Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Victor Victorious
Author: Johns, Cecil Starr
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 "Victor Victorious" ***

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



                                 VICTOR
                               VICTORIOUS


                          BY CECIL STARR JOHNS



                   LONDON: JOHN LANE THE BODLEY HEAD
                      NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY
                                 MCMXV



            THE ANCHOR PRESS, LTD., TIPTREE, ESSEX, ENGLAND



                                   TO
                                  IRMA
                                MY WIFE



                           _*AUTHOR’S NOTE*_

_This book was written in the spring of_ 1913--_fifteen months before
the outbreak of the present war._

_September_, 1915.



                          *VICTOR VICTORIOUS*



                              *CHAPTER I*


It was a magnificent tree, old and stately; it was, moreover, the first
cause of grief that I can remember.  Its foliage in summer afforded much
shade, and in the mornings when the sun was shining caused patterns to
appear on the floor of my nursery; my sorrow was, that I could not
fasten the pattern to the floor with tacks, tacks of the ordinary tin
variety, which I had procured from goodness only knows where.  I tried
again and again, weeping bitterly at my want of success.  I wept still
more bitterly when my nurse returned; but that is a detail which has
nothing to do with these memoirs, it is a sacred thing not to be spoken
of lightly.

Such is the first of my remembrances, and I was then between three and
four years of age.  After that, my memories are confused and not
particularly interesting, much the same, I daresay, as many millions of
children can look back on: childish miseries, mishaps and pleasures, but
always of the same place and the same people.

The house we lived in was not large, but the garden was; a splendid
garden full of flowers, trees and shrubs, wild places and rockeries,
while at the end flowed a tributary of the Thames, which to my childish
vision was a most noble river.  I imagine that its importance increased
every time I was warned against going near the edge; and, as this
injunction was repeatedly laid upon me, the Amazon or the Mississippi
must have been mere streams in comparison.  As, however, I obeyed and
religiously refrained from falling in, I can only suppose that in those
days I was singularly obedient, and also lacking in enterprise.

I remember my nurse; she was a most lovable woman, with a comfortable
lap and nice kind arms.  She let me have my own way; and I am sure I
loved her very much.

Then, of course, there was my mother, but somehow my childish memories
of her are vague.  I fancy I was a little bit frightened when in her
company, for no reason that I can recall, excepting the fact that she
smiled so seldom.

And then there was my great friend, Bauen, a very dark and swarthy man
who attended to the horse and pony.  I loved him best of all.  He was a
peculiarly silent person, who never spoke unless directly addressed, and
never wasted words when replying.  He worshipped my mother and myself. I
remember one occasion, when I attacked him with a switch because I was
angry with him--I was only five at the time, so I could not have hurt
him much--he just stood and looked at me, with his eyes full of tears,
until I felt like a little beast and cried too, imploring him to forgive
me.

I couldn’t understand why, when I put my arm round his neck and kissed
him, he only kissed my hand in return.  That was the only time we ever
had a difference of opinion, and I believe then only because I wished
for the impossible.  It was Bauen who first set me astride the pony’s
back and taught me most of what I know of horses and riding; knowledge
which has been of great value to me.

He also would keep me quiet for hours with wonderful stories, of which
he seemed to have a never ending supply, tales of giants and fairy folk,
which I know now were the legendary doings of the ancient heroes of his
own country.  It is wonderful to me that children can remember the fairy
tales of their early years, and to this day I can recall my thrills at
the story of the prince who turned himself into an ivy plant so that,
when it had grown up a tall tower, a princess could use it as a means of
escape.  I had plenty of time to listen to these stories, for I never
had any playmates of my own age.  Not knowing the joys of companionship,
I experienced no pain at the lack of comrades; nor were my days unhappy,
for they were carefully arranged by my mother; so much work, and then
perfect freedom to do what I wished, as long as I did not stray from the
garden.

At an early age I could read and write, not English but French.  My
education at that time was a source of great perplexity to me: my
infantile mind could never hope to understand the reason why, just when
I was able to speak in one language, I was switched on to another; but
so it was.  In this way I learnt to a certain extent French, German,
English, and lastly a language which my mother spoke when addressing her
women, and which she assured me, one day, was the language spoken by the
people of my own race: Rudarlian.  I do not remember that this
information added much to my pleasure in learning the language, I do not
think that at that early age nationality troubled me a great deal.

However, I must have been born with a gift for languages, and they all
came easily.  In after years I appreciated the value of the teaching,
for I found it had given me command over the subtleties of
pronunciation.

Most of my days were spent in the following manner: I was out of bed
very early, summer and winter, every morning starting with a cold bath
and simple exercises; then came breakfast, after which half an hour was
allowed for a scamper in the garden, a visit to the stables, and then
work until eleven o’clock.

From eleven until one, my time was occupied by play and dinner, a meal
rather too ceremonious for my liking; then, work again until two-thirty.
Of course, as I grew older, these hours were altered, and my play was
curtailed, a thing which did not cause me any unhappiness, as I loved my
books, chiefly owing to the intelligent methods of instruction, which
leads me to further acquaintances--two men.

One, about forty-five years of age, appearing considerably older on
account of his grey-tinged hair, came to visit my mother once every
year.

At first whenever he came my mother appeared unhappy; so much so that
when I was six I connected his appearance with my mother’s tears, and
threatened him with I know not what.  She, however, put her arms round
me and assured me that Mr. Smith was the best friend she had.

Mr. Smith--Mr. Smith.  In those days I never thought that I should owe
you so much.

He it was who introduced Mr. Neville to my mother.

Mr. Neville became my tutor.  He is another to whom I owe much, very
much, but my indebtedness to him is of a different kind from my
indebtedness to Mr. Smith.

I was eight when my tutor appeared upon the scene; tall and
broad-shouldered, a fine athlete, an ex-university don, and, as I found
later, strong in every sense.

He had a method of teaching peculiarly his own, simple, practical, and
yet full of the most complete wisdom.  His teaching awoke my childish
interest; under his handling, dry facts of history became fraught with
vivid life, and that perhaps was the study which fascinated me the most.
He showed me the indirect effects of various actions, proving how nearly
always they are more potent and far-reaching than the direct.  Dates,
the plague of most childish brains, he never troubled about.

With wonderful word pictures, he conjured up before my eyes the lives
and deeds of long-dead heroes and monarchs, pointing out their failings,
explaining their actions.  His knowledge was vast, I realise that now;
he would encourage me to observe everything, and he was never wearied of
explaining the why and the wherefore.

In matters geographical it was the same.  Not content with teaching me
the names of cities, rivers, etc., he would take me mentally to the
places we spoke of, informing me of their imports, exports, mineral
wealth, and chief manufactures, giving me brief historical lectures to
explain the reason for certain boundaries, describing the lives, rural
and urban, of the inhabitants, discoursing on their modes of conveyance,
fighting power, anything--everything. He assisted his words with
photographs. Perhaps if I had had boy companions, I should have been a
worse pupil; I don’t know.  As it was, I sat, metaphorically speaking,
in rapt adoration, drinking in his words, remembering much, thank God.

Even arithmetic was made interesting after I had mastered the first
simple rules.  Owing to the thorough grounding I had from him, I seem
all my life to have had a deep sense of arithmetical proportion, not
only in figures but in the events of every-day life.

His lessons were short; I was never given more at one time than I could
assimilate; the moment that he noticed the slightest falling off of my
attention he would cease.  "Now," he would say, "that’s enough for the
moment, let us go and exercise our bodies."

Away we would go, in any weather, for a walk or swim, a ride, or row up
the silent little stream. Even then my instruction went on, not that I
was aware of it at the time, but by subtle little observations which led
me to ask questions and take an interest in all forms of life.

When he came, I saw much less of my mother; she was a great many times
away from home, sometimes for days, sometimes for months.  In my
childish way, I observed changes in her, not in her manner to me--that
was always kind and affectionate, though withal a trifle stately--but in
appearance.

She dressed more in colours, and seemed gayer and less wrapped up in her
own thoughts.  With perfect confidence I mentioned my thoughts one day
to Mr. Neville, but he laughingly declared that it was owing to his
presence, as now she had not the worry of looking after me.

"I did not think that I was a great worry," I said innocently.

"No, my boy, I don’t imagine you could have been," and his hand rested a
moment upon my head.  "So we must look elsewhere, mustn’t we?"

"Yes, but I should like to know, because I might help."

"Not at present, I think; some day, perhaps, when you are older.  You
see, your mother has had a great deal of trouble in her life, but even
troubles lose their poignancy after years; so take my advice and wait
patiently.  When the time comes you will be told without a doubt."

By this time I had such absolute faith in my tutor that I accepted what
he said without hesitation; and thought no more of the matter.

When I was ten years old, a great change took place.  My mother married
again--an American.

It came quite suddenly, this marriage.  I had no idea, no thought of
possessing a stepfather; presumably, I was too young to understand or be
bothered with information.

My own father was more of a myth than a reality; I had no memory of him,
he was rarely mentioned by my mother, and my nurse would only answer my
questions concerning my progenitor in a vague manner.  That he had been
a soldier, I gathered from the fact that he had been killed at the head
of his own regiment; Mr. Neville had told me that, during a lesson
dealing with the history of Rudarlia.

Had I been older, I might have wondered at the way in which I was taught
the intimate history of such a small kingdom, far more minutely, indeed,
than that of great powers like England or France.

During this lesson I read that King Merlin I of Rudarlia had been killed
in a revolution, his cousin ascending the throne.

"I wonder if my father was there?" I asked.

"Yes, he was there."

"Was he a soldier?"

"Yes."

"Did he get killed?"

"Yes, he was killed at the head of his regiment."

"Oh!"

I remember that, in my dreaming for months after that, I pictured a man
resembling in turn Mr. Neville and Bauen at the head of a magnificent
regiment, charging, killing, and behaving like one of those old heroes
with whom I was familiar.

But to return to my stepfather.  He was a man of about fifty, very tall,
and handsome, possessing the musical, low-pitched voice of the Americans
from the more Southern States.

At first his coming made little difference to me, I accepted his
presence in much the same spirit as I accepted most things; Mr. Neville
and my mother were there, so it must be all right.

I can see now that it showed consummate tact on his part to behave as he
did to me.  He never sought me, never objected to my presence with my
mother, never assumed any kind of parental prerogative; but, instead,
suited his conversation to my understanding, asked my opinion gravely in
small matters, and related many tales of adventure, in such a way as to
leave me ready for more.  Above all, he made me realise that he would
like my affection.

He it was who gave me my first horse.  I had always ridden the pony, so
it was a great joy to me to be able to accompany Mr. Neville on an
animal equal in height to his.  Then again, it was my stepfather who
first taught me to box, use the rapier, and shoot with a revolver,
himself superintending my efforts with the greatest care; until from
being a stranger he became a friend, one whom I could love, trust, and
admire, nearly as much as Mr. Neville. Whenever I think of those two
men, my thoughts are almost hushed, they were so good, so kind, so
perfectly unselfish to me, with no ulterior motive besides my
well-being, both for the time and the future.

They gave me of their best, mentally, physically, and morally.

Perhaps the chief thing I learnt from them was a sense of duty.
Whenever there was something to be done, each put the question before
me, for me to decide whether I considered it obligatory on me. They
would advise thought first before deciding, and then would say no more.
They were very good friends, these two.

Mr. Smith continued his yearly visits, but now each time he came the
three men and my mother would hold a solemn conclave from which I was
excluded.

He was becoming to me something more than the apparition of former
years, as he would talk more to me, showing a considerable amount of
interest in my studies, and would ask permission to send me books, which
were mostly stories of war.

War was a subject which appealed to me, for my feelings towards soldiers
were almost sacred.

My stepfather had given me a great number of small leaden warriors, and
I fancy that he must have had them made for me, as they were absolutely
complete in detail.  They consisted not only of the actual fighting men,
but artillery, commissariat, red-cross waggons, and engineers.

With these, when the weather permitted, we would adjourn to the garden,
and on a patch of rough ground fight out the great battles of history.

Perhaps ten little pieces of lead counted as at regiment, or one small
brass cannon a whole battery; it did not matter, the main thing being
that the opposing armies should be as near as possible to the actual
strength of the armies they represented.  It would have amused people
perhaps to have seen the group we made: two elderly men and one small
boy absolutely engrossed in their game; if it could be so termed.

Personally, I have never underrated the effect it had on me, and I trace
the success I have met with in real warfare to the accuracy and care we
expended on these occasions.  Naturally many questions had to be asked,
and these were generally answered by my stepfather, who was a great
authority on all things pertaining to war.  How he could make the
necessary leisure to play with me I cannot understand, for his must have
been a very strenuous life, although I did not realise it at the time.

Two more years went by, and then I was informed that it had been decided
to send me to school, an idea which at first did not greatly charm me.
It had never entered my head that I should ever be a schoolboy, it had
seemed to me that I was apart somehow from all other boys, and although
I had read books of school life, they had never appeared real to me,
most probably because I had never known anyone of my own age.

When the thought obtained a firm footing in my mind, it began to wear a
more interesting aspect, for I conjured up alluring adventures, and
finally grew to like the idea so much that I was all excitement for the
entrance examination.

The only drawback that I could perceive, was the fact that I should have
to leave Mr. Neville, and my mother and stepfather.  It was difficult to
conceive life without them, but they one and all pooh-poohed that side
of it, and told me that it was high time that I got away from their
apron strings.  In spite of this Spartan argument, I know they were very
sorry when the day came for me to depart.

I passed my entrance examination too well, rather too brilliantly, and
was therefore put into a class with boys a good deal my senior;
consequently my first term was not all my fancy had painted it. At
first, I foolishly imagined that school was the place for work, so
endangering my reputation by being looked upon as a "swot," and
something of a prig.  Realising this and recognising my shortcomings, I
scrupulously refrained from working hard and devoted myself to games.

The senior I fagged for was a nice, kind chap who treated me with great
consideration for the first few days, but after that he treated me in a
way that was essentially good for my soul.  He did, however, explain
many little difficulties in regard to games and encouraged me to go in
for them hot and strong.

With the majority of my schoolfellows I was on good terms; I had the
usual number of scuffles which could not be called fights, only one
coming under that category; that was with a fellow whom I disliked
heartily, for no particular reason; he returned the feeling and tried to
bully.

We therefore set to in good earnest; he was two years older and a good
deal bigger; it is undoubtedly true that I should have received a
thrashing, had it not been for the tuition I had received from my
stepfather.  I held my own for ten rounds, when we were stopped by a
prefect.  I had a beautiful black eye and a cut lip, as well as sundry
bruises.  My opponent, ditto, ditto; he looked worse, however, because
he was full-blooded.

My reputation went up enormously after that. We never finished that
scrap, but used to conduct ourselves civilly towards each other.  It is
wonderful how a tussle can clear the air.

I made a friend that day, Rupert Carruthers, the second son of the Earl
of Yelverton.  He is still my friend.

My stepfather was delighted when he heard of this fight, and joked with
Mr. Neville about it.

"We shall have him in the ring one of these days, eh, Neville?"

"Ah! he might be happier so."  A remark which at the time was
unintelligible to me.

I do not think my mother was pleased, she said nothing.

These were very happy years; I did as little work as I could, but I
played games with every ounce in me, hence I became a good all-round
athlete.

In the holidays I studied with Mr. Neville to make up my lapses of the
term, and I found it quite enjoyable; he always had the power of making
me think more clearly than anyone else ever had.

My stepfather encouraged me in sport of all kinds, boxing, foiling,
swimming, rowing, and shooting. He had had a magnificent gymnasium built
in the garden and had also rigged up a shooting range for revolver
practice.

I believe if I had been the veriest fool and lubber, these two men would
have made me different.

My great chum, Carruthers, and I were inseparable, and sometimes
exchanged visits to each other’s homes.  I remember the first time he
came to our place; when we went to bed he slipped into my room, which
adjoined his, to have a chat.  We could both of us do well in that line.
This night, however, he did most of the talking, chiefly eulogising my
stepfather and Mr. Neville; he spoke with a keen appreciation of their
qualities, especially of those I most admired in them; which showed, now
I think of it, a perspicacity I had not credited him with.

My mother had received him kindly, but with that unapproachableness
which often mystified me; and he was almost shy when speaking of her.  I
chaffed him about his nervousness when she asked for an explanation of
the nickname he always used when speaking to me: "Splosh."  Of course he
could not give any reason, as there was none to give; but he managed to
murmur that I was called Splosh, by every one, because I looked like it.

This lucid explanation was sufficient and convulsing for my stepfather
and Mr. Neville, but did not seem to charm that dear mother of mine.

Carruthers’ last remarks that night were: "What a lovely mother you
have, Splosh."

"Yes, she is," I said.

"I think I should be scared of her."

"Why?"

"I dunno, but I should.  Good night."

If he had waited, I might have confessed that sometimes I felt the same
myself.

Mr. Smith came for his yearly visit that month; he took quiet notice of
Carruthers.

Towards me his manner had changed slightly. He was, I thought at the
time, rather ceremonious; but he gave me some splendid lessons with the
foils, and I forgot about it.  He stayed longer than usual, and his
conversations with my mother were more drawn out.

It was about this time that a vague feeling first entered my head about
my mother; I fancied there was some mystery attached to her, and I in no
way desired that such a thing should be.  The strange reticence every
one showed when I endeavoured to ask questions about my family, the
periodical visits of Mr. Smith, the care taken to exclude me from all
their conversations, all these things made me wonder, and then
Carruthers asked me one day to show him a picture of my father.

Picture of my father, picture of my father?  I had never seen one; it
struck me that this was extraordinary, almost as extraordinary as the
fact that never before had I wished to see one.  There had never been
one that I could remember, no painting, drawing, not even a photograph,
but I did not like to tell Carruthers that, so I made some excuse, and
slipped away.

The desire to know what my father looked like became very strong,
mingled with a feeling almost of shame; he may have loved me, petted me,
planned out my future, and yet I had never given him more than a passing
thought.  In fact, I had grown to look upon my stepfather as my real
parent and certainly cared for him that way.

When I slipped away from my chum, I got into a boat and pulled up the
river to my favourite lounging place, and then I spent an hour or two,
lying on my back, staring at the sky and vainly striving to explain what
now I was convinced was a mystery.  I recalled the early visits of Mr.
Smith, when my mother used to cry; could it be that my father had
committed some crime?  Surely not, but why was he never mentioned, why
were there no pictures of him in the house?

I was in a mood full of curiosity, but this soon changed to one of
anger, I don’t quite know why, unless I thought that I was old enough to
be told anything there was to know.

In this angry state I rowed back and stumped straight up to the house,
no doubt with great dignity.

My mother was sitting talking to Mr. Smith and my stepfather.

"Why, Victor, how flushed you look; is there anything the matter?" asked
my mother.

"Can I speak to you a minute, mother?"

"Of course, what is it?"

I blushed furiously, and blamed my own precipitation.  Why had I not
waited a better opportunity?  I could not ask the question I wanted to
ask with the others there; but I had to say something, and so blurted
out:

"Oh, it does not matter now, mother."

I believe that Mr. Smith made a sign to my stepfather, because they both
rose, and, after mentioning billiards, disappeared.

I glanced round hurriedly; this was better.

"Mother."

"Yes, Victor."

"I want to see a photograph of my father."

Her face grew very cold and stern.  Without a word she got up and walked
slowly into the house; I followed.  In her boudoir she handed me a
miniature--I did not look to see where she took it from--and so, for the
first time that I had remembrance of, I saw my father’s face.  I don’t
know what I thought of the face, but the eyes were kind eyes.  I stared
long and fixedly at the miniature; various feelings surged through me,
far too subtle to describe.

At last I handed it back.

"Thank you, mother," I said.

"Is that all you wished, are you satisfied now?"

"No, I can’t say that I am satisfied, because there are so many things I
wish to know; is there any reason why I should not be told about him?"

"There is, Victor."

"But it is nothing wrong, is it?"

"Wrong?  My God! yes! it is wrong, but it does not take from your
father’s name.  Listen to me, Victor; you are growing into a man, when
the time comes, you shall be told many things, until then wait
patiently, my boy, I promise that you shall know everything."



                              *CHAPTER II*


I now knew that there was something mysterious about my parentage--the
interview with my mother had at least settled that point--but all the
certainty in the world could not prevent my mind continually turning to
it, and this had rather a curious effect upon me: it made me quite
humble-minded.  I do not mean to imply that my normal state was
bumptious beyond the ordinary, but it had a chastening effect upon my
mind.  I disliked the thought of the unknown.  I desired to have a
father whom I could speak of without any kind of doubt.  As it was, I
found it necessary, upon several occasions, to slur over any allusions
to him, and schoolboys are not always tactful in their dealings with
reticence.  However, the fact that he had been a soldier generally
proved sufficient to satisfy the curiosity of the inquirer.

Another thing which annoyed, or rather chafed me was the length of time
that must necessarily elapse before I could know, for I had no doubt
that it would not be until I came of age.

My disturbed state of mind did not prevent me enjoying my life
immensely; and at eighteen I found myself in a very enviable position in
the school, and one which I believe was a record in its way, for I was
captain of the school, and also captain of the cricket eleven.  I may
say that the latter was by far the more important post in my eyes, and
certainly much the nicer.

I take no credit for being the best boxer and fencer in the school, for
I had done both since very early childhood, and had had most excellent
instructors.

It was a great shock to me to learn that I was to leave school, it
seemed to be the most complete upheaval I had ever experienced.  I hated
the idea, it caused me an infinite amount of real trouble to get myself
into the proper frame of mind to behave decently about it.  Yet, had I
thought, I might have recalled numerous hints that I had received from
my people, and which would have prepared me better; presumably I had
been so engrossed in my own little affairs that I had not paid too much
attention.

I shall never forget the last day of that term, I felt as though I was
going to execution, and absolutely beastly; had I been a girl I should
have cried my eyes out.  With the eyes of my world upon me, however, I
had to make a brave show, and say good-bye to every one and everything;
and lastly I had to have an interview with the head-master.  I had,
naturally, had much to do with him as captain of the school, and we were
very good friends.

He was a short, thickset man with a great white beard, who bore a
tremendous reputation for severity among the boys; but those among them
who got to know him found a warm-hearted, kindly, genial man.  After
speaking with me for some time he said good-bye, adding a few words
which I shall never forget.

"My boy," he said, "I have this to say to you: no matter where you are,
or what befalls you, remember that over us all, king or peasant, there
is God.  Turn to Him in your troubles, thank Him for your joys. That you
will do your duty through life, I feel assured, however hard it may be,
however irksome. The love you have inspired in your comrades will, I
hope, be inspired by you in the world; I, and others, will pray for you
in the future.  May God keep you in his sight."

I could not help wondering, as I left his study, why such emphasis had
been laid upon my future. What did it portend, did the head-master know
anything of which I was ignorant perhaps, for since my interview with my
mother two years before, I had made no further inquiries.

When I was home again, I found that they were beginning to treat me as a
man; and for three months or more I spent my time in sport.  By which I
do not mean killing things, that was a pursuit I never really cared for.

Towards the end of this time Carruthers paid me a visit from Sandhurst,
into which he had passed a year or so before I left school; after his
visit I began to wonder what I should do with my life.  His stories of
the great military college had fired me with a desire for the army.

It was after dinner some three nights following his departure that I
broached the subject of my future.

"I wish to know what vocation you think I am suited for?"

I spoke collectively.  My mother gave a little start, looked quickly at
my stepfather, gave a little sigh, and remained silent.

My stepfather smiled a trifle grimly, he too did not speak.  Mr.
Neville, however, answered me.

"What do you yourself feel inclined for?" he asked.

"I hardly know.  You see, I have never thought much about it until
lately; but it seems to me, that now I have left school, I ought to do
something to be independent."

"There is no need of that, Victor," said my stepfather.  "Would you not
be content to stay here, and wait for a little?"

"If I did, it would prevent my going to Sandhurst."

"Aha! that was in your mind then.  I rather suspected it.  Rupert’s
reports, eh?"

"Yes," I said.  "It seems a nice life, and I might do well as a soldier;
what do you think?"

My mother leaned forward.

"Victor, do not set your heart upon it, I think that it will be
impossible."

"Oh, am I also to know the reason for that, some day?"

"Yes," she answered, "that goes with the rest."

"Well, I shall be very pleased when that day comes."

"Ah!" said Mr. Neville.  "I wonder."

We sat silent for a while, and then I said again:

"What am I to do?  You know, I am completely in the dark about
everything.  I have been supplied with money, it is true, but is it
mine, or is it yours, mother?  These things ought, I think, to be
explained to me.  Shall I have some day to work for a living, or do I
inherit anything when I come of age, because I feel that, in the latter
case, I can take a course that will be totally different to what it
would be supposing I had to earn bread and cheese."

My stepfather had risen and was walking up and down the room.

"I quite see your point, my boy," he said, "and I think that you are of
an age to understand me, when I say that you will never want in the
future: you will inherit a certain sum on coming of age, which will be
enough to keep you handsomely in any ordinary way.  When I die, you will
have everything of mine, and I trust you will then be in a position to
make good use of it.  That, I hope, is sufficient to say about financial
matters; about your career, it is more difficult.  If I were you, this
is what I should do: I should ask Mr. Neville to come with me and should
then take a continental tour.  See everything, meet everybody, acquire a
knowledge of mankind, virtues, and vices.  Spend money when you think
good may come of it; read and digest history as you go, also national
law, and natural law; gain as much knowledge as you can of affairs
military; study arms and armaments, from cutlasses to cannon.  Your
cadet corps has given you a capital foundation to work on.  Then in two
years return to us.  That is my advice, and I know your mother will
agree."

"Yes," said my mother a trifle sadly, "I agree."

"But could you not give me some idea, so that I may study for my future
as well as all those things you mention?"

"I believe that if you study those things, Victor, they will be of
immense importance to you in what I hope will be your career.  You may
trust your mother and myself to give you the best advice we can."

"Of course I do," I said, "but it is puzzling, isn’t it?"

"Yes, it is, but this you may count on: you shall know everything you
wish when you come of age," said my mother.

"Thank you, mother."  I turned to my old tutor.  "Mr. Neville, will you
come with me?"

"I will," he said.  "It will be a pleasure for me to renew my
acquaintanceship with the continent."

"Then let us go; and, for my part, the sooner the better, for the time
will pass more quickly."

"Don’t forget the old advice to ’hasten slowly,’" my stepfather
remarked.

"To-morrow," said my mother, rising, "we will plan out your tour."

I went to bed that night with fresh fields of thought open to me.  I was
now to see all those places of which I had read and heard; I was to
study everything.  The thought flashed through my brain, that from this
advice I ought to be able to glean something of my parents’ views for my
future, which I immediately tried to do, but without any satisfactory
result.  I wondered whether they wished me to enter the diplomatic
service; but, if that were so, why be mysterious about it?  It was a
perfectly feasible career to anyone like myself.  I was pleased with
this idea, and indulged in a little fanciful dreaming, seeing myself as
an ambassador, carrying through some skilful piece of diplomacy with
great success.  I believe that this was still in my mind when I fell
asleep.

The next week passed in a whirl of preparations. It was decided that we
should go first to Paris, and then roam wherever we willed, to St.
Petersburg or Rome, to Egypt or Iceland.

For the first time that I can remember, my stepfather spoke to me of
money.

"Victor," he said, "it is necessary that you should acquire a knowledge
of the value of money; I don’t mean of pennies being saved to make
pounds, but I wish you to get used to the handling of large sums, to
appreciate what such sums can buy.  It is an extremely difficult thing
to discover the best method of learning this; I believe there is no
certain way, it depends so much on the individual.  I don’t fancy that
you have ever been in debt or money difficulties, have you?"

"Never, you gave me such a ripping allowance, I never spent it all."

"Didn’t you?  All the better, it proves that you are not thoughtlessly
extravagant; but I don’t wish you to be too careful either.  I want you
to be so used to handling and spending money that, if, in the future,
the occasion arises where it is wise to spend a big sum, you will do it
without hesitation; for delay often spells ruin.  Now don’t forget, I
want you to spend money, as much as you like, ten, thirty, fifty
thousand pounds, if you wish; and, my boy, I will confide in you this
much, if you spent twice that sum, I shouldn’t feel it."

"You must be jolly rich then," I said, although I only vaguely realised
the position.

My stepfather smiled.

"I am, but I don’t wish people to know it."

I have often wondered what other young men of my age would have felt
under similar conditions.

To be invited to spend as much money as they liked, to have it made a
point almost of favour that they should do so.

I suppose their thoughts would have run wild on all kinds of imaginary
delights, and pastimes; as for me, I hardly felt even a passing thrill
at the prospect. I had always been lavishly supplied with money, and
strangely enough had no expensive tastes or habits; I needed very little
to make me happy. As it was, I gave my word to spend whenever I could.
But I could not help laughing as I did so, it seemed so funny.

"Possibly I may have this explained when I come of age," I remarked.

My stepfather laughed.

"Yes, I think so, Victor."

                     *      *      *      *      *

I do not intend to give an account of our tour, the places we went to
can be read of in Baedeker, or other guide books, that is, for the most
part.  We did go to some small places out of the regular beat, but
nothing extraordinary happened.

We visited France, Germany, Italy, Russia, during the first two years,
generally making Paris our head-quarters.

I followed strictly my stepfather’s advice, studying everything and
everybody.  In those two years I must have shed at least seven skins of
ignorance, and acquired seven others of knowledge, and, with the
knowledge, understanding.

Naturally, Mr. Neville being with me aided me enormously; without him, I
should no doubt have profited far less.  He it was to whom I turned
continually for guidance and explanation.  When I say guidance, I mean
mentally, as in all decisions of a physical nature I was made to decide
myself.

In each country, as we visited it, he pointed out in his lucid way the
chief points of government, and many were the discussions we had over
the selection of the finest.

At first, I remember, I was inclined to favour theories, but before his
searching dissection they very soon crumbled away.

We had many letters of introduction to notable people, wherever we went;
and these enabled us to obtain a grasp of the real life of all classes,
for we invariably found some one who could and did act as guide.

Sometimes we would go for a walking tour lasting a month or six weeks,
sometimes we would motor through a great tract of country, barely
stopping a day in any one place.

We met many people, young and old, men and women, and as my mind
expanded I seemed to read their characters, recognising their virtues
and their vices, carefully stowing the results of my investigations away
in the recesses of my brain. I was repeatedly told that I was handsome,
sometimes subtly, more often quite openly.  This was news that failed to
interest me.

Women with languorous glances, or carefully dropped eyelids, had little
fascination for me; and so I passed through, unscathed, what would have
been irresistible temptations to many.

Perhaps I was cold by temperament, or perhaps my upbringing had taught
me to avoid such pleasures, or, again, perhaps I was simply waiting for
love to come to me.

Now although, as I say, I evaded these things, I take no credit to
myself; they were not for me, that was all.

I did not quite understand myself then, and I find it hard even now to
say what prompted me to keep sexually clean.  I in no way avoided
opportunities, as in my desire for knowledge I would often with some
acquaintance or friend visit the haunts of the _demi-monde_ and
underworld; I do not say it was necessary to seek such opportunities.
The society we naturally consorted with differed strangely little in
essentials.

I have seen a man, head of a noble family, deliberately cheat at cards;
and I have experienced the disagreeable duty of refusing the amorous
advances of more than one _grande dame_.

I, personally, find much blame for the man, and very little condemnation
for the woman, for the craving of sex must be the most difficult of all
to fight, and conquer.

As I have said, we studied four great nations in two years,
superficially, of course; but the knowledge we gained was good.  One
subject in particular I had given my whole attention to, whenever
possible: war, chiefly in the way of preparation for attack or defence.

It was extremely interesting to me to discuss with Mr. Neville, or with
a soldier if possible, the defences of any place.

Of course, as outsiders, we were never allowed to inspect any of the
fortified places of Europe, but we would discuss them nevertheless, and
I was always trying to find the best plan of defence for these places.
The military portion of the friends we made seemed much amused with me;
I don’t know why, unless it was my eagerness.  All the same they entered
into the fun of "drawing a civilian," and bantered me unmercifully,
which I know was excellent for me.

I remember once, when motoring through France, entering into a heated
discussion with a celebrated French General; I refuse to allow for one
moment that I wanted to lay down the law, although Mr. Neville did
suggest it afterwards.  This General, no doubt immensely amused by me,
pulled out a map of the district through which we were travelling.

"Now," he said, "supposing you had a force of so many men, with so many
guns, here," he jabbed with his finger, "and the enemy were here and
here, with so many men and guns, what would you do?"

This was a game I had often played, and I looked eagerly at the
map--there and there the enemy; my forces here.  It was impossible to do
anything except surrender.  I looked again.

"Where were my forces before they arrived in that position, in which
direction were they travelling, and with what object?"

"Well, suppose they were moving from A to try to get to B here."

Again I studied the map, the position was plain to read; had my
reconnaissance been carried out properly--and I should not have advanced
without--I could never have been in that position, rather should I have
branched off here, and so opened up a splendid line for either advance
or retreat.  I looked up at the General, he was just winking at another
officer who was with us; that settled it, just that wink, I knew then
that he was "drawing me again."  I smiled grimly.

"General, if ever you allowed your forces to get into such a position
you ought to be shot."

For a moment he looked at me, and then burst out laughing.

"_Mon Dieu!_ but he is right, this young civilian, but name of a little
dog! how did he know?  I ought to be shot, I ought to be shot.  Ha Ha
Ha!" he roared with laughter.

I was appallingly conceited inside, but made little of it outwardly.
The General, however, repeated the story so often, that I lost my
conceit, and was rather sorry I had been so clever.

Whether it was my enthusiasm, my youth, or the novelty of everything, I
don’t know, but I enjoyed every minute of my time.  Physically I had
never been so fit; I took an enormous amount of exercise, walking,
riding, boxing with Mr. Neville and others, though chiefly with my
companion, who although not my equal in science, and a middle-aged man,
yet gave me a lot to do.  In each capital, I always went to the greatest
masters and studied with the rapier and sabre; I also kept up my
shooting.

I think I stopped growing in height about then--just an inch under six
feet--but I still continued to expand in width.  Illness had mercifully
passed me by.

We had been in Paris about three weeks, and were beginning to think of
moving on again, somewhere, I for one did not care where, because every
place was splendid; I was not the least tired of travel, neither bored
nor blasé.  It was Mr. Neville who suggested Rudarlia.

We had spent the day at Versailles, a place which I never felt tired of
seeing or talking about, and that evening we were idling over our
dinner, when my companion said:

"And where to next, Victor?"

"I don’t know," I answered with a little start, for he had read my
thoughts exactly.  "Where do you suggest?"

"There is Rudarlia."

I had thought of this many times, but had always deferred suggesting it.
I imagined that it would be perhaps better to leave this visit until
after I came of age and received the long-promised information
concerning many things; also I wished to view my own country, for the
first time, with a practised eye and balanced judgment.  I knew from
reading and conversation that Rudarlia was not in a flourishing
condition, and I did not want to be badly prejudiced by immature
impressions.  Now, however, Mr. Neville had suggested the visit, which
made a great difference.

"That requires thought," I said.

"Naturally; I only proposed it in order to discuss it with you."

"Well, what do you think, knowing how I feel on the subject, would you
say my mind was formed enough?"

He looked at me affectionately.

"My boy, the last part of your question I can answer at once in the
affirmative.  You know, I never pay you compliments, so you can believe
me when I say that, in my opinion, your views on most subjects are worth
listening to, and your grasp of life is astonishing to me.  As to your
wishing to defer your visit, the same idea had struck me.  Your mother
has never even hinted at any wish of hers in the matter, so, to make
sure of their views at home, I wired to them.  Their answer came to-day,
it was this: ’If he feels inclined.’"

"If I only knew," I murmured.  "It makes it very difficult, but I
suppose, as usual, I must decide. Don’t you think that a great deal is
left to me?"

"Yes."

"And you agree with that course of procedure?"

"Entirely."

"Yet I should so like to have things taken out of my hands sometimes, it
would be ripping to feel, now and again, no sense of being in charge, so
to speak, of one’s own life; it is rather overpowering to know that
everything depends on whether one says yes or no."

"And yet, my boy, there are many in the world, with larger
responsibilities than yours are at present; think, for instance, of a
great employer of labour who has to decide great things, affecting,
perhaps, the welfare of both his employés and his business. Think of
anyone in power, saying whether it shall be peace or war."

"But they have assistance in making up their minds."

"Certainly; it is there that we want you to differ from them, we wish
you in all things to be able to decide for yourself; to know how to
grasp the pros and cons, to weigh them one against the other, and give a
decision."

"But will that be of use to me, should I enter diplomacy?"

"You can only wait and see."

"Not much longer, thank Heaven!"

"Ah!" said Mr. Neville.

We drank our coffee before speaking again, then I said:

"We will go."

"Good! you have decided as I expected you to. We must arrange many
things first, however."

"What kind of things?"

"Well, do you intend going as a Rudarlian, or as an Englishman?"

"I have been English everywhere, so far, and for this visit will remain
so, unless I change my mind when there."

"Which way do you want to go?"

I thought a little while, and then said:

"I should like to enter the country on foot and walk to the capital; it
is a whim, I know, so if you don’t feel inclined please say so."

"It is a first-rate plan, I think, and will be most enjoyable.  Anyway,
Karena is not far distant from the northern frontier."

"It will be hard going, from what I can gather, but it ought to be worth
while."

"When shall we start?"

"Oh," I said, looking at my engagement book, "would a week from to-day
suit you?"

"Perfectly, it will give us time to work out details."

Once the matter was settled definitely, I began to indulge in a little
wild speculation.  I was, naturally perhaps, excited at the idea of
seeing my own country, hearing my own tongue spoken every day and all
day, by my own countrymen and women.

The week fairly flew past.  I had written to my mother informing her of
our proposed trip, and received an answer back bidding me God-speed, and
also advising me on no account to seek to find out anything about my
father.  It was pointed out to me that I had only a few months to wait
and any premature disclosures might do much damage.

This, of course, was so much double Dutch to me, and only added to the
mysteriousness of everything. I therefore refused to think about it, but
I also resolved to abide by her wish.  The letter finished by expressing
satisfaction at the idea that I was to travel as an Englishman.



                             *CHAPTER III*


With as little impedimenta as possible, Mr. Neville and I bade au revoir
to Paris, little thinking that we had made it our head-quarters for the
last time.  Since then I have never stayed more than one night in that
city, when passing through.  I always feel glad that I saw as much of it
as I could, for, to my mind, it is eminently a city to induce memories,
and I like to look back on the jolly times I have had there.

We went by express to Nerane, the nearest stopping-place to the northern
frontier of Rudarlia, and drove in a cart to Melanov, that now famous
little town; in those days it was not known at all well. We arrived as
night was falling, and it was too dark to see anything of the country
which on the morrow we were to enter.  The cart deposited our shaken
remains at the only inn the place possessed.

I was glad there was only one, for if there had been another, with the
same failings, Melanov should have ceased to exist, at least that is
what I should have hoped.  We had sent our luggage to Karena by train,
and had with us just the necessities of life, in our knapsacks.  Our
visit excited an unreasonable amount of interest, but the innkeeper, a
fat, oily Greek, was obsequiousness itself, hovering round with a look
of cupidity and craftiness upon his most unprepossessing countenance.

Having removed traces of travel as well as we could, the next thing was
food.  This was rough and plentiful, with accent on the rough; but, in
spite of having recently left Paris, we had managed to acquire healthy
appetites and ate good dinners.

Having filled our pipes, we made ourselves as comfortable as the chairs
would permit and started talking; but just as we began to warm up to our
subject--which I remember dealt with the use of aircraft in war--there
was a bang on the door, and in stalked a soldier.

"Good evening," I said.

"Good evening, messieurs.  I must apologise for this intrusion, but as
Commandant of this frontier, I always make a point of inviting
travellers to spend an hour or so with me, in order, if I may speak
frankly, to prevent myself becoming too much of a barbarian to associate
with gentlemen.  I therefore beg of you to consider my poor quarters as
your own, at least the chairs there are in better repair than those you
are sitting on."

"You are very kind," I said.  "May I introduce Mr. Neville?  My own name
is Stevens."

"And I am Colonel von Quarovitch.  Now, since we know each other’s
names, will you accompany me to what poor hospitality I can offer?"

We accepted his invitation with more pleasure than he could have any
idea of, for more reasons than one.  I think, in my case, it was the
knowledge I had already gained of those inhabitants of the inn who did
not pay taxes, and who seemed to like the taste of me.

The Commandant gave us some most excellent coffee.  At first, I believe,
he took us for spies, or at least emissaries of some foreign power; but
after a while his suspicions seemed to calm down, and soon we were
talking and laughing like good friends.

We informed him of our proposed trip, a thing to him undreamed of; but
all Englishmen are mad, that is well understood, so he gave an
expressive shrug of his shoulders, and offered us any assistance in his
power.

He was a fine, rugged-looking man, with great fierce eyebrows and eyes,
and I thought to myself that he should be a good soldier.  There was,
however, an undercurrent of deep resentment in his conversation when
speaking of his country’s affairs.

Looking upon us as passers-by, he no doubt felt safe in laying bare his
grievances.  I do not suppose for one moment that he would have done
such a thing in the presence of any of his officers, or even civilians
of his own race.  He was a grumbling old bear, and told us that he had
been in his present grade for eighteen years, and for twelve in this
place, badly paid.

"His beloved Majesty needs all the money for his prostitutes," he
growled.  "There is no money for clothing or weapons for his army.  Here
am I, who have been in every fight for thirty years or more, wounded a
score of times, with only a few hundred men to guard a frontier, on
starvation pay; seeing men who have never smelt powder made generals,
passed over my head simply because they have influence either through
their females or through money.  And all the thanks I get for my
devotion to the monarchy is to be told that there are a hundred
applicants for my post if I request anything from head-quarters."

"Then your feelings are not over-kind to your King?" said Mr. Neville.

"King!" he roared.  "He is no King of mine, usurper and assassin.  I
continue to serve in his army, because there is no one who can fill my
place here properly, and my country comes before my own feelings still,
thank God.  And yet," he continued almost wistfully, "I feel assured
that, if war was declared to-morrow, some captain with influence would
buy my place, and I should be retired, as too old.  Too old, by God!  I
who know every stick and stone for a hundred miles round, who was
created Colonel on the battle-field by his late Majesty, God preserve
his soul; I, who have studied war since I could read, who can yet march
the stoutest man off his feet."

"But they couldn’t retire you, Colonel?" I said inquiringly.

"Could they not, my young friend?  Ah, you don’t know to what we have
fallen; not the people, they are as true and brave as ever, but the
courtiers, our rulers, rotten, degraded panders to a gross sensualist’s
vices; bah! they sicken me.  Retire me they would without a thought, and
I could take my nobility back to my own dilapidated castle, and feed it
on the thousand pounds or so I have saved in thirty years’ service."

"Is there not a great deal of discontent in the country?"

"Naturally! where do you find men who would not be discontented and
disgusted with underpay and insufficient food?  The peasants, too, are
ground down with taxes, until they starve.  One day some man, driven
desperate, will commit the crime of regicide, but perhaps it would not
be a crime in this case."

"Would that improve matters?" asked Mr. Neville.

"That I cannot say.  The next heir to the throne is a cousin, with
little Rudarlian in him; from all accounts he resembles the present man
in tastes and habits.  Ah! if only I had been in Karena twenty years
ago, with just the troops I have here, history would have been written
differently, and Rudarlia would have been another country, unless
Merlin’s son had developed badly.  As it was, I, with many more
Loyalists, had been sent by a hound of a Minister to the other end of
the country; when we got back it was all over.  The whole of the
reigning family, father, mother, and son, had been assassinated; and the
present man Ivan was King, he had been waiting near the frontier for the
word to come."

"Had they no one to defend them?"

"Those who did were shot without scruple.  You know the miscreant fired
the royal apartments, burning the bodies of the Queen and the Crown
Prince; they were only recognised by the jewellery found on the charred
remains."

"What a terrible crime it was!" I said.

Colonel von Quarovitch sprang to his feet.

"Crime!" he cried, shaking his clenched fists above his head.  "Crime!
God’s curse on the authors of it, it has ruined my country."

We stayed only a few minutes after this, finally wishing him good night,
and retired.

As we reached the inn, Mr. Neville and I looked at each other.

"Thank God for such men as that," said my companion.

His eyes were misty as he shook my hand, and turned away to his room.  I
did likewise, but slept little, I was too excited, I imagine; to-morrow
I was to enter Rudarlia, my own country.

My thoughts were extremely upsetting, the conversation we had had with
Colonel von Quarovitch had made me think a great deal.

Here was an elderly man, devoting his whole life to his country, without
hope of recompense.

His was an example of quiet heroism that set my blood on fire.  I
compared his position with mine, I blushed inwardly at the comparison;
of course so far I was not to blame, as I was not yet legally my own
master, but in a few months from now I should be; what then would my
course be?

Should I remain in England, with everything a man could wish for, or
come here to Rudarlia, and exert myself to the utmost, in trying to
cleanse the country of abuse?

Although I was young, I was not idiotic in my romanticism.  I fully
realised the futility of starting to wage war on a throne without a
great deal of assistance.  Could I obtain sufficient following, was I
capable of directing the campaign?  I would not use force, it would have
to be far more subtle; the Press must be won over first, and the natural
leaders among the people.  Was it possible?

I turned and twisted in my most uncomfortable bed, finding the greatest
difficulty in concentrating my thoughts.  There were so many conflicting
lines of argument to be considered; dreams, and ambitions, rose-tinted,
would confuse them.

I dreamed of a Rudarlia set high above the neighbouring countries in
everything, well governed, possessing a magnificent army, thoroughly
trained and equipped, faithfully paid, fed and clothed, returning for it
all a loyal devotion--to whom?

There, my thoughts balked--to the present King Ivan?  Impossible.  His
heir, according to Quarovitch, was little better.  Who then?  God knows
the misery I experienced in that _cul-de-sac_; I could see no way out,
except in the idea of a republic, and the thought of Rudarlia as
anything but a kingdom was unthinkable.

The only foreign power to which we could turn in safety for a monarch
was England.  No German princeling or Austrian Archduke would serve.
Russia?  As well ask a fox to take care of a chicken. Fool that I was,
here was I, a stranger, imagining that I alone could save the country;
there must be hundreds of brave men, far more shrewd than I, with
influence and wealth, who had no doubt thought and even tried to do the
same thing, yet they had failed.  That was my opinion when I reached the
blank wall in my mind, yet I could not give in, some power seemed to be
urging me to try other ways.

Morning came, and found me still puzzling, still without any loophole
through which to squeeze to the help of my beloved country.

I say "beloved," for now that I was on the borders, only a few yards
into Rudarlia, I felt surge over me an almost mad exultation, a thrill
of passionate feeling, quite foreign to my nature; I felt that that day
had marked a change in my life.

Any help that I could give must be a matter of time and the deepest
consideration; I would see what Mr. Neville and my parents said--and Mr.
Smith too.  I had forgotten him, had, I am ashamed to say, forgotten the
oldest of my friends, and one who would doubtless be overjoyed to hear
that I was in Rudarlia.

He would help me, perhaps, in any way that he thought good.

Well, it would wait with many things until my majority.

While dressing I thought of my stepfather; what would he think, as an
American, would he advise a republic?

And then his advice flashed across me: "Spend money when you think good
will come of it."

I had never followed his advice to any large extent, a hundred pounds or
so at a time.

"I wonder," I said aloud, "whether this is an opportunity?"

It was a fresh idea, and I dawdled over my toilet, so as to have more
time for consideration.

Could I in any way help Quarovitch and his men: would he accept
financial assistance, not for himself but for the troops he commanded?

I must see him, I decided that there and then.  It might be that I
should have to divulge my nationality to him, what did it matter?  He
was an honest and honourable man, on that I would have wagered anything.
So now, I could finish my dressing, and go down to my breakfast.

Mr. Neville was already in the room waiting for me; he looked at me
intently as I entered.

"Sleep well?" he asked.

"No, very badly, the conversation of last night upset me, I think."

"H’m.  Well, do you know it did me too, but for different reasons, no
doubt.  Let us have breakfast, and talk."  He seated himself and began.
"We had better stick to English, it’s safer," he remarked.  "One never
knows who can overhear.  First of all, I propose to tell you why you did
not sleep, then, why I was likewise kept awake; if I am wrong tell me.
You," he began decapitating an egg, "were engaged in thinking how you,
as a Rudarlian, could help your country.  You made and unmade many
plans, each one, however, was to your mind impracticable; am I right?"

"Quite right," I said.

"It was this knowledge of your thoughts that kept me awake," continued
my companion.  "I felt convinced that you would have glorious dreams,
which would break like glass before reason.  I knew that you would
finally decide to abandon any active policy at present, meaning to
return to it in the near future.  Now I know something of these things;
and the anxiety for your future kept me from slumberland."

"How on earth did you know what I was thinking, are you capable of
thought reading, even when the thinker is absent?"

He laughed.

"I wish I were.  No, it is only the result of logic, first, and the
knowledge I have of you, secondly. When you put a young man like
yourself before the picture displaying the ruin of his country, it is
natural for him to feel obsessed by the desire to reconstruct the
crumbled edifice.  I fancy I could also guess the chief obstacle in your
various lines of argument."

"I should not be surprised," I said, laughing.

"Was it not the choice of a ruler?"

"Yes."

"Well, I don’t wonder that you were brought to a halt, it has puzzled
me, too, a great deal; but we can discuss that on our journey.  You have
quite decided to go over the mountains?"

"Oh yes, if you are agreeable; it will be much more interesting and
exciting."

"Very well, but we shall want a guide."

"The innkeeper will know of one, I’m sure."

"I’ll ask him."

Our sleek host, looking more evil by daylight than I had anticipated,
knew just the man for us, the perfect guide: a mountaineer, strong,
honest, and intelligent, he would send for him at once.

"I wonder," I said, "whether our host is an authority on honesty."

Mr. Neville laughed.

"The same thought struck me; but, as we are armed, I don’t think there
is anything to fear."

"Well, he won’t be here for some time yet; and I want to ask your
opinion on a serious matter."

"Fire ahead, Victor."

I then proceeded to lay bare my plan with regard to Quarovitch; Mr.
Neville listened in silence.

"It is rather an extraordinary proposal," he said.

I remember that we were both silent for a considerable time after that
and then he said suddenly:

"I agree with you about Quarovitch; he is, I should say, a most
honourable man, but would he accept the trust?  You would have to tell
him that you were a Rudarlian, even then it remains to be seen whether
he will consent to receive, from a civilian, the money that should come
from his government.  I cannot say, although personally, in his place I
should."

"Then," I cried joyfully, "you think I can do it, you advise it?"

"I leave it to you, partner," said Mr. Neville, smiling.

"Oh, bother bridge, I feel that I shall never play again with any
pleasure; can’t you ever declare?"

"Not on this hand.  I should say, however, that you might make it no
trumps; you have the three aces--health, wealth, and enthusiasm."

"But the kings are against us, with perhaps the fourth ace."

"And that is?" asked my companion.

"Luck," said I, "but I’ll risk it."

"How much do you propose offering him?"

"Five thousand; that should last until I come again."

"Always look ahead," said Mr. Neville, but he would say nothing more
about the sum I had named.

A few moments after this, the host returned; with him was a man, a
splendid looking fellow, with the free bearing and controlled muscles of
a mountaineer.

I spoke to him in Rudarlian, telling him that we wished for a guide over
the mountains; did he know of a way other than the main road?  Yes, he
did.

Was it possible to work down by that route into the plains?  Yes, it
was.  Would he be content with so much?  Yes, he would.  What would be
necessary for the trip?  He informed us that we must take food and
drink; if we had luggage, a pony to carry it.  That was all as far as he
could suggest.

"What do you think, Mr. Neville?" I asked in English.

"H’m.  He looks like a brigand, but then they mostly do to English eyes;
I think I should engage him."

I did.  He would, he assured us, see about a pony, and all the necessary
things we needed, if we cared; also we must provide ourselves with rugs,
for the night.

"Indeed," said I, "why did you not mention that before?"

"I did not know that your Excellencies proposed starting at midday."

This had only been mentioned just before, so that the answer seemed
good; but I could not help feeling a slight anxiety, as the host was so
extremely unprepossessing.  I almost wished that we had asked
Quarovitch.

I gave Piotr, as the man was called, the necessary instructions, bidding
him wait for us with his purchases at the inn; then we walked along to
the low, whitewashed building, used as the barracks.

From Melanov, little could be seen of Rudarlia, though the place was
high up, as the main road twisted round the side of an eminence,
blocking the view.  There was nothing therefore to look at, as the one
street was empty save for a stray dog or so.

My thoughts were in a turmoil, as we strolled along.  How was I to
broach the subject to the Colonel?  Perhaps he would give me an opening.

He was seated at a table by the only window in the room; as we entered,
a subaltern saluted and passed out.

"Ah, messieurs, I am glad indeed to see you," said the Colonel, rising
from his chair, and warmly shaking our hands.  "I hope my outburst last
evening did not alarm you, you must forgive an old man, who finds it
difficult to keep his temper sometimes."

"You did not alarm us at all, it was most justifiable."

"In fact," chimed in Mr. Neville, "so much so that it induced my friend
here to come to you this morning, to ask for a half-hour or so of your
time."

"Delighted, delighted; but I do not see the connection between the two."

"Then," said I, feeling desperately uneasy, "I must explain, if you will
give me permission."

"Please take a chair, and make yourselves as comfortable as these
quarters permit."

He pulled his own chair round as we seated ourselves, and held out a box
of cigarettes to us.

"I cannot offer you cigars like the ones I smoked last night," he said
apologetically.

"Now," he continued when we had lighted them, "an hour, or two hours, as
you will."

"I don’t think it will take long, at least I hope not.  You will
remember saying last night that the present government in Rudarlia left
the army in an almost necessitous state, almost without clothing and
food?"

"That is so," said Quarovitch, with a perplexed look.

"It struck me," I said, after a moment’s hesitation, "that a man like
yourself, with a certain sum of money, might do a great deal to
alleviate such conditions among the men under your command."

"So he might, but I thought I made it sufficiently plain that I was
without private means."

"You did; therefore, I have come to offer them to you, or rather to ask
you to accept for your troops a sum of money from me."

He looked from me to Mr. Neville, with an inquiring lift of his
eyebrows.

"No," I said, smiling, "I am not mad, but I am intensely interested in
everything Rudarlian; and, if you could see your way to be banker for
your troops, you would place me enormously in your debt."

"It is impossible, of course," he said quietly. "Rudarlia is in a bad
way, I admit, but her army cannot be paid by an Englishman or any other
foreigner.  I thank you for your offer, but it is impossible."

He rose from his seat as though to terminate our conversation.  He was
angered, hurt too, by what he no doubt looked upon as an unwarrantable
intrusion on my part; I felt that he looked upon me as one who had taken
advantage of his outburst of the previous evening.

"One moment, Colonel, before you decide," I said.  "You feel, no doubt,
that my offer is almost, if not quite an impertinence; believe me, I
anticipated that view, I have therefore to confess to misinforming you.
I am not an Englishman; although brought up there, I, like yourself, am
a Rudarlian.  This is my first visit to my country since my babyhood;
now you see why your words yesterday had so much effect upon me."

He looked at me a trifle suspiciously.

"Stevens is not a Rudarlian name," he said.

"No," broke in Mr. Neville, "but Stefan is, I believe."

"So! you have astonished me, monsieur.  You were taken away as a baby,
you say?"

"I think so, I am not quite sure."

"If you will pardon my interrupting, Colonel," said my companion, "but
Monsieur Stefan knows little of his birth or childhood.  There are
reasons, grave reasons, why he should remain in ignorance until his
majority in a few months’ time.  I, however, give you my word that he is
a Rudarlian by birth."

"I did not doubt it, monsieur.  I was staggered for the moment at the
idea of anyone making such a proposal; even now, that I know him to be
my countryman, I do not see my way to accept his offer."

"May I ask why?" I said despondently.  "I had hoped so much to do
something for our army."

"Think, Monsieur Stefan, how could it be explained that I, a penniless
man, had accepted money to pay my troops?  They would say immediately
that my nest was feathered too, and what reason do you suppose would be
accredited to the gift?  Why, to buy their loyalty."

"Who for?" I asked quickly.

Colonel von Quarovitch looked puzzled.

"H’m!  That is rather difficult to answer; they would say, most likely,
that you were the emissary of Russia, Austria, or Bornia; most probably
the latter, since they are our neighbours."

His argument was certainly sound; and I searched my brains for a
solution.

"Don’t you ever speculate, Colonel?" I asked.

"Eh?"

"I thought you had invested a certain sum, a little while ago, in some
rubber company."

"Eh?" he said again.

Mr. Neville chuckled.

I continued:

"So at least I understood; five hundred pounds, I think it was, they
rose ten points or so, giving you the handsome profit of five thousand
pounds."

He still looked at me inquiringly; but suddenly he smiled grimly, and
stared for a few minutes out of the window.  Then, slowly, he drew a
piece of paper and a pen towards him, and looked up.

"What did you say the name of the rubber company was, monsieur?"

I had won.  In a boyish impulse I seized his hand and shook it
violently.

"Hurrah!  I was so afraid that you would continue in your refusal."

He laughed outright.

"I have never known anyone so anxious to part with money before, and,
monsieur, I was desperately anxious that you should think of a way out;
it means so much to my men.  As it is, I shall become almost too
popular, thanks to you."

For the next hour we discussed ways and means. I was to write home, and
inform my stepfather of what I had done; and he was to send a letter
with a draft to Quarovitch, purporting to come from a banker.  The
spending of the money, I would have nothing to say about, and told him
so.

"You know what the men require, I don’t, I leave it therefore entirely
to you.  Do as you think best; and mind you keep up your investments,
for when I come again, in a little while, God willing, you must have had
another lucky stroke of business."

"I will keep an account of every penny, to await your return."

"Which will be waste of labour, Colonel, for I shall put it in the fire
unread; you have quite enough to do, to spend the money, without
clerking."

His stern old face twitched, and he said huskily:

"God bless you, until your return, Monsieur Stefan."

Our interview had lasted longer than we had expected; and we had to
hurry, to get back to the inn at the time appointed.

We found our guide to be, waiting, with a small shaggy horse, laden with
our properties; he saluted as we hurried up.

"I have everything your Excellencies require," he said.

He would have proceeded to tell us how clever he had been in his
bargaining, but we cut him short; and I went into the inn to settle our
account.  I sent a boy to find the host and then entered the dining-room
to wait for him.  I walked to the window and looked out, deep in
thought.

"A deliberate cut," said a voice behind me.

I swung round.

"Carruthers?  Well, I’m damned!"

"Judging by this inn, I should say you were; but how goes it, old chap?"

"How in the world did you get here?"

"Boat, train, and horse; but I’m waiting for you to say that you are
pleased to see me."

"Pleased?  You bet I am; why, there is nothing could have pleased me
more; but how did you know where to find us?"

"Your mother gave me your probable route, so I chanced it.  I have three
months’ leave, and I’m going to enjoy my little self."

"Good!  Now, look here, we are just going to start on a tramp to the
capital: are you game to come now, or shall we postpone it?"

"I’ll come right away.  I’ve only a bag, and I’ll leave that here to be
forwarded."

"It can go on our transport animal--they call it a horse--fetch it while
I settle up; Mr. Neville is outside."

It was the final touch to my happiness to have Carruthers with us; Mr.
Neville, too, was delighted. There was such a tremendous lot to tell
each other: all the multitude of happenings of the last two years.

The path along which we were travelling was only a bridle track at most
and led us by a zigzag route up the mountain.  We had too much to do, in
seeing that we put our feet on firm ground, to talk, and as there was
little beside rock to look at we did not make any great delay.  It was
hard work, though; how the horse managed some parts beats me altogether.
Our guide Piotr kept ahead at a steady pace.  Just as it was getting
dusk, he stopped.

"This will be a good place to halt, Excellency."

"Very good."

I walked a little farther and turned a corner, Rudarlia lay in front of
me.  I was glad that my companions had stayed behind, for my heart was
beating ridiculously, and there was a mist in front of my eyes.  I stood
there alone, and drank in the beauty of the vast panorama stretched
before me, the failing light made for mystery, and full of exultation I
stretched out my arms as though to embrace it all, murmuring to myself:

"My country! my country!"



                              *CHAPTER IV*


When I returned to the others, I found a wood fire crackling merrily,
and preparations being made for a meal.

I am afraid that I did not contribute much to the conversation for some
time--I was thinking; but after we had finished eating, and were sitting
smoking with the comfortable feeling one has when healthily tired, I did
my share.

Carruthers gave me a message from my people: on no consideration was I
to try and find Mr. Smith, as any inquiries might be serious for him.
Of course he had not been given any reasons for this; but I could see he
was curious, and I could not, and Mr. Neville would not, enlighten him.

It was a perfect night, and there was no sound, save the rippling of a
brook, to mar the stillness, that is, when we were not talking.  Little
by little I saw Mr. Neville and Carruthers growing more and more drowsy,
and presently, with contented grunts, they rolled over and fell asleep.
Piotr had already taken himself away from the fire and now lay, a dark
mass, wrapped in his blanket.

We had asked many questions of him, but I do not remember receiving any
enlightening answers; he always appeared to be guarding his tongue, why,
I did not understand.

There was one thing which Carruthers had told me that gave me
considerable uneasiness; it was that my stepfather did not seem as well
as his wont. This upset me, for I had never known him anything but
splendidly well.  I seemed to feel him near me in the night; perhaps at
that moment he was talking of us, who knows?  The darkness made me
strangely fanciful, but presently I too was asleep.

The next morning I woke very early, and found that we had an addition to
our party, a man, hump-backed, and rather evil looking.

Piotr explained that he had overtaken us at about midnight, and, as he
was tired, had asked permission to use our fire.

I spoke a few words to the fellow, telling him that he could have some
food if he liked, and then woke the others.

Our ablutions were performed in a small stream that gurgled and
spluttered a few yards away; then, having had our breakfast, we once
more started.

This time our order was reversed, the two men and the horse being
behind; while we three tramped cheerfully on, glorying in the fresh
morning air which had the effect of champagne upon our spirits.

Two or three miles from our halting place of the night, we came to a
piece of road only some seven or eight feet wide.

On one side the ground sloped steeply up, covered with great masses of
rock and stones; on the other was a sheer drop of some hundreds of feet
into a thickly wooded valley.

Carruthers suddenly took it into his head that he was a mountain goat,
and went springing madly down the path, disappearing in a few moments
round a curve.

Mr. Neville had just made some laughing remark about his being almost
inclined to follow, when without any reason apparently, a stone came
rushing down from above us.

We both sprang forward instinctively, and heard the rock strike the
path, then an appalling yell from behind us; we swung round.  Piotr had
disappeared.  The hunchback was cringing away from the abyss, and could
hardly summon sufficient strength to point with a trembling hand.  It
was enough, however, and we understood that our guide had gone over the
edge; the suddenness of the accident made it the more appalling.

We lay flat on our stomachs and peered over; then I scrambled to my
feet.

"He’s stuck there, some way down.  Here you, run after the gentleman and
get him back as quickly as possible; there is just a chance that we can
save your friend.  Quick, man, quick!"

He darted off; and Mr. Neville ran to undo the rope which hung from the
pack-saddle of the horse.

"Will it be long enough?" I said.

"I hope so, I judge him to be thirty to thirty-five feet down."

I took the free end of the rope, and made a slip noose.  The one idea in
my head was that somehow I must save this man.  He was as far as I could
see jammed in an angle of rock, and held in position by the roots of a
small tree, which had found enough earth on the ledge to give it a
stunted existence.

I kept repeating to myself: "If only the tree holds, if only the tree
holds."  When the rope had been arranged satisfactorily I placed a
folded rug on the edge of the precipice, to prevent the rock cutting,
then turned to see if Carruthers was in sight.

Mr. Neville was standing over me, with a terribly drawn look on his
face.

"Victor, you can’t go," he muttered.

I said nothing, only smiled; and Carruthers turned the corner at a run,
followed closely by the hunch-back.

"Buck up, old man," he cried, throwing off his coat, "and I’ll get him
up in a jiffy."

"No, I’m going."

They looked at me, Mr. Neville very white, and Carruthers almost
angrily.

"Don’t talk rot, Splosh, of course I shall go."

"You will do nothing of the kind; he is my servant, my countryman, and
I’m going.  Quick, don’t waste time talking, lay on to the rope, you and
Mr. Neville, while you," I said to the hunchback, "be ready to pull him
over the edge."

I slipped my right foot into the noose.

"Now hold on, I’m going, I’ll yell when you are to pull him up; let me
down slowly."

I did not look at them again, until I had lowered myself over the edge,
and then it was but a fleeting glance, just long enough to smile to
them, and notice their set mouths.

They lowered away slowly, almost too slowly for me, as it was a most
unpleasant rock to look at, and I did not care to glance down more than
was absolutely necessary.  It was also an unpleasant feeling to swing in
the air, with just a thin rope between you and eternity; however, little
by little I went down, keeping myself away from the cliff with my left
hand, and untied foot.

When I judged that the ledge must be near, I looked down.  I was about
six feet from it; two minutes, and I was level.  I yelled, and at once
my descent was arrested.

The ledge was infernally narrow, and at first I did not see how to
manage.  By cautiously edging along, however, I was enabled to stand
astride of Piotr’s body, although one foot had perforce to rest upon the
tree, which caused creaking sounds of a most discomforting nature.  I
removed my foot from the noose.

Piotr’s legs hung down, dangling over space, I could see that one was
broken; he was moaning faintly, and trying to move his arm.  It was an
extremely difficult business, getting the rope underneath him, but with
patience and a great deal of care it was done; and I drew it tight under
his arm-pits.  It seemed then that nothing remained but to give them the
signal to hoist; but just as I was going to yell the thought flashed
across me that, if he struggled and threw up his arms, the rope might
slip, then it would be all up for both of us, for it was certain that,
in falling, he would drag or knock me off the perch as well.

This required thought, as Mr. Neville so often reminded me; and I
wondered what could be done to fasten his arms down.

Beneath his embroidered waistcoat he was wearing the scarf or sash of
the mountaineer.  Down again I bent, and started to get it loose; an
ugly looking knife was still tucked into it, this, as I pulled, fell
out, and went glistening down into the trees beneath.  I remember
thinking it was lucky there was nobody there for it to fall on, and I
believe I grinned; but an extra crack from the tree made me serious
again.

By dint of pulling, I got the sash unwound; and with it fastened his
arms as I desired, above the elbow, securely to his sides.  He was safe
now, but how was I to keep clear of his body as he rose?  I looked up,
Carruther’s face was peering down at me.

"Are you all right, Splosh?"

"Yes, I’m all right.  Wait half a minute, and then you can begin to
haul."

I heard what seemed like a number of voices talking, but avoided looking
up again; instead, I did the only thing which seemed to me possible; I
yelled, and felt the rope tighten, saw Piotr gradually assume a sitting
posture.  Then, while I still had the rope to assist me, I slipped over,
and hung by my hands to the edge.  It was only for a little time, for as
soon as I saw our guide’s body swing clear I pulled myself up again; it
was lucky I had gone in for gymnastics.  I sat on the ledge sideways; it
was the only way to sit, and beastly uncomfortable. By using the
greatest caution, I was enabled to pull a small flask, which I always
carried, from my pocket; a drink from this did me good as I had been
feeling rather dizzy.

"Hullo! hullo!  Splosh!"

I looked up again, there was a row of heads where only Carruthers’ had
been before.

"Hullo!" I called back.  "Is the rope ready?"

"It is coming down now, old chap; be careful."

The heads were still there, swarthy, wild looking faces peered down at
me.  I grinned, and shouted "Good day" in Rudarlian, and they laughed as
they answered me.  Cheerful chaps, but where the devil had they come
from?

The ascent was infinitely nicer than the descent, the face of the cliff
appeared almost rosy and kind. I felt as brave as possible now, whereas
before I had had my heart in my boots.  Strong hands seized me on the
edge; and in a moment I was up on the pathway again, with my companions
each shaking a hand, as though we had been parted for years.

I certainly was astonished to see the men who surrounded us; the best
that could be said of them was that they were all smiling, but each man
was a walking arsenal.  They were not the sort of men I should have
chosen as companions for a pleasant Sunday afternoon.

"Friends of yours?" I said to Mr. Neville, and Carruthers roared.

"Not yet, but certainly I trust they will be; they came from goodness
knows where.  By appearances they are brigands--not that I wish to judge
them harshly."

"Yes, by appearances they are, but how is Piotr?"

"I will look at him, if you will tell these fellows to get out of the
way."

I told the men that we would attend to Piotr, but that they must give us
room, and fetch wood for a litter.  They obeyed like lambs.  Three went
to seek young trees for the purpose I had named, the others stood round
in silence, save one, who came forward and offered his services; he was,
I understood, the bone-setter of the gang.  Mr. Neville accepted his
offer and set to work.  After an examination lasting some little time,
he said:

"It is marvellous, he has only broken a leg, and has a slight
concussion; bruised as well, of course, but not another bone broken."

"What luck!  Can you set his leg between you?"

"I hope so, and before he regains his senses."

By the time the men had returned with the trees, it was done: the broken
limb had been set, and carefully bandaged in splints.  A litter was
formed with the trees and sashes of some of the men and rugs thrown over
that.  Upon this clever piece of work the injured man was placed
carefully, and a little brandy forced down his throat.

Then evidently a difficulty arose.  The fellows began to converse among
themselves with many glances at us, shrugging of shoulders, and
expressive gestures of the hands.

There was one who was apparently the leader, and upon his face was an
expression of the utmost perplexity.  He kept staring first at the
litter then at me, then at my companions and then at the litter. It
dawned upon me that their camp might be near, but that they were anxious
to avoid showing us the way; on the other hand, they could not capture
us as they had evidently intended, since we had befriended their chief.
I appreciated their dilemma and laughed, beckoned to the fellow, and
together we walked a few paces away from the others.

"You are troubled," I said.  "Now which is it to be, are you going to
take us with you as enemies, or shall we part in a friendly way?  For,
of course, my friends and I fully realise that the chief of a party such
as yours does not take the position of guide, unless he has some good
reason for it."

He saw that I was smiling, so he too grinned.

"Excellency, for your age you are as clear-sighted as an eagle."

"I assure you, my friend, I felt like one a few minutes ago; but tell
me, was I right in my surmise about your state of mind?"

"Your Excellency was right.  We could never, however, part as enemies;
and if we let you go before our chief regains his senses----" he
shrugged his shoulders in a most expressive way.

"H’m! but we cannot remain here, can we? And you evidently would not
care to take us with you as friends; of course, to these gentlemen and
myself, the word friend means that we should never betray anything we
might happen to learn.  I might suggest, too, that men blindfolded would
see nothing if led to some place carefully."

A gleam of satisfaction lit up his face.

"And would your Excellencies submit to that? It would be only for a few
minutes."

"Oh yes, and I can answer for my friends."

I was desirous of following up this little adventure, for these men were
no doubt almost driven to brigandage; and, if their demands could be
satisfied, they might become useful allies and good citizens.  I was
already planning for the future.

We walked back to the others, and I informed them of what had been
arranged.  Carruthers treated it as a huge joke.  He knew but a few
words of Rudarlian, and proceeded to use them vigorously as we followed
the litter.

We continued our course down the path, which after a little swerved into
less close proximity to the valley below.  Although still high up in the
mountain, we were beginning to be able to distinguish the natural
features of the panoramic landscape more clearly.

What struck us most was the absence of human habitations, for the valley
looked as though it would be fertile, being well watered.

I questioned the man whom I was walking beside.

"Ah, your Excellency, it is strange to you, but has a different
significance to us; we to whom that land yielded a livelihood have been
driven to other ways of making one.  Our harvests--good or bad, as the
good God decided--were taken from us in payment of taxes, which were so
great that even the whole year’s profit would not pay them.  So--what
would you?  I, myself, worked ten years on the land my father and
grandfather had owned. But every year the burden grew greater; and, as
on the last occasion I could not pay the collector, he drove off my
animals, such as they were, and would have taken me to prison only I
stuck my knife into him and fled."

He told me this quite calmly.  He had most probably killed the
collector, but it evidently struck him as a justifiable deed, and in my
heart of hearts I could not altogether blame him.  It gave me an inkling
of what the treatment of peasants was like, under the rule of this man
who starved his soldiers and squandered their pay on courtesans.

A little farther on, we were informed that the time had come for them to
blindfold us; and there being no opposition they proceeded to do so.
With our eyes covered we were led forward again for a while, and then
the climb began.  Our hands were placed in niches, or our feet guided to
some rock or projection, as, without mishap or inconvenience, we
clambered up and up, until once more our feet were on a pathway.
Another longish walk, a sharp turn, and then we were halted, and the
bandages which prevented our seeing taken away.

I stood absolutely amazed, blinking my eyes to find out whether I was
really awake or dreaming, for we were in a place that no one could ever
have dreamed existed.  It was like an enormous cup scooped out of the
mountain, and its sides must have been a couple of hundred feet high.
The diameter of the cup seemed over a mile; a more perfect hiding-place
it would have been impossible to conceive.  There was one part covered
with fine trees, another splendid pasture, upon which were numerous
cattle and sheep, while a small stream wandered across the whole length
of the place, providing a good water supply.  On our right stood some
fifteen wooden houses, substantially built, with patches of vegetable
gardens in front of each.

This much I took in with my first bewildered glance.

"Well, I’m damned!" said Carruthers.

"So am I!" said I.

"In fact we all are!" said Mr. Neville sagely.

The litter had by now been carried down through the narrow fissure
through which we had entered, and a host of people came running from the
houses and fields; people of all ages and both sexes.  They surrounded
us with looks far from amiable, until the nominal leader explained our
presence to their satisfaction, and incidentally to ours.  I had a busy
time, for I believe they would all have embraced me.  One did, but as
she turned out to be the betrothed wife of Piotr, she was forgiven; she
was a dashed fine looking girl too, so very attractive that Carruthers
grumbled, and murmured that he had wanted to save Piotr himself.

For some days they feasted and made much of us; nor was it dull, for
Carruthers, as usual, had to try to teach the male portion of the
community how to play games.  This was a source of continual delight to
him; and, as Mr. Neville was chiefly engaged in looking after Piotr, I
amused myself by enticing all and sundry into conversation.  I say
"amused," but it really was not amusement to listen to some of the tales
of brutality of the tax gatherers with which these people had put up,
before breaking away to the free life they then led.

Upon the day before the one upon which we had decided to leave,
Carruthers got up what he was pleased to call "Athletic Sports."  It was
a great success, and some very fine performances took place; it was
astonishing, too, how these men took to the idea, and allowed themselves
to be bullied by Carruthers and myself, who acted as "Officials."  The
event which was afterwards voted the greatest success was the obstacle
race for women; in this Carruthers had surpassed himself in the
ingenuity of the obstacles.  Every one, both performers and onlookers,
was simply helpless with laughter before the end of the race, which was
won by a fine old woman of over sixty.

Mr. Neville was attending Piotr, who sat propped up at one of the
windows.

Piotr’s reception of me was rather funny.  He was so deadly ashamed of
his motive in coming to us as guide, especially so, when I chaffed him
about the path he had expected us to follow, by air. However, I
understood that in him I had a friend, who would sacrifice his life for
me should occasion arise.

We had numerous conversations about Rudarlia, and I found that he was a
man of ideals, as well as being professionally a brigand; what is more,
I believed him when he told me that he had only taken to it when there
was no other way open.

Mr. Neville had asked him whether he would give up his present career,
if the laws were readjusted.

"Give us fair taxation, and justice, and we will serve God and the King
until the end," had been his response.

"Ivan?" I asked.

"I said a ’King,’" was the stern reply.  "One who puts his country
before such things as his mistresses; Ivan is no king, he is a vile,
grasping tyrant."

"Are there many who think as you do?"

"I never knew or heard of a man who wouldn’t rejoice at news of his
death."

Decidedly the King was not beloved.

We started early the next morning, and were almost sorry to go.  We had
learned to like these simple-hearted, fierce people; and they seemed to
reciprocate the feeling.

Piotr broke a coin in two, and presented me with one-half.

"If you are in Rudarlia, and need me, send me that piece; if I am alive
I will come to you."

I put it carefully away, thanking him for the promise.  As a parting
gift, I made him accept my revolver.  His eyes glistened at the sight of
it; but he swore that it should only be used in self-defence, and I knew
that he would keep his word.

Our eyes were left unbandaged as we made our way out of the place: we
had given our word not to divulge the secret.

The second in command acted as our guide, and before long we were out of
the mountains, and proceeding along the small, winding paths by which we
made our way to the main road from Melanov to Karena.  Once we were upon
that we made better progress; and soon came to a small village called
Viritz, where we halted, for it was at this place that our guide was to
turn back.

We made many purchases there, however, and fairly loaded up the horse;
the things we bought were to be divided among the men and women we had
just left.  With many assurances of goodwill on both sides we parted,
our guide setting his face towards the mountains while we turned into
the inn for a meal.

It was only after a good deal of trouble that we secured a cart to take
us and our small belongings towards Karena; but once the difficulty was
overcome we started gaily forward again.  As usual, we entered into a
discussion of military affairs, and it struck us all that, from Melanov,
there would be no great obstacle in forcing a way through to the
capital, unless the fortifications of that city were very strong.  That,
of course, we did not know; nor did the driver of our cart, a surly
brute, who had neither civility nor good looks to recommend him.

We dismissed the cart at Yuhban, a somewhat larger village, where we had
determined to spend the night, under the vain illusion that we should
sleep.

Alas, from the moment that we entered that wretched building we
suffered!  And so it was until we left in the early morning, after
paying a bill which would not have disgraced the _Ritz_ in London.

I made a mental note to the effect that when I returned to Rudarlia as a
saviour, in which rôle I had cast myself, the first, or one of the first
improvements I should inaugurate, would be the burning down of all such
inns, from one end of the country to the other.  I believe that my
companions would have wanted to burn the innkeepers as well.

From this village of fleas and worse, we escaped by a small motor-bus
which connected it with Karena, and allowed the driver to recommend the
_Carlton_ as the best, and most up-to-date of the Karenian hotels.  We
were agreeably surprised to find that he had not misled us; it was quite
a credit to Rudarlia, with every convenience and comfort that could be
desired, as well as excellent cooking. I will confess that I do enjoy a
good dinner.

We engaged a suite on the first floor; and from that time were looked
upon with favour by the staff, in spite of our scanty baggage.

We spent two or three days in going round, sightseeing; but we soon
settled down to study the conditions under which the people lived.
Daily we took long walks or drives into the country, and nightly we sat
in cafés, entering into conversation with anyone and every one, always,
however, finding the same fierce resentment against the King and his
Court.  There was a current of unrest among them all, dull mutterings
which betokened an approaching storm; and it seemed to me that only a
leader was needed to raise the whole country, but always that cursed
_cul-de-sac_: who to put in Ivan’s place?  We had a glimpse of him one
day, as we were returning to our hotel: a fat, bibulous-looking man,
with great coarse lips, and crafty eyes.

Not a voice was raised as he drove through the great gates of his
palace, although there were many people present.  His escort, who were
the only smart soldiers we had seen, looked as though disgusted with
their work of guarding him.  Soon afterwards came another carriage in
which a woman was sitting, both young and beautiful.

I asked a gentleman who was near me who she was.

"I do not know, I have never seen that one before; if she’s new, it will
mean fresh taxation, I suppose."

"Why?  I am afraid I don’t quite understand; who is she?"

"Some French girl most probably; whenever a new one appears, the taxes
go up; some one must pay for the jewels for the King’s mistress."

"Good God! can it really be so?" I asked, feigning surprise, for I was
desirous of obtaining more information.

"The good God has deserted Rudarlia, monsieur, only the devil reigns
here now.  But you are a stranger evidently, or you would not be
surprised. We Rudarlians have experienced it before, but----" he looked
at me quickly for a moment, lifted his hat and passed on.

"Is your blood on the boil?" asked Mr. Neville, smiling.

I did not answer, it was coming home to me so strongly that something
must be done; there would be bloodshed, insurrection, and red revolution
before long, if the present state of things continued. From the ashes,
what would arise?

No state can stand an upheaval such as I pictured, without for many
years feeling the effect of it, more especially a race like the
Rudarlians, who are conservative by nature.

What I could not understand was, how the nobles allowed it.  Surely
there must be among them fine, strong men, capable of grasping the reins
and stopping the headlong rush to destruction; and then crept in the
word, jealousy.

Jealousy, that accursed thing, which has wrecked so many ideas, and
brought misery to so many individuals.  That would account for it.
Hating the present monarch, hating equally the heir, they would none of
them combine to alter matters, for fear that one of them should be
exalted over the others.

Since then I have discovered that I misjudged them.



                              *CHAPTER V*


We had been in Karena for two weeks, and what puzzled me most was that
we had neither seen nor heard of Mr. Smith, for I felt sure my people
would have let him know that we were in the city.  It seemed so strange
that one of my oldest friends should take no notice.  I knew of course
that "Smith" was an assumed name, but I had no idea of his real one, so
even had I wished to ignore my parents’ wishes, and make inquiries, I
should have been at a loss how to do so.

It was this kind of thing which galled me, more especially now, when I
wished to include him in my dreams, when working out schemes for
Rudarlia’s welfare.  I never mentioned him to Mr. Neville, as I thought
it would be placing him in an awkward position, he who knew.

If I had but known it, circumstances, even then, were drawing us
together; the wheels of chance were turning slowly, and we were destined
to meet in a manner which opened my eyes to the extraordinary laws of
coincidence.

Carruthers and I had been out one evening on one of our nocturnal
wanderings in search of information, and were returning to our hotel,
when my companion suggested a stroll to the top of the road overlooking
Yuhban.

I acquiesced, as this suggestion suited me perfectly. I was glad of an
excuse to breathe a little fresh air, after the hot and rather smelly
café, in which we had spent the best part of the evening.

The route by which we were going would only take us about half a mile
out of our way.  We did not speak much.  Carruthers, for him, was
taciturn, and I, as usual, was trying to find a suitable successor to
King Ivan.

It was a perfect night with a fine moon, so, having reached the place we
wanted, we stood for a few moments looking over the valley below.  It
was a night for an artist or a poet, and little did we think, as we
stood there in peaceful silence, that a few minutes would bring horrid
strife.

A motor was approaching from Yuhban.  We could see her headlights as she
twisted and turned with the winding road; a big silent car, and a
magnificent hill-climber too, for she came up the steep bit at the top
without changing gear.  When only about ten yards from where we were
standing, she stopped suddenly.  We saw the chauffeur jump out, while at
the same time three men ran from the shadow of a wall, where they had
been hidden; they came up behind the car.  Just as the chauffeur had
succeeded in opening one door, a man descended on the other side of the
car.

He gave one quick glance round, and started running at top speed towards
us; and I saw the moonlight flash on a weapon he carried in his hand.
Hard after him came the three men and the chauffeur.

"Come on, Splosh!" cried Carruthers.

We sprang forward.  I saw him send one man flying and jump at another,
but at that moment the pursued man stumbled, and his weapon flew out of
his hand, right at my feet.

I stooped and picked it up; it was a sword-stick. The next moment, I
found myself parrying fierce and rapid sword-thrusts, almost without
knowledge. My astonishment gradually left me and I grew cool; it was
well I did, for I needed all my wits about me, my opponent being a
consummate swordsman. At first it was as much as I could do to keep
clear of his point; but, as I grew more collected, the better I fenced.
I had no idea what was happening to the others, but I had seen one
knocked out by Carruthers, and hoped that he and the pursued could
account for the other two.  I recollected that my chum had his revolver
with him, and called out to remind him of the fact; he answered
something, and then a shot rang out just behind me. It startled me for
the moment, in spite of my being half-prepared for it, and my adversary
managed to touch my arm with his point, a mere prick.  And then I lost
all knowledge except of the man I was fighting; only once did I remember
that there were others by me, and that was when Carruthers said:

"You, Mr----?"

After that there was silence again, only broken by the sound of our feet
and the grating of our sword-blades, as my opponent and I sprang
backwards and forwards.

I had tried various attacks, and also foiled them; now I would try a
special favourite of my stepfather’s.  It was risky, I knew, as it left
rather an opening for a thrust through the arm; but I had to do
something, as this prolonged bout was beginning to make itself felt.

Thank God, it had succeeded, and I heaved a sigh of relief, as my blade
passed through my adversary’s shoulder.  He gave a gasp and fell.

I must say that the complete and sudden success of my attack staggered
me for a moment, so much so that I remained staring at the prostrate
man; then I turned--and stood with my mouth open, for there was Mr.
Smith with both arms outstretched.

"You--was it you then?"

"Yes, I, Victor, alive, thanks to you two; but come quickly, I will
explain as soon as we are out of this.  We will send help for these
murderers, we can do nothing ourselves."

"But I should like to do something for him," I said, pointing to my
opponent’s body.

"Leave it to me, my boy, I will see that he is taken care of.  Quick!
quick! or we shall be in trouble."

Together we ran to the car, passing three bodies, one shot, one stunned,
and one bound.

"Jump in, I will drive," said Mr. Smith.

He did drive, and the pace we went would have scared anyone; but he had
wonderful command over the car, and we had no accident.  Somewhere on
the other side of the town he pulled up, outside a fine mansion standing
in a small park.  As we stopped, the door of the house opened, and a man
hastened down the steps.

"Thank God, Count!  We were afraid something had happened to you."

"So it did, Baron."

"Where’s Peter?"

"In heaven, I hope; in hell, I am afraid."

"As bad as that, was it?"

"Worse: Goltz was in it."

"Goltz!"  He gave a little whistle.  "Come in at once; but who are
these?"  He indicated us with a wave of his hand.

"Ah," said Mr. Smith, "who are they?  Let me present to you Messieurs
Stevens and Carruthers; Baron von Sluben.  Now let us go in for one
minute.  By the way, Baron, will you ’phone to Ducrot, to look after
some bodies near his house?  He will be pleased to find Goltz among
them--oh no, not dead.  Tell him to treat them with the greatest
kindness and attention, as a mark of his affection to the man they did
not kill."

We moved into the house, Baron Sluben leading the way.  He threw open a
door, and we entered a very large room, which was packed with men and a
few ladies, all in evening dress.

I touched Mr. Smith’s arm.

"We shall be awfully out of it, in these clothes," I said.

"I don’t think you need worry, Victor, you will always be conspicuous,
whether you like it or not."

He knew my weakness.

Most of the occupants looked up as we entered, and a general hum of
welcome arose.

"May I present to you Monsieur Stevens, who has just bested Goltz in the
prettiest way imaginable; and Monsieur Carruthers, who accounted for two
of our enemies," said Mr. Smith.

The hum of welcome changed to a cry of astonishment.

"Goltz? is he dead? how did it happen?"  And a score of other questions
were hurled at him.

"My friends," he said, "listen.  This evening I was returning from you
know where; I had just reached Monsieur Ducrot’s house, when my
chauffeur stopped the car and came to the door.

"’Hullo,’ I said, ’what is wrong, what do you want?’

"’You!’ he replied.

"I had my sword-stick in the car with me, and opening the other door I
jumped out.  There were three more assailants; so, not wishing to lose
certain papers which I carried, I ran away with all four of them
following.  I should certainly have been killed, if these two gentlemen
had not helped me; I slipped, dropping my sword, Monsieur Stevens picked
it up.  Monsieur Carruthers stunned one man and engaged with another.
When I regained my wits and my feet, he was kneeling on the fellow, and
Peter, my trusted chauffeur, was trying to get at him with a knife.  At
that moment, Monsieur Stevens yelled out to his friend to remember his
revolver. It reminded me that I also carried one.  Peter died. Then we
bound the other fellow, and turned to the fencers; to my horror, I saw
that it was Goltz who was opposing my friend in need, but a moment later
I saw who that friend was, recognising him as some one I had known since
his birth, and had myself assisted to teach the use of a sword.

"I was so confident of his skill, that I induced Monsieur Carruthers not
to interfere, and we stood by and watched.  In a few moments, Goltz was
on the ground, with a very pretty hole in him.  Not dead, oh dear no,
but it will be some time before he is upon his feet.  That is the story.
Now look at Monsieur Stevens well; remember the face of the man who
overthrew the best swordsman in Rudarlia. You shall see him again, I
promise you, but now I take him with me."

Before I could say anything, this astonishing man had ushered us both
out of the room, closing and locking the door behind him.

Baron Sluben was outside too; but he was as puzzled as ourselves, until
Mr. Smith whispered something in his ear which caused him to glance at
us keenly.

Mr. Smith turned to us.

"Victor, and you too, Rupert, you know you have my thanks, you can
understand what I have in my heart.  Some day, perhaps, I shall be able
to thank you properly for more than you think, as I had papers of vast
importance with me; and few of these people you have just seen would
have been comfortable, had I lost them.  However, you must leave Karena
at once.  My car is there; pick up Mr. Neville and your belongings, then
without wasting a minute get out upon the Poiska road, from there to
Orvlov, and then on to Soctia.  Wait there at the Ivanoff Hotel until
you hear from me, and speak to no one about this night.  You can trust
me to give you good advice.  Sluben agrees with me."

"Personally, I should advise getting the other side of the frontier; his
Majesty will be furious now Goltz is out of it for a time," said Baron
Sluben.

"No, I have a reason for keeping them in the country; besides, no harm
will come to them in Soctia.  Thank God we still have one place of
refuge.  There is a British Consul there, and British ships in the
harbour."

"But look here," said Carruthers, "I for one don’t care about tearing
off as if in a funk, you know."

"I hope it won’t be for long; and, when I tell you that your going will
make matters easier for me, I’m sure you won’t object," said Mr. Smith
soothingly.

"Oh, of course not."

"Thank you; will you remember that it is for the best, and make as much
speed as possible getting out of Karena?  And now au revoir, my dear
lads; thank you for my life, and the lives of others."

Without saying anything more, we shook hands; Carruthers and I jumped
into the car, and we were off.

I knew the town fairly well by this time, and had no difficulty in
finding my way to the hotel. Carruthers went to see Mr. Neville and
explain matters to him, while I interviewed the manager and settled our
account.  The gratuities I gave were large enough to make the recipients
show their gratitude by doing all within their power to expedite our
departure; to explain which, I informed the manager that sickness had
recalled us to Paris, and that we should go through Bornia, by way of
Agrade, as we had to pick up a friend.  There was no malice in these
untruths; but I thought it justifiable to mislead, under the
circumstances.

An hour after reaching the hotel, we drove off; Mr. Neville inside,
Carruthers with me.

Remembering Mr. Smith’s advice, we did not waste time, so that soon
after day-break we ran through Poiska; where Mr. Neville took my place,
and we dozed off for a spell inside.

We had breakfast at a small inn, just off the high road; and did not
stop again until we reached Orvlov, where we lunched, and procured a
supply of petrol for the motor.

From there, it was a pleasant run to the coast, through beautiful
country; we did not hurry, the better to appreciate.

For a week or more, we stayed near the Hotel Ivanoff, merely killing
time with bathing and boating; when, however, no message came from
Karena we commenced to go farther afield, and explored the country and
coast.

One day I found my conscience pricking me: there were letters which
should have been answered. So I was left behind, while the others
started for a day’s excursion.  Now, letter-writing never possessed any
great attraction for me; and, after scribbling two or three, I thought
the day was too fine to be wasted, so I took a book, an ample supply of
smokables, also a luncheon basket, and, walking to a little place a mile
or two from the town, hired a boat.

I worked off a good deal of superfluous energy; and then paddled gently
up a small tributary of the Garude, which watered a beautiful part of
Garace, that fair province which had been Rudarlian until some fifty
years before, when the conquering Bornians had taken it.

I tied up the boat, jumped ashore, and made myself comfortable, with
every prospect of enjoying a quiet afternoon.  Having finished my lunch,
and lighted my pipe, I stretched myself luxuriously on the soft grass,
and began to read.  The first chapter of the book held my attention, but
the second and third bored me; so I closed the volume, pitched it into
the boat, and settled myself down to think.

Acting on the advice of Mr. Neville, Carruthers and I had not discussed
our experiences with Mr. Smith; we had agreed to wait until we heard
from him, but I had thought a great deal of the incident. I knew now
with certainty that he was a nobleman, that he was working against the
present monarch, and the members of the party we had seen in the house
were in the plot with him.  I went over every detail of the evening, and
came to the conclusion that he had had some ulterior motive in wishing
me to get the better of Goltz.  What it could be I could not guess,
unless it was that he hoped some day to make me of use in his schemes;
this struck me as the most probable solution to his having taken the
trouble to introduce us to his fellow-conspirators.  But why did he wish
us to remain on Rudarlian soil?  In Bornia we could have been nearer to
him, if he had wanted us.  Perhaps the time was close for him to strike,
and perhaps the rebellion, if he intended to rebel, would start in
Soctia.

What a grand day it was, and how beautiful all this country!  It
reminded me somewhat of the river at home: there was the same feeling of
peace, the same silence, only broken by the ripple of the water, or the
buzzing of insects.  I closed my eyes for a second.

How many seconds passed before I opened them again, I have no idea, but
I must have slept very soundly; and I awakened slowly from a dream, in
which Carruthers had fallen and hurt himself--he was groaning.  So vivid
had the illusion been, that I looked round for him as I awoke; there was
no sign of him, of course, but the daintiest vision, in white, was
sitting where I had thought to see him. The daintiest vision was nursing
her ankle, with many little "ohs!" and "ahs!"  For a second I did not
move, the picture was too fascinating.  Then I raised my length from the
grass, and took off my hat.  It had been very much over my eyes; so in
courtesy I raised it, and put it back at a more becoming angle.

"Can I be of any assistance, mademoiselle?"

"Oh, thank you so much.  I’ve hurt my ankle; if you would be so kind as
to dip my handkerchief in the water----"

She looked up at me with a pair of eyes which she ought to have kept
veiled, and held out a small wisp of white material.  It was entirely
inadequate for any purpose whatever, so I dipped my handkerchief
instead.

"Perhaps you will permit me to bind it for you, it is so difficult to do
it oneself."

"Thank you very much."

She removed her shoe and stocking, and a sweet slim foot was placed
hesitatingly out; there was a very nasty scratch which must have been
quite painful.  I bound it up with great care, making my handkerchief
nice and tidy, with hers placed over it.

"There, I think you will find that comfortable."

"Indeed, yes; I am extremely grateful to you. Are you a surgeon?"

"No, nothing so useful, I am afraid, merely a passer-by."

"Yes.  Are you generally so successful?"

She laughed merrily; and I remembered the pose in which she must have
first caught sight of me.

"I was passing time," I said gravely.

She was an extremely beautiful girl--extremely beautiful.  I have
repeated that statement, in order the better to explain why I forgot
about everything, save the fact that she was sitting on the grass near
me.  It is so; all thoughts of action to be, all thoughts of things
past, were as nothing compared to the witchery of this young
wood-nymph’s company.

It seemed almost as if we had been acquainted for years; there was no
shyness, we simply talked and argued like two friends.

As the afternoon sped on, I began to feel that I had expected to meet
her here, as if my whole being had existed for nothing else.
Unquestionably she filled a space which before had been empty.  There
was no reason on my part; I couldn’t have argued about my feelings at
all, I had to accept them.

I flatter myself that the wounded ankle had been forgotten as completely
as I had failed to remember that I had to get back to Soctia; until the
lengthening of the shadows drew our attention to the flight of time.
Then, in haste, my companion must be off; she would under no
circumstances hear of my accompanying her, as she lived but a few
hundred yards away.

"And would it be possible for me to find you here to-morrow?" I asked as
I bent over her hand in saying good-bye.

"Why, yes."

"Then expect me, mademoiselle."

We said good-bye.  She gave me her hand for a second, and then turned
and hurried up the grassy bank and disappeared; while with a light heart
I untied my boat, and taking a last look in the direction the girl had
gone, pushed off, and sculled towards Soctia.

I was quite happy; my thoughts were in a whirl certainly, but why
trouble, what did anything matter, had I not met this divine creature?

I would be in the same place to-morrow, I should see her again, and
learn her name.  Not that I cared who she was; at that moment I would
have proposed marriage to her, had she been a serving maid.  I knew she
was not that, of course; only a lady could have carried herself so
perfectly, and her voice was exquisite in its soft melody.

In my youthfulness, I presumed that she on her side would be as ready as
myself to meet again, and learn to know me better.  I don’t think that
this was conceit on my part; but it had all come about so quickly and
naturally that anything else would have seemed inconceivable to me.

I do not know what coin it was that I gave the man who took the boat
from me; but it must have been of considerable value, to judge by the
thanks he poured upon me.

Little did I dream, as I walked up to the hotel, of the awful news that
awaited me.

Mr. Neville met me as I raced up to the hotel; and the look on his face
checked any exuberance in my greeting.

"My boy," he said as we entered my room, "I have very bad news for you:
your stepfather is, I am afraid, very ill."

He handed me the telegram which had brought the bad news, and I read:

"Your stepfather is dying come."

As if in a dream, I said good-bye to Carruthers, who was to await Mr.
Smith’s message; got into the car with Mr. Neville, and we were off.

Of the journey that followed, I have the vaguest remembrance; I was too
miserable.  My stepfather had become so much to me; I loved him as well
as though he had been my own father.  I think that I have known few men
who could, with so much right, say: "I have lived as a gentleman
should."

Oh, the interminable waits, the stupidity of porters and booking clerks,
the slowness of that short journey from Calais to Dover.  I felt as
though we had to travel round the world, and yet we accomplished an
awkward journey in remarkable time.

At our little station, I found Bauen waiting; but he could give us no
reassuring news, the best being that he was still alive.

My mother was in the bedroom when I arrived; and, after kissing her, we
stood together, hand in hand, gazing down upon what had been such a
magnificent specimen of manhood, but which was now the mere husk of what
had been.

He lay without movement, it seemed as though even then he might be dead.
As we stood silently, with all our nerves taut and overstrung, I prayed
that he might open his eyes once more, and speak to me.  I think my
prayer was heard, for, just as Mr. Neville came in and stood by us, the
dying man’s eyes opened, and, perfectly conscious, he tried to smile at
Mr. Neville.  Then to my mother he murmured two words, full of love and
pride, "My wife."  When they rested on me, as I stood swallowing down my
tears, he said, "Why, Victor, my boy."  His eyes closed for a moment,
then opened again.  "God save your Majesty!" he cried; the next moment
he was gone.

Stunned by the suddenness of his departure, I turned to my mother, who
was standing quite still, with the tears streaming down her cheeks.  I
put my arms round her, but she broke away and flung herself down with
her arms around the dead man’s neck, and cried as though her heart were
broken.

Her grief, or rather the greatness of it, surprised me, for in all my
life until then I had never seen my mother give way.  I had had no idea
that her feelings for my stepfather had been so strong; she had always
appeared so calm and cold that I had never given her credit for any deep
feelings, much as I loved her.  Her grief for some time was so
overpowering that I could do nothing; but presently, as her sobs grew
less racking I took her in my arms and did my poor best to console her.
Then little by little she seemed to regain control over herself, and I
persuaded her to go to her own room.

I returned to the bed-side, and all alone stood there, indulging my
sorrow.  I registered a vow, as I gazed down at the now peaceful face,
that I would do all that I could to live a life as free from stain as
his had been, and to try and act in a way which would have given him
pride in me.

I think the three most miserable days of my life were those that
followed my stepfather’s death. He was buried on the third day.  How
unhappy I was then, both on account of the loss we had suffered and
other things which followed.

Mr. Smith attended the funeral.  I felt no surprise at his appearing
just before we left the house; it had seemed part of the mystery of my
life that he should be there.  I did not think of our last meeting, nor
of how he could have come so quickly on our tracks, nor did I wonder at
the first words I heard him speak to my mother: "It is time."

Usually I should have pondered deeply on such things, but now I was too
unhappy.

I was alone in my study, that room which had been my nursery; and I sat
by the window wondering, for I had heard as though in a dream that my
stepfather had been an enormously wealthy man, and had bequeathed me
all.  How much it was the solicitor could not tell me, but in England
alone he had invested something over ten millions of pounds, and I
understood that there was more than that sum invested about the world.
It was stupendous, and though I did not realise it, although I did not
understand what my power in the world would be, I groaned at thought of
the endless labour such a vast inheritance would involve.

Heart-sick and weary, I looked out over the sunlit river and recalled
the events of the last few days, sorrowing at the thought that I could
never discuss with my stepfather those things of which I had been full:
our meeting with Quarovitch, the incident of the brigands, my fight with
Goltz, and finally my little friend of the riverside, the girl whose
name even I did not know.

My stepfather’s last words came to my mind: "God save your Majesty!"
What could they mean?  I supposed that it was some memory of the past,
for I knew he had been in the diplomatic service.

There was a tap at the door, and Mr. Neville entered.  My stepfather’s
death had affected him very much, for a great friendship existed between
the two.  He came to me and placed his hand upon my shoulder.

"Victor, my dear boy, I hate to disturb you, but your mother has asked
me to fetch you; it appears that the time has come when you are to be
told all those things which have so puzzled you.  It seems hard that it
should have come just now, but who knows?  It may be for the best.  Your
future may offer many hard and hateful features; but when it is a case
of duty, you, I know, can be depended on. Always remember that you will
have people who love you to help and direct you, and over them all is
our Maker."

We descended together; but, when we came to the door of the room where
my mother and Mr. Smith were sitting, he turned and would not have
entered, had not my mother insisted upon his being present.  I bent to
kiss her as I passed, and her arms went round my neck, as she returned
the caress, murmuring:

"My boy, my dear boy."

I sat down on a low settee by her side, and waited for her to speak.

Inwardly, I was a mass of nerves.  I had waited so long to hear all I
was now to be told; I felt strangely nervous, as though evil was coming.
How would the revelations affect my life?

"I think you had better speak, Count," said my mother.

"One minute," I said.  "Tell me your name first, please, Mr. Smith."

"Count von Zeula."

"Thank you."  I nodded, well satisfied, for the name was well known to
me.  Many things had been done for Rudarlia, by men bearing that name,
during some hundreds of years.

"I shall want all your attention, Victor, as what I have to tell you may
come as a shock, and first I must relate a little story, a story which
at the time of its happening was in everybody’s mouth.  It is a story of
misery.

"Twenty years or so ago, a good King sat upon the throne of Rudarlia; he
was loved by the greater part of his subjects, and in return he
dedicated his life to their welfare, whole-heartedly and devotedly.

"Unfortunately, there were men, nobles, who found that his rule was
injurious to their interests, these interests being the right to fill
their exchequers from the pockets of the lower classes.

"They conspired with the next heir to the throne, who was more to their
liking.

"Then the King married, and his wife gave birth to a son, amid the
joyful acclamations of the nation.

"The conspirators redoubled their activity.  They bought over a few
officers, and some hundreds of the private soldiers.  They waited a
favourable opportunity, working secretly all the while; then raised a
scare of war.  The loyal officers in immediate attendance on their
Majesties were sent away.  The King reviewed a regiment, an assassin
shot him dead."

Mr. Smith brushed a hand across his eyes, was silent for a moment, and
then continued:

"That night a cry was raised that justice had been done, for they swore
the dead King had meant to betray them to their fancied enemies.

"The next step was to incite the lowest class of the people, urging them
to attack the King’s Palace where the Queen and her child lay.  Sweeping
into the Royal apartments, they shot them both, presumably; then,
frightened at their own atrocity, they ran away.  The next day, Ivan was
proclaimed King; he had been waiting just over the border.

"A rumour got abroad that some miscreant had set fire to the bedchamber
of the Queen, when she had been murdered.  This was not so--it was I who
set the bed on fire to burn the bodies on it."

"My God!" I said.

"They, however, were not the remains of the Queen and her child, the
King, but those of a groom’s wife and offspring, whose lives were
unfortunately sacrificed to save the Royal Mother and the baby King.  No
one looked too closely into the matter, a few of the royal jewels were
there, and the Queen’s clothing, also the charred bodies; but the Queen
herself and her child were in safety."

"Is the child alive?" I cried breathlessly.

"He is," said Mr. Smith gravely.

"And you are working for him.  Oh, thank God, I can see the way clearly
now; let me do something to help."

"Eh?"

"Ever since I first went to Rudarlia, I have been trying to find some
way out, and could discover no plan to work on, for Ivan’s heir, they
say, is as bad as he is--but now--a King of Merlin’s blood.  Oh, thank
God!  Tell me the groom’s name, is he alive?"  In my excitement I had
risen and was bending over him.

I looked into his eyes as his face was raised to mine; they were full of
tears.

"His name, Victor, is Bauen."

"Bauen--Bauen!--our Bauen?"

"Your Bauen."

"Then why is he here, what does it mean?"  I looked at my mother, her
face was buried in her hands.

"It means," said Mr. Smith, rising from his chair, "that you are the
King of Rudarlia; and I, your very humble servant."

He seized my hand and kissed it.



                              *CHAPTER VI*


"’You are the King of Rudarlia,’" I repeated.

I looked at him blankly, he kept his eyes fixed on mine; at my mother,
her face was buried in her hands, and I saw her shake with sobs; lastly
I turned to Mr. Neville, and to him I held out my hand.

"Tell me that it is not true, tell me--  Oh, my God!--can’t you? won’t
you say he is joking?"  My voice, which was hoarse, cracked with the
strain of keeping from screaming.

"It is true, Victor."

"Then nothing on God’s earth shall make me take the throne--nothing--I
swear that I----"  I leaned against the table for support.
"Mother--mother, is this what you have kept from me, this awful thing?
Can’t one of you speak?--am I to be hurled into a throne?--My God--I
won’t, I won’t."

I collapsed into a chair, and buried my head in my arms; that this
should have come to me, that my life should be suddenly cropped of its
freedom, that I should be bound hand and foot--  Oh, my God, hadn’t
there been some other way to try me?

I looked up, and found that I was crying; damn the tears!  I brushed
them away, and caught Mr. Smith’s eye; he was looking at me sadly as
though ashamed of my behaviour.

I felt suddenly as though ice had been placed on my spine, and shivered.
Was this the best I could do?  My dead stepfather, what would he have
thought?  What did Mr. Neville think?

I remembered Colonel von Quarovitch, and his ragged troops.  Those other
brave men turned into brigands by oppression.  The gathering of
gentlefolk in Mr. Smith’s house.  Mr. Smith himself, who had planned and
plotted so many years for me. And lastly my mother; what could she be
thinking of her son?  I felt Mr. Neville’s hand on my shoulder, and gave
a weak little laugh.

"I’m a pretty spectacle for a King," I said quietly, "a most noble and
worthy specimen. Mother dear, look up--it’s all over, you shall never
hear another kick from me.  And you, Mr. Smith, you acclaimed me as
King.  Very well, I will be King; such a King as you may wish--with
God’s help--and--and--all of you might forgive me for being such a
rotter."

Mr. Smith seized my hand again and kissed it. Tears were running down
his cheeks; and they were not unmanly.  My outbreak had unnerved him,
for he had no doubt seen the edifice of his building fall in ruins
before him; but it had been the sudden relief at hearing my acceptance
which had caused the tears.

"May God bless your Majesty!" he said.

My dear old tutor’s arm was round my shoulders, and I heard him murmur:

"My boy, my boy, I am proud of you."

I bent over my mother.

"Mother dear, don’t cry, or I shall think you cannot forgive me.  I will
be King, and will try to rule as my father did."

She looked up then and smiled.

"I’m crying now because I am so happy."

None of us spoke for a few minutes; perhaps we needed the time to pull
ourselves together.  I did for one, then I said:

"Now that I have settled that I am going to be King, it might be
advisable for Mr. Smith to give us any information on the subject which
he thinks fit; but first I should like to know why he wished us to
remain in Rudarlia?"

He considered a little before saying:

"Because the time is at hand: Ivan is on his deathbed.  You must be
there to take his place when he dies; I have everything arranged; they
trusted me to produce the King."

"And will no one think that I am an impostor?"

"I fancy not; several of us have known of your identity, they have
worked with me.  There are thousands of people who will know your
mother, and there is Bauen; I do not think there are many who will deny
his testimony, once his part of the affair is known; also, you have on
your arm a mark, which will be recognised by the doctor who attended at
your birth."

"When will it be necessary for us to depart?"

"To-morrow.  It was your wounding Goltz which put the finishing touch to
him; they say his rage was terrible.  They told him the whole affair had
been arranged by me.  He was very ill before, but that finished him."

"But to-morrow, is it absolutely essential that we should go so soon?"

"Quite, you must meet the leaders of the party as soon as possible; you
may be assured that Ivan’s sycophants will not allow Prince Alexis to
remain in ignorance of his cousin’s state.  In all probability he will
be in Karena before us."

"If he is, we must turn him out as quickly as he came."

"We will," said Mr. Smith with emphasis.

And there we left it for the time.  I took Mr. Neville away for an hour,
up to my room, where we sat by the window in the chairs which I had left
so willingly, to hear those things which I now wished unheard.  We
looked out on the river, and the sight of the sparkling water brought
back to me the last afternoon I had spent in Garace, and the girl; I
sighed, and turned to my companion.

"My dear old friend," I said, "you will understand me when I tell you
that the news this afternoon has completely thrown me off my balance;
that all my plans have come down with a smash; that the idea of kingly
power has no charm for me; that I would sooner be a subaltern in the
Rudarlian army, with a frayed cap, than wear all the kingly regalia.  My
life in England has taught me the joys of freedom too well; I tell you
candidly, that I fear the future.  I dread it, the more so now, as in
all probability I shall have to make a marriage that will be to the
benefit of the state, and I had other dreams."

He looked at me quickly.

"Is there anyone?" he asked.

I felt myself growing red.

"It may be only calf-love, but I don’t think so, yet I have only seen
her once.  I don’t even know her name, but the moment I saw her I knew
that I loved her."

"Tell me about it," he said.

I had half feared that he would laugh at me, but he only looked rather
sad and decidedly sympathetic. So emboldened, I blurted out in a shamed
way the story of my meeting with the girl.

He listened in silence until I had finished, then he held out his hand
to me.

"My boy," he said, "a very similar thing happened to me when I was about
your age.  I thought that I had lost all interest in life when she
married some one else; unluckily, I had nothing in my life to fill the
gap; I let myself become a mere machine in my work.  I was morose,
refusing to look for help to the quarter from which real assistance can
come; I mean from God.  And then one day, when I was thinking of all my
misery, the thought flashed over me that perhaps it was a trial, perhaps
I was being tested; and that idea won the day.  I believed then, as I do
now, that, no matter what trials come to us, there is thought and
purpose behind them.

"Our finite minds cannot hope to understand the workings of an infinite
one, so my advice to you is this: do with all your might those things
that you think it your duty to do, and leave the results to God.  Man
cannot be infallible.  You will make mistakes; profit by them; try to
forget your own sorrows in healing those of your country.

"In time you will be able to look at everything with a fresh sense of
perspective.

"Love, if it should come to you with your marriage, will, I daresay, be
of inestimable value to you.  What you feel now may be more the feelings
of sexual attraction than the fuller love of comradeship and mental
sympathy; love does enter Royal marriages, in spite of the cynics."

"I will try to think as you suggest," I said. "But there are other
things of which I wish to talk to you.  To begin with, will you come
with me to Rudarlia, will you continue to be my friend and adviser as
you have been up to now?  I know that once I am on the throne I shall
always have to have Rudarlians about me; but my own private friends they
cannot object to.  As my private secretary, you will always be near me
to help and advise.  Will you come?"

"It may cause jealousy."

"I can’t help it if it does.  After Ivan and his many mistresses, they
will have to allow me one man friend; and I believe they will be pleased
to."

"Then I will come."

"Now one thing more, will you stay here and look after my mother until
she can come to Rudarlia?"

"Of course I will, if she wishes it."

We sat up until three in the morning discussing ways and means; but made
no attempt to listen to more than a bare outline of what Mr. Smith had
arranged.  It would all have to come out gradually, in time I should no
doubt learn how he had worked so successfully; he stuck to the principal
things and nothing could side-track him.  I slept for two hours, and
then went to see Bauen.

It was a great day for him; he was to come to Karena with us.  He had
been looking forward for twenty years to seeing me upon my throne.

I believe that his soul was wrapped up in one idea, that of doing his
duty to my family.  I doubt if any man, noble or commoner, had ever
served a Royal family with such self-sacrifice and devotion.

He had given his wife and only child, to save my mother and myself; and
had exiled himself for twenty years from friends and country, to
continue in our service.  God bless him.

We, that is Mr. Smith and I, spent the day with my solicitor, attending
to some of the business entailed by my inheritance.  Then, in the
evening, we embarked on the journey which would bring either a crown or
death to me.

I say "death" advisedly; for, should anything have gone wrong with Mr.
Smith’s plans, it was hardly likely that Alexis and his followers would
allow me to live.

I am glad to be able to feel that the thought of danger rather pleased
me than otherwise.

We had cabled to Carruthers to meet us at Ruln, a frontier post, much
farther south than Melanov.

We did not waste a moment of the time our journey consumed.  Mr. Smith
was instructing me in the education of a King.

At Ruln we had two hours to wait, according to the time-table; but, by
lavish bribery, Mr. Smith secured a special to take us as far as the
junction, at Katalona.

Leaving Bauen in charge of the luggage--which was light--we went in
search of Carruthers.

We found him seated upon a bench, the picture of glumness.

"Hullo, Splosh!" he cried, his face lighting up at sight of us.  "What a
forsaken place this is. I’ve been here five hours, and only spoken to
one man, who thinks he came from ’the thigh of Jupiter,’ to judge by his
side.  Look, there he is."

A dissipated looking young man, of about my own age, had slouched out on
to the platform, followed by a couple of older men, both of whom were
muffled up in overcoats, in spite of the fact that it was a warm
evening.

I heard Mr. Smith draw in a hissing breath, and turned to where he had
been standing.

"Hist! don’t look my way, I am just in the doorway to your left; walk
towards me, and stop opposite.  I don’t wish to be seen--that is Prince
Alexis."

"Who?" asked Carruthers.

"An enemy, old man, you shall know everything in a little while."

I looked with interest at my rival, though I took good care not to allow
him to see it.

If ever a man of his age had vice written clearly upon his face, he had;
and I thought to myself that it would go even worse with Rudarlia under
his rule than under Ivan’s, should he ever come to the throne. There was
cruelty, craftiness, and gross sensuality in his countenance.

Luckily, after walking up and down the platform two or three times, in
close conversation with his companions, he disappeared once more into
the miserable room.  As he did so, an official approached and, with many
bows, informed us that our special was waiting, a few yards down the
track, with our baggage on board.

Mr. Smith kept his face turned away, as we passed the window of the room
where Alexis was sitting. In ten minutes, we were a mile or more away
from Ruln.

The pace at which we were travelling caused the single coach to rock and
rattle horribly; so much so, that it was necessary for Carruthers to sit
very close to me to hear what I said, as I had to speak in a low tone.

He was amazed and delighted that, as he expressed it, his old Splosh was
going to be a King.

Then the silly fellow insisted upon kissing my hand and generally
playing the fool; I think he did it to keep my spirits up.

Mr. Smith looked on with a grim smile.  I fancy he thought that stern
realities would come soon enough.

There was a basket of provisions in the carriage; and, when we had
finished our meal, he advised me to try to sleep.  I took his advice,
and slept like a log until he awoke me with the news that we were just
getting into Katalona.

Two soldiers were lounging upon the platform as we alighted.  I noticed
that they saluted as we passed them, and then followed us at a little
distance.

In less than an hour the car in which we had driven from the junction
pulled up at Mr. Smith’s house.

The driver followed us in.

Without speaking, Mr. Smith led the way into a room fitted up as a
library; it was still dark, so he switched on the electric light.  At
the same moment, three other men entered the room.  Bauen had come in
with us.

He assisted me to remove my covert-coat; then, bowing deeply, stood
back.

Mr. Smith advanced a step towards me.

"Your Majesty," he said, "would you remove your coat, and show your
right arm to these gentlemen?"

Without a word I did so.

Just above my elbow, I have three small red marks.  They are triangular
in shape; birthmarks, I think they are called.

The three men came nearer, and I held out my arm for their inspection.

The first to examine it was a white-haired old man, who trembled
violently as he bent over.  He seized my hand and kissed it.

"God bless your Majesty."

The other two did the same.

"Count Belen and Count von Maark will be here to-day, if further
testimony is needed; we have here, as well, Bauen, the groom," said Mr.
Smith.

"No further identification is necessary," declared the old man, and
bowing the three withdrew.

Mr. Smith had prepared me for this, so I was not surprised, but I did
not know who these three men were, and asked him.

"The white-haired one was the doctor who attended your Majesty’s mother,
at the time of your birth; the other two are Prince von Venoff and Baron
von Casile."

He bowed as he spoke.  I glanced round, as I was surprised at his
ceremonious behaviour: the driver of the car was still in the room.

"Surely, Count," I said, "there is some one here whom I should know?"
And I smiled towards the man.

"May I present, to your Majesty, Colonel Woolgast, who commands the
body-guard?"

The Colonel bent to kiss my hand, but I prevented him; seized his
instead, and shook it.

"Until I am King," I said, "I will shake your hand and call you
’Colonel’; when I am King, you shall kiss my hand, but I will call you
’General.’"

He became red with pleasure; and, by the twinkle in Mr. Smith’s eye, I
knew that I had done right to make a friend of this man.

Colonel Woolgast having left the room, I turned to Mr. Smith.

"Have you done anything about Prince Alexis?" I asked.

"I am sending a man to watch him.  Woolgast will see to it that he does
not enter the Royal apartments.  In a little time you will have to
receive a great number of people; I will be by your side to tell you
what I can of them, to give you a better idea of what to say.  All are
devoted to Rudarlia.  I am glad you said what you did to Woolgast, he is
not titled, you know, and some rather snub him on that account; but he
is a good man, loyal to a degree to his country."

"Are there any members of the government?"

"Not one; they cannot be trusted, all being Ivan’s parasites."

"How will that affect our plans, surely the Minister of War will have
something to say?"

"He is the worst hated man among them, the soldiers execrate him."

"H’m!  I shall look to you for a New Cabinet."

"Your Majesty will need one, as all the present members will be in our
power by to-night, I trust. General von Vorkovitch will give orders to
the troops for that."

"How is it that he has not been retired by Ivan?"

"Even Ivan did not dare to touch the man who won the battle of Vortz.
He has been the idol of the country for years, but had no chance of
doing anything to retrieve matters."

"Jealousy?" I asked.

"Chiefly, there was no one to be the head, that was why we had to wait
until you came to an age fit for it."

We had no time for more conversation, as the sound of motors approaching
warned us that people were arriving to pay me homage.

I stood at one end of the room--which was very large--and waited.  Mr.
Smith was at my right, a little behind me; Carruthers and Bauen behind
him again.  My ordeal began.

The first few to arrive were soldiers, officers commanding regiments now
in Karena.

These I thanked for their loyalty, and asked a few questions about their
commands.

They looked at me with well-bred curiosity.  At my request, Carruthers
was made known to them by Mr. Smith, and he stood chatting with them
while I devoted myself to the ever-flowing tide of fresh arrivals.

They were not all men, some dozen ladies being among them.  One of
these, a grand old lady with snow-white hair, had been a friend of my
mother’s. So Mr. Smith whispered as she came towards me.

I kissed her hand and asked her to extend her friendship to me for my
mother’s sake.

"Your Majesty should have more self-confidence," she replied.

And when I laughingly hinted that she should teach me, she laughed in
reply and told me that, had she been forty years younger, she would have
been charmed.

I assured her, with an air of astonishment, that I thought babies were
useful to teach patience only.

This pleased her mightily, for she remarked that her sex would be no
better off by my replacing Ivan, for whilst he ruled women with writing,
I should do it with speaking.

This delicately veiled gibe at Ivan, for his predilection for paying
vast sums of money to his mistresses by cheque, pleased those who heard
it tremendously.

"Prince Kleber, he prides himself on his fencing," this from Mr. Smith.

I looked at the haughty, cold face before me.

"Ah, Prince," I said after the customary salutations, "some day I hope
that you will give me a lesson or two with the foils."

The haughty look vanished in a second.

"Your Majesty is too kind; I am flattered."

"The kindness will be yours, Prince, if you will give me the lessons."

"But what could I teach your Majesty, who gave Goltz such a fine
thrust?"

"A trick, Prince; but what I wish from you is the sounder play, and the
knowledge of some of those thrusts of which, no doubt, you have the
secret."

I found out afterwards that Mr. Smith’s words had been of inestimable
value, for this was his weak point: no one could flatter him too much
about his sword-play.  In other things he was unapproachable; but from
that day to this Prince Kleber and I have been very great friends.

The room was filling up now, and I saw Mr. Smith’s face wreathed in
smiles, from which I surmised that I was playing my part well.

There was a little commotion in the crowd, and General von Vorkovitch
was announced.

He was much older than I had anticipated, bowed, and rather shaky.

He would have bent in homage, had I not anticipated it by advancing a
step or two and taking his hand.

"Your Majesty," he said slowly, "I have waited for this day, praying
that I might be spared to see my King upon the throne of Rudarlia."

"General, before I knew that I was to be a King, even when a little boy
at school, I thought of and longed to see the victor of Vortz, so God
has been good to us both."  I turned to Bauen.  "A chair for General von
Vorkovitch."  Then turning to the old man, I continued, "Sit, General,
we shall want all your strength, perhaps, to win us more battles."

The last to arrive was the editor of the most influential paper in
Rudarlia, a man of much importance.  His articles on the abuse of power
had more than once caused the suppression of his paper, and exile or
imprisonment to himself.

I was talking to him, when Mr. Smith made me a sign; I knew what it
meant, and nodded.

He immediately commanded silence.  Instantly a hush fell on the groups
of excited men and women, and they formed a circle round me.

My speech was an impromptu one, the first of many, for I have found
that, when one speaks without preparation, one often gets home to the
hearts of one’s hearers.

"To all of you here this morning, I have a few words to say.  God made
me, by birth, your King; you, by the loyalty and devotion you have
shown, have brought me near the throne.  I thank you in my murdered
father’s name and my own. If it is willed that I shall fill the place
you would have me fill, I promise you that Rudarlia shall have a monarch
who thinks of his country first in all things, and that unjust taxation,
favouritism, and wanton waste of public moneys shall be unknown while I
have the honour to be your King.  Once again I thank you."

They were very simple words, but their effect was extraordinary; carried
away no doubt by their excitement and joy, they cheered, and cheered
again. I heard Carruthers’ voice as he hurrahed like one possessed; and
I felt that indeed I was a King come into my own.

It was ten in the morning before the last of the visitors drove off, and
we were left alone.

I felt very tired, and I cannot truthfully say happy.  Events had moved
so quickly that I had had no time for my private griefs; perhaps it was
lucky.

Soon after we breakfasted; and then I had to receive church dignitaries,
but their business did not occupy much time.  I had been born into the
Catholic Church, and had a great love for it, so there was nothing to
upset the churchmen, once I had given my word to uphold and cherish
their faith. Their power, which was considerable, had been against Ivan
from the first, for he had abused and scoffed at all religion, being
himself a gross materialist.

The Archbishop blessed me, and assured me of the support of his clergy.

When they had gone, Mr. Smith ran over again the various factions who
had been gained to our side; and it appeared that the only enemies we
were likely to have were the newly created nobles and useless officials,
together with a small number of idealists who held theories, always
impracticable.

"I know," said Mr. Smith, "that nearly the whole nation will rejoice to
have your father’s son upon the throne.  You have made friends of every
one who came to-day, one and all went away rejoicing.  I have done all I
can now to make the way smooth; but it rests in God’s hands, Victor. His
will be done."

"Amen," I said.

We lapsed into silence for a few minutes, and then he continued:

"The Press will have a scoop to-morrow.  I thought it best to leave to
them the writing of the first news; it will be necessary, however, for
you to make a declaration, simple and short, as your speech this
morning.  I could never have believed those people could have so far
forgotten the Royal presence, their feelings must have been very great."

"All the better, it shows how they love Rudarlia."

"Some day it will be their King as well," said Mr. Smith.

And inwardly I hoped that it might be so.

"How are we to know when to go?" I asked.

"They will let me know from the Palace; the news of Ivan’s death will
not be told until we choose.  Every one, save the doctors, nurses, and
Woolgast, will have been kept from the sick-room all to-day.  One of the
doctors is our man; the other will be when he finds that he is
practically a prisoner."

"But the Queen?  I have never until now thought of her."

"The Queen, poor lady, has confined herself more and more these last few
years to her own suite.  She rarely goes out, never entertains; I think
Ivan broke her heart soon after they were married."

"But what will become of her?"

"That will rest with your Majesty."

"Is she loved by anyone?"

"All those who know her intimately say that she is grieved to the heart
at the misery caused by Ivan and his gang; all the little money that she
has had has gone in charity."

"Ah!" I said.

"I have had made," said my companion, to turn the subject, I thought, "a
number of uniforms, as near as possible to your measure.  To-day I think
it would be as well if you put on that of the Guard, not here, but at
the Palace.  I think they will fit you, as I had one of your suits to
measure from."

There was something pathetic to me in all these little preparations of
Mr. Smith’s.  I felt like a boy leaving for school, when his father is
adding some little thing that might give him pleasure.

The thought of all the years spent by this elderly man working and
planning, so that I might some day be seated on the throne, gave me a
lump in the throat, and I bent and kissed him.

"Victor, my dear boy, God knows I wish you had been son of mine; I could
not have loved you more."

"In future," I said quietly, "you shall be as my father; you guide and
teach me kingcraft.  I only wish I could do something to show my
gratitude."

"Ah, my boy, be yourself, trust to your conscience with regard to
Rudarlia, and I shall be happy in my pride--but who is this?"

It was Baron Sluben who knocked and entered. He came up to me and bowed
low.

"The usurper is dead; long live the King!"

I know that from that minute I felt one, I do not know why.

Mr. Smith took a pair of revolvers from a desk, handed one to me and put
the other in his pocket.

"Come," he said, "it is time."

The three of us went out to the car.  I felt cool, and made some
cheerful remark to Carruthers.

"Good old Splosh, what is it to be, 150 not out?"

"Or a duck," I said.

Sluben, who understood a little English, looked at Mr. Smith with a
puzzled expression on his face.

"It is all right, Baron," he said, answering the look, "his Majesty is
talking of an English game."

"But the duck, Count, is it alive or for dinner?"

This was too much for us; and we laughed heartily while explaining.

I think our high spirits must have been contagious, for we were
continually laughing all the way to the Palace, where we entered by a
back door.

Colonel Woolgast was waiting.  After assuring us that all was well, he,
at my request, led the way to a room on the same floor as the Royal
apartments.

Here, as Mr. Smith had stated, I found the uniforms laid out, and Bauen
waiting.

In twenty minutes I was dressed, and looked at myself in a tall cheval
glass.

I looked very nice indeed, the white and gold uniform set off my figure
to the utmost, while the plumed helmet added to my height and general
impressiveness.  Even Carruthers admitted that I looked like a King, and
a fine one, too, which was great praise from him, who was not given to
paying me compliments.

I wore across my chest the broad ribbon of the "Star of Rudarlia" with
its splendid insignia in diamonds and gold, which Mr. Smith fastened to
my tunic.

At length, all was ready, and Woolgast slipped from the room.

Ten minutes later, came the sullen boom of a cannon; and the people who
heard it knew that King Ivan was dead.



                             *CHAPTER VII*


I walked to the window and looked out into the square below.  As I did
so, I noticed an unusual stir among the people who were passing.  Every
one seemed to be flocking to the Palace; the gates were wide open; and a
continual stream of motor-cars and carriages kept entering and leaving.
This was evidently an unusual sight, for the ordinary passers-by
gathered at the entrances to watch, and most probably wonder.  Then I
noticed newspapers being sold, and the hum of many excited voices could
be heard.  I turned to Mr. Smith.

"Can they know already, do you think?"

"Undoubtedly, I have seen to that, and in all the chief cities of your
Majesty’s kingdom; they will know as fast as the telegrams can be sent."

Woolgast had left the room, but now returned and came up to where I was
standing.

"I have to report, your Majesty, that Prince Alexis has just entered the
Palace, and been arrested."

"That is good news, Colonel; I was fearing that he might be
troublesome."

I think Mr. Smith had rather feared the same thing, for I heard him
heave a sigh of relief.

"That eases my mind," he said.  "It will be a bloodless _coup d’état_,
after all."

"Thanks to the excellence of your plans."

"And the loyal co-operation of all those people who knew; a single word
might have spoilt all. As it is, there is nothing now to prevent your
Majesty entering the throne room."

"I am ready."

"Then let us go."

He threw open the door and I passed out.  My body-guard were drawn up
ready to attend me; I saluted them as I came out of the room, and they
fell in behind me.  This affair was not to be marked by much state, but
Mr. Smith had seen to it that there was enough.  That is to say, there
were ushers and heralds, with other functionaries, who preceded me to
clear the way, and throw wide the great doors which led into the throne
room.  I felt that I would sooner have seen the spectacle from the other
end, or in one of the galleries; but that was not to be, so I entered
bravely, although my heart did beat a trifle more rapidly than usual.

The place seemed packed from floor to roof; whichever way I turned,
there were smiling faces. A deafening shout greeted me.  These good
people evidently could not restrain their joy at thoughts of the
restoration of the beloved dynasty of the Stephanovitchs.

I stood on the edge of the dais, and smiled for very joy at the
acclamations; pride, too, had its way, and I was pleased to think that I
was King. It was so much nicer than I had anticipated. Mr. Smith, by my
side, held up his hand, and almost immediately there was silence.

A gorgeous figure, clad in robes which no King could rival, stepped
forward; there was a fanfare of trumpets, and then:

"King Ivan is dead, God save King Victor!"

"Speak to them," said Mr. Smith.

"Rudarlians"--how funny my voice sounded, I could hardly believe that I
was speaking--"I am the son of Merlin.  I am your King, Rudarlia is my
country.  Help me therefore to undo the errors of my predecessor; give
me your loyalty, and together we will give new life to our beloved
country, and keep her clean from tyrannous injustice.  Help me, and we
will make it a proud boast when a man can say: ’I am a Rudarlian.’"

For the second time that day, my words seemed to meet with approval, for
my stepping back was the signal for another hurricane of cheers.  I
thought they would never stop, and that low fellow Carruthers said, loud
enough for me to hear, to Mr. Smith:

"He ought to get in with a thumping majority."

Mr. Smith had told me that from time immemorial, on such occasions, the
King always walked straight down the hall and up a broad stairway at the
other end, and so back to his own apartments.  As it had been the
custom, I saw no reason to break away from it, so once more the heralds
cleared the way for me; and I passed through the long hall, between two
lines of bowing people, who laughed and cried at the same time.

Under my father’s rule there had been a golden age for Rudarlia, and
this must account for the extraordinary enthusiasm with which I was
greeted. We went, some dozen in all, to a room overlooking the main
entrance to the Palace; and from there we watched the people gathering
in hundreds, to hear from those who passed out--whatever they did hear.

They seemed pleased with the news, whatever it was, for they turned
their faces to the Palace and shouted.  It was not only the people who
appeared gay, but presently the shops as well; flags and coloured
ribbons began to be displayed.  Then men came with great placards: "God
Save Victor II., Merlin’s Son," in red letters on a yellow ground. Some
one had stage-managed the thing very well, nothing had been forgotten.

As I looked down upon the heaving mass of men and women, an irresistible
longing came over me to ride out among them, to go to the Cathedral, and
thank God that no blood had been shed in this, my triumph.

"Count," I said, turning to Mr. Smith, "is there any reason why I should
not go now to the Cathedral?"

He looked at me hesitatingly for a moment.

"Not if your Majesty wills it," he said quickly.

"Then I will go, for there are a number of good citizens in danger of
being crushed, down there, in their eagerness to catch sight of me."

"I will order your Majesty’s carriage."

"No!  I will ride."

Colonel Woolgast had returned; and I told him of my intention.

He looked anxious; and asked whether he should call out troops to line
the way.

"Troops?" I said, perhaps foolhardily.  "No, Colonel, just my own
body-guard, half to clear a way, and the other half to follow.  I will
begin, as I intend to go on, by trusting the people. Count Zeula, I
should be pleased if you would ride with me; and you, too, gentlemen, if
so inclined."

"Thank God we shall have a King," I heard some one mutter, and then Mr.
Smith and I were alone again, waiting for our horses.

"Am I wise?" I asked.

"Yes, Victor, I think you are, only I am nervous for your safety."

"I feel that nothing could hurt me to-day," I said, laughing.  "But
there is one thing I have forgotten, I wish Bauen to ride with us, to
let the people see that loyalty such as his is not forgotten by my
family."

"God made you a King before ever you came to Rudarlia, Victor."

And, at something in his voice, I felt myself blushing.

I shall never forget that ride.  The great cry that arose as the
body-guard wheeled into the courtyard; the instantaneous sundering of
the crowd to make a way as the gates were swung open.

Unaffectedly I rejoiced, as I rode through them, some ten yards behind
the last rank of the vanguard, with Mr. Smith half a length behind me;
Woolgast, Carruthers, Bauen and the rest two lengths behind him again.

I was almost deafened by the shouts of welcome that arose from the
crowd.

A child, escaping from his mother’s restraining hand, ran under my
horse’s feet.  In a moment I was out of my saddle, and had the little
thing in my arms, sobbing, frightened, but unhurt.

A halt had been called; and the mother, a poor ragged woman, approached,
terrified, trembling.  I gave the boy into her arms, with two or three
pieces of gold.

"Take him, my good woman," I said, "and keep him, for one day Rudarlia
may have need of him."

The crowd grew delirious; they burst through the restraining arms,
surrounded me, cheering and blessing me.  For some little time they were
hysterical in their expressions of loyalty, until I had to stand up in
my stirrups and ask them to make way for me.  At the sound of my voice
they once again surged back, and our cortège passed on.

Luckily, it was not a great way to the Cathedral, or I doubt if we
should have reached it before nightfall. As it was, it was six o’clock
before we started on our homeward journey.

So dense was the crowd, that we went at a walk the whole way; the more
adventurous would press forward, and touching my boot, bridle, anything,
were contented.

They were a good-natured mass of people; and, although the jostling and
discomfort must have been appalling, I heard never a single oath or
bad-tempered remark, only blessings, and heart-felt utterances of joy.

We were within sight of the Palace, when I saw the escort which rode
before me divide into two parts, and down the middle came six beautiful
girls, carrying great bunches of flowers; some enthusiast had organised
the party, and ransacked a florist’s shop evidently.

The crowd swept back, and left a clear space around them.

One little maid, who was in advance, came timidly up to me, as I sat on
my horse, laughing down at them.

She was too tongue-tied to say anything, so she just held up a bunch of
white roses for me to take. She was so tiny, and looked so sweetly
pretty, that I could not resist dismounting; and, picking up the little
one, kissed her, at the same time taking the roses, and fastening them
somehow into my tunic.

Seeing this, some wit in the crowd called out:

"The others want payment too."

And this idea caught on to such an extent that I was obliged to kiss all
the other blushing five, to the delight of the onlookers.  Mr. Smith
laughed heartily; and even the stern-faced troopers looked away to hide
their emotion.

That, however, was the last delay we had; and shortly after we turned in
through the Palace gates.

Jove! how hot and tired I was, I remember it to this day, and the
gorgeous relief when, in my own apartments, I bathed and put on cool
evening dress.

In spite of fatigue, there was an immense amount of work to be got
through that night; I don’t know how many times I put my signature to
papers handed me by Mr. Smith, but it seemed millions.

I had sent a telegram to my mother, just a few words, saying that all
was well.

At Mr. Smith’s suggestion, I had invited some twenty or thirty people to
take supper with me, and at eleven o’clock I vowed that I would work no
more.  At which Mr. Smith and Baron Sluben laughed, and said that they
had been wondering when I meant to stop; and only then did I realise
that it had been my place to call a halt, not theirs.

Twice, during these hours of writing, I had been obliged to leave the
room, and show myself to the people who stood outside the Palace gates,
cheering continuously; but, as it grew towards midnight, the crowd had
dwindled, and I could feel more at rest.

I think my first supper-party was a success, the late King’s chef being
one of the best in Europe.

Naturally enough, high spirits reigned supreme, as one and all there,
with the single exception of myself, had worked for years for what had
happened this day.

The guests were all very great people in the realm; and, when supper was
finished, we withdrew to another room to hold a Council of War, to
decide what should be done with Prince Alexis and his following.

There were some whose advice was distinctly Machiavellian, desiring to
stamp out all of Ivan’s race.  They had forgotten, perhaps, that I was
related to him.  There were others, who thought that imprisonment for
life was the thing; while the majority, of which I was one, held in
favour of exile.

That was for Alexis and his chief advisers; the minor characters would
have to live on their estates, under certain conditions, or leave the
country, the choice to be theirs.  And so, after a somewhat lengthy
debate, it was decided.

Perhaps we were too lenient, knowing as we did the kind of men with whom
we dealt; but severity was abhorrent to me who had been so short a while
King.

It was long past midnight when I went to my room to sleep; and even then
I did not go direct, for I was obliged to pass the door of the room
where Ivan’s body lay.  A trooper of my body-guard had been placed on
guard there, and I stopped to say a word to him; as I did so, the sound
of weeping reached my ears.

I looked inquiringly at Mr. Smith, who accompanied me.

"It is Ivan’s wife, your Majesty."

"Alone," I asked, "and at this hour?"

The guard answered that she had been within for some two hours, by
herself.

"I would speak to her, Count; do not wait, you need repose.  Goodnight."

He looked at me for a moment, and then bowed.

"Good night, your Majesty," he said and left me.

I do not know what impulse urged me to push the door quietly open, and
enter; not curiosity, God knows.  I think it was just the desire to try
and comfort this poor lady.

She was kneeling beside the bed on which the body lay, a fragile figure
in black, her head buried in her arms, sobbing as though indeed her
heart was broken.

As I approached, she raised her tear-stained face to mine; and I saw
that it was still comely, though haggard and weary.

"Who are you?" she said quietly.

"A friend of your Majesty’s," I answered.

"’Majesty,’ I never was that, since my husband was never really the
King."

"Nevertheless, madame, if you will permit, I will address you so; for
you, by your acts, have proved yourself a Queen."

She had risen to her feet, and stood looking at me intently.

"Are you the King?" she asked.

"So people have acclaimed me to-day, madame."

"Could you not leave me to my grief, in the midst of your joy?"

"God forbid that I should intrude, madame, on grief such as yours, were
it not for the great desire I have to aid, and if possible comfort you;
but see," I drew a curtain on one side, making the light of early dawn
visible to her, "the night is nearly spent."  I dropped the curtain
again.  "Your Majesty, will you not permit me to escort you to your
room, or call one of your ladies, for, next to God, surely one of your
own sex could best comfort you?"

"God," she said, "do you believe then in God?"

"Surely, madame."

"Is that why you came in to me here?"

"I had not thought of it, but probably it was His doing, for I think
that all kind thoughts are His, and all the pity within me woke at the
sound of your weeping."

"Then may He be praised," she said, "that Rudarlia will once more have a
merciful King."

"You love Rudarlia, madame?"

"Ah yes, so much, perhaps my sorrow to-night is more self-pity at
thought of leaving than sorrow for my dead husband, for I had wept all
my tears for him years ago."  She spoke with a little dry huskiness that
sounded strangely pathetic.

"Leave Rudarlia, that would be your wish, would it not, to return to
your own country, away from sorrowful sights and remembrances?"

There was tragedy in her reply:

"My own country, where is it?  My father is dead.  I had no friends
before I married, I was too young; and the few of my countryfolk who
accompanied, and remained with me, are gone."

"Then, madame, remain here, where you will be always an honoured guest.
The people love you, I know; and you can devote your time happily to
whatever you desire, without hindrance.  It shall be my pleasure to see
that everything you may wish for shall be yours, and I shall hope to
have gained a friend."

"Your Majesty," she said, "what can I say, how can I accept, how can I?"

"By saying, madame, that you will stay.  It will be our part, after
that, to show you that Rudarlia remembers those who loved her, even in
the midst of their own unhappiness."

"Oh, how can I?" I heard her murmur, "how can I, I, the wife of the
usurper?"

"Madame, your husband’s sins must be answered for by himself; you,
however, have never been associated with him in the minds of the people.
Only by your goodness, kindness, and charity, are you judged by them;
even my mother, who has, God knows, suffered greatly at Ivan’s hands,
will never think of you except with loving thoughts, as one who was
sinned against.  I can answer for her, as justice has been ever dear to
her.  Come, madame, decide as we wish it, and let me see you smile at
thoughts of happiness to be."

She looked up at me, and I saw her bravely struggling with her tears.

"May God bless you, as you deserve; I will do as you will."

"That is right, madame, and now permit me."

I raised her hand, and pressed it to my lips; and, retaining it in mine,
led her gently from the room, back to her own apartments, where her
ladies were waiting.



                             *CHAPTER VIII*


That night, for the first time in my life that I can remember, I dreamt
of my father. Presumably, the excitement of the day had affected my
nerves; but this dream was so vivid, that I can recall it even now: I
seemed to be in a vast, ruined cathedral, walking round and round,
seeking some means of egress; and, finding none, sat down on the bottom
step of the stairway which led to the top of a frightfully high tower.

I felt unutterably despondent, for I knew that outside everything I
wanted was awaiting me, and yet I could not name any one thing.

Then I saw some one near me, and I called to him to ask his assistance
in escaping; he did not answer, but just pointed up the stairway.  So I
started to ascend; it was weary work, as the steps appeared never to
end, and I toiled laboriously up, up, ever up.  Once I despaired and
started to descend, but there stood my father pointing and smiling, so I
turned again and resumed my interrupted ascent. I was just about to
relinquish it for good, when I woke.

It appears strange to me now, when thinking of it, that my father never
said a word to explain, and that all my effort apparently led nowhere.

It was Bauen’s entrance that had awakened me; and in a very short time I
had dressed, breakfasted, and was once more ready for work.

I found Mr. Smith in the great study, where the evening before I had
signed so many papers; as we were alone we chatted in a friendly way,
for I don’t think ceremony was to the liking of either of us.

"Well, Prince," I said, "the first thing I wish is for you to have the
necessary papers made out confirming you in that title."

"It can wait, Victor."

"Not a day, I wish it done at once."

"Very well," he replied, laughing.

"And now, I suppose, I have to incur danger of writer’s cramp, eh?"

"For a good many days to come, I am afraid."

"You know I saw Ivan’s wife last night?"

"Yes."

"Well, she wanted, or rather she did not want to leave Rudarlia, so I
asked her to stay.  Of course, her financial affairs will be my concern
privately."

"I thought you would."

"Are you against it?"

"No.  I think she is a good woman, and her life has been very
miserable."

He smiled slightly.

"How have I amused you?"

"Because I knew last night, when you left me, that it was to comfort
her.  Victor, my boy, you must not allow your pity to sway you always.
In this case it is all right, but many times it is a fault, in a king.
People attribute it to weakness, unfortunately."

"Very well, I must remember, but I do so hate to see misery."

"I know you do, Victor, but you must always think of the cause and
effect, especially the effect your attitude towards it may have.  It is
difficult to be a good king and also follow the doctrines of Christ, for
His teaching was more for the individual life than for the king of a
nation, the people of which do not themselves follow His doctrines
strictly."

"True," I agreed.  "It seems to be almost impracticable in the present
state of the world."

"And the longer you live, the more convinced you will be that the Gospel
which has it that He said, ’I come not to bring peace, but a sword,’ is
nearer the mark."

"Then must I be severe?"

"No, but just.  That is the greatest of all things, and will lead to the
greatest good of the people; not the greatest good of the greatest
number, for that is a doctrine I do not hold with."

"How so?" I said, for this remark had surprised me.

"For this reason: the greatest good of the greatest number necessitates
the sacrifice of the few; now it is my opinion that the minority are of
the most good to a state, for as a rule it is comprised of the more
intellectual, artistic, and finer grades of mind.  These people are the
natural leaders; and, if by legislation you injure that minority, you do
harm in the long run to the majority, for the great mass look to the few
for ideals.  Mind you, I do not deny that, in some cases, injustice is
done by, and for the few, but those cases are, or ought to be, judged by
a different scale of values."

"Give me an instance."

"An instance?  Well, look at England.  By taxing the upper classes,
enough money is raised to miseducate the masses.  The result is that
those professions which depend more or less upon education are lowered,
vulgarised, by the demand of vulgar minds.

"Literature, which should be one of the great uplifting influences, is
becoming every day more and more adapted to the commoner mind, under the
name of progress.  Progress it is, but in the wrong direction, for it
serves to bring all to a dead level of mediocrity; and I maintain that a
few lofty minds, leaders in the world of thought, are infinitely more
prolific of true progress than smart mediocrity."

I had paused in my writing to listen to my companion, for I had never
heard him in this vein before; but his arguments needed thought, and I
told him so.

"Thought! why, of course they do.  Think over them whenever you can;
and, in thinking, apply the principle to all different cases."

"I will; but just now I could not think clearly, for I fancy I hear
sounds that indicate more cheering crowds outside."

"A sound that Ivan never heard," said Mr. Smith.

"And which reminds me, that I wish to see Prince Alexis before he leaves
for the frontier."

"You will not, I hope, delay his departure," said my companion slyly.

"On the contrary, I shall expedite it."

"You wish to see him alone?"

"If you please, when I have finished these," and I touched the papers
before me.  "But I wish to know what you think of this scheme of mine.
There are, I have heard, a number of poor wretches in prison for
non-payment of taxes.  I propose to release them at once, and if
possible to place them back upon the land.  To do this, it will be
necessary to dispossess a number of people who bought the various farms
for little over the sum wanted to pay the taxes.

"Now these people took advantage of Ivan’s overtaxation to invest their
money in property, which to my mind was not the State’s to sell.
Therefore, they made a bad bargain; but, as I wish to be just, I propose
paying them the purchase money, plus five per cent., plus a fair amount
for any improvements.  That is my idea.  What do you think of it?"

Mr. Smith thought for some time.

"I see exactly what you wish, but there are difficulties, very great
difficulties.  To begin with, you would have to create a number of
officials to deal with each claim separately, which is bad, for anything
that leads to a bureaucracy is pernicious in a monarchy; besides which,
you will make enemies of the men you dispossess.  Again, it will be
necessary to sift to the bottom the reasons there were for the taxes not
having been paid.  It might also encourage the recipients of your favour
to object to all taxation, whether just or not."

"Your reasons may be sound," I said, "but I will try to upset them.
First, you object to the creation of an army of officials.  Now that is
an extreme argument, I think, for there are records in each district of
sales of land, and these can be seen with little trouble.  I proposed
offering a little extra payment to the permanent officials in each
district, and doing the business gradually.  To my mind, it is necessary
to know much more about the land and its productive qualities than we
do, for I have read reports dealing with the subject; so a few extra men
would not be amiss to inquire into our whole system of agriculture.

"Secondly, you contend that I shall make enemies.  I do not agree; these
people will get back more than they paid, for something which was
distinctly in the nature of a gamble.  Those are the two most important
reasons against; the other involves too much human nature for me to
argue about until I have more knowledge of Rudarlians."

"We are a Parliament in ourselves, Victor, and your answers need leisure
for contemplation. However, I see you have finished, so I will give
orders for Prince Alexis to be brought to you."

"Thank you, Prince; don’t forget about your title.  I have just thought
of a new rôle for you: Prince von Zeula, Bear-leader to the King."

"It is a title that does me honour," he said, and smilingly withdrew.

Colonel Woolgast ushered in Prince Alexis, and stood as though he
expected to have to re-escort the prisoner.

"I will ring, Colonel," I said, touching a small silver bell upon my
desk, "if you will remain within hearing."

He cast an anxious glance at me; and the next moment I was alone with
the man to whom my coming must have been a terrible blow.

"There is a chair behind you, Prince," I said.

With extreme sullenness he took the seat indicated.

My impression of the man did not improve with further acquaintance.

For some little time we looked at each other in silence, he with looks
full of hatred and malicious curiosity, while I was quite frankly
interested in him.  I wondered how anyone could, by vice, so debase
himself, until his very being radiated nauseating vibrations; more
especially as he had thought one day to be a king, a person set on a
pinnacle for all to see, a leader and chief among men.

I found that, whenever his eyes met mine they turned aside, cold and
crafty.

"Prince," I said, "to you, no doubt, I am a very pernicious being, most
probably you loathe me with all your heart.  You think that I have
cheated you out of a throne, yet consider a moment, and you must see
that it is not so.  Ivan was never King, since I was alive; you were
never the heir.  I presume you will not deny that?"

"I do deny it.  You are an impostor, I know it."

"I am the King."

"By might, not right."

"By both, Prince: by right, on account of my birth which has been proved
without shadow of doubt; by might, because the people of Rudarlia loved
my father as much as they detested Ivan."

"Your proofs, what proofs have you?"

"That is the business of those who have them in their possession," I
replied.

"They will not satisfy me, however."

"What would?  Rudarlia?  You would not be King for a month; people do
not talk kindly of you, Prince, they liken you to Ivan, in your ways of
life."

"What are my ways of life to you?"

"Nothing, you have to answer for them yourself; but, if you had
succeeded in gaining the throne, they would have meant much, not only to
me but to all Rudarlians."

"You mean?"

"That there is only a certain amount of juice to be obtained from any
orange; Ivan sucked this one dry."

"Dry? not so dry that I could not have obtained more from it."

"I doubt if you could have obtained a penny. The people are ruined,
absolutely.  You would not have dared to tax the nobles, for you would
have made enemies of Ivan’s friends."

"Well, I am in your power, Impostor; what do you intend?"

"You are in my power, you and your friends," I repeated this slowly and
emphatically, for I had seen a look in his eyes that I did not like, the
look of one who stores up malice for the future.  "I do not think you
would be regretted, whatever I decided to do, even by your friends in
Bornia, for instance."

He leant forward in his chair, and lowered his voice.

"See," he said, "let us understand each other. I know that you are an
impostor, just a pawn in Zeula’s game.  I know you for the Englishman
who wounded Goltz; so why keep up the farce?  You will have to remain
King, of course, but there will be rare pickings.  Now, I can help you
if you consent to work with me.  This is what I propose: you must insist
on my having a good pension, and my debts paid.  I, on my part, will
keep mum about you, and accept you as my sovereign; I never wanted to be
King, but I want the money badly.  Who the devil would want to live in
Karena?  Not I for one.

"Another thing, I will give you some ideas for putting on the screw; a
friend of mine and I have worked out several ways, while awaiting Ivan’s
death.  What do you say?"

I was too sick mentally to answer him, the callousness of his
proposition had almost numbed me. I was an impostor to him, and yet he
would sell what he fancied to be his birthright, for a pension and
payment of his debts.

I groaned inwardly at what would have happened to Rudarlia under his
rule, and yet I was inclined to let him unburden himself of these
schemes of taxation.  I fancy that my mind was fascinated by the
loathsomeness of his, almost like a rabbit in the presence of a snake.
I wished, however, to hear more, so, feigning an interest which
disgusted me, I pretended to think over what he had said; and then I too
leaned forward in my chair.

"You have interested me," I said, "in spite of your affirming that I am
an impostor; but you must let me know more of your ideas.  That is
essential, for you will not wish me to speak to and consult Zeula, will
you?"

I saw his evil face light up, and I read his thought: that I was willing
to be his tool.

"Is it likely that I should tell you, without security?" he asked, with
a twisted kind of smile.

"Why not?  Your ideas would be no use to me without your aid; if I
played you false, you could always expose me, couldn’t you?  For, mind
you, it will be a dangerous game to play, Zeula is no fool."

"Bah!" he snapped his fingers, "that for Zeula.  He must do what we
want; he dare not let me expose the game, I have too much power."

"Of course," I said, and wondered what this power could be.  "And yet,
until I know how to raise the money, I don’t see how I can act."

He pondered a moment, and then with an oath, burst out:

"Very well then, I will tell you, but, by God, if you play me
false!--but there, you dare not.  Now listen.  You and I must make
enough in ten years to satisfy us, as after that things will be
different, for this reason: Bornia."

"What has Bornia to do with it?"

"Everything.  I am much in request at the Court."  He chuckled.  "King
George has four daughters, and none of them married yet."  He looked at
me with a leer.

"Go on," I said, "tell me the plan."

"All in good time, Impostor, all in good time. Bornia wishes very much
to own Rudarlia."

"What?"

"Strange, isn’t it?  Nevertheless a fact, and they want it without
fighting.  That is where we come in.  Every time an official dies or
vacates his post, you will fill it with one of my friends--they will be
naturalised, of course, to avoid detection--for each post so filled,
Bornia will pay.  Do you see?"

"Yes, yes, go on."

"We will work it, so that in ten years’ time Rudarlia will be full of
Bornians, even the army. Then what I should have done, and what you will
have to do, is to abdicate.  Our officials will at once invite King
George to occupy the throne. There, that is the big scheme.  Now for
another. You did not know, perhaps, that there were minerals in this
country?  There are, but not in paying quantities, on Royal land too.
We will get some expert to boom the thing up to the skies; the nobles
and shopkeepers will invest, unwisely but well for us, eh?"

"Have you any more schemes?"

"That will do to commence with, Impostor; when we have things fixed up,
I’ll tell you more."

"Have you more as good as the ones you have told me?"

"Oh, plenty.  Well, what do you say?"

"What do I say?" cried I, my temper getting the better of me.  "I say
that you are the biggest cur unhung, that you have the vilest mind that
ever man possessed, and that I feel disgusted with myself for ever
having even spoken to you.  You low brute, listen to me.  I am not an
impostor, whatever you may think; I am the son of Merlin I.  Hold your
tongue, or I’ll forget that I am the King--silence, I say.  I had
proposed to pay your debts, to give you a pension, as you did no harm
yesterday, but now I tell you that not one penny do you get from me, you
cur."

I was standing over him; and he shrank back into his chair, his coward
lips quivering with fear.

"Your Majesty," he quavered.

"’Impostor’ you called me a moment ago; you have changed quickly."

"I did not mean it, your Majesty."

"Good God!  Haven’t you one redeeming feature, are you such a coward
too?"

He did not answer but looked at me imploringly.

"You need not be afraid, I won’t touch you.  I hoped you would have one
manly attribute, but it appears you are absolutely despicable; you are
so low in all your thoughts that I almost pity you.  Is there any way in
which you could be helped to realise what a vile thing you are, I
wonder--I suppose not?"

He still sat white-faced and quivering, and made no answer.  As I looked
at him, I felt my loathing and disgust turn almost to compassion--he was
so hopeless, so contemptible.  My anger, too, had passed.

"How much do you owe?" I said.

"Eh?"

"How much do your debts amount to?"

The crafty look returned to his face, and with it a faint expression of
hope.

"My debts?"

"Yes, how much would cover them?"

"I don’t quite know."

"You know perfectly, tell me at once."

"At least thirty thousand pounds.  It is the Jews--it was fear of them
that made me think of the plans I suggested to your Majesty."

"You need not lie to me."

"It’s true," he said eagerly.  "They were pressing me hard, and I had to
plot and scheme to raise the money."

"And you thought that Rudarlia was yours to barter?"

"I could think of no other way, and I knew that Ivan had had his share."

"So you imagined you could finish her ruin. My God! how low you are.  I
suppose the thought of trying to put her on her feet again never entered
your head."

"I was to marry one of George’s daughters, and then, of course, I should
have done what I could."

"She is well out of it; for I presume that, now, you will no longer be a
desirable match?"

"I suppose not."

Again I caught a crafty gleam in his eye.

"Prince Alexis," I said, "listen to me, you have a little, very little,
of the same blood as mine; for that reason alone, I intend to pay your
debts to the amount of thirty thousand, no more.  Had you shown one
spark of feeling for Rudarlia, I should have given you a pension.  As it
is, I shall not; but, that you may have a clean start, I will give you
another thirty thousand in addition.  Take my advice and invest it; try
and live decently and honourably."

He would have taken my hand in the extravagance of his joy; but I
avoided it.  It was one thing to give alms to a blood relation, but
another to take the hand of a vile cur such as he was.

I wrote then and there a cheque for the promised amount, and handed it
to him.

"You may refer your Semitic friends to me.  The sum of thirty thousand
will not be increased by a penny."

"And am I free to go when I will?" he asked.

"You will be escorted to the frontier, and will remain on the other
side.  Should you return under any circumstances, you will meet with
different treatment."

I rang the bell, and Colonel Woolgast appeared.

"You will conduct Prince Alexis to his room, Colonel, and return to me
as soon as possible."

I sat staring from the window waiting for his return.  I was uncertain,
in my mind, about the wisdom of the course I had adopted with Alexis.

He was capable of any villainy, any crime, but I had given him the money
with an object; I wished to gain time.  It ought to last him for a year
or eighteen months; and much could be done between now and then.

I had had suspicions before that Bornia had covetous designs with regard
to Rudarlia.

Well, we would see.  Thank God, my stepfather had made it possible for
me to do much, without fresh taxation.

I was just thinking of the degraded spectacle Prince Alexis was, almost
ashamed of myself for having allowed him even to suggest the things he
had, when I heard a woman’s voice raised in altercation with the
guardsman outside the door.  To my amazement she spoke in English.

"I want to see His Majesty, I tell you."

I heard the sentry explain, in Rudarlian, that it was impossible for her
to have audience with me.

The next moment the door was flung open and in flew the owner of the
voice.  The sentry had evidently been fooled by a pretended retreat; and
had grasped a portion of her gown as she dashed past him.  Zip!
something had given way.

"Fancy treating a lady like that; it’s a shame!"

It was as much as I could do to keep my face straight, as I signed to
the sentry to close the door.

The "lady" was examining the back part of her skirt with an angry
expression on her face, taking no notice of me whatever; but having
repaired the damage--presumably with pins--she looked round and saw me
standing near her.

"Lord, your Majesty!" she cried, dropping on her knees.

"You wished to speak to me, I believe."

"Yes, please your Majesty."

"Then supposing you take this seat, you will find it more comfortable
than the ground, I daresay."

"Thanks, your Majesty."

"Now tell me what it is I can do for you.  I only have a very few
minutes to spare."

She was a remarkably handsome woman, with a splendid figure.  I was
struck, too, by her pleasant smile.

"It’s like this, you know, the late King took a fancy to me, and induced
me to come here to Karena."

"Wait a moment.  To begin with, who are you, and where do you come
from?"

"I was in the Polly-Doddy troupe; Eliza de Vere, I call myself.  It
isn’t my real name, but it’ll do. His Majesty saw me dancin’, and made
my acquaintance. After a bit, I came along here, but the first thing I
know is that I find myself in a Palace and him lying dead, and I’ve lost
my job with the troupe, and gone dead broke except for the few things I
brought along with me.  Then I hear as there’s a new King, so I think
I’ll hop along and try to hook him, but I see your Majesty isn’t one of
that sort, so all I want now is to get away.  God knows when I shall get
another job, don’t suppose I ever shall, for I broke my contract to come
here."

She stopped, for want of breath, I imagine.

"Is that all you want?" I asked.

"Yes, thank your Majesty, if you’ll give me the fare home I daresay I’ll
do.  I can always get a livin’."

"What would you like best to do?" I asked, for I was sorry for this
frank, vulgar, beautiful creature.

"If I had my wish, I’d live in the country.  I was born on a farm, and
I’d love a little place with chickens and a pig or two; that’s what I
thought I could get out of the old man, but he’s gone."

"And supposing some one gave you that, would you be contented to live in
a quiet, decent way without longing to be in London or some big town?"

"Wouldn’t I just?  It would be just heaven to get out of it all.  You
don’t know what my life is, or you wouldn’t ask."

I suppose I was foolish, but I was heart-sick at the thought of this
woman going headlong to the devil, as I have no doubt she would have
done.  So once more I wrote out a cheque; it was for a big enough sum
for her purpose, upon the interest of which she could live, marry
possibly, almost certainly, and rear splendid children, for England.  I
blotted the slip of paper and handed it to her, with some few pieces of
gold.

"Now," I said, "when you get to England take this to some bank and
explain to them what you want.  They will advise you and invest it for
you. Don’t trust anyone else; personally, I should advise you to keep
silent about possessing it.  Marry some good man, and be happy, and
sometimes say a prayer for the King of Rudarlia."

She took the cheque, and wide-eyed, looked at it.

"Is this for me?" she whispered.  "You aren’t kiddin’ me, don’t you want
anythin’ for it?"

"No; nothing beyond what I have mentioned, a prayer, when you remember
it, that is all; and now I must say good-bye and good luck."

She seized my hand and wrung it.

"God bless your Majesty.  I’ll pray for you night and morning, I will."
And then the poor girl burst into tears, sobbing as though her heart
would break.

It was at this juncture that Mr. Smith returned.

Still sobbing, "Eliza de Vere" left the room, taking no notice of the
indignant sentry.

"Your Majesty has the knack of making friends," Mr. Smith said, with a
smile.  "Her thanks and blessings were most impressive."

"Poor devil!" I said.  "Some of Ivan’s beastliness, only with her the
worst effect was a broken contract, with the managers of some troupe of
dancers."

"And you put matters right immediately?"

"It was easily done."

"How much did it cost, Victor?"

"Nothing compared to a person’s happiness."

He shrugged his shoulders, but humorously; and then once more became the
stern-faced man.

"And Prince Alexis?" he asked.

"Ah, in his case I have given him enough rope to last him a year or so,
at the end of which time I shall be quite happy to hang him."

"Ah!"

"I also paid for knowledge that will be of great value to us; we must
take great care to know everything about all the officials we appoint."

"Ah!"

"It is lucky that I am alive, or within ten years Rudarlia would have
been governed by George III of Bornia."

"Ah! so that was the scheme, was it?"

Colonel Woolgast was announced.

"Colonel, I want one of your officers to conduct Prince Alexis over the
frontier.  He must be one who can hear without hearing, and, speaking,
say nothing.  Above all he must be devoted to Rudarlia. Have you such a
man?"

"Captain von Essens, your Majesty."

"Very well, if you answer for him; I would have asked you to have
escorted the Prince, but it would have done him too much honour, to send
the Colonel of my Guards, and a General in my army. You will soon have
the pleasure of kissing my hand as I promised you."

"I would do it now, your Majesty."

"No, Colonel, we will stick to our arrangement."

"Shall I give Essens the order?"

"If you please, and, Colonel, there may be some officers under you who
deserve promotion.  Send me in their names, and it shall be seen to, for
I have no doubt that there will be vacancies before long in my Guards."

"It shall be done, your Majesty."



                              *CHAPTER IX*


The next few weeks were terrible ones for me; days full of anxiety, hard
work, and ceremonial.  I discovered that a King needs the strength of
two men, physically and mentally, in the first few weeks of his reign.

I had dismissed a great number of officials appointed by my predecessor,
for they were incompetent men, owing their positions to rank
favouritism; and for some time Rudarlia was governed by a provisional
Cabinet, composed of the great men of the state.

The hopeless confusion into which Ivan had plunged the finances of the
country was appalling.

There had been complete destruction of many valuable assets of wealth,
but chiefly the mischief had been done to agriculture, upon which a
great part of the population depended.  Taxes had been heaped upon the
people; first in the shape of a land tax, which had grown into a
ridiculous size; secondly the market tax, a peculiar piece of villainy,
since it mulcted both the buyer and the seller. Ivan, evidently, could
not be just, even in his injustice, for the poor man, with perhaps a
goat for sale, had to pay as much as the large farmer selling whole
herds of cattle.

One of my first acts was to abolish this iniquitous imposition
altogether; and a very small annual payment for market dues was charged
instead.

The money raised in this way was used locally, so that those who paid
received it back in the improvements of their locality.

I merely mention this tax as an example of Ivan’s financial methods when
dealing with agriculture.

Enormous sums, for Rudarlia, had been raised, of which there was no
record dealing with their expenditure.  Presumably, therefore, they had
disappeared into the avaricious maw of Ivan.

When we examined the debit side of our accounts it was almost more
appalling.

The army had been paid, not regularly, but in dribblets.  As for
clothing, ammunition, etc., the stores had been depleted, and nothing
had been replaced.  The other services had been run in the same way,
without method or supervision.  The fraud and thieving practised by many
of the officials must have been terrific.

It is not my intention to give a long, detailed account of such matters,
although they are impressed on my mind.

                     *      *      *      *      *

After the first outbreak of popular enthusiasm, there were recurrent
bursts of joyful celebration, and devotion to my family.

As was perhaps only natural, the restoration of the direct line of the
Stephanovitch dynasty caused a considerable stir throughout Europe; and
the usual diplomatic correspondence took place.

In Sir George Curtiss and Monsieur Delacroit, the British and French
Ministers, I found friends. These two men were ever ready to be of
service to me personally, and also to Rudarlia.  I fancy they understood
that my feelings were very strongly in favour of the Triple Entente; and
it was most probably those same feelings of mine which caused me to be
slightly less friendly with the central European powers, or rather their
Ministers.

I had then--and so far have had no reason to change my views--a very
strong conviction that Germany was the great danger to the world’s
peace.

All of them expressed pleasure at having Merlin’s son upon the Rudarlian
throne.  Even the Bornian Minister pretended that he was overjoyed, and
expressed himself to that effect in beautiful, flowery language;
verbiage which I accepted smilingly, and at my own idea of its worth.

To me, Bornia was our greatest menace, I had imagined this always; and
now, since my conversation with Alexis, I was quite certain of it.  So I
gave all the time I could spare, from pressing home affairs, to planning
out how to get the better of our neighbour in the conflict that I
foresaw.

Nothing could be done, however, until some kind of order had been
established within the kingdom, the chaotic state of which caused a
complete change of government to be necessary.

Up to now, Rudarlia had been an absolute monarchy, the king’s power
being autocratic; a curious survival of mediæval days, and which for
centuries had satisfied Rudarlians; but now a more modern spirit was at
work, and there were indications that a representative form of
government was desirable.  But what kind of constitution would best suit
the country?  That was the question, and I gave it a great deal of
thought, before asking some of the leading men to give me their ideas in
writing.  These, when I received them, proved rather disappointing, for
all of them suffered from the same fault: that of not recognising the
whole, as a whole.

I had suggested to Mr. Smith that he should give me his idea, but he
requested me to allow him to stand aside for the present.  He told me
that he would like to know what his King had thought of doing.  He was
interested to see what Merlin’s son would do.

I set to work vigorously, although, I confess, with a great deal of
trepidation.  A scheme to turn an absolute monarchy into a
constitutional one, without injury to the various classes, and without
upsetting the national morale, was one from which anyone might shrink.

I did not propose to work out details--that would have taken too much
time, as well as being something that could be better done by
others--but I did wish to think out the main structure.  I therefore
compared the different systems of legislature known to the civilised
world.  I collected information from all sources, in the course of
conversations with men of all classes, and I also thought deeply on the
nature of the Rudarlian people.  This was the most difficult part of the
whole problem; for, of all things, national character is the most
complex. Along one road, a nation may be steered as easily as a flock of
sheep; along another, the first few yards will split it into a hundred
conflicting elements.

Rudarlia was mainly an agricultural country, and it has always seemed to
me that such are best governed by a system akin to the patriarchal; yet,
as a European country, such a system was impossible. Therefore I had to
arrange that, although not patriarchal, an element of it should be
there, combined with more up-to-date forms.

It was with this in my mind that I considered the possibility of
combining the municipal government with the parliamentary, and to that
end introduced the Mayors, as the lowest class in the parliamentary
pyramid.

In the election of Mayors, every man, barring the mentally deficient,
and the habitual criminal, had a vote.

Mayors, however, did not sit in Parliament, their duty being the
collection of facts relating to the conditions of life and public
affairs in their districts, and the sending of them in to the class
above them, the Sheriffs.

Every man who possessed a house, or piece of land, of an annual rental
of five pounds, had the right to vote for a Sheriff.  If a man possessed
more than one house or piece of land, he should be entitled to an extra
vote for each house, etc., with this provision: no man should cast more
than one vote in any one borough.

For every four thousand votes, there should be one Sheriff; but, in the
case of a borough with more than four thousand voters, the odd votes
should be cast still for one Sheriff, until such time as the number of
voters exceeded six thousand, when another Sheriff should be voted for,
in addition.

To these Sheriffs was allotted the power of selecting the actual members
of Parliament, the Senators, in the proportion of one Senator to three
Sheriffs.

To the latter, fell the duty of condensing the reports of the Mayors,
and forwarding them to the Senate; upon these reports, a committee of
Senators would frame bills, which would then be sent to the Minister in
whose department they were.  Of these Ministers, those of Justice,
Interior, Agriculture, Education, Public Works and Arts, were elected by
the Senate, while the King would appoint the Ministers of War, Finance,
and Foreign Affairs; also the Premier, who would be Chancellor, and
President of the Council.

The bills framed by the Senators would be duly discussed, and then sent
to the Ministers of the different departments; and it was their duty to
introduce them to the Cabinet, who would discuss, amend, and finally
deliver to the King, for the Royal Assent.

I made the possession of certain immovable property the basis of
suffrage; for, to my mind, those men who value the power of voting will
be thrifty and hard-working, in order to purchase or rent land, or a
house of sufficient value.

Again, men who possess property are not so prone to encourage loose
legislation as the wastrels and thriftless; it would therefore encourage
those qualities, which are the basis of all national welfare. The
possession of a vote should give a man self-respect and dignity; the
casting of a vote should be a matter of serious thought, in order that
men of undoubted worth might be elected as Sheriffs.

With regard to the election of Mayors, that all men, with the two
exceptions I have named, should have the right to vote, was necessary
for the pyramidical form of government; for, among those without the
qualifications of sufficient property, there were, no doubt, many who,
by their clear reason, sound judgment, and patriotism, could be of
service to the state, through the Mayors.

Sheriffs and Mayors would be paid government officials; Senators and
Ministers would be unpaid, except in cases of expense incurred in the
state service.

I believe that the soundest laws are made by men who give their services
to the state.

It has always seemed to me best, that the portfolios of War, and Foreign
Affairs, should be in the hands of nobles chosen for their patriotism
and probity.  Finance, too, should not be a question to be tampered with
by lower-class men, for an intellect of the finest understanding,
unswerving loyalty to high ideals, and a consummate knowledge of human
nature, are essential in one who would conduct worthily the finances,
which are undoubtedly the heart’s blood of a nation.  However great a
man may be who has risen from the lower class, it is generally through
being possessed of qualities which, admirable though they are, do not
lead to the delicate sensitiveness, tact, and polished thought
necessary.

Again, in every assembly of men, there are always those in opposition;
perhaps it is necessary, to obtain the best legislation.  This being so,
it were only human nature to promise to the electors those things which
might forward their election, regardless of expense, and, once finance
becomes a party question, unwise legislation is thrust upon the state,
accompanied by an enormous increase in taxation. Personally, I would
favour slow and steady development in everything, always reserving,
however, sufficient energy to maintain, for some considerable time, high
pressure and rapid movement.  Therefore, I would sooner see a government
of sober-minded, level-headed men than one led and directed by more
brilliant and erratic brains, nothing being, to my mind, so injurious as
the clever, plausible man, who has the power of swaying an audience by
words; for, generally, their speech is mere verbiage, used to conceal
their real thoughts and confuse the minds of their hearers.

In order that the finances of the country should not be controlled by
one man, the whole Cabinet should discuss every tax suggested by the
Minister; and it should be the privilege of the King to call in not more
than five Senators to discuss with them.

The Army and Navy should be in the hands of experts, with the same
provisions as in dealing with Finance.

Foreign Affairs should be in the hands of the King and Minister; only in
cases of serious import, such as the sending of an Ultimatum, or great
change in foreign policy, should full debate be allowed in the Cabinet.

That was the rough draft I drew up to show to Mr. Smith.  I advised
gradual alteration of existing laws; never, however, until better ones
were ready to take their place.

In my scheme, the elections should take place every five years.  The
King, however, could retain the Ministers appointed by himself for as
long as he thought fit.

It so happened that my ideas found favour at once with Mr. Smith, and
other nobles to whom I showed the draft; and I am glad to say that they
have been in existence in Rudarlia now for some years, and I think meet
with general approval.

Naturally, they were altered here and there; but the main idea is the
same as that embodied in my first rough draft.

I shall never forget the day when a deputation of some of the leading
men from all the provinces waited upon me to deliver into my hands a
petition, couched in the humblest and most loyal terms, begging me to
grant Rudarlia an extremely limited constitution.

We, that is Mr. Smith and the other nobles, had kept to ourselves the
plans we had been making, so their petition was looked upon by them as a
most daring innovation to propose.

"Indeed!" said I, having glanced at the paper. "Are you not content that
I should govern you well, and in accordance with past traditions?"

"It is not your rule, your Majesty, that we fear, it is rather those who
may come after you.  Your Sacred Father ruled us well and yet Ivan came.
As it is, we, your humble servants, recognising in you the true
successor to your father’s throne, would wish to profit by your
graciousness, to ask this great boon, to ensure against possible ills in
the future."

"You believe, then, that it is wise to ’Make hay, while the sun shines.’
But, tell me, have you plans drawn out, for our consideration, of this
proposed constitution?"

"No, your Majesty, that is further than we dared to go."

We had had copies made of the draft which I have referred to, and Mr.
Smith at this moment handed one to me.  I took this as a sign that he
would consider it wise to divulge our secret now; so I handed the draft
to the leader of the deputation and said:

"Gentlemen, although my reign has only just begun, you have approached
me with this petition. If you will withdraw and read this paper, I shall
be pleased to hear your opinion upon it.  When you have considered it,
return to me here."

They withdrew, and I returned to my work with Mr. Smith.

In less than an hour, they were back again, with such expressions of
delight on their faces that I was well recompensed for any trouble I had
taken.  I had given them so much more than they had ever dreamed of,
that they stood confused and stammering before me.

"Well, gentlemen, you see that, quick as you were with your petition, we
have been still quicker in preparing our answer."

"God bless your Majesty.  It is so much more than we dared hope for,
that you find us dazed with your generosity."

"Then you are satisfied?"

"Satisfied!  More than satisfied, and eternally grateful to your
Majesty.  Ah! all Rudarlians will rejoice when this becomes known, and
every man and woman will be bound even more firmly in their devoted
loyalty to you."

"God grant it; but you must realise, and make others understand, that
such change takes time to carry out.  Therefore try and curb impatience,
believing that our best endeavours will always be for Rudarlia."

It took months of hard work by able-minded men to work out the details
of our scheme, and as many more to perfect the machinery.

In the meantime, I set to work upon the army, and other matters that
were of great importance.

In order to expedite matters, I immediately appointed those Ministers
whom I should have the power to appoint under the new constitution.

Mr. Smith, or Prince Zeula, as I shall now call him, was Chancellor, and
President of the Council.

On the plea of age, General von Vorkovitch begged to be excused from the
War Ministry.  He, however, volunteered his services when required, to
help with the reorganisation of the entire force, which I was determined
to undertake.  It was necessary on account of the slackness that had
crept in under Ivan’s rule.

I appointed Count Belen to the office.  He, although not in the army,
had a profound acquaintance with the military services of the great
nations. Prince Kleber, who was the greatest noble of our maritime
province, was given the navy to organise.

In Count von Maark I found a shrewd, able, and consummate financier, yet
a most honourable man.

Prince von Venoff was our first Minister of Foreign Affairs.  He was a
tactful and polished man, with great understanding of foreign nations,
and their different characteristics.  He had travelled extensively, and
made many important friends among the diplomatic bodies of most of the
European countries.

I also appointed men recommended by Zeula to fill the posts which would
be senatorial in selection: Baron von Casile to the Interior, Count
Storfar and Baron von Klintor receiving the portfolios of Justice and
Agriculture, respectively.

They were all extremely able men, who were full of eagerness and zeal in
the public service.

The scheme I had mentioned to Zeula, with regard to the farmers who had
suffered through injustice, was carried out successfully.

I issued an order, granting free pardon to those who had taken to
brigandage through the same reason.

We established small land banks through the country; a very important
move, almost a necessity, so dry had Ivan drained it.  I advanced the
money, and thanked God and my stepfather for the power to do so.
Indeed, without my vast fortune, I do not know how we should have
managed except by a crippling loan.

In order to encourage the farmers, a small bounty was placed on various
food-stuffs; for the quantity of foreign corn imported would have made
it impossible for them to have grown it with any profit.

Upon all this imported food we placed a small duty in order to accustom
the people to the idea, for it was our intention, once agriculture was
on a footing in any way commensurate with the needs of Rudarlia, to
increase the duty upon such foodstuffs imported, chiefly for the sake of
revenue.

I also encouraged breeding horses and cattle, setting the example by
starting stud farms on my own lands.

Every day the Ministers would come to me, and we would spend long hours
in discussing ways and means.

With regard to the taxation, Count von Maark and the Cabinet settled the
necessary changes; the only tax that I interfered with being the income
tax, and that, I insisted, should be levied upon every one, even if only
to the extent of one penny in the pound.

There was so much to be done in the interests of the army that at first
I was staggered; but, as it was futile to sit and weep, we very soon
began to make headway.

I will say one thing for my predecessor, he had kept up the military
college founded by my father, and the officers were well trained; but
the weapons and stores, alas, were conspicuous by their badness or their
absence.

We rearmed the troops; and little by little accumulated supplies of
ammunition.  We reclothed the men, we built barracks, we instituted
government factories for supplying the army and our small navy with
necessities.

The only branch that was apparently neglected was the artillery, but
that was with an object. There, we only showed four batteries of modern
guns, two of field, and two of horse artillery.  In reality, we had
fifteen of horse, and twenty of field artillery; they were kept
secretly.

The four batteries mentioned were used for practice, but we kept the old
guns also.

I remember causing Count Belen considerable astonishment when I insisted
upon the out-of-date artillery being kept, although we had such splendid
modern guns at our command.

"Count," I said, "you know as well as I do that our enemy is Bornia, is
it not so?"

"I am afraid she is."

"Personally, I am convinced that before long we shall be forced to
fight."

"That is so, your Majesty."

"I do not believe that anything would induce her to stop her
preparations, preparations that are being conducted secretly."

"I am afraid that it is extremely unlikely."

"Very well, I am determined that Rudarlia shall be victorious, and I
consider it essential that they shall underestimate our forces."

"But why retain the obsolete weapons, your Majesty?"

"Can the men fire with them?"

"Yes, and well, too, considering."

"They will shoot all the better with good guns; as for the obsolete
ones, why, I intend some day to make a present of them to Bornia."

"A present?"

"Certainly, and in such a way that they will not fear the gift."

He paused a little and then said:

"I must wait your Majesty’s pleasure; I do not understand.  But may I
ask whether you intend to fortify Karena, Soctia, and other places?"

"It is my intention."

"But your Majesty forgets, perhaps, the size of heavy artillery; how can
such pieces enter the country without being detected?"

"Prince Alexis supplied me with the way; I had the will before.  You
have no doubt heard that there are minerals to be found around Karena,
and other places of like importance."

"I have heard of them."

"Good!  I have surveyors seeking them now. When they have found them it
will be in places of supreme importance from the military point of
view."

"Aha!"

"You begin to understand?  Well, once these surveyors--and you would
doubtless find friends among them--discover these very sensibly placed
minerals, mining and other work will be commenced; of course they will
not allow inquisitive strangers in, but they will admit enormous pieces
of machinery.  Again, in order to deceive, we shall make a show of some
splendid weapons, I think on the southern forts round Karena."

"And your Majesty’s mines will be to the north and west, with perhaps
some near Poiska, and Orvlov."

"Exactly, Count!"

"God bless your Majesty," was all he said, but I could see him grinning
to himself in huge content.

Apropos of the mines, I had a letter from Alexis as soon as the public
knew of them.  It ran something like this:


MY COUSIN,

I hear on excellent authority that you have taken advantage of our
little conversation, in regard to the mineral wealth of Rudarlia.  I am
grateful that one so virtuous as yourself should have profited by my
poor brains.  Pray remember me when the dividends are paid.

ALEXIS REX.


I did not take the trouble to answer this piece of impertinence, at
which I was not surprised; rather, in fact, was I gratified that my
estimate of Alexis was so correct.  I knew, too, that further letters
would come from him, as soon as his money was spent.  I hoped that by
then Rudarlia would be in a condition that would enable me to give a
negative answer to his blackmailing; if not, well, I could afford a few
thousands more if it was necessary.

So determined was I to perfect our fighting force, that I engaged a
retired English army surgeon to superintend, and place on a proper
footing, our army medical corps.  This was a branch that had been
completely neglected, but now, run on British lines, it became
absolutely splendid and our doctors were magnificent.

I laid in a large quantity of medical stores.

Great attention was paid to the transport and commissariat departments;
but quietly, so as not to attract attention.

Little by little, our army was approaching along the road to perfection.
The troops themselves had always been good, so there was splendid
material to work on.  They used many cartridges, and their shooting
improved enormously, as did their discipline.  They were loyal to a man,
these Rudarlian troops, always to their country, and gradually to me.  I
think the good fellows learnt to love me when they saw that nothing was
spared to render them more comfortable, and that I, personally, was
always ready and anxious to assist them.

I made it a point to inspect one regiment each week after lunching with
the officers; that is, of course, unless more urgent affairs detained
me. But, whenever I took a meal with the officers, I insisted that no
extra expense should be incurred.

Whenever possible we had manoeuvres on a small scale, now in one
province, now in another.  Upon one occasion, wishing to test the
non-coms., I ordered different companies to act as they would if left
without officers.  The confusion was so great that it was decided, in
future, always to try this in all regiments.  It was an order to which
the troops took very kindly; I fancy they looked upon it as rather a
joke.  They made great strides in individuality, however.

I have omitted mention of machine guns, as I never look upon them as
artillery, but as adjuncts to rifle fire, and in the case of pom-poms,
as cavalry supports.

Our supply of these weapons was in proportion to our needs.

Ten picked officers were sent to France for instruction in aviation.



                              *CHAPTER X*


It was indeed a busy time in Rudarlia.  Ivan’s death seemed to have
awakened her.  From Melanov to Soctia, from Ruln to the farthest western
point of the kingdom, there was bustling activity.  What had to be done,
was done, and thoroughly.  All classes seemed to vie with each other in
the efforts they made to bring order out of chaos.  Everywhere could be
seen the signs of reviving desire to live, and live well.  No longer
were there dozens of farms unoccupied; instead, they rang with the
sounds of work, the voices of children, of men and women, who with
cheerful faces went about their daily toil, thankful that the burden had
been lifted from their lives.

And in the towns it was the same story.

Now, besides the gigantic tasks of granting a constitution and
reorganising the army, the other public services had to be overhauled,
especially the railways and roads.  By the aid of money, much was done
to improve both, and also extend them.  As if by magic, roads were made
connecting village to village and village to town.

The Minister of War had a word to say about the railways; and more than
one military council was called to decide upon the advisability of
laying this or that piece of line.

The railways in Rudarlia were state owned.  I am not altogether in
favour of this, but in our case, I insisted upon all the employés being
men who had served their country in a military capacity, and the
railroads would thus be in the hands of men who were used to the
operations of military movements.

Another reason I had for complying with state ownership was that, in
such a country as Rudarlia, depending as it did upon the agriculturists,
to a very large extent, the rate for carrying freight would be
controlled by the state; for to my mind such rates should be kept low,
and, if a loss is incurred by this, it is better for the state to bear
the burden than that the producers should be handicapped, as farmers
have already, in most climates, to fight against nature.

It was fortunate for me that I was possessed of a fine constitution, and
was physically strong, for the strain was great.  I was working from
morning until late at night.

My Ministers, older men than I by many years, frankly confessed that
they could not keep pace with me.  Personally, I fancy that I must have
been a little mad, so eaten up was I with the desire to improve
Rudarlia, and then still improve.  I gloried in the success which our
efforts met with.

Mr. Neville, who had brought my mother back to Karena, warned me time
and again not to overdo it, but in spite of all his good advice I
persisted, and luckily did not break down.

My old tutor was of the greatest service to me.  I had given him a suite
of rooms in the Palace, and he was ever near me when I wanted him, which
was quite often, I am afraid.

Carruthers had returned to England soon after my ascending the throne,
but I had promised to send him word before hostilities broke out with
Bornia, so that he could get leave and join us.  I knew that he would
have to dodge the authorities at home, somehow; but I gave him my
promise to cable the one word "Now" when I was certain that war was
inevitable.

It was now nearly two years since I became King, and so far we had
managed to avoid any serious rupture with our neighbour; but that it was
near, I was convinced.  We had added continually to our stores of every
kind.  We had a large reserve of ammunition, small arms, and medical
stores, as well as a vast quantity of food in the fortified towns.

I think it is permissible to say, with a good deal of pride, that
Rudarlia was ready for whatever happened; that is, as far as a nation
can be prepared. It depends so much upon what is willed--destiny, or
God’s will, if it suits you better.  Perhaps the terms are synonymous;
they were to me.  But even if a nation is destined to be overthrown, and
swept away, even if the national life must end, the individual element
remains, so that every man, be he king or peasant, must profit by
straining every particle of energy for his nation and, in so doing, the
sacrifice he makes will strengthen himself.

I had heard again from Prince Alexis, a threatening letter, full of
cunning malice and blackmail.  I sent him a few thousands, for I was not
quite ready to refuse him.

It was after this that I took a holiday--one week.  Perhaps it was not
the kind to appeal to every one, but to me it was a needful change from
the routine of statecraft.  I went walking with Mr. Neville.  I should
think we averaged twenty miles a day.

We walked among the peasants, the farmers, and the workers in the towns.
Everywhere we found contentment, and sometimes I blushed to hear the
praises heaped upon my head.  We were generally taken for a pair of
Englishmen on tour.  We talked with every one, as on our first visit to
Rudarlia. One day we visited Melanov, with two objects: to see Colonel
von Quarovitch, and hear news of Piotr.  I knew that the former would
know me for his King, for he must have seen pictures of me, and heard
enough to connect me as King with his visitor, whom he no doubt had
thought eccentric, to say the least of it.

As I did not wish the soldiery to know of my arrival, I asked Mr.
Neville to prepare him for my visit, so that I could see him alone.  I
gave him two or three minutes and then went in.

The news of my arrival had evidently come as a great surprise, for he
was still seated staring at Mr. Neville when I entered.  He sprang to
his feet in a second and saluted.  I saw his grim old face twitching.

"I have come again, Colonel, as I promised," I said, and held out my
hand.

His emotion was so great that for a moment or two I turned away; for the
sight of a strong man trying to restrain his emotion is a terrible
thing.

I do not think there was the proper ceremony between us; in fact, on
second thoughts, I am sure there was not.  We were far more like two
friends than King and subject.  His delight over events was extreme; and
when I told him, as a secret, of certain plans, certain fortifications,
I really thought he was becoming crazy with joy.  He swore like a
trooper, then apologised with the grace of a courtier, and swore again.

He laughed gleefully at thoughts of war--I believe fighting was like
wine to him--and gave me minute accounts of his expenditure of the money
I had left with him.  They met the fate I had promised them.

We stayed two hours with him. At the inn, we heard news of Piotr, from
the oily host who had introduced him to our notice.  It appeared that he
was back upon his farm, doing well. So there for the present we left
him, undisturbed; but I retained the half of the broken coin which he
had given me, and did not forget his promises.

I enjoyed the first six days of that holiday immensely; but, on the
seventh, something happened, which I only enjoyed afterwards.

From Melanov we had walked round to Ampletch, from where we intended to
return to Karena.  We did not enter the town, but put up for the night
in an inn upon the outskirts, a very respectable place, standing a
little off the main road.

The landlord, who looked like a man who never moved from his own yard,
showed us our rooms and the dining hall.  We took a table standing by
itself in one corner near a window.

I did not observe the other diners; but recollected afterwards that one
of them left the room immediately we entered, and I observed that his
dinner was uneaten.  I thought no more about him.  He, however, had
remembered something I had almost forgotten.

It was not long after that Mr. Neville and I sought our beds, for we
were both tired.

                     *      *      *      *      *

I must be forgiven if I cannot describe my awakening, but my mind
refuses to recall my thoughts.  I know, however, that I realised that my
head ached consumedly, that I was in a different room from the one in
which I had gone to sleep, and that my hands and feet were tied.

There was light in the room, and after some little time I turned my head
towards it.  A man was busy writing at a table.  The light fell upon his
face, and I began to puzzle myself as to where I had seen it before.
Was it in England?  No, I could not place it there.  In
France?--Italy?--Russia?  No. I pondered and worried, then like a flash
it came to me: Baron von Goltz!  My mind seemed to clear, I understood
the unpleasantness of my position.  I felt the rope cut into my arms as
I tried to burst myself free.  Some noise I made must have roused the
man’s attention, for he raised his head and looked at me.

"Ah! awake, I see."

Then, as I made no answer, he carefully blotted the letter he had
written, and enclosing it in an envelope placed it in his pocket.  He
rose from his chair, shook himself, and walked over to the bed on which
I was lying.  He was laughing to himself, as he stood looking down at
me.  I met his gaze steadily, until he turned away.

"I trust your Majesty is comfortable," he said.

"Quite, thank you; but it is a devilish bad bed."  I would not let the
fellow see that I was at all uneasy.

"Good!  Anyone can see that you are not of the same breed as Alexis."

"Very distantly, I am glad to say; but you should not sneer at the
Prince, even a dog should not snap at the hand that feeds him."  I saw
him wince at this, so I continued, "I suppose this is the work of your
master, isn’t it?"

"No, it is entirely my own."

"H’m! it is pretty low, even for you; but may I trouble you for some
water?  I find my throat rather parched."

"Gad! you are all right, even though you are an Englishman."

He laughed again as he turned away and left the room.

The moment the door was shut, I commenced to wriggle.  I thought I felt
something loosen; but I was once more rigid as he returned with the
desired drink.

"No poison in it, is there?" I asked.

He drank some of the water before putting it to my lips, then with his
arm round me he raised me enough to drink.  He was quite tender, too, in
his movements; and I felt inclined to laugh--the situation had its
humours, in spite of its unpleasantness.  I drank all the water there
was and felt better.

"Well, what do you intend to do with me?"

"Frankly, I don’t know; it depends so much on how reasonable you are,
and what the plans of Alexis are, and he is a bit uncertain."

"Of course, you know that you will be traced?"

"Not a chance of it, I assure you."

"You will certainly be hanged, Baron Goltz, that is, unless you untie me
and let me pass out."

"It is extremely probable, no doubt, after the trouble I had in getting
you here.  You ought to be worth a great deal to me, for Alexis will not
forget who gave him the throne."

"No; I should be careful of knife-thrusts if I were you."

"Your Sacred Majesty does not care for the Prince?  Well, I don’t blame
you, I don’t think much of him myself."

"Then why work for him?"

"Who would you have me work for?"

"For me."

"No, thanks, my friend, you have had your pickings for eighteen months
or more; now it is our turn."

"You have tied me up rather too tightly for comfort; if you would loosen
the ropes a bit I should be obliged."

"Could I lay hands on your Majesty?  Oh no!"

"Then go to the devil!" I said.

"After your Majesty."

He continued to look at me for some time, but neither of us spoke.  Then
again he left the room and again I had a good struggle with the ropes
and felt them give a little more.

When, after a few minutes, he returned, he found me in the same position
as when he had left me.

"Your Majesty must forgive me, but I am compelled to leave you for a
little time; there is a certain letter to be posted which is too
valuable to be let out of my hands.  My servant will attend you while I
am away; he is deaf and dumb, so I do not think you will seduce him,
and--oh, by the by, you called me a dog just now, so I will tell you
something to console you during my absence.  I have discovered a new
source of income to be paid me by Bornia; I have found out that there
are minerals in this country of a very valuable nature, and those mines
of yours--  Ah! that interests you, does it? Clever chap you are, I
suppose it was your idea. It’s almost a pity to spoil the scheme,
but----"  He shrugged his shoulders and turned away.  At the door he
paused.  "I shall not be long gone, be good till I return."

I heard the key turn in the lock.  I was alone and made good use of my
time, which I knew would be short.  I found a knot with my fingers,
little by little I worked my elbows free and then my hands; I heaved a
great sigh of relief, but I was only just in time.  I do not to this day
know how I did it, but I could have shouted with joy when it was done.

There were footsteps outside.  I put my still bound feet upon the floor
and sat up.  Then I stood up, holding the ropes which had bound my arms
as though they were still tied; my left hand, however, was loose and
ready behind my back.

The door opened and a man came in, some one outside relocked the door,
and I had a companion. He was a very perfect scoundrel by his
appearance. He possessed other deformities, besides being deaf and dumb,
a cast in one eye, a vile mouth, and inflamed nose.

We stared at each other for a moment, and then I looked at my feet with
an appealing glance.  He chuckled, and coming closer bent to see that my
feet were still secured.

As he bent, my fist took him under the chin and he went down.  The
impetus of my blow took me forward and I landed somewhat heavily on top
of him.  Fearing that the fall would have been heard, I lay still
listening; but no one came, so I pulled him towards me and secured the
knife in his sash. With it, I cut the rope round my legs, and commenced
rubbing them to restore the circulation. Then I searched the fellow and
was rewarded by finding a revolver fully loaded in his pocket.  It was
transferred to mine.

I did not know how long he would remain unconscious, so I bound and
gagged him.  Then I ran to the window and looked out.

I was on the second floor of a two-storied house, the grey light of dawn
just enabling me to see the projecting roof over my head, and the paved
courtyard beneath.

I refused to think of Goltz’s last remark.  All I thought of was how to
escape.  I might be able to prevent the damage which he threatened then.
I gently pulled the bed to the window, stripped off the sheets and tore
them in two, lengthways, knotted them together, and I had a rope.  I
then dragged the still unconscious man to the bed and thrust him under;
he was hidden by a blanket which I let hang over the side of the bed.  I
wished them to suppose that he had aided me to escape.  I placed a chair
with its back to the door tilted beneath the handle; and threw a hurried
glance round and over the desk.  All the papers save one seemed of
little importance, the exception was a list of our supposed mines, with
certain details of the artillery.  I could have shouted with exultation
as I placed it in my pocket.  Then I fastened my improvised rope to the
head of the bed, throwing the other end out of the window, and was just
about to clamber over the window-sill--in fact, one leg was already
out--when I heard the sound of a horse galloping.  I slipped back into
the room, and peeped from behind the curtain down into the yard beneath.

The dawn was just breaking as Goltz rode in.

I heard him speaking to some one, a loud laugh came up to me, then I
heard him say:

"No, they don’t know he is gone.  Keep him walking up and down; I shall
want him again in twenty minutes or so."

Now this remark upset all my plans, for it meant that my way of escape
was cut off: I could not hope to swing on that rope and get past an
armed man waiting below.  So, instead, I crept under the bed, and lay
there upon my back with every nerve on the strain, and with the revolver
ready for instant use.

Waiting there was extremely trying; it was lucky that I did not have to
wait for long.  I had do push my stunned companion further under, as he
was in the way; I hoped sincerely that he would not start groaning or
struggling, and so give me away.

Some one turned the key in the lock, and tried the handle; then I heard
a creaking noise, an oath, the sound of other voices and a crash--the
door was open. I could imagine the look of blank astonishment on their
faces when they saw the room apparently empty; and for a second there
was silence.  Then Goltz gave hurried orders, they were to search the
roads and neighbourhood, I could not be far distant. There was a clatter
of feet descending the stairs. Had they all gone?  I almost betrayed
myself: just as I was going to lift the blanket to peer out, some one
ran to the window and evidently looked out.

"Leave my horse, I will follow in a minute or two."

I saw two feet go past and heard Goltz speaking to himself:

"Curse him, the cunning devil; but wait, my fine fellow, you can’t have
gone far.  I wonder if he searched the drawer----"

Cautiously I peeped out; his back was turned, so, carefully keeping him
covered with my revolver, I wriggled from beneath the bed, and stood up.
I had not made enough noise to disturb him, and when I asked him quietly
to raise his hands above his head he spun round like a flash.

"My God!" he cried.

"No, only your King.  Quick, up with them!"

I have never seen a man more surprised; but he recovered very quickly
and held his hands up.  In one of them was a package of papers.  His
face had gone white, and his eyes glistened.

"Baron Goltz, you are a very dirty traitor, and as such I am going to
shoot you.  Have you anything to say?"

I had made up my mind, as he raised his hands, that it was in the
interests of Rudarlia that he should die.  The knowledge he had gained
was of too great importance; and I alone could not hope to keep him
prisoner.

"It will be murder, and useless," he said.

"Hardly, but I will risk it, you are too big a scoundrel to go free from
here."

"It will be useless," he repeated, "as I have sent to a friend the
information you are afraid of my repeating."

This staggered me, I confess, but I thought of the paper in my pocket.

"What information?"

"I sent a list of your mines and artillery, within the hour, to a man in
Bornia.  I alone can stop them being sent to the King; you have the
upper hand of me here, so I will bargain if you like."

"There is and can be no question of bargaining with a traitor like
yourself; besides, you never sent the list."

"I sent it when I left you here."

"You sent no list, you forgot to enclose it, it is now in my pocket."

"You lie!" he cried, but I saw an anxious look creep into his eyes.

"I do not lie, look for yourself."

I pulled the paper out and opened it with one hand, taking good care to
keep him covered.

He snarled like a wild beast and flung himself upon me.

I shot him through the brain, it was the only thing to be done.

I often wonder whether I should have been able to shoot him, had he not
attacked me.

I took the package from his hands, slipped it into my pocket, and walked
out.

I confess that I was trembling, for I had killed a man; and the
experience was not to my liking, although it was good work having killed
a traitor.

I crept cautiously down the stairs, the house seemed empty, but Goltz’s
horse was tied to the door-knocker.  He shied a little as I approached
to unfasten him, perhaps it was the blood upon my coat; and I remember
that the knocker on the door sounded horrible, for as far as I knew
there was only the dead man and his stunned accomplice in the place.

I mounted, and rode to the door of the courtyard: to right and left ran
a broad road.  I did not know which way to turn, until I remembered that
Goltz had come from the right, so Ampletch must lie in that direction.
Accordingly, I rode hard for some five minutes.  Then a shout made me
look round; two men were running towards me, they took me for Goltz,
perhaps.  I did not wait to undeceive them.

A mile or so farther on I began to feel a little dizzy, and dismounted
to get a drink of water from a brook that gurgled by the side of the
road.  Near by the road curved, and as I knelt down a troop of horsemen
swept round the corner.  They were cavalry, and at their head rode
Woolgast.

I burst into a fit of laughter, it must have been rather hysterical, and
the next moment his arms were round me and the taste of raw brandy
between my lips.

The troops were thunder-struck at sight of me, and I saw some of them
feeling their swords, as though they hoped that they would soon be
called upon to use them.  The brandy worked wonders, and I said to
Woolgast:

"General, there is a house a little way in that direction, with a light
in the second story.  Search the house, you will find a man dead there
and one stunned beneath a bed; secure him and all papers to be found
there.  A few minutes ago, there were armed men searching for me,
somewhere along the road; capture them, dead or alive."

He gave the orders, and the troops trotted past with many an anxious
glance in my direction.

Woolgast, with two troopers, remained behind. He looked at me
inquiringly.

"Your Majesty can ride?"

"Of course; I am all right now, if you will give me my horse."

The animal had strayed a little down the road. The trooper went to bring
him back, and it was at that moment that Woolgast noticed blood upon his
glove.

"My God!"

"It is not mine," I said, and he heaved a sigh of relief.

"What were you doing along this road, General?"

"It was reported that Goltz had been seen at Ampletch last evening--he
had been spying at Zarlon--I thought that I might obtain news of him."

"Goltz is dead, I shot him half an hour ago."

He gave a great cry of astonishment, and would have asked me when, how,
and where, had not the etiquette of Court prevented him.  So I told him
as rapidly as possible what had occurred.

His wrath was wonderful.

"Now," I said when I had finished, "we will ride back, or rather you
will, for I wish you to take charge of the papers yourself; there may be
some of importance, I do not know.  I shall ride on to the _Golden
Horn_, and you can report there."

"And these troopers, your Majesty will take them?"

"No, I will ride alone, let them keep silent about this meeting."

There were few people in the streets as I rode through them, and it was
with considerable difficulty that I procured an ostler to take my horse
at the inn.  He was too sleepy-headed to notice anything awry with me,
and I made my way to Mr. Neville’s room.

He was evidently still asleep, for I had to knock three times before a
drowsy voice asked what I wanted; but, as soon as he recognised my
voice, he was wide awake, and the door was opened in a twinkling.

"What is it, Victor?  My God, what has happened?"

I pushed him into the room and closed the door. Then when he was in his
bed again, I sat on the foot of it, and related what had happened to me
in those few hours, since we had said good night.

I had barely finished, or rather Mr. Neville had not ceased his fire of
questions, when Woolgast rode up to the inn with his escort.

Even now, when I recall the host’s face as he ushered the General in, I
cannot help smiling.  It was the picture of blank and despairing
astonishment. The thought that he had had the King under his roof, and
had not paid him special attention, appalled him.  He did not know that
afterwards, when I had time to think, I blessed his thick head; for had
he kept watch and guard over me, as he would have done, had he known me,
I had never been able to frustrate Goltz.

Luck had been mine all through my life, and it had not deserted me when
I needed it.  I was grateful.

Woolgast’s report was succinct: one man was alive, the other two had
shown fight.  Enough said. The fellow under the bed was a prisoner.  All
papers were in his possession.  The house was in charge of an officer
and half a dozen men.

"You have said nothing to the host, General?"

"Nothing, your Majesty."

"Good!  Tell your men to say as little as possible; I do not wish it to
become widely known, at any rate at present.  You will breakfast with
me, and we will ride to Karena afterwards, or, better still, return by
train.  Your prisoners must be taken to Karena.  What officer is there
below?"

"Captain von Riech, your Majesty."

"Tell him that I place the two in his charge, they are not to be allowed
to speak or see anyone except the jailers.  We will breakfast in my room
in three-quarters of an hour."



                              *CHAPTER XI*


I bathed and dressed myself, constructing in my mind the procedure of
Goltz’s daring raid upon my person.

He must have gone straight to my bedroom when he left the dining hall,
and concealed himself somewhere, most probably beneath the bed.  Then
having rendered me unconscious, let in his accomplices, and lowered me
from the window.  Once outside, I could easily have been passed off as a
drunken man being taken home.  He had pulled my day clothes over my
pyjamas.

It was a pity that he was such a scoundrel; for, had he been a decent
member of society, he might have risen high in the world--for he was
clever and undoubtedly brave.

I felt no qualms at having killed him: he was a grave danger to
Rudarlia, and also to myself, so my action had been partly in
self-defence.  It would have been much more unpleasant if I had had to
kill a horse or dog.

Upon arriving at the Palace, I immediately sent for Prince Zeula and
Count Belen.

Prince Zeula was the first to enter and embraced me affectionately.  I
waited for Count Belen before saying anything, as I did not wish to have
to repeat the tale oftener than I could help.

They were very greatly dismayed, and the Count was almost purple with
indignation, especially when he heard that our forts were known.  He
calmed down a little, however, when I told him that I did not believe
much mischief had been done.

As soon as they had been told everything, we set to work to peruse the
documentary evidence.  At first, we discovered nothing of any
importance, for most of the papers dealt with military matters that were
known to all people.  Then we found one that caused us to squirm, as it
contained much information about our reserves of guns and ammunition.
Goltz had evidently been a most successful spy, and we could only hope
that he had not sent his report to Bornia.  We had nearly come to an end
of the papers, when I came across a list of some twenty names of men who
had been Ivan’s friends; against seven of them had been made a cross and
the word "accepted."

"Accepted what?" I said, passing the paper to the Prince.

The next sheet explained it, being a letter from Alexis, giving a brief
outline of a plot for my dethronement; attached was a list of the same
names with a heading in Prince Alexis’s writing: "Ivan’s friends, sound
them."

The three of us looked at each other in silent dismay.  That seven out
of twenty should have accepted the proposals, which I may justly call
infamous, was appalling; we did not know how many had been approached.
It might have been that all would have accepted, and they were men who
had been treated with absolute leniency and consideration.

"This is in your hands, Prince; it can be nothing but imprisonment,
exile would be inadvisable at the present time."

"There is one thing preferable to imprisonment, your Majesty."

"Perhaps; but we must remember that they may not have been told of the
assassination part of the scheme.  They may have thought only to
overthrow me; perhaps, too, they would not sell Rudarlia."

"It is giving them the benefit of a big doubt."

"I should not if there were any harm likely to come of it; but, if you
will give orders to arrest these men simultaneously, I think their teeth
will be drawn, and we shall have nothing to fear.  In a little time it
will not matter."

"And the others on the list, will your Majesty place them under
surveillance?"

"No, I think not; for, if they have been approached, they have refused
to acquiesce, if not, they will probably know nothing about it."

For a short time, few people knew that I had been abducted, but after a
while it became almost public property.  It was known, too, that I had
shot Goltz, but it was not known that we had discovered evidence of a
plot; that was kept from the knowledge of all save a chosen few.

Prince Alexis wrote to me, and ended his letter with a request for five
thousand pounds, as a salve to his feelings at the reported death of his
friend Baron von Goltz.

He must have had a sense of humour after all, although up to now I had
discovered no trace of it.

I replied to this letter, sympathising with him over the loss of his
friend, and regretting my inability to do more than pay for his funeral.

I was no longer anxious to fend off his attacks. He could try to do us
as much harm as he liked, and, really, the sooner he showed his hand,
the better I should be pleased.  As far as it was possible to be seen,
we were ready; so we sat quietly, and waited.

It was about this time that Prince Zeula first broached the subject of
my marriage.

He had lunched or rather breakfasted with me, and we were allowing
ourselves an easy half-hour, to digest our food and smoke a cigar.

I had noticed that he was slightly perturbed about something, and that
he was formulating some thought in his head.  I knew he would only speak
when he had his idea firmly fixed, so I waited patiently.

"Victor!"

"Yes?"

"Are you satisfied with your country and countrymen?"

"Intensely."

"Do you think that you have done everything possible to prepare for all
eventualities?

"I sincerely hope so.  There are many little things that I do not
interfere with, but the main preparations are completed; that is, if you
are thinking of our preparations against any Bornian attack.  You know
that our aeroplanes have arrived in Soctia?"

"I had heard of it."

"You hear of everything.  Is there anything that I could tell you that
would really surprise you?"

"There is one thing."

"And that is?"

He hesitated a moment and then said:

"I should be very much surprised to hear that you had thought of making
your greatest sacrifice for Rudarlia."

Then, I knew what was in his mind, and unconsciously I tried to gain
time, so as to put off hearing what I did not wish to hear; until I
realised that this was pure cowardice on my part, and said:

"What is that?"

"Marriage."

"Good Lord!"

"Your greatest sacrifice; I call it that because a Royal marriage very
often lacks love, and I know that to you it will be a torture, and yet,
my boy, it is essential."

"I suppose it is," I said, "but is it imperative to think of it yet?"

"Only in order to fix the idea firmly in your head, to give you time to
form your thoughts on the subject, to prepare for what must come.  You
see, Victor, with your temperament, it is difficult to think of married
life run on lines of convenience. You must forgo romance, and fill its
place, as best you may, with the knowledge that you are sacrificing your
personal feelings for the good of the state."

"I will think of it; I suppose it must be into some reigning family?"

"If possible, but at least Royal."

I walked to the window and looked out; but I don’t think I saw much, my
mind being occupied with the recollection of a slim girlish figure with
a bandaged ankle.

I say recollection, for, to confess the truth, I had forgotten that
charming riverside idyll.  It was strange; at the time, I could have
sworn that I loved that pretty little girl; and yet it was not more than
two years and she had gone, with the exception of a pleasant memory.

I had excuses to offer to myself; I had been a boy when it had occurred,
and since I had become a man and a King.  As such I had made a
constitution, reorganised an army, and killed a traitor; all useful
things in their way, as well as a thousand other duties which make a
king’s lot a heavy one.

Ah well! and so I was to marry some one, I must marry some one, for the
sake of Rudarlia.  It was a case of duty, duty which prevents a king
enjoying personal liberty.  Even in a matter such as marriage, he must
bow his head and do as some one else wills, as cheerfully as his
character will allow.

I wonder how many of my subjects realise just what it means to be their
King.  To live in a beautiful palace, with beautiful food and clothes,
horses, motor-cars, an army of servants; surrounded by Courtiers and
Ministers.  It is a pretty picture, an alluring prospect, to the poor
man who only hears that side of it.  But, if they knew the infinite
boredom to be derived from too many servants, Courtiers, too much food
and Palace, if they understood the wearying routine, the never-ending
etiquette, the fettering of wish and will, I fancy that their opinions
would change.  A king, however, should be king, and his example should
be that of the head of the state.  It is to him that people should look,
it is he who should be a light for his people to follow along the roads
of devotion, loyalty, honour, and duty.

Yet what a position of difficulties it is, and how much depends on the
choice a king makes.  I had made up my mind to regulate my life to
moderation; for that, it seems to me, is the safest course. Let a king
be over-powerful, it is almost certain that he will injure his country
by trying to do those things which are more than any one man can
attempt. Let a king be weak, he will fail through being ruled instead of
ruling, so that the power which should be his gets into the hands of men
who are, perhaps, guided chiefly by self-interest, and the result will
be anarchy, chaos, and perhaps the destruction of monarchical rule.

I must have stood by the window for a good twenty minutes, turning
things over in my mind, before I turned and looked at Zeula.

"Well," I said, "I am ready, or shall be when the time comes; but
remember that, when it does, Rudarlia may have ceased to be a kingdom,
who knows?"

"God knows, we are in His hands."

"Amen; but He has given us brains and arms, strong men with brave
hearts, and unless He fights against us we will win, I know it."

"We will, but when that day comes, Victor, where will the King be?"

"In his proper place, at the head of his army."

"Is that your proper place?  You have no heir."

"Would you have me sit here while my army is in the field?"

"It would be better, much better."

"Then better be d--d!" said I.  At which my companion smiled, for I
seldom swear.  "I will fight with my men, and if I am killed it will be
so much the worse for you; because Rudarlia will become a republic, and
you will be the first President."

"We will hope for the best then.  You have luck, or Goltz might still be
keeping you."

"The luck of having a hard fist and knowing how to use it."

"And a quick brain," he added, "don’t forget that.  I should never have
thought of looking for you under the bed, if I had been Goltz, when I
saw the open window and the rope of sheets."

"No, I don’t think I should have myself."

I presume that Prince Zeula thought that the seed he had let fall, in
regard to my marriage, was sufficient, for he did not mention the
subject again for a considerable time.  That day, however, it did its
work well and quite upset any keen desire for work which I may have had;
so after a little while, I went to see my mother, a thing I generally
did when perturbed.  It is wonderful to me how so many mothers have the
gift of being able to understand and console, without allowing it to be
seen.

Now, for the next three months or so nothing occurred to disturb our
peace, and Rudarlia showed signs of awakening prosperity.  Nature had
been kind to the agriculturists for once, and money began to circulate
more freely; therefore we felt more at ease in giving time to the
improvement of existing conditions of life.

At the end of that time I heard again from Prince Alexis.  I answered
him curtly to the effect that any further communications would be
returned unopened, and almost immediately our relations with Bornia
altered; up to now they had been those of smiling, courteous dislike.

I hastened my plans in one thing only: the purchasing of an armoured
cruiser just completed by an English firm, for one of the South American
Republics, and a torpedo-boat destroyer.

These two vessels were a gift from me to Rudarlia; and I thought Prince
Kleber would burst with delight when I told him of my intentions.  He
had made the most of our naval forces, which until then had consisted of
three coast defence vessels, an obsolete ironclad, and three
torpedo-boats.  When he had these two additional ships, I believe he
would have cheerfully tried to tackle the British fleet.

The cruiser was named the _Soctia_, much to the gratification of that
province.

Personally I did not fear an attack by sea, the town of Soctia, our one
port of any importance, being too well fortified.

About now, was finished the installation of the "Wireless" telegraph
system, which linked up all our garrison towns.

Then, one eventful day, came the tidings that Bornia was mobilising,
ostensibly for manoeuvres. A reasonable enough thing; but there was no
need to send so many troops to our frontiers, there was no need to keep
matters so secret, and there was no need to issue ball cartridges.  Our
Secret Service kept us well informed on most points.

I sent the promised word to Carruthers.

Mr. Neville took a broken coin to Piotr.

Quarovitch was commanded to Karena.

Carruthers answered immediately, in a manner at once laconic and wanting
in proper respect:

"Coming, good old Splosh."

Quarovitch was to hand.

Piotr accompanied Mr. Neville.  He had no idea that the English lord was
his King.

My old tutor told me, when he came to announce his arrival, that Piotr
had been in the middle of some farm work, but upon catching sight of the
broken coin had run to his house, seized his revolver and a few
necessaries, and fairly tired his companion with the haste of his
movements.  Mr. Neville had not explained anything, but had given him
the token, and told him that I was in need of him.

He chuckled as he told me that Piotr was all impatience to kill some one
for my sake.

Asking Mr. Neville to fetch him, I also sent word for Colonel von
Quarovitch to be admitted in half an hour’s time.  Then I slipped behind
a curtain and waited.

I saw Piotr enter the room with a puzzled expression on his face, which
grew more intense when he discovered it to be apparently empty.  He
toyed with his revolver and the hilt of his dagger, stood first on one
leg, then on the other, and looked generally uncomfortable.  So, to end
it, I stepped out into view.

"Well, Piotr, you see I have not forgotten your promise to help me out
of a difficulty."  I held out my hand.

"I am grateful to your Excellency for remembering, and am truly pleased
to see you again."

"You are astonished, perhaps, to see me here?"

"I am, Excellency, but His Majesty was brought up in your country, they
say."

"So you think I have been favoured on that account, perhaps."

"Indeed, no; only it may have made His Majesty think of you."

"I am afraid that is not the case, indeed, cannot be the case, for I am
a Rudarlian as you are."

"No!"

"Indeed I am, Piotr, and I trust a good one."

"God bless your Excellency, that is good news indeed."

"Tell me, Piotr, are you glad that things have changed in Rudarlia?"

"As is every honest man.  I own my farm again now, and am not afraid of
the days when the taxes are paid."

"That is good, and those around you, your family, your friends, are they
as contented as yourself?"

"Yes, Excellency."

"And what has become of the other members of your band?"

"They live around my neighbourhood; most of them have small farms, and
the others who have not, earn good wages now, and they will soon save
enough to buy a piece of land for themselves."

"Splendid!  I suppose you still keep the secret of your hiding-place;
the other men would not have told of its position?"

"Not a word.  They took an oath never to do so, unless I gave them
permission, for the place was mine by right of discovery."

"Supposing it was needed for the sake of Rudarlia and that His Majesty
said, ’Send for Piotr that I may ask him for permission to use his
hiding-place for his country’s good.’"

This appeared to tickle him immensely and he roared with laughter.

"If His Majesty asked for it, he should have it for his own sake,
Excellency, and my life with it if he wished."

I rang a bell.

"Has Colonel von Quarovitch arrived yet?"

"He awaits your Majesty."

"Tell him I wish to see him now."

Almost before the door had closed, Piotr was on his knees before me.

"Your Majesty, how could I be so blind!  I did not think--and yet I
should have known.  Forgive me my want of respect.  My life, everything
I have is yours."

"Thank you, Piotr.  I am your King, but I would have your devotion,
nothing more."

"Your Majesty has that, God knows, and not only mine, but that of every
man and woman that I know."

I believe that he would have liked to spend quite a considerable time
expatiating on my various merits, had not Quarovitch entered.

"Ah, Colonel," I said, as he saluted, "I wish you to become acquainted
with a man you may have heard of.  You may even have sought his company.
His name is Piotr, and under Ivan’s beneficent rule he lived in a way
that might have incurred your displeasure.  He is now, however, one of
my friends."

"I know him by sight, your Majesty, also by reputation.  I believe we
once exchanged slight courtesies with one another."

Here Piotr grinned.

"I trust neither of you were hurt," I said.

"I don’t know about Piotr, your Majesty, but I had an inch of skin taken
off my arm."

"And you, Piotr?" I asked.

For answer he lifted the thick hair from the side of his face--part of
an ear was missing.

"That I consider highly satisfactory, you both need bear no grudge;
neither of you owes the other anything, and you must both have made
excellent shooting."

I laughed, and my two companions did likewise, quite heartily.

"And now, Colonel, sit down, and you too, Piotr.  I have something of
the utmost importance to say to you, and which must be kept absolutely
to yourselves.  It is this: in all probability we shall be at war with
Bornia before the month is out."

A gleam lit up Quarovitch’s face.  Piotr sat silent.

"You have no doubt heard," I continued, "that Bornia has mobilised for
manoeuvres.  I have information that they are extremely busy at their
arsenals, that ammunition is being hastened to the frontiers--and it is
not blank shell.  The time has passed when due warning was given before
going to war.  It is therefore necessary to prepare in peace time.  Of
course the whole affair may be nothing, or it may be as we surmise: that
Bornia thinks that she is strong enough to crush us, and place Prince
Alexis on the throne in my place.  If that indeed be their plan, some
small incident will serve as an excuse for an ultimatum.  In any case,
if it does not come now, it will in the near future.  I think myself,
and the Ministers think with me, that they mean war now."

"It were better so, your Majesty, if we are ready too," said Colonel von
Quarovitch.

"And what say you, Piotr?"

"That we farmers do not want war, but if it comes we shall know when to
fight, and how to fight, but not when to stop fighting, especially when
you say they wish to dethrone your Majesty."

"Piotr speaks well," said Quarovitch.

"Good!  You in the army will fight, because it is your duty; you of the
farms, in self-protection; and both for Rudarlia."

"And the King," said Quarovitch.  "Don’t forget that, your Majesty;
Piotr, here, would not have raised a hand if Ivan had been still
reigning; and I should have hated doing so."

"It is lucky you are seldom at Court, Colonel, because I can see that
you would forget your soldierly habits for those of the courtier."

"God forbid, your Majesty!" he cried, and then we all three laughed
again.

I took a map from my desk, spreading it out before me.

"Come closer, and look.  Here is Melanov, Piotr. I wish you to point out
to the Colonel the exact spot of which we were talking."

"It is there, your Majesty."

"You see, Colonel, there?"

"I see nothing except that small road which you have traced in red ink."

"You know it?"

"Surely, as I know every inch of the country round, with the exception
of one place."

"And that?"

"Where Piotr used to hide himself, that I never could discover."

"He will show it to you, Colonel."

"For a purpose, your Majesty?"

"For a purpose.  I wish you to go there, without anyone knowing, and see
how best it can be adapted quickly to accommodate at least ten thousand
troops, for some days."

"Aha!"

"You will also determine the best way for the said troops to arrive
there, and whether it will be possible to remove the traces of their
progress. When you have all the information required, return to me
here."

"It shall be done, your Majesty."

"You, Piotr, will accompany Colonel von Quarovitch. If help is needed
select from your friends the necessary number of men.  They will work
under the Colonel’s directions, and you will be in charge, and will pay
them for their time, at twice the ordinary rates.  For your own trouble,
I promise that you shall be satisfied."

"I want nothing, your Majesty, my life is yours."

"Then return with Colonel von Quarovitch, we shall perhaps need you."



                             *CHAPTER XII*


It was three days before Quarovitch returned with the details which I
had desired him to obtain.  He was in a state of mind bordering upon
dismay, that such a place should have existed without his knowledge.  He
was amazed, disgusted, and yet pleased, for the report he brought back
showed that he had a fair inkling of what I intended to do.

Silently we prepared for war, mobilising quietly and quickly, without
any undue haste, but with careful attention to details.

I interviewed the Press.  Thank God they were all loyal, and were only
too pleased to fall in with the scheme I proposed to them: which was to
refrain from mentioning any movements of troops, or details of military
import.  I promised them that, whenever it was possible, news that they
could print should be given to them; they also agreed to write articles,
strongly advocating Peace.

As soon as I had Quarovitch’s report, I called a Council of War.  It was
composed of Count von Belen, Prince von Zeula, Prince von Venoff,
General von Vorkovitch, Prince Kleber, General Avilinoff, General von
Scutane, and Colonel von Quarovitch. Mr. Neville was there to act as
secretary, for we wished to keep our plans known to as few people as
possible.

I am sure there was a strong current of excitement running through us as
we settled ourselves down to examine the large maps of Rudarlia, which
were spread on the table.

"Gentlemen," I said, "we all know the strained feeling now existing
between this country and our neighbour Bornia; their mobilisation points
to serious possibilities, I may say probabilities.  I have therefore
called this Council to deliberate upon the steps we must take to prepare
for war.

"I may tell those of you who are not in the Ministry that we have
received information that the great Powers will not interfere in this
war--if it should come to war.  With this assurance, which as you know
is of vast importance, we can rest satisfied. The main issue will
therefore rest upon the skill with which we meet the enemy.  If our
strategy is superior to that of the Bornians, all will be well.  I
refuse to allow for one moment the idea that it may be inferior,
therefore we will not waste time in discussing that eventuality.

"In the Councils we have held in the past, it has been generally
concluded that any invasion by Bornia would come from the west, as it
did before; and certainly the number of troops massed there point to the
probability of the suggestion.

"The military experts among us point out that the Ruln, Agrade, and
Karena line is the only possible means of conveying heavy guns to attack
our fortified capital, which is most likely the correct opinion; but it
must be remembered that there are other ways of reaching Karena.  Prince
Kleber is the only one who suggests that the attack may be made through
Soctia, but I am afraid that there the wish is father to the thought."

"That is so," said the Prince, so glibly that we all smiled.

"That being so, I think we can trust our troops in Soctia to repulse any
raid through Garace, which, on account of the nature of the ground to
the north, would be of no real import to the general plan of the
Bornians, save as the means to create a panic, and draw troops from more
important places.

"Now, there is another way into Karena which has not as yet been hinted
at as a possible line of attack. All of you, with courteous
consideration for my feelings, have refrained from any adverse criticism
regarding certain fortified places to the north of Karena.  But I have
no doubt that you have often considered the money spent as so much
waste; it may be so, but it was spent with the idea of preventing an
attack in that direction.  The road from Melanov to Karena is the
shortest way from Bornian frontiers to our capital."

"Does your Majesty know the road from Melanov to Karena?" asked
Vorkovitch.

"Very well, General.  I have walked it twice with my eyes open."

"Would your Majesty consider that an attack could be made from there?"

"I trust so, since I have counted upon such an attack being attempted."

"But it would be madness to advance that way, there are no roads to
speak of; we could mass our men, so that the enemy would not be able to
advance half a dozen miles.  The Bornians must know that and they are
not mad."

"And yet it is the shortest way to Karena from the frontier."

"It would not be if we were in between."

"Perhaps not; but did you intend being in between?  I have not heard the
suggestion made."

"No, your Majesty, I did not mention it, as it would be absurd to waste
troops in that direction, when the frontier guard would be sufficient."

"Very well, is that the general opinion?"

"It appears to be, your Majesty," said Prince Zeula.

"Are there no dissentients?"

"Three, your Majesty: Count Belen, Colonel von Quarovitch, and myself."

"You agree with me then, Colonel von Quarovitch?"

"I do, your Majesty, and should like to mention that some years ago I
sent in a report to that effect. At that time, I am convinced, they
could have marched through, that is, if they had taken us by surprise."

"You think then they will try a surprise to the north; on what grounds
do you base your supposition?"

"The south and west have been fortified since the last invasion.  They
know that, therefore it must strike them that they will meet with great
opposition in those quarters.  This opposition, however, would be
tremendously lessened, if not completely upset, by a striking success to
the north."

"Then what do you imagine would be their plan of attack?"

"I think, your Majesty, that their main forces will strike along the
Ruln-Agrade line, and at the same time they will throw a column through
Melanov."

"Pshaw!" said Vorkovitch.

"What is your objection to Colonel von Quarovitch’s argument?"

"My chief objection is that he takes the Bornians for fools, and argues
on that premise.  I maintain that no sane general would try to deliver a
main attack through such country as that between Melanov and Karena."

"Colonel von Quarovitch did not suggest a main attack by the north, but
a flying column; personally, I should be inclined to think that they
would send a larger force than that."

With the exception of Quarovitch, the military element were against me.
It was easy to see that their thoughts ran along preconceived lines of
strategy, which I think is rather a failing among military men.  It
seems to me that they go too much to the great generals of past times,
whereas no two battles have ever been exactly similar.

On former occasions, when we had held a Council, the soldiers had agreed
most easily, but then we had not discussed the prospect of immediate
warfare. Now, when we should all have been eager to find the best
possible defence, each of these same Generals wanted his own plan to be
adopted.

I listened to each proposition, carefully weighing it; I did not
criticise, there was no need, with the other Generals there.

More than once I introduced the subject of Melanov, but each time it met
with almost unveiled scorn.  So finally I said no more; but I had my own
ideas, and I intended to carry them out.

The advance from Ruln was the great topic of discussion, it was there
that the opinions differed: one proposed this, another that, until I was
weary listening to their wrangling.

Quarovitch said little, being only a Colonel, and I almost regretted not
having raised him in rank before this.

The result of this Council was nil.  We sat again that evening, also the
next morning; and still they argued, and argued.

At this meeting General von Vorkovitch fell ill; he was a very old man,
and the strain had proved too much for him.  He retired from the
Council, and I sent a car to take him to his home near Damretch.

When he had gone I decided to take matters into my own hands, for time
was flying, and we were hardly any nearer the solution of our problem.
We were receiving reports continually from the border of fresh troops
arriving in the neighbourhood of Ruln; it was evident that their main
attack would come that way.  I had my spies, too, on the Melanov border,
but so far nothing was reported save a certain restlessness at Nerane,
and certain tracks which could not be accounted for by ordinary traffic.
I sent Piotr to try his luck, and see what he could discover.

Now we had decided that the Ruln-Karena line was where our chief
fighting must be done, and upon this point General Avilinoff and I
agreed.  General von Scutane had sided with General von Vorkovitch. They
wished to offer a tremendous defence at Ruln itself, even to advance
into Bornia, their reasons being that in that way we should be fighting
upon the enemy’s soil, which is always encouraging to the soldiers.
This was not at all what I wished.  It was too much like stalemate, that
is, granting that we could hold Ruln.  It seemed to me that, even if we
could, nothing decisive could result, for we were not in a position to
invade Bornia.  On the other hand, if we allowed them to force a way
slowly into Rudarlia, there would be more chance of victory. With our
small army we could wage a defensive campaign, where we could hope for
nothing from the offensive.  We should be fighting on our own territory,
of which we should know every inch; and, as to the morale of our troops,
well, I had always understood that men would fight to the death in
defence of their own.

It was then decided that our policy should be a slow strategic retreat
to our own chosen positions.

We were just about to adjourn for an hour, when an urgent message was
brought to me by Woolgast; it ran:


"I have news of the utmost importance to your Majesty, and to the
Council now sitting.  I await your Majesty’s orders.--RUPERT
CARRUTHERS."


"Admit him, please," I said, and waited.

There must be something serious afoot, or he would never have been so
formal, nor would he have interrupted our Council.  He had not wasted
much time in coming over, and, perhaps, on his way he had gathered news.
I wondered whether he had come through Nerane.

He entered the room and saluted.

I felt inclined to jump up and seize his hand, and laugh with pleasure
at sight of him, but of course I could not, so had to content myself
with a good look at him.  He really was a splendid looking man, the
ideal soldier; and it was strange that at that moment I wondered whether
he was ever going to be married, and whether there was no Rudarlian girl
to tempt him to matrimony.

"Ah, Monsieur Carruthers, you have news, you say, of importance to us.
I shall be pleased to hear you."

"I come from Nerane, sir"--it was almost ludicrous to see the start
which nearly every one gave, the word "Nerane" seemed to act as a
spur--"being desirous of arriving here as soon as possible, I hired a
horse and, in trying a short cut, lost my way; in seeking the road again
I blundered upon a body of Bornian troops not more than seven miles from
Melanov."

"What’s that?" I cried, and I saw General von Soutane’s hands clench, as
they rested on the table. "Bornian troops, sir.  I estimated their
number to be about ten to fifteen thousand.  They are bivouacked in a
defile to the east of the road, well hidden from any ordinary
passer-by."

"Ah! did you observe any details, monsieur? Had they guns?"

"Only horse artillery, but in Nerane I saw heavier weapons."

"Openly displayed?"

"No, sir, they were hidden in a small farm to the south of the town;
observing heavy tracks, I walked up to the house to ask for a drink of
water.  The guns were covered with masses of hay."

"And what made you suppose them to be guns?"

"At first it was a surmise on my part, as, in England, haystacks are not
guarded by armed soldiers.  Afterwards I made sure, as one of them was
carelessly covered."

I smiled at this, knowing Rupert’s inordinate curiosity, and almost
superhuman dexterity in ferreting out what he wished to know.

"Was there not considerable risk in walking to the house as you did?
Surely it would have been better to have ridden up as any traveller
would?"

"I had not my horse then, sir."

"I thought you said you had hired a horse."

"It was at the farm that I obtained my horse, sir."

Rupert allowed a grin to twist his lips, so I said no more about the
horse, but I knew there was a story attached to the possession of it.  I
turned to Avilinoff.

"What do you say now, General?"

"Can Monsieur Carruthers give any reason for supposing that the
intentions of these troops were other than pacific?"

"They were carrying ball cartridges, General."

"Then, your Majesty, I say that I was wrong about the north."

"You mean that Colonel von Quarovitch may be right?"

"More than that, I say that he _is_ right.  They evidently propose a
raid; how big, of course it is impossible to say until we know more.
Could Monsieur Carruthers give us more details?"

"I had not much time, General, but I saw an aeroplane with the troops,
and there were signs of great activity in Nerane.  I only got through by
pretending to be the nephew of Sir George Curtiss."

We adjourned after this for an hour, Rupert breakfasted with me, and
told me the truth about his horse.  It appeared that as he was leaving
the farm, he met an officer leading his horse; this officer stopped him,
and asked his business. Carruthers had calmly knocked him down, placed a
thousand franc note in his pocket, and confiscated his horse.  The money
he had left was what he described as payment for the hire of the animal.
He also described the payment as: "A d--d sight more than the beast was
worth."

That same day we worked out the full scheme of our south-eastern
defence, and I appointed Avilinoff as Commander-in-Chief.  The north I
reserved.  I had made up my mind to conduct that campaign myself.  It
was perhaps conceited, idiotic, even criminal, that I, a ridiculously
young King, should take into my own hands the leadership of an army, but
I had faith in myself, and in my soldiers.  I did not presume to pose as
a tactician, but the strategy should be mine, for I felt it.  Perhaps it
was some spark inherited from a soldier ancestor, I do not know.

We had, when fully mobilised, an army of one hundred and thirty thousand
men; this number did not include the garrisons of such places as Soctia,
Poiska, or Orvlov.  It was the actual fighting force that reached that
number.  Of these I retained forty thousand; the other ninety thousand
were under the command of Avilinoff.

Our railways were never idle, and in order to confuse the enemy’s spies
very few people knew of the ultimate destination of the troops, these
being moved backwards and forwards; but gradually they were drafted off
to the frontier, or as near to it as Avilinoff wished.

I made Quarovitch a General, for I intended giving him a large command
in the north, and he and I worked hard together concocting our plan, and
deciding on the composition of the forces necessary to carry it out.

Forty thousand men may have seemed a large proportion of our fighting
force to have kept for the north, and I believe it was greatly
criticised, but my reasons were these: we did not know how many of the
enemy would be opposed to us, I wished to have the numerical superiority
over any probable force.

I wanted to gain a victory, of a decisive kind, quickly, and also I
thought that, after a victory in the north, the troops, when they did
reach the southern army, would leaven that in a most satisfactory way,
especially as Avilinoff’s army would have been retreating for some time.

For some days small bodies of troops left Karena, after dark, for a
destination known only to the officer in charge, and Quarovitch.  Of
course, I was aware that they went, and where; but, then, I was supposed
to know everything.

A shooting affray in which a Bornian officer was wounded, a fishing boat
seized by our coast guard, were the two excuses our enemy needed; these
two things happened simultaneously, and within twenty-four hours they
had presented an ultimatum.

That same night Piotr returned.  He had ample information, and of such a
nature that I blessed the thought that had induced me to retain so many
troops in the north.  He left again some hours later with Quarovitch.

Between Prince Venoff and the Bornian Minister, there was a great deal
of going to and fro.  Our Foreign Minister, full of wiles, played his
part to perfection.  He asked for more time, appeared to meditate
compliance with the terms of the ultimatum, suggested compromises with
every sign of nervousness; but all to no avail, the Bornian was
relentless.

I cannot remember meeting a man so born to be duped.  He was enormously
conceited, overbearing, and haughty.  He only possessed a modicum of
those qualities a Minister needs.

Had he been a wiser man, our course of procedure would have been very
different, but as it was he was fooled completely, and the more fooled
he was the more pressing he became in his demands.

At last we could hold him off no longer, even if we had wished to; and
he was recalled upon war being declared.



                             *CHAPTER XIII*


So war had come, and I, for one, thanked God that it had not found us
unprepared.

The first shot of the war was fired at Ruln. It took the enemy three
days, and cost them many lives, to drive our small force out of that
place.  It was on that day that they made their first move from the
north, and it is with this attack that I will deal first.

A thousand men seized Melanov, driving out a small force of ill-equipped
Rudarlians.  These retired with every appearance of panic and surprise.
It was Captain von Essens who was responsible for this move, and he had
chosen his men for their intelligence; they must have acted their part
extremely well.

The enemy advanced rapidly, their cavalry reached Nardal and occupied
that place without resistance. On the other flank they reached half-way
to Villatov.  The ground, however, in that direction was eminently
unsuited for cavalry work, and a small body of Rudarlians held them
there successfully.

At Viritz, their main force met with considerable resistance, as we
determined to make them bring up as large a number of troops as
possible.  Our old guns were conspicuous, and in spite of their age did
considerable damage.  Again we lost ground, retiring, before an
overwhelming force, some seven miles, to a range of hills where we were
heavily entrenched. We left Viritz in a hurry, leaving behind us a
number of obsolete guns carefully rendered useless; I had given them to
the Bornians as I had promised.

They occupied Viritz, and I heard with great satisfaction that they were
congratulating themselves on the easiness with which they were
progressing.  They made the fatal blunder of under-estimating an
adversary.  It was what I had wished and schemed for.  The concentration
of their troops at Viritz, preparatory to a final rush through to
Karena, gave us time to complete our defences on the hills, and there we
sat and waited.

The three roads which led from Viritz to Karena, Romlitz, and Kelbna ran
through the hills at places where, strangely enough, minerals had been
found; between these roads, linking them up, were our troops.  The roads
were also joined by a military road, on the side nearest to Karena.
This had been built especially for the movements of troops.

So far they had made no use of the aeroplane which had been seen by
Carruthers, and we did not wish them to know of ours, until necessary.
Then an accident took place which might have upset our plans
considerably: my two trained aeronauts were standing together talking,
when a shell burst near them; killing one, wounding the other, and
completely smashing one of the aircraft.  It was the first shell, from a
battery that had taken up a position to try and force us from our
entrenchments. As soon as this was reported to me, I rode over to see
whether something could be done, but, alas, the damaged machine was
beyond repair, even if we had had anyone to fly in it.  I must confess
that the sight of the other standing there all ready for use made me
feel despondent, especially as a few minutes later we saw the Bornian
machine rise in the air from behind their line.

I sat there impotent, and watched the accursed thing come flying
towards, and then over us.  She could make her observations and we could
do nothing to prevent her.  I rode a little way back still looking at
the machine, and then from behind me I heard a cheer, a wild
exhilarating sound which caused me to turn again quickly.  Our own
aeroplane was just rising from the ground.  I stared in astonishment.  I
had no idea that anyone could fly amongst my officers, whoever it was
should reap a rich reward.  Then one of my aides-de-camp came towards me
at a gallop.

"Who is on that?" I asked with a wave of my hand to the ascending
machine.

"Monsieur Carruthers, your Majesty."

Rupert! and I never knew that he could fly. It did not surprise me,
however, it was just the kind of thing which he would enjoy.

My heart beat rapidly as I watched his machine ascending higher and
higher; what did he intend to do?  I was not left long in doubt, for he
soon started in pursuit of the Bornian.  They disappeared into the
clouds which rolled low over the hills behind us. The Bornian evidently
knew that he was being pursued, for in a little while they reappeared
again, like birds at first, but every minute growing bigger. It was a
race, in which the Bornian was leading.  I think that nearly every man
was watching with open-mouthed astonishment.  I turned my head for an
instant and lost touch with them; I no longer knew which was which.  My
agitation must have passed to my horse, for he began to plunge, tearing
at the bit.

A great cry from the soldiery, and I looked up. My God! one of them was
falling horribly--like a great wounded eagle--the other kept on its way
towards the enemy’s lines.

I almost broke down then, I know that I covered my face with my hands
and groaned; my old friend, my dear old pal, had gone.  Those around me
kept silent in sympathy, for they knew how strong had been the bond
between their King and the English lord.

I did not look any more, but motioned to some one to find out all he
could of the catastrophe.  This was no time for private grief.
Carruthers had given his life for me, and now we must fight to preserve
our own.

There was a depressed feeling among the troops, the failure of our
aeroplanes had dampened them, I think they regarded it as a bad omen.  I
turned to give an order, and saw on my aide’s face a look of supreme
astonishment.

"Look, your Majesty, he’s coming back."

I looked.  What an extraordinary thing, for what reason would he return?
And then the men began to shout, wildly, and I knew the reason: it was
our machine that was returning; it had been the Bornian who had come to
the ground.

It was as if the sun had suddenly shone out, on every face there was a
smile, and gone, for ever, the feeling of depression.

It was one of the happiest moments of my life when Carruthers came to
report on his trip over Viritz.  I felt inclined literally to hug him,
but had to be content with his salute.

His report was satisfactory.

All that day the artillery fire was kept up with but small loss to us,
and night fell.

I had instructed the gunners to cease firing, to make it appear as
though some of them had been put out of action, and so little by little
our fire had slackened.  So far the forts had not spoken.

Anyone on the look out that night would have seen three rockets soar
into the sky over Karena; they were very important, but the enemy did
not know that such was the case.  As it was, they conveyed a message to
General von Quarovitch.

And then morning came, and with it the attack. A tremendous bombardment
for some two hours, which did little damage, as our men had literally
dug themselves in, and then the infantry advanced; a feeble fire met
them until within a few hundred yards, and then they were simply swept
away.  No human beings could have withstood that rain of fire, and they
fled back, while all the time our cavalry hung upon their flanks
creating further panic among them.

Again their artillery opened fire, and this time our forts came into
action; the roar of their big guns must have awakened the Bornians to
the terrible position, especially as they must have heard, about that
time, that Quarovitch had cut right across their communications with
some fifteen thousand men. He had carried out his part with consummate
skill, and was then entrenched in a strong position south of Melanov.

I think General von Brote, realising his position, thought that his only
chance lay in breaking through on the Karena road.  Perhaps he imagined
that we were in less force than we were.  I don’t know, but anyhow he
tried the impossible.

A few miles east of the Karena road, there was a break in the hills, and
it was this way that General von Brote thought to turn our flank.  I
cannot understand his reasoning, for he must have known that it was
extremely unlikely that we should have left such a way open, especially
as it was cavalry country; but I can only suppose that he still did not
realise that we were thoroughly prepared.

I have said it was cavalry country, so it was, right up to the break,
and on the other side towards Yungben, but the break itself was rather
an extraordinary piece of ground.

Right across the whole width, which at the greatest was some three
miles, were strewn immense boulders, some singly, others arranged in
heaps for some hundred yards, only in the centre was there a space of
about half a mile free from them.  Instead of the boulders a narrow
stream ran across.  It was a stream which watered the plains round
Yungben, twisting and winding in a most weird fashion.  In time of rain,
it sometimes flooded the fields around, but now it ran steadily and
calmly, little dreaming, if streams can dream, of the horrible sights it
was to see before many hours had passed, or of the dead bodies of man
and beast with which its clear waters were to be choked.

In order to make this break as impregnable as I could, without showing
any great signs, I had constructed a low, barbed wire entanglement on
the Yungben side of the stream; this entanglement, although low, was
fifty yards wide; behind that again, I had rifle pits dug, but instead
of banking up the earth it was scattered over the ground.  Besides this
I had placed a battery of horse artillery on either flank, while the
line of boulders was also guarded with entanglements and maxims;
altogether we had some three thousand troops guarding that spot.  The
guns, and the men, were concealed behind bushes and small trees, as well
as the masses of rock, some hundred men only being on view.

Against this defence, there were some five thousand of the enemy.
Relying upon the reports of their scouts, who had been misled by the
small number of our men to be seen, their cavalry swept forward. They
were too far from their supports, their artillery was unable to come
into action, on account of their forward movement.  They swept on
blindly, trusting to sweep away the little force opposed to them. Our
men opened fire at two thousand yards, they did some damage but not
enough even to make them think; they rode on and on, the nearer they
got, the more men they lost.

They were within one hundred yards of the stream, when the rest of our
infantry came into action.  It must have been appalling, although even
then they struggled to get to close quarters, but the stream held them,
the entanglements held them, and all the while death was poured from the
barrels of our rifles and maxim guns; what was left of them turned and
fled.  Their artillery opened, but, before they could get the range, our
batteries replied, and we had our ranges marked.  They retired.  It will
never be known how many men they lost, for the remnant of that force was
engulfed in the ruin that had overtaken the main bodies.

Our right wing advanced, joining the two thousand men who had been
posted on the Villatov road. General von Brote massed his guns and men
on the Karena road; our left advanced.  He hurled regiment after
regiment at our front, they were mown down by the hundred.  As night
fell he retreated to Viritz, and our whole line advanced. His cavalry on
the left wing, at Nardal, were called in.  There they rested for the
night, but with earliest dawn our attack commenced.  Hemmed in on all
sides, they fought like lions, but it was unavailing.  Then they tried
to retreat still farther, and Quarovitch held them.  It was the end.
Without a single chance of success, they fought on, although three times
I sent a white flag with a message to Brote, asking him to refrain from
further useless bloodshed.  He was resolved to die rather than
surrender.  He did die, and then what was left of his army threw down
their weapons.

Of the thirty-five thousand men who had entered Rudarlia through
Melanov, only seventeen thousand surrendered, the rest had been killed,
wounded, or were already prisoners.

Their surprise, to which they had evidently looked to end the war
quickly, had failed utterly.  Our northern frontier was now safe, and I
could throw most of our men to the relief of Avilinoff.  We had lost
altogether some four thousand men in killed and wounded.  I left eleven
thousand to clear up the scattered Bornians, and guard the frontier and
prisoners, the other twenty-five thousand I hurried south.  Many of them
had not been in the firing line at all, so they were perfectly fresh,
and brim-full of enthusiasm and eagerness to come to grips with the foe.

In order to avoid any delay--which would have been almost inevitable had
we returned through Karena--I, with my aides, motored through Romlitz to
Agrade.  There I stayed for only one day. Scutane was delighted to hear
that the extra troops were on the way down, as he said that Avilinoff
had been rather hard pressed at Milova, but that now he was in a good
position to defend that place.  Accordingly, I left for Avilinoff’s
head-quarters immediately.

It was evident that the enemy had counted on the success of their
northern attack, as they had not hastened, rather luckily for us, for
Avilinoff’s army was sadly outnumbered, both in men and guns.

He had done grand work, his retreats were as orderly as parades, which
spoke well for the troops under his command.  I found that his army had
occupied a strong position extending from Nadir on the left, to Pinofska
on the right.  So far, not a single Bornian had managed to cross the
Loina. Now, however, when the news from the north became known, there
was new vigour put into both armies.  The Bornians at once realised that
their dawdling methods would not succeed, and, also, they were spurred
to try and blot out the disaster at Viritz.

The Rudarlians, in their turn, were more resolved than ever to beat back
their enemy; success dispelled all the bad effects of a tedious retreat.

Success was an excellent tonic, yet it could not equalise the opposing
forces, although every day saw that inequality grow less, as trainload
after trainload of fresh troops poured into Agrade and Milova; but the
greatest thing for us was the fact that the artillery became more of a
strength.

For four days the position underwent no change, in spite of some
vigorous attacks, both by night and day.  On the fifth day we lost
Nadir, through a brilliant flanking attack of the enemy’s cavalry. There
is no doubt that we were completely surprised, as we had never believed
for one minute that they would have attempted the road from Alzar to
Drenda, with any considerable force.  Our troops, guarding the narrow
road through the hills south-east of Nadir, were easily disposed of and
taken in the rear; Nadir became untenable.  We fell back to Lortrun, a
move which considerably weakened our left wing, by lengthening it.
However, it now rested safely at the extreme end, for our rear was
guarded by the Drenda marshes, across which I knew it was impossible to
move troops.

Our position was not satisfactory, so I sent word to Quarovitch to bring
every available man to Agrade.  By this time the north was quiet and he
brought six thousand with him.  Two thousand of these were cavalry.  The
same night that he arrived, he came to meet me, and, with Avilinoff, we
worked for some hours on a scheme which I had thought of.

We strengthened our left wing with some twenty thousand men, some
straight from Agrade to Vilt, the others, by way of Roltov across the
Loina to Lortrun.  Five thousand men were sent to hold Butrem and the
road to Milova; while another five thousand were dispatched to
strengthen the right flank, and entrench from Trun to Atar, and from
Trun to the mountains on the west of Pinofska.

While these movements were being carried out, the Bornians were by no
means idle, but pushed their attacks strongly.  More than once it seemed
that our line would be pierced, but, thanks to our artillery, which
prevented them from crossing the Loina, we managed to hold our ground.

The fierceness of their attack really stood us in good stead, for it
enabled us to carry out our plans without showing our hand.

Under the guise of a forced retirement, we drew back to the new lines we
had prepared.  From the mountains by Pinofska our line ran in a double
curve to Butrem; there it stopped, and both sides of the Loina were left
undefended as far as Vilt, from whence our line ran to Lortrun.

Imagining that we were in retreat, and seeking to cut in behind Milova,
they hurled their forces across and straddled the Loina; in this way,
they, in their turn split their line, but not to their advantage, for in
order to advance on the northern bank they were obliged to mass their
troops in a narrow strip of land, not wide enough for them to manoeuvre
in properly.

When they had crossed, and were engaged in a fierce attack on Vilt, our
forces moved out from Lortrun.  By sheer weight of numbers we regained
Nadir and the Drenda road.

We entrenched ourselves well along the Nadir-Vilt road, and for two days
repulsed every attack made by the Bornians.  Then, when they had
exhausted themselves in vain, we in our turn advanced, doubling their
right wing back upon itself, by a series of brilliant bayonet charges,
which drove them headlong from their trenches.  Then, while they were in
disorder, our cavalry got to work.  I had collected a large force in
Nadir, and fresh, with high spirits, they were irresistible, sweeping
all before them.  At the same time, we allowed Pinofska to go, retiring
eastward to defend Agrade and leaving open the road to Kelbna.

It was apparently too tempting a bait to be refused, and they weakened
their centre to reinforce their left.  It was only owing to this that we
dared to drive their right in the way we did, and that was eminently
satisfactory; for, driven back on themselves in hopeless confusion, they
united with their other forces south of Butrem, not in a strong line
capable of defence, but in an indescribable state of tangle.  In many
places along the Loina, their forces would be trying to cross the river
at the same time, but in different directions.  We drove them from
Farnov, and then the remnant of their right wing fell back to try and
defend their communications with Lorif.

We captured a tremendous mass of war material, guns and prisoners, as it
was impossible, owing to the rapidity of our movements, for the forces
on the northern bank of the Loina to recross and get away in time.

The crumpling of their right wing necessitated the drawing in of their
left, so they did not progress far beyond Pinofska; and little by little
we drove them back from there until we reoccupied our old lines across
the Kelbna road.

We now had an undoubted superiority in all arms, as well as a greater
number of men; but, try how we would, for some days we could not make
any real progress beyond the Pinofska-Trun-Farnov line.

Each day I rode or motored along this line to hold conversations with
the different generals, and to encourage the wounded; the actual
fighting men did not need encouragement, they were brim-full of zeal and
confidence.

It was during this period that I was delivered from that enemy of mine,
Prince Alexis.

Between Trun and Atar the road is of an intensely beautiful nature,
presenting many different kinds of scenery, well wooded in places, with
gentle slopes running down to small streams which feed the Loina, while
always to the north rose the mountains. The road itself rises and falls
with delightful frequency, from an artistic point of view, although I
doubt if the farmers who live in the vicinity, or their horses, really
appreciate it.  On the top of one of these inclines the road was
bisected by a cart track, and in order to obtain a view over the
surrounding country I had turned off along this track, accompanied by
Woolgast, Scutane, and some dozen troopers.

It was soon after daybreak, and we were returning from Pinofska, where I
had slept the night before. I do not know quite how it happened, but, on
attempting to retrace our steps, we discovered that our way was blocked
by some fifty of the enemy’s cavalry.  It was extremely lucky for us
that we saw them before they saw us, for it gave us time to get speed on
our horses.  To charge was the only thing for us to do, and we struck
them hard; in a few seconds we were through them, all save two of the
troopers who had been shot down.  We raced for the road, with the
Bornians hard at our heels.  We could hear from their cries, that they
knew I was of the party and it made them redouble their efforts to
overtake us; they kept up a fusillade of revolver shots, but fortunately
without effect.

Our horses fairly flew along that muddy track, but, quickly as we went,
the Bornians were as quick, and as we turned into the Trun road they
were a very little way behind.  In their eagerness to capture me, they
must have forgotten that all the time we were approaching our lines, for
they never slackened their pace, and in consequence ran into the arms of
a regiment of Rudarlian cavalry at the foot of the hill.

It was over very quickly, they had the discretion to surrender at once,
with one exception.  This one had, either through his horse, or for
other reasons, ridden well behind his comrades, but he could not hope to
escape by turning back up the hill, so instead, he made a dash for
liberty, by jumping the bank which bordered the road towards the enemy’s
lines.  I heard Woolgast give a grunt, and the next moment he had
followed.

I sprang from my horse and stood on the higher ground looking after him.
The ground over which he was riding sloped gently down to a stream
below, on the other side of which the ground rose again and was well
wooded, not with big trees, but small brushwood.  Woolgast was at full
charge after the flying Bornian, it was a magnificent sight to see the
two horses stretching out, the one flying, the other in pursuit.  The
pursued turned in his saddle and fired, Woolgast swerved a little but
kept on, ever drawing nearer.  Some three lengths from the stream, he
overtook the Bornian; we saw his sword flash once, and the enemy dropped
from his horse. Then Woolgast, unable to stop his, urged him to the
jump, and, slowly returning, jumped the stream again, and alighted.  He
walked up to the Bornian’s body--which made a light blue patch among the
stubble--and then reeled suddenly over on to the top of him.

He was not seriously hurt, thank God, but simply in a faint.  When we
turned the dead Bornian, so that we could see his face--it was Prince
Alexis.

I confess that I felt relief at his death, he was so degraded that there
was nothing he would not have stooped to do.  I might have felt sorrow
at the death of an ordinary enemy, but in the case of Alexis, no--simply
relief.

Woolgast was evidently disturbed in his mind as to the consequence of
his action, for he sent me word that he craved an audience.

He was in a state of feverish excitement, for the wound, although not
severe, was a painful one.

"Well, General?" I said.

"There is something I wish to tell your Majesty. It is this: I called to
the Prince to surrender, before and after he shot me."

"Quite so, General, and you did right; you also did right in cutting him
down when he refused.  You did both Rudarlia and myself a good service
in killing him."

He heaved a sigh of relief.

"Thank God, your Majesty, I did not know----"

"What I should feel about it?  Well, you know now, and can sleep in
peace; but be quick in recovering, for I need you."

I had become genuinely fond of Woolgast.  He was a man whom I had a
great admiration for; and, seeing that he was generally near me, I had a
good many opportunities of discovering his worth.  I know that he was
devoted to me.

To return to the main battle.  For a week or more the fighting continued
without advantage to either side, at least, neither the Bornians nor
ourselves were able to say that we had definitely advanced our lines.
There could be no doubt, however, that our artillery did much damage,
although not sufficient to allow us to assault their positions.

It was necessary that we should break through their line somewhere, but
the difficult question was where and how to do it.

We had smashed their right flank by stratagem; we had split our force in
two to do this.  We would now do the same thing on our right, that is to
say we would give up the bridge of Atar.

I had explained thus far to the generals, when General von Scutane said:

"But, your Majesty, they will not bite twice at the same bait."

"I should be sorry if they did, General, for it would not be what I
wish.  I believe that they will think that we intend to advance our
flanks.  I am trusting to them weakening their centre, for I intend to
strike hard for Villet."

"Then you propose to hold the Kelbna road from Trun through Pinofska,
and then from Blanne to Farnov?"

"That is my idea; and, in order to confirm them in the opinion that we
intend flanking movements, we will move troops from Milova to Trun and
Farnov by day, and move them back again at night. We must do everything
we can to strengthen their belief that we wish to repeat the plan which
succeeded so well on our left.  If necessary, our flanks must fall
back."

"It is a scheme full of danger, your Majesty."

"And also full of possibilities."

"Yes, your Majesty, of defeat as well as of success."

"That I refuse to consider, although we will take all precautions
against such a thing.  However, I do not press my scheme if anyone can
suggest a better.  You must remember that time is flying and the
Bornians can bring two recruits to our one, while their line of
communications from Ruln is not long, and so they have not very great
difficulties in regard to transport."

That was the stratagem adopted, and the movements of our troops for the
next two days puzzled even our own men.  There is no doubt that the
enemy were puzzled too, but they took the situation in the way that we
wished.

We decided not to evacuate Atar, which--as I had foreseen--they did not
bite at.

When both our flanks were hotly engaged, our forward movement in the
centre began.  It was a costly effort, but it succeeded.

We got them on the run and kept them so, driving a wedge right through
the centre of their line towards Villet.  It was their left wing which
suffered this time from the Loina--that was a fateful river for them.
We drove them out of Villet itself, and then began the most terrible
struggle of the war, for that small town was life or death to them.
Three times they took it, and as many times we drove them out again,
each time with greater ease, for every hour saw our position improve, as
we concentrated our artillery.  Then they found that Villet was lost to
them for ever; it was a fact that they realised with difficulty.

But, once they did so, the end came quickly.  Cut off from Lorif, their
only way of escape back to Bornia, they surrendered in masses.  The
remainder of their army withdrew sullenly towards their frontier.  They
conducted their retreat in fairly good order.

Had we liked, we could have utterly crushed them, but we refrained from
pressing too closely upon their rearguard for two reasons: we did not
wish to sacrifice the lives of our troops needlessly, and the Bornians
were hopelessly beaten.  I daresay it was wrong not to drive them with
all our might, I’m sure that the military text-books would say so, but I
was only a civilian after all.

I had sent, as soon as we could spare the troops, a column into Garace,
that province which had been lost to us for so long.

They met with little opposition, for the Bornian forces there were very
scanty and quite without enterprise, or enthusiasm.

Before we had finished there, almost before the beaten remnant had left
Lorif, Bornia sued for peace.



                             *CHAPTER XIV*


Bornia sued for peace; they could do nothing else, for they were
hopelessly beaten both by land and sea.

Prince Kleber had been busy with the Bornians on the water, and the
_Soctia_ had made a great name for herself; a large number of prizes
were now in the harbour of Soctia, and she had successfully carried on a
vigorous warfare with the Bornian Navy.

Prince Kleber had done much to facilitate our progress in Garace,
especially at Bustelov, where the Bornians were well fortified; it was
largely owing to the clever co-operation of the navy that our troops
occupied that place without a prolonged siege.

The only time that Rudarlian troops entered Bornia, was the day when
peace was declared; then a small number escorted the signatories, for a
mile, to their side of the frontier.

So completely were the Bornians beaten that, in spite of the moral
support of certain great powers, they accepted our terms at once; well
they might, for they were, considering, very moderate: the evacuation of
Garace, and a certain sum as war indemnity were the two chief items.

We had no wish to exasperate a badly beaten enemy; nor did we wish to
claim territorial aggrandisement beyond the recovery of our one-time
province of Garace.

It has always seemed to me to be bad policy to demand too much from a
beaten adversary, excepting when that enemy is dangerous to the peace of
the world, or, indeed, of your nation; for, unless the necessity is
great, a beaten opponent should be treated with consideration.  But
there are cases, no doubt, when it is expedient to destroy completely a
nation’s power to do harm in the future.

It seemed that, with the end of the war, a better understanding at once
began between the two countries; perhaps the fighting was like the
old-fashioned remedy of blood-letting.

It is impossible to describe the feelings of joy and pride with which I
thought of Rudarlia and the Rudarlians; they had proved themselves so
splendid, and now that the war had been carried to a successful
conclusion I hoped that economic conditions would begin to improve and
the prosperity of the country be assured.

I will confess to certain day-dreams in that respect, and obtained quite
a lot of pleasure from them.

As soon as peace was declared, the inhabitants of Rudarlia began to show
their joy; and it was overwhelming, even in the most out-of-the-way
villages the poorest of the people held marvellous celebrations.

I think the most trying time of my whole life was during my visits to
all parts of Rudarlia.  I thought that I should never have any pleasure
in speaking again, for in every corner of my country it was thought
necessary to hand me addresses.

In Garace, the people were almost crazy with joy at having thrown off
the Bornian bonds, and being under the Rudarlian flag again.

Although this time was, as I have said, most trying, yet it was
inspiring and certainly satisfactory; I defy even the most cold-blooded
person to listen to a nation’s cheers, without feeling a deep glow of
pleasure.  I, personally, do not attempt to deny that it pleased me, for
it meant that I had made good.

A great number of months passed before the nation settled down to their
normal lives; and the time of the officials, from King to Mayor, was
taken up in the many duties that fell upon them.

Perhaps the most hard-worked people of all were the doctors and nurses,
for the hospitals were full, and I would not have any man turned away
without being absolutely cured of his wounds, if such a thing were
possible.  Those whose wounds rendered them unfit for further military
service received a plot of land, or, if they chose, a sum of money.

Then there were the honours and rewards to be settled, the various
recompenses for farms and homesteads destroyed in the war, and a
thousand and one things beside.

Upon Carruthers, who had been of incalculable value to us through his
airwork, I bestowed the Cross of Rudarlia, an honour of which he was
intensely proud, in spite of his assurances to the contrary.  Much as I
should have liked him to stop in Rudarlia, I did not press him when he
came to bid me good-bye, for I knew that he would have his work cut out
to explain matters to the authorities in England.  I was convinced,
however, that he would do it quite successfully, for he had a most
engaging way of getting himself out of scrapes.

General von Quarovitch had received a substantial grant from the
Government to enable him to uphold his new rank, for I had made him
Count. He was also given a command of more importance than the frontier,
and so he was often in Karena. In fact, he was now as much sought after
as before he had been neglected; but he took his sudden popularity very
grimly, which caused me huge enjoyment.  His treatment of the fair sex
was a never failing source of delight; they called him bearish, but
devoted themselves to him.

I had also made Woolgast a Count, and I do not think that there were
many to sneer at his new rank. He had quite recovered from the wound
given him by Alexis; and was now, as usual, always at my side.

He was a man who never asked for any favour, either for himself or his
family; he was as devoted to me as anyone could be, and it was his
delight to accompany me in command of the escort wherever I went.  I
always made a point of taking an escort of my regiment of guards, for I
believed the people loved to see the white and gold of their uniforms,
and to know that their King rode or drove among them with regal pomp and
glory.  The Rudarlians, in that respect, were rather barbaric in their
tastes; and yet, I am not sure that it is not a good thing to keep alive
the love of show, I believe it really brightens the lives of the people,
who so often live in dull monotony.  I myself confess to a certain
quickening of the pulses at sight of martial pomp, and also when I hear
the jingling music of a cavalry regiment.  There is something fine and
inspiring in the sight of a number of men splendidly upright and strong,
moving together as though one man, and to realise that they are prepared
to give their lives for an ideal--for the love of country is nothing
else. I have heard it said that an ideal will move men to acts of
greater heroism than any fact; it may be so, but I always look upon an
ideal as a mental fact in itself, so I can hardly argue the point.

I shall never forget the first time I dined privately after the war.
There were just four of us, my mother, Prince Zeula, Mr. Neville, and
myself, and we had old Bauen up to wait upon us.  I wanted to feel
absolutely free to say what I would without feeling that there might be
one of the servants listening.

It was quite like old times, yet not so very old, only a few years, but
years so full of incident that each seemed to have multiplied itself by
ten.  In those few years I had changed from a boy into a man, from a
commoner into a king; and it may safely be surmised that such changes
must have a considerable effect on anyone.

They were rich years for me to look back upon and so full of mental, and
perhaps moral wealth, that I was almost fearful of their effect upon me.
I was afraid that I should lose my youth before the time, that manhood’s
cares would sap the joy of life within me, and, by so doing, injure the
power I had to feel and sympathise with the many defects in human
nature.

My mother, to whom I had spoken of this, agreed that it might be so with
some people, but not in my case.  A remark which was so intensely human
in its mother feeling, that I laughed and said no more.

This dinner _à quatre_ was very enjoyable.  We seemed to forget for a
while that we were really people of importance in our world, and we
laughed and joked with all the old-time zest, and perhaps more; never
since my accession had we been so gay and cheerful.  Zeula, who seemed
to grow younger each month, had a wonderful collection of anecdotes, and
his wit was great.

We might have been a party on the stage playing some clever farce, for
the conversation never flagged, and even I was witty, which was unusual,
since I have never possessed real gifts in that line, although I have,
thank God, a sense of humour.

It did me good to look at the three faces I loved so well, and listen to
the conversation, noting the difference in their trends of thought.

Zeula, brilliant, polished.

Mr. Neville, dry, rather caustic.

My mother, intensely feminine.

They made, however, a very good combination, and a subject was dissected
very thoroughly by the three.

Towards the end of the meal, the topics of conversation became more
personal, bearing more directly on the future of Rudarlia.

It was at this point that I began to feel a rather comic uneasiness, for
my instinct told me that before long some remark would lead up to the
subject of my marriage, and I knew that Zeula would be responsible for
it, as he was wrapped up in the subject.

I was not mistaken, for he made a remark about a King without heirs.  My
mother glanced at me quickly.  I deliberately winked at Mr. Neville, who
laughed outright.

"So, Prince," said I, "you have thrown your bomb."

"I awaited a fitting opportunity, your Majesty."

"Pray forget ceremony," murmured my mother.

"Then, Mr. Smith," said I, with a grimace, "you have given me
indigestion."

"I did not ask you to bolt your food, Victor."

"Meaning?"

"That there is no particular hurry."

"For a week or two," chimed in Mr. Neville, and set us all laughing.

Although we laughed at first, it was only at first, for the question was
an extremely important one, both for myself and Rudarlia.  I knew that
it was imperative that I should marry, and I also realised that the time
had come to think seriously about it, and incidentally to find the wife.

"I understand that my position is one of some uncertainty, that you wish
me to marry and have heirs, but the question which puzzles me is, who am
I to marry?"

"There will not be any difficulty in that, Victor."

"And yet I do not see in which direction to look, for I can hardly hope,
as King of a small kingdom like Rudarlia, to ally myself with any of the
great powers."

"Perhaps you have already thought of some one; I confess that I find it
difficult myself."

"Yes, I have thought of one.  It will most probably come as a great
surprise when you hear where I propose to look for a wife, but I have
looked at the question from every point of view, and it seems to me that
I had better marry a Princess of--Bornia."

As I had surmised, the suggestion surprised them; I do not think the
possibility of it had once struck them.  They were silent for some
little time as though pondering on what I had said, only Mr. Neville
looked at me quizzically, my mother and Zeula keeping their eyes turned
from mine.  The latter was the first to speak:

"I had not thought of that, Victor; will you tell us your reasons?"

"Oh yes, I have thought a great deal about our relations with our late
foe, and it seems to me that such a marriage as I suggest would do much
to remove the bitterness that there undoubtedly is between the two
nations.  That is my first reason. The second is, that if all the
Bornian Princesses married Germans or Austrians, as the odds are they
would, there would be endless friction between our nations, whereas, if
I marry one of them, the influence will not be so one-sided.  My third
reason is not so realisable, but it may come true.  It is an imaginary
condition which circumstances may bring about, therefore it can hardly
be looked upon as a real reason, and I was wrong to so describe it; I
will, however, tell you that it was a dream which united the two
kingdoms under one monarch. There is little real difference between the
two races, and who knows what the future may bring forth?"

"Two of your reasons are excellent, Victor, and the third is within the
range of possibilities."

"Have you seen photographs of the Bornian Princesses?" asked Mr.
Neville.

"Very indifferent ones, and without knowing one from the other."

"And which do you propose offering your hand to?"

"I do not know yet, I therefore suggest that a trip to Bornia would be
an admirable thing, so that I may see them first."

"Eh?"

"Yes, the week after next I propose going for a walking tour through
Garace, and will visit Sonale. I shall not be known in Bornia’s
capital--I will shave off my moustache.  I shall have a good time,
ascertain the public feeling towards the said Princesses, also I shall
see them."

"That sounds quite an attractive programme," said Mr. Neville, smiling.
"May I ask whether it is your intention to go alone?"

"Not if I can induce you to accompany me.  If you will, my mother’s mind
will be made easy, Prince Zeula will not insist upon a regiment in mufti
accompanying me, and I--well, you know that I shall be pleased."

"I will go with the greatest pleasure."

"Then we will call it settled."

"Do you think it wise, Victor?" asked my mother.

"It may not be the essence of wisdom, yet it will give me a little
feeling of romance."

Zeula laughed.

"Will you carry a lute with you to serenade the Princesses, and a shield
with a flaming heart as device?"

"Make the musical instrument a lyre, it would most probably serve a
fuller purpose," said I, "but I daresay you all realise and understand
what I mean, and if you don’t I am ashamed of you."

"Of course we do; but never forget to go out without your revolver,
there is more than one Goltz in the world."

"That was a lesson I have not forgotten, nor do I wish it repeated; and,
to get away from unpleasant topics, would you all like a game of
bridge?"

We played two rubbers; my partner and I did not score a game.

"Remembering the old saying, you ought to be very lucky in love," said
Mr. Neville.



                              *CHAPTER XV*


Mr. Neville and I were enjoying ourselves immensely.  We were both glad
to be relieved from the cares and worries of Court ceremonies; both glad
of a holiday; pleased to be able to tramp through the dusty lanes, free
to sleep where we would, eat and drink what and when we felt inclined.

We talked of everything while tramping, or resting, as the case might
be, with the sky blue above us, or heavy with great masses of cloud; and
breathed in the fresh buoyant air of the Garacian mountains, or the
warmer, milder air of the valleys; and forgot, or pretended to, for a
little while, that we were people who mattered.

I daresay we both talked too much; perhaps all we said was not of the
wisest; but, unfettered, we chatted like schoolboys.  I doubt if there
was ever so perfect a companion as Mr. Neville: he seemed to know
exactly the mood you were in, and to be able to broach a subject of
conversation suited to it.

Of my marriage, or rather the idea of it, we spoke but little.  From
what I told him, he gathered that my mind was made up on the point that
I must marry, and the sooner the better.

Garace was a magnificent province; and visiting it as we did gave us a
very clear idea of why the Rudarlians had been so pleased at its
recovery.

Wherever we went, the fields and pastures gave evidence of great
fertility; they were well watered, too; but the roads were terribly bad,
and one could well understand that the farmers found great difficulty in
handling their produce.  It struck us that the Bornians had no
particular reason to boast of the way they had governed the province.

It had not been my intention to waste all the time we were on our
holiday, and so Mr. Neville and I made many notes, and discussed many
plans dealing with the country through which we passed. Then at night we
went carefully over these, and gave them fuller discussion before
finally sending them to Karena.

The Minister to whom they were sent was thankful enough for any
assistance in what was rather an arduous task.

We had been ten days on our wanderings before we reached Bornia, and
then by a terribly bad road over the mountains.  We slept out that
night, and the next day dined at Stranz, a little town two or three
miles from the frontier.  I should say we ate there, since the only food
available was castradina--the smoked mutton which the peasants love--a
coarse white cheese, and cakes or loaves of maize.  Plain, very plain;
food, but not a dinner.

Had we walked any distance that morning, we should no doubt have been
ready to declare the eatables fit for a king; but, as it was, we had
only progressed two or three miles.  A delightfully mossy bank by the
side of a little mountain stream had enticed us to sit and sit, and keep
on sitting, or rather sprawling; hour after hour we had sat there
talking and smoking, until we decided that we had lazed long enough, and
sauntered down to the so-called inn.  I remember we chaffed each other
about want of appetite.

Having paid an exorbitant sum for a practically uneaten meal, we
refilled our pipes, and went out again into the sunshine.

Stranz boasted of one street, with some two hundred houses in all; the
sun, blazing down on the white walls of these, tired the eyes,
especially as every movement of one’s feet caused a cloud of dust to
ascend.  At the end of the street farthest from the inn stood the
church, and I went in to say a few words to the priest and leave a small
sum with him to be spent in charity.

The worthy man would, I know, have liked me to stay a while with him, to
discuss everyday affairs; but it was time for us to be moving on, so I
said good-bye and stepped out to Mr. Neville.

I found him staring down the road at two figures on horseback who were
approaching at a good pace.

"Shall we stay and see them go past, Victor?"

"Yes, they may be interesting."

In a few minutes they passed, a lady and her groom; that was all I had
time to notice, for I was more interested in the horses than their
riders.  They could not have been more than two lengths away from where
we were standing, when from the other end of the street came a crowd of
people yelling terribly.  The hurricane of cries frightened the lady’s
horse, which reared, slipped, and came down; the groom’s horse became
unmanageable, got the bit between its teeth and bolted.

Through the dust we could see the crowd of men, women, and children
flying towards us, and after them a single man foaming at the mouth.

"My God, he’s mad!" said Mr. Neville.

The crowd scattered in every direction, some through open doorways, some
even through windows, all scrambling and pushing to get out of the way
of this terrible being.  As he came nearer, I could see that he was
dressed as a gentleman, and that he carried a rapier in his hand.  A
moment later he used it, for a child, terrified, ran across the road,
the madman lunged in passing, and the poor little thing fell into the
gutter.

We had been so amazed at the suddenness of this scene that we had
remained standing where we were.  The street was empty now, save for the
lady who was standing horrified in the middle of the road, the fallen
horse, the still, small body in the gutter, the madman, and ourselves.

Perhaps the wounding of the child had caused the madman to pause in his
mad rush, for now, bent almost double, he was creeping towards the still
motionless figure of the lady, who suddenly turned, and with a little
scream of fear ran towards us.

Her face was white, and her two dark eyes were turned imploringly to us,
as though she knew that we could save her from this awful man.

At the same moment both Mr. Neville and I jumped forward to bar his way.
I carried a stout stick, Mr. Neville had none; luckily the man lunged at
me, for I was enabled to turn his point with my stick.  Over the
madman’s face there stole a look of really malevolent cunning.  I
believe, then, he fancied in his poor, disordered mind that he was
fighting a duel.

"Careful, Victor!" I heard Mr. Neville say.

"All right, I am going to try to disarm him; be ready to seize him if I
succeed."

I spoke in English, so that the man, even if he had any glimmering of
reason, would in all probability not understand.

It was quite extraordinary to me that any man as mad as he could fight
with so much skill; perhaps the madness lent him additional craftiness,
but he must have been a fine swordsman when sane.  As it was, he gave me
more to do than any man I have ever fought with, and more than once came
near wounding me; but I got him into the position I wanted and disarmed
him, his sword flying through the window of a house near by.

As the weapon left his hand, Mr. Neville’s arms were round him, and in a
few seconds he was bound and helpless.

My first thought was for the child; he was not dead, but the rapier had
inflicted a nasty wound in his shoulder.  However, as he was in the
capable hands of his mother, who evidently possessed the knowledge of
how to treat wounds of the less serious nature, I turned away relieved.

I found the lady by my side, and one of the most musical voices that I
have ever heard gave me thanks.

"Ah, monsieur, how can I ever thank you and your friend enough?"

I felt that I was blushing furiously--quite ridiculously--why, I have no
idea, as it was not common to me.  My companion told me afterwards that
I stammered like a schoolboy and looked as awkward.

"Madame--mademoiselle----"

"Not both, monsieur, only the latter."

"Mademoiselle, it was nothing, there was little danger to me."

"It was the bravest deed I have ever seen, in spite of your desire to
belittle it, and I thank you again."

Until now I had not really looked at her, but my mind seemed to clear
suddenly, and I knew her rather than saw her.  I find it hard to recall
my first impressions, I realised that strictly speaking she was not
beautiful, yet she was beautiful.  Whether it was the expression, or
subtle emanations from a beautiful soul, I cannot say, but that is what
I think. I was absorbed, confused by the strength of her personality.  I
do not suppose it would affect all people in the same way, perhaps it
answered to similar strata in my own.

It was with an effort that I returned to what had occurred, and to what
she had said.

"Mademoiselle, I belittled it, as I have the advantage of being a good
swordsman.  My companion, who stood by unarmed, was far more worthy of
commendation."

"I have already tried to thank him."  She smiled, and I noticed that her
teeth were adorable. "He is English, I think, and it is so difficult to
thank Englishmen properly--they always seem ashamed of doing anything
brave."

"That is so; but your horse, mademoiselle, is, I am afraid, in rather a
bad way."

We walked over to where the animal now stood. I bent to examine the
strained fetlock, while his mistress stroked his nose and talked to him
encouragingly.

"It is quite impossible to ride him," I said, looking up.

"Oh dear! and it is most unlikely that there will be another horse in
this place."

"But your groom, surely he will return soon?"

"I doubt it, and even if he were to, I could not ride his horse, as it
is practically unbroken."

"Then," said Mr. Neville, who had rejoined us, "we must get you some
kind of conveyance, unless you live within walking distance."

"The walking would be less painful, monsieur, from what I know of the
carriages in this part of the country."

"You could rest here at the inn," I said.

"Could they give me something to eat, do you think?"  She looked at our
faces and laughed gaily.  "No, that were too much to expect; then I must
walk, if only for the sake of the work these good people neglect while
we remain here."

There were certainly more people interested in us than the occasion
merited, and there was a curious open-mouthed look about most of them.

"Mademoiselle will accept our escort?"

"Gladly, monsieur, if I do not take you out of your way."

"All ways are the same to us, save the one we shall travel in your
company."

"And that will be atrocious."

"Impossible," said Mr. Neville.

"Then come; but first let me give orders about my horse, and for my
groom when he returns."

It only took a few minutes to arrange these things and to gather up our
belongings; and we started.  I stopped for a few minutes at the house
where the wounded child lay and gave his mother a coin or two to pay for
necessities, as I had seen the poverty of the place.  I also stopped for
a moment to say a word to the priest, and ask him to look after the
child.  Then I rejoined the others, who had walked slowly on.

"Monsieur loves children?"

"Indeed, yes."

"Perhaps you have some of your own?"

"I am unmarried, mademoiselle."

We walked a little way in silence, I could feel my companion taking
stock of me.

"Might I know the names of those to whom I am so indebted?"

"Why, of course, how stupid of me to forget--Mr. Neville, and I am
Victor Stevens."

"But not English, too, surely?"

"No, I am a Rudarlian."

"Then I ought to hate you."

"Not so, since we are no longer enemies."

"Nor are we friends.  Ah, I wonder whether you know to what extent this
country suffers."

"In what way, mademoiselle?  I thought the terms of peace were not
ungenerous."

"No, indeed, they were far from that, but even so the people suffer, by
the extra taxation entailed. Oh, I know that Bornia declared war, but it
was the fault of a corrupt Court, not the wish of the people."

"That may be so, but still I do not see why there should be enmity
between the two nations; rather should the leniency of the terms of
peace augment the friendship that brave foes should have for one
another.  It is not as though we had demanded part of Bornia’s
territory, we merely regained our own province."

"I know, I know!  Please don’t think that we are ungrateful, but it
hurts me so to think of many precious lives being lost, and so much
treasure wasted to satisfy the venom of one man."

"You mean?"

"Why, Prince Alexis; it is common property that he and his clique
engineered the war.  He is dead, so we must speak no ill of him, but he
was at the bottom of everything.  I believe it was his personal hatred
to King Victor which made him go to the lengths he did.  But there, do
not let us spoil our walk, tell me of your King; you know him, perhaps?"

"Mr. Neville has spoken to him many times," I said.

"Oh, please tell me of him; I am afraid that he is too perfect from all
accounts."

"You have set me a hard task, to describe him would take too much
thought for an old man, mademoiselle; but I may tell you that he is not
ugly, and possesses certain good qualities."

"He is a good King, and--messieurs, you have told me your names, and
courteously refrained from asking me for mine.  I am Princess Irma,
eldest daughter of the King of Bornia."

"Your Royal Highness has our homage and thanks," said Mr. Neville,
bowing.

"Ah, please no ceremony, forget my rank, and just think of me as the
girl you so bravely saved. But I had to tell you."

As for myself, I was too astonished to say a word, my longing for
romance had indeed been answered with a vengeance; but it had placed me
in rather a queer position, for I could not now retain my incognito with
any feelings of satisfaction: it would hardly be honourable.  I must
tell her, of course, but it was not the thought of that which made my
blood course so strongly through my veins, it was a gust of sheer
delight that I had at last met one whom I could treat as an equal, who
could be my companion and whom, if it was so willed, I could learn to
love. My eyes swept over her perfect figure as she turned from Mr.
Neville to me.  Her carriage was magnificent, with the grace and dignity
which became a Princess, and the womanly charm and sweetness which
became her sex; her whole expression was radiant with youth and the joy
of living.

"Princess, I must crave forgiveness for having deceived you.  I told you
my name was Victor Stevens, I am----"

"King Victor II. of Rudarlia.  Your Majesty must think me strangely
obtuse, to have imagined that a shaven moustache could hide his
identity."

And this delightful girl went off into a peal of laughter, in which
after a moment Mr. Neville and myself joined.

"Your eyes are too keen, Princess," I said.

"I knew your Majesty’s face so well that I recognised you almost
immediately."

"But surely we have never met before?"

"No, but I have seen your photograph many times."

"And I yours, but I did not know you."

"That is hardly to be wondered at, as the Court photographers are
notorious flatterers."

"And yet you knew me?"

"Your Majesty is a much more important person than I, and therefore more
easily to be remembered."

"May I ask where you are staying, Princess? There is no Royal residence
near here, is there?"

"No, I am visiting the family of one of the ladies-in-waiting."

"I was wondering how far we might accompany you; for, although you have
been so kind with regard to my nationality, others might be less so."

"Prince de Sagresse is one of your Majesty’s admirers; he does not
belong to the Court."

"Then, Princess, you have no objection to our walking as far as his
gates with you?"

"It will be a pleasure to me," she said shyly. "But will not your
Majesty come farther than the gates?  The Prince would be highly
honoured."

"I shall be delighted."

"And Mr. Neville?"

"Mr. Neville has given a great deal of his life to me, Princess, he
would not now interfere with my happiness."

This sounded so like a compliment that our companion blushed slightly.
I, however, did not mean it to be such, for to me it was a great delight
to have some one of my own age, to whom I could talk naturally without
the necessary thought that I was the King.  It was an experience that
was absolutely novel, and I knew that I should enjoy myself immensely.
Besides which, there was the reason for my tour to be considered, and I
confess to feeling very much interested in Princess Irma.

I fancy we all felt rather sorry when the turreted wall of the old
château came in sight; the two miles had proved very short ones, and
almost before we knew it we were standing near the gate.

The situation, from my point of view, was not uninteresting, for I had
not the least idea as to how the old Bornian noble would receive the
King of a country which such a short while before had been hostile.  We
had not long to wait, however; for, as we came in sight of the terraces
in front of the house, an old white-haired gentleman came down them to
greet the Princess, his face betraying a slight, well-bred surprise upon
seeing her on foot, and accompanied by two gentlemen, both of whom were
strangers to him.

We fell a little behind, as the Princess explained to her host the
incident which had brought about our acquaintance.  She then evidently
explained who we were, for he came towards us with every mark of
pleasure and diffidence.

I stepped forward and held out my hand.

"Prince, Her Royal Highness has perhaps told you, that, having
accompanied her to your gate, we pressed for the pleasure of an
introduction to her host."

"Your Majesty honours me by expressing such a desire.  As it is, my
house and household are at your service; the longer your Majesty will
make use of it, the greater our delight."

"For an hour or two, Prince, if we may; so that we can become better
acquainted."

We did not carry a great deal of unnecessary clothing with us; so, after
making ourselves as presentable as we could, we were conducted to a
delightful room gay with flowers, and which gave evidence of feminine
occupation.  One of those comfortable rooms in which you feel at home
immediately, with no stiff chairs to make you think of ceremony.  From a
big divan, smothered in cushions, a girl uncoiled herself as we entered;
uncoiled is rather an unkind word to use, but it was gracefully done,
and swiftly.  Her face looked familiar to me, and for a little while I
could not recollect where I had seen it; she was an extremely beautiful
girl--suddenly it flashed across my mind. I looked again and remembered.

"I would ask your Majesty’s permission to present my daughter Sonia."

"We have already met, Prince; have we not, mademoiselle?"

"Oh!" she cried, after looking at me intently.

"How is the ankle?" I asked gravely.

"Oh!" and then to her father, who looked slightly puzzled, she said,
"You remember that I hurt myself when staying on the Garude, father? It
was His Majesty who helped me and was so kind."

"I lost a handkerchief, I remember," I said, laughing.

"I have it yet.  I kept it as a souvenir."

"I only had the memory of a delightful afternoon to keep, mademoiselle."

"Then I had the best of it, as I had the handkerchief as well."

I was just going to make some laughing reply to this when I caught Mr.
Neville’s eye.  There was a distinctly quizzical look in it, and it
flashed across me that I had spoken to him about a girl on a mossy river
bank, in terms which I could not now recall without reflecting on the
folly of extreme youth. I remembered how, at that time, I seemed to be
absolutely wrapped up in Sonia, how I imagined that without her my whole
life must inevitably be wrecked: and now?  Well, she was a charming,
beautiful girl, but I did not even fancy that I was in love with her.

At this moment the Princess returned.  She had made a rapid change in
her toilette, and clad in some light-coloured gown she looked radiant,
even beside Sonia, whom many, or rather most people, would have called
the more beautiful.

The hour that I had intended to stay passed all too quickly, it ran into
two, three, four, without my being aware of the lapse of time.  Tea had
been brought out to the terrace where we were sitting; and, after the
days we had spent in not over-clean inns, the delicate linen and china
and perfect service were very acceptable; but it was the charming
company which was the greatest delight.

The Princess and I had worked out to the satisfaction of both of us, or
nearly so, our exact degree of relationship.  We differed, I remember,
on the point of whether it was tenth or eleventh cousinship, three times
removed; Mr. Neville finally solving it in his quiet, dry way, when we
appealed to him.

"It is simplicity itself; you are undoubtedly Uncle and Aunt."

Some little while after this, Sonia made a remark about the beauty of
the sky; and I realised, then, how long we had been sitting there--it
was past six o’clock.  Upon rising to take my leave of them, I felt
genuinely sorry, so much so that when the Prince remarked that the roads
were very bad, that it was a good twelve miles to the next town, and
that they would consider it the highest honour if I would spend the
night there, I only hesitated for a moment before accepting their offer.

I did not hesitate longer, because I knew that, even if I wanted to, I
should find it very difficult to tear myself away from an atmosphere
that was so happy and delightful.

As I resumed the seat that I had vacated, I was ridiculously glad to see
the pleased smile with which Princess Irma greeted my decision.

After a dinner which was only ceremonious by the attendance, for our
costumes were not those of full evening dress, we strolled out to enjoy
the perfection of the moonlit garden.

I do not remember ever having felt so extraordinarily happy before, I am
almost sure that the moon must have had an effect upon me, for I went to
my room that night in a state of mind bordering upon the hilarious.  I
had a few minutes’ conversation with Mr. Neville before turning in; I
fancy he was as pleased to see me happy as nothing else could have made
him.

"My dear old tutor, isn’t she splendid?"

He looked at me gravely, and without twitching a muscle answered:

"She is one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen, I no longer
wonder that the idea of kingship was abhorrent to you."

"Eh?"

"It must have been a terrible wrench to give up all thought of her; and
to think that she retains your handkerchief, it is really romantic, but
rather pathetic."

"I don’t mean Sonia."

"No?"

There was infinite surprise in his voice.  I looked at him quickly--a
twinkle had crept into his eyes.

"You knew that I did not mean Sonia quite well, but don’t you think the
Princess is simply ripping?"

"Yes, I do, my dear boy, Her Royal Highness seems to be a very noble
type of womanhood."

"I say, do you think it is worth while going to Sonale?"

"There are three other sisters."

"I don’t care if there are forty.  I don’t want to see them now; but I
do want to stay on here for a few days, and I know the Prince would be
very pleased.  Suppose we do."

"It would be most agreeable, Victor."

"Then we will," I said.



                             *CHAPTER XVI*


The next morning was so fine and sunny that I was out of bed before five
o’clock. I dressed quickly and walked over to the village of Stranz.

Early as my visit was, the inhabitants were astir, the wounded boy
better.  His bandages were tied in so professional a manner that I asked
the mother where she had learnt.

"It was not I, Excellency, but the surgeon.  He came last evening and is
to come again.  The lady whose horse fell down had him sent for, may the
good God bless her!"

This was good news to me, for it proved that the Princess had not been
so unconcerned as I had imagined her to be, and I love to see women fond
of children.  Her apparent coolness had been rather a disappointment.
Now, however, when I thought it over, I saw how much wiser she had been
to send for some one whose duty it was to attend to such cases rather
than attempt anything herself.  Also, there had been so many women about
to offer their sympathy and advice that hers would have been little
appreciated.

Thinking over this, and other things, I walked back to the château.

It was eight o’clock when I came down for the second time that morning.
I went out on to the terrace, and found the Princess and her host deep
in conversation.

"Your Majesty is an early riser," he said, after we had shaken hands.

"Generally, and this morning was so lovely that I could not waste it,
and so went for a walk in the cool hours."

"Has your Majesty been out before, then?"

"Yes, I walked over to Stranz, where I found the wounded boy progressing
well with every hope of a speedy recovery, thanks to Her Royal
Highness’s kindly thought."

The Princess blushed, then she gave a little laugh.

"I could do nothing myself, you know."

"Except think of the very best thing to be done," I said.

"You are kind, but then I think you must be always so."

"It is not always possible, Princess."

"But you are generally, and so I am going to ask a favour for my host:
it is that your Majesty will stay for a few days here if you can spare
the time."

"This is my holiday, Prince, and I am for once my own master, so I will
accept your invitation with great pleasure, but only on condition that
you do not alter your accustomed routine of life.  Let me remain Mr.
Stevens as hitherto, for I think it would be unwise to publish the fact
that I am staying here.  Of course I must let my Ministers know. Mr.
Neville will see to that, and also secure some more suitable apparel, if
you will lend him the means to reach Askoff."

"Your Majesty does me much honour," said the old gentleman, who was
evidently greatly pleased with the alacrity with which I had accepted
his invitation.  I have often wondered since whether he had seen how
much I enjoyed the company of the Princess, and whether she had hinted
that we might stay if invited.

For two days we lived the ordinary life of the château, and I was as
happy as I have ever been. It was all so new to me, for, although there
had been my own home-life in England, this was far more intimate than
mine had ever been; or perhaps it was simply that now I thought about
it, and before I had not.  Whatever it was, it made me wish to have a
home-life of my own.

I am afraid that I victimised the Princess, for I demanded a great deal
of her time.  I was greedy for her company, I revelled in the presence
of so fair a companion; but all the time, happy though I was, there
lurked the question: am I to leave her behind and retain but a memory?
I debated this point with myself over and over again: how could I be
sure after so short an acquaintance that I really cared for her in the
way which to my mind was absolutely necessary?  I, myself, was as
certain in my heart that I had met my match as I could be of anything,
but my brain bade me beware of jumping to a conclusion before deep
meditation.  I knew that she attracted me physically, that there was a
quality in her personality which answered to a similar quality in mine,
but I did not know whether I was intoxicated with love or really in
love.  Was I, with youthful inexperience, mistaking the abstract desire
for the reality?

I would try to argue with myself as to my own feelings, and failed
dismally more often than not, but I know that I invariably ended my
mental researches with the rather naïve question: and what are her
feelings in the matter?  That would send me down into the depths of
despair, and make me wish that I had gone to Sonale, but the next moment
I regretted such thoughts, and looked upon them with a feeling of
disgust, almost of disloyalty, for how could I surmise the worst before
putting the question to the person most concerned?

The third day of our visit dawned, and I do not think it will ever slip
from my memory.  To begin with, the weather was brilliant, gorgeous warm
sunshine even early in the morning, but possessing, thanks to the
altitude, just sufficient snap in the air to make one feel that it was
good to be alive.  I can recall the pleasant, friendly, good-tempered
feeling at breakfast that morning, how every one there was as if
affected by the sunshine outside, and sparkled naturally, I think most
especially this was the case with Sonia, who had evidently had news
which delighted her.  The Prince gently chaffed her about a letter, and
then explained to me that his daughter’s fiancé was to be with them for
a little while.

I naturally turned to say something appropriate, and noticed that her
face wore rather a perturbed expression.

"What is troubling you, Mademoiselle Sonia?"

She blushed faintly, and it was the Princess who answered for her.

"The young officer in question is one of your Majesty’s subjects;
perhaps, in respect of your incognito, it were as well that he should be
stopped."

"One of my officers, is he?  That explains the kindness shown to me.
Love me, love my king! eh?"  I looked at the Princess and noticed a
twinkle in her eye.  "Perhaps," I continued, "if it will not disturb
your plans too much--er--this young officer had better not--had
better----"  I waited again as though in perplexity.

The Princess smiled, there was a pitiful look on Sonia’s face.

"I was only going to suggest that he should see you before he sees me,
it will make him less nervous."

Had I been other than a king I firmly believe that Sonia would have
called me "Pig," or something equally endearing, especially as her
father and the Princess laughed heartily.

I never knew where Mr. Neville vanished to that morning, but soon after
breakfast he disappeared, and we did not see him again until lunch.  I
fancy he wished me to have the opportunity to spend the morning once
more alone with the Princess, he knew that I always insisted upon the
Prince attending to his affairs as though I was not there as a guest,
and he also knew that Sonia would not be likely to be in the way.

It seemed perfectly natural to me when I found myself alone with the
Princess, seated beneath a great tree in the garden with nothing to do
but enjoy myself; and yet up to these last few days I had had little
time in my life for idleness.  As a matter of fact, I don’t as a rule
like to be lazy, but this morning I felt that I should have slain anyone
who proposed doing anything.  I wanted to be quite slack, with nothing
to do but delight in my companion, a frame of mind which I found
ridiculously easy to fall into.  So there we sat, I am afraid without
thought, on my part, of any desire to move that my companion might have
had.  I was for the time absolutely selfish, and, what is more, I felt
as though I exulted in it.  I sat and watched the Princess’s face; it
was well worth it, it was so fascinating with its constant change of
expression. Our conversation was for the most part trivial, light and
yet interesting, for to know people well, the lighter side of their
natures must be studied as well as the more serious, and I was desirous
to know all I could about the Princess.  Presently I said:

"Tell me about Sonia’s fiancé, Princess, do you like him?"

"Very much indeed, he seems to be a splendid fellow and absolutely
devoted to Sonia."

"Which is quite understandable."

"What do you wish to know about him?"

"Well, I should like to know his name, and what regiment he belongs to,
and anything else which you think might interest me."

"His name is Boris von Landsberg, and he is a lieutenant in a dragoon
regiment now quartered in Garace; he is very good-looking."

"So is Sonia, they will make a handsome couple. Is it to be soon?"

"I am afraid not very soon."

"That’s a pity; may I ask why?"

"Simply lack of fortune, I believe."

"That’s a pity."

"Yes, but you see, although Landsberg is of a very old and distinguished
family, it has never been a wealthy one; and Sonia’s father has told me
quite frankly that his means will not permit of his doing more than help
at present."

"I can understand that, as he seems to have a great number of people
dependent upon his bounty."

"So they will have to wait, I am afraid."

"It’s a pity," I said again.

"I think so, but there are so many cases which seem pitiable to me.
However, I have a very finite mind, and so perhaps look at them in the
wrong way."

"I fancy we are all inclined to limit our vision, and not seek to
discover the lessons to be learnt by adversity."

"That is quite true, but I am afraid it is not the philosophy likely to
appeal to lovers, and the two we are speaking of are very fond of each
other."

"Something might be done in their case, I hope; at least I will see if
it is possible."

"Oh, will you help them?"

"Would you be pleased, Princess?"

"Indeed, yes; for, next to my sisters, I love Sonia."

"Then I must do what I can."

"You _are_ good.  I don’t wonder that you are beloved."

"Blatant flattery, Princess, which makes me blush, a thing which I
assure you is extremely bad for me."

"Do you often suffer in that way?"

"Not very; Mr. Neville sees to that."

"What a nice man he is."

"One of the finest characters I have ever met; one of the staunchest
friends a man ever had."

"He is devoted to you."

"He must be to have put up with my whims for so many years."

"Have you many?"

"Quite a number."

"Then, be really interesting and tell me some."

"You must be prepared for terrible shocks, now listen: I am romantic, a
fatal mishap in a king, one liable to lead him into all sorts of
trouble."

"In what way?"

"Well, you know how a king is bound by rules and regulations, some
dating from the stone age.  I want to break them all, I want to
establish precedents for royalty, such as the right to sneeze without a
chamberlain to assist.  And then, think of how much might be done to
lighten the lives of those royalties who are not in the highest
positions; the really worthy members who devote their lives to opening
things, I don’t mean boxes of sardines or anything like that, but
hospitals, exhibitions, etc."

"There is, I am afraid, a certain flippancy in the air this morning; I
shall catch it soon, if you continue."

"That would be terrible, Princess.  Just imagine, if you can, the
feelings of the staid members among my people, how shocked they would be
to think that their monarch was ever natural.  You see what cause there
is for my whims."

"They would write long letters to the papers entitled ’Should Kings be
Flippant?’ or ’Should Kings Smile?’" chimed in my companion.

"And the editor would invite his readers to discuss the matter in his
columns, thus supplying himself with copy free of charge; one can see in
that the work of an immutable providence, decreeing that nothing in the
way of effort shall be wasted."

"And what else would you do to lighten the lot of royalty, besides
allowing them to sneeze unaided?"

"There are three heads to my next thought, which I will place in the
following order--Life, Death, and Love."  I am afraid that I paused a
little longer than was absolutely necessary after the last word, then I
continued, "To be a really good royal person, it is required that Life
should be lived according to the rules and regulations appertaining to
that station in life.  Now, supposing that three great nobles have the
right to pull off your stocking when you retire; that is quite excellent
in its way, but there are drawbacks, for instance: for three men to pull
at one stocking necessitates the possession of big feet by the king,
then----"

"Oh, stop, stop, please!  These terrible pictures which you conjure up
are most upsetting."

"Very well, let us discuss the next head--Death. Again, there, we see
the power of the Press; a royal person must always say something
suitable as ’Last Words.’  That is the only way in which Grand Opera
resembles real life, for, in operatic death scenes, the dying person
always sings the most difficult note just as the breath leaves the
body."

"You are becoming morbid."

"Then I had better close the discourse, for if I become morbid over
death, I--but there, I will not bore you."

"Oh, please, do, I am really interested in your views on life."

"You are not a society reporter by any chance, in disguise, are you?"

"No, but it must be rather a fascinating life, they see so much more
beauty in the world than ever exists."

"How unkind to the ladies."

"Very, but I am waiting for your last--what shall I call it?"

"Well, I described it as ’Head,’ but perhaps we might call it ’Heart.’"

"And what have you to say about that?"

"Only that it always seems such a pity that royalty must love to order."

"It would be better, I think, if you said marry to order, for surely
love is one of those things which we cannot really control."

"Mr. Neville might know, Princess, he is a walking encyclopædia, but I
cannot say, having had no experience."

"How sad, poor King!  Has there been no one to touch your heart?"

"Well, once I thought I was really in love, but I was not."

"Dear me, you said that very emphatically."

"Did I?  It must be because I am so certain about it."

"Do tell me about it, or would it awaken fond memories best forgotten?"

"I fear that I should become morbid--but there, I might as well tell
you, in spite of the fact that I no longer love her; yet the
recollection of our last parting makes me always sad.  Perhaps you have
noticed the streak of melancholy in my nature."

"Of course I have, especially to-day."

"We were torn asunder, a woman came between us----"

"Poor King!" said the Princess, shaking her head sadly.  "And what did
you do?"

"I rebelled, I fought, I lost my temper, refused to take my food, sobbed
in my agony, cried imploringly to those who parted us.  Alas, it was of
no avail, I was torn by force from her loving arms and deposited in my
cot; for I was only three, and my love was the nurse, who had in some
way offended my mother."

"I really did not know you could be so facetious, and I think it a shame
to work my feelings up to such a pitch, make me ready to weep tears of
pity, and then let me down with such a jar; you really might be a modern
novelist."

"Well, well, well! what a lot of nonsense we are talking; you will
observe that my innate modesty prevents me from taking all the credit."

We interlarded our frivolity with spasms of sensible conversation, and I
learnt many things which I had wanted to know, some of which surprised
me; one of them was that the Princess had been about to become engaged
to that hound Alexis.  I thanked God that he was dead, for the mere
contemplation of such a thing was insulting to her.  She told me that
she had not been asked about the matter, that she had been brought up
with the idea of marrying him, and that really she had never given the
matter serious consideration, as from earliest girlhood she had been
told that all marriages were for the good of the State, that is, all
royal marriages. I asked her whether she had any idea whom her father
now wished her to marry, and she told me that she did not know, but
supposed it would be some grand duke or German princeling.  I vowed in
my heart that such an appalling fate should not be hers if I could help
it, for I knew something of the terrible and stupid etiquette of such
Courts: soul-grinding rules and regulations which stamp out
individuality and forbid happiness.

I have never been able to discover the use of out-of-date etiquette, and
I have always striven to abolish it in my own Court, whenever the reason
for its existence was lost in the mist of ages.

To return, however, to my companion and myself. We were enjoying the
morning immensely; I make it a plural statement for the simple reason
that the Princess told me she was.  We were like two children on a
holiday, and when I suggested that titles were formal, and that we each
knew the other’s Christian name, and that cousinship, however remote,
allowed the use of them, she agreed, and from then we were "Irma" and
"Victor" to each other.

"Irma is a pretty name," I said.

"Victor is a pretty name," mimicking me.

At which we both laughed, for my disgust at having anything pretty about
me was apparent.

Presently our host and Sonia joined us, and the conversation grew more
serious, and widened considerably.  The Prince was interested in a
series of experiments he was making with regard to agriculture, and I
found his theories more than worthy of being listened to.  Mr. Neville
joined us, and as usual added his sound views to our discussion; his
remarks were always apt, reaching to the core of the question, and his
vast store of knowledge almost invariably threw light on some knotty
point.

The sound of a galloping horse drew our attention, and I saw that Sonia
showed signs of agitation, so surmised correctly that Boris von
Landsberg had arrived.  Presently the Prince brought him up and
presented him to me, and I found that the report I had received did not
belie him, for he was a strikingly handsome man, about my own age.  He
was a trifle confused when presented, and his face seemed vaguely
familiar, but it was only later in the day that I recalled where I had
met him.

For an hour or two after lunch, we amused ourselves with some rare old
books and manuscripts which the Prince had collected.  I need hardly say
that we had excused Landsberg from such arduous duty.

I took the opportunity, when Mr. Neville had left the room for some
reason, to speak to the Prince about Landsberg.

"Prince," I said, "Her Royal Highness has told me something of the facts
regarding your daughter’s engagement to Landsberg, and I should like, if
I knew that it was your wish, to do what I could to make the union
possible."

"It has always been my dearest wish that they should marry, your
Majesty, but unfortunately I am so placed, that it is impossible for me
to give financial assistance, that is, of course, enough. When matters
are settled down, I hope, however, to be able to do so.  Landsberg is
himself practically dependent upon his pay, with, perhaps, a couple of
hundred pounds private income; now, although I am not a snob, I do not
wish my only daughter to live in a state of genteel poverty.  It may be
simply false pride upon my part, but we are an old family, and----"

"Say no more, Prince, I understand perfectly and have only deep respect
for such pride; now will you let me confide in you?  What I wish to say
is this: I myself am bound for state reasons to marry soon; and, with
that thought in my head, I would like above all things to have your
daughter in my wife’s entourage."

"Your Majesty honours me too greatly; my daughter could not be at any
Court more noble than yours will be, and I thank your Majesty most
sincerely."

"Then you will allow me to make it possible for them to marry?"

"I shall take pride in the fact that my daughter is your Majesty’s
subject."

"Thank you, Prince, then I must see what I can do."

When we joined the others in the garden, I took Landsberg aside to a
quiet corner, where we could talk without interruption, and said:

"I congratulate you, your betrothed is a most charming girl."

"I have the honour to share your Majesty’s opinion," he answered.

"It seems to me, though, that as you are only at present a lieutenant
your marriage must be postponed for some time."

"Unfortunately that is the case, your Majesty."

"You know I don’t approve of officers marrying until they have reached
the rank of captain, the majority of them have no time to do anything
but learn."

"Yes, your Majesty."

"Now from what I have learned of you, I gather that you love your
profession.  Am I right?"

"With all my heart."

"H’m! what would Mademoiselle say to that?"

"She is already jealous of my profession, your Majesty."

"Well, well!  Now listen to me, Landsberg. You know I am against
favouritism in my army, but in my Guards I appoint my own officers; that
being so, I intend to offer you a captaincy in that regiment as soon as
you have passed the examination for that rank."

He gave a cry of joy, but before he could say anything I continued:

"One minute more before you thank me.  A captaincy in the Guards carries
with it a certain increase in pay; there are also posts which are
generally filled from the Guards, I mean those of military secretaries,
they also have the good side of extra pay to them.  I shall appoint you
to one which is now vacant, and I think with a little economy you can
then marry; I think, too, that you will still have time to do your duty
to your wife."

A sob broke from him, and for a moment I feared he would break down, but
he recovered himself.

"How can I thank your Majesty?  You save my life first, and then add to
that by giving me so much."

"Save your life?" I was frankly puzzled.

"I was the officer whom your Majesty carried out of fire near the bridge
of Atar."

"I thought your face was familiar, Landsberg, and I am pleased that my
efforts were so successful. No, no, don’t try to say any more, say all
that to Mademoiselle."

He stayed where he was, for I promised to send Sonia to him; so when I
regained the others I said to her:

"There is some one at the end of the shrubbery who has something
terribly important to say to you, mademoiselle; I think he has found a
four-leaved clover or something."

I sat down next to my host.

"Prince, I have lost no time in doing what I promised, as I do not know
when I shall be recalled; I have therefore done my best to upset your
household arrangements by making Landsberg a captain in my Guards, and
one of my military secretaries. This will be confirmed as soon as he has
passed his examination, and then, of course, the matter rests with you.
Let us walk a little, shall we?"

He was very affected by what he considered the honour and kindness I had
shown him, and I thought that out of sight of the others he might
recover himself more quickly.  I do not think that he had ever had much
consideration from his own countrymen, although he had done a great deal
for them. He was a splendid nobleman, both by rank and nature.

Having played the part of good fairy to the best of my ability, I once
again turned my thoughts to my own affairs, which, strange to say,
centred upon the Princess, and I was thinking of her when I rejoined the
group in the garden.

I found an extraordinary amount of agitation where I had left the
Princess and Mr. Neville talking quietly.  Sonia, radiant and tearful,
Boris von Landsberg beside himself with joy, Mr. Neville smiling
broadly, with his eternal quizzical expression, and the Princess--I
don’t know how to describe the expression upon her face, it was
indefinable, there was joy in it at the others’ happiness, yet there was
a tinge of sadness there too.  She glanced at me as I came up, but I
could not read the mystery of that look, I had no skill in reading a
woman’s thoughts in her eyes.

"I know exactly what you want to say, mademoiselle, but there is no time
before tea, and after that we have to dress for dinner, so let us forget
about it.  No, I mean it--well, there, if you must. Now the other hand
is jealous, so you must kiss that, too."

We were a merry party at tea that afternoon, for the joy of the engaged
couple was contagious, and none of us were really sober-minded until it
was time to dress; then I received a shock, for Mr. Neville came into my
room with me.

"Have you enjoyed your day, Victor?" he asked, smiling.

"Immensely, thanks."

"Good! and when did you propose leaving?"

"The day after to-morrow; why?"

"Because there was this from Zeula.  I did not give it to you before,
not wishing to spoil your day, but he seems to think you are really
needed."

I read the letter he handed to me; it was of importance.

"We must leave to-morrow early," I said.

"How shall we travel?"

"We will ride to Ruln, it will be the quickest way."

"Horses?"

"The Prince will lend us some."

"We can do it in a day if we start early and catch the night train.  I
am sorry, my boy, that your holiday has been spoilt."

"Spoilt?  Not a bit, I have enjoyed it tremendously."

"We have not been to Sonale."

"Damn Sonale!"

At which he smiled and left me.

I began my preparations.  As a rule, I dress very quickly, but to-night
nothing went right; my studs slipped on to the floor in the maddening
way which studs have, and could only be discovered after a long and
temper-trying search, but the worst offender amongst my garments was my
tie; with that I wrestled for a quarter of an hour at least, then I
looked at myself in the glass and said out loud, "She may not care for
me," which explains my want of success--my mind was concentrated on
something else.

Did she care for me? could she care for me? would she care for me? was
it possible to make her care for me as I did for her?  I knew by then
that I was in love.  I also knew that I wanted to ask Irma to marry me,
and there I stuck and realised that I was afraid.

I tried to tie a neat bow, and failed; again, with the same result; then
I tore the offending strip of material off and threw it away from me.  I
remember feeling grieved that it did not travel far through the air,
and, as soon as I realised I felt that about it, my sense of humour came
to my rescue, and I roared with laughter at my own stupidity.  Picking
up the tie, I tried again with immediate success, so the strip of fabric
did grace my royal neck after all.

I asked the Prince whether he could let us have horses early next
morning, as I had been recalled, and after having promised them he
expressed his sorrow at our departure:

"Loyal Bornian as I am, your Majesty, I have grieved sometimes lately
that I was not born a Rudarlian."

"I wish well that it had been so, Prince; but, now that your daughter
will be living in Karena, you must look upon it as your second home."

Dinner was not as satisfactory a meal as tea had been; for the life of
me I could not frivol as I had done, and Sonia and Landsberg, I fancy,
were too happy; the other three did nobly, however.  When the Prince
asked me how far we expected to get the next day, I said as far as Ruln,
and looked instinctively at the Princess.  I don’t know what I hoped,
perhaps that she would give some sign of her feelings, but she only
looked up swiftly and said:

"Are you leaving us then?"

"Yes," I answered cheerfully, although my heart had sunk to my boots.
"You see I am not allowed too long a holiday, for fear that I should get
lost."

"I am sorry, I was going to propose a ride to Shesaks Towers to-morrow."

"I’m afraid that must be a pleasure deferred, Princess."

"For how long, until you are too old to climb properly?"

She smiled her question, and my heart went right through the floor; but
I managed to answer her smile and say lightly:

"I hope before then, in fact I am thinking of asking Landsberg to take
my place and let me have his."

"God forbid, your Majesty," said that young man, looking at Sonia.

"Oh, I don’t mean now, Landsberg."

A remark which caused laughter and enabled me to recover; it also
changed the subject.

I own to being small-minded and ridiculous, but I felt piqued at the
apparent indifference with which Irma greeted the news of our departure,
and so, to add to my folly, instead of going into the garden after
dinner, I proposed a game of billiards to the Prince, and he, thinking
no doubt that I meant it, fell in with the suggestion, so that instead
of spending my last evening in the company of Irma, a good deal of it
was spent knocking silly ivory or bonzoline balls about with a silly
piece of wood.

Mr. Neville came in after we had played for some time, and remarked that
it was a most lovely night, that it was as fine a moon as we had had
that year, or something like that.  Every remark was a hint that we had
played long enough, but I refused to see, or pay any attention, until at
last he said:

"We shall have to say good-bye to-night, as we are starting so early."

Only then did I realise what an ill-tempered cub I was; and, when the
game ended, proposed we should join the others.

However, the Prince excused himself, as it was later than usual, so I
went out by myself.  I saw no one on the terrace where we generally sat,
so concluded that they had gone down the garden, and was about to follow
and try to find them, when a voice said:

"Well, Victor, who won?"

I turned quickly, and there was the Princess seated in a big arm-chair,
in the shadow of a trailing mass of jasmine and roses which hung over
the terrace.

She was alone, so I drew up another chair beside hers.

"You see I have come to bore you again, Irma," I said lightly.

"I wonder?" she answered, and then continued, "Did you have some good
games?"

"Very."  I added "Liar" under my breath.

"Isn’t it a perfectly gorgeous night?  Even I feel less prosaic under
such a moon."

"You are not prosaic, are you?"

"Good gracious me, yes, I have no chance of being anything else, and am
not sure that I could be if I tried ever so hard."

"Nonsense."

"I assure you it isn’t.  I wish it were, for then I could dream all
kinds of lovely things, instead of thinking about my meals and clothes."

I felt suddenly chilled, without any reason that I knew of, save the
fact that I could not seem to get into touch with this mood of hers.  It
was a few minutes before I essayed another remark.

"I wonder when we shall meet again."

"Oh, we are sure to meet somewhere some day, people always do, it is
such a small world really.  I wish you could come to Sonale, I’m sure
you would find a great deal to interest you, and I know you would like
my sisters."

"I’m sure I should."

I did not put much fervour into my voice; and Irma evidently noticed it,
for she turned the subject.

"What time do you leave to-morrow, Victor?"

"We are starting about four, it will be light by then, and I hate riding
a horse hard."

Another pause, and then:

"You are very brave, aren’t you, Victor?"

"Good Lord, no!  Why?"

"Landsberg told us how you saved his life."

"The deuce he did! well, I must warn him not to tell anyone else, and I
hope you will keep it dark."

"Of course if you wish it, but why so modest?"

"I’m not particularly so, but what I did was nothing much really, and it
was in the heat of action."

"According to Boris, it was something very brave."

"Dangerous perhaps; but, as I did not realise the danger at the time,
there is so much the less credit."

"Well, I think it was very brave."

"That is kind of you, Irma."

"I want to thank you for what you are doing for Sonia and Boris von
Landsberg; she has confided to me that she will have to live in Karena."

"I hope she will be happy there, when I am married the Court will be
gayer."

"Oh, I do congratulate you, I had heard nothing of your engagement."

She held out her hand, and laughed merrily.

"Oh, it isn’t settled yet," said I lamely, and subsided into silence.

I felt terribly unhappy and cold, all my joy of the day had vanished and
I sat among the ruins of the edifice of love which I had built up; it
was as if something had blotted out the moon and plunged me into
darkness.  Her delight at the thought of my being engaged had done it;
now I knew that she did not care, and I was miserable.

The laughter of Sonia and Landsberg, as they walked up the path towards
the house, drew our attention and put a stop to any chance there might
have been for me to get back to a normal condition. As it was, we soon
parted for the night, nay more, for we should not see them on the
morrow.

As I shook hands with the Princess, I reddened underneath my skin with
the effort that I had to make to prevent myself taking her in my arms
before them all, and proclaiming aloud that I loved her better than all
the world.  Poor little King, with all your power, with all your pride,
you were a pitiable coward before the bright eyes of the girl you loved;
and deserved to be miserable.

What a terrible night I spent; hours of restless tossing in a
comfortable bed, hours of self-reproach, and despair, until at last I
fell asleep.

Mr. Neville and I, after a hasty breakfast and an almost affectionate
good-bye to our host, who had turned out to bid us farewell, rode away
from the château.  As we passed the wing in which the Princess had her
apartments, I looked up at the windows, and hugged myself with joy to
see a hand wave us a last greeting, and hear a sweet voice call out:

"_Bon voyage!_"



                             *CHAPTER XVII*


My joy, however, was transitory.  That Irma should have taken the
trouble to wave to us at that hour in the morning, was little more than
a friendly act, although at first I had thought differently.  My
companion and I rode in silence; he never asked questions of a personal
nature, although he was as curious as the best of us.  At any rate we
rode along without exchanging a word.

I left the route to him as I knew he would have worked it out before
starting.  Ideal companion, he let me ride along quietly, never
disturbing my train of thoughts, except to say "right," or "left," as
the case might be.  At first, after the faint flush of joy at Irma’s
friendly adieu, I grew more and more despondent, and held to my
villainous bad temper for a long time, but presently I began to look at
things with a clearer vision, perhaps on account of the beauty of the
day and the exercise.  I began to see what an ass I had been and was, to
have come away without giving the Princess an inkling of my feelings
towards her.

I went over the conversations we had had together, and realised that
nothing I had said could have conveyed in the slightest degree the fact
that I was head over ears in love with her.  What had I expected?
Evidently that she would read my unspoken thoughts, and immediately
throw herself at me, and say, "Victor, I love you."  The absurdity of
the idea caused me suddenly to roar with laughter, much to Mr. Neville’s
relief, for he turned to me with his quizzical smile and said:

"You are a nice, cheerful companion, Victor."

"I am a particular kind of damned fool."

"In this instance, yes, but we are more to blame than you are, for it
ought to have been part of your education to have had numerous
experiences of a similar nature.  But still, I don’t think there is
anything to worry about, you will do better with the next one."

"There isn’t going to be a next one," I said, almost fiercely.

"I did not suppose there was," he replied, smiling to himself.

Once more I was cheerful, and we talked of many things, laughing and
jesting as we had all through our tour.  In my heart, however, there ran
a refrain which filled me with contentment: "I shall see her again, I
shall see her again," it even seemed to adapt itself to the sound of our
horses’ feet.

I shall see her again, ran the refrain; but I did not know then how soon
it would be.

It was good to be back in Karena again, there was such a friendly
feeling there; even the early hour of our arrival did not prevent a
small crowd assembling to do me honour.  I think to be loved is the
nearest approach to divine happiness that a man can experience in this
funny old world of ours, especially when he is capable of returning the
affection.  This was so in my case; I really loved all my people, down
to the dirtiest ragged urchin.

It made me feel very proud to think of these good citizens being so
ready to wait and wait, just for the sake of seeing me flash by in my
car, and I hope that I shall never lose the feeling, for it seems to me
that such pride can do no man any harm, unless he is untrue to himself,
in order to retain the outward show of his peoples’ affection.

Apart, too, from the consideration that I have mentioned, Karena itself
was such a pleasant city; it was unexpected, full of surprising bits of
architecture, quaint mediæval roofs full of colour, the slabs of stone
seemed to retain the sunshine, and glowed merrily as one went by.  I do
not believe that I ever felt this more vividly than I did that day, but
then perhaps there was sunshine in my heart, for had I not come to the
conclusion that I was an unmitigated ass?  I can imagine circumstances
when to arrive at such a conclusion might not give satisfaction, but, as
it was, I was happy about it.

My behaviour that day, I was told, was distinctly unkinglike.  It was
Prince Zeula who imparted this information, and the reason for it was
that I persisted in calling him "Mr. Smith," and playing little jokes
upon him, childish fun, such as hiding his pen, and purloining his
glasses.  My mother, too, declared that I was absolutely boisterous, on
account of the heartiness of my kisses, but, as all her dear face was
beaming with delight at my return, I did not worry about it.

That evening Prince Zeula took Mr. Neville off to dine with him; I knew
what that meant.  I remained with my mother at her request; I knew what
that meant, too.

We sat out on a balcony overlooking the gardens, beautifully peaceful
and quiet save for the faint hum of the traffic passing the Palace.  My
mother sat without saying a word, and I wondered how long her patience
would last, as I knew that she was terribly anxious to know about our
trip, that is, the really interesting part.  It was in keeping with the
mischievous mood I had been in all day that I religiously refrained from
mentioning Irma, until at last she said:

"And how did you like the Princess?"

"Oh, she is a charming girl," I said lightly.

"So I have heard; it is a pity that your proposed visit to Sonale was
interfered with."

"It was; but Zeula had good reasons for recalling us."

"He generally has good reasons for everything, hasn’t he?"

This astonishing mother of mine then began to talk of other things, a
proceeding which upset my calculations, for I had intended to make her
more and more curious.  It was disturbing to find that she did not
appear to take any more interest in the Princess, especially as I was
dying to tell her all about my feelings in the matter.  In vain I tried
to reopen the subject, but no, it was unavailing, and at length I was
obliged to capitulate, and say:

"The Princess is an awfully nice girl."  Which afterwards I thought
particularly tame.

"Yes?"

Oh, the dampening effect of that monosyllable. I seemed to shrivel up
inside, and then I chanced to glance at my mother’s face.  There was a
faint, quizzical smile upon her lips, as she bent forward to look into
the lighted room at her side.

"Well, of all the artful women!"  I shook my finger at her severely.

"What is the matter, Victor?"

"I do believe that you have been fooling me."

"Did you take me for a stupid woman?"

I went across and knelt at her side; she ran her fingers through my
hair.

"Mother dear, she is the sweetest girl in all the world."

"And?"

"I love her so much."

"And she?"

"I don’t know."

"What?"

"I don’t know, I did not ask her."

"Why not?"

"I don’t know, I think I was too scared."

"Of what?"

"That she might say ’no.’"

My mother gave a little laugh.

"I don’t think you need have been afraid, my boy."

"But mother dear, she seemed so pleased to hear that I was engaged; of
course she misunderstood me."

"Tell me about it."

I related what had happened, for every word was engraved upon my memory,
and when I had finished I said:

"So you see, mother, that I couldn’t say anything then, could I?"

"Of course not, my boy; but I am quite sure now that you need not have
been afraid."

"Do you really think so, mother, or are you saying that to soothe me?"

"I really mean it, dear."

"I was an ass, wasn’t I?"

"No, my boy, for how should you have known the workings of a woman’s
mind?"

And, when I thought of it, how could I?

                     *      *      *      *      *

Some two weeks after our return, when the business I had been recalled
for was completed, I spoke to Woolgast concerning Landsberg’s
appointment to the Guards.

"I am thinking--no, in fact I have promised a young officer of my
acquaintance the vacant captaincy in the Guards.  His name is Landsberg,
do you know him?"

"Is his Christian name Boris, your Majesty?"

"Yes."

"I have known him since childhood; my sister married his cousin."

"Did you know of his engagement?"

"Yes, your Majesty."

"And the obstacles in their way?"

"Yes, your Majesty."

"Do you like the young man?"

"He is a great favourite of mine, your Majesty."

"Then why did you not mention his name to me when I asked your opinion
the other day about the appointment?"

"Your Majesty has done so much for me that I could not ask favours."

I looked at him for a minute; he had astonished me, that a man could and
yet did not.  I fear there are few in the world like him.

"Very well, General, I shall not forget.  Landsberg has the appointment,
also the secretaryship which is vacant."

He thanked me gravely and was about to depart, when I called him back.

"I was going to tell you something, General, but I think I had better
wait a little while yet.  I hope you will be properly curious."

"If your Majesty finds that I fail in my duty, it will be through
curiosity."

It was some two or three weeks after Captain von Landsberg first took
duty at the Palace that, when returning to my study one afternoon, I met
him hurrying towards me.  His face showed plainly that he was extremely
upset, and angry.  I stopped him, and asked whether there was anything
the matter.

"I have just been seeking an audience with your Majesty."

"Then come with me now."

He followed me in silence, and I could almost feel his wrath as a
physical body.  I felt that something really serious must have occurred
to upset him so completely, so once we were in my room I bade him sit
down in order to recover himself better, whilst I turned away to sort
some papers.

"Well, Landsberg, what has upset you, and in what way can I assist you?"

"I came to ask your Majesty for leave of absence."

I raised my eyebrows.  This was quick work, considering that he had only
joined such a short while.

"I feel sure you have good reasons for your demand; are they of such a
nature that you can confide in me?"

"Yes, your Majesty, I wish for leave of absence to punish a man who has
grossly insulted a lady who cannot retaliate."

"I can have no duels in Rudarlia."

"Your Majesty, the man I would punish is a Bornian, or rather he lives
in that country."

"No officer in my Guards must be mixed up in any scandal, Landsberg."

"I assure your Majesty there shall be no scandal, no one will know my
name or anything about me, and----"

"There is only one lady whose wrongs you have a right to redress.  Is
Mademoiselle Sonia the lady in question?"

"No, your Majesty."

"No member of your family?"

"No, your Majesty, but it is a lady whom I revere, and too highly placed
to take notice of the insult."

I frowned, what he had said puzzled me.  Too highly placed?  Of no one
less than Royalty could that be said.  I began to get cold, how many
Royal persons in Bornia did Landsberg know?

"You must tell me the name of the lady, for she is evidently Royal, and
surely you do not know many of the Royalty of Bornia."

"No, your Majesty."

"How many do you know?"

"One, your Majesty."

I grew colder, and then hot in a quick flush of burning rage: some one
had insulted my Princess.

"You may tell me about it, Landsberg."

Something in my voice must have startled him, for he looked up sharply,
and hesitated.

"Tell me," I said again.

"It is Princess Irma, your Majesty."

"How was she insulted and by whom?"

"In an article in a paper, may I give it to your Majesty to read?"

"Have you it with you?"

"It is here, your Majesty."

He pulled a paper from the front of his tunic and handed it to me.

I turned aside to one of the windows and read. It was just one of those
filthy articles which hint at scandalous behaviour; articles that are
far more injurious than outspoken libel.  There was nothing which could
be shown up as untrue, but a number of vague hints at scandal which so
many people gloat over, and remember to regale their friends with.  The
kind of article that causes the sales manager of a paper to rub his
hands gleefully.

I read the thing twice; and, by that time, I was in such a rage that had
the writer been in the room I should have tried to kill him.

I thought rapidly of the best course to pursue, but I cannot say whether
I decided upon it or not; however, I was determined that the swine who
wrote it should not escape scot free.  I turned to Landsberg, and I
think my face must have scared him, for he stammered out something about
being sorry to have distressed me.

"Distressed me?  Why, Landsberg, if you had not taken notice of this, I
think I should have cancelled your commission.  Now listen to me: the
writer of this is going to be punished, you understand."

"Your Majesty then gives me leave."

"No, not for the purpose you think, but to accompany me."

"Your Majesty?"

"You will come to Sonale with me."

"Yes, your Majesty."

I saw his eyes gleam.

"It is I who am going to chastise this fellow, not you, but I must be
disguised; you will see to that, just a beard and a few lines to add to
my age.  You will give orders to have a powerful car ready to-night, at
the side entrance.  Tell no one of what you know.  I will inform the
necessary people."

"And the chauffeur, your Majesty?"

"I will drive, and Bauen will accompany us. You will, of course, be in
mufti, without any mark by which you could be recognised."

"Yes; at what hour shall I await your Majesty?"

"You may come here at a quarter-past ten, the car must be ready at the
half-hour."

I sent for Zeula.  He noticed my agitation the moment he entered, and I
told him as quietly as I could of my proposed trip.  He was amazed,
horrified, pleading; and then, as he saw that my mind was absolutely
made up, he gave in.  I believe in his heart of hearts he would have
liked to accompany me himself.  He put no more obstacles in my way, and
even thought of things which I had forgotten.  He reminded me that I had
better take my passport made out in the name of Stevens, supplied me
with a good sum of money, in case of necessity, and finally left me.  I
think he saw I wished to be alone.

I read the article for the third time, and then locked it in my desk, I
was in a mood quite dangerous enough, without adding fuel to it.  I
could have cried with rage that anyone should even hint at such things.
I must be careful; the world must never know that the King of Rudarlia
had done what I proposed to do.  This was not for my own sake but for
Irma’s.  Irma must never know, at least until we were engaged.  I could
not let her suppose that I had chastised this man in order to gain her
gratitude.

Should I make an effort to see her when once in Sonale?  I had not made
up my mind, and yet, if possible, it would be a good opportunity for me
to ask the question, the answer to which I was longing to hear.  Since
my interview with my mother I had lost the fear of a refusal, for I had
determined to win her, even though at first it should appear against her
will.

I do not know how the time passed until the evening came, but somehow it
did.  I had desired that Mr. Neville should come to me, but he could not
be found, which annoyed me, for I wished to confide in him.

A small parcel had been given to me, which contained the necessary
disguise, and at the time appointed Captain von Landsberg appeared.

"Help me with this," I said, holding out a stick of paint.

He dexterously made a few lines on my face, which, though hardly
noticeable, added years to my age; he also assisted me to fix on the
beard, which was small and pointed.  I looked at myself in a mirror: the
effect was all that I desired.

In ten minutes we were on our way.  At six o’clock we drew up in front
of a small hotel in Sonale.

We engaged a room in which to breakfast, and wait until the morning was
more advanced.  I doubt if I had exchanged more than three remarks with
my companion; now, however, I said:

"I want you to go and find out just where the office of the paper is,
and any other information you care to gather, such as the name of the
editor, and what time he generally arrives, then return here."

I sat down by the open window to await his return, and my thoughts were
pretty busy.  I recalled the drive through the night, hour after hour;
the great headlight of the motor, shining first on one thing then on
another, the straying cows which had so nearly caused a mishap, the luck
of finding an intelligent peasant when we lost our way; he was well
rewarded for being hauled out in the middle of the night, and I daresay
wished that more people would lose their way.  The amazement of the
frontier guard at the mad English motorist, the puncture which caused
delay, and finally the hotel where I now sat and waited.  Then my
thoughts switched on to Sonale; it seemed so strange that I should be
here in the Bornian capital, in the same place where Irma lived.  I
wished that I had asked Landsberg to find out the way to the Palace, and
the next moment was pleased that I hadn’t.  I wondered whether it would
be possible to obtain audience with the Princess without allowing my
identity to become known.  I might do it through Sonia, I had no doubt
that she could get the Princess to her rooms under some pretext, that
is, if Irma did not wish to see me in her own, for of course I did not
want to hide my identity from her, only from strangers.  Then I became
impatient with waiting, and walked up and down the room, glancing every
few minutes at my watch.  Half-past nine, ten, and still he had not
returned.  I sincerely hoped that nothing had happened to Landsberg.  At
about a quarter-past be came in, with a strange expression on his face.

"Well, I have been all impatience for your arrival."

"I have found out what your Majesty wishes to know, and more."

"More?"

"Yes, your Majesty, the man who wrote the article will not be at work
for some time."

"What, isn’t he in Sonale?"

"He is, your Majesty, but we are too late, some one has already done
what we came to do."

"Damnation!  But who?"

"No one knows, your Majesty, but the fellow received a most unmerciful
thrashing, and will certainly write no more articles of a similar kind;
he had to be carried home, they told me."

"I must know who did it, so that I can thank him, although I envy him
the doing of it; but you and I, Landsberg, are not wanted, we had better
get back to Karena."

"Yes, your Majesty."

He looked as though he did not agree with me, and it flashed across me
that he had hoped to catch a glimpse of his betrothed, but I was in no
mood to be unselfish; since I could not do what I had come to do, and
since I could not think of any way to see the Princess, I wished to get
away from Sonale as quickly as possible.  I looked at him, he stared
straight in front, without moving a muscle of his face, bearing his
disappointment like the very gallant gentleman he was, and incidentally
setting an example to me, his King.

"I shall leave here at one o’clock," I said. "Until then, you had better
do some shopping, and obtain what no other city in the world can give
you at the present time.  Go, don’t waste time, and try to be back
punctually; tell them to send me up the papers."

"I thank your Majesty most gratefully."

His face was all smiles, and I felt pleased that some one should benefit
by our trip.

I tried very hard to make myself believe that I was pleased that the
fellow had been punished, but I could not get over the desire I had had
to send my fist smashing into his face.  However, I realised that the
chivalry of some man had taken the matter out of my hands, and that I
must wait patiently, reading the newspapers, until that lucky young
devil of a Guardsman had finished making love and returned to his King.

Having read the papers, I set about for some method of amusing, or
rather boring myself, and commenced to whistle somewhat mournfully all
the airs I could recollect; when I hit upon one more than usually
lugubrious, I repeated it several times, much to my satisfaction.  I
remember that the English song, entitled "Three fishers went sailing out
into the west," was the one which I finally selected as the most
suitable to fit my mood, and gloried in making it as miserable as
possible.

With no hope in my heart that the time would pass quickly, I smoked and
yawned, yawned and smoked, until twelve o’clock.

The door opened and Landsberg appeared.

"There is a lady who wishes to speak to your Majesty."

"The devil!"

I meant to say this under my breath, but I must have spoken louder than
I intended, for the lady of whom Landsberg had spoken heard it, and
laughed merrily.

"No, Victor, only me."

She threw back the veil which covered her face. I sprang to my feet, and
tossed my cigar, as I thought, into the fire-place, but it fell short on
the carpet, and smoked merrily, a fact which I did not notice, for I had
eyes for nothing but the face of my darling.

Landsberg had decently left the room.

I was so surprised that I could only hold her hands and look at her, and
at length her eyes fell before the light in mine.  I did not know that I
still held her hands.

"Princess, oh, Princess."

"Victor, oh, Victor."  The little witch had hypnotised me, and then was
graceless enough to mock at me.

"Irma, I love you, I love you."

She gave a little start and I felt her hands tremble; I saw a new look
come into her eyes, rather startled, and shy.

"Victor, what are you saying?"

"Oh, I know what I say, have known it for all the time that has passed
since I saw you last.  I love you, and I want you to say that you will
try to love me.  Irma, my beautiful Irma, will you try?"

"Are you sure you want me, are you sure it is not mere liking, are you
sure, oh, Victor, are you sure?"  There was a little break in her voice.

"Am I sure?  Yes, I am, I love you so much that the mere thought of you
makes me happy. Irma, I never thought it possible until I met you that
God could be so kind, and yet He has been very good to me, everything
has prospered with me, but I would sooner be a peasant, with you, than
reign where I do without you.  I can’t live without you, I love you so."

"What do you want me to say?" she said, so softly that only my lover’s
ears could have caught the words.

"Say you love me a little, my darling."

"It would hardly be true, Victor, for I love you with my whole heart."

                     *      *      *      *      *

It would seem like sacrilege to write of the next quarter of an hour,
even if I could remember what was said, which I cannot; there remains to
me but a confused memory, yet one of the gladdest of all that I possess.
All that I can say is, that I knew I had received a priceless gift in
her love, and gloried that mine for her was as deep and passionate.

"You are rather astonishing, Victor."

Her words brought me back to everyday existence, and I began to laugh,
lightly at first and rather uncertainly, until she joined in, and we sat
like two foolish people, and laughed until we cried.  But an end must
come to even the heartiest laughter, and when I had wiped the tears from
my eyes, I answered her remark:

"Why am I astonishing?"

"Isn’t it rather unusual--your mode of procedure, I mean?"

"It is none the worse for that, but I suppose it might strike a casual
observer as rather strange."

"I think it would," she said.

She began to laugh again, but so tremulously that I put my arm round her
and held her tight; her head went down on to my shoulder and she cried.
For a moment I thought to ask her what was the matter, but my innate
prudence made me keep silent, and after a minute or two she looked up,
smiling through her tears.

"I am so silly, but I am so happy."

"So am I."

I should imagine that I looked it, for my face was one big smile.  It
was so very extraordinary, I had been absolutely afraid at the château,
whereas now I felt as brave as a lion.

"How did you know I was here?"  It had only just struck me that I had
not told Landsberg not to mention the fact.

"Sonia told me, of course."

"I must make Landsberg a General."

"You know Sonia is outside?"

"No, I didn’t, but it is an excellent place for a little while yet.  Now
tell me why you came, was it because you thought I should feel lonely?"

"No, dear, it was not for that, but to thank you."

"Whatever for?"

"For what you were here for.  No, you must not blame Landsberg, Sonia
got it out of him.  She made him tell her, and I am so glad she did, for
I could never have come unless I had had that as a reason."

"Couldn’t you have thought of one for yourself?"

"Oh, yes," she said teasingly, "I could have come and asked you to marry
me."

"I have not asked you yet, now I come to think of it, so will repair the
fault, if you please."

"Go down properly on your knees then."

I did as she bade me, and she put her hands one on each side of my face,
and held me fast.

"Didn’t you know I loved you, Victor?"

"No, my darling, how could I?  Why, when I left you the other day, I
thought you were absolutely indifferent."

"Then why did you carry me off my feet to-day?"

"Because I felt braver, and wanted you so much, that the sight of you
made me forget all considerations, made me forget everything except the
one fact, that I loved you."

"I never thought that I should be proposed to in a scrubby little hotel
by a King.  My imagination could not carry me as far as that, but I
shouldn’t have minded if it had been a pigsty."

I daresay the wonder of it all would have given us food for conversation
for a week, only Landsberg and Sonia were outside.  Perhaps they were
impatient at our long interview, and thought that, as I happened to be a
reigning monarch, I had better get back to my own country, so one of
them--I never discovered who--gave a discreet knock at the door. The
next moment Irma and I were far apart.  A monarch has no right to feel
foolish before one of his subjects--it is a bad precedent to
establish--but I found it extremely difficult to keep a stern expression
when the two entered; that is the worst of kingship, you can never be
natural except with your equals.  I should have liked to tell all the
world that Irma loved me, it was the supreme and only important thing in
the world.  As it was, after a few commonplaces, I sent Landsberg to see
if the car was ready; and when he had vanished said to Sonia:

"Mademoiselle, I wish for your congratulations. Her Royal Highness has
consented to be my wife. I do not think there is any necessity to
mention the fact to Landsberg, although I should not be astonished to
hear that the rascal would not be surprised, if told."

"Your Majesty has my most humble congratulations, and I am sure
Landsberg would be surprised, if he knew that your Majesty wished it."

While the would-be surprised Captain was still out of the room, I said
good-bye to the Princess, my Irma.



                          *VICTOR VICTORIOUS*


CHAPTER XVIII

Captain von Landsberg and I set off on our return journey.  His face was
as solemn as that of a judge, or as that of a judge should be, for most
of the judges I have known are generally more than willing to see humour
in situations.

Of course it was quite right of him not to show any amusement at the
fact that his King was only a mortal, with the ordinary tendencies of
mankind, and I have no doubt that writers of books on etiquette would
commend him most highly; but I wished that he had been Mr. Neville or
Prince Zeula, for then I could have poured out my soul, and incidentally
bored them horribly.

I wished to speak of my Princess, to rave over her perfections, to force
them to see her as I saw her, to feel indignant if they did not.  I
wished them to be there and agree with every wild statement I made,
although all the time I should have known they were laughing at me, and
probably saying to themselves, "Lord, how funny the boy is! does he
imagine that he is the only one who has been in love?"

I daresay, if the truth could be known, Landsberg regarded me as the
staidest lover of his experience, for I sat staring straight in front of
me, hardly smiling, and only addressing a few remarks to him, and those
about such things as crops, cows, or cabbages.  He would have changed
his opinion had he but known the wild exhilaration that I felt surge
over me from time to time, and the rose-tinted veil which hung over
those very ordinary subjects of conversation.

We had gone a considerable way before I broached the subject of the
punishment meted out to the writer of the scurrilous article.

I asked him whether he had any idea of the executioner; but he assured
me that all his questions had given him no hint, and he supposed that
among the Bornians there had been some man who had had the necessary
vigour to carry out the chastisement.

As this was the most probable theory, I let the matter stay there
without any wild surmises; but I felt that I should very much have liked
to know who had done it, so that I could in some way reward him.

As soon as we had got a few miles into Rudarlia, I removed the beard
which I had been wearing, and was glad to get rid of it.

It was dark when we reached the Palace; and, after warning my companion
not to mention our trip, I slipped up to my own quarters, where I
delivered myself into my valet’s hands.  In about an hour I was closeted
with my mother.

First I told her of the article, then about my idea of punishing the
writer, at which she implored me not to, and was only relieved by my
promising to take no steps in the matter.  Then I told her that I was
engaged to be married to Irma.  Her astonishment was so great that I had
to tell her everything, much to my amusement, for she had not known that
I had left the Palace.

After my mother, I had to send for Prince Zeula, and have it all out
with him.  He was so delighted that I feared evil consequences to his
health, and told him so; I believe if he had had his way he would have
ordered bonfires and fireworks.

Lastly I went to Mr. Neville’s room, where I knew I should find him
engrossed in the work of some mighty brain.  As I expected, he was
there, seated in his favourite chair, sucking at a favourite briar, and
reading hard.  I noticed that his hand was slightly bandaged, so after
our usual salutations I said:

"What is the matter with your hand?"

"Nothing much, I knocked some skin off it, and slightly strained one of
my fingers."

"How did you do that?"

"I hit it against something."

"I’m sorry; but look here, can you spare me a few minutes?  You will
have to whether you like it or not, so put that beastly, musty old book
down."

He did as I wished, and I sat down near him, filled my own pipe, and
remained silent.

He went on puffing, waiting for me to tell him what I wished to; he knew
that it was no good trying to hurry me, and that I should speak as soon
as I was ready, I do not know why, but it took me some little time to
formulate my sentences; and, when I had, I did not use them, but blurted
out instead:

"I saw Princess Irma to-day.  We are going to be married."

"I’m glad, and congratulate you, Victor.  Now tell me about it."

Then I began to be eloquent, and poured out all those things I had
wished to say while returning from Sonale.  Dear old fellow, he listened
intently just as I had imagined him doing, but his face showed how
pleased he was.  I explained for the third time that evening just how it
had occurred, and he said that he had only disgust for the offence,
dismay at my proposed punishment of it, and satisfaction at the ultimate
result.  I believe, had he given me the slightest opening, that I should
have gone all over my feelings again; but luckily for him he did not,
only suggesting that as I had had a strenuous day, I had better get some
sleep before morning.  His congratulations were so genuine that, as I
said good night, I could not refrain from saying:

"Don’t you think I am an infernally lucky chap?"

"I do, every man is who secures a really charming and good woman as a
wife, but I think Her Royal Highness is rather lucky too."

A remark which I deprecated, although it was comforting, especially as
it came from Mr. Neville, for he did not as a rule pay me compliments.
Honestly, however, I think my pleasure was more for Irma’s sake than for
any personal pride I may have had.

So I went away from my old tutor quite pleased with everything.  All the
three people who had given me so much were delighted; and I was to
become the husband of the sweetest woman in the world.  It was hardly
wonderful therefore that I slept like an angel, by which I mean that I
was blest.

I think I was nearer becoming chronically bad-tempered during the next
few months than at any other time in my life.  It was so ridiculous that
I should be kept waiting for my bride for so long.  I cursed etiquette
of every description, and regretted that I was not living in the middle
ages, when I could have carried her off immediately, or as immediately
as the force I had at my disposal would allow.  I made myself
objectionable to nearly everybody, although they did not tell me so.
However, as the time went on, I began to get a bit calmer, and turned my
thoughts to a state of things which should have received attention
before; I thoroughly overhauled the Palace, and was almost dismayed to
find how much there was that required immediate alteration.

There were whole suites of rooms that I could not bear the thought of
Irma ever seeing, they were so badly decorated.  I do not know whether
Ivan had been responsible for the mural atrocities, the terrible colour
schemes, but I do know that some one without any taste at all had really
desecrated the Palace. Perhaps it was one of Ivan’s lady friends.
Having come to the conclusion that this state of things must be altered
just as rapidly as possible, I sought the most capable architect in
Karena, and entrusted the job to him; but I made it plain that all plans
must be submitted to me before any work was done.

To avoid the danger of having everything too masculine in taste, I
organised a committee, which consisted of my mother and Ivan’s wife,
who, I am glad to say, was at last happy, and with whom my mother had
become very friendly.  Sometimes, as a great honour, Zeula was allowed
to suggest some decorative scheme.  All this was really quite
unnecessary, but it was an amusement, and rather out of the ordinary
Royal pursuits.

Some two months after my return from Sonale--that wonderful trip with
Landsberg--I was present at the wedding of Sonia.  It was a function of
some magnitude, for all the nobility of Rudarlia who were not in some
way related to Landsberg knew that I was interested in the wedding, and
that it would be rather a cheerful and sumptuous gathering.  Therefore
they came, nor, I understand, were they disappointed.  In fact, so large
was the crowd that I began to wonder whether my own marriage, when it
took place, would attract as much notice.  I believe that I mentioned my
thoughts to Woolgast. He looked astonished, until I suggested that I
should have to take a commission in my own regiment of Guards, and then,
of course, he perceived that I had been jesting.  He was a serious man,
whom I often teased.

My mother took a great liking to the bride; and, when the couple
returned from their honeymoon, she often had her to her room.

I therefore, myself, saw a good deal of the young wife, who was always
ready to talk about Irma, and from her I learnt much regarding the
tastes of my future wife.

There was one room in the apartments set aside for Irma which I
determined to have decorated entirely according to my own fancy; and
once this was decided upon I set to work to gather together those things
which might best carry out my idea. From Sonia I learnt that a very
favourite period of art, with Irma, was the eighteenth century French
school, so I set about obtaining as many rare and beautiful specimens of
that period as possible.  I was fortunate enough to secure some gems,
although I had to pay very heavily for them; but, when I saw them in the
spaces and places allotted to them, I thought they were worth it.  The
room, when finished, surpassed my expectations, and I used to dream of
the day when Irma would sit there and admire some beautiful painting, or
fondle some charming bit of china.

I am afraid that I might have neglected my customary routine, had I been
left to myself, but in Zeula and Mr. Neville I possessed two guardians
who were quite capable of standing me in a corner if I did not do my
kingly duty.  I used to wonder sometimes whether love was changing me
into a slothful person, I so often felt averse to doing many things
which before I had accepted without murmuring.  Mr. Neville used to gibe
at me without mercy, but his crowning insult was when he called me
"Romeo"; that caused a most unkingly tussle, in which I am loath to say
Victor II. of Rudarlia won by very little: my old tutor was
astonishingly tough.

Zeula, who was present, laughed like a schoolboy; and I am convinced,
had anyone seen us, every single subject of mine would have heard the
rumour that their King had gone mad.

But even waiting comes to an end, and the day dawned when Irma and I
became one.  I do not believe that two souls have ever fused more
completely into one than hers and mine.

My wife and I rarely mention the day of our marriage, for the reason
that, although it was the beginning of our married life, something
happened which was so tragic, so unlooked for, that even the retrospect
is disquieting and leading to melancholy.

With all the pomp which attends the public marriage of Royalty, Irma and
I had said those words which made us man and wife, and in front of us
stretched all-alluring vistas of life.

We were driving away from the Cathedral, where the ceremony had been
held, in an open carriage--for neither of us wished to cheat the
cheering multitudes of their lawful rights--and as we passed along the
gaily decorated streets, under wonderful flag and flower effects,
through the dense masses of people, who were almost crazy with loyalty
and delight, I remember pressing Irma’s hand in encouragement.  This was
no mean ordeal which we were going through, especially for her, as after
all she was an alien, of a race which so shortly before had been
hostile.

Those splendid people of mine, they did not allow her to perceive that
she was a stranger to them, but shouted, "God save the Queen!" with all
their might, which was certainly great.

Once she turned to me and said:

"Oh, Victor, what dears they are, I know I shall love them all."

And there was I, laughing and bowing, and feeling, if it can be
believed, extremely wise, and not a bit of a fool.

I felt pleased that the marriage had been delayed by etiquette, for it
had given my subjects time to become used to the idea of having a
Bornian Princess for their Queen.  It is quite safe to say that we were
both supremely happy, a feeling which seemed to be universal.  And yet
there was one man in the crowd to whom my kingship was hateful, that is
the only reason I can assign for his action.

We had reached a street narrower than the others which we had passed
through, for we had extended our return from the Cathedral so that as
many people as possible might see us, and when for one moment we
slackened our pace on account of the terrific crowd--which was almost
more than the police and troops could manage to restrain--a man suddenly
raised his arm and hurled a bomb at us.  I did not see the movement
myself, as I was looking the other way; but Irma did, and threw herself
in front of me to offer her body as a shield for me.  Luckily it missed
us both, for it was ill-aimed, and, passing right over the carriage,
struck and burst.

There was a terrible explosion, and for a moment I could not think what
had happened, for the wheels of our carriage were smashed, and this
caused us to bump heavily on the ground, a motion that shook us both
considerably.  I clambered to my feet stricken suddenly with appalling
rage; had the man who was responsible been near, I am convinced that I
should have choked him to death.  Perhaps, poor brute, it would have
been better for him; for, as I glared round, the crowd fell on the
would-be assassin, and literally tore him to pieces.

The soldiers and police were powerless, but I am glad to say the cries
of anger drowned those more ghastly to listen to.  As it was, I did my
best to prevent Irma hearing, or seeing; and in this I was successful.

My escort had been pressed away from the carriage, and the people surged
around, yelling and screaming in their dismay; only for a minute, as the
horses of the Guards thrust them heavily aside, and once more took their
places round the carriage.  I heard Woolgast’s voice:

"Your Majesties are safe, unhurt?  Ah, God be praised!"

"Both quite unhurt, but get one of the other carriages here quickly."

I clambered on to the box seat of the carriage, and shouted at the top
of my voice that we were unhurt, and that those who heard must pass the
news on, and also let us through.  My voice must have been heard by
many, for a very little time elapsed before my mother’s coach was at our
side.  For one instant her arms were round my neck, and then they were
assisting Irma in beside her.

My darling’s face was white, but she smiled bravely at me as they drove
off.  Then I took one of the trooper’s horses, and was just about to
mount when it struck me that some one might have been injured.  I asked
Woolgast, and his face was grave as he told me that two of the people
had been killed, and three Guardsmen injured.  I gave what orders were
necessary, and, sad with a sadness the like of which I had never felt
before, I mounted and rode on.

What a terrible change had come over the day! From the most joyous
mirth, it had turned to the most gloomy despair.  All those cheering
multitudes how had only sorrowful looks to bestow upon their King.  I
rode therefore in almost complete silence, and I am afraid that I myself
was as dejected a monarch as anyone could see, for the horror of the
tragedy had struck me hard, and I could not forget that blood had been
spilt almost on the bridal robe of my Queen.  During that slow journey
through the serried ranks of my subjects, who stood uncovered in mute
sympathy, I tried to find some reason for the awful action; I knew of no
one who could bear me personally any grudge.  The nobles whom I had
exiled had returned to their estates long before, without any
confiscations, and I did not believe that any of them could be guilty.

Those of my subjects who had suffered under Ivan had had their wrongs
righted with far more celerity than they could have expected.  These,
too, I judged were guiltless; and, as I could think of no one whom I had
injured, I put the crime down as the work of an anarchical fanatic with
a loathing for monarchical government.

The only thought which brightened me was that my wife had given proofs
of her love, by trying to screen me.

I had seen many terrible sights during the late war, but had never been
so affected as I was now, it seemed so useless and unnecessary.  I
feared, too, that Irma would be quite stricken down by the shock, for it
must have been a terrible strain on her nervous system, to be so quiet
and brave through the whole affair.

My mother’s carriage had reached the Palace some time before I did, so
that the confusion, which no doubt existed, had had time to quieten
down.  This was largely due to the efforts of Zeula, who had forced his
way through the crowds, and arrived at the Palace by side streets.

He was terribly upset, but he had the presence of mind to order for me
the thing which I badly needed, a stiff brandy and soda.  With all the
haste that I could make, I went to see my wife, whom I found in my
mother’s care, and that meeting was a revelation to me; I had had no
idea of the extent of her love.  I think that the tears she shed were
probably the most beneficial way of relieving her pent-up emotion, at
any rate she recovered sufficiently to take her place by my side to show
ourselves to the crowds which stood anxiously outside. I am not a
believer in the adage that "out of evil cometh good," but in this case
it certainly did, for the people had been struck by her demeanour, and
were proud of their new Queen, a feeling which soon turned to love, as
they got to know her better.

I shall never forget the graciousness of her manner to the Head of the
Police when he came to tender his resignation.  Many people were blaming
him for the occurrence, even some of the Ministers.  The poor fellow
broke down completely, when Irma, having asked my permission to deal
with his case, refused absolutely to hear of his resignation, and
declared that there should be no one made scapegoat for an incident
which could not have been foreseen. She made a point, too, of letting
others see her friendly attitude towards the official, with so much
grace and tact, that he went away happy, and quite devoted to his new
Queen.

I had caused inquiries to be made concerning the two murdered men, one a
baker of Karena, the other a peasant from near Bavla; the latter case
was extremely sad, for he had walked, with his newly-wed wife, all the
way from his village to the capital, to see us; it was their bridal
treat, their honeymoon, and what an ending!  The only thing I could do,
was to provide handsomely for their dependents.

The three Guardsmen, who luckily were only slightly injured, received
promotion and a sum of money.  As for the criminal, it was never
discovered who he was, although everything was done to find out his
name, and to know whether he had accomplices. I believe myself that the
whole affair was the work of his own disordered brain, and that he
planned and executed his project entirely by himself. Mr. Neville,
however, advanced a theory, which may have had some foundation, and
which led to a confession from him.

It was the same day, only very much later, when, having dined _en
famille_, I went with Prince Zeula and Mr. Neville into my study to talk
the affair over.  I had given orders that it should not be mentioned
before my wife, as the sooner it was forgotten by her the better, a
course of conduct which my mother emphatically endorsed, and it was into
her care that I had given Irma.

I had waited behind to kiss a last good night to my wife, so that Zeula
and Mr. Neville had time to reach my study, where they waited.  It was
then that I heard Mr. Neville say:

"I think it would be wise to tell him."

"What is that?" I asked.

"Neville has a theory," said Zeula.

"But only a theory, there is absolutely nothing to connect the two
things."

"Which two things, what are you talking about?"

"Well, Victor, I will tell you.  I hope, however, that you will not take
it amiss.  It is this: you remember the writer of a certain article in a
Sonale paper; I was wondering whether he had had anything to do with the
affair of to-day."

"I don’t follow you."

"Well, you see, it was I who thrashed him, and I was wondering whether
he had found out who I was and so implicated you.  Perhaps he thought
that I was acting for you."

"I’m damned!  So it was you who forestalled me, was it?  That’s where
you had gone when I could get no trace of you that day, I’m glad it was
you and nobody else, but how did you know about it at all?"

"I told him, Victor; and, as I myself could not go, he was only too
happy to volunteer."

"But why go at all?"

They did not answer me; and after a minute I smiled, and held out my
hands to the two of them.

"I don’t mind confessing now that you were right, and I am glad that I
did not have to do it."

There was evident relief in their voices when they spoke again, asking
me what I thought of the theory.

"I don’t think that he is responsible.  Of course he may be, but I think
it unlikely; still, if you think proper, you could have some discreet
inquiries made by the police."

                     *      *      *      *      *

The next day my wife and I departed on our honeymoon, and for ten days
we forgot everything. We had elected to spend our time, hidden from the
world, in a castle in Soctia near the sea-coast.  It was one of the
Royal residences, which had not been used for years, and which before
then had served more as a hunting-lodge than as a Palace.  It was an old
château, with many towers and turrets, delightfully picturesque, and
undoubtedly uncomfortable. I had had this place put into thorough
repair, and thither we went with just as small a retinue as we could
well take.

I did not think it was possible for a human being to feel so happy, at
times it seemed to choke me. Irma was all that my mind could conceive,
or my heart desire; there was between us the most perfect understanding,
as though our lives had been lived together through countless centuries.
Each seemed to know instinctively the wishes and thoughts of the other,
and our minds intermingled smoothly and perfectly.  There were,
apparently, no rough edges to be worn off.

We refused to think of state matters, during that short period; and,
when the courier arrived each day with letters from Prince Zeula, it was
only as if I had dreamt of such things, and they were forgotten before
he had gone from our sight with the replies.

The country around the château was some of the most beautiful to be
found in Rudarlia, and some days we spent the sunny hours in riding out
exploring, as free from care as two children.  Then, in the evenings, we
would sit on the terrace which we liked most and watch the night.

I wonder how many people know the charm and understand the mystery of a
warm summer’s evening. I daresay a great number, but it seemed to us
that nobody but ourselves could properly appreciate it, as, sitting side
by side on a stone bench, we would watch the last lights die out in the
sky, and the mantle of night descend on nature.

The sounds, too, fascinated us, those mysterious murmurings for all the
world like those of a slumbering child.  We spoke seldom, preferring to
sit hand in hand, in silence, until the moon crept into view, showing
us, as it were, another world--quiet, peaceful, silvery, and almost more
enchantingly beautiful than the day.

We were, no doubt, absurd, but I am glad to think that we were, that in
spite of strenuous lives before us--and in my case behind as well--we
could still forget everything in each other’s love, and look out on the
world with the pleased, expectant eyes of children; I believe we could
imagine fairies in the depths of the forest, or nymphs playing in the
streams.

It was on the eleventh day of our stay in this place, that we received
notification that the outside world did really exist; we were brought
back abruptly to our everyday senses, by the sight of a number of men
toiling up a somewhat steep hill which led to the château.  We were on
the top of one of the towers, and from there had an extensive view of
the surrounding country.

"Oh, Victor, look at those people!  Do you think they want to see us?
because if so I must go and arrange my hair."

A remark which might lead people to imagine that the King of Rudarlia
was a very ordinary young husband after all.

The men in question did wish to see us, for presently we were informed
that a deputation from a neighbouring village desired to pay us their
respectful homage.

"This is the beginning of the end, my Queen, and how little do those
honest fellows know with what thoughts we watched their approach.  Of
course, I might order their heads to be cut off; but, if I did, no one
would do it, so you see how impotent your husband really is."

"Poor fellows, they must be very hot and thirsty, and I think it is
charming of them to come all this way to see us."

"So do I, but I did not wish to be disturbed."

"Nor did I, there are such beautiful views from up here."

As we had spent most of the time looking at each other, hers was a
remark which made me laugh, which she had probably intended.

Some twenty minutes later, Irma and I appeared on the terrace where the
men had assembled.  They were to my mind very brave, and tried manfully
to hide their nervousness.  One of them, who wore the sash of Mayor,
advanced towards us with many bows.

He was, he informed us, the Mayor of the village, and had been begged by
a number of citizens to head a deputation, which desired to express
their joy at our escape, and to thank us for the honour we did them by
choosing their province, and their part of the province to stay in,
etc., etc.

He ended a speech, which must have taken him a long time to learn by
heart, by very gracefully begging us to accept a trifling token of their
loyalty, in the shape of two small silver articles made by the village
metal worker.

He handed me two boxes, in one of which was a really beautiful brooch of
silver and turquoise matrix, and in the other a box, almost equally
beautiful, of the same materials.

Both Irma and myself were absolutely amazed at the artistic merit of
these things, as well as at the cleverness of the workmanship.

I turned to the Mayor, who stood by seeking to read in our faces our
opinion of the gift; he could not have found much difficulty, for both
of us were literally astounded.

"Did you say these were made in your village?"

"Yes, your Majesty, by my nephew, a young man who does nothing else."

"I should like to see him, these works of his are very good indeed."

"He is here, may it please your Majesty."

"Present him to me."

A young fellow, assisted by sundry nudges, detached himself from the
group behind the Mayor, and stood respectfully hat in hand.

"Are you the metal worker responsible for these?"

"Yes, your Majesty."

"Then let me tell you that you have a great gift, and that the Queen and
I accept them with very much pleasure.  When you go, leave your name and
address, so that I may send for you."

Irma had pinned on the brooch, and was talking to the Mayor; so I moved
over to the other men and shook hands with all, thanking them for their
kind thoughts of us, complimenting them on possessing so skilful a
craftsman in their village, and assuring them that we should never
forget their visit.

One of them--an old man--told me that he had seen the marriage
procession of my parents, but that ill-health had prevented him seeing
mine.  However, he thanked God for allowing him to see me and my
beautiful Queen before he died; and he hoped that his sons would see my
sons married.  The good man was slightly previous, and wonderfully
loyal.



                             *CHAPTER XIX*


When the deputation had seen enough of us, and refreshed themselves
mightily, they went away much pleased with the result of their visit.  I
am sure that some of them would remember all their lives that they had
spoken to their King and Queen; it would give them something to talk
about in their old age, as well as a feeling of importance amongst their
less fortunate fellows.

It is a wonderful thing that rarity should add so much to the value of
anything.

When we were alone again, Irma and I began to re-examine the two gifts,
but, strangely enough, both of us were silent as though in thought.  It
may have been the art shown in the work, or it may have been something
which I can never hope to explain, at any rate from that silent scrutiny
sprang an idea, which in its maturity was a source of many emotions.
From a little thing, like the visit of that day, a great thing sprang
forth, and incidentally my life was expanded.

I had a nebulous scheme, a thought hardly formed, somewhere in my brain,
as I stood and looked at the brooch and box; and it required the
feminine quickness to supply the concrete expression of it.  My wife
said:

"The art of Rudarlia, what might it become?"

"You had better tell me what you are thinking," I said.

"I am thinking that Rudarlia may be famous for its art life, if you care
to make it so."

"But I know so little of art.  The only knowledge I have of the subject
is entirely superficial; I’ve never had time to study it as it should be
studied."

"Grey-haired Monarch."

"Is my wisdom so great?"

"No, oh King! that was not my thought."

"But do you think that I shall ever have time to study the question?
You must remember that here in Rudarlia we have none of the great
collections that other countries have.  One small gallery is all that
Karena boasts of."

"Can you give me a reason why she should not have more?"

"Not if you say that she is to have."

"Oh, Victor, let us spend this evening planning out what we might do, or
rather what we can."

So that evening we sat on the terrace as usual, and instead of wasting
the time--if it can be so harshly described--we tried to work out some
way of encouraging art in Rudarlia.  It was a most puzzling question,
for there was always the danger of overdoing the assistance we could
give to artists, as well as the chance of offending their
susceptibilities by what they might look upon as charity; they are so
very difficult to tackle, these people with artistic temperaments.

It was, however, a most interesting conversation, during which I
discovered that my wife had much more knowledge of the subject under
discussion than I had; and later I found that she herself was very fond
of dabbling in various mediums, with a considerable amount of success.

We practically decided that night to found a colony devoted to the arts
in Karena, and I knew just whereabouts that colony would have its
quarters.

There was considerable risk, to my mind, in this idea of ours.  Art to a
nation is, I suppose, almost a necessity in some shape or other, but it
must be controlled, either by the artists themselves or by the force of
public opinion.  Now in Karena, which we proposed to make the heart of
our art world, public opinion was practically _non est_.  The reasons
for this being the want of wealth, and the want of artists.  I should
have felt much more secure with regard to our scheme, if I had been
certain that the people really needed the fine arts to assist them in
living.

I was quite well aware that the growth of proper appreciation must be
very gradual, and it seemed to us that the chief point was how to lay
the foundations well.  It was no good thinking of taking the few
Rudarlians who called themselves artists, and giving them unlimited
paint, or clay, or pianos, to work their own sweet will upon, for that
must lead to either rank imitation, or work of the crudest kind. We
should thus be obtaining no benefit, for there were many worthless daubs
to be seen, although not all by Rudarlians.

Our honeymoon drew to a close, two weeks of the most perfect joy that I
have ever known; it was so, because I had nothing to do except devote
myself to Irma, afterwards it was never quite the same, as I had other
things to attend to.

For a little time after our return nothing was done about our scheme,
that is, nothing definite, but all the while we were both working out,
to the best of our ability, the details.

I had known just whereabouts I wished the art settlement to be, but it
was only owing to the death of the man who owned the place that I was
able to buy it.

The property I speak of was at the back of the Palace, and consisted of
the most ancient houses in the city.  These houses were practically cut
off from the rest of Karena; on one side by the Palace walls, or rather
those of the grounds, on another by an extraordinary outcropping of
rock, while on the third--for the whole was in the form of a
triangle--ran a small canal.

The only way of getting to this place was by means of a bridge over the
canal, unless one climbed the walls of my gardens, or was lowered from
the top of the rock.  This place therefore was a perfect nest, and
really ideal for our settlement.

How it had remained so, untouched by the spirit of modernity, was always
a puzzle to me.  The moment the bridge over the canal was crossed, I
felt as though I had stepped from the twentieth into the fifteenth
century.  I do not believe there was a single modern building in the
place; everywhere one looked, it was mediæval.

I remember the first time that we went there after having purchased it,
just Irma, my mother, Mr. Neville, and myself, and we enjoyed it
thoroughly.  There had been few people living in the houses, which had
not been cared for, and these few were only too pleased to turn out of
their quarters for a consideration.

We therefore found the place absolutely deserted, save for a few
pigeons, and cats who would not desert their old haunts.

The doors of most of the houses had been left unlocked, so we went round
the narrow cobbled streets, entering those buildings which seemed most
desirable; some were really fine houses, with large rooms containing
great carved beams, leaded lights, and other delightful things.
Naturally, the outsides were in keeping, and no matter where we looked
we could see old door-ways, queer gargoyles, and little courtyards, the
walls of which would in all probability be covered with lichen.  In some
parts, we seemed to be walking in a tunnel, so close were the houses to
one another, and occasionally, at the end of these streets, we caught
sight of the sunlit canal.  I was very, very pleased with my purchase.

As we walked and examined, we explained to my mother and Mr. Neville
what we proposed doing.

I think that at first she, or rather they, thought that marriage had
made me a little mad; but as my explanation grew, both in length and
conciseness, they began to think that after all something might be said
for our idea.  I told them that the houses should remain as they were,
but with modern improvements, and that when the necessary alterations
had been effected I proposed inviting artists of all kinds to come and
live there: painters, sculptors, composers, engravers, writers, and
metal workers.  I then went on to draw most alluring visions of what I
hoped would be the result.  I pictured all these various artists living
here much as they did in towns in the middle ages, working with the
certainty that any really meritorious piece of art would be more thought
of than a dozen inferior works, and that appreciation, consideration,
and understanding would go hand in hand with profit.

Then I went on to tell them how I proposed having a gatehouse erected at
the canal bridge, and instal some old pensioner and family in it.

"And how about feeding your colony?" asked Mr. Neville.

"I intend having just a few shops, and shall have one inn; that old
place with the big hall, I think it will do as the dining-hall for
unmarried artists."

"Where do you propose obtaining the artists you speak of?"

"I don’t know yet, but I do not think there will be much difficulty in
getting them to come here.  I shall try the great art centres first, and
then the smaller ones; I shall invite the famous men to stay for as long
as they wish, and execute some splendid piece of work for Rudarlia."

"Yes, Victor is going to have his portrait painted in the uniform of
each of his regiments; all the paintings will be collected in one
building, which will be called The Hall of the King, and I shall be
expected to spend so many hours a day there as a dutiful wife."  A
remark strangely flippant for a newly-married Queen to make.

My mother laughed, which was wrong of her, and said quietly:

"From what I know of the portraits of Royalty, all the works would be so
much unlike each other that they would have to bear an identification
tablet."

"How nice!  I can imagine that I have ever so many different husbands,
and so need not get tired of one."

"I can see that this will lead to a family quarrel, so will turn the
subject," said Mr. Neville.

"You need not trouble," laughed my fond parent. "Victor will do that
himself, by letting loose a herd of wild artists in this peaceful
community."

"Another thing that I shall do," I said, "is this: no Royal person shall
be allowed to come here without a special permit."

"He would keep us out of Eden," murmured Irma.

"Zeula with a brush full of paint shall keep the entrance."

That was from Mr. Neville, so as I had them all against me I
surrendered.

Now that we had possession of this place, it was not many weeks before
the workmen were in, for we did not want to lose time, being both young
enough to feel excited about our plans.  I think it must be one of the
most terrible things in life, to lose the power of feeling excited.  My
respect for architects grew enormously during the next few weeks, they
knew so much that I did not; for instance, it seemed to me the simplest
thing in the world to put pipes and things into a house to conduct water
from the main, but it appeared to be more difficult than I imagined, and
much discussion was necessary.  I could not understand why, when there
was a blank wall, I could not have a window knocked through it, and I
finally came to the conclusion that a statesman of one of the great
powers--the Foreign Minister of England, for example--does not have to
be more careful than an architect knocking a window in a blank wall, so
as not to disturb the balance of power.

Unless we had seen it ourselves we should never have believed that there
was so much to be done in the place.  It was almost staggering, and yet
all the repairs and alterations were absolutely necessary; there were
rooms to be converted into studios, and workshops and a hundred smaller
alterations.  It was a most wonderful hobby for both of us, not to speak
of many others who were interested in a lesser degree.  I think Zeula
was almost as keen as we were, he spent hours in the vicinity; he had
liked the idea the moment he had heard of it, and had immediately
offered his services in any way we could use them.  Another person who
spent much of his spare time there was Bauen, he could generally be
found keeping a watchful eye upon the workmen, and no doubt yarning with
them, and telling those who wished, wonderful tales of their King.

I had had a gate made in the wall of the Palace gardens, and Irma and I
used to go down when the workmen had finished for the day, to see what
progress had been made, and what new arrangements we could suggest.
Then the day came when there was enough done to allow us to begin
filling our nest with birds.

This we did slowly, with much deliberation, and with the assistance of
some of the great artists of the world, who most kindly offered to help
us.  From reports which I received indirectly from the large centres, I
caused a list to be made of those artists to whom should be sent an
invitation to come to Karena.  They were not all famous--in fact, there
were only a few to whom that term might be applied--but they were all of
an artistic calibre which made it possible for them to become so.

From Rudarlia I had a goodly few, who were eager to profit by the
wonderful chance which this scheme of ours offered them, and the great
men were ever ready to take them into their studios, to instruct and
assist them.  I had never realised how much goodness there was among
artists until then, I had always looked upon them as essentially selfish
people; but then I had known very few, and those, perhaps, bad examples.
It was a lesson to me not to misjudge a class by a few specimens.  I
fear one is rather given to so doing.

It was wonderful to watch the beginning of a settlement, the incoming,
the furnishing, and the gradual fall in the excitement; each new-comer
took his own time to get used to the place, and artists might be seen
all about Karena, gazing and exploring, but soon the first batch had
settled down, and work was commenced.

From that time my education advanced along artistic lines, and I began
to understand something of the innermost strivings of those men who were
adding to the beauty of the world.

Most days, I managed to visit the place for half an hour or so, and when
possible Irma accompanied me.  Without any fuss or preparation we went
to this studio, or that workshop, and were greeted everywhere with
smiles, for these good people learnt to look upon us as friends, and
were always pleased to show us anything which they thought might
interest us; occasionally we made some little purchase, occasionally we
gave some bigger commission.

There was one building reserved for exhibitions of paintings and
drawings, another for the crafts, while a large hall was generally full
of sculpture. These formed a permanent exhibition, although the work
exhibited was not always the same, as each month the artists had the
right to change their works there for others, and replace any that had
been sold.

This exhibition was a source of great interest to Karenians, and others;
indeed, most visitors who came to the city were anxious to see the work
accomplished by my artists, as both Irma and myself called them, and
many of these visitors went away with purchases and few of them
apparently regretted the money spent.

We set the fashion of giving works of art as presents, and I am glad to
be able to state that the fashion remains in full favour.

The other artistic professions were not neglected, there being studios
set aside for musicians of all kinds, but I found it more difficult to
arrange a plan whereby the pecuniary side of their work might benefit.
I therefore arranged that each week a concert should be given, and also
that there should be a certain season when any of the masters might give
grand opera, the players, of course, being the students.  Karena boasted
of an opera house; and, although I do not pose as an authority, I
believe the musical side of the Rudarlian life was rather highly
developed before this settlement came into being.

Some six months after the place was in full working order, one of the
famous European artists, who happened to be staying as my guest, and who
was full of enthusiasm for the scheme, suggested that the lack of old
masters in Karena was a serious handicap for the students.  I questioned
him closely on the subject, heard all he had to say, and then
interrogated others; the greater number agreed that a collection of the
works of the famous masters would be of incalculable value to the
artists generally.

This was a new idea, and I must confess that it appealed to me; I think
that I wanted Karena to be able to boast also of a National Gallery, but
there were many things to be thought of before this could be undertaken.
The greatest difficulty was procuring the works themselves, how was that
possible even though I should desire it; many pictures are sold as old
masters, but there must be many fakes among them.  Another thing was the
expense; I had no wish to invest a large sum of money in pictures, for
in a newly developing country like mine there were countless other ways
of spending money, with infinitely more advantage to the nation. What I
finally did was this: I let it be known all over Rudarlia that I would
provide a gallery, if the Rudarlians themselves would provide the
pictures, either as gifts to the nation or as loans.

The result surprised me, I had had no idea that the artistic scheme
which Irma and I had originated had so taken the public fancy; but it
appeared that it had, and almost immediately I received notification
that there were a large number of nobles and others who would consider
it an honour to have their old pictures hung in the National Gallery in
Karena. It must have astonished many people to know that Rudarlia had
many authentic works of the great masters, men like Rubens, Rembrandt,
and Titian, stowed away in various old castles and châteaux. These were
offered generously by their owners, some as gifts, others as loans, so I
perforce had to keep to my promise and provide a suitable building for
the housing.  This expense I looked upon as a most legitimate one, for
it gave work to a number of men, thus circulating money among the
working class, added to the beauty of Karena, and incidentally added to
the value of the city as an art centre.

In building this gallery, I was determined to employ only Rudarlian
brains, labour, and materials, and so the first thing I did was to open
a competition among Rudarlian architects, all over the country, for the
best design for the proposed gallery.

I did not judge these myself, but left the decision to a famous French
architect who was staying in Karena.  I found that his choice was much
the same as Irma’s and mine, so that design was decided upon, and the
architect who had submitted it was awarded the prize.  Strange to say,
he was an absolutely unknown man from a small town in Garace.  The next
thing, was to decide upon the builder, but this I left to others to
think about.

We had chosen a site in an excellent position, near the Palace, and
therefore close to the settlement; and it was with a feeling almost akin
to awe that Irma laid the foundation stone.  She told me of this feeling
and asked me to explain it, which was more than I could do, but I did
suggest that she was fearful of the effect the gallery might have on the
Rudarlians.

At last the building was completed.  What a day that was, it is simply
burnt upon my memory with ineffaceable delight, not because we were
going to open a National Gallery of Art, not because we had accomplished
something for Rudarlia, but because upon that day Irma told me
something; told me shyly, yet with a deep, wonderful pride, that I was
to be a father.

We had then been married for three years, and I think that all the
nation worried that no child had been born to us.  In my heart, I, too,
had been rather despondent, for so much hung upon our having a family,
and more powerful still was my desire to hold my own child in my arms.

I believe that all those who came in contact with me that day thought
that I was a little too exhilarated at thoughts of opening a gallery;
they put it down to that, poor dears, not knowing what the real reason
was.  In all probability, a thousand husbands feel just the same every
time such news is broken to them, but then I would not have allowed
that; I was bursting with pride, and an insane desire to take every one
into my confidence.

What an absurd thing young human nature is, that is, when it is natural
and nice--and I was both.

I remember nothing of the opening ceremony, except that various speeches
were made and a great number of people cheered themselves hoarse when
Irma and I appeared.  Irma told me afterwards, so did Mr. Neville, so
did Zeula, so did my mother, that my speech convulsed every one who
heard it; that I had appeared in a new rôle: that of a wit. I should
never have believed them, had they not made me read the report of what I
had said, which appeared in the newspaper.  It certainly was humorous,
but I have never attempted to repeat it, rather luckily, too, in my
opinion.

It was in connection with this gallery, that I instituted a new Order in
Rudarlia: the Order of Merit.

Ever since my accession, I had been thinking in a half-hearted fashion
of doing so, but now I made up my mind that such an Order would be most
useful to reward those Rudarlians who served the state in either a
direct or indirect manner.  I wished if possible to widen the area of
such a distinction, not only to confine it to the professions.  Any man
who by his labour served Rudarlia might be entitled to receive the
Order, but the different labours must be kept apart from one another; I
mean, by that, that a soldier wearing the Order must be distinguishable
from the great lawyer, and so on.  This I did by using different
coloured ribbons.  All men with the right to wear the distinction were
to be known as Chevalier.  They and their wives had also the right to
appear at Court.

For this I received some abuse, no doubt, but I shall always maintain
that class distinction, based on birth alone, is a mistake, and
calculated to work a tremendous amount of mischief.  That a man who
employs thousands of other men to make articles, or raise food, for the
nation, should be looked down upon by those whose ancestors fought for
their country and were ennobled is wrong.

So many people do not realise that national service is not necessarily
performed only by fighting.  And those same people do not realise that
times have changed; they do not wish to advance with the civilisation of
their country, never thinking that the rich man of to-day may be the
founder of a noble family which shall do much for the honour and
advancement of their land.  I do not deny, however, that the said noble
family may, in a hundred years or so, look down and sneer at their less
highly placed neighbours; but then human nature is very funny if you
think about it, and extremely illogical.

There must be expansion in everything, and in such a country as
Rudarlia, where classes exist, I hold that the noble class is all the
stronger and better for the introduction into its ranks of all types of
brains, that is, of course, the finer types; I do not suggest criminal
types, or fools, or even sentimentalists, for as a rule such types are
not unknown among the denizens of the aristocracy in all countries. It
was my wish, therefore, to obtain this fresh blood in the titled
families by choosing recruits from the ranks of those who had achieved.

For the first few months that followed the opening of the gallery, I do
not believe there ever was a happier monarch than myself.  It became
almost a disease, and, strange to say, nearly all those who surrounded
me caught the complaint.  My mother at thought of possessing a
grandchild was almost delirious with joy.  Zeula was worse; he began to
talk to me upon every occasion when we were alone about my heir, and to
wonder about his education, his names, every conceivable thing which
could be imagined.  And I liked it, and encouraged him. At first we were
both prone to talk as though the sex of the child were known; we always
spoke of it as masculine, until Mr. Neville put us right by suggesting
mildly that it might happen to be a girl, he had heard of such cases, he
said.  I will own that at his remark both Zeula and myself were rather
taken aback, but after the first few minutes we went on quite calmly
making our plans for a girl.  Oh, the castles in the air we all built,
and what a fascinating pastime it was.

About this time I had a letter from Carruthers. I have it still,
occasionally I read it as an antidote, for it brings back something
which I might with reason wish to forget.  I used to take--and do still,
for that matter--great pride in being beloved by my people, and I used
to flatter myself that there was no one who could come and say to me,
with truth, "Look at my misery, the result of this or that action of
yours."  Once before, on the day of my marriage, I had experienced a
severe shock to this pride of mine, but now I was as bad as ever.  The
second shock, however, opened my eyes to the fact that a king can always
find some one who believes that the monarch has used him ill.  So it was
in my case.

Carruthers’ letter ran:


"MY DEAR OLD SPLOSH,

"A very curious thing has happened, which has caused me a lot of worry.

"Last week I received a letter from a woman whose name is unknown to me,
asking for an interview.  She informed me that what she wanted to tell
me was serious, and might affect you.  I saw her.  The interview was
interesting; as she appears to look upon you as some one divine, I did
not disabuse her mind.  She told me that you had assisted her to return
home to England after Ivan’s death, and other things, one of which was,
that having heard my name used in connection with yours, she imagined
that I could tell you her tale more easily than she could herself.  It
was this: A man had been to her farm for work, and had in the course of
his stay uttered many threats against you as the cause of his downfall.
From what he said the woman seemed to think that he was an illegitimate
son of the late Ivan, and who had been left destitute on his father’s
death.  She described him as being a very powerful man, dark, with a
fierce wild expression.  The details are meagre enough, but look out for
such a man, see if your Ministers know of him.  Don’t take risks by
ignoring this, for I am convinced that the woman was absolutely genuine.
I’ve a jolly good mind to chuck the army, and come and look after you
myself."


I did not ignore this warning, I spoke to Zeula, Woolgast, and the head
of the police about it, but I fettered them by binding them to secrecy,
as I did not wish the slightest rumour to reach Irma’s ears. Having
spoken to these men, I must confess that the warning faded from my
memory; luckily, the others did not forget so easily.  They, it seemed,
had an anxious time.  Zeula told me that before Ivan had usurped the
throne he had had a son by a peasant woman, but this child had
disappeared.



                              *CHAPTER XX*


Herr Bjornston, the eminent Swedish sculptor, to this day blames himself
mightily for what happened; so do Woolgast, the Chief of Police, Prince
Zeula, Mr. Neville, and others, whereas the only person to blame is
myself, and I don’t blame myself over-much.  Perhaps I was negligent,
since I had been warned; it may have been conceit on my part not to take
precautions, but, as I have already stated, I knew of no one who bore me
a grudge with reason.

On this occasion I had, as was my habit, gone alone to the settlement to
pass an hour before settling down to a bout of work with Zeula.  I did
not know then that, every time I did this, my dear old servant Bauen
kept me under surveillance.  He always shadowed me from the Palace to
the settlement, watched where I entered and waited patiently until I
reappeared; so often had he done this that he knew I never stayed more
than fifteen minutes in any studio. It is to this knowledge of his that
I owe my life.

It was a glorious evening, and I wandered down to the house in which
Herr Bjornston had his studio. How wonderful it is that everything seems
mapped out in life; I remember hesitating on the door-step, undecided
whether to go in there or to some other studio.  I was in two minds
whether I should not go to a young Englishman’s place to order a small
picture which I wanted to give away, but I decided that the morrow would
do for that, as the artist might be out; I therefore rapped at
Bjornston’s door.

It was flung open, and I stepped in.  The door was closed behind me.  I
was in what was perhaps the finest studio in the place, a really
magnificent room, but it was empty save for the man who had admitted me
and myself.

"Is not Herr Bjornston in, then?" I asked.

"I expect him every minute, your Majesty.  He had a message which called
him away an hour ago; he told me that he would return at half-past
nine."

I looked at my watch, it was already past the quarter.

"You think he will return then?"

"Undoubtedly, your Majesty; Herr Bjornston is never late."

"Then I will wait."

There was a wooden chair placed near a table upon which was a lamp and
various sketch-books, so I sat down and commenced to turn some pages at
random.  I had not given any particular attention to the man who had
admitted me, but glancing at him casually I noticed that his eyes were
covered or rather veiled by a green shade; he was a bearded, thick-set
fellow.  He advanced towards me with a portfolio in his hands.

"Perhaps your Majesty might be interested in these sketches?"

"Thank you," I said, smiling.  "You suffer with your eyes?"

"Nothing serious, your Majesty, a trifle weak, that is all."

"I have not seen you before, have I?"

"I only came here last week, your Majesty."

"You assist Herr Bjornston perhaps?"

"He was kind enough to give me employment when one of his regular men
fell sick."

"Oh, indeed, you are not a student then?"

"I was once, your Majesty; but fortune deserted me, and I became through
necessity a labourer."

"That is sad, perhaps your luck may improve in the future."

"I hope so, your Majesty."

"What made you come to Karena?"

"I had heard of your Majesty’s generosity to all artists, and thought
that there might be work for me.  I always like to be at work in some
studio."

"Have you any of your own efforts with you?"

"Unfortunately, no, your Majesty."

"Well, we must see what you can do; there is always room for talent
here."

"I thank your Majesty most sincerely."

I opened the portfolio, and the man withdrew. The sketches were of
absorbing interest, most of them being the slight personal things an
artist sometimes values more than his finished pictures. All were good;
evidently Herr Bjornston had spent a great many years getting them
together, as some of them were dated ten or twelve years previously.
Most of them bore signatures famous throughout the world.  I was so
interested that I forgot all about the time, and it was only when I had
looked at the last sketch, that I remembered, and pulled out my
watch--good heavens, it was a quarter to ten!  I closed the portfolio,
and sat back in the chair to push it away from the table. Herr Bjornston
was very late in spite of his man’s assurances; still, it did not
matter, I had had a pleasant visit, and there was nothing of importance
that I wished to say to him.

Something seemed to be entwining my feet.  I bent forward to see what it
was, and immediately was pulled violently back into the chair.  My
surprise was so great that for a moment I could do nothing, and that
moment was the finishing touch to my undoing, for the noose which had
been slipped over my shoulders was pulled tight and fresh coils made
round me; then I felt my feet being drawn together and realised that I
was helpless.

I turned my head round and glared at my assailant, but the sight of his
eyes--which he had now uncovered--caused Carruthers’ warning to recur to
me, and I understood without any further assault that I was in a devil
of a fix.

"Untie these ropes at once."

"Your Majesty is pleased to jest."

"You will find it no jesting matter."

"You speak of the future; perhaps your Majesty will have a clearer
vision to appreciate this position."

"What do you mean?"

"I don’t quite know, never having been to the place to which your
Majesty is going."

"Don’t be foolish, my man; untie this rope and I will be lenient with
you."

He drew up another chair in front of me and sat gazing into my eyes.  I
returned stare for stare, but I will confess to feeling very much
afraid.  The situation was so very unpleasant.  What a fool I had been
not to take precautions, I should have known that all of Ivan’s breed
were dangerous.  I was flabbergasted, I did not know what to say to the
fellow, what argument can one use to a madman? More important still was
how to get away, how to be rescued, for it was quite impossible for me
to loosen the ropes that bound me.  I could call for help, but no one
would hear me.  Still, there was always a chance that some one would; so
I let out a yell that ought to have awakened the settlement.

Unfortunately it did not; and the only good I got from it was a gag,
which effectively put an end to my making sufficient noise to attract
attention.  Luck was against me, for only a few minutes after the gag
had been applied some one rapped at the door.  I tried hard to make some
kind of appeal for assistance, but it was futile, and I had to sit there
and listen to the knocking.  Presently the person, whoever it was, gave
up, and with a sinking heart I heard the sound of his footsteps dying
away.

The man still sat facing me, with a beastly smile on his lips; no doubt
he was overjoyed to see my struggles.  Presently, however, he began to
speak in a low voice hardly above a whisper; and somehow that added to
the horror of my position.

"I am glad I stopped your mouth in time; it would have hurt me to have
finished everything before you have realised things more fully.  And if
my time had been cut short by any interruption from outside, your
Majesty would naturally never have known all that I intend telling you,
all those details which will make your journey to Paradise so pleasant.

"Have you any preference as to where I should begin?  Perhaps you would
like to know who I am. Well, that is soon told; I am the son of the man
you had murdered, you did not know that Ivan the King had a son, did
you?  He had, perhaps more than one, for he was rather given to
promiscuous love affairs; but only one need worry you--I shall be quite
sufficient.

"I know how my father died, Prince Alexis told me; I know he was always
a liar, but he told the truth about this.  When I heard, I swore that
you should pay for it.  Since then your debt has been mounting up, for I
was left destitute, and think how long that was ago, and imagine my
misery all those years, having to do any manual labour that I could
obtain, in order to keep from starving.  You have to pay for all that.

"The most difficult thing I ever had to do was to keep my face from
portraying my delight when you walked in so sweetly this evening.  I
have been trying to get near you for years, and at last luck has been
kind to me; nothing could have worked out so well if it had been
planned.  To begin with, that old fool Bjornston is out for the night,
out of Karena even, and the other two assistants are after their
lady-loves.  It is hardly likely that the two fair Karenians will allow
them to return, or at any rate until our little business is over."

He stood up and moved away behind my chair, so that I could not see what
he was doing; but I heard him moving about.  Then he came back again, in
his hands a rope, and at the end of the rope a heavy mass of stone.

"Do you see this, your Majesty, can you guess what it is for?"

I looked at it, then at him, and raising my eyebrows turned my head
aside, then quickly back again.  God! how lucky that he was examining
the knot in the rope, for had he been looking at me he must have noticed
my nervous start, a movement that I could not control, for I could have
sworn that I had seen a face at the window.  I shook my head from side
to side, and caught another glimpse of the window, but there was no face
there, and my spirits, which had gone bounding up, dropped like a stone.
So, then, there was really no hope for me, there was no way out, and I
was doomed to die just when life was at its fullest, just when the
greatest of all my hopes was to be fulfilled.  I turned sick with
despair at the thought of the effect my disappearance would have upon my
wife.  The man was talking again:

"It will serve a good purpose, and keep you down nicely."

His cursed calmness caused the most beastly twinges of an unpleasant
nature, which I can only call fear, I do not think there is anything to
be ashamed of in confessing it.  I was young and did not wish to die,
and yet I must give no sign which would add to his delight, he must not
perceive that I was frightened.  I had strained at the rope which held
me until I found that all my efforts seemed to make it tighter, and so I
gave up and sat still to wait for death.

"I hope you have confessed yourself lately. Personally, I do not believe
in a God; but your Majesty has the reputation of being devout.  Perhaps
you have some little message you would like to leave; if that is the
case you must give me your promise not to call out, and I will remove
the gag; is it to be so?"

I nodded, there might be a chance if I could talk. I could at least try
to bribe him, try to ransom myself.  If he were not too mad, there might
be a chance.  His fingers were busy and a moment later I was free to
talk.

He looked at his watch.  By this time Prince Zeula must be awaiting me.
I wondered what he would do--and Mr. Neville?  They would never give up
the search for me, my body would doubtless be discovered, but what good
would that do me? None whatever.

"You will observe, your Majesty, that I have given you ample time to
make your peace with your God. Would it please you to give me any
message to deliver? I assure you that I will be a faithful messenger."

"You are determined then to murder me?"

"A rough word, surely your Majesty means execute."

"I give you my word that your father died a natural death."

"He naturally died, you mean."

"I mean what I said."

"Then, for the first time in my life, I call a King a liar to his face;
it is quite an amusing sensation."

"I am not a liar; but no matter, now listen to me.  You are going to
murder me----"

"Execute."

"Execute, then, if you will.  What I wish to know is--how will it
benefit you, will you be any the less destitute?  No! whereas if you
allow me to ransom myself----"

"Ransom yourself?  Well, I should have to dictate the terms."

"Of course, what are they?"

"The remaining years of your life."  He laughed. "Now I think that is
enough; what message do you wish to send?"

"A hundred thousand pounds would make you very comfortable for the rest
of your life."

"But not as comfortable as your death."

"Two hundred thousand and no questions asked, with absolute freedom."

"No terms except the ones I mentioned.  Come now, the message for the
Queen; it is for her, eh? Not that it is much good, because you will be
able to give it to her yourself in a little while."

"What do you mean?"

"Softly, softly!  That was very like a shout, and remember you gave your
word; my kind thought of sending your wife to you seems to have upset
you somewhat."

"You cursed devil!"

This was the final stroke, and I strained like a madman at my bonds.  My
head was turned away with the effort, and the window again came within
my range of vision; but this time I closed my eyes, so that he could not
read the hope which must have been in them.  I could have shouted with
the terrible exertion I had to make to avoid giving any sign, for the
window, which before had been closed, was now wide open, and my old
Bauen creeping through it. To this day, I cannot imagine how he had
managed to open the window without betraying his presence. Another
struggle, and through my half-opened eyes I saw Bauen come creeping
slowly up behind. I realised that I must make as much noise as I could
to hide any sound he might make, as he had only a knife, and the other
his revolver.

"I will give you one minute more," I heard him say, and he began to
count.

Ten--twenty--thirty--at ninety I toppled the chair over sideways, coming
down with a crash, and losing sight of him.  There was the sound of a
terrific struggle on the other side of the table; the revolver barked
three times, I felt a stinging in my leg and heard curses, the sound of
blows, and moans.  Then there was silence.

"Bauen, Bauen," I called.

"Your Majesty?" came the answer, to my joy.

"Are you hurt, Bauen, can you come and cut me free?"

"No, your Majesty, I cann----"  There was a little sigh and then silence
again.

A loud, insistent knocking at the door now drew my attention, and I
raised my voice:

"Break down the door."

I lay quiet after that, and presently round the table crawled Bauen.  He
dragged his leg painfully, and his face was covered with blood; but he
kept on until he reached my side, when he put his lips to my hand and
rolled over motionless.

There was a tremendous crash, another, and the door flew open.  For a
moment those outside hesitated to enter, but when I called to them to
cut me loose they swarmed in.  Very carefully they lifted Bauen, and
placed him on a settee in a corner of the studio.

The moment that I was free I gave orders for a surgeon to be sent for,
also I gave orders that no one was to leave the settlement, for I did
not wish any false rumour to reach the Palace.

The surgeon came almost before I could turn to see how Bauen was.  A few
minutes sufficed to allay my anxiety; his wounds were serious but not
dangerous, and under the skilful treatment he received he recovered
sufficiently to recognise me, and seeing me safe would, I knew, go a
long way towards effecting his speedy recovery.

Ivan’s son was dead, Bauen’s knife had reached his heart.  I cannot
bring myself to feel the least pity for the man, he must have been bad
to the core.  His crime would have been carried out to a successful
conclusion, had he not overlooked or forgotten one small incident.  A
barge had been moored up against the house to unload a big block of
marble, otherwise Bauen could never have reached the window.  As it was,
upon obtaining no reply to his knocking, he had run along the bank of
the canal and swum across to the barge, from where he could look into
the room.  Upon seeing my predicament, for a moment he had intended to
raise the alarm, but, fearing that by doing so he might cause my instant
death, he had resolved instead to try and rescue me himself,
single-handed.  His great fear had been that some noise would betray
him; luckily for both of us it didn’t, and he sprang, just as the man’s
finger was about to pull the trigger.

As soon as the surgeon had made Bauen comfortable, I got him to look at
my own leg, and found that the ball had gone through the calf, a clean
flesh wound which would heal without trouble.  It had been a random
shot, for the table-cloth had prevented my being seen, but it shows the
terrible hatred that the man had borne me, for him to have wasted a shot
on the off-chance of causing my death, and only a moment before Bauen’s
knife had done its work.

Directly I was bandaged, leaning on the arm of a student, I hobbled into
the Palace gardens.  I shall never forget the enthusiasm of the
crowd--of every nationality--who had gathered in the settlement, to
evince their joy at my escape; it was very nice to have the affection of
all those good fellows.  Luckily, I met Woolgast coming to seek me,
Zeula having thought it necessary; into his hands I put the affair, but
first I sent him back to the Palace to warn Zeula and others not to make
a fuss when I appeared.  I did not wish even the faintest hint of alarm
to reach Irma’s ears.  This done, I fainted.  It was perhaps
unnecessary, but the strain of the evening had been great enough to try
the nerves of a bull; I had also lost a quantity of blood.

And so it ended; the last adventure of a career which had not been an
empty one.  That is up to the present, for it only happened within the
year in which I am writing.  I think Bauen was the most honoured man in
my realm for some time; before a stranger came to overthrow him, a
little fellow with a lusty voice, and as Bauen never spoke much the
new-comer naturally won.  I may say that there were other reasons as
well, one of which was that, God being willing, he would one day rule
over Rudarlia.

Carruthers came to Karena for his christening; and I can remember that
upon that occasion, when we all were dining together--my mother, Mr.
Neville, Prince Zeula, all those whom I love--Carruthers proposed a
toast:

"Victor II., the finest King Rudarlia ever had, Her Majesty Queen Irma,
the finest Queen, and--er--I forget his name, but that jolly baby, the
finest baby in the world."

Then Irma said quietly:

"And Bauen, who saved them all."

Now, as this was a private dinner, there was a great deal of fun at the
quiet way Irma had accepted Carruthers’ compliments, only Zeula and Mr.
Neville refusing to be consoled, because they had not been included as
the finest Prime Minister and the finest Tutor.

That I should remember this incident is in no way strange, for it was
only to-day that it happened.

Now I am seated in my study, I have said good night to every one, except
Woolgast, who, as usual, is on duty.  Presently I shall summon him and
tell him to get to his bed; it is our regular custom, every night.  I
say a few words to him, and then dismiss him with:

"Well, good night, General."

And he always gives the same reply:

"Good night, God bless your Majesty!"



           *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *



                     *JOHN LANE’S LIST OF FICTION*

BY ARTHUR H. ADAMS
       A TOUCH OF FANTASY
       GALAHAD JONES--A TRAGIC FARCE
       GROCER GREATHEART

BY W. M. ARDAGH
       THE KNIGHTLY YEARS
       THE MAGADA

BY WILLIAM ARKWRIGHT
       THE TREND

BY H. F. PREVOST BATTERSBY
       THE LAST RESORT
       THE LURE OF ROMANCE
       THE SILENCE OF MEN

BY PETER BLUNDELL
       LOVE-BIRDS IN THE COCO-NUTS
       OH, MR. BIDGOOD
       THE FINGER OF MR. BLEE

BY GERARD BENDALL
       THE ILLUSIONS OF MR. & MRS. BRESSINGHAM
       THE PROGRESS OF MRS. CRIPPS-MIDDLEMORE

BY PAUL BERTRAM
       THE FIFTH TRUMPET
       THE SHADOW OF POWER

BY ALICE BIRKHEAD
       SHIFTING SANDS

BY WALTER BLOEM
       THE IRON YEAR.  Translated from the German by STELLA BLOCH

BY FRANCIS ADAMS
       A CHILD OF THE AGE

BY SHELLAND BRADLEY
       ADVENTURES OF AN A.D.C.
       AN AMERICAN GIRL AT THE DURBAR
       MORE ADVENTURES OF AN A.D.C.

BY GERTRUDE ATHERTON
       A WHIRL ASUNDER
       SENATOR NORTH
       THE ARISTOCRATS
       THE DOOMSWOMAN

BY EX-LIEUT. BILSE
       LIFE IN A GARRISON TOWN

BY MRS. CHARLES BRYCE
       MRS. VANDERSTEIN’S JEWELS
       THE ASHIEL MYSTERY

BY JAMES BRYCE
       THE STORY OF A PLOUGHBOY

BY WILLIAM CAINE
       BILDAD THE QUILL-DRIVER
       BUT SHE MEANT WELL
       HOFFMAN’S CHANCE
       THE IRRESISTIBLE INTRUDER

BY DANIEL CHAUCER
       THE NEW HUMPTY-DUMPTY
       THE SIMPLE LIFE LIMITED

BY MAUD CRUTTWELL
       FIRE AND FROST

BY SIDNEY DARK
       THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT BE KING

BY THEODORE DREISER
       THE GENIUS
       THE TITAN

BY MARION FOX
       APE’S FACE
       THE BOUNTIFUL HOUR

BY WILLEM DE VEER
       AN EMPEROR IN THE DOCK
       BATTLE ROYAL

BY CARLTON DAWE
       THE REDEMPTION OF GRACE MILROY
       THE SUPER-BARBARIANS

THE WORKS OF ANATOLE FRANCE IN ENGLISH

Edited by FREDERIC CHAPMAN DEMY

AT THE SIGN OF THE REINE PEDAUQUE
       A Translation by Mrs. WILFRID JACKSON

BALTHASAR
       A Translation by Mrs. JOHN LANE

CRAINQUEBILLE
       A Translation by WINIFRED STEPHENS

JOCASTA AND THE FAMISHED CAT
       A Translation by Mrs. FARLEY

MOTHER OF PEARL
       A Translation by the EDITOR

MY FRIEND’S BOOK
       A Translation by J. LEWIS MAY

ON LIFE AND LETTERS
       A Translation by A. W. EVANS.  Series I and II

PENGUIN ISLAND
       A Translation by A. W. EVANS

PIERRE NOZIERE
       A Translation by J. LEWIS MAY

THAÏS  A Translation by ROBERT B. DOUGLAS

THE AMETHYST RING
       A Translation by BERENGERE DRILLIEN

THE ASPIRATIONS OF JEAN SERVIEN
       A Translation by ALFRED ALLINSON

THE CRIME OF SYLVESTRE BONNARD
       A Translation by LAFCADIO HEARN

THE ELM TREE ON THE MALL
       A Translation by M. P. WILLCOCKS

THE GARDEN OF EPICURUS
       A Translation by ALFRED ALLINSON

THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
       A Translation by ALFRED ALLINSON

THE MERRIE TALES OF JACQUES TOURNEBROCHE.
       A Translation by ALFRED ALLINSON

THE OPINIONS OF JEROME COIGNARD
       A Translation by Mrs. WILFRID JACKSON

THE PATH OF GLORY
       A Translation by A. R. ALLINSON

THE RED LILY
       A Translation by WINIFRED STEPHENS

THE REVOLT OF THE ANGELS
       A Translation by Mrs. WILFRID JACKSON

THE WELL OF ST. CLARE
       A Translation by ALFRED ALLINSON

THE WHITE STONE
       A Translation by C. E. ROCHE

THE WICKER-WORK WOMAN
       A Translation by M. P. WILLCOCKS

BY EVELYN BRENTWOOD
       HECTOR GRAEME
       HENRY KEMPTON

BY JOHN BUCHAN
       JOHN BURNET OF BARNS
       SCHOLAR GIPSIES

BY G. K. CHESTERTON
       THE NAPOLEON OF NOTTING HILL

BY A. R. GORING THOMAS
       MRS. GRAMERCY PARK
       THE LASS WITH THE DELICATE HAIR
       THE STRONG HEART
       WAYWARD FEET

BY GERALD GROGAN
       A DROP IN INFINITY

BY GERALD CAMPBELL
       THE JONESES AND THE ASTERISKS

BY FREDERICK BARON CORVO
       IN HIS OWN IMAGE

BY VICTORIA CROSS
       THE WOMAN WHO DIDN’T

BY GEORGE EGERTON
       DISCORDS
       KEYNOTES
       SYMPHONIES

BY CYRIL HARCOURT
       FIRST COUSIN TO A DREAM
       THE WORLD’S DAUGHTER

BY HENRY HARLAND
       COMEDIES AND ERRORS
       GREY ROSES
       MADEMOISELLE MISS
       MY FRIEND PROSPERO
       THE CARDINAL’S SNUFF BOX
       THE LADY PARAMOUNT

BY FRANK HARRIS
       ELDER CONKLIN
       GREAT DAYS
       MONTES THE MATADOR
       UNPATH’D WATERS

BY E. CROSBY HEATH
       HENRIETTA TAKING NOTES

BY A. C. FOX-DAVIES
       THE FINANCES OF SIR JOHN KYNNERSLEY
       THE MAULEVERER MURDERS

BY ELIZABETH GODFREY
       THE CRADLE OF A POET

BY JOHN GORE
       THE BARMECIDE’S FEAST
       THE SILLY SEASON

BY HANDASYDE
       FOR THE WEEK-END

BY ALICE HERBERT
       GARDEN OATS
       THE MEASURE OF OUR YOUTH

BY MURIEL HINE
       APRIL PANHASARD
       EARTH
       HALF IN EARNEST
       THE INDIVIDUAL
       THE MAN WITH THE DOUBLE HEART

BY ADELAIDE HOLT
       OUTSIDE THE ARK

BY FORD MADOX HUEFFER
       THE GOOD SOLDIER

BY VIOLET HUNT and FORD MADOX HUEFFER
       ZEPPELIN NIGHTS

BY KEBLE HOWARD
       MERRY-ANDREW
       THE GREEN FLAG

BY WILLIAM BERTAL HEENEY
       PICKANOCK

BY WILFRID SCARBOROUGH JACKSON
       TRIAL BY MARRIAGE

BY CECIL STARR JOHNS
       VICTOR VICTORIOUS

BY MRS. JOHN LANE
       ACCORDING TO MARIA
       BALTHASAR AND OTHER STORIES
       KITWYK
       MARIA AGAIN
       THE CHAMPAGNE STANDARD
       TALK OF THE TOWN

BY STEPHEN LEACOCK
       ARCADIAN ADVENTURES WITH THE IDLE RICH
       BEHIND THE BEYOND
       LITERARY LAPSES
       MOONBEAMS FROM THE LARGER LUNACY
       NONSENSE NOVELS
       SUNSHINE SKETCHES OF A LITTLE TOWN

BY VERNON LEE
       LOUIS NORBERT

BY RICHARD LE GALLIENNE
       THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN GIRL
       THE ROMANCE OF ZION CHAPEL
       LITTLE DINNERS WITH THE SPHINX
       PAINTED SHADOWS
       PROSE FANCIES
       SLEEPING BEAUTY AND THE PROSE FANCIES
       THE BOOK BILLS OF NARCISSUS
       THE WORSHIPPER OF THE IMAGE

BY AGNES GORDON LENNOX
       A GIRL’S MARRIAGE

BY WILLIAM J. LOCKE
       A STUDY IN SHADOWS
       AT THE GATE OF SAMARIA
       DERELICTS
       IDOLS
       JAFFERY
       SIMON THE JESTER
       STELLA MARIS
       THE BELOVED VAGABOND
       THE DEMAGOGUE AND LADY PHAYRE
       THE GLORY OF CLEMENTINA WING
       THE FORTUNATE YOUTH
       THE JOYOUS ADVENTURES OF ARISTIDE PUJOL
       THE MORALS OF MARCUS ORDEYNE
       THE WHITE DOVE
       THE USURPER
       WHERE LOVE IS

BY INGRAHAM LOVELL
       MARGARITA’S SOUL

BY CECIL CHAMPAIN LOWIS
       FASCINATION

BY LAURA BOGUE LUFFMAN
       A QUESTION OF LATITUDE

BY A. NEIL LYONS
       ARTHUR’S
       CLARA; SOME CHAPTERS IN THE LIFE OF A HUSSY
       COTTAGE PIE
       KITCHENER CHAPS
       MOBY LANE AND THEREABOUTS
       SIMPLE SIMON
       SIXPENNY PIECES

BY FREDERICK NIVEN
       THE LOST CABIN MINE

BY ALLAN McAULAY
       BEGGARS AND SORNERS

BY KARIN MICHAELIS
       ELSIE LINDTNER A SEQUEL
       THE DANGEROUS AGE
       THE GOVERNOR

BY IRENE MILLER
       SEKHET

BY HECTOR H. MUNRO (Saki)
       BEASTS AND SUPER-BEASTS
       THE CHRONICLES OF CLOVIS
       THE UNBEARABLE BASSINGTON
       WHEN WILLIAM CAME

BY MADGE MEARS
       THE JEALOUS GODDESS

BY PIERRE MILLE
       BARNAVAUX
       JOFFRE CHAPS
       LOUISE AND BARNAVAUX
       TWO LITTLE PARISIANS
       UNDER THE TRICOLOUR

BY LOUIS N. PARKER
       POMANDER WALK

BY JOHN PARKINSON
       OTHER LAWS

BY MRS. C. S. PEEL
       MRS. BARNET-ROBES
       THE HAT SHOP

BY F. INGLIS POWELL
       THE SNAKE

BY F. J. RANDALL
       SOMEBODY’S LUGGAGE
       THE BERMONDSEY TWIN

BY SIDNEY SCHIFF
       CONCESSIONS

BY HUGH DE SÉLINCOURT
       A FAIR HOUSE

BY VERE SHORTT
       LOST SHEEP

BY GERTRUDE STEIN
       THREE LIVES

BY DORIS SOMERVILLE
       GREEN CHALK

BY GEORGE STEVENSON
       JENNY CARTWRIGHT
       TOPHAM’S FOLLY

BY HERMANN SUDERMANN
       THE SONG OF SONGS (Das Hohe Lied)
       THE INDIAN LILY AND OTHER STORIES
       REGINA; or THE SINS OF THE FATHERS

BY SIR FRANK SWETTENHAM
       ALSO AND PERHAPS

BY MARCELLE TINAYRE
       MADELEINE AT HER MIRROR

BY MRS. HORACE TREMLETT
       CURING CHRISTOPHER
       LOOKING FOR GRACE

BY GEORGE VANE
       THE LIFTED LATCH
       THE LOVE DREAM
       THE SNARE

BY SYDNEY TREMAYNE
       THE AUCTION MART

BY L. VAIL
       THE HOUSE IN LITTLE ITALY

BY DUDLEY STURROCK
       THE DISTANT DRUM

BY CLARA VIEBIG
       ABSOLUTION
       THE SON OF HIS MOTHER

BY H. B. MARRIOTT WATSON
       THE TOMBOY AND OTHERS

BY H. G. WELLS
       THE NEW MACHIAVELLI
       SELECT CONVERSATIONS WITH AN UNCLE

BY MARGARET WESTRUP
       ELIZABETH’S CHILDREN
       ELIZABETH IN RETREAT
       HELEN ALLISTON
       PHYLLIS IN MIDDLEWYCH
       THE YOUNG O’BRIENS

BY EDITH WHARTON
       THE GREATER INCLINATION

BY DEMETRA VAKA
       A CHILD OF THE ORIENT

BY EDITH WHERRY
       THE RED LANTERN

BY M. P. WILLCOCKS
       A MAN OF GENIUS
       THE WAY UP
       THE WINGLESS VICTORY
       WIDDICOMBE
       WINGS OF DESIRE

BY F. E. MILLS YOUNG
       ATONEMENT
       A MISTAKEN MARRIAGE
       CHIP
       GRIT LAWLESS
       MYLES CALTHORPE, I.D.B.
       SAM’S KID
       THE GREAT UNREST
       THE PURPLE MISTS
       VALLEY OF A THOUSAND HILLS

BY FRANCES FENWICK WILLIAMS
       A SOUL ON FIRE

POPULAR CHEAP EDITIONS

BY H. G. WELLS
       THE NEW MACHIAVELLI

BY GERTRUDE ATHERTON
       THE ARISTOCRATS

BY MRS. JOHN LANE
       ACCORDING TO MARIA

BY WILLIAM J. LOCKE
       A STUDY IN SHADOWS
       AT THE GATE OF SAMARIA
       DERELICTS
       IDOLS
       SIMON THE JESTER
       THE BELOVED VAGABOND
       THE GLORY OF CLEMENTINA WING
       THE MORALS OF MARCUS ORDEYNE
       THE USURPER
       THE WHITE DOVE
       WHERE LOVE IS

BY A. NEIL LYONS
       ARTHURS
       KITCHENER CHAPS

BY M. P. WILLCOCKS
       THE WINGLESS VICTORY

BY F. E. MILLS YOUNG
       CHIP

BY ANATOLE FRANCE
       THE CRIME OF SYLVESTRE BONNARD
       THE RED LILY

BY HANDASYDE
       FOR THE WEEK-END

BY PIERRE MILLE
       JOFFRE CHAPS

BY CAPTAIN BLACKALL
       SONGS FROM THE TRENCHES

BY THOMAS O’TOOLE
       THE WAY THEY HAVE IN THE ARMY

BY G. K. CHESTERTON
       GEORGE BERNARD SHAW

THE NEW
POCKET LIBRARY

Printed from a clear type, upon a specially thin
and opaque paper manufactured for the Series

Pott (6 X 3-3/4 in.)

Bound in Cloth Price 1s net

Bound in Leather Price 2s net

BY THE EARL OF BEACONSFIELD
       ALROY, ETC.
       CONINGSBY
       CONTARINI FLEMING
       HENRIETTA TEMPLE
       SYBIL
       TANCRED
       THE YOUNG DUKE, ETC.
       VENETIA
       VIVIAN GREY

BY HENRY BROOKE
       THE FOOL OF QUALITY (2 vols.)

BY GEORGE BORROW
       LAVENGRO
       THE BIBLE IN SPAIN
       THE ROMANY RYE
       THE ZINCALI
       WILD WALES

BY GEORGE ELIOT
       ADAM BEDE
       SCENES OF CLERICAL LIFE
       SILAS MARNER
       THE MILL ON THE FLOSS

BY EDWARD FITZGERALD
       EUPHRANOR

BY NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE
       THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES
       THE SCARLET LETTER

BY HERMAN MELVILLE
       TYPEE
       OMOO

BY CAPTAIN MARRYAT
       MR. MIDSHIPMAN EASY
       PETER SIMPLE
       THE KING’S OWN
       THE PHANTOM SHIP

BY ANTHONY TROLLOPE
       BARCHESTER TOWERS
       CASTLE RICHMOND
       DR. THORNE
       FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
       ORLEY FARM (2 vols.)
       RACHEL RAY
       THE BERTRAMS
       THE KELLYS AND THE O’KELLYS
       THE MACDERMOTS OF BALLYCLORAN
       THE SMALL HOUSE AT ALLINGTON (2 vols.)
       THE THREE CLERKS
       THE WARDEN



                  *LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD*





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Victor Victorious" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home