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The Puppet Crown by Harold MacGrath

Part 3 out of 7

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The Englishman was affected likewise, and it was some moments
before either could walk. They were conducted to a chamber high
up in the left wing, which overlooked the forest and the
mountains. It was a large airy room, but the windows were barred
and there were double locks on the doors. The Colonel followed
them into the room and pointed to the table.

"Breakfast, Messieurs, and a good sleep for you till this noon.
As for the rest, let that take care of itself." And he left them.

Maurice, after having tried all the bars and locks in answer to
his conscience, gave his attention to the breakfast. On lifting
the covers he found fish, eggs, toast and coffee.

"Here's luck!" he cried. "We were expected."

"Curse it, Maurice!" Fitzgerald began pacing the room.

"No, no," said Maurice; "let us eat it; that's what it's here
for," and he fell to with that vigor known only to healthy blood.

"But what's to be done?"

"Follow Solomon's advice, and wait."

"You're taking it cursed cool."

"Force of habit," breaking the toast. "What's the use of wasting
powder? Because I have shown only the exterior, our friend the
Colonel has already formed an opinion of me. I am brave if need
be, but young and careless. In a day or so--for I suppose we are
not to be liberated at once--he'll forget to use proper caution
in respect to me. And then, 'who can say?' as the Portuguese
says when he hasn't anything else to say. They'll keep a strict
watch over you, my friend, because you've played the lion too
much. Just before I left the States, as you call them, a new
slang phrase was going the rounds;--'it is better to play the
fox some of the time than to roar all of the time.' Ergo, be
foxy. Take it cool. So long as you haven't got that mint packed
about your person, the game breaks even."

"But the king!"

"Is as secure on his throne as he ever was. If you do not
present those consols, either for renewal or collection, on the
twentieth, he loses nothing. As you said, let us hope that the
chambermaid is a shifty, careless lass, who will not touch your
room till you return." Maurice broke an egg and dropped a lump
of sugar into his cup.

"Is this the way you fight Indians?"

"Indians? What the deuce has fighting Indians to do with this?
As to Indians, shoot them in the back if you can. Here,
everything depends not on fighting but the right use of words. A
man may be a diplomat and not render his country any large
benefit; still, it's a fine individual training. Thrones stand
on precipices and are pushed back to safety by the trick of a
few words. Have an egg; they're fresh."

Fitzgerald sat down and gulped his coffee. "They broke my
monocle in the struggle."

Maurice choked in his cup.

"I've worn it twelve years, too," went on Fitzgerald.

"Everything is for the best," said Maurice. "You will be able to
see out of both eyes."

"Confound you!" cried Fitzgerald, smiling in spite of himself;
"nothing will disturb you."

"You mean, nothing shall. Now, there's the bed and there's the
lounge. Since you are the principal, that is to say, the
constituent part of this affair, and also the principal actor in
this extravaganza, suppose you take the bed and leave me the
lounge? And the deuce take the duchess, who is probably a woman
with a high forehead and a pair of narrow eyes!" He threw down
his napkin and made for the lounge, without giving any
particular attention to the smile and frown which were
struggling in the Englishman's eyes. In less than a minute
Maurice was dozing.

Fitzgerald thought that the best thing he could do was to follow
the philosophical example of his friend. "These Americans," he
mused, as he arranged the pillow under his ear, "are `fifteen
puzzles'; you can move them, or you can't."

As for Maurice, he was already dreaming; he was too tired to
sleep. Presently he thought he was on a horse again, and was
galloping, galloping. He was heading his old company to the very
fringe of the alkali. The Apaches had robbed the pay train and
killed six men, and the very deuce was to pay all around. . . .
Again he was swimming, and a beautiful girl reached out a hand
and saved him. Ah! how beautiful she was, how soft and rich the
deep brown of her eyes! . . . The scene shifted. The president
of the South American republic had accepted his sword (unbeknown
to the United States authorities), and he was aiding to quell
the insurrection. And just then some one whispered to him that
gold would rise fifty points. And as he put out his hands to
gather in the glittering coins which were raining down, the face
of Colonel Beauvais loomed up, scowling and furious. . . . And
yet again came the beautiful girl. He was holding her hand and
the archbishop had his spread out in benediction over their
heads. . . . A hand, which was not of dreamland, shook him by
the arm. He opened his eyes. Fitzgerald was standing over him.
The light of the sun spangled the walls opposite the windows.
The clock marked the eleventh hour of day.

"Hang you!" he said, with blinking eyes; "why didn't you let me
be? I was just marrying the princess, and you've spoiled it all.
I--" He jumped to his feet and rubbed his eyes, and, forgetful
of all save his astonishment, pursed his lips into a low whistle.



Standing just within the door, smiling and rubbing the gray
bristles on his lip, was the Colonel. In the center of the room
stood a woman dressed in gray. Maurice recognized the dress; it
belonged to Mademoiselle of the Veil, who was now sans veil,
sans hat. A marvelous face was revealed to Maurice, a face of
that peculiar beauty which poets and artists are often minded to
deny, but for the love of which men die, become great or
terrible, overturn empires and change the map of the world.

Her luxuriant hair, which lay in careless masses about the
shapely head and intelligent brow, was a mixture of red and
brown and gold, a variety which never ceases to charm; skin the
pallor of ancient marble, with the shadow of rose lying below
the eyes, the large, gray chatoyant eyes, which answered every
impulse of the brain which ruled them. The irregularity of her
features was never noticeable after a glance into those eyes. At
this moment both eyes and lips expressed a shade of amusement.

Maurice, who was astonished never more than a minute at a time,
immediately recovered. His toilet was somewhat disarranged, and
the back of his head a crow's nest, but, nevertheless, he placed
a hand over his heart and offered a low obeisance.

"Good morning, gentlemen," she said, in a voice which Maurice
would have known anywhere. "I hope the journey has caused you no
particular annoyance."

"The annoyance was not so particular, Madame," said Fitzgerald
stiffly, "as it was general."

"And four of my troopers will take oath to that!" interjected
the Colonel.

"Will Madame permit me to ask when will the opera begin?" asked

"I am glad," said she, "that you have lost none of your

Maurice was struck for a moment, but soon saw that the remark
was innocent of any inelegance of speech. Fitzgerald was gnawing
his mustache and looking out of the corner of his eyes--into

"My task, I confess, is a most disagreeable one," she resumed,
lightly beating her gauntlets together; "but when one serves
high personages one is supposed not to have any sentiments." To
Fitzgerald she said: "You are the son of the late Lord

"For your sake, I regret to say that I am."

"For my sake? Worry yourself none on that point. As the agent of
her Highness I am inconsiderable."

"Madame," said Maurice, "will you do us the honor to inform us
to whom we are indebted for this partiality to our distinguished

"I am Sylvia Amerbach," quietly.

"Amerbach?" said Maurice, who was familiar with the great names
of the continent. "Pardon me, but that was once a famous name in

"I am distantly related to that house of princes," looking at
her gauntlets.

"Well, Madame, since your business doubtless concerns me, pray,
begin;" and Fitzgerald leaned against the mantelpiece and
fumbled with the rim of his monocle.

Maurice walked to one of the windows and perched himself on the
broad sill. He began to whistle softly:

Voici le sabre de mon pere! Tu vas le mettre a ton cote. . . .

Beyond the window, at the edge of the forest, he saw a sentinel
pacing backward and forward. Indeed, no matter which way he
looked, the autumnal scenery had this accessory. Again, he
inspected the bars. These were comparatively new. It was about
thirty feet to the court below. On the whole, the outlook was

"Count," said the distant relative of the house of Amerbach,
"how shall I begin?"

"I am not a diplomat, Madame," answered the Colonel. "If,
however, you wish the advice of a soldier, I should begin by
asking if my lord the Englishman has those consols about his

"Fie, count!" she cried, laughing; "one would say that was a
prelude to robbery."

"So they would. As for myself, I prefer violence to words. If we
take these pretty papers by violence, we shall still have left
our friend the Englishman his self-respect. And as for words,
while my acquaintance with our friend is slight, I should say
that they would only be wasted here."

The whistle from the window still rose and fell.

"Monsieur, I have it in my power to make you rich."

"I am rich," replied Fitzgerald.

"In honors?"

"Madame, the title I have is already a burden to me." Fitzgerald
laughed, which announced that the cause of the duchess was not
getting on very well. Once or twice he raised the tortoiseshell
rim to his eye, but dropped it; force of habit was difficult to

"Your father nourished a particular rancor against the late duke."

"And justly, you will admit."

"Her Highness has offered you five millions for slips of paper
worth no more than the ink which decorates them."

"And I have refused. Why? Simply because the matter does not
rest with me. You have proceeded with a high hand, Madame, or
rather your duchess has. Nothing will come of it. Had there been
any possibility of my considering your proposals, this kidnaping
would have destroyed it."

She smiled. Maurice saw the smile and stopped whistling long
enough to scratch his chin, which was somewhat in need of a
razor. He had seen many women smile that way. He had learned to
read it. It was an inarticulate "perhaps."

"The rightful successor to the throne--"

"Is Madame the duchess," Fitzgerald completed. "I haven't the
slightest doubt of that. One way or the other, it does not
concern me. I came here simply to fulfill the wishes of my
father; and my word, Madame, fulfill them I shall. You are
holding me a prisoner, but uselessly. On the twentieth the
certificates fall due against the government. If they are not
presented either for renewal or collection, the bankruptcy
scheme of your duchess will fall through just the same. I will
tell you the truth, Madame. My father never expected to collect
the moneys so long as Leopold sat on the throne."

The whistle grew shrill.

"This officer here," continued Fitzgerald, while the Colonel
made a comical grimace, "suggests violence. I shall save him the
trouble. I have seen much of the world, Madame--the hard side of
it --and, knowing it as I do, it is scarcely probable that I
should carry about my person the equivalent of four millions of

"Well, Madame," said the Colonel, pushing his belt closer about
his hips, as a soldier always does when he is on the point of
departure, "what he says is true, every word of it. I see
nothing more to do at present."

Mademoiselle of the Veil was paying not so much attention to the
Colonel's words as she was to Maurice's whistle.

"Monsieur," she said, coldly, "have you no other tune in your

"Pardon me!" exclaimed Maurice. "I did not intend to annoy you."
He stepped down out of the window.

"You do not annoy me; only the tune grows rather monotonous."

"I will whistle anything you may suggest," he volunteered.

She did not respond to this flippancy, though the pupils of her
gray eyes grew large with anger. She walked the length of the
room and back.

"Count, what do you think would be most satisfactory to her
Highness, under the circumstances?"

"I have yet to hear of her Highness' disapproval of anything you

"Messieurs, your parole d'honneur, and the freedom of the
chateau is yours--within the sentry lines. I wish to make your
recollections of the Red Chateau rather pleasant than otherwise.
I shall be most happy if you will honor my table with your

The Colonel coughed, Maurice smoothed the back of his head, and
Fitzgerald caught up his monocle.

"My word, Madame," said Maurice, "is not worth much, being that
of a diplomat, but such as it is it is yours. However, my
clothes are scarcely presentable," which was true enough.
Several buttons were missing, and the collar hung by a thread.

"That can be easily remedied," said she. "There are several new
hussar uniforms in the armory."

"O, Madame, and you will permit me to wear one of those gay
uniforms of light blue and silver lace?"

The Colonel looked thoughtfully at Maurice. He was too much a
banterer himself to miss the undercurrent of raillery. He eyed
Madame discreetly; he saw that she had accepted merely the
surface tones.

"And you will wear one, too, Jack?" said Maurice.

"No, thank you. I pass my word, Madame; I do not like

"Well, then, the count will shortly return and establish you in
better quarters. Let us suppose you are my guests for a--a
fortnight. Since both of us are right, since neither your cause
nor mine is wrong, an armistice! Ah! I forgot. The east corridor
on the third floor is forbidden you. Should you mistake and go
that way, a guard will direct you properly. Messieurs, till
dinner!" and with a smile which illumined her face as a sudden
burst of sunshine flashes across a hillside, she passed out of
the room, followed by her henchman, who had not yet put aside
the thoughtful repose of his countenance.

"A house party," said Maurice, when he could no longer hear
their footsteps. "And what the deuce have they got so valuable
in the east corridor on the third floor?"

"It's small matter to me," said Fitzgerald tranquilly. "The main
fact is that she has given up her game."

Said Maurice, his face expressing both pity and astonishment:
"My dear, dear John! Didn't you see that woman's eyes, her hair,
her chin, her nose?"


"True; you haven't had any experience with petticoats. This
woman will rend heaven and earth rather than relinquish her
projects, or rather those of her mistress. I should like to see
this duchess, who shows a fine discernment in the selection of
her assistants. Beware of the woman who is frankly your enemy.
If she is frank, it is because she is confident of the end; if
not, she is frank in order to disarm us of the suspicion of
cunning. I would give much to know the true meaning of this
house party."

"Hang me if I can see what difference it makes. She can not do
anything either by frankness or by cunning."

"She gathered us in neatly, this red-haired Amazon."

"Red-haired!" in a kind of protest.

"Why, yes; that's the color, isn't it?" innocently.

"I thought it a red-brown. It's too bad that such a woman should
be mixed up in an affair like this."

"Woman will sacrifice to ambition what she never will sacrifice
to love. Hush; I hear the Colonel returning."

They were conducted to the opposite wing of the chateau, to a
room on the second floor. Its windows afforded an excellent view
of the land which lay south. Hills rolled away like waves of
gold, dotted here and there with vineyards. Through the avenue
of trees they could see the highway, and beyond, the river,
which had its source in the mountains ten miles eastward.

The room itself was in red, evidently a state chamber, for it
contained two canopied beds. Several fine paintings hung from
the walls, and between the two windows rose one of those pier
glasses which owe their existence to the first empire of France.
On one of the beds Maurice saw the hussar uniform. On the
dresser were razors and mugs and a pitcher of hot water.

"Ah," he said, with satisfaction.

"The boots may not fit you," said the Colonel, "but if they do
not we will manage some way."

"I shall not mind the fortnight," said Maurice. "By the way,
Colonel, I notice that French seems to prevail instead of German.
Why is that?"

"It is the common language of politeness, and servants do not
understand it. As for myself, I naturally prefer the German
tongue; it is blunt and honest and lacks the finesse of the
French, which is full of evasive words and meanings. However,
French predominates at court. Besides, heaven help the foreigner
who tries to learn all the German tongues to be found in the
empires of the Hohenzollern and Hapsburg. Luncheon will be
served to you in the dining hall; the first door to the right at
the foot of the grand staircase. I shall send you a trooper to
act as valet."

"Spare me, Colonel," said Maurice, who did not want any one
between him and the Englishman when they were alone.

"I have never had a valet," said Fitzgerald; "he would embarrass me."

"As you please," said the Colonel, a shade of disappointment in
his tones. "After all, you are soldiers, where every man is for
himself. Make yourselves at home;" and he withdrew.

Maurice at once applied lather and razor, and put on the
handsome uniform, which fitted him snugly. The coat was tailless,
with rows of silver buttons running from collar to waist. The
breast and shoulders and sleeves were covered with silver lace,
and Maurice concluded that it must be nothing less than a
captain's uniform. The trousers were tight fitting, with broad
stripes of silver; and the half boots were of patent leather. He
walked backward and forward before the pier-glass.

"I say, Fitz, what do you think of it?"

"You're a handsome rascal, Maurice," answered the Englishman,
who had watched his young friend, amusement in his sober eyes.
"Happily, there are no young women present."

"Go to! I'll lay odds that our hostess is under twenty-five."

"I meant young women of sixteen or seventeen. Women such as
Madame have long since passed the uniform fever."

"Not when it has lace, my friend, court lace. Well, forward to
the dining hall."

Both were rather disappointed to find that Madame would be
absent until dinner. Fitzgerald could not tell exactly why he
was disappointed, and he was angry with himself for the vague
regret. Maurice, however, found consolation in the demure French
maid who served them. Every time he smiled she made a courtesy,
and every time she left the room Maurice nudged Fitzgerald.

"Smile, confound you, smile!" he whispered. "There's never a
maid but has her store of gossip, and gossip is information."

"Pshaw!" said Fitzgerald, helping himself to cold ham and

"Wine, Messieurs?" asked the maid.

"Ah, then Madame offers the cellars?" said Maurice.

"Yes, Messieurs. There is chambertin, champagne, chablis,
tokayer and sherry."

"Bring us some chambertin, then."

"Oui, Messieurs."

"Hurry along, my Hebe," said Maurice.

The maid was not on familiar terms with the classics, but she
told the butler in the pantry that the smooth-faced one made a
charming Captain.

"Keep your eyes open," grumbled the butler; "he'll be kissing
you next."

"He might do worse," was the retort. Even maids have their
mirrors, and hers told a pretty story. When she returned with
the wine she asked: "And shall I pour it, Messieurs?"

"No one else shall," declared Maurice. "When is the duchess to

"I do not know, Monsieur," stepping in between the chairs and
filling the glasses with the ruby liquid.

"Who is Madame Sylvia Amerbach?"

"Madame Sylvia Amerbach," placing the bottle on the table and
going to the sideboard. She returned with a box of "Khedives."

Fitzgerald laughed at Maurice's disconcertion.

"Where has Madame gone?"

"To the summer home of Countess Herzberg, who is to return with

"Oho!" cried Maurice, in English. "A countess! What do you say
to that, my Englishman?"

"She is probably old and plain. Madame desires a chaperon."

"You forget that Madame desires nothing but those certificates.
And the chaperon does not live who could keep an eye on Madame
Sylvia Amerbach."

The mention of the certificates brought back all the
Englishman's discomfort, and he emptied his glass of wine not as
a lover of good wine should. Soon they rose from the table. The
maid ran to the door and held it open. Fitzgerald hurried
through, but Maurice lingered a moment. He put his hand under
the porcelain chin and looked into the china-blue eyes.
Fitzgerald turned.

"What was that noise?" he asked, as Maurice shouldered him along
the hall.

"What noise?"

Madame came back to the chateau at five, and dinner was
announced at eight. The Countess Herzberg was young and pretty,
the possessor of a beautiful mouth and a charming smile. The
Colonel did the honors at the table. Maurice almost fancied
himself in Vienna, the setting of the dining room was so perfect.
The entire room was paneled in walnut. On the mantel over the
great fireplace stood silver candlesticks with wax tapers. The
candlestick in the center of the table was composed of twelve
branches. The cuisine was delectable, the wines delicious.
Madame and the countess were in evening dress. The Colonel was
brimming with anecdote, the countess was witty, Madame was a
sister to Aspasia.

Maurice, while he enjoyed this strange feast, was puzzled. It
was very irregular, and the Colonel's gray hairs did not serve
to alter this fact. What was the meaning of it? What lay

Sometimes he caught Fitzgerald in the act of staring at Madame
when her attention was otherwise engaged; at other times he saw
that Madame was returning this cursory investigation. There was,
however, altogether a different meaning in these surreptitious
glances. In the one there were interest, doubt, admiration; in
the other, cold calculation. At no time did the conversation
touch politics, and the crown was a thousand miles away--if
surface indications went for aught.

Finally the Colonel rose. "A toast--to Madame the duchess, since
this is her very best wine!"

Maurice emptied his glass fast enough; but Fitzgerald lowered
his eyes and made no movement to raise his glass. The pupils in
Madame's eyes grew small.

"That is scarcely polite, Monsieur," she said.

"Madame," he replied gently, "my parole did not include toasts
to her Highness. My friend loves wine for its own sake, and
seldom bothers his head about the toast as long as the wine is
good. Permit me to withdraw the duchess and substitute yourself."

"Do so, if it will please you. In truth, it was bad taste in you,
count, to suggest it."

"It's all the same to me;" and the Colonel refilled his glass
and nodded.

The countess smiled behind her fan, while Maurice felt the edge
of the mild reproach which had been administered to him.

"I plead guilty to the impeachment. It was very wrong. Far from
it that I should drink to the health of the Philistines. Madame
the countess was beating me down with her eyes, and I did not

"I was not even looking at you!" declared the countess, blushing.

The incident was soon forgotten; and at length Madame and the
countess rose.

Said the first: "We will leave you gentlemen to your cigars; and
when they have ceased to interest you, you will find us in the
music room."

"And you will sing?" said Maurice to the countess.

"If you wish." She was almost beautiful when she smiled, and she
smiled on Maurice.

"I confess," said he, "that being a prisoner, under certain
circumstances, is a fine life."

"What wicked eyes he has," said the countess, as she and Madame
entered the music room.

"Do not look into them too often, my dear," was the rejoinder.
"I have asked not other sacrifice than that you should occupy
his attention and make him fall in love with you."

"Ah, Madame, that will be easy enough. But what is to prevent me
from falling in love with him? He is very handsome."

"You are laughing!"

"Yes, I am laughing. It will be such an amusing adventure, a
souvenir for my old age--and may my old age forget me."

The men lit their cigars and smoked in silence.

"Colonel," said Maurice at last, "will you kindly tell me what
all this means?"

"Never ask your host how old his wine is. If he is proud of it,
he will tell you." He blew the smoke under the candle shades and
watched it as it darted upward. "Don't you find it comfortable?
I should."

"Conscience will not lie down at one's bidding."

"I understood that you were a diplomat?" The Colonel turned to
Fitzgerald. "I hope that, when you are liberated, you will
forget the manner in which you were brought here."

"I shall forget nothing," curtly.

"The devil! I can not fight you; I am too old."

Fitzgerald said nothing, and continued to play with his emptied

"The Princess Alexia," went on the Colonel, "has a bulldog. I
have always wondered till now what the nationality of the dog
was. The bulldog neither forsakes nor forgives; he is an

This declaration was succeeded by another interval of silence.
The Englishman was thinking of his father; the thoughts of
Maurice were anywhere but at the chateau; the Colonel was
contemplating them both, shrewdly.

"Well, to the ladies, gentlemen; it is half after nine."

The countess was seated at the piano, improvising. Madame stood
before the fireplace, arranging the pieces on a chess board. In
the center of the room was a table littered with books,
magazines and illustrated weeklies.

"Do you play chess, Monsieur?" said Madame to Fitzgerald.

"I do not."

"Well, Colonel, we will play a game and show him how it is done."

Fitzgerald drew up a chair and sat down at Madame's elbow. He
followed every move she made because he had never seen till now
so round and shapely an arm, hands so small and white, tipped
with pink filbert nails. He did not learn the game so quickly as
might be. He, like Maurice, was pondering over the unusual
position in which he found himself; but analysis of any sort was
not his forte; so he soon forgot all save the delicate curve of
Madame's chin and throat, the soft ripple of her laughter, the
abysmal gray of her eyes.

"Monsieur le Capitaine," said the countess, "what shall I sing
to you?"

"To me?" said Maurice. "Something from Abt."

Her fingers ran lightly over the keys, and presently her voice
rose in song, a song low, sweet, and sad. Maurice peered out of
the window into the shades of night. Visions passed and repassed
the curtain of darkness. Once or twice the countess turned her
head and looked at him. It was not only a handsome face she saw,
but one that carried the mark of refinement. . . . Maurice was
thinking of the lonely princess and her grave dark eyes. He
possessed none of that power from which princes derive benefits;
what could he do? And why should he interest himself in a woman
who, in any event, could never be anything to him, scarcely even
a friend? He smiled.

If Fitzgerald was not adept at analysis, he was. Nothing ever
entered his mind or heart that he could not separate and define.
It was strange; it was almost laughable; to have fenced as long
and adroitly as he had fenced, and then to be disarmed by one
who did not even understand the foils! Surrender? Why not? . . .
By and by his gaze traveled to the chess players. There was
another game than chess being played there, though kings and
queens and knights and bishops were still the sum of it.

"Are you so very far away, then?" The song had ceased; the
countess was looking at him curiously.

"Thank you," he said; "indeed, you had taken me out of myself."

"Do you like chestnuts?" she asked suddenly.

"I am very fond of them."

"Then I shall fetch some." It occurred to her that the room was
very warm; she wanted a breath of air--alone.

"Checkmate!" cried the Colonel, joyfully.

"Do you begin to understand?" asked Madame.

"A little," admitted Fitzgerald, who did not wish to learn too
quickly. "I like to watch the game."

"So do I," said Maurice, who had approached the table. "I should
like to know what the game is, too."

Both Madame and the Colonel appeared to accept the statement and
not the innuendo. Madame placed the figures on the board.

Maurice strolled over to the table and aimlessly glanced through
the Vienna illustrated weeklies. He saw Franz Josef in
characteristic poses, full-page engravings of the military
maneuvers and reproductions of the notable paintings. He picked
up an issue dated June. A portrait of the new Austrian
ambassador to France attracted his attention. He turned the leaf.
What he saw on the following page caused him to widen his eyes
and let slip an ejaculation loud enough to be heard by the chess
players. Madame seemed on the point of rising. Maurice did not
lower his eyes nor Madame hers.

"Checkmate in three moves, Madame!" exclaimed the Colonel; "it
is wonderful."

"What's the matter, Maurice?" asked Fitzgerald.

"Jack, I am a ruined man."

"How? What?" nearly upsetting the board.

"I just this moment remember that I left my gas burning at the
hotel, and it is extra."

The Colonel and Fitzgerald lay back in their chairs and roared
with laughter.

But Madame did not even smile.



Fitzgerald was first into bed that night.

"I want to finish this cigar, Jack," said Maurice, who wished to
be alone with his thoughts. He sat in the chair by the window
and lifted his feet to the sill. The night wind was warm and
odorous. He had found a clue, but through what labyrinth would
it lead him? A strange adventure, indeed; so strange that he was
of half a mind that he dreamed. Prisoners. . . . Why? And these
two women alone in this old chateau, a house party. There lay
below all this some deep design.

Should he warn his friend? Indeed, as yet, of what had he to
warn him? To discover Madame to Fitzgerald would be to close the
entrance to this labyrinth which he desired to explore. How
would Madame act, now that she knew he possessed her secret?
Into many channels he passed, but all these were blind, and led
him to no end. Madame had a purpose; to discover what this
purpose was Fitzgerald must remain in ignorance. What a woman!
She resembled one of those fabulous creatures of medieval days.
And why was the countess on the scene, and what was her part in
this invisible game?

He finished his cigar and lit another; but the second cigar
solved no more than the first. Mademoiselle of the Veil! He knew
now what she meant; having asked her to lift her veil, she had
said, "Something terrible would happen." At last he, too, sought
bed, but he did not sleep so soundly as did Fitzgerald.

Ten days of this charming captivity passed; there was a thicker
carpet of leaves on the ground, and new distances began to show
mistily through the dismantling forest. But there were no
changes at the Red Chateau--no outward changes. It might, in
truth, have been a house party but for the prowling troopers and
the continual grumbling of the Englishman when alone with

During the day they hunted or took long rides into the interior
of the duchy. Both women possessed a fine skill in the saddle.
In the evenings there were tourneys at chess, games and music.

Each night Fitzgerald learned a little more about chess and a
little less about woman. The countess, airy and delicate as a
verse of Voiture's, bent all her powers (and these were not
inconsiderable) toward the subjugation of Maurice. She laughed,
she sang, she fascinated. She had the ability to amuse hour
after hour. She offered vague promises with her eyes, and
refused them with her lips. Maurice, who was never impregnable
under the fire of feminine artillery, was at times half in love
with her; but his suspicions, always near the surface, saved him.

Sometimes he caught her hand and retained it over long; and once,
when he kissed it, there was no rebuke. Again, when she sang,
he would lean so close that she could feel his breath on her
cheek, and her fingers would stumble into discords. Often she
would suddenly rise from the piano and walk swiftly from the
room, through the halls, into the park, where, though he
followed, he never could find her. One day she and Madame
returned from a walk in the forest, the one with high color and
brilliant eyes, the other impassive as ice. Now, all these
things did not escape Maurice, but he could not piece them
together with any result.

On the morning of the tenth day the two prisoners came down to
breakfast, wondering how much longer this house party was going
to last.

"George! I wish I had a pipe," said Maurice.

"So do I," Fitzgerald echoed glumly. "I am tired of cigars and
weary of those eternal cigarettes. How the deuce are we going to
get out of this?"

"What's your hurry? We're having a good time."

"That's the trouble. Hang the duchess!"

"Hang her and welcome. But why do you complain to me and not to
Madame? Are you afraid of her? Does she possess, then, what is
called tamer's magnetism? O, my lion, if only you would roar a
bit more at her and less at me!"

"I don't know what she possesses; but I do know that I'd give a
deal to be out of this."

"Is the chambermaid idea bothering you?"

"No, Maurice, it is not the chambermaid. I feel oppressed by
something which I can not define."

"Maybe you are not used to tokay forty years old?"

"Wine has nothing to do with it."

He was so serious that Maurice dropped his jesting tone. "By the
way," he said, "do you sleep soundly?"

"No. Every night I am awakened by the noise of a horse entering
the court-yard."

"So am I. Moreover, Madame seems to be troubled with the same


"Yes. She is so troubled with sleeplessness that nothing will
quiet her but the sight of the man who rides the horse: all of
which is to say that a courier arrives each night with
dispatches from Bleiberg. Now, to tell the truth, the courier
does not keep me awake half so much as the thought of who is
eating three meals a day at the end of the east corridor on the
third floor. But there are Madame and the countess; we have kept
them waiting,"

"Good morning," said Madame, smiling as they came up. "And how
have you slept?"

"Nothing wakes me but the roll of the drum or thunder," answered
Fitzgerald diffidently.

"I dream of horses," said Maurice carelessly.

"Bon jour, M. le Capitaine!" cried the countess. Then she added
with a light laugh: "Come, let me try you. Portons armes!
Presentons armes! --How beautifully you do it!--Par le flanc
gauche! En avant--marche!"

Maurice swung, clicked his heels and, with a covert glance at
Madame, led the way into the dining hall, whistling, "Behold the
saber of my father!"

"Ah, I do not see the Colonel," said Maurice; for night and day
the old soldier had been with them.

"He has gone to Brunnstadt," said Madame, "but will return this

The breakfast was short and merry. Words passed across the table
that were as crisp as the toast. Maurice remarked the advent of
two liveried servants, stolid Germans by the way, who, as he
afterward found, did not understand French.

"So the Colonel has gone to Brunnstadt?" said Maurice; which was
a long way of asking why the Colonel had gone to Brunnstadt.

"Yes," said Madame; "he has gone to consult Madame the duchess
to see what shall be done to you, Monsieur."

"To be done to me?" ignoring the challenge in her eyes.

"Yes. You must not forget that you promised me your sword, and I
have taken the liberty of presenting it to her Highness."

"I remember nothing about promising my sword," said Maurice,
gazing ceiling-ward.

"What! There was a mental reservation?"

"No, Madame. I remember my words only too well. I said that I
loved adventure, thoughtless youth that I was, and that I was
easy to be found. Which is all true, and part proved, since I am

"Still, the uniform fits you exceedingly well. The hussars hold
a high place at court."

"Madame," replied he pleasantly, "I appreciate the honor, but at
present my sword and fealty are sworn to my own country. And
besides, I have no desire to take part in the petty squabble
between this country and the kingdom."

The forecast of a storm lay in Madame's gray eyes.

"Eh? You wish to placate me, Madame?" thought Maurice.

"He is right, Madame," interposed the countess. "But away with
politics! It spoils all it touches."

"And away with the duchess, too," put in Fitzgerald, reaching
for a bunch of yellow grapes. "With all due respect to your
cause and beliefs, Madame the duchess, your mistress, is a
bugbear to me. The very sound of the title arouses in my heart
all that is antagonistic."

"You have not seen her Highness, Monsieur," said Madame, quietly.
"Perhaps she is all that is desirable. She is known to be rich,
her will is paramount to all others. When she sets her heart on
a thing she leaves no stone unturned until she procures it. And,
countess, do they not say of her that she possesses something--
an attribute--more dangerous than beauty--fascination?"

"Yes, Madame."

"Madame the duchess," said Maurice dryly, "has a stanch advocate
in you, Madame."

"It is not unnatural."

"Be that as it may," said Fitzgerald, "she is mine enemy."

"Love your enemies, says the Book," was the interposition of the
countess, who stole a sly glance at Maurice which he did not see.

"That would not be difficult--in some cases," replied the

"Ah, come," thought Maurice, "my friend is beginning to pick up
his lines." Aloud he said: "Madame, will you confer a favor on
me by permitting me to inform my superior in Vienna of my

"No, Monsieur; prisoners are not allowed to communicate with the
outside world. Are you not enjoying yourself? Is not everything
being done for your material comfort? What complaint have you to

"A gilded cage is no less a cage."

"It is but temporary. The duchess has commanded that you be held
until it is her pleasure to come to the chateau. O, Monsieur,
where is your gallantry? Here the countess and I have done so
much to amuse you, and you speak of a gilded cage!"

"Pretty bird! pretty bird!" said Maurice, in a piping voice,
"will it have some caraway?"

Madame laughed. "Well, I hear the grooms leading the horses
under the porte coch,re. Go, then, for the morning ride. I am
sorry that I can not accompany you. I have some letters to write."

Fitzgerald curled his mustache. "I'll forswear the ride myself.
I was reading a good book last night; I'll finish it, and keep
Madame company."

Madame trifled with the toast crumbs. Fitzgerald's profound
dissimulation caused a smile to cross Maurice's lips.

"Come, countess," said Maurice, gaily; "we'll take the ride
together, since Madame has to write and my lord to read."

"Five minutes until I dress," replied the countess, and she sped

"What a beautiful girl!" said Madame, fondly. "Poor dear! Her
life has not been a bed of roses."

"No?" said Maurice, while Fitzgerald raised his eyebrows

"No. She was formerly a maid of honor to her Highness. She made
an unhappy marriage."

"And where is the count?" asked Fitzgerald in surprise. He shot
a glance of dismay at Maurice, who, translating it, smiled.

"He is dead."

Fitzgerald looked relieved.

"What a fine thing it is," said Maurice, rising, "to be a man
and wed where and how you will!" He withdrew to the main hall to
don his cap and spurs. As he stooped to strap the latter, he saw
a sheet of paper, crinkled by recent dampness, lying on the
floor. He picked it up--and read it.

"The plan you suggest is worthy of you, Madame. The
Englishman is fair game, being a common enemy. Let
us gain our ends through the heart, since his purse
is impregnable to assaults. But the countess? Why not
the pantry maid, since the other is an American? They
lack discrimination. The king grows weaker every
day. Nothing was found in the Englishman's rooms. I
fear that the consols are in the safe at the British
legation. As usual, a courier will arrive each night.

"Why--not--the--pantry maid?" Maurice drawled. "That is flippant."
He read the message again. "What plan?" Suddenly he struck his
thigh. "By George, so that is it, eh, Madame? So that is why we
are so comfortably lodged here? I am in the way, and you bait
the hook with a countess! Since the purse will not lead the way,
the heart, eh? Certainly I shall tell my lord the Englishman all
about his hostess when I return from the ride. Decidedly you are
clever. O, how careless! Not even in cipher, so that he who
reads may run. And who is B.?--Beauvais! Something told me that
this man had a hand in the affair. I remember the look he gave
me. A traitor, too.

"Hang my memory, which seems always to forget what I wish to
remember and remember what I wish to forget! Where have I met
this man Beauvais before? Ah, the countess!" He thrust the
message into his breast. "Evidently Madame thinks I am worth
consideration; uncommonly pretty bait. Shall I let the play run
on, or shall I tell her? Ah! you have two minutes to spare," he
said, as she approached. "But you do not need them," throwing a
deal of admiration into his glance.

"It does not take me long to dress--on occasions."

"A compliment to me?" he said.

"If you will accept it."

It was an exhilarating morning, full of forest perfumes. Through
the haze the mountains glittered like huge emeralds and

"What a day!" said the countess, as they galloped away.

"Aye, for plots and war and love!"

"For plots and war?" demurely. Her cheeks were rosy and her hair
as yellow as the silk of corn.

"Well, then, for love." He shortened his rein. "A propos, have
you ever been in love, countess?"

"I? What a question!"

"Have you?"

"N--no! Let us talk of plots and war," gazing across the valley.

"No; let us talk of love. I am in love, and one afflicted that
way wishes a confidant. I appoint you mine."

"Some rosy-cheeked peasant girl?" laughing.

"Perhaps. Perhaps it's only a--a pantry maid," with a sly look
from the corner of his eyes. Evidently she had not heard. She
was still laughing. "I have heard of hermits falling in love
with stars, and have laughed. Now I am in the same predicament.
I love a star--"

"Operatic? To be sure! Mademoiselle Lenormand of the Royal
Vienna is in Bleiberg. How she keeps her age!"

It was Maurice's turn to laugh.

"And that is why you came to Bleiberg! Ah, these opera singers,
had I my way, they should all be aged and homely."

"Countess, you are pulling the bit too hard," said he. "I
noticed yesterday that your horse has a very tender mouth."

"Thank you." She slacked the rein. "He was going too close to
the ditch. You were saying--"

"No, it was you who were saying that all actresses should be
aged and homely. But it is not Mademoiselle Lenormand, it is not
the peasant, nor the pantry maid."

This time she looked up quickly.

"The woman I love is too far away, so I am going to give up
thinking of her. Countess, I made a peculiar discovery this

"A discovery, Monsieur? What is it?"

"Do you see that fork in the road, a mile away? When we reach it
and turn I'll tell you what it is. If I told you now it might
spoil the ride. What a day, truly! How clear everything is! And
the air is like wine." He drew in deep breaths.

"Let us hurry and reach the fork in the road; my curiosity is
stifling me."

Maurice did not laugh as she expected he would. As she observed
the thoughtful frown between his brows, a shiver of dread ran
through her. It did not take long to cover the intervening mile.
They turned, and the horses fell into a quick step.

"Now, Monsieur; please!"

After all . . . But he quelled the gentle tremor in his heart. A
month ago, had he known her, he might now have told her
altogether a different story. He could see that she had not an
inkling of what was to come (for he had determined to tell her);
and he vaguely wondered if he should bring humiliation to the
dainty creature. It would be like nicking a porcelain cup. Her
brows were arched inquisitively and her lips puckered. . . .He
had had a narrow escape.

He drew the message from his breast, leaned across and handed it
to her.

"Why, what is this, Monsieur?"

"Read it and see" And he busied himself with the tangled mane of
his horse. When they had ridden several yards, he heard her

"Here, Monsieur" The hand was extended, but the face was averted.

"Countess, you are too charming a woman to lend yourself to such

There was no reply.

"Did you not volunteer to make me fall in love with you to keep
me from interfering with Madame's plans?" It was brutal, but he
was compelled to say it.


"Did you not?" he persisted. "When one writes such messages as
these, one should use an intricate cipher. Had I been other than
a prisoner, what I have done would not be the act of a gentleman.
But I am a prisoner; I must defend myself. To rob a man through
his love! And such a man! He is a very infant in the hands of a
woman. He has been a soldier all his life. All women to him are
little less than angels; he knows nothing of their treachery,
their deceit, their false smiles. It will be an easy victory, or
rather it would have been, for I shall do my best to prevent it.
Madame is not unknown to me; I have been waiting to see what
meant this peculiar house party.

"Perhaps I am now too late. Madame distrusts me. I dare say she
has her reasons. She went to you. You were to occupy me. I was
young, I liked the society of women, I was gay and careless. She
has decked me out as one would deck a monkey (and doubtless she
calls me one behind my back), and has offered me a sword to play

"In America, when a man puts a sword in his hand, it is to kill
somebody. Here--aye, all over the continent, for that matter--
swords are baubles for young nobles, used to slash each other in
love affairs. I respect and admire you; had I not done so, I
should not have spoken. Countess, be frank with me, as frank as
I have been with you; have I not guessed rightly?"

"Yes, Monsieur," her head bowed and her cheeks white. "Yes, yes!
it was a miserable game. But I love Madame; I would sacrifice my
pride and my heart for her, if need be."

"I can believe that."

"And believe me when I say that the moment I saw you, I knew
that my conduct was going to be detestable. But I had given my
promise. A woman has but little to offer to her country; I have
offered my pride, and I am a proud woman, Monsieur. I am ashamed.
I am glad that you spoke, for it was becoming unbearable to
throw myself at a man whose heart I knew intuitively to be
elsewhere." She raised her eyes, which were filled with a
strange luster. "Will you forgive me, Monsieur?"

"With all my heart. For now I know that we shall be friends. You
will be relieved of an odious part; for you are too handsome not
to have in keeping some other heart besides your own."

He then began gaily to describe some of his humorous adventures,
and continued in this vein till they arrived once more at the
chateau. Sometimes the countess laughed, but he could see that
her sprightliness was gone. When they came under the porte
cochere he sprang from his horse and assisted her to dismount;
and he did not relinquish her hand till he had given it a
friendly pressure. She stood motionless on the steps, centered a
look on him which he failed to interpret, then ran swiftly into
the hall, thence to her room, the door of which she bolted.

"It would not be difficult," he mused, communing with the
thought which had come to him. "It would be something real, and
not a chimera."

He turned over the horses to the grooms, and went in search of
Fitzgerald to inform him of his discovery; but the Englishman
was nowhere to be found. Neither was Madame. Being thirsty, he
proceeded to the dining hall. Fadette, the maid, was laying the

"Ah, the `pantry maid,'" he thought. "Good day, Fadette."

"Does Monsieur wish for something?"

"A glass of water. Thanks!"

She retreated and kept her eyes lowered.

"Fadette, you are charming. Has any one ever told you that?"

"O, Monsieur!" blushing.

"Have they?" lessening the distance between them.

"Sometimes," faintly. She could not withstand his glance, so she
retired a few more steps, only to find herself up with the wall.

With a laugh he sprang forward and caught her face between his
hands and imprinted a kiss on her left cheek. Suddenly she
wrenched herself loose, uttered a frightened cry and fled down
the pantryway.

"What's the matter with the girl?" he muttered aloud. "I wanted
to ask her some questions."

"Ask them of me, Monsieur," said a voice from the doorway.

Maurice wheeled. It was Madame, but her face expressed nothing.
He saw that he had been caught. The humor of the situation got
the better of him, and he laughed. Madame ignored this unseemly

"Monsieur, is this the way you return my kindness?"

"Permit me to apologize. As to your kindness, I have just
discovered that it is of a most dangerous quality."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that I could not kiss Madame the countess with the same
sense of security as I could the-- pantry maid," bowing.

Just now Madame's face expressed a good deal. "Of what are you
talking?" advancing a step.

"I had in mind what our friend, Colonel Beauvais, remarked in
his recent dispatch: I know no discrimination. The fact is, I do.
I found the dispatch on the floor this morning. Allow me to
return it to you. I have kept silent, Madame, because I did not
know how to act."

"You have dared--?" her lips pressed and her eyes thunderous.

"To read it? Aye. I am a prisoner; it was in self-defense.
Madame, you do me great honor. A countess! What consideration to
the indiscriminate! Au revoir, then, till luncheon;" and he left
the room, whistling--

Voici le sabre de mon pere!



At no time during the afternoon did Maurice find the opportunity
to speak privately to Fitzgerald. Madame hovered about, chatting,
smiling and humming snatches of song. She seemed to have formed
a sudden attachment for Maurice; that is to say, she could not
bear to lose sight of him, not for the briefest moment.

He swallowed his chagrin, for he could but confess that it was
sugar-coated. Madame had at last considered his case, and had
labeled him dangerous. Somehow a man always likes to be properly
valued. It re-establishes his good opinion of himself.

Well, well; however affectionate Madame might be, she could
scarcely carry it beyond the threshold of his chamber, and he
was determined to retire at an early hour. But he had many
things to learn.

Fitzgerald was abandoned to the countess, who had still much
color to regain. From time to time the Englishman looked over
his shoulder to see what was going on between Madame and his
friend, and so missed half of what the countess said.

"Come," thought Maurice, "it is time I made a play."

The blackberries were ripe along the stone walls which
surrounded the chateau. Maurice wandered here and there,
plucking what fruit he could find. Now and then he would offer a
branch to Madame. At length, as though by previous arrangement
with Madame, the countess led Fitzgerald around to the other
side of the chateau, so that Madame and Maurice were alone.
Immediately the smile, which had rested on her lips, vanished.
Her companion was gazing mountainward, and cogitating. How fared
those in Bleiberg?

"What a beautiful world it is!" said a low, soft voice close to
his ear.

Maurice resumed his berry picking.

"What exquisite tints in the skies!" went on the voice; "what
matchless color in the forests!"

Maurice plucked a berry, ate it, and smacked his lips. It was a
good berry.

"But what a terrible thing it would be if one should die
suddenly, or be thrown into a windowless dungeon, shut out from
all these splendid reaches?"

Maurice plucked another berry, but he did not eat it.
Instinctively he turned--and met a pair of eyes as hard and cold
and gray as new steel.

"That," said he, "sounds like a threat."

"And if it were, Monsieur, and if it were?"

"If it were, I should say that you had discovered that I know
too much. I suspected from the first; the picture merely
confirmed my suspicions. I see now that it was thoughtless in me
not to have told my friend; but it is not too late."

"And why, I ask, have I not suppressed you before this?"

"Till to-day, Madame, you had not given me your particular
consideration." Then, as if the conversation was not interesting
him, he returned to the berries. "There's a fine one there. It's
a little high; but then!" He tiptoed, drew the branch from the
wall, and snatched the luscious fruit. "Ah!"

"Monsieur, attend to me; the berries can wait."

"Madame, the life of a good blackberry is short."

"To begin with, you say that I did not show you consideration.
Few princes have been shown like consideration."

"I was wrong. It is not every man that has a countess--and a
pretty one, too!--thrown at his head."

Madame was temporarily silenced by this retort; it upset her
calculations. She scrutinized the clean, smooth face, and she
saw lines which had hitherto escaped her notice. She was at last
convinced that she had to contend with a man, a man who had
dealt with both men and women. How deep was he? Could honors,
such as she could give, and money plumb the depths? . . . He was
an American. She smiled the smile of duplicity.

"Monsieur," she said, "do you lack wealth?"

"Yes, I lack it; but that is not to say that I desire it."

"Perhaps it is honors you desire?"

"Honors? To what greater honor may I aspire than that which is
written in my passports?"

"What is written in your passports?"

"That I am a citizen of the United States of America. It would
not be good taste in me to accept honors save those that my
country may choose to confer."

Again Madame found her foil turned aside. She began to lose
patience. Her boot patted the sod. "Monsieur, since the countess
is not high enough, since gold and honors have no charm, listen."

"I am listening, Madame."

"I permit you to witness the comic opera, but I shall allow no
prompting from outsiders."

"Madame, do you expect me to sit calmly by and see my friend
made a fool?" He spoke warmly and his eyes remained steadfast.

"Certainly that is what you shall do," coldly.

"Madame, you are a beautiful woman; heaven has endowed you with
something more than beauty. Is it possible that the gods forgot
to mix conscience in the mold?"

"Conscience? Royalty knows none."

"Ah, Madame, wait till you are royal."

"Take care. You have not felt my anger."

"I would rather that than your love."

She marveled at her patience.

"If you have no conscience, Madame, I have. I shall warn him.
You shall not dishonor him if I can prevent it. You wish to win
his love, and you have gauged the possibilities of it so
accurately that you know you will have but to ask, be it his
honor or his life. A far finer thing it would be for you to win
your crown at the point of the sword. There would be a little
glory in it then. But even then, the world would laugh at you.
For you would be waging war against a lonely woman, a paralytic
king, a prelate who is a man of peace. What resistance could
these three offer?

"But to gain your ends by treachery and deceit, to rob a man of
his brains and heart, laughing the while in your sleeve; to
break his life and make him curse all women, from Eve to you and
the mother who bore him! Ah, Madame, let me plead with you. Give
him his liberty. Let him go back and complete the task imposed
on him. Do not break his life, for life is more than a crown; do
not compel him to sully his honor, for honor is more than life.

"Your cause is just, I will admit, but do not tarnish it by such
detestable means. 'Tis true that a crown to me signifies nothing,
but life and honor are common to us both. With all his strength
and courage, my friend is helpless. All his life he has been
without the society of women. If he should love you--God help
him! His love would be without calculation, without reason,
blind and furious. Madame, do not destroy him."

Sometimes, in the passing, we are stopped by the sound of a
voice. It is not the words it utters, nor the range nor tone. It
is something indefinable, and, though we can not analyze it, we
are willing to follow wherever it leads. Such a voice Maurice
possessed, though he was totally ignorant of its power. But
Madame, as she listened, felt its magic influence, and for a
moment the spell rendered her mute.

"Monsieur, you have missed your vocation; you plead well, indeed.
Unfortunately, I can not hear; my ears are of wax. No, no! I
have nourished these projects too long; they are a part of me.
Laughed at, you say? Have I not been laughed at from one end of
the continent to the other?" passionately. "It is my turn now,
and woe to those who have dared to laugh. I shall sweep all
obstacles away; nothing shall stop me. Mine the crown is, and
mine it shall be. I am a woman, and I wished to avoid bloodshed.
But not even that shall stay me; not even love!" Her bosom
heaved, her hands were clenched, and her gray eyes flashed like
troubled waters in the sunlight.

"Madame, if you love him--"

"Well?" proudly.

"No, I am wrong. If you loved him you would prize above all else
this honor of which you intend to rob him."

"I brought you here not to discuss whether I am right or wrong.
Look about you."

Maurice was somewhat troubled to discover several troopers
lounging about just out of earshot. They were so arranged as to
prevent egress from the park. He looked thoughtfully at the wall.
It was eight feet in height.

Madame saw the look, and said, "Corporal!"

There was a noise on the other side of the wall, and presently a
head bobbed up.

"Madame?" inquired the head.

"Nothing. I wished to know if you were at your post." She turned
to Maurice, who was puzzled to know what all this was preamble
to. "Monsieur Carewe, I never forget details. I had an idea that
when I submitted my proposals to you, you might be tempted to
break your parole."

Maurice gnawed his lip. "Proceed, Madame."

"There are only two. If you do not promise here and now in no
way to interfere with my plans, these troopers will convey you
to Brunnstadt, where you will be kept in confinement until the
succession to the throne is decided one way or the other. The
other proposal is, if you promise --and I have faith in your
word--the situation will continue the same as at present. Choose,
Monsieur. Which is it to be?"

The devil gleamed in his eyes. He remained silent.

"Well! Well!" impatiently.

"I accept the alternative," with bad grace. "If I made a dash--"

"You would be shot; those were my orders."

"And if I went to prison--"

"You would miss what you call the comic opera, but which to me
is all there is in life. You say that I have read your friend
well. That is true. Do you think that it is easy for me to
lessen myself in my own eyes? No woman lives who is prouder than
I. Remember, you are not to hint at what I propose to do, nor
who I am. See! It is all because you read something which was
not intended for your eyes. Be my friend, or be my enemy, it is
a matter of indifference to me. You have only yourself to blame.
Had you gone about your business and not intruded where you were
not wanted, neither you nor your friend would be here. No
interference from you, Monsieur; that is the understanding." She
raised her hand and made a sign, and the troopers took
themselves off. "Now you may go--to the countess, if you wish;
though I dare say that she will not find you in the best of

"I dare say she won't," said Maurice.

Fitzgerald sat by a window in the music room. He had resurrected
from no one knew where a clay with a broken stem. There was a
thoughtful cast to his countenance, and he puffed away,
blissfully unconscious of, or indifferent to, the close
proximity of the velvet curtains. A thrifty housewife, could she
have seen the smoke rise and curl and lose itself in the folds
above, would have experienced the ecstasy of anxiety and
perturbation. But there was no thrifty housewife at the Red
Chateau, nothing but dreams of conquest and revenge.

Twilight was gathering about, soft-footed and shadowful. Long
reaches of violet and vermilion clouds pressed thickly on the
western line of hills. The mists began to rise, changing from
opal to sapphire. The fantastic melodies of wandering gypsy
songs went throbbing through the room; rollicking gavots,
Hungarian dances, low and slumbrous nocturnes. As the music grew
sadder and dreamier, the smoker moved uneasily.

Somehow, it gripped his heart; and the long years of loneliness
returned and overwhelmed him. They marshaled past, thirteen in
all; and there were glimpses of deserts, snowcapped mountains,
men moving in the blur of smoke, long watches in the night.
Thirteen years in God-forsaken outposts, with never a sight of a
woman's face, the sound of her voice, the swish of her gown, nor
a touch of the spell which radiates from her presence.

He had never made friends. Others had come up to him and passed
him, and had gone to the cities, leaving him to bear the brunt
of the cold, the heat, the watchfulness. He had made his bed; he
was too much his father's son to whine because it was hard.
Often he used to think how a few words, from a pride humbled,
would have removed the barrier. But the words never came, nor
was the pride ever humbled.

Out of all the thirteen years he could remember only six months
of pleasure. He had been transferred temporarily to Calcutta,
where his Colonel, who had received secret information
concerning him, had treated him like a gentleman, and had
employed him as regimental interpreter, for he spoke French and
German and a smattering of Indian tongues. During his lonely
hours he had studied, for he knew that some day he would be
called upon to administer a vast fortune. . . . He laid the pipe
on the sill, rested his elbows beside it, and dropped his chin
in his hands. What a fool he had been to waste the best years of
his life! His father would have opened to him a boundless career;
he would have seen the world under the guidance of a master
hand. And here he was to-day, the possessor of millions, a
beggar in friends, no niche to fill, a wanderer from place to

The old pile in England, he never wished to see it again; the
memories which it would arouse would be too bitter. . . . The
shade of Beethoven touched him as it passed; Mozart, Mendelssohn,
Chopin. But he was thinking only of his loneliness, and the
marvelous touch of the hands which evoked the great spirits was
lost upon him.

Maurice was seated in one of the gloomy corners. He had still
much good humor to recover. He pulled at his lips, and wondered
from time to time what was going on in Fitzgerald's head. Poor
devil! he thought; could he resist this woman whose
accomplishments were so varied that at one moment she could
overthrow a throne and at the next play Phyllis to some
strolling Corydon? Since he himself, who knew her, could
entertain for her nothing but admiration, what hope was there
for the Englishman? What a woman! She savored of three hundred
years off. To plan by herself, to arrange the minutest detail,
and above all to wait patiently! Patience has never been the
attribute of a woman of power; Madame possessed both patience
and power.

The countess was seated in another dark corner. Suddenly she
arose and said, in a voice blended with great trouble and
impatience: "For pity's sake, Madame, cease those dirges! Play
something lively; I am sad."

The music stopped, but presently began again. Maurice leaned
forward. Madame was playing Chopin's polonaise. He laughed
silently. He was in Madame's thoughts. It struck him, however,
that the notes had a defiant ring.

"Lights!" called Madame, rising from the stool.

Immediately a servant entered with candles and retired. Maurice,
when his eyes had grown accustomed to the lights, scanned the
three faces. Madame's was radiant. Fitzgerald's was a mixture--a
comical mixture--of content and enjoyment, but the countess's
was as colorless as the wax in the candlesticks. He asked
himself what other task she had to perform that she should take
so long to recover her roses. Had the knowledge of her recent
humiliation been too much for her?

She was speaking to him. "Monsieur, will you walk with me in the
park? I am faint."

"Are you ill, countess?" asked Madame, coming up and placing her
hand under the soft round chin of the other and striving to read
her eyes.

"Not so ill, Madame, that a breath of fresh air will not revive
me." When they had gained the park, the countess said to Maurice:
"Monsieur, I have brought you here to tell you something. I
fear that your friend is lost, for you can do nothing."

"Not even if I break my word?" he asked.

"It would do no good."


"It is too late," lowly. "I have been Madame's understudy too
long not to read. Forgive me. I was to keep you apart; I have
done so. The evil can not now be repaired. Your hope is that
Madame has not fully considered his pride."

"Has she any regard for him?"

"Sentiment?--love?" She uttered a short, incredulous laugh.
"Madame has brain, not heart. Could a woman with a heart plan as
she plans?"

"Well, let us not talk of plots and plans; let us talk of--"

"Monsieur, do not be unkind. I have asked your forgiveness. Let
us not talk; let us be silent and listen to the night;" and she
leaned over the terrace balustrade.

Maurice floated. As he leaned beside her a strand of perfumed
hair blew across his nostrils. . . . The princess was at best a
dream. It was not likely that he ever would speak to her again.
The princess was a poem, unlettered and unrhymed. But here,
close to him, was a bit of beautiful material prose. The hair
again blew out toward him and he moved his lips. She heard the
vague sound and lifted her head.

Far away came the call of the sentry; a horse whinneyed in the
stables. There was in the air the odor of an approaching storm.



Some time passed before Fitzgerald became aware of Maurice's
departure. When he saw that he and Madame were alone, he said
nothing, but pulled all the quicker at his clay. He wondered at
the desire which suddenly manifested itself. Fly? Why should he
fly? The beat of his pulse answered him. . . . What a fine thing
it was to feel the presence of a woman--a woman like this! What
a fine thing always to experience the content derived from her

He looked into his heart; there was no animosity; there was
nothing at all but a sense of gratefulness. In the dreary
picture of his life there was now an illumined corner. He had
ceased to blame her; she was doing for her country what he, did
necessity so will, would do for his. And after all, he could not
war against a woman--a woman like this. His innate chivalry was
too deep-rooted.

How soft her voice was! The color of her hair and eyes followed
him night and day. Once he had been on the verge of sounding
Maurice in regard to Madame, Maurice was so learned in
femininities; but this would have been an acknowledgment of his
ignorance, and pride closed his mouth. It was all impossible,
but then, why should he return to his loneliness without
attempting to find some one to share it with him? The king was
safe; his duty was as good as done; his conscience was at ease
in that direction. He needed not love, he thought, so much as
sympathy. . . . Sympathy. He turned over the word in his mind as
a gem merchant turns over in his hand a precious jewel. Sympathy;
it was the key to all he desired --woman's sympathy. There was
nothing but ash in the bowl of his pipe, but he continued to

Madame was seated at the piano again, idly thrumming soft minor
chords. She was waiting for him to speak; she wanted to test his
voice, to know and measure its emotion. At times she turned her
head and shot a sly glance at him as he sat there musing. There
was a wrinkle of contempt and amusement lurking at the corners
of her eyes. Had Maurice been there he would have seen it.
Fitzgerald might have gazed into those eyes until doomsday, and
never have seen else than their gray fathoms. Minute after
minute passed, still he did not speak; and Madame was forced to
break the monotony. She was not sure that the countess could
hold Maurice very long.

"Of what are you thinking, Monsieur?" she asked, in a soft key.

He started, looked up and laid the pipe on the sill. "Frankly, I
was thinking that nothing can be gained by keeping us prisoners
here." He told the lie rather diffidently.

"Not even forgiveness?" The lids of the gray eyes drooped and
the music ceased.

"Forgiveness? O, there is nothing to forgive you; it is only
your mistress I can not forgive. On the contrary, there is much
to thank you for."

"Still, whatever I do or have done is merely in accordance with
her Highness's wishes."

He moved uneasily. "It is her will, not yours."

"Yes; the heart of Madame Amerbach is supine to the brain of
Madame the duchess." She rose and moved silently to the window
and peered out. He thought her to be star-gazing; but she was not.
She was endeavoring to see where Maurice and the countess were.

"Madame, shall I tell you a secret?"

"A secret? Tell me," sitting in the chair next to his.

"This has been the pleasantest week I have known in thirteen

"Then you forgive me!" Madame was not only mistress of music but
of tones.


And then, out of the fullness of his lonely heart, he told her
all about his life, its emptiness, its deserts, its longings.
Each sentence was a knife placed in her hands; and as she
contemplated his honest face which could conceal nothing, his
earnest eyes which could hide nothing, Madame was conscious of a
vague distrust of herself. If only he had offered to fight, she
thought. But he had not; instead, he was giving to her all his
weapons of defense.

"Ah, Monsieur, you do wrong to forgive me!" impulsively.

He smiled.

"Why should you be friendly to me when I represent all that is
antagonistic to you?"

"To me you represent only a beautiful woman."

"Ah; you have been taking lessons of your friend."

"He is a good teacher. He is one of those men whom I admire.
Women have never mastered him. He knows so much about them."

"Yes?" a flicker in her eyes.

"Beneath all his banter there is a brave heart. He is a rare man
who, having brain and heart to guide, follows the heart." He
picked up the pipe and began to play a tattoo on the sill. "As
for me, I know nothing of women, save what I have read in books,
and save that I have been too long without them."

"And you have gone all these years without knowing what it is to
love?" To a man less guileless, this question would not have
been in good taste.

Fitzgerald was silent; he dared not venture another lie.

"What! you are silent? Is there, after all, a woman somewhere in
your life?"

"Yes." He continued to tap the pipe. His gaze wandered to the
candles, strayed back to the window, then met hers steadfastly,
so steadfastly, that she could not resist. She was annoyed.

"Tell me about her."

"My vocabulary is too limited. You would laugh at me."

"I? No; love is sacred." She had boasted to Maurice that she was
without conscience; she had only smothered it. "Come; is she

"Yes." These questions disturbed him.

"Certainly she must be worthy or you would not love her. She is

"That does not matter; I am." He was wishing that Maurice would
hurry back; the desire to fly was returning.

"And she rejected you and sent you to the army?"

"She has not rejected me, though I dare say she would, had I the
presumption to ask her."

"A faint heart, they say--"

"My heart is not faint; it is my tongue." He rose and wandered
about the room. Her breath was like orris, and went to his head
like wine.

"Monsieur," she said, "is it possible that you have succumbed to
the charms of Madame the countess?"

He laughed. "One may admire exquisite bric-a-brac without loving

"Bric-a-brac! Poor Elsa!" and Madame laughed. "If it were the
countess I could aid you."

"Love is not merchandise, to traffic with."

Madame's cheeks grew warm. Sometimes the trick of fence is
beaten down by a tyro's stroke.

"Eh, bien, since it is not the countess--"

He came toward her so swiftly that instinctively she rose and
moved to the opposite side of her chair. Something in his face
caused her to shiver. She had no time to analyze its meaning,
but she knew that the shiver was not unmixed with fear.

"Madame, in God's name, do not play with me!" he cried.

"Monsieur, you forget yourself," for the moment forgetting her part.

"Yes, there is no self in my thoughts since they are all of you!
You know that I love you. Who could resist you? Thirteen years?
They are well wasted, in the end to love a woman like you."

Before she could withdraw her hands from the top of the chair he
had seized them.

"Monsieur, release me." She struggled futilely.

"I love you." He began to draw her from behind the chair.

"Monsieur, Monsieur!" she, cried, genuinely alarmed; "do not
forget that you are a gentleman."

"I am not a gentleman now; I am a man who loves."

Madame was now aware that what she had aroused could not be
subdued by angry words.

"Monsieur, you say that you love me; do not degrade me by
forcing me into your arms. I am a woman, and weak, and you are
hurting me."

He let go her hands, and they stood there, breathing deeply and
quickly. But for her it was a respite. She had been too
precipitate. She brought together the subtle forces of her mind.
She could gain nothing by force; she must use cunning. To hold
him at arm's length, and yet to hold him, was her desire. She
had reckoned on wax; a man stood before her. All at once the
flutter of admiration stirred in her heart. She was a soldier's
daughter, the daughter of a man who loved strong men. And this
man was doubly strong because he was fearless and honest. She
read in his eyes that a moment more and he had kissed her, a
thing no man save her father had ever done.

"O, Monsieur," she said lightly, "you soldiers are such forward
lovers! You have not even asked me if I love you." He made a
move to regain her hands. "No, no!" darting behind the chair.
"You must not take my hands; you do not realize how strong you
are. I am not sure that my heart responds to yours."

"Tell me, what must I do?" leaning across the chair.

"You must have patience. A woman must be wooed her own way, or
not at all. What a whirlwind you are!"

"I would to heaven," with a gesture indicative of despair, "that
you had kept me behind bars and closed doors." He dropped his
hands from the chair and sought the window, leaning his arms
against the central frame.

Madame had fully recovered her composure. She saw her way to the

"It is true," she said, "that I do not love you, but it is also
true that I am not indifferent to you. What proof have I that
you really love me? None, save your declaration; and that is not
sufficient for a woman such as I am. Shall I place my life in
your hands for better or for worse, simply because you say you
love me?"

"My love does not reason, Madame."

She passed over this stroke. "I do not know you; it is not less
than natural for me to doubt you. What proof have I that your
declaration of love is not a scheme to while away your captivity
at my expense? My heart is not one to be taken by storm. There
is only one road to my affections; it is narrow. Other men have
made love to me, but they have hesitated to enter upon this self-
same road."

"Love that demands conditions? I have asked none."

Madame blushed. "A man offers love; a woman confers it."

"And what is this narrow road called which leads to your
affections? Is your heart a citadel?"

"It is called sacrifice. Those who dwell in my heart, which you
call a citadel, enter by that road."

"Sacrifice?" Fervor lighted his face again. "Do you wish my
fortune? It is yours. My life? It is yours. Do you wish me to
lead the army of the duchess into Bleiberg? It shall be done.
Sacrifice? I have sacrificed the best years of youth for nothing;
my life has been made up of sacrifices."

"Monsieur, if I promised to listen to you here-after, if I
promised a heart that has never known the love of man, if I
promised lips that have never known the lips of any man save my
father--" She moved away from the chair, within an arm's length
of him. "If I promised all these without reservation, would you
aid me to give back to the duchess her own?"

Instantly her arms were pinioned to her sides, and he had drawn
her so close that she could feel his heart beat against her own.

"Have no fear," he said. The voice was unfamiliar to her ears.
"I shall not kiss you. Let me look into your eyes, Madame, your
eyes, and read the lie which is written there. My fortune and my
life are not enough. Keep your love, Madame; I have no wish to
purchase it. What! if I surrender my honor it is agreed that you
surrender yours? A love such as mine requires a wife. You would
have me break my word to the dead and to the living, and you
expect me to believe in your promises! Faugh!" He pushed her
from him, and resumed his stand by the window.

The hate of a thousand ancestors surged into her heart, and she
would have liked to kill him. Mistress! He had dared. He had
dared to speak to her as no other man living or dead had dared.
And he lived. All that was tigerish in her soul rose to the
surface; only the thought of the glittering goal stayed the
outburst. She had yet one weapon. A minute went by, still
another; silence. A hand was laid tremblingly on his arm.

"Forgive me! I was wrong. Love me, love me, if you must. Keep
your honor; love me without conditions. I--" She stumbled into
the chair, covered her eyes and fell to weeping.

Fitzgerald, dumfounded and dismayed, looked. down at the
beautiful head. He could fight angry words, tempests of wrath--
but tears, a woman's tears, the tears of the woman he loved!

"Madame," he said gently, "do you love me?"

No answer.

"Madame, for God's sake, do not weep! Do you love me? If you
love me--if you love me--"

She sprang to her feet. Once again she experienced that shiver;
again her conscience stirred.

"I do not know," she said. "But this I may say: your honor,
which you hold above the price of a woman's love, will be the

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