs and wooden shoes, driving shaggy
Servian ponies attached to low, cumbersome carts, passed and
repassed, to and from the markets. A gendarme, leaning the
weight of his shoulder on the guard of a police saber, rested
against the corner of a wine shop across the way. Students,
wearing squat caps with vizors, sauntered indolently along,
twirling canes and ogling all who wore petticoats. Occasionally
the bright uniform of a royal cuirassier flashed by; and the
Englishman would lean over the sill and gaze after him, nodding
his head in approval whenever the cuirassier sat his horse well.
In the meantime the gendarme, who followed him from the station,
had entered the hotel, hastily glanced at the freshly written
name, and made off toward the palace.
"Well, here we are," mused the Englishman, pressing his thumb
into the bowl of his pipe. "The affair promises some excitement.
To-morrow will be the sixth; on the twentieth it will be a
closed incident, as the diplomats would say. I don't know what
brought me here so far ahead of time. I suppose I must look out
for a crack on the head from some one I don't know, but who
knows me so deuced well that he has hunted me in India and
England, first with fine bribes, then with threats." He glanced
over his shoulder in the direction of the gun cases. "It was a
capital idea, otherwise a certain ubiquitous customs official,
who lies in wait for the unwary at the frontier, would now be an
inmate of a hospital. To have lived thirty-five years, and to
have ground out thirteen of them in her Majesty's, is to have
acquired a certain disdain for danger, even when it is masked. I
am curious to see how far these threats will go. It will take a
clever man to trap me. The incognito is a fort. By the way, I
wonder how the inspectors at the station came to overlook my
traps? Strange, considering what I have gone through."
At this moment the knuckles of a hand beat against the door.
"Come in!" answered the Englishman, wheeling his chair, but
making no effort to rise. "Come in!"
The door swung in, and there entered a short, spectacled man in
dark gray clothes which fairly bristled with brass buttons. He
was the chief inspector of customs. He bowed.
The Englishman, consternation widening his eyes, lowered his
"Monsieur Hamilton's pardon," the inspector began, speaking in
French, "but with your permission I shall inspect your luggage
and glance at your passports." He bowed again.
"Now do you know, mon ami," replied the Englishman, "that
Monsieur Hamilton will not permit you to gaze even into yonder
washbowl?" He rose lazily.
"But, Monsieur," cried the astonished official, to whom non-
complaisance in the matter of inspection was unprecedented, "you
certainly will not put any obstacle in the path of my duty!"
"Your duty, Monsieur the Spectacles, is to inspect at the
station. There your assistants refused to award me their
attention. You are trespassing."
"Monsieur forgets," sternly; "it is the law. Is it possible that
I shall be forced to call in the gendarmes to assist me? This is
"I dare say it is, on your part," admitted the Englishman,
polishing the bowl of his pipe against the side of his nose.
"You had best go at once. If you do not, I shall take you by the
nape of your Bleibergian neck and kick you down the stairs. I
have every assurance of my privileges. The law here, unless it
has changed within the past hour, requires inspection at the
frontier, and at the capital; but your jurisdiction does not
extend beyond the stations. Bon jour, Monsieur the Spectacles;
"Monsieur, it is my duty; I must!"
"Good day! How will you go, by the stairs or by the window? I--
but wait!" an idea coming to him which caused him to reflect on
the possible outcome of violence done to a government official,
who, perhaps, was discharging his peculiar duty at the orders of
superiors. He walked swiftly to the door and slid the bolt, to
the terror of the inspector, on whose brow drops of perspiration
began to gather. "Now," opening the hat box and taking out a
silk hat, "this is a hat, purchased in Paris at Cook's. There is
nothing in the lining but felt. Look into the box; nothing. Take
out your book and follow me closely," he continued, dividing the
traveling bag into halves, and he began to enumerate the
"But, Monsieur!" remonstrated the inspector, who did not enjoy
this infringement of his prerogatives; his was the part to
overhaul. "This is--"
"Be still and follow me," and the Englishman went on with the
inventory. "There!" when he had done, "not a dutiable thing
except this German-Scotch whisky, and that is so bad that I give
it to you rather than pay duty. What next? My passports? Here
they are, absolutely flawless, vised by the authorities in
The slips crackled in the fluttering fingers of the inspector.
"They are as you say, Monsieur," he said, returning the permits.
Then he added timidly, "And the gun cases?"
"The gun cases!" The pipe spilled its coal to the floor. "The
"And why do you wish to look into them?" with agitation.
"Smugglers sometimes fill them with cigars."
"Ah!" The Englishman selected two loaded shells, drew a gun from
the case, threw up the breech and rammed in the shells. Then he
extended the weapon to within an inch of the terrified
inspector's nose. "Now, Monsieur the Spectacles, look in there
and tell me what you see."
The fellow sank half-fainting into a chair. "Mon Dieu, Monsieur,
would you kill me who have a family?"
"What's a customs inspector, more or less?" asked the terrible
islander, laughing. "I advise you not to ask me to let you look
into the other gun, out of consideration for your family. It has
hair triggers, and my fingers tremble."
"Monsieur, Monsieur, you do wrong to trifle with the law. I
shall be obliged to report you. You will be arrested."
"Nothing of the kind," was the retort. "I have only to inform
the British minister how remiss you were in your obligations. I
should go free, whereas you would be discharged. But what I
demand to know is, what the devil is the meaning of this farce."
"I am simply obeying orders," answered the inspector, wiping his
forehead. "It is not a farce, as Monsieur will find." Then, as
if to excuse this implied threat: "Will Monsieur please point
the gun the other way?"
The Englishman unloaded the gun and tossed it on the bed.
"Thanks. In coming here I simply obeyed the orders of the
minister of police."
"And what in the world did you expect to find?"
"We are looking--that is, they are looking--O, Monsieur, it is
impossible for me to disclose to you my government's purposes."
"What and whom were you expecting?" demanded the Englishman.
"You shall not leave this room till you have fully explained
this remarkable intrusion."
"We were expecting the Lord and Baronet Fitzgerald."
"The lord!" laughing. "Does the lord visit Bleiberg often, then,
that you prepare this sort of a reception? And the Baronet
"They are the same and the one person."
"And who the deuce is he; a spy, a smuggler, a villain, or what?"
"As to that, Monsieur," with a wonder why this man laughed, "I
know no more than you. But I do know that for the past month
every Englishman has been subjected to this surveillance, and
has submitted with more grace than you," with an oblique glance.
"What! Examined his luggage at the hotel?"
"Yes, Monsieur. It is the order of the minister of police. I
know not why." The natural color was returning to his cheeks.
"This is a fine country, I must say. At least the king should
acquaint his visitors with the true cause of this treatment." In
his turn the Englishman resorted to oblique glances.
"The king?" The inspector raised a shoulder and spread his hands.
"The king is a paralytic, Monsieur, and has little to say these days."
"A paralytic? I thought he was called `the handsome monarch'?"
"That was years ago, Monsieur. For three years he has been
helpless and bedridden. The archbishop is the real king nowadays.
But he meddles not with the police."
"This is very sad. I suppose it would be impossible for
strangers to see him now."
"An audience?" a sparkle behind the spectacles. "Is your
business with the king, Monsieur?"
"My business is mine," shortly. "I am only a tourist, and should
have liked to see the king from mere curiosity. However, had you
explained all this to me, I should not have caused you so many
"Monsieur did not give me the chance," simply.
"True," the Englishman replied soberly. He began to think that
he had been over hasty in asserting his privileges. "But all
this has nothing to do with me. My name is John Hamilton. See,
it is engraved on the stock of the gun," catching it up and
holding it under the spectacled eyes, which still observed it
with some trepidation. "That is the name in my passports, in the
book down stairs, in the lining of my hat. I am sorry, since you
were only obeying orders, that my rough play has caused you
alarm." He unbolted the door. "Good morning."
The inspector left the room as swiftly as his short legs could
carry him, ignoring the ethics of common politeness. As he
stumbled down the stairs he cursed the minister of police for
requiring this spy work of him, and not informing him why it was
done. Ah, these cursed Anglais from Angleterre! They were all
alike, and this one was the worst he had ever encountered. And
those ugly black orifices in the gun! Peste! He would resign!
Yes, certainly he would resign.
As to the Englishman, he stood in the center of the room and
scratched his head. "Hang it, I've made an ass of myself. That
blockhead will have the gendarmes about my ears. If they arrest
me there will be the devil to pay. The Lord and the Baronet
Fitzgerald!" he repeated. He sat down on the edge of the bed,
and fell to laughing again. "Confound these picture-book
kingdoms! They always take themselves so seriously. Well, if the
gendarmes call this afternoon I'll not be at home. No, thank you.
I shall be hunting pheasants."
And thereat he set to work cleaning the gun which had all but
prostrated the inspector. Soon the room smelled of oiled rags
and tobacco. Some-times the worker whistled softly. Sometimes he
let the gun fall against his knee, and stared dreamily through
the window at the flight of the ragged clouds. Again, he would
shake his head, as if there were something which he failed to
understand. Half an hour passed, when again some one knocked on
"Come in!" Under his breath he added: "The gendarmes, likely."
But it was only the proprietor of the hotel. "Asking Herr's
pardon," he said, "for this intrusion, but I have secured a man
for you. I have the honor to recommend Johann Kopf as a good
guide and hunter."
"Send him up. If he pleases me, I'll use him."
The proprietor withdrew.
Johann Kopf proved to be a young German with a round, ruddy face,
which was so innocent of guile as to be out of harmony with the
shrewd, piercing black eyes looking out of it. The Englishman
eyed him inquisitively, even suspiciously.
"Are you a good hunter?" he asked.
"There is none better hereabout," answered Johann, twirling his
cap with noticeably white fingers. It was only in after days
that the Englishman appreciated the full significance of this
"No. Herr's German is excellent, however."
"Humph!" The Englishman gave a final glance into the shining
tubes of the gun, snapped the breach, and slipped it into the
case. "You'll do. Return to the office; I'll be down presently."
"Will Herr hunt this morning?"
"No; what I wish this morning is to see the city of Bleiberg."
"That is simple," said Johann. The fleeting, imperceptible smile
did not convict his eyes of false keenness.
He bowed out. When the door closed the Englishman waited until
the sound of retreating steps failed. Then he took the gun case
which he had not yet opened, and thrust it under the mattress of
"Johann," he said, as he put on a soft hat and drew a cane from
the straps of the traveling bag, "you will certainly precede me
in our hunting expeditions. I do not like your eyes; they are
not at home in your boyish face. Humph! what a country. Every
one speaks a different tongue."
The city of Bleiberg lay on a hill and in the valleys which fell
away to the east and west. It was divided into two towns, the
upper and the lower. The upper town and that part which lay on
the shores of the Werter See was the modern and fashionable
district. It was here that the king and the archbishop had their
palaces and the wealthy their brick and stone. The public park
skirted the lake, and was patterned after those fine gardens
which add so much to the picturesqueness of Vienna and Berlin.
There were wide gravel paths and long avenues of lofty chestnuts
and lindens, iron benches, fountains and winding flower beds.
The park, the palaces, and the Continental Hotel enclosed a
public square, paved with asphalt, called the Hohenstaufenplatz,
in the center of which rose a large marble fountain of several
streams, guarded by huge bronze wolves. Here, too, were iron
benches which were, for the most part, the meeting-place of the
nursemaids. Carriages were allowed to make the circuit, but not
to obstruct the way.
The Konigstrasse began at the Platz, divided the city, and wound
away southward, merging into the highway which continued to the
Thalian Alps, some thirty miles distant. The palaces were at the
southeast corner of the Platz, first the king's, then the
archbishop's. The private gardens of each ran into the lake.
Directly across from the palaces stood the cathedral, a relic of
five centuries gone. On the northwest corner stood the
Continental Hotel, with terrace and parapet at the water's edge,
and a delightful open-air cafe facing the Platz. September and
October were prosperous months in Bleiberg. Fashionable people
who desired quiet made Bleiberg an objective point. The
pheasants were plump, there were boars, gray wolves, and not
infrequently Monsieur Fourpaws of the shaggy coat wandered
across from the Carpathians.
As to the lower town, it was given over to the shops and markets,
the barracks, the university, and the Rathhaus, which served as
the house of the Diet. It was full of narrow streets and quaint
Up the Konigstrasse the guide led the Englishman, who nodded
whenever the voluble chatter of the German pleased him. When
they began the descent of the hill, the vista which opened
before them drew from the Englishman an ejaculation of delight.
There lay the lake, like a bright new coin in a green purse; the
light of the sun broke on the white buildings and flashed from
the windows; and the lawns twinkled like emeralds.
"It makes Vienna look to her laurels, eh, Herr?" said Johann.
"But it must have cost a pretty penny."
"Aye, that it did; and the king is being impressed with that
fact every day. There are few such fine palaces outside of first-
class kingdoms. The cathedral there was erected at the desire of
a pope, born five hundred years ago. It is full of romance.
There is to be a grand wedding there on the twentieth of this
month. That is why there are so many fashionable people at the
hotels. The crown prince of Carnavia, which is the large kingdom
just east of us, is to wed the Princess Alexia, the daughter of
"On the twentieth? That is strange."
"), I meant nothing," said the Englishman, jerking back his
shoulders; "I had in mind another affair."
There was a flash in Johann's eyes, but he subdued it before the
Englishman was aware of its presence. "However," said Johann,
"there is something strange. The prince was to have arrived a week
ago to complete the final arrangements for the wedding. His suite
has been here a week, but no sign of his Highness. He stopped
over a train at Ehrenstein to visit for a few hours a friend of
the king, his father. Since then nothing has been heard from him.
The king, it is said, fears that some accident has happened to him.
Carnavia is also disturbed over this disappearance. Some whisper
of a beautiful peasant girl. Who can say?"
"Any political significance in this marriage?"
"Leopold expects to strengthen his throne by the alliance. But--"
Johann's mouth closed and his tongue pushed out his cheek.
"There will be some fine doings in the good city of Bleiberg
before the month is gone. The minister from the duchy has been
given his passports. Every one concedes that trouble is likely
to ensue. Baron von Rumpf--"
"Baron von Rumpf," repeated the Englishman thoughtfully.
"Yes; he is not a man to submit to accusations without making a
"What does the duke say?"
"His Highness has been dead these four years."
"Dead four years? So much for man and his futile dreams. Dead
four years," absently.
"What did you say, Herr?"
"I? Nothing. How did he die?"
"He was thrown from his horse and killed. But the duchess lives,
and she is worthy of her sire. Eh, Herr, there is a woman for
you! She should sit on this throne; it is hers by right. These
Osians are aliens and were forced on us."
"It seems to me, young man, that you are talking treason."
"That is my business, Herr." Johann laughed. "I am a socialist,
and occasionally harangue for the reds. And sometimes, when I am
in need of money, I find myself in the employ of the police."
The muscles of the Englishman's jaws hardened, then they relaxed.
The expression on the face of his guide was free from anything
"One must live," Johann added deprecatingly.
"Yes, one must live," replied the Englishman.
"O! but I could sell some fine secrets to the Osians had they
money to pay. Ach! but what is the use? The king has no money;
he is on the verge of bankruptcy, and this pretty bit of scenery
is the cause of it."
"So you are a socialist?" said the Englishman, passing over
Johann's declamatory confidences.
"Yes, Herr. All men are brothers."
"Go to!" laughed the Englishman, "you aren't even a second
cousin to me. But stay, what place is this we are passing?"
indicating with his cane a red-brick mansion which was fronted
by broad English lawns and protected from intrusion by a high
"That is the British legation, Herr."
The Englishman stopped and stared, unconscious of the close
scrutiny of the guide. His eyes traveled up the wide flags
leading to the veranda, and he drew a picture of a square-
shouldered old man tramping backward and forward, the wind
tangling his thin white hair, his hands behind his back, his
chin in his collar and at his heels a white bulldog. Rapidly
another picture came. It was an English scene. And the echo of a
voice fell on his ears. "My way and the freedom of the house and
the key to the purse; your way and a closed door while I live.
You can go, but you can not come back. You have decided? Yes?
Then good morning." Thirteen years, thirteen years! He had
sacrificed the freedom of the house and the key to the purse,
the kind eyes and the warm pressure of that old hand. And for
what? Starvation in the deserts, plenty of scars and little of
thanks, ingratitude and forgetfulness.
And now the kind eyes were closed and the warm hand cold. O, to
recall the vanished face, the silent voice, the misspent years,
the April days and their illusions! The Englishman took the
monocle from his eye and looked at it, wondering what had caused
the sudden blur.
"There was a fine old man there in the bygone days," said Johann.
"And who was he?"
"Lord Fitzgerald, the British minister. He and Leopold were
close friends." Johann's investigating gaze went unrewarded. The
Englishman's face had resumed its expression of mild curiosity.
"Ah; a compatriot of mine," he said. Inwardly he mused: "This
guide is watching me; let him catch me if he can. His duchess? I
know far too much of her!"
"He was a millionaire, too," went on Johann.
"Well, we can't all be rich. Come."
They crossed the Strasse and traversed the walk at the side of
the palace enclosures. The Englishman aimlessly trailed his cane
along the green pickets of the fence till they ended in a stone
arch which rose high over the driveway. The gates were open, and
coming toward the two wanderers as they stood at the curb rolled
the royal barouche, on each side of which rode a mounted
cuirassier, sashed and helmeted. The Englishman, however, had
observed nothing; he was lost in some dream.
"Look, Herr!" cried Johann, rousing the other by a pull at the
sleeve. "Look!" Socialist though he claimed to be, Johann
touched his cap.
In the barouche, leaning back among the black velvet cushions,
her face mellowed by the shade of a small parasol, was a young
woman of nineteen or twenty, as beautiful as a da Vinci freshly
conceived. The Englishman saw a pair of grave dark eyes which,
in the passing, met his and held them. He caught his breath.
"Who is that?" he asked.
"That is her Royal Highness the Crown Princess Alexia."
Afterward the Englishman remembered seeing a white dog lying on
the opposite seat.
AN ADVENTURE WITH ROYALTY
Maurice Carewe, attached to the American legation in Vienna,
leaned against the stone parapet which separated the terraced
promenade of the Continental Hotel from the Werter See, and
wondered what had induced him to come to Bleiberg.
He had left behind him the glory of September in Vienna, a city
second only to Paris in fashion and gaiety; Vienna, with its
inimitable bands, its incomparable gardens, its military
maneuvers, its salons, its charming women; and all for a fool's
errand. His Excellency was to blame. He had casually dropped the
remark that the duchy's minister, Baron von Rumpf, had been
given his passports as a persona non grata by the chancellor of
the kingdom, and that a declaration of war was likely to follow.
Maurice's dormant love of journalistic inquiry had become
aroused, and he had asked permission to investigate the affair,
a favor readily granted to him.
But here he was, on the scene, and nobody knew anything, and
nobody could tell anything. The duchess had remained silent. Not
unnaturally he wished himself back in Vienna. There were no
court fetes in the city of Bleiberg. The king's condition was
too grave to permit them. And, besides, there had been no real
court in Bleiberg for the space of ten years, so he was told.
Those solemn affairs of the archbishop's, given once the week
for the benefit of the corps diplomatique, were dull and
spiritless. Her Royal Highness was seldom seen, save when she
drove through the streets. Persons who remembered the reign
before told what a mad, gay court it had been. Now it was
funereal. The youth and beauty of Bleiberg held a court of its
own. Royalty was not included, nor did it ask to be.
A strange capital, indeed, Maurice reflected, as he gazed down
into the cool, brown water. He regretted his caprice. There were
pretty women in Vienna. Some of them belonged to the American
colony. They danced well, they sang and played and rode. He had
taught some of them how to fence, and he could not remember the
times he had been "buttoned" while paying too much attention to
their lips and eyes. For Maurice loved a thing of beauty, were
it a woman, a horse or a Mediterranean sunset. What a difference
between these two years in Vienna and that year in Calcutta! He
never would forget the dingy office, with its tarnished sign, "U.
S. Consul," tacked insecurely on the door, and the utter
He cast a pebble into the lake, and watched the ripples roll
away and disappear, and ruminated on a life full of color and
vicissitude. He remembered the Arizona days, the endless burning
sand, the dull routine of a cavalry trooper, the lithe brown
bodies of the Apaches, the first skirmish and the last. From a
soldier he had turned journalist, tramped the streets of
Washington in rain and shine, living as a man lived who must.
One day his star had shot up from the nadir of obscurity, not
very far, but enough to bring his versatility under the notice
of the discerning Secretary of State, who, having been a friend
of the father, offered the son a berth in the diplomatic corps.
A consulate in a South American republic, during a revolutionary
crisis, where he had shown consummate skill in avoiding
political complications (and where, by a shrewd speculation in
gold, he had feathered his nest for his declining years), proved
that the continual incertitude of a journalistic career is a
fine basis for diplomatic work. From South America he had gone
to Calcutta, thence to Austria.
He was only twenty-nine, which age in some is youth. He
possessed an old man's wisdom and a boy's exuberance of spirits.
He laughed whenever he could; to him life was a panorama of
vivid pictures, the world a vast theater to which somehow he had
gained admission. His beardless countenance had deceived more
than one finished diplomat, for it was difficult to believe that
behind it lay an earnest purpose and a daring courage. If he
bragged a little, quizzed graybeards, sought strange places,
sported with convention, and eluded women, it was due to his
restlessness. Yet, he had the secretiveness of sand; he absorbed,
but he revealed nothing. He knew his friends; they thought they
knew him. It was his delight to have women think him a butterfly,
men write him down a fool; it covered up his real desires and
left him free.
What cynicism he had was mellowed by a fanciful humor. Whether
with steel or with words, he was a master of fence; and if at
times some one got under his guard, that some one knew it not.
To let your enemy see that he has hit you is to give him
confidence. He saw humor where no one else saw it, and tragedy
where it was not suspected. He was one of those rare individuals
who, when the opportunity of chance refuses to come, makes one.
"Germany and Austria are great countries," he mused, lighting a
cigar. "Every hundredth man is a king, one in fifty is a duke,
every tenth man is a prince, and one can not take a corner
without bumping into a count or a baron. Even the hotel waiters
are disquieting; there is that embarrassing atmosphere about
them which suggests nobility in durance vile. As for me, I
prefer Kentucky, where every man is a colonel, and you never
make a mistake. And these kingdoms!" He indulged in subdued
laughter. "They are always like comic operas. I find myself
looking around every moment for the merry villagers so happy and
so gay (at fifteen dollars the week), the eternal innkeeper and
the perennial soubrette his daughter, the low comedian and the
self-conscious tenor. Heigho! and not a soul in Bleiberg knows
me, nor cares.
"I'd rather talk five minutes to a pretty woman than eat stuffed
pheasants the year around, and the stuffed pheasant is about all
Bleiberg can boast of. Well, here goes for a voyage of discovery;"
and he passed down the stone steps to the pier, quite unconscious
of the admiring glances of the women who fluttered back and forth
on the wide balconies above.
It was four o'clock in the afternoon; a fresh wind redolent of
pine and resin blew across the lake. Maurice climbed into a boat
and pulled away with a strong, swift stroke, enjoying the
liberation of his muscles. A quarter of a mile out he let the
oars drift and took his bearings. He saw the private gardens of
the king and the archbishop, and, convinced that a closer view
would afford him entertainment, he caught up the oars again and
The royal gardens ran directly into the water, while those of
the archbishop were protected by a wall of brick five or six
feet in height, in the center of which was a gate opening on the
water. Behind the gate was a small boat dock. Maurice plied the
oars vigorously. He skirted the royal gardens, and the smell of
newly mown lawns filled the air. Soon he was gliding along the
sides of the moss-grown walls. A bird chirped in the overhanging
boughs. He was about to cast loose the oars again, when the boat
was brought to a violent stop. A few yards waterward from the
gate there lay, hidden in the shadowed water, a sunken pier. On
one of the iron piles the boat had become impaled.
Maurice was tumbled into the bow of the boat, which began
rapidly to fill. First he swore, then he laughed, for he was
possessed of infinite good humor. The only thing left for him to
do was to swim for the gate. With a rueful glance at his thin
clothes, he dropped himself over the side of the wreck and
struck out toward the gate. The water, having its source from
the snowclad mountains, was icy. He was glad enough to grasp the
lower bars of the gate and draw himself up. He was on the point
of climbing over, when a picture presented itself to his
Seated on a bench made of twisted vine was a young girl. She
held in her hand a book, but she was not reading it. She was
scanning the unwritten pages of some reverie; her eyes, dark,
large and wistful, were holding communion with the god of dreams.
A wisp of hair, glossy as coal, trembled against a cheek white
as the gown she wore.
At her side, blinking in the last rays of the warm sun, sat a
bulldog, toothless and old. Now and then a sear leaf, falling in
a zig-zag course, rustled past his ears, and he would shake his
head as if he, too, were dreaming and the leaves disturbed him.
All at once he sniffed, his ears stood forward, and a low growl
broke the enchantment. The girl, on discovering Maurice, closed
the book and rose. The dog, still growling, jumped down and
trotted to the gate. Maurice thought that it was time to speak.
"Mademoiselle," he said, "pardon this intrusion, but my boat has
met with an accident."
The girl came to the gate. "Why, Monsieur," she exclaimed, "you
"That is true," replied Maurice, his teeth beginning to knock
together. "I was forced to swim. If you will kindly open the
gate and guide me to the street, I shall be much obliged to you."
The gate swung outward, and in a moment Maurice was on dry land,
or the next thing to it, which was the boat-dock.
"Thank you," he said.
"O! And you might have been drowned," compassion lighting her
beautiful eyes. "Sit down on the bench, Monsieur, for you must
be weak. And it was that sunken pier? I shall speak to
Monseigneur; he must have it removed. Bull, stop growling; you
are very impolite; the gentleman is in distress."
Maurice sat down, not because he was weak, but because the
desire to gain the street had suddenly subsided. Who was this
girl who could say "must" to the formidable prelate? His quick
eye noticed that she showed no sign of embarrassment. Indeed,
she impressed him as one who was superior to that petty
disturbance of collected thought. Somehow it seemed to him, as
she stood there looking down at him, that he, too, should be
standing. But she put forth a hand with gentle insistence when
he made as though to rise. What an exquisite face, he thought.
Against the whiteness of her skin her lips burned like poppy
petals. Innocent, inquisitive eyes smiled gently, eyes in whose
tranquil depths lay the glory of the world, asleep. Presently a
color, faint and fugitive, dimmed the whiteness of her cheeks.
Maurice, conscious of his rudeness and of a warmth in his own
cheeks, instinctively lowered his gaze.
"Pardon my rudeness," he said.
"What is your name, Monsieur," she asked calmly.
"It is Maurice Carewe. I am living in Vienna. I came to Bleiberg
for pleasure, but the first day has not been propitious," with
an apologetic glance at his dripping clothes.
"Maurice Carewe," slowly repeating the full name as if to
imprint it on her memory. "You are English?"
He said: "No; I am one of those dreadful Yankees you have
possibly read about."
Her teeth gleamed. "Yes, I have heard of them. But you do not
appear so very dreadful; though at present you are truly not at
your best. What is this--this Yankeeland like?"
"It would take me ever so long to tell you about it, it is such
a great country."
"You are a patriot!" clapping her hands. "No other country is so
fine and large and great as your own. But tell me, is it as
large as Austria?"
"Austria? You will not be offended if I tell you?"
"Well," with fun in his eyes, "it is my opinion that I could
hide Austria in my country so thoroughly that nobody would ever
be able to find it again." He wondered how she would accept this
She lifted her chin and laughed, and the bulldog wagged his tail,
as he always did when mirth touched her. He jumped up beside
Maurice and looked into his face. Maurice patted his broad head,
and he submitted. The girl looked rather surprised.
"Are you a magician?" she asked.
"Bull never makes friends."
"But I do," said Maurice; "perhaps he understands that, and
comes half-way. But it is rather strange to see a bulldog in
this part of the country."
"He was given to me, years ago, by an Englishman."
"That accounts for it." He was experiencing a deal of cold, but
he dared not mention it. "And may I ask your name?"
"Ah, Monsieur," shyly, "to tell you my name would be to frighten
"I am sure nothing could do that," he declared earnestly. Had he
been thinking of aught but her eyes he might have caught the
significance of her words. But, then, the cold was numbing.
She surveyed him with critical eyes. She saw a clean-shaven face,
brown, handsome and eager, merry blue eyes, a chin firm and
aggressive, a mischievous mouth, a forehead which showed the man
of thought, a slim athletic form which showed the man of action--
all of which combined to produce that indescribable air which
attaches itself to the gentleman.
"It is Alexia," she said, after some hesitation, watching him
closely to observe the effect.
But he was as far away as ever. "Alexia what?"
"Only Alexia," a faint coquetry stealing into her glance.
"O, then you are probably a maid?"
"Y--es. But you are disappointed?"
"No, indeed. You have put me more at ease. I suppose you serve
"Whenever I can," demurely.
He could not keep his eyes from hers. "They say that she is a
very lonely princess."
"So lonely." And the coquetry faded from her eyes as her glance
wandered waterward and became fixed on some object invisible and
far away. "Poor lonely princess!"
Maurice was growing colder and colder, but he did not mind. He
had wished for some woman to talk to; his wish had been granted.
"I feel sorry for her, if what they say is true," having no
"And what do they say, Monsieur?"
"That she and her father have been socially ostracized. I should
be proud to be her friend." Once the words were gone from him,
he saw their silliness. "A presumptuous statement," he added; "I
am an obscure foreigner."
"Friendship, Monsieur, is a thing we all should prize, all the
more so when it is disinterested."
He said rapidly, for fear she might hear his teeth chatter:
"They say she is very beautiful. Tell me what she is like."
"I am no judge of what men call beauty. As to her character, I
believe I may recommend that. She is good."
He was sure that merriment twitched the corners of her lips, and
he grew thoughtful. "Alexia. Is that not her Highness's name
"Yes, Monsieur; we have the same names." Her eyes fell, and she
began to finger the pages of the book.
"I am rested now," he said, with a sudden distrust. "I thank you."
"Come, then, and I will show you the way to the gate."
"I am sorry to have troubled you," he said.
She did not reply, and together they walked up the path. The
plants were dying, and the odor of decay hovered about them.
Splashes of rich vermilion crowned the treetops, leaves of gold,
russet and faded green rustled on the ground. The sun was gone
behind the hills, the lake was tinted with salmon and dun, and
Maurice (who honestly would have liked to run) was turning
purple, not from atmospheric effect, but from the partly
congealed state of his blood. Already he was thinking that his
adventure had turned out rather well. It was but a simple task
for a man of his imagination to construct a pretty romance, with
a kingdom for a background. A maid of honor, perhaps; no matter,
he would find means for future communication. A glamour had
fallen upon him.
As to the girl, who had scarce spoken to a dozen young men in
her life, she was comparing four faces; one of a visionary
character of which she had dreamed for ten years, and three
which had recently entered into the small circle of her affairs.
It was little pleasure to her to talk to those bald diplomats,
who were always saying what they did not mean, and meaning what
they did not say. And the young officers in the palace never
presumed to address her unless spoken to.
What a monotonous life it was! She was like a bird in a cage,
ever longing for freedom, not of the air, but of impulse. To be
permitted to yield to the impulses of the heart! What a
delightful thought that was! But she, she seemed apart from all
which was desirable to youth. Women courtesied to her, men
touched their hats; but homage was not what she wanted. To be
free, that was all; to come and go at will; to laugh and to sing.
But ever the specter of royal dignity walked beside her and
held her captive.
She was to wed a man on whom she looked with indifference, but
wed him she must; it was written. A toy of ambition, she was
neither more nor less. Ah, to be as her maids, not royal, but
free. Of the three new faces one belonged to the man whom she
was to wed; another was a tall, light-haired man whom she had
seen from her carriage; the last walked by her side. And somehow,
the visionary face, the faces of the man whom she was to wed
and the light-haired man suddenly grew indistinct. She glanced
from the corner of her eyes at Maurice, but meeting his glance,
in which lay something that caused her uneasiness, her gaze
dropped to the path.
"I shall be pleased to tell her Highness that a stranger, who
has not met her, who does not even suspect her rebel spirit,
desires to be her friend."
"O, Mademoiselle," he cried in alarm, "that desire was expressed
"I know it. It is for that very reason I wish her to know. Have
no fear, Monsieur;" and she laughed without mirth. "Her Highness
will not send you to prison"
Close at hand Maurice discovered a cuirassier, who, on seeing
them, saluted and stood attention. Maurice was puzzled.
"Lieutenant," said the girl, "Monsieur--Carewe?" turning to
"Yes, that is the name."
"Well, then, Monsieur Carewe has met with an accident; please
escort him to the gate. I trust you will not suffer any
inconvenience from the cold. Good evening, Monsieur Carewe."
She retraced her steps down the path. The bulldog followed. Once
he looked back at Maurice, and stopped as if undecided, then
went on. Maurice stared at the figure of the girl unfil it
vanished behind a clump of rose bushes.
"Well, Monsieur Carewe!" said the Lieutenant, a broad smile
under his mustache.
"I beg your pardon, Lieutenant. May I ask you who she is?"
"What! You do not know?"
Maurice suddenly saw light. "Her Royal Highness?" blankly.
"Her Royal Highness, God bless her!" cried the Lieutenant
"Amen to that," replied Maurice, his agitation visible even to
They arrived at the gate in silence. The cuirassier raised the
bar, touched his helmet, and said, with something like an amused
twinkle in his eyes: "Would Monsieur like to borrow my helmet
for a space?"
Maurice put up a hand to his water-soaked hair, and gave an
ejaculation of dismay. He had forgotten all about his hat, which
was by now, in-all probabilities, at the bottom of the lake.
"Curse the luck!" he said, in English.
"Curse the want of it, I should say!" was the merry rejoinder,
also in English.
Maurice threw back his head and laughed, and the cuirassier
caught the infection.
"However, there is some compensation for the hat," said the
cuirassier, straightening his helmet. "You are the first
stranger who has spoken to her Highness this many a day. Did the
dog take to your calves? Well, never mind; he has no teeth. It
was only day before yesterday that the Marshal swore he'd have
the dog shot. Poor dog! He is growing blind, too, or he'd never
have risked his gums on the Marshal, who is all shins. If you
will wait I will fetch you one of the archbishop's skull caps."
"Don't trouble yourself," laughed Maurice. "What I need is not a
hat, but a towel, and I'll get that at the hotel. George! I feel
so like an ass. What is your name, Lieutenant?"
"Von Mitter, Carl von Mitter, at your service. And you are
"Of the American legation in Vienna. Thanks for your trouble."
"None at all. You had better hurry along; your nails are growing
Maurice passed into the street. "Her Royal Highness!" he
muttered. "The crown princess, and I never suspected. Her name
is Alexia, and she serves the princess whenever she can! Maurice,
you are an ass!"
Having arrived at this conclusion, and brushing the dank hair
from his eyes, he thrust his hands into his oozing pockets, and
proceeded across the square toward the Continental, wondering if
there was a rear entrance. Happily the adventure absorbed all