Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Puppet Crown by Harold MacGrath

Part 6 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

hated Beauvais, who had, for no obvious reason, passed him and
grasped the coveted colonelcy, and because, curiously enough,
the native troops had made an idol of him. "Beauvais? I am not
surprised. An adventurer, with neither kith nor country."

"He is Prince Walmoden," said Maurice, "and for some reason not
known, the emperor has promised to recall him."

This information caused the Captain to step back, and he
muttered the name several times. "Austria. . . ." A gloom
settled on his face. "No matter. Prince or no prince, or had he
one thousand emperors behind him, no matter. Four of you seek
him and arrest him. If he offers resistance, knock him on the
head, but arrest him. A traitor is without name, country or
respect. His purpose . . . Never mind.

"Four of you seek for Kopf. Look into Stuler's, in at the opera,
and follow Kopf's woman home. I'll take it upon myself to
telegraph the frontier to allow no one to cross on the pain of
being shot. Pass the word to the officers in the stables. Hurry
away before the archbishop hears of the matter. Away with you,
and quietly. And one of you seek that blockhead of a coachman,
who did not know enough to come back here and inform us.
Beauvais, make him a prisoner, you are not to know why. As for
Kopf, dead or alive--alive will be less convenient for all
concerned. Off with you!"

The guardroom was at once emptied, and the cuirassiers turned
off toward the stables, where the main body of the troops was

Riemer, who was both surgeon and soldier, probed the wound in
von Miner's leg and extracted the bullet, which had lodged in
the fleshy part of the calf. He applied cold water, lints and
bandages. All the while von Mitter sat in the chair, his eyes
shut and his lips closed tightly.

"There!" said the surgeon, standing up, "that's better. The loss
of blood is the worst part of it." Next he took a few stitches
in the cut on the cheek and threw his cloak over the wounded
man's knee. "He'll be all right in a day or so, though he'll
limp. Carl?"

"O, I'm sound enough," answered von Mitter, opening his eyes. "A
little weak in the knees, that's all. I shouldn't have given in,
only Kopf got away when we had him fair and fast. We found his
horse wandering about the Frohngarten, but no sign of Johann.
He's got it, though, square in the back."

"I'm sure of it," said Maurice, who leaned over the back of the
speaker's chair.

The Captain eyed him inquiringly.

"Pardon me," said Scharfenstein. "Captain, Monsieur Carewe, an
American tourist, formerly of the United States cavalry. And a
pretty shot, too, by the book! It would have gone badly with us
but for him."

"My thanks," said the Captain, with a jerky nod. "Max, come,
give me the whole story."

And Scharfenstein dropped into a chair and recounted in
picturesque diction the adventure; how they had remained by the
royal carriage till the nurse, recovering from her faint, had
rushed out and told them of the abduction; and the long race on
the south shore. While he listened the Captain smoked
thoughtfully; and when the story was done, he rose and wagged
his head.

"Call it revenge," he said, "if it strikes you in that light.
Monsieur Carewe, what is your opinion?"

"It occurs to me," answered Maurice, rubbing the scratch the
late Colonel's sword had left on his chin, "it occurs to me that
the man played his hand a few days too late."

"Which is to say?"

"Well, I do not call it revenge," Maurice admitted, unwilling to
venture any theory.

"No more do I;" and the Captain began drumming on the mantel.
"What say, Max; how would the illustrious Colonel look with the
shadow of a crown on his head? He comes from Austria, who, to my
thinking, is cognizant of all he does and has done."

The answer was not spoken. The door, leading to the main palace
through the kitchens, opened, and the Marshal, the princess, and
the maid of honor came down the steps. The Captain, Max and the
surgeon stood at salute. Maurice, however, drew back into the
shadows at the side of the grate. The old soldier gazed down at
the pale face of the young Lieutenant, and smiled kindly.

"Even the best of soldiers make mistakes," he said; "even the
best. No," as von Mitter made an attempt to speak. "I've heard
all about it, and from a most reliable source," nodding toward
the anxious maid of honor. "Colonel," he addressed the Captain,
whose eyes started at this appellation, "Colonel, you will
report to me in the morning to assume your new duties. You have
been a faithful Captain and a good soldier. I know your value,
your name and your antecedents, which till now was more than I
knew of your late predecessor. Von Mitter will take upon himself
your duties as Captain of the household troop; and you,
Scharfenstein, will hereafter take charge of her Royal
Highness's carriage, and you may choose whom you will as your

"I have always tried to do my duty," said von Mitter. He felt a
small hand secretly press his.

"And you have always succeeded, Captain," said a voice which
made Maurice's foolish heart leap. "See, I am the first to give
you your new rank. How you must suffer!"

"God bless your Royal Highness!" murmured the fellow, at once
racked with pain and happiness. "But I am not the one you must
thank for this night's work."

The Marshal peered at the silent figure beyond the fireplace.
Maurice was compelled to stand forth. "Ah!" said the Marshal.

"Yes," went on von Mitter, "but for him no one knows what the
end might have been. And I, thinking him one of the abducting
party coming up from the rear, shot at him."

The princess took a step forward, anxiety widening her dark eyes;
and the swift glance added to the fever in the recipient's
veins. . . . How beautiful she was, and how far away! He laid
his hand on the top of von Mitter's chair.

"Monsieur Carewe," said the Marshal, "seems to have plenty of
leisure time on his hands--fortunately for us. You were not hit?"

"O, no," said Maurice, blushing. He had discerned an
undercurrent of raillery in the Marshal's tones. "The ball came
close to my ear, that was all. It is strange how that fellow got
away. I am positive that I hit him."

"We shall find him," said the Marshal, with a look at the newly-
appointed Colonel which said: "Your straps hang in the balance."
He rubbed his nose. "Well, is your Royal Highness satisfied that
there is no danger?"

"Yes, Marshal; but think, if he should have been killed! Ah,
what does it all mean? What had this man against me, who have
always been kind to him?"

"We shall, with your Highness's permission," said the Marshal,
"leave all questions to the future. Let us return to the
archbishop, who is doubtless awaiting the news. Take good care
of yourself, Captain. To-morrow, Colonel; good evening to you,
Monsieur Carewe;" and the terse old soldier proceeded to the
door and held it open for the women.

"Good night, Messieurs," said her Highness. "I shall not forget.
Thanks to you, Captain." One more glance, and she was gone. But
this glance blossomed in one heart into a flower of hope.

The Marshal, having closed the door behind the women, returned
to the group before the fireplace. They watched him interestedly.

"Colonel," he said, "make no effort to seek Beauvais. As for
Kopf, that is different. But Beauvais--"

"To let him go?" exclaimed the Colonel in dismay.

"Aye, to let him go. We do not seek bears with birdshot, and
that is all we have. He will leave the country."

"And go to the duchy!"

"So much the better; when the time comes, our case against him
will be so much the stronger. Mind you, this is not from
sentiment. I have none," glaring around to see if any dared
refute this assertion. "It is policy, and Monseigneur concurs
with me."

"But I have sent men after him!" cried the Colonel, in keen

"Send men after them to rescind the order."

"And if they should catch him?"

"Let him go; that is my order. The servant will be sufficient
for our needs. Monsieur Carewe, I rely on your discretion;" and
the Marshal passed into the kitchens.

The men looked at each other in silence. A moment later the
Colonel dashed from the room, off to the stables.

"Well, I'm off," said Maurice. The desire to tell what he knew
was beginning to master him. It was too late now, he saw that.
Besides, they might take it into their heads to detain him. He
put on his hat. "Good night; and good luck to your leg, Captain."

"Till to-morrow," said von Mitter, who had taken a fancy to the
smooth-faced young American, who seemed at home in all places.

"I am going away to-morrow," said Maurice, pressing the
Lieutenant's hand. "I shall return in a day or so."

He led his horse to the hotel stables, lit a fresh cigar and
promenaded the terrace. "Some day," he mused, "perhaps I'll be
able to do something for myself. To-morrow we'll take a look at
Fitzgerald's affairs, like the good fairy we are. If the Colonel
is there, so much the worse for one or the other of us." He
laughed contentedly. "Beauvais took my warning and lit out, or
his henchman would never have made a botch of the abduction. It
is my opinion that Madame wanted a hostage, for it is impossible
to conceive that the man made the attempt on his own
responsibility. I shall return to the duchy in a semi-official
character as an envoy extraordinary to look into the whereabouts
of one Lord Fitzgerald. Devil take me, but I did make a mess of
it when I slapped him on the shoulder that night." The princess
had not addressed a word to him. Why?

When the princess and her maid of honor had passed through the
kitchens into the princess's boudoir, the maid suddenly caught
her mistress's hand and imprinted a hasty kiss on it, to the
latter's surprise and agitation. There was something in that
kiss which came nearer to sincere affection than Mademoiselle
Bachelier had ever shown before.


"God bless your Highness!" whispered the girl, again pressing
the cold hand to her lips. What had given rise to this new-born
affection she herself could not say, but a sudden wave of pity
rushed into her heart. Perhaps it was because she loved and was
loved that caused this expansion of heart toward her mistress,
who was likely never to love or beget love, who stood so lonely.
Tears came into her eyes.

"You are hysterical!" said the princess.

"No; it is because--because--" She stopped and a blush suffused
her face and temples.

The princess took the face between her hands and gazed long and
earnestly into it. "Have you discovered a belated pity in your
heart for me? Or is it because you thought him wounded unto
death, and he was not?"

"It is both!" weeping.

The princess put her arms around the maid. "And you weep for
happiness? Let us weep together, then; only--I can not weep for

To return to the flight of Kopf. As he dashed down the road he
heard two reports. At the second he experienced a terrible
burning blow under the right shoulder-blade, and immediately his
arm became paralyzed. He coughed. With a supreme effort he
managed to recover his balance. Already his collar-bone had been
cracked by a bullet either from von Mitter or from Scharfenstein.

"God's curse on them all!" he sobbed, pushing his knees into his
horse; "God's curse!" He bit his lips; and when he drew his
breath the pain which followed almost robbed him of his senses.
Behind him the sound of hoofs came no nearer; he had a chance.
He could not look back to see if he gained, however, as his neck
was stiffening.

"Curse him and his damned gold! He never warned me as he said he
would." On he rode. The moon became obscured, and when it
flashed again he could see it but indistinctly. . . . To reach
the city, to reach Gertrude's, to give the horse a cut and send
him adrift, this was his endeavor. But would he reach the city--
alive? Was he dying? He could not see . . . Yet again he shut
his jaws and drew on his entire strength. He was keeping in the
saddle by will power alone. If the horse faltered he was lost.
To Gertrude; she could use them. And after all he loved her. If
he died she would be provided for.

The first of the city lamps. He sobbed. Into this street he
turned, into that, expecting each moment to be challenged, for
the white saddle blanket of the cuirassiers stood out
conspicuously. At last he had but a corner to turn. He stopped,
slid from the saddle and gave the animal a cut across the face.
The horse reared, then plunged forward at a wild gallop. Johann
staggered along the street, fumbling in his pockets for his keys.

Gertrude of the opera company was usually in the ballet. To-
night she had left the stage after the first dance. She had
complained of a severe headache, and as the manager knew her
worth he had permitted her withdrawal from the corps. She lived
off the Frohngarten, in an apartment on the second floor, over a
cheap restaurant. She was bathing her temples in perfumed
ammonia water, when she heard footsteps in the corridor, and
later the rasp of a key in the lock. As the door opened she
beheld a spectacle which caused her to scream.

"Hush! Gertrude, I am dying. . . . Brandy! I must talk to you!
Silence!" Johann tottered to a lounge and dropped on his side.

The woman, still trembling with fright and terror, poured into
her palm some of the pungent liquid with which she had been
bathing her temples, and held it under his nose. It revived him.
And in a few broken sentences he made known to her what had

"Gertrude, I am lost!" He breathed with difficulty. "I have
lived like a rascal, and I die like one. But I have always loved
you; I have always been true to you; I have never beaten nor
robbed you." His eyes closed.

"O God," she cried, "what shall I do? Johann, you must not die!
We will leave the country together. Johann, you do not speak!
Johann!" She kissed him, pressed him in her arms, regardless of
the stains which these frantic fondlings gathered from his
breast. "Johann!"

"Rich," he said dreamily; "rich . . . and to die like a dog!"

She left him and rushed to the sideboard, poured out a tumbler
of brandy, and returned to his side. She raised his head, but he
swallowed with effort.

"In the lungs," he said. "God! how it burns! Rich; we are rich,
Gertrude; a hundred thousand crowns. . . . And I am dying! . . .
What a failure! Curse them all; they never offered to lend a
hand unless it led toward hell! Gertrude . . . I must tell you.
Here; here, put your hand in this pocket; yes. Draw them out. . .
A hundred thousand crowns!"

The woman shuddered. Her hand and what it held were wet with

"Hide them!" And Johann fainted away for the second time. When
he came to his senses, several minutes had passed. Quickly, with
what remaining strength he had, he unfolded his plan.

And her one idea was to save him. She drenched her handkerchief
with the ammonia, and bade him hold it to his nose, while she
fetched a basin of water and a sponge. Tenderly she drew back
his coat and washed the blood from his throat and lips, and
moistened his hair.

"Listen!" he cried suddenly, rising on his elbow. "It is they!
They have found me! Quick! to the roof!" He struggled to his
feet, with that strength which imparts itself to dying men,
super-human while it lasts. He threw one arm around her neck.
"Help me!"

And thus they gained the hall, mounted the flight to the roof,
he groaning and urging, she sobbing, hysterical, and frenzied.
She climbed the ladder with him, threw back the trap, and helped
him on the roof.

"Now leave me!" he said, kissing her hand.

She gave him her lips, and went down to her rooms, and waited
and waited. This agony of suspense lasted a quarter of an hour,
when again came the clatter of hoofs. Would this, too, prove a
false alarm? She held her hand to her ear. If he were dying. . .
They had stopped; they were mounting the stairs; O God, they
were beating on the door!

"Open!" cried a voice without; "open in the king's name!"

She gasped, but words would not come. She clenched her hands
until the nails sank into the flesh.

"Open, Madame, or down comes the door."

The actress in her came to the rescue. The calm of despair took
possession of her.

"In a moment, Messieurs," she said. Her voice was without
agitation. She opened the door and the cuirassiers pushed past
her. "In heaven's name, Messieurs, what does this mean?"

"We want Johann Kopf," was the answer, "and we have it from good
authority that he is here. Do not interfere with us; you are in
no wise connected with the affair."

"He is not here," she replied. She wondered at herself, her
tones were so even, her mind was so clear.

One of the cuirassiers caught up her gown. "What's this,
Madame?" he demanded, pointing to the dark wet stains; "and
this?" to her hands, "and this?" to the spots on the carpet, the
basin and the sponge. "To the roof, men; he has gone by the roof!
Up with you!"

The ballet dancer held forth her hands in supplication; life
forsook her limbs; she sank.

The cuirassiers rushed to the roof. . . . When they came down it
was slowly and carefully. What they had found on the roof was of
no use to them. They laid the inanimate thing on the lounge, and
frowned. One of the cuirassiers lifted the ballet dancer and
carried her into her bed-room, and laid her on the bed. He had
not the heart to revive her. Death softens all angers; even an
enemy is no longer such when dead. And Johann Kopf was dead.



At eight o'clock of the following evening, that is to say, the
nineteenth of September, Maurice mounted the Thalian pass and
left the kingdom in the valley behind him. He was weary, dusty,
lame and out of humor; besides, he had a new weight on his
conscience. The night before he had taken the life of a man.
True, this had happened before, but always in warfare. He had
killed in a moment of rage and chagrin a poor devil who was at
most only a puppet. There was small credit in the performance.
However, the rascal would have suffered death in any event, his
act being one of high treason.

In the long ride he had made up his mind to lock away forever
the silly dream, the tender, futile, silly dream. All men die
with secrets locked in their hearts; thus he, too, would die.
His fancy leaped across the chasm of intervening years to the
day of his death, and the thought was a happy one! He smiled
sadly, as young men smile when they pity themselves. He knew
that he would never get over it--in a day. But to-morrow, or to-
morrow's to-morrow . .

He took the pass's decline; the duchy spread away toward the
south. A quarter of a mile below him he saw the barrack and the
customs office which belonged to Madame the duchess. The
corporal inspected him and his papers, spoke lowly to the
customs inspector, who returned to his office.

"It is all right, Monsieur Carewe," said the corporal; "I ought
to recognize the horse a mile away. You will arrive just in time."

"Just in time for what?"

"Ah, true. Her Highness gives a grand ball at the chateau to-
night. The court has arrived from Brunnstadt. Some will reside
at the chateau, some at General Duckwitz's, others at the
Countess Herzberg's."

"Has the duchess arrived at last, then?" was the cynical inquiry.

"She will arrive this evening," answered the corporal, grinning.
"A pleasant journey to you."

Maurice proceeded. "And that blockhead of an Englishman has not
tumbled yet! The court here? A grand ball? What else can it mean
but that Madame is celebrating a victory to come? If the
archbishop has those consols, she will wage war; and this is the
prelude." He jogged along. He had accomplished a third of the
remaining distance, when he was challenged. The sentry came
forward and scrutinized the rider.

"O, it is Monsieur Carewe !" he cried in delighted tones. He
touched his cap and fell back into the shadows.

A mile farther, and the great chateau, scintillating with lights,
loomed up against the yellow sky. He felt a thrill of excitement.
Doubtless there would be some bright passages before the night
drew to a close. He would make furious love to the pretty
countess; it would be something in the way of relaxation. How
would they greet him? What would be Madame's future plans in
regard to Fitzgerald? How would she get him out of the way, now
that he had served her purpose? He laughed.

"The future promises much," he said, half aloud. "I am really
glad that I came back."


Maurice drew up. A sentry stepped out into the road.

"O, it is Monsieur Carewe!" he cried. With a short laugh he

"Hang me," grumbled Maurice as he went on, "these fellows have
remarkable memories. I can't recollect any of them." He was

Shortly he came upon the patrol. The leader ordered him to
dismount, an order be obeyed willingly, for he was longing to
stand again. He shook his legs, while the leader struck a match.

"Why, it is Monsieur Carewe!" he cried. "Good! We are coming out
to meet you. This is a pleasure indeed."

Maurice gazed keenly into the speaker's face, and to his
surprise beheld the baron whose arm he had broken a fortnight
since. He climbed on his horse again.

"I am glad you deem it a pleasure, baron," he said dryly. "From
what you imply, I should judge that you were expecting me."

"Nothing less! Your departure from Bleiberg was known to us as
early as two o'clock this after-noon," answered the baron.
"Permit us to escort you to the chateau before the ladies see
you. 'Tis a gala night; we are all in our best bib and tucker,
as the English say. We believed at one time that you were not
going to honor us with a second visit. Now to dress, both of us;
at ten Madame the duchess arrives with General Duckwitz and
Colonel Mollendorf, who is no relation to the late minister of
police in Bleiberg."

Underneath all this Maurice discerned a shade of mockery, and it
disturbed him.

"First, I should like to know--" he began.

"Later, later!" cried the baron. "The gates are but a dozen rods
away. To your room first; the rest will follow."

"The only clothes I have with me are on my back," said Maurice.

"We shall arrange that. Your guard-hussar uniform has been
reserved for you, at the suggestion of the Colonel."

And Maurice grew more and more disturbed.

"Were they courteous to you on the road?"

"Yes. But--"

"Patience! Here we are at the rear gates."

Maurice found it impossible to draw back; three troopers blocked
the rear, the baron and another rode at his sides, and four more
were in advance. The rear gates swung open, and the little troop
passed into the chateau confines. Maurice snatched a glimpse of
the front lawns and terraces. The trees and walls were hung with
Chinese lanterns; gay uniforms and shimmering gowns flitted
across his vision. Somewhere within the chateau an orchestra was
playing the overture from "Linda di Chamounix." Indeed, with all
these brave officers, old men in black bedecked with ribbons,
handsome women in a brilliant sparkle of jewels, it had the
semblance of a gay court. It was altogether a different scene
from that which was called the court of Bleiberg. There was no
restraint here; all was laughter, music, dancing, and wines. The
women were young, the men were young; old age stood at one side
and looked on. And the charming Voiture-verse of a countess,
Maurice was determined to seek her first of all. He vaguely
wondered how Fitzgerald would carry himself throughout the ordeal.

The troopers dismounted in the courtyard.

"I'm a trifle too stiff to dance," Maurice innocently

The baron laughed. "You will have to take luck with me in the
stable-barrack; the chateau is filled. The armory has been
turned into a ballroom, and the guard out of it."

"Lead on!" said Maurice.

At the entrance to the guardroom, which occupied the left wing
of the stables, stood a Lieutenant of the hussars.

"This is Monsieur Carewe," said the baron, "who will occupy a
corner in the guardroom."

"Ah! Monsieur Carewe," waving his hand cavalierly; "happy to see
you again."

Maurice was growing weary of his name.

"Enter," said the baron, opening the door.

Maurice entered, but not without suspicion. However, he was in a
hurry to mingle with the gay assembly in the chateau. But that
body was doomed to proceed without the honor or the knowledge of
his distinguished presence. Several troopers were lounging about.
At the sight of the baron they rose.

"Messieurs," he said, "this is Monsieur Carewe, who was expected."

"Glad to see you!" they sang out in chorus. They bowed

Maurice gazed toward the door. As he did so four pairs of arms
enveloped him, and before he could offer the slightest
resistance, he was bound hand and foot, a scarf was tied over
his mouth, and he was pushed most disrespectfully into a chair.
The baron's mouth was twisted out of shape, and the troopers
were smiling.

"My faith! but this is the drollest affair I ever was in;" and
the baron sat on the edge of the table and held his sides.
"Monsieur Carewe! Ha! ha! You are a little too stiff to dance,
eh? Shall I tender your excuses to the ladies? Ass! did you
dream for a moment that such canaille as you, might show your
countenance to any save the scullery maids? Too stiff to dance!
Ye gods, but that was rich! And you had the audacity to return
here! I must go; the thing is killing me." He slipped off the
table, red in the face and choking. "The telegraph has its uses;
it came ahead of you. We trembled for fear you would not come!
Men, guard him as your lives, while I report to Madame, I dare
say she will make it droller in the telling."

He stepped to the door, turned, looking into the prisoner's
glaring eyes; he doubled up again. "We are quits; I forgive you
the broken arm; this laugh will repay me. How Madame the
countess will laugh! And Duckwitz--the General will die of
apoplexy! O, but you are a sorry ass; and how neatly we have
clipped your ears!" And into the corridor he went, still
laughing, heartily and joyously, as if what had taken place was
one of the finest jests in the world.

Maurice, white and furious, was positive that he never would
laugh again. And the most painful thought was that his honesty
had brought him to this pass--or, was it his curiosity?

* * * * *

Fitzgerald stood alone in the library. The music of a Strauss
waltz came indistinctly to him. He was troubled, and the speech
of it lay in his eyes. From time to time he drummed on the
window sill, and followed with his gaze the shadowy forms on the
lawns. He was not a part of this fairy scene. He was out of
place. So many young and beautiful women eyeing him curiously
confused him. In every glance he innocently read his disgrace.

At Madame's request he had dressed himself in the uniform of a
Lieutenant-Colonel, which showed how deeply he was in the toils.
Though it emphasized the elegant proportions of his figure, it
sat uncomfortably upon him. His vanity was not equal to his
sense of guilt. The uniform was a livery of dishonor. He could
not distort it into a virtue, try as he would. He lacked that
cunning artifice which a man of the world possesses, that of
winning over to the right a misdeed.

And Carewe, on whose honesty he would have staked his life,
Carewe had betrayed him. Why, he could not conceive. He saw how
frail his house of love was. A breath and it was gone. What he
had until to-day deemed special favors were favors common to all
these military dandies. They, too, could kiss Madame's hand, and
he could do no more. And yet she held him. Did she love him? He
could not tell. All he knew was that it was impossible not to
love her. And to-night he witnessed the culmination of the woman
beautiful, and it dazzled him, filled him with fears and
oppressions. . . . To bind her hand and foot, to carry her by
force to the altar, if need; to call her his in spite of all.

If she were playing with him, making a ball of his heart and her
fancy a cup, she knew not of the slumbering lion within. He
himself was but dimly conscious of it. Princess? That did not
matter. Since that morning the veil had fallen from his eyes,
but he had said nothing; he was waiting for her to speak. Would
she laugh at him? No, no! The knowledge that had come to him had
transformed wax into iron. Princess? She was the woman who had
promised to be his wife.

Only two candles burned on the mantel-piece. The library was a
room apart from the festivities. A soft, rose-colored darkness
pervaded the room. Presently a darker shadow tiptoed over the
threshold. He turned, and the shadow approached. Madame's gray
eyes, full of lambent fires, looked into his own.

"I was seeking you," she said. The jewels in her hair threw a
kind of halo above her head.

"Have I the happiness to be necessary to you?" he asked.

"You have not been enjoying yourself."

"No, Madame; my conscience is, unhappily, too green." He turned
to the window again for fear he would lose control of himself.

"I have a confession to make to you," she said humbly. How broad
his shoulders were, was her thought.

"It can not concern me," he replied.


"There is only one confession which I care to hear. You made it
once, though you are not willing to repeat it. But I have your
word, Sylvia; I am content. Not all the world could make me
believe that you would willingly retract that word."

Her name, for the first time coming from his lips, caused her to
start. She sent him a penetrating glance, but it broke on a face
immobile as marble.

"I do not recollect granting you permission to use my given name,"
she said.

"O, that was before the world. But alone, alone as we are, you
and I, it is different." The smile which accompanied these words
was frankness itself, but it did not deceive Madame, who read
his eyes too well. "Ali, but the crumbs you give this love of
mine are so few!" "You are the only man in the world permitted
to avow love to me. You have kissed my hand."

"A privilege which seems extended to all."

Madame colored, but there was not light enough for him to
perceive it.

"The , hand you kissed is the hand of the woman; others kiss it
to pay homage. Monsieur, 'forgive me for having deceived you,
you were so easy to deceive." His eyes met hers steadily.

"I am not Madame simply. I am Stephonia Sylvia Auersperg; the name
I assumed was my mother's." His lack of surprise alarmed her.

"I am well aware of that," he said. "You are the duchess."

Something in his tone warned her of a crisis, and she put forth
her cunning to avert it. "And. you-you will not love me less?"
her voice vibrant as the string of a viol. "I am a princess, but
yet a woman. In me there are two, the woman and the princess.
The princess is proud and ambitious; to gain her ends she stops
at nothing. As a princess she may stoop to trickery and deceit,
and step back untouched. But the woman-ah, well; for this
fortnight I have been most of all the woman."

"And all this to me-is a preamble to my dismissal, since my
promise remains unfulfilled? Madame, do not think that because
fate has willed that my promise should become void, that my
conscience acquits me of dishonor. For love of you I have thrown
honor to the winds. But do I regret it? No. For I am mad, and
being mad, I am not capable of reason. I have broken all those
ties which bind a man's respect to himself. I have burned all
bridges, but I laugh at that. It is only with the knowledge that
your love is mine that I can hold high my head.

"As the princess in you is proud, so is the man in me. A
princess? That is nothing; I love you. Were you the empress of
all the Russias, the most unapproachable woman in the world, I
should not hesitate to profess my love, to find some means of
declaring it to you. I love you. To what further depths can I
fall to prove it?" Again he sought the window, and leaned
heavily on the sill. He waited, as a man waits for an expected

As she listened a delicious sensation swept through her heart, a
sensation elusive and intangible. She surrendered without
question. At this moment the Eve in her evaded all questions.
Here was a man. The mood which seized her was as novel as this
love which asked nothing but love, and the willingness to pay
any price; and the desire to test both mood and love to their
full strength was irresistible. She was loved for herself alone;
hitherto men had loved the woman less and the princess more. To
surrender to both mood and love, if only for an hour or a day,
to see to what length this man would go at a sign from her.

He was almost her equal in birth; his house was nearly if not
quite as old and honored as her own; in his world he stood as
high as she stood in hers. She had never committed an
indiscretion; passion had never swayed her; until now she had
lived by calculation. As she looked at him, she knew that in all
her wide demesne no soldier could stand before him and look
straight into his eyes. So deep and honest a book it was, so
easily readable, that she must turn to its final pages. Love
him? No. Be his wife? No. She recognized that it was the feline
instinct to play which dominated her. Consequences? Therein lay
the charm of it.

"Patience, Monsieur," she said. "Did I promise to be your wife?
Did I say that I loved you? ~Eh, bien~, the woman, not the
princess, made those vows. I am mistress not only of my duchy,
but of my heart." She ceased and regarded him with watchful eves.
He did not turn. "Look at me, John!" The voice was of such
winning sweetness that St. Anthony himself, had he heard it,
must have turned. "Look at me and see if I am more a princess
than a woman."

He wheeled swiftly. She was leaning toward him, her face was
upturned. No jewel in her hair was half so lustrous as her eyes.
From the threaded ruddy ore of her hair rose a perfume like the
fabulous myrrhs of Olympus. Her lips were a cup of wine, and her
eyes bade him drink, and the taste of that wine haunted him as
long as he lived. He made as though to drain the cup, but Madame
pushed down his arms, uttered a low, puzzled laugh, and vanished
from the room. He was lost! He knew it; yet he did not care. He
threw out his arms, dropped them, and settled his shoulders. A
smile, a warm, contented smile, came into his face and dwelt
there. For another such kiss he would have bartered eternity.

And Madame? Who can say?



Midnight; the music had ceased, and the yellow and scarlet
lanterns had been plucked from the autumnal hangings. The
laughing, smiling, dancing women, like so many Cinderellas, had
disappeared, and with them the sparkle of jewels; and the
gallant officers had ridden away to the jingle of bit and spur.
Throughout the courtly revel all faces had revealed, besides the
happiness and lightness of spirit, a suppressed eagerness for
something yet to come, an event surpassing any they had yet

Promptly at midnight Madame herself had dropped the curtains on
the gay scene because she had urgent need of all her military
household at dawn, when a picture, far different from that which
had just been painted, was to be limned on the broad canvas of
her dreams. Darkness and quiet had fallen on the castle, and the
gray moon film lay on terrace and turret and tile.

In the guardroom, Maurice, his hands and feet still in pressing
cords, dozed in his chair. He had ceased to combat drowsiness.
He was worn out with his long ride, together with the chase of
the night before; and since a trooper had relieved his mouth of
the scarf so that he could breathe, he cared not what the future
held, if only he might sleep. It took him a long time to arrive
at the angle of comfort; this accomplished, he drifted into
smooth waters. The troopers who constituted his guard played
cards at a long table, in the center of which were stuck half a
dozen bayonets, which served as candlesticks. They laughed
loudly, thumped the board, and sometimes sang. No one bothered
himself about the prisoner, who might have slept till the crack
of doom, as far as they were concerned.

Shortly before the new hour struck, the door opened and shut. A
trooper shook the sleeper by the sleeve. Maurice awoke with a
start and gazed about, blinking his eyes. Before him he
discovered Madame the duchess, Fitzgerald and Mollendorf, behind
whom stood the Voiture-verse of a countess. The languor forsook
him and he pulled himself together and sat as upright as his
bonds would permit him. Something interesting was about to take

Madame made a gesture which the troopers comprehended, and they
departed. Fitzgerald, with gloomy eyes, folded his arms across
his breast, and with one hand curled and uncurled the drooping
ends of his mustache; the Colonel frowned and rubbed the gray
bristles on his upper lip; the countess twisted and untwisted
her handkerchief; Madame alone evinced no agitation, unless the
perpendicular line above her nose could have been a sign of such.
This lengthened and deepened as her glance met the prisoner's.

He eyed them all with an indifference which was tinctured with
contempt and amusement.

"Well, Monsieur Carewe," said Madame, coldly, "what have you to

"A number of things, Madame," he answered, in a tone which
bordered the insolent; "only they would not be quite proper for
you to hear."

The Colonel's hand slid from his lip over his mouth; he shuffled
his feet and stared at the bayonets and the grease spots on the

"Carewe," said Fitzgerald, endeavoring to speak calmly, "you
have broken your word to me as a gentleman and you have lied to me."

The reply was an expressive monosyllable, "O!"

"Do you deny it?" demanded the Englishman.

"Deny what?" asked Maurice.

"The archbishop," said Madame, "assumed the aggressive last
night. To be aggressive one must possess strength. Monsieur, how
much did he pay for those consols? Come, tell me; was he
liberal? It is evident that you are not a man of business. I
should have been willing to pay as much as a hundred thousand
crowns. Come; acknowledge that you have made a bad stroke." She
bent her head to one side, and a derisive smile lifted the
corners of her lips.

A dull red flooded the prisoner's cheeks. "I do not understand you."

"You lie!" Fitzgerald stepped closer and his hands closed

"Thank you," said Maurice, "thank you. But why not complete the
melodrama by striking, since you have doubled your fists?"

Fitzgerald glared at him.

"Monsieur," interposed the countess, "do not forget that you are
a gentleman; Monsieur Carewe's hands are tied."

"Unfortunately," observed Maurice.

Madame looked curiously at the countess, while Fitzgerald drew
back to the table and rested on it.

"I can not comprehend how you dared return," Madame resumed.
"One who watches over my affairs has informed me of your
dishonorable act."

"What do you call a dishonorable act?" Maurice inquired quietly.

"One who breaks his sacred promise!" quickly.

The prisoner laughed maliciously. Madame had answered the
question as he hoped she would. "Chickens come home to roost.
What do you say to that, my lord?" to the Englishman.

This time it was not the prisoner's cheeks which reddened. Even
Madame was forced to look away, for if this reply touched the
Englishman it certainly touched her as deeply. Incidentally, she
was asking herself why she had permitted the Englishman to
possess her lips, hers, which no man save her father had ever
possessed before. A kiss, that was all it had been, yet the
memory of it was persistent, annoying, embarrassing. In the
spirit of play--a spirit whose origin mystified her--she had
given the man something which she never could regain, a particle
of her pride.

Besides, this was not all; she had in that moment given up her
right to laugh at him when the time came; now she would not be
able to laugh. She regretted the folly, and bit her lip at the
thought of it. Consequences she had laughed at; now their
possibilities disturbed her. She had been guilty of an
indiscretion. The fact that the Englishman had ruined himself at
her beck did not enter her mind. The hour for that had not yet

Seeing that his neat barb had left them all without answer,
Maurice said: "Doubtless the informant who watches over your
interests and various other interests of which you have no
inkling, was the late Colonel Beauvais? For my part, I wish it
was the late Beauvais in the sense in which we refer to the
departed ones. But let us give him his true name--Prince Konrad,
the last of the Walmodens, a cashiered gamester."

Only Fitzgerald showed any surprise. Maurice once saw that the
others were in the secret. They knew the Colonel. Did they know
why he was in Bleiberg? Let them find it out for themselves. He
would not lift a finger to aid them. He leaned back and yawned.

"Pardon me," he said, with mock politeness, "but my hands are
tied, and the truth is, I am sleepy."

"Count," said Madame, "release him. He will be too well guarded
to fear his escaping."

The Colonel performed this service with alacrity. He honestly
admired the young fellow who so seldom lost his temper. Besides,
he had a sneaking idea that the lad was being unjustly accused.

Maurice got up and stretched himself. He rubbed his wrists, then
sat down and waited for the comedy to proceed.

"So you confess," said Madame, "that you sold the consols to the

"I, confess?" Maurice screwed up his lips and began to whistle

"Voici le sabre de mon Pere."

"You deny, then?" Madame was fast losing patience, a grave
mistake when one is dealing with a banterer.

Maurice changed the tune:

"J'aime les militaires, Leur uniforme coquet, Leur moustache et
leur plumet--"

"Answer!" with a stamp of the foot.

"Je sais ce que je voudrais, Je voudrais etre cantiniere!" . . .

"Monsieur," said the pretty countess, after a furtive glance at
Madame's stormy eyes, "do you deny?"

The whistle ceased. "Madame, to you I shall say that I neither
deny nor affirm. The affair is altogether too ridiculous to
treat seriously. I have nothing to say." The whistle picked up
the thread again.

Doubt began to stir in the eyes of the Englishman. He looked at
Madame with a kind of indecision, to find that she was glancing
covertly at him. His gaze finally rested on Maurice, who had
crossed his legs and was keeping time to the music with his foot.
Indeed, these were not the violent protestations of innocence
he had looked for. This demeanor was not at all in accord with
his expectations. Now that he had possessed Madame's lips
(though she might never possess the consols), Maurice did not
appear so guilty.

"Carewe," he said, "you have deceived me from the start."

"Ah! c'est un fameux regiment, Le regiment de la Grande Duchesse!"

"You knew that Madame was her Highness," went on the Englishman,
"and yet you kept that a secret from me. Can you blame me if I
doubt you in other respects?"

"Sonnez donc la trompette, Et battez les tambours!"

And the warbler nodded significantly at Madame, whose frown grew
still darker.

"Eh! Monsieur," cried the Colonel, with a protesting hand, "you
are out of tune!"

"I should like to know why you returned here," said Madame.
"Either you have some plan, or your audacity has no bounds."

The whistle stopped again. "Madame, for once we agree. I, too,
should like to know why I returned here."

"Carewe," said Fitzgerald, "if you will give me your word--"

"Do not waste your breath, Monsieur," interrupted Madame.

"Will you give me your word?" persisted Fitzgerald, refusing to
see the warning in Madame's eyes.

"I will give you nothing, my lord; nothing. I have said that I
will answer neither one way nor the other. The accusation is too
absurd. Now, Madame, what is your pleasure in regard to my

"You are to be locked up, Monsieur," tartly. "You are too
inquisitive to remain at large."

"My confinement will be of short duration," confidently.

"It rests with my pleasure alone."

"Pardon me if I contradict your Highness. I returned here
incidentally as a representative of the British ambassador in
Vienna; I volunteered this office at the request of my own

A shade of consternation came into the faces of his audience.

"If nothing is heard of me within two days, an investigation
will ensue. It is very droll, but I am here to inquire into the
whereabouts of one Lord Fitzgerald, who has disappeared.
Telegrams to the four ends of the world have brought no news of
his present residence. The archbishop instituted the latter
inquiries, because it was urgent and necessary he should know."

Fitzgerald became enveloped in gloom.

"And your credentials, Monsieur?" said the duchess. "You have
them, I presume?"

"I came as a private gentleman; a telegram to my minister in
Vienna will bring indorsement."

"Ah! Then you shall be locked up. I can not accord you
recognition; without the essential representations, I see
nothing in you but an impertinent meddler. To-morrow evening you
shall be conveyed to Brunnstadt, where you will reside for some
time, I can assure you. Perhaps on your head will rest the blood
of many gallant gentlemen; for within another twenty-four hours
I shall declare war against Leopold. This will be the
consequence of your disloyalty to your word." And she moved
toward the door, the others imitating her. Fitzgerald, more than
any one else, desired to get away.

And one by one they vanished. Once the countess turned and threw
Maurice a glance which mystifled him; it was half curtained with
tears. Presently he was alone. His eye grasped every object.
There was not a weapon in sight; only the bayonets on the table,
and he could scarcely hope to escape by use of one of these. A
carafe of water stood on the table. He went to it and half
emptied it. His back was toward the door. Suddenly it opened. He
wheeled, expecting to see the troopers. His surprise was great.
Beauvais was leaning against the door, a half humorous smile on
his lips. The tableau lasted several minutes.

"Well," said Beauvais, "you do not seem very glad to see me."

Maurice remained silent, and continued to gaze at his enemy over
the tops of the upturned bayonets.

"You are, as I said before, a very young man."

"I killed a puppet of yours last night," replied Maurice, with a
peculiar grimness.

"Eh? So it was you? However, Kopf knew too much; he is dead,
thanks to your service. After all, it was a stroke of war; the
princess, whose little rose you have, was to have been a hostage."

"If she had refused to be a wife," Maurice replied.

Beauvais curled his mustache.

"I know a good deal more than Kopf."

"You do, certainly; but you are at a convenient nearness. What
you know will be of no use to you. Let us sit down."

"I prefer to stand. The honor you do me is too delicate."

"O, you may have no fear."

"I have none--so long as my back isn't turned toward you."

Beauvais passed over this. "You are a very good blade; you
handle a sword well. That is a compliment, considering that I am
held as the first blade in the kingdom. It was only to-day I
learned that formerly you had been a cavalryman in America. You
have the making of a soldier."

Maurice bowed, his hand resting near one of the bayonets.

"You are also a soldier of fortune-like myself. You made a good
stroke with the archbishop. You hoodwinked us all."

Maurice did not reply.

"Very well; we shall not dwell on it. You are discreet."

Maurice saw that Beauvais was speaking in good faith.

"You have something to say; come to it at once, for it is trying
to watch you so closely."

I will give you--" He hesitated and scratched his chin. "I will
give you ten thousand crowns as the price of your silence in
regard to the South American affair."

A sardonic laugh greeted this proposal. "I did not know that you
were so cheap. But it is too late."

"Too late?"

"Doubtless, since by this time the authorities are in possession
of the interesting facts."

"I beg to differ from you."

"Do as you please," said Maurice, triumphantly. "I sent an
account of your former exploits both to my own government and to
the one which you so treacherously betrayed. One or the other
will not fail to reach."

"I am perfectly well aware of that," Beauvais smiled. He reached
into a pocket, and for a moment Maurice expected to see a pistol
come forth. But he was needlessly alarmed. Beauvais extracted
two envelopes from the pocket and sailed them through the
intervening space. They fell on the table. "Put not your trust
in hotel clerks," was the sententious observation. "At least,
till you have discovered that no one else employs them. I am
well served. The clerk was told to intercept your outgoing post;
and there is the evidence. Ten thousand crowns and a safe

Maurice picked up the letters mechanically. They were his; the
stamps were not canceled, but the flaps were slit. He turned
them this way and that, bewildered. He was convinced that he
could in no way cope with this man of curious industries, this
man who seemed to have a key for every lock, and whom nothing
escaped. And the wise old Marshal had permitted him to leave the
kingdom without let or hindrance. Perhaps the Marshal understood
that Beauvais was a sort of powder train, and that the farther
he was away from the mine the better for all concerned.

"You are a great rascal," Maurice said finally.

"We will waive that point. The matter at present is, how much
will it take to buy your silence for the future?"

"And I am sorry I did not kill you when I had the chance,"
continued Maurice, as if following a train of thought.

"We never realize how great the opportunity is till it has
passed beyond our reach. Well, how much?"

"I am not in need of money."

"To be sure; I forgot. But the archbishop could not have given
you a competence for life."

"I choked a few facts out of Kopf," said Maurice. "You will wear
no crown--that is, earthly."

"And your heavenly one is near at hand," rejoined Beauvais.

Maurice absently fingered a bayonet.

"You refuse this conciliation on my part?" asked Beauvais.


"Well, then, if anything happens to you, you will have only
yourself to blame. I will leave you to digest that suggestion.
Your life hangs in the balance. I will give you till to-morrow
morning to make up your mind."

"Go to the devil!"

"In that, I shall offer you the precedence." And Beauvais backed
out; backed out because Maurice had wrenched loose one of the

Maurice flung the bayonet across the room, went back to his
chair, and tore his ill-fated letters into ribbons. When this
was done he stared moodily at the impromptu candlesticks, and
tried to conceive the manner in which Beauvais's threat would

When the troops returned to their watch, they found the prisoner
in a recumbent position, staring at the cracks in the floor,
oblivious to all else save his thoughts, which were by no means
charitable or humane. They resumed their game of cards. At
length Maurice fell into a light slumber. The next time he
opened his eyes it was because of a peculiar jar, which
continued; a familiar, monotonous jar, such as the tread of feet
on the earth creates. Tramp, tramp, tramp; it was a large body
of men on the march. Soon this was followed by a lighter and
noisier sound --cavalry. Finally, there came the rumbling of
heavy metal--artillery. More than an hour passed before these
varying sounds grew indistinct.

Maurice was now fully awake. An army had passed the Red Chateau.



The next morning Beauvais came for his answer. It was not the
answer he had expected.

"So be it," he replied. "Your government had better appoint your
successor at once. Good morning."

"You will die suddenly some day," said Maurice.

Beauvais shrugged, and departed.

It was a dreary long day for the prisoner, who saw no one but
his jailers. He wondered what time they would start for
Brunnstadt. He had never seen Brunnstadt. He hoped the city
would interest him. Was he to be disposed of on the road? No,
that would scarcely be; there were too many witnesses. In the
city prison, then; that was possible. The outlook was not rose-
colored. He set to work to challenge each of his jailers, but
this did not serve. At five o'clock the bluff old Colonel
Mollendorf came in. He dismissed the troopers, who were glad
enough to be relieved.

"I'll be responsible for the prisoner from now on," he said. As
soon as he and Maurice were alone he propped his chin and
contemplated the sullen face of the prisoner. "Well, my son, I
am positive that you have been accused somewhat hastily, but
that's the way women have, jumping at conclusions before they
read the preface. But you must give Madame credit for being
honest in the matter, as well as the others. Beauvais is
positive that the move of the archbishop is due to your selling
out to him. Come, tell me the story. If you wish, I'll promise
not to repeat it. Madame is determined to lock you up in any

There was something so likable about the old warrior that
Maurice relented.

"There was nothing in the gun-barrels," he said. "Some one had
entered that room before me. I thought at first that Beauvais
had them; but he is the last man in the world to dispose of them
to the prelate. But has the archbishop got them? I wish I knew.
That's all there is to the story."

"And her Royal Highness's dog?" slyly.

"What! Did you hear about that?" Maurice flushed.

"There is little going on in Bleiberg that we don't hear about.
The princess is charming. Poor girl!"

"Madame's victory will have a strange odor. Can she not let the
king die in peace?"

"My son, she dares not. If that throne were vacant of a king--
Let us not talk politics."

"Madame has no love for me," said Maurice.

"Madame has no love for any one, if that will give you any

"It does. My lord the Englishman came near striking me last night."

"I would not lay that up against him. Madame was the power
behind the throne."

"And the impulse behind Madame?" smiling.

"You are the only man who has ever crossed Madame's path; she
can not forget it."

"And she has put me in a bad light, as far as Fitzgerald is
concerned. A man will believe anything a woman says to him, if
he loves her."

"Let us avoid dissertations."

"What do you want to talk about?"

"Yourself; you are interesting, entertaining, and instructive,"
the Colonel answered, laughing. "I never ran across an American
who wasn't, and I have met a number. What have you done to

"It is not exactly what I've done; it is what I know."

"What do you know?"

Maurice repeated the story.

"And you bested him at the rapiers?" in astonishment.

"Is there anything startling about it?" asked Maurice.

"He has no match hereabout." The Colonel looked across the table
at the smooth-faced boy-- he was scarcely else--and reflected.
"Why did you give up the army?"

"The army in America doesn't run to good clothes; the officers
have to work harder than the privates, and, save in Washington,
their social status is nil. Besides, there is too much fighting
going on all the time. Here, an officer is always on dress parade."

"Still, we are always ready. In the past we show up pretty well
in history. But to return to Beauvais, it is very embarrassing, very."

"It will be for him, if I live long enough."


"Beauvais has promised to push me off the board, to use his own
words. I am wondering how he will do it."

"Don't let that disturb you; he will do nothing--now. Well, well;
it is all a sorry game; and I find that making history has its
disadvantages. But I have dandled Madame as a child on my knee,
and her wish is law; wherever her fortunes lead, I must follow.
She will win; she can not help winning. But I pity that poor
devil of a king, who, they say, is now bereft of speech. Ah, had
he been a man, I could have gone into this heart and soul."

"He is on his deathbed. And his daughter, God knows what is in
store for her. Prince Frederick is dallying with his peasant
girl. The day for the wedding has come and gone, unless he
turned up to-day, which is not likely."

"Which is not likely indeed," repeated the Colonel sadly. He
pulled out his pipe, and smoked for a time. "But let us not
judge harshly, says the Book. There may be circumstances over
which Prince Frederick has no control. I suppose your sympathies
are on the other side of the path. Youth is always quick and
generous; it never stops to weigh causes or to reason why. And
strange, its judgment is almost always unerring. I am going to
share my dinner with you to-night. I'll try to brighten you up a


"Then after dinner we'll play poker until they come to take you
to Brunnstadt."

"What sort of a city is it?"

"You will not see much of it; so I will not take the trouble to
tell you that it is slightly inferior to Bleiberg."

Sure enough, when the dark of evening fell, two servants entered
with trays and baskets, and proceeded to lay the table. They put
new candles in the bayonets.

"Ha!" said the Colonel; "you have forgotten the wine, rascals!"

"Bring a dozen bottles," Maurice suggested, having an idea in


"Remember, Colonel, I've been a soldier and a journalist in a
country where they only wash with water. In the summer we have
whisky iced, in the winter we have it hot; an antidote for both
heat and cold. Ah, Colonel, if you only might sniff a mint julep!"

"A dozen bottles, then," said the Colonel to the servants, who
retired to execute the order.

"How old will it be?" asked Maurice.

"Twice your age, my son. But do not make any miscalculation
about my capacity for tokayer."

"Any miscalculation?" Maurice echoed.

"Yes; if you plan to get me drunk. There are no troopers about,
and it would be easy enough for you to slip out if I should lose
my head."

Maurice's laugh had a false ring to it. The Colonel had made a
very shrewd guess.

"Well!" said the Colonel, with a gesture toward the table.

They sat down, and both made an excellent dinner. Maurice
demolished a roasted pheasant, stuffed with chestnuts, while the
Colonel disintegrated a duck. The wine came, and the servants
ranged six bottles on the side of each plate. It was done so
gravely that Maurice laughed heartily. The wine was the oldest
in Madame's cellar, and Maurice wondered at the Colonel's
temerity in selecting it. The bottles were of thick glass, fat-
bottomed, and ungainly, and Maurice figured that there was more
than a pint in each. It possessed a delicious bouquet. The
Colonel emptied three bottles, with no more effect than if the
wine had been water. Maurice did not appreciate this feat until
he had himself emptied a bottle. It was then he saw that the
boot was likely to be on the other foot.

He looked at the Colonel enviously; the old soldier was a gulf.
He had miscalculated, indeed. But he was fertile in plans, and a
more reasonable one occurred to him. He drank another bottle and
began to talk verbosely. Later he grew confidential. He told the
Colonel a great many things which-- had never happened, things
impossible and improbable. The Colonel listened soberly, and
nodded now and again. Dinner past, they pushed the remains aside
and began to play poker, a game at which the Colonel proved to
be no novice, much to Maurice's wonder.

"Why, you know the game as thoroughly as an Arizona corporal."

"I generally spend a month of the winter in Vienna. One of your
compatriots taught me the interesting game." The Colonel
shuffled the cards. "It is the great American game, so I am told."

"O, they play checkers in the New England states," said Maurice,
hiccoughing slightly. "But out west and in all the great cities
poker has the way."

"What have you got?" asked the Colonel, answering a call.

"Jacks full."

"Takes the pot;" and this Americanism came so naturally that
Maurice roared.

"Poker is a great preliminary study to diplomacy," said the
Colonel, as he scrutinized his hand. "You raise it?"

"Yes. One card. Diplomacy? So it is. I played a game with the
Chinese ambassador in Washington one night. I was teaching him
how to play. I lost all the ready money I had with me. Next day
I found out that he was the shrewdest player in the diplomatic
circles. Let's make it a jackpot."

"All the same to me."

And the game went on. Presently Maurice threw aside his coat. He
was feeling the warmth of the wine, but he opened another bottle.

"Is there any truth," said the Colonel, "about your shooting a
man who is found cheating in your country?"

"There is, if you can draw quicker than he." Maurice glanced at
his hand and threw it down.

"What did you have?"

"Nothing. I was trying to fill a straight."

"So was I," said the Colonel, sweeping the board. "It's your
deal." He unbottoned his coat.

Maurice felt a shiver of delight. Sticking out of the Colonel's
belt was the ebony handle of a cavalry revolver, and he made up
his mind to get it. There were no troopers around--the Colonel
had admitted as much. He began talking rapidly, sometimes
incoherently. In a corner of the room he saw the cords which had
been around his wrists and ankles the night before.

"Poker," said the Colonel, "depends mostly on what you Americans
call bluff. A bluff, as I understand it, is making the others
think you have them when you haven't, or you haven't got them
when you have. In one case you scare them, in the other you fish.
You're getting flushed, my son; you'll have a headache to-night;
and in an hour you start."

An hour! There was fever in Maurice's veins, but it was not
caused wholly by the heat of the wine. How should he manage it?
He must have that revolver.

"Call? What have you got?" asked the Colonel.

"Three kings--no, by George! only a pair. I thought a queen was
a king. My head's beginning to get shaky. Colonel, I believe I
am getting drunk."

"I am sure of it."

Maurice got up and rolled in an extraordinary fashion, but he
was careful not to overdo it. He began to sing. The Colonel got
up, too, and he was laughing. Maurice accidentally knocked over
some empty bottles; he kicked them about.

"Sh!" cried the Colonel, coming around the table; "you'll
stampede the horses."

Maurice staggered toward him, and the Colonel caught him in his
arms. Maurice suddenly drew back, and the Colonel found himself
looking into the cavernous tube of his own revolver. Not a
muscle in his face moved.

"Take off your coat," said Maurice, quietly.

The Colonel complied. "You are not so very drunk just now."

"No. It was one of those bluffs when you make them think you
haven't them when you have."

"What next?" asked the Colonel.

"Those cords in the corner."

The Colonel picked them up, sat down and gravely tied one around
his ankles. Maurice watched him curiously. The old fellow was
rather agreeable, he thought.

"Now," the Colonel inquired calmly, "how are you going to tie my
hands? Can you hold the revolver in one hand and tie with the

"Hang me!" exclaimed Maurice, finding himself brought to a halt.

"My son," said the Colonel, "you are clever. In fact, you are
one of those fellows who grow to be great. You never miss an
opportunity, and more often than not you invent opportunities,
which is better still. The truth is, you have proceeded exactly
on the lines I thought you would; and thereby you have saved me
the trouble of lying or having it out with Madame. I am a victim,
not an accomplice; I was forced at the point of a revolver; I
had nothing to say. If I had really been careless you would have
accomplished the feat just the same. For it was easily
accomplished you will admit. 'Tis true I knew you were acting
because I expected you to act. All this preamble puzzles you."

Certainly Maurice's countenance expressed nothing less than
perplexity. He stepped back a few paces.

"You have," continued the Colonel, "perhaps three-quarters of an
hour. You will be able to get out of here. You will have to
depend on your resources to cross the frontier."

"Would you just as soon explain to me--"

"It means that a certain young lady, like myself, believes in
your innocence."

"The countess?" Maurice cried eagerly, remembering the look of
the night before and the tears which were in it.

"I will not mention any names. Suffice it to say that it was due
to her pleading that I consented to play poker--and to let you
fall into my arms. Come, to work," holding out his hands.

First Maurice clasped the hand and wrung it. "Colonel, I do not
want you to get into trouble on my account--"

"Go along with you! If you were really important," in half a
banter, "it would be altogether a different matter. As it is,
you are more in the way than anything else, only Madame does not
see it in that light. Come, at my wrists, and take your
handkerchief and tie it over my mouth; make a complete job of it
while you're at it."

"But they'll wonder how I tied you--"

"By the book, the boy is quite willing to sit down and play
poker with me till the escort comes! Don't trouble yourself
about me; Madame has too much need of me to give me more than a
slight rating. Hurry and be off, and remember that Beauvais has
promised to push you off the board. Take the near path for the
woods and strike northeast. If you run into any sentries it will
be your own fault."

"And the army?"

"The army? Who the devil has said anything about the army?"

"I heard it go past last night."

"Humph! Keep to the right of the pass. Now, quick, before my
conscience speaks above a whisper."

"I should like to see the countess."

"You will--if you reach Bleiberg by to-morrow night."

Maurice needed no further urging, and soon he had the Colonel
securely bound and silenced. Next he put on the Colonel's hat
and coat, and examined the revolver.

"It was very kind of you to load it, Colonel."

The Colonel blinked his eyes.

"Au revoir!" said Maurice, as he made for the door. "Vergis mein
nicht!" and he was gone.

He crept down the stairs, cautiously entered the court, it was
deserted. The moon was up and shining. The gate was locked, but
he climbed it without mishap. Not a sentry was in sight. He
followed the path, and swung off into the forest. He was free.
Here he took a breathing spell. When he started onward he held
the revolver ready. Woe to the sentry who blundered on him! For
he was determined to cross the frontier if there was a breath of
life in him. Moreover, he must be in Bleiberg within twenty

He was positive that Madame the duchess intended to steal a
march, to declare war only when she was within gunshot of
Bleiberg. It lay with him to provent this move. His cup of wrath
was full. From now on he was resolved to wage war against Madame
on his own account. She had laughed in his face. He pushed on,
examining trees, hollows and ditches. Sometimes he put his hand
to his ear and listened. There was no sound in the great lonely
forest, save for the low murmur of the wind through the
sprawling boughs. Shadows danced on the forest floor. Once he
turned and shook his clenched fist toward the spot which marked
the location of the Red Chateau. He thanked Providence that he
was never to see it again. What an adventure to tell at the
clubs when he once more regained his Vienna! Would he regain it?

Why did Madame keep Fitzgerald to her strings? He concluded not
to bother himself with problems abstract; the main object was to
cross the Thalians by a path of his own choosing. When he had
covered what he thought to be a quarter of a mile, he mounted a
lookout. The highway was about three hundred yards to the left.
That was where it should be. He saw no sentries, so he slid down
from the tree and resumed his journey. The chestnuts, oaks, and
firs were growing thicker and denser. A dead branch cracked with
a loud report beneath his feet. With his heart almost in his
throat, he lay down and listened. A minute passed; he listened
in vain for an answering noise. He got up and went on.

Presently he came upon a cluster of trees which was capable of
affording a hiding place for three or four men. He stood still
and surveyed it. The moon cast moving shadows on either side of
it, but these had no human shape. He laughed silently at his
fear, and as he was about to pass the cluster a man stepped out
from behind it, his eyes gleaming and his hand extended. He was
rather a handsome fellow, but pale and emaciated. He wore a
trooper's uniform, and Maurice, swearing softly, concluded that
his dash for liberty had come to naught. He, too, held a
revolver in his hand, but he dared not raise it. There was a
certain expression on the trooper's face which precluded any

"If you move," the trooper said, in a mild voice; "if you utter
a sound, I'll blow off the top of your cursed head!"



There the two stood, mottled in the moonshine and shadow, with
wild eyes and nostrils distended, the one triumphant, the other
raging and impotent. Maurice was growing weary of fortune's
discourtesies. He gazed alternately from his own revolver, lying
at his feet, to the one in the hand of this unexpected visitant.
Only two miles between him and freedom, yet he must turn back.
The Colonel had reckoned without Madame, and therefore without
reason. This man had probably got around in front of him when he
climbed the tree. He turned sullenly and started to walk away,
expecting to be followed.

"Halt! Where the devil are you going?"

"Why, back to your cursed chateau!" Maurice answered surlily.

The strange trooper laughed discordantly. "Back to the chateau?
I think not. Now, then, right about face--march! Aye, toward the
frontier; and if I have to go on alone, so much the worse for
you. I've knocked in one man's head; if necessary, I'll blow off
the top of yours. You know the way back to Bleiberg, I don't;
that is why I want your company. Now march."

But Maurice did not march; he was filled with curiosity. "Are
you a trooper in Madame the duchess's household?" he asked.

"No, curse you!"

"Who are you, then?"

"Come, come; this will not pass. No tricks; you have been
following me these twenty minutes."

"The deuce I have!" exclaimed Maurice, bewildered. "To Bleiberg,
is it?"

"And without loss of time. When we cross the Thalians I shall be
perfectly willing to parley with you."

"To Bleiberg, then," said Maurice. "Since that is my destination,
the devil I care how I get there."

"Do you mean to tell me that you are going to Bleiberg?"
surprise mingling with his impatience.

"No place else."

"Are you a spy?" menacingly.

"No more than you."

"But that uniform!"

"I fancy yours looks a good deal like it," Maurice replied

"I confess I never saw you before, and your tongue has a foreign
twist," with growing doubt.

"I am sure I never saw you before, nor want to see you again."

"What are you doing in that uniform?"

"You have the advantage of me; suppose you begin the

"Indeed I have the advantage of you, and propose to maintain it.
Who are you and what are you doing here? Answer!"

There was something in the young man's aspect which convinced
Maurice that it would be folly to trifle. Besides, he gave to
his words an air which distinguishes the man who commands from
the man who serves. Maurice briefly acquainted the young man
with his name and position.

"And you?" he asked.

"I?" The young man laughed again. It was an unpleasant laugh.
"Never mind who I am. Let us go, we are losing time. What is the
date?" suddenly.

"The twentieth of September," answered Maurice.

"My God, a day too late!" The young man had an attack of vertigo,
and was obliged to lean against a tree for support. "Are you
telling me the truth about yourself?"

"I am. I myself was attempting to dispense with the questionable
hospitality of the Red Chateau--good Lord!" striking his

"What's the matter?"

"Are you the mysterious prisoner of the chateau, the man they
have been keeping at the end of the east corridor on the third

"Yes. And woe to the woman who kept me there! How came you

Maurice, confident that something extraordinary was taking place,
related in synopsis his adventures.

"And this cursed Englishman?"

"Will drain a bitter cup. Madame is playing with him."

"And the king; is he dead?"

"He is dying." Maurice's wonder grew. What part had this strange
young man in this comedy, which was rapidly developing into a

"And her Highness--her Royal Highness?" eagerly clutching
Maurice by the arm; "and she?"

"She does not murmur, though both her pride and her heart are
sore. She has scarcely a dozen friends. Her paralytic father is
the theme of ribald jest; and now they laugh at her because the
one man who perhaps could have saved the throne has deserted her
like a coward. Hang him, I say!"

"What do they say?" The tones were hollow.

"They say he is enamoured of a peasant girl, and dallies with
her, forgetting his sacred vows, his promised aid, and perhaps
even this, his wedding day."

"God help him!" was the startling and despairing cry. . . . He
was again seized with the vertigo, and swayed against the tree.
For a moment he forgot Maurice, covered his face with his
unengaged hand, and sobbed.

Maurice was helpless; he could offer no consolation. This grief
he could not understand. He stooped and picked up his revolver
and waited.

"I am weak," said the other man, dashing his hand from his eyes;
"I am weak and half starved. It would be better for all
concerned if I blew out my brains. The twentieth, the twentieth!"
he repeated, dully. "Curse her!" he burst forth; "as there's a
God above us, I'll have revenge. Aye, I'll return to the chateau,
Madame, that I will, but at the head of ten thousand men! . . .
The twentieth! She will never forgive me; she will think I, too,
deserted her!" He broke down again.

"An army!" cried Maurice.

"Aye, and ten thousand men! Come," taking Maurice by the arm;
"come, they may be seeking us. To the frontier. Every hour is
precious. To a telegraph office! We shall see if I dally with
peasant girls, if I forsake the woman I love!"

"You?" Maurice retreated a step. The silver moonshine became
tinged with red.

"I am Prince Frederick, and I love her Highness. I would
sacrifice a thousand kingdoms to spare her a moment's sorrow. I
have always loved her."

"What a woman!" Maurice murmured, as the scheme of Madame's
flashed through his mind. "What a woman! And she had the
audacity to kidnap you, too!"

"And by the most dishonorable device. I and my suite of
gentlemen were coming to Bleiberg to make the final arrangements.
At Ehrenstein I received a telegram which requested me to visit
till the following train a baron who was formerly a comrade of
my father. The telegram advised me of his sudden illness, and
that he had something important to disclose to me. I bade my
gentlemen, save one, proceed to Bleiberg. My aide and I entered
the carriage which was to convey us to the castle. We never
reached it. On the road we fell into an ambush, a contrivance of
Madame's. I was brought to the chateau. Whatever happened to
Hofer, my aide, I do not know. Doubtless he is dead. But Madame
shall pay, both in pride and wealth. I will lay waste this duchy
of hers, though in the end the emperor crush me. Let us be off."

They stumbled on through the forest. So confused was Maurice
that he forgot his usual caution. The supreme confidence of this
woman and the flawlessness of her schemes dazed him. So far she
had stopped at nothing; where would she end? A Napoleon in
petticoats, she was about to appall the confederation. She had
suppressed a prince who was heir to a kingdom triple in power
and size to the kingdom which she coveted. Madame the duchess
was relying on some greater power, else her plans were madness.

As for the prince, he had but one thought: to reach Bleiberg.
The confinement, together with mental suffering, anxiety and
forced inaction, began to tell on him. Twice he tripped and fell,
and Maurice had to return to assist him to his feet. However
could they cross the mountains, a feat which needed both courage
and extreme physical endurance?

"I am so weak," said the prince, "so pitiably weak! I thought to
frighten the woman by starving myself, poor fool that I was!"

And they went on again. Maurice was beginning to feel the effect
of his wine-bibbing; he had a splitting headache.

"Silence!" he suddenly whispered, sinking and dragging the
prince with him.

A hundred yards in advance of them stood a sentinel, his body
bent forward and a hand to his ear. Presently he, too, lay down.
Five minutes passed. The sentinel rose, and convinced that his
ears had tricked him, resumed his lonely patrol. He disappeared
toward the west, while the fugitives made off in an easterly
direction. Maurice was a soldier again. Every two or three
hundred yards he knelt and pressed his ear to the cold, damp
earth and waited for a familiar jar. The prince watched these
movements with interest.

"You have been a soldier?" he asked.

"Yes. Perhaps we had better strike out for the mountains. The
sentry line can not extend as far as this."

But now they could see the drab peaks of the mountains which
loomed between the partly dismantled trees. Beyond lay the
kingdom. Would they ever reach it? There was only one pass; this
they dared not make. Yet if they attempted to cross the
mountains in a deserted place, they might very easily get lost;
for in some locations it was fully six miles across the range,
and this, with the ups and downs and windings in and out, might
lengthen into twenty miles. They struck out toward the mountains,
and after half an hour they came upon an unforeseen obstacle.
They sat down in despair. This obstacle was the river, not very,
wide, but deep, turbulent and impassable.

"We shall have to risk the pass," said Maurice, gloomily;
"though heaven knows how we are to get through it. We have ten
shots between us."

They followed the river. The roar of it deadened all other
sounds. For a mile they plodded on, silent, watchful and
meditative. The prince thought of his love; Maurice tried to
forget his. For him the romance had come to an end, its logical
end; and it was now only a question of getting back to the world
to which he belonged and remaining there. He recalled a line he
had read somewhere: a deep love, gashes into the soul as a scar
is hewn upon the body and remains there during the whole life. . .

"Look!" cried the prince. He pointed toward the west.

Maurice came out of his dream and looked. Some distance west of
the pass, perhaps half a mile from where they stood, Maurice saw
the twinkle of a hundred campfires. It was Madame's army in

"What does this mean?" asked the prince.

"It means that the duchess is on the eve of striking a blow for
her crown," answered Maurice. "And how are we to make the pass,
which is probably filled with soldiers? If only we could find a
boat! Ah! what would your Highness call this?" He pointed to a
thread-like line of bare earth which wended riverward.

"A sheep or cattle path," said the prince, after a close

"Then the river is perhaps fordable here!" exclaimed Maurice
jubilantly. "At any rate, we'll try it; if it gets too deep,
we'll come back."

He walked to the water's edge, studied the black whirling mass,
shrugged and stepped in. The prince came after him,
unhesitatingly. Both shivered. The water was intensely cold. But
the bed was shallow, and the river never mounted above the waist.
However, in midstream it rushed strongly and wildly along, and
all but carried them off their feet. They arrived in safety at
the opposite shore, weak and cold in body, but warm in spirit.
They lay on the grass for several moments, breathing heavily.
They might now gain the pass by clambering up the mountain and
picking their way down from the other side. It was not possible
that Madame's troopers had entered into the kingdom.

"I am giving out," the prince confessed reluctantly. "Let us
make as much headway as we can while I last."

They stood up. Now the moon fell upon them both; and they viewed
each other with no little curiosity. What the prince saw pleased
him, for he possessed a good eye. What Maurice saw was a frank,
manly countenance, youthful, almost boyish. The prince did not
look to be more than three and twenty, if that; but there was a
man's determination in his jaw. This jaw pleased Maurice, for it
confided to him that Madame had now something that would cause
her worry.

"I put myself in your care," said the prince, offering his hand.
"I am not equal to much. A man can not see his wedding day come
and go without him, helpless to prevent it, and not have the
desire to sit down and weep and curse. You will see nothing but
the unfavorable side of me for the next dozen hours."

"I'm not altogether amiable myself," replied Maurice with a
short laugh. "Let us get out of the moonlight," he added; "we
are somewhat conspicuous, and besides, we should keep moving;
this cold is paralyzing. Is your Highness equal to the climbing?"

"Equal or not, lead the way. If I fall I'll call you."

And the weary march began again; over boulders, through tangles
of tough shrubbery, up steep inclines, around precipices,
sometimes enveloped in mists, yet still they kept on. Often the
prince fell over ragged stones, but he picked himself up without
assistance; though he swore some, Maurice thought none the less
of him for that bit of human weakness. The cold was numbing, and
neither felt the cuts and bruises.

After two hours of this fatiguing labor they arrived upon a
small plateau, about two thousand feet above the valley. The
scene was solemn and imposing. The world seemed lying at their
feet. The chateau, half hidden in the mist, sparkled like an
opal. Maurice scowled at it. To the prince the vision was as
reviving as a glass of wine. He threatened it with his fist, and
plunged on with renewed vigor. There are few sensations so
stimulating as the thought of a complete revenge. The angle of
vision presently changed, and the historic pile vanished.
Maurice never saw the Red Chateau again.

Little more in the way of mishap befell them; and when the moon
had wheeled half way down from the zenith, the kingdom lay below
them. A descent of an hour's duration brought them into the pass.
Maurice calculated that nearly five hours had passed since he
left the chateau; for the blue was fading in the east. The
phantom vitality of the prince now forsook him; his legs refused
their offices, and he sank upon a boulder, his head in his hands.
Maurice was not much better; but the prince had given him the
burden of responsibility, and he was determined to hold up under

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest