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Title: Arms and the Woman
Author: MacGrath, Harold, 1871-1932
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Arms and the Woman" ***

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ARMS AND THE WOMAN

A Romance

by

HAROLD MacGRATH



New York
Doubleday Page & Company
1905
Copyright, 1899, by
S. S. Mcclure Co.
Copyright, 1899, by
Doubleday and Mcclure Co.



To her, that is to say, to the hand that rocked the cradle.



ARMS AND THE WOMAN

CHAPTER I

The first time I met her I was a reporter in the embryonic state and
she was a girl in short dresses.  It was in a garden, surrounded by
high red brick walls which were half hidden by clusters of green vines,
and at the base of which nestled earth-beds, radiant with roses and
poppies and peonies and bushes of lavender lilacs, all spilling their
delicate ambrosia on the mild air of passing May.  I stood, straw hat
in hand, wondering if I had not stumbled into some sweet prison of
flowers which, having run disobedient ways in the past, had been placed
here by Flora, and forever denied their native meadows and
wildernesses.  And this vision of fresh youth in my path, perhaps she
was some guardian nymph.  I was only twenty-two--a most impressionable
age.  Her hair was like that rare October brown, half dun, half gold;
her eyes were cool and restful, like the brown pools one sees in the
heart of the forests, and her lips and cheeks cozened the warm
vermilion of the rose which lay ever so lightly on the bosom of her
white dress.  Close at hand was a table upon which stood a pitcher of
lemonade.  She was holding in her hand an empty glass.  As my eyes
encountered her calm, inquiring gaze, my courage fled precipitately,
likewise the object of my errand.  There was a pause; diffidence and
embarrassment on my side, placidity on hers.

"Well, sir?" said she, in a voice the tone of which implied that she
could readily understand her presence in the garden, but not mine.

As I remember it, I was suddenly seized with a great thirst.

"I should like a glass of your lemonade," I answered, bravely laying
down the only piece of money I possessed.

Her stern lips parted in a smile, and my courage came back cautiously,
that is to say, by degrees.  She filled a glass for me, and as I gulped
it down I could almost detect the flavor of lemon and sugar.

"It is very good," I volunteered, passing back the glass.  I held out
my hand, smiling.

"There isn't any change," coolly.

I flushed painfully.  It was fully four miles to Newspaper Row.  I was
conscious of a sullen pride.  Presently the object of my errand
returned.  Somewhat down the path I saw a gentleman reclining in a
canvas swing.

"Is that Mr. Wentworth?" I asked.

"Yes.  Do you wish to speak to him?  Uncle Bob, here is a gentleman who
desires to speak to you."

I approached.  "Mr. Wentworth," I began, cracking the straw in my hat,
"my name is John Winthrop.  I am a reporter.  I have called to see if
it is true that you have declined the Italian portfolio."

"It is true," he replied kindly.  "There are any number of reasons for
my declining it, but I cannot make them public.  Is that all?"

"Yes, sir; thank you;" and I backed away.

"Are you a reporter?" asked the girl, as I was about to pass by her.

"Yes, I am."

"Do you draw pictures?"

"No, I do not."

"Do you write novels?"

"No," with a nervous laugh.

There is nothing like the process of interrogation to make one person
lose interest in another.

"Oh; I thought perhaps you did," she said, and turned her back to me.

I passed through the darkened halls of the house and into the street.

I never expected to see her again, but it was otherwise ordained.   We
came together three years later at Block Island.  She was eighteen now,
gathering the rosy flowers of her first season.  She remembered the
incident in the garden, and we laughed over it.  A few dances, two or
three evenings on the verandas, watching the sea, moon-lit, as it
sprawled among the rocks below us, and the even tenor of my way ceased
to be.  I appreciated how far she was above me; so I worshipped her
silently and from afar.  I told her my ambitions, confidences so
welcome to feminine ears, and she rewarded me with a small exchange.
She, too, was an orphan, and lived with her uncle, a rich banker, who,
as a diversion, consented to represent his country at foreign courts.
Her given name was Phyllis.  I had seen the name a thousand times in
print; the poets had idealised it, and the novelists had embalmed it in
tender phrases.  It was the first time I had ever met a woman by the
name of Phyllis.  It appealed to my poetic instinct.  Perhaps that was
the cause of it all.  And then, she was very beautiful.  In the autumn
of that year we became great friends; and through her influence I began
to see beyond the portals of the mansions of the rich.  Matthew Prior's
Chloes and Sir John Suckling's Euphelias lost their charms.  Henceforth
my muse's name became Phyllis.  I took her to the opera when I didn't
know where I was going to breakfast on the morrow.  I sent her roses
and went without tobacco, a privation of which woman knows nothing.

Often I was plunged into despair at my distressed circumstances.  Money
to her meant something to spend; to me it meant something to get.  Her
income bothered her because she could not spend it; my income was
mortgaged a week in advance, and did not bother me at all.  This was
the barrier at my lips.  But her woman's intuition must have told her
that she was a part and parcel of my existence.

I had what is called a forlorn hope: a rich uncle who was a planter in
Louisiana.  His son and I were his only heirs.  But this old planter
had a mortal antipathy to my side of the family.  When my mother, his
sister, married Alfred Winthrop in 1859, at the time when the North and
South were approaching the precipice of a civil war, he considered all
family ties obliterated.  We never worried much about it.  When mother
died he softened to the extent of being present at the funeral.  He
took small notice of my father, but offered to adopt me if I would
assume his name.  I clasped my father's hand in mine and said nothing.
The old man stared at me for a moment, then left the house.  That was
the first and last time I ever saw him.  Sometimes I wondered if he
would remember me in his will.  This, of course, was only when I had
taken Phyllis somewhere, or when some creditor had lost patience.  One
morning in January, five years after my second meeting with Phyllis, I
sat at my desk in the office.  It was raining; a cold thin rain.  The
window was blurred.  The water in the steam-pipes went banging away.  I
was composing an editorial which treated the diplomatic relations
between this country and England.  The roar of Park Row distracted me.
Now and then I would go to the window and peer down on the living
stream below.  A dense cloud of steam hung over all the city.  I swore
some when the copy boy came in and said that there was yet a column and
a half to fill, and that the foreman wanted to "close up the page
early."  The true cause of my indisposition was due to the rumors rife
in the office that morning.  Rumors which emanate from the managing
editor's room are usually of the sort which burden the subordinate ones
with anxiety.  The London correspondent was "going to pieces."  He had
cabled that he was suffering from nervous prostration, supplementing a
request for a two months' leave of absence.  For "nervous prostration"
we read "drink."  Our London correspondent was a brilliant journalist;
he had written one or two clever books; he had a broad knowledge of men
and affairs; and his pen was one of those which flashed and burned at
frequent intervals; but he drank.  Dan's father had been a victim of
the habit.  I remember meeting the elder Hillars.  He was a picturesque
individual, an accomplished scholar, a wide traveller, a diplomatist,
and a noted war correspondent.  His work during the Franco-Prussian war
had placed him in the front rank.  After sending his son Dan to college
he took no further notice of him.  He was killed while serving his
paper at the siege of Alexandria, Egypt.  Dan naturally followed his
father's footsteps both in profession and in habits.  He had been my
classmate at college, and no one knew him better than I, except it was
himself.  The love of adventure and drink had ended the life of the
one; it might end the life of the other.

The foreman in the composing room waited some time for that required
column and a half of editorial copy.  I lit my pipe; and my thoughts
ran back to the old days, to the many times Dan had paid my debts and
to the many times I had paid his.  Ah, me! those were days when love
and fame and riches were elusive and we went in quest of them.  The
crust is hyssop when the heart is young.  The garret is a palace when
hope flies unfettered.  The most wonderful dreams imaginable are dreamt
close to the eaves.  And when a man leaves behind him the garret, he
also leaves behind the fondest illusions.  But who--who would stay in
the garret!

And as my thoughts ran on, the question rose, Whom would they send in
his place--Dan's?  I knew London.  It was familiar ground.  Perhaps
they might send me.  It was this thought which unsettled me.  I was
perfectly satisfied with New York.  Phyllis lived in New York.  There
would be time enough for London when we were married.  Then I began to
build air castles.  A newspaper man is the architect of some splendid
structures, but he thoughtlessly builds on the sand when the tide is
out.  Yes, foreign corresponding would be all well enough, I mused,
with Phyllis at my side.  With her as my wife I should have the envy of
all my fellow craftsmen.  We should dine at the embassies and the
attachés would flutter about us, and all London would talk of the
beautiful "Mrs. Winthrop."  Then the fire in my pipe-bowl went out.
The copy boy was at my elbow again.

"Hang you!" said I.

"The foreman says he's coming down with an axe," replied the boy.

It was like churning, but I did manage to grind the copy.  I was
satisfied that the United States and Great Britain would not go to war
over it.

The late afternoon mail brought two letters.  I opened the one from
Phyllis first.  It said:


"DEAR JACK--Uncle Bob has a box for the opera to-night, but he has been
suddenly called to Washington; politics, possibly, but he would not
say.  Aunty and I want you to go with us in his stead.  Ethel and her
fiancé, Mr. Holland, will be together, which means that Aunty and I
will have no one to talk to unless you come.  Carmen is to be sung.
Please do not fail me.

"PHYLLIS."


Fail her!  I thought not.

Then I read the second letter.  I read it three or four times, and even
then I was not sure that I was not dreaming.  I caught up my pipe
again, filled it and lit it.  I read the letter once more.  I was
solemnly informed that my uncle was dead and that I was mentioned in
the will, and that if I would kindly call at the Hoffman House the
following morning a certain sum of money would be given to me.  I
regretted that I had reached that age when a man's actions must be
dignified, although alone; otherwise I dare say I should have danced
the pas seul.  Whatever my uncle's bequest might be, I believed that it
would make me independently rich.  I am ashamed to admit that I did not
feel sorry at the news of his sudden departure from this life.  It is
better to be rich than to be ambitious.  It is better to have at hand
what you want than to work for it, and then not get it.  Phyllis was
scarcely an arm's length away now.  I whistled as I locked up my desk,
and proceeded down stairs and sang a siren song into the waxen ears of
the cashier.

"You have only twenty coming this week, Mr. Winthrop," said he.

"Never mind," I replied; "I'll manage to get along next week."  It was
only on very rare occasions that I drew my full pay at the end of the
week.

I dined at a fashionable restaurant.  As I sipped my wine I built one
of my castles, and Phyllis reigned therein.  There would be a trip to
Europe every summer, and I should devote my time to writing novels.  My
picture would be the frontispiece in the book reviews, and wayside
paragraphs would tell of the enormous royalties my publishers were
paying me.  I took some old envelopes from my pocket and began figuring
on the backs of them as to what purposes the money should be put.  It
could not be less than $50,000, perhaps more.  Of course my uncle had
given a harbor to a grudge against me and mine, but such things are
always forgotten on the death bed.  It occurred to me that I never had
known before what a fine world it was, and I regretted having spoken
ill of it.  I glanced across the way.  The sky had cleared, and the
last beams of the sun flamed in the windows of the tall buildings.
Fortune, having buffeted me, was now going to make me one of her
favorite children.  I had reached the end of the long lane.

As I left the restaurant I decided to acquaint Phyllis with my good
luck and also my desire that she should share of it.  I turned into a
florist's and had a dozen roses sent up to her.  They were American
Beauties.  I could afford it now.


I found Phyllis thrumming on the piano.  She was singing in a low voice
the aria from "Lucia."  I stood on the threshold of the drawing-room
and waited till she had done.  I believed her to be unaware of my
presence.  She was what we poets call a "dream of loveliness," a
tangible dream.  Her neck and shoulders were like satin, and the head
above them reminded me of Sappho's which we see in marble.  From where
I stood I could catch a glimpse of the profile, the nose and firm chin,
the exquisite mouth, to kiss which I would gladly have given up any
number of fortunes.  The cheek had that delicate curve of a rose leaf,
and when the warm blood surged into it there was a color as matchless
as that of a jack-rose.  Ah, but I loved her.  Suddenly the music
ceased.

"There is a mirror over the piano, Jack," she said, without turning her
head.

So I crossed the room and sat down in the chair nearest her.  I vaguely
wondered if, at the distance, she had seen the love in my eyes when I
thought myself unobserved.

"I thank you for those lovely roses," she said, smiling and permitting
me to press her hand.

"Don't mention it," I replied.  It is so difficult for a man to say
original things in the presence of the woman he loves!  "I have great
news for you.  It reads like a fairy tale, you know; happy ever
afterward, and all that."

"Ah!"

"Yes.  Do you remember my telling you of a rich uncle who lived in the
South?"

"Is it possible that he has left you a fortune?" she cried, her eyes
shining.

"You have guessed it."

"I am very glad for your sake, Jack.  I was beginning to worry about
you."

"Worry about me?"

"Yes.  I do not understand how a newspaper man can afford to buy roses
four or five times a week--and exist."  She had the habit of being
blunt and frank to her intimate friends.  I secretly considered it an
honor when she talked to me like this.  "I have told you repeatedly to
send me flowers only once a week.  I'd rather not have them at all.
Last week you spent as much as $30 on roses alone.  Mr. Holland does
not do that for Ethel, and he has a million."

"I'm not Holland," I said.  "He doesn't--that is--I do not think he--."
Then I foundered.  I had almost said: "He doesn't care as much for
Ethel as I do for you."

Phyllis pretended not to note my embarrassment.  The others came in
then, and conversation streamed into safer channels.

When we entered the box at the opera the curtain had risen.  Phyllis
and I took the rear chairs.  They were just out of the glare of the
lights.

"You are looking very beautiful to-night," I whispered lowly.  I was
beginning business early.  There was no barrier at my lips.

"Thank you," she replied.  Then with a smile: "Supposing I were to say
that you are looking very handsome?"

"Oh," said I, somewhat disconcerted, "that would be rather
embarrassing."

"I do not doubt it."

"And then it would not be true.  The duty we men owe to a beautiful
woman is constantly to keep telling her of it."

"And the duty we women owe to a fine-looking man?" a rogue of a dimple
in her cheeks.

"Is to explicitly believe all he says regarding your beauty," I
answered, evading the question.  "A man may tell a woman that she is
beautiful, but a woman may not tell a man that he is fine-looking, that
is, in public."

"The terms are not fair."

"That may be true, but they make the wheels of the social organization
run smoother.  For instance, if I met a strange woman and she told me
that I was handsome, I shouldn't be able to speak again the whole
evening.  On the other hand, a beautiful woman, after you say that you
are delighted to meet her, expects the very next remark to concern her
good looks."

"Your insight is truly remarkable," she said, the dimple continuing its
elusive manoeuvres.  "Hush; here comes Carmen."

And our voices grew faint in the swell of melody.  Mrs. Wentworth was
entranced; her daughter was fondly gazing at the back of her fiancé's
head; Phyllis had turned her face from me to the stage.  As for myself,
I was not particularly interested in the cigarette girl.  It was
running through my head that the hour had arrived.  I patted my gloves
for a moment, then I drew a long breath.

"Phyllis!" said I.  There was a quaver in my voice.  Perhaps I had not
spoken loud enough.  "Phyllis!" said I again.

She turned quickly and gave me an inquiring and at the same time
nervous glance.

"What is it?"

"I want to tell you something I have never dared to tell you till now,"
I said earnestly.  The voice on the stage soared heavenward.  "I love
you.  Will you be my wife?"

Ah, me! where were those drooping eyelids, that flush, that shy, sweet
glance of which I had so often dreamt?  Phyllis was frowning.

"Jack, I have been afraid of this," she said.  "I am so sorry, but it
cannot be."

"Oh, do not say that now," I cried, crushing my gloves.  "Wait awhile;
perhaps you may learn to love me."

"Jack, I have always been frank to you because I like you.  Do you
suppose it will take me five years to find out what my heart says to
any man?  No.  Had I loved you I should not have asked you to wait; I
should have said yes.  I do not love you in the way you wish.  Indeed,
I like you better than any man I know, but that is all I can offer you.
I should be unkind if I held out any false hopes.  I have often asked
myself why I do not love you, but there is something lacking in you,
something I cannot define.  Some other woman will find what I have
failed to find in you to love."

I was twisting my gloves out of all recognition.  There was a singing
in my ears which did not come from the stage.

"Look at it as I do, Jack.  There is a man in this world whom I shall
love, and who will love me.  We may never meet.  Then he shall be an
ideal to me, and I to him.  You believe you love me, but the love you
offer is not complete."

"Not complete?" I echoed.

"No.  It would be if I returned it.  Do you understand?  There is in
this world a woman you will truly love and who will return your love in
its fulness.  Will you meet?  That is in the hands of your destinies.
Shall I meet my ideal?  Who knows?  But till I do, I shall remain an
old maid."

I nodded wearily.  A dissertation on affinities seemed ill-timed.

"And now," she said, "this beautiful friendship of ours must come to an
end."  And there were tears in her eyes.

"Yes," said I, twisting and untwisting the shreds of my gloves.  It
seemed as though the world had slipped from under my feet and I was
whirling into nothingness.  "My heart is very heavy."

"Jack, if you talk like that," hastily, "you will have me crying before
all these people."

Unfortunately Ethel turned and saw the tears in her cousin's eyes.

"Mercy! what is the matter?" she asked.

"Jack has been telling me a very pathetic story," said Phyllis, with a
pity in her eyes.

"Yes; something that happened to-night," said I, staring at the
programme, but seeing nothing, nothing.

"Well," said Ethel, "this is not the place for them," turning her eyes
to the stage again.

The concluding acts of the opera were a jangle of chords and discords,
and the hum of voices was like the murmur of a far-off sea.  My eyes
remained fixed upon the stage.  It was like looking through a broken
kaleidoscope.  I wanted to be alone, alone with my pipe.  I was glad
when we at last entered the carriage.  Mrs. Wentworth immediately began
to extol the singers, and Phyllis, with that tact which is given only
to kind-hearted women, answered most of the indirect questions put to
me.  She was giving me time to recover.  The direct questions I could
not avoid.  Occasionally I looked out of the window.  It had begun to
rain again.  It was very dreary.

"And what a finale, Mr. Winthrop!" cried Mrs. Wentworth,

"Yes, indeed," I replied.  To have loved and lost, and such a woman,
was my thought.

"The new tenor is an improvement.  Do you not think so?"

"Yes, indeed."  No more to touch her hand, to hear her voice, to wait
upon her wishes.

"It was the most brilliant audience of the season."

"Yes, indeed," I murmured.  Those were the only words I could
articulate.

The carriage rumbled on.

"Does Patti return in the fall?"

"Yes."  Five years of dreaming, and then to awake!

And then the carriage mercifully stopped.

Mrs. Wentworth insisted that I should enter and have some coffee.  I
had so few words at my command that I could not invent even a flimsy
excuse.  So I went in.  The coffee was tasteless.  I put in four lumps
of sugar.  I stirred and stirred and stirred.  Finally, I swallowed the
contents of the cup.  It was very hot.  When the agony was past I rose
and made my adieu.

Phyllis came to the door with me.

"Forget what I have said," I began, fumbling the door-knob.  "I suppose
I was an ass to think that you might love me.  They say that it is a
malady.  Very well.  With a few prescribed remedies I shall recover."

"You are very bitter."

"Can you blame me," clicking the latch back and forth, "when all the
world has suddenly grown dark?"

"There are other eyes than mine," gently.

"Yes; but they will light other paths than those I shall follow."

"Jack, you are too manly to make threats."

"That was not a threat," said I.  "Well, I shall go and laugh at myself
for my presumption.  To laugh at yourself is to cure.  There is no more
wine in the cup, nothing but the lees.  I'll have to drink them.  A wry
face, and then it will all be over.  Yes, I am bitter.  To have dreamed
as I have dreamed, and to awake as I have!  Ah, well; I must go on
loving you till--"

"Till she comes," supplemented Phyllis.

"You wrong me.  It is only in letters that I am versatile.  Forgive my
bitterness and forget my folly."

"Oh, Jack, if you knew how sorry I am!  I shall forgive the bitterness,
but I will not forget what you term folly.  It's something any woman
might be proud of, the love of an honest, dear, good fellow.  Good
night."  She held her hand toward me.

"Good night," I said, "and God bless you!"  I kissed the palm of her
hand, opened the door, and then stumbled down the steps.

I do not remember how I reached home.

It was all over.

My beautiful castle had fallen in ruins about my ears.



CHAPTER II

In my bedroom the next morning there was a sad and heavy heart.  The
owner woke up, stared at the ceiling, then at the sun-baked bricks
beyond his window.  He saw not the glory of the sun and the heavens.
To his eyes there was nothing poetic in the flash of the distant
church-spires against the billowy cloudbanks.  The gray doves, circling
about the chimneys, did not inspire him, nor the twittering of the
sparrows on the window ledge.  There was nothing at all in the world
but a long stretch of barren, lonely years.  And he wondered how,
without her at his side, he ever could traverse them.  He was driftwood
again.  He had built upon sands as usual, and the tide had come in; his
castle was flotsam and jetsam.  He was drifting, and he didn't care
where.  He was very sorry for himself, and he had the blue devils the
worst kind of way.  Finally he crawled out of bed and dressed because
it had to be done.  He was not particularly painstaking with the
procedure.  It mattered not what collar became him best, and he picked
up a tie at random.  A man generally dresses for a certain woman's
approval, and when that is no longer to be gained he grows indifferent.
The other women do not count.

My breakfast consisted of a cup of coffee; and as the generous nectar
warmed my veins my thoughts took a philosophical turn.  It is fate who
writes the was, the is, and the shall be.  We have a proverb for every
joy and misfortune.  It is the only consolation fate gives us.  It is
like a conqueror asking the vanquished to witness the looting.  All
roads lead to Rome, and all proverbs are merely sign posts by which we
pursue our destinies.  And how was I to get to Rome?  I knew not.  Hope
is better than clairvoyance.

Was Phyllis right when she said that I did not truly love her?  I
believed not.  Should I go on loving her all my life?  Undoubtedly I
should.  As to affinities, I had met mine, but it had proved a
one-sided affair.

It was after ten by the clock when I remembered that I was to meet the
lawyer, the arbiter of my new fortunes.  Money is a balm for most
things, and coupled with travel it might lead me to forget.

He was the family lawyer, and he had come all the way North to see that
I received my uncle's bequest.  He was bent, gray and partially bald.
He must have been close to seventy, but for all that there was a
youthful twinkle in his eyes as he took my card and looked up into my
face.

"So you are John Winthrop?" he said in way of preliminary.  You may
hand a card case full of your name to a lawyer, and still he will
insist upon a verbal admission.

"I have always been led to believe so," I answered smartly, placing my
hat beside the chair in which I sat down.  "How did you manage to
locate me in this big city?"

"Your uncle had seen some of your signed articles in New York papers,
and said that in all probability I should find you here.  A few
inquiries set me on your track."  Here he pulled out a lengthy document
from his handbag.  "I confess, however," he added, "that I am somewhat
disappointed in your looks."

"Disappointed in my looks!" was my cry.  "What sort of a duffer were
you expecting to see?"

He laughed.  "Well, your uncle gave me the idea that I should find a
good-for-nothing hack-writer, a dweller in some obscure garret."

"If that is the case, what under the sun did he send you up here for?"

The merriment went out of the old man's face and his eyes became grave.
"Of that anon.  Let me proceed with my business and read the will to
you.  You will find it rather a remarkable document."

I settled back in my chair in a waiting attitude.  To tell the truth, I
was somewhat confused by all this preamble.  To his son my uncle left
the bulk of his property, which amounted to more than a million.  I was
listless.  The head overseer received the munificent sum of $50,000; to
the butler, the housekeeper and the cook he gave $10,000 each.  I began
to grow interested.  He was very liberal to his servants.  Several
other names were read, and my interest assumed the color of anxiety.
When the lawyer stopped to unfold the last flap, I spoke.

"And where in the world do I come in?"

"In the sense you understand, you do not come in."

I stared at him in amazement.  "I don't come in?" I repeated vaguely.
"Ah," reaching down for my hat, "then I go out, as it were;" as
brilliant as a London yellow fog.  "What the devil does all this mean?"
I started to rise.

"Wait!" he commanded.  "'To my nephew, John Winthrop, I bequeath the
sum of $1,000 to be presented to him in person immediately after this
will is probated, and with the understanding that he shall make no
further demand upon my son and heir in the future.'  That is all,"
concluded the lawyer, folding the document.  "I have the check in my
pocket."

"Keep it," said I, rising.  A hot flush of indignation swept over me.
I understood.  It was his revenge.  To have a man make sport of you
after he is dead and gone, leaving you impotent and with never a chance
to retaliate!  "Keep it," I said again; "throw it away, or burn it.  I
understand.  He has satisfied a petty revenge.  It is an insult not
only to me, but to my dead parents.  You are, of course, acquainted
with the circumstances of my mother's marriage.  She married the man
she loved, disregarding her brother's wishes."

"I knew your mother," said the lawyer, going to the window and looking
out and beyond all that met his gaze.

"To think," I went on, cooling none, "that my mother's brother should
die in this manner, nourishing so small and petty a spite!  When he did
this he knew that I should understand his motive.  In the first place,
I never dreamed that he would remember me in his will; never
entertained the least idea of it.  I am independent; I am earning a
livelihood, small, but enough and to spare.  I'll bid you good
morning."  I took a step toward the door.

"Young man, sit down," said the old man, coming back to his chair.  "I
want to talk to you for a few minutes.  Your uncle was a peculiarly
vindictive man.  What he considered a wrong he neither forgot nor
forgave.  His son pleaded with him not to put in that final clause.  He
offered even to share with you.  Your uncle swore he would leave it all
to the stablemen first.  This journey was forced upon me, or I should
not have taken it.  This is my advice to you: Accept the check, in the
privacy of your room tear it up, or light a cigar with it; that's about
all it's worth.  You will feel no little satisfaction in lighting a
cigar with it, that is, if you are anything like me.  Think of it! a
thousand dollars to light your cigar.  It is an opportunity not to be
missed.  When you grow old you will say to your grandchildren: 'Once I
lit a cigar with a thousand-dollar check.'  The oldest inhabitant will
be silenced forever; it may become history.  And then, too, if there
are spirits, as Scripture says there are, your uncle's will writhe at
the performance.  I trust that you will forgive me my part in the
matter.  I have taken a fancy to you, and if you will accept my
friendship I shall be happy to accept yours.  Your uncle's revenge will
not be a marker to the restitution his son will make."

"Restitution?--his son?"

"Yes.  To my sincere regret he is an invalid who may or may not live
the year out.  He has already made a will, in which he leaves all to
you.  The will is in my safe at home.  I return to-night, so I may not
see you again in this world of sin and tribulation."  The merry twinkle
had returned to his eyes.  "I am very old."

"It is worth all the trouble to have met you," said I.  "You should
have made the jolt very easy."

So we shook hands, and he gave me a cigar, around which was wrapped the
check.  He winked.  Then he laughed, and I joined him, though my
laughter resembled mirth less than it did the cackle of a hen which was
disturbed over the future of her brood.

I left him and went down into the wine room and ordered a stiff brandy
and soda.  When that disappeared I ordered another.  I rattled the ice
in the glass.  "Ha, ha, ha!" I roared, as the events of the past
twenty-four hours recurred to me.  There must have been a suicidal
accent to my laughter, for the bartender looked at me with some
concern.  I called for another brandy and shot the soda into it myself.
I watched the foam evaporate, "Ha, ha, ha!"

"Hard luck?" the bartender asked sympathetically.

"Yes," said I.  I seemed to be speaking to several bartenders who
looked at me with several varieties of compassion.

"Have another on me," said the bartender.

I had another, and went out into the street.  I walked down Broadway,
chuckling to myself.  What a glorious farce it all was!  My fortune!
Phyllis my wife!  What if she had accepted me?  I laughed aloud, and
people turned and stared at me.  Oh, yes!  I was to travel and write
novels and have my pictures in book reviews, and all that!  When I
arrived at the office I was on the verge of total insanity.  I was
obliged to ask the paragrapher to write my next day's leader.  It was
night before I became rational, and once that, the whole world donned
cap and bells and began capering for my express benefit.  The more I
thought of it, the more I laughed.  What a whimsical world it was!  And
was there anything in it so grotesque as my part?  I took the check
from my pocket and cracked it between my fingers.  A cigar was in my
mouth.  Should I light it with the check?  It was for $1,000.  After
all, it was more than I had ever before held in my hand at once.  But
what was a paltry thousand, aye a paltry ten thousand, to a man's
pride?  I bit off the end of my cigar, creased the check into a taper,
and struck a match.  I watched it burn and burn.  I struck another.  I
held it within an inch of the check, but for the life of me I could not
light it.

"The devil take it!" I cried.  I flung the cigar out of the window and
laid the check on my desk.  Courage?  Why, it needed the courage of a
millionaire to light a cigar with a $1,000 check!

The office boy, who came in then, was salvation.  The managing editor
wanted to see me.  I sprang up with alacrity; anything but the sight of
that figure 1 and the three demon eyes of that $1,000 check!

"Winthrop," said the managing editor to me as I entered his office,
"you've got to go to London.  Hillars has gone under----"

"Not dead!" I cried.

"No, no!  He has had to give up work temporarily on account of drink.
If it was any other man I'd throw him over in short order.  But I feel
sorry for Hillars, and I am going to give him another chance.  I want
you to go over and take care of him if possible.  The London work is
not new to you.  You can handle that and Hillars too.  If you can keep
him in check----"

I shuddered.  The word "check" jarred on my nerves.

"What's the matter?" asked the editor.

"A temporary chill," I said.  "Go on."

"Well, if you can manage to keep him in check for a month or so he'll
be able to get on his feet again.  And it will be like a vacation to
you.  If anything happens to Hillars you will be expected to remain
permanently abroad.  Hillars suggested you in his letter.  Will you be
ready to go next Monday?"

"To-morrow if you like," I answered readily enough.  Here was an
opportunity not to be missed.  To see new scenes and faces is partially
to forget old ones.

"Very well.  I'll give you some letters which will help you.  Our
office is in the Strand.  Hillars will find you lodgings.  He has
bachelor quarters in the west end of the town, where congenial spirits
congregate.  Come in to-morrow and we'll talk it over."

I was much pleased with the turn of events.  If I could get away from
New York I might forget Phyllis--no, not forget her; I loved her too
well ever to forget her; but the prolonged absence would cure me of my
malady.

Before going to bed that night I lit a cigar, but not with the check.
On sober second thought I calculated that the sum would pay up all my
debts and leave me a comfortable margin.  A man can well pocket his
pride when he pockets a thousand dollars with it.  And why not?  I was
about to start life anew and might as well begin on a philosophical
basis.  Who knew but my uncle had foreseen the result of his bequest;
my rage, my pride, and finally lighting a cigar with his check?  It
really might make his spirit writhe to better effect if I became
benefited.  Sober second thought is more or less a profitable
investment.

On the morrow everything was arranged for my departure.  I was to leave
Saturday morning.

It was a beautiful day, crisp and clear, with a bare ground which rang
to the heel.  In the afternoon I wandered over to the Park and sat down
on a bench, and watched the skaters as they glided to and fro.  I
caught myself wishing that I was a boy again, with an hour's romp on
the sheeny crust in view.  Gradually the mantle of peace fell upon me,
and there was a sense of rest.  I was going to forgive the world the
wrong it had done me; perhaps it would feel ashamed of itself and
reward me for my patience.  So Hillars was "going to pieces."  It is
strange how we men love another who has shared and spent with us our
late patrimonies.  Hillars and I had been friends since our youth, and
we had lived together till a few years back.  Then he went to
Washington, from there to Paris, thence to London.  He was a better
newspaper man than I.  I liked to dream too well, while he was always
for a little action.  Liquor was getting the best of him.  I wondered
why.  It might be a woman.  There is always one around somewhere when a
man's breath smells of whisky.  A good deal of this woman's temperance
business is caused by remorse.  I was drawing aimless pictures in the
frozen gravel, when I became aware that two skaters had stopped in
front of me.  I glanced up and saw Phyllis and Ethel, their eyes like
stars and their cheeks like roses.

"I was wondering if it was you," said Ethel.  "Phyllis, where is my
cavalier?"

"I believe he has forsaken us," said the voice of the woman I loved.

"Will you not accept part of the bench?" I asked, moving along.

The girls dropped easily beside me.

"I was just wishing I was a boy again and was in for a game of hockey,"
said I.  "I am going to London on Saturday.  Our foreign correspondent
has had to give up work on account of ill health."

"You haven't----" Phyllis stopped suddenly.

"Oh, no," said I intuitively.  "I am growing rusty, and they think I
need a vacation."  I was glad Ethel was there with her voluble chatter.

"Oh, a foreign correspondent!"' she cried.

"Yes."

"You will have a glorious time.  Papa will probably return to B----
when the next administration comes in.  It is sure to be Republican."
There are a few women who pose as Democrats; I never met one of them.
"You know papa was there twenty years ago.  I suppose you will be
hob-nobbing with dukes and princes."

"It cannot be avoided," I said gravely.  "I do not expect to remain
long in London.  When my work is done perhaps I shall travel and
complete my foreign polish."

"Oh, yes!" said Phyllis.  "I forgot to tell you, Ethel, that a fortune
has been left to Jack, and he need not work but for the love of it."

I laughed, but they thought it a self-conscious laugh.  Somehow I was
not equal to the task of enlightening them.

"It is jolly to be rich," said Ethel, clicking her skates together.
"It's a bother at times, however, to know what to do with the money.  I
buy so many things I do not need just because I feel compelled to spend
my allowance."

"It must be very inconvenient," I observed.

"And now that you are a man of leisure," said Phyllis, "you will write
that book you have always been telling me about?"

"Do you wish it?" I asked.

"I do.  What I have always found lacking in you is application.  You
start out to accomplish something, you find an obstacle in your path
and you do not surmount it; you do not persevere."

My pulse beat quickly.  Was there a double meaning to what she said?  I
could not tell, for her eyes remained averted.

I sighed.  "It would be nice to become a successful author, but when a
man is as rich as I am fame tarnishes."  I took out an envelope from my
pocket.

"What is that?" asked Phyllis.

I turned over the back and showed it to her.

"Figures!" she laughed.  "What do they mean?"

"It is what I am going to do with my fortune," said I.  I was holding
out my vanity at arm's length and laughing at it silently.

"Your air castles will be realized now," said Phyllis.

"I shall build no more," said I.  "The last one gave me a very bad
fall."

Phyllis looked away again.  A vague perfume from her hair wafted past
my nostrils, and for a space I was overwhelmed with sadness.  Soon I
discerned Mr. Holland speeding toward us.

"I shall not see you again," I said, "so I'll bid you good-bye now.  If
you should chance to come abroad this summer, do not fail to look me
up."

"Good luck to you," said Ethel, shaking my hand.  "You must bring home
a Princess or a Duchess."  Then she moved off a way, thoughtfully.

"You must write to me occasionally, Jack," said Phyllis, "if only once
a month.  I shall always be interested in your career."

The smile faltered as she put out her gloved hand.

"You will make some man happy, Phyllis," I said.

"Good-bye."

"Good-bye."

And then--and then they sped away, and I followed them with dimming
gaze till I could see them no more.  I trudged home. . . .

I stood on the upper deck.  The spires and domes of the city faded on
my sight till all merged into a gray smoky patch on the horizon.  With
a dead cigar clenched between my teeth I watched and watched with a
callous air, as though there had been no wrench, as though I had not
left behind all I loved in the world.  And yet I gazed, the keen salt
air singing past my ears, till there was nothing but the sea as far as
the eye could scan.

Thus I began the quest of the elusive, which is a little of love, a
little of adventure, and a little of all things.



CHAPTER III

Hillars hadn't been down to the office in two days, so the assistant
said.

"Is he ill?" I asked, as I carried a chair to the window.

"Ill?"  The young man coughed affectedly.

"Do you believe it possible for him to come in this afternoon?"

"It is quite possible.  One does not use the word impossible in regard
to Hillars.  It is possible that he may be in St. Petersburg by this
time, for all I know.  You see," with an explanatory wave of the hand,
"he's very uncertain in his movements.  For the last six months he has
been playing all over the table, to use the parlance of the roulette
player.  I have had to do most of the work, and take care of him into
the bargain.  If I may take you into my confidence----," with some
hesitancy.

"Certainly," said I.  "I want you to tell me all about him.  He was my
roommate at college.  Perhaps I can straighten him up."

"The truth is, the trouble began last September.  He came back from the
Continent, where he had been on an errand, a changed man.  Hillars
always drank, but never to an alarming extent.  On his return, however,
he was in a bad shape.  It was nearly November before I got him sobered
up; and then he went under on an average of three times a week.  I
asked him bluntly what he meant by it, and he frankly replied that if
he wanted to drink himself to death, that was his business.  When he
isn't half-seas over he is gloomy and morose.  From the first I knew
that something had gone wrong on the mainland; but I couldn't trap him
for a farthing.  No man at his age drinks himself to death without
cause; I told him so, but he only laughed at me.  I'd give a good deal
to know what the truth is; not from curiosity, mind you, but to find
the disease in order to apply a remedy.  Dan's father died of drink."

"No," said I coldly; "he was shot."

"Oh, I know that," was the reply; "but give a conditioned man the same
wound and he will recover, nine times out of ten.  The elder Hillars
was so enervated by drink that he had no strength to fight the fever
which came on top of the bullet-hole.  Something happened over there;
and it's pounds to pence there's a woman back of the curtain.  It is
some one worth while.  Hillars is not a man to fall in love with a
barmaid."

I began to respect the young man's wisdom.

"So you believe it to be a woman?"

"Yes.  The wind blows from one point at a time.  There are four points
to the vane of destiny; there is ambition for glory, ambition for
power, ambition for wealth, and ambition for love.  In Hillars's case,
since the wind does not blow from the first three, it must necessarily
blow from the fourth.  You know him better than I do; so you must
certainly know that Hillars is not a man to drink because glory or
power or wealth refused to visit him."

"You are a very discerning young man," said I, whereat he laughed.
"Did he get my cable?"

"No.  I thought that it was some order from headquarters and opened it
myself.  I put it in his desk.  I spoke to him, but he was too drunk to
pay any heed to what I said.  Well, I must be going.  I am getting out
a symposium of editorials from the morning papers on the possibility of
a Franco-Russian alliance.  It must be at the cable office in half an
hour.  If you are going to wait, you'll find the Berlin and Paris files
in the next room.  I'll see you later," and he departed.

It was five of the clock.  The Strand was choked.  Here and there I saw
the color of martial attire.  Save for this, and that the buildings
were low and solid, and that most of the people walked slower, I might
have been looking down upon Broadway for all the change of place I saw.
There is not much difference between New York and London, except in the
matter of locomotion.  The American gets around with more rapidity than
does his English cousin, but in the long run he accomplishes no more.
It is only when one steps onto the Continent that the real difference
in the human races is discerned.  Strange as this may seem, it is not
distinguishable in a cosmopolitan city.  My eyes were greeted with the
same huge wearisome signs of the merchants; the same sad-eyed "sandwich
men;" the same newsboys yelling and scampering back and forth; the same
rumble of the omnibuses, the roar of the drays, and the rattle of the
cabs.  I was not much interested in all I saw.  Suddenly my roving eyes
rested upon a familiar face.  It was Hillars, and he was pushing
rapidly across the street.  Any one would have instantly marked him for
an American by the nervous stride, the impatience at being obstructed.
I went into the fire-room, intending to give him a little surprise.  I
did not have long to wait.  The door to the main office opened and he
came in, singing a snatch from a drinking song we used to sing at
college.  The rich baritone that had once made the old glee club famous
was a bit husky and throaty.  I heard him unlock his desk and roll back
the lid.  There was a quiet for a moment.

"Dick!" he called.  "Hi, Dick!  Well, I'm hanged!"

Evidently he had discovered my cable.

"Dick isn't in," said I, crossing the threshold.

In a moment our hands were welded together, and we were gazing into
each other's eyes.

"You old reprobate!" I cried; "not to have met me at the station, even."

"Bless my soul, Jack, this cable was the first intimation that you were
within 3,000 miles of London.  But it does my heart good to see you!"
pumping my hand again.  "Come out to dinner with me.  Now don't begin
to talk till we've had something to eat; I'm almost famished.  I know
all the questions you want to ask, but not now.  There's a Bohemian
joint a block above that'll do your heart good to see.  We'll have
chops and ale, just like we did in the old days, the green and salad
days, I would they were back again"--soberly.  "Oh, I've a long story
to tell you, my son; time enough when we get to my rooms; but not a
word of it now--not a word.  It will all be forgotten in ten minutes
with you.  We'll rake up the old days and live 'em over for an hour or
so.  I'm glad that I suggested you in my letter.  What did the old man
say about my nervous prostration?"--with half a laugh.

"He put quotation marks around it," I answered.  "I wanted to see you
particularly.  They told me that you were rolling downhill so fast that
if some one did not put a fulcrum under you, you'd be at the bottom in
no time at all.  I'm going to be the lever by which you are to be
rolled uphill again."

He smiled grimly.  "If any one could do that--well, here we are;" and
we entered the chop house and took a table in one of the side rooms.
"Woods," he said to the waiter, "chops for two, chipped potatoes, and
fill up those steins of mine with ale.  That will be all.  I brought
those steins from across, Jack; you'll go crazy over them, for they are
beauties."

A college-bred bachelor, nine times out of ten, has a mania for
collecting pipes or steins, or both.  Dan and I had been affected this
way.  During the year I had studied at Heidelberg I had gathered
together some fifty odd pipes and steins.  I have them yet, and many a
pleasant memory they beget me.  As for the steins of Dan, they were
beyond compare.

"I'll tell you a story about them," said Dan, after he had taken a deep
swallow of the amber ale.  "Few men can boast of steins like these.
Not many months ago there was a party of men and women, belonging to
the capital of a certain kingdom, who attended a dinner.  It was one of
those times when exalted personages divest themselves of the dignity
and pomp of court and become free and informal.  There were twenty of
these steins made especially for the occasion.  By a circumstance, over
which I had no control, I was the only alien at this dinner.  The
steins were souvenirs.  How I came by two was due to the lady whom I
took down to dinner, and who presented hers to me after having--after
having--well, kissed the rim.  Do you see the crest?" pointing to the
exquisite inlaid work.

"Why," I said eagerly, "it is the crest of----"

"Yes, a noted King," Dan completed.  "And these were made by his
express command.  But never mind," he broke off.  "It's merely a part
of the story I am going to tell you when we get to my rooms.  I am
always thinking of it, night and day, day and night.  Talk to me, or
I'll be drinking again.  This is the first time I've been sober in a
month.  It's drink or morphine or something like.  Do you ever see
anything of the old glee boys?"

"Once in a while.  You know," said I, lighting a cigarette, "all the
fellows but you and I had money.  Most of them are carrying on the
business of their paters and ornamenting dinner parties and cotillions."

"I thought that you had a rich uncle," said Dan.

"I did have, but he is no more," and I told him all about the bequest.

He laughed so long and heartily over it that I was glad for his sake
that it had happened.  Already I was beginning to look wholly upon the
humorous side of the affair.

"It is almost too good not to be printed," he said.  "But his son may
square matters when he dies."

"I do not want matters squared," I growled.  "I can earn a living for a
few years to come.  I shan't worry."

"By the way, is that Miss Landors whom you used to rave about in your
letters married yet?"

"No."  Miss Landors was Phyllis only to her intimate friends.  I called
the waiter and ordered him to replenish my stein, Dan watching me
curiously the while.  "No, Miss Landors is not married yet."

"I have often wondered what she looked like," he mused.

"When do you go on your vacation?" I asked irrelevantly.

"In a week or ten days; may be to-morrow.  It's according to how long I
stay sober."

I was sorry that he had recalled to me the name of Phyllis.  It
dampened my sociability.  I was not yet prepared to take him into my
confidence.  The ale, however, loosened our tongues, and though we did
not talk about our present affairs we had a pleasant time recounting
the days when we were young in the sense that we had no real trouble.
Those were the times when we were earning fifteen and twenty the week;
when our watches were always in durance vile; when we lied to the poor
washerwoman and to the landlady; when we would always be "around
to-morrow" and "settle up" with our creditors.

"There was no ennui those days," laughed Hillars.

"True.  Do you remember the day you stayed in bed because it was
cheaper to sleep than work on an empty stomach?"

"And do you remember the time I saved you from jail by giving the
Sheriff my new spring overcoat to pay a washerwoman's bill of six
months' standing?"

"I hung around Jersey City that day," said I.  And then there was more
ale; and so on.  It was nine when at last we rose.

"Well, we'll go back to the office and get your case," said Dan.
"Where's your trunk?"

"At the Victoria."

"All your luggage must be sent to my rooms.  I will not hear of your
going elsewhere for lodging while in town.  I have a floor, and you
shall share it.  It's a bachelor's ranch from basement to garret,
inhabited by artists, journalists, one or two magazine men, a clever
novelist, and three of our New York men.  There is no small fry save
myself.  We have little banquets every Friday night, and they sometimes
last till Saturday noon.  I've taught the Frenchman who represents the
Paris _Temps_ how to play poker, and he threatens to become my
Frankenstein, who will eventually devour me."  Hillars laughed, and it
sounded like the laughter of other days.  "Jack, I think you will do me
good.  Stay with me and keep me away from the bottle if you can.  No
man drinks for pure love of liquor.  My father never loved it, and God
knows what he was trying to forget.  For that's the substance of it
all, to forget.  When you start out to the point of forgetfulness, you
must keep it up; regret comes back threefold with soberness.  It seems
silly and weak for a man who has been buffeted as I have, who is
supposed to gather wisdom and philosophy as a snowball gathers snow as
it rolls down hill, to try to drown regret and disappointment in
liquor.  A man never knows how weak he is till he meets the one woman
and she will have none of him."

And somehow I got closer to Hillars, spiritually.  There were two of
us, so it seemed, only I was stronger, or else my passion did not burn
so furiously as his.

The apartments occupied by Dan were all a bachelor could wish for.  The
walls were covered with photographs, original drawings, beer steins,
pipes, a slipper here, a fan there, and books and books and books.  I
felt at home at once.

I watched Hillars as he moved about the room, tidying up things a bit,
and I noticed now more than ever how changed he was.  His face had
grown thin, his hair was slightly worn at the crown and temples, and
there were dark circles under his eyes.  Yet, for all these signs of
dissipation, he was still a remarkably handsome man.  Though not so
robust as when I last saw him, his form was yet elegant.  In the old
days we had called him Adonis, and Donie had clung to him long after
the Cambridge time.

"Now," said he, when we had lighted our pipes, "I'll tell you why I'm
going to the dogs.  I've got to tell it to some one or go daft; and I
can't say that I'm not daft as it is."

"It is a woman," said I, after reflection, "who causes a man to drink,
to lose all ambition."

"It is."

"It is a woman," I went on, holding the amber stem of my pipe before
the light which gleamed golden through the transparent gum, "who causes
a man to pull up stakes and prospect for new claims, to leave the new
country for the old."

"It is a woman indeed," he replied.  He was gazing at me with a new
interest.  "If the woman had accepted him, he would not have been here."

"No, he would not," said I.

"In either case, yours or mine."

"In either case.  Go on with your story; there's nothing more to add to
mine."

Some time passed, and nothing but the breathing of the pipes was heard.
Now and then I would poke away at the ashes in my pipe bowl, and Dan
would do the same.

"Have you a picture of her?" I asked, reaching for some fresh tobacco.

"No; I am afraid to keep one."

To me this was a new phase in the matter of grand passions.

"A likeness which never changes its expression means nothing to me," he
explained.  "Her face in all its moods is graven in my mind; I have but
to shut my eyes, and she stands before me in all her loveliness.  Do
you know why I wanted this vacation?  Rest?"  His shoulders went up and
his lips closed tighter.  "My son, I want no rest.  It is rest which is
killing me.  I am going across.  I am going to see her again, if only
from the curb as she rolls past in her carriage, looking at me but not
recognizing me, telling her footman to brush me aside should I attempt
to speak to her.  Yet I would suffer this humiliation to see that
glorious face once more, to hear again that voice, though it were keyed
to scorn.  I am a fool, Jack.  What! have I gone all these years
free-heart to love a chimera in the end?  Verily I am an ass.  She is a
Princess; she has riches; she has a principality; she is the ward of a
King.  What has she to do with such as I?  Three months in the year she
dwells in her petty palace; the other months find her here and there;
Paris, St. Petersburg, or Rome, as fancy wills.  And I, I love her!  Is
it not rich?  What am I?  A grub burrowing at the root of the tree in
which she, like a bird of paradise, displays her royal plumage.
'Masters, remember that I am an ass; though it be not written down, yet
forget not that I am an ass.'  The father of this Princess once
rendered the present King's father a great service, and in return the
King turned over to his care a principality whose lineal descendants
had died out.  It was with the understanding that so long as he
retained the King's goodwill, just so long he might possess the
principality, and that when he died the sovereignty would pass to his
children.  The old King died, and his son sat upon his father's throne.
The father of the Princess also died.  The King of to-day made the same
terms as his father before him.  The Princess Hildegarde accepted them,
not counting the cost.  Last spring she was coronated.  Shortly before
the coronation, Prince Ernst of Wortumborg became a suitor for her
hand.  The King was very much pleased.  Prince Ernst was a cousin of
the Princess Hildegarde's father, and had striven for the principality
in the days gone by.  The King, thinking to repair the imaginary wrongs
of the Prince, forced the suit.  He impressed upon the Princess that it
was marry the Prince or give up her principality.  She gave her
consent, not knowing what to do under the circumstances.  Prince Ernst
is a Prince without principality or revenues.  In marrying the Princess
he acquires both.  I shall tell you how I became concerned."

Hillars laid his smoking pipe in the ash pan.  He got up and roamed
about the room, stopped at the window and stared at the inken sky, then
returned to his chair.



CHAPTER IV

I shall tell Hillars's story as he told it.  He said:

Last August I went to B----.  My mission was important and took me to
the British Legation, where I am well known.  I was most cordially
invited to attend a ball to be given the next evening.  The notables of
the court were there.  For a few moments the King let his sun shine on
the assemblage.  It was a brilliant spectacle.  At midnight I saw for
the first time a remarkably beautiful woman.  I was looking well myself
that night.  All women like to see broad shoulders in a man.  It
suggests strength--something they have not.  Several times this young
woman's eyes met mine.  Somehow, mine were always first to fall.  There
was a magnetism in hers mine could not withstand.  Later, an attaché
came to me and said that he wished to present me to her Serene Highness
the Princess Hildegarde of--let us call it Hohenphalia.  He whispered
that she had commanded the introduction.  I expected to see some
red-faced dowager who wanted to ask me about my country and bore me
with her guttural accents.  To my intense pleasure, I found myself at
the side of the beauty whom I had been admiring.  There was a humorous
light in her eyes as she put some questions to me.

"Do you speak German?" she asked in that language.

"Poorly, your Highness," I answered.

"Perhaps, then, you speak French?"

"As I do my mother tongue," said I.

"I am interested in Americans," she said.

"Collectively or individually?"  I tried to say this with perfect
innocence, but the smile on her lips told me that I had failed.

"Yes, I was sure that you would interest me."

She tapped the palm of her hand with the fan she held.  "Shall I tell
you why I desired to meet you?"

I nodded.

"I have heard it said that the American bows down before a title; and I
am a woman, and curious."

Said I, laughing: "Your Highness has been misinformed.  We never bow
down to a title; it is to the wearers that we bow."

This time her eyes fell.

"This sort of conversation is altogether new to me," she said, opening
the fan.

"I hope that I have not offended your Highness," I said.

"Indeed, no.  But it seems so strange to have any one talk to me with
such frankness and deliberation.  Have you no fear?"

"There is seldom fear where there is admiration.  If you had used the
word awe, now----"

Soft laughter rippled over the fan.  She had the most wonderful eyes.

"Are all Americans brave like yourself?" she next asked.

"Brave?  What do you call brave?"

"Your utter lack of fear in my presence, in the first place: I am
called dangerous.  And then, your exploits in the Balkistan, in the
second place.  Are you not the M. Hillars whose bravery not so long ago
was an interesting topic in the newspapers?  I know you."

"This is truly remarkable," said I.  "The only thing I did was to lead
a regiment out of danger."

"The danger was annihilation.  If a Captain or a Colonel had done it,
we should have thought nothing of it; but an utter stranger, who had
nothing in common with either cause--ah, believe me, it was a very
gallant thing to do."

"This is positively the first time I was ever glad that I did the
thing."  I placed my hand over my heart.  "But, after all, that is not
half so brave as what I am doing now."

"I do not understand," said she puzzled.

"Why, it is simple.  Here I am talking to you, occupying your time and
keeping those fierce Generals at bay.  See how they are gnawing their
mustaches and biting their lips and asking one another who I am.  There
are as many as five challenges waiting for me the moment I depart from
your side."

There was mischief in her eye.

"Then you shall stay with me, find me an ice and waltz once with me,
for if anything happened to you I should always have myself to blame."

I waltzed with her, and the perfume of her hair got into my head, and I
grew dizzy.  When the dance came to an end, I went into the smoking
room.  Suddenly it went through my brain that the world had changed in
an incredibly short time.  I tried to smoke, and for the first time in
my life, tobacco was tasteless, I was falling in love with a Princess.
I confess that it did not horrify me; on the contrary, I grew thrilled
and excited.  There was a spice here which hitherto had been denied me.
The cost was unspelled.  I fell as far as I could fall.  The
uncertainty of the affair was in itself an enchantment.

Well, the next day I strolled up the Avenue of Legations and saw her on
horseback.  She was accompanied by an elderly man with a face like an
eagle's.  There were various decorations on his breast.  As the
Princess saw me, she bent her head.  She remembered me.  That was all
that was necessary for my transportation.  Later, I was informed that
her escort was Prince Ernst of Wortumborg, who was destined to become
her lord and master.  I did not care who he was; I knew that I hated
him.

For a week I lingered on.  I met her time and again; alone on
horseback, at the various embassies and at the opera.  At these
meetings I learned a great deal about her.  She was known to be the
most capricious woman at court, and that she was as courageous as she
was daring; and that the Prince might consider himself lucky if he got
her, King's will or no King's will.  She had little liking for her
intended.  She treated him contemptuously and held his desires in utter
disregard.  One fine morning I was told that the Prince was beginning
to notice my attentions, that he was one of the most noted pistol shots
and swordsmen on the Continent, and that if I had any particular regard
for my epidermis I would cease my attendance on the Princess at once.
This, of course, made me more attentive than ever; for I can hold my
own with any man when it comes to pistols, and I can handle the rapier
with some success.

It was one night at the opera that the climax was brought about.  I sat
in one of the stalls diagonally across from the royal box, where she
sat.  She saw me and gave me the barest nod of recognition.  Perhaps
she did not wish to attract the attention of the royal personages who
sat with her; for the nod struck me as clandestine.  Between the first
and second acts a note was handed to me.  It was not addressed, neither
was it signed.  But it was for me; the bearer spoke my name.  As near
as I can remember, the note contained these words:

"A carriage will await you two blocks south; it will be without lights.
You will enter it exactly ten minutes after the opera is ended."

That was all, but it was enough.  When I returned to my seat I found
the Princess gazing intently at me.  I made an affirmative gesture and
was rewarded with a smile which set my blood to rushing.  I made little
out of the last act.  I could not dream what the anonymous note had
behind it.  I suspicioned an intrigue, but what use had she for me, an
American, a very nobody?  Something unusual was about to take place and
I was to be a witness or a participant of it.  That was as far as my
talent for logical deduction went.  Promptly at the stated time I stood
at the side of the carriage.  It was the plainest sort of an affair.
Evidently it had been hired for the occasion.  The door opened.

"Step in, monsieur," said a low voice in French.  I obeyed.  The horse
started.  As we spun along the pavement a light flashed into the
window.  The Princess sat before me.  There was a ringing in my ears,
and I breathed quickly.  But I said no word; it was for her to speak
first.

"Monsieur is an American," she began.  "The American is of a chivalric
race."

"That should be the aim of all men," I replied.

"But it is not so.  Monsieur, I have been studying you for the past
week.  To-night I place my honor and my fame in your hands; it is for
you to prove that you are a knight.  I trust you.  When I have said
what I shall say to you, you may withdraw or give me your aid, as you
please."

"I am grateful for your confidence, your Highness," said I.  "What is
it that you wish me to do?"

"Have patience, monsieur, till the ride is done," she said.  "Do not
speak again till I permit you.  I must think."

The journey was accomplished in half an hour.

"It is here, monsieur, that we alight," she said as the carriage
stopped.

I was glad that her opera cloak was of dark material and that she wore
a veil.

The building before which we stood was on the outskirts of the city.
Far away to my left I could see the flickering lights of the palaces; a
yellowish haze hung over all.  Once within the building I noted with
surprise the luxurious appointments.  Plainly it was no common inn, a
resort for the middle and traveling classes; whether it was patronized
by the nobility I could only surmise.

"We shall continue to speak in French," she said, as she threw back her
cloak and lifted her veil.  "Monsieur has probably heard that the
Princess Hildegarde is a creature of extravagant caprices; and he
expects an escapade."

"Your Highness wrongs me," I protested.  "I am an obscure American;
your Highness does not share your--that is----"

I stopped, not wishing to give the term escapade to anything she might
do.  As a matter of fact she has caused her royal guardian, the King,
no end of trouble.  She went to Paris once unattended; at another time
she roamed around Heidelberg and slashed a fencing master; she had
donned a student's garb.  She is said to be the finest swordswoman on
the Continent.  Yet, notwithstanding her caprices, she is a
noble-minded woman.  She does all these things called social vagaries
because she has a fine scorn for the innate hypocrisy of the social
organization of this country.  She loves freedom not wisely but too
well.  To go on:

"Monsieur wrongs me also," she said.  "In what are termed my escapades
I am alone.  You appealed to me," with a directness which amazed me,
"because of your handsome face, your elegant form, your bright eyes.
You are a man who loves adventure which has the spice of danger in it.
My countrymen----."  She crooked one of her bare shoulders, which shone
like yellow ivory in the subdued light.  This rank flattery cooled me.
A woman who has any regard for a man is not likely to flatter him in
respect to his looks on so short and slight an acquaintance.
"Monsieur," she proceeded, "this is to be no escapade, no caprice.  I
ask your aid as a desperate woman.  At court I can find no one to
succor me, save at the peril of that which is dearer to me than my
life.  Among the commoners, who would dare?  An Englishman?  It is too
much trouble.  A Frenchman?  I would trust him not quite so far as the
door.  You are the first American, not connected with the legation, I
have ever met.  Will you help me?"

"If what you ask me to do is within my capabilities, I am yours to
command."

"The reward will be small," as if to try me.  I laughed.  I was so
insanely happy, I suppose.  "There will be danger," she persisted;
"secret danger: there will be scandal."

"The more danger, the merrier," I cried.

"Ah, yes," smiling; "it is the man of Balkistan."

I leaned over the table and inhaled the ineffable perfumes which
emanated from her person.  "Tell me, from what must I succor the
Princess?  Is she a prisoner in a castle over which some ogre rules?
Well, then, I'll be Sir Galahad."

My jesting tone jarred on her nerves.  She straightened in her chair.

"Monsieur is amused," she said coldly.

"And he asks a thousand pardons!" I cried contritely.  "Command me,"
and I grew chilled and serious.

"You have heard that I am to wed Prince Ernst of Wortumborg?"

"Yes."  I gnawed the ends of my mustache.

"Monsieur, it is against my will, my whole being.  I have no desire to
contribute a principality and a wife to a man who is not worthy of one
or the other.  I refuse to become the King's puppet, notwithstanding
his power to take away my principality and leave me comparatively
without resources.  I detest this man so thoroughly that I cannot hate
him.  I abhor him.  It is you who must save me from him; it is you who
must also save me my principality.  Oh, they envy me, these poor
people, because I am a Princess, because I dwell in the tinsel glitter
of the court.  Could they but know how I envy their lives, their homes,
their humble ambitions!  Believe me, monsieur, as yet I love no man;
but that is no reason why I should link my life to that of a man to
whom virtue in a woman means nothing.  He caused my mother great
sorrow.  He came between her and my father.  He spoiled her life, now
he wishes to spoil mine.  But I will not have it so.  I will give up my
principality rather.  But first let me try to see if I cannot retain
the one and rid myself of the other.  Listen.  To-morrow night there
will be a dinner here.  The King and the inner court will hold forth.
But they will cast aside their pomp and become, for the time being,
ordinary people.  The Prince will be in Brussels, and therefore unable
to attend.  You are to come in his stead."

"I?" in astonishment.

"Even so," she smiled.  "While the festivities are at their height you
and I will secretly leave and return to the city.  We shall go
immediately to the station, thence to France."

I looked at her as one in a dream.  "I!--You!--thence to France?"



CHAPTER V

Hillars went to the sideboard and emptied half a glass of brandy.
Coming back to his chair he remained in a reverie for a short time.
Then he resumed his narrative.

The Princess looked up into my face and smiled.

"Yes; thence to France.  Ah, I could go alone.  But listen, monsieur.
Above all things there must be a scandal.  A Princess elopes with an
American adventurer.  The Prince will withdraw his suit.  The King may
or may not forgive me; but I will risk it.  He is still somewhat fond
of me, notwithstanding the worry I have caused him.  This way is the
only method by which I may convince him how detestable this engagement
is to me.  Yet, my freedom is more to me than my principality.  Let the
King bestow it upon whom he will.  I shall become a teacher of
languages, or something of that sort.  I shall be free and happy.  Oh,
you will have a merry tale to tell, a merry adventure.  You will return
to your country.  You will be the envy of your compatriots.  You will
recount at your clubs a story such as men read, but never hear told!"
She was growing a bit hysterical.  As she looked at me she saw that my
face was grave.

"Is there no other way?" I asked.  "Can it not be accomplished without
scandal?"

"No.  There must be scandal.  Otherwise I should be brought back and
forgiven, and no one would know.  In a certain sense, I am valuable.
The Hohenphalians love me; I am something of an idol to them.  The King
appreciates my rule.  It gives him a knowledge that there will be no
internal troubles in Hohenphalia so long as matters stand as they now
do.  Still, there are limits to the King's patience; and I am about to
try them severely.  But monsieur hesitates; he will withdraw his
promise."

"No, your Highness," said I, "I have given my word.  As for the
scandal, it is not for myself that I care.  It will be a jolly
adventure for me; and then, I shall have such a clever story to tell my
friends at the clubs."

She saw that I was offended.  "Forgive me, monsieur; I know that you
would do no such thing.  But let me explain to you.  At the station we
will be intercepted by two trusted and high officials at court."

"What!" I exclaimed; "do they know?"

"No; but I shall write to them anonymously, the note to be placed in
their hands immediately we leave the premises."

I looked at the woman in wonder.

"But this is madness!" I cried.

"Directly you will see the method in the madness.  Without their
knowing there could be no scandal.  They will try to stop us.  You will
over-power and bind them.  There will also be several other witnesses
who will not be participants.  Through them it will become known that I
have eloped with an American.  Oh, it is a well-laid plan."

"But, supposing I am overpowered myself, thrown into jail and I know
not what?"  All this was more than I had bargained for.

"Nothing of the kind will happen.  Monsieur will hold a pistol in each
hand when the carriage door is opened.  You will say: 'I am a desperate
man; one of you bind the other, or I fire!'  It will be done.  You will
spring upon the remaining one and I will help you to bind him likewise.
Oh, you will accomplish it well; you are a strong man; moreover, you
are rapid."

I sat in my chair, speechless.  Here was a woman of details.  I had
never met one before.

"Well, does monsieur accept the adventure or does he politely decline?"
There was a subtle taunt in her tones.  That decided me.

"Your Highness, I should be happy to meet a thousand Uhlans to do you
service.  What you ask me to do is quite simple."  I knew that I should
lose my head in case of failure.  I rose and bowed as unconcernedly as
though she had but asked me to join her with a cup of tea.

"Ah, monsieur, you are a man!"  And she laughed softly as she saw me
throw back my shoulders.  There was unmistakable admiration in her
eyes.  "And yet," with a sudden frown, "there will be danger.  You may
slip; you may become injured.  Yes, there is danger."

"Your Highness," said I lowly, compelling her eyes to meet mine, "it is
not the danger of the adventure or its results that I most fear."  I
was honest enough to make my meaning clear.

She blushed.  "I said that I trusted monsieur's honor," was her
rejoinder.  "Come," with a return of her imperiousness; "it is time
that we were gone!"  She drew on her cloak and dropped the veil.  "I
might add," she said, "that we will remain in France one hour.  From
there you may go your way, and I shall go secretly to my palace."

And the glamour fell away like the last leaves of the year.

I had to wake up the driver, who had fallen asleep.

"Where shall I say?" I asked.

"To your hotel.  I shall give the driver the remaining instructions."

"But you haven't told me," said I, as I took my place in the carriage,
"how I am to become a guest at the dinner to-morrow evening."

"I spoke to the King this morning.  I said that I had a caprice.  He
replied that if I would promise it to be my last he would grant it.  I
promised.  I said that it was my desire to bring to the dinner a person
who, though without rank, was a gentleman--one who would grace any
gathering, kingly or otherwise.  My word was sufficient.  I knew before
I asked you that you would come.  Twenty-four hours from now we, that
is, you and I, will be on the way to the French frontier.  I shall be
ever in your debt."

Silence fell upon us.  I knew that I loved her with a love that was
burning me up, consuming me.  And the adventure was all so unheard of
for these prosaic times!  And so full of the charm of mystery was she
that I had not been a man not to have fallen a victim.  What
possibilities suggested themselves to me as on we rode!  Once across
the frontier I should be free to confess my love for her.  A Princess?
What of that?  She would be only a woman--the woman I loved.  I
trembled.  Something might happen so that she would have to turn to me.
If the King refused to forgive her, she was mine!  Ah, that plain
carriage held a wonderful dream that night.  At length--too shortly for
me--the vehicle drew up in front of my hotel.  As I was about to alight
her hand stretched toward me.  But instead of kissing it, I pressed my
lips on her round white arm.  As though my lips burned, she drew back.

"Have a care, monsieur; have a care," she said, icily.  "Such a kiss
has to be won."

I stammered an apology and stepped out.  Then I heard a low laugh.

"Good night, Mr. Hillars; you are a brave gentleman!"

The door closed and the vehicle sped away into the darkness.

I stood looking after it, bewildered.  Her last words were spoken in
pure English.

With the following evening came the dinner; and I as a guest, a
nervous, self-conscious guest, who started at every footstep.  I was
presented to the King, who eyed me curiously.  Seeing that I wore a
medal such as his Chancellor gives to men who sometimes do his country
service, he spoke to me and inquired how I had obtained it.  It was an
affair similar to the Balkistan; only there was not an army, but a mob.
The Princess was enchanting.  I grew reckless, and let her read my eyes
more than once; but she pretended not to see what was in them.  At
dinner a toast was given to his Majesty.  It was made with those steins
I showed you, Jack.

The Princess said softly to me, kissing the rim of the stein she held:
"My toast is not to the King, but to the gentleman!"  I had both steins
bundled up and left with the host, together with my address.

It was not long after that the eventful moment for our flight arrived.
I knew that I was basely to abuse the hospitality of the King.  But
what is a King to a man in love?  Presently we two were alone in the
garden, the Princess and myself.  She was whispering instructions,
telling me that I was a man of courage.

"It is not too late to back out," she said.

"I would face a thousand kings rather," I replied.

We could see at the gate the carriage which was to take us to the
station.  Now came the moment when I was tried by the crucible and
found to be dross.  I committed the most foolish blunder of my life.
My love suddenly overleapt its bounds.  In a moment my arms were around
her lithe body; my lips met hers squarely.  After it was done she stood
very still, as if incapable of understanding my offence.  But I
understood.  I was overwhelmed with remorse, love, and regret.  I had
made impossible what might have been.

"Your Highness," I cried, "I could not help it!  Before God I could
not!  It is because I love you better than anything in the world--you
cannot be of it!--and all this is impossible, this going away together."

Her bosom heaved, and her eyes flashed like a heated summer sky.

"I will give you one minute to leave this place," she said, her tones
as even and as cold as sudden repression of wrath could make them.  "I
trusted you, and you have dared to take advantage of what seemed my
helplessness.  It is well indeed for you that you committed this
outrage before it is too late.  I should have killed you then.  I might
have known.  Could ever a woman trust a man?"  She laughed
contemptuously.  "You would have made me a thing of scorn; and I
trusted you!"

"As God is my judge," I cried, "my respect for you is as high as heaven
itself.  I love you; is there nothing in that?  I am but human.  I am
not a stone image.  And you have tempted me beyond all control.  Pardon
what I have done; it was not the want of respect--."

"Spare me your protestations.  I believe your minute is nearly gone,"
she interrupted.

And then--there was a crunch on the gravel behind us.  The Princess and
I turned in dismay.  We had forgotten all about the anonymous note.
Two officers were approaching us, and rapidly.  The elder of the two
came straight to me.  I knew him to be as inexorable as his former
master, the victor of Sedan.  The Princess looked on mechanically.

"Come," said the Count, in broken English; "I believe your carriage is
at the gate."

I glanced at the Princess.  She might have been of stone, for all the
life she exhibited.

"Come; the comedy is a poor one," said the Count.

I followed him out of the garden.  My indifference to personal safety
was due to a numbness which had taken hold of me.

"Get in," he said, when we reached the carriage.  I did so, and he got
in after me.  The driver appeared confused.  It was not his fare,
according to the agreement.  "To the city," he was briefly told.  "Your
hotel?" turning to me.  I named it.  "Do you understand German?"

"But indifferently," I answered listlessly.

"It appears that you understand neither the language nor the people.
Who are you?"

"That is my concern," I retorted.  I was coming about, and not
unnaturally became vicious.

"It concerns me also," was the gruff reply.

"Have your own way about it."

"How came you by that medal?" pointing to my breast.

"Honestly," said I.

"Honestly or dishonestly, it is all the same." He made a move to detach
it, and I caught his hand.

"Please don't do that.  I am extremely irritable; and I might throw you
out of the window.  I can get back to my hotel without guidance."

"I am going to see you to your lodgings," asserted the Count, rubbing
his wrist, for I had put some power into my grasp.

"Still, I might take it into my head to throw you out."

"You'd better not try."

"Are you afraid?"

"Yes.  There would be a scandal.  Not that I would care about the death
of a miserable adventurer, but it might possibly reflect upon the
virtue of her Highness the Princess Hildegarde."

"What do you want?" I growled.

"I want to see if your passports are proper so that you will have no
difficulty in passing over the frontier."

"Perhaps it would be just as well to wake the American Minister?" I
suggested.

"Not at all.  If you were found dead there might be a possibility of
that.  But I should explain to him, and he would understand that it was
a case without diplomatic precedent."

"Well?"

"You are to leave this country at once, sir; that is, if you place any
value upon your life."

"Oh; then it is really serious?"

"Very.  It is a matter of life and death--to you.  Moreover, you must
never enter this country again.  If you do, I will not give a pfennig
for your life."

He found my passports in good order.  I permitted him to rummage
through some of my papers.

"Ach! a damned scribbler, too!" coming across some of my notes.

"Quite right, Herr General," said I.  I submitted because I didn't care.

My luggage was packed off to the station, where he saw that my ticket
was for Paris.

"Good morning," he said, as I entered the carriage compartment.  "The
devil will soon come to his own; ach!"

"My compliments to him when you see him!" I called back, not to be
outdone in the matter of courtesy.


"And that is all, Jack," concluded Hillars.  "For all these months not
an hour has passed in which I have not cursed the folly of that moment.
Instead of healing under the balm of philosophy, the wound grows more
painful every day.  She did not love me, I know, but she would have
been near me.  And if the King had taken away her principality, she
would have needed me in a thousand ways.  And it is not less than
possible that in time she might have learned the lesson of love.  But
now--if she is the woman I believe her to be, she never could love me
after what has happened.  And knowing this, I can't leave liquor alone,
and don't want to.  In my cups I do not care."

"I feel sorry for you both," said I.  "Has the Prince married her yet?"

"No.  It has been postponed.  Next Monday I am going back.  I am going
in hopes of getting into trouble.  I may never see her again, perhaps.
To-morrow, to-morrow!  Who knows?  Well, I'm off to bed.  Good night."

And I was left alone with my thoughts.  They weren't very good company.
To-morrow indeed, I thought.  I sat and smoked till my tongue smarted.
I had troubles of my own, and wondered how they would end.  Poor
Hillars!  As I look back to-day, I marvel that we could not see the
end.  The mystery of life seems simple to us who have lived most of it,
and can look down through the long years.



CHAPTER VI

During the first year of my residence in London there happened few
events worth chronicling.  Shortly after my arrival Hillars
disappeared.  His two months' vacation stretched into twelve, and I was
directed to remain in London.  As I knew that Hillars did not wish to
be found I made no inquiries.  He was somewhere on the Continent, but
where no one knew.  At one time a letter dated at St. Petersburg
reached me, and at another time I was informed of his presence at Monte
Carlo.  In neither letter was there any mention of her Serene Highness,
the Princess Hildegarde of Hohenphalia.  Since the night he recounted
the adventure the wayward Princess had never become the topic of
conversation.  I grew hopeful enough to believe that he had forgotten
her.  Occasionally I received a long letter from Phyllis.  I always
promptly answered it.  To any one but me her letters would have proved
interesting reading.  It was not for what she wrote that I cared, it
was the mere fact that she wrote.  A man cannot find much pleasure in
letters which begin with "Dear friend," and end with "Yours sincerely,"
when they come from the woman he loves.

In the preceding autumn I completed my first novel.  I carried it
around to publishers till I grew to hate it as one hates a Nemesis, and
when finally I did place it, it was with a publisher who had just
started in business and was necessarily obscure.  I bowed politely to
my dreams of literary fame and became wholly absorbed in my
journalistic work.  When the book came out I could not but admire the
excellence of the bookmaking, but as I looked through the reviews and
found no mention save in "books received," I threw the book aside and
vowed that it should be my last.  The publisher wrote me that he was
surprised that the book had not caught on, as he considered the story
unusually clever.  "Merit is one thing," he said, "but luck is
another."  I have found this to be true, not only in literature, but in
all walks of life where fame and money are the goals.  Phyllis wrote me
that she thought the book "just splendid"; but I took her praise with a
grain of salt, it being likely that she was partial to the author, and
that the real worth of the book was little in comparison with the fact
that it was I who wrote it.

One morning in early June I found three letters on my desk.  The first
was from Hillars.  He was in Vienna.


"MY DEAR SON," it ran, "there is another rumpus.  The Princess
disappeared on the 20th of last month.  They are hunting high and low
for her, and incidentally for me.  Why me, is more than I can
understand.  But I received a letter from Rockwell of the American
Legation warning me that if I remained in Austria I should be
apprehended, put in jail, hanged and quartered for no other reason on
earth than that they suspect me having something to do with her
disappearance.  Due, I suppose, to that other miserable affair.  Though
I have hunted all over the Continent, I have never seen the Princess
Hildegarde since that night at B----.  Where shall I find her?   I
haven't the least idea.   But as a last throw, I am going to the
principality of Hohenphalia, where she was born and over which she
rules with infinite wisdom.  The King is determined that she shall wed
Prince Ernst.  He would take away her principality but for the fact
that there would be a wholesale disturbance to follow any such act.  If
I ever meet that watch dog of hers, the Count von Walden, the duffer
who gave me my congé, there will be trouble.  The world isn't large
enough for two such men as we are.  By the way, I played roulette at
the Casino last night and won 3,000 francs.  Well, au revoir or adieu
as the case may be.  They sell the worst whiskey here you ever heard
of.  It's terrible to have an educated palate.

"HILLARS."


So he was still desiring for something he could never have!  I got out
of patience with the fellow.  Even if she loved him, what chance had he
against the legions of the King?  Hillars was a wild-headed fellow,
and, if at liberty, was not incapable of creating a disturbance.  It
might land him in jail, or on the gallows.  The phlegmatic German is
not particular whom he hangs.  In that wide domain there is always some
petty revolution going on.  In each of those petty kingdoms, or
principalities, or duchies, there are miniature Rousseaus and Voltaires
who shout liberty and equality in beer halls and rouse the otherwise
peaceful citizens to warfare; short, it is true, but none the less
warfare.  Military despotism is the tocsin.  When the King presses an
unwilling subject into the army, upon his discharge the unwilling
subject, usually a peasant, becomes a socialist.  These Rousseaus and
Voltaires have a certain amount of education, but they lack daring.  If
a man like Hillars, who had not only brains but daring, should get
mixed up in one of these embroglios, some blood would be spilled before
the trouble became adjusted.  Still, Hillars, with all his love of
adventure, was not ordinarily reckless.  Yet, if he met the Princess,
she would find a willing tool in him for her slightest caprice.
Whatever happened the brunt would fall upon him.  My opinion, formed
from various stories I had heard of the Princess, was not very
flattering to her.  The letter and its possibilities disturbed me.

The second letter was from headquarters in New York.


"DEAR WINTHROP--We want a good Sunday special.  Her Serene Highness the
Princess Hildegarde of Hohenphalia has taken it into her head to
disappear again.  Go over and see Rockwell in B----; he will give you a
good yarn.  It has never been in type yet, and I daresay that it will
make good reading.  London seems particularly dull just now, and you
can easily turn over your affairs to the assistant.  This woman's life
is more full of romance than that of any other woman of the courts of
Europe.  The most interesting part of it is her reputation is said to
be like that of Caesar's wife--above reproach.  Get a full history of
her life and of the Prince whom she is to marry.  If you can get any
photographs do so.  I know how you dislike this sort of work, prying
into private affairs, as you call it, but with all these sensational
sheets springing up around us, we must keep in line now and then.  Do
you know anything about Hillars; is he dead or alive?  Take all the
time you want for the story and send it by mail."


"The Princess Hildegarde!" I cried aloud.  "The deuce take the woman!"

"What's that?" asked my assistant, who had overheard my outburst.

"Oh, I am to go across on a special story," I said with a snarl, "just
as I was fixing for a week's fishing.  I've got to concern myself with
the Princess Hildegarde of Hohenphalia."

"Ah, the Princess Hildegarde?" said the young fellow, pushing back his
hat and elevating his feet, a trick he had acquired while being reared
in his native land, which was the State of Illinois, in America.  "You
want to be careful.  Every one burns his fingers or singes his wings
around that candle."

"What do you know about her?" I asked.

"A little.  You see, about six months ago I discovered all regarding
Hillars and his fall from grace.  It was through the Reuter agency.
Hillars got badly singed.  An elopement of some sort between him and
the Princess was nipped in the bud.  He was ordered to leave the
country and warned never to return, at the peril of his liberty.  A
description of him is with every post on the frontier.  As for the
Princess she is an interesting character.  She was educated in this
country and France.  She speaks several languages.  She is headstrong
and wilful, and her royal guardian is only too anxious to see her
married and settled down.  She masquerades in men's clothes when it
pleases her, she can ride a horse like a trooper, she fences and
shoots, she has fought two duels, and heaven alone knows what she has
not done to disturb the tranquility of the Court.  For a man she loved
she would be a merry comrade.  I saw her once in Paris.  She is an
extraordinarily beautiful woman.  A man takes no end of risk when he
concerns himself with her affairs, I can tell you.  Hillars--Well, I
suppose it's none of my business.  He must have had an exciting time of
it," concluded the young man.

"I'll leave you in charge for a week or so," said I.  "What little news
there is at the Houses you can cover.  I'll take care of anything of
importance that occurs abroad.  I might as well pack up and get out
to-night.  A boat leaves Dover early in the morning."

Then I picked up the third and last letter.  It was from Phyllis.  It
contained the enjoyable news that the Wentworths were coming abroad,
and that they would remain indefinitely at B----, where Mr. Wentworth
had been appointed chargé d'affaires under the American Minister.  They
were to visit the Mediterranean before coming to London.  They would be
in town in October.  The mere thought of seeing Phyllis made my heart
throb.

The next morning I put out from Dover.  It was a rough passage for that
time of the year, and I came near being sea-sick.  A day or so in Paris
brought me around, and I proceeded.  As I passed the frontier I noticed
that my passports were eagerly scanned, and that I was closely
scrutinized for some reason or other.

A smartly dressed officer occupied half of the carriage compartment
with me.  I tried to draw him into conversation, but he proved to be
untalkative; so I busied myself with the latest issue of the Paris
_L'Illustration_.  I never glanced in the direction of the officer but
what I found him staring intently at me.  This irritated me.  The
incident was repeated so many times that I said:

"I trust Herr will remember me in the days to come."

"Eh?" somewhat startled, I thought.

"I observed that you will possibly remember me in the days to come.
Or, perhaps I resemble some one you know."

"Not in the least," was the haughty retort.

I shrugged and relit my pipe.  The tobacco I had purchased in Paris,
and it was of the customary vileness.  Perhaps I could smoke out Mein
Herr.  But the task resulted in a boomerang.  He drew out a huge china
pipe and began smoking tobacco which was even viler than mine, if that
could be possible.  Soon I let down the window.

"Does the smoke disturb Herr?" he asked, puffing forth great clouds of
smoke.  There was a shade of raillery in his tones.

"It would not," I answered, "if it came from tobacco."

He subsided.

Whenever there was a stop of any length I stepped out and walked the
platform.  The officer invariably followed my example.  I pondered over
this each time I re-entered the carriage.  At last my irritation turned
into wrath.

"Are you aware that your actions are very annoying?"

"How, sir?" proudly.

"You stare me out of countenance, you refrain from entering into
conversation, and by the way you follow me in and out of the carriage,
one would say that you were watching me.  All this is not common
politeness."

"Herr jests," he replied with a forced smile.  "If I desire not to
converse, that is my business.  As for getting in and out of the
carriage, have I no rights as a passenger?"

It was I who subsided.  A minute passed.

"But why do you stare at me?" I asked.

"I do not stare at you, I have no paper and tried to read yours at a
distance.  I am willing to apologize for that."

"Oh, that is different," I said.  I tossed the paper to him.  "You are
welcome to the paper."

I covertly watched him as he tried to read the French.  By and by he
passed the paper back.

"I am not a very good French scholar, and the French are tiresome."

"They would not have been if they had had a General who thought more of
fighting than of wearing pretty clothes."

"Oh, it would not have mattered," confidently.

"Prussia was once humbled by a Frenchman."  I was irritating him with a
purpose in view.

"Bah!"

"The only reason the French were beaten was because they did not think
the German race worth troubling about."

He laughed pleasantly.  "You Americans have a strange idea of the
difference between the German and the Frenchman."

This was just what I wanted.

"And who informed you that I was an American?"

He was disconcerted.

"Why," he said, lamely, "it is easily apparent, the difference between
the American and the Englishman."  Then, as though a bright idea had
come to him, "The English never engage in conversation with strangers
while traveling.  Americans are more sociable."

"They are?  Then I advise them to follow the example set by the
Englishman: Never try to get up a conversation while traveling with a
German.  It is a disagreeable task;" and I settled back behind my paper.

How had he found out that I was an American?  Was I known?  And for
what reason was I known?  To my knowledge I had never committed any
offence to the extent that I must be watched like a suspect.  What his
object was and how he came to know that I was an American was a mystery
to me.  I was glad that the journey would last but an hour or so
longer.  The train arrived at the capital late at night.  As I went to
inquire about my luggage I saw my late fellow passenger joined by
another officer.  The two began talking earnestly, giving me occasional
side-long glances.  The mystery was deepening.  In passing them I
caught words which sounded like "under another name" and "positive it
is he."  This was anything but reassuring to me.  At length they
disappeared, only to meet me outside the station.  It got into my head
that I was a marked man.  A feeling of discomfort took possession of
me.  Germans are troublesome when they get an idea.  I was glad to get
into the carriage which was to take me to my hotel.  The driver seemed
to have some difficulty in starting the horse, but I gave this no
attention.  When the vehicle did start it was with a rapidity which
alarmed me.  Corner after corner was turned, and the lights went by in
flashes.  It was taking a long time to reach my hotel, I thought.
Suddenly it dawned upon me that the direction we were going was
contrary to my instructions.  I tried to open the window, but it
refused to move.  Then I hammered on the pane, but the driver was deaf,
or purposely so.

"Hi there!" I thoughtlessly yelled in English, "where the devil are you
going?"

No one paid any attention to my cries.  It was becoming a serious
matter.  The lights grew fewer and fewer, and presently there were no
lights at all.  We were, I judged, somewhere in the suburbs.  I became
desperate and smashed a window.  The carriage stopped so abruptly that
I went sprawling to the bottom.  I was in anything but a peaceful frame
of mind, as they say, when the door swung open and I beheld, standing
at the side of it, the officer who had accompanied me from the frontier.

"What tomfoolery is this?" I demanded.  I was thoroughly incensed.

"It means that Herr will act peacefully or be in danger of a broken
head," was the mind-easing reply of my quondam fellow passenger.  The
driver then came down from the box, and I saw that he was the officer
who had joined us at the station.

"If it is a frolic," I said, "one of your beer hall frolics, the sooner
it is ended the better for you."

The two laughed as if what I had said was one of the funniest things
imaginable.

"Get out!"

"With pleasure!" said I.

Directly one of them lay with his back to the ground and the other was
locked in my embrace.  I had not spent four years on the college campus
for intellectual benefits only.  And indignation lent me additional
strength.  My opponent was a powerful man, but I held him in a grip of
rage.  Truthfully, I began to enjoy the situation.  There is something
exhilarating in the fighting blood which rises in us now and then.
This exhilaration, however, brought about my fall.  In the struggle I
forgot the other, who meantime had recovered his star-gemmed senses.  A
crack from the butt of his pistol rendered me remarkably quiet and
docile.  In fact, all became a vacancy till the next morning, and then
I was conscious of a terrible headache, and of a room with a window
through which a cat might have climbed without endangering its spine--a
very dexterous cat.

"Well," I mused, softly nursing the lump on my head, "here's the devil
to pay, and not a cent to pay him with."

It was evident that, without knowing it, I had become a very important
personage.



CHAPTER VII

I saw some rye bread, cold meat and a pitcher of water on the table,
and I made a sandwich and washed it down with a few swallows of the
cool liquid.  I had a fever and the water chilled it.  There was a lump
on the back of my head as large as an egg.  With what water remained I
dampened my handkerchief and wound it around the injury.  Then I made a
systematic search through my clothes.  Not a single article of my
belongings was missing.  I was rather sorry, for it lent a deeper
significance to my incarceration.  After this, I proceeded to take an
inventory of my surroundings.  Below and beyond the little window I saw
a wide expanse of beautiful gardens, fine oaks and firs, velvet lawns
and white pebbled roads.  Marble fountains made them merry in the
roseate hue of early morning.  A gardener was busy among some hedges,
but beyond the sound of my voice.  I was a prisoner in no common jail,
then, but in the garret of a private residence.  Having satisfied
myself that there was no possible escape, I returned to my pallet and
lay down.  Why I was here a prisoner I knew not.  I thought over all I
had written the past twelvemonth, but nothing recurred to me which
would make me liable to arrest.  But, then, I had not been arrested.  I
had been kidnapped, nothing less.  Nothing had been asked of me; I had
made no statement.  It had been all too sudden.  Presently I heard
footsteps in the corridor, and the door opened.  It was mine enemy.  He
locked the door and thrust the key into his pocket.  One of his eyes
was decidedly mouse-colored.  The knuckles of my hand were yet sore.  I
smiled; he saw the smile, his jaws hardening and his eyes threatening.

"I am sorry," I said.  "I should have hit you on the point of your
chin; but I was in a great hurry.  Did you ever try raw meat as a
poultice?"

"Enough of this," he snapped, laying a pistol on the table.  I was
considered dangerous; it was something to know that.  "You must answer
my questions."

"Must?"

"Must."

"Young man you have no tact.  You are not an accomplished villain,"
said I, pleasantly.  "You should begin by asking me how I spent the
night, and if there was not something you could do for my material
comfort.  Perhaps, however, you will first answer a few questions of
mine?"

"There are only two men whose questions I answer," he said.

"And who might they be?"

"My commander and the King.  I will answer one question--the reason you
are here.  You are a menace to the tranquility of the State."

"Oh; then I have the honor of being what is called a prisoner of State?
Be careful," I cried, suddenly; "that pistol might go off, and then the
American Minister might ask you in turn some questions, disagreeable
ones, too."

"The American Minister would never know anything about it," said he,
gruffly.  "But have no fear; I should hesitate to soil an innocent
leaden bullet in your carcass."

"Be gentle," I advised, "or when we meet again I shall feel it my duty
to dull the lustre of your other eye."

"Pah!" he ejaculated.  "We are indebted to the French for the word
canaille, which applies to all Americans and Englishmen."

"Now," said I, climbing off the pallet, "I shall certainly do it."

"I warn you not to approach me," he cried, his fingers closing over the
pistol.

"Well, I promise not to do it now," I declared, going over to the
window.  I found some satisfaction in his nervousness; it told me that
he feared me.  "What place is this; a palace?"

"Answer this question, sir: Why did you cross the frontier when you
were expressly forbidden to do so?"

"I forbidden to cross the frontier?"  My astonishment was
indescribable.  "Young man, you have made a blunder of some sort.  I am
not a Socialist or an Anarchist.  I have never been forbidden to cross
the frontier of any country.  Your Chancellor is one of the best
friends I have in the world.  I went to school with his son."

He rocked to and fro on the table, laughing honestly and heartily.
"You do not lack impudence.  Are you, or are you not, the London
correspondent of the New York ------?"

"I certainly am."

"You admit it?" eagerly.

"I see no earthly reason why I should not."

"When did you last visit this city?"

"Several years ago."

"Several years ago?" incredulously.

"Exactly.  Have you ever seen me before?"

"No.  But it was a little less than two years ago when you were here."

"It is scarcely polite," said I, "to question the veracity of a man you
never saw before and of whom you know positively nothing."  Suddenly my
head began to throb again and I grew dizzy.  "You hit me rather soundly
with that pistol.  Still, your eye ought to be a recompense."

He replied with a scowl.

"Perhaps your name is ------"

"Winthrop, John Winthrop, if that will throw any light on the subject."'

"One name is as good as another," with a smile of unbelief.

"That is true.  What's in a name?  There is little difference, after
all, between the names of the nobility and the rabble."

"You are determined to irritate me beyond measure," said he.  A German
is the most sensitive man in the world as regards his title.

"Grant that I have some cause.  And perhaps," observing him from the
corner of my eye, "it is because you smoke such vile tobacco."

Remembering the incident in the railway carriage, he smiled in spite of
the gravity of the situation.

"It was the best I had," he said; "and then, it was done in
self-defence.  I'll give you credit for being a fearless individual.
But you haven't answered my question."

"What question?"

"Why you returned to this country when you were expressly forbidden to
do so."

"I answered that," said I.  "And now let me tell you that you may go on
asking questions till the crack of doom, but no answer will I give you
till you have told me why I am here, I, who do not know you or what
your business is, or what I am supposed to have done."

He began to look doubtful.  He thumped the table with the butt of the
pistol.

"Do you persist in affirming that your name is Winthrop?"

"These gardens are very fine.  I could see them better," said I, "if
the window was larger."

"Perhaps," he cried impatiently, "you do not know where she is?"

"She?"  I looked him over carefully.  There was a perfectly sane light
in his eyes.  "Am I crazy, or is it you?  She?  I know nothing about
any she!"

"Do you dare deny that you know of the whereabouts of her Serene
Highness the Princess Hildegarde, and that you did not come here with
the purpose to aid her to escape the will of his Majesty?  And do you
mean--Oh, here, read this!" flinging me a cablegram.

The veil of mystery fell away from my eyes.  I had been mistaken for
Hillars.  Truly, things were growing interesting.  I bent and picked up
the cablegram and read:


"COUNT VON WALDEN: He has left London and is on his way to the capital.
Your idea to allow him to cross the frontier is a good one.
Undoubtedly he knows where the Princess is in hiding.  In trapping him
you will ultimately trap her.  Keep me informed."


The name signed was that of a well-known military attaché at the
Embassy in London.  I tossed back the cablegram.

"Well?" triumphantly.

"No, it is not well; it is all very bad, and particularly for you.
Your London informant is decidedly off the track.  The man you are
looking for is in Vienna."

"I do not believe you!  It is a trick."

"Yes, it is a trick, and I am taking it, and you have lost a point, to
say nothing of the time and labor and a black eye.  If you had asked
all these questions yesterday I should have told you that Mr.
Hillars----"

"Yes, that's the name!" he interrupted.

"I should have told you that he is no longer the London representative
of my paper.  It is true that the description of Hillars and myself
tallies somewhat, only my hair is dark, while his is light, what there
is left of it, and he is a handsomer man than I.  All this I should
have told you with pleasure, and you would have been saved no end of
trouble.  I presume that there is nothing left for you to do but to
carry me back to the city.  To quell any further doubt, here are my
passports, and if these are not satisfactory, why take me before Prince
O----, your Chancellor."

He was irresolute, and half inclined to believe me.

"I do not know what to do.  You know, then, the gentleman I am seeking?"

"Yes."

"Would he enter this country under an assumed name?"

"No.  He is a man who loves excitement.  Whatever he does is done
openly.  Had it been he instead of me, he would have thrown you out of
the carriage at the first sign on your part that you were watching him.
He is a very strong man."

"If he is stronger than you, I am half glad that I got the wrong man.
You strike a pretty hard blow.  But, whether you are the man I want, or
not, you will have to remain till this afternoon, when the Count will
put in appearance.  I daresay it is possible that I have made a
mistake.  But I could not do otherwise in face of my instructions."

"The Princess seems to me more trouble than she is worth."

"It is possible that you have never seen her Highness," he said,
hinting a smile.  "She is worth all the trouble in the world."

"If a man loved her," I suggested.

"And what man does not who has seen her and talked to her?" he replied,
pacing.

"The interest, then, you take in her discovery is not all due to that
imposed upon you by Count von Walden?"  I could not resist this thrust.

"The subject is one that does not admit discussion," squaring his
shoulders.

"Suppose we talk of something that does not concern her?  All this is a
blunder for which you are partly to blame.  I have a bad lump on my
head and you have a black eye.  But as you did what you believed to be
your duty, and as I did what every man does when self-preservation
becomes his first thought, let us cry quits.  Come, what do you say to
a game of cards?  Let us play ecarte, or I will teach you the noble
game of poker.  To tell you the truth, I am becoming dreadfully bored."

"Believe me, I bear you no ill will," he said, "and I am inclined to
your side of the story.  Whoever you are, you have the bearing of a
gentleman; and, now that we have come to an understanding, I shall
treat you as such.  I have a pack of cards downstairs.  I'll go and get
them.  This is not my house, or I should have placed you in better
quarters.  I shall leave the door unlocked," a question in his eyes.

"Rest assured that I shall return to the city as I came--in a carriage.
And to be honest, I am anxious to see the Count von Walden, who poses
as the Princess's watchdog."

And when he came back and found me still sitting on the pallet, his
face cleared.

We played for small sums, and the morning passed away rather pleasantly
than otherwise.  The young officer explained to me that he held an
important position at court, and that he was entitled to prefix Baron
to his name.

"The King is getting out of all patience with her Highness," he said.
"This makes the second time the marriage has been postponed.  Such
occurrences are extremely annoying to his Majesty, who does not relish
having his commands so flagrantly disregarded.  I shouldn't be
surprised if he forced her into the marriage."

"When he knows how distasteful this marriage is to her, why does he not
let the matter go?"

"It is too late now.  Royalty, having given its word, never retracts
it.  Events which the King wills must come to pass, or he loses a part
of his royal dignity.  And then, a King cannot very well be subservient
to the will of a subject."

"But has she no rights as a petty sovereign?" I asked.

"Only those which the King is kind enough to give her.  She is but a
tenant: the rulers of Hohenphalia are but guests of his Majesty.  It is
to be regretted, but it cannot be helped."

That afternoon, as I lay on my pallet, it seemed to me that in some
unaccountable way I was destined to become concerned in the affairs of
her Serene Highness.  I had never seen the woman, not even a picture of
her.  Certainly, she must be worth loving, inasmuch as she was worth
trouble.  I have always found it to be the troublesome woman who has
the largest train of lovers.  Troublesome, they are interesting;
interesting, they are lovable.

It was more than a year since last I saw Phyllis; yet my love for her
knew no diminution.  I began to understand why Hillars traveled all
over the Continent to get a glimpse of the woman he loved.  With the
pleasant thought that I should see Phyllis again, I dozed.  I was half
asleep when I was aroused by loud voices in the corridor.

"But I do not believe him to be the man," I heard my jailer declare.

"Bah!  I know there is no mistake," roared a voice which was accustomed
to command.  "He's been trying to hoodwink you.  Watch the surprise in
his face when he sees me, the cursed meddler and scribbler.  It would
be a pleasure to witness his hanging.  Come, show him to me."

"Yes; come along, my dear old warhorse," I murmured, turning my face
toward the wall.  "There is a nice little surprise party in here
waiting for you."

The door opened.

"Unlocked!" bawled the Count.  "What does this mean, Baron?"

"He gave his word as a gentleman," was the quiet reply.

"Gentleman?  Ach!  I'll take a look at the gentleman," said the Count,
stepping up to the pallet and shaking me roughly by the shoulder.
"Wake up!"

I sat up so as not to miss the comedy which was about to set its scenes
upon the grim visage of the Count.  As his eyes met mine his jaw fell.

"A thousand devils!  Who are you?"

"I couldn't swear," said I, meekly.  "Everybody hereabouts insists that
I am some one else.  The situation warrants a complete explanation.
Perhaps you can give it?"  I should have laughed but for those flashing
eyes.

"You are a blockhead," he said to his subaltern.

"He is the man, according to your London correspondent," responded the
other with some show of temper.  "I cannot see that the fault lies at
my door.  You told me that he would enter the country under an assumed
name."

"I presume the affair is ended so far as I am concerned," I said,
shaking the lameness from my legs.

"Of course, of course!" replied the Count, pulling at his gray
mustaches, which flared out on either side like the whiskers of a cat.

"I should like to return to the city at once," I added.

"Certainly.  I regret that you have been the victim of a blunder for
which some one shall suffer.  Your compatriot has caused me a deal of
trouble."

"I assure you that he is in no wise connected with the present matter.
According to his latest advices he is at Vienna."

"I should be most happy to believe that," was the Count's rejoinder,
which inferred that he didn't believe it.

"My friend seems to be a dangerous person?"

"All men of brains, coupled with impudence, are dangerous; and I give
your friend credit for being as brave as he is impudent.  But come, my
carriage is at your service.  You are a journalist, but you will
promise not to make public this unfortunate mistake."

I acquiesced.

When the Count and I parted company I had not the vaguest idea that we
should ever hold conversation again.

The result of the adventure was, I sent a very interesting story to New
York, omitting my part in it.  This done, I wired my assistant in
London not to expect me for some time yet.

The truth was, I determined to hunt for Hillars, and incidentally for
her Serene Highness the Princess Hildegarde of Hohenphalia.



CHAPTER VIII

As I came along the road, the dust of which had been laid that
afternoon by an odorous summer rain, the principal thing which struck
my eyes was the quaintness and unquestioned age of the old inn.  It was
a relic of the days when feudal lords still warred with one another,
and the united kingdom was undreamt of.  It looked to be 300 years old,
and might have been more.  From time to time it had undergone various
repairs, as shown by the new stone and signs of modern masonry, the
slate peeping out among the moss-covered tiles.  It sat back from the
highway, and was surrounded by thick rows of untrimmed hedges, and was
partly concealed from view by oaks and chestnuts.  The gardens were
full of roses all in bloom, and their perfumes hung heavy on the moist
air.  And within a stone's throw of the rear the Danube noiselessly
slid along its green banks.  All I knew about the inn was that it had
been by a whim of nature the birthplace of that beautiful, erratic and
irresponsible young person, her Serene Highness the Princess
Hildegarde.  It was here I thought to find Hillars; though it was idle
curiosity as much as anything which led me to the place.

The village was five miles below.  I could see the turrets of the
castle which belonged to the Princess.  She was very wealthy, and owned
as many as three strongholds in the petty principality of Hohenphalia.
Capricious indeed must have been the woman who was ready to relinquish
them for freedom.

The innkeeper was a pleasant, ruddy-cheeked old man, who had seen
service.  He greeted me with some surprise; tourists, he said, seldom
made this forgotten, out-of-the-way village an objective point.  I
received a room which commanded a fine view of the river and a stretch
of the broad highway.  I was the only guest.  This very loneliness
pleased me.  My travel-stained suit I exchanged for knickerbockers and
a belted jacket.  I went down to supper; it was a simple affair, and I
was made to feel at home.  From the dining-room I caught a momentary
flash of white skirts in the barroom.

"Ah," I thought; "a barmaid.  If she is pretty it will be a diversion."

In the course of my wanderings I had seen few barmaids worth looking at
twice.

When the table was cleared I lit a cigar and strolled into the gardens.
The evening air was delicious with the smell of flowers, still wet with
rain.  The spirit of the breeze softly whispered among the branches
above me.  Far up in the darkening blues a hawk circled.  The west was
a thread of yellow flame; the moon rose over the hills in the east;
Diana on the heels of Apollo!  And the river!  It was as though Nature
had suddenly become lavish in her bounty and had sent a stream of
melting silver trailing over all the land.  There is nothing more
beautiful to see than placid water as it reflects a summer's twilight.
The blue Danube!  Who has heard that magic name without the remembrance
of a face close to your own, an arm, bare, white, dazzling, resting and
gleaming like marble on your broadcloth sleeve, and above all, the
dreamy, swinging strains of Strauss?  There was a face once which had
rested near mine.  Heigho!  I lingered with my cigar and watched the
night reveal itself.  I lay at the foot of a tree, close to the water's
edge, and surrendered to the dream-god.  Some of my dreams knew the
bitterness of regret.  "Men have died and worms have eaten them, but
not for love."  Yet, no man who has loved and lost can go through his
allotted time without the consciousness that he has missed something,
something which leaves each triumph empty and incomplete.

And then, right in the midst of my dreams, a small foot planted itself.
I turned my head and saw a woman.  On seeing the bright end of my
cigar, she stopped.  She stood so that the light of the moon fell full
upon her face.

My cigar trembled and fell.

"Phyllis!" I cried, springing to my feet, almost dumbfounded, my heart
nigh suffocating me in its desire to leap forth.  "Phyllis!--and here?
What does this mean?"

The woman looked at me with a puzzled frown, but did not answer.  Then,
as I started toward her with outstretched arms, she turned and fled
into the shadows, leaving with me nothing but the echo of her laughter,
the softest, sweetest laughter!  I made no effort to follow her,
because I was not quite sure that I had seen anything.

"Moonlight!"  I laughed discordantly.

Phyllis in this deserted place?  I saw how impossible that was.  I had
been dreaming.  The spirit of some wood-nymph had visited me, and for a
brief space had borrowed the features of the woman I loved.  In vain I
searched the grove.  The vision was nowhere to be found.  I went back
to the inn somewhat shaken up.

Several old veterans were seated in the barroom, smoking bad tobacco
and drinking a final bout.  Their jargon was unintelligible to me.

"Where's your barmaid?" I asked of the inn-keeper.

His faded blue eyes scanned me sharply.  I read a question in them and
wondered.

"She went into the garden to get a breath of fresh air," he said.  "She
does not like the smoke."

It annoyed me.  I had seen some one, then.  What would Phyllis, proud
Phyllis, say, I mused, when she heard that a barmaid was her prototype?
This thought had scarcely left me when the door in the rear of the bar
opened and in came the barmaid herself.  No, it was not Phyllis, but
the resemblance was so startling that I caught my breath and stared at
her with a persistency which bordered on rudeness.  The barmaid was
blonde, whereas Phyllis was neither blonde nor brunette, but stood
between the extremes, and there was a difference in the eyes: I could
see that even in the insufficient light.

"Good evening, fraulein," said I, with apparent composure.  "And what
might your name be?"

"It is Gretchen, if it please you," with a courtesy.  I had a vague
idea that this courtesy was made mockingly.

"Gretchen?  I have heard the name before," said I, "and you remind me
of some one I have seen."

"Herr has been to the great city?"

B---- is the greatest city in the world to the provincial.

"Yes," said I; "but you remind me of no one I ever saw there."

She plucked a leaf from the rose she wore and began nibbling at it.
Her mouth was smaller than the one belonging to Phyllis.

"The person to whom I refer," I went on, "lives in America, where your
compatriots brew fine beer and wax rich."

"Ah, Herr is an American?  I like Americans," archly.  "They are so
liberal."

I laughed, but I did not tell her why.  All foreigners have a great
love of Americans--"They are so liberal."

"So you find Americans liberal?  Is it with money or with compliments?"

Said Gretchen: "The one when they haven't the other."

A very bright barmaid, thought I.

Then I said: "Is this your home?"

"Yes," said Gretchen.  "I was born here and I have tended the roses for
ever so long."

"I have heard of Gretchen of the steins, but I never before heard of a
Gretchen of the roses."

"Herr must have a large store of compliments on hand to begin this
early."

"It is a part of my capital," said I.  "Once in Switzerland I
complimented an innkeeper, and when my bill was presented I found that
all extras had been crossed off."

Gretchen laughed.  It was a low laugh, a laugh which appeared to me as
having been aroused not at what I had said, but at something which had
recurred to her.  I wanted to hear it again.

So I said: "I suppose you have a stein here from which the King has
drunk; all taverns and inns have them."

Gretchen only smiled, but the smile was worth something.

"No; the King has never been within five miles of this inn."

"So much the worse for the King."

"And why that?"

"The King has missed seeing Gretchen."

It was then Gretchen laughed.

"I have never heard compliments like Herr's before."

"Why, I have any amount of them.  I'll drink half a litre to your
health."

She filled one of the old blue earthen steins.

"I haven't seen your roses in the gardens, but I'll drink to those in
your cheeks," said I, and I drew back the pewter lid.

"How long does Herr intend to stay?" asked Gretchen.

"To the day is the evil thereof."

"Ah, one must be happy with nothing to do."

"Then you have the ambition common to all; to sit around and let others
wait upon you?"

"No, that is not my ambition.  I wish only to wait upon my own desires
and not those of the--the others."

"It is all the same," said I.  "Some must serve, others must be served."

When I went upstairs to my room it was my belief that a week or so at
the inn would not hang heavy on my hands.  I had forgotten for the
moment the Princess, or that I was hunting for Hillars.  It is strange
how a face may upset one's plans.  Gretchen's likeness to Phyllis, whom
I loved, upset mine for many days to come.

As I gazed from my window the next morning I beheld the old innkeeper
and Gretchen engaged in earnest conversation.  He appeared to be
pleading, nay, entreating, while she merely shook her head and laughed.
Finally the old man lifted his hands to heaven and disappeared around
the wing.  When I came down Gretchen was in the gardens culling roses.
She said they were for the table.

"Very well," said I; "give me one now."

"You may have them all at the table."

"But I shall not want them then."

She gave me an enigmatical glance, then cut a rose for me which was
withered and worm-eaten.

"Gretchen is unkind," I observed.

"What matters it whether the rose be fresh or withered?  It dies sooner
or later.  Nothing lasts, not even the world itself.  You wish a rose,
not because it is a rose, fresh and fragrant, but because I give it to
you."

"You wrong me, Gretchen; I love a rose better than I love a woman.  It
never smiles falsely, the rose, nor plays with the hearts of men.  I
love a rose because it is sweet, and because it was made for man's
pleasure and not for his pain."

"That sounds like a copy-book," laughed Gretchen.  "The withered rose
should teach you a lesson."

"What lesson?"

"That whatever a woman gives to man withers in the exchange; a rose, a
woman's love."

Said I reproachfully: "You are spoiling a very pretty picture.  What do
you know about philosophy?"

"What does Herr know about roses?" defiantly.

"Much; one cannot pick too many fresh ones.  And let me tell you a
lesson which you should have learned among these roses.  Nature teaches
us to love all things fresh and beautiful; a rose, a face, a woman's
love."

"Here," holding forth a great red rose.

"No," said I, "I'll keep this one."

She said nothing, but went on snipping a red rose here, a white one
there.  She wore gloves several sizes too large for her, so I judged
that her hands were small and tender, perhaps white.  And there was a
grace in her movements, dispite the ungainly dress and shoes, which
suggested a more intimate knowledge of velvets and silks than of
calico.  In my mind's eye I placed her at the side of Phyllis.  Phyllis
reminded me of a Venus whom Nature had whimsically left unfinished.
Then she had turned from Venus to Diana, and Gretchen became evolved: a
Diana, slim and willowy.  A sculptor would have said that Phyllis might
have been a goddess, and Gretchen a wood nymph, had not Nature suddenly
changed her plans.  What I admired in Phyllis was her imperfect
beauties.  What I admired in Gretchen was her beautiful perfections.
And they were so alike and yet so different.  Have you ever seen a body
of fresh water, ruffled by a sudden gust of wind, the cool blue-green
tint which follows?  Then you have seen the color of Gretchen's eyes.
Have you ever seen ripe wheat in a sun-shower?  Then you have seen the
color of Gretchen's hair.  All in all, I was forced to admit that, from
an impartial and artistic view Gretchen the barmaid was far more
beautiful than Phyllis.  From the standpoint of a lover it was
altogether a different matter.

"Gretchen," said I, "you are very good-looking."

"It would not be difficult to tell Herr's nationality."

"Which means----?"

"That the American says in one sentence what it would take a German or
a Frenchman several hundred sentences to say."

Gretchen was growing more interesting every minute.

"Then your mirror and I are not the only ones who have told you that
you are as beautiful as Hebe herself?"

"I am not Hebe," coldly.  "I am a poor barmaid, and I never spill any
wine."

"So you understand mythology?" I cried in wonder.

"Does Herr think that all barmaids are as ignorant as fiction and
ill-meaning novelists depict them?  I have had a fair education."

"If I ever was guilty of thinking so," said I, answering her question,
"I promise never to think so again."

"And now will Herr go to his breakfast and let me attend to my duties?"

"Not without regret," I said gallantly.  I bowed to her as they bowed
in the days of the beaux, while she looked on suspiciously.

At the breakfast table I proceeded to bombard the innkeeper.  I wanted
to know more about Gretchen.

"Is Gretchen your daughter?" I began.

"No, I am only her godfather," he said.  "Does Herr wish another egg?"

"Thanks.  She is very well educated for a barmaid."

"Yes.  Does Herr wish Rhine wine?"

"Coffee is plenty.  Has Gretchen seen many Americans?"

"Few.  Perhaps Herr would like a knoblauch with salt and vinegar?"

It occurred to me that Gretchen was not to be discussed.  So I made for
another channel.

"I have heard," said I, "that once upon a time a princess was born in
this inn?"

The old fellow elevated both eyebrows and shoulders--a deprecating
movement.

"They say that of every inn; it has become a trade."

If I had known the old man I might have said that he was sarcastic.

"Then there is no truth in it?" disappointedly.

"Oh, I do not say there is no truth in the statement; if Herr will
pardon me, it is something I do not like to talk about."

"Ah, then there is a mystery?" I cried, with lively interest, pushing
back my chair.

But the innkeeper shook his head determinedly.

"Very well," I laughed; "I shall ask Gretchen."

He smiled.  The smile said: "Much good it will do you."

Gretchen was in the barroom arranging some roses over the fireplace.
Her hands were bare; they were small and white, and surprisingly well
kept.

"Gretchen," said I, "I want you to tell me the legend of the inn."

"The legend?"

"Yes; about the Princess who was born here."

Gretchen laughed a merry laugh.  The laugh said: "You are an amusing
person!"

"Ah, the American is always after legends when he has tired of
collecting antiquities.  Was there a Princess born here?  Perhaps.  At
any rate it is not a legend; history nor peasantry make mention of it.
Will Herr be so kind as to carry the ladder to the mantel so I may wind
the clock?"

I do so.  Even at this early stage I could see that Gretchen had the
faculty of making persons forget what they were seeking, and by the
mere sound of her voice.  And it was I who wound the clock.

"Gretchen," said I, "time lags.  Make a servant out of me this morning."

"Herr does the barmaid too much honor," with lowered eyes.

"I, am in the habit of doing anything I please."

"Ah, Herr is one of those millionaires I have read about!"

"Yes, I am very rich."  I laughed, but Gretchen did not see the point.

"Come, then, with me, and you shall weed the knoblauch patch."

She was laughing at me, but I was not to be abashed.

"To the patch be it, then!" I cried.  "An onion would smell as sweet
under any other name."

So Gretchen and I went into the onion patch, and I weeded and hoed and
hoed and weeded till my back ached and my hands were the color of the
soil.  Nothing was done satisfactorily to Gretchen.  It was, "There,
you have ruined the row back of you!" or "Pull the weeds more gently!"
and sometimes, "Ach! could your friends see you now!"  I suppose that I
did not make a pretty picture.  The perspiration would run down my
face.  I would forget the condition of my hands and push back my hair,
which fell like a mop over my brow, whereat she would laugh.  Once I
took her hand and helped her to jump over a row.  I was surprised at
the strength of her grasp.

"What does Herr do for a living, he works so badly as a gardener?"

"I am a journalist," I answered, leaning on my hoe and breathing
heavily.

"Ach! one of those men who tell such dreadful stories about kings and
princes?  Who cause men to go to war with each other?  Who rouse the
ignorant to deeds of violence?  One of those men who are more powerful
than a king, because they can undo him?"  She drew away from me.

"Hold on!" I cried, dropping the hoe; "what do you know about it?"

"Enough," sadly.  "I read the papers.  I always look with fear upon one
of those men who can do so much good, and yet who would do so much
evil."

I had never looked at it in that light before.

"It seems to me, Gretchen," I said quietly, "that you are about as much
a barmaid as I am a weeder of knoblauches."

The color of excitement fled from Gretchen's cheeks, her eyes grew
troubled and she looked away.

"Gretchen has a secret," said I.  "It is nothing to me what Gretchen's
secret is; I shall respect it, and continue to think of her only as a
barmaid with--with a superior education."  I shouldered the hoe.
"Come, let us go back; I'm thirsty."

"Thank you, Herr," was the soft reply.  Then Gretchen became as dumb,
and our return to the inn was made in silence.  Once there, however,
she recovered.  "I am sorry to have put you at such a disadvantage,"
glancing at my clothes, which were covered with brown earth.

"Let that be the least of your troubles!" I cried gayly.  Then I hummed
in English:


  So, ho! dear Gretchen, winsome lass,
    I want no tricky wine,
  But amber nectar bring to me,
  Whose rich bouquet will cling to me,
  Whose spirit voice will sing to me
    From out the mug divine
  So, here's your toll--a kiss--away,
    You Hebe of the Rhine!
  No goblet's gold means cheer to me,
  Let no cut glass get near to me--
  Go, Gretchen, haste the beer to me,
    And put it in the stein!


I thought I saw a smile on her lips, but it was gone before I was
certain.

"Gott in Himmel!" gasped the astonished innkeeper, as I went into the
barroom.  I still had the hoe over my shoulder.

"Never mind, mein host.  I've been weeding your knoblauch patch as a
method of killing time."

"But--"  He looked at Gretchen in dismay.

"It was I who led him there," said Gretchen, in answer to his inquiring
eyes.

A significant glance passed between them.  There was a question in his,
a command in hers.  I pretended to be examining the faded tints in the
stein I held in my hand.

I was thinking: "Since when has an innkeeper waited on the wishes of
his barmaid?"

There was a mystery after all.



CHAPTER IX

I took my pipe and strolled along the river bank.  What had I stumbled
into?  Here was an old inn, with rather a feudal air; but it was only
one in a thousand; a common feature throughout the Continent.  And yet,
why had the gods, when they cast out Hebe, chosen this particular inn
for her mortal residence?  The pipe solves many riddles, and then,
sometimes, it creates a density.  I put my pipe into my pocket and
cogitated.  Gretchen had brought about a new order of things.  A
philosophical barmaid was certainly a novelty.  That Gretchen was
philosophical I had learned in the rose gardens.  That she was also
used to giving commands I had learned in the onion patch.  Hitherto I
had held the onion in contempt; already I had begun to respect it.
Above all, Gretchen was a mystery, the most alluring kind of mystery--a
woman who was not what she seemed.  How we men love mysteries, which
are given the outward semblance of a Diana or a Venus!  By and by, my
journalistic instinct awoke.  Who are those who fear the newspapers?
Certainly it is not the guiltless.  Of what was Gretchen guilty?  The
inn-keeper knew.  Was she one of those many conspirators who abound in
the kingdom?  She was beautiful enough for anything.  And whence came
the remarkable likeness between her and Phyllis?  Here was a mystery
indeed.  I had a week before me; in that time I might learn something
about Gretchen, even if I could solve nothing.  I admit that it is
true, that had Gretchen been plain, it would not have been worth the
trouble.  But she had too heavenly a face, too wonderful an eye, too
delicious a mouth, not to note her with concern.

I did not see Gretchen again that day; but as I was watching the moon
climb up, thinking of her and smoking a few pipes as an incense to her
shrine, I heard her voice beneath my window.  It was accompanied by the
bass voice of the inn-keeper.

"But he is a journalist.  Is it safe?  Is anything safe from them?"
came to my ears in a worried accent, a bass.

So the inn-keeper, too, was a Socialist!

Said an impatient contralto: "So long as I have no fear, why should
you?"

"Ach, you will be found out and dragged back!" was the lamentation in a
throaty baritone.  Anxiety raises a bass voice at least two pitches.
"If you would but return to the hills, where there is absolute safety!"

"No; I will not go back there, where everything is so dull and dead.  I
have lived too long not to read a face at a glance.  His eyes are
honest."

"Thanks, Gretchen," murmured I from above.  I was playing the listener;
but, then, she was only a barmaid.

"And it is so long," went on the contralto, "since I have seen a man--a
strong one, I wish to see if my power is gone."

"Aha!" thought I; "so you have already laid plans for my capitulation,
Gretchen?"

"But," said the bass voice once more, "supposing some of the military
should straggle along?  There might be one who has seen you before.
Alas!  I despair!  You will not hide yourself; you will stay here till
they find you."

I fell to wondering what in the world Gretchen had done.

"I have not been to the village since I was a little girl.  Dressed as
I am, who would recognize me?  No one at the castle, for there is no
one there but the steward.  Would you send me away?"

"God forbid!  But this American?  You say you can read faces; how about
the other one?"

Silence.

"Yes; how about him?"

Said Gretchen: "We are not infallible.  And perhaps I was then much to
blame."

"No; we are not infallible; that is the reason why you should take no
chance," was the final argument of the innkeeper.

"Hush!" said Gretchen.

"Confound the pipe!" I muttered.  It had fallen over the window sill.

Five minutes passed; I heard no sound.  Glancing from the side of the
window I saw that Gretchen and the innkeeper were gone.

Yes, there wasn't any doubt about it; Gretchen was a conspirator.  The
police were hunting for her, and she was threatened with discovery.  It
was beyond my imagination what she could have done.  Moreover, she was
rather courting danger; the military post was only five miles down the
river.  The one thing which bothered me was the "him" who had suddenly
intruded upon the scene, invisible, but there, like Banquo's ghost.
Perhaps her beauty had lured some fellow to follow her fortunes and his
over-zeal, or lack of it, had brought ruin to some plot.

"Gretchen," said I, as I jumped into bed, "whoever he was, he must have
been a duffer."

Her Serene Highness the Princess Hildegarde was in Jericho, and Hillars
along with her, where I had consigned them.

Next morning Gretchen waited upon me at breakfast.  She was quiet and
answered my questions in monosyllables.  Presently she laid something
at the side of my plate.  It was my pipe.  I looked at her, but the
leads of my eyes could not plumb the depths in hers.

"Thanks," said I.  "It dropped from my window last night, while I was
playing the disgraceful part of eavesdropper."  I dare say she had
expected anything but this candid confession.  It was very cunning in
me.  She knew that I knew she knew.  Had I lied I should have committed
an irreparable blunder.

As it was she lifted her chin and laughed.

"Will you forgive me?"

"Yes; for you certainly wasted your time."

"Yes, indeed; for I am just as much in the dark as ever."

"And will remain so."

"I hope so.  A mystery is charming while it lasts.  Really, Gretchen, I
did not mean to play the listener, and I promise that from now on----"

"From now on!" cried Gretchen.  "Does not Herr leave to-day?"

"No; I am going to spend a whole week here."

There was a mixture of dismay and anger in her gaze.

"But, as I was going to say, I shall make no effort to pry into your
affairs.  Honestly, I am a gentleman."

"I shall try to believe you," said she, the corners of her mouth
broadening into a smile.

She condescended to show me through the rose gardens and tell me what
she knew about them.  It was an interesting lecture.  And in the
evening she permitted me to row her about the river.  We were getting
on very well under the circumstances.

The week was soon gone, and Gretchen and I became very good friends.
Often when she had nothing to do we would wander along the river
through the forests, always, I noticed, by a route which took us away
from the village.  Each day I discovered some new accomplishment.
Sometimes I would read Heine or Goethe to her, and she would grow rapt
and silent.  In the midst of some murmurous stanza I would suddenly
stop, only to see her start and look at me as though I had committed a
sacrilege, in that I had spoiled some dream of hers.  Then again I
myself would become lost in dreams, to be aroused by a soft voice
saying: "Well, why do you not go on?"  Two people of the opposite sexes
reading poetry in the woods is a solemn matter.  This is not
appreciated at the time, however.  It comes back afterward.

In all the week I had learned nothing except that Gretchen was not what
she pretended to be.  But I feared to ask questions.  They might have
spoiled all.  And the life was so new to me, so quiet and peaceful,
with the glamour of romance over it all, that I believe I could have
stayed on forever.  And somehow Phyllis was fading away, slowly but
surely.  The regret with which I had heretofore looked upon her
portrait was lessening each day; from active to passive.  And yet, was
it because Gretchen was Phyllis in the ideal?  Was I falling in love
with Gretchen because she was Gretchen, or was my love for Phyllis
simply renewing itself in Gretchen?  Was that the reason why the
portrait of Phyllis grew less holding and interesting to me?  It was a
complex situation; one I frowned over when alone.  It was becoming
plainer to me every hour that I had a mystery all of my own to solve.
And Gretchen was the only one to solve it.

I shall never forget that night under the chestnuts, on the bank of the
wide white river.  The leaves were gossiping among themselves; they had
so much to talk about; and then, they knew so much!  Had not they and
their ancestors filtered the same moonbeams, century on century?  Had
not their ancestors heard the tramp of the armies, the clash of the
sabre, the roar of the artillery?  Had not the hand of autumn and the
hand of death marked them with the crimson sign?  Ah, the leaves!  It
is well to press them in books when they themselves have such fine
stories to tell.

"Gretchen," said I, echoing my thoughts, "had I been born a hundred
years ago I must have been a soldier.  Napoleon was a great warrior."

"So was Blücher, since it was he who helped overcome the little
Corsican."

The Germans will never forgive Napoleon.

"But war is a terrible thing," went on Gretchen.

"Yes, but it is a great educator; it teaches the vanquished how little
they know."

"War is the offspring of pride; that is what makes it so abhorred."

"It is also the offspring of oppression; that is what makes it so
great."

"Yes; when the people take up arms it is well.  War is the torch of
liberty in the hands of the people.  Oh, I envy the people, who are so
strong, yet know it not.  If I were a man I would teach the people that
a king has no divine right, save when it is conferred upon him by them."

"Gretchen, I'm afraid that you're a bit of a Socialist."

"And who is not who has any love for humanity?"

"A beautiful woman who is a Socialist, Gretchen, is a menace to the
King.  Sometimes he fears her.  At large, she is dangerous.  He seeks
her, and if he finds her, he takes away her liberty."  All this was
said with a definite purpose.  It was to let Gretchen know that I knew
her secret.  "Gretchen, you are an embryo Socialist; a chrysalis, as it
were."

"No, Herr," sadly; "I am a butterfly whose wings have been clipped."

I had not expected this admission,

"Never mind," said I.  "Gretchen, I do not want you to call me Herr;
call me Jack."

"Jack!" she said.  It became an uncommon name now.

"Whatever your true name may be, I shall never call you anything but
Gretchen."

"Ah, Jack!"  She laughed, and the lurking echoes clasped the music of
that laughter in their wanton arms and hurried it across the river.

"Sing to me," said I.

Then imagine my surprise--I, who had heard nothing but German fall from
her lips?--when in a heavenly contralto she sang a chanson from "La
Fille de Madame Angot," an opera forgotten these ten years!


  "_Elle est tellement innocente!_"


She had risen, and she stood there before me with a halo of moonshine
above her head.  The hot blood rushed to my ears.  Barmaid, Socialist,
or whatever she might be, she was lovable.  In a moment I was kissing
her hand, the hand so small, so white, and yet so firm.  A thousand
inarticulate words came to my lips--from my heart!  Did the hand
tremble?  I thought so.  But swiftly she drew it from my clasp, all the
joy and gladness gone from her face and eyes.

"No, no!" she cried; "this must not be; it must not be!"

"But I----" I began eagerly.

"You must not say it; I command you.  If you speak, Gretchen will be
Gretchen no more.  Yes, the King seeks Gretchen; but will you drive her
away from her only haven?" with a choking sound.

"Gretchen, trust me.  Shall I go to-morrow?  Shall I leave you in
peace?"  Somehow I believed myself to be in danger.  "Speak!"

There was an interval of stillness, broken only by the beating of
hearts.  Then:

"Stay.  But speak no word of love; it is not for such as I.  Stay and
be my friend, for I need one.  Cannot a woman look with favor upon a
man but he must needs become her lover?  I shall trust you as I have
trusted other men.  And though you fail me in the end, as others have
done, still I shall trust you.  Herr, I conspire against the King.  For
what?  The possession of my heart.  All my life I have stood alone, so
alone."

"I will be your friend, Gretchen; I will speak no word of love.  Will
that suffice?"

"It is all I ask, dear friend.  And now will you leave me?"

"Leave you?" I cried.  "I thought you bade me stay?"

"Ah," putting out her hand; "you men do not understand.  Sometimes a
woman wishes to be alone when--when she feels that she--she cannot hold
back her tears!"

Gravely I bent over her hand and kissed it.  It seemed to me as I let
the hand fall that I had never kissed a woman on the lips.  I turned
and went slowly down the path.  Once I looked back.  I saw something
white lying at the foot of the tree.  Heaven knows what a struggle it
was, but I went on.  I wanted to take her in my arms and tell her that
I loved her.  When I reached the inn I turned again, but I saw nothing.
I sat in my room a long time that night, smoking my pipe till the
candle gasped feebly and died in the stick, and the room was swallowed
in darkness.

I did not know, I was not sure, but I thought that, so long as I might
not love Phyllis, it would not be a very hard task to love her image,
which was Gretchen.  You see, Phyllis was so very far away and Gretchen
was so near!



CHAPTER X

I lowered the glasses.  I discerned them to be cavalrymen, petty
officers.  They were mounted on spirited horses.

"Gretchen," said I, "they are cavalrymen.  They do not wear the
Hohenphalian uniform; so, perhaps, it would be just as well for you to
go to your room and remain there till they are gone.  Ah," said I,
elevating the glasses again; "they wear his Majesty's colors.  You had
best retire."

"I refuse.  They may be thirsty."

"I'll see to that," I laughed.

"But--" she began.

"Oh, Gretchen wishes to see new faces," said I, with chagrin.

"If it pleases you, sir," mischievously.

"What if they are looking for--for--"

"That is the very reason why I wish to see them."

"You are determined?"

"I am."

"Very well," said I; "you had best eat an onion."

"And for what purpose?"

"As a preventive to offensive tactics," looking slyly at her.

Her laugh rang out mockingly.

"Do you not know that aside from dueling, the German lives only for his
barmaid, his beer and his knoblauch?  Nevertheless, since you wish it I
will eat one--for your sake."

"For my sake?" I cried in dismay.  "Heaven forfend!"

"Does Herr----"

"Jack," said I.

"Does Herr Jack think," her eyes narrowing till naught but a line of
their beautiful blue-green could be seen, "that one of those would dare
take a liberty with me?"

"I hope he will not.  I should have the unpleasant duty of punching his
head."  If I could not kiss Gretchen nobody else should.

"You are very strong."

"Yes; and there are some things which add threefold to a man's
strength."

"Such as ----"  She looked at me daringly.

"Yes, such as ----"  Her eyes fell before my glance, A delicate veil of
rose covered her face for a moment.  I wondered if she knew that it was
only because I clinched my fists till the nails cut, that I did not do
the very thing I feared the stragglers coming down the road might do.
"Come," said I, peremptorily; "there is no need of your welcoming them
here."

So we entered the inn; and she began furbishing up the utensils, just
to tease me more than anything else.

Outside there was a clatter of hoofs, the chink of the spur,
intermingled with a few oaths; and then the two representatives of the
King came in noisily.  They gazed admiringly at Gretchen as she poured
out their beer.  She saw the rage in my eyes.  She was aggravating with
her promiscuous smiles.  The elder officer noticed my bulldog pipe.

"English?" he inquired, indifferently.  The German cannot disassociate
an Englishman and a briarwood bulldog pipe.

"English," I answered discourteously.  It mattered nothing to me
whether he took me for an Englishman or a Zulu; either answered the
purpose.

He wore an eyeglass, through which he surveyed me rather contemptuously.

"What is your name, fraulein?" he asked turning to Gretchen.

"Gretchen," sweetly.

"And what is the toll for a kiss?"

"Nothing," said Gretchen, looking at me.  The lieutenant started for
her, but she waved him off.  "Nothing, Herr Lieutenant, because they
are not for sale."

I moved closer to the bar.

"Out for a constitutional?" I asked, blowing the ash from the live coal
in my pipe.

"We are on his Majesty's business," with an intonation which implied
that the same was none of mine.  "Gretchen, we shall return to-night,
so you may lay two plates at a separate table," with an eye on me.  He
couldn't have hated me any more than I hated him.  "Then, there is no
way of getting a kiss?"

"No," said Gretchen.

"Then I'll blow you one;" and Gretchen made a pretty curtesey.

I nearly bit the amber stem off my pipe.  They were soon gone, and I
was glad of it.

"Herr Jack is angry," said Gretchen.

"Not at all," I growled.  "What right have I to be angry?"

"Does Herr Jack wish Gretchen always to be sad?"

"Certainly not: but sometimes your joy is irritating.  You are sad all
day, then some strangers come, and you are all smiles.  Your smiles do
not come in my direction as often as I should like."

"Well, then, look at me," said Gretchen.

The smile would have dazzled an anchorite, let alone a man who didn't
know whether he loved her for certain, but who was willing to give odds
that he did!

"Gretchen!" I cried, starting toward her.

But with a low laugh she disappeared behind the door.  Gretchen was a
woman.  As a man must have his tobacco, so must a woman have her
coquetry.  It was rather unfair of Gretchen, after what I had promised.
It was like getting one in a cage and then offering sweetmeats at a
safe distance.

It now became a question of analysis.  So I went to the river and sat
down in the grass.  A gentle wind was stirring the leaves, and the
sunbeams, filtering through the boughs, fell upon the ground in golden
snowflakes.  What was Gretchen to me that I should grow jealous of her
smiles?  The night before I could have sworn that I loved her; now I
was not so sure.  A week ago all the sunshine in the world had come
from Phyllis's face; a shadow had come between.  Oh, I knew the
symptoms.  They were not new to me.  They had visited me some five
years back, and had clung to me with the tenacity of a creditor to a
man with expectations.  When a man arrives at that point where he wants
the society of one woman all to himself, the matter assumes serious
proportions.  And a man likes to fall in love with one woman and
continue to love her all his days; it is more romantic.  It annoys him
to face the fact that he is about to fall in love with another.  In my
case I felt that there was some extenuation.  Gretchen looked like
Phyllis.  When I saw Gretchen in the garden and then went to my room
and gazed upon the likeness of Phyllis, I was much like the bachelor
Heine tells about--I doddered.

The red squirrel in the branches above me looked wisely.  He was
wondering how long before the green burrs would parch and give him
their brown chestnuts.  I was contemplating a metaphysical burr.  I
wanted to remain true to Phyllis, though there wasn't any sense in my
doing so.  Had Gretchen resembled any one but Phyllis I never should
have been in such a predicament.  I should have gone away the day after
my arrival.  Here I was going into my second week.  My assistant in
London was probably worrying, having heard nothing from me during that
time.  As matters stood it was evident that I could not be true either
to Phyllis or Gretchen, since I did not know positively which I loved.
I knew that I loved one.  So much was gained.  I wanted to throw up a
coin, heads for Phyllis, tails for Gretchen, but I couldn't bring
myself to gamble on the matter.  I threw a stick at his squirrelship,
and he scurried into the hole in the crotch of the tree.  A moment
later he peered at me, and, seeing that nothing was going to follow the
stick, crept out on the limb again, his tail bristling with indignation.

"If it hadn't been for Gretchen," said I, "you would have been a potpie
long ago."

He must have understood my impotence, for he winked at me jeeringly.

A steamer came along then, puffing importantly, sending a wash almost
at my feet.  I followed it with my eye till it became lost around the
bend.  Over there was Austria and beyond, the Orient, a new world to me.

"If I could see them together!" I mused aloud.

The squirrel cocked his head to one side as if to ask: "Austria and
Turkey?"

"No," said I, looking around for another stick; "Phyllis and Gretchen.
If I could see them together, you know, I could tell positively then
which I love.  As it is, I'm in doubt.  Do you understand?"

The squirrel ran out to the end of the limb and sat down.  It was an
act of deliberation.

"Well, why don't you answer?"

I was startled to my feet by the laughter which followed my question.
A few yards behind me stood Gretchen.

"Can't you find a better confidant?" she asked,

"Yes, but she will not be my confidant," said I.  I wondered how much
she had heard of the one-sided dialogue.  "Will you answer the question
I just put to that squirrel of yours?"

"And what was the question?" with innocence not feigned.

"Perhaps it was, Why should Gretchen not revoke the promise to which
she holds me?"

"You should know, Herr," said Gretchen, gently.

"But I do not.  I only know that a man is human and that a beautiful
woman was made to be loved."  Everything seemed solved now that
Gretchen stood at my side.

But she turned as if to go.

"Gretchen," I called, "do not go.  Forgive me; if only you understood!'"

"Perhaps I do understand," she replied with a gentleness new to me.
"Do you remember why I asked you to stay?"

"Yes; I was to be your friend."

"This time it is for me to ask whether I go or stay."

"Stay, Gretchen!"  But I was a hypocrite when I said it.

"I knew that you would say that," simply.

"Gretchen, sit down and I'll tell you the story of my life, as they say
on the stage."  I knocked the dead ash from my pipe and stuffed the
bowl with fresh weed.  I lit it and blew a cloud of smoke into the air.
"Do you see that, Gretchen?"

"Yes, Herr," sitting down, the space of a yard between us.

"It is pretty, very; but see how the wind carries it about!  As it
leaves my throat it looks like a tangible substance.  Reach for it and
it is gone.  That cloud of smoke is my history."

"It disappears," said Gretchen.

"And so shall I at the appointed time.  That cloud of smoke was a
fortune.  I reached for it, and there was nothing but the air in my
hand.  It was a woman's love.  For five years I watched it curl and
waver.  In it I saw many castles and the castles were fair, indeed.  I
strove to grasp this love; smoke, smoke.  Smoke is nothing, given a
color.  Thus it is with our dreams.  If only we might not wake!"

Gretchen's eyes were following the course of the languid river.

"Once there was a woman I thought I loved; but she would have none of
it.  She said that the love I gave her was not complete because she did
not return it.  She brought forth the subject of affinities, and
ventured to say that some day I might meet mine.  I scoffed inwardly.
I have now found what she said to be true.  The love I gave her was the
bud; the rose--  Gretchen," said I, rising, "I love you; I am not a
hypocrite; I cannot parade my regard for you under the flimsy guise of
friendship."

"Go and give the rose to her to whom you gave the bud," said Gretchen.
The half smile struck me as disdainful.  "You are a strange wooer."

"I am an honest one."  I began plucking at the bark of the tree.  "No;
I shall let the rose wither and die on the stem.  I shall leave
to-morrow, Gretchen.  I shall feel as Adam did when he went forth from
Eden.  Whatever your place in this world is it is far above mine.  I
am, in truth, a penniless adventurer.  The gulf between us cannot be
bridged."

"No," said Gretchen, the smile leaving her lips, "the gulf cannot be
bridged.  You are a penniless adventurer, and I am a fugitive from--the
law, the King, or what you will.  You are a man; man forgets.  You have
just illustrated the fact.  His memory and his promises are like the
smoke; they fade away but soon.  I shall be sorry to have you go, but
it is best so."

"Do you love any one else?"

"I do not; I love no one in the sense you mean.  It was not written
that I should love any man."

"Gretchen, who are you, and what have you done?"

"What have I done?  Nothing!  Who am I?  Nobody!"

"Is that the only answer you can give?"

"It is the only answer I will give."

There was something in Gretchen's face which awed me.  It was power and
resolution, two things man seldom sees in a woman's face.

"Supposing, Gretchen, that I should take you in my arms and kiss you?"
I was growing reckless because I felt awed, which seems rather a
remarkable statement.  "I know you only as a barmaid; why, not?"

She never moved to go away.  There was no alarm in her eyes, though
they narrowed.

"You would never forgive yourself, would you?"

I thought for a moment.  "No, Gretchen, I should never forgive myself.
But I know that if I ask you to let me kiss your hand before I go, you
will grant so small a favor."

"There," and her hand stretched toward me.  "And what will your kiss
mean?"

"That I love you, but also respect you, and that I shall go."

"I am sorry."

It was dismal packing.  I swore a good deal, softly.  Gretchen was not
in the dining-room when I came down to supper.  It was just as well.  I
wanted to be cool and collected when I made my final adieu.  After
supper I lit my pipe (I shall be buried with it!) and went for a jaunt
up the road.  There was a train at six the next morning.  I would leave
on that.  Why hadn't I taken Gretchen in my arms and kissed her?  It
would have been something to remember in the days to come.  I was a
man, and stronger; she would have been powerless.  Perhaps it was the
color of her eyes.

I had not gone up the highway more than 100 yards when I saw the lonely
figure of a man tramping indirectly toward me and directly toward the
inn.  Even in the dusk of twilight there was something familiar about
that stride.  Presently the man lifted up his voice in song.  The
"second lead," as they say back of the scenes, was about to appear
before the audience.

Evidently Hillars had found "Jericho" distasteful and had returned to
protest.



CHAPTER XI

"Hello, there!" he hailed, seeing but not recognizing me; "have you
seen any cavalry pass this way?"

"No, I have not," I answered in English.

"Eh?  What's that?" not quite believing it was English he had heard.

"I said that no cavalry has passed this way since this afternoon.  Are
they looking for you, you jail-bird in perspective?"

He was near enough now.  "Well, I be dam'!" he cried.  "What the devil
are you doing here, of all places?"

"I was looking for you," said I, locking my arm in his.

"Everybody has been making that their occupation since I left Austria,"
cursing lowly.  "I never saw such people."

"What have you been doing this time?"

"Nothing; but I want to do something right away.  They have been
hounding me all over the kingdom.  What have I done?  Nothing,
absolutely nothing.  It makes me hot under the collar.  These German
blockheads!  Do they think to find the Princess Hildegarde by following
me around?  I'd give as much as they to find her."

"So you haven't seen anything of her?"

"Not a sign.  I came here first, but not a soul was at the castle.
Nobody knows where she is.  I came here this time to throw them off the
track, but I failed.  I had a close shave this noon.  I'll light out
to-morrow.  It isn't safe in these parts.  It would be of no use to
tell them that I do not know where the princess is.  They have
connected me with her as they connect one link of a chain to another.
You can kill a German, but you can't convince him.  How long have you
been here?"

I did not reply at once.  "About ten days."

"Ten days!" he echoed.  "What on earth has kept you in this ruin that
long?"

"Rest," said I, glibly.  "But I am going away to-morrow.  We'll go
together.  They will not know what to do with two of us."

"Yes, they will.  You will be taken for my accomplice. . . .  Hark!
What's that?" holding his hand to his ear.  "Horses.  Come, I'm not
going to take any risk."

So we made a run for the inn.  In the twilight haze we could see two
horsemen coming along the highway at a brisk gallop.

"By the Lord Harry!" Hillars cried excitedly; "the very men I have been
dodging all day.  Hurry!  Can you put me somewhere for the time being?
The garret; anywhere."

"Come on; there's a place in the garret where they'll never find you."

I got him upstairs unseen.  If no one but I knew him to be at the inn,
so much the better.

"O, say!  This'll smother me," said Dan, as I pushed him into the
little room.

"They'll put you in a smaller place," I said.  "Hang it all Jack; I'd
rather have it out with them."

"They have their pistols and sabres."

"That's so.  In that case, discretion is the better part of valor, and
they wouldn't appreciate any coup on my side.  Come back and let me out
as soon as they go."

I descended into the barroom and found the two officers interrogating
the innkeeper.  They were the same fellows who had visited the inn
earlier in the day.  Gretchen was at her place behind the bar.  She was
paler than usual.

"Ah," said the innkeeper, turning to me, "am I not right in saying that
you are the only guest at the inn, and that no American has been here?"

I did not understand his motive, for he knew that I was an American.

"It is perfectly true," said I, "that I am your only guest."

"Ah, the Englishman!" said the lieutenant, suspiciously.  "We are
looking for a person by the name of Hillars whom we are charged to
arrest.  Do you know anything about him?"

"It is not probable," said I, nonchalantly.

I glanced at Gretchen.  I could fathom nothing there.

"Well," snarled the lieutenant, "I suppose you will not object to my
seeing your passports?"

"Not in the least," said I.  But I felt a shock.  The word "American"
was written after the nationality clause in my passports.  I was in for
some excitement on my own account.  If I returned from my rooms saying
that I could not find my passports they would undoubtedly hold me till
the same were produced.  "I'll go and bring them for you," said I.  I
wanted some time in which to mature a plan of action, if action became
necessary.

There was rather a sad expression in Gretchen's eyes.  She understood
to a fuller extent than I what was likely to follow when it was found
that I had misrepresented myself.  I cursed the folly which had led me
to say that I was English.  And I swore at the innkeeper for meddling.
As I left the room I smiled at Gretchen, but she did not answer it.
Perhaps I was gone five minutes.  In that time I made up my mind to
show the passports, and trust to luck for the rest.  When I came back
Gretchen had engrossed their attention.  They took no notice of me.  I
have never understood how it came about, but all at once the lieutenant
bent forward and kissed Gretchen on the cheek.  She started back with a
cry, then looked at me.  That swift glance told me what to do.  I took
the lieutenant by the collar and flung him into the corner.  The
surprise on his face was not to be equaled.  Then, as he rose to his
feet, the veins in his neck swelled with rage.

"I'll pay you for that, you meddling beef-eater!" he roared.

"Don't mention it," said I, with an assumption of blandness which I did
not feel.  "That was simply gratuitous.  It is a sample of what I shall
do to you if you do not immediately ask this lady's pardon for the
gross insult you have just offered her."

"Insult!  To kiss a common barmaid an insult!" he yelled, now purpling.
"Why--why--what is this woman to you--this tavern wench, this--"

"Be careful," I warned.

Gretchen was calmly wiping her cheek; but her eyes were like polished
emeralds.

"You came here, I believe," said I, "to see if my passports were
proper."

"Damn you and your passports!  Are you a gentleman?"

"Would you recognize one if you saw him?" I laughed.

"Can you fight?"

"Certainly," said I, thinking of the weapons nature in her kindness had
given to me.

"Good!  Otto, have the horses brought around.  We will cut for the
barracks and get the colonel's weapons--the rapiers."

The word "rapier" sent an icy chill up my spine.  A duel!

"The devil!" said I, under my breath.  I knew less about fencing than I
did about aerial navigation, which was precious little.  The fact that
Gretchen was now smiling aggravated the situation.  I could not help
the shudder.  Why, the fellow would make a sieve out of me!

"Will you look at my passports now?" I asked.  "You may not have the
opportunity again."

"Your passports from now on will be void," was the retort.  "But I
shall be pleased to give you a passport to the devil.  I shall kill
you," complacently.

"Think of my family," said I, a strange humor taking possession of me.

"You should have thought of your family before you struck me that
blow," he replied.

My laughter was genuine; even Gretchen smuggled a smile.  The
lieutenant had taken my remark in all seriousness.

"You will not run away?" he asked.

"I shall probably be obliged to run away to-morrow," said I, smoothly.
"I should not be able to account for your presence here.  But I shall
await your return from the barracks, never fear."  All this was mere
bravado; honestly, I shrunk within my clothes and shivered in my shoes.
But I had an unfailing mental nerve.  Some call it bluff.

Gretchen had been whispering to the innkeeper.  When he moved from her
side, she was smiling.

"What the deuce is she smiling about?" I wondered.  "Does the woman
take me for a modern D'Artagnan?"

"Innkeeper," said the lieutenant, "if this man is not here when I
return, I'll take satisfaction out of your hide."

The innkeeper shrugged.  "I have never heard of an Englishman running
away."

"And I have seen many a German do that," I put in.  "How am I to know
that your going to the barracks is not a ruse?"

He gasped.  The words would not come which would do justice to his
feelings.  He drew off one of his gloves and threw it into my face.  It
stung me.  I should have knocked him down, but for the innkeeper
stepping between.

"No, Herr," he said; "do not disable him."

"You had best go to the barracks at once," said I to the lieutenant.
My clothes were too small for me now, and I did not shiver in my shoes.
My "Yankee" blood was up.  I would have fought him with battle axes.

"Herr," said the innkeeper, when the two had made off for the barracks,
"you are a man of courage."

"Thanks," said I.

"Do you know anything about rapiers?" he asked.

"I know the handle from the blade; that's all.  But that does not make
any difference.  I'd fight him with any weapon.  He struck me; and
then--then, he kissed Gretchen."

"I have wiped it off, Herr," said Gretchen, dryly.  Then she passed
from the room.

I went upstairs too.  I looked out of my window.  There was moonlight;
possibly the last time I should ever see moonlight in the land of the
living.  Nothing but a mishap on my opponent's part, and that early in
the combat, would save my epidermis.  The absurd side of the affair
struck me, and I laughed, mirthlessly, but none the less I laughed.  If
it had been pistols the chances would have been equal.  A German does
not like pistols as a dueling apparatus.  They often miss fire.  A
sword is a surer weapon.  And then, the French use them--the
pistols--in their fiascoes.  Rapiers?  I was as familiar with the
rapier as I was with the Zulu assegai.  I unstrapped my traveling case
and took out Phyllis's photograph.  I put it back.  If I was to have a
last look at any woman it should be at Gretchen.  Then I got out my
cane and practiced thrusting and parrying.  My wrist was strong.

"Well," I mused, "there's consolation in knowing that in two hours I
shall be either dead or alive."

I flung the cane into the corner.  To pass away the time I paced back
and forth.  It passed too quickly; and it was not long ere I heard the
clatter of the returning cavalrymen.  Some one knocked at my door.  I
swung it open and--was thrown to the floor, bound and gagged in a tenth
of a minute.

"Put him on the bed," whispered the leader of my assailants.  When this
was done the voice added: "Now you can go to the stables and wait there
till I call you."

It was the innkeeper.  He surveyed me for a moment and scratched his
chin.

"Will Herr keep perfectly quiet if I take the handkerchief from his
mouth?" he asked.

I nodded, bewildered.

"What in tophet does this mean?" I gasped.  I did not say tophet, but
it looks better in writing.

"It means nothing and everything," was the answer.  "In the first
place, Herr will fight no duel.  The man with whom you were to fight
was sent on an errand to this out-of-the-way place as a punishment for
dueling at the capital.  I know him by reputation.  He is a brawler,
but a fair swordsman.  He would halve you as I would a chicken.  There
is another who has a prior claim on him.  If there is anything left of
Herr Lieutenant at the end of the fray, you are welcome to it.  Yes,
there will be a duel, but you will not be one of the principals.  It is
all arranged."

"But I do not understand," I cried.

"It is not necessary that you should."  He laughed and rubbed his hands
in pleasurable anticipation.  "There is a young man downstairs, who
arrived a few moments before the lieutenant.  He has a special affair.
There were words.  Herr Lieutenant is mad enough to fight a whole
company."

"Then, why in heaven's name am I up here in this condition?" I cried.
"Let me go and be the young man's second; though I can't for the life
of me see where he has come from so suddenly, and I might say,
opportunely.  Come, cut me loose."

"It is too late!"

"Too late?"

"Yes.  Herr Lieutenant has been informed that you ran away."

"Ran away!" I roared.  "You told him that I ran away?  Damn your
insolence!  I'll break every bone in your body for this!" I cried,
straining at the ropes.

"The ropes are new," said he; "you'll hurt yourself."

"You told him that I ran away?"  This was too much.

"Yes.  Ah, but you will be surprised.  The duel will last five minutes.
Herr Lieutenant will thrust; the thrust will be parried.  He will
feint; useless.  Thrust on thrust; parry on parry.  Consternation will
take the place of confidence; he will grow nervous; he will try all his
little tricks and they will fail.  Then his eyes will roll and his
breath come in gasps.  Suddenly he thinks he sees an opening; he
lunges--ach! the fool; it is all over!"  The old man's voice quivered
with excitement.  He had passed his time in the barracks and had seen
many a sword skirmish.

"Well, are you going to take off these ropes?"

"No.  You would break every bone in my body."

"Damn it, man!" I groaned, in exasperation.

"You will soon be out of breath."

Oh! could I have but loosened those cords!

"Stahlberg, who left the service a year ago, will act in the capacity
of second."  Stahlberg was at the head of the vineyard.  "I shall watch
the affair from the window here; the scene of action will take place in
the clearing beyond.  It will be an affair worth witnessing."

"And where is Gretchen?"

"Where she should be; at the bar, a dutiful bar-maid."  Then I heard
nothing but the deep cachinations of the innkeeper.  There was
something in the affair which appealed to his humor.  I could not see
it.  For ten minutes my vocabulary was strictly unprintable.

"Will you kindly tell me what the meaning of all this is?"

"Herr Winthrop, the idyl has come to an end; the epic now begins."



CHAPTER XII

The golden summer moon was far up now, and the yellow light of it came
into the window and illumined the grim face of the innkeeper, throwing
a grotesque shadow of him onto the floor.  The leaves rustled and
purred against the eaves.  As the branches moved so did the light and
darkness move over the innkeeper's visage.  He was silent and
meditative.

"An epic?" I said.

"An epic."

"Innkeeper," said I, "if I give you my word of honor not to molest you
or leave this room, will you let me be a witness?"

He passed into the gloom, then back into the light.

"This is no trick?" suspiciously.  "I have a deal of regard for my
bones, old as they are."

"On my honor."

"Well, I'll do it.  It is in the blood of us all.  But a false move on
your part, and I promise you that this knife shall find a resting place
in you."

He cut the ropes and I was free.  But my arms ached.

The two of us took our stand by the window and waited for the
principals in the drama about to be enacted in the clearing.  I confess
that my conscience was ill at ease; why, I knew not.  I was dreading
something, I knew not what.  The inn-keeper's hand trembled on my arm.

"Sh! they come," he whispered.

As I looked beyond his finger I saw four figures advance over the
sward.  One of them, a slight boyish form, was new to me.  The fellow
walked briskly along at the side of Stahlberg, who was built on the
plan of a Hercules.  When they came to the clearing they stopped.  The
seconds went through the usual formalities of testing the temper of the
swords.  Somehow, I could not keep my eyes off the youngster, who was
going to do battle with the veteran; and I could not help wondering
where in the world he had come from, and why in the world he had chosen
this place to settle his dispute in.  There were plenty of convenient
places in the village, in and around the barracks.  He took his
position, back to me, so I could not tell what he was like.  The moon
shone squarely in the lieutenant's face, upon which was an expression
of contempt mingled with confidence.  My heart thumped, for I had never
seen a duel before.

"I do not know where you came from," I heard the lieutenant say; "but
you managed nicely to pick a quarrel.  It is all on your own head.  It
is too bad that cur of an Englishman had to run away."

The innkeeper's knife was so close that I could feel the point of it
against my ribs.  So I gave up the wild idea of yelling from the window
that I hadn't run away.

The lieutenant's opponent shrugged.  He placed himself on guard; that
was his reply.  Suddenly the two sprang forward, and the clash of
swords followed.  I could not keep track of the weapons, but I could
see that the youngster was holding his own amazingly well.  Neither was
touched the first bout.

"Two minutes," murmured the old rascal at my side.  "It will be over
this time."

"You seem to have a good deal of confidence in your young man," said I.

"There is not a finer swords--swordsman in the kingdom, or on the
continent, for that matter.  There! they are at it again."

Step by step the lieutenant gave ground; the clashing had stopped; it
was needle-like work now.  Gradually they began to turn around.  The
blades flashed in the moonshine like heat lightning.  My pulse attuned
itself to every stroke.  I heard a laugh.  It was full of scorn.  The
laugh--it recalled to me a laugh I had heard before.  Evidently the
youngster was playing with the veteran.  I became fascinated.  And
while the innkeeper and I watched a curious thing happened.  Something
seemed to be slipping from the youngster's head; he tried to put up his
free hand, but the lieutenant was making furious passes!  A flood of
something dimly yellow suddenly fell about the lad's shoulders.  Oh,
then I knew!  With a snarl of rage I took the inn-keeper by the throat
and hurled him, knife and all, to the floor, dashed from the room,
thence to the stairs, down which I leaped four at a time.  Quick as I
was, I was too late.  The lieutenant's sword lay on the grass, and he
was clasping his shoulder with the sweat of agony on his brow.

"Damnation!" he groaned; "a woman!"  Then he tottered and fell in the
arms of his subordinate.  He had fainted.

"This will make a pretty story," cried the young officer, as he laid
his superior lengthwise, and tried to staunch the flow of blood.
"Here's a man who runs away, and lets a woman--God knows what
sort--fight his duels for him, the cur!"

I never looked at him, but went straight to Gretchen.  Stahlberg gave
me a questioning glance, and made a move as though to step between.

"Stand aside, man!" I snapped.  "Gretchen, you have dishonored me."

"It were better than to bury you"--lightly.  "I assure you he caused me
no little exertion."

Yet her voice shook, and she shuddered as she cast aside the sword.

"You have made a laughing stock of me.  I am a man, and can fight my
own battles," I said, sternly.  "My God!" breaking down suddenly,
"supposing you had been killed?"

"It was not possible.  And the man insulted me, not you.  A woman?
Very well.  I can defend myself against everything but calumny.  Have I
made a laughing stock of you?  It is nothing to me.  It would not have
altered my--"

She was very white, and she stroked her forehead.

"Well?" said I.

"It would not have altered my determination to take the sword in hand
again."

She put her hand to her throat as though something there had tightened.

"Ah, I am a woman, for I believe that I am about to faint!  No!"
imperiously, as I threw out my arms to catch her.  "I can reach the
door alone, without assistance."

And so we went along.  I did not know what to do, nor yet what to say.
A conflict was raging in my heart between shame and love; shame, that a
woman had fought for me and won where I should have lost; love, that
strove to spring from my lips in exultation.  I knew not which would
have conquered had I not espied the blood on Gretchen's white hand.

"You are wounded!" I cried.

She gazed at her hand as though she did not understand; then, with a
little sob and a little choke she extended her arms toward me and
stumbled.  Was ever there a woman who could look on blood without
fainting?  Gretchen had not quite fainted, but the moon had danced, she
said, and all had grown dim.

"Gretchen, why did you risk your life?  In God's name, what manner of
woman are you, and where did you learn to use the sword?  Had you no
thought of me?"  I was somewhat incoherent.

"No thought of you?"  She drew the back of her hand over her eyes.  "No
thought of you?  I did it because--because I did not--I could not--you
would have been killed!"

I was a man--human.  I loved her.  I had always loved her; I had never
loved any one else.  I was a coward to do what I did, but I could not
help it.  I crushed her to my breast and kissed her lips, not once, but
many times.

"How dare you!" weakly.

"How dare I, Gretchen, dear Gretchen?" I said.  "I dare because I love
you!  I love you!  What is it to me that you have dishonored me in the
eyes of men?  Nothing.  I love you!  Are you a barmaid?  I care not.
Are you a conspirator?  I know not, nor care.  I know but one thing: I
love you; I shall always love you!  Shall I tell you more?  Gretchen,
you love me!"

"No, no! it cannot be!" she sobbed, pushing me back.  "I am the most
wretched woman in the world!  Do not follow me, Herr; leave me, I beg
you to leave me.  I have need of the little strength left.  Leave me,
leave me!"

And she passed through the doorway into the darkness beyond.  I did not
move from where I stood.  I grew afraid that it was a dream, and that
if I moved it would vanish.  I could yet feel her lithe, warm body
palpitating in my arms; my lips still tingled and burned with the flame
of hers.  An exultant wave swept over me; she loved me!  She had not
told me so, but I knew.  She had put her heart before mine; my life was
dearer to her than her own.  I could have laughed for joy.  She loved
me!  My love overwhelmed my shame, engulfed it.  Then--

"I know you," said a harsh voice at my elbow.  It startled me, and I
wheeled swiftly.  It was the lieutenant's brother officer.  "I thought
from what I heard of you that you were a man worth trouble and caution.
Ach! you, the man we have scoured the country for?  I should not have
believed it.  To let a woman fight for him!  And she--she is more than
a woman--she is a goddess!" with enthusiasm.  "If I was betrothed to
her I'd find her if I had to hunt in heaven and hell for her.  And what
does she see in you?"  He snapped his fingers derisively.  "I warn you
that your race is run.  You cannot leave a railway station within the
radius of a hundred miles.  The best thing you can do is to swim the
river and stop in the middle.  The Prince is at the village, and he
shall know.  Woe to you, you meddler!"

"Young man," said a voice from over my shoulder, from the doorway, "you
should by right address those impertinent remarks to me.  I am Hillars,
the man you seek."

And I had forgotten his very existence!  What did he know?  What had he
seen?

"You may inform Count von Walden," continued Dan, "that I shall await
his advent with the greatest of impatience.  Now let me add that you
are treating this gentleman with much injustice.  I'll stake my life on
his courage.  The Princess Hildegarde is alone responsible for what has
just happened."

"The Princess Hildegarde!" I cried.

Hillars went on: "Why she did this is none of your business or mine.
Why she substituted herself concerns her and this gentleman only.  Now
go, and be hanged to you and your Prince and your Count, and your whole
stupid country.  Come, Jack."

The fellow looked first at me, then at Dan.

"I apologize," he said to Dan, "for mistaking this man for you."  He
clicked his heels, swung around, and marched off.

"Come," said Dan.

I dumbly followed him up to my room.  He struck a match and lit the
candle.

"Got any tobacco?" he asked, taking out a black pipe.  "I have not had
a good smoke in a week.  I want to smoke awhile before I talk."

I now knew that he had been a witness to all, or at least to the larger
part of it.

"There is some tobacco on the table," I said humbly.  I felt that I had
wronged him in some manner, though unintentionally.  "The Princess
Hildegarde!" I murmured.

"The very person," said Hillars.  He lit his pipe and sat on the edge
of the bed.  He puffed and puffed, and I thought he never would begin.
Presently he said: "And you never suspected who she was?"

"On my word of honor, I did not, Dan," said I, staring at the faded
designs in the carpet.  The golden galleon had gone down, and naught
but a few bubbles told where she had once so proudly ridden the waters
of the sea.  The Princess Hildegarde?  The dream was gone.  Castles,
castles!  "I am glad you did not know," said Dan, "because I have
always believed in your friendship.  Yet, it is something we cannot
help--this loving a woman.  Why, a man will lay down his life for his
friend, but he will rob him of the woman he loves.  It is life.  You
love her, of course."

"Yes."  I took out my own pipe now.  "But what's the use.  She is a
Princess.  Why, I thought her at first a barmaid--a barmaid!  Then I
thought her to be in some way a lawbreaker, a socialist conspirator.
It would be droll if it were not sad.  The Princess Hildegarde!"  I
laughed dismally.  "Dan, old man, let's dig out at once, and close the
page.  We'll talk it over when we are older."

"No, we will face it out.  She loves you.  Why not?  So do I."  He got
off the bed and came over to me and rested his hands on my shoulders.
"Jack, my son, next to her I love you better than anything in the
world.  We have worked together, starved together, smoked and laughed
together.  There is a bond between us that no human force can separate.
The Princess, if she cannot marry you, shall not marry the Prince.  I
have a vague idea that it is written.  'The moving finger writes; and,
having writ, moves on.'  We cannot cancel a line of it."

"Dan, you will do nothing rash or reckless?"

"Sit down, my son; sit down.  Premeditation is neither rashness nor
recklessness.  Jack, life has begun with you; with me it has come to an
end.  When there is nothing more to live for, it is time to die.  But
how?  That is the question.  A war would be a God-send; but these
so-called war lords are a lazy lot, or cowardly, or both.  Had I a
regiment, what a death!  Jack, do you not know what it is to fight the
invisible death?  Imagine yourself on the line, with the enemy
thundering toward you, sabres flashing in the sunlight, and lead
singing about your ears.  It is the only place in the world to die--on
a battlefield.  Fear passes away as a cloud from the face of the sun.
The enemy is bringing you glory--or death.  Yes, I would give a good
deal for a regiment, and a bad moment for our side.  But the regiment
non est; still, there is left--"

"Dan, what are you talking about?" I cried.

"Death; grim, gaunt and gray death, whose footstep is as noiseless as
the fall of snow; death, the silent one, as the Indian calls him."

He knocked the ash from his pipe and stuffed the briar into his pocket.

"Jack, I am weary of it all.  If I cannot die artistically, I wish to
die a sudden and awful death.  What!  Do I look like a man to die in
bed, in the inebriates' ward?  For surely I shall land there soon!  I
am going to pieces like a sand house in a wind storm.  I suppose I'm
talking nonsense.  After all, I haven't as much to say as I thought I
had.  Suppose we turn in?  I'm tired.  You see, those fellows moved me
around to-day."



CHAPTER XIII

Hillars and I stood in the middle of the road.  He held the binoculars.

"How many can you make out?" I asked.

"Four; all on horseback.  There's a coach of some sort following on
behind.  But everything is blurred and my hand trembles; the whiskey
here is terrible.  Here, look for yourself," handing the glasses to me.
"Tell me what you see."

"There's one with a white cap--ah, it is Count von Walden!  There are
two soldiers in the Hohenphalian uniform; cavalry.  I do not know who
the fourth fellow is."

"Describe him to me," said Hillars, trying to roll a cigarette with his
trembling fingers.  "Curse it!" throwing away the rice paper, "I've got
so bad that I can't roll a cigarette.  Well, what's he look like?"

"He's in civilian dress; little black mustache and an imperial."

"Look anything like Napoleon III?"

"You've hit it.  Who is he?"

"They say he's Prince Ernst of Wortumborg," said Hillars; "but it is my
opinion that he's the devil on a furlough."

"Then he is the man--" I began.

"He is.  Your love affair is all over once he gets here; unless--"  Dan
looked at the sky as though he was undecided about the weather.

"Unless what?" I asked.

"O, just unless," said he.  "I'd give 5 pounds for a glass of home-made
whiskey."

"You've got a plan of some sort," said I.  "Speak it out."

"It wasn't a plan; it was just an idea.  It's gone now.  Maybe it will
come back later.  Are you going to stay here, or come with me and
tackle a bottle of the innkeeper's Rhine wine?  The German vinegar used
to make you hilarious."

"What's the coach for?" I asked.  "Are they going to carry us off like
a couple of chickens?"

"I presume it is for her Serene Highness.  I wonder how they found out
she was here?  Probably the lieutenant you were going to fight, but
didn't, informed them.  At any rate, the coach will not be for us.  The
Prince will not bother with you and me while the Princess is here.  I
don't know what they will do with us; possibly nothing, possibly put us
in jail.  Come along; I'm thirsty."

It was late in the afternoon of the day following.  I had not seen her
Serene Highness, the Princess Hildegarde--Gretchen.  She had remained
in her room, and all efforts of mine to hold communication with her had
proved futile.  I had stood at her door and supplicated; she had told
me to go away.  The innkeeper had scowled when I suggested that he
carry a note to his mistress.  He had refused.

"The Princess receives no notes," he had said.  "Gretchen--it was a
different matter."

And Hillars had slept till after noon.  It had been a bad morning for
me.  The wounded lieutenant had been carried away the night before, and
there had not been anything for me to do but wander about--waiting.

"Will you help me with the Rhine wine?" asked Hillars.

"No.  My head is fuddled enough as it is."

"Then you must let me do all the talking."

"And why you?"

"I shall know better how to irritate them," with a laugh.  "They will
not take any particular interest in you when they set eyes on me.  Homo
sum!  I am the man they are looking for.  They will find plenty of me.
I shall be a syndicate in myself; where they expect to find one man,
they will find a dozen, all alive and kicking.  It will be good sport."

"What the devil are you up to?" I demanded.

"Wait and see; wait and see.  Come, let us receive them in the hall.
The affair must be conducted on the line of court etiquette.  First, we
shall try to avert hostilities by the aid of diplomacy; if that fails
the Princess herself will be made to vindicate us.  And why not?"

"You are not going to drag her in!" I exclaimed.

"My dear Jack, of course not.  The Prince and the Count will do that
for us.  You understand that she is concerned in all that is to take
place, do you not?  Well, then, it will cost her but little."

"But this fellow, the Prince!" I cried.  "Let us get out while there is
time."

Dan regarded me seriously.

"You aren't afraid of him; what do you want to run away for?  My son,
there will be some very good sport before this is done.  You will miss
it by running away."

"It's meeting the man who is to marry her--the woman I love.  That is
the reason."

"To marry her--the woman I love!" he repeated softly.  "Yes, it is
hard.  But it isn't any worse for you than for me."

"Forgive me, Dan!  You know--"

"Yes, yes; I know," crossly.  "Hang it! can't I punch it into your head
that I am taking all this trouble on your account?  If it were not for
you, do you suppose I'd wait?  The Prince shall never marry the
Princess.  Will that satisfy you?  Now, look pleasant, as the
photographer says, for here they are."

The Count entered first, then the Prince, who was followed by two
cavalrymen.  Hillars and I stood silently by our chairs, and waited.
The Prince, a man with a hooked nose, black eyes with half-shut lids,
regarded me curiously.  He had the air of one amused.

When his eyes grew accustomed to the semi-darkness of the room, the
Count sounded a note of satisfaction.

"Ah! so you are here?  You have given me a devil of a chase."

"I return the compliment, Herr General," said Hillars, with a
good-humored smile.  "But, may I ask, what the devil have you been
chasing me for?"

For reply the Count turned to the cavalryman.

"Arrest that man and bind him," he said.

"You might make the order wholesale," said I stepping over to the side
of Hillars.

"I told you there would be some sport," whispered Dan.  He put his arm
across my shoulders.

"And who, in the name of Weimer, are you?" bawled the Count.  He
scrutinized me intently; then a light of recognition broke over his
face.  "The other one!  A nest of them!"

"Count," interposed the Prince, seating himself at the table, "let me
have a short talk with them before you act.  There may be extenuating
circumstances.  Anything of this sort amuses and interests me.  Let us
use a little diplomacy in the matter."

"Yes," said Hillars; "let us lie a little."

"And who can do it better than a journalist?" the Prince laughed.

"Diplomatists," Hillars sent back.

"What is her Serene Highness to you?" resumed the Prince.

"Nothing--positively nothing."

"Then you are afraid to acknowledge your regard for her?"

"I?" Hillars dropped his arm from my shoulders.  "I am not afraid of
anything--not even the Count here."  Then he laughed.  "If her Serene
Highness was anything to me, your Highness, I should not be afraid to
say so before the King himself."

"You impudent--"  But a wave of the Prince's hand silenced the Count.

"Have patience, my friend.  This is not impudence; it is courage and
prudence.  I believe," re-addressing Hillars, "that once you were on
the point of eloping with the Princess Hildegarde."

Hillars thrust his hands into his pockets.

"So they say."

"And yet you deny your regard for her!"

"Oh, as to that affair," said Hillars, easily, "it was the adventure
more than anything else.  It is not every man in my position who has
such a chance.  And then, perhaps, I saw a good newspaper story."  The
muscles in his jaws hardened, despite the airy tone he used.

"I see that there is nothing to be gotten from you."  Then the Prince
directed his glance to me.  "And you, sir; what is she to you?  What is
her Serene Highness to you?"

"She is everything in the world to me," said I.

The consternation which followed cannot be described here.  The Count
stepped back, dumb-founded.  Hillars regarded me as though he thought I
had suddenly gone mad.  The countenance of the Prince alone remained
unruffled.

"Count," he said, laughing, "it seems that the Princess gathers lovers
as a woolen coat does teasels.   Her lovers--there must now be a
legion!"

"You lie!" said Hillars, in an oddly suppressed tone.  "You know that
you lie."

The Prince's lips drew to a thin line, but that was all.

"Still, who will disprove it?" he asked.

"If you will allow me," said a voice behind us.

We beheld the Princess framed in the doorway.  There was a pallor and a
look of utter weariness in her face.  At the sight of her the Count
uncovered and the Prince rose.

"Your arrival is quite timely," said he.  "Here are two champions of
yours.  Come, which do you love?"

A fury sprang to my head, and I said, "You have too much confidence in
our patience.  I warn you that I have no fear of the sabres back of
you."

The same sabres leapt from their scabbards and fell stiffly against
their owners' shoulders, instinctively.

"Has it come to this," said the Princess, a superb scorn in her eyes,
"that my honor must needs be defended by strangers and aliens?"  For
the briefest space her glance plunged into my eyes.  She moved toward
the Prince.  "And you, sir, are to be my husband?"

"It is the will of the King," said the Prince, a mocking smile on his
lips.

How I lusted for his blood!

"And though my honor is doubtful," went on the woman I loved, "you
still would marry me?"

"Your Highness," said the Prince, with a bow which entailed the
sweeping of his hands, "I would marry you were your honor as--"

"Hell!" roared Hillars in English.

But he was a moment too late.  My hands were around the throat of
Prince Ernst of Wortumborg, and I was shaking him till his teeth
chattered on each other like castanets.  Surely I would have throttled
him but for the intervention of the Count and the cavalrymen.  The
Count swung his arm around my neck, while the cavalrymen, their sabre
points at Hillars' breast, wrenched loose my hands.  I stood glaring at
him, panting and furious.  He leaned against the table, gasping and
coughing.  Finally he recovered his composure.

"Count, I was wrong; you were right.  These fellows are dangerous."

"I will fight you on any terms!" I fired back at him.

"I shall send you one of my lackeys," he replied.  "Take them away, and
shoot them if they resist."

"Liberate the gentlemen," said Gretchen.

The Count gazed at her in amazement.

"Liberate them?" he cried.

"I command it."

"You?" said the Prince.

"Yes.  This is my principality; these are my soldiers; I command here."

This was a coup indeed.

"But we represent his Majesty!" cried the Count, still holding me by
the throat.  I was all but strangled myself.

"I care not whom you represent," said Gretchen.  "I am obedient only to
the King, not his minions.  Release the gentlemen."

The Count's arm slowly unwound.  Hillars pressed down the sabre points
with his hands and shook off the hand of one of the cavalrymen.

"If it be Your Highness' will," he said, "we will throw these intruders
into the road.  Might is right," waving his hand to the door which led
to the barroom.

The innkeeper and three others filed into the room, grimly and
silently.  They were armed.

For the first time the Prince lost patience.

"This is all very well, Your Highness," he sneered.  "You misunderstand
the limits of your power to command."

"Not in any part," said Gretchen.  "I am sovereign here,
notwithstanding the King's will is paramount to my own.  These people
are my people; these soldiers are fed of my bounty; this is my country
till the King takes it back.  You will act further at your peril."



CHAPTER XIV

A bar of sunlight suddenly pervaded the room; red sunlight, lighting in
its passing a tableau I shall never forget.  Gretchen stood at her full
height, her arms held closely to her sides and her hands clenched.  On
her face there was that half smile called consciousness of triumph.
Hillars was gazing at her with his soul swimming in his eyes.  And I--I
had a wild desire to throw myself at her feet, then and there.  Over
the hard-set visage of the innkeeper the bar of sunlight traveled; over
the scowling countenance of the Prince, over the puzzled brow of the
Count, and going, left a golden purple in its wake, which imperceptibly
deepened.

The Prince was first to speak.  "I protest," said he.

"Against what?" asked Gretchen.

"It is the King's will that you become my wife.  He will not tolerate
this attitude of yours.  Your principality is in jeopardy, let me tell
you."

"Does the fact that I have promised the King to become your wife
detract from my power?  Not a jot.  Till you are my husband, I am
mistress here--and after."

"As to that, we shall see," said the Prince.  "Then you intend to keep
your promise?"

"Is there man or woman who can say that I ever broke one?"

"Your Highness, what are your commands?"  It was the innkeeper who
spoke.  His fingers were twitching about the hammer of his carbine.  He
nodded approvingly toward me.  My assault upon the Prince had brought
me again into his good graces.

Gretchen did not answer him, but she smiled kindly.

"Ah, yes!" said the Prince.  "This is that Breunner fellow."

The innkeeper made a movement.  The Prince saw it, and so did I.
Prince Ernst of Wortumborg was never so near death in all his life as
at that moment.  He knew it, too.

"Your Highness has a very good memory," said the innkeeper, dryly.

"There are some things it were best to forget," replied the Prince.

"I am pleased that Your Highness shares my opinion," returned the old
fellow.  The muzzle of the carbine was once more pointed at the ceiling.

The rest of us looked on, but we understood nothing of these passes.
Even Gretchen was in the dark.

"We met long ago," said the innkeeper.

"Yes; but I have really forgotten what the subject of Our discussion
was," said the Prince, regarding the innkeeper through half-closed
lids.  "Perhaps he can explain."

"It is very kind of Your Highness," said the innkeeper, laughing
maliciously.  "But I am old, and my memory serves me ill."

The Prince shrugged.  "But we have drifted away from the present
matter.  Your Highness, then, promises to bend to the will of the King?"

"Yes," said Gretchen.  "I gave the King my promise because I had
wearied of resistance, having no one to turn to--then.  I shall marry
you, though I detest you; but I shall be your wife only in name, and
not in the eyes of God."

"The latter sacrifice was not asked of you," smiled the Prince.

"I shall depart this day for the capital," continued Gretchen.  "I warn
you not to inflict your presence upon me during the journey.  Now go.
The air while you remain is somewhat difficult to breathe."

The Prince surveyed the menacing faces which surrounded him, then
gathered up his hat and gloves.

"I see that Your Highness will be a dutiful wife," he said, smoothing
the silk of his hat with his elbow.  He blew into his gloves and
carefully drew them over his hands.  "A pleasant journey to Your
Highness," he added.  "Come, Count.  And these?" waving his hand toward
Hillars and me.

"They have my fullest protection."

He smiled villainously, then walked to the door with a measured tread.
At the door he turned.  There was a flash of rage in his eyes, but he
quickly subdued it.

"Auf wiedersehen!" with a sweeping glance which took in all of us, and
particularly me.

He passed out, the Count following him soberly.  The two cavalrymen
thrust their sabres into the scabbards with a clank, and made as though
to follow.

"Wait," said Gretchen.  "I shall have need of you.  You will escort me
to the station.  Now you may go."

They saluted gravely.  They appreciated the situation.  The Princess
was their bread and butter.

"Your Highness," said Hillars, "there has been a mistake."

"A mistake?" repeated Gretchen, wonderingly.

"Yes.  They have made you a Princess, whereas they should have made you
a Queen.  Will you forgive me the trouble I have caused?"

"It is I who must ask forgiveness of you," she said, with a sad smile.
"You may kiss my hand, sir."

Hillars remained somewhat long over it.

"And how comes it that you gentlemen know each other?" she asked.

"Damon and Pythias, Your Highness," answered Hillars.  "We were brought
up together, and we have shared our tents and kettles.  I recommend
Pythias to you as a brave gentleman."  Then he came to me.  "You are a
brave fellow, Jack," grasping my hand.  "Good luck to you.  I had an
idea; it has returned.  Now, then, innkeeper, come with me."

"With you, and where?" asked the innkeeper.  If there was one thing for
which he could not account, it was the presence of Hillars at the inn.

"Never mind where, but come," answered Hillars, gayly.  He bent and
whispered something into the old fellow's ear.  It was something which
pleased him, for he screwed his lips into a smile, and took the white
hand of the whisperer in his brawny fist and nigh crushed it.

"Well, well! it doesn't matter where you came from.  Here, you," to the
trio behind him, "go back to the stables."  They filed out.  Then the
innkeeper took Hillars by the arm.  "Come along; time passes."

"And where are you going?" I asked anxiously.  Hillars should not have
passed from my sight but for Gretchen.

"We'll be back shortly," he answered.  "You will know all about then,
my son."

He stood on the sill of the door, a handsome picture.  His gray eyes
sparkled, his face was full of excitement and there was a color in his
cheeks.  There was no sign here of the dissipated man of the night
before.  It was Hillars as I had seen him in the old days.  But for his
19th century garb, he might have just stepped down from a frame--a
gallant by Fortuny, who loved the awakened animal in man.  The poise
was careless, but graceful, and the smile was debonair.  His eyes were
holding Gretchen's.  A moment passed; another and another.

Then: "Long live and God bless her Serene Highness the Princess
Hildegarde!"  And he was gone.

And as he disappeared a shadow of some sort passed before my eyes, and
a something dull and heavy pressed upon my heart.  Presently came the
sound of beating hoofs, and then all became still.

Gretchen and I were alone.

Gretchen appeared to be studying the blue veins in her hands which she
listlessly held before her.  An interval of three or four minutes
passed, still she remained in that pathetic attitude, silent and
motionless.

"Gretchen," said I, "have you nothing to say?"

"Yes."  Her eyes raised to the level of mine, and I saw that they were
deep in tears.  "Herr, I shall say to you that which I have never said
to any man, and that which I shall never say to any man again.  I may
say it now because it is sinless.  I love you!  I love you, and, loving
you, God knows what the future without you shall be.  Yes!  I love you.
Take me once in your arms and kiss me, and let me go--forever."

Then with a smile which partly shielded a sob, her arms went around my
neck and her face lay close to mine.  Heaven knows which was the
greater, the joy or the pain.

"Gretchen, think!" I cried, distractedly.  "What is a Prince or a King
to you and me, who love?"

"There is honor," gently.  She caressed my cheek with her fingers.

"Honor!" I cried, vehemently.  "Is it honorable to marry the man you do
not love and break the heart of the one you do?"

She did not answer, but her arms fell from my neck, and she approached
the window.  The passing river was reflected in her eyes.  Her reverie
was a short one.

"Listen, Herr; I will tell you why it is honorable.  The Prince and the
King?  I fear the one as little as I do the other.  It is not the
Prince, it is not the King, it is not the principality.  Herr, I have
come near to being a very wicked woman, who was about to break the most
sacred promise a sovereign can make.  Before I came here a delegation
of my people approached me.  On bended knees they asked me not to
voluntarily return the principality to the King, who was likely to give
them a ruler rapacious or cruel or indifferent.  And while they
understood what a sacrifice it meant to me, they asked me to bend my
will to the King's and wed the Prince, vowing that I alone should be
recognized as their sovereign ruler.  Since my coronation they said
that they had known the first happiness in years.  Herr, it was so
pathetic!  I love my people, who, after all, are not adopted since I
was born here.  So I gave my promise, and, heaven forgive me, I was
about to break it!  There are some things, Herr, which the publican
does not understand.  One of these is the duty a sovereign owes to the
people.  The woman in me wishes to follow your fortunes, though they
carry her to the ends of the world; but the sovereign sees but one
path--honor and duty.  What is one human heart to a hundred thousand?
A grain of sand.  Herr, let mine be broken; I shall not murmur.  Alas!
to be a princess, a puppet in this tinsel show of kings and queens!  It
is my word and the King's will which have made my happiness an
impossibility.  Though I love you, I wish never to see you again.  I
shall be wife but in name, yet I may not have a lover.  I am not a
woman of the court.  I am proud of my honor, though the man who is to
be my husband doubts that."

"No, Gretchen," said I, "he does not doubt it, but he wishes me to do
so.  I believe in your innocence as I believe in your love."

"It is sad, is it not," said she, "that we must go through our days
loving each other and all the world standing between?  I have never
loved a man before; I did not want to love you.  I did not know that I
loved you till I saw that your life was in danger.  Yet I am glad that
I have lived for a brief second, for till a woman loves she does not
live.  I am brave; do you be likewise.  I shall go back to the world,
and who shall know of the heart of fire beneath the ice!  Not even the
man I love.  Kiss me; it is the last kiss I shall take from the lips of
any man."

And it seemed to me that our souls met in that last kiss, melted and
became one.  Her hands dropped to her side, and swiftly she sped from
the room.


She had entered the coach.  The cavalrymen were perched upon the box.
There was a crack of the lash, and the coach rolled away.  I watched
it, standing in the road.  A cloud of yellow dust partially obscured it
from view.  Half a mile beyond rose a small hill.  This the coach
mounted, and the red gold of the smoldering sun engulfed it.  Was it a
face I saw at the window?  Perhaps.  Then over the hill all
disappeared, and with it the whole world, and I stood in emptiness,
alone.

Gretchen had gone.



CHAPTER XV

I was wandering aimlessly through the rose gardens, when the far-off
sound of galloping hoofs came on the breeze.  Nearer and nearer it
drew.  I ran out into the highway.  I saw a horse come wildly dashing
along.  It was riderless, and as it came closer I saw the foam of sweat
dripping from its flanks and shoulders.  As the animal plunged toward
me, I made a spring and caught the bridle, hanging on till the brute
came to a standstill.  It was quivering from fright.  There was a gash
on its neck, and it was bleeding and turning the white flakes of sweat
into a murky crimson.

"Good Lord!" I ejaculated.  "It's one of the cavalry horses.  Hillars
or the innkeeper has been hurt."

I was of the mind to mount the animal and go in search of them, when
Stahlberg, who had come to my assistance, said that I had best wait.  A
quarter of an hour passed.  Then we could see another horse, perhaps
half a mile away, coming toward the inn at a canter.  From what I could
see in the pale light, the horse carried a double burden.  A sheet of
ice seemed to fall on my heart.  What had happened?  Had Dan and the
Prince come to blows?  Alas, I could have cried out in anguish at the
sight which finally met my gaze.  The innkeeper held the reins, and,
propped up in front of him, was Hillars, to all appearances dead.

"Gott!" cried the innkeeper, discovering me, "but I am glad to see you,
Herr.  Your friend has been hurt, badly, badly."

"My God!" I cried.  The hand and wrist of the innkeeper which encircled
Hillars were drenched in blood.

"Yes.  A bullet somewhere in his chest.  Help me down with him.  He is
not dead yet.  I'll tell you the story when we have made it comfortable
for him."

Tenderly we carried the inanimate form of poor Hillars into the inn and
laid it on the sofa.  I tore back his blood-wet shirt.  The wound was
slightly below the right lung.  The bullet had severed an artery, for I
could see that the blood gushed.  We worked over him for a few moments,
and then he opened his eyes.  He saw me and smiled.

"There wasn't any regiment, old man, but this will suffice.  My hand
trembled.  But he'll never use his right arm again, curse him!"

"Dan, Dan!" I cried, "what made you do it?"

"When I am a man's friend, it is in life and death.  He was in the way.
He may thank liquor that he lives."  The lids of his eyes contracted.
"Hurts a little, but it will not be for long, my son.  I am bleeding to
death inside.  Jack, the woman loves you, and in God's eyes, Princess
or not, she belongs to you.  You and I cannot understand these things
which make it impossible for a man and a woman who love each other to
wed.  Let me hold your hand.  I feel like an old woman.  Give me a
mouthful of brandy.  Ah, that's better!  Innkeeper, your courage is not
to be doubted, but your judgment of liquor is.  Any way, Jack, I
suppose you will not forget me in a week or so, eh?"

"Dan!" was all I could say, bending over his hand to hide my tears.

"Jack, you are not sorry?"

"Dan, you are more to me than any woman in the world."

"Oh, say!  You wouldn't--hold me up a bit higher; that's it--you
wouldn't have me hang on now, would you?  I haven't anything to live
for, no matter how you put it.  Home?  I never had one.  The only
regret I have in leaving is that the Prince will not keep me company.
Put an obol in my hand, and Charon will see me over the Styx.


  "And when, like her, O Saki, you shall pass
  Among the guests star-scattered on the grass,
  And in your joyous errand, reach the spot
  Where I made one--turn down an empty glass!


"Well, hang me, Jack, if you aren't crying!  Then you thought more of
me than I believed; a man's tears mean more than a woman's. . . .  A
man must die, and what is a year or two?  How much better to fold the
tent when living becomes tasteless and the cup is full of lees! . . .
The Prince was a trifle cruel; but perhaps his hand trembled, too.
Innkeeper, you're a good fellow."

"Herr is a man of heart," said the grizzled veteran, sadly.

"Tell Jack how it happened," said Dan; "it hurts me."

On leaving me, Hillars and the innkeeper, after having taken a pair of
pistols, had mounted the cavalry horses despite the protests of the
owners, and had galloped away in pursuit of the Prince and Count von
Walden.  They caught sight of them a mile or so ahead.  They were
loping along at a fair speed.  It took half an hour to bring the two
parties within speaking distance.  Although the Prince and von Walden
heard them, they never turned around, but kept on straight ahead.  This
made Hillars' choler rise, and he spurred forward.

"One moment, gentlemen," he cried.  "I have a word with you."

They galloped on unheeding.  When Hillars got in front of them they
merely veered to either side.

"Ah!" said Hillars, choking with rage.  With a quick movement he bent
and caught the bridle of the Prince's horse.  The Count, seeing that
the Prince was compelled to rein in, did likewise.  The Prince looked
disdainful.

"Well, what is it?" asked Von Walden.  "Speak quickly.  Has your
scribbling friend run away with Her Highness?"

"My remarks, most noble and puissant Count," said Hillars, bowing,
satirically, to the neck of his horse, "I shall confine to the still
more noble and puissant Prince of Wortumborg."

"This is an unappreciated honor," sneered the Prince.

"So it is," replied Hillars, lightly.  "When an honest man speaks to
you he is conferring an honor upon you which you, as you say, cannot
appreciate.  It appears to me that Your Highness has what we in America
call malaria.  I propose to put a hole through you and let out this bad
substance.  Lead, properly used, is a great curative.  Sir, your
presence on this beautiful world is an eyesore to me."

"One excuse is as good as another," said the Prince.  "Did Her Highness
delegate you to put me out of the way?"

"Oh, no; but since you have brought her name into it, I confess that it
is on her account.  Well, sir, no man has ever insulted a woman in my
presence and gone unscathed.  In English speaking lands we knock him
down.  This being Rome I shall do as the Romans do.  I believe I called
you a liar; I will do so again.  Is the object of my errand plain?"

"As I said to your friend," smiled the Prince, "I will send a lackey
down here to take care of you.  Count, we shall hardly get to the
station in time to catch the train.  Young man, stand aside; you annoy
me, I have no time to discuss the Princess or her lovers.  Release my
horse!"

"What a damned cur you are!" cried Hillars, losing his airy tone.  "By
God, you will fight me, if I have to knock you down and spit upon you!"
Then with full force he flung his hat into the face of the Prince.

"You have written finis to your tale," said the Prince, dismounting.

"Your Highness!" exclaimed the Count, springing to the ground, "this
must not be.  You shall not risk your life at the hands of this damned
adventurer."

"Patience, Count," said the Prince, shaking off the hand which the
Count had placed upon his shoulder.  "Decidedly, this fellow is worth
consideration.  Since we have no swords, sir, and they seem to be
woman's weapons these days, we will use pistols.  Of course, you have
come prepared.  It is a fine time for shooting.  This first light of
twilight gives us equal advantage.  Will it be at ten or twenty paces?
I dare say, if we stand at twenty, in the centre of the road, we shall
have a good look at each other before we separate indefinitely."

"Your Highness insists?" murmured the Count.

"I not only insist, I command."  The Prince took off his coat and
waistcoat and deposited them on the grass at the side of the road.
Hillars did likewise.  There was a pleased expression on his face.  "I
do believe, Count," laughed the Prince, "this fellow expects to kill
me.  Now, the pistols."

"If you will permit me," said the innkeeper, taking an oblong box from
under his coat.  "These are excellent weapons."

The Prince laughed.  "I suppose, innkeeper, if the result is disastrous
to me, it will please you?"

The innkeeper was not lacking in courtesy.  "It would be a pleasure, I
assure you.  There are certain reasons why I cannot fight you myself."

"To be sure."

"It would be too much like murder," continued the innkeeper.  "Your
hand would tremble so that you would miss me at point-blank.  There
goes the last of the sun.  We must hurry."

With a grimace the Count accepted the box and took out the pistols.

"They are old-fashioned," he said.

"A deal like the innkeeper's morals," supplemented the Prince.

"But effective," said the innkeeper.

The Count scowled at the old fellow, who met the look with phlegm.  As
an innkeeper he might be an inferior, but as a second at a duel he was
an equal.  It was altogether a different matter.

The Count carefully loaded the weapons, the innkeeper watching him
attentively.  In his turn he examined them.

"Very good," he said.

The paces were then measured out.  During this labor the Prince gazed
indifferently toward the west.  The aftermath of the sun glowed on the
horizon.  The Prince shaded his eyes for a spell.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I believe the Princess is approaching.  At any
rate here comes the coach.  Let us suspend hostilities till she has
passed."

A few minutes later the coach came rumbling along in a whirlwind of
dust.  The stoical cavalrymen kept on without so much as a glance at
the quartet standing at the side of the road.  Hillars looked after the
vehicle till it was obscured from view.  Then he shook himself out of
the dream into which he had fallen.  He was pale now, and his eyebrows
were drawn together as the Count held out the pistol.

"Ah, yes!" he said, as though he had forgotten.  "There goes the woman
who will never become your wife."

"That shall be decided at once," was the retort of the Prince.

"She will marry the gentleman back at the inn."

"A fine husband he will make, truly!" replied the Prince.  "He not only
deserts her but forsakes her champion.  But, that is neither here nor
there.  We shall not go through any polite formalities," his eyes
snapping viciously.

The two combatants took their places in the centre of the road.  The
pistol arm of each hung at the side of the body.

"Are you ready, gentlemen?" asked the Count, the barest tremor in his
voice.

"Yes," said the Prince.

Hillars simply nodded.

"When I have counted three you will be at liberty to fire.  One!"

The arms raised slowly till the pistols were on the level of the eyes.

"Two!"

The innkeeper saw Hillars move his lips.  That was the only sign.

"Three!"

The pistols exploded simultaneously.  The right arm of the Prince swung
back violently, the smoking pistol flying from his hand.  Suddenly one
of the horses gave a snort of pain and terror, and bolted down the
road.  No attention was given to the horse.  The others were watching
Hillars.  He stood perfectly motionless.  All at once the pistol fell
from his hand; then both hands flew instinctively to his breast.  There
was an expression of surprise on his face.  His eyes closed, his knees
bent forward, and he sank into the road a huddled heap.  The Prince
shrugged, a sigh of relief fell from the Count's half-parted lips,
while the innkeeper ran toward the fallen man.

"Are you hurt, Prince?" asked the Count.

"The damned fool has blown off my elbow!" was the answer.  "Bind it up
with your handkerchief, and help me on with my coat.  There is nothing
more to do; if he is not dead he soon will be, so it's all the same."

When the Prince's arm was sufficiently bandaged so as to stop the flow
of blood, the Count assisted him to mount, jumped on his own horse, and
the two cantered off, leaving the innkeeper, Hillars' head propped up
on his knee, staring after them with a dull rage in his faded blue
eyes.  The remaining horse was grazing a short distance away.  Now and
then he lifted his head and gazed inquiringly at the two figures in the
road.

"Is it bad, Herr?" the innkeeper asked.

"Very.  Get back to the inn.  I don't want to peter out here."  Then he
fainted.

It required some time and all the innkeeper's strength to put Hillars
on the horse.  When this was accomplished he turned the horse's head
toward the inn.  And that was all.

"Dan?" said I.

The lids of his eyes rolled wearily back.

"Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Bury me."

It was very sad.  "Where?" I asked.

"Did you see the little cemetery on the hill, across the valley?  Put
me there.  It is a wild, forgotten place.  'Tis only my body.  Who
cares what becomes of that?  As for the other, the soul, who can say?
I have never been a good man; still, I believe in God.  I am tired,
tired and cold.  What fancies a man has in death!  A moment back I saw
my father.  There was a wan, sweet-faced woman standing close beside
him; perhaps my mother.  I never saw her before.  Ah, me! these
chimeras we set our hearts upon, these worldly hopes!  Well, Jack, it's
curtain and no encore.  But I am not afraid to die.  I have wronged no
man or woman; I have been my own enemy.  What shall I say, Jack?  Ah,
yes!  God have mercy on my soul.  And this sudden coldness, this sudden
ease from pain--is death!"

There was a flutter of the eyelids, a sigh, and this poor flotsam, this
drift-wood which had never known a harbor in all its years, this friend
of mine, this inseparable comrade--passed out.  He knew all about it
now.

There were hot tears in my eyes as I stood up and gazed down at this
mystery called death.  And while I did so, a hand, horny and hard,
closed over mine.  The innkeeper, with blinking eyes, stood at my side.

"Ah, Herr," he said, "who would not die like that?"


And we buried him on the hillside, just as the sun swept aside the rosy
curtain of dawn.  The wind, laden with fresh morning perfumes, blew up
joyously from the river.  From where I stood I could see the drab walls
of the barracks.  The windows sparkled and flashed as the gray mists
sailed heavenward and vanished.  The hill with its long grasses
resembled a green sea.  The thick forests across the river, almost
black at the water's edge, turned a fainter and more delicate hue as
they receded, till, far away, they looked like mottled glass.  Only
yesterday he had laughed with me, talked and smoked with me, and now he
was dead.  A rage pervaded me.  We are puny things, we, who strut the
highways of the world, parading a so-called wisdom.  There is only one
philosophy; it is to learn to die.

"Come," said I to the innkeeper; and we went down the hill.

"When does the Herr leave?"

"At once.  There will be no questions?" I asked, pointing to the
village.

"None.  Who knows?"

"Then, remember that Herr Hillars was taken suddenly ill and died, and
that he desired to be buried here.  I dare say the Prince will find
some excuse for his arm, knowing the King's will in regard to dueling.
Do you understand me?"

"Yes."

I did not speak to him again, and he strode along at my heels with an
air of preoccupation.  We reached the inn in silence.

"What do you know about her Serene Highness the Princess Hildegarde?" I
asked abruptly.

"What does Herr wish to know?" shifting his eyes from my gaze.

"All you can tell me."

"I was formerly in her father's service.  My wife----"  He hesitated,
and the expression on his face was a sour one.

"Go on."

"Ah, but it is unpleasant, Herr.  You see, my wife and I were not on
the best of terms.  She was handsome . . . a cousin of the late Prince.
. . .  She left me more than twenty years ago.  I have never seen her
since, and I trust that she is dead.  She was her late Highness's
hair-dresser."

"And the Princess Hildegarde?"

"She is a woman for whom I would gladly lay down my life."

"Yes, yes!" I said impatiently.  "Who made her the woman she is?  Who
taught her to shoot and fence?"

"It was I."

"You?"

"Yes.  From childhood she has been under my care.  Her mother did so
desire.  She is all I have in the world to love.  And she loves me,
Herr; for in all her trials I have been her only friend.  But why do
you ask these questions?" a sudden suspicion lighting his eyes.

"I love her."

He took me by the shoulders and squared me in front of him.

"How do you love her?" a glint of anger mingling with the suspicion.

"I love her as a man who wishes to make her his wife."

His hands trailed down my sleeves till they met and joined mine.

"I will tell you all there is to be told.  Herr, there was once a happy
family in the palace of the Hohenphalians.  The Prince was rather wild,
but he loved his wife.  One day his cousin came to visit him.  He was a
fascinating man in those days, and few women were there who would not
give an ear to his flatteries.  He was often with the Princess, but she
hated him.  One day an abominable thing happened.  This cousin loved
the Princess.  She scorned him.  As the Prince was entering the boudoir
this cousin, making out that he was unconscious of the husband's
approach, took the Princess in his arms and kissed her.  The Prince was
too far away to see the horror in his wife's face.  He believed her to
be acquiescent.  That night he accused her.  Her denials were in vain.
He confronted her with his cousin, who swore before the immortal God
himself that the Princess had lain willing in his arms.  From that time
on the Prince changed.  He became reckless; he fell in with evil
company; he grew to be a shameless ruffian, a man who brought his women
into his wife's presence, and struck her while they were there.  And in
his passions he called her terrible names.  He made a vow that when
children came he would make them things of scorn.  In her great
trouble, the Princess came to my inn, where the Princess Hildegarde was
born.  The Prince refused to believe that the child was his.  My
mistress finally sickened and died--broken-hearted.  The Prince died in
a gambling den.  The King became the guardian of the lonely child.  He
knows but little, or he would not ask Her Highness--"  He stopped.

"He would not ask her what?"

"To wed the man who caused all this trouble."

"What!  Prince Ernst?"

"Yes.  I prayed to God, Herr, that your friend's bullet would carry
death.  But it was not to be."

"I am going back to London," said I.  "When I have settled up my
affairs there I shall return."

"And then?"

"Perhaps I shall complete what my friend began."

I climbed into the ramshackle conveyance and was driven away.  Once I
looked back.  The innkeeper could be seen on the porch, then he became
lost to view behind the trees.  Far away to my left the stones in the
little cemetery on the hillside shone with brilliant whiteness.



CHAPTER XVI

There were intervals during the three months which followed when I
believed that I was walking in a dream, and waking would find me
grubbing at my desk in New York.  It was so unreal for these days;
mosaic romance in the heart of prosaic fact!  Was there ever the like?
It was real enough, however, in the daytime, when the roar of London
hammered at my ears, but when I sat alone in my room it assumed the
hazy garments of a dream.  Sometimes I caught myself listening for
Hillars: a footstep in the corridor, and I would take my pipe from my
mouth and wait expectantly.  But the door never opened and the
footsteps always passed on.  Often in my dreams I stood by the river
again.  There is solace in these deep, wide streams.  We come and go,
our hopes, our loves, our ambitions.  Nature alone remains.  Should I
ever behold Gretchen again?  Perhaps.  Yet, there was no thrill at the
thought.  If ever I beheld her again it would be when she was placed
beyond the glance of my eye, the touch of my hand.  She was mine, aye,
as a dream might be; something I possessed but could not hold.  Heigho!
the faces that peer at us from the firelight shadows!  They troop along
in a ghostly cavalcade, and the winds that creep over the window sill
and under the door--who can say that they are not the echoes of voices
we once heard in the past?

I was often on the verge of sending in my resignation, but I would
remember in time that work meant bread and butter--and forgetfulness.
When I returned to the office few questions were asked, though my
assistant looked many of them reproachfully.  I told him that Hillars
had died abroad, and that he had been buried on the continent at his
request; all of which was the truth, but only half of it.  I did my
best to keep the duel a secret, but it finally came out.  It was the
topic in the clubs, for Hillars had been well known in political and
literary circles.  But in a month or so the affair, subsided.  The
world never stops very long, even when it loses one of its best friends.

One late October morning I received a note which read:


"JOHN WINTHROP:

"Dear Sir--I am in London for a few days, homeward bound from a trip to
Egypt, and as we are cousins and 'orphans too,' I should like the
pleasure of making your acquaintance.  Trusting that I shall find you
at leisure, I am,

"Your humble servant,

"PHILIP PEMBROKE."


"Ah," said I; "that Louisianian cousin of mine, who may or may not live
the year out," recalling the old lawyer's words.  "He seems to hang on
pretty well.  I hope he'll be interesting; few rich men are.  He writes
like a polite creditor.  What did the old fellow say was the matter
with him? heart trouble, or consumption?  I can't remember."  I threw
the note aside and touched up some of my dispatches.

Precisely at ten o'clock the door opened and a man came in.  He was
fashionably dressed, a mixture of Piccadilly and Broadway in taste.  He
was tall, slender, but well-formed; and his blonde mustache shone out
distinctly against a background of tanned skin.  He had fine blue eyes.

"Have I the pleasure of speaking to John Winthrop of New York?" he
began, taking off his hat.

I rose.  "I am the man."

He presented his card, and on it I read, "Philip Pembroke."

"Philip Pembroke!" I exclaimed.

"Evidently you are surprised?" showing a set of strong white teeth.

"Truthfully, I am," I said, taking his hand.  "You see," I added,
apologetically, "your family lawyer--that is--he gave me
the--er--impression that you were a sickly fellow--one foot in the
grave, or something like.  I was not expecting a man of your build."

The smile broadened into a deep laugh, and a merry one, I thought,
enviously.  It was so long since I had laughed.

"That was a hobby of the old fellow," he replied.  "When I was a boy I
had the palpitation of the heart.  He never got rid of the idea that I
might die at any moment.  He was always warning me about violent
exercises, the good old soul.  Peace to his ashes!"

"He is dead?"

"Yes.  When I took to traveling he all but had nervous prostration.  I
suppose he told you about that will I made in your favor.  It was done
to please him.  Still," he added soberly, "it stands.  I travel a deal,
and no one knows what may happen.  And so you are the John Winthrop my
dad treated so shabbily?  Oh, don't protest, he did.  I should have
hunted you up long ago, and given you a solid bank account, only I knew
that the son of my aunt must necessarily be a gentleman, and,
therefore, would not look favorably upon such a proceeding."

"Thank you," said I.  The fellow pleased me.

"And then, I did not know but what you cared nothing for money."

"True.  A journalist doesn't care anything about money; the life is too
easy and pleasant, and most of the things he needs are thrown in, as
they say."

This bit of sarcasm did not pass; my cousin laughed again that merry
laugh of his.

"I think we shall become great friends," he said.  "I like frankness."

"My remark in its literal sense was the antithesis of frankness."

"Ah, you said too much not to be frank.  Frankness is one of the
reasons why I do not get on well with the women.  I can't lie in the
right place, and when I do it is generally ten times worse than the
plain truth."

"You're a man of the world, I see."

"No, merely a spectator."

"Well, you have the price of admission; with me it's a free pass.  Some
day we will compare notes."

"Who is your banker?"

"Banker?  I have none.  I distrust banks.  They take your mite and
invest it in what-nots, and sometimes when you go for it, it is not
there."

"And then again it multiplies so quickly that you have more than you
know what to do with; eh?"

"As to that I cannot say.  It is hearsay, rumor; so far as I know it
may be so.  Experience has any number of teachers; the trouble is, we
cannot study under them all.  Necessity has been my principal
instructor.  Sometimes she has larruped me soundly, though I was a
model scholar.  You will go to luncheon with me?"

"If you will promise to dine with me this evening?"  And I promised.

For an hour or more we chatted upon congenial topics.  He was
surprisingly well informed.  He had seen more of the world than I,
though he had not observed it so closely.  As we were about to leave,
the door opened, and Phyllis, Ethel and her husband, Mr. Holland,
entered.  For a moment the room was filled with the fragrance of
October air and the essence of violets.  They had been in town a week.
They had been "doing" the Strand, so Ethel said, and thought they would
make me a brief visit to see how "it was done," the foreign
corresponding.  Mr. Wentworth and his wife were already domiciled at
B----, and the young people were going over to enjoy the winter
festivities.  Phyllis was unchanged.  How like Gretchen, I thought.

While Ethel was engaging my cousin's attention, I conducted Phyllis
through the office.

"What a place to work in!" said Phyllis, laughing.  The laugh awakened
a vague thrill.  "Dust, dust; everywhere dust.  You need a woman to
look after you, Jack?"

As I did not reply, she looked quickly at me, and seeing that my face
was grave, she flushed.

"Forgive me, Jack," impulsively; "I did not think."

I answered her with a reassuring smile.

"How long are you to remain in town?" I asked, to disembarrass her.

"We leave day after to-morrow, Saturday.  A day or two in Paris, and
then we go on.  Every one in New York is talking about your book.  I
knew that you were capable."

"I hope every one is buying it," said I, passing over her last
observation.

"Was it here that you wrote it?"

"Oh, no; it was written in my rooms, under the most favorable
circumstances."

"I thought so.  This is a very dreary place."

"Perhaps I like it for that very reason."

Her eyes were two interrogation points, but I pretended not to see.

"What nice eyes your cousin has," she said, side glancing.

With a woman it is always a man's eyes.

"And his father was the man who left you the fortune?"

"Yes," I answered, with a short laugh.  Of course, I had never told
Phyllis of that thousand-dollar check.

"You must run over this winter and see us," she said.  "I anticipate
nothing but dinners, balls and diplomatic receptions.  I have never
been there, it will all be new to me.  Think of seeing Egypt, the Holy
Lands, Russia, France and Spain, and yet not seeing the very heart of
the continent!  Thank goodness, I know the language."

"And will she not be a sensation?" joined in Ethel.

"A decided sensation," said I, scrutinizing the beautiful face so near
me.  What if they met, as probably they would--Phyllis and Gretchen?
"Phyllis," said I, suddenly, "where were you born?"

"Where was I born?" with a wondering little laugh; "in America.  Where
did you suppose?"

"Eden," said I.  "I wasn't sure, so I asked."

"I do not know how to take that," she said, with mock severity.

"Oh, I meant Eden when it was Paradise," I hastened to say.

"Yes," put in Pembroke; "please go back, Miss Landors, and begin the
world all over again."

"Phyllis," said I, in a whisper, "have you ever met that remarkable
affinity of yours?"  I regretted the words the moment they had crossed
my lips.

"Yes, you are changed, as I said the other night," distrustfully.
"There is something in your voice that is changed.  You have grown
cynical.  But your question was impertinent.  Have you found yours?"

I was expecting this.  "Yes," I said.  "Once I thought I had; now I am
sure of it.  Some day I shall tell you an interesting story."

"We came up to ask you to dine with us this evening," she said,
trailing her brown-gloved finger over the dusty desk.  "Are you at
liberty?"

"No.  I have only just met my cousin, and have promised to dine with
him."

"If that is all, bring him along.  I like his face."

We passed out of the file room.

"Phyllis, we must be going, dear," said Ethel.

I led Phyllis down the narrow stairs.  A handsome victoria stood at the
curb.

"I shall be pleased to hear your story," said she.

It occurred to me that the tale might not be to her liking.  So I said:
"But it is one of those disagreeable stories; one where all should end
nicely, but doesn't; one which ends, leaving the hero, the heroine, and
the reader dissatisfied with the world in general, and the author (who
is Fate) in particular."

I knew that she was puzzled.  She wasn't quite sure that I was not
referring to the old affair.

"If the story is one I never heard before," suspiciously, "I should
like to hear it."

"And does it not occur to you," throwing back the robes so that she
might step into the victoria, "that fate has a special grudge against
me?  Once was not enough, but it must be twice."

"And she does not love you?  Are you quite sure?  You poor fellow!" She
squeezed my hand kindly.  "Shall I be candid with you?" with the
faintest flicker of coquetry in her smile.

"As in the old days," said I, glancing over my shoulder to see now near
the others were.  A groom is never to be considered.  "Yes, as in the
old days."

"Well, I have often regretted that I did not accept you as an
experiment."

Then I knew that she did not understand.

"You must not think I am jesting," said I, seriously.  "The story is of
the bitter-sweet kind.  The heroine loves me, but cannot be mine."

"Loves you?" with a slight start.  "How do you know?"

"She has told me so," lowering my voice.

Frankness of this sort to a woman who has rejected you has a peculiar
effect.  The coquetry faded from her smile, and there was a perceptible
contraction of the brows.  Her eyes, which were looking into mine,
shifted to the back of the groom.  No, I shall never understand a
woman.  She should have been the most sympathetic woman in the world,
yet she appeared to be annoyed.

"What's all this between you and Phyllis?" asked Ethel, coming up.

"There is nothing between her and me," said I.

"Well, there should be," she retorted.  "That is the trouble."

My observation was: "I have always held that immediately a woman gets
married she makes it her business to see that all old bachelors are
lugged out and disposed of to old maids."

"I shall never forgive that," Phyllis declared; "never."

"Then I shall always have the exquisite pleasure of being a supplicant
for your pardon.  It is delightful to sue pardon of a beautiful woman."

Phyllis sniffed.

"Forgive him at once," said Ethel, "if only for that pretty speech."

Mr. Holland pulled out his watch suggestively.

"Well," I said, "I see that I am keeping you from your lunch.  Good-by,
then, till dinner, when I shall continue at length on the evils--"

"William," interrupted Ethel, addressing the groom, "drive on."

And so they left us.

"Shall we go to lunch now?" I asked of Pembroke.

"Yes," rather dreamily I thought.  "Do you know," with sudden
animation, "she is a remarkably beautiful woman?"

"Yes, she is."  After all, the sight of Phyllis had rather upset me.

"I had a glimpse of her in Vienna last winter," went on Pembroke.  "I
never knew who she was."

"Vienna!" I exclaimed.

"Yes.  It was at a concert.  Her face was indelibly graven on my
memory.  I asked a neighbor who she was, but when I went to point her
out she was gone.  I should like to see more of her."

So Gretchen had been in Vienna, and poor Hillars had never known!

I took Pembroke to the club that afternoon, and we dallied in the
billiard room till time to dress for dinner.  Dinner came.  But Phyllis
forgot to ask me about the story, at which I grew puzzled, considering
what I know of woman's curiosity.  And she devoted most of her time to
Pembroke, who did not mind.  Later we went to the theatre--some
production of Gilbert and Sullivan.  Whenever I glanced at Phyllis I
fell to wondering how Gretchen would have looked in evening dress.
Yes, Phyllis was certainly beautiful, uncommonly.  For years I had
worshipped at her shrine, and then--how little we know of the heart.  I
was rather abstracted during the performance, and many of my replies
went wide the mark.

As we were leaving the foyer, Phyllis said: "Jack, a man has been
staring me out of countenance."

"Pembroke?" I laughed.

"No.  And moreover, the stare was accompanied by the most irritating
sneer."

"Point him out to me when we reach the street," I said, humoring what I
thought to be a fancy, "and I'll put a head on him."

The sneer was probably meant for an ogle.  Beauty has its annoyances as
well as its compensations.  As we came under the glare of the outside
lights, Phyllis's hand tightened on my arm.

"Look! there he is, and he is making for us."

At the sight of that face with its hooked nose, its waxed mustache and
imperial, I took a deep breath and held it.  In the quick glance I saw
that his right arm hung stiffly at his side.  I attempted to slip into
the crowd, but without success.  He lifted his hat, smiling into the
astonished face of Phyllis.

"The Princess Hildegarde--"  But with those three words the sentence on
his lips came to an end.  Amazement replaced the smile.  He stepped
back.  Phyllis's eyes expressed scornful surprise.  What she understood
to be rudeness I knew to be a mistake.  He had mistaken her to be
Gretchen, just as I had mistaken Gretchen to be Phyllis.  It was a
situation which I enjoyed.  All this was but momentary.  We passed on.

"Was the man crazy?" asked Phyllis, as we moved toward the carriages,
where we saw Pembroke waving his hand.

"Not exactly crazy," I answered.

"The Princess Hildegarde; did he not call me that?"

"He did."

"He must have mistaken me for some one else, then."

"The very thing," said I.  "I wonder what he is doing here in London?"

"Mercy! do you know him?"

"Slightly."  We were almost at the carriage.  "I am sorry to say that
he is a great personage in this very court which you are so soon to
grace."

"How strange!  I'm afraid we shan't get on."

Pembroke and I dismissed our carriage.  We were going back to the club.
Ethel and her husband were already seated in their carriage.

Said Phyllis as I assisted her to enter; "And who is this Princess
Hildegarde?"

"The most beautiful woman in all the world," I answered with
enthusiasm.  "You will meet her also."

"I do not believe I shall like her either," said Phyllis.  "Good
night;" and the door swung to.

Pembroke and I made off for the club. . . .  Perhaps it was my
enthusiasm.



CHAPTER XVII

I had just left the office when I ran into Pembroke, who was in the act
of mounting the stairs.  It was Saturday morning.  Phyllis had left
town.

"Hello!" he cried.  "A moment more, and I should have missed you, and
then you would not have learned a piece of news."

"News?"

"Yes.  I have made up my mind not to go home till February."

"What changed your plans so suddenly?" I asked.

"My conscience."

"In heaven's name, what has your conscience to do with your plans?"

"Well, you see, my conscience would not permit me to meet such a
remarkable woman as Miss Landors without becoming better acquainted
with her."  He swung his cane back and forth.

"This is very sudden," said I, lighting a cigar.  "When did it happen?"

"What time did she come into your office the other day?"

"It must have been after eleven."

"Then it happened about eleven-fifteen."  Pembroke's eyes were dancing.
"Do you--er--think there are any others?"

"Thousands," said I, "only--"  I turned the end of my cigar around to
see if the light had proved effective.

"Only what?"

"Only she won't have them."

"Then there is really a chance?"

"When a woman is not married there is always a chance," said I, wisely.
"But let me tell you, cousin mine, she has a very high ideal.  The man
who wins her must be little less than a demigod and a little more than
a man.  Indeed, her ideal is so high that I did not reach it by a good
foot."

Pembroke looked surprised.  "She--ah--rejected--"

"I did not say that I had proposed to her," said I.

"If you haven't, why haven't you?"

"It is strange."  As his face assumed an anxious tinge, I laughed.  "My
dear relative, go ahead and win her, if you can; you have my best
wishes.  She is nothing to me.  There was a time--ah, well, we all can
look back and say that.  If it isn't one woman it's another."

Sunshine came into Pembroke's face again.  "Ideal or not ideal, I am
going to make the effort."

"Success to you!" patting his shoulder.  He was good to look at, and it
was my opinion that Phyllis might do worse.  We miss a good deal in
this world by being over particular.

We were coming into Trafalgar.  Nelson stood high up in the yellow fog.

"Nature is less gracious than history sometimes," mused Pembroke,
gazing up.  "She is doing her best to dull the lustre of the old
gentleman.  Ah, those were days when they had men."

"We have them still," said I.  "It is not the men, but the
opportunities, which are lacking."

"Perhaps that is so.  Yet, it is the great man who makes them."

I was thinking of Hillars.  "I would give a good deal for a regiment
and a bad moment for our side."  There was no mighty column in his
memory, scarcely a roll of earth.  "What do you want to do?" I asked.
"Shall we hail a cab and drive to the park?"

"Just as you say, if it is not interfering with your work."

"Not at all."

"Have a cigar," said Pembroke, after we had climbed into the cab and
arranged our long legs comfortably.  The London cab is all very well
for a short and thin person.  "These came to me directly from Key West."

"That is one of the joys of being rich," said I.  "Gold is Aladdin's
lamp.  I have to take my chances on getting good tobacco in this
country."

"Talking about gold--" he began.

"Don't!" I entreated.

"I was about to say that I drew on my bankers for 20,000 pounds this
morning."

"You intend to go in for a figure abroad, then?"

"Oh, no.  I deposited the money in another bank--in your name."

"Mine?  Deposited 20,000 pounds in my name?" I gasped.

"Just so."

"I understood you to say, because you thought me to be a gentleman,
that you weren't going to do anything like this?  Have I done something
to change your opinion?"

"Of course not.  And I never said that I should not do it.  You may or
may not use it, that is as you please.  But so far as I am concerned,
it will stay there and accumulate interest till the crack of doom.  It
isn't mine any more.  If I were not almost your brother, I dare say you
might justly take offense at the action.  As it is," complacently, "you
will not only accept the gift, but thank me for it."

"How old are you?" I asked.

"Exactly twenty-five."

"I thought that you could not be older than that.  Aren't you afraid to
be so far away from home?"

Pembroke lay back and laughed.  "You haven't thanked me yet."

"I must get a new tailor," said I.  "What! shall I pay a tailor to make
a well-dressed man out of me, and then become an object of charity?  Do
I look, then, like a man who is desperately in need of money?"

"No, you don't look it.  That's because you are clever.  But what is
your salary to a man of your brains?"

"It is bread and butter and lodging."

He laughed again.  To laugh seemed to be a part of his business.
"Jack, I haven't a soul in the world but you.  I have only known you
three days, but it seems that I have known you all my life.  I have so
much money that I cannot even fritter away the income."

"It must be a sad life," said I.

"And if you do not accept the sum in the spirit it is given, I'll
double it, and then you'll have trouble.  You will be a rich man, then,
with all a rich man's cares and worries."

"You ought to have a trustee to take care of your money."

"It would be a small matter to bribe him off, Jack, of course, you do
not need the money now, but that is no sign you may not in the days to
come.  I have known many journalists; they were ever improvident.  I
want to make an exception in your case.  You understand; the money is
for your old age."

"Let me tell you why a newspaper man is improvident.  He earns money
only to spend it.  He has a fine scorn for money as money.  He cares
more for what a dollar spent has bought than what five saved might buy."

"Poor creditors!" was the melancholy interpolation.

I passed over this, and went on: "It is the work which absorbs his
whole attention.  He begins at the bottom of the ladder, which is in
the garret.  First, he is running about the streets at two and three in
the morning, in rain and snow and fog.  The contact with the lower
classes teaches him many things.  He becomes the friend of the
policeman and the vagabond.  And as his mind grows broader his heart
grows in proportion.  It is the comparing of the great and small which
makes us impartial and philosophical.  Well, soon the reporter gets
better assignments and shorter hours.  He meets the noted men and women
of the city.  Suddenly from the city editor's desk his ambition turns
to Washington.  He succeeds there.  He now comes into the presence of
distinguished ambassadors, ministers and diplomatists.  He acquires a
polish and a smattering of the languages.  His work becomes a feature
of his paper.  The president chooses him for a friend; he comes and
goes as he wills.  Presently his eye furtively wanders to Europe.  The
highest ambition of a journalist, next to being a war correspondent, is
to have a foreign post.  In this capacity he meets the notable men and
women of all countries; he speaks to princes and grand dukes and
crowned heads.  In a way he becomes a personage himself, a man whom
great men seek.  And he speaks of the world as the poet did of the fall
of Pompeii, 'Part of which I was and all of which I saw.'  Ah," as my
mind ran back over my own experiences, "what man with this to gain
would care for money; a thing which would dull his imagination and take
away the keen edge of ambition, and make him play a useless part in
this kingly drama of life!"

"I like your frankness," said Pembroke.  "I have no doubt that
journalism is the most fascinating profession there is.  Yet, you must
not accuse the rich of being ambitionless.  I have known of rich men
losing their all to make papers for men who are ambitious to be foreign
correspondents."  The young fellow was brimming with raillery.  "I have
never tried to run a newspaper, but I am, notwithstanding your tirade,
ambitious.  I am desirous to wed Miss Landors."

The cab was now rolling along the row.

"A truly great ambition," I admitted.  "After all, what greater
ambition is there than to marry the woman you love?  Philip, I will
accept your gift in the spirit it is given, and I'll make use of it in
the days to come, when I am old and rusted.  I understand your motive.
You are happy and wish every one to be."

"That's the idea," said he, leaning back and spreading an arm behind my
shoulders.

"But not all the money in the world, nor all the fame for that matter,
would make me happy."  Gretchen was so far away!  "Very well; we'll go
to Paris together; that is as far as I go.  To follow her you will have
to go alone."

"And why can't you go the rest of the way?"

"Work.  I must be back in town in three days.  You must not forget that
I have had my vacation; there is plenty to be done."

"Now that you are comparatively wealthy, why not give up the grind, as
you call it?"

"The truth is, I must work.  When a man works he forgets."

"Then you have something to forget?"

"Every man who has reached the age of thirty has something to forget,"
said I.

I was gloomy.  In my pocket I had the only letter I had ever received
from Gretchen.  Every hour fate outdoes the romancer.  The story she
had written for me was a puzzling one.  And the finis?  Who could say?
Fate is more capricious than the novelist; sometimes you can guess what
he intends for an end; what fate has in store, never.  Gretchen's
letter did not begin as letters usually do.  It began with "I love you"
and ended with the same sentence.  "In November my marriage will take
place.  Do not come abroad.  I am growing strong now; if I should see
you alas, what would become of that thin ice covering the heart of
fire; we have nothing to return, you and I.  I long to see you; I dare
not tell you how much.  Who knows what the world holds hidden?  While
we live there is always a perhaps.  Remember that I love you!"

"Perhaps," I mused absently.

"Perhaps what?" asked Pembroke.

"What?"  I had forgotten him.  "Oh, it was merely a slip of the
tongue."  I poked the matting with my cane.  "It is high noon; we had
best hunt up a lunch.  I have an engagement with the American military
attaché at two, so you will have to take care of yourself till dinner."

Let me tell you what happened in the military club that night.  I was
waiting for Col. J---- of the Queen's Light, who was to give me the
plan of the fall maneuvers in Africa.  Pembroke was in the billiard
room showing what he knew about caroms and brandy smashes to a trio of
tanned Indian campaigners.  I was in the reading room perusing the
evening papers.  All at once I became aware of a man standing before
me.  He remained in that position so long that I glanced over the top
of my paper.

It was Prince Ernst of Wortumborg.  He bowed.

"May I claim your attention for a moment?" he asked.

Had I been in any other place but the club I should have ignored him.
I possessed the liveliest hatred for the man.

"If you will be brief."

"As brief as possible," dropping into the nearest chair.  "It has
become necessary to ask you a few questions.  The matter concerns me."

"Whatever concerns you is nothing to me," I replied coldly.

He smiled.  "Are you quite sure?"

I had turned the sword on myself, so it seemed.  But I said: "I
answered some of your questions once; I believe I was explicit."

"As to that I can say you were; startlingly explicit.  It is a delicate
matter to profess one's regard for a woman before total strangers.  It
is not impossible that she would have done the same thing in your
place.  Her regard for you--"

I interrupted him with a menacing gesture.  "I am extremely irritable,"
I said.  "I should regret to lose control of myself in a place like
this."

"To be sure!" he said.  "This is England, where they knock one another
down."

"We do not murder on this side of the channel," I retorted.

"That is unkind.  Your friend was a very good shot," with a significant
glance at his useless arm.  "But for my arm, and his nerves, which were
not of the best order, I had not lived to speak to you to-night."

"So much the worse for the world," said I.  "Your questions?"

"Ah!  Who was that remarkably beautiful woman under your distinguished
care Thursday evening?"

"I see that our conversation is to be of the shortest duration.  Who
she was is none of your business," rudely.  I unfolded my paper and
began reading.

"Perhaps, after all," not the least perturbed by my insolence, "it were
best to state on paper what I have to say.  I can readily appreciate
that the encounter is disagreeable.  To meet one who has made a thing
impossible to you sets the nerves on edge."  He caught up his opera
hat, his cane and gloves.  He raised the lapel of his coat and sniffed
at the orchid in the buttonhole.

Some occult force bade me say, "Why do you wish to know who she was?"

He sat down again.  "I shall be pleased to explain.  That I mistook her
for another who I supposed was on the other side of the channel was a
natural mistake, as you will agree.  Is it not strange that I should
mistake another to be the woman who is so soon to be my wife?  Is there
not something behind this remarkable, unusual likeness?  Since when are
two surpassingly beautiful women, born in different lands, of different
parents, the exact likeness of each other?"

Now as this was a thing which had occupied my mind more than once, I
immediately put aside the personal affair.  That could wait.  I threw
my paper onto the table.

"Do you know, sir," said I, "that thought echoes my own?"

"Let us for the moment put ourselves into the background," said the
Prince.  "What do you know about her Serene Highness the Princess
Hildegarde; her history?"

"Very little; proceed."

"But tell me what you know."

"I know that her father was driven to a gambler's grave and that her
mother died of a broken heart, and that the man who caused all this
wishes to break the heart of the daughter, too."

"Scandal, all scandal," said the Prince.  "Who ever heard of a broken
heart outside of a romantic novel?  I see that the innkeeper has been
holding your ear.  Ah, that innkeeper, that innkeeper!  Certainly some
day there will come a reckoning."

"Yes, indeed," said I.  "Beware of him."

"It was twenty years ago," said the Prince.  "It is beyond the recall.
But let me proceed.  Not many years ago there was a Prince, a very bad
fellow."

"Most of them are."

"He married a woman too good for him," went on the Prince, as though he
had not heard.

"And another is about to do likewise."

"There was some scandal.  When the Princess was born, her father
refused to believe her to be his child.  Now, it came to pass, as they
say in the Bible, which I assure you is a very interesting book, that
there were vague rumors immediately after the birth of Princess
Hildegarde that another child had been born."

"What!"  I was half out of my chair.  "Another child?"

"Another child.  The fact that the Prince swore that when children came
he would make them counterparts of their kind and loving father, lent
color to the rumor that the Princess had had one spirited away to
escape this threatened contamination.  And one of the nurses was
missing.  Whither had she gone remained a mystery, and is still a
mystery, for she never has returned.  Did she spirit away the other
child, the other girl?  I say girl advisedly; if there had been a son,
the mother would have retained him.  Two years after this interesting
episode, the Princess died, and dying, confessed the deception.  But
the curious thing is, nobody believed her.  Her mind was not strong,
and it was thought to be a hallucination, this second child.  Now let
me come to the present time.  Twins are generally alike; one mirrors
the other; when they mature, then comes the deviation, perhaps in the
color of the hair and the eyes.  Behold! here are two women, but for
their hair and eyes were one.  Tell me what you know of the other."  He
bent forward with subdued eagerness.

"Do you think it possible?" I cried excitedly.

"Not only possible, but probable.  She is a Princess; at least she
should be."

Then I told him what I knew about Phyllis.

"America!  Born in America!  It cannot be."  He was baffled.

"I have known her for eight years," said I.  "She was born in America
as certainly as I was."

"But this likeness?  This rumor of another daughter?  Ah, there is
something here I do not understand.  And this uncle of hers, this
Wentworth; who is he?"

"A retired banker, very wealthy, and at present with the American
ministry at your own capital."

"To him we must go, then."  He rose and walked the length of the room,
stopped a moment at the chess table in the corner, then resumed his
chair.  "You are wondering, no doubt, what it is to me, all this?"

"I confess you have read my mind correctly."

"Then listen.  I am a Prince without a principality; a Prince by
courtesy, my brother ruling the principality of Wortumborg.  Thus being
without a principality, I am necessarily without revenues.  I must
replenish my very low exchequer by a marriage, a marriage not so
distasteful as it might be."  He met my darkening eyes with serenity.
"Since Thursday night I have not been so certain of my wife's dowry.
If there are two Princesses, twins, they must govern jointly, or one
may abdicate in favor of the other.  Her Serene Highness the Princess
Hildegarde is the one who will be most likely to relinquish her claims
to Hohenphalia.  If your friend is proved to be her sister--"  He
stroked the orchid reflectively.

"Well?" I cried, my pulse quickening.

"I shall withdraw my claim to the hand of the Princess Hildegarde.  I
do not care to rule half a principality or share half its revenues.
There are better things left than that.  It is my hope, however, that
no proofs can be found, and that your banker-diplomatist will show
conclusively that his niece was born in America.  Until this question
is definitely settled, my fortunes shall not undergo any risks.  This
is what I wanted to say to you, why I wanted to know who your friend
was.  Will you help me to get at the bottom of things?  We are both
concerned; the result will mean all or nothing to you and me.  Ah,
believe me, but you are a favored mortal.  The friendship of the one,
and the love of the other!  No; do not look angry.  With all my sins,
it cannot be said that I lack frankness and truthfulness.  You love the
Princess Hildegarde; I offer you an equal chance to win her.  Is not
that remarkable good nature?  Till the affair is settled my marriage is
postponed.  Now, to our personal affair.  You cannot blame me if I give
you all my honest hatred.  I am at your service, after, of course, the
respective positions of the Princesses are assured.  I should take more
pleasure in shooting you, or running a sword through your body, than I
took in the affair with your friend.  His courage was truly admirable.
I had nothing against him.  But you have grievously wounded my
self-love; we forgive all wrongs but that.  I warn you that the affair
will not be conducted after the French mode.  You have perhaps a
fortnight in which to improve your markmanship.  The matter which shall
carry us abroad will conclude within that time.  I shoot and fence with
my left hand as well as I did with my right."

"I shall be only too happy to meet you," I replied.  "I prefer the
pistol, there is less exertion, and it is quicker."

"You shall have every advantage," said the Prince.  "You will have that
to nerve your arm which I shall not have--a woman's love."  With a bow
which was not without a certain dignity and grace, he walked from the
room.

Phyllis a Princess?  Gretchen free?  I sent for my coat and hat and
went out.  I forgot all about my appointment with Col. J---- of the
Queen's light and that I had left Pembroke playing billiards in a
strange club, where I myself had been but a guest.  The crisp October
air blew in my face as I rapidly walked up the mall, and it cooled the
fever in my veins.  But my mind ran on rather wildly.  Gretchen free?
Phyllis a Princess?  Gretchen's little word, "perhaps," came back and
sang into my ears.  Yet, win or lose, I was to meet the Prince in
mortal combat.  If Phyllis was not proven Gretchen's twin sister, I
should care but little for the Prince's bullet.  On the other
hand--Well, I should trust to luck.  Before I was aware of my
destination, I stood fumbling the key in the door of my apartment.  I
wanted my pipe.  At eleven by the clock, Pembroke came in.

"Hang your apologies!" he said.



CHAPTER XVIII

"Phyllis," said I, "do you remember the day we first met?"

We were in the morning room of the Wentworth mansion at B----.
Phyllis, Pembroke and I sat before the warm grate, while Mrs. Wentworth
and Ethel stood by one of the windows, comparing some shades of ribbon.
My presence at B---- was due to a wire I had sent to New York, which
informed headquarters that I was on the track of a great sensation.
The return wire had said, "Keep on it."

"When first we met?" echoed Phyllis.  "Why, it was at Block Island."

"Oh," said I, "I do not refer to the time when you had shouldered the
responsibilities of a society bud.  I mean the time when the
introduction was most informal.  You were at the time selling lemonade
without license and with very little lemon."

"Selling lemonade?" cried Pembroke.

"Never mind him, Mr. Pembroke," laughed Phyllis.

"It was a long time ago," I went on.  "I was a new reporter.  Mr.
Wentworth had to be interviewed.  It was one of those hot days in May.
The servant at the door said that Mr. Wentworth was in the back
yard--he called it the garden--where I soon found myself.  You had a
small table, a glass and a pitcher.  I suppose every time your uncle
got thirsty you sold him a glass.  You wore short dresses--"

"Terrible!" cried Phyllis, shielding her face with the hand-screen.

"And looked as cool as the ice in the pitcher, and as fresh as the
flowers which lined the walls.  I thought that if I bought a glass of
you I might make my approach to your uncle an easier task.  So I looked
at you and smiled, and you giggled."

"Giggled!" cried Phyllis, indignantly.

Pembroke was laughing.

"Yes, actually giggled," I went on.  "I laid down a twenty-five-cent
piece, and you poured but some water which had had nothing more than a
mild flirtation with a lemon, and I gulped it down.  I held out my
hand, and you said that there wasn't any change.  I smiled a false
smile.  Let me make a confession."

"Well?" mockingly from Phyllis.

"It was my last quarter.  It was very pathetic.  I had to walk four
miles down town.  I did not know your uncle well enough or I should
have borrowed carfare from him."

"And I took your last penny?" said Phyllis, gently.  "Why did you not
tell me then?"

"I was twenty-two and proud," said I.  "Where are you going?" for she
had risen.

"I'll be back in a moment," she said, as she left the room.  When she
returned she put out her hand.  On the palm lay two bright American
dimes.

"What's this?" I asked.

"The change."

"Very good!" laughed Pembroke.

I said nothing, but took out my wallet.  In opening it to put in the
dimes, something fell to the floor.  It was Gretchen's rose.

"What is that?" asked Phyllis, as I stooped to pick it up.

"It is the end of a story," I answered.  I busied myself with the fire
till the poker grew too hot.

"How many romances commonplace wallets contain?" said Pembroke,
sententiously.

"I have two in mine," said I.

Pembroke looked at Phyllis, but the fire seemed to be claiming her
attention.  Then he looked at me, but I was gazing at Phyllis.  He was
in a puzzle.

"Do you know, Miss Landors," he said, "that I never dreamed to meet you
again when I saw you in Vienna last year?"

"Vienna?" said she.  "I have never been to Vienna."

I suddenly brought down my heel on Pembroke's toes.

"Ah, a curious mistake on my part.  I suppose the ball at the ministry
to-night will be your first on the continent?"

I gazed admiringly at him.  He had not even looked at me.  He was
certainly clever.

"Yes," said Phyllis, "and already I believe I am going to have what
they call stage fright, though I cannot understand why I should feel
that way."

"Possibly it's a premonition," said I, absently.

"And of what?" asked Phyllis.

"How should I know?" said I, mysteriously.

"What in the world is going on?" she demanded.  "You step on Mr.
Pembroke's toes, you prophesy, and then you grow mysterious."

My glance and Pembroke's met.  He burst out laughing.  A possible
contretemps was averted by the approach of Mrs. Wentworth, who asked us
to have a cup of chocolate before we went out into the chill air.
Finally we rose to make our departure.  While Pembroke was bidding
Ethel a good morning, Phyllis spoke to me.

"The last flowers you sent me were roses," she said softly.

"Were they?" said I.  "I had forgotten.  Shall I send you some for this
evening?"

It was something in her eyes that I did not understand.

"Thank you, but Mr. Pembroke has promised to do that." And then she
added: "So you have really had two romances?"

"Yes," said I; "and both ended badly."

"Let us hope that the third will be of happier termination," she
smiled.  The smile caused me some uneasiness.

"There never will be a third," I said.  "It is strange, is it not, when
you think that there might have been--but one?  You will give me a
waltz to-night?"

"With pleasure.  Good morning."

Pembroke and I passed down the broad stairs.  On the street we walked a
block or so in silence.

Finally Pembroke said: "What the deuce made you step on my foot?  And
why does she not want me to know that she was in Vienna last winter?"

"Because," said I, "Miss Landors never was in Vienna."

"But, man, my eyes!"

"I do not care anything about your eyes."

"What makes you so positive?"

"Knowledge."

"Do you love her?" bluntly.

"No."

"Because--?"

"There is another.  Pembroke, to-night will be pregnant with
possibilities.  You will see the woman you love and the woman I love."

"What do you mean?"

"Have you ever heard of her Serene Highness the Princess Hildegarde of
Hohenphalia?"

"So high?"

"Yes."

"Then the woman I saw in Vienna--"

"Was the Princess."

"But this remarkable likeness?"

"Perhaps I had best tell you all."  And when I had done, his
astonishment knew no bounds.

"Great George, that makes Miss Landors a Princess, too!"

"It does, truly.  Herein lies the evil of loving above one's station.
In our country love is like all things, free to obtain.  We are in a
country which is not free.  Here, those who appear to have the greatest
liberty have the least."

"And she knows nothing about it?"

"Nothing."

"Why tell her?" he asked, fearful of his own love affair now.

"It is a duty.  Some day she might learn too late.  This afternoon I
shall visit the Chancellor and place the matter before him and ask his
assistance.  He must aid me to find the proofs."

Pembroke began kicking the snow with his toes.

"I wish you had not told me, Jack."

"It is for the best.  You and I are in the same boat; we ride or sink
together."

At luncheon his mind was absent and he ate but little.  And I ate less
than he.  It was going to be very hard for me to meet Gretchen.


The Chancellor waved his hand toward a chair.  We were very good
friends.

"What is it now?" he asked, smiling.  "I dare not stir up the
antagonists against the government to give you a story, and aside from
the antagonists it is dull."

"I will find the story in the present instance," said I.  And in the
fewest words possible I laid before him the object of my visit.

"This is a very strange story," he said, making a pyramid of his
fingers and contemplating the task with a careful air.  "Are you not
letting your imagination run away with you?"

"Not for a moment.  I ask you to attend the ball at the American
ministry this evening, and if the likeness between the two women does
not convince you, the matter shall drop, so far as I am concerned."

"Has Herr Wentworth any idea of the affair?"

"It is not possible.  What would be his object in keeping it a secret?"

"Still, it is a grave matter, and without precedent.  We must move
carefully.  You understand that there was no knowledge of another
child, only rumor; and then it was believed to be an hallucination of
the mother, whose mind was not very strong."

"Do you believe," I asked, "that two persons born of different
parentage, in different lands, may resemble each other as these two do?"

"No.  I shall let you know what stand I'll take when I have seen them
together.  And what will His Majesty say?" he mused.  "I'm afraid the
matter will assume many complications.  And I might add that you seem
particularly interested."

A slight warmth came into my cheeks.

"Your Excellency understands that a journalist always takes great
interest in affairs of this sort," was my rejoinder.

"Yes, yes!" pleasantly.  "But this so-called sister; has she not lived
most of her life in America, your own country?"

"Your Excellency," said I, honestly, "whether she regains her own or
not is immaterial to me, from a personal standpoint."

"Well, one way or the other, I shall decide what to do to-night.  But,
mind you, there must be proofs.  Though they may look enough alike to
be two peas in a pod, that will give your friend nothing you claim for
her.  The fate of your Princess rests in the hands of Herr Wentworth.
Have the two met?"

"No; but during the short time they have been in the city they have
been mistaken for each other.  And why do you call her my Princess?"

"She is not ours yet.  It was a strange story, as I remember it.  In
those days we had our doubts, as we still have, of another child.  By
the way, who suggested the matter to you?"

I recounted my interview with the Prince.

"Ah," said the Chancellor; "so it was he?  He is a greedy fellow and
careful.  I can readily understand his object.  He wants all or
nothing.  I shall help you all I can," he concluded, as I reached for
my hat.

"I ask nothing more," I replied; and then I passed from the cabinet
into the crowded anteroom.  It was filled with diplomats and soldiers,
each waiting for an audience.  They eyed me curiously and perhaps
enviously as I made my way to the street.  "Yes, indeed, what will the
King say?" I mused on the way back to my rooms.  What could he say?

That night Pembroke and I arrived at the ministry a little after ten.
I was in a state of extreme nervousness.

"I'm in a regular funk," said Pembroke.  "Supposing your Princess does
not come?"

"It is written that she will come."

"Well, I'm glad that I looked you up in London.  I would not have
missed this adventure."

We found Phyllis in a nook under the grand staircase.  I gave a slight
exclamation as I saw her.  I had never seen her looking so beautiful.

"Come and sit down," said she, making room for us.  "I have had a
curious adventure."

"Tell us all about it," said Pembroke.

"I have had the honor of being mistaken for a Princess," triumphantly.

"Who could doubt it!" said I, with a glance I could not help, which
made her lower her eyes.

"Moreover," she continued, this time looking at Pembroke, "the
gentleman who committed the error was the Austrian Ambassador.  What a
compliment to take home!"

"And who was the Princess?" I felt compelled to ask, though I knew
perfectly well.

"The Princess Hildegarde.  Do you recall the night in London," to me,
"when the same thing occurred?  I am very anxious to meet this Princess
who looks so like me."

"You will have that pleasure immediately after the opera," said I.

Pembroke's eyes said something to me then, and I rose.

"There is Mr. Wentworth.  I wish to speak to him.  Will you excuse me?"

"With pleasure!" laughed Pembroke.

I threaded my way through the gathering throng to the side of Mr.
Wentworth.

"How d'y' do, Winthrop?" he said, taking me by the arm.  "Come into the
conservatory.  I want you to see some of the finest orchids that ever
came from South America.  The girls are looking well to-night.  I
suppose you noticed."

"Especially Phyllis."  Our eyes met.

When we entered the conservatory, he suddenly forgot all about the
orchids.

"Jack, I'm worried about her--Phyllis.  You see, she is not my niece.
There's a long story, This morning a gentleman visited my department.
He was Prince Ernst of Wortumborg.  He began by asking me if Phyllis
was my niece.  That started the business.  He proceeded to prove to me,
as far as possible, that Phyllis was a Princess.  I could not say that
it was all nonsense, because I did not know.  Some twenty years ago, a
strange thing happened.  I occupied the same residence as to-day.  It
was near midnight, and snowing fiercely.  I was looking over some
documents, when the footman came in and announced the presence of a
strange woman in the hall, who demanded to see me.  The woman was young
and handsome, and in her arms she carried a child.  Would I, for
humanity's sake, give a roof to the child till the morrow?  The woman
said that she was looking for her relatives, but as yet had not found
them, and that the night was too cold for the child to be carried
around.  She was a nurse.  The child was not hers, but belonged to a
wealthy family of the south, who were to have arrived that day, but had
not.  The thing seemed so irregular that I at once consented, thinking
to scan the papers the next day for an account of a lost or stolen
child.  She also carried a box which contained, she said, the child's
identity.  Now, as I am a living man, there was nothing in that box to
show who the child was; nothing but clothes, not a jewel or a trinket.
I looked through the papers in vain.  And the woman never appeared
again.  Much against my will I was forced to keep the child.  I am glad
I did, for I have grown to love her as one of my own.  I had a married
sister who died in Carolina, so I felt secure in stating that Phyllis
was her daughter, therefore my niece.  And that is positively all I
know.  And here comes a fellow who says he knows who she is, and,
moreover, that she is a Princess.  What do you say to that?"

"What he said was true," gloomily.  Without proofs Gretchen remained as
far away as ever.  I told him what I knew.

"I must see this Princess before I move.  If they look alike, why, let
things take their course.  As a matter of fact, Phyllis is to share
equally with Ethel.  So, whether or not she proves to be a Princess, it
will not interfere with her material welfare.  And, by the way, Jack,
isn't there a coldness of some sort between you and Phyllis?"

"Not a coldness," said I; "merely an understanding.  Let us be getting
back to the ballroom.  I am anxious to see the two when they meet."

I left him in the reception room.  As I was in the act of crossing the
hall which led to the ballroom, I was stopped.  It was the Prince.

"Well," he said, smiling ironically, "the matter is, sadly for you,
definitely settled.  Your friend may in truth be a Princess, but there
are no proofs.  In the eyes of men they are sisters; in the eyes of the
law they are total strangers.  I shall not ask you to congratulate me
upon my success.  I shall now wed the Princess Hildegarde with a sense
of security.  Come--have you seen her yet?  She does not know that you
are here.  It will be a surprise and a pleasure.  As to that other
matter, I shall send a gentleman around to your rooms in the morning to
arrange the affair."

I shivered.  I had forgotten that I had accepted a challenge.

"Take me to her," said I.  "She will be happy indeed to see me, as you
know."  I laughed in his face.  "How convenient it would be for both of
us--her and me--should my bullet speed to the proper place!  Believe
me, I shall be most happy to kill you.  There are many things on the
slate to wipe out."

"I see that you are a gentleman of spirit," said he, smoothing the
scowl from his brow.  "Ah, there she stands.  Look well, my friend;
look at her well.  This is probably the last night you will see her,
save as my wife."

The sight of that dear face took the nerves from me, and left me
trembling.  Even in the momentary glance I detected a melancholy cast
to her features.  She was surrounded by several men, who wore various
decorations.

"Your Highness," said the Prince, mockery predominating his tones,
"permit me to present to you an old friend."

Was it because her soul instinctively became conscious of my presence
and nerved her for the ordeal, that she turned and smiled on me?  The
Prince appeared for a moment crestfallen.  Perhaps the scene lacked a
denouement.  Oh, I was sure that implacable hate burned under that
smile of his, just as I knew that beneath the rise and fall of
Gretchen's bosom the steady fire of immutable love burned, burned as it
burned in my own heart.  It was a defeat for the Prince, a triumph for
Gretchen and me.  The greeting took but a moment.  I stepped back,
strong and hopeful.  She loved me.  I knew that her heart was singing
the same joyous song as my own.

"Ah, here you are!" said a voice behind me, giving me an indescribable
start.  "I have been looking high and low for you.  You have forgotten
this dance."

It was Phyllis.

And then a sudden hush fell upon the circle.  The two women stood face
to face, looking with strange wonder into each other's eyes.



CHAPTER XIX

Phyllis and I were sitting in one of the numerous cozy corners.  I had
danced badly and out of time.  The music and the babel of tongues had
become murmurous and indistinct.

"And so that is the Princess Hildegarde?" she said, after a spell.

"Yes; she is your double.  Is she not beautiful?"

"Is that a left-handed compliment to me?"  Phyllis was smiling, but she
was colorless.

"No," said I.  "I could never give you a left-handed compliment."

"How strange and incomprehensible!" said she, opening her fan.

"What?--that I have never, and could never, give you a--"

"No, no!  I was thinking of the likeness.  It rather unnerved me.  It
seemed as though I was looking into a mirror."

"What do you think of her?" suppressing the eagerness in my voice.

"She is to be envied," softly.

And I grew puzzled.

"Jack, for a man who has associated with the first diplomatists of the
world, who has learned to read the world as another might read a book,
you are surprisingly unadept in the art of dissimulation."

"That is a very long sentence," said I, in order to gain time enough to
fathom what she meant.  I could not.  So I said: "What do you mean?"

"Your whole face was saying to the Princess, 'I love you!'  A glance
told me all.  I was glad for your sake that no other woman saw you at
that moment.  But I suppose it would not have mattered to you."

"Not if all the world had seen the look," moodily.

"Poor Jack, you are very unlucky!"  Her voice was full of pity.  "I
feel so sorry for you, it is all so impossible.  And she loves you,
too!"

"How do you know?"

"I looked at her while she was looking at you."

"You have wonderful eyes."

"So I have been told.  I wonder why she gave you that withered and
worm-eaten rose?"

"A whim," I said, staring at the rug.  I wondered how she came to
surmise that it was Gretchen's rose?  Intuition, perhaps.

"Do you love her well enough," asked Phyllis, plucking the lace on her
fan, "to sacrifice all the world for her, to give up all your own
happiness that she might become happy?"

"She never can be happy without me--if she loves me as I believe."  I
admit that this was a selfish thought to express.

"Then, why is it impossible--your love and hers?  If her love for you
is as great as you say it is, what is a King, a Prince, or a
principality to her?"

"It is none of those.  It is because she has given her word, the word
of a Princess.  What would you do in her place?" suddenly.

"I?"  Phyllis leaned back among the cushions her eyes half-closed and a
smile on her lips.  "I am afraid that if I loved you I should follow
you to the end of the world.  Honor is a fine thing, but in her case it
is an empty word.  If she broke this word for you, who would be
wronged?  No one, since the Prince covets only her dowry and the King
desires only his will obeyed.  Perhaps I do not understand what social
obligation means to these people who are born in purple."

"Perhaps that is it.  Phyllis, listen, and I will tell you a romance
which has not yet been drawn to its end.  Once upon a time--let me call
it a fairy story," said I, drawing down a palm leaf as if to read the
tale from its blades.  "Once upon a time, in a country far from ours,
there lived a Prince and a Princess.  The Prince was rather a bad
fellow.  His faith in his wife was not the best.  And he made a vow
that if ever children came he would make them as evil as himself.  Not
long after the good fairy brought two children to her godchild, the
Princess.  Remembering the vow made by the Prince, the good fairy
carried away one of the children, and no one knew anything about it
save the Princess and the fairy.  When the remaining child was two
years old the Princess died.  The child from then on grew like a wild
flower.  The Prince did his best to spoil her, but the good fairy
watched over her, just as carefully as she watched over the child she
had hidden away.  By and by the wicked Prince died.  The child reached
womanhood.  The good fairy went away and left her; perhaps she now gave
her whole attention to the other."  I let the palm leaf slip back, and
drew down a fresh one, Phyllis watching me with interest.  "The child
the fairy left was still a child, for all her womanhood.  She was
willful and capricious; she rode, she fenced, she hunted; she was as
unlike other women as could be.  At last the King, who was her
guardian, grew weary of her caprices.  So he commanded that she marry.
But what had the fairy done with the other child, the twin sister of
this wild Princess?  Perhaps in this instance the good fairy died and
left her work unfinished, to be taken up and pursued by a conventional
newspaper reporter.  Now this pro tem fairy, who was anything but good,
as the word goes, made some curious discoveries.  It seems that the
good fairy had left the lost Princess in the care of one of a foreign
race.  Having a wife and daughter of his own, he brought the Princess
up as his niece, not knowing himself who she really was.  She became
wise, respected, and beautiful in mind and form.  Fate, who governs all
fairy stories, first brought the newspaper reporter into the presence
of the lost Princess.  She was a mere girl then, and was selling
lemonade at--at twenty-five cents a glass.  She--"

"Jack," came in wondering tones, "for mercy's sake, what are you
telling me?"

"Phyllis, can you not look back, perhaps as in a dream, to an old inn,
where soldiers and ministers in a hurry and confusion moved to and fro?
No; I dare say you were too young.  The Princess Hildegarde of
Hohenphalia is your sister."  I rose and bowed to her respectfully.

"My sister?--the Princess?--I, a Princess?  Jack," indignantly, "you
are mocking me!  It is not fair!"

"Phyllis, as sure as I stand before you, all I have said is true.  And
now let me be the first to do homage to Your Serene Highness," taking
her hand despite her efforts to withdraw it, and kissing it.

"It is unreal!  Impossible!  Absurd!" she cried.

"Let me repeat the words of the French philosopher, who said, 'As
nothing is impossible, let us believe in the absurd,'" said I.

"But why has Uncle Bob kept me in ignorance all these years?"
unconvinced.

"Because, as I have said before, he knew nothing till to-day.  I have
even spoken to the Chancellor, who has promised to aid in recovering
your rights."

"And does she know--the Princess Hildegarde?  My sister?  How strange
the word feels on my tongue."

"No; she does not know, but presently she will."

Then Phyllis asked in an altered tone, "And what is all this to you
that you thrust this greatness upon me?--a greatness, I assure you, for
which I do not care?"

I regarded her vaguely.  I saw a precipice at my feet.  I could not
tell her that in making her a Princess I was making Gretchen free.  I
could not confess that my motive was purely a selfish one.

"It was a duty," said I, evasively.

"And in what way will it concern the Princess Hildegarde's affairs--and
yours?"  She was rather merciless.

"Why should it concern any affair of mine?" I asked.

"You love her, and she loves you; may she not abdicate in my favor?"

"And if she should?" with an accent of impatience.

Phyllis grew silent.  "Forgive me, Jack!" impulsively.  "But all this
is scarcely to be believed.  And then you say there are no proofs."

"Not in the eyes of the law," I replied; "but nature has written it in
your faces."  I was wondering why she had not gone into raptures at the
prospect of becoming a Princess.

"It is a great honor," she said, after some meditation, "and it is very
kind of you.  But I care as little for the title as I do for this
rose."  And she cast away one of Pembroke's roses.  It boded ill for my
cousin's cause.

Presently we saw the giver of the rose loom up in the doorway.  He was
smiling as usual.

"It is supper, Jack," he said; "I'm afraid you'll have to go."

"Does he know?" whispered Phyllis as we rose.

"Yes."

She frowned.  And as they went away I mused upon the uncertainty of
placing valuable things in woman's hands.

The next person I saw was the Chancellor.

"Well?" I interrogated.

"There can be no doubt," he said, "but--" with an expressive shrug.

"Life would run smoother if it had fewer 'buts' and 'its' and
'perhapses.'  What you would say," said I, "is that there are no
proofs.  Certainly they must be somewhere."

"But to find them!" cried he.

"I shall make the effort; the pursuit is interesting."

The expression in his eyes told me that he had formed an opinion in
regard to my part.  "Ah, these journalists!" as he passed on.

Everything seemed so near and yet so far.  Proofs?  Where could they be
found if Wentworth had them not?  If only there had been a trinket, a
kerchief, even, with the Hohenphalian crest upon it!  I shook my fists
in despair.  Gretchen was so far away, so far!

I went in search of her.  She was still surrounded by men.  The women
were not as friendly toward her as they might have been.  The Prince
was standing near.  Seeing me approach, his teeth gleamed for an
instant.

"Ah," said Gretchen, "here is Herr Winthrop, who is to take me in to
supper."

It was cleverly done, I thought.  Even the Prince was of the same mind.
He appreciated all these phases.  As we left them and passed in toward
the supper room, I whispered:

"I love you!"



CHAPTER XX

When I whispered these words I expected a gentle pressure from
Gretchen's fingers, which rested lightly on my arm.  But there was no
sign, and I grew troubled.  The blue-green eyes sparkled, and the white
teeth shone between the red lips.  Yet something was lacking.

"Let us go into the conservatory," she said.  "It was merely a ruse of
mine.  I want no supper.  I have much to say to you."

Altogether, I had dreamed of a different reception.  When I entered the
doorway, and she first saw me, it was Gretchen; but now it was
distinctly a Princess, a woman of the world, full of those devices
which humble and confuse us men.

Somehow we selected, by mutual accord, a seat among the roses.  There
was a small fountain, and the waters sang in a murmurous music.  It
seemed too early for words, so we drew our thoughts from the marble and
the water.  As for me, I looked at, but did not see, the fountain.  It
was another scene.  There was a garden, in which the roses grew in
beautiful disorder.  The sunbeams straggled through the chestnuts.
Near by a wide river moved slowly, and with a certain majesty.  There
was a man and a woman in the garden.  She was culling roses, while the
man looked on with admiring eyes.

"Yes," said the Princess, "all that was a pretty dream.  Gretchen was a
fairy; and now she has gone from your life and mine--forever.  My dear
friend, it is a prosaic age we live in.  Sometimes we forget and dream;
but dreams are unreal.  Perhaps a flash of it comes back in after days,
that is all; and we remember that it was a dream, and nothing more.  It
is true that God designs us, but the world molds us and fate puts on
the finishing touches."  She was smiling into my wonder-struck face.
"We all have duties to perform while passing.  Some of us are born with
destinies mapped out by human hands; some of us are free to make life
what we will.  I am of the first order, and you are of the second.  It
is as impossible to join the one with the other as it is to make
diamonds out of charcoal and water.  Between Gretchen and the Princess
Hildegarde of Hohenphalia there is as much difference as there is
between--what simile shall I use?--the possible and the impossible?"

"Gretchen--" I began.

"Gretchen?"  The Princess laughed amusedly.  "She is flown.  I beg you
not to waste a thought on her memory."

Things were going badly for me.  I did not understand the mood.  It
brought to mind the woman poor Hillars had described to me in his rooms
that night in London.  I saw that I was losing something, so I made
what I thought a bold stroke.  I took from my pocket a withered rose.
I turned it from one hand to the other.

"It appears that when Gretchen gave me this it was as an emblem of her
love.  Still, I gave her all my heart."

"If that be the emblem of her love, Herr, throw it away; it is not
worth the keeping."

"And Gretchen sent me a letter once," I went on.

"Ah, what indiscretion!"

"It began with 'I love you,' and ended with that sentence.  I have worn
the writing away with my kisses."

"How some men waste their energies!"

"Your Highness," said I, putting the rose back into my pocket, "did
Gretchen ever tell you how she fought a duel for me because her life
was less to her than mine?"

The Princess Hildegarde's smile stiffened and her eyes closed for the
briefest instant.

"Ah, shall I ever forget that night!" said I.  "I held her to my heart
and kissed her on the lips.  I was supremely happy.  Your Highness has
never known what a thing of joy it is to kiss the one you love.  It is
one of those things which are denied to people who have their destinies
mapped out by human hands."

The Princess opened her fan and hid her lips.

"And do you know," I continued, "when Gretchen went away I had a
wonderful dream?"

"A dream?  What was it?"  The fan was waving to and fro.

"I dreamed that a Princess came in Gretchen's place, and she threw her
arms around my neck and kissed me of her own free will."

"And what did she say, Herr?"  Certainly the voice was growing more
like Gretchen's.

I hesitated.  To tell her what the dream Princess had said would undo
all I had thus far accomplished, which was too little.

"It will not interest Your Highness," said I.

"Tell me what she said; I command it!"  And now I was sure that there
was a falter in her voice.

"She said--she said that she loved me."

"Continue."

"And that, as she was a Princess and--and honor bound, it could never
be."  I had to say it.

"That is it; that is it.  It could never be.  Gretchen is no more.  The
Princess who, you say, came to you in a dream was then but a woman--"

"Aye, and such a woman!" I interrupted.  "As God hears me, I would give
ten years of my life to hold her again in my arms, to kiss her lips, to
hear her say that she loved me.  But, pardon me, what were you going to
say?"

"Your dream Princess was but a woman--ah, well; this is Tuesday;
Thursday at noon she will wed the Prince.  It is written."

"The devil!" I let slip.  I was at the start again.

"Sir, you do him injustice."

"Who?--the Prince?" savagely.

"No; the--the devil!"  She had fully recovered, and I had no weapon
left.

"Gretchen, did you really ever love me?"

There was no answer.

"No; I do not believe you did.  If you had loved me, what to you would
have been a King, a Prince, a principality?  If you broke that promise
who would be wronged?  Not the King, not the Prince."

"No, I should not have wronged them, but," said the Princess rising, "I
should have wronged my people whom I have sworn to protect; I should
have wronged my own sense of honor; I should have broken those ties
which I have sworn to hold dear and precious as my life; I should have
forsaken a sacred duty for something I was not sure of--a man's love!"

"Gretchen!"

"Am I cruel?  Look!"  Phyllis stood at the other end of the
conservatory.  "Does not there recur to you some other woman you have
loved?  You start.  Come; was not your love for Gretchen pique?  Who is
she who thus mirrors my own likeness?  Whoever she is, she loves you!
Let us return; I shall be missed."  It was not the woman but the
Princess who spoke.

"You are breaking two hearts!" I cried, my voice full of
disappointment, passion and anger.

"Two?  Perhaps; but yours will not be counted."

"You are--"

"Pray, do not lose your temper," icily; and she swept toward the
entrance.

I had lost.

As the Princess drew near to Phyllis the brown eyes of the one met the
blue-green eyes of the other.  There was almost an exclamation on
Phyllis's lips; there was almost a question on Gretchen's; both paled.
Phyllis understood, but Gretchen did not, why the impulse to speak
came.  Then the brown eyes of Phyllis turned their penetrating gaze to
my own eyes, which I was compelled to shift.  I bowed, and the Princess
and I passed on.

By the grand staircase we ran into the Prince.  His face wore a
dissatisfied air.

"I was looking for Your Highness," he said to Gretchen.  "Your carriage
is at the curb.  Permit me to assist you.  Ah, yes," in English, "it is
Herr Winthrop.  I regret that the interview of to-morrow will have to
be postponed till Monday."

"Any time," said I, watching Gretchen whose eyes widened, "will be
agreeable to me."

Gretchen made as though to speak, but the Prince anticipated her.

"It is merely a little discussion, Your Highness," he said, "which Herr
Winthrop and I left unfinished earlier in the evening.  Good night."

On the way to the cloak room it kept running through my mind that I had
lost.  Thursday?--she said Thursday was the day of her wedding?  It
would be an evil day for me.

Pembroke was in the cloak room.

"Going?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Well, let us go together.  Where shall it be--Egypt or the steppes of
Siberia?"

"Home first," said I; "then we shall decide."

When we got into the carriage we lit cigars.  For some reason Pembroke
was less talkative than usual.  Suddenly he pulled down the window, and
a gust of snow blew in.  Then up went the window again, but the cigar
was gone.

"Has anything gone wrong?" I asked.

"'One more unfortunate. . . .  Make no deep scrutiny!'" he quoted.
"Jack, she wouldn't think of it, not for a moment.  Perhaps I was a
trifle too soon.  Yes, she is a Princess, indeed.  As for me, I shall
go back to elephants and tigers; it's safer."

"'The Bridge of Sighs,'" said I.  "Let us cross it for good and all."

"And let it now read 'Sighs Abridged.'"

He asked me no questions, and I silently thanked him.  Once in our
rooms, he drank a little more brandy than I thought good for one "who
may or may not live the year out."  I told him so.  He laughed.  And
then I laughed.  Both of us did it theatrically; it was laughter, but
it was not mirth.

"Cousin," said I, "that's the idea; let us laugh.  Love may sit on the
windowsill and shiver to death."

"That fellow Anacreon was a fool," said Pembroke.  "If the child of
Venus had been left then and there, what a lot of trouble might have
been averted!  What do you say to this proposition; the north, the
bears and the wolves?  I've a friend who owns a shooting box a few
miles across the border.  There's bears and gray wolves galore.  Eh?"

"I must get back to work," said I, but half-heartedly.

"To the devil with your work!  Throw it over.  You've got money; your
book is gaining you fame.  What's a hundred dollars a week to you, and
jumping from one end of the continent to the other with only an hour's
notice?"

"I'll sleep on it."

"Good.  I'll go to bed now, and you can have the hearth and the tobacco
to yourself."

"Good night," said I.

Yes, I wanted to be alone.  But I did not smoke.  I sat and stared into
the flickering flames in the grate.  I had lost Gretchen. . . .  To
hold a woman in your arms, the woman you love, to kiss her lips, and
then to lose her!  Oh, I knew that she loved me, but she was a
Princess, and her word was given, and it could not be.  The wind sang
mournfully over the sills of the window; thick snow whitened the panes;
there was a humming in the chimneys. . . .  She was jealous of Phyllis;
that was why I knew that she loved me. . . .  And the subtle change in
Phyllis's demeanor towards me; what did it signify? . . .  Gretchen was
to be married Thursday because there were no proofs that Phyllis was
her sister. . . .  What if Gretchen had been Phyllis, and Phyllis had
been Gretchen. . . .  Heigho!  I threw some more coals on the fire.
The candle sank in the socket.  There are some things we men cannot
understand; the sea, the heavens and woman. . . .  Suddenly I brought
both hands down on my knees.  The innkeeper!  The innkeeper!  He knew!
In a moment I was rummaging through the stack of time tables.  The next
south-bound train left at 3:20.  I looked at the clock; 2:20.  My dress
suit began to fly around on various chairs.  Yes; how simple it was!
The innkeeper knew; he had known it all these years.  I threw my white
cravat onto the table and picked up the most convenient tie.  In ten
minutes from the time the idea came to me I was completely dressed in
traveling garments.  I had a day and a half.  It would take twenty
hours to fetch the innkeeper.  I refused to entertain the possibility
of not finding him at the inn.  I swore to heaven that the nuptials of
the Princess Hildegarde of Hohenphalia and the Prince Ernst of
Wortumborg should not be celebrated at noon, Thursday.  I went into the
bedroom.

"Pembroke?"

"What is it?" came drowsily.

"I am going on a journey."

"One of those cursed orders you get every other day?" he asked.

"No.  It's one on my own account this time.  I shall be back in
twenty-four hours.  Goodby!"  And I left him there, blinking in the dim
light of the candle.

I rushed into the street and looked up and down it.  Not a vehicle in
sight.  I must run for it.  The railway station was a long way off.  A
fine snow pelted my face.  I stopped at the first lamp and pulled out
my watch.  It was twenty minutes to three.  What if the time-tables had
been changed?  A prayer rose to my lips; there was so much in the
balance.  Down this street I ran, rounding this corner and that.  I
knocked down a drunken student, who cursed me as he rolled into the
gutter.  I never turned, but kept on.  One of the mounted police saw me
rushing along.  He shaded his eyes for a moment, then called to me to
stop.  I swore under my breath.

"Where are you going at such a pace and at this time of morning?" he
demanded.

"To the station.  I beg of you not to delay me.  I am in a great hurry
to catch the 3:20 south-bound train.  If you doubt me, come to the
station with me."  An inspiration came to me.  "Please see," I added
impressively, "that no one hinders me.  I am on the King's business."

"His Majesty's business?  Ach! since when has His Majesty chosen an
Englishman to dispatch his affairs?  I will proceed with you to the
station."

And he kept his word.  When he saw the gateman examine my ticket and
passports and smile pleasantly, he turned on his heel, convinced that
there was nothing dangerous about me.  He climbed on his horse and
galloped away.  He might have caused me no end of delay, and time meant
everything in a case like mine.  Scarcely had I secured a compartment
in a first-class carriage than the wheels groaned and the train rolled
out of the station.  My brow was damp; my hands trembled like an
excited woman's.  Should I win?  I had a broken cigar in my pocket.  I
lit the preserved end at the top of the feeble carriage lamp.  I had
the compartment alone.  Sleep!  Not I.  Who could sleep when the car
wheels and the rattling windows kept saying, "The innkeeper knows!  The
innkeeper knows!"  Every stop was a heartache.  Ah, those eight hours
were eight separate centuries to me.  I looked careworn and haggard
enough the next morning when I stepped on the station platform.  I
wanted nothing to eat; not even a cup of coffee to drink.

To find conveyance to the inn was not an easy task.  No one wanted to
take the drive.  Finally I secured a horse.  There was no haggling over
the price.  And soon I was loping through the snowdrifts in the
direction of the old inn.  The snow whirled and eddied over the stubble
fields; the winds sang past my ears; the trees creaked and the river
flowed on, black and sluggish.  It was a dreary scene.  It was bitter
cold, but I had no mind for that.  On, on I went.  Two miles were left
in the rear.  The horse was beginning to breathe hard.  Sometimes the
snow was up to his knees.  What if the old man was not there?  The
blood sank upon my heart.  Once the horse struck a slippery place and
nearly fell, but I caught him in time.  I could now see the inn,
perhaps a mile away, through the leafless trees.  It looked dismal
enough.  The vines hung dead about it, the hedges were wild and
scrawny, the roses I knew to be no more, and the squirrel had left his
summer home for a warmer nest in the forest.  A wave of joy swept over
me as I saw a thin stream of smoke winding above the chimney.  Some one
was there.  On, on; presently I flew up the roadway.  A man stood on
the porch.  It was Stahlberg.  When I pushed down my collar his jaw
dropped.  I flung the reins to him.

"Where is the innkeeper?" I cried with my first breath.

"In the hall, Herr.  But--"

I was past him and going through the rooms.  Yes, thank God, there he
was, sitting before the huge fireplace, where the logs crackled and
seethed, his grizzled head sunk between his shoulders, lost in some
dream.  I tramped in noisily.  He started out of his dream and looked
around.

"Gott!" he cried.  He wiped his eyes and looked again.  "Is it a dream
or is it you?"

"Flesh and blood!" I cried.  "Flesh and blood!"

I closed the door and bolted it.  He followed my movements with a
mixture of astonishment and curiosity in his eyes.

"Now," I began, "what have you done with the proofs which you took from
your wife--the proofs of the existence of a twin sister of the Princess
Hildegarde of Hohenphalia?"



CHAPTER XXI

The suddenness of this demand overwhelmed him, and he fell back into
the chair, his eyes bulging and his mouth agape.

"Do you hear me?" I cried.  "The proofs!" going up to him with clenched
fists.  "What have you done with those proofs?  If you have destroyed
them I'll kill you."

Then, as a bulldog shakes himself loose, the old fellow got up and
squared his shoulders and faced me, his lips compressed and his jaws
knotted.  I could see by his eyes that I must fight for it.

"Herr Winthrop has gone mad," said he.  "The Princess Hildegarde never
had a sister."

"You lie!"  My hands were at his throat.

"I am an old man," he said.

I let my hands drop and stepped back.

"That is better," he said, with a grim smile.  "Who told you this
impossible tale, and what has brought you here?"

"It is not impossible.  The sister has been found."

"Found!"  I had him this time.  "Found!" he repeated.  "Oh, this is not
credible!"

"It is true.  And to-morrow at noon the woman you profess to love will
become the wife of the man she abhors.  Why?  Because you, you refuse
to save her!"

"I?  How in God's name can I save her?" the perspiration beginning to
stand out on his brow.

"How?  I will tell you how.  Prince Ernst marries Gretchen for her
dowry alone.  If the woman I believe to be her sister can be proved so,
the Prince will withdraw his claims to Gretchen's hand.  Do you
understand?  He will not marry for half the revenues of Hohenphalia.
It is all or nothing.  Now, will you produce those proofs?  Will you
help me?"  The minute hand of the clock was moving around with deadly
precision.

"Are you lying to me?" he asked, breathing hard.

"You fool! can't you see that it means everything to Gretchen if you
have those proofs?  She will be free, free!  Will you get those proofs,
or shall your god-child live to curse you?"

This was the most powerful weapon I had yet used.

"Live to curse me?" he said, not speaking to me, but to the thought.
He sat down again and covered his face with his hands.  The minute
which passed seemed very long.  He flung away his hands from his eyes
with a movement which expressed despair and resignation.  "Yes, I will
get them.  It is years and years ago," he mused absently; "so long ago
that I had thought it gone and forgotten.  But it was not to be.  I
will get the proofs," turning to me as he left the chair.  "Wait here."
He unbolted the door and passed forth. . . .  It was a full confession
of the deception, written by the mother herself, and witnessed by her
physician, the innkeeper and his wife.  Not even the King could contest
its genuineness.

"Where is this Dr. Salzberg?"

The innkeeper leaned against the side of the fireplace, staring into
the flames.

"He is dead," briefly.

"Who was he?"

"Her late Highness's court-physician.   Oh, have no fear, Herr; this
new-found Princess of yours will come into her own," with a bitter
smile.

"And why have you kept silent all these years?" I asked.

"Why?"  He raised his arms, then let them fall dejectedly.  "I loved
the Princess Hildegarde.  I was jealous that any should share her
greatness.  I have kept silent because I carried her in my arms till
she could walk.  Because her father cursed her, and refused to believe
her his own.  Because she grew around my heart as a vine grows around a
rugged oak.  And the other?  She was nothing to me.  I had never seen
her.  My wife spirited her away when it was night and dark.  I took the
proofs of her existence as a punishment to my wife, who, without them,
would never dare to return to this country again.  Herr, when a man
loads you with ignominy and contempt and ridicule for something you are
not to blame, what do you seek?  Revenge.  The Prince tried to crush
this lonely child of his.  It was I who brought her up.  It was I who
taught her to say her prayers.  It was I who made her what she is
to-day, a noble woman, with a soul as spotless as yonder snowdrift.
That was my revenge."

"Who are you?" I cried.  For this innkeeper's affection and eloquence
seemed out of place.

"Who am I?"  The smile which lit his face was wistful and sad.  "The
law of man disavows me--the bar sinister.  In the eyes of God, who is
accountable for our being, I am Gretchen's uncle, her father's brother."

"You?"  I was astounded.

"And who knows of this?"

"The King, the Prince--and you."

I thrust a hand toward him.  "You are a man."

"Wait.  Swear to God that Her Highness shall never know."

"On my honor."

Then he accepted my clasp and looked straight into my eyes.

"And all this to you?"

"I love her."

"And she?"

"It is mutual.  Do you suppose she would have put her life before mine
if not?  She knew that the lieutenant would have killed me."

"Ach!  It never occurred to me in that light.  I understood it to be a
frolic of hers.  Will you make her happy?"

"If an honest man's love can do it," said I.  "Now, get on your hat and
coat.  You must go to the capital with me.  The King would send for you
in any case.  The next train leaves at five, and to save Gretchen,
these proofs must be in the Chancellor's hands to-morrow morning."

"Yes, my presence will be necessary.  Perhaps I have committed a crime;
who knows?"  His head fell in meditation.  "Herr, and this other
sister, has she been happy?"

"Happier than ever Gretchen."

He had the sleigh brought around.  Stahlberg was to ride my horse back
to the village and return with the sleigh.  We climbed into the seat,
there was a crunching of snow, a jangle of bells, and we were gliding
over the white highway.  As I lay back among the robes, I tried to
imagine that it was a dream, that I was still in New York, grinding
away in my den, and not enacting one of the principal roles in a court
drama; that I was not in love with a woman who spoke familiarly to
kings and grand dukes and princes, that I was not about to create a
Princess of whom few had vaguely heard and of whom but one had really
known; that Phyllis and I were once more on the old friendly grounds,
and that I was to go on loving her till the end of time--till the end
of time.

"You have known this sister?" asked the innkeeper.

"For many years," said I.

And those were the only words which passed between us during that
five-mile drive.  At the station I at once wired the Chancellor that
the proofs had been found, and requested him to inform the King and
Prince Ernst.  And then another eight hours dragged themselves out of
existence.  But Gretchen was mine!


The King was dressed in a military blouse, and, save for the small
cross suspended from his neck by a chain of gold, there was nothing
about him to distinguish his rank.  He strode back and forth, sometimes
going the whole length of the white room.  The Chancellor sat at a long
mahogany table, and the Prince and Mr. Wentworth were seated at either
side of him.  The innkeeper stood before the Chancellor, at the
opposite side of the table.  His face might have been cut from granite,
it was so set and impressive.  I leaned over the back of a chair in the
rear of the room.  The King came close to me once and fixed his keen
blue eyes on mine.

"Was this the fellow, Prince," he asked, "who caused you all the
trouble and anxiety?"

I felt uneasy.  My experience with Kings was not large.

"No, Your Majesty," answered the Prince.  "The gentleman to whom you
refer has departed the scene."  The Prince caught the fire in my eye,
and laughed softly.

"Ah," said the King, carelessly.  "It is a strange story.  Proceed,"
with a nod to the Chancellor.

"What is your name?" the Chancellor asked, directing his glance at the
innkeeper.

The innkeeper gazed at the King for a space.  The Prince was watching
him with a mocking smile.

"Hermann Breunner, Your Excellency."

The King stood still.  He had forgotten the man, but not the name.

"Hermann Breunner," he mused.

"Yes, Your Majesty," said the innkeeper.

"The keeper of the feudal inn," supplemented the Prince.

The glance the innkeeper shot him was swift.  The Prince suddenly
busied himself with the papers.

"Are you aware," went on the Chancellor, who had not touched the
undercurrent, "that you are guilty of a grave crime?"

"Yes, Your Excellency."

"Which is punishable by long imprisonment?"

The innkeeper bent his head.

"What have you to say in your defense?"

"Nothing," tranquilly meeting the frowning eyes of the King.

"What was your object in defrauding the Princess--" the Chancellor
opened one of the documents which lay before him--"the Princess
Elizabeth of her rights?"

"I desired the Princess Hildegarde to possess all," was the answer.  It
was also a challenge to the Prince to refute the answer if he dared.
"I acknowledge that I have committed a crime.  I submit to His
Majesty's will," bowing reverentially.

The King was stroking his chin, a sign of deep meditation in him.

"Let Their Highnesses be brought in," he said at last.

The Chancellor rose and passed into the anteroom.  Shortly he returned,
followed by Gretchen.  I could see by the expression in her face that
she was mystified by the proceeding.

"Her Highness the Princess Elizabeth is just leaving the carriage,"
announced the Chancellor, retiring again.

Gretchen looked first at the King, then at the Prince.  As she saw the
innkeeper, a wave of astonishment rippled over her face.

"Be seated, Your Highness," said the King, kindly.

She knew that I was in the room, but her eyes never left the King.

The Prince was plucking at his imperial.  The innkeeper's eyes were
riveted on the door.  He was waiting for the appearance of her whom he
had wronged.  Presently Phyllis came in.  Her cheeks were red, and her
eyes sparkled with excitement.  Wentworth nodded reassuringly.  The
innkeeper was like one stricken dumb.  He stared at Phyllis till I
thought his eyes would start from their sockets.

"Your Majesty has summoned me?" said Gretchen.

"Yes.  Explain," said the King to the Chancellor.

"Your Highness," began the Chancellor, "it has been proved by these
papers here and by that man there," pointing to the innkeeper, "that
your mother of lamented memory gave birth to twins.  One is yourself;
the other was spirited away at the request of your mother.  We shall
pass over her reasons.  It was all due to the efforts of this clever
journalist here--"  Gretchen was compelled to look at me now, while the
King frowned and the Prince smiled--"that your sister has been found."

Gretchen gave a cry and started to go to Phyllis with outstretched
arms; but as Phyllis stood motionless she stopped, and her arms fell.

"Your Highness," said the King to Phyllis, "it is your sister, the
Princess Hildegarde.  Embrace her, I beg you."

The King willed it.  But it occurred to me that there was a warmth
lacking in the embrace.  Gretchen lightly brushed with her lips the
cheek of her sister, and the kiss was as lightly returned.  There was
something about it all we men failed to understand.

"Moreover," said the King, "she desires you to remain the sovereign
Princess of Hohenphalia."

"Nay, Your Majesty," said Gretchen, "it is I who will relinquish my
claims.  Your Majesty is aware that I have many caprices."

"Indeed, yes," said the King.  "And I can assure you that they have
caused me no small anxiety.  But let us come to an understanding, once
and for all.  Do you wish to abdicate in favor of your sister?"

Gretchen gave me the briefest notice.

"Yes, Your Majesty."

Phyllis was regarding me steadfastly.

"This is final?" said the King.

"It is."

"And what is your will?" to Phyllis.  "Yes, the likeness is truly
remarkable," communing aloud to his thought.

I could not suppress the appeal in my eyes.

"Your Majesty," said Phyllis, "if my sister will teach me how to become
a Princess, I promise to accept the responsibility."

"You will not need much teaching," replied the King, admiringly.

"You will do this?--you, my sister?" asked Gretchen eagerly.

"Yes."  There was no color now in Phyllis's cheeks; they were as white
as the marble faun on the mantel.

"Remember, Your Highness," said the King, speaking to Gretchen, "there
shall be no recall."

"Sire," said the Prince, rising, "I request a favor."

"And it shall be granted," said the King, "this being your wedding day."

It was Gretchen who now paled; the hands of the innkeeper closed; I
clutched the chair, for my legs trembled.  To lose, after all!

"Ah," said the Prince, "I thank Your Majesty.  The favor I ask is that
you will postpone this marriage--indefinitely."

"What!" cried the King.  He was amazed.  "Have I heard you aright, or
do my ears play me false?"

"It is true.  I thank Your Majesty again," said the Prince, bowing.

"But this is beyond belief," cried the King in anger.  "I do not
understand.  This marriage was at your own request, and now you
withdraw.  Since when," proudly, "was the hand of the Princess
Hildegarde to be ignored?"

"It is a delicate matter," said the Prince, turning the ring on his
finger.  "It would be impolite to state my reasons before Her Highness.
Your Highness, are you not of my opinion, that, as matters now stand, a
marriage between us would be rather absurd?"

"Now, as at all times," retorted Gretchen, scornfully.  "It has never
been my will," a furtive glance at the King.

"But--" began the King.  He was wrathful.

"Your Majesty," said the innkeeper, "you are a great King; be a
generous one."

All looked at him as though they expected to see the King fly at him
and demolish him--all but I.  The King walked up to the bold speaker,
took his measure, then, with his hands clasped behind his back, resumed
his pacing.  After a while he came to a standstill.

"Your Highness," he said to Phyllis, "what shall I do with this man who
has so grossly wronged you?"

"Forgive him."

The King passed on.  I was not looking at him, but at the innkeeper.  I
saw his lip tremble and his eyes fill.  Suddenly he fell upon his knees
before Phyllis and raised her hand to his lips.

"Will Your Highness forgive a sinner who only now realizes the wrong he
has done to you?"

"Yes, I forgive you," said Phyllis.  "The only wrong you have done to
me is to have made me a Princess.  Your Majesty will forgive me, but it
is all so strange to me who have grown up in a foreign land which is
dearer to my heart than the land in which I was born."

I felt a thrill of pride, and I saw that Mr. Wentworth's lips had
formed into a "God bless her!"

"It is a question now," said the King, "only of duty."

"And Your Majesty's will regarding my marriage?" put in the Prince,
holding his watch in his hand.  It was ten o'clock.

"Well, well!  It shall be as you desire."  Then to me: "I thank you in
the name of Their Highnesses for your services.  And you, Mr.
Wentworth, shall always have the good will of the King for presenting
to his court so accomplished and beautiful a woman as Her Highness the
Princess Elizabeth.  Hermann Breunner, return to your inn and remain
there; your countenance brings back disagreeable recollections.  I
shall expect Your Highnesses at dinner this evening.  Prince, I leave
to you the pleasant task of annulling your nuptial preparations.  Good
morning.  Ah! these women!" as he passed from the room.  "They are our
mothers, so we must suffer their caprices."

And as we men followed him we saw Gretchen weeping silently on
Phyllis's shoulder.

The innkeeper touched the Prince.

"I give you fair warning," he said.  "If our paths cross again, one of
us shall go on alone."

"I should be very lonely without you," laughed the Prince.  "However,
rest yourself.  As the King remarked, your face recalls unpleasant
memories.  Our paths shall not cross again."

When the innkeeper and the Chancellor were out of earshot, I said: "She
is mine!"

"Not yet," the Prince said softly.  "On Tuesday morn I shall kill you."



CHAPTER XXII

The affair caused considerable stir.  The wise men of diplomacy shook
their heads over it and predicted grave things in store for
Hohenphalia.  Things were bad enough as they were, but to have a woman
with American ideas at the head--well, it was too dreadful to think of.
And the correspondents created a hubbub.  The news was flashed to
Paris, to London, thence to New York, where the illustrated weeklies
printed full-page pictures of the new Princess who had but a few months
since been one of the society belles.  And everybody was wondering who
the "journalist" in the case was.  The Chancellor smiled and said
nothing.  Mr. Wentworth said nothing and smiled.  A cablegram from New
York alarmed me.  It said: "Was it you?"  I answered, "Await letter."
The letter contained my resignation, to take effect the moment my name
became connected with the finding of the Princess Elizabeth.  A week or
so later I received another cablegram, "Accept resignation.  Temptation
too great."  In some manner they secured a photograph of mine, and I
became known as "The reporter who made a Princess;" and for many days
the raillery at the clubs was simply unbearable.  But I am skipping the
intermediate events, those which followed the scene in the King's
palace.

I was very unhappy.  Three days passed, and I saw neither Phyllis nor
Gretchen.  The city was still talking about the dramatic ending of
Prince Ernst's engagement to the Princess Hildegarde, Twice I had
called at the Hohenphalian residence to pay my respects.  Once I was
told that Their Highnesses were at the palace.  The second time I was
informed that Their Highnesses were indisposed.  I became gloomy and
disheartened.  I could not understand.  Gretchen had not even thanked
me for my efforts in saving her the unhappiness of marrying the Prince.
And Phyllis, she who had called me "Jack," she whom I had watched grow
from girlhood to womanhood, she, too, had forsaken me.  I do not know
what would have become of me but for Pembroke's cheerfulness.

Monday night I was sitting before the grate, reading for the hundredth
time Gretchen's only letter.  Pembroke was buried behind the covers of
a magazine.  Suddenly a yellow flame leaped from a pine log, and in it
I seemed to read all.  Gretchen was proud and jealous.  She believed
that I loved Phyllis and had made her a Princess because I loved her.
It was the first time I had laughed in many an hour.  Pembroke looked
over his magazine.

"That sounds good.  What caused it?"

"A story," I answered.  "Some day I shall tell you all about it.  Have
you noticed how badly I have gone about lately?"

"Have I!" he echoed.  "If I haven't had a time of it, I should like to
know!"

"Well, it is all over," said I, placing a hand on his shoulder and
smiling into his questioning eyes.  "Now if you will excuse me, cousin
mine, I'll make a call on her Serene Highness the Princess Hildegarde."

Just then the door opened and Pembroke's valet came in.  He handed a
card to me, and I read upon it, "Count von Walden."  I cast it into
Pembroke's lap.

"That's the man.  He is the inseparable of the Prince of Wortumborg."
Then to the valet, "Show him up."

"What's it all about?" asked Pembroke.

"Honestly, I should like to run away," I said musingly.  The snow on
the housetops across the way sparkled in the early moonshine.  "It's
about a woman.  If I live--ah!"  I went to the door and swung it open.
The Count gravely passed over the threshold.

"Good evening," he said, with a look of inquiry at Pembroke.

"This gentleman," said I, as I introduced him, "will second me in the
affair to-morrow morning.  I suppose you have come to make the final
arrangements?"

"Pardon me," began Pembroke, "but I do not understand--"

"Oh, I forgot.  You are," I responded, "to be my second in a duel
to-morrow morning.  Should anything happen to me, it were well to have
a friend near by, better still a relative.  Well, Count?"

"The Prince desires me to inform you that he has selected pistols at
your request, and despite the fact that he has only the use of his left
hand, he permits you to use either of yours.  There will be one shot
each, the firing to be drawn for on the grounds.  The time is six, the
place one mile out on the north road, in the rear of the Strasburg inn.
I trust this is entirely satisfactory to you?"

"It is," I answered.

"Then allow me to bid you good night."  He bowed and backed toward the
door.  He remained a moment with his hand on the knob, gazing into my
eyes.  I read in his a mixture of amusement and curiosity.  "Good
night," and he was gone.

Pembroke stared at me in bewilderment.  "What the devil--"

"It is a matter of long standing," said I.

"But a duel!" he cried, impatiently.  "Hang me if I'll be your second
or let you fight.  These are not the days of Richelieu.  It is pure
murder.  It is against the law."

"But I cannot draw back honorably," I said.  "I cannot."

"I'll notify the police and have them stop it," he said with
determination.

"And have us all arrested and laughed at from one end of the continent
to the other.  My dear cousin, that man shot the dearest friend I had
in the world.  I am going to try to kill him at the risk of getting
killed myself.  He has also insulted the noblest woman that ever lived.
If I backed down, I should be called a coward; the people who respect
me now would close their doors in my face."

"But you have everything to lose, and he has nothing to gain."

"It cannot be helped," said I.  "The woman I love once fought a duel
for me; I cannot do less for her.  You will be my second?"

"Yes.  But if he wounds you, woe to him."

"Very well, I'll leave you," said I.

It was not far to the residence of Their Highnesses, so I walked.  It
was a fine night, and the frost sang beneath my heels.  I had never
fought a duel.  This time no one would stand between.  I was glad of
this.  I wanted Gretchen to know that I, too, was brave, but hitherto
had lacked the opportunity to show it.  It was really for her sake,
after all, even though it would be something to avenge poor Hillars.
And I wondered, as I walked along, would Gretchen and Phyllis love each
other?  It was difficult to guess, since, though sisters, they were
utter strangers in lives and beliefs.  Soon my journey came to an end,
and I found myself mounting the broad marble steps of the Hohenphalian
mansion.  My heart beat swiftly and I had some difficulty in finding
the bell.

The liveried footman took my card.

"Present it to her Highness the Princess Hildegarde," I said, as I
passed into the hall.

"Her Serene Highness has left town, I believe, Your Excellency.  Her
Serene Highness the Princess Elizabeth is dining at the palace."

"Gone?" said I.

"Yes, Your Excellency."  He examined my card closely.  "Ah, allow me to
deliver this note to you which Her Serene Highness directed me to do
should you call."

My hands shook as I accepted the missive, and the lights began to
waver.  I passed out into the cold air.  Gone?  And why?  I walked back
to the rooms in feverish haste.  Pembroke was still at his reading.

"Hello!  What brings you back so soon?"

"She was not at home," I answered.  I threw my coat and hat on the
sofa.  I balanced the envelope in my hand.  For some moments I
hesitated to open it.  Something was wrong; if all had been well
Gretchen would not have left the city.  I glanced at Pembroke.  He went
on with his reading, unconcerned.  Well, the sooner it was over, the
better.  I drew forth the contents and read it.


"Herr Winthrop--Forgive the indiscretion of a Princess.  On my honor, I
am sorry for having made you believe that you inspired me with the
grand passion.  Folly finds plenty to do with idle minds.  It was a
caprice of mine which I heartily regret.  There is nothing to forgive;
there is much to forget.  However, I am under great obligations to you.
I am positive that I shall love my sister as I have never loved a human
being before.  She is adorable, and I can well comprehend why you
should love her deeply.  Forgive me for playing with what the French
call your summer affections.  I am about to leave for Hohenphalia to
prepare the way for the new sovereign.  Will you kindly destroy that
one indiscreet letter which I, in the spirit of mischief, wrote you
last autumn?

"The Princess Hildegarde."


The envelope reminded me of a rusty scabbard; there was a very keen
weapon within.  I lit my pipe and puffed for a while.

"Cousin," said I, "I have a premonition that I shall not kill Prince
Ernst of Wortumborg at six o'clock to-morrow morning."

"What put that into your head?  You are not going to back down, after
all, are you?"

"Decidedly not.  Something strikes me that I shall miss fire."

"Pshaw!" exclaimed Pembroke.  "I have been thinking it over, and I've
come to the conclusion that it would not be a bad plan to rid this
world of a man like your Prince.  It'll all come out right in the end.
You will wed the Princess Hildegarde just as sure as--as I will not wed
her sister."  He spoke the last words rapidly, as though afraid of them.

"I shall never marry the Princess Hildegarde," said I.  "She has gone."

"Gone?  Where?"

"It matters not where.  Suffice it is that she has gone.  Pembroke, you
and I were very unfortunate fellows.  What earthly use have Princesses
for you and me?  The little knowledge of court we have was gotten out
of cheap books and newspaper articles.  To talk with Kings and
Princesses it requires an innate etiquette which commoners cannot
learn.  We are not to the manner born.  These Princesses are but
candles; and now that we have singed our mothy wings, and are crippled
so that we may not fly again, let us beware.  This may or may not be my
last night on earth. . . .  Let us go to the opera.  Let us be original
in all things.  I shall pay a prima donna to sing my requiem from the
footlights--before I am dead."

"Jack!" cried Pembroke, anxiously.

"Oh, do not worry," said I.  "I am only trying to laugh--but I can't!"

"Are you truly serious about going to the opera?" he asked.

"Yes.  Hurry and dress," said I.

I leaned against the mantel and stared into the flickering tongues of
flame.  A caprice?  I read the letter again, then threw it into the
grate and watched the little darts of light devour it.  Now and then a
word stood out boldly.  Finally the wind carried the brown ashes up the
chimney, I would keep the other letter--the one she had asked for--and
the withered rose till the earth passed over me.  She was a Princess; I
was truly an adventurer, a feeble pawn on the chess-board.  What had I
to do with Kings and bishops and knights?  The comedy was about to
end--perhaps with a tragedy.  I had spoken my few lines and was going
behind the scenes out of which I had come.  As I waited for Pembroke
the past two years went by as in a panorama.  I thought of the old
lawyer and the thousand-dollar check; the night at the opera with
Phyllis; the meeting of Hillars and his story.  "When there is nothing
more to live for, it is time to die."  If there was such a place as
Elysium in the nether world, Hillars and I should talk it all over
there.  It is pleasant to contemplate the fact that when we are dead we
shall know "the reason why."

"Come along," said Pembroke, entering.

So we went to the opera.  They are full of wonderful scenes, these
continental opera houses.  Here and there one sees the brilliant
uniforms, blue and scarlet and brown, glittering with insignias and
softened by furs.  Old men with sashes crossing the white bosoms of
their linen dominate the boxes, and the beauty of woman is often lost
in the sparkle of jewels.  And hovering over all is an oppressive
fragrance.  Pembroke's glasses were roving about.  Presently he touched
my arm.

"In the upper proscenium," he said.

It was Phyllis.  The Chancellor and the Grand Duke of S---- were with
her.

"We shall visit her during the first intermission," said I.

"You had better go alone," replied Pembroke.  "I haven't the courage."

The moment the curtain dropped I left the stall.  I passed along the
corridor and soon stood outside the box in which Phyllis sat.  I
knocked gently.

"Enter!" said a soft voice.

"Ah," said the Chancellor, smiling as he saw me.  "Duke, I believe
their Majesties are looking this way.  Let us go to them.  I am pleased
to see you, Herr Winthrop.  Duke, this is the gentleman who has turned
us all upside down."

The Duke bowed, and the two left me alone with Phyllis.

There was an embarrassing silence, but she surmounted it.

"Why have you not been to see me?" she asked.  "Are you done with me
now that you have made me a Princess?"

"I did call, but was told that you were indisposed," said I.

"It was because I did not see your card.  I shall never be indisposed
to my friends--the old ones.  However, they will be crowding in here
shortly.  Will you come and see me at four to-morrow afternoon?"

"Is it important?"  I was thinking of the duel when I said this.

"Very--to you.  You have a strange funereal expression for a man who is
about to wed the woman he loves."

"Your sister has left town?" not knowing what else to say.

"Only for a few days; at least so she told me.  Have you seen her?"

"No, I have not.  A Princess!" dropping into a lighter tone.  "You
carry your honors well.  It was to be expected of you.  I might have
made you a Queen, but that would not have changed you any."

"Thank you.  Do you know, a title is a most wonderful drawing
apparatus?  Since Thursday it has been a continued performance of
presentations.  And I care absolutely nothing for it all.  Indeed, it
rests heavily upon me.  I am no longer free.  Ah, Jack, and to think
that I must blame you!  I have been longing all the evening for the
little garden at home.  Yes, it will always be home to me.  I am almost
an alien.  I would rather sell lemonade to poor reporters who had only
twenty-five-cent pieces in their pockets than queen it over a people
that do not interest me and with whom I have nothing in common."  She
smiled, rather sadly, I thought, at the remembrance of that garden
scene so long ago.

"Time has a cruel way of moving us around," said I, snapping the clasps
on my gloves, and pulling the fingers and looking everywhere but at
her.  I was wondering if I should ever see her again.  "When is the
coronation to take place?"

"In June.  The King does not wish to hurry me.  You see, I must learn
to be a Princess first.  It was kind of him.  And you will be at
Hohenphalia to witness the event?"

"If nothing happens.  We live in a continual uncertainty."

She regarded me somewhat strangely.

"Is there a significance in that last sentence?"

"No," I answered.  I felt compelled to add something.  "But here come
some of your new admirers.  Their glittering medals will make me feel
out of place if I remain.  I shall do my best to accept your
invitation."

"Jack, you are hiding something from me.  Are you going to leave the
city to search for her?"

"No," said I.  "The truth is," with a miserable attempt to smile, "I
have an engagement to-morrow morning, and it is impossible to tell how
long it will last.  Good night."

Fate played loose with me that night.  As I was turning down the
corridor I ran into the Prince.  He was accompanied by Von Walden and
an attaché whom I knew.

"Good evening," said the Prince.  "Do you not prefer the French opera,
after all?"

"All good music is the same to me," I answered, calmly returning his
amused look with a contemptuous one.  "Wagner, Verdi, Gounod, or Bizet,
it matters not."

The attaché passed some cigarettes.  Only the Prince refused.

"No thanks.  I am not that kind of a villain."  He laughed as he
uttered these words, and looked at me.

I would have given much to possess that man's coolness.

"Till we meet again," he said, as I continued on.  "Shall I add
pleasant dreams?"

"I am obliged to you," I answered over my shoulder, "but I never have
them.  I sleep too soundly."

"Cousin," said I, later, "what was that opera?"

"I forgot to bring along a program," said Pembroke.



CHAPTER XXIII

When Pembroke and I arrived at the Strasburg inn, on the north road,
neither the Prince nor Von Walden were in evidence.  I stepped from our
carriage and gazed interestedly around me.  The scene was a picturesque
one.  The sun, but half risen, was of a rusty brass, and all east was
mottled with purple and salmon hues.  The clearing, a quarter of a mile
away, where the Prince and I were to settle our dispute, was hidden
under a fine white snow; and the barren trees which encircled it stood
out blackly.  Pembroke looked at his watch.

"They ought to be along soon; it's five after six.  How do you feel?"
regarding me seriously.

"As nerveless as a rod of steel," I answered.  "Let us go in and order
a small breakfast.  I'm a bit cold."

"Better let it go at a cup of coffee," he suggested.

"It will be more consistent, that is true," I said.  "Coffee and
pistols for two."

"I'm glad to see that you are bright," said Pembroke.  "Hold out your
hand."

I did so.

"Good.  So long as it doesn't tremble, I have confidence of the end."

We had scarcely finished our coffee when the Prince, followed by Von
Walden, entered.

"Pardon me," he said, "for having made you wait."

"Permit me," said I, rising, "to present my second; Mr. Pembroke, His
Highness Prince Ernst of Wortumborg."

The two looked into each other's eyes for a space, and the Prince
nodded approvingly.

"I have heard of Your Highness," said my cousin, with a peculiar smile.

"Some evil report, I presume?" laughed the Prince.

"Many of them," was the answer.

The Prince showed his teeth.  "Count, these Americans are a positive
refreshment.  I have yet to meet one who is not frankness itself.  At
your pleasure!"

And the four of us left the inn and crossed the field.  The first shot
fell to me.  Pembroke's eyes beamed with exultant light.  Von Walden's
face was without expression.  As for the Prince, he still wore that
bantering smile.  He was confident of the end.  He knew that I was a
tyro, whereas he had faced death many times.  I sighed.  I knew that I
should not aim to take his life.  I was absolutely without emotion;
there was not the slightest tremble in my hand as I accepted the
pistol.  There is nothing like set purpose to still the tremors of a
man's nerves.  I thought of Hillars, and for a moment my arm stiffened;
then I recalled Gretchen's last letter. . . .  I fell to wondering
where the bullet would hit me.  I prayed that his aim might be sure.

"Many persons think that I am a man without compassion," said the
Prince, as we were about to step to our places.  "I have an abundance
of it.  You have everything to lose, and I have nothing to gain.  If it
is your desire, I shall be happy to explain that you wish to withdraw.
But say the word."

He knew what my reply would be.  "Withdraw," said I, "and have you
laugh at me and tell your friends that I acted the poltroon?  Really,
you do me injustice."

"And do you hate me so very much?" mockery in his eyes.

"Not now.  I did hate you, but hatred is a thing we should not waste
any more than love.  I have taken the bird and the nest from your
hands; that is more than enough.  You are merely an object for scorn
and contempt and indifference now.  No; I have no wish to withdraw."

"You read between the lines," he said.  "Indeed, I should like nothing
better than to have the privilege of calling you a poltroon and a
coward and to tell your Princess of it."  He sauntered back to his
place leisurely.

"Aim the slightest to the left," whispered Pembroke; "the wind will
carry it home."

I pressed his hand.  A moment later I stood facing the Prince.  I
lifted the pistol and fired.  Had the Prince been ten feet to the right
he must have been hit.  I threw the smoking pistol aside, let my arms
fall and waited.  I could see that Pembroke was biting his lip to hide
his anxiety and disappointment.  Slowly the Prince leveled the weapon
at my breast.  Naturally I shut my eyes.  Perhaps there was a prayer on
my lips.  God! how long that wait seemed to me.  It became so tedious
that I opened my eyes again.  The pistol arm of the Prince appeared to
have frozen in the air.

"It is getting cold," I cried.  "Shoot, for God's sake shoot, and end
it!"

In reply the Prince fired into the air, took the pistol by the barrel
and flung it at my feet.  The rest of us looked on dumfounded.

"They are all of the same kidney, Count, these Americans," said he.
"They would be dangerous as a nation were it not for their love of
money."  Then to me: "Go tell your Princess that I have given your life
to you."

"The devil take you!" I cried.  The strain had been terrible.

"All in good time," retorted the Prince, getting into his coat and
furs.  "Yesterday morning I had every intention of killing you; this
morning it was farthest from my thoughts, though I did hope to see you
waver.  You are a man of courage.  So was your friend.  It is to be
regretted that we were on different sides.  Devil take the women; good
morning!"

After the Count had gathered up the pistols, the two walked toward the
inn.  Pembroke and I followed them at a distance.

"I wonder if he had any idea of what a poor shot you were?" mused
Pembroke.  "It was a very good farce."

"I aimed ten feet to the right," said I.

"What?"

"Yes."

"Then you knew--"

"Pembroke," said I, "I had no intention of killing him, or even
wounding him.  And I never expected to leave this place alive.
Something has occurred during the last twenty-four hours which we do
not understand."

"He was taking great risks."

"It shows the man he is," said I; and the remainder of the distance was
gone in silence.

The carriages were in the road, a short way from the inn.  Pembroke and
I got into ours.  As the Prince placed a foot on the step of his he
turned once more to me.

"Pardon me," he said, "but I came near forgetting to tell you why I did
not kill you this morning.  In some way your Princess came into the
knowledge that we were going to fight it out as they did in the old
days.  She came to my rooms, and there begged me to spare your life.
There was a condition.  It was that she get down on her knees to
sue--down on her knees.  Ah, what was your life compared to the joy of
her humiliation!  Not in the figure of speech--on her living, mortal
knees, my friend--her living knees!"  The carriage door banged behind
him.

It was only because Pembroke threw his arms around me that I did not
leap out of the carriage.

"Sit still, Jack, sit still!  If she begged your life, it was because
she loves you."

And, full of rage, I saw the carriage of the Prince vanish.  As the
carriage vanished, so vanished the Prince from the scene of my
adventures.  It was but recently that I read of his marriage to the
daughter of a millionaire money lender; and, unlike the villain in the
drama, pursues the even tenor of his way, seemingly forgotten by
retribution, which often hangs fire while we live.

"There are some curious people in this world," said Pembroke, when he
had succeeded in quieting me.

I had no argument to offer.  After a time I said: "To-morrow, cousin,
we shall return to America, our native land.  When we are older it will
be pleasant to recount our adventures."

Arriving at our rooms, we found them in possession of a lieutenant of
the guard hussars.  He was drumming on the hearthstone with the end of
his sword scabbard.  As we entered he rose and briefly saluted us.

"Which of you two gentlemen is Herr Winthrop?" he asked.

"I am he," said I.

"His Majesty commands your immediate presence at the palace."

"The King?"

"Yes."

"Have you any idea what his desires are?"

"A soldier never presumes to know His Majesty's desires, only his
commands.  Let us begone at once, sir.  I have been waiting for an
hour.  His Majesty likes dispatch."

"It cannot be anything serious," said I to Pembroke, who wore a worried
frown.

Perhaps the King had heard of the duel.  I was in a mood to care but
little what the King had heard, or what he was going to do.  The thing
uppermost in my mind was that Gretchen had begged my life of the
Prince--and then run away!

At the palace the Chancellor met me in the anteroom.  His face was
grave almost to gloominess.

"Have you ever seen a King angry?" he asked.  "Ah, it is not a pleasant
sight, on my word; least of all, to the one who has caused a King's
anger."

"You alarm me," I said.  "Have I done aught to bring the anger of the
King upon my head?"

"Ah, but you have!  The King is like a bear in his den.  He walks back
and forth, waving his hands, pulling his mustache and muttering dire
threats."

"Might I not take to my legs?" I asked.  After all, I cared more than I
thought I should in regard to what the King might do to me.

The Chancellor gave my back a sounding thump, and roared with laughter.

"Cheerful, my son; be cheerful!  You are a favorite already."

"You bewilder me."

"You have powerful friends; and if the King is angry you need have no
fear."

"I should like to know--" I began.

"Ah!" interrupted the Chancellor, "the audience is ended; it is our
turn.  The Austrian Ambassador," he whispered as a gray-haired man
passed us, bowing.  There was an exchange of courtesies, and once more
I stood before the King.

"I believe you have kept me waiting," said the King, "as Louis once
said."  He gazed at me from under knotted eyebrows.  "I wish,"
petulantly, "that you had remained in your own country."

"So do I, Your Majesty," I replied honestly.  The Chancellor shook with
laughter, and the King glared at him furiously.

"What is your name?" asked the King in a milder tone.  He was holding a
missive in his hand.

"John Winthrop," I answered.  I was wondering what it was all about.

"Were you born in America?"

"Yes, Your Majesty."

"Is your family an honored one in your country?"

"It is," I answered proudly.

"Then, why in heaven's name do you scribble?" cried the King.

"In my country one may have an honored name and still be compelled to
earn a competence."

"Ah, yes!  After all, scribbling is better than owning a shop."  This
is the usual argument of Kings.  "Can you trace your pedigree very far
back?" the King proceeded.

"My ancestors came over in the Mayflower," said I.

"The Mayflower?" said the King, puzzled.

"All the Americans," explained the Chancellor, "went over in the
Mayflower.  The ark and the Mayflower were the largest ships ever put
to sea, Your Majesty."  To hide his smile, the Chancellor passed over
to the window and began drawing pictures on the frosted panes.

Continued the King: "If you loved one of my countrywomen, would you be
willing to sacrifice your own country?  I mean, would you be willing to
adopt mine, to become a naturalized citizen, to uphold its laws, to
obey the will of its sovereign, and to take up arms in its defense?"

My knees began to knock together.  "I should be willing," I answered,
"if I should never be called upon to bear arms against the country in
which I was born."

"I should never ask you to do that," replied the King.

"No; His Majesty has too wholesome a respect for America," the
Chancellor interpolated.

"Prince," said the King, "go and finish your window panes."

The Chancellor meekly obeyed.

"This is your answer?" said the King to me.

"Yes, Your Majesty."

"Then marry the Princess Elizabeth," he said, tossing the missive to me.

"Yes, marry her," said the irrepressible Chancellor; "and some day the
King will put a medal on your breast and make you a baron of the realm.
Your Majesty, come and help me with this last pane."

The Princess Elizabeth?  I glanced at the writing on the envelope.  It
was Gretchen's.  "And, Your Majesty," I read, "it is true that they
love each other.  Permit them to be happy.  I ask your forgiveness for
all the trouble I have caused you.  I promise that from now on I shall
be the most obedient subject in all your kingdom.  Hildegarde."  I
dropped the letter on the table.

"Your Majesty," I began nervously, "there is some mistake.  I do not
love Her Highness the Princess Elizabeth."

The King and his Chancellor whirled around.  The decorations on the
panes remained unfinished.  The King regarded me with true anger, and
the Chancellor with dismay.

"I love the Princess Hildegarde," I went on in a hollow voice.

"Is this a jest?" demanded the King.

"No; on my honor."  For once I forgot court etiquette, and left off
"Your Majesty."

"Let me see the letter," said the Chancellor, with a pacific purpose.
"There is some misunderstanding here."  He read the letter and replaced
it on the table--and went back to his window.

"Well?" cried the King, impatiently.

"I forgot, Your Majesty," said the Chancellor.

"Forgot what?"

"The letter was written by a woman.  I remember when I was a boy," went
on the Chancellor tranquilly, "I used to take great pleasure in drawing
pictures on frosted window panes.  Women always disturbed me."

"Perhaps, Your Majesty," said I, "it is possible that Her
Highness . . . the likeness between her and her sister . . . perhaps,
knowing that I have known Her Highness Phyllis . . . that is, the
Princess Elizabeth . . . she may believe that I . . ."  It was very
embarrassing.

"Continue," said the King.  "And please make your sentences
intelligible."

"What I meant to say was that Her Highness the Princess Hildegarde,
believes that I love her sister instead of herself . . .  I
thought . . . she has written otherwise . . ."  And then I foundered
again.

"Prince," said the King, laughing in spite of his efforts to appear
angry, "for pity's sake, tell me what this man is talking about!"

"A woman," said the Chancellor.  "Perhaps Her Highness the Princess
Hildegarde. . . .  That is, I believe. . . .  She may love this
man . . .  perhaps thinking he loves the other. . ."  He was mocking
me, and my face burned.

"Prince, do not confuse the man; he is bad enough as it is."  The King
smoothed away the remnant of the smile.

"Your Majesty is right," said I, desperately.  "I am confused.  I know
not what to say."

"What would you do in my place?" asked the King of the Chancellor.

"I should say in an ominous voice, 'Young man, you may go; but if you
ever enter our presence again without either one or the other of the
Hohenphalian Princesses as your wife, we shall confiscate your property
and put you in a dungeon for the remainder of your natural days.'  I
put in the confiscation clause as a matter of form.  Have you any
property?"

"What I have," I answered, my confidence returning, "I can put in my
pockets."

"Good," said the King.  "What the Chancellor says is but just.  See to
it that his directions are followed."

"Now, my King," concluded the Chancellor, "put a medal on him and let
him go."

"In time," replied the King.  "You may go, Herr Winthrop."

"Go and scribble no more," added the Chancellor.

I could hear them laughing as I made my escape from the room.  It could
not be expected of me to join them.  And Gretchen was as far away as
ever.  Phyllis love me?  It was absurd.  Gretchen had played me the
fool.  She had been laughing at me all the time.  Yet, she had begged
my life of the Prince, and on her knees.  Or, was it a lie of his?  Oh,
it seemed to me that my brain would never become clear again.

In the afternoon at four I was ushered into the boudoir of Her Highness
the Princess Elizabeth.  It was Phyllis no longer; Phyllis had passed;
and I became conscious of a vague regret.

"I am glad," she said, "that you were able to come.  I wanted to speak
to you about--about my sister."

"Your Highness--"

She laughed.  "Our interview shall end at once if you call me by that
title.  Sir," with a gaiety which struck me as unnatural, "you are
witnessing the passing of Phyllis.  It will not be long before she
shall pass away and never more return, and the name shall fade till it
becomes naught but a dear memory.  Phyllis has left the green pastures
for the city, and Corydon followeth not."

"Phyllis," said I, "you are cutting me to the heart."

"But to the matter at hand," she said quickly.  "There is a
misunderstanding between you and my sister Hildegarde.  She sent me
this letter.  Read it."

It differed but little from the one I had read in the King's chamber
that morning.  I gave it back to her.

"Do you understand?"

"I confess that I do not.  It seems that I am never going to understand
anything again."

Phyllis balanced the letter on the palm of her hand.  "You are so very
blind, my dear friend.  Did you not tell her that there had been
another affair?  Do you not believe she thinks your regard for her
merely a matter of pique, of consolation?  It was very kind of her to
sacrifice herself for me.  Some women are willing to give up all to see
the man they love made happy.  My sister is one of those.  But I shall
refuse the gift.  Jack, can you not see that the poor woman thinks that
you love me?"  Phyllis was looking at me with the greatest possible
kindness.

"I know not what she thinks.  I only know that she has written me that
she is sorry for having played with my affections.  Phyllis, if she
loved me she would not leave me as she has done."

"Oh, these doubting Thomases!" exclaimed Phyllis.  "How do you know
that she does not love you?  Have you one true proof that she does not?
No; but you have a hundred that she does."

"But--"

"Do you love her?" demanded Phyllis, stamping her foot with impatience.

"Love her?  Have I not told you that I do?" gloomily.

"And will you give her up because she writes you a letter?  What has
ink to do with love and a woman?  If you do not set out at once to find
her, I shall never forgive you.  She is my sister, and by that I know
that you cannot win her by sitting still.  Go find her and tell her
that you will never leave her till she is your wife.  I do not mean to
infer," with a smile, "that you will leave her after.  Go to her as a
master; that is the way a woman loves to be wooed.  Marry her and be
happy; and I shall come and say, 'Heaven bless you, my children.'  I
have accepted the renunciation of her claims so that she may be free to
wed you.  If you do not find her, I will.  Since I have her promise to
teach me the lesson of being a Princess, she cannot have gone far.  And
when you are married you will promise to visit me often?  I shall be
very lonely now; I shall be far away from my friends; I shall be in a
prison, and men call it a palace."

"I will promise you anything you may ask," I said eagerly.  A new hope
and a new confidence had risen in my heart.  I wonder where man got the
idea that he is lord of creation when he depends so much upon woman?
"And you will really be my sister, too!" taking her hands and kissing
them.  "And you will think of me a little, will you not?"

"Yes."  She slowly withdrew her hands.  "If you do not find her, write
to me."

"Your Highness, it is my hope that some day you will meet a Prince who
will be worthy of you, who will respect and honor you as I do."

"Who can say?  You have promised the King to become a subject of
Hohenphalia."

"Yes."

"Then you will be a subject of mine.  It is my will--I am in a
sovereign mood--that you at once proceed to find Hildegarde, and I will
give her to you."

We had arrived at the head of the stairs.  The departing light of the
smoldering sun poured through the stained windows.  The strands of her
hair were like a thousand flames, and her eyes had turned to gold, and
there was a smile on her lips which filled me with strange uneasiness.
I kissed her hands again, then went down the stairs.  At the foot I
turned.

"Auf wiedersehen!"

"Good-by!"

My ear detected the barest falter in her voice, and something glistened
on her eyelashes. . . .  Ah! why could not the veil have remained
before my eyes and let me gone in darkness?  Suddenly I was looking
across the chasm of years.  There was a young girl in white, a table
upon which stood a pitcher.  It was a garden scene, and the air was
rich with perfumes.  The girl's hair and eyes were brown, and there
were promises of great beauty.  Then, as swiftly as it came, the vision
vanished.

On reaching the street I was aware that my sight had grown dim and that
things at a distance were blurred.  Perhaps it was the cold air.



CHAPTER XXIV

Immediately Pembroke and I journeyed to the feudal inn.  When we
arrived a mixture of rain and snow was falling.  But I laughed at that.
What if I were drenched to the skin with chill rain and snow, my heart
was warm, warmer than it had been in many a day.  Woman is infallible
when she reads the heart of another.  Phyllis said that Gretchen loved
me; it only remained for me to find her.  Pembroke began to grumble.

"I am wet through," he said, as our steaming horses plodded along in
the melting snow.  "You might have waited till the rain let up."

"I'm just as wet as you are," I replied, "but I do not care."

"I'm hungry and cold, too," he went on.

"I'm not, so it doesn't matter."

"Of course not!" he cried.  "What are my troubles to you?"

"Nothing!"  I laughed and shook the flakes from my sleeves.  "Cousin, I
am the happiest man in the world."

"And I'm the most dismal," said he.  "I wish you had brought along an
umbrella."

"What!  Ride a horse with an umbrella over you?  Where is your sense of
romance?"

"Romance is all well enough," said he, "when your stomach is full and
your hide is dry.  If you can call this romance, this five-mile ride
through rain and snow, you are gifted with a wonderful imagination."

"It is beautiful here in the summer," defensively.

"I wish you had waited till then, or brought a mackintosh.  Your
Princess would have kept."  He shoved his head deeper into his collar,
and began to laugh.  "This is the discomfort man will go through for
love.  If she is a true woman she will feed you first and explain
afterward.  But, supposing she is not here?"

"Where else can she be?" I asked.

"The world is very large--when a woman runs away from you."

This set me thinking.  If she shouldn't be there!  I set my teeth and
gave the horse a cut, sending him into a gallop, which I forced him to
maintain till the end.  At length we turned into the roadway.  A man I
had never seen before came out.

"Where is the innkeeper?" I asked, my heart sinking.

"He is not here," was the answer,

"Is Her Highness the Princess Hildegarde--"

"Her Highness?" he cried, in astonishment.  "She has never been here.
This is an inn; the castle is in the village."

"How long have you been here?" asked Pembroke.

"Two weeks, Your Highness."  Doubtless he thought us to be high
personages to be inquiring for the Princess.

"Is Stahlberg here?" I asked.

"He is visiting relatives in Coberg," was the answer.

"Do you know where Her Highness is?"

"No."  It occurred to me that his voice had taken to sullen tones.

"When will the innkeeper be back?"

The fellow shrugged his shoulders.  "I cannot say, Your Highness.  The
inn is not open for guests till March."

"Jack," said Pembroke in English, "it is evident that this fellow has
been instructed to be close-lipped.  Let us return to the village.  The
castle is left."  He threw some coins to the servant and they rattled
along the porch.  "Come."  And we wheeled and trotted away.

I cannot tell how great was my disappointment, nor what I did or said.
The ride back to the village was a dreary affair so far as conversation
went.  At the castle we found not a soul.

"It is as I expected," said Pembroke.  "Remember that Her Highness is
accustomed to luxury, and that it is not likely for her to spend her
winter in such a deserted place.  You're a newspaper man; you ought to
be full of resources.  Why don't you telegraph to all the news agencies
and make inquiries?  She is a personage, and it will not be difficult
to find her if you go at it the right way."

I followed his advice, and the first return brought me news.  Gretchen
was at present in Vienna.   So we journeyed to Vienna, futilely.  Then
commenced a dogged, persistent search.  I dragged my cousin hither and
thither about the kingdom; from village to train, from train to city,
till his life became a burden to him and his patience threadbare.  At
Hohenphalia, the capital, we were treated coldly; we were not known;
they were preparing the palace for the coronation of Her Serene
Highness the Princess Elizabeth; the Princess Hildegarde might be in
Brussels.  At Brussels Her Highness was in Munich, at Munich she was in
Heidelberg, and so on and so on.  It was truly discouraging.  The
vaguest rumor brought me to the railway, Pembroke, laughing and
grumbling, always at my heels.  At last I wrote to Phyllis; it was the
one hope left.  Her reply was to the effect that she, too, did not know
where her sister was, that she was becoming a puzzle to her, and
concluded with the advice to wait till the coronation, when Gretchen
would put in appearance, her presence being imperative.  So weeks
multiplied and became months, winter passed, the snows fell from the
mountains, the floods rose and subsided, summer was at hand with her
white boughs and green grasses.  May was blooming into June.  Still
Gretchen remained in obscurity.  Sometimes in my despair I regretted
having loved her, and half resolved to return to Phyllis, where (and I
flushed at the thought!) I could find comfort and consolation.  And
yet--and yet!

"I shall be a physical wreck," said Pembroke, when we finally returned
to B----, "if you keep this up much longer."

"Look at me!" was my gloomy rejoinder.

"Well, you have that interesting pallor," he admitted, "which women
ascribe to lovers."

Thrusting my elbows on the table, I buried my chin in my hands and
stared.  After a while I said: "I do not believe she wants to be found."

"That has been my idea this long while," he replied, "only I did not
wish to make you more despondent than you were."

So I became resigned--as an animal becomes resigned to its cage.  I
resolved to tear her image from my heart, to go with Pembroke to the
jungles and shoot tigers; to return in some dim future bronzed,
gray-haired and noted.  For above all things I intended to get at my
books again, to make romances instead of living them.

There were times when I longed to go to Phyllis and confide my troubles
to her, but a certain knowledge held me back.

One morning, when I had grown outwardly calm, I said to Pembroke:
"Philip, I shall go with you to India."

"Here is a letter for you," he replied; "it may change your plans."

My mail, since leaving the journalistic field, had become so small that
to receive a letter was an event.  As I stretched forth a hand for the
letter my outward calm passed swiftly, and my heart spoke in a voice of
thunder.  I could not recall the chirography on the envelope.  The
hand, I judged, which had held the pen was more familiar with flays and
scythes.  Inside of the envelope I discovered only six words, but they
meant all the world to me.  "She is here at the inn."  It was unsigned.
I waved the slip of paper before Pembroke's eyes.

"She is found!" I cried.

"Then go in search of her," he said.

"And you will go with me?"

"Not I!  I prefer tigers to princesses.  By the way, here is an article
in the Zeitung on the coming coronation of Her Serene Highness the
Princess Elizabeth of Hohenphalia.  I'm afraid that I shan't be present
to witness the event."  He thrust the paper into my hands and
approached the window, out of which he leaned and stared at the garden
flowers below. . . .  "When I asked her why it could not be, she
answered that she had no love to give in return for mine."  Presently
he rapped his pipe on the sill and drew in his head.  His brow was
wrinkled and his lips were drawn down at the corners.  With some shame
I remembered that I had thought only of myself during the past few
months.  "Jack," he said, "I have gone around with you for the
excitement of it, for the temporary forgetfulness, and because I wanted
to see you well cared for before I left you.  The excitement took my
mind from my own malady, but it has returned to-day with all its old
violence.  There is the same blood in our veins.  We must have one
woman or none.  I must get away from all this.  We are at the parting
of the ways, old man.  To-night I leave for India.  The jungle is a
great place.  I am glad for your sake that you are not to go with me.
Sometimes one gets lost."

"She may change her mind," I said, putting a hand on his.  "Most women
do."

"Most admit of exceptions," he replied, regarding me with earnest eyes
as if to read what was going on behind mine.  "There are some women who
never change.  Her Highness is one of these.  As I remarked before, she
has no love to give me; it is gone, and as it is gone without reward,
she will make no attempt to recall it to give to another.  I love her
all the more for that.  The game fate plays with our hearts is a cruel
one.  For one affinity there are ten unfinished lives.  Her Highness
loves a good man."

My hand fell from his, and I went over to the window.  This was the
first intimation he had given to me that he knew the secret, the secret
which had made me so sad, the secret which I tried not to believe.

"You are determined to go to India?" I said, without turning my head.
I could find no other words.

"Yes.  It will be the best thing in the world."

"You will promise to write?"

"Whenever I strike the post.  Marry and be happy; it is the lot of the
few."

That night he started for Bombay, by the way of England, and the next
morning I put out for the feudal inn.



CHAPTER XXV

I was passing along the highway, a pipe between my teeth.  It was the
beginning of twilight, that trysting hour of all our reveries, when the
old days come back with a perfume as sweet and vague as that which
hovers over a jar of spiced rose leaves.  I was thinking of the year
which was gone; how I first came to the inn; of the hour when I first
held her in my arms and kissed her, and vowed my love to her; of the
parting, when she of her own will had thrown her arms about my neck and
confessed.  The shadows were thickening on the ground, and the voices
of the forests were hushed.  I glanced at the western sky.  It was like
a frame of tarnished gold, waiting for night with her diadem of stars
to step within.  The purple hills were wrapping themselves in robes of
pearly mists; the flowing river was tinted with dun and vermilion; and
one by one the brilliant planets burst through the darkening blues of
the heavens.  The inn loomed up against the sky, gray and lonely.
Behind me, far away down the river, I could catch occasional glimpses
of the lamps of the village.  Presently there came a faint yellow glow
in the east, and I knew that Diana was approaching.


  She tosses loose her locks upon the night,
  And, through the dim wood Dian threads her way.


A wild sweetness filled the air.  I was quite half a mile from the inn,
yet I could smell the odor of her roses, Gretchen's roses.  It was a
long and weary year which had intervened.  And now she was there, only
a short way from my arms.  But she did not know that I was coming.  A
million diamonds sprang into the air whenever I struck the lush grasses
with my cane.  Everywhere I breathed the perfume of her roses.  They
seemed to hide along the hedges, to lurk among the bushes, red roses
and white.  On the hill, across the valley, I saw the little cemetery
with its white stones.  I arrested my steps and took off my hat.  The
dust of Hillars lay there.  I stood motionless for some time.  I had
loved the man as it is possible for one man to love another.  I had not
thought of him much of late; but in this life we cannot always stand by
the grave of those who have gone before.  He had loved Gretchen with a
love perhaps less selfish than mine, for he had sacrificed his life
uselessly for her that she might--be mine!  Mine!  I thought.  And who
was I that she should love me instead of him?  All the years I had
known him I had known but little of him.  God only knows the hearts of
these men who rove or drift, who, anchorless and rudderless, beat upon
the ragged reels of life till the breath leaves them and they pass
through the mystic channel into the serene harbor of eternity.  A
sudden wave of dissatisfaction swept over me.  What had I done in the
world to merit attention?  What had I done that I, and not he, should
know the love of woman?  Why should I live to-day and not he?  From out
the silence there came no answer; and I continued on.  It was life.  It
was immutable, and there was no key.

The lights of the inn cheered me and lifted the gloom.  Should I enter
by stealth or boldly?  I chose the second method.  Gretchen and the
innkeeper were in the old hall.  I entered and threw my traps into a
corner.  As they turned and saw me consternation was written on their
faces.

"I have found you at last," I said, holding out a hand to each of them.
The innkeeper thrust his hands behind his back and sauntered leisurely
toward the window.  Gretchen showed signs of embarrassment, and her
eyes were studiously fixed on the cracks which yawned here and there in
the floor.  My hands fell unnoticed.

"You have been looking for us?" she asked in even tones.  "Why have
you?"

Vaguely I gazed at her, at the innkeeper, then at my traps in the
corner.  It was apparent that I was an intruder.  I struck my forehead
in anger and despair.  Triple fool that I was!  I was nothing to her.
She had told me so, and I had not believed.

"Yes; why?" asked the innkeeper, turning around.

"I believe," said I, my voice trembling, "that I am an unwelcome guest.
Is it not so?"

"Oh, as for that," said the innkeeper, observing Gretchen, "this is a
public inn, on the highway.  All wayfarers are of necessity welcome."

"Go, then, and prepare me a supper," said I.  "I am indeed hungry,
having journeyed far."  I wanted him out of the room.

The innkeeper appeared not to have the slightest intention of leaving
the room to do my bidding.

"Yes, Hermann," said Gretchen, coloring, "go and prepare Herr
Winthrop's supper."

"Thank you," said I, with a dismal effort to be ironical.

The innkeeper, a puzzling smile on his lips, passed out.

"Gretchen," I burst forth, "in heaven's name what does this mean?  I
have hunted for you day after day, week after week, month after month.
I have traveled the four ends of the continent.  I have lived--Oh, I do
not know how I have lived!  And when I do find you, it is for this!"
My voice broke, and I was positively on the verge of tears.

"And was all this fair to her?" asked Gretchen, coldly.

"To her?  I do not understand."

"I mean, was all this fair to my sister?"

"Gretchen," a light piercing the darkness, "has she not written to you?"

"A long time ago.  She wanted to see me on an important matter, but I
could not change my plans at the time.  I shall see her at the palace
next week.  Ought you not to be with her instead of here?"

"Why should I be with her?"

Gretchen laughed, but the key was false.

"Are you not going to marry her?  Surely, it is easy after the King has
given his permission.  Have you already fallen out of love with her,
after all your efforts to make her a Princess?  Truly, man is as
unstable as sand and water!  Ah, but you fooled us all to the top of
our bent.  You knew from the first that she was a Princess; but you
could not find the proofs.  Hermann and I were the means to the end.
But who shall blame you?  Not I!  I am very grateful to you for having
given to me a sister.  And if you fooled me, I returned measure for
measure.  It is game and quit.  Time hung heavy on my hands, and the
victory, however short, was amusing."

"I never loved her!" I cried.  Where were the words I needed?

"So much the worse for you," disdainfully.  "But here comes Hermann to
announce your supper."

"I shall not break the bread of inhospitality," said I, in the
bitterness of my despair.  I gathered up my traps--and then I let them
tumble back.  The needed words came with a rush to my lips.  I went
close to her.  "Why did you humiliate yourself in begging my life of
the Prince?  Why, if my life was nothing to you?  Answer.  Why did you
stoop to your knees to that man if I was worthless to you?  Why?"

Her cheeks grew red, then white; her lips formed words which she could
not speak.

"Herr Winthrop's supper is ready," announced the innkeeper.

"Go and eat it!" I said childishly.

"Your appetite is gone then?" imperturbably.

"Yes, and get you gone with it!"

The innkeeper surveyed me for a space.  "Will you kindly tell me from
whom you received the information that Her Highness was at the inn?"

I produced the unsigned letter.  He read it carefully, while Gretchen
looked on nervously.

"Ach!" said the innkeeper, "that Stahlberg!  He shall be dismissed."

Unhappily for him, that individual was just passing along the corridor.
The innkeeper signaled him to approach.

"How dared you?" began the innkeeper, thrusting the letter under
Stahlberg's nose.

"Dare?--I?--Herr," said the big fellow, "I do not understand.  What is
it you accuse me of?"

"This," cried the innkeeper: "You have written to Herr Winthrop and
told him that Her Highness was at the inn.  And you were expressly
forbidden to do so."

Stahlberg looked around blankly.  "I swear to heaven, Herr--"

"Do not prevaricate!" the innkeeper interrupted.  "You know that you
wrote this."

"Stahlberg," I cried excitedly; "tell me why you wrote this note to me
and I'll see that you are taken care of the rest of your days."

"I forbid him!" commanded Gretchen in alarm.

"As God hears me, Herr," said Stahlberg stoutly.  "I wrote not a line
to you or to any one."

"Oh!" cried the innkeeper, stamping.  "And you deny that you have
written here that you saw Her Highness in the garden three nights ago?"

Gretchen was beginning to grow terrified for some reason.  I myself was
filled with wonder, knowing well enough that nothing about a garden had
been written in the note I had received.

"Do you dare deny," went on the implacable old man, "that you have
written here that you saw Her Highness in the garden, and that she was
weeping and murmuring this man's name?"

"Oh!" cried Gretchen, gazing wildly at the door.

The innkeeper suddenly took the bewildered giant by the shoulders and
pushed him from the room, following him swiftly; and the door closed
noisily behind them.

My heart was in flames.  I understood all now, though I dare say
Gretchen didn't.  All at once, her head fell on the back of the chair
from which she had but lately risen.  She was weeping silently and
deeply.  I did not move, but stood watching her, drinking in with
exultation the loveliness of a woman in tears.  She was mine, mine,
mine!  The innkeeper had not really known her heart till the night in
the garden to which he so adroitly referred; then he had made up his
mind that things were not as they should be, and had sent me that
anonymous note.  Mine at last, I thought.  Somehow, for the first time
in my life I felt what is called masterful; that is to say, not all
heaven and earth should take her away from me now.  Softly I passed
over to her side and knelt at her feet.  I lifted the hem of her gown
and pressed it to my lips.

"My Princess!" I murmured, "all mine."  I kissed her unresisting hand.
Then I rose and put my arms around her.  She trembled but made no
effort to withdraw.  "I swear to you, Gretchen, that I will never leave
you again, not if the King should send an army against me, which he
will never do, since he has commanded that I marry you.  Beware!  It is
a dangerous thing to trifle with a King's will.  And then, even if the
King should change his mind, I should not.  You are mine.  I should
like to know if I haven't won you!  Oh, they do well to call you
Princess Caprice.  Oh, Gretchen," falling back to humble tones, "what a
weary year has been wasted.  You know that I love you; you have never
really doubted it; you know that you have not.  Had you gone to your
sister when she wrote to you, she would have told you that it was for
you alone that I made her a Princess; that all my efforts were to make
you free to wed.  Gretchen, you will not send me away this time, will
you?  You will be kind and bid me to stay?"

"She loves you," whispered Gretchen.

This admitted no reply.  I simply pressed my lips to her hair.  The
sobs were growing audibly less.

"I read it in her eyes," persisted Gretchen.

"Gretchen, answer me: do you love me?"

"Yes."

I placed my hands against her temples, and turned her head around so
that those blue-green eyes, humid and tearful, looked into mine.

"Oh, I cannot deny it.  If I wrong her in accepting your love, it is
because I cannot help it.  I love you better than all the world; so
well do I love you that--"  Her head sank on my heart, and her sobs
began afresh.

"That what, Gretchen?" I asked.

"Nothing."  By and by she said; "Keep faith with me, and I promise to
love as few women can."

Then I kissed her lips.  "Gretchen?"

"What is it?"

"I have an idea that we shall be very happy.  Now let us go and make
terms of peace with the innkeeper."

We found him alone in the barroom.

"Gretchen," said I, "read this note."

As her eyes ran over those six words, she blushed.

"Hermann," she said, "you have betrayed me."

"And when will Your Highness order me out to be shot?" asked he,
smiling.

"At sunrise; but I shall blindfold the soldiers and take the charges
from their guns.  I forgive you."

"Now, Hermann," said I, "fill me up a stein."  I held it high above my
head.  "A health!  Long live the King!  Long live Her Serene Highness
the Princess--"

"Elizabeth," said Gretchen, gently.  "I fear she has lost something
which is never to be found again."

I drained the stein, and as I set it down I thought: Phyllis is so far
away and Gretchen is so near!

"Let us go into the garden," said I.

For a long time we wandered here and there, saying nothing.  I was
thinking that I had found a castle at last which neither tides nor
winds nor sudden awakenings could tumble down.

"Gretchen, you must never take up the sword again."

"Only in my lord's defence."  From the movement of her arm, which clung
to mine, I knew that she was laughing.

The moon had risen, the round and mellow moon of summer.  The silver
mists of night wavered and sailed through the aisles of the forests,
and from the river came the cool fresh perfume of the river rush.

"And so you really love me?" I asked.

"I do."

"Why do you love me?"

"Because," said Gretchen.





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