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The Puppet Crown by Harold MacGrath

Part 2 out of 7

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his thoughts. He was quite unobservant of the marked attention
bestowed on him. Carriages filled the Strasse, and many persons
moved along the walks. It was the promenade hour. The water,
which still dripped from his clothes and trickled from his shoes,
left a conspicuous trail behind; and this alone, without the
absence of a hat, would have made him the object of amused and
wondering smiles.

A gendarme stared at him, but seeing that he walked straight,
said nothing. Maurice, however, was serenely unaware of what was
passing around him. He did not notice even the tall, broad-
shouldered man who, with a gun under his arm, brushed past him,
followed by a round-faced German over whose back was slung a
game-bag. The man with the gun was also oblivious of his
surroundings. He bumped into several persons, who scowled at him,
but offered no remonstrance after having taken his measure. The
German put his pipe into his pocket and advanced a step.

"The other gun, Herr," he said, "would have meant the boar."

"So it would, perhaps," was the reply.

"We've done pretty good work these two days," went on the German;
but as the other appeared not to have heard he fell to the rear
again, a sardonic smile flitting over his oily face.

When Maurice reached the hotel cafe he left an order for a
cognac to be sent to his room, whither he repaired at once. As
he got into dry clothes he mused.

"I wonder what sort of a man that crown prince is? Now, if I
were he, an army could not keep me away from Bleiberg. Either he
is no judge of beauty, or the peasant girls hereabout are
something extraordinary. Pshaw! a man always makes an ass of
himself on his wedding eve; the crown prince is simply starting
in early. I believe I'll hang on here till the wedding day; a
royal marriage is one of those things which I have yet to see. I
have a fortnight or more to knock around in. I should like to
know what the duchess will eventually do."

He sipped the last drop of the cognac and went down the stairs.



While the absent-minded hunter strode down toward the lower town,
and Maurice sipped his cognac, the king lay in his bed in the
palace and aimlessly fingered the counterpane. There was now no
beauty in his face. It was furrowed and pale, and an endless
fever burned in the sunken eyes--eyes like coals, which suddenly
flare before they turn to ash.

The archbishop nor the chancellor could see anything in the dim
corners of the royal bed chamber, but he could. It was the
mocking finger of death, and it was leveled at him. Spring had
come, and summer and autumn and winter, and spring again, but he
had not wandered through the green fields, except in dreams, and
the byways he loved knew him no more. Ah, to sit still like a
spectator and to see the world pass by! To be a part of it, and
yet not of it! To see the glory of strength and vigor just
beyond one's grasp, the staffs to lean on crumble to the touch,
and the stars of hope fade away one by one from the firmament of
one's dreams! Here was weariness for which there was no remedy.

Day by day time pressed him on toward the inevitable. No human
hand could stay him. He could think, but he could not act. He
could move, but he could not stand nor walk. And that philosophy
which had in other days sustained him was shattered and
threadbare. He was dead, yet he lived. Fate has so many delicate

He had tried to make his people love him, only to acquire their
hate. He had reduced taxation, only to be scorned. He had made
the city beautiful, only to be cursed. A paralytic, the theme of
ribald verse, the butt of wineroom wits, the object of contumely
to his people, his beneficiaries!

The ingratitude of kings bites not half so deep as the
ingratitude of the people. Tears filled his eyes, and he fumbled
his lips. There were only two bright spots in his futile life.
The first was his daughter, who read to him, who was the first
in the morning to greet him and last at night to leave him. The
second was the evening hour when the archbishop and the
chancellor came in to discuss the affairs of state.

"And Prince Frederick has not yet been heard from?" was his
first inquiry.

"No, Sire," answered the chancellor. "The matter is altogether
mysterious. The police can find no trace of him. He left
Carnavia for Bleiberg; he stopped at Ehrenstein, directed his
suite to proceed; there, all ends. The ambassador from Carnavia
approached me to-day. He scouts the idea of a peasant girl, and
hinted at other things."

"Yes," said the king, "there is something behind all this.
Frederick is not a youth of peccadilloes. Something has happened
to him. But God send him safe and sound to us, so much depends
on him. And Alexia?"

"Says nothing," the archbishop answered, "a way with her when

"And my old friend, Lord Fitzgerald?"

The prelate shook his head sadly. "We have just been made
acquainted with his death. God rest his kindly soul."

The king sank deeper into his pillows.

"But we shall hear from his son within a few days," continued
the prelate, taking the king's hand in his own. "My son, cease
to worry. Alexia's future is in good hands. I have confidence
that the public debt will be liquidated on the twentieth."

"Or renewed," said the chancellor. "Your Majesty must not forget
that Prince Frederick sacrifices his own private fortune to
adjust our indebtedness. That is the wedding gift which he
offers to her Highness. One way or the other, we have nothing to

"O!" cried the king, "I had forgotten that magnanimity. His
disappearance is no longer a mystery. He is dead."

His auditors could not repress the start which this declaration
caused them to make.

"Sire," said the chancellor, quietly, "princes are not
assassinated these days. Our worry is perhaps all needless. The
prince is young, and sometimes youth flings off the bridle and
runs away. But he loves her Highness, and the Carnavians are not

The prelate and the statesman had different ideas in regard to
the peasant girl. To the prelate a woman was an unknown quantity,
and he frowned. The statesman, who had once been young, knew a
deal about woman, and he smiled.

"Sometimes, my friends," said the king, "I can see beyond the
human glance. I hear the crumbling of walls. But for that lonely
child I could die in peace. The crown I wear is of lead; God
hasten the day that lifts it from my brow." When the king spoke
again, he said: "And that insolent Von Rumpf is gone at last? I
am easier. He should have been sent about his business ten years
ago. What does Madame the duchess say?"

"So little," answered the chancellor, "that I begin to distrust
her silence. But she is a wise woman, though her years are but
five and twenty, and she will not make any foolish declaration
of war which would only redound to her chagrin."

"What is the fascination in these crowns of straw?" said the
king to the prelate. "Ah, my father, you strive for the crown to
come; and yet your earnest but misguided efforts placed this
earthly one on my head. You were ambitious for me."

"Nay," and the prelate bent his head. "It was self that spoke,
worldly aggrandizement. I wished --God forgive me!--to
administer not to the prince but to the king. I am punished. The
crown has broken your life. It was the passing glory of the
world; and I fell."

"And were not my eyes as dazzled by the crown as yours were by
the robes? Why did we leave the green hills of Osia? What
destiny writes, fate must unfold. And oh, the dreams I had of
being great! I am fifty-eight and you are seventy. And look; I
am a broken twig, and you tower above me like an ancient oak,
and as strong." To the chancellor he said: "And what is the

"Sire, it is fairly quiet in the lower town. The native troops
have been paid, and all signs of discontent abated. The duchess
can do nothing but replace von Rumpf. The Marshal is a straw in
the wind; von Wallenstein and Mollendorf, I hold a sword above
their necks. Nearly half the Diet is with us. There has been
some strange meddling in the customs. Englishmen have brought me
complaints, through the British legation, regarding such
inspections as were never before heard of in a country at peace.
I consulted the chief inspector and he affirmed the matter. He
was under orders of the minister of police. It appears to me
that a certain Englishman is to be kept out of the country for
reasons well known to us. I have suspended police power over the
customs. Ah, Sire, if you would but agree with Monseigneur to
dismiss the cabinet."

"It is too late," said the king.

"There is only one flaw," continued the chancellor. "This flaw
is Colonel Beauvais, chief in command of the cuirassiers, who in
authority stands between the Marshal and General Kronau. I fear
him. Why? Instinct. He is too well informed of my projects for
one thing; he laughs when I suggest in military affairs. Who is
he? A Frenchman, if one may trust to a name; an Austrian, if one
may trust from whence he came, recommended by the premier
himself. He entered the cuirassiers as a Captain. You yourself,
Sire, made him what he is--the real military adviser of the
kingdom. But what of his past? No one knows, unless it be von
Wallenstein, his intimate. I, for one, while I may be wrong,
trust only those whose past I know, and even then only at

"Colonel Beauvais?" murmured the king. "I am sure that you are
unjustly suspicious. How many times have I leaned on his stout
arm! He taught Alexia a thousand tricks of horse, so that to-day
she rides as no other woman in the kingdom rides. Would that I
stood half so straight and looked at the world half so
fearlessly. He is the first soldier in the kingdom."

"All men are honest in your Majesty's eyes," said the archbishop.

"All save the man within me," replied the king.

At this juncture the king's old valet came in with the evening
meal; and soon after the prelate and the chancellor withdrew
from the chamber.

"How long will he live?" asked the latter.

"A year; perhaps only till to-morrow. Ah, had he but listened to
me several years ago, all this would not have come to pass. He
would see nothing; he persisted in dreams. With the death of
Josef he was convinced that his enemies had ceased to be. Had he
listened, I should have dismissed the cabinet, and found enough
young blood to answer my purposes; I should have surrounded him
with a mercenary army two thousand strong; by now he should have
stood strongly entrenched.

"They have robbed him, but you and I were permitted to do
nothing. Where is the prosperity of which we formerly boasted? I,
too, hear crumbling walls. Yet, the son of this Englishman,
whose strange freak is still unaccountable, will come at the
appointed time; I know the race. He will renew the loan for
another ten years. What a fancy! Lord Fitzgerald was an
eccentric man. Given a purpose, he pursued it to the end,
neither love nor friendship, nor fear swerved him. Do you know
that he made a vow that Duke Josef should never sit on this
throne, nor his descendants? What were five millions to him, if
in giving them he realized the end? The king would never explain
the true cause of this Englishman's folly, but I know that it
was based on revenge, the cause of which also is a mystery. If
only the prince were here!"

"He will come; youth will be youth."


"You have never been young."

"Not in that particular sense to which you refer," dryly.

* * * * * *

In the chamber of finance Colonel Beauvais leaned over the desk
and perused the writing on a slip of paper which the minister
had given him. Enough daylight remained to permit the letters to
stand out legibly. When he had done the Colonel tossed back the
missive, and the minister tore it into shreds and dropped them
into the waste basket.

"So much for your pains," said Beauvais. "The spy, who has eaten
up ten thousand crowns, is not worth his salt. He has watched
this man Hamilton for two days, been his guide in the hills, and
yet learns nothing. And the rigor of the customs is a farce."

"This day," replied the minister, "the police lost its
jurisdiction over the customs. Complaints have been entered at
the British legation, which forwarded them to the chancellor."

"O ho!" The Colonel pulled his mustache.

"I warned you against this. The chancellor is a man to be
respected, whatever his beliefs. I warned you and Mollendorf of
the police what the result would be. The chancellor has a hard
hand when it falls. He was always bold; now he is more so since
he practically stands alone. In games of chance one always
should play close. You are in a hurry."

"I have waited six years."

"And I have waited fourteen."

"Well, then, I shall pass into the active. I shall watch this
Englishman myself. He is likely to prove the agent. Count, the
time for waiting is gone. If the debt is liquidated or renewed--
and there is Prince Frederick to keep in mind-- we shall have
played and lost. Disgrace for you; for me--well, perhaps there
is a power behind me too strong. The chancellor? Pouf! I have no
fear of him. But you who laugh at the archbishop--"

"He is too old."

"So you say. But he has dreams unknown to us. He has ceased to
act; why? He is waiting for the curtain to rise. Nothing escapes
him; he is letting us go to what end we will, only, if we do not
act at once, to draw us to a sudden halt. Now to this meddling
Englishman: we have offered him a million--five millions for
four. He laughs. He is a millionaire. With characteristic
bombast he declares that money has no charms. For six months,
since his father's death, we have hounded him, in vain. It is
something I can not understand. What is Leopold to these
Englishmen that they risk a princely fortune to secure him his
throne? Friendship? Bah, there is none."

"Not in France nor in Austria. But this man was an Englishman;
they leave legacies of friendship."

The Colonel walked to the window and looked down into the
gardens. He remained there for a time. Von Wallenstein eyed him
curiously. Presently the soldier returned to his seat.

"We are crossing a chasm; a man stands in our way; as we can not
go around him, we, being the stronger, push him aside. Eh?"

"You would not kill--" began the minister.

"Let us use the French meaning of the word `suppress.' And why
not? Ambition, wherever it goes, leaves a trail of blood. What
is a human life in this game we play? A leaf, a grain of sand."

"But, since the prince promises to liquidate the debt, what
matters it if the Englishman comes? It is all one and the same."

"Within twenty, nay, within fifteen days, what may not happen?"

"You are ambitious," said von Wallenstein, slyly.

"And who is not?"

"Is a Marshal's baton so much, then, above your present
position? You are practically the head of the army."

"A valiant army!" laughing; "five thousand men. Why, Madame the
duchess has six thousand and three batteries."

"Her army of six thousand is an expedient; you can raise
volunteers to the amount of ten thousand."

"To be sure I could; but supposing I did not want to?"

The minister dropped his gaze and began fingering the paper
cutter. The Colonel's real purpose was still an enigma to him.
"Come, you have the confidence of the king, the friendship of
her Royal Highness. What do you gain in serving us? The baton?"

"You embarrass me. Questions? I should not like to lie to you.
Batons were fine things when Louises and Napoleons conferred
them. I have thrown my dice into the common cup; let that be

"A man who comes from a noble house such as you come from--"

"Ah, count, that was never to be referred to. Be content with my
brain and sword. And then, there is the old saying, Give a man
an ell, and look to your rod. We are all either jackals or lions,
puppets or men behind the booth. I am a lion." He rose, drew
his saber half-way from the scabbard, and sent it slithering
back. "In a fortnight we put it to the touch to win or lose it
all, as the poet says. Every man for himself, and let the
strongest win, say I."

"You are playing two games," coldly.

"And you? Is it for pure love of Madame the duchess that you
risk your head? Come, as you say; admit that you wish to see my
hand without showing yours. A baton is not much for me, as you
have hinted, but it is all that was promised me. And you, if we
win, will still be minister of finances? What is that maggot I
see behind your eyes? Is it not spelled `chancellor'? But,
remember, Madame has friends to take care of in the event of our
success. We can not have all the spoils. To join the kingdom and
the duchy will create new offices, to be sure, but we can have
only part of them. As to games, I shall, out of the kindness in
my heart, tell you that I am not playing two, but three. Guess
them if you can. Next to the chancellorship is the embassy to
Vienna, and an embassy to Paris is to be created. Madame is a
superior woman. Who knows?" with a smile that caused the other
to pale.

"You are mad to dream of that."

"As you say, I come of a noble house," carelessly.

"You are mad."

"No, count," the soldier replied. "I have what Balzac calls a
thirst for a full life in a short space."

"I would give a deal to read what is going on in that head of

"Doubtless. But what is to become of our friends the Marshal and
Mollendorf? What will be left for them? Perhaps there will be a
chamber of war, a chamber of the navy. As a naval minister the
Marshal would be nicely placed. There would be no expense of
building ships or paying sailors, which would speak well for the
economy of the new government. The Marshal is old; we shall send
him to Servia. At least the office will pay both his vanity and
purse to an extent equal to that of his present office. By the
way, nothing has yet been heard from Prince Frederick. Ah, these
young men, these plump peasant girls!"

Both laughed.

"Till this evening, then;" and the Colonel went from the room.

The minister of finance applied a match to the tapers. He held
the burning match aloft and contemplated the door through which
the soldier had gone. The sting of the incipient flame aroused

"What," he mused aloud, as he arranged the papers on his desk,
"is his third game?"

"It appears to me," said a voice from the wall behind, "that the
same question arises in both our minds."

The minister wheeled his chair, his mouth and brows puckered in
dismay. From a secret panel in the wall there stepped forth a
tall, thin, sour-visaged old man of military presence. He calmly
sat down in the chair which Beauvais had vacated.

"I had forgotten all about you, Marshal!" exclaimed the count,
smiling uneasily.

"A statement which I am most ready to believe," replied old
Marshal Kampf, with a glance which caused the minister yet more
uneasiness. "What impressed me among other things was, `But what
is to become of our friends the Marshal and Mollendorf?' I am
Marshal; I am about to risk all for nothing. Why should I not
remain Marshal for the remainder of my days? It is a pleasant
thing to go to Vienna once the year and to witness the maneuvers,
with an honorary position on the emperor's staff. To be Marshal
here is to hold a sinecure, yet it has its compensations. The
uniforms, gray and gold, are handsome; it is an ostrich plume
that I wear in my chapeau de bras; the medals are of gold. My
friend, it is the vanity of old age which forgives not." And the
Marshal, the bitterest tongue in all Bleiberg, reached over and
picked up the cigar which lay by the inkwells. He lit it at one
of the tapers, and sank again into the chair. "Count, how many
games are you playing?"

"My dear Marshal, it was not I who spoke of games. I am playing
no game, save for the legitimate sovereign of this kingdom. I
ask for no reward."

"Disinterested man! The inference is, however, that, since you
have not asked for anything, you have been promised something.
Confess it, and have done."



"Is it possible that you suspect me?" The cold eyes grew colder,
and the thin lips almost disappeared.

"When three men watch each other as do Beauvais, Mollendorf and
you, it is because each suspects the other of treachery. You
haven't watched me because I am old, but because I am old I have
been watching you. Mollendorf aspires to greatness, you have
your gaze on the chancellorship, and curse me if the Colonel
isn't looking after my old shoes! Am I to give up my uniform, my
medals and my plume--for nothing? And who the devil is this man
Beauvais, since that is not his name? Is he a fine bird whose
feathers have been plucked?"

The minister did not respond to the question; he began instead
to fidget in his chair.

"When I gave my word to his Highness the duke, it was without
conditions. I asked no favors; I considered it my duty. Let us
come to an understanding. Material comfort is necessary to a man
of my age. Fine phrases and a medal or two more do not count. I
am, then, to go to Servia. You were very kind to hide me in your

"It was to show you that I had no secrets from you," quickly.

"Let us pass on. Mollendorf is to go to Paris, where he will be
a nonentity, while in his present office he is a power in the
land-- Devil take me, but it seems to me that we are all a pack
of asses! Our gains will not be commensurate with our losses.
The navy? Well, we'll let that pass; the Colonel, I see, loves a

"You forget our patriotism for the true house."

"Why not give it its true name--self-interest?"

"Marshal, in heaven's name, what has stirred your bile?" The
minister was losing his patience, a bad thing for him to do in
the presence of the old warrior.

"It is something I've been swallowing this past year." The
Marshal tipped the ash of his cigar into the waste basket.

"Marshal, will you take the word not of the minister, but of the
von Wallenstein, that whatever my reward shall be for my humble
services, yours shall not be less?"

"Thanks, but I have asked for no reward. If I accepted gain for
what I do, I should not be too old to blush."

"I do not understand."

"Self-interest blinds us. I have nothing but pity for this king
whose only crime is an archbishop; and I can not accept gain at
his expense; I should blush for shame. Had I my way, he should
die in peace. He has not long to live. The archbishop--well, we
can not make kings, they are born. But there is one thing more:
Over all your schemes is the shadow of Austria."


"Yes. The Colonel speaks of a power behind him. Bismarck looks
hungrily toward Schleswig-Holstein. Austria casts amorous eyes
at us. A protectorate? We did not need it. It was forced on us.
When Austria assumed to dictate to us as to who should be king,
she also robbed us of our true independence. Twenty years ago
there was no duchy; it was all one kingdom. Who created this
duchy when Albrecht came on the throne? Austria. Why? If we
live we shall read." He rose, shook his lean legs. "I have been
for the most part neutral. I shall remain neutral. There is an
undercurrent on which you have failed to reckon. Austria,
mistress of the confederation. There are two men whom you must
watch. One is the archbishop."

"The archbishop?" The minister was surprised that the Marshal
should concur with the Colonel. "And the other?"

"Your friend the Colonel," starting for the door.

The minister smiled. "Will you not dine with me?" he asked.

"Thanks. But I have the Servian minister on my hands to-night. A
propos, tell the Colonel that I decline Belgrade. I prefer to
die at home." And he vanished.

Von Wallenstein reviewed the statements of both his visitors.

"I shall watch Monseigneur the archbishop." Then he added, with
a half-smile: "God save us if the Marshal's sword were half so
sharp as his tongue! It was careless of me to forget that I had
shut him up in the cabinet."

Meanwhile Beauvais walked slowly toward his quarters, with his
saber caught up under his arm. Once he turned and gazed at the
palace, whose windows began to flash with light.

"Yes, they are puppets and jackals, and I am the lion. For all
there shall serve my ends. I shall win, and when I do--" He
laughed silently. "Well, I am a comely man, and Madame the
duchess shall be my wife."



The public park at night was a revelation to Maurice, who,
lonely and restless, strolled over from the hotel in quest of
innocent amusement. He was none the worse for his unintended
bath; indeed, if anything, he was much the better for it. His
imagination was excited. It was not every day that a man could,
at one and the same time, fall out of a boat and into the
presence of a princess of royal blood.

He tried to remember all he had said to her, but only two
utterances recurred to him; yet these caused him an exhilaration
like the bouquet of old wine. He had told her that she was
beautiful, indirectly, it was true; she had accepted his
friendship, also indirectly, it was true. Now the logical
sequence of all this was--but he broke into a light laugh. What
little vanity he possessed was without conceit. Princesses of
royal blood were beyond the reach of logical sequence; and
besides, she was to be married on the twentieth of the month.

He followed one of the paths which led to the pavilion. It was a
charming scene, radiant with gas lamps, the vivid kaleidoscope
of gowns and uniforms. Beautiful faces flashed past him. There
were in the air the vague essences of violet, rose and
heliotrope. Sometimes he caught the echo of low laughter or the
snatch of a gay song. The light of the lamps shot out on the
crinkled surface of the lake in tongues of quivering flame,
which danced a brave gavot with the phantom stars; and afar
twinkled the dipping oars. The brilliant pavilion, which rested
partly over land and partly over water, was thronged.

The band was playing airs from the operas of the day, and
Maurice yielded to the spell of the romantic music. He leaned
over the pavilion rail, and out of the blackness below he
endeavored to conjure up the face of Nell (or was it Kate?) who
had danced with him at the embassies in Vienna, fenced and
ridden with him, till--till-- with a gesture of impatience he
flung away the end of his cigar.

Memory was altogether too elusive. It was neither Nell nor Kate
he saw smiling up at him, nor anybody else in the world but the
Princess Alexia, whose eyes were like wine in a sunset, whose
lips were as red as the rose of Tours in France, and whose voice
was sweeter than that throbbing up from the 'cello. If he
thought much more of her, there would be a logical sequence on
his side. He laughed again--with an effort--and settled back in
his chair to renew his interest in the panorama revolving around

"They certainly know how to live in these countries," he thought,
"for all their comic operas. All I need, to have this fairy
scene made complete, is a woman to talk to. By George, what's to
hinder me from finding one?" he added, seized by the spirit of
mischief. He turned his head this way and that. "Ah! doubtless
there is the one I'm looking for."

Seated alone at a table behind him was a woman dressed in gray.
Her back was toward him, but he lost none of the beautiful
contours of her figure. She wore a gray alpine hat, below the
rim of which rebellious little curls escaped, curls of a fine
red-brown, which, as they trailed to the nape of the firm white
neck, lightened into a ruddy gold. Her delicate head was turned
aside, and to all appearances her gaze was directed to the
entrance to the pavilion. A heavy blue veil completely obscured
her features; though Maurice could see a rose-tinted ear and the
shadow of a curving chin and throat, which promised much. To a
man there is always a mystery lurking behind a veil. So he rose,
walked past her, returned and deliberately sat down in the chair
opposite to hers. The fact that gendarmes moved among the crowd
did not disturb him.

"Good evening, Mademoiselle," he said, politely lifting his hat.

She straightened haughtily. "Monsieur," she said, resentment,
consternation and indignation struggling to predominate in her
tones, "I did not give you permission to sit down. You are

"O, no," Maurice declared. "I am not impertinent. I am lonesome.
In all Bleiberg I haven't a soul to talk to, excepting the hotel
waiters, and they are uninteresting. Grant me the privilege of
conversing with you for a moment. We shall never meet again; and
I should not know you if we did. Whether you are old or young,
plain or beautiful, it matters not. My only wish is to talk to a
woman, to hear a woman's voice"

"Shall I call a gendarme, Monsieur, and have him search for your
nurse?" The attitude which accompanied these words was anything
but assuring.

He, however, evinced no alarm. He even laughed. "That was good!
We shall get along finely, I am sure."

"Monsieur," she said, rising, "I repeat that I do not desire
your company, nor to remain in the presence of your unspeakable

"I beseech you!" implored Maurice, also rising. "I am a
foreigner, lonesome, unhappy, thousands of miles from home--"

"You are English?" suddenly. She stood with the knuckle of her
forefinger on her lips as if meditating. She sat down.

Maurice, greatly surprised, also sat down.

"English?" he repeated. His thought was: "What the deuce! This
is the third time I have been asked that. Who is this gay
Lothario the women seem to be expecting?" To her he continued:
"And why do you ask me that?"

"Perhaps it is your accent. And what do you wish to say to me,
Monsieur?" It was a voice of quality; all the anger had gone
from it. She leaned on her elbows, her chin in her palms, and
through the veil he caught the sparkle of a pair of wonderful
eyes. "Let us converse in English," she added. "It is so long
since I have had occasion to speak in that tongue." She repeated
her question.

"O, I had no definite plan outlined," he answered; "just
generalities, with the salt of repartee to season." He pondered
over this sudden transition from wrath to mildness. An
Englishman? Very well; it might grow interesting.

"Is it customary among the English to request to speak to
strangers without the usual formalities of an introduction?"

"I can not say that it is," he answered truthfully enough; "but
the procedure is never without a certain charm and excitement."

"Ah; then you were led to address me merely by the love of

"That is it; the love of adventure. I should not have spoken to
you had you not worn the veil." He remarked that her English was

"You differ from the average Englishman, who is usually wrapt up
in himself and has no desire to talk to strangers. You have been
a soldier."

The evolutions of his cane ceased. "How in the world did you
guess that?" surprised beyond measure.

"Perhaps there is something suggestive in your shoulders."

He tried to peer behind the veil, but in vain. "Am I speaking to
one I have met before?"

"I believe not; indeed, sir, I am positive."

"I have been a soldier, but my shoulders did not tell you that."

"Perhaps I have the gift of clairvoyance," gazing again toward
the entrance.

"Or perhaps you have been to Vienna."

"Who knows? Most Englishmen are, or have been, soldiers."

"That is true." Inwardly, "There's my friend the Englishman
again. She's guessing closer than she knows. Curious; she has
mistaken me for some one she does not know, if that is possible."
He was somewhat in a haze. "Well, you have remarkable eyes.
However, let us talk of a more interesting subject; for instance,
yourself. You, too, love adventure, that is, if I interpret the
veil rightly."

"Yes; I like to see without being seen. But, of course, behind
this love of adventure which you possess, there is an important

"Ah!" he thought; "you are not quite sure of me." Aloud, "Yes, I
came here to witness the comic opera."

"The comic opera? I do not understand?"

"I believed there was going to be trouble between the duchy and
the kingdom, but unfortunately the prima donna has refused the

"The prima donna!" in a muffled voice. "Whom do you mean?"

"Son Altesse la Grande Duchesse! 'Voici le sabre de mon pere!'"
And he whistled a bar from Offenbach, his eyes dancing.

"Sir!--I!--you do wrong to laugh at us!" a flash from the half-
hidden eyes.

"Forgive me if I have offended you, but I--"

"Ah, sir, but you who live in a powerful country think we little
folk have no hearts, that we have no wrongs to redress, no
dreams of conquest and of power. You are wrong."

"And whose side do you defend?"

"I am a woman," was the equivocal answer.

"Which means that you are uncertain."

"I have long ago made up my mind."

"Wonderful! I always thought a woman's mind was like a time-
table, subject to change without notice. So you have made up
your mind?"

"I was born with its purpose defined," coldly.

"Ah, now I begin to doubt."

"What?" with a still lower degree of warmth.

"That you are a woman. Only goddesses do not change their minds--
sometimes. Well, then you are on the weaker side."

"Or the stronger, since there are two sides."

"And the stronger?" persistently.

"The side which is not the weaker. But the subject is what you
English call 'taboo.' It is treading on delicate ground to talk
politics in the open--especially in Bleiberg."

"What a diplomat you would make!" he cried with enthusiasm.
Certainly this was a red-letter day in his calendar. This
adventure almost equalled the other, and, besides, in this
instance, his skin was dry; he could enjoy it more thoroughly.
Who could this unknown be? "If only you understood the mystery
with which you have enshrouded yourself!"

"I do." She drew the veil more firmly about her chin.

"Grant me a favor."

"I am talking to you, sir."

This candor did not disturb him. "The favor I ask is that you
will lift the corner of your veil; otherwise you will haunt me."

"I am doomed to haunt you, then. If I should lift the corner of
my veil something terrible would happen."

"What! Are you as beautiful as that?"

There was a flash of teeth behind the veil, followed by the
ripple of soft laughter. "It is difficult to believe you to be
English. You are more like one of those absurd Americans."

Maurice did not like the adjective. "I am one of them,"
wondering what the effect of this admission would be. "I am not
English, but of the brother race. Forgive me if I have imposed
on you, but it was your fault. You said that I was English, and
I was too lonesome to enlighten you."

"You are an American?" She began to tap her gloved fingers
against the table.


Then, to his astonishment, she gave way to laughter, honest and
hearty. "How dense of me not to have known the moment you
addressed me! Who but the American holds in scorn custom's
formalities and usages? Your grammar is good, so good that my
mistake is pardonable. The American is always like the terrible
infant; and you are a choice example."

Maurice was not so pleased as he might have been. His ears
burned. Still, he went forward bravely. "A man never pretends to
be an Englishman without getting into trouble."

"I did not ask to speak to you. No one ever pretends to be an
American. Why is it you are always ashamed of your country?"
with malice aforethought.

Maurice experienced the sting of many bees. "I see that your
experience is limited to impostors. I, Mademoiselle, am proud of
my country, the great, free land which stands aside from the
turmoil and laughs at your petty squabbles, your kings, your
princes. Laugh at me; I deserve it for not minding my own
business, but do not laugh at my country." His face was flushed;
he was almost angry. It was not her words; it was the contempt
with which she had invested them. But immediately he was ashamed
of his outburst. "Ah, Mademoiselle, you have tricked me; you
have found the vulnerable part in my armor. I have spoken like a
child. Permit me to apologize for my apparent lack of breeding."
He rose, bowed, and made as though to depart.

"Sit down, Monsieur," she said, picking up her French again. "I
forgive you. I do more; I admire. I see that your freak had
nothing behind it but mischief. No woman need fear a man who
colors when his country is made the subject of a jest."

All his anger evaporated. This was an invitation, and he
accepted it. He resumed his seat.

"The truth is, as I remarked, I was lonesome. I know that I have
committed a transgression, but the veil tempted me."

"It is of no matter. A few moments, and you will be gone. I am
waiting for some one. You may talk till that person comes." Her
voice was now in its natural tone; and he was convinced that if
her face were half as sweet, she must possess rare beauty. "Hush!"
as the band began to breathe forth Chopin's polonaise. They
listened until the music ceased.

"Ah !" said he rapturously, "the polonaise! When you hear it,
does there not recur to you some dream of bygone happy hours,
the sibilant murmur of fragrant night winds through the crisp
foliage, the faint call of Diana's horn from the woodlands, moon-
fairies dancing on the spider-webs, the glint of the dew on the
roses, the far-off music of the surges tossing impotently on the
sands, the forgetfulness of time and place and care, and not a
cloud 'twixt you and the heavens? Ah, the polonaise!"

"Surely you must be a poet!" declared the Veil, when this
panegyric was done.

"No," said he modestly, "I never was quite poor enough for that
exalted position." He had recovered his good humor.

"Indeed, you begin to interest me. What is your occupation when
not in search of--comic operas?"

"I serve Ananias."

"Ananias?" A pause. "Ah, you are a diplomat?"

"How clever of you to guess."

"Yours is a careless country," observed the Veil.

"Careless?" mystified.

"Yes, to send forth her green and salad youth. Eh, bien! There
are hopes for you. If you live you will grow old; you will
become bald and reserved; you will not speak to strangers, to
while away an idle hour; for permit me, Monsieur, who am wise,
to tell you that it is a dangerous practice."

"And do I look so very young?"

"Your beard is that of a boy."

"David slew Goliath."

"At least you have a ready tongue," laughing.

"And you told me that I had been a soldier."

But to this she had nothing to say.

"I am older than you think, Mademoiselle of the Veil. I have
been a soldier; I have seen hard service, too. Mine is no
cushion sword. Youth? 'Tis a virtue, not a crime; and, besides,
it is an excellent disguise."

For some time she remained pensive.

"You are thinking of something, Mademoiselle."

"Do you like adventure?"

"I subsist on it."

"You have been a soldier; you are, then, familiar with the use
of arms?"

"They tell me so," modestly. What was coming?

"I have some influence. May I trust you?"

"On my honor," puzzled, yet eager.

"There may be a comic opera, as you call it. War is not so
impossible as to be laughed at. The dove may fly away and the
ravens come."

"Who in thunder might this woman be?" he thought.

"And," went on the Veil, "an extra saber might be used. Give me
your address, in case I should find it necessary to send for you."

Now Maurice was a wary youth. Under ordinary circumstances he
would have given a fictitious address to this strange sybil with
the prophecy of war; for he had accosted her only in the spirit
of fun. But here was the key which he had been seeking, the key
to all that had brought him to Bleiberg. Intrigue, adventure, or
whatever it was, and to whatever end, he plunged into it. He
drew out a card case, selected a card on which he wrote "Room 12,
Continental," and passed it over the table. She read it, and
slipped it into her purse.

Maurice thought: "Who wouldn't join the army with such
recruiting officers?"

While the pantomime took place, a man pushed by Maurice's chair
and crossed over to the table recently occupied by him. He sat
down, lit a short pipe, rested his feet on the lowest rung of
the ladder-like railing, and contemplated the western hills,
which by now were enveloped in moon mists. Neither Maurice nor
his mysterious vis-a-vis remarked him. Indeed, his broad back
afforded but small attraction. And if he puffed his pipe
fiercely, nobody cared, since the breeze carried the smoke

After putting the card into her purse, Mademoiselle of the
Veil's gaze once more wandered toward the entrance, and this
time it grew fixed. Maurice naturally followed it, and he saw a
tall soldier in fatigue dress elbowing his way through the crush.
Many moved aside for him; those in uniform saluted.

"Monsieur," came from behind the veil, "you may go now. I
dismiss you. If I have need of you I promise to send for you."

He stood up. "I thank you for the entertainment and the promise
you extend. I shall be easily found," committing himself to
nothing. "I suppose you are a person of importance in affairs."

"It is not unlikely. I see that you love adventure for its own
sake, for you have not asked me if it be the duchy or the
kingdom. Adieu, Monsieur," with a careless wave of the gray-
gloved hand. "Adieu!"

He took his dismissal heroically and shot a final glance at the
approaching soldier. His brows came together.

"Where," he murmured, "have I seen that picturesque countenance
before? Not in Europe; but where?" He caught the arm of a
passing gendarme. "Who is that gentleman in fatigue uniform,
coming this way?"

"That, Monsieur," answered the gendarme in tones not unmixed
with awe, "is Colonel Beauvais of the royal cuirassiers."

"Thanks. . . . Beauvais; I do not remember the name. Truly I
have had experiences to-day. And for what house is Mademoiselle
of the Veil? Ravens? War? `Voici le sabre de mon pyre!'" and
with a gay laugh he went his way.

Meanwhile Colonel Beauvais arrived at the table, tipped his hat
to the Veil, who rose and laid a hand on his arm. He guided her
through the pressing crowds.

"Ah, Madame," he said, "you are very brave to choose such a

"Danger is a tonic to the ill-spirited," was the reply.

"If aught should happen to you--"

"It was in accord with her wishes that I am here. She suffers
from impatience; and I would risk much to satisfy her whims."

"So would I, Madame; even life." There was a tremor of passion
in his voice, but she appeared not to notice it. "Here is a nook
out of the lights; we may talk here with safety."

"And what is the news?" she asked.

"This: The man remains still in obscurity. But he shall be found.
Listen," and his voice fell into a whisper.

"Austria?" Mademoiselle of the Veil pressed her hands together
in excitement. "Is it true?"

"Did I not promise you? It is so true that the end is in sight.
Conspiracy is talked openly in the streets, in the cafes,
everywhere. The Osians will be sand in the face of a tidal wave.
A word from me, and Kronau follows it. It all would be so easy
were it not for the archbishop."

"The archbishop?" contemptuously.

"Ay, Madame; he is a man so deep, with a mind so abyssmal, that
I would give ten years of my life for a flash of his thoughts.
He has some project; apparently he gives his whole time to the
king. He loves this weak man Leopold; he has sacrificed the red
hat for him, for the hat would have taken him to Italy, as we
who procured it intended it should."

"The archbishop? Trust me; one month from now he will be
recalled. That is the news I have for you."

"You have taken a weight from my mind. What do you think in
regard to the rumor of the prince and the peasant girl?"

"It afforded me much amusement. You are a man of fine inventions."

"Gaze toward the upper end of the pavilion, the end which we
have just left. Yes--there. I am having the owner of those broad
shoulders watched. That gendarme leaning against the pillar
follows him wherever he goes."

"Who is he?"

"That I am trying to ascertain. This much-- he is an Englishman."

Mademoiselle of the Veil laughed. "Pardon my irrelevancy, but
the remembrance of a recent adventure of mine was too strong."

Maurice could not regain his interest in the scene. He strolled
in and out of the moving groups, but no bright eyes or winning
smiles allured him. Impelled by curiosity, he began to draw near
the shadowed nook. Curiosity in a journalist is innate, and time
nor change can efface it. Curiosity in those things which do not
concern us is wrong. Ethics disavows the practice, though
philosophy sustains it. Perhaps in this instance Maurice was
philosophical, not ethical. Perhaps he wanted to hear the
woman's voice again, which was excusable. Perhaps it was neither
the one nor the other, but fate, which directed his footsteps.
Certain it is that the subsequent adventures would never have
happened had he gone about his business, as he should have done.

"Who is this who stares at us?" asked Beauvais, with a piercing
glance and a startled movement of his shoulders.

"A disciple of Pallas and a pupil of Mars," was the answer. "I
have been recruiting, Colonel. There is sharpness sometimes in
new blades. Do not draw him with your eyes."

The Colonel continued his scrutiny, however, and there was an
ugly droop at the corners of his mouth, though it was partly
hidden under his mustache.

Maurice, aware that he was not wanted, passed along, having in
mind to regain his former seat by the railing.

"Colonel," he mused, "your face grows more familiar every moment.
It was not associated with agreeable things. But, what were
they? Hang it! you shall have a place in my thoughts till I have
successfully labeled you. Humph! Some one seems to have
appropriated my seat."

He viewed with indecision the broad back of the interloper, who
at that moment turned his head. At the sight of that bronzed
profile Maurice gave an exclamation of surprise and delight. He
stepped forward and dropped his hand on the stranger's shoulder.

"John Fitzgerald, or henceforth garlic shall be my salad!" he
cried in loud, exultant tones.



The stranger returned Maurice's salute with open-mouthed dismay;
the monocle fell from his eye, he grasped the table with one
hand and pushed back the chair with the other, while Maurice
heard the name of an exceedingly warm place.

The gendarme, who was leaning against the pillar, straightened,
opened his jaws, snapped them, and hurried off.

"Maurice--Maurice Carewe?" said the bewildered Englishman.

"No one else, though I must say you do not seem very glad to see
me," Maurice answered, conscious that he was all things but

"Hang you, I'm not!" incogitantly.

"Go to the devil, then!" cried Maurice, hotly.

"Gently," said Fitzgerald, catching Maurice by the coat and
pulling him down into a chair. "Confound you, could you not have
made yourself known to me without yelling my name at the top of
your voice?"

"Are you ashamed of it?" asked Maurice, loosing his coat from
Fitzgerald's grip.

"I'm afraid of it," the Englishman admitted, in a lowered voice.
"And your manly, resonant tones have cast it abroad. I am here

"Who the deuce are you?"

"I am Don Jahpet of Armenia; that is to say that I am a marked
man. And now, as you would inelegantly express it, you have put
a tag on me. When I left you in Vienna the other day I lied to
you. I am sorry. I should have trusted you, only I did not wish
you to risk your life. You would have insisted on coming along."

"Risked my life?" echoed Maurice. "How many times have I not
risked it? By the way," impressed by a sudden thought, "are you
the Englishman every one seems to be expecting?"

"Yes." Fitzgerald knocked his pipe against the railing. "I am
the man. Worse luck! Was any one near when you called me by

"Only one of those wooden gendarmes."

"Only one of those wooden gendarmes!" ironically. "Only one of
those dogs who have been at my heels ever since I arrived. And
he, having heard, has gone back to his master. Well, since you
have started the ball rolling, it is no more than fair that you
should see the game to its end."

"What's it all about?" asked Maurice, his astonishment growing
and growing.

"Where are your rooms?"

"You have something important to tell me?"

"Perhaps you may think so. At the Continental? Come along."

They passed out of the pavilion, along the path to the square,
thence to the terrace of the Continental, which they mounted.
Not a word was said, but Maurice was visibly excited, and by
constant gnawing ruined his cigar. He conducted his friend to
the room on the second floor, the window of which opened on a
private balcony. Here he placed two chairs and a small table;
and with a bottle of tokayer between them they seated themselves.

"What's it all about?"

"O, only a crown and a few millions in money."

"Only a crown and a few millions in money," repeated Maurice
very slowly, for his mind could scarcely accept Fitzgerald and
these two greatest treasures on earth.

A gendarme had leisurely followed them from the park. He took
aside a porter and quietly plied him with questions. Evidently
the answers were satisfactory, for he at once departed.

Maurice stared at the Englishman.

"Knocks you up a bit, eh?" said Fitzgerald. "Well, I am rather
surprised myself; that is to say, I was."

"Fire away," said Maurice.

"To begin with, if I do not see the king to-morrow, it is not
likely that I ever shall."

"The king?"

"My business here is with his Majesty."

Maurice filled the glasses and pushed one across the table.

"Here's!" said he, and gulped.

Fitzgerald drank slowly, however, as if arranging in his mind
the salient points in his forthcoming narrative.

"I have never been an extraordinarily communicative man; what I
shall tell you is known only to my former Colonel and myself. At
Calcutta, where you and I first met, I was but a Lieutenant in
her Majesty's. To-day I am burdened with riches such as I know
not how to use, and possessor of a title which sounds strange in
my ears."

The dim light from the gas-jet in the room flickered over his
face, and Maurice saw that it was slightly contorted, as if by pain.

"My father was Lord Fitzgerald."

"What!" cried Maurice, "the diplomat, the historian, the

"The same. Thirteen years ago we parted--a misunderstanding. I
never saw him again. Six months ago he died and left me a
fortune, a title and a strange legacy; and it is this legacy
which brings me to Bleiberg. Do you know the history of Leopold?"

"I do. This throne belongs to the house of Auersperg, and the
Osian usurps. The fact that the minister of the duchess has been
discredited was what brought me here. Continue."

And Fitzgerald proceeded briefly to acquaint the other with the
strange caprice of his father; how, when he left Bleiberg, he
had been waylaid and the certificates demanded; how he had
entrusted them to his valet, who had gone by another route; how
the duke had sought him in Vienna and made offers, bribes and
threats; how he had laughed at all, and sworn that Duke Josef
should never be a king.

"My father wished to save Leopold in spite of himself; and then,
he had no love for Josef. At a dinner given at the legation,
there was among others a toast to her Majesty. The duke laughed
and tossed the wine to the floor. It lost him his crown, for my
father never forgave the insult. When the duke died, his
daughter took up the work with surprising vigor. It was all
useless; father was a rock, and would listen neither to bribes
nor threats. Now they are after me. They have hunted me in India,
London, and Vienna. I am an obscure soldier, with all my titles
and riches; they threaten me with death. But I am here, and my
father's wishes shall be carried out. That is all. I am glad
that we have come together; you have more invention than I have."

"But why did you come yourself? You could have sent an agent.
That would have been simple."

"An agent might be bought. It was necessary for me to come.
However, I might have waited till the twentieth. I should have
come openly and informed the British minister of my mission. As
to the pheasants, they could have waited. Perhaps my fears are
without foundation, unless you have been the unconscious cause
of my true name being known. Every one has heard the story. It
is known as 'Fitzgerald's folly,' and has gone the rounds of the
diplomatic circles for ten years. I shall ask for an audience to-
morrow morning."

"And these certificates fall due the same day that the princess
is to be married," mused his auditor. "What a yarn for the
papers!" his love of sensation being always close to the surface.
"Your father, you say, took four million crowns; what became of
the fifth?"

"The duke was permitted to secure that."

"A kind of court plaster for his wounds, eh? Why don't you get
that other million and run the kingdom yourself? It's a great
opportunity." Maurice laughed.

"Her Royal Highness must not be forgotten. My father thought
much of her."

"But really I do not see why you are putting yourself to all
this trouble. The king will pay off the indebtedness; the
kingdom is said to be rich, or Austria wouldn't meddle with it."

"The king, on the twentieth of this month, will be some three
millions short."

"And since he can not pay he is bankrupt. Ah, I see the plan.
The duke knew that he wouldn't be able to pay."

"You have hit it squarely."

"But Austria, having placed Leopold here, is his sponsor."

"Austria has too many debts of her own; she will have to disavow
her protege, which is a fact not unthought of by the house of
Auersperg. By constant machination and intrigue the king's
revenues have been so depleted that ordinary debts are
troublesome. The archbishop, to stave off the probable end,
brought about the alliance between the houses of Carnavia and
Osia. My business here is to arrange for a ten years' renewal of
the loan, and that is what the duchess wishes to prevent, mon
ami. What's to become of the king and his daughter if aught in
the way of mishap should befall me? I have not seen the king,
but I have seen her Royal Highness."

"What is she like?" Maurice asked, innocently. He saw no reason
why he should confide to the Englishman his own adventure.

"I'm not much of a judge," said Fitzgerald cautiously. "I have
lived most of my life in cantonments where women were old and
ran mostly to tongue. I should say that she is beautiful." A
short sigh followed this admission.

"Ah!" said Maurice with a loud laugh to cover the sudden pang of
jealousy which seized him; "in gratitude for saving her father's
throne the daughter will fall in love with you. It is what the
dramatist calls logical sequence."

"Why don't you write novels? Your imagination has no bounds."

"Writing novels is too much like work. But I'm serious. Your
position in the world to-day is nearly equal to hers, and
certainly more secure. Ah, yes; I must not forget that prince.
He's a lucky dog--and so are you, for that matter. Millions and
titles! And I have slapped you cavalierly on the back, smoked
your cigars, drunk your whisky, and beaten you at poker!"

"Ah, Maurice, it is neither wealth nor titles; it is freedom. I
am like a boy out of school for good and all. Women, the society
of women, who are the salt of earth; that is what I want. I have
knocked out thirteen years of my life in furnace holes, and have
not met nor spoken to a dozen young women in all that time. How
I envy you! You know every one; you have seen the world;. you
are at home in Paris, or London, or Vienna; you have enjoyed all
I wish to enjoy."

"Why did you ever get into the army?"

"You ought to know."

"But it was bread and butter to me."

"Well, I was young; I saw fame and glory. If the matter under
hand is closed to-morrow, what do you say to the Carpathians and
bears? I shall not remain here; some one will be looking for
blood. What do you say?"

"I don't know," said Maurice, thoughtfully. He was thinking of
Mademoiselle of the Veil and her prophecy of ravens. "I don't
know that I shall be able. It is my opinion that your part in
the affair is only a curtain-raiser to graver things. Every one
of importance in town goes about with an air of expectancy. I
never saw anything like it. It is the king, the archbishop and
the chancellor against two hundred thousand. You're a soldier;
can't you smell powder?"

"Powder! You do not believe the duchess mad enough to wage war?"

"Trust a woman to do what no one dreams she will."

"But Austria would be about her ears in a minute!"

"Maybe. Have you seen this Colonel Beauvais of the royal
cuirassiers, the actual head of the army here?"

"A fine soldier," said the Englishman, heartily. "Rides like a
centaur and wields a saber as if it were a piece of straw."

"I can hold a pretty good blade myself; I've an idea that I can
lick him at both games."

Fitzgerald laughed good-naturedly. "There is the one flaw in
your make-up. I admit your horsemanship; but the saber! Believe
me, it is only the constant practice and a wrist of iron which
make the saber formidable. You are more familiar with the pen; I
dare say you could best him at that."

"What makes you think I can not lick him?"

"Since when have the saber and the civilian been on terms? And
these continental sabers are matchless, the finest in the world.
I trust you will steer clear of the Colonel; if you have any
challenge in mind, spring it on me, and I'll let you down easy."
Then: "Why the devil do you want to lick him, anyway?"

"I don't know," said Maurice. "I had a close range to-night, and
somehow the man went against the grain. Well, Jack, I'll stay
with you in this affair, though, as the county judge at home
would say, it's out of my circuit."

They shook hands across the table.

"Come," said Fitzgerald; "a toast, for I must be off."

"What do you say to her Royal Highness?"

"Let us make it general: to all women!"

They set down the glasses and shook hands again.

"It seemed good to run across you in Vienna, Maurice. You were
one of the bright spots in the old days."

"Do you want me to walk with you to the Grand? It's a fine night,"
said Maurice, waving his hand toward the moon. "By George,
what a beautiful place this end of Bleiberg is! I do not wonder
that the duchess covets it."

"No, I'll go alone. All I have to do is to march straight up the

"Well, good-night and good luck to you," said Maurice, as he led
the Englishman into the hallway. "Look me up when you have
settled the business. I say, but it gets me; it's the strangest
thing I ever heard." And he waited till the soldierly form
disappeared below the landing.

Then he went back to his chair on the balcony to think it over.
At four o'clock that afternoon he had grumbled of dullness. He
lit a pipe, and contemplated the soft and delicate blues of
earth and heaven, the silvery flashes on the lake, and the slim
violet threads of smoke which wavered about his head. It was
late. Now and then the sound of a galloping horse was borne up
by the breeze, and presently Maurice heard the midnight bell
boom forth from the sleepy spires of the cathedral--where the
princess was to be married.

One by one the lamps of the park went out, but the moon shone on,
lustrous and splendid. First he reviewed his odd adventure in
the archbishop's gardens. He had spoken to princesses before,
but they were women of the world, hothouse roses that bloom and
wither in a short space. The atmosphere which surrounded this
princess was idyllic, pastoral. She had seen nothing of the
world, its sports and pastimes, and the art of playing at love
was unknown to her. Again he could see her serious eyes, the
delicate chin and mouth, the oval cheeks, and the dog that
followed in her steps. Here was an indelible picture which time
could never efface. Something stirred in his heart, and he

And ah, the woman in the veil! Who could she be? The more he
thought of her the more convinced he was that she stood high in
the service of any one but Leopold of Osia. And Fitzgerald! That
sober old soldier concerned with crowns and millions! It was
incredible; it was almost laughable. They had met up-country in
India, and had hunted, and Maurice had saved the Englishman's
life. Occasionally they had corresponded.

"Well, to bed," said the young diplomat. "This has been a full
day." And, like the true newspaper man he was, for all his
diplomacy, he emptied the bottle and entered the room. He was
about to disrobe, when some one rapped on the door. He opened it,
and beheld a man in the livery of the Grand Hotel. He was
breathing hard.

"Herr Carewe?"

"Yes. What's wanted?"

"Herr Hamilton--"

"Hamilton? O, yes. Go on."

"Herr Hamilton bade me to tell your Excellency that in returning
to the hotel he sprained his ankle, and wishes to know if Herr
would not be so kind as to spend the night with him."

"Certainly. Run down to the office, and I shall be with you
shortly." Again alone, Maurice opened his trunk. He brought
forth a pint flask of brandy, some old handkerchiefs to be used
as bandages, and a box of salve he used for bruises when on
hunting expeditions. In turning over his clothes his hand came
into contact with his old army revolver. He scratched his head.
"No, it's too much like a cannon, and there's no room for it in
my pockets." He pushed it aside, rose and slammed the lid of the
trunk. "Sprained his ankle? He wasn't gone more than an hour.
How the deuce is he to see the king to-morrow? Probably wishes
to appoint me his agent. That's it. Very well." He proceeded to
the office, where he found the messenger waiting for him. "Come
on, and put life into your steps."

Together they traversed the moonlit thoroughfare. Few persons
were astir. Once the night patrol clattered by. They passed
through the markets, and not far ahead they could see the
university. It looked like a city prison.

"This is the hotel, Herr," said the messenger.

They entered. Maurice approached the proprietor, who was pale
and flurried; but as Maurice had never seen the natural repose
of his countenance, he thought nothing of it.

"My friend, Herr Hamilton, has met with an accident. Where is
his room?"

"Number nine; Johann will show you." He acted as if he had
something more to say, but a glance from the round-faced porter
silenced him. Maurice lost much by not seeing this glance. He
followed the messenger up the stairs.

There were no transoms. The corridor was devoid of illumination.
The porter struck a match and held it close to the panel of a
door under which a thread of light streamed.

"This is it, Herr," he bawled, so loudly that Maurice started.

"There was no need of waking the dead to tell me," he growled.

The door opened, and before Maurice could brace himself--for the
interior of the room made all plain to him--he was violently
pushed over the threshold on to his knees. He was up in an
instant. The room was filled with soldiers, foot soldiers of the
king, so it seemed.

"What the devil is this?" he demanded, brushing his knees and
cursing himself because he had not brought his Colt when fate
had put it almost in his hand.

"It is a banquet, young man. We were waiting for the guest of

Maurice turned to the speaker, and saw a medium-sized man with
gray hair and a frosty stubble of a mustache. He wore no
insignia of office. Indeed, as Maurice gazed from one man to the
next he saw that there were no officers; and it came to him that
these were not soldiers of the king. He was in a trap. He
thought quickly. Fitzgerald was in trouble, perhaps on his
account. Where was he?

"I do not see my friend who sprained his ankle," he said coolly.

This declaration was greeted with laughter.

"Evidently I have entered the wrong room," he continued
imperturbably. He stepped toward the door, but a burly
individual placed his back to it.

"Am I a prisoner, or the victim of a practical joke?"

"Either way," said the man with the frosty mustache.


"You have recently formed a dangerous acquaintance, and we
desire to aid you in breaking it."

"Are you aware, gentlemen--no, I don't mean gentlemen--that I am
attached to the American legation in Vienna, and that my person
is inviolable?"

Everybody laughed again--everybody but Maurice.

"Allow me to correct you," put in the elderly man, who evidently
was the leader in the affair. "You are not attached; you are
detached. Gentlemen, permit me, M. Carewe, detache of the
American legation in Vienna, who wishes he had stayed there."

Maurice saw a brace of revolvers on the mantel. The table stood

"Well," he said, banteringly, "bring on your banquet; the hour
is late."

"That's the way; don't lose your temper, and no harm will come
to you."

"What do you wish of me?"

"Merely the pleasure of your company. Lieutenant, bring out the

One of the soldiers entered the next room and soon returned
pushing Fitzgerald before him. The Englishman was bound and gagged.

"How will you have the pheasant served?" asked the leader.

"Like a gentleman!" cried Maurice, letting out a little of his
anger. "Take out the gag; he will not cry."

The leader nodded, and Fitzgerald's mouth was relieved. He spat
some blood on the carpet, then looked at his captors, the devil
in his eyes.

"Proceed to kill me and have done," he said.

"Kill you? No, no!"

"I advise you to, for if you do not kill me, some day I shall be
free again, and then God help some of you."

Maurice gazed at the candles on the table, and smiled.

"I'm sorry they dragged you into it, Maurice," said Fitzgerald.

"I'm glad they did. What you want is company." There was a
glance, swift as light. It went to the mantel, then passed to
the captive. "Well," said Maurice, "what is next on your damned

"The other side of the frontier."

"Maybe," said Maurice.

With an unexpected movement he sent the table over, the lights
went out; and he had judged the distance so accurately that he
felt his hands close over the revolvers.

"The door! the door!" a voice bawled. "Knock down any one who
attempts to pass."

This was precisely what Maurice desired. With the soldiers
massed about the door, he would be free to liberate Fitzgerald;
which he did. He had scarcely completed the task, when a flame
spurted up. The leader fearlessly lit a candle and righted the
table. He saw both his prisoners, one of them with extended arms,
at the ends of which glistened revolver barrels.

"The devil!" he said.

"Maybe it is," replied Maurice. "Now, my gay banqueteers, open
the door; and the first man who makes a suspicious movement will
find that I'm a tolerable shot."

"Seize him, your Excellency!" shouted one of the troopers.
"Those are my revolvers he has, and they are not loaded."



Two o'clock in the morning, on the king's highway, and a small
body of horse making progress. The moon was beginning to roll
away toward the west, but the world was still frost-white, and
the broad road stretched out like a silver ribbon before the
horsemen, until it was lost in the blue mist of the forests.

The troop consisted of ten men, two of whom rode with their
hands tied behind their backs and their feet fastened under the
bellies of the horses. The troop was not conspicuous for this
alone. Three others had their heads done up in handkerchiefs,
and a fourth carried his arm in a sling.

Five miles to the rear lay the sleeping city of Bleiberg, twenty
miles beyond rose the formidable heights of the Thalians. At
times the horses went forward at a gallop, but more often they
walked; when they galloped the man with his arm in the sling
complained. Whenever the horses dropped into a walk, the leader
talked to one of the prisoners.

"You fight like the very devil, my friend," he said; "but we
were too many by six. Mind, I think none the less of you for
your attempt; freedom is always worth fighting for. As I said
before, no harm is meant to you, physically; as to the moral
side, that doesn't concern me. You have disabled four of my men,
and have scarcely a dozen scratches to show for it. I wanted to
take only four men with me; I was ordered to take eight. The
hand of providence is in it."

"You wouldn't be so polite, Colonel," spoke up the trooper whose
arm was in the sling, "if you had got this crack."

"Baron, who told you to call me Colonel?" the leader demanded.

"Why, we are out of the city; there's no harm now that I can see."

"Is it possible," said Maurice ironically, "that I have had the
honor of hitting a baron on the head and breaking his arm?"

The baron muttered a curse and fell back.

"And you," went on Maurice, addressing the leader, "are a


"For the duchess?"

"For the duchess."

"A black business for you, Colonel; take my word for it."

"A black business it is; but orders are orders. Have you ever
been a soldier?"

"I have."

"Well, there's nothing more to be said."

"America--" Maurice began.

"Is several thousand miles away."

"Not if you reckon from Vienna."

"I'd rather not reckon, if it's all the same to you. Your friend--
I might say, your very valuable friend--takes the matter too
much to heart."

"He's not a talkative man."

Fitzgerald looked straight ahead, stern and impassive.

"But now that we are talking," said Maurice, "I should like to
know how the deuce you got hold of my name and dragged me into
this affair?"

"Simple enough. A card of yours was given to me; on it was your
name and address. The rest was easy."

Maurice grew limp in the saddle.

"By George! I had forgotten! The woman is at the bottom of it."

"Quite likely. I thought you'd come to that conclusion.
Sometimes when we play with foxes they lead us into bear traps.
Young man, witness these gray hairs; never speak to strange
women, especially when they wear veils."

Fitzgerald was now attending the conversation.

"And who is this woman?" asked Maurice.

"Mademoiselle of the Veil, according to your picturesque
imagination; to me she is the intimate friend and adviser of her
Highness Stephonia." He wheeled to the troopers with a laugh:
"Hoch, you beggars, hoch!"

Maurice indulged in some uncomplimentary remarks, among which
was: "I'm an ass!"

"Every man improves on making that discovery; the Darwinian
theory is wrong."

After a pause Maurice said: "How did you get on the ground so

"We arrived yesterday afternoon as the escort of your charmer. A
pretty woman finds it troublesome to travel alone in these parts.
When you slapped your friend on the back and bawled out his
name--a name known from one end of the kingdom to the other--the
plan of action was immediately formed. You were necessary, for
it was taken for granted that you knew too much. You had also
promised your sword," with a chuckle.

"I made no promise," said Maurice. "I only said that I should
easily be found when wanted."

"Well, so you were; there's no gainsaying that."

Maurice said some more uncomplimentary things.

"It was neatly done, you will admit. Life is a game of cards; he
wins who plays first."

"Or he doesn't. Colonel, a game is won only when it is played'."

"That's true enough."

"Kings are a tolerable bother on earth," Maurice declared,
trying to ease his wrists by holding them higher against his

"What do you know about them?"

"When I was in the army I often fell in with three or four of a


"Yes; but usually I was up against aces or straight flushes."

"Cards! Well, well; when you get down to the truth of the matter,
real kings differ but little from the kings in pasteboard;
right side up, or wrong side up, they serve the purpose of those
who play them. There's a poor, harmless devil back there," with
a nod toward Bleiberg. "He never injured a soul. Perhaps that's
it; had he been cruel, avaricious, sly, all of them would be
cringing at his feet. Devil take me--but I'm a soldier," he
broke off abruptly; "it's none of my business."

"Have you any titles?" Maurice asked presently.

"Titles?" The Colonel jerked around on his horse. "Why?"

"O," said Maurice carelessly, "I thought it not unlikely that
you might have a few lying around loose."

The Colonel roared. "You Americans beat the very devil with your
questions. Well, I am politely known as Count Mollendorf, if
that will gratify you."

"What! brother of Mollendorf of the king's police?"

"God save the mark! No; I am an honest man --some of the time."

Maurice laughed; the old fellow was amusing, and besides, this
conversation helped to pass away the time.

"Wake up, Jack; here's entertainment," he said.

A scowl added itself to the stern expression on Fitzgerald's

"I trust that none of your teeth are loose," ventured the

"If they are, they'll be tight enough ere many days have passed,"
was the threatening reply.

"Beware the dog!" cried the Colonel, and he resumed his place at
the head of the little troop.

Maurice took this opportunity to bend toward Fitzgerald. "Have
you anything of importance about you?" he whispered

"Nothing. But God send that no chambermaid change the sheet in
my bed at the hotel."

"Are they--"

"Silence." Fitzgerald saw the trooper next with his hand to his ear.

After a time the Colonel sang out: "Fifteen miles more, with
three on the other side, men; we must put more life into us. A
trot for a few miles. The quicker the ride is done, baron, the
quicker the surgeon will look to your arm."

And silence fell upon the troop. Occasionally a stray horse in
the fields whinneyed, and was answered from the road; sometimes
the howl of a dog broke the monotony. On and on they rode; hour
and mile were left behind them. The moon fell lower and lower,
and the mountains rose higher and higher, and the wind which had
risen had a frosty sting to it. Maurice now began to show the
true state of his temper by cursing his horse whenever it rubbed
against one of its fellows. His back was lame, and there was a
dull pain in one of his shoulders. When he had made the rush for
the door, clubbing right and left with the empty revolvers, he
had finally been thrown on an overturned chair.

"Here, hang you!" he said to the trooper who held the bridle of
his horse, "I'm cold; you might at least turn up my collar about
my throat."

"You are welcome to my cloak," said the trooper, disengaging
that article from his shoulders.

"Thank you," said Maurice, somewhat abashed by the respectful tone.

The trooper offered his blanket to Fitzgerald.

"I wish no favors," said the Englishman, thanklessly.

The trooper shrugged, and caught up Maurice's bridle.

At length the troop arrived at the frontier. There was no sign
of life at the barrack. They passed unchallenged.

"What!" exclaimed Maurice, "do they sleep here at night, then? A
fine frontier barrack." He had lived in hopes of more
disturbance and a possible chance for liberty.

"They will wake up to-day," answered the Colonel; "that is, if
the wine we gave them was not too strong. Poor devils; they must
be good and cold by this time, since we have their clothes. What
do you think of a king whose soldiers drink with any strangers
who chance along?"

Maurice became resigned. To him the present dynasty was as
fragile as glass, and it needed but one strong blow to shatter
it into atoms. And the one hope rode at his side, sullen and
wrathful, but impotent; the one hope the king had to save his
throne. He had come to Bleiberg in search of excitement, but
this was altogether more than he had bargained for.

The horses began to lift and were soon winding in and out of the
narrow mountain pass. The chill of the overhanging snows fell
upon them.

"It wouldn't have hurt you to accept the blanket," said Maurice
to Fitzgerald.

"Curse it! I want nothing but two minutes freedom. It would be
warm enough then."

"No confidences, gentlemen," warned the Colonel; "I understand
English tolerably well."

"Go to the devil, then, if you do!" said Fitzgerald

"When the time comes," tranquilly. "Of the two I like your
friend the better. To be resigned to the inevitable is a sign of
good mental balance."

"I am not used to words," replied the Englishman.

"You are used to orders. I am simply obeying mine. If I took you
off your guard it was because I had to, and not because I liked
that method best. Look alive, men; it's down hill from now on."

A quarter of an hour later the troop arrived at the duchy's
frontier post. There was no sleep here. The Colonel flung
himself from his horse and exercised his legs.

"Sergeant," he said, "how far behind the others?"

"They passed two hours ago, Excellency. And all is well?"

"All is indeed well," with a gesture toward the prisoners.

"I've a flask of brandy in my hip pocket," said Maurice. "Will
you help me to a nip, Colonel?"

"Pardon me, gentlemen; I had forgotten that your hands were
still in cords. Corporal," to a trooper, "relieve their hands."

The prisoners rubbed their wrists and hands, which were numb and
cold. Maurice produced his flask.

"I was bringing it along for your sprained ankle," he said, as
he extended the flask to Fitzgerald, who drank a third of it.
"I'd offer you some, Colonel, only it would be like heaping
coals of fire on your head; and, besides, I want it all myself."
He returned the emptied flask to his pocket, feeling a moderate
warmth inside.

"Drink away, my son," said the Colonel, climbing into the saddle;
"there'll be plenty for me for this night's work. Forward!"

The troop took up the march again, through a splendid forest
kept clear of dead wood by the peasants. It abounded with game.
The shrill cry of the pheasants, the rustle of the partridges in
the underbrush, the bark of the fox, all rose to the ears of the
trespassers. The smell of warm earth permeated the air, and the
sky was merging from silver into gold.

When Napoleon humiliated Austria for the second time, one of his
mushroom nobles, who placed too much faith in the man of destiny,
selected this wooded paradise as a residence. He built him a
fine castle of red brick, full of wide halls and drawing rooms
and chambers of state, and filled it with fabulous paintings,
Gobelin tapestries, and black walnut wainscot. He kept a small
garrison of French soldiers by converting the huge stables
partly into a barrack. One night the peasantry rose. There was a
conflict, as the walls still show; and the prince by patent fled,
no one knew where. After its baptism in blood it became known
far and wide as the Red Chateau. Whenever children were unruly,
they were made docile by threats of the dark dungeons of the Red
Chateau, or the ghosts of the French and German peasants who
died there. As it now stood, it was one of the summer residences
of her Highness.

It was here that the long night's journey came to an end.

"Gentlemen," said the Colonel, dismounting, "permit me, in the
name of her Highness, to offer you the hospitality of Red
Chateau. Consider; will you lighten my task by giving me your
word of honor to make no attempt to escape? Escape is possible,
but not probable. There are twenty fresh men and horses in the
stables. Come, be reasonable. It will be pleasanter on both

"So far as I'm concerned," said Maurice, who needed liberty not
half so much as sleep, "I pass my word."

"And you, sir?" to Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald gazed about him. "Very well," he said, as he saw the
futility of a struggle.

"Your humble servant, Messieurs," touching his cap. "Take the
ropes off their ankles, men."

When Maurice was lifted from his horse and placed on the ground,
his legs suddenly bent under him, and he went sprawling to the
grass. A trooper sprang to his assistance.

"My legs have gone to sleep!"

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