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Title: By Wit of Woman
Author: Marchmont, Arthur W. (Arthur Williams), 1852-1923
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 "By Wit of Woman" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



BY WIT OF WOMAN


By

ARTHUR W. MARCHMONT


_Author of "When I was Czar" "By Snare of Love" "A Dash for a Throne"
etc etc_



ILLUSTRATIONS BY S. H. VEDDER



LONDON

WARD LOCK & CO. LIMITED

1906



CONTENTS


CHAP.

      I  FROM BEYOND THE PALE
     II  A CHESS OPENING
    III  MY PLAN OF CAMPAIGN
     IV  MADAME D'ARTELLE
      V  A NIGHT ADVENTURE
     VI  GARETH
    VII  GARETH'S FATHER
   VIII  COUNT KARL
     IX  I COME TO TERMS WITH MADAME
      X  A DRAMATIC STROKE
     XI  PLAIN TALK
    XII  HIS EXCELLENCY AGAIN
   XIII  GETTING READY
    XIV  I ELOPE
     XV  AN EMBARRASSING DRIVE
    XVI  A WISP OF RIBBON
   XVII  IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT
  XVIII  THE COST OF VICTORY
    XIX  A TRAGI-COMEDY
     XX  MY ARREST
    XXI  HIS EXCELLENCY TO THE RESCUE
   XXII  COLONEL KATONA SPEAKS
  XXIII  A GREEK GIFT
   XXIV  WHAT THE DUKE MEANT
    XXV  ON THE THRESHOLD
   XXVI  FACE TO FACE
  XXVII  "THIS IS GARETH"
 XXVIII  THE COLONEL'S SECRET
   XXIX  A SINGULAR TRUCE
    XXX  THE END



ILLUSTRATIONS


"He held out his hand when Madame presented him."

"The two scoundrels pulled up at the sight of it."

"Throwing herself on her knees at the Duke's feet."



CHAPTER I

FROM BEYOND THE PALE

"To John P. Gilmore, Jefferson City, Missouri, U.S.A.

"MY DEAR BROTHER-IN-LAW,--For years you have believed me dead, and I
have made no effort to disturb that belief.

"I am dying now, alone in Paris, far from my beloved country; unjustly
degraded, dishonoured and defamed.  This letter and its enclosure will
not be despatched until the grave has closed over me.

"To you I owe a debt of deep gratitude.  You have taken and cared for
my darling child, Christabel; you have stood between her and the world,
and have spared her from the knowledge and burden of her father's
unmerited shame.  You can yet do something more--give her your name, so
that mine with its disgrace may be forgotten; unless--it is a wild
thought that has come to me in my last hours, the offspring of my
hopeless melancholy--unless she should ever prove to have the strength,
the courage, the wit and the will to essay that which I have
endeavoured fruitlessly--the clearance of my name and honour.

"When ruin first fell upon me, I made a vow never to reveal myself to
her until I had cleared my name and hers from the stain of this
disgrace.  I have kept the vow--God knows at what sorrow to myself and
against what temptation in these last lonely years--and shall keep it
now to the end.

"The issue I leave to you.  If you deem it best, let her continue to
believe that I died years ago.  If otherwise, give her the enclosed
paper--the story of my cruel wrong--and tell her that during the last
years of my life my thoughts were all of her, that my heart yearned for
her, and that my last conscious breath will be spent in uttering her
name and blessing her.

"Such relics of my once great fortune as I have, I am sending to you
for my Christabel.

"Adieu.
  "ERNST VON DRESCHLER, COUNT MELNIK."


"To my Daughter, Christabel von Dreschler.

"MY DEAREST CHILD,--If you are ever to read these lines it will be
because your uncle believes you are fitted to take up the task of
clearing our name, from the stain of crime which the villainy of others
has put upon it.  But whether you will make the effort must be decided
finally by yourself alone.  For two years I have tried, with such
strength as was left to me by those who did me this foul wrong, and I
have failed.  Were you a son, I should lay this task upon you as a
solemn charge; but you are only a girl, and left in your hands, it
would be all but hopeless, because of both its difficulty and probable
danger.  I leave you free to decide: for the reason that if you have
not the personal capacity to make the decision, you will not have in
you the power to succeed.  One thing only I enjoin upon you.  If you
cannot clear my name, do not bear it.

"I have not strength to write out in full all the details of the
matter, but I give you the main outline here and send in this packet
many memoranda which I have made from time to time.  These will give
you much that you need.

"At the time of your mother's death and your leaving Hungary for the
United States I was, as you may remember, a colonel in the
Austro-Hungarian army, in possession of my title and estates, and in
favour with one of the two most powerful of all the great Slav nobles,
Ladislas, Duke of Kremnitz.  I continued, as I believed, to enjoy his
confidence for two years longer, up to the last, indeed.  He was one of
the leaders of the Patriots--the great patriotic movement which you
will find described in the papers I send you--the other being the
Hungarian magnate, Duke Alexinatz of Waitzen.  Two of my friends, whose
names you must remember, were Major Katona, my intimate associate, and
Colonel von Erlanger, whom I knew less well.

"If the Patriots were successful, the Hungarian Throne was to be filled
by Duke Alexinatz with reversion to his only son, Count Stephen; and it
is necessary for you to understand that this arrangement was expressly
made by Duke Ladislas himself.

"So matters stood when, one day, some hot words passed between young
Count Stephen and myself, and he insulted me grossly.  Two days later,
Major Katona came to my house at night in great agitation.  He declared
that the Count had sworn to shoot me, and that his father had espoused
his side in the quarrel and threatened to have me imprisoned; and that
Duke Ladislas, unwilling to quarrel with Duke Alexinatz, although
taking my part in the affair, desired me to absent myself from
Buda-Pesth until the storm had blown over.  He pressed me to leave
instantly; and, suspecting nothing, I yielded.  I had scarcely left my
house when the carriage was stopped, I was seized, gagged, and
blindfolded, and driven for many hours in this condition, and then
imprisoned.  I believed that I was in the hands of the agents of Duke
Alexinatz; and continued in this belief for six years, during the whole
of which time I was kept a close prisoner.

"Then at length I escaped: my strength sapped, my mind impaired and my
spirit broken by my captivity; and learned that I had been branded as a
murderer with a price set on my head.

"On the night when I had left, the young Count Stephen had been found
shot in my house; my flight was accepted as proof of my guilt, and,
most infamous of all, a confession of having murdered him had been made
public with my signature attached to it.

"That is the mystery, as it stands to-day.  The God I am soon to meet
face to face knows my heart and that I am innocent; but prove it I
cannot.  May He give you the strength and means denied to me to solve
the mystery.

"With this awful shadow upon me, I could not seek you out, let my heart
ache and stab as it would with longing for a sight of your face and a
touch of your hand.  I thank God I have still been man enough--feeble
as my mind is after my imprisonment--to keep away from you.

"This sad story you will never know, unless your uncle deems it for the
best.

"That God may keep you happy and bless you is the last prayer of your
unhappy father,

"ERNST VON DRESCHLER."

      *      *      *      *      *

My Uncle Gilmore had been dead three months, having left me his fortune
and his name, when, in sorting his old papers to destroy them, I came
upon these letters.

They were two years old; and it was evident that while my uncle had
intentionally kept them from me, he had at the same time been unwilling
to destroy them.

My poor, poor father!



CHAPTER II

A CHESS OPENING

"If your Excellency makes that move I must mate in three moves."

His Excellency's long white fingers were fluttering indecisively above
the bishop and were about to close upon it, when I was guilty of so
presumptuous a breach of etiquette as to warn him.

He was appropriately shocked.  He fidgeted, frowned at me, and then
smiled.  It was one of those indulgent smiles with which a great man is
wont to favour a young woman in his employment.

"Really, I don't think so," he replied; and having been warned by one
whose counsel he could not condescend to rank very high, he did what
most men would do under the circumstances.  He made the move out of
doggedness.

I smiled, taking care that he should see it.

The mate was perfectly apparent, but I was in no hurry to move.  I had
much more in view just then than the mere winning of the game.  The
time had arrived when I thought the Minister and I ought to come to an
understanding.

"Your Excellency does not set enough store by my advice," I said
slowly.  "But there are reasons this evening.  Your thoughts are not on
the game."

"Really, Miss Gilmore!  I am sorry if I have appeared preoccupied."  He
accompanied the apology with a graceful, deprecatory wave of his white
hand.  He was very proud of the whiteness of his hands and the grace of
many of his gestures.  He studied such things.

"I am not surprised," I said.  "The solution of the mystery of those
lost ducal jewels must naturally be disturbing."

His involuntary start was sufficiently energetic to shake the table on
which the board was placed, and to disturb one or two of the pieces.
He looked intently at me, and during the stare I put the pieces upon
their squares with unnecessary deliberation.  Then I lifted my eyes and
returned his look with one equally intent.

Some of the family jewels of the Duke Ladislas of Kremnitz had been
stolen a few days before, and the theft had completely baffled the
officials of the Government from His Excellency, General von Erlanger,
downwards.  It had been kept absolutely secret, but--well, I had made
it my business to know things.

"It has been a very awkward affair," I added, when he did not speak.

"Shall we resume our game, Miss Gilmore?"  The tone was stiff.  He
intended me to understand that such matters were not for me to discuss.

I made the first move toward the mate and then said--

"Chess is a very tell-tale game, your Excellency.  The theft occurred
seven days ago, and for six of them you have been so preoccupied that I
have won every game.  To-night you have been alternately smiling and
depressed; it is an easy inference, therefore, that the solution of the
mystery is even more troublesome than the mystery itself.  In point of
fact, I was sure it would be."

Instead of studying his move, he began to fidget again; and presently
looked across the board at me with another of his condescending,
patronizing smiles.

"The loss you may have heard spoken of, but you cannot know anything
more.  What, pray, do you think the solution is?"  It never entered his
clever head that I could possibly know anything about it.

"I think you have been an unconscionable time in discovering what was
palpably obvious from the outset."

He frowned.  He liked this reply no better than I intended.  Then the
frown changed to a sneer, masked with a bantering smile, but all the
same unmistakable.

"It is a serious matter for our Government to fall under your censure,
Miss Gilmore."

"I don't think it is more stupid than other Governments," I retorted
with intentional flippancy.  I was not in the least awed by his eminent
position, while he himself was, and found it difficult therefore to
understand me.  This was as I wished.

"Americans are very shrewd, I know, especially American ladies, who are
also beautiful.  But such matters as this----" and he waved his white
hand again loftily; as though the problem would have baffled the wisdom
of the world--any wisdom, indeed, but his.

Now this was just the opening I was seeking.  I had only become
governess to his two girls in order to make an opportunity for myself.
I used the opening promptly.

"Will your Excellency send for your daughter, Charlotte?"

He started as if I had stuck a pin in him.  If you wish to interest a
man, you must of course mystify him.

"For what purpose?"

"That you may see there is no collusion."

"I don't understand you," he replied.  I knew that as clearly as I saw
he was now interested enough to wish me to do so.  I let my fingers
dawdle among the chessmen during a pause intended to whet his
curiosity, and then replied:

"I wish you to ask her to bring you a sealed envelope which I gave her
six days ago, the day after the jewels disappeared."

"It is very unusual," he murmured, wrinkling his brows and pursing his
lips.

"I am perhaps, not quite a usual person," I admitted, with a shrug.

He sat thinking, and presently I saw he would humour me.  His brows
straightened out, and his pursed lips relaxed into the indulgent smile
once more.

"You are a charming woman, Miss Gilmore, if a little unusual, as you
say;" and he rang the bell.

"You have not moved, I think," I reminded him; but he sat back, not
looking at the board and not speaking until his daughter came.  I
understood this to signify that I was on my trial.

"Miss Gilmore gave you a sealed envelope some days ago, Charlotte," he
said to her.   "She wishes you to bring it to me.  Has it really any
connexion with this case?" he asked, as soon as she had left to fetch
it.

I laughed.

"How could it, your Excellency? What could a girl in my position, here
only a few weeks, possibly know about such a thing?"

As this was the thought obviously running in his own mind, he had no
difficulty in assenting to it politely.

"Then what does this mean?" he asked, with a little fretful frown of
inquisitiveness.

"I am only proving my self-diagnosis as a somewhat unusual person.
Will you move now?"

He bent forward and scanned the pieces; but his thoughts were not
following his eyes, and with an impatient gesture he leaned back again.
I continued to study the board as though the game were all in all to me.

"You are pleased to be mysterious, Miss Gilmore;" he said, his tone a
mingling of severity, sarcasm and irritation.  I was to understand that
a man of his exalted importance was not to be trifled with.  "I
appreciate greatly your valuable services, but I do not like mysteries."

I raised my eyes from the board as if reluctantly.

"I am unlike your Excellency in that.  They have a distinct attraction
for me.  This has."  I indicated the mate problem with my hand, but my
eyes contradicted the gesture.  He believed the eyes, and again moved
uneasily in his chair.  "It is naturally an attractive problem.  I have
moved, you know."

He was a very legible man for all his diplomatic experience; and the
little struggle between his sense of dignity and piqued curiosity was
quite amusing.  But I was careful not to show my amusement.  Nothing
more was said until the envelope had been brought and Charlotte sent
away again.

He toyed with it, trying to appear as if it were part of some silly
childish game to which he had been induced to condescend in order to
please me.

"What shall I do with this?"

"Suppose you open it?" I said, blandly.

He shrugged his shoulders, waved his white hand, lifted his eyebrows
and smiled, obviously excusing himself to himself for his participation
in anything so puerile; and then opened it slowly.

But the moment he read the contents his manner changed completely.  His
clear-cut features set, his expression grew suddenly tense with
astonishment, his lips were pressed close together to check the
exclamation of surprise that rose to them; even his colour changed
slightly, and his eyes were like two steel flints for hardness as he
looked up from the paper and across the chessmen at me.

I enjoyed my moment of triumph.

"It is your Excellency's move," I said again, lightly.  "It is a most
interesting position.  This knight----"

He waved the game out of consideration impatiently.

"What does this mean?" he asked, almost sternly.

"Oh, that!" I said, with a note of disappointment, which I changed to
one of somewhat simpering stupidity.  "I was trying my hand at adapting
the French proverb.  I think I put it '_Cherchez le Comte Karl el la
Comtesse d'Artelle_,' didn't I?"

"Miss Gilmore!" he exclaimed, very sharply.

I made a carefully calculated pause and then replied, choosing my words
with deliberation: "It is the answer to your Excellency's question as
to my opinion of the solution.  If you have followed my formula, you
have of course found the jewels.  The Count was the thief."

"In God's name!" he cried, glancing round as though the very furniture
must not hear such a word so applied.

"It was so obvious," I observed, with a carelessness more affected than
real.

He sat in silence for some moments as he fingered the paper, and then
striking a match burnt it with great deliberation, watching it
jealously until every stroke of my writing was consumed.

"You say Charlotte has had this nearly a week?"

"The date was on it.  I am always methodical," I replied, slowly.  "I
meant to prove to you that I can read things."

His eyes were even harder than before and his face very stern as he
paused before replying with well-weighed significance:

"I fear you are too clever a young woman to have further charge of my
two daughters, Miss Gilmore.  I will consider and speak to you later."

"I agree with you, of course.  But why later?  Why not now?  My object
in coming here was not to be governess to your children, but to enter
the service of the Government.  This is the evidence of my capacity;
and it is all part of my purpose.  I am not a good teacher, I know; but
I can do better than teach."

He listened to me attentively, his white finger-tips pressed together,
and his lips pursed; and when I finished he frowned--not in anger but
in thought.  Presently a slight smile, very slight and rather grim,
drew down the corners of his mouth.  And then I knew that I had
matriculated as an agent of the Government.

"Shall we finish the game, your Excellency?"

"Which?" he asked laconically, a twinkle in the hard eyes.

"It is of course for your Excellency to decide."

"You are a good player, Miss Gilmore.  Where did you learn?"

"I have always been fond of problems."

"And good at guessing?"

"It is not all guessing--at chess," I replied, meaningly.  "One has to
see two or three moves ahead and to anticipate your opponent's moves."

A short laugh slipped out.  "Let us play this out.  You may have made a
miscalculation," he said, and bent over the board.

"Not in this game, your Excellency."

"You are very confident."

"Because I am sure of winning."

He grunted another laugh and after studying the position, made a move.

"I foresaw your Excellency's move.  It is my chance.  Check now, of
course, and mate, next move."

"I know when I am outplayed," he said, with a glance.  "I resign.  And
now we will talk.  You play a good game and a bold one, Miss Gilmore,
but chess is not politics."

"True.  Politics require less brains, the stakes are worth winning, and
men bar women from competing."

"It is rare to find girls of your age wishing to compete."

"I am twenty-three," I interjected.

"Still, only a girl: and a girl at your age is generally looking for a
lover instead of nursing ambitions."

"I have known men of your Excellency's age busy at the same sport,"
said I.  "Besides, I may have been a girl," I added, demurely; taking
care to infuse the suggestion with sufficient sentiment.

"And now?" he asked, bluntly.

"I am still a girl, I hope--but with a difference."

"You are not thinking of making a confidant of an old widower like me,
are you?"

"No, I am merely laying before you my qualifications."

"You know there is no room for heart in political intrigue?  Tell me,
then, plainly, what do you wish to do?"

"To lend my woman's wit to your Excellency's Government for a fair
recompense."

"What _could_ you do?"

There was a return to his former indulgent superiority in the question
which nettled me.

"I could use opportunities as your agents cannot."

"How?  By other clever guesses?"

"It was no guess.  I have seen the jewels in Madame d'Artelle's
possession."

He tried not to appear surprised, but the effort was a failure.

"I have been entertaining a somewhat dangerous young woman in my house,
it seems," he said.

"It was ridiculously easy, of course."

"Perhaps you will explain it to me."

"A conjuror does not usually give away his methods, your Excellency.
But I will tell this one.  Feeling confident that Count Karl had stolen
the jewels, and that his object would only be to give them to the
Countess, I had only to gain access to her house to find them.  I found
a pretext therefore, and went to her, and--but you can probably guess
the rest."

"Indeed, I cannot."

It was my turn now to indulge in a smile of superiority.

"I am surprised; but I will make it plainer.  I succeeded in
interesting her so that she kept me in the house some hours.  I was
able to amuse her; and when I had discovered where she kept her chief
treasures, the rest was easy."

"You looked for yourself?"

"You do me less than justice.  I am not so crude and inartistic in my
methods.  She showed them to me herself."

"Miss Gilmore!"  Disbelief of the statement cried aloud in his
exclamation.

"Why not say outright that you find that impossible of credence?  Yet
it is true.  I mean that I led her to speak of matters which
necessitated her going to that hiding-place, and interested her until
she forgot that I had eyes in my head, so that, in searching for
something else, she let me see the jewels themselves."

"Could you get them back?" he asked, eagerly.

I drew myself up and answered very coldly.

"I have failed to make your Excellency understand me or my motives, I
fear.  I could do so, of course, if I were also--a thief!"

"I beg your pardon, Miss Gilmore," he exclaimed quickly, adding with a
touch of malice.  "But you so interested me that I forgot who you were."

"It was only an experiment on my part; and so far successful that I won
the Countess' confidence and she has pressed me to go to her."

"You didn't refer her to me for your credentials, I suppose?" he said,
his eyes lighting with sly enjoyment.

"She asked for no credentials."

"Do you mean that you talked her into wanting you so badly as to take
you into her house without knowing anything about you?"

"May I remind your Excellency that I was honoured by even your
confidence in giving me my present position without any credentials."

He threw up his hands.

"You have made me forget that in the excellent discretion with which
you have since justified my confidence.  I have indeed done you less
than justice."

"The Countess thinks that, together, we should make a strong
combination."

"You must not go to her, Miss Gilmore--unless at least----"

He paused, but I had no difficulty in completing his sentence.

"That is my view, also--unless at least I come to an understanding with
you beforehand.  It will help that understanding if I tell you that I
am in no way dependent upon my work for my living.  I am an American,
as I have told you, but not a poor one; and my motive in all this has
no sort of connexion with money.  As money is reckoned here, I am
already a sufficiently rich woman."

"You continue to surprise me.  Yet you spoke of--of a recompense for
your services?"

"I am a volunteer--for the present.  I shall no doubt seek a return
some time; but as yet, it will be enough for me to work for your
Government; to go my own way, to use my own methods, and to rely only
upon you where I may need the machinery at your disposal.  My success
shall be my own.  If I succeed, the benefits will be yours; if I fail,
you will be at liberty to disavow all connexion between us."

He sat thinking over these unusual terms so long that I had to dig in
the spur.

"The Countess d'Artelle is a more dangerous woman than you seem at
present to appreciate.  She is the secret agent of her Government.  She
has not told me that, or I should not tell it to you; but I know it.
Should I serve your Government or hers?  The choice is open to me."

He drew a deep breath.

"I have half suspected it," he murmured; then bluntly: "You must not
serve hers."

"That is the decision I was sure you would make, General.  We will take
it as final."

"You are a very remarkable young woman, Miss Gilmore."

"And now, a somewhat fatigued one.  I will bid you good-night.  I am no
longer your daughter's governess, but will remain until you have found
my successor."

"You will always be a welcome guest in my house," and he bade me
good-night with such new consideration as showed me I had impressed him
quite as deeply as I could have wished.  Perhaps rather too deeply, I
thought afterwards, when I recalled his glances as we parted.



CHAPTER III

MY PLAN OF CAMPAIGN

When my talk with General von Erlanger over the chess board took place,
I had but recently decided to plunge into the maelstrom whose gloomy
undercurrent depths concealed the proofs of my father's innocence and
the dark secret of his cruel wrongs.

My motive in coming to Pesth was rather a desire to gauge for myself at
first hand the possibility of success, should I undertake the task,
than the definitely formed intention to attempt it.

I had studied all my father's papers closely, and in the light of them
had pushed such inquiries as I could.  I had at first taken a small
house, and as a reason for my residence in the city had entered as a
student of the university.

I was soon familiar with the surface position of matters.  Duke
Alexinatz was dead: his son's death was said to have broken his heart;
and Duke Ladislas of Kremnitz was the acknowledged head of the Slavs.
Major Katona was now Colonel Katona, and lived a life of seclusion in a
house in a suburb of the city.  Colonel von Erlanger had risen to be
General, and was one of the chief Executive Ministers of the local
Hungarian Government--a very great personage indeed.

The Duke had two sons, Karl the elder, his heir, and Gustav.  Karl was
a disappointment; and gossip was very free with his name as that of a
morose, dissipated libertine, whose notorious excesses had culminated
in an attachment for Madame d'Artelle, a very beautiful Frenchwoman who
had come recently to the city.

Of Gustav, the younger, no one could speak too highly.  He was all that
his brother was not.  As clever as he was handsome and as good as he
was clever, "Gustav of the laughing eyes," as he was called, was a
favourite with every one, men and women alike, from his father
downwards.  He was such a paragon, indeed, that the very praises of him
started a prejudice in my mind against him.

I did not believe in paragons--men paragons, that is.  Cynicism this,
if you like, unworthy of a girl of three and twenty; but the result of
a bitter experience which I had better relate here, as it will account
for many things, and had close bearing upon what was to follow.

As I told General von Erlanger, I am not a "usual person;" and the
cause is to be looked for, partly in my natural disposition and partly
in my upbringing.

My uncle Gilmore was a man who had made his own "pile," and had
"raised" me, as they say in the South, pretty much as he would have
"raised" a boy had I been of that sex.  His wife died almost directly
after I was taken to Jefferson City; but not before my sharp young eyes
had seen that the two were on the worst of terms.  His nature was that
rare combination of dogged will and kind heart; and his wife
perpetually crossed him in small matters and was a veritable shrew of
shrews.  He was "taking no more risks with females," he told me often
enough, with special reference to matrimony; and at first was almost
disposed to send me back to Pesth because of my sex.  That inclination
soon changed, however; and all the love that was in his big heart was
devoted to my small self.

But he treated me much more like a boy than a girl.  I had my own way
in everything; nothing was too good for me.  In a word, I was spoiled
to a degree which only American parents understand.

"Old Gilmore's heiress" was somebody in Jefferson City, I can assure
you; and if I gave myself ridiculous airs in consequence, the fault was
not wholly my own.  I am afraid I had a very high opinion of myself.  I
did what I liked, had what I wished, went where I pleased, and thought
myself a great deal prettier than I was.  I was in short "riding for a
fall;" and I got it--and fell far; being badly hurt in the process.

The trouble came in New York where I went when I was eighteen; setting
out with the elated conviction that I was going to make a sort of
triumphal social progress over the bodies of many discomfited and
outclassed rivals.

But I found that in New York I was just one among many girls, most of
them richer and much prettier than I: a nobody with provincial
mannerisms among heaps of somebodies with an air and manner which I at
first despised, then envied, and soon set to work at ninety miles an
hour speed to imitate.

I had all but completed this self-education when my trouble came--a
love trouble, of course.  I became conscious of a great change in
myself.  Up to that point I had held a pretty cheap opinion of men in
general, and especially of those with whom I had flirted.  But I
realized, all suddenly, the wrongfulness of flirting.  That was, I
think the first coherent symptom.  The next was the painful doubt
whether a very handsome Austrian, the Count von Ostelen, was merely
flirting with me.

I knew German thoroughly, having spoken it in my childhood; and I had
ample opportunities of speaking it now with the Count.  We both made
the most of them, indeed; until I found--I was only eighteen,
remember--that the world was all brightness and sunshine; the people
all good and true; and the Count the embodiment of all that a girl's
hero should be.

I was warned against the Count, of course: one's intimate friends
always see to that; but the warnings acted as intelligent persons will
readily understand--they made me his champion, and plunged me deeper
than ever into love's wild, entrancing, ecstatic maze.  To me he became
not only the personification of manly beauty and strength, but the very
type of human nobility, honour, and virtue.

To think such rubbish about any man, one must of course have the fever
very badly; and I had it so intensely that, when he paid me attentions
which made other girls tremble with anger and envy, I was so happy that
I even forgot to exult over them.  I must have been very love sick for
that.

I came to laugh at it afterwards--or almost laugh--and to realize that
it was an excellent discipline for my silly child's pride: but to learn
the lesson I had to pass through the ordeal of fire and passion and hot
scalding tears that go to the hardening of a young heart.

He had been merely amusing himself at the expense of a "raw miss from
the West;" and the knowledge came to me as suddenly as the squall will
strike a yacht, all sails standing, and strew the proud white canvas a
wreck on the waves.

At a ball one night we had danced together as often as usual, and when,
as we sat out a waltz, he had asked me for a ribbon or a flower, I had
been child enough to let him see all my heart as I gave them to him.
Love was in my eyes; and was answered by words and looks from him which
set me in a very seventh heaven of ecstatic delight.

Then, the next day, crash came the dream-skies all about me.

I was riding in the Central Park and he joined me.  I saw at once he
was changed; and my glad smile died away at his constrained formal
greeting.  He struck the blow at once, with scarcely a word of preamble.

"I am leaving for Europe to-morrow, Miss von Dreschler," he said.  "I
have enjoyed New York immensely."

The chill of dismay was too deadly to be concealed.  I gripped the
pommel of the saddle with twitching, strenuous fingers.

"You have been called away suddenly?" I asked; my instinct being thus
to defend him even against himself.

He paused, as if hesitating to use the excuse I offered.

"No," he answered.  "It has been arranged for weeks.  These things have
to be with us, you know."

In a flash his baseness was laid bare to me; and the first sensation of
numbing pain dumbed me.  I had not then acquired the art of masking my
feelings.  But anger came to my relief, as I realized how he had
intentionally played with me.  I knew what a silly trusting fool I had
been; and knew too that had I been a man, I would have struck him first
and killed him afterwards for his dastardly treachery.  I was like a
little wild beast in my sudden fury.

He saw something of this; for his eyes changed.  "I am so sorry," he
said.  As if a lip apology were sufficient anæsthetic for the stabbing
pain in my heart.

"For what, Count von Ostelen?" I asked, lifting my head and looking him
squarely in the eyes.  The question disconcerted him.

"I did not know----" he stammered, and stopped in confusion.

"Did not know what?" I asked; and he was again so embarrassed by the
direct challenge that he kept silent.  His embarrassment helped me; and
I added: "I think your going is the best thing for all concerned,
Count, except perhaps for the unfortunate country to which you go.
_Bon voyage!_"  And with that I wheeled my horse round and rode away.

It was months before the wound healed; months of sorrow,
self-discipline and rigidly suppressed suffering.  I took it fighting,
as our Missouri men Say.  No one saw any difference in me.  My moods
were as changeable, my manner as frivolous, my words as light and my
smiles as frequent as before; and I was as careful not to over-act the
frivolous part as I was to hide the truth.  It was a period of as hard
labour as ever a convict endured in Sing-Sing prison.

But I won.  Not a soul even suspected the canker in my heart which had
changed the point of view of all things in life for me.  I came in the
end to be glad of the stern self-discipline which had made me a woman
before my girlhood had fully opened.  I learnt the lesson thoroughly,
and never again would I be tempted to trust myself to any man's
untender mercies.

I grew very tired of a girl's humdrum routine life.  I longed for
activity and adventure.  I wanted to be doing something earnest and
real, to pit myself against men on equal terms; and for this I sought
to qualify myself both physically and mentally.  I travelled through
the States alone; meeting more than once with adventures that tested my
nerve and courage.

I made a trip to Europe; and when my uncle insisted upon sending a good
placid dame to chaperone me, I found occasion to quarrel with her on
the voyage out so that I might even sample Europe by myself.

Unconsciously, I was fitting myself for the work which my father's
letters were to lay upon me; and when in Paris on that trip I had an
adventure destined to prove of vital import to that task.

The big hotel in which I was staying caught fire one night, and the
visitors, most of them women and elderly men, were half mad with panic.
I was escaping when I found crouching in one of the corridors,
fear-stricken, helpless, and hysterical, a very beautiful woman whom I
had seen at the dinner table, the laughing centre of a noisy and
admiring crowd of men.  I first shook some particles of sense into her
and then got her out.

It was a perfectly easy thing to do without any risk to me; but she
said I had saved her life.  Probably I had: for she might have lain
there till she was suffocated by the smoke; and she insisted upon
showering much hysterical gratitude upon me; and then wished to make me
her close friend.  She was a Madame Constans; and, as I can be cautious
enough upon occasion, I had some inquiries made about her from our
Embassy.  The caution was justified.  She was a secret Government
agent; a police spy with a past.

I parted from her therefore amid vivid evidences of affection from her
and vehement protestations that, if ever she could return the
obligation, her life would willingly be at my disposal.  I accepted her
declarations at their verbal worth and expected never to see her again.

But the Fates had arranged otherwise; and it was with genuine
astonishment that when Madame d'Artelle was pointed out to me one day
driving in the Stadwalchen of Pesth, I recognized her as Madame
Constans.

This fact set me thinking.  What could she be doing in Buda Pesth?  Why
was she coiling the net of intrigue round the young Count--the future
Duke?  Was she still a secret Government agent promoted to an
international position?  Who was behind her in it all?  These and other
questions of the kind were started.

Then came the mysterious theft of the ducal jewels; and through my
instinct, or intuition, call it by what term you may, that which was a
mystery to so many became my key to the whole problem.  Count Karl was
in the toils of the lovely French-woman; he was one of the very few
persons who had access to the jewels; he was admittedly a man of
dissipated habits; and it was an easy deduction that she had instigated
the robbery; more to test the extent of her power over him, perhaps,
than because she coveted the jewels.  There was much more than mere
vulgar theft in it; that was but one of the coils she threw round him.
She was in the Hungarian capital because others had sent her to find
out secrets; and she was drawing the net about his feet to ruin him for
other and greater purposes.

Here then was my course ready shaped for me.  I had entered the
Minister's household to win his confidence as a possible means to the
end I had in view; but the study of my father's papers had shown me
that the General might have had a hand in the grim drama, and in such
an event I might find my way blocked.

But if I took the field against Madame d'Artelle and cut the meshes of
the net of ruin being woven round Count Karl, I should have on my side
the future Duke, the man with the power in his hands, and himself quite
innocent of all connexion with my father's fate.  Success might easily
lie that way.

I acted promptly.  I went to Madame d'Artelle's; and the interview was
one which would have greatly interested his Excellency.  I posed as the
student and governess with my own way to make in the world; and the
Frenchwoman, eager to buy my silence and wishing to separate me from
the Minister, urged me to trust to her to advance my interests, and to
live with her in the meantime.

I consented, of course; and it was then I spoke out to General von
Erlanger.  Thus with one stroke I established close relations with two
sides in the intrigue.

It was with a feeling of some inward satisfaction at the progress I was
making that I went to stay in Madame d'Artelle's house; and, as I had
not yet seen the man whom I planned to deliver from her hands, I looked
forward with much curiosity and interest to meeting him.  I should need
to study him very closely; for I was fully alive to the infinite
difficulties of what I had undertaken to do.

But those difficulties were to prove a hundred-fold greater than I had
even anticipated; and my embarrassment and perplexity were at first so
great, that I was all but tempted to abandon the whole scheme.

I was sitting with Madame d'Artelle one afternoon reading--I kept up
the pretence of studying--when Count Karl was announced.  I rose at
once to leave the room.

"Don't go," she said.  "I wish to present you to the Count."

"Just as you please," I agreed, glad of the chance, and resumed my seat.

He was shown in, and as I saw him I caught my breath, my heart gave a
great leap, and I felt a momentary chill of dismay.

Count Karl was no other than the Count von Ostelen--the man whose
treatment of me five years before in New York had all but broken my
heart and spoilt my life.

Here was a development indeed.



CHAPTER IV

MADAME D'ARTELLE

For a moment the situation oppressed me, but the next I had mastered it
and regained my self-possession.  I was not recognized.  Karl threw a
formal glance at me as Madame d'Artelle mentioned my name, and his eyes
came toward me again when she explained that I was an American.  I was
careful to keep my face from the light and to let him see as little of
my features as possible.  But I need not have taken even that trouble.
He did not give me another thought; and I sat for some minutes turning
over the pages of my book, observing him, trying to analyze my own
feelings, and speculating how this unexpected development was likely to
affect my course.

My first sensation was one which filled me with mortification.  I was
angry that he had not recognized me.  I told myself over and over again
that this was all for the best; that it made everything easier for me;
that I had no right to care five cents whether he knew me or not; and
that it was altogether unworthy of me.  Yet my pride was touched: I
suppose it was my pride; anyway, it embittered my resentment against
him.

It was an insult which aggravated and magnified his former injury; and
I sat, outwardly calm, but fuming inwardly, as I piled epithet upon
epithet in indignant condemnation of him until my old contempt
quickened into hot and fierce hatred.  I felt that, come what might, I
would not stir a finger to save him from any fate to which others were
luring him.

But I began to cool after a while.  I was engaged in too serious a
conflict to allow myself to be swayed by any emotions.  I could obey
only one guide--my judgment.  Here was the man who of all others would
be able by and by to help me most effectively: and if I was not to fail
in my purpose I must have his help, let the cost be what it might.

It was surely the quaintest of the turns of Fate's wheel that had
brought me to Pesth to save him of all men from ruin; but I never break
my head against Fate's decrees, and I would not now.  So I accepted the
position and began to watch the two closely.

Karl was changed indeed.  He looked not five, but fifteen, years older
than when we had parted that morning in the Central Park.  His face was
lined; his features heavy, his eyes dull and spiritless, and his air
listless and almost preoccupied.  He smiled very rarely indeed, and
seemed scarcely even to listen to Madame d'Artelle as she chattered and
laughed and gestured gaily.

The reason for some of the change was soon made plain.  Wine was
brought; and when her back was toward him I saw him look round swiftly
and stealthily and pour into his glass something from a small bottle
which he took from his pocket.

I perceived something else, too.  Madame d'Artelle had turned her back
intentionally so as to give him the opportunity to do this; for I saw
that she watched him in a mirror, and was scrupulous not to turn to him
again until the little phial was safely back in his pocket.

So this was one of the secrets--opium.  His dulness and semi-stupor
were due to the fact that the previous dose was wearing off; and she
knew it, and gave him an opportunity for the fresh dose.

I waited long enough to notice the first effects.  His eyes began to
brighten, his manner changed, he commenced to talk briskly, and his
spirits rose fast.  I feared that under the spur of the drug his memory
might recall me, and I deemed it prudent to leave the room.

I had purposely held my tongue lest he should recognize my voice--the
most tell-tale of all things in a woman--but now I rose and made some
trivial excuse to Madame d'Artelle.

As I spoke I noticed him start, glance quickly at me, and pass his hand
across his forehead; but before he could say anything, I was out of the
room.  I had accomplished two things.  I had let him familiarize
himself with the sight of me without associating me with our former
relations; and I had found out one of the secrets of Madame's influence
over him--her encouragement of his drug-taking.

But why should she encourage it?  It seemed both reasonless and
unaccountable.  Did she care for him?  I had my reasons for believing
she did.  Yet if so, why seek to weaken his mind as well as destroy his
reputation?  I thought this over carefully and could see but one
answer--she must be acting in obedience to some powerful compelling
influence from outside.  Who had that influence, and what was its
nature?

When I knew that Karl had gone I went down stairs and had another
surprise.  I found Madame d'Artelle plunged apparently in the deepest
grief.  She was a creature of almost hysterical changes of mood.

"What is the matter?" I asked, with sparse sympathy.  "Don't cry.
Tears spell ruin to the complexion."

"I am the most miserable woman in the world," she wailed.

"Then you are at the bottom of a very large class.  Tears don't suit
you, either.  They make your eyes red and puffy.  A luxury even you
cannot afford, beautiful as you are."

"You are hateful," she cried, angrily; and immediately dried her eyes
and sat up to glare at me.

I smiled.  "I have stopped your crying at any rate."

"I wish to be alone."

"I think you ought to be very grateful to me.  Look at yourself;" and I
held a hand mirror in front of her face.

She snatched it from me and flung it down on the sofa pillow with a
little French oath.

"Be careful.  To break a mirror means a year's ill luck.  A serious
misfortune for even a pretty woman."

"I don't believe you have a grain of sympathy in your whole heart.  It
must be as hard as a stone."

"My dear Henriette, the heart has nothing to do with sympathy or any
other emotion.  It is just the blood pump.  I have not read much
physiology but...."

"_Nom de Dieu_, spare me your science," she cried, excitedly.

I laughed again without restraint.  "We'll drop physiology, then.  But
I know other things, and now that I have brought you out of the tear
stage, we'll talk about them if you like.  I agree with you that it is
most exasperating and bitterly disappointing."

Her face was a mask of bewilderment as she turned to me swiftly.  "What
do you mean?"  The question came after a pause.

"It is so ridiculously easy.  I mean what you were thinking about when
the passion of tears came along.  What are you going to do about it?"

I had seated myself and taken up a book, and was turning over the
leaves as I put the question.  She jumped up excitedly and came and
stood over me, her features almost fiercely set as she stared down.

"What do you mean?  You shall say what you mean.  You shall."

"Not while you stand there threatening me with a sort of wild glare in
your eyes.  I don't think it's fair to be angry with me just because
you can't do what you wish."

She stretched out her hands as if she would shake me in her
exasperation.  Then she laughed, a little wildly, and went back to her
seat on the couch.

"What was in my thoughts then?"

"At the foundation--the inconvenience of your religious convictions as
a member of the Roman Catholic Church."

"You are mad," she cried, with a toss of her shapely head and a ringing
laugh.  But as the laugh died away her eyes filled with sobering
perplexity.  "At the foundation," she said slowly, repeating my words.
"You are a poor thought-reader.  What else was I thinking of?"

I paused to give due significance to my next words, and looked at her
fixedly as I spoke.  "Of your marriage with M. Constans; and that in
your church, marriage is a sacrament."

"You are a devil," she exclaimed, with fresh excitement, almost with
fury indeed.  "Say what you mean and don't torment me."

"The Count has been urging you to marry him of course, and----"

"You have been listening.  You spy."  The last vestige of her
self-control was lost as she flung the words at me.

I paused.  I never act impetuously with hysterical people.  With
studied deliberation I closed my book, having carefully laid a marker
between the pages, and looked round as if for anything that might
belong to me.  Then I rose.  Her eyes watched me with growing doubt and
anxiety.

"I shall be ready to leave the house in about an hour, Madame," I said
icily, and walked toward the door.

She let me get close to it.  "What are you going to do?"

My answer was a cold smile, in which I contrived to convey a threat.  I
knew how to frighten her.

She jumped up and rushed to the door and stood with her back against
it--as an angry, over-teased child will do.  "You shall not go.  You
mean to try and ruin me."  I had known before that she was afraid of
me; but she had never shown it so openly.

"Yes, I shall do my best."  I spoke so calmly and looked her so firmly
in the face that she was convinced of my earnestness.

"I didn't mean what I said," she declared.

"It is too late for that," I replied, with a sneer of obvious distrust
and disbelief.  She had very little courage and was a poor fighter.
Her only weapon was her beauty; and it was useless of course against me.

Her eyes began to show a scared, hunted expression.  "Don't go.
Forgive me, Christabel.  I didn't mean it.  I swear I didn't.  You
angered me, and you know how impetuous I am."

"I am surprised you should plead thus to--a spy, Madame."

"But I tell you I didn't mean it.  Christabel, dear Christabel, I know
you are not a spy.  Don't make so much of an angry word.  Come, let us
talk it over.  Do, do"; and she put her arm in mine to lead me back to
my chair.

I let her prevail with me, but with obvious reluctance.  "Why are you
so afraid of me?" I asked.

"I am not afraid of you; but I want you to stay and help me."

I sat down then as a concession and a sign that I was willing to talk
things over; and she sat near me, taking care to place her chair
between me and the door.

"If that is so, it is time that we understood one another.  Perhaps I
had better begin.  You cannot marry Count Karl."

"I love him, Christabel."

"And Monsieur Constans--your husband?"

"Don't, don't.  He deserted me.  He is a villain, a false scoundrel.
Don't speak of him in the same breath with--with the man I love."

"He is your husband, Madame."  She moaned and waved her arms
despairingly.

"I am the most wretched woman on earth.  I love him so."

"And therefore encourage him to take opium.  I do not understand that
kind of love.  Had you not better tell me the truth?"

"I shall save him.  You don't understand.  My God, you don't understand
at all.  The only way I can save him is to do what he asks."

"Who is it that is forcing your hand?"

She winced at the question, as if it were a lancet thrust.  "You
frighten me, Christabel, and mystify me."

"No, no.  It is only that you are trying to mystify me, and are
frightened lest I should guess your secret.  Let us be fair to one
another.  I have an object here which you cannot guess and I shall not
tell you.  You have an object which I can see plainly.  You have been
brought here to involve Count Karl in a way which threatens him with
ruin, and you have fallen in love with him--or think you have.  You are
now anxious to please your employer and also secure the man you love
from the ruin which threatens him.  He has asked you to marry him; and
a crisis has arisen which you have neither the nerve to face nor the
wit to solve."

"_Nom de Dieu_, how you read things!" she exclaimed under her breath,
her eyes dilated with wonder and fear.

"But for my presence you would marry him; and trust to Fate to avoid
the discovery being made that M. Constans is still alive.  To yourself
you would justify this by the pretence that if you were once the
Count's wife you could check instead of encourage his opium habit and
so save him.  Who then is it with the power to drive you into this
reckless crime?"

She was too astounded to reply at once, but sat staring at me open
mouthed.  Suddenly she changed, and her look grew fierce and tense.
"Who are you, and what is your motive in forcing yourself upon me here?"

"I depend on my wits to make a way for me in the world, Madame; and I
take care to keep them in good condition.  But I am not forcing myself
upon you.  I am ready to go at this moment--if you prefer that--and if
you think it safer to have me against you."

"_Mon Dieu_, I believe I am really afraid of you."

"Of me, no.  Of the knowledge I have, yes.  And you will do well to
give that fear due weight.  You have been already induced to make one
very foolish move.  To receive stolen jewels is a crime, even when the
thief is----"

"How dare you say that!"

"You forget.  The day I came first to you you had occasion to go to the
secret drawer in the old bureau in your boudoir, and I saw them there.
You are a very poor player, Madame, in such a game as this."

The colour left her cheeks, and hate as well as fear was in her eyes as
she stared helplessly at me.

"It is all your imagination," she said, weakly.

I smiled.

"It can remain that--if you wish.  It is for you to decide."

"What do you mean?"

"You had better trust me.  You can begin by telling me what and whose
is this evil influence behind you?"

A servant interrupted us at that moment.

"His Excellency Count Gustav is asking for you, Madame."

She gave a quick start, and flashed a look at me.

"I will go to him," she answered.

I had another intuition then.  I smiled and rose.

"So that is the answer to my question.  You may wish to consult him,
Madame.  I will see you afterwards; and will use the interval to have
my trunks packed in readiness to leave the house should he deem it
best."

"I am right.  You are a devil," she cried, with another burst of
impetuous, uncontrollable temper.

I turned as I reached the door.

"Should he decide that I stay, Madame, and wish to see me, I shall be
quite prepared."

I went out then without waiting for any reply.



CHAPTER V

A NIGHT ADVENTURE

I felt completely satisfied with the result of my conversation with
Madame d'Artelle.  I had had some qualms about the manner in which I
had entered her house; feeling, it must be confessed, something like a
spy.  But our relations would now be changed.  It would be at most an
alliance of hostility.  I should only remain because she would deem it
more dangerous for me to leave; she would trust me no further than she
dared; and as I had openly acknowledged that I had an object of my own
in view, I need no longer have any scruples about staying.

I had made excellent use of my opportunities, moreover; and if my last
shaft had really hit the bull's-eye--that the influence behind her was
that of Karl's brother--the discovery would be of the utmost value.

Could it be Count Gustav?  Instead of packing my trunks I sat trying to
answer that question and the others which flowed from it.  I had always
heard him spoken of not only as a man of high capacity and integrity
but as a staunch friend to his brother Karl.  Yet he was a man; and he
might be as false as any other.  I would take no man's good faith for
granted.

There was the crucial fact, too, that Karl's ruin meant Gustav's
advantage.  Every one expressed regret that Karl and not Gustav was to
be the future Duke; and if others felt this, was Gustav himself likely
to hold a different opinion?  From such an opinion it was no doubt a
far cry to form a deliberate plot to secure the dukedom; but Gustav was
no more than a man; and men had done such things before.

I hoped they would send for me, that I might judge for myself.  I could
understand how my interference with such a scheme, if he had formed it,
would rouse his resentment; and the difficulty it would present.  To
send me out of the house would in his view be tantamount to giving away
the whole scheme at once to General von Erlanger; and I settled it with
myself therefore that, if he was really at the back of the plot, he
would be as eager to see me as I was to see him.

An hour passed and I was beginning to think I was wrong, when Madame's
French maid came to my room, saying that her mistress would very much
like to speak to me.

"Where is she, Ernestine?"

"In the salon, mademoiselle."

"Alone?"

"M. le Comte Gustav is with her."

"I will go to her," I said; and as she closed the door I laughed.  I
was not wrong, it seemed, but very much right; and I went down to meet
them with the confidence borne of the feeling that I knew their object
while they were in ignorance of mine.

People did the Count no less than justice in describing him as a
handsome man.  He had one of the handsomest faces I had ever looked
upon; eyes of the frankest blue, a most engaging air, and a smile that
was almost irresistibly winning.

He held out his hand when Madame presented him, and spoke in that
ingratiating tone which is sometimes termed caressing.

[Illustration: "He held out his hand when Madame presented him."]

"I have desired so much to know Madame d'Artelle's new friend, Miss
Gilmore.  I trust you will count me also among your friends."

"You are very kind, Count.  You know we Americans have a weakness for
titles.  You flatter me."  I was intensely American for the moment, and
almost put a touch of the Western twang in my accent.

"You are really American, then?"

"You bet.  From Missouri, Jefferson City: as fine a town in as fine a
State as anywhere in the world.  Not that I run down these old-world
places in Europe.  Have you been in the States?"

"To my regret, no."

"Ah, then you haven't seen what a city should be.  Fine broad straight
streets, plenty of air space, and handsome buildings."

"I know that American women are handsome," he replied, with a look
intended to put the compliment on me.  But I was not taking any.

"I guess we reckon looks by the dollar measure, Count.  You should see
our girls at home."

"You must regret living away from your country."

"Every man must whittle his own stick, you know, and every woman too.
Which means, I have to make my own way."

"You are more than capable, I am sure."

"I can try to plough my own furrow, sure."

"You have come to Pesth for that purpose?"

"Yes--out of the crowd."

"What furrow do you think of ploughing here?"

"Well, just at present I'm in Madame's hands, you see.  And I think
we're getting to understand one another, some.  Though whether we're
going to continue to pull in the same team much longer seems
considerably doubtful."

"I am very anxious to help you, Christabel, dear," put in Madame
d'Artelle; and I knew from that "dear," pretty much what was coming.

"It would give me much pleasure to place what influence I have at your
disposal, Miss Gilmore."

"I must say I find everybody's real kind," I answered, demurely.
"There is General von Erlanger saying very much the same thing."

"You speak German with an excellent idiom," said the Count, with a
pretty sharp look.  "One is tempted to think you have been in Europe
often before."

I laughed.  "I was putting a little American into the accent, Count, as
a matter of fact.  I have a knack for languages.  I know Magyar just as
well.  And French, and Italian, and a bit of Russian.  I'm a student of
comparative folk lore, you know; and I'm getting up Turkish and Servian
and Greek."

"But surely you have been much in Europe?"

"I was in Paris three years ago;" and at that Madame d'Artelle looked
away.

"So Madame told me," he said, suggestively.  "It was there you met, of
course.  It was there you made your mistake about her, I think."

"What mistake was that?"

"That Madame's husband was still alive."

So he was a scoundrel after all, and this was to be the line of tactics.

"Oh, that is to be taken as a mistake, is it?" I said this just as
though I were ready to fall in with the suggestion.

"Not taken as a mistake, Miss Gilmore.  It is a mistake.  We have the
proofs of his death."

"'We'?" I rapped back so sharply that he winced.

"Madame has confided in me," he replied.

"Well, from all accounts she has not lost much; and must be glad to be
free to marry again."

His eyes smiled.  "You are very quick, Miss Gilmore."

"I am not so quick as Madame," I retorted; "because she has got these
proofs within the last hour.  It is nothing to me, of course; but I
don't think we are getting on so quickly to an understanding as we
might."

"You know that I am my brother's friend as well as Madame's in this?"

"What does that mean?"

"In regard to the marriage on which my brother's heart is so deeply
set.  You are willing to help it also?"

"How can it concern me?  What for instance would happen to me if I were
not?"  I paused and then added, significantly: "And what also if I
were?"

"I think we shall arrive at a satisfactory understanding," he answered,
with obvious relief.  "Those who help my family--a very powerful and
influential one, I may remind you--are sure to secure a great measure
of our favour."

"I desire nothing more than that," said I, with the earnestness of
truth--although the favour which I needed was not perhaps in his
thoughts.

"Madame would of course like to know a good deal about all who
co-operate with her," he declared, very smoothly and suggestively.

"What do you wish to know about me; and what do you wish me to do?"

"Americans are very direct," he replied, bowing.  "She would leave you
to tell us what you please, of course, and afford such means as you
think best for her to make inquiries."

"Every one in Jefferson City knew my uncle, John P. Gilmore, knows that
he educated me, and that what little money he left came to me.  My
father was a failure in life, and my mother died when I was a little
child.  I'm afraid I haven't made much history so far.  And that's
about all there is to it.  What matters to me is not the past but the
present and, perhaps, the future."

"You have no friends in Pesth?"

"None, unless you count General von Erlanger; I was his children's
governess and used to play chess with him."

"And your motive in coming here?"  There was a glint in his eyes I did
not understand.

"I thought I had told you.  I am a student in the University."

"That is all?"

I laughed.  "Oh no, indeed it isn't.  I am just looking around to shake
hands with any opportunity that chances to come my way.  I am a
soldieress of fortune.  That's why I came to Madame d'Artelle.  Not to
study folk lore."

"In Paris you were not a student?"

"Oh, you mean I was better off then?  My uncle Gilmore was alive; and
we all thought he was rich."

"Pardon my inquisitiveness yet further.  You know New York well?"  This
was the scent, then.

"I know Fifth Avenue, have walked about Broadway, and once stood in a
whirl of amazement on Brooklyn Bridge.  But I haven't a friend in the
whole city."

"Were you there five years ago?"

I affected to search my memory.  "That would be in ninety-five.  I was
eighteen.  I have been about so much in the States that my flying
visits to New York are difficult to fix.  Was that the year I went to
California?  If so, I did not go East as well, and yet I fancy I did.
No, that was to Chicago and down home through St.  Louis."

"I mean for a considerable stay in New York?"

"Oh, I shouldn't forget that.  That was three years ago before I
started for Paris," I said, laughing lightly.  "I had the time of my
life then."

"Did you ever meet a Miss Christabel von Dreschler?"

Where was he leading me now?  What did he know?  I shook my head
meditatively.  "I have met hundreds of girls but I don't remember her
among them."

"She must resemble you closely, Miss Gilmore, just as she has the same
Christian name.  My brother knew her and declares that you remind him
of her."

I laughed lightly and naturally.  "I should scarcely have believed he
had eyes or thoughts for any woman except Madame d'Artelle."

"Pardon me if I put a very plain question.  You have acknowledged to be
seeking your fortune here.  You are doing so in your own name?  You are
not Miss von Dreschler?"

I took umbrage at once and showed it.  I rose and answered with all the
offended dignity I could assume.  "When I have cause to hide myself
under an alias, Count, it will be time to insult me with the suggestion
that I am ashamed of my own name of Gilmore."

He was profuse in his apologies.  "Please do not think I intended the
slightest insult.  Nothing was farther from my thoughts.  I was merely
speaking out of my hope that that might be the case.  I am exceedingly
sorry.  Pray resume your seat."

I had scored that game, so I consented to be pacified and sat down
again.  I was curious to see what card he would play next.

He pulled at his fair moustache in some perplexity.

"You expressed a desire just now to have the advantage of my family's
influence, Miss Gilmore."

"Am I to remain with Madame, then?" I asked, blandly.

"Of course you are, dear," she answered for herself.

"You are willing to help her and my brother in this important matter?"
said the Count.

"How can I help?  I am only a stranger.  And I should not call it
helping any one to connive at a marriage when one of the parties is
already married.  I would not do that."

The handsome face darkened; and in his impatience of a check he made a
bad slip.

"Our influence is powerful to help our friends, Miss Gilmore, and not
less powerful to harm our antagonists."

I laughed, disagreeably.  "I see.  A bribe if I agree, a threat if I do
not.  And how do you think you could harm an insignificant person like
me?  I am not in the least afraid of you, Count."

"I did not mean to threaten," he said, rather sullenly, as he saw his
mistake.  "You can do us neither harm nor good for that matter.  You
are labouring under a mistake as to Madame d'Artelle's husband--her
late husband; and by speaking of the matter might cause some temporary
inconvenience and slander.  We do not wish you to do so.  That is all.

"I have not yet been shown that it is a mistake."

"The proofs shall be given to you."  He spoke quite angrily.  "In the
meantime if you speak of the matter, you will offend and alienate us
all."

"It seems a very lame conclusion for all this preamble," I answered,
lightly, as I got up.  "Produce the proofs and I of course have no more
to say.  But until they are produced I give no pledge to hold my
tongue;" and without troubling myself to wait for a reply, I left the
room.

I had obtained the information I needed as to the power behind Madame
d'Artelle, and I had something to do.  They intended to produce proofs
of M. Constan's death, and I resolved to get the proof that he was
still living.

Leaving a message for Madame that I had to go to the university for an
evening lecture, I drove to the house which I had taken on coming to
Pesth.

In passing through Paris I had seen the friend who had formerly given
me the information about Madame, and I now telegraphed to him that I
must know the whereabouts of M. Constans at once, and that no expense
was to be spared in getting the information.

I had brought three servants with me from home, John Perry and his wife
and their son, James.  The last was a sharp, clever young fellow, and
he was now in Paris where I had sent him to get information about
Madame d'Artelle.  I wired to him also, telling him what further
information I needed; and I instructed him to help in the matter and
wire me the instant M. Constans had been traced.

That done I set out to return to Madame's.  I was not nervous at being
out alone at such a time, night prowling having long been a habit with
me.  I was perfectly able to take care of myself, too; for at home I
had been accustomed to carry a revolver, and was an excellent shot.  If
any one interfered with me, it was not I who was likely to come worse
off.

I think it is just nonsense that girls must always be "seen home" in
the dark.  It is a good excuse for flirtation, possibly; but an
extremely undignified admission of inferiority.  A humiliation I have
never countenanced and never will.

The night was fine and clear, and a bright moon was nearly at the full;
so I turned out of my way a little to a very favourite spot of
mine--the great Suspension Bridge which constitutes the hyphen between
Buda and Pesth.  My house was close to the bridge in that part of Pesth
known as the "Inner Town;" and I strolled across to a point on the Buda
side from which a glorious view can be had of the stately Danube.

I stood there in the deep shadow of the high Suspension Arches, gazing
at the dotted lights along the quays, across the flat country on the
Pesth side, up the river toward the witching Margaret Island, and away
to the old hilly Buda on my left, with the Blocksberg and its citadel
keeping its frowning watch and ward over all.

There is not much poetry in my nature; but the most prosaic and
commonplace soul must feel a quickening of thought and sentiment at the
appeal of that majestic waterway and its romance-filled setting.

I did that night; and stood there, thinking dreamily, until I was
roused abruptly by the sound of laughter.  I recognized the voice of
Count Gustav; and glancing round saw him on the other side of the
bridge with a companion.  He stooped a second and pointed down the
river; and as they walked on, I heard her laugh sweetly in response.

I was considering what to do, when I caught the sound of footsteps, and
shrank into the shadow of the deep buttress as two men came slouching
past me stealthily; and I heard enough to tell me they were following
Count Gustav.  I let them pass and then followed in my turn.

The Count and his companion left the bridge, turned to the right, and
presently entered the old garden of Buda--a deserted spot enough at
such an hour.  Presently, as the two reached an open place, I saw the
Count hesitate, glance about him, stand a moment, and take off his hat.
Then they continued their walk.

I was struck by the action.  It looked as though it might have been a
signal; for the next moment the two men quickened their pace and closed
up to the pair.  A momentary scuffle followed; the girl gave a
half-smothered cry for help; and then the Count came running past me,
making for the bridge at the top of his speed.  He had left his
companion in the hands of the two men.

Convinced now that mischief was on foot, I resolved to see the matter
through.  I hid myself as the men came hurrying back with the girl,
half-leading, half-carrying her; and I noticed that her face was
closely muffled.

Near the entrance to the place they halted, and drew back under the
shadow of the trees.  They stood there some moments, when one of then
went out into the road and stood listening.  I heard in the distance
the sound of wheels, and guessed it was a carriage for which the two
were waiting.

Clearly, if I was to make an attempt to save the girl, I must act at
once; and to save her and learn her story, I was now determined.

I took a deep breath, as one will when about to plunge into a cold
stream, and keeping my hand on my revolver I darted across to where the
girl and her one captor stood.  It was a point in my favour that the
two men were just then separated.

He did not hear my footsteps until I was close to him, and gave a great
start of surprise when I spoke.

"Let my friend go at once," I said, in a loud, firm tone.

The man's start was the girl's opportunity.  Snatching her arm out of
his grasp, she rushed to me, tearing at the wrapper which covered her
face.

The man swore and called his companion, who ran swiftly back.  A couple
of words were exchanged hurriedly between them, and then they came at
me, one of them brandishing a heavy stick and threatening me.

The girl uttered a sharp cry of fear.

I whipped out my revolver, and the two scoundrels pulled up at the
sight of it.

[Illustration: "The two scoundrels pulled up at the sight of it."]

"If you make me fire I shall not only shoot you," I called, "but bring
the police up, and you'll have to explain this to them."

And as we stood thus, the carriage drove up.



CHAPTER VI

GARETH

I was quite as anxious to avoid police interference as the men
themselves could be; but I knew the threat was more likely to drive
them off than any other.

To recover the girl, they would have bludgeoned me readily enough, if
they could have done it without being discovered; but my weapon made
that impossible.  Moreover, they liked the look of the business end of
the revolver as little as many braver men.

The stick was lowered; they whispered together, and then tried to fool
me.  They began to edge away from one another, so as to be able to rush
in from opposite directions.

"You stand just where you are, or I fire, right now," I called.

They stopped and swore.

"Can't a man take his own daughter home?" growled one of them.

"I am not his daughter," protested the girl.

"I know that.  Don't be afraid, I shan't give you up."

"Who are you to interfere with us?" asked the other.

"I'm a man in woman's clothes," I answered, intending this tale to be
carried to their employer.  "And I'll give you five seconds to clear.
You get into that carriage and drive off, the lot of you together, or
I'll bring the police about your ears.  Now, one, two, if you let me
count to five, you'll eat nothing but prison fare for a year or two.
Off with you;" and emboldened by my success I made a step toward them.

It was good bluff.  They shrank back; then turned tail and scurried to
the carriage, swearing copiously, and drove off in the direction of Old
Buda.

I watched the vehicle until the darkness swallowed it, and then hurried
with my companion in the opposite direction.  We recrossed the bridge
and made for my house.

When we were near it I stopped, and she began to thank me volubly and
with many tears.

"Don't thank me yet.  Tell me where you wish to go."

"I have nowhere to go in Pesth, sir," she answered.

I smiled at her mistake.  "Let me explain.  I said that about my being
a man to frighten those ruffians.  I am a girl, like yourself, and have
a home close by.  If you like to come to it, you will be quite safe
there."

"I trust you implicitly," she said, simply; and with that I took her to
my house.

As we entered I managed to draw out a couple of hairpins, so that when
I took off my hat, my hair came tumbling about my shoulders in
sufficient length to satisfy her of my sex.  She was quick enough to
understand my reason; and with a very sweet smile she put her arm round
my waist and kissed me on the cheek.

"I did not need any proof, dear," she said.  "But you are wonderful.
How I wish I were you.  So brave and daring."

"You are very pretty, my dear," I answered, as I kissed her.  She was;
but very pale and so fragile that I felt as if I were petting a child.

"I am so wretched," she murmured, and the tears welled up in her great
blue eyes.  "If I were only strong like you!"

"You shall tell me your story presently; but first I have something to
do.  Sit here a moment."

I went out and told Mrs. Perry to get us something to eat and to
prepare a bed for my friend; and I wrote a hurried line to Madame
d'Artelle that I was staying for the night with a student friend, and
sent it by Mr. Perry.

When I went back the girl was sitting in a very despondent attitude,
weeping silently; but she started up and tried to smile to me through
her tears.  Then I made a discovery.  She had taken off her gloves, and
on her left hand was a wedding ring.

"How can I ever thank you?" she cried.

"First by drying your tears--things might have been much worse with
you, you know; think of that; then by having some supper; I am
positively famished; and after that, if you like, you can tell me your
story, and we will see whether, by putting our heads together, we
cannot find a way to help you further."

"I am afraid----" and she broke down again.

With much persuasion I induced her to eat something and take a little
wine; and this seemed to cheer her.  She dried her eyes and as we sat
side by side on a couch, she put her hand in mine and gradually nestled
into my arms like a weary wee child.

"I'll begin," I said.  "My name is Christabel Gilmore.  I'm an
American, and a student at the University here;" and I added some
details about the States and so on; just talking so as to give her time
to gather confidence.

"You haven't told me your name yet," I said, presently.

"I am the Countess von Ostelen.  You have heard the name?" she said,
quickly, at my start of surprise.

"I was surprised, that is all.  Yes.  I knew the name years ago in
America.  I knew the Count von Ostelen."

"He is my husband," she said, very simply.  "My Christian name is
Gareth.  You will call me by that, of course."  With a sweet little
nervous gesture she slipped her arm away and began to finger her
wedding ring.

"I had seen that, my dear."

"Your eyes see everything, Christabel;" and her arm came about me again
and her head rested on my shoulder.

I sat silent for a few moments in perplexity.  If she were Karl's wife,
how came his brother to have been----what a fool I was!  Of course the
thing was plain.  Gustav was the husband, and he had used his brother's
name.  My heart was stirred, and my intense pity for her found vent in
a sigh.

"Why that sigh, Christabel?"  Her sweet eyes fastened upon my face
nervously, and I kissed her.

"The sigh was for you, child, not for myself.  Had you not better tell
me everything?  Have you your husband's likeness?"

"I had it here in a locket," she said, wistfully, as she drew a chain
from her bosom.  "But to-day he said the locket was not good enough for
me.  I wish I had kept it now.  You would have said he was the
handsomest man you had ever seen.  Oh, how selfish I am," she broke
off, with a quick cry of distress and sat up.

"What is the matter?"

"I never thought of it.  He was with me when those men attacked us.
Oh, if he should have been hurt!"

"You can make your mind easy about that," I said, a little drily.  "I
saw the attack and that he escaped."

"He is so brave.  He would have risked his life for me."

"I saw him--get away, dear," I replied.  I nearly said run away; but
could not yet undeceive her.

"If anything had happened to him, it would have killed me.  I would
rather have died than that."  Then with a change of manner she asked:
"Did you see his face, Christabel?"

"Yes, in the moonlight, but he passed me quickly."

"But you saw he was handsome?"

"One of the handsomest men I have ever seen," I assented, to please her.

"Yes, yes.  That is just it, and as good as he is handsome."

"I could not see that, of course," I answered; and then was silent.  I
was growing very anxious as I saw the problem widening and deepening.
Poor trustful little soul!  How should I ever break the truth to her
and not break her heart at the same time?

There was a long pause, which she broke.  "Oh, how I hope he has really
escaped, as you say."

"How came you to be where I saw you?" I asked.  This reminded her, as I
intended, that she had told me nothing yet.

"I said I was selfish, Christabel, didn't I?  I had quite forgotten I
had told you nothing.  I will tell you: but you must first give me a
promise not to repeat it.  Our marriage is only a secret so far, you
know."

"On my honour, I will do nothing to harm you.  Why is your marriage a
secret?"

"My husband is afraid of his father's anger.  You see, Karl--"

"Karl?" I exclaimed, involuntarily.

"That is my husband's name," she replied, with a touch of rebuke and
pride.  He had taken his brother's Christian name, it seemed.

"Of course," I agreed.

"My husband is a Count, but as yet only a poor one, dependent upon the
good will of his father who wishes him to marry some one else.  So we
dare not let it be known yet that we are married."

"But your own friends know?" I said.

She seemed to resent this in some way as a reflection upon her husband.
"I have no friends in Pesth except my dear father.  He is alive and I
know he loves me; but I don't know why, I have never lived at home for
more than a week or so at a time.  I did wish to tell him; but Karl
would not let me--I mean, we decided it was better not until the truth
could be told to all."  Then she showed me her innocent heart again.
"It is when I think of my father that I am so wretched.  He will
believe I have deserted him so cruelly;" and her eyes were full of
tears again.

"Who is your father, dear?"

"Colonel Katona.  My dear, dear father!" and her grief so overcame her
that my fresh start of surprise passed unnoticed.  He had been that
friend of my father's who was believed to hold the secret of the great
wrong in his keeping.  And it was his daughter whom I had thus saved.

Her tears passed soon, like a summer storm.  She was a creature of
strangely variable moods.

"I know, of course, that Karl was right.  My father is a stern, gloomy
and sometimes hard man.  He would have forced us to announce the
marriage; and then Karl would have been ruined."

"But did not your father know that he wished to marry you?"

"Oh, no," she cried, smiling now.  "That was the lovely part of it.  He
never saw Karl.  I meant it to be a surprise.  I was at Tyrnau, staying
with friends, when we met, and it was all settled in a few weeks.  You
see Karl loved me and I loved him, and--that was all."

"You were married at Tyrnau?"

She shook her head gaily.  "No.  It was such fun.  We ran away
together, and were married by a friend of Karl's in his house at
Sillien, in the mountains.  A heaven of a place.  My home is there.
Oh, the loveliest of homes, Christabel.  You will say so when you see
it."

"I may never see it, my dear."

"Oh, but of course you will.  You will come and stay with me.  You will
be my dear friend always; and Karl's too, when he knows how you saved
me to-night.  And it will never be lonely there any more."

"How came you to be in Pesth to-night then?" I asked, smothering the
sigh which her last words impelled.

"I suppose I did wrong to come.  A wife should obey her husband, of
course, but I couldn't help it.  You see, lately his father has kept
Karl so much here that I have scarcely seen him; and something is going
to happen; I shan't be alone then; and--you understand, I wanted to let
my father know I was married before my child was born.  I wrote this to
Karl, and--it was naughty and wicked of me, I know--but when he would
not consent, I came to Pesth to-day and surprised him."

"Yes, I think I understand," said I.  It was easy to read now, indeed.
Her visit meant discovery for him, and he had improvised the means of
getting rid of her which I had prevented.  "He was very angry, I
suppose?"

"At first, yes.  He tried to make me go back to Sillien; but I could
not.  I could not, could I, Christabel?  And when he saw I was in
earnest--I can be firm when I will"--and she made a great effort to
look resolute and determined--"and said I would go to my father
to-morrow, he gave in and kissed me, and agreed to take me to his
father and admit everything.  We were on our way there when we were
attacked.  I knew his love for me would conquer in the end.  How
delighted he will be when he knows that after all I am safe."

"You will see him to-morrow and tell him.  You know where to find him
in the city here?"

Her face clouded.  "That is a strange thing.  He was so afraid of his
father's anger that he dared not let me write to his home.  He gave me
an address in the Altgasse, but it is only a place where letters are
received.  But I shall find him, of course, easily."

"Would you take my advice, if I gave it?"

"In that, oh yes, of course.  I know you are clever."

"It is to go straight to your father, Colonel Katona, and tell him all."

"Oh, no, no, no, I dare not now," she cried, shrinking timidly.  "Karl
made me take an oath to-day on the holy crucifix that, whatever
happened, I would never tell my father without his permission."

"Why?"

"Because no one but Karl must break the news of our marriage to his
father.  No, no.  I dare not.  I dare not.  I cannot break my oath.  I
should be false to the Holy Church."  And at the mere thought of it she
began to tremble.

It was clever; a stroke of almost diabolical cleverness; knowing the
simple, trusting child, to close her lips by such an oath.

"You will not betray us?" she cried, taking alarm at my silence and
serious expression.  "You are my friend?"

"Yes, I am your friend, my dear, and will always be, if you want one."
She was a very tender little thing, and as I kissed her she threw her
arms round my neck and clung to me.  "And now, I'll give you some other
advice--to go to bed; and after a night's rest, I daresay we shall see
our way."

After I had seen her into bed and shown her that her room opened into
mine, I went downstairs to think over all she had told me, all the
tangle of trouble ahead for her, and its possible effects upon my
course.

It was quite late when at length I went to bed; and I was lying unable
to sleep in my perplexed anxiety when I heard her call out as if in
fear.  I started up and then she came running into my room.

"Are you awake, Christabel?"

"What is it, dear?"

"I have had a dream and am frightened.  Let me come to you."

And just like a child she crept into my bed and into my arms.

"I dreamt that Karl was dead and that my father had killed him," she
moaned.  "And he was going to kill me and my child when I screamed out
and woke."

Was it an omen?  The thought stayed with me long after I had calmed her
fright and soothed her to sleep.

God help the helpless, trustful, clinging child!  It might well be an
omen, indeed.  My heart was heavy for her and her trouble.



CHAPTER VII

GARETH'S FATHER

The next day was a busy one for me, for I had to find a place in which
Gareth could remain safely hidden.

This I felt to be impracticable in my present house.  I had rented it
on first coming to Pesth, and it was recorded as my address in the
register of the University.  It was, of course, certain that Count
Gustav would have every possible inquiry made about me; and if he or
his agents came to the house, Gareth's presence would at once become
known.

Fortunately, I had already commenced some negotiations to take a villa
in a secluded part of the hilly district of Buda; and my first step
that morning was to go out and complete the matter, so that I could
remove that day.  I wrote to Madame d'Artelle that I was called out of
Pesth, and should return to her on the following day.

I knew quite enough of Count Gustav already to be fully aware that my
discovery of his secret in regard to Gareth might prove a source of
danger to me.  Discreetly used, it might be of the most vital
importance for my purposes.  But he was a very formidable antagonist;
and unless I acted with the utmost wariness and caution, I knew he
would beat me.

If I had read his actions aright, he would go to any length to prevent
the secret of his marriage getting known; and until I was quite
prepared for emergencies, I must guard my knowledge of it jealously.

I was to score the first point.  The next morning brought me news from
Paris--a telegram from James Perry telling me the whereabouts of M.
Constans.  I should therefore have that knowledge to take with me to
Madame d'Artelle's.

With Gareth, however, I had some difficulty.  The view she took of
Count Gustav was of course diametrically opposed to mine.  This was
natural enough.  To her he was just the loving husband who would be in
an agony of suspense until he knew of her safety.  The belief that he
was suffering such suspense added to her own grief and worry; and
during the day we were removing to the villa she was very impatient of
the delay involved.

She was ill both in body and mind; and how to deal with her caused me
much thought and anxiety.  To tell her what I was convinced was the
truth in regard to the Count was impossible, even had I wished to do
so.  She would not have accepted me as a witness against her faith in
him.  Moreover, I had no wish to break down that faith yet.  What I
desired, rather, was to find means to compel him to do her justice; and
unwittingly she made that task, hard as it was, more difficult by her
attitude.

I repeated my urgent advice--that she should go to her father and tell
him everything; but she would not listen to me.  On the contrary, she
declared that no earthly consideration would induce her to break the
solemn vow she had taken; and nothing I could say made the slightest
impression upon that resolve.

I could not tell her what I knew well enough was the case--that unless
she took that course she would be in danger.  I was convinced that
Count Gustav would have a very sharp search made for her and that, if
he discovered her, he would contrive to get her to a place where she
would be prevented from causing him any trouble.

But her faith in him was unshakable.  "I shall show myself in the
streets," she said, smiling, "and go everywhere until I meet him.  He
will be desperate until he knows I am safe."

I had to frighten this intention away.  "What will happen if you do is
this," I told her.  "Either your father will meet you; or the men who
attacked you will see you, and in order to prevent your accusing them
will make away with you.  If you will trust me to make this search for
you, I will do it; but only on condition that you promise me not to
stir from the house unless I am with you."

Scared in this way, she at length was induced to give the promise.

It was at best but an unsatisfactory compromise; and more than once I
debated with myself whether, in her interests, I should not be
justified in breaking the pledge of secrecy and going to Colonel Katona
myself.

But I put that course aside for the moment and set out for Madame
d'Artelle's house.

I had not been two minutes with her before I saw that a considerable
change had come over the position in my absence.  She was so
affectionate that I knew she was deceiving me.  She over-acted her new
role outrageously.  She overwhelmed me with kisses and caresses, called
Heaven to witness how much she had missed me, and declared she had been
inconsolably miserable in my absence.  Considering the terms on which
we had parted, I should have been a mole not to have seen that this was
false.

She was so afraid of offending me indeed, that she scarcely dared to
show a legitimate curiosity as to the cause of my absence.  She had
obviously been coached by Count Gustav; and when a man coaches a woman,
he generally makes her blunder.  I could see that she was quivering to
know what I had been doing, and on tenterhooks lest I had been working
against her.

I thought it judicious, therefore, to frighten her a little; and when
the due moment came I asked, significantly: "Have you the proofs yet of
M. Constan's death?"

"You are not going to talk of disagreeable things directly you get
back, are you?"

"His death would not be disagreeable to you, Henriette?"

"You cannot guess what I have endured from that man.  I tell you,
Christabel, he is a man to raise the devil in a woman."

"A good many men can do that," I said, sententiously.  "But if he is
dead he can raise no more devils in either man or woman.  Where did he
die and when?"

"It does not matter to me now whether he is dead or living.  You have
had your way.  I shall not marry Count Karl."

"And your gratitude to me for this is the reason of your kisses and
caresses on my return?"

She was very easy to stab; and her eyes flashed with sudden anger.  She
was too angry indeed to reply at once.

"You are a very singular girl, Christabel--very difficult to love," she
said, as if to reproach me.

"Easier to hate, perhaps; but you should not pretend to love me.  We
need not make believe to love each other, Henriette.  I do not love
you.  I saved your life in Paris, and when I found you here you wished
me to come into your house because you thought you could more easily
prevent my saying what I knew about you.  That has more to do with fear
than love--much more.  And it does not seem to have occurred to you
that I too might have a selfish motive in coming."

"What was it?"  She rapped the question out very sharply.

"For one thing I thought it would be interesting to know what the
information was which your employers in France wished you to obtain."

"Then you are a spy, after all?" she cried, angrily.

"No.  A spy, in the sense you mean, is a person paid by employers to
obtain information--as the police used to pay Madame Constans in Paris.
I have no employers.  I am seeking my own way, and acting for myself.
You will see the difference.  Now will you tell me what you were sent
here to do?"

"You are right in one thing, Christabel--you are easier to hate than to
love."

"That does not answer my question."

"I am no spy."

"Henriette!  I have been in communication with Paris since I saw you,
and a special messenger is now on his way here to me with full tidings.
Let us be frank with one another.  You promised to advance my fortunes:
Count Gustav has made the same promise--why then should you try to
deceive me?  It is not playing the game fairly."

"I have not tried to deceive you."

"Henriette!" I cried again, this time with a laugh.  "What! when you
have changed your plans entirely within the last few hours?"

She could not suppress a start at this, and tried to cover it with a
laughing suggestion of its absurdity.  "You are ridiculous--always
finding mysteries," she said.

"Finding them _out_, you mean," I retorted, slowly and significantly.
"Will you leave me to do this now, or will you tell me frankly?"

"There is no new plan."

"You will find it not only useless but unsafe to attempt to deceive me.
I know already much of the new plan and within a few hours shall know
all."  She had been already so impressed by the discoveries I had made
that she was quite prepared to believe this bluff; and she was so
nervous and agitated that she would not trust herself to speak.

I paused some moments and then said with impressive deliberation:

"Henriette, our relative positions here are changing fast.  I came here
that you might help me to push my fortunes.  I know so much and am so
much better and stronger a player than you, that either I shall leave
you altogether to carry my knowledge to those who need it badly, or I
shall stay to protect you and your fortunes from the man who is
threatening both.  Think of that while I go upstairs to my room; and
think closely, for your future--ruin or success--is the stake at issue;
and one false step may cost you everything."

"You mean to threaten me?" she cried, half nervously, half in bravado.

"It is more an offer of help than a threat; but you can regard it as
you please;" and I went out of the room.

I ran up hastily to my room full of a new idea which had just occurred
to me; but fortunately not so preoccupied as to keep my eyes shut.  As
I passed Madame d'Artelle's room the door was not quite closed, and
through the narrow slit I caught a glimpse of Ernestine.  She was
vigorously dusting some object that was out of my line of sight.

I am accustomed to study trifles; they often act as finger posts at the
forked roads of difficulty and point the proper way.  Ernestine was a
very particular lady's maid indeed, and never dreamt of dusting out
rooms.  Why then was she so busy?

I paused and managed to get a peep at the object of her unusual
industry.  It was a travelling trunk; large enough to hold a big
suggestion for me.  I pushed the door open.

"Good-morning, Ernestine.  I've come back, you see," I said, smiling.

"Ah, good-morning, Mademoiselle Gilmore.  I am glad to see you."
Ernestine was very friendly to me.  I had bought her goodwill.

"Madame and I have been talking over our arrangements," I said,
lightly.  "It is all rather sudden.  Do you think you will have time to
alter that black silk bodice for me before we start?"

"I'm afraid not, mademoiselle.  You see every thing has to be packed."

"Of course it has.  If I had thought of it, I would have left it out
for you before I went, the day before yesterday."

"If I had known I would have asked you for it, mademoiselle.  But I had
not a hint until this morning."

"Come up and see if we cannot contrive something.  A bertha of old lace
might do for the time."

I did not wish Madame to catch me in her room, so Ernestine and I went
on to mine.  We talked dress for a couple of minutes and, as I wished
her not to speak of the conversation, I said that as the alteration
could not be made, I might as well give her the dress.  It was nearly
new, and delighted her.

"I suppose you'll be ready in time?  You are such a clever packer.  But
the time is short."

She repudiated the suggestion of being behind.  "I have all to-day and
part of to-morrow.  I could pack for you as well," she cried, with a
sweep of her hand round the room.

"Never mind about that.  I may not go yet."

"Oh no, of course not;" and she laughed archly.  "They will not want
Mademoiselle la Troisième."

"_Mèchante_," I cried, dismissing her with a laugh, as though I fully
understood the joke.  And in truth she had given me a clue which was
very cheap at the price of a silk dress.

Instinct had warned me of the change in the position, and now I began
to understand what the new plan was.  Madame had made her avowal about
not marrying Karl much too clumsily; and the dusting of that travelling
trunk, coupled with Ernestine's sly reference to "Mademoiselle la
Troisième," was too clear to be misunderstood.  They meant to hoodwink
me by an apparent abandonment of the marriage; and then make it
clandestinely.

I laughed to myself as I left the house to hurry up my own plan.
Having made sure that I was not being followed, I hailed a carriage and
drove to the neighbourhood where Colonel Katona lived.

I finished the distance on foot, and scanned the house closely as I
walked up the drive.  It was a square, fair-sized house of two floors,
and very secluded.  Most of the blinds were down, and all the windows
were heavily barred and most of them very dirty.  It might well have
been the badly-kept home of a recluse who lived in constant fear of
burglars.  Yet Colonel Katona was reputed a very brave man.  Barred
windows are as useful however, for keeping those who are inside from
getting out, as for preventing those who are out from getting in; and I
remembered Gareth's statement that she had scarcely ever lived at home.
Why?

When I rang, a grizzled man, with the bearing of an old soldier, came
to the door and, in answer to my question for Colonel Katona, told me
bluntly I could not see him.

"I am a friend of his daughter and I must see the Colonel," I insisted.

He shut me outside and said he would ask his master.

Why all these precautions, I thought, as I waited; and they
strengthened my resolve not to go away without seeing him.  But my use
of Gareth's name proved a passport; and presently the old soldier
returned and admitted me.

He left me in a room which I am sure had never known a woman's hand for
years; and the Colonel came to me.

He had as stern and hard a face as I had ever looked at; and it was
difficult to believe that the little shrinking timorsome child who had
nestled herself to sleep in my arms the night before could be his
daughter.  The colouring pigment of the eyes was identical; but the
expression of Gareth's suggested the liquid softness of a summer sky,
while those which looked down at me were as hard as the lapis lazuli of
the Alps.

"Accept my excuses for your reception, Miss Gilmore.  I am a recluse
and do not receive visitors as a rule; but you mentioned my daughter's
name.  What do you want of me?"

I assumed the manner of a gauche, stupid school-girl, and began to
simper with empty inanity.

"I should never have taken you for Gareth's father," I said.  "I think
you frighten me.  I--I--What a lovely old house you have, and how
beautifully gloomy.  I love gloomy houses.  I--I----"

He frowned at my silliness; and I pretended to be silenced by the frown.

"What do you know of my--of Gareth?"

"Please don't look at me like that," I cried, getting up as if in
dismay and glancing about me.  "I didn't mean to disturb you,
sir--Colonel, I mean.  I--I think I had better go.  But Gareth loved
you so, and loved me, and--oh----" and I stuttered and stammered in
frightened confusion.

If she has a really stern man to deal with, a girl's strongest weapon
is generally her weakness.  His look softened a little at the mention
of Gareth's love for us both, as I hoped it would.

"Don't let me frighten you, please.  I am a gruff old soldier and a
stern man of many sorrows; but a friend of Gareth's is a friend of
mine--still;" and he held out his hand to me.

The sorrow in that one syllable, "still," went right to my heart.

"I am very silly and--weak, I know," I said, as I put my hand timidly
into his and met his eyes with a feeble smile.

I could have sighed rather than smiled; for at that moment everything
seemed eloquent to me of pathos.  The dingy, unswept room, the dust
accumulating everywhere, his unkempt hair and beard, his shabby
clothes, the dirt on the hand which closed firmly on mine--everywhere
in everything the evidences of neglect; the silent tribute to a sorrow
too absorbing to let him heed aught else.

"What can I do for you?" he asked much more gently, after a pause.

"Oh please," I cried, nervously.  "Let me try and collect my poor
scattered wits.  I ought not to have come, I am afraid."

"Don't say that.  I am glad you have come.  What could I be but glad to
see one who was a friend of Gareth's?"

"_Was_ a friend.  Is a friend, I hope, Colonel, and always will be.
She always wanted me to come and see her home--but she was hardly ever
here, was she?  So she couldn't ask me."

Sharp, quick, keen suspicion flashed out of his eyes, but I was
giggling so fatuously that it died away.

"Part of my sorrow and part of my punishment," he murmured.

I misunderstood him purposely.  "Yes, she always looked on it as a kind
of punishment.  You see, she loved you so--and then of course we girls,
you know what girls are, we used to tease her about it."

He winced and passed his hand across his fretted brows as if in pain.

"You don't know how it hurts me to hear that," he said, simply.  "God
help me.  When did you see her last?"

I knew the anguish at the back of the eager look which came with the
question.  But I laughed as if I knew nothing.  "Oh, ages ago now.
Months and months--six months quite."

"Where?  My God, where?"

The question leaped from him with such fierceness, that I jumped up
again as if in alarm.  "Oh, Colonel Katona, how you frighten me!"

"No, no, I don't wish to frighten you.  But this is everything to me.
Twelve months ago she disappeared from Tyrnau, Miss Gilmore, lured away
as I believe by some scoundrel; and I have never seen or heard of her
from that time.  You have seen her since, you say--and you must tell me
everything."

It was easy to heap fuel on fire that burned like this; and I did it
carefully.  I affected to be overcome and, clapping hands before my
face, threw myself back into my chair.

"You must tell me, Miss Gilmore.  You must," he said, sternly.

"No, no, I cannot.  I cannot.  I forgot.  I--I dare not."

"Do you know the scoundrel who has done this?"

"Don't ask me.  Don't ask me.  I dare not say a word."

"You must," he cried, literally with terrifying earnestness.

"No, no.  I dare not.  I see it all now.  Oh, poor Gareth.  Poor, dear
Gareth."

"You must tell me.  You shall.  I am her father, and as God is in
heaven, I will have his life if he have wronged her."

I did not answer but sat on with my face still covered, thinking.  I
had stirred a veritable whirlwind of wrath in his heart and had to
contrive to calm it now so as to use it afterwards for my own ends.



CHAPTER VIII

COUNT KARL

Colonel Katona's impatience mounted fast; and when he again insisted in
an even more violent tone that I should tell him all I knew, I had to
fall back upon a woman's second line of defence.  I became hysterical.

I gurgled and sobbed, choked and gasped, laughed and wept in regulation
style; and then, to his infinite confusion and undoing, I fainted.  At
least I fell back in my chair seemingly unconscious, and should have
fallen on the floor, I believe in thoroughness, had he not caught me in
his rough, powerful arms and laid me on a sofa.

I can recall to this day the fusty, mouldy smell of that couch as I lay
there, while he made such clumsy, crude efforts as suggested themselves
to him as the proper remedies to apply.  He chafed and slapped my
hands, without thinking to take off my gloves; he called for cold water
which the soldier servant brought in, and bathed my face; lastly he
told the man to bring some brandy, and in trying to force it between my
teeth, which I clenched firmly, he spilt it and swore at his own
clumsiness.

Then, fearing he would try again and send me out reeking like a saloon
bar, I opened my eyes, rolled them about wildly, began to sob again,
sat up, rambled incoherently and asked in the most approved fashion
where I was.

I took a sufficiently long time to come round, and was almost ashamed
of my deceit when I saw how really anxious and self-reproachful he was.
But I had forged an effective weapon; and had only to show the
slightest disposition to "go off" again, to make him abjectly
apologetic.

I always maintain that a woman has many more weapons than a man.  He
can at best cheat or bribe; while a woman can do all three, and in
addition can wheedle and weep and, at need, even faint.

It was a long time before I consented to talk coherently; and during
the incoherent interval I managed to introduce my father's name.

"I am getting better.  Oh, how silly you must think me," I murmured.

"It was my fault.  I was too violent," he said.  "I am not used to
young ladies."

"Oh dear, oh dear, I am so ashamed.  But she told me you were a very
violent man.  I wish I hadn't come."

"Who told you?  Gareth?"

"No, no.  In America.  Miss von Dreschler.  Oh, what have I said?" I
cried, as he started in amazement.  "Oh, don't look so cross.  I didn't
know you'd be so angry;" and I began to gasp, spasmodically.

"I am not angry," he said, quickly.  "What name did you say?"

"That horrible girl with the red hair.  I don't suppose you've ever
seen her, in America.  She said you were a villain and had been her
father's friend; Colonel von Dreschler, he was.  She said you'd kill
me.  But I'm sure you're kind and good, or dear Gareth would never be
your daughter.  She said horrible things of you.  That you'd ruined her
father and imprisoned him; and much more.  But of course she would say
anything.  She was jealous of my friendship with Gareth, and red
haired.  And I don't know what I'm saying, but she was really a wicked
girl.  And, oh dear, if it's true, I wish I hadn't come.  Give me some
water please, or I know I shall go off again."

I gabbled all this out in a jerky, breathless way, pausing only to
punctuate it with inane giggles and glances of alarm; and at the end
made as if I were going to faint.

Had I been in reality the giggling idiot I pretended, I might well have
fainted at the expression which crossed his stern, sombre face.  At the
mention of my father and his imprisonment, he caught his breath and
started back so violently that he stumbled against a chair behind him
and upset it; and only with the greatest effort could he restrain
himself from interrupting me.

He was trembling with anger as he handed me the water I asked for; and
when he had put down the glass, he placed a chair and sat close to me.

"Do you mean that Colonel von Dreschler's daughter knows Gareth?"

"Oh, yes, of course."

"Mother of Heaven, I see it now," he murmured into his tangled beard.
"It is he who has taken her away.  What do you know of this?"

"Oh, Colonel Katona, what on earth could he want to do that for?
Besides, how could he?" I cried, with an empty simper.

"You don't understand, Miss Gilmore.  Can you tell me where to find
this girl--Miss von Dreschler."

"Oh yes.  In Jefferson City, Missouri.  I come from there.  It's a long
way off, of course; but it's just the loveliest town and well worth a
visit;" and I was babbling on when he put up his hand and stopped me.

"Peace, please.  And do you know Colonel von Dreschler?"

"Lor', how could I?  He's been dead ever so long.  Two years and more,
that horrid little red-haired thing said.  But of course she may have
been fibbing."

He stared down at me as if to read the thoughts in my brain; his look
full charged with renewed suspicion.  But I was giggling and trying to
put my hat straight; and with a sigh he tossed up his hand and rose.

"I can't understand you," he said.  "Can you tell me anything about
Gareth, when you saw her last?"

"Not much, I'm afraid.  I have such a silly memory.  It must be quite
six months ago--yes, because, I had this hat new; and I've had it quite
six months."

"Where was it?" he asked, growing keener again.

"Karlsbad; no, Marienbad; no, Tyrnau; no, Vienna; I can't remember
where it was, but I have it down in my diary.  I could let you know."

"Did she--she speak of me?"

"Oh yes.  She said she was happy and would have been quite happy if
only she could have let you know where she was."

"Why couldn't she?"

"I suppose he wouldn't let her; but I'm sure----"

"What he?  For heaven's sake, try to speak plainly, Miss Gilmore.  Do
you mean she was with any one?"

"I don't know.  I only know what we thought.  Oh, don't look like that
or I can't say any more."

His eyes flashed fire again.  "Tell me, please," he murmured
restraining himself.

"We thought she had run away with him."  I said that seriously enough.

He paused, nerving himself for the next question.  It came in a low,
tense, husky voice.  "Do you mean she was--married?"

I hung my head and was silent.

"'Fore God, if any one, man or woman dares to hint shame of my
child----" he burst out, and stopped abruptly.

It was time to be serious again, I felt, as I answered, "I love Gareth
dearly, and would say no shame of her.  If I can help you to find her
and learn the truth, will you have my help?"

"Help me, and all I have in the world shall be yours.  And if any one
has wronged her, may I burn in hell if I do not make his life the
penalty."  The vehement, concentrated earnestness of the oath filled me
with genuine awe.

A tense pause followed, and then, recovering myself, I began to display
anew my symptoms of hysterics.  This time I was not going to get well
enough to be able to speak of the matter farther; and I declared I must
go away.

I was going to play a dangerous card; and when he asked me when he
should see me again, I told him that if he would come that afternoon to
me--I gave him Madame d'Artelle's address--I would tell him all I could.

I went away well satisfied with the result of my visit; and then
planned my next step.  It was to be a bold one; but the crisis called
for daring; and if I was to win, I must force the moves from my side.

I walked back, glad of the exercise and the fresh air, and as I was
passing through the Stadtwalchen, busily occupied with my thoughts, I
met Count Karl.  He was riding with an attendant and his look chanced
to be in my direction.  He stared as if trying to recollect me, then he
bowed.  I responded, but he passed on; and I concluded he had not
placed my features in his muddled memory.  But a minute later I heard a
horse cantering after me; and he pulled up, dismounted, and held out
his hand.

"You are Madame d'Artelle's friend, Miss Gilmore?"

"Yes," I said, scarce knowing whether to be glad or sorry he had come
after me.

"May I walk a few steps with you?"

"Certainly, if you wish."

"Take the horses home," he said as he gave the reins to the servant.
"I have been wishing to speak to you alone, Miss Gilmore.  Shall we
walk here?" and we turned into a side path at the end of which some
nursemaids and children were gathered about the fountains.

He did not speak again for some moments, but kept staring at me with a
directness which, considering all things, I found embarrassing.

"Would you mind sitting down here?" he asked, as we reached a seat
nearly hidden by the shrubbery.

"Not in the least," I agreed; and down we sat.

"You will think this very singular of me," he declared after a pause.

"One person could not very well be plural," I said inanely; and he
frowned at the irrelevant flippancy.  "I am a student you know, and
therefore appreciate grammatical accuracy."

"I wish to ask you some questions, if I may."

"They appear to be very difficult to frame.  You may ask what you
please."

"I wish you would smile," he said, so unexpectedly that I did smile.
"It is perfectly marvellous," he exclaimed with a start.

I knew what that meant.  In the old days he had talked a lot of
nonsense about my smile.

"If I smile it is not at the waste of your life and its opportunities,
Count Karl," I ventured.

"Opportunities!" he repeated with a laugh.  "I have seized this one at
any rate.  I have been thinking about you ever since I saw you two days
ago at Madame d'Artelle's."

"Why?" I asked pointedly.

"That is a challenge.  I'll take it up.  Because your name is
Christabel.  Is it really Christabel?"

"My name seems to cause considerable umbrage," I said, with a touch of
offence.  "Two days ago your brother not only doubted the Christabel,
but wished to give me a fresh surname as well, von Decker or Discher,
or Dreschler, or something."

He frowned again.  "Gustav is a good fellow, but he should hold his
tongue.  You're so like her, you see, and yet so unlike, that----" he
finished the sentence with a cut of his riding whip on his gaiters.

"I am quite content to be myself, thank you," I declared with a touch
of coldness.

"Your voice, too.  It's perfectly marvellous."

"May I ask what all this means?"  I put the question very stiffly.

"Chiefly that I'm an idiot, I think.  But I don't care.  I'm long past
caring.  Life's only rot, is it?"

"Not for those who use it properly.  It might be a glorious thing for a
man in your position and with your future."

"Ah, you're young, you see, Miss Gilmore," he exclaimed, with the
self-satisfaction of a cynic.  "I suppose I thought so once, but
there's nothing in it."

"There's opium," I rapped out so sharply that he gave a start and
glanced at me.  Then he smiled, heavily.

"Oh, you've found that out, eh; or somebody has told you?  Yes, I can't
live without it now, and I don't want to try.  What does it matter?"
and he jerked his shoulders with a don't-care gesture.

"I should be ashamed to say that."

"I suppose you would.  I suppose you would.  I should have been, at one
time, when I first began; but not now.  Besides, it suits everybody all
right.  You see, you don't understand."

"I have no intention of trying it."

"No, don't.  It's only hell a bit before one's time.  But I didn't stop
you to talk about this.  I don't quite know why I did stop you now;"
and he ran his hand across his forehead as if striving to remember.

A painful gesture, almost pathetic and intensely suggestive.

"I suppose it was just a wish to speak to you, that's all," he said at
length, wearily.  "Oh, I know.  You reminded me so much of--of another
Christabel of the name you mentioned, Christabel von Dreschler, that I
wondered if you could be any relation.  You _are_ an American, are you
not?"

"Yes.  But that is not an American name."

"But she was American.  I knew her in New York years ago.  Lord, what
long years ago.  You are not a relation of hers?"

"I have no relative of that name, Count Karl."

"I wish you had been one."

"Why?"

"That's just what I've been asking myself these two days.  It wouldn't
have been any good, would it?  And yet--" he sighed--"yet I think I
should have been drawn to speak pretty freely to you."

"About what?"

He turned at the pointed question and looked quizzically at me.  "I
wonder.  You're so like her, you see."

"Were you in love with her, then?"

He started resentfully at the thrust.  Coming from me it must have
sounded very much like impertinence.

"Miss Gilmore, I----" then he smiled in his feeble, nothing-matters
manner.  "Of course that's a question I can't answer, and you oughtn't
to ask.  But life's much too stupid for one to take offence when it
isn't meant.  And I don't suppose you meant any, did you?"

"No, on the contrary.  I should very much like to be your friend," I
said, very earnestly.

"Would you?  I daresay you would.  Lots of people would like to be the
friend of the Duke Ladislas' eldest son.  If they only knew!  What
humbug it all is."

"I am not a humbug," I protested.

"I daresay you have a motive in that clever little brain of yours.  No
clever people do anything without one, and they both agree you're
clever and sharp.  I wonder what it is.  Tell me."

"'They both?'" I repeated, catching at his words.

His face clouded with passing doubt and then cleared as he understood.
"I'm getting stupid again; but you don't get stupid.  You know what
Henriette and Gustav are in my life.  You've spotted it, of course.  It
saves a heap of trouble to have some one to think for you.  You mayn't
believe it--you like to think for yourself; but it does, a regular heap
of bother.  And after all, the chief thing in life is to dodge trouble,
isn't it?"

"No."  I said it with so much energy that he laughed.

"That's only your point of view.  You're American, you see.  But I'm
right.  I hate taking trouble.  Of course I know things.  They think I
don't, but I do.  And I don't care."

"What things do you know?"

He stopped hitting his boots with his whip and looked round at me,
paused, and then shook his head slowly.  "You don't understand, and it
wouldn't do you any good if you did."

But I did understand and drove the spur in.  "I don't understand one
thing--why the elder son should think his chief object in life is to
make way for the younger brother."

He leant back on the seat and laughed.  "They're right.  You have a
cute little head and no mistake.  That's just it.  I'm not surprised
Gustav warned me against you.  But he needn't.  I shouldn't let you
worry me into things.  I'm glad I spoke to you, though.  You've got old
fox Erlanger round that little finger of yours, too, haven't you?"

"I was governess to General von Erlanger's daughter."

"And played chess with the old boy.  I know;" and he laughed again.
"And he sent you to look after Henriette, eh?"

"No.  I knew Madame d'Artelle in Paris, years ago; and I went to her
thinking her influence would help me."

"Did you?  I'm not asking.  But if you did, you can't be so clever as
they think.  She hasn't any influence with any one but me--and I don't
count.  I never shall either."

"Whose fault is that but your own?"

"I don't want to.  I don't care.  If I did care, of course----"  The
momentary gleam of energy died out in another weary look and wave of
the hand.  He waited and then asked.  "But won't you tell me that
motive of yours, for wanting to be my friend, you know?"

"I did not say I had one."

"I hoped you might want me to do something for you."

"Why?"

"Because you might do something for me in return."

"I'll promise to do that in any case."

"Ah, they all say that.  The world's full of unselfish people willing
to do things for a Duke's son," he said, lazily.

"What is it you wish me to do?"

"You have friends in America, of course?"

"Yes."

"Do you think they could find that other girl--the one you're like,
Christabel von Dreschler?"

"Yes, I've no doubt they could."

"Well, I'd like to hear of her again."

"Would you like her to know what your life is and what you have become?"

That made him wince.

"By God, that hurts!" he muttered, and he leant back, put his hand to
his eyes, and sat hunched up in silence.  Presently he sighed.  "You're
right.  I'm only a fool, am I?"

"If she cared for you, it might have hurt _her_ to know," I said.

"Don't, please.  You make me think; and I don't want to think."

"If she loved you then, she would scarcely love you now."

"Don't, I say, don't," he cried, with sudden vehemence.  "You are so
like her that to hear this from you is almost as if----I beg your
pardon.  But for a moment I believe I was almost fool enough to feel
something.  No, no; don't write or do any other silly thing of the
sort.  It doesn't matter;" and he tossed up his hands helplessly.

We sat for a few moments without speaking, and presently he began to
fumble in his pocket.  He glanced at me rather shamefacedly, and then
with an air of bravado took out a phial of morphia pills.

"Since you know, it doesn't matter," he said, half-apologetically.

"It does matter very much," I declared, earnestly.

He held the little bottle making ready to open it, and met my eyes.
"Why?"

"Would you take it if she were here?"

"I don't know;" and he heaved a deep sigh.

"Think that she is here, and then you daren't take it."

He laughed.  "Daren't I?" and he partly unscrewed the cap.

I put my hand on his arm.  "For her sake," I said.

"It means hours of hell to me if I don't."

"It means a life of hell if you do."

"I must."

"For her sake," I pleaded again, and held out my hand for the phial.

"You would torture me?"

"Yes, for your good."

The struggle in him was acute and searching.  "It's no good; I can't,"
he murmured, his gaze on the phial.

I summoned all the will power at my command and forced him to meet my
eyes.  "For her sake; as if she were here; give it me," I said.

"I shall hate you if you make me."

"For her sake," I repeated.  We looked each into the other's eyes,
until I had conquered.

"I suppose I must," he murmured with a sigh; and let the little bottle
fall into my hand.  I threw it down and ground it and the pellets to
powder with my heel.  He watched me with a curious smile.  "How savage
you are.  As if you thought that could finish it."

"No.  It is only the beginning--but a good beginning."

He got up.  "We'd better go now, before I begin to hate you."

"You will think of this and of her when the next temptation comes."

"Oh, it will come right enough; and I shan't resist it.  I can't.
Good-bye.  I like you yet.  I--I wish I'd known you before."

And with that and a sigh and a smile, he lifted his hat and left me.



CHAPTER IX

I COME TO TERMS WITH MADAME

My interview with Karl led to a very disquieting discovery.  I sat for
some time thinking about it--and my thoughts increased rather than
diminished my uneasiness.

To use a very expressive vulgarism one often hears at home, I began to
fear that I "had run up against a snag."  In other words, I had
misunderstood the real nature of my feelings for Karl; and that
miscalculation might cost me dear.

It was true that when I had seen him at Madame d'Artelle's I had hated
him cordially; but the reason was clear to me now.  It was not my pride
that he had hurt in not recognizing me.  It was my anger that he had
stirred--that he should have forgotten me so completely.  It looked so
much like the due corollary of his old conduct that I had taken fire.

And now I found he had not forgotten me at all; and knew that I had won
my little victory over him because he remembered me so well.

It was a surprise and a shock; but nothing like the shock it gave me to
find how elated and delighted I felt at the fact.  For a time I could
scarcely hold that delight in check.  It took the bit in its teeth and
ran away with my sober common sense.  My thoughts very nearly made a
fool of me again; and I am afraid that I positively revelled in the new
knowledge just as any ordinary girl might.

But, as I had told General von Erlanger, I was not a "usual person;"
and I succeeded in pulling up my runaway thoughts in the middle of
their wild gallop.

I was no longer in love with Karl.  I had settled that years before.  I
was intensely embittered by his conduct; he had behaved abominably to
me; had flirted and cheated and fooled me; and I had always felt that I
never could and never would forgive him.  His present condition was a
fitting and proper punishment, and he deserved every minute of it.

My interest in him now was purely selfish and personal.  I had only one
thing to consider in regard to him--how I could make use of him to
secure justice to my father's reputation, and punishment for the doers
of that great wrong.

Moreover, even if he did care, or thought he still cared for one whom
he had so wronged, and if I were an ordinary girl and magnanimous
enough to forgive him, and if, further, I could save him permanently
from the opium fiend, we could never be more than mere friends.  There
was an insuperable barrier between us.

I knew this from the papers which my father had left behind him.  I had
better explain it here; for I thought it all carefully over as I sat
that morning in the Stadtwalchen.

There was the great Patriotic movement in the way, of which Karl's
father, Duke Ladislas, was the head and front.  The aim was nothing
less than the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Hungary was to
be made an independent kingdom, and Duke Ladislas was to have the
throne.

The time to strike the great blow had been decided years before.  It
was to be at the death of the old Emperor.  The movement had the widest
ramifications; and the whole of the internal policy of Hungary was
being directed to that paramount object.

In one of his papers, my father had suggested that the secret of his
ruin was part and parcel of this scheme.  While Duke Alexinatz and his
son, Count Stephen, lived, the right to the Hungarian throne would be
theirs; and thus, Duke Ladislas, a man of great ambition and the soul
of the movement, had every reason to welcome Count Stephen's death; and
that death had occurred at a moment when the Austrian Emperor lay so
ill that his death was hourly expected.

My father's intellect, impaired as it was by his solitary confinement,
could not coherently piece the facts together.  Synthetical reasoning
was beyond him for one thing; and for another he could not bring
himself to believe that the man whom beyond all others in the world he
admired and trusted, Duke Ladislas, could be guilty of such baseness
and crime as the facts suggested.  Appalled, therefore, by the
conclusions which were being forced upon him, he had abandoned the work
in fear and horror.

I had no such predispositions or prejudices; but as yet I had no
proofs.  I could only set to work from the other end, and attempt to
discover the agents who had done the deed, and work up through them to
the man whose originating impulse might have been the real first cause.

But the solid fact remained that Count Stephen's death cleared the way
to the new throne for Duke Ladislas and his sons; and therefore, if I
were to succeed in killing Karl's opium habit, and even induce him to
play the great part in life open to him, he would be the heir to the
throne, when gained, and I impossible except as a friend.

Two days before, nay two hours before, I should have asked and desired
no more than that; but after this talk with Karl--and at that moment I
stamped my foot in impotent anger, and wrenching my thoughts away from
that part of the subject, got up and walked hurriedly away in the
direction of Madame d'Artelle's house.

I arrived as she was sitting down to lunch, and she gave me a very
frigid reception.  I saw that she had passed a very uncomfortable
morning.  She had been weeping, and having found in her tears no
solution of the problem I had set her, was sullen and depressed.

"You have been out, Christabel?"

"Yes, completing my plans."

"What a knack you have developed of making spiteful speeches!  I had no
idea you could be so nasty."

"What is there spiteful in having plans to complete?"

"I suppose they are aimed at me!"

"My dear Henriette, must I not be careful to have some place to go and
live in?  Be reasonable."

"You always seem to have some undercurrent in what you say.  It's
positively hateful.  What do you mean by that?"

"Some of us Americans have a trick of answering one question with
another.  I think I'll do that now.  What do you think I'd better do
when you are gone?"

"I don't understand that either," she said very crossly.

"I mean to-morrow."

"I am not going anywhere to-morrow."  She could lie glibly.

"That may be nearer the truth than you think; but you have planned to
go away to-morrow--with Count Karl."

"Preposterous."

"So I think--but true, all the same.  You are very foolish to attempt
to hoodwink me, Henriette.  You are thinking of trying to deny what I
say.  I can see that--but pray don't waste your breath.  I told you
this morning that in an hour or two I should know everything.  I do
now."

"Have you seen Count Karl?"

"Do you think I should tell you how I find out things?  So long as I do
find them out, nothing else matters.  But I will tell you something.
You will not go, Henriette.  I shall not allow it."

"Allow?" she echoed, shrilly.

"I generally use the words I mean.  I said 'allow'--and I mean no other
word.  I shall not allow it."

She let her ill temper have the reins for a minute, and broke out into
a storm of invective, using more than one little oath to point her
phrases.  I waited patiently until her breath and words failed her.

"I am glad you have broken out like that.  There's more relief in it
than tears.  Now I will tell you what I mean to do--and to do to-day.
I have had inquiries made in Paris for M. Constans, and a wire from me
will bring him here in search of you.  You know what that means;" I
added, very deliberately, as I saw her colour change.  I guessed there
was ground for the bluff that I knew much more than my words expressed.

"I don't believe you," she managed to stammer out--her voice quite
changed with fear.

"Your opinion does not touch me.  In your heart you know I never lie,
Madame--and for once you may trust your heart.  If you force me, that
telegram will go to-day.  Nor is that all.  I will go to Duke Ladislas
and tell him the story of the lost jewels, and who instigated the theft
and received the stolen property."

"They have been given back; besides, will he prosecute his own son?"

"The theft shall be published in every paper, and with it the story of
how Count Karl has been ruined by opium drugging.  By whom, Madame--by
the secret agent of the French Government, the ex-spy of the Paris
police--Madame Constans?  You can judge how Austrian people will read
that story."

She had no longer any fight left in her.  I spoke without a note of
passion in my voice; and every word told.  She sat staring at me, white
and helpless and beaten.

"More than that and worse than that----"

"I can bear no more," she cried, covering her face with trembling
fingers.

I don't know what more she thought I was going to threaten to do.  I
knew of nothing more; so it was fortunate she stopped me.  She was in
truth so frightened that if I had threatened to have her hanged, I
think she would have believed in my power to do it.

"Why do you seek to ruin me?  What have I done to make you my enemy?"
she asked at length.

"I do not seek to ruin you, and I will be your friend and not your
enemy, if you trust instead of deceiving me.  I will save you from
Count Gustav's threats."

"How can you?"

"What matters to you how, so long as I do it?"

"He knows all that you know."

"What, that you are here to betray the leaders of the Hungarian
national movement to your French employers and their Russian allies?"

"_Nom de Dieu_, but how I am afraid of you?" she cried.

"If I tell him that how will it fare with you?"

"No no, you must not.  I will do all you wish.  I will.  I will.  I
swear it on my soul."

"Tell me then the details of the elopement to-morrow.  I know enough to
test the truth of what you say; and if you lie, I shall do all I have
said--and more."

"I will not lie, Christabel.  I am going to trust you.  It is arranged
for to-morrow night.  I leave the house here at nine o'clock in a
carriage.  At the end of the Radialstrasse Count Karl will join me.  We
drive first to a villa in Buda, behind the Blocksberg--a villa called
'Unter den Linden.'  We are to be married there; and on the following
day we cross the frontier into Germany and go to Breslau."

She said it as if she had been repeating a lesson, and finished with a
deep-drawn sigh.

"Is he coming to-day?"

"No."

"To-morrow?"

"No."

"Ah.  That is to convince me that all is broken off?"

"Yes."  She was as readily obedient as a child.

"Count Gustav is coming to-day?"

"Yes.  This afternoon at four o'clock.  To settle everything."

"Good.  You will see him and be careful to act as though everything
were as it was left when you saw him yesterday."

"I dare not."

"You must.  Everything may turn upon that.  You must."

"But if he suspects?"

"You must prevent that.  I shall see him afterwards.  If you let him
suspect or if you play me false, I shall know; and the consequences
will not be pleasant for you.  You will tell Count Gustav not to see
you to-morrow, because you are afraid I shall guess something; and that
if he has to communicate with you, he must write.  It is the only way
in which I can save you from him."

"And what am I to do afterwards?"

"I will tell you to-morrow.  Be assured of this.  I and those whose
power is behind me will see not only that no harm comes to you, but
that you are well paid."

"I am giving up everything."

"It is no time to bargain.  What you are giving up in reality is the
risk of a gaol and the certainty of exposure and ruin--and worse."

"Mother of Heaven, have mercy on me!" she cried.

I did not stop to hear her lamentations.  It was two o'clock already.
I had still many things to fix, and I must be back in the house soon
after Count Gustav reached it.  The fur was to fly in my interview with
him; and I must have all my claws sharp.

I did not make the mistake of underestimating his strength as an
adversary.  I should have to use very different means with him from
those which had sufficed to frighten Madame d'Artelle; and I must have
the proofs ready to produce.  I was going to change his present
half-contemptuous suspicion into open antagonism; and that he could and
would be a very dangerous enemy, I did not allow myself to doubt.

My first step was to find the house in Buda of which Madame d'Artelle
had spoken.  It was a bright pleasant house in a pretty, carefully kept
garden; not more than a mile from the villa I myself had just rented.
But to my surprise it was occupied: a girl was playing with a couple of
dogs on the lawn.  My first thought was that Madame had misled me; my
second, to try and ascertain this for myself.

I entered the garden and walked toward the house, and the dogs came
scampering across barking.  The girl turned and followed them.

"Your garden is beautiful," I said, with a smile.  "If the house is as
much beyond the description of it as the garden, it will suit me
admirably."

"You came to take the house?" she asked.

"Yes, I have a letter here--let me see, oh, this is my list--ah,
yes--'Unter den Linden.'  Is not that the name?" and taking a slip of
paper from my pocket I pretended to consult it.

"Yes, this is 'Unter den Linden'--those are the trees;" and she pointed
to the limes which gave the name.  "But I am afraid you are too late.
I think it is let."

I was overcome with disappointment; but perhaps she would ask her
mother.  We went into the house and she left me in the dining-room.
Presently the mother came; a tired looking creature who had once been
pretty, like the girl, but was now frayed and worn.  She was very
sorry, but the house was let.  I was just too late.  It had only been
let the previous day.  Did I want it for long?

"Not more than twelve months certain," I told her.

She threw up her hands.  "Just my ill-luck," she cried, dismally.  "I
have let it for two months, and we go out this evening.  But perhaps I
could get out of it."

"That is not worth while.  I should not want it for a month yet, and
perhaps could wait for two.  Could I see over the house?"

In this way I was taken into every nook and corner of it; and enabled
to fix every room and passage and door in my memory.  And then I
inspected the garden and outside places.

"Do you leave your servants?" I asked, at the end of a number of
questions.

"We keep but one.  My daughter and I live alone, and do most of the
work when we are at home.  And the servant goes away with us."

"An excellent arrangement.  I have my own servants.  I wonder now if we
could induce your tenant to let me have the place in a month.  Who is
he?"

"It is taken for Count von Ostelen--but I do not know him.  The agents
have done everything.  I could ask them."

"Do so, and let me know;" and I jotted down at random a name and
address to which she could write, and left.

I had done well so far; and I drove rapidly to my own house in good
spirits over my success.

There was only one point which puzzled me.  Why had that name, Count
von Ostelen, been used?  Was it merely as the name in which Count Karl
usually travelled incognito?  Just as he had used it in New York?  Or
had his brother some other motive?

It was only a trifle, of course; but then, as I have said, I am
accustomed to take some trifles seriously.

If I could have seen a little farther ahead, I should have taken this
one even more seriously than usual; and should not have dismissed it
from my thoughts as I did when I reached my house and was kissing
Gareth in response to the glad smile with which she greeted me.

My next step concerned her.



CHAPTER X

A DRAMATIC STROKE

"Have you any news for me?" was Gareth's eager question, natural enough
under the circumstances, and her delicate expressive face clouded as I
shook my head.

"We could scarcely expect any good news yet, dear."

"I suppose not; but I am so anxious."

"It will all come right in time, Gareth."  But that very trite
commonplace had no more soothing effect on her than it often has on
wiser folk.

"I suppose I must be patient; but I wish I could do something for
myself.  I hate being patient.  Why can't I go out myself and search
for him?  I put my hat on once this morning to start."

"I told you before the risk you would run."

"Oh, I know all that, of course," she replied, petulantly.  "I've been
with you nearly two days and you've done nothing.  Two whole long days.
And it's so dull here.  It's worse than at Sillien."

"Would it have been better had those men taken you?"

She threw her arms round my neck then and burst into tears.  "I know
how ungrateful I am.  I hate myself for it, Christabel.  But I did so
hope you had brought some news.  And I am so disappointed."

I let her cry, knowing the relief which tears bring to such a nature as
hers.  She soon dried her eyes, and sat down and looked at me, her
hands folded demurely on her lap--the picture of pretty meekness.

"How pretty you are, Gareth--with your lovely golden hair, your great
blue eyes, and pink and white cheeks."

"Am I?" she asked artlessly, smiling.  "Karl used to say that; and I
used to love to hear him say it.  I only cared to be pretty because he
liked it.  But I like to hear you say it, too.  You see I'm not a bit
clever, like you; and one must be either clever or pretty, mustn't one?
Karl's both handsome and clever.  Oh, so handsome, Christabel.  You'll
say so when you see him.  I wish I had a likeness."

This gave me an idea.  "Couldn't you draw a likeness of him, Gareth,
for me?  You see it might help me to recognize him."

Her face broke into a sunny smile.  "I can draw a little; I couldn't do
him justice, of course--no one could do that.  He's too handsome.  But
I could give you an idea of what he's like."

We found paper and pencil.  "Do the best you can and then put my name
on it, and sign it Gareth von Ostelen, and put the date to it, so that
I can have it for a keepsake."

"Lovely," she cried, merrily; and set to work at once.

I watched her a few moments, and when she was absorbed in the task, I
went off saying I had some directions to give about house matters.

It was part of my plan that John Perry and his son, as soon as the
latter returned, should go to the house "Unter den Linden."  I might
need them for my personal protection.

I told John Perry now, therefore, that he was to hire a woman servant
to come and help his wife in waiting upon Gareth.  He was then to
purchase a carriage and a pair of good horses, and procure uniforms for
himself and his son.  He was to act as coachman and James as footman;
and everything must be in readiness for him to carry out instantly any
orders he received from me.  I should either bring or send the orders
on the next afternoon.

I explained that in all probability he would have to drive to the house
"Unter den Linden," stable the horses there, and dismiss any men
servants he might find about the house; and I suggested that he should
go first to the house and find an excuse to learn his way about the
stables.

When I returned to Gareth she had finished the drawing and had added a
clever little thumb-nail sketch of herself in the corner, where she had
written her name and the date.  The drawing really merited the praise I
bestowed upon it.

"I could do much better if I had not to hurry it," she said,
self-critically.

"Do another while I am away, then," I urged, thinking it would fill out
the time for her.  "And now there is one other thing.  Could you give
me a paper or letter with his signature--I might be able to trace him
through some of the public rolls."

There were no such rolls of course; but she did not know this, and
thought the idea so clever that she gave me one of the two letters from
him she had with her; and kissed me and wished me good luck as I drove
away.

Although there was not much risk of my movements being traced, I
thought it best to dismiss my carriage before I crossed the Suspension
Bridge, and to finish the journey to Madame d'Artelle's in another.

As the minute approached for the trial of wits and strength with Count
Gustav, my confidence increased.  Every fighting instinct in my nature
was roused; and the struggle was one in which I took a keen personal
pleasure.  His hateful treatment of the girl who had trusted him filled
me with indignation and resentment; and the hope of forcing him to do
justice to her was one of the sharpest spurs to my courage.  He should
do that or face the alternative of having his double treachery exposed.

I was a little later than I had intended in reaching the house, and I
asked the servant somewhat anxiously if any one had yet been for me.

"No, miss, no one."

"I am expecting a Colonel Katona to call, Peter," I said, giving him a
gold piece; "and I do not wish any one to know of his visit.  I shall
be with Madame probably; so when the Colonel arrives, make up a little
parcel and bring it to me, and just say: 'The parcel you asked about,
miss.'  Put the Colonel in the little room off the music room, and tell
him that I will see him as soon as possible.  You understand this?"

"Yes indeed, miss," he answered with a grin as he slipped the money in
his pocket.

"Where is Madame d'Artelle?"

"In the salon."

"Alone?"

"No, miss; Count Gustav is with her.  He has been here about a quarter
of an hour."

I went straight to the salon.  Madame was sitting on a lounge, her face
full of trouble, and Count Gustav was pacing up and down the room
speaking energetically with many forceful gestures.  He stopped and
frowned at the interruption; but his frown changed to a smile as he
held out his hand.

He opened with what, as a chess player, I may call the lie gambit.

"I have been endeavouring to cheer up Madame d'Artelle, Miss Gilmore,"
he said lightly.  "I tell her she takes the postponement--or if you
like, the abandonment--of the marriage with Karl too seriously."

"Is it abandoned?" I asked.

"Did she not tell you?"

"Yes; but I could scarcely believe it, seeing how much you have counted
upon the marriage.  The abandonment is a tribute to your influence.
But why have you given it up?"

"I given it up?  I?  What can it be to me?" he laughed.  "It is not my
marriage, Miss Gilmore.  I like my brother, of course, but I am not in
love with him so much as to want to marry him."

"All Pesth knows how much you love your brother," said I, drily.

"I should not come to you for testimony, I think.  I am afraid it would
not be favourable.  I am glad you are not the majority."

"Probably I do not know you as others do, or perhaps others do not know
you as I do.  But why have you abandoned the project of the marriage?"

"You insist on putting the responsibility on me," he said with a touch
of irritation beneath his laugh.

"I can understand that the question is awkward."

"Not in the least.  You see, you raised most unexpectedly the point
about the admirable and excellent gentleman who was Madame's husband;
and it must perforce be postponed until the proofs of his death are
forthcoming.  Thus it is rather your doing than mine;" and he shrugged
his shoulders.

"You have found them more difficult to manufacture than you
anticipated, I presume?"

"That is a very serious charge, very lightly made, Miss Gilmore."  His
assumption of offence was excellent.

"I am not speaking lightly, Count Gustav.  When we parted last time you
said that the proofs of the death of Madame's husband should be
produced.  Within a few hours I heard that the marriage had been
postponed; you now say it was because those proofs cannot be produced.
There must be a reason for such a sudden change of front; and I have
suggested it.  If you prefer, we will leave it that the proofs cannot
be found or fabricated in time to suit you."

He heard me out with darkening face, and then crossed to Madame
d'Artelle and offered her his hand.

"I think, Madame, it will be more convenient for me to leave now.  With
a lady we cannot resent an insult; we can only protect ourselves from
further insult by leaving."

I laughed with ostentatiously affected hilarity, and sat down.

Madame d'Artelle gave him her hand nervously, and he turned from her
and bowed stiffly to me.

"I think I should not go, Count, if I were you," I said, smoothly.

"Your attitude makes it impossible for me to remain, Miss Gilmore."

"Of course you know best, but I should not go if I were you."

He was uneasy and hesitated; went toward the door and then paused and
turned.  "If you wish to say anything to me and can do so without
insulting me, I am willing to listen to you--as a friend of Madame's;"
and he waved his hand in her direction.

"I've a great deal to say and I'm going to say it to some one.  Of
course if you go, I must say it to some one else."

"And what am I to understand by that?"

"You haven't decided yet whether to go or stay.  Now, I'll be much more
candid with you than you are with me.  It's just a question whether you
dare go or not.  Your start just now is what we Americans call putting
up a bluff.  But you can't bluff me.  I hold the cards--every one of
them a winning card, too.  If you go, you lose the game straight away,
for I shan't be many minutes in the house after you.  You're going to
lose anyhow, for that matter: but--well, as I tell you, you'd better
not go."

"I'm not versed in American slang, Miss Gilmore, and it doesn't lend
itself to translation into German," he sneered.

"Then I'll put it plainer.  Go, if you dare, Count Gustav;" and I
challenged him in look as well as words.

"I am always anxious to oblige a pretty woman, Miss Gilmore," he said,
with one of his most gracious glances.

"That's very sweet of you, Count.  But the question is not my looks;
it's your reputation and position."

At this point Madame d'Artelle made a diversion.

"I am not feeling well, Christabel, and am going to my room to lie
down," she said, rising.

"That's just what I would have suggested, Henrietta," I answered,
fastening on her action.  "It's just as well.  I have to say some
things to Count Gustav that he might not care for even you to hear."

He made a great show of opening the door for her to pass and used the
moment's delay to think.

Just as she went out the footman came to the door, carrying the parcel.

"Do you want me, Peter?" she asked.

"No, Madame, Miss Gilmore.  The parcel you asked for, miss."  I took it
and he went out and closed the door.

"I have resolved not to stay longer, Miss Gilmore.  I would do much for
any friend of Madame's, but I cannot with self-respect suffer your
threats and insults."

I thought of a little dramatic stroke.

"One moment, Count, this parcel concerns you."  I half tore the wrapper
off and handed it to him.

He would not take it, waving it away contemptuously.

"You had better take it.  It is from--Sillien, Count," I said, very
deliberately.

His eyes blazed with sudden anger.

"I don't understand you," he cried; but he took it and tore off the
covering to find a blank sheet of paper.

"This is another insult.  I would have you beware."

"Not an insult--a message.  To have been properly dramatic this should
have been inside it--" and I held up before him the little sketch which
Gareth had made for me with such laughing earnestness.

"The message which that parcel brings is--that Colonel Katona, Gareth's
father, is here in the house waiting to see me.  Now, do you wish to
go?"

The suddenness of the stroke was for the moment irresistible.

The colour fled from his face as the laughter had died from his lips.
White, tense, agitated and utterly unstrung, he stood staring at me as
if he would gladly have struck me dead.

I had every reason to be contented with my victory.



CHAPTER XI

PLAIN TALK

That it was chiefly the stunning unexpectedness of my stroke which
overwhelmed Count Gustav was proved by the promptness with which he
rallied.  Had I given him even a hint of my information or prepared him
in any way for the thrust, I am sure he would have met it with outward
equanimity.

My probe had pierced the flesh, however, before he had had a moment to
guard himself; and he had flinched and winced at the unexpected pain of
it.  But he soon recovered self-possession.

"You have a dramatic instinct, Miss Gilmore, and considerable inventive
power.  You should write for the stage.  The essence of melodrama is
surprise."

"I could not hope always to carry my audience away so completely,
Count."

He laughed.  "I am afraid I have not done you justice hitherto.  I have
not taken you seriously enough.  I think you are right in another
thing--I had better not go yet.  Our chat promises to be interesting.
I should very much like a cigar.  I wonder if Madame would object."  He
spoke lightly and took out his cigar case.

"It would be very appropriate," I said.  "There is one character in a
melodrama who always smokes."

"You mean the villain?"

"The hero rarely has time--after the first act, at any rate.  He is
generally being arrested, or hunted, or imprisoned, or ruined in some
way--sometimes drugged."

He had struck the match and at my last word paused to look at me.  He
favoured me with such a stare that the match burnt his fingers, and he
dropped it with a muttered oath which I affected not to hear.  It was a
very trifling incident; but he was so unusually careful in such matters
as a rule that it offered another proof of his ill balance.

"I burnt my fingers and forgot my manners," he said lightly.  "I beg
your pardon, Miss Gilmore."

"You mean that you wish to have time to recover from the surprise.
Pray wait as long as you please--and think.  I have no wish to take any
fresh advantage over you--at present."

"Oh no, thank you," he cried, airily.  "We will talk.  Now, we must
know where we stand, you and I?"

"At the moment we are in the salon of Madame d'Artelle, who was your
instrument and tool."

"That 'was' sounds interesting.  Is that your number one?"

"Yes."

"Very well, then, we'll take her as finished with.  I don't care much
about her.  She has disappointed me.  She is pretty; beautiful even:
but no brains.  She has let you guess too much.  I'd rather deal with
you direct.  What is number two?  And how many numbers are there?"

He was so light in hand, took defeat so easily, was so apparently ready
for a complete change of front, and spoke with such an admirable
assumption of raillery that I had difficulty in repressing an
inclination to smile.

"You admit your defeat, then?"

He spread out his hands, waving one of them toward Gareth's drawing,
and shrugged his shoulders.

"I am not a fool, Miss Gilmore."

I had expected anything except this instant surrender; and it caught me
unready to state my terms.  I could not go into the question of my
father's wrongs, because I did not know enough of the matter.

"The terms will be heavy," I said, slowly.

"One must pay a price for folly; and I shall at least have the
compensation of pleasing you."

"You will make Gareth your legal wife?"

He drew two whiffs of his cigar, took it from his lips, and looked at
it thoughtfully.

"I would much rather marry you," he said with sudden smiling insolence.

"Do you agree?" I asked, curtly.

"That's number two, is it?  Is the list much longer?"

"You will abandon the attempt to ruin your brother?"

"That's number three--number four?"

"There is no number four at present."

"What, nothing for yourself?  Then you are a most remarkable young
lady.  Oh, but there must be."

"You are wasting time, Count Gustav, and Colonel Katona may grow
impatient," I answered.

"Give me time.  I am lost in amazement at such altruism--such
philanthropy.  You come to Pesth to push your fortunes; chance and your
clever little wits put a fortune in your grasp, and--you want nothing
for yourself."  He shot at me a glance of sly mockery.  "Perhaps Miss
von Dreschler seeks something?  The other Christabel, you know."

"I have stated my terms, Count Gustav."

"My answer is that I accept all of them--except the last two;" and the
laugh at his insolence was one of genuine enjoyment.

"Then there is no more to be said," I declared, rising.

"But indeed there is.  Pray sit down again.  We are going to talk this
over frankly.  There is always an alternative course in such
affairs--that was why I was anxious to know your motive.  Will you sit
down?"

"No.  I have said all I wish."

"Well, you gave me a surprise.  I will give you one.  You are Miss
Christabel von Dreschler; or at all events you were, until you
inherited your uncle's money and took his name with it.  He was John P.
Gilmore, of Jefferson City, Missouri.  Now, allow me;" and he placed a
chair for me with elaborate courtesy, while he regarded me with an
expression of great satisfaction and triumph.

I sat down and he resumed his seat.

"By the way," he said, as if casually, "we are likely to be engaged
some time, hadn't we better let Colonel Katona go?"

"I may still have to speak to him," I answered, drily.

"I don't think so, when he knows that you are Colonel von Dreschler's
daughter--if I should have to tell him, that is--he will not be very
friendly toward you.  He will not, really.  He is a very singular old
man."  The art with which he conveyed this threat was inimitably
excellent.

"The truth when he knows it, will tell with him, no matter from whom it
comes."

"Yes, but he may not have to know it.  You may persuade me to marry
Gareth--in reality, you see.  Besides, your object in bringing him here
has already been achieved; you made your coup, and it was successful.
Why keep him?  You can just as easily tell him all another time--if you
have to; while if I agree to do now what you wish, you will only have
to put him off and send him away.  I really think he may go.  I have
very little doubt we shall come to an understanding."

I thought a moment.  "Yes, he may go.  I will tell him so."

"I will go with you to him.  He has a great regard for my family.  We
will tell him you are indisposed, or anything you please.  I can
satisfy him more easily than you can, perhaps."

"I will go alone."

He shook his head and smiled.  "Do you think that quite fair to me
under the peculiar circumstances?  I wish to be quite sure that what
you say is discreet.  I must make a point of it that we go together,
really I must."

But I recalled my impersonation of the giggling miss, and was not
willing that the Count should know of that.

"I will go alone to him, or he must remain," I said.

"I will go to him alone, then.  You may be sure I shall not betray
myself."

I let him go.  I saw no risk in so simple a step, and was glad to be
relieved from the interview.  I read his act to be a confirmation of
his words--that we were likely to come to an understanding, and in that
case there would be no need for Colonel Katona ever to know that Gareth
had been betrayed.

I was a little uneasy, however, when some minutes passed and the Count
did not return, but he explained the delay by saying that the Colonel
was a peculiar man, and had plagued him with many questions difficult
to answer.

"I told him you were not well, and would find means to see him as soon
as necessary.  And now, to resume our conversation, Miss--von
Dreschler."

He spoke as airily as if it were a game of cards which had been
interrupted.

"You take that for granted; but it scarcely helps matters."

"Permit me to indulge in the rudeness of a contradiction.  I think it
does.  It gives me the clue to your motive--an essential matter to me.
You are an American, young, wealthy, very pretty, and undoubtedly
clever.  Why then do you masquerade as an adventuress?  You may have
one of two motives--and there is a very improbable third.  As Miss von
Dreschler, my brother paid you great attentions in New York; the matter
being broken off suddenly, in obedience to the protest of one of the
friends with him, who reminded Karl that what was going to happen here
made it impossible for him to marry a private individual."

He was very quick to see the surprise with which I heard this, and
paused to emphasize it.

"You are surprised.  I always have thought that Karl's conduct was
indefensible.  You ought to have been told the real reason; and it was
only a flight of romantic fancy for him to prefer to pose as a mean
fellow, willing to win your affections and then run away.  That was his
deliberate decision, however.  He believed you would get over the
affair all the more easily if you thought him a scoundrel."

He glanced up again to judge the effect of his words as he paused to
pull at his cigar; but I was on guard and gave no sign at all.  It was,
however, an unpleasant experience to have the other side of my chief
life's story revealed by a man whom I knew to be false; and told with a
purpose, in a tone of half sardonic raillery, and as a carefully
calculated bid for my silence about himself.  Heart dissection is a
trying process under such conditions.

"You will see from this that Karl was--excuse me if I put it plainly;
it is all necessary--was intensely devoted to you.  He returned home
profoundly unhappy and very love-sick--his is a nature which takes such
things seriously--and to this hour he has never recovered.  To forget
you and the way he had treated you, he plunged into wild excesses which
in a couple of years gravely impaired his health; heavy drinking was
followed by the present passion for opium.  In a word, you have seen
for yourself what love has done for my brother."

"You have helped him downwards," I put in.

"He needed no help from me, but----" he waved his cigar expressively
and jerked his shoulders.  "And that brings us to chapter the second.
For our purposes here, a dipsomaniac with a love craze and the opium
habit is no use.  You are Colonel von Dreschler's daughter, and may
know something of the Patriotic Hungarian cause----" he paused to give
me a chance to speak.

"The movement in favour of independence, you mean?"

"I thought you would know it;" and he nodded as if it were of the most
trifling consequence.  "Well, then, you will know that Karl became
impossible.  Yet he is the elder son and my father's heir; and some of
us Hungarians are almost fanatics on the subject of succession.
Everything was in danger; and as he has always refused to be set aside
in my favour, there was nothing to do except to make him legally
impossible.  Another surprise for you now"--he spoke as indulgently as
if he had been throwing me a candy.  "The marriage with you became
desirable; so Fate turns her wheel, you see; and I sent to New York to
search for you, and we took infinite trouble in the vain endeavour to
trace you.  It was very unfortunate;" and he spread out his hands again.

I made no comment, but just kept my eyes on him, waiting for him to
continue.

"Pardon me if I am personal again.  You would have suited our purpose
admirably.  I suspected you were the daughter of Colonel von Dreschler;
and as your father's reputation was--was what it was and is--Karl's
marriage with you would have been absolutely fatal to his chances here."

"My father's reputation was the result of vile treachery," I cried
indignantly.  And I saw my blunder instantly in the start of
satisfaction he gave, but instantly repressed.  He smoked a couple of
moments in silence.

"We will deal with that presently--but I thank you for that admission,
although I am surprised you did not see the trap I laid to obtain it.
Your natural indignation, no doubt.  Well, as we could not find you, we
had to obtain an understudy--Madame d'Artelle."  His tone was
contemptuous here.  "And I think, now, you understand chapter two.  You
must admit I have been frank; and my frankness is a tribute to your
perspicacity."

"You have no comments," he said, still lightly and airily, when I did
not speak.  "Very well, then, we'll go to chapter three.  That concerns
the future--and your part in it.  What do you mean to do, or, in other
words, why did you come here?  You are an interesting problem.  You may
have come to try and clear your father's name; or to punish in some way
the man who treated you so badly: clever and pretty women have done
that before, you know.  Or--and this I referred to as the really
improbable motive--you may still wish to marry my brother.  But
whatever your motive and object, I pledge you my honour--the honour of
the son of the Duke Ladislas and future King of Hungary--that I will
help you to the utmost of my power.  But you must also help me; and for
your first object you must be content to wait a year or two, until my
father's death."

"And Gareth?" I asked, after a pause.

A frown darkened his face and his eyes clouded.  He rose and took a
couple of turns across the room.

"Would to God I could undo that business!" he cried, either with deep
feeling or an excellent simulation of it.  "You can't understand what
this is to me!  I am not a man capable of deep love, but I care for
Gareth beyond all women.  It was a midsummer madness; and if I could
repair the injury to her, I would.  But the prospect of the throne is
between us--and shall I give that up and wreck the whole of this great
national movement for her?  I would do anything else on God's earth for
her--but that I cannot.  It is impossible."

"And her father?"

"I know what you mean.  He would plunge a knife in my heart or send a
bullet crashing into my brain, if he knew.  He is desperate enough for
anything.  But he must not know.  You must never tell him."

"You have the hardihood to do the wrong but lack the courage to face
the consequences," I exclaimed, bitterly.

"I was not thinking of that.  I am not afraid of mere death, I hope,"
he cried contemptuously.  "I am thinking of the millions of Czechs,
men, women and children, whose hopes of liberty are centred in my life.
Beside that, all else is as nothing."

"It is a pity you did not think of this before."

"A man is a man and will act as a man at times.  I have done a wrong I
cannot undo; and it only remains to limit its mischief."

"A convenient code."

"Where is Gareth?" he broke off.

"Not where you intended those miscreants of yours to place her."

"Oh, so that was you also, was it?" he said, understanding.  "You are
making yourself very dangerous.  Do you persist in threatening me?"

"What if I do?"

He paused as if to give emphasis to his reply.

"Those who oppose a national movement, Miss von Dreschler, must not be
surprised if they are crushed under its wheels.  As the daughter of
your father, your mere presence here might be a danger to you."

"You threaten me?"

"I warn you--and that is the same thing.  But a way is open to you.
Marry Karl and take him away."

"You are a coward!" I cried, the burning red of anger flushing my face
as I remembered his former taunt that such a marriage would degrade his
brother sufficiently for his purpose.

"Cold facts not hot words will alone serve here," he replied.  "What do
you mean to do?"

"You can let your brother marry Madame d'Artelle.  He is nothing to me."

He bent a sharp, piercing look upon me.  "You mean that?"

"If I had influence with him it would be used to thwart your schemes.
Keep him away from me, therefore, lest I tell him who I am and pit that
influence against yours."

He paused and his brows knitted in thought.  "What you mean is that you
are willing to use Madame d'Artelle to revenge your own wrongs upon
him.  Then the third motive, the improbable one for your presence here,
is the real one."

"If he will marry her, let him," I cried indignantly.

"You mean they are to carry out to-morrow's plan?"

"Yes."

"You amaze me.  But then one never can understand a woman.  And as for
the rest?"

"I must think.  It is a tangle.  I shall probably tell Colonel Katona."

"It will be his death warrant.  A hint that my life is in peril from
him and a hundred knives will be out of their sheaths in my defence.
And those who would defend me against him would be ugly enemies of
Colonel von Dreschler's daughter.  You do not understand us Magyars.
You are raising a storm whose violence may overwhelm you."

"I will say no more now.  But you shall do Gareth justice."

"Do you set that before the clearing of your father's name?  That is
the problem for you, and it is so searching that I can be sure you will
not act in a hurry.  But in any case, I do not fear you, Miss von
Dreschler, nor anything you can do.  I shall see you to-morrow, and by
then you will have decided whether my brother is to marry Madame
d'Artelle."

"I have decided.  That is what I wish," I answered, firmly.

In his perplexity he stared hard at me and then bowed.  As he was
leaving the room he turned.

"I don't understand you; but I shall be sorry if you make yourself my
enemy and drive me to any extremes.  I respect you; and repeat, I shall
be sorry."

I made no answer; leaving him to think I had spoken my last word as to
Karl.



CHAPTER XII

HIS EXCELLENCY AGAIN

If the truth must be confessed I had surprised myself quite as much as
Count Gustav in declaring my wish that Karl should marry Madame
d'Artelle.  I had spoken in response to the feeling of hot resentment
he had roused by his bitter taunt that a marriage with me would prove
an effectual disgrace for Karl.

And what stung me was the obvious truth of it all.

My father was the proscribed murderer of the man who, had he lived,
would have been the future occupant of the new throne; and for Karl to
marry such a man's daughter must mean absolute death to his chance of
succeeding to that throne.

The gall and wormwood of that thought were intolerable.  Madame
d'Artelle, ex-police spy as she was, bigamist as she would be, and with
a past that would not bear investigation, was a suitable and eligible
match compared with me!  And the torture I suffered as this conclusion
forced itself home, is not easy to describe.

One thing was clearly borne in upon me.  I would not marry either Karl
or any other man until that slur was off my name.  I would not rest
until that was done.  The wish to clear up the mystery which I had at
first felt mainly for my dead father's sake, now quickened into a
passionate resolve on my own account.  For my own sake I must and would
get to the bottom of the mystery; and the risk of neither my fortune
nor my safety should be allowed to come between me and it.

I had called it a tangle; and what a tangle it was!  Whichever way I
moved there were difficulties that seemed insuperable.  In one
direction Gareth's pretty, smiling, trustful face blocked my path.
Unless I broke my pledge to her, I could not open my lips to her
father.  And if I did not tell him, I might get no farther forward to
my end.  If he held the key to the mystery, it was only too probable
that, as Count Gustav had implied, he could not speak without accusing
himself.  It was therefore useless to deal with him until I had found
the means of compelling him to say what he knew.

Count Gustav himself knew of my father's innocence, and had pledged his
honour to help me to clear it; but even if I trusted him, which I did
not, the price was connivance in his schemes--in Gareth's fate and
Karl's undoing.  That door was therefore shut in my face.

There remained Duke Ladislas, General von Erlanger and Karl himself.
The Duke was hopeless, so far as I was concerned.  The General most
unlikely to help me.  As for Karl, I doubted whether he knew anything,
or even if he did know, whether he possessed a spark of the energy
necessary to help.

Could I infuse that energy into him?

As the question leaped into my mind, I began to think earnestly of the
means to do this.  If Count Gustav was right in what he had said in his
jeering, flaunting way about Karl's feelings for me, I might indeed
have much power over him.  Up to this point I had been stumbling at
random and in the dark in regard to Karl.  I had had an indefinite plan
to secure his influence by saving him from the ruin which others
threatened.  But now a much clearer path opened.

And then I saw how my impulse of anger could be used for my
purpose--the impulse which had led me to agree that the plan for the
marriage with Madame d'Artelle should go forward.

My original plan had been to let the elopement take place and then go
to the house, "Unter den Linden," and by exposing Madame d'Artelle,
frighten her away and at the same time establish my influence with Karl.

I saw a better plan, however, into which all the preparations I had
made would fit admirably.  There was risk in it and danger to my own
reputation; but I could take care of that.  I was too desperate to be
scared by any fear of consequences.  What I thought to do now was to
play Madame's part in the business, and to take her place in the
carriage with Karl.  I guessed that Gustav would see to it that he was
stupefied with either drink or drugs, when the crisis came; and in a
dark carriage, closely veiled, I could trust myself to maintain the
deception successfully.

I knew that Gustav was to bring his brother to the carriage; and in
this way I could delude him as to my own movements.  That was as
essential to my plans as it was that I should have free and full
opportunities of exerting my influence upon Karl.

I had to think also of my personal safety.  I did not under-rate the
risk which I was now to run on that account.  In pitting myself against
Count Gustav I was fighting the whole influence which his father
wielded.  The Duke had not scrupled to sacrifice my father; and was not
likely to be less drastic in dealing with me if I stood in his way.
And one word from Count Gustav would be enough to bring the whole force
of his anger upon me.

I was deliberating what steps to take when a note was brought to me
from General von Erlanger, asking me in somewhat urgent terms to go and
see him.

I was glad of the chance.  I might find out from him how far the Duke
would have power to threaten my safety should Count Gustav obtain his
help.

But I found his Excellency very far removed from an inclination to
discuss serious matters seriously.  I saw at once that he had dressed
himself with more than usual care; he was wearing a number of the
orders he had received in the course of a successful diplomatic and
political career; and he welcomed me with genial smiles and quite
unnecessary warmth.  He held my hand so long indeed, as he greeted me,
that his two daughters noticed it.  I saw them nudge each other and
snigger, and I had to give quite a tug to get it away.

He insisted upon my staying to dinner, all unprepared though I was; and
when I pleaded that I had no dinner costume, he declared that I was
never anything but charming; and that he would take no excuse.

The girls carried me away to put my hair tidy, and then gave me their
confidences about their father and the new governess.  She was a
"beast," it seemed, according to Charlotte; and the General wished me
to return.

"Father misses his chess with you," she said, with the ingenuous
directness of her age: "that is why he wants you back.  We think he's
going to make you his secretary as well.  He talks an awful lot about
wanting help."

"He took over an hour dressing himself when he knew you were coming,"
chimed in the younger, Sophia; "and he made Charlotte go and tell him
if his hair was parted straight."

"He's always talking about how well you play chess, and how clever you
are."

"And he never puts those orders on unless somebody awfully particular
is coming!"  They rattled on in this way at considerable length; and
during dinner watched the General's conduct to me very closely, nodding
and smiling significantly at me, and winking at each other.

I had remained a week in the house after my coming to an understanding
with him, and before I went to Madame d'Artelle's and during that time
we had had more than one confidential talk.

When an old man yields to the influence of a very young woman, it is
often a considerable surrender.  It had been so in his Excellency's
case; and I was quite conscious that I could do a great deal with him.
Vivien could with Merlin; and a Minister of ripe and long experience
can make a very interesting Merlin.

In those talks of ours he had sometimes forgotten the difference of
forty years in our ages, and more than once had paid me compliments
which might have been almost embarrassing had I been minded to take
them at all literally.

The girls' chatter had therefore prepared me in a measure for what
might be to follow when they had been sent away and we two were once
again face to face over the chess board.

"I have missed my chess very much, Miss Gilmore.  I can't tell you how
much."

"You should teach Charlotte to play."

"She would never learn.  She is just a child, no more."

"You are not playing well yourself, to-night."

He laughed.  "That's what I like about you.  You blurt the truth out
with delightful frankness.  I don't want to play to-night."

"Is that why you say you've missed your chess so much?"

"I've missed your white hands moving among the men, more than the game
itself."  He spoke very quickly, and fumbling nervously among the men
upset two of them.

I made a move then that was not chess.  I'm not sure that it was quite
fair to him indeed.  Pretending haste in picking the pieces up, I
touched his hand and glanced at him.  Our eyes met; and withdrawing my
hand quickly, I upset some more men, with a suggestion of agitation.

"I beg your pardon," I stammered.  "I'm afraid I don't remember how
they stood.  I--I think I'm a little confused."

"Why should you be?" he asked, with a glance.

"I don't know.  It's very silly.  I don't understand myself.  I--I
believe I'm nervous."

"I can't imagine you nervous--er--Christabel."  It was very daring of
him; but he tried to say it as if it was his rule to use my name.

I cast my eyes down and sighed.  "I think I'll go now," I said after a
pause; "if you don't mind."

"But I _do_ mind, very much.  Don't bother about the game.  I don't
care where the men were."

I smiled.  "Possibly; but I think I was going to win.  I began to see
mate ahead."

"I wish _I_ could," he declared.

"General!" I cried in protest; to let him see that I understood.  I had
given him the opening intentionally, but had scarcely expected he would
take such immediate advantage of it.

We both laughed; he with a suggestion of triumph.

"If I am not to go, we had better set the men and start a new game," I
said, and began to arrange the pieces for the game.

"I don't wish to play.  I wish to talk," he declared, and then very
abruptly he got up and began to walk about the room, until he stopped
suddenly close to me.  I knew what was coming then.

"Do you know why I wished you to come here to-day?"

"Yes, I think so--but don't ask it."  I was very serious and met his
eyes frankly.

"How quick you are, and how daring.  Any other woman would have been
afraid to say that--afraid of being thought conceited.  Why shouldn't I
ask it?"

"I don't want to lose one out of the only friends I have in Pesth,
perhaps the only one, General.  And--other reasons."

He looked down at me and sighed.  "Just now----" he began, when I
interrupted him.

"I did it intentionally, thinking this thing should be settled at once,
better at once--and for always, General."

"I have found out since you went what I never suspected before.  I am a
very lonely old man, for all my wealth and my position."

"We can still play chess--if not to-night; still on other nights.
To-night, I too want to talk to you."

He made no answer, but moved away and walked about the room again in
silence; throwing himself at length into a lounge chair and staring in
front of him blankly and disconsolately.

After a time he roused himself and gave a deep, long sigh.

"Very well.  We must leave it there, I suppose."

"No, we can't leave it there, General.  I told you I wanted to talk to
you."  I left my chair and taking one close to his side, I laid my hand
on his.  "I need a friend so sorely.  Won't you be that friend?"

His fingers closed on my hand, and he held it in a firm clasp.

"With all my heart, yes," he answered.  "What is the matter?"

His ready assent moved me so that for the moment I could not reply.

"If I tell you all my little story, you will hold it in confidence?"

He looked up and smiled.  "I would do much more than that for you,
Christabel," he answered, simply, using my name now without any
hesitation, and in a quite different tone from that before.  "You may
trust me implicitly, child, on my honour."

"I am going to surprise you.  The name I bear is not my father's.  I
took it when my uncle, John P. Gilmore, died and left me his fortune.
He made me a wealthy woman.  My father was of Pesth, Colonel von
Dreschler.  I have come here to seek justice for his name and mine.  I
see how this affects you.  If you cannot help me, I will say no more."

He released my hand to press his own to his eyes; and when he withdrew
it he gazed at me very earnestly.

"You are his child!  _Gott in Himmel_, his child."

"I did not hide my name because I was ashamed of it," I said.

"You have no need, Christabel.  It was a damnable thing that was done.
He was my friend, and I will help you all I can."

Then without reserve I told him everything I had learnt and all that I
had done.  He let me tell the story without interruption, and put his
questions at the end.

"I cannot tell you you are not in danger from Count Gustav and his
father.  Your very name is a source of danger; and were you another
woman I should counsel you with all insistence to give this up and go
away.  But you will not do that.  I know you too well.  I must think
how to protect you.  You have set me a very difficult task; but it
shall not be impossible.  Yet I dare not let my hand be seen in it.  I
will think it all over until I find a way.  Meanwhile, trust me as your
father would have done; and let me hear something of you every day.  I
shall know no ease of mind if I do not hear, every day.  A note or
message, saying all is well with you, will be enough.  And if you find
yourself in any trouble, let me know of it--I shall guess it, indeed,
if I do not hear any day from you.  And I will pledge myself to get you
out--even if I have to appeal to Vienna on your behalf."

"I need no more than the knowledge that your help is behind me.  But
you think the danger is really serious?"

"If you threaten Count Gustav, you threaten the whole Patriotic cause;
and if I could tell you the things that have been done to build up that
great national movement even you might be daunted and turned from your
purpose."

"Not while I live," I cried, resolutely.

"You are your father's child.  He was as staunch and brave and fearless
as any man that ever drew breath, but he was broken, and was but one of
many victims.  A policy of this stern kind has no bowels of compassion
for man, woman, or child.  Pray God you may never have to look in vain
for that compassion."

"You almost frighten me," I said.  His earnestness was so intense.

"No, nothing can do that, I am sure.  If I could indeed frighten you
out of this purpose of yours, I would; but instead, I will help you.  I
have many means, of course; and will exhaust them all.  Go now, and let
me think for you."

As we rose he stumbled against the table on which stood the chess
board.  He turned to me with a smile.

"I am afraid it will be some time before we play again.  But the day
will come, Christabel.  It shall, or I am no player at this other game."

And with this note of confidence we parted.



CHAPTER XIII

GETTING READY

I don't like having to own that General von Erlanger went a little too
far in saying that nothing could frighten me.  The terms in which he
had spoken of the Patriotic movement and his reference to its
compassionless sacrifice of victims disturbed me profoundly.

I passed a sleepless, tumbling, anxious night; and if it be fear to
conjure up all kinds of possible horrors, to shrink at the thought that
even my life might be in danger, and to lie wincing and cringing and
shuddering at the prospect of cruelty and torture, then certainly I was
horribly frightened.

I was a prey to bitter unavailing regret that I had so lightly and
thoughtlessly set out on a path which had led me to such a pass and
brought me face to face with such powerful, terrifying, and implacable
adversaries.

The temptation to run away from it all seized upon me with such force
that I sought in all directions for reasons which would justify
cowardice and clothe it with the robe of prudence.  But my fears were
confronted by the conviction that I had gone too far to be able to
retreat without deserting Gareth; and at that my alarm took the shape
of hot but impotent indignation at my lack of foresight.

Then my sense of honour and my fear had a struggle over that sweet,
innocent, trustful, child, in which all that was mean and ignoble and
cowardly in my disposition fought to persuade me to desert her; and
before the night was half over had all but conquered.

I was tired of playing a man's part; and in those hours of weakness,
the sense of responsibility was so cruelly heavy and the desire to be
only a girl and just rush away from it all so strong, that once I
actually jumped from my bed and began to dress myself with feverish
eagerness to leave the house and fly from the city.

But I had not even the courage of my cowardice.  The recollection of
that sneer of Count Gustav's--that while my name still bore the stain I
was not even the equal of such a woman as Madame d'Artelle stayed me.
I tore off my clothes again and crept back into bed, to lie shivering
at the consciousness that if I was afraid to go through with my
purpose, I was even more afraid to run away from it.

I grew calmer after a while.  I put aside as mere hysterical nonsense
the idea that my life could be in danger.  They had not even taken my
father's life.  If they found me in their way, they might devise some
excuse for imprisoning me.  That was probably the worst that could
happen.  It had been in General von Erlanger's mind; and he had
promised to secure my liberty.  I knew I could trust myself to him.

By reflections of this kind I wrestled with my weakness and at length
overcame it; and in the end fell asleep, no longer a coward, but fully
resolved to carry my purpose through and fight all I knew to win.

In the morning I began at once to carry out my plan.  I sent a servant
to ask Madame d'Artelle if she could spare Ernestine to come and help
me.

Instead of Ernestine, Madame herself came--as I had anticipated,
indeed.  She found me in all the middle of packing; my frocks and
things spread all over the room, and my trunks open.

"What does this mean, Christabel?" she asked.

"You can see for yourself.  I have had enough of plots and schemes to
last my life time.  I jumped up in the night and half-dressed to run
away.  I was so scared."

"You are going away?"  Relief and pleasure were in her tone.

I laughed unpleasantly.  "You need not be glad."

"I am not glad," she replied, untruthfully.

"I am putting the work into stronger hands.  That's all."

"You said you could protect me."

"I have done that.  Count Gustav promised as much to me yesterday.  You
are free to leave Pesth at once if you like.  You need not marry his
brother unless you wish.  And after to-day, not even if you wish.  Is
Ernestine coming to help me?"

"I wish you would speak plainly.  You always frighten me with your
vague speeches.  You seem to mean so much."

"I do mean very much--far more than I shall tell you.  You have been no
friend to me--why should I explain?  Take your own course; and see what
comes of it.  Is Ernestine coming, I say?"

"Yes, of course she can come; but I am so frightened."

"That will do you no harm," I rapped out, bluntly.  "I wash my hands of
everything."

"What am I to do?" she cried, waving her hands helplessly.

"I arranged yesterday with Count Gustav that the scheme for this
romantic elopement should be carried out.  You can play your part for
all I care.  The chief thing you can do for me is to send Ernestine
here."

"But I----"

"Will you send her here?" and I stamped my foot angrily, and so drove
her out of the room in the condition of nervous doubt and anxiety I
desired.

With the maid's help my trunks were soon packed, and the work was
nearly finished when Madame d'Artelle came back.

"Count Gustav is here," she said.

"Very well.  You can close that box, Ernestine, and try to pack this
toque in the top of the black one.  You got everything I said for the
voyage in the cabin trunk."

"He insists on seeing you, Christabel."

"I'll come down when I've finished."  I spoke irritably.  Irritation is
the natural result of a couple of hours' packing.

Everything was ready when I went downstairs.

"I hear you are going away, Miss----"

"Gilmore," I broke in, giving him a look.

"I congratulate you on your--prudence."  He too, like Madame d'Artelle,
was obviously both relieved and pleased at the news.

"You need not smile at it.  I am not doing it to please you, Count
Gustav."

"I wish to ask you a question if Madame d'Artelle----" and he paused
and looked at her.

"I don't see the need of all this mystery," she answered, tossing her
head as she left the room.

"Please be quick," I said, snappishly.  "I am both in a hurry and a bad
temper--a trying combination even for a woman of my disposition."

"You have not slept well, perhaps."

"No.  I had to think.  What is your question?"

"About Gareth?"

"I shall not answer it," I said shortly, and frowned as though the
subject were particularly unwelcome and disturbing.

"I think I can understand;" he answered believing he could read my
mood.  "And about Karl and Madame?"

"I have not forgotten your sneer.  I will not disgrace him."  I spoke
with as much bitterness and concentrated anger as I could simulate, and
was pleased by the covert smile my words produced, although I appeared
to be goaded to anger by it.

"I will tell you one thing.  She shall not either.  By to-morrow some
one will be here from Paris who will see to that."

"That may be too late."

"No.  You dare not do anything to-day.  You dare not," I exclaimed,
passionately.

"You have told that to Madame?"

"No.  She is nothing to me."

"You are very bitter."

"Again, no.  You have only made me indifferent;" and as if I could bear
no more, I hurried out of the room.  I knew as well as if he had told
me that the effect of my words would be to drive him to use the time of
grace I had left him.

I did not wait to see Madame d'Artelle, but had my trunks placed in a
fly and, taking Ernestine with me, drove to the depôt.  She took my
ticket for Paris, saw to the labelling of my luggage, settled me in my
compartment, and waited me with until the train started.  I wished the
proof of my departure to be quite clear.

But on the Hungarian railways the trains do not run long distances
without stopping; and at the first station I got out and returned to
Pesth.  I was back in my house with Gareth before one o'clock, and had
already seen James Perry, who had returned, and arranged one of my next
moves.

A wire was sent to Paris to a friend of his requesting that a telegram
be despatched as from M. Constans, saying that he would be in Pesth
that evening at nine o'clock, and would come straight to Madame
d'Artelle's house.

That telegram was the weapon with which I intended to frighten Madame
away from Pesth in order that I might take her place.

I had one more preparation to make.  I wrote out orders dismissing the
men servants at the house, "Unter den Linden," and signed them "Karl
von Ostelen," taking great care over the signatures.  These I gave to
Perry together with money for any wages they might claim, and
instructed him to drive with his son to the house after dusk.

I told him I should arrive there later in the evening in a carriage;
and that if the men in charge of it attempted to stable the horses
there, he was to say that the Count's orders were that they should not
remain.  After that he and his son were to be in the house: to say
nothing about me to any women servants, and to act just as I directed.

Poor little Gareth was more impatient than ever at the lack of news;
but I pacified her by saying I expected to have some on the following
day; and to escape her somewhat fretful questionings, I pleaded a bad
headache and went to my room and lay down.

I needed rest after my broken night, and succeeded in getting to sleep
for two hours.  I awoke greatly refreshed; and although I was excited
at the prospect of the evening's work, I felt very fit and ready to
face any emergencies.  I was quite able now to laugh at my cowardice of
the previous night.

"What news is it you expect, Christabel?" was the question with which
Gareth greeted me when I went down to her.  "I have been thinking of it
ever since you told me."

"To find Count von Ostelen, of course."

"How are you going to find him?  Do tell me."

"I was governess to the daughters of General von Erlanger, his
Excellency the Minister, you know, Gareth.  I saw him last night: I was
at his house; and I know he can find the Count if any one can.  That
reminds me.  I was to write to him."

I had forgotten his Excellency's injunction to send him a daily
message.  I took a visiting card and scribbled on the back "Quite well"
over my initials, and was giving it to James Perry to take when an
extra precaution occurred to me.

"You will see the General yourself with this," I told him; "but you
will not let his servants know from whom you come.  I can't tell you
everything; but something has occurred which makes it necessary for me
to send a message every day to General von Erlanger.  If I forget it,
you must remind me; for you are always to carry it; and always to see
the General yourself.  Tell him to-day that I have arranged it so.  And
listen carefully to this--if anything should happen to me and you think
I am in any great difficulty, or trouble, or danger--don't look scared:
nothing may come of it all--but if I am, then you are to go at once to
General von Erlanger and tell him all you know."

He was an excellent servant; but well trained as he was, he could not
suppress his curiosity and surprise.

"We have always been faithful, miss; mayn't I ask whether----"

"No, not yet.  If there is need, I shall tell you--because I trust you
as fully as I trust your father and mother, and I have a very high
opinion of your courage and ability.  At present, you have only to
remember what I have told you to do."

Gareth was very inquisitive about my movements when, as the dusk fell,
I began to prepare for the work in hand.  She plied me with prattling
questions; why I was at such pains over my dressing; why I took a large
cloak on a night comparatively warm; what the thick muffling veil was
for; and she gave a little cry of terror when her sharp eyes caught
sight of the revolver which I tried to slip into my pocket unnoticed.

"You are such a strange girl, Christabel," she said.

"Every one tells me that; but I generally get there."

"'Get there?'  What is that?"

"An Americanism, dear, for gaining your own end."

"Are all American girls like you?" she laughed.

"Luckily for them, perhaps, no.  I'm from the Middle West and we have
more freedom there than in the Old World."

"Do you all go about in thick cloaks with heavy veils and carrying
arms?"

"Gareth, no," I laughed.  "We only do these things in fancy dress
balls."

"Are you going to one to-night?  Oh, I didn't know."

"It's only a masquerade to-night--and this is to be the cloak over my
costume."

"Oh, Christabel dear, why didn't you tell me?  But you've a walking
dress underneath."

"I am going to start for the masquerade from the other house."

"Will there be dancing?  Oh, I wish I could go."

"No, no dancing; but I guess the band will play."

"I love music," she cried, not understanding slang; and I didn't
explain it.

"I wish you weren't going, Christabel," she said, kissing me when I was
ready to start.

"It will be a long evening and I may wish that too before it's over," I
replied, with a feeling that that might well be so.

"You will be here with the news at the earliest possible moment
to-morrow, won't you, dear?  I am so weary of waiting."

"I hope I shall be successful and have good news to bring you."

"I am sure you will.  I have such faith in you, Christabel."

She kissed me and with my cloak on my arm and those words ringing in my
ears, I set out upon the risky business before me.



CHAPTER XIV

I ELOPE

It was only to be expected that as I approached Madame d'Artelle's
house I should be nervously uneasy lest the main foundation of my new
plan should have collapsed.

I had built everything on the assumption that Count Gustav would induce
his brother to carry out the original scheme of marrying Madame
d'Artelle by stealth.  I had threatened to bring her husband to Pesth
on the following day; and since he knew as well as she seemed to, that
M. Constans' arrival would put an absolute end to Madame's usefulness
as a tool, I calculated that he would lose no effort to make use of her
forthwith.

It was obvious, however, that my absence put an end to the reason for
secrecy; and it was therefore quite on the cards that Karl might have
been brought to Madame d'Artelle's house and some kind of ceremony have
been already performed there.  I should look a good many sorts of a
fool if I walked into the house to find them already married.

Peter opened the door and gave a great start of surprise at seeing me.

"Madame is in?" I asked, in as casual a tone as I could assume.

"Yes, miss.  She is in, but she is going out.  We thought you had left,
miss."

"It's all right, Peter.  I'll go up to Madame.  She is probably in her
room, dressing."

"Yes, miss; with Ernestine; but----"

"Don't trouble.  You need not tell any one I have come back;" and I
gave him a golden reason for silence.  "Hide the fact of my presence
and do what I wish, and there will be several more of these to follow."

"I am always anxious to please you, miss."

"I wish to see Madame quite alone; can you make an excuse to call
Ernestine downstairs?"

He was a shrewd fellow enough in his way.  We went upstairs and I
waited in an adjoining room while he called Ernestine out and the two
went down together.

As soon as they had gone I opened Madame's door and entered.

"Come, Ernestine, I want you.  What do you mean by going away like
that?" she said crossly, not seeing me.

"Perhaps I can help you, Henriette.  Ernestine is busy downstairs;" and
I locked the door behind me.

"Christabel!  You?"

"I have had to come back to keep my word and save you.  You are in
great danger.  M. Constans must have picked up the scent of the
inquiries I made recently.  I have this telegram;" and I put into her
hands the telegram which I had received from Paris.

I thought she was going to faint.  The man must have had some great
hold over her; for she was certainly overwhelmed with deadly fear.  She
stared with horror-struck eyes at the paper as though it reeked with
the threat of instant death.  Then she turned to glare at me, with not
a vestige of colour on her face.

"_Nom de Dieu_, he will kill me.  He will kill me;" she said, in a low,
strained, husky whisper, as she fell into a chair, and began to gasp
and choke hysterically.

"I know nothing about that," I said, callously; "but if you make a fool
of yourself in that way, you will have no time left to get out of his
reach.  If you want to die, you had better faint now.  However, I've
done with you;" and I turned toward the door.

"Don't go, Christabel, for the love of heaven don't leave me.  I can't
think for myself.  Oh, don't leave me," she cried.  "What shall I do?"

"As he's your husband I should think you ought to stay and meet him.
This was sent off from the railway station, you see, and I find his
train reaches here just before nine.  He'll just be in time for the
ceremony to-night."

"Oh, don't, don't, don't," she wailed.  "Don't mock me like that.
Don't be so hard.  Help me.  Do, do!  I tell you, he'll kill me.  I
know he will.  He tried to once before.  You don't want to see me
murdered.  You can't.  Oh Christabel, dear Christabel, say what I had
better do."

"If you'll be sensible, I'll help you.  You can get away without the
least difficulty.  Luckily your trunks are all packed, and as the mail
for Breslau and Berlin leaves at half-past eight, you can be away
before his train arrives.  But you must be quick.  You have only half
an hour, and had better get your luggage away at once with Ernestine."

"How clever you are," she cried; and forthwith began to finish her
dressing with feverish haste, her one thought now to fly.

I called up Ernestine, who started on seeing me as though I were a
ghost.  I explained that urgent reasons had caused her mistress to
change her plans; and before Madame d'Artelle had finished dressing,
the baggage was on its way to the station.

"What will you do about things here, Henriette?"

"I don't know.  I don't care.  In face of this I can do nothing."

"Count Karl will be disappointed and his brother angry."

"My life is in danger, would you have me think of anything else?
Mother of Heaven, do you think I will be murdered to please a hundred
counts?"

"Some one must see to things."

"Let me only get away and I care for nothing else."  This was precisely
the mood I desired her to be in.  She was literally fear-possessed, and
flight had become the one all-absorbing passionate desire.

I said no more until we were in the fly hurrying to the station.  I
meant to see the last of her.

"What of to-night's business--Count Karl?"

"I care nothing.  The carriage will come for me and can go away again.
I value my life.  Holy Virgin, how slow the cab goes.  We shall miss
the train; I know we shall.  And then?" her fear passed beyond words,
and the sentence remained unfinished.  "If he finds and kills me, my
death will be at your door.  You have brought him here."

"Why are you so afraid of him?  He may be only coming to make peace
with you and come to an understanding."

"Peace?  The peace a tiger makes with a lamb.  I know him."

She did not quite fit my idea of a lamb--except in her terror, perhaps;
and about that there could be no mistake.

"Shall you come back to Pesth?" I asked.

"Am I insane, do you mean, when he knows the very name I have here?

"What about the servants, then?  Paying them, I mean?"

"Let them go to Count Gustav.  Thank heaven, here is the station," she
cried, and the instant the vehicle stopped she got out and asked
excitedly for the mail to Berlin.

There were some five minutes to spare, but she had bundled Ernestine
into the carriage and was following when I stopped her.

"One question, Henriette?  How is it that as I was out of the way the
ceremony fixed for to-night did not take place earlier in the day?

"Don't stop me, the train may start.  He could not be induced to get
drunk enough; that's all."  She said it almost viciously as she
scrambled into the carriage.

I waited until the train started and then drove back to the house.  I
had to settle matters there with the servants.  It would not suit my
plans for them to go to Count Gustav with the story of this hurried
flight.

I took Peter into the salon.

"You are a man of discretion, and your mistress and I both rely upon
you, Peter.  You know that Madame was contemplating a journey and at
the last moment her plans have been hurried by news which I brought
her."

"It is not for us servants to ask what our employers do, miss," he
said, very respectfully.  Part of the respect may have been due to the
fact that I had laid some notes and gold on the table.

"The house will be shut up for a month, Peter; and all the servants
except yourself, will leave.  And they will leave to-night.  You
understand--to-night.  I trust you to see to this.  Go and find out
what wages are due.  This money is to pay them double that amount.  I
will settle with you afterwards.  I do not wish them to know I am in
the house."

He scented more reward, and went off with the important air of a
major-domo; and on his return I gave him the necessary money.

"I shall pay you what is due to you, Peter, and give you three months'
wages in addition.  You will see the house locked up to-night and send
the keys to me to this address, and let me know where I can write to
you.  But you can take another situation at once if you wish;" and I
gave him the address of the first house I had taken.

That I was able to think of all these small details at such a time has
often been a cause of some surprise--and I think of satisfaction.  I
have always rather prided myself upon my capacity to concentrate my
thoughts upon the matter of the moment: to think in compartments, so to
speak: and to throw myself thoroughly into the part which I was playing
for the time.  I was just as cool and collected in all this as though
the settlement of the servants' wages was the only thing I had then to
do or think of.

"I think that is all, Peter; I am leaving directly.  I have a carriage
coming for me; and when I go, you will see that none of the other
servants are about."

"The servants are already upstairs packing their things, miss," he
replied.  "I will watch for the carriage and let you know."

When he left me, I walked up and down the room in busy thought.  So far
as I could see, my preparations were now complete.  Count Gustav
believed I had left the city; I had frightened Madame d'Artelle away; I
had cut off the chance of his discovering her absence; and the only
risk of such discovery would be at the moment when he brought Karl to
the carriage.

There would not be much risk then, if I did not give myself away.  I
recalled Madame's words about Karl--"He could not be induced to get
drunk enough," for the matter to go through earlier in the day.  He was
thus to be drugged now; and when he joined me, would be too stupefied
to recognize me.

Then a question occurred.  What would Count Gustav do as soon as he
thought his brother had gone?  Had he planned a marriage ceremony
similar to the farce he had played with Gareth?  If so, did he mean to
be present at it to make sure his plan succeeded?  Would he enter the
carriage with Karl to drive to the house?  Or would he be content to
trust the work to the man he might hit upon to play the part of priest?

Wait--would it be a real priest; and so was it a real marriage he
contemplated?  And I was puzzling myself with little problems of the
kind, when Peter came to say the carriage was waiting.

Leaving all these difficulties to be solved as they arose, I arranged
my thick veil and throwing the cloak over my shoulders, hurried out.  A
footman stood by the carriage door, and I was glad I had thought to put
the veil on before leaving the house.

He touched his hat, closed the door, climbed to the box, and we started
at a smart pace.  For good or ill I was now committed to the matter,
and there was no drawing back.

Nor had I any thought or wish except to go through with it.  My heart
was beating more rapidly than usual, and I was excited; but not
frightened.  On the contrary, I was full of confidence, full of belief
that I was doing the right thing, let the risk to myself be what it
might; and convinced that I was taking not only the surest but the
shortest road to the end I had in view.

On one thing I was resolved.  Count Gustav must not recognize me.  That
was all in all to me at that moment.  If he did, I saw clearly the use
he could make of that knowledge.

Not only could he blacken my reputation by saying I had run away with
Karl; but he could also use the fact with telling force against Karl
himself--that he had married the daughter of Colonel von Dreschler, the
murderer of Count Stephen.

Such a thing would suit his plans far better than the complication with
Madame d'Artelle, a mere adventuress, with whom no marriage was legally
possible.  If he but knew it, I was thus playing right into his hands.
But then he did not, and should not know it, until it was too late to
be of use to him.  He would spread about the story of Karl's marriage
to Madame d'Artelle, only to find that she was on her way hot speed to
Berlin at the very time.

And when the time came for the truth to be told--well, I had my plans
already laid for his own exposure; and they would keep him busy
defending himself.

The carriage rattled through the streets, covering quickly the short
distance to the rendezvous in the Radialstrasse; and when it drew up I
peered out eagerly through the closed window, and then saw that which
gave me a profound surprise.

A tall man sauntered past the carriage, scrutinizing it with great
earnestness; and as the light from one of the lamps shone on his face,
I recognized Colonel Katona.

What could be the meaning of his presence at such a time?  Was it more
than coincidence?  It could not be that.  He was a recluse, and rarely
if ever left his house to walk in the city.  Why should he choose such
a night, and such a time, and above all such a place?

I shrank back into the corner of my seat perplexed and anxious--seeking
eagerly but vainly for some reason for this most unexpected
development.  As I sat thus waiting, I saw him presently pass again,
retracing his steps, and scrutinizing the carriage as closely as
before.  This time he came nearer to the window and tried to peer
inside.

A minute afterwards I heard a name called in a brief sharp tone of
authority; the footman jumped from the box and opened the door, and I
squeezed myself as far from it as possible, as Count Gustav came up,
his arm through that of Karl, who was very unsteady and walked with
staggering lurching steps.

It was easy to see that if Karl was helpless with liquor, his brother
was both pale and agitated.  His face was very set; and as he
approached, I noticed him glance sharply about him twice--the second
time with a start of what I read to be satisfaction.

He made no attempt to enter the carriage, much to my relief: and not a
word was spoken by any of us beyond a few guttural incoherencies by
Karl, as with his brother's help he stumbled into the carriage and sat
lolling fatuously, his breathing stertorous and heavy with the drink.

The door was slammed, the footman sprang up, and as the carriage
wheeled round I saw Colonel Katona again.  This time he came out of the
gloom and spoke to Count Gustav.

I had no time to see more; but the list of surprises was not completed
yet.

We had not driven a hundred yards before Karl sat up, seemed to shake
off his stupor, and laughed lazily.

"Well, Henriette, here we are--off at last.  But I wonder what in the
devil's name is going to happen next?"

He was neither drunk nor drugged, then; but merely acting.  I almost
cried out in my astonishment and relief.

But what did it all mean?



CHAPTER XV

AN EMBARRASSING DRIVE

I was so astonished at this turn of matters that I squeezed myself up
into as small a space as possible in the corner of the carriage, a prey
to completely baffling perplexity.

The sense of shame with which I had followed his shambling, drunken
movements, as he was helped into the vehicle, gave way to a feeling at
first of relief, and then of pleasure--both feelings mingled with
consummate dismay.

Now that he was in possession of his senses, how was I to act toward
him?  Under the influence of either opium or drink, he would have been
easy enough to deal with; and I could have chosen my own moment to avow
myself.

My crude idea had been to get him into the house, let him sleep away
the effects, and leave him under the impression that while Madame
d'Artelle had been with him in the carriage, I had contrived to get her
away.  I was not ready to show my hand yet; and a nervous embarrassing
fear of what he would think of this act of mine began to possess me.

I was soon worried by another unpleasant thought.  While he remained
under the impression that I was Madame d'Artelle, I was just an
impostor, spying upon the relationship between them, of all parts in
the world the most repugnant for me to have to play with him.

"I suppose you're too surprised to speak?" he said presently.  "Is
anything the matter?"

I made no answer, except to draw even further into my corner.  He
noticed it and laughed.

"Bit afraid of me, are you?  You needn't be.  I'm not dangerous, even
if I'm not drugged.  But I have been any time during the last
three-and-thirty hours.  You see I haven't seen you, and I haven't
touched it ever since yesterday morning."

There was a bitterness in his tone I had not heard in it before; but
the words filled me with pleasure.

"Not since midday yesterday, Henriette.  Three-and-thirty hours: nearly
two thousand minutes: every minute like an hour of hell.  You didn't
think I'd got the strength, I know.  Neither did Gustav.  And I suppose
I'm only a fool to have done it--an infernal fool, that's all.  It's
getting easier already; but I'd give ten thousand kronen for a taste
now--one little wee taste."

He sat suddenly bolt upright, clenched his fist and flung it out in
front of him, and groaned as if the fever of temptation had laid hold
of him with irresistible force.

"You don't seem to care," he said, bitterly, turning to me: and then
his voice became strained and tense.  "But you'd better.  You hear
that, Henriette, you'd better.  You keep it from me or as there's a sky
above us I wouldn't trust myself not to kill you."

Impulsively I stretched out my hand and laid it on his arm, as if to
calm him.  But he shook it off impatiently.

"All that's passed," he cried.  "Two thousand hours of hell can change
a man.  They've changed me.  I can see things now, and mean to see
more.  That's why I've come on this business.  That and----" his voice
fell and his head drooped, and with his lazy laugh he murmured--"What a
fool I am, just because a girl----"  The sentence was left unfinished,
and his fingers stole to the pocket as if in search of the drug.

"I must smoke or have it.  Not 'her sake' nor a million 'her sakes'
will keep me from it if I don't.  I shall stop the carriage and get it."

He lit a cigar and held the match up, and peered closely at me until
the little flame flickered out.  Then he leaned back and puffed
fiercely, filling the carriage with the smoke, and making me cough.  At
that, he let down the window on his side sharply and bent forward that
the air might blow on his face.

By the light of the street lamps I saw that his face was drawn and
lined as if with the pain and passion of the struggle through which he
had passed.

"Have we far to go?" he asked, raising his voice in consequence of the
noise from the open window.  I did not answer, and he shrugged his
shoulders.  "You're a cheerful companion for a man in my mood," he
cried, almost contemptuously, as he closed the window with a shiver of
cold.

He leant back in his seat, drew his coat closely about him, and smoked
in silence, but with less vehemence.  Presently he found the silence
oppressive.

"One of us must talk," he said then.  "I wonder why I'm here and what
the devil will come of it!" he exclaimed, laughing.

I wondered, too, what would come of it; but I held my tongue.  I had
resolved not to speak during the whole ride if I could avoid it, so as
not to reveal myself.  And if I could reach the house without his
discovering my deception, I saw a way by which I could mislead him.

"What are you wrapped up like that for?  Throw your cloak back," he
said next, and put out his hand as if to do it.  I drew it closer round
me.  "Then you're not deaf as well as dumb," he laughed.  "What's the
matter with you?  I can find a way to make you speak, I think--or
you've been just play-acting ever since I knew you."

He bent toward me until his face was close to my veil.  "You're not
generally afraid to show your face.  And you needn't be, it's pretty
enough.  You can hear that I know.  A pretty woman never had a deaf ear
for a truth like that--and it is truth; no more, no less than the
truth.  It didn't need either opium or drink for me to know that,
Henriette--though you plied me with plenty of both for that matter.
Can you deny that?"

He paused for me to answer; but I did not; and he leant back in his
seat again.

"Yes, you're a beautiful woman, Henriette, and Gustav's a very clever,
long-headed fellow--but between you, you made a bad mistake.  You
should have known better than to conjure up that old past of mine.  You
shouldn't have had a friend about you with haunting eyes.  Heavens, how
they haunted me--aye, and haunt me now.  Doesn't that make you speak?
No?  Then I'll tell you more.  That girl's eyes killed at a stroke
every thought in my mind about you.  More than that--it's just for her
sake, I've endured all these hours of hell.  I can trust you not to
tell her that--but it's true, Henriette, just as true as that you're a
beautiful woman."

Evidently he looked for some sharp outburst from me, for he spoke in a
deliberate, taunting way as if to provoke me.  And when I made no sign,
he was sorely perplexed.

"You are going to explain a lot of things to me presently--I've come
for that and that only--but I'll tell you something first that you
don't know.  I met that friend of yours yesterday morning when I was
riding in the Stadtwalchen.  We had quite a long and almost intimate
talk, and she took me right back across the years to the past; and by
no more than a word, a touch and a glance, she put something between me
and the devil I had loved, until I hated it and hated myself for having
loved it.  And for the sake of what she said, I've been in hell ever
since.  But she did it; she alone, and I've fought against the cursed
thing because of her words and her eyes.  God, what it has cost me!"
He ended with a weary, heavy sigh.

That in my great gladness at hearing this, I did not betray myself was
only due to the strong curb I had put on my feelings.  But I had heard
his secret by treachery, and now, more than ever, I was eager to keep
my identity from him.  I longed for the drive to come to an end, and I
looked out anxiously to try and see even in the darkness that we were
reaching our destination.

"Yes, Henriette, those haunting eyes of hers have saved me, so far," he
began again.  "Saved me, even when it seemed as if all the fiends in
hell were just dragging and forcing me to take it.  I didn't.  More
than once the thing was all but between my lips; but she saved me.  But
I must see her again, or I shan't hold out.  I must hear her voice and
feel the touch of her hand.  Where is she, Henriette?  Where is she?
That's one of the questions you shall answer.  Gustav says she has gone
to Paris.  They told me the same at your house to-day--I was there
twice, though you didn't know it.  And you'll have to tell me that
among the other things.  You can tell me that now," he said almost
fiercely, as he bent toward me again and stretched out a hand as if to
seize mine.

I gave up my secret for lost; but the carriage slackened suddenly and
with a quick swerve drove into the gates of the house.

Karl let the windows down and peered out curiously; and when the
carriage door was opened by the footman, he got out and stood offering
me a hand to alight.  But I gathered my cloak carefully about me and
springing out ran past him and fled into the house and upstairs as fast
as I could, whispering to James Perry who had opened the door to come
after me presently.

I chose a room at random and locking the door behind me, I flung myself
on the bed in the dark, face downwards, and burst into a tempest of
hysterical tears.

They were tears of neither pleasure nor grief.  They were violent but
without passion; and came rather as the swift loosening of the pent
strain of excitement during the drive from the city.  At least so I
thought.

I do not think I had shed a tear since my uncle's death until that
moment; and although they gave me intense relief, I remember feeling
almost ashamed of myself for my weakness.  To cry like a hysterical
woman was so out of character with my resolve to play a man's part in
this struggle!

The tempest was soon over, and I sat on the side of the bed and took
off the veil and threw aside the cloak which had been so valuable a
disguise, and was drawing the pins out of my hat when I remembered that
I must be careful not to disarrange my hair.  I was going to pretend to
Karl that I had been in the house all the time; and my appearance must
bear out that story.

I groped my way to the dressing-table by the window and fumbled about
for a match to get a light of some kind; and finding none, drew up the
blind.  The moon had risen, and this gave a faint light; but it was not
enough for my purpose, so I pulled back the curtain, glancing out as I
did so.

The window looked upon the garden in the front, and I stood a moment
recalling the plan of the house as I had fixed it in my mind when I had
gone over it.

I remembered then what for the instant I had stupidly forgotten; that
the electric light was installed, and I was turning away to find the
switch, when I caught sight of a man moving in the shrubbery.

I thought at first it might be Karl, smoking, or Perry or his son on
watch; but it was not.  The figure was much too tall for either of the
Perrys; and the movements too stealthy and cautious for Karl.

The light was not sufficient for me to get anything like a clear view
of the man; yet as he moved there was something about him that seemed
familiar.  I watched him with growing interest; and presently, having
apparently made sure that he was unobserved, he crossed the moonlit
grass quickly to the window of the room that was directly underneath
mine.

I recognized him then.  It was Colonel Katona.

I threw open my window noisily; and he darted away under the shadow of
the trees and hurried out of the garden.

It was no mere chance then that he had been in the Radialstrasse at the
moment when the carriage was to be there.  Some one had brought him
there to be a witness of Karl's escapade.  Who had done so, and why?
Not Karl; nor Madame d'Artelle; and no one else had known of it but
Gustav and myself.

I had seen him speak to Gustav as the carriage wheeled round--wait, I
recalled the two furtive glances which Gustav had cast about as he had
come up to the carriage with Karl; and the expression of satisfaction
after the second of them.

This was Gustav's work, then.  And why had he done it?  Why had he
brought Colonel Katona, of all men in Pesth, to see Karl run away with
Madame d'Artelle?  Had any other man been picked out, I would have said
it was merely that there might be an independent witness.  But Colonel
Katona--and then the reason seemed to flash into my thoughts,
suggesting a scheme subtle and treacherous enough to be worthy of even
the worst thoughts I had ever had of Count Gustav.

I thought rapidly how I could put this new idea of mine to the test,
and how use it for my own purposes.  But before I could decide, I heard
hesitating steps in the corridor outside my room.  Some one knocked
gently at the doors of other rooms and then at mine.

"Are you there, miss?"

It was James Perry's voice.  "Yes," I answered; and closing the window
and drawing down the blind, I opened the door.

"The gentleman is asking for Madame d'Artelle, miss," he said.  "What
answer am I to give him?"

"I will take it myself," I replied.  I switched on the light and made
sure that my hair was all right.  "What about the servants, James?" I
asked.

"There are two woman servants only, miss; and my father and myself.  We
did as you said, and sent away a footman who was here."

"You have done very well.  If you are asked any more questions about
Madame d'Artelle, say that she left the house the moment after the
carriage arrived, and that I have been here some hours."

"Yes, miss."  He was very perplexed and, I think, troubled.  We went
downstairs, and he showed me the room where Karl was.  It was directly
under that in which I had been.

It was to the window of that room, then, I had seen Colonel Katona
cross in the moonlight.



CHAPTER XVI

A WISP OF RIBBON

Karl was sitting in an attitude of moody dejection; his elbow on the
arm of the chair, and face resting on his hand; and he turned slowly as
I opened the door.  The look of gloomy indifference vanished, and he
rose quickly with a glance of intense surprise.

"Chris--Miss Gilmore!" he exclaimed.

"You asked for Madame d'Artelle.  I have come to say she has left the
house," I said in a quite steady tone.

"But you--how do you come to be here?  I don't understand."

"I thought you knew I was Madame d'Artelle's companion."

"But they told me you had gone away--to Paris."

"I did start, but I came back."

"I have been twice to-day to her house to ask for you.  I was very
nearly rushing off to Paris after you.  I'm glad I didn't."  He said
this quite simply, and then his face clouded.  "But if I understand all
this, may I--may I take to opium again?"  His eyes cleared, and he
smiled as he spoke the last words.

"I hope you will never do that," I replied.

"No, I shan't--now.  Do you remember what I said to you in the gardens
yesterday?  Yesterday--why it seems twenty years ago."

"You mean that you would hate me if I stopped you taking it?"

"Yes, that's it.  I _have_ hated you too, I can tell you.  I couldn't
help it--but I haven't taken any since.  It's cost something to keep
from it; but I've done it.  And I shall be all right--now.  I nearly
gave in, though, when I heard you'd left the city."

"I knew that you had the strength to resist when I spoke to you
yesterday," and I looked at him steadily.  He returned the look for a
moment.

"It's wonderful," he murmured.  "Positively wonderful."  Then in a
louder tone: "I think you must have hypnotised me."

"Oh, no.  I only appealed to your stronger nature--your former self.
You have the strength to resist, but you let it rust."

"I wonder if you would like to know why?"

"No, thank you," I cried rather hurriedly.

My haste seemed to amuse him.  "Well, I don't suppose it matters.  Then
you're not going to Paris?"

"Not yet--at any rate."

"Then I shall see you sometimes.  I must if I'm to keep from it, you
know."

"Yes, if possible and necessary."

"It is necessary, and I'll make it possible.  You don't know the
responsibility you've taken on yourself so lightly."

"Perhaps I have not taken it lightly, but intentionally."

"You can't be _here_ intentionally," he said, with a start.  "You
can't, because--do you mean that you know what I'm supposed to have
come here for?"  Half incredulous, this.

"Yes, quite well."

"That they want to drive me to marry Hen--Madame d'Artelle?  And that
my brother will be here with a priest in half an hour or so?"

"I did not know your brother was coming," and the news gave me a twinge
of uneasiness.  "But my object was to prevent the marriage taking
place."

"Why?" he asked, somewhat eagerly.

"Her husband is still living."

"I mean, why did you wish to prevent it?"

"I will tell you that presently."

"Tell me now."

"No."

"Yes--I insist."

"That is no use with me."

"Isn't it?  We'll see.  You know what I carry here;" and he slid his
fingers into the pocket from which I had before seen him take the opium
pills.  "I shall take it if you don't tell me."

"You must do as you please.  But you have none with you."

"How do you know?"

"You told Madame d'Artelle so, in the carriage."

He laughed and took out a little phial half full of them, and held it
up.  "She is stupid.  Do you think I should regard it as more than half
a victory if I didn't carry this with me?  Will you drive me back to it
now?"

He took out one of the pills, held it up, and gazed at it with eyes
almost haggard with greedy longing.

"This is childish," I said.

"No, it's a question of your will or mine.  Will you tell me or shall I
take this?  One or the other.  You can undo your own work.  I can
scarcely bear the sight of it."

"I accept the challenge," I answered after a second's pause.  "It is
your will or mine.  Rather than see you take that I will tell you----"

"I knew you would," he broke in triumphantly.

"But if I do, I declare to you on my honour that the instant I have
told you, I will leave the room and the house, and never see you again."

The look of triumph melted away slowly.  "I don't want victory on those
terms.  You've beaten me.  Look here."  He opened the long French
window, flung the pill out into the night, and then emptied the phial.
"Rather than--than what you said;" and he looked round and sighed.

"Thank you," I said.

In the pause the sound of horses' hoofs on the hard road, reached us
through the open window.

"Here come Gustav and the priest, I expect."

I bit my lip.  "I don't want him to see me," I said, hurriedly.

"What does it matter?"

"Everything."

He closed the window.  "What will you do?"

"I will lock myself in one of the rooms upstairs and tell my servants
to say Madame d'Artelle is too ill to see him."

"Your servant?"

"Don't stop to ask questions.  I can explain all presently.  Do as I
wish--please.  He thinks you are--are drugged----"

"Not drugged--drunk; but how do you know that?"

"Madame d'Artelle thought so at first."  The horses were now so near
that I could hear them through the closed window.  "You can still
pretend.  Lie on the sofa there.  For Heaven's sake be quick.  There
are but two or three minutes at most now."

"Oh, I'll get rid of them."

I took this for assent, and hurried out of the room as the carriage
stopped at the door.  Calling James Perry I told him what do to and ran
up again to the room where I had been before.

I would not have a light but sat first on the edge of the bed,
wondering what would happen, whether I should be discovered, how long
Count Gustav would stay, and how Karl would do as he had said.

The house was badly built, and I could hear the murmur of voices in the
room below.  I slipped to the floor and lay with my ear to the ground
in my anxiety to learn what went on.  I could hear nothing distinctly,
however.  The murmurs were louder, but I could not make out the words.

Then I remembered about Colonel Katona, and crossing to the window
pulled the blind aside and looked out wondering whether he was still
near the house.

The moonlight was brighter, but the shadows of the trees thicker and
darker; and for a long time I could distinguish nothing.  The carriage
remained at the door; the jingling of the harness, the occasional
pawing of the impatient horses, and the checking word of the coachman
told me this.

If the Colonel was still there, the presence of the carriage no doubt
made him keep concealed.

Presently other sounds reached me.  Some one unfastened the windows of
the room below and flung them wide open.  A man went out and I heard
his feet grate on the gravel.

"It's no use.  He's dead drunk.  We may as well----"

It was Gustav's voice, and the rest of the words were lost to me, for I
shrank back nervously.

Then an instinctive impulse caused me to lay my ear to the ground and
listen for the window to be shut.  I heard it closed; but there was no
sound of the bolt being shot.

Dark as it was and alone though I was in the room, I know that I turned
deathly white at the possible reason for this which flashed upon me in
that moment; and when I passed my hand across my forehead the beads of
perspiration stood thick upon it.  I felt sick and dazed with the
horror that was born of that thought; and my limbs were heavy as I
dragged them back across the room to the bed and sat there, listening
intently for the sounds of Count Gustav's departure, and ready to rush
downstairs the instant he had gone.

There was no longer any need for me to stare vaguely out into the
garden.  I knew now that the watcher was there, and why he was there.
I had guessed the secret of that noisily opened window, of the loudly
spoken words, and the closed but unbolted casement.

The carriage went at last, after I had heard Count Gustav's voice in
the hall below speaking to some one who answered in a lower and
indistinct tone.

While the two were still speaking, I unlocked my door softly and crept
out to the head of the stairs; and even as the front door was shut by
James Perry and the carriage started, I ran down.

"Go in there at once, James, fasten the bolt of the big window, and if
the blind is up, draw it down.  Quick, at once," I told him, and
followed him into the room.

Karl was still lying on the couch.

"Leave the window open, you," he said.  "I like the air."

"I told him to shut it," I said, as I entered and James went out.  "I
can't stand the draught and can't bear the look of the dark."

He sat up when he heard my voice and stared at me.

"You afraid of the dark?  You?"

"Have you been lying on the couch all the time?" I asked.

"Yes, Gustav fooled me about and tried to make me get up, but I
wouldn't, but what has that to do with anything?  You do nothing but
bewilder me--and Gustav too, for that matter."

"It's time that some things were made clear," I replied.  "How did you
prevent them coming in search of me?"

"Very easily.  I told him Madame had gone to bed, ill--ill with temper,
because I was drunk, and swore I would do her some damage if she came
near me.  By the way, what _are_ you going to do?"

"I don't know.  I've succeeded already in the chief part of my purpose,
and am not ready yet for the next."

"What is your purpose?"

"I am going to tell you.  One thing was to prevent your marrying Madame
d'Artelle."

"You said that before when you wouldn't tell me the reason.  What is
the reason?"

"Because I know why the marriage was being forced."

"So do I--but it doesn't interest me.  Although I meant to make Madame
tell me many things."

"Probably I can tell you all you wish to know."

"Why do _you_ think I was to marry Madame d'Artelle?"

"To complete your ruin in the eyes of the country, to make you
impossible as your father's heir in the event of the plans of the
Patriots succeeding.  Such a _mésalliance_, added to the reputation for
dissoluteness and incapacity which you have made for yourself recently
would have completed your overthrow."

"You don't spare me," he said, slowly.

"There is no need.  I am speaking of--the past."

At the emphasis on the word his face brightened with almost eager
delight.  "What power you have to move me!" he exclaimed.  "Yes, it is
as you say--the past.  And why are you doing all this?"

"You remember what you said yesterday in the Stadtwalchen--that
probably I had a motive?  You were right.  I have."

"Tell me."

"Yes.  I came here to Pesth for a purpose which has become all in all
to me.  I looked round for the best means of accomplishing it.  First I
went to General von Erlanger--thinking to work through him.  Then I saw
and recognized the woman who was reputed to have so much influence over
you--Madame d'Artelle.  I knew I could get her into my power, and said
to myself 'I can save Count Karl from her;' and I went to her.  At her
house I learnt the rest; that the plan was to force you to one side in
favour of your brother.  I said to myself again: 'If I save him from
that scheme, he will have the power I need, and in common gratitude
will be impelled to help me.'  I had not seen you then."

He listened attentively, but his look grew gradually solemn and gloomy;
and he shrugged his shoulders as he answered: "I see.  You are like the
rest.  Timber to hew and water to fetch--for yourself.  Well?  What
difference could it make whether you had seen me or not?"

His manner nettled me.  Why, I know not: but I replied sharply: "Did
you think I was a philanthropist--with no other thought but to help
you?  Or that you were so weak and helpless that out of sheer pity a
stranger would be drawn to help you?"

He bent his head upon his hand and sighed dejectedly.  "Go on," he
murmured.  "If I'm disappointed, it hurts no one but myself."

"If I had seen you, I should not have attempted it.  Of that I am quite
sure."

"What a contemptible beast I must have seemed to you!  I suppose you
know how you're hurting me?  Perhaps you have another motive.  If I
had----" and he slid his fingers into his pockets as if in search of
his little phial.

"It's very brave, isn't it, to threaten me like that?" I said, curtly.

He drew his fingers out as though they had touched fire, and glanced up
hurriedly at me.

"You don't know what a coward it makes of a man," he sighed.  "You're
making it harder for me.  You're killing hope.  A dangerous experiment
with a patient like me.  There's only a very short bridge between me
and the past."

"A bridge you will never recross," I said, firmly.

He looked up and met my eyes.  "Not if you'll stand between it and me,
and help me a bit now and then.  I'm going to play my part--but you
mustn't kill my hopes, you know!"

"I shall help you all I can, because you cannot help me unless you do
play it."

He frowned.  "I'll play it, if it's only to help you.  What is it you
want?"

"A thing that may be very hard to do."

"I'll do it.  I swear that.  It will be an incentive to feel I can help
you.  It gives me a glimmer of hope again and strength, the mere
thought of it.  You don't know how I'd like to please you."

For a moment I was silent; and in the pause, my ears, which are very
quick, caught a sound which made my heart beat rapidly.  The faint
crunch of a footstep on the gravel outside the window.

He heard nothing, but saw the start I gave.  "Why did you start?"

"Nothing," I said, with an effort to keep my voice steady.  "I will
tell you what I want.  Years ago a great wrong was done to a very close
and dear relative of mine here in Pesth.  I came here to seek justice
for his name--for he was left to die in shameful exile, with the wrong
unrighted."

"I looked for anything but that; but I'd do more than that for you,
much more.  Who and what was he?"

He had no suspicion of the truth yet; and when I paused, he
misunderstood my hesitation.

"You don't doubt me?"

"No; but----"  I hesitated; and then there came another sound from
without.  A hand pushed the window frame; and this time Karl heard it.

"What was that?" he asked, and rose from the couch.

"The wind--nothing else."

"There's no wind," he said.  "I'll see."

I put myself between him and the window.  "No, don't open it.  I'll"--I
started and stopped abruptly.  I saw something lying on the sofa.

It was just a wisp of faded ribbon.  But it was the favour which he had
begged of me that night years ago in New York.  So he carried it with
him always.  The colour left my face and I caught my breath.

"You are ill?  What's the matter?  You're not frightened?"

I stretched out a hand and took it up quickly.  I was trembling now.
He tried to intercept me and to reach it first.

"You must give that to me, please," he said shortly, almost sternly.
"It is mine.  It must have fallen out when Gustav was trying to drag me
up."

"It is nothing but a wisp of ribbon," I replied, lightly.

"I'll give you anything but that," he declared, again sternly.

"No, I will have this.  I have a right to it."

He grew angry and his face took a look of such determination as I had
not seen on it before.  "No.  Not that--at any cost."  His voice was
hoarse, but his manner very firm.

Our eyes met.  His hard and stern; mine all but smiling.

"I tell you I have a right to it," I said.

"What do you mean?"

I paused.

"That it is mine."

He knew then.  His eyes opened wide and his hands clenched as he
stepped back a pace, still gazing full at me; and his voice was deep as
he answered--

"Then you--my God--you _are_ Christabel?"

"Yes.  I am Christabel von Dreschler--it is my father's name that has
to be cleared."

He made a step toward me, stretching out his arms.

"No, not while that stain remains--if ever."

He stood, his arms still partly outstretched, and gazing at me in
silence.

At that moment the pressure of a hand on the window was repeated, and
the frame was shaken.

He turned to it again.  "I must see what that means," he exclaimed.

"Not if you value your life, or believe that I do."

For a moment he challenged my look, but then yielded.

"As you will, of course--now; for all this is your doing;" and with a
smile and a sigh he let me have my way.



CHAPTER XVII

IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT

I had resolved what to do, and I lost no time.

"You are going to trust me in this and do what I wish?" I asked Karl.

"Yes, of course.  You have a right to no less.  But what does it mean?"

"You heard the noise at the window?"

"Yes."

"It was not the wind.  Some one was attempting to open it.  I am going
to find out who it is and why they are there."

"How?"

"By stratagem.  I wish you to go upstairs and remain there until I call
you."

"Why should I do that?" he asked, hesitating and perplexed.

"Because I ask you.  You will do it?"

"I don't like it--but if you insist, I promise."

"Before you go I wish you to lie on the couch there while my servant
comes here and does what I will tell him; and you will act as though
you were bidding him good-night--but as if you were still drugged."

"Hadn't you better tell me everything?"

"There is no time.  Will you do this?  Please."

He shrugged his shoulders and lay down on the couch.

I went out and called James Perry and instructed him what to do.

He went into the room, crossed to the window and stood there a moment
with his shadow showing plainly on the blind.  Then he pulled up the
blind, and turned as if in obedience to some order from Karl.  Next he
threw the large window open and stepped out on to the gravel, and stood
there long enough for any one who might be watching to have a full view
of the interior of the room.

"No, sir, it is not raining," he said, and came back through the window
making as if to close and fasten it.  He stopped in the act of doing
this, and partly opened it again, as if obeying orders from Karl.

"No, it's not cold, sir, but it will be draughty," he said.

Then with a shrug of the shoulders he left it open and turned away.
Taking a rug from one of the lounges he threw it over Karl, taking
pains to tuck it in carefully; and then stood back as if asking for any
further orders.

"Good-night, sir," he said, and crossing to the door, he switched out
the light.

Immediately this was done, I ran in again, hurried Karl out of the
room, laid a sofa pillow on the couch, and arranged the rug over it as
James had done.  Then I recrossed the room and waited, my fingers close
to the electric light switch, to see if the trap was laid cleverly
enough to deceive the man I was expecting.  I stood in a dark corner by
the door, partly concealed by a screen, where I could see the whole
room and all that occurred.

My eyes soon grew accustomed to the comparative darkness.  The moon was
shining brilliantly, and the slanting rays through one of the windows
fell right across one end of the couch on which Karl had been lying.
They revealed the lower half of what appeared to be the huddled figure
of the sleeper, the upper half being wrapped in deep shadow.

The house was all silent.  I had heard Karl go upstairs, James Perry
being with him; and had caught the latter's careful tread as he came
down again to the hall where I had told him to wait, in case I should
need and call him.

The night was very still.  I could see right out into the moonlit
garden, and as the window was partly open, could trust my ears to catch
the faintest sound.  But scarcely a leaf moved.  The dead stillness was
almost oppressive.

The suspense began to affect me soon.  I have not the slightest fear of
the dark; but as minute after minute passed and no result followed my
careful preparations, I began to think I had failed.  The net must have
been set too conspicuously; and so set in vain.

To pass the time I began to count my pulse beats.  One, two, three--to
a hundred.  Again one, two, three--to a second hundred; and a third, a
fourth and a fifth.  Then the counting became mechanical, and my
thoughts wandered away.  It became difficult to remain still.

An impulse seized me to cross the room to the window and look out, and
I had to fight hard to restrain it.

Then I caught a sound in the garden.  The rustling of a bush.  I held
my breath to listen.  There was no wind stirring to account for it.
Not a leaf of all those full in view moved.  It was a sign therefore
that the patience of some one beside myself had begun to give out.

I braced myself for what was to come, and in a second my wits were all
concentrated and every nerve in my body thrilled with expectation,
quickening to eager anxiety.

I had not long to wait.

There was another rustle of bushes, and a bird startled from its
roosting perch, flew chirping its alarm across the lawn.  The sharpness
of the noise made me start.

Another pause followed; then another sound--this time a slight grating
on the' gravel; almost immediately a head showed at the window pane;
and a man peered cautiously through the glass into the room.

I crouched closer into my hiding place as his face turned and the eyes
seemed to sweep in all directions to make sure that no one else was
there to see him.

Stealthily and silently his hand was stretched out, felt the heavy
frame, and pushed it open sufficiently to let him enter.  The window
gave a faint creak in opening; and he stood as still as death lest it
should have been heard.

I held my breath now in my excitement.  What was he going to do?  It
was Colonel Katona.  I could recognize him by the moonlight; and a
moment later his purpose was clear.

He changed something from his left hand to his right.  The glint of a
moonbeam on the barrel showed me it was a revolver.

I had read the signs aright.  He had been tricked into the belief that
Karl was the man who had betrayed Gareth, and had come now to do what
he had swore to me he would do to any man who harmed her--take his life.

He must surely have had some apparently overwhelming proof given him
before he would go to this desperate extreme; and I would know what
that proof was, before the night was much older.  Already I had a
strong suspicion.

These thoughts flashed through my mind in the moment that the Colonel
stood hesitating after the noise made by the creaking window; and the
instant he moved again, I had no eyes but for him, no thought except
for what he proposed to do.

His next act surprised me.  He closed the window softly behind him and
drew down the blind.  The noise was much greater than before, but he
paid less heed to it.  He pulled it down quickly, shutting out the
moonlight; but there was enough dim light through the blind for his
purpose.

I could just make out that he held the revolver ready for use as he
stepped to the couch and stretched out his hand to seize and wake the
sleeper.

I chose that moment to switch on the light and step forward.

He whipped round and levelled his weapon point blank at my head.

I had no fear that he would fire, however.  "Good-evening, Colonel
Katona," I said, in as even and firm a tone as I could command.  "That
is only a dummy figure which I put there.  I was expecting you."

He lowered the weapon and stared at me as though he could scarce credit
his eyes.

"You!"  It was all he could get out for the moment.

"Yes, of course, I.  Gareth's friend, you know.  You see, there is
nothing but a sofa pillow here with a rug over it;" and with a show of
unconcern, I pulled the rug away.

"You!" he said again, adding: "You who know my child's story.  If you
have tricked me in this, I will have your life as well."

"If I had tricked you, I should deserve nothing better.  You have not
been tricked by me, but by others.  You may put that revolver away; you
will not need it here."

"Why did you say you would send me the news you had promised, and then
send me that letter and tell me of this house where he was to be found,
and what was to be done here?  You are lying to me with your smooth
tongue," he burst out fiercely.  "You saw me come, or guessed I was
here, and you are lying to shield him--the villain who wronged Gareth
and would now wrong you."

"If you believe that, kill me.  I will not flinch, and you will live to
find out the horrible crime you would commit.  You will have murdered
one who saved and befriended Gareth in the hour of pressing need.  It
would be a fitting climax that you who helped to drive to a shameful
death your friend, Ernst von Dreschler, should now murder me, his
daughter."

"Ernst's child!  You, his daughter?" he murmured.

"Yes, I am Christabel von Dreschler."

So overwhelmed was he by the thoughts which my avowal caused that he
could do little but stare at me helplessly; until he sank down into a
chair, as though his strength failed him, and, laying the revolver on
the table, leaned his head upon his hands.

I thought it discreet to pick the weapon up and put it out of his
reach; and then sat down near him and waited while he recovered
self-possession.

His first question was a natural one.  "Where is Gareth?"

"Safe, and in my care."

"You can take me to her?"

"She is within an hour's drive; but there is a difficulty in the way.
She believes in the honour of--of her husband----"

"Husband?" he burst in eagerly.

"She believes him to be.  There was a ceremony of marriage; and
believing in him, she would not let me bring her to you, because he had
made her take an oath not to do so."

"The villain!" he exclaimed with intense passion.

"I fear that the reason is what you think."

"You know who he is?"  The hard eyes were fierce and gleaming as he
asked.

"I know who it is not," I answered.

"You know who it is, then?"

"You must not ask me.  I cannot tell you yet."

"You shall tell me."

"If you think you can force me, try;" and I faced him, with a look to
the full as resolute as his.

"Why won't you?"

"For Gareth's sake.  I am thinking of what, in your present desperate
mood, you cannot--her happiness."

"I am thinking of her honour."

"No.  You are thinking of murder, Colonel Katona.  You came here to do
it, believing that you knew who had betrayed her."

"He shall pay for it with his life."

"There may be a heavier penalty to exact than that."

"Show me that, and as there is a God it shall be exacted."

"I will show it you, but at my own time and in my own way.  No other."

"You are playing with me, and shielding the villain here."

"I am doing neither.  The man you seek is not Count Karl."

"You are lying," he cried again vehemently.  "See this;" and he drew
out a crumpled letter and thrust it toward me.

But I would not look at it and got up.  "If I am lying, there is no
longer need for you to speak to me of this.  If I am not lying, you are
a coward to insult me so, even in your passion.  Leave the house as you
came and probe this for yourself.  My servants are within call, if you
do not go."  I picked up his revolver and handed it to him.  "Here is
your weapon."

He made no attempt to touch it but looked up at me.  "You are a daring
girl," he muttered.

"Ernst von Dreschler's daughter does not lie, Colonel Katona," I
answered, with deliberate emphasis.

"Forgive me.  I spoke out of my mad misery.  I will not disbelieve you
again.  God knows, I am not myself to-night."

"You can trust me or not, as you please.  But if you trust me, it will
have to be absolutely.  I believe I can see a way through this trouble
which will be best for Gareth--best for all.  It is of Gareth I think
in this.  She would trust me."

"Let me go to her," he cried.

"Yes, but not yet.  It would not be best.  She is quite safe, and if
you will but have a little patience, I will bring you together and all
may be well with her."

"You talk to me of patience when every vein in my body runs with fire."

"I talk to you of Gareth's happiness, and how possibly to spare
her--the only way and that but a possible one," I answered, as I put
the letter he had offered me in my pocket.

He pressed his hand to his head.  "My God, I cannot be patient," he
cried, vehemently.

"You could show patience in the slow ruin of your friend, Colonel
Katona.  Must I remind you of that?  I am here to avenge that wrong,
and seek tardy justice for his name and mine.  You can help me to
avenge the wrong and do justice to him, dead though he is.  For the
sake of my dead father no less than for that of your child patience is
needed.  I will have my way and no other."

"What do you mean that I can avenge your wrong?"

"You hold the secret that can do all."

"What secret?"  And for all his wildness about Gareth and for all his
mad rage, my words had touched a secret thought which drove the colour
from his tawny face and brought a fear of me into his eyes--fear it
was, unmistakably.

"It is enough that I know it," I answered, so curtly and with such
concentration that he dropped his eyes as though I might read some
secret in them.

I would have given all I was worth to have known what was in his mind
at that instant.

In the pause that followed, I heard some one descending the stairs.  I
knew it must be Karl; and then a daring thought suggested itself.

"You must go, now; I will come to you."

He looked up at me searchingly and keenly, and rose slowly.

"I will go," he said.  "I shall see you to-morrow.  For God's sake."

"I will come to you.  You trust me?"

"I am getting afraid of you--but I trust you."

"I will put that trust to the test now.  Count Karl will go with you to
your house until to-morrow."

His eyes blazed for a moment.  "Do you mean----"

"If he had done you this wrong, should I propose it?"

"I don't understand you.  I can't."

"It must be as I say.  You will not even speak Gareth's name to him.
Remember--not her name even--until I see you to-morrow.  Your word of
honour on that."

"Yes.  I give you my word.  But all must be made clear to-morrow.  I
cannot wait."

"I will go and tell him," I said; and with that went out of the room
just in time to prevent Karl entering it.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE COST OF VICTORY

I led Karl into one of the other sitting-rooms.

"I am going to make an appeal to your generosity," I said.

"What has happened?  Who was outside the house?  What is the meaning of
all the mystery?  I was thinking myself mad up there and came down to
see."

"It is good that you care so much.  Two days ago you would have given a
shrug of your shoulders, a toss of the head, a lift of the eyebrows,
and with an easy smiling 'It doesn't matter,' have left any one else to
do the thinking.  Don't let your cigar go out; it probably helps you."
He was holding a long black cigar such as he had smoked so furiously in
the carriage.

"You have given me plenty to make me think," he answered.  "But what
has happened?"

"I told you--I am going to appeal to your generosity.  Not to ask me to
tell you everything, but just to accept my explanation."

"I was afraid it was something else."

"What?" I asked not thinking, and so falling into the trap.

"That you should keep what you have not yet returned; that little link
with the past--the ribbon favour, Christabel."  His eyes were very
gentle as he spoke my name.

For a moment I wavered, lowering my head; then taking courage to face
what must be faced by us both, I lifted my eyes and, firm in both look
and voice, answered him--"It must not be a link.  It is no more than a
relic.  There can be no connecting link with that old time for us two."

"You think that?  Perhaps; but I don't;" and he shook his head.  "You
are very strong, Christabel; but not strong enough for that--not strong
enough to change me, at least.  It's the only thing in life I care
about."

"It must be put aside," I declared.

"Your part is of course for you to decide; but mine is for me.  You
cannot take my share from me."

"I shall prevail with you.  I must.  You are going to take your
rightful position as your father's heir.  You know what is to happen
here when the Patriots gain their end.  You know what will be expected
of you then; and you have to think, not of yourself, not of any mere
personal desire, any smaller end, but of your country."

"'Mere personal desire,'" he repeated.  "Is that how you read it?"

"It is what your countrymen would call it--your countrymen, who will
look to you to do your duty.  They must not look in vain."

He made no reply but sat smoking, his brow gathered in deep furrows of
thought.

"There are two Count Karls," I continued.  "The one who years ago lived
a life which made men proud of him, and filled them with trust and
confidence in his power and vigour.  The real Karl; the man who at the
call of patriotism and the counsel of a friend, was even strong enough
to let himself be condemned in the eyes of the girl he cared for as
cowardly, selfish, and false.  That was the real Karl.  The other was
but an ignoble man; a purposeless parody of the real and true; and he,
I thank God, exists no longer.  But the noble Karl has to face again
to-day the same hard problem he solved so roughly and crudely years
ago.  With this difference however--the girl knows all now and will
help him."

The trouble in his face deepened and he shook his head slowly.  "No,
no.  I cannot."

"Yes, you must.  _We_ must, Karl.  We don't make our lives; we do but
live them."

"I cannot," he repeated, heaving a great sigh.

"We have no choice.  I have seen this throughout.  If I have helped
you--as I love to think I have--to tear aside the coils that were
binding you fast to the wheels of ruin, I have done it in full
knowledge of all this; of what must be; of what neither you nor I nor
we two together, if we were true to ourselves, could possibly prevent.
You must not, you shall not be false to your duty and your country."

"No, no.  It is too much to ask."

"In so far as I have helped you, I have a right to ask you.  I press
that right with all my power."

His face changed and with a glance of resistance, he answered, quickly:

"It may be easy since you do not care----"

"Karl!"  The cry stopped him.  His look changed again, and he tossed up
his hands and drooped his head.

"I am ashamed," he murmured.  "Heaven knows, I have not your strength."

"Don't make that mistake.  This is as hard for me as it can be for you.
Harder perhaps, for to a woman her heart thoughts must be always more
than to a man.  Our lives are so much emptier.  We need have no
concealment now.  When I first met you here, I thought--so little does
a woman know her heart--that the old feeling was dead; that the
long-nurtured resentment of the past had killed it.  I was hot against
you when you did not recognize me, and burned with indignation.  But I
did not know."

"Nor yesterday, when we spoke together?" he broke in, eagerly.

"Ah, yes, I began to know then, and to be glad.  Not glad with the joy
of expected happiness; but so glad that I had been wrong in the years
between.  But when, to-night, I found this"--and I took out the little
ribbon favour--"then indeed I knew all."

He held out his hand.  "Give it me."

"Better not, far better not.  We must be strong; and this can only be a
source of weakness.  We will face together that which must be faced and
destroy it."

"No," he cried, earnestly.  "No.  It is mine.  I will keep it.  Give it
me."

"Of what use is it?  A mere piece of tawdry faded ribbon when I have
given you all my heart."

"Christabel!"  His outstretched hand fell as he spoke.

I crossed to his chair and stood by him and laid my hand on his
shoulder, looking down into his face.  "You will be strong, Karl.  I
trust you to destroy it;" and I held it out to him.

Instead of taking it he seized my hand and pressed his lips upon it.
"If I lose you, I shall go back to what I was," he said, holding my
hand and looking up.

I shook my head and smiled.  "I have not so little faith in you as
that.  I, like your countrymen, appeal to the real Karl, and I know we
shall not appeal in vain.  You have a noble part to play in life, and
you will play it nobly as becomes you--and I shall watch you play it,
proud to think that I have helped you to be worthy of it and of
yourself."

"My God, I cannot give you up," he cried, desperately.  "I cannot go
back to the lonesomeness of those years.  You don't know what they have
been to me--desolate, empty, mournful, purposeless.  If you bring them
back to me after this, I--Christabel, you must not."

"Is that weakness worthy of you or of me?"

"You don't understand.  It was bad enough and black enough when my only
thought was that I had had your love and had wantonly killed it; that
was purgatory.  But now, meaning to do well, what have you done but
ill?  You have shown me happiness, only to shut the gates upon me and
drive me out into the black misery again.  If you love me, you will
never do that--you could not."

I went back to my seat.  "You make this very hard for me--for us both.
So much harder than it need be.  You had better go now, and leave this
where it is.  Yet I had hoped."

"Hoped what?"

"That I could help you to be strong enough to do the only right thing.
And you kill my hope by thinking only of yourself.  I would have had
you act from the higher motive; but if you will not, the fault is not
mine.  You force me to say what must be said.  Decide as you will, it
can make no difference.  I can never be to you what you wish: and what,
were things other than they are, I would wish with my whole heart.  But
I could have been your friend--and that you make impossible."

"Christabel!"

"I mean it.  I could never be the friend of a man who would set a woman
above his duty and his honour, even though that woman were myself.  I
thought so much better of you."

"You are hard and unjust to me," he cried.

"No no.  I am hard to myself, but only just to you.  But let it be as
you will."

He rose and began to pace the room.

"You had better go.  I have failed with you; and failing, must lose all
I had wished to win--my own purpose and all.  I shall not see you
again.  You have made it impossible.  I shall leave Pesth
to-morrow--with all my efforts failed."

"No," he burst out almost violently, stopping close and facing me.  "If
you go, you know how it will be with me."

I looked at him firmly, and after a pause said in a deliberate tone:
"If you cannot rise to the higher life, what matters to your country if
you fall to the lower.  And as with your country, so with me."

The words cut him till he winced as in pain, and dropped again into a
seat.

"Can you say that--to me?"

My heart was wrung at the sight of his anguish, but I would not let him
see it.  "You had better go--please," I said; for the silence became
intolerable.

He paid no heed to my words, but sat on and on in this attitude of
dejected despair; and when after the long silence he looked up his face
was grey with the struggle, so that I dared not look into his eyes for
fear my resolve would be broken and I should yield.  For firm as my
words had been, my heart was all aching and pleading to do what he
wished.

"You need not turn your eyes from me, Christabel," he said, a little
unsteady in tone.  "You have beaten me.  It shall be as you say;
although I would rather die than go back to the desert.  Pray God the
victory will cost you less than it costs me to yield."

I think he could read in my eyes what the cost was likely to be to me:
I am sure my heart was speaking through them in the moment while my
tongue could find no words.

"I knew you would be true to yourself," I said at length.

"No, anything but that.  No credit to me.  I only yield because to
resist means your abandonment of what you hold so dear.  That must not
be in any case."

"Whatever the reason, your decision is right.  Your country----"

"No, that has nothing to do with it.  Less than nothing, indeed.  You
and I must at least see the truth clearly.  I have no sympathy with the
Patriot movement.  I have never had.  That has always been the cause of
dispute with my family.  I hold it all to be a huge mistake and folly.
I am doing this for you--and you only.  Now, more than ever, I shall
hate the cause; for it has helped to rob me of--you."

I had no answer to that--indeed, what answer could I have made except
to pour out some of the feelings that filled my heart, and thus have
made things harder for us both.

He sat a moment, as if waiting for me to speak, then sighed wearily and
rose.  "I had better go now, as you said.  I suppose now you will let
me see you again."

"Of course.  To-morrow.  Meanwhile, until I do see you, I wish you to
go somewhere and not show yourself."

"All places are alike to me--again," he replied, with dreary
indifference.

"I wish you to go and stay with Colonel Katona, and stay in his house
until I send to you."

"Colonel Katona!  Is he here?  Why?"

"His daughter is my friend.  It was he who came to the window to-night,
seeking news of her."

"Has he a daughter?  I didn't know.  But why look for her here of all
places in the world?"

"I will tell you the story another time.  It is mixed up now with mine.
But I do not wish you to speak of her to her father."

"She is nothing to me; I can promise that easily enough."

I touched the bell, and told James Perry to have the carriage brought
at once to the door.

"When shall I see you?  To-morrow, really?  You know the danger."

"That danger is past," I said, firmly.

"You have more confidence in me than I have."

"After to-night I shall never falter in that confidence."

"I thank you for that, Christabel, I shall try;" and he smiled.  As he
withdrew his eyes they fell upon the wisp of ribbon lying on the table.
He picked it up, gazed at it, then raised it to his lips and laid it
again on the table.  "You still wish this to be destroyed?" he asked,
keeping his gaze averted.

Simple as were the words and the act, I could not find an answer on the
instant.  "It is best so," I murmured at length.

"Very well," and he turned away.  "You are always right.  Of course,
it's only--folly and--and weakness."

We heard the carriage drive to the door then.  He started and held out
his hand; then as if with a sudden thought, he said; "I had forgotten
about you.  I am so self-wrapped, you see.  What are you going to do?"

"I shall stay here to-night."

"Is it safe, do you think?"

"I have my servants here."

"Besides, you are so fearless yourself.  Good-night.  It is all so
strange.  I feel as if I should never see you again.  And I suppose in
a way that's true.  As things are to be in the future, it won't be you,
in one sense.  You said there were two Karls--and now there are to be
two Christabels.  That sounds like a bad joke, but it feels much more
like a sorry tragedy;" and he sighed heavily.

He went out then to the carriage, and I to fetch Colonel Katona to join
him.

When they had driven off I went back into the room and sat down feeling
dreary and anguish-sick.  I was tired out, I told myself; but no bodily
weariness could account for the ache in my heart.  I had succeeded in
all far beyond my expectations; had won my victory with Karl; I was
almost within sight of the goal which had seemed impossible of
attainment only a few days before.  I had every reason to rejoice and
be glad; and yet I laid my head on my arms on the table feeling more
desolate, sorrow-laden, and solitary than ever in all my life before.

My servant roused me.

"What is it, James?"

"Is there anything I can do for you, miss?  I knocked five times before
you heard me.  Can I get you something?"

"No, thank you, James.  I am only tired and am going to bed.  Stay up
until your father comes back with the carriage.  Then go to bed
yourself, but let him sit up for the rest of the night.  I shall sleep
more soundly if I know some one is watching.  You must be up early, as
I shall need you."

I yawned as if I were very sleepy--one has to keep one's end up, even
before one's servants--and bade him good-night.  I was turning from the
room when my eye chanced on the ribbon favour which Karl had left lying
there.

Fortunately James had left the room; for the sight of it struck all
thought of pretence out of my mind.  I was very silly; but it seemed in
an instant to rouse a vivid living consciousness of all that I had
voluntarily given up, and yet might have retained by a mere word.

I was only a girl then indeed; and the tears came rushing to my eyes
and set the little ribbon dancing and quivering and trembling in my
sight.

I dashed them away and, thrusting the little mocking token into my
bosom, I ran out of the room as hurriedly as though I were rushing to
escape from the sad thoughts of that other Christabel of whom Karl had
spoken.



CHAPTER XIX

A TRAGI-COMEDY

The following morning found me in a saner mood once more, and I lay for
an hour thinking and planning.

I hold that there are narcotics for mental pain just as for physical;
and if the mind is healthy and the will resolute, one can generally be
found.  I had to find one then.

I did not make the mistake of attempting to underrate my loss.  I knew
I had had to give up what I prized more than anything in life.  I loved
Karl with my whole heart; I knew indeed that I had never ceased to love
him.  The sweetest future which Fate could have offered me would have
been to pass life by his side as his wife.

But the pain of knowing that this was impossible was now mingled with
other emotions which tended to relieve it.  There is always a pleasure
in self-sacrifice, no matter how dear the thing renounced.  I found a
sort of subtle comfort now in the thought that I had been strong enough
to do the right thing; to put away from me firmly the delights I would
have given half my life to enjoy; to act from a higher motive than mere
personal desire.

The sense of self-denial was thus my mental narcotic; and I sought with
all my strength to dwell upon the intense gratification of the
knowledge that I had been instrumental in helping Karl at the crucial
crisis of his life.  His country had need of him; and that he would now
play his part manfully, would be in a degree my work.  That was my
consolation.

I could claim truthfully that no selfish motives had swayed me.  The
clearance of my father's good name had ceased now to be more than a
solemn duty to him.  The loss of Karl had rendered me indifferent to
any considerations merely personal to myself.

In regard to Gareth, too, my chief desire was to see justice done her.
Accident, or perhaps rather Fate, had put into my hands the weapons
with which to fight the man who was menacing both her and me; and I
could claim to have made no selfish use of them.  The thought of her
brought back with it the necessity to gather up the threads and carry
my purpose to success.  The end was not far off now.

I had first to anticipate what Count Gustav would do after the stroke
he had meant to deal the previous night.  I was convinced that he had
plotted nothing less than that Colonel Katona should kill Karl under
the belief that he had wronged Gareth.

I could follow the steps which had led to this.  When, at Madame
d'Artelle's, I had let Count Gustav see the Colonel alone, he had given
a false message that I would send the information.  Having thus
prepared him to expect news, he had written him in my name that the man
who had wronged Gareth was about to marry another woman, and had given
such details of the elopement as would enable the Colonel to witness it
and thus identify the man he sought.

This explained something that had puzzled me--why the pretence of the
elopement had been persisted in when my apparent departure had
destroyed the necessity for any such secrecy.  The elopement had become
a vital part of the subtle scheme to reveal Gareth's betrayer to her
father.

Then to give countenance to it all, Count Gustav had sent as if from me
the letter of Gareth's which the Colonel had brought with him and given
to me.  I read it now.  It was to Count von Ostelen, of course; and in
it Gareth poured out her tender heart to the husband she knew and
addressed as Karl.

It was a cunningly planned scheme; and had Madame d'Artelle really come
to the villa, it would almost certainly have succeeded.  But the
question now was--What would be Count Gustav's next move?

He would believe that Karl was dead--assassinated by the Colonel in his
frenzy.  That started another suggestion.  If murder had been done, all
in the house would have been implicated; and Count Gustav was quite
capable of using the deed for a further purpose.  He would have had the
Colonel arrested for the murder and so prevented from causing further
trouble; and he would also have got rid of Madame d'Artelle, the
accomplice he had used for his brother's undoing, by charging her with
complicity in the crime.  His path would then have been free indeed.

He had frightened me away from the city, as he believed; and if I ever
returned it would be only to find everything buried in that secrecy
which those in power and high places know how to secure.

What would he do when he came to the house and found me there alone and
helpless to resist him?  I could not doubt for an instant.  I should be
arrested on some charge and shut up until I disclosed to him Gareth's
whereabouts and everything I knew of the matter.

I would act on that presumption--except that I would force his hand in
one direction and safeguard myself in another.

I rose and dressed myself hurriedly.  I knew Madame d'Artelle's
handwriting, and with great pains I imitated it as closely as I could
in a brief, but to him very significant note.


"For Heaven's sake come here at once.  A terrible thing has happened.
I am beside myself with horror.

"HENRIETTE D'ARTELLE."


The writer's distracted state of mind would account for any
discrepancies in the handwriting; and I succeeded at the third or
fourth attempt in producing something like a resemblance to her
signature.

This letter I sent by James Perry; and with it another to General von
Erlanger.

I gave him the address, "Unter den Linden," and wrote:--


"I shall probably be in great danger here at about eleven o'clock this
morning.  Will you be near this house at that time so that at need the
servant who brings this may find you and bring you to me.  You will
please know nothing except that you have been asked to come to your
former governess who is in trouble.

"Your friend who trusts in you,
    "CHRISTABEL VON DRESCHLER."


I told James to get an answer from his Excellency; and despatched him
upon his errand at an hour which I calculated would bring Count Gustav
to the house by about ten o'clock.  I allowed an hour for the interview
to reach the crisis to which I intended to work.

In the meanwhile, I told the elder Perry to drive to my own house and
ascertain that all was well with Gareth.

Then I went into the room in which Colonel Katona had been and pulled
down the blinds, closed the shutters and drew the curtains so that it
should be as dark as possible; and coming out locked the door behind me
and put the key in my pocket.

Having thus set matters in train I sat down and made an excellent
breakfast, anticipating considerable enjoyment from the little comedy I
had designed.

I was going to fool Count Gustav and then anger and mystify him.  He
was, I knew, a dangerous person to play tricks with; but I had no cause
to be afraid of him.  I was quite prepared to be arrested, and I wished
to lull his suspicions and foster his over-confidence.

Thinking things over, another point occurred to me.  If the two Perrys
remained in the house, they would be arrested with me.  Therefore, when
the father returned with the good news that all was well with Gareth, I
sent him home at once and told him not to come back.

James Perry arrived just before ten o'clock.  He brought me a very
satisfactory assurance that the General would do just as I asked; and
said that the Count Gustav had told him he would come to the house
immediately.

"Now, James, things are going to happen here this morning," I said,
explaining an idea which had occurred to me.  "I shall probably be
arrested, and you will share that arrest if you are in the house.  You
are a very shrewd, quick-witted fellow, and you must manage not to be
seen, but to remain near enough to the front of the house to hear a
window broken.  I may not be able to show myself at the window and
signal to you; but I am sure to be able to manage to throw something
through the window; and the moment you hear the crash of the glass, you
are to fetch General von Erlanger to me, and then hurry off to my
house."

I calculated that it would be a very simple matter for me to pretend to
fly into a passion at the moment of any crisis, and to so work myself
up that it would seem a natural enough thing for me to hurl something
solid at Gustav and, missing him, to break the window.  Hooked round
for a suitable missile, and selected a very solid glass ink bottle.

Count Gustav kept his word and arrived a few minutes after I had sent
James Perry away.  I had left the front door partly open, so that he
might not have to ask for Madame d'Artelle; and he walked right in,
tried the door of the room I had locked, and then entered that where I
was waiting for him.

His surprise at seeing me was complete.  Had I been a ghost, he could
not have stared at me in greater amazement.

"Good-morning, Count Gustav, I am glad you have come."

"Where is Madame d'Artelle?" he asked, very sharply.

"It is scant courtesy not to return my greeting.  You are probably so
surprised as to forget your manners.  You had better find her for
yourself," and affecting irritation, I turned away and picked up a book.

"Good-morning, Miss--what name shall I use now?" he replied with a
sneer.

"You may use either Gilmore or von Dreschler as you please.  Names are
of small account after what has happened here."

"Where is Madame d'Artelle?"

"She has done that which might be expected of her in a crisis like
this--run away.  She is probably across the frontier now."

"But I have just had a letter from her begging me to come here at once;
written evidently in great agitation."

"There are enough hours in a night to allow of many short letters being
written.  She was intensely agitated when she fled!"

"_You_ seem to be cool enough."

"My nerves are of a different order from hers.  Besides, _I_ have
nothing to fear in all this."

"How is it that you are here at all?"

"I am not Madame d'Artelle, and therefore not accountable for my
actions or movements to you."

"You left Pesth yesterday--when did you return?"

"If you consult a time table you can see at what hours the trains reach
the city, and can judge for yourself which I was likely to be in."

"You can answer me or not, as you please," he said angrily; "but you
will have to account for your presence here."

"Why?" and I looked at him meaningly.  He passed the question off with
a shrug of the shoulders.

"That is your first mistake, Count Gustav.  You must keep your temper
better than that, or it will betray you."

He affected to laugh; but there was no laughter in his eyes.

"Well, if Madame was only fooling me with her letter I suppose I may as
well go again," he said lightly.

"You know that you have no thought of going.  Why are you afraid to put
the questions which are so close to your lips?"

I was getting my thrusts well home each time, and was goading him to
anger, as well as starting his fears of me.

"Why was that letter written?"

"Because of what has happened here."

"What has happened?"

"Yes, that is one of the questions.  I can tell you."  I paused and
added slowly: "The man you sent here came to do the work you planned."

He bit his lip hard, and his hands gripped the back of the chair behind
which he stood.  "You delight in mysteries, I know," he sneered.

"Your sneer does not hide the effect of my news, Count Gustav.  You
know there is no mystery in that for you--and there is none for me.
Put your second question."

"What do you mean?  I don't understand you."

"That is not true.  You want to ask me where your brother is."

"I'll ask that or any other if you wish," he replied, attempting a
jaunty, indifferent air.  "Where is he?"

"God have more mercy on you than you had on him.  You have already seen
the answer to your question in the drawn blinds of the room where you
last saw him alive."

Strive as he would he could not but shrink under my words and tone.
His fingers strained on the chair back, his breath laboured, his colour
fled, and his eyes--those hardy, laughing, dare-devil eyes--fell before
my gaze.  He had to pause and moisten his lips before he could reply.

"If you mean that any harm has come to him," he said, speaking at first
with difficulty and hesitation, but gathering firmness as he proceeded;
"there will be a heavy reckoning for some one.  Who is in the house
beside you?"  He did not dare to look up yet.

"You coward!" I cried, with all the contempt I felt.

This stung him to fury.  "If you have had a hand in this and seek to
shield yourself by abusing me, it will not help you.  I tell you that."

"Seek to shield myself!  I should not stoop to seek so paltry a shield
as you could be, whether you were white with fear or flushed with
selfish purpose.  I do not need a shield.  I know the truth, Count
Gustav.  I know all your part in it, from your motive to the final
consummation of your treacherous plan.  And what I know to-day, all
Austria, all the world, shall know to-morrow."

That was enough.  He looked up then, his eyes full of hate of me.  I
saw his purpose take life and shape in his thoughts.  If with safety to
himself, he could have struck me down as I stood facing him, he would
have done it; but he had what he believed a safer plan in his mind.  To
have me imprisoned and the secret buried with me.

His new purpose gave him clearer directness of thought at once, and he
began to work toward it cunningly.  "I can understand and let pass your
wild sayings at such a moment, Miss Gilmore.  Such a thing as this has,
of course, unstrung you..."

"Oh, it is to be a madhouse, is it," I broke in, interpreting for him
his secret thought.  "I had expected only a prison.  You cannot do it,
Count Gustav.  I am prepared."

But my jeer did not move him.  The force of his first surprise was
spent, and he was now close set upon the use he intended to make of my
presence.  He knew the peril which my threat held for him.

"It is singular under the circumstances that you regard yourself in
danger of imprisonment, Miss Gilmore; I hope not significant.  If you
would like to offer any explanation, it is of course open to you to do
so."

"I think it probable that there will be an explanation before you
leave, Count Gustav; but what in particular should I explain now?"

"We shall require one of--what you say has happened here.  Who is in
the house?"

"Myself and the servants."

"The manservant was sent away and his place taken by another.  By whose
orders?"

"Mine."

"I shall need to see him."

"Like Madame d'Artelle, he has gone."

"He was here last night?"

"Certainly."

He shrugged his shoulders.  The answer suited him admirably.  "He was
in your employ," he said, drily.

"I have nothing to conceal," I replied, putting as much doggedness into
my manner as a guilty person might have used at the first glimpse of
the net closing round him.

"It is a very grave case."

"I can see that--but I know who did what was done as well as who
instigated it."

"You were a witness of it, you mean?"

"Of course I mean nothing of the kind.  I did not see the blow struck;
but I was not asleep at the time; and the instant the alarm was given I
was on the spot, and I can identify all concerned."

"Who do you say struck the blow?"

"I did not say.  But you know perfectly well the man you sent here to
strike it.  And so do I."

"You actually charge me with being concerned in having my own brother
assassinated?" he cried with well assumed indignation.  "It is
infamous!"

"Infamous, of course--but true."

"I mean such a charge, madam," he declared, sternly.  "I will speak no
further with you.  You will of course remain here until the agents of
the police arrive."

"I have no wish to leave.  I tell you I am innocent."

"You at least are found here alone; you admit having fled from the city
yesterday and returned surreptitiously; you brought your own man here
and sent my brother's away; you have a motive strong enough to account
for all in your resentment of my brother's treatment of you; and you
seek to put the foulness upon me with an elaborate story that you know
the man who did this to have been brought here by me."

"It has a very ugly look, I admit--but there is a flaw in it, none the
less."

"That is for others to investigate, madam.  I will go to the room.  It
is locked.  Where is the key?"

I took it from my pocket and handed it to him.

"Another significant fact," he said, as we went out of the room and
crossed the hall.  "I will go in alone."

"No, I have a right to be present."

"It is most unseemly; as unseemly as your smile.  My poor Karl."  He
spoke as if he were genuinely dismayed at the blow, sighed deeply,
paused to brace himself for the task, and then entered.

The room was gloomy enough to make it impossible to see anything
clearly; but I had arranged the sofa pillow on the couch and covered it
with the rug.

He was really affected; although not in the way he intended me to
believe.  He crossed slowly to the couch and stood by it, as if lacking
courage to turn back the rug.

I went to the window and drawing the curtain let the blind up and the
sunlight in.

He was now very pale, and his hands twitched restlessly.

"You do not dare to look on the brother whose murder you planned," I
said, with cold distinctness.

"How dare you say that, at such a time, madam," he cried fiercely; and
taking the rug he turned it back gently.

I laughed.

The laugh so enraged him that he tore off the rug and swore a deep,
heavy oath.

"What does this mean?"

"That I think we may pull up the rest of the blinds and open the
windows and let the fresh air in;" and with another laugh I did as I
said.

I turned to find him overcome by the sudden reaction from the strain
and the new problem I had set.  He was sitting on the couch with his
face buried in his hands.



CHAPTER XX

MY ARREST

I stepped out into the sunlight glad of the fresh air in contrast to
the dismal closeness of the room.  I was quite willing to give Count
Gustav a few minutes in which to puzzle over the reasons for the trick
I had played him.

He would be quite sure that I had some deep purpose in it all.  You can
always gamble on it that cunning people will credit you with cunning;
and I had said enough to him to cause him profound uneasiness.

It took him longer than I had expected to decide upon his next step;
for I had already anticipated what that step would be.  He would go
through with the plan of having me arrested.  I was certain of that;
because it was the only means, short of murdering me, by which he could
ensure my silence.

But the pretext for the arrest was now so flimsy that in making it he
would have many difficulties to face--especially when I brought General
von Erlanger on to the scene of action.  But before I did that, I had
some very pointed things to say.

I was perfectly easy in mind now as to the result of the trouble.  I
was going to win.  I felt it.  I could afford to be confident; and I
took great care that he should see this for himself.

I knew presently that he was watching me closely, so I began to sing
light-heartedly.  I flitted about from bush to bush and gathered a
little bouquet of flowers; and spent some minutes in arranging them,
holding them at a distance and viewing them critically with my head on
one side--for all the world as though their arrangement were just the
one thing that fully engrossed my thoughts.

Then I carried them into the room and touched the bell, telling the
woman who answered it to bring me some water; and as I placed them in a
vase I said, as if to myself, and with a nonchalant laugh: "They will
brighten up my cell wonderfully."

The little prick of the words irritated him and he scowled.

"I am surprised people call you Gustav of the laughing eyes," I
bantered.  "You are very handsome, of course, but I have never heard
you laugh really gaily."

He forgot sufficiently to swear; and I pretended to be greatly shocked.
"I hope you are not going to be violent; but I thought it just as well
you should know there is a woman in the house, and that she should see
you.  Have you got over your disappointment yet--or do you think the
body is in the sofa pillow?"

It was aggravating of course; the truth, flippantly suggested,
frequently is; and he was in that mood when small jibes galled.

"You are right in the suggestion--I am thinking what may have been done
with my brother's body."

He thought this would scare and frighten me but I only laughed.  "No
you are not.  You are thinking only how you can connect me with what
didn't occur?"

"Where is my brother?"

"Didn't I tell you that Madame d'Artelle fled last night; and did I say
she went alone?"

"I don't believe you," he growled, sullenly.

"'Of the laughing eyes,' indeed," I cried, with a shrug.  "Your
laughter seems to be dead, even if your brother is alive--perhaps it is
because of that."

He very nearly swore again; but he was recovering his wits, if not his
temper, and managed to sneer instead.

"The oath would have been more natural," I said, promptly.  "But since
you are shaking off some of your chagrin, you may be ready to listen to
me.  I have something to say--to propose."

"I ought not to listen to you."

"There is time--until the police come, at any rate.  I will confess to
one crime--forgery.  I wrote that letter to you in Madame d'Artelle's
name.  I wished to bring you here at once; and I prepared, carefully,
this little stage effect for your benefit.  Shall I tell you why?"

He waved his hand to imply indifference.

"No, you are not indifferent, Count Gustav.  I wished you to understand
how really dangerous I am to you--as well as to witness your brotherly
grief at seeing Count Karl's dead body"--and I touched the sofa pillow.

He was able to smile now with less effort, and his lip curled
contemptuously.

"I am dangerous--although I can jest.  Your brother is safe, quite
safe, where you will not think to look for him.  I knew what you
purposed to do, and I alone prevented it.  You don't believe me.  I
will give you proofs.  Two days ago when we were at Madame's house you
went to Colonel Katona to tell him I was too indisposed to see him, and
you came and told me you had said that.  You did not say that.  On the
contrary you told him I would send him the information he needed of the
identity of the man who had wronged Gareth."

"It is an easy tale," he said, with a shrug.

"Yes, easier than you frequently find it to tell the truth.  You
yourself sent in my name the proofs which the Colonel needed--one of
the letters which Gareth--little, trusting Gareth,--had written to you,
believing you to be your brother--Karl, Count von Ostelen."

"It is false."

"I have the letter;" and I held it up before him.

I got right home with that blow, and all the malignant cruelty in him
was expressed in his eyes as he made a quick but futile attempt to
snatch it from me.

"It is only another of your forgeries," he said.

"Gareth will not deny it;" and at that he winced.  "You did not name
your brother--that was too open a course for you--but you told Colonel
Katona that the man was going to run away with another woman; and you
named the hour and the place where he might be seen--last night in the
Radialstrasse at nine o'clock--and that they were coming to this
house--'Unter den Linden.'  Do you still say it is false?"

He made no reply, but sat with a scowl tugging at his long fair
moustache.

"When you led your brother to the carriage last night, you looked about
you to make sure that the Colonel was there; and as the carriage
started, he spoke to you and asked if the man he had seen you put in
the carriage was indeed your brother Karl."

He shrugged his shoulders again.  "You may as well go on."

"I am going on.  Fearing lest, even at the last moment, the plan should
miscarry, you came here yourself; and yourself, finding your brother
lying nearly unconscious on the couch, opened the window so that the
watcher in the garden might see where his helpless victim lay; and
then--you left the window open to make his entrance easy and certain."

"You tell a story well," he said, when I paused.  "I told you once
before you should write plays.  You have admirable imagination."  He
was quite himself again now.  He spoke lightly, lit a cigar, and took a
couple of turns across the room.

"It appears to have interested you."

"Naturally.  I suppose now I can pick up the rest from what you said
before?"

"Yes.  The sofa pillow has done duty before."

"A very likely tale, of course--and your witnesses?"

"No one knows all this except myself."

"Very fortunate--for them, if not perhaps for you."

"There is nothing fortunate or unfortunate in it.  It is the result of
my intention.  I alone hold the secret, and can make terms with you for
keeping it."

"I had scarcely dared to hope that.  What are your terms?"  He put the
question in a bantering tone.

"Last time I mentioned three conditions.  Two of them are pointless
now, because Madame d'Artelle has fled and your brother is aware of
your--shall I term it, policy?"

"I am not much concerned at your phrases," he snapped.

"These are no mere phrases.  The third condition stands--you must make
Gareth your wife, legally."

"Well?"

"And the fresh condition is that the mystery of my father's ruin is
cleared at once, and justice done to his name."

"And if I refuse, I suppose you are going to bring all these trumped-up
charges against me.  It is almost laughable."

"I do not think many people will see much humour in it."

"Possibly not--but then they may never have an opportunity of hearing
the story.  You have been very clever--I pay you that compliment--but
you have also been very foolish.  You should have made sure that there
was more than your word for all this."

I gave a little half-nervous start, as though I realized my mistake,
and then said, quickly: "I have evidence--this letter of Gareth's."

"You will not have it long, Miss von Dreschler.  I could almost be
sorry for you; in fact I sympathize with you deeply.  Your belief in
the imaginary story of your father's wrongs has, I fear, preyed upon
your nerves until they have broken down.  He deserved his fate, as the
murderer of the young Count Stephen; and now you come here to threaten
first my brother and then myself.  As the daughter of such a man, it
was perhaps to be expected; but it is quite sad."

"Are you not forgetting what you said when we last spoke of the
subject?"

"Oh, no, not in the least.  I said then that I would do my utmost to
help you--knowing of course that no help in such a matter could be
given.  The truth can only be the truth; but I hoped that time and
thought and kindness would lead you to see your delusion.  I fear I was
wrong."

I would have laughed, had I not known that I had now to show signs of
nervousness.

"And Gareth?"

"You appear to have hidden that poor girl; but she will of course be
found and then she too must be convinced of your unfortunate delusions."

"And will no appeal to your chivalry avail to make you do justice to
her?  You said you cared for her."

"I was anxious, and I think, rightly anxious, to soothe what I saw was
a cause of serious and therefore dangerous excitement in you.  She also
has misled you; no doubt inadvertently; and your prejudices against my
family have warped your judgment until you are really incapable of
seeing anything but what is black in me.  I am truly distressed for
you, believe me."  His assumption of pity was almost too much for my
sense of humour.

"If by black you mean dishonour and cowardly treachery, I agree.  I
think you are one of the vilest men that ever lived."

He smiled blandly and spread out his hands.  "I am afraid you do; it is
very painful.  Happily, others know me better."

I heard a carriage drive up rapidly, and understood that the crisis had
come with it.  I glanced at the clock.  It was a quarter past eleven.
I had timed matters aptly.

I rose, my hand on the inkstand which I had kept all the time in
readiness.

"So far as we are concerned now and here, Count Gustav, there is no
more to be said.  I will take my story to those who will know how to
investigate it."

"I am deeply sorry, but you cannot be allowed to leave the house.
Those are the agents of the police."

Footsteps and men's voices were in the hall.

"They dare not keep me here!"

"While your delusions remain, I fear they will not let you go.  But if
you give me that letter, I will do what I can for you."

"If I could believe you," I cried with agitation; and I took another
paper from my pocket.

"I should like to be your friend, and will," he said, hurriedly.

I gave him the false letter, and cried, "I can escape this way.  Detain
them here."

I ran towards the window, tripped intentionally, and half-falling flung
the inkstand through the glass.

"Stop," cried Gustav, in a loud voice.  "This is not what I want."

The crash of the glass brought the men into the room, and one of them
ran and placed himself between the window and me.

Glancing out, I saw James Perry pass the house, running at full speed.
My ruse had succeeded.  The signal had been heard, although Gustav
suspected nothing, and all I had now to do was to waste a little time
while I waited for his Excellency.

I took advantage of my apparent fall to thrust Gareth's letter into my
bosom.  Brutal as the police might be, they still had women searched by
women; and my one piece of tangible evidence was safe for the time.

I got up, holding my handkerchief to my hand, as though I had cut it in
falling, and sitting down breathed hard, as one does in pain or
agitation.

"This lady attempted to escape by the window, Lieutenant Varga, and has
apparently hurt herself in consequence," said Count Gustav, to the man
who was seemingly in charge of the party.

It was best for me of course to say nothing; so I just gripped my hand
and swayed backwards and forwards in imaginary pain.

"It is a case for us then, Excellency?" asked the man.

"Let your men see that this lady does not leave the room, and I will
explain the matter to you as we go over the house."

Nothing could have suited me better.  The two left the room, and I
threw myself on the couch.  I did not care thirty cents what story he
concocted.

They were absent a few minutes, and the official returned alone,
bringing my hat and cloak.

"I shall have to ask you to accompany us, madam," he said, with some
touch of pity in his tone.  "I have no doubt all can be explained.  But
you have a letter I must ask you to give me."

"I shall not give it you.  And I shall not go with you."

"You will only make my duty more painful by refusing."

"I can't help that."

He signed to his men, and as they came and stood by the couch I heard
another carriage drive up to the door.

"On second thoughts, I will go with you," I said, and got up.

"I am obliged to you," was the reply, with a grave bow.  He waited
while I put on my hat.  I was really listening for General von
Erlanger's voice.  I heard it at length.

"I am ready," I declared; and he opened the door, only to start back in
surprise and to draw himself up stiffly as his Excellency entered.

"What is this?"

"Ah, I am glad your Excellency has arrived in time to see me being
arrested as a lunatic," I said, sweetly, as I put my hand in his.
"Good-bye."

The General gave me first a grim smile, and then glanced round at the
police officials.

Count Gustav, not knowing who had arrived, came in then, and the
General turned to him slowly, but with instant appreciation of the
position.

It was indeed a very interesting situation; and Count Gustav looked
exceedingly uncomfortable.



CHAPTER XXI

HIS EXCELLENCY TO THE RESCUE

I have said somewhere that I did not take General von Erlanger's
importance at his own estimate of it; but what occurred that morning
might well have induced me to reconsider that opinion.  Certainly none
of those present in the room shared it.  They all, including Count
Gustav himself, stood in considerable awe of him.

A slight wave of the hand sent Lieutenant Varga and his men out of the
room; and until they had gone and the door closed behind them, not
another word was spoken.

I threw my cloak over the back of a chair, sat down, and began to study
Count Gustav's face.  He stood leaning against a cabinet, alternately
frowning and smiling as he strove to think what line to take.

"Miss von Dreschler is of course my friend."  This use of my name
chased the smiles away.  "I know her to be anything but a lunatic--she
is saner than a good many of us, indeed--so that I am sure you would
wish to explain this, Count."

"You know her by that name, then?"

"Oh, yes.  I know her history."

"Do you know what has occurred in this house?"

"She will tell me in a moment if I ask her."

"Certainly, I will--if Count Gustav desires it," I chimed in.

"She has preferred a very odious accusation against me, General, and
has shown such a strange prejudice, as the result of certain delusions
she entertains, that I deem it necessary for the state of her mind to
be inquired into."

"What is the accusation?"

"Nothing less than that I have endeavoured to compass the death of my
brother."

"Yes, that is grave enough and odious enough.  To whom has the
accusation been made?"

"To me, so far; but she threatens to make it public."

"Surely you do not take such a thing seriously.  What could you have to
fear from such a charge?"  Cleverly said; as though the whole thing
were just a monstrous absurdity.

"Nothing, of course; but----" he finished with a gesture to imply that
such conduct could not be tolerated by an honourable person like
himself.

"Surely you would not wish to shut up a lady in a lunatic asylum for
fear she might utter impossible charges against you."

"I believe her to be insane--on that point, of course; however
reasonable and clever she may be in other respects."

"My dear Count Gustav, can't you see the extraordinary unwisdom of what
you proposed to do?  Why, the first effect would be to make every one
who heard the charge believe there was some ground for it, and that she
was shut away because you were afraid to face the thing.  Your high
position, your well-known probity, and your acknowledged and admired
honour and love of justice render you able to laugh at such a thing.
It would fly off from you like a pebble flung at an ironclad and leave
no more injury."

Very astute and extremely diplomatic.  I had certainly done his
Excellency much less than justice.  He was making it impossible for my
adversary to go any further; and at the same time showing his own
admiration of the Count's qualities and his regard for the ducal family.

Count Gustav found himself very awkwardly placed.  "That is no doubt
true, but I cannot take the same lenient view of the matter.  Such
things are apt to do much harm in the present disturbed state of public
feeling."

"Well, my loyalty to your father, the Duke, and your family are too
well-known to be questioned, I hope; and of course, if the matter is
pressed, we must do what you wish--have the thing threshed out to the
last straw, and the truth proved even to my very wilful young friend
here.  I have too much faith in her powers of sound judgment to believe
for an instant that she would not accept the proofs of truth and
appreciate them."

"I wish no more than a full investigation," I agreed; my admiration of
his diplomacy mounting.  "I may have spoken in haste and may be
entirely wrong; and I hope I know how to retire from an impossible
position and to withdraw any mistaken statements."

It was admirable comedy.  But Count Gustav did not admire it.  He saw
himself drifting nearer the rapids.

"Do you think you could ask for more than that, Count?" asked the
General, blandly.

But the Count stiffened his back.  "I have chosen my course and, with
all deference to your Excellency, I shall persevere in it.  This lady
is not to be trusted to be at large."

The General turned to me with an apologetic air.  "I am afraid under
these circumstances, Miss von Dreschler, I can do no more for you.  You
will understand that a member of the Duke's family speaks with great
influence and power.  Let me appeal to you to withdraw these charges
now and let the matter end at once."

"No," broke in my adversary.  "It has gone too far to end here and
now."  The General's words had given him confidence.

"Your Excellency sees that a withdrawal would be useless," I exclaimed,
with a shrug.  "It is not that which Count Gustav desires.  It is to
shut me up so that I may have no chance of repeating elsewhere what I
have said to him.  He shrinks from any real investigation."

"Oh."  His Excellency was quite pained as he uttered the protest.
"Please, please, be careful what you say.  There is no such thought in
Count Gustav's mind.  Everything you wish to say, every charge you
mistakenly bring, shall be disproved to your entire satisfaction.  You
are maligning the most honourable man in Pesth, a member of the most
illustrious family.  Of course there shall be investigation.  Is it not
so, Count?"

"I have stated the course I intend to pursue," was the dogged reply.

"Do you wish Varga to deal with the matter?"

"Yes.  I have explained it to him."

His Excellency threw up his hands and shook his head.  "Dear, dear, I
could almost wish I had not answered your letter so promptly, Miss von
Dreschler.  It is a very distressing matter."

"Oh, she sent for you?" exclaimed the Count, angrily.

"Yes, indeed.  Scarcely the act of a lunatic, of course.  It was very
clever indeed, for it forces the thing to my knowledge.  You see,
Count, there is another very serious obstacle in your path.  Miss von
Dreschler is an American citizen--and you know what the Americans are
when you twitch only a feather of the big bird.  The eagle has a very
loud cry, monstrously sharp eyes, and talons that dig deep in
unearthing things."

I vowed to myself I would never again doubt his Excellency's shrewdness
or his importance.  I could have kissed him for the way he played that
beautiful check-mate.

The Count was entirely nonplussed for the moment.  He could only frown
and repeat; "I have chosen my course, and even you cannot stop me,
General."

"My dear young Count, you are making things exceedingly awkward.  You
see the affair is known to me officially; and that is everything.  You
are too young to appreciate all that this means; but when you are my
age and have had my experience, you will see such a thing as I see it."

"I shall of course appeal at once to the United States Consul," I said,
quick to take the cue thus indicated.

"You hear that.  I was sure of it.  No, believe me, Count, this is a
matter to be settled in a very different way.  You must not act in a
hurry.  I tell you what we must do.  We must all have time to think
things over; and to afford the necessary opportunity I will take Miss
von Dreschler to my house until to-morrow; and if you will come there,
say at noon, we shall no doubt have found a way out."

But this would not suit Count Gustav, I knew; and he held on to his
resolve to pursue the course he had chosen.

"My dear Count, I know how your father would act in such a case.  We
really cannot run the risk of making it a cause of international
complication.  If you will not accept my suggestion all I can do is to
send word to the American Consul and let him have the custody of this
young lady.  The people at the Consulate will then of course go fully
into the affair, everything will be made public, and heaven knows what
trouble will come out of it.  But it would simply ruin me at Vienna if
I were to consent to your wish.  It is only a matter of a few hours.
Miss von Dreschler will no doubt consent to do nothing for that time;
and meanwhile, if you wish it, you and I can go to the Duke."

"There is another way," said the Count, suddenly.  "We will go at once
to my father and lay the matter before him.  He can decide what should
be done, and take any responsibility off your shoulders, General."

It was a shrewd move, but the check was obvious.  "I agree to that
readily, with but one condition--the American Consul must be present to
protect me."

His Excellency gave me a quick glance of appreciation.  "Oh, yes, of
course.  The Count will not object to that."

"But I do object.  We want no more in this than there are at present."

"Then as an American citizen I claim my rights and the protection of my
flag."

"Will you remain here a few minutes?" asked the General; and he led the
Count out of the room.  They were absent nearly half an hour, and then
his Excellency returned alone.

"I have prevailed upon the Count to take my view of what should be
done; and if you will give me your word to say nothing of these matters
until twelve o'clock to-morrow, you will come with me to my house and
remain there until then."

"Then we shall have another game of chess much sooner than we
anticipated, your Excellency," I said lightly.

"You play too much chess, young lady, and far too daring a game.  I may
give him your word?"

"Oh, yes.  I have done all I wished here and am ready to go."

"You'll make no effort to escape?" he asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
"You are to be a prisoner, you know."

I nodded and laughed, and a few minutes later he handed me into his
carriage to drive back to the city.

He was more disposed to think than to talk during the drive, and
several times I caught a furtive smile flitting over his face and
drawing down the corners of his mouth.

"I'm afraid I have a dangerous prisoner.  You have already given me one
awkward corner to turn this morning; and I see others ahead."

"I never knew what diplomacy meant until this morning," I replied; "and
the cleverness of it quite fascinated me."

"Diplomacy often consists in helping a friend to do what he doesn't
wish to do," he said sententiously.

"I suppose, by the way, I am only a prisoner on parole?"

"If you take my advice you will not stir out of my house until we have
had the meeting to-morrow."

"Why not?"

"I cannot talk easily in a carriage," he answered, with a glance which
I understood to mean that he had strong reasons he preferred not to
explain.

I said no more until we reached his house and he took me into his
library.

"I cannot give you more than one minute, and therefore cannot wait to
hear your story.  I have pressing matters that will keep me all the
afternoon."

"I have no clothes, your Excellency," I cried, with a little
affectation of dismay.

"Which means you wish to go out in order to carry on the scheme with
which your busy little brains are full.  You cannot go out,
Christabel--I have said that you will remain here.  Understand that,
please."  He spoke almost sternly; but the twinkle came into his eyes
as he turned away and added: "As for your clothes, I had thought of
that difficulty, and I told that American servant of yours to call here
this afternoon on the chance that you might need him."

I laughed and was running out of the room, saying I would go and find
the girls and tell them I had come to spend the rest of the day with
them, when I stopped and went back to him.  "I haven't thanked you," I
said.

"It is not to me that any thanks are due--but the Stars and Stripes.
They gave us the mate."

"But it was you who made the move; and it is you I thank."

"The game is not finished yet, Christabel.  We'll wait for that."

"I see the combination that will win it."

He took my hand and pressed it.  "You deserve to win; but the stakes
are almost tragically high, child."

"In chess there is always a king without a throne."

CHAPTER XXII

COLONEL KATONA SPEAKS

I wrote a short note to Colonel Katona saying that circumstances
prevented my going to his house that day; but that I had something
important to say to him, and wished him to come to me to General von
Erlanger's at once.

Next, an equally brief one to Karl:


"DEAR FRIEND,

"I cannot keep my word to see you to-day.  I have been compelled to
come here, to General von Erlanger's house, and must remain until
to-morrow.  But to-morrow I shall see you.  Please me by staying where
you are until then.  Colonel Katona is coming here, and will bring you
a message from me saying where we can meet to-morrow.  I am sure you
will do this as you have done so much 'for her sake.'

CHRISTABEL VON DRESCHLER."


Then a letter to Gareth followed:


"I am now confident that I shall have great news for you to-morrow.  I
have been working hard for you all the time, and success is in sight.
But we cannot gain it unless you will now do your part and help me in
all my plans for to-morrow.  I wish you to remain in your room
to-morrow morning, and not to leave it under any pretext whatever,
until I myself come to you.  You will of course be very curious to know
the reason for this: we women can't help that.  And I will explain it
all to-morrow.  You have trusted me so far.  Trust me in this also--for
I tell you frankly that if you do not, everything even at the last
moment may be ruined.  Keep a brave heart, for I am very hopeful
happiness is in sight for you.

"Ever your friend,
    "CHRISTABEL."


Lastly I drew up a concise statement of the whole facts of the case,
giving as full details as were necessary to enable any one to
understand it clearly, as well as my position in regard to it.  This
was for James Perry to take to the American Consul if any danger
threatened me.  I took this step, not because I doubted my friend the
General, but lest he should find his wish to help me thwarted by those
above him.

I had my papers ready by the time James Perry arrived.  I explained
first what he was to do with the paper for the Consulate, and added:
"Your father will know where to take the letters for Colonel Katona and
Count Karl, James, because he drove them home last night.  Send him off
with them the moment you get back.  Give this letter to the Countess
von Ostelen; and this list of clothes to your mother.  You are to bring
them back here to me."

"Yes, miss," he said, as he pocketed them.

"And now I am going to set you a difficult task.  You have done me
splendid service so far--but you are now going to play me a treacherous
shabby, cowardly trick."

"I hope not," he said, noticing my smile.

"You will need all your wits; because a great deal hangs upon how you
act--all my plans in fact.  You took a letter from me this morning to
Count Gustav.  Did you see him?"

"Yes, for a moment.  He took the letter, laughed and seemed rather
pleased, and then gave me the message--that he would go to the house at
once."

"You think he would know you again?"

"Oh, yes, I am sure of that."

"Good.  Now, you are going to betray me to him.  He is desperately
anxious to know the whereabouts of the Countess von Ostelen, and you
are going to be scoundrel enough to take advantage of my absence from
home to tell him where to find her.  It will be hard for your mother's
son to be a scoundrel, James, I know."

"I hope so, miss, with all my heart."

"But as scoundrels can play at honesty, there's no reason why honest
men shouldn't sometimes get a bit of their own back by playing at
villainy.  You are deeply interested in the troubles of the Countess
von Ostelen; you have been shocked by my rather cruel treatment of her;
you have heard her ask me again and again to let her leave the house;
and your chivalry is roused because I keep her locked in her room.
Realize that part of your feelings, and think it over, because that is
the sly hypocrisy on the surface of your conduct."

"I am afraid I am a bigger rascal than I thought," he said.

"I am sure you will be to-morrow when you see him.  Of course you have
another motive--which you understand will be dragged out of you when
the Count, who will be suspicious, begins to question you.  You want
money and a place in the household of the Duke, his father.  The
dollars will be the main thing.  Half the sum down before you open your
lips: the rest when you complete the work.  That is, the Count is to
give it to you when you let him into the house to fetch the lady away."

"What sum should I name?" he asked with a grin.

"I don't think a thousand dollars would be too much for such
information; but this is a poor country, so we'll put it at about half
that--fifteen hundred gulden.  Your honour is worth more than that,
James; but, as good Americans, we must gauge the conditions of the
market.  Take those letters now, and when you come back I will have
ready for you a letter in bad German, which you will copy--telling the
Count you are my servant and have something pressing on your
conscience--hypocrites always have bulging consciences, James--that it
concerns a lady who is a prisoner in my house, and that you will pay
him a visit to-morrow at half-past eleven.  He has a serious
appointment here at twelve; but when you tell him that you can get him
into my house just after that hour, he will prefer to keep the
appointment with you instead of coming here."

"I think I can do it all easily.  But what am I to do when he comes?"

"I shall be there to welcome him, James.  You must contrive so that you
do not reach the house until half-past twelve.  You can be a quarter of
an hour late in going to him; the interview will last quite half an
hour--you will be agitated over your villainy, you know, and will have
to drive your bargain; and the ride with him to the house will take
another quarter of an hour or twenty minutes.  Put him into the small
drawing-room which looks on to the garden behind and come to me."

I sent him away then, telling him to think it all over and to ask me
any questions necessary when he returned with my clothes.

I drafted a carefully mysterious letter, such as I deemed a scoundrel
would write, making much of my conscience, but hinting unmistakably at
a money reward; and when he came back we discussed the whole plan in
considerable detail.

We were still occupied in this way when Colonel Katona's card was
brought to me.  I found him looking very haggard and worn with the
emotions and incidents of the preceding night; but he held my hand and
pressed it very warmly, and the hard eyes as he gazed at me were more
like Gareth's than I would have deemed it possible for them to be.

"You have news for me, Miss von Dreschler?  It is of my child?" he
asked eagerly.

"Yes, it all concerns Gareth, Colonel."

"You are going to take me to her?"

"I hope so--but it will depend upon you."

"Then it is settled--there is nothing I will not do for that;" and he
sighed deeply.  "Tell me what you wish."

"You find me in a different mood from that of last night.  Then I was
thinking mainly of Gareth and a little only for myself.  Now I am
thinking only of myself."

"You saved me from a terrible mistake last night."

"To which you had been tempted by the man who has wronged your child.
I sent Count Karl away with you that you might see how deeply you had
wronged him in your suspicions."

"I saw that--afterwards; and saw, too, why you knew he was innocent.
He speaks of little else but you."

"Count Karl knows the road which duty compels him to take, and he will
follow it to the end.  He is a changed man."

The Colonel looked at me earnestly for a moment, his expression
inscrutable.  Then he nodded.

"Yes, he is a changed man; thanks to your influence--only that."

"The cause is of no consequence; it is only the fact that matters."

"You are very strong--for such a child."

"I have a strong purpose, Colonel Katona.  I am going to be true to
that purpose now with you."

"I am afraid I know what you are going to say."

"To ask plainly whether you will do justice to my father and tell me
the whole story of that cruel wrong."

"The whole story?" he asked, anxiety in both look and tone.

"The whole story--nothing less will satisfy me."

He paused in evident distress, and pressed his hand tightly on his
forehead.  "It cannot be.  It is impossible.  Count Karl urged me--he
of all men--but I told him what I tell you--it is impossible."

"Then you will never see Gareth again."  I made my voice as hard and
cold as I could.

"I have feared this," he murmured.

"And I, Colonel Katona, have worked for it."

"I cannot, I cannot," he murmured again, love and fear doing desperate
battle in his mind.  "You are not so cruel."

"I can be as hard as steel in this cause.  Hear what I have done.  I
know, of course, where she is.  I know the man who has done her this
wrong.  I have to-day so planned matters that to-morrow he shall know
where to find her.  If you do not speak now to help me, I declare to
you that to-morrow Gareth shall be again in his arms."

A groan escaped his lips at this, and he bowed his white head as if in
an agony of shame.

"Have you no mercy?" he whispered, at length.

"I am thinking of my father and his shame and ruin.  You helped to kill
his honour and blight his life.  You were his friend.  Had you mercy
then, that you would ask it now of his child?"

"They told me he was dead.  I swear that.  I did not know the truth
until years afterwards--when he had escaped.  It was then too late, too
late.  My God, you know not what this is that you ask me to do."

"I ask for the truth.  He trusted you.  He has left it on record.  You
betrayed that trust--for your employers.  You set their favour then
before your friend's honour, just as now you set it before even the
honour of your child."

Every one of my biting violent words went right home.  He winced under
the pain of them; and when I paused and he glanced up, his face could
not have been more stricken had I been his judge sentencing him to
death.  Nay, I think he would have faced death with far less agitation.

"From you, his child, this is terrible," he murmured.  "I have been
very guilty; but not as you think.  I was not false to your father like
that.  I will tell you all so far as it touches me.  I know now that it
was resolved that the young Count Stephen should die; and a quarrel was
purposefully caused between him and your father.  I was used at first
only as a tool in the work.  I had reason to know that the Duke
Alexinatz was so incensed against your father, that it would go hard
with him if he remained in Pesth."

"I know that it was at your persuasion that he made ready to fly from
the city."

"It was true what I told him--Duke Ladislas wished him to leave, as
otherwise the Duke himself might have been involved in the quarrel.  He
sent me direct to your father.  Up to that point I was true to my
friend.  I would have given my life for him cheerfully--then."

"And after?"

"Count Stephen did go to your father's rooms in search of him, his
blood heated with wine and the lies told by others; and it was there he
was shot."

"You knew of this?"

"Nothing, until the next day; and then the story was told me that the
two had met and quarrelled fiercely; that my friend had been killed;
that the matter must be hushed up in the interests of Duke Ladislas;
that he had in reality instigated it, and that loyalty to him made it
impossible to speak the truth.  Your father had been secretly buried, I
was assured."

"I am waiting, Colonel Katona," I said, presently.

"From that point on I was guilty.  My silence then was the first act of
treachery; and others soon followed.  I could not bring the dead to
life, I was told, but I could help the living; and in helping them
could save from ruin the cause to which I was pledged.  The confession
by your father was found and used--and I stood by and suffered his name
to be dishonoured.  For that I can plead no excuse."

"And when you knew that my father had not died but had been imprisoned
all those years, and had escaped--what did you do then?"

"I know.  I know," he exclaimed, wretchedly.  "I did nothing.  They
came to me----"

"Who came to you?"

"Those who had done it all; and with them Count Gustav to whom all had
then been told.  They appealed to my loyalty to the cause, to Duke
Ladislas, and to my country--and I yielded."

"Count Karl, too?"

"No.  He knows nothing of it.  Nothing."

"If he had known of all this and you had found the news which you
thought had come from me to be true--that the man for whose family you
had sinned in this way was the same who had wronged Gareth, what then?"

There was such a glitter in his eyes as they met mine that I almost
feared he had read the thought and intent behind my words.

"I would have had his life first and"--he checked himself with sudden
effort.

"And what?" I asked.

"I would have killed him," he murmured, doggedly.

"The rest is your secret?" I hazarded.  He made no other answer than to
glance at me quickly.

"If I tell you to-morrow where to find Gareth, will you make public
what you have told me to-day and denounce the men who were concerned in
my father's ruin?"

At the direct question he was profoundly agitated again.  "Is there no
other way?"

"No.  None.  I am pleading for my father's honour."

"I will do it," he said, with a bitter sigh.

"On your word of honour, Colonel Katona?"

"Yes.  On my word of honour.  God help me."

I drew a deep breath of relief.  I needed no further assurance.  I had
seen enough to know that what I still had to tell him--that Gustav was
the man he sought--would suffice to change any lingering remnant of
indecision into grim set purpose.

I told him I would send him word on the following morning where he and
Count Karl were to come to me at about noon.

"You will give me your hand, Christabel?" he asked, hesitating, as we
were parting.

"Yes.  I trust you now to undo the past."

He held my hand a moment and seemed much affected.

"I had meant to speak to you about Count Karl.  He----"

"Please!" I broke in.

"If I could help your happiness it would be some recompense for my
wrong to your father."

"You cannot do that."

"You care for him?"

"Please," I said again.

"I know.  He has told me what stands between you.  I am glad now that
you made me speak--although your words stabbed me to the heart.  But I
am glad now--and perhaps I can help you.  It should not be all tragedy
for you two.  But heaven knows it is tragedy whatever happens."

I was glad to be alone.  The interview had tried me.  I endeavoured to
analyze my feelings; and I am afraid I realized that while I was
jubilant at the prospect of success, the knowledge that it brought
nearer the parting from Karl made me almost wish for failure.

That was rank treachery to my purpose and my dear father's memory, I
know.  But then, I was only a girl; and after all, even in the
strongest of us, the heart will have its way at times.  Mine took it
then for a desolate half-hour, until I was roused by the two chattering
girls who came romping in to take me away to dress for dinner.



CHAPTER XXIII

A GREEK GIFT

At dinner his Excellency was thoughtful and taciturn, and we had a
rather dismal meal.  He noticed my dress when we met, however.

"You have your clothes, then?" he said in his dryest manner.

"Yes, my servant came to arrange the things I needed."

"I don't wish to know," he exclaimed, promptly, with a glance which
showed me that he understood I had not been idle.

But after that he scarcely spoke.  The girls chattered to me, chiefly
making fun of the new governess before her face in the most impudent
manner; but I was too busy with my own thoughts to pay much heed.

Something had happened since the General and I had parted; and I was
sure it concerned me; so I waited and watched until either he should
tell me or I should find it out for myself.

He sent the girls and their governess away almost before they had
finished eating, and took me at once into the little salon where we
usually played chess.

"Is it a compliment to me that you have arrayed yourself so?" he asked.

In that moment I seemed to guess what was in his thoughts.  "It is
perhaps a coincidence," I said with a smile.

"Why a coincidence?"  He was puzzled.

"Because I had not expected to see any one but yourself."

He nodded.  "That instinct of yours always interests me."

I had gone to the chess board and taken two or three pieces out of the
box.  I put them back.  "So we are not to play chess to-night.  Who is
it?"

"No, there you are wrong for once.  We are to play.  I have spoken of
your chess-playing powers to a very old friend of mine, and he is
coming to see us play."

I shook my head.  "Your Excellency means that the game is to be a
pretext.  What is his name?"

"I am not 'your Excellency' to you, Christabel.  It is General von
Walther--an old comrade of mine."

"I am getting interested in him already--an old comrade whose
unexpected visit made you so thoughtful during dinner that you could
scarcely speak a word.  On my account, too.  The only time you spoke
was to express satisfaction that I was dressed well enough to receive
him."

"You are building a palace with match boxes, Christabel.  You had
better set the men."

I set them and we began to play.  I made two or three egregiously bad
moves; and he did not notice them.  The "old comrade" was evidently
still absorbing his thoughts; and began to fill mine too.

"Hadn't we better have something more like a real game when he comes
in?  It should at least look like serious chess," I said, and was
making some impromptu changes in the positions of the men when General
von Walther was announced.

I shut down the smile which followed my first glance at him.  It was
too bad of his Excellency to try and deceive me.  I had seen the "old
comrade" before, however; and I was not likely to forget him.  It was
Duke Ladislas himself.

They both played up to the arranged parts, and of course I did my best
to help them.

"Come in, old friend," said his Excellency, genially.  "This is the
chess prodigy.  My old friend General von Walther, Miss Gilmore."

"His Excellency always flatters me, General, because on one occasion I
was lucky enough to beat him."

"I am delighted to meet you, Miss von Dreschler," said the "general,"
so occupied in giving me a sharp look that he did not notice he had
used the wrong name.  "You are a great favourite of my old friend."

I made an appropriate reply, and for some minutes we chatted about
chess, and the weather, and what I thought of Pesth, and so
on--anything except what he must have come to speak about; whatever
that was.

Then I challenged him laughingly to a game; but I suppose he was in
reality no player at all, for he got out of the challenge by saying he
would rather look on.

So we went on with our game again and had made some half a dozen moves,
when a servant came to say that Count Somassy, the Minister of Justice,
wished to speak with his Excellency.  He pretended intense regret for
the interruption to our game, begged us both to excuse him for a few
minutes, and then the "old comrade" and I were left alone.  I knew of
course that this had all been arranged; and that we were now to come to
the real business of the meeting.

"You are staying some time in Pesth?" he opened.

"I scarcely know.  You see I am a foreigner now, and an American
citizen is never long away from the States without a heart ache."

"You say 'now,'" he commented, as I had intended.  I thought he would
appreciate the word.

"Yes.  I am Hungarian by birth--but a naturalized citizen of the United
States.  Here, of course, I am only a girl; but at home, in Jefferson
City, Missouri, I am quite a person of importance.  I inherited my
uncle's fortune, and over there you know we reckon importance by
dollars.  You would be astonished at the consideration I receive in my
travels from all our representatives, consuls, and even ambassadors."

This was not strictly accurate; but the point had to be driven home
that he could not play monkey-tricks with me.  He did not like this any
more than I thought he would, and paused so long that I said: "Shall we
not have a game, General, while his Excellency is away?  It looks as if
his sudden appointment might last some time."

I think he began to gather in that I was not quite fooled by the little
entertainment.

"I think not, thank you.  The fact is I wish to speak to you on some
matters."

"Connected with America?"

"Well, not exactly.  Rather of a private character."

I froze instantly and was appropriately dignified.  "I don't think I
quite understand.  In Missouri we don't discuss our private affairs
with strangers."

"This is not Missouri," he said, dropping for the moment the "old
comrade" tone and using the brief curt note of authority.  As an
American citizen I resented the tone and rose.

"I am not a school girl, sir, having a lesson in geography."  It was
intentionally pert and flippant, and I made him a bow and moved toward
the door.

"I am sorry.  Pray forgive my manner.  An old soldier, you know, drops
now and again into the drill manner."

"American women do not take kindly to drilling, General."

"No, no, Miss Gilmore; you must acquit me of any intention to offend
you.  I wish to speak to you seriously.  Pray sit down again."

I should have been intensely sorry to have ended so promising an
interview, so I sat down and stared stonily at him.  He was one of
those vulture-faced old men, with a large hook nose, a wide mouth, and
a small square chin, which when he spoke suggested irresistibly the
moving lower bill of the bird.  He had dark, piercing, beady eyes,
rather deep set under prominent eyebrows, and a waxen white forehead,
rounded like a bird's poll.

"I wish to speak to you about Count Gustav."

"Yes?"

"I am a friend of his and his family, and possess their confidence, and
being also a friend of General von Erlanger's, I thought it would be
desirable for me to speak with you."

"Yes?"

"As a mutual friend, if I may say so, and an old man of long experience
of the world."

"Yes?" I said again, maintaining the same stony stare.

"Count Gustav has told me the facts, and as it is generally the case in
these exceedingly private and painful matters a solution satisfactory
to both sides can be found by a third disinterested person--where there
is a mutual desire to find one, of course--he deemed it best, and I
agreed with him, that I should see you and speak plainly and frankly to
you."

This time when he paused I bowed merely and said nothing.

"I may take it that you do desire some arrangement?  You are silent,
but I presume it; because I am convinced so charming a young lady as
yourself could not harbour any personal malice against the Count.  That
would be a monstrous thought.  And further, you are so capable, so
exceptionally capable and clever, that you cannot have disguised from
yourself that to attempt to harm a member of the Ducal family, whatever
the motive or supposed facts, would not only end in failure, but also
in personal inconvenience, to use no stronger term, to the person
making the attempt."

I kept my eyes fixed steadily on him; and my stare and silence began to
tell on his temper.  I was rather glad to see that.

Getting no reply, he made another long speech about his amiable
intentions, my many excellent qualities, his extreme reluctance to see
me come to harm, the impossibility of my hurting Count Gustav, and the
necessity for an amicable settlement.  But he made the threat a little
more unmistakable this time--owing possibly to his anger at my stony
reserve.

He paused, and we looked at one another in silence.

Then as if he had done with preambles he said: "And now, what is it you
want?  I invite you to speak frankly."

"'Frankly'?" I repeated, with a nasty little accent on the word.  "May
I put two questions to you?"  He bowed and waved his hands.  Like the
rest of him they were bird-like and suggested talons.  "Do you come to
me from Count Gustav or from the Duke himself?"

"I speak for--both," he answered, not without hesitation.

"Then please tell me what is behind your threat of 'personal
inconvenience'?  What do they intend to do, if I refuse to come to an
arrangement?  What _can_ they do to me?"

"They are strong enough to frustrate any attack of the kind from you or
any one else."

"But what _can_ they do?  You are a _mutual_ friend, you know,
General;" and I gave him one of my sweetest smiles.

"I have no hesitation in saying you might be in great personal danger,
Miss Gilmore."

"I have already reminded you that I am an American citizen."

"You may take it from me that you will be prevented from taking any
action of the hostile kind you contemplate."

I smiled again.  "I am not in the least frightened, General.  I am
smiling because you come to me to speak about a mutual
arrangement--when you have made up your mind that the only arrangement
to be thought of is unconditional surrender on my part.  And to force
that, you threaten me with unspeakable penalties.  We shouldn't call
that any sort of arrangement at all, in the States, but merely--pardon
the word--bluff."

I was gaining my first point rapidly.  He was getting very angry at my
opposition and the way I put it.

"I was prepared to find you a very daring young woman; but this thing
shall not be allowed to go farther.  You reckon on General von
Erlanger's help; but he will be powerless here."

I indulged him with a third smile.  "You are not quite right there.  I
have done something else.  Knowing the Duke's power and influence might
prevent his Excellency from protecting me, I wrote out an account of
the matter and have arranged that--if anything unforeseen should happen
to me, to-night, for instance--it shall be placed to-morrow morning in
the hands of the American Consul.  And even against the Ducal family, I
will back my Government to keep its end up."

I paused, but he had nothing ready to answer that with; so I continued:
"I think you'll agree that that foresight of mine cancels your threat,
and that we can start in again on equal terms."

His talons having failed to grip me now gripped one another, and with
considerable tension too.  His right hand fastened like a vice on his
left wrist.

"I did not threaten you, I only warned you.  What is it you want?"

"In the first place, fair play--and it is not playing fairly for Duke
Ladislas to come to me in the disguise of a mutual friend."

"You know me, then?"

"As well as you know me.  Inadvertently, when you entered, you called
me by my name--von Dreschler.  You know, also, one of the objects I
seek--justice for my father's name.  That it be cleared from the shame
and disgrace foully and treacherously put upon it in the interest of
you and your family--the responsibility for a deed of blood of which he
was innocent, but which you, or those promoting your interests,
instigated, planned, and carried out."

"'Fore God, you speak daringly, madam."

"I speak the truth, my Lord, just as I demand to have justice done.
Not demand only, but command it shall be done--for the power to command
has been put into my hands by the perfidy and wickedness of your son,
Count Gustav."

I looked for an outburst from him in response; but none came.  He sat
silent, the right talon still gripping the left as though he wished it
were my throat.

"I do not know with what motive you came to me," I said after a pause;
"unless it was to try and frighten me into silence.  But I will deal
more frankly with you than you with me.  If you have come to offer me
less than justice to my father's memory, we are only wasting time; and
the interview, painful to both, may as well end right now."

"I offer you that and no less," he answered, and he loosed his wrist to
wave his hand as if with a gesture of compliance.

It was my turn to be surprised now; but I was sceptical at so ready a
surrender after his threats.  "That is glad news, indeed.  When will
the truth be made known?"

"At once.  I will see that it is done.  As others have done, you have
misjudged me.  I see that of course.  I have been secretly deemed, I
know, to have had some guilty connivance in the death of the young
Count Stephen; and in that, have had to bear the blame for the acts of
my too zealous adherents.  My family profited by their rashness; and so
the world held, as it will, that advantage and guilt went hand in hand."

"I seek in that awful matter only justice for my father's memory.
Restore his good name, and who else loses or gains, is nothing to me."

"I pledge myself as to that.  The facts shall be drawn up and made
public; and further, I will interest myself to secure that the title he
held, Count Melnik, shall be restored to you, together with the estate
which was confiscated.  Full justice shall be done."

"Thank God for that!" I exclaimed, intensely moved.

"To-morrow, my son Gustav is to come here to you, and he shall bring
with him full confirmation in writing of what I have now promised you.
On that I give you my word."

I leant back in my chair overcome.  The knowledge of what I had gained
mingled with the poignant regret that my dear father had not lived to
share the joy of his vindication brought the tears to my eyes.  I could
not speak, so mastering was the emotion.

"I will leave you now, Miss von Dreschler," said the Duke as he rose.
"When we next meet you will be the Countess Melnik--not that I think
you will value such a title except for what it means--the full
restitution of your dead father's honour."

He held out his hand, and I rose and gave him mine in silence.

When he had gone I sank back in my chair, elation at my success still
battling with that vehement but useless regret that my father had not
lived to see that night; and the battle was still being waged when his
Excellency entered.

I dashed away my tears.

"I have won," I said, smiling.  "I am sure I owe it chiefly to you.
The Duke has given me a solemn promise that my father's name shall be
cleared."

I looked for a sign of congratulation; but instead, my old friend
glanced at me slowly and very shrewdly, and moved on to his chair.

"You are an excellent linguist, but probably do not know the dead
languages, Christabel.  There is an old tag of Virgil's for instance:
'Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes'."

"I know what that means, at any rate," I cried.  "'I fear the Greeks
even when bearing gifts.'"

He turned and looked at me again very thoughtfully.  Then nodding his
head he answered with slow emphasis; "It is possible to learn the
meaning of it--even in Pesth."

"You think this is a Greek gift?"

"I think--we may still finish our game of chess, Christabel;" and he
came over to the board and examined the position of the men.



CHAPTER XXIV

WHAT THE DUKE MEANT

"There is always this about chess," said his Excellency, when I had
taken my place opposite to him; "you cannot play it unless you detach
your thoughts from all other matters."

"I don't wish to detach mine," I returned.

"Then I shall certainly beat you; for I intend to detach mine, at all
events for a few moves.  Now study this position;" and he insisted on
talking chess for some minutes, and then we played.  Gradually the
fascination which the game always had laid hold of me, and,
concentrating my thoughts upon it, I began to play very carefully,
until I caught my old friend's eyes studying my face instead of the
game.

"I think you are playing earnestly now, so that we may as well stop and
talk.  While I light a cigar, think back to your conversation, and then
tell me your impressions."

He was unusually deliberate in choosing and lighting his cigar, and
leaving the chess table threw himself into an easy lounge chair and
smoked for a while in silence.

"Well--what are the impressions?"

"You have disturbed them and me," I replied.

"Intentionally."

"Just as you intentionally misled me about your 'old comrade'."

"He made me do that; but I knew you would see through it; and I had no
scruple."

"But _he_ was surprised when I told him who he was."

"No man likes to have his incognito fail him.  But your impressions."

"I think he will do what he said--and what I wish.  You know what he
promised?

"Oh yes, that of course."

"He did not come prepared to do it."

"No.  You have made another convert, Christabel.  He is charmed with
you.  You are a wonderful little lady."

"I did not exert many charms.  I was just as hard as a stone, and then
said things that made him look as if he would gladly have taken me by
the throat with those talon hands of his."

"It was that daring of yours that won him round.  I don't know all you
said; but from what he told me, I should think he was never spoken to
in such a way before by man or woman--or child; for you are really
little more than a child."

"What do you think he meant to do in coming here?" I asked.

"That was what made me so thoughtful during dinner."

"You are keeping something from me."

"I?"

"Well, you mean that _he_ is?"

"I know him.  It would be very remarkable if he were not."

"But you agree that he will do as he promised?"

"'I fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts,'" he quoted again.  "At
least, I should if I were you.  His influence is great; and in a week
or so I should think you will be Countess Melnik.  I don't think
anything you can ask him for will be refused.  You will be as much
honoured as your father was the reverse."

"The scent is too cold.  I do not understand," I said, after a pause.

"You are not meant to--nor will it affect you.  You have been
threatening a good many plans, little lady.  I like to see you at
fault.  It is a rare pleasure."

"It cannot be about Colonel Katona's daughter.  If he knows of that he
knows what I told Count Gustav.  He will not deem me likely to desert
her.  Yes, I am at fault."

"You have not told me yet what passed at that house where I found you
to-day."

I told him everything, except as to what had passed between Karl and
myself.

"It is all grave enough," he said.  "A secret is very much like
dynamite--unless there is great care, the explosion may hurt the
holder.  I have told you often enough how great a favourite Count
Gustav is; not with his father only, but with us all."

"'Us'?" I repeated.

"I am one of the Patriots.  Count Karl lacks both force in himself and
support outside."

"He is not understood."

His Excellency's eyes brightened.  "Is that why you have not told me
what you and he may have said to one another?"

I felt the colour steal up into my cheeks.  "It was not necessary."

"No, Christabel, that is just the word--not necessary."  He glanced at
his watch.  "Dear me, it is quite late.  I must send you to bed."

"You have not shown me the scent," I cried, with a little shrug of
irritation; as I began to pack away the chessmen.

He regarded me with the old amused twinkle in his eyes, and then with a
glance at the chess-board, a thought struck him and he crossed to me.
"You are fond of chess problems, by the way.  I'll set you one."

He swept all the black pieces off the board except the king and one
pawn, and then left the white king and five white pawns, two of the
latter so placed that but one move for each was necessary for them to
become queens.

"Could you win that game if you were white?" he asked.

"It is but childish; of course these pawns become queens."

"Exactly.  In chess any pawn that can get far enough can be a
queen--but not in life, you know.  Good-night, Christabel."

I scarcely heard his good-night, but sat staring down at the little
pieces where he had placed them.

"You think that any such thing was in his thoughts?"

"What I think is--that orange-blossoms have a very charming scent,
Christabel, and Count Gustav is the hope of the Patriots.  Again,
good-night, child.  You have won your victory--by your own wits mainly,
although other things have been fighting for you.  Go to bed and dream
of it, and remember--the first obligation of a conqueror is
magnanimity.  No--no more to-night, child, except--God bless you and
give you happiness."

I lay a long time thinking over the events of that full day, and
wrestling with the problem which his Excellency's last words had set
me: "The first obligation of a conqueror is magnanimity."

So that was the secret.  I had won in the struggle.  Not only was my
father's fame to be righted, but I was to be honoured, not from any
recognition of justice, but in order that I might be a fit wife for a
duke's son.

Then I was to be "magnanimous," too; which meant that I was to consent
to acquiesce in the family arrangement by which Karl was to be set
aside in favour of Gustav; and to cease all my efforts against him.

I had beaten them in all other respects; and now they had seized upon
Karl's old feelings for me, and had somehow divined mine for him; and
the two were made the subject-matter of this new bribery-bargain.

The shame of it made my cheeks burn and flush in the darkness; and I
winced and cowered at the humiliation as the bitter thoughts crowded
thick and fast upon me.  I recalled what had passed between the Duke
and me, and reading it all now by the light of this later knowledge, my
pride was stabbed and pierced by a hundred poisoned darts that rankled
and festered with cruel pain.

He had come to view me as a possible wife for the son whom he designed
to disinherit!  My love for Karl was to be made a stake in the game of
injustice he would play!  I was to be tossed to Karl as a sort of
compensation for his wrongs; and I was to be "honoured" that I might be
duly rendered fit for the position!  The show of reparation to my
father was a mere sham and pretence to tinsel another wrong!  My duty
to the dead, the solemn charge laid upon me, was to be a lever to force
me to consent to it!  And this was my victory!

Is it to be wondered at that the ashes gritted my teeth; that in my hot
indignation, I spurned the whole transaction as base and ignoble, and
that I vowed rather to forego my supreme purpose than gain it at such a
price.  My father's honour was dear to me; but he would never have me
win it for him at the price of my own.

The whole bargain was dishonourable alike to the dead and to me; and
the mere proposal should harden my heart and stiffen my resolve to go
through with my task in my own way.

I grew less passionate when I had settled this resolve firmly; and was
able to reflect upon the probable result of the Duke's intention to my
plans.  They were now in danger of being badly broken up.  If he kept
his word and sent Count Gustav to me with what he had termed the
written confirmation of his promise, it was clear that the scene I had
planned to take place at my house would be prevented.

The Count could not be in both places at once; but would he come to me,
if James Perry played his part well?  I had to risk everything on my
judgment of his action.  Long and anxiously I weighed that problem; and
at length decided he would not come to me, if once he was persuaded
that he could get hold of Gareth in despite of me.

He knew that she was the key to everything for me.  If he could whisk
her away from my care, my power over him was gone.  I might accuse him
to Colonel Katona as the man who had wronged her; but if she was
bestowed safely in his charge, he could laugh at the accusation, and
could challenge me safely to produce any proofs of it.

Moreover, I had so planned that he would feel safe in testing the truth
of the story which James Perry would tell him; and would see that if he
found it false, he could still come to the meeting, scarcely an hour
behind his time.  For such a delay, a hundred excuses could be pleaded;
and he was not the man to be at fault for some plausible one.

He would test it, I felt confident.  He had everything to gain by doing
so, and nothing to lose.  At least so he would reason.  Success would
mean all in all; failure no more than the need to invent an excuse.

I determined to go on, therefore; and fell asleep at last in complete
assurance that on the morrow matters would go as I had planned before
the Duke had seen me.

In the morning General von Erlanger greeted me with even more than his
usual kindliness.

"You have not slept well, Christabel," he said.  I suppose my face
showed this.

"I had to think."

"What are you going to do?  You know all that I meant in what I said at
parting last night?"

"I am going to wait for the meeting at noon."

"And then?"

"If no one comes I shall go away."

"There is of course something behind that.  But Count Gustav will come.
His father will see to that."

"Are you against me, too, in this development?"

"I should never be against you.  But I wish you to be on our side."

"If I can no longer tell you all that is in my thoughts, do not blame
me.  Let us wait for the meeting.  I am afraid, if I were to speak,
some of my chagrin might show itself."

He made a gesture of disappointment.  "I have lived too long in the
world, Christabel, to look for either schemes or counsels of
perfection.  Life must always be a compromise.  I will not counsel you
now; I will only hope."

"That is at least left to us all--even to me in this."

He gave me a sharp look, threw up his head slightly, and said:
"Remember, Count Gustav is necessary to the country."

"It is an unfortunate country, then," I retorted, rather tartly; and we
said no more.

Soon after breakfast James Perry came.  He told me that he had written
the letter; and I gave him his final lessons, and said that his father,
who was waiting close at hand--was to take a letter which I had written
to Colonel Katona, and then to be at the door with the carriage for me
at twelve o'clock to the instant.

In the letter to Colonel Katona I merely gave him my address, and said
I would be there within half an hour of midday to meet him and Count
Karl.

When I had arranged those details, I had nothing to do except wait for
the time of the meeting with such patience as I could command.

I did not know that two hours could possibly contain so many weary
dragging minutes as those.  I resorted to every device I could think of
to use up the time.  I walked up and down the room counting my steps.
I tried to read; only to fling the book away from me.  I repeated a
quantity of poetry, from Shakespeare to Walt Whitman.  I got the chess
board out and tried problems; only at last to give it all up and just
think and think and think.

At eleven o'clock I went to my bedroom and put on my hat in readiness,
although I was not to leave until an hour later.  Then to find
something for my hands to do, I unpacked my trunk and tumbled all my
clothes in a heap; and began refolding and repacking them with
deliberate care.

I was in the midst of this most uninteresting task when a servant
brought a message that General von Erlanger would like to see me.

I bundled everything back into the trunk anyhow and anywhere, locked it
and went down.  It was half-past eleven by the great hall clock as I
crossed to the library.  James Perry was just about making his entrance
as traitor.

His Excellency was fingering a letter as I went in.

"I am anxious to have a last talk with you before Count Gustav comes,
Christabel.  There are some things I wish you to see quite plainly."

"We have only half an hour," said I.

"No, we may have longer.  I have a line from the Count to say that an
unexpected but very pressing engagement may prevent his being quite
punctual; and he begs me to explain this to you."

"Oh, General, what perfectly glorious marguerites!" I exclaimed,
enthusiastically, turning to point to the flowers in the garden, lest
he should see my face and read there the effect of his words.  Count
Gustav's engagement was with James Perry; and my heart beat fast as I
saw victory ahead.

His Excellency crossed and stood by me.  "Yes, they are beautiful.  I
pride myself on my marguerites, you know.  But--isn't it a little
singular they should appeal to you so strongly at this particular
moment?"

"I love marguerites," I replied, with a smile.  I was master of my
features again then.

"So do I.  To me they stand for simplicity, truth, trust and candour,
especially between friends--such as, say, you and myself, Christabel."

We exchanged looks; mine smiling; his grave, very gentle, and a little
reproachful.



CHAPTER XXV

ON THE THRESHOLD

His Excellency had at times some very pretty ways.  He stepped through
the window now, and, plucking three or four of the finest marguerites,
offered them to me.

"You will accept them--in the sense I have just indicated?" he asked.

"You punish tactfully, General.  I suppose you think the rebuke is
warranted.  I would rather you gave them to me--to-morrow, say;" and I
turned from the window and sat down.

He laid the blossoms on the table.  "We will leave them until our chat
is over.  I hope you will take them then."

"I think not.  There is only half an hour, you know."

"You are resolved not to give Count Gustav the grace he asks?  You
believe there is some purpose behind this note?" and he held it up.

"That is one of the marguerites, and must wait--until to-morrow."

"You shut me out, then?  You are a very resolute, self-reliant little
person, you know, Christabel.  Is even this letter your doing too?"

"I told you we would wait for the meeting."

"Umph!" he nodded.  "Then I suppose it's not much good for me to say
anything.  I am sorry," and he sighed.

"I should like to tell _you_ something," I said; "but it might make you
angry; and you have been so kind to me--so much more than kind."

His look relaxed.  "You will not make me angry.  I am too old to heat
quickly."

"I think you should not have been a party to this Duke's scheme.  It is
not honourable to any one concerned--and to me, dishonourable in the
extreme."

"You don't think I would do anything dishonouring you?  Why, I would
have--but you remember the question you would not let me ask."

"Is it honourable to me to make a pretence of granting the justice I
seek for my father's memory, while in reality using that very thing
and--and my own feelings, merely as a means of doing yet another wrong
to another man?  To fool me thus and make a sport of me for these
wretched, sordid policy purposes?  Why, you yourself spoke of it
contemptuously as no more than a Greek gift."

He showed no irritation at my warm words, but on the contrary smiled
and pressing his finger tips together said: "I suppose it will sound
strangely to you--but I can still, from my side, offer you those
marguerites in the sense I indicated."

"Candour?"  I almost threw the word at him.

"Are we not at a little disadvantage?  We are not calling spades,
spades.  May I do that?"

"Certainly, so far as I am concerned."

"Then I will.  Count Karl has loved you ever since he knew you in New
York.  You love him now--yes, don't protest; it is quite true.  He
wishes above all things in the world to make you his wife.  The Duke
knows this and he consents to the marriage.  The Duke knows and
consents because--I am going to surprise you--Count Karl himself told
him and asked his consent.  The Duke came yesterday to see you for
himself: deeply prejudiced against you, because of Count Gustav's
misrepresentations: but you conquered him; as I told you last night you
had.  He resolved to grant you what you desired, to have your father's
title revived----"

"As a bribe," I burst in impulsively.

"And justice done, that the way might be clear for the marriage.  That
he told you the truth in regard to Count Stephen's death is itself a
proof that he means to keep his word.  Now, what is there dishonourable
to you in that?"

"What of the Greek gift?" I quoted against him.

"You should look at that dispassionately.  Count Karl is impossible as
the leader of the Patriots.  You tell me he is misunderstood; and very
possibly you may be right.  But the fact is what I say--the Patriots
would not follow his lead: and thus only Count Gustav remains to us.
It may be unjust; but there is always some injustice in popular
movements.  What then remains?  Either the whole movement must be
wrecked, or Count Gustav must be brought through this trouble.  That
was the Greek gift."

"And I and my feelings are to be used as a pawn in the game."

"That is the view of a very clever but very young lady who sets great
store upon having her way in her own way.  But it is not Count Karl's
view, Christabel."

"And Gareth?"

"Ah, there has been most extraordinary bungling over that."

"Bungling?" I cried, indignantly, almost contemptuously.  "Would you
offer me these while speaking in such terms of her?" and I picked up
the marguerites and tossed them again down nearer to him.

"Almost you hurt me there," he said with a sigh.  "The thing is full of
thorns; but of this you may be sure.  You would not be asked by me to
desert that poor child.  What is to be done must be done in the open;
but what is best to do--where best seems to mean worst for some
one--cannot yet be decided.  Frankly I do not yet see the way."

"Does the Duke know of her?"

"I think not---I almost fear not.  His faith in Count Gustav is
surprising for a man of his experience.  But then he is his father."

"He is a sorry, shoddy hero for the Patriots," I exclaimed, with such
bitterness that His Excellency lifted a hand in protest.

"He is the only possible leader after his father, Christabel; and for
that reason I am going to ask you to hold your hand.  I can offer you
these now, may I not?" and he held out the marguerites to me with a
smile.

"Yes--but I cannot take them yet."

His face clouded.  "You have something in your thoughts, yet."

"It is close to twelve o'clock and he has not come," I replied,
significantly.

He lifted the letter from Gustav.  "We have this.  You will wait--after
what I have said?"

"Not a minute unless you make me a prisoner."

"Don't, Christabel.  That is unjust.  Where are you going?"

"To my own house."

"Who is there?"

"At present, Gareth--only."

"Whom do you expect?"

"Count Gustav----and others."

"For God's sake," he cried, more disconcerted than I had ever seen him;
and his white shapely fingers twisted the flowers nervously during the
pause that followed.  "You have frightened me," he murmured at length.

"The deeds are not of my doing," I said slowly.

"Where is your house?"

"Why do you wish to know?"

"That I may follow you there presently," he answered.

"You have twisted those blooms and wrecked them.  Is candour wrecked
with the petals, General?"

He looked up and I saw by his glance that he knew I had read his
intention.

"You did not mean to come alone," I added.

"It is a case for the Duke himself.  You must not take this
responsibility alone, Christabel; you must not.  The issue of
everything is in the balance."

"I may be wrong.  Count Gustav may not come."

"You have probably made sure of him.  Give me the address.  We must
know it.  You see that, I am sure."

I thought earnestly.  "If I give it you, will you wait at home here and
do nothing for an hour; and if you bring the Duke will you promise to
tell him first of Gareth?  I may be back within the hour with nothing
done."

"Yes, I give you my word on both points.  It will be a trying hour."

I wrote down the address then and handed it to him.  "It is twelve
o'clock.  I must go.  If I do not return, I shall look for you in an
hour and a-half from now."

"I wish you would let us come at once," he said as he went out to the
carriage.

"You might only witness my failure; and I am jealous of my reputation
for succeeding."

"I have no smile just now to answer yours," he said, as he handed me
into the carriage.

In some respects he had influenced me more than I had let him see
during our conversation.  Indeed, I scarcely cared to own to myself how
differently I viewed the conduct and offer of the Duke.

I was in truth intensely delighted at the news that Karl had asked the
Duke's consent to make me his wife.  I had known of course that he was
willing to set everything else aside if he could prevail upon me to
marry him.  He had told me no less than that.  But I fastened upon this
formal request for the Duke's permission almost greedily, as though it
gave a fresh practical turn to the position.  My heart was indeed only
too willing to find any reason or pretext for playing traitor to my
resolve.

I told myself over and over again during that drive that the facts were
really just what they had been before his Excellency had spoken to me;
and that the view which I had taken in those hot, restless, angry hours
in the night was the one which I must take.

But I found it increasingly difficult to be consistent.  My dear old
friend himself would certainly be the last to harbour a single thought
in any way dishonouring to me.  I trusted him entirely; and he was on
the side of my heart's desires.  He had also declared dead against the
abandonment of Gareth, and had stipulated that whatever was done for
her should be done "in the open."

Could I ask more than that?  It meant that Count Gustav should not of
himself decide what was to be done; but that Gareth and her father
should have their part in it.  Was I to put myself in her father's
place and usurp his duty, merely because I had a fanciful estimate of
what was due to me and to my irresponsible opinion of my importance?
Temptation can take very subtle forms.

Moreover, was that same estimate of my own infallibility to force Count
Karl upon the Patriots when he was obnoxious to them--as his Excellency
had declared?  Was I to unsettle still further the political
disturbances of the country, just because I thought duty required me to
be self-denying and miserable and to lose the man I loved?

That such thoughts could occur to me will show in what a chaos of
irreconcileable wishes, hopes, and intentions my mind was during that
drive, and how my pride, prejudices, and judgment fought and wrestled
with the secret desires of my heart.

I was in the worst possible frame of mind for the work that had to be
done.  Before his Excellency had spoken to me, my course had seemed
quite clearly defined; but for the moment I was in that to me most
contemptible of all moods--reluctant to go back and yet half-afraid to
go forward.  I was thus relieved to hear when I reached the house that
Colonel Katona and Karl had not yet arrived.

I went up to Gareth.  She was flushed with excitement; but when the
colour died down, I could not but see how really fragile and delicate
and ill she looked.  She welcomed me with tears, and kisses and many
questions.  Why had I not been before?  What had I been doing?  Why had
I wished her to keep in her room?  What was the news I brought with me?
Who was coming, and when?  Was it her Karl?  Had I told her to keep in
her room for fear of being seen by him before I could prepare him for
her presence?

Her own eagerness in putting the questions lessened my difficulty in
answering them; and she fussed about me lovingly, making much of me,
caressing me, and thanking me; chattering all the time like a child in
her eager anticipation of coming happiness; so that my heart
alternately glowed with pleasure that I had held on to my resolve and
was heavy with fear lest a crushing disappointment was at hand to
blight her love and shut out the sunlight from her bright young life
for ever.

Her trust in Gustav was absolute, and her faith in his love unshakable.

"He will be so glad.  Does he know yet I am here?"

"No, Gareth, not yet."

"I think I am glad of that," she laughed.  "What a great start he will
give, and how his eyes will open, and what a light of love will be in
them when I run up and put my arms round him."

"Pray God he may," was my thought.  I still nurtured the hope that what
he had once said to me was true; and that so far as there was room for
love in his selfish heart, Gareth filled it.  It was largely on that
hope, indeed, I was building.

"He will be so glad that--do you know what I have thought, Christabel?"

"No, dear."

"I am going to be very cunning.  I am going to use that moment of his
delight to urge him to take me to my father and tell him everything.
Do you think he will do it?"

"It might be better----" I began, when I stopped suddenly as a new
thought occurred to me.

"What might be better, Christabel?  Tell me; I am so anxious about
this.  I have been thinking about it ever since I guessed what your
news was, and that you were going to bring Karl to me.  Tell me, what
would be better?"

"I was thinking it would be better if you could first have done
something for him; have won his own father to be reconciled to your
marriage."

"Oh, I dare not do that," she cried, shrinking like a frightened child.
"Besides, I don't know who is his father."

"I do.  He is a very great man--Duke Ladislas of Kremnitz."

"I have never seen a Duke in all my life and couldn't speak to one to
save it."

I scarcely heard her, for I was thinking what would be the effect of a
meeting between this sweet simple-souled child, and that stern,
hard-faced, eagle-eyed old man.  I pictured the scene if, his
Excellency having told the Duke of Gustav's marriage, I were to lead
her in to him and say--"This is Gareth."

"You're not thinking a bit of what I'm saying, Christabel," she cried
presently.  "And you're looking dreadfully solemn.  This might be a
funeral, instead of one of the happiest days of my life.  But don't let
us talk any more about dukes--and such people.  I couldn't do what you
say without telling Karl first."

"Oh, by the way, that's a little mistake about his name you make,
Gareth," I said, as if it were a very trifling matter.  "He is not
called Karl by his friends and his family--but Gustav.  The mistake
must have been made at first; and I expect he liked you to call him
Karl, as the name you first used."

"What nonsense, Christabel.  Why we were married as Karl and Gareth."
She was almost indignant.

"I suppose he was just humouring you.  But his brother's name is Karl.
Perhaps they both have that name; and he liked you to call him by it,
because no one else did."

For a moment a great doubt clouded her bright eyes.  "Do you think you
have made a strange mistake, Christabel, and that it is not my Karl who
is coming?"

"No dear, I have made no mistake.  I could not do that.  I only tell
you this, that you may not be surprised if you hear others speak to him
as Gustav, and look for you to do the same.  If I were you, I should
call him Gustav before others, and use the other name when you are
alone."

"But it is such an extraordinary thing."

At that moment Mrs. Perry knocked at the door and called me.

"I must go now, Gareth."

Her eyes were shining and her face alight with love and nervous
anticipation.  "Is it Kar--Gustav?"

"No, dearest.  Not yet.  He may be some little time yet.  You will wait
here patiently till I come for you?"

"Not patiently," she cried with the rueful pout of a child.

I kissed her.  "Courage and a little patience, Gareth," I whispered; my
arms about her and her head on my shoulder.

"Yes.  I'll try to be patient--but you don't know what it is to wait
like this in such suspense."

"I'll come for you the instant I can," I assured her, and went out to
Mrs. Perry.

"The two gentlemen are here, Miss Christabel."

"I'll go down to them;" and I ran down, with no very clear thought of
what I was to say to either Colonel Katona or to Karl, until I knew for
certain that Gustav would really come.

And there was no news yet from James Perry.



CHAPTER XXVI

FACE TO FACE

As I entered the room Karl came to me with both hands outstretched.
Utterly regardless of Colonel Katona's presence, he exclaimed in a tone
of intense earnestness; "Thank God, for a sight of you again,
Christabel."

"Count Karl," I said, half in protest, as I put my hands into his
nervously and glanced at the Colonel.

"Never mind the Colonel.  He knows everything," he declared in the most
unabashed manner, "even that I have come to recant.  I must take back
the promise I made the other night."

"Good-morning, Colonel Katona;" and I drew my hands away from Karl, who
had held on to them with quite embarrassing pertinacity.

The Colonel's hard eyes were quite soft with the softness of Gareth's
as he smiled.  "You have a lovely garden here, may I go out into it?"

"Indeed you may not," I replied quickly.  If Count Gustav caught sight
of him he would be scared right away.

"Count Karl wishes to speak to you alone--that's why I asked," he
replied in his blunt, soldierly way.

"I think I am too embarrassed to know what to say or do;" and I sat
down helplessly.  "I believe it would be best for us all if we were to
talk for about a quarter of an hour of nothing but the weather."

Karl laughed.  "I can say what I want to say before the Colonel,
Christabel," he declared.  But Colonel Katona read something in my
manner which disturbed him, and he looked at me earnestly, with an
eager appeal in his eyes.

"I hope with all my heart it will be fine weather," I said with a
meaning look; "but fine or wet I am not yet ready to...."  I could
think of no word to fit the sentence, and came to an impotent stop.

"I can wait," declared the Colonel, in evident relief; and turning his
back to me, he stared resolutely out into the garden.

I glanced at Karl, and was pained to see how really worn and ill he
looked.  The sunken cheeks, hollow eye sockets, and haggard, drawn
features told their tale of the struggle through which he had passed.

He placed a chair close to mine and as he sat down he said, in a low
voice: "I have kept my word so far, Christabel, but I can't go through
with it.  It will beat me."

"You must have courage."

He shook his head with a despairing smile.  "You'll think me a
miserably weak creature, but I can't help it.  I broke down yesterday
and I had to do something.  I wrote to the Duke and told him how it was
with me, and that he must give his consent; and that if he would, I'd
give mine."

I didn't pretend to misunderstand him.  "You should not have done that."

"If you wish to save me, you must give in, too--and marry me.  I don't
care about anything else.  Gustav is the man they all want.  Let them
have him.  I told you I had no sympathy with the whole thing.  I only
held out because somewhere in the back of my mind there was an idea
that the thing was a mistake, and that if I insisted on retaining my
heirship, I might stop it all.  But that means losing you again.  I
can't do that.  I can't."

He was so dejected, so worn with the struggle which he had made at my
bidding and for my sake, that if I had been in a firmer mood I could
scarcely have urged him.  And if I tell the truth, I was in anything
but that firmer mood.  The gates of happiness yawned wide in front of
me, and my heart was urging and spurring me to enter them.  I was very
weak just then.

"You are ill and not yourself," I said.

"Yes, I am ill--but worse in mind than in body.  If I had known what it
meant when you laid your hand on my arm that day in the Stadtwalchen
and I gave that little bottle to you, I wouldn't have done it.  I would
do it again to win you, Christabel, but not to lose you."

"I saw the Duke last night--or rather he came to see me."

"My father?" he exclaimed, in great surprise.

"Yes, he wished to see what Colonel von Dreschler's daughter was like."

"Did he tell you I had written to him?"

"No.  He did not mention your name--but he promised that my father's
memory should be cleared, and even that his old title and his estate
should be restored."

"Then I've done something to help you, after all, Christabel?  I'm
glad;" and he smiled.  He had no knowledge of all that lay beneath the
surface; and I did not tell him.  "I wonder what he thought of you," he
added, after a pause.

"I think I surprised him," I said, drily.

"I'm sure of that," he agreed in a pleased tone.  "I think I see.  If
he consents to our marriage and helps to secure for you the old title,
it will be the best proof he can give the world that he knows your
father was innocent of everything.  So you see you'll have to marry me,
Christabel, if it's only to secure your own purpose.  Thank God!" he
exclaimed fervently.

"Do you mean you would give up your birthright merely for me?" I asked.

"Why, of course.  That's just what I told him," he replied, simply.

"Do you think I would let you?"

He glanced at me with another smile.  "I shall give it up in any case.
You must do what you please, you can't prevent me.  But I----" he
hesitated and added hopefully: "I think I'm very sure of you."

"You can't be sure yet of the Duke's consent.  There is more to come
than you know."

He reached forward suddenly and seized my hand.  "I don't care what's
going to happen now.  You love me.  That's enough for me to know."

"You are very confident--almost audacious.  Very different from what
you were when--Miss Gilmore met you before."

"It's your doing--all of it.  You've given me backbone enough to be
resolute on one point at any rate--I won't lose you."

"You must wait to see what occurs here to-day," I said.

"I tell you I don't care.  What is it?"

The answer came in a very unexpected form.  The door opened and I
snatched my hand from Karl's as I heard James Perry say: "Will you wait
here a minute, my Lord?"

He had mistaken the directions I had given him about the room into
which Karl's brother was to be shown; and the next instant, Count
Gustav entered and was staring at us all in amazement.

James was a shrewd fellow, and having recognized his blunder did the
best thing to cover it.  He shut the door behind Count Gustav and thus
made his retreat impossible.

"I am afraid you have mistaken the house, Count," I said, drily.  "This
is not General von Erlanger's.  But pray sit down."

He was bitterly chagrined, and shot at me such a glance of hate that I
knew he understood I had outwitted him.  Then his devil-may-care nature
reasserted itself, and he sat down and laughed.

"I suppose this is prepared for me?"

"Yes and no.  My servant has mistaken the room into which you were to
be shown--that is all.  I meant to see you alone first.  There will
probably be some money to be returned to you--unless he has made
another mistake as to that.  I told him to be careful to insist upon
part payment for his treachery in advance.  I'll ring for him."

"What's this, Gustav?" asked Karl, as I crossed to the bell.

"Nothing to do with you," was the surly reply.

"Good morning, Count Gustav," put in Colonel Katona, "Miss von
Dreschler, may I not now go and admire your garden?"

"No, Colonel, not yet if you please."  At the answer, his face clouded
ominously.  He glanced from me swiftly to Count Gustav, and back to me
with dark suggestiveness.

James Perry came in then.

"Did Count Gustav give you any money this morning, James?"

"Yes, Miss Christabel."

"Give it to me."  He handed me a bundle of notes and went out.  I
passed them on to Count Gustav.  "You have made a mistake, Count.
American servants are not to be found on the bargain counter."

"There is something here to be explained," said Colonel Katona,
abruptly.

"Count Gustav was to have come to me at General von Erlanger's at
twelve o'clock to-day; perhaps it might explain matters if he told us
why he preferred to come here."  I spoke very coldly.

He dropped his eyes to the ground, declining the challenge, and sat
swinging his legs moodily in silence.

"What is it all, Christabel?" asked Karl.

"Trouble perhaps for us all, and probably very serious trouble.  If
Count Gustav will not explain, I will."

I stopped for him to speak.

"You know why I came?" he said.

"Your brother and Colonel Katona do not."

"Hadn't we better speak together alone first?"

"Yes, if you wish."

We went out together into another room.

"You have played me an ugly trick," he began.

"It is rather that you sought to play me one and failed.  You came here
to steal Gareth from my care."

"Where is she?"

"In this house here."

"My God!"  There was no mistaking the intensity of his feelings.  He
threw himself into a chair and stared down at the carpet, his face
wrinkled in lines of thought, perplexity, and fear.  "Does Colonel
Katona know?" he asked after a long, tense pause.

"Not yet."

"You mean to tell him?"

"I have brought him here for that purpose.

"He mustn't be told."

I raised my eyebrows and shrugged my shoulders, and left him to
interpret the gesture as he pleased.

"You don't know what you are doing.  My God, you don't; or you'd never
dare.  What are your terms now?"

"No more than they were before--and no less."

He took a paper from his pocket.  "Here's the first of them--over my
father's signature."

"Is this what you were to have brought to the General's house?"

"Yes," he nodded.

"It is not your doing, then, that part?"

"What else do you want?"

"You know quite well--that you make Gareth your wife."

"You're not so clever as you think you are," he jeered.  This cheap
sneer at me appeared to afford him some relief.

"Have you no thought for her?

"I don't wish to hear about her from you."

"Then her father and yours had better speak of her.  The Duke knows the
story by now; and the matter has to be settled somehow."

"You are brewing an awful mess and making any settlement impossible.
But then you're a woman, and can be trusted to do that."

"Shall I send for Colonel Katona to come to us here?"

"No," he cried quickly, and then gave a desperate sigh.

"Yet you love Gareth," I said.

"I tell you I won't hear of her from you."

"And she has given you all her innocent heart, trusting you, believing
in you, loving you, as only such a sweet pure girl as she could."

"I will not hear you," he cried again fiercely.

"If you will not, there is only one alternative."  He was silent, so I
continued.  "I do not plead for her--don't think that.  Her cause needs
no pleading at my hands; because there are those who will not see
injustice done to her.  You know that--selfish, reckless, wicked and
daring as you are.  Her father is equally daring, and knows how to
revenge a wrong done to her."

"What do you want to say, then?  Can you see any way?"

"When you spoke to me that afternoon at Madame d'Artelle's house about
her, I saw that you loved her; and what I would appeal to now is that
love of yours for her."

"Go on," he said sullenly.

"You would be neither sullen nor indifferent if you could have seen her
when to-day she knew you were coming.  You know little of a woman's
heart; but I know it--and all Gareth's was in her glad eyes at the
thought of being once again with you.  She is not well, moreover
worried and harassed by suspense; ill with the fever of unrest.  She
has no strength for the part you have made her play, and the passionate
desire to have this tangle straightened and peace made with her father
is wearing her life away."

Whether he was touched by this, I cannot say.  He gave no sign.

"You wish for a chance to checkmate me," I continued; "and here you can
find one.  I promised her happiness--you can give that promise the lie;
you can break her heart and blight her life, and probably kill her.  I
have acted in the belief that you cared for her: you can sneer that
belief out of existence, and win at least that one success over me.
You would have a victory of a sort; but I would not envy your feelings
in the hour of triumph."

He took this in silence also.  I did not think he had even cared to
listen.

"Have you anything more to say?" he asked after a pause.

"If your heart is dead to her, no words are needed--none can do any
good.  But it will not be well for you."

"Threats now?"

"I leave them for Gareth's father.  You know what he can do?"

Something in the words touched him.  He looked up with a new, sudden
suspicion.  "You know that, too?" he asked, sharply.  "Is that why
you've trapped me here like this?"

"That is not my part of it," I replied, ambiguously, leaving him to
make of the answer what he would.

"Can I see Gareth?"

"Yes, when her father knows, and with his consent."

He shrugged his shoulders and sneered again.  "You take me for a
villain, of course.  You said so once."

"I will gladly revise my opinion if you will give me occasion."

"I told you you were not so sharp as you thought.  If you were, and if
there is what I suppose there is behind those words of yours just now,
you would see that I might be as anxious as yourself for Gareth--if
only I could see the way."

"I should be glad to think it--for her sake."

"You can.  It's true.  And if you could see a way I'd forgive you all
the rest."

"I have no more to say--to you," I said, rising.

"You are going to tell him?"

"Yes--now.  There is no good in delay."

He got up, frowning, his face anxious but resolute.  "No; this is my
affair.  You have done enough mischief.  Send him to me.  I'll tell
him."

"I will not have violence in my house."

He came close to me and stared into my eyes.  "Do you know what Colonel
Katona can do in this?"

"I know he has sworn to have the life of the man who has wronged his
child."

He waved this aside with a shake of the head and a toss of the hand.
"Is that all you know?"

"Yes--but it is enough."

"I will tell him myself.  Not alone if you say so.  Karl can hear it
too."

"You had better go to them.  You will of course tell him everything.
If you do not, I shall."

"You don't understand.  This is beyond you now.  I shall tell him one
thing which you have been too prejudiced and blind to see--that Gareth
is already my wife, legally--as you like to insist."

"I don't believe you--nor will he."

"Believe it or not as you please--it is true; if a priest of the Holy
Church can make man and woman husband and wife."

He swung away with that, and I watched him cross the hall with quick,
firm steps, and enter the room where Colonel Katona and Karl were
waiting.

I was glad to be spared the ordeal of that interview, and was still
standing thoughtfully at the closed door on the other side of which
that scene of the drama was being enacted, when a carriage drove up
rapidly.

I knew it was General von Erlanger and the Duke, and I told the servant
to show them into one of the larger rooms in the front of the house.



CHAPTER XXVII

"THIS IS GARETH"

I was in the act of going to the Duke and my fingers were all but on
the handle of the door, when I recalled the idea which had flashed upon
me an hour before when with Gareth, and instantly I resolved to act
upon it.

Running back into the room where I had been with Count Gustav, I wrote
two lines to his Excellency.

"I have made one mistake.  Count Gustav's marriage is legal.  Gareth is
really his wife.  Let the Duke know this."

I sent James Perry in with this note to the General and a message that
I would be with him in one minute.

Then I ran up to Gareth.  The poor child was sick from the suspense;
but I noticed with intense satisfaction that she had been filling up
some of the weary time of waiting by making herself look as pretty as
possible.

"Is he here, Christabel?  Oh, how my heart beats."

"Yes, dear, he is here.  He is with your father now, telling him all;
and you are to come with me to the Duke."  I put it so intentionally,
that she might believe Gustav had expressed the wish.

"What do we not owe you, Christabel?" she cried, kissing me tenderly.
"But I'd rather see Kar--Gustav, first.  I've been practising that name
ever since you left me; but it sounds so strange.  The other will come
out first."

"Try and remember it with the Duke, Gareth.  It doesn't matter with any
one else so much."

"Oh, I can't go to him.  I can't.  He is such a stern and terrible old
man, so--Gustav says.  I got it nearly right that, time, didn't I?" and
she laughed.

"It will soon come quite naturally, dear.  Are you ready?  He may not
like it if we keep him waiting."

I looked at her critically, gave a touch or two to her fair hair, and
kissed her.  "You look very beautiful, Gareth."

"I feel very frightened," she said, and clung to me as we went down the
stairs.  I believe I was almost as nervous as she could have been; for
I was indeed drawing a bow at a venture.  But I dared not let her guess
my feelings, lest she should run back upstairs.

So I took her hand and pushed on steadily, and when James opened the
door of the room I led her right across to where the Duke sat, and,
with my heart thumping against my ribs I said, just as I had thought to
say:

"This is Gareth, Duke Ladislas."

His bird-like face was as black as a night-storm.  His keen eyes
watched us both, glancing swiftly from my face to Gareth's, and from
her back to me as we hurried across the room.  The heavy brows were
pent, and when we stood in front of him there came an ominous
pause--like the calm when the storm is to burst.

Gareth was so frightened by this reception that the clutch of her
fingers tightened on mine.  I felt her trembling and saw her colour go,
as she flinched with a little gasping catch of the breath all eloquent
of fear.

His Excellency had risen at our entrance, and I saw him stare with a
start of astonishment at Gareth, and from her to the stern old Duke;
and then he lowered his head and closed his eyes, and I noticed that he
clenched his right hand.  He feared as much as I did for the result of
my experiment.

The silence was almost intolerable; those vulture eyes fixed with
deadly intentness upon us both, and the hard unyielding face set in the
stern, cold, impassive, expressionless scrutiny.

Bitterly I began to repent my rashness, when a great change came,
wrought by Gareth.

With surely one of the happiest instincts that ever came to a child,
half helpless as she was with fright, she slipped her fingers from mine
and, throwing herself on her knees at the Duke's feet, she caught his
hand and held it and looked up frankly in his face and cried:

[Illustration: "Throwing herself on her knees at the Duke's feet."]

"It was all my fault, sir.  I pray God and you to forgive him."

Just that; no more.  No tears, no wailings, no hysterics.  Just the
frank statement of what her pure, innocent, simple heart believed to be
the truth--the whole truth as it seemed to her; as no one looking down
into her eyes could doubt.

The Duke could not.  I did not look for emotion from him.  He stared
down at her; but gradually I saw the furrows on the forehead relax, and
the eyes soften.  Then the lids shut down over the glitter, his free
hand was placed gently on the golden head, and bending forward he
kissed her on the forehead.

"Gareth."

Then his Excellency did what I could have kissed him for doing; for I
was past thinking what to do just then.

"I wish to speak to you," he whispered to me; and we both crept away
out of the room as softly as though we had been two children stealing
off in fear from some suddenly discovered terror.

The moment we reached the room where I had spoken to Count Gustav, his
Excellency surprised me.  "You knew it, of course; but how?  You are
wonderful, Christabel!"

"Knew what?"

"Do you mean you did not know?  Then it is a miracle.  I thought you
knew and had planned it; and I marvelled that even you had courage
enough for such a daring stroke."

"I drew a bow at a venture; and don't understand you."

"Do you tell me that you believed any mere pink and white young girl
picked out at random would make an impression upon that crusted mass of
self-will, obstinacy, and inflexibility of purpose?  You--with your
keen wit and sense of humour, Christabel!"

"You could see the impression for yourself, surely," I retorted.

"This is positively delicious!  I really must enjoy it a little longer
without enlightening you.  You do really believe that the Duke was
melted because that child is very pretty and has innocent eyes?  You
must give up reading us humans, Christabel; you really must, after
this."

"It seems strange to such a cynic, I suppose, that innocence can plead
for itself convincingly to such nature as the Duke's!"

"You intend that to be very severe--but it isn't.  Innocence, as
innocence, would have no more chance with Duke Ladislas, if it stood in
the way of his plans, than a troutlet would have in the jaws of a
hungry pike.  The humour of it is that you should have thought
otherwise, and actually have--have dangled the pretty troutlet right
before the pike's nose."

"It has not been so unsuccessful."

"I am sorry for you, Christabel," he answered, assuming the air of a
stern mentor; "but it is my unfortunate duty to administer a severe
corrective to your--what shall I term it--your overweening
self-confidence."

"I have given you considerable enjoyment at any rate."

His eyes were twinkling and he shook his forefinger at me with
exaggerated gravity.  "I am afraid that at this moment, very much
afraid, you are rather puffed up with self-congratulation at the result
of this master-stroke of yours."

"It is more to the point to think whether it will succeed."

"Oh yes, it will succeed; but why, do you think?  Not because of that
child's innocence or pretty pink and whiteness; and certainly not
because the Duke was in any mood to be impressed.  Now, there is a
problem for you.  When I gave him those three lines you sent into me,
his fury was indescribable.  Not against Gustav, mark you: he stands by
him through any storm and stress--but against the wife.  He was
speechless with suppressed rage; and right in the midst of it in you
came with your--'This is Gareth'--and you know the rest.  There's the
riddle; now, what's the answer?"

I thought closely, and then gave it up.  There was obviously some
influence at work which I did not understand.  "You have your wish.
You have pricked the bladder of my self-conceit; I've been floating
with somebody else's life belt, I see that."

"Do you think you feel sufficiently humble?"

"Yes, quite humiliated," I admitted with a smile.

"Then, I'll tell you.  The clue is to be sought for in the years of
long ago.  The Duke has been married twice; and his first wife was
named Gareth, and the only child of the union was Gareth also; just
such a girl as that sweet little thing you brought into him to-day--and
so like both the idolized dead wife and dead child as to bring right up
before him in living flesh the one dead romance of his life.  Now you
see what you did?"

"What will he do?"

"I should very much like to know.  I am afraid you have got your way,
and that he'll accept her as his daughter; and then--phew, I don't know
what will come next.  Only recently a very different sort of marriage
had been planned for Gustav; one that would have strengthened the
position as much as that child there will weaken it.  I don't envy the
Duke his decision.  How does Gustav feel toward her?"

"I believe he still cares for her--but you know him."

"I wish I could think there was happiness for her.  Those whom the gods
love, die young--I'm not sure that if I were the gods, I wouldn't
choose that solution."

"It is not for you to settle, fortunately, but for the Duke."

"True; but he can only give her Gustav--and that may be a long, long
way different from happiness."  He paused and with a slow smile added:
"This may affect you as well."

"I am thinking of Gareth just now."

"The same thing--from a different angle, Christabel, that's all.  If
this marriage is publicly recognized, Karl will be again the
acknowledged heir; the axis of things will be shifted; and the motive
for the Duke's promise to you last night will be gone.  It will be hard
if you should have done so great a right and yet pay the price.  It is
well that you are strong."

"I have the Duke's word."

"Can you keep water in an open funnel?"

I turned away with a sigh and looked out of the window.  His Excellency
came to my side and laid a hand very gently and kindly on my shoulder.
A touch of genuine sympathy.

"Almost, _I_ could hope, Christabel--but thank God, I am not the Duke.
I was a very presumptuous old man--only a day or two back---but you
have made me care for you in a very different way.  I am presumptuous
no longer; and all that I am and all that I have shall be staked and
lost before I see injustice done to you."

"I know what a friend you are."

"Pray Heaven, this may not be beyond our friendship."

I could not answer him.  I stood staring blankly out into the garden
realizing all that was behind his words.  I knew he might have spoken
no more than the truth; and that in gaining Gareth's happiness, I had
ventured my own future.

Not for a moment did I distrust Karl; but I knew the influences which
might be brought to bear upon him.  If Gustav was no longer to be
preferred as the Duke's heir and Karl was not to be allowed to forego
his rights as elder son, our marriage became impossible.

I had worked for this, I know; had planned that it should be; had
forced it home upon Karl himself; and had even found pleasure in the
thought of the sacrifice it involved.

But since then I had taken to my heart such different thoughts.  The
Duke had with his own hands swept away the barrier to our marriage; and
Karl himself had shown me within the past hour how much it was to him.

It is one thing to stand outside the Palace of Delight and, in the
knowledge that admission is impossible to you, be firm in a refusal to
enter; but it is another and a very different thing, when the gates
stand open and your foot is already on the very threshold and loving
hands are beckoning to you with sweet invitation to enter, to find the
portal closed in your face, and yourself shut again in the outer
darkness.

It is little wonder, therefore, if my heart began to ache again in
dread of the cold solitude which threatened to be the reward for my
share in that day's doings.

It was all quite clear to me, as I stared out into the garden, seeing
nothing that was actually there; nothing but the troubled forms which
my thoughts assumed.  And although I murmured and rebelled against it
all, I knew in my heart that at the last neither Karl's desires nor
mine would be allowed to decide what should be done.

My kind old friend, discerning the struggle that was taking place in my
thoughts, left me at first to fight it out in my own way, but presently
came, and in the same sympathetic way laid a hand on my arm.

"You must not take too black a view, Christabel," he said.  "It may all
be yet for the best.  I thought only to prepare you."

"It is over," I said, with a smile.  "I have taken my decision.  It
shall be as the Duke decides."

"I know how it must be with you," he replied, very gently.

The kindness of his manner seemed in some strange way to hurt me
almost; at least it made me conscious of the pain of everything; and I
lowered my head and wrung my hands in silence.

Then a door opened in the hall.

"Christabel, Christabel!"  It was Gareth's voice, sweet and glad.

"Go to her, please, I--I cannot for the moment."

He went at once and did what was of course the best thing to do--he
brought her to me.

"The Duke wishes to see Gustav alone," he said.  A glance at his face
told me my plan had succeeded.

Gareth caught my arm nervously.  "I heard angry voices in one of the
rooms, Christabel--my father's and Kar--Gustav's.  What does it mean?"

"All will be well now that you have seen the Duke, dearest.  Stay here
a minute until I come for you."

I believed it now and felt very happy as I kissed her and she kissed me
in response.

"I owe it you, Christabel," she whispered.  "I will wait."

I went out with the General and closed the door upon her.

"You must do all that may have to be done now," I said, weakly.  "I
have finished, and can do no more.  Count Gustav is there with Colonel
Katona and Count Karl.  Will you fetch him?" and I pointed to the room
from which the sounds of voices loud in anger were to be heard.

But even as I spoke, the door was flung open violently, and Colonel
Katona and Gustav came out.

"No, by God, no, you are too great a villain," cried the Colonel
fiercely, and then seeing who was with me, he stopped abruptly.

In the pause I glanced through into the room and saw Karl staring after
the other two.

Our eyes met, and he flung up his hands with a gesture of consternation
and despair.



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE COLONEL'S SECRET

Instantly I thought of Gareth and raised my hand, hoping to still the
Colonel's angry, strident tone lest it should reach her.

"He is a villain," he repeated.  "I care not now who hears me say it.
He lured her from me, planned to make me do murder, and now would have
me join in dishonouring my child.  You must hear this, Miss von
Dreschler, for you know much--and shall know the rest."

"For Gareth's sake, Colonel, she is in that room and may hear," I
protested.

"Let her come and let her decide this," said Gustav.

"No.  This is for me.  I will tell all.  I have kept my secret long
enough--for your sake, as you know--and will keep it no longer.  You
came here," he said, turning to me, "to clear your father's memory of
the charge brought against him.  I can prove it false, and will.  He
was charged with having murdered the young Count Stephen.  It was a
lie.  This scoundrel here knows it was a lie.  Ask him if he dare deny
that."

There was no need to ask the question; Count Gustav's face gave the
answer, clear and unmistakable.

"You will ruin everything, Colonel Katona," he said.  "Not me only, but
the Duke, your master, and the great cause--everything."

"To hell with any cause which would sacrifice my child's honour.  I
will tell the Duke to his face," was the hot reply, very fiercely
spoken.

"I am here ready to listen, Colonel Katona."

We all started and turned to find the Duke himself had come out.

"What is this lie which threatens ruin to everything, sir?" he asked
very sternly, after a pause.

Colonel Katona drew himself up.

"It is right that I should tell it to you.  It was for you and your
family that the lie was planned; that you might have the Throne when
the time came; and it was continued that this man--your son--might
succeed you.  Your son, who has rewarded me for my fidelity to your
house by stealing my child.  It was for you and yours that I consented
to dishonour my friend--this lady's father; and have kept the secret
inviolate through years of remorse and sorrow."

"Enough of yourself," said the Duke, with a contemptuous wave of the
hand.  "Speak plainly."

"The scheme has failed, and through this villain's dastardly conduct.
The man whom Colonel von Dreschler was accused of having murdered, and
whose death would have cleared the way for you and yours to the
Throne--Count Stephen--is living, a close prisoner in my house."

"Thank God for that!" I cried, fervently, understanding all now.

Then a gasp of pain, or rage, or fear, or of all three, escaped the
Duke's pallid lips.  He staggered so that his Excellency put out his
hand to help him.

"Is this true?" fell in a whisper from the Duke, his eyes on his son's
face, now as white and tense as his own.

There was no answer, and in the silence, I heard the door behind me
opened softly, and Gareth came out.

"Ah!"  The soft ejaculation, born partly of gladness at the sight of
Gustav and her father, and partly of fear at the wrought looks of both,
drew all eyes upon her.  The silence seemed to deepen suddenly; as
though a common instinct of mercy inspired all to attempt to keep what
was passing from her knowledge.

A look of bewilderment came over her face as she gazed from one to the
other; tender but questioning for the Duke; half fearful anxiety for
her father; and infinite love and yearning for her husband.  She
glanced at him last; but her first word was for him, and it was toward
him she moved, murmuring his name and stretching out her hands.

Her father drew his breath quickly, with a sound between a gasp and a
sigh; and I thought he was going to step between them, but the Duke
glanced at him and raised his hand.

"She is his," he said, his tone no more than a whisper, but distinct to
all of us.

The Colonel drew back a pace and put his hand to his forehead.

Gareth passed him.  She had no eyes for any but her husband in that
moment.

I waited with fear-wrought anxiety to see how he would greet her, for
his face had given no sign which we could read.

But she had no fear for him as she had no thought of us.  Her faith in
him was as staunch and patent as the love which lighted her face and
sparkled in her clear shining eyes.  Our presence gave her no
embarrassment; I believe that we were all forgotten in the absorbing
delight of that one supreme moment.

He played the man for once.  As she placed her hands in his with just a
simple--"I am so glad," he took them, and bending down kissed her on
the lips before us all.

But this was more than her father could bear.  With an angry "Gareth,"
he turned to part them.

Scared by his stern look and tone, she shrank back with a little
piteous cry: "Father, he is my husband;" as if indeed she would defend
him.

I saw the cloud on his face deepen and the words of a harsh reply were
already on his lips, when the Duke, who had been watching intently,
intervened.

"Colonel Katona, the rest is for us men to settle," he said, waving his
hand to the room behind him.

His Excellency glanced at me and motioned toward Gareth, and I crossed
to her.

"For a few minutes, Gareth," said the Duke.

She hesitated, and then, as her father was moving away in obedience to
the Duke's command, she stepped past me and seized his hand.  "Father,
you forgive us?"

Just a little yearning plea, pathetic enough to have touched the
hardest heart, I thought it.  But he had no ears for it.  His passion
was too hot and fierce against the man whom she included in the appeal.

He turned and looked upon her quite unmoved--his face hard like a rock,
and his voice rough and harsh as he answered: "No.  You have to choose
between us; and if you choose him, you are no longer my child;" and
shaking her hand off, he went into the room.

Gareth gave one soft, piteous cry, like a stricken fawn, as I put my
arm round her.

I hated him for the merciless cruelty of the rebuff; and I believe all
shared that feeling, as we saw how it had cut deep into her tender
heart.  I know that Karl and his Excellency did, by the glances of pity
they cast upon her as they passed me to follow the Duke.

Count Gustav hesitated, seemingly at a loss what to do.  I thought he
would have taken her from my arms to his; and much as I detested him, I
think I would have forgiven him everything had he done so.  But, after
a second's hesitation, he shrugged his shoulders, passed on and closed
the door behind him.

I led her away upstairs to her room, and by the time we reached it she
was clinging to me feebly and helplessly.  She sank down on her bed
with a deep-drawn sigh, and lay there deathly pale and trembling
violently.

I hoped that the tears would come to relieve her; but they did not.
The shock had been too sudden.  The suspense of the separation had worn
her down; then the joy of the meeting with Gustav had wrought upon her
nerves so that her father's stern and almost brutal repulse had been a
blow struck just at the moment when she was at the weakest.  The sorrow
was too deep for tears, the suffering too acute and numbing.

I threw a rug over her and bent and kissed her, as I whispered: "I
think it will all come right, Gareth, dear."

She took no notice; and feeling I could do no more then but just let
her grief have its way, I sat down by the bedside, wondering whether I
believed my own words; whether, in such a tangle, all could possibly
come right; or whether in striving to right things in my own way, I had
only succeeded in creating just an impossible bungle.

My thoughts were soon down in the room below.  What was occurring
there?  Far bigger things were in the doing, or undoing, than the
breaking of poor Gareth's heart.  Fate had bound up that issue with
others of much greater import.

If Count Stephen was alive, the whole of the Duke's plans and Count
Gustav's scheming were shattered.  Would Colonel Katona insist upon
making his story public--or would some means be devised to prevail upon
him to keep that secret still inviolate?  On that question would hinge
the future of the Patriots' cause; and so possibly the future of the
whole Empire.

In such a balance what weight was the mere happiness of two girls like
Gareth and myself likely to have?  None; absolutely none.  Nor could I
bring myself to think it should have, considering the critical
consequences there might be to thousands, aye even millions in the Dual
Empire.

The Colonel was a hard man, however, how hard he had shown himself
within the last few minutes; and I believed he would hold on to his
purpose like a steel clamp.  If he did, what would result?  Either the
leadership of the Patriot cause would pass from the Duke to Count
Stephen, or the Duke's enemies would seize the occasion to promote a
schism which would ruin the cause irreparably.

In that case the main obstacle to Count Gustav's open acknowledgment of
Gareth as his wife would be removed; but her husband and father must
remain open and bitter enemies; and her choice must be made between
them.  Poor Gareth!

And so I sat in long, weary suspense, tossed hither and thither by my
distracted thoughts, while I waited, my nerves high-strung, to learn
the result of the conference below stairs.

I was roused by a long, shuddering sigh from Gareth.

"I am here, dear," I said, bending over her.

"I am so cold, Christabel," she cried, shivering.  I felt her hands;
they were as cold as stones; but when I laid my fingers on her brow, it
was hot with the burning heat of a fever.  In much concern I called up
Mrs. Perry, and together we applied such remedies as we could devise.

She was quite passive in our hands.  Thanked us with sweet smiles,
doing just what we told her like a submissive child.

"What has caused this, Miss Christabel?" asked Mrs. Perry.  "She is
really ill, and should see a doctor."

"She has had a shock," I replied; and the good soul shook her head
dismally.

"She is just the sweetest girl that ever happened, but not weather
proof against much shock," she said.

Then I heard sounds below; and my pulse quickened.  The conference was
ended,--how?  "Stay here and watch while I am away," I said, and went
downstairs.

His Excellency and Count Gustav were in the hall speaking together
eagerly.

"Where is Gareth?" asked the Count.

"Upstairs, in her room."

"I will take her away with me.  A wife must go with her husband," he
answered; his tone curt and bitter.

"She is ill.  A case for a doctor, I fear."

"She was well enough just now.  Is this another trick?  Tell her I am
waiting for her.  She has cost me enough.  I may as well have as much
of her as I can."

"You will have her life if you take her away now.  But that may be your
object."  I could not help the taunt, his manner so enraged me.

"Thank you," he said, with a curl of the lip.

"It is no case for harsh words," put in his Excellency.

"And more certainly none for harsh deeds.  Gareth cannot go until a
doctor has seen her," I declared firmly.

"But for your meddling none of this would have happened," declared
Gustav.  "Let me see her."

"In your present mood, no.  The shock of her father's cruel rebuff has
quite unnerved her," I said to his Excellency.  "Tell me what doctor to
send for, please."

He wrote down the name of a Dr. Armheit and his address, and I sent off
James Perry at once.  "What has been decided?" I asked next.  "Where is
the Duke?  He should be told of Gareth."

"I will speak to you presently," said the General, very kindly.

Count Gustav laughed maliciously.  "You have made a mess of things for
yourself as well as for the rest of us, thank heaven.  It serves you
right.  Karl has----"

"Stop, if you please, Count Gustav, this is for me to explain," broke
in the General very angrily.  "Be good enough to leave it to me."

"Why?  What do I owe to you or to this meddler here that I should hold
my tongue at your bidding?  She has set herself against us, and must
take the consequences.  The Duke has about as much affection for you,
as I have; and neither of us relishes the honour you would do us by
becoming a member of our family."

"Silence, sir," exclaimed the General, hotly.

"Not at your bidding, or that of any other man."

"Nothing that this--this gentleman can say can affect me, General," I
said, smoothly.

The words seemed to add fuel to Count Gustav's anger.  "My wife shall
not stay in your house and in your care," he said with great heat.

"The moment the doctor says she may leave the house, she can go--but
not before."

"Oh, it's only another lie," he cried, passionately; and raising his
voice he called loudly: "Gareth, Gareth.  I am waiting for you.  I,
Gustav; Gareth, I say, Gareth."

"You may kill her," I murmured, wringing my hands.

As if gloating over my trouble, he sneered: "You act well; but we'll
see;" and he called again loudly: "Gareth, Gareth, come to me."

I caught the sound of her footsteps above.  The door of her room opened
and she answered: "I am coming, Gustav;" and a moment later she came
down the stairs and threw herself into his arms.

"She told me you were too ill to come to me, but I knew it was false.
You feel well enough to come away with me?"

"Yes, of course, if you wish it.  I must go with him, Christabel; he is
my husband," she cried, wistfully.  "He called me."

The General saw her condition as plainly as I.

"She is more fit to be in bed than to leave here," he said.

"Do you suppose I cannot take care of my own wife, sir?" cried Gustav,
fiercely.  "Get your hat, Gareth."

She left his arms and began to climb the stairs.

"Mrs. Perry will bring it, Gareth," I said, hastily.

But there was no need for it.  She clung to the balustrade feebly and
turned back to look at Gustav.

"I'm afraid--I'm--I'm----"  No more; for the next instant he had to
catch her in his arms to save her from falling.  She smiled to him as
if trying to rally her strength.  "My head," she murmured; and then the
hand which was pressed to it dropped, and she fainted.

"You had better carry her up to bed," said his Excellency, practically.

"She has only fainted and will be better in a minute," answered the
Count.  "She shall not stay here;" and he carried her into one of the
rooms and laid her on a couch, standing between me and her to prevent
my approach.  Every action appeared to be inspired by hatred of me
instead of care for her.

Happily the doctor soon came, and his first words after he had examined
her were that she must be carried at once to bed.

"I wish to remove her from the house," said Count Gustav.

"It is impossible," was the brusque, imperative reply.

"It is necessary."

"It is for me to say what is necessary in such a case," declared the
doctor; and being a strong as well as a masterful man, he picked Gareth
up in his arms and told me to show the way to her bedroom.

And in this way she was given back into my care.



CHAPTER XXIX

A SINGULAR TRUCE

It was more than an hour before I could go down to General von
Erlanger, and I carried a heavy heart and a bad report of Gareth's
condition.

"She is very ill," I told him.  "The doctor fears brain fever.  At best
but fragile, recent events have so preyed upon her that the climax
to-day found her utterly broken in nerve and strength.  I have left her
muttering in half-delirious terror of her father's anger.  Where is
Count Gustav?"

"Gone away with the doctor, to return later.  And now of yourself,
Christabel?"

"In the presence of this I feel I do not care.  I gathered the gist of
all from what Count Gustav said.  What was decided?  Did the Duke know
that Count Stephen was living?"

"No.  The thing was planned by his supporters, as he told you last
night, to make sure of his leadership being secure at a time when,
owing to the Emperor's illness, it seemed that the hour was at hand for
the Patriots' cause to be proclaimed.  They meant to kill the Count,
but some one saved him, and then Katona was persuaded to undertake his
guardianship."

"What is to be done?"

"The Duke is a broken man.  The knowledge of his favourite son's guilt;
the break-up of his plans; the bitterness of the loss of virtually
everything he cared for in life has completely unstrung him.  He has
sent Katona to take Count Stephen to him; he has given Gustav the
option of voluntary exile or public exposure; and he has reinstated
Karl in his position as elder son and his heir."

"It is only right.  I am glad," I said.

"Glad?" he echoed, with a meaning glance.

"Yes, very glad."

"Your tone is very confident.  You know what it carries with it--for
you, I mean?"

"I do not care what it means to me.  It is right."

"The Duke is very bitter against you, Christabel."

"He would scarcely be human if he were not.  In a sense this is all my
doing.  I have brought it about, that is.  But he cannot harm me, nor
prevent my dear father's memory from being cleared.  True, it seems he
can influence Count Karl."

His Excellency smiled with deliberate provocation.  "Possibly; yet
Karl, although not a Patriot, is still a rebel."

"He has gone with his father," I answered, with a shrug.

"That is not fair.  The Duke was too ill to go alone."

"He came with you, General."

He shook his head.  "Christabel!  If matters were not so sad here, I
might almost be tempted to put that forbidden question."

"If you were so minded, I might not now forbid it, perhaps."

"I think I am glad to hear you say that.  The girl in you can perhaps
scarcely help resenting Karl's going away just now; but then any girl
can be unjust at such a moment."

"Are you pleading for him?"

"Oh, no; there is no need.  You will do that very well yourself when
you are alone."

"You are very provoking."

"All I mean is that"--he paused and smiled again--"Karl is and will
remain a rebel."

"I must go to Gareth now," I said.

I gave him my hand and he held it.  "I am going with the news of her to
the Duke; and when there I shall see--the rebel.  Shall I give him any
message?"

"No--except that I am glad," I answered steadily.

"That, of course; and--that he had better come as soon as he can for
the reasons;" and with a last meaning glance he was leaving, when I
asked him to let the Colonel know of Gareth's serious condition.

I was full of anxiety for Gareth, and I had been so greatly wrought
upon by the events of the day that, as I had assured the General, my
own concerns seemed too small to care about; and yet I could not put
them away from me.  "Karl was a rebel; Karl was a rebel."  Over and
over again the words came back to me, and all that they meant, as I
stood by the window at a turn of the staircase, looking out and
wondering.

Yes, it had hurt me that at such a time he had left the house without
waiting to see me; but--he was a rebel.  He had gone at the stern old
Duke's bidding; but--he was a rebel and would come again.  The Duke
hated me, and as Gustav had said would never sanction our union; but
then--Karl was a rebel.

The sun might shine, or the rain might fall; political plans might
succeed or they might fail; great causes flourish or be overthrown;
Karl was a rebel--and we should find our way after all to happiness.
Love must have its selfish moments; and to me then that was just such a
moment, despite all the troubles in the house.

For Gareth we could do nothing but watch, and nurse, and wait.  She was
very restless; very troubled in mind as her wayward mutterings showed;
very weak--like a piece of delicate mechanism suddenly over-strained
and broken.

An hour later Count Gustav returned, and I went down to him.  The
doctor had convinced him of the seriousness of Gareth's condition, and
I was glad to find him less self-centred and more concerned for her.

"While Gareth is here, Count Gustav, there must be a truce between us,"
I said.  "And she cannot possibly be moved."

"I know that now," he agreed.

"Then there must be a truce.  For her sake all signs of the strife
between us must be suppressed.  She may ask me about you; and you about
me.  She has grown to care for me in the last few days; and it will
help her recovery if we can make her believe the trouble that divides
us all is ended.  It rests with us to give her this ease of mind."

"I am not quite the brute you seem to think," he answered.

"I have my own opinion of you and am not likely to alter it--but for
her sake I am willing to pretend."

"You are very frank."

"The terms of our truce are agreed, then?"

"Just as you please," he said, with a shrug.

"There is another thing to be done, somehow.  Her father must be
brought to agree also."

"Shall I go on my knees to him?" he sneered.

"I care not how it is done so long as it is done.  But her mind is
distracted by the thought of the breach between you two--and of her
need to choose between you."

"That was not my doing," he rapped out.

"I see no need for a competition as to who has done the most harm," I
retorted, coldly.  "The question now is how that harm can best be
repaired.  Gareth is very ill--but worse in mind than in body; and she
will not recover unless her mind is eased."

"Not recover?" he cried, catching at the words.  "There is no need to
talk like that.  Dr. Armheit does not take any such serious view as
that."

"Could Dr. Armheit be told all the facts?"

"My God!" he cried under his breath; and turning away looked out of the
window.

In the silence I heard a carriage drive up to the door.  "Here is the
doctor, I expect.  You can tell him and get his opinion when he knows."

But it was not the doctor.  It was Karl with Colonel Katona; and James
Perry showed them in.

On the threshold the Colonel, catching sight of Gustav, stopped
abruptly, with a very stern look, and would not have entered the room
had I not gone to him and urged him.

"There is something to be done here which is above all quarrels,
Colonel.  You must come in, please."

"I have told him that Gareth is ill," said Karl.

"What do you mean, Miss von Dreschler?" asked the Colonel, with a very
grim look at me.

I struck at once as hard as I could.  "Gareth's life is in danger, and
it rests largely with you whether she shall live or die."

He pressed his lips tightly together for a moment.  "In plainer terms,
please."

"Dr. Armheit, who knows only that she has had a shock and has something
on her mind, says that she is very ill.  We who know what the cause is,
know how much graver her condition really is.  He will tell you that
her chances of recovery depend upon her ease of mind; and that ease of
mind can only be secured in one way.  It rests with you for one and
Count Gustav for the other, to secure it and save her."

He began to see my meaning and he glanced with an angry scowl at Gustav
who, I am bound to say, returned the look with interest.  Neither
spoke, but waited for me to finish.

"I have just arranged a truce with Count Gustav to last until Gareth is
strong enough to be told the facts.  You two must do the same."

The Colonel drew himself up stiffly and shook his head, and Gustav
quick to take fire, was about to burst in, when I continued: "Are you
to think of Gareth or of yourselves?  Is she to die that you may glower
at one another in your selfish passion?  Will it profit either of you
to know that her life was sacrificed because you could not mask your
tempers over her sick bed?  Is this what you call love for her?  You,
her father; and you, her husband?"

I was beginning to win.  I saw that from the slight change in the
bearing of both.  Hot indignation began to give place to mutual
sullenness.  "It is your quarrel which may kill her; your apparent
reconciliation that may save her.  Her mind is restless, fevered, and
distraught with the horror of the cruel choice which you, her father,
laid upon her.  You can hear it in every murmur of her half-delirious
fever as she lies tossing now.  The terror of you, love born as it is,
will kill her unless together you two can succeed in removing it."

With a groan the Colonel fell on to a chair and covered his face with
his hands, while Gustav turned back again to the window.

I was winning fast now, and I went on confidently: "You can see this
now, I hope.  What I would have you do is to wait here until she is
calmer, and then together go to her, and let her see for herself that
the fear which haunts her is groundless.  Let your hate and your
quarrel stay outside her room; do your utmost while you are inside to
make her feel and believe that you are reconciled.  That will do more
to win her back to health and strength than all the doctors and nurses
in the empire.  The trouble is in the mind, not the body.  Happiness
may save, where misery will kill her."

Neither answered, and in the pause some one knocked at the door.  It
was Mrs. Perry, come to tell me that Gareth was calmer and conscious,
and was asking for me.

I told them the good news and added: "May I go and tell her you are
both here waiting to see her--together?"

Neither would be the first to give way.

"I will take the risk," I said.  "I will go and tell her, and then
whichever of you refuses shall have the responsibility;" and without
giving them time to answer I went upstairs to Gareth.

She was looking woefully wan and ill, her face almost as colourless as
the linen on which she lay.  She welcomed me with a smile and whispered
my name as I bent and kissed her.

"I am feeling so weak, Christabel," she murmured.  "Am I really ill?
Or why am I here?"

"Not ill, dearest--but not quite well.  That is all; and I have such
news for you that it will soon make you quite well."

Her sensitive face clouded and her lips twitched nervously.  "About
Karl--I mean Gustav,--and--oh, I remember," and clasping her hands to
her face turned away trembling.

"Remember what, dear?"

"My father--his look, oh----"

"You have been dreaming, Gareth.  Tell me your dreams," I said, very
firmly.  "I know you have been dreaming because you spoke of your
father's anger.  And he is not angry with you."

She looked round and stared at me with wondering eyes.

"Not angry?  Why, when I--oh, yes,--when Karl--oh, Christabel, I can't
get his look out of my eyes.  He said...."

I smiled reassuringly, and kissed her again.  "Gareth, dear, what do
you mean?  Why your father and Gustav--Gustav, not Karl, dearest--are
together downstairs.  We have been talking about you; and they are both
waiting to come and see you together."

I think I must have told the half-lie very naturally, for the change in
her face was almost like a miracle.

"Is it all a dream, then?" she asked, her voice awed, her eyes bright
with the dawning of hope.

"It depends what it is you dreamt, dearest.  You have frightened
yourself.  Tell me all."  I was making it hard for the two who were to
come up presently; but the change in her rendered me somewhat reckless
as to that.

"Has Duke Ladislas been here?"

"Oh, yes.  He is Gustav's father."

"He petted me, and said I was like his own lost Gareth, and that now I
was his daughter.  Then I came to you to fetch Gustav to him; and after
that----"

"You saw Gustav and he kissed you--and then in your delight you
fainted, and I brought you up here."

"But my father----"

"You have not seen your father yet, Gareth.  He is eager to see you."
I told the flat lie as sturdily as I had told the other, and didn't
stop to consider whether it was justified or not.  I just told it.

"But he was there, and he--all but cursed me, Christabel; and oh, his
eyes...."

"You have only dreamt that part, Gareth," I said, using a sort of
indulgent tone.  "You have been frightening yourself, dearest.  You
have always been afraid of what he might say to you, and--you have been
imagining things."

She found it difficult to believe me, strong as her desire was to do so.

"But it was all so real, Christabel."

"It is more real that they are both waiting for me to say if I think
you are strong enough to see them."

"Do you mean--oh, Christabel, how happy you have made me;" and with
that, thank Heaven, she burst into tears.

She was still weeping when the doctor came; and noting the change in
her, he gave a ready consent to her seeing Gustav and the Colonel for a
short interview.

I took him down with me to fetch them.  I told them what I had said to
Gareth, and that they were to insist upon it that she had fainted when
in Gustav's arms, and that everything after that was no more than her
imagination.

They could not quarrel before the doctor; could indeed only look rather
sheepish, as even strong and stern men can at times; so I carried my
point and led them upstairs.

"Gustav and your father, dearest," I said, as I opened the door and
stood aside for them to pass.

I saw her face brighten and her eyes light with a great gladness at the
sight of them together and apparently friendly; and then I closed the
door and left them to carry out their part of the agreement in their
own way.

My face was glad too, and my heart light as I ran down to my "rebel."



CHAPTER XXX

THE END

Why do we women like to tease the men we love?  Is the sense of
coquetry innate and irresistible in some of us?  Or is it merely a
defensive instinct warning us of the danger of being won too easily?

I knew quite well how the interview with Karl would end; I knew he
loved me and that I loved him; I was hungry for the feel of his arms
about me and the touch of his lips on mine; and yet my face wore a
quite aggrieved look as I met him with words of somewhat petulant
reproach on my lips.

"I am glad you were able to go with the Duke," I said.

He gave a start at my tone and then laughed.  "It was very fortunate.
I am glad that--you are glad, Christabel."

"I am afraid you must have found it inconvenient to leave him so soon."

"Are you?"

"Had you not better hurry back to him?"

"Yes.  I am going straight back from here."

"Don't let _me_ keep you, pray."

"Very well."

What can you do with a man who refuses in this way to be teased, but
just accepts what you say with preposterous good humour?  I shrugged my
shoulders.  "Why don't you go then?"

"That is exactly it.  Why?  Of course you can't guess such an abstruse
problem!  It's altogether beyond you; but try.  I should like to hear
you making a number of ingeniously wrong guesses.  Now, what reason can
I possibly have for being here?"

"It is not worth the trouble."

"Well, then, try the obvious.  That won't be much trouble."

"You wish to know the latest news of Gareth, you mean, to take to the
Duke."

"That's not the obvious, Christabel; that's only an ingeniously wrong
one.  I'm afraid I've disappointed you a little."

"In coming away from the Duke so--soon?"

"Not a bit of it.  In not letting you tease me just now.  I ought to
have taken you seriously and fired up, and all the rest of it.  But I
didn't.  I didn't misunderstand you in the least.  You see--but shall I
tell you why?" and he came close to me.

"You _did_ go away with the Duke," I persisted; rather feebly, I fear.

"And who would have been the first to blame me if I had not, when he
was ill and could not go alone?  You see you can't plague me because,
for one thing, I know you too well; and for another--I've had a chat
with the General.  Didn't he tell you I was--a rebel?"

"I always understood you had no sympathy with patriots," I answered,
looking up innocently, but prepared for defeat and surrender.

"It won't do, Christabel," he laughed.  "You're looking too innocent.
The General gave you away, I mean, and you know that I mean I am a
rebel against my father's latest act of tyranny."

He paused; but somehow I couldn't meet his eyes.  I tried, and at my
failure he was very tactful.  He seemed to guess that it would have
hurt me, if he had laughed then.  Instead of laughing he took my hand.

"I am not going to give you up, Christabel, just because the Duke is
unreasonably angry.  Not all the dukes and princes in the empire shall
make me do that.  We may perhaps, have to wait a little longer yet; but
even that's for you to decide.  You see, I'm so sure of you, dear.
There's where it is."

"I would not come between you two," I whispered.

"Nor shall he come between us two.  I was only a shiftless sort of
ne'er-do-well till you came here and helped me to be strong again.  I
was going down the hill full speed with no brakes on; and, as you know,
I didn't care.  But I care now and have a will again--as you'll find
out if you try to cross me in this; and having found my right mind
again I made it up.  You mean to side with the--rebel, don't you?"

He proved that he had a will then; for without giving me time to reply,
he just put his arm about me and made me kiss him on the lips.  And
after that, what was the use of protesting, even if I had the wish?
But I hadn't.  At the touch of his lips, the Duke and his opposition
and his dislike of me, and everything else in the world was blotted
out, save only--my love for Karl and his for me.

      *      *      *      *      *

I wish that this story of the chapter of my life could end with that
pledge-kiss of ours; and that I could say all ended as happily for
others as for Karl and myself.  But I cannot.

I had done my utmost to gather happiness for Gareth from the seeds of
trouble which her loving but thoughtless hands had sown so innocently.

The deception I had contrived and had caused her father and husband to
continue was successful in its first object.  They did their part well
in the short strange interview by her bedside; and when the doctor
called them away, she was entirely happy, holding a hand of each of
them in hers in perfect belief in their reconciliation.

The doctor told me that the risk of brain fever which he had seen was
at an end, and that she would soon recover her strength, unless that
occurred which was in all our thoughts.

And it did occur.

A crisis came in the night.  I was dozing by her bedside, for she had
fallen asleep, when her cries of pain roused me.  I called Mrs. Perry,
the doctor was summoned at once; and everything that his skill and our
care could do for her was done.  But there was no doubt of her imminent
danger now.

In the grey of the dawn the life, which was yet never full life, came
only to be snatched away instantly by the remorseless Reaper, who
lingered by the bedside as if to garner with one sweep of the sickle
the mother as well as the child.

Fearing the end I sent news at once to the Duke, to Count Gustav, and
to Colonel Katona.  Both the latter came hurrying to the house; but by
the time they arrived, the doctor was able to announce a respite.
There was danger, grave danger, but just a faint hope that all might
yet be well.

Long, anxious, wearing hours followed while we watched the flame of
life flicker up and down as she lay, white as wax and death's very
counterfeit for stillness.

More than once I thought she had passed; and held the mirror to her
mouth to catch just the faintest dew of breath.

Both Gustav and her father came up to see her, creeping into the room
to gaze and sigh, and turn away despairing.

She knew none of us; but just lay as though she had done with all the
matters of earth: hovering on the edge of the thinnest line that can
part death from life.

The two men stayed in the house: nursing I know not what angry thoughts
each of the other; but both afraid to leave lest the moment of
consciousness should come to her and find them absent.

I scarcely spoke to either of them, except to carry a brief message of
her condition.  If Gustav had brought this all about by his
selfishness, it had been the Colonel who had made matters so
desperately worse by his ill-timed harsh looks and words on the
preceding day.  And toward both I felt too hardly on her account to do
other than leave them to the bitterness of their belated, unavailing
remorse.

That both suffered acutely I could tell by their looks when I carried
my brief news.  But pity for them I could not feel.  It was all
absorbed by the gentle girl whom between them they had brought to the
threshold of the grim portal.

All through the hours of that long autumn day, the coma continued,
until the doctor confessed his fear that she would pass away without
even a minute's lapse into consciousness.

"If she should be conscious may I bring them to her?" I asked him when
he was going away at nightfall.

"There is risk either way; but if she asks for them, bring them--for a
minute only, however."

"There is no hope?

"If she lives through the night--yes; but..." and he shook his head
very gravely.

In the evening the last solemn pathetic offices of the Church were
solemnized; and through it all she remained unconscious--mercifully, as
it seemed to me, since it would have roused her to the knowledge that
she was dying.

I went back to my chair by the bed with a heart full of foreboding.  I
recalled the General's words--so sadly prophetic--"Whom the gods love,
die young."  The saying had galled me as he quoted it; but it did so no
longer.

She looked so frail and fragile in her sickness; a tender floweret so
utterly unable to bear up against the rough cross winds of anger and
strife which, held in restraint only by her weakness, would assuredly
burst forth to blight her life, that one could only feel with sad
resignation that the dark verdict was the best for her happiness.

And yet so loving and passing sweet she was that with resignation to
the will of Heaven was an irresistible, almost passionate, regret that
she should go.

Hours passed with that solemn slowness one knows in a sick room.  The
time was broken by my errands to the two watchers below stairs, to whom
I carried news of her condition.  More than once during the night Karl
came also, as he had come frequently during the day, sent by the Duke
in his anxiety for tidings of Gareth.

It was some time past midnight when I noticed a change.  She took the
nourishment I gave her, and when I laid her back on the pillow, she
sighed and made an effort to open her eyes.

I took her hand and held it and, after some time, I felt a slight
pressure of her fingers upon mine.

"Gareth, dearest," I whispered.

At first there was no response; but when I called her again, the
pressure of the fingers was distinct; and a little later she opened her
eyes and looked at me.

That was all then, and she was so still afterwards, that I thought she
was once more unconscious.  She was not, however; and presently her
eyes opened again and her lips moved.

I bent down over her, and caught the faintly whispered words:

"Am I dying?"

"No, dearest, no.  You will soon be strong again."

She looked at me, and tried, I think, to smile.

"Poor Karl."  Just a soft, sighing whisper, and she was silent.

"He is here, dearest.  Would you like to see him?"

She made no reply, but I told Mrs. Perry to bring both Gustav and the
Colonel to the door of the room.  Then I went back and gave her some
stimulant, as the doctor had told me.

It lent her a measure of strength.

"Karl is here, Gareth, and your father--shall I bring them?"

"Yes--both."

I went to the door and opened it, and they crept across the room to the
bedside.  Gustav knelt down on one side and took her hand and pressed
his lips to it.  The Colonel stood on the other side; and I lifted her
other hand from beneath the bed clothes and laid it where her father
could hold it.

She thanked me with a look, and whispered: "Kiss me, Christabel."

I bent and kissed her; and the tears were standing thick in my eyes as
I drew away.

"Father!"

Just the word and the look of entreaty; and he stooped down and kissed
her too.

Her eyes lingered on him a moment, and then she turned her face slowly
round to Gustav, whose head was still bowed over the hand he held:

"Husband!"

He did not catch the faint whisper; and I touched him on the shoulder.
He started up to find her eyes on him, and then understood; and he too
kissed her.  She kept her eyes on him; and he kissed her again.

"My darling wife," he murmured.

She looked at him intently.

"I am so sorry, Karl."

It was her last word.  The flickering remnant of her strength was spent
in a smile of love to him; and as it died slowly from her face, she
closed her eyes, and her spirit passed into eternal peace.

As soon as I realized that she was gone, I whispered to Mrs. Perry and
hurried out of the room, to find Karl there.  He had come for news.  He
read it in my face and by the tears in my eyes, as he put his arm about
me and led me away.



THE END



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